I grew up around fundamentalist Christians, and unlike most people with a physics background, I have a lot of respect for them and their beliefs. Now I happen to think that the universe is 13 billion rather than 6000 years old, but I understand why its necessary for them to believe that the universe is 6000 years old. The ultimate problem that they have is not with science itself but with “secular humanism” which is the idea that scientists are trying to eliminate God.
Now, what I’ve tried to do is to point out that ever since Descartes, there has been something of a truce between science and religion, and if you crank through the philosophy of science, you get 13 billion years for the age of the universe, and as far as what is right and what is wrong, you get nothing. They keep telling me that scientists have this plot to get rid of God, and I keep reassuring them that that isn’t the case.
And then Dawkins comes around and proves that the creationists are right, and that there are some scientists that are trying to create a morality based on atheistic science.
Personally, I think what Dawkins is trying to do is dangerous. The essence of science is doubt and humility. The wonder of science is that you could wake up tomorrow and find that everything you thought you knew was wrong. There are institutions and philosophical checks and balances that keep things from science from doing anything dangerous, and part of those limiting involve constant questioning of authority and the need for falsibility principles.
When science tries to go beyond these bounds then things get really dangerous. The classic example of this is are the scientific laws of Marxism which ended up killing about 100 million people this century. The problem is that you had the “aura and certainty of science” without the control mechanisms of constant questioning. I have this fear that this is this is the direction that Dawkins is taking us.
So in the current debate between Dawkins and the creationists over the existence of God, I find myself pretty squarely on the side of the creationists.