The Atheist Holy War

s_lone
#1
Must science declare a holy war on religion? -- latimes.com


OPINION
Must science declare a holy war on religion?
The so-called New Atheists are attacking the mantra of science and faith being compatible. Others in the science community question the value of confrontation.

By Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum
August 11, 2009
Los Angeles Times

This fall, evolutionary biologist and bestselling author Richard Dawkins -- most recently famous for his public exhortation to atheism, "The God Delusion" -- returns to writing about science. Dawkins' new book, "The Greatest Show on Earth," will inform and regale us with the stunning "evidence for evolution," as the subtitle says. It will surely be an impressive display, as Dawkins excels at making the case for evolution. But it's also fair to ask: Who in the United States will read Dawkins' new book (or ones like it) and have any sort of epiphany, or change his or her mind?

Surely not those who need it most: America's anti-evolutionists. These religious adherents often view science itself as an assault on their faith and doggedly refuse to accept evolution because they fear it so utterly denies God that it will lead them, and their children, straight into a world of moral depravity and meaninglessness. An in-your-face atheist touting evolution, like Dawkins, is probably the last messenger they'll heed.

Dawkins will, however, be championed by many scientists, especially the most secular -- those who were galvanized by "The God Delusion" and inspired by it to take a newly confrontational approach toward America's religious majority. They will help ensure Dawkins another literary success. It's certainly valuable to have the case for evolution articulated prominently and often, but what this unending polarization around evolution and religion does for the standing of science in the U.S. is a very different matter.

It often appears as though Dawkins and his followers -- often dubbed the New Atheists, though some object to the term -- want to change the country's science community in a lasting way. They'd have scientists and defenders of reason be far more confrontational and blunt: No more coddling the faithful, no tolerating nonscientific beliefs. Scientific institutions, in their view, ought to stop putting out politic PR about science and religion being compatible.

The New Atheists win the battle easily on the Internet. Their most prominent blogger, the University of Minnesota biologist P.Z. Myers, runs what is probably the Web's most popular science blog, Pharyngula, where he and his readers attack and belittle religious believers, sometimes using highly abrasive language. Or as Myers put it to fanatical Catholics at one point: "Don't confuse the fact that I find you and your church petty, foolish, twisted and hateful to be a testimonial to the existence of your petty, foolish, twisted, hateful god."

More moderate scientists, however -- let us call them the accommodationists -- still dominate the hallowed institutions of American science. Personally, these scientists may be atheists, agnostics or believers; whatever their views on the relationship between science and religion, politically, spiritually and practically they see no need to fight over it.

Thus the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences take the stance that science and religion can be perfectly compatible -- and are regularly blasted for it by the New Atheists. Or as the National Academy of Sciences put it in a recent volume on evolution and creationism: "Today, many religious denominations accept that biological evolution has produced the diversity of living things over billions of years of Earth's history. ... Religious denominations that do not accept the occurrence of evolution tend to be those that believe in strictly literal interpretations of religious texts."

A smaller but highly regarded nonprofit organization called the National Center for Science Education has drawn at least as much of the New Atheists' ire, however. Based in Oakland, the center is the leading organization that promotes and defends the teaching of evolution in school districts across the country.

In this endeavor, it has, of necessity, made frequent alliances with religious believers who also support the teaching of evolution, seeking to forge a broad coalition capable of beating back the advances of fundamentalists who want to weaken textbooks or science standards. In the famous 2005 Dover, Pa., evolution trial, for instance, the NCSE contributed scientific advice to a legal team that put a theologian and a Catholic biologist on the stand.



Long under fire from the religious right, the NCSE now must protect its other flank from the New Atheist wing of science. The atheist biologist Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago, for instance, has drawn much attention by assaulting the center's Faith Project, which seeks to spread awareness that between creationism on the one hand and the new atheism on the other lie many more moderate positions.

In this, Coyne is once again following the lead of Dawkins, who in "The God Delusion" denounces the NCSE as part of the "Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists," those equivocators who defend the science but refuse to engage with what the New Atheists perceive as the real root of the problem -- namely, religious belief.

It all might sound like a petty internecine squabble, but the stakes are very high. The United States does not boast a very healthy relationship between its scientific community and its citizenry. The statistics on public scientific illiteracy are notorious -- and they're at their worst on contentious, politicized issues such as climate change and the teaching of evolution. About 46% of Americans in polls agree with this stunning statement: "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."

In this context, the New Atheists have chosen their course: confrontation. And groups like the NCSE have chosen the opposite route: Work with all who support the teaching of evolution regardless of their beliefs, and attempt to sway those who are uncertain but perhaps convincible.

Despite the resultant bitterness, however, there is at least one figure both sides respect -- the man who started it all: Charles Darwin. What would he have done in this situation?

It turns out that late in life, when an atheist author asked permission to dedicate a book to Darwin, the great scientist wrote back his apologies and declined. For as Darwin put it, "Though I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against Christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds, which follows from the advance of science."

Darwin and Dawkins differ by much more than a few letters, then -- something the New Atheists ought to deeply consider.

Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum are coauthors of the new book, "Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future."

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times
 
s_lone
#2
What do you think? Is there a middle ground between science and faith?
 
SirJosephPorter
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by s_lone View Post

What do you think? Is there a middle ground between science and faith?


Of course there is a middle ground, I have explained it before. Science and religion cover different aspects of life, there is no overlap between the two, provided both keep to their proper role.

Science asks the questions ‘what’ and ‘how’. What is the universe made of (stars, galaxies, dark matter etc.) and how does it work. The proper role of religion should be to ask the question ‘why’. Why was the universe created, why is humankind on earth. Or rather, why did humankind evolve on earth. Science has no answers to these issues, nor does it claim to have the answers.

The problem comes when religion tries to intrude on the grounds of science and tries to answer the questions ‘what’ and ‘how’, does a terrible job of it and then insists upon imposing their answers on everybody.

Thus when religion tries to answer ‘how was human life created’, (it was created by God 5000 years ago in six days), or ‘what constitutes human life’ (human life begins at conception, according to Fundamentalist religions), that is when there is conflict between the two.

And if you look at the militant Atheists, that is really all they are saying. They are not going into the churches and challenging the Theology of any religion. They are saying to religion, don’t invade fields that are the proper domain of science.

Provided both science and religion stick to their spheres, I don’t see a conflict.
 
Dexter Sinister
#4
Frankly, I don't think there's a middle ground, religion is simply wrong in its basic premise (i.e. that there's at least one supernatural being that has some interest in us) so everything that follows from it is unjustifiable. There is no evidence for its claims that can withstand even routine skeptical scrutiny, and plenty of evidence contrary to them. I think religious belief is a delusion and has nothing whatever to do with reality. It is, as Christopher Hitchens once put it, our first and worst attempt at explaining the nature of things. We have much better explanations now, and religion seems to me to be largely reduced to the God of the Gaps argument, as an explanation for things we haven't figured out yet. Science doesn't know everything, but religion's sphere has been shrinking steadily in the last few centuries in the face of the scientific revolution, I have no hesitation in extrapolating that trend to the conclusion that religion doesn't know anything.
 
AnnaG
#5
Science doesn't have to "declare war". All it really needs to do is keep plugging along sorting things out and reporting on its progress now and then. Religions are self-defeating until they accept that all they can do is offer a guide to living and quit attempting to describe the universe and its workings.
 
AnnaG
#6
Quote: Originally Posted by s_lone View Post

What do you think? Is there a middle ground between science and faith?

Yes. I think religions should stay away from the business of science. When religions do that, then things can be copasthetic.
 
SirJosephPorter
#7
We have much better explanations now, and religion seems to me to be largely reduced to the God of the Gaps argument, as an explanation for things we haven't figured out yet.

That is the wrong place for religion, Dexter, religion does not belong in the gaps. Traditionally, religion has tried to explain things that it has no business explaining, it has been trying to explain natural phenomena such as electricity, planetary motion, origin of life on earth etc. When science comes up with an explanation for something, that phenomena is taken away from religion, one more gap is closed.

But that is not really the true purpose of religion. Seems to me that through the ages religion had abrogated the proper role of science, and that is where trouble begins. But at its root, religion is about Theology, about after life, about Salvation. Science has nothing to say about these subjects, these subjects are meaningless to science.

As long as religion restricts it self to Salvation, soul, afterlife, redemption etc., (the ‘why’ question) there is no conflict between religion and science.
 
CDNBear
#8
When did science declare war on religion?

Religion set the RoE and signed their intent of war against science, centuries ago. Science is just starting to make ground now.
 
karrie
#9
Why would science waste its time? Why not stand back and wait for people to make their own decisions? If the evangelism of religion is so distasteful, why engage in it as well?

personally, I haven't come to the conclusions about life that people like Dex have, but I also don't see science the way most people of religion do. What I DO see clearly though, is that my path is mine, and the instant someone starts pushing me, telling me I'm wrong, I resent them. Scientists, atheists, evangelists.... they're all the same in my mind... a person with an opinion.
 
CDNBear
#10
Quote: Originally Posted by karrie View Post

Why would science waste its time? Why not stand back and wait for people to make their own decisions? If the evangelism of religion is so distasteful, why engage in it as well?

personally, I haven't come to the conclusions about life that people like Dex have, but I also don't see science the way most people of religion do. What I DO see clearly though, is that my path is mine, and the instant someone starts pushing me, telling me I'm wrong, I resent them. Scientists, atheists, evangelists.... they're all the same in my mind... a person with an opinion.

PUSH...yer wrong!!!
 
SirJosephPorter
#11
Why would science waste its time? Why not stand back and wait for people to make their own decisions? If the evangelism of religion is so distasteful, why engage in it as well?

Science is not wasting its time, karrie. The threat of creationism in USA is very real, Creationist movement is very strong in USA.

Creationists want to teach Creationism in US public schools. Now that they have been defeated on all fronts ( a few years ago Supreme Court threw out the last effort to mandate teaching of Creationism in schools by 7 to 2 vote), they have come up with ‘Intelligent Design’, which is Creationism without reference to the Book of Genesis. Now the battle has started all over again, Fundamentalists want ID to be taught in public schools.

If Creationists succeed, there will be a huge dumbing down of school kids in USA. Scientists must speak up, they cannot remain silent. Another of Creationists’ demand is that federal government must treat evolution and creation on an equal footing. That means equal funding for both. So the millions that go to biological research and medical research (cancer, AIDS etc.) will be split right down the middle and half with go to places like Creation Research Institute, Creation Museum etc. It will be a huge bonanza to Fundamentalists, at the expense of science.

Especially in USA, scientists cannot remain silent, they must speak up. They did not speak up when the Creation wars were raging in USA, it was left up to school teachers to fight the religious right mafia, the well funded Fundamentalist lobby. At least belatedly scientists are assuming their proper role in the fight, and it is all to the good.
 
CDNBear
#12
Quote: Originally Posted by SirJosephPorter View Post

Why would science waste its time? Why not stand back and wait for people to make their own decisions? If the evangelism of religion is so distasteful, why engage in it as well?

Science is not wasting its time, karrie. The threat of creationism in USA is very real, Creationist movement is very strong in USA.

Creationists want to teach Creationism in US public schools. Now that they have been defeated on all fronts ( a few years ago Supreme Court threw out the last effort to mandate teaching of Creationism in schools by 7 to 2 vote), they have come up with ‘Intelligent Design’, which is Creationism without reference to the Book of Genesis. Now the battle has started all over again, Fundamentalists want ID to be taught in public schools.

If Creationists succeed, there will be a huge dumbing down of school kids in USA. Scientists must speak up, they cannot remain silent. Another of Creationists’ demand is that federal government must treat evolution and creation on an equal footing. That means equal funding for both. So the millions that go to biological research and medical research (cancer, AIDS etc.) will be split right down the middle and half with go to places like Creation Research Institute, Creation Museum etc. It will be a huge bonanza to Fundamentalists, at the expense of science.

Especially in USA, scientists cannot remain silent, they must speak up. They did not speak up when the Creation wars were raging in USA, it was left up to school teachers to fight the religious right mafia, the well funded Fundamentalist lobby. At least belatedly scientists are assuming their proper role in the fight, and it is all to the good.

I hate to agree with you, but I do.
 
AnnaG
#13
Quote: Originally Posted by CDNBear View Post

I hate to agree with you, but I do.

I do, too, partially. Why would scientists from any other country give a hoot whether the US turns creationist or not. I think it's only American science that speaks up against the nonsense.
 
karrie
#14
Quote: Originally Posted by CDNBear View Post

I hate to agree with you, but I do.

I agree that science ought to point out why it ought to be taught in schools. But that's where it should end. Fighting religion as a whole, because of a handful of creationists is ridiculous.
 
CDNBear
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by AnnaG View Post

I do, too, partially. Why would scientists from any other country give a hoot whether the US turns creationist or not. I think it's only American science that speaks up against the nonsense.

Unfortunately, the US has this nasty habit of projecting it's vision of morality outside her borders.

Not to mention, we as a nation, are not immune to the same pattern of influence. In the resent past we witnessed a movement to have Sharia law bestowed upon us.

As it is, Jew courts already exist.

Law should be secular and blind. Religion has no basis in education, nor legal proceedings.

And yet, here we are, a Christian Nation.

It is impossible to separate the Christian from the nation. Christianity was at the forefront of the building of this nation, as well as the US. It will be a dark and bloody day, when another religion comes to set itself up as the top form of theological thought on this continent.
 
CDNBear
#16
Quote: Originally Posted by karrie View Post

Fighting religion as a whole, because of a handful of creationists is ridiculous.

I agree with that too.
 
AnnaG
#17
Quote: Originally Posted by CDNBear View Post

Unfortunately, the US has this nasty habit of projecting it's vision of morality outside her borders.

In that case, I would think it wise to let them do what they will, ignore them, and not imitate them by imposing our viewpoints on them.
I think sense will overcome nonsense anyway.
 
CDNBear
#18
Quote: Originally Posted by AnnaG View Post

In that case, I would think it wise to let them do what they will, ignore them, and not imitate them by imposing our viewpoints on them.

Never ignore religious zealots. That's dangerous.
Quote:

I think sense will overcome nonsense anyway.

So you would think.
 
AnnaG
#19
Quote: Originally Posted by CDNBear View Post

Never ignore religious zealots. That's dangerous.

Well, I meant ignore their offerings. Taking it with a grain of salt, so to speak.
Quote:

So you would think.

It makes sense.
 
ironsides
#20
Quoting CDNBear: "It is impossible to separate the Christian from the nation. Christianity was at the forefront of the building of this nation, as well as the US. It will be a dark and bloody day, when another religion comes to set itself up as the top form of theological thought on this continent."

I agree also.

Quoting karrie
"Fighting religion as a whole, because of a handful of creationists is ridiculous."

Again I agree totally.


I am totally against Atheists imposing their objections and belief's upon anyone's religious beliefs. Saying the are against this religious symbol or another being publicly displayed. Getting prayer or a moment of silence banned from school classrooms. No belief in a religion is not a religion it is a choice and should not even be mentioned with religions of any kind.
 
ironsides
#21
Quoting CDNBear: "Unfortunately, the US has this nasty habit of projecting it's vision of morality outside her borders."

Now define "vision of morality" Is what we do that is wrong done because we think it is moral or is it just out of greed or some other reason? I really cannot see any difference in our (U.S. and Canada) basic morality. For the most part we believe in the same things. Of course we both do things for other reasons that could be construed as wrong by each other, but disagreements can be healthy, and projecting one's ideas is not wrong.



 
CDNBear
#22
Quote: Originally Posted by ironsides View Post

I am totally against Atheists imposing their objections and belief's upon anyone's religious beliefs. Saying the are against this religious symbol or another being publicly displayed. Getting prayer or a moment of silence banned from school classrooms. No belief in a religion is not a religion it is a choice and should not even be mentioned with religions of any kind.

I feel it's up to the individual. Feel free to believe in this or that, or not. I don't really care. But do not place it on me.

To that I mean, prayers in schools, nope. School should be for educating ones mind. Not their soul. If you feel that strongly about mixing the two. Find a school that adheres to your belief and attend, or force your kids to do so. If it isn't available, tuff sh!t, or build it yourself, with your own money.

Prayers before public functions, ie: sporting events, political venues, etc...errr...I don't like it, but as I said, this is a Christian society we find ourselves in and sometimes when in Rome, and all that.

I believe a healthy debate is in order. It puts both camps on display and allows those interested, to view the material at hand.

It's when debate is stifled, censorship becoming the weapon of choice, we find ourselves at the mercy of fundamental factionalism and no one wins in that theater of thought.
 
ironsides
#23
Now lets get down to real problems. The term racist seems to be very loosely used here. There is only one proper way to use it. Between Democrats and Republicans, it is obvious that they are different species.
 
ironsides
#24
"I feel it's up to the individual. Feel free to believe in this or that, or not. I don't really care. But do not place it on me."

Here you are exactly right, the prayer was a choice and was
non-denominational, staring out the window or doing nothing was also a choice. It had nothing to do with Christian beliefs 20 years ago, just a belief. They (Christians) just made it a cause it for their own reasons.
 
CDNBear
#25
Quote: Originally Posted by ironsides View Post

Quoting CDNBear: "Unfortunately, the US has this nasty habit of projecting it's vision of morality outside her borders."

Now define "vision of morality" Is what we do that is wrong done because we think it is moral or is it just out of greed or some other reason?

I hope you didn't take offense to that Iron, it was not meant in such a way.

Greed plays a healthy role in the matter, but it is not the only character in the grim past of Manifest Destiny.

Quote:

I really cannot see any difference in our (U.S. and Canada) basic morality.

Some are subtle, but they do exist. We are a more Socialist a society, while the US is more Nationalist in nature. To name the most bold of differences.

Quote:

For the most part we believe in the same things.

I agree, it is in how we share that with others, that we find error.

Quote:

Of course we both do things for other reasons that could be construed as wrong by each other, but disagreements can be healthy, and projecting one's ideas is not wrong.

I agree, if only we were to share. It's when sharing turns to forceful suggestion, then coercion, to outright violence, that we find great malfeasance. No country needs a "regime change". Well perhaps the US, lol...

The US has a tendency to wish to deliver American style democracy to the world. But unfortunately, some places in the world are not ready for it. I would say that that would include the US.

Again, this is an observation, not a condemnation. The US has brought upon the world, many a great thing as well. If necessity was the mother of invention. The US would be the Father. China of course would be the surrogate Mom, lol.
 
CDNBear
#26
Quote: Originally Posted by ironsides View Post

Now lets get down to real problems. The term racist seems to be very loosely used here. There is only one proper way to use it. Between Democrats and Republicans, it is obvious that they are different species.



Quote: Originally Posted by ironsides View Post

"I feel it's up to the individual. Feel free to believe in this or that, or not. I don't really care. But do not place it on me."

Here you are exactly right, the prayer was a choice and was
non-denominational, staring out the window or doing nothing was also a choice. It had nothing to do with Christian beliefs 20 years ago, just a belief. They (Christians) just made it a cause it for their own reasons.

You can not say that "The Lord's Prayer" was non denominational Iron. It ws most definitely a Christian manifestation. No matter what you do to it to make it more benign, it is still a Christian element.
 
El Barto
#27
Faith is nothing more than a viechle. It's rarely ever based on truthes but the perception of them. One agrees with a faith and is taken for a ride for as long as the person sees that its heading to better horizons. In thier perception.
Science is also narrow in thier views. In the end it is all a cosmic joke.
 
ironsides
#28
Quote: Originally Posted by CDNBear View Post



You can not say that "The Lord's Prayer" was non denominational Iron. It ws most definitely a Christian manifestation. No matter what you do to it to make it more benign, it is still a Christian element.


No No, not the "Lord's Prayer", it was only said in Catholic schools. That is a Christian element. Sorry, I didn't think, you may have had it in public schools, we never did. When I went to school and my kids for a while it was just a moment of silence, till it was banned. Granted there were less denominations in my school back then. (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, 4 Hindi and one Muslim.)
 
ironsides
#29
Quote: Originally Posted by El Barto View Post

Faith is nothing more than a viechle. It's rarely ever based on truthes but the perception of them. One agrees with a faith and is taken for a ride for as long as the person sees that its heading to better horizons. In thier perception.
Science is also narrow in thier views. In the end it is all a cosmic joke.

Seems about right.
 
Ron in Regina
#30
Quote: Originally Posted by ironsides View Post

No No, not the "Lord's Prayer", it was only said in Catholic schools. That is a Christian element. Sorry, I didn't think, you may have had it in public schools, we never did. When I went to school and my kids for a while it was just a moment of silence, till it was banned. Granted there were less denominations in my school back then. (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, 4 Hindi and one Muslim.)


I went to a Public (not Catholic) School. Until they dropped this in the 70's,
we started each school day with the Lords Prayer , Oh Canada , and
God Save the Queen . Maybe it's just a Canadian thing...or maybe
a Western Canadian thing as we perhaps didn't get the Memo
out here on the Prairies to cut that stuff out until about 1977
or so...
 

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