I don’t know who Paul Wallace is, but I know the kind of person he is. He’s the kind of person that makes sure to shave (with a dull straight-razor) minutes before swimming in the shark tank. He’s the kind of person who makes sure to wear his best red cape before running with the bulls. He’s the kind of person who seeks shelter from a lightning storm by climbing the tallest cell phone tower he can find.
In other words, he’s a moron who invites calamity on himself.
What makes me say this? Because Paul Wallace is the kind of man who creates a top-10 list of religious/science “Peacemakers”… and then publishes it on the internet:
This year has marked, I believe, the beginning of the end of the war between science and religion. Creationism cannot last. The New Atheists are now old (or departed). And between these camps the middle ground continues to expand. Indeed, many folks have been hard at it, doing a new kind of peace work. Some have done it intentionally, some have not. Outliers, both atheist and religious hardliners, continue to wage battle but they look increasingly irrelevant.
Now I was just going to let this one go – after all, if I responded to every piece of idiocy on the internet I’d never get anything else done, and die buried under a flood of unaddressed boneheadedness. I was just going to privately chuckle and maybe post it to Facebook with a couple of snarky comments… but then I followed the “or departed” link. Yep… he went there. Paul has decided to use the death of Christopher Hitchens to boost his article’s credibility. Since he seems to be standing, arms spread, openly inviting the flood of abuse this piece will no doubt earn him, I am going to do my best Hitchens impression (in memoriam) while doing it.
One would have thought that, like written pornographic re-tellings of children’s stories, Mr. Wallace would have elected to keep this detestable piece hidden from public view for him to paw over when given an intimate, solitary moment. He has instead decided to broadcast his complete lack of comprehension. If, by the way, this turns out to be a brilliant bit of satire worthy of Howard Beale, then Mr. Wallace has simultaneously earned both my apologies and admiration for having hoodwinked me so completely. It strains credulity to think that someone could be so deliciously self-unaware as to write something like this in earnest, but when discussing those who would advocate a quisling “peace” between truth and dangerous irrationality it is seldom a sound strategy to underestimate the level of their idiocy.
If one were to attempt to craft such a list without having the expert guidance of Mr. Wallace, I would imagine that one would seek out those who have done the excellent work of exposing the many ways in which the scientific account and the religious one are in strict accordance. However, since such a list would be comprised entirely of discredited pseudoscientists and characters from fiction, I suppose Mr. Wallace’s method of simply selecting candidates at random is the next best alternative:
- Karl Giberson
- Jon Hunstman
- Jon Stewart (because one Jon is simply not enough, it seems)
- Nidhal Guessoum
- Jack Templeton (one shudders at the mention)
- Chris Stedman
- Rachel Held Evans
- All Those People Who Are Not Backing the Ark Park (counting to 10 seems not to be Mr. Wallace’s strongest suit)
- Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama
- Terrence Malick
Now if I were actually Christopher Hitchens, I would be able to regale you with personal anecdotes of dinner conversations with any and/or all of the people on this list. What I will instead do is ask you, gentle reader, to consider the number of people on this list whose name is passing before your eyes for the first time. Surely any “top 10” list should be comprised of people’s whose chief accomplishment is greater than not approving of a theme park, or directing a failed and ponderous movie. Evidently all one needs to do to meet Mr. Wallace’s approval is to not be the craziest Republican on the stage, or to pretend that there is some sort of centrist virtue in simultaneously accepting the evolutionary account and the Biblical account.
And then there’s Chris Stedman. I think that the inclusion of this name tells you really all you need to know about what sort of list this is.
Amazingly, however, Mr. Wallace has decided to publish this eminently dismissable “list” of appeasers and frauds on the internet – home to a rapidly-expanding cohort of atheists who have no interest in forging some sort of false compromise between fact and fiction (although such wording lamentably denigrates the fine art of writing fiction). Mr. Wallace has walked into the home of thousands of active, young and vociferous anti-theists and proclaimed them non-existent. In doing so, he has reinvented himself as a version of Theseus who has defeated the minotaur by simply denying that such a creature is possible. While the fatal goring he will receive for such a bold pronouncement will not be pleasant to watch, it will be just and deserved.
As I noted in my eulogizing of the late Mr. Hitchens, he has left behind a legacy of activists who are not content to let the Paul Wallaces of the world berate them into pledging allegiance to the flag of mediocrity (whose version of The Star Spangled Banner would, no doubt, take two or three verses to chastise both sides for both the rockets’ red glare and the bursting of bombs as a disgraceful show of nationalist partisanship that their kind had long left behind). Mr. Wallace has clearly either forgotten these activists or, more likely, discounts them as “fringe”, which is not the greatest of his sins in writing this execrable little piece, but is certainly among the most ironic.
For those “peacemakers” (which can be read more accurately as “appeasers”) like Mr. Wallace, this is a lengthy exercise in wishful thinking. However, as President Bush failed to learn in his first term, simply announcing “Mission Accomplished” is not a substitute for actually checking to see if your opponent is truly vanquished. Unfortunately for Mr. Wallace and his ilk, those of us who are “New Atheists” are in no position of losing momentum. I would audaciously attempt to speak for the legion of young anti-theists who are working daily to craft a world in which religion is historical and psychological subject matter only when I say that he has egregiously mistaken the fight he is in.
If his stature was greater, I could imagine him appearing on a “top 10 most wrong predictions of 2011” list of some kind. However, it is much more likely that Mr. Wallace’s only shot at immortality will be in the writings of those who mock his ridiculous ideas.
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In the battle between flat-earthers and round-earthers, Wallace celebrates those who call it oval?
More precisely, those who say that both sides have a point and have much to learn from each other in the fine art of shape-describery.
Well, if his point is that neither are correct, then it’s true that the earth is neither round nor flat. But the round earthers are substantially closer to the truth, which he fails to acknowledge.
*clap clap clap*
Most of that list had me going ‘who’? I don’t recognize most of them, and if I have to google them, it kinda ruins the point, doesn’t it?
Oops..it left something out there.
I think you should insert the scene from the Fire Swamp in the Princess Bride: ROUS’s? I don’t think they exist.
You, sir, need a stronger constitution.
I am thoroughly enjoying the spectacle. *dons monocle and beer hat*
Number 1 on Wallace’s list, Karl Giberson, is a physicist who tried to reconcile science and evangelical Christianity. He was run out of the blog he co-founded for not being evangelical enough as well as being too sciency.
If that’s the sort of evidence Wallace has for gnu atheism being on its last legs, he obviously is grasping at straws.
This was my short response… >>>
“What is this “middle ground” between nature and supernature?
Is this some fairy land where Science and Religion “coexist” peacefully??
Science continues to expand what we know about the nature of reality, and theistic explanations continue to contract. Religion has never overturned a scientific principle, and it never will… because it’s nonsense.
Believe what you will. You’re entitled to any opinion you want to hold. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”
I love Jon Stewart! But I don’t know that he talks much about religion at all, so I’m not sure what this guy’s point is. Politically he’s certainly all about everybody just calm the fuck down and work together, but he’s not necessarily saying both sides are equally valid and have an equal number of great ideas.
I’m pretty well acquainted with Paul Wallace on-line, and he is not an idiot. The site where he had the temerity to post – to hear our host here, the den in which Wallace beards the lion – is Religion Dispatches. Complaining about the religious content of an article there, just because it’s “on the internet” is just dumb. Crommunist, you can do better than that.
As a matter of fact, I think a lot of your criticism of the article is spot-on. It is an exercise in wishful thinking. Paul doesn’t see a conflict between his version of religion and science and sincerely wants that POV to win out. What’s hard to take is that he writes as if the bigger problem were anti-religionists pushing science rather than religionists pushing anti-science.
I guess my point is that if you’re active online, you are at least passingly aware of the HUGE community of out atheists who stand in stark opposition to the claims he is making. Using their medium to do so is either incredibly ignorant or obscenely negligent.
I am tempted to use the expression ‘he brought a knife to a gun fight’ but that is not accurate enough. Methinks he brought a toothpick.