Writing about the New York Times article The Evangelical Rejection of Reason by Karl Giberson and Randall Stephens has garnered Eric MacDonald the coveted Jerry Coyne Lidless Eye Award which, as you may know, was created to celebrate and recognize exceptional stupidity in writing about the intersection of religion and science.
The premise of Giberson and Stephens article is sound: that the bible and science not only must be reconcilable but that we should attempt, at all costs, a rational reconciliation.
This is obvious. God is not a god of confusion.
There are two groups who join together in opposition to this level-headed approach. Fundamentalists who say that we should never let the bible be dictated by science. And atheists, especially the so-called New Atheists.
The opposition from the first group, the fundies, is obvious.
The second group's opposition?--not so obvious. Shouldn't they welcome Christians who say that science is good? Shouldn't they embrace Christians who say that we may have to modify beliefs in light of science? Should they be pleased with evangelical Christians who say that evolution and not ID or creationism should be taught in schools?
You would think so, if they were rational, but often they are not. Instead they attack this group (pro-science, pro-reason evangelicals) with pit-bull ferocity. In their world, one in which no accommodation is acceptable, the most dangerous Christian is one who appears to be accommodating. Can't have that! So it is not uncommon to read someone like Coyne arguing that we pro-science evangelicals do not know our bible, and the fundamentalist caricature is the true expression of our faith.
But reconciling the bible with science is a good thing. Demonstrating that the bible did not in fact, as was long believed, teach geocentricism--which was spurred on by the overwhelming scientific evidence for heliocentricism--was a good development, not an abandonment. It is not scripture that we modify, but fallible interpretations.
Back to award. MacDonald was vying for it from the start, but he landed it with this whopper:
There is no more scientific basis for the belief in life after death than there is for the outlandish suggestion that humans and dinosaurs once roamed the earth together.
The statement is trivially true. It is the implied equivalence that is monumentally stupid. This can be seen two ways. The first is by substituting other conjectures for which there is no scientific basis (if by basis we mean actual evidence.)
- There is no more scientific basis for the belief in multiple universes than there is for the outlandish suggestion that humans and dinosaurs once roamed the earth together.
- There is no more scientific basis for the belief that the fundamental constituents in nature are cosmic strings (String Theory) than there is for the outlandish suggestion that humans and dinosaurs once roamed the earth together.
The lack of equivalence can also be seen by flipping the sense of the argument:
- There are millions of pieces of evidence (the fossil record) that men and dinosaurs did not walk the earth together.
- There is no piece of evidence that a soul does not survive death.
So clear space on the mantle! Congratulations!