Evolution, Atheism, and Miller

After reading PZ’s post and the follow-up about Ken Miller’s statements regarding atheism, I was just going to leave the subject alone. I usually find the arguments predictable, boring; there’s always a lot of talking past each other. But for some reason, this particular argument over Ken Miller’s remarks intrigues me. So, foolishly, I’m going to dive in. (I’m partially responding to particular claims by both sides, and also adding a few points of my own.) Here goes nuthin’:

1) If you believe in a God who intervenes in history, then evolution is a theological challenge to that belief. So are godless chemistry, physics, and geology. Why this point is even argued about escapes me. And more disturbing, that Miller blamed this on atheists is inappropriate to say the least. Plenty of theologians have struggled with this too. (an aside: I suppose if you believe in a God who intervenes very, very rarely, then there isn’t as much of a problem).
2) Miller uses “humanist” as a synonym for atheist. There are plenty of religious humanists out there too. I think the religious right is as troubled by the humanist part of secular humanism as they are by the secularism.
3) To deny that religious people will be more accepted by religious audiences than atheists, even if only subconsciously, is silly and denies the role of ethos in winning argument. We always respond better to people who are similar to us–think of it as a ‘credential.’ And suppose a leading evangelical were to suddenly support evolution. Would anyone think for a moment that wouldn’t be very helpful?
4) Related to point three, we should focus on coalition building, not consensus building. If someone believes that a little green space alien told him that Baby Jebus wants him to support evolution, I’m ok with that (although medication should be considered). We’re not fighting for traditional religion, deism, or atheism, but for keeping religion out of the schools, and keeping in science in them. Take your allies where you can get them.
5) Treat this like a political battle (because it is) and not an interesting philosophical exploration of ideas. Like it or not, creationists and reporters who want to stir up controversy will take what you say out of context (regardless of whether you are pro-theism or atheist). Stay on point. When evolutionary biologists have done so, we have had considerable success. Ethos matters, particularly when there isn’t an opportunity to impart a lot of information. For love of the Intelligent Designer, stay on point. Religion out of science classes, science in. Lather, rinse, repeat.
6) Religious people need to lighten up, particularly when atheists say something they don’t like. Do you know how much bullshit the typical atheist has to learn to ignore? So Dawkins said something you think is stupid. Try growing liberal and Jewish in Virginia. Cool it down.
I’m all out of points for now.

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6 Responses to Evolution, Atheism, and Miller

  1. J-Dog says:

    This doesn’t sound like a mad ranting, it sounds like the voice of reason, and you make a lot of sense. Thanks for diving in.

  2. SteveF says:

    Yes, yes and again yes.

  3. Kurtz says:

    Dawkins is just a fundamentalist atheist.
    Like all fanatics, he sees any oppostion as wrong and the Root Of All Evil.

  4. somnilista, FCD says:

    Do you know how much bullshit the typical atheist has to learn to ignore?

    Yes I do. I’ll spare you my stories on the presumption that you’ve heard it all already.

  5. Chiefley says:

    I saw some sage advice the other day. It said that the Conservative tent is very big because they admit anyone who has at least one conservative goal. Whereas, the liberal or progressive tent is small because they only admit those who support every liberal or progressive goal.
    Think about it. Mike’s notion of coalition building is essential.

  6. Uber says:

    This is a stupid and oft repeated comment from the clueless:

    Dawkins is just a fundamentalist atheist.
    Like all fanatics, he sees any oppostion as wrong and the Root Of All Evil.

    It is impossible to be a fundamentalist atheist. Nor is Dawkins a fanatic. He presents arguments. Very well thought out arguments. And he doesn’t see opposition as wrong but definetly he sees their arguments as such.
    Unless of course you have evidence that points to A. a God existing and B. which one it is.

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