Saturday, October 20, 2012

Are Weak Allies Better Than No Allies?

There has always been a question of whether atheists and theists can really work together to solve problems and/or achieve goals. To some degree I think it is possible. However, there are topics on which I'm not sure that such an alliance is really viable. I do appreciate that there are many religious people who are willing to stand up for science, at least to some degree. I am not saying I want them to give up on science but I'm not convinced that they are as supportive of science as they seem to think they are.

A recent post by Karl Giberson, who is a physicist himself, serves as a pretty good example. In "Is Evolution Satan's Great Lie?" he does seem to take Paul Broun's idiotic comments about science to task. The impression is only on the surface. At heart, Giberson does seem to be more of a creationist in a lab coat than a scientist. The third paragraph says quite a bit about his thinking and biases in a very short space.

"It is one thing to claim, invoking some authority from outside the mainstream, that evolution has weaknesses. Or that the evidence does not warrant the absolute certainty with which scientists embrace the theory. Or that some of the evidence for evolution has been compromised by recent discoveries. The Discovery Institute, where the heart of the intelligent design movement has been beating for some time, does this every day on its website. In principle one can have a conversation on those grounds."

Yes, evolution has its weaknesses. There is no perfection so that is not particularly insightful and scientist don't tend to think in "absolute certainties." I may not be a scientist myself but I do follow science news fairly closely and I am unaware any recent "discoveries" or "evidence" that compromises evolution. I am aware of a variety of apologists and pseudo-intellectuals claiming to have found new discoveries and weaknesses but they have all been shown to be religious BS wrapped up in science sounding language. I also would point out that if Giberson really believes that the Discovery Institute is conducting scientific research then his grasp on what constitute science is rather shoddy.

He goes on to talk about what some prominent fundamentalists believe to be true without much in the way of criticism. He seems to tacitly accept that Satan is real and that, though they are misguided, these individuals hold opinions that should be humored to some degree. Giberson, of course, never explains why they should be humored beyond the usual tropes and certainly never tries to explain how a supernatural figure can possibly be compatible with science at all.

Giberson's conclusion is also rather disturbing in its implication.

"Responding effectively to what look like crazy rants from people like Broun requires that we understand that, whatever we think of the rant, the viewpoint is widespread and shared by many of America's religious leaders. Evolution and the Big Bang will never win the allegiance of America's millions of fundamentalists on the basis of evidence. This conflict is a culture war pitting good against evil and the stakes are much higher."

They don't just look like "crazy rants" they are and they are potentially very dangerous. Science and reality don't bend to wishful thinking. It should not matter how popular an idea is. He offers no way to deal with this problem. In fact, he seems to be saying that we just let these nut-cases have their way. Is this really supporting science? How much help can someone like Giberson really be in the long run?

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