A few decades ago, Darwinians and creationists had a de facto nonaggression pact: Creationists would let Darwinians reign in biology class, and otherwise Darwinians would leave creationists alone. The deal worked. I went to a public high school in a pretty religious part of the country — south-central Texas — and I don’t remember anyone complaining about sophomores being taught natural selection. It just wasn’t an issue.
A few years ago, such biologists as Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers started violating the nonaggression pact. [Which isn’t to say the violation was wholly unprovoked; see my update below.] I don’t just mean they professed atheism — many Darwinians had long done that; I mean they started proselytizing, ridiculing the faithful, and talking as if religion was an inherently pernicious thing. They not only highlighted the previously subdued tension between Darwinism and creationism but depicted Darwinism as the enemy of religion more broadly.
If the only thing this Darwinian assault did was amp up resistance to teaching evolution in public schools, the damage, though regrettable, would be limited. My fear is that the damage is broader — that fundamentalist Christians, upon being maligned by know-it-all Darwinians, are starting to see secular scientists more broadly as the enemy; Darwinians, climate scientists, and stem cell researchers start to seem like a single, menacing blur.
Meanwhile, some data to keep your eye on: Check out the extreme right of the graph above. Over the past two years, the portion of respondents who don’t believe in evolution has grown by six percentage points. Where did those people come from? The graph suggests they’re people who had previously believed in an evolution guided by God—a group whose size dropped by a corresponding six percentage points. It’s as if people who had previously seen evolution and religion as compatible were told by the new militant Darwinians, “No, you must choose: Which is it, evolution or religion?”—and pretty much all of them chose religion.
Read more. [Image: Gallup]
Fucking New Atheists, man. The worst.
Really, what did they think they would achieve? All the Christians would just be like “oh this smarmy motherfucker is right, I shall transform my relationship with existence because they out-logicked me”? Fuck I hate Dawkins and his whole cabal of cocky little fools.
By calling a proponents of a certain position “the worst” and a “cabal of cocky little fools,” are you not recreating the same problem that this article is trying to address, namely that belittling people isn’t the best way to get them to change their mind?
Furthermore, why is it okay to rail against certain perceived injustices but not others? If, like Dawkins or Hitch, you feel that religion is unjust and hurtful, should you not be allowed to denounce it in the same way that others so thorougly denounce things like racism, sexism, colonialism and capitalism and those who partake in them? You certainly don’t have to agree with everyone, but it seems really hypocritical to tell other people that their cause is less legitimate and their motives less authentic than your own. If you’re not going to embrace antagonism, then you probably shouldn’t claim it’s okay for your tactics to be counter-productive because you’re more right than someone else.
Also, to be fair, this article is pretty thin. It’s difficult to talk about the rise of fundamentalism in America without discussing its deep ties to politics (and exploitation by political parties), or at least mention that people tend to bunker down in times of economic hardship. Given that many Americans probably don’t know who Dawkins is, I would argue that there’s more important factors driving this shift.