Out of the Ashes?

Philip Clayton at “Religion Dispatches” has a post up about evolution/creationism issues and the yin/yang of the classes of antievolutionists and new atheists who agree that one must choose between religion and science, but just disagree on which way to jump.

There’s a brief mention of “non-overlapping magisteria” (NOMA) (with a disclaimer that it isn’t necessarily adequate) and a further discussion of how the participants need to set aside “hegemonic” claims.

When evolutionary and religious explanations are construed as fighting for the same territory, they will unleash their weapons upon each other—as today’s religion wars show. When we recognize and acknowledge their different strengths, a far more interesting discussion emerges.

This new debate is challenging because it requires both sides to give up certain hegemonic claims: scientists, the claim that science provides the answer to all metaphysical questions; and religionists, the claim that they know better than science how nature works.

I think Clayton does all right in entering certain arguments concerning metaphysics. But I think that he has overlooked the public policy aspect concerning K-12 public school education. Since 1968, religious antievolutionists have been illegitimately claiming scientific status for their conjectures, and attempting to inject those conjectures into the public school curriculum at every opportunity at every level, individual, school, district, state, and federal. “Interesting discussion” is hindered when it is consistently one side that demonstrates such intellectually bankrupt and immoral behavior. Until religious antievolutionists ‘fess up that what they are pushing is religion, not science, there can be no rapprochement on this. Of course, that also means that they have to abandon the long-term project of diluting or contaminating K-12 public school science education. I see no moves in that direction. Until that happens, the flames will continue, and will be contributed to by theistic evolutionists like me, who see religious antievolution as a threat to the integrity of both faith and science. It is way too soon to talk about ashes.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

2 thoughts on “Out of the Ashes?

  • 2009/11/02 at 6:25 am
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    <I think that he has overlooked the public policy aspect concerning K-12 public school education.

    That’s one hell of a big elephant to overlook. Right there I have to think someone who does that hasn’t given the problem enough thought to contribute much useful. Then I read him saying “This new debate is challenging because it requires both sides to give up certain hegemonic claims: scientists, the claim that science provides the answer to all metaphysical questions”. Who claims that? This looks like false equivalence being performed at the professional levels one usually has to go to Fox News to see.

  • 2009/11/02 at 7:45 am
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    There is a certain trend toward scientism of the sort that was popular when logical positivism was ascendant in philosophical circles; maybe that’s what Clayton was trying to reference. Certainly Vic Stenger makes the argument that scientific findings make God and anything supernatural unlikely. These may not be expressions that all metaphysical questions are answered, but they do indicate that some people are asserting that science bears upon what shape metaphysics can take.

    But certainly the public policy thing is an outrageous omission for any broad assessment of the situation.

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