NCSE becomes BioLogos

November 29, 2010 • 2:50 pm

The mission statement of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is as follows:

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is a not-for-profit, membership organization providing information and resources for schools, parents and concerned citizens working to keep evolution in public school science education. We educate the press and public about the scientific, educational, and legal aspects of the creation and evolution controversy, and supply needed information and advice to defend good science education at local, state, and national levels.

They also say this about religion:

What is NCSE’s religious position?

None. The National Center for Science Education is not affiliated with any religious organization or belief. We and our members enthusiastically support the right of every individual to hold, practice, and advocate their beliefs, religious or non-religious. Our members range from devout practitioners of several religions to atheists, with many shades of belief in between. What unites them is a conviction that science and the scientific method, and not any particular religious belief, should determine science curriculum.

So why does the NCSE, which supports every shade between faith and atheism, have a “Faith Project” but not an “Atheism Project”? And why is the NCSE promoting this on their site?:

Webcast: Evolving Christianity

Interested in exploring the issues raised by science and faith? A free webcast series promises to assemble “thirty of today’s most inspiring Christian leaders and esteemed scientists for a groundbreaking dialogue on how an evolutionary worldview can enrich your life, deepen your faith, and bless our world.” To be broadcast throughout December 2010 and January 2011, “Evolutionary Christianity — Conversations at the Leading Edge of Faith” includes interviews with NCSE Supporter Kenneth R. Miller, discussing “Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul,” as well as Ian Barbour, John Cobb, Michael Dowd, John F. Haught, Karl W. Giberson, Owen Gingerich, Denis Lamoureux, John Polkinghorne, John Shelby Spong, Charles H. Townes, and a host of further scientists and scholars who regard their acceptance of evolution as expanding and enriching their faith. To subscribe to the webcast series and the companion e-newsletter, visit

Over at the endorsed webcast site, The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity, the NCSE’s neutrality toward religion looks a bit, well, compromised:

Saying Yes! To Both Religion and Science

Are you frustrated with how the mainstream media portray the science and religion issue? It’s as if the only two games in town were science-rejecting creationism and faith-rejecting atheism. But for the millions of us in the middle who see no conflict between faith and reason, heart and head, Jesus and Darwin, we know that’s a false choice. Religious faith and practice can be positively strengthened by what God is revealing through science!

Here are some of the participants:

Darrel Falk, President, BioLogos

Karl Giberson, Vice-President, BioLogos

John Polkinghorne, theologian

John Haught, theologian

Kevin Kelly, who thinks that evolution has been set up by God to attain preordained ends

Bishop Shelby Spong

Kenneth Miller, Catholic evolutionist who suggests that “the world . . . knew we were coming

Dennis Lamoroux, author of I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution

Owen Gingerich, astronomer and member of the board of directors, Templeton Foundation

Philip Clayton, theologian

Tom Thresher, pastor

For a seminar selling “evolutionary Christianity”, evolutionists are a bit thin on the ground.  I recognized only Kenneth Miller (who’s written on evolution, though he’s more of a cell biologist).  In contrast, I recognized at least eight theologians. What gives?  Is it to much to ask them to find a few professional working evolutionary biologists to participate—even Christian ones?

Oh, and the site says this as well:

Evolutionary Christianity points to those who value evidence as divine communication. Whatever our differences, we all have deep-time eyes and a global heart—that is, we’re all committed to a just and healthy future for humanity and the larger body of life.

“Studying evolution is like following cosmic breadcrumbs home to God. Only by looking through evolutionary eyes can we see our way out of the current global integrity crisis that is destroying economies and ecosystems around the world.”

Oh dear Lord, studying evolution leads us home to God? “Religious faith and practice can be positively strengthened by what God is revealing through science?” [My italics.] Evolutionary Christians consider evidence as “divine communication”? This is hardly “studied neutrality” toward religion: it’s an explicit endorsement not only of the harmony between Christianity and evolution, but even a statement that we can find God in evolution. In other words, it’s theology, which the NCSE isn’t supposed to do or endorse.

The NCSE should stop promoting this nonsense.  Clearly, the panjandrums there have made an explicit decision that they’ll best further the teaching of evolution by cozying up to Christians, even if those Christians (like Kevin Kelly) have a completely teleological and unscientific view of what evolution is.  It seems as if they don’t care what kind of evolution is endorsed, just so long as it’s called “evolution.”  God directed it toward certain ends? That’s okay!  Evolution is “undirected” and “purposeless”? No, we can’t have that, even if it’s true: might scare the Christians!

For what is an organization profited, if it shall gain the whole world, and lose its own soul?

h/t: Cathy

154 thoughts on “NCSE becomes BioLogos

  1. Yeah, I saw that first bit on the NCSE site today. What a lot of crap.

    On the other hand, they could gain some serious moolah from Templeton, and if they just merge with Biologos it could save costs and please Jesus/Mooney at the same time.

  2. This is an interesting form of not having a position on religion. It seems particularly focussed on “not” having a position on Christianity. I think, in fairness, the NCSE should put some effort into ignoring other world faiths as well, to provide a bit of balance to their agnosticism.

  3. It seems as if they don’t care what kind of evolution is endorsed, just so long as it’s called “evolution.”

    Yup, it’s about getting people to “accept” evolution. *sigh* Why is it so hard to get that the goal is, and can only be, to get people to understand evolution? At least the central bits, and then let them say of the harder bits: ‘I’m not sure, I don’t understand that very well yet.’

  4. I think this is probably at least in part Giberson’s response to his complete and utter inability to “move” the atheist community closer to accommodation via his multi-part straw festival.

    He’s turning his attention to the Christians. They’re the ones who are the targets of this. Mohler, et al.

    Fucking Christianity! How does it work?!

  5. I wonder if they think they need to do this in order to remain a potent legal and political force against ID.

    If that true (that they believe that), I don’t really fault them. It’s not like I have anything better than my own guesses to counter that belief with, so I say let them do it and just ignore their little fetish with Christianity.

    When they’re criticizing the dreaded Gnu Atheists though, they are fair game (not in the Scientology sense, fair game for criticism).

    1. ChrisZ wrote:
      I wonder if they think they need to do this in order to remain a potent legal and political force against ID.

      If they believe that, they’re idiots. Christianity is not needed to combat ID, legally or politically. The godless US Constitution can do that just fine.

      1. Well said! I don’t understand how they think they can continue to combat ID in science classrooms when they’re putting what amounts to ID endorsements in their literature.

  6. That’s exactly it — there aren’t any major atheist groups (that I know of) that are committed to spreading claims that evolution is false. Therefore, there is no need to court atheists who are otherwise on the fence about it, and hence no need for specific “atheistic evolution” content.

    Now, I personally feel (as I know many here do) that non-acceptance of settled science is a symptom, not a root cause. But NCSE is ill-suited to combatting that cause. What they can do is address the symptom, even though it obviously technically violates their official stance. Granted, some of us might feel those efforts are actually doing more harm than good, but one can see their logic and desire to help, even if it ultimately turns out to be sadly misplaced.

    1. That would perhaps be true if there was anything in the web series that even remotely suggests an intention to advocate for acceptance of the validity of evolution among all religious faiths but that is clearly not the case– this initiative is aimed squarely and apparently exclusively at members of xian faiths. As the NCSE slides down that slippery slope to cooption and/or irrelevance it is useful to remind the leadership that their predicament is no one’s fault but their own and stems from a conscious decision to stake an implicit claim that some faiths are compatible with evolution whereas others are not.

      This is not going to end well…

    2. They might not think they need to “court” us, but the NCSE can definitely lose our support. I’m all for secular science education and willing to work with theists toward that common end. But that’s based on the premise of mutual tolerance and forbearance. It does not mean that the faith heads get to promote supernatural nonsense while I keep my mouth shut “for the our common cause.” Fuck that. Either the NCSE gets serious about maintaining neutrality or they risk losing much of the atheist base they see no point in listening to.

      1. “Either the NCSE gets serious about maintaining neutrality or they risk losing much of the atheist base they see no point in listening to.”

        They’re in a country in which 80% of the population — including all of the people who control the purse strings — are very outspokenly faith-heads. The sad truth of the matter is that NCSE needs the Biblists far more than they need us.

        1. I believe that Kirth has hit the nail squarely on the head. It would appear as though the NCSE has made a calculated move to be “inclusive” of xian theology; however it still remains a wrong move. After all it is supposedly NATIONAL and committed to SCIENCE EDUCATION. I personally have no problem with the folks at BioLogos trying to demonstrate the wrong headedness of the YECers, the IDers, and the anti-evolutionists and anti-intellectual folks in the church, but the NCSE should stick with keeping all philosophies, religions, pseudoscience, etc. out of the science classroom – funding be damned!

  7. Dear sweet Jesus on a pogo stick, what in Thor’s name drives these people to so desperately hold on to such childish nonsense?

    Look. It’s simple.

    It’s the Theory of Evolution by Random Mutation and Natural Selection. It’s not the Theory of Evolution by Divinely-Commanded Mutation or even the Theory of Evolution by Random Mutation and Divine Selection, any more than it’s the Theory of Divine Creation.

    Gods are no more to be found in evolutionary processes than they are in orbital mechanics.

    Those who think Jesus is revealed in the spelling of particular bits of DNA are as idiotic as those who think Fate is revealed in the positions of certain planets.

    Why do we even pretend to respect this stuff any more?

    If the IAAS were to start promoting the harmony between astrology and astronomy in a similar manner — as anything other than an after-hours booze-fueled retro party game at a symposium — astronomers everywhere would rip them a new one and leave in droves. The NCSE does the exact same thing, and we’re expected to stand up and cheer?

    I just don’t get it.



          1. Even better idea: When logical fallacies are taught, teach the controversy over whether or not straw men and ad hominems really are fallacies.

  8. What’s clear is that NCSE is just another stealth organization set up by the religious fundamentalists to vector people off of scientific discussion and onto Christianity.

    1. Nonsense. The Evolutionary Christianity symposium has absolutely NOTHING at all to do with Christian fundamentalism.

  9. Why the NCSE just does not change the name to something related to evolution only. It is clear that they neglect “science” just to sell evolution which is not even part of their name. NCSE is clearly a misnomer and lobbying organization for evolution only (but even this one is sold dishonestly as a guided-one). Where is their concern for quality of science education today?

    1. This is the tragic core. In order to gain transient political allies they are willing to stand on the platform smiling benignly at muddied up flimflam — a flimflaminess that’s in direct apposition to the scientific method.

  10. Studying evolution is like following cosmic breadcrumbs home to God.

    Well, just how well did that plan work out for the originators of the “breadcrumb strategy”? As I recall the breadcrumbs lead nowhere because the birds had eaten them. After realizing this, the now lost Hansel and Gretel managed to wander into the sweets-tempting house of a blind,cannibalistic witch.

    Yup. Sounds a lot like the type of outcomes this line of thinking leads to.

  11. Geez. It seems that they don’t want to actually offend anybody. I don’t see where not offending anybody is part of their mission statement. Why can’t they just say: “All creation stories, religious or not*, are myths. The only scientifically defensible proposition is Evolution.”

    *See, that covers atheists, too.

  12. I tried to comprehensively document this last year. I gave up after 3 posts. Needless to say, NCSE does have religious positions. Denying this is sophistry.

  13. South Park on this ridiculous, self-parodying Christian iconography:

    No doubt that Cartman’s lyric “love to feel you inside me Jesus” refers to his Jesus-designed DNA.

  14. “But for the millions of us in the middle who see no conflict between faith and reason, …” Well, ya gotta love that one! How to torpedo your own BS!

    Now I understand why the NCSE didn’t show much interest in our little problem in Minnetonka, MN a few years ago!

    1. No no, I totally agree with that position. There’s no conflict between faith and reason, because reason works and faith doesn’t.

  15. Michael Dowd. Oh, bother.
    I asked Dowd, after hearing him speak, why he seemed to advocate starting a new religion based on evolution. I asked why we needed one at all.

    All I got was a bit of mumbling about how people weren’t ready to give up their religions yet. I was thinking he was a bit of a charlatan living off others so he could preach and sell books. He’s just waiting to hit it big when his new religion takes off.

    Or maybe I’m just too much of a skeptic?

    1. I get the feeling that he is a preacher that has lost his faith but still loves preaching.
      I will say one thing in his favor which is that he is one of the very few ‘religious’ individuals who seems to take the gnu atheism position seriously. He doesn’t do the usual strawmanning of the gnu positions that is so common amongst both religious and accomodationist individuals.

  16. Is it to much to ask them to find a few professional working evolutionary biologists to participate—even Christian ones?

    Francisco Ayala remains on the celebrity circuit after the Templeton Prize, and I’m of the impression that he wouldn’t enjoy this kind of insipid nonsense anyway.

    Anyone else you can think of?

  17. “So why does the NCSE, which supports every shade between faith and atheism, have a “Faith Project” but not an “Atheism Project”?”

    Unless there’s been someone out there arguing that evolution is incompatible with all forms of atheism, your question is either daft or dishonest.

    1. Why, is somebody arguing that evolution is incompatible with all forms of faith?

      I think you lack an understanding of the issue.

      Science should not be in the business of seeming to endorse any supernatural beliefs. Supernatural beliefs should be kept private.

        1. I agree, but deism and Buddhism don’t seem to have a problem with evolution. I was merely answering Mike’s sily accusation that Jerry’s question was daft and dishonest.

          Evolution doesn’t say that magic can’t happen. But scientific ways of knowing are not really compatible with the idea that faith is a means of knowledge. This is why the NCSE should stay out of the business of propping up supernatural beliefs of any type. Let the believers provide their own cognitive dissonance lessening rationalizations to their faith.

    2. If you think the purpose of an “Atheism Project” would be to advocate for the position that evolution is compatible with atheism, then you’re either stupid or dishonest.

      The position that evolution is compatible with religion is not universally endorsed. The NCSE, by endorsing such a position, has taken sides in a theological debate in violation of their purported stance of neutrality. As a corrective measure to that, an “Atheism Project” would offer the viewpoint that faith is incompatible with science.

      Of course, if the NCSE doesn’t wish to endorse that view, they can just shut up about faith and religion altogether and maintain their neutrality in that manner.

      1. Well, I think it would be perfectly OK to guide (with links) readers to hihg-quality sites where the matter is discussed. Outsourcing is in this case better than in-house production.

        However, it seems that NCSE is not very keen to guide its readers to gnuish articles on the Internet. That is understandable, since NCSE tries to avoid pushing extreme views. And on the axis of compatibility-incompatibility, those arguing for full compatibility are the moderates, naturally. How else could it be? 🙂

  18. “we all have deep-time eyes and a global heart”

    What the hell is that supposed to mean? Even Jabberwocky makes more sense. And where’s Mohammed? Why is it exclusively christians pushing religion for the NCSE?

    Personally I see this as the emerging attack strategy for the creationists like Ken Miller. (1) denounce the ‘wrong’ version of creationism (animals and plants were created in their current form), (2) cozy up to folks who are meant to promote science, (3) whine about compatibility as if it were a serious issue for scientists, and (4) preach the ‘true’ version of creationism (the version of Kelly and Miller).

    Isn’t it funny how god prefers to reveal the secrets of the universe to godless scientists rather than to the god-loving scientists and priests?

    Just imagine what would happen if we taught the kids in elementary and high school that it’s OK to believe unsubstantiated claims as well as scientific claims. All polls I’m aware of indicate that in such a case people will think of the science as optional and not really engage in it anyway.

    It is obvious that folks like Miller who don’t even believe in evolution (yes, he doesn’t – he believes god diddles genes and that is not evolution) can still get a science degree if they really wanted to anyway, so this campaign can hardly be claimed to be for the benefit of kids who would not otherwise learn evolution.

    1. MadScientist | November 30, 2010 at 12:03 am:

      “we all have deep-time eyes and a global heart”

      What the hell is that supposed to mean?

      Don’t get so excited. The global heart is just a pump. It pumps psychic green zombie blood through the transdimensional veins and arteries which connect us all.

  19. If it were the case that the only bit of science left for the religious to accept was evolution, one could almost imagine a case here. But that is not the case, not even close to the case. I fail to see why getting people who deny rationalism (i.e., faith is the highest virtue) to accept evolution even if we have to make a mockery of it is somehow an advance. Who cares if an idiot in almost all things agrees with rationalists on one? Acceptance of evolution is just a test of rationality; acceptance of it is not the goal: rationalism is.

  20. I’ve moved from seeing NCSE as a valuable partner to seeing them as an adversary. Like many people, I have *genuinely* applauded their work keeping creationism at bay in American public schools. Their help in the Dover trial was indispensable.

    But they’re off the rails. They’ve gone way beyond neutrality, and way beyond the reasonable position of “not taking sides” in theological debates (as Jerry has pointed out mahy times). Now, they’re explicitly promoting evolution as a means to deepen one’s faith.

    Eugenie Scott and your colleagues – you have a lot to answer for. You’re actively harming the cause of rationalism. You’re deliberately and explicitly undermining your own project. If you can’t defend evolution as an unguided, non-teleological process that can be inquired about and described by rational scientific inquiry alone, you’re part of the problem.

    I now see NCSE as a roadblock to the acceptance of evolution, and scientific inquiry. Congratulations.

  21. So long as the NCSE panders to some sects, those sects will imagine that that science endorses their faith.

    Myself, I’d like all people to keep their supernatural beliefs private and so I’d like the NCSE to dismiss all supernatural beliefs similarly instead of giving a stage to Christianity light. I don’t think NCSE should be in the business of “exploring issues raised by raised by science and faith” anymore than they should be exploring the issues raised by science and astrology.

    Every time I read anything about the NCSE and religion I just get uncomfortable. I don’t even like “Jesus and Darwin” put on the same level– it’s not clear Jesus actually existed but putting him with Darwin implies that he was a historical figure with scientific insight. This isn’t good science. And I’m not sure it’s good outreach either.


    1. I’d like the NCSE to dismiss all supernatural beliefs similarly

      I’d be happy with them simply not taking a position on the matter. I get that they are trying in part to reach those who feel their religious commitments preclude accepting evolution. But arguing theology is simply inappropriate, wrong-headed, and ultimately detrimental to the longer-term cause. They don’t have to lay out an explicit position on this issue.

  22. Ever again, I hail Lamberth’s atelic/teleonomic argument that the weight of evidence precludes and divine intent- teleology- wanted outcomes but rather proposes teleonomy [ Ernst Mayr’s term [ [Paul B. Weisz ” The Science of Biology” uses the term causalism]-no wanted outcomes.Not only does this argument eviscerate all teleological arguments, which by the way beg the question of wanted outcomes but also any argument with intent- agency- wanted outcomes- such that God lacks the referents of Primary Cause, Grand Miracle Monger and so forth such that He cannot exist. Other arguments eviscerate those specific ones for His existence.
    And having contradictory, incoherent attributes, He cannot exist!
    That’s a quadruple whammy!
    Why that seeing teleology? Another argument based on science is Lamberth’s argument from pareidolia that just as people see Marian and Yeshua apparitions, people see intent and design when only teleonomy and patterns exist. Scientists are investigating why and how people have the experience of seeing agency when none exist.
    G.G. Gaylord in ” The Life of the Past” and Mayr in ” What Evolution Is” note no teleology whilst Eugenie C. Scott in her book against creationism argues no, that is a philosophical position rather than a scientific one, but as philosopher Paul Draper e-mailed me that is the wrong outcome of demarcation. Simpson and Mayr and others just don’t find teleology, precisely, because that is the weight of what their investigations reveal!
    As Weisz notes the evolutionary process is sequential rather than preordained. Were evolution directed, it would put the event after the cause and the future before the past, making for backwards causation.
    Did God preordained the asteroids hitting the Earth, with the consequent demise of the dinosaurs and the coming of the cooling period and the flowering plants and the right mutations? Don’t some discount the demise of the dinosaurs as being propitious for us primates evolving? Jerry, nay to that directe-evolution, as you so well maintain in that magnificent article that I ever recommend along with that of Amiel Rossow on the yin and yang of Kenneth Miller, both articles @ Talk Reason.
    Jerry, that superb article warrants a book to eviscerate evolutionary creationism [ Miller, Ayala] and creationist evolution [ Dembski,Behe].
    All theism is creationism! All are obscurantist. All blaspheme reason and- humanity!
    We are great apes who ought to support the Great Ape Project of better protecing our fellow great apes! Are we the third chimpanzee?
    Enough of the superstitions of the supernatural and the paranormal, what Paul Kurtz calls ” The Ttanscendental Temptation.”
    You, Scott and Kurtz are my Facebook friends along with Articulett, that opponent of directed-evolution.
    Yes, to Boudry’s PMN! I wish that he’d add to these august comments!

  23. You know, it’s actually kind of ironic that Bishop Spong is on that list- he’s been a critic of religion for decades, and this kind of behavior seems to be more in line with the stuff he doesn’t like.

    Seriously, he’s been campaigning for serious reform in Christianity up to and including the abandonment of the idea of supernatural explanations in the Bible. Sticking him on a list like this seems to be completely missing the point.

    1. Reform of Christianity so serious that it throws out the supernatural in the Bible? And having done that, does Bishop Shelby Spong (it’s such a good name, that if it hadn’t existed someone – Bunyan, Twain, Dickens? -would have had to invent it) want to remain a Christian (AND a bishop)? Why bother?

      1. Surely he’d be created by Dickens ( ;-))… and, naturally, he’s an Episcopalian bishop, (you know, Catholic Lite–no Pope, and you can use condoms!) which explains why he would be agitating for reforms focused on tossing out the supernatural. “Miracles” and “Saved” and “Washed in the Blood”–ewww. That’s so Baptist. Episcopalians just don’t…talk about that stuff.

      2. Spong is an atheist who sometimes calls himself a Christian. I’m not sure if he’s a faitheist or not – he doesn’t seem to have much use for faith.

        1. John Shelby Spong is the best public example of the evolution of a theist Christian to non-theist Christian on record. His presence on the board could be instructive.

          Yes, he is an atheist.

          1. Spong and a growing number of “recovering” xians are promoting the idea that in order to follow Yeshua/Jesus, one must give up God. By throwing out all of the biblical and post 0 CE fantasma, doctrinal and dogmatic rigmarole, and looking at a few core teachings attributed to Jesus [regardless of where they came from], one can find a few ideas worth pondering, most of which are concerned with relating to “the other.”

            1. The consideration of Jesus and his teachings is not recent. It’s been going on for centuries, but ignored by the true believers. One organization, The Westar Institute, of which Spong is a Fellow, has been publishing works for more than twenty five years. The Five Gospels (1993) may be their most (in)famous work. In my direct experience with many of the Fellows there is no question as to the fact of evolution and considerable heresy (other views) as to the Old Time Religion.

              I have read, carefully, both Speciation and Why Evolution is True and find the evidence compelling. I have also read The Five Gospels, The Acts of Jesus and other works of The Westar Institute and find nothing that conflicts with ToE or any science I know.

              If religious scholars are reading scientific works critically, is it inappropriate for scientists to read the works of contemporary Christian scholars for a more accurate assessment of their views?

            1. I’ll leave that for you to decide. It was reported that in an interview on his latest work, “Eternal Life: A New Vision: Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell”, he stated he is an atheist. Whatever he is not a theist in the “conventional wisdom” sense… nor are his buddies at The Westar Institute especially the co-founder, John Dominic Crossan.

              The problem with labels in religion is that, unlike science, there are no accepted definitions.

      3. I’ve read a number of his books, “The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love” most recently and he really seems to have discarded all the supernatural aspects of xtianity.

        My suspicion is that he thinks of the church as Mr. Dressup for adults.

        1. Spong is a consecrated bishop of the Episcopalian Church. His nominal superior, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, does not consider Spong to be a Christian.

  24. Microraptor, the author of ” Arguing about God,” Graham Robert Oppy e-mailed me that Spong is our Trojan horse, to which I add so is John Hick. Spong just adds his own notions to the Buy-bull [ Bye-bull] as that magnificent atheologian and master stylist, William Kaufmann notes about theologians and others. Study his ” Faith of a Heretic” and ” Critique of Philosophy and Religion.” Exegesis is eisegesis!
    Yeshua was just another cult leader, saviour-god, miracle monger amongst others, if he did exist, and just a man of his times. He has no revolutionary ethic. See what deist, Miklos Jako says about the fool in ” Confronting Believers!” Col. Robert Green Ingersoll and Lord Bertrand William Arthur Russell knock his character!
    Gnu atheism rocks!

  25. So Christianity is compatible with evolution, or maybe that should be the other way around. Regardless, Christianity is not compatible with Hinduism, Islam, paganism, etc. So why is NCSE supporting such an offensive program? Why does NCSE want to drive away the religious non-Christians? Why can’t the NCSE be more accommodating?

    1. I don’t see how christianity can be compatible with evolution. Christianity has, at it’s base, the idea that we all suffer from original sin and that jesus died to save us from that sin. The problem with that idea, is, just where did original sin enter the world. Accepting evolution, you realise that humans have evolved gradually and that there can be no point where you can say “that is a human and therefore it has original sin but it’s parents aren’t human so they not only don’t have original sin, they don’t even have souls as they are animals”. This causes a rather large problem for christianity, if there is no original sin, then there is no need of a saviour and jesus’ death is rendered pointless. That rather negates the whole point of christianity.

      1. You’d be surprised at the complex machinations that the “liberal” Christian faithful go through to make evolution compatible with original sin.

        1. Some of them even drop the idea of “original sin” and just preach that humans are inherently sinful, and that’s what Jesus died for.

          That’s what they were preaching at the Presbyterian church I got forcibly dragged to as a kid.

  26. I am an atheist, yet in my dialogues public and private on the subject of evolution I do often point out that:

    “Millions of religious believers in a supernatural creator God (including millions of Bible-believing Christians) also accept the historical reality of evolution phenomena and the scientific validity of evolution theory in explaining the evolutionary diversification of life in nature.”

    That is all I generally voluntarily say about religion and evolution (unless I am asked specific questions requiring more, and then the answers I give are candid and very Coynesque or PZesque), and I say it because (1) it is true, and (2) religious folks who deny evolution need to be reminded that, how EVER other Bible-believers manage to do it, millions of other Bible-believers DO manage somehow to believe in a supernatural creator God AND ALSO accept evolution (historical fact and valid scientific theory).

    I don’t understand why the NCSE cannot simply say something similar and then otherwise LET IT GO, sticking thereafter strictly to the science of the matter, leaving the debate about whether and how religious creationists can also be scientific “old-Earth” evolutionists between those religionists who are and those religionists who aren’t.

  27. They could easily solve matters regaring a lot of our objections by the simple expediency of changing their name. As others have mentioned the objection to their actions is not that evolution is incompatible with religion, rather it is that the scientific method is incompatible with the religious method. NCSE – the National Center for Science Education is clearly a misnomer if they have decided to stray into theology.
    Just remove the word “science” from their title.
    How about National Association for Increasing the Views of Evolution (NAIVE)?

  28. Curiouser and Curiouser. This really is becoming a bit of a joke, isn’t it? It’s one thing for a national scientific organisation to say, a bit inconsequently, that there is no intention of entering the lists in a quarrel between science and religion; but it is a very different thing to speak about science bringing us home to a god! What on earth could that mean? And why should a scientific organisation, one devoted to science education, say such a foolish thing? It surely points to something very sick at the heart of NCSE.

    It is one thing to say — what I believe is untrue — that there is no conflict between science and religion, but it is quite another thing — and a quite ridiculous thing too — to say that

    Studying evolution is like following cosmic breadcrumbs home to God …

    The old trope of a god having written the book of nature is transmogrified into the absurd idea that a god has left us crumbs of information that will lead us — where? — home!! Haven’t they noticed that we’re as close to home as we can get, and that we might as well try to make a home of it instead of imagining another one?

    It’s one thing to read a book, though this doesn’t make the metaphor of the book of nature very helpful, but it’s quite another thing to think that you’re being led home, as though we are just pilgrims here, and what we find are signs pointing to some really real reality.

    As I’ve said before, religion is deeply irresponsible, intellectually, and it shows this irresponsibility in a simple way. It simply does not respect boundaries, and constantly tries to pretend that there are no boundaries to respect. But in its over earnest way of trying to fudge the boundaries between science and religion it makes it very clear just where the boundaries are, and why they must be there. For at that point we jump off into woo — or is it poo?

  29. “Evolutionary Christianity — Conversations at the Leading Edge Tail End of Faith”


    ah well, a girl can dream.

  30. Ever again, directed-evolution contradicts rather than complements science! So,the Abrahamic superstitions are quite incompatible with science from the side of science, but from the side of religion, religion can be compatible with the paranormal or tyranny or freedom.
    That atelic argument gainsays all creationism = theism! And yes,no one created the world five minutes ago, and last Thursdayism is quite irrational! Why entertain those silly non-possibilities?
    Why then should the NCES argue for the absurdity of finding compatibility betwixt the two? The new Omphalos argument is quite absurd that after all, undetected physically, metaphysically, divine teleology operates! God is the ultimate explanation is as absurd as demons or gremlins to explain matters! Is the undetected Santa Claus the ultimate explanation for the spirit of gift-giving at Christmas?
    Lord Russell’s’ celestial tea pot poses the analogy that that pot as invisible,etc. ranks with God as being factually meaningless whilst semantically meaningful. Cataphatic theology, that He has certain attribute,s defeats itself as those are incoherent and contradictory whilst apophatic theology upholds ignosticism in that it posits Him as being neither this nor that such that He is meaningless!
    How could a disembodied being, Alvin Plantinga notwithstanding, be able to direct evolution or have intent for anything else as such a being would have no brain and thus no mind!
    The supernatural and the paranormal are just ” The Transcendental Temptation.”

  31. Has anyone pointed out to NCSE that the xian-flavored theistic evolution they actively and conspicuously promote is curiously nowhere to be seen in the scientific literature nor is it a consensus view among experts in the field?

    That last point, a scientific consensus, is one of the more common arguments made in support of man-made global climate change.

    To mix metaphors, if you REALLY want to bend-over backward try removing your backbone.

  32. Last year when my membership with the NCSE came up for renewal I had just heard the first rumblings that they were becoming accommodationist in their outlook. I sent an email expressing my concerns and received an email from Dr. Padian explaining the NCSE position. It reminded me of the DI’s Big Tent strategy – only in reverse. We exchanged several emails, and in the end I decided, reluctantly, not to renew. The point I made to him was one was mentioned above. They do not need to have a position on religion at all, and that the position that they had chosen to take undermined the whole goal and purpose of the NCSE. It was sort of amusing that the tone of the discussion was that I was being small minded and parochial and it was pointed out to me that after all Eugenie Scott, is an atheist, is the Executive Director. I guess she is being held up as the token atheist. It was this attitude more than any other that influenced my decision not to renew.

  33. I emailed Glenn Branch, NCSE’s Deputy Director, regarding this topic. Despite my encouragement to do so, he declined to comment here.

  34. From “Religious faith and practice can be positively strengthened by what God is revealing through science!” suggesting that only theists are religious, an inference I also find in atheist posts.

    Silliness deserves criticism, but inaccurate terminology clouds rational discourse.

    Science is hard to define, but possible except to the unbending. Today, religion is impossible to define except in specific situations.

  35. >>And why is the NCSE promoting this on >>their site?:
    >>Webcast: Evolving Christianity

    It seems that this is just a link to a very liberal Christian organization that is supporting the mission of NCSE, no? I can’t see that we should hold NCSE responsible for every idea held by allied/supporting organizations. The actual content of the NCSE website about science and evolution (the material they put up themselves)seems solid to me. Besides, as Christians go these “Evolving Christianity” folks seem WAY above average. If all Christians were like this, we’d not have the current threat of theocracy. These guys seem to be much easier to accept than 99% of the Xians I meet in real life.

    I have to overlook some things, and this link seems like a prime candidate. The NCSE is plainly on our side, and I’m willing to cut them some slack about who their other friends are.

    But, I have a talent for overlooking things and perhaps I’m doing that here.

    1. How can we possibly progress with people like this as “allies”? “Oh, evolution really does happen – god created humans and animals but magically designed things so that the evolution of humans was inevitable!” That’s not evolution, that’s religion. If we’re such buddies with groups like that, science will be poisoned – people will start to think you can make shit up and believe whatever you want to, or that they can select what to believe based on whether or not it appears to conflict with their superstition (which is what they currently do anyway).

    2. All one needs to do is hop over to and read the Rev Dr John Polkinghorne on Natural Theology. Darrel Falk believes since JP is a physicist, then he must be really smart when it comes to theology as well. Alas, it is only words on paper with no methodology for doing natural theology at all. Not to mention, when the comments don’t go to Falk’s liking, he deletes them and tells commenters to be more deferential to JP’s immense profundity. These are our supposed allies?

  36. On Facebook concerning this, NCSE commented as follows:

    “This is not an NCSE webcast, but merely an advertisement of a webcast of that might be of interest to some of our members who happen also to be Christians. NCSE advertises a wide range of resources — theistic, atheistic, and agnostic in tone — relating to the defense and promotion of teaching evolution in public schools.”

    Seems reasonable enough to me.

    1. What’s reasonable about promoting bullshit? Why is the NCSE even providing that link? It sounds to me like people complained and they’ve responded with a weasel excuse. Oh look – cute mustelid!

      1. Because on the ground, where the battles are fought about what is to be taught in public schools (search on ‘Freshwater’ for an example), having the ability to say to the Christians who are the overwhelming majority “There are Christians who accept evolution” or at least accept common descent is politically critical. And I write that as one of the very few out atheists in this conservative rural community, a former administrator of Internet Infidels Discussion Board (then the largest secular discussion board on the web), and current administrator of The Secular Cafe.

        NCSE’s main remit is defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools. That defense is both legal (think Kitzmiller) and political (think the Dover PA school board election after that trial but before the verdict was in). One cannot win political battles without accepting alliances with groups with whom one does not agree on all aspects of all issues. To imagine otherwise is to live in dreamland.

        Further, to the extent that learning about evolution, even in watered down form, can lead to further questioning of religious teachings and to the exercise of some minimal rationality on the part of students it is actually serving Jerry Coyne’s objective of working toward a more secular society. So NCSE is working in the same direction as Coyne, only with different tactics.

        Which tactics are most effective? We don’t in fact know, so let a thousand flowers bloom. There are times when I’m a gnu, times when I’m an accomodationist politician, and where on that spectrum I fall at any given time is an adaptation to the immediate circumstances. That’s not hypocritical, it’s pragmatic, and pragmatism, not dogmatism, wins political battles.

        1. So would you say you were being pragmatic when you complained over at PT that your comment was still in moderation after a few hours? If so which battle did you hope to win by doing so.

          1. I didn’t complain, I noted the fact that my comment (not my first on this site) was held in moderation while several comments made later appeared. I suggested no reason, either explicitly or implicitly, and made no conjectures about it.

            Further, I posted it on PT in order to get a bit more salience for it rather than see it lost in the plethora of comments here.

        2. I’m glad your post came through, RBH. I think one of WEIT’s guest moderators cleared it since Jerry has a bad case of the flu on top of his post-op recovery.

        1. I’m not asking that they be explicitly atheist, just that they not lie when, to excuse this incident, they claim they’ve also offered “atheistic” resources.

    2. Well, it certainly sounds reasonable enough. Not surprising, since the language was crafted to sound exactly that way. As Tulse points out, this is damage control. When was the last time they promoted anything preaching atheism the way this event is explicitly preaching theism?

      This is from the event description, which Jerry has already quoted above (my italics):

      But for the millions of us in the middle who see no conflict between faith and reason, heart and head, Jesus and Darwin, we know that’s a false choice. Religious faith and practice can be positively strengthened by what God is revealing through science!

      Like I said, that’s not promoting science; it’s preaching. (I’m convinced the exclamation mark is there just to piss me off.)

          1. Well, the cat pix were sent to his email which I guess he’s then forwarding to the judges– so, have you heard from him today?

            Do let him know his minions are concerned.

            –Some of us are missing our WEIT fix.

  37. I’ll refrain from my usual poor attempts at humour and only offer my best wishes for Jerry’s speedy recovery.

  38. If the flu can put Jerry out of commission, where surgery, peregrinations, and insulting accommodationists could not, I am getting my shot tomorrow.

  39. While I agree that they are compromising their integrity, their missions seems to be to make sure science education is strong, despite religion. I cringe a bit, but it’s understandable since chipping away at irrational (all) religious beliefs in this country is a slow process and taking a firm atheistic stand ain’t gonna help us fill congress and the senate with reasonable people. We need both the aggressive and “gentle” approaches…good cop, bad cop or vice versa…

  40. To me the NCSE needs to be focused on what accomplishes the goal of keeping science in the classroom best? Certainly the more liberal Christian view is better than the more fundamentalist view.

    I know for myself (a former fundamentalist), I never could have made the leap to true reason without some softening around the edges of my fundamentalism by that liberal contingent of Christians.

    I think looking at this as black and white ends up causing more harm than good. Simply getting more people from the right into the grey, will help them eventually see the wonder of Science.

    1. To me the NCSE needs to be focused on what accomplishes the goal of keeping science in the classroom best? Certainly the more liberal Christian view is better than the more fundamentalist view.

      In addition to having problems with this outreach to/promotion of allegedly liberal Christians, it doesn’t seem a part of their stated mission and I’m not sure I even understand the rationale for it.

      They describe what they do here:

      These activities sound reasonable. This doesn’t mention outreach efforts or engagement in these debates, and I don’t really get how engaging in that is supposed to contribute to the cause of promoting evolution science in and keeping creationism out of public schools, which is after all the law.

  41. Jerry and friends,

    It’s my fault that NSCE is co-sponsoring this “Advent of Evolutionary Christianity: Conversations at the Leading Edge of Faith” event. I’m the producer and host of it and Genie Scott and many others at NCSE are friends. (Connie Barlow, my atheist science writer wife, and I rafted down the Grand Canyon with 24 others from NCSE last June, just before I was diagnosed with cancer.) This series of conversations (I’m having a conversation with the 29 others) is in large part an attempt to promote an evidential, evolutionary worldview among Christians.

    I’m an accommodationist of a different sort. To my mind, every religion must accommodate to science or it will contribute to the demise of human civilization and the despoiling of the Earth. I’m a 100% naturalist, AND I fully realize that many of these Christian evolutionaries are not. I’ll be trying to move them in the direction of naturalism, of course, but I’m also a pragmatist.

    As long as people have “evidential deep-time eyes” and “a global heart and commitment”, I frankly don’t care what their theology or metaphysics may be. I can grant them whatever woo they want as long as they have deep-time values and a commitment to the health and wellbeing of the larger body of life, rather than just their own “soul’s salvation”.

    I know you and the other Gnus are fighting a very different fight, and as I think you know I’m hugely grateful for the role you all are playing. Still, I’ve got to do what I can. And I believe that this will make a difference — at least with some.

    1. So when are you going to give equal time to Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and so forth?

      You’re supporting pandering and the condescension of patting people on the head and saying, “There, there, it’s okay if you have evolution (and science all wrong and don’t understand a bit of it. It’s ohhhh-kay that you’re a believer in nonsense. You’re a believer who agrees with us, and that’s all that matters!”

      That’s about as cynical and disingenuous as one can get.

      IOW: You’re not helping. You’re just being a patronizing git.

  42. PS. I’ve already interviewed ten of the thirty and I’d must say that from my perspective, and in light of what I’m trying to do with this series, most of them are utterly kick-ass. I couldn’t be more pleased.

  43. “NCSE advertises a wide range of resources — theistic, atheistic, and agnostic in tone — relating to the defense and promotion of teaching evolution in public schools.”

    I’m curious – did they advertise the speaking dates on Dawkins’ Greatest Show tour?

  44. Jerry,

    I just got off the phone with Genie Scott and I now realize that I was the cause of this unfortunate situation more than I first realized.

    NCSE agreed to let their list know about my teleseries because promoting evolution among religious people is in alignment with their mission, but they did NOT agree to “sponsor” the event precisely for the reasons that you and PZ and many of your readers have articulated.

    I’ve instructed my production team to remove the NCSE logo and mention of them from our website and emails.

    I apologize for being the source of unnecessary confusion.


    ~ Michael

  45. “Are you frustrated with how the mainstream media portray the science and religion issue?”

    Yes, but I’m more frustrated by the way some scientists represent religion and vice versa. When fundamentalists don’t know the difference between a rhetorical theory and a scientific theory or when scientists equate Theism with religion in general, it makes constructive discussion difficult.

    Example: Equating evolutionary Christianity with Christian fundamentalism shows an ignorance of Christianity that rivals the fundamentalist view of evolution.

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