I rarely set foot in a bookstore, having long ago succumbed to the Amazon.com convenience. But Saturday my son had an urge to buy some comic books — and he had to have them now. He waited semi-patiently, with regular reminders throughout the day of his desire — nay, his urgent need — to go to Barnes & Noble.
“Do you have any money?”
“Yes. I have some money saved up, and a gift card from Christmas that I haven’t used yet.”
So off we went.
While he was browsing the comic book section, I wandered about. I love the atmosphere of bookstores and could spend hours walking through the stacks, occasionally picking up a tome to read the inside cover, check the index, or absorb a page or two. Those of you who have spent time in many modern bookstores, Barnes & Noble no exception, also know that the experience is part bookstore, part sandwich shop, part internet-cafe. The tables were filled with people glancing through books, sipping beverages, tapping on their laptops.
Eventually, by design, I wandered over to the “Science” section. There were the usual science volumes one would expect, including the evolutionary biology tomes. But one item in particular nearly jumped off the shelf: Dawkins’ The God Delusion.
“What the heck?!” I blurted — half incredulous, half laughing — and audibly enough that anyone close enough could have heard. Looking around, a bit embarrassed, I ascertained that no-one had taken notice, so I stood my ground and looked again.
Yep. There it was. Right in the middle of the “Science” section. A book that had nothing whatsoever to do with anything recognizable as science, and everything to do with anti-religious philosophy.
I looked in vain for any design-related books. Nothing from Behe, Wells or Dembski. No Signature in the Cell or Darwin’s Doubt. Hmmmm . . .
So I headed over to the “Religion” section. Didn’t take too long and, sure enough, there on the shelf in the middle of the Religion section sat Signature in the Cell. A book that had everything to do with hard science and nothing to do with religion, unless one fanatically points fingers at the fact that Meyer’s position is consistent with the idea of a creative intelligence, even a God. But the book itself surely did not rely on philosophical and religious arguments. In stark contrast to Dawkins’ delusive tome.
Now I don’t have any idea whether Barnes & Noble actually categorizes The God Delusion and Signature in the Cell as “Science” and “Religion” respectively. If so, then they are clueless and a letter to the appropriate department might be in order. But it could have been an anti-ID employee who took it upon herself to place the books where I saw them on Saturday night. Or even a patron, brimming with philosophical and religious motivation, who ironically moved the religious work to the “Science” stack and the scientific work to the “Religion” stack.
Whatever the case, as I drove home, my son happily reading one of the comic books on his lap, I was reminded of the fact that the debate over evolution and design is still hampered by the hidden (and sometimes, not so hidden) agenda of those who try to frame it as a science-vs-religion debate, and then imply that whatever is produced by ardent evolutionists is “science” and that whatever is produced by design proponents is “religious”. Even in cases when it is blatantly obvious that the opposite is true.