Monday, September 07, 2009



Most of my select readership will have heard about the furor over Bloggingheads, which recently featured, first, young-Earth creationist and Discoveryless Institute drone, Paul Nelson, and, then, equally discoveryless Michael Behe. Nelson's appearance (with the otherwise excellent historian of creationism, Ronald Numbers) was particularly egregious, since it was a "Science Saturday" episode and Numbers was not interested in debunking creationism and its doppelganger, Intelligent Design. The co-blogginghead to Behe, John McWhorter, is a linguist, not a biologist, who found Behe's latest book "shattering," precisely because he does not understand biology and didn't bother to find out what biologists thought of it.

Sean Carroll (the physicist), Carl Zimmer and, now, Phil Plait have announced that that they will no longer appear on Bloggingheads. I have no problem with this. Carroll, Zimmer and Plait have no duty to appear on any medium and they can set any standard they want for their appearance. Certainly, the failure to distinguish between science and pseudoscience is good and sufficient grounds for anyone dedicated to science education to refuse to lend their names and reputations to any enterprise. And this is in no way an assault on "free speech and the importance of an unfettered debate of ideas," as predictably claimed by the Discoveryoids.

But then there is Jerry Coyne's take on it:

So much for the virtues of accommodationism. If you pretend that religion has something to say about science, or if you present these two magisteria as coequals, those who have genuine respect for science — and integrity — are going to flee faster than rats on a sinking ship.
Quite apart from the fact that the "rats on a sinking ship" trope is rarely considered flattering to the people who it is applied to, what has this situation got to do with accommodationism? Would these people have abandoned Bloggingheads if, say, Ken Miller had appeared on Science Saturday and, after giving his usual excellent exposition of the science of evolution and debunking of creationism and its cheap-tuxedoed mate, ID, he had been asked to touch on his accommodationism? I hardly think so.

Moreover, "scientific" creationism and ID are the very opposite of Stephen Jay Gould's attempt to prescribe separate magisteri for science and religion and blaming Gould's idea for the confusion of science and creationism makes no sense.

Sometimes Coyne seems to turn off his brain when he sits down to blog.

Part of the problem seems to be confusion about who the "accommodationists" are accommodating. So far as I can see, the accommodationists accommodate someone's religion insofar as that someone's religion accommodates the science. "Incompatiblists" like Coyne seem to forget the "insofar" part.
... the accommodationists accommodate someone's religion insofar as that someone's religion accommodates the science.

I think that's a nice way to put it.
I agree. I was lucky enough to meet and talk with Eugenie Scott this past weekend and she would put it the same way and is proud to call herself an "accommodationist."
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