Chris Mooney has now explained his current thinking about the accommodationism debate and the proprieties of writing and publishing over on his blog. I have great difficulty seeing this latest as simply an explanation, rather than a change of mind, but whatever. I do thank him for his trouble. I posted a long response which I thought was measured and civil, but I still see some of Chris's commenters attacking it as though it is extreme. I've also received comments (not on this blog itself) to the effect that my careful post yesterday was some kind of reprehensible "absolutism".
That's part of the problem with this accommodationism debate. If anyone merely wants to engage in civil debate in which they criticise religious doctrines, organisations, and leaders, at least some participants in the debate will characterise them as "strident", absolutists, etc. Not only is Richard Dawkins supposedly strident, etc., now even I am, despite the fact that most of what I write is very mild and heavily qualified. I say "most" because I do, admittedly, think, and say bluntly, that much distinctively religious morality is miserable and irrational. I also think that denunciation, mockery, and satire have their place.
But it should also been kept in mind that I frequently make the point that I have no real problem with genuinely moderate or liberal religious people. Many of those people are my political allies, and I count some of them as friends.
I should add, that I see absolutely no evidence so far that Ken Miller or Francis Collins, for example, is a genuinely moderate or liberal Christian. Maybe they are, but I have no idea why this is so often simply assumed.
Anyway, someone called "Peter" is making the points I want to make over there on Chris Mooney's blog in tandem with Ophelia Benson, so I probably don't need to say any more about Chris's post.
But, on the broader subject of propriety, this review of Francisco Ayala's Darwin's Gift , published late last year, is the typical sort thing that I want to be able to write without getting into a distracting argument about the propriety of even writing it, as opposed to an argument about whether the views there are correct. There is nothing improper about writing a review like that (that is one thing that I'm prepared to be an absolutist about).
Nor is there anything improper about a review like this, written by Jerry Coyne.
Nor, if it comes to that, one like this, written by (a slightly younger) Chris Mooney a few years ago.
That is not to say that I agree with every word in either of the latter two reviews - I seem to recall quibbling mildly with Jerry about something in the first one when he presented the ideas on his blog a few months back. But we don't all have to agree with the substantive content of each other's reviews; the question that Chris originally raised was not about substantive content but about propriety. The third one, by Chris, is more aggressive than I probably would have written, but that's fine.
As far as I can see, Chris now thinks that there's nothing improper about any of these reviews, though, like me, he reserves the right to disagree with their substantive content (and he's said he'd no longer write the third in the same aggressive way). That's fine. Let's move on to something else. Agreement on that point certainly doesn't cover the whole argument between the accommodationists and the non-accommodationists, but it makes at least one aspect concrete. If the sensible people involved in this debate - and I still want to categorise Chris in that way - all agree at least on this point, then progress has been made.