We New Atheist types are used to having hyperbolic claims leveled against us. A while back author Ron Rosenbaum, writing at Slate, wrote “And some of them [the New Atheists] can behave as intolerantly to heretics who deviate from their unproven orthodoxy as the most unbending religious Inquisitor.” Clearly so. The most unbending religious Inquisitors were in the habit of torturing and imprisoning those with whom they disagreed. The NA’s write books and give public presentations in which they express their views. The comparison is obvious.

More recently, we have Michael Ruse proclaiming, “And this is why I think the New Atheists are a disaster, a danger to the wellbeing of America comparable to the Tea Party.” He has been gleefully supported by his fellow blogger Jacques Berlinerblau, most recently in this post.

We skeptics like to say that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The harm done by the Tea Party, in terms of electing lunatics to public office and moving the Republican Party ever farther to the right, is pretty easy to see and measure. If the NA’s are a disaster of that magnitude there should be some clear evidence to that effect.

A while back I wrote a post pointing out that in the long-running Gallup poll about evolution and creationism, the percentage choosing the “atheistic evolution” option had been going steadily up over the past ten years, from 9 percent in 1999 to 14 percent in 2008. I also cited a poll from Virgina Commonwealth University in which the atheist option scored a whopping 18 percent. It was not a terribly long post, and it concluded as follows:

I do not know the explanation for these numbers, and I have no interest in speculating.
It does seem interesting, though, that while many people are wringing their hands over the supposedly pernicious effect of the New Atheists on evolution acceptance and education, the numbers show not the slightest evidence of a backlash. To the extent that the numbers are moving at all, they seem to be going in the right direction.

I thought my point was clear enough. That the poll numbers are, from an atheist’s perspective, moving slowly in the right direction, is not evidence of a backlash against the NA’s. The only way to argue otherwise is to claim that somehow the NA’s are retarding a favorable trend that would proceed more quickly were it not for their interference. If you are inclined to go that route then I would simply refer you to my earlier statement about extraordinary claims.

Incidentally, my post was written before the 2010 Gallup numbers were available. The latest number is up to 16 percent. I’m just saying.

Well, Josh Rosenau, who I consider a close personal friend and a brother from another mother, went ballistic. In a very long post, he seized on an offhand remark I had made about the percentage accepting the atheist option. Noting the 9 percent in the Gallup poll in 1999 and the 18% in the 2010 VCU poll I casually suggested that the number had doubled. I acknowledged that the wording of the questions was different in the two polls, and I stated my conclusions with great caution and circumspection, and I thought it was clear that I was not presenting a detailed statistical analysis of the situation, and I also thought I was clear that my point was simply that the numbers do not support any conclusions about the NA’s being a disaster, but no matter. Josh scolded me for 3000 words anyway.

Well, it’s happened again.

Jerry Coyne has a post up directing us to new polling data from Pew. One of their findings is that 61 percent of people would be less likely to support a political candidate who did not believe in God. The authors of the survey write, “Among traits perceived negatively, 61% say they would be less likely to support a presidential candidate who does not believe in God, which is little changed from four years ago.” Here, in its entirety, is Jerry’s discussion of this finding:

“Not believing in God” is the worst trait of all, much worse than having had an extramarital affair. The Pew report finds that this figure is “little changed from four years ago.” America remains a nation deeply disapproving of atheists. (I wonder what the figures would be in Europe.) The unchanged level of disapprobation is a bit disconcerting, but at least gives the lie to accommodationist claims that vociferous atheism is turning people off. And we know that lack of religious belief is still increasing everywhere in America.

Seems like essentially the same point I was making in my earlier post. Flat poll numbers, in this case, are not evidence of a disaster commensurate with the Tea Party. The burden of proof lies with the people making the extraordinary claims. Polls such as this are an obvious place to look for evidence of the putative harm done by the NA’s, but the numbers stubbornly refuse to cooperate.

Josh, unsurprisingly, could not let that stand. He has produced a very long post going after Coyne for, well, all sorts of things. Josh writes:

First, I don’t think the reach of New Atheism has become so wide that it would necessarily have any dramatic (outside the margin of error) impact on broad surveys of public opinion. The only substantive evidence I’ve ever seen offered for the influence of New Atheism – number of book sales and number of Youtube videos viewed – are at best crude estimates. The Left Behind series sells well, but its influence on the broad culture is small, after all.

Though Josh has been a consistent critic of the NA’s, he has not repeated the more hyperbolic claims of people like Ruse and Berlinerblau. The fact remains, however, that a disaster commensurate with the Tea Party really suggests that the influence of NA’s has become pretty wide. And it’s not as if those two are the only ones making such bloated claims. So I think it’s perfectly reasonable to point out, against such rhetoric, that the latest polls do not show an increase in suspicion directed towards atheists.

Moving on, I can’t imagine how Josh justifies his statement that the influence of the Left Behind series on the broad culture is small. They certainly had an impact on publishing and entertainment, by showing that there is a big market for explicitly Christian books and films. LeHaye and Jenkins popularized and mainstreamed a set of ideas that were marginal to the point of being invisible prior to their success. Would Harold Camping’s insanity have been big news in a pre-Left Behind world? I don’t know. But selling 65 million books sure sounds to me like it constitutes having an influence on the culture.

Now, what about the influence of the NA’s? This, to me, is the crux of the matter. I can certainly point to good, concrete things that have resulted from the NA’s books. I can point to the numerous testimonials of people who say they had their eyes opened by reading them, for example. I can point to the fact that even though I live in one of the most culturally conservative counties in Virginia, my local Barnes and Noble had a highly-visible, front-of-the-store display for Richard Dawkins’s book The Greatest Show on Earth. They did not have such a display for his previous science book The Ancestor’s Tale. What changed? I’m guessing it was the enormous success of The God Delusion in between. Multiply that by all of the other bookstores that behaved likewise, and I see a positive development in promoting evolution. And I can point to all of the bus campaigns, and the innumerable skeptics conferences (which are receiving increasing amounts of media attention), and the thriving skeptical community on the internet. All of these things tend to make atheism more visible. We have actual scientific evidence now that shows that a lack of visibility is specifically part of atheism’s problem. But seriously, some things really are too obvious to require proof.

Is this the start of a revolution? Will we look back twenty years from now and marvel that religion ever had so much power in American society? How should I know? But all of the things I just listed strike me as inherently good. There is simply no question that atheism today has a much bigger public profile than it did before the publication of the NA books, and this bigger profile is good all by itself.

But maybe I’m wrong about all of that. Maybe I’ve hallucinated all of these favorable developments. Maybe the NA’s have managed to sell millions of copies of their books and give countless presentations to sell-out crowds without having the slightest positive effect on the public’s perception of atheism. Maybe their only contribution is to write books some of us enjoy reading and to give presentations some of us enjoy watching. Well, fine. But then why all the vitriol? Why the endless hand-wringing about what a big disaster the NA’s are, or about how they are “hurting the cause,” or how they’re scaring away the moderates?

The NA bashers are basically telling me that I can’t simply enjoy the books put out by the NA’s, because they are actually harming other causes that I care about. It is for the bashers to back up that charge with actual evidence. This they never do.

Instead they gesture sagely to the communications literature, and direct us to the brilliant insights found there. They tell us, as though it were news, that people don’t like it when you insult them. Or that people sometimes get defensive when you attack things they care about deeply. Indeed, but what about all the people who don’t have firm views on this subject? What about all the people who mostly absorb their ideas from what is prevalent in the surrounding culture? Which is to say, what about most people?

Josh writes:

Second, the secularizing trend in American society goes back well before the New Atheists arrived on the scene, so they can’t take credit for it. The interesting question is whether they increased it or decreased it relative to the rate it would otherwise have taken (given underlying demographic trends, etc.). I don’t see anyone trying to build such a model for comparison.

What? Did Jerry claim that “the secularizing trend in American society” was the result of the New Atheists? Certainly not in this post. It looks to me like he was simply addressing the claim of whether the NA’s are actively hurting the cause by creating a backlash against atheists. He noted there is nothing in the polls to suggest that they are. Period.
Josh here dangles the possibility, mentioned previously, that the NA’s are hurting the cause by slowing the secularizing trend that was happening already. Show me a shred of evidence for that improbable proposition and I’ll take it seriously.

After presenting a litany of other polls, the point of which escapes me, Josh unloads his haymaker:

Fourth, and most importantly, an increase in the number of nontheists in society ought, all else being equal, to increase support for atheist candidates. On balance, someone should be less iffy about voting for an atheist after becoming an atheist! You’d also expect an increase in willingness to vote for an atheist to follow from more people knowing they know an atheist, the effect atheist “out” campaigns and bus ads seek to promote. The lack of any such shift should be more than “disconcerting.” It verges on falsifying.

I am not sure what it is that Josh thinks is on the verge of being falsified here. Certainly not the claim Jerry actually made, which involved the possibility that NA’s were driving people away. I think Josh’s point is something like this: NA’s are trying to make atheism more visible and acceptable to the general public. If they were successful in this then you would expect people’s antipathy towards atheistic political candidates to go down. But the polls show the numbers are flat. So the NA’s have failed.

But this would be premature, to put it kindly. For one thing, if we bend over backwards to be generous we can date the origin of the NA’s to 2004, with the publication of Sam Harris’s book. A more reasonable date would be 2006, when the term “New Atheist” was coined. So at most we’re talking seven years that the NA’s have been around, and five is more like it. That just isn’t very much time at all. And we’re talking about a movement starting very deep in its own end zone, with a massive, extremely well-funded machine on the other side. These are the sorts of things Josh is keen to point out when the question is why rates of evolution acceptance have been flat for so long. This, despite the best efforts to convince people that evolution poses no threat to religion, and despite the complete absence, until recently, of NA troublemakers to gum up the works. But somehow he is less charitable when considering the effects of the NA’s.

Josh closes with this:

But New Atheism is oriented toward the general public, towards shifting public opinion (in some often-ill-defined way). We should expect to see a result from those actions when we look at general surveys. Not immediately, and it’s possible the effect would always be too small to measure, or that it could fall prey to confounding factors and other difficulties associated with any attempt at measuring change in public opinion without having a control group for comparison. But with the right poll questions and the right controls, static polls point either to no effect – i.e., failure – or to a positive effect counterbalanced by a backlash – also failure.

Actually, there’s a pretty obvious third possibility. It could be a positive effect counterbalanced not by a backlash, but by the even more effective promotional efforts of those on the other side. That would mean NA is not a failure, it’s just insufficient to overcome all of the forces working against it. Obama’s stimulus package undeniably had a positive effect on the economy, but it proved insufficient to counteract everything that was dragging the economy down. Same thing here, I suspect.

Most of Josh’s post has nothing to do with what Jerry said. He seems to have in mind certain grandiose claims about the success of New Atheism, but without specific quotes to work with it’s hard to know what he is replying to. If there is anyone out there who claimed that NA would need only a few years to produce a revolution, then I am sure they are now feeling a bit silly. But the far more common claim is simply that NA is having a positive impact on the public discourse, which seems undeniable to me. I can see it in the small, concrete ways I mentioned earlier in the post. Not the stuff of massive societal shifts, but they are real nonetheless. And I can see it in less quantifiable ways, in the increased visibility atheism now has. Against this I can see not the slightest reason for thinking that NA’s are “hurting the cause,”

To me, this whole conversation seems to play out like this:

HYPERBOLIC NA BASHER: New Atheists are hurting the cause!
They are driving people away from good science education!! They are scaring away the moderates!!! They are a disaster commensurate with the Tea Party!!!!

CALMER, MORE SENSIBLE, PERSON: What cause are they hurting? Evolution acceptance? Not according to the polls. Public perceptions of atheists? Again, not according to the polls. So where can I find evidence of this disaster you speak of?

WIMPY FALLBACK POSITION: Yeah, well you haven’t revolutionized American culture in the last few years, so you’re a failure.

Comments

  1. #1 Mike Haubrich
    June 7, 2011

    I once enjoyed reading Josh’s blog, but he seems to be going off the rails on his anti-NA sentiments. He recently published a post on the religious attitudes towards torture, which showed most religious people are against it and added a throw-away line that Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne are pro-torture.

    It is beyond rationality at this point for him.

  2. #2 SC (Salty Current)
    June 7, 2011

    Excellent post. I kept highlighting passages to comment on, only to find that you made my point just below.

    But with the right poll questions and the right controls, static polls point either to no effect – i.e., failure – or to a positive effect counterbalanced by a backlash – also failure.

    I expected these responses, and I’m fascinated by the fact that they appear to discount any effect of their own actions! It’s all gnu atheism vs. creationism and gnu atheism vs. prejudice against atheists. If accommodationism is so inconsequential, WHY IS HE YAPPING? I for one am willing to accept responsibility for outcomes if they’ll shut the hell up about gnus and religion. Deal?

  3. #3 Kevin
    June 7, 2011

    It’s just pure intellectual dishonesty. Nothing more, nothing less.

    He’s rewriting the posts to conform to what he WANTS the NAs to say, instead of what they DO say.

    Frankly, nothing he says any more is of the least interest to me. He’s been riding this one-trick pony a little too long, IMHO.

    I have friends with whom I disagree with on some matters of importance (politics, mainly). For a long time, I tried the accommodationist approach. Finally, though, I had enough when yet another horrible e-mail was forwarded to me.

    When I objected and had the evidence to back me up, my friend apologized. And maybe learned something.

    Sadly, Josh doesn’t appear capable — or perhaps, as we used to say in my MBA program, he’s suffering from overcommitment to a failed plan. One suspects there’s a book proposal somewhere in there.

  4. #4 Uncle Bob
    June 7, 2011

    I find it mildly amusing how the atheist community in general assumes the Tea Party is bad and harmful (and get quite offended when compared to them). Kind of a “since we’re all rational people here, we can skip the false neutrality on this issue”.

    It is refreshing compared to most of the non-atheist stuff I read.

  5. #5 Uncle Bob
    June 7, 2011

    Forgot to add, as always, brilliant and spot on.

  6. #6 Charles Sullivan
    June 8, 2011

    Maybe Josh is looking over his shoulder to Templeton. Just wondering.

  7. #7 Sascha Vongehr
    June 8, 2011

    The NA bashing is somewhat of a new, fashionable angle, something to be contrary and “meta-progressive” with. However, many NA and skeptics arguments do indeed backfire and do harm the cause:

    http://www.science20.com/alpha_meme/mix_science_and_god_correctly_or_don%E2%80%99t-78294

    And this should not even come as a surprise. NA is really popular now and it draws in many dim minds that indeed take it on as their new “religion”. That is just human.

  8. #8 Josh Rosenau
    June 8, 2011

    I don’t see the goalpost-moving. I haven’t claimed, as you acknowledge, any comparison between the negative impact of the teabaggers and the effects of New Atheism. To treat my post as somehow reflective of anything Ruse or Berlinerblau wrote is a fairly monumental stretch verging into the disingenuous. Nor do I believe I’ve ever claimed any backlash against New Atheism would show up as a statistically significant deviation in public opinion polling, which further undermines the claim of goalpost-moving.

    Furthermore, the third option you cite is exactly the point I was making in the post you now describe as “going ballistic.” Down to the comparison with the Obama stimulus.

    Except that the argument doesn’t work here, as it did when I made it. It’s one thing to look at the last thirty years of polling on evolution and note, as I did then, that there’s an active creationist movement which might well be balancing out the efforts of pro-science forces over that same thirty year stretch. This is not just plausible, but is the most reasonable prior to adopt.

    In this case, the claim is that something changed in 2004-2006, after Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett launched the New Atheist publishing revolution, and this somehow changed the way atheists did their outreach, and that this is somehow having some positive effect. Unless you can point to a comparable shift in rhetoric by “the other side” (theists, I assume, but who knows?), the “counterbalance” theory doesn’t work. Did theists launch some new initiative in concert with the rise of New Atheism? Or is “the other side” critics of New Atheism, in which case the claim would be that critical responses to New Atheism have been so effective as to utterly negate any measurable impact they might have had. If the latter, those are either really compelling responses, or NAism was a really uncompelling argument to be responding to.

    And as my post makes clear repeatedly, the best evidence is that New Atheists have simply had no effect on the body politic. I think their books and so forth have been read by people sympathetic to their view, or by people who read it the same way you, Jason, read creationist books: to know their enemy. I also think that’s basically the market for the Left Behind series (which, in any event, didn’t create a market. The Late Great Planet Earth was a best-seller in the ’70s, and PMD works of other sorts have been popular back to the 19th century, when that vision of the Rapture was first packaged for mass consumption). In other words, I think those works were preaching to the choir. Which is fine as far as it goes (the choir needs ammo, as Genie Scott likes to say), but isn’t going to change society at large.

    If you disagree, point to some effect that can plausibly be attributed to New Atheism. It needn’t be at the scale of national surveys, since I wouldn’t expect to see it show up there anyway. Show me research with 100 college students, with half exposed to NA arguments and half exposed to something else.

    If you want to argue that they’ve had an effect, produce some sort of data!

    But, as the addendum about survey responses to questions about switching to/from atheism makes clear (and as I’ve made clear elsewhere), testimonials about who switched to atheism and why are not a reliable form of data. Anecdotes aren’t data in general, and altar calls are notoriously unreliable in particular.

    Mike Haubrich: I also, for what it’s worth, linked to a long discussion of Harris and Coyne’s disappointing defenses of torture. It wasn’t a bald assertion. You’re entitled to think it wasn’t germane, as I’m entitled to think it was.

  9. #9 Jason A.
    June 8, 2011

    Unless you can point to a comparable shift in rhetoric by “the other side” (theists, I assume, but who knows?), the “counterbalance” theory doesn’t work. Did theists launch some new initiative in concert with the rise of New Atheism?

    By theists, I don’t know, but there has clearly been a rise in ‘balancing’ rhetoric by… accomodationists. Don’t even pretend there hasn’t been an anti-NA campaign launched by accomodationists, many of whom have ready access to media outlets. Enough to balance the NAs? I don’t know, but you don’t get to just pretend there is no obvious ‘balancing’ force when you are a part of it.

    If you want to argue that they’ve had an effect, produce some sort of data!

    But, as the addendum about survey responses to questions about switching to/from atheism makes clear (and as I’ve made clear elsewhere), testimonials about who switched to atheism and why are not a reliable form of data. Anecdotes aren’t data in general, and altar calls are notoriously unreliable in particular.

    You said you don’t see any goalpost moving. When you make the claim that NAs are having a negative effect, then respond to the claim that the evidence doesn’t show a negative effect by saying you don’t see any evidence for a positive effect, that is goalpost shifting.

  10. #10 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 8, 2011

    I don’t see the goalpost-moving. I haven’t claimed, as you acknowledge, any comparison between the negative impact of the teabaggers and the effects of New Atheism. To treat my post as somehow reflective of anything Ruse or Berlinerblau wrote is a fairly monumental stretch verging into the disingenuous. Nor do I believe I’ve ever claimed any backlash against New Atheism would show up as a statistically significant deviation in public opinion polling, which further undermines the claim of goalpost-moving.

    But Jerry Coyne was pretty clearly responding to people like Ruse and Berlinerblau, and others who have made hyperbolic charges about NA’s driving people away. You presented your post as a reply to him. But there was nothing in what Jerry wrote extolling the great positive effects the NA’s are having or taking credit for broad trends towards secularization. For you to imply otherwise was itself disingenuous.

    The rest of your comment is simply nonresponsive to my post, the main point of which was that the burden of proof is on the people who say the NA’s are hurting the cause. I pointed to several, concrete ways the NA’s activism has led to good effects. Each is small by itself but all are positive developments nevertheless. If I am to conclude their effect is, on balance, negative, then I would like to see evidence of that. If you don’t think their effect is negative on balance, then that’s great! But you cannot deny that a great many people have made that claim. It was to them, not to you, that Jerry was addressing himself.

  11. #11 bob
    June 8, 2011

    Good one!

    It reminds me a little of “Schrodinger’s Liberal”:

    http://www.someguywithawebsite.com/cartoons/2010/101213_liberal.html

  12. #12 Sigmund
    June 8, 2011

    Josh asked:
    “Show me research with 100 college students, with half exposed to NA arguments and half exposed to something else.”
    Happy to oblige Josh.
    A study along these lines has been done.
    Death and Science: The Existential Underpinnings of Belief in Intelligent Design and Discomfort with Evolution. Jessica L. Tracy, Joshua Hart and Jason P. Martens, was published by the online journal PLoS One at the end of March.
    The authors looked at 269 UBC psychology students, with half the students being instructed to read a passage (written by Carl Sagan) that promoted an atheistic view of the universe and half who weren’t. The group who were exposed to pro-atheistic text showed a significant increase in support for evolutionary theory and a significant decrease in support for ID.
    The authors of the study used a series of statistical techniques to try to ensure that the results reported by the tested students reflected the views (evolution or ID) rather than the personality of the scientists quoted (they used pastiches of passages by Dawkins and Behe – neither of which mentioned religion).
    One might quibble with some of the analysis but it is about the closest thing in the literature that matches your request and it comes down clearly on the side of promoting atheism as a way of increasing the acceptance of evolution.

  13. #13 SLC
    June 8, 2011

    Re Charles Sullivan @ #6

    To be fair here, I have made such a charge and Mr. Rosenau has gone on the record as denying it.

    However, it should be noted that Prof. Coyne posted a comment on his blog about the involvement of the Templeton foundation with the Heartland Institute and global warming denial that Mr. Rosenau seemed to find less then compelling. It does seem that Mr. Rosenau goes out of his way to defend that less then august organization when it comes under criticism from Gnu Atheists.

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/glass-houses-etc-2/

  14. #14 g724
    June 8, 2011

    Re. the influence of the Left Behind series: Surely you’re heard of “No Child Left Behind.” The coincidence of that language is way beyond chance, so at minimum it represents a hat-tip toward the dominionists.

  15. #15 SC (Salty Current)
    June 8, 2011

    Did theists launch some new initiative in concert with the rise of New Atheism? Or is “the other side” critics of New Atheism,

    Is this a serious question? Yes, many of them, and you, have carried out a ceaseless and appalling anti-gnu campaign. You’re doing it now, and you should be ashamed of yourself given the longstanding hostility toward atheists shown in that poll. You’re encouraging prejudice and discrimination against an already marginalized group.

    in which case the claim would be that critical responses to New Atheism have been so effective as to utterly negate any measurable impact they might have had. If the latter, those are either really compelling responses, or NAism was a really uncompelling argument to be responding to.

    Yes, it’s totally surprising that attacks on atheists are compelling in a culture that’s highly prejudiced against us. Pat yourself on the back, there, Josh, for compelling bigotry.

    If you disagree, point to some effect that can plausibly be attributed to New Atheism. It needn’t be at the scale of national surveys, since I wouldn’t expect to see it show up there anyway.

    OK:

    As the stigma of atheism has diminished, campus atheists and agnostics are coming out of the closet, fueling a sharp rise in the number of clubs like the 10-year-old group at Iowa State.

    Campus affiliates of the Secular Student Alliance, a sort of Godless Campus Crusade for Christ, have multiplied from 80 in 2007 to 100 in 2008 and 174 this fall, providing the atheist movement new training grounds for future leaders.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-11-24-college-atheists_N.htm

    According to Wikipedia:

    As of February 2011, the SSA has over 250 affiliates in North America and abroad, including groups in Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia.

  16. #17 SC (Salty Current)
    June 8, 2011

    However, it should be noted that Prof. Coyne posted a comment on his [totally-not-a-]blog about the involvement of the Templeton foundation with the Heartland Institute and global warming denial that Mr. Rosenau seemed to find less then compelling. It does seem that Mr. Rosenau goes out of his way to defend that less then august organization when it comes under criticism from Gnu Atheists.

    It’s quite amazing. I posted a link to my first Templeton post on a thread about Templeton at TFK, then someone drew attention to it later in the thread, and he and the the Intersocktion crew posting there just willfully turned a blind eye to it. Like it wasn’t there. Has he responded to the Coyne post?

  17. #18 SLC
    June 8, 2011

    Re SC @ #17

    I seem to recall that Mr. Rosenau posted something on another blog making some excuses for the fact that the Templeton Foundation is associated with the Heartland Foundation and poo pooing the posts by Mr. Current and Prof. Coyne relative to the association; however, I can’t recall where I read that. Clearly, both Mr. Rosenau and Mr. Chris Mooney go out of their way to decline to discuss the involvement of the Templeton Foundation with the Global Warming deniers.

    It’s unfortunate that the comments on Mr. Rosenaus’ post about Zach Kopplin were dominated by the inanities of Anthony McCarthy who seems to have a bug up his posterior orifice about Charles Darwin and can say less in more words then almost any commenter on any blog.

  18. #19 SC (Salty Current)
    June 8, 2011

    I seem to recall that Mr. Rosenau posted something on another blog making some excuses for the fact that the Templeton Foundation is associated with the Heartland Foundation and poo pooing the posts by Mr. Current

    Ms. Current. (Or Dr. Current if you’d like. :))

    and Prof. Coyne relative to the association; however, I can’t recall where I read that.

    I’d love to see it. Apparently he doesn’t have the courage to engage us directly.

  19. #20 g724
    June 8, 2011

    Looking at this “from the outside” I can tell you that all the internal wrangling is not making an *attributable* difference.

    That is, whatever memes may be percolating from the NA and other atheist subcultures into various unrelated political subcultures, aren’t coming along with name tags announcing their origins.

    So, for example, we may encounter someone advocating vigorously for measures such as putting up atheist billboards or bus signs, and we may agree with them, but we haven’t the vaguest faintest sniff of a clue as to whether that position derives ultimately from New Atheism or Old Atheism or something else.

    So y’all can argue and debate amongst yourselves, and the meme-scatter that occurs as a side-effect will spread the memes that are in contention, to other subcultures. And to the extent that either group’s positions gain greater traction with some part of the public, their memes will also spread more readily to other parts of the public.

    What we the general public are interested in hearing are not a bunch of internally self-referential arguements over personalities we don’t know. What we’re interested in are specific positions & proposals, and strategies & tactics for doing battle across the spectrum from “intelligent design” in the classrooms to “life begins at ejaculation” in the legislatures.

    FYI for what it’s worth, I describe myself as an empiricist, which in your terms means something like an agnostic. Though I would be quite happy if our culture, *and* our government, became aggressively atheistic in order to essentially destroy the dominionists and other theocrats and their minions and supporters.

  20. #21 Norwegian Shooter
    June 8, 2011

    If Josh can’t see the non-trivial cultural impact that Left Behind has made, he doesn’t understand Christian culture. I think Josh’s larger problem is a lack of empathy [NOT sympathy]. He just can’t put himself in other people’s shoes to understand where they are coming from. This leads to seizing on what other people can see are small points, or subtle, or whatever, and blowing them up because Josh thinks they are huge, or wrong-headed, or whatever.

  21. #22 SLC
    June 8, 2011

    Re Salty Current @ #19

    Dr. Current it is. Sorry about that.

    Re Norwegian Shooter @ #21

    If Josh can’t see the non-trivial cultural impact that Left Behind has made, he doesn’t understand Christian culture.

    Since Mr. Rosenau is of the Jewish persuasion, that would not be surprising.

  22. #23 Norwegian Shooter
    June 8, 2011

    g724 – love the “life begins at ejaculation” line. Every sperm is sacred!

    SLC – Plenty of Jews can understand Christian culture, and vice versa, et al, etc. Maybe empathy is not easy, and not the norm, but it can be done, and some people excel at it. I’m saying Josh needs to work at it to improve his criticism.

  23. #24 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 8, 2011

    Typical.
    What makes “lunatic” a measurable term.
    Looks like hypocrisy to the “hyperbolic claims” whine.
    Please, Jason. Again, you capable of much better.

  24. #25 eric
    June 8, 2011

    Re: Josh’s fourth point – he might’ve had a good argument if the numbers of atheists and numbers of people who were willing to vote for atheists were comparable. But they aren’t. The PEW reports are something like 5-15% atheists (depending on which poll you believe) and 40% people who would be okay voting for atheists.

    The fact that the first number has been going up while the second stays constant has a perfectly rational explanation: the people who are becoming atheist are the ones who would would’ve had no problem voting for an atheist before they converted.

    But at some point a rational person would expect this to change. I.e. it is perfectly reasonable to expect that, at some time before “% atheists” approaches “% who would vote for an atheist,” a more significant number of atheist converts are going to start coming from the groups who would not have voted for an atheist before conversion. In fact, one would have to be a fool to think that future increases in the first number would not impact the second number. The reason we don’t see the impact now is because of the large current disparity in the two numbers – a disparity which is shrinking.

  25. #26 SLC
    June 8, 2011

    Re Norwegian Shooter @ #23

    That’s certainly correct. However, most people of the Jewish persuasion aren’t much interested in Christian theology and possibly Mr.
    Rosenau is not an exception.

  26. #27 Pliny the in Between
    June 8, 2011

    The whole accommodationist argument comes down to this for me; is speaking the truth as we see it, wrong?

    Is it wrong to speak out against things we view as false or even harmful?

    There is also the practical political element to consider. Politicians pander. If politicians are convinced that most nonbelievers are accommodationists, then there is little reason to alter their approaches. Accommodationists might not be turned off by candidates who wear their faith on their sleeves, but GNU’s probably are.

    Frankly, I’d be slightly more comfortable with the finger on the button belonging to someone who thinks this is all they get, as opposed to one who thinks he or she is headed to a better place, for example.

  27. #28 Your Name's not Bruce?
    June 8, 2011

    @#20 g724 said:

    Though I would be quite happy if our culture, *and* our government, became aggressively atheistic in order to essentially destroy the dominionists and other theocrats and their minions and supporters.

    I think things could be improved a great deal if all levels of American government would simply obey the letter and spirit of the law and govern in a truly secular fashion. That would mean no more local school boards pushing ID in the classroom or “official” prayers at school functions; state governments no longer calling for curricula to “teach the controversy” or post the Ten Commandments in, on or around government buildings; the end of federal funding of “faith based initiatives” and an end to tax-exempt status for religion. These measures alone, without any official endorsement of atheism at all would be considered “aggressively atheistic” by those whose oxen would be gored by such a termination of religious privilege.

    I think many Gnus would be quite pleased with a truly secular government at all levels since it was the intrusion of religious power into politics that was one of the prime motivations of this Gnu movement (if movement it can be called). If religion just went home and stayed home, becoming a purely private matter, think how much less push back we would have to be expending our energy on. It would at least bring an end to the seemingly interminable cycle of court cases resulting from violations of the Establishment clause. Does every session of every local, state and national government have to be schooled in the Constitution with regards to church/state separation? It would be a nice relief from this legal equivalent of repetitive strain injury.

  28. #29 SLC
    June 8, 2011

    Re Collin Brendemuehl @ #24

    Definition of lunatic at Dictionary.com:

    1. an insane person.
    2. a person whose actions and manner are marked by extreme eccentricity or recklessness.
    3. Law . a person legally declared to be of unsound mind and who therefore is not held capable or responsible before the law.

    Based on these definitions, I would have to agree that the appellation lunatic is probably the wrong word here. However, many of the members of the tea party are clearly delusional. For instance, before the election, many of them denounced the health care bill chanting, “don’t mess with my Medicare.” Today, I have yet to hear of of these folks denouncing Representative Ryans’ Medicare privatization plan which would certainly seem to a rational person as “messing” with my Medicare.

  29. #30 Jerry Coyne
    June 8, 2011

    Am I pro-torture? Poppycock! Here’s the entirety of what I wrote about Harris’s position on torture:

    “I think Sam has a point here. I’m not yet sure where I come down on torture in circumstances like the above, but I surely think the issue is worth discussing rather than reflexively dismissing. And yes, much of the dismissal has been reflexive—almost an excuse to simply reject all of Harris’s views, just as Hitchens’s stand on Iraq has been used to discredit his opinions on everything, including faith. I can’t help but believe that some of the opposition to Harris’s discussion of torture involves willful misunderstanding of his position, perhaps as an excuse to punish him for his strong critiques of religion.

    It is always to our benefit to think carefully about the ethics of things like torture. And I’m a bit saddened that Sam feels that he should not have raised the issue.”

    That’s HARDLY pro-torture; it’s a statement that I’m not sure where I stand on the issue (I’m truly not), and a call for more public discussion.

    Rosenau, you’re intellectually dishonest. Your playing fast and loose with all the data about NA’s doesn’t comport with your work in the NCSE defending scientific truth. Apparently truth is one thing when it comes to evolution and another when it comes to atheism.

  30. #31 JimR
    June 8, 2011

    A friend has fled religion and the NA blogs and books have been a valuable resource for him. He won’t openly declare his new position, so would remain uncounted in the polls. Is there a chance there is a much larger ground swell of people who have left the revealed word, but are loathe to be so identified? It takes a support group to come out, or at least a group of friends who are indifferent to religion.

    I believe the awesomeness of the world and universe makes it hard to overcome the belief that something had to make all this. If nothing else it leaves one with a sense of spirituality, even if w/o an accompanying revealed religion. This was the last bridge I had to cross and it was difficult. I felt I was losing something. It seemed like one day I had “crossed the bridge” and ever since have felt my thinking is so much clearer, not cluttered with looking over my shoulder. Now I don’t understand why I was ever on the other side of the bridge.

    I HAVE A QUESTION
    Are there any good resources (books/blogs,whatever) that can guide parents in raising children to appreciate the wonders of the universe w/o having them later fall for a cult because of this sense of awe?

  31. #32 Norwegian Shooter
    June 8, 2011

    Hi Jerry! Hope you feel better. When you do, can you un-ban me on WEIT?

  32. #33 Dan L.
    June 8, 2011

    Typical.
    What makes “lunatic” a measurable term.
    Looks like hypocrisy to the “hyperbolic claims” whine.
    Please, Jason. Again, you capable of much better.

    “Lunatic” was obviously a political opinion in this context; Ruse apparently holds a similar view of the Tea Party and its candidates since HE was the one to use it as a point of comparison. Why don’t you go whine to Ruse about how HE is unfairly editorializing on your crazy, regressive, authoritarian political fellow travelers.

    This conversation only makes sense if you already hold the opinion that members of the Tea Party and their candidates are clueless and dangerous — that’s a premise of Ruse’s argument, not a point up for debate. If you don’t think that’s the case, then you should go find some people who are arguing about whether or not the Tea Party is clueless and dangerous — which is not something that is happening here.

  33. #34 Stan Pak
    June 8, 2011

    Josh here dangles the possibility, mentioned previously, that the NA’s are hurting the cause by slowing the secularizing trend that was happening already. Show me a shred of evidence for that improbable proposition and I’ll take it seriously.

    Perhaps Josh should also look more seriously at other possibility of the “slowdown” of the progress of secularization (which he supposedly detected): the NCSE by using its ineffective methods of secularization is actually making things “worse”. Both theories are similarly backed (not) in evidence and thus should be equally taken by Josh into account as plausible explanations of the “disaster”.

  34. #35 Wowbagger
    June 8, 2011

    Goalposts? Please. When it comes to all things gnu the accomodationists hacked down and tossed away the goalposts and instead playing a profoundly intellectually dishonest form of Calvinball – i.e. hard and fast with facts and interpretations – a long time ago.

    And Josh might as well rename his blog Thoughts from Anthony McCarthy, given how much it’s become a well-feathered nest for that puffed-up, shrieking loon.

  35. #36 Brian
    June 8, 2011

    Just on theist backlash. I remember on RD.Net there were pages displaying NA books and their ‘fleas’. Plenty of backlash. Here in Melbourne, religion editor and apologist for The Age Barney Zwartz, produced many dishonest or misrepresenting attacks on NA’s, especially against Dawkins.

  36. #37 Josh Rosenau
    June 8, 2011

    Jerry: I didn’t say you were pro-torture. I say you and Harris defended torture, which is different. Harris defends torture (but insists he doesn’t favor it, hence not pro-torture), and you think “he has a point.” You twisted my words, and then presume to lecture me on intellectual honesty? Examine the log in your own eye before you claim there’s a mote in mine.

    Jason: I’m not sure what it is about Coyne’s post that makes it obviously focused on folks like Ruse and Berlinerblau. “Turning people off” is different, after all, from “a danger to the wellbeing of America comparable to the Tea Party.” No?

    I have no doubt that New Atheism turns people off. It turns me off, and it turns other people off. How many, and how much it turns them off is an interesting and presumably testable claim. But I don’t think that the effect would show up in national surveys, and don’t think I’ve ever claimed it would.

    Pointing, as folks do above, to altar calls like the Dawkins converts corner is only half the story. Those are folks brought in by (according to their potentially unreliable accounts) New Atheism. But we know there are people driven away by it, and we haven’t gathered their altar calls anywhere. If that latter group is as large or larger than the first group, then I can’t see how New Atheism could be judged successful. Coyne has used the former data as evidence of NA’s success without any reference to the latter, and I continue to find that problematic.

    Jason A.: If more people are convinced by the arguments of accommodationists than by New Atheists, that strikes me as the marketplace of ideas doing what marketplaces do, weeding out bad ideas. And if accommodationism is the “failed” strategy Coyne likes to claim it is, then how could it be balancing out the effect of New Atheism?

    Sigmund I’m familiar with the study you cite, but how, exactly is it relevant to New Atheism? The study was aimed, as the title makes clear, at the role of fear of death. The Sagan passage doesn’t mention god, either to promote or reject it. It doesn’t say religion is wrong. Yes, it says we should look within science for the answer, but lots of people reading that probably have a theology which doesn’t treat “inside of science” as “outside of religion” (see especially the recent study on compatibilist/incompatibilist belief among college students: Scheitle, Christopher P. (2001) U.S. College Students’ Perception of Religion and Science: Conflict, Collaboration, or Independence? A Research Note, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 50(1):175–186). If anything, the broadly spiritual (sensu lato) tone of the Sagan passage would seem to validate my oft-stated argument that one cannot address creationism simply by talking about the science, one has to also address religious and theological issues. Coyne is the one always saying that I and others at NCSE should steer clear of theological issues, so no help there for Coyne and other NAs who’ve criticized NCSE (Jason Rosenhouse being a notable exception from other NAs in that regard, and several others).

    SC: I’ve read your posts on Templeton, and feel like you skipped too freely past the need to actually show that Templeton has any say in how Atlas gives its awards or grants. You sort of handwave that link, and the whole argument seems to hinge on it. I’m open to the idea that Templeton is perfidious, but if the worst they’ve done is giving money to people who, in turn, give money to bad people, I think perfidy is still a bit down the road. I think Atlas and much that it does is reprehensible and horrible. I reject outright it’s free market fundamentalism, as I reject all fundamentalisms. But it isn’t clear that Templeton has any direct influence over Atlas, and the projects its funded at Atlas have been free market-related, not science-related, which makes your titular claim of “anti-science” hard to square.

    Eric: I made essentially the same point, but you present yourself as disagreeing with me. It’s odd.

    Norwegian Shooter: I have plenty of empathy, and I think accommodationism is centrally rooted in empathy. NAism is, so far as I can tell, about saying whatever one wants regardless of how an audience will react, while accommodationism is about framing arguments in ways that reflect the audience’s existing viewpoint. That’s all about empathy.

    I’m not saying Left Behind wasn’t influential among evangelicals, I’m saying that its influence was largely limited to people who already agreed with its perspective, thus having little influence on society at large. It may have shifted evangelicals towards one version of PMD eschatology over another, but I doubt people who thought the Rapture was bullshit read the series and converted to PMDs en masse (and I’d wager more people read the series and were turned off by the bad writing and plotting, and decided to consider other eschatologies).

    JimR: Dale McGowan’s several books are the standard resource.

  37. #38 abb3w
    June 9, 2011

    Pew Forum data suggest self-identified Atheists are something on the order of 1.5% of the US population; and not all such Atheists self-identify with the New Atheist movement, nor are even sympathetic. In contrast, Tea Party sympathizers run 20-40% of the US (though active participants are less common). Given the usual 3% error margin for most public opinion polls, it would be astonishing if anything the New Atheists said had a detectable impact.

    The circa 15% value is for the “Nones”, a broader category that also includes agnostics and NIPs (Nothing In Particular).

  38. #39 Sigmund
    June 9, 2011

    The “backlash” against new atheism, involving an apparently unlimited number of puffho columnists and joined intermittently by accomodationists like Chris Mooney and Josh Rosenau, is having the unintended consequence of exposing more of the public to the gnu atheists ideas than could be expected by the book sales of the big four alone.
    The same thing has happened with the atheist bus campaigns where the vast majority of publicity generated has been not from the messages themselves (which tend to be very mild) but in the coverage of the hysterical reaction from those who, like the accomodationists, think that new atheists should be not seen and not heard.

  39. #40 Jud
    June 9, 2011

    Josh Rosenau writes:

    Did theists launch some new initiative in concert with the rise of New Atheism?

    Sorry, were you asleep during the Bush Administration and the rise to huge mind- and marketshare of right-wing talk radio and Fox News? The making of America into a place where Obama as a candidate was essentially forced into wearing an American flag lapel pin and ending every speech with “God bless the United States of America” in order to remain politically viable? A nation in which tens of millions of voters believe Obama is Muslim?

    When since the 1950s and the height of anti-Communist scare rhetoric (and more than rhetoric – it’s been calculated that if all the government double agents had quit the American Communist Party, it would have gone bankrupt from the dues hit) have you seen so much of the culture viewing itself as Christian, under existential threat by non-Christians around the world?

    In such an atmosphere, I’m rather surprised the atheist candidate question numbers have held steady.

    Now, SLC: Growing up Jewish in the USA, I can tell you that what 97% of the population believes, and the actions they take based on their beliefs, sure as hell is of interest to the other 3%. (Those were the numbers when I was younger; even if it’s changed to something in the 80+% range, the basic concept still applies.) Actually, I’ve found I know a lot more about Christianity, its history, and its foundational documents than the vast majority of Christians I’ve encountered, including my wife.

  40. #41 Tom C
    June 9, 2011

    @JimR in 31

    In reference to your question, there are two good books I recommend you check out to get you started:

    Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion;

    and, by the same author,

    Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief.

    Good luck!

  41. #42 Lenoxus
    June 9, 2011

    g724 @ 20:

    So, for example, we may encounter someone advocating vigorously for measures such as putting up atheist billboards or bus signs, and we may agree with them, but we haven’t the vaguest faintest sniff of a clue as to whether that position derives ultimately from New Atheism or Old Atheism or something else.

    To an extent, any sort of explicitly-atheist campaigning is almost certainly going to be New Atheist in origin, because other atheist groups would rather not rock the boat at all. Of course, actual campaigns have been, for the most part, quite mild in comparison to the rhetoric of New Atheists themselves, basically amounting to “We exist” and “You don’t have to be religious” rather than “The Bible is full of crap.”

    Many people, though, make little distinction is made between such innocuous messages and “Jesus can go suck eggs”. Witness the reaction to a recent Muslim campaign that had the audacity to point out the simple fact that Jesus is also a figure in their faith. (Arguably, the billboard did “claim” Jesus for Islam, but it’s not like Christians haven’t done the same for much longer.)

  42. #43 Lenoxus
    June 9, 2011

    A simple request: could all the folks in this debate please stop having surnames that start “R-(vowel)-s”? Rosenhouse, Rosenau, Rosenbaum, Ruse, it’s getting confusing!

  43. #44 eric
    June 9, 2011

    Lenoxus, reread your first paragraph in @42. Aren’t you just No True Scotsmanning? If they put up a bus sign, they are No Old Atheist.

    I’d suggest that if the actions that get labled ‘new atheist’ are, as you say, quite mild in comparison to NA rhetoric, then perhaps that indicates a labeling mistake. Either NAs are much milder than people label them to be, or those mild outreach attempts are not all coming from NA groups. Rather, instead what is happening is people are Scotsmanning all the groups that perform outreach into the NA category.

    I’d suggest that you might look into the age of the groups which sponsored bus and billboard ads lately. If they were founded more than 10 years ago, it might be somewhat silly to claim they are “new atheist.” And I’m not talking in some dictionary sense of the word ‘new.’ If they are older than 10 years, they have been around doing their thing longer than the NA movement and can legitimately be said to be not of that movement.

  44. #45 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 9, 2011

    Josh –

    I’m not sure what it is about Coyne’s post that makes it obviously focused on folks like Ruse and Berlinerblau. “Turning people off” is different, after all, from “a danger to the wellbeing of America comparable to the Tea Party.” No?

    Since Jerry was pointing to flat poll numbers as evidence against certain claims that people have made, I would have thought it obvious that he was directing himself towards people who claimed (or strongly implied) that the harmful effect of the NA’s is of a magnitude sufficient to be reflected in polls. Ruse and Berlinerblau certainly fall into that category, but there are many others.

    I have no doubt that New Atheism turns people off. It turns me off, and it turns other people off. How many, and how much it turns them off is an interesting and presumably testable claim. But I don’t think that the effect would show up in national surveys, and don’t think I’ve ever claimed it would.

    Pointing, as folks do above, to altar calls like the Dawkins converts corner is only half the story. Those are folks brought in by (according to their potentially unreliable accounts) New Atheism. But we know there are people driven away by it, and we haven’t gathered their altar calls anywhere. If that latter group is as large or larger than the first group, then I can’t see how New Atheism could be judged successful. Coyne has used the former data as evidence of NA’s success without any reference to the latter, and I continue to find that problematic.

    Obviously, any time you advocate strongly for a controversial position you are going to turn some people off. The question is, turned off to what and to what effect? Are these hypothetical people turned off of atheism? Or are they just turned off from Richard Dawkins? You say you are turned off by the NA’s. But you haven’t converted to Christianity or changed your views on science education. I’m turned off by theistic evolution, both because I think it is intellectually indefensible and because its advocates routinely bash atheists, but I don’t then go and support creationism.

    I’m afraid I don’t see the problem in pointing to testimonials as evidence that the NA’s are having a positive effect, especially given how common it is for people to say, “You’re not going to convince anyone!” I suppose it’s possible that they’re all just plants or whatever, but I’ll need some evidence to that effect. Moreover, I listed several other ways the NA’s are having positive effects. In reply you offer only the vague possibility that there are other people who are “driven away” by it. When I see some evidence that such people exist in substantial numbers, and that they are being “dirven away” in a manner that actually affects something else I care about, then I’ll take it seriously.

    And stop calling them altar calls. The people providing these testimonials were not “called” to do anything. If Richard Dawkins concludes one of his public presentations by asking people to come to the front of the room to publicly declare their newfound nonbelief, then you can start calling them altar calls.

  45. #46 H.H.
    June 9, 2011

    The NA vs. Accommodationist approaches are really just a difference between an offensive vs. defensive strategy. The NAs, rather than simply attempting to hold ground against religious attacks, actually attack back. They expose weak arguments and refuse to gloss over them. The Accommodationists avoid this conflict because they fear a resulting backlash. It is, by definition, a position of capitulation and weakness.

    Everyone knows that when you negotiate you never get everything you ask for. Therefore, it’s better to ask for more in the hopes that you get even half as much. By starting from a position of weakness, the accommodationists guarantee that their efforts will amount to very little. The NAs, by forcing the religious to defend the intellectually indefensible, actually stand a chance accomplishing something. Of making real changes in the public’s perception of the utility and dangers of magical thinking.

    The accommodationists think they can change behaviors without changing mindsets, which I find ludicrously naive. Their strategy hasn’t worked, won’t work, and they are bitter about it. They’ve gotten into their heads that it would work if only the NAs would stop spoiling everything. The accommodationists dishonestly project their own failures onto the NAs, which results in them becoming only more irrelevant and bitter.

  46. #47 Josh Rosenau
    June 9, 2011

    I’m sorry, Jason, but posting a page on his site to highlight these “converts” is inviting more such letters. They are altar calls, and I’m going to keep referring to them as such.

    As for what I was turned away from: in my life, I’ve wavered at various times between atheism, agnosticism, an openness to spirituality (sensu lato). My biography is sufficiently similar to yours that I’d think a good argument for atheism at the right time (and 2004-2005 would have been the right time) could have brought me into that camp. After all, I was an angry blogger, fighting the religious right in Kansas, waging war on creationism, dissecting bad religious claims, etc., etc. What better target for NAism?

    But TGD and EoF were the wrong arguments. Having myself and my friends at KCFS and NCSE compared to Neville Chamberlain didn’t incline me to sign up with atheism writ large, nor Dawkinsian atheism in particular. Seeing folks who were in the trenches with me on my fights against the religious right tarred as enabling fundamentalists (a la Harris) didn’t incline me towards New Atheism. Seeing how badly Dawkins mangled the basic ideas of agnosticism didn’t incline me to believe he’d accurately represented anyone else’s perspective on theology.

    Jean Kazez has described a similar shift. Chris Mooney was an atheist rabble-rouser for CFI in his youth. The major critics of NAism are not folks who, in 2004-5, would have been obviously seen as opponents of broad agenda Dawkins laid out. I think that says something. I don’t know how many of us there are who are disaffected by NA rhetoric, nor how many fencesitters on evolution might be turned off by NAism. But if relatively sympathetic folks like me and Jean and Chris could be so turned off, I’d predict that folks less inclined towards NAism would be more turned off. And this is what the available psychological research seems to predict as well. I haven’t got a prediction regarding the magnitude of the effect, but I wouldn’t expect it to show up in general opinion surveys. If Ruse or Berlinerblau think it would do so, that’s unfortunate and implausible.

    I wish there were more data at hand to test my intuitions. At this point, the major source of data I have on exactly these questions is a confidential, internal survey by the National Academies, so I can’t really talk about it, and it’s not open to the sort of peer review that I’d demand of evidence offered by others. I can tell you that it supports my view and suggests problems for New Atheist arguments, but why should I expect anyone to believe such claims without the supporting data (data I’ve seen, but am not at liberty to supply to others)? This is why I lean so heavily on broader psychological studies, all of which confirm the basic trend.

    I appreciate your willingness, Jason, to engage with that literature. And I’m glad to see Sigmund digging into it, too. I think he’s misreading it (see above), but the engagement is a positive step in this discussion.

  47. #48 gillt
    June 9, 2011

    “At this point, the major source of data I have on exactly these questions is a confidential, internal survey by the National Academies, so I can’t really talk about it, and it’s not open to the sort of peer review that I’d demand of evidence offered by others. I can tell you that it supports my view and suggests problems for New Atheist arguments,”

    Well, you did talk about it and you said it supports your long-held opinions on the issue. So can you tell us whether or not it will be made public and when? What year was the survey conducted? Were you involved in any way in the survey?

  48. #49 Onkel Bob
    June 9, 2011

    “At this point, the major source of data I have on exactly these questions is a confidential, internal survey by the National Academies

    Why does that sound familiar? A list you say… The National Academies you say…

    I have here in my hand a list of 205 . . . a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of [Health and Human Services] as being [Gnu Atheists] and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the [sciences]. . .
    As you know, very recently [Francis Collins] proclaimed his loyalty to a [God, a being who is ] guilty of what has always been considered as the most abominable of all crimes—being a [serial killer and mass murder] . . .

  49. #50 SLC
    June 9, 2011

    Re Josh Rosenau @ #37

    Mr. Rosenau goes on at some length about the connection of the Templeton Foundation and Atlas. Isn’t it interesting that he ignores Dr. Currents’ claims about the relationship between the Heartland Institute and the Templeton Foundation.

    Re Salty Current

    I suspect that Dr. Current finds Mr. Rosenaus’ discussion relative to the Templeton Foundation to be as disingenuous as I do.

  50. #51 Wowbagger
    June 9, 2011

    I think the most significant comment from Josh is this one:

    …I’d think a good argument for atheism at the right time (and 2004-2005 would have been the right time) could have brought me into that camp.

    Does anyone else find that strange? I mean, I’ve never heard a ‘good argument for atheism’ beyond ‘there’s neither evidence nor compelling argument to believe in gods’ – and, as far as I can tell, that’s not an argument for atheism as much as it’s a statement of the absence of arguments for theism; parsimony and burden of proof and all that.

    Though I find the whole ‘window of opportunity’ thing to be bizarre as well. If I said ‘Oh, I’d have been able to be convinced that leprechauns didn’t exist if I’d be provided with a good argument in that crazy summer of 1998, but since no-one did, I’m going to keep on looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow’ you’d laugh me out of town.

    Neither is filling me with a lot of faith (hah!) in Josh’s capacity for rational decision making, and it once again illustrates that it’s emotion, not intellect, at the heart of all religious belief.

  51. #52 SC (Salty Current)
    June 9, 2011

    SC: I’ve read your posts on Templeton, and feel like you skipped too freely past the need to actually show that Templeton has any say in how Atlas gives its awards or grants. You sort of handwave that link, and the whole argument seems to hinge on it. I’m open to the idea that Templeton is perfidious, but if the worst they’ve done is giving money to people who, in turn, give money to bad people, I think perfidy is still a bit down the road. I think Atlas and much that it does is reprehensible and horrible. I reject outright it’s free market fundamentalism, as I reject all fundamentalisms. But it isn’t clear that Templeton has any direct influence over Atlas, and the projects its funded at Atlas have been free market-related, not science-related, which makes your titular claim of “anti-science” hard to square.

    Your behavior is astonishing. You are simply shameless. I didn’t skip past or handwave anything. Templeton has funded the Templeton “Freedom” Awards for years, and a few years ago gave Atlas a 2009-12 Grant for $4 – more than the other AGW-denial foundations combined gave them over the previous couple of decades. The grant description reads: “Building on the success of the Templeton Freedom Awards (Grant #10605), this expanded program…” No one could justifiably believe in the face of this that Templeton is not explicitly supporting Atlas’ work with these think tanks, which are their primary project. I showed in my second post that all but one of the the Atlas-supported “free-market” think tanks* that were (like Atlas itself) sponsors of the 2009 Heartland conference were also TFA (or TFA grant) winners in the past several years. No one in their right mind would believe that Templeton has funded these awards in its name for years and then given Atlas another $4 million expressly to build on the success of that program but that it’s unaware of the use of its name or money and not behind Atlas or in cahoots with its work. I also noted in my first post that Templeton’s

    funded and worked with the AGW-denying Mercatus Center (another Templeton Freedom Award Winner). They’ve funded the Heritage Foundation, the John Locke Foundation, AEI, the Manhattan Institute, Alliance for the Family, the Jesse Helms Center Foundation,…

    ***

    Pointing, as folks do above, to altar calls [sic] like the Dawkins converts corner is only half the story. Those are folks brought in by (according to their potentially unreliable accounts) New Atheism. But we know there are people driven away by it, and we haven’t gathered their altar calls anywhere. If that latter group is as large or larger than the first group, then I can’t see how New Atheism could be judged successful. Coyne has used the former data as evidence of NA’s success without any reference to the latter, and I continue to find that problematic.

    You asked people to “point to some effect that can plausibly be attributed to New Atheism,” and I pointed to two, of which you ignored the first. There’s also backlash, including and incited in part by accomodationists’ dishonest attacks on gnus? No kidding. But saying that you’re “turned off” by gnus and speculating about some “larger group” doesn’t make the movement’s growth, which is largely measurable, go away, or make the changes to people’s lives who feel empowered to speak out and fight back any less real.

    I think I’m done addressing you. I’ve seen enough of your posts and responses over the past several months, and the fact that you – who work for a science-promoting organization – would now contribute to hiding or minimizing Templeton’s climate denial activities apparently purely out of spite for gnu atheists is just more than I can take. Your blog is a ridiculous kookfest, and it’s your doing. Wallow in it.

    *I can’t imagine why you would think there are actually two separate groups here. Templeton and Atlas don’t – the TFAs “honor work done by free-market think tanks around the world,” and they’ve gone to AGW-denialist organizations explicitly for AGW denialist activities.

  52. #53 Wowbagger
    June 9, 2011

    SC wrote:

    Your blog is a ridiculous kookfest, and it’s your doing. Wallow in it.

    Why do you think he’s over here? Even he can’t bring himself to try and have a conversation with the demented professional name-dropper Kw*k and the pathologically dishonest anti-atheist McCarthy.

  53. #54 randyextry
    June 10, 2011

    re: Wowbagger @ #51

    I had the same thought when I read that. I think you hit the nail right on the head. He’s basically admitting that he “went all in” for agnosticism (or whatever) back in 2004-5, and now it’s too late to back out. His position is faith-based. By saying, “a good argument for atheism at the right time *could have* brought me into that camp,” he’s implying that presently, even a good argument *can not* bring him into that camp. He is unwilling to allow good arguments to sway him. His mind is made up, and no logic or evidence to the contrary will convince him to change it.

  54. #55 Sigmund
    June 10, 2011

    “I’d think a good argument for atheism at the right time (and 2004-2005 would have been the right time) could have brought me into that camp.”
    This makes it sounds like you were deciding which political party you were going to join. I don’t regard atheism (or even religion) like that. It’s not a goup identity thing, it’s simply a matter of whether the evidence supports the claim.
    Personality is not involved. For instance I don’t find the personalities of atheists like Hoffman, Ruse, Kazez, Stangroom or Mooney that agreeable but that has no bearing on whether I agree with them on whether an atheistic philosophy, rather than an agnostic or theistic, is the best fit for the evidence we have about the world.
    You are not a gnu atheist? Fine. A lot of atheists aren’t.
    But to indicate that the personalities of Dawkins or Harris makes it impossible for you to be an atheist is ridiculous.
    It doesn’t stop Kazez, Mooney et al. There is a gap in your logic here Josh. You are making a jump that is hard to follow.

  55. #56 J.J.E.
    June 10, 2011

    I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I think it is quite likely that NAs have generated some backlash. I think folks like Mooney, Stangroom, and maybe even scientists like Plait, Orr, and Neil Tyson might have been willing to count themselves among the supporters of out atheism if certain prominent atheists hadn’t rocked the boat. Yet I think that their support in the absence of boat rocking is worth very little because it costs them nothing and benefits atheism little.

    I think these people that try to avoid rocking the boat don’t appreciate and/or don’t care to change the deeply ingrained religious privilege that saturates American society. It permeates their work. Their fervent desire to avoid turning off religious people doesn’t apply to global warming deniers, creationists, moon hoaxers, Republicans, or any other opponent to their particular cherished goals. Every time I see Josh, Chris, or Phil deal a savage body blow to one class of irrational thought, I’m always torn. On the one hand, good for them. On the other hand I think, what hypocritical asses. They are truly pots calling the NA kettles black.

    I think it all comes back to challenging culture. It is just difficult to do. When challenged to engage in the social taboo of questioning religion in a visible context, these people reacted rather than acting. Instead of proposing their own framework, they simply acted as society demand and rejected the NA ideas.

  56. #57 articulett
    June 10, 2011

    I consider the NA bashing to be on par with anti-atheist bigotry; I suspect hyperbolic rhetoric and polemical straw-manning has much more to do with anti-atheist bigotry than anything any NA has actually said or done. If the faitheist cannot do his/her accommodating without bashing the gnus, he/she is not furthering any cause I want to be a part of.

    Claims dissing the NAs without evidence are on par with “Tom Johnson” stories to me.

    Great post Jason!

  57. #58 Wowbagger
    June 10, 2011

    Their fervent desire to avoid turning off religious people doesn’t apply to global warming deniers, creationists, moon hoaxers, Republicans, or any other opponent to their particular cherished goals. Every time I see Josh, Chris, or Phil deal a savage body blow to one class of irrational thought, I’m always torn. On the one hand, good for them. On the other hand I think, what hypocritical asses. They are truly pots calling the NA kettles black.

    That always gets me, too. What rationale do they give to justify why they’re allowed to heap scorn and derision on the people with whom they disagree, while atheists attempting to challenge religious privilege with a similar enthusiasm are referred to as ‘militant’ and ‘dicks’?

  58. #59 Garnetstar
    June 10, 2011

    I don’t understand, I truly don’t, the accommodationists’ need to so vigorously oppose the NA’s, and to try to silence them.

    What’s wrong with parallel approaches? One approach will attract some people (and inevitably, turn some off, as any approach will), and the other will do exactly the same.

    NA’s and accommodationists can disagree with each others’ positions and criticize those. But what’s the need to silence one approach or the other?

    There’s no data that *either* approach is seriously damaging anything. What is this need to silence one?

  59. #60 SC (Salty Current)
    June 10, 2011

    I don’t understand, I truly don’t, the accommodationists’ need to so vigorously oppose the NA’s, and to try to silence them.

    I don’t understand where they get the energy or drive to continue it month after month, year after year,…, or how they couldn’t see that anger and effort as better focused on religious crimes against people and science.

    Their fervent desire to avoid turning off religious people doesn’t apply to global warming deniers, creationists, moon hoaxers, Republicans, or any other opponent to their particular cherished goals.

    Unless those AGW deniers and Republicans are religious! Even if they’re a foundation that bankrolls AGW denial and neoliberalism to the tune of millions of dollars, it’s OK if they also push religion and the claim that religion and science are compatible. As long as they’re opposed by and to gnu atheists – that’s what’s important.

    That’s what their exaggerated distaste for gnu atheists has brought them to: promoting and uncritically defending obsessive serial liars (TJ), dismissing LGBT people (Sojourners)*, and now pathetically trying to downplay and ignore the obvious evidence of Templeton’s climate-denial promotion. If this were where my dislike of a group of people had led me, I would seriously rethink what I’m doing.

    *I’m not aware of Rosenau’s particular stance on this.

  60. #61 g724
    June 10, 2011

    Y’all need to take a serious look at the history of the gay rights movement, because the dynamics you’re describing between Old Atheists and New Atheists are exact parallels to two approaches that gay rights activists took: one group advocating a quiet accommodationist approach of slow progress, another advocating militancy and in-your-face politics.

    Religious beliefs and anti-religious beliefs, as with sexual attractions, are more than “opinions,” they’re part of a person’s “identity.” Any time you hear someone say “I am (whatever),” you’re hearing an identity statement: something integral to the person, rather than something they can take or leave. By analogy, your body vs. your clothing and accessories.

    So here we have the “old atheist” accommodationists, and the “new atheist” militant activists, fighting each other in the same manner as the exact parallel strains and threads in the gay rights movement did.

    This is not about ideas, it’s about emotions. Human cognition and behavior is largely governed by emotion. Emotion decides and reason explains. Emotion leads and reason follows. This is especially true for elements of “identity.” Those who deny it are effectively denying decades of findings in neurophysiology and cognitive science.

    So look for the emotional narratives behind the accommodationism and the activism respectively. Look for the emotions that are core to each of these sets of beliefs and behaviors. That’s where you’re going to find ways to bridge the gap: because emotions are notoriously contagious, communicated largely nonverbally and faster than the rate at which people can query themselves about their responses to others. Practicing mindfulness meditation (which is not an inherently religious practice) helps; doing repeated role-plays with others helps; but remaining unaware of the emotional narratives involved will only lead to continued divisions and strategic losses.

    Y’all should be fighting the dominionists, not each other.

  61. #62 Garnetstar
    June 10, 2011

    g724, awesome post.

    My emotional motivation: I think it’s relief at finally being able to speak my mind and state openly what I think. I’ve always had NA positions (since I was seven), but have never been able to express them.

    And, joy at finding like-minded people with whom I can converse.

    Accommodationists’ motivations: I can’t read their minds. But maybe…….fear? Of atheists losing what little foothold they already have in society?

    “Y’all should be fighting the dominionists, not each other.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

  62. #63 Mike Haubrich
    June 12, 2011

    @ J.J.E. Thank you for this:

    I think these people that try to avoid rocking the boat don’t appreciate and/or don’t care to change the deeply ingrained religious privilege that saturates American society. It permeates their work. Their fervent desire to avoid turning off religious people doesn’t apply to global warming deniers, creationists, moon hoaxers, Republicans, or any other opponent to their particular cherished goals. Every time I see Josh, Chris, or Phil deal a savage body blow to one class of irrational thought, I’m always torn. On the one hand, good for them. On the other hand I think, what hypocritical asses. They are truly pots calling the NA kettles black.

    If only Phil would realize that he is turning Jenny McCarthy’s movie fans away from vaccinations he would stop making fun of her. I don’t have any data to release, but my secret, embargoed study from a registered and respected Academy shows that McCarthy fans just won’t accept anything that the New Vaccinationists say because their feelings have been hurt.

    I was on the verge of being seriously pro-vaccination until Plait and other New Vaccinations started publishing, but because they were meanies, I now just vaccinate my kids in the privacy of our clinic and I am sure if we gently lead anti-vaxxers to the data they will realize the error of their thinking. Not that that is any of my business any.

  63. #64 J. J. Ramsey
    June 12, 2011

    Salty Current:

    That’s what their exaggerated distaste for gnu atheists has brought them to: promoting and uncritically defending obsessive serial liars (TJ)

    Here is an example of “promoting and uncritically defending obsessive serial liars”:

    I don’t think Johnson’s original story is true as described…. it now looks like I was deceived by “Tom”

  64. #65 Frank Hamilton
    June 12, 2011

    I don’t have any facts and figures to present. I think this. Religion is not rational. The word delusion is appropriate, an imaginary construct by lock-step thinkers who use the bible as a basis, or a so-called “spiritual” anti-institutionalized “new-agey” type, some social reformers, still it comes down to their ” imaginary friend(s)”. “Faith” is like a love affair concocted in an obsessive mind that gives more credence to the idea of the thing then the true value of it.
    The so-called “New Atheist” idea is another attempt to brand FreeThinkers into a cult or ideology by those who are defending their religious turf. I don’t think that this branding is essentially harmful over time. I grew up in a time when everyone who was outside the general media-inspired dialogue was a “communist”. That gradually disappeared. Now the term “terrorist” is bandied about. Name-calling has a temporary effect over the long haul. Rational thinking tends to replace it. I don’t think it serves anyone to adopt a pejorative label. Freethought is, rational, sane, intellectually honest and creative, leaving those trapped in their prisons of narrow ideas to languish while the world moves on.

  65. #66 articulett
    June 12, 2011

    Kudos to Mike Haubrich for capturing in parody (#63) what I was thinking.

    Was Rosenau on the fence about demons, spells, witches, and curses before nice, non-believers in these things wooed him over to reason? Or is he as agnostic about these things as he is about gods? Does he think we should watch our “stridency” when discussing our disbelief in these supernatural things?

  66. #67 Wowbagger
    June 12, 2011

    Frank Hamilton wrote:

    The so-called “New Atheist” idea is another attempt to brand FreeThinkers into a cult or ideology by those who are defending their religious turf.

    It’s one of the many dirty tricks the religious – or, more and more these days, their fawning accomodationist appeasers, who are eager to do the work for them – keep using in order to try and turn people off being outspoken about denying religion its privileged status and treating it as an idea subject to criticism like any other; that they’re forced to such intellectual dishonesty in an attempt to silence their critics is an indication of how weak the rationalisations for their belief systems are.

    Not to mention the hypocrisy implicit in using the trappings of faith – which, presumably, they consider to be a good thing – as insults.

  67. #68 articulett
    June 12, 2011

    Oh my– is this the super secret study Rosenau was talking about? http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2011/06/10/most-college-undergrads-question-science-religion-conflict/#comment-104522

    Mooney seems to imagine that this supports his premise that NA’s outspoken criticism of faith is hindering science education in America. Does anyone get that from this study other than those trying to confirm biases they already had in that direction?

    Comments are heavily moderated at the Intersocktion so don’t expect to see any posts there unless they are heavily “accomodationistic”.

  68. #69 Dan L.
    June 13, 2011

    Here is an example of “promoting and uncritically defending obsessive serial liars”:

    Yes, Mooney admitted that he was wrong after others went through all the journalistic legwork of proving unequivocally that he was wrong. It certainly takes a big man to admit he’s wrong when there’s documentary evidence and a confession. Even then he tried to maintain that TJ’s derangement is itself evidence, and also falsified evidence is still a kind of evidence.

    Class act, through and through. I can’t fathom why the people who he describes as a “hate machine” would have a negative opinion of the man.

  69. #70 J. J. Ramsey
    June 13, 2011

    I’m sorry, Dan L., I presumed that when Salty Current had said that so-called accommodationists were “promoting and uncritically defending obsessive serial liars,” she was implying that said accommodationists were defending those that they already knew to be liars, because, oh, that’s an obvious way to read what she wrote.

    I realize that this would imply that Salty was distorting the facts or making stuff up, but then, she said stuff about accommodationists dismissing the LGBT, which also seems to come out of nowhere. (What is she saying, seriously? That Sojourners are accommodationists? That accommodationists are allying with Sojourners and thus supposedly implying an endorsement of the latter’s views on LGBT? What?)

    Come to think of it, when I compare your bit about Mooney trying “to maintain that TJ’s derangement is itself evidence,” etc. to what Mooney actually said, I see you sharing with Salty Current a similar attitude toward the facts.

  70. #71 Sastra
    June 13, 2011

    Josh Rosenau #47 wrote:

    Having myself and my friends at KCFS and NCSE compared to Neville Chamberlain didn’t incline me to sign up with atheism writ large, nor Dawkinsian atheism in particular. Seeing folks who were in the trenches with me on my fights against the religious right tarred as enabling fundamentalists (a la Harris) didn’t incline me towards New Atheism.

    Josh here seems to be defining ‘New Atheism’ purely in terms of strategy and rhetoric. The larger questions regarding whether the discoveries of modern science seriously undermine the existence of God — and whether ‘faith’ is an epistemic virtue or a blank check– don’t seem to have been engaged with much. It’s all politics and social relationships, style and tone.

    Like Wowbagger at #51, I think the point about the missed ‘window of opportunity’ is strange. Sort of like talking about how I would have joined a church that one time if the congregation had just been more friendly, but they missed the chance to make me a Christian and now I don’t even believe in God. So learn from that, you Christians. Shake more hands and you’ll convert people like me. Now there’s a convincing argument.

    There’s a rather disturbing lack of concern for … oh, I don’t know …. truth?

  71. #72 Josh Rosenau
    June 13, 2011

    Wowbagger: “I’ve never heard a ‘good argument for atheism’ beyond ‘there’s neither evidence nor compelling argument to believe in gods’ – and, as far as I can tell, that’s not an argument for atheism as much as it’s a statement of the absence of arguments for theism; parsimony and burden of proof and all that.”

    All of which are good arguments for agnosticism, not atheism. I started dealing seriously with all these issues around 2004-2005, having tried to ignore it all (including creation/evolution) before then. As it became clear that there wasn’t a good argument for atheism (as you say), and couldn’t be one for the same reason that there couldn’t be a good argument for theism, agnosticism became the only clear choice. Hence the window.

    SC: “Templeton has funded the Templeton “Freedom” Awards for years,”

    No. As far as you or anyone else has shown, they endowed them once, years ago, and Atlas has funded the awards out of that endowment since. No one has been able to show that Templeton retained any say over how those awards were granted. And that link seems crucial to your case.

    “No one could justifiably believe in the face of this that Templeton is not explicitly supporting Atlas’ work with these think tanks, which are their primary project.”

    Sure, Atlas got money from Templeton, so Templeton has supported Atlas’s work. But you failed to quote the bit about why they support that work, which is all about training people to defend free markets and yadda yadda free market fundamentalism. As I said. I’ve spent some time looking at Atlas because NCSE is doing some work on climate change denial, and it’s clear that climate change denial is a small part of Atlas’s overall agenda, and that it is simply one facet of their underlying free market fundamentalism. It doesn’t strike me as at all implausible that Templeton would support that part of Atlas’s mission (Jack Templeton provided for the CEO of Atlas to always have a seat on the JTF board, after all, and was a fairly heavy free market kinda guy), without necessarily supporting the climate change denying aspect of that work. We’re talking, to be clear, about climate change denying work which groups fund out of a pot contributed partly by Atlas, which is funding them out of a pot partly contributed by Templeton. That chain of evidence is a bit loose for me.

    But maybe JTF does support that climate denial work! The evidence you’ve offered to date doesn’t weigh in favor of the climate-specific hypothesis (which is the way you get to calling Templeton “anti-science”) in preference to the free market fundamentalism hypothesis – which seems more parsimonious.

    G724: “Y’all should be fighting the dominionists, not each other.”

    Yes. This. Which is why TGD turned me off back in 2005, as did End of Faith, and why the continued efforts against moderate and liberal religious groups seems so pointless.

    Sigmund: “This makes it sounds like you were deciding which political party you were going to join. I don’t regard atheism (or even religion) like that. It’s not a goup identity thing, it’s simply a matter of whether the evidence supports the claim.”

    And I see religion in general as very much a matter of group identity. Not to say that evidence doesn’t matter, but evidence also matters for political parties: I’m a Democrat because I think Democratic policies are better for the country (and because Democrats are more my kind of folks than Republicans). But religion is a social phenomenon, it’s a thing you do, and do in public. To pretend that social identity isn’t part of religion is trivially wrong.

    “But to indicate that the personalities of Dawkins or Harris makes it impossible for you to be an atheist is ridiculous.”

    If that’s what I indicated, then I apologize. It’s the arguments of Dawkins and Harris that make me not want to be an atheist. Certainly not their sort of atheist, but since I don’t see any better arguments for atheism (see above), I’ll say the same of atheism in general.

    I don’t know much about Harris’s personality, but Dawkins is a very nice, friendly, guy, and we’ve gotten along well when we’ve met. He’s friendly and nice to NCSE in general, and to Genie Scott in person. But that didn’t stop him from dismissing her (and NCSE) with a misguided Hitler analogy. And that’s a dickish argument, however charming the author.

    Gillt: The study was done before I was at NCSE, I had no part in the study, and I have no authority to release the data. I don’t know if they will ever be published. I’ve asked for permission to say more, and been told not to. Pretty much all I can say, I said here: http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2011/01/dealing_with_conflicts_over_ev.php

    And no, articulett, the study I cited above to Sigmund is not the unpublished study I referred to later.

  72. #73 Sigmund
    June 14, 2011

    “But that didn’t stop him from dismissing her (and NCSE) with a misguided Hitler analogy.”
    If you are referring to the term ‘Neville Chamberlain atheists’ then you are mistaken in viewing this as a Hitler analogy. Chamberlain is not regarded in Europe as someone who was either a Nazi or sympathetic to Hitler. He is regarded as a decent man, someone who had good intentions, but also someone who made the wrong choice when faced with a strong foe. Chamberlain chose to give up some ground in the hope that Hitler would stop – but we all know what happened next.
    It’s a politically inappropriate thing for Dawkins to say – for the simple reason that it provides ammunition for those it criticises to attack based on supposed offense taken rather than facing the actual criticism offered by Dawkins.

  73. #74 Wowbagger
    June 14, 2011

    Josh Rosenau wrote:

    All of which are good arguments for agnosticism, not atheism.

    Which suggests they are mutually exclusive concepts when, as I understand it, they aren’t; agnosticism refers to knowledge while atheism refers to belief – I don’t know for a fact there are no gods, I simply lack the belief in any because there exists neither evidence nor argument to compel me to believe.

    Agnosticism – when used without also specifying an associated belief or non-belief – seems most commonly used by those without the courage and/or integrity to pick a side.

  74. #75 eric
    June 14, 2011

    Josh Rosenou: No. As far as you or anyone else has shown, they endowed them [Templeton Freedom Awards] once, years ago,

    The actual web page says they’ve been awarding them since 2004, at the rate of 16 winners per year! “Two winners per year in each of eight categories.” Link at bottom. The list of winners link appears to be broken or looped, but the claim is right there, it’s unambiguous, so either you’re wrong or you’re claiming that they are blatantly lying.

    I also wonder, Josh, why you went to the trouble of making that big long post @72 but chose not to address the point raised by @63 and @66. It bears repeating: are you accommodationist about the treatment of other unsubstantiated claims, and if not, why not? What is your justification for treating mainstream religious belief differently from, say, belief in bigfoot?

    Link: “http://atlasnetwork.org/blog/2010/10/templeton-freedom-awards-for-excellence-in-promoting-liberty/”.

  75. #76 J. J. Ramsey
    June 14, 2011

    eric, here’s a fuller quote from Rosenau:

    As far as you or anyone else has shown, they endowed them once, years ago, and Atlas has funded the awards out of that endowment since. [emphasis added]

    In other words, Templeton gave out a large pot of money to Atlas years ago, and–as pointed out in the emphasized part that you neglected to quote–Atlas has been periodically dishing out money from that one pot ever since. The link you cited hardly contradicts that.

  76. #77 Norwegian Shooter
    June 14, 2011

    Josh:

    NAism is, so far as I can tell, about saying whatever one wants regardless of how an audience will react, while accommodationism is about framing arguments in ways that reflect the audience’s existing viewpoint.

    I used empathy in the sense of putting yourself in another’s shoes. Do you really think any NA say to themselves: “I don’t care how an audience will react”? Do you have one example of a NA answering an audience member’s question (and there are hundreds of them on tape) that supports your contention? I think you are projecting views onto them, the opposite of empathy.

    Your take on accommodationism is non-confrontational, not empathic. If you could put yourself in your religious audience’s shoes, it would be more readily apparent that much religious belief prevents accepting materialistic evolution. The best you can do in many cases is preventing anti-evolution actions. NA’s in general think they can do better.

  77. #78 Deepak Shetty
    June 14, 2011

    @wowbagger
    Agnosticism – when used without also specifying an associated belief or non-belief – seems most commonly used by those without the courage and/or integrity to pick a side
    So first you say agnosticism is not mutually exclusive with atheism. Then you admit “don’t know for a fact there are no gods” which means you are agnostic. Your lack of courage and integrity is showing.

  78. #79 Michael Fugate
    June 14, 2011

    “So first you say agnosticism is not mutually exclusive with atheism. Then you admit “don’t know for a fact there are no gods” which means you are agnostic. Your lack of courage and integrity is showing.”

    If this is true, then you must be agnostic about everything. Maybe we should append “I am almost 100% sure A is true, but my cannot be absolutely sure A is true. Therefore B-Z could also be true. Please take your pick.”

    Why give religion privilege that you give to nothing else?

  79. #80 eric
    June 14, 2011

    J.J. Ramsey: In other words, Templeton gave out a large pot of money to Atlas years ago, and–as pointed out in the emphasized part that you neglected to quote–Atlas has been periodically dishing out money from that one pot ever since.

    Ah, going back and reading SC’s post, I see what you’re arguing about. Fair enough, but I think SC’s follow-up response is also germane; implying that Templeton is either disinterested or opposed to what Atlas has done because they only funded the award once is somewhat disingenuous. Their later public comments about being pleased with the award says otherwise.

    Also, care to comment on my second point? What is the rationale behind treating one set of unsubstaniated claims with more deference than others? Is it a pragmatic numbers game? Or do you really think that water walking is more credible than bigfoot? Or is there some other reason? I hope so – I am not sure which of the first two answers would disappoint me more.

  80. #81 H.H.
    June 14, 2011

    Deepak Shetty wrote:

    So first you say agnosticism is not mutually exclusive with atheism. Then you admit “don’t know for a fact there are no gods” which means you are agnostic. Your lack of courage and integrity is showing.

    WTF are you talking about? What does courage or integrity have to do with it? Agnosticism pertains to knowledge while atheism pertains to belief. It’s possible to be an agnostic atheist–one who holds no belief in the existence of any deity while also admitting they do not claim to know that a deity does not exist. Just as it’s possible to be an agnostic theist–one who do not claim to know of the existence of any deity but still believes in such a deity anyway. This is basic, basic stuff one could learn by investing half an hour reading Wikipedia

    But both you and Rosenau seem to labor under the popular confusion that an agnostic is somehow “undecided” on the issue of god’s existence, when the term actually has nothing at all to do with personal belief. Wowbagger is correct that atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive concepts, thus revealing that Josh doesn’t even have a basic familiarity with the positions he’s criticizing. And the common trope is that it’s the NA’s who are philosophically and theologically unsophisticated? Please.

    If Josh doesn’t even know what atheism is after all this all this time arguing against it, I think that tells you all you need to know about the intellectual honesty of the accommodationists. As Sastra said, not a lot of concern for truth to be found.

  81. #82 Dan L.
    June 14, 2011

    Come to think of it, when I compare your bit about Mooney trying “to maintain that TJ’s derangement is itself evidence,” etc. to what Mooney actually said, I see you sharing with Salty Current a similar attitude toward the facts.

    Well, I stand corrected about Mooney having said anything like that (according to a cursory perusal of some relevant posts). But maybe you could check whether I’m merely mistaken before accusing me of being a liar.

    Or do what you want. I’m not on the team that’s telling everyone to be less “militant” and “confrontational.”

  82. #83 eNeMeE
    June 14, 2011

    Agnosticism is orthogonal to theism/atheism.

    The lack of evidence for deities raises the probability of atheism, but does nothing to change whether or not it is possible to know if deity/spirit/samsarra/(whatever you want to call the thing in question) exists.

    If all the living things found on Earth are carbon-based, then it becomes more and more likely that all life on Earth is carbon based – it does not in any way change the likelihood of there being a way to have non-carbon based life. Not a perfect example, but the best I could do while 3/4s asleep.

  83. #84 Wowbagger
    June 14, 2011

    Deepak Shetty wrote:

    So first you say agnosticism is not mutually exclusive with atheism. Then you admit “don’t know for a fact there are no gods” which means you are agnostic. Your lack of courage and integrity is showing.

    Read what I wrote again – this time for comprehension.

  84. #85 Deepak Shetty
    June 15, 2011

    @H.H.
    The courage and integrity are insults flung by wowbagger who doesnt seem to understand.
    It’s possible to be an agnostic atheist-
    Sure. However most people don’t use the term “agnostic atheist” – not atheists nor agnostics. If these terms are dictionary orthogonal why do atheists identify themselves as “atheists” and not “agnostic atheists”?
    seem to labor under the popular confusion that an agnostic is somehow “undecided” on the issue of god’s existence
    I’m ignostic , apathetic and atheistic in that order. Surely in your 30 minutes on wikipedia you must have read those sections, yes?
    What the fuck is the point in stating you believe or dont believe in something when you dont know what that something is supposed to mean and what would count as evidence?

    @Wowbagger
    It would help if you read what you write and understand what you imply.

  85. #86 Wowbagger
    June 15, 2011

    Deepak Shetty wrote:

    Sure. However most people don’t use the term “agnostic atheist” – not atheists nor agnostics. If these terms are dictionary orthogonal why do atheists identify themselves as “atheists” and not “agnostic atheists”?

    Probably for the same reasons they don’t add ‘Earth, Milky Way Galaxy’ to the ends of their postal addresses: since most people accept they don’t know everything, it’s a redundant term that can be dispensed with.

    It would help if you read what you write and understand what you imply

    It appears to have been clear to everyone who’s commented on this issue since it went up; the odd one out is you.

  86. #87 Michael Fugate
    June 15, 2011

    Let me see if I have the story correct. While Josh was advocating for evolution in Kansas some of his fellow advocates were Christians. These people became his friends. Josh doesn’t criticize his friends beliefs as long as they support evolution and anyone who does criticize his friends’ beliefs are by definition not Josh’s friends (even if the critics support evolution). Josh became an agnostic out of support for his friends’ beliefs.

    Let’s look at an example: I have this big paired-plot experiment I run with my introductory students. In the fall, students rake off grass litter from one plot and leave the other unraked. In the spring, students measure species richness and cover. If I find raking increases species richness and if we do a statistical test and obtain a p = 0.01, can I claim raking has an effect or should I remain agnostic because I can’t be 100% sure? The probability (if the experimental design and statistical test are correct) is 1% that the increase in species richness was due to chance. If one is agnostic about god or gods too, then the possibility exists that, unbeknownst to me, one of the students prayed before the experiment that the raking would be effective and her god answered the prayer by surreptitiously sprinkling seeds over the raked plots. Once you believe in the possible existence of gods, then anything and everything is possible. If one considers oneself an apathetic agnostic, then why would one advocate for evolution or anything for that matter?

  87. #88 Deepak Shetty
    June 15, 2011

    @Wowbagger
    Since I dont know what a “God” is or what properties it has , I find it quite redundant to say I believe in “God” – Hence an agnostic with no redundant “atheist”. Same reasoning as yours. So tell me why I have a lack of courage and integrity whereas you don’t.

  88. #89 Vicki
    June 15, 2011

    OK, there’s a nitpicking sense in which I am not entirely an atheist: it seems possible that, somewhere in the universe, there is something that I would call a god. But I am an a-Yahwist, an a-Jesusist, an a-Thorist, and so on. For most if not all of the gods I have heard of, their nonexistence is proven by contradiction. There is clearly no omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent entity in the universe. Amaterasu is clearly not intervening to ensure Japan wins wars, or to prevent her notional descendants from starting them in the first place.

    Similarly, while most of the arguments for atheism are logical and negative (theists keep not presenting any evidence for their claims, and expecting me to believe them on less evidence than I’d want if you told me there was a unicorn in the garden, eating a lily), I can make anti-theist arguments. Not “this is true, therefore there is no god” but “Tay-Sachs disease exists, therefore if God exists s/he is not deserving of worship.” That’s not an atheist position, technically: it’s more Non serviam.

  89. #90 Wowbagger
    June 15, 2011

    Deepak Shetty wrote:

    Since I dont know what a “God” is or what properties it has , I find it quite redundant to say I believe in “God” – Hence an agnostic with no redundant “atheist”. Same reasoning as yours.

    The point you seem to be missing – no matter how many times I and others point it out to you – is that agnostic refers to the state of lacking knowledge while atheism refers to the state of lacking belief.

    So, your reasoning is not the same as mine; you can’t just switch the words around. Everyone is agnostic – the only difference is whether or not they admit it; most atheists admit they don’t ‘know’ there are no gods of any kind, but instead focus on the part that’s actually important: whether or not they believe in gods and act accordingly.

    But not everyone is atheistic; plenty of people chose to believe despite them not ‘knowing’, in any meaningful sense – i.e. because of evidence or compelling argument – that the being they claim to worship actually exists. We call these people ‘theists’.

    So tell me why I have a lack of courage and integrity whereas you don’t.

    Read my comment again. Look for the word ‘most’. If you don’t find it, let me know.

    I have no idea whether you use the term in order to avoid taking a side whenever a debate about atheism/theism comes up, but I know there are plenty who do, chosing to say ‘Oh, no – I’m agnostic; I can’t possibly get involved in an argument on this issue’ when the simple fact is they no more believe in any gods than I or anyone else who honestly answers to the description of atheist does.

    That’s avoiding the actually significant issue of belief, and possibly indicative of a lack of courage and/or integrity.

  90. #91 SC (Salty Current)
    June 15, 2011

    Rosenau, you’ve learned a lot from creationists. You have an uncanny knack for ignoring evidence in front of your face, like 95% of what I showed in my posts on my blog and here.

    I’m going to deign to respond to you once, Ramsey, and then you can go back to your obsessive dishonesty.

    I realize that this would imply that Salty was distorting the facts or making stuff up, but then, she said stuff about accommodationists dismissing the LGBT, which also seems to come out of nowhere. (What is she saying, seriously? That Sojourners are accommodationists? That accommodationists are allying with Sojourners and thus supposedly implying an endorsement of the latter’s views on LGBT? What?)

    This:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-latondresse/the-sojourners-and-jim-wa_b_860523.html

    I’m sorry, Dan L., I presumed that when Salty Current had said that so-called accommodationists were “promoting and uncritically defending obsessive serial liars,” she was implying that said accommodationists were defending those that they already knew to be liars, because, oh, that’s an obvious way to read what she wrote.

    This:

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2011/and-then-a-stranger-rode-into-town/#comment-72413

    My beef here is that what YNH did wrong that merited a period of exile was not that he/she followed Jerry and Ophelia between blogs, it was not that he/she disagreed with them, and was not that he/she was a concern troll. What he/she did wrong was sockpuppetry. There is no evidence of sockpuppetry here, so the whole thing seems like a vendetta at best, and an attempt to silence a critic at worst.

    Not one word about the vicious lies and harassment from the socks. Not one word, even after I pointed it out. No apology for his own role. Then the suggestion that even if Hammill was TJ (which I suspect Rosenau knew at the time), he’d probably learned his lesson and should maybe just be left to continue.

    Now piss off.

  91. #92 SC (Salty Current)
    June 15, 2011

    [I have a response (the only one) to Rosenau and Ramsey in moderation (it had links), but in the meantime...]

    Mooney seems to imagine that this supports his premise that NA’s outspoken criticism of faith is hindering science education in America. Does anyone get that from this study other than those trying to confirm biases they already had in that direction?

    Comments are heavily moderated at the Intersocktion so don’t expect to see any posts there unless they are heavily “accomodationistic”.

    My critique of that sad study:

    http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com/2011/06/more-templetonian-spin-scheitle.html

    Mooney’s a jackass.

    Dan L.:

    Well, I stand corrected about Mooney having said anything like that (according to a cursory perusal of some relevant posts). But maybe you could check whether I’m merely mistaken before accusing me of being a liar.

    He did say something like that:

    5) I think something probably did happen to “Johnson” to make him a fervent “accommodationist.”

    I still have my philosophical and tactical problems with the “New Atheism.” But I’m disturbed that someone on my “side” of this debate would do the things “Johnson” has done, painting a group as uncivil based on what is at best a serious exaggeration,

    That whole “Final Word” post was astounding.

  92. #93 Deepak Shetty
    June 16, 2011

    is that agnostic refers to the state of lacking knowledge while atheism refers to the state of lacking belief.
    So admit to your lack of knowledge then. And keep identifying yourself as an agnostic atheist. What is the harm about this redundancy. You like to draw a line between knowledge and belief. e = mc^2 . For you , wowbagger(only you), is this knowledge or belief?

    Read my comment again. Look for the word ‘most’.
    Ah yes – you meant to imply everyone except me right?

    but I know there are plenty who do, chosing to say ‘Oh, no – I’m agnostic;
    Name some who satisfy your requirement.

  93. #94 Wowbagger
    June 16, 2011

    Deepak Shetty

    So admit to your lack of knowledge then.

    What do you mean ‘admit’? I never said otherwise!

    Once again, you need to read my comments, and read them for comprehension, because I never wrote anything anything to the contrary. In post #74, for example I wrote these words: ‘I don’t know for a fact there are no gods…

    And keep identifying yourself as an agnostic atheist. What is the harm about this redundancy.

    Do you actually know what the word redundancy means? I don’t bother to add ‘agnostic’ to atheist, because – as far as I’m concerned – there’s no such thing as an atheist who isn’t agnostic, and therefore adding it is a waste of time and energy.

    I mean, I could ‘identify myself’ as an agnostic atheist human being, resident of the planet Earth, located in the Milky Way galaxy’ – but why would I when the only pertinent aspect of that label is ‘atheist’?

    Good grief. I can’t believe you are having so much trouble grasping this.

    Ah yes – you meant to imply everyone except me right?

    So now I’m psychic? You hadn’t even posted in this thread when I wrote that – how the heck could I have been referring to you?

    But you seem more like someone who identifies as such because you like to argue. Which is fine; obviously, I’m not immune to SIWOTI myself.

    I only hope you’re consistent and take the same aggressive stance with the religious if they tell you you’re just an atheist trying to hide behind semantics.

    Name some who satisfy your requirement.

    Josh Rosenau, at least based on what he’s written here. A guy named Dale Husband, who – while seeming sensible enough in some areas, and posts at Panda’s Thumb – seems to have almost as ridiculous a hair-trigger for this nonsense as you do. At least a few more have turned up at Pharyngula over the years.

    Also, in the society where I live it’s a common response, because of the privilege granted to the religious regarding not saying things that might offend them; answering ‘agnostic’ is the soft option people take instead of ‘atheist’ – even though they identify as atheists to other atheists.

  94. #95 J. J. Ramsey
    June 16, 2011

    Salty Current: “I’m going to deign to respond to you once, Ramsey”

    That’s very kind of you. Unfortunately, your response confirms what I suspected, that the gap between your claims and what your sources actually support is huge. For example, when Mooney describes what a liar says as “at best a serious exaggeration” (note that it says “at best” rather than “at worst”), it is at best a stretch to say that he is “uncritically defending” such a liar. The rest of what you cite is no better.

  95. #96 SC (Salty Current)
    June 16, 2011

    That’s very kind of you. Unfortunately, your response confirms what I suspected, that the gap between your claims and what your sources actually support is huge. For example, when Mooney describes what a liar says as “at best a serious exaggeration” (note that it says “at best” rather than “at worst”), it is at best a stretch to say that he is “uncritically defending” such a liar. The rest of what you cite is no better.

    You’re an idiot. I was saying that Rosenau was defending him (by ignoring the lying and obsessive attacks, refusing to apologize for his own role in the matter, and painting him as someone who was simply a “critic” of or who “disagreed” with gnus and guilty only of sockpuppeting. I linked to and quoted him. But of course it’s harder for you to see, as an obsessive kook yourself.

    I said that Mooney did imply – even after Smith had admitted the story was a lie and been exposed as a sockpuppeter and serial fabulist – that there was some truth to it* and that atheists probably did do something to cause him to become what he is (thus his “derangement” was evidence of something about us), which is what Dan L. had suggested. Mooney’s done plenty else, but that was the topic under discussion.

    *This is why he made reference to an “exaggeration” at all. There was no evidence of any kernel of truth to that story. It didn’t happen. Someone saying something to him privately about religion would not be a kernel of truth of which that story was an “exaggeration.” It would have been completely different.

    Go away.

  96. #97 Deepak Shetty
    June 16, 2011

    @wowbagger
    You have your reasons for not using agnostic for yourself, I have mine for not using atheist, and other people have theirs. To come out all guns blazing about “lack of courage” and “intellectual integrity” is idiotic – since you admit you aren’t psychic. When you use the term “most commonly used” you mean there are very few exceptions – which has now worked out to 2 examples plus some random commenters at pharyngula. I wonder who that reminds me of – oh yes the people who say gnu’s are so violently nasty and point to a couple of people on pharyngula.
    Josh Rosenau, at least based on what he’s written here.
    As much as I dislike Josh’s views on, I dont know, almost everything I dont think the statement about lack of courage /integrity applies – atleast for the agnostic view. SC has a better argument there.

  97. #98 J. J. Ramsey
    June 16, 2011

    Salty Current: “You’re an idiot. I was saying that Rosenau was defending him”

    You didn’t single out Rosenau or Mooney until I called BS on you with that quote from Mooney. Furthermore, you were claiming that accommodationists were defending him, and not just defending, but “promoting and uncritically defending.” What you’ve offered in support of your wild claim has been

    1) Mooney making an allowance that there might be a grain of truth to TJ’s story, and

    2) Rosenau pointing out that Hammill, who may or may not have been TJ, was actually acting like a civilized commenter, and that his alleged past may not be sufficient justification for banning Hammill, given his current demeanor.

    Neither of those things amounts to an uncritical defense, and it is hardly the enthusiastic defense that you were implying.

    Salty Current: “… that atheists probably did do something to cause him to become what he is (thus his “derangement” was evidence of something about us)”

    Oh, please. Mooney said,

    I think something probably did happen to “Johnson” to make him a fervent “accommodationist.” But whatever the nature of that experience or experiences, it is no justification for the trumped-up original story or for his other actions

    That “something” that Mooney mentions could range from a misunderstanding to an encounter with a few bad apples among atheists. Treating that as Mooney implying that TJ’s derangement is itself an indictment of Gnu Atheists is a massive stretch.

    Now a bit more, Salty Current, on the LGBT stuff:

    Let’s see now. We have Sojourners, an organization that has defended gay rights on a number of fronts, such as supporting repeal of DADT, campaigning against bullying of gays, and civil unions. Furthermore, it has made clear that it has done this in spite of having a conviction of “marriage as being between a man and a woman.” Sojourners is an ally, but an ally with limits that were long knowable beforehand. They refuse to run an ad where a pastor unequivocally welcomes a lesbian couple into his church over the objections of his flock–a refusal that shouldn’t have been that surprising. A “committed Christian and a queer atheist,” while not particularly liking the decision of Sojourners, defends the right of the organization to not run the ad and defends its usefulness as an ally of gays (albeit an imperfect one).

    Somehow, this not only gets spun by you, Salty Current, as an overall dismissal of the LGBT–which is misleading enough–but is somehow reflective of accommodationists in general (with Rosenau as a possible exception) and somehow a product of hatred of Gnu Atheists, despite neither of those matters being reflected in the article supporting your claim about dismissal of the LGBT.

    Salty Current, you make sweeping accusations of nasty behavior, and the evidence you provide fails to come close to supporting you. Yet you have the chutzpah to call other people obsessive kooks. Wow.

  98. #99 J. J. Ramsey
    June 16, 2011

    Grumble, grumble, …

    I need to be more careful when editing posts. What I meant to write was more like this:

    You were claiming that accommodationists were defending him. You didn’t single out Rosenau or Mooney until I called BS on you with that quote from Mooney. Furthermore, you weren’t writing about just defending, but “promoting and uncritically defending.”

  99. #100 SC (Salty Current)
    June 16, 2011

    You didn’t single out Rosenau or Mooney until I called BS on you with that quote from Mooney.

    Again, you’re an idiot. I was talking to and about Rosenau on this thread, quite plainly, and when I wasn’t I was specific that I wasn’t: “*I’m not aware of Rosenau’s particular stance on this.” That’s why I said the preceding sentence. I was making reference to recent events and did not want to automatically include him in that case. Obviously I wasn’t implying that every accommodationist had behaved exactly the same in every recent instance. If you were unclear about who I was saying had done what, you could have asked. But it should have been obvious.

    2) Rosenau pointing out that Hammill, who may or may not have been TJ, was actually acting like a civilized commenter, and that his alleged past may not be sufficient justification for banning Hammill, given his current demeanor.

    No. That’s not what the quote from him was about at all. I’ve now explained twice what should be evident to anyone.

    That “something” that Mooney mentions could range from a misunderstanding to an encounter with a few bad apples among atheists. Treating that as Mooney implying that TJ’s derangement is itself an indictment of Gnu Atheists is a massive stretch.

    You’re wrong. In that context of that “Final Word” post, it was gratuitous and had precisely that implication. That “something” that Mooney mentions is a product of his fevered imagination. And it came in a post that was supposed to be an acknowledgement that the story was a lie and its teller a liar (who had told other vicious lies in his comment threads which he failed to note later). It was a baseless insinuation that suggested there was some act by gnus that could have been causative of that behavior – outrageous.

    a refusal that shouldn’t have been that surprising. A “committed Christian and a queer atheist,” while not particularly liking the decision of Sojourners, defends the right of the organization to not run the ad and defends its usefulness as an ally of gays (albeit an imperfect one).

    No one had challenged that right. People rightly criticized the decision. They replied:

    Those who question the integrity of an organization that adopts a moderate position make it more difficult for many evangelicals to find common ground with the LGBTQ community, in the same way that bullying tactics used by conservative organizations like Focus on the Family under the leadership of James Dobson made it difficult for many of our queer friends to ever believe that they could build authentic relationships with or find common cause with evangelicals.

    The only authentic relationships are those in which people are treated as full human beings by all parties. They compared criticism of Sojourners’ decision, which failed to respect this basic principle, to the bullying tactics of Dobson’s organization.

    It was sickening and a clear sign of the moral bankruptcy and intellectual dishonesty to which accommodationism has led. Your behavior is equally appalling. And that’s it. I’m done with you again. Your obsessive misrepresentation derails any genuine discussion. You belong at the Intersocktion and TFK with the other kooks and not at reasonable, intelligent, honest blogs.

  100. #101 SC (Salty Current)
    June 16, 2011

    Furthermore, you weren’t writing about just defending, but “promoting and uncritically defending.”

    Which both of them did, for several months. Mooney even went so far as to attack those who were merely suggesting that TJ’s story was unevidenced and didn’t ring true (while making zero effort to discern its truth or falsehood himself), he and Kirshenbaum allowed the socks to tell vicious lies in their comment threads (without checking IPs)and ignored and blocked those challenging the lies, and Rosenau promoted the nasty, obsessive YNH blog.

    Shameful.

  101. #102 J. J. Ramsey
    June 16, 2011

    Salty Current:

    Again, you’re an idiot. I was talking to and about Rosenau on this thread, quite plainly, and when I wasn’t I was specific that I wasn’t

    And when you were accusing accommodationists of “promoting and uncritically defending obsessive serial liars,” you were obviously not talking specifically about Rosenau. Somehow, though, you forgot that in post #96, when you flip-flopped and said that Rosenau was doing the defending. When I said, “You didn’t single out Rosenau or Mooney until I called BS on you,” it was pretty clearly in reply to that post where you flip-flopped.

    A suggestion: Whenever you feel tempted to write “you’re an idiot,” double-check and make sure you’re not the one saying something stupid.

    Salty Current:

    No. That’s not what the quote from him was about at all.

    Ah, but it was what Rosenau had said in the thread from Butterflies & Wheels to which you linked.

    Oh, and one more thing. Recheck the definition of the word “uncritical.” You don’t seem to be using it properly.

  102. #103 SC (Salty Current)
    June 16, 2011

    And when you were accusing accommodationists of “promoting and uncritically defending obsessive serial liars,” you were obviously not talking specifically about Rosenau.

    I WAS talking specifically about Rosenau! That’s why in the case in which I wasn’t, I pointed out that I wasn’t. What the hell is wrong with you?

    Ah, but it was what Rosenau had said in the thread from Butterflies & Wheels to which you linked.

    He said that, but it wasn’t what I quoted as relevant. I was giving the link as the source of the quotation, idiot.

    Oh, and one more thing. Recheck the definition of the word “uncritical.” You don’t seem to be using it properly.

    He [Rosenau]‘s been uncritical (ignoring, dismissive, minimizing, uncritical) of the obsessive attacks and serial lying. You’re such an idiot – foolish and blinkered and a waste of time.

  103. #104 SC (Salty Current)
    June 16, 2011

    That’s what their exaggerated distaste for gnu atheists has brought them to: promoting and uncritically defending obsessive serial liars (TJ), dismissing LGBT people (Sojourners)*, and now pathetically trying to downplay and ignore the obvious evidence of Templeton’s climate-denial promotion. If this were where my dislike of a group of people had led me, I would seriously rethink what I’m doing.

    *I’m not aware of Rosenau’s particular stance on this.

    In a no doubt futile attempt to stave off further idiocy: These are recent examples of what accommodationism has come to. Two of them refer to Rosenau because that’s who I was talking to and about on this thread; the third may or may not, and that’s why I pointed out that I don’t have any knowledge about his views on that. When I say I was referring to him specifically, this does not mean that those two refer solely to him, or that any of them (and there are many more I could have offered) refers to every single accommodationist on earth. They’re egregious recent examples from people who should know better.

    I’m losing brain cells here.

  104. #105 J. J. Ramsey
    June 16, 2011

    SC (Salty Current):

    I WAS talking specifically about Rosenau! That’s why in the case in which I wasn’t, I pointed out that I wasn’t. What the hell is wrong with you?

    I guess when I read “That’s what their exaggerated distaste for gnu atheists has brought them to [emphasis added],” I presumed that “their” and “them” referred to multiple people, rather than being specifically targeted to multiple people. I know, that makes me such an idiot. :)

    SC (Salty Current):

    He said that, but it wasn’t what I quoted as relevant. I was giving the link as the source of the quotation, idiot.

    And I looked beyond the quotation to see what Rosenau said in context. Not to mention that your quotation did a poor job of supporting your point even out of context.

    SC (Salty Current):

    They’re egregious recent examples from people who should know better.

    Well, they would be egregious if they were as you characterized them.

    SC (Salty Current):

    I’m losing brain cells here.

    Too easy.

  105. #106 J. J. Ramsey
    June 16, 2011

    Oops, that should be,

    “I presumed that “their” and “them” referred to multiple people, rather than being specifically targeted at a specific person.”

    Now that makes me an idiot. :p

  106. #107 SC (Salty Current)
    June 16, 2011

    I guess when I read “That’s what their exaggerated distaste for gnu atheists has brought them to [emphasis added],” I presumed that “their” and “them” referred to multiple people, rather than being specifically targeted to multiple people. I know, that makes me such an idiot. :)

    Yes, because in one of those examples I was explicitly not referring to him but to other people. So obviously as a group the examples referred to more than one person. Even “targeted to” specific people as they were, that in no way necessarily implies that they referred exclusively to those people. Nor does it necessarily imply, obviously and which I made explicit, that in each I was referring to every accommodationist on earth at every moment. They were examples backed with evidence.

    Idiot.

    And I looked beyond the quotation to see what Rosenau said in context. Not to mention that your quotation did a poor job of supporting your point even out of context.

    You said:

    What you’ve offered in support of your wild claim has been

    …2) Rosenau pointing out that Hammill, who may or may not have been TJ, was actually acting like a civilized commenter, and that his alleged past may not be sufficient justification for banning Hammill, given his current demeanor.

    That was false. I did not offer that as evidence. I offered a quotation in which he specifically characterized Smith’s obvious past behavior and what he thought was and was not wrong with it and deserving of continued censure (the only bad aspect for him was the sockpuppeting – he was uncritical of the rest). (I further suggested that I suspect he knew at the time that Hammill was Smith, back to his old obsessions after promising to stop and thus not acting in a civilized manner, and had been hosting his comments at his blog. But that’s just my suspicion and not necessary to show.)

    Idiot.

    Not to mention that your quotation did a poor job of supporting your point even out of context.

    Bull. Not that you addressed it – just introduced irrelevancies.

    Idiot.

    Well, they would be egregious if they were as you characterized them.

    Idiot.

  107. #108 Wowbagger
    June 16, 2011

    Deepak Shetty wrote:

    To come out all guns blazing about “lack of courage” and “intellectual integrity” is idiotic – since you admit you aren’t psychic.

    ‘All guns blazing’? What metric, exactly, did you use to determine that? Trust me, when I decide to go ‘all guns blazing’, it doesn’t sound anything like that.

    When you use the term “most commonly used” you mean there are very few exceptions

    No, I mean it’s ‘commonly used’ – not ‘there are very few exceptions’; if I’d meant to imply ‘very few exceptions’ I’d have written ‘very few exceptions’ or ‘overwhelming majority’ or ‘nearly always’ or any one of dozens of phrases that would imply that – I used ‘most commonly’ to mean ‘most of the time’.

    When you use the term “most commonly used” you mean there are very few exceptions – which has now worked out to 2 examples plus some random commenters at pharyngula.

    Did you just stop reading the comment halfway through? If that’s something you do regularly, it would explain your lack of comprehension; perhaps you should try getting the whole way through before you respond.

    Here’s what came after that; I’ll put it in bold this time in the hope it’ll hold your attention:’Also, in the society where I live it’s a common response, because of the privilege granted to the religious regarding not saying things that might offend them; answering ‘agnostic’ is the soft option people take instead of ‘atheist’ – even though they identify as atheists to other atheists.

    If the people you know who demand to be called agnostic instead of atheist for reasons other than that, fine.

  108. #109 J. J. Ramsey
    June 16, 2011

    Salty Current, #103: “I WAS talking specifically about Rosenau!”

    Salty Current, #107: “Even ‘targeted to’ specific people as they were, that in no way necessarily implies that they referred exclusively to those people.”

    I think you need to look up what “specifically” means. And really, I’m amazed that we’re still arguing about this.

    Salty Current, #107: “I did not offer that as evidence. I offered a quotation …”

    … where Rosenau pointed out the past behavior that got Smith censured when he posted as YNH and noted that Hammill, suspected of being Smith, was not engaging in similar behavior. Now that contrast is made even clearer in a later comment of his that you didn’t quote, but you can see at least some of that line of thinking even in what you quoted.

  109. #110 SC (Salty Current)
    June 16, 2011

    Salty Current, #103: “I WAS talking specifically about Rosenau!”

    Salty Current, #107: “Even ‘targeted to’ specific people as they were, that in no way necessarily implies that they referred exclusively to those people.”

    I think you need to look up what “specifically” means.

    No, you do. To refer to Rosenau there specifically does not mean that I was necessarily excluding anyone else. And indeed I was not, as Mooney did promote and he and many of his commenters did defend this person for several months. (Had you honestly been unclear, you could simply have asked.) I could have included the example of accommodationists obsessively posting negative remarks about gnus and annoying them on blogs (where the obsessives haven’t yet been ejected), and have been referring specifically to you, but that would also describe McC*rthy, Kw*k, and several others whose names don’t immediately spring to mind.

    And really, I’m amazed that we’re still arguing about this.

    We’re not. I’m trying to explain something very obvious to you and you’re being an idiot, intentionally or by default.

    … where Rosenau pointed out the past behavior that got Smith censured when he posted as YNH

    This has nothing to do with the Hammill era. This is what I quoted from him, about Smith/TJ/YNH/etc.:

    My beef here is that what YNH did wrong that merited a period of exile was not that he/she followed Jerry and Ophelia between blogs, it was not that he/she disagreed with them, and was not that he/she was a concern troll. What he/she did wrong was sockpuppetry. There is no evidence of sockpuppetry here, so the whole thing seems like a vendetta at best, and an attempt to silence a critic at worst.

    It does not need to be explained again – and shouldn’t have had to even a single time – why this constitutes an uncritical defense of the obsessive serial lying. He minimizes the harassment. He doesn’t apologize for his own participation. He ignores the misogyny and all of the lies, including the most vicious and harmful, and reduces the offense to sockpuppetry, which he also minimizes. And he ignores in the Hammill discussion the fact that Smith had promised mere months prior to stop posting about these people and so surreptitiously doing it again under the guise of Hammill is dishonest.

  110. #111 J. J. Ramsey
    June 16, 2011

    SC (Salty Current):

    To refer to Rosenau there specifically does not mean that I was necessarily excluding anyone else. And indeed I was not, as Mooney did promote and he and many of his commenters did defend this person for several months.

    Yet in post #96, you complained about me quoting from Mooney and said, “I was saying that Rosenau was defending him [emphasis original].” Now you’re saying that it’s both Mooney and Rosenau, but that would make your objection in post #96 nonsense.

    SC (Salty Current):

    This has nothing to do with the Hammill era.

    That’s B.S. You not only quoted something from the “Hammill era,” as you put it, but you even quoted Rosenau contrasting the behavior of Smith acting under the names YNH or TJ with the behavior of Smith acting under the name Hammill (presuming Smith and Hammill are the same). Hammill has everything to do with this. Indeed, the whole point that Rosenau was making was that Hammill was not doing the things that got YNH/TJ into trouble, whether it be sockpuppetry, libel, or whatnot. That’s especially clear when looking at the post to which I linked in post #109.

    You are basically trying to insinuate that Rosenau is defending serial lying, when he has clearly done no such thing. This is where your hatred of accommodationists has taken you.

  111. #112 SC (Salty Current)
    June 16, 2011

    Yet in post #96, you complained about me quoting from Mooney and said, “I was saying that Rosenau was defending him [emphasis original].” Now you’re saying that it’s both Mooney and Rosenau, but that would make your objection in post #96 nonsense.

    AAAAAAAAAAAAARGH! I was responding to your conflating of two of my posts. When I was talking about Mooney, I quoted the specific posts I was responding to. At the point you quoted, I was referring to Rosenau’s having uncritically defended him even after everything had been exposed, not to Mooney’s having defended him before he was exposed (both promoted him before he was exposed). Separately, I was saying that Dan L. correctly characterized what Mooney was doing. Knock off the stupid attempts to deflect. People can read the thread.

    That’s B.S. You not only quoted something from the “Hammill era,” as you put it, but you even quoted Rosenau contrasting the behavior of Smith acting under the names YNH or TJ with the behavior of Smith acting under the name Hammill

    So? The quotation was about Smith’s behavior. And as I’ve said, the “contrast” was entirely problematic if these were the same person, as it turns out they were.

    (presuming Smith and Hammill are the same).

    ?

    Hammill has everything to do with this.

    No. This is about Rosenau’s defensive appraisal of what Smith did wrong as YNH/TJ/various socks.

    Indeed, the whole point that Rosenau was making was that Hammill was not doing the things that got YNH/TJ into trouble, whether it be sockpuppetry, libel, or whatnot.

    He claimed that what (all) Smith did wrong was sockpuppetry. Do you agree with his assessment? Where did he actually grant – not “arguendo” but in reality – that Smith had done anything wrong other than sockpuppeting, or that he had played a role? Do you think Smith’s other behaviors were accurately characterized by Rosenau, and that the lies were so trivial that his ignoring them was justified? Do you think it was moral and right for Rosenau to ignore Smith’s lies and other bad acts even after they were called again to his attention?

    That’s especially clear when looking at the post to which I linked in post #109.

    You are basically trying to insinuate that Rosenau is defending serial lying, when he has clearly done no such thing.

    I showed and explained exactly how he was doing this. More than once.

  112. #113 SC (Salty Current)
    June 16, 2011

    My point:

    In the past year, you’ve placed yourselves on the side of:

    1) an obsessive who turned out to be a nasty serial liar

    2) a foundation that funds obscurantism, corporate dominance (and associated environmental destruction), and climate denial

    3) an organization caving to anti-gay bigotry, against its critics

  113. #114 SC (Salty Current)
    June 16, 2011

    For anyone who hasn’t seen it – a 2009 Templeton Freedom Award winner:

  114. #115 J. J. Ramsey
    June 16, 2011

    SC (Salty Current):

    He claimed that what (all) Smith did wrong was sockpuppetry.

    Actually, that’s not quite true. What he said was that the behavior of Smith that had “merited exile” was not concern trolling or following Coyne and Benson’s blogs and disagreeing with them, but rather sockpuppetry–and that Smith wasn’t doing it now. There’s no statement that it was only sockpuppetry that got him exiled, though given that he said that “he never got into the Tom Johnson affair itself,” he probably didn’t remember much besides the sockpuppetry. In any case, Rosenau’s point was not to detail the wrongs that Smith had done, but rather to point out that as Hammill, he hadn’t done whatever wrongs that got him “exiled” in the first place.

    I’ll give you credit for admitting that you were trying to say that Rosenau defended serial lying, rather than trying to pretend that you weren’t.

  115. #116 SC (Salty Current)
    June 16, 2011

    Actually, that’s not quite true. What he said was that the behavior of Smith that had “merited exile”

    In his view – because he was ignoring and dismissing the rest of it! My point.

    was not concern trolling or following Coyne and Benson’s blogs and disagreeing with them,

    Which was a strawman – another part of my point. We weren’t saying his bad behavior was concern trolling, following their blogs (note the difference from what he said), or disagreement. We were saying it was – in addition to the sockpuppeting – the nasty, harassing, obsessive LYING for which he used the sockpuppets.

    but rather sockpuppetry–

    And I repeat my questions.

    and that Smith wasn’t doing it now.

    !

    There’s no statement that it was only sockpuppetry that got him exiled,

    You are remarkably dishonest. There’s the clear suggestion that sockpuppetry was all he did wrong. Do you dispute this?

    though given that he said that “he never got into the Tom Johnson affair itself,” he probably didn’t remember much besides the sockpuppetry.

    Is this a joke?

    In any case, Rosenau’s point was not to detail the wrongs that Smith had done,

    It was precisely that in the passage I quoted. And the sole wrong, according to him, was sockpuppetry. We’ve detailed the other wrongs, including some on that thread. Where does he acknowledge them?

    but rather to point out that as Hammill, he hadn’t done whatever wrongs that got him “exiled” in the first place.

    Of course he had, as Hammill, given that he had promised to stop. But that wasn’t my central point, which was all of the other bad acts Rosenau willfully ignored, minimized, or dismissed in his defense. I repeat my questions.

    I’ll give you credit for admitting that you were trying to say that Rosenau defended serial lying, rather than trying to pretend that you weren’t.

    “Admitting”? He was obviously defending it, and your attempted defense of him – in which you acknowledge (oops!) that he likely knew Hammill to be Smith (“and that Smith wasn’t doing it now,” “but rather to point out that as Hammill, he hadn’t done…” – ha!) – makes this even more clear. Thanks for helping my case!

    I repeat my questions. I will not respond to you further until you answer them. Fully.

  116. #117 Deepak Shetty
    June 16, 2011

    What metric, exactly, did you use to determine that? Trust me, when I decide to go ‘all guns blazing’, it doesn’t sound anything like that.
    It’s a figure of speech. In any case I apologize for underestimating your ability to misrepresent views.


    - I used ‘most commonly’ to mean ‘most of the time’.

    So in your world ‘most of the time’ has a different meaning from ‘nearly always’ or ‘overwhelming majority’ ?

    Also, in the society where I live it’s a common response
    I didn’t respond to this because I treat it at the same level as “But I know nice religious people’

    And I can respond in the society I live in either people dont care a damn OR they care whether you a believer or not – Agnostic/Atheist/Non Religious are all discriminated the same. Is that an effective argument for you?

    If you want to make statements of the form “Agnosticism – when used without also specifying an associated belief or non-belief – seems most commonly used by those without the courage and/or integrity to pick a side.”
    Then you are going to have to do better than 2 examples + random unattributed commenters on pharyngula plus the “society” you live in.

    If the people you know who demand to be called agnostic instead of atheist for reasons other than that, fine.
    No it isn’t fine. Stop making your stupid exaggerated statements then it would be fine.

  117. #118 SC (Salty Current)
    June 16, 2011

    My beef here is that what YNH did wrong that merited a period of exile…was not…was…

    How dishonest do you have to be to suggest that this is saying something other than “what YNH did wrong,” as though “that merited a period of exile” canceled that out? How dishonest? Seriously.

  118. #119 SC (Salty Current)
    June 16, 2011

    And once again: He works at the NCSE. He could be blogging about the extensive religious interference with science and science education, but instead he’s devoting a good deal of his time to standing up for Smith and Templeton and criticizing atheists. And here you are. Why, for the love of reason? Why would you spend your time doing this?

  119. #120 Wowbagger
    June 17, 2011

    Deepak Shetty wrote:

    It’s a figure of speech.

    So, you’re allowed to use figures of speech but I’m not?

    And I can respond in the society I live in either people dont care a damn OR they care whether you a believer or not – Agnostic/Atheist/Non Religious are all discriminated the same. Is that an effective argument for you?

    It’s not even a coherent sentence.

    Then you are going to have to do better than 2 examples + random unattributed commenters on pharyngula plus the “society” you live in.

    and

    No it isn’t fine. Stop making your stupid exaggerated statements then it would be fine.

    You overestimate the extent to which I care about the opinion of one loon on a blog.

  120. #121 J. J. Ramsey
    June 17, 2011

    Salty Current: “I repeat my questions. I will not respond to you further until you answer them. Fully.”

    Well, considering that at least one of your questions is of the “Have you stopped beating your wife” type, I see no point in answering them, especially if not answering them means you’ll shut up and stop your specious sliming.

    So there.

    Seriously, your accusations of dishonesty depend on reading a particular quotation of Rosenau’s in such a fashion that you ignore his obvious thrust–the contrast between Smith’s earlier and later behavior–and try to argue from the fact that his failure to mention certain sins of Smith means that he supports them or is willfully ignoring them. In short, your arguments of dishonesty are themselves dishonest. You’re a self-righteous hypocrite who can’t seem to see the glass house in which you live because of a giant log stuck in your eye. (How’s that for mixing metaphors?)

    At this point, we’re so far off the original topic that it’s ridiculous. If you want to go all Glenn Beck and slander Rosenau, do it on your own blog.

  121. #122 Deepak Shetty
    June 17, 2011

    @wowbagger
    So, you’re allowed to use figures of speech but I’m not?
    Huh? lack of courage and integrity is a figure of speech?

    It’s not even a coherent sentence.
    A lot of religious people dont care whether you are a flavor of agnostic or atheists, soft or hard or whatever other clarification you make. Therefore stating that an agnostic says he is an agnostic to avoid the negative attributes associated to atheists is bunk. if the agnostic had to lie he might as well say he is some liberal religious believer.

    You overestimate the extent to which I care about the opinion of one loon on a blog.
    Suit yourself.

  122. #123 SC (Salty Current)
    June 17, 2011

    Well, considering that at least one of your questions is of the “Have you stopped beating your wife” type,

    Oh, sure.

    I see no point in answering them, especially if not answering them means you’ll shut up and stop your specious sliming.

    I said I would no longer respond to you. My arguments have been well made here, but I will continue to make whatever points I want.

    Seriously, your accusations of dishonesty depend on reading a particular quotation of Rosenau’s in such a fashion that you ignore his obvious thrust–the contrast between Smith’s earlier and later behavior–

    First, the point of the quotation is a characterization of Smith’s behavior and what Rosenau did and did not find wrong with it. That characterization was what was at issue.

    Second, you’re actually stupid enough to think that a “contrast” that acknowledges that Hammill was Smith is not totally contrary to your argument, and that you’re actually helping Rosenau by bringing it up. It doesn’t matter that the Hammill persona was not ranting misogynistically; neither was TJ. Smith was commenting under yet another identity about the same people while misrepresenting himself as a disinterested party with little or no prior knowledge of the issues, after he had promised to stop. It was a continuation of exactly the same obsessive, dishonest, morphing behavior that was the problem in the past, of which the sockpuppeting at YNH and on single threads elsewhere was but one aspect/means.

    The only relevance there of Hammill’s more polite demeanor and posting only under a single nym on Rosenau’s blog was to the basis for thinking Hammill might be Smith (and it was not evidence against this supposition, as others pointed out to Rosenau: TJ was polite, and Smith had simply learned from how he’d been caught out before). Once you acknowledge that Hammill could be Smith, there’s no contrast – Smith was sockpuppeting at TFK because, like TJ, Hammill was another sock. This is blindingly obvious. I hope Rosenau appreciates your support: you make him look worse (and accommodationists more dishonest) with every “defense.”

    and try to argue from the fact that his failure to mention certain sins of Smith means that he supports them or is willfully ignoring them.

    You seem to be unaware that people can read what I quoted here and go to the B&W thread and read his apologetics even after all of this behavior had been pointed out to him yet again.

    Since you’re too cowardly to answer my questions and have been dishonest in your responses to me on this thread, I am through attempting to reason with you. You really should get some help.

  123. #124 J. J. Ramsey
    June 17, 2011

    SC (Salty Current):

    the point of the quotation is a characterization of Smith’s behavior and what Rosenau did and did not find wrong with it.

    You keep handwaving around the point, which is that your quotation (or the thread from which the quotation comes) doesn’t prove what you want it to prove. You were trying to prove (see #112) that Rosenau was defending serial lying. Period.

    You failed.

  124. #125 SC (Salty Current)
    June 17, 2011

    Ramsey’s such an idiot that he can’t see that not only did I succeed, but he’s helped! Rosenau’s defending Smith posting as Hammill, which Ramsey’s repeatedly pointed to, is a plain defense not just of a serial liar but of serial lying.

    If Ramsey weren’t so irritating he’d be very amusing.

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