No Joke: An Atheist Tells Me to "Shut Up"

By Chris Mooney | June 24, 2009 12:03 pm

Read here:

 It Mooney can´t get his facts straight about something so simple, it´s time to ignore him. For my own future reference, though, and that of anyone who´s morbidly curious about this mini-fiasco, Jerry Coyne has a nice compilation of relevant posts, which he seems to be continuously updating. Though it doesn´s include this most lovely-titled of posts. Notice how Mooney has nothing of substance to say in reply, saying only that the debate is a waste of time–in which case, why doesn´t he shut up?

This is deliciously rich. I am accused of telling people to “shut up” whenever I even hint that, in a world with limited time on our hands, we might want to be thoughtful, introspective, and strategic about the best way to make our very important arguments in defense of science and reason. Mine has not been an attempt to squelch dialogue, but on the contrary, to spark it among members of a like minded group of scientists and science aficionados, concerning best approaches and practices.

And of course such dialogues happen all the time among many communities. Take for instance the environmental and climate change community, where I also participate, where there is also lots of internal debate, but not (at least that I can recall) similar wild accusations of censorship.

And now, an atheist blogger actually tells me to “shut up,” using precisely those words. I trust there will be round denunciation of this behavior?


Comments (65)

Links to this Post

  1. Agnosticism / Atheism | June 25, 2009
  1. John Kwok

    Welcome to the club, Chris. I get banned by PZ Myers over at Pharyngula, and lately, in the past week, Jason Rosenhouse insists that I make only one comment per day at his blog. Both of them are “liberals”, and yet their online behavior is more representative of totalitarian governments of either the leftist or rightist variety (I won’t go further by citing relevant examples, lest others accuse me of insinuating that Myers and Rosenhouse have to be adherents of the respective political philosophies.).

    Sadly, militant atheists like Coyne and Myers aren’t interested in a “dialogue”. What they want is “understanding” that theirs – and theirs alone – are positions worth noting and disseminating amongst the scientifically literate public as well as others.

  2. John Kwok

    Militant atheists who profess to be “liberals” and yet, suggest that others, such as Chris Mooney, should “shut up” are political hypocrites IMHO.

  3. I wonder if the blogger understands his calling himself “Uncredible” is, apparently, unintentionally funny.

    I should have collected the e-mails new atheists have sent me over the past three years. The usual form is imperative verb- definite article- F bomb – preposition. Remarkably unvaried over that course of time.

    Welcome to the club. It’s a life time membership. The best we can do is outlast them.

  4. John Kwok

    @ Anthony –

    He’s probably as delusional as Larry Fafarman or the other Dishonesty Institue IDiot Borg drones posting over at Uncommon Dissent – oops, I mean Uncommon Descent – and of course, the countless other creos lurking at other evolution denial and pro-science websites such as Panda’s Thumb. What militant atheists don’t understand is that, with regards to their online behavior, they tend to come across as shrill and as irrational as the very people – creationists – whom they are criticizing.

  5. SLC

    Re John Kwok

    Mr. Kwok was banned over at PZ Myers and requested to limit himself to one post per day over at Jason Rosenhouse because he persisted in making himself a nuisance with his perpetual name dropping and references to his high school and its celebrity graduates. I consider this to be unfortunate because, occasionally, Mr. Kwok provides some useful commentary. As for Mr. McCarthy, I have yet to see him provide anything of substance or interest on any subject.

  6. SLC

    Re Chris Hallquist

    Mr. Hallquist, the gentleman who suggested that Mr. Mooney “shut up,” is someone who just graduated from college with a degree in philosophy. Although I have nothing against students taking come courses in philosophy (I only wish I had done so when an undergraduate), the subject seems a total waste as a major.

  7. John Kwok

    SLC is the self-proclaimed former physicist with a Ph. D. in elementary particle physics who never heard of such notable contemporary physicists as Harvard University physicist Lisa Randall and Columbia University physicist Brian Greene (The fact that they are also fellow alumni of my prominent NYC high school is irrelevant. What is relevant, however, is that SLC, who claims to have had expertise in elementary particle physics, has never heard of Professor Randall, whose research includes elementary particles as a leading researcher with access to the recently opened CERN particle accelerator in Switzerland.). It is also worth noting, and SLC has freely admitted this, that he judges women by their physical appearances, and that, more than their intellectual capabilities, seems to be far more important to this male chauvinist pig than whether or not the women in question understand and can comment effectively on science (BTW, he has said that Sheril Kirshenbaum is “hot” on at least more than one occasion.).

    For someone who professes to hold logic and rationality in such high esteem, I am more than mildly amused with SLC’s latest excursion into metaphysics, simply by claiming that he is clairvoyant enough to know why Rosenhouse opted to ask me and Anthony McCarthy to restrict our comments at Rosenhouse’s blog to one comment per day. It is a bit ludicrous for SLC to assert that Rosenhouse made this request because of my “name dropping”, especially when SLC – who wants people to know that he studied with Nobel Prize laureate physicist Steven Weinberg – is a most accomplished practitioner of this very “art form”.

  8. Jumblepudding

    In my opinon, some vocal atheists let the urgency of their “message to mankind” trump civility, tolerance, and sometimes even common sense, in order to present a “united front”. This could be seen in a broader sense as a reaction to evangelistic strategies of religions throughout the centuries. That strategy worked in converting the ‘gullible populace’ for those belief systems, the reasoning seems to go, so why not for atheism? I would think the answer is because the message is of an entirely different nature, and its conclusions result from entirely different human drives.

  9. Walker

    While I am in no shape or form in support of the militant atheists, I am not sure that you are going to “spark [conversation] among members of a like minded group of scientists and science aficionados”. In my experience, all you are going to get is an Internet flame war.

    Like any flame war, the extremes (on both sides) will push out any moderates. The discussion will blur the line between pragmatic policy goals and metaphysical beliefs so that the major players can move the goal posts at will (look at the comments on the Coyne article and tell me if you have any idea where the goal posts are). This will allow them to manipulate the arguments of the more nuanced moderates, so that they can force them to pick a side or drop out. And these moderates will pick the latter option.

    Sorry if I sound a bit jaded, but these battles have been going on for a long time. It gets really tiresome listening to bad science (from the religious) argue against bad philosophy (from the scientists) and vice versa.

  10. SLC and John Kwok….please, don’t let it get personal. Thank you.

  11. As for Mr. McCarthy, I have yet to see him provide anything of substance or interest on any subject.

    You should hear me on unorthodox fingering at the extreme ends of the keyboard. It’s spell binding.

    I’m kind of surprised that this Hallquist, as a philosopher would call himself “uncredible”. It might be, though I doubt it, that he really meant it?

  12. Erasmussimo

    It’s obvious that the community has splintered into militants and pragmatists. This is a frequent development in movements of all kinds. The next step, sadly, is for the pragmatists to disavow the militants. The militants, confident of themselves, will talk themselves into ever-greater extremities, and will antagonize just about everybody else. It will become necessary for the pragmatists to loudly dissociate themselves from the militants. That’s always a tough decision, but its necessity is clearly demonstrated by the Republican Party, which cannot bring itself to purge the Limbaughs and clean up its act. Consequently, the Republican Party has been reduced to political impotence.

    Secularists are now facing a similar decision. The urgency is not as great, but it grows with each passing day. And it’s important to realize that militants are usually motivated by factors that are beyond the reach of reason. Usually it’s some form of anger. You can’t reason with these people; the best you can do is wait for them to outgrow their anger — and make certain that nobody mistakenly associates you with them.

  13. Well honestly, Chris, you’re being too sensitive. Sure you don’t like it, but some minor blogger trying to make the most noise by telling you to “shut up” comes with the territory, and it barely matters. Or didn’t, until you linked to it.

    That’s however it is, though, and you will either be sensitive or you’ll get hardened to such nonsense, and it’s not something that you can decide.

    He certainly has to be pedantic to claim that you were “lying,” as well. Sure, the poll results claim that they’ll choose religion over science. That’s not terribly meaningful, though, since people realize they’re supposed to choose religion over science, but regularly choose trivialities over religion when it suits their taste. Obviously, most of those who see no conflict between faith and science have already decided to “interpret” their religion to agree with science. So he’s full of it.

    I don’t mind those who bring up the caveat he did, it’s just that it doesn’t make Mooney into a liar.

    You can’t realistically expect a round of denunciations of an obscure blogger telling you to “shut up,” Chris. They’d just be creating a larger audience for that nonsense. Note, too, that most on the other side are not the ones who are demanding a more civil tone, so again there’s an actual disparity in standards held by you and by them. Which doesn’t change the fact that the charges that you were telling anyone to “shut up” were at least overwrought.

    Glen Davidson

  14. Jumblepudding

    @walker-the most perfect summary of a flame war I’ve ever read. the whole schoolyard “pick a side or you’re a sissy” fallacy.

  15. Erasmussimo–you have it exactly right.

    I’m aware that this isn’t a hugely prominent blogger, and neither was the subject of my last post. However, I think it is important to document the kind of rhetoric that is now flying around between people exceedingly close to each other intellectually, because it is so counter to rational discourse, which we supposedly value above all else.

  16. Gina Mel

    What the kid said was kinda stupid. Why suggest to shut-up? Why use that language?

    But really to ask science bloggers to go out of there way to condemn some blog I am guessing most of your readers never read before is kinda petty.

    The cynic in me wonders whether this whole debate and promise of a roll out of posts on science & religion debate with Coyne is timed to help draw publicity to your new book. Want to believe that is not the case and you want a healthy discussion but posts like this make me wonder.

  17. I concur with Glen @13. That blog is from a D-List (if that) blogger (like most of us who link to our own blogs when we leave a reply). The guy wants a tempest in a teapot, so he acts like a fool. Of course, you bump up his profile (at least for a day or two) because you link to it.

    Ignore it. Most of us would have had you not linked to it. Not every idea/comment needs to be addressed in a discussion. Only the most relevant and pertinent ideas/comments. In this case, that blog is neither relevant, or pertinent (FYI for gillt: this comment does not constitute ad hominem).

  18. John Kwok

    @ Chris –

    Thanks for the admonition, but I felt compelled to do this, since all too often, the only way that militant atheist bloggers like SLC think they have the “upper hand” is by smearing their critics with ad hominem attacks (SLC is a frequent poster at both Rosenhouse’s and Myers’s blogs, and I wasn’t going to allow him to get away “scot free” with his latest example of mischief, especially when he has a rather obnoxious, quite persistent, problem as a male chauvinist pig.).

    However, I have to concur with both Glen and TomJoe. It would have certainly been newsworthy if Coyne or Rosenhouse or Myers, for example, opined that you ought to “shut up”, and then, of course, quite worthy of ample comment by you here. But a “D-List blogger” isn’t someone worthy of your attention IMHO, acting merely as an online gnat. He’s more a mere symptom of the ongoing problem, not the root cause of it.

  19. Matti K.

    I second Gina Mel (16).

    After all, Mr. Mooney said:

    “If we waste our limited energy and resources on the narcissism of petty differences, we won’t have the strength left to forge a better, more scientifically literate country.”

    How about showing some example?

  20. John Kwok

    @ Gina Mel –

    No, I don’t think Chris is trying to exploit this issue as a means of promoting his new book. Unfortunately, this is an issue that has been ever present ever since Jerry Coyne rebuked Ken Miller and Karl Giberson for trying to seek some kind of accomodation between science and religion (though he did not explicitly refer to “accomodation” as such until his risible attack on NCSE weeks later) in his New Republic review of their books published late last January. Coyne has not only attacked NCSE, NAS and AAAS, but he has also lashed out at a relatively minor event – the World Science Festival in New York City – for seeking accomodation with religions or religiously-inspired organizations such as the John Templeton Foundation.

    If you’re going to start pointing fingers at anyone, I would aimed them squarely at militant atheists such as Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers, not at Chris Mooney, whose scienfitic journalism
    (especially of the ties between government politics and science) is of the highest caliber.

  21. John Kwok

    @ Matti K. –

    I’ve just supplied some notable examples, courtesy of Jerry Coyne’s risible whining and moaning at both the pages of the New Republic and his online blog (However, I am criticizing only Coyne’s ridiculous “accomodationist” accusations, not his well-deserved reputation as both a leading authority on speciation and as one of the most prominent evolutionary biologists of our time.). Chris’s assessment, sadly, is on the mark IMHO.

  22. Gina Mel

    If you’re going to start pointing fingers at anyone, I would aimed them squarely at militant atheists such as Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers, not at Chris Mooney, whose scienfitic journalism
    (especially of the ties between government politics and science) is of the highest caliber.
    You mean he might be savvy to publicity? He is tweeting about the debate on the Twitter page for the new book. Just because a human being has a bias doesn’t mean you don’t listen to what she or he is saying. I want to read actual debate not some D-list blogger who is trying to stir the pot and make a name for themselves. Coyne from what I have read (and I don’t read everything he has written, not even close) uses events such as the World Science Festival to highlight his point of view. Chris in this case is using a D-list blogger not to further the debate but as a rhetorical technique instead of actual debate.

  23. Chris, he does not even say that you shut up. His opinion is that you are more or less wasting your time (which is another matter, and I do not necessarily agree), and asking why. That is very different to demanding that you shut up.

    It’s posts like this (yours, Chris) that make me doubt if you are interested in a honest debate. It does not contribute at all to a constructive discussion.

  24. SLC

    Hey, come on folks. Mr. Hallquist is obviously a young guy just starting out in life. I see nothing to be gained by putting him down by calling him a D list blogger.. I find it most fascinating that he, a self professed militant atheist, is planning to attend graduate school at Notre Dame.

    Re John Kwok

    If Mr. Kwok wants to make himself useful, I would suggest responding to Mr. Collin Brendemuehl over at Jason Rosenhouses’ blog relative to his claim that Jerry Coyne endorses Haeckels’ theory of recapitulation in his book, “Why Evolution is True.” This is, of course, utter nonsense as no reputable biologist has believed any such thing for over a hundred years.

  25. John Kwok

    @ Gina Mel –

    Both Chris Mooney and his co-author, Sheril Kirshenbaum , have every right to promote legitimately their forthcoming book any which way they so please. It is however, quite fortuitious for them, that Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers’s inane commentary have dominated the scientific blogosphere for months, and that, unwittingly, they are merely providing ample “ammunition” that seems to confirm some of the key points in their book.

    @ SLC –

    Yes I’ve been reading that exchange and don’t wish to comment (Of course that charge of Brendemuehl’s is absolutely ridiculous, especially when, I am certain, Coyne is well aware of Haeckel’s work, simply because one of Coyne’s areas of research interest is the evolutionary developmental biology of Drosophila. Moreover, having read “Why Evolution is True” (I have a review copy.) and then, writing such a glowing review of it at Amazon, in which I noted the book’s best sections as well as its worst, don’t you think that I would have caught that error too?

    If you want me to be “useful” in the future, then I hope that you, as a former Ph. D. level particle physicist who has no training whatsoever in evolutionary biology, might defer to – or at the very least, respect – someone (yours truly) who does have ample training in this science. That means of course I expect you to refrain from launching into any further ad hominem attacks on me, comprendez – vous?

  26. giotto

    . . .Mooney has nothing of substance to say in reply, saying only that the debate is a waste of time-in which case, why doesn´t he shut up?

    One can quibble with the phrasing of this, but it is really a bit disingenuous to say that it amounts to telling someone to shut up. Or perhaps more charitably, the result of careless reading. Note that the words “shut up” are part of an implied if-then construction: If Mooney truly believes that the debate is a waste of time, why does he keep participating in it? It is, at wort, a charge of hypocrisy. At best it is a challenge to either 1)come out and say, finally, that the debate is a waste of time, and then do the decent thing and stop wasting your time; or, 2)keep the debate going and we can all assume you believe that it is not a waste of time, that it is in fact a worthwhile debate.

    That blogger is suggesting that your post (“Chris Mooney has abandoned….”) was a cop-out and a failure to engage your critics. That rather than respond to what are in fact–at least in some cases–substantive critiques of your position, you threw your arms in the air and cried “This is a waste of time.”

    Of course what you really said was, “If we waste our limited energy and resources on the narcissism of petty differences. . .” which does in fact serve as something of a cop-out. In fact, it is a cop-out layered over a cop-out. There is the “let’s not waste our resources” claim, which you clearly don’t fully believe, and which I read as “let’s not waste our resources demanding that I support by position with actual arguments.” Then there is the cop-out of “narcissism of petty differences.” First of all, if you take a side in a debate, the “petty differences” are yours as well as your opponents’. Second, the issues here are anything but petty, as they contain profound epistemological and ontological questions. Questions that are not addressed by quoting internet bottom feeders who have not been as polite as you might wish. Questions, for that matter, that are scarcely addressed at all.

  27. I didn’t use the phrase “D-List blogger” to put him down, it’s a pretty accurate statement. As a matter of fact, if you read my comment, I refer to myself as a D-List blogger as well. My point was, our sites are low traffic, they’re not at the forefront of the discussion. I don’t mind the back and forth between Mooney and Coyne. What I do mind, or rather find really silly, is to start bringing in a handful of other individuals who voice their own opinion* into the equation. Whether this is done to bolster their own point, or point out the flaws in the argument of the other side, is beside the point … your argument should stand on its own merits, not on how someone outside of the discussion is acting, or whether you can compile the largest number of agreeing posts … and if you link to someone who argues your own case better than you, maybe you should bow out of the discussion and let them take over.

    *Opinions, everyone has one.

  28. Matti K.

    Is this a correct characterization of the attitudes of the following gentlemen:

    Miller: Science and (catholic) religion are definitely compatible.

    Coyne: By no means are science and religion compatible.

    Mooney: Let’s all at least pretend that science and religion are compatible.

  29. John Kwok

    @ Matti K. –

    Only your terse paraphrase of Coyne’s position is correct. Ken Miller has said that religion and science can be compatible, but, he has also emphasized that the two should not be conflated, and that those who belong to faiths hostile to science should discard such faiths immediately (That’s definitely a stronger, “non-accomodationist” position than any I have read over at NCSE’s website.). As for Chris’s position, since this is his blog, I’ll let him speak for himself.

  30. Palo

    I’m with Giotto @26, Chris. You made a post about nothing. He did not tell you to “shut up”. But I think it is telling that you keep labeling “atheist” whenever you refer to your critics. What is the purpose of the label? Whether this person is or is not an atheist doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the apparent motive of your post, unless you think there’s a link between telling people to shut up” an atheism.

  31. John Kwok

    @ Palo –

    Chris is quite correct in assailing the inane comments of such prominent atheists as Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers. If either one – or someone else like Jason Rosenhouse – had told him to “shut up”, not only would it have been a subject of ample discussion here, but also, I am certain, elsewhere in the blogosphere. However, I don’t believe Chris should have drawn as much attention to that “D-List Blogger” as he has done so here. One of the reasons why is because by doing so, he is merely giving you and others who might agree, sufficient “proof” that Chris indulges in calling his critics, “atheists” for no apparently good reasons, period.

  32. Erasmussimo

    Matti K, your characterization of Mr. Mooney’s position as:

    Let’s all at least pretend that science and religion are compatible.

    represents a complete misunderstanding of his statements on the matter. You’re welcome to misunderstand what others say, but you won’t convince reasonable people with such misrepresentations.

  33. Matti K.

    E-11 (at 32):

    Well, Mr. Mooney seems to approve Ms. Forrests opinion:

    “Basically, Forrest’s point was that while Coyne may be right that there’s no good reason to believe in the supernatural, he’s very misguided about strategy.”

    It sounds to me that for Mr. Mooney the question itself, compatibility of religion and science, is far less important than marketing science to the “religious middle” or “silent majority”. Mr. Mooney seems to think that all scientists have a duty to support this marketing strategy and therefore should tone down their rhetoric about the incompatibility of science and religion. Even if they sincerely think that they are incompatible.

  34. John Kwok

    @ Matti K. –

    No, I don’t think that Chris is making the inane argument you are making in your latest post. Maybe you should read again both his and Barbara Forrest’s comments before posting yet another risible, quite inane, observation of yours here.

  35. benjdm

    “I trust there will be round denunciation of this behavior?”

    I went and read the whole post to get the context. He isn’t saying you should ‘shut up’ and cease arguing FOR the compatibility of science and religion. He’s saying that you haven’t said anything of substance on the topic to respond to Coyne.

    For those (like Dr. Coyne) who see science and religion as incompatible, aren’t you saying that they SHOULD cease arguing for that incompatibility? If not, you have not made your position at all clear.

  36. I also agree with what Erasmussimo (#12) had to say. But I have to admit, Chris, that Halq has a valid point. The poll results do suggest that people will accept the evidence of evolution only in so far as it doesn’t challenge their religious convictions. When it gets too close for comfort they’ll side with their religion. This does put religion and science into conflict. What it seems people in this forum are primarily opposed to are not the conclusions of the so-called “militant” atheists themselves, but that they’re viewed as uncouth for voicing these conclusions so insistently.

    I am a strong proponent of tolerance for religious viewpoints, but when the evidence is so compelling that there is a conflict I think it’s important to point that out. Sometimes the scientific and religious worldviews are fundamentally incompatible and pretending otherwise isn’t a useful approach.

  37. Matti K.

    For Mr. Kwok (34)

    Well, let’s quote some more from

    —quote starts—-

    “…Basically, Forrest’s point was that while Coyne may be right that there’s no good reason to believe in the supernatural, he’s very misguided about strategy. Especially when we have the religious right to worry about, why is he criticizing people like Miller and Giberson for their attempts to reconcile modern science and religion?

    Forrest then gave three reasons that secularists should not alienate religious moderates:

    Forrest therefore concluded her talk by saying that we need are “epistemological and civic humility”–providing the groundwork for “civic friendship.” To which I can only say: Amen.”

    —quote ends—-

    I think Mr. Mooney makes it clear that it is politically unwise to criticize the views of Miller and Giberson, even if one disagrees with them. I personally think Mr Mooney is naive, also politically, when offering openly such paternalistic advice. If he thinks Coyne is wrong, he should bring sound arguments why he thinks religion and science are compatible. Instead he concedes that the opponent has a sound argument, but recommends, for the sake of good strategy, to keep it under the lid.

  38. Jon (alternate)

    C’mon, Chris. Having followed your blogs for years, I want to believe you’re better than resorting to a silly call for denunciations.

    If you want to continue a high-minded debate, don’t let your own comments degenerate regardless of what people with whom you disagree may say. Otherwise you lose your ability to claim that you’re keeping the debate about the ideas and content.

  39. benjdm

    Matti K, you nailed it.

  40. Jon

    Matti K *didn’t* nail it.

    Chris is suggesting that you separate arguments that are philosophical and/or theological in nature, but don’t contradict methodological naturalism (i. e. science), from arguments involving people contradicting methodological naturalism, and thereby going directly against observable nature and evidence.

    What is most important to defend is the methodological naturalism. Loudly making philosophical/theological arguments means that you think these disputes are more important than defending methodological naturalism (science), because in the current civic climate the philosophical/theological inevitably drowns out the effort to defend methodological naturalism.

    And Chris says he’s drawing these distinctions as a *philosophical* naturalist himself, but one who understands that you can differ philosophically while still defending methodological naturalism.

  41. Jon

    It all depends on what are the goals, and how they should be pursued.

    If you’re pursuing an atheist utopia, screw all the other problems, lets get our utopia first. We’ll deal with the other problems later.

  42. John Kwok

    @Matti K. –

    Well if you’ve been reading Chris Mooney’s latest blog entries, he has been doing exactly as you’ve suggested, especially by reminding us all of the Dalai Lama’s position that Buddhism must conform to science, or else, be changed to conform to it. Ken Miller has said recently that those who espouse faiths that are hostile to science should terminate their memberships in such faiths immediately. On the other hand, if you listen only to Coyne and Myers’s inane commentary, you would learn that 1) science and religion can never be compatible and 2) Ken Miller is a creationist simply because he, like creationists, believes in the Judeo-Christian version of GOD (Or rather, not to ignore the rising multitude of Islamic creationists too, then the Abrahamic version of GOD.).

    Judging from the inane quality of both Coyne and Myers’s reasoning with respect to this particular issue, I have to wonder whether they thought their concepts were meant to be read and understood by citizens of the Romulan Star Empire, not their fellow humans.

  43. Davo

    I am not sure PZ Myers or Coyne called Ken Miller a “creationist”. In fact haven’t both of them and especially Coyne praised Miller’s marvelous and spirited debunking of ID in his books? When did they call him a creationist? Of course calling him that would be so obviously absurd that it’s hard to believe either Myers or Coyne would do it.

  44. Jesus Christ, Mooney. If you were any stupider, we’d have to water you.

  45. Matti K.


    “If you’re pursuing an atheist utopia, screw all the other problems, lets get our utopia first. We’ll deal with the other problems later.”

    OK, the main other problem for Mr. Mooney and other accommodationists is religious people rejecting science. Do you really think that problem will be solved, if Drs Coyne, Myers, Dawkins, Moran etc. refrain from speaking out about their views on religion?

    I don’t see any other possibility than to accept that also this issue is handled in the marketplace of ideas and encourage the “religious moderates” or “silent middle” to observe the market, too. Or does someone here think that theese people are a sheepish flock that should be guided by wise shepherds?

  46. Dan Kerr

    Everybody shut up.

  47. MadScientist

    It’s time for a War of the Blogs: “Shut up!” “No, you shut up!” “I said ‘shut up’ first” “Yeah, so shut up now.” How enlightening.

  48. benjdm

    @Jon in #40:

    “Chris is suggesting that you separate arguments that are philosophical and/or theological in nature, but don’t contradict methodological naturalism (i. e. science), from arguments involving people contradicting methodological naturalism, and thereby going directly against observable nature and evidence.”

    No, that can’t be right, because the whole thing started when Jerry Coyne suggested exactly that.

    Coyne said that since the NCSE is a supporter of methodological naturalism, it shouldn’t make arguments that are philosophical and/or theological in nature – like supporting the compatibility of religion and science. Chris Mooney said Coyne shouldn’t have done that, saying that the NCSE SHOULD make those philosophical and/or theological arguments that philosophical supernaturalism and religion are compatible with methodological naturalism and not mention the arguments that they’re incompatible.

    Here’s Coyne directly:

    “The pro-religion stance of the NCSE is offensive and unnecessary — a form of misguided pragmatism…Second, it departs from their avowed mission to be philosophically neutral…

    Am I grousing because, as an atheist and a non-accommodationist, my views are simply ignored by the NAS and NCSE? Not at all. I don’t want these organizations to espouse or include my viewpoint. I want religion and atheism left completely out of all the official discourse of scientific societies and organizations that promote evolution.”

    You are claiming Coyne’s position is what Mooney is arguing FOR instead of AGAINST.

  49. OK, the main other problem for Mr. Mooney and other accommodationists is religious people rejecting science. Do you really think that problem will be solved, if Drs Coyne, Myers, Dawkins, Moran etc. refrain from speaking out about their views on religion?

    I’d like it if they’d stop lying, that would be a big help. they could start by not talking about posts like this one being a demand that the practice of science “accommodate” anything except what you can do science with.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that “accomodationist” is a verbal marker that indicates someone is lying or slandering someone.

  50. Mooney–First, thanks for the link. But the insinuation of your post–that I´m doing the same thing I and others have accused you of doing–is wrong. I´m not saying you shouldn´t express your viewpoint for political reasons. I´m saying that if you´re going to keep writing on this issue, you should actually respond to the points your critics are making, and IF you can´t do that, then you shouldn´t bother writing about it. And I noticed you haven´t actually responded to the points I made in my post.

  51. Told to “shut up” by an atheist…


    You have arived!!! :o)

    Welcome to my world.
    On my blog being told to shut up by an atheist is tantamount to a compliment :o)

  52. Dear Chris Mooney,

    Thanks for being there, for speaking out loudly, clearly and often as well as for all the great work you are doing.

    At least to me, it appears the human community cannot keep growing in the unbridled ways we are now because the gigantic current scale and rapid expansion of human activities in the wondrous, finite world God blesses us to inhabit could become unsustainable soon. What worries me most is that many people do not yet even see what we have before us as a formidable predicament, let alone its forbidding and growing magnitude. From my humble vantage point, many too many leaders who do see the huge global challenges {climate destabilization is one of them} that could soon be confronted by the family of humanity have chosen not to speak of them, but to remain electively mute and in denial. Although I am an ageing old worry-wart whose sight is failing and faculties are diminishing, it is necessary for me to fulfill a “duty to warn” by reporting that I see the potential for a colossal, human-induced ecological wreckage looming on the horizon.

    Hopefully, I am mistaken.



    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, establised 2001

  53. John Kwok

    @ Davo (@ 43) –

    Ken Miller told me last year that PZ Myers called him a creationist, while we were sharing a cab ride back to his hotel room after a talk he gave at the American Museum of Natural History. I didn’t want to believe him, but I found this:

    and then, this:

    It is PZ Myers’s contention that Ken Miller is a “creationist” since Ken is a theistic evolutionist and has some unique philosophical views (which, incidentally, I don’t agree with at all, but Ken does – correctly IMHO – distinguishes between what he accepts as his personal religious philosophy and what he recognizes as valid science, without conflating the two.). Of course this is but a mere example of PZ Myers’s “flamethrowing” mentality, of which the most notarious example of course is last summer’s infamous “Cracker Incident”. It is for these, and other, similar reasons (of which the least is how he orchestrated banning me from his blog) that I regard PZ as the “William A. Dembski of Militant Atheism”.

    Jerry Coyne, on the other hand, is a far more reasonable person than PZ Myers (I wonder how Jerry has lost his common sense by deciding to cast his lot with a mediocre evolutionary developmental biologist like PZ Myers; incidentally, Myers has admitted to me in private e-mail correspondence that he is mediocre.), but still, he has been losing his otherwise excellent thinking when it comes to his risible charges of “accomodationism” against the likes of the National Center for Science Education, National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and most recently, even the New York City-based World Science Festival (co-founded by noted physicist Brian Greene and his wife, journalist Tracy Day) towards religion. Coyne started his intellectual offensive against “accomodationism” with his January 2009 New Republic book review of Ken Miller’s and Karl Giberson’s recently published books, accusing Ken of being, in effect, a creationist, simply for sharing three of four traits he had identified as those characteristic of creationists, starting with belief in the Abrahamic version of GOD.

    You should ask yourself without it is worth defending militant atheists like Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers, simply because their tactics have more in common with Eugene McCarthy than they themselves would dare to admit.

  54. Jon

    benjdm in 48:

    A lot of these conflicts seem to come down to who should be the spokespersons for science.

    The New Atheists are the loudest, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best public face for science. Philosophical naturalism is just one view. If you make that the exclusive view, and don’t have a wide variety of spokespeople, there’s a good chance you will array much of the public against you.

    Unless you’re hell bent on evangelizing the public on philosophical naturalism, as a priority over other urgent science-related public issues, then it makes sense to have a diversity of views reflected in public institutions.

    If you think that philosophical naturalism comes first, then to me you sound a lot like the French Revolutionary atheists, who put attaining a rationalist atheist utopia as a priority above other issues that were far more urgent.

  55. Jon

    And for the record, I don’t believe in a rationalist utopia. I think the New Atheists have serious blind spots in their view of human nature.

  56. Jay Hutchison

    Just because you know how to type doesnt make you an expert on anything. The world would be a much better place if most people would just shut up.

  57. benjdm

    @Jon in 54:

    Again, Coyne and P.Z. Myers are advocating AGAINST public institutions adopting an exclusive view on philosophical naturalism. This is explicitly made clear – there is no room to mis-interpret:

    “I don’t want these organizations to espouse or include my viewpoint. I want religion and atheism left completely out of all the official discourse of scientific societies and organizations that promote evolution.”
    – Jerry Coyne

    “they [NCSE and NAS] should not demand atheistic purity, but that they should either stop making one-sided arguments for fluffy, boring, ‘innocuous’, and scientifically unsupportable theistic evolution, or they should be more careful to accurately represent the range of views of scientists, which includes atheists.”

    – Myers

    Mooney is the one who is arguing FOR public institutions like the NCSE and the NAS adopting one view on the relationship between philosophical supernaturalism and methodological naturalism – that they are compatible. Coyne is being criticized by Mooney for arguing against this.

  58. John Kwok

    @ benjdm –

    What Coyne and Myers don’t want to acknowledge is that their criticism would – if followed by NCSE – repudiate an important aspect of NCSE’s mission, which is its important public outreach towards those who are religiously devout and want to accept the possibility that their faith would not be threatened by accepting evolution as valid science. IMHO, this isn’t accomodationism, but instead, education, and both Coyne and Myers are being quite ridiculous and pompous in their risible accusations.

  59. Bill C.

    By the same petty token, John, were I a clever fundamentalist, I might be compelled to call the NCSE on their apparent violation of the establishment clause: According to the NCSE, the government-sanctioned science being taught in my public schools is only explicitly compatible with certain flavors of religious belief – if I do not subscribe to the theologies of the scientists presented, is the government trying to tell me I am “out of line”?

    You say “outreach”, I say “opening an unnecessary and distasteful can of worms.”

  60. John Kwok

    @ Bill C. –

    Have you forgotten what a fellow Republican, Federal Judge John Jones wrote in his Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial ruling? I am reasonably certain that Jones would concur with my assessment, and, moreover, note that the Fundamentalist Christian interpretation of the Establishment Clause which you’ve presented is legally nonexistent.

  61. Jon

    But the thing is, you have to have a position, philosophical naturalist or not. If you are a spokesperson for science, you either believe in it or not.

    I’m sure the New Atheists would have no problem if a spokesperson were a philosophical naturalist. It’s only when a spokesman has a non-philosophical naturalist that there’s a problem. Why not have some spokespeople who are not philosophical naturalist?

    Again, for the New Atheists, the only acceptable public face of science *must* be philosophical naturalist. Anyone who makes suggestions otherwise are shouted down.

  62. benjdm

    “But the thing is, you have to have a position, philosophical naturalist or not.”

    Wait…now you’re saying that the NCSE cannot avoid taking a position on the truth value of philosophical naturalism?

  63. Eric

    Hallquist did not unequivocally tell you to shut up. Instead, he said that if you don’t have anything useful to contribute to the discussion, why say anything at all? I’m having trouble seeing how you could have accidentally misinterpreted what he said – it seems like it’d have to be intentional. His last sentence is perfectly clear and understandable, even if it does use language that offends you.

    Further, his admonition had nothing to do with his religious beliefs or yours. So why is this post titled “an atheist tells me to shut up,” not “a blogger tells me to shut up”? Is this how framing is supposed to work? You point out an irrelevant difference of belief in order to group all your opponents together and roundly dismiss them all at once by misinterpreting what one of them said?

  64. Physicalist

    I denounce Hallquist’s telling you to shut up if you think that having a debate over the issue is a waste of time. (Feel better?)


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs.For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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