I suspect that everyone reading this has heard the story of what happened when P.Z. Myers and Richard Dawkins tried to attend a screening of Expelled in Minneapolis last week. Short version: P.Z. got recognized and was not allowed in. Dawkins was not recognized and was allowed in. If you’ve been living in a cave for the last week you can check out P.Z.’s post here. Then scroll through the remainder of his recent posts to hear about the fallout.
There are many aspects of this worth discussing, but here I am interested in only one. Matt Nisbet, you see, is once more beating his favorite dead horse. That’s the one where he protests that people like Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers (and Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett) are hurting the cause of promoting good science education. They make people think that science and atheism are intextricably linked, you see, which causes fence-sitting religious moderates to side with the forces of darkness and ignorance.
I’ve discussed this point before at this blog. I see the argument Nisbet (and others) are making, but in the end I do not agree with it. Frankly, I think we need hundreds more just like Dawkins and Myers. That, however, is not the issue I want to raise right now.
Virtually everything in Nisbet’s post deserves a response, but since I’m a bit pressed for time I will only focus on one. Nisbet writes:
So Richard and PZ, when it comes to Expelled, it’s time to let other people be the messengers for science. This is not about censoring your ideas and positions, but rather being smart, strategic, tactical, and ultimately effective in promoting science rather than your own personal ideology, books, or blog. (Emphasis Added)
This reminded me of something I once read in a Dave Barry column. Sadly, I no longer have the precise quotation, but it was something like, “While I would certainly never blame a complex situation on a single entity, I believe the New York Times is solely and completely responsible for this.”
Matt, of course you’re calling for censoring their positions and ideas (which are largely my own, incidentally). It’s one of the main themes of your writing that every time Myers and Dawkins open their mouths they’re hurting the cause of good science education. You’re telling them to shut up and let other people do the talking. You write:
When called up by reporters or asked to comment, Dawkins and PZ should refer journalists to these organizations and individuals.
So even if they are specifically asked for their opinions by a journalist they are not supposed to answer, but are instead supposed to refer the journalist to an organization less hostile to religion.
How can you then turn around and say you are not calling for censorship?