I once wrote an essay called "Theistic Evolution: The Fallacy of the Middle Ground." The point I was trying to make is that Theistic Evolution does not occupy the middle ground between superstition and rationalism or between science and religion. Theistic evolution is religious, it advocates superstition over rationalism—albeit a milder form of superstition than that of Young Earth Creationists.
Joshua Rosenau supports the evolution/creationism continuum shown in the above diagram [see Creation/evolution continuum, or NCSE is too nice to theists … and to atheists!]. It's from the NCSE website [The Creation/Evolution Continuum].
Josh claims that the continuum is the proper way to illustrate the differences between those who accept evolution and those who don't.
The nice thing about the continuum graphic is that, regardless of its faults, it emphasizes an easily obscured point: one need not set evolution against belief in a deity who acts in the world, and it is possible to move toward acceptance of evolution without moving out of the realm of theistic belief. The continuum oversimplifies by making it seem like there's just one path one might take in doing so, but NCSE is not in the business of endorsing particular religious philosophies, and making an exhaustive list is beyond the scope of the continuum.He's got one thing right. It is, indeed, possible to move toward rationalism and science without moving out of the realm of theism. What Josh doesn't understand is that there's a breakpoint not shown on the continuum. I've put it on the modified version I show here.
When you view it like this, it's a different sort of diagram. There is a sort of continuum as theists move farther and farther away from the most outrageous forms of anti-science belief. But there's no continuum between science and most forms of religious belief. That's a sharp line.
Is there a reason for spinning the debate in the form of a continuum? Yes, there is ... you've heard it before.
More significantly, the continuum is helpful as a way to reach out to folks who have simply never thought about the issue before, and naively assume there are two camps: one for creationism and the other for evolution. So when forced to choose (as, for instance, by a pollster) they glom onto whichever camp they think best fits them. If the question is asked in a way that frames the decision in terms of science, they'll tend to favor evolution, if framed around religion or morality, they tend to choose creationism (at least in the US). Pointing out that there is a broad and diverse middle ground, that the choice is not nearly so stark, can help people get comfortable accepting evolution before confronting religious issues.I understand why framing the debate in this way can be helpful to your cause. What I object to is the implication that moving from theism to atheism via agnosticism is a smooth transition. That's just not true and NCSE is very much endorsing a certain philosophical position when it promotes this diagram.
The continuum is a tool, and a useful one. It helps introduce the complexities of the interplay between science and religion to audiences who may simply think that everyone has to choose one or the other. It often surprises audiences to learn that many people do not see a need to choose, do not find an inherent conflict. (Standard disclaimer/troll repellent: Those people might be wrong, and I take no position on that topic.)No, Josh, that's not true. You are taking a position on that topic. You are saying that one does not have to choose one or the other. You are saying that the view of evolution espoused by Francis Collins differs only in subtle degrees from that espoused by atheist scientists. You must know that isn't true.
As such, the simple tactic of drawing a bridge between what people think of as two mutually exclusive beliefs is pedagogically powerful.There is no "bridge" between the belief in supernatural being and non-belief in such beings. How can something be "pedagogically powerful" if it's wrong?