But that’s not my motivation, and it should be plain that it isn’t. I’ve bent over backwards here to be clear about the way words are used. When I use “neo-Darwinism”, I’m not using it to call up culture-war feelings. I’m using it the same way that Mayr, Gould, etc. would use it in their books explaining the history of evolutionary thought. Not every word ending in “ism” is used for rhetorical or demagogical purposes. Sometimes the word is used just to characterize a theory or hypothesis. That is my only intention.
When Behe talks about neo-Darwinism in his critique of it, he isn’t equating the term with atheism, materialism, the end of civilization, etc. He is referring to mechanism of random mutations filtered by natural selection. He thinks that such a mechanism is an inadequate explanation of evolution. Nothing culture-war is intended. (What some bloggers of ID persuasion might do with Behe’s terminology is another matter.)
Shapiro thinks that modern evolutionary theory has been too “neo-Darwinian”. If he is wrong in his characterization, you can call him on that. But he’s not using the term as a synonym for atheism or materialism. He is using it to specify a particular view of how evolution works, a view which he thinks is inadequate.
I happen to think that Darwin’s Origin of Species is a great book. Wrong, in many ways, but still great, as a work of human thought. I teach it in my courses as a great book. I don’t teach that Darwin was an atheist or that accepting evolution makes one an atheist, or that evolution is responsible for all the evils of the modern world. I don’t teach that Christianity is incompatible with evolution (though certain Christian doctrines might be incompatible with certain understandings of how evolution works). I don’t teach that evolution is incompatible with intelligent design. I don’t try to dissuade students from accepting evolution. I have them read Darwin, Paley, Behe, Lamoureux, Dawkins, and other things, and ask them to get straight exactly what these people are saying, without relying on hearsay or bloggers. Then I ask them to make up their own minds about Darwin, evolution, neo-Darwinism, Behe, Dawkins, Collins, etc. My goal is to educate, not to promote culture-war polarization.
Science and religion are not intrinsically at war. Neither are evolution and creation. But that doesn’t mean I have to be supine before any declaration about how evolution works coming from any stray scientist arguing on the internet. I don’t have to accept that any particular individual here or on any blog site is the world’s expert on evolutionary mechanisms. I can be critical of the claims of individuals, without condemning evolution itself, or without painting all of modern science as wrong and Godless.
I think that science is one of the greatest human achievements. I think anti-science is a bad feature of American culture. But so are scientism and militant anti-religion. I’m trying to remain skeptical of all extreme claims in these debates, and to get people in the habit of reading authors before they reject them, and listening carefully to views that are not their own before instinctively pushing them away. Both religious believers and atheist scientists sometimes have the tendency to do these things.