Journalists’ critical response to the new atheism is hardly surprising in this historical context. Wary of extremism in all its forms, unfavorable reviews of The God Delusion have branded Dawkins’ promotion of science as “fundamentalist” and “evangelical.” It gave pause when proponents of intelligent design began to argue like scientists, and it is equally so when the opposite happens, and scientists begin to argue like preachers. Conservation of momentum was the staple of Newton’s third law, and it applies to the collision of God and science as well as it does to physical objects. It is like watching the silver momentum balls that people used to keep on their desks — a ball strikes one end of the chain and another jumps up on the far side to repeat the trick in reverse. The motion is self-sustaining. Back and forth — click-clack, click-clack — it never stops.

Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.