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Submitted by Clive on Sun, 24/01/2010 - 17:50

I've read this book, now, and I agree it's a valuable contribution. Its argument raises some issues for me. Basically, Foster Clark and York (FCY) argue that Intelligent Design is the 'thin end of the wedge' (the phrase of its own theorists) for a project which aims deliberately at destroying Western, secular, materialist, scientific culture, which they hold is responsible for everything bad in the world, and replacing it with (anti-abortion, anti-gay, etc) Christian fundamentalism.

Two basic questions, actually: 1. How big is the threat posed by this movement (to which, on some level, non-Christian fundamentalisms, Islamism etc, are linked; there is a prominent anti-evolution movement in Turkey, for instance, trying to spread its propaganda in Europe); and therefore how politically central is the struggle against it (meaning both the fight to defend the theory of evolution and (?) the attempt to propagate atheism?
2. In the fight against ID/creationism/fundamentalist religion (whether its central or only secondary), who are our allies?

The so-called 'New Atheists' define religion as a key enemy in the world of all forms of progress, and responsible for all manner of terrible things (not only reactionary regimes but also,9/11 (obviously), the conflict in the MIddle East, Ireland, and so on). They argue that you can't fight religious ideologies, that is fight for the scientific method, without drawing out the inevitable conclusion that there is no God. Against them, some scientists argue this is counter-productive, and in defending evolution, for instance, scientists should make common ground with more moderate religious people, and can't do that if you scare them off with the claim that you can only accept evolution if you reject God. There is much heat between these 'factions'.

You can approach it completely differently, as FCY suggest Marx did: arguments about God ('militant atheism') miss the point that religion is the product of an alienated human world, and the real task is not to argue about religion, but to transform that world. (Jerry Coyne, who I link to in the comment above, one of the 'New Atheists' but of a different ideological tinge than, say, Dawkins, comes close to arguing this - though he has just written a whole book called Why Evolution if True).

But then, the whole point of the FCY book is precisely to argue about religion/God, defending materialism against it, and saying this is a pretty important fight. And in any case, isn't part of transforming the world arguing about the nature of it, which includes (though of course is more than just) an argument about supernatural influences?

For sure Dawkins et al can be quite sniffy about why people are religious, reduce complex issues (like the Middle East, say) to merely a matter of religion. But on the actual issues - the arguments about God, science vs revelation - they're right, surely. In this controversy between so-called New Atheists and 'accommodationists' (the ones who don't want to confront religion, or want to side-step the arguments about God), are we (critically, provisionally, etc), on the 'militant' side?

Or - is the stress placed by the New Atheists on the evil of religion misplaced (Sam Harris' The End of Faith' makes the case very forcefully, but ends up with some extremely uncomfortable conclusions, including condemnation of 'Islam' as a whole and the apparent advocacy of torture)? Is our focus different; is this a more secondary question?

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