Someone e-mailed me recently claiming she read that the Darwin-lobbying National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has cut its program in religious-community outreach, along with the director of the program. I asked her where she heard this but received no reply. However I did notice some changes online that might corroborate the claim. Peter Hess (pictured at right) was the NCSE’s “Director, Religious Community Outreach.” He no longer appears on the NCSE’s staff or speakers page, nor among its “blog authors.” See here for NCSE Staff, NCSE Speakers, and NCSE Blog Authors.
There are certainly things I disagree with Peter Hess about, but in our meetings over the years I’ve generally found him affable and cordial. I even gave him a ride to the San Diego airport once when I was a student at UC San Diego. He also offered a keen critique of Cosmos earlier this year for its “anti-religious bias” and “slipshod history of science.” Is that why the NCSE let him go? Or is the NCSE facing financial problems? It seems to have cut a few other staff members as well this year. Or has the NCSE’s new executive director, Ann Reid, caved in to the NCSE’s numerous atheist supporters who dislike its religion-friendly “accomodationist” stance?
Eugenie Scott, NCSE’s longtime executive director until she retired last year, once said that the NCSE tries to showcase religious people who support evolution, thus giving the appearance that God and evolution are compatible:
Finding the people who think ideologically but still accept the science is what we would like to do. Our job at NCSE, at least in global warming and evolution, has been . . . to find the people in intermediate positions who hold those ideological positions, find the conservative Christians who accept evolution, find the Republicans who accept global warming, find the libertarians who accept global warming and say, “See, you don’t need to let ideology get in the way to accept the science.”
The NCSE’s website still hosts material by Hess on science and religion, but his departure will make many atheists very happy. Unless he’s replaced it will make it harder for Scott and Reid et al. to convince people that their organization still wants to be faith-friendly, or that Darwinian evolution really does mix comfortably with religious belief.