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

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Thu Oct 15 2009 - 20:23:56 EDT

Replies to Dennis and Rich below.


This will be my last post for today as well.

I'm making a very broad, but very limited claim in these posts: That the
exceptional focus on evolution, on the importance of "belief in evolution",
on the importance of promoting evolution, etc, does not reduce to some
simple love of science, or desire to "protect" / "improve" science and
science education. Of the wide variety of counterintuitive but legitimate
scientific discoveries and claims (I gave before the examples of time having
a beginning, or the assorted strangeness of the quantum world, etc),
evolution's treatment and focus is obviously, absurdly out of whack. I think
this is obvious, and that - on these points alone - it justifies skepticism
that groups which contribute to this focus are motivated purely by concerns
for science itself.

I haven't touched on the NCSE in these posts except in passing and insofar
as this exaggerated focus is encouraged by them. But I did spell out the
strange case of the NABT's statement, and Eugenie Scott's unusual
criticism/defense of them. I also pointed out that, in that particular case,
there seemed to be two particular possibilities (one "charitable", one more
jaded) of what was going on there. Neither is particularly encouraging. Both
speak to concerns that I think should be at the forefront for anyone
concerned about science, or about the interface between science and belief
(religious, philosophical, etc).

I don't have to go terribly far to find people, even groups, who are more
explicit about these things. Jerry Coyne is pretty explicit in wanting to
reduce religious belief in America, and in seeing teaching evolution as a
means to this end. PZ Myers (To see how important that man views
'evolution', find out his reaction to hearing Kirk Cameron & company would
be writing a preface to an abridged version of one of Darwin's books), Dan
Dennett, etc fall into similar categories. I think the example I just
brought up to Rich Blinne of the AAI (and Dawkins' connection with them)
does an absolutely marvelous, comedic job of illustrating how "science
education" is little more than a means to a greater end for that group in
particular, and others in general. But not every group or individual is
explicit - and a failure to be so explicit does not mean there's no
political savvy at work.

So Dennis, even if you disagree with me - and I look forward to your further
replies on this - maybe you can at least understand why I regard this
so-central focus on evolution, out of whack and to an absurd extreme, as not
being entirely about science and science education. Just like "What The
Bleep Do We Know" was not made just to promote scientific literacy in the
area of quantum mechanics.


The "secular science community" rebukes Maher? Funny, because I could have
sworn the AAI was a major secular group that crows about the importance of
science - and they just gave him a freaking award! Dawkins, who I hear is a
very eloquent defender of science, shrugged his shoulders at it. Utter
apathy, and besides, he thinks Maher is funny. Yes, there are criticisms by
some. And many are silent. Indeed, PZ Myers urged people who were going to
the AAI awards to not cause a scene and to keep everything respectful.
(Enjoy the delicious irony - PZ Myers, urging people to be civil and
respectful to someone accused of maligning science. Gee, what's the
difference in this case that makes it special?)

I'm sure there are some angry comments about Maher over at WhateverBlog, and
I suppose in some special little way that's heartwarming. But the fact that
Maher got this award, that Dawkins signed off on the award, that Myers was
hesitant to make this into a big deal, etc, indicates that the "secular
science community" isn't walking in unison on this issue. Indeed, one of the
sciencebloggers argued that apparently Dawkins couldn't care less about who
he supports, so long as the person in question is appropriately hostile to

So what do you think, Rich? Is the AAI - and Dawkins - harming science and
science education here? Clearly, if you're going to condemn ID on the
grounds that Maher is having a horrible effect on science and science
education and they're indirectly responsible, then the AAI and Dawkins are
doing vastly more harm, with greater awareness of as much. They gave him an
award! An award dedicated, in part, to promoting and defending science! I
think it's a clear case, but honestly I half expect you to whip around here
and argue that, somehow, in some way, ID is to blame for the AAI's actions.
Hey, I can even draw the line for you - by insisting that God is active in
nature, ID directly encourages atheists to deny their claims, thus
indirectly encouraging groups like the AAI to support people who may have
zany views about medicine so long as they make fun of religion in a popular
venue. The AAI's existence and granting of the Richard Dawkins award to
global warming denialists and medical science skeptics is the fault of the
Discovery Institute!

Science, indeed.

On Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 7:12 PM, Dennis Venema <> wrote:

> 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?
> Dennis
> On 15/10/09 3:55 PM, "Schwarzwald" <> wrote:
> Dennis,
> 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.
> Dennis
> 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.
> --Merv

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Thu Oct 15 20:24:28 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Oct 15 2009 - 20:24:28 EDT