A Long Unexpected Homecoming — and, "Why Truth Loses"

By Chris Mooney | June 25, 2010 9:06 am

CFI AmherstThis morning I fly out to Buffalo, and then ride on to Amherst, New York, home to the Center for Inquiry — the hub of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, Free Inquiry, and much else, including the Point of Inquiry radio show and podcast. This is the place I worked, for my very first job out of college, along with Matthew Nisbet in the summer of 1999. Also present back then: Derek Araujo, now Vice President and General Counsel of the Center for Inquiry, director of CFI’s legal programs, and CFI’s Representative to the United Nations; and Austin Dacey, a writer in New York and author of The Secular Conscience.

The occasion is the Center for Inquiry On Campus Leadership Conference — and, well, I’m reminiscing. It is hard to believe that ten years ago, I was in a secular humanist rock band with Araujo, Dacey, and a few other young skeptic/freethinkers called the House Judiciary Committee (it was the time of impeachment). I was the rhythm guitar player, though I didn’t have any rhythm. One of our hits? An instrumental called “Hook, Quine, and Pinker.”

My goals in Amherst are several. First, I’m going to give a talk to the young freethought advocates. It’s one I’ve only given once so far, entitled “Why Truth Loses: Understanding and Defeating the New War on Science.”

Australian TVThe first time I gave the talk was in Australia, and it was broadcast nationwide on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). The talk itself originated because I had been invited out to address the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies‘ annual Science Meets Parliament event–why we don’t have one of these here, I have no idea–and I had 14 hours on a rather empty plane across the Pacific to figure out what to speak on. And so arose a speech that sort of combines The Republican War on Science, Unscientific America, and a lot of research I did about the history of science into a big-scale account of why the forces of reason all too often seem to get defeated, despite having the better arguments.

My second objective in Amherst is even more glorious — on Saturday, find a TV to watch the U.S. vs Ghana!

And then my third objective: Robert Price, my fellow Point of Inquiry host, is also going to be on hand. So I think the plan is that we’re going to record a live show together, on an as yet undisclosed topic. We’ll see.

So it should be quite a visit/adventure. In future posts, I’m going to say more about the “Why Truth Loses” talk, as I hope to start giving it more frequently — starting today.

Comments (4)

  1. Jon

    I bet you could have some interesting conversations with Susan Jacoby (if you haven’t already):

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

    Her last two books seem very relevant to your work.

  2. John Kwok

    Chris,

    If you see Austin, give him my regards. Haven’t seen him in months and probably should reconnect at some point.

    Hope yours is a great talk.

    Regards,

    John

  3. Jon

    This 2006 article, I think, sends the wrong message (it;s too adversarial–although it’s not a surprising message considering when it went out):

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/14/AR2006111401176.html

  4. SLC

    A little OT but Newsweek is reporting that the newspapers that pumped up climategate are now retracting their initial stories. This, of course, will not have the slightest effect on the global warming deniers who will find other phony controversies to trumpet.

    http://www.newsweek.com/blogs/the-gaggle/2010/06/25/newspapers-retract-climategate-claims-but-damage-still-done.html

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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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