I want to be like Janet D. Stemwedel when I grow up.
She has an amazing ability to think clearly and it's combined with an equally amazing ability to get her clear thoughts down on paper (or monitors). She is one of the reasons why I like
Her latest example is a discussion of Unscientific America, the book by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum that's causing so much turmoil in the blogosphere. I strongly urge you to read her posting from late Friday night called Unscientific America: Are scientists all on the same team?.
I posted a comment on Adventures in Ethics and Science in response to her posting. What I'm trying to do is explain why it is wrong for scientific organizations to take a position that excludes a large number of scientists. I'm including my comment here so that Sandwalk readers can have their say.
Excellent post, Janet. I agree with everything you say—except maybe for a few minor quibbles.
Chris and Sheril have missed the point about scientists having multiple goals and that's why many of their criticisms are misguided.
What can we do to find common goals that all scientists can share? I'd like to make one small suggestion. Scientific organizations such as AAAS, NAS, NIH, NSF etc. should remain strictly neutral with respect to religion. They should never take a stance on whether science and religion are compatible or incompatible. They should never promote the views of theistic scientists as being examples of excellent science BECAUSE these scientists are religious.
We all know that AAAS and NAS don't behave this way. They specifically use Francis Collins and Ken Miller as examples of good scientists who are also religious. They explicitly support the philosophical position that science is compatible with evangelical Christianity (Collins) and Roman Catholicism (Miller).
If all such organizations refrained from taking sides then ALL scientists, atheist and theist alike, could get behind their goals and support them. As soon as they start promoting the philosophical position of science/religion compatibility, they lose some of their potential supporters. The supporters they lose are the atheists who believe that science is not compatible with many of the beliefs of established religions.
The strict neutrality that I advocate should extend to the leadership of these organizations. Leaders of scientific organizations should not be prominently identified as supporters of religion or opponents of religion. This applies to the Director of NIH as well as other leadership positions.
Personally, I would extend the goal of strict neutrality to organizations like the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). If they maintain a big tent then all scientists, atheists and theists alike, can support their main goals. As soon as an organization like NCSE starts to promote the compatibility of science and religion by favoring theistic evolutionists over atheists—especially atheists who are opposed to compatibility—they create divisions. I don't think it is necessary for them to abandon and antagonize the vocal atheist scientists. NCSE disagrees, they have made a political decision to choose compatibility over neutrality because it advances their primary goal, which is separation of church and state.
These are complex issues. I don't get the impression that Chris and Sheril are aware of the complexity.