Is Peaceful Science carefully (enough) scripting its politicking with the Freedom From Religion Foundation?

What role does the Freedom from Religion Foundation play in the evolution, creation and intelligent design conversation?

I ask for feedback on this here because it would seem that one of the main ‘partnerships’ at what Dr. S. Joshua Swamidass calls ‘Peaceful Science’ (his description is scientistically utopian, but let’s leave that aside), appears to be mainly a politically convenient one between Dr. Swamidass and an atheist named Patrick, who is a representative for the Freedom From Religion Foundation. If was difficult to figure this out because as a non-USAmerican citizen, that organisation is off my national radar.

‘Born Again Skeptic’

Yet, when the official link with FFRF is visible, much makes sense regarding Swamidass’ evangelical-political motivations. Patrick is a self-described “militant atheist” that Dr. Swamidass surprisingly actually encourages in his active atheism for the purposes of the current PS media experiment. For his part, Patrick has reciprocated by showering Dr. Swamidass with effusive praise & glowing, sugary language, such as recently proposing him as a future chair at Oxford University for communicating science. Joshua at the same time allows Patrick to post disparaging things against Christians and other Abrahamic theists on his website as a kind of devil’s pact to keep the conversation moving forward.

It has become clear that this alliance is mainly a political one, in that Joshua is almost 100% USA-focused & aware in his mission (though that doesn’t mean he has non-USA-based dialogue partners, e.g. Vincent J Torley, who will publish his first academic paper soon with Dr. Swamidass, and retired MD Jon Garvey doctoring himself into “Science & Religion Discourse” from Anglican purgatory), thus sharing the national focus of FFRF, which Patrick is ‘representing’ at ‘Peaceful Science.’ In this, Swamidass comes across as highly provincial in his thinking and rather unaware of discussions happening beyond narrow evangelicalism.

So folks, one of the funny things about it – because one needs to have a sense of humour about some of this tragicomic stuff, c’mon! ; ) – is that Swamidass seems to want to promote a ‘peaceful-inside’ like his local St. Louis evangelical megachurch. Yet he has proven to be an incredibly abrasive & control-seeking figure when it comes to ‘peaceful-outside’ (where he rarely ventures, other than having a ‘secular/public’ employer), while also representing a marginal religious community that has historically positioned itself as ‘anti-science.’ Joshua doesn’t seem to recognise, or at least doesn’t seem yet ready to face, the depth of disgrace that his local sectarian church has wrought in what Joshua calls ‘the Creation Wars.’ Until he can own up to the guilt of his own church in the sometimes bloodly history of this topic, Joshua’s destiny will likely be as a man of war in the discussion, not as a man of peace.

Swamidass’ main production outputs are at evangelical forums. We do not even have an example yet of him on a ‘secular’ stage attempting to promote a “Science of Adam.”  Thus, it should not be considered unfair that Joshua is still on the bunny hill and hasn’t actually faced a serious, precise, accurate and fair critique of his ‘Science of Adam’ language. And this is also why just ‘doing good science’ alone (let’s see if he doesn’t go the wayward path of Behe in this…) is not enough, when he has shown himself that an ideologist comes along with the bargain that wants to ‘make famous’ on a topic like genealogy or genetics to the masses. Such natural scientists, who eventually realise the basic limits of their specialised scholarly field, actively seek ‘relevance’ and ‘popularity’ by moving beyond it. Thus, when acquiring institutional power, they realise a desire to ‘become political’ in order to get peoples’ attention (just like Dawkins’ did with now failed miserably memetics). And thus, ‘Peaceful Science’ was born, along with the (pride of the evangelical individualist) “Science of Adam”.

In other words, Swamidass is now taking a primarily political stand at PS, one that aims to usher in a new evangelical attitude towards ‘real genealogical Adam [& Eve, his afterthought]’ while he contends with what he perceives to be injustice and even actual racism perpetuated against him by fellow evangelicals at the BioLogos Foundation, particularly Deborah Haarsma and Dennis Venema, along with Jim Stump. It’s been a crazy period to watch this happening, as if they don’t imagine people are watching them! All that this friendly and welcoming Canadian can say to Joshua: sorry you live in that country because here that kind of racism you are experiencing at the hands of BioLogos (though Venema is also Canadian; Joshua seems to have misinterpreted Dennis’ words & first raised the term ‘racism’ himself) is a much more rare (though of course not non-existent) occurrence.

Dr. Swamidass thus now seems to have made a politically convenient alliance, after having been banished by fellow evangelicals at BioLogos, with Patrick of the FFRF. Together, they are presenting a certain kind of evangelical Protestant (with Patrick allowing this ‘religious frivolity & fantasy’ as his dutiful part of ‘the pact’) scoop dialogue that intentionally pluralises and relativises Adam, rarely speaks about Eve, claims ‘genealogy’ has far more scientificity than it actually does, regularly uplifts science into scientism when discussing human beings, and then, for the cream of the crop, takes on issues of justice with the topic of racialised science. Here we see clear & present political aims at play in almost all of Swamidass’ approach.

And there will also be a fun irony for Joshua’s future legacy, when he changes his tune and starts to respect women more than he currently does. At that time, Joshua will rightfully rename his idea and speak of “Genealogical Adam and Eve” (GAE). And yes, the acronym GAE will help distinguish it from ‘genetic algorithm; Joshua’s idea is actually GAE. The irony is that the ‘militant atheist’ Patrick was the first person to use the term ‘Genealogical Eve’ on Joshua’s site. Joshua obviously has other gender priorities.

Likewise, Joshua’s meaning of ‘human,’ a term he likes to ‘command’ as his own, comes across to this social scientist and humanist as rather ‘uncultured.’ Did they really teach him how to grunt those things he says about people in a natural sciences laboratory? ; ) If so, it goes along now with continued self-glorification of ignorance regarding ideology, especially his own that he denies holding, displaying a grotesque symptom among certain natural scientists who try to popularise (read: imperialise) their ideas that I will gladly discuss here as someone who has been watching scientists closely in professional settings for more than a decade. Joshua is non-scientifically angry with me because I am analytically watching his actions and stand ready to expose any absurdities & contradictions in his race for fame after getting tenure at Washington University. This ‘rising protest star’ displays a shocking turn of events for Christian evangelicals to self-reflect on, as their YECist echo chamber now crumbles around them & ‘accusations of racism’ appear as one of Joshua’s signature carrying cards.

As a sociologist of science, I will be watching these new political developments involving creationists & ‘theistic evolutionists’ in the USA as carefully as possible. From my view in Canada, a nation obviously much more sane and balanced on this topic than his country of birth, Dr. Swamidass seems to revel in posing as an underprivileged, isolated, unjustly treated black sheep in the USA who nevertheless sits pompously, even scientistically (though he’ll emotively deny it) on an Empty Chair. Swamidass seems to want to become an oracle for evangelicalistic Science to recover from IDism; which in the end may indeed Trump ‘fideism’ even in most anti-science radical protestant sects. So, I for one am supporting Joshua’s efforts by writing about them.

Yet sadly, most unfortunately, even in his desire to ‘get back’ at BioLogos and Dennis Venema, Joshua does not appear to possess a clear and convincing enough message to actually become the ‘Fifth Voice’ that he is so loudly proclaiming himself  as being already now. He has taken to self-referencing with the “Swamidass Model”, which seems pretentious to claim such precedent, one that seems like it would utterly fall apart without the special packaging that Joshua is requesting from fellow loyal evangelicals. *ONLY* because Swamidass just got tenure is this attempt at WUSL of course even possible.

As for me, while I carry no personal animosity to Swamidass for promoting study of the origins and processes of life, including human beings, I’m scientifically skeptical of his so-called ‘strictly scientific model’, just as I am ethically skeptical of his political alliance with the FFRF’s Patrick simply in order to give atheism a ‘seat at the table.’ The latter amazingly appears to most recently include Joshua creating special “atheist back channels” for him apparently to manipulate, as one TSZ member experienced there.

I would hope and prefer to maintain a healthy skepticism of this new development and trust that Joshua won’t do things to exacerbate the stubborn incoherence of his current position. My experience with Swamidass at BioLogos was far from positive – all he could do was dig in with his ‘I’m a scientist, so I have/am knowledge’ heels & insist against my line of questioning without ever answering it, based on lack of knowledge & background training – and I can certainly understand why BioLogos pushed him out quickly and as soon as that ego could get out the door with his pretentious “(genealogical) Science of Adam.” Yet it is surely possible for Swamidass to lower his disruptive claims and make a calmer, clearer, more coherent explanation for why an “evangelical Christian alliance with the FFRF” through this tacit agreement between Swamidass and FFRF’s Patrick actually does make sense. If he can actually explain why ‘militant atheism’ is a welcome ideology at Peaceful Science, then perhaps people will be able to better see the contradictions Joshua is now juggling in himself.

Perhaps he will even come back here to a dialogue space he can’t control, in order to be able finally to speak freely about it. But I doubt he’ll wish to take the focus off of himself and his own site, at least until September when school starts again.

16 thoughts on “Is Peaceful Science carefully (enough) scripting its politicking with the Freedom From Religion Foundation?

  1. Is Gregory trying to imitate Alex Jones?

    He seems to see conspiracies everywhere.

    Maybe Swamidass is just someone with opinions and an ego — much like many other humans.

  2. Sadly, “Christian Science” was already taken. Too bad Joshua could not find a home here where we already have “peaceful science” and can discuss questions of origins with out rancor.

  3. Well, that was an effort! Actually Gregory’s breathless puffery reminds me we are in the silly season. All politicians on holiday and nothing for journalists to write about.

  4. Neil Rickert,

    As far as Alex Jones, please note that ‘Wars,’ in case that was the trigger word for you (because otherwise, what a ludicrous comparison so far fetched you’d need a telescope!), is the preferred terminology of S. Joshua Swamidass, not the term I often use in this ‘discourse’ that Joshua certainly doesn’t own.

    He is a self-styled “confessing (read: proselytising) scientist” who has confessed that he only sees “Creation Wars.” With such a polemical view in mind, thus it makes sense that he would propose himself now as an alternative to BioLogos & others as “Peaceful Science.” Ideologically inferior to *ALL* of the so-called other 4 Voices, yet here comes Joshua the Fifth with a message of genealogical peace?

    No, Neil. Joshua Swamidass is WAY closer to Alex Jones (& Bob Jones) than I am. Are you serious? LOL!

  5. Mung: Sadly, “Christian Science” was already taken. Too bad Joshua could not find a home here where we already have “peaceful science” and can discuss questions of origins with out rancor.

    I do feel both sad & bad for Joshua. He is in a highly unenviable place. What disappoints me is that he heaps it upon himself with sloppy thinking & stubbornness, too proud to admit his mistakes; the ones that would require more than a quick MOOC course or a few video tutorials to catch up in actual proficiency of understanding. To techno-rationalist minds like Swamidass’, eventually figuring this out can be life-changing. Some people, however, simply refuse to change and thus bring the challenge upon themselves with people asking publicly for their clarifications that are never ultimately delivered in humility.

  6. Enjoyed your observations of the dialogue going on at Peaceful Science. For the record I am a member of FFRF and a long time supporter of the work of FFRF but I am not a representative of FFRF. There is no official or unofficial alliance between FFRF and Peaceful Science. I am merely a private citizen who is a member of many fine organizations working on social change that science, reason, and technology can bring about.

  7. Patrick Trischitta: I am merely a private citizen who is a member of many fine organizations working on social change that science, reason, and technology can bring about.

    I think it’s people who ought to bring about social change. To that end I find religion particularly effective.

    ETA: Welcome to TSZ.

  8. Mung: I think it’s people who ought to bring about social change. To that end I find religion particularly effective.

    Must admit that, if anything, you’re a funny guy

  9. What a long winded, unreadable, rant against someone.!!
    How hurt feelings can you get?
    The victim I only know from origin blogs and i found him decent, diplomatic, intelligent, and rightly being interested and putting up with unjustified accusations.
    When attacking him, and his sectarian conspiracy, YOU are attacking me and millions upon millions of bible believing christians or good guys everywhere.
    surely the sign of the side that is losing in a fast moving origin revolution.
    I thought this was the age of Aquarius?!

  10. Robert Byers:
    I thought this was the age of Aquarius?!

    Wiki says astrologers don’t agree on that. But I think that for most of us, the phrase “Age of Aquarius” was about a hippie hope, and both the hippies and the hope have long disappeared.

    All we are left with is a great song with amazing bass in the second half.

  11. Patrick Trischitta,

    “There is no official or unofficial alliance between FFRF and Peaceful Science.”

    Right, just alliance between 2 guys; private citizens, so to speak.

    “social change that science, reason, and technology can bring about”

    Yeah, that’s all fine as a trans-evolutionary sociologist hears it. There’s still no need to restrict oneself to reason when a ‘theological/worldview humanism’ offers a more complete alternative.

    Mung: I think it’s people who ought to bring about social change. To that end I find religion particularly effective. / ETA: Welcome to TSZ.

    Are you suggesting politicking does not “bring about social change” effectively? No doubt you really should go to PS instead of remaining here. ; ) I have a theme of interest to raise here, but don’t hold my breath for Lizzie, as uninspiring as she was previously.

    The thing is that Swamidass’ site is repeating the same errors of the ‘4 Voices’ he champions as his forerunners. They’re a clan, Swamidass & his friendly evangelical and fundamentalist ‘creationists’ & ‘evolutionists’ of the theistic variety. And the irony of the whole spectacle is Joshua doesn’t seem to care what his own position actually is (Adam is everywhere!); just that people are having ‘a discussion’ & evangelising protestant congregationalism is taking place.

    We have thus arrived at such a time for pretentiously named ‘Peaceful Science’ to claim 5th Voice status. Meanwhile, the geneticist-MD-evangelist Swamidass calls himself ‘peacemaker.’ This happens only by Swamidass studiously ignoring his own ideological impingement, which he has refused multiple times to discuss in public.

  12. dazz:

    If you want to have a good laugh, check out this cover by a spanish crooner named Raphael

    and no, it’s not a parody, this clown actually takes himself seriously

    Thanks, I agree with your assessment. This guy seems to be a real Spanish music star, at least according to Wiki entry on him. Hopefully his reputation is not built on this song or this grade of performance.

    ETA: deleted a phrase that was meant as being open to interpretation, but on second reading seemed excessively so

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