Ruse: New Atheists treat Darwinism as a “secular religion”

Over at the Chronicle of Higher Education, Michael Ruse discusses Robert Wright’s Atlantic piece that blamed New Atheists for creationism. Surprisingly, Ruse’s piece, “Are the New Atheists responsible for the creationist menace?“, is not 100% bad: he doesn’t buy Wright’s off-the-wall thesis that there was once a nonaggression pact between churches and evolution to not attack each other, and Ruse holds mainline churches more responsible than atheists for the incursion of creationism in schools. (Duh!) But the piece is spoiled by Ruse’s curious idea that because Darwinism has become a “secular religion,” and for some folks is connected with atheism, the courts will either ban the teaching of evolution in schools as a violation of the First Amendment, or allow creationism in:

Having said that, I do think that Wright has something of a point. I too worry that polarizing things does lead to a religion-or-science-and-take-no-hostages kind of thinking. And whatever the Constitution may say and whatever previous interpretations may have been, I fear that the present Supreme Court might take this as an excuse – if indeed they even look for excuses – to allow some form of biblical literalism into biology classes. The fact is that the New Atheists do tend to treat Darwinism as a form of secular religion – complete with Darwin Day (Darwin’s birthday) as their festival of celebration rather than Christmas or Easter. And I worry that some wily lawyer is going to take advantage of this. Accommodationist folk like me can help map out a middle ground that respects and observes the separation of Church and State. Evolution in the classrooms; God in church.

Well, he can worry if he wants, but there’s no evidence to support his angst. Where are the data showing that New Atheists have turned people away from evolution?  And the incompatibility between many aspects of science and faith does lead many to a religion-or-science kind of thinking, but nobody, least of all me, teaches that in the classroom.  And remember who started that: the faithful who insisted that evolution was incompatible with their faith.

But the stuff about treating Darwinism as a secular religion is offal.  It’s based purely on the fact that many of us see Darwin as a kind of scientific hero. Many physicists hold Einstein in similar regard. Does that make physics a secular religion?  At least we know that Einstein and Darwin existed, unlike the father-figure of conventional faith.  Nor do we see Darwin or Einstein as having supernatural powers or a postmortem ability to personally (as opposed to scientifically) influence the world. Indeed, all of us know that their science was sometimes flawed.  Darwin’s genetics was wonky; Einstein couldn’t accept pure indeterminism. Try finding a religious person who sees any flaws in God.

And what do we do on Darwin Day?  We don’t shout hosannas to Darwin, or beg for his mercy, pray to him, or spend all of our time propitiating him. We give talks on evolution—in other words, we spread science and tell people the truth.  All of this is the exact opposite of religion.

Ruse keeps raising the alarum that if we don’t make nice with religion, and if atheistic scientists don’t shut up, the Supreme Court of the U.S. will ban evolution from public schools as a form of faith.  But that will never fly, because it’s a science, supported by evidence.  I doubt that even our hyper-conservative Court would ban evolution from schools or put creationism in, if for no other reason than they’d look even more stupid than they do now.

As for Ruse patting himself on the back for his “accommodationism,” as if only people of that stripe can effect the separation of church and state in America, he’s dead wrong.  Show me ONE New Atheist who doesn’t agree with him about “Evolution in the classrooms; God in church.” All of us are at least on that side, and secular/atheist organizations like the Freedom from Religion foundation have been far more effective than Ruse in enforcing that separation.

Finally, as always, Ruse must always drag in how poorly treated he’s been, both in the past:

Naturally enough the New Atheists don’t much like [Wright’s] hypothesis. Jerry Coyne, over at Why Evolution is True, expectedly has gone ballistic. Using terms usually reserved for me, we learn that Wright’s thinking is “madness.” He is “dumb.” And: “As always on this topic, Wright is “talking out of his nether parts.”

and in the future:

Undoubtedly this post is going to bring down the usual opprobrium from the faithful [he means the New Atheists here], but before I vanish beneath the avalanche of scorn and sarcasm, let me say that in major respects I fault the mainline churches far more than the New Atheists.

Ruse could improve his pieces, at least marginally, if he wasn’t always so butthurt.  Really, does he expect us to praise him for such blather?  He needs to learn to keep his wounded ego out of his posts; it only makes him look weak and vindictive.


  1. Posted June 15, 2012 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    Excellent post! Totally agree.

  2. Garnetstar
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    Here’s a quote from the judge’s decision in McLean vs. Arkansas, a case in which Ruse testified on the definition of science:

    “Assuming for the purposes of argument, however, that evolution is a religion or religious tenet, the remedy is to stop the teaching of evolution, not establish another religion in opposition to it.

    Yet it is clearly established in the case law, and perhaps also in common sense, that evolution is not a religion and that teaching evolution does not violate the Establishment Clause…..”

    • Notagod
      Posted June 15, 2012 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      The one sentence paragraph before that is valid and tickled my brain. Though, the Judge is framing the concept from the creationists perspective so it gives an odd twist at the end, still the concept that the Judge is expressing is a solid criticism of the use of creationism as science at its foundation.

      If creation science is, in fact, science and not religion, as the defendants claim, it is difficult to see how the teaching of such a science could “neutralize” the religious nature of evolution.

  3. Jonathan Smith
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    “Darwin’s genetics was wonky; Einstein couldn’t accept pure indeterminism. Try finding a religious person who sees any flaws in God.’ BINGO another one of Dr Coynes great quotes.

  4. blckCat
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 4:47 am | Permalink

    Omg. I’m gonna start a religion which worships gravity, then they will ban the teachings of gravity! yay!

  5. smilingatheist
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 4:49 am | Permalink

    Hi Jerry, small typo:

    the faithful who insisted that evolution was incompatible with evolution.

    I think you meant to say religion was incompatible with evolution?

    Great post! How many times do we need hear that Dawrinism is religion? Or that scientism is religion or science in general is like religion cause you have to have some for of ‘faith’. So bloody annoying. I waiting for the court case where a creationist to makes this point.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted June 15, 2012 at 5:01 am | Permalink

      Fixed, thanks.


  6. DV
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 4:51 am | Permalink

    For chrissake, evolution is not a secular religion! It’s simply a battleground in the war of ideas between atheists and religionists. There are many battlegrounds but evolution is a major one.

    Why are accomodationists falling for the tactic of false equivalence of bringing evolution down to the level of faith? How come no one says that anti-evolution is a religion? Oh wait, that would be redundant.

  7. Peter Beattie
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    » Ruse:
    He is “dumb.”

    I’d call this a lie. And a pig-ignorant one at that. Jerry calls one of Wright’s statements dumb, not Wright himself. A philosopher who cannot distinguish between an attack on an idea and an attack on a person, while maybe not dumb, is a shit philosopher.

  8. Posted June 15, 2012 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    You’d think orange juice was a form of inner city transportation after reading Ruse.

  9. Claimthehighground
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Once, the spherical earth theory was a secular religion; the heliocentric theory, likewise. Strongly held beliefs die hard. Mind the gaps!

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted June 15, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      Mainly just heliocentrism!!

      It’s now well-established they knew the earth was spherical in the Middle Ages, and that Columbus’ voyage had nothing to do with proving the world was round at all. Some Christian flat-earth thinkers cropped up after the collapse of the Roman Empire, but they were a minority, and once Islamic astronomy got into Europe in the 11th century, the spherical Earth was firmly ensconced in medieval thought.

      Sorry for the pedantry.

  10. Schenck
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    Fascinating that he’s basically making the same arguements that /old school/ creationists were making back in the day, I thought we moved beyond ‘evolution is a religion’, now it’s being posted in the Chronicle?! At least guys like Ted Holden and Ed Conrad were /also/ entertaining….

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:49 am | Permalink

      To be fair to Professor Ruse, he is well versed in creationist politics. I think he’s just convinced himself that this particular argument, at the core of the 2005 Kansas science hearings, might someday be respected.

      Of course, he’s full of shit, but aren’t we all sometime?

  11. Hempenstein
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    If this ever reached the Supreme Court, there’d have to be a lower court decision first. But if a Dover II ever did get there, count on Judge Jones to testify on the side of sanity.

  12. darrelle
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    I can only conclude that Ruse does not understand either religion or science. Or maybe both. The only other possibility I can think of is that he is lying for effect, for impact, which is a very shitty thing for him to do.

    Though it is possible that the Supreme Court could end up letting creationism into the public school classroom at some point in the future, that has precious little to do with Gnu Atheism. The god bots in this country have been fighting for that non stop since at least the Scopes Trial. Ruse is making shit up just like Wright. He uses creationist ideas in his arguments against the Gnu Atheists and thinks he should get a pass? I wonder if his target audience is believers and this piece is an attempt to gain standing with them.

  13. Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    As soon as Wright or Ruse can show that Creationists are reading Dawkins et al, then to even propose a link assumes far too much on the part of Creationists. This really seems one of those cases where one’s own knowledge is being transferred to people who simply don’t have it.

  14. Living Fossil
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    One contributor to this controversy is the wide ranging definition of religion, not only between those atheists who limit it to monotheism, but even among the self-proclaimed religious advocates who dismiss non-theistic and god-optional views as non-religious.

    For me, Exhibit A is a reading of the four Humanist Manifestos where humanism is defined as a religion in the first with that reference dropped in the subsequent versions.

    Ironically it was the US Supreme Court in Torcaso v. Watkins (1961) which declared,
    “Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism, and others.”

    I believe it was Socrates, rather Plato reporting on Socrates, who stated, “If you would debate with me, first you must define your terms.” We religious humanists are enjoying the show.

    • Filippo
      Posted June 16, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      Are sports a religion? Politics? Capitalism?

      • Living Fossil
        Posted June 16, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

        The point is that for any issue, religion in this case, there are certainties and uncertainties. It’s the area of uncertainty that, when ignored, can cause a departure from a considered discussion.

        For example, in the book, Speciation, (if my mind serves reliably), Coyne and Orr mad it clear at the outset that there are differing views within the profession as to what characterizes a species. So, too, I believe (from another source I am unable to cite) what characterizes life and non-life.

        The same is true with religion. The specific point being that within humanism there are those who call themselves religious, those who call themselves secular and, I suspect, those who don’t care.

        My reference to the Torcaso v. Watkins, which is a peripheral example, was to show that there is disagreement as to what constitutes a religion and what does not, that, just as within science, a rational discussion of any issue requires the recognition of the uncertainties.

  15. Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    So it seems Ruse is committed to this bizarre pet hypothesis about SCOTUS banning evolution from schools because of some twisted reasoning having to do with the New Atheists. I had rather expected that would be a one-off, a bomb he would lob and then just ignore it lest it become clear just how insane a thought that is.

    I don’t think it’s at all inconceivable that a right-leaning SCOTUS might allow “Teach the controversy” into schools in the coming decades (I think it’s unlikely, but not inconceivable). But their reasoning will not hinge on a relatively small minority who really like to read popular science books about evolutionary biology! I’d love to believe we have that much influence but uh… yeah, that’s crazy-talk.

  16. NelsonMuntz
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Hail Natural Selection, full of grace

  17. Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    The notion of evolution as a secular religion is an intriguing one. Perhaps “secular religion” is hyperbole, but there’s something in evolution being used as a marker for rationality or secularism that transcends merely the scientific validity. And why shouldn’t it be? It affects on who we are and where we came from, it’s a narrative that is central to the self. And most importantly, it’s a narrative that has come about through rigorous examination of the world. If that’s not something to stand up for, what is?

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      I enjoyed that.

      • DTaylor
        Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        Yes. It IS a narrative that is central to the self. And it is a narrative that regularly displaces a theistic narrative–a harrowing transition that can threaten a dreaded experience of coming unglued, falling apart, etc.

  18. rhetoric
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    “Ruse keeps raising the alarum that if we don’t make nice with religion, and if atheistic scientists don’t shut up, the Supreme Court of the U.S. will ban evolution from public schools as a form of faith.”

    Considering how right wing the current Supreme Court is, I am seriously beginning to worry. I can easily see them giving the go ahead on ‘teach the controversy’ related legislation.

  19. Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink


    Celebrating Darwin’s birthday is a religious act?

    What does that make President’s Day? And does he really think that parents think their four-year-old children are gods, or that said children think each other are gods?

    I’d suggest he’s gone and had carnal relations with Mickey’s dog, except this sort of nonsense makes me think he’s too dim to get the pun.


    • Mattapult
      Posted June 15, 2012 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      …and Arbor Day,
      and Martin Luther King Day,
      and Fathers Day, Mothers Day, Secrataries Day.

      All new religions obviously.

      • Theb Stolen Dormouse
        Posted June 15, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        Hey! Remember that tomorrow, June 16th, is Bloomsday, with day-long readings from James Joyce’s Ulysses around the world. Does that make reading Joyce’s works a religious act?

        After all, it is a book about a wandering Jew (Leopold Bloom) whose day is likened to the travels and travails experienced by Odysseus. In addition, Bloom meets and talks with someone with a name out of Greek myth (Stephen Daedalus) while Bloom is looking for his wife, Molly. Plus, it has sections in Hebrew (prayers from the Jewish prayerbooks).

      • Posted June 15, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        Memorial Day is just like ancestor worship!

        • Filippo
          Posted June 16, 2012 at 7:15 am | Permalink

          There may be no “good” wars. Would you allow the theoretical possibility that there was one “just” war, WW II, fighting Hitler’s fascism?

          If you think that too much is made of Memorial Day, what if anything would you find at least tolerable if not agreeable? Five minutes of private, silent reflection over ones morning coffee?

          In your view, is the most nominal, modest reflection on genocide, like the Holocause for starters, justified?

    • mandrellian
      Posted June 15, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      I wonder what he’d call the Pledge of Allegiance? Even without the “under God” bit, it’s still a quite frankly creepy bit of enforced nationalist worship.

      What about the national anthem? A patriotic hymn if ever there was, and when you consider NFL, NASCAR and every other public event that opens with it, practically everything anyone does outside with a large group of people could be called a “religion”.

      Political party conventions? Ditto.

      Fourth of July? Double ditto!

      Jefferson et al? Olympian pantheon!

      And what about spending cash? Every US coin invokes God – is Ruse wielding hosannahs every time he buys a cup of coffee?


      Honestly, this chap has his head so far up his arse he’s probably reading his screeds over his own shoulder and whispering sweet nothings in both ears about how goddamned clever he is.

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted June 16, 2012 at 7:31 am | Permalink

        Yes indeed, your examples are all part of what has long been the officially established religion of the United States. If it weren’t for ‘God’ in the Pledge and the coinage, one could make the case that it’s a disconnected bunch of nationalist malarkey drilled into schoolkids, but by the act of dropping those keystones into the arch, like Sauron forging the One Ring, the Establishment Clause became a dead letter.

        But try reversing the process, and that very clause will bite you in the ass: “Congress shall make no law regarding establishment of religion.”

        Is it any wonder more than 75% of the most skeptical generation say they’ve never doubted God’s existence?: he’s right there on the money, watching every move you make from the top of the pyramid. Sorry guys, you’re screwed.

  20. eNeMeE
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    I worship at the Church of Feynman, not this Darwin fellow! Anyone who worships him has forsaken the one, true path! You shall be scourged in the fires of our death-lasers!

    …needs more random capitalization, I think.

  21. Tulse
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Has Ruse subtly changed his position? I recall the argument being made earlier that teaching evolution might be contrary to the US constitution because it undermined and/or contradicted other religious beliefs. This position is clearly absurd, as it means that any true scientific fact would be held hostage to whatever wacky religious beliefs contradict it (e.g., one couldn’t teach that geology shows the earth is billions of years old, or even that diseases can be caused by microorganisms).

    Ruse’s claim here is instead that evolution is itself a religion. This claim, if true, has a much stronger constitutional argument, but of course the premise is even more absurd.

    • Sastra
      Posted June 15, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Evolution = religion is an argument which involves an evolutionary process.

      Religion =supernaturalist philosophy
      Supernaturalist philosophy = philosophy
      Philosophy = how one relates to the world
      How one relates to the world = how the world is explained
      How the world is explained = how we explain species
      How we explain species = the theory of evolution

      Religion = evolution
      Evolution is a religion.

      It’ s descent with modification

  22. RWO
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    ‘Ironically it was the US Supreme Court in Torcaso v. Watkins (1961) which declared,
    “Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism, and others.” ‘

    I an interested in knowing whether this sentence in the 1961 USSC ruling [above] establishes precedent for the legal argument that secular humanism is a religion. I read the sentence as stating that Secular Humanism is one of ‘those religions’, along with Buddhism, Taoism, etc., in the USA that does not teach God belief but is, nevertheless, a religion.

    This is how I interpret the sentence quoted, and it seems to me that it provides ammunition to theists’ arguments that the truths of existence are not a matter of religious belief vs scientific evidence, but instead theistic religious beliefs vs the religion of humanists: those who insist their belief in evolutionary facts provide the explanation for existence instead of theistic belief in creationist creed.

    I hope I am wrong, and that sentence in Torcaso v Watkins will not be useful as a precedence argument for conservative Supreme’s seeking justification to issue rulings that privilege ideology as equal or even superior to physical evidence.

    • eric
      Posted June 15, 2012 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      That sentence occurs in a footnote and appears to be an outlier. AFAIK, most relevant earlier and later court opinions take the more sane approach of saying the 1st amendment covers disbeliefs about religious claims, not just beliefs derived from a religious source. Atheism fits the first category, even if it doesn’t fit the second. Even Justice Black, the guy who wrote that footnote, says in other opinions that nonbelief is covered by the 1st.

      See for example, 1872 Watson vs. Jones: “The law knows no heresy” Or 1947 Everson vs BOE (which had Black on the court): “Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church-attendance or non-attendance.”

  23. TJR
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    I regularly sacrifice babies on an altar dedicated to R A Fisher.

  24. Posted June 15, 2012 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    The tendency of some, like Ruse, to frame this situation as a battle between two polar “religions” stems perhaps in part from the term “Darwinism.”

    “Darwinism” seems to meen to fall into the same category as “scientism.” Nobody pledges allegiance to Darwin. I’m not sure it’s a great synonym for “acknowledging evolution.”

  25. eric
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    [Ruse] The fact is that the New Atheists do tend to treat Darwinism as a form of secular religion – complete with Darwin Day (Darwin’s birthday) as their festival of celebration…

    [Facepalm.] Could he clutch at a weaker straw? I am scared to ask what he thinks about Germans and Octoberfest. Pi day (3/14). “May the force be with you” day (May 4th). Talk like a pirate day (9/19). Has Ruse become so dissociated with real people that he no longer understands celebration of something/one =/ worship of it?

    [JAC] Ruse keeps raising the alarum that if we don’t make nice with religion, and if atheistic scientists don’t shut up, the Supreme Court of the U.S. will ban evolution from public schools as a form of faith. But that will never fly…

    I don’t share your certainty. Which is to say, I think with a 1-2 more right-leaning judges, SCOTUS might allow the states to teach creationism in schools. I don’t think the current mix will, and I agree with you that Ruse’s claim that they’ll ban evolution is absurd.

  26. Nicolas Perrault
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    No matter how vehement the denials, evolution leaves the faithful with an acute case of cognitive dissonance. The accomodationist is the accomplice of the faithful as both want to reduce the dissonance. The accomodationist deviously hopes for (illusory) political gains. In the meantime evolution remains as true as ever, unguided mutations and all.

  27. Posted June 15, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Gee, has gravity also become a “secular religion”? Pity these idiots can’t figure out the difference between religion and accepting facts as they are.

  28. Posted June 15, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    But the piece is spoiled by Ruse’s curious idea that because Darwinism has become a “secular religion,” and for some folks is connected with atheism, the courts will either ban the teaching of evolution in schools as a violation of the First Amendment, or allow creationism in

    This has long been the unwritten but implicit subtext of Ruse’s accommodationism. Or, at least, that is how I have been reading him.

    It is possible that he is correct, given the way that the court has been stacked with right wing ideologues. However, I think it would be a hard argument to make in court.

  29. Posted June 15, 2012 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    I wish Ruse was wrong about this.

    But once Harris wrote a book about how biology will provide us with an objective basis for morality my “side” forfeited any claim to innocence on this score.

    • DV
      Posted June 15, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      And when Harris followed that up with a book denying free will he put himself well on the way to irrelevancy.

      • Posted June 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        And when Harris followed that up with a book denying free will he put himself well on the way to irrelevancy.

        Is the argument here that anyone denying the existence of free will is “irrelevant”? Because it is so obvious a conclusion?

  30. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Well, you can wrap a religious or a-religious point of view around evolution, but that could be secular humanism, Francis Collins, or some New Age bizness like the writings of Richard Bucke or Gopi Krishna (GK’s sorta to evolution what Deepak Chopra is to quantum physics- wrote “”Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man”), whatever.

    The issue remains that evolution per se conflicts with the religious beliefs of a dominant religious paradigm in America.

    If Francis Collins et al want to look at evolution and like a puzzled software engineer say “Maybe that’s not a bug- that’s a feature” and come up with a workaround that cobbles together religion and science they are free to do so. Others may judge their efforts as makeshift and rigged, or find it elegant (less likely).

    But science is about publicly verifiable knowledge while religion is not, which makes all accomodationism pretty much a one-way street. The science classroom is for science, and when religion gets wedded to dead scientific paradigms, the religion is just going to have to change or retreat, and in either case stay out of science class.

    • eric
      Posted June 15, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      The issue remains that evolution per se conflicts with the religious beliefs of a dominant religious paradigm in America.

      That’s the political issue. Legally, we can teach science that conflicts with any religion. So long as a claim is well-founded in the method of science, it pretty much automatically passes Lemon’s 1st and 2nd prongs and should pass the 3rd.

  31. matt
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    for some reason, people like robert wright, etc. seem to think that religion isn’t polarizing. just atheism. i mean, c’mon. we’re talking about knowledge here. if knowledge is a secular religion, then yes, i’m a worshipper. i’ll also do my part to introduce good knowledge to those that don’t possess. i understand that it may not change their mind but, i am under no obligation to walk on eggshells when discussing a supernatural dominatrix.

    seriously, these guys are beating an out of tune drum. the polarization just isn’t coming from “new atheism.”

    • Posted June 15, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      “Knowledge is the only good; and ignorance the only evil.” — Socrates (iirc)


  32. Notagod
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    If evolution is religion then so is food.

    If Ruse sincerely believes that evolution by natural processes is religion then he is obliged to earnestly and consistently petition Congress for a change in the Internal Revenue Service rules. Until then Ruse’s contention is a lie of convenience.

  33. Posted June 15, 2012 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Ruse’s name is apt. He perpetuates himself.

  34. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    You know you can’t win them all when

    – some accommodationists claim atheism is too little of a religion to be powerful, and want to build monuments and organize activities patterned on religion


    – other accommodationists claim that atheism is too much of a religion, and too powerful.

    But who wants to win over accommodationists?

    Meanwhile I am again insulted by Ruse et al who wants to protect rights, here the right to a (useful) education, by making nice with those who oppose the offenders. It is like claiming that thieves will successfully tear down property rights, in courts no less, if victims of theft analyse the social problems of thievery and the incompatibilities in principle and practice between legal ownership and stealing.

    In every other case inalienable rights are supported to the hilt. Charters, declarations, treaties, laws, organizations, demonstrations, articles and books. Only if you want to support science and education in evolution, climate science or other areas where religious fundamentalists want to believe in opposition to the accepted science, are you considered “polarizing things”.

    Damn right nature is polarizing things, it is what it _does_ or we wouldn’t be. No wishy-washy wacko-acco can change that!

  35. abrotherhoodofman
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Another Templeton-prize hopeful who is halfway to crazy-town.

    • Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      He’s a bit beyond the halfway point, I fear….


  36. Gordon
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    If one focuses on Ruse’s point that SCOTUS (nice abbreviation and just needs an”R”added) that might equate religion/ science in order to allow creationist teaching in science classes I wouldn’t be too complacent in dismissing it. I don’t pretend to be an expert on US constitutional law but am enough of an expert on the judiciary to know that if they want a result they can happily reason to it “distinguishing” or ignoring any previous legal reasoning to the contrary. Your SC hasn’t exactly distinguished itself in a few recent decisions with political overtones.

    • Andy Dufresne
      Posted June 15, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Yes, the court has always shown a willingness to “reach for” a preferred outcome using faulty legal reasoning. It’s one perk that comes with being the highest court in the land: you can’t be overturned (ask Al Gore).

      But Ruse’s fear that the current court would declare evolution a “religion” is premature, since I’d bet 2-to-1 money that Justice Kennedy would be highly resistant to that tack. Moreover, the kind of slick lawyering Ruse fears works on juries but just doesn’t fly at SCOTUS, where oral arguments are a formality at which the advocates are interrogated pointedly from the bench rather than given free reign to make summations. That said, the conservative Justices are all on record in one way or another as being on the side of those looking to inject God into public schools. Scalia and Thomas, in particular, see no constitutional problem—none whatsoever—with sectarian prayers and rituals in public schools and government-sponsored venues. So Ruse is right that such a “evolution is religion” ruling is not an entirely farfetched possibility, but he’s almost certainly wrong that the court would rely on such things as “Darwin Day” to do it. In fact, it’s worse than Ruse thinks: the originalist Justices, who’d be leading the charge on a ruling like that, believe they don’t even need to cite anything other than the constitution’s original meaning as understood by those who put it into effect—in 1789.

      We are safe from such a “evolution is like a religion” ruling—for the time being. Had Mr. McCain and his Fembot running mate won in 2008, though, the liberal jurisprudences of Obama’s appointees, Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, would have been replaced by two arch-conservative jurists—and that’d be a whole other story.

    • Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      Actually, the problem is that there are already too many “R”s in SCOTUS….


      • Posted June 16, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

        I disagree. I like the sound, look and feel of “SCROTUS” much better, if I may say so myself.

        • Posted June 16, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

          Whoops. I should read more carefully. I didn’t see Gordon already led off with that little jokesie. And a bit more elegantly, too. I’ll shut up now.

  37. mandrellian
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    “He needs to learn to keep his wounded ego out of his posts; it only makes him look weak and vindictive.”

    Oh, a thousand times this! In fact, it not only reflects personally on him personally, but also his arguments – which to be honest don’t need any help whatsoever looking gossamer.

    Apart from, in the words of Sean Connery, reading [new atheists] instead of burning them, these Faithiests desperately need to learn that it’s not about them – it’s about their arguments. Not only are their arguments stupidly wrong and baseless, they’re also repetitious – it’s getting beyond tiresome reading and responding to the same damn things.

    How many goddamned times do we need to be told – falsely – that we’re a secular faith, that we’re fundamentalist, that we’re militant, that we’re as bad as the bloody creationists? How many times should a person put up with being demonised by alleged intellectuals before they get a little snippy? How many times must we read a hit-piece on Gnus written by someone who hasn’t had the common goddamned courtesy to read and *comprehend* what Gnus say – and what they don’t say?

    Faithiests attacking New Atheist arguments: have they even read the fucking things?

    • Badger3k
      Posted June 15, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      Fucking arguments…how do they go?

      –insane clown accommodationists ?

      • mandrellian
        Posted June 15, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

        You certainly have the “clown” part correct.

  38. Badger3k
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Ruse has been preaching this particular schtick for several years, IIRC. I know it’s been brought up on this site before. His irrational belief that evolution is a religion echoes the screeds of some creationists – and considering Ruse’s love affair with some of the ID crowd…he may have bought into them hook, line and sinker, or else is strangely using their fallacious arguments as if they had actual weight.

  39. Posted June 15, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Crazy! You can’t have a religion if you don’t have a supernatural god. How about a society, club, organization, foundation, or fraternity? How about nothing? We already have enough atheist, secular, humanist, skeptic, groups

  40. Filippo
    Posted June 16, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Does Professor Think we should also silence our criticism of Islamic fundamentalism, as to remain vocal would just drive them further away from us? (Actually, TOWARD us with a vengeance, a la Theo van Gogh.)

    Are there any accommodationists living within arm’s-length of Islamic zealots? Are there accommodationists – alive and well – living within arm’s length of awful Gnu Atheists?

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] think of the new atheists as treating evolution like a secular religion, as Jerry Coyne points out in his second go round at Wright (and Ruse) . Ruse seems simply to misunderstand what religion is. Certainly, there are forms of Christian […]

  2. […] Ruse: New Atheists treat Darwinism as a “secular religion” ( […]

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