In an earlier posting I said, with respect to accommodationism, "As you know, it's the official position of the National Center for Science Education."
Josh Rosenau is a Public Information Project Director for NCSE and he replied to this claim in a comment on Sandwalk [Josh Comment].
This is simply false. We may not be able to convince one another of theological/scientific matters, but can we have the discussion without manifest inaccuracy?Josh links to the NSCE website as proof that the accommodationist position is not the "official" position of NCSE. The statement he quotes is irrelevant to the discussion so let's look further into the NCSE webpages.
Here is NCSE's official position:
"What is NCSE's religious position?
"None. The National Center for Science Education is not affiliated with any religious organization or belief. We and our members enthusiastically support the right of every individual to hold, practice, and advocate their beliefs, religious or non-religious. Our members range from devout practitioners of several religions to atheists, with many shades of belief in between. What unites them is a conviction that science and the scientific method, and not any particular religious belief, should determine science curriculum."
At best, this is an affirmation that some religions may be (or may not be) compatible with science. It is not a blanket statement of absolute compatibility, and suggesting that it is simply misleads your readers.
Before doing that, let me agree partly with Josh. It would have been better if I had not used the word "official" since that is a stronger statement than I wished to make. It would be better to say that the public stance of NCSE is to be supportive of the accommodationist position in preference to the idea that science and religion are in conflict and in preference to the position that NCSE should not take a stance on this controversial issue.
Let's look at the part of the NCSE website that deals with Science and Religion. The main page is authored by Peter M. J. Hess, NCSE Faith Project Director.1
In public discussions of evolution and creationism, we are sometimes told by creationists and opponents of religion alike that we must choose between belief in creation and acceptance of the theory of evolution, between religion and science. Is this a fair demand? Is the choice that stark? Can one believe in God and accept evolution? Can one both accept what science teaches and engage in religious belief and practice?It certainly looks to me like NCSE is taking up the issue rather than being neutral as I would prefer. It looks to me like there's a tilt toward getting people to understand that you don't have to choose between the extremes of creationism and "antireligious atheists" but, instead, should opt for the "range of more moderate religious views."
These are complex issues, and deserve thoughtful consideration before a decision is made. Theologians, clergy, scientists, and others belonging to many religious traditions have concluded that their religious views are compatible with evolution, and are even enhanced by the knowledge of nature that science provides. Just as vigorously, other theologians, clergy, and members of other religious traditions reject evolution as contradictory to and thus incompatible with their faith positions. And some nonbelievers argue that the methodology and findings of science are philosophically incompatible with any meaningful form of faith. Passions often run high on all sides.
This section of our website offers resources for exploring a wide array of religious perspectives on scientific questions, and scientific perspectives on topics of interest to various religious groups. We also provide resources for anyone interested in a general exploration of the relationship between science, especially the evolutionary sciences, and religion. One goal of this section of the website is to make the public aware that the dichotomous view represented by creationists and antireligious atheists leaves out a large range of more moderate religious views. We hope that you find these materials useful in considering these important issues.
The first article is also by Peter Hess and it addresses the question God and Evolution. He's what appears on the NCSE website ...
Of course, religious claims that are empirically testable can come into conflict with scientific theories. For instance, young-earth creationists argue that the universe was created several thousand years ago, that all the lineages of living creatures on Earth were created in their present form (at least up to the poorly-defined level of "kind") shortly thereafter, and that these claims are supported by empirical evidence, such as the fossil record and observed stellar physics. These fact claims are clearly contradicted by mainstream paleontology, cosmology, geology and biogeography. However, the theological aspect of young-earth creationism—the assertions about the nature of God, and the reasons why that God created the universe and permitted it to develop in a particular way—cannot be addressed by science. By their nature, such claims can only be—and have been—addressed by philosophers and theologians.That certainly has all the earmarks of an accommondationist position as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps Josh can explain why my interpretation is wrong.
The science of evolution does not make claims about God's existence or non-existence, any more than do other scientific theories such as gravitation, atomic structure, or plate tectonics. Just like gravity, the theory of evolution is compatible with theism, atheism, and agnosticism. Can someone accept evolution as the most compelling explanation for biological diversity, and also accept the idea that God works through evolution? Many religious people do.
Another link is to a part of the NCSE website that deals with the Clergy Letter Project.
The Clergy Letter Project was initiated in 2004 by Michael Zimmerman, now Dean of Butler University in Indiana, as a response to the common misperception that science and religion are inevitably in conflict, especially around the question of evolution. In response to by a series of anti-evolution school board policies in Wisconsin, Dr. Zimmerman worked with Christian clergy throughout Wisconsin to prepare a statement in support of teaching evolution. Within weeks nearly 200 clergy in a wide variety of denominations had signed the statement, and that number has now grown to more than 11,660I wonder if there's a link to similar petitions from scientists and philosophers who think that science and religion are in conflict? Perhaps Josh can point us to such a webpage that NCSE has put up for balance because otherwise one might get the impression that NCSE actually endorses the statement signed by all these theists.
There's another webpage written by Peter Hess and hosted on the NCSE website. It's about How Do I Read the Bible? Let Me Count the Ways.
Currently, most mainstream Christian and Jewish denominations hold that the Bible was not intended by its authors to teach us about science — a way of knowing which did not exist at the time the Hebrew oral traditions were set in writing as the Book of Genesis. These denominations do not draw from the Bible the literal truths that the earth is flat, or that a global flood once covered Mt. Everest, or that we inhabit a geocentric cosmos, or that the world was created as we now observe it in six solar days, or that species were specially created in their present form and have not changed since the days of creation.I couldn't find the atheist webpages or, for that matter, the Hindu and pagan webpages on the NCSE site. I'd like to alert Josh to the fact that since these balancing points of view are difficult to find (or non-existent, gasp!) one might easily get the impression that NCSE was only supporting Christian accommodationist points of view.
Rather, they read the Bible as a record of a people's developing moral relationship with the God in whom they placed their trust. In a 1981 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, for instance, Pope John Paul II said, "Cosmogony itself speaks to us of the origins of the universe and its makeup, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise but in order to state the correct relationship of man with God and with the universe. Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to teach this truth, it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at the time of the writer." Viewed as such, the Bible enshrines timeless ideals about the integrity of creation and human responsibility within that creation. For these believers, part of that responsibility is using the gift of human rationality to discover the exciting story of how life ― including human life ― has developed on the earth.
Eugenie Scott has an article entitled, Do Scientists Really Reject God?. The answer is "no."
In a recent issue of RNCSE, Larry Witham reported on research he and historian Edward Larson carried out to investigate the religious beliefs of scientists.They had surveyed a sample of 1000 individuals listed in American Men and Women of Science, (AM&WS), using questions originally asked by the Gallup organization in a series of polls of American religious views.The report, entitled "Many scientists see God's hand in evolution", concluded that although scientists were quite different from other Americans in their views of "extreme" positions— such as young earth creationism and atheism—they were very similar to other Americans in the "middle" or "theistic evolution" position.Correct me if I'm wrong but that doesn't sound like a neutral position on accommodationism and it doesn't sound like support for the idea that science and religion may be in conflict. It sounds like accommodationism.
In the table below, the full wording of Gallup's question 1 is, "Humans were created pretty much in their present form about 10 000 years ago." The difference between scientists and other Americans is striking. Scientists also respond quite differently to the third question, "Man evolved over millions of years from less developed forms. God had no part in this process." But scientists' responses to Gallup's "theistic evolution" question—"Man evolved over millions of years from less developed forms of life, but God guided the process, including the creation of Man"—directly mirrors that of the general public. The "middle ground" is apparently equally attractive to scientists as it is to the general public.
The 5th link from the "Science and Religion" home page is Resources especially for clergy.
The articles below have been selected especially for clergy from various sections of NCSE's website as entry points into topics of interest.I don't see an official NCSE webpage called "Resources for Atheists." I wonder why?
Let's look at one other link on the NCSE site. This one is to a speech by Eugenie Scott, the Executive Director of NCSE [Science and Religion, Methodology and Humanism]. It's an old speech but it the content represents the current position of the Executive Director and I've heard her make the case for accommodationism many times.
Her argument goes like this. Science is concerned with methodological naturalism. Many statements about religion cross over some imaginary line into the realm of philosophical naturalism. Science is not concerned with the metaphysical realm of philosophical naturalism but can only stick to methodological naturalism and statements about the natural world. When people say that science and religion are incompatible they are not really speaking about science because there are many supernatural questions that science can't address.
Thus, science and religion occupy separate magisteria and can easily be compatible.
I argue for the separation of methodological from philosophical materialism for logical reasons, and for reasons based on the philosophy of science. It is also possible to argue from a strategic standpoint. Living as we do in a society in which only a small percentage of our fellow citizens are nontheists, we who support the teaching of evolution in the public schools should avoid the creationist's position of forcing a choice between God and Darwin. Creationists are perfectly happy if only 10% of the population (the percentage of nontheists) accepts evolution. I am not. I want people to understand and accept the science of evolution; whether or not someone builds from this science a philosophical system that parallels mine is logically and strategically independent. An ideology drawn from science is not the same as science itself.Josh, while it may be incorrect to say that accommodationism is the "official" position of NCSE, it seems clear to me that it's the only position that your website supports and it's the only position that your leaders advocate in public.
Ironically, I find myself being praised and encouraged in my position by conservative Christians and taking flak from some fellow nontheists, including some scientists. I must say, though, that over the last several months I have presented lectures at several universities and two meetings of professional scientists in which I have argued that a clear distinction must be drawn between science as a way of knowing about the natural world and science as a foundation for philosophical views. One should be taught to our children in school, and the other can optionally be taught to our children at home. Once this view is explained, I have found far more support than disagreement among my university colleagues. Even someone who may disagree with my logic or understanding of philosophy of science often understands the strategic reasons for separating methodological from philosophical materialism — if we want more Americans to understand evolution.
1. Does NCSE have an Atheist Project Director?