As almost perfect examples of the Ivory Tower Atheism, that I outlined the other day in regards to another thoughtless rant in The Peak, we have Michael De Dora, the executive director of CFI:NY, defending creationists in biology classes, and then philosopher (and kick-ass debater for the UAAA) Massimo Pigliucci stating that tone and respect are trump-cards when dealing with religious claims as opposed to confronting them every once in a while. We also have Phil Plait asking skeptics to step aside be diplomatic. In response to these posts, we have PZ Myers using every bit of rehtoric he can to defend the so-called New Atheist approach (i.e. the rude one).
So, separated by argument thread and then in chronological order, here’s the debate so far (if you have some time, it’s worth the read):
- PZ Myers: Tennessee twit gets brief moment in the limelight of Fox
- Michael De Dora: Should Biology Textbooks Include “Biblical Myth” Language?
- PZ Myers: Witless wanker peddles pablum for CFI
- Ron Lindsay: CFI: Home to Both Atheist Fundamentalists and Religion-Loving Wankers?
- Massimo Pigliucci: PZ Myers is a witless wanker who peddles pablum
- PZ Myers: I shall be no friend to the appeasers
- PZ Myers: I support philosophy; I criticize philosophy
Now I don’t think that either of these arguments are over, and there will always be those in either the “warrior” or “diplomat” class, but it’s worth noting a few things.
First, PZ Myers acknowledges that both will always be needed. No movement that seeks change exists solely of conservative elements, there have to revolutionary and reactionary types. There is no one tactic that will change the world. Environmentalists need Greenpeace for stupid publicity stunts but they also need green economy business-types who invest in tomorrow’s technology. Without the former there would be less awareness of the issues, while without the latter there would be no change.
Next, I wonder to what extent postmodern philosophy has harmed science education in the USA and worldwide. Specifically I mean the sort of ideas that Pigliucci and De Dora talk about epistemological boundaries which prevent teachers from actually teaching. Do we expect students to understand the scientific method if they are continually told we don’t really know anything for sure and that everything we know (scientific or otherwise) is based off the circular logic inherent in inductive reasoning?
Nevertheless, the dispute will continue, and the mudslinging has either only just begun or eventually one side will give up and ignore the other (my money is on PZ never ceasing to respond to his critics).
Update: Adjusted wording.