chris mooney

Quick Hit: The Dumb Rolls On

I am shocked — shocked! — to see that Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum have failed to take my sage advice, and are going ahead with an ill-fated attempt to rebut PZ Myers’s criticisms (which he’s, of course, continuing to make) of them and their book.  They give a list of reasons why they’re responding (and indicate that the series of response posts is already drafted, so I guess it’s too late for a final plea from my tiny little blog to stop them), but none of them are good reasons.  And no one old enough to no longer be getting into fights on the grade school playground should need it explained to them why those aren’t good reasons.

As Mooney and Kirshenbaum have already noted several times, there are lots of positive reviews out there.  If the book itself, plus all the positive reviews, aren’t sufficient to counter one negative review, maybe the book really isn’t all that good — now, I haven’t read it, so I don’t have any opinion on whether it’s actually good or not, but this dogged insistence on countering every point Myers makes makes Mooney and Kirshenbaum (I implicate both here because the latest was posted under both their names, although it has mostly seemed that Mooney has been leading the charge on this dumb-ass blogfight) look thin-skinned, petty, and severely lacking confidence in the quality of their own work.

Seriously, Chris and Sheril.  I like your blog, and I think you mostly do good work.  If PZ’s attacks are wrong, then anyone who reads your book and/or other reviews will know so — and anyone who only reads PZ’s review was never going to accept your arguments anyway.  Let it go!  “New Atheists” are not your enemy.

And PZ, I like your blog too, and I think you mostly do good work too.  “Accomodationists” are not your enemy.

Theocrats are the enemy.  Fight them, not each other.  Disband the circular firing squad.  I don’t know which one of you is the Judean People’s Front and which the People’s Front of Judea, but quit yelling “splitter!” at each other and fight the Romans.  It’s OK if you don’t both fight them the same way.

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Could This Get Any Stupider?

I’ll save you the suspense: the answer is no.

Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum wrote this book called Unscientific America.  One of the things they argue is that public understanding of, and willingness to understand, science is impeded by the perception that scientists are intolerant of religion.  In particular, they criticize PZ Myers and other “New Atheists” (a ridiculous term, in my opinion) for their aggressive approach and their insistence that religion and science are incompatible.  Mooney is himself an atheist, but is the sort Myers and others deride as an “accommodationist,” and has been having an ongoing argument with Jerry Coyne on whether or not science and religion are necessarily incompatible (Coyne agrees with Myers and others that they are).

When review copies of the book went out, Myers didn’t receive his immediately, and some other people had already put up their own reviews, from which he learned that he came in for criticism.  He assumed this was why he hadn’t received a copy — which would be a breach of good etiquette if true, though one might equally consider his assumption of bad faith on Mooney’s and Kirshenbaum’s part to be such a breach — and Mooney and Kirshenbaum responded that the process of sending out review copies had just been disorganized, and that he had always been on the recipient list.

Myers then received his copy, and posted an extremely negative review.  Then Mooney responded, citing other, positive reviews, and promising to have “much more” to say about Myers’s review.  Up to this point, it was a pretty dumb blogfight, but far from the stupidest ever.  (more…)