When it comes to the science-religion debate, one thing that has both stunned and also intrigued me is how people who are my intellectual allies on the vast majority of matters can somehow become inexplicably livid with me over this one single area of disagreement. For instance, look what atheist Austin Cline has to say, in a post entitled “Chris Mooney Has Abandoned Science, Reason, Logic”:
Chris Mooney presents himself as someone who promotes science and science education. He’s even written a couple of books on the matter, but I’ve concluded that it would be a grave mistake for anyone to even consider looking to Chris Mooney for information or education about science. In his efforts to come up with reasons for why atheists are bad, bad people for daring to criticize religion, Mooney has revealed that he must not really know anything about science or how science works.
There’s a lot more, and it gets worse:
Chris Mooney is not a defender of science per se. Chris Mooney is a defender of an ideological agenda which may at times coincide with the goals of science, but which at other times is antithetical to science. Chris Mooney is a defender of an ideological agenda which is clearly contrary to some of basic intellectual and ethical values which underlie science, reason, and the Enlightenment — all for the apparent sake of protecting a particular class of religious believer from ever having to see or hear criticisms of their religious beliefs. It’s pathetic.
What I think I find most telling about all this is the fact that if Chris Mooney were to take any of his ideas or principles seriously, he would have to apply them to his own treatment of atheists. His insistence at behaving towards atheists in exactly the manner he argues atheists shouldn’t be behaving towards theists communicates not only his own pervasive hypocrisy, but also the fact that everything he’s saying is being said in pursuit of an ideological agenda rather than due to principle or sincere belief. A person who will say or argue anything, no matter how baseless, contradictory, or hypocritical for the sake of an ideological agenda is not a person who can be trusted and is certainly not any sort of ally.
I encourage you to read Cline’s whole post.
I’m saddened by it, but I also think it speaks volumes about the extreme polarization and radicalization that has occurred around the science-religion issue, even among–no, especially among–a relatively small group of people whose political views are almost indistinguishable. It is noteworthy, for instance, that although I’ve been attacked many times by right wingers, never have those attacks been remotely as nasty as the ones I’ve experienced from fellow atheists, with whom I share 99 percent of my intellectual DNA.
How to explain this phenomenon? When in doubt, I often open the Bible of Monty Python, and in this case I find a parable called the “People’s Front of Judea” vs the “Judean People’s Front.” Let us watch:
I can tell you this much: If we waste our limited energy and resources on the narcissism of petty differences, we won’t have the strength left to forge a better, more scientifically literate country. And that would be a wholesale failure to pass on the troubled Enlightenment legacy that we so value.