Thursday, June 17, 2010

AAAS Supports Accommodationism, Illogically

Alan I. Leshner is the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Executive Publisher of Science. He has written an article for the Huffington Post [Science, Religion and Civil Dialogue]. As usual, this type of accommodationist focuses on the fact that there are religious scientists. In this case, the recent study by Elaine Ecklund gets a prominent mention.
Let's hope that Ecklund's unusually comprehensive assessment will help overturn the myth that scientists reject spirituality, or that science and religion are inherently incompatible.

That myth persists among scientists and religious believers alike. In 2009 study by the Pew Research Center, 61% of Americans said that science poses no conflict with their own faith. Nonetheless, 55% of those same respondents said they view religion and science generally as "often in conflict." Evolution, for instance, has divided Americans since 1859, when Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species."

There is a better way, which will be demonstrated June 16 when leading scientists and a respected Christian minister engage in a free, public dialogue at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
There may be a myth that all scientists reject spirituality. I really can't comment on that except to note that I have never, ever, heard anyone make this claim.

The real issue is whether science and religion are inherently incompatible and that issue is not a "myth" by any stretch of the imagination. It's a perfectly reasonable position, whether you agree with it or not. The existence of scientists who are religious does nothing to decide the issue one way or another. After all, there are scientists who believe in homeopathy but that doesn't mean homeopathy is compatible with science. What Leshner says is illogical and logic is supposed to be one of the hallmarks of good science.1

If the CEO of AAAS can't distinguish real philosophical issues from "myth" then I suggest that Americans need a new CEO—one who will keep the organization out of domains where it has no mandate to speak for all scientists. If Alan I. Leshner can't keep religion out of the organization then he should resign.2

As you might expect, Jerry Coyne restates the position that many of us hold [The AAAS goes all accommodationist]. Scientific organizations like AAAS have no business making claims about whether science and religion are compatible or not. When they cow-tow to religion they are separating themselves from a great many scientists who hold contrary points of view. The organization does not, cannot, and should not speak for scientists on subjects outside of science.

What Should Scientific Organizations Say about Religion?

How Should Scientific Societies Treat Religion?

Are Science and Religion Compatible? AAAS Says Yes.

AAAS Panel: Communicating Science in a Religious America

1. I haven't mentioned the other illogical part of the argument; namely, that criticism of religion is "uncivil."

2. Please, let's not have any silly debate over whether Leshner is expressing a personal opinion or speaking for AAAS. Read his article and note how he identifies himself as author.


  1. I could not agree more with you. I am a member of the AAAS myself, but this is a highly outrageous article.
    Maybe the worst phrase at all is "...the myth that scientists reject spirituality, or that science and religion are inherently incompatible."
    That makes me think about my membership.

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  3. I am actually not that surprised by the numbers that are thrown around. The definitions of "scientist" and "spirituality" have been blurred enough, and the proportion of people working in research who have a very poor grasp of what that thing called science really, that it is not that hard to see how a poll can produce such results

  4. I was amused to see that the article is accompanied by a series of "What's Your Reaction" buttons. You can click that it's Amazing, Inspiring, Funny, Scary, Hot, Crazy, Important, or Weird.

    I think they need a few new buttons. Stupid, Wrong, Confused, Misleading, Inappropriate, and Illogical all come to mind.

  5. Even more interesting is the identity of the panel members.

    1. Jennifer Wiseman, and astrophysicist and devout Christian believer.

    2. Howard Alan Smith, a cosmologist and an Orthodox Jew who is apparently into Jewish mysticism as he has written a book about the “relationship” between the Kaballah and cosmology! Shades of Madonna!

    3. Reverend David Anderson. Nuff said.

    4. Rick Potts. Not able to find any information or Dr. Potts religious views, if any.

    Quite unrepresentative of American Science to say the least.

    I would also note that Dr. Wiseman has been placed in charge of a new panel called "Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion." Canadian Prof. Moran might well wonder why a scientific organization like AAAS feels the need for such a panel.

  6. "When they cow-tow"

    Just to be udderly pedantic, cow-towing is of course the practice of dragging a bovine somewhere - a more active and exciting version of cow tipping - as opposed to kow-towing, head-on-the-ground bowing before some figure supposedly deserving of great reverence...

  7. Scientis only finding the real one, and 100% different from religion. But have scientist find out why this thing happen? why only earth is the place that a living things lived? thats the question, its impossible if this was a luck. How human created with the begining . ??? is it a cells who combined become 1 become human? or its from god who create us?