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Bleg for feedback

Ok… I’m not taking the day all the way off today. I’m going to ask for some feedback. This Sunday, I’m to be leading the religious education group for teens at church. We have a great curriculum this year, but no lesson plan for this Sunday. I’m supposed to bring my own topic.

I mulled it over for a few days and kind of half-way settled on a controversial current topic. Are supernaturalistic religion and science at complete loggerheads – are they irreconcilable? This is a topic I’ve brought up here more than once in the past. The general name for the debate is “Accommodationism”, and I have mostly taken the side of the Accommodationists despite not feeling that supernaturalism adds any quality to religion… despite feeling that religion has the capacity to be good only insofar as it isn’t dragged down by supernaturalism.

So, anyway… one of the big names contesting the other side of the battle is Jerry Coyne, a biologist at the University of Chicago. Another is the lovable curmudgeon, Ophelia Benson at the peerless blog “Butterflies and Wheels”. I have fired a round into a comment thread answering both him and her in response to this post. They feel that they are mischaracterized by the accommodationist NCSE (a science advocacy group primarily interested in combating religiously-inspired attacks on science in the public school setting) as conflating all religion with fundamentalist literalism:

[Jerry Coyne] Comment: I weep for the NCSE if this kind of idea is running the railroad. We atheists don’t give a tinker’s dam about what the true form of religion might be, because we don’t think there is one! Nor do we have one. We don’t worship Darwin, nor think that he’s infallible. Is this part of a strategy to marginalize atheists along with Biblical fundamentalists?

Then…

[Ophelia Benson] This strawman appears everywhere – from Terry Eagleton to Karen Armstrong to the local bishop. But we don’t insist ‘that literalism is the true form of religion’ – we insist that most believers believe in a personal God who interferes in the world and answers prayers and not in ‘the ground of all being’ or a ’sign that points to that which transcends all whatnots’ or any other gassy abstraction. We insist that because it’s true.

And… my response to both:

Yeah… it seems to us that you open yourself to the charge by concurrently insisting that science and especially evolution are irreconcilable with religion – which is really only true when religion makes hard claims that are known scientifically to be false. That is only the case with fundamentalist/literalistic readings of scripture. That isn’t actually true of the more general cases that you criticize for not using the scientific approach to establish their beliefs.

Maybe if your criticisms were more transparent and less high-handed, your views would be better understood by critics, sympathizers, and the general public.

For instance, you could say that you do not believe there is any special conflict between evolution and religion as understood by non-literalists, but that you feel that the methods of faith generally are opposed to the methods of science. That probably communicates your viewpoint more clearly and more accurately than nebulous and grandiose statements such as “religion and science are IRRECONCILABLE”.

Now… for the bleg….

I obviously hold my own position in this debate strongly. Given the nature of the class, do I risk unfairly characterizing the other side of the debate if I should share this controversy with them? Is there a good method of presenting it that will help them to take their own informed position on these issues without drilling my personal perspective into their heads? Should I present the topic at all? Am I right or wrong in my thinking?

13 comments to Bleg for feedback

  • Matt Penfold

    Church ?

    You claim to be an atheist.

    Still, to answer you question, I would suggest you don’t bother. No matter what you teach you are likely to come across as a smug self-satisfied wanker who plays solopsistic games. I doubt anyone could learn much from you.

  • It’s not been my experience that no one can learn from me. I have had some experience today with a fellow who appears to be very unwilling to learn… But I’ve got some really sharp kids in my class, and they tend not to come with some ideological axe to grind that is so enormous that they are unwilling even to consider new information if they fear it may take their attention away from their hobby horse.

  • Matt Penfold

    I have had some experience today with a fellow who appears to be very unwilling to learn

    As that person in question I would still contend you cannot teach. You also lack honesty and back track on what you have said.

    Still, I now recall you from around scienceblogs. You were an idiot then, and time has not helped you.

  • jadarm

    Good questions above…all of them.

    I only have one more to add.

    Teens?

  • jadarm

    As that person in question I would still contend you cannot teach. You also lack honesty and back track on what you have said.
    Still, I now recall you from around scienceblogs. You were an idiot then, and time has not helped you.

    ….and as for you, …well, I guess we are all glad to have someone like you around to show us all of our faults. Thank you so much. Wherever would we be without people such as yourself?

  • Matt Penfold

    ….and as for you, …well, I guess we are all glad to have someone like you around to show us all of our faults. Thank you so much. Wherever would we be without people such as yourself?</blockquote

    No idea. Do your own homework.

  • jadarm

    Please be advised Mr. Matt Penfold Silversleeves….that idiots too are allowed and welcomed here.

    Welcome aboard sir!

    :)

  • Hah! Yep … this is a whole different ship of fools over here. We even let Robert T. Nash stick his racist nose in over here from time to time. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is the pearls & which is the swine.

  • By all means share the controversy and present the topic. The kids are smart. They can think for themselves.

    It has always puzzled me why religion and science have to be at “loggerheads”.

    I have always been under the impression that most of the great scientists of old were “religious” in that they believed in God. That is not saying they were Christian fundamentalists.

    In my mind science and religion both deal in mysterys. Religion acknowledges them and science tries to figure them out.

    I don’t understand why there has to be so much poo-flinging. Hell man, we are all in this together.

    My philosophy on belief has always been, “believe what you want to. Everybody else does.”

  • Yeah… I agree…. these are extremely smart kids… I wish I had half their brains. I’m going to go for it.

  • I saw a lot of tired eyes, but no one fell asleep. Very kind of them!

  • RW

    Folks like Matt Penfold remind me of one of the (many) reasons why I’ll never go back to blogging again.

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