When Arianna Huffington launched the science section of her website, she explicitly said it would be accommodationist in tone:
I’m particularly looking forward to HuffPost Science’s coverage of one of my longtime passions: the intersection of science and religion, two fields often seen as contradictory — or at least presented that way by those waging The War on Science. A key part of HuffPost Science’s mission will be to cut through the divisions that have resulted from that false war.
Rather than taking up arms in those misguided, outdated battles, HuffPost Science will work in the tradition of inquisitive minds that can accommodate both logic and mystery. It’s a tradition exemplified by Brown University biology professor Kenneth Miller, who, when I visited with him last year, told me that he sees Darwin not as an obstacle to faith but as “the key to understanding our relationship with God.”
But she didn’t count on Victor Stenger, the skunk in the accommodationist woodpile. I wonder if Arianna has seen his latest piece at Puffho, “Science and spirituality,” taken from a talk he gave at Humboldt State University. It takes no prisoners, and mocks the consilience of science and faith.
Now it’s true that the great founders of modern science–Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and Kepler–were devout if unconventional believers. And actually, only Galileo tried to separate his science from his religion, to make a distinction between the two. Newton and the others tried to incorporate God into their theories.
But gradually science separated from religion, and from philosophy for that matter, to the point where today the three are clearly distinct. Those scientists who are believers have compartmentalized their brains into separate science and religion modules. They leave their critical thinking skills at the door when they go to church in Sunday, and leave their religion at home when they go back to work Monday morning. God never enters their equations.
And I’m glad to see that Stenger has no truck with welcoming theistic evolutionists into the stable of “evolution believers” to swell the ranks of our allies:
Critics of the New Atheism also fail to understand why we do not try to work with moderate Christians, who after all say they accept science and, in particular, have no problem with evolution.
But when surveys ask moderate Christians what they really believe, they all say that evolution is God-guided. Well that’s not Darwinian evolution. That’s intelligent design. There’s no guidance in Darwinian evolution. It’s all accident and natural selection. In particular, and this is what is unacceptable to all Christians and just about every other religion: humanity is an accident. Start up life on Earth all over again and humans would not evolve.
Well, I don’t think that all moderate Christians believe that evolution is god-guided. Further, not all god-guided evolution is necessarily theistic, with God sticking his hand in to cause new mutations and the like. Some theistic evolutionism might shade into deism, asserting that God simply set up the process from the beginning, rigging it so that humans would eventually emerge. But even that is contrary to scientific views of evolution, in which the process proceeds through the disposition of random mutations via natural selection and genetic drift. (I do think, though, that the word “guided” implies a more active theistic intervention. I’d like to see a survey of Americans about how, exactly, they think that God “guides” evolution.) But regardless of whether theistic evolutionists see a rigged process or an actively manipulated one, their views are incompatible with science, and I’m glad to see Stenger say so. Theistic evolution is simply a watered-down version of intelligent design.
And this is why science and religion are forever incompatible. They have totally opposing views of the world and the role that humans play in that world.
Why don’t I just take the Matzke-ian view that we shouldn’t criticize theistic evolutionists? Because they are enabling superstition—just like creationists, but to a lesser degree. Science should not be polluted with religion, and that’s precisely what theistic evolution does. Some accommodationists are willing to look the other way when the Pope, for example, says that God created through evolution but tweaked it just a tad, handily inserting a soul into the hominin lineage. But the same accommodationists would bridle if believers said that God played a role in the evolution of other species besides humans, guiding the evolution of squirrels, oak trees, and warblers. Creationism applied to one species is apparently okay; applied to all species it’s a no-no.
The sooner we see humans as they are—as products of natural evolution like other species—the sooner we will finally put away our childish beliefs. There’s not the slightest evidence for a soul, or for directed human evolution (how about all those other species of intelligent hominins that went extinct?), so why would scientists countenance those things?