Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Darwinian Fundamentalism: An Infantile Disorder

PZ Myers, a biologist who publishes the Pharyngula blog, has taken exception to RSR's support for Ed Brayton (scroll down).

We're pulling his comment out and posting it here because we think this is an important discussion. Here's what PZ has to say:
If this is the way it's going to work, if you're going to go along with Brayton's division into us and them, and his outrageous distortions of our position (we're out to attack and destroy religion by any means possible? Please.) then I will plainly state that I am not on "Ed's team".

I'm also not interested in being on any "team" that treats criticisms of its members as intolerable dissent, and who react to disagreement by announcing that they're going to treat the critics as schismatics. I know which side is hypocritically demanding conformity and purity of the movement, and it ain't us evil atheists.

Have you even noticed the irony of decrying those " who want to divide the movement" while announcing that you've decided there are two teams, and denouncing the other guys?As for literature, drama, the visual arts, etc....only an idiot would think Moran or I are denying the importance of art, and only an idiot would equate superstition with art. That was an appallingly stupid comment.
Dear PZ, you write, "I know which side is hypocritically demanding conformity and purity of the movement, and it ain't us evil atheists."

Sorry, but you don't speak for all atheists. If you'll look up to the header of Red State Rabble you'll notice it says: "A skeptic's dispatches from the flyover zone."

This is not a debate between atheists like yourself and the faithful. It's a debate among non-believers who advocate different strategies. You don't own the atheist franchise.

You accuse us of hypocritically demanding conformity and purity. You're wrong.

We outlined the reasons we disagree with Larry Moran writing that improving science education "requires us (emphasis added) to take a long hard look at the way science education is being eroded by well-meaning theists who don't belong in one of the obvious hard-core Creationist camps. Let's call them Theistic Evolutionists for want of a better term."

We said we're fighting to defend science education and separation of church and state from attack by the religious right. And we observed -- correctly I think -- that Moran's statement saying he wants to take a hard look at the way science education is being eroded by our religious allies in that fight is an indication that he has chosen other goals.

Likewise, your reaction indicates you place your highest priorities elsewhere, as well. When Dawkins spoke here in Kansas a few weeks ago he said quite clearly the battle over evolution is but one skirmish in a larger and far more important war between science and religion. Those scientists and skeptics who see no conflict between faith and science are, in Dawkins’ view, “prepared to compromise the war for the sake of the battle.”

If you are honest PZ -- and I will not accuse you of being a hypocrite as you have accused me -- you will admit that you too are willing to sacrifice the battle over teaching evolution in order to win your larger war against religion.

The difference between us is not what we think about God, miracles, or the after life. On all those issues we are in complete agreement. Our difference is this: I don't believe theistic evolutionists -- however much I might disagree with their religious beliefs -- are eroding science education.

Quite the contrary, here in Kansas I work shoulder to shoulder on a daily basis with believers who are as determined as I that the religious right not be allowed to run education in this state.

Without their participation and leadership we would not have elected the moderate majority on the state school board that will soon delete intelligent design from the state's science curriculum.

By the way, Kansas Education Commissioner Bob Corkins knows the difference between the fundamentalists and the theistic evolutionists. Knowing that we will soon have six theistic evolutionists on the board he has resigned. The board accepted that resignation this afternoon.

Defeating the religious right requires a winning strategy. PZ, as much as I admire your writing and your other important contributions to the movement to defend science, I believe the strategy you advocate will lead us to certain defeat.

Further, I believe the consequences of such a defeat may be greater than any of us now imagine.

That's why I refuse to hand the authoritarians, the book burners, the fanatics, an easy, unearned victory by adopting the strategy you advocate.

I don't take on fights lightly, but when I do, I fight to win. I am determined to do what I can to defeat the religious right in the here and now. And to do that, I'll gladly leave the pie in the sky victory over religious belief to others like yourself.

Your strategy is a loser because it isolates nonbelievers like ourselves. When you say that our religious allies in the fight to defend science education and preserve the separation of church and state are no different than the fundamentalists, you hand the religious right the very weapon they most desire to use against us.

I admire your restraint when you write, "only an idiot would think Moran or I are denying the importance of art, and only an idiot would equate superstition with art. That was an appallingly stupid comment," but I don't think you've thought deeply enough about the way your arguments against faith might be used against art.

I'm sure you don't equate superstition with art -- it's the arguments you put forward that do. Even so, because I'm an appeaser by nature, so I'll resist calling you an idiot.

Art is about myth and metaphor. It is about ambiguity. It is intuitive by nature. It is, in many ways, irrational, but, in its own way it is also about truth.

In your eagerness to attack faith, it seems clear you haven't fully thought through the philosophical implications of your position -- as you have written on Pharyngula, "Scientists are a pragmatic bunch who are more likely to poke something with a stick than wonder if they should poke something with a stick."

That's the sort of hubris the Greeks would have recognized well.


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