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Why Doesn’t the NCSE Have an Atheism Project?

Michael Egnor

Jerry Coyne has an amusing post on the National Center for Science Education’s outreach effort to Christians. Coyne, in a post titled “NSCE Becomes BioLogos,” laments the rigorous efforts of the NCSE’s Faith Project, which is a major outreach program to Christians and other people of faith.
Coyne quotes the NCSE:

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is a not-for-profit, membership organization providing information and resources for schools, parents and concerned citizens working to keep evolution in public school science education. We educate the press and public about the scientific, educational, and legal aspects of the creation and evolution controversy, and supply needed information and advice to defend good science education at local, state, and national levels….The National Center for Science Education is not affiliated with any religious organization or belief. We and our members enthusiastically support the right of every individual to hold, practice, and advocate their beliefs, religious or non-religious. Our members range from devout practitioners of several religions to atheists, with many shades of belief in between. What unites them is a conviction that science and the scientific method, and not any particular religious belief, should determine science curriculum.

Coyne asks, perceptively:

So why does the NCSE, which supports every shade between faith and atheism, have a “Faith Project” but not an “Atheism Project”?

Good question. The NCSE is an odd organization. To begin with, it’s oddly named. It’s not really a national center — it’s a small fringe organization based in Oakland. And it’s hardly promoting science education; its primary activity is to supress critique of Darwin’s theory — that is, to suppress science, which is inherently dialectic, not dogma. “National Center for Selling Evolution” seems a better fit for the acronym.
The NCSE has had a “Faith Project,” so to speak, for quite a while; people of faith have long been the target of NCSE litigation. For several decades, the NCSE has worked feverishly to prevent parents from determining the biology curriculum for their own children in their own schools with their own taxes. Parents who ask that the strengths and weaknesses of Darwin’s theory be taught to their children are dragged to federal court by the NSCE, placed under injunction, and threatened with court-imposed financial ruin of their school districts.
But NCSE censors have come to realize that the increasing public support for balanced teaching of evolution in schools might be related to their own tactics. So some P.R. is in order. The Faith Project is born.
An analogy to the NCSE’s Faith Project would be Michael Vick’s announcement of a Dog Project. Yet Coyne, who is an enthusiastic supporter of the NCSE’s jackboot tactics, is quite annoyed with the NCSE’s Faith Project. Coyne asks; why would the NCSE have a Faith Project, but not an Atheism Project?
Coyne has a point. Evolutionary illiteracy is widespread in America- among atheists no less than Christians. America’s atheists surely could use some remedial education. Philosophical illiteracy, materialist delusion, and coprolalia are endemic in the atheist community. Ask an atheist-in-the-street to define “punctuated equilibrium,” he’ll likely reply that it’s a grammar rule. Ask him about “evolutionary saltation,” he’ll reply that it’s some kind of condiment. “Sexual selection” — he’ll reply that of course he supports gay marriage.
Imagine the inroads that evolutionary education — an Atheism Project — could make among our nation’s atheists. Why is the NCSE so reluctant to address the enormous unmet need for evolution education among atheists, but so anxious to remedy the percieved unmet need for evolution education among Christians?
Sure, NCSE functionaries speak at atheist Secular Humanist conventions. But that’s not really outreach. Eugenie Scott presenting a talk about evolution at a Secular Humanist convention is akin to Archbishop Dolan presenting the homily about Genesis at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Both are public engagement, but neither is outreach, properly understood.
So I’m perplexed. Atheists need just as much science education as theists, yet the NCSE deems them so much less in need of outreach. Don’t they like atheists? Of course, equal-opportunity non-denominational outreach would be appropriate for dissemination of scientific information, but quite inappropriate for… for…a metaphysical marketing scheme.
Actually, I think that I’ve figured out why the NCSE finds no need to reach out to atheists. So to help Dr. Coyne understand why the NCSE needs a Faith Project, but not an Atheism project, I’ll ask these rhetorical questions:
Does the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops need an outreach program to Catholics?
Does the Southern Baptist Convention need an outreach program to southern Baptists?
Does B’nai B’rith need an outreach program to Jews?
For Dr. Coyne, a prominent professor of evolutionary biology, I’ll pose the salient question as a multiple choice question:
Why does the NCSE have a Faith Project but not an Atheism Project?
Choose one:
a) The NCSE deplores atheism.
b) The NCSE considers atheists unimportant.
c) The NCSE is too busy.
d) The NCSE is an organization whose sole purpose is to shield atheism’s creation myth from public scrutiny, and there’s no reason for atheists to reach out to atheists.