Accommodating the Evolution/Creationist Spectrum.
I recently discovered that I am an accommodationist. This is the dirty word atheist use to describe someone who thinks evolution is true, but who is not a member of the atheist religion. The one thing both hard core evolutionists and creationists have in common is their denial of any position in the middle. This is disingenuous as the middle position, termed either accomodationist or theological evolution, is probably where most classify themselves when it comes to attitudes towards evolution.
The spectrum of “belief” in evolution is not as black and white as the extremists would have one believe. At one end are the literal creationists. These people believe as a matter of faith that their creation myth is true. These include the two different stories in Genesis, native American mythology and many others. Intelligent design also begins with the fundemenatalist Christian stance that the Bible is the last word on the matter. Theological evolutionists are those who might only accept parts of the theory of evolution and or have some personal interpretation that does not preclude their God. This can range from those deceived by intelligent design arguments, to those who accept only micro-evolution, to complete acceptance of all the theory of evolution but with a God passively in existence. The other extreme are the athiests who deny the existence of God or any other supernatural beings and take a purely mechanistic view of the world.
It is important to understand two facts about the spectrum of the points of view. First, creationism is not scientific. Creationism requires a leap of faith and is not supported by any logical or scientific arguments or evidence. All of their pseudo–scientific arguments, including intelligent design are easily refuted and wise biologists don’t waste much time on them. Second, you do not have to be an atheist to think evolution is true. The assumption behind science is that there are no supernatural effects. This does not mean there is no God. Science asks, what happens when God or spirits or any other supernatural entities are not having an effect on what you are studying.
showed how the motion of the stars can be explained without God actively moving them. Newton showed how all life including humans could come about without God lifting a finger. The assumption of no God is an unnecessary extra choice that scientists are free to choose or not choose. The caveat is that if there is a God, one must accept that he, she or it is not interfering in anyway with what is being studied in a detectable way. Thus, it takes just as much of a leap of faith to be an atheist does to be a creationist. Agnosticism with understanding of the assumption is the only real objective stance. And don’t be fooled by the argument that science must be right because it explains so much. Science explains everything under its guiding assumption that there are no supernatural effects. Creationists also believe that their system explains everything under their starting assumptions. There is absolutely no difference. Under the scientific world view, any real miracles would either be wrongly explained or will be set aside to be explained later. Science is willingly blind to any acts of God. The strength of science is that it explores all of the power that God might have left to humans. Darwin
Understanding where teachers and students fall on this spectrum is especially important. Teachers must always assume they are facing a classroom consisting of the full spectrum. The important question is how a teacher should maintain their own integrity while teaching the facts and theory of evolution. The goal is to help each student understand as much of the theory as the student’s belief system will allow. Ideally, a good teacher might get a student to question their beliefs, but deliberately trying to change a student’s religious belief to that of the teacher is not an ethical learning objective. If we must respect our students’ religious beliefs then those at the atheist and creationists ends of the spectrum who are trying to convert students are misbehaving. The only ethical and non-faith based stance for teacher is then that of an agnostic accomodationist. Thus neither Dawkins nor Behe should ever be allowed in a classroom to teach evolution.