Over on Edge, scientists continue to weigh in on my New Republic piece on the compatibility of science and faith. Steve Pinker and Sam Harris have just contributed, both taking the “non-accommodationist” stance. Sam’s article, a brilliant piece of sarcasm, has been widely misunderstood on the web, with many thinking he has seen the light and become a man of faith! Yet how is it possible to mistake the following for anything other than sarcasm?
And yet, there is more to be said against the likes of Coyne and Dennett and Dawkins (he is the worst!). Patrick Bateson tells us that it is “staggeringly insensitive” to undermine the religious beliefs of people who find these beliefs consoling. I agree completely. For instance: it is now becoming a common practice in Afghanistan and Pakistan to blind and disfigure little girls with acid for the crime of going to school. When I was a neo-fundamentalist rational neo-atheist I used to criticize such behavior as an especially shameful sign of religious stupidity. I now realize—belatedly and to my great chagrin—that I knew nothing of the pain that a pious Muslim man might feel at the sight of young women learning to read. Who am I to criticize the public expression of his faith? Bateson is right. Clearly a belief in the inerrancy of the holy Qur’an is indispensable for these beleaguered people.
A second-order debate on the Edge debate has sprung up on Richard Dawkins’s website as well–there are nearly 800 comments! Clearly this issue continues to attract a lot of attention, and generates a lot of heat as well as light.