Have Mercy

By Keith Kloor | October 28, 2011 4:34 pm

This plea from an evangelical is interesting:

Don’t believe the worst about us””it may only empower the worst in us.  Keep the faith in building bridges. Reach out. Speak the truth in love to evangelicals you know. That will require looking for openness to conversation with evangelicals wherever it can be found.

Willis, in classic form, says (and I’m paraphrasing a famously misquoted line), “We don’t need your stinking mercy.”

CATEGORIZED UNDER: climate change
  • http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/ Bart Verheggen

    The first line in your quote is definitely interesting: “Don’t believe the worst about us””it may only empower the worst in us.”

    Avoiding self-fulfilling prophecies is an art form indeed.

    We need more artists.

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    Katherine Hayhoe wrote a book on climate in conjunction with an evangelical pastor, didn’t she?

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    Also, Day Six: http://www.daysix.org/

  • http://www.skepticalscience.com Steven Sullivan

    We don’t need no stinkin’ Willis.

  • http://www.skepticalscience.com Steven Sullivan

    (not that I have much love for evangelicals, either)

  • Nullius in Verba

    It’s a peculiar approach to building bridges. The post seems designed to annoy evangelicals, annoy non-evangelical sceptics by once again connecting them to evangelicals, while at the same time doing nothing to reassure scientists – reminding them of all the arguments about blind faith and evolution.

    Why would an evangelical get onto a bridge built by those who agree they are “anti-science” and who say the best thing about them is that they are losing power and influence? And why would scientists walk over such a bridge when Wilson is struggling to think up such a collection of weak reasons to do so? And why would sceptics be interested, when once again they are being misrepresented as being driven somehow by irrational faith?

    Willis, not unexpectedly, is annoyed about it. But aside from being rather more blunt in his language, he’s not saying anything fundamentally different from Wilson. That the more “old fashioned” evangelical beliefs cause big problems for ordinary people, and their loss of influence is good news.

    A breach between evangelicals and sceptics is presumably what Wilson would have wanted to achieve. Mission accomplished, surely?

  • Keith Kloor

    Willis is on a tear at Climate Etc. He’s lashed out at me, at Judith and a whole bunch of others. The reaction of many (who normally have no problem with Willis’ usual slash & burn style) is smartly observed by Joshua. 

    Here is my one comment thus far.

    Despite the superficial nature of this post here (music video and movie clip), I happen to think the religion/science intersection is extremely important and very much worth debate. As I said in my comment at Climate Etc, there is no getting around that a majority of people in the world have some aspect of religion or religious faith in their lives. It is highly counterproductive to alienate all these people the way Willis does.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “I happen to think the religion/science intersection is extremely important and very much worth debate.”

    Agreed. So is the question of what groups you can and cannot criticise, and in what terms. We’ve had this conversation already with regard to people being called “deniers” and some of the rhetoric around opposition politicians and climate scientists. Religion, like politics, is just another opinion, and the same principles apply. There shouldn’t be any criticisms you’re not allowed to make or beliefs you’re not allowed to criticise, but there are consequences for doing so that you have to accept – insults tend to polarise debate and exclude cooperation, and those you criticise can criticise back. If you say you want to reduce polarisation and get democratic support for joint action, then harsh language about your opponents is counterproductive. If that’s not your intention, and I don’t think for Willis it is, then it’s not such an issue.

    Willis recounts his personal experience of evangelicals, and given the sort of behaviour he describes, I don’t think it’s right to downplay it. Many have read it as a blanket accusation against all of evangelism, christianity, and even religion generally, but given that he seemed to be reacting to the suggestion that the “worst” thing to be said about evangelicals was that they were sceptical of global warming, I’m not so sure.

  • huxley

    Like the Climate Wattage article, Have Mercy starts as though it were about a large issue pertaining to climate, then narrows its focus to an attack upon one particular skeptic.

    “We don’t need your stinking mercy,” is amusing but not really a paraphrase of what Willis said.

    Wilson was pleading for mercy from scientists on behalf of evangelicals. Willis does not touch upon mercy or scientists in any way. Willis was battering Wilson with standard-issue polemics against Christians for hypocrisy, puritanism, and cruelty.


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Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at http://www.keithkloor.com/

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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