THE “accommodationalist” debate continues, between those who see religion as unalterably opposed to science (especially evolution) and those who disagree. Our previous two commentaries are here Religion and Evolution, and here Religion and Evolution: Part II. They’ve gone unnoticed, so naturally we’ll jump in again.
PZ Myers, who disagrees with the accommodationalists, has posted his latest contribution: I may not be perfectly rational, but my magic invisible monkeys are! It’s risky to excerpt just a bit from PZ’s essay, but:
… to imply that we can therefore have no license to criticize irrationality is to claim that no one can say anything ever against foolishness. It’s an abdication of intellectual responsibility.
I’m going to insist that it is fair game to attack the obvious failings of religion.
Francis Collins is an example of the other side: Religion and Science: Conflict or Harmony? This is from the introduction to Collins’ remarks:
Francis S. Collins, the former director of the Human Genome Project, discussed why he believes religion and science are compatible and why the current conflict over evolution vs. faith, particularly in the evangelical community, is unnecessary. Collins, an evangelical Christian, talked about his path from atheism to Christianity and his belief that science provides evidence of God.
But we don’t think this is a situation that offers a pure dichotomy. There are positions for a science advocate other than opposition to religion and accommodation with it. Our own suggestion isn’t a compromise that attempts to reconcile the warring camps. Rather, it’s yet another option, one which probably won’t appeal to either those who agree with PZ or to those who agree with Collins. But some may find that it suits them.
Our position is to totally disregard what we consider to be a sectarian disagreement among various denominations about whether scripture should be read in a manner to deny verifiable information about reality. One might describe our position as including both curiosity that such disputes exist, and indifference as to whether the disputants ever figure it out.
We become concerned only when a reality-denial sect threatens to go malignant, seeking to forcefully spread its dogma beyond its own voluntary membership. Absent such malignancy — which requires vigorous opposition — why should we care about theological debates among denominations? And why should we involve ourselves in their disagreements?
Don’t misunderstand — we’re not impartial. We prefer a world in which everyone thinks and behaves rationally, and we approve of scientific research and education. We humbly endeavor to achieve to those ends. (What else is this blog?) But we recognize that such efforts are unappreciated by some groups. Their choices are not our concern — unless they are literally a threat to our freedom. Should that happen, and it does, you’ll hear from us, and you do; but such are exceptional situations.
So how does our policy of indifference manifest itself? It’s analogous to our attitude regarding the Super Bowl. We don’t follow professional sports, so we don’t care about such contests. Often we don’t even know who the contenders are. On the other hand, we don’t chastise those who are keenly interested in such matters.
Another example: Suppose you’re driving down the street and you pass by a church to which you don’t belong. It doesn’t matter why you don’t belong to it. Maybe you prefer a different denomination, or maybe you don’t belong to any church. Our question is, having noticed the church, what do you do? Do you slam on the breaks, jump out of your car, and dash inside to engage them in debate? No, you probably don’t even give them a thought. There are all kinds of churches, and you don’t care for this one. So you just keep on driving. That’s our policy in action.
Here’s an example of how our policy of indifference might play out in the science arena. Suppose you’re an astronomer, and your research is about distant galaxies, dark energy, etc. Fascinating stuff. Suppose further that a TV “journalist” invites you to participate in a panel discussion about your work. You naturally ask who the other panelists will be. If informed that they have invited an astrologer, an exorcist, a moon-landing denier, and the shoe-bomber to appear on the panel with you, what would be your reaction?
Perhaps you’d be polite, and ask why the others were invited. The “journalist” replies that their presence is necessary to give a balanced presentation of all sides. How do you react? Our reaction would be to say: “That’s very journalistic of you. However, I’m not interested in debating my work with those people. Therefore, I decline your invitation”
No debate. No controversy. No accommodation. Simple.
Update: See also Creationism: The Debate About The Debate.
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