Is American Scientific Illiteracy The New Atheists’ Fault?

Jerry Coyne pushes back hard (again) against the latest publication of the falsehood that American resistance to evolution is the New Atheists’ fault:

1.  The “new atheists” have been on the scene for exactly five years, beginning with Sam Harris’s The End of Faith, published in 2004.  But American’s attitudes to evolution have been relatively unchanged (with 40+% denying it) for twenty-five years.  This means two things:

a.  American illiteracy about evolutionary biology cannot have been due to criticism of religion by the “new atheists.”

b.  The dominant strategy of scientific organizations engaged in fighting creationism over the past twenty-five years has been accommodationism: coddling or refusing to criticize religious people for fear of alienating those of the faithful who support evolution. This has been combined with incessant claims that science and religion are perfectly compatible.   This strategy has not worked.

2.    M&K have repeatedly noted that religious people have a problem with evolution because of religion, and yet they bray incessantly that religion is not the problem: it’s those pesky new atheists.

We’ve been making nice with religion for decades, and America remains as “unscientific” as ever. We don’t just perceive religion as the root of the problem, it IS the root of the problem.  Even you, Mooney and Kirshenbaum, must admit that. And many of us feel that Americans won’t begin to accept evolution — or indeed, become more rational about many scientific issues, including stem-cell research and global warming — until they abandon the anti-rational habits of religion.  The “new atheists” are against religion because it is inimical to rational thought.

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