Lessons from Dawkins vs. deGrasse Tyson

By Chris Mooney | July 6, 2009 9:02 am

Over at Coyne’s blog, a commenter named Peter Beattie advances a point that is so incredibly important, I want to draw more attention to it:

Jerry, this may be a tangential point, but do you think that perhaps we have been remiss in taking the state of mind of religious believers seriously? I’m thinking of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s point at Beyond Belief ‘06, directed at Richard Dawkins, about a sensitivity towards the state of mind of the audience that is needed, together with facts, to create impact.

Do you think there is a legitimate field there for us to plough that might at least take the edge off the confrontational character of exposure to the facts?

Tangential? Mr. Beattie, your point is anything but tangential. Indeed, it is fundamental to the cause of trying to create a more science-friendly society than the one we now live in.

What good is trying to communicate about science and reason if you can’t get non-scientific audiences to listen to you? Or as Jerry Coyne himself lamented in his New Republic article:

…we biologists are preparing to fan out across the land, giving talks and attending a multitude of DarwinFests. The melancholy part is that we will be speaking more to other scientists than to the American public.

Melancholy indeed. But how long do we have to keep making the same mistake, of trying to defend science and reason in a manner that we ourselves find persuasive, but that does not appeal to non-scientific audiences or even grasp where they are coming from?

In the debate we are having here about science, religion, and accommodationism, I am clearly on deGrasse Tyson’s side, and a lot of other people are clearly on Dawkins’. As you can see from the 2006 video cited by Beattie above, both are very persuasive (within our pro-science circle, anyways). But I think that deGrasse Tyson’s very penetrating question to Dawkins ultimately demands far more than the joking reply that you see here–funny though it is.

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Comments (185)

  1. QUASAR

    I’ve seen this video a long time ago!

    Richard Dawkins’ is famous for his books like The Selfish Gene, Climbing Mount Improbable and The God Delusion!

    His upcomming book, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution is a must have! 😀

  2. Matti K.

    I think even a non-scientist like Mr. Mooney understands that not every scientist is in the business of selling science 24/7 to the religious. Then why is Mr. Mooney constantly bickering about “the new atheists” not always playing the game the way he wants it to be played?

    Mr. Mooney seems to recommend some sort of self-cencorship for the “new atheists”. How about showing an example in self-constraint? I am sure one can sell science to the religious without ever referring to these guys:

    http://evolutionarymiddleman.blogspot.com/2008/01/four-horsemen-of-atheism.html

    Happy sales!

  3. Mark

    I teach science at a small college, and I am firmly in agreement with Neil deGrasse Tyson. In my ten years of experience, I have been tremendously successful (IMHO) when I show students the incredible amount of evidence supporting evolution, for example. My only failures (that I know of) have come when I have taken the “my way or the highway” approach. It makes for good sound bites, but not for good education, at least among the students I have encountered. (I make no claim that my approach is best for all members of the general public.)

  4. Matti K.

    Mr. Mooney, did you notice that Mr. Beattie is not as critical to the Dawkinesque approach as you (evidently) are:

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/07/02/almost-done-are-science-and-faith-compatible/#comment-4767

    I think his point is that we need both the salesmen and the truth-tellers. Mr. Mooney, on the other hand, seems to suggest that the truth-tellers shoud watch what they say in order to help the salesmen.

  5. NewEnglandBob

    And there is this point by articulett, which is quite good:

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/07/02/almost-done-are-science-and-faith-compatible/#comment-4810

    which is look within first, never mind how others act.

  6. In a sense, there’s something bizarre about ignoring the fact that people have brains that evolved to think more along the lines of religious thought than of scientific thought, and more or less demanding that they think according to the latter.

    On the other side is the problem that religious thinking is actually not in what scientists engage in at all (save possiblyl in the creative side of it). So one sees where Coyne and others are coming from.

    Overall, though, the fact is that educating people about science while ignoring the state of mind in which they are and are likely to continue is absurd from the purely pedagogical stance. Telling them that they can think religiously, but not where scientific justification is at stake, is the way to receive a hearing for science.

    That’s where the “accommodationists” always win. I can’t deny that some ways of stating that science and religion are “compatible” are misleading and should not be used. Others are the way of telling people that science is in fact not a religion or a worldview (certainly true), and in fact it can be engaged in a limited manner. That’s the psychological reality of science, and it is on that level that people need to be reached.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  7. Peter Beattie

    I have to confess I’m a little flattered. While that lasts, let me perhaps explain one or two points that were contained in a later post over at Jerry’s blog that add a little complexity and hopefully help to lift the debate out of the intellectual trenches it seems to have run itself into.

    Dawkins, in TGD, cites Einstein’s phrase of the “deeply religious non-believer”. This phrase seems to suggest that there is a class of feelings, which one should perhaps call religious* (note the *), that are shared at least by scientists and religious (without the *) people alike. This kind of religious* feeling contains the wonder and awe at the universe of a Carl Sagan, to cite just the most prominent example, that Dawkins refers to in Chapter 1 of TGD. But there’s a second thread to that kind of feeling, hinted at by Joan Roughgarden in the segment preceding Tyson’s ‘rebuke’ when she talked about how people “need an account that they can connect with”. Tyson himself gave such an account in a beautiful ‘sermon’ that highlighted the connectedness of all things, as revealed by science.

    Neil Postman, in The End of Education, talked about our need for ‘gods’, and what he meant by that was just such a unifying narrative that gives meaning, e.g. by showing how all things are in fact intricately linked and part of the same history—and, indeed, story.

    My point, then, is to say that we’re perhaps focusing too much on the factual, ‘objective’, impersonal side about science that tends to be presented to the public and should put more effort into the creation of unifying, meaningful (and, of course, true) narratives. These can then serve (possibly a considerably larger proportion of the public) as the growth media, as it were, for an unabashed accoun of the facts of the world, which Richard and Jerry in particular have proven themselves to be so good at giving.

    Maybe, if Richard’s view of the memetic nature of religion and its resemblance in behaviour to a (biological) virus is further substantiated, faith and dogma will come to be viewed as a rather noxious module (here I seem to agree with Richard, or in fact the Enlightenment) highjacking, or perhaps commandeering is the more apt expression, another module that is shared by all people and serves to appreciate their connectedness to the world they live in. This latter module we might call religious*. And I’d just like to suggest that we see it as an opportunity for true compatibility and, indeed, as the basis for a common sense of humanity.

  8. Erasmussimo

    Matti K offers a distinction between “truth-tellers” and “salesmen”. I think that the more accurate phrasing (and certainly less pejorative) would be “researchers” and “teachers”. The researcher’s responsibility is to the truth and only the truth. But the teacher’s responsibility is to communicate the truth — and merely stating the truth is not at all as effective as teaching the truth.

    A good teacher is above all sensitive to the mental state of the students. A good teacher takes into account their current worldview and thinks in terms of the change that is desired. When teaching a non-scientist’s physics course, a good teacher doesn’t plunge into differential equations, because even though they’re closer to the truth than the high school math, the students will simply fail to understand that material. The teacher accommodates the message to the mind of the student.

    Declaring the truth is not teaching. So, do we want to teach the public or stand in our ivory towers declaring the truth at them?

  9. Mark

    Erasmussimo, I would take your refinement of Matti K’s dichotomy and blur it somewhat. Truth is, at colleges and universities, professors are required to be both researchers and teachers. At major research institutions, professors are more researchers than teachers, and at non-PhD-granting institutions, professors (like me) are more teachers than researchers. But the fact is that almost all professors are a little of both.

  10. tomh

    Erasmussimo wrote: “A good teacher is above all sensitive to the mental state of the students. A good teacher takes into account their current worldview…”

    That’s quite a burden you would place on teachers. Students have competing worldviews, different belief or nonbelief systems; plus there are community and parental pressures to deal with when a teacher tries to tailor material to certain worldviews. It seems far more practical to present the knowledge in a neutral tone and let the students and their parents sort it out with respect to their own worldviews.

  11. Erasmussimo

    Mark, you’re quite right that college teachers have mixed portfolios, and I think this mixture is a contributing factor to the problem. We require them to wear the “Truth uber alles!” hat part of the time and the “Teach to the student” hat part of the time. This schizophrenic requirement is surely the source of much confusion.

    Tomh, you point out that it is quite difficult to take into account the worldviews of different students. Exactly! That’s why teaching is so difficult and why there are so many lousy teachers out there. But I ask you, when considering the best way to approach the problem of scientific illiteracy, do we concentrate on the easiest way or the most effective way?

  12. gillt

    Isn’t this about teaching evolution in public school biology classes? What sophisticated worldview will the teachers be contending with? The few that have been indoctrinated with a political or religious ideology robust and detailed enough to resist a grade or highschool-level presentation of the basic facts of evolution are a lost cause until they leave the nest to go off to college.

    The parents on the school board need to be educated to not impede the science education of an entire generation of children.

  13. Faust

    Peter Beattie has it right in his post above in my opinion.

  14. This is just the same old false choice again along with the same old bloc-thinking again.

    “What good is trying to communicate about science and reason if you can’t get non-scientific audiences to listen to you?”

    Those “non-scientific audiences” are not blocs, they are groups of different people, who all have a range of ideas, views, beliefs, ways of thinking and learning, and so on. Mooney has a habit of talking as if he knows exactly what such “audiences” think and exactly how they will react to what they hear and exactly what the consequences will be. In fact of course Mooney knows none of that; no one knows any of that; it’s all too complicated to know. Mooney resorts to this pseudo-knowledge as a form of bullying – you must not say this that and the other because if you do the results will be exactly what I say they will be. It’s all guesswork at best, yet Mooney treats it as self-evident and beyond question – for purposes of scolding the naughty atheists. This is getting very, very tiresome.

  15. tomh

    Erasmussimo wrote: “when considering the best way to approach the problem of scientific illiteracy, do we concentrate on the easiest way or the most effective way?”

    I would characterize it as a possible way versus an impossible way. As gillt points out, we’re talking about public schools, where not only is it tax-supported, but attendance is compulsory. It is impossible to sort out the worldview of every family with a child in school and then try to teach science so as not to offend any of them. Impart the knowledge. then let individuals and families, guided by their priests and shamans, fit it into their specific worldview.

  16. John Kwok

    @ NewEnglandBob –

    Articulett’s comment over at Coyne’s blog is self-serving sanctimonius whining. DeGrass Tyson has to contend too with creationists who find modern cosmology as objectionable as evolution. That’s among the reasons why he has been speaking out on this, and also why I believe Lawrence Krauss – who has incidentally been doing the same thing – might be more inclined to agree with his assessment than with Dawkins.

  17. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia Benson –

    Both TomJoe and myself (and of course, Anthony McCarthy, among others) have challenged your often inane reasoning. As our comments have demonstrated these past few weeks, then our side consists as much as blocs as those who object to modern science.

    I believe it is a bit sanctimonious of you to condemn Mooney for commentary that I find far less objectionable than your own “go the highway or my way” take on the need – if any – for “accomodationism” in religion and science.

  18. John Kwok

    Oh I wouldn’t dream of denying that you and Anthony McCarthy make up a bloc. I was talking about the rest of the world!

  19. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia Benson –

    Not in my wildest dreams would I think of myself belonging to the same “bloc” as Anthony McCarthy. I suppose in your nightmare(s) maybe, right?

    Anyway, time for you to address these comments of TomJoe’s which he posted at this blog a few days back (I’d eYou know what ultimately gets me about this whole “Shut up” situation? It’s that Coyne has basically said the same thing about Kenneth Miller! Has Ophelia taken him to task? Doubtful.

    I’m going to quote from a blog entry I’m making on this whole situation:

    Of course, Jerry Coyne plays the role of total hypocrite in all of this because he expressly argues that using scientists such as Ken Miller, who happens to be Catholic, to defend evolution means that science then approves of his religion. That is, of course, total horsepuckey.

    By trotting out those “religious scientists”, like Ken Miller, or those “scientific theologians,” like John Haught, we are tacitly putting our imprimatur on their beliefs, including beliefs that God acts in the world today (theism), suspending natural laws.

    Exactly why Ken Miller is called a “religious scientist”, replete with quotation marks, is beyond me. Dr. Miller is an established Professor of Biology at Brown University. He does research, and publishes regularly, in peer-reviewed journals. He’s a scientist, no quotation marks needed. But that doesn’t seem to matter to Jerry; rather, since Ken Miller is Catholic, he needs to be stifled, ignored, relegated to Warehouse 13, lest anyone get the impression that science implicitly endorses his faith.

    Ophelia, will we be seeing a rebuttal to Jerry Coyne’s comments? Somehow I doubt it.
    specially appreciate your comments too.):

  20. John Kwok

    Here it is fixed up:

    You know what ultimately gets me about this whole “Shut up” situation? It’s that Coyne has basically said the same thing about Kenneth Miller! Has Ophelia taken him to task? Doubtful.

    I’m going to quote from a blog entry I’m making on this whole situation:

    Of course, Jerry Coyne plays the role of total hypocrite in all of this because he expressly argues that using scientists such as Ken Miller, who happens to be Catholic, to defend evolution means that science then approves of his religion. That is, of course, total horsepuckey.

    By trotting out those “religious scientists”, like Ken Miller, or those “scientific theologians,” like John Haught, we are tacitly putting our imprimatur on their beliefs, including beliefs that God acts in the world today (theism), suspending natural laws.

    Exactly why Ken Miller is called a “religious scientist”, replete with quotation marks, is beyond me. Dr. Miller is an established Professor of Biology at Brown University. He does research, and publishes regularly, in peer-reviewed journals. He’s a scientist, no quotation marks needed. But that doesn’t seem to matter to Jerry; rather, since Ken Miller is Catholic, he needs to be stifled, ignored, relegated to Warehouse 13, lest anyone get the impression that science implicitly endorses his faith.

    Ophelia, will we be seeing a rebuttal to Jerry Coyne’s comments? Somehow I doubt it.

  21. John Kwok

    @ Mark –

    Thanks for your comments, which are among the most thoughtful I have seen from some of the others posting here who are both educators and professional scientists. I strongly endorse them.

  22. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia Benson –

    I am looking forward finally to your remarks addressing TomJoe’s comments, which I have posted correctly (@ 19).

  23. Actually, I can see no reason for us to be talking about high school teaching or the levels below. Isn’t it basically a given, and a constitutional right, that biology be taught essentially in a neutral manner? I’m not saying that there can be no discussion of possible consequences, particularly when students bring them up, but the biology ought to be taught without deference to atheism or religion.

    The post, Beatties’ later comment at Coyne’s blog, and at least my previous comment, were meant for educating the public, at least for the most part. That’s what the NCSE is about, trying to spread evolutionary science to an extent, but much more trying to spread respect for science and its methods. That’s where one might (at least arguably) legitimately introduce the subject with some deference to religion. The teacher might defer to religion as well in conversation, but I do not think that introducing evolution with deference to religion would generally be appropriate in schools.

    Schools need to teach evolution leaving religion alone as much as possible. School boards and the public are who need to be approached with a greater appreciation for where they are presently. And whatever the diversity among the public, Mooney is quite correct to be aware that the public tends to be religious on the whole.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  24. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia Benson –

    After you comment finally on TomJoe’s remarks, I would like you to address these other questions that I had posed with J.J. E., who claims to have been a graduate student in Jerry Coyne’s Division of Biological Sciences, University of Chicago:

    1) Coyne has accused NAS, AAAS, and, especially NCSE, of being “accomodationist” with respect to religion. Is he correct in this accusation, and can you provide substantial, concrete examples, please (I will note that I have studied extensively the relevant portions of NCSE’s website – and so has, independently of me, Ken Miller – and neither of us see such “accomodationism”. Unlike Ken, I am not a practicing Roman Catholic, but a Deist, who rejects the divinity of Jesus Christ.)?

    2) Both Coyne’s friend, physicist Lawrence Krauss, and Coyne’s former graduate school professor, ecologist and systematist E. O. Wilson, believe that it is important to engage with those who are evolution denialists, but for different reasons. Judging from Coyne’s remarks, he disagrees. Is Coyne correct, and if so, why?

    3a) Coyne rejected an invitation to appear in this year’s World Science Festival panel session on Faith, Science and Religion because WSF was funded by the John R. Templeton Foundation and, to a lesser extent, because he thought that such a panel session was unnecessary (His replacement, Lawrence Krauss, made these very points during the session, but did so in a dignified, even humorous, fashion, by suggesting, for example, that in lieu of this panel session, that instead, there should be one on science and pornography (which was seconded enthusiastically by our mutual friend Ken Miller)), and made a major issue over this by posting about it at his blog (which promoted e-mail rebuttals from Festival founders and organizers physicist Brian Greene and journalist Tracy Day (Brian’s wife), which Coyne agreed to post). Should Coyne correct in rejecting the WSF invitation, when he could have done exactly what Krauss did during the panel session in question?

    3b) Is Coyne being reasonable in his criticism of the Templeton Foundation’s funding of the World Science Festival when his own university, the University of Chicago, has received tens of millions of dollars in support from this very foundation (IMHO I think Coyne doth protest too much and sounds more than a bit hypocritical in his condemnation.)?

    4) If Jerry Coyne truly believes what he said recently over at Jason Rosenhouse’s blog (“We’re all in the pro-evolution battle together.”), then don’t you think it’s time for him to change direction and start practicing what he has preached, by ceasing his attacks on “accomodationist” scientists, science advocacy organizations (e. g. NCSE, WSF) and professional scientific organizations (e. g. NAS, AAAS)?

    If you can’t address mine or TomJoe’s questions, then I must conclude that you are really a sanctimonious hypocrite, who has complained more than once that Chris Mooney has responded to you.

  25. John Kwok

    Correction @ 23:

    If you can’t address mine or TomJoe’s questions, then I must conclude that you are really a sanctimonious hypocrite, who has complained more than once that Chris Mooney has not responded to you. Complaining about Chris Mooney’s ignorance of your comments will become a dead issue IMHO if you ignore mine and TomJoe’s.

  26. gillt

    What should be compulsory is an aptitude test before parents can sit on a school board–a position with a large source of power and influence. Or less “militantly,” we should encourage more parent scientists to jockey for the post, especially in TX. Perhaps Mooney and Kirshenbaum already have this in their book.

  27. John Kwok

    @ gillt –

    Philosophically for once I find myself in agreement with you (@ 25). However, pragmatically, unless you wish to transform the United States from a democratic republic to a Marxist – Leninist totalitarian dictatorship in which Atheism is the official state “religion”, then I don’t see how it can be done democratically.

  28. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia Benson –

    Am looking forward to your comments with regards to TomJoe’s remarks (@ 20) and mine (@ 24).

    If you are unwilling to respond, then sadly, I must conclude that: “…you are really a sanctimonious hypocrite, who has complained more than once that Chris Mooney has not responded to you. Complaining about Chris Mooney’s ignorance of your comments will become a dead issue IMHO if you ignore mine and TomJoe’s.”

  29. John Kwok –

    Sorry, what was your question? I didn’t quite catch it. Could you repeat?

  30. gillt

    Kwok: “Philosophically for once I find myself in agreement with you.”

    I’ve been grossly misinterpreted!

    Seriously though, I hate standardized tests. The suggestion was tongue-in-cheek. However, I think the school board system can be improved upon.

  31. Matti K.

    I don’t think this discussion about accommodationism is about teaching techniques. I am sure biology teachers and institutes producing these teachers do their best to produce the optimal pedagogic methods to teach evolution for different audiences.

    Mr. Mooney wishes that outspoken prominent atheist scientists would tone down their public criticism of religion everywhere, both inside AND outside the teaching forums. With reduced public controversy, religious people would feel less threateded and be more prone to learn “contorversial” science, like evolution. Or so goes the framing hypothesis.

    I think Mr. Mooney is fighting the windmills. I think he should accept that in a free society, there will always be prominent scientists who criticize religion. To complain about that is as productive as complaining about the weather.

  32. John Kwok

    @ gillt –

    Just wanted you to know that I’m not the online “bogeyman” that some of your other fellow militant atheists believe that I am. But I think you did raise a rather interesting and quite valid point.

    @ Ophelia –

    My questions are listed at:

    @ 20 (Actually it is an excerpt of TomJoe’s challenge to you and so technically, it is his question).

    @ 24 – I have a total of five, listed as 1, 2, 3a, 3b, and 4.

  33. Sorry, I don’t follow.

  34. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia Benson –

    Here’s TomJoe’s comments:

    You know what ultimately gets me about this whole “Shut up” situation? It’s that Coyne has basically said the same thing about Kenneth Miller! Has Ophelia taken him to task? Doubtful.

    I’m going to quote from a blog entry I’m making on this whole situation:

    Of course, Jerry Coyne plays the role of total hypocrite in all of this because he expressly argues that using scientists such as Ken Miller, who happens to be Catholic, to defend evolution means that science then approves of his religion. That is, of course, total horsepuckey.

    By trotting out those “religious scientists”, like Ken Miller, or those “scientific theologians,” like John Haught, we are tacitly putting our imprimatur on their beliefs, including beliefs that God acts in the world today (theism), suspending natural laws.

    Exactly why Ken Miller is called a “religious scientist”, replete with quotation marks, is beyond me. Dr. Miller is an established Professor of Biology at Brown University. He does research, and publishes regularly, in peer-reviewed journals. He’s a scientist, no quotation marks needed. But that doesn’t seem to matter to Jerry; rather, since Ken Miller is Catholic, he needs to be stifled, ignored, relegated to Warehouse 13, lest anyone get the impression that science implicitly endorses his faith.

    Now here are my questions:

    1) Coyne has accused NAS, AAAS, and, especially NCSE, of being “accomodationist” with respect to religion. Is he correct in this accusation, and can you provide substantial, concrete examples, please (I will note that I have studied extensively the relevant portions of NCSE’s website – and so has, independently of me, Ken Miller – and neither of us see such “accomodationism”. Unlike Ken, I am not a practicing Roman Catholic, but a Deist, who rejects the divinity of Jesus Christ.)?

    2) Both Coyne’s friend, physicist Lawrence Krauss, and Coyne’s former graduate school professor, ecologist and systematist E. O. Wilson, believe that it is important to engage with those who are evolution denialists, but for different reasons. Judging from Coyne’s remarks, he disagrees. Is Coyne correct, and if so, why?

    3a) Coyne rejected an invitation to appear in this year’s World Science Festival panel session on Faith, Science and Religion because WSF was funded by the John R. Templeton Foundation and, to a lesser extent, because he thought that such a panel session was unnecessary (His replacement, Lawrence Krauss, made these very points during the session, but did so in a dignified, even humorous, fashion, by suggesting, for example, that in lieu of this panel session, that instead, there should be one on science and pornography (which was seconded enthusiastically by our mutual friend Ken Miller)), and made a major issue over this by posting about it at his blog (which promoted e-mail rebuttals from Festival founders and organizers physicist Brian Greene and journalist Tracy Day (Brian’s wife), which Coyne agreed to post). Should Coyne correct in rejecting the WSF invitation, when he could have done exactly what Krauss did during the panel session in question?

    3b) Is Coyne being reasonable in his criticism of the Templeton Foundation’s funding of the World Science Festival when his own university, the University of Chicago, has received tens of millions of dollars in support from this very foundation (IMHO I think Coyne doth protest too much and sounds more than a bit hypocritical in his condemnation.)?

    4) If Jerry Coyne truly believes what he said recently over at Jason Rosenhouse’s blog (“We’re all in the pro-evolution battle together.”), then don’t you think it’s time for him to change direction and start practicing what he has preached, by ceasing his attacks on “accomodationist” scientists, science advocacy organizations (e. g. NCSE, WSF) and professional scientific organizations (e. g. NAS, AAAS)?

  35. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia Benson –

    TomJoe wants to know whether you condone Coyne or condemn him for telling Ken Miller to “shut up”. I believe that is the gist of his remarks (TomJoe, if you are reading this, can you confirm?).

  36. tomh

    @ #31 “Mr. Mooney wishes that outspoken prominent atheist scientists would tone down their public criticism of religion everywhere, both inside AND outside the teaching forums.”

    I have yet to hear of an example of religious criticism inside a teaching forum. There is plenty of the opposite, though, promotion of religion and criticism of evolution inside teaching forums, witness the Freshwater case in Ohio.

  37. John Kwok

    @ 31 –

    I can’t think of any militant atheist – not even Richard Dawkins – who is as prominent a scientist as noted evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson, and he recognizes the necessity to talk to – not “yell at” – Evangelical Protestant Christians who are skeptical of evolution as valid science, as noted, for example, in his recent book “The Creation'”, which is written in the form of an extended plea to a evolution denying Evangelical Protestant Christian minister, explaining forcefully – but still politely – why evolution is valid science, and why we need its insights as a means of attaining what should be both that minister’s and Wilson’s common goal of preserving Earth’s biodiversity (Wilson feels a special connection to that religious segment – though he is himself now an atheist – since he has noted that his childhood was spent in that religious environment.).

    Wilson’s approach is the kind that both DeGraasse Tyson and Mooney would endorse enthusiastically IMHO, and why, I regard that approach as far more preferable than the all too frequent denunciations of religion I have read from the likes of Dawkins, Coyne and Myers.

  38. NewEnglandBob

    @16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25……………… John Kwok

    Of course John Kwok is an expert at self-serving sanctimonius whining, practicing it continually along with name dropping , inanity, hypocracy, name calling, misquoting, etc. etc.

    That is why you have been booted from nearly every blog but this one.

  39. articulett

    Tyson teaches astrophysics… he doesn’t have to deal with the vilification of the ID crowd. His scientific knowledge is not quite as threatening to them. However, he does wonder publicly how any scientist could believe in a personal god. He finds it ridiculous.

    I suspect Dawkins is as effective or more effective in teaching the glories of scientific thinking then those suggesting that he tone it down. I don’t think Dawkins should be told to tone in down any more than Tyson should be told to “amp it up”.

    I suspect that to Dawkins and others , it’s like being told to quit saying the emperor is naked after being repeatedly maligned and called a liar for stating the obvious truth. It feels like the accommodationists are asking people like Jerry to be obfuscatory and dishonest so that the truth is more palatable to those who believe that faith is a good way to know something.

    But does that work? Or does it just go on supporting this dangerous idea that “faith” is something worthy of respect? Where is the evidence that this approach is beneficial or that Dawkins approach is harmful? What exactly do people think this approach achieves that the “new atheist” approach doesn’t?

    To me it sounds like the acommodationists are asking Dawkins to accommodate his oppressors–those who spread hatred against him and science and reason. It’s like asking gay folks to be gentle with the Christians who judge them or asking Galileo not to make waves with the Catholic church. To me, you further this prejudice, Chris.

    I think the accommodationist crowd ought not worry about other peoples’ approaches until they have evidence that their method works better for whatever it is they are trying to accomplish. Their criticism of those who speak the truth is off-putting to me. I think their criticism would be better aimed at those promoting faith as a means of “higher knowledge”. I trust the scientists who don’t mince words and dance around the subject to explain the knowledge we are uncovering.

    There are certainly valid arguments in support of the counter argument that Chris’s coddling of faith is more to blame for “unscientific America” than the “new atheists”. http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/angier06/angier06_index.html

    So, quit presuming your conclusion, Chris… it only serves to confirm what you’ve come to believe about “new atheists” and how they supposedly hurt the cause, and it also keeps you from having to justify your own approach as being more efficacious. Why don’t you set about proving the validity of your own “kiss theist ass” approach rather then setting up straw men about approaches that you IMAGINE hurt “the cause” of furthering scientific literacy. It seems to me that the new atheists are some of the most scientifically literate people in America since they don’t need to bend their knowledge to fit a dogma they feel they must “believe in” to be saved.

    To me, science is the key to getting people to understand that religion is just another superstition like all the other ones science has replaced with factual knowledge.

    (Btw, when you have someone like John Kwok on your side you surely must realize your argument sucks.)

  40. John Kwok –

    No, sorry, I’m still not reading you. Must be a transmission breakdown somewhere.

  41. Silver Fox

    “Do you think there is a legitimate field there for us to plough that might at least take the edge off the confrontational character of exposure to the facts?”

    Accommodationists profess to want to take the adversarial “edge” out of the debate; they want this because they don’t see the nature of the ideological dialogue. The debate is not between two parties who don’t quite understand each other and can perhaps negotiate and compromise to a mutually agreeable position. In fact, the debate can’t even be framed in terms of “live and let live”. Neither side wants the other to live.

    The New Atheists, in particular, see religion of any kind as a delusional abomination. They see parents who raise children in a religious environment as child abusers who should be prosecuted and either jailed or have their children taken away from them. They see these parents as depriving children of the use of their rational faculties by condemning them to a life of believing in mythical creatures and magical thinking. They deplore this intergenerational mind control.

    Religious people believe in a God and the operant word there is believe. They believe on faith which they accept as a free gift of their creator and through faith and belief experience an epistemological transformation of their lives. They have subjective knowledge which sustains them in their religious and spiritual lives. This transformation is absent from the atheistic mind because they have rejected the gift of faith or ignored it.

    Theistic people believe they are composed of a dualistic nature; their material bodies and their spiritual soul. They believe that material substances decompose and spiritual substances live on. Atheists are naturalist; what there is in the natural world is all there is. They exist only as material substance which will decompose when they die and that is the end of them. So, reason is important to them because that is what they use to develop a “realistic” appreciation of majestic glories of this world. This is what parents deprive children of when they acculturate them to “fairies in the sky”, angels and demons, heaven and hell.

    Accommodation? I don’t think so and that is how it should be.

    There is a not one self respecting atheist who would want to accommodate a delusional, child abusing parent who is hell bent on condemning children to a delusional mediocre life; there is not one self respecting theist who would want to accomodate a minority scourge of worthless putrescent rabble who are attempting to appropriate science as their exclusive domain to promote their main agenda, atheism.

  42. Barry

    Everyone must listen to his jive, until she answers his questions five. But even that wont really do it, he’ll find a way to keep pursuing it.

  43. tomh

    @ #41

    Wow. Straw-man much?

  44. Jon

    The debate is not between two parties who don’t quite understand each other and can perhaps negotiate and compromise to a mutually agreeable position. In fact, the debate can’t even be framed in terms of “live and let live”. Neither side wants the other to live.

    There are the militants and the civilians. The militant crazies, you’re not trying to reach. But the civilians (I’m thinking about persuadable, moderates–probably most of the population) are not science’s enemy. However, if there is “collateral damage”, you in fact make them your enemy.

    This transformation is absent from the atheistic mind because they have rejected the gift of faith or ignored it.

    I think the New Atheists usually overplay how much they know of what this “faith” means and overgeneralize it to all cases. And by simplifying it to themselves and their kind, they cut off any chance to understand people and persuade them.

    The whole thing is disturbingly familiar to the dynamics of the right’s talk-radio-based machine. With the Right, one of the semi-conscious goals is to “p*ss off the liberals.” With the New Atheists, one of the semi-conscious goals is to “p*ss off the ‘faith heads.'” It’s somewhat of an immature way to build a movement. Especially one the small size that the New Atheist movement is, and paradoxically one that is trying to get people to be more thoughtful…

  45. Straw man straw man straw man. No militants, much less militant crazies; no new atheists; no any of that. It’s all a big rhetorical game that relies on systematically and repeatedly misdescribing atheists and atheism for purposes of propaganda and ‘framing’ or Overton window-shifting. An endless flood of untruth designed to make us quit pointing out the truth about the dratted Emperor’s new duds.

  46. Silver Fox

    @41
    Straw-man?

    I don’t think so. Listen to Dawkins’ interview on the BBC. The moderator asked what he hoped to achieve with “The God Delusion”. Dawkins’ reply was that he was saying “science is nice and if you don’t like it -Fuck Off.

    Well, science is not the exclusive domain of atheistic scientists. Religious people don’t have to Fuck Off science; they would be well advised to Fuck Off from atheists and keep their science and religion. The arrogance and snide attitude of the man is appalling

  47. Jon

    No militants, much less militant crazies; no new atheists; no any of that.

    I believe the New Atheists have called themselves New Atheists. It’s certainly a phenomenon, you can’t deny that.

    As for militants and crazies, I was referring to religious fundamentalists in my first paragraph above. But I think the term “militant” applies to the New Atheists as well, if you consider statements like:

    “I am persuaded,” [Dawkins] explains, “that the phrase ‘child abuse’ is no exaggeration when used to describe what teachers and priests are doing to children whom they encourage to believe in something like the punishment of unshriven mortal sins in an eternal hell.”

    If calling followers of traditional religion “child abusers” isn’t militant, you’ll have to tell me what is.

  48. The accomodationists need to make up their mind:

    Either the accomodationists think the American public is a child in need of warm milk and some Kumbaya before bedtime, and don’t forget the nightlight, or it’s last call and you’re prepared to say and do just about anything to go home with someone or something…Yikes! Forget it, honesty can wait until the sun comes up.

    But both child and barfly? That seems kinda icky.

  49. Militant is violent, war-like, soldier-like. It doesn’t mean just ‘saying something I don’t like the sound of.’

  50. Jon

    Hey, the Tea party people think they’re just being honest. “What, do you want, warm milk and some Kumbaya? They’re libruls,” says Joe the Plumber.

    Or you can have actual dialog between reasonable people, where two parties aren’t taking up all the public oxygen by shouting past each other.

    (Bellowing New Atheist generalization about the unreasonableness of all “THE RELIGIOUS!!1!1!1!!!” in 3, 2…)

    you’re prepared to… go home with someone or something

    And you’re like Nixon and McCarthy, saying anyone associated with the New Deal must be a Commie down to their pink underwear and ready to overthrow the US government. The paranoid style lives. Not all of “THE RELIGIOUS!!” are fundamentalist.

    Ophelia Benson: Militant is violent, war-like, soldier-like. It doesn’t mean just ’saying something I don’t like the sound of.’

    mil·i·tant
    Function:
    adjective
    Date:
    15th century
    1 : engaged in warfare or combat : fighting
    2 : aggressively active (as in a cause) : combative, as in [militant conservationists] [a militant attitude]

    …Or just read gillt comment in #48.

  51. With the Right, one of the semi-conscious goals is to “p*ss off the liberals.” With the New Atheists, one of the semi-conscious goals is to “p*ss off the ‘faith heads.’”

    (Well, with the right, I think that’s a fairly conscious goal (but might be wrong); with the “New Atheists”*, I’m not sure it’s so much to do with pissing off the “faith heads” as delegitimizing them (merits/chance of success aside).

  52. Jon

    By the way, there are 2,490 hits for “THE RELIGIOUS1!@!1!!1!!!!!” on PZ Myers’ blog.

  53. By the way, there are 2,490 hits for “THE RELIGIOUS1!@!1!!1!!!!!” on PZ Myers’ blog.

    A fair number (though not all) of which are adjectives – “the religious x”.

    2 : aggressively active (as in a cause) : combative, as in [militant conservationists] [a militant attitude]

    If you say “militant conservationists”, I think tree-spikers and ELF. Are there atheists burning down churches and booby-trapping bibles?

  54. The missing asterisk-footnote in my #51 was supposed to go to:

    * That phrase just sounds way too much like “The New Mutants” for me.

  55. JoshS

    Blah blah blah blah blah my friend Ken Miller blah blah blah your puerile refusal to blah blah blah blah impugn the very reasonable blah blah blah

    This Shorter John Kwok (TM) has been brought to you today by the letter, and the number 6.

  56. Ben Nelson

    Also, there’s evidently this upstart disc jockey in my neighborhood who is a touch abrasive. His name is Howard Stern. I’m sure he’s just a pipsqueak and won’t attract any otherwise indifferent audiences.

  57. Jon

    A fair number (though not all) of which are adjectives – “the religious x”.

    Yes, but even if 25% of the posts use the generalization “THE RELIGIOUS!!” in the inflammatory way he does, that still means that he used it in some 600 posts since he moved to scienceblogs three years ago. 600 posts making generalizations about “THE RELIGIOUS!1!!” in some 1200 days (Couldn’t he have used that time to publish some actual biology instead?)

    If you say “militant conservationists”, I think tree-spikers and ELF. Are there atheists burning down churches and booby-trapping bibles?

    Yes, the stereotype isn’t the same as the definition. The definition fits. Calling religious people child abusers? That’s not all that far from the way pro-life people call abortion doctors “baby killers.”

  58. Jon

    (I should clarify: I don’t think of New Atheists and pro life people in the same breath at all, but I do think “child abuser” and “baby killer” are both examples of militant language, under the dictionary definition of that word.)

  59. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia Benson –

    I am sure you are as capable of reading me as I am in conversing with Chris Mooney (which, I might add is quite well, and which I have done with him for months.). If you can’t read me, then it’s your own obstinent behavior that is preventing you from doing so.

    In various forms, I have posted these questions both here and in the previous discussion thread “Survey Data on Science and Religion” which were addressed to militant atheist lurker – by his own admission – J. J. E. – who claims to have been a teaching assistant in undergraduate courses at the University of Chicago’s Division of Biological Sciences.

  60. Benson makes a great point. Mooney et all make 2 unstated major premises. The first is that being polite and mild-mannered improves persuasiveness in the religious. And the second is that being blunt and unapologetic while presented facts that challenge anti-scientfic religious claims reduces persuasiveness. Of course this flies in the face of Aristotle, not to mention what we see today in media (where my expertise actually is). As depressing as it is, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Keith Olbermann are very persuasive media figures, seemingly a lot more than Brian Williams or Charles Gibson, etc. And it seems inconsistent to say someone like PZ Myers is only popular because people respond to his abrasiveness but then claim that people just want to tune out those who are abrasive.

    The other logical fallacy being made is a false dichotomy. One is capable of being a man for all seasons and Richard Dawkins can be both a great educator when in an educational arena (See: Dawkins’ “Growing Up In The Universe” series available on YouTube) and still moonlight as a tireless advocate against the abuses of religion when in an arena more appropriate for that. I’ve yet to hear Dawkins ever advocate teaching “The God Delusion” in public high schools.

    And regarding Mark, the teacher who proudly stated how effective he is at teaching evolution, I think this is a bit of a straw man. The vast majority of students are not likely to be die-hard creationists resistant to being taught evolution. Those students aren’t really relevant to this discussion. It’s how we respond to the students who enter the classroom already passionately biased against evolution and the creationist communities that brought them up who are more the focus of this disagreement. Nor I don’t think anyone hear is suggesting that students who reject evolution should receive a failing grade even if they prove they understand the material enough to legitimately pass the class. Nor do I think anyone here is advocating pushing atheism in the science classrooms.

    And @38 & 39, I second that.

    “Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle! Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
    -Frederick Douglass

  61. John Kwok

    @ articulett –

    This statement of yours is not entirely accurate:

    “Tyson teaches astrophysics… he doesn’t have to deal with the vilification of the ID crowd. His scientific knowledge is not quite as threatening to them. However, he does wonder publicly how any scientist could believe in a personal god. He finds it ridiculous.”

    Neil de Grasse Tyson is, like Ken Miller and eminent evolutionary biologists Francisco J. Ayala, Niles Eldredge and Douglas Futuyma – as well as his American Museum of Natural History colleagues Joel Cracraft and Niles Eldredge – a major supporter of the National Center for Science Education, and he is promoted listed as such here:

    http://ncseweb.org/about/supporters

    Your inane observation is clearly not supported by the fact of Dr. Tyson’s substantial financial contribution to the National Center for Science Education. Moreover, he isn’t the only prominent astrophysicist or physicist to recognize and to speak out on the dangers posed by Intelligent Design creationism and ofther varieties of creationism; these include Arizona State University physicist Lawrence Krauss and Harvard University physicist Lisa Randall.

  62. John Kwok

    @ Skepacabra –

    No, not only isn’t Ophelia Benson not making a great point, she is, by virtue of her often inane comments, becoming Militant Atheism’s version of Canada’s great “savant” of Intelligent Design creationism, one Denyse O’Leary, with respect to her rhetorical style (though thankfully not with regards to the scientific aspects of her commentary). If I’m going to rely on a female atheist’s well-considered opinions with respect to religion and science, then I’ll take those of Genie Scott (and, assuming that she is too an atheist, Lisa Randall), any time over those of Benson’s.

  63. Chris, I’ve been impressed with you in the past, but you’ve given up intellectual integrity in the interest of politics. Stop pretending they’re the same thing. You’re looking a bit more stupid by doing this, not better. You seem smart enough to see this, but seemingly can’t, so try harder. There’s a double standard here that you have to acknowledge and work through, but haven’t.

  64. Loc

    John Kwok,

    If you use inane one more time….

    Can Mr. Mooney please implement the killfile script?

    On another note. I enjoy Chris Mooney’s books and think he’s great on the ‘front line’ (since everyone’s throwing around military innuendos) dealing with education. But he consistently accuses the New Atheist of things they have never done or advocated. He paints them in a light that when ‘teaching’, they shouldn’t be combative. But Jerry et al. have never advocated combativeness, they just don’t want scientific institutions catering to the religious. Individual instructors will come to find their own way of disseminating information to their heterogeneous make-up of students. But wrapping it in a nice package that is ‘religion friendly’ is not the way to accomplish the end goal of having a better scientifically educated public.

  65. John Kwok

    @ Loc –

    If a fellow Republican, Federal Judge John Jones could – and did – use the phrase “breathtaking inanity” when rendering his verdict at the conclusion of the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District file, then most certainly can yours truly. Indeed, you have demonstrate that, like your fellow intelllectually-challenged Militant Atheists, are really a crypto Marxist – Leninist waiting to “burst out”, and are merely capable of rhetoric that is truly replete in its breathtaking inanity.

    Have a good night and I trust you’ll continue enjoying your membership in the Coyne/Myers Militant Atheist Borg Collective.

  66. JoshS

    If a fellow Republican, Federal Judge John Jones could – and did – use the phrase “breathtaking inanity” when rendering his verdict at the conclusion of the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District file, then most certainly can yours truly.

    And thus:

    Blah blah blah blah blah, epistemologically speaking, and blah blah blah blah-quantum blah. </blockquote.

    It is with, oh, how shall I say it? emphysemic emphasis that I say:

    blah blah. And Ken Miller.

  67. Matti K.

    Jon (47):

    Why is threatening a kid with torture in this life abuse and threatening with it in the hypothetical afterlife not?

    I think Dawkins has a point, even though he expresses it in a polemic way.

  68. Jon

    I’m sure the pro lifers also have argument about why abortion is murder.

    The point is that they’re militant positions.

  69. FredW

    So when, exactly, is a well argued position not a militant position. Is Chris a “militant accommodationist”?

  70. Matti K.

    Since English is not my mother tongue, I must constantly look words in the dictionary. From wikipedia I found the following description for the adjective “militant”:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militant#Adjective_usage

    In the description, the word “aggressive” is used very much. I guess “new atheists” (NA) are described militant by some observers because the latter consider the writing style of NA to be aggressive.

    Personally, I don’t think that statements “religion is nonsense” or “religion is not compatible with science” are any more aggressive than for example the statements “astrology is nonsense” or “astrology is not compatible with science”. Obviously, Jon and many others disagree with me.

  71. TB

    Tyson – and Mooney – are correct in their approach, as I found once again this weekend at a family gathering that mixed agnostics, theists and fundamentalists. Polite conversation that didn’t challenge religion in general but simply focused on science made the science sound reasonable and didn’t disrupt the weekend with a family argument. It works.

  72. TB

    I wouldn’t say militant, but I would say some New Atheists seem to be doctrinaire.

  73. gillt

    What is doctrinaire about a non-belief? Atheists are also doctrinaire about the tooth fairy, alien abductions and Zoroastrianism.

    And I image most people on the planet to be doctrinaire about those things as well, deists included.

    Or rather, does doctrinaire imply that that atheists have no real good arguments in support of their position?

  74. John Kwok

    @ JoshS –

    Instead of whining and moaning about my comments, why not address the fact that, contrary to articulett’s absurd, grossly incorrect, assertion – which he has stated both here and over at Jerry Coyne’s blog – that since Neil de Grasse Tyson isn’t an evolutionary biologist, then he doesn’t have to worry about IDiots and other creationists. If that was truly the case then why is he, along with such prominent evolutionary biologists as Francisco J. Ayala, Sean B. Carroll, Niles Eldredge, and Douglas Futuyma, to name but a few, a major financial contributor to the National Center for Science Education:

    http://ncseweb.org/about/supporters

    It is rather dishonest of articulett to have made his incredulous assertion about Tyson and not even think of apologizing – contrary to my own behavior (since I will usually acknowledge and apologize for errors stated in my blog postings) – but sadly, to be quite blunt, articulett’s behavior is consistent to what I have come to expect from virtually every other militant atheist posting online, starting of course with the likes of Myers, Coyne and Benson and working my way down to the lowest member of the Coyne/Myers Militant Atheist Borg Collective (An apt description incidentally for any intellectually – challenged dunce like yourself who thinks that anything which Chris Mooney, TomJoe, myself or others have written is mere “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah”. By making such a risible assertion, it merely demonstrates that your intellectual capacity for reasoning is no better than what I have seen from the Dishonesty Institute IDiot Borg drones posting over at the Bill Dembski-created Uncmmon Dissent website.).

  75. John Kwok

    @ gillt –

    This post I had written in rebuttal to Skepacabra addresses your latest comments and should also be noteworthy here, since he made the very same points over at the Intersection blog entry on sending a review copy of the book to PZ Myers:

    @ Skepacabra –

    It is ironic that you quote from a great believer in democratic government, Frederick Douglass, since the online behavior I have read from many of your compatriots is one that I would recognize in the zealous acts of the Red Guards during the People Republic China’s infamous, nearly decade-long Cultural Revolution.

    In the Intersection blog on survey data on science and religion, John Kotcher has brought to our attention the writings of eminent evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson, who, writing over at the Huffington Post, has observed that atheism is a ’stealth religion”. His assessment may be correct, especially in light of the abysmal online conduct I have seen from your fellow militant atheists here and elsewhere:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-sloan-wilson/#blogger_bio

  76. gillt

    That in no way addresses anything I said kwok. Thanks coming out.

  77. John Kwok

    @ gillt –

    Really? I beg to differ, for I have found this rather intriguing set of remarks written by distinguished evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson which was part of his concluding series of essays over at the Huffington Post (I suppose it is especially ironic that I, as a registered Repulican with strong Libertarian leanings would quote from Ms. Huffington’s website, but I believe it is relevant to our present-day discussion) on atheism as a “stealth religion” posted over a year ago:

    “The new atheists defend their lack of scholarship by saying that their purpose is to raise consciousness and goad people into action. I would therefore like to end my Stealth series by issuing a call to action of my own. Science and reason are every bit as important for solving the problems of modern existence as the new atheists say, but they are not making their way into popular intellectual discourse or public policy. We justly disapprove of politicians when they manipulate the primitive centers of our brains, jolting us into senseless action that harms everyone over the long run. Yet, popular intellectual discourse is not much better, as we have seen in the case of the new atheists.”

    You can read the rest of the remarks here:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-sloan-wilson/atheism-as-a-stealth-reli_b_90619.html

    I suppose one could say that David Sloan Wilson anticipated much of the online rhetorical nonsense emanating from the likes of Coyne and Myers ever since Coyne began attacking “accomodationist” scientists, science advocacy and professional scientific organizations with the publication of his New Republic reviews of Giberson and Miller’s books back in January.

  78. gillt

    You being ironic means you would at least make some sense. But you aren’t and you don’t.

    And you managed to address nothing.

  79. John Kwok

    @ gillt –

    I’m not being ironic and I think I am making more than a mere bit of sense. But instead of hearing it from me, let’s see what David Sloan Wilson had to say back in February 2008, shall we? Here’s some interesting nuggets:

    That’s where I part company with the new atheists. I claim that science has made progress and that we can use our factual knowledge to address the problems associated with religion, such as why people believe weird things (to borrow the title of Michael Shermer’s book) and why cooperation within groups is often (but not always) accompanied by conflict among groups. Much remains to be discovered, and studying religion from an evolutionary perspective is an especially nascent enterprise, but we can do much better than pick and choose among hypotheses to support our preconceived notions about religion.

    In contrast, the authors associated with the new atheism movement begin with a deep antipathy toward religion and select their examples from the text of science like so many parables from the Bible. Not only do they ignore, misrepresent, and selectively report the facts of religion, but their practical recommendations for solving the problems associated with religion are ineffective, silly, and worse.

    INEFFECTIVE: Daniel Dennett is a world-renown philosopher who also writes about the big questions for a general audience. With Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, he became a major interpreter of evolutionary theory and its philosophical implications. I value Dennett as a colleague and intellectual sparring partner and hope that my disagreement with him on the subject of religion does not damage our relationship. As David Hume said and the evolutionist/philosopher Massimo Pigluicci reminds us at the top of his blog, “truth springs from argument among friends.” Dennett’s book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon is notable for the degree to which he treats the scientific study of religion as a task for the future, as if no firm conclusions can be drawn on the basis of current knowledge. This stance gives him maximum elbowroom to interpret religion as primarily a delusion (as implied by the title), like the parasitic worm that commandeers ants by burrowing into their brains (the first example of the book). I have critiqued Breaking the Spell in detail elsewhere. For the purpose of this blog, I want to focus on the solutions that Dennett offers on the basis of his analysis of religion. His primary recommendation is universal religious education. If only religious believers could be introduced to the full panoply of religious belief, they would become less deluded about their own. I doubt that this policy would have a meaningful impact on the worldwide problems associated with religion. In America, for example, fundamentalist religions are immersed in a larger cultural milieu teeming with “memes” from secular life and other religions. Like a cell maintaining osmotic pressure, a given religion is designed to pump out contrary memes and maintain an internal environment containing the appropriate memes. Elsewhere in the world, does Dennett really believe that we’ll solve the problems of the Middle East (for example) by teaching the Palestinians about Judaism and the Israelis about Islam? His policy recommendation might be well-meaning, but it is likely to be ineffective.

    SILLY: Richard Dawkins is a hero around the world as a champion of rational thought. His website is subtitled “a clear-thinking oasis.” Thousands of people have been turned on to evolutionary theory through his many books. I recommend The Blind Watchmaker as a good tutorial and I even admire the gene’s eye view of evolution, as long as it isn’t taken as an argument against group selection. However, a funny thing happened to Dawkins on his way to becoming a public icon. He no longer regards himself as scientifically accountable for what he says, especially on the subject of religion. Part of the problem is that he has crawled so far out on a limb with respect to group selection and the impossibility of explaining widespread human cooperation from a Darwinian perspective, that the only way to get him down might be to saw off the limb. In this blog, I want to focus on the solutions that Dawkins offers on the basis of his analysis of religion. For example, he regards religious education as a form of child abuse, which will require setting up a vast foster care system staffed by rationalists. In his essay titled “Atheists for Jesus”, he offers as his best solution a slogan with the oxymoronic power to “lead society away from the nether regions of its Darwinian origins into kinder and more compassionate uplands of post-singularity enlightenment.” It is unclear whether Dawkins intends these suggestions to be taken seriously, but either way they are just plain silly.

    WORSE: Whenever Christopher Hitchens and his book God is Not Great are mentioned in the comments to my Stealth blogs, it is usually to say “Why should anyone take him seriously?” As a great provocateur, he will do anything to get a reaction–trashing God on Sunday, Bill Clinton on Monday, bikini-waxing his naughty bits on Tuesday, inviting journalists to have a feel during the National Book Award Ceremonies on Wednesday, and so on. Nevertheless, even a provocateur must play by certain rules. If he doesn’t speak the truth, then his barbs have no sting and he isn’t worth the time of day. In this blog, I am most concerned with the solutions that Hitchens offers on the basis of his analysis of religion. At the very least, we should expect the new atheists to avoid the kind of between-group conflict that Dennett blames on religious believers when they fight over “who has the best imaginary friend.” Yet, in an article titled “The Genocidal Imagination of Christopher Hitchens”, Richard Seymour documents statements such as this one:

    We can’t live on the same planet as them and I’m glad because I don’t want to. I don’t want to breathe the same air as these psychopaths and murders [sic] and rapists and torturers and child abusers. It’s them or me. I’m very happy about this because I know it will be them. It’s a duty and a responsibility to defeat them. But it’s also a pleasure. I don’t regard it as a grim task at all.

    Who needs religious fundamentalists when we have Christopher Hitchens? Few atheists and rationalists would agree with him on this point–certainly not Dan Dennett, who e-mailed me that he finds Hitchens’ views “very troubling indeed.” Yet, this only underscores the larger problem that I am trying to identify with my Stealth blogs. Something has gone terribly wrong with popular intellectual discourse on religion. A few authors have occupied center stage, claiming to base their analysis on science and rational thought, when in fact their views are detached from the serious scientific study of religion and their practical recommendations are ineffective, silly, and worse.

    You can read the rest here:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-sloan-wilson/atheism-as-a-stealth-reli_b_88795.html

  80. gillt

    Just a thought: How’s about you copy and paste the entire series for us right here, so we don’t have to waste all that time clicking through a link.

    But don’t stop there; copy and paste every single article you, Kwok, find interesting right here in the comment section of this post. Let CtrlC and CtrlV do all your arguing from now on. Brilliant!

  81. John Kwok

    @ gillt –

    You’re not interested in listening to me anyway, so what’s the point? For example, I said to Skepacabra that it was ironic for him to quote Frederick Douglass – truly a champion of democratic government – in support of his fellow militant atheists, whose online antics and tactics more closely resemble those of Marxist – Leninists than of liberal democrats. So you erroneously assumed that I was being ironic. No I wasn’t.

  82. gillt

    huh?

    I said IF you were being ironic you’d make more sense.

    Get it together kwok.

  83. John Kwok

    @ 83 –

    Nah, I prefer my own brand of sardonic humor, following in the footsteps of a certain well known Irish-American memoirist who is a mentor of mine. But seriously, your comments demonstrate that you are simply too dense or too “intellectually-challenged” or both to accept the possibility that I am making sense (I am beginning to think you are as dense as Ophelia Benson.).

  84. John Kwok

    @ 83 –

    David Sloan Wilson seems to have done a magnificient job in declaring that Atheism – especially in its “New Atheist” flavor – is really a “stealth religion”. You may have missed my point that I have arrived at a similar conclusion too, independently of Wilson, in light of the many incredulous and irrational comments I have seen posted by the likes of PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson – and sadly, I must add Jerry Coyne too – and their truly intellectually-challenged acolytes (Hence my “creation” of the Coyne/Myers Militant Atheist Borg Collective.). By arguing as forcefully as all of you have done on behalf of Atheism, and in your risible condemnation of “accomodationism” and of “accomodationist” scientists like, for example, Vatican Observatory astronomer and planetary scientist Guy Consolmagno and Brown University cell biologist, you are quite simply not much different – if at all – rhetorically speaking, from the very people you detest the most, religious fundamentalist Evolution Denialists.

  85. John Kwok

    @ 85 –

    Correction:By arguing as forcefully as all of you have done on behalf of Atheism, and in your risible condemnation of “accomodationism” and of “accomodationist” scientists like, for example, Vatican Observatory astronomer and planetary scientist Guy Consolmagno and Brown University cell biologist Kenneth R. Miller, you are quite simply not much different – if at all – rhetorically speaking, from the very people you detest the most, religious fundamentalist Evolution Denialists.

  86. FredW

    Kwok, I am impressed that you’ve learned the meaning of “risible,” and demonstrate that to us as often as possible, but you really must look up the meaning of “incredulous.”

  87. Chris Mooney

    Folks,
    I deleted one comment here that, in my opinion, went too far. There are probably others, but I want to manage things with as light a hand as possible. I ask that you all reread our comments policy, and strive to keep it substantive–no personal attacks, except on me ;>

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/06/04/laying-out-a-comments-policy/

  88. @ 76 & 82

    Kwok, there is absolutely nothing remotely “ironic” about my use of the Frederick Douglas quote, which was quite appropriate if you bothered to actually absorb what was being said instead of looking for your next ad hominem and straw man. Nothing you said bares any resemblance to the position held by those you’re attacking. Seriously man, where were you when Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn needed you?

    What IS contradictory, however, is that you advocate for a friendlier, non-confrontational approach when it comes to the religious but are far more confrontational about those you criticize, proving time and time again that you are incapable of actually hearing out those you disagree with and engaging in a mature, intellectual, and civil discussion. In fact, I’d say that you’re the most confrontational and adversarial person here.

    Before responding, stop thinking of the next way you’re going to call those you disagree with Communists, militants, borg, or big doodoo heads, pull your head out of your ass, take a deep breath, and try to form a RATIONAL thought. I know it can be hard the first time, but I know you can do it.

    “Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle! Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
    -Frederick Douglass

  89. Mark

    @Skepacabra

    You read much more pride into my post than I intended. I went back and re-read my post and don’t think it is bragging about how effective I think I am at teaching science. The parenthetical IMHO was supposed to be a clue that I was not making a claim to earth-shattering success.

    Regarding your argument that my post was a straw man, you may be correct up to a point. Certainly, I encounter many science majors who have no problem with evolution. I also encounter many who are religious fundamentalists and think that evolution conflicts with their religion. By showing them the tremendous amount of evidence for evolution, and by showing them that much of what they have been told about evolution is misinformed, ignorant, or downright lies, I can get (most of) them to open their minds. It’s a start of a process, one in which I play but a small role.

    The rest of your paragraph that mentions my post contains claims I never said anything about. I never said anything about assigning grades nor about pushing atheism in the classroom and definitely did not make accusations on those matters. Perhaps you confused my post with someone else’s post?

  90. gillt

    “Swing and a miss, kwok.” was deleted? Is that right?

  91. Recent survey results bear on this issue:

    Adults in the United States (84%) showed the highest levels of awareness and understanding of evolution and Darwin’s theories followed by Great Britain (80%) saying they had a ‘good or some knowledge’ of the theory of evolution.

    In all countries polled more people agreed than disagreed that it is possible to believe in a God and hold the view that life evolved on Earth by means of natural selection at the same time, with those in India most likely (85%) to be of this opinion, followed by Mexico (65%), Argentina (63%), South Africa, Great Britain (54%), USA, Russia (53%), Egypt, Spain (45%), and China (39%).

    In six out of ten countries the majority of people who had heard of Charles Darwin and know something about his theory of evolution agreed with the view that there is enough scientific evidence that exists to support the theory against an overall average of 54 percent.

    Only Russia (48%), USA (42%), South Africa (41%) and Egypt (25%) remained sceptical about the scientific evidence that exists to support Darwin’s theory.

    http://www.examiner.com/x-10571-Jackson-Atheism-Examiner~y2009m7d7-Darwin-survey-shows-international-consensus-on-acceptance-of-evolution

    Not much surprising there, but more countries are covered. Russia perhaps is the most interesting, with a good number being skeptical of “Darwin’s theory,” and yet most still believe in evolution. And more people believe that you can accept both evolution and god in all countries surveyed than disagreed with that proposition.

    No doubt different conclusions can be drawn from (or possibly forced into) such results, but the figures are there in the article.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  92. gillt

    How do we interpret data that asks people to gauge their own knowledge of something, especially when they admit to being skeptical of the topic in question?

    All the data divided by gender and age for the UK.

    http://www.ipsos-mori.com./Assets/Docs/Polls/poll-darwin-survey-shows-international-consensus-on-acceptance-of-evolution.pdf

  93. Ah, so you do read comments, Chris – yet you never answer them, even the substantive ones. Why not? And why didn’t you answer Jerry’s questions after you left a comment linking to this post on his blog? They are very fundamental questions, and various people have repeatedly put them to you; why are you simply stonewalling them? I don’t ask that to be aggressive or rude – I ask because I really want to know what your answers are.

    You do realize that if you don’t answer them it looks as if you can’t?

    Here they are again, for your convenience:

    “You have not adduced a single piece of evidence, beyond your personal belief, that giving our honest opinion about the compatibility of science and faith is turning off people who would otherwise accept evolution, making them reject scientific facts or claims. You just assert this repeatedly, as if you somehow have magic insights into what will improve public science literacy and what will not.” [implied question: what is your evidence?]

    “Since you say you are not telling me to shut up, what are you telling me? Am I supposed to stop discussing and criticising accommodationism? No, because that would be telling me to shut up. So am I supposed to tell people what I don’t believe, which is that science and faith are perfectly compatible? If you’re not telling me to shut up, you’re telling me to be a hypocrite.”

    (Just for the record: Kwok will of course rush to say, some 100 times, that the same applies to his questions. It doesn’t. That’s because Kwok is not Coyne. Some questions are worth answering, others are not. Coyne’s questions are worth answering. Kwok’s are not. The reasons for this are plain to all impartial observers.)

  94. John Kwok

    @ Glen –

    Yes Russia is really a strange case, poll-wise and I wonder whether that may be due to any lingering acceptance of Trofim Lysenko’s Neo – Lamarckian ideas within the general literate population.

    @ Ophelia Benson –

    As I have noted often, both here and elsewhere online, Jerry Coyne is among our foremost evolutionary biologists, especially with regards to understanding the nature of speciation. Regrettably however, his excellent logic doesn’t seem to be as fine whenever he discusses – or perhaps I should say advocates – his “faith” of Militant Atheism and why he believes that there should not be any “accomodationism” between religion and science (Incidentally last week at the 9th North American Paleontological Convention, several prominent marine ecologists and paleobiologists strongly objected to Coyne’s – and Dawkins and Myers – commentary, led first, and foremost, by eminent marine ecologist Jeremy Jackson. I submit respectfully that theirs are views which are more in the mainstream biological sciences community – at least for ecology and paleobiology – than what I have read from militant atheist biologists like Coyne and Myers.).

    It’s really speaks volumes about your own constricted patterns of thought that you find my comments – I am a former invertebrate paleobiologist – so unworthy of comment, in stark contrast to Jerry Coyne’s (And if his comments are really “worth answering”, then why did the organizers of the World Science Festival demand “equal time” from Coyne on his blog – which he did consent to – in rebuttal to his rather ridiculous hissy fit of a refusal rejecting their invitation to participate in one of their panel discussions, simply because the “insidious” Templeton Foundation was funding a major portion of their programming BUT NOT the very session in which he was invited to participate? Moreover, I know of one prominent scholar – who will remain anonymous – who doesn’t think that Coyne’s comments are worth addressing at all.). Last, but not least, it is rather absurd for you to declare that my comments are not worth answering, and yet continue to whine and to moan that Chris Mooney has been ignoring you. It’s really a case of calling the kettle black, don’t you think?

  95. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia Benson –

    One of the best condemnations of Intelligent Design creationism in recent years was written by Jerry Coyne, an essay that was entitled, “The Faith that Dare Not Speak Its Name”. IMHO Jerry should follow that up with “The Faith that Dare NOT Speak Its Name: Part Two”, to discuss his own advocacy of his favorite “faith”, Militant Atheism, and maybe to explain why his colleague, eminent evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson, has been wrong to assert that atheism is really a “stealth religion”.

  96. John Kwok

    @ Skepacabra –

    I believe in the “New York City” rules of debating. In plain English, if someone throws S**T at you, you throw it right back. I have no problem having had intelligent conversations – both in person – and online with a friend of Coyne’s, physicist Lawrence Krauss, because Krauss has come across as reasonable, even when I have disagreed strongly with some of his assertions (IMHO he also has a better sense of humor than Coyne, or else did he manage to have the WSF session auditorium roar with laughter advocating a science and porn session in lieu of science and faith?).

  97. tomh

    Chris Mooney wrote:
    “Folks, I deleted one comment here that, in my opinion, went too far. There are probably others, but I want to manage things with as light a hand as possible.”

    That must have been some post, if it surpassed the insults that Kwok routinely hurls at anyone who disagrees with him. A few examples, most of which are repeated over and over, in the 30% of the thread that Kwok takes up (29 of the first 97 comments).

    intellectually – challenged dunce, total hypocrite, sanctimonius whining, you are as dense as Ophelia Benson [two for one there], inane reasoning, are really a crypto Marxist – Leninist, breathtaking inanity, dishonest, rhetorical nonsense, tactics more closely resemble those of Marxist – Leninists, simply too dense or too “intellectually-challenged” or both, truly intellectually-challenged acolytes. There are more but it got too boring.

  98. John Kwok

    Here’s a bit of advice I have for Ophelia Benson. If she wishes to be heard, maybe she could take some lessons in “good manners” from the likes of Lawrence Krauss, Genie Scott and Lisa Randall (Randall, over at the The Edge, in January, wrote a very poignant and rather amazing recollection of a conversation she had had aboard an airplane en route to Los Angeles with a young Hollywood actor, an Obama supporter trained in biochemistry in college and had taught it at an urban middle school who nevertheless denied the reality of evolution because of its implications for humanity.) instead of coming across as though she is the Militant Atheist equivalent of Denyse O’Leary.

  99. John Kwok

    @ tomh –

    You are obviously enjoying your membership in the Coyne/Myers Militant Atheist Borg Collective. Clearly, it is rather self evident that, for you, “Resistance is futile”.

  100. FredW

    @89 re Kwok: “What IS contradictory, however, is that you advocate for a friendlier, non-confrontational approach when it comes to the religious but are far more confrontational about those you criticize, proving time and time again that you are incapable of actually hearing out those you disagree with and engaging in a mature, intellectual, and civil discussion. In fact, I’d say that you’re the most confrontational and adversarial person here.”

    Ditto. What kind of example are you setting of calm and rational discourse, Kwok? All you can do, apparently, is spew your rote insults and tout your new buddies Krauss et al. Of every person who has posted here, you are BY FAR the most “uncivil,” “militant,” and “strident.”

  101. tomh

    @ #91
    “Swing and a miss, kwok.” was deleted? Is that right?

    No, it was not Kwok that was censored. As can be seen from the list at #98, (or a cursory reading of his many posts), Kwok seems to have a free pass on the insult and personal attack clause of the comment policy.

  102. TB

    @ 74. gillt

    Still having problems with the dictionary?

  103. Kwok

    “Last, but not least, it is rather absurd for you to declare that my comments are not worth answering, and yet continue to whine and to moan that Chris Mooney has been ignoring you. It’s really a case of calling the kettle black, don’t you think?”

    Of course not! My comments are worth answering; yours are not.

  104. Tomh has a point – the double standard here really is rather glaring. Kwok can talk any old smack; everyone else, not so much.

    Not good for your reputation, Chris.

  105. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia Benson –

    You must have read my mind, because this is exactly my attitude towards your Denyse O’Learyesque remarks:

    “Of course not! My comments are worth answering; yours are not.”

    As others have pointed out, yours are among the “My way or the highway” school of thought that seems all too common here. Sadly, it’s because of this ridiculous invective from the likes of you, tomh (May I suggest a cyberspace form of seppuku to cure what ails you?), NewEnglandBob, etc. etc. I have had to invoke my “New York City” rules of debating (It’s actually has had some illustrious ancestry, most notably the now defunct “Systematics Destruction Group” – which was what the late “Systematics Discussion Group” – at AMNH was often referred as, with the militant “Transformed Cladists” “debating” with their colleagues (However, in retrospective, the horror stories I have heard about these meetings truly pale in comparison to the rather ridiculous rhetoric – the verbal diarrhea – I have seen emanating from you and your compatriots.).

    @ FredW –

    Unlike articulett and Ophelia Benson, among others, I will admit when I make a mistake (In articulett’s case he has stated both here and at Jerry Coyne’s blog that astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson doesn’t have to worry about IDiots and other creationists. If that is the case, then how come Tyson is prominently listed at NCSE’s website as one of its most prominent supporters, alongside the likes of such eminent evolutionary biologists as Francisco J. Ayala, Sean B. Carroll, and Tyson’s AMNH colleague, Niles Eldredge.).

    However, more to the point, I have to dispute your rather absurd contention that I am the most difficult person posting here at this blog. I have stated, more than once, several reasonable questions that I have posed to Ophelia Benson, and she believes that these are unworthy of any response from her period. Moreover, she has continued to insult and to offer personal attacks upon me, even when they were clearly unwarranted (Ditto for several others, most notably tomh. At least Skepacabra has replied without resorting to any kind of invective.).

  106. John Kwok

    @ FredW –

    You obviously missed my reply to J. J. E.’s replies to several of the same questions I had asked of Ophelia Benson, which I am reposting for both yours and Benson’s benefit, posted originally at the recent blog entry on the science and religion polling data:

    @ J. J. E. –

    My reply to you continues here:

    How can Coyne’s “accomodationist” examples be ’substantial and complete”, when, neither myself nor Ken Miller – and I remind you that we did this independently of each other, without prior consultation – have looked critically at NCSE’s website and have seen no sign of such “accomodationism”, unless, of course, you regard NCSE Faith Project Director Peter Hess as clear cut evidence pointing to such “accomodationism” (which I regard as a ludicrous assertion.).

    Again, under FAQs, this is NCSE’s official stance with respect to religion:

    “What is NCSE’s religious position?
    None. The National Center for Science Education is not affiliated with any religious organization or belief. We and our members enthusiastically support the right of every individual to hold, practice, and advocate their beliefs, religious or non-religious. Our members range from devout practitioners of several religions to atheists, with many shades of belief in between. What unites them is a conviction that science and the scientific method, and not any particular religious belief, should determine science curriculum.”

    Again, you can find the relevant passage here:

    http://ncseweb.org/about/faq

  107. “I have stated, more than once, several reasonable questions that I have posed to Ophelia Benson”

    Much much much much MUCH more than once. Sometimes 3 or 4 times in a row in a space of a few minutes. Such fun for me: I do love being the center of attention.

    “Moreover, she has continued to insult and to offer personal attacks upon me”

    Nope, all I’ve done is tease you. You’ve done all the insulting and invectiving.

    Yer jellus, arncha. That’s so sad.

  108. John Kwok

    FredW –

    I suppose TomJoe doesn’t rank in Ophelia Benson’s online list of worthwhile people (Note to Ophelia Benson: You might change your mind if you knew who some of my friends are.), since she ignored these legitimate comments of his, which I reminded her of twice yesterday:

    You know what ultimately gets me about this whole “Shut up” situation? It’s that Coyne has basically said the same thing about Kenneth Miller! Has Ophelia taken him to task? Doubtful.

    I’m going to quote from a blog entry I’m making on this whole situation:

    Of course, Jerry Coyne plays the role of total hypocrite in all of this because he expressly argues that using scientists such as Ken Miller, who happens to be Catholic, to defend evolution means that science then approves of his religion. That is, of course, total horsepuckey.

    By trotting out those “religious scientists”, like Ken Miller, or those “scientific theologians,” like John Haught, we are tacitly putting our imprimatur on their beliefs, including beliefs that God acts in the world today (theism), suspending natural laws.

    Exactly why Ken Miller is called a “religious scientist”, replete with quotation marks, is beyond me. Dr. Miller is an established Professor of Biology at Brown University. He does research, and publishes regularly, in peer-reviewed journals. He’s a scientist, no quotation marks needed. But that doesn’t seem to matter to Jerry; rather, since Ken Miller is Catholic, he needs to be stifled, ignored, relegated to Warehouse 13, lest anyone get the impression that science implicitly endorses his faith.

    Ophelia, will we be seeing a rebuttal to Jerry Coyne’s comments? Somehow I doubt it.

  109. John Kwok

    @ 108 –

    Ophelia Benson –

    You said you had “lost it in transmission” at one point. What else could I do but have the questions reposted? Thought that you, as a Militant Atheist Borg Queen, had lost your “connection” to the Coyne/Myers Militant Atheist Borg Collective.

  110. tomh

    Kwok wrote: “she has continued to insult and to offer personal attacks upon me, even when they were clearly unwarranted (Ditto for several others, most notably tomh.”

    Ah, yes. My “personal attacks” on Kwok consist of quoting his own words, listing the insults he spews at others. An “attack” made of his own words.

  111. John Kwok
  112. John Kwok

    @ tomh –

    Don’t be so cute. You never have had any interest in engaging with me, but throwing as much ad hominem attacks as you think you can muster. Anyway, I see you are still enjoying your membership in the Coyne/Myers Militant Atheist Borg Collective.

  113. tomh

    @ Kwok: “throwing as much ad hominem attacks as you think you can muster.”

    As in listing the insults that litter your posts? That’s hardly an ad hominem attack. You’re spinning out of control, Kwok, going down the same road that you have on so many other blogs which inevitably leads to the same result – banned.

  114. TB: “@ 74. gillt Still having problems with the dictionary?

    That’s random. Do I know you? Wait, Tim Broderick? THE Tim Broderick who didn’t think science has anything at all to say about transubstantiation? Have you come back for seconds?

  115. If there was a line, I think kwok may have just crossed it.

  116. FredW

    Ummm. . . . line crossed, most definitely.

  117. John Kwok

    @ gillt, FredW, tomh –

    Quoting lyrics from a recent top ten hit song isn’t crossing the line, especially when I noted it. Ophelia Benson has a rather odd sense of “tease”, and I couldn’t help but wonder whether it’s the same sense sung by Katy Perry in her song “Hot N Cold”.

    But I think it’s rather revealing that, after I noted several substantial comments I have made here at this discussion thread, you seem fixated on this. Merely demonstrates to me that you must be a bit delusional if only you can’t understand the citation of relevant facts when they are being presented, especially by someone who isn’t part of your “clique”.

  118. John Kwok

    @ gillt, FredW, tomh –

    Wonder why you were silent when I posted these previously posted comments, but decided to “jump in” after I cited the opening stanzas from that Katy Perry song:

    How can Coyne’s “accomodationist” examples be ’substantial and complete”, when, neither myself nor Ken Miller – and I remind you that we did this independently of each other, without prior consultation – have looked critically at NCSE’s website and have seen no sign of such “accomodationism”, unless, of course, you regard NCSE Faith Project Director Peter Hess as clear cut evidence pointing to such “accomodationism” (which I regard as a ludicrous assertion.).

    Again, under FAQs, this is NCSE’s official stance with respect to religion:

    “What is NCSE’s religious position?
    None. The National Center for Science Education is not affiliated with any religious organization or belief. We and our members enthusiastically support the right of every individual to hold, practice, and advocate their beliefs, religious or non-religious. Our members range from devout practitioners of several religions to atheists, with many shades of belief in between. What unites them is a conviction that science and the scientific method, and not any particular religious belief, should determine science curriculum.”

    Again, you can find the relevant passage here:

    http://ncseweb.org/about/faq

  119. John Kwok

    @ FredW, gillt, and tomh –

    All three of you, along with Ophelia Benson and others, have demonstrated that this observation of David Sloan Wilson’s, posted over a year ago at the Huffington Post, remains quite relevant today with regards to describing your own online behavior when trying to rebut critics like myself:

    “The new atheists defend their lack of scholarship by saying that their purpose is to raise consciousness and goad people into action. I would therefore like to end my Stealth series by issuing a call to action of my own. Science and reason are every bit as important for solving the problems of modern existence as the new atheists say, but they are not making their way into popular intellectual discourse or public policy. We justly disapprove of politicians when they manipulate the primitive centers of our brains, jolting us into senseless action that harms everyone over the long run. Yet, popular intellectual discourse is not much better, as we have seen in the case of the new atheists.”

  120. John Kwok

    @ FredW, gillt, and tomh –

    Seems like Ophelia Benson is well known for her strident atheism, even across the big pond known as the Atlantic Ocean:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/jun/16/religion-atheism-feminism-ophelia-benson

    This is probably the most salient point about Benson written by this Guardian columnist:

    “It’s not that Benson doesn’t have a point, it’s that she overstates it with such crudeness and lack of insight that I’m staggered anyone wants to publish it. Except that I know publishers with a keen eye on the bottom line will publish anything and atheism sells – it feeds a public appetite for outrage. I just think it’s profoundly intellectually dishonest to feed that kind of outrage – there is no attempt here to open people’s minds, only fuel their indignation.”

    Seems like an excellent assessment too of her “enlightening” comments here at Sheril and Chris’s blog IM

  121. John Kwok

    @ 121 –

    I pressed the submit key too quickly, should have said,

    “Seems like an excellent assessment too of her “enlightening” comments here at Sheril and Chris’s blog IMHO.”

    The more I think of it, I think I have Ophelia Benson pegged correctly as the “Denyse O’Leary of Militant Atheism”.

  122. JoshS

    Kwok, #109:

    (Note to Ophelia Benson: You might change your mind if you knew who some of my friends are.)

    I’m guessing one of them might be Ken Miller?

  123. FredW

    Certainly Miller, but Kwok has some new friends, too: Lawrence Krauss and Lisa Randall. I’m really impressed.

  124. JoshS

    S’pose Kwok will ever invite us to sit at the cafeteria lunch table with the cool kids, Fred?

  125. John Kwok

    @ JoshS –

    Not exactly, but you’re right, I really do have some cool friends, who are amazed that I waste my time debating both creationists and militant atheists like myself (In Ophelia Benson’s case, I am thinking in particular of one or two glittering literati that I think that she herself would fawn over.).

    @ FredW –

    I wouldn’t exactly say that Lawrence Krauss is a “buddy” of mine, but I did enjoy meeting him and corresponding with him. As for Lisa Randall, I haven’t seen her in years, though I have heard others talk about her at high school reunions (I did meet one of her high school classmates, however, who has been the object of Jerry Coyne’s “affection” with respect to that high school classmate’s “baby”, the World Science Festival.).

  126. FredW

    Naah, we’re not members of the I’m-A-Good-Friend-of-Ken-Miller-Borg-Collective.

  127. John Kwok

    @ 126 –

    Sorry about that JoshS, I should have said, “I really do have some cool friends, who are amazed that I waste my time debating both creationists and militant atheists like yourself”.

    And FredW, like Lisa Randall, her high school classmate also became a well known physicist (I think I’ve already hinted who that may be.).

  128. John Kwok

    @ FredW –

    You could have fooled me. But, you’re absolutely right (Nor am I a member of that Ken Miller collective either.). You’re a loyal member of the Coyne/Myers Militant Atheist Borg Collective.

  129. John Kwok

    @ JoshS –

    Well when you decide to grow up and be as considerate as Chris and Sheril, then I’ll “..invite [you] to sit at the cafeteria lunch table with the cool kids”. But if you insist on hanging out with Ophelia, Jerry and PZ…..

  130. Loc

    Chris,

    What is the record for number of posts by a single respondent? ‘Krowk’ is currently at 42 posts. And mind you, these aren’t succinct posts. They go on and on and on…

    Of 125 posts, Mr. ‘Krowk’ has tallied up nearly 34% of the responses. I am seriously laughing at the content and rectitude of his posts, not to mention his ability to instantaneously have not one or two, but several rebuttals (if you want to call it that) after someone makes a serious argument. Give him some award.

    Loc

  131. Loc

    LOL. Since I was composing my last comment, Kwok laid down the law 4 more times. He’s now batting over the 35% mark.

    Seriously.

  132. Seriously, we need to stop letting Kwok sabotage these forums and making them all about him. If not for Kwok, we could have used this comment section to discuss the actual topic and maybe…maybe even find some common ground between the 2 camps…or at least had a civil discussion.

    I say that if Kwok’s going to act like a 4th grade bully, we should just ignore him altogether. And if he decides to change his tune and actually contribute to the discussion, only then should we bother to interact with him. Cause otherwise these forums are just going to be a waste of time for everyone involved.

  133. tomh

    Skepacabra wrote: “…or at least had a civil discussion.”

    The first 15 posts of this thread fit that description, then Kwok made 6 of the next 7 comments and it was straight downhill from there.

  134. John Kwok

    @ Skepacabra –

    Thanks for your enlightened wisdom. I just realize how late it is, but you’ve compelled me to reply, simply because it takes one to know one (If I am a “4th grade bully”, then surely you must be one who has had extensive experience in recognizing them, since you were probably one too, right?). As far as the bullies who are posting online, it is those like yourself who are interested in having me, Anthony McCarthy, and others like ourselves “shut up”. But what more can I realistically expect from Militant Atheists who really do act like Maoist Red Guards?

    With a friend like Ophelia Benson, who probably regards herself as a first rate philosopher, then who really needs to pay heed to such really superb philosophers like Philip Kitcher, Elliott Sober, Barbara Forrest, and Robert Pennock, for example (Sorry folks, but they are regarded by others as first rate, and I personally don’t know any of them, though have bumped into one lately at some orchestral music concerts at Carnegie Hall.)? Benson excels at her “slash and burn” version of philosophy here:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/31/women-religion-equality?

    P. S. Maybe you should refrain from commenting each and every time I have to post a rebuttal to yet another of your increasingly risible and inane observations. Then Loc wouldn’t have to keep track.

    @ tomh – This blog went downhill as soon as Ophelia Benson decided to “visit”, and then, for a few fleeting instances, improved dramatically only whenever TomJoe, Mark, Jon, myself, and especially, Glen Davidson – among a very select few – jumped into the fray. But of course I don’t expect that you, as a loyal member of the Coyne/Myers Militant Atheist Borg Collective, would recognize this sad, but true, observation of mine.

  135. Er – Chris – it doesn’t look good for you to make a point of deleting one comment and then to leave one that calls a woman a bitch. Doesn’t look good at all.

  136. Jon

    I’d agree that disparaging women is unacceptable. Kwok–if we’re using NYC debating tactics, let’s aim for Morningside Heights instead of the Bronx…

  137. TB

    @ 15. gillt Says:
    July 7th, 2009 at 8:11 pm
    “TB: “@ 74. gillt Still having problems with the dictionary?
    That’s random. Do I know you? Wait, Tim Broderick? THE Tim Broderick who didn’t think science has anything at all to say about transubstantiation? Have you come back for seconds?”

    Have I come back? I never left – you’re the one who ran away. (apologies – I realized that when I cleared my cache, cookies etc out of my browser a bit ago that I didn’t log in here the same way)

    LOL – you still think I’m DEFENDING religion. And transubstantiation? Oh, please, point where I said anything about that. Don’t resort to lies and disinformation.

    Gillt, you make a perfect example of someone who is doctrinaire. Close minded, refusal to understand anyone else’s point of view (not agree with, not support, simply understand), refusal to accept facts that contradict your narrow mindset (I can’t wait to see how you try to twist that little segment). Intolerant.

    And frankly, it looks to me you post as much as Kwok. You’re a real true believer!

  138. gillt

    My apologies, I get my ap0logists mixed up sometimes. It was TomJoe on transub-whatev…and you, what do wish to be corrected on, TB?

    I’m curious, what is this POV of yours that I refuse to understand? Do you have a position, or should we be expecting more trolling with trite criticisms?

  139. TB

    Ha! No Gillt, you know what post our exchange was under, there’s plenty of information and links. If there’s something you can come up with that you were unable to before, you go ahead and post it and let me know.
    If you don’t want to, I don’t care. Right now, I think you fit the mold of someone who is doctrinaire in their views.

  140. gillt

    Honestly, I looked through a bunch of past posts and couldn’t seem to locate it. Your psychic powers are stunning though.

  141. TB

    If by psychic you mean google …

  142. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia Benson –

    I’m working on a parody of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl”, to be entitled “I Kissed Ophelia Benson”. More nonsense from you and I guarantee you’ll see it posted (BTW, I quoted what I thought might be some relevant lyrics from Ms. Perry’s “Hot N Cold”.).

    You may think you’re as clever as either Sarah Vowell or John Hodgman, but you rank nowhere near either with regards to funny, quite insightful, commentary. I certainly had you pegged right as the “Denyse O’Leary of Militant Atheism”.

    Now that I think of it, I wonder whether Bernie Taupin had you in mind when he wrote,

    “Raised to be a lady by the golden rule
    Alice was the spawn of a public school
    With a double barrel name in the back of her brain
    And a simple case of ‘Mummy-doesn’t-love-me’ blues”

    “Reality, it seems was just a dream
    She couldn’t get it on with the boys on the scene
    But what do you expect from a chick who’s just sixteen
    And hey, hey, hey, you know what I mean”

    “All the young girls love Alice
    ‘Tender, young Alice’, they say
    Come over and see me
    Come over and please me
    Alice, it’s my turn today”

    (EDITORIAL NOTE: These are the opening stanzas of the lyrics to the Elton John/Bernie Taupin song “All the Young Girls Love Alice” from Elton’s “Goodbye Yellowbrick Road” album.)

    In your case, I think this is an especially apt observation of Taupin’s:

    “Reality, it seems was just a dream”

  143. John Kwok

    @ Jon –

    In a sense I am using “Morningside Heights” tactics by resurrecting the debating style practiced by members of the now defunct “Systematics Discussion Group” of the American Museum of Natural History.

  144. John Kwok

    @ Skepacabra –

    If you want irrational, then substitute “Ophelia Benson” for “John Kwok” in your rather self-serving, quite sanctimonious blog entry.

  145. Dr. Clos

    I just have to say that I am tired of appeasers worrying about offending the religious. Science is corrosive to religion, and a damn good thing it is. The “New Atheists” should be commended for advancing the rational case against god worship rather than criticized by someone who wants to sell more books by pandering to religious majority. Spineless.

  146. “More nonsense from you and I guarantee you’ll see it posted”

    A threat! The Kwokster is making threats now! If I dare to say anything he’ll punish me! With more sexist epithets, no doubt.

    He doesn’t seem to realize how bad he makes Mooney look, and Mooney, mystifyingly, doesn’t seem to realize how bad he (Mooney) makes himself look in hosting all this sexist garbage.

  147. John Kwok

    Just a note for those who really think Ophelia Benson is capable of “enlightened commentary”. This excerpt from a May 31st column of hers really underscores how she, as a philosopher, possesses reasoning skills which rank substantially lower than those of Barbara Forrest, Philip Kitcher, Robert Pennock, or Elliot Sober, who are all well-respected as notable philosophers of science:

    “The God we have in the Big Three monotheisms is a God who originated in a period when male superiority was absolutely taken for granted. That time has passed, but the superior male God remains and that God holds women in contempt. That God is the one who puts “His” imprimatur on all those tyrannical laws. That God is a product of history, but taken to be eternal, which is a bad combination. That is the God who hates women.”

    “So why do so many women put up with it? Partly because God gives with one hand what “He” takes away with the other – God consoles people for the very harshness that God creates. It’s the sad, familiar, heartrending bargain in which the victim embraces the perpetrator, in some complicated, confusing, all-too-human mix of appeasement, need and stubborn loyalty. The fact that the embrace is all on one side is resolutely ignored.”

    You can read the rest of her breathtaking inanity here:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/31/women-religion-equality?

    I honestly wonder whether Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers have been sipping the wrong kind of Kool – Aid each time they have saluted Ophelia Benson for her excellent “reasoning”.

    (EDITORIAL NOTE: My thanks to SK – whom I believe is still engaged in her experiment at NYU – for bringing Benson’s essay to my attention.)

  148. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia Benson –

    You’re really making my day. Just when I thought I couldn’t get a laugh, I see a few priceless gems from you posted both here and over at Pharyngula. Seems I was right in suggesting that Bernie Taupin had you in mind when he wrote, “Reality, it seems was just a dream”.

    Speaking of philosophers, I will admit only to have been in contact with Kitcher and Forrest, whom I regard as far more distinguished and professional as philosophers than you will ever be.

  149. Jerry Coyne

    It is absolutely unbelievable that Sheril Kirshenbaum is feeding anti-Benson material to the well known troll Kwok, especially in view of his anti-female epiphets. I used to give Kirshenbaum and Mooney credit for at least being nice people, but I see a real vein of mean-spirited-ness here. Mooney removes a fairly innocuous post, but leaves on the website a misogynistic post mentioning Ophelia in conjunction with the words “bitch” and “PMS.”

    Look, Chris and Sheril, if you want yourselves to be taken seriously, you need to get rid of the ad hominem material on your threads, especially the anti-woman stuff, stop the double standard with respect to posting, and stop feeding material to your trolls. It looks very much like you’re enabling people to be your bad cops, all the while standing back and playing the great concilators. This is not fooling anyone.

  150. “My thanks to SK – whom I believe is still engaged in her experiment at NYU – for bringing Benson’s essay to my attention.”

    Good god almighty – Kirshenbaum is feeding Kwok? Seriously? Really?

    Oh, Chris, Chris – you’ve gone over to the dark side.

  151. One factual point for Kwok – I am not a philosopher. All this ‘she, as a philosopher’ nonsense is a red herring; I am not a philosopher.

  152. John Kwok

    @ Jerry Coyne –

    Sorry Jerry but you have just crossed the line IMHO, especially since you, yourself, have been the target of unjustified attacks from our mutual “pal” Bill Dembski and his Uncommon Dissent acolytes. Moreover, you did acknowledge to me in private e-mail correspondence, that you thought PZ Myers had “crossed the line” with respect to CrackerGate.

    The lyrics I cited are from the Top Ten Hit Pop Katy Perry song “Hot N Cold” (co-written by Ms. Perry and several other, more notable pop and rock songwriters).

    I have ample respect for your abilities as an evolutionary biologist and have stated that repeatedly, even when some of your more zealous admirers have accused me of “hating” you. However, such respect ends with your ongoing promotion of your rather ridiculous “accomodationist” crusade, in which you’ve been embarked on ever since your New Republic reviews of Miller and Giberson’s latest books back in January. I am appalled by your public display of hostility aimed at both physicist Brian Greene and his wife, journalist Tracy Day, after they had tried unsuccessfully to have you participate in the second annual World Science Festival (I don’t think you apologized sufficiently, and it pains me to see that you are still referring to that episode indirectly through your ongoing criticism of the Templeton Foundation, which – I was told this by someone during the World Science Festival – has been giving tens of millions of dollars to your employer, the University of Chicago. If you are going to be logically consistent, when can we expect a formal complaint from you to your colleague, eminent mathematician Dr. Robert Zimmer, President, University of Chicago?).

    In closing, I will say that I will ignore this – and similar public outbursts from you – with regards to telling others that your book “Why Evolution is True” is an important addition to public scientific literature and deserves the recent recognition it has received from Newsweek magazine. But if anyone should ask, I will also observe that you have become as zealous as Fundamentalist Protestant Christian Evolution Denialists like Dembski in your promotion of the “stealth religion” – and I think your colleague David Sloan Wilson is absolutely right in making this observation – known as Atheism.

  153. JoshS

    Chris and Sheril – this is beyond the pale. I cannot – cannot – believe you’re allowing those sexist comments (do you see the word BITCH above) to remain here. For two people who claim to be interested in civility, this is baffling. Shame on you especially, Sheril, as someone who’s written so passionately about the mistreatment of women.

    If you don’t like a critic, it’s fair to ignore your own stated standards on personal attacks? What the hell is wrong with the two of you?

  154. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia Benson –

    You certainly act as though you’re a philosopher, or at the very least, as an internet “Talking Head” who believes she deserves far more attention than is worth noting. Oh wait, I suppose you’re the internet equivalent of Dave Eggers, right (Though in Eggers case, at least he’s been able to assemble a team of truly first-class writers and public intellectuals, like, for example, a certain college classmate of mine whose best known novel is “The Ice Storm”)?

  155. John Kwok

    @ JoshS –

    I’d be more upset with my insinuation that Ophelia Benson is really the “Alice” that Elton John sings of in the Elton John/Bernie Taupin classic
    “All the Young Girls Love Alice” from Elton’s classic “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album.

  156. This is my very last post on this blog entry. Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed that people smart enough to know better have continued to participate long after the actual topic got derailed and it became nothing but an immature grudge match of dueling personalities flinging feces at each other. I’ve wasted far more time than I should have reading this drivel. Has anyone gotten anything of value out of this?

  157. John Kwok

    Jerry Coyne has done such a good job of “trolling” that I was a bit surprised that an entire session – held last Thursday afternoon – of the 9th North American Paleontological Convention seemed to be devoted to his risible “accomodationism” charges against scientists like Ken Miller and Francis Collins, public science advocacy organizations and professional scientific organizations. Am delighted that eminent marine ecologist Jeremy Jackson condemned Coyne’s comments at that session.

  158. JoshS

    Skepacabra – I admit I got sucked in to Kwok’s nonsense, and I shouldn’t have. Lesson learned. But yes, I do think something of value (negative value) has come out of this. More people have realized exactly Chris and Sheril are about, and it’s not about honest inquiry. I’m just as damned tired of the personality wars around these issues as anyone. But I can’t see how it’s possible to have a constructive conversation with people who are dishonest, politics-driven interlocutors whose very thesis is that the “other side” “shouldn’t” state its point of view. No amount of mock-hurt protestations to the contrary can change that. I don’t like politicans, and I like people who pretend not to be politicians even less.

  159. gillt

    The comment Mooney deleted was “swing and a miss, kwok.” by yours truly.

    Perhaps Mooney was referring to another comment he deleted at the same time.

    Either way I’m a bit perplexed, which is nothing new.

  160. John Kwok

    @ JoshS –

    Your latest remarks are self-serving sanctimonious nonsense. I have stated quite clearly that I am a former invertebrate paleobiologist, a Deist, and a registered Republican with strong Libertarian biases and who recognizes that politicians should be expected to have some genuine scientific literarcy since virtually every major issue revolves around some aspect of science and technology. I also believe strongly in religious tolerance – even though I, myself, do not regard myself as very religious – and thus, I strongly disagree with the religious bigotry I have seen from the likes of Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson, and their fellow Militant Atheist acolytes posting online here and elsewhere.

  161. I’m with Skepacabra and JohnS on this one. It’s clearly pointless to post here. Mooney never responds to any criticisms posted here anyway, but on top of that, he is allowing his threads to be hijacked by people like Kwok, who swamp the comment section with posts full of demands and insults. Which means it has also become pointless to read Mooney’s comment section as well.

  162. John Kwok

    @ Deen –

    This discussion thread was “hijacked” a long time ago by Ophelia Benson and a few others, including yourself. If I’ve been posting too much here, it’s because I have wasted my time trying to rebut most, if not all, the ridiculous comments being hurled by you, tomh, Skepacabra, and, in particular, Ophelia Benson. Time again, Benson has demonstrated an unwillingness to engage seriously with anyone who has had legitimate criticisms of hers, Myers and Coyne’s positions with regards to who is – and who isn’t – “accomodationist” or “guilty” of “accomodationism”. It is really the height of hypocrisy for her to declare that her comments are worthy while mine aren’t, and then to whine and to moan when I suggest that her notion of “tease” is akin to some song lyrics from a recent Katy Perry Top Ten hit song.

    Seems like the only notion of justice which you, Ophelia Benson and Jerry Coyne, among others, appreciate is this: don’t dare criticize our ideas since they are far more worthy of note than any kind of criticism that you can conceivably muster. That’s not merely intellectual arrogance on their – or your – part, but, rather, quite seriously, implicit attempts by all of you to endorse censorship of anyone stating ideas that are contrary to yours.

  163. John Kwok: Fail. I only have one post in this thread, and now I have hijacked it? That’s hilarious! And I have to take you seriously why exactly? The rest of your post is more lies and insults, so I’m ignoring it.

  164. Shirakawasuna

    ” What good is trying to communicate about science and reason if you can’t get non-scientific audiences to listen to you?”

    Yes, exactly. And how many non-scientific audiences listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson vs. Dawkins? The ‘shut up atheists’ side always seems to assume that the ‘nicer’, less confrontational guy communicates with the non-scientific types better, and they’re wrong. Antiscience is rooted in a cultural anti-intellectualism, in the parents of evangelical/creationist children, in religious dogma and simple defensiveness at the idea that other people know a lot more about empirical reality than they do (alternative medicine types, etc). Do you honestly expect these to be the people who watch a pleasant show on PBS and don’t reject it due to their prior opinions or try and conform it to them? I know from experience that people don’t internalize a message to which they were opposed merely because it’s presented pleasantly. Pleasant, easily-rationalized things are easy to store away and forget about, changing nothing of your opinion of science.

    A jolt, on the other hand, may alienate some of those parents of creationists or evangelicals, but it also inserts cognitive dissonance and exposes their irrationality to others and to their children. Dawkins isn’t beneficial for converting True Believers and neither is deGrasse Tyson. He’s beneficial as the gadfly of unreason, a role deGrasse Tyson does not assume. I don’t oppose Neil deGrasse Tyson at all, he’s an excellent communicator and great advocate for getting excited about science. But singling out people like Dawkins as ‘the problem’ without any evidence whatsoever and then offering only the implied “solution” of ‘shut up Dawkins about your atheism and stuff’ is simplistic and wrong.

  165. Ben Nelson

    Shirakawasuna wins the thread.

  166. “Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed that people smart enough to know better have continued to participate long after the actual topic got derailed and it became nothing but an immature grudge match of dueling personalities flinging feces at each other.”

    False equivalence there. One person has done nearly all the derailing, and others have intermittently argued with and/or teased him. But the fact that Chris made a point of deleting one comment and telling everyone not to resort to personal attacks, and then left 40? 50? comments by Kwok doing exactly that, including calling a woman a bitch, became part of the subject. Chris and Sheril have written a book about reaching out and bridging gaps and not being mean and generally making nice – so the way they act is very much part of the issue.

    I don’t have any plans to stop. I might well go on pointing out that they haven’t deleted Kwok’s countless aggressive posts and that Sheril is accused of having fed Kwok.

  167. John Kwok
  168. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia –

    No Sheril didn’t “feed” me. She alerted me to your sophomoric, quite feeble effort, to connect the dots between the origins of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and gender bias against women after I told her about this rather excellent appraisal of you that was published here, along with an extended except that is really a most apt description of you and your motives:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/jun/16/religion-atheism-feminism-ophelia-benson

    This is probably the most salient point about Benson written by this Guardian columnist:

    “It’s not that Benson doesn’t have a point, it’s that she overstates it with such crudeness and lack of insight that I’m staggered anyone wants to publish it. Except that I know publishers with a keen eye on the bottom line will publish anything and atheism sells – it feeds a public appetite for outrage. I just think it’s profoundly intellectually dishonest to feed that kind of outrage – there is no attempt here to open people’s minds, only fuel their indignation.”

  169. Yup, Guardian columnist being the notorious Madeleine Bunting. Now that was fun!

    Betcha wish Madeleine Bunting would write about you, don’t you, Mr Kwok.

  170. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia –

    Well people have written about me, believe it or not. You can look for a brief citation about me in the March, 1998 issue of Biography magazine (I’m quoted in the issue’s cover story, on a certain well known Irish – American memoirist.). I was also quoted in a critical essay on noted British feminist science fiction and fantasy writer Angela Carter that was published
    last year in an edited volume of essays devoted to her (The author of that article is the college classmate I mentioned in third person in a prior comment posted here in this thread.).

  171. tomh

    Well, Kwok-posts are approaching 40% of the thread and I predict if they hit 50% it is a record that will never be broken. If anyone still cares, it was a rather simple post of mine that was deleted, but, considering everything that has been posted since, (especially the PMS bitch slander – that just seems strange to see on this blog), I doubt that Mr. Mooney will mind me re-posting it. I may have referred to Kwok as an idiot, but it was mainly an observation on Kwok’s comments.

    “There is a technical term for this kind of writing — bullsh*t, defined by the philosopher Harry Frankfurt as the words of someone who “is unconcerned with how the things about which he speaks truly are””.

  172. Oh, well, I can see why that was deleted while calling me a bitch and a slut is well within the rules. You betcha.

  173. RobS

    Well it seems another interesting topic has been hijacked by the inane Mr Kwok. It would be nice to have a debate where we don’t have to be forced to witness quite how much John loves the sound of his own voice.

    Remember its about the topic up for discussion John, not about you.

  174. Chris Mooney

    Everyone,
    First, I deleted the comment in question. I’m sorry I was slow to catch on, this is a long thread.

    Because I am not following the blog 24/7, we are working on our filters–and may have to go to comment moderation.

    I talked to Sheril, and she is at a Mets game in NY and also not following, but she assures me that rumors of feeding information are dramatically overstated, she only responded to a note on Facebook.

  175. Sheril told me that too. No way to spend time while at a Mets game! Kwokkian exaggeration then.

    I draw the line at being Facebook friends with Kwok in order to monitor what he’s saying about me. No chance!

  176. John Kwok

    @ Chris –

    She just provided me a link to Ophelia’s absurd essay that was published earlier this spring, That’s all.

  177. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia Benson –

    No, I didn’t exaggerate. Since you obviously have all the free time on your hands, when will you begin addressing the questions I posed to you? Otherwise, I’ll continue to think that this Bernie Taupin lyric applies to you, ” Reality, it seems was just a dream.”

  178. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia Benson –

    Couldn’t think of you as a FB friend. Perish the thought, please.

  179. Loc

    64!!! Come on Krowk!!! You can do better than that! (batting .356 and rising)

    I’m beginning to think that you have a word template of the diatribes you’re flailing and just exchange the names with whom they’re directed. Let’s see…..Loc will need response 12C (copy, paste, submit). Everything you say is so….unoriginal and reiterated over and over and over…

  180. John Kwok

    @ Lame –

    Your remark (@ 181) is not only childish, but quite moronic. But then again, I believe that I’ve been dealing with morons like yourself and a few others here.

  181. NewEnglandBob

    More character assassination, outright lies and nastiness from that Kwak pot. This blog stinks to the top of the atmosphere from it.

  182. Eric MacDonald

    John Kwok. You have repeated ad nauseam that Ophelia’s essay in the Observer is (variously) sophmoric, feeble, inane, etc., but you have given no reason for us to think so. Indeed, reading the article, what she says makes perfect sense. What is sophmoric about it? In what was is she wrong to raise concerns about the way in which religion functions as an oppressor of women?

    This is just one example. You continue to abuse people, without giving a single reason for thinking that the abuse you direct is justified. If you cannot justify it, then not only should Sheril stop giving you references to anything, but your posts should be removed from this blog.

    Chris and Sheril, you have some responsibility for maintaining a reasonable level of civility here. Criticism, even strenuous criticism, is always justified, but mere abuse of the type that John Kwok dishes out is really beyond the pale. You suggest that the ‘new atheists’ (whoever they are) are too confrontational, and harm the image of science. After reading through this thread, your image has been thoroughly defaced. Does this stuff represent you? If not, don’t you think it’s time to tone some of it down, or ask certain posters to stop posting to your blog?

    And, Chris, saying that it’s a long thread is not to the point. John Kwok has been abusing his privileges here almost from the start. So, make up your mind. Be consistent. But don’t, in your book, accuse people of militancy and stridency and worse, and then, here on your blog, allow people to be abusive without reason. Your own reputations are on the line here. Is this the reputation that you want people to have of you?

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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 Salon.com 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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