New Atheism and Science are Incompatible
Shadow To Light
One of the core arguments of the New Atheist movement insists that science and religion are “incompatible.” Scientists are not supposed to be religious and if anyone truly values science, they are supposed to abandon their religion. The argument is convincing only to New Atheists simply because it is more of a talking point for their anti-religious propaganda than any type of robust argument. In fact, we can tell it’s only a talking point because of the unjustifiably selective nature of the comparison. That is, if science is incompatible with religion, might it not also be incompatible with other forms of human expression?
Jerry Coyne recently wrote a post rationalizing his use of ad hominems and inflammatory language:
You know what? I don’t care a whit about the tone of those statements. This is exactly what is to be expected on websites (not in academic journals, note) in a case that is not purely academic, but political.[….]
The DI’s invective rolls off my back. At one time they—I think it was William Dembski—posted a picture of me next to one of Herman Munster, pointing out the resemblance. They eventually removed it, but it didn’t bother me at all. Satire is one of the weapons in this battle between rationality and superstition.
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Sure. In politics, invective and satire have a place. In politics, we seek to change opinions and behavior with the use of invective, satire, and other forms of propaganda. But here’s the thing.
This approach is incompatible with the scientific approach. In science, we change opinions with experimental results. We change opinion with scientific evidence. In trying to understand how the scientific community came to accept the notion that DNA was the genetic material, we need only consider some of the famous experiments that showed this. Invective and satire did not play a role.
Coyne himself recognizes the difference…
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