Saturday, September 18, 2010


Moran On the Definition of "Accommodationism"

Larry has changed his own definition of "accommodationism."

Today, at least, "accommodationism" means "rhetoric [that] comes from atheists (secularists) who direct a great deal of anger toward the vocal atheists but go out of their way to excuse their religious friends."

Hmmmm ... just 6 months ago, Larry declared the following, from Peter Hess' article "God and Evolution" on the NCSE website, had "all the earmarks" of accommondationism:

Of course, religious claims that are empirically testable can come into conflict with scientific theories. For instance, young-earth creationists argue that the universe was created several thousand years ago, that all the lineages of living creatures on Earth were created in their present form (at least up to the poorly-defined level of "kind") shortly thereafter, and that these claims are supported by empirical evidence, such as the fossil record and observed stellar physics. These fact claims are clearly contradicted by mainstream paleontology, cosmology, geology and biogeography. However, the theological aspect of young-earth creationism—the assertions about the nature of God, and the reasons why that God created the universe and permitted it to develop in a particular way—cannot be addressed by science. By their nature, such claims can only be—and have been—addressed by philosophers and theologians.

The science of evolution does not make claims about God's existence or non-existence, any more than do other scientific theories such as gravitation, atomic structure, or plate tectonics. Just like gravity, the theory of evolution is compatible with theism, atheism, and agnosticism. Can someone accept evolution as the most compelling explanation for biological diversity, and also accept the idea that God works through evolution? Many religious people do.
No anger directed at atheists nor indiscriminate excuse of the religious.

In fact, aren't the people Larry is calling "accommodationists" those people who were dubbed "faitheists" by Jerry Coyne?

Now, of course, Larry is free to make up his own private definition for any word he likes but, out of common courtesy, he might wave a flag or set off a flare or something so the rest of us know ... just so we don't get whiplash.


Remember that "accommodationist" is pretty much a label to replace "Neville Chamberlain atheist," and when used by the detractors of so-called "accommodationists," it kept the negative associations of the old "Chamberlain" label. It's no wonder, then, that "faitheist" and "accommodationist" get used almost interchangeably.
I think "accommodationist" was
originally used to describe, particularly by scientific and educational organizations, the willingness to state that science and religion were compatible (i.e. that some religious people could reconcile their faith and, for example, evolution). Even Larry was using it in that sense within the last 6 months.

Now, I don't follow the atheist blogosphere, except where it slops over into the science blogosphere, so maybe the term was mutating even before it was applied to the NAS and NCSE but one thing is sure: when the people who use the term frequently can't use it even remotely in a consistent manner, there's a lot of sloppy "thinking" going on.
I remember the "Chamberlain" label. I always like to counter with the "Saakashvili" label.

But either way, concerning the article quoted, I don't really think the issue is religious claims coming into conflict with scientific theories per se, but the scientific reconstruction of history. Most religious believers don't have a problem with miraculous claims contradicting scientific principles.

The problem lies in the fact that the scientific reconstruction of earth's history and creationism are mutually exclusive. There is one story in scripture (if taken as a historical account) and there is the wealth of evidence that supports a very different story, and they cannot both be literally true at the same time. And that dichotomy just isn't there when it comes to other religious claims, at least those commonly believed in the US.
"I think "accommodationist" was originally used to describe, particularly by scientific and educational organizations, the willingness to state that science and religion were compatible (i.e. that some religious people could reconcile their faith and, for example, evolution)."

It was and is used to mean that. However, when "accommodationist" is used by detractors, there is usually an additional implication that such a willingness was somehow coddling the religious and shielding them from the purported atheistic implications of science.
True, but those supposed "atheistic implications" are purely the opinions of atheist scientists, just as the theistic evolutionary position is purely the opinion of theistic scientists.

What I want to know is where would the difference between the "accommodationist" approach and the "non-accommodationist" approach be visible? In what situation would we actually see the difference between the two approaches?
Isn't Michael Ruse considered an accommodationist?
today we are not going to ACCOMMODATE you, pieret...

we are going to EXTERMINATE you...
I think one place you see that was in the debate over the approach to advocacy by the NCSE. On one side you had people saying that any organization advocating for science education should not have someone talking about science and religion. Since religion was not looked upon favorably by these people, they argued that the NCSE should remain neutral and not discuss religion at all.
On the other hand, people made the point that this was advocacy and politics, not science, and so not working with specific interest groups could be counter to their mission. And it would give de facto approval to the notion that science and religion had to be separate in all ways, an opinion not held by many scientists and politicians.
I don't relate this with the intent on renewing the debate here, only as an example of the different approaches that Jim was looking for.
Dennis, there is no "we." You are a poor lost sad soul and I'm sorry for you.
john pieret

you die today...
Wrong yet again! Really! You should check the time and give yourself s fighting chance at least.

You should turn this guy in for death threats. We have no idea if he'll remain just an online crank.
You should turn this guy in for death threats.

PZ has already done that.

And DM is clearly Dennis Markuze/Dave Mabus:

I repeat, he's a poor lost sad soul.
I dunno - based on his comment

we are going to EXTERMINATE you...

maybe the "D" in DM stands for Dalek?
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