Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Neville Chamberlain School of Evolutionists

Richard Dawkins writes about the "Neville Chamberlain 'appeasement' school" of evolutionists. These are scientists who are willing to compromise science in order to form an alliance with some religious groups who oppose Christian fundamentalism. Do you believe in miracles? That's okay, it's part of science. Do you believe that God guides evolution in order to produce beings who worship him? That's fine too; it's all part of the Neville Chamberlain version of intelligent design. Souls, moral law, life after death, a fine-tuned universe, angels, the efficacy of prayer, transubstantiation ... all these things are part of the new age science according to the appeasement school. There's no conflict with real science. We mustn't question these things for fear of alienating our potential allies in the fight against the IDiots. Welcome to the big tent.

Ed Brayton has declared himself one of the leading members of the Neville Chamberlain School. And now, John Lynch and Pat Hayes have joined the Ed Brayton team.

Me and PZ are on the side of science and rationalism.

Young Earth Creationsts (YEC's) and Intelligent Design Creationists (IDiots) are anti-science because they propose explanations of the natural world that conflict with science. But they're not alone in doing that. Many of the so-called Theistic Evolutionists also promote a version of evolution that Darwin wouldn't recognize. They are more "theist" than "evolutionist."

For some reason the Neville Chamberlain team is willing to attack the bad science of a Michael Denton or a Michael Behe but not the equally—and mostly indistinguishable—bad science of leading Theistic Evolutionists. Isn't that strange?

Public understanding of science will not be advanced by people like Francis Collins, Simon Conway Morris, and Ken Miller. They are subverting science in order to make it conform to their personal religious beliefs. (Which, by the way, conflict.) They are doing more harm to science than those who oppose it directly from the outside because the Theistic Evolutionists are subverting from within. It is sad that they are being supported by people who should know the difference between rationalism and superstition.

Is the appeasement strategy working? Of course not, but the most amazing thing is happening. The Neville Chamberlain School thinks it is winning in spite of the fact that leading politicians oppose evolution; most schools don't teach evolution; and the general public doesn't accept evolution. Talk about delusion. The appeasers think we should continue down the same path that led us to this situation. They think we should continue to compromise science in order to accommodate the religious moderates.

PZ Myers is only the most recent in a long list of people who have noticed that the good guys are not winning ...
Now, what is this winning strategy that Ed's Team is pushing? It seems to be more of the same, the stuff that we've been doing for 80 years, accommodating the watering down of science teaching to avoid conflict with religious superstition…the strategy that has led to a United States where a slim majority opposes the idea of evolution, and we're left with nothing but a struggle in the courts to maintain the status quo.

I don't know why this is so hard to understand. We are not winning. We are clinging to tactics that rely on legal fiat to keep nonsense out of the science classroom, while a rising tide of uninformed, idiotic anti-science opinion, tugged upwards by fundamentalist religious fervor, cripples science education. Treading water is not a winning strategy. I'm glad we're not sinking, and I applaud the deserving legal efforts that have kept us afloat, but come on, people, this isn't winning.
Hallelujah! Right on, brother.

32 comments:

  1. I'm puzzled. You knowingly miscast the Brayton approach as "appeasment" and say the good guys are not winning. But how many people in tenure track science position in universities are creationists?

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  2. andys, that isn't the point. Despite Dover, and despite the situation you note, in the court of public opinion the IDers are winning, particularly when they use their media resources to spin decisions like Dover into "censorship". So what about the people who have tenure now? We need to concern ourselves with the next generation, and where future tenure track scientists and academics will be coming from.

    The fact that the pro-science side continues to win in school board elections and cases like Kitzmiller tends to blind folks who celebrate those victories into forgetting that we shouldn't have to be fighting these fights in the first place.

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  3. This really is getting somewhat out of hand.

    I suggeset a three-day truce. Sit back and think about it.

    Rationalists don't need to make pre-emptive war against theists in order to promote science as science. Rationalists need to use their most important tool -- reason -- to make the case that evolution should be taught early, taught well, and taught thoroughly.

    C'mon, take a chill. Brayton's not playing Neville Chamberlain. He's not signing a peace treaty with Bill Dembski and Jonathan Wells. Especially Kenneth Miller isn't. Nor is Francis Collins.

    Dawkins is guilty of bringing down the wrath of a corollary of Godwin's Law -- this is a different fight, with different weapons, and different stakes.

    Ken Miller is on our side. Don't let our colleagues snipe at him from the rear. Tell Brayton to stop sniping at you, too, for the same reason. [Brayton, you reading this?]

    Oh, it's entertaining, and I'm sure we can keep it friendly . . . but things might benefit from a couple of days off.

    In the meantime, did you see any of the coverage of Harun Yahya over the past week? He's blaming Darwin for terrorism, as well as fascism AND communism. May I suggest a better place to deploy our snipers?

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  4. Public understanding of science will not be advanced by people like Francis Collins, Simon Conway Morris, and Ken Miller.

    Well damn! And there I thought I had learned things about. . .you know. . .evolution and stuff from reading books and listening to talks by Ken Miller. I guess I was wrong. Thanks for setting me straight.

    I guess somebody should inform the publishers of Miller's textbooks that nobody who reads them is learning anything about science!

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  5. "I guess somebody should inform the publishers of Miller's textbooks that nobody who reads them is learning anything about science!"

    You won't learn a damn thing about science from reading the last half of Miller's Finding Darwins God

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  6. jeffw -

    Nope, I didn't. If Larry had simply stated that, I would have agreed with him. But that's not what he said.

    Oh, and I did learn a lot about science from the first half. :)

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  8. I agree with Ed Darrell. This whole squabble has gone way OTT. But then, the spectacle of smart, opinionated people arguing their asses off should not exactly be unheard of in the world of science!

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  9. How different from the UK, where in spite of creeping holy Tony B. liar, the Dept. of Education have issued a directive, effectively banning the attempts to teach Cretinism/ID-iocy in British schools.

    This is because of the efforts of the super-rich secondhand car dealers Edmiston and Vardy (both of whom are cretinists) to influence schools to whioch they have contributed monies.

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  10. Why can Creationists &/or Intelligent Design (ID) advocates solve Sudoku Number Puzzles so quickly?

    THEY JUST PUT A “G” IN ALL THE EMPTY SQUARES.

    It’s just a matter of faith! It’s the same method creationists and now ID specialists resort to in trying to prove their unsustainable “intelligent design theory”. Creationists can just stop searching for reality by just assuming all gaps in current understanding and/or knowledge of evolution must be filled with a (G=god) solution. As Prof Richard Dawkins explains in chapter four of The GOD Delusion; “If an apparent gap is found, it is assumed that God, by default must fill it.” Saves them having to think and question I suppose.

    Much like the progress one makes by eliminating the possible numbers in each square as a Sudoku puzzle is solved, “gaps shrink as science advances and God is threatened with eventually having nothing to do and nowhere to hide.” This of course “worries thoughtful theologians” however the greater worry for scientists (and the rest of us) is that groups through politics or fear will walk away from the “essential part of the scientific enterprise [that is] to admit ignorance.”

    Nothing is more dangerous than a, ‘I have all the answers’ arrogant preacher followed by a bunch of non-thinking ‘god-botherers’ driven by blind faith who absolve themselves from their societal responsibilities with the comfort of unquestioning feeble-minds!

    Although some see Dawkins as a bit of a raver and less scientific in his arguments than he could (should) be, if you read Pascal Boyer's writings (e.g. "Gods, Spirits and the Mental Instincts that Create Them"), Dawkins’ 'emotional' approach to battling the “ID” lobby is also needed. I read recently a quote (can’t remember who’s or where) that goes along the line of: ‘you cannot logic a man out of a point of view that logic didn’t get him to in the first place’. Faith is driven by fear, passion, hardwired avoidance mechanisms and emotion and that is exactly what realists need to stimulate to reverse the current worrying trend by the slick religious nutters to sell their unpalatable and dangerous certainties.

    Its time to organise, its time to fight… I for one don’t want to leave this problem for the next generation to solve alone.

    By the way a good introduction to Boyer (Henry Luce Professor of Individual and Collective Memory at Washington University in St. Louis), can be found here:
    http://artsci.wustl.edu/%7Epboyer/LuceWebSite/LucePeople.html and there are a few notes, quotes and summaries on my own blog.

    caliibre

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  11. Do you believe in miracles? That's okay, it's part of science. Do you believe that God guides evolution in order to produce beings who worship him? That's fine too; it's all part of the Neville Chamberlain version of intelligent design. Souls, moral law, life after death, a fine-tuned universe, angels, the efficacy of prayer, transubstantiation ... all these things are part of the new age science according to the apeasement school.

    Who, exactly, says these things? I've never heard ANYONE outside the "cdesign proponentsist" camp saying anything remotely as idiotic as this. I've been reading Ed Brayton's blog for well over a year, and he's NEVER said anything remotely like what you imply he says. Nor, to my knowledge, have Judge Jones, the plaintiffs in the Dover trial, or any of creationism's most effective opponents.

    -Raging Bee

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  12. Faith is driven by fear, passion, hardwired avoidance mechanisms and emotion and that is exactly what realists need to stimulate to reverse the current worrying trend by the slick religious nutters to sell their unpalatable and dangerous certainties.

    So what you're saying is that we can't fight religious extremism without becoming more like religious extremists? And that their deranged mindset both requires and justifies a similar response from "realists?"

    Here's a lesson from recent history: when bigots fight bigots, bigots win. And the rest of us lose, and lose big. I, for one, have no reason to support either side of such a pointless war -- both sides are wrong.

    -Raging Bee

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  13. I'm puzzled. You knowingly miscast the Brayton approach as "appeasment" and say the good guys are not winning. But how many people in tenure track science position in universities are creationists?

    We have the upper hand in universities, were some standards are enforced. Surely you do not believe that holding the thinly populated redoubts of the universities in a country where the majority of the population believes Jesus created them is "winning"?

    Brayton has not been miscast. Take a look at his latest; it's highly relevant to your complaint. He thinks I'm a dogmatic authoritarian because I have said I would not vote to give tenure to a creationist in my university division. I think it's more than fair to call someone who thinks creationists deserve a place in biology departments an "appeaser". He is completely oblivious to the notion that just maybe one of the prerequisites for admission to the professoriate is competence in an academic discipline.

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  14. "Who, exactly, says these things?"
    Larry conflates parts of personal beliefs that conflicts with science with instances were scientists have reasoned in conflict with science. But for his purposes these are all conflicts with science.

    Examples of scientists who have reasoned in conflict with science:
    Collins have used the moral argument (in conflict with observations on animals). Both he and Miller have used cosmological and teleological arguments such as the fine-tuned universe (in conflict with the open debate on models explaining this).

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  15. Collins have used the moral argument (in conflict with observations on animals). Both he and Miller have used cosmological and teleological arguments such as the fine-tuned universe (in conflict with the open debate on models explaining this).

    Have they done these things on company time, so to speak, such that the integrity their scientific work was compromised? So far I've heard no specific allegations to that effect -- everyone who has spoken about these two people give their science high marks, independent of any disagreement on religious or philosophical grounds.

    -Raging Bee

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  16. Raging Bee:
    No, they aren't compromising their own work. The conflict is as I have stated above.

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  17. PZ said


    He thinks I'm a dogmatic authoritarian because I have said I would not vote to give tenure to a creationist in my university division. I think it's more than fair to call someone who thinks creationists deserve a place in biology departments an "appeaser".


    No, he said: "Myers is on record as supporting the denial of tenure to anyone advocating ID". I don't know what you have said that makes him say this, but it doesn't imply that he thinks creationists should be given tenure in biology departments. My guess is that it's because you are on record (I think) in supporting the idea that someone like Beckwith (not a scientist) should have been denied tenure due to his associations with ID. I know he doesn't agree with this, but this is a far cry from suggesting that science departments give tenure to creationists.

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  18. My My My.

    I tend to some other interests for a few days and all Hell breaks lose. Ed Brayton, as usual, is throwing accusations around trying to seem important. One of his more absurd statements is;
    But some, like Larry Moran, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Gary Hurd and others, are involved in an entirely different battle. For them, it's not enough to protect science education from the attacks of some religious people; religion itself, in any form,
    is to be attacked and destroyed by any means necessary.


    First, I am flattered to be mentioned together with Moran, Myers and Dawkins, but it is totally inappropriate. I have at best a tiny fraction of the scientific accomplishments of these men, or their public influence. Brayton has never contributed to science or education and has comparatively little influence, so this is clearly a "division by zero" problem.


    Nor have I ever considered it necessary to eliminate religion, regardless of means. I don't
    think that science can do this in any event. The only certain path to atheism I know of is to study theology.

    Let me propose a simple analogy; the pro-science education effort is like a dog. There is the wagging tail at one end, and the bark and even teeth at the other. PZ, Dawkins and others are at the front. Pat, Nick and others are the friendly, inclusive wagging tail and Ed Brayton is the little part just below the wag. I'm the little flea whispering that if you don't want to divide forces, then ignore divisive people like Ed who demand that you have to be on "his" side and don't step in the mess he leaves on the floor.

    Brayton now wishes everyone to forget that he started this. Instead, I think we ahould all consider what his "contributions" have been.

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  19. You're not on the side of science. You are on the side of scientism. . .no different than religion

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  20. I have at best a tiny fraction of the scientific accomplishments of these men...

    I have not checked Moran's publication record but Peezee only has 9-10 peer-reviewed publications and Dawkins' last peer-reviewed publication dates back to, when, the early Thatcher administration?

    To borrow a phrase from Captain Pocket Protector (i.e., Shallit):

    "[Hostile atheism] appears to have ended another promising career."

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  21. Examples of scientists who have reasoned in conflict with science:
    Collins have used the moral argument (in conflict with observations on animals).


    Sociobiology is glorified haruspicy.

    Both he and Miller have used cosmological and teleological arguments such as the fine-tuned universe (in conflict with the open debate on models explaining this).

    If it is, by your own admission, an "open debate," then they are not to be faulted for making recourse to teleological arguments.

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  22. Ah yes. Scientism. That daft notion that systematic observation and reason are so much better tools for knowing the world than is talking to yer magical invisible friend and acting on the answers you imagine it gives.

    He's got you there, man. You scien... scient... scientikismet... scientism guy, you!

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  23. My guess is that it's because you are on record (I think) in supporting the idea that someone like Beckwith (not a scientist) should have been denied tenure due to his associations with ID. I know he doesn't agree with this, but this is a far cry from suggesting that science departments give tenure to creationists.

    Only if you consider ID to be a far cry from creationism. Personally, I certainly don't.

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  24. Only if you consider ID to be a far cry from creationism. Personally, I certainly don't.


    But the signal difference is that Beckwith was denied tenure in the philosophy department, not the biology department. Not for being an ID sympathizer, necessarily, but if so, would it be appropriate?

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  25. But the signal difference is that Beckwith was denied tenure in the philosophy department, not the biology department. Not for being an ID sympathizer, necessarily, but if so, would it be appropriate?

    Well, Beckwith's specialty, according to his own website, is "politics, jurisprudence, religion, and applied ethics," and his Baylor position is in the Institute of Church-State Studies. I think it's fair to say that he uses his expertise to make ID-related crackpot claims in these same areas--that ID isn't religious, that teaching it wouldn't run afoul of church-state separation, and so forth--let alone in biology.

    IOW he's dumping on his own fields of study, not just someone else's.

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  26. Who is kidding who here?

    You know that tenure is politics...and if you don't toe the line, you ain't gonna get it.

    So much for "free inquiry".

    Hypocrites.

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  27. I'd like it if Dr. Moran would lay out clearly and without rhetoric, what his objections to theistic evolutionists are. If he thinks theistic evolution is a scientific theory, he is misinformed. If someone is presenting theistic evolution as science, he is wrong and misguided. Theistic evolution is not science, it is a philosophical/theological perspective on accepted science. Thats it.
    No one is trying to "prove" the involvement of a higher power in the evolution of life. Miller, Collins, and Morris are not trying to "prove" anything of the sort. They are simply offering their perspectives on evolution. Their simple message is this: There is no reason for faith to be at odds with mainstream, accepted science.
    No one is trying to "water down" evolutionary biology to make it more acceptable to the public. If you want to say that evolution is only compatible with an atheistic worldview (which some people think), you must recognize that that is not science, it is a philosophical perspective. Last time I checked, philosophical perspectives on science were not part of public school science curriculum. The same, of course, goes for theology.
    The only philosophical conclusion that should be deriven in scientific ecucation is that evolution cannot and does not inevitably lead to any particular worldview.
    If it is appeasement to tell people that evolution does not contradict the basic tenets of their faith (something which most churches have affirmed), then I am proud to announce that I am an appeaser.

    -just some guy

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  28. Anonymous said...
    I'd like it if Dr. Moran would lay out clearly and without rhetoric, what his objections to theistic evolutionists are.

    Theistic Evolution: The Fallacy of the Middle Ground

    If he thinks theistic evolution is a scientific theory, he is misinformed.

    Then please inform me. Is theistic evolution indistinguishable from the scientific version of evolution that atheists like me accept? If so, why give it a separate name? Why not just call it religion?

    If someone is presenting theistic evolution as science, he is wrong and misguided. Theistic evolution is not science, it is a philosophical/theological perspective on accepted science. Thats it.

    Agreed. Theistic evolutionists who pretend that their version of evolution is scientific are wrong and misguided. I'm glad we agree.

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  29. Well scientifically they are the same. I think there are several reasons for calling it "theistic evolution" rather than just "evolution." First, and this is only my view, theistic evolution is a soundbite term for "you do not have to choose between God and evolution" or "evolution is the way that God brought about the diversity of life," or even shorter "evolution from a theistic perspective." In my view, we should not need this term, but unfortunately there is a large number of people in the USA led to believe that evolution is a threat to their faith and that they must choose between evolution and God. As long as that is the case, theistic evolution will exist as a theological term.

    I don't think that anyone is presenting evolution started or guided by a higher power as science. Correct me if i'm wrong but I don't think that God (or lack thereof, for that matter) is ever mentioned in scientific journals. Certain scientists may be promoting theistic evolution as theology, but they know very well that science alone cannot lead to that conclusion. By the same token, certain scientists may be promoting naturalism or atheism as philosophy, but also know that they are stepping out of the realm of science and into the realm of philosophy.

    Now if you believe that evolution or biochemistry leads to an atheistic worldview(i'm not saying that you do), I think there we can disagree. But I think we can also agree that philosophical perspectives on science and evolution in particular are not and should not be part of high school science curricula.

    -just some guy

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  30. To summarize. Theistic evolution:

    Scientific theory? No.

    Theological idea compatible and consistent with accepted science? Yes.

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