Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum of the Guardian.co.uk have called for a truce. They’re pushing science and religion into the center of the ring to call a draw. At the crux of the conflict is the topic of evolution–which we should all know is still a ridiculous point of contention in the United States due to the vast scientific ignorance of the largely religious American public.

We’ve read Richard Dawkins’ strong position on evolution vs. creationism. Should scientists and atheists be so adamantly vocal and in-your-face confrontational about the incongruity between the empirical universe and the invisible land of the spiritual? Or should we be open to partnerships with people of faith who support the cause of science?

It often appears as though [author Richard] Dawkins and … the New Atheists… want to change the country’s science community in a lasting way. They’d have scientists and defenders of reason be far more confrontational and blunt: No more coddling the faithful, no tolerating nonscientific beliefs. Scientific institutions, in their view, ought to stop putting out politic PR about science and religion being compatible.

A smaller but highly regarded nonprofit organisation called the National Centre for Science Education has drawn at least as much of the New Atheists’ ire, however. Based in Oakland, California, the centre is the leading organisation that promotes and defends the teaching of evolution in school districts across the country.

In this endeavour, it has, of necessity, made frequent alliances with religious believers who also support the teaching of evolution, seeking to forge a broad coalition capable of beating back the advances of fundamentalists who want to weaken textbooks or science standards.

[And here’s the kicker] In this context, the New Atheists have chosen their course: confrontation. And groups like the NCSE have chosen the opposite route: Work with all who support the teaching of evolution regardless of their beliefs, and attempt to sway those who are uncertain but perhaps convincible.

So which way would best serve the needs of this ignorant population: Rallying the troops (or, rather, herding the cats) of adamant atheists for a duel lead more people to science as they see religion fall in defeat, or would a soft-spoken, more ecumenical approach fare better in the long run?

I must be a dichotomy. In my heart, I’m an ecumenical type of person; I would rather make peace than war. Despite my sarcastic banter and ranting, I dearly love my religious friends and family despite their mythical beliefs. I care more about connecting with people than proving them wrong. I think you can draw more bees with honey, as the saying goes. Still, I support being a loud and proud freethinker. We should not be ashamed! I freely and joyfully mock aspects of faith and practice that are ridiculous. When I first recognized the ludicrousness of my own beliefs, I was finally able to leave them behind. A little poking doesn’t hurt if it inspires people to think! Check out my post about Ridicule vs. Politeness and weigh in.

I just hope that science does “win out” in the end. If we are to grow as a nation and increase the intellectual and social wealth of our society, we need to get rid of this anti-scientific bias.

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8 thoughts on “Science and Religon: Best Frenemies?”

James Tracy · August 25, 2009 at 9:26 pm

The 'New Atheists' and the NCSE clearly have different aims. The latter concerns itself with the teaching of evolution in public school contexts. As such, it has taken a religion-neutral position. As it should. When you are dealing with public schools being anti-religion is no more constitutional than being pro-religion. The New Atheists, however, are waging a broader cultural battle in which the taboo on criticizing faith and irrational thinking is being lifted away. M&K, it would seem, would have us make it taboo again to criticize bad ideas when those ideas happen to be religious. The problem of science literacy at its core is a problem of bad ideas taking hold over good ideas. It does us no good in the long run to tell religious believers that they can keep their bad ideas so long as they accept some of our good ones.

    godlessgirl · August 25, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Very well-put. I suppose it's not so much an issue about being 'loud' or 'soft-spoken' as much as it is about being appropriate for each situation.

Rooker · August 26, 2009 at 2:19 am

We need both. We need the loud ones like Harris and Dawkins to stir up attention and to scare the believers into thinking we're all out to get them. That way, the polite, quiet ones will seem even more reasonable by comparison when they need to negotiate something or to fight for/against some new legislation.

Greta Christina did a very good job of laying out the case for having both types of atheists a couple of years ago. I wasn't sure myself whether it was better to be loud or quiet, until I read her blog on that question and realized we need both types of atheists.

John Gregson · August 26, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Great points! I side more with the PZ 'school', but absolutely find this sectarian attitude towards science education tricky.
One of the best reasoned posts on the topic!

Justthinking · October 13, 2009 at 6:46 pm

If your interested in science and learnin the truth about about things work, why things work then religion may be able to help.

Rational thinking is what Dawkins wants yet some of his agruements and rational thoughts do nothing but jab in the dark at possibles that he believes without any envidence and backing from sound scienfic prove.
How many times have you seen stories where Doctors have no idea how the patient has recovered, sometime such events have been decribed as miracles, however scienticify they are impossible. So what If the impossible can really exist? Events outside the laws of nature can happen, so the must be laws more powerful then natures & our understandin of natural law.

Science is the search for understanding and knowledge. If things can happen outside of natures laws there must be something else outside of science which science will never be able to define. Religion can help explain what science cant.

Justthinking · October 13, 2009 at 6:47 pm

Following religion is not blind faith, it does require faith however just the same as choosing not to believe in a religion requires faith in that believe as well. Everyone has a believe/faith in something, it doesnt however make that faith true or right. Faith comes from personal believes.

"to the accusation of being ignorant of Christian theology in particular, Richard Dawkins stated:

“ Yes, I have, of course, met this point before. It sounds superficially fair. But it presupposes that there is something in Christian theology to be ignorant about. The entire thrust of my position is that Christian theology is a non-subject. It is empty. Vacuous. Devoid of coherence or content. I imagine that McGrath would join me in expressing disbelief in fairies, astrology and Thor's hammer. How would he respond if a fairyologist, astrologer or Viking accused him of ignorance of their respective subjects?" "

we know these things are wrong because we have researched them found fault in them. To be able to find the fault to start with you need to understand what your looking for.

Justthinking · October 13, 2009 at 6:47 pm

We should be studying religion's claims, understand the context of those claims, then try and disprove.
If the Bible was truth we would all comes from Noah and his family. Can we track this back, did all the nations of the world come from the same family? How could you find this out? Has the ark been found? Can you track a nations geneolgy back to the Bible.
Science is the search for knowledge and understanding.
Remember the Bible claims to be truth, disprove these truths and you disprove the Religion, but to do so you need science and rational thinking and a understandin of history and religion to be able to take everything in the correct context.

People need to look at both science and religion to explain nature law and the possiblity of a religion's claims.
Religion and science have different purposes (nature vs supernature) so when used together a clearer picture may amerge.

I like looking at both and being able to use my rational thinking to guide my believes/faith.

Anything wrong with that?

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