Unscientific America, Revisited

I’m sure we all remember the book Unscientific America, by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum. I found the book to be very disappointing, for reasons I explained in my epic, three-part review (Part One, Part Two, Part Three.) In short, I felt the book was superficial in its analysis of the problem and, as as result, offered solutions that were unlikely to be effective (and were highly impractical to boot.)

I had mentally moved on to other things, but then Jerry Coyne published a hostile review of the book in Science. I read the review when it was published, noted that it raised some of the same issues that I did, and moved on again. But now Mooney and Kirshenabum, hereafter M and K, have revived the issue with this post, which charges that Coyne’s reviews was “misleading.” They write (referring to a post from Josh Rosenau:

Rosenau detailed the many ways in which Coyne misrepresented our book on fundamental matters-e.g., what is the problem it identifies, what are the causes of that problem, and so on. We encourage readers to go through Rosenau’s entire post, which contains numerous rebuttals, followed by more accurate descriptions of what Unscientific America argues.

Serious charges, and we will come to them in a moment. First, though, let us note that M and K have not exactly bathed themselves in glory throughout this little kerfuffle. They were the ones who grossly misquoted P. Z. Myers (as I documented in Part Two of my review), making it appear that an insult directed at certain religious fanatics was meant to apply to religious believers generally. They are the ones who presented a woefully misleading account of the whole “Crackergate” affair, omitting many critical details in an attempt to make P. Z. look as bad as possible. A reader who only knew of the affair from M and K’s description would not have a good understanding of what happened.

In the present post, intended to discredit Coyne, they write:

Indeed, we are not the only authors who have felt compelled to respond in this manner to one of Coyne’s book reviews. As Robert Wright has put it:

Here is a partial list of false or misleading things Jerry Coyne says about my book The Evolution of God in his review of it in The New Republic. I want to emphasize that I think these are innocent mistakes…If Coyne wants to write a devastating review of my book–and there can be little doubt that he wants to–he’s going to have to start over.

If you are interested in honest and open discussion, and you refer to Robert Wright’s claim that Coyne misrepresented him in his review, it is only fair to link to Coyne’s reply as well.

Let us not forget that it was Mooney and Kirshenbaum who, writing in the LA Times, mocked Richard Dawkins for writing a book presenting the evidence for evolution and proceeded to distort the arguments of those who argue against a peaceful coexistence between science and religion. And they were the ones who used a single comment from the thousands PZ receives every week as a tool for discrediting his blog in general. (Sorry, I can’t find the link right now.) I could cite other examples as well.

There have been a lot of nasty things written on both sides of this dispute. I have seen many unfair and uncalled for slurs hurled at M and K, as well as Josh Rosenau for his posts on similar topics. Much of it has come from people on my side of the debate, and I cringe whenever I read it. Incivility has its place, but this is not it. As I said in my review of UA, while I disagree with almost everything in the book, I think anyone interested in science popularization should read it.

But let us have no illusion that incivility is a one-way street. M and K, and many of their supporters, have given just as good as they have been getting. They have consistently rejected opportunities to take the high road, and have resorted to many of the same poor tactics they so quickly call out in their critics.

Now for some of the substantive points. M and K have a letter to the editor in the current issue of Science outlining their objections to Coyne’s review. They write:

The problem is apparent from Coyne’s opening sentence, in which he asserts that Unscientific America argues that the problem of American scientific illiteracy “derives from two failings of scientists themselves: their vociferous atheism and their ham-handed and ineffectual efforts to communicate the importance of science to the public.” This would be a very foolish position; thankfully, it isn’t ours. On the contrary, as we describe it, scientific illiteracy–really, the gap between science and society–is a complex, multifaceted, multidecadal problem. It is hardly something that can be blamed exclusively on the failings of scientists, although surely scientists have contributed to the divide.

Fair enough. “Derives from” was a poor choice of words. Coyne should have used a phrase like “is seriously exacerbated by” instead. M and K do not believe that vocal atheism and poor outreach are the cause of scientific illiteracy (which the phrase “derives from” would imply) but they certainly think they are big contributing factors.

Coyne should have phrased things more carefully, but this has nothing to do with the substantive arguments Coyne raises in objection to the book.

Moving on:

Coyne’s misrepresentations continue as he asserts that we “claim that scientific illiteracy once was ameliorated by people like Carl Sagan and Stephen Gould but is now exacerbated by the ‘new atheists.’” Our views are nowhere near so simplistic. The same goes for this assertion: “Other data contradict Mooney and Kirshenbaum’s claim that American ignorance of scientific issues reveals a failure of outreach.”

In a complex society and world, in which citizens’ views of scientific issues are influenced by the educational system, the news media (new and old), the entertainment media, interpersonal communications, political predilections, religious commitments, and much else, how could anyone hold the naive positions that Coyne attributes to us? We certainly don’t. To give just one example, consider our observation about where vaccine skeptics get their “science”: “From the Internet, celebrities, other parents, and a few non-mainstream researchers and doctors who continue to challenge the scientific consensus, all of which forms a self-reinforcing echo chamber of misinformation.”

I do not understand this objection at all. Phrases like “ameliorated by” and “exacerbated by” are not absolutist statements. I fail to see how Coyne has oversimplified anything here. Unless I have completely misread them, M and K do think the new atheists exacerbate the problem, and they do think the more conciliatory approach taken by Gould and Sagan ameliorated the problem. What am I missing?

Coyne does not attribute to M and K the view that scientific illiteracy is solely the result of poor outreach. Only that scientific illiteracy reveals a failure of outreach, a point I thought M and K were very clear on throughout the book. Much of the book, after all, is given over to showing how scientists are often poor communicators who are hostile to popularization. Their big solution to the problem is to give science graduate students training in communications skills, and to divert some of those students, who are likely to be frustrated in their desire for an academic job, into nebulous careers in science communication. Does that not indicate that they think a failure of outreach is a significant part of the problem?

I also fail to see how M and K’s remarks about where anti-vaccination folks get their information refutes anything Coyne said.

Skipping ahead a bit:

Relating none of this, Coyne instead poses the following rhetorical question: “Do [Mooney and Kirshenbaum] really think that if Dawkins had not written The God Delusion, Americans would wholeheartedly embrace evolution and vaccination and finally recognize the threat of global warming?” Here are the facts: Anti-evolutionism is over 100 years old. The latest outgrowth of anti-vaccine activism, over the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal, is about a decade old, but distrust of vaccination also goes back well over a century. Finally, global warming denial goes back decades. With all of these preexisting factors in place, Dawkins’ The God Delusion was then published in 2006–and it isn’t even about global warming or vaccination. So, no: We are quite confident that these instances of anti-science sentiment would be with us no matter what Richard Dawkins did. Yet this admission does nothing to weaken our argument that the confrontational tactics of Dawkins and the New Atheists (including Coyne), in the present moment, are counterproductive.

This is just silly. Are M and K really unfamiliar with the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device? Do they really think that Coyne thinks that they think (pardon me) that The God Delusion is the difference between loving acceptance of scientific facts and the rampant hostility we so frequently find?

M and K devote an entire chapter of a very short book to excoriating the new atheists for hurting the cause. Coyne makes an argument, based on recent Pew data, for thinking this criticism is incorrect, and closes this brief section with his rhetorical question. His question was intended as mockery of M and K’s view, not as a statement of it. Once again we have M and K harping on trivia, and not answering the subtantive argument made against them.

A final point:

Much more might be said, but allow us to rebut one final claim: Coyne’s repeated accusation that we want anti-religion scientists to “keep quiet.” This is simply not the case. In fact, as we observe in an endnote: “We want to emphasize that New Atheists enjoy freedom of speech. No one is asking them to be quiet. However, we have every right to point out the consequences of the divisiveness they are fueling over science and religion.”

We have hashed out this bit of silliness before. You can not consistently argue that one side hurts the cause every time they open their mouths, but then object that you are not telling them to keep quiet. Free speech has absolutely nothing to do with this, as has been explained to M and K many times. No one thinks they want the government to come in and do anything. To be honest, I’m baffled that M and K persist in getting so irate on this point. Of course they want people like Dawkins to keep quiet, or at least to completely change the way he goes about presenting his views, which amounts to the same thing.

I have not replied to everything in M and K’s letter, so go read it, and Coyne’s review, for yourself. Simply put, I do not think they have succeeded at all in showing that Coyne misrepresented their book. They have harped on trivial issues of phrasing, but have left unaddressed the substantive, and in my opinion largely correct criticisms, that Coyne raised.

Sadly, this has been par for the course in their reactions to criticism.

Comments

  1. #1 Wes
    October 21, 2009

    Sadly, this has been par for the course in their reactions to criticism.

    More to the point, this is par for the course to how they respond when they criticize someone, and the person criticized responds in kind.

    Despite all their complaints about how mean Coyne and PZ are to them, they were the ones who began this kerfuffle by attacking PZ in their book.

  2. #2 NewEnglandBob
    October 21, 2009

    Well put Jason. It almost doesn’t matter what is pointed out any longer. M & K have gone on a rampage and a few others follow along. They wrote a poor book that is neither good science or good journalism and they seem to stop at nothing to try to cover it up.

  3. #3 John Grant
    October 22, 2009

    Most of your comments seem valid, but there’s one that shouldn’t be allowed to stand:

    Coyne should have phrased things more carefully

    Nope. In this instance Coyne published a fairly serious falsehood (whether through ineptitude, sloppiness or intent is irrelevant) and M&K were perfectly correct to object to it. “Should have phrased things more carefully” is the dishonest excuse Republican politicians use when challenged on something offensive they’ve said, and it should be left to them.

  4. #4 Rev Matt
    October 22, 2009

    “They have harped on trivial issues of phrasing” doesn’t that largely sum up the Mooney/Nisbet M.O.?

  5. #5 Jason Rosenhouse
    October 22, 2009

    John –

    You’re being silly. Nothing in Coyne’s argument hinged on the distinction between saying “derives from” vs. the alternative I suggested. Continuing to harp on it is simply a way to avoid dealing with the actual issues Coyne raised.

  6. #6 Matt Penfold
    October 22, 2009

    Y

    ou’re being silly. Nothing in Coyne’s argument hinged on the distinction between saying “derives from” vs. the alternative I suggested. Continuing to harp on it is simply a way to avoid dealing with the actual issues Coyne raised.

    Are you comming to the conclusion, like I am, that the reason M & K have not dealt with any of the substantive criticism of their book is because they do not have any answers ?

  7. #7 John Grant
    October 22, 2009

    @5

    Jason, I disagree with you very strongly. “Derives from” is not a poor phrasing for (your suggestion) “is exacerbated by”: it is a completely different statement.

    By insisting that it’s just a verbal slip you’re undermining the rest of your argument.

  8. #8 Sigmund
    October 22, 2009

    What on earth justifies this amount of wordage given to a pamphlet like Unscientific America in Science? I don’t see a problem with Jerry Coynes review. He’s certainly not saying anything that many other reviewers haven’t said. The whole kerfuffle emphasizes why politics and science don’t mix well, particularly when one chooses to use ‘political’ tactics in ones argumentation.

  9. #9 pough
    October 22, 2009

    “Derives from” is not a poor phrasing for (your suggestion) “is exacerbated by”: it is a completely different statement.

    “A poor choice of words” is not poor phrasing for “a poor phrasing for”. I don’t know how you could read Jason’s paragraph and not come away with the impression that he thought that Coyne was wrong with his poor choice of words, but that different words (with, yes, different meaning) would have been an accurate criticism.

    Fair enough. “Derives from” was a poor choice of words. Coyne should have used a phrase like “is seriously exacerbated by” instead. M and K do not believe that vocal atheism and poor outreach are the cause of scientific illiteracy (which the phrase “derives from” would imply) but they certainly think they are big contributing factors.

  10. #10 Alex, FCD
    October 22, 2009

    Leave the poor hair alone! It’s been split enough already.

  11. #11 gillt
    October 22, 2009

    By way of absurd or baseless accusations Mooney has gone out of his way to bait Myers, Dawkins and Coyne. This latest bit about discrediting Coyne via Wright and Rosenau is laughable because it’s so bottom of the barrel. Mooney has entered his Obama-era Republican phase.

  12. #12 sinz54
    October 22, 2009

    Look, the outright contempt and hostility of New Atheists toward religion and those who are religious didn’t cause anti-evolutionism, obviously.

    But it’s also not helping either.

    No amount of scientific evidence is going to sway someone who has gotten the message that acceptance of the Theory of Evolution must logically lead to the abandonment of his cherished faith. Unless they’re already atheists or are open to becoming atheists. And that lets out 60% of the American people.

    Jerry Coyne and P.Z. Myers and (to a lesser extent) Dawkins keep insisting that science and religious belief in the supernatural are epistemologically incompatible; that men like Ken Miller who are both scientists and believers in God just haven’t thought things through as well as they have. And therefore, one must choose between science and religion.

    When an average American who attends church regularly hears that, he’s going to make the obvious choice. He’s going to choose religion and reject science. Because it’s religion that gives his life meaning and hope.

  13. #13 Skeptic
    October 22, 2009

    This is part of the same continuing tradition in which M & K accuse their opponents of cherry picking and misrepresenting them but then engage in cherry picking themselves by ignoring the more substantial arguments that their opponents have erected. They have not once answered the objections that have been raised multiple times on their blog. The letter to Science makes this clear again. It’s really getting boring and M & K appear as nothing more than crybabies who want to complain that their thunder was stolen by some Big Bad Atheists.

  14. #14 Bruce Gorton
    October 22, 2009

    Posted by: sinz54 | October 22, 2009 2:49 PM

    And the average American’s response to your post would be “These accomodationist liars are just telling me what they think I want to hear, because they think I am too much of a moron to take the truth.”

    For all the fire and bluster of us new atheists, its you accomodationists who deliver the deadlier insult.

  15. #15 Jerry Coyne
    October 22, 2009

    Jason,

    I wouldn’t exactly characterize my review as “hostile”; I’d prefer to think of it as “critical”! Anyway, the link to the famous “classic quote from PZ” post:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/07/09/classic-quote-from-pzs-blog-vs-classic-quote-from-realclimate/

  16. #16 Tulse
    October 22, 2009

    Jerry Coyne and P.Z. Myers and (to a lesser extent) Dawkins keep insisting that science and religious belief in the supernatural are epistemologically incompatible; that men like Ken Miller who are both scientists and believers in God just haven’t thought things through as well as they have. And therefore, one must choose between science and religion.

    When an average American who attends church regularly hears that, he’s going to make the obvious choice. He’s going to choose religion and reject science. Because it’s religion that gives his life meaning and hope.

    Right, so scientists should lie instead, and say that religious beliefs don’t conflict with science? What next? Should we also say that Santa exists, since he means so much to so many kids? Should scientists have not demoted Pluto because people love it so…oh, wait, that’s pretty much what M&K say, isn’t it?

  17. #17 Siamang
    October 22, 2009

    “When an average American who attends church regularly hears that, he’s going to make the obvious choice. He’s going to choose religion and reject science. Because it’s religion that gives his life meaning and hope.”

    If he decides to believe falsehoods, he’s got no-one to blame but himself. He certainly shouldn’t blame those people with the balls to say the unpopular thing.

    If you believe that science and religion are incompatable, have the guts to say it, and make your case.

    If you believe they aren’t, then have the guts to say *that* and make your case.

    But don’t be the shushers in the peanut gallery who want to win the debate by telling one side to knock it off.

  18. #18 Aristide Valentin
    October 22, 2009

    Jerry Coyne and P.Z. Myers and (to a lesser extent) Dawkins keep insisting that science and religious belief in the supernatural are epistemologically incompatible.

    True. But it does not ensue that:

    And therefore, one must choose between science and religion.

    This is not what they argue about. They mostly argue against the mixing of science and religion. The fact that religion want to re-interpret and in some cases nullify scientific findings and the teaching of science. Let’s remember that both Myers and Dawkings (I do not know that much about Coyne) “came out” as openly and militantly atheist in response to religiously motivated attacks on the science they spent their whole life researching and teaching.

    It is perfectly possible to hold two epistemologically incompatible opinions. Most, if not all, people do it. It’s just not logical. But logic is not the primary mover of the human mind anyway.

    Dawkings, Coyne and Myers have often explained themselves on the subject and even Mooney seemed to agree on that at some point until it became more convenient to smear his critics by misreporting their position…

  19. #19 PZ Myers
    October 22, 2009

    Their latest entry is really baffling. Who the hell is Tom Johnson? And why should we regard a second hand account in a blog comment to the unverified evil behavior of some unnamed atheist individual to be an indictment of Myers, Dawkins, and the whole danged New Atheist movement?

    M&K have really lost it.

  20. #20 bob
    October 22, 2009

    This is getting sad. For my part, I’m not even annoyed at M&K anymore, just embarrassed for them.

  21. #21 Tulse
    October 22, 2009

    why should we regard a second hand account in a blog comment to the unverified evil behavior of some unnamed atheist individual to be an indictment of Myers, Dawkins, and the whole danged New Atheist movement?

    Because the plural of anecdote is data, apparently.

  22. #22 Matt Penfold
    October 22, 2009

    It seems Tom Johnson has some atheist colleagues who are nasty to theists. He says they tell him the reason they are nasty is because they take their lead from PZ, Jerry and others.

    Assuming his colleagues do behave as he describes, and that is a big if when it comes truth from commentators supporting M & K on their blog, then I am not sure how PZ or Jerry are to blame for him having arseholes as colleagues.

  23. #23 Jason Rosenhouse
    October 22, 2009

    Jerry and PZ –

    Such a fine line between critical and hostile …

    As for their latest post, I have seen both Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins speak in front of largely religious audiences, and both of them are models of decorum and courtesy. In most of Harris’ debates he is the calm and civil one while his opponent is the bellicose jerk. I don’t think their critics have much to teach them about courtesy.

  24. #24 Sigmund
    October 22, 2009

    “Tom Johnson” has clearly been to the land where the wild new atheists are. One can only imagine the frightful scene as they gnash their terrible teeth and roar their terrible roars at the nice old religious ladies attending Toms ‘conservation’ meetings.

  25. #25 Paul W.
    October 22, 2009

    If M & K aren’t trying to get so-called New Atheists to keep quiet, what is their point in constantly criticizing them when they do speak up?

    They clearly have no intention whatsoever of trying to convince New Atheists that science and religion are actually compatible in any sense that the New Atheists actually claim. They avoid that subject like the plague.

    Not one New Atheist they’ve ever mentioned denies the kind of compatibility that they actually argue for.

    Nor do any of the New Atheist bloggers or commenters on their own blog—the scores of people who’ve disagreed with them hundreds of times over the last two or three years.

    It’s absolutely clear that Mooney’s argument for the New Atheists is that whether or not they’re right about conflicts between science and religion, they should shut the hell up because voicing their honest views in public is counterproductive.

    Mooney quite clearly cares not at all about the truth of the matter. He only cares about strategy, truth be damned.

    And on the matter of strategy—whether to speak the inconvenient truth—he’s equally deceptive.

    Mooney constantly makes “intuition pump” arguments, essentially of the “catch more flies with honey” type. He repeats that sort of thing over and over, milking that commonsense intuition for all it’s worth, and never, ever addresses the important counterarguments and counterexamples.

    Most importantly, he never addresses Overton Window arguments. And tellingly, he pretends that they don’t exist.

    If he’d only done this two or three times, we might just think he didn’t understand, or was a little slow.

    It’s not that. Mooney is dishonest.

    Mooney knows full well that there are important arguments against his position, and systematically implies that there are not.

    He does this by pumping the same old being-nice-works-better intuition, and then expressing mystification as to how anybody could come to different conclusions than him.

    That’s a lie right there.

    That isn’t just a lie of omission. It’s a positive lie by implication—he knows that there are quite serious arguments against them, and implies that there are not.

    And he does that by telling a straightforward lie—that he’s just mystified as to how anybody could disagree with his admittedly commonsense honey for flies argument.

    He’s not that mystified. He knows that there are serious arguments against his preferred strategy, which he is avoiding, and that they result in disagreement. No mystery there. And his opponents aren’t being that willfully ornery about it—he is, by attacking them and refusing to stop misrepresenting them.

    If Mooney were honest, he’d acknowledge those arguments, and argue about the relative strengths of the arguments each way, trying to show that his argument is stronger. Ideally, he’d explain when accommodationist argumenst are stronger, and when anti-appeasement arguments win out.

    But he is unable to do that—because we’ve understood his position and argument all along, and he’s willfully ignored our points.

    When people don’t agree with him, he promises to address their concerns, then repeats the same old crap, clearly implying yet again that we didn’t understand his argument, and just need it explained better.

    That has never been the case. Mooney has never told us anything important we didn’t already know. He’s also never explained anything important that we didn’t already understand.

    I, for example, used to be much more of an accomodationist than I am now, but I am much less so due to Overton Window arguments and a few telling examples.

    (For example, the rise of the religious right in the U.S., achieved using a lot more vinegar than honey. The single most important political shift in Mooney’s lifetime is inexplicable by his commonsense model of politics and rhetoric. Common sense is often wrong about exactly this sort of thing, and the backlash that the accommodationists fear so much is often worth it in the long run.)

    Watching the accommodationist-vs-New Atheist controversy fairly closely for years has only eroded my opinion of the accommodationists and increased my respect for the New Atheists. They do take into account everything that Mooney says, and do understand his arguments, and he constantly stonewalls about the counterarguments. How incredibly lame.

    For example, Dawkins has said for years that he’d be the wrong guy to testify in a case like the Dover case, and made accommodationist points a la Mooney. Of course he knows that stuff—who the hell doesn’t?

    When Dawkins writes something like The God Delusion, he’s knows and says that he’s not the guy to make the easy, short-term argument for a short-term win on a narrow issue.

    He’s not oblivious to accommodationist reasoning, or simply immune to it, and never has been.

    Yet when he says that sort of thing again, Mooney professes astonishment, and optimism that Dawkins has finally come to understand the value of accommodationism.

    How ridiculous.

    Obviously, when Dawkins is speaking on the specific subject of the evidence for evolution, while promoting a book on the evidence for evolution, he doesn’t want to get too sidetracked into the science-vs-atheism issue. He wants to stay more or less on point, and fight a particular fight.

    That isn’t because he’s had a Mooneyesque or Mooney-inspired epiphany. It’s because he’s not stupid, duh!

    Chris Mooney should address the serious issues we’ve raised for years, and tell us something we don’t know.

    If he can’t do that, he should at least stop misrepresenting the situation and misrepresenting us.

    (That’s not civil, Chris. Lying about people is uncivil, even if you do it by omission and implication. You’re the least civil person involved in this contretemps, and most of us recognize that—you’re more than deserving of the occasional four-letter word for it, and you have no right to complain about incivility until you demonstrate some basic intellectual responsibility and simple honesty.)

  26. #26 Matt Penfold
    October 22, 2009

    They clearly have no intention whatsoever of trying to convince New Atheists that science and religion are actually compatible in any sense that the New Atheists actually claim. They avoid that subject like the plague.

    So true.

    I have asked Mooney and Kirshembaum, and Rosenau how belief in an interventionist god can be reconciled with science. Rosenau just said the question did not interest him and felt under no obligation to answer. Mooney has said it is an interesting question but has not given a substantive response and Kirshembaum did not answer at all.

    I am sure there is an answer than can be made to the argument that religion and science are philosophically incompatible. Saying that people can do science and be religious, or that if miracles do not happen very often there is no problem, do not suffice.

  27. #27 Shenda
    October 22, 2009

    From #19:

    “This is getting sad. For my part, I’m not even annoyed at M&K anymore, just embarrassed for them.”

    Unfortunately, I agree. I used to have some respect for them, but they have shown themselves to be petulant intellectual lightweights.

  28. #28 Sigmund
    October 22, 2009

    “Saying that people can do science and be religious, or that if miracles do not happen very often there is no problem, do not suffice.”
    They might not suffice for you (or me!) but unfortunately we are not the target here. These arguments DO, unfortunately, suffice for theists – the true target of Mooney’s rhetoric.

  29. #29 Jean Kazez
    October 22, 2009

    Jason, I think you’re missing what’s so problematic about the first sentence of Coyne’s review. It’s that he represents the book as being first and foremost about the failings of scientists, with “atheism” being the first issue listed. That’s just strange. M&K don’t even talk about atheism until chapter 8. Really–rummage through the books on your bookshelf. Can you find any book that could fairly be represented as being about X (in the first sentence of a review) when X isn’t even mentioned until chapter 8? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book like that. UA is not a book like that. It’s simply false that the main thesis of the book is that science illiteracy is derived from (or even “exacerbated by”) the atheism and poor communication skills of scientists. Coyne is engaging in polemic here–trying to make M&K look like atheist-bashing idiots–not trying to accurately describe what this book is about.

  30. #30 MadScientist
    October 22, 2009

    @Wes #1: This has nothing to do with MnK attacking PZ – the only relevant thing there is that they knowingly and willfully lied about the Crackergate episode and deliberately left out information which would make their claims about Crackergate look like the worthless nonsense that it is. MnK have been fairly criticized by numerous people, and many never even bothered with the PZ chapter, and as far as I can tell, MnK have *NEVER* responded appropriately. There were never facts and clarifications, only more obfuscation by Mooney and Mooney’s incessant whining and bitching about “unfair reviews”.

  31. #31 MadScientist
    October 22, 2009

    @Matt Penfold #21: That is, without evidence, assuming that “Tom Johnson” is not fictional and that he’s not simply Lying For Jesus. The Tom Johnson story sounds like a Lie For Jesus – obviously Mooney has no journalistic integrity since he can’t actually back up his claim; perhaps he’s just making the stuff up.

  32. #32 Matt Penfold
    October 22, 2009

    MadScientist,

    Well Tom Johnson now has Anthony McCarthy vouching for him. I have caught McCarthy in at least two lies (one when he claimed Dawkins had been uncivil on screen, and one when he claimed he was banned from commenting at Pharyngula). If I were Tom Johnson I would be demanding McCarthy shut up before he destroyed any credibility I had left.

  33. #33 Jason Rosenhouse
    October 22, 2009

    Jean -

    Jerry opened his review as follows:

    In Unscientific America, a book slight in both length and substance, science writers Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum argue that America’s future is deeply endangered by the scientific illiteracy of its citizens and that this problem derives from two failings of scientists themselves: their vociferous atheism and their ham-handed and ineffectual efforts to communicate the importance of science to the public.

    With the exception of the phrasing “derived from” which I already discussed, which part of that is inaccurate? Leaving aside the part about atheism for a moment, that scientific illiteracy is a major threat to our future was the reason for writing the book. That much of the blame falls to scientists for their poor efforts at outreach is absolutely one of the dominant themes of the book. The opening chapter is all about how badly astronomers handled the public relations aspect of the Pluto affair, and M and K’s proposed solutions to scientific illiteracy revolve almost completely around what scientists should be doing differently. I would say Coyne absolutely provided a fair summary of the book’s major argument in his opening sentence.

    As for the bit about atheism, it is actually first mentioned on page 7 of the book, where Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are casually dismissed as zealots. It comes up again on page 44, where Dawkins and Dennett are chewed out for their cluelessness about public relations. Then we come to Chapter Eight which is entirely devoted to the subject, and part of Chapter Nine which discusses similar themes. I don’t think Coyne was out of line at all in making the issue so prominent in his review.

    Coyne did not open his review by saying, “Here is a complete list of everything that is in the book…” He said simply that M and K make this argument and implied that it is a central argument in the book. They do and it is. I do not know what you have in mind by the phrase “main thesis,” but here is how another commentator described the book:

    While the book does put a fair amount of onus on the scientific community, it also does not let anybody else off the hook.

    That was Chris Mooney. Putting a fair amount of onus on the scientific community seems like an apt paraphrase of what Coyne said. In a short review to be read mostly by scientists I do not see how Coyne was out of line in focusing on that aspect of the book.

    Just out of curiosity, how would you describe the main thesis of the book?

    Incidentally, Isaac Asimov once wrote a book entitled The Neutrino in which neutrinos are not mentioned until Chapter Seven. Given the word count of that book, that was farther in than M and K’s discussion of atheism (leaving aside the two earlier mentions you ignored.) Hey, it was your challenge…

  34. #34 Wowbagger
    October 22, 2009

    Well Tom Johnson now has Anthony McCarthy vouching for him…if I were Tom Johnson I would be demanding McCarthy shut up before he destroyed any credibility I had left.

    Agreed – that would be the kiss of death for anyone possessed of an ounce of intellectual honesty. McCarthy demonstrates in his most on M&K’s blog that he is far closer to the strawman of the mendacious, prevaricating, militant ideologue he insists all ‘new atheists’ are than any real atheist.

  35. #35 Blake Stacey
    October 22, 2009

    Jason Rosenhouse:

    Incidentally, Isaac Asimov once wrote a book entitled The Neutrino in which neutrinos are not mentioned until Chapter Seven.

    It’s a good book, too. (Of course, it’d have to be updated to include neutrino oscillations, supernova neutrino astronomy and all that.) Apparently, when his editor got seven chapters into the book and finally saw a section entitled “Enter the Neutrino”, he wrote in the margin, “Finally!”

  36. #36 Jennifer B. Phillips
    October 22, 2009

    MnK have been fairly criticized by numerous people, and many never even bothered with the PZ chapter, and as far as I can tell, MnK have *NEVER* responded appropriately.

    Hell, PZ never even bothered with the ‘PZ chapter’. He spent his time reviewing the other ‘substance’ (such as it is) of the book. In response, you may recall, M&K tiresomely attempted to rebut his criticisms of their ideas in three sequential blog posts–the content of which basically amounted to “did not!” They are a lost cause, indeed.

  37. #37 Jean Kazez
    October 22, 2009

    Jason, “This problem derives from two failings of scientists themselves” does invite the reader to think the “two failings” diagnosis is from the book…that M&K wrote specifically diagnosed illiteracy as due to the failings of scientists, and that they identified two failings, not three, not four, not ten. Furthermore, when Coyne puts those problems in a certain order, with “atheism” first, that invites the reader to think M&K put the emphasis on atheism. That’s how language works. Yes, technically the sentence could be defended as true, but we can’t ignore what linguists call “implicature.” (e.g. If I say “I have two children” it’s strictly true even if I have 10, but misleading. If I say “Bad grades are due to lack of sleep and not studying” I imply that lack of sleep is the more important cause.) The sentence makes it appear that atheism is a full half of their diagnosis, and not only that, but the first half. It would come as a huge surprise to anybody who opens the book that M&K actually talk about Hollywood before they get into atheism.

  38. #38 Tulse
    October 22, 2009

    Mooney constantly makes “intuition pump” arguments, essentially of the “catch more flies with honey” type.

    Actually, you catch even more flies with bullshit, which Mooney seems to realize, given how much he slings it.

  39. #39 Jason Rosenhouse
    October 22, 2009

    Jean -

    I simply disagree that Coyne’s opening sentence has the implications you say it has. I have seen many book reviews that begin with “In his new book Author X makes Argument Y,” and I have never taken that to mean that Argument Y is the sum total of the book. Instead I take that to mean that Argument Y is a major part of the book, which is exactly the case here. Coyne’s statement is not just “technically” true. It aptly describes (modulo the phrasing issue discussed earlier) two big arguments the book makes as a lead in to explaining why those arguments are incorrect. The bit about atheism was, indeed, one of the major themes of the book, not some minor side issue.

    I would also point out that at their blog M and K have relentlessly hammered this issue with post after post. They obviously think this is a very important issue. I can not recall the last time they blogged about Hollywood.

    When I read the opening sentence of Coyne’s review back when it was published my reaction was something like, “Yep, that sounds like the book I read.” So I am surprised that this sentence has now become such a flash point. I was serious in my previous comment when I asked how you would describe the main thesis of the book. Go for it!

    From an argument that started with charges of rampant distortion it is quite a come down to now be quibbling over subtle issues of phrasing and emphasis.

  40. #40 Ophelia Benson
    October 22, 2009

    It would come as a huge surprise to anybody who opens the book that M&K actually talk about Hollywood before they get into atheism.

    Would it? When the third sentence says ‘Further, most scientists are neither trained nor deeply interested in selling their work to the public, Congress, or Hollywood’? The next sentence expands the point again. The first paragraph taken as a whole doesn’t leave the impression that atheism is the main issue. If the whole first para were like the first sentence then implicature (nice word, I didn’t know it) might be doing its work, but given the whole paragraph, I don’t think leading with atheism is misleading.

    Mind you, I suppose I could also be reading backward from how much emphasis they have placed on atheism-as-cause outside the book, in newspapers and magazines and on their blog, so that leading with atheism doesn’t seem all that misleading in any case. But still – the para as a whole does indicate that there’s more to it.

  41. #41 Ophelia Benson
    October 22, 2009

    Oops, I crossed with Jason so what I said was largely superfluous.

  42. #42 The Science Pundit
    October 22, 2009

    I would also point out that at their blog M and K have relentlessly hammered this issue with post after post. They obviously think this is a very important issue. I can not recall the last time they blogged about Hollywood.

    Blogging about Hollywood is for the Phil Plaits and Jennifer Oulettes of this world. ;-) Seriously though Jason, M&K’s latest post (the one after the “Tom Johnson” post) bolsters your point. Here it is (in its entirety):

    The borg just gained a lot more balance! We’re looking forward to reading David Sloan Wilson’s Evolution For Everyone. Go check out his introductory post. Here’s an excerpt:

    As someone who is seriously committed to studying religion from a scientific and evolutionary perspective, I’m here to say that the new atheists can’t bring themselves to accept the facts about religion as a human construction. Read my six-part series on “Atheism as a Stealth Religion”, now archived on my ScienceBlog site, for more. Even better, start acquainting yourself with the emerging field of evolutionary religious studies, whose members are more serious about holding each other accountable for what they say about religion.

  43. #43 Jean Kazez
    October 22, 2009

    Jason,
    The first sentence doesn’t make you think that’s the sum total of the book, but it does make you think those two “failings” have got to be the biggest chunks of their diagnosis (with atheism the bigger of the two). But no, that’s not the case. That is not their view. And naturally, they don’t like being portrayed as having that view, because it would be such a stupid view to have. Only a serious idiot would think that vociferous atheism comes first in a list of causes of US science illiteracy.

    I’m not evading your invitation to summarize the book. I have not read it carefully enough to do so (though I have read the chapters about atheism very carefully). I see the book as being about a grab-bag of causes of science illiteracy, with “vociferous atheism” not even very high on the list (or it would be covered earlier than chapter 8).

    As to the fact that M&K have talked a lot about atheism at their blog, no, I don’t think that’s any indication of the weight they give to atheist blogging as a cause of science illiteracy in their book. It’s a reflection of the hammering they’ve received. If people attack a book for X, authors defend themselves for saying X. This can lead to huge amounts of attention being paid to a topic that was never the author’s foremost concern.

    I also think the drubbing they got probably strengthened their view of vociferous atheists as excessively aggressive. Being beaten to a pulp can certain have that effect. Or maybe they realized that controversy sells, so wrote op eds on what was generating the most controversy.

    Ophelia, I’m not talking about Coyne’s whole review, but just the first sentence, and what it would make you think about the book. I think there are some other misleading bits later on, but it’s certainly not unfair from beginning to end.

  44. #44 articulett
    October 22, 2009

    I think many people correctly observed the following:

    1. M&K claim that outspoken atheism hurts “the cause” (presumably a more scientific America).

    2. They did nothing to support this claim, nor offered any concrete suggestions of their own as how to help this “cause”.

    3. We have lots of evidence to the harms AND scientific illiteracy caused by religion. In fact, there is a very strong correlation between religiosity and social ills e.g.(burning of witches in Africa, deaths due to faith healing, genital mutilation,religious wars, non-acceptance of evolution, etc. ad infinitum). Yet K&M seem to want to shield religion from the scrutiny and criticism that would address these ills. They want it coddled–treated differently than other science and pseudoscientific claims. Moreover, they talk out of both sides of their mouths so that they never really say anything, but religious people can hear what they want to hear and feel mollified I suppose.

    4. They’ve added nothing to helping make society more scientifically literate while furthering prejudice and hatred against very honest and brilliant people who have!

    I’m on the Coyne/PZ/Dawkins/et. al., side of this issue –and very proudly so. They are much more honest, coherent, humorous, and right from my point of view. I want to be more like these people and less like their critics whom I find dishonest and someone daft as a group (of course, Kwok lowers the average I.Q. of the faitheist crowd considerably.)

  45. #45 Tom Johnson
    October 23, 2009

    Matt Penfold, Sigmund, and many others:

    It has just been brought to my attention that I’m being maligned and mocked on this blog simply for posting a personal anecdote at The Intersection. The comments here are, in perfect example, the reason I am purposefully using a pseudonym to post my anecdote (and yes, it is an anecdote, nothing more) on Chris’s blog; if I had instead used my real name, it would be my reputation as a scientist, my history of published work, and my name being maligned here instead of a pseudonym. Hopefully you can be understanding and realize that I am doing this because I don’t want to put my reputation ruined because a few people read an anecdote I told once on a blog and decided to smear me simply because they disagreed with my opinion.

    As I said on Chris’s blog, I am a practicing evolutionary biologist who works at a major research university (hence more reason for why I don’t want my name/reputation dragged through the mud on the blogosphere). I am an avowed atheist – NOT a “Liar for Jesus.” I am not (until the last day or so) a regular on The Intersection, as one of you claimed above. Again, because of the track record of blogosphere smear campaigns launched against biologists and others who dare to say anything even vaguely critical of New Atheists and/or their blogs, I’ll be keeping my identity a pseudonym. It’s unfortunate that this has to be the case, but it is reality.

    I know, of course, that the doubt machine will keep running after I post this, but so be it. My anecdote and opinion on The Intersection are just that – an anecdote and an opinion – so accept them at the face value they deserve. It’s interesting, however, to see that it apparently threatens you enough to malign me on a blog I’ve never posted on and read only rarely. That should speak volumes in and of itself.

    And I’ve learned through the comments and immaturity I’ve seen on the blogosphere today that the New Atheism my collegaues have been advocating is not the isolated phenomenon some have claimed.

  46. #46 Notagod
    October 23, 2009

    “Furthermore, when Coyne puts those problems in a certain order, with “atheism” first, that invites the reader to think M&K put the emphasis on atheism. That’s how language works.”

    I didn’t know that. I’ve always thought that I had to read the whole thing to understand what the author intended.

    Wow, I’m going to go to the library tomorrow and read the first sentence of every book and I will know all the most important things that have ever been written.

  47. #47 Michael Fugate
    October 23, 2009

    “tom” if you can’t stand the heat stay out of the blog.

  48. #48 The Science Pundit
    October 23, 2009

    [cue violins]I’m sorry “Tom” for siding with those who lambasted you for what I consider to be a silly opinion … and for mocking your silly pseudonym. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people using pseudonyms, it’s just that I’ve never heard of somebody losing their job because they disagreed with the “New Atheists”. I actually think that you’ll be fine if you emerge from the closet. However, I could always be wrong; my tears join yours. [/violins]

  49. #49 Silver Fox
    October 23, 2009

    Jason at #22

    Richard Dawkins is a model of decorum and courtesy?

    Dawkins is insulting and arrogant. If you have heard any of his presentations and came away with the impression that he was the model of courtesy, I would hate to see what you would call demeaning.

  50. #50 Matt Penfold
    October 23, 2009

    Tom Johnson,

    If you are an evolutionary biologist as you claim, then you will be well aware that anecdote is not the same as data. In which case I am surprised you have allowed Mooney and Kirsembaum to repeat your anecdote so prominently, and give it the spin they have.

    Since you claim to be a honest person you will no doubt be asking them to retract that post on their blog.

    Given your comments I am inclined to suspect that you are looking to be offended. You also seem to have confused the blogosphere for real life, which indicates a certain lack of familiarity with the former. Your ignorance of the fact many blogs can be free for alls is your problem. Do not blame others for your ignorance please.

  51. #51 Wowbagger
    October 23, 2009

    Dawkins is insulting and arrogant.

    That’s only because you expect others to defer to your unsupported claims, Silver Fox. Since you have nothing* to present in defence of your nonsensical superstition your only recourse is to claim that, when people like Dawkins – who refuse to tug their forelocks and privilege religion – confidently point that out, they are being ‘insulting’ and ‘arrogant’.

    *Well, except for your laughable ‘other ways of knowing’, that is.

  52. #52 Marcel Kincaid
    October 23, 2009

    @ John Grant

    “Should have phrased things more carefully” is the dishonest excuse Republican politicians use when challenged on something offensive they’ve said, and it should be left to them.

    This is a despicable rhetorical tactic, an unusually vile fallacy of affirmation of the consequent. There are many things that Republican politicians say dishonestly — should we leave all of those to them, even when we say them honestly?

    By insisting that it’s just a verbal slip you’re undermining the rest of your argument.

    A bit of poisoning the well, eh? Well, you’ve completely destroyed your credibility; Jason never claimed, let alone “insisted”, that it was a “just a verbal slip” — what a stupid mischaracterization of what he wrote.

  53. #53 Marcel Kincaid
    October 23, 2009

    Richard Dawkins is a model of decorum and courtesy?

    Dawkins is insulting and arrogant.

    My humblest apology, but your claim is complete bollocks. (See, one can be insulting and arrogant while being courteous.)

  54. #54 Tom Johnson
    October 23, 2009

    Matt:

    If you can prove to me somehow that Chris has held my anecdote to the same standards of empirical data, then I’ll ask him to retract it. It’s as simple as that. Nowhere has Chris said this, however, and no “spin” was put on this outside of the fact that Chris said he agrees with the stance I took in the story. We are on a blog, Matt – by very definition a place for simple opinion and commentary. Acknowledge that first, and then you’ll see that you are likely the only person here treating what I said as hard and fast “data.” I certainly do not.

    I’ll ask you the same thing that I asked a poster (which, for all intents and purposes, could have been you) on The Intersection. Why work so hard to discredit an anecdote? Does it threaten you somehow? If it’s as silly as you keep having to tell everyone else it is, I hardly think you’d be giving it such attention.

  55. #55 Matt Penfold
    October 23, 2009

    If you can prove to me somehow that Chris has held my anecdote to the same standards of empirical data, then I’ll ask him to retract it. It’s as simple as that. Nowhere has Chris said this, however, and no “spin” was put on this outside of the fact that Chris said he agrees with the stance I took in the story. We are on a blog, Matt – by very definition a place for simple opinion and commentary. Acknowledge that first, and then you’ll see that you are likely the only person here treating what I said as hard and fast “data.” I certainly do not.

    A simple no would have sufficed. As for beiong a blog, what you have said over the last couple of days suggests that you are new to the concept of blogs, so it is rather arrogant of you to start telling the rest of us how they work.

    However you have said no, and I will accept that as your final answer. I will also judge your ethical standards accordingly, and your saying no does not reflect well.

    I’ll ask you the same thing that I asked a poster (which, for all intents and purposes, could have been you) on The Intersection. Why work so hard to discredit an anecdote? Does it threaten you somehow? If it’s as silly as you keep having to tell everyone else it is, I hardly think you’d be giving it such attention.

    I could throw that back at you. If you think it is so unimportant why did you bother to post what you did in the first place ?

    If you have horrible colleagues that is unfortunate, but it is a problem for you to resolve. Do not blame others who do not work with you.

  56. #56 Tom Johnson
    October 23, 2009

    Matt:

    That’s honestly rather disappointing. I asked you to back up a rather egregious claim about my integrity with empirical data. Ironically, despite all of your protestations about the need to back up one’s claims with such, you did not. (FWIW, I even said I did not treat my anecdote as empirical data. It appears you missed that in the midst of your frantic straw-grasping for a hurriedly trolled response.)

    After yet another comment that only hurls more insults my way, it’s rather clear you have more interest in trying to be clever and keep points than to say anything meaningful or useful in the discussion. Until you can elevate yourself to the same level as even a marginally mature adult (not to even mention the maturity level required for an objective discussion), I’ll give you the attention you deserve: none.

  57. #57 Silver Fox
    October 23, 2009

    Wow @50

    “That’s only because you expect others to defer to your unsupported claims, Silver Fox.”

    I don’t expect Dawkins to defer to anyone when he speaks on evolutionary biology – which is his only field of expertise. But when he wanders into Theology and Philosophy, subjects about which he has little or no knowledge, then I do expect him to be courteous to his betters. But he never is. Instead, he attempts to cover his intrusion into disciplines about which he knows nothing, with dismissive arrogance.

  58. #58 Matt Penfold
    October 23, 2009

    Tom,

    Sorry you are disappointed. However it was you who introduced an anecdote as somehow being useful in a discussion about the behaviour of atheists, not me. It is for you to show that your anecdote has validity beyond your specific experience. If you cannot do that then you had no business introducing it, and in doing so your motives are questionable.

    In short, if you cannot show your anecdote is representative of a more wide-spread problem then what was the point of telling it ? Either the anecdote represents a greater problem, in which case you either show it or accept you were at the very least disingenuous, or it does not. In which case you just seemed to want attention.

    However I think I have find the source of the problem. You have no idea what being insulted actually entails. If you think my last comment insulted you, then you are deluded. Since you claim atheist colleagues have been insulting, and since it seems you have no idea what being insulting actually means, then your whole anecdote would seem to be a product of your imagination.

  59. #59 Martin
    October 23, 2009

    Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me, but is it not the case that Mooney (and his allies and apologists) have been conspicuously avoiding answering any and all substantive criticism since the original pre-’Expelled’ ‘framing’ wars well over a year ago?

    A charitable interpretation might be that Mooney has decided to emulate the right-wingers he studied for ‘The Republican War on Science’ only to an ostensibly noble end. A more prosaic one would be that he’s simply intellectually dishonest.

  60. #60 Tulse
    October 23, 2009

    Tom, you seem to be looking for offense. From my perspective, the problem isn’t with anything on your end – the only real issue here is that M&K claimed your anecdote as some sort of significant datapoint, when it was, as you acknowledge, just an anecdote. I don’t necessarily doubt that you’ve factually recounted what you’ve experienced. The issue is that M&K continually make a very clear empirical claim, that outspoken atheism hurts the public perception of science, but never provide any objective data to back it up, and instead claim your anecdote as data.

  61. #61 Rorschach
    October 23, 2009

    Fox @56

    You’re right, it’s terrible of Dawkins to be so dismissive of religion and theology when he knows so little about them. I suppose if he was similarly dismissive of belief in magic pixies we’d have to take him to task for his lack of understanding in the field of fairyology.

    Why does it matter what fabric the Emperor’s clothes are made of when he’s not wearing any?

  62. #62 Coriolis
    October 23, 2009

    Give me a break Tom, you end with a “why do you care” style argument which I think most serious people abandon at the grade school level, and then complain about immaturity? We’re obviously all arguing this issue because we care about it, you included, and it’s childish to pretend otherwise. We can hurl “why do you care” back and forth a thousand times, that’s not exactly an intellectual argument.

    The issue is this – M&K have used your anecdote as a justification for their general view that the evil new atheists are destroying science in the eyes of the public. Do you think your anecdote can be used to justify that claim? Or do you think that it is largely irrelevant and anyone on the opposite side can present their own anecdotes of preachers bashing science?

    And that hence, a serious examination of the topic should take a bigger scope – i.e. for example looking at whether the rise of the “new atheism” is correlated with an increase in the public distrust of science, or the views of public about scientists, etc.?

  63. #63 Silver Fox
    October 23, 2009

    Rohr.@60

    “I suppose if he was similarly dismissive of belief in magic pixies we’d have to take him to task for his lack of understanding in the field of fairyology.”

    This is the typical “smart ass” pretend analogy that atheists bring up to cover their substantive lack of knowledge in anything other than their narrow range of biases and prejudices. Everything else is dismissed as trivial. Reductionism is their stock in trade because it’s the only way they can say anything.

    There’s a big world of ideas and creative imagination out there, fellows, but you’ve got to be willing to entertain an expansive mind to appreciate it. Poor Dawkins, he just doesn’t get it. You see, science discovers; it never creates anything. On a talk show Dawkins told the host that planes fly, carpets don’t. That’s right. Science discovered principles in the natural order which enable planes to fly. Science did not create flying planes. Science, to its failing, still hasn’t found a way to enable carpets to fly. If they some day do, it will be the end result of creative imagination, the same as it was with planes.

  64. #64 Tulse
    October 23, 2009

    This is the typical “smart ass” pretend analogy that atheists bring up to cover their substantive lack of knowledge in anything other than their narrow range of biases and prejudices.

    And that is a typical dodge that fails to address the substance of the argument.

  65. #65 tomh
    October 23, 2009

    Tom Johnson wrote:
    “I am a practicing evolutionary biologist who works at a major research university”

    Even if that were true, so what? I could claim to be a Nobel prize winner and it wouldn’t improve my arguments one bit, just as your claim doesn’t improve yours. You tell a rather unbelievable anecdote, (do you really expect people to believe that scientists are there to, “mock the religious to their face, shout forced laughter at them, and call them “stupid,” “ignorant” and the like”)? Seems unlikely in the extreme.

    “I am an avowed atheist.” I doubt it.

  66. #66 Notagod
    October 23, 2009

    Silver Fox@62,

    Yeah, cuz it takes a lot of imagination to pray to a god-idea to bring you a bone, then sit and wait for it to appear. Of course if you went and looked for a bone you would be using the tools of science to find it.

  67. #67 H.H.
    October 23, 2009

    There’s a big world of ideas and creative imagination out there, fellows, but you’ve got to be willing to entertain an expansive mind to appreciate it. Poor Dawkins, he just doesn’t get it. You see, science discovers; it never creates anything. On a talk show Dawkins told the host that planes fly, carpets don’t. That’s right. Science discovered principles in the natural order which enable planes to fly. Science did not create flying planes. Science, to its failing, still hasn’t found a way to enable carpets to fly. If they some day do, it will be the end result of creative imagination, the same as it was with planes.

    So you’re beef with science is that it deals with actual reality instead of inventing fictions like flying carpets? Well, thanks for admitting that theology mostly involves making shit up. However, I disagree that this is an admirable quality.

  68. #68 Silver Fox
    October 23, 2009

    Tulse @ 63

    “And that is a typical dodge that fails to address the substance of the argument.”

    The substance of the argument? What argument? There is no more argument over the existence of God than there is over the validity of evolution. They are both true and no reasonable person would argue over either one.

    But, if you want a “typical dodge”, try this one. It’s the typical atheist mantra, “Prove to me in 25 words of less the existence of God”. And they call that a substantive argument. They’re not saying, prove to me the ontological existence of God epistemically. No, they want the proof to be scientific because that is all there is for them. That is the narrow range of bias that they have to live in to maintain their bogus position on anything supernatural – anything outside the natural order.

    If that kind of mindset had prevailed throughout human history, it would have been tragic. There would have been no creative imagination to get us out of the caves. There would have been no value to adaptation, no meme, no nothing. It would have been a tragic example of what happens when evolutionary psychology and sociobiology go awry.

    That’s why, for the benefit of our evolutionary future, we need to marginalize the atheistic agenda. Otherwise, this malignant mutation, if it becomes a significant adaptational mindset, has the potential for reducing our evolutionary future to a one dimensional form of existence.

  69. #69 Blake Stacey
    October 23, 2009

    The process of discovery itself requires creativity. You think giant telescopes flying through space just build themselves? Or that the idea of finding neutrinos using dry-cleaning liquid was trivially obvious?

  70. #70 Tulse
    October 23, 2009

    There is no more argument over the existence of God than there is over the validity of evolution. They are both true and no reasonable person would argue over either one.

    There clearly is argument over the existence of god — we’re having one right now.

    And you still have ignored the substantive point, which is that while the religious argue that one needs to know sophisticated theology to address the question of god(s) existence, they also readily dismiss the existence of fairies and other such beings without sophisticated knowledge of their alleged qualities.

  71. #71 Sigmund
    October 23, 2009

    Tom Johnson, the simple reason why your post is being questioned is that it is an extraordinary claim. Mooney’s idol, Carl Sagan had some rather useful advice about what is required before we should treat extraordinary claims as credible. Nobody here can know whether you are telling the truth or not any more than we can tell the truth of any other claim that lies outside our personal experience. What is most surprising is Chris Mooney taking you at your word without the slightest evidence to back your claim. To many scientists Carl Sagan is popular because he taught us some important things. I’m beginning to worry that Sagan is popular with Chris Mooney because he was popular.

  72. #72 Silver Fox
    October 23, 2009

    Blake @ 68

    “The process of discovery itself requires creativity.”

    Discovery is not a process; it’s an event. The creative imagination, a property of the mind, envisions an outcome (cognitive intuition). The practical intellect devises ways through which the outcome might be brought into effect (science). So, science becomes a bit player; a confirmator in the grand scheme of uncovering creation. Again, science does not create; it discovers. Science can tell us nothing about how anything begins.

    Dawkins admitted this in an interview with Bill O’Reilly. Dawkins said science was “working on it”. Bill said “fine, when you figure it out come back and we’ll talk some more.” So, with atheists it always come down to reductionism – to sceintific determinism. They are always looking for “substantive” dialogue, not realizing that having reached an infallible conclusion (scientific determinism) there is no room for substantive conversation with theists who have reached the infallible conclusion that God exist. This is what makes Mooney’s proposition of accommodation all the more plausible.

  73. #73 Silver Fox
    October 23, 2009

    Tulse@69

    “There clearly is argument over the existence of god — we’re having one right now.”

    You didn’t read the post. I said that no REASONABLE person would argue over either.

    “they also readily dismiss the existence of fairies and other such beings without sophisticated knowledge of their alleged qualities.”

    Epistemologically, one can reason to the ontological existence of God. There is no epistemology that would lead one to believe in the ontological existence of fairies

    The typical atheist argument, if you can call it that, is a classic example of what happens when one does not keep up with his philosophy. He is left with empirical, naturalistic knowledge and he believes that is all there is since one doesn’t know what one doesn’t know. His limited knowledge base becomes the totality of knowledge and he can proclaim this honestly.

    It is truly a pathetic position and there is no incentive to extricate from it.

  74. #74 PoxyHowzes
    October 23, 2009

    @ 40: I have never found a remark by Ophelia Benson to be “superfluous,” even the occasional one that might be somewhat duplicative. (And this is genuine respect and admiration, not grammar-police snark.)

    Tom Johnson: I would be most interested in what steps you take or have taken in your conservation meetings to counter either your NA “friends,” or their boorish behaviour you anecdotally describe. Has UA been of practical help to you in your efforts?

    Nor, I admit, do I understand the logic in: Some of my acquaintances are New Atheists and unproductive boors; PZ is a New Atheist; therefore M&K were right to criticize PZ as an unproductive boor.

    Was that little (technically faulty) syllogism not the reason you posted your remark and the reason M&K quoted it with such relish on their blog?

  75. #75 H.H.
    October 23, 2009

    Silver Fox seems to labor under the delusion that philosophers have proven beyond all reasonable doubt that god exists. This is complete nonsense, of course. Any philosopher will not only tell you that god’s existence is far from proven, but actually that the opposite is true. The philosophical case for atheism has never been more convincing than at present. He reminds me of those psi ball weirdos who try to pretend that the existence of ESP and psychic energy have been proven using scientific studies and statistical sampling. It’s just so nutty. I guess they think if they can pretend that their particular brand of crazy is a settled matter, then they don’t have to bother ever defending it, because they know they can’t. It just becomes our fault for not bring “open-minded” enough to accept whatever fool thing they believe without a scrap of evidence to go on.

  76. #76 PoxyHowzes
    October 23, 2009

    @Silver Fox #72

    There were 42 words between “There is no epistemology that would lead one to believe in the ontological existence of fairies,” and “one doesn’t know what one doesn’t know.”

    Did those 42 words exceed your attention span? Or are we to assume that you have arrogated, Humpty-Dumpty like, certain private definitions of certain public words, just as you seem to have done with “REASONABLE” ?

  77. #77 Rorschach
    October 23, 2009

    Fox, my initial statement had nothing to do with the ontological properties of pixies. My point is simply this: if one does not accept prima facie the existence of a god, then arguing about his specific properties is meaningless. Contrary to your amazingly arrogant statement, there are many reasonable people who do not presuppose the existence of god–why, then, need they trouble themselves with a deep understanding of theology? You may as well argue about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.

    I can only assume that this same arrogance explains your dismissal of science as nothing more than a bit player. Science is the single most effective process we have for understanding reality–that is not a value judgment. It is an empirical statement. Until your other ways of knowing can compete with science, I suggest you consider adopting a little humility.

  78. #78 Michael Kingsford Gray
    October 24, 2009

    Executive Summary:
    Mooney is an unrepentant willful liar.

    The reasons? You judge.

  79. #79 Explicit Atheist
    October 24, 2009

    Posted by: Silver Fox

    “Epistemologically, one can reason to the ontological existence of God. There is no epistemology that would lead one to believe in the ontological existence of fairies”

    The notion that we can justify belief in the existence of a category of being on the exclusive basis of philosophy (a.k.a. ontology) has no merit. Furthermore, once you accept ontology has a method of justifying belief, if you apply a single standard then an epistemology for both gods and fairies are both possible, the former implies the possibility of the latter because the evidence for gods and fairies is essentially identical, both are human fictional creations, so you are applying a double standard here.

    “The typical atheist argument, if you can call it that, is a classic example of what happens when one does not keep up with his philosophy. He is left with empirical, naturalistic knowledge and he believes that is all there is since one doesn’t know what one doesn’t know. His limited knowledge base becomes the totality of knowledge and he can proclaim this honestly.”

    Yes, because our limited knowledge is exactly the base on which our beliefs can be justified and any beliefs formed outside of that knowledge base are unjustified beliefs.

    “It is truly a pathetic position and there is no incentive to extricate from it.”

    Its the other way around, what is pathetic here is the insistence of theists such as yourself that our dependence on evidence be selectively disregarded for the purpose of defending unjustified theism.

  80. #80 Silver Fox
    October 24, 2009

    Poxy @75

    “There were 42 words between “There is no epistemology that would lead one to believe in the ontological existence of fairies,” and “one doesn’t know what one doesn’t know.”
    “Did those 42 words exceed your attention span?”

    This is probably the most typical atheist ploy. The straw man. You set up your own straw man, attribute it to your opponent, knock it down and say; See, my opponent was wrong.

    This usually doesn’t work with reasonably intelligent people. So, it won’t work here. Your straw man suggests that we don’t know what we really do know.

    What we do know is this: deriving from subjective perceptual experience there is epistemic CERTAINTY as to the ontological existence of God. We also know that there is no subjective perceptual experience to lead us to believe that fairies are ontological realities. In fact, epistemology (HOW one comes to know something) leads us to believe that fairies are allegoires of folklore or mythology and perhaps in some instances eponymous personifications.

    This is what we know; not what we don’t know. We NEVER will know that fairies are real or that God is not because the certainty of knowledge convinces us of the ontological reality of God and the fictional nature of fairies.

    Now, atheists are forever trying to pose an equation between the two and they do this for two reasons; one, to mislead those who like themselves have a limited knowledge base outside of science and two, to dispel, what to the more intelligent among them, must from time to time present as a rather silly worldview.

  81. #81 Aquaria
    October 24, 2009

    Silver Fox, you are known as Stupid Fuck all over the Internet, and that #79 is a disgusting example of how you lie and distort your way to stupidest theist on the Internet.

    Who is this “we” you talk about as certain (all caps is sign of major fucktard) of the ontological existence of god? Name these dolts you align yourself with. Who is this we stating any of this horseshit you baldly assert with zero citation, zero evidence? You see, that’s how you make all your arguments: Bald assertion, no evidence. It’s just that way because you say so.

    Well, that doesn’t cut it, you stupid piece of shit.

    You’re a liar. and a distorter, and tiresome at both. That is why PZ finally banned your cretinous ass. You add nothing to a discussion but stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

  82. #82 Fred W
    October 24, 2009

    Silver Fox, you say that it it is undubitably true that God exists. I am curious why you are so sure. Could you lay out your EVIDENCE for the certainty of God’s existence?

    Thank you.

  83. #83 Explicit Athiest
    October 24, 2009

    Fred W wrote:

    “Silver Fox, you say that it it is undubitably true that God exists. I am curious why you are so sure. Could you lay out your EVIDENCE for the certainty of God’s existence?

    Thank you.”

    Are you sure you want to get into a debate with someone who leans this heavily on catch phrases and is so confused that he claims to reach a “We NEVER will know” via a “because” from “the certainty of knowledge” being convincing for “us” of “the ontological reality of X” versus “the fictional nature Y” like this:

    “We NEVER will know that fairies are real or that God is not because the certainty of knowledge convinces us of the ontological reality of God and the fictional nature of fairies.”

  84. #84 bilbo
    October 24, 2009

    For the following quotes about the whole Tom Johnson issue:

    1.) “You tell a rather unbelievable anecdote.”

    You realize the “spit in people’s face, etc.” phrase was figurative, right? You were arguing it as if it were literal (probably on purpose).

    2.) “The issue is this – M&K have used your anecdote as a justification for their general view that the evil new atheists are destroying science in the eyes of the public.”

    Did M/K ever suggest they were taking this as more than anecdotal? Of course not – M/K even acknowledged it as a comment, not data.

    3.) “The issue is that M/K claim your anecdote as data.”

    Really? Provide with some proof of that. After your rant about the importance of backing up claims with data, I’m shocked (well, really not) that you didn’t provide any to back up yours. Another NA double-standard, I’m afraid, and one that’s hilariously predictable.

    4.) “It is for you to show that your anecdote has validity beyond your specific experience.”

    That would be absolutely correct – if Tom Johnson had made a claim that it did. Actually though, matt, he did the direct opposite. Nice strawman, buddy.

    Why is it so easy to point out shitty logic in a group that touts logic so much? I guess it’s not really faulty logic as much as it is purposefully defelcting arguing tactics, but you get the point.

  85. #85 Fred W
    October 24, 2009

    I’m still waiting to hear the solid, undubitable evidence that has convinced Silver Fox that God exists. . .

  86. #86 Silver Fox
    October 24, 2009

    Fred @84

    “I’m still waiting to hear the solid, undubitable evidence that has convinced Silver Fox that God exists.”

    This is not the venue in which to teach courses on epistemology and ontology. You have posted nothing to suggest that you have the knowledge base to understand anything based on propositional learning. You need to do your own homework and stop looking to others to give you proof for God’s existence in 25 words or less.

    I’ve been through this exercise with atheists many times. The proof is there but YOU have to get past your own bias, and perhaps laziness, and dig it out.

  87. #87 Fred W
    October 24, 2009

    Silver Fox,

    Thanks. I suspected that you didn’t have any evidence for God. And instead of providing any, you insult me. Good riddance to you.

  88. #88 Anthony McCarthy
    October 25, 2009

    Who the hell is Tom Johnson? PZ @18

    You might be shocked to learn that there have been a number of times I’ve mentioned the famous PZ Myers to people working in the biological sciences only to have them say, “Who’s PZ Myers?” And when I tell them they don’t see that his CV makes him someone they needed to know about.

    Don’t come by here very often, sorry that standards haven’t improved much.

  89. #89 Madam Pomfrey
    October 25, 2009

    M&K’s argument seems to proceed as follows: (a) the right-wingers have forced science into the political realm; (b) scientists are poor politicians who don’t understand that decision-makers and the public react to political issues irrationally and won’t be convinced by hard data; (c) therefore, scientists must face reality, cross over to the dark side and become politicians themselves in order to win the battle.

    But M&K make two key mistakes, both because they fundamentally misunderstand how the right-wing antiscience crowd has won so many adherents. First, they assume that playing politics will work for scientists in the same way it works for religious ideologues. This is highly unlikely because the process of science itself is incompatible with political persuasive techniques, whereas the psychology and sociology of religious ideologies meshes very well with political and consumer marketing strategies (see Rush Limbaugh). Second, they confuse playing smart politics with playing nice. As was pointed out above, the religious right gained large numbers of followers based largely on negativity and an us-versus-them paranoia. The anti-science crowd did not win converts by kindness, accommodation, or trying hard not to offend people. It won them by manipulating public fears, and aligning apolitical scientific research areas with the “right” or the “left,” forcing a “choice” whether or not to “believe” in empirical data based on political allegiance.

    Bashing atheists for not being “nice” enough is not only ineffective, but ignores this central reality of how the right has manipulated and controlled the public perception of science. M&K don’t understand that the right-wing ideology has redefined science as belief, and belief as proof of party loyalty. Atheists shutting up so as not to “offend” sensibilities won’t change that structure one bit. If Richard Dawkins backs down and starts to sound more like Francis Collins (or Chris Mooney), the Limbaugh machine will not magically wilt away, with dittoheads scratching their chins and thinking that gee, this Dawkins guy is friendly, so maybe my buddy Rush is wrong and I’ll jump ship and start calling myself a liberal.

    The answer is not to work within the right’s distorted ideological framework. The answer is to expose this framework as a manipulative political construct, a massive confidence game and consumer-marketing strategy, and to work hard to pull science back out of politics.

  90. #90 tomh
    October 25, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:
    You might be shocked to learn that there have been a number of times I’ve mentioned the famous PZ Myers to people working in the biological sciences only to have them say, “Who’s PZ Myers?”

    Who cares?

    Don’t come by here very often

    Thank goodness.

  91. #91 John Kwok
    October 25, 2009

    tomh -

    Anthony McCarthy – with whom I don’t always agree with – raises an excellent point. Were it not for Pharyngula – which was created back in 2002 if I’m not mistaken – no one would have known who the heck PZ Myers is. While I admit that I am not a disinterested party given my own recent history with PZ, I find it rather intriguing that there are many atheists who are willing to claim that PZ Myers has been far more important than, for example, Ken Miller, in dealing with evolution denialists. Really? I don’t recall seeing PZ debating creationists – as Ken Miller did – on a special broadcast of the late William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line” debate that aired back in the mid 1990s (If I’m not mistaken, then it was in 1996.). Nor do I recall seeing PZ in attendance at the Spring 2002 Intelligent Design debate that was held at the American Museum of Natural History, in which Ken, along with philosopher Robert Pennock, argued the “Con” side (Genie Scott presided over the debate as an extremely fair moderator, giving Dembski and Behe ample time to disseminate their mendacious intellectual pornography.).

    Respectfully submitted,

    John Kwok

  92. #92 tomh
    October 25, 2009

    John Kwok wrote:
    Anthony McCarthy – with whom I don’t always agree with – raises an excellent point. Were it not for Pharyngula – which was created back in 2002 if I’m not mistaken – no one would have known who the heck PZ Myers is.

    Why is this an excellent point? If Dawkins hadn’t written books we wouldn’t know who he was. If McCarthy didn’t write vapid, ignorant, blog posts we wouldn’t know who he was. If Myers didn’t write a popular blog we wouldn’t know who he was. This is not an “excellent point”, it’s meaningless drivel. And if Kwok didn’t mention Ken Miller we wouldn’t recognize that the post was from him. More meaningless drivel.

  93. #93 Jerry Coyne
    October 25, 2009

    And I don’t recall Ken Miller taking a highly publicized trip to Kentucky’s creation museum, calling attention to its stupidity. Nor do I recall seeing Ken Miller write a blog that’s viewed by a million people a month. Nor do I see Ken Miller doing, every day, the scut work of publicizing and extinguishing creationist brushfires on the internet.

    Ken Miller is a valuable asset in our fight against creationists. But so P.Z. They contribute in different ways. McCarthy and Kwok would like to denigrate PZ’s contribution by criticizing his academic c.v., but that’s beside the mark, for it ignores the very important contribution of Pharyngula.

  94. #94 Silver Fox
    October 25, 2009

    Jerry @92

    “Kwok would like to denigrate PZ’s contribution by criticizing his academic c.v., but that’s beside the mark, for it ignores the very important contribution of Pharyngula”

    Agreed, Pharyngula is an important contribution to P.Z.’s notoriety. It publicizes all of his outrageous behavior and people are attracted to that kind of misconduct.

    Remember the ridiculous “wafer” incident in which he gratuitously mistreats the sacramental object of a major religion under the guise of defending a student who had probably never heard of him and had not asked for his interference.

    Remember the flower shop incident where a poor woman working for a flower delivery firm trying to support her family, left her company computer at home during which time her husband, unbeknownst to her sent a veiled threat to P.Z. He traced her IP, and called on his minions to exact retribution. The woman was fired from his job for not seeing that her computer was secure. True, her husband’s behavior was more outrageous than P.Z.’s..

    Remember the numerous times he has called on his sycophants to “crash” polls because he didn’t like the way they could conceivably turn out. Of course, hiss toadies complied and took pride in it.

    The fact that he has such a large following of atheists is testimony to how desperate atheists are to find gurus. They end up with a 52 year old tiresome fart who is an ASSOCIATE professor at what is little more than a community college of the University of Minnesota.

    Sorry Jerry, but you’re really sucking a dry tit there.

  95. #95 Madam Pomfrey
    October 25, 2009

    “They end up with a 52 year old tiresome fart who is an ASSOCIATE professor at what is little more than a community college of the University of Minnesota.”

    What’s this with “ASSOCIATE” in caps? Holding the rank of associate professor means that Myers has met the requirements for tenure, and promotion to that level. It doesn’t mean he’s an also-ran, a weak scholar, or any of the other things you imply.

  96. #96 tomh
    October 25, 2009

    Madam Pomfrey:
    You waste your time using reason with Silver Fox. With McCarthy, Kwok, and Silver Fox, Evolutionblog hit the trifecta today.

  97. #97 Anthony McCarthy
    October 25, 2009

    — If McCarthy didn’t write vapid, ignorant, blog posts we wouldn’t know who he was. tomh

    Clearly you are mistaking me for some other Anthony McCarthy. Vapid? Do you know what that word means? I can assure you, the effects of my comments don’t tend to support the charge
    of vapidity.

    — McCarthy and Kwok would like to denigrate PZ’s contribution by criticizing his academic c.v., Jerry Coyne

    His contribution to what? Name calling, publicity hounding, bigotry and derision? About the only thing I’ve ever said about his academic product is that it’s sparse and in the past, apparently. What am I supposed to tell a marine ecologist, several high school biology teachers, and a few other varied professionals when they ask me who he is? That he’s some major figure of science?

    PZ’s comment at #18 is:

    Their latest entry is really baffling. Who the hell is Tom Johnson? And why should we regard a second hand account in a blog comment to the unverified evil behavior of some unnamed atheist individual to be an indictment of Myers, Dawkins, and the whole danged New Atheist movement?
    M&K have really lost it.

    Considering his claim to fame, his unverified “Great Desecration” (I had a lot of fun questioning its authenticity over at The Intersection one weekend), his act as the big bad new atheist religion basher, etc, I thought it was pretty funny to have him get all huffy about the use of what seems to me to be a pretty credible anecdote.

    If I had time I’d go looking at his and your blogs to see if you’ve ever used anything like that to get an easy post.

  98. #98 tomh
    October 25, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:
    Vapid? Do you know what that word means?

    Yes. It commonly means; insipid; flat: dull or tedious.

    I can assure you, the effects of my comments …

    I can assure you, there are no effects from your comments.

  99. #99 John Kwok
    October 25, 2009

    @ Jerry -

    Having commiserated with me over the sad, but true, fact, that you were lampooned mercilessly by Bill Dembski over at his Uncommon Dissent website as the “Herman Munster of Evolutionary Biology” – which you and I had discussed in person once not so long ago – I am dismayed that you have “borrowed” from Dembski’s “warehouse” of tactics in dismissing not only me, but more importantly, substantial advocates of evolution like Ken Miller and Francis Collins (I wonder whether you’ll pick on noted ecologist Michael Rosenzweig too, since, as a Conservative Jew, he sees no contradiction between his devout religious faith and his dedication to first-rate research in evolutionary and community ecology, and, lately, conservation biology.).

    Since you’ve referred to PZ Myers as a colleague with a first-rate mind, I would be among those interested in hearing when he’ll join you as your colleague at the University of Chicago’s Department of Ecology and Evolution. Surely his research in evolutionary developmental biology must be as substantial as, for example, Sean B. Carroll’s, for you to regard Myers so highly (Though, on second thought, Myers has admitted to me that he isn’t nearly as fine a scientist as his colleague Sean B. Carroll.).

    Respectfully yours,

    John

  100. #100 Anthony McCarthy
    October 25, 2009

    tomh, you missed the effect of my expressing skepticism about “The Great Desecration”? But, no, I seem to recall you participated on that thread. 800+ commments on that thread.

    I thought it was a lot of fun, watching PZ’s fan club defending his great and courageous act of driving a nail through an ersatz communion wafer. I’d love to make the charge here and see if it was to no effect all over again.

  101. #101 SLC
    October 25, 2009

    Re Jerry Coyne

    Relative to Ken Millers’ activities on behave of the scientific community, it should be pointed out that several years ago, Prof. Miller traveled to Ohio to campaign for pro-science candidates running for the state board of education. This was at the invitation of former Case/Western physics professor Lawrence Krauss.

    Re Mooneytits

    The fact that Mooneytits’ most fervent supporters include nutcases like Silver Fox, Anthony McCarthy, and the Kwok, tells one everything one want’s to know about them. It’s really a shame, considering Mr. Mooneys’ former role as a effective spokesman and advocate for the global climate change problem. It would be nice of Mooneytits moved on and went after pieces of filth like Mark Marano, instead of wasting their time and energy attacking PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne.

  102. #102 John Kwok
    October 25, 2009

    I see that the level of discourse at this discussion thread has surged to a new “high” courtesy of our resident unrepentant male chauvinist pig SLC, who hasn’t quite grasped the fact that I have given Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum’s “Unscientific America” a less than enthusiastic, quite reserved, lukewarm endorsement online, ironically for many of the same reasons that Coyne and Myers have been giving for their strident critiques of this book (I find it hysterically funny that he uses the same derisive nickname for Chris and Sheril that’s been bestowed upon them by PZ Myers’s favorite graduate student, one Abbie Smith (And I am sure we will hear yet another ringing endorsement from the ever erudite SLC who will proclaim that Abbie Smith is definitely “hot”.).).

  103. #103 Anthony McCarthy
    October 25, 2009

    Gee, SLC, maybe you should lecture PZ and Coyne on going after Francis Collins and other such dangerous guys at the drop of a hat.

    If the majority of the posters on this blog represent the new atheist version of reason, I’ll take the alternative any day.

    You know Lawrence Krauss is a friend of Chris Mooney and posted a few complementary comments on his blog last summer. Guess he’s unreliable.

  104. #104 John Kwok
    October 25, 2009

    Anthony,

    Lawrence Krauss also considers Ken Miller to be a friend, even though he’s felt compelled to criticize Ken in a Wall Street Journal OP-ED essay that was published a few months ago. Guess that means Lawrence Krauss is definitely unreliable if he considers an unrepentant theistic evolutionist like Ken Miller to be a good friend of his.

    Poor SLC. Wonder how he’s going to manage trying to assimilate all of this information. Oh wait….. I know. He’ll just tell us again how “hot” Cameron Diaz is (I mention her only because Lawrence Krauss and I were discussing her the day after his – and Ken Miller’s – Science Faith Religion panel discussion at the World Science Festival which both Ms. Diaz and I attended.). Krauss mentioned to me that he had expressed his delight to Ms. Diaz about her enthusiastic interest in this panel discussion, especially since he had grave doubts that anyone from Hollywood would even be remotely interested in such a contentious issue.

    Cheers,

    John

  105. #105 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2009

    Now to something completely unimportant, Matt Penfold at 31 claiming to have “caught me in two lies”. Penfold made some kind of vague charges about me dissing his national hero, Dawkins, back last June, at The Intersection. I asked him to document his charges, which would have been easy since it was within the first week I posted at comment at that version of the blog. I even began a new blog so he could make his world shaking charges in a place it wouldn’t interrupt a more important discussion that was taking place. He knew about the blog and my request, which I’ve repeated every time I noticed him repeating it since then. Matt has yet to show me what I said that he was so upset about in June.

    Needless to say, I haven’t lied about Richard Dawkins. Why don’t you ask Matt Penfold what he said about the wall of separation in the United States and why he doesn’t seem to like it very much.

    As to whether or not I was banned at PZ’s blog. I’ve had my differences with PZ, I don’t read his blog all that often because it’s pretty unvaried and if you’ve read one of his diatribes, you’ve at least read the bulk of them. I tried to post a couple of comments last spring, which didn’t show up. I figured he didn’t want me posting comments at his blog, which is his right as it is the right of Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirschenbaum to determine the content of their blog, something I’ve stated all along.

    After telling someone at The Intersection to stop whining that their comment didn’t pass moderation (as at least one I made there didn’t) to grow up, mentioning that comments I’d made seemed to be banned by PZ, the great man himself reported, after a mildly interesting interlude that the comments had somehow reappeared. How this miracle happened, after PZ heard I’d made the passing comment I could conjecture about, if I cared about it enough. I was able to point out that I’d mentioned it soon after the original incident at another blog. Just as I could about it happening at one and only one other new atheist blog. If I cared enough about it.

    In all cases I wasn’t making a charge of moral terpitude. I said that if PZ banned me from his blog, as Jason has restricted me in the past here, it was his right as the owner of the blog. I wasn’t making a charge that banning a commentator was some terrible violation of free speech, but that IT WAS THE RIGHT OF THE OWNER OF A BLOG TO DETERMINE ITS CONTENT. Just as it is the right of the owners of The Intersection to determine the content of THEIR blog. I didn’t even say that PZ’s holding up those he formally bans to ridicule is more than rather cruel and quite base behavior for someone in his position. I’ve pointed out to people who leave comments on blogs that it’s a chance they take that they will be ridiculed.

    Apparently this is all is too subtle for the Penfold mind to encompass. Though I really would like Matt Penfold to take the opportunity I’ve presented him with on several occasions and back up his assertions that I’d lied about Dawkins, especially if he’s going to keep making the charge and forcing me to go to blogs I don’t usually frequent. I think even he could understand that.

    When I got here and saw Coyne’s comment, it struck me as more important than my being maligned by Penfold and wowbagger and that ilk.

  106. #106 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2009

    Oh, and, uh, Matt. Just so it doesn’t escape you. Your terrible charge that I’d accused PZ of banning people from commenting at his blog. It’s something he really, truly, obviously does do quite publicly and quite demonstrably.

    Just so that point doesn’t get lost in your lather.

  107. #107 SLC
    October 26, 2009

    Re John Kwok

    1. I know nothing about Ms. Diaz so I can’t comment on her intellectual capabilities. However, it would not be totally out of the question that she might be pretty bright. It is a well known fact in Hollywood that there are a number of actresses (or former actresses) who are quite bright. As I have previously mentioned, Jill StJohn, Margo Thomas, and Candace Bergen as examples (their intellectual capabilities are vouched for by none other then Henry Kissinger).

    2. I really must take the Kwok to task relative to Ken Miller. I don’t recall saying anything negative about him on this or any other blog I have commented on. As a matter of fact, I have defended Prof. Miller in comments on several blogs as someone who accepts methodolgical naturalism without reservation. Just for his information, Richard Dawkins recommended his first book, “Finding Darwins’ God,” to a lady who called in to a talk show in Canada on which he was a guest. In fact, the only blogger who I have found who is totally negative about Prof. Miller is Larry Moran over at the Sandwalk.

    3. Relative to Francis Collins, it is my understanding that Dr. Dawkins had some very complimentary things to say about him during an interview in Canada in connection with publicity on his latest book, “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Although I have not yet heard the interview, it is my understanding that he is not nearly as critical of the appointment of Dr. Collins to head up the NIH as Prof. Myers and Prof. Coyne have been.

  108. #108 John Kwok
    October 26, 2009

    Anthony,

    I’m a perfect example of someone who has been banned from PZ’s blog merely to offer proof to those Pharyngulites who think that PZ doesn’t ban people. As for your other comments, I can’t disagree with what you’ve stated (@ 105).

    As for our “pal” SLC, he seems to be suffering from an acute case of poor reading comprehension since the only thing I’ve accused him of is his well-demonstrated behavior of asserting that women can – and should be – viewed as “hot” primarily, not on whether they are making clear, concise, and cogent arguments (None of which seems to be the case in our former physicist “friend”.).

    Appreciatively yours,

    John

  109. #109 SLC
    October 26, 2009

    Re the Kwok

    I have to apologize to the Kwok as the comment about my possible negative attitude toward Ken Miller was made by Anthony McCarthy, not the Kwok.

  110. #110 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2009

    SLC, upholding the fine tradition of new atheist scholarship and documentation, I see. Look again.

  111. #111 John Kwok
    October 26, 2009

    Anthony,

    Am still waiting for Jerry Coyne to explain this rather absurd bit of commentary:

    “Ken Miller is a valuable asset in our fight against creationists. But so P.Z. They contribute in different ways. McCarthy and Kwok would like to denigrate PZ’s contribution by criticizing his academic c.v., but that’s beside the mark, for it ignores the very important contribution of Pharyngula.”

    I would submit respectfully that both Jerry and Ken have been far more important “assets” against evolution denialists than PZ Myers ever had. Prior to 2002, anyone would have well been in their right mind to ask, “Who is PZ Myers?”. And yet, even now, I think your acquaintances are still correct in asking that question, especially when PZ is merely known for his inexcusable, inane bit of frat boy behavior that’s been dubbed “CrackerGate”.

    Since Jerry Coyne thinks PZ is such a great “intellect”, I wonder why he hasn’t been urging his colleagues in his University of Chicago Department of Ecology and Evolution to appoint PZ as the department’s newest professor. However, on second thought, could it be that PZ isn’t really the “great intellect” that Coyne has asserted more than once elsewhere online?

    Appreciatively yours,

    John

  112. #112 Tulse
    October 26, 2009

    Of the past 15 posts, 6 have been by Anthony McCarthy and 5 have been by John Kwok. No wonder the discussion section of The Intersection is so long.

  113. #113 Paul
    October 26, 2009

    Of the past 15 posts, 6 have been by Anthony McCarthy and 5 have been by John Kwok. No wonder the discussion section of The Intersection is so long.

    It also doesn’t help that their posts are generally so internally inconsistent, offensive, and laced with deliberate mistruths so as to cause SIWOTI syndrome from even your most mild-mannered lurkers.

    Case in point, the “PZ banning people” issue. Nobody would claim that PZ Myers doesn’t ban people. The claim was always that he is straightforward in his reasons for banning people, of which “disagreeing with him” isn’t a criteria (which was what McCarthy complained about quite often on the Intersection). And as Matt Penfold up above pointed out, even when called on direct lies McCarthy will not retract his statements or even admit that a mistake was made. I won’t even start with Kwok, who was claiming for at least 2 weeks that people on Pharyngula were making fun of Frank McCourt (who DIED, and they’re such JERKS), when they were making fun of Kwok’s dropping his name in every post. Even after I called him on his dishonesty and he copped to it, he repeated the same lie (I suppose hoping nobody would point out he was being dishonest again).

    Just tossing this out there for information, I won’t be following up since there’s no point responding to Kwok/McCarthy (and I know the rest of the thread will just consist of them flooding it, like the last several posts).

  114. #114 Silver Fox
    October 26, 2009

    “Fox, my initial statement had nothing to do with the ontological properties of pixies.”

    “The notion that we can justify belief in the existence of a category of being on the exclusive basis of philosophy (a.k.a. ontology) has no merit. Furthermore, once you accept ontology has a method of justifying belief, if you apply a single standard then an epistemology for both gods and fairies are both possible, the former implies the possibility of the latter because the evidence for gods and fairies is essentially identical”

    Here is a kind of montage of fundamental atheistic misunderstanding. Either that or really sloppy cogitation.

    One does not “justify” the existence of being by ontology but with epistemology. One has to know something is there before he can study what is there. God and the natural order are not the same “category”. God is not “a” category. If you’re going to associate the word category with God then you would have to say that God is “category”. By nature God has to be “simple” as opposed to complex (composed of). So God has no properties and yet is all “property”. Now if one cannot get past the epistemology which “justifies” the ontological existence of God. then what has just been said makes no sense.

    This is the fundamental problem with atheists; they can’t work through the epistemology. Maybe there is a kind of cognitive “blindspot” here which impacts synthetic reasoning or abstract judgment. But, at any rate, there appears to be a sort of innate or self-imposed mental impediment which confines the epistemic affirmation to the concrete, objective elements of the natural order. They are not dishonest in rejecting all epistemic justification and consequent ontological existence derived from propositional knowledge or subjective experiential knowledge. In reality they simply don’t have it or don’t see it. This renders the psychology of atheism fertile ground for exploration of the parameters of the mind.

    From the viewpoint of the atheist, epistemology is a tree with only one branch – that which produces evidential knowledge of things in the natural order. The other branch of the mind, deriving epistemic knowledge of subjective experience or of propositional knowledge is simply, in their words, “made up shit”. And the knowledge of God and knowledge of fairies and pixies has to fall from the same branch of the tree. This is a fascinating platform for a study in the philosophy of the mind.

  115. #115 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2009

    What’s wrong, Tulse, can’t follow it when it gets longer than one line insults and slogans? Call me surprised.

    Maybe you should restrict yourself to Twitter.

    Paul, don’t ask me why the PZites got so worked up over me making the point that he had a right to ban people at his blog if he wanted to. I don’t think they understood what the point of it was at the time, which doesn’t surprise me. And I see you don’t seem to either.

    I wouldn’t have come here to begin with of someone hadn’t told me that Matt Penfold had lied about me on this thread, just like the last time I bothered coming here.

  116. #116 tomh
    October 26, 2009

    Uh-oh, the inmates are loose and they’ve taken over the asylum.

  117. #117 Paul
    October 26, 2009

    Paul, don’t ask me why the PZites got so worked up over me making the point that he had a right to ban people at his blog if he wanted to.

    Because that wasn’t the point you made initially. Initially, it was you complaining you were banned because you disagreed with him in a post, while you were wholesale implying that anyone who doesn’t agree with PZ is banned. You only slipped back to talking about how PZ has the right to ban people he wants to when it was pointed out that you were not banned, and were in fact lying about being banned to try to score rhetorical points. You never admitted to the dishonesty, and changing the subject doesn’t change that. It also reflects badly on your credibility.

  118. #118 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2009

    Uh-oh, the inmates are loose and they’ve taken over the asylum.

    Posted by: tomh

    I thought you were a regular here.

    Paul, that was the point I originally made at The Intersection when some new atheist started whining that one of his comments had apparently been excluded by the owners. I’ve made exactly that point at blogs since at least 2002, that it’s the owner’s right to control the content of their blog. There is nothing strange about the idea, I believe I have said it here and at Coyne’s blog, though it’s not that easy to remember one new atheist blog from another.

  119. #119 Paul
    October 26, 2009

    Anthony,

    You said you did not understand why people (as I recall it was mostly Matt Penfold, but I participated a bit in the kerfuffle) “got so worked up” over your comments, and I clarified why. Regardless of your motives in posting, you spoke mistruths (intentionally or not) and never retracted them. The fact that you repeated your claims after being called on it hints towards intentionally. This is why people bring up said incident regarding your trustworthiness.

    It was never an argument about an owner having the right to do what they will with the content on their sites. It was an argument about how you lied and refused to admit it. The fact that you still avoid the point says that I’m wasting my time even pointing it out, but I wanted to let the people who were not at the Intersection to witness that bit of context know how it went. That’s all there is to say on the matter.

  120. #120 tomh
    October 26, 2009

    Anthony McCarthy wrote:
    that was the point I originally made at The Intersection

    The point you originally made at The Intersection was exactly what Paul says it was. You claimed you were banned by PZ because you disagreed with him and implied that anyone who disagreed with him would be banned. Don’t lie about it now.

  121. #121 Silver Fox
    October 26, 2009

    @Paul 116

    “Initially, it was you complaining you were banned because you disagreed with him in a post, while you were wholesale implying that anyone who doesn’t agree with PZ is banned. You only slipped back to talking about how PZ has the right to ban people he wants to when it was pointed out that you were not banned, and were in fact lying about being banned to try to score rhetorical points.”

    It does appear that P.Z. has the prerogative of banning anyone from posting on his blog site. This would be in accord with the terms and agreement of Science Blog which is owned and operated by Seed Media Group, LLC. Seed Media also reserves the right to monitor the content of its products.

    P.Z. has used his Killfile to prohibit me from posting on his blog site. If you click on Phryngula and click on the Dungeon tab and scroll down you will come to Silver Fox. Read the comment section where P.Z. says “Finally bored me to exasperation”, “Gone, no loss”.

    I can’t explain P.Z.’s motivations for much of what he does, although a lot of what he does appears to be self-promoting. His “regulars” were becoming agitated by some of my post which were similar to my post on this thread at #113. I suspect he wished to alleviate the discomfort of his “regulars”.

  122. #122 Paul
    October 26, 2009

    Silver Fox,

    I’m quite familiar with the context of you being banned. You spent several months in Pharyngula comment threads ranting. Yes, ranting. It is not argumentation when you do not take into account the substance of the posts you are replying to in formulating your comments. Comment threads are for discussion. If you want to rant without being responsive to the other commentors or your host, do it on your own blog.

  123. #123 Michael
    October 26, 2009

    Is John Kwok still whining about being banned at Pharnygula?

    The interesting thing about Kwok’s banning is that it wasn’t a decision by PZ Myers that got him booted. Kwok was voted off the blog by a consensus of the regulars commenters. At one point Kwok was asked to write a post that didn’t mention the famously famous high school that he famously went to with his famously famous classmates and Kwok couldn’t do it. He had to mention Bedford-Stuyvesant High (or whatever school it was). He also continually dropped names even when the person mentioned had nothing to do with the discussion on hand (rather like he dropped Cameron Diaz’s name in this thread). The majority of Pharnygula regulars voted Kok off the blog for excessive narcissism.

    Incidentally, after the banning Kwok came roaring back with a demand that PZ Myers buy him a camera. Kwok pretends that it was a “joke” but Kwok is pretentious in more than one way.

  124. #124 Silver Fox
    October 26, 2009

    Paul @ 121

    “I’m quite familiar with the context of you being banned. You spent several months in Pharyngula comment threads ranting. Yes, ranting”.

    Ah, Paul: I’m afraid you’re not an honest person, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Atheists are always interested in evidence. Can you cite for me comments made at pharyngula or here that you would consider ranting.

    I’ll give you an example of what I consider ranting. The following is a post by Aquaria @80 of this thread.

    “Silver Fox, you are known as Stupid Fuck all over the Internet, and that #79 is a disgusting example of how you lie and distort your way to stupidest theist on the Internet.”

    “Who is this “we” you talk about as certain (all caps is sign of major fucktard) of the ontological existence of god? Name these dolts you align yourself with. Who is this we stating any of this horseshit you baldly assert with zero citation, zero evidence? You see, that’s how you make all your arguments: Bald assertion, no evidence. It’s just that way because you say so.”

    “Well, that doesn’t cut it, you stupid piece of shit.”

    “You’re a liar. and a distorter, and tiresome at both. That is why PZ finally banned your cretinous ass. You add nothing to a discussion but stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

    You see, Paul, I’m very comfortable with the cogency of my position. The people who rant are not comfortable with their’s. At the time P.Z. banned my posts many of his “regulars” were ranting because the arguments I was presenting, they did not feel comfortable responding to. I think P.Z. wanted to assuage the feelings of his “regulars”.

    They were ranting for the same reason Aquaria is ranting at #80. They don’t have the knowledge base to engage in a civil conversation. So, they use the only tools they have: frustration and bad language.

    Yes, I did take P.Z. to task for his ridiculous behavior in “crackergate”, for his overreaction in getting the woman fired from the flower shop and the silliness of getting his minions to “crash” various polls.

  125. #125 Paul
    October 26, 2009

    Michael,

    Incidentally, after the banning Kwok came roaring back with a demand that PZ Myers buy him a camera. Kwok pretends that it was a “joke” but Kwok is pretentious in more than one way.

    Curiously, it wasn’t a demand. It was blackmail. Calling it a demand makes it to be something lighter and a little more goofy that it was.

    As for 123…

    Curiously, Silver Fox has chosen to complain about Aquaria. Fun trivia: that’s the same poster Mooney chose to use a comment from to show “classic PZ”.

    Mooney, is it you?

    protip: If the argument is about how PZ conducts his business, pointing out one vitriolic poster on a site with virtually no content moderation aside from spam/death threats doesn’t really further your case at all.

  126. #126 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2009

    —- The point you originally made at The Intersection was exactly what Paul says it was. You claimed you were banned by PZ because you disagreed with him and implied that anyone who disagreed with him would be banned. Don’t lie about it now. tomh

    Here is what I said in response to “spurge”

    362. Anthony McCarthy Says:
    July 11th, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Gee, spurge, I’m getting my comments held, I’d imagine because O.B. got in a huff and claimed I was libeling her. I’m not bawling.

    PZ banned me, I suspect because I pointed out a research scientist at Yale was actually engaged in research whereas he wasn’t. And I didn’t bawl over that either.

    You people had better toughen up if you intend to keep this up. You can’t depend on your gang getting your back in ever environment.

    And here’s what I said to Matt Penfold when he started in later:

    374. Anthony McCarthy Says:
    July 11th, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    — Your name is not on that list. Care to explain why you are lying about being banned ? Matt Penfold

    Apparently my banning either preceeded the list or PZ has neglected to post it, I tried posting a comment and it didn’t register. Just like the last two times I tried when someone told me my name was mentioned in his comments.

    Do I care? No.

    JJ R was banned at PZ’s Playhouse, for “slagging”, I believe it said? What’s that mean, to methodically rational? I can see why that would be unbearable for the PZits.

    So, Matt Penfold, why didn’t you ever give me the list of “lies” you said I’d told when I went to all the bother of starting a blog so you could do so without bothering the owners of this blog or other commentators with your bilge? You can still go look at the very first post on my new blog. I began it so you could list my horrible crimes.

    And here’s what I said when PZ entered into it:

    391. Anthony McCarthy Says:
    July 11th, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Gee, PZ, I wonder why I wasn’t able to point out that one of your commentators posted a lie about me on your blog a couple of months back if that’s the truth, I tried twice. And there was at least another time before that. I’ve had no trouble with other ScienceBlogs in the mean time. NOT that I spend much time looking over your remarkably unvaried content, it’s just someone had given me a heads up. And, you’ll notice, I didn’t whine and cry about it, just mentioned it in a discussion of your banning policy. I don’t care who you ban and who you don’t.

    And here’s where it ended between PZ and myself.

    # 392. PZ Myers Says:
    July 11th, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Well, since you don’t care about my content, I guess I won’t take the time to try and track down this mysterious “bug” until a reader whose opinion matters complains to me.

    Yes, Davison regularly leaves comments that are instantly hoovered up and tossed into the junk pile. M*bus, too — I’ve got most of his unique keywords covered in my filter file, you guys are really only seeing the occasional eruptions in which he changes his M.O. enough to escape automatic detection, briefly.

    They all say the same thing, anyway, so you aren’t missing anything interesting.
    # 393. Anthony McCarthy Says:
    July 11th, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    It’s all the same to me PZ, like I told the guy who I first mentioned it to above, am I bawling about it? If I want to read about science there are places you don’t have to wear waders to get to it.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/07/09/classic-quote-from-pzs-blog-vs-classic-quote-from-realclimate/#comment-24327

  127. #127 Silver Fox
    October 26, 2009

    Paul @124

    “Mooney, is it you?”

    No, I don’t think Mooney is into philosophical justification of God’s existence. I wish he was but I don’t think he is.

    I would not classify Aquaria as classic P.Z. As far as I know, Aquaria just uses bad language; P.Z. is heavy into bad behavior.

    “One Vitriolic poster?” Oh come on Paul you’re not going to try to go with that variation of the strawman ploy, are you? Go back to Pharyngula and read some of the threads when I was posting there. I suggest you read Wowbagger or Big Dumb Chimp or a half dozen others

  128. #128 PZ Myers
    October 26, 2009

    Once again, I have to refute McCarthy’s claim: he is not banned. Never has been. All banned individuals are publicly listed; he’s not there. I checked the filter file just in case there was an oversight, and again, there’s no entry there that would catch any of the names or pseudonyms I know he posts under. It’s possible that he tripped some of the general filters; there is a restriction on posting more than 3 links, and there are some common terms used by sex, gambling, and drug spam that will get a comment hung up. There is, however, nothing from him pending in the approval queue now, or in the past when he last whimpered about this.

    I have no idea why he keeps bringing up his non-existent banning at Pharyngula, especially when he keeps protesting that he’s not complaining.

  129. #129 bob
    October 27, 2009

    You people’s delusions of grandeur are doubly sad. It’s sad in general because you are indeed quite deluded. The extra sadness comes in because you think you are srs bsns on a small set of science blogs, yet you just don’t matter even there. Two of you got banned from a blog for being jerks, and the last of you pretends to be banned while being a jerk on other blogs. You’re not martyrs!

  130. #130 Rorschach
    October 27, 2009

    Awesome freakshow, this, Mr Rosenhouse ! Scienceblogs’ finest dimwits all in one place…:-)

  131. #131 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2009

    I have no idea why he keeps bringing up his non-existent banning at Pharyngula, especially when he keeps protesting that he’s not complaining.

    Posted by: PZ Myers |

    Uh, PZ, look above, it was your admirer and #1 fan boy Matt Penfold who brought it up at #31 above. I never talk about it unless someone like him does that. And as it’s become part of new atheist blog lore, apparently, it comes up. I defend myself when a lie about me is told.

    And anyone who wants to go over that old thread will see that I practically gave you a road map to how to find the comment thread it happened on, so I didn’t have anything I wanted to hide about it.

  132. #132 bob
    October 27, 2009

    bob, delusions of grandeur, getting banned from PZ’s blog? You guys really do believe he’s a major player in the world, don’t you. I don’t think even PZ deludes himself like that.

  133. #133 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2009

    And, PZ, notice that I predicted exactly what was going to happen back in early July on that same blog thread linked to above:

    434. Anthony McCarthy Says: July 12th, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Hey, PZ, I told you, it’s all the same to me. I don’t really care. It’s your fan boys who are keeping it up. You want to get shut of it, tell them, not me. Matt can’t stand because a Mic doesn’t show sufficient reverence to his idols. He’ll never let it drop.

    What part of a blog owner has a right to determine the content of their blog don’t you guys understand. I said to spurge I didn’t care as I was saying it. I only mentioned it to Dan S. on May 21 because he was really over the top annoying me over one of his lexicographic obsessions.

    Jason, why did the comment I posted at 131 show up as posted by “bob”?

  134. #134 Kevin (NYC)
    October 27, 2009

    Wow! what a large amount of insipid invective spewed by our visiting idiots.

    Jason: what ever happened to the 24 hour rule for Kwok et al?

  135. #135 Feynmaniac
    October 27, 2009

    Wow, such concentrated insanity on one thread! However, if you are going for a record you’re gonna have to step up your game. Just to give you an idea of your competition:

    734. Pete Rooke Says:
    July 17th, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    736. John A. Davison Says:
    July 17th, 2009 at 7:59 pm
    “I thought all ejaculatuions were biological, but random? What a mess!”

    742. Silver Fox Says:
    July 17th, 2009 at 9:38 pm
    ““Call us when Myers straps on a bomb and kills innocent civilians.”
    Well, he came reasonably close to that not long ago. ”

    743. Anthony McCarthy Says:
    July 17th, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    748. John Kwok Says:
    July 17th, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    769. JAMSHEED MOIDU Says:
    July 18th, 2009 at 5:33 am
    “HARUNYAHYA GET OUT OF PRISON HE DESTROY ALL DAWKINIST ARGUMENT!!!”

    773. davidmabus Says:
    July 18th, 2009 at 7:13 am
    “HOW WE WON THE MILLION DOLLAR PARANORMAL CHALLENGE”

    Not only was that also a discussion on Unscientific America, but it was on M&K’s blog!

  136. #136 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2009

    Insanity (new atheist version): Providing evidence that a new atheist was distorting reality. synonym, insipid invective.

    Is it any wonder that sane people don’t bother much with the new atheists?

    Rorschach, old pal (assuming you’re the same one who used to have a Marxist website I used to visit) you didn’t think I was a “dimwit” when we agreed on so much.

  137. #137 bob
    October 27, 2009

    Comment 131: Brilliant work! You utterly missed my point. I was saying that they seem to have delusions of grandeur about something that is in no way grand. To be honest, I’m guessing you’re one of these three musketeers of inanity. I don’t think your average person would fail so hard at reading comprehension. But, maybe I’m being naive.

  138. #138 John Kwok
    October 27, 2009

    @ Paul (@ 124) and Michael (@ 122) -

    A few friends accidentally stumbled upon Pharyngula while I was “demanding” photo equipment from your demigod PZ Myers and realized I was joking. I also e-mailed PZ and told him I was joking, but he still continues to insist that I wasn’t. Moreover, I have told others – such as Ken Miller for example, in person – that I was joking.

    You both demonstrate in your risible commentary the amount of breathtaking inanity present within yourselves and your fellow Pharyngulites (Notable exceptions include Glen Davidson, among the few who post there with extremely reasonable, and quite profound, commentary.).

    Respectfully yours,

    John Kwok

  139. #139 Fred W
    October 27, 2009

    Kwok,

    You don’t get it. NOBODY BELIEVES YOU about the camera equipment!

  140. #140 Feynmaniac
    October 27, 2009

    I know that whenever I tell a joke I email it to several professors at the University of Minnesota Morris.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/03/john_kwok_sends_email.php

  141. #141 Michael Fugate
    October 27, 2009

    Anthony,
    Please allow me to give you some tips about the internet.
    1) If you read a blog post, you are not required to read the comments.
    2) If you can read the comments, you are not required to post a comment.
    3) If you do decide to post a comment, you are not required to reply to all comments.

  142. #142 Paul
    October 27, 2009

    Uh, PZ, look above, it was your admirer and #1 fan boy Matt Penfold who brought it up at #31 above. I never talk about it unless someone like him does that. And as it’s become part of new atheist blog lore, apparently, it comes up. I defend myself when a lie about me is told.

    You’re still lying. The whole ban issue started with you making the very bold proclamation that PZ banned you from Pharyngula for disagreeing with him, and that everyone who disagrees with him is banned. Quit changing the subject. Own it. Nobody debates whether the host can do as he wishes. What we do discuss is how you lie in whatever manner you think best advances your argument, then pretend the lying never happened. It did, and you have no credibility.

  143. #143 John Kwok
    October 27, 2009

    @ Feynmaniac -

    I did it just to see how much a lunatic PZ Myers would be and he responded brilliantly. Much better than I had expected. But the point remains that even after I told him I was joking, he was still insisting that I was serious.

    The only people who think still that I wasn’t joking are yourself, PZ Myers and his online “Borg Collective” of Pharyngulites. Everyone else seems to have gotten the message… especially those who REALLY DO MATTER like Ken Miller for example.

    As for PZ, his “fame” rests on his all too frequent outrageous behavior at Pharyngula of which of course classic examples include “CrackerGate” and condemning Ken Miller by referring to him as a “creationist” on his blog back in September 2006:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/09/ken_miller_creationist.php

    Now this “creationist” – as dubbed by the ever annoying PZ Myers – has done the following:

    1) Testified around the country at county and state school boards on behalf of evolution and against creationism

    2) Debated creationists publicly, as for example, in such noteworthy venues as the mid 1990s PBS Firing Line Debate and the Spring 2002 AMNH Intelligent Design debate

    3) Served as the lead witness of the plaintiffs at the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial

    4) Has been a harsh and effective critic of Behe’s “research”, especially with regards to “irreducible complexity” since 1996 if not before.

    With the possible exception of item 3), your favorite “first rate mind” (as Coyne has dubbed him) as accomplished absolutely zilch. Had PZ not had the notion of trying to toss me off Pharyngula in the first place via his risible “Survivor: Pharyngula” series of posts, I wouldn’t have thought of “asking” him for photographic equipment.

    Anyway, I trust you’ll enjoy your active membership as a member of PZ’s Pharyngulite “Borg Collective”.

    Respectfully yours,

    John Kwok

  144. #144 Silver Fox
    October 27, 2009

    Feyn.@134

    742. Silver Fox Says:
    July 17th, 2009 at 9:38 pm
    ““Call us when Myers straps on a bomb and kills innocent civilians.”
    Well, he came reasonably close to that not long ago. ”

    Ah, Feyn. you left out some important parts.

    Pharyngula Blog 7/17/09

    Designsoda:
    “Myers is an insurrectionist atheist every bit as dangerous as the Muslim extremists.”
    Call us when Myers straps on a bomb and kills innocent civilians

    742. Silver Fox Says:
    July 17th, 2009 at 9:38 pm
    “Call us when Myers straps on a bomb and kills innocent civilians.”

    “Well, he came reasonably close to that not long ago.
    There was this woman who was working at a flower shop helping to support her family. Well one day she left her company computer at home. Her husband apparently got pissed with PZ, took his wife’s computer and sent PZ a message about beating his brains in. Well, PZ took that as a death threat and not only reported it to the flower shop but apparently got a goodly number of his symbiotics to do likewise. The poor woman got fired for no other reason than not securing her computer email account from her husband. Sure it was her fault. What reasonably wife would not suspect her husband malevolent intentions. That’s the kind of suspicions that sound marriages are built on.”

    “No sympathy from the rat pack.”

    What this post says is that if, indeed, the hyperbole of “beating your brains out” was going to be interpreted as a legitimate “death threat” the matter could have been handled with more discretion. However, once the “rat pack” descended on the flower shop, I don’t guess the employer felt he had any choice but to fire the poor woman, who was, indeed, an innocent victim.

    Nice try, Feyn, but no cigar.

  145. #145 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2009

    Paul, why I am bothering to point this out to you when I know you’ll just lie about it, I couldn’t tell you.

    I knew about this thread but didn’t enter into it until someone who knows me e-mailed me to tell me that the obsessive Matt Penfold had told a well worn lie about me here. As I proved in my comment addressing PZ at #132 above, Penfold has been spasmodically erupting at me all over the sci blogs since June.

    That’s why I first came here all the way down to #87, where I chose to address PZ instead of the entirely insignificant Penfold, and then Coyne’s remark about that comment. I didn’t deal with the unimportant Penfold lies until 104.

    My further dealing with it was, I have to admit, mostly for PZ’s benefit since he didn’t seem to recall the incident in detail, including his speculation that it could have been his software that had led to my concluding that he had banned me. And my prediction that if he wanted the matter to drop he should talk to his fans because I knew Penfold, you and others couldn’t stand the idea that someone might criticize PZ for doing something that he obviously does and which I’m sure you and others have reveled in, considering how he does it.

    PZ, don’t say I didn’t warn you that your fans were going to bring it up again because I did last July. Maybe you should reconsider the quality of fans your blog attracts.

  146. #146 Sigmund
    October 27, 2009

    Silver Fox,
    The threat in question went as follows:
    “well sir, you don’t get to blaspheme and walk away from this.
    You have two choices my fXXXXX up friend, first you can quit your job for the good of the
    children. Or you can get your brains beat in.”
    I’m not sure that ‘beating your brains in’ in this manner can be taken any other way than a serious threat that could have involved death. The individual who made the threat used his wife’s computer to send the email, thus exposing her to company policies regarding keeping company computers only for personal and not family use which I guess she must have broken by allowing her husband to access them.
    The implication of your post, that PZ caused her to get fired by reacting to the threat is ludicrous.
    Her husband caused her to get fired by doing something stupid on her work computer, not PZ or his fans targeting an innocent woman.

  147. #147 Feynmaniac
    October 27, 2009

    Silver Fox,

    What this post says is that if, indeed, the hyperbole of “beating your brains out” was going to be interpreted as a legitimate “death threat”

    What do you mean if that was to be interpreted as a death threat?

    the matter could have been handled with more discretion.

    Possibly, and it’s a fair point to raise.

    However, saying that publishing a death threat is “reasonably close” to “strap[ing] on a bomb and kill[ing] innocent civilians” is crazy.

  148. #148 Paul
    October 27, 2009

    @144

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/07/09/classic-quote-from-pzs-blog-vs-classic-quote-from-realclimate/#comment-24349

    Oh, Matt. You are grasping at straws. PZ is a coward who runs and hides from people who stand up to him. Apparently he’s even too cowardly to admit that he bans people and relies to his fan club to do his dirty work for him.

    Doesn’t sound at all like you’re just grinding an axe and attempting character assassination, you are just pointing out that it is a blog owner’s prerogative to ban people if they want.

  149. #149 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2009

    Paul @147

    Paul, can you read? All thorough that thread they talked about how PZ didn’t ban anyone because he lets his fan club ban people for him. Let me point out about that thread that I didn’t enter into that discussion either for quite a while, until “spurge” started his crybaby act about his comment not going through at The Intersection. I don’t care about PZ’s banning policy.

    I’d ask of you can think but that’s not necessary.

    Jason, if you’ll recall the time I practically begged you to straighten out your fans on a little point on probability, it would seem that they need some help with remedial reading as well. What you can do about their tacit reasoning abilities, I don’t know.

  150. #150 Paul
    October 27, 2009

    I see you never bothered reading the Pharyngula posts regarding the whole “Survivor” issue, and still don’t get the situation at all. That’s fine, but the situation was nothing like you describe. Either way, the information is out there for people to reference. I just wanted to give them a decent sample of your insanity on The Intersection. Job done.

  151. #151 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2009

    The information is out there for people to reference….

    Just for those who thought irony had really died.

    I’m not commenting on this again unless someone less automatically irrelevant and repetitious than Paul says something. That is until the next time Matt Penfold decides to misrepresent the incident again, then the next time. Sorry, PZ, but they’re yours. Enjoy them.

  152. #152 Silver Fox
    October 28, 2009

    Feyn: @146

    The analogy between strapping on the bomb and the flower shop incident references some INNOCENT person being damaged. True, the lady did not die or get physically maimed. But, without a job and a poor reference, her life style and standard of living was certainly impacted, A woman working for a flower delivery shop probably doesn’t have the transferable marketable skills to go out and readily replace her income. She was “bombarded” by P.Z.’s
    “rat pack” to whom neither she nor her husband had done anything. The “pack” was just willing tools and should have been ashamed of themselves, but I don’t think they were and I’ll tell you why in a minute.

    Let’s get to the “threat”. When one says “I’m going to beat your brains out” it is invariably hyperbole, like when one says ‘I’m going to kick your ass” or I’m going to knock the shit out of you”. Few people would take any of these literally. I’m reasonable sure that tucked away in northern Minnesota, P.Z. didn’t feel all that threatened, but if he did, he should have reported it to the authorities and let them dispose of it. That’s their job. Instead, he took the matter into his own hands and turned it over to the “Pack”.

    A little Christian charity and this could have been handled differently. Atheists are always pointing out that you don’t need religion to be charitable; well, it doesn’t seem that you can prove it from this incident. This is why I don’t think the “pack” were ashamed of what they did. No sense of charity. The “master” called and they responded. Loyalty to the “master” trumps charity. What a pitiful bunch.

    I took P.Z. to task for this and I stand by it.

  153. #153 Kevin (NYC)
    October 29, 2009

    “Let’s get to the “threat”. When one says “I’m going to beat your brains out” it is invariably hyperbole, like when one says ‘I’m going to kick your ass” or I’m going to knock the shit out of you”. ”

    you are an idiot. You don’t know what you are talking about. Plenty of times those words are then followed by a complete ass-kicking.

    The eratic behavior of the religious right wing fanatics you protect and support HAS led to them shooting people they don’t agree with.

    Rational people don’t threaten to kill other people. Your comments are ignorant and insulting.

  154. #154 Silver Fox
    October 29, 2009

    Kevin @152

    “The eratic behavior of the religious right wing fanatics you protect and support HAS led to them shooting people they don’t agree with.”

    First, your statement is grammatically wrong in several respects. Erratic is misspelled. More importantly, the BEHAVIOR of fanatics does not lead them to shoot people; the behavior is the culmination of what led them to shoot. The anger or outrage leads them to the behavior.

    Typical of the atheist style of discourse, which disputes their often request for an honest conversation, you quote-mine.

    You want to focus on justifying P.Z.’s outrageous response by claiming that he responded to a serious threat to his life. What you neglected to respond to, because it would not have suited your purpose, i.e. justifying P.Z.s outrageous response, is the part of the post that pointed out what he should have done if, in fact, he did sense a serious threat. He should have reported it to the proper authorities and let them do their job. The “rat pack” is not a police force and could not protect him.

    You need to start thinking for yourself and stop acting like a robot.

  155. #155 Kevin (NYC)
    October 29, 2009

    you are a drooling nitwit.

    you need to stop drooling and get a brain…

  156. #156 Silver Fox
    October 29, 2009

    Kevin @154

    “you are a drooling nitwit”

    Another typical atheist reply: the ad hominem fallacy.

    Whether or not I’m a drooling nitwit is not important. What is important is that I have given you cogent arguments about my position and you are not able to address them with an intelligent response. So typical.

  157. #157 Leni
    October 30, 2009

    Let’s get to the “threat”. When one says “I’m going to beat your brains out” it is invariably hyperbole…

    Except for when it isn’t.

    Speaking of hyperbole, what would you call equating this to murder? If my husband sent threats from my work computer I would expect to get fired. And then divorced. Especially if the recipient of said threats was somewhat well known and complained about it.

    Let me just repeat this: the man sent threats from a company computer. They fact that you think he probably didn’t mean it is utterly irrelevant. If only one person had complained about it, she should have and probably would have been fired. Just think about this for a second. What would you do if this was your business and your employee gave her crazy ass husband (who likes to threaten people online and is too stupid to know he isn’t doing it anonymously) access to your computer?

    Do you think there might possibly have been a breach of trust there?

    You would seriously blame the recipient of the threats at the cost of the trust your customers place in your business and your ability to restrict access to their personal information? Or your private business information? Or possibly other people’s safety?

    What are you smoking and can I have some?

  158. #158 Feynmaniac
    October 30, 2009

    Silver fox,

    I wrote a lengthy reply to #151, but it seems not to have been published for whatever reason.

    I won’t retype everything, but just say two things. The “get your brains beat in” cannot be read as mere hyperbole:

    well sir, you don’t get to blaspheme and walk away from this.
    You have two choices my f*cked up friend, first you can quit your job for the good of the
    children. Or you can get your brains beat in.

    I give you till the first of the month, get that resignation in c*nt

    He is quite clearly trying to intimidate Myers, whether he meant carry out the act or not.

    Secondly, if you really felt sorry for this woman why aren’t you complaining about her dumb, violent husband* or the company that fired her for what her dumb, violent husband did. No, the only person you are condemning is the one you disagree with theologically and who banned you from his site. It’s sad to see that your anger towards Myers is causing you to both ridiculously compare him to a suicide bomber and to minimize the death threats sent against him.
    ____

    * Who wrote in the letter: “what I would like to know is how did you even get a job at a collage”.

  159. #159 Silver Fox
    October 30, 2009

    Feyn and Lem; 156-157

    So typical of atheistic argumentation. Atheists are always asking for rational conversation which they are no more interested in or capable of conducting than they are of believing in God.

    Talk all around the issue and pretend that you can make fish out of meat.

    Let’s for the moment assume, which is kind of a stretch, that the man in question did issue a legitimate threat. As I have said twice before, the proper response would have been for P.Z. to report the matter to the proper authorities. Instead, he turned it over to his “rat pack” which could in no way protect him from an assailant. This is a clear indication that he did not take it as a legitimate threat. If he had, he would have turned it over to the proper law enforcement authorities and they would have done their job – protect him by bringing the assailant to justice. The question is, by handling it the way he did, was he after justice or revenge? He did this by virtue of a “rat pack” who act more like robots than rational thinking beings.

  160. #160 Leni
    October 31, 2009

    It’s “Leni”, not “Lem”.

    Let’s for the moment assume, which is kind of a stretch, that the man in question did issue a legitimate threat.

    You no doubt mean something closer to “actionable” than “legitimate”.

    In either case the distinction is completely irrelevant. It was a threat, period. When one issues threats of physical violence one should not be surprised if there are negative consequences. Including being publicly exposed. If he didn’t want to risk exposure then he shouldn’t have made “anonymous” threats to someone with a blog read by thousands upon thousands of people. Once you do something like that I think it’s safe to assume that all bets are off. You don’t *earn* generosity by making anonymous threats; you earn whatever you get. I don’t believe in the three-fold karma crap, but if ever there was a case for it, this is it.

    You are also forgetting that some of these “typical atheists” also thought his wife should get her job back. One even sent an email to her former employer asking them to consider that very thing.

    So your complaint that the poor man was a victim of a “rat pack” is duly noted and dismissed.

    And if you say “typical atheist” one more time, I’m going to send you an email from my work computer threatening to beat your brains in roll my eyes and dismiss you as a jackass with an inability to give others the same sort of charitable treatment you expect for people who issue threats of violence.

  161. #161 Silver Fox
    November 1, 2009

    Leni @ 159

    “If he didn’t want to risk exposure then he shouldn’t have made “anonymous” threats to someone with a blog read by thousands upon thousands of people.”

    Oh, I see, so if a crime is going to be committed against a person with a popular blog, we can dispense with the police dept., because the blogger can handle it on his own by exposing the impending crime to a lot of people. Well, Leni, there are two things wrong with that. First, you can’t count on a determined assailant not going through with his threat regardless of how many people know about it. Secondly, and more importantly, if you know that a crime is going to be committed, you are obligated, BY LAW,to report it to the authorities. Failure to do so can subject you to being charged with misprision of a crime. It is our obligation under law to report crime not expose crime.

    Again, this is talking around the issue because you have no creditable response to justify what P.Z. did and what he failed to do.

    And, after the “rat pack” is instrumental in getting the woman fired, we should not think that they are vengeful atheists with cold hearts, because they are so filled with compassion that they would like for her to get her job back.

    By your own actions and deceit, you people are the scum of the earth and are absolutely pitiful.

  162. #162 Silver Fox
    November 1, 2009

    Leni @ 159

    “If he didn’t want to risk exposure then he shouldn’t have made “anonymous” threats to someone with a blog read by thousands upon thousands of people.”

    Oh, I see, so if a crime is going to be committed against a person with a popular blog, we can dispense with the police dept., because the blogger can handle it on his own by exposing the impending crime to a lot of people. Well, Leni, there are two things wrong with that. First, you can’t count on a determined assailant not going through with his threat regardless of how many people know about it. Secondly, and more importantly, if you know that a crime is going to be committed, you are obligated, BY LAW,to report it to the authorities. Failure to do so can subject you to being charged with misprision of a crime. It is our obligation under law to report crime not expose crime.

    Again, this is talking around the issue because you have no creditable response to justify what P.Z. did and what he failed to do.

    And, after the “rat pack” is instrumental in getting the woman fired, we should not think that they are vengeful atheists with cold hearts, because they are so filled with compassion that they would like for her to get her job back.

    By your own actions and deceit, you people are the scum of the earth and are absolutely pitiful.

  163. #163 veronica
    November 4, 2009

    I wonder how we can explain this statement by Professor Pigliucci:
    http://mje.mcgill.ca/article/view/2224/1694

    “Not
    surprisingly, science majors knew (slightly) more science than non-science
    majors did. I then asked them to rate their belief in a series of paranormal
    phenomena, from voodoo to astrology, from water dowsing to haunted houses,
    and so on. The results (Figure 1) indicate no significant difference between
    genders, but, astoundingly and contrary to expectations, the science majors
    held more strongly to paranormal beliefs than the non-science students!”

  164. #164 Aquaria
    November 17, 2009

    Wow, Jason. You got all the crazies over here.

    By the way, Silver Fox, don’t presume to speak as if you know me.

    You don’t.

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