Over at Metamagician and the Hellfire Club, Russell Blackford has a nice post on accommodationism, and how it has been deliberately but subtly integrated into the supposedly religion-neutral statements of organizations like the National Center for Science Education. He’s a philosopher, so his analysis is much more finely reasoned than mine have been. And lest you think that Russell is the Antichrist, just look at the nice picture of him and his cat that I posted two days ago.
Accommodationism, philosophy, and the meaning of life
May 1, 2009 • 1:11 pm
6 thoughts on “Accommodationism, philosophy, and the meaning of life”
After reviewing the NCSE site, I agree with Blackford about it’s support for a theology; sometimes the “weasel word” factor is quite low. The NCSE theology pages, in my view, attempt to give a theological permission for the study and acceptance of evolution.
As for NOMA, I reject any attempt to chase religion out of the special sciences but hand philosophy–including ethics–over to it. Looking at the apologetics of religion, I conclude that it needs and perpetuates a culture of unreason. It isn’t just science that’s taking a hit; the Christian Nation movement is loaded with fake American history. And, an ethics (it’s good because God says it’s good) that disconnects morality from the task of living a finite life is arbitrary and outrageous–there is no answer to “what facts and standard gives rise to a particular ethical prescription. In my view, the Christian metaethics is inhuman and inhumane.
Obviously Russell Blackford is NOT the Antichrist. His cat is! See those eyes?
Aw, I miss having kitties.
Here’s part of another take on accomodationism, arguing that NAS, NCSE and NSTA wrongly concede epistemic competence to religion. The whole thing’s at http://www.naturalism.org/epistemology.htm#concessions .
Center for Naturalism
In its statement, the National Academy of Science (NAS) contrasts religious and scientific ways of knowing, and says science can’t pronounce on the nature and existence of the supernatural. This implies that religious ways of knowing can, and might be authoritative in confirming its existence the way science is when describing nature. But this is exactly what should *not* be conceded. By implying non-empiricism might have some epistemic merit as a route to objectivity in certain realms, the NAS and other science-promoting organizations miss the biggest selling point for science, or more broadly, intersubjective empiricism: it has no rival when it comes to modeling reality in any domain that’s claimed to exist.
The reason is simple but needs to be made explicit: religious and other non-empirical ways of knowing don’t sufficiently respect the distinction between appearance and reality, between subjectivity and objectivity. They are not sufficiently on guard against the possibility that one’s model of the world is biased by perceptual limitations, wishful thinking, uncorroborated intuition, conventional wisdom, cultural tradition, and other influences that may not be responsive to the way the world actually is. Faith-based religions and other non-empirically based worldviews routinely make factual assertions about the existence of god, paranormal abilities, astrological influences, the power of prayer, etc. So they are inevitably in the business of representing reality, of describing what they purport to be objective truths, some of which concern the supernatural. But having signed on to the cognitive project of supplying an accurate model of the world, they routinely violate basic epistemic standards of reliable cognition. There’s consequently no reason to grant them any domain of cognitive competence. Although this might sound arrogant, it’s a judgment reached from the standpoint of epistemic *humility*: that beliefs worthy of being called knowledge must submit to the tribunal of intersubjective, that is, publicly observable, evidence. Objectivity is only gained through intersubjectivity. It is therefore well within the purview of organizations promoting science to call their non-empirical rivals to account instead of granting them implicit dispensation to make truth claims about the supernatural and paranormal. Not only that, it’s arguably an ethical obligation. Coming clean about the failure of non-empirical ways of knowing is an essential step towards assuming our collective cognitive responsibilities in the age of science and globally interconnective technology, when beliefs can have instant and far-reaching worldwide effects. This is Sam Harris’s crucial point against the politically correct public respect for faith, and it needs support and amplification, but in a way that doesn’t further alienate opponents of empiricism.
Moreover, it is as Coyne has been telling us a profoundly religious, theological and philosophical claim which is in opposition with all of science methods.
If one instead use the route of Stenger and defines “natural” with a testable definition such as matter systems (i.e. those who react on action), the nature of the object of study becomes testable. This is more parsimonious, more verifiable and congruent with science method.
At the very least the existence of such methods points to the errors of NAS et al claims.