This blog's raison d'etre is to pull together disparate sites and views on the accommodation debate. What is the accommodation debate? Put simply, are science and religion compatible? Your answer to this question will go a long way to determining which side of the debate you lie. The side that views science and religion as compatible are somewhat derogatively termed accommodationists. The opposing side anti-accommodationists, or the new atheists. The later term is considered a put down often as it contrasts the so called new atheists with 'old atheists' who were/are considered to be cut from a finer cloth. The differences between new and old atheists is not so much philosophical, after all, if both don't believe in a deity there's not much to quibble about on that head, but political. New atheists are loud and proud and are happy to goad and belittle religious belief and unmerited, in their opinion, deference given it in society. John S. Wilkins, who is one of many internet denizens involved in the accommodation debate prefers to term new atheists as affirmative atheists. This term is not encumbered with the baggage associated with the new atheism sobriquet, but it seems we're stuck with the new atheism. Some so called new atheists have embraced the term and have written books to support new atheism*. New atheism then is more than anti-accommodationism, but on the subject they are roughly co-extensive. However, you'll have to take my word on that.
The accommodation debate does seem to have the air of two groups talking past each other. This seems to lead to exasperation between the opposing parties. The anti-accommodation group argue roughly that science as a means or method of obtaining knowledge about the world based on reason and evidence is incompatible with religion which makes knowledge claims about the world based on revelation, scripture and personal experience that is not subjected, nor could be subjected, to empirical testing. This form of incompatibility has been termed epistemic incompatibility. Epistemology is the theory of knowledge, so epistemic incompatibility is an incompatibility of knowledge claims or methodology. A religious claim may be false, but there would be no way to determine this using religious methods, whereas a false claim in science can be shown to be false using scientific methodology. The accommodationists claim that religion and science are compatible because there are as a matter of fact many religious scientists or many religious people who accept scientific results and still believe in religious claims such as God existing and having a plan for them. This then is not a knowledge claim so much as claim that it is psychologically possible, and often evidenced, that people can find the findings of science and the claims of religion as compatible. This type of compatibility then is psychological compatibility. It is possible then that a person accepts that humans evolved from some common ancestor with all other life on the Earth and still holds that human beings have a special relationship with God and are part of some divine plan for example. The anti-accommodationists have stated that they do not deny psychological accommodation happens or that it is common. Here is why the groups seem to argue past each other. But if the anti-accommodationists accept that psychological accommodation occurs, why then do accommodationists bring up psychological compatibility as a refutation of epistemic incompatibility? In this post I'm not investigating the soundness of the epistemic incompatibility thesis nor contesting the psychological compatibility argument as the latter seems plainly obvious, every person holds views that are irrational or contradictory on some point. Given that the epistemic incompatibility thesis is correct, for the sake of argument, then a refutation of it is what is required. It is not relevant to the case at hand to point to another form of compatibility. That this happens might simply be attachment or loyalty to one's own side, refusal to consider the arguments of the anti-accommodationists, lack of insight into the different forms of compatibility/accommodation, or various other reasons, some less savoury than others.
If you've read this far, you'll no doubt have worked out which side of the debate I lean towards. I've tried to be fair in presenting a simplified version of the debate so that following posts can flesh it out or sharpen up terms and arguments. We all have our biases and I'll try to minimize mine, but I'd be a liar if I claimed I did not have any.
*Victor Stenger for example.