Larry Moran takes his swings at Chris Mooney here (more on this subject here). It’s more than a little typical of the genre. And while I have no particular position on Mooney, with respect to so-called “accommodationism,” it’s pretty much same ol’, same ol’. A brief sampling follows.
1. “The first thing you have to realize is that atheists do not accept the premise that supernatural beings actually exist. You aren’t going to get anywhere in a discussion with an atheist if you base your arguments on that premise.”
2. “Let’s say you’re a religious person—like those on the panel—and you want to have a productive dialogue with an atheist about whether science and religion are compatible. The first thing you do is admit up front that most religions have beliefs that are in direct conflict with science.”
Religions don’t have beliefs, obviously, and none is monolithic, but these are quibbles, I grant. That said, even though I don’t know about the “most” part, I readily concede that many religious claims are contradicted by science.
3. “The second thing you do is either admit that you hold those beliefs, and therefore your religion is in conflict with science, or that you disavow all those beliefs, in which case your version of non-conflicting religion that’s left needs to be explained.”
I try to limit my beliefs to those which are not manifestly untrue and am willing to rethink and reconsider any which appear contradicted by the facts. How am I doing so far?
4. “At that point you can have a dialogue by describing your remaining religious beliefs and explaining why they don’t conflict with science.”
I’m not opposed to this endeavor, but why must it be limited to Larry’s skepticism of my beliefs? Am I not permitted to be skeptical of his beliefs?
5. “I know lots of serious religious people and I’ve read lots of books and articles by ‘serious’ religious people like Francis Collins, Ken Miller, Keith Ward, and Alister McGrath. I’ve also read a great deal of literature by accommodationists (atheists) like Michael Ruse and Eugenie Scott. My point of view remains the same: aside from strict deism, all other religious viewpoints conflict with science.”
Then either Larry’s reading comprehension skills are very poor or his lack of understanding of some pretty basic concepts is rather breathtaking. If only he would explain how inductive inference morphs into philosophical certainty, he might be on to something! It’s a pretty straightforward question that, at least so far and to my knowledge, no anti-accommodationist has even addressed. But alas….
6. “My question to William Phillips would be based on his description of himself as a Methodist. What are the basic tenets of Methodism that you subscribe to and how are they compatible with science as a way of knowing?”
I don’t claim to know. I claim to believe. In colloquial terms, I know that 2+2=4, that evolution is true, and that President Obama’s approval ratings are falling. I believe that God exists, that limited government is better than the alternatives and that the Beatles are the best rock and roll band of all time. Get the difference?
7. “People believe all kinds of things that play an important role in their lives. If those beliefs provide them with a great deal of comfort then, of course, they are going to be reluctant to abandon them. What does that prove? It proves that we have a lot of work to do if we want people to abandon superstition and base their lives on evidence, rationality, and skepticism.”
I don’t think it proves anything, proof being for logic, math and alcohol, donchaknow. I think that claim is way too strong (not to mention sloppy). And it may just be me, but I think it suggests that unless and until atheists offer something affirmative worth believing in, they’ll have tough sledding. We’re not too far apart on this point, so perhaps some dialogue is possible after all.