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.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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