Peter Hess is Faith Project Director at National Center for Science Education (NCSE). (I don't know if they have another director for people who don't rely on faith. Is there an Rationalism Project Director?) Hess was written an article in The Washington Post [On Faith].
It's a typical accommodationist article—full of unsubstantiated statements with no attempt whatsoever to come to grips with the main problem. The article maintains that science and religion are compatible without explaining what kind of religion you have to believe in to avoid conflict with science. Can you believe in miracles, the power of prayer, the existence of a soul, the importance of the Bible, the divinity of Jesus, and life after death without coming into conflict with science?
Joshua Rosenau likes the article by Hess. Josh has posted excerpts on his blog Thoughts from Kansas [NCSE's Peter Hess takes down Disco.'s John West]. Here's one of the excerpts that Josh posted.
Too often, debates over the public perception of evolution are dominated by the fringes, by fundamentalist Christians and others who reject basic science due to their literal reading of the Bible and by ardent atheists who reject religion because they've embraced metaphysical naturalism ― that nature is all that exists. But the silent majority ― that spans the spectrum from theism to atheism ― have no problem reconciling their religious beliefs with established sciences such as evolution, or with new sciences such as stem cell research. My work at the National Center for Science Education brings me into contact with voices across that spectrum and I've found that honest, open, and inclusive dialog is not only possible, but vital for our children's education, for the credibility of religious traditions, and for the continued role of the United States as a scientific and moral leader in our increasingly interconnected world.There are several problems with the logic expressed here. I'm always suspicious of those who claim to represent the "silent majority" but in this case the claim makes no sense because I'm not convinced that this so-called "silent majority" in the USA actually exists. Is it true that a majority of Americans have "no problem reconciling their religious beliefs with established sciences"?
Now let's imagine a hypothetical situation where Peter Hess is writing an article for a Swedish newspaper, where a majority of citizens are non-religious and atheists could not be labeled a "fringe" group. Would his argument be any weaker because he can no longer claim to represent the "silent majority"? If the answer is "yes" then the argument has no meaning. It's just empty rhetoric. I hate arguments based on the appeal to popularity even if the appeal is merely implicit.
Like Peter Hess, I also value "honest, open and inclusive dialog." That's why I think it's important to debate the conflict between science and religion. If one is being open and honest than one will address the potential sources of conflict such as the existence of a personal god and whether humans have a purpose. It would be dishonest to avoid those issues—and the ones listed above—in order to try and makes religious people more comfortable. It would not be "inclusive" to dismiss atheists as a "fringe" group whose opinions don't count because they're not part of the "silent majority.".
If we really value the education of our children then lets talk about the existence of supernatural beings and let's hear a defense of their existence and not just rhetoric about how belief is the majority position in the USA. Let's hear about those religious traditions that are compatible with science and let's, at least, get rid of the ones that are clearly incompatible.
Finally, who appointed the USA as the "moral leader" of the world? Did I miss the vote?