so how is all that accommodating working out?

April 25, 2011 — 2 Comments

If you’ve ever followed any tactical discussions in the world of politics, I’m sure you’ve heard strategists urge a candidate running for public office "to stay on message" during campaign speeches. This is probably one of the most polite euphemisms out there for repeating oneself non-stop to drill some idea into people’s heads, using little more than redundancy and passion. After all, according to public relations experts, a phrase does not need to be true to be memorable or quotable. It just needs to be repeated a lot with a very thorough show of conviction. This is how we have simplistic political slogans turn into economic and diplomatic policy for an entire country, and in education, how we have a slew of accommodationists firmly staying on message about how stating that religious ideas are often incompatible with scientific evidence can alienate the believers. And the process, it seems that they’ve chanted themselves into believing that they can teach fundamentalists how evolution and cosmology really play out just as long as they keep repeating how it’s just dandy to be a theist, trumpeting victory every time a believer says "evolution" without cringing or treating the term as an obscenity.

Mind you, this comes after the lashing that Francis Collins & Co. received from a prominent theologian just for daring to suggest that the Bible is not inerrant, an accommodationist imam received a deluge of vicious death threats for planning a lecture on evolution’s supposed divine origins, and after accommodationists’ campaigns in Texas failed to allay the damage the state’s school board inflicted on the curriculum. So one would think that such big, obvious signs that no amount of accommodation seems to be working and that the only thing public excoriation of atheists and skeptics who don’t use the proper tone accomplishes is more views on a blog or a news site, there would be a change in strategy coming from groups like the NLCE. While they try so hard to mention that they won’t infringe on any religious belief and insist that one doesn’t have to be an atheist to acknowledge the merits of evolutionary theory, they keep ignoring the fact that no one is listening to them. As mentioned before, when you tell the fervently religious that science should not interfere with their faith, what they hear is that you’re giving them permission to ignore scientific evidence which could present an actual challenge to their existing mindset. That’s the whole point of religious dogmatism. It maintains that any contradiction to religious scriptures is wrong and must be discarded to preserve one’s faith. Science? Why it’s ignorant human dabbling at best, or Satan’s sinister trickery meant to damn your souls to Hell at worst!

So when the accommodationists, especially those financed by religious groups in flimsy disguise, start on yet another series of vague platitudes in which they dare not touch any of the actual facts in question, they are really up against indoctrinated and enshrined obstinacy, and no amount of atheist-shushing is going to make someone whose entire worldview is based on a self-serving confirmation bias suddenly change his mind. If you accept the theory of evolution as valid, you’re also accepting the fact that you’re not the mollycoddled baby of an omnipotent deity to whom Earth is the center of the universe and you are the most important thing which was ever born, or at least figure prominently in his plans for the universe. The supposed happy medium that’s known as theistic evolution has very little to do with evolution as a scientific concept because it basically says that yes, creatures evolved and went extinct, and so on and so forth, but in the end, it was all meant to create a human just like you, the deity of your choice be praised. That’s not evolution. That’s wishful thinking. That’s an arrogant rewriting of scientific evidence to maintain the over-inflated and fragile human ego from the shock of finding out that we’re actually quite an insignificant little collection of carbon, phosphate, and trace metals on a little planet in the middle of Nowhere, Milky Way, somewhere out there in parts barely known.

So you’re going to have people who think that they can talk to the creator of the universe if they think what they want to say really hard meet you halfway there and call it mission accomplished, yelling at everybody who has the temerity to point out our cosmic insignificance for ruining what you think is a masterful piece of subterfuge meant to educate anti-scientific crusaders in the wonders of the universe? How many times do the faithful on a rampage have to accuse you of pulling a bait and switch or ignore you to get the message that they’re really not interested and will not buy what you’re selling? The whole idea that if we were to draw a line in the sand to say that religion ends on one side of this line and science begins on the other, and that the two are simply not going to mesh together no matter how hard we try, we’ll drive away the believers further into their religion, is a fallacy based on the assumption that they’re not already primed to simply filter out anything with which they’re going to disagree. After all weren’t you the one who said that science need not intrude on their faith? So don’t be surprised when they don’t bother to even think about the merits of what science has to say and insist that they can assert whatever they deem to be the truth as fact. You’re the one who told them it was their right.

[ illustration by Miguel Covarrubias ]

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  • Bruce Coulson

    This is a collision of concepts (and misconceptions).

    Politics is based on compromise; therefore, there’s always a tendency to want to seek a middle ground that both sides can live with. This is fine when dealing with taxes, tariffs, immigration, and similar questions. It breaks down when dealing with absolutes.

    Bullies quickly learn that if they keep pushing, they often get what they want because people find it easier to give in than fight. And once you’ve given in, it’s both easier for the bully to continue pushing, and for the target to continue conceeding points, because fighting becomes harder and harder.

    Eventually, what sometimes happens is the bully picks a target that will fight back. When that happens, the bully fights on for a bit, and then slinks off, because an actual fight is not what they want or can handle.

    It’s sad that playground dynamics often explains why adults do things.

  • reggie

    Amen, Greg. I’m astounded that such intelligent, educated people can be so obtuse when it comes to a discussion over the compatibility of science and religion. They are certainly welcome to coddle the unjustified and strange beliefs of others. I won’t shush them or tell them they are doing it wrong. The problem, though, is that when they make no headway, they blame more honest and outspoken atheists for ruining it for them.