A defense of accommodationism and a misunderstanding

June 14, 2009 • 11:57 am

Over at the Guardian website, James Hannam has appeared from the woodwork to argue that by critiquing the philosophical accommodation of faith with science, I am explicitly rejecting an alliance with the enlightened faithful to go after creationism:

It’s popularly imagined that the history of science and religion is one of violent conflict, but the facts don’t bear this out.

As the battle between creationism and evolution heats up, some atheists, like Jerry Coyne, have been insisting that it is really a battle between religion and science. Coyne resists any accommodation between religious and non-religious scientists to defend Darwinism. He doesn’t want to see them joining forces against the creationist common enemy in case that legitimises religion. In order for his position to make sense, he needs to show that there is some sort of existential conflict between religion and science. So it is unfortunate for him that the historical record clearly shows that accommodation and even cooperation have been the default positions in the relationship. . .

. . .The conflict between science and creationism is real enough, but it is the exception, not the rule. For most of history, science and religion have rubbed along just fine. So, if Jerry Coyne really wants to promote evolution, he should be joining hands with the religious scientists who want to help.

Mr. Hannam is either joking or simply hasn’t immersed himself in the debates or  the c.v.s of their participants.  For crying out loud, I  have always been allied with religious people in attacking creationism.  For example, I wrote a book on the evidence for evolution.  What I won’t do is suppress my view that people who claim that religion and science are compatible are victims of bad philosophy.  You can obviously defend Darwinism without cozying up to the faithful.  As far as I can see, none of the  new militant fundamentalist atheists have ever threatened to stop attacking creationism if organizations such as the NCSE and AAAS continue their accommodationism.   As P. Z. Myers has pointed out, it is not we atheist/scientists but the religious scientists who threaten to withdraw from the creation/evolution battles unless the other side shuts up about religion.  Do we threaten to withdraw our support if Kenneth Miller, the NCSE, and others continue to espouse accommodationism?  I don’t think so.

On to the bigger fish, who badly need frying.

Update: It looks as if I didn’t have to correct Hannam here.  The comments on his own post, and a note by Olivia Benson, are warming his tuchas.