Here’s a recent exchange between me and a well-known journalist:
Dear Mr. Dembski:
I got your email from [snip]. I’m a science writer who has written for the usual suspects: New York Times (book review, op-ed, magazine, week in review), The Atlantic, Discover, Omni, Wall Street Journal, many others. You can google me, but the NY Times and WSJ block search engines, and that’s where most of my journalistic stuff is. . . .
I am not sympathetic to ID or creationism, but I’m thinking of writing a piece–not yet sure for whom–about how silly the neo-Darwinists have become, Dawkins and Dennett come to mind. It seems to me the evolutionists have fielded the wrong team, and despite the recent Dover court decision, have managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
I’m referring to the recent neo “victory” of showing that a belief in God and a belief in evolution are diametrically opposed. I’ve been corresponding with [snip] of late, and he, an agnostic, is pretty upset over this. A religion scholar has told me that the neo view qualifies as religion itself. Even the strictest of strict adaptationists, [snip], has told me he just doesn’t go along with this “evangelical atheism.”
There have been noises made that the neos have gone so far that it may be unconstitional to teach their brand of evolution in the schools, because of a separation of church and state, that the Dover decision could cut both ways.
I know you’ve sent your congratulations to Dawkins, but are you or others planning any moves along the above lines? A legal action perhaps? Or just a move to press Dawkins, Dennett et al. on the above issues, that they are inadvertently pushing evolution as religion? I don’t think they mean to do this; they are just very very philosophically unsophisticated.
Anyway, if this interests you, drop me a note.
Thanks for this note. Are Dennett, Dawkins, Weinberg, et al. pushing neo-Darwinism with religious fervor and using it as a club against traditional religious views? Yes. Can their religious fervor be used to turn the tables on them in the courts? Probably not. [snip], [snip], [snip], and the evolutionary community in general will close up ranks, arguing that Dennett and Dawkins are merely going too far, and that the core scientific claims of neo-Darwinism are religiously neutral. Are they in fact religiously neutral? I would say No. Neo-Darwinism is supposed to render teleology, at least in biology, superfluous. This hardly seems friendly to theism, and many thinkers see it as voiding traditional religion entirely.
As you note, Judge Jones’s decision seems not to be providing the mileage for neo-Darwinists that they might have expected. It seems to me, however, that the issue is not fundamentally legal. Dennett, Dawkins et al. are losing not in the court of law but in the court of public opinion, and that’s where I’m focusing my attentions. For instance, I’m starting a website (www.overwhelmingevidence.com — not yet up and running), modeled on myspace and xanga, to bring high school students together to resist neo-Darwinism and promote intelligent design. They’re the ones who are being disenfranchised by Dover v. Kitzmiller and, insofar as they have religious sensibilities, spat on by Dennett and Dawkins. The contempt of these individuals is quite remarkable, and they seem oblivious to what a turn-off they are to the vast majority of the American public.
All that to say, I think you’re on to something. And you’re not alone: http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/1415. Massimo Pigliucci, one of the signers of this letter and someone I have debated, is as atheistic as Dawkins, but sees that more tact and nuance with religious believers is required. Required for what? To keep the unwashed masses in check. But that means Pigliucci also faces a challenge, namely, to avoid the perception that he is merely throwing a sop to religious believers to keep them off his back. Pigliucci playing nice cop to Dawkins’s bad cop seems to me in the end also a failed strategy — people are not particulary impressed that neo-Darwinism can, with sufficient machinations, be made logically consistent with religion. They’re rather concerned why Johnny no longer goes to church after taking a course in biology.
If you think I’m making this up, consider that when I debated Michael Shermer at the University of Kentucky this year, he remarked that evolution is not antagonistic to religion, to which I replied that he, Michael Shermer, had been an evangelical Christian until being exposed to evolutionary theory. He had no comeback. As a practical sociological phenomenon, religious believers know that evolution is tied to the loss of faith, often having witnessed this first hand. That’s why I’m not convinced that the neo-Darwinists have a better strategy than that of Dawkins and Dennett.