I’m willing to read books by Simon Conway Morris, Ken Miller, and Francis Collins. I think they’re dead wrong on the religion issue, but they are smart guys who contribute positively to the debate in other ways. I will also read Behe and Dembski and <gack, hack> Wells; they are not smart people, and they’re wrong all across the board, but at least they’re not trying to pretend they’re my friend and are trying to help me, and I think it’s a good idea that we should know the enemy. One fellow who infuriates me, though, and whose point of view I find difficult to comprehend, is Michael Ruse (he’s pulled some weird stunts before, too). I can’t read any of his work anymore without feeling extreme exasperation.
Larry Moran explains why. Ruse is not a friend of science, not someone who wants to improve people’s understanding of the real world; instead he poses as our pal while accusing us of “evolutionism”. He pretends to be a fair and neutral broker mediating a conflict while obligingly demanding a complete surrender of anyone who advocates godlessness. He continues to promote this schism between “Chamberlain appeasers” and “Churchillian atheists” (ugh, but I detest those terms) because it suits his ends, which is to use the division to demand that the atheists sit down and STFU. That’s plainly his strategy in a recent article in the Skeptical Inquirer, which Moran rebuts.
But please don’t try to shut me up by calling for a big tent strategy against the more extreme creationists. That’s the whole point of the Ruse article in spite of the brief disclaimer in the middle. From the opening teaser to the very last sentence, the take-home message is for all atheists to come together. But it’s a very special kind of coming together, isn’t it? Our side has to give up everything. That sort of coming together usually goes another name. It’s called surrender.
Larry rejects that nonsense and makes a particularly interesting suggestion.
So here’s my message to the appeaser athiests. If you don’t like what we say then by all means speak out. Challenge us. Debate us. Show us why you think Theistic Evolution is very different from Intelligent Design Creationism. Write an article comparing Nature’s Destiny by Michael Denton and Life’s Solution by Simon Conway-Morris. Tell us why you choose to ally with Conway-Morris but oppose an intelligent design creationist like Denton. Make your case with scholarship. But please, please, stop whining about the fact we disagree. That’s not going to change anything.
It’s a good example. I read and reviewed Conway Morris’s book — he’s an excellent paleontologist, I’m not disputing that, but wow, was that book ever an astonishing load of unbelievable crap. Strangely, though, none of the people who were furious with Dawkins’ putative lazy scholarship or ‘offensive’ ideas have applied a similar level of criticism to Conway Morris, who wrote a book that puts him in the running with Teilhard De Chardin for silliest evolutionary thesis in the past century. A comparison between Conway Morris and Denton would be both illuminating and entertaining.
Maybe that’s why there was so little response to his book (although the fact that it is badly written also contributed): there’s a policy of polite silence to the absurdities that theistic evolutionist’s publish in defense of the indefensible. It’s awfully rude to point out that there isn’t much difference between the specifics of theistic evolutionists’ beliefs and those of outright defenders of Intelligent Design creationism. We give aid and comfort to creationists when we hammer on the intersection of belief where some creationists and scientists actually agree.
And that, ultimately, is the huge problem of the people who ask the uppity atheists to sit back and quit harming the cause. We are willing to criticize bad ideas irrespective of who holds them; that’s what science is, that constant evaluation and criticism of ideas and evidence. Surrendering that is surrendering what the battle is all about. Unflinching criticism of even people who share many of our goals is the cause.
So, sorry, Ruse and Mooney and Nisbet and anyone else who thinks vocal atheists detract from the public understanding of science—that clash of ideas is what science should be all about, and we aren’t the ones reluctant to expose our beliefs to the light.