I have to travel today, but meanwhile, I am preparing my next blog post addressing Dr. Coyne. In it, I hope to draw out what I see as the close connection between Coyne’s philosophical naturalist views and his critiques of Ken Miller–arguing that Coyne’s critiques of Miller’s “science” are actually philosophical in nature.
Note: I realize that some, including Coyne in his latest post, have problematized my general approach to MN/PN, upon which all of this rests (that’s why I presented this material first; there is a method to this particular madness). I will answer those critiques in the next post, to the extent that space and time allows. The reason I think we’re getting somewhere in this debate is that I am now clear on Coyne’s view regarding MN/PN, and can directly respond to it.
And here’s why it matters: I think that if we hold to the methodological naturalist/philosophical naturalist distinction as I have laid it out–and as Pennock does, and as Judge Jones did in the Dover trial–then there is really no reason for a methodological naturalist, a typical scientist, to have any problem with anything Miller says. For after all, Miller accepts the entire body of modern science; indeed, he has few rivals in his robust defenses of science education and the teaching of evolution.
My contention, then, is that only a philosophical naturalist/atheist (or, on the other side of the aisle, a religious fundamentalist) would have any reason to get peeved at Miller–and then, their complaint would really be about theology or philosophy, not about science.
That’s the plan for the next lengthy post; but no matter what I do, I probably can’t defend Miller as well as Miller himself can. So in the meantime, make sure to read everything he has to say in response to Coyne in an extensive, recently posted reply on his website. Certainly, I tend to agree with it. For now I’ll just quote the punch-line:
The record is abundantly clear. I haven’t twisted, compromised, or “accommodated” science to fit religious views. Rather, like others who have made similar arguments, I’m simply pointed out ways in which traditional religious views of nature can accommodate science — not the other way around. Most scientists, even if they reject those religious views, nonetheless understand that this is a logical, honest, and appropriate position for a religious person to take….
The tragedy of Coyne’s argument is the way in which it seeks to enlist science in a frankly philosophical crusade — a campaign to purge science of religionists in the name of doctrinal purity. That campaign will surely fail, but in so doing it may divert those of us who cherish science from a far more urgent task, especially in America today. That is the task of defending scientific rationalism from those who, in the name of religion would subvert it beyond all recognition. In that critical struggle, scientists who are also people of faith are critical allies, and we would do well not to turn those “Ardent Theists” away.
Again, you can read Miller’s entire response here. The “far more urgent task, especially in America today” that he describes is what centrally motivates me in this entire debate.
My latest Science Progress column explores this question, inspired by the recently launched GQ/Geoffrey Beene Rock S.O.S. campaign (“Rock Stars of Science”), on the web here and in glossy portfolio here. (Thanks to Mary Spiro for drawing this to my attention in the first place).
The GQ photo spread, which you should all see–I’ve included one image at right–pairs together researchers with musicians in what turns out to be some seriously intriguing images–but whether they shatter stereotypes of scientists as nerdy and weird (as opposed to reinforcing them), I’m not so sure. As I write:
More than a few folks have noticed that for the first time in years, I’m not at Capitol Hill Oceans Week. Unfortunately, the 2009 meeting overlapped with another commitment in California. The goal at this year’s CHOW is to highlight ‘the inextricable link between the ocean and the economy, and to suggest tangible ways sound ocean policies might impact improvements in our economy.‘
We got our copies early, but look for Unscientific America coming soon to a store near you!