Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....

From: Dennis Venema <>
Date: Thu Oct 15 2009 - 19:12:32 EDT

ok, one more post (forgive me):

Schwarzwald: "I just think it's blindingly obvious that this fight is not and has never been about science in large part. Now, I can respect someone's feelings about what the limits of science should be, of course - I've made my own views on that clear myself. But at the same time, I've never been able to kid myself into believing that, say.. the NCSE, Eugenie Scott, etc are just trying their darndest to defend science education. Anymore than I think (to use a somewhat exaggerated example) Lysenkoism was a big issue in Russia purely because it was honestly thought by all involved to be the best science of the day, and had nothing to do with politics and philosophies."

Dennis: You're right - you don't here come out with exactly what you are accusing Scott / NCSE / NABT of. I took it to mean that you thought their efforts were / are a front for an atheist / anti-theist politcal / philosophical agenda. Perhaps you'd like to clarify what you are accusing them of?


On 15/10/09 3:55 PM, "Schwarzwald" <> wrote:


Since your post was in reply to me, I'm going to ask you for some backup as well. Where did I accuse Eugenie Scott, the NABT, or the NCSE of having "anti-Christian sentiment"? I said that the myopic focus on evolution, the proclaimed importance of securing "belief in evolution", the actions of the NABT, and other issues/events indicate that there's far more at work here than some simple and general concern with science and science education. But I made no reference to some specific 'anti-Christian' sentiment - and that's because I don't think this boils down to opposition to some single religious viewpoint, much less some singular anti-Christian bigotry. So I'd like to know where you're getting that from.

Either way, I already wrote up some of my reasoning of why the NABT's past actions, and Scott's 'criticism/defense' of the NABT, is problematic - so, there you have it for now.

On Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 6:39 PM, Dennis Venema <> wrote:
As a member of both the NCSE and NABT (as well as the ASA) I feel compelled to comment on this issue.

I have met Eugenie personally, and though I do not know her well, I have heard her speak on several occasions. She is not an anti- theist, or if she is, she hides it extremely well! I am saddened to see her motives maligned on this listserve. The NCSE does valuable work supporting school boards who wish for their science teachers to be free of inappropriate pressure from outside sources. The NCSE has also taken flak from the New Atheist movement for "promoting religion" by promoting examples of scientists who hold that science and faith are compatible.

In my years of involvement with NABT I have similarly not sensed any anti-Christian sentiment. There is a frustration with anti-science / YECism / OECism to be sure, but that is specified as not being anti-faith. Francis Collins was an invited speaker at the NABT annual conference recently, for goodness sake.

So yes, I hold that the NCSE and NABT are acting in good faith and with honest motivations. Those that wish to argue otherwise are requested to provide evidence to back up their allegations.


On 15/10/09 4:47 AM, "Schwarzwald" < <> > wrote:

Heya Merv,

I'm all for being charitable. But I'm also for being frank, and for avoiding what I think is a very common mistake of being charitable to the point of blindness or naivete. Sometimes people are dishonest (let's call it 'politically savvy'). Sometimes a proclaimed goal isn't the real goal. That should come as no surprise to anyone in this discussion, since ID proponents are routinely accused of "really meaning" other than what they say. To give the common example: Behe, Dembski and others say that ID merely infers design, and doesn't/can't identify the designer? Nonsense! It's the Christian God - maybe even the YEC God - and they know it! ID is merely religion, stealth creationism! Etc, etc. So I don't think I'm breaking any particular taboo by pointing out the elephant in the room and noting that, no, this is not entirely or even mostly about science. Just like "true science" wasn't the real issue with Lysenkoism, or with various other events/disputes in history.

I want to stress again - I said this was utterly apart from any considerations about teaching ID in school, and I meant it. I refer again to the NABT event, and particularly one line of argument Eugenie Scott supposedly used to convince the NABT to back off on their position (namely, political maneuvering). I refer to the repeated use of the metric of "how many Americans believe in evolution", of the expressed importance of getting Americans to believe in evolution. I could go on with examples, but again, I find it very difficult to believe no one else notices that 'science education' so often boils down to 'belief [again, not understanding of, but proclaimed belief] in evolution' - and how this in turn illustrates that concern for "true science" isn't exactly central here. To illustrate this in another way: Does anyone really believe that the 'What the bleep do we know?' movie had as its goal nothing more than an honest promotion of "true science", as opposed to more mystical and metaphysical ideas? I think the cases are, in many important ways, very similar.

Notice I'm not making any reference here to ID's treatment or legality in schools. And no, I don't think this is about a fight in the name of "true science". That's precisely my point - I think "true science" in this case is largely a bluff, a rallying cry in the service of other goals. All I'm doing is calling attention to that. I think all anyone has to do is notice this wildly disproportionate focus on 'getting people to believe evolution' (Notice that this isn't limited to what's taught in classrooms, incidentally) to realize how empty the 'we just think science education is important!' claim is. And again, I say this as a TE, as someone who thinks evolution is one more tool God uses. It's not as if evolution (not to mention other science) hasn't been promoted and used in the past for other purposes - it should come as no surprise that it's taking place once more.

I think your (and Cameron's) characterization of everyone else's motivations (i.e. Eugenie Scott in particular) is being uncharitable. I can imagine her responding that it isn't her that chose to have this insanely intense focus on evolution to the exclusion of all else. It was the politically active creationists. And because of *their* intense attack, she and others will rise to defend what she sees as sound science precisely at the point of that attack: evolution. In other words, this could reduce to a case of the "he started it first!" epithet being thrown back & forth. If people were lobbying legislatures to try to prevent gravity from being taught in physics classes, then gravity would become the new "litmus test" that the NCSE and there would be insanely disproportionate focus on that. Having said all this, though --I actually do agree with you that both "sides" are off center on this one because of the stark tension between them in their unscientific dance with each other. They are whirling around, unwilling to let go because each perceives that if they let go, their nemesis will suddenly triumph at the expense of "true science". These dance partners definitely need to be broken up. I don't know Eugene Scott that well, but I doubt that she is really "anti-religious", though I don't doubt she is anti-ID which is probably what has your ire up --and maybe rightly so. A fair and impartial hearing for ID may have been an unfortunate casualty in the cross-fire between political creationism and political evolution defenders.


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Received on Thu Oct 15 19:09:59 2009

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