Friday, June 18, 2010
Back Toiling in the Philosophy Mines
Russell Blackford is one of the more reasonable people engaged in the accommodationist / incompatiblist wars, even if we are on (somewhat) opposite sides. Russell is probably right to complain that accommdationists overlook the nuance in incompatiblist positions, though his point is blunted, in no small degree, by his starting it out with "As usual with accommodationists ..."
As Russell points out:
In my case, what I say is something like this: they are incompatible in a sense. Accordingly, it is misleading to state simply "science and religion are compatible" as if there's no problem. If you say that, you'd better gloss it, and you'd better acknowledge that, in the sense that actually matters to traditionally religious people, they may not be compatible, and that there's thus a big problem.
Russell is correct that the article in the Huffington Post by Alan I. Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Executive Publisher of Science, was pretty bad. On the other hand, not all incompatiblists show Russell's nuance either.
Similarly, not all of us in the "accommdationist" camp view it as simply a public relations ploy to suck "traditionally religious people" into accepting science ... a rather unnuanced view of accommodationism. Some of us view it as a reasoned attempt to understand what science is and whether people of good will who value science, both theist and non-theist, can reach some understanding on that issue that both sides can live with.
In a comment to his own post, Russell says:
I think I've said enough to explain why it won't wash to say, simply, "Religion and science are compatible" (or not incompatible in any serious sense) usually followed by "because there are lots of religious scientists" and then a reference to Ken Miller or, as in the case before us, to Ecklund's study.
I, for one, have been pointing out that the real import of the fact that theists are among those who are good, and even great, scientists is that it demonstrates that science is not a "worldview" but a method that, in fact, draws its greatest strength from the very fact that it can be conscientiously practiced by people of many different worldviews, thus self-correcting for such biases. It follows, then, that religion and science, being on different philosophical levels, are "incompatible," to borrow from Robert Pennock, in the same way religion and plumbing are incompatible because you don't need to invoke god(s) to explain why a toilet flushes.
If Russell really wants accommodationists to recognize the nuance in incompatiblist arguments, maybe he should practice what he preaches.
Labels: Accommodationism Incompatiblism
"Compatibilism" is the claim that there exist non-vacuous theologies which are "compatible" with science. (Which is still problematic in that "compatible" can cover the range from "does not contradict well-established facts of science" to "conforms to the scientific episteme w.r.t. its claims").
"Accomodationism" is the social/politcial/rhetorical strategy that says, whether or not compatibilism is true, we will behave as if it was. That needn't be as disingenuous as it sounds if you take it as including an agreement to bury certain hatchets in certain contexts (the entire secular political experiment is accomodationist in this sense), or simply to be indifferent to certain disputes (the latter being what I take to be Wilkins' position).
No, that's not what accomodationism is. Did you even read the post you're commenting on?
"Similarly, not all of us in the "accommdationist" camp view it as simply a public relations ploy to suck "traditionally religious people" into accepting science ... a rather unnuanced view of accommodationism. Some of us view it as a reasoned attempt to understand what science is and whether people of good will who value science, both theist and non-theist, can reach some understanding on that issue that both sides can live with."
What bothers me is the that the statement doesn't just sound disingenuous, it seems to codify disingenuousness to be at the heart of the effort.
I think honest communication needs to be at the heart of the whole effort - theists and non-theists need to respect each other and their views. And the first step, the point where they can find that respect, is by agreeing on science as a method that informs everyone about the physical world.
After that, then it's a matter of acknowledging differences in philosophy and respecting those differences. But that's a whole other can of worms.
I think, though, that many can't get past that first step. I believe that scientism is growing in response to evangelism - but the advocates of scientism can't or won't acknowledge that for some reason.
Damn, I need more coffee and less postings
I've noticed that at least some incompatiblists don't consistently write in accordance with those nuances. Some of them enjoy the rhetorical fun an un-nuanced view affords, enjoy the heaping on of ridicule that an un-nuanced view encourages. Not considering any stripe of humanity utterly beyond perfidy, I'd not be surprised if some who have embraced hostility and ridicule in the good fight against religion may base their rhetoric in an un-nuanced view deliberately to make use of its rhetorical oomph in support of their righteous campaign.
To be fair, the incompatiblists didn't invent the tactic out of thin air ...
It may look, here, like I only expend my ammo at anti-accomodationists, but that's mostly because that issue, rather than creationism v evolution itself is usually the subject here. There's also not a lot of creationists or their sypathizers hereabouts. I do, though, follow some of the links on c v e you provide, such as that to the Australian Conservative, and post there where I reckon a little slagging of IDC is more useful than it would be here.
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