Congrats to new AGU Board member Chris Mooney!

By Phil Plait | December 5, 2010 7:00 am

My congratulations to my Hive overmind Discover Magazine co-blogger Chris Mooney for being appointed to the Board of the American Geophysical Union, a premier society of scientists and engineers!

They brought on Chris (as well as Floyd DesChamps, a policy advisor on climate change to the Senate for more than a decade) to advise the AGU on how to better and more effectively communicate with the public and lawmakers in Washington. Sounds like a good idea to me, since it’s something we obviously need quite desperately right now.

You can read the official announcement on the AGU site, which has more details. Again, congrats to Chris!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Politics, Science
MORE ABOUT: AGU, Chris Mooney

Comments (204)

  1. Cindy

    Is the headline all you’re going to write about this? Or did one of your cats walk across the keyboard and hit send before you had a chance to write?

  2. Prattlehorn

    Oh, Christ.

    Literally.

  3. There was some weird error that erased the post when I tried to update it, so I had to rewrite it. Grrr.

  4. How can you communicate with people who have their fingers stuck in their ears yelling, “LA! LA! LA! I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”? :(

  5. Peter Beattie

    Chris ‘The Great Communicator’ Mooney, who thinks sexing up science with second-rate rock stars is a fab idea and who isn’t above banning reasonable dissent from his own blog? What could go wrong?

  6. Sili

    a premier society of scientists and engineers!

    Not all engineers are antiscience creationists, but the Salem hypothesis still stands.

  7. NewEnglandBob

    So ironic putting someone who is a major FAIL at communication as an adviser for communication.

  8. semi

    Sorry if we’re not as enthusiastic about this announcement as you are. Mooney has proven to be a most unreliable supporter of science and truth, and his “framing” arguments are quite tiresome and damaging. Many of us are still upset about that business on his blog awhile back when he promoted a liar as an example of ‘discrimination against religious people’ and then banned people from his blog for discussing it when the truth came out. Journalist indeed!

    Mooney could go a long way to addressing this problem if he would have *meaningful* discussions with his critics instead of completely ignoring them. But I guess this is not how this ‘Templeton Fellow’ rolls….

  9. kurt_eh

    So, there isn’t a Silver University?

  10. I find some of these comments amusing. Chris goes on panels, does a podcast, and writes about these communication issues in very public ways, so I have a hard time, semi (#9), seeing how he ignores the problem. And as far as banning goes, are you sure that’s for people’s opinions, or is it more for the way they express them? I dump jerks into the spam filter sometimes, not because I disagree with them, but because they violate my one simple comment rule.

    Peter Beattie (#6): Do you have evidence he’s deleted reasonable dissent? Also, you may not be aware that I think the Rock Stars of Science is a good idea too. And I did something you didn’t: said exactly why.

    Instead of leaving vitriol and negativity here, why not actually state your case?

  11. Sili

    And as far as banning goes, are you sure that’s for people’s opinions, or is it more for the way they express them?

    Ask Ophelia Benson.

  12. Chris Winter

    Peter Beattie wrote: “Chris ‘The Great Communicator’ Mooney, who thinks sexing up science with second-rate rock stars is a fab idea and who isn’t above banning reasonable dissent from his own blog? What could go wrong?”

    I wonder why you classify them as “second-rate.” Heart is first-rate in my book. True, they are not performing as a group any longer, and thus are not on the charts. This has nothing to do with musical ability or the lack of it.

    That’s just one example. As for the others, they must be judged on an individual basis.

    A better question is whether, in your mind, association with popular musicians diminishes the rigor of science somehow.

    Musicians have always shown interest in promoting science and technology, if only by writing and performing songs about those topics. The list is long; it includes Elton John and David Bowie, and goes way back to the Kingston Trio and Glen Yarborough — to name just a few.

    An even better question is why the scientists are failing to communicate well with the public. I submit that the communication fault lies more on the receiving end. Still, we have to plow the field we’re in.

  13. B. Neuenschwander
  14. colluvial

    Regarding Rock Stars for Science, the results of a marketing campaign like this one will probably never be known. Seems to me, however, that it’s a lot like advertising cars by draping beautiful women over them. At least that feeds into a common male belief that they’ll be more successful with woman if they own the product. But for how long will a young person imagine that by becoming a scientist they’ll be able to hang out with rock stars? Long hours in the lab have nothing to do rock stars, unless you’re listening to your MP3 player.

  15. semi

    Phil,

    There is the Ophelia Benson case:

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2009/waist-deep-in-the-moral-slime/

    The lockdown and moderation of comments on Mooney’s blog (which had the effect of preventing comments critical of Mooney’s handling of the “Tom Johnson” affair from being posted.)

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2010/07/08/housecleaning-note/

    The sordid “Tom Johnson” affair in which Mooney ran with a sock puppet’s post as evidence for discrimination and general nastiness of scientists toward the religious (all fabricated) Mooney claimed he had “checked” the source out and was legitimate :

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/07/tom_johnson_fini.php

    (You can wade through the comments if you want evidence of post moderation)

    My feelings about Mooney is that based on the evidence I have seen, the negatives outweigh the positives in the “helping science” category. I have no ill-feelings about Mooney personally, and he might be a great guy. But as far as supporting science? Not so much. Ditto with the journalistic ethics.

  16. rick

    I guess something has to get the kids interested, but I think it’s best to get away from popular science outlets as quickly as you know enough math to do so, if you’re interested in science

  17. Prattlehorn

    This is really ridiculous. Mooney will continue to get these self-perpetuating titles and meaningless sinecures, and then he’ll soon be a “long-time respected authority on science and communication,” fostered in some small part by your imprimatur, Phil. And people will listen to the accommodationist nonsense he spouts. And it will harm (and already has harmed) Science.

    Mooney has, in fact, done all the things semi says in #8 (links now in #15). And worse. I know you two are friends, but in that infamous, vacuous catchphrase:

    “You’re not helping!”

  18. I lost my interest in and respect for Mr. Mooney after watching him react to reasonable criticism both about his last book and about the Tom Johnson debacle. I think it’s fine to be wrong, and I never hold that against someone, but I do judge people based on how they handle criticism, and I think Mr. Mooney handles it very poorly. I was one small voice among many who brought up questions about Unscientific America, and time and again I saw him ignore reasonable, politely asked but very critical questions while at the same time engaging either easier or less critical questions. I also saw a lot of self-justification and not much in the way of acknowledging mistakes

    I was astonished to see that he’d banned Ophelia Benson due to her critiques of a book I thought had some real problems with it. As I wrote on her blog:

    “I’ve been lurking about here, over at WEIT, and The Intersection following this whole thing and finding it fascinating in a car crash kind of way. I’ve been doing my level best to give everyone a fair shake and the benefit of the doubt (except TJ/William I guess). Mooney regularly gives me just enough to think that maybe, just maybe he’ll do the right thing without undercutting himself in some egregious manner. I keep hoping he’ll come around to being a responsible, fair blogger who carefully and thoughtfully responds to criticism.

    It’s clear to me now that this just isn’t going to happen. Chris Mooney does not deal with criticism. He either ignores it or tries to hide it.

    I went back and read the thread that Mooney says was the cause of Ophelia’s banning. The comment thread he cites as the motivation for his “better solution” than answering critiques or chastising inflammatory commenters like TB is, for me, just so petty and even cowardly that I’m sort of astonished. That you would ban someone for making reasonable arguments with no harsh language is bad enough. To crow over doing so (or maybe he’s hoping we won’t go read it?) is just kind of stupid.

    I was also surprised to find that I had posted into the early days of that very thread, voicing my own disappointment with UA and requesting he answer some of the more detailed critiques against the book. Of course I was ignored too. And if I’d kept asking, which I didn’t do because others were doing it for me, I’d probably have been banned as well.

    What a disappointment he has turned out to be.”

    So while I don’t categorically spurn everything Mr. Mooney produces or everything he says (I think he still produces some good stuff and says interesting and important things), I don’t think he deals with disagreement or critiques nearly as well as a public intellectual should, and so I’m not excited by the idea of him having additional titles and responsibilities in that arena.

  19. Jason A.

    Whether or not you think Mooney is right about the whole framing thing, you have to admit he’s an extraordinarily bad communicator. The man does nothing but antagonize the very people he claims to want to ‘change’. Let alone the refusal to engage in any kind of meaningful dialogue with them.
    Apparently it is enough for him to just self-title himself as an expert on communication, and people go with that, and now he’s recognized as an expert on communication, despite the complete failure to effectively communicate his ideas to anyone but his own choir.

  20. Jason A.

    And the ‘Rock Stars of Science’ was silly because it doesn’t make science out to be ‘cool’ for science’s sake, it makes it out to be cool by association with something completely unrelated. Do you really think people are going to read that and say ‘I wish I was a scientist so I could meet a rock star.’? The idea that being a scientist is a good way to meet rock stars and become cool is pretty tenuous. The scientists are even tossed off into the background. Do you really look at pictures of rock stars, with some dude photobombing in the background, and think ‘I want to know more about that guy, he seems awesome!’?

    The Guardian had a good article on ‘Rockstars of Science’ – http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2010/nov/20/1

  21. Utakata

    From what I’m reading here…sounds like the man is being a dick in regards to promoting accomondationism. (Banned Ophelia Benson?? Noooo!!!) And to state one of Mr. BA’s favorite quips, “my irony gland is about to explode.”

    …in respect to the article though. Congrats on the new position, I guess…though I’m too a little uncomfortable with that. :(

  22. Sili

    By the way, did you ever congratulate Mooney on that other honour he received?

  23. “Do you have evidence he’s deleted reasonable dissent?”

    Well ok, since I’ve been mentioned, I’ll add my bit. I dissented when Mooney claimed that Jerry Coyne had been “uncivil” in reviewing books by Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson for The New Republic. I asked Mooney what he meant and what he thought Coyne should have done instead. Mooney didn’t answer, so I asked again. I asked several times, I think reasonably…but Mooney never answered.

    The last time I asked was on this thread

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/07/27/some-more-words-to-the-new-atheist-blogosphere-on-unscientific-america/

    I think I put it reasonably

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/07/27/some-more-words-to-the-new-atheist-blogosphere-on-unscientific-america/#comment-28050

    “For several months, Chris tried to engage in a civil debate with Dr. Coyne about the merits of “accommodationism.””

    Where, exactly, was that? Could you please link to the posts in which Chris did that? Because that is not at all how I remember it. The way I remember it is that Chris made some unsupported claims and some obscure suggestions (be more civil – but more civil than what? than to review books by Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson for The New Republic? or what?) and then simply ignored all objections and questions. I remember it well, because I for one tried hard to get Chris to answer my questions on the subject, right here – and he wouldn’t do it. He never did it at Jerry Coyne’s blog, either. If he did it here, I missed it – so do please link to the posts where he “tried to engage in a civil debate with Dr. Coyne.”

    In response, another commenter announced that I was lying, and soon after that I was banned.

  24. grung0r

    Jason A:

    I would take issue with the idea that Mooney communicates well with his choir either. His ideas, especially concerning ‘framing’ and ‘civility’ are so vague and ill-defined that they share much in common with New-agers conceptions of ‘energy’ or Karen Armstrong’s babblings about ‘God'(or, dare I say, Phil Plait’s definition of “being a dick”). It’s all so much cold reading, and his choir is no better for it.

    Your larger point is well taken though. Unless The AGU is interested in having one of it’s board members spit in the face of it’s members in the name of ‘civility’ and the supposed effective communication of science, I’d say they erred in their choice.

    Phil:
    Instead of leaving vitriol and negativity here, why not actually state your case?

    Accusing people of not stating their case on Mooney is pathetic. People have made their case again and again and again here, essentially every time you mention the dudes name. You have roundly ignored them all. I see that several people have summed up some of the evidence against Mooney and his awful communication skills. I will too. The Ophila Benson banning. The Tom Johnson debacle. Banning his critics at the intersection because it turned out the vast majority of HIS defenders were sock puppets of single person. The absurd attack on Jerry Coyne’s civility. His refusal to respond to criticism of Unscientific America or in the Great Framing debate. The list goes on, and you have acknowledged none of it. I except the same here.

  25. Monkey

    I think this is good…really good. It will eat up his time and, hopefully, he will have less time to spend doing interviews on POI.

    ..

    Oh, wait….that means more of the interviews will be done by Price…. oh, no. We’re in a pickle.

  26. Wanderfound

    Phil, I’m generally a fan of yours, but (like many of the previous commentators) I think you’re way off base here.

    Chris Mooney’s behaviour during the Tom Johnson affair was utterly despicable, from start to finish.

  27. Chris goes on panels, does a podcast, and writes about these communication issues in very public ways…

    … and never manages to make things better. Pardon the gratuitous links, but each one provides far more detail for the charge being made.

    For one, he loves to blame atheists and scientists for causing communication problems, fell for a fake story that matched his stereotype of atheists and neglected to do any fact checking on the matter after hearing what he wanted, took money from Templeton, an organization that once funded the Discovery Institute to study from people who call Hawking too stupid to understand theologians’ arguments for God, and then, after telling everyone to get along and respect each other, hypocritically bashes Republican anti-scientific attitudes on Air America and calls the exercise “fun.”

    He is a terrible spokesperson for any scientific organization because his track record is to blame scientists and atheists for every problem in scientific communication, and what compelled anyone to hire him as a spokesman for one, I don’t know. So congratulations to Chis and my condolences to the AGU. They’ve just acquired an obstinate self-proclaimed journalist with a distaste for anyone who identifies him or herself as an atheist, and who’ll just point the finger at the scientists and say “why didn’t you pretentious Ivory Tower know-it-alls every explain to people why the Earth isn’t 6,000 years old! You’re the problem here, not them! Now go pose with Tommy Lee or Slash in GQ so people will know who you are, pronto!”

    Yeah, I’m no fan of Mooney, but as you can see, I have my reasons. Maybe he’s really nice in person, but professionally, he’d make a better science communicator if he wasn’t actually helping anti-scientific populism by blaming the scientists for the public’s lack of scientific literacy. And I’d have a far higher opinion of him if he didn’t jump in bed with DI’s former sugar daddy to top all this off.

  28. Kenny

    Glad to see other commenters here have a good idea or what Mooney is about. It doesn’t surprise me though that Phil thinks so highly of him – ever since the whole “DBAD” and vocal molly coddling of theists thereafter.

  29. TheBlackCat

    I find some of these comments amusing. Chris goes on panels, does a podcast, and writes about these communication issues in very public ways, so I have a hard time, semi (#9), seeing how he ignores the problem

    Yes, he is great at telling people the problems exist. But he has steadfastly refused to answer questions about how specifically to solve the problems, or even lessen them. He gives nice, unsupported, vague generalities, but nothing specific enough that it could actually be carried out in practice. And attempts to get him to provide specifics have gotten people banned from his blog, as others have shown. Although it is very easy for opponents to get banned, just persistently asking questions he doesn’t like is sufficient, he ignores just about any level of insults and vitriol from his supporters.

    It is ironic that in the Tom Johnson debacle, Mooney was totally unable to actually articulate what happened. It took Coyne, who Mooney criticizes as a bad communicator, to actually explain the situation in a manner that others could understand. Mooney told his supports in private what had occurred, but on his blog his account was totally unintelligible and he completely ignored repeated requests for clarification.

    And not I am NOT talking about releasing the perpetrator’s name, Coyne didn’t do that either, I am talking about simply explaining what had transpired.

  30. MadScientist

    Now if I weren’t so poor as to have let my membership lapse I’d write to the board and let my displeasure be known. Then again perhaps I should write anyway. I can just imagine: “Rock Stars of Geology” or “Rock Stars of Rocks” – maybe “Rolling Stones of Rocks”. Like many others, I’m not at all impressed; why is Mooney an authority on science communication? Ipse dixit? I thought that was abandoned about 400 years ago.

  31. R P

    I feel like my opinion is not needed here, but I’m plugging away anyway as it is for a good cause.:)

    I do not agree with Chris Mooney on many things, like his opinion on the ‘Rock Stars of Science’ concept. But these are merely differences of opinion and are hardly something that I hold against him.

    But his behavior in various separate incidents last year was disgraceful. There is no other way to put it.

    For the record, I’m not a scream-in-your-face atheist. I enjoyed much of your TAM talk, but Mooney is not the sort of person I would endorse or approbate.

  32. Charles Sullivan

    Looks like the waters have been tested. Mooney is not your readers’ favorite fella.

    I still read BA every day, and will until we have a manned mission to Mars. ; >

    And CM is not my favorite fella. Still.

  33. Sigmund

    Considering that, during the Tom Johnson debacle, Chis Mooney engaged in what looks like the most unethical example of blog behavior this side of Age of Autism I am not surprised that many here have a hard time considering him as a good example as either a communicator (or indeed a journalist).

  34. Chris has a history of being a poor communicator on behalf of anyone who holds the crazy idea that what’s true matters more than what people believe is true. He excuses his approach by claiming it’s a matter of effective framing, when in fact his style of moderating his own blog is blatantly disingenuous.

    Adding insult to reputation injury, Mooney offers his professional respect those who agree with his framing bias – it simply doesn’t matter what the agreement is based on – why should he care about what’s factually true if someone is willing to support his bias (right Tom?) – and yet he obviously does not care enough about what’s true to offer the same respect to the voices of people who take issue with this skewed approach to open and intellectually honest communication.

    Without question, AGU has made a very poor selection intentionally and I can’t help but wonder why?

  35. TheBlackCat

    Phil, it has now been 24 hours since you first berated people for not supporting their position. Since then many people, including the victim one particularly infamous episode, have done exactly what you requested. You have not responded in any of this, despite the fact that you were the one who specifically requested it.

    What sort of science communicator demands people do something and then just ignores them when they do? I would consider most people who do that to be dicks, honestly. You don’t enter a discussion, demand people provide facts to back up their case, and then just vanish when people actually do so. That behavior is typical of creationists, denialists of all stripes, and various proponents of woo. It is the absolute last thing I would expect from a skeptic.

    I should remind you that I am not a hit-and-run poster, I started following you several years before there even was a B.A. blog, you can see my first comment here in your Horrorscopes post on April 3rd 2005 (it’s the first comment). I have steadfastly defended you whenever someone has criticized your posts about politics.

    But these issues with Mooney and your Don’t Be A Dick debacle have severely hurt my respect for you. This is not because of what you are saying, you are free to say whatever you want. The problem is what you aren’t saying. You aren’t responding to critics, you aren’t responding to those who disagree with you, you aren’t responding to those who ask for clarification, details, or that you support your statements. You request people back up their statements, but you flat-out refuse to do so yourself. In the rare cases that you do offer responses, they are dismissive and condescending, along the lines of “it’s obvious”. And further, you specifically ask people for information, then ignore them when they provide that information.

    In short, you are behaving exactly like those you have made a career fighting. You are exhibiting many of the same characteristics as the denialists, creationists, alt-med practitioners, UFOlogists, and others that you berate here, sometimes for doing the same things you do here.

    To be honest, I don’t come here for the astronomy. It is very interesting, but I’ve been following you since long before you made a habit of discussing basic astronomy. The reason I follow you is to watch you discuss skeptical topics. You were my first introductions to the world of skepticism. The reading list at the end of your first book was what actually led me to skepticism in the first place.

    So I am frankly horrified to see you behaving in such a staunchly non-skeptical attitude here. You exhibit many of the characteristics that nearly a decade of debating denialists and woos has lead me to recognize as their standard tactics.

    So just know that your behavior in these episodes, not what you are saying, but how you are saying it, is severely damaging the respect of at least one very loyal fan, someone that you single-handedly introduced to the world of skepticism and who had an enormous amount of respect for you for almost a decade. I still have a lot of respect for you, but it has been tempered a great deal over the last few months. I won’t stop reading the blog, or probably even stop commenting, but I will always have some sadness when I read it, and will always look with some care for the cases where you criticize others for doing exactly what you are guilty of, or where you have committed the same offenses you criticize others for.

    But you don’t have to care about me. What you should really think about how you would react if a denialist or woo responded (or rather, didn’t respond at all) to your questions and critiques in the same way you are not responding now, and if their few responses were as dismissive and condescending as yours. I would like to think you would criticize them, and rightly so. I frankly consider your behavior blatantly hypocritical, and there are few behaviors in an rational discussion that I can stand less than hypocrisy (one of those being refusal to answer questions).

  36. Bobito

    I always find it interesting that someone so against framing can author a book named The Republican WAR on Science.

  37. Back in February, Mooney pleaded for the whole “building bridges” deal with anti-vaxxers:

    http://www.scienceprogress.org/2010/02/vaccine-saga/

    which Orac delved into here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/02/building_bridges_to_the_leaders_of_the_a.php

    As an AGU board member, is he going to call for people to be nicer to climate denialists and flat-earthers?

    The more I read about Mooney, the more I keep thinking he’s obsessed with the whole balance issue. IMHO, he needs to seriously rethink his game plan.

  38. tildeb @ wrote:

    I can’t help but wonder why?

    Too, me.

    Will some AGU bloggers sound off?

    http://blogs.agu.org/

  39. TheBlackCat

    @ Bobito: You have it backwards, he is for framing, and seems to value it more than truth (as his defense during the Tom Johnson debacle pretty clearly stated).

  40. Richard Wolford

    Great, another job that Mooney isn’t qualified to have. Seriously, who listens to the master-framer anymore? That whole rock-star scientist idea was absolutely garbage, I just loved how the rockers had their cross symbols on because, hey, you can’t be totally science and totally religious too! Why, not a single shred of conflict whatsoever, nope, no-siree! And Mooney’s behavior earlier? Deplorable.

    Phil, this is pathetic. I’ve been following you online ever since I saw you on CNN(?) promoting your book Bad Astronomy. But in the last year my respect for you has hit the floor. Your desire to just be so nice and never offend anybody ever has clouded your vision. You tell us not to be a dick, just be nice and polite and just never cause any trouble, because after all, that’s exactly what works best. Chris Mooney is a hack, and I’m not going to reiterate the posters above who actually showed what you have never, EVER, shown: evidence. You were called out for not showing that everyone was being a dick. You were asked for evidence on your very blog and you failed to provide it. And instead of retracting your position, why you just kept on going didn’t you? I mean, why in the world should you stop when you just know you’re right, why there’s just no need to prove it!

    Pathetic Phil. In case you haven’t noticed (and actually you have, considering some of your previous posts), science is big target in American politics. A line has been drawn in the sand, and not by any of us. You’re going to just keep on accommodating any stupid position for the sake of being nice until the whole definition of science changes into what people want it to be and not what it really is. I will be damned if I give even an inch to these right-wing religious nutjobs, and I damn sure won’t “frame” things for their pea-sized little minds. If they’re not comfortable with the results of science, their problem, not mine. Defend science or get out of the way, and I don’t mean yours and Mooney’s watered-down everything is just peachy science.

  41. To be fair to Phil, he isn’t accommodating on climate science, science education, or towards anti-vaxxers. He is incredibly strident in those areas.

    Of course, this makes his Mooney-free-pass and DBAD vagaries all the more perplexing.

  42. Utakata

    Since may are chiming in…

    …a catalogue of my double-takes on this blog.

    1) The whole “let’s be nice about Catholicism because we’ll offend Catholics” when the church sexual abuse scandal where hitting the media fan. I believe that whole tirade on this blog was prompted over the fictious rumor that Richard Dawkins was going to personnally arrest the Pope on his visit to the UK.

    2) The “the don’t be a dick” speech….because we’ll scare off peeps from science. Even made more confusing when we’re still allowed to get mad at the false and the woo. But which is it?

    3) Now this.

    You know…I can understand Chris Mooney going after PZ. We all know he’s a bit rough around the edges at times (enduringly and wonderfully so I’ll argue)…but Jerry Coyne? Probably one of the best communicators of science and nicest human beings I’ve stumbled upon the blogsphere. And Mooney told him to shut up? Yet you seem to think this is okay for him to do that by placing the him on a pedestal.

    You used to be up there as well…but somehow, along the away you have slowly giving up the fight to accomondate instead. But haven’t exactly realized that yet or want to. I still think the real you in there somehow wants to still fight. I hope that wins out…but of late I am having my doubts. :(

    @ Horse 39:

    …that is true. But I have been wondering when he’ll even stop that in the name of not wanting to scare those from science. :(

  43. TheBlackCat

    @ Tom Hill: This is not my first criticism of Phil by a long shot, nor is it the first time I have posted a comment like that. I posted a very similar comment during the DBAD debacle, and I criticized him pretty heavily further back about his decidedly and seemingly proudly non-skeptical attitude towards trans fats. Nor does it render his skeptical efforts invalid, only somewhat hypocritical.

  44. TBC#44 – Hadn’t seen your other complaints. Don’t read BA as much as I used to, to the point where I needed to research and figure out what DBAD meant. Just got kinda tired of the whole thing. Peace.

  45. Sili

    but Jerry Coyne? Probably one of the best communicators of science and nicest human beings I’ve stumbled upon the blogsphere.

    And Mooney told him to shut up?

    I think you’ll find that that last bit follows from the first.

    What does M**ney, a journalist, (claim to) do? Communicate science.

    What does Coyne, a professional scientist, do? Communicate science! Excellently so.

    This is a turfwar. M**ney has rightly recognised that the real scientists are doing a much better job of speaking directly to the public than he does. He can only think of shooting back, because he’s scared of losing his job.

    /pop psy

  46. GotTheBlues

    It’s all part of Mooney’s master plan. Piss off the AGU, get fired, then get a million-dollar contract with Fox News! They love “free speech victims.”

  47. Doug

    Phil, You and Ed Young are by far my favorite bloggers here and personally you are one of the central reasons I identify as a skeptic, so I can’t help but express disappointment that you have not yet responded to the evidence you requested. I understand you don’t owe your readers anything, but you certainly must agree that it’s bad form for a skeptical astronomy blogger to request evidence for an assertion he doesn’t agree with and then ignore the evidence when it is presented. It’s a matter of intellectual integrity.

  48. TheBlackCat

    @ Sili: I don’t think that’s the problem. Mooney wants scientists to speak more to the public, or at least claims to. The problem, I suspect, is not that Coyne is a scientist. The problem, I think, is that he is a vocal atheist.

    The last thing a Templeton shill like Mooney can accept is that a vocal atheist is also a popular science communicator. That completely contradicts the message Mooney and the Templeton foundation have been trying to sell, that vocal atheists are largely responsible for the lack of public support and understanding of science.

    So when there is a clear case of a vocal atheist increasing support and understanding of science like Coyne is, Mooney has to somehow turn him into a bad guy or his entire message, and that of his Templeton funders, is in jeopardy. It is easy with Dawkins since in the public mind he has been characterized, unfairly in my opinion, as rude and condescending. PZ is even easier, since he is proudly strident.

    But Coyne is fairly soft-spoken, kind, and calm. He has a very popular book amongst the public on science where he doesn’t involve his atheism. He does a great job presenting and popularizing science to the public. Yet he is also a vocal opponent of religion, and says that science and religion contradict each other (in direct opposition to the central message of the Templeton Foundation, which Mooney receives money from).

    If Mooney and Templeton’s message is correct, someone like Coyne cannot exist. And since Mooney is apparently incapable or unwilling to acknowledge flaws or limitations in his thesis, his only recourse is to frame Coyne as someone other than who he really is, to paint him as a strident and rude atheist like PZ even though he is anything but. He needs Coyne to shut up, Coyne is a walking, talking disproof of Mooney’s entire message.

  49. Jason A.

    Horse:

    To be fair to Phil, he isn’t accommodating on climate science, science education, or towards anti-vaxxers. He is incredibly strident in those areas.
    Of course, this makes his Mooney-free-pass and DBAD vagaries all the more perplexing.

    Exactly. The inconsistency is annoying. You don’t hear Phil giving talks about how we risk scaring homeopaths away from science by criticizing them.

    Utakata:

    2) The “the don’t be a dick” speech….because we’ll scare off peeps from science.

    To paraphrase Dennet (I think) in Breaking the Spell: If those people are going to turn away from science because we aren’t coddling enough toward their beliefs, then they weren’t ever really friends of science in the first place, and we’re better off without them.

  50. To everyone commenting: I apologize for not commenting here since yesterday. However, I have a pretty big load of things to do on a daily basis, so I have not kept up with the comments here. I am in the middle of reading the history(ies) linked here, and it’s taking a while to sort out what’s what. Patience.

  51. Before I go on though, I want to say how astonished I am that people can so grossly misinterpret what I said in my DBAD talk. I never said to back down, and I never said we have to coddle anyone. In fact, if you actually listened to the whole thing, there is a section in the speech where I say specifically that we must not back down when confronting antiscience! I only state that we don’t have to be jerks about it.

    However, I don’t want to get distracted by all that. I’m still reading up about the TJ affair.

  52. You might also want to consider this – a long, civil comment that Mooney did not publish at the time and has still not published as far as I know, even though it was offering an olive branch:

    http://metamagician3000.blogspot.com/2010/08/my-comment-that-has-not-appeared-let.html

    That’s not to claim that every comment I’ve ever made to him has been as civil as I’d like, as I concede in the comment concerned. I even gave a partial apology for that. But Mooney’s behaviour is exasperating, to say the least.

  53. Peter

    One of the main reasons that I have soooooooo much respect for PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne is that I know (feel/think) that what they think is what they write. This means that I always get to read what they believe the truth is! The truth trumps everything else and unfortunately this sometimes results in people having their feelings hurt.

    Now I use to get the same feeling reading this blog – that I was getting the truth – but lately I’ve been getting this feeling (especially since DBAD) that Phil is not writing, or saying, what he is thinking – although maybe he is :(

    Sometimes I feel like I’m being tested while reading this blog and thus I expect to get to the bottom of the article and read, only joking, April Fools.

    I lost respect for Chris Mo*ney long ago after his fallout with PZ. I then unsubscribed from his blog and have never looked back.

    I’ve also lost a lot of respect for Pamela Gay as it seems extremely bizarre for an extremely intelligent astronomer to believe in little green men (to me there is no difference between God, LGM or smurfs although LGMs are more likely).

    I’ve read this entire comment thread so far and I’m only seeing negative comments and thus I think this speaks volumes about what the general feeling is around here. I mean we aren’t even seeing Mo*ney fans showing their support! It seems that the readers of this blog are much more affiliated with PZ and Coyne supporters, although I think it won’t be in the future :(

  54. Hamilton Jacobi

    I suppose we should withhold further comment until you finish reading about Chris’s disgraceful behavior with respect to Ophelia Benson and “Tom Johnson,” but this has the air of someone in 1977 who comes out swinging at all those nasty people who are slandering President Nixon’s good name, then says “Oh, hang on a minute while I read up on this Watergate business everyone’s talking about.”

  55. ERV

    Im operating under the assumption that a comment I added earlier got glitched out (*shrug* glitches happen)…

    I didnt save it, but I will repeat the gist of it:
    Mooney has told everyone, from PZ to Orac, that they are bad communicators. Yet when Mooney was provided with an opportunity to demonstrate to everyone How Things Should Be Done (he visited a hotbed of global warming denial, OK), he chose to hide amongst some journalism students, then tuck his tail and run as soon as he could hop a plane out of Dodge.

    While I can see Mooneys shtick fooling some administrative rubes, I dont know how a ‘general on the ground’ like Phil could be impressed with his talk. Because its all talk. Mooney cannot walk the walk. Its not that he doesnt. Its that he *cant*.

    I was also wondering, just out of my own curiosity, who Mooney thinks is a good communicator? I mean besides himself.

  56. Can someone tell me why my earlier comment is awaiting moderation when more recent comments have been allowed through?

  57. The Black Cat at #35: DUDE! Rawk on…

    I took a disliking to Mooney after his reaction to critics of Unscientific America – it’s not often I’ve seen a grown man act quite so bratty. It occurs to me as I type this that when I have seen it, it’s been from fundamentalists. I guess Mooney knows who he’s reaching out to.

    Still, I gave him the chance to redeem himself with some solid progress in a positive manner, but all he did was demonstrate it was no fluke by introducing Sock Puppet Theatre. His handling of that whole affair was beyond pathetic. Having him responsible for any input whatsoever on science is a ridiculous premise.

    Science is about dealing with facts, whether we like them or not – it’s perhaps the key thing that separates it from pseudoscience, quackery, and all that jazz. It means accepting the negative with the positive, and recognizing both for what they are. Critical thinking means the same thing.

    You cannot be a good science communicator if you continually ignore those factors that run counter to your recommendations. You are not even remotely supporting science if you cannot support your position. You are not communicating at all if you act like a brat to your critics, and if you then claim to be a promoter of science, you’re doing real damage by creating an association of science with petulance and childishness. In other words, it could be said that you’re not helping.

    Promoting science will not be accomplished by reaching out to the anti-science community while denigrating scientists. It will not be accomplished by proposing courses of action with no background in effectiveness. It will most especially not be accomplished by lowering the respect for scientists to the mindless fascination with media celebrities. Hey, I like Heart too – they were my first concert. I also know that Nancy and Ann Wilson hated the leather-and-hairspray image.

    Phil – kindly, if it’s not too much trouble, maintain your own standards and stop selling out. You will notice that not one of your commenters here, when you wanted to see evidence, resorted to your own tactic of saying, “It’s there – all you have to do is look for it!” Someone with just a smidgen of Google-Fu can certainly type “Chris Mooney” into the search block of Why Evolution Is True and Pharyngula, but you haven’t even needed to do that. I’ll even throw in the two most useful links again, and my own take on the nonsense of Mooney’s vaunted accommodationism. Now, give your commenters the respect that they’ve had for you, before it slips any further.

  58. Sorry, started my comment before #51 and didn’t update. Just read it in that order ;-)

  59. Phil Plait:

    I’m still reading up about the TJ affair.

    Oh, puh-leez.

    I’m done with this site.

  60. Russell (56): the ways of the spam filter are mysterious. I think it sometimes finds old comments and flags them, but it’s hard to pin down. I saw yours in the queue and approved it.

  61. Phil, most everyone’s problem with the DBAD talk is the monumental amount of hand-waving and mirrors involved when people asked for evidence of individuals who were getting in people’s faces.

    The fact it came on the heels of the whole Mooney debacle made it look that much more ridiculous – for here was a second skeptical notable (you) making a similar argument also using straw-boogey-men as the meanies – for an audience that excels at taking apart strawmen.

    Hopefully when you are done reading up on the TJ affair you’ll see why people were so disappointed with your speech and still await for some substantiation of it all.

  62. No worries, Phil. That happens to me, too.

  63. Cosmic Snark (61), Hamilton Jacobi (56): When this story broke in late July I was still filming my show, traveling for several conventions and talks, and basically running around constantly. I severely cut back on reading the web; it was everything I could do to just write the blog. So yeah, I missed this whole thing.

  64. Phil,

    I too came to the “skeptic movement” with a similar history to TheBlackCat’s post above; I came here as a big astronomy buff before you went to Discover, and from here branched out to several other blogs and have been actively following and contributing wherever I can. I won’t belabor this much more, as most of my points have been made above, but I wanted to throw in as another person who is somewhat disillusioned with “accomodationism”, your recent stance on it, and more criticism of Chris Mooney.

    The problem I see with Mooney is that he purports to be a Great Science Communicator, while not taking seriously any obligation to respond to valid criticism, and indeed actively ignoring and even stifling it. The most important facet I’ve learned from reading countless posts and books from all within the “skeptic movement” is intellectual honesty, and a dedication to arriving at the truth through rational inquiry and discussion. I don’t consider him, by his actions, to be even remotely intellectually honest. Genuine scientists face harsh criticism every day, and are held accountable to respond to this criticism; Mooney, on the other hand, somehow considers himself a great science communicator, but doesn’t take any such obligation seriously. This does a disservice to the integrity of the discipline as a whole, and he comes off as just another pundit trying to push his agenda, whatever it is, as I have no idea anymore.

    On your recent DBAD position, I feel you’ve missed the point that there is room for more than one tactic. As someone who personally responds politely but factually when faced with pseudoscience and false information, I already “take your advice” of not being a dick. However, I don’t agree with the admonishing and condescending tone you have taken regarding that, and find the lack of evidence of the implication that “dicks” were “harming skepticism” surprising. I am polite, but I absolutely love reading PZ and other “strident” atheists, and I love the fact that the FFRF posts snarky billboards and fights religious encroachment into government every day, for the reasons that these things are Broken Windows, and it shifts the Overton Window back in the direction of reason.

    I still love most of what you do and have done in the past, and I will be forever grateful to you as the person who introduced me to applying critical thinking to all areas of one’s life, and helping me rid myself of the post-modernist “anyone can make up their own reality” mentality I had unconsciously slipped into (though, ironically to your point, it was a “dick” who rudely made fun of me for recommending echinacea to him as a preventative cold treatment that shook me up a bit prior to this, who planted the original seeds of doubt in my mind). I also see now that you’re considering the criticisms you have read above; I sincerely hope you examine the situation closely, as I think applying the same reasoning you’ve taught many others to use in this situation will readily show you where the cards fall.

  65. “However, I don’t want to get distracted by all that. I’m still reading up about the TJ affair.”

    I’m sorry Phil, but if you aren’t aware of the TJ affair, the scandal it caused, and Mooney’s smarmy response to the whole thing, I’m gonna have to say I’m very unpleasantly surprised. This is the event that already took Mooney’s shaky credibility after his financial deal with the former backers of the Discovery Institute, and completely annihilated it for those of use who are not his devoted supporters and has been constantly mentioned as evidence for his intellectual dishonesty for months on end.

    I’m not going to demand that you respond to this or that, but I just want you to be aware that you’re patting a well known B.S. artist and a “communicator” who blames scientists for anti-science on the back, and presenting him as the person AGU needs to get some respect in the press and on Capitol Hill. He will be a burden at worst, and ineffective at best. This is generally his track record when he tries to make a big splash about something.

  66. Greg (67): This blog, and skepticism in general, is one facet of my of-late increasingly complicated life, and sometimes one aspect or another takes over and pushes something else out. I hear about a lot of “scandals” long after they’re done. If that surprises you, then so be it.

  67. What? That’s scandalous :P

  68. Hamilton Jacobi

    Phil, I hope you are reading thoroughly, not just taking a superficial glance at things. If you do, you will see that Chris’s handling of the “Tom Johnson” affair is just the tip of the iceberg of a behavior pattern that goes back years. It didn’t just start in July.

    I realize that there have probably been thousands of blog posts and hundreds of thousands of comments on matters relating to “framing,” failure to engage with critics of “Unscientific America,” failure to explain what Jerry Coyne did wrong, the banning of Ophelia Benson, “Tom Johnson,” “You’re Not Helping,” and probably many other things that I am forgetting about. But it’s worthwhile to dig into the details to see just how sleazy and intellectually dishonest Chris really is.

  69. MosesZD

    Phil, I find your comments and willfulness to remain wrong sad. Chris Mooney is a con man who is selling corporate speak because he needs to earn a check.

    The bottom line is that science is hard. Reading science is hard. Understanding science is hard. And, beyond any superficiality, over Joe Six-Pack’s head because he lacks the wit, education and drive necessary to even be on the ground floor of comprehension.

    Further, you don’t need to be like Mooney to be an effective science communicator. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, for example, really rips creationism and intelligent design all without “being a dick,” like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Weu7Rh6dYrM

    Someone whom you and Mooney would, because he plays no favors to religion, would call a dick. And yet he’s the among best. Far beyond the pathetic Chris Mooney who just gives us Corporate Speak.

  70. jaranath

    I cannot agree more with Horse @63 and Hamilton Jacobi @70.

    My problem with Chris’ approach, and with all due respect to DBAD as well, is the lack of evidence for the problem you’ve been worrying about. I’m sure anecdotes exist, but I don’t think it’s coincidence that both TJ and DBAD didn’t even use genuine anecdotes. At least in your case you didn’t claim to, and I actually agree with the basic core advice; I just don’t think most of us needed it.

    And as Hamilton says, the TJ affair is the tip of the iceberg with Chris, and I would hope you’d explore further.

    I don’t know enough about Chris to make any comments about his personal character. FWIW, I don’t see him as some mustache-twirling villain, and I don’t begrudge your friendship. But I think his judgment is clouded when it comes to the concept of visible atheism.

  71. I just have to say to all the critics: don’t confuse Phil Plait with Chris Mooney, and please, please don’t ever feel that someone has to be up-to-date on that sordid Tom Johnson morass of infighting to be a good skeptic. I was stuck in the middle of that stupidity, and I don’t get it all, either.

  72. Accent Aigu

    Perhaps in reading up on Mooney’s debacles over this past summer you’ll better understand the emotionally charged climate into which you dropped your DBAD speech, and why many people in the blogosphere reacted negatively towards it.

    I had issues with the DBAD speech, but I wonder if I might have been softer on it had I not already been so angered by the antics of Mooney and Kirshenbaum.

    You’re feeling first-hand the mark Mooney has left on the skeptics movement: he’s incited bitterness and anger, not cooperation.

  73. Phil Plait at #68:

    This blog, and skepticism in general, is one facet of my of-late increasingly complicated life, and sometimes one aspect or another takes over and pushes something else out. I hear about a lot of “scandals” long after they’re done. If that surprises you, then so be it.

    The problem I have with this argument is that it didn’t actually stop you from promoting Mooney as a great science communicator. Now, I’m a bit flabbergasted that anyone can find anything he’s done since “The Republican War on Science,” as being communicative, but basically, what you’re saying is that you haven’t been following him at all, then trying to tell us what a great job he’s doing. What are you reading, his own press releases? Why do you feel qualified to speak on this?

  74. TheBlackCat

    Before I go on though, I want to say how astonished I am that people can so grossly misinterpret what I said in my DBAD talk.

    WHAT?! You have either refused or ignored every request for clarification on that talk, every request to explain what you meant. Yet you then act surprised that people have misinterpreted it? People have no choice but to misinterpret it, you refused to provide the proper interpretation despite repeated requests to do so. We’re doing our best to figure it out, but we aren’t mind-readers, as you of all people should know.

    I never said to back down, and I never said we have to coddle anyone. In fact, if you actually listened to the whole thing, there is a section in the speech where I say specifically that we must not back down when confronting antiscience! I only state that we don’t have to be jerks about it.

    But you never answered countless questions about how we can do both at the same time. The very act of not backing down, they very act of confronting antiscience, is what a great many people consider being a jerk. These two statements contradict each other, you can’t confront antiscience without at least some people thinking you are a jerk. It is impossible. I’ve asked you about this myself several times, but you have not responded.

    Add to that the fact that you said you support accomodationism, which specifically calls for not confronting antiscience for certain beliefs, and your continued support for Mooney who has presented actively confronting antiscience as the same as being a jerk, how can you be the least bit surprised that people interpret your position as wanting to at least lessen the confrontation?

    Remember, you are the one who refused to clarify your position, you are the one who refused to answer question, you are the one who dismissed his critics without any justification, you are the one who refused to provide specific examples or evidence that could illustrate what you meant. If people misinterpret you then you have no one to blame for that but yourself.

    Time will not make your talk any clearer. The only thin that can make it clearer is new information.

    However, I don’t want to get distracted by all that. I’m still reading up about the TJ affair.

    The problem is that you have never let yourself get distracted by it, even in posts you wrote on that very subject.

  75. Cochise

    I don’t know enough about what went on with Mooney or any of those scandals. I won’t form an opinion on that subject, but I feel some of you are unfairly attacking Phil. I’ve only been reading this blog for a couple years, 3 at most.

    I actually owe a lot to Phil for turning me onto the skeptic path. I used to believe in the moon hoax, only because of that stupid one sided show Fox channel put on years ago. It was a year or so later that I saw Phil on television refuting their evidence, and totally changed my mind. I’ve always been a science guy, but it took Phil to show me to take everything I hear with a grain of salt. Critical thinking goes a long way.

    Don’t jump to conclusions guys, that’s what it seems like a lot of you are doing. I got a lot of stuff to worry about in my own life, couldn’t imagine keeping up a blog ,public and a private life at the same time. I don’t know Phil personally, and I’m pretty sure most of you don’t. As far as I’ve seen, Phil hasn’t done anything to lose my respect.

  76. “This blog, and skepticism in general, is one facet of my of-late increasingly complicated life…”

    Yes Phil, I know, you’re busy. So are a lot of people, myself included. I don’t have a show, but I do have a whole lot of research work, and a number of very significant work projects on top of my blog. If you’d like, I could certainly give you a sample of my to do list, which includes testing new algorithms for machine vision systems and designing a modular AI architecture that would incorporate them.

    But that’s not my point. My surprise lies in the fact that you seem to keep in touch with Chris and what’s happening with him enough to know when he’s getting a new gig and where, but you missed a huge blow to his credibility that lit up his blog and are telling us that this just slipped by you unnoticed while his Rock Stars of Science and new AGU board gig were very prominently on your radar.

  77. TheBlackCat

    @ Cochise: I would agree if this was an isolated incident, but unfortunately it is not. These issues have been discussed here for a long time. The Tom Johnson debacle was brought up here in back in the middle of August, and people have expressed problems with Mooney on numerous other occasions. Issues with DBAD have been expressed even more, without any substantive response from Phil. So I don’t think people are jumping to conclusions, I think they are getting fed up.

  78. I just made a post — but it contains some links, so I’m not sure if it’s in moderation or if it hit the spam filter. If you could take a look, Phil, I’d appreciate it!

  79. Physicalist

    Phil, you asked, “And as far as banning goes, are you sure that’s for people’s opinions, or is it more for the way they express them? ”

    I’m quite sure it’s for people’s opinions. If you’d like to see the outrageous comment that got me banned at The Intersection, it can be found here

  80. @PZ…

    “please don’t ever feel that someone has to be up-to-date on that sordid Tom Johnson morass of infighting to be a good skeptic…”

    I don’t think that’s the argument being made here. The argument I see is that Phil doesn’t seem to notice the bad stuff Chris does while rarely failing to praise his gigs as those of a rising star of science communication. I’m certainly not commenting here to make the argument that missing the “You’re Not Helping” fraud somehow makes Phil a lesser skeptic.

    And I hope that Phil knows my critiques are not personal and I’ll still read his blog, watch his show, and recommend his books to anyone who has questions about skepticism, astronomy and space exploration, and tell anyone who asks that he’s a genuinely nice guy who’s very enthusiastic about science. Death From The Skies is still one of my favorite science books of all time.

  81. Cochise

    @TBC: I don’t know too much about the DBAD talk, only from what I’ve read from this blog. I’m deaf so the video wasn’t available with captions or subtitles. I did pick up on a lot of the sentiments here. Generally, I agree with DBAD. But at the same time, not giving any ground to antiscience supporters. There has been a lot of times in my life where I just went off on somebody so utterly ignorant that it bugged me to no end. I kind of regretted it because they were friends. They weren’t bad people, just didn’t have the ability to see things the scientific way. How beautiful science can be. I can see where Phil is coming from, but if Mooney is what you guys say he is….then I gotta double back on why Phil would support him?

  82. I can’t count myself as a loyal reader of this blog. I’ve been an on and off RSS subscriber and would say I probably visit every three months.

    That out of the way, I too, think Mooney values framing more than he ought, his response to criticism of his criticism of New Atheists has contributed less meaning and understanding to the discussion than I would hope. I would have hoped for a more sophisticated and clear explanation of the mechanism that starts with “aggressive New Atheists” and ends with “people turned away from science.” I wish he could have shown how his characterization of the issue accurately captured the ways people’s opinions were influenced by dialog, perhaps with research.

    And that out of the way, I think the reaction to Phil’s well-wishing needs not go overboard. Phil is not Chris (as PZ said) and no one needs to be burned at the stake for well-wishing of Mooney, even if said well-wishing seems rather inexplicable.

  83. I don’t have much to add to the many excellent comments pointing out the vacuity and hypocrisy of Chris Mooney’s “shut up and get back in the closet, atheists” approach to science education. But I want to emphasize the irony: Mooney is allegedly an expert at communication, yet the only tangible thing he seems to have accomplished is getting a huge number of atheists to despise him. Doesn’t this cast doubt on his professional credentials? Why wasn’t he able to “frame” his message in a way that appeals to atheists and wins them over?

    I mean, we want science education to be better, yet he wasn’t even able to persuade us, his natural audience, to follow his approach. This doesn’t speak well of his likelihood of success when it comes to winning over coal-industry lobbyists and diehard global-warming denialists. Seriously, what in his track record convinced AGU to hire him? What successes can he boast that they wanted to replicate?

  84. Muzz

    I’ve got nothing really to say about all these blog wars, but they sure are interesting.
    Somewhat related; I don’t know if people have heard the intro of the most recent Non-Prophets podcast, but it’s funny.

    A link straight to the audio
    http://www.nonprophetsradio.com/audio/The%20Non-Prophets%209.12.mp3

  85. Hamilton Jacobi

    In light of the fact that Phil was unaware of the TJ affair at the time of his DBAD speech, I think it is understandable that he was surprised and taken aback at the ferocity of the blowback from that speech. And I think we should give him some time to mull over this new information carefully.

    But realistically, Phil, you should understand in retrospect that you were walking into a minefield laid by your good buddy Chris. He spends most of his time lecturing other people on how to be nice and polite and friendly, yet he fails to live up to even the most basic standards of fairness and good-faith interactions with others. Yes, he smiles a lot and doesn’t use naughty words, but he is intellectually dishonest to the core. The “Tom Johnson” affair brought it all out into the open and laid bare the depths of his hypocrisy. So perhaps you can understand how, with this example of two-faced behavior fresh in the minds of (apparently) almost everyone in the skeptic community but you, many people were displeased to receive yet another lecture on polite behavior from someone who provides no specific supporting evidence and fails to engage with good-faith questions from critics.

  86. Scote

    @ 73. PZ Myers

    If Plait doesn’t want to be confused with Mooney then he shouldn’t do Mooney-like things, such as such as telling people how to communicate (Plait’s DBAD speech) without evidence that his suggestions are either necessary or efficacious and by refusing to ever define his argument, such as what being a dick consists of or who is doing so to the harm of science. That is right out of the Mooney playbook. The trend continues as Plait lets his friendship get in the way of objective evaluation of of Mooney’s professional behavior (as Mooney did with Nesbit), and by ignoring evidence that Mooney is bad at science communication and harmful to the cause.

    In science, one must go where the sound evidence leads. When it comes to Mooney, Plait has a huge blind spot.

  87. Jennifer B. Phillips

    Phil, I for one am willing to give you a pass on missing the whole TJ thing. Life is busy indeed. However, if you take the time to get up to speed on that–and on some of the ‘you’re doing it wrong’ head-butting that preceded it, I think it will be clearer to you WHY some people were rubbed the wrong way by your DBAD speech.

  88. Alex R. K.

    I have a suggestion. Rather than expecting Phil to slog through the Tom Johnson case right now, or any of the umpteen other problems cited with Mooney, we can ask Phil to focus on just one issue.

    Phil, let’s see if we can reach a consensus on whether Mooney is being reasonable about banning Benson. See the links on it above. Benson is a published author of note; she lectures around the world; she is not a troll. My contention is that any reasonable person who has read up on the situation will conclude that Mooney is either unethical or self-deluded. I can even understand a reasonable person using term “scumbag” here, as this is a borderline case of libel.

    I welcome any and all evidences, arguments, and perspectives to the contrary. Perhaps there is something we have been missing. Though he does not answer questions about it, perhaps he will respond to you. Let’s get to the bottom of this.

  89. Monkey

    On topic of “science education” and popularization…

    Phil….either I missed it or you didnt say it, but your show is on th Asian feed of Discovery Channel now too. This I learned as I was flipping after dinner and caught the very…very…end of you saying “..before its too late”.

    I was so peeved I missed it…but cool to see a show of such stature among a land of Chinese medince, astrology and falun dafa.

  90. Monkey

    @Scote

    I dont think Phil was doing “Mooney like things”. I think he was just telling us to stop making people feel like idiots when we try to explain the skeptics view to them. To not call a spade a spade is a fault, so we need to call out all the spades. This includes homeopathy and religion alike. Astrology and Distance Prayer Healing, too. Everything. I fell off the boat a bit when there was a seemingly obvious gap where he wants to be direct and terse with things of pseudo-science, but to be hands of when it comes to religion. I think that needs more clarification. But, I totally disagree that he is in any way doing what Mooney does

  91. Scote

    @ Monkey, who wrote:

    “I dont think Phil was doing “Mooney like things”. I think he was just telling us to stop making people feel like idiots when we try to explain the skeptics view to them. ‘

    One needn’t even consider the contents of the DBAD speech to see Plait following in Mooney’s footsteps, one need only look to Plait’s actions after it, where he refused repeated calls to clarify what he meant, what qualifies as being a **** or provide any real examples or evidence of his claims. Now he has the gall to complain that people are misinterpreting his speech. That in and of itself puts Plait’s actions in the Mooney category.

    In the aggregate Phil Plait is wonderful. I’ve been following his blogs since his first speech at TAM, but these recent lapses are a turn off.

  92. Kenny

    Just as a side note: Has anybody here listened to the latest episode of Point of Inquiry? The reason I ask is that this blog is getting many comments about Mooney, but the POI forums are getting very little relating to this particular episode.

    It’s a debate between Mooney and 2 atheists who side with the “be honest” approach. I have to say, every time Mooney spoke I just got the feeling he was thinking on things to say that would further his chances of winning the Templeton prize.

    I just plain don’t like the guy.

  93. TheBlackCat

    I would say for me an enormous amount rides on exactly how, and if, Phil responds to the TJ debacle and, far more importantly, the aftermath, particularly Mooney’s response. What happened with Tom Johnson isn’t the only issue, a large, probably the largest, part of the problem is how not how Mooney handled the original story, but instead how he handled the revelation that it is all a lie. Although it is debatable how big a role it played overall, in terms of Phil’s response I think Mooney’s response is the most critical thing to address, because it doesn’t reflect on Mooney’s judgment, it reflect on his behavior, his integrity, and his communication skills. So, as others have said, what is most important is not that Mooney made a mistake, it was how he responded to learning he had done so.

    So a response along the lines of “anybody can get tricked”, one that completely ignores the much earlier warnings and, far more importantly, ignores Mooney’s response to the exposure of the lie will do far more damage to my respect for Phil than anything that has happened up to this point. For me, he should either deal with the entire issue from beginning to end, or just pretend it never happened. Ignoring the issue would be far better than cherry-picking the convenient bits and ignoring the more difficult ones. That is the height of intellectual dishonesty. So I really, really, really hope Phil addresses Mooney’s response.

    I am also very interested to see how, and if, Phil responds to the Ophelia banning case, especially considering Ophelia took the time to post here herself. Phil has focused today only on the TJ affair, which is understandable since he can only do one thing at a time, but he did specifically ask people about Mooney’s banning, so I think he owes us, and especially Ophelia, a response on that subject as well, and soon. There have been far too many cases where Mooney has promised a response to a particular issue then let it disappear down the memory hole. I would be extremely disappointed to see Phil follow such a pattern.

  94. This is the most ridiculous over-reaction to a simple congratulatory blog post I’ve seen in ages.

  95. Thanny

    I know these series of tubes have got us all accustomed to instant info gratification, but give the man a chance to read up on past events and think about his position.

    I’m pretty sure he’s earned at least that with his contributions over the last decade or so.

    Phil, I just want to echo that reading about the TJ affair may very well give you some insight into why your DBAD talk was received so negatively by some people. I’m not saying you were right – I have some serious disagreements with you on the topic – but I think the reaction was far more negative than it would have been without “Tom Johnson” laying down the muck, with Mooney stirring it up.

  96. Monkey

    @ Jennifer, there is a bigger issue at stake. The congratulations post merely brought it to the surface. If the blog post was “I saw Mooney today at lunch” then I presume the reaction would have been the same – a mote of literary dust upon which an ocean of thoughts condensed upon. It just happens that most peopl have been turned off by Mooney and they are freely, not dickishly, stating their opinion at this moment. I would not say its an over reaction, perhaps it seems this way, though.

    As a spokesperson for science and skepticism, I think Mooney is a turnoff. I dont think Im alone in being very put off by his interviews and interview style (once DJ left, the show died).

  97. Sigmund

    Jennifer Ouellette said:
    “This is the most ridiculous over-reaction to a simple congratulatory blog post I’ve seen in ages.”
    I think you’ll find that most of the reaction is simply a response to Phils request for information about Chris Mooney’s past behavior.
    By the way, Jennifer, I really liked your recent interview on ‘Point of Inquiry’, when you talked about your new book.

  98. Utakata

    …um ridiculous is not an appropriate word here. Off topic, derailed yes…but in context it set off many a nerve. Perhaps reading threw the posts would enlighten one to see what has been said and the important issues raised. It’s a pitty though this was not addressesd sooner in a more appropriate blog entry where the author of this blog could of facilitated…instead of letting it fester.

    Either way, over-reaction it is most certainly not.

  99. Cake

    I started to read Chris Mooney’s blog shortly before the Tom Johnson incident happened.
    Initially, I had the impression that Mooney’s blog provided a fair dicussion platform of the articles posted there, just like Pharyngula, Butterflies and Wheels and Why Evolution is True do.
    When I learned about the many comments that were not allowed to appear, when one of my (harmless, I think) comments was blocked, and when I saw the one-sided moderation of comments, I was very disappointed. The picture the comments at that blog paint is heavily distorted towards one side. I expected an open discourse and found what I would call dishonesty. Considering that Chris Mooney criticises others for their communication style, when he does not communicate honestly himself, I’d call him hypocritical.

  100. TheBlackCat @76,

    “But you never answered countless questions about how we can do both at the same time. The very act of not backing down, they very act of confronting antiscience, is what a great many people consider being a jerk. These two statements contradict each other, you can’t confront antiscience without at least some people thinking you are a jerk. It is impossible.”

    The problem is that there is a difference between some people thinking you’re a jerk and you ACTUALLY BEING a jerk. Yes, some people will be offended by you daring to challenge their views, but those people are well-represented on all sides of pretty much all issues. But we do, in general, know how to distinguish between someone really being a jerk and cases where someone is just expressing their views. Since this does relate to intent, it isn’t always clear where that line is, and there are indeed some gray areas, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t decide what methods are being jerks and what are just not backing down.

    A good litmus test might be that if those among your opponents that are willing to listen to you are getting ticked off and saying that they don’t want to listen to you anymore, maybe you’re starting to drift over the line.

    “Add to that the fact that you said you support accomodationism, which specifically calls for not confronting antiscience for certain beliefs …”

    I don’t think that’s true. At its base, accomodationism simply says that being religious is not, in and of itself, anti-science, and that people who are religious do not need to be anti-science and that people who are scientific do not need to be anti-religion. That’s the whole point of the arguments over “ways of knowing”. Most of the accomodationists I’ve read simply call for religious people who are willing to accept science to be acknowledged as such. I’ve seen this misinterpretation quite a bit, but it always strikes me as those who make that interpretation — and it’s generally not accomodationists who say it — reading their OWN beliefs into what they’re reading as opposed to what the other person is actually saying.

  101. This is the most ridiculous over-reaction to a simple congratulatory blog post I’ve seen in ages.

    Well Jennifer, when you consider who’s being congratulated and why…

  102. Clemmie

    Although this appears a bit of a “pile on” the sheer number of (non-sockpuppet!) commenters is important. So I will add my voice to the Chris Mooney bashing – not personally but in his reactions to criticism. Especially his banning of Ophelia Benson for asking awkward, but extremely good, questions. She may have been persistent, but none were copy-and-paste trolling and each time I looked forward to Mooney answering them. But instead he banned her. Not a good reaction.

  103. TheBlackCat

    @ Jennifer Ouellette: Uh, he’s being congratulated for getting a job as a science communicator, a job a lot of people clearly do not think he is qualified for. I don’t think it is at all an over-reaction to point out that someone is unqualified for a position for which he ha been hired, and that therefore the hiring was a mistake, and that therefore supporting the hiring is also a mistake. The issue exploded after that when Phil asked for justification for that opinion, and others provided not only justification, but explanations for the context, relevance, and importance of the claims as well.

    This is not the first time these problems with Mooney have been highlighted on this blog, it is just the first time Phil has expressed any willingness to address them. Perhaps it would not have exploded quite so much if Phil had addressed the problems back when they were first raised here back in August, or the several times since then.

  104. jaranath

    As others have observed, Jennifer: This might be ridiculous if it actually WAS a response to one post, though even that one post’s implication (that Chris is suited to the job) may be questionable.

  105. Nigel Depledge

    Semi (15) said:

    . . . You can wade through the comments if you want evidence of post moderation . . .

    Or how about you summarise that evidence here where you made the claim that Mooney bans or blocks dissenting commenters / comments, rather than expecting the rest of us to do the legwork?

    You made the claim. You back it up.

  106. Nigel Depledge

    Prattlehorn (17) said:

    Mooney has, in fact, done all the things semi says in #8 (links now in #15). And worse.

    So how about you summarise the evidence here for all to see? And what “worse” has Mooney done?

    In short, I have not read much of anything regarding Mooney’s behaviour. You and Semi are making claims about him here. How about you support those claims with at the very least a summary of what he has done and why you believe him to have done them?

  107. Stewart

    The link already posted at #15 (http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2009/waist-deep-in-the-moral-slime/) is an excellent summary. It includes the texts of comments that were banned, for no self-evident reason (the obvious “real” reason is that the questions posed were simply inconvenient to Mooney and his agenda). It stands on its own very well as a condemnation of Mooney’s tactics and I am not aware of anyone who has claimed any of it to be a fabrication.

  108. M.T.

    Collaborator, as in Vichy.

  109. Nigel,

    Ophelia Benson at comment 23 gives a summary and a link about Mooney banning her.

    Russel Blackford at comment 54 gives an example of and link to a comment being held indefinitely in moderation.

    Both are respected bloggers with strong opinions and solid track records.

    Those should serve as a summary I would think, although I’d imagine if anyone really is interested they would go through and look at the evidence themselves, as I did. My own reading of Mooney’s explanation of why he banned Ophelia Benson was what led me to conclude that he does not deal with criticism well or often at all.

  110. While I strongly agree with the sentiment of pretty much every commenter here, can you guys please not confuse Phil Plaitt with Chris Mooney? That is ridiculous. Chris has been unresponsive and dismissive to arguments that directly address perhaps the signature talking point of his career. That behavior bears on his reputation, sure.

    But Phil hasn’t done anything remotely at that scale. Even if he’s unresponsive here, I don’t see that it is grounds for anything more than annoyance. But since Phil was unfortunate enough to mention Chris Mooney in a blog post, there is an appetite to have that controversy over again, and to have it with whoever happens to be around, e.g. Phil.

  111. articulett

    Phil, I think we can all infer that the DBAD speech WASN’T directed at Chris Mooney, whom many of us think of as a dick. We can also infer that maybe you think the dicks are the same people Mooney thinks are dicks (PZ, Coyne, and other outspoken atheists) since you never clarified. You hinted that “dickishness” is treating religious woo the way skeptics treat other woo. Your continual support of Mooney only deepens this conclusion in my mind. I think the accommodationists are being dicks to atheists myself. It was skepticism that solidified my atheism. I don’t like this idea that being upfront about not having supernatural beliefs is “dickish”. I don’t like it from Mooney (the self-appointed science communicator) or you (the self-appointed expert on dickishness).

  112. jaranath

    I agree that Chris and Phil are at two very different levels, josef, and yes, some folks are probably equating them too much. But I don’t think that invalidates our complaints or makes them not worth making. People’s disappointment in Phil’s stance is genuine and worth voicing.

    And hey, let’s not forget that what you seem to be framing as an unfair shellacking of Phil for innocently mentioning Chris is bearing fruit. Specifically, we’ve learned: Phil wasn’t familiar with the TJ affair, and he made DBAD in ignorance of that context. I think that is informative to both us and Phil. If anything, it looks as if maybe we’re (gasp) communicating effectively. Maybe our and Phil’s frustrations with DBAD will both fade a bit here.

  113. Tulse

    can you guys please not confuse Phil Plaitt with Chris Mooney

    People are disappointed with Phil — they’re pissed at Mooney. I don’t think there’s much confusion…

  114. OK, so I’ve looked at all this now. I’ll say that I do remember seeing something about the TJ affair when it happened – this broke in July when I was really overwhelmed with life – but what I saw looked to me like a pretty simple case of deception, and it didn’t register very high on my radar.

    Now, after reading Chris’s blog, and other entries by various players, I don’t see much reason to change my mind. TJ had the bona fides and duped Chris. When Chris figured it out, he posted a mea culpa. Mind you, I’m still saying Chris made a mistake in taking TJ’s comment and making it a stand-alone entry on the blog. But he also said he checked into TJ’s claims and they sounded legit. Some people are saying TJ’s claims sounded fishy to them. Well, OK. Maybe Chris should’ve spotted that too, but people make mistakes. Or maybe Chris had more info than any of you guys did that lent him to think TJ was on the up and up. That’s as much as what Chris said in his blog. Either way, in the end, Chris made a mistake and owned up to it.

    Which brings me to the second issue: the comments left on Chris’s blog posts. About those, it looks to me that Chris was clear there as well. As I pointed out here in the comments above, there can be a big difference between what you say and how you say it. Is Chris banning people because of what they say? Well, I see quite a bit of disagreement over Chris’s books and such on his blog, and people not getting banned for it. And in his post about Ophelia Benson, he says he will ban people if they “aren’t civil, aren’t substantive, aren’t accurate, engage in attacks…” but not for their opinions. In many cases, it’s a judgment call, and me looking back at who and what got deleted or banned or whatever and second-guessing is generally a minefield. However…

    Ophelia (comment #23, above) says she was banned for one comment, but from what I have seen that is not the case. It looks to me that she had a long history of commenting that led to her banning — in the very thread that led to the banning, her comments get more and more strident with time (for example, calling Chris’s blog "a slum"). I might have given her more rope than Chris did, but probably not much more. What crosses that line is different for everyone.

    Does any of this change things here on Bad Astronomy? Not for me. I will continue to speak my mind, fight for what I think is right, and strive to do so in a manner that, when necessary, will change people’s minds and hearts about science, skepticism, and reality.

  115. ERV

    What crosses that line is different for everyone.
    I know rite? How crass of us to get up in arms at comment moderation, censorship, and bannations at AoA or UD, they just have ‘different lines’ to be crossed.

    Pro-Tip, Phil, stop digging. The comment you just left was shockingly BSerific.

  116. Phil – my comments got more “strident” when my reply to someone calling me a liar (falsely, needless to say) was held in moderation while his libelous false accusation against me was there for all to see. The full comment where I called the blog a slum is this:

    Great. My comment is awaiting moderation. I get accused of telling falsehoods, but in stronger langauge than that – and my reply is stuck in moderation.

    This blog is such a slum.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/07/27/some-more-words-to-the-new-atheist-blogosphere-on-unscientific-america/#comment-28274

    Are you really happy with a standard of moderation that allows fans to call people liars but bans people for protesting being called liars?

    To be completely clear: TB (Tim Broderick) called me a liar for asking some questions. Not for making an affirmation, just for asking some questions. I still, to this day, don’t know what the answers to those questions would be; they were genuine questions, not disguised assertions.

  117. Phil – my comments got more “strident” when my reply to someone calling me a liar (falsely, needless to say) was held in moderation while his libelous false accusation against me was there for all to see. The full comment where I called the blog a slum is this:

    Great. My comment is awaiting moderation. I get accused of telling falsehoods, but in stronger langauge than that – and my reply is stuck in moderation.

    This blog is such a slum.

    Are you really happy with a standard of moderation that allows fans to call people liars but bans people for protesting being called liars?

    To be completely clear: TB (Tim Broderick) called me a liar for asking some questions. Not for making an affirmation, just for asking some questions. I still, to this day, don’t know what the answers to those questions would be; they were genuine questions, not disguised assertions.

  118. In fairness, the slum comment was in frustration over having her comments held in moderation while lies about Ophelia were let through. It is hard to see the full picture since said lies were later deleted.

    Having just re read the posts, I don’t see anything that could warrant banning by any reasonable standard, although as you say, standards vary.

    Which is the ultimate problem with all this. I think Mooney has very poor standards for dealing with criticism, and has demonstrated this penchant for ignoring reasoned critique time and again.

  119. RBH

    Y’know, a while back Minnesotans said of Garrison Keillor that he was getting too big for his britches when he took up with that Dane and went off to New York. Judging from his most recent comment, Phil’s going down the same path sans the Dane.

  120. Sili

    Well, reading down the thread I was for a bit relieved to learn that this was just a case of ignorance, since I think I (and others) have been attributing malice.

    But with the response at 117, I return to disappointment. M**ney didn’t in any way try to check TJ’s credentials. He swallowed what he was fed by TJ wholesale, because it confirmed his prejudices. The whole “promoted from the comments” debacle (and K*rshenbaum’s similar demonstration of ‘posts’ from Pharyngula) was a textbook example of confirmation bias. M**ney has time and again demonstrated that he’s incapable of thinking skeptically and employing arguments in place of ipse-dixitism.

    Secondly, M**ney claims to be a journalist! Scientists as we know from Randi tend to take people on trust. Referees look for errors, and are good at spotting them, but there absolutely crap at spotting fraud. As a journalist, M**ney, on the other hand, be able to look gift horse in the mouth and not be fooled so easily.

    Chris made a mistake and owned up to it.

    No, he didn’t. His hand was forced by Coyne tracking down his ‘source’ and clearly and precisely demonstrating just how incompetent M**ney was. And even then he no more than notpologised. He was only sorry he was caught.

    It would have made no difference if Benson had cussed him out. M**ney would still be wrong. In fact he moved into not-even-wrong territory.

  121. Sili

    This is the most ridiculous over-reaction to a simple congratulatory blog post I’ve seen in ages.

    Don’t pretend this post exists in a vacuum.

    Phil, as has been demonstrated, has repeatedly been asked to explain why he’s so smitten with M**ney. After “You’re Not Helping”, his DBAD could hardly be seen as anything but a defence of M**enyism. Add to that his silence when asked to clarify and explain.

  122. TheBlackCat

    Sorry Phil, that is NOT a response to people’s problems. As I unfortunately predicted back in post 95, you focused solely on Mooney acceptance of TJ’s and totally ignored the much more substantive and important criticisms of Mooney’s response to the exposure of the TJ’s lies.

    This one comment has cost you an enormous amount of respect in my eyes. Your refusal to actually deal with peoples’ real criticisms and instead cherry-picking the most convenient portions of the affair is NOT how skeptics are supposed to behave, it is textbook denialist behavior. A year ago it would be the last thing I would expect from you, but unfortunately now I expected it and was right. That alone is very depressing.

    It looks to me that she had a long history of commenting that led to her banning — in the very thread that led to the banning, her comments get more and more strident with time (for example, calling Chris’s blog “a slum”). I might have given her more rope than Chris did, but probably not much more. What crosses that line is different for everyone.

    I’m sorry, are you kidding me!? So accusing someone of lying is okay, but getting upset when your responses to those accusations are let through is “crossing the line”? She even went on to say that she should give Mooney the benefit of the doubt, just before she was banned.

    You address Ophelia’s posts, but once again you ignore the much more serious criticism that others who said stuff far worse but agree with Mooney are allowed to continue posts, posts criticizing Ophelia were allowed after her banning but she was not allowed to respond, and Mooney is much, much, much more strict with comments of those who disagree with him than ones that agree with him.

    Her posts were far less “strident” than the accusations against her. The only point where she got even the least bit hostile is that one word, the rest of it were complaints against Mooney for not addressing concerns about his book, his blatant misrepresentation of the affair with Coyne, and him not letting her self-defense posts through moderation. You are far more strident in many of your own blog posts.

    You really think that what she said in that thread is nearly sufficient to be banned here? That is, frankly, terrifying. She was far calmer, kinder, and more reasons than a great many regulars here routinely are. I would have been banned a hundred times over here if you applied that sort of reasoning.

    But of course on Mooney’s blog only his opponents are treated this way. Those who support him are allowed far more leeway than his opponents.

  123. The biggest problem with Mooney is that he actively tells others in the community to shut up. If he wants to work on science communication his own way, good for him. But he shouldn’t call for silence from others who use differing strategies.

  124. TheBlackCat

    The problem is that there is a difference between some people thinking you’re a jerk and you ACTUALLY BEING a jerk.

    That interpretation doesn’t work. In fact I would say it is completely backwards.

    The whole point of the speech is that being a jerk drives people away. So for Phil’s argument to hold, it really doesn’t matter whatsoever if you are actually being a jerk, or whether you think you are being a jerk, what matters is if your audience thinks you are being a jerk. So the debate about some objective criteria for being a jerk is irrelevant, the only way Phil’s argument would hold is if we go by the audience’s perception, no matter how far from reality that may be.

    But we do, in general, know how to distinguish between someone really being a jerk and cases where someone is just expressing their views. Since this does relate to intent, it isn’t always clear where that line is, and there are indeed some gray areas, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t decide what methods are being jerks and what are just not backing down.

    It is all the same if it drives people away.

    A good litmus test might be that if those among your opponents that are willing to listen to you are getting ticked off and saying that they don’t want to listen to you anymore, maybe you’re starting to drift over the line.

    Listen to you on what? Everybody is willing to listen to some extent of discussion, but, as Phil himself just said, there is a very wide variety on where they draw the line. So you need to define what they are willing to listen to for your definition to actually be usable in practice.

    I don’t think that’s true. At its base, accomodationism simply says that being religious is not, in and of itself, anti-science, and that people who are religious do not need to be anti-science and that people who are scientific do not need to be anti-religion.

    No, that is not all it says. Yes, it says that, but it also says that anyone who disagrees on this point (as many people do) should shut up about it. Accomodationism doesn’t just take a particular side on an issue, it says that people who disagree should not express their views. I’ve read countless articles making this specific point, over and over and over again. Don’t tell me people aren’t arguing this, I’ve seen the argument made dozens of times and I don’t follow the debate very closely.

    That’s the whole point of the arguments over “ways of knowing”.

    It isn’t really so much an argument, as a baseless assertion on one side and the other side asking for support for that assertion, but that is another issue.

    Most of the accomodationists I’ve read simply call for religious people who are willing to accept science to be acknowledged as such.

    …and that they not be called out on what many people consider to be an inherent contradiction in such a position.

    I’ve seen this misinterpretation quite a bit, but it always strikes me as those who make that interpretation — and it’s generally not accomodationists who say it — reading their OWN beliefs into what they’re reading as opposed to what the other person is actually saying.

    I’ve read a lot of what accomodationists say, and it largely amounts to the idea that atheists are hurting science by saying science contradicts religion so they shouldn’t say that. They are telling one side of a debate to shut up. They aren’t calling for silencing critics, but they are calling for critics to voluntary not voice their opinions.

  125. Clemmie

    First of all thank you Phil for at least responding to some comments, you could have easily just left it. And also like others I am not confusing yours with Mooney’s behaviour which IS to ignore or ban. Also I don’t really have a problem with “accommodationism”, but rather Mooney’s apparent insistence that it is the ONLY way of promoting science and everything else, especially clearly articulated atheism, is harmful or at best neutral. I am not really satisfied with your response but I’ll just take it as an important reminder that anyone, even the most sceptical person, can turn a blind eye to bad behaviour when it is a friend. TheBlackCat has said pretty much everything else worth saying.

    It is a pity this seems like a ganging up on one person, but surely can’t you see that in itself shows something important about the situation. Very few comments have been rude or abusive rather they are rational, calm – but extremely frustrated! On with the Astronomy, which I enjoy hugely.

  126. Phil Plait notpologizing in #117:

    Now, after reading Chris’s blog, and other entries by various players, I don’t see much reason to change my mind. TJ had the bona fides and duped Chris.

    NO, Phil, he did not “dupe Chris” – he posted an unsubstantiated claim of specific behavior with no background, no details, and no support. Moreover, it was a highly implausible story from the start, one that should have set off warning bells to anyone with a background in science conventions. Mooney, however, did not question it, did not confirm it, and did not even treat it as the anecdotal story that it was – he created a blog post dedicated solely to it trumpeting how it proved his point!

    When the facade came crashing down, he hemmed, hawed, dodged, mumbled something about being taken in (yeah, nice research work there, Mr. Communicator) and then allowed as how, even though every last detail about it was both proven and admittedly incorrect, claimed it might have been true anyhow!

    You also missed the bit where, while Ophelia Benson got banned for, as you directly claim, calling his blog a “slum,” her detractors, not only calling her a liar, also used the term “putrid tw*t” [rhymes with “swat” – must not break your own rule for civility, though Mooney apparently has no problem with the word.] Those posts remained, at least until the whole ugly business got deleted by Mooney. And I notice you failed to mention that, too.

    Sorry, buddy, for someone who is supposed to be championing critical-thinking, you’ve turned into a pathetic plastic media-hound, trying to dodge responsibility for a pathetically bad position. I’ll stick to reading someone who has both integrity and standards.

  127. Scote

    Hmm…”Just Al,” I think you may be providing an example that Phil could use in an improved DBAD speech (if Phil would ever provide examples or fix his argument.) Your post was great, up until the last paragraph, where you seem to have felt a need to add unnecessary rhetorical flourishes. I think Phil is wrong on this issue for all the reasons you so rightly mentioned and more, but trying to call him “pathetic” and devoid of integrity and standards is over the top. It turns your post from well supported argument into an internet flame of overstated claims.

  128. “I don’t see much reason to change my mind. TJ had the bona fides and duped Chris.”

    Um, no. TJ said he had the bona fides and Chis believed him. How hard is it to call the university where TJ claimed to be working and researching, and asking: “hey, is so and so a grad student here?” You know who did that? Jerry Coyne. The great journalist and communicator, on the other hand, said that a couple of links were enough for him. If this is how he does background research for his stories, I’m amazed he managed to pass J-school.

    “Or maybe Chris had more info than any of you guys did that lent him to think TJ was on the up and up.”

    Except he didn’t until a vast stream of detractors scared him enough to mew something about “there being more to the story,” which was, by the way, elaborated by Coyne and Ophelia. He had so much info that he swallowed up a story that sounds as if it was written by Casey Luskin, then said “well it may be true anyway but we never hear about it” in that classic conspiracy theorist negative evidence style as his mea culpa? Really? Let’s not kid ourselves here.

    If Chris wants to see an example of an actual mea culpa, he can take a look at some of my blog posts, like the one where I fell for the Daily Mail’s story about Rhagbir Bhathal’s supposed claims to alien signals from Gliese 581g, then published an update and another post with Dr. Bhathal’s statement about the status of his research, an apology for falling for the Mail’s tall tales, and a thanks to the reader who clued me in to some of the major flaws in it, all without saying that “well, he might’ve heard an alien signal from the planet anyway but he might be sitting on it until he confirms it, so the story could be true anyways.” That’s how you do a mea culpa, not by weaseling out and hinting that you know something the readers don’t, and therefore they can’t criticize you.

  129. Fact clarification: it wasn’t on Mooney’s blog that I was called a “useless putrid twat”…though it was, ironically, “Tom Johnson” who called me that. That was many months later, on TJ’s shiny new fraudulent sock-puppet-filled blog “You’re Not Helping,” which was devoted mostly to smearing Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, and (for reasons which are still obscure to me) me.

    There is still a lot of entanglement though. Mooney did two posts in the period when YNH was falling apart and TJ was getting in ever deeper trouble with his supervisor and colleagues and university, in which he (Mooney) claimed to be apologizing to all who were damaged by the TJ affair. But that was a dishonest claim, because I am still banned from his blog for no real reason (despite what Phil says above).

    But anyway, Phil can’t be blamed for not mentioning that particular epithet.

  130. Scote

    I’d note that *a lot of us* are banned from posting at The Intersection for disagreeing with Chris Mooney. I’m banned there, the only place I’ve been banned. It is a mistake to assume that Chris is being honest when he claims not to ban people for their opinions. It got such that Christ turned off comments entirely on some posts because he couldn’t ban people fast enough for disagreeing with him.

    I know Chris is your friend, Phil Plait, but people are complex. Don’t assume Mooney is completely honest just because you like him, have known him a long time and because he has good qualities. None of those things mean that Chris isn’t wrong, disingenuous or outright mendacious at times.

  131. grung0r

    I too am banned at the intersection. Given the tiny number of(almost always sycophantic) comments there now days, I think it should be trivialy obvious to anyone who looks that he banned anyone who voiced even the mildest dissent during the sock puppet theater fiasco. It’s his prerogative of course, but it reflects incredibly poorly on what is supposed to be his forte: communication.

  132. David D.

    Wow–how interesting to see some of Phil’s most ardent fanboys turn on him. And you all actually thought that when presented with evidence and reasonable arguments pointing out the “error of his ways” that he would somehow see the light?

    How’s that working for you?

    Phil may be a champion of critical thinking, but it is obvious that his personal biases sometimes seem to overshadow his skeptical side more often than I am comfortable with. His political leanings have caused me to become a less frequent participant over the years.

    It will be interesting to see how many more readers fall by the wayside. It would be a shame for this blog to turn into a mini-version of PZMires angry fan convention.

  133. Phil, Mooney employed the same tactics used by anti-vaxxers and hoaxers: using made-up facts as supporting evidence of his thesis (that new atheists are hurting the cause and should shut-up), and then saying, “but it still MIGHT be true anyway” (as his owning-up-apology no less)!

    That methodology doesn’t set off any alarm bells for you?

    His casual dismissal of his own error doesn’t raise your hackles at all?

    How?

  134. ERV

    ‘The Intersection’– No one reads it. Not even Mooneys ‘friends’.

  135. TheBlackCat @128,

    Let me make my point clearer.

    Your main point was that you are being asked not to honestly express your views. This is usually derived from the claim that the people complaining about jerks are just reacting to disagreement with their views, and not to actual jerky behaviour.

    So, the first point to make is that if you aren’t being a jerk, you’ll offend far less people, because we can presume that more people recognize actual jerk behaviour than don’t.

    If most of the people you’re talking to will react to any criticism of their views as you being a jerk, you probably aren’t going to get anywhere, anyway.

    That’s where the point about the people who are willing to listen to you comes in. If they’re willing to listen to criticism and disagreement, then the first argument goes away. So if they react badly, it’s likely not because of disagreement, but because you’re actually being offensive, which may well mean you’re being a jerk. And these people are important, because if you can convince them that you aren’t a jerk, they’ll take up the cause with the people who are just being offended by criticism. At best, the fact that they agree on many important things with those people might convince those people that you aren’t being a jerk. At worst, they’ll join on your side.

    And if you are objectively not being a jerk, you can then argue against people who say that you’re being a jerk, instead of having to defend being a jerk … which can only help moderate audiences.

    Thus, objectively not being a jerk seems to help your cause, not hurt it, and has the added benefit that, well, you aren’t being a jerk. This seems to fit fairly neatly with what Phil was going on about. He is, indeed, asking you not to be a jerk, and that seems to fulfill the purpose of, at least, not offending the audience most likely to listen to you and give you a reasonably fair hearing.

    “Accomodationism doesn’t just take a particular side on an issue, it says that people who disagree should not express their views. I’ve read countless articles making this specific point, over and over and over again. Don’t tell me people aren’t arguing this, I’ve seen the argument made dozens of times and I don’t follow the debate very closely.”

    There is nothing in the accomodationist position that demands this, and incompatibilists might and probably do say similar things. Some accomodationists say this, but not all do. You are lumping all opposition into saying the same things, even though their positions do not reflect. That’s kinda like someone saying that all atheists believe that God does not exist.

    I also think that you are misinterpreting the position, since to me they seem far more directed than you give them credit for when they ask the “jerks” to stop being such. But that’s not really relevant to this point.

  136. jaranath

    Verbose Stoic, it seems to me your argument, as written, is that anyone “willing to listen” who subsequently takes offense was probably offended by “dickishness.”

    If so, then…wow.

  137. TheBlackCat

    Your main point was that you are being asked not to honestly express your views.

    No, my main point was the Phil needs to explain what he means, because a lot of people don’t seem to get it.

    This is usually derived from the claim that the people complaining about jerks are just reacting to disagreement with their views, and not to actual jerky behaviour.

    I never claimed this, either. I did ask how Phil would deal with such a case. A lot of people also call people jerks for being blunt, for not coddling people with opposing views, and so on.

    So, the first point to make is that if you aren’t being a jerk, you’ll offend far less people, because we can presume that more people recognize actual jerk behaviour than don’t.

    That, once again, depends a huge amount on the audience, on what you mean by “jerk”, and many other factors I describe shortly.

    If they’re willing to listen to criticism and disagreement, then the first argument goes away.

    How, exactly, do you expect us to determine this in practice? How do you tell if someone is willing to listen to criticism and disagreement?

    Further, there are varying levels of criticism and disagreement. Does the person have to be willing to listen to any level of disagreement? There are also ways to phrase disagreement. Some people will accept criticism but only if it isn’t phrased explicitly as a criticism, others require platitudes and reassurances and won’t take blunt, neutral statements. How people react to criticism and disagreement is far more nuanced and more complicated than you describe here, which makes your proposal infeasible in practice.

    Of course this is not news, it is one of the major issues people have been bringing up all along.

    And these people are important, because if you can convince them that you aren’t a jerk, they’ll take up the cause with the people who are just being offended by criticism. At worst, they’ll join on your side.

    Either I am misunderstanding or there is typo somewhere in here, because this doesn’t make any sense.

    And if you are objectively not being a jerk, you can then argue against people who say that you’re being a jerk, instead of having to defend being a jerk … which can only help moderate audiences.

    That assumes the audience in question is approaching the situation rationally. People tend to be very easily swayed by emotional appeals even if those appeals are flawed. If someone acts offended you will be seen as a bully whether you actually were one or not.

    There is nothing in the accomodationist position that demands this, and incompatibilists might and probably do say similar things. Some accomodationists say this, but not all do. You are lumping all opposition into saying the same things, even though their positions do not reflect. That’s kinda like someone saying that all atheists believe that God does not exist.

    Which ones don’t? By my understanding this is the definition of accomodationists, the word was specifically coined to refer to the people I described.

  138. Verbose Stoic, the issue many individuals are having is that Phil’s speech came at a time where there was a ramp-up of noise by bloggers and editorials in print that:

    A) There’s a group of people out there called ‘New Atheists’.
    B) If you say things like, “Science can’t be reconciled with religion” or openly question religion as a force for good or even of any usefulness you are a New Atheist.
    C) If you were a New Atheist you were a jerk.

    Of course the whole New (gnu) Atheist thing is a giant strawman, but that didn’t stop it being happily marched all over the place.

    Phil’s speech perfectly dovetailed into the whole mess, whether he meant it to or not.

    One can assume that Phil, being incredibly busy at that point, did indeed write his speech in a vacuum. Unfortunately it’s delivery wasn’t in a vacuum and left many thinking Phil was riding on the coattails of this whole New Atheist charade (and subsequently flummoxed at its real intention).

    People’s desire for Phil to clarify his position and intent of the DBAD speech is a direct result of all these factors. i.e. “Geez Phil are you buying into all this New Atheist BS? Because if you are, this speech basically just told a good number of people to STFU, who aren’t actually jerks, but have been framed that way by… oh yea, Mooney.”

    Which directly leads into the majority of the comments here in this thread of people balking at the though of, “Really, Phil, you really want to continue giving Mooney props after all the crap and disservice he’s served up to the community?”

    A possible conclusion is: Phil, because of his workload has become severely disconnected from the community. Hey, it happens. Phil’s been churning out a ton of awesome work. At the same time, his summation in this thread of the TJ affair and further commenting feels like it’s been written with kid gloves on.

  139. grung0r

    Verbal stoic:
    And if you are objectively not being a jerk, you can then argue against people who say that you’re being a jerk, instead of having to defend being a jerk … which can only help moderate audiences.

    So, basically, If someone accuses you of being a jerk, but you totally aren’t because your non-jerkitutde is established independently of any subjective observation, then you should then argue that that is the case, which will win you favor with the audience.

    This is the greatest summation of the accommodationist postion I can imagine.

  140. Kenny

    I have to disagree with PZ. Phil may not be as bad as Mooney, but it’s increasingly hard to tell them apart. My respect for Phil was lost not just for the terrible DBAD speech, but the way he hand-waved the many valid criticisms of it. It was just cowardly and so typical of the tone patrol. Zero substance. None. And on top of that they welcome people who believe nutty things to their conventions and tell everybody to be hush hush about it. Spineless!

    And thereafter he made a few blog posts saying how he knows a theist who is interested in skepticism but is tewwibly upset by those nasty atheists. That’s all Phil can do to prove his DBAD speech… pointless annecdotes by whiney theists.

    After finding out Phil thinks so highly of Mooney, it hardly surprises me, because this is the same crap Mooney goes on about.

  141. Kirth Gersen

    Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “Some volumes against Deism fell into my hands. They were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle’s Lecture. It happened that they produced on me an effect precisely the reverse of what was intended by the writers; for the arguments of the Deists, which were cited in order to be refuted, appealed to me much more forcibly than the refutation itself. In a word, I soon became a thorough Deist.”

    I mention this because that’s what happened to me, in a sense. I was something of an accommodationist, firmly in Chris Mooney’s camp, until I read both his comments on the subject and those of the “New Atheists” he was berating. I found Mooney’s arguments so snarled and otherwise devoid of logic, and by contrast his oppositions’ arguments so clear and lucid, that I found my own stance shifting in response. In short, Mooney’s best attempts at “effective communication” succeeded in convincing me that his opponents had the clear advantage in logic, clarity, and comminication skills.

    If the AGU wants an advisor whose advice is worth anything, they’d be well-advised to look elsewhere.

  142. Hamilton Jacobi

    I was chatting just a few minutes ago with the ghost of Richard Feynman. He says he’s disappointed, but not surprised.

    The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that.

  143. Regarding Ophelia Benson’s comment, #133

    Ah, I apologize to all. I received the information secondhand, since I refused to go to The Intersection after Mooney’s whinefest with Myers’ (requested!) critique of Unscientific America. I was either misinformed or, most likely, I misremembered. I respectfully retract that portion of the comment.

    Scote, #131

    I understand that you feel that way, but I do have to note that I was considerably milder, due to Plait’s civility rule, than I intended to be. I had no small amount of difficulty with the DBAD affair – not the message itself, which I consider debatable, but the lack of clarification and supporting evidence. I haven’t been too thrilled with Plait’s support of accommodationism, in apparent total disregard of how it’s routinely practiced. This little soap opera totally capped it all off. Call it a flame if you like – sometimes they’re deserved.

  144. Utakata

    I somehow got a bad feeling that Phil is a little too cozey with Mooney. It’s alright to have friends…but one’s support for their position can create blind spots. Just saying…

    And one more thing…

    …accommodationism is just another form of apologetics. It’s neither skepticism or critical thinking, IMO. Thus I rather be a jerk than stupid. /shrug

  145. Michael Kingsford Gray

    I see this article as aq
    Sorry Phil, you are behaving in exactly the same manner anti-vaxxers, or moon-landing-deniers.
    Not just as a simile or metaphor, but *exactly* the same.
    Not a scrap of evidence

  146. Michael Kingsford Gray

    Do you remember the videos of mousetraps and ping-pong balls that illustrated a run-away chain-reaction, triggered by a single balls-up?
    I see this article as a ‘trigger’.
    A trigger that has released the hitherto pent up power of a bunch of pissed-off skeptics & atheists.

    Sorry Phil, you are behaving in exactly the same manner anti-vaxxers, or moon-landing-deniers.
    Not just as a simile or metaphor, but *exactly* the same.
    Not a scrap of evidence.
    Your reaction this affair reeks.
    If you have to ask ‘of what?’ then you are lost.

    That is me done with this blog.
    I suspect that I am not alone.

  147. gillt

    Has anyone mentioned that there’s reason to believe Mooney didn’t fact-check TJ before giving his anecdote of atheists behaving badly its own post?

    TJ admitted himself, after I asked him in the comments to the first TJ post at The Intersection, that if Mooney wanted to verify he was who he said he was (Evolutionary Biologist at a major Research University) TJ would be willing to give Mooney such information. We’re left with two possible scenarios: Mooney didn’t fact check at the time and lied about doing it after things came crashing down or Mooney did confirm TJ was associated somehow with a University without TJs awareness.

    None of this, however, does anything to confirm the whole point of Mooney’s “Exhibit A: (Gnu atheists suck)” post. Was TJ ever at a Conservationst meeting where atheists professors were screaming obscenities at salt of the earth religious folk and saying they were inspired specifically by the writings of Coyne, Myers and Dawkins? Mooney had no idea if that were true or not. Couldn’t have because he didn’t begin to look into it.

    Sure people make mistakes. But Mooney was complicit in his own dupery.

  148. Clemmie

    And still nobody from Chris’ supporters are voicing their defences of his behaviour.

    As has been said the most damning thing is that all this resentment and (probably a bit over the top) anger is coming from those people who AGREE with Chris’ message – that science, science education and communicating science are all important. It is as if Phil kept posting a particular view against global warming denialists, loads of his supporters were disagreeing and he didn’t take any notice of all those voices, banned many of them from this site and said how great he was at communicating.

    How can Phil simply wave away all these people? It is all a bit surreal.

  149. grung0r

    I very much doubt that Phil will ever look at this thread again(per the DBAD threads), but if, on the off chance he does, I would like to point to some pretty solid evidence that Mooney bans people for their opinions, and not, as Phil said for for the way they express them

    First I will point out the very thread we are in. It has 151 comments at the time I write this. Other then Phil’s own posts, and maybe one or two others, the comments here have been universally derisive of Mooney.

    Now, take a look at the Intersection’s announcment of Mooney’s AGU Board membership. There are 7 comments, 4 of which are trackbacks(2 of which are from this blog) and one of the actual comments is from Sheril Kirshenbaum, Mooney’s blog partner.

    How can you possibly explain this, Phil? Having researched The TJ affair, you would have seen that the Intersection used regularly get hundreds of comments before the Sock puppet theater incident.
    Where did everyone go? Why isn’t everyone who is posting on this thread posting on The Intersection’s thread as well? The answer is obvious: Mooney banned/bans every single person who is critical of him post-TJ. This is Mooney’s prerogative . But it does mean he’s a crappy skeptic who is incapable of dealing with or responding to criticism, and further, it means despite his prominence in the skeptical community he has developed a huge PR problem, to the extent that almost no one in the rank and file is willing to come to his defense. What happens if his ideas and demeanor are inflicted on the world at large? Where will “science communication” be then? This is not the sort of person we want advising people on how to communicate. This is the sort of person who should be an example on who NOT to communicate effectively.

  150. Michael Kingsford Gray

    I have posted a ‘mildly’ negative but realistic reply on Christ Money’s blog.
    Let us see if it gets published, eh?
    Anyone gonna take bets?

  151. Scottynuke

    @grungor;

    While I’m not Phil, I can offer an alternate explanation: Apart from MKG, perhaps none of Mooney’s unbanned detractors feel the need to give Mooney any traffic on this issue? Perhaps they feel it would be more productive to offer their criticisms directly to the AGU?

    *shrug*

  152. Sigmund

    I saw your message Michael but only briefly before it disappeared down the Instersocksions memory hole. But wait a second. That sort of blatant censorship simply couldn’t happen, could it Phil? I guess I must have been mistaken.

  153. Paul W.

    Count me in as somebody who used to post at the Intersection but got banned after the TJ affair.

    I was one of the posters most critical of Mooney who was allowed to post there, while others were being banned for what I thought were perfectly civil criticisms. I don’t know why I was allowed to be more critical than some others (e.g., Ophelia Benson) for several months.

    My impression now is that Mooney lets enough negative comments through to make it look to the casual observer like a fairly open forum—so that people like Phil will think he’s not ruthlessly banning civil critics—but if he’s not getting enough support, he allows less criticism. Sometimes he’ll close a thread that’s not going his way, sometimes he’ll moderate specific posts, and sometimes he’ll ban some posters when too many posters are critical of him.

    After the Tom Johsnon incident, much of his support evaporated—it turns out that several of his most loyal supporters were the same lying sock-puppeter—and he had to ban a lot of commenters in order not to be overwhelmed with criticism.

    That’s why there are comparatively few comments over there these days. Now that Mooney has very few supporters, he won’t allow most of his critics to comment.

  154. “Ophelia (comment #23, above) says she was banned for one comment, but from what I have seen that is not the case.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, Phil, but did you just accuse Opehlia Benson of lying? That’s pretty dickish behaviour in my books, coming from someone who – by their own admission – hasn’t got a clue what was going on at the time.

  155. Stewart

    I don’t think Phil was reading very carefully. Ophelia did not say that. She described how she tried – repeatedly and without resorting to bad language – to get an answer out of Chris on a point that directly addressed his credibility. Another commenter, Tim Broderick, accused her of lying and trolling and urged Chris to ban her. It seems that Chris simply complied, without ever addressing the question of what she had supposedly lied about nor, need I add, ever relating to her questions that were apparently too awkward to be dealt with.

    If I were posting this in Yiddish, I would at this point hold my nose to describe the ethical flavour of what TB and Chris pulled on Ophelia.

    Feh.

  156. Egbert

    Looks like a zombie bit your arm Phil, and your higher brain functions are beginning to stop working, and soon you will be searching for atheists and sceptic victims to bite and attack.

  157. Jason

    I’m still a fan but it’s not the same after the DBAD speech. I thought you were the one being a dick for reasons that have already been pointed out by others. (There are plenty of examples, just go look for them!!11!!)

    And now you’re a big Mooney fan? Oh brother. I’m sure you’re right and everyone else is wrong.

  158. Rieux

    grung0r:
    Having researched The TJ affair, you would have seen that the Intersection used regularly get hundreds of comments before the Sock puppet theater incident.
    Where did everyone go? Why isn’t everyone who is posting on this thread posting on The Intersection’s thread as well? The answer is obvious: Mooney banned/bans every single person who is critical of him post-TJ.

    I don’t think that follows. I don’t like Mooney any more than anyone else here, but I suspect a lot more of us have just decided not to read the Intersocktion than have actually been banned from it. (I, personally, have had a critical comment or three of mine conveniently deleted over there, but I don’t think I’ve gotten the ban-hammer. Though perhaps I wouldn’t know it….)

    My guess is that a large part of the community (that is, somewhat more than those who have actually been banned) has decided that Mooney’s blog is garbage and don’t visit it or, obviously, post comments on it anymore.

  159. Paul W.

    Phil, I think you owe Ophelia Benson a correction, if not an apology. You are perpetuating Chris’s misrepresentation of what went down that led to Ophelia’s banning. (But at least, unlike Chris, you haven’t banned commenters who point that out.)

    Ophelia didn’t get banned for one comment, or for “lying,” as TB put it. She got banned for being persistent in asking a couple of excellent clarifying questions.

    She was not banned for how she said it; she was not even banned for what she stated. She was banned for persistently asking awkward questions, when Chris was clearly stonewalling.

    Chris is an amazing stonewaller. I myself asked two important questions over and over again for months at the Intersection. They were not minor, trivial, or obscure questions, but questions that went to the heart of his criticisms of the “New” Atheism. They’re questions that have been asked by various bloggers and commenters many times over the last few years, and Chris has always evaded them.

    I was allowed to do that until the TJ affair, I guess largely because TJ was there to tag-team me with his sock puppets, and derail any serious discussion of central issues. In the guise of several commenters with a “spectrum” of views, he berated, insulted, and misrepresented me and others for months, with the effect of diluting critical comments, making comment threads too noisy and unpleasant for most people to read.

    (Part of TJ’s strategy was to derail any sub-conversation with a “new” commenter who “wasn’t interested” in the conversation as it was, and would attack using a new misrepresentation. The important points got lost in all the noise.)

    I think it’s worth noting that TJ was the most substantively uncivil poster on The Intersection, constantly spewing ad hominems and straw men, and often changing identities when called on it.

    He went so far as to try to out one of Chris’s pseudonymous critics and get him fired from his job, and while Chris closed and deleted that thread, he didn’t ban TJ (or the particular socks he used to do that.)

    Chris also refused to tell us which commenters we’d been arguing with for months were TJ’s sock puppets, and suggested that some of his critics had sock puppeted too. We didn’t believe that, and asked which of “our” commenters were sock puppets, but he refused to tell us, and let the innuendo stand.

    Chris has done a lot of that sort of thing over the last few years, and lost a lot of fans because of it.

    He’s not actually arguing with the Gnu Atheists or addressing their actual concerns. He misrepresents them in order to talk past them and persuade people who don’t know what the real issues are. In service of that, he’s extremely evasive, to the point of dishonesty.

    I find that very disappointing. I actually think framing is important; I was into framing years before Chris was, and have a better background to understand it. (I know George Lakoff, and Chris is no George Lakoff. :-) )

    Chris makes a dishonest travesty of framing—he’s selling snake oil about how to sell snake oil—and it’s quite disappointing to see him appointed to the board of any scientific organization.

  160. grung0r

    Rieux:

    don’t think that follows. I don’t like Mooney any more than anyone else here, but I suspect a lot more of us have just decided not to read the Intersocktion than have actually been banned from it.

    I think you are right that most people have stopped reading the Intersection, but not regularly reading a blog has never stopped anyone from commenting on it if they get pointed to it from a blog they do read, as was the case here. I think that it’s fair to expect at least a bit of spillover, and that simply has not occurred. Now, Whether Mooney bans people or just deletes every post that is critical I can’t say, but given the ratio of comments here to comments there, I think it’s safe to assume the wasteland over there(in this case, anyway) is largely a result of banning/deleting critical comments and commenters.

  161. Tea

    Phil, your last comment is a huge disappointment. Who’d have guessed that you’d be such a Mooney hoax denier.

    While I still have hopes that you’ll come around eventually, this blog is off my Google Reader from now on.

  162. gillt

    As a regular at The Intersection things changed after the TJ debacle. Before I could comment freely on his blog, much to Mooney’s credit. Although he never once over the years engaged with me, or addressed anything I said, not once. Including the time I asked him if he vetted Tom Johnson before making his anecdote a post. It annoyed me but so what. And that’s how it’s been since the framing wars (all those internet eons ago). Mooney’s stance then and now: misrepresent, evade, ignore, repeat.

    And it wasn’t until after Tom Johnson was exposed that all my comments were held indefinitely in moderation while his long-time supporters were left alone. That’s censorship, plain and simple. But it’s his blog for sure. I have no idea if I’ve been formally banned but I have been effectively banned.

  163. It could be that Phil misunderstood the last line of my comment (# 23) –

    In response, another commenter announced that I was lying, and soon after that I was banned.

    It could also be that I could have said it more clearly. Perhaps I should have said

    In response, another commenter announced that I was lying; soon after that I was banned.

    I didn’t mean to imply a causal relationship, and I don’t particularly think there was one. I don’t think it was any one particular comment that motivated Mooney to ban me. My best guess is that it was the cumulative effect of a number of comments, perhaps along with posts at my place. I was being a rather persistent critic. My best guess is that he simply wanted to stop one outlet for the criticism, and that was the moment he did it.

    But morally speaking it was a sucky moment, because it was immediately after someone repeatedly called me a liar, on the basis of absolutely nothing. I said then and I still say, that’s just not right. It’s rather embarrassing that Phil apparently doesn’t see that.

  164. Sili

    Curiouser and curiouser:

    We get spam comments on this blog. Lots of them.

    Worse still, we have to wade through them all. For some reason, we’ve been totally stymied when it comes to finding a way to ensure that no real comments end up in our spam folder. As a result, I’m often in there, separating wheat from chaff.

    We are amused.

    –o–

    Mooney hoax denier.

    We are even amuseder.

  165. Sigmund

    “Mooney hoax denier.”
    Brilliant!

  166. Clemmie

    Mooney hoax denier has to become a twitter hash tag.

    I also loved Mooney’s Law “when accusing someone of incivility in a blog, your response will be more incivil than the original blog entry”

    Over and over again. Ask Coyne.

  167. For some reason all of this reminds me of the poem Jabberwockey. I’m pretty sure that makes Mooney a Slithy Tove. Whether or not that implies the majority of us are Mome Raths outgrabing and that Phil is a Mimsy Borogove is entirely a matter of conjecture.

  168. John Morales

    Phil, you had much credibility.

    You’re squandering it. How little remains!

    It’s sad.

  169. J.J.E.

    @173. John Morales Says:
    December 8th, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    This is better:

    Phil, you had much cred.
    Sad that you’re squandering it.
    How little remains!

    Haiku softens the blow…

  170. John Morales

    J.J.E., ’tis as you say.

    <bow>

  171. TheBlackCat

    It’s been 4 days since I posted my criticism of Phil’s response back in post 95 and 3 days since his response and everyone elses’ criticism of that. You can’t chock this up to being busy, he has made several blog posts in the meantime. It seems pretty clear that Phil has no intention whatsoever of actually addressing the issues people have made. He is either ignoring those who disagree with him, which is disappointing, or just left the thread after his last post, which is cowardly.

  172. TheBlackCat

    edit: double-post

  173. Dogbert

    I think that Phil has realized what Chris Mooney discovered last year, that there is money to be had in appeasement. That taking a principled stand for intellectual honesty doesn’t necessarily add to one’s bottom line. I’m guessing that Phil’s Templeton Fellowship will be announced within the next year.

  174. TheBlackCat

    @ Dogbert: I hope that is not the case. Taking a single dime from Templeton would lead me, and I suspect many others, to abandon Phil forever.

  175. DBAD

    That’s really sad. I see all these people with a long term vendetta against Mooney, whining about how he bans people, as if PZ Myers, Benson and others don’t do exactly the same thing, using denialist tactics like calling Mooney a “shill”, and attacking this thing they call “accommodationism”, which according to them is “Collapse and give up rather than ever offend a single religious person”

    Which is odd, because if you ask any ‘accommodationist’ they never seem to say that. They say things like

    “Don’t actually be a dick. If they’re offended because you have an opinion, such is life, nothing wrong with you having an opinion, but if you’re being a dick, then stop. Making your logical point is never a dick move. Calling someone stupid, a moron, insulting their family, etc, is being a dick. Saying “this is the evidence you are wrong” is never being a dick.”

    Odd how the people who are most angry about all of this seem to harp on about things no-one is arguing. It’s so much easier to shoot down a straw man.

  176. Lokti

    “Phil Plait is a skeptic, and loves fighting misuses of science as well as praising the wonder of real science.”

    If only…

  177. Tea

    “Calling someone stupid, a moron, insulting their family, etc, is being a dick.”

    Followed by:
    “Odd how the people who are most angry about all of this seem to harp on about things no-one is arguing. It’s so much easier to shoot down a straw man.”

    How deliciously ironic.

  178. “Tom Johnson,” is that you? At 181? It sure sounds like you. The true You’re Not Helping note.

  179. Stuman

    It’s been very interesting to read all of the comments on this thread – i enjoy BA and have a lot of respect for Phil, but some of the comments seem a bit over-the-top. Okay – I get it that Mooney has a questionable track record to some, but it seems to me that some of the comments about deniers and “right-wing nut jobs” are pretty rich. Some people will never get the larger point that calling people who disagree with you “nut jobs” and other such negative terms clearly demonstrates that you “believe” that the fact are on your side to the point that it somehow givse you the right to dismiss other human beings who happen to hold different views. We don’t have to agree, but we don’t have to say that the other person is “crazy” or imply that they are out to destroy what’s left of Western civilization. As someone who loves science and happens to be a Christian, I don’t appreciate the attacks and your intolerance does not convince me to follow your views. Thanks for a minute of your time.

  180. Stewart

    Stuman,

    Are you, as a Christian, prepared to say that you actively reject the lines that appear more than once in Psalms about the nature of those who say there is no god? Can you do so without declaring that your own views trump scripture? Unlike atheists (of any stripe), who don’t have a sacred text to get fundamental about, there are specific writings that are universally held to lie at the heart of the belief you would seem to espouse if you call yourself Christian. A lone atheist calling a believer a “nut job” is pretty trivial compared to the institutionalised and systematic hatred and contempt for non-believers that has been considered divinely inspired for a couple of thousand years. You may try to paint this as being about different intensities of atheism, but if there is rancour towards Mooney from other atheists, it’s because he not only seems to side with those who believe quite religiously that we must be fools, but wants to lecture us on our own communications skills.

    As the commenter “Andy Dufresne” rightly remarked on the Butterflies and Wheels thread on this issue:

    ‘… Mooney misses what is right in front of his nose—the huge number of religious believers who are religious or became religious because of what can fairly be called “adversarial” persuasion techniques. Fire & brimstone, you are are a sinner who must repent; the way you are living your life is all wrong and you must come to Jesus immediately. These are some of the tried and true methods of evangelism, and they work on lots and lots of people.’

    So much for not being a dick.

    To whatever extent some atheists have become more outspoken (and the example Mooney trumpeted as “Exhibit A” turned out to be a lie – which most certainly does affect the value one attaches to his opinions), it’s not in reaction to nothing. Understand what they’re reacting to – and direct your criticism there first.

  181. Stuman

    Stewart, my views of scripture, both the Jewish Bible and Christian, might be a bit more intensive than your comment might allow for. The incredible unity in diversity of the bible is something that cannot be easily reduced to a single statement. Humanly speaking, the Bible was written by approximately 40 men of diverse backgrounds over the course of 1500 years. Isaiah was a prophet, Ezra was a priest, Matthew was a tax-collector, John was a fisherman, Paul was a tentmaker, Moses was a shepherd, Luke was a physician. Despite being penned by different authors over 15 centuries, with the different authors presenting different but complementary perspectives, i believe that they all proclaim the same one true God, with the progressive but consistent revelation of the true nature of the character of God seen in the Christian writings of the New Testament. This is pretty far from comments on Mooney, who seems to me to be a lot more shallow than someone that the AGU would want as a board member. I do agree that he may not be as good a communicator as the AGU thinks, but I don’t think that atheists can claim the “right” to call people names just because other people do it. Some would say that presenting the truth at times demands an adversarial persuasion technique – but calling someone a “sinner” is not the same as calling them a dick. Perhaps more familiarity with the terms involved would help you see a shade of difference? I do criticize those who express their version of the truth without demonstrating essential concern for the other – truth without love is ugly no matter who says it. MLK understood that.

  182. Stewart

    I didn’t think we would come to an agreement, but I thought what you said needed a reply. You don’t give a clear answer to my main point. You write:

    “The incredible unity in diversity of the bible is something that cannot be easily reduced to a single statement.”

    Even if one accepts that as true, the bible still contains a great many statements, many savage in their sentiment, that mean the same in and out of context and if you believe that all human authors were proclaiming the same being, are there any in there you think that being might disavow? I don’t have a problem with you thinking we’re wrong; we have the same right regarding your ideas. If you consider a text sacred and will not state that you find any of it unacceptable, it is naive to expect us not to link you to the sense of insult deriving from explicitly insulting statements contained in that text.

    You also write: ‘I don’t think that atheists can claim the “right” to call people names just because other people do it.’

    Why is this phrased only in one direction? Surely it is just as true to say that it is not right to subject atheists to demands that they respect a book containing insults towards them, merely because believers find their comments offensive.

    You say calling someone a sinner is not them same as calling them a dick, but you elaborate no further, so I’m at a loss as to whether you think one can be more justified than the other.

  183. Michael Kingsford Gray

    156. Sigmund Says:

    I saw your message Michael but only briefly before it disappeared down the Instersocksions memory hole. But wait a second. That sort of blatant censorship simply couldn’t happen, could it Phil? I guess I must have been mistaken.

    Yep, my mild criticism of Christ Money has disappeared down Orwell’s Memory Hole.
    Phil: Let it not be said that you were not warned about what happens to one’s sleek reputation when one actively chooses to “lie” down with flea-bitten mange-ridden curs.

    I’m betting that Chris’s friendship is worth more than Plait’s intellectual integrity, honesty, and forthrightness added together.
    It must be “love”.

  184. Stuman

    Stewart says:
    You say calling someone a sinner is not them same as calling them a dick, but you elaborate no further, so I’m at a loss as to whether you think one can be more justified than the other.

    My response is that it is possible to see a difference between those two terms – to the Christian, everyone is the first one (a sinner) and we shouldn’t call anyone the second term – it’s not loving. You might be offended that anyone thinks that it is okay to call anyone a sinner – that’s a kneejerk reaction because of a lack of understanding of the term.

    By the way, your comment is a bit rich that i have to state that i find any of the bible unacceptable or else i should expect to find myself insulted. This is quite intolerant and demanding in my view. I am surprised you did not respond at all to my final comment:

    “I do criticize those who express their version of the truth without demonstrating essential concern for the other – truth without love is ugly no matter who says it. MLK understood that.” Perhaps that is not strong enough for you – perhaps if i renounce my christianity, then you are able to tolerate me or give me any respect for my opinions? I will restate my position: it is possible to disagree, without the atheist or the Christian or anyone else to disagree without a degree of civility and respect – and for myself or any Christian that i come in contact with, i would say that that person is responsible for speaking truth in love (as the ancient writer St. Paul once said), even if people disagree on important issues. That many have spoken and acted without love does not in itself invalidate the Christian faith, just as the behavior of certain atheists does not in itself make your system of beliefs invalid. If you do not agree with that, then i guess i am unable to communicate any better.

  185. Stewart

    I hope you’re not suggesting that I’m ignorant of Christian reasons for referring to everyone as a sinner. I disagree with those reasons and have no reason to believe they are based on anything real. Rejection of religion, in my experience, is generally based more on knowledge of it than on ignorance. You would, understandably, like your point of view understood. Are you capable of doing the same and appreciating the notion that it is considerably more charitable of me not to regard you as a sinner than it is of you automatically to saddle me with a moral burden I consider fictitious?

    You do not, in my opinion, seem to be coming to grips with the relationship of the religion you profess to the texts from which it claims to derive authority. You don’t *have* to do anything, but if you do not express yourself unambiguously about the content of the texts on which all streams of your religion base themselves, you surely cannot blame others for either speculating or making reasonable assumptions. These things have real-life consequences.

    Civility, respect and love are three different things. You may not like it if someone is truthful without concern for the target audience, but is the degree of truthfulness affected by that concern or the lack of it? I don’t think I have claimed that Christians speaking or acting without love invalidates the Christian faith, but I have yet to see anything that does validate it. Surely you don’t think that good or bad behaviour on the part of believers is what determines atheists’ rejection of religion? If some of us do sometimes raise negative actions carried out by believers, it is because religions not only lay claim to ownership of morality, but do so in an exclusive fashion.

  186. Disgusted

    Michael Kingsford Gray @190

    I’m betting that Chris’s friendship is worth more than Plait’s intellectual integrity, honesty, and forthrightness added together.

    That’s a good bet.

    I would also factor in the fact Phil Plait is now more of a product of mass media than a skeptic now, what with his TV shows and pop-sci books. He’s not a skeptic anymore, he’s the Phil Plait Show. He’s demonstrated his willingness to leave behind those who supported him along the way in order to retain a larger base of cud-chewing Discovery-watching light-science dilettantes. It’s all about Mooneyesque accommodationism and the laughable DBAD for the purpose of furthering the Phil Plait Show… at the expense of the integrity, honesty, and forthrightness you mentioned. In short, Phil Plait sold out by playing a Q-rating numbers game, and booted most of his original devoted skeptic fan base to the curb. Sad, that.

  187. Tom Johnson @ 181,

    I see all these people with a long term vendetta against Mooney, whining about how he bans people, as if PZ Myers, Benson and others don’t do exactly the same thing,

    You do know the difference between banning for trolling or obnoxiousness, and banning for having a different opinion to the blog owner ? Well, maybe you really don’t. And you also seem to confuse a “vendetta” with a disagreement.

  188. Stuman

    Stewart says: (a great name by the way!)

    “Rejection of religion, in my experience, is generally based more on knowledge of it than on ignorance.” Well, I am not trying to invalidate your personal experience or personal knowledge of “religion” – which is a pretty broad category of very different moral/ethical systemts by the way!!!

    Placing all religions in the same basket is rather like placing everyone else’s views of politics in the same basket – there can be major differences between the beliefs, values, and practices of religions. There are “nice” and “not-so-nice” people everywhere.

    I do not seek to place any “moral burden” on you – if there is no God, then truly you are correct in rejecting other people’s attempts to place moral burdens on you. If there is a God and if any religious book is correct in portraying God’s character, nature, and relations with humankind, then it would be that God who is attempting to define “morality”.

    The humans who follow that religion see themselves as communicating to others what they believe that god has commuicated to them. In their view, they are attempting to communicate love and truth together. You have decided to reject all of these views as being incorrect/untruthful. To me, that is your decision and you will reap the benefits of this approach if you are correct or the consequences if you are incorrect.

    Stewart says; “Civility, respect and love are three different things. You may not like it if someone is truthful without concern for the target audience, but is the degree of truthfulness affected by that concern or the lack of it?”

    Stuman says: This is the 3rd time i have said this: ““I do criticize those who express their version of the truth without demonstrating essential concern for the other – truth without love is ugly no matter who says it. MLK understood that.”” I may not be able to use civility in speaking the truth – example: someone is about to be run over by a car and i don’t have time to be civil if i am going to warn them properly. But how can i truly love someone without respecting them?? I disagree with your religious decision of rejection, but i do have time to be civil and i do have respect for you and that is because i cannot, in my reading of Jesus Christ, argue for the truth without loving. The hypocrite, of any religion or none, chooses one over the other.

    Stewart says: “You do not, in my opinion, seem to be coming to grips with the relationship of the religion you profess to the texts from which it claims to derive authority. …if you do not express yourself unambiguously about the content of the texts on which all streams of your religion base themselves, you surely cannot blame others for either speculating or making reasonable assumptions.”

    I have spent most of my adult life studying the texts to which you refer – are you aware that the Christian believes that there is a difference between God’s plan of offering relationship with human beings – his plan in what is called the Old Testament & then the fulfillment of the first plan in the coming of Jesus Christ in the New Testament? The reason that Judaism and Christianity are seperate religions today is because people perceive that there is a real, major (!) difference between those two writings. You demand that i express myself unambiguously about the content of these texts – if you do not see the above difference as having any meaning, then anything i say afterwards will mean nothing to you. I have studied the Old Testament texts that i think you are referring to and i can express myself about them. Their existence had a real meaning in its historical context. The coming of Jesus Christ completely changes the means by which individuals can have relationship with God and therefore the meaning of those texts is reinterpreted by his teaching and example. He said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5;17) and gives as one example what the Old Testament law said about murder: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder,a and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brotherb will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5: 21-22). This is a radical reinterpretation – now, each one is not judged solely on his actions, but on their inner feelings and desires.

    Now this may not mean anything to you, but it is an honest attempt to explain my view of these texts and give a little insight into what i have been saying and the decision i have made to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

    Back on topic, i do have respect for skeptics (or sceptics!) and i attempt to demonstrate the love i am commanded to have. I may disagree about the moon landing (definitely real!) or global warming (very confusing) but i don’t have the choice to call you a “””””” without violating the spirit of what i claim to be. I will try to speak the truth – for example, i believe that those who state that i must believe in global warming or else i am a “denier” or a “right-wing nut job” are wrong. Their intolerance for other opinions and points of view does not attract me to take their other comments or arguments seriously. But i don’t need to call that person a name or instantly denigrate who they are or anything else they might say.

    By and large, i believe that Phil Plait does a nice job of expressing his points of view and i try to take them seriously, even though we would disagree on a number of them. I really enjoy his evaluation of science in movies and to a lesser degree, like hearing what he thinks on a lot of other topics. I don’t have much respect for the way Mooney has conducted himself, in his arguments or banning people. etc. I still am having a hard time believing that the AGU thinks that he is a major benefit for them as a serious scientific organization. I can agree about many things Phil says and desire good science/good astronomy (!) without completing believing the skeptical viewpoint.

    Sorry for the length of this comment – i will stop taking up bandwith on this topic. Thanks for your patience.

  189. Stewart

    We are in agreement that further discussion will not change either of our minds. You accept a certain premise that I reject and you acknowledge that much would seem different to you were you also to reject it. I respect the fact that you remained as civil as I myself aimed to be. I don’t think this thread ended up quite the way Phil expected when he began it.

  190. Phil, I wonder if you are aware that Chris Mooney’s “Rockstars of Science” is backing one of Oprah’s regulars, no less than Dr Mehmet Oz? And that he’s promoting all sorts of pseudo-science?
    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/rock-star-of-science-hurts-science/

    Undermining science while trying to promote it? Not a very bright move…

  191. Dan L.

    Hi Phil,

    I’m a little surprised that on your recent trip through recent accommodation debate history it didn’t strike you that Mooney was being really evasive concerning criticisms of his arguments and skepticism towards his sources of information.

    Although taking an unsubstantiated blog comment and calling it “exhibit A” (clearly implying that there are exhibits B, C, etc. when actually there weren’t) looked really dishonest to a huge section of the skeptic blogosphere, I can see you wanting to take your friend’s side and say that he merely got duped. Of course, as a skeptic, you should realize that the biggest threat is that one will fool oneself, which I think is exactly what happened to Mooney and what is happening to you now. Mooney really convinced himself that NAs are bad for science, so any evidence for that thesis seemed obviously true. Mooney seems to you a nice guy, so evidence that he may be less than honest when dealing with critics seems obviously false, or at least overblown.

    But even if you want to give him the benefit of the doubt in that one instance, consider his reaction to TJ skeptics. There were dozens of people pointing out that his ONLY bit of evidence offered for his argument that NAs aren’t helping seemed a little too convenient. After all, if the evidence is so thin on the ground that he only has this one instance, it would be surprising for the one instance to be such perfect evidence for the thesis. One would expect to find oblique, indirect evidence first, and only find a smoking gun like that after considerable digging.

    To those not primed to believe TJ’s story by basing their career on a similar premise, it seemed obvious that the whole thing was made up. TJ’s characters talked and acted like the professors in Jack Chick tracts. Journalists of all people should be in tune to the subtle differences between fiction, where details are usually constructed to be consonant, creating an improbable but thematically unified fictional world, and reality, where details are uncertain, conflicting, and add to confusion rather than any sort of sense of unity.

    But even if we forgive Mooney for getting played so badly, you still have to acknowledge that Mooney was incredibly evasive. People requested that he de-emphasize TJ’s story and present new evidence for his argument, given the doubts surrounding that story. He refused to even acknowledge such requests. He refused to admit that his argument was supported only by this one dubious piece of evidence. He refused to answer requests for clarification about the whole matter.

    And when a few people did an end run around him to shine the light of day on the whole sordid matter, he dug his heels in deeper. He maintained that the story, now pretty much thoroughly discredited, still had evidential value for his argument because while this story was not actually true, some story like it MIGHT be true.

    Skeptics need to consider evidence against their arguments if anything more strongly than evidence for them. Instead, we see Mooney jumping at this one, dubious bit of evidence that supports his (hitherto unsupported) argument, and then trying to puff it up into real evidence instead of anonymous, gossipy, anecdote. Against this, NAs were pointing out that Dawkins (and occasionally even PZ) gets mail from people thanking him for turning them onto science and off religion, talking about Overton windows, pointing out numerous incidences of NAs and believers working together to do good science, etc…in short, evidence against Mooney’s views. Despite his obligation to consider such evidence at least as much as TJ’s story, he failed (AFAIK) to address any of this.

    In short, Mooney’s allowed confirmation bias to blind him to evidence against his argument and to render him entirely credulous to “evidence” for his argument. And then used this argument to slag anyone who happens to have a somewhat more negative opinion of religion than he does (never mind their reasons — Mooney doesn’t seem the least bit curious WHY atheists disagree with him so much). I don’t see much daylight between this and the sort of tactics employed by creationists and AGW deniers. And I’m wondering why you have so much trouble seeing this.

  192. J. J. Ramsey

    Dan L.:

    And when a few people did an end run around him to shine the light of day on the whole sordid matter, he dug his heels in deeper. He maintained that the story, now pretty much thoroughly discredited, still had evidential value for his argument because while this story was not actually true, some story like it MIGHT be true.

    Link please? I remember Mooney saying this:

    All the details about his identity were accurate. Despite a lie told later on about not being a graduate student—presumably because people were getting too close to his true identity–”Johnson” really was who he said he was. He could have seen precisely what he claimed to have seen.

    But in my view, his story has now fallen apart.

    However, that’s not close to the same thing.

  193. Jason A.

    He maintained that … some story like it MIGHT be true.

    He could have seen precisely what he claimed to have seen.

    Are, in fact, the same thing.

  194. J. J. Ramsey

    Jason A., if you look at the link in my earlier post, it’s pretty clear that Mooney’s gist was that while TJ “could have seen precisely what he claimed to have seen,” he probably didn’t, since TJ’s shown himself to be an unreliable witness. There’s also no hint in the post from Mooney to which I had linked that Mooney still thinks that TJ’s story still has evidential value.

    Now if Dan L. provides a link to another post from Mooney, one where Mooney does claim that TJ’s story still has evidential weight, then fine, but I’m not going to just take Dan L. at his word, especially when (1) I had followed the TJ controversy and never saw Mooney make the claim that Dan L. says that he made and (2) it’s trivial for Dan L. to offer actual proof.

  195. TTT

    Sad but true: the other day I posted at Intersection to DEFEND Mooney from Nisbet (in their tiff over whether you can use the phrase “climate denialist” or not)…. and Mooney vaped my post because I didn’t use the right communicative idiomatic word-paradigm methodology that the two of them made up.

    Judean People’s Front, meet the People’s Front of Judea.

    I keep saying this all over Scienceblogs and I’ll say it again: it’s very very telling that the self-declared World’s Best Dad of communication has his website infested with climate denialists, despite the fact that he’s there communicating at them in the perfect way he says will always work.

  196. Fitz

    Phil,

    I assume that you’ve decided not to respond to any of the issues and arguments raised in this thread.

    Very disappointing if true.

  197. I ran a summary of this thread. The results are about as would be expected.

    There is a better formatted version of this here, with a commenter-by-commenter breakdown of all the data and comment content:

    http://pastie.org/private/p8ra9wfz54zyt6rdhhhdg

    Of the 92 unique commenters, 62 are directly critical of Mooney, among them several prominent bloggers, long-time commenters, and champions of promoting science, who agree with the stated positions of both you and Mooney, but are strongly critical of Mooney’s methods for doing so and his intellectual honesty. Of the remainder, 1 was yourself, 18 are indifferent or having other conversations, 8 are critical of you but not (within that comment) Mooney, 2 asked for more evidence, 1 is tone-trolling, and 1 is probably “Tom Johnson” in disguise.

    Of the 202 total comments, 128 comments (68%) are directly critical of Chris Mooney (several others critical of you for defense of Mooney are not included in this calculation.) 8 are from you, 5 are trackback pings (all critical of Mooney), and 3 are dupes, while most of the others are indifferent or side conversations. There is only one congratulatory post, and it is 1 word (“Grats! : )”, comment #13).

    Now, I’ll be the first to admit that argumentum ad populum is a fallacy, but given the breakdown, the people involved who are critical of Mooney’s behavior, and the evidence presented within their comments, isn’t it possible, just possible, that you may not have all the information, Phil, and/or may be mistaken or giving in to personal or selection bias in your appraisal of Mr. Mooney?

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