The March-April issue of Reports of the National Center for Science Education contains an interesting article by Daryl P. Domning, a Professor of Anatomy at Howard University in Washington DC (USA). The title of the article is "Winning Their Hearts and Minds: Who Should Speak for Evolution?"
This is an article about whether atheists or theistic evolutionists should take the lead in opposing Young Earth Creationism. Domning is the co-author of Original Selfishness: Original Sin And Evil in the Light of Evolution and he has written many articles in support of a Christian view of science and evolution.
Before I quote from his article in Reports of the National Center for Science Education, can you predict what it will say? Of course you can. Downing is a theist and of course he thinks that evolution should be described from a theistic perspective and not from an atheist perspective. Duh!
Here's the bottom line.
Moderate views on creation-vs-evolution are not in short supply. Yet despite the Gallop polls consistently showing 35-40% of Americans somewhere between the poles of special creationism and striclty materialists evolutionism (with only 9-15% for the latter view), this reality is studiously ignored both by creationists and by materialists like Dawkins (and others). This not only polarizes the debate unnecessarily, but fundamentally misrepresents it. To break this impasse and move toward defusing evolution as an explosive social and educational issues, I propose the perhaps shocking idea that it is time for theistic evolutionists to take over from atheists as the public face of evolution advocacy.[my emphasis]This is hardly a shocking idea since NCSE, along with major scientific organizations, have been promoting exactly that sort of strategy for many years. The key question is, exactly how are theistic evolutionists going to take over from atheists? Are they going to shout louder?
In this asymmetrical warfare, the secularists make easy, static targets. They fruitlessly deploy ponderous scientific artillery against the light-weight arguments of "scientific creationist" guerillas, and wonder at how the latter blithely dance aside to fight again another day. But the creationist leaders and their lay followers are clearly motivated by those existential and theological concerns and not by science, so the scientific arguments do not lay a glove on them.This is completely wrong. The atheists are the ones who recognize the real problem. The real problem is not science or the law and the problem won't be solved by winning a scientific debate or a trial in Dover.
The real problem is superstition, often masquerading as religion. As long as people continue to believe that superstition can trump science then no scientific argument will convince them to abandon creationism in its various manifestations—which includes theistic evolution, by the way. The atheists are aiming their artillery at religion.
As long as the secularists insist on prosecuting the war unilaterally in this way, they will not prevail. The only hope for a successful outcome lies with a coalition: the secularists must ally themselves with—indeed yield leadership to—theistic evolutionists, who understand the creationist's religious culture, speak their religious language, and can engege them on their home turf.Now that's a shocking statement. It's not shocking because it's so stupid, it's shocking because the author clearly has not been listening to the debate. The reason why theistic evolutionists speak the same language as the creationists is because they are creationists. Almost all religions spawn creationism and the rejection of at least some aspects of science. (Strict deism is the only exception.)
The reason why atheists won't ally with theistic evolutionists in a fight against religion should be obvious to anyone who has followed the debate over the past five years. Daryl P. Domning has not been paying attention.
Before the publication of the latest round of atheists books, the fight against creationism was almost entirely led by accommodationists and/or closet atheists. It's reasonable to ask whether they were successful. To ask the question is to answer it. The number of Americans clinging to superstitious beliefs hardly changed for five decades. That's not a success by any stretch of the imagination.
To his credit, Domning seems to glimpse part of this when he says ...
Finally, is my proposal basically a tactical one? Of course it is—because the old tactics have failed to achieve more than a courtroom stalemate, while the soul of creationism is marching on in churches, classrooms, political campaigns, and the rest of society. We have been fighting the wrong war with the wrong weapons. If we are content to rest on our courtroom victories, as the winners of every stand-up fight, we will end up as we did in Vietnam: or as Sitting Bull supposedly said after the Little Bighorn, we will have "won a great battle, but lost a great war."I'm glad that Downing and I can agree on one thing. Court victories are a mirage.
My solution to the problem of superstitious belief is to challenge it head-on. I presume that Downing wants to fight another battle and continue losing the war. That's understandable since he and I are not on the same side in the battle that I want to fight.
Atheists are directly addressing the real problem, religion. If there are theists who want to join us then they are welcome to do so but they will have to abandon all forms of creationism, including theistic evolution.
The National Center for Science Education is aware of the fact that Domning's article is controversial. In their editorial they state that "NCSE, of course, has a clear policy of religious neutrality." In order to preserve the illusion of balance, NCSE asked three other people to comment on Domning's article.
Sheldon Gottlieb says ...
Considering the complexities introduced by religion, any evolutionist, therefore, could lead the discussion on [science vs religion] and evolution-creation with one proviso: there is no need for atheistic evolutionists to be strident about the non-existence of God, despite the fact that fundamentalists have inexplicably bound the two. The emphasis should be placed on explaining what science is, what is religion, and the differences between them, and framing all [science vs religion] creation/evolution discussions from a scientific perspective (natural explanations of natural phenomena) and not a theistic prespective (untestable and unlimited imaginations about the supernatural).This is the soft version of accommodationism. It's the failed version. I can't imagine how Gottlieb would want an evolutionist to behave while explaining religion and the differences between science and religion.
Keith1 Miller says ...
As Domning says, being public advocates for the compatibility of evolutionary science and religious faith is not about injecting religion into science. Far from it! It is simply presenting the true face of science which practiced by individuals representing a very wide range of theistic and not-theistic views.This is interesting logic. Some of those scientists are Intelligent Design Creationists. Does that mean that NCSE should publicly advocate the compatibility of evolution and Intelligent Design Creationism? Of course not. The decision to pick and choose which religious scientists to support is a conscious one and it means that NCSE takes a position on good religions vs bad religions.
Erik B. Pietrowicz says ...
The public is not generally concerned with making the distinction between scientific evidence and religious belief. In practice, then, the nature of the theological opinions that are commonly associated with evolutionary biology is important, as they can end up driving a false wedge between religion and science in general. Thus, evolution education (and religion?) suffers as atheism and evolutionism become synonymous in the public mind.This is another example of soft accommodationism. He advocates that we should stick to science and not drag religion into the debate. That's the same old strategy that has failed in the past. This is not a debate about science. It's a debate about superstition.
1. I misidentified this person as "Ken" Miller in my original posting. This was stupid and embarrassing.