In the previous posting, we discovered a mystery – Richard Dawkins has teamed up with Lawrence Krauss, a vocal accomodationist, to make a movie about science and religion. Why would Dawkins seek to elevate an accomodationist? Why would Krauss team up with someone who misrepresents science? After all, Krauss said he “totally disagreed” with Dawkins approach, finding it to be “dangerous.” What’s more, Krauss said “it is vitally important not to needlessly offend certain religious sensibilities in one’s writing.” If it’s so “vitally important” to him, why does he help Dawkins with his anti-religious propaganda?
Perhaps Lawrence Krauss has had a change of heart and has become radicalized by the Gnus. Let’s trace his changing position over a relatively short period of time.
In 2005, Krauss writes a letter to the Pope that gets him attention from the NYT and even gets him on TV. Krauss tells the Pope that it is “an affront to science” to insist that evolution implies the non-existence of God and praises the Catholic Church for teaching that science and religion are compatible.
In 2006, he expands on his letter and tells us he has been “arguing that science and religion were compatible.” In fact, he cites very powerful arguments that neuter the “science is incompatible with religion” claim, while also criticizing Dawkins.
In January 2009, Jerry Coyne is peddling his notion that evolution and religion cannot be reconciled. Krauss responded as follows:
There is too much ink spent worrying about this question. Religion is simply irrelevant to science, and whether or not science contradicts religion may be of interest to theologians but it simply doesn’t matter to scientists. What matters are the important questions science is dealing with, from the origin and future of the universe to the origin and future of life.
All this talk about science and religion gives the wrong impression, as it suggests reconciling them or not reconciling them is a big issue… it isn’t. As I once put it to theologians at a meeting at the Vatican: theologians have to listen to scientists, because if they want to try to create a consistent theology (and while I have opinions about whether this is possible, but my opinions about this are neither particularly important nor informed) they at least need to know how the world works. But scientists don’t have to listen to theologians, because it has no effect whatsoever on the scientific process.
But then six months later, Krauss undergoes a radical conversion. He writes an article for the Wall Street Journal that excites Jerry Coyne.
Coyne trumpets it on his blog with an entry entitled “Krauss Attacks Accommodationism In The Wall Street Journal.” And introduces it like this:
In the WSJ — of all places — we find physicist Lawrence Krauss attacking the compatibility of science and faith.
Krauss, the man who wrote the Pope to tell him, “Scientists have been pleased to see a convergence between the views of the Catholic Church and the scientific community on these issues, in particular on the compatibility between the results of scientific investigation and Church theology” four years later tells the readers of the WSJ:
Though the scientific process may be compatible with the vague idea of some relaxed deity who merely established the universe and let it proceed from there, it is in fact rationally incompatible with the detailed tenets of most of the world’s organized religions. As Sam Harris recently wrote in a letter responding to the Nature editorial that called him an “atheist absolutist,” a “reconciliation between science and Christianity would mean squaring physics, chemistry, biology, and a basic understanding of probabilistic reasoning with a raft of patently ridiculous, Iron Age convictions.”
So Krauss has gone from Pope-writing hardcore accomodationist to a Harris-quoting hardcore Gnu in the space of only three years.
People, of course, are free to change their minds. But nowhere in his WSJ article does Krauss talk about his previous letter to the Pope and the fact he was an accomodationist. Krauss never explains why his mind has changed. He never explains what is wrong with the very arguments he made in 2006. He could have told a powerful conversion story but instead he just tossed them away and started to defend and mimic Dawkins et al. From out of nowhere.
This is intriguing because the arguments Krauss made in 2006 defeat his 2009 arguments. He has gone from a position of nuance and intellectual sophistication to a position of fundamentalism.