I saw this headline—“Must science declare a holy war on religion?”—in the Los Angeles Times and I knew before looking at the byline for this op-ed that it had been written by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum. The two write The Intersection blog for Discover and have a forthcoming book that argues that The New Atheists have gotten their rhetoric and strategy all wrong.
“Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future” is not a defense of God but instead an attack on the decision by atheist activists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris to declare war on God.
Mooney and Kirshenbaum wrote in the LA Times:
The United States does not boast a very healthy relationship between its scientific community and its citizenry. The statistics on public scientific illiteracy are notorious—and they’re at their worst on contentious, politicized issues such as climate change and the teaching of evolution. About 46% of Americans in polls agree with this stunning statement: “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”
In this context, the New Atheists have chosen their course: confrontation. And groups like the NCSE have chosen the opposite route: Work with all who support the teaching of evolution regardless of their beliefs, and attempt to sway those who are uncertain but perhaps convincible.
Despite the resultant bitterness, however, there is at least one figure both sides respect—the man who started it all: Charles Darwin. What would he have done in this situation?
It turns out that late in life, when an atheist author asked permission to dedicate a book to Darwin, the great scientist wrote back his apologies and declined. For as Darwin put it, “Though I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against Christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science.”
Darwin and Dawkins differ by much more than a few letters, then—something the New Atheists ought to deeply consider.
What would Darwin do? Yeah, I spotted it too.
Interesting. Anyway, you can read the rest here.
The Dicky Dawkins rap is after the jump: