Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yes, but Why Do They Have to Be Evolutionary Biologists?

NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty has a piece on the problems that the new atheism is creating. Witness this:

Last month, atheists marked Blasphemy Day at gatherings around the world, and celebrated the freedom to denigrate and insult religion.

Some offered to trade pornography for Bibles. Others de-baptized people with hair dryers. And in Washington, D.C., an art exhibit opened that shows, among other paintings, one entitled Divine Wine, where Jesus, on the cross, has blood flowing from his wound into a wine bottle.

Another, Jesus Paints His Nails, shows an effeminate Jesus after the crucifixion, applying polish to the nails that attach his hands to the cross.

How juvenile. That is the problem that some atheists are having with the movement and where it is going. The article continues:
"I wouldn't want this on my wall," says Stuart Jordan, an atheist who advises the evidence-based group Center for Inquiry on policy issues. The Center for Inquiry hosted the art show.

Jordan says the exhibit created a firestorm from offended believers, and he can understand why. But, he says, the controversy over this exhibit goes way beyond Blasphemy Day. It's about the future of the atheist movement — and whether to adopt the "new atheist" approach — a more aggressive, often belittling posture toward religious believers.
One of the problems that I see is that many of these atheists are being led by people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and P.Z. Myers, two of which are influential evolutionary biologists. This becomes the public face of evolution, not the people like Francis Collins, Francisco Ayala, Kenneth Miller (who is a tad adversarial, himself) and others.

Okay, here's where I get into trouble. I look at people like Myers, Dawkins and Hitchens and can see why they have said "enough is enough!" They see Christianity not as the "love the Lord your God with all your heart, World Vision, Mother Theresa, feed the homeless, Sermon on the Mount, and care for the needy" entity that it should be and often is. They see it as (As Michael Dowd would say) the "flat-earth religion of scientifically illiterate school boards and conservative politicians, the purveyors of bad home school education, and the uneducated masses"; something to be done away with. I still think that they are wrong to do this and I pray that some of them will come to know the Lord, but the reaction was predictable.

As I said in another post, though, what this does is entrench Christians in their beliefs and they turn and focus their anger on the one thing they can see: evolution. This is where Steve Martin's Evangelical Statement on Evolution becomes absolutely essential. Somehow, the word has to get out that there are scientists out there for whom Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers do not speak.

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  1. Atheists arguing over what's good and bad...interesting!

  2. Amy, I think your average atheist would argue that there are evolutionarily directed behaviors that exist for the benefit of the species as a whole, such as altruism, kindness and so on. It is simply "right" to behave in these ways. I might be mischaracterizing it (never having been an atheist) but I think that is the thought construct.

  3. Maybe an average atheist, but it seems that there is a backlash against offensive atheism within the atheist community.

    Nathan Black in The Christian Post (Oct 20, 2009) stated:
    " "A million New Yorkers are good without God," according to one atheist group...Those words will be plastered in a dozen subway stations in the most populous city in the country beginning next week...The United Coalition of Reason says the New York ad campaign is intended to reach out to nontheists and let them know that they are not alone. At the same time, the organization wants to break stereotypes and let the public know that atheists are good people too."

    This is a far cry from Dawkins' famous statement in River Out of Eden that the universe has "no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference."