One of my proudest moments:
A religious student in one of my linguistics classes challenged Darwinian evolution as “just a theory.” For a moment I thought I’d try to explain that the theory of evolution is scientific because it could be wrong, whereas Creationism is not scientific because it can never be wrong, but I realized that even if I spent the rest of the hour explaining that conundrum of falsificationism, they’d come away thinking that science is false and Creationism is necessarily true, so I’d not only be digressing from class topic, but it would be counterproductive.
Instead I suggested that the difference between the millions of years of evolution that resulted in the complexity and usefulness of natural language, on the one hand, and on the other, the clumsy strictures of standard languages, are exactly like the difference between god-given perfection and the imperfect creations of the human hand: helicopters, extraordinary as they are, crash; dragonflies don’t. The theory of evolution is the scientific way of explaining what in religion is called the god-given.
Thereafter whenever I mentioned evolution, I’d parenthetically add, “or in the discourse of religion, the god-given.” Not only did this make her happy, it allowed her to appreciate fully the content of the course without further objection. Here were two opposing theories which now seemed to work together, harmoniously, if not perfectly. It was as if theoretical swords had been turned to plowshares. And that is a desirable result overall and in itself.
When Dawkins calls atheists “brights” he does nothing to sway his opponents, he merely insults them. The religious may be irrational, but they are not stupid. And, after all, we are all irrational, no matter how smart: there is no reason to strive to live; there is no reason to enjoy pleasure; there’s no reason to know truth. There’s no questioning first motives or desire or rationalizing them. Dawkins should understand this, since he knows he’s just vehicle for a selfish gene of no final value.
It’s too often forgotten that the Catholic Church promoted science throughout the Middle Ages until the Church became defensive during the Counter-Reformation. The battling between science and religion leads to pseudo-scientific religious theories like ID which, it seems to me, waste everyone’s time. The whole conflict needs a touch of Dao.