Have you been following this? P. Z. Myers got recognized at a screening of Expelled and was thrown out. Richard Dawkins, who was with Myers, did not get recognized and was allowed in. Hilarious! I think most people would agree with Dawkins’ take:
The blogs are ringing with ridicule. Mark Mathis, duplicitous producer of the much hyped film Expelled, shot himself in the foot so spectacularly that the phrase might have been invented for him. Goals don’t come more own than this. How is it possible that a man who makes his living from partisan propaganda could hand so stunning a propaganda coup to his opponents? Hand it to them on a plate, so ignominiously and so UNNECESSARILY.
Quite right. I recommend the remainder of Dawkins’ lengthy essay as well.
Here at Science Blogs, most people saw the humor in the situation. Not so Chris Mooney, who argued that the contrversy actually helped the forces of darkness. Also not so Matt Nisbet who rained on everyone’s parade with these sorts of sentiments:
As long as Dawkins and PZ continue to be the representative voices from the pro-science side in this debate, it is really bad for those of us who care about promoting public trust in science and science education. Dawkins and PZ need to lay low as Expelled hits theaters. Let others play the role of communicator, most importantly the National Center for Science Education, AAAS, the National Academies or scientists such as Francis Ayala or Ken Miller. When called up by reporters or asked to comment, Dawkins and PZ should refer journalists to these organizations and individuals.
Though the occasion for writing the post was the whole Expelled kerfuffle, the point actually discussed by Nisbet was a You Tube clip from the film in which Dawkins and Myers are critical of religion. For the record, I had no problem with anything they said in the clip, and on this issue Dawkins and Myers speak for me.
This prompted Sheril Kirshenbaum to protest that P.Z. had crossed a line in being so rude. Chris Mooney subsequently backed her up on this in the comments.
Clearly what is needed is for me to step up and lay down the law.
First, on the merits of the Mooney/Nisbet thesis that the whole situation with P.Z. getting thrown out is bad for the good guys, I think Mark Chu-Carroll has a good take. His opening mischaracterizes the views of people opposed to the opinions expressed by Mooney and Nisbett on the subject of framing, (As far as I know, nobody objects to framing as an abstract principle. The objection is to the specific ways Nisbet in particular argued that these ideas should be put into practice) but the rest of the post is spot-on. Orac also has some wise words to say on the matter. I think he lays it on a bit think, but I generally agree with his take.
Basically, I think this is much ado about nothing. The Myers/Dawkins affair is a small, short-term PR victory for the good guys and a black eye for the bad guys. When the movie is finally released there will be some press coverage, and this incident is likely to get mentioned repeatedly. But it’s hardly something that’s going to sink the film or even mitigate very much the harm that it is poised to do.
What about the civility issues? I’m a big fan of civility. Respect has to be earned, of course, but let’s stipulate that everyone here at Science Blogs has, in fact, earned it. Passion and strong words are one thing, but gratuitous insults and motive-questioning are something different. So let me protest some of the invective I’ve seen hurled at Matt and Chris both in the comments to various blog posts and even among certain bloggers. They are not “concern-trolls,” they are not simply pretending to support science while secretly trying to subvert it, they are not closet creationists. They have a not entirely unreasonable position about the best way to promote science and they make some decent arguments on behalf of their view. In the end I’m mostly unconvinced, at least on the specific issue of dealing with creationists. But they deserve better treatment than they’ve been getting from some quarters. So knock it off.
That said, let me disagree with Sheril on this one:
It seems to me, that although you two argue constantly, Matt has always treated you with decorum and respect.
Nonsense. Matt has been consistently rude and condescending towards P.Z., both on this issue and previously. Civility is a two-way street, and Matt would do well to show a bit more tact in making his case.
As for P.Z., I can understand why he would be, well, annoyed with Matt, but this is one case where humor and sarcasm would have been far more effective than outrage. I disagreed with everything Matt said in his post, but I felt some sympathy for him after reading P.Z.’s reply.
So that’s my take on that. On to more pressing issues…