Re: [asa] The Debate Goes On

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Fri Jun 19 2009 - 00:44:50 EDT

The very fact that this debate is going on - and the manner in which it's
playing out among the (save for Miller, mostly atheist it seems)
participants - should be instructive to everyone. But especially TEs of any

First, because what we see here is Coyne aggressively advocating a view of
evolution - particularly "Darwinism" - that frankly seems very close to what
Cameron has been insisting really IS Darwinism. He's mixing
metaphysics/philosophy with science to a degree that would normally result
in condemnation and possibly more if it were from Behe, Dembski, etc.

But go read the critical responses to him, and you're not going to see
anything close to that. There's some hand-wringing over how Coyne's thoughts
on this matter are extreme. By and large, however, the appeal isn't to the
sanctity of science and the importance of keeping science unpolluted with
metaphysics. There's hardly even an appeal to defending a common and valid
opinion on the matter. Instead, the replies seem frankly weaselly - they
amount to "Look, America has a lot of religious people in it. Ergo, like it
or not, we have to cooperate with them to get things done."

That leads into the second point here. Namely: The fact that this isn't
about "science" but what amounts to political pragmatism, and all such
pragmatism is ultimately temporary. When atheists respond to Coyne that,
like it or not, we have to appeal to neutrality here because otherwise the
results would not be to our liking, any thoughtful TE should be given pause.
Because that comes awfully close to saying, "The moment it seems more
effective to ditch these religious yahoos [Not meaning Ken Ham or YECs, but
of all people, Ken Miller and company], we'll do it. For now, there's more
to be gained by compromising." Which may explain why, no matter how much
they pollute science with unjustifiable metaphysical, philosophical, and
even political excess, those who are doing so from an atheist vantage point
are going to be treated in a markedly different fashion by many "science
defenders" than any theist. Because this isn't totally about the protection
of science anyway.

Third, there's this. I make no secret about my thinking ID proponents do a
lot of things wrong. I think the drive to get ID viewpoints taught in school
is incorrect - I believe the focus should be on making certain that the
metaphysics of Coyne and Dawkins, and even Cameron's Darwin, are kept out of
classrooms and are recognized as excess metaphysics, not scientific
essentials. I can go on with other criticisms as well. But this conflict
also demonstrates why, at the end of the day, my sympathies lie with ID and
why I think ID-proponents had a net-positive influence on the topic of
"Science and Religion": Because while so many TEs (including myself, once
upon a time) have been spending their time bashing YECs and playing the meek
accomodationist card with atheists who see their cooperation as a necessary
materialist-equivalent-of-evil, ID proponents have been aggressively
pointing out design in nature. While their big tent does have people who I
sharply disagree with, it also has more than a few thoughtful people who see
evolution as yet one more part of a design process in a purposeful world, or
people who are willing to point out biological structures and argue the
"illusion of design" that Dawkins and company grudgingly have to admit to is
no illusion. In other words, from my point of view, the ID proponents have
been the principal guys providing an intellectual offense on a question
where one is sorely needed, and clearly lacking in the TE alternatives.

Putting it short: Maybe ID proponents are on to something, in however a
limited way, when they criticize "Darwinism" and our science educators /
instituations in general. Because whether or not Cameron's Darwinism (Sorry
Cameron, I call it that because you're the one guy on the ASA thread who's
most forcefully insisting that that's the "real" Darwinism - no insult
intended) is the "real" Darwinism, it happens to be essentially the
Darwinism that Coyne, Dawkins, and others adhere to. You can bet they're not
alone in this, and that they've never been alone besides. Responding to it
needs to be something more than ganging up on YECs or whoever the NCSE's
current out-group is. And as Miller has accidentally demonstrated, no matter
how qualified, gentle, and limited the speculation of guidance in nature is,
it's going to be labelled as an abuse of science by any New Atheist - and
any determined atheist, period, who thinks it's more advantageous to
denounce such a view rather than accept it as a valid one within its sphere.

On Thu, Jun 18, 2009 at 11:16 PM, Nucacids <> wrote:

> A debate about the nature and role of science, evolution and faith,
> methodological and philosophical naturalism, and what we teach in the public
> schools. The ID debate, right?
> Wrong.
> The Edge website has been warehousing a growing public debate between the
> New Atheists, who argue that science and Christian faith are incompatible,
> pitted against Ken Miller and other atheists associated with the NCSE. You
> can find the links here:
> I’d score this as a significant development, as Coyne has drawn Miller into
> a public debate about the fact that Miller is both a theist and a mainstream
> scientist. Michael Ruse has just joined the debate in an oblique
> fashion, as can be seen from Coyne’s blog.
> -Mike

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Received on Fri Jun 19 00:45:11 2009

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