Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I'm Beginning to Really Like Jerry Coyne

 
That's because he writes things like Must we always cater to the faithful when teaching science?.
As long as I have been a scientist, I have lived with my colleagues’ view that one cannot promote the acceptance of evolution in this country without catering to the faithful. This comes from the idea that many religious people who would otherwise accept evolution won’t do so if they think it undermines their faith, promoting atheism or immoral behavior. Thus various organizations promoting the teaching of evolution, including the National Academy of Sciences and the National Center for Science Education, have published booklets or websites that explicitly say that faith and science are compatible. In other words, that is their official position. The view of many other scientists that faith and science (or reason) are incompatible is ignored or disparaged. As evidence for the compatibility, the most frequent reason cited is that many scientists are religious and many of the faithful accept evolution. While this proves compatibility in the trivial sense, it doesn’t show, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, that the two views are philosophically compatible.

....

Because of this, I think that organizations promoting the teaching of evolution should do that, and do that alone. Leave religion and its compatibility with faith to the theologians. That’s not our job. Our job is to show that evolution is true and creationism and ID aren’t. End of story.
I agree. Organizations like NCSE, AAAS, and the National Academies should just talk about science. As soon as they start to say that science and religion are compatible they are misrepresenting a huge number of scientists and stepping outside their mandates.


6 comments :

  1. The fact of the corrosive effect of science on religion is the 800-pound gorilla in the room that these organizations feel obligated to acknowledge. Everyone (even the creationists) sees it.

    Their characterization of the gorilla as just a friendly pet is dishonest, but it make sense politically. Do you think they would get a dime from Congress if Coyne was their spokesman?

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  2. I agree, it may surprise you to know. All that we as pro-science advocates should say is how the science is. It's up to theologians to tell their folk whether those facts about science and the world it studies can be reconciled with this or that doctrinal position, and up to atheologians to argue how this ro that religious doctrine is inconsistent with science - what matters is the science.

    Cute historical factoid: the first thing that a revivified Catholicism took issue with after the nineteenth century surge in science was Daltonian chemistry (problems with the Mass). But they worked out a way to compromise their doctrine to deal with it.

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  3. Organizations like NCSE, AAAS, and the National Academies should just talk about science. As soon as they start to say that science and religion are compatible they are misrepresenting a huge number of scientists and stepping outside their mandates.

    That seems reasonable to this non-scientist.

    Would you then agree that repeated assertions of incompatibility by "spokepersons for evolution" (Pharyngula being a prime example) are equally unacceptable?

    Another example would be a science-based organization that declares incompatibility. Unacceptable?

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  4. Leave religion and its compatibility with faith to the theologians.

    I agree as well. What's disheartening is how few theologians see an opportunity and challenge to tackle in evolution.

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  5. Scott asks,

    Would you then agree that repeated assertions of incompatibility by "spokepersons for evolution" (Pharyngula being a prime example) are equally unacceptable?

    No. PZ Myers is clearly speaking as an individual He is not the spokesperson for a scientific organization.

    I disagree with John Wilkins. There's nothing wrong with individual scientists pointing out how some religious claims conflict with science.

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  6. Just as a matter of curiosity, does Prof. Moran think that Jerry Coyne would have been a better choice for lead off witness in the Dover trial then Ken Miller?

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