Over at Psychology Today, Dr. Loretta Breuning, who recently published explaining why atheists are like fundamentalists, has been roundly trounced in the comments. Some of the commenters are regulars here, while others are new to me. But nearly all of the critics have been remarkably savvy and literate. Look at this one, for instance:
Breuning finally responded, apologizing for using the word “fundamentalist.” But it’s a notapology that just rambles on, finally claiming that the whole issue is “semantic”:
Once again Breuning seems clueless about the issue. She ran down atheists because, she said, they behaved like religious fundamentalists. When shown repeatedly how that was wrong, she just fobs off the issue as “semantic.” But it’s not, for she’s criticized atheists in a public forum for reasons that she now appears to disavow.
Instead of dealing honestly with the criticism, she simply avers her acceptance of evolution (duh!), and then says that she doesn’t feel the need to disabuse an old lady on a zoo tour for mentioning her belief in creationism. (Why, by the way, does it matter whether it was an “old lady” or somebody else? It is okay to coddle the beliefs of an old person but not a young one?). The fact is that Breuning didn’t have to attack the old lady (who is not going to be converted anyway); she could have simply said, “Well, scientists have lots of evidence that animals and plants weren’t created but evolved. I’d be glad to recommend a book on that.” (MINE!!!).
Breuning’s answer to pervasive creationism is apparently to let creationists retain their beliefs. Well, fine, but she should realize that OTHERS ARE WATCHING, as they were on the zoo tour. Silence in that case was complicity with the “old lady’s” creationism. How on Earth are we going to engage creationists without criticizing and dissecting their claims? What would Breuning have us do: pat all creationists on the head and say, “Yes, that’s fine. You’re welcome to your belief. I don’t want to hurt your feelings.”
What we see here, besides Breuning’s deliberate refusal to answer her critics about atheism, is fulsome accommodationism: the unsubstantiated view that if we simply coddle the religious, and don’t attack their views, they’ll eventually come around to accepting evolution. I hear this repeatedly, but those who hold that view never produce any evidence. They simply feel that it must be true.
As for Breuning’s advice to “cool down,” it’s simply condescending. My advice to her is to think about what she said in her original piece, and how critics responded to it.
But that’s useless advice. The woman has shown that she can’t be reached by reason.