New Atheism and Science are Incompatible

One of the core arguments of the New Atheist movement insists that science and religion are “incompatible.” Scientists are not supposed to be religious and if anyone truly values science, they are supposed to abandon their religion. The argument is convincing only to New Atheists simply because it is more of a talking point for their anti-religious propaganda than any type of robust argument. In fact, we can tell it’s only a talking point because of the unjustifiably selective nature of the comparison. That is, if science is incompatible with religion, might it not also be incompatible with other forms of human expression?

Jerry Coyne recently wrote a post rationalizing his use of ad hominems and inflammatory language:

You know what? I don’t care a whit about the tone of those statements. This is exactly what is to be expected on websites (not in academic journals, note) in a case that is not purely academic, but political.[….]
The DI’s invective rolls off my back. At one time they—I think it was William Dembski—posted a picture of me next to one of Herman Munster, pointing out the resemblance. They eventually removed it, but it didn’t bother me at all. Satire is one of the weapons in this battle between rationality and superstition.

Sure. In politics, invective and satire have a place. In politics, we seek to change opinions and behavior with the use of invective, satire, and other forms of propaganda. But here’s the thing.

This approach is incompatible with the scientific approach. In science, we change opinions with experimental results. We change opinion with scientific evidence. In trying to understand how the scientific community came to accept the notion that DNA was the genetic material, we need only consider some of the famous experiments that showed this. Invective and satire did not play a role.

Coyne himself recognizes the difference when he writes, “This is exactly what is to be expected on websites (not in academic journals, note) in a case that is not purely academic, but political.”

Websites, not academic journals.

Not purely academic, but political.

In other words, science and politics are incompatible. Science changes opinions with experimental results and politics changes opinions with invective and satire. Science changes opinion by appealing to reason while politics changes opinions by manipulating emotions.

Now, recall that the New Atheists argue that scientists are not supposed to be religious and if anyone truly values science, they are supposed to abandon their religion. The very same logic would also mean that scientists are not supposed to be political and if anyone truly values science, they should abandon all political posturing and activity. Scientists, and all who value science, must become completely apolitical.

Of course, New Atheism, by its very nature, is political. Which means that Gnu Atheism is incompatible with science. Gnu atheists would never admit this given that their movement is purely political and has no commitment to reason.

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11 Responses to New Atheism and Science are Incompatible

  1. TFBW says:

    Gnu atheists would never admit this given that their movement is purely political and has no commitment to reason.

    Or to truth, fact, or evidence — although those things are handy when they happen to support their agenda. Their position means that they must claim to be committed to all those things — adamantly so — but the reality of the matter is that they aren’t at all committed to them: they extol them only to the extent that it coincides with their anti-religious ideology. How often do you see a New Atheist admit to the existence of evidence against anything they believe? In the absence of such an admission, one of two things is true: either the entirety of the evidence is unequivocally supportive of their position, or they selectively deny that things are evidence when those things are not supportive. Such a selective approach to evidence is not reason: it’s rationalisation.

  2. Michael says:

    iblase,

    That was good. Thanks.

  3. Michael says:

    How often do you see a New Atheist admit to the existence of evidence against anything they believe?

    I can’t think of an example. We once had a Gnu here who denied the New Atheists were part of a movement. When I quoted all the Gnu leaders who said they were part of a movement, he denied that evidence and didn’t change his mind. And then there was the recent Gnu who still insists on opposing Collins’ nomination after 4 years have failed to support his opposition.

    In the absence of such an admission, one of two things is true: either the entirety of the evidence is unequivocally supportive of their position, or they selectively deny that things are evidence when those things are not supportive. Such a selective approach to evidence is not reason: it’s rationalisation.

    Well said.

  4. Nate says:

    I’m confused. How exactly is atheism political?

  5. Michael says:

    I’m confused. How exactly is atheism political?

    I’m talking about New Atheism, not atheism.

  6. Nate says:

    What exactly is new atheism? Is it just the newer atheist movement?

  7. Michael says:

    New Atheism is an anti-religious movement. It’s leaders view religion as evil and seek to rid the world of this evil. Atheists who don’t subscribe to this extreme, militant position are attacked as “accomodationists” and “faitheists,” so clearly not all atheists are New Atheists. To put it simply, New Atheism is a modern day hate movement that sells itself as champions of reason and evidence.

  8. Jim Miller says:

    Science is as much a tool in ideological hands as anything else.

  9. Adam Palesch says:

    K, but is not New Atheism itself a religion? It has a definite stance on it’s belief about God and the afterlife, it’s adherents are supposed to believe, act and talk a certain way and they must try convert everyone to their belief system.
    Whether you believe in 1 God, 8 gods, 732 gods or 0 gods… is that not a religious view which that will flavor everything else you look at?

  10. Pingback: New Atheism and Science are Incompatible | A disciple's study

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