Just a bit more on accommodationism

by Greg Mayer

Although Jerry’s a bit full up with the accommodationism issue, two recent items, by friends of WEIT, are worth noting. Ophelia Benson, well known to WEIT readers, has a piece in the Guardian,  and Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk, editors of 50 Voices of Disbelief, with Russell also being well known to WEIT readers, have a piece in the Guardian as well. (Ophelia recently tangled with the  author of the New Statesman piece that seemed to claim UK courts had declared science to be a religion.)


  1. Posted November 7, 2009 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    “Science as a religion.” I’m so tired of this erroneous conflation. Time for NOTY (non-overlapping terminology).

    Science is a religion like my couch is a source of international transportation.

  2. NewEnglandBob
    Posted November 7, 2009 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Next the accomodationists will try “Science as an Art” or even “Philosophy of Science as an Art”.

  3. Posted November 7, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Both Guardian comments are excellent. Thanks, guys!

  4. J.J.E.
    Posted November 8, 2009 at 1:47 am | Permalink

    The whole exercise illustrates why moving public opinion to abandon faith will continue to be hard work.

    Basically, religion is one of many sources of bad stuff that potentially has (some) good stuff mixed in. And given the complete lack of supporting evidence for any single incarnation of religion being any more true than any other combined with the abounding contradictions within and between religions, it is only natural that a rational person making evidence based decisions should seek to decrease the influence of religion.

    That is all. When you read OB’s and RB/US’s responses, you really do see how much bs they have to peel back before returning to this basic point. Just a simple 1-2 punch. 1) Nobody can show religion is right; 2) Religion causes a lot of harm.

    It just goes to show that theists are masters of muddying up the waters so much that a basic discussion can’t even be had. They even force the accommodation-minded folks to grant them entire swaths of the argument up for free, just because the theists are so damned obstinately obfuscating.

  5. Posted November 8, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Oh lordy, I’d forgotten all about the Sholto Byrnes piece – and there he is calling me out. I feel so rude not to have noticed!

    • scott
      Posted November 8, 2009 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      I have two kinds of religious family, the thoughtful kind and the fundamentalist kind.

      The thoughtful kind find great comfort in this line that Barnes wallops you with, OB:

      “Never mind that what looks to scientists like a fact in one era frequently turns out to appear an error in another”.

      The fundamentalist kind just out and out believe that the “science is wrong” … the thoughtful kind don’t need to think the science wrong, they just think it, “contingent”. Subject to change.

      Scientists of course believe this also, we just say, that our understanding is informed by the evidence, change the evidence and our beliefs change like a linked spreadsheet. For a religious person though this lack of “ultimate truth” this “contingent truth” is a hole big enough to drive a cathedral though.

      Is it too late to admit their IS a schism, and that “weak atheism” is better understood as “Deism” or some kind of Einstein God … you know the one Paine was writing about in 1789, that one? Then instead of dinging Francis Collins for faith, we could mock him for not having the right faith, or a faith based on iron age myths.

      Then we could have the moral high ground of faith without giving the Byrnes’ of this world so much delicious irony, when they point out that “science is a belief” … we could just agree that yes, we all have beliefs and yours are ridiculous. You could write books asking if “The Abrahamic Faiths hate women?”, and say, that the “real” god luvs the ladies.

      We could say, yes, we believe in the unknown “ground of being”, and that science is the tools we have to understand it … we learn a bit more every day … isn’t that great! We could agree to be grateful to a “creator God” who gives us our rights that involved freedom from YOUR (stupid) religion, hell RD has all but said, he’d go along with it. Why wouldn’t this be a good thing to do?

      Seriously, Deism is under-rated, is it too late to revive it? Or was this what the FSM was all about afterall?

      • Posted November 8, 2009 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

        Although Deism had some great advocates (like Thomas Paine) in its day, I don’t think it’s very compatible with modern science, either. The conflicts are only only the remote edges, though, since Deism keeps “God” out of what we actually observe and work with.

        I’m more of a weak atheist myself, but no deist.

      • Posted November 9, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        ‘say, that the “real” god luvs the ladies.’

        Well we did at least say that it’s possible to imagine a god of that kind – implying that if you’re going to imagine a god you might as well imagine that kind. But of course if your goal is to control women’s genitalia, you might as well imagine no such thing. Stalemate.

  6. Dr.John R. Vokey
    Posted November 9, 2009 at 2:16 am | Permalink

    I find the whole issue puzzling. An individual or group claims that (undefined) atheism is compatible with one or another (undefined) religious nonsense. The parenthetical undefineds in both cases are relevant. Layout both, and we can then decide.

    It is not, for example, clear to me that Pastafarianism is necessarily opposed to atheism regarding fairies at the bottom of the garden or Russellian Teapotism.

    So, if you are going to accommodate, please let me know what it is that that accommodation entails. Note: I do NOT deny the possibility, only that it is incumbent upon those who claim an accommodation to make it clear exactly what we are to accommodate. Failing that, it is just the usual nonsense.

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