In Defense of Accommodationism: On the Proper Relationship Between Science and Religion

Massimo Pigliucci in The Philosopher's Magazine:

Pigliucci-webMy biology colleague Jerry Coyne has recently published his new book: Faith vs Fact — Why Science and Religion are Incompatible, and my philosophy colleague Russell Blackford has just penned a glowing review of it, entitled “Against accommodationism: How science undermines religion.” I have known Jerry for a long time, and I’m familiar with his writings on the matter, but I have not read the book, so this essay is intended as a response to Blackford and to the general issue of “accommodationism.” Should I have time and stamina I will eventually go back to Faith vs Fact and comment on it directly on a separate occasion.

First: what is accommodationism? Having being accused a number of times of being an accommodationist (a word ominously reminiscent of “collaborationist,” but maybe I’m just paranoid), I think I have a sense of what Blackford, Coyne, and others are reacting to. These authors think that science undermines religion, and that if someone (like me) claims that that is actually not the case (with a huge caveat to come in a minute), then that someone is an accommodationist. And very likely he is also intellectually dishonest, unnecessarily deferential to religion, politically expedient, or all of the above.

Second, notice that accommodationists usually are atheists, because a religious person who accepts scientific findings (as opposed to, say, a fundamentalist creationist) is just that, a religious person who accepts science — like the majority of people on the planet.

Third, it is good to bear in mind that accommodationists readily agree that science directly contradicts (i.e., it is logicallyincompatible with) a number of claims made by a number of religious people (this is the above mentioned huge caveat). If someone believes that the earth is a few thousand years old, say, or that the Grand Canyon was formed during a single flood, they are flatly wrong. You can either be a young earth creationist or someone who accepts the findings of modern science, but not both. The two are utterly, irreducibly incompatible with each other.

Well, then, so what’s left to say on the issue? A lot, as it turns out.

More here.