who makes the rules?

I’m no expert on the topic of science, atheism and religion. To me, there is much to lament on how both sides can err towards fundamentalism in their own regards. The lack of honest and respectful dialogue is quite sad, really.

I recently came across two good examples of bad (or absent) interaction:

1. The Handy Dandy Evolution Refuter by Robert E. Kofahl.

The preface describes the book as “an ideal reference guide and tool for the new sport of evolution refuting.” While outdated in presentation and content (1980) - I found it in a box of donated books - I fear the tone of this work is alive and well. Any interaction between science and religion gets framed in conflict. One side is right. One side is wrong (and we all know which is the right side to be on!). Automatically we are asked to pick sides. The author make the rules for engagement (a specific Christian worldview) and any opinion that strays from this is seen as less-than-adequate, to put it mildly.

2. Extraordinary Claims Campaign

Promoted through the Centre for Inquiry Canada, the focus of this campaign is to “challenge well-known and widely believed claims by demanding evidence as extraordinary as the claims themselves.” Okay, that’s fine. But what irks me is the lack of historical attention in the method of this inquiry. For instance, they ask, “Why is belief in Bigfoot dismissed as delusional while belief in Allah and Christ is respected and revered? All of these claims are equally extraordinary and demand critical examination.” Would most people agree that all claims religious or otherwise are equal? I’m not so sure. Yet again the rules are set in advance, only this time it’s non-religious inquiry that prevails. All claims at belief are equal, regardless of the historical track-record for these claims.

Both examples illustrate an unwillingness to engage in constructive dialogue. Both sides start with their conclusions, and evaluate alternatives from that perspective. It’s no wonder each side sounds right on their own. They aren’t really engaging in dialogue, only unfair conflict in which they set themselves up to win.

But what if we actually listened to apparent opposing viewpoints? What if we took the time to engage the people we disagree with (and not just “refute” their ideas)? And perhaps this is the scary question for some, but what if we found in our dialogue and increased understanding, that atheist and religious folks actually agreed on some pretty important matters?

Maybe some books would disappear and some websites would go offline.

If so, in my estimation, we’d be better off for it.

For a voice far better equipped to tackle the topic of science, atheism, and religion, I highly recommend my friend Ryan’s blog. He gets it, I think.


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