Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Strong" and "Weak" Accomodationism

I was reading a comment from Bruce Hood over at his blog, and in responding to it I think I had a bit of an insight about the so-called "accomodationism" debate. At least in my mind, it helps me to frame why some "accomodationists" don't bother me (e.g. Eugenie Scott, Bruce Hood, and to a certain extent Michael Schermer), but others (e.g. Chris Mooney, etc.) tend to really annoy me.

It could be said that there are two forms of accomodationism: "Weak accomodationism" is an individual decision to take a more conciliatory approach to religion. Those who subscribe to this philosophy will typically not give voice to direct criticisms of religion, and are unlikely to directly point out the flaw in a theists thinking unless that thinking is directly leading to bigotry or anti-scientific attitudes. (Here I distinguish "unscientific" which would be something like a belief that there is a divine being who loves you, vs. "anti-scientific", e.g. Creationism. Unscientific viewpoints cannot or are unlikely to be true from a scientific perspective, but anti-scientific viewpoints specifically challenge well-known scientific facts.)

I have no problem with the "weak accomodationist" viewpoint, and as I have blogged about before, I think the existence of such folks is strategically necessary to effecting social change.

The "strong accomodationist" position, on the other hand, holds that every nontheist should adopt a conciliatory tone. For instance,Mooney and Kershenbaum recently did the point-a-finger-and-laugh routine at Dawkins, alleging that his previous publication of The God Delusion makes it impossible for The Greatest Show on Earth to succeed in its mission. They have expressed quite clearly on numerous occasions that they think Dawkins would be better served if he would extend an olive branch to the religious -- even if that olive branch comes in the form of an out-and-out lie.

I think this is a very important difference here. In the blog comment I linked to at the start of this post, Bruce Hood describes how he chose to avoid the subject of religion as a simple superstition in order to avoid offense; yet he also makes no secret of what he thinks about religious truth propositions, and, importantly, he declines to criticize Dawkins et al for their more strident approach. He gives reasons why he chooses to take the approach he has, but he doesn't proceed to write, "And I really think that mean old Dan Dennett should act that way too!"

1 comment:

  1. On my site too I make the distinction between the truth statements of a faith and their function. I find that helpful. I call myself a "Sympathetic Atheist". I guess we are yet a third kind of accomadationalist. Argghhhh, the keep multiplying. But then, we need someone to set down the word in concrete ! Funny thing about language, that never happens, eh?