Monday, June 29, 2009


The View From the Other Side

Jerry Coyne started the Great Accommodationist-Incompatiblist Flap by, in part, accusing the NCSE of improperly taking sides as to the compatibility of science -- in particular, evolutionary theory -- with religion.

Now comes a well-known expert on religion and science -- Casey Luskin -- with another view. It seems that Casey finds the NCSE and its Executive Director, Eugenie Scott, to be incompatibilists. Referring to the NCSE's "Preparatory Materials for Speakers at the 21 January 2009 Texas SBOE Meeting," Casey says:

[S]omehow their "talking points" they released for Texas State Board of Education meeting in January advocated that activists press the SBOE to adopt scientism as the state's official ideology and expressly deny the existence of the supernatural as a matter of state education policy. As the NCSE's talking points argued: "Science posits that there are no forces outside of nature. Science cannot be neutral on this issue.… All educated people understand there are no forces outside of nature."

Uh, oh! Ellipses being used by creationists mean that we have to check the source (with the caveat that the copy is a DI document). In fact, although the parts of the "quote" are 12 pages apart, Casey has not seriously misrepresented the NCSE document's position (though some nuance was lost). I do think the author(s) of the materials overlooked or misstated the methodological naturalism position. Or, if they wanted to state that science was equivalent to philosophical naturalism, it would be a strange audience indeed to try to make that case to.

As to Scott, Casey quotes an answer she gave in an interview on the Minnesota Atheists' radio show, "Atheist Talk," to a question about why evolution is the area of science most attacked :

"Evolution is the scientific explanation that has the most repercussions, shall we say, for people's worldview and religious perspective. Evolution tells you that humans share kinship with all other creatures. For some, that's a very liberating and exciting idea, and it makes them feel one with nature and it's empowering and so forth. For others, it's threatening. If your view is a human exceptionalism kind of view, that humans are separate from nature and special -- especially if they are special to God as in some Christian traditions, then evolution is going to be threatening to you." [48:05-48:50]

That's an accurate transcript of what Scott said, though I think Luskin is misinterpreting what Scott meant (dare I say deliberately?), in that I think another reasonable interpretation of what Scott intended is that people who believe "they are special to God as in some Christian traditions" tend to perceive evolution as a threat to those beliefs, not necessarily that they are justified in that perception.

Still, it's interesting that the Great Accommodationist Satan is seen as shy one of one of those terms in some circles.


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