In March, I blogged about how the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) usually tries to project a religion-friendly image, but somehow their “talking points” they released for Texas State Board of Education meeting in January advocated that activists press the SBOE to adopt scientism as the state’s official ideology and expressly deny the existence of the supernatural as a matter of state education policy. As the NCSE’s talking points argued: “Science posits that there are no forces outside of nature. Science cannot be neutral on this issue…. All educated people understand there are no forces outside of nature.” Yet in a recent radio interview with the Minnesota Atheists, Eugenie Scott claims that the NCSE “doesn’t take a stand on religious views” [16:40], even though asserting “there are no forces outside of nature” sure sounds like a stance on religious views to me. In the Minnesota Atheists radio interview, Dr. Scott also made other comments that suggest she was taking a stand on certain religious views.
Now before I say any of this, it must be noted that Dr. Scott states upfront in the interview that the NCSE’s “goals are not to promote disbelief” [17:10] but rather that her organization’s “goals are to help people understand evolution and hopefully accept it” [17:20]. She applauds her organization for working with Christians, including evangelical Christians, and when she speaks she regularly discusses examples of Christians who accept evolution. That’s all fine and good–but what does Dr. Scott believe personally about these issues? What happens, in Dr. Scott’s mind, when students do “understand evolution and hopefully accept it”? When asked why evolution is always “under siege,” she states in this interview:
“Evolution is the scientific explanation that has the most repercussions, shall we say, for people’s worldview and religious perspective. Evolution tells you that humans share kinship with all other creatures. For some, that’s a very liberating and exciting idea, and it makes them feel one with nature and it’s empowering and so forth. For others, it’s threatening. If your view is a human exceptionalism kind of view, that humans are separate from nature and special — especially if they are special to God as in some Christian traditions, then evolution is going to be threatening to you.” [48:05-48:50]
Did you catch that? She just stated that evolution is “threatening to you” if you believe that humans “are special to God as in some Christian traditions.”
Of course, Dr. Scott is entitled to her views on the stated incompatibility of certain Christian religious viewpoints with evolution, and she’s also wholly entitled to her self-stated position as a “philosophical naturalist” (Dr. Scott is a signer of the Third Humanist Manifesto). But this doesn’t seem to jive well with her description of her organization’s advocacy goals.
The NCSE may strive to be religion-friendly; and perhaps it is provided you believe in what the famous evolutionary biologist George Gaylord Simpson meant when he said that “evolution and true religion are compatible.” (Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution, pg. 5 (1949), emphasis in original.) Whatever is the case, for the record, the executive director of the nation’s leading pro-evolution activist group has stated that evolution is “threatening” to those who think that humans “are special to God as in some Christian traditions.”