Kingdom of Priests

An enjoyable internal squabble has been going on in the overlapping New Atheist and Darwinian communities. The intensity level just went up a notch. One faction thinks religious liberals are useful to the cause, scientifically and politically, and should be treated nicely. The other side admits that while sometimes liberals can be useful, providing they accept Darwinism, they nevertheless need to be chastised for their “odious” failure to recognize the incompatibility of science and religion, as believers in atheism see it.

Today Daily Kos blogger Erratic Synapse lashes Discover Magazine blogger Chris Mooney and Barbara Forrest, author of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design. Their offense? Calling for “civility” toward Darwin-believing religious moderates. Mooney had previously attacked biologist Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution Is True, who urges a No More Mr. Nice Guy stance. Writes Coyne: “Professional societies like the National Academy of Sciences…have concluded that to make evolution palatable to Americans, you must show that it is not only consistent with religion, but also no threat to it.” Coyne is particularly annoyed by the folks at the Darwin-defending but religion-appeasing National Center for Science Education, for “compromising the very science they aspire to defend.”
In the 2008 documentary Expelled, atheist Richard Dawkins scathingly makes a similar point about the NCSE and its ilk. “There’s a kind of science defense lobby or an evolution defense lobby, in particular,” Dawkins says. “They are mostly atheists, but they are wanting to — desperately wanting — to be friendly to mainstream, sensible religious people. And the way you do that is to tell them that there’s no incompatibility between science and religion.” 
Dawkins added, “By the way, I’m being a helluva lot more frank and honest in this interview than many people in this field would be.”

Mooney, Forrest, and the NCSE prefer to see the truth — that Darwinian theory indeed poses a threat to any meaningful theistic view — kept hidden under a heavy woolen blanket. Otherwise the word might leak out and alarm winsome and useful Christian allies like Francis Collins and Karl Giberson, of BioLogos and Beliefnet’s Science and the Sacred. Their names come up frequently in the debate. 
The Daily Kos blogger laments, “While religious moderates may accept the theory of evolution and cosmic inflation theory, their means of reconciling their faith with scientific discoveries can still be pretty odious.” He writes of one such theistic evolutionary strategy, associated with Cambridge University’s Simon Conway Morris — “the notion held by some religious moderates that the evolution of homo sapiens was inevitable,” “a claim unsupported by scientific evidence.”
And so on it goes. You can jump in in the middle of the fight, and should do so especially if you are a Darwin-believing religious liberal or moderate who’s curious what the dominant atheist contingent in the Darwin community really thinks of you. To the extent that much of the touching need to reconcile Darwin and God is driven by social and self-image worries, theistic evolutionists may as well throw in the towel. They will never safely secure the esteem of the atheists. 
Where, then, to turn? For a reasoned alternative, start by checking out Faith and Evolution.
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