General Wesley R. Elsberry on 25 Apr 2009 05:25 am
Philosopher Russell Blackford takes issue with various science advocacy organizations pointing out that many people of faith also manage to accept the findings of science when it comes to evolutionary science. Blackford thinks this is wrong, essentially because the science organizations are infringing on philosophical turf:
This leaves aside the arrogance of science organisations appearing to favour particular religious viewpoints. Of course, it’s true that some religious viewpoints are just irrational, in that they plainly contradict well-established scientific findings. Others, even on my account, are incompatible with science only in relatively subtle ways, and reasonable people with those viewpoints could put some kind of case against my position (even though I might not consider that case to be at all plausible). While this is all true, it’s not up the scientific organisations to be saying it. That’s outside their remit.
Blackford expands a bit on what he sees as acceptable science advocacy organization behavior:
Science organisations should stick to the point that certain findings are the result of systematic, rational investigation of the world, supported overwhelmingly by several lines of converging evidence. In putting that case, they can be “religion blind”; they should present the evidence for the scientific picture, but that’s as far as they should go. They should not comment on what specific theological positions are or are not compatible with science. Leave that to the squabblings of philosophers and theologians, and, indeed, of individual scientists or other citizens. We can think and argue about it for ourselves.
This goes further than just what science advocacy organizations say about the religion and science issue (which I think Blackford mischaracterizes in any case). This makes clear that so far as Blackford is concerned, science advocacy organizations have no business with any aspect of public policy. Blackford at least has provided no qualifying statements that would indicate that talking about science and religion is a special case, and his entire argument is structured in such a way that it does not admit of having special cases: Organizations don’t get to have opinions when those cross over into the intellectual turf handled by people outside the science organization’s particular field of interest.
I think that Blackford misses the point pretty completely. The religious antievolution movement is not something that is primarily about the state of the evidence and the scientific theories about that evidence. Instead, it is a social and political phenomenon. Telling science advocacy organizations to only talk about the evidence and theories is not just shortsighted; it is wrong. Science advocacy organizations need to address both the state of the science (to undercut that false claim to intellectual legitimacy that religious antievolutionists make) and also actively engage in the public policy debate. And that means that there will be discussion of the factors that underlie religious antievolution, whether it offends Blackford’s territorial impulses or not.
Blackford could have a point if science advocacy organizations were also advocating religion, and in fact Blackford implies just that:
This leaves aside the arrogance of science organisations appearing to favour particular religious viewpoints.
It could be a real concern, just as Blackford points out that various counterfactuals asserted by certain denominations could have been true, but are ruled out by the evidence. I don’t see any evidence that science advocacy organizations are favoring particular religious viewpoints. What I have seen done is noting the existence and extent of particular religious viewpoints, which is a rather different issue.
All in all, it is pretty ironic that Blackford has chosen this approach, given how various and sundry evangelical atheists have long complained that they have felt pressured not to emphasize their viewpoint of null compatibility between science and religion in the interest of pursuing the public policy goal of obtaining good science education. Is turnabout supposed to be a good thing now?<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 7444 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 2840 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>