A friend draws my attention to “Defenders of the Faith: Scientists who blast religion are hurting their own cause.” by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum (Newsweek, July 14, 2009), in which they warn against new atheist attacks on Francis Collins:
The critics, though, have it exactly backward: the United States needs more scientists like Collins—researchers who show by their prominence and their example that a good scientist can still retain religious beliefs. The stunning irony in the longstanding tension between science and religion in America is that many scientists who merely claim to be defending rationality from religious fundamentalism may actually be turning Americans off to science, doing more harm to their cause than good.
The poster boy for the so-called New Atheist movement today is biologist Richard Dawkins, author of the bestselling book, The God Delusion. He and other New Atheists attack faith without quarter, and insist that science and religion are fundamentally irreconcilable. In the process, they are helping to keep U.S. society polarized over science and likely helping to make it still harder for many religious believers to accept scientific findings in areas like evolution.
This is all well-meaning rot, of course.
The new atheists are making sure that if even a bland, “let’s just saw off the differences” figure like Collins can’t be left in peace, just think what would happen to a Christian who took issues like the importance of human life seriously?
As for evolution: The fundamental unbelievability of many propositions asserted in the name of “evolution” attracts skepticism from growing numbers of intelligent lay people, hundreds of whom have shared their doubts/scoffing with me. Remember, what lay people hear is the big bazooms theory of human evolution and ridiculous hagiography of Darwin. Or the recent “Ida” circus. (Also here and here for more tents in the Ida circus.)
You needn’t know much to know that that stuff just isn’t plausible – “Ida” was savaged even by the popular press, almost the first instance I can recall for an icon of “evolution”.
Evolutionary biologists’ insistence on defending the whole whack makes people wonder – very advisedly, I may say – just how much else they front to the public is either poorly sourced or known to be false.