Ten paces in each direction

What’s Karl Giberson talking about?

He’s saying gnu atheists are wrong to say that religious believers are stuck in the past and unable to change. Then he says there are some religious believers like that, but there are some clueless non-religious people, too. Then he says that some of the religious believers who refuse to accept scientific findings that they don’t like are educated but just don’t want to accept scientific findings for religious reasons.

Oh. So…how is that not what gnu atheists say? How does what Giberson says show that gnu atheists are wrong to say that? Here’s how he explains believers’ reasons for saying no thanks to parts of science:

Mohler is educated and does not hold this belief because of simple ignorance. He is well-read and informed on such things. But he’s inclined, for widely accepted theological reasons, to get his science from the Bible.

Yes…that’s the point. That’s the kind of thing that makes religion not compatible with science – it’s this business of being inclined, for theological reasons, to get your science from the bible, or the koran or the guru or the tv show about a medium. So how are we wrong?

Well because there are other believers, who don’t do what Mohler does – at least not all of it. We’re wrong not to agree that that means they have more in common with us than they have with Mohler. It could be otherwise, Giberson says. Mohler could think they have a lot in common, but he doesn’t; and Coyne could think they have a lot in common, but he doesn’t. Both of them reject the middle ground, and Giberson thinks this is naughty.

Why is it that people on middle ground always seem to be on the “other” team, when this seems far from obvious? In the recent election, by analogy, why were moderate Republicans vilified for being too much like Democrats? Has everyone in the country decided that there is only “us” and “them,” so that “not us” equals “them”? Whether we agree with people in the middle or not, is there not value in acknowledging those who can make connections between disparate points of view?

But who says Giberson is the one who is in the middle? Who says the middle is midway between Albert Mohler and Jerry Coyne? Not I. There are lots of places one can locate the middle, and lots of ways one can locate oneself there and everyone else out on the two Poles of Error. In any case I think most gnu atheists aren’t really very interested in all this political mapmaking. I don’t care whether Mohler is more “extreme” than Giberson or Coyne is more “extreme” than Scott or Rosenau. I don’t have to vote for any of them, nor do I have to campaign for any of them, so I can just judge them all on the merits, not where they fit on some Map of Difference-splitting.

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