I’m not a Darwinian fundamentalist– I don’t think evolution supplants religion– but I understand what motivates alleged Darwinian fundamentalists like Richard Dawkins (though he rebuts the charge): sheer frustration with the intemperance of religious fundamentalists.
I delivered my standard mutual tolerance pitch on this theme in class Friday, making concession after concession to religion. I agreed with William James that religion is a meaning-quest, and as such is among the most important things humans can do… even making full allowance for the residual ungrounded supernaturalism, and frequent absurdity, of the various creeds and dogmas of faith.
But are theistic fundamentalists mollified, do they temporize their hostility to evolutionary theory in the face of such concessions? No. They still spout creationist nonsense, they repeat the confused canard that evolution is “just a theory,” and in the process discover their cozy compatibility with brethren from other traditions. Evolution seems to be the great unifier of Judeo-Christian and Islamic anti-intellectualism.
Yes, it’s a theory… like gravitation is a theory. And like gravitation, it’s true if anything is. Jerry Coyne is not a strict fundamentalist, he does not advocate jihad against religion; but like the barmaid and Carl Sagan, he endorses elementary instruction in critical thinking as the best solution. Ours is a time, yet another time, when the fragile candle-flame of reason and respect for natural reality gutters under the assault of pseudoscience and superstition. Time, again, to exorcise our demons.