I'm not going to blog at great length today, as the real world calls to me ... but this long post by PZ Myers makes telling points.
Let's all agree that Eugenie Scott and company are doing a fantastic job, and that any criticism of them should be constructive. I don't think there's anything destructive in my tone, but it looks as if any criticism at all upsets some people, no matter how carefully and respectfully it is phrased.
The fact is that there is a real temptation for the science organisations to stray from neutrality about issues such as whether science and (orthodox kinds of) religion are compatible. Political expediency tempts them to do that. People like Matt Nisbet encourage them enthusiastically.
Taner Edis has argued very candidly that it's a good thing when science organisations stray from neutrality and tell the noble (and expedient) lie that science and religion are compatible. I respect Taner's view, admire its frankness, and appreciate the difficulty he has in trying to win the sympathies of an Islamic audience when he communicates about science - but see what Jerry Coyne has to say over here about how expedient accommodationism has really been with Christian audiences in America over the past decades:
"As I’ve said before, 25 years of trying to sell evolution by asserting that it’s compatible with faith has had no effect on changing the minds of Americans. The percentage of Americans who accept evolution is about where it was a quarter-century ago — indeed, it’s a bit lower now. The battle to change minds is a stalemate. (In contrast, the evolution side has won repeatedly in court, but you don’t need to push accommodationism to do that. All you need to do is show that creationism or ID is religiously motivated.) I think that widespread acceptance of evolution in America may have to await the de-religionizing of our people, which may take a while. But, as one can see from Europe, it’s not impossible. The winning battle may be the battle against faith."
Disclaimer: I am not confronted by same day-to-day problems that face American science advocates. I'm humbled by that. I live in a relatively irreligious country. It would be arrogant of me to push this issue too hard, without at least acknowledging my opponents' points and the difficulties that they face. And just maybe Taner's position is correct at the end of the day, at least for the circumstances he faces. But even if that is so, it's going to take more honesty from other advocates of "necessary bullshit" before I'm convinced. In any event, I (and Jerry and PZ) are asking for neutrality. We're not asking the NCSE, or any other science body, to attack religion. The NCSE (for example) is not the right organisation to fight a battle against faith, and no one is saying that it is.
On the face of it, you'd think what Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, and I are saying would be pretty reasonable. Why is our position so difficult to understand? Taner Edis gets it, but it seems from all the debate at cross-purposes in the blogosphere that most of our opponents can't get their heads around the simple concept of neutrality.