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Truckling to the Faithful: A Spoonful of Jesus Helps Darwin Go Down - Comments

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 1 by Richard Dawkins

Congratulations Jerry. This REALLY needed to be said.


Wed, 22 Apr 2009 07:01:00 UTC | #351534

MAJORPAIN's Avatar Comment 2 by MAJORPAIN

I am torn on this issue. The overwhelming fear of evolution as a threat to someone's christianity can make them not want to learn a letter about evolution. I have taken this route with people myself, saying evolution is no can believe in god and still see that maybe evolution is his mechanism for creating the diversity we see in the world. I have had at least one of these acquaintances go on to study up on evolution and as he began to understand it, he admitted that god had no place in it. A chink in the old armour. However, it is intellectually cowardly to do this, I know.

In other words, I don't have an answer!

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 07:06:00 UTC | #351541

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 3 by Steve Zara

Comment #368101 by MAJORPAIN

However, it is intellectually cowardly to do this, I know.

The problem isn't that it is cowardly. The problem is that stating that there is no conflict between science and faith is untrue. Starting off science education with untruths is not a good idea. It can lead to mistrust later, for one thing.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 07:13:00 UTC | #351545

ANTIcarrot's Avatar Comment 4 by ANTIcarrot

Sometimes political horse trading, however dirty it makes you feel, is actually the best course of action. America has nukes and a population that almost completely rejects critical thinking. That's an incredibly dangerous combination.

Anything which reduces that danger (EG: making critical thinking more palatable to the ignorant majority) is a good idea. As long as you don't take things too far.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 07:13:00 UTC | #351547

Styrer-'s Avatar Comment 5 by Styrer-

Excellent piece. My confidence in Professor Coyne's stance on NOMA took a knock recently following one of his recent articles shown here, but that confidence is now completely restored and has risen to a new level. Marvellous stuff, and music to my ears.


Wed, 22 Apr 2009 07:15:00 UTC | #351550

Russell Blackford's Avatar Comment 6 by Russell Blackford

Jerry is absolutely right. Good science teaching, and advocacy of good science teaching, should be religion blind and simply concentrate on the evidence for evolution, as Jerry's own book does.

The NAS and NCSE should ignore the implications, one way or another, for religion. Whether or not the evolutionary picture is consistent with orthodox Christianity, or Zeus worship, or the cult of the ultramontane Juju, is not a matter that science organisations should purport to decide.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 07:24:00 UTC | #351560

root2squared's Avatar Comment 7 by root2squared

Not only does the NCSE not criticize religion, but it cuddles up to it, kisses it, and tells it that everything will be all right.

True, and very gross.

Third, it disingenuously pretends that evolution poses absolutely no threat to faith, or conflicts with faith in any way.

Well, it's not just evolution. Science itself conflicts with faith. Evidence vs belief without evidence. The NCSE is based on a philosophy that is in complete conflict with religion.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 07:27:00 UTC | #351566

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 8 by rod-the-farmer

I agree, This needed to be pointed out. Unlike the song, "You CAN'T have one without the other."

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 07:27:00 UTC | #351568

joemerbs's Avatar Comment 9 by joemerbs

First time commenter, long time lurker:
Exactly. The official stance of the NAS and the NCSE should be the first half of Professor Miller's first book, and not the second half. Overwhelm people with the evidence, then let them make up their own mind on supernaturalism (and we all know where that road leads). Which is what Professor Coyne's book is meant to do.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 07:41:00 UTC | #351589

jshuey's Avatar Comment 10 by jshuey

Scientists know better than anyone else what the implications of our accumulated knowledge are. Why pretend otherwise?

To state outright that evolution, physics, and other sciences absolutely negates the Abrahamic god and thus all of the damaging claims of both the old and new testaments does no harm to a broad range of spirituality-based beliefs, including a humanistic-based christianity.

It's the 21st century...time to move on...and if science can't assist with changing our culture and philosophy for the better, what will?

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 07:55:00 UTC | #351606

root2squared's Avatar Comment 11 by root2squared

I had no idea that the ncse was kissing so much theological ass. Quite disgraceful that they are betraying and denigrating science in this fashion.

The right response to people who are worried that evolution conflicts with their faith should be

"Science works and evolution is true. If you don't want to learn it, then fuck off".

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:00:00 UTC | #351609

Mark Jones's Avatar Comment 12 by Mark Jones

Wow, this is frightening stuff. Well said Jerry Coyne, once again. His blog is required reading.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:05:00 UTC | #351613

squinky's Avatar Comment 13 by squinky

Well done Jerry! I am loving articles written by the Reason Project's board.

As a practical matter I do worry about Majorpain's point. If we're being completely honest and freely admit that evolution and science contradicts all religious tales of origin, design, divine intervention, and prayer (which is true) then it seems that religionists will not be accomodationist to scientists. I would predict that the undereducated masses would start to reject science and science teaching as trying to promote an atheist ideology in their children.

Removal the religious philosophy posted on the NAS and NCSE websites is a good start. In this religious culture war, will the zeitgeist tilt in favor of truth or fiction£ While I have my doubts, we must all fight the good fight.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:20:00 UTC | #351622

eh-theist's Avatar Comment 14 by eh-theist

Awesome! Thank you Jerry!

Larry Moran has been expressing concern with the accommodationist approach.

Articles like this are so necessary.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:21:00 UTC | #351623

zengardener's Avatar Comment 15 by zengardener

This needs to be said.
If the religious believe that evolution can coexist with theology, they are not very likely to investigate evolution. They will not likely question their faith. We live in an incredibly complex world made possible by science, so when the scientists say, "There is a direct conflict" people just might listen. We need people to think critically and this cozy acceptance is not helping.

Yesterday at work a coworker noticed my copy or The Origin Of Species and told me that "Scientist make up the tests and then call the results facts. They have all bought into the idea." It was a frustrating conversation. I asked how he could accept all of the proven scientific advancements and still reject evolution. "divine intervention"
apparently God created man 6,000 years ago, and this from a young man of 21.

Scientists need to stand together and reject this nonsense as a failed hypothesis.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:23:00 UTC | #351626

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 16 by Richard Dawkins

I have from time to time expressed sympathy for the accommodationist tendency so ably criticized here by Jerry Coyne. I have occasionally worried that – just maybe – Eugenie Scott and the appeasers might have a point, a purely political point but one, nevertheless, that we should carefully consider. I have lately found myself moving away from that sympathy.

I suspect that most of our regular readers here would agree that ridicule, of a humorous nature, is likely to be more effective than the sort of snuggling-up and head-patting that Jerry is attacking. I lately started to think that we need to go further: go beyond humorous ridicule, sharpen our barbs to a point where they really hurt.

Michael Shermer, Michael Ruse, Eugenie Scott and others are probably right that contemptuous ridicule is not an expedient way to change the minds of those who are deeply religious. But I think we should probably abandon the irremediably religious precisely because that is what they are – irremediable. I am more interested in the fence-sitters who haven’t really considered the question very long or very carefully. And I think that they are likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt. Nobody likes to be laughed at. Nobody wants to be the butt of contempt.

You might say that two can play at that game. Suppose the religious start treating us with naked contempt, how would we like it? I think the answer is that there is a real asymmetry here. We have so much more to be contemptuous about! And we are so much better at it. We have scathingly witty spokesmen of the calibre of Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Who have the faith-heads got, by comparison? Ann Coulter is about as good as it gets. We can’t lose!

If you can bear to listen to him, take, as an example of a typical faith-head trying to be contemptuous, David Bentley Hart, whose radio interview happened to be posted here at the same time as Jerry’s article.,3766,a-new-flea---NRO-radio-interview-with-author-of,NRODavid-Bently-Hart
Listen to the stumbling, droning inarticulacy, the abysmal lack of anything approaching wit or intelligence. Imagine this yammering fumblewit coming up against Christopher Hitchens, or Dan Dennett, or PZ Myers – doesn’t it make your mouth water?

I emphatically don’t mean we should use foul-mouthed rants. Nor should we raise our voices and shout at them: let’s have no D’Souzereignty here. Instead, what we need is sarcastic, cutting wit. A good model might be Peter Medawar, who would never dream of shouting, but instead quietly wielded the rapier. Look, for instance, at almost any sentence in his magnificent review of Teilhard de Chardin’s pretentious Phenomenon of Man. It is reprinted in Pluto’s Republic or you can find it here:-

Maybe I’m wrong. I'm only thinking aloud, among friends. Is it gloves off time? Or should we continue to go along with the appeasers and be all nice and cuddly, like Eugenie and the National Academy?


Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:32:00 UTC | #351636

MAJORPAIN's Avatar Comment 17 by MAJORPAIN

I want to say that this does make me feel dishonest (referring to my first post) and I agree with the poster who says it can cause mistrust later. I am from Arkansas and if you think Texas is bad...well...anyway, I am becoming much bolder (strident!) about explaining evolution to people -- in simple terms of course -- and now that I am thus chastened by some of you -- I will leave god out of it until they bring it up and then I will try to handle it more honestly.

I have one complete convert to my credit (unfortunately not a christian) but I will soldier on and keep up the good fight.

I can't tell you how much Richard has contributed to my level of courage. I look up to him and want to be as "intellectually brave" as I can. Also, on that note I want to tell Richard that I have a new way of finding the atheists among us -- just drop Richard's name in casual conversation. I found a fellow atheist at work by mentioning "this new book I'm reading by Richard Dawkins" and saying it is really interesting. No one knew who he was except one guy who came up to me later and asked, "are you an atheist£" To my reply he gleefully said, "so am I!!" I now have a new friend. Thank you Richard!

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:33:00 UTC | #351637

Peacebeuponme's Avatar Comment 18 by Peacebeuponme

yammering fumblewit
I am going to use that in conversation just as soon as a can. Superb.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:35:00 UTC | #351639

AllanW's Avatar Comment 20 by AllanW

Comment #368197 by Richard Dawkins on April 22, 2009 at 9:32 am

Is it gloves off time?


Future generations of rational, reasonable and woo-free people will both applaud and ask why it took us so long to throw off our childish superstitions.

Now what do we do to help?

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:39:00 UTC | #351645

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 19 by Diacanu

Richard Dawkins-

I emphatically don’t mean we should use foul-mouthed rants.

*Eyes dart back and forth guiltily*

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:39:00 UTC | #351643

SteveN's Avatar Comment 21 by SteveN

Good stuff from Jerry!

I also admire the NCSE for their hard work (and for the fact that I'm on the 'Steve' T-shirt) but I abhor the way that Eugene Scott bends over backwards to stress that there is no conflict between religion and science because this is clearly not true. Similarly, as much as I admire the writings of Gould, I can never forgive him his introduction of the NOMA concept.

Richard has said that he is often criticised in the USA for his uncompromising view on this topic because it makes the job or organisations such as the NCSE more difficult. Richard has even said that he accepts this criticism and may change his approach in the future. I would actually encourage even more direct, no-holds-barred 'in-your-face' criticism of religion because it seems to me that books such as TGD have initiated a change in the 'Zeitgeist' that makes this increasingly possible in public.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:44:00 UTC | #351648

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 22 by Steve Zara

Comment #368197 by Richard Dawkins

There is no need to be an appeaser in any way, I think, but simply and clearly and unambiguously state that science and faith are incompatible when asked. Individuals can make their own accommodation between religion and science if they want to, but that accommodation should be open to ridicule if publicly expressed. Public expressions of any other type of belief, such as artistic judgements, are open to such treatment.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:46:00 UTC | #351652

Oystein Elgaroy's Avatar Comment 23 by Oystein Elgaroy

Comment #368197 by Richard Dawkins

But I think we should probably abandon the irremediably religious precisely because that is what they are – irremediable. I am more interested in the fence-sitters who haven’t really considered the question very long or very carefully. And I think that they are likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt. Nobody likes to be laughed at. Nobody wants to be the butt of contempt.

It worked in my case. It is remarkable how having ones ideas called silly can help one in realizing that they are, well, silly.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:47:00 UTC | #351653

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 25 by Cartomancer

Were the gloves still on then? I rather thought we were already showering the religious with the scathing contempt they deserve...

Although I suspect there are some fence-sitters who would be dissuaded by scathing contempt for religion. There are indeed people out there who place more stock by harmony, cooperation and unwillingness to rock the boat than by wit, humour and the glorious art of the clever put-down. Nevertheless, I suspect that these people are, by their very nature, too fuzzy-headed and unspecific in their actions to pose any real threat one way or the other. Even if they do have some sympathy for creationism and allied nonsenses it is unlikely they will do anything about it - they're proud of being fence-sitters, and any display of overt support for anything even slightly contentious is anathema to them.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:51:00 UTC | #351656

Gregg Townsend's Avatar Comment 24 by Gregg Townsend

16. Comment #368197 by Richard Dawkins

Where religious views are presented in the public sphere, especially as it relates to public policy and public education, I say the gloves should be off!

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:51:00 UTC | #351655

digibud's Avatar Comment 26 by digibud

I am currently reading "Why Evolution is True" and getting quite a kick out of it, so first a quick thanks to Jerry Coyne. Having said that, I gotta tell Jerry the obvious. The NCSE's stated goal is "improving and supporting education in evolution and the nature of science, and increasing public understanding of these subjects." so it's not a huge leap to understand that they choose to do this by minimizing the obvious issues of science vs religion. If you know people are going to shoot arrows at a messenger with blond hair and your tribe all has blond hair, some might argue to dye your hair before you leave with the message.
I'm sure there has been great debate about this issue within the NCSE and some folks in the organization are reading this commentary saying, "Exactly correct!", while others and shaking their head and saying, "Yeah, sure. Let's go to the local school board and tell them what we are teaching directly contradicts their fundamental assumptions and beliefs regarding their lives. Let's see how much better science education will be after we drive that wedge between us."
Frankly I'm not sure what my stand on this issue is because I haven't given it a great deal of thought but it appears to me to be one of those issues where reasonable people may disagree on how best to approach a difficult task. Dealing with ignorant people is quite the pain in the ass.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:52:00 UTC | #351657

Dean Buchanan's Avatar Comment 27 by Dean Buchanan

Very well written and argued Mr. Coyne.

And to those who are arguing that it may be beneficial and "realpolitik" for the NAS and the NCSE to engage with the religious to further understanding of science, I disagree. The knife can,And Often Does, cut both ways. I argue that there are plenty of other means to have the debate as to whether science precludes belief in the supernatural. Let these 2 organizations stick with the FOCUS of making sure that everyone possible has a deep appreciation and at least a general understanding of what science is, and what we know to be the facts of the matter.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:54:00 UTC | #351658

root2squared's Avatar Comment 28 by root2squared

16. Comment #368197 by Richard Dawkins


Is it gloves off time?

I think it's been a gloves off time since long.

I do not even see a debate between science and religion. I do not think atheist scientists should even engage in a debate with the religious ones. These debates merely legitimize the beliefs of scientists like Miller in the minds of the religious. Imagine if 90% of the scientists point blank said that Christianity was nonsense and that they would not bother to debate their religious counterparts. Then the parasitic legitimacy they derive from science will be gone. Since the scientific method is completely in conflict with faith, I think it is acceptable to deny such religious scientists respect the moment they start talking about faith

The attitude should just be that we do science and we don't accept any claims without evidence. Force the moderates to make a choice. I don't see the moderates skipping science classes just to avoid the conflict. Some of them will compartmentalize it, some of them will further remove the bits from their holy books that conflict with science, and maybe some of them will give it up.

I don't see why scientists who do the most intellectually honest work you can do should pander even the least bit to those who lie to themselves. It is not only unfair, it is also the wrong tactic.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:55:00 UTC | #351659

zeroangel's Avatar Comment 30 by zeroangel


I concur, I have 2 such new friends now.


As for your question: I am generally of the opinion that the best course of action is neither coddling or contempt. Education is all we need. Just give them the facts and let them work out how to square evolution with their religious beliefs. Frankly, the very watered down version of religion that relagates "God" to a cosmic tinkerer doesn't really bother me.

It's only when those kinds of folks give the extremists a pass do I get annoyed.

PS. I would pay a good deal of cash to see Hithchens or Harris go up against Coulter (or this Hart fellow). It won't happen though.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:56:00 UTC | #351661

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 29 by Diacanu


they're proud of being fence-sitters, and any display of overt support for anything even slightly contentious is anathema to them.

I've run into the odd breed who are so proud of being fence sitters, they try to verbally rip your guts out for not being one.
Fascinating thing to watch.

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 08:56:00 UTC | #351660