why accommodationism isn’t working out

With friends like accommodationists, science advocates don't need any enemies.


Imagine if you had a friend who constantly told you how much he wants to help and support you, how you’re in the same boat, how closely your views match, and how much they agree with your goals. However, when you actually do state your views, he’s among the first ones to disagree, call you a problem, and lecture you about a lack of respect and seemingly uncivil tone. Whenever there’s an argument, he’s either nowhere to be found or quickly joins those berating you. Then, when you bring up his lack of support and antagonism, he’ll respond with a shrug and tell you that you’re just being unreasonable, bitter, and lashing out at your friends, but he still will be there for you whenever you need him. This is the situation that today’s skeptics and atheists have with lots of accommodationists whose goal seems to be ridiculing the people who they love to claim as allies.

For example, take Michael De Dora’s recent post arguing that it’s actually unconstitutional to teach that the Earth isn’t 6,000 year old because this conflicts with a religious idea. As I explained already, this is a logically invalid assertion which seems to indicate that De Dora doesn’t actually understand the point of what science classes are supposed to impart on students and is far too wrapped up playing lawyer to notice. Quite a few of the web’s prominent science bloggers took the same issue with his fallacious argument and received the ire of both the CFI’s leadership and Massimo “I’m Not Just About The Politics, But Yeah, I’m Completely About The Politics” Pigliucci who invoked the friend card to shield his buddy from all legitimately earned critique. In the most ironic of ways he ridicules PZ Myers for insulting his friend, all while calling PZ’s reaction as that of a rageful teenager with anger management issues, then promptly claims that both PZ and De Dora, as well as every other accommodationist are on the same team, and thus the skeptics shouldn’t be criticizing those who are their friends. Yeah, with no consideration for social decorum, I’m going to call bullshit on this one.

Really, this is just sad. The man who authored a book debunking creationism is now defending an argument lifted straight out of Casey Luskin’s playbook because it was made by his bosom buddy and blog contributor, then trying to claim the moral high ground over all those ill-tempered atheists and skeptics by condescending to them in a lecture about civility and rational discourse. And this is our friend in the struggle to promote higher scientific literacy and skepticism? No thank you. I won’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t need friends whose loyalty lies to each other and being liked first, and the actual principles for which they claim to stand second. I don’t care about who you consider a friend. When you’re wrong, you don’t get to use your connections as a get out of criticism pass. While I might not agree with PZ or the far more mellow Phil Plait on something, I respect their stances because they expect criticism, treat it as a given, and don’t rush to play martyr on the spot, unlike De Dora or even Chris Steadman who kept bringing up my objections to a contest he was running for about a week as attacks on his work. You see, should atheists or skeptics fail to nicely pat accommodationists on the head, they go from friend to enemy faster than it takes for a bullet to break the sound barrier.

As I’ve said before, accommodationists seem to want to serve two masters. On the one hand, they want to be the cool atheist and skeptical rebels fluently navigating the world of science. On the other, they really want to be liked by everybody else. They want to advertise that they stand for defending logic and reason, but they’re also quite keen to win a prestigious fellowship for sniping at atheists, then study science and religion from the Templeton Foundation which funded the Discovery Institute and spends most of its time trying to buy its way to mainsteam acceptance. They want to promote scientific discourse and education, but they’re going to claim that scientists are the real culprit of a culture hostile to expertise and skill because they expect most of their non-scientific and theistic (or deistic) readers to pat them on the head for being so “enlightened.” They really seem to be rebels without a cause and lacking the ability to hold a firm stance that requires something other than bashing experts, scientists, skeptics and atheists who dare disagree with them, all while claiming that they’re friends with everybody. And then they wonder why they’re ridiculed, blame everyone but themselves for a lack of warm reception to one of their non-committal fallacies, and repeat the same vague platitudes…

# science // accommodationism / debate / science education

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