Over in the atheist wing of the evolution camp, Eugenie Scott strategized and commiserated with, and sometimes chided, her fellow secular humanists this past weekend on a Minnesota radio program called Atheists Talk. Scott is Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, and a fine person. Atheists are sometimes hostile when faced with evolution criticism, but not Scott. I have opposed her occasionally in debates and discussions and she is always professional and respectful.
Scott's strong diplomacy skills are needed not only in defending evolution (not an easy task). She also needs those skills in dealing with her fellow evolutionists who sometimes want to make war with those of us who don't worship Darwin's god. Scott knows something of the strong theological basis for evolution (I once heard her use the god-of-the-gaps argument as deftly as any theist), and she seeks to use it to evangelize us heretics. If 10,000 clergy can, in short order, be summoned to sign a pro evolution letter, then can't this religious sentiment be harnessed to persuade those who reject evolution?
The NCSE's strategy, therefore, is to remove religious obstacles to evolution. The evolution camp is chocked full of theists, many of whom are more than happy to spread the good word of why theology, properly understood, mandates evolution and not divine creation or intelligent design. And the NCSE understands that religion is too big a force to oppose. So why oppose a giant that can instead be your ally? There are, however, three problems with the NCSE's strategy.
First, the NCSE underestimates religious differences. They are correct that religion is a powerful force, but it is also split into myriad factions whose differences are not easily overcome. In our secular society religious belief is sometimes viewed as more or less unified, but this is far from true. The theological basis for evolution is simply far too alien for many folks. Indeed, it is remarkable how evolutionists confidently make their theological and metaphysical proclamations, without justification, as though they are obviously and undeniably true.
Second, the NCSE underestimates the scientific obstacles to evolution. Those who worship Darwin's god don't mind, but others do. The NCSE is asking folks to consider an alien theology that mandates a theory that fails scientifically. That strategy will not go far.
Finally, the NCSE underestimates the transparency of its motives. Evolutionists are driven by their theology and metaphysics to claim that we must accept a silly theory as fact. And all of this is obvious. Evolutionists aren't fooling anyone. Take the atheist wing as an example. The atheist's motives are painfully obvious for all to see. When they ignore fundamental scientific problems and declare evolution to be a fact, it is not because they know something we don't. It is because they have no choice. Atheism is compatible with evolution, period. Evolution made atheism respectable, and atheists cannot let it go.
When atheists strategize about evolution it is yet another example of how religion drives science.