The Rumors of My Fellowship Have Been Greatly Accurate

By Chris Mooney | February 27, 2010 12:03 pm

So, yes, since everybody seems to want to know: I am a Templeton Cambridge journalism fellow for 2010, and details on the program are here. I didn’t know when the new fellowship recipients’ names were going to be announced, but I guess the answer is yesterday.

The fellowship is basically two months long, with three weeks in Cambridge and two at “home” (wherever that is, in my case), during which one reads and studies up on the subject of science and religion.

Past fellows include Sandra Blakeslee, Juliet Eilperin, Marc Kaufman, Rob Stein, William Saletan, John Horgan, George Johnson, Shankar Vedantam, and many other top science journalists. I’m honored to join their number, and am looking forward to seeing the new crew–which includes folks like Ron Rosenbaum from Slate and Peter Scoblic from The New Republic–alongside the river Cam.

And thanks, everyone, for the congrats that have come in so far.

Comments (258)

  1. You beat me! Although we didn’t know when this would be pubic, I was really hoping to make the blog announcement ;)

    In any case, congratulations CM! I’m looking forward to hearing about the experience.

  2. Matti K.

    This explains a lot of the überaccommodation (or überframing) Mr. Mooney has practiced lately. When one is applying (or planning to apply) a $ 15 000 grant from Templeton foundation, one chooses his words very carefully when discussing about religion or religious scientists.

  3. GM

    Giving a link to the program website was an own goal.

    Because when one clicks on, he also sees the following section:

    http://www.templeton-cambridge.org/how_to_apply/

    Which means that you actually applied for that and you actively went after it.

    Anyway, we would like to know how exactly do you think this will be viewed by most people given the Templeton foundation’s history?

  4. J.J.E.

    I’m not a journalist, so pardon me if this is a bit of a naive question…

    But does taking money from a partisan* instution whose topic is within the purview of the journalist’s interest not constitute a conflict of interest? Would it have been proper for you to be financially supperted by the Democratic party when you were writing TRWOS?

    * Partisan in the sense that they advocate a particular perspective, not necessarily partisan in a politcal party sense.

  5. J.J.E.

    Umm, that should be “supported”.

  6. NewEnglandBob

    “I have a bad feeling about this.”
    ―Obi-Wan Kenobi

    “The boy is dangerous. They all sense it; why can’t you?”
    ―Obi-Wan Kenobi to Qui-Gon Jinn

    “What an incredible smell you’ve discovered.”
    ―Obi-Wan Kenobi

  7. Somite

    Could you post your application? I think it would be interesting to see how you would propose to bridge secularism and religion.

  8. “Would it have been proper for you to be financially [supported] by the Democratic party when you were writing [The Republican War on Science]?”
    An excellent comment. ;)

  9. It would be the equivalent of Mooney applying for money from the Democratic party after writing his Republican War on Science. Not what I’d expect from a good journalist.

  10. Hope you enjoyed your science career. Maybe you’ll take it up again one day when you realise what you’ve gotten yourself into.

    But at least you have finally made it clear what the difference is between a “new atheist” and an old one. You don’t get a Templeton fellowship for attacking the old ones. – That’s what that book was all about, wasn’t it.

    I hope you pay PZ and Dawkins a commission.

  11. bric

    I imagine the regular Fellows at Cambridge are a bit pissed off at this nomenclature

  12. Flounder

    Can I sell my last shred of integrity for 15k and a free 3 week trip to Cambridge, too?

  13. Alan S

    John Horgan: (http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/horgan06/horgan06_index.html
    )

    One Templeton official made what I felt were inappropriate remarks about the foundation’s expectations of us fellows. She told us that the meeting cost more than $1-million, and in return the foundation wanted us to publish articles touching on science and religion. But when I told her one evening at dinner that — given all the problems caused by religion throughout human history — I didn’t want science and religion to be reconciled, and that I hoped humanity would eventually outgrow religion, she replied that she didn’t think someone with those opinions should have accepted a fellowship. So much for an open exchange of views.

    Jerry Coyne: (http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/the-templeton-bribe/)

    These journalism fellowships are nothing more than a bribe—a bribe to get journalists to favor a certain point of view. The Foundation’s success at recruiting reputable candidates proves one thing: it doesn’t cost much to buy a journalist’s integrity. Fifteen thousand bucks, a “book allowance,” and a fancy title will do it.

  14. Paul W.

    My hearty congratulations not just to Chris, but to the Templeton Foundation for their fine choice.

    It’s hard to imagine a better match of standards of objectivity, honesty, and intellectual rigor.

  15. Tacroy

    Hey, you should update your little blurb in the right-hand column! Surely being a Templeton Fellow at Cambridge is at least as prestigious as being a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT, right? By my calculations, it definitely pays a lot better – especially since they cover your room and board while you’re in Cambridge.

  16. Julie

    Wow – look at all the vitriol here!!! Is it jealousy or bitterness? Both?

    If Chris’s writing is so purely horrible and incorrect, why is everyone feeling the need to work so hard to point it out? I hardly agree with everything that comes out of the Templeton people, but some of it is very insightful writing (waits for a bushel of rotten tomatoes to be hurled at my head).

    Lastly, if Chris has been secretly writing everything he has over the past 5 years just so he could snag 15k, he’s got a hell of a lot of foresight and determination, don’t you think.

    This thread is already sounding like an AGW thread. Scary.

  17. steve

    Wow Chris, I didn’t think it would be possible to have any less respect for you.

    Always exceeding expectations, you are just an over achiever from the get go.

    Your exit from the science world and entry into the religious one sounds like a win/win situation.

    Keep up the good work.

  18. steve

    The folks at CFI/Point of Inquiry must be really pleased at this as well.

    This is going to bring in the skeptical audience in droves.

  19. b.g.

    It figures.

    Also, William Saletan as a “top science journalist”? I didn’t realize that concern-trolling a woman’s right to choose with slut-shaming and bullshit arguments made one a top anything, except maybe a top-notch wanker.

    Oh, and Julie: “UR JUST JELLUS” is always the mark of a rigorous argument. Congratulations; maybe you can apply for a Templeton grant, too.

  20. Michael

    The worst thing about the Templeton Foundation is that they appear to want to be unbiased and only interested in the truth, but the fact is that the truth is the last thing on their mind. They are partisans, and unapologetically so.

    See, there’s a reason that religion and secular thinking (read: science) have always been at odds with each other. One seeks to ask questions that may never be answered, and the other gives answers that can never be questioned.

  21. Todd

    I’m shall never again attend to your writing. Accepting the Templeton bribe renders your comments on science incredible.

  22. Jon

    The Templeton Foundation is PZ Myers’ bete noire, right? He bashes it at every chance.

    Interesting question: who else bashes Templeton? If a bunch of people do, are they following PZ, or has Templeton developed a real reputation for “Woo” outside of PZ’s private campaign?

    This is my favorite rant of PZ’s against a Templeton fellow:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/03/spirituality_another_word_for.php

    And this is that fellow speaking his quote unquote “rubbish” in dialog with Jurgen Habermas (who I think solidly kicks Daniel Dennett’s behind as a philosopher):

    http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2009/11/20/rethinking-secularism-jurgen-habermas-and-charles-taylor-in-conversation/

  23. Julie

    Thanks, b.g., for being the very picture of maturity. Arrogance and vitriol are always the mark of a “rigorous argument,” as well.

    Perhaps you and I can apply for the fellowship together.

  24. bilbo

    Thanks, b.g., for being the very picture of maturity. Arrogance and vitriol are always the mark of a “rigorous argument,” as well.

    Perhaps you and I can apply for the fellowship together.

    *snicker*

  25. Milton C.

    Holy cow!!! Way to stay classy, New Atheists. Since when did guilt by association become a valid substitute for a logical takedown of someone’s writing? I guess today is the day, huh?

    Congrats from my end, Chris (and I mean actual, sincere congrats). I don’t always agree with what you argue for (in fact, I disagree with you more than I agree), but you do a better job of stimulating useful discussion than those who simply like to perform. I’ll be looking forward to reading (and arguing about) the fruits of your tenure.

  26. Philip Jr.

    I don’t have any breed of dog in this hunt, but I just wanted to point out that Milton’s comment in #25 is the picture of someone who disagrees with Chris being the bigger man rather than acting like a hormone-enraged preteen. The comments here are pretty shameful coming from people who seemingly prize intellect and reason…the tone and tenor even sounds like some of the ultraconservative AGW deniers over on some other threads. That’s not something to be proud of, folks.

    I echo what Milton said, Chris. I’m obviously not well-read in these science-religion discussions, but your writing always makes me think more when I read it versus others who simply seem to be writing to play to their own fan base. And, like Milton, I don’t always agree with what you say. congratulations.

  27. Ambidexter

    Congratulations, Chris. Now we know how much your integrity is worth.

  28. bob

    Could you post your application?

  29. Julie:

    Wow – look at all the vitriol here!!! Is it jealousy or bitterness? Both?

    How about “justified rage at journalists who sell themselves out to exchange puerile wishy-washy nonsense in exchange for bribes from partisan hack organizations”?

    Milton: If you think there’s anything ‘new’ about ‘New Atheists,’ you’ve never read anything from Bertrand Russell.

  30. Somite

    Posting the application is the right thing to do in the name of full disclosure.

  31. Congratulations. Well deserved, not least because of all the crap that comes your way.

  32. Ray Comfort

    Well, well, Chris…

    To paraphrase Churchill, we always knew what you were.

    Now we know what is your price.

  33. bilbo

    Mike:

    At least Bertie had a smidge of class.

  34. bilbo

    Oh, and Mike – I find it quite ironic that you used the word “puerile” in a negative context while acting very puerile yourself. I snickered.

  35. Julie

    What Milton and Philip said. These guys seem to be classy enough to rise above tribalism of either stripe.

  36. I’d be curious to see this application essay, too…

    I know you don’t like atheists who say religion and science cannot be reconciled, but the Templeton folks go too far in the other direction.

    What’s the benefit in being a Fellow, other than the money? (Or is that the *only* reason to be one?)

  37. Milton, I’m afraid I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make. Chris has been entirely forthcoming about his having goals that are similar, if not identical, to those of the Templeton Foundation.

    More importantly, it seems to me that you may not understand the fallacy of “guilt by association”. The fallacy of guilt by association involves an illicit supposition that a person shares the views of a person or organization, or is otherwise coordinated with their actions, by the mere fact that they associate with them in some capacity (either in the past or present). But if I declare myself a part of an organization — i.e., accept a “fellowship” — and that organization has certain kinds of goals, then it is entirely legitimate for someone to suppose that that constitutes evidence for a person having the same goals as the organization.

  38. Rieux

    Odd how Mooney’s defenders here are so interested in the awful tone of his critics, but seem to have missed the fact that Chris Mooney has just applied for, and won, a fifteen thousand dollar bribe to take a certain partisan position on a matter of significant debate.

    Mooney has just announced how little his integrity as a journalist is worth. After that, anyone who thinks that his critics’ tone is what’s significant about this story say more about their biases than about the events being discussed here.

  39. bilbo

    What’s the benefit in being a Fellow, other than the money? (Or is that the *only* reason to be one?)

    Not everyone in the journalism field feels the same about the Templeton Foundation as “New” atheists do, Hemant. Some Templeton fellows in the past have gone on to some fairly prestigious jobs and, more importantly, some pretty decent reputations, as well. I even know a few vocal, “confrontational” atheists that have been invited to summits on evolution hosted by the Templeton Foundation that loathe the foundation but went because of the level of discussion it stimulates. They actually said they had a great time and had some great discussions, even though they didn’t agree with everything the foundation stood for.

  40. Milton C.

    Odd how Mooney’s defenders here are so interested in the awful tone of his critics, but seem to have missed the fact that Chris Mooney has just applied for, and won, a fifteen thousand dollar bribe to take a certain partisan position on a matter of significant debate.

    What’s really “odd” is that people keep acting like the Templeton folks force you into some preconceived narrative, while the record of past Templeton fellows’ writings actually shows some pretty contradictory pieces. But, the broadbrush helps your argument, I suppose.

    Just to add something else, Rieux, I’m not actually “defending” Mooney. In fact, I disagree with most everything he says on science and religion. He just says it without being a douche, and I’m not commenting on it by being a douche, and so I thus get labeled as a “defender.” Kudos to looking very intelligent, as it seems you deem an argument’s relevance based on its level of offense.

  41. Kagehi

    I think it would be interesting to see how you would propose to bridge secularism and religion.

    The same way the Catholic church just announced, by finding people that don’t believe in, and/or are fairly sure churches have no clue if, or what, god exists, who, to quote their bit of silliness, “Want to get closer to god.” I don’t know.. Do they, or Mooney, plan to build a “god” museum, sort of like Ken Ham’s Creation museum, so people can get pictures of themselves riding god? Is that the definition of “closer” we are getting at here? Because, the absolute ***best*** that can be said about *any* form of god that is both loosely compatible with the Templeton Foundation’s definition, and scientific work, is one that’s kind of there, but does **nothing** at all that would in any way, shape, or form, prevent science from figuring stuff out, without adding, “and here god does this, so that the other thing works”. Heck, there is even one, currently a bit mocked, physicists that thinks the whole solution to a current “gap” between quantum and macro level effects is… “gravity”. The theory being, below a certain definite size, gravity can’t warp space enough to “prevent” quantum effects, but if you get enough mass, close enough together, such effects become impossible, at that threshold. So far, at least one experimenter has shown that such effects “still work”, at sizes larger than a buckyball, which, while tiny, is **not** a particle, but a mass of carbon atoms, and therefore already violates the “big things can’t do this”, rules. We just don’t know how big you have to get yet, or, for that matter, if the effect is, say specific to the substance, it natural state (solid/liquid/gas), etc. But, that you can get quantum effects on those scales, looks *very bad* for the man’s detractors, some of which see the difference as one of those very irreconcilable things you need a god to solve. Same goes for alternates to black holes, i.e. black stars (super hot plasma, too dense to escape itself, but behaving exactly like black holes would, except of (assuming you could see one) physical dimensions (it can’t form a singularity at all), and numerous others, just on astrophysics alone.

    What reconciliation can you get, if, in the end, you don’t need god to fill anything but increasingly smaller holes? I am pretty sure Templeton has no intent of ever coming out and going, “Well, at this points its pretty obvious we can throw out just about every book ever written on gods, which is the bad news. But, the good news is, there is still *deism*!” And, despite huge amounts of hand waving, and talk about things “missing” from our knowledge still, the trajectory seems to, if not on target for, then skirt the edge of that mark, by a ***very*** narrow miss indeed. Seems like, all such attempts to reconcile do is temporarily prevent people looking for better answers, and partly, due to the people looking not getting the money to look, instead of someone writing yet another book about how confused they are about X, Y and Z, and they don’t imagine anyone having theories or answers, therefor Q (which is at least as good an explanation as god for filling in “unknowns”). Hint: Q, for those not knowing, is a god like being from the Star Trek universe. lol

  42. Seminatrix

    Chris Mooney has just applied for, and won, a fifteen thousand dollar bribe to take a certain partisan position on a matter of significant debate.

    Ah, so now when someone receives money from an organization for which they applied by outlining their own original project proposal, it’s a “bribe.” I see. I suppose I’ve taken quite a few bribes over the years, then.

    Hyperbole over substance, Rieux. That sounds almost science-denialistesque.

  43. Tulse

    How would the folks here feel if a journalist writing on climate issues asked for a paid fellowship from a conservative-funded organization dedicated to “exploring the interface between capitalism and climate”? Would that raise any questions about objectivity and integrity?

  44. bilbo

    How would the folks here feel if a journalist writing on climate issues asked for a paid fellowship from a conservative-funded organization dedicated to “exploring the interface between capitalism and climate”? Would that raise any questions about objectivity and integrity?

    Yours is a curiously woolly-headed argument, Tulse. Why? Because it is my understanding that the Foundation doesn’t allow fellows to publish during their tenure as a fellow, similar to how I believe Chris’s current Knight Fellowship doesn’t want fellows to publish during their tenure to avoid such questions regarding objectivity as you pose.

    And seeing as how people like Richard Dawkins and Dan Dennett are on the fellowship’s “recommended prepatatory reading” list, your worrisome cries that the discussions are unobjective seems to be quite unfounded.

    Let’s make mountains out of molehills. Shall we?

  45. I agree with the others who would like to see Mooney’s application before making a judgment. Let’s see what his response is.

  46. bilbo

    Or how about waiting to see the fruits of Mooney’s fellowship? That would be even better, seeing as how objectivity in craft, not personal opinion, is the standard of journalism.

  47. rrt

    I’m aware of how emotional the issue of Chris’ “accomodationism” is, on both sides. But my personal sympathies (“New Athiest”) aside, I am a bit taken aback by this decision. Chris, the Templeton Foundation may not be as bad as many would paint it, but you cannot seriously argue they are clean. They have a foregone conclusion and they pay people to advance it. Now they are paying you to advance it. A science journalist should see the problem with that sequence.

    It does not matter how much you may agree with Templeton’s conclusion; by this bargain you have either compromised your integrity or fully revealed an existing compromise.

  48. Tulse

    it is my understanding that the Foundation doesn’t allow fellows to publish during their tenure as a fellow

    So it would be OK for a climate journalist to accept money for a year from the organization I described above, as long as they didn’t publish during that year? That’s all you require for objectivity and journalistic independence?

  49. bilbo,
    I’d like to know Mooney’s explanation to the foundation as to how the fellowship will improve his science reporting. Just what are these “fruits” of the fellowships? How has it made any of those who have taken them better science writers? I’m having trouble understanding how learning about religion will help reporting on science. Mooney must have given the foundation a satisfactory answer.

  50. TB

    Congratulations Chris, I’m sure the result will be interesting and spark much gnashing of teeth.

    I’m also interested to see how all these detractors will condemn those folks entering the Reason Projects’ video contest – first prize $10,000!

    After all, those people will no longer be trusted in what they say since it’s money coming from a partisan entity.

  51. rrt

    Are the applicants journalists?

    Is the award targeting journalists?

    Does the Reason Project pretend it isn’t specifically devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society?

    If yes, I would indeed condemn them.

  52. Tulse

    I’m also interested to see how all these detractors will condemn those folks entering the Reason Projects’ video contest – first prize $10,000!

    I’d feel precisely the same way if the applicant claimed to be journalist. And for the record, I feel the same way about entertainment “journalists” who accept studio junkets, and doctors who accept “conference” trips from pharmaceutical companies.

    Look, this wouldn’t be an issue if Chris didn’t call himself a journalist. If he simply said he was a “writer”, there would be no foundation for these criticisms. The problem is that one cannot accept a paid position like this, from an organization with a clear slant on an issue, and then expect to be seen as objective when writing about that issue.

  53. Congratulations on your successful application for 30 pieces of silver.

  54. bilbo

    So it would be OK for a climate journalist to accept money for a year from the organization I described above, as long as they didn’t publish during that year? That’s all you require for objectivity and journalistic independence?

    Tulse, I know some journalists who don’t even vote in national elections because they think it’ll ruin their objectivity. But for the most part, the product of a journalist is what is held to a standard of objectivity, not the person’s personal convictions. If we were to deem a journalist biased based on your criteria, we’d lose a fair majority of the country’s journalists. Most of the journalists I know, in fact, are card-carrying members of some die-hard partisan groups, do paid freelance work for very narrative-minded associations, etc. Chris mostly does editorials or opinion pieces when he writes about science, anyway, so he’s not even reporting then. Those are two of the reasons why I think you’re whining about something that you’ve blown miles away from proportion. I’ll change my mind if Chris writes an actual news article that shows some considerable slant after this, but until then, all of your fuss is being made because you don’t like Chris/the TF. Why don’t we see you whining equally as hard about other similar cases in journalism? Because, well, we don’t.

  55. bilbo

    “write about science” should be “writes about science and religion” in my above comment, still in moderation

  56. bilbo

    Oh, but of course the Reason Project’s payoff isn’t a bribe to get people to present a preconceived narrative, because we agree with their narrative.

    It’s only a bribe if you disagree with the person’s opinion…

  57. Seminatrix

    So when Chris Mooney calls himself a journalist and associates himself with the Templeton Foundation he’s horribly breaking objectivity, but there are strangely no cries when the Reason Project pays Christopher Hitchens (who also bills himself as a journalist on their website) to fly out to advisory board meetings.

    Accommodationist journalist accepting money to help a pro-accommodationist organization = bribe

    Atheist journalist accepting money to help a pro-nonbelief organization = awesome

    I see.

  58. Philip Jr.

    If the Templeton Fellowship is a “bribe” to write pro-accommodationism articles, can someone tell me why a good many of the past Templeton fellows don’t write pro-accommodationism articles?

    Some of them do, of course, but others also go directly opposite the narrative I see you all claiming the foundation forces its fellows to buy into. Tiem for a little less hyperbole and a lot more reality from the peanut gallery, perhaps?

  59. Sao Paul

    The behavior I’ve seen here puts the nail in the New Atheists’ coffin in terms of my personal opinion of them. You guys are acting like bat-shit crazy children. If I wrote some of that crap, I’d look back later after my emotions died down and be utterly ashamed of myself.

  60. Tulse,
    To be fair, Mooney is openly an advocacy journalist, not an “objective” reporter. The standards for the two are different. Advocacy journalists are supposed to have a “clear slant on an issue.” Just compare articles about health care in the National Review and The Nation. As long as there’s no deception, there’s nothing wrong it with.

  61. bilbo

    OMG, did Bradley just make a point I totally agree with?!

    Yes, yes he did.

  62. Milton C.

    Tulse,
    To be fair, Mooney is openly an advocacy journalist, not an “objective” reporter. The standards for the two are different. Advocacy journalists are supposed to have a “clear slant on an issue.” Just compare articles about health care in the National Review and The Nation. As long as there’s no deception, there’s nothing wrong it with.

    That’s one of the reasons why all of these accusations of fraud and bribes are unfounded and nothing more than hyperbole being used as an extension of an existing personal hatred of Mooney/accommodationism. Chris doesn’t pretend to be an objective journalist; as Bradley said, he writes almost exclusively opinion pieces and editorials.

    To hammer the point home one more time, I don’t agree with Mooney’s stance on science and religion one bit. But I have enough sense to see through the stupidity and character assassination campaigns suddently being launched in the name of tribalism. Think, people. You can hate the Templeton Foundation without stooping to fifth-rate arguing to do it.

  63. Tulse

    Mooney is openly an advocacy journalist, not an “objective” reporter. The standards for the two are different. Advocacy journalists are supposed to have a “clear slant on an issue.”

    So we shouldn’t take what Chris writes as an objective view on the issues?

  64. Eheheheheh. Nice Chris, keep on smilin’.

  65. SLC

    Past fellows include Sandra Blakeslee, Juliet Eilperin, Marc Kaufman, Rob Stein, William Saletan, John Horgan, George Johnson, Shankar Vedantam, and many other top science journalists.

    This the same William Saletan who wrote a number of posts for Slate praising the work of neo-fascist racist Philip Rushton? Not the sort of company I would be comfortable in.

  66. bilbo

    Do you expect an editorial written by Christopher Hitchens to give equal face time to religious arguments without stating an opinion?

  67. bilbo

    So we shouldn’t take what Chris writes as an objective view on the issues?

    Do you expect an editorial written by Christopher Hitchens to give equal face time to religious arguments without stating an opinion?

    Something smells like Tulse is using a double standard that he/she will do anything to maintain.

  68. CR

    Seminatrix (#41) said:

    “Ah, so now when someone receives money from an organization for which they applied by outlining their own original project proposal, it’s a “bribe.” I see. I suppose I’ve taken quite a few bribes over the years, then.”

    Journalists and scientists should be after the truth. Mooney is starting with a preconceived (and unsupported) conclusion, and sought funds from a group that promotes that same conclusion (without regard to truth).

    So while I agree that “bribe” is an inappropriate word, it is still contemptible.

  69. Tulse,
    Mooney will marshal facts to support his beliefs. As long as the facts are not misleadingly represented, that’s fair in advocacy journalism. If he thinks the facts are strongly on one side, there’s no mandate he has to balance everything out. (Of course, if what one thinks of as solid facts turn out not to be so solid, that presents the advocacy journalist with a dilemma — either ignore the problems or change one’s views).

    “Objective” journalists have trouble with lopsided issues, such as evolution/creation, because their instinct is to give the sides equal credence. That favors the viewpoint with fewer facts behind it.

    What I do and suggest for others, is to read those with differing viewpoints, and see who comes closest to the full truth in your estimation, along with some “objective” journalists.

  70. Jeff

    UM – any way that Sheril can edit her post?

  71. TB

    Oh! They have to be “journalists!” Apparently it’s OK to be a scientist and be associated with a partisan group, though. Good to know that journalism is an intellectually purer pursuit than scientist.
    But, how about if they’re not “journalists” yet? By the logic expressed here, if they submit something to the Reason Project they’re tainted for the rest of their lives.
    And it’s worse in that case, because there may not be a public record easily found in a few years for an entry that doesn’t win.
    For any future employment that may somehow be construed as journalism, they now become disqualified, and we can only rely on them to honestly disclose that potential conflict.
    At least Chris is engaging in full disclosure here.
    In reality, journalists actually express their preferences in the voting booth, write partisan columns on controversial issues and – basically – have opinions.
    The narrow idea of journalist as stenographer is only one aspect of the profession, an aspect that Chris has not strictly engaged in for a while, and that fact does not disqualify him as a journalist.
    Tempost, teapot.

  72. Tulse

    Do you expect an editorial written by Christopher Hitchens to give equal face time to religious arguments without stating an opinion?

    No, but I don’t consider Christopher Hitchens a journalist — he is a commentator and writer, but not a journalist.

  73. bilbo

    Objective” journalists have trouble with lopsided issues, such as evolution/creation, because their instinct is to give the sides equal credence. That favors the viewpoint with fewer facts behind it.

    Again I’ll pose, Tulse: Christopher Hitchens calls himself a “journalist,” just like Mooney. He also writes mostly one-sided opinion pieces these days (“advocacy journalism”), just like Mooney. The Reason Project (a partisan organization) pays him an honorarium to serve on their AB and represent the foundation, just like the Templeton Foundation (a partisan organization) will being paying Chris an honorarium to represent them.

    So, if you’re not just using objectivity as a shell argument to cloak a seething hatred for all things Mooney, let’s see some public blogosphere scolding from you in other cases, using people doing the same things as Mooney but whose opinions you agree with.

  74. bilbo

    He freely calls himself a journalist and lets the organizations he’s affiliated with call him so, Tulse. Now, let’s see some criticism of him, as well.

    You know – be “objective.”

  75. TB

    Actually, Bilbo, the Templeton Foundation won’t be paying Chris to represent them. He’s free to come out of that experience with any point of view he wants.

  76. TB

    From http://www.reasonproject.org/about/advisory_board/

    “Christopher Hitchens
    Christopher Hitchens is an author, journalist, and literary critic. ”

    Go get ‘em, Tulse!

  77. bilbo
  78. Philip Jr.

    Actually, Bilbo, the Templeton Foundation won’t be paying Chris to represent them. He’s free to come out of that experience with any point of view he wants.

    Precisely. which is why I’ll ask again:

    “If the Templeton Fellowship is a “bribe” to write pro-accommodationism articles, can someone tell me why a good many of the past Templeton fellows don’t write pro-accommodationism articles?

    Some of them do, of course, but others also go directly opposite the narrative I see you all claiming the foundation forces its fellows to buy into. Tiem for a little less hyperbole and a lot more reality from the peanut gallery, perhaps?”

  79. Tulse

    As I stated above, I don’t consider Hitchens a journalist, and I certainly don’t expect him to be objective about the issue of religion (I also disagree with him in a lot of instances).

    If you want to call Chris an “advocacy journalist”, that’s fine by me, as that makes it clear that he is advocating a particular viewpoint, just as the Templeton Foundation does. But that makes this fellowship nothing more than like-minded folks paying him. It really does toss the notion of journalistic objectivity out the window.

    (And frankly, if your standard for “journalism” is Hitchens, that’s an extremely low bar.)

  80. MadScientist

    I’m sure many would love to see the essay you submitted as part of the application. Do post it.

  81. bilbo

    You need to understand that the New Atheism IS hyperbole, Philip. My Catholic mother-in-law is guilty of child molestation and murder to them, and despite the fact that she partakes in anti-creationism/ID protests, she’s a creationism enabler.

    Same thing here. Chris got award a fellowship, so he’s been bribed to foster a narrative, and not only that – everything he’s written over the past 5 years has all been a carefully concocted plan to get it!

  82. rrt

    Bilbo, Tulse isn’t attacking Chris’ personal convictions in this case. He’s attacking his material conflicts of interest, as am I.

    As for double standards, are you honestly suggesting I think of Hitchens as an objective journalist? Until you started using that label, I never even thought to consider him a journalist at all. Moreover, I don’t know what other institutions pay Hitchens, but at the very least the Reason Foundation doesn’t hide their agenda. The same is not true for Templeton.

    But perhaps I am going about this all wrong. If your defense of Chris is to compare him to Hitchens, then I’ve clearly made a category error on Chris.

  83. bilbo

    Bilbo:

    “Again I’ll pose, Tulse: Christopher Hitchens calls himself a “journalist,” just like Mooney. He also writes mostly one-sided opinion pieces these days (”advocacy journalism”), just like Mooney. The Reason Project (a partisan organization) pays him an honorarium to serve on their AB and represent the foundation, just like the Templeton Foundation (a partisan organization) will being paying Chris an honorarium to represent them.

    So, if you’re not just using objectivity as a shell argument to cloak a seething hatred for all things Mooney, let’s see some public blogosphere scolding from you in other cases, using people doing the same things as Mooney but whose opinions you agree with.

    He (Hitchens) freely calls himself a journalist and lets the organizations he’s affiliated with call him so”

    Tulse, in response:

    “As I stated above, I don’t consider Hitchens a journalist, and I certainly don’t expect him to be objective about the issue of religion (I also disagree with him in a lot of instances).

    If you want to call Chris an “advocacy journalist”, that’s fine by me, as that makes it clear that he is advocating a particular viewpoint, just as the Templeton Foundation does. But that makes this fellowship nothing more than like-minded folks paying him. It really does toss the notion of journalistic objectivity out the window.”

    Alright, then. Your objectivity shell argument is duly noted.

  84. bilbo

    see post #77, rrt

  85. Philip Jr.

    You need to understand that the New Atheism IS hyperbole, Philip. My Catholic mother-in-law is guilty of child molestation and murder to them, and despite the fact that she partakes in anti-creationism/ID protests, she’s a creationism enabler.

    Although I haven’t followed them very closely, bilbo, your impression is the one I’ve gotten as well: a value of rhetoric over substance and hyperbole over reality. This thread just verifies as much.

  86. TB

    rrt and Tulse

    How you both define Hitchens doesn’t matter. And we’re not defining him either.

    He’s clearly identified as a journalist by the advocacy group he’s associated with and likely approves of that label or else it wouldn’t be up there.

    You’re both criticizing Chris for self-identifying as a journalist and accepting this fellowship from a partisan group. Yet Hitchens doesn’t just self-identify as a journalist, he’s on the Advisory Board of a partisan group.

    You can try to parse this as much as you want, but I’m not buying it.

  87. Philip Jr.

    Let me add to post #86, “…which is sickening, because I’m a nonbeliever myself. I left religion decades ago to get away from such nonsense and parlor games.”

  88. articulett

    If Chris’ aim was truly to spread a public understanding of science, then he would not align himself with an organization whose aim is to obfuscate understanding of specific areas of science and spread prejudice against those who speak the truth.

    There is no more evidence for gods and souls than there is for demons and Thetans. The real heroes in science are those who help spread that understanding to humanity so we can grow beyond the dark ages of religion and magical thinking.

    The emperor has no clothes, but Chris has just signed on to explore and expound upon the magical fabrics said emperor could be wearing.

  89. YHWH

    Congratulations on the fellowship. I should also be most interested in reading your deserving application essay.

  90. Philip Jr.

    Articulett, I admittedly haven’t read everything Chris has written on science and religion, but I constantly see him advocating for “the truth” on the topics of evolution and science. The writings you seem not to like involve philosophical interpretations of how compatible religions is with science. I’ve never seen Chris promote an “anti science” or “anti truth” agenda.

    You just seem to be mad at Chris because he’s not a megaphone for confrontational atheism, and you’re couching it in a faux “enemy of science” facade. By all means, give Mooney hell if you don’t agree with him….just don’t use fifth-rate rhetorical screeds to do so.

  91. rrt

    Bilbo: Oh, you’re SO right. You couldn’t get me to shut up about Hitchens and his journalistic integrity before this. It’s all I ever talked about. All the more remarkable, really, given my ignorance about his…uh…journalism and integrity…

    Philip Jr.: Really? Your impression is that “New Atheists” think little old anti-creationist Catholic ladies are murdering creationist-enabling child molesters? Really?

  92. Robin Hilliard

    The Templeton Foundation is paying you money?

    I suggest you learn about the TF before accepting this poisoned chalice.

  93. Kagehi

    Sao Paul, there is nothing *new* about “new atheism”. Must of the things being said where brought up, if not as concisely, or by as many people, and with just as much certitude, but people ranging from Aristotle, to Nietzsche, to Samual Clemens (who makes some of the people today being called “new atheists”, with some of his statements, look like accomidationists). The only thing new about it is the rising realization, among a lot of paranoid people, who have the complete opposite view (even when you can’t quite pin down what that is, beyond god = real, reality = conspiracy), that much of the Western world doesn’t care much about the subject any more, and/or there are a lot of damn people actually writing books, talking about why they think gods don’t exist, and generally rocking the boat, than their previously was.

    In short, we stopped marking darwin fish on the wall (reference to Christians using fish to mark meeting places), and starts ***gasp!!*** actually building, well.. buildings, and organizations, etc.

    What is troubling here isn’t that Mooney might use money to do science, its that he *got it* from people whose stated purpose, primary membership, and goal in picking who won (including from among others, who flat out stated they didn’t think you can reconcile the two), is to promote the idea that they can do so. Try asking the people, in the more extreme case of this kind of gibberish, who have had to leave their orthodox faith, and/or quit their jobs, because some council of orthodoxy decided, from one year to the next, that god didn’t like what they where researching. Templeton is not *as bad*, but their purpose, what ever the claim, has never been to promote science “first”, or “solely”, or even “when in conflict with” religion.

    As for the commentary being made on journalism. At one time journalists where **required** to do fact checking, to present the truth as they found it, not to add in personal opinion, or bias the reporting from that, or “give both sides equal time”, if one of them had their bloody facts completely wrong. In the last 20-30 years there has been a take over, on both sides, of some of the media, which has distorted this. You are **very** likely to see things, if you flip between various news channels, including say CNN, MSNBC, FOX and BBC, where they all have “some” bias as to their perspective, but where some of them will do things like:

    1. Breaking off of presidential speeches to go to their talking heads, not show the rest of the speech, and just babble about what they *think* he was going to say.
    2. Cherry picking segments of video to support their claims, rather than showing the entire videos (or, again in the cases of the ones doing this the worst, not giving you any way to see the rest, so you can see if it *is* in context or not).
    3. Intentionally picking people they know will play badly to their watchers, don’t have their facts right, or are horrible as presenting them, and pitting them against people who are professional at shouting down, interrupting, throwing in side arguments, or otherwise disrupting attempts to get the facts across.
    4. Doing #3, but with the intent of bringing in someone to “discredit” the opposition, by knowing they will use such tactics, and therefor their side, even if dead wrong on their own facts, will look more rational.
    5. Never checking their facts ***at all***, or admitting to making mistakes, unless its in fine print, where no one will see it, if there is the slightest chance that their pre-determined position might actually be wrong.

    All of the above is now deemed “journalism”.

    Now, I don’t accuse Mooney of any of this, though he does have other flaws. One of those seems to be the unfortunate tendency of people with high skill in “one” field, to pontificate on others (even when they can’t even get basic things right in it, so reach entirely erroneous conclusions about what is known, thought, been considered, or theorized in that field). The other is… He has to depend on the sort of people that do 1-5 above, to get their own facts straight, when his books, or his words from an interview, get sent through the information shredder of people who, even when they don’t intent to do 1-4, never the less often fall pray to *both* 5, and their own lack of proper grasp of the field being discussed. I.e., they don’t check their facts, or make sure, by going back to the source, that they got it right, and they usually have very little clue how to tell if they themselves got it wrong in the first place, and **need** to ask if they got it right before publishing.

    Now, throw in some group like Templeton, which has a specific stated goal in mind, which they will *attempt* whenever possible to spin their own press, or encourage such reviewers/interviewers/third-fourth hand reporters to disseminate, and Mooney could a clone of the brains of Nietzsche + Clemens and still be made out to sound like he was suggesting that god personally guided the hand of ever person writing a science text, or what ever the foundation wanted to imply is true about the interface between religion and science, none of which is supported by more than a lot of vague hand waving and authoritarianism. The same thing people accuse those that claim they are not compatible for doing, by pointing out people that write books, which argue against the idea.

  94. rrt

    To those so eager to see Chris’ application essay: I agree it would be nice to see. But don’t expect anything exciting. Templeton doesn’t need you to say “YAY GOD!” They just want you to find some way to suggest we should all leave our minds open.

  95. Philip Jr.

    rrt:

    That statement is, almost verbatim, what some “New Atheists” say, although it certainly doesn’t apply to all who willingly like that label, of course.

    Here’s one thing we can agree on: isn’t that just a stupid, moronic, reality-ignorant assumption? Yes it is.

  96. Sao Paul

    Now, I don’t accuse Mooney of any of this

    He has to depend on the sort of people that do 1-5 above, to get their own facts straight, when his books, or his words from an interview, get sent through the information shredder of people who, even when they don’t intent to do 1-4, never the less often fall pray to *both* 5, and their own lack of proper grasp of the field being discussed. I.e., they don’t check their facts, or make sure, by going back to the source, that they got it right, and they usually have very little clue how to tell if they themselves got it wrong in the first place, and **need** to ask if they got it right before publishing.

    Well, actually, you just did.

    What I’ve seen of criticism of Mooney’s science-religion writings is based strictly on his opinion of facts, not the facts themselves. Did PZ Myers throw a cracker in a trashcan? Of course, but the disagreement comes over the implications of that case. Do a lot of New Atheist bloggers write purposefully offensive screeds? Of course, but the opinions of people about whether or not that’s appropriate are mucch different than Mooney’s.
    did philosopher X once make statement Y that can interpreted multiple ways. Of course – but the disagreement comes over which interpretation is the correct one. Does the public not accept scientific facts? Absolutely – but Mooney’s favorite strategy may not be yours.

    Disagreeing with someone’s opinion is much, much different that accusing them of dishonest journalism, but that exactly what seems to be getting conflated by a lot of the posters here. As Philip said earlier, by all means, criticize Mooney if you don’t agree with him. But spare us the pathetic hyperbolic accusations and buffoonery. If you’ve got a good point, argue it without empty rhetoric and purposeful distortions. That’s not too much to ask.

  97. bilbo

    Oh, you’re SO right. You couldn’t get me to shut up about Hitchens and his journalistic integrity before this. It’s all I ever talked about

    Precisely. Your vocal whining about Mooney but stark silence/apathy about others doing the same thing (just with a bias you agree with) is exactly the double-standard we’re talking about.

  98. Charles Evo

    Very disturbing news, but oddly, I’m not terribly surprised.

  99. articulett

    Templeton treats certain religious superstitions and pseudosciences as “respectable” and “compatible” with science when the fact is that NO magical beliefs nor faith-based thinking is compatible with the evidence-based foundation of the scientific method. At best, religion is irrelevant to science. More often it gives pseudo answers that stops the search for truth.

    Templeton doesn’t demand special coddling for all equally unsupported claims– just the ones they can tie to a a biblical brand of invisible man; their goal is to prop up faith as a means of knowledge so that it can ride on the respectable coat tails of science. I’m sure Templeton’s supporters would balk at Scientology, Wiccans, or New Age woo-ists trying to get in on the game. But is there any difference? I don’t see any.

    If Chris thought it smarmy to suggest that “The Secret” might have a scientific basis, then he ought to feel equally ashamed at accepting a Templeton prize per my reasoning. It’s not nice to lead people to a comfortable delusion if you wouldn’t want such a thing done to you.

  100. rrt

    Bilbo: Forgive me for thinking Chris had something to lose, and for not realizing that my own raging, flaming hypocrisy–as demonstrated by my failure to condemn Hitchens’ foibles often enough to satisfy your standards–absolves Chris’.

    Philip: who says that? Show us.

  101. Michael Kingsford Gray

    This award in no way reduces my opinion of Chris.

  102. Philip Jr.

    ..but you weren’t talking about Templeton earlier, articulett – you were calling Chris an enemy of science (but thanks for the platform speech, anyway).

    Your implicit statement that Chris is somehow against science because he respects religious thinkers is quite the woolly-headed, foolish position which attempts to carry over an opinion on the role of respect to whether or not one accepts or champions science. Those two aren’t mutually exclusive, of course, but one can certainly champion an understanding of science while holding some completely irrational beliefs about religion. Right or wrong, this isn’t a secret to any of us, irrespective of belief/unbelief.

    Mooney thinking that people should be nicer to religion may be a foolish position, but an equally foolish position is that, because he thinks so, Mooney’s aim is not “a public understanding of science.” Do not conflate an understanding of science with your opinion of how we should deal with the religious, articulett. That’s just as deluded and woolly-headed as believing there’s an invisible man in the sky telling you to.

  103. Philip Jr.

    rrt,

    There was quite the lengthy comment discussion several weeks back on this very blog where several people posted in-context quotations from “New Atheist” bloggers making statements just like the ones I mention. There were several examples, followed up by NA commenters echoing their approval.

    The tendency for many (including yourself) here to link Chris’s entire career to a conspiracy to get a Templeton Fellowship is qute the extension of such worthless, empty hyperbole.

  104. As for the commentary being made on journalism. At one time journalists where **required** to do fact checking, to present the truth as they found it, not to add in personal opinion, or bias the reporting from that, or “give both sides equal time”, if one of them had their bloody facts completely wrong. In the last 20-30 years there has been a take over, on both sides, of some of the media, which has distorted this. You are **very** likely to see things, if you flip between various news channels, including say CNN, MSNBC, FOX and BBC, where they all have “some” bias as to their perspective, but where some of them will do things like:

    As someone who commits journalism for a living, here’s a few points:

    1: Partisan journalism is as old as the Republic (even older, because they existed before the Revolution, with Whig and Tory newspapers). The Founders didn’t expect objective journalism; they expected that various viewpoints and errors would balance out in the marketplace of ideas. The Internet makes this marketplace more efficient than it’s ever been in history.

    2: Although I wish Mooney would speak for himself on the subject, it’s entirely plausible that he might wish to learn how to deal more effectively with religious people and ideas. Being exposed to them in a formal setting might help. That wouldn’t be science training per se, it would be more like PR training.

    3: The risk of having one’s views suborned with the Templeton fellowship or anything like it is not trivial. It’s not just a matter of what one will say, but what one might not say, out of a sense of obligation. This needs to be balanced against any expected benefits.

    4: The best antidote to being suborned, or the perception of being suborned, is complete openness, from start to finish. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Admit the concern is valid, and try to dispel it by providing as much information as possible, positive and negative. And make sure the Templeton Foundation knows this is how you’ll behave.

  105. rrt

    Again: Show me. Show me them explicitly stating, or stating a reasonable equivalent of:

    “[Your] Catholic mother-in-law is guilty of child molestation and murder…and despite the fact that she partakes in anti-creationism/ID protests, she’s a creationism enabler.”

    Show me that.

    We aren’t done if you do, but show me that.

  106. TB

    Sure, rrt, that’s easy. Here’s the version of that attitude that finally turned me away from the New Atheists.=:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/05/modern_day_isaacs.php

    “Prosecutors contend any reasonable parent would have known something was wrong and Neumann, who believes healing comes from God, recklessly killed her daughter by praying instead of rushing her to a doctor as the girl became so weak she couldn’t walk or talk.”

    snip

    “I have to say something that is heartfelt, and is also meant to offend. I do not absolve you mealy-mouthed moderates, I do not regard your beliefs as harmless. If Colleen Hauser or Leilani Neumann were in your church, you’d tell them to get medical care, but you’d also validate their belief in prayers. You would provide the soothing background muzak that says prayer is good, prayer is virtuous, prayer will connect you to the great lord who can do anything, prayer will give you solace in your time of worry. You would not raise your voice to say that prayer is useless, prayer is self-defeating, that while prayer might make you feel better while your child is suffering, that is no virtue. You pray yourselves. You think it is a noble and generous act for your representatives to prowl the corridors of hospitals, preying on the desperation of the sick. You abase yourselves before false hopes, and sacrifice human dignity on an altar built from the bones of the dead. You would spread the poison, piously excusing yourselves because you only want to administer sub-lethal doses.
    You are Abraham’s enablers. I hope you all feel a small tremor of guilt when you sit your own children down at bedtime to beg a nonexistent being for aid, when you plant the seed of futile supplication and surrender to delusions in their trusting minds. Damn you all.”

    Guilt by association.

  107. Philip Jr.

    Of course no one said that about explicitly me, Philip Jr.’s, Catholic mother-in-law. It was an extrapolation of several statements about people who fit her mold. You’re obfuscating, rrt.

  108. bilbo

    Philip’s correct, rrt. We had quite the lengthy discussion about this, complete with specific examples. I don’t carry much weight word-wise, but he’s not pulling your chain.

  109. rrt

    Again: Show me. Show me them explicitly stating, OR STATING A REASONABLE EQUIVALENT OF:

    “[Your] Catholic mother-in-law is guilty of child molestation and murder…and despite the fact that she partakes in anti-creationism/ID protests, she’s a creationism enabler.”

  110. articulett

    Chris’ thoughts on the Templeton foundation and the reconciliation between science and religionfrom 2001 can be found here:

    http://www.slate.com/id/115965/

    In this, Evolution fits into the modern “science and religion” reconciliation movement. The leading booster behind this trend has been Sir John Templeton, a retired financier who has, to be blunt, more money than God. Templeton’s foundation funds institutes, research, and conferences, and presents the annual Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, an award deliberately set at a monetary value exceeding the Nobel Prize and frequently given to a religious scientist. This year’s prize went to Dr. Arthur Peacocke, an Oxford physical biochemist and Anglican priest and a “leading advocate for the creative interaction of theology and science.” The quotation comes from a Templeton press release, but is copied verbatim in Evolution’s promotional materials: Like Gould, Peacocke is a spokesman for the series.

    Clearly he’s changed his tune, and it now seems obvious as to why.

  111. bilbo

    Although I wish Mooney would speak for himself on the subject, it’s entirely plausible that he might wish to learn how to deal more effectively with religious people and ideas. Being exposed to them in a formal setting might help. That wouldn’t be science training per se, it would be more like PR training.

    Uh oh, Bradley, you just uttered the cardinal sin of the New Atheism: “PR training.”

    Communication strategies are seen as a major intellectual weakness to New Atheists, many of whom cling to the old codgery scientist sneering from the ivory tower stereotype like a priest to a crucifix. If you’re not willing to say “go f____ yourself and die” to religious people, you’re a failure as a scientist to these people.

  112. Charles Evo
  113. bilbo

    I think you’re missing Philip’s point, rrt. He’s not referring to a one-on-one conversation but an extrapolation of very fundamental NA arguing points to a personal anecdote. You’er either purposefully obfuscating or somehow grossly confused.

  114. Kagehi

    Sao Paul, reread what I said. I am not accusing Mooney of actually doing any of the things I said **poor journalists** do, specifically. I do, rightly, claim that he has made a few statements about ancillary fields that may not be adequately accurate, and that this *exacerbates* an existing problem with full on journalists, who, too often, get basic things wrong in their own reporting of what other people say. Such people are *supposed to* hold themselves to a high standard, and attempt to avoid such mistake, yet.. we see them repeated in sloppy details in articles published in many magazines, and those poorly explained things, even more poorly, and badly understood, repeating on larger scales, in major media outlets (not to mention by people that think, and are usually dead wrong, that it somehow supports their agendas). I will leave it to PZ and others to address more direct criticisms of Mooney’s actual books, of which I have seen a few. Most of them suggest that his feeling of the need to find “allies” among people that have no intent of making themselves such, in order to keep allies that are unlikely to switch sides, just because someone reports the kooks on their side of the fence, has been a long standing, if you will “old atheism” method of trying to work towards a better future, and that all that this has brought us is 200+ years of people that have no interest in science that doesn’t support dogma, standing in the way of people that value truth, and impeding progress, **all** because the “old atheist” method was **precisely** to never rock the boat, never all a duck a duck, or at least not in public, and to place cultivating “allies” above the search for knowledge. This has been done, even when 4 seconds spent listening to the agenda of some of those we have called allies over the years made it blindingly obvious that they where allies only in the sense that a sheep and a wolf might both opt to run from a forest fire, in the short term, while one fulling intend to eat the other, once the danger had passed.

    That is our objection of Mooney, in a nutshell. We are supposed to waste resources on potential losses of “allies” with people who, if they truly desire to find scientific answers, **know** who it is we actually object to, and do not object to our exposing such truly delusional anti-science quacks, rather than marshaling those resources to other goals, such as.. I don’t know, using the allies we have, which represent 95% of the scientists world wide, to “fix” science education. Its enough to say, “You can find ways to say they are compatible, even if many (and in Europe, **very many**) think otherwise, but, in the lab, leave it at the door.” You don’t need to go around intentionally trying ease the anguish of 5% of the people that claim to be scientists, but “study” things like therapeutic touch, while whining ineffectually that evolution doesn’t explain the big bang. Those people have no interest in reconciling anything. What they want is a world in which religion has X answers, science has Y, and they only questions anyone gets to ask is from X to Y, not the other way around.

    I am fully aware these are **not** the people Mooney wants us finding allies among. I am also fully aware that we have spend two centuries trying to avoid annoying such people, in hopes that the number of those who are not so far down the rabbit hole will appreciate this gesture and help us, when the need arises. History has shown, however, that even when the only “atheist” causing any kind of ruckas was obscure philosophers and writers, who had no scientific backgrounds, when a situation arose between those that didn’t believe, and those that did, over scientific policy, ideas, theories, or principle, groups like Templeton ***always*** sided with the theists, every single time. See.. What I think Mooney misses *badly*, is that such groups fear losing credibility with a large majority that does believe, ***far more*** than they fear losing it with the scientific community. Their end game is to protect “some” science, not by protecting all of it, but by throwing what ever it can to the wolves, in hopes they will chew that over, instead of ripping it all apart.

    At some point, in every transition to a new way of living and thinking, someone has to stand up and say, “Damn the wolves. They can’t survive without us, and eventually we **will** outnumber them, unless they keep picking us off.” Mooney’s argument is, basically, “Yeah. But why would any of us want to be the one the wolves find?” Well.. Because the alternative doesn’t keep it from happening, and isn’t bloody logical, if your goal is defense of good science.

  115. rrt

    I’M purposely obfuscating. Yeah, that must be it.

    Okay. Let’s try it…ONE more time:

    Again: Show me. Show me them explicitly stating,

    OR

    STATING

    A

    REASONABLE

    EQUIVALENT

    OF:

    “[Your] Catholic mother-in-law is guilty of child molestation and murder…and despite the fact that she partakes in anti-creationism/ID protests, she’s a creationism enabler.”

    Still gonna pretend I meant Philip’s or your mother-in-law? You made that statement. Philip quoted it and agreed, saying: “your impression is the one I’ve gotten as well”. Then he said: “That statement is, ALMOST VERBATIM, what some “New Atheists” say, although it certainly doesn’t apply to all who willingly like that label, of course.” (emphasis mine. Note the backpedaling in the latter half.)

    I then asked for evidence in support of these statements. I’m still waiting. Not only do I believe they are inaccurate, I believe they are–in the context given–hypocritical.

    However, Philip did also say:

    “Here’s one thing we can agree on: isn’t that just a stupid, moronic, reality-ignorant assumption?”

    It SURE IS, Philip! :)

  116. bilbo,
    Uh oh, Bradley, you just uttered the cardinal sin of the New Atheism: “PR training.”

    Just remember I’m not necessarily endorsing the idea — All I’m saying it is a plausible motivation that doesn’t involve compromising one’s integrity, especially if one is an advocacy journalist. And I reluctantly admit that there is a place for PR training, although it’s commonly used to obscure, not enlighten.

    For me personally, the price of such a fellowship is too high. I think the risks of being perceived as being used exceed the benefits. Reading Jerry Coyne’s post on “The Templeton Bribe” was immensely unsettling. I’m glad not to be in a position where I personally have to refute it. Just thinking about it makes me queasy.

  117. bilbo

    Jerry Coyne would write an angry post about how Chris Mooney is an animal killer if he saw a photo of Chris eating a hotdog. And 50 people would comment on it calling for PETA to firebomb Chris’s house. An angry post from Jerry about what a horrible person Chris Mooney is happens about once a week these days.

  118. bilbo

    So, I just checked Jerry’s blog post after seeing Bradley mention it, and the comment thread over there is really telling. (Milton C., by the way, is somehow getting a levelheaded discussion out of always-hyperbolic New England Bob. We should get this guy to work in the Middle East.)

    Anyway, the source of the juvenile, overblown comments we’re seeing here appears to be some hilariously juvenile “hey Jerry! look at me!!!” sycophantism and group therapy session at WEIT. Some examples:

    1.) Charles Evo posts at 9:52 PM on WEIT: “I’m going to start calling him Chris Money!” Then, at 9:54 PM here: “Chris Money!”

    2.) At 4:31 PM, Russell Blackford says: “Congratulations on your successful application for 30 pieces of silver.”
    Then, apparently after thinking about it a while and deciding he needs some self-gratification, cronyism, and backpatting, Russell heads on over to WEIT and posts at 4:52 PM, “I’ve congratulated him in an appropriate way over on his thread.” To which MadScientist, Ophelia Benson, and articulett guffaw and congratulate (“good one!”).

    3.) articulett jabbers on WEIT about how stupid people like Philip Jr. are.

    4.) SLC posts at 10:14 AM on WEIT the equivalent of, “hey jerry! I was really the first person to point this out. Hey, jerry! Hey! can you see me? Are you listening, Jerry? Recognize me!! you should see what I said over there!”

    5.) Tulse totally contradicts an argument (s)he has been promoting over here about the nature of the fellowship. Here: Tulse claims that the fellowship was handed to Chris. On WEIT: tulse acknowledges that Chris, in fact, applied.

    6.) At 1:06 PM on WEIT, NEB just can’t stand the excitement any more. He’s practically pissing his pants. So he tells everyone, “hey! look what I posted over at the Intersection!!! Look at meeeeeee! *lists post*”

    These guys sound like the nerdy, lonely kids making fun of the football players to make themselves feel better in high school. It looks like we’re dealing with a bunch of children. Stay classy, New Atheists – I mean, kids.

    Someone will love you someday.

  119. J.J.E.

    @ Bilbo:

    “Again I’ll pose, Tulse: Christopher Hitchens calls himself a “journalist,” just like Mooney. He also writes mostly one-sided opinion pieces these days (”advocacy journalism”), just like Mooney.”

    So you are proposing putting Mooney in the same category as Hitchens? Works for me. I tend to agree with Hitchens more but (until the accommodationism thing) held people like Chris to a higher standard.

    Out of curiosity, does Chris’ transition from independent journalist to advocacy punditry (like Hitchens, Dawkins, etc.) mean that we can expect denunciations of Mooney’s perspective on accommodationism to be denounced as fundamentalism as frequently as NAs’ positions are?

    I repeat my first question in general, not just to Mooney.

    Would it have been ethical for Mooney posing as an independent journalist to be supported by Democratic cash while writing The Republican War On Science?

  120. J.J.E.

    * “we can expect Mooney’s perspective on accommodationism to be denounced”

  121. Katharine

    Realistically, my view on all this can be boiled down to ‘it’s ridiculous to say something that’s unsupportable even if it’s mollycoddling the vast majority of humanity’. Because accommodationism is just that. Mollycoddling.

  122. ThomasL

    Congratulations Chris Mooney – At least you understand one should study an issue before voicing an opinion about it.

    I find the commentary in here rather comical, Chris Mooney has been obviously in the “advocacy” camp for a very long time to anyone capable of recognizing advocacy. I don’t always agree, in fact I mostly disagree with what he writes, but at least I haven’t been confused about what kind of “journalism” was going on in here.

    The whole thread just sounds like a bunch of “the faithful” arguing their personal belief systems.

    Sad.

  123. I’m amused at all these people who want to defend this Judas selling out his integrity once and for all. Enjoy the money, Chris. I hope that the justified damage you’ll suffer is worth it.

    You disgusting traitor.

  124. JS

    billbo:

    Jerry Coyne would write an angry post about how Chris Mooney is an animal killer if he saw a photo of Chris eating a hotdog. And 50 people would comment on it calling for PETA to firebomb Chris’s house.

    Utter nonsense, and you know it. There are many people – Jerry Coyne among them, but he’s certainly not the only one – who have legitimate, honest differences with Chris Mooney’s approach to epistemology, religion, and journalism. You don’t have to like that, but stop carping about it as if everyone with a critique of Mooney’s work was some dumb, rabid dog.

    For someone who complains as loud and long as you do about partisan voices when it comes to Mooney and “accommodationism,” you sure do a good job caricaturing yourself as a reflexive Mooney defender. Why don’t you engage the substance of the criticism, instead of writing everyone else off as carrying some personal bias? You sure seem like you’d defend anything Mooney said, no matter how outlandish, so long as it gets you points for defending “your guy.” You don’t like hearing that? Then stop characterizing the rest of us like we have it in for Chris just because we “hate” him.

  125. I am not going to comment on Mooney’s choice to receive money from the Templeton Foundation, since that’s entirely up to him. It’s then up to the rest of us to take it into consideration when we evaluate things he writes (like we should take e.g. his role in CFI into consideration). This is possible, as long as there is full disclosure.

    What I will comment on, is the somewhat naive and idealistic opinion many commenters here seems to have about journalists. My father was a finance journalists, and while he didn’t received grants etc., he certainly received other fringe benefits, such as wine on birthdays and at Christmas, and cheaper loans. He also got freelance jobs writing press releases or similar for financial institutes from time to time.

    Now, my father did try to write impartially, but even with the best of intentions, it must have been hard to not get affected by these fringe benefits.

  126. JS

    I am not going to comment on Mooney’s choice to receive money from the Templeton Foundation, since that’s entirely up to him.

    Well, that’s very dainty and civil of you, which is your choice.

    Now, my father did try to write impartially, but even with the best of intentions, it must have been hard to not get affected by these fringe benefits.

    Oh, please. Are you really trying to compare a bottle of wine at Christmas with the $15,000 Mr. Mooney is receiving to “think” for the Templeton Foundation? If your point is that buying journalists with wine or money is wrong, and that it casts doubts on the journalist’s writing, then you’re correct. If your point is that a $15,000 grant from an intellectually dishonest religious organization whose purpose is to blur the line between reality and religious ideology is just the same as your bribing a reporter with a bottle of swill at Christmas, then I have to ask what you’ve been drinking, or whose been paying you.

  127. Tulse

    My father was a finance journalists, and while he didn’t received grants etc., he certainly received other fringe benefits, such as wine on birthdays and at Christmas, and cheaper loans.

    I don’t mean to cast aspersions on your father, but accepting such “fringe benefits”, especially something substantial like a cheaper loan, seems definitely to be violating journalistic integrity. Did he at least disclose such gifts to his readers? Would he have been OK with the automotive reporters accepting free vehicles from car companies, or the food critic getting their meals comped at restaurants?

    As for the broader conversation, I’m a bit confused, as some defenders of Chris seem to be saying that it is ridiculous to think that receiving money from Templeton would impact his objectivity, and others are saying that he is already biased, so what is the big deal. It’s strange to see supporters argue what seem to me to be diametrically opposed positions.

    As I see it, Chris is of course free to do whatever he likes, and take whoever’s money he likes. But from my perspective, by doing so he is definitely moving from being an actual “journalist” to being a “commentator” or “writer” or “critic” or “columnist” (or “blogger”). There is nothing at all wrong with that, and there are plenty of well-known folks I would put in that broad category (including Hitchens), as writers who are personally advocating a position rather than trying to objectively analyze an issue. But it does mean that his work now needs to be viewed through that lens.

  128. Matti K.

    The problem is that Mr. Mooney is an advocacte for shutting up, which is not a very good position for a journalist. He is not only actively advocating the compatibility of science and religion, he is also criticizing non-compatibilists for presenting their sincere view:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/05/31/civility-and-the-new-atheists/

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

    Mr. Mooney clearly thinks that non-compatibilist scientists should tone down their public criticism of compatibilism, for political reasons. That sounds like an advice from a politican, not like one from a journalist. The latter should be aquainted with the realities within the free marketplace of ideas.

  129. ThomasL

    Just too funny. Welcome to the much more complicated place we call the “real world”. Part of what some of us have tried to explain too many in here numerous times -> nothing in the actual world is nearly as straight forward as the nice, tidy theory one studies in a classroom. The realities of life inevitably intervene.

    Anyone who hasn’t realized there are untold influences (a bottle of wine or other gifts, money for winning an appointment, even falling sway to another’s charisma…) simply hasn’t spent any time in the adult world getting anything accomplished (or accomplishing anything in it, for that matter…).

    Some professions have codified the requirement to “avoid anything which could be viewed as a conflict”, not just outright obvious conflicts. That’s the way it was for me when I worked for the court. If anyone thinks there were not still conflicts everywhere, well, all I can say is talk to me after you’ve had a real job.

    At least this one isn’t hidden.

    Anything and everything one readsstudies should be taken by itself and analyzed on its own merit. Part of why “everyone agrees”, “the general consensus” and partisan argumentation are all bunk. A work either stands or falls on its own merit.

    Why we have such sayings as “follow the money”, “who benefits?” “everyone has a price (and “price” does not always = money)” and such are known by all. One should always be aware of what they are trying to be sold, and weigh something’s worth accordingly.

  130. Matti K.

    Correction to my last post:

    Calls to tone down discussion can be expected from _naive_ politicans, not competent journalists.

  131. Just for the information of those people who are asserting that The Reason Project advisory board either gives money to its members (like Christopher Hitchens) or flies them out to meetings. You don’t know what you’re talking about. None of us have gotten a penny for being on that advisory board, nor have there been any meetings for which we’d receive “expenses”.

  132. bilbo

    Utter nonsense, and you know it. There are many people – Jerry Coyne among them, but he’s certainly not the only one – who have legitimate, honest differences with Chris Mooney’s approach to epistemology, religion, and journalism. You don’t have to like that, but stop carping about it as if everyone with a critique of Mooney’s work was some dumb, rabid dog.

    Oh, believe me, JS, I know good and well that Jerry has some “legitimate, honest differences” with Chris. That’s not my problem. My problem is that he blows them out of proportion like a dumb, rabid dog in heat (latter desrciptor added to better reflect reality), blowing those differences out of proportion at the sacrifie of reality and at the benefit of getting an “attboy!” or two out of nodding sycophants such as yourself.

  133. bilbo

    Matti K.,

    I will actually be a “reflexive defender” of Mooney here. Chris is not a fan of “shutting up,” especially since he explicitly said the opposite. You’re quoting a Jerry Coyne post, which, coincidentally, is a fine example of Jerry taking the words of Mooney and blowing them out of proportion, as I highlighted in my last post. It’s the total opposite of reality, but it gets fellows like yourself to suckle that cracked, bleeding teat of hyperbole even harder, doesn’t it?

  134. Milton C.

    The problem is that Mr. Mooney is an advocacte for shutting up, which is not a very good position for a journalist. He is not only actively advocating the compatibility of science and religion, he is also criticizing non-compatibilists for presenting their sincere view:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/05/31/civility-and-the-new-atheists/

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

    Mr. Mooney clearly thinks that non-compatibilist scientists should tone down their public criticism of compatibilism, for political reasons. That sounds like an advice from a politican, not like one from a journalist. The latter should be aquainted with the realities within the free marketplace of ideas.

    Matti,

    It’s true – Chris would like people to “tone down” their rhetoric. But although I’m on your side as to my opinion of that point (I don’t think they have to), your accusation that this means “shut up” is a rather woolly-headed and worthless use of hyperbole. It makes you sound like you’re just trying to get attention rather than make a reasoned argument. Spare us the useless tribalism, and give us a good argument instead of playing to your own sidelines. I’m on your sideline, and your rampant distortios of reality are sickening.

  135. Seminatrix

    Hmm. I wake up to go check the blog. Hey, Mooney got a fellowship! Nice!

    …and the New Atheists are trying to turn it into the commission of a felony. Hyperbole and worthlessness duly noted. They must see Mooney as some kind of threat to waste all this time, breath, and energy on him.

    I’m going back to sleep.

  136. Thomas H.

    ““If the Templeton Fellowship is a “bribe” to write pro-accommodationism articles, can someone tell me why a good many of the past Templeton fellows don’t write pro-accommodationism articles?

    Excellent question. Methinks there’s a good reason it has never recieved an answer.

    You have to admit, though, Philip. It just sounds sexier to call it a bribe. It gets people worked up and fuels your personal feud with Mooney, even if it doesn’t remotely reflect reality. (I’ll also get labeled a “Mooney defender” for simply pointing out shoddy reasoning. That’s just another example.)

  137. Matti K.

    Bilbo and Milton C:

    OK. I change my first sentence in 124 to:

    “The problem is that Mr. Mooney is an advocacte for _strategic_ muting_,..”

    Any objections? In my opinion Mr. Mooney is not only objecting to the tone of the criticism (“rhetoric”), he clearly thinks that it is counterproductive to criticize compatibilism alltogether, escpecially the compatibilism of certain show-case scientists.

  138. Jon

    [T]here is nothing *new* about “new atheism”.

    There is nothing new about atheism. But the recent atheist is new. Would there be an atheist *movement* without Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Myers, and (probably) George W. Bush as a negative influence? Most likely no.

    So, the new atheism.

  139. Jon

    You sure seem like you’d defend anything Mooney said, no matter how outlandish, so long as it gets you points for defending “your guy.”

    You don’t know us here, Pharangula fanboy.

  140. Jon

    I was on this blog criticizing New Atheism while Chris was still defending Daniel Dennett from hostile reviews. I was on here slamming Hitchens’ *The Missionary Position* before he had even written *God is not great.* So I don’t always agree with Chris, at all.

  141. TB

    Rrr, see post 107 – it was in moderation

  142. J.J.E.

    Ah, the ever temperate bilbo…

    “My problem is that he blows them out of proportion like a dumb, rabid dog in heat (latter desrciptor added to better reflect reality), blowing those differences out of proportion at the sacrifie of reality [...]”

    The irony packed into that statement is rather amusing.

  143. rrt

    TB: Thank you.

    Now, you weren’t directly involved in the argument I was having over this, but I’ll use your citation to illustrate my point. In that quotation, did Myers say, in any way, that religious moderates who pray and teach their children to pray are murderers because of what Neumann did? Of course he didn’t. He called them enablers, and he said “I hope you all feel a small tremor of guilt when you sit your own children down at bedtime to beg a nonexistent being for aid, when you plant the seed of futile supplication and surrender to delusions in their trusting minds.”

    That is not equivalent to calling them murderers. Nor is it equivalent to calling them creationism-enablers despite the fact that they actively protest against creationism and ID. Of course, I’m not sure it’s possible to have a religious person (at least among the Judaic versions) who dislikes the concept of prayer and encourages their fellows to stop it. But that’s Myers’ point: Prayer, in and of itself, is not harmless.

    This argument started in the context of hyperbole. But is it not hyperbole to suggest that this statement from Myers is equivalent to labeling all who pray as murderers?

  144. Mr. Mooney clearly thinks that non-compatibilist scientists should tone down their public criticism of compatibilism, for political reasons. That sounds like an advice from a politican, not like one from a journalist. The latter should be aquainted with the realities within the free marketplace of ideas.

    That’s mostly true. As an advocacy journalist, Mooney by definition is concerned with getting his point of view across. So he’s concerned about building public support and advising people who agree with him how to do so. These are necessary components of advocacy. And as long as it’s in the open, as it is with Mooney, it’s legitimate.

    My own view on “non-compatibilist scientists” is different than Mooney’s: Scientists should say what they think the facts are, and explain why they think so. I don’t like it when scientists downplay certain views just because they are unpopular. If anyone should be able to speak openly about how they perceive nature, it should be scientists. (I’m not defending intentional rudeness like Myers’ defiling of a Eucharist. That was a gratuitous stunt intended to shock and horrify Catholics. Any scientific message Myers may have intended to convey was overwhelmed by the theatrics).

    I agree that PR coaching is helpful when the goal is to help scientists speak clearly in language a lay person can understand. Words can mean one thing when applied in a specialized context, and quite another in the vernacular. So the PR coach in this instance is an interpreter, concerned with getting a faithful translation so science is accessible to the public. That’s also the role of science journalists.

  145. Todd

    Where is that application essay? Would love to read it.

  146. Matti K.

    Fikes: “That’s mostly true. As an advocacy journalist, Mooney by definition is concerned with getting his point of view across. So he’s concerned about building public support and advising people who agree with him how to do so. These are necessary components of advocacy. And as long as it’s in the open, as it is with Mooney, it’s legitimate.”

    When does an advocacy journalist become a plain advocate? The idea of journalism is to spread true information about the events of the world. Is it journalism to criticize the publication of sincere and well-formulated opinions? Especially when one does not clearly disagree with these opinions?

  147. Matti K.
    When does an advocacy journalist become a plain advocate?

    I’d say when the advocacy journalist knowingly misrepresents issues and refuses to correct errors. Misrepresentation and erroneous statements are bad in all forms of journalism.

    Is it journalism to criticize the publication of sincere and well-formulated opinions? Especially when one does not clearly disagree with these opinions?

    It’s advocacy journalism. And just because opinions are sincere and well-formulated doesn’t mean they are correct. (Although I lean more toward Dawkins and Coyne in thinking science and religion really are incompatible. You can only accommodate the supernatural at the expense of the natural.)

    And I personally disagree with Mooney’s advice to scientists about how to talk about religion and science, or how to frame messages to generate public support for political action. When scientists act like politicians, they tend to be regarded as politicians. I much prefer the “honest broker” approach that Roger Pielke, Jr. outlines:

    “The defining characteristic of the honest broker of policy alternatives,” Pielke explains, “is an effort to expand (or at least clarify) the scope of choice for decision-making in a way that allows for the decision-maker to reduce choice based on his or her own preferences and values.” The honest broker’s aim is not to dictate policy outcomes but to ensure that policy choices are made with an understanding of the likely consequences and relevant tradeoffs. Like the issue advocate, the honest broker explicitly engages in the decision-making process, but unlike the issue advocate, the honest broker has no stake or stated interest in the outcome.

  148. Gack. Garbled italics aren’t much fun.

  149. Matti K.

    I found the following from the internet:

    http://prokoudine.info/blog/?p=64

    I think Mr. Mooney should do his homework on rule #4.

  150. I don’t mean to cast aspersions on your father, but accepting such “fringe benefits”, especially something substantial like a cheaper loan, seems definitely to be violating journalistic integrity. Did he at least disclose such gifts to his readers? Would he have been OK with the automotive reporters accepting free vehicles from car companies, or the food critic getting their meals comped at restaurants?

    Oh, feel free to cast aspersions on my father. He is dead, and thus won’t care. Not only that, I personally find that sort of behavior hugely problematic (to put it mildly), but I am not naive enough to believe that it’s not still going on among journalists (as a matter of fact, I know that this sort of thing still happens, at least in Denmark, and I doubt it’s differently elsewhere).

    The reason I wrote about that, was to put some perspective into this – yes, Chris has received money from an organization many people dislike, but he has done so overtly. Organizations and companies have many different ways of trying to influence people, and this is a fairly mild version of it (indeed, given the fact that people apply for the money, it could be claimed that it’s not really an attempt at influencing people, though that would be stretching it, in my opinion).

    As for the broader conversation, I’m a bit confused, as some defenders of Chris seem to be saying that it is ridiculous to think that receiving money from Templeton would impact his objectivity, and others are saying that he is already biased, so what is the big deal. It’s strange to see supporters argue what seem to me to be diametrically opposed positions.

    I don’t consider myself a defender of Chris. He made his choice when applying for the grant, and has to stand by it. What I said, was that the rest of us have to take the grant into consideration when reading his stuff (as we should take his close connection to CFI into consideration).

    As I see it, Chris is of course free to do whatever he likes, and take whoever’s money he likes. But from my perspective, by doing so he is definitely moving from being an actual “journalist” to being a “commentator” or “writer” or “critic” or “columnist” (or “blogger”). There is nothing at all wrong with that, and there are plenty of well-known folks I would put in that broad category (including Hitchens), as writers who are personally advocating a position rather than trying to objectively analyze an issue. But it does mean that his work now needs to be viewed through that lens.

    As I tried to illustrate, people seem to have an idealistic opinion of the purity of journalists. They are not as pure as they might appear (as my example illustrated). Does this mean that I think it’s OK? No, certainly not, but talking about whether people are “journalists” or “commentators” is hopelessly naive. The truth is, that most journalists are both.

    In the long run, Chris’ writing stands or falls on its own, regardless of who he has received money from (though the money might explain the slant of his writing in some cases).

  151. Matti K.

    MK: Is it journalism to criticize the publication of sincere and well-formulated opinions? Especially when one does not clearly disagree with these opinions?

    BJF: It’s advocacy journalism.

    I see. I went to find more information about this genre:

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

    One thing is clear: Mr. Mooney is not that kind of advocate journalist, who ” feel that the public interest is better served by a diversity of media outlets with a variety of transparent points of view”.

  152. One thing that I also think is worth noticing, is the fact that the channels through which Chris has published those ideas which many of us disagree with, have been entirely non-journalistic as far as I can remember (I might be wrong, so feel free to correct me). Op-eds, books, being a guest on radio shows etc. are not journalistic venues.

  153. Jon

    I think Mr. Mooney should do his homework on rule #4.

    I don’t think the “Lazy blogg[er] on docs, specs and photography” makes much of a point. Chris can’t say “hey, militant atheist scientists don’t do much to advance public opinion on science”? Says who?

    Just read the opinion journalists in the NYT. They’re (considered anyway) the gold standard on opinion journalism and they make analogous statements to this all the time…

  154. Matti K.

    Jon: “Chris can’t say “hey, militant atheist scientists don’t do much to advance public opinion on science”? Says who?

    Anybody can say it. However, I would not expect a journalist (even Mr. Mooney) to make such a preachy statement, but continue: “militant atheist scientists don’t do much to advance public opinion on science, because…”. In an ideal case Mr. Mooney would back his statement with actual research, not intuitive feelings.

  155. Jon

    In an ideal case Mr. Mooney would back his statement with actual research, not intuitive feelings.

    I think you can make appeals to common sense without waiting for empirical research to show up every time you want to say anything.

  156. Matti K.

    Jon: “I think you can make appeals to common sense without waiting for empirical research to show up every time you want to say anything.”

    Sure. That’s why I was using the term “ideal case”. However, I don’t think it is self-evident that militant atheist scientists harm the public opinion on science. In my opinion it certainly is a statement that requires elaboration.

  157. Flea

    Is your application public? Could you please post it?
    Thx.

  158. Kagehi

    Look, everyone keeps pointing out that Mooney says, “tone it down”, and a mess of other things in the same vein. But, while that is annoying in an of itself, you still miss the key point. That is an ***existing***, and **losing** strategy. Its the strategy that has been used since scientists figured out that its probably a bad idea to get themselves locked in their own homes by a church, like Galileo, and the end result of it has *generally* ended up being that religion has dictated what can be examined, often the conclusions that *must* be reached, and a whole host of other unscientific idiocies. This **still** happens today, in places where large numbers of accomidationists look around and go, “Is this going to upset someone?”, or, “OK, I know this will, so how can I spin it so it sounds nicer.” The problem with the first is, you get cases like Darwin refusing to publish for decades, because the implications would piss off most believers. In the later case, its actually **worse**. Why? Because the only way to spin something so that it doesn’t, in some cases, deny everything the religious believe, is to reword it in a way that is no longer concise or clear, and where it **can** be badly misinterpreted to support pure gibberish, not to just the religious, but scammers, con artists and people selling the latest quantum vibration, combination toothbrush and detoxifier. If you muddy the waters yourself, intentionally, to satisfy people with completely flawed world views, **everyone** with a flawed perception will distort it to fit their view, and the time wasted combating all the misconceptions, errors, and pure idiocy, which arises from this, will end up being nearly as bad as waiting for years to publish, because believers might not like the implications of it.

    He is, to state it again, advocating a centuries old **losing** strategy, which we only started to exit from when the conclusions reached started finally putting the faithful on the defensive, and required them to distort evidence, ignore it, or otherwise twist things into pretzels, to find some way to support the more crazy views of religion (that, and do a lot of hand waving, while pointing at shrinking gaps, and saying, “Ah, well, since you didn’t find god there, he must be in that very small crack, the one over there in the corner, you can **just** see it, if you squint.”).

    Its like some general proclaiming, “Man, we made a huge mistake making tanks, which are right out in the open, for everyone to see. We need to go back to the old days of muskets, and hiding behind trees, and just hope the enemy doesn’t do the same thing.”, while missing the point that they have had probably 6,000-10,000 more years to learn how to camouflage there positions, and hide behind them. We where never, both due to the nature of science, and the nature of such camouflage, as good as they are at it, and we never will be, not without throwing out basic scientific integrity. Toning things down doesn’t solve the problem, it plays into their pre-existing strategy of making anyone that **doesn’t** call them on everything they do as, “On our side.”

  159. Jon

    So this is, straight out of the gate, a *war* on religion, Kagehi?

    Did Galileo see it that way? Did Darwin?

  160. Given the fact that Galileo, rightfully, feared for his life, he almost certainly would see a conflict between science and religion – at least as it existed at the time.

  161. Jon

    So we’re involved in a war against religion?

  162. Jon

    A long twilight struggle?

  163. J. J. Ramsey

    Kagehi : “This **still** happens today, in places where large numbers of accomidationists look around and go, ‘Is this going to upset someone?’, or, ‘OK, I know this will, so how can I spin it so it sounds nicer.’”

    Excuse me, but the so-called “accomodationists” that I’ve seen have been pretty clear on the science, and what they’ve been saying to the religious is, “Hey, you don’t have to interpret your religion in a way that conflicts with the science.” The way they accommodate religion is to argue that religions themselves have room for accommodation. To the religious who won’t accept that there is such room, the “accommodationists” are, well, not very accommodating. This scenario hardly resembles the one that Galileo faced, nor does it involve muddying evolution in a way friendly to New Agers. The New Agers have shown themselves quite capable of muddying evolution on their own, just as they muddy quantum theory on their own.

    Indeed, I’m inclined to say that this idea that accommodationists are spineless pushovers to have little if anything to do with the facts.

  164. TB

    @ 144 rrt

    “In that quotation, did Myers say, in any way, that religious moderates who pray and teach their children to pray are murderers because of what Neumann did? Of course he didn’t. He called them enablers, …”

    You can parse it all you want, but it’s clear to me from his tone and his closing statement- “damn you all” – that anyone who prays is just as guilty as if they were the ones who withheld medical attention.
    And, legally, an enabled can be held guilty of a crime even if they’re nit the one to commit it – such as a getaway driver convicted of murder if his co-horts kill someone during the robbery.

    I understand it quite well – please don’t think you’ll be able to convince me otherwise.  

  165. Jon

    Shh!! J. J. Ramsey, how can you expect them to get their war on with such nuanced explanations as that?

  166. TB

    That should be “an enabler” – dang smart phone not being smart.

    And specific to Coyne’s attempted disclaimer: that you or Hitchens don’t get money from the reason Project is besides the point – you’ve taken it to the next level by being on the Avisory Board of an advocacy group. That’s at least as potentially compromising as a paid fellowship, and it could be viewed as being more so since you’re theoretically in a leadership position.

    I don’t read Coyne. I hope he didn’t criticize Mooney for his association with the Templeton Foundation while describing himself as a journalist while Coyne – as a scientist – is on the board of the Reason Project.

  167. rrt

    I don’t really expect to convince you, TB. Not after that, anyway. Your position speaks for itself, and you already know what I think of it. The rest would be pointless venting.

  168. MadScientist

    Aww … poor widdwe bilbo – those nasty New Atheists been eating your babies again?

  169. GM

    The problem with the first is, you get cases like Darwin refusing to publish for decades, because the implications would piss off most believers

    Excellent point

    Too bad the bloggers have long ago stopped reading the comments in this thread and posted another one on something as serious kissing…

  170. Jon

    The problem with the first is, you get cases like Darwin refusing to publish for decades, because the implications would piss off most believers

    Or for that matter, his wife the Unitarian. Good thing he finally got wise and declared war on his wife. And I’m sure as soon as the German-influenced higher criticism scholarship came out after the Genesis controversy, since religion was Darwin’s sworn enemy, he would have declared war on that too.

  171. bilbo

    Ah, the ever temperate bilbo…

    “My problem is that he blows them out of proportion like a dumb, rabid dog in heat (latter desrciptor added to better reflect reality), blowing those differences out of proportion at the sacrifie of reality [...]”

    The irony packed into that statement is rather amusing.

    It’s not irony, JJE. Why? Because I don’t deny being a dumb, rabid dog – I know I am. Jerry, on the other hand, uses “hey, I’m an atheist!” for acting like one: not just a dumb one but an immature, bigoted one, at that.

    At least this dumb dog is genuine.

  172. bilbo

    Too bad the bloggers have long ago stopped reading the comments in this thread and posted another one on something as serious kissing…

    Because accusing someone of a felony for getting a fellowship award is such a serious, factual, and non-hyperbolic matter.

  173. Why don’t we change the subject to something less controversial, like global warming?

  174. bilbo

    I don’t read Coyne. I hope he didn’t criticize Mooney for his association with the Templeton Foundation while describing himself as a journalist while Coyne – as a scientist – is on the board of the Reason Project.

    Oh, he did much more than that. He explicitly accused Mooney of committing a felony punishable by death in the old days and punishable by up to 10 years in prison today….all because Chris got awarded a fellowship from a private foundation.

    Ah, “reason.” *vomit*

  175. TB

    Well, rrt, the rest would be pointless because you asked for proof, it was given and yet you seem to want to obscure it.

    You challenged this in comment 82, Bilbo said “My Catholic mother-in-law is guilty of child molestation and murder to them, and despite the fact that she partakes in anti-creationism/ID protests, she’s a creationism enabler.”

    You asked for a reasonable equivalent of that, it was given.

    This is about regular people “enabling” the abusers – the priests who molest children, the family who lets their child die rather than take them to a doctor – simply because those regular people may pray in times of trouble to a deity that they may sometimes not believe exists.

    PeeZee is perfectly clear in that passage: They pray, so they perpetuate religion and enable the child molesters hiding behind the robes of religious authorities and delusional murderers who end up killing those they love. And by doing so, those regular people share the guilt of those crimes.

    “If Colleen Hauser or Leilani Neumann were in your church, you’d tell them to get medical care, but you’d also validate their belief in prayers.. … You are Abraham’s enablers. ”

    That’s the line in the sand, rrt, You’re not offended that it’s there, you’re offended that we’re pointing it out.

  176. Kagehi

    Sigh.. You don’t have to declare war on religion, just stop claiming that there are no conflicts, when there are, or muddying your own science, because one of the far less rational ones might get annoyed by it. As I said, the ones that are ***able*** to find some sort of way to fit their faith into science (while I think that must create some problems, and I ***know*** it creates them when they jump into some other fields and start babbling things that don’t hold up to the logic they use in their own), are going to side with us anyway, even if we take a strong stance on what we think about their perception of a non-conflict. The ones we *should* be worried about at those that side with the irrational, and unscientific, people, based solely on arguments about us hating “all” religion. Hell, even PZ flat out doesn’t say that, but people who imagine themselves to be scientists, but are not, **constantly** accuse him of it.

    We are not going to win such people over by being nice, or proper framing, nor would we rationally want to, since they often have nothing worth contributing in the first place. My argument is that the sort of “be nice” strategy Mooney suggest is **not** addressing non-issues that the people already doing good science have, its addressing people that are not doing sound science in the first place. And, they ***have already declared war*** on everyone, including scientists that believe, but the “wrong way”, or come up with the “wrong answers”, or look at the “wrong things”.

    Basically, who exactly are we helping, if we decide to be “nicer” about things? The ones that count, or the ones that will use every single slight attempt to be nice as a) defense of their own positions, or b) signs of weakness in our stance? I contend its not good, believing, scientists, who do decent science, its the ones we *need* to be fighting, and which we have been “at war” with since Francis Bacon first proposed forcing nature to reveal its secrets, and half the rest of the clergy declared the idea mad, because it was dwelving into things god didn’t want man messing with. Denying that the war exists is even dumber than claiming that people like Dawkins, whose “worse” statement about the whole thing is that its all quite silly and doesn’t explain anything (more or less), and sounds like Gandi, compared to the lunatics whining about him, are raising a vast new army to fight a culture war (which apparently never existing until now..)

    I, PZ, and nearly every single “radical” ever mentioned by the other side has said, flatly, and precisely, that, while we still think such people are confusing themselves, its not the sort of people Mooney is afraid we are somehow “offending”, that we are either a) worried at all about, or b) actually saying anything serious about. The whole argument seems to be that we shouldn’t be saying so many bad things about the people that ***are*** dangerous, undeniably wrong, unscientific, muddled thinkers, who, more often than not, want to not simply suggest god might be “involved somehow”, but should **replace** science. And, again, such people *everyone* is at war with, including the people Mooney is convinced we might annoy, if we don’t try to be “nicer” to the crazies. I reject that completely. As I reject the suggestion that I said, or implied, despite saying otherwise, often, in other places, that I don’t give a frack if someone things god once flipped a switch to make things start, or occasionally nudges a molecule some place (even if both are unnecessary and add more questions than they even try to answer). Such belief do almost nothing to change the direction of science, or undermine it (as long as they stick to dealing with things they actually **know** something about, instead of leaping off a cliff into a different field to pontificate about it). One hardly needs to fight a “war” against such positions, never mind do much to accommodate them. Nor, is it what *any* of the people Mooney seems to have a problem with have stated they a) object to, b) attack, c) think needs to be stopped, or d) are unwilling to compromise on, in a limited sense, in the first place.

  177. bilbo

    Basically, who exactly are we helping, if we decide to be “nicer” about things?

    You help everyone who guides their life by reason instead of superstition, by not associating reason, science, and logic with blind hate and bigorty.

  178. bilbo

    That’s the line in the sand, rrt, You’re not offended that it’s there, you’re offended that we’re pointing it out.

    By Charles, I think he’s got it!

    Now, we wait for the inevitable, “well, that’s what PZ says, but I know that’s not reallllly what he means. He was just putting on a show!!!.”

    and I will reply, “that’s precisely the problem.”

  179. Philip Jr.

    Basically, who exactly are we helping, if we decide to be “nicer” about things?

    Why, you help reason, my dear, disillusioned ideologue! I’ve never quite understood the approach of countering the forces of hate and immaturity with more hate and immaturity. It sounds a bit too much “an eye for an eye” for me – and I got away from that religion-founded bunk a looooooong time ago. I didn’t sign up for using logic and criticial thinking as my guiding principles so I could find another vessel for the hate and scorn that guided me during my religious days. I signed up for using logic and critical thinking as my guiding principles because they are right, and because they let rise above acting like a bitter child.

    It pains me to see so many once-religious thinkers going back to their tactical roots of using offense as the guiding benchmark for the relevancy of an argument. Evolve.

  180. bob

    Did my comment asking about the Center for Inquiry’s opinion on this fellowship really get deleted? This place is amazing.

  181. bilbo

    “The problem is that Mr. Mooney is an advocacte for _strategic_ muting_,..”

    Any objections?

    Yes – you’re fostering a false dilemma (“if someone criticizes my rhetoric, that means I should shut up.”)

    That’s not Mooney’s point. Mooney’s point is that, past a certain number of shots, the firing squad quits becoming justified executioners and begins to appear as murderous, irrational fools themselves, despite the fact that their ammunition hasn’t changed. Figure that out for your own rhetoric, and you’ll begin to see the point.

    Just be careful – doing so requires shattering the bonds of “good good good, bad bad bad.” That can be a tough thing to do for a groupthinker.

  182. Seminatrix

    I find it interesting that Jerry Coyne is on the advisory board (with professional journalists) of a foundation whose one initiative (among others) is to troll the news media and group stories into “good” (atheism promoting) and “bad” (atheism criticizing) categories, thus attemtping to foster a narrative of ‘truth’ in the news media by presenting only one positive side.

    Then, he turns around and scorns a group who he claims tries to foster a narrative in the news media by presenting only one positive side.

    I mean, the hypocrisy here is off-the-chart. I guess we can know one thing for sure – if anyone is an expert in fostering narratives in the news media, it would be Jerry Coyne, given his associations.

  183. bilbo

    I find it interesting that Jerry Coyne is on the advisory board (with professional journalists) of a foundation whose one initiative (among others) is to troll the news media and group stories into “good” (atheism promoting) and “bad” (atheism criticizing) categories, thus attemtping to foster a narrative of ‘truth’ in the news media by presenting only one positive side.

    Then, he turns around and scorns a group who he claims tries to foster a narrative in the news media by presenting only one positive side.

    I mean, the hypocrisy here is off-the-chart. I guess we can know one thing for sure – if anyone is an expert in fostering narratives in the news media, it would be Jerry Coyne, given his associations.

    Damn straight.

    Now that you mention the Reason Project, take a gander at this little ditty from its rather lengthy “terms of use” which, among other things, proclaims that, after the Reason Project portrays religious people as the sole source of evil in the world that must be “destroyed,” if you decide to go gun down some religious people to help that cause, it’s not their legal problem. In other words, they all but affirm this motto: “The Reason Project – we acknowledge that we’re providing you the rhetorical ammunition, and you might decide to provide the gun. But hey, we can’t be liable for the emotions we acknowledge that we’re trying to incite within you.”

    Anyway, here’s the interesting part: “You agree that you will not use the site to upload, post, email or otherwise transmit any User Content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable.”

    Wow, that’s rich, seeing as how several people on their advisory board (including many that have been discussed in this thread), base their notoriety solely on posting content that is harrassing, defamatory, often vulgar, hateful, and insensitive to a defined social group. In other words, we now have another motto: “The Reason Project: we can be engaged in some downright despicable behavior, but we’d not like you to.” Or “The Reason Project: we have strict moral standards, unless you’re religious.”

    What is it about these cowards that wants to keep their readers from practicing what they preach?

  184. Philip Jr.

    Now that you mention the Reason Project, take a gander at this little ditty from its rather lengthy “terms of use.”

    “You agree that you will not use the site to upload, post, email or otherwise transmit any User Content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable.”

    Wow, that’s rich, seeing as how several people on their advisory board (including many that have been discussed in this thread), base their notoriety solely on posting content that is harrassing, defamatory, often vulgar, hateful, and insensitive to a defined social group.

    What is it about these cowards that wants to keep their readers from practicing what they preach?

    Whoa. The hobbit suddenly has a very relevant and disturbing point: the Reason Project is actively requesting that its users abstain from using some of the very behavior its advisory board (and even foudning member) are engaged in on a regular basis.

    Chris and/or Sheril, if you’re still reading along, I think this deserves some legitimate attention – not just to stir the pot but to point out a glaring and very hypocritical double-standard that is directly relevant to your arguments about civility. Some very “big” people have a lot of explaining to do here.

  185. Philip Jr.

    Why has bilbo’s quote disappeared? It was up for a minute, and now it’s gone. He had a very relevant point that I hope will make it through as a quote in my last post (still in moderation)

  186. Seminatrix

    I suppose I saw the bilbo quote you were talking about also, Philip (Was it the one about TRP? If so, I agree that the latter part of it was extremely relevant). bob just had a similar concern a few moments ago. Might be a glitch in the moderation system or something.

  187. Philip Jr.

    Yes it was, Seminatrix. If it doesn’t get back up, I’ll try to paraphrase it for myself. I’d personally like to hear how the Reason Project justifies condemning the exact behavior many on its advisory board and its own founding member are engaged in. and why are they criticizing Mooney for pointing out the flaws in such behavior if they’re doing the exact same thing at the same time? This is an important example of hypocrisy that actually supports Chris’s argument.

  188. bilbo

    I don’t know what happened, guys, but I can see Philip’s post now. Here’s what I said one more time:

    “Now that you mention the Reason Project, take a gander at this little ditty from its rather lengthy “terms of use.”

    “You agree that you will not use the site to upload, post, email or otherwise transmit any User Content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable.”

    Wow, that’s rich, seeing as how several people on their advisory board (including many that have been discussed in this thread), base their notoriety solely on posting content that is harrassing, defamatory, often vulgar, hateful, and insensitive to a defined social group. (In other words, they’re speaking out against doing what they, themselves, do.)

    What is it about these cowards that wants to keep their readers from practicing what they preach?”

  189. Milton C.

    This is pretty interesting stuff, bilbo. I agree with Philip – I’d love to hear more from Chris and/or Sheril on this. Admissions that their own behavior is inappropriate and not useful is quite an example of a glarign double-standard, and a real one at that.

  190. Julie

    So, let me get this straight. The Reason Project, guided by an advisory board of people such as Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins, is publicly condemning defamatory, insulting, harrassing, and insensitive speech? Ummm….that’s possibly the most hypocritical thing I’ve ever heard – in fact, that condemnation sounds just like something Chris Mooney would say!!!!. Even if you agree with what those four say, there’s no denying that those four, in particular, make a habit out of using exactly such speech on a day-to-day basis. And they’re condemning it as speech unbecoming of those who live by reason????????!!!!!!!!! WTF?

    PLEASE bring this to wider attention, Chris. I want to hear an answer to this from these people, because it simply doesn’t make a flying chit of sense.

  191. Thomas H.

    What is it about these cowards that wants to keep their readers from practicing what they preach?

    It seems pretty simple, really: people such as Coyne, Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens wish to use inflammatory and insulting rhetoric to whip up their troops, while simultaneously creating a shell foundation which actively condemns such rhetoric under the sole purpose of fostering a false narrative that paints nonbelievers as above such behavior. “You can be as nasty as you want on my personal site, but could you tone it down on our nonprofit’s site, please? We’re trying to put forth a good image here.”

    In other words, it’s a strategical move. Now doesn’t that sound familiar???

    Something tells me all this faux Templeton outrage just blew up in these hypocrites’ faces. Good.

  192. Sao Paul

    “You can be as nasty as you want on my personal site, but could you tone it down on our nonprofit’s site, please? We’re trying to put forth a good image here.”

    In other words, it’s a strategical move. Now doesn’t that sound familiar???

    Hahaha! Four of the horsemen for the New Atheism just let their foundation become the megaphone for Chris Mooney’s core argument in Unscientific America. Karma is a female dog, folks.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go laugh myself to sleep, delighted.

  193. Philip Jr.

    It seems pretty simple, really: people such as Coyne, Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens wish to use inflammatory and insulting rhetoric to whip up their troops, while simultaneously creating a shell foundation which actively condemns such rhetoric under the sole purpose of fostering a false narrative that paints nonbelievers as above such behavior. “You can be as nasty as you want on my personal site, but could you tone it down on our nonprofit’s site, please? We’re trying to put forth a good image here.”

    In other words, it’s a strategical move. Now doesn’t that sound familiar???

    That is PRECISELY why this is such an important point. This is strategy – a PR move, thinking about when communication breaks down. In other words, doing everything us “stupid,” non-New Atheists advocate. These four just became a very large part of what they have deemed themselves as “the problem.”

    I think Chris Mooney just found his first piece as a Templeton fellow.

  194. Vyspyr

    To the barricades!!! This is going to be fun, and a long time coming.

    Chris, you were wrong several months ago. It seems Jerry Coyne actually did read Unscientific America, because the foundation he’s advising is taking its arguments about civility to heart.

  195. Petra

    “You can be as nasty as you want on my personal site, but could you tone it down on our nonprofit’s site, please? We’re trying to put forth a good image here.”

    In other words, it’s a strategical move. Now doesn’t that sound familiar???

    Hahaha! Four of the horsemen for the New Atheism just let their foundation become the megaphone for Chris Mooney’s core argument in Unscientific America

    Oh, snap!

    Forget Chris’s Templeton app. The explanations for this are going to be MUCH more entertaining!

  196. bilbo

    Jerry Coyne might have pretended to be angry about Unscientific America, but apparently he found it rather useful. Because now, the foundation he’s helping advise is taking UA’s arguments about civility to heart in a big way. In fact, if you’re not *nice* on his foundation’s site, they *shut you up.* My my my. What we have here is a thing of beauty.

  197. Julie


    “You agree that you will not use the Site to:

    (a) upload, post, email or otherwise transmit any User Content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable”

    …because we all know that when you’re trying to promote the role of reason in our world, incivility and imflammatory rhetoric simply doom you to failure.

    Epic fail, New Atheists. Looks like you’ve joined the bandwagon of fools that just want people to be “nice” when talking about religion. UA wasn’t “utterly useless” after all. Here you are engaging in one of its core tenets that you claimed oh so very loudly to be oh so very worthless.

  198. Milton C.

    It seems pretty simple, really: people such as Coyne, Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens wish to use inflammatory and insulting rhetoric to whip up their troops, while simultaneously creating a shell foundation which actively condemns such rhetoric under the sole purpose of fostering a false narrative that paints nonbelievers as above such behavior. “You can be as nasty as you want on my personal site, but could you tone it down on our nonprofit’s site, please? We’re trying to put forth a good image here.”

    In other words, it’s a strategical move. Now doesn’t that sound familiar???

    Just thought I’d give this a bump. An excellent post, and likely the exact line of thought at play here, whether conscious or otherwise.

    PJ was on the money. Some very “big” people have a lot of explaining to do, because the foundation they’re advising is doing exactly what they claim is absolute bull. And I thought “the truth is supposed to be offensive”?

    Only when you’re not putting on an offical face, I suppose. Then “the truth” becomes a rather pathetic brand of hypocrisy.

  199. rrt

    TB said: “You asked for a reasonable equivalent of that, it was given. ”

    The hell it was. But then, it’s your opinion against mine. I think you’re a hypocritical, blinkered idiot for thinking it was. You think the same of me for thinking it wasn’t. What else is there to say?

    I did learn something here, though. I still don’t know what to think of Chris’ approach in this whole “accommodationism” mess. But I think I do finally understand the drama surrounding it. For that, I’m grateful for your comments.

  200. Kagehi

    Just out of curiosity, while I haven’t paid as much attention to Coyne, Harris or Hitchens, and maybe there is some claim there, I have a) read, and b) hear/seen Dawkins. What precisely are you accusing him of, or are you just parroting the opposition here, because I haven’t seen him use “any” rhetoric, done much that is at all inflammatory, or otherwise acted in any way, which would imply that he deserves such derision.

    Or, let me put it another way… We, and I would argue, some like Mooney, seem to suggest, imply, or even exaggerate the books, speeches, interviews, etc. of these people to the level of being Rush Limbaugh, or Glenn Beck like, in scale of rhetoric, assholishness and derision of others. This simply isn’t, in my experience, the case **at all**. The worst I think I have ever seen Dawkins, for example, do in public is say, “That is just not true.”, or chuckle and refuse to comment on some off the wall idiocy dropped in his lap. Yes, his books are more direct, but they hardly contain rhetoric, unless you are bloody over sensitive, and blind to a) the target audience, or b) the people he is specifically directing his arguments against (which are not usually religious people in general, but the ones doing real harm to scientific thinking).

    Its like you all want everyone to be bloody vulcans, and be horrifyingly shocked when someone, to an audience that mostly already agrees, cracks a joke about people that are not logical, instead of slightly raising an eyebrow. I have seen worse vitrol than *any* of the people being accused ever have said coming purely from commenters in their sites, but *not* themselves. I think you have a very distorted view, given the other sides idea of “normal” dialog, which often contains lie, more lies, and damned lies, sprinkles with quote mining, illogic, and misrepresentation, of just what our side’s big names are *actually* doing. Seriously, watch Dawkins in an interview, then tell me **he** is the one that needs to step back and stop acting like an ass. That is *one* of the problems I have with this BS argument. Because some say things that they support with explanations, and information, and evidence, but it *occasionally* can be angry, they are being unreasonable? WTF?

    The other side doesn’t give a damn how reasonable people are. Dawkins hasn’t so much as gotten angry on a TV program, or otherwise acted uncivil, but the other side **still** claims he is unreasonable, angry, violent, etc. We could be nice as hell, and its not going to matter one damn bit. Do some of us fall pray to the same errors, when backed into a corner, and do stupid BS. Sure. At least one author, in a recent Skeptical Enquire article suggested, “When this starts to happen, walk away.” Anyone driving you to that point has done so **because** they are not interested in logic, not interested in discussion, not interested in fact, and you are getting frustrated **precisely** because they don’t give a frack about anything you present to them. Yes, we need to learn that lesson some times. But to characterize *anything* I have seen from Dawkins, or indirectly, from the others, are being like that…. You are, quite frankly, delusional if you claim its irrational, purely rhetorical, or unreasonable, by any rational standard.

    Maybe you are confusing their comment posters with them? That might make more damn sense.

  201. Matti K

    Bilbo: “That’s not Mooney’s point. Mooney’s point is that, past a certain number of shots, the firing squad quits becoming justified executioners and begins to appear as murderous, irrational fools themselves, despite the fact that their ammunition hasn’t changed.”

    Really? I don’t think anybody (not even Mr. Mooney) has described Coyne’s piece in TNR (discussing books bv Miller and Giberson) as an (metaphorical) “execution”, much less (metaphorical) “murder”.

    http://www.tnr.com/article/books/seeing-and-believing-0

    The article was a book critique, not part of a character assassination of compatibilist scientists. Yet Mr. Mooney, himself very outspoken on other issues, felt that publicizing the article was not good “strategy”.

    Clearly, for Mooney it is not a matter of balance, it is a matter of principle: scientists should not criticize their distinguished colleagues with compatibilist views, because of hypothetical political fallout. I think that is a peculiar stand for someone who regards himself as a science journalist.

  202. Jerry Coyne might have pretended to be angry about Unscientific America, but apparently he found it rather useful. Because now, the foundation he’s helping advise is taking UA’s arguments about civility to heart in a big way.

    This is disingenuous. The kind of “civility” that UA promotes is not the same kind civility that the Reason website require. The kind of civility promoted by UA is the silencing of people critical of certain viewpoints, because it might offend. This is not something Reason promote at all.

    Also, looking back through the comments, I see a lot of claims about PZ hating Christians, and accusing them of all sorts of things. These claims are based upon how people read comments made by him. Given the fact that PZ has made very clear statements on these issues in the past, there is no need to try to parse his other comments, and distort them through whatever filter you read his stuff through. No, PZ does not hate Christians, nor does he claim that all Christians are baby-killers. Making such claims is just stupid.

  203. TB

    Rrt: ooh, I can’t argue with that, since there’s nothing there to argue with. You’re just being an apologist in the face of some pretty compelling evidence.
    Bilbo: HaHaHaHa! Nice find!
    Kristjan: I, at least, am not claiming that PeeZee hates Christians or that he thinks they’re literally all baby killers. Nor do I believe others are. It is the guilt by association/enabling argument that’s being highlighted.
    Now, he may have qualified his opinions in later writings but if he did I didn’t see them.
    I found that post so wrong-headed and hateful that I stopped reading him.
    So, maybe you could share links to how he’s clarified his thinking. I’m open to reading them and I won’t even comment on them if you don’t want to discuss them.
    Without something more, though, my opinion stands.

  204. gillt

    Still laughing over how the usuals here compared Mooney’s journalism Hitchens’ to try and shut down criticism. With fanboys like you, who need enemies.

    Brilliant guys!

  205. bilbo

    Matti,

    I’m not talking about the TNR piece. I’m talking about virtually everything else.

    And cut the “you can say whatever you want. At least it’s not violence” horsehockey. Engage the lgoci centers of your brain and understand the use of metaphor.

  206. bilbo

    This is disingenuous. The kind of “civility” that UA promotes is not the same kind civility that the Reason website require. The kind of civility promoted by UA is the silencing of people critical of certain viewpoints, because it might offend. This is not something Reason promote at all.

    Oh, of course not. I mean, if you act incivil, the Reason Project just bans you – you know, they shut you up.

  207. bilbo

    Kagehi,

    Then methinks you have a radically altered definition of what an inflammatory comment entails. (Hint: it doesn’t become unoffensive to everyone if you, alone, agree with it.)

  208. Matti K

    Bbilbo Says:

    “I’m not talking about the TNR piece. I’m talking about virtually everything else.”

    OK. But how could I know?

    Personally I find it easier to concentrate on specific things, one at a time.

  209. rrt

    Wait wait wait…TB, what? Apparently I’ve really misunderstood you.

    So you recognize that “guilt by enabling” is different? You don’t think Myers was calling all praying Christians babykillers? You make a distinction there?

    (scratches head)

    Then what were you giving me evidence for in Myers’ quote? ‘Cause in that case it sure wasn’t what I asked for. What did you find so wrong-headed and hateful? The mere concept of assigning any guilt at all to enablers? Or if you think he assigns full guilt (you did say something about the “damn you all” line), then how are you distinguishing that from being equivalent to calling them babykillers and assigning them equivalent guilt?

    I know this is a dead horse, but I think I misunderstood your position and I’d like to correct that, especially since I was calling you a hypocritical idiot for it.

  210. Congratulations, Chris. I’ve worked with the Templeton Foundation in the past–in partnership with Discover magazine and Yale–in we’d all do it again in a heartbeat.
    I see some digs coming from folks who participated in the NYC World Science Fair which was sponsored in large part by the Templeton Foundation.

  211. bob

    Ha, this “gotcha” you’re all patting each other on the back over is ridiculous. You all desperately need to take a step back from this love-fest and get a grip.

    Or, are you *actually* trying to compare Unscientific America’s arguments to the fine print legalese on a website? Jeez, I hope that’s not how badly you all have to scrap the bottom of the barrel to defend this clown’s actions.

  212. Kagehi

    Bilbo, you finding something offensive doesn’t mean it *is* to everyone else either. But, as I said, I happen to think that their is a category of people who, unfortunately, place themselves on the same side as people that *intentionally* misread, ignore other comments on the same subject, and exaggerate, the statements of people they don’t like, in order to **make them** seem offensive to everyone. That is no more productive in making reasonable headway against such *real* extremists than what you claim is being done *by* the people accused of it.

  213. bilbo

    I happen to think that their is a category of people who, unfortunately, place themselves on the same side as people that *intentionally* misread, ignore other comments on the same subject, and exaggerate, the statements of people they don’t like, in order to **make them** seem offensive to everyone.

    No comment is ever offensive to “everyone,” kagehi. The very nature that makes a comment offensive is that it bolsters the opinion of one party or group by denigrating and defaming their opponents.

    The issue here isn’t whether you or I find Coyne, Dawkins, or Hitchens’ comments personally offensive. That’s a strawman. The issue is that they clearly make statements with the purpose to offend a particular group….while at the same time serving as leaders of a foundation that decries that exact same behavior. That’s hypocrisy – plain and simple.

  214. Philip Jr.

    Bilbo is right again; he’s on a roll lately. There’s absolutely no question that Coyne et al. make many of their statements just to offend and defame intellectual opponents. So when we see them devoutly promoting a foundation that paints such statements as totally counter to rational thought, it’s hypocrisy – and it’s cause for alarm, as well as bit of a chuckle…..because they’re doing just what Mooney occasionally advocates and they, summarily, decry.

  215. TB

    rrt

    If by making a distinction you mean not buying into the strawman that Bilbo’s grandmother is literally a child molester and murderer, then yes.

    If you were asking for proof that someone was accusing Bilbo’s grandmother of actually, personally, first-handedly killing someone then you wasted your time – no one was claiming that. That would be a strawman. I ignored that strawman when I gave you my response.

    The point was that, if someone prays, they perpetuate a culture of prayer in which abuses such as child molestation and homicide by neglect have occurred. And because they perpetuate that culture, they share in the guilt for those acts.

    Just like the idea that anyone who drinks a beer shares in the guilt of a drunk who kills someone on the highway because they perpetuate a system where a drunk can exist – it’s a logical fallacy and a particularly nasty one at that.

  216. bilbo

    Absolutely correct, TB. (and, for the record, I believe it was Philip Jr. who started this argument, not me….)

  217. bilbo

    The point was that, if someone prays, they perpetuate a culture of prayer in which abuses such as child molestation and homicide by neglect have occurred. And because they perpetuate that culture, they share in the guilt for those acts.

    Just like the idea that anyone who drinks a beer shares in the guilt of a drunk who kills someone on the highway because they perpetuate a system where a drunk can exist – it’s a logical fallacy and a particularly nasty one at that.

    and, just like the idea that anyone who votes Republican shares in the guilt of an abnormally ultraconservative abortion clinic bomber, because the perpetuate the system where such beliefs can be fostered.

    and, just like the idea that anyone with German ancestry shares in the guilt of the Holocaust, because their biological ancestors perpetuated a system that allowed the Holocaust to happen. (I use this temporal example due to the fact that I’ve seen New Atheists accuse modern-day Christians of guilt for the Crusades for precisely the same reason.)

  218. rrt

    Yes, TB, both of those are strawmen in both the way you describe them AND in the implication that either definition is what I meant. You’re focusing on some ridiculously fine details of the quote–specific grandmothers, literal blood-on-your-hands murderers, etc.

    But then you pretty much lay out exactly what I was asking for. Let me see if I understand your explanation properly: If one assigns guilt to someone for perpetuating a culture of prayer which, at it’s more extreme ends, includes some truly heinous behavior, one is in fact assigning full guilt for those heinous acts to the perpetuator regardless of their direct role in those acts. And you think that is what Myers and many other (or per Philip’s original comment, most other) New Atheists say.

    Is that a fair characterization of your position?

  219. Vyspyr

    “You liberal Christians, you wishy washy cowards who would ratter use cower to religion that speak against it – the blood is on your hands.”

    That sounds like assigning full guilt, to me…

  220. bilbo

    Some examples of New Atheist writings and exceprts from public talks over the years, which rrt is trying to claim “don’t assign guilt.”

    “I do not regard your beliefs as harmless…you are the ones administering the poison.”

    “It is because of wishy-washy “moderate” Christians that 2,000 people died on 9/11.”

    “Religious people are child abusers.”

    “It is the moderates themselves which bear the blame for terrorism.”

    “…and a note to you evolution-accepting, god-coddling Christians: until you accept that science should be attacking religion, you are solely to blame for the scourge of creationism and intelligent design in our society.”

  221. bilbo

    Do yourself a favor, rrt, and join the rest of your ideologues-in-arms and at least acknowledge that such things are said and argue that they’re true. Trying to deny that such very plainly-put pieces of inflammatory tripe are even made is simple buffoonery.

  222. rrt

    Bilbo, you constantly whine about hyperbole and strawmen while using them extensively yourself. You hold an extreme mental caricature of your opponents. I never stated nor implied that such things aren’t said in such debates, on both sides. You’re ample proof of that.

    My argumen has been that in the context griping about hyperbole, you engaged in your own quite bold hyperboles, as did others. You claimed it was standard for New Atheists to equate enabling with it’s worst possible indirect consequences. You even claimed this included equating actively protesting Christian anti-creationists with creationists (you mentioned a mother-in-law; I imagine another example would be equating Ken Miller with Ken Ham). Philip then seconded your claim, saying it was his experience of the New Atheist approach as well, “almost verbatim.”

    I challenged this claim. It didn’t match my experience and knowledge, and it struck me as being, ironically, hyperbole. I asked for evidence. I suspected the claim was based on a few genuine “prayer = murder” type comments that were not representative of mainstream New Atheist rhetoric, or many “prayer enables murder” type comments. Neither you nor Philip provided any. TB stepped up, providing a “prayer enables murder” comment. But TB’s objection seems (I’m guessing as he hasn’t replied yet) to be simply that one cannot assign an enabler ANY blame for the crimes of others, a position I disagree with but can very much respect and tolerate as I think it holds many good points. That take us right back to hyperbole–claiming that if someone assigns an enabler partial blame, they necessarily assign FULL blame.

    And now, you’ve shifted your defense from your and Philip’s initial characterization of “prayer = murder” as THE New Atheist position to simply being a position a few New Atheists may hold, casting me as the knee-jerk ideologue who insists none do.

    The irony, Bilbo, is that agreeing that this sort of thing does at least sometimes happen, that maybe you could be doing it, is precisely what I was going for.

    In that vein, I’d like the sources of the quotes in your latest post. I know the first as being TB’s example, so obviously you’ve seen my opinion of it. The others I would want to see in context, and would want to see a defense of how they are the norm. Purely by themselves, I would indeed find them ugly.

  223. TB

    rrt
    Whether it’s a full or partial measure or nano measure, the logic still fails.

  224. TB

    And, the very idea that someone who prays is also an enabler of extreme behavior is in dispute. Again, a person who enjoys a beer responsibly is not automatically enabling an alcoholic.

  225. rrt

    That point I can happily agree to disagree on, TB. Can we also agree that assigning any blame at all is not the same as assigning maximum blame?

  226. bilbo

    You even claimed this included equating actively protesting Christian anti-creationists with creationists (you mentioned a mother-in-law; I imagine another example would be equating Ken Miller with Ken Ham). Philip then seconded your claim, saying it was his experience of the New Atheist approach as well, “almost verbatim.”

    First of all, rrt, I still can’t figure out why you’re trying to argue with me about a point made by Philip jr. You’ve been acting like I made the argument originally, while I most certainly did not. Your oft-quoted “mother-in-law” statement isn’t even mine. You have things backwards.

    But ok – let’s run with your characterization of the argument as if it happened that way (since, after all, the truth of the matter proves that I never said half of things that you’re using as the basis of your entire argument against me). I’m trying to figure out just exactly what evidence you’re looking for, rrt. First it was “verbatim” statements from NAs that Philip’s moth-in-law was defamed. When several of us who have reading comprehension above marginal levels pointed out to you that Philip never claimed that such a thing happened, you asked for “verbatim or a reasonable equivalent.” Three tof our of us how have provided such in plain, clear english. Now, in the beginning of you last post, your argument shifts AGAIN (!!) to “well, ok. But they don’t assign full blame!” And then at the end of your argument you come full-circle to the “verbatim” request?

    It’s enough to wonder if you have an argument at all, because of all of your frequent goalpost shifting. If anything, your Magically Moving Goalposts just serve to highlight that you’re not looking for evidence at all but looking for something to fit into the hollowed-out crevices of a preconceived conclusion. I’m sorry, rrt, but goalpost shifting is hardly a valid substitute for an actual argument.

  227. Milton C.

    rrt and his ever-shifting evidentiary qualifications is a common thread in the history of NAs trying to justify their own members’ hate-spew. It’s like when an NA blogger says, very, very, plainly “If you pray, you enable mass murder,” there is some Secret Hidden MeaningTM that only the Truly Enlightened AtheistsTM can interpret.

    I must need to learn this secret, New Atheist code.

  228. bilbo

    It’s like when an NA blogger says, very, very, plainly “If you pray, you enable mass murder,” there is some Secret Hidden MeaningTM that only the Truly Enlightened AtheistsTM can interpret.

    Not only is there a Secret Hidden Meaning; it’s also sooooooo secret that it’s apparently taboo for them to break down and tell you what it really means. Instead, they just keep telling you you’ve got it wrong, but never try to offer an answer…

  229. rrt

    Bilbo: WHAT?!

    Is there another bilbo here? Who said, in comment #82:

    “You need to understand that the New Atheism IS hyperbole, Philip. My Catholic mother-in-law is guilty of child molestation and murder to them, and despite the fact that she partakes in anti-creationism/ID protests, she’s a creationism enabler.”

    Unless there’s two bilbos here, YOU made the statement in the first place! Philip just agreed with it!

    Moreover, go back and actually read my challenge to YOUR statement as seconded by Philip. It’s comment #101. I said: “Who says that? Show us.” I didn’t say “No one says that!” I never said I wanted “verbatim.” Philip brought that up in #96, with: “That statement is, almost verbatim, what some “New Atheists” say”. I only mentioned that phrase in reinforcing how clearly he’d supported your claim. And how the heck is that compatible with your claim that “Philip never claimed that such a thing happened”?

    Philip then mentioned an unspecified discussion in this blog’s past in support of his claim, with “statements just like the one I mentioned.” Without details that’s as good as nothing at all, and so I repeated my request, and elaborated it to be clear what I wanted in #106. Dude, “or a reasonable equivalent of” is right there! I restated (slightly edited for grammatical sense in the context) your quote, which Philip had seconded as being his experience “almost verbatim,” and asked for evidence of it or something like it. How is that not clear enough? How can you even pretend at this point not to understand when you at least tried to offer precisely what I was looking for (finally, but still without sourcing) in #222? And I have no idea what the heck you’re talking about with me “come[ing] full-circle to the “verbatim” request.”

    My “evidentiary qualifications” have never shifted in the slightest on this. I made it clear what I was looking for, and my goal has always been to show that you used hyperbole to suggest that the New Atheists use hyperbole as standard practice. YOU kept making strange, extreme conclusions from misunderstandings of my comments, and every time I corrected you, you lurched over to a different extreme conclusion and blamed ME for moving the goalposts.

    TB: Which no? That it’s not a fair characterization in #220? I thought you read my follow-up comments…? Are those closer to your point? If so, then why was Myers’ quote reasonably equivalent to bilbo’s in #82? For it to be so, wouldn’t Myers have to basically be saying “prayer = murder?”

  230. bilbo

    Bah! I’ll give you that one, rrt: I had indeed written that and had mistakenly quoted Philip’s quote of my post by not scrolling up enough…if that makes sense. Probably not?

    Regardless, what doesn’t change is your consistent rephrasing of what you “want” from ‘show me where someone said that verbatim’ —-> ‘I want reasonable alternatives’ —> “now, show me full guilt.’ And unless I’m miraculously able to move forward into the future, you’re requesting all of this before I or TB say a word, so your argument about “my goalpost shifting is your fault” makes absolutely no sense.

    As Milton said, however, I would love to hear the “real” interpretation of “people who pray are guilty of murder” after it is passed through your Double-Secret New Atheist Code TM to reveal its True New Atheist MeaningTM which, apprarently, is wholly different from how it si interpreted when using real English.

  231. Philip Jr.

    rrt and bilbo:

    First of all, I’m completely confused.

    Second of all, bilbo’s mother-in-law quote (which I later referenced, possibly leading to some of this confusion???) was from an earlier thread months ago on the blog in which we were discussing this very same topic. bilbo posed a hypothetical to gillt (or, at least, I can only presume this is the thread bilbo is referring to):

    “So if my little old Catholic mother-in-law is a member of pro-evolution and anti-creationism groups but is still a devout Catholic, she is still responsible for creationism?”

    to which the response was:

    “Yes. “Moderate” christians such as that are the true hypocrites who are perhaps the most guilty of promoting violence, terrorism, and creationism in our world.”

    Following this were several links to NA blogs/public speaking events clearly backing this statement up.

    I imagine this doesn’t clear up much of the confusion, but bilbo’s argument seems to hold water. Not even many of the New Atheists I know claim that the NAs don’t make statements such as the ones you’re trying so hard to wish away, rrt. At least live in reality here and argue for their legitimacy, like the rest of your fellow NAs do.

  232. rrt

    Actually, guys, that helps quite a bit. It still sounds very much like what I was suspecting, but I now I better understand the confusion over who said what.

    Though I honestly still DON’T understand the confusion about my request for evidence. Look, I’ve tried rephrasing it every way I know how. Look back over my comments again, carefully, if you think that will help any. I did not change what I wanted. At most, because you weren’t giving examples early on, I elaborated on my request to make it clear the sort of thing I was looking for. You somehow took that to mean I wanted sources to verbatim quotes of the example I gave–you’re STILL doing that–and circled endlessly around how obviously silly that was. An accurate version of my “progression” would be:

    ‘show me where someone said that’ –> ‘that’s not an example…show me where someone said something like what you said’ –> ‘that’s still not an example…show me where someone said something like what you said’ –> ‘better, but that’s STILL not an example because it’s not much like what you said.’

    Again, I never said, nor did I imply, that New Atheists never said that sort of thing. I never asked for a verbatim quote of your example. Are you saying that’s how you interpreted me asking “Who says that? Show us,” and asking for evidence backing up “That statement is, almost verbatim, what some “New Atheists” say?”

    If you’re really saying that, then at least I think I understand. I don’t think that’s a reasonable interpretation but in the context of your other comments, I think I can imagine you making it. But that’s what I mean by you shifting my goalposts; for whatever reason you’ve been misunderstanding my position, and as I correct that misunderstanding, you’ve been perceiving it as ME shifting. I’m not unfamiliar with the phenomenon. I see creationists do it quite a bit too, when they genuinely misunderstand some position of the scientific community and then, when corrected, see it as science changing its tune rather than them being confused in the first place. I don’t think it’s a rare human phenomenon.

    Maybe that’s it. But regardless of misunderstandings, my core point is still the same: I think you threw out that quote emotionally and carelessly, claiming it was the norm (and really, the bit with labeling an actively anti-creationist person as creationist was inherently absurd), when in fact I seriously doubt the mainstream New Atheist position is anything close to that. Indeed I think TB’s Myers quote was much closer to reality in saying that there is some culpability to enablers, and I had suspected you were exaggerating some position like that. But it’s just the “Letter From Birmingham Jail” argument. Was King saying white moderates = the KKK? I don’t think so, and neither do I think Myers was saying anything close to prayer = murder. Nor do I think it’s relevant that some of you think you can’t assign any culpability to enablers at all. As with much of reality and ethics, I see such culpability in shades of gray.

  233. TB

    Phillip: That’s pretty much the context I thought of the statement. That Meyer post pretty much backs it up.
    The only problem with rrt is it seems he wants to explain it away by saying what it is not.
    That’s because he doesn’t seem to have a problem with what it actually is – anyone who prays is an enabler and bares some responsibility for people commit crimes under the guise of religion. They share some of the guilt of child abuse and homicide.

  234. TB

    The idea that one thing can be automatically deduced from another thing due to a casual relationship is a classic logical fallacy.

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

    Following the line of reasoning rrt seems to subscribe to means that anyone who drinks alcohol perpetuates and supports a system whereby a drunk gets behind the wheel of a car and kills someone. And so anyone who drinks bears some measure of responsibility and guilt for that crime, regardless that they don’t have any association or history with the drunk or if they themselves drink responsibly or not.

    Using this line of faulty reason, anyone can be found guilty or called a hypocrite of just about anything – even if it’s something you vehemently oppose. And if it’s something particularly nasty, like child abuse or homicide, you can really stick the knife in.

  235. rrt

    “That’s because he doesn’t seem to have a problem with what it actually is – anyone who prays is an enabler and bares some responsibility for people commit crimes under the guise of religion. They share some of the guilt of child abuse and homicide.”

    Yes, absolutely. And my main point is that this is not equivalent to saying enablers are child abusers and murderers, while bilbo/Philip were saying atheists did claim that. The fact that you think it’s a terrible logical fallacy to think the above is irrelevant to whether bilbo/Philip were misrepresenting New Atheists with their example.

    As I said, I can understand your position of it being a fallacy. I just think you’re wrong. Seems to me it boils down to line drawing, and the fact that you can draw a line most of us would agree is absurd means no one can draw a line at all. I think THAT’S absurd. If you think it’s absurd in the specific case of prayer, fine.

  236. TB

    And so rrt gives no evidence for his position and even holds to it in the face of contradictory evidence. Dismissing the evidence or calling it absurd is not refuting it.
    To use an analogy, much like a fundamental religious person might continue to believe in a young earth in spite of evidence to the contrary.
    So, rrt, do you or have you ever consumed alchoholic beverages?

  237. Chris, I missed this news the other day so please accept my belated congratulations. This sounds like a great opportunity to expand your life experiences and contribute to your professional and personal development:

    http://scienceblogs.com/terrasig/2010/03/congratulations_to_chris_moone.php

  238. rrt

    Well, I made an accidental double-post which apparently just led to my nice long reply getting eaten. I don’t want to retype that, so in brief:

    It’s apples and oranges, TB. I was asking for material evidence supporting a material claim: “You guys say this.”

    But I don’t think analogies are an invalid approach for your argument. I just don’t think yours are good ones. Read the Myers article you linked again. If we stick with alcohol, then an analogy that echoes his argument more closely, and I think is much more appropriate than yours, would be to consider the state of alcohol use in Russia; its social function, its ingrained cultural status, and its consequences on public health.

    No analogy is perfect, but there are a lot of similarities here. Both alcohol and prayer may be harmless or negligibly harmful in small doses, but while both are serving some potentially useful peripheral functions (social lubricant, psychological health, symbolism, etc.) they are tools to that end, and are otherwise pretty much inherently useless. Prayer does not work. Its futility has been thoroughly demonstrated. In that light, and in light of the consequences of its practice, I see nothing wrong in seeing it as wrong, as unethical and irresponsible to tell others that it does work, and to validate its practice.

    If you want to argue that this specific case is too extreme, I don’t have a problem with that. But again, this is an exercise in line-drawing. Don’t tell me we can’t draw lines at all just because you don’t like where I’m drawing them HERE, or because you can come up with some ridiculous lines in your analogies.

  239. Kagehi

    Hmm. Maybe we should ask Mooney when he is going to collaborate on a book with the *twice* winner of the “Templeton Religion Reporter of the Year Award”, Mr. Douglas Todd:

    http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/thesearch/archive/2009/02/28/join-the-real-charles-darwin-debate-on-the-12-theories-of-evolution.aspx

    See, this is why I don’t trust Templeton’s claim to serve the purpose of supporting science, and think Mooney is a fool for even trying to work with such people. Their intention isn’t to support science, it is to find any clown, who can present a false cause for religion being jammed into science. Or, in the case of people like Mooney, anyone that can be made patsy to the task of claiming that such people have something to say about the science side of the equation, which isn’t completely mad.

    Or.. Maybe you actually think that ID, Theosophy, “Conscious Evolution”, “Process Philosophy”… Umm. lets just say 11 different rambling “alternatives” which happily ignore most, or all, of the science, really are “viable” alternatives? Should we, “Teach the Controversy”? Wasn’t coming back here, until PZ brought this bozo up. Its a perfect example of why, as I already said, trying to “help” groups claiming to bridge the gap is always a net loss for science. The people doing so are *never* interested in bridging the gap, unless its to create false equivalencies, false claims of controversy, or as a means to ignore/derail/hide under the carpet, science that doesn’t support the claim they **actually** want to be true. Hint – The claim isn’t that you can do science without stuffing religion, in what ever form, some place into it, and gumming up all the gears. They are like the dinosaurs, in the old “Dark Wing Duck” cartoon, using tree pitch as moisturizer, mud to lubricate engine parts, and stone wheels, instead of rubber. I.e., their whole proposition on how to “fix” the issue isn’t just flawed, its completely ***backwards***. (A fact made even more clear when you get away from the “religion + science” people, and just deal with the religion ones, and find that archeology, or anything else that might call into question **basic** assertions about the validity, or source, or their holy myths is treated with disdain bordering on the kind of paranoid aggression you see from governments that censor their news, internet and own people, to prevent “dangerous ideas” from spreading, like.. actual historical facts, and things.)

  240. TB

    rrt

    You’re free to draw whatever lines you want, and I’m free to evaluate them. And upon evaluating it, I find that nothing in your latest reply addresses the idea of a logical fallacy.

    The fact that prayer can’t be proven to work doesn’t speak at all to our point of contention.

    Someone at a doctor’s office prays that their child – being examined by a doctor – will be OK. You seem to be saying that parent holds some responsibility for a complete stranger who chooses to pray over their child instead of taking them to a doctor – to the point where the child’s health is endangered and/or that child dies. We have no information whether that parent at the doctor’s office thinks that the actions of that stranger are in any way appropriate.

    The venn diagram at the wiki link in 237 illustrates how wrong you are in making that connection. Without more information, you can draw a line but you can’t draw a circle. And your inability to counter that analysis while holding to your position indicates my analogy is spot on.

    But let’s look at how you’re arguing your position. Take your attempt with my analogy of alcohol. There were no political borders for this position on prayer so we don’t and shouldn’t have to accept your artificially-imposed limiting factor. Not that it matters, because I can address it either way:

    Without your limiting factor: according to your reasoning, a person in IDAHO who enjoys an occasional glass of wine during special occasions – drinking less than five or six glasses a year – still holds some responsibility for the “state of alcohol use in Russia; its social function, its ingrained cultural status, and its consequences on public health.” That’s absurd on it’s face! Beyond the casual relationship of alcohol, we have no evidence that the one individual in Idaho has any influence over alcohol use in Russia!

    But, if you insist that we contain the analogy to Russia that’s not a problem, because the deductive fallacy still exists: a person in MOSCOW who enjoys an occasional glass of wine during special occasions – drinking less than five or six glasses a year – still holds some responsibility for the “state of alcohol use in Russia; its social function, its ingrained cultural status, and its consequences on public health.” Again, beyond the casual relationship of geography and alcohol, what evidence is there that the one person IN MOSCOW has any influence over alcohol use in Russia?

    There is none. You keep wanting to draw lines, but the things you’re drawing lines between are not impactful enough to be able to arrive the conclusions you desperately want to support. All you did there was add another casual condition – geographic location – without adding the most important element – willful or negligent actions that promote or result in the negative behavior.

  241. Katharine

    This post by Kagehi does some very perhaps unwitting exposure of the real issue behind all of this:

    “Look, everyone keeps pointing out that Mooney says, “tone it down”, and a mess of other things in the same vein. But, while that is annoying in an of itself, you still miss the key point. That is an ***existing***, and **losing** strategy. Its the strategy that has been used since scientists figured out that its probably a bad idea to get themselves locked in their own homes by a church, like Galileo, and the end result of it has *generally* ended up being that religion has dictated what can be examined, often the conclusions that *must* be reached, and a whole host of other unscientific idiocies. This **still** happens today, in places where large numbers of accomidationists look around and go, “Is this going to upset someone?”, or, “OK, I know this will, so how can I spin it so it sounds nicer.””

    Here’s the problem: Why do you care if the truth makes religious people angry? I don’t.

    “The problem with the first is, you get cases like Darwin refusing to publish for decades, because the implications would piss off most believers. In the later case, its actually **worse**. Why? Because the only way to spin something so that it doesn’t, in some cases, deny everything the religious believe, is to reword it in a way that is no longer concise or clear, and where it **can** be badly misinterpreted to support pure gibberish, not to just the religious, but scammers, con artists and people selling the latest quantum vibration, combination toothbrush and detoxifier. If you muddy the waters yourself, intentionally, to satisfy people with completely flawed world views, **everyone** with a flawed perception will distort it to fit their view, and the time wasted combating all the misconceptions, errors, and pure idiocy, which arises from this, will end up being nearly as bad as waiting for years to publish, because believers might not like the implications of it.”

    Why is anyone letting what the religious believe influence anything they say? Are you afraid you’re going to be lynched or burnt at the stake (though I wouldn’t put it past some of the crazier nutters). Why do so many people care?

    “He is, to state it again, advocating a centuries old **losing** strategy, which we only started to exit from when the conclusions reached started finally putting the faithful on the defensive, and required them to distort evidence, ignore it, or otherwise twist things into pretzels, to find some way to support the more crazy views of religion (that, and do a lot of hand waving, while pointing at shrinking gaps, and saying, “Ah, well, since you didn’t find god there, he must be in that very small crack, the one over there in the corner, you can **just** see it, if you squint.”).

    Its like some general proclaiming, “Man, we made a huge mistake making tanks, which are right out in the open, for everyone to see. We need to go back to the old days of muskets, and hiding behind trees, and just hope the enemy doesn’t do the same thing.”, while missing the point that they have had probably 6,000-10,000 more years to learn how to camouflage there positions, and hide behind them. We where never, both due to the nature of science, and the nature of such camouflage, as good as they are at it, and we never will be, not without throwing out basic scientific integrity. Toning things down doesn’t solve the problem, it plays into their pre-existing strategy of making anyone that **doesn’t** call them on everything they do as, “On our side.””"

    We have to stop caring what the lay people think. Honestly. We have to not be afraid to hurt their widdle feewings. We have to tell them ‘Sit down and shut up, this is how it works, and if you disagree, you can either give us hard evidence to the contrary or you can f#$% off.’

  242. Katharine

    Gosh, people are such pansies.

  243. Katharine

    “(that, and do a lot of hand waving, while pointing at shrinking gaps, and saying, “Ah, well, since you didn’t find god there, he must be in that very small crack, the one over there in the corner, you can **just** see it, if you squint.”)”

    Goodness! That almost sounds like a direct quote from an accomodationist such as Chris Mooney or Francis Collins.

  244. rrt

    Katharine:

    Problem is, they can vote. Their numbers aren’t small and they have a lot of power. In a democracy, “sit down and shut up” often doesn’t work.

    I’m not averse to hurting feelings (unless it’s purely for that end). But that can be a factor in the democratic process, which I gather is supposed to be a big part of Chris’ message to the science community. I have no comment on his approach, don’t wanna drag THAT out, but I do at least think it’s silly to suggest you don’t have to deal with a scientifically ignorant public to make good science-based public policy. One way or another, you do.

  245. rrt

    Sigh. Another eaten post and then the next goes straight through. Remembered to copy it this time:

    “There is none. You keep wanting to draw lines, but the things you’re drawing lines between are not impactful enough to be able to arrive the conclusions you desperately want to support.”

    And I can live with you thinking that. It seemed to me, earlier, that you were arguing the basic concept of indirect responsibility was itself a logical fallacy.

    I don’t see the analogy quite the way you do, though. Look back at the Myers article you cited. Look specifically at his description of the moderate praying Christians and what they would do and say. To me, it’s not talking about “five or six glasses a year on special occasions”, although under the right (probably rare) circumstances I COULD see that applying. It’s about actively perpetuating and validating the culture of prayer or alcohol. It’s about going out regularly with your buddies to do either. It’s about imparting the habit to your kids. It’s about reinforcing the collective idea that prayer is good and useful and right.

    I sense that you’re focusing on the idea that some people can’t be seen as contributing to the culture. Are you thinking I’m arguing against that? Oh no! I think we’d argue over who is or isn’t contributing or how much is too much, but no, I do not think that simply praying is inherently enabling. It has to be more than that. I could even imagine a culture that fully embraces prayer that would be okay, if it was for (and universally understood to be for) the nonmagical effects one may get from it. I don’t know if human nature would let such a culture last (I think it may be inevitable some people decide they really were talking to someone besides themselves). But I don’t think I’d have any problem with the concept.

    I agree wholeheartedly, I think “willful or negligent actions that promote or result in the negative behavior” is a fine standard. I think we just differ over what could be considered promoting or resulting. I think we’re pretty far apart on that, with you putting most or all emphasis on direct promotion and me counting a lot of indirect, and I don’t expect to reconcile that. But I don’t think either of us was quite as far out as the other was thinking.

  246. Kagehi

    I’m not averse to hurting feelings (unless it’s purely for that end). But that can be a factor in the democratic process, which I gather is supposed to be a big part of Chris’ message to the science community.

    Ah, see. Now we are into politics. You know.. like one nut holding up both money to make jobs **and** the money being paid to people to keep them from starving, while waiting of those jobs to exist. Not to mention the whole, “We are still the tea party! Honest!!!”, wackos that figure that have hijacked that, and replaced it with a campaign of disinformation, lies, distortions, and the contention that the “solution” to everyone’s problems is, “Elect more right wing idiots like us, we are the *honest* ones!” You get the same thing between hard science, and the fuzzy, “You got science in my religion!”, types. The people that need to do something about it are either a) scared to, b) feel they are too busy too, or c) get told, by their own side, to tone it down and play things nicely. The end result is the scientific world’s equivalent of our current national Senate. One side doesn’t give a frack what works, as long as someone else isn’t the one doing it, and the other side is a->c above. The only thing worse than being (a) or (b), is being the jerk saying (c) is the right solution.

    Lets put it another way, who here, at this point, if the Senate was discussing say.. Darwin vs. ID, and holding up 240+ ***scientific research projects***, including delaying key funding, which is resulting in people getting laid off, or entire projects canceled, wouldn’t be **just as annoyed** with the people telling us to work bi-partisan on science, as a **lot** of us are fed up with a) Obama not having the guts to directly and specifically call some of the clowns involved *by name*, or b) his party (which in this hypothetical being scientists that don’t want to glue the concepts together) refusing to do a damn thing to force the issue, despite having, in their hands, all the real power, not just to counter the disinformation campaigns being run, if they bothered, make sure facts got to the public, instead of just spin, and get things actually done?

    Mind, the way its being done *may* be intentional, and with an end game of exposing the other side’s hypocracy and, in some cases, insanity, and could work, but it is, if anything, worse than being strident and uncompromising. Its being done, if it works, by backing the ignorant and self serving into as many corners as possible, then leaving them with no option but to prove themselves wrong, or change sides. Its an interesting plan, assuming that is what is intended, and its not all just a blind appeal for everyone to like him (as some, including PZ said they feared might be true when we elected the man), but.. I am pretty sure Mooney et al would have a seizure over such a strategy, since it doesn’t just represent being loud, uncompromising, and direct about the opinion of the lack of use that gods have in science, it would constitute the equivalent of taking organizations like Templeton, and arranging for them to shoot *themselves* in the foot, using a howitzer.

    Personally, I would love to see it happen. But, assuming this is Obama’s intent, we don’t **have** any such person among scientists, that I can see. No one willing to play at compromise, for the pure purpose of showing how unwilling, and actively apposed, the other side is *to* make such a thing. Nor, I would argue, would most scientists be willing to put up with the complete bloody mess it would create, in the short term, while the truth of the situation was exposed (since a lot of science would get mangled in the process of running it through a blender of woo in such a circumstance). It would show the same thing that it has in the Senate. The complete ethical vacuity of many on one side, and the ignorance of a great many more, plus the complete inability of most of the other side to do the very thing we are being told not to – stand up and *be* strident and uncompromising on the issue of just where the line *should be*, and what isn’t acceptable.

  247. TB

    rrt: “It’s about reinforcing the collective idea that prayer is good and useful and right.”

    But unless there is also evidence that says someone thinks “prayer is good and useful and right” AND preferred over taking a child to a doctor, then there is no connection other than a casual one. As casual as the connection between a person who drinks five or six glasses a year on special occasions and an alcoholic behind the wheel of a car.

    You keep avoiding that part.

  248. rrt

    No, I don’t. Read it again. It’s right there in the area you quoted.

    I don’t mind if you still think my version is too weak to criticize. Again, I don’t expect us to agree on that. But don’t tell me I’m ignoring something I haven’t just because I don’t see it the way you do.

  249. Kagehi

    Actually, TB, there have been several cases, including in Oregon, where this is **precisely** what entire sects believe, where something like dozens of children have died from curable conditions, because if that belief, and where the courts have neither taken away their other children, given them significant jail time **or** required psychiatric treatment, precisely **because** it was their religious convictions that led to the outcome. This isn’t always the case, but in far too many, possibly even the majority of them, as long as the victims are children of the people that believe, or others in the same group, the rule, “Harm begins when you involve someone else.”, doesn’t count at all. Anything, no matter how accidental or not, or whether they are aware of alternatives, or they know of the option about how to treat the condition, or otherwise *could have* taken them to the hospital (or even, in some cases, have done so, after it was too late), short of **intentionally** killing someone, and knowingly intended to do so, is acceptable.

    Ignorance isn’t just bliss, its a get out of consequence/responsibility card, for those holding, or at least convincingly implying, a strong conviction that prayer can “fix” diseases, starvation, etc., better than feeding your kid, giving them medical help, or properly educating them, or anything else. You just have to convince a judge and jury, and be in one of the states where they *allow* people to get by with it.

    Are you honestly going to tell me this people do not advocate “prayer is good, and useful, and right”? For that matter, what do you imagine the position is of people with actual power, like the AiG types, who advocate denial of climate change, evolution, HIV, and numerous other things, sometimes “in combination”, with the express purpose of replacing “everything” that isn’t properly Biblical with a) Bible quotes and b) praying for people to be cured of.. well, everything from AIDS, to not believing in a proper literalist world view. Doesn’t matter that their cause is disingenuous, in that they advocate the power, rightness and effectiveness of asking god for everything you need, while feeling that they have to use misinformation, quote mining, false science, wacky museums, and other purely non-prayer based solutions to combat it. The end game is, we replace anything in science that doesn’t fit some orthodox literal reading of the Bible, or their interpretation of what that actually is, with stuff more Bible like, and replace all medical, psych, or other treatments, not to mention even our economic models, which currently also don’t “fit” their alternate universe, with praying people healthy, wealthy, and prosperous.

    Sure, its not always practical to stop people getting drunk, pretty much impossible to stop people drinking at all, but that doesn’t mean that you stop arresting drunks, because it might offend “mostly sober people”, or tell all the bars that its now perfectly fine to change their “two drink minimum” rules to “five drink minimum”, as though the original rule itself wasn’t bloody idiotic. You don’t open the door to the drunk, just so the social drinkers don’t get pissed off at you telling them drinking is bad, if you over do it. Duh!!

  250. TB

    Rrt
    Nope, you’re still insisting that a casual link is automatically a direct cause.

    People who pray – liberal or moderate -are not responsible for ideas about prayer that they themselves disagree with. 

    But all this is obvious, and I believe you know that you’ ve been caught in promoting a deductive fallacy – you’ve got an agenda that the fallacy supports so you can’t give up on it.

    It may sound reasonable to “agree to disagree,” but for that to occur each of us would have to see merit in the other’s position. 

    Your position is based on a fallacy – I see no merit in it.

  251. TB

    @ 252 Kaghei: You’re buying into rrt’s obfuscation. Whether abuse occurs is not the area of our dispute.

    But I have to say, this focus on a single issue is starting to bug me. The problems of our family court system do not begin and end with religion.

    That system is trying to find a way to allow families to be different and remain families without also being dangerous to themselves and others. And it fails at that more time that we like.
    The legal complexities in those cases are basically the same ones that leave children in drug homes and/or in physically-abusive environments.
    Your concern about these specific instances is certainly laudable, Kaghei, but they are not more important than cases of kids dying in homes where addiction, physical abuse or mental illness are the challenges.

    And they do not have anything to do with my dispute with rrt.

  252. rrt

    I’ve been disagreeing with you honestly here from day one, TB. If my opinion is based on a fallacy, I don’t see it, despite your efforts to convince me.

    But you are, obviously, free to believe whatever you want about me.

  253. John Kwok

    Chris,

    My belated congratulations. Just noticed that ERV seems to be having a lot of fun over this announcement:

    http://scienceblogs.com/erv/2010/02/the_scientific_communication_m.php#comments

    She might think she’s the Chesire Cat, but I think she comes across more as the Red Queen.

    Cheers,

    John

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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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