Answering the Accommodationists (Again)

A great deal of flak has been flying back and forth across the blogosphere in recent weeks on, once again, the issue of compatibility between science, atheism and religion. The latest round was sparked by a Pew study on how the public views conflicts between science and faith, with Jerry Coyne arguing for incompatibility, Chris Mooney taking the opposite position. I have a few thoughts of my own.

First, the survey. There are a few choice pieces of data, such as this one which finds that creationist attempts to portray evolution as a “controversy” have not succeeded:

Interestingly, many of those who reject natural selection recognize that scientists themselves fully accept Darwin’s theory. In the same 2006 Pew poll, nearly two-thirds of adults (62%) say that they believe that scientists agree on the validity of evolution.

But more important is this:

When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding, according to the results of an October 2006 Time magazine poll. Indeed, in a May 2007 Gallup poll, only 14% of those who say they do not believe in evolution cite lack of evidence as the main reason underpinning their views; more people cite their belief in Jesus (19%), God (16%) or religion generally (16%) as their reason for rejecting Darwin’s theory.

As far as I can tell, the data is undisputed. The question is how we should react to it. Mooney believes we should set an accommodationist course:

For it seems to me that if we could only dislodge the idea that evolution is contradictory to people’s belief… then they would have no problem with evolution.

…I’m quite convinced that the data are an excellent reason to take Kenneth Miller’s (and my) approach and try to convince people that science needn’t be any threat to their religion – indeed, they show that this is a strategy which ought to work for many Americans.

I have two points to make in response to this.

First of all, what is Mooney’s strategy for convincing the faithful that evolution and religion are compatible? The creationists are devoted to spreading the opposite message, and they have large, well-financed ministries, propaganda mills cranking 24 hours a day, and even their own, multimillion-dollar creationist museum. They’ve spent decades and millions of dollars drumming it into their followers’ heads that six-day creation is a vital and essential keystone of the Christian worldview, and that evolution is not just false, but an evil, dangerous, even Satanic deception that leads directly to genocide, school shootings, abortion and homosexuality. And for the most part, they view pro-science Christians as just as bad: as weak, rootless believers in a “sad and sorry god“.

The accommodationist strategy backed by Mooney and others is the same one that we’ve been trying for decades. Clearly, it hasn’t worked. The simple, literal, easy-to-understand theology of the creationists has been demonstrated to have mass popular appeal. Meanwhile, the theistic evolutionists – whose theology tends to depict God as distant and vague at best – has not had similar success with the public.

So, I ask the accommodationists in all seriousness: How is your approach different from what’s already been tried? You’ve already voiced your belief that atheist scientists should stop speaking up. What, in your view, is the next step? How do you plan to overcome the fears and prejudices that creationists have pounded into their followers’ heads, and what makes you think this will be easier than what the atheists have set out to do?

Second, I want to point out an implication of this strategy that Mooney doesn’t dwell on: it’s remarkable to what extent this is a strategy of surrender. It takes for granted that people’s religious beliefs are fixed and immutable, that if their beliefs conflict with science they’ll always reject science, and our only hope is to convince them that evolution poses no threat to their faith.

Given this assumption, Mooney believes that he can change people’s beliefs about whether evolution conflicts with their faith. But why should this be easier than convincing them of a different proposition – that if science and faith conflict, science should win out? As the Pew survey shows, an overwhelming majority (87%) even of religious people respect science and feel that it makes society better. Why can’t we build on that fact instead?

The accommodationist strategy implicitly validates the very prejudice it seeks to counter: that faith is superior to science and should win out if the two conflict. This would be like a person who lived during the suffragist era conceding the anti-feminist argument that women are intellectually inferior to men, but arguing that they should get to vote anyway, because after all, we don’t make men pass intelligence tests to vote, do we?

This is fighting on your opponent’s turf, which is a sure way to lose. To defeat a prejudice, we should attack it at its source. Plenty of ideas that were once common and widely believed, such as the idea of female inferiority, turned out not to be invulnerable; they crumbled under strong, direct criticism. And there is good reason to believe the same is true in this case: the ever-growing numbers of the godless suggest that attacking religion is not the losing strategy that accommodationists would have us believe.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Mike

    You ended up saying exactly what I was thinking. The accommodationists are too focused on getting people to accept evolution. We need people to understand and accept science in general. Evolution and everything else will follow from that.

  • prase

    Exactly. Belief in evolution has little effect standing alone and for most people it hardly matters what they think about any particular scientific theory. Acceptance of evolution is not the goal, the goal is eradication of prejudices and promotion of reason in general. Given that most of the believers haven’t read the Bible as a whole, accommodationism is a way of maintaining beliefs that the Bible is perfect and inerrant, leaving the believers vulnerable to abuse by bible-quoting fundamentalists – and one can justify almost anything by the Bible.

    And, strategy aside, the Bible just is incompatible with science, for truth’s sake.

  • penn

    I really don’t see how the accommodationist method is supposed to work. If you truly believe that the universe was created in 6 days 6000 years ago, then evolution and pretty much all of science do contradict your beliefs. To tell a fundamentalist that liberal science accepting Christians exist doesn’t do any good. They already know that, and they don’t think very highly of such people.

    The “new atheists” may assume these people are ignorant or misguided, but the accommodationists must think they are just downright stupid.

  • Reginald Selkirk
  • Ritchie

    Whenever I think of Creationists, I think of Boxer the horse from Animal Farm, who simply adopted the maxim ‘Napoleon is always right’ as a substitute for actual thinking. He didn’t have to think anything through himself – far easier to just accept what he was told.

    Too many people I’ve spoken to on the web do this with the Bible. And whilst I agree with Ebon that accommodationism is insufficient as a long-term goal, getting such people to simply accept that their entire belief system is deeply flawed is a huge pill to swallow. Surely people need to get used to thinking rationally for themselves before they let go of old cutches? Isn’t accommodationism more a halfway house than an end goal?

  • velkyn

    excellent post, ebon. I have no reason to “accomdate” any false beliefs, including religion. There is nothing special about any religion. They are as demonstrably false as any belief of a hollow earth or dinosaurs on venus.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Evolutionists should just pack it in. How can we compete with impressive Creationist “knowledge” like this?

    Evolution begins with a one-celled life existing in water that somehow makes its way to land, grows legs, develops a reproductive system so that it can procreate, and then the most progressive from each species evolves to something else, creating a new reproductive system that matches another. Now, the possibilities boggle the mind. Did each one evolve to a new species of one that included the reproductive organs of both male and female and then produced only either male or female? If any species could do this alone why would they ever split into male and female? That would not be progress, but just create further confusion. If they didn’t at some point split, then why do we have both male and female of each species today?
    - Penny Howell, Knoxville Creationism Examiner

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Wow. Simply wow. That’s on par with Ray Comfort’s special brand of “impressive.”

  • exrelayman

    What is the missing link between apes and civilized man?

    Religious man.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    …getting such people to simply accept that their entire belief system is deeply flawed is a huge pill to swallow.

    The point, in my view, is not to change one individual’s faith; that would indeed be difficult. Such change almost always comes from within. The point is, I think, to create an ecology of ideas so that fundamentalism can be seen for what it really is.

    Surely people need to get used to thinking rationally for themselves before they let go of old cutches? Isn’t accommodationism more a halfway house than an end goal?

    Most religionists, and even I daresay fundamentalists, are rational thinkers; they only suspend their rationality for the faith of their fathers.

  • http://52songs52weeks.blogspot.com Bjart

    Mooney pleads “if we could only dislodge the idea that evolution is contradictory to people’s belief…”, but the problem is that evolution is contradictory to some people’s beliefs. Biblical literalism/inerrancy is simply incompatible with evolution. To persuade these people to accept evolution does involve asking them to change their beliefs, just not all of them.

    The average person who rejects evolution for religious reasons doesn’t think in terms of epistemology or methodological consistency, but I’d bet even they can see that if you allow scientific reasoning to trump religious faith in one area then there’s no preventing it from trumping religious faith in another area. If gods aren’t needed to make something as perfect as a tree, then they aren’t needed to make something as perfect as a single celled organism or a stable planetary orbit. Accepting science as a method for determining truth weakens theological methods: if the latter didn’t reach appropriate conclusions about the natural world, then how can they be expected to generate truthful observations about the spiritual?

    More than stats on the acceptance of evolution, I’d like to see stats representing public attitudes toward accommodationist beliefs.

  • CybrgnX

    The main point is ‘Don’t bother’. They will NEVER change their faith or belief.
    Look at evolution, quantum Mechanics, high energy physics, and many others. How many common people know any of this? Nearly none! How does it directly impact their bills? gardens? jobs? Lives? NOT AT ALL! Now these same people DON’T WANT TO END THEIR LIVES FOR NOTHING!! They will never surrender their crosses and statues of the virgin. They must have faith that the evil will be punished and the good rewarded.
    They are afraid to die and afraid to think beyond the normal everyday worries. In the common persons life nothing has changed in hundreds of years. They rise-make breakfast-care for kids-eat-drink-be merry- and die. Anything beyond this is too nebulous to worry about.

  • Alex Weaver

    Plenty of ideas that were once common and widely believed, such as the idea of female inferiority, turned out not to be invulnerable; they crumbled under strong, direct criticism.

    This is actually still effectively a religious conviction in many circles, and actually one in some, but its direct effects on policymaking have been almost eliminated.

  • http://reasonvsapologetics.blogspot.com jim

    No dinosaurs on Venus!? What will we tell the children? Think of the children!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    What is the missing link between apes and civilized man? Religious man.

    I strongly disagree with that sentiment.

    Also, I thought Ritchie raised an interesting point:

    Surely people need to get used to thinking rationally for themselves before they let go of old cutches? Isn’t accommodationism more a halfway house than an end goal?

    I actually think it may be easier to get people to go all the way to atheism than to make the transition to a less fanatical form of faith. This is partly due to the oft-noted brittleness of fundamentalism: when a person’s faith is founded on the assumption that all of a long set of propositions must be absolutely and infallibly true, if that person discovers for themselves that even one of those propositions is unquestionably false, they naturally come to the conclusion that they can no longer trust anything they’ve been taught, and the whole edifice comes crashing down.

    But there’s a flip side to this which I think makes the accommodationists’ mission far more difficult. The same reasons that make fundamentalism prone to shattering, also make it highly resistant to modification. The propositions which make up a fundamentalist’s faith tend to be interwoven and mutually reinforcing (just look at AIG’s insistence that a 6000-year-old earth and a worldwide flood are as vital to Christianity as Jesus’ resurrection). Changing just one of these beliefs would put the whole fundamentalist worldview out of kilter, which is why they so tenaciously resist ideas such as theistic evolution. To them, the ways in which it disagrees with their belief are far more important than the areas of agreement. But as I said, if one belief is forced by evidence to change, the whole usually comes tumbling down.

  • Leum

    I actually think it may be easier to get people to go all the way to atheism than to make the transition to a less fanatical form of faith.

    Atheist evangelist Sam Singleton agrees with you.

  • Samuel Skinner

    “Most religionists, and even I daresay fundamentalists, are rational thinkers; they only suspend their rationality for the faith of their fathers.”

    Actually, most of the time people don’t use rational thought- they go with instinct.

    “Look at evolution, quantum Mechanics, high energy physics, and many others. How many common people know any of this? Nearly none! How does it directly impact their bills? gardens? jobs? Lives? NOT AT ALL! ”

    Flu shots, LEDs and day depend on those.

  • Leum

    Yes, but they’re hidden. You can use them every day without knowing how they work. Besides, the current creationist/ID stance on evolution is that it totally happens, just not on the “macro” scale. It couldn’t've, what with the Earth being only 6,000 years old. That’s why science education matters; it forces people to recognize that scientific knowledge of the sort they refuse to acknowledge impacts their lives every day.

  • Scott

    From what I can tell, Chris Mooney’s agenda is to try and prove that science and what it can teach us is not necessarily incompatible with religion. His goals may not actually have anything to do with converting people to atheism in the slightest.

    Perhaps I don’t know enough of Chris Mooney’s background but from what I can see, he is just a scientist trying to create an enlightened America where the masses actually trust science and don’t see it as incompatible with their beliefs. I have no problems with him attempting this and I personally have no problems allowing people to believe in a ‘higher power’, I only get angry when belief in said ‘higher power’ affects policy making and therefore my ‘heathen’ lifestyle.

    I believe everybody has a right to believe in whatever they choose to believe in and as long as my government isn’t pushing forward a religion or my tax-money isn’t paying for another person’s religion, I am fine with it. Perhaps this is the view that Mooney takes, he is hoping for science and reasoning to win out without necessarily trying to change peoples religious beliefs.

    But as I said, I have no idea of Chris Mooney’s background and perhaps I am completely wrong about this. I personally can’t understand how somebody could believe in god after viewing even a fraction of the evidence which mounts up to the bible being complete bull.

  • bbk

    Thanks for that post, Ebon. I’m really glad that this is something where I agree with you completely.

    I never quite understood the accommodationists, but I have a funny feeling that it has something to do with the positive thinking movement in pop psychology. The idea seems to be that criticism of any sort at all is simply bad while reinforcing self esteem and getting people to like you is what works best and somehow ends up winning people over to your side. I just don’t think so.

    I believe in telling someone they are wrong when they are wrong. That’s not condescending, that’s actually having a little bit of faith in their intellect. A smart person will change their mind when it is pointed out to them that they are wrong. But even a stupid person can sense it when you are compromising and saying things that you don’t truly believe… and they see it as a sign of weakness.

  • bassmanpete

    What is the missing link between apes and civilized man?

    Religious man.

    No, all three had a common ancestor. The latter two are in the process of diverging and, hopefully, religious man will go the way of Neanderthals.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Perhaps I don’t know enough of Chris Mooney’s background but from what I can see, he is just a scientist…

    Mooney is not a scientist. He is a a science writer.

    trying to create an enlightened America where the masses actually trust science and don’t see it as incompatible with their beliefs.

    But it is incompatible. About 50% of US adults believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old and species were individually created by God in something like their present state.

    The current issue with Mooney is that he is attacking the “New Atheists” for daring to speak up.

  • Snuggly Buffalo

    Isn’t it possible to take a two-pronged approach? I say we continue trying to convince people that religion and science are compatible, while simultaneously attacking the ridiculousness of religion.

    To be honest, for some people, giving up their notions of god really do seem to be impossible. I don’t think my mother could handle a world without her imaginary friend in the sky; I honestly don’t believe she’s mature enough to deal with reality.

    Besides, even the most hardcore fundamentalists already take parts of Genesis as metaphorical. No one takes Genesis 3:15 literally. It’s just about universally regarded as a metaphor for Jesus and Satan (“and you will strike his heel” referring to Jesus death on the cross, and “he will crush your head” referring to Jesus resurrection) at least in the churches I grew up in.

    For some people I really think it would be easier to get them to give up their literal interpretation of Genesis (which they already don’t consider completely literal) than it would be to get them to give up belief in God.

    I absolutely agree that atheists should not shut up and exclusively favor accommodationism, though. I don’t see why both accommodationists and atheists keep treating it like an either-or proposition.

  • Ritchie

    bbk -

    I never quite understood the accommodationists, but I have a funny feeling that it has something to do with the positive thinking movement in pop psychology. The idea seems to be that criticism of any sort at all is simply bad while reinforcing self esteem and getting people to like you is what works best and somehow ends up winning people over to your side.

    I think you might have something there. Mark Rowland puts it very well in his book Everything I Know I Learned From TV when he deconstructs the values of modernity (it’s much more readable than it sounds). Basically he says that the ‘modern’ person is thoroughly self-defining. They choose their own career, life path, beliefs, and values while anything which imposes responsibilities and duties is seen as infringing on their freedom. A ‘modern’ person chooses their own beliefs which results in a salad-bar belief system (a bit of God, maybe some astrology too. Reincarnation? Not now, maybe later). That fact that these beliefs might actually contradict is down to the individual to notice and worry about. Try pointing it out to someone and you are a militant fanatic, ruthlessly violating someone’s freedom to believe in whatever they wish (however nonsensical).

  • 2-D Man

    What is the missing link between apes and civilized man?
    Religious man.

    To be fair, the distinction between humans and apes is the same as the distinction between Vancouver and British Columbia.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Actually, most of the time people don’t use rational thought- they go with instinct.

    I disagree. Most people use rational thinking every day; they only do it in areas of their life that has minimal emotional significance. Packets. Mind you, I’m not speaking of abstract rationality; in that sense you’re absolutely right. But in everyday life, whether they’re getting their car repaired, shopping for a computer, or compiling the dinner menu, it seems to me that they do.

  • Samuel Skinner

    “But in everyday life, whether they’re getting their car repaired, shopping for a computer, or compiling the dinner menu, it seems to me that they do.”

    That is different- people get alot more rational when money is involved. There are exceptions, but usually, greed brings out the sanest in people.

  • Jason Tilery

    While I think that the doctrine of “special creation” is an obstacle to evolution being accepted by creationist, there is another closely related doctrine that I think is a point of contention for many Christians: original sin.

    At the very center of Christian doctrine is that man is a sinner and is in need of redemption. That redemption comes from the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. If evolution is true, however, we have a different story than that told by the Bible. There was no Adam and Eve. There was no eating of the forbidden fruit and subsequent fall into sin of mankind. Where, then, is the need for Jesus Christ. Without him, the entire edifice of Christianity crumbles.

    Many theistic evolutionist are aware of the problem this causes. There is, in fact, a chapter dedicated to resolving this issue in the book “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation”. The attempts to reconcile evolution with the doctrine of original sin that I have read were unconvincing. And I think for most mainstream Christians such attempts are undesirable and unsatisfying.

  • jonathan

    Great essay. You changed my mind on the topic. I was a Christian but realized evolution and the big bang did not disprove my belief. My eventual conversion to atheism was the result of thinking about God, the Bible, and Christianity themselves. Even if there was no theory of evolution, I would still be an atheist.

    But you are right. We’ve been playing this game for 150 years and people still don’t accept evolution. If people still cannot even accept science even if it might conflict with their religion after this long, we are failures. Especially for the theory of evolution! It’s been a controversy for 150 years and people have been trying, desperately, to disprove it all along, and they have failed every single time! Thanks to that, evolution is probably one of the most tested theories we have.

  • Alex Weaver

    First of all, what is Mooney’s strategy for convincing the faithful that evolution and religion are compatible?

    Unapologetic fratricide, apparently.

  • Alex Weaver

    That is different- people get alot more rational when money is involved.

    Explain Hummer sales figures, then.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Alex Weaver: Real American™ = Hummer
    The math is unrefutable.

  • Alex Weaver

    As equations go, I think a more relevant one is “p(v/s)=k”

    (where “p” is penis size, “v” = vehicle size, and “s” is a constant corresponding to the size of a modest sedan.)

  • Alex Weaver

    (In a general sense, the relationship between aggressive posturing and personal insecurity is relevant, judging by the amount of personal venom that the accomodationists have taken to spewing).

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Perhaps I don’t know enough of Chris Mooney’s background but from what I can see, he is just a scientist trying to create an enlightened America where the masses actually trust science and don’t see it as incompatible with their beliefs.

    If that was all that Chris Mooney was trying to do, Scott, I’d cheer him on. If all he was saying was that atheism is not the only possible result of accepting that evolution is true, and that religious people can be scientists as well, I would happily agree. I believe those things myself, despite being an atheist.

    But what galls me is that he hasn’t stopped there. He, and other prominent accommodationists, have been actively urging atheists to be quiet – telling us to stop advocating our views, making fearmongering claims that we’re doing harm to the cause of science education by speaking out. I don’t believe that to be true – as I’ve said, I think the vast majority of antiscientific attitudes in the U.S. come from creationist groups that are actively promoting them. And more to the point, as you can probably imagine, I resent the suggestion that I should not say what I think. I think atheists who take a strong stand for science help the cause, not hurt it, and the accommodationists shouldn’t be wasting their time trying to hush us up.

  • Alex Weaver

    Any idea why they’re still pushing this line?

    Personally, to reprint a comment I made elsewhere:

    Even under the most charitable interpretation, the “framers” remind me of what I’ve read about the “cold fusion” fiasco in 1989 and the residual cold fusion “research community.” If there was ever a scientific component to Mooney/Nisbet/Kirshenbaum’s theorizing on communications, it’s long since become Pathological Science.

    In other words, they’ve become so emotionally invested in the idea that they have the answer that if they ever had the intention of subjecting their ideas about how to communicate science to serious scrutiny, it’s gone now.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Ebonmuse “…as I’ve said, I think the vast majority of antiscientific attitudes in the U.S. come from creationist groups that are actively promoting them.”
    *Pbbt!* You’re blaming the wrong party. It’s not the Creationists’ fault. It’s those biologists who keep insisting that science be taught in science class simply because the “evidence” is on their side who are at fault. Oh, and those militant atheists too.

  • Samuel Skinner

    “telling us to stop advocating our views, making fearmongering claims that we’re doing harm to the cause of science education by speaking out.”

    Even if that was true, so what? Should unpopular groups that are right not speak out because it might make marginally more popular causes damaged? That view was stupid in 1870 and it is stupid now.

  • Heidi

    Thank you for saying all that. I totally agree with you. We don’t need to shut up and accommodate these people. We need to educate them. Just in the past week or so I’ve had one Christian say to me “I don’t think evolution created the universe,” and another one insist that natural selection/survival of the fittest means carnivores > herbivores. I tried to explain it to him using lions or bunnies being better adapted to their environment than other lions or bunnies. And he got all condescending. “How could bunnies be better adapted than other… bunnies.” For the love of the FSM, read a book! (I suggested some). I weep for the state of science education in this country.

    I hope none of us shut up. Except Mooney, maybe. Dude’s part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  • http://www.WorldOfPrime.com Yahzi

    “It takes for granted that people’s religious beliefs are fixed and immutable, that if their beliefs conflict with science they’ll always reject science,”

    As your most recent post on Planned Parenthood points out, this is true. In fact, religious people will reject religious authorities when it’s too inconvenient, even if they accepted those authorities before and after doing what they needed to do.

    Look, if Wizards of the Coast came out and said that Magic Missile spells didn’t work anymore, at least 90% of D&D players would just ignore them, because they like using Magic Missile spells in their games. The religious crowd is no different; why should they let some external authority dictate the terms of their role-playing game?

    To me, this behavior shows that these people understand, on some level, that they are just playing a game of make-believe. I once asked a pro-UFO woman, “Do you believe in UFOs in the same way you believe that OJ Simpson is guilty?” She said “No…” At that point it became clear that believing in UFOs was a game. Since her husband and I were playing D&D, it hardly seemed appropriate for me to harass her over it. :D

  • Pingback: Making accommodations « Atheist Etiquette

  • John Nernoff

    There is one aspect of the accomodationist position that is seldom mentioned. “God” is supposed to be benevolent, good, a really nice guy. After all he is the one who is going to provide salvation — a heaven where believers can reside in eternal bliss. He’d better damn well be good.

    Evolution brings a rude end to these dreams. Evolution requires the constant manufacture of innumerably more progeny than can be environmentally supported. All these extra lives will die prematurely, often with wracking pain, untold suffering, torture, being hunted down, torn apart whilst alive, chomped on, swallowed whole, being played with as a toy before the gruesome death. If this is “God’s” plan (a blandishment proffered by the Vatican) then it totally and devastatingly wrecks any notion that “God” is good.

    Evolution is just incompatible with practically any religion (except Satanism and other of the demonic ilk).

  • Virginia

    The Accomodation idea may sound good, but the tenet of Christian belief is Salvation, and Salvation is vital to the believers who wanted a life after death so that they can never part with their loved ones. Salvation rest on the fact that there is sin to all mankind and that sin was from Adam, which was part of the 6-day creation.

    So the scenario is simple, as long as human dreaded the reality of impermenance and life is not always blissful and sometimes full of misfortune, not to mention the unknown (dreaded unknown) of death.

    I think evolution should be supplemented with a kind of liberating spirituality — that liberates and enlighten minds to free people from the mythical sin/salvation/heaven/hell thing – or else we are not doing enough to draw them away from this mind-eating religiosity

  • Scotlyn

    Virginia –

    I think evolution should be supplemented with a kind of liberating spirituality — that liberates and enlighten minds to free people from the mythical sin/salvation/heaven/hell thing -

    In fact there are lots of “liberating spiritualities” out there – if you want to look at the New Age showcase of “spiritualities” crystals, Buddhism, Native American shamanism – etc. Take your pick – all very spiritual, all very comforting and a lot freer of sin/salvation/heaven/hell than Christianity.

    But these could never “supplement” evolution. Evolution is simply an explanation (consistent with all known relevant facts), of what actually happened. It is not something that gives comfort (as you may appreciate from John Nernoff’s comment at #42) or enlightens anyone or even liberates their minds. It simply explains an aspect of reality as it is, and as it was. It is what it is, and it has nothing to do with spirituality of any kind.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Actually, I do derive some spirituality from evolution. I feel more connected to the planet and its inhabitants — all of them — knowing that we’re all kin at the end of the day. Studying evolution has broadened my family, and given me a place in things.

  • Scotlyn

    Thumpalumpacus

    Actually, I do derive some spirituality from evolution

    Would it be a total misreading of your comment to suggest that what you derive is, as you say, a satisfying feeling of connectedness, and that you derive it from your specific understanding and interpretation of evolution? I would not call this spiritual, because you have not introduced any supernatural element into this feeling of connectedness. Such a feeling of connectedness, to me, is extremely natural. You have found your place in the natural order of things.

    However, I note again that John Nernoff (#42) would seem to derive many other less possitive feelings from his specific understanding and interpretation of evolution. One could say, he derives some “diabolity,” from it.

    All this brings us in danger of reifying “Evolution,” and reading therein that which we wish to find. In that case, yes, we will have circled back to that place in our minds from which all religions spring.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    All this brings us in danger of reifying “Evolution,” and reading therein that which we wish to find. In that case, yes, we will have circled back to that place in our minds from which all religions spring.

    Yes, difficult one this. We all know what it means to feel spiritual, and sometimes describing this aspect of ourselves without resorting to “religious” language is all but impossible. This I guess is because religion has seconded all such internal experience to its cause and left the infidel with nowhere to turn.

    p.s where has the preview gone in I.E, it works fine on Safari.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    I would not call this spiritual, because you have not introduced any supernatural element into this feeling of connectedness.

    I don’t regard spirituality as requiring the supernatural; in my mind all it requires is a spirit — or soul, if you prefer — which I regard as an emergent property of our prodigiously complex brains. Thus, this connectedness is indeed spiritually satisfying, to me.

    I love the Dysonian idea of the Universe pondering itself.

  • Scotlyn

    Ok, Thumpalumpacus, I do accept your point. But I would be somewhat nervous of reifying “evolution,” into “Evolution,” or “Darwinism,” or any class of an idea which in and of itself supplants a religious belief or leads to one. (Your derivation of “spiritual satisfaction” from evolution appears to me to skirt that danger zone, but I’ll agree to disagree with you about that). Evolution is not a religious belief system, its a best-fit-for-now description of reality. Creationists, however, would very much like us to act as if it is a competing religion.

    Having said that, I actually agree with both yourself and Steve that it can be difficult to describe those “soulful” experiences and intuitions that we all have, without using religious language. We’ll have to keep inventing some.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Scotlyn “Having said that, I actually agree with both yourself and Steve that it can be difficult to describe those “soulful” experiences and intuitions that we all have, without using religious language.”
    Attempting to describe the transcendent “stuff” with religious language only sounds, um, goodlike because of repetition and the cultural priming of whateveryourlocalreligionis. Strip that away, and it inevitably starts sounding like stoner philosophy.
    Yes. Stoner philosophy. That’s what it ends up sounding like, man. This is because…because it’s all right there. It’s all connected! Look at your hand, man. It’s all there. Right freakin’ there!
    …that’s not to say that stoner philosophy is bad, necessarily. It’s just that language, via Man, isn’t very good at describing things outside the normal experience of Man. Personally, I blame Man, man, for not regularly being outside of normal. We simply aren’t all that good at concepts (and from that, language) of very big or very small or very many or…

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Hey, would ya quit bogarting the brownies?

  • Scotlyn

    Hey Modus, like Wow, man. You said it…just wow… pass me another brownie and let’s go watch the sunset… it’s, it’s, it’s…

  • Pingback: Daylight Atheism > In Which I Am Not Filled With Optimism

  • Pingback: Daylight Atheism > The Science Gap