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Jaakko Wallenius

Bravo, Greta! Basically they just want us to shut the fuck up.
Poor old Richard D. is so bloody "strident" when they do not like his ideas, but what they really want is him to shut the fuck up.

ChrisZ

But Greta, have you considered the fact that accomodationism is less socially awkward!? I think once you consider this you will be forced to recant your strident atheistic ways and bow in deference to accomodationism!

ErinM

"(a) perpetuating themselves, and (b) seeing that the will of God is done."

Funny how (b) so often includes (a), God's will being such a malleable thing, based on the needs of his followers at the time...

Timmyson

Oh, I know it is for some. There are some Christian churches for whom ecumenicalism is a core value. I'm not denying that. But they're very much in the minority. The majority of Christian churches, around the U.S. and around the world, are either Catholic or fundamentalist.

Whoa, that's a pretty strong statement. And one that, even as a fairly aggressive atheist, I question.

There were a large number of born-agains at my high school (in southern Ontario, Canada), but they all went to the same church. Their families came from a dozen or so other churches in the area that worshipped in a very moderate (think Gilead) sort of way, and to my knowledge, most of them went back to their parents' churches eventually.

Furthermore, there are South American bishops who have gone against the Pope on issues like contraception.

I believe that it is very easy to whip up a mob over an issue like gay marriage, but that doesn't necessarily speak to fundamentalism of all the mob members.

So, what's your evidence that the majority of churches and Christian religious people are fundamentalists as opposed to a moderate majority who get seduced from time to time by fundamentalist demagogues?

Bill Baker

" Most religions don't care about compromise. Most religions care, more than anything, about (a) perpetuating themselves, and (b) seeing that the will of God is done. They don't see tolerance of other religions as an inherent value in itself. They see tolerance of other religions as a violation of God's will."

There have been hundreds, nay..thousands of religions and many more sects of many of these all throughout history and still today as well.
What you said above applies to a small handful of them{granted they are the largest ones in number of adherents and mosgt powerful unfortuantely}. So to say "most" is like saying most socialists are stalinists or most rap fans are gangstas or most feminists are men haters. Most religions have no interest in such power, control, monpololization; and some of them are even atheistic or agnostic religions,{religion and god/gods are NOT synonymous}

So what you said is also a false or at best half true gerneralization, a red herring, and a strawman, and reactionary slippery slope argument.

These are common falalcies amongst todays Atheists, Agnostics, and Deists, but they are false or at best half-truths.
For the record I myself am an Anti-theistic Agnostic-Deist, I consider myself a faithless rationalist freethinker in general and a contrarian, and am myself irreligious. Just thought I'd point that out so that I'm not percieved as of the enemes camp. Which I'm not, I'm merely concnered with truth and reason more than rhetoric.

Anyways, otherwise, I agree with most of the rest of the basic ideas and purpose of your article.

In Reason:
Bill

Greta Christina

Timmyson: Every recent survey I have seen of "how widespread are different religions" shows that, within Christianity, Catholicism and fundamentalist religions are solidly in the lead, between them making up well over half of the Christian population of the world. (I'll dig up citations, but I'm not going to do it now, since I'm at work and don't have time for more than a short comment.)

Heather B

I agree with what you said except for one thing. I think accommodationism has its place. Not as the focus of our efforts, certainly, but as part of the 'safe landing place' strategy. Accommodation is never going to get the religious to behave better towards the irreligious, but it does make us look better to the undecideds, and the people considering leaving faith. It's good to have a few voices to point to and say "look, just because you stop believing doesn't mean you have to become adversarial and confrontational. You can play 'lets all just get along,' if that's what you need to do."

Ebonmuse

It's completely to be expected that a religion, when in the majority, takes every opportunity to impose its will on others by law or force; and that same religion, when in the minority or otherwise prevented from imposing its rules on society, will plead the cause of tolerance and lament how oppressed it is and how unfairly it's treated.

John Moeller

@Heather B: Hemant is already doing that, but he is not an accommodationist in the sense that Greta is talking about.

Being tolerant, diplomatic, and open is laudable, but that doesn't mean that we must compromise on science.

@Ebonmuse: Why does a certain Donohue spring to mind...?

Greta Christina

Heather: What John Moeller said. I'm not talking about being calm, polite, pleasant and so on. We can be all those things if it suits us, and still not be accommodationist. As John pointed out, Hemant at Friendly Atheist is Exhibit A. Certainly, if some atheists don't want to be adversarial and confrontational, they shouldn't. There's room in this movement for lots of different approaches, and we'll be stronger for it.

That's not what I mean by accommodationism. Accommodationist atheists aren't telling atheists to be calm, polite, pleasant and so on. They're telling us to stop criticizing religion, to accept religion's validity in the areas of philosophy and meaning, to accept a certain amount of religious language in government, etc. And it's not enough for them that they do all those things -- they want all the rest of us to do them, too.

Eshu

I'm not sure it's fair to say that religions never compromise. I suspect they just don't admit that they have.

Throughout the centuries it has been secular pressure which has caused religious morals to be modernised. Slavery, racism, treatment of women (I'm an atheist, but I'm pleased we have female clergy in the CoE), ditto homosexuality to some extent.

Yes it's annoying, they always drag their feet on moral reform, but they do reform eventually.

This reform does not come about because someone reads the Bible, conducts a "hermeneutical exegesis" or some such as says, "Hey we've been reading it wrong all these years! In fact God wants us to treat women as having equal worth as men!". No, it happens because being a misogynist becomes socially unacceptable in the secular world in which religions are forced to reside. So more liberal younger generations see the church as uncool, anachronistic and out of touch. The church may then take a pragmatic approach of "reinterpreting" its scriptures to be gradually more progressive (then pretending it was for feminism or whatever all along), rather than face losing membership.

I'm not arguing for accomodationism, but on the issues that actually matter - ethical issues about the treatment of people - religions have always compromised and they must continue to do so in the face of secular moral progress. Perhaps you wouldn't describe that as compromise, because they never admit they were wrong and the change happens at a glacial pace.

Also, this doesn't mean we (atheists) should start saying, "Oh maybe you're right about some of that...". It actually means we should continue pushing moral progress forward and drawing attention to where religious groups are dragging their feet.

J. J. Ramsey

Greta Christina:

Accommodationist atheists aren't telling atheists to be calm, polite, pleasant and so on. They're telling us to stop criticizing religion ...

That depends on which accommodationists you are talking about. It's an incredibly poor description of, for example, blogger John Pieret. Ok, he's an agnostic, not an atheist, but still. Indeed, I find the label "accommodationist" to be misleading, since implies that those who are are labeled such are doing far more accommodating than they are actually doing. Indeed, it is those who are on the front lines in defending public education against creationism who are often labeled accommodationist.

Atheists trying to be accommodationist with Christianity is like Obama trying to be bipartisan with Republicans. You can bend and bend and bend all you like... but they aren't going to bend back. They don't have the slightest interest in compromise. They actively and passionately oppose compromise as a violation of all that is good and right. They are interested in only one thing -- crushing their opponents.

With all due respect, this is bullshit. If you had substituted "fundamentalism" for "Christianity," you'd be closer to correct. However, as it stands, your statement is empirically false. If it were true, there would be no such thing as theistic evolution. Heck, old-earth creationism wouldn't exist. I doubt that the evangelical left would exist either, if what you said were true.

Now to be fair, you did acknowledge that not all Christians are uncompromising--but you still made the overgeneralization about Christianity anyway. Worse, you did it without recognizing that the Christians who are being accommodated are not the ones who could be described as unwilling to bend. Indeed, what accommodationist atheists and agnostics do is make common cause with those religious who have already done some accommodating in order to fight those religious who are not willing to bend. You write as if the "accommodationists" were talking about accommodating fundamentalists, and that's just a straw man.

JL

There seems to be this problem, which I've noticed before, that people don't all agree what "accommodationist" means. I was grateful that Greta clarified what she meant by the term in the comments. But before she did, Heather B clearly had a different idea of what it meant (one that I've heard people use before). And J.J. Ramsey seems to be using a different definition, one that is about alliances against a common enemy rather than conceding ground on issues.

If people are going to argue about accommodationism, and people certainly do, I'd like to see a more standardized understanding of what the word means.

@ Heather B: I do think that the mentality that you're describing (which, as Greta said, is not what she was referring to) has a place other than making a soft landing place for deconverts (though that is also a good place for it). It's also useful for building alliances, when you're talking about the side of the atheist movement that's about working for political rights rather than about convincing people of the rightness of atheism (not to say that people can't be part of both parts). And for doing the negotiating when things have been sufficiently stirred up to the point where negotiation needs to happen (still looking at the political rights side here). Any movement needs both diplomats and firebrands.

J. J. Ramsey

JL: "And J.J. Ramsey seems to be using a different definition, one that is about alliances against a common enemy rather than conceding ground on issues."

That's not so much a definition on my part as it me noting that those who are called "accommodationists," e.g. Eugenie Scott of the NCSE, are the ones making common cause. In fact, the word "accommodationism" came to be used as a substitute for the "Neville Chamberlain School of Evolutionists" after Orac of the blog Respectful Insolence pointed out just how screwed up the Chamberlain analogy was.

Greta Christina
You write as if the "accommodationists" were talking about accommodating fundamentalists, and that's just a straw man.

It's not a strawman. Chris Mooney, for instance, has written at length about the hostility in America towards science, with fundamentalist creationism and intelligent design as one of his main examples... and he lays the blame largely on those mean atheists who are going around criticizing religion.

And take Bruce Ledewitz's "We don't have to take religious language out of government, it's okay to talk about God in government documents and have the Ten Commandments displayed in government buildings and so on" spiel. Who do you think is trying to get religious language into government? It's sure not the United Church of Christ. It's the fundamentalists. And in fact, it's largely the super hard-line "America is a Christian nation and we shouldn't have to separate church and state" fundamentalists. Who are damn well not interested in compromising with atheists and secularists.

I do agree, though, that the word "accommodationist" isn't clearly defined, and we don't all agree on what it means. I thought I'd made clear what I meant by it in the examples I gave... but in the future, I'll try to remember to spell that out more clearly.

J. J. Ramsey

Greta Christina:

Chris Mooney, for instance, has written at length about the hostility in America towards science, with fundamentalist creationism and intelligent design as one of his main examples... and he lays the blame largely on those mean atheists who are going around criticizing religion.

Mooney is criticizing the New Atheists for exacerbating the fundamentalists' pre-existing efforts to corrupt science education by implying a dubious link between science and atheism. Whether he is correct in that criticism is another matter, but that's how he apparently sees it. Mooney is accommodating the Ken Millers and Francis Collinses of the world, not the Ken Hams and Kent Hovinds.

As for Ledewitz, he'd be an interesting example if he were representative, but he isn't, and his bit isn't even related to the controversies on science education that started the whole to-do about "accommodationism." Indeed, Ledewitz is an outlier amongst those labeled "accommodationists," because he is offering a direct concession to the fundamentalists while just about all the others who are called "accommodationists" have been appealing to the moderates and saying, "We'll accept you being religious so long as you be religious like Ken Miller and not Ken Ham, and not cling to beliefs in clear conflict with scientific facts."

WScott
Atheists trying to be accommodationist with Christianity is like Obama trying to be bipartisan with Republicans. You can bend and bend and bend all you like... but they aren't going to bend back.
Other commenters already touched on this, but to continue your analogy - Obama’s bipartisanship isn’t just about hoping Republicans will work with him; it’s also (maybe even mostly) about showing moderate voters that he’s not an inflexible ideologue – and letting the Republicans reveal themselves as such by contrast.

Substitute “Fundamentalists” for Republicans and “moderate believers” for “moderate voters” and this becomes even more crucial, because unlike Congress we don’t live in a world that is roughly-half-atheist and roughly-half-Fundamentalist. We’re 10% of the population at most – we’re not the Democrats, we’re the Green Party. Which means we can’t get anything done without allies. And just as the Greens have been most successful where they’ve been able to work with/through the Democrats, we can’t expect to make any progress if the majority of Non-Fundamentalist-Believers (NFBs?) think atheists are all a bunch of extremist assholes.

We’re never going to convince the Fundies, and there’s no point in wasting effort trying. But by coming across just as strident, dogmatic and non-accommodating as the Fundies, we look just as bad as them – worse, in fact, because people are used to such behavior from Fundies and they’re not used to it from atheists. (And no that’s not fair, but that doesn’t make it any less true.)

Now I’m absolutely not suggesting we stop criticizing religion. I’m suggesting we have to make some allowances for the fact that ~90% of the human race are religious, and they’re not all suddenly going to stop believing just because we tell them they’re stupid. We* need to be a little smarter about picking our battles. We need to stop driving our potential allies into our enemies’ arms. The problem isn’t accommodation – it’s a matter of who we should accommodating.

(* By "we" I'm not talking about you specifically, Greta; your blog is one of the better ones in this regard IMO.)

Bruce Gorton

Posted by: J. J. Ramsey | October 08, 2009 at 07:49 AM

Their entire chapter on the crackergate affair was to castigate PZ Myers not for bringing up science in support of atheism, but for, as a scientist, having views on things other than science.

And for using his blog to state those views.

Their entire argument was basically that scientists as a whole should not engage in activism for anything but science, which is like telling gay scientists they can't join protests for gay rights.

Or liberal scientists that they can't go out and blog for liberal causes.

It is every bit accomodationism, because ultimately it is a call for atheist scientists to shut the hell up.

Oh, and also, why shouldn't we use science to argue for atheism? If there was scientific evidence for God you could damn well expect the religious to use it - and heck we would respect them for it.

Instead we are being told not to use our strongest ammunition, the facts which dispute the religious account? You may as well tell us to shut up.

And another thing, a point that needs to be raised here is that by accomodating the Ken Millers if we disagree with them, then we are acting in a slimey and dishonest manner.

Accomodation is not a matter of being polite, it is a matter of not criticising people when they should be criticised.

It is about not using our best arguments for fear of alienating potential "allies" who quite frankly get alienated the second we simply say we are atheists.

You will note PZ Myers is currently heavily critical of Bill Maher, recent recipient of the Dawkins Award. Why? This is a great ally, well known and well liked, so why be critical? Because Maher's beliefs when it comes to medicine are wrong.

We don't make exceptions amongst ourselves if we disagree on something. Heck I am heavily critical of Hutchinson, and we agree on the need for more diversity in just who the faces of atheism are.

Finally, here is another thing about Mooney's argument, it ultimately says that religious scientific champions are immature children.

That Ken Miller will, because he doesn't like atheists, suddenly turn his back on what is true out of a fit of spite. That, to me, is a far worse insult than to proclaim at the top of your lungs "Take Genesis and bin it."

And a heck of a lot ruder in intent, than anything I have written here.

J. J. Ramsey

Bruce Gorton:

Their entire chapter on the crackergate affair was to castigate PZ Myers not for bringing up science in support of atheism, but for, as a scientist, having views on things other than science.

Not quite. I think the point that they were trying to make is that Myers' activities ended up associating science and anti-theism. They were definitely arguing that Dawkins was doing that, and was doing that on screwy philosophical grounds.

(It also didn't help that Myers came off as feeding stereotypes about atheists. He may have meant his actions to be a protest, but they came off as an attempt to piss off all Catholics just for the fun of pissing them off. Mooney and Kirshenbaum, though, didn't really explore this.)

Also, this isn't just about Mooney. This is also about the NCSE and others who haven't even come close to any sort of call to "shut up."

Oh, and also, why shouldn't we use science to argue for atheism?

Because in practice, it doesn't work. Science can show particular religious beliefs to be false, but religion in general has this way of adjusting itself to accommodate the facts, given enough prodding.

Accomodation is not a matter of being polite, it is a matter of not criticising people when they should be criticised.

That depends entirely on how the accommodation is taking place. One can also accommodate by pointing out that despite the fears of creationists, etc., science is incapable of leading one all the way to atheism, and using that fact to make those who are unlikely to become atheists accept facts that they would otherwise regard as threatening to their beliefs. That's the sort of accommodation that the NCSE offers, and Dawkins was objecting to that sort of accommodation long before Mooney said his piece on the matter.

I see many anti-accommodationists (such as Dawkins or Myers) as roughly similar to those insisting on abstinence-only sex education. The accommodationists are those who acknowledge that people are probably going to be religious, and so they try to steer them towards safer forms of religion, much as a sex educator who teaches teens about condoms and provides ready access to them is accepting that many teens will have sex and is trying to steer them towards safer sex practices. The anti-accommodationists see religion as inherently bad and see the promotion of safer religion as a half-measure that condones religion, much in the same way that those who teach about condoms are regarded as condoning teenage sex. Those who push for abstinence-only sex ed want sex to be dangerous and unhealthy in order to discourage people from doing it. In a similar fashion, I suspect that some of the anti-accommodationists want religion to be more dangerous and crazy, in the hopes that it will be easier for people to be repulsed such religion--hence the attempts to downplay the existence of moderates and the dubious arguments that moderates somehow enable extremists.

You will note PZ Myers is currently heavily critical of Bill Maher, recent recipient of the Dawkins Award.

Are you kidding me? PZ has been downright tepid in his criticism. He's happy to impale a communion wafer to piss off Catholics in a shoddy attempt to demonstrate that nothing should be regarded as sacred, but when disruption might actually do some good, he wants to be civilized. If it weren't for Orac lighting a fire under him, he'd hardly be vocal about the matter at all.

Bruce Gorton
Not quite. I think the point that they were trying to make is that Myers' activities ended up associating science and anti-theism.

It is quite. They argued that Myers series of posts on the crackergate affair harmed scientific literacy - and didn't bring up one iota of evidence to back this. It was purely intended to shut up atheist scientists.

Because in practice, it doesn't work.

So, umm, are you sure about that? Do you have data in order to back your assertion? I seem to remember reading that atheism is on the rise, particularly amongst young people. The Telegraph recently ran an article with a Catholic Bishop lamenting the rise of atheist youth clubs.

Science can show particular religious beliefs to be false, but religion in general has this way of adjusting itself to accommodate the facts, given enough prodding.

And who is actually doing the prodding? Oh yeah, that's us. The sole aim isn't simply to end religion, it is to mitigate the harm religion does. Oh and the more points raised against religion on a factual basis, the harder it gets to adjust to them.

The anti-accommodationists see religion as inherently bad and see the promotion of safer religion as a half-measure that condones religion, much in the same way that those who teach about condoms are regarded as condoning teenage sex.

Actually, that is a straw man argument and you know it. The anti-accomodationist stance, from the start has been to treat religion just like any other idea within the market-place of ideas.

Also it is not a stance held only by atheists, you have religious anti-accomodationists too.

That's the sort of accommodation that the NCSE offers, and Dawkins was objecting to that sort of accommodation long before Mooney said his piece on the matter.

No, actually it wasn't. Dawkins, Myers, Coyne et al were arguing that the NCSE should not engage in theology.

By claiming no conflict the NCSE is making a statement both on science and on religion which isn't always so.

What the "new atheists" propose instead is that the NCSE stay neutral on the accomodationist versus non accomodationist argument and basically stick to science.

Oh, and note before you say I am saying that scientists who don't see the conflict should keep quiet, I am not, I am saying that while individual scientists within the NCSE can say what they like, the NCSE should, as an organisation, not adopt a stance.

Are you kidding me? PZ has been downright tepid in his criticism.

Umm, yeah, riiight. To quote PZ on a certain youtube video he featured on his blog yesterday "Man, you've have got to be utterly nuts to make Bill Frist look good."

And as a parting shot here:

It also didn't help that Myers came off as feeding stereotypes about atheists.

The angry black man stereotype is used to shut up black people who are legitimately angry. The angry feminist gets the same treatment. The angry gay person gets the same treatment.

If we all spent our time worrying about people stereotyping us as "angry" and trying not to "play to the stereotype" homosexuality would still be illegal while women and black people would still be considered second class citizens.

Avoiding the stereotype is bankrupt. It is worrying about what the neighbours will say about our water consumption instead of doing something about the fact that our house is on fire.

J. J. Ramsey

Bruce Gorton:

They argued that Myers series of posts on the crackergate affair harmed scientific literacy

Which is not the same thing as castigating PZ Myers for "having views on things other than science." Mooney and Kirshenbaum at least tried to tie Crackergate to the issue of science literacy, though they didn't do it very well. And as I pointed out, accommodationism is about far more than just Mooney.

I seem to remember reading that atheism is on the rise, particularly amongst young people.

And this has little to do with people trying to use science to promote atheism.

The anti-accomodationist stance, from the start has been to treat religion just like any other idea within the market-place of ideas.

The anti-accomodationist stance has been about painting people who work with religious moderates as fools, pushovers, or cowards. That was especially obvious when "Chamberlain atheists" was used in place of "accommodationist."

you have religious anti-accomodationists too.

Yes, like young-earth creationists.

By claiming no conflict the NCSE is making a statement both on science and on religion which isn't always so.

The NCSE is obviously not saying that various religions can't be in conflicts with science, since it wouldn't even exist if there were no such conflicts.

Umm, yeah, riiight. To quote PZ on a certain youtube video he featured on his blog yesterday "Man, you've have got to be utterly nuts to make Bill Frist look good."

And as I noted earlier, Orac had lit a fire under PZ, and what you mentioned happened after that.

Avoiding the stereotype is bankrupt.

By your reasoning, then, MLK should not have advocated "that we need emulate neither the 'do-nothingism' of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist." He might as well have gone on about motherfucking pigs, since he was going to be painted as an angry black guy anyway.

By your reasoning, if feminists are painted as angry man-haters, they shouldn't spend any effort pointing out that feminism isn't about hating men and that the portrait of "feminazis" offered by Rush Limbaugh is a straw man.

Bruce Gorton
Yes, like young-earth creationists.

And when you get right down to it, honest religious progressives who hold that if science shows Genesis is wrong, well Genesis is wrong.

Deists also tend to be non-accomodationists. As do the "Spiritual but not religious crowd" when you finally corner them on something.

The accomodationist stance is to gloss over this, not to adjust for it.

The anti-accomodationist stance has been about painting people who work with religious moderates as fools, pushovers, or cowards.

Nice strawman. Actually the anti-accomodationist stance is that one doesn't have to swallow all disagreement to work with someone.

We can like Religulous without swallowing Maher's line on vaccines.

We can harshly criticise the latter while still agreeing with the former, accomodationism however, if we applied to Maher would be to keep quiet on the latter in support of the former.

Bruce Gorton
And as I noted earlier, Orac had lit a fire under PZ, and what you mentioned happened after that.

One of my personal heroes was a guy called Koos de la Rey, he was the last Boer general to enter the Boer War and that didn't exactly make his response to the English invasion a tepid one now did it?

Orac lit the fire under PZ Myers, the fire she is burning. PZ did not have to be the first to point it out and that someone convinced PZ of the importance of Maher's views on vaccines doesn't make PZ's response tepid.

I mean frankly you could apply the same reasoning to say the whole Crackergate affair was tepid - PZ had to hear about that student from somebody.

Bruce Gorton
"that we need emulate neither the 'do-nothingism' of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist.

Read the first bit of that quote. That is the accomodationists. The worshippers of do-nothingism.

The people who are so concerned with not being one of those "angry black people" or "angry atheists" that they actually end up doing nothing.

In essence MLK was making my point, just with more of a caveat that one shouldn't strive to be a 2 dimensional cardboard cutout stereotype - we shouldn't let the fear of being identified with a stereotype paralyze us.

And face it we are not saying "Burn down churches." The so-called "New Atheist" movement mostly just calls for public debate and people having enough of a sense of humour to call stupid for what it is.

The biggest protest was to buy advertising space for crying out loud, and what we then put in that advertising space was hardly Malcom X level material.

J. J. Ramsey
That is the accomodationists. The worshippers of do-nothingism.

Yes, those do-nothings who had absolutely nothing to do with the court cases at Dover, or setting up a resource like Talk.Origins. Please.

No, here is an example of accommodationism:

Doesn't evolution contradict religion?

Not always.

This whole to-do over accommodationism started over how to deal with theistic evolution, and specifically, it got started when Dawkins went on about the "Neville Chamberlain School of Evolutionists," who later were renamed "accommodationists" after Orac pointed out what was wrong with the previous label. (See the link in my post dated "October 08, 2009 at 11:39 AM," especially the quote from Larry Moran.) This conflict has flared up every so often, but it's all about the same thing, those horrible people who insist that science doesn't have to conflict with religion. That's no straw man; that's just history.

Bruce Gorton

Posted by: J. J. Ramsey | October 13, 2009 at 02:59 PM

This conflict has flared up every so often, but it's all about the same thing, those horrible people who insist that science doesn't have to conflict with religion.

Actually, those aren't the accomodationists, those are just people I disagree with (Due to the philophical difference between faith and science - the "How do you know that" question.)

The accomodationist argument is that whether science or religion conflict is actually irrelevant, we should ignore conflicts between the two in the name of not scaring off the religious.

Which is pretty much what Mooney concluded in Unscientific America - stop telling people what they don't want to hear.

It is compromising basic honesty in the name of political expediency, and that is what we object to when we talk about accomodationists.

J. J. Ramsey

Bruce Gorton:

Actually, those aren't the accomodationists, those are just people I disagree with

Then you aren't using "accommodationist" in a way that has anything to do with the conflict in question.

Bruce Gorton:

The accomodationist argument is that whether science or religion conflict is actually irrelevant

Um, right, which is why Eugenie Scott is such a prominent example of an accommodationist, because that's been her line of argument. Heck, not even Mooney has made that argument. Again, you aren't using "accommodationist" in a way that has anything to do with the conflict in question.

If you want to see what accommodationism is about from an actual accommodationist, try this: Link

Bruce Gorton

Posted by: J. J. Ramsey | October 14, 2009 at 06:02 AM

You will agree with me that Coyne is pretty anti-accomodationist won't you?

So, lets see what he is actually criticising about accomodationism (With Eugenie Scott as the example seen as you brought her up.)

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/09/08/how-many-ways-of-knowing-are-there/

The NCSE has made a tactical decision that selling evolution is most efficacious if you proclaim — never mind what you really think — that religion and science are compatible, occupying their own magisteria.

That is what we are talking about when we talk accomodationism - it is a matter of tactics rather than what is actually true. You will also note that Coyne points out that:

What is even more distressing is that Scott is an atheist, so for her, at least, there are no supernatural ways of knowing.

And ends off with:

But so long as our allies keep spouting half-truths and untruths about the relationship between science and religion, we’ll keep calling them to task.

That is what we are criticising when we talk about accomodationism - the accomodationists clearly don't believe their own line.

And this is after saying that he supports the NCSE in its fight against creationism.

J. J. Ramsey

Bruce Gorton:

You will agree with me that Coyne is pretty anti-accomodationist won't you?

So, lets see what he is actually criticising about accomodationism

This is the same Jerry Coyne who cited bringing Michael Behe and Paul Nelson onto Bloggingheads as examples of accommodationism, never mind that accommodationists like Eugenie Scott are thoroughly unaccommodating to those two and actively seek to undermine them. In short, Coyne is not exactly the most level-headed person anti-accommodationist and is disposed to building straw men of what the accommodationists are like.

Yes, Coyne points out that "What is even more distressing is that Scott is an atheist, so for her, at least, there are no supernatural ways of knowing." What he doesn't point out--probably because he doesn't know--is that "ways of knowing" is a term of art. An anthropologist (of which Scott is one) may refer, for example, to "Alaska Native Ways of Knowing," but that doesn't mean that he/she thinks that those native ways are reliable ways of knowing. Judging from the Angry Astronomer's blog post of a speech made by Eugenie Scott in 2006 that seems to have covered the same material as the one in Dragon*Con, "ways of knowing" is more or less synonymous with "ways of learning." Furthermore, at least in that earlier 2006 speech, Scott was careful to say that religious "ways of knowing" may be convincing for an individual, but unlike science, they do not transfer well.

In other words, Coyne's complaint about Scott herself not accepting supernatural ways of knowing says more about his understanding of what "ways of knowing" means than it does about Scott. Coyne had second-hand information about her speech at Dragon*Con, and instead of, oh, Googling to try to help compensate for this second-hand understanding, he chose to attack Scott's integrity based on very partial knowledge.

Bruce Gorton

Posted by: J. J. Ramsey | October 15, 2009 at 06:12 AM

Accomodationism is a very common trope amongst supporters of non-overlapping magesteria - which is natural, the accomodationist versus anti-accomodationist argument being essentially whether to adopt NOMA in public whatever one's private feelings about whether it is actually true.

As to Coyne not being the most level headed person on Earth - I could just as easily dismiss your views because you once got banned from PZ's blog for slagging. It is simply ad-hominem, not an argument.

And another thing which needs to be brought up here - credit where it is due.

PZ Myers, Dawkins, Coyne etc have all praised the NCSE's work on the Dover case, and in fact hold that the organisation has done very important work in keeping evolution in science classes while keeping theology out of them.

As I pointed out with the anti-accomodationist stance, we can criticise one thing while still supporting another. We don't have to agree with Maher on medicine to find Religulous funny.

J. J. Ramsey
As to Coyne not being the most level headed person on Earth - I could just as easily dismiss your views because you once got banned from PZ's blog for slagging. It is simply ad-hominem, not an argument.

I cited evidence that Coyne has a poor grasp of what accommodationism even is, which is relevant when you cite him as someone who can elucidate what is wrong with accommodationism. It is certainly more relevant than pointing out that I used PZ's daughter--who call some unnamed swath of theist "retards"--as an example of the kind of strident atheist whose existence PZ denied. Given Coyne's displayed ignorance about accommodationism, why should I treat his words as any sort of support for the claim that "the accomodationist versus anti-accomodationist argument [is] essentially whether to adopt NOMA in public whatever one's private feelings about whether it is actually true."

Furthermore, I pointed out why Coyne's claims about Scott don't pan out, so it isn't as if I simply stuck to attacking his credibility.

Bruce Gorton

Posted by: J. J. Ramsey | October 15, 2009 at 08:06 AM

Actually, Thoughts in a Haystack kind of missed Coyne's point there having just clicked through to the post that he or she is criticising. Coyne wasn't calling Behe or Nelson accomodationists - the charge was lobbed at Bloggingheads.

And it was, it was just a more extreme form of accomodationism than we normally see (Personally I would more describe it with the more derogatory term - "balanced journalism".)

Furthermore, I pointed out why Coyne's claims about Scott don't pan out

No, you didn't. You reinterpreted Scott's words in a manner which you know quite well was contrary to how they were going to be recieved.

Jargon can very easily be used deceptively, where what you are actually saying is the opposite to what you want people to hear.

And Scott was using jargon in that manner, much as a skilled PR person would.

And aside from that, I was using Coyne not to describe accomodationism, but the arguement against it, which is why I typed "You will agree with me that Coyne is pretty anti-accomodationist won't you?"

And which is why it was in direct response to you saying "Then you aren't using "accommodationist" in a way that has anything to do with the conflict in question."

It has everything to do with the conflict in question.

Bruce Gorton

Posted by: J. J. Ramsey | October 15, 2009 at 08:06 AM

And as to whether you having a grudge against PZ Myers is relevant, it is at least as relevant to this arguement as the Coyne argument was.

After all, you are no more an impartial witness in this than Coyne is.

J. J. Ramsey
Coyne wasn't calling Behe or Nelson accomodationists
And the blogger at Thoughts in a Haystack wasn't saying that he was. The point was that accommodationism is about working with the likes of Ken Miller, not about letting Behe and Nelson have their way.
No, you didn't. You reinterpreted Scott's words ...

No, I went and looked for further clues as to what Scott meant. (Well, to be precise, I was trying to find a transcript and stumbled on an account of her earlier 2006 speech.) Coyne should have done as much, seeing as how he was getting his information second-hand from a single source.

I was using Coyne not to describe accomodationism, but the arguement against it

If Coyne can't even describe accommodationists correctly, he has no business arguing against their views.

And as to whether you having a grudge against PZ Myers is relevant ...

Actually, my feelings about PZ Myers are rather mixed. Sometimes he's helpful and insightful, and sometimes he's crass enough that he thinks that a personal ad about Christian woman who has mental illness and hears voices is funny and belongs in the "Department of Redundancy Department." But that really isn't relevant to the argument that Coyne isn't a credible witness as to what accommodationism is.

Bruce Gorton
If Coyne can't even describe accommodationists correctly, he has no business arguing against their views.

In other words "Shut up, that's why."

The description of accomodationists is fairly spot on, if not terribly nice.

But that really isn't relevant to the argument that Coyne isn't a credible witness as to what accommodationism is.

But we aren't really using him as a witness to what accomodationism is - we are using him as a witness to what anti-accomodationism is.

In all honesty accomodationism isn't even really about religion. It is a charge which covers a far wider range, given that it is basically compromising on the truth in order to get along.

Mooney's Pluto argument was for example, accomodationist - rather than keep the term planet meaningful he would have had Pluto maintained as a planet thanks to public opinion. It wasn't a religious argument however.

"Balanced reporting" (The practice of presenting opposite opinions and giving them equal weighting no matter whether one is right and the other wrong) is accomodationism - just applied to how we report the news.

The Democratic Party tends to play accomodationist politics, which is the whole flaw with "bi-partisanship."

When the other side is seriously wondering if your president is a Muslim born of Satan in Kenya who wants to kill your grandma, the value of bi-partisanship kind of goes out the window.

It is part of how we can phrase, say, "Faith" as a "Way of knowing" when what we actually mean is a "way of believing", and an unreliable one at that.

What defines accomodationism is not a specific argument, it is how we censor argument, and the weight we give what we see as non-credible arguments in order to build a false consensus.

J. J. Ramsey

Me:

If Coyne can't even describe accommodationists correctly, he has no business arguing against their views.

Bruce Gorton: "In other words 'Shut up, that's why.'"

Ok, then, by that logic, these are examples of "Shut up, that's why" arguments:

If X can't even describe atheists correctly, he has no business arguing against their views.
If X can't even describe feminists correctly, he has no business arguing against their views.

Please. If someone is ignorant about someone's views, why should one continue to attempt to argue against those views?

At this point, I think I can have a more productive argument with a plank of wood.

Bruce Gorton

Posted by: J. J. Ramsey | October 16, 2009 at 07:31 AM

Well, here is the thing, from where I am standing it looks very much like Coyne is describing accomodationists absolutely accurately - you just don't like the description because it highlights something you aren't comofortable with.

Hence you level charges of him "not being level headed" which doesn't actually say he is wrong. It is the old "Angry" gambit, which we have seen quite a lot lately and doesn't actually impress us.

What is worse you used a link to something where it turns out what he was actually calling accomodationist was Bloggingheads' editorial policy - and you translated this to calling Behe an accomodationist.

You aren't exactly noted for having a level head yourself at this point mate. Yet it is still worth my while to argue with you.

Why? Because you are a human being, you aren't expected to always be cool, calm and collected when arguing about things you care about.

As to why you should pay attention to Coyne? Well its because in the end accomodationism has been the official position of the NCSE for yonks and creationism is still going to court once every five years round-about.

All it will take is a few stupid judges (Which considering Alito thinks the cross isn't a specifically Christian symbol, and a judge recently refused to give a mixed race couple a wedding license - yeah not that farfetched) and creationism will be taught in science classes.

It has popular support, make no mistake this wouldn't be coming up as often as it does if it didn't - and while the accomodationists have been winning court cases they have been failing at putting the case for evolution and against creationism to the public.

The recent rise of the atheist movement on the other hand, along with the rise of strong leftwing political commentary, have demonstrated that in the end honesty is the way to go.

Which means if you see a conflict between religion and science, say so. If you don't, okay, say that too, but stop trying to silence the debate on the grounds that the public won't like it. It just makes it look like you are telling people what they want to hear.

J. J. Ramsey
What is worse you used a link to something where it turns out what he was actually calling accomodationist was Bloggingheads' editorial policy ...

... when an actual accommodationist policy would be more like bringing on Ken Miller or Francis Collins. What Bloggingheads did was stupid, but it had nothing to do with the accommodationism one sees from the likes of the NCSE, which is geared toward fighting people like Behe and Nelson. This is what John Pieret from Thoughts in a Haystack was talking about.

I never said that Coyne was saying that Behe was an accommodationist. I said that he showed that he didn't understand accommodationism.

You aren't exactly noted for having a level head yourself at this point mate.

Says the person who appears to be too incensed to grasp what I and Pieret actually wrote.

while the accomodationists have been winning court cases they have been failing at putting the case for evolution and against creationism to the public.

If you are going to make claims like that, it helps if the evidence actually backs you up. Turns out it isn't quite in your favor. And the notion that the anti-accommodationists have been any better at informing the public about evolution than the accommodationists like the NCSE, NAS, Talk.Origins, etc. is particularly ill-founded.

Bruce Gorton

Posted by: J. J. Ramsey | October 17, 2009 at 06:56 AM

Except that the blog you linked to doesn't mention that at the same time atheism, which is friendly to evolution, has been rising too. The two effects could very well be balancing each other.

... when an actual accommodationist policy would be more like bringing on Ken Miller or Francis Collins.

And as I pointed out earlier, accomodationism is less about a specific arguement than how you weight the respect you give that argument, and whether you choose to gloss over disagreement with it. What Bloggingheads did was still accomodationism - just to a different argument.

Also, Collins isn't an accomodationist so far as I know - he hasn't stated that atheists should hush for fear of annoying the religious.

Says the person who appears to be too incensed to grasp what I and Pieret actually wrote.

Oh, I grasp it perfectly well. I just disagree with you. And again, with the accusations of anger, that sounds an awful lot like projection to me.

J. J. Ramsey

Bruce Gorton:

Except that the blog you linked to doesn't mention that at the same time atheism, which is friendly to evolution, has been rising too. The two effects could very well be balancing each other.

The blog post was pointing out that not only are young people less creationist, but even religious young people--especially Catholics--are less creationist.

What Bloggingheads did was still accomodationism - just to a different argument.

To quote Coyne: "If you pretend that religion has something to say about science, or if you present these two magisteria as coequals ..." Coyne is referring back to NOMA, non-overlapping magisteria--a position often attributed to accommodationists who are anti-creationist. Nor is there any indication that he sees this supposed instance of accommodationism as relating to some "different argument" unrelated to the accommodationism of the NCSE.

Bruce Gorton
Posted by: J. J. Ramsey | October 19, 2009 at 09:17 AM

If you pretend that religion has something to say about science, or if you present these two magisteria as coequals

Which can be rephrased as "if you engage in balanced reporting* or lie to people about how valid their idea is..."

And you would would fall exactly under the same definition as I use.

Jerry Coyne deals primarily with science, as most of the current major atheist figures do, and outside of the atheist scientific community a lot of religious debates centre around whether science and religion conflict with each other.

So accomodationism comes up one heck of a lot in those arguments.

If it was whether religion and poetry conflict with each other you would inevitably find accomodationist poets.

And we would still be talking about the same thing.

(*Balanced reporting (because this is not the definition you are used to): You present two figures as equals when in fact they aren't, in order to present "both sides of the story" never mind if one or both of the sides of the story are completely bonkers. You saw a lot of this when economists and columnists ended up being given equal weight to climate scientists in debates over AGW.)

J. J. Ramsey

You wrote that Coyne might as well have written,

if you engage in balanced reporting [that is, the kind of "he said, she said" balance where two very unequal sides are presented as if they had the same weight, such as scientists vs. denialists] or lie to people about how valid their idea is...

But he didn't, and indeed what you are doing amounts to conflating very different things and labeling them "accommodationism," where the two things are the following:

1) Working with the moderates of a party, category, or whatnot to fight extremists in the same party, category, etc. This is the sort of accommodationism that the NCSE does.

2) Treating denialists and crackpots as if they were as reasonable as those that they oppose. This generally is not called accommodationism, and is very different from what the NCSE does, since they emphatically do not give the creationists equal credence.

Srubna

Religion is nonsense, but the animus against it among the atheists largely derives from the fact that they are Progressives, which is just atheistic Calvinism. The danger posed by religious weirdos is minimal to that posed by Progressive nuts.

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