Atheist bus campaign moves nearby

May 9, 2009 • 7:50 am

The Atheist Bus Campaign, which started in the UK (largely with the funding and inspiration of artist Ariane Sherine and lots of donors), has moved to other countries, and has now found its way to the US: Bloomington, Indiana to be precise.  Here’s a news report detailing the controversy over the slogan, which is “You can be good without God.”  That’s a pretty tame slogan compared to what they showed in the UK:  “There’s probably no God.  Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”  Nevertheless, the Bloomington plan is going to court since the bus company refused to display the slogan.  It’s strange because supposedly they reject only ads that are controversial, but I don’t see much that’s inherently controversial about “You can be good without God.”  It’s simply true. Yes, it may be inflammatory, but who can doubt that the statement is a palpable fact?

Lots of atheists are good (I’m one!!!).  The bus slogan is about as controversial as saying, “You can help people without God,”  or “you can donate money to charity without God.”

To learn about the secular sources of morality (and the idea that religion has impeded rather than enhanced moral progress), read Anthony Grayling’s superb popular book, What Is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live (2003).  Few books on philosophy are as accessible — or as enjoyable — to the average person.

Anyway, word is that the bus campaign is moving to Chicago. Stay tuned.

Shoot me now: Francis Collins’s new supernaturalist website

April 29, 2009 • 10:24 am

I guess I can’t stay away from this issue.  P. Z. has called my attention to Francis Collins’s latest endeavor to forcibly marry science and faith:  The BioLogos Foundation.   The Templeton Foundation, of course, has its sticky fingers in this pie:

The BioLogos Mission

The BioLogos Foundation promotes the search for truth in both the natural and spiritual realms, and seeks to harmonize these different perspectives.

Dr. Francis Collins established The BioLogos Foundation to engage America’s escalating culture war between science and faith. On one side of the conversation, the “new atheists” argue that science removes the need for God. On the other side, religious fundamentalists argue that the Bible requires us to reject much of modern science. Many scientists, believers, and members of the general public do not find these options attractive.

There is therefore a great need to contribute to the public voice that represents the harmony of science and faith. BioLogos addresses the core themes of science and religion, and emphasizes the compatibility of Christian faith with what science has discovered about the origins of the universe and life.  In order to communicate this message to the general public, The BioLogos Foundation has created

Funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the website articulates the compatibility of modern science with traditional Christian belief. Among other resources, this website posts responses to many of the questions received by Collins, Giberson, and Falk since the publication of their books, including: The Language of God; Saving Darwin; and Coming to Peace With Science. By providing trustworthy insight, stands as a reliable source of scholarly thought on contemporary issues in science and faith.

If you have a strong stomach, browse the site. You’ll find lots of interesting ideas, like this one:

4. What is the proper relationship between science and religion?

Science and religion are sometimes thought to offer entirely separate bodies of knowledge. However, science is not the only source of factual statements, and religion does reach beyond the realm of values and morals.

I guess he’s proposing that religion can provide factual statements. We all know what that means, I think.   And, of course,  the “inevitability-of-human-evolution” argument rears its hydra-like head:

22. Did evolution have to result in human beings?

Because evolution involves seemingly “random” mutations, it seems that the Earth could have been the home of a different assortment of creatures.  But belief in a supernatural creator leaves the possibility that human beings were fully intended.  An omniscient creator could also have created the Universe’s natural laws so as to inevitably result in human beings.

And the “Books on Science and Faith” site shows only  books that push the reconciliation of the two magisteria.  One of the “team” who runs the site (besides Collins and a few others), is Karl Giberson, whose reconciliationist book I criticized in The New Republic.

Oh, and then there’s this:

New Atheist Denies Harmony Between Science and Faith

April 27, 2009

In a recent blog post, New Atheist Jerry Coyne lashes out against “scientific organizations that sell evolution by insisting that it’s perfectly consistent with religion.”  According to Coyne, by accepting a harmony between science and religion organization like the National Center for Science and Education and the National Academy of Sciences alienate some evolutionary biologists who, like Dawkins, Meyers, and others, believe religion and science are competing world views.  The editorial has already drawn a response from Discover, who call his post “a counterproductive attack” and state that the conflict between evolution and creation will not be resolved without the help of religious groups.

Pity they couldn’t spell P. Z.’s last name right, or cite a number of places where my “editorial” has drawn approbation.  And I am not a “new atheist”: I’m what Anthony Grayling calls a naturalist.  Collins and his ilk are supernaturalists.*

This site is, I’m afraid, the logical extension of the type of accommodationism that plagues the NCSE, AAAS, and NAS.   It is embarrassing in its single-minded fervor to prove that conservative Christianity and evolution are really good buddies.


*In his book Against All Gods, Grayling says this:  ‘no atheist should call himself or herself one… A more appropriate term is “naturalist”, denoting one who takes it that the universe is a natural realm, governed by nature’s laws. This properly implies that there is nothing supernatural in the universe. . . ‘people with theistic beliefs should be called supernaturalists, and it can be left to them to attempt to refute the findings of physics, chemistry and the biological sciences in an effort to justify their alternative claim that the universe was created, and is run, by supernatural beings.’