02 March, 2006

Is Rationalism Winning?

It seems like every day we hear about yet another religiously motivated assault on science education via attempts to insert mythology or pseudo-science into biology classes. Despite general success to date in quashing such nonsense, with what appears to be an increasing amount of activity on this front supporters of science may begin to despair of ever really winning this battle.

However, despite appearances to the contrary, there may yet be reason to hope. In the context of a discussion about an encounter with a particular creationist, a commenter at A Somewhat Old, But Capacious Handbag notes that the current shift from creationism to "intelligent design" may well signal a recognition from the opponents of rationalism that they have lost the battle on its traditional metaphysical field. By attempting to don the mantle of science, they are acknowledging that their previous attempts to hijack faith as a tool to force their narrow anti-reason ideology on science education have failed miserably. I can't say it better than the commenter, so I'll just quote:
In the past, the biblical literalist was content to argue from a spiritual ivory tower, throwing out the same old arguments from authority and tradition that you see here, but from a foundation of assumed superiority. Their status as theologians raised them above mere scientists like yourself, in their own eyes and, more significantly, in the eyes of the rest of the world.
That the Soapy Sams of the 21st century have to pass their tribal myths off as scientific theory is an indicator of how well rationalists are doing. Their framing of creationism as science is a tacit admission that they cannot fight this battle on their home turf anymore, because people frequently listen to scientists more than theologians.

All the arguments remain the same tiresome fallacies, and scientists are more than equal to shooting them down; the only difference is you're playing at home now, and as the Dover trial showed, you stand a very good chance.
Chin up! You can't win the war overnight, but I think you might have won a few battles you weren't even aware you were fighting.
Whether he's correct or not certainly remains to be seen, but it may indeed be reason for a tad more optimism.

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