Who is making whose life more difficult?

I have one or two more quibbles with Matthew Reisz’s diatribe about atheism and science.

The notion that religion is perniciously simple-minded and locked in an eternal fight with science has been powerfully argued by a number of atheist thinkers, many of them based in the academy, with the charge led by Richard Dawkins in his 2006 best-seller The God Delusion. But what counts as evidence for such a claim?

It’s not really reasonable to give a simplistic version of a “notion” that you claim has been argued by “a number” of people, “many” of whom are academics, and then demand what is the evidence for your own simplistic version of a putative notion that belongs to no one named or quoted or linked. That’s a gotcha rather than a question. In any case, the evidence that various clerics and other religious people have tried to interfere with science is not at all difficult to find; one could start by looking up stem-cell research, or the Texas school board.

Particularly in a society as religious as the US, scientists who are keen to reach out and share their work risk alienating their audience if they are openly contemptuous of religion.

If that’s true, it is some evidence that religion is “locked in an eternal fight with science.” Some scientists are openly contemptuous of religion because the “ways of knowing” of science are so different from those of religion and because scientists cannot count on being free from religious interference. If audiences blackmail scientists by threatening to flounce away in a huff any time scientists are not sufficiently deferential to religion, that is a kind of fight – the kind under discussion in this article, certainly. It is the kind of fight that two different ways of inquiring into the world have when they are incompatible. Historians would have the same fight if religionists were always trying to shut them up or re-write their books for them.

“There is no truth in the idea that being a scientist means being a crusader for atheism, and even many atheist and agnostic scientists are opposed to Richard Dawkins for making their life more difficult,” Giberson adds.

Maybe, but there again, this is a kind of blackmail, and also a self-fulfilling prophecy. Giberson spend a lot of his time writing about atheism and science in such a way as to make the lives of atheist scientists more difficult. He’s always picking fights with atheist scientists (one in particular), and telling them off for not agreeing with religious claims, so he can’t pretend it’s just Richard Dawkins who makes life more difficult for atheist scientists. The fact is, Giberson does that too, and he does it on purpose.

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