Apparently, accommodationist-in-chief Andrew Brown has his own blog, and is now using it to make arguments even dumber than those appearing in his recent Guardian piece. To wit: we athiests should be very careful about our tactics. According to Brown, if we persist in equating acceptance of evolution with atheism, then we’ll create a situation in which evolution can no longer be taught in the classroom. After all, teachng atheism in the classroom is tantamount to a denigration of religion, which is illegal in American public schools:
I don’t want here to get into a discussion about whether this [whether atheists embrace the “scientific worldview” more fully than believers can] is true. Christianity at least does seem to require the acceptance of at least one miracle as the most important thing that ever happened in the universe and it’s certainly reasonable for a scientist to reject this. In any case, it’s all part of a much bigger myth, which does far more than science can to explain the world: that of the triumph of reason, truth, and so forth over ignorance, superstition and stupidity. Such myths are not dislodged by argument.
Already, I can hear the voices saying not all in the tones of E. L. “But where’s the evidence?” “How can a scientist believe in miracles?” and so on. But it is precisely at this point, which the new atheists consider their strongest and most unanswerable, that Ruse’s argument takes effect. Suppose we concede that the new atheists are right, and no true, honest scientist could be anything other than an atheist. If that is true, the teaching of science itself becomes unconstitutional. For it is every bit as illegal to promote atheism in American public schools as it is to promote religion. Again, there are recent judgements from the heart of the culture wars to make this entirely clear. . .
But the American courts have never been asked to decide whether science is the negation of religion: in fact the defenders of evolution and of science teaching in schools have gone to great lengths to ensure that the question was not asked. The “accommodationists” whom Coyne so despises, have been brought out in all the court cases so far to say that that evolution and Christianity, science and religion, are perfectly compatible. If the courts were asked to decide whether not whether ID was a religious doctrine, but whether evolution was a necessarily atheist one, and if they decided that Jerry Coyne and PZ and Dawkins and all the rest are right, then science teaching would become unconstitutional in American public schools. They would, in short, have fucked themselves.
It’s at times like this when I think I’ve entered Cloud Cuckoo Land. Does anybody seriously think that teaching evolution is a deliberate promotion of atheism? If so, I haven’t met any of them, and that includes P.Z. Myers and Richard Dawkins. (Let me take that back — I’ve met two: Brown and his compadre Michael Ruse. Ruse once wrote that I should give my NIH grant back to the government because my research involves the unconstitutional promotion of atheism!)
Actually, we teach evolution because it’s a wonderful subject, explains a lot about the world, and happens to be true. And yes, it’s likely that teaching evolution probably promotes a critical examination of religious beliefs that may lead to rejecting faith. But teaching geology, physics, or astronomy does that, too. In fact, education in general leads to the rejection of faith. (Statistics show that the more education one has, the less likely one is to be religious.) Should we then worry about teaching physics, astronomy, or indeed, allowing people access to higher education, because those “promote” atheism? Should we constantly be looking over our shoulders because the courts may catch onto this? Well, American courts may be dumb, but even our benighted Supreme Court is more rational than Mr. Brown.
What Brown is really saying is that we should be worried about promoting rational values of any type, or any notion that beliefs require evidence. He doesn’t seem to realize the difference between cramming atheism down people’s throats and teaching them to think, which may have the ancillary effect of eroding faith.
Clearly, both Ruse and Brown are willing to use any rhetorical tactic to decry atheism, no matter how mush-brained it is. As I said in my last post about the Ruse/Brown twins, this smacks of desperation. Rather than engage the serious arguments of scientist-atheists, they talk about our “uncivil” tone — and now about the horrible unforseen consequences of our supposed equation of evolution with atheism. I repeat, so that Brown can get it: teaching evolution is NOT promoting atheism, it’s promoting a scientific truth. And the promotion of any scientific truth may have the ancillary effect of dispelling faith. This is almost inevitable, for the metier of science — rationality and dependence on evidence — is in absolute and irreconcilable conflict with the with the metier of faith: superstition and dependence on revelation. Too bad.
p.s. I look forward some day to Mr. Brown dropping the attacks on atheists and discussing, on their own merits, the assertions of the faithful. Does he think Jesus was the Son of God, that God answers prayers, and that there is an afterlife?
UPDATE: Over on Pharyngula, P.Z. Myers has posted his reaction to Andrew Brown’s piece, “In which Andrew Brown gets everything wrong.”