I thought that Uncle Karl—I restored his affectionate epiphet when he made a funneh about Eric Clapton—was finally done with his multi-part War on Coyne at BioLogos. (Note to those captious accommodationists who accuse me of using “Uncle” as perjorative: I don’t, and Giberson calls himself that.)
It turns out, though, that Giberson’s just shifted the battlefield to HuffPo, where he’s published yet another (front page!) critique of moi with the jawbreaking title of “The precarious but profound middle ground in the struggle between religion and science.” And slowly but surely Giberson is morphing into Chris Mooney: he cites him twice, even lauding Unscientific America for its “eloquent” demonstration that the faithful have no monopoly on scientific ignorance.
I don’t know what Giberson’s smoking over there at BioLogos, but the whole piece comes down to a long whine, viz., “Why can’t we all just get along with each other?” By “we”, he means accommodationist Christians like Giberson, atheists like me, and fundamentalist evolution-deniers like Baptist leader Albert Mohler. When you read the piece (and I’m recommending it only if you either want LOLz or have the same obsession with Giberson as he apparently has with me), you’ll see that it’s completely clueless:
I have been wondering, especially in light of the recent, highly polarized mid-term elections, why “middle ground” of the sort that accommodationists are trying to stake out, is such a troubled bit of geography. From a purely logical point of view, Mohler could view me as “a welcome but theologically confused ally in the war on scientism.” After all, he and I both agree that Coyne and the New Atheists go too far when they insist that science rules out religion. But instead, Mohler assaults my argument as “really interesting — and really dangerous.” . .
On the other end of the spectrum, Coyne could view me as “a welcome partner in the cause of scientific literacy.” After all, I am making efforts to persuade people who reject evolution to change their minds and accept it. Both Coyne and I are trying to get more people to believe in evolution. But, from where Coyne sits, I seem to be on the wrong team and am engaged in a “crazy and futile attempt to accommodate a faith that embraces science with the faith of people like Mohler.”
Why is it that people on middle ground always seem to be on the “other” team, when this seems far from obvious? In the recent election, by analogy, why were moderate Republicans vilified for being too much like Democrats? Has everyone in the country decided that there is only “us” and “them,” so that “not us” equals “them”? Whether we agree with people in the middle or not, is there not value in acknowledging those who can make connections between disparate points of view? Are we locked in a zero sum game where victory on one side automatically prescribes defeat on the other?
After all these posts and cross-posts, Uncle Karl just doesn’t get it. Yes, we can make some common cause with those closest to us on the lunacy-atheism spectrum. I will be glad to join Giberson in attacking creationism. In fact, in that respect we already are joined. And Giberson can, if he wishes, join Mohler in touting Jebus.
But to many atheists, the middle ground is not a “reasonable” position. It enables superstition, thereby denigrating or watering down true science (example: the fine-tuning and humans-are-inevitable arguments, Francis Collins’s view that human morality couldn’t have evolved and therefore must have been given by God, and the NCSE’s refusal to admit that evolution is “unguided”). And accommodationism provides tacit approval and support for all the bad stuff that’s done in the name of faith.
After all this discourse, Giberson stlll can’t understand why people can love evolution but oppose accommodationism, or feel that the best way to get rid of creationism is not Giberson’s strategy of promoting evolution, but our strategy of marginalizing religion.
The conflict between science and religion is indeed a zero-sum game, at least to the extent that atheism is incompatible with any faith that tries to foist its beliefs on the rest of the world. It’s zero-sum in precisely the same way that the conflict between segregationists and civil rights advocates was zero-sum. There is no reasonable middle ground allowing a little bit of segregation. As P. Z. put it so eloquently, “squatting in between those on the side of reason and evidence and those worshipping superstition and myth is not a better place. It just means you’re halfway to crazy town.”
And so, Karl, you are indeed on the other team, because Team Atheism is more important than Team Evolution. If you’re reading this, let me inform you one more time: there are two battles—one against creationism and one against religion. The second is far more important because religion does far more damage than creationism. And when you win that second battle, creationism automatically disappears.
As a final request to Dr. Giberson, could you please explain your weird obsession with me? I’ll answer your criticisms when I have the time and inclination, but must you do post after post on me? Aren’t you supposed to be arguing more frequently with evolution-deniers than with evolutionists? Like all real Americans, I enjoy the sting of battle, but it’s no fun fighting when the other side is armed with pop guns.