Accommodationist philosopher extraordinaire, Michael Ruse, who recently decided to compare the scientific method to religious revelation, has managed to produce yet another emanation of cluelessness that’s spot on in explaining how those crusading against scientific education think and proceeds to entirely miss why the line of thought being explained is wrong. This time, the subject is a much discussed new Tennessee law that grants teachers immunity from teaching their students pseudoscience by calling this a debate. Why students who are still just learning about the topics involved need to have some sort of debate about something they’ve not been taught yet seems rather odd but with the governor too scared of the backlash if he signed the bill into law and too cowardly to face and creationists if he vetoed the bill, this bizarre legal construction was elevated into law by default. Now, scientific organizations obviously want it repealed because pseudoscience, religion, and political indoctrination don’t belong in the classroom, but Ruse warns that the law might be against them. Not because they’re wrong about the science mind you, but because of all those darn atheists…
[The New Atheist movement’s] supporters openly and explicitly link evolutionary thinking with non- belief, sneering at those (like myself) who think that science and religion can exist harmoniously together. I don’t care what the law says, politically this is moronic. The citizens of Tennessee, the judges of the Supreme Court, are going to believe that if evolution alone is taught in schools the kids of the country would be getting atheist propaganda – no matter what actually happens – and they are going to want to counter it. I imagine every time that Richard Dawkins opens his mouth, the Discovery Institute lights a candle of thanks, or whatever it is that evangelicals do these days.
Well, yes, of course there are people in Tennessee as well as many other states who believe that evolution is just atheist propaganda responsible for all the evil in the world, but they believed that many decades before a popular atheist movement was ever even mentioned in the press. Dawkins and New Atheism are just big red herrings here and regardless of which movement links evolution and their cause, this doesn’t make the peer reviewed science behind it change its validity. Backers of the Tennessee law don’t care about the science and the quality of education for students, they see every worldview unlike theirs as heresy, and because they won’t be allowed to simply ban it as they have before, they’ll try to outshout it. Americans’ relationship with evolution has been very complicated and needlessly stays so, just because we can’t seem to put our foot down to say that facts are facts and we have to teach facts if we want educated and capable students. Those in danger of fainting in shock when the facts disagree with their opinions should examine their own worldviews first rather then rush to censor and outshout any fact they find offensive by virtue of it not fitting into their ideology. Ruse, in his ongoing effort to appease creationists of all types, either doesn’t understand this or refuses to.
When the typical supporters of bills that allow creationism in science class try to support their assertions that evolution is not scientific, they almost invariably proceed to describe the way evolution works in Pokemon and declare that no one has ever seen anything like this happen. Well yes, they haven’t. If they did, we’d have to be triaging our current body of knowledge about evolution for any useful scrap. Creationists fight the science with their ignorance and according to Ruse that’s certainly dreadful and all, but at least they’re not listening to what they consider atheist propaganda so that’s a positive start, right? No, not at all. Ruse is implicitly giving those who value dogma over facts the implicit license to ignore science at whim and then proceeds to blame a very popular but rather small group of atheists for these people’s inability to consider the possibility that no, a deity who created a sprawling universe with hundreds of billions of galaxies and countless trillions of stars did not come down to this planet to coddle them throughout their lives, and have a deep and very personal telepathic relationship with them. As much as accommodationism is claimed to be a framework for reconciling science and religion in cases like these, to me it seems like nothing more than atheist bashing and appeasement.