This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Comment

← MUST WE ALWAYS CATER TO THE FAITHFUL WHEN TEACHING SCIENCE?

AmericanGodless's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by AmericanGodless

As I said when the first part of this piece was posted here March 24, I appreciate Coyne leaving the compatibility of evolution (and all of science) with relgious belief to the believers. (I am sure they can accomodate anything).

I would add that whether we support the "accommodationist" approach would depend on your goals. If you think that what is essentially a religious dogma of "old-earth stepwise creation by way of evolution" is a sufficient approximation of the scientific view, then accommodate away! My own concern, however, is for scientific naturalism and its wider implications for how public issues are decided. To foster such a bastardized view of evolution, and give it the imprimatur of organized science, when most scientists know better, is, in my opinion, unethical and injurious to the future of a rational society.

That is why it seriously bothers me when Coyne says, in the last chapter of his book, that it is "unnecessarily alarmist" for believers to worry that evolution may affect how we think about (and, eventually, what we teach about) meaning, purpose, and ethics. "Evolution is simply a theory about the process and patterns of life's diversification, not a grand philosophical scheme about the meaning of life."

So does Coyne really mean that when the subject of discussion moves on from anatomy and biochemistry, to meaning, purpose, and ethics, then evolution (and by extension science as a whole) deserve no place at the table? That sounds an awful lot like NOMA to me, however much he wants to separate himself from that unfortunate concept, and I have to strongly disagree.

Granted, evolution alone may not comprise a "grand philosophical scheme about the meaning of life," but no such philosophical scheme that is to be consistent can ignore it, or the naturalism that comes with it and with all of science. And, granted, evolutionary ethics may not yet be popular, even perhaps among evolutionists. But to pretend that it should never get an airing alongside religious ethics, as Coyne seems to be suggesting, is unacceptable.

Wed, 01 Apr 2009 09:11:00 UTC | #342512