PZ Myers' Review of UA…

By Chris Mooney | July 8, 2009 5:03 pm

It is here. If you want a take that throughly trashes the book, well then this is it. But of course, that’s not surprising, given that the book not only criticizes Myers but, indeed, identifies him as part of the problem.

Still, someone perusing the reviews so far might wonder, how is it that Michael Mann of RealClimate, or Chad Orzel, or James Hrynyshyn like the book, but PZ Myers (someone criticized in it) does not? Let’s quote Mann on his own blog, after someone linked to Myers’ review:

PZ Myers strongly disagrees, calling the book “utterly useless”.

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/07/unscientific_america_how_scien.php

[Response: Yes, he does. I respect PZ views on many matters. Here however, even by his own admission, his objectivity is likely compromised: He is at the receiving end of a fair degree of criticism in the book. The subjects explored in the book, especially the delicate and often awkward intersection of science and religion, tend to excite great passion and fierce disagreements. I'll let my appraisal of the book stand on its own merit, but I'd encourage folks to read the book and form their own opinions. -mike]

We certainly agree. Indeed, it appears that judging the book based on what New Atheists say about it, alone, could lead you to make pretty strong factual errors about its contents. Consider what happens in this blog comment thread to one Jim Lippard: see here, here, here, and finally here–where after making various false claims about our book’s contents, Lippard admits to not having read it.

Perhaps judging a book critical of the New Atheists based on what the New Atheists say about it on blogs it is hazardous to your understanding.

We’ll have much more to say about Myers’ criticisms of the book soon.

Comments (143)

  1. Screechy Monkey

    Ah, but of course, Chris and Sheril’s opinions of PZ Myers aren’t at all influenced by the criticisms he’s directed their way. The Militant Accomodationists are exemplars of objectivity.

  2. SLC

    OT but possibly of interest as I am sure that the “new” atheists will be weighing in on this news item in the coming days. Francis Collins was named Director of the NIH minutes ago.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=atJa8QDGj8QU

  3. PZ should have read Updike’s rules of book reviewing, particularly #6.

    But I guess the whole point was to get him riled up, or you wouldn’t have sent him a copy.

  4. Jon

    Over at 3 Quarks Daily yesterday: Set the Philosophers Free (from philosophical naturalism):

    http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2009/07/philosophy-as-complementary-science.html

  5. Ben Nelson

    You haven’t captured the full spirit of the positive reviews. Hrynyshyn spends two paragraphs explaining why he believes that the attacks on the “new atheists” are in bad taste. Orzel commiserates that the relevant chapters will send people into a “tizzy” due to its criticism of Myers and Dawkins. Both seem to be suggesting that the less said about those sections, the better.

  6. Obviously there are issues here beyond the merits of the book alone, but will you guys be making a reply to the specific criticisms he outlines? For example, the pluto situation.

  7. Jack

    Did you pick on Dr. Myers for the publicity?

    Just curiosity…this is not my fight. I’ve read Republican War on Science but not Storm World. So I have an idea of your style.

  8. Vytautas

    What did you expect? The relevant chapters are filled with the completely unsubstantiated claim that the New Atheists hurt the view of science in the minds of the general public. In fact, people like Myers and Dawkins are quite inspiring for the public stand they take against religious hegemony and for the defense of scientific, rational thought and humanist values. I believe the inspiration (and breathing room) they provide is far more valuable in helping people break away from the religion-inspired deluded thinking that hurts science than the undeserved deference you would provide to religion thought which just allows for a continuation of the status quo.

  9. John Kwok

    On the evening of February 12th, during a talk co-sponsored by Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Science and Religion and an Upper East Side (New York, NY) Universalist (Protestant) church, eminent Columbia University philosopher of science opined that Richard Dawkins has been detrimental to those trying to stress the importance of science to those who are skeptical due to their religious faith. In 2008 both Ken Miller and Carl Zimmer – at separate talks given months apart – presented polling data showing that approximately 40 percent of Britons reject the validity of evolution and the importance of Darwin’s work, attributing this to militant atheism as espoused by Dawkins and Hitchens, among others. In the Spring of 2009 I heard comments and talks from the likes of Janet Browne, Ed Larson, Ronald Numbers and several others at a NYU Darwin commemorative symposium in which they rejected Dawkins’s harsh attacks upon religion as being detrimental to winning over public opinion with regards to gaining their acceptance of evolution as valid science. Last Thursday afternoon, on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, distinguished marine ecologist Jeremy Jackson condemned the harsh attacks against “accomodationism” from the likes of Coyne, Dawkins and Myers, during a technical session that was presumably inspired by Coyne’s risible “accomodationism” crusade, at the 9th North American Paleontological Convention.

    Vytautus, the evidence demonstrating that Militant Atheists like Coyne, Dawkins and Myers are being counterproductive in our ongoing battle against evolution denialists is being borne out by polling data and harsh, and effective, critiques by leading philosophers of science and scientists such as those I have cited.

  10. “given that the book not only criticizes Myers but, indeed, identifies him as part of the problem.”

    Given that the book singles out Myers for disproportionate, obsessive-looking criticism – mostly for being too popular. It’s so disproportionate that it looks like a vendetta.

    Interesting to see that you’re up and around, Chris. Why have you not deleted Kwok’s comment calling me a bitch? Please do explain.

  11. Peter Beattie

    %raquo; John Kwok:
    In 2008 both Ken Miller and Carl Zimmer – at separate talks given months apart – presented polling data showing that approximately 40 percent of Britons reject the validity of evolution and the importance of Darwin’s work, attributing this to militant atheism as espoused by Dawkins and Hitchens, among others.

    Now that at least sounds very interesting. Do you have any sources for this in order that one could verify the data?

  12. It seems disingenuous to point to your positive reviews as a counterpoint to PZ without mentioning that they criticize you for some of the same points PZ does:

    From James Hrynyshyn: http://scienceblogs.com/islandofdoubt/2009/07/unscientific_america_isnt_the.php

    “Which brings me to my primary complaint. Chris and Sheril point too many fingers for my taste. Religion and the media are obvious and richly deserving targets. But Richard Dawkins and his fellow New Atheists are singled out more than once, for failing to understand that if you want to change minds and win friends, you can’t be rude to your audience. True, but I’ve long believed that there’s a place for pointed barbs, especially if those barbs are as well crafted as they are in Dawkins’ prose.

    Just as the environmental movement needs Earth First! and other voices of impatience to help redefine the center and make others appear more reasonable by comparison, so the science-atheism debate need Dawkins and his allies to call a spade a spade. The genteel enthusiasm of Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson are critical to the campaign to engage the public. But there’s also room for more pugnacious criticism of that which threatens progress. ”

    PZ admits that your criticism of him colors his reaction. Isn’t it likely that his constant criticism of you colors yours?

  13. John Kwok

    @ Peter -

    Sure. Ken Miller spoke a year ago last spring as part of a panel discussion at the American Museum of Natural History which was moderated by E. O. Wilson (I remember that because afterwards I shared a cab ride with Ken back to his hotel and had dinner with him.). In early October, Carl Zimmer spoke to the New York City Skeptics at a meeting of theirs that was held one night over at Rockefeller University (which I was also in attendance).

  14. John Kwok

    @ Jack -

    Myers was “picked on” due to his notoriety as among the most tenacious, most vociferous, voices advocating on behalf of the “New Atheism” and the fact that he has conducted much of that activity on his blog, Pharyngula, which is still among the most popular science-oriented blogs.

  15. Vytautas

    @11
    It sounds like kwok is disingenuously trying to attribute that conclusion directly as part of the poll. It sounds more like that may be Miller’s or Zimmer’s *opinion* of why 40% reject evolution – which undoubtedly is due to religiousness – and not “strident” New Atheism. Unless Kwok can point to a published poll, including the questions asked of the respondents.

  16. John Kwok

    @ Peter -

    P. S. I believe Ken and Carl used the same slide to illustrate their point. I’m not sure whether they got it separately or if Ken had given it to Carl.

  17. Linda

    John Kwok Says:
    July 8th, 2009 at 3:11 pm
    Yeah, PZ Myers’s review is up, and it’s replete with the sanctimonious claptrap I expected from him (Though I’m going to have to look critically at the Pluto as a “planet” controversy. Contrary to Myers’s lame assertion, there is apparently still a sizeable number of astonomers and astrophysicists who haven’t “bought” Neil de Grasse Tyson’s well-reasoned assertion that it’s not a planet, but really a Kuiper Belt object.). Moreover, Myers has gotten his seal of approval from one Ophelia Benson in the comments section to that post, and at least one of his Militant Atheist Borg drones has croaked that the Intersection has become “Kwok – infested” (In your wildest dreams, buddy. I simply don’t have time – nor do I wish – to “hijack” Sheril and Chris’s blog.).

    Should you read Myers’s review? Absolutely. But recognize that it is a self serving, quite sanctimonious, screed written by the “William A. Dembski of Militant Atheism”.

    Mr. Kwok wrote this comment today on Sheril’s earlier post. I agree.

  18. chrisD

    In 2008 both Ken Miller and Carl Zimmer – at separate talks given months apart – presented polling data showing that approximately 40 percent of Britons reject the validity of evolution and the importance of Darwin’s work, attributing this to militant atheism as espoused by Dawkins and Hitchens, among others.

    Attribute all they like, correlation is not causation.

    In the Spring of 2009 I heard comments and talks from the likes of Janet Browne, Ed Larson, Ronald Numbers and several others at a NYU Darwin commemorative symposium in which they rejected Dawkins’s harsh attacks upon religion as being detrimental to winning over public opinion with regards to gaining their acceptance of evolution as valid science.

    So they say…

    Still waiting on the “evidence demonstrating that Militant Atheists … are being counterproductive in our ongoing battle against evolution denialists,” something besides meaningless polls and harsh words. I think we won’t know until much, much later whether the factor of New Atheism ,with regards to science literacy, has had a consequential effect. It’s still too fresh.

    I can also see more people being reached with both methods of interaction due to the good cop/bad cop routine. I just don’t see how having disagreeable methods alone can lead one to the conclusion that such methods are ineffective on the whole.

  19. JoshS

    Chris, I too am interested in why the comments implying Ophelia Benson is a bitch with PMS, or the latest from Kwok, a reference to the “ignorant slut” routine from Saturday Night Live. Here’s your own comment policy, Chris:

    While we encourage and appreciate commentary from readers, we cannot allow the tenor of dialogue to be lowered or debased, or for one individual to ruin an otherwise constructive dialogue. Our general rule is that comments must be substantive and on topic, and must avoid profanity, personal attacks, and hectoring. It is for us to judge who has violated these principles; and if, after a warning, behavior doesn’t change, we reserve the right to moderate comments at our discretion.

    Chris? Sheril? Chris? Sheril? Hello?

  20. JoshS

    Whoops, should have written, “Chris, I too am interested in why the comments implying Ophelia Benson is a bitch with PMS, or the latest from Kwok, a reference to the “ignorant slut” routine from Saturday Night Live, are still on your blog.”

  21. Hello? Hello?

    …………………………

  22. Meanwhile, I’ll try to get a substantive word in before the thread goes the way of all the others.

    “Indeed, it appears that judging the book based on what New Atheists say about it, alone, could lead you to make pretty strong factual errors about its contents.”

    Would you say that of what I’ve said about it? I notice you didn’t say that, so maybe you wouldn’t. I think I’ve been fair. I obviously don’t like the book, but I think I’ve represented it fairly. Do say if you disagree. If you don’t disagree – maybe you’ll realize that your comment is tendentious and not altogether fair?

  23. Chris Mooney

    Folks,
    We are not here 24/7 monitoring everything. The word “bitch” shouldn’t even get through without the comment being held. Let me go and see what happened, and when I find it, I’m sure I’ll delete it. I guess we will also be looking into tightening filters.

  24. Erasmussimo

    I am struck by the heat this controversy has generated. Why, I wonder, are people so exercised about this? I myself tend towards the “live and let live” approach, but I’m not going to engage in histrionics with some of the opponents of that approach.

    I suggest the following hypothesis for consideration: that this topic is hot because it touches deep emotions. What might those be? From my readings, I suspect that anger is the underlying emotion felt by the militant atheists. Certainly Mr. Myers’ blog bristles with anger, and I see it in all of the militant atheists posting here.

    Why are militant atheists so angry about religion? I agree that religion has some nasty social effects, but then, a great many things have nasty social effects. Right-wingers are angry at Muslims because the terrorists scored a touchdown against the USA on 9/11, and these right-wingers just don’t tire of venting their anger at Muslims. But there are so many ills in the world. How about those AGW deniers? They’re certainly doing a lot of damage. Can you spare a little anger for them? Or what about torturers? They deserve some of your anger, too. And don’t forget the Chinese for their abuse of their minorities — got some anger for them? What about those financial types who misused their power and brought the world economy to such disrepair — surely they deserve lots of anger.

    With all these worthy targets for anger, how can a militant atheist have any anger left over for religious believers? If you’re being nondiscriminatory and even-handed in your anger, then you must be a veritable volcano of fury and outrage directed against all the evils of the world. Please, whatever you do, DON’T DRINK ANY COFFEE!!! ;-)

  25. JoshS

    Erasmussimo -

    One reason for being angry: being called “militant atheists” over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. No matter how cogently we put forward our case. No matter if we’re nice, or if we get exasperated. No, mainly for holding the opinions we do, and making the epistemological case we do. Angry for being dismissed out of hand, accused of being “militant” or hysterical, told to be “nicer,” then having scorn poured on us by those who profess to be nice guys.

  26. Who’s this Jim Lippard? He kind of looks like my cousin. And he doesn’t describe himself as an atheist, new or otherwise, on his webpage.

    Aligning all non-accommodating atheists critical of your book to the alleged dishonesty of some random guy is, I hope, something you’re not attempting, Mooney.

  27. JoshS

    Thanks for the acknowledgment, Chris. I think you’re going to find you have a tougher problem on your hands that what can be dealt with by an electronic word filter, unfortunately.

  28. Screechy Monkey

    Erasmussimo, why are you so angry about atheists? I see so much anger and emotion in your post. Why, it positively bristles with anger. With so many other things to be angry about, how you can possibly have any anger left over for atheists?

    Annoying, isn’t it?

    Discussions go downhill quickly when the participants start engaging in armchair psychoanalysis of each other. Why not stop telling people that they’re angry and offering hypotheses as to why, and try responding to their substantive points?

  29. Peter Beattie

    John, it’s nice to know that Ken is your pal. But I was asking about the data Ken and Carl were referring to, not the dates.

  30. Chris Mooney

    Everyone,
    First, I deleted the comment in question. I’m sorry I was slow to catch on, that was 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.

  31. SLC

    Re Chris Mooney

    I notice that Mr. Mooney, in his response to Ms. Bensons’ complaint about the use of the vernacular for female dog, failed to admonish Mr. Kwok about his inappropriate terminology. Apparently, Mr. Kwok is a privileged character on this blog. I expect that Mr. Mooney and Ms. Kirshenbaum will apply the same rules to him as they apply to those who are critical of them.

  32. passingby

    @Erasmussimo,
    “But there are so many ills in the world. How about those AGW deniers? They’re certainly doing a lot of damage. Can you spare a little anger for them? Or what about torturers? They deserve some of your anger, too.”
    *snip*
    “With all these worthy targets for anger, how can a militant atheist have any anger left over for religious believers? ”

    The Religious Right in America come down on the bad side of all these issues.

  33. Jon

    SLC, That’s a pretty silly idea. There were over 175 comments in that thread. A good part of them make for tedious reading too. I don’t blame Chris for not going through all of them.

    I think it’s rare that Chris singles any commenter out. He usually just makes a reminder about the comments policy.

  34. John Kwok

    I concur with Chris’s assessment as to what exactly did transpire between Sheril and myself.

  35. Jon

    The Religious Right in America come down on the bad side of all these issues.

    Yes, but blaming it all on the religious right is a boneheaded and simplistic way of looking at politics, especially for a bunch who pride themselves on intellectual rigor…

  36. tomh

    Jon wrote: “SLC, That’s a pretty silly idea. There were over 175 comments in that thread. A good part of them make for tedious reading too.”

    Well, the 35-40% of the thread that were Kwok-posts certainly make for tedious reading. But, since almost every one of the Kwok-posts was littered with invective and insults, one would think that even a cursory scan of the thread would be enough to grasp the situation. The rather innocuous post that was deleted was gone within a few minutes, so someone was looking at the comments.

  37. Kwok, that’s nice, do you also ‘concur’ with the deletion of your vituperative comment? One of your vituperative comments, I should say.

  38. Erasmussimo

    JoshS, your point about anger raises a question: which came first, the anger or the observations about the anger? I think it has to be the former. It’s true that now the atmosphere is so poisoned that little constructive discussion can be achieved. That’s one reason why I’m not plunging into the discussion any more — it’s all emotion and little reason.

    ScreechyMonkey, I agree that imputing motivations to those you disagree with is seldom a worthy effort. However, I think it’s a valid observation that there’s a lot of anger present in this discussion and that anger is itself pejorative to the discussion.

    passingby, I agree that the Religious Right does seem to be on the wrong side of a lot of issues, but that doesn’t make it The Great Satan of politics. I see satans all over the place. Fixing things is going to be a long haul, and getting angry at people just doesn’t work over the long haul.

  39. Arj

    Wouldn’t be too concerned with PZ; he paints with a broad brush and preaches to his own choir (seems like a big choir in blogging terms, but overall still a small choir).

  40. JoshS

    @ Erasmussimo

    JoshS, your point about anger raises a question: which came first, the anger or the observations about the anger? I think it has to be the former.

    This is perfect example of what I’m talking about. You dismiss the legitimacy of my point of view (characterizing it, too, as solely “anger”) that way. It does not matter what you believe “has to be,” and it does not matter whether “the anger,” or the point of view, came first. It’s patronizing and insulting for someone to tell another person (or to imply, as you do) that their anger is not justified. It sounds like scolding. It sounds like a refusal to give your interlocutor enough credit that his point of view deserves consideration, not peremptory dismissal.

    You asked why some of us were angry. I told you in a post above. Now you don’t acknowledge that I answered your question. Instead, you shift to blaming me (or others) for having the “anger” first, and thus deserving the scolding you proceed to give. Really, please re-read what you wrote and seriously consider if you wouldn’t feel similarly dismissed if you were in my position. I’m trying to converse with you honestly; I’m not trying to be provocative. But I am asking you to be fair.

  41. John Kwok

    DELETED, AGAIN

  42. This whole PZ Myers criticism in the book as well as the recent blog war seems more and more like a calculated move to sell the book. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. Nothing like controversy to sell your book.

    But this is getting a little absurd. If not just to draw attention, why even send a review copy to Myers at all if you knew he’d inevitably have strong disagreement and that you’d just disregard it as his bias. It seems that if there had only been a small section of the book that criticized the position of addressing the conflict between religion and science, while singling out Myers, you might have actually gotten a mostly favorable review. But given that the entire book is largely an attack on the position that Myers holds, you can’t really fault his “bias” for the negative review. This is like if Michael Behe wrote an anti-evolution book, sent you a review copy, and then wrote off your criticisms as you just being biased.

    Clearly, there are 2 very vocal camps on this issue, both consisting of experts. One that supports Mooney’s opinion and is likely to therefore praise the book because of their bias and the other that disagrees with Mooney’s opinion and is going to attack the book because of their bias. Since both camps have their strong opinions, I’d be interested to hear from experts who switched positions because of this book or from those who were previously on the fence but were persuaded towards one position or the other because of this book.

    PS: Can we please not let this thread get completely derailed by giving attention to attention whores and just stay on topic?

  43. John Kwok

    @ Jon -

    If the Religious Right was the sole cause of our ongoing problem with Evolution denialists, then we wouldn’t have seen such a poignant, quite perceptive, essay written by physicist Lisa Randall, recounting an airplane conversation that she had had with an actor – an Obama supporter – who, though trained in biochemisty in colllege (which he subsequently taught in an urban middle school), refused to acknowledge that humanity arose via a process as natural as natural selection:

    http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge272.html#rc

    In the same essay which was written in response to Jerry Coyne’s question of whether religion and science are philosophically incompatible, she noted:

    “This reinforced for me why we won’t ever answer the question that’s been posed. Empirically-based logic-derived science and faith are entirely different methods for trying to approach truth. You can derive a contradiction only if your rules are logic. If you believe in revelatory truth you’ve abandoned the rules. There is no contradiction to be had.”

    Last month I believe I heard a more succinct restatement from Vatican Observatory astronomer and planetary scientist – and Jesuit brother – Guy Consolmagno who observed that science is understanding in search of truth, while religion is truth in search of understanding.

    It seems Randall and Consolmagno’s opinions are more realistic assessments of the situation, not Coyne’s absurd “accomodationist” attacks upon his fellow scientists, science advocacy organizations like NCSE and professional scientific organizations such as AAAS.

  44. John Kwok

    @ Skepacabra -

    I thank Linda for reminding others of this harsh, but accurate assessment by me of Myers’s pathetic screed masquerading as a “serious” book review:

    “Should you read Myers’s review? Absolutely. But recognize that it is a self serving, quite sanctimonious, screed written by the ‘William A. Dembski of Militant Atheism’.”

    “Mr. Kwok wrote this comment today on Sheril’s earlier post. I agree.”

  45. tomh

    @ #42
    “PS: Can we please not let this thread get completely derailed by giving attention to attention whores and just stay on topic?”

    That ship has sailed, witness the two comments following yours.

  46. Peter Beattie

    @ John Kwok:

    I’m sorry, I don’t want to be too pushy about this, but in post #29 I asked about some data you might possibly be able to furnish me with. I’d be much obliged to you for a brief response.

  47. John Kwok

    @ Peter -

    Ken Miller should have the slide in question posted here, in one of the talks he gave last year:

    http://www.millerandlevine.com/km

    I suppose I could ask him or Carl where the original source for the polling data comes from.

  48. John Kwok

    @ Peter -

    I should have remembered that there was a recent poll conducted in Great Britain, and this is now the subject of ample discussion over at Panda’s Thumb:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2009/jul/01/evolution

    According to this poll, 51% of Britons think that is valid scientific evidence for evolution, and 54% think it is possible to believe in a GOD and evolution simultaneously.

    You can view the Panda’s Thumb comments here:

    http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2009/07/some-polling-da.html#comments-open

    I take no joy in accusing Dawkins and Hitchens of helping to create mischief – especially since both are among my favorite writers (believe it or not) – but I think their zealous espousal of militant atheism hasn’t helped convincing fellow Britons that evolution is indeed valid science.

  49. Whoa, John, how do you infer that D & H’s writings convinces Britons that evolution isn’t valid science? All you got is numbers indicating the ones who think it’s valid and the ones who don’t.

  50. John Kwok

    @ Mr. Man -

    They’ve both been on a rhetorical blitzkrieg for years. I’m not alone in making the same inference from their writings. Indeed, I heard the very same from some expatriate Britons who are eminent historians and philosophers of science.

  51. Erasmussimo

    JoshS, you misunderstand my point, which was that people can’t comment about the anger they observe BEFORE they observe; the comment must FOLLOW the phenomenon. That’s all.

    I understand your resentment of my observation, and I have been careful not to make statements about individuals (except Mr. Myers, whose anger is patent). Instead, I’m make a broad generalization about a group of people. If you believe that you don’t belong in that group, that’s fine with me. But I do maintain that there does exist a group of people who are atheists and are angry at religious believers and who permit their anger to affect their judgement.

  52. Fallsroad

    I read PZ Myer’s review of the book, and have to say that he was very upfront about his own potential bias given the prominent criticisms of him in it. He also went on to make a host of substantive points about both the content and style of the book.

    It occurs to me that the authors would be better served responding to those criticisms rather than making what, in this post, appear to be broad brush attacks against “New Atheists”, whatever, or whomever that term is supposed to represent, in an attempt to utterly discredit the reviewer’s opinion.

    Absent some future response to those specific criticisms this post will seem to be nothing more than a personal assault on the reviewer in question, intended to bring more heat, and no light to the subject.

  53. Michael Fugate

    The two major reasons for antiscience in the US are corporations and religion. They both have large amounts of money and they willingly spend on marketing and PR. Scientists and atheist don’t have these resources and even if science did they would spend on research not on PR. Without corporations, we would not have climate change denial and without religion, we would not have evolution denial. Sure even without religion, millions of people would still not understand evolution, but they wouldn’t be campaigning against it. This does not blame all religions or all religious people, but the idea that moderate religious authorities are the best way to combat antiscience is bogus. The recent popes have accepted the evidence for evolution, yet can’t or won’t stop hundreds of catholic organizations from actively opposing evolution.

  54. John: Ok, I phrased it wrong. How do you justify that inference?

  55. bob

    Pay attention, class! Now, who can tell me what’s wrong with this statement?

    “Indeed, it appears that judging the book based on what New Atheists say about it, alone, could lead you to make pretty strong factual errors about its contents.”

    Anyone? Anyone? This statement is an ad hominem argument. They are saying that someone’s argument is wrong because of that person’s characteristics, rather than addressing the argument itself.

    Just one of several examples of sloppy thinking in this entry (appeal to popularity, cherry-picking out of other reviews). Pretty impressive, in so short a post. Thanks for saving me the money I might have spent on this book.

  56. ChrisZ

    @Erasmussimo #51

    No that is not necessarily true. People are sometimes labeled incorrectly.

    Furthermore, you maintain that there are some unspecified number of angry atheists out there whose anger affects their judgment? Is that supposed to be a meaningful statement? I’m pretty sure there does exist a group of angry anything whose anger affects their judgment. Just admit that your original claim is unsubstantiated and move on.

    However, if you’re going to stand by your idea that making broad, unsubstantiated generalizations is a good idea, I’ll do you one better. I’ll make a broad, evidenced generalization. The religious are less educated than atheists, and their lack of education affects their judgment.

  57. JThompson

    You lot have hung out with the religious so much you’ve caught their persecution complex.

    The public, who you admit doesn’t know what science even is, gets to decide what science is.
    How? By voting on it? Just what we need: Science, brought to you by the Texas Board of Education.
    Then you get pissy when people that care about science trash the book.
    Those big mean “New Atheists” people cry about so much are the main reason kids aren’t being taught little boys are made of dirt and little girls are made of ribs in public schools.
    It certainly isn’t because of the accomodationists.
    Were it up to the accomodationists, we’d skip biology, astronomy, chemistry, and geography. After all, they might offend someone. Then those people might not accept the science we can teach them! Not that I can think of any science that wouldn’t offend some religion or another…But when we think of it, they’ll sure accept it! They’ll be valuable allies to the cause of furthering what little science they’ve left us.

  58. —- This whole PZ Myers criticism in the book as well as the recent blog war seems more and more like a calculated move to sell the book. Skepacabra

    I haven’t read the book yet, though it is on order, Chris Mooney. From what I’ve seen, I’d guess most of the people commenting on it from the new atheist peanut gallery haven’t either. Unlike them, I won’t comment on the book unread. And unlike Jim Lippard, I won’t go on what people with the clearest conflict of interest have to say on it.

    Was Coyne’s avalanche of new atheist bigotry on his blog anything but an attempt to cash in on the anti-religion gravy-train? That’s what I figured. Who would have ever even heard of PZ Myers without his attention getting bigotry? His blog is his only claim to fame that I’ve seen, it certainly isn’t his writing or research.

    I think the reason that Ophelia Benson and the other professional anti-religious bigots are going after Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum is precisely because they are a danger to their their profit making potential. A few professional new atheists can make big money selling bigoted, dishonest diatribes to the superficial frauds and snobs that are the audience of new atheism. Clearly there is a market for atheist fundamentalism that is a lot like the audience for End Times and Ann Coulter, only its building on a tiny base so its not going to sustain more than a few prominent bigots.

    As to its importance, if you want to see the comparative rewards of publishing well researched, rational discourse, look at the relatively modest readership of the ScienceBlogs that do that.

    I’m looking forward to reading the book. If it hadn’t mentioned PZ I would have read it on the strength of War on Science, which was the reason I read Storm. They are well researched and important books dealing with the intersection between science and politics. They are important in ways that Dawkin Harris and the product of the rest of the guys in the new atheist clown car never can be.

    I’d challenge PZ, unannounced, go to a strictly science content blog for a month and see how many of his fan club stick around for what he can produce of the real thing. Let’s see how much of an interest the new atheist faithful stick around to read real science.

    —- Pay attention, class! Now, who can tell me what’s wrong with this statement? ….. Anyone? Anyone? This statement is an ad hominem argument. bob

    For crying out loud, will you guys find out what “ad hominem” means before you start trying to impress the other clueless neo-athies with your phony erudition? There is nothing ad hominem in the statement, it’s on topic and not a personal attack.

    Someone should do an article about the pseudo-logic that’s so prominent in the new atheism. Terms like “straw man”, “ad hominem” etc. have become markers that the comments they’re found in have a high potential for being total garbage.

    I will say that Jim Lippard’s commenting from those who have a conflict of interest is probably something he, himself has criticized others for in his long career as a “skeptic”. I’d never figured him for that kind of a hypocrite before now.

    CM, I have learned something this week, bed rest is vastly overrated.

  59. Bruce Gorton

    Well, lets put it this way:

    You start the book by arguing that Pluto should be recognised as the ninth planet not because it is scientifically correct to call it that, but because people somehow have an emotional attachment to it being the ninth planet.

    You then go on to criticise the “new atheists” not because they are wrong, but because their views may be unpopular with the religious.

    The common thread here is that you hold scientific truth as being secondary to political expediency, thus if it is politically unpopular to support say, the concept of anthromorphic climate change, according to your reasoning the facts can be tossed and we can all proclaim anthromorphic climate change isn’t happening.

    And of course, for anybody with a brain, this means that you leave science meaningless in the face of anybody with enough money and power to run a decent advertising campaign. You have no integrity, you are not scientists, you are shills.

  60. Sorry for being mildly OT; it doesn’t seem like that’s much of an issue here though. ;)

    @ #55, #58: As bob noted, ad hominem doesn’t necessitate a personal “attack”. Saying that a review of this book is unreliable because it was made by a New Atheist is, in fact, an ad hominem, because “They are saying that someone’s argument is wrong because of that person’s characteristics, rather than addressing the argument itself.”

    Saying, “Judging the book based on what Evangelical Christians say about it could lead you to make pretty strong factual errors about its contents” — because you are arguing that the those Christians’ reviews are factually incorrect due to -who they are-, which is an irrelevant point. The Evangelical Christians (or New Atheists) might have some very good points, in fact.

    I wouldn’t know, I haven’t read the books, but others (#12, specifically) have pointed out above that even the positive reviews share the same critical points…

    Back to the Kwoktastrophe! :)

  61. Peter Beattie

    » John Kwok:
    I suppose I could ask him or Carl where the original source for the polling data comes from.

    That would be awfully nice, thank you.

    The poll you cited in #48 doesn’t contain anything about the reasons why people don’t accept evolution.

  62. J. J. Ramsey

    JThompson: “Were it up to the accomodationists, we’d skip biology, astronomy, chemistry, and geography. After all, they might offend someone”

    Never mind that the “accommodationists” are only accommodating the religion of those who already accept the findings of biology, astronomy, etc. and may even usefully contribute to adding to those scientific findings. Never mind that the whole point of the accommodationists is to fight people like those on the Texas School Board of Education.

    Anthony McCarthy: “I will say that Jim Lippard’s commenting from those who have a conflict of interest is probably something he, himself has criticized others for in his long career as a ‘skeptic’. I’d never figured him for that kind of a hypocrite before now.”

    He’s a human being. Human beings screw up sometimes. I notice that he was fairly quick to apologize when his mistakes were made clear.

  63. Chris Mooney

    @59 Bruce Gorton

    You obviously haven’t read the book, and make many, many false claims about its arguments. I don’t recognize any of them. You’re just plain *wrong*. I know what we say about Pluto, about the new atheists, and about climate change–I wrote it–and you’re 0 for 3.

    I thought we were defenders of science and reason here. How is it reasonable to attack a book one hasn’t read, and get its contents wrong? Isn’t that the height of anti-intellectualism?

  64. – You then go on to criticise the “new atheists” not because they are wrong, Bruce Gorton

    OK, I’ll criticize them because they are wrong. Atheism is not a prerequisite to practice or accept science and to continually assert that it is in face of massive evidence to the contrary is unscientific and, to put it plainly, as much a lie as the idea that being female or black is a scientific disability.

    The new atheism is a shallow, dishonest form of bigotry and a fad that will, eventually, pass away. It is no more rational than biblical fundamentalism.

  65. Dave Gill

    This is fascinating…. the threads here at the Intersection and at PZ’s House of Screechy Monkeys exemplify a microcosm of what I discern UA is all about (haven’t read it either – on order). Everybody’s private little agendas are getting in the way of what we all agree is important – promotion of scientific literacy. But we let religion, Plutoism, namecalling, self-aggrandizement, my-scientist is better than yours, etc. all get in the way of accomplishing something. The fundies are sitting back laughing at you all, and America continues to get dumber. Good work, people. Kudos to Chris and Sheril for having the courage to at least try, knowing the ***storm that would ensue.

  66. Matt Penfold

    The new atheism is a shallow, dishonest form of bigotry and a fad that will, eventually, pass away. It is no more rational than biblical fundamentalism.

    Since “new” atheism, is just ordinary atheism, we must assume you consider all atheists to be bigots. Clearly you see nothing wrong with being bigoted yourself, otherwise you would not be making such blanket statements.

    I also request you show a bit of honesty, and just say atheists. “New” atheism is just a made up term for people who lack the intellect to argue against atheism.

  67. Chris Mooney

    Thanks so much, Dave (# 65). Yes, we had a sense of how some would respond. But we also had to take a stand–because science is what ought to unite all of us, a common and shared body of knowledge that is for everyone in society, and that indeed, much of policy must be built on.

  68. Matt Penfold

    I would also point out that for Chris and Sheril to claim PZ is part of the problem is demonstrably false.

    The US has had a problem with scientific literacy for years, way before PZ began blogging. Way before the internet even. If one looks at the figures for rejection of evolution in favour of creationism there has been little change in the US in the last 30 years. How Chris and Sheril can think atheism is in anyway to blame defeats me, unless I assume a certain degree of personal animus.

  69. dbear

    Well I have read it now…..got it on my Kindle. I think it is a well thought out book, easy to read and despite the ***storm going on here and at Pharyngula which I do like also, I would like to say while I do not agree with all of it, It does have many valid points. I am on a local school board and will be getting this for my other board members to read. Thanks Chris and Sheril. I will be seeing Sheril and getting a hard copy signed in Durham. Thanks again.

  70. Bruce Gorton

    Anthony McCarthy

    “Atheism is not a prerequisite to practice or accept science and to continually assert that it is in face of massive evidence to the contrary is unscientific and, to put it plainly, as much a lie as the idea that being female or black is a scientific disability.”

    Except nobody actually says that atheism is a pre-requisite to practice or accept science, least of all the so-called “new atheists.”

    What the “new atheists” say is that religious ideas and science often conflict with each other – which is to say they accept that the “biblical fundementalists” are in fact, religious. As are the oft forgotten religious people who happen not to be American Christians.

    Further, “new atheists” generally point out the power of compartmentalisation, and how this is not actually the same thing as the ideas not conflicting.

    Oh, and BTB, religion is generally a codified series of ideas, not always including a God, which can be changed. Are you seriously trying to conflate this to race?

  71. NewEnglandBob

    We’ll have much more to say about Myers’ criticisms of the book soon.

    This has been said before. We will see.

    It is also time to remove that nut Kwok from the blog, like most other blogs have done due to his nastiness, unsubstantiated character assassination, name dropping, name calling, etc.

  72. Dave Gill

    Matt – (#68)
    I don’t see atheism as a cause of the problem – but disagreements among different camps of atheists are preventing us all from keeping our eyes on the prize… a scientifically literate society. But we’re too busy beating each other up to work on the real problem.

  73. Jon

    What the “new atheists” say is that religious ideas and science often conflict with each other

    If it was stated this mildly, there would be no problem.

  74. Matt Penfold

    If it was stated this mildly, there would be no problem.

    It is stated that mildly.

    The problem some people have is not the manner in which it is stated, it is the fact it is stated at all.

  75. Jon

    Religion is a form of child abuse is not a mild statement.

  76. Jon

    The whole point is to use science as a bludgeon against religion.

    If the public face of science doesn’t support science as pure, anti-theist, scientific materialism, then that effort is threatened.

  77. Matt Penfold

    Religion is a form of child abuse is not a mild statement.

    May I remind what you were actuallt replying to, since you must have forgotten.

    What the “new atheists” say is that religious ideas and science often conflict with each other

    Nothing about child abuse in that statements is there ?

    It is true Dawkins has said indoctrinating children in religion is a form of child abuse. He did not say religion was a form child abuse though.

    Would you care to offer a reason as why religious indoctrination of children is not child abuse ?

  78. Matt Penfold

    The whole point is to use science as a bludgeon against religion.”

    Evidence to support this claim is required.

  79. Jon

    It is true Dawkins has said indoctrinating children in religion is a form of child abuse. He did not say religion was a form child abuse though.

    That’s a silly lawyerly parsing… Shows how weak your argument is.

  80. Matt Penfold

    That’s a silly lawyerly parsing… Shows how weak your argument is.

    Ah, a little man who cannot admit he made a mistake.

  81. Matt Penfold

    Jon,

    Tell me, do you think the Christian message is mild ?

    Is telling people that Jesus really was the son of god born of a virgin , who died and was resurrected a mild message ?

  82. Jon

    Sorry, your argument goes indoctrination in religion is a form of child abuse, but religion isn’t?

    Give me a #$%^&* break.

    This isn’t worth the time…

  83. Matt Penfold

    Sorry, your argument goes indoctrination in religion is a form of child abuse, but religion isn’t?

    Give me a #$%^&* break.

    This isn’t worth the time…

    Well no, not unless you indicate you are willing to stop whining and admit your mistake. Given the normal standard of honesty on this blog, I will not hold my breath.

  84. I’m really not supposed to be doing this.

    – Except nobody actually says that atheism is a pre-requisite to practice or accept science, least of all the so-called “new atheists.” Bruce Groton

    I hold that is exactly a paraphrase that most of them get to before long, if not at the beginning. It’s a holding of the new atheist faith even among those who are quite innocent of logic or science.

    I’m always interested in how new atheists deny even the commonest holdings of their faith, at times even while they say it. Even as you present them with the necessary quotes by Harris, Dawkins, Coyne, PZ, Ophelia Benson…. Even when they, themselves have said it.

    – What the “new atheists” say is that religious ideas and science often conflict with each other B.G.

    No, if that’s what they said there would be no problem. Its that they hold that religious belief and science can’t coexist in society and then they go on to make all kinds of impertinent, insulting and unfounded assertions about scientists who are religious. Even Lawrence Krauss, the most reasonable of the new atheists I’ve read does that. Atheists have no basis to judge the experience of a religious scientist who is the best authority of their experience. Many, I’d hold, most of the ideas in Judaism and Christianity and, I’d guess but don’t know, Islam are not in conflict with religion due to the fact that it was in the cultures where those religions have held sway that modern science arose. That, despite the irrational denial of the new atheists, is what the historical record shows in real life.

    You might want to read the essay by Eddington I’ve posted on my blog.

    - which is to say they accept that the “biblical fundementalists” are in fact, religious. B.G.

    Which only goes to show you that the word “religious” has no set meaning and you have to take each person on an individual basis. There are, actually, biblical fundamentalists and Islamic fundamentalists who have careers in science. I forget, how many of the 9/11 plotters had a science or technology background?

    — As are the oft forgotten religious people who happen not to be American Christians. B.G.

    I never forget them. Being one of them, myself.

    – religion is generally a codified series of ideas, not always including a God, which can be changed. Are you seriously trying to conflate this to race? B.G.

    I said that the anti-religious bigotry that held that being religious was a disability in the practice of science was ” as much a lie as the idea that being female or black is a scientific disability.” That, B. G. is not an act of conflation between religion and race, it’s a statement about a common trait among three different aspects of bigotry, notice you left out women. I was, of course, thinking of the former new atheist hero, James Watson, when I said it. As seen in him, you can be more than one kind of bigot all at once.

  85. This should read: are not in conflict with science due to the fact that it was in the cultures where those religions

    Is telling a child that they’re essentially an object which is going to go defunct and rot, that they are a mere receptacle by which molecules propagate themselves and that their actions are the results of biological determinism, worse than telling them the Christmas story? I wonder which is more likely to produce anxiety or lasting disturbances, if not full blown Hitchensonian levels of sociopathic thinking.

    I’d rather take my chance with what results from the majority of people believing in what Jesus taught.

  86. Matti K.

    Matt and John:

    Are religions that threaten dissidents with eternal torture “militant” (or “aggressive”) religions?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell

    How about skipping these useless adjectives like “militant” and “new”? They do not add quality to the discussion.

  87. Anthony McCarthy -

    “I think the reason that Ophelia Benson and the other professional anti-religious bigots are going after Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum is precisely because they are a danger to their their profit making potential.”

    That borders on libelous, and it’s entirely false.

  88. bob

    Anthony McCarthy: Is there a point to your blathering? Yes, scientists can be religious and still do good science. No one disputes that. Why are you talking as if the NEW ATHEISTS (why not give it all caps if you’re trying to make it scary) dispute it? The issue is that these scientists are being inconsistent, in that they don’t hold their religious beliefs to the same rigorous standards that they do their scientific hypotheses. Do you understand the distinction? It doesn’t seem like you do. At all.

    Oh, and any time you’d like to apologize and wipe the egg off your face after your silly and laughably incorrect rant about what an ad hominem argument is/isn’t (#58) would be great. If you’re still confused, I actually explained it for you in the very comment you had a hissy fit over (#55). You’re doing wonders for others’ perception of your reading comprehension, I’ll tell ya.

  89. I realize McCarthy is a standing joke, but there is a limit. This place is stuffed with wild accusations like that with not a shred of evidence or justification for them. I’ve read the book and I think it’s badly flawed. I also think Chris has been ‘going after’ other people (the putative ‘New Atheists’) repeatedly, for flimsy incoherent evidence-free reasons; that irritates me, and I’ve been writing critical comments on the subject. That’s all there is to it.

  90. SLC

    Re NewEnglandBob

    Despite having been he target of Mr. Kwoks’ attacks on several occasions, I would not ban him entirely. However, I would admonish him to refrain from character assassination and limit him to 1 comment per day, as Jason Rosenhouse has done. I would also recommend the same treatment for Mr. Anthony McCarthy.

  91. NewEnglandBob

    @91 SLC

    That sounds quite reasonable.

  92. — That borders on libelous, and it’s entirely false. Ophelia Benson,

    You don’t seem to know much more about libel law than you do about most other things, Ophelia. I do believe that is why you guys are in such a wild panic over the book. I think that and it isn’t libelous to say that’s what I think. Furthermore, I think you and PZ and Jerry Coyne are thin skinned bigots who can dish it out by the platter but can’t take it when it comes back your way by the spoonful. All of those are true statements of what I believe, all of those are opinion which is not libelous when expressed as opinion.

    A standing joke with whom? I’ll say the same thing I said to gillt, give me the list of things I said that would have made me a “joke”, actual quotes of things I actually said and not what you and your fellow cultists make up. I’m not afraid of being the focus of new atheist derision and fabrication, I wouldn’t value their respect and its absence won’t dissuade me from commenting.

    bob, there is nothing ad hominem about someone saying that new atheists are not the most credible critics of their critics in a discussion about PZ Myers criticism of a book which criticizes him and other new atheists. That is on topic, germane, not personal and not a distraction from the topic under discussion. So, kid, it’s not “ad hominem”. I’d give examples of real ad hominem from things Ophelia and PZ have written but I’d rather not propagate them.
    Go read a book on basic rhetoric, there used to be a fairly easy one called The Discourse of Reason that you might be able to handle.

    Now, I’ve got to go so, fib on, new-athies.

  93. Oh, the best reasoning of SLC and NEB, somehow, I’m not feeling formidably dissed.

  94. Screechy Monkey

    Mooney @ 65: “Yes, we had a sense of how some would respond. But we also had to take a stand”

    Yes, Chris, it’s very brave of you to take a stand against the most hated minority in the country. The courage is positively stirring.

  95. That’s why I said ‘bordering on.’ Why is it bordering on? Because it borders on an accusation of lying, which is libelous. It’s also based on absolutely nothing – there is no quotation, no example of evasion or deception, just a roundhouse accusation of hidden motivation.

  96. Matt Penfold

    That’s why I said ‘bordering on.’ Why is it bordering on? Because it borders on an accusation of lying, which is libelous. It’s also based on absolutely nothing – there is no quotation, no example of evasion or deception, just a roundhouse accusation of hidden motivation.

    Ophelia, I am afraid that asking for evidence from McCarthy is a waste of time. He is no more likely to support his claims with evidence than a TV evangelist is likely to remain faithful to his wife.

  97. Matt, I know. I just want to point out what he is doing and what Chris is letting him get away with – while at the same time doing a hostile post about PZ based on a comment at Pharyngula. The double standard is beyond belief.

  98. gillt

    McCarthy: “I’ll say the same thing I said to gillt, give me the list of things I said that would have made me a “joke”

    Prove you asked me for that list! Actual quotes of things I actually said and not what you and your fellow liars for jesus make up.

    Sound familiar?

    How you about claiming that epigenetics has great and vast similarities to Lysenkoism because you read someone on the internet say so, but you won’t say who. Or that exobiology is a pseudoscience.

    Awww McCarthy, what you say isn’t so much a haha funny joke, but a symptom willful ignorance that deserves to be mocked.

    Unscientific American: the Anthony McCarthy story. It is indeed a drama.

  99. —- Prove you asked me for that list! Actual quotes of things I actually said and not what you and your fellow liars for jesus make up.

    Ah, gillt, it just happens I saved one of those discussions.

    – You defend a fundamental misconception that MN and PN don’t reside on a continuum. gillt @ 136 Responding to Sean Carroll

    I don’t recall ever saying anything to that effect. I don’t think I’ve registered an opinion other than that they are ideologies not aspects of science. Would there be any point in requesting quotes, actual ones, not invented ones or instantly typed implications? Anthony McCarthy @ 141 Responding to Sean Carroll

    As I recall it’s not the first time I challenged you to produce quotes to back up the false attributions you made to me, gillt. If you want I might be able to produce other exchanges like that.

    gillt, you are dishonest to the core.

    Ophelia, you do realize that your, and Coyne’s and PZ’s whining about someone expressing a suspicion of dubious motives and a negative opinion of yourselves is quite hilarious, don’t you?

  100. bob

    Sigh. McCarthy, you’re managing to be confused about being confused. You initially accused me of thinking an ad-hom was an insult (which I didn’t), but now you’re actually insisting that an ad-hom is not an ad-hom. And, finally, you yourself assert that insults are ad-homs.

    Quote: “[T]here is nothing ad hominem about someone saying that new atheists are not the most credible critics … I’d give examples of real ad hominem from things Ophelia and PZ have written but I’d rather not propagate them.” Actually, that is PRECISELY an ad-hom; you are saying someone is wrong *because* they’re NEW ATHEISTS. And, Ophelia is *insulting* you by calling you a joke.

    Please, pal, do try and keep up. Especially if you’re going to (mistakenly) mock others’ mistakes. It really makes you look ridiculous.

  101. Ophelia, I am afraid that asking for evidence from McCarthy is a waste of time. He is no more likely to support his claims with evidence than a TV evangelist is likely to remain faithful to his wife. Matt Penfold

    Proved you wrong, as usual Matt.

  102. Matt Penfold

    Ophelia, I am afraid that asking for evidence from McCarthy is a waste of time. He is no more likely to support his claims with evidence than a TV evangelist is likely to remain faithful to his wife. Matt Penfold

    Proved you wrong, as usual Matt.

    And for those of us whose first language is English ?

  103. gillt

    McCarthy: “I don’t think I’ve registered an opinion other than that they [MN and PN] are ideologies not aspects of science.”

    McCarthy thinks Methodological Naturalism is an ideology and not an aspect of science?! Now that’s laughable.

    You seem to be moving toward anti-scientific.

  104. @ 103 bob, you do know that you left off the condition in my statement under which new atheists wouldn’t make the best critics of those who criticize them. You must have since you so kindly substituted that cute little ellipsis for it.

    ” …. of their critics in a discussion about PZ Myers criticism of a book which criticizes him and other new atheists. @94 Anthony McCarthy

    It’s the same condition which makes no one the best critic of their own critics, they’ve got suspect motives. And I’m sure if I look I’ll find someone going after Chris Mooney’s cred because Coyne or PZ or another of the heroes of the new atheism had said bad things about him in the past.

    You know, it’s not particularly clever argument to try and get away with that kind of thing. Especially not on the same comment thread where anyone who is interested could look up the rest of what you cut off.

    Where did you guys get the idea that all you have to do is say something like “ad hominem” and you win? Bazooka bubblegum wrappers?

  105. – McCarthy thinks Methodological Naturalism is an ideology and not an aspect of science?! Now that’s laughable. gillt

    No, what’s laughable is that you called me and I produced what you bet I couldn’t. Now you’re betting on your fellow neo-athes not understanding what an ideology is or what naturalism is, which is probably the best bet you could make at this point.

  106. bob

    McCarthy: “Where did you guys get the idea that all you have to do is say something like “ad hominem” and you win?”

    From, you know, logic. If your argument is fallacious, then it’s a bad argument. This is getting absurd. I’ll use short sentences to help you understand, okay? (That was an insult, btw, not an ad-hom.)

    PZ criticized the book. Mooney did not respond to the criticisms themselves. Mooney said the criticisms are suspect because they came from a New Atheist. This is an ad hominem argument.

    Of course, I agree with you that sometimes people have trouble handling criticism. I think PZ took the criticism rather well, in that he gave a long review that was heavy on substance. On the other hand, Mooney is not handling criticism well. First, there was this weak sauce post. Now, he just put up a post where he made out a comment on Pharyngula to be from PZ, rather than addressing any of PZ’s points directly. (Which, mind you, he still hasn’t done.)

  107. And for those of us whose first language is English ?

    Like your boy bob?

    For crying out loud, bob, look up the damned definition of “ad hominem” in an actual textbook of logic or rhetoric not the Boy-Atheists Little Book of Logic.

    “Ad hominem” doesn’t mean “you’re being mean to me and that’s not fair”.

  108. bob

    I’m done. You aren’t even reading what I’m writing. The last line in #110 is amazingly frustrating … it is exactly what I’VE told YOU a number of times now. Here is a quick summary–again–which you can try and digest at your leisure:

    PZ criticized the book. Mooney did not respond to the criticisms themselves. Mooney said the criticisms are suspect because they came from a New Atheist. This is an ad hominem argument.

    Mooney is saying “PZ is wrong because he is a New Atheist.” He should be saying “PZ is wrong because he said [A], but I think [B] is true.” I’d again ask if you understand, but clearly you don’t and/or won’t.

  109. --bill

    @bob in 111:
    Why are ad hominem arguments? You seem to suggest that ad hominem arguments can be blithely dismissed. Yet ad hominem attacks are essential to discourse. `Someone is a member of the Discovery Institute, and so I pay little attention to their writings’ is an ad hominem argument, and, I think, a conclusive one.

  110. --bill

    Shoot. In my previous comment (112), that should start:
    “Why are ad hominem attacks bad?”

  111. tomh

    Ah, McCarthy’s back, whose main claim to fame is that he’s the only living human who can drown out Kwok. Oh, joy.

  112. NewEnglandBob

    Chris and Sheril:

    I am so disappointed with the stuff that you allow to come from Anthony McCarthy. This place has become a cesspool.

  113. John Kwok

    @ Peter Beattie -

    I think it’s reasonable to conclude that militant atheists like Dawkins and Hutchens have had a detrimental effect on informing the public in Great Britian that evolution is indeed valid science. Again, this is a view shared by several notable expatriate British historians and philosophers of science, like, for example, Philip Kitcher and Janet Browne.

    Just for everyone’s edification I am posting again the lintk to the results of an opinion poll on evolution that was published recently in the Guardian (It should persuade Matt Penfold that his native country, the United Kingdom, has a problem with evolution almost as serious as ours.):

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2009/jul/01/evolution

  114. Matt Penfold

    I have to say the choice of the re-designation of Pluto as an example of how the scientific community failed to the public seems to be a very poor one.

    I live in the UK. Here, like in the US, the decision to re-designate Pluto was widely reported in the media. Astronomers were interviewed to explain the reasons. Patrick Moore, Brian May, Martin Rees and Neil DeGrasse Tyson were all invited onto various media outlets.

    There currently is no public controversy in the UK over the re-designation of Pluto. Thus we cannot blame the scientists for failing to get their message over. They did so here in the UK without problem. They took the line than since the discovery of Pluto we have learnt a great deal about the planet, and as a result it can no longer be regarded a planet like the Earth or Jupiter.

    If we accept Mooney and Kirshenbaum’s assertion that there is public controversy in the US we mustlook to reason other than the failure of scientists to get their message across. If they had a message to deliver in the UK then they had one to deliver in the US. If the message was not heard then it must be the US media that is culpable.

    Mooney is journalist. It would seem it is his profession that failed with regards informing the American people why Pluto was re-designated. Instead he blame the scientists.

    Well, as Christine Keeler once said, he would say that wouldn’t he.

  115. John Kwok

    @ bob -

    Myers’s review was a screed, a sanctimonious screed. Nothing more and nothing less.

  116. Sven DiMilo

    Was it mendacious?

  117. bob

    Yes, I have no doubt that his monitor was covered in spittle and his fingers were sore from banging the keys with such ferocity. I mean, look at this paragraph:

    “This is where I am first taken aback. They come down on the side of Pluto being redesignated as a planet! Why, is not clear — they clearly list the scientific reasons why astronomers thought it didn’t merit the title of “planet” — but they talk over and over about “rifts” and “conflicts” and the “danger of being seen as an Adlai Stevenson egghead”. Apparently, the sin of the scientists was a failure to bow before popular opinion, and insufficient attention to the PR consequences of a scientific decision.”

    Look at that single exclamation point! Look at him rant and rave about Pluto’s status! Gosh, I can’t even imagine how sanctimonious and screedy he was feeling as he wrote that!

  118. Matt Penfold

    Was it mendacious?

    No. I think it honestly reflected PZ’s opinions. Unlike this post by Mooney which claims to do, but instead quotes a commentator.

    Chris’s silence on his disingenuous quote is telling.

  119. John Kwok

    @ Sven -

    Can’t say until I actually read the book, but I am willing to guess that Myers’s review was mendacious (I say this having the utmost confidence in Chris’s journalism, having reviewed favorably both of his previous books over at Amazon. Can you imagine a diehard Republican liking his first book? You wouldn’t, but in my case, I most certainly did.).

  120. — I am so disappointed with the stuff that you allow to come from Anthony McCarthy. This place has become a cesspool. NEB

    As opposed to PZ’s palace of calm reason, I’d imagine. Because I said “damned”, is that the reason you’re offended? Is that it, NEB? Wow. Imagined if I’d said “jickit” like I unusually do.

    C. M. and S. K., you must be doing something right to have them this scared and running all over the place.

    —- PZ criticized the book. Mooney did not respond to the criticisms themselves. Mooney said the criticisms are suspect because they came from a New Atheist. This is an ad hominem argument. alogical bob

    If Chris Mooney wanted to impeach the critical credibility of PZ or the new atheists who are criticized in his book, he is entirely in his rights to point out that it is reasonable to wonder if they might be less than objective reviewers. I’m certain that I could find somewhere in his archive, if not on an active discussion, where PZ had impeached the credibility of someone else on exactly the same grounds, probably with a few invectives that could be expected to singe Ne.Eng.Bob’s delicate ears.

    I’ll point out that gillt implied that my criticism of the new atheists is suspect because …. what was that charming phrase he used? , “you and your fellow liars for jesus” make up stuff about him. Only 1. he knows I’m not a Christian, and 2. I produced the material to show that he’s the liar on that point. Now, you don’t hear me whining and bawling that its ad hominem do you? That’s because I know what the term means. While it was an example of two lies, it doesn’t fulfill the requirements to be ad hominem because it was related to the topic under discussion, even though it was a lie.

    You also don’t hear me whining and bawling because I figure that’s what you expect in a brawl.

  121. bob

    You have the utmost confidence in what Mooney wrote? Why? Look at his response to PZ’s criticism:

    (1) Say that PZ’s review is not to be trusted because he is a New Atheist
    (2) Promise that a much bigger response to PZ is coming
    (3) Put up a post representing a comment on Pharyngula as a “Classic Quote from PZ’s Blog”
    (4) Ridicule the anonymous commenter as a profane meanie

    This is pathetic and childish. He doesn’t seem to be able to maturely handle criticism. PZ criticizes “framers” and “accommodation-ists” all the time … maybe Mooney took it personally a threw a chapter-sized hissy fit. That would seem fitting, based on his actions the past few days.

  122. bob, I’m not going to discuss your sunk ship until you go look up the definition of the term in a credible reference work.

    Adding on other stuff that had nothing to do with my point about your fallacious use of a term with a definite meaning in classical logic does nothing to erase your error. In fact, it could easily veer into ad hominem.

  123. I love these people.

    “Can’t say until I actually read the book, but I am willing to guess that Myers’s review was mendacious”

    Attaboy! Call PZ a liar even though you haven’t read the book! Of course you’re willing to guess that; you’re willing to say anything.

    I have read the book, and I’m willing to say that PZ’s review was not mendacious.

    “I’m certain that I could find somewhere in his archive, if not on an active discussion, where PZ had impeached the credibility of someone else on exactly the same grounds”

    Attaboy! Express certainty about a conjectural finding expressed in the conditional! That’s careful reasoning for you.

    Ugh. Lie down with dogs get up with fleas.

  124. bob

    @McCarthy: Yet another episode of your inability to comprehend what you’re reading. I wasn’t talking to you, per my comment at #111 when I told you I was done responding to you. If you’re still confused about any Latin terms, I’ll again point out that all the information you need is available in my very first post on this thread (#55). My later entries might confuse you, since I was trying to to point out and explain the myriad and conflicting ways you attempted to (mis)identify the term.

  125. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia (@ 126) -

    Of course you would pen such rhetorical nonsense since your own review of “Unscientific America” is a sanctimonious screed in defense of your militant atheist faith.

  126. Ben Nelson

    What I’ve found most disturbing from the quotes that have surfaced so far is that Adlai Stevenson is presented as anything less than a role model. He was a popular speaker and national hero whose harsh but considered diplomacy during the Cuban Missile Crisis helped us avoid nuclear obliteration. Even if you think less of the man, or give any time at all for those that impugn his character, all hands ought to be able to agree that we’re closer to a third culture when our politics have people like him within it.

  127. PStryder

    I wanted to comment on the ‘anger of atheists’ comments above. (24, 25, 28, 32, 38, 40)

    Then I remembered, someone has already said it perfectly for me. Read Greta Christina’s blog post on atheist anger. (Link below) I doubt you’ll find a single atheist who would disagree with what she says.

    http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2007/10/atheists-and-an.html

  128. NewEnglandBob

    Kwak @128

    Did you read the book, Kwok? No, of course not. You puissant.

    Character assassination once again from the Kwakpot. This needs to stop Chris and Sheril. It is embarrassing for you.

  129. Matt Penfold

    Then I remembered, someone has already said it perfectly for me. Read Greta Christina’s blog post on atheist anger. (Link below) I doubt you’ll find a single atheist who would disagree with what she says.

    I am sure Mooney could.

  130. — Kwok? No, of course not. You puissant. New England Bob

    Mighty thin skinned name caller, NEB. You know, I think Coyne would lose any credibility he has with you as a regular, but he didn’t need you to lose it once he started blogging.

    — If you’re still confused about any Latin terms, bob

    I’m not the one bobbing around making it up on the spot.

  131. Peter Beattie

    @ John Kwok:

    What you think is reasonable to assume is, I’m sorry to say, neither here nor there if you have no data to show for it. You did, however, make a specific claim about data:

    In 2008 both Ken Miller and Carl Zimmer – at separate talks given months apart – presented polling data showing that approximately 40 percent of Britons reject the validity of evolution and the importance of Darwin’s work, attributing this to militant atheism as espoused by Dawkins and Hitchens, among others.

    I would dearly like to see the data that attribute the rejection of evolution, at least in part, to militant atheism. Do you think you could get your hands on those data?

  132. John Kwok

    @ Peter -

    I’m not a sociologist interested in the intersection between religion and science. I don’t know if such data does exist. However, I think it is worth noting that several expatriate Britons who are noted philosophers and historians of science have expressed well-considered opinions stating that there may be a backlash against Militant Atheism amongst their fellow Britons. I think the latest poll published in the Guardian merely reaffirms what Ken Miller and Carl Zimmer have pointed out.

  133. I apologized for my apparently erroneous statement that UA doesn’t comment on death threats against Webster Cook, though I was also referring to the death threats against P.Z. Myers. Were those mentioned? The original post says that I made “various false claims,” plural, about the book–what else did I get wrong? Did I misrepresent the authors’ views about accomodationism?

    I’ll happily correct my mistakes, and I certainly admit that it’s far better to read firsthand before commenting on a book rather than relying on secondhand reports.

  134. Peter Beattie

    » John Kwok:
    I don’t know if such data does exist.

    Then perhaps you shouldn’t quote it in support of your position. But you said you could ask Ken and/or Carl about it. Please do. If this kind of data exists, then I’m very much interested in seeing it, as it would obviously change one or two things in this debate.

  135. John Kwok

    @ Peter -

    All they would probably tell me is that they cited previous polling data which seems to be confirmed by the latest poll published last week in the Guardian. Perhaps Professor Philip Kitcher – who is a professor of philosophy at Columbia University – might have access to such data. If he hasn’t gone away yet for summer vacation, I may ask him, and get back to you.

  136. You may ask him? Why the uncertainty? Why not just ask him? And Carl, and Ken? They’re your friends – so ask them already.

  137. John Kwok

    @ Ophelia -

    I actually have better things to do with my time than asking them, including Kitcher, whom I have met in person (We apparently have one interest in common aside from the evolution vs. creation debate, and we’re really more interested in discussing that other interest.).

  138. It appears an answer to my questions in #136 is not forthcoming.

    I am disappointed that I was singled out for criticism after my admission of and apology for an error, as though that was a weakness to be attacked, and then that error, which I take responsibility for, was described as having been led astray by misrepresentations by others. I am further disappointed that my error was apparently misdescribed as “various false claims,” and that the substance of the discussion in which it took place was ignored.

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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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