Chris Mooney and Jerry Coyne are having a discussion about whether religion and science are compatible. Coyne says they are not and I agree with him. We don't know what Chris really thinks on this issue but we do know that he's opposed to debating it in public.
Chris supports the accommodationist position, which means that even if you think science and religion are incompatible you should not voice that opinion in public.
Chris didn't always think that way. Back in 2001 he wrote an article in Slate that mentioned how accepting evolution challenges most religious beliefs. He addresses this in his latest posting [Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself].
…indeed, I find my work from 2001 on this topic pretty unsatisfying. I guess you could say I’ve changed my view; certainly I’ve changed my emphasis. A lot more reading in philosophy and history has moved me toward a more accomodationist position. So has simple pragmatism; I don’t see what is to be gained by flailing indiscriminately against religion, other than a continuation of the culture wars. That’s especially so when those who flail against religion do so in philosophically or historically unsophisticated ways, or (worse still) with the bile, negativity, and even occasional intolerance that I have encountered in such discussions.This last part is ... how shall we put it ... disingenuous. Mooney and Coyne are having a polite (so far) and intellectual discussion about the compatibility of science and religion. Why do the accommodationists always have to bring up the worst examples of atheists in support of their arguments? Who's "flailing," Chris?
Isn't it strange that they never mention the bile, negativity, and intolerance of the worst religious fundamentalists? Shouldn't that be just as relevant for an accommodationist? I always wonder why people like Chris Mooney and Matt Nisbet don't tell Ken Miller and Francis Collins to shut the heck up because of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter?
And I'm not even going to discuss the backhanded slap about the "unsophistication" of those who think that science and religion are (mostly) incompatible. That's just childish ... and somewhat intolerant.
I am as much an atheist as I have ever been–and I have been one essentially since birth. But I am also much more interested in liberal tolerance (in the classical sense) and in finding common solutions than I am in eradicating religion (if that’s even possible) or in making other people think like I do. I’ll have more on all of this soon as I respond to Coyne.This is the heart of the issue. Mooney admits that he is not interested in the debate over the truth of religion. In other words, the compatibility of science and religion is just not an issue that concerns him. Fine. Stay out of it. Don't try and argue that others should think like you. Some of us are interested in whether God exists.
Oh, and by the way, Chris, the words "liberal tolerance" don't mean what you think they mean. They are not synonyms for "don't ever discuss the existence of God because it might upset believers."