The Intersection

Expelled For Suppression?

i-0c2132cab58a6eb7fd0aa91c3faec4d5-timeCoverLarge.jpgChris and Matt have already explained at length the danger in PZ’s unintentional promotion of Ben Stein’s Expelled. What’s also interesting to consider is the strategy employed in the ‘super trailer’, which utilizes many subtle techniques that have proven successful in the social marketing of ideas to large audiences over time. They include a call to question authority, hints of a ‘big science conspiracy‘, unspoken references to abortion through imagery, inadequate interpretation of Darwin’s evolution, spooky music, and a seemingly reputable purveyor in Stein. I still don’t understand the photo of Auschwitz, but maybe you need to see the full length feature to get the Darwin-Nazi connection.

Sure, it’s easy to dismiss as tomfoolery here on Science Blogs hoping Expelled fades into oblivion, but look closer and it’s evident the producers employed elements that suggest it may be alarmingly successful–leading up to a full-blown NYTimes controversy upon release. So what’s Ben Stein’s message? Without having seen the film, it seems to be that ‘Big science suppresses free speech‘! Is that irony or what? He’s turned the tables on us and we’re taking the bait. Myers is encouraging a boycott protest of the film which seems to me exactly what the producers of Expelled want to further make their case.

Stein’s entitled to make his film (though should be honest about his interview procedure). We’re entitled to disagree. So it goes.

We already know science has a huge PR problem. As much as I respect the work of Myers and Dawkins, they are not representative of our field as portrayed in the film. Expelled goes so far to name Dawkins the ‘Class President of Big Science‘ and while yes, he is vocal and well-published, by no means does he speak for all of us.

Science and religion are not mutually exclusive. Many of Protestant, Jewish, Evangelical, and other faiths are engaged in science and this film along with all the hullabaloo surrounding its release should send a powerful message to scientists everywhere that it’s time for a new voice to emerge reflecting our diversity, tolerance, the encouragement of ideas, and ultimately, in fact promote a similar message to that of Expelled… that we must question what we’re told–in religion, in science, in life.

Because if the general public thinks all we’ve got to say is ‘shut up‘, we lose.

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Real science is vastly different from Stein’s portrayal. Pictured are some of my role models… Individuals who dared to think about the world in novel ways, inspired generations of young people to follow their dreams, took risks, and communicated with patience and grace. I am proud and humbled to share the sciences with these champions of our field.

Comments

  1. #1 Sam C
    March 24, 2008

    Amid this burbling babble, what are you trying to say? Chris and Matt are wrong and it sounds like you’re following in their footsteps.

    You three have dimly, but apparently only dimly, understood that the creationism is not about simple arguments about the facts of how life came to be as it is. Creationism is a religio-political movement, and its appeal to the heart, not the head.

    And the creationists play a good game on an empty hand because they have no respect for or fear of the truth. They are prepared to lie, deceive and steal for their cause. And they do so incessantly and unapologetically. On the other hand, the science side tends to a more honest approach.

    And part of that honesty means getting across the message “the creationists are liars”.

    Your pathetic approach is pretty much a “teach the controversy” argument. That won’t work. The message that creationists lie is a key one in getting people to actually start listening instead of just deciding which voices they prefer.

    I suspect you, Chris and Matt are fans of ID… are you?

  2. #2 writerdd
    March 24, 2008

    How does Stien being a liar become the fault of PZ and Dawkins? I just don’t get it.

  3. #3 PZ Myers
    March 24, 2008

    Wait…I’m proposing a boycott of the movie? Where do you get that? Nothing is further from the truth. You cite a facebook group (of which I’ve been made an officer, but it is not of my construction) that says:

    Oppose Ben Stein’s schlockumentary, however you choose: correct friends & family who start to fall into the ID trap, write editorials, write or contribute to blogs, hand out fliers, contact movie critics & educate them, or lead debates on campus.

    The word “boycott” isn’t in there. Quite the contrary of Stein’s thesis, we don’t work to silence the opposition, we favor argument and discussion. We leave the calls to “shut up” to the creationists and framers.

  4. #4 Scott Hatfield, OM
    March 24, 2008

    I’m sorry, guys, but this isn’t even a science issue. It’s about who’s lying and who isn’t. They lied, and then in their haste to try to conceal that fact, they committed a PR blunder. Obviously.

    If PZ and Company are not the right people to bring that message (they are the ones who were lied to, and lied about), then who is? Are you, or Chris, or Matt going to confront them on their mendacity?

    Even more puzzling, now you guys are making a bogus criticism: PZ and his acolytes want to boycott the film, which can be ‘framed’ against science educators? As PZ has just pointed out, he never urged anyone to boycott it. But suppose we just, all of us, see it en masse. Well, then they’ll spin it that the ‘purveyors of Big Science’ are so threatened (ha) by ‘Expelled’ that they are attempting to disrupt its presentation.

    See what I mean? They’re going to have their ‘spin’ no matter what. You communication people can’t stop them from spinning. Your recommendations, whether to see or not see the film, to publicly criticize or ignore, etc. are not really going to stop them from doing their thing. So, since that’s the case, we should be doing our thing: talking about real science, exposing bad arguments and calling the liars on the lies they tell.

    If you aren’t willing to communicate that, it you’d rather spend your energies criticizing individual scientists for their lack of placid homogeneity, then you and Matt and Chris are just food for their spin. Here, for example, is a well-known creationist who is using your critique as grist for their mill. Read it and understand: spin happens, and worrying overmuch about how the creationists will spin our responses is less important than making sure that we confront their dishonesty.

  5. #5 Lee Harrison
    March 24, 2008

    Okay…
    Of your science heroes, Carl Sagan was never reticent in speaking out against faith (you might want to re-read ‘Daemon Haunted World’), and Neal Tyson:

    “If you’re going to tell me that Noah had dinosaurs on his ark, I am sorry, you are ignorant and scientifically illiterate. And you don’t belong in the science classroom…. You want to teach that in Bible school, I’m not going to go knocking on your door to stop you. By the way, there is no tradition of scientists beating down the door of Sunday school, saying, ‘That might not necessarily be right.’ Yet, you have fundamentalist religious communities trying to knock down the door of the science classroom. And that asymmetry there bothers me…. [T]he moment you take your religion and put it into the science classroom and claim something that is demonstrably false, I’m going to be up in your face, telling you, “Go learn about how the universe works.”

    If these guys are your science heroes, try learning from them.

    Yes, real science is vastly different from Stein’s portrayal – so why do you, Mooney and Nisbet not have the visceral fortitude to get up in people’s face and say so? You may have noticed that the whole Expelled bunch aren’t playing fair. They aren’t listening to informed opinion, they certainly aren’t interested in your ‘frames’. They’ve got their own, and with it they are going for the throat.

    And you’re so worried about giving them a little more publicity that you’re willing to sit back and let them steal a home run…

    Martin Luther King:

    “I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who
    constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people
    of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

    I’m guessing yourself, Nisbet and Mooney would be wishing he’d shut up, right?

  6. #6 Bee
    March 24, 2008

    You really should get out – of your own country – more. The view from anywhere else in the ‘free world’ is very different. We all have varying numbers of creationists, but they have never been associated with either the political system or the educational system in the manner in which they are in the US. Science doesn’t have a PR problem: the US has a political problem, and you ignore it at your peril.

    Taking the approach of avoiding vigorous spoken and written opposition would be entirely foolish, IMO. The very best thing to do is to speak truth and expose chicanery and outright falsehoods, even at the risk of being seen as abrasive. Pretending that there are not self-serving carpetbaggers (like Stein, like Ken Ham) living off the gullibility and somewhat misanthropic piety of some large religious organizations in the US does no one any good.

    PZed and Dawkins are right, and it is made more obvious that they are right when they reveal themselves to be honest men who mean exactly what they say and have the evidence to back it up.

  7. #7 Linda
    March 24, 2008

    I was unaware of all this ‘new’ controversy until now. People certainly do like to argue.
    After reading a bit, what you wrote is well said, easier to understand, and makes sense to me.

  8. #8 sasha
    March 24, 2008

    I appreciate what you’re saying but I strongly disagree. This is not about PR. This is about outrage. Dawkins and Myers are being unfairly scapegoated for attempting to hush up Ben Stein and the filmmakers’ free speech – and it’s disappointing to see anyone in the science community agreeing with them. I mean, please. As if.

  9. #9 MH
    March 24, 2008

    Sheril, the fact that you didn’t apologise to PZ for accusing him (wrongly, as he has just pointed out) of “encouraging a boycott of the film” speaks volumes.

  10. #10 J. J. Ramsey
    March 24, 2008

    Lee Harrison: “Of your science heroes, Carl Sagan was never reticent in speaking out against faith (you might want to re-read ‘Daemon Haunted World’), and Neal Tyson”

    IIRC, neither Sagan or Tyson were that big on implying that the religious were morons on account of being religious, and he has certainly disagreed with Dawkins on tone.

    Lee Harrison: “I’m guessing yourself, Nisbet and Mooney would be wishing [MLK would] shut up, right?”

    Actually, if they were consistent with their framing, they’d probably praise this re-framing of extremism:

    You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

    I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do-nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.

  11. #11 Inoculated Mind
    March 24, 2008

    I agree with the comments about the film’s potential impact, and how important it may be to respond effectively to it. We’ve seen this coming for a long time, but thankfully, apart from their cinematic techniques, the filmmakers are pretty amateurish and easily fall into traps. Namely, expelling PZ, registering the domain name before the interviews, admitting intelligent design is a religious proposition, etc. We shouldn’t assume that it will be easy to counter this movie, but it’s no Super Size Me or Bowling for Columbine.

    PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins have to respond to the film themselves. If they don’t, you know that the ID crowd will crow that they’re afraid to address them.

    But there’s no physical protest planned, no boycott, nothing of that nature. No one is suggesting that they “shut up.” Yet, Matt Nisbet has suggested that Myers and Dawkins themselves should keep from talking.

    I’m not saying that they (or you) or Myers and Dawkins are playing into the IDists’ hands, which we can all waste time discussing. All I can say is they’re really loving quoting Chris Mooney and Matt Nisbet right now, which is unfortunate. I think that we need to have scientists speak out in all walks of life. Excluding a couple voices, who are pivotally involved in the film, seems to me to be the same kind of error as having only them speak for science.

    Science is a collective enterprise, let’s organize the response together. And perhaps criticizing in private, and apologizing in public might be a good way to keep from airing our dirty laundry on the internet and having to retract mis-statements.

  12. #12 Phil Plait
    March 24, 2008

    Sheril, you wrote:

    “Because if the general public thinks all we’ve got to say is ‘shut up’, we lose.”

    Isn’t that *precisely* what Matt Nesbit is saying to PZ and Dawkins?

  13. #13 Norman Doering
    March 24, 2008

    Sam C asked:

    Amid this burbling babble, what are you trying to say?

    She’s saying that she thinks the Expelled movie is cleverly framed and might be more convincing to audiences than we anticipate. Maybe even “alarmingly successful.”

    She notes that its techniques have been successful in marketing ideas already:
    1) Question authority
    2) Conspiracy
    3) Unspoken references to abortion through imagery
    4) Lying about Darwin’s theory
    5) Darwin-Nazi connection
    6) Use of scientists not representative of the field

    That’s a useful list of ideas we have to counter.

    Then she takes, what I consider, a wrong turn in her own framing saying: “Science and religion are not mutually exclusive.” It’s true depending on what you mean by “religion.” You can bet that the Expelled people will interpret religion as their own Biblical literalism.

    PZ isn’t the only one who needs to be careful.

  14. #14 Norman Doering
    March 24, 2008

    Sheril,

    The screenwriter for Expelled really likes your post:
    http://kevinwrites.typepad.com/otherwise_known_as_kevin_/2008/03/more-words-of-w.html

    Does that worry you?

    Maybe you should engage him in a dialog.

  15. #15 Lewis
    March 24, 2008

    It does not appear to me that Nisbet and Mooney are asking that PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins refrain from speaking or writing about the Expelled fiasco. Myers and Dawkins do have a right, maybe even a duty as scientists to explain what actually happened.

    Nonetheless, I applaud the current efforts by several scientific organizations, which actually do represent large sections of the scientific community, that are making a concerted attempt to respectfully reach out to the religious community regarding evolution and other areas of scientific inquiry. What Nisbet and Mooney appear to be addressing is the real damage done to these efforts by the long-term and ongoing vitriolic attacks on religion that PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins continue to present. I can find no fault in asking that the dialog between religion and science be conducted in respectful manner.

  16. #16 Norman Doering
    March 24, 2008

    Lewis wrote:

    …the real damage done to these efforts by the long-term and ongoing vitriolic attacks on religion…

    Religion, in the singular, like there’s only one?

  17. #17 David Marjanović
    March 24, 2008

    Somewhere around the photos you changed the topic and don’t seem to have even noticed. That’s where the “burbling babble” accusation comes from, I suppose.

    Science doesn’t have a PR problem: the US has a political problem, and you ignore it at your peril.

    Bingo.

  18. #18 Dan S.
    March 24, 2008

    I suspect you, Chris and Matt are fans of ID… are you?

    Hey, now – does anyone actually think this is the case? I know tempers are running a bit high, but we all agree on the science here – it’s just message and method that are being disputed.

  19. #19 Coin
    March 24, 2008

    What Nisbet and Mooney appear to be addressing is the real damage done to these efforts by the long-term and ongoing vitriolic attacks on religion that PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins continue to present.

    If so, then why try to link this to the event where Myers attempted to attend, then attack, the Expelled movie– an event which is completely irrelevant to whatever harm Myers/Dawkins may be doing to public perceptions of science elsewhere?

    It seems pretty difficult to figure out where this particular flamewar started (I just see a bunch of blog posts responding to blog posts responding to other blog posts) but it seems quite clear the complaints against anything PZ has done here from the Nisbet camp are not because what PZ did was actually wrong, the complaints are just because PZ Myers is doing it and that gets a knee-jerk reaction…

  20. #20 Norman Doering
    March 24, 2008

    Coin wrote:

    (I just see a bunch of blog posts responding to blog posts responding to other blog posts) …

    Yep, no one seems interested in really looking at what each side has really contributed, and we’re all supposed to be on the pro-science side.

    Still, I might be inclined to think the Kirshenbaum, Mooney and Nisbet had a workable new strategy if they would go over to Kevin Miller (XI)’s blog and engage him in a dialog that gets farther than what those of us already there have accomplished. Kevin Miller (XI) seems to think he is pro-science too. Of course he also seems to be as thick as a brick and he dodges and lies and doesn’t answer our questions.

    Yet Miller links to Kirshenbaum, Mooney and Nisbet and praises them. I think they should go over there and demonstrate that they do not at all endorse what Miller has written for Expelled. It would be very powerful for Kirshenbaum, Mooney and Nisbet to just go over there and ask him questions about the Nazi/Darwin link, the fact that he never used any scientists that were Christian and evolutionists in the interviews, why Intelligent Design was never defined… etc. after Miller has praised each of them.

    Miller doesn’t seem to think they disagree with him.

  21. #21 Kevin Miller
    March 24, 2008

    Norman: I realize that Chris, Matthew, and Sheri likely disagree with me on many points. But we all agree that science is in trouble when people like PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins are some of its most prominent spokespeople.

  22. #22 Norman Doering
    March 24, 2008

    Kevin Miller wrote:

    Norman: I realize that Chris, Matthew, and Sheri likely disagree with me on many points. But we all agree that science is in trouble when people like PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins are some of its most prominent spokespeople.

    Who made them science’s most prominent spokespeople? You did. You chose them for your film rather than say, Francis Collins, physical chemist, medical geneticist and head of the Human Genome Project — and that’s a lot more creds than either Dawkins or PZ have. Or how about Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University. How come they’re not in your film.

    People like you made Dawkins and PZ prominent spokespeople by choosing to attack them and their beliefs.

  23. #23 J. J. Ramsey
    March 24, 2008

    Kevin Miller: “But we all agree that science is in trouble when people like PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins are some of its most prominent spokespeople.”

    It’s not science that is in trouble, except in the sense that people like you threaten to corrupt the education of future scientists.

  24. #24 Russell Blackford
    March 24, 2008

    I agree with this much: we should oppose the film’s message (those of us who disagree with it), even protest some of the tactics that were used, but not actually protest its making. The people associated with Expelled had every right to make the film and convey their message to the public, and the word “protest” always sounds to me as if you’re actually trying to get something stopped. That’s not my wish at all.

    I.e., I think that the word “protest” and its cognates are the wrong terminology.

    I don’t agree with much else in the post.

  25. #25 Melusine
    March 24, 2008

    Kevin Miller said:

    But we all agree that science is in trouble when people like PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins are some of its most prominent spokespeople.

    Wow, some of you are so out of touch with the public and the big picture of these issues it’s troublesome.

    Teachers have been teaching evolution for decades in a nice manner and still the majority of the US populace doesn’t understand evolution, is not interested in science, has not retained what they learned about science or history – even the basics. Science and History are facing the same problems with religious demagogues distorting truths and outright lying for their purposes. It is not in their interest to have a smart populace, for then it would be less pliable and resistant to propaganda and control. Nothing new here, it’s been going on for centuries.

    Science knowledge has been a systemic problem for decades, well, actually over 100 years. Those who understand and embrace science are not dissuaded by a bunch of “strident” atheists any more than religious folk are dissuaded from religion because their preachers end up in jail or are caught in homosexual acts.

    Another problem is your thinking Scienceblogs is more important than it really is. The majority of the public are not reading these sites, or the NY Times, or Salon or Daily KOS, etc. If you’re afraid of Discovery Institute people quote mining and saying, “Look, see those rude atheists calling you demented fuckwits,”…well, they’ve been saying worse about atheists for decades. They wonder why atheists get angry and it’s because we’re sick of their lying crap. Being nice hasn’t achieved much. Again, the majority of the public does not understand or accept the theory of evolution.

    Atheists who cringe at PZ’s or Dawkins’ tone say, “We’re not all like that!” When Ken Ham tells very young children not to trust scientists about dinosaurs since they weren’t there,” then Ken Ham deserves to be called a demented fuckwit. Religious pro-science people think he’s demented too and say, “We’re not all like that!”

    PZ and Dawkins have done their gruntwork for science and communicating to the public or students. If they want to make arguments about religion and science, that’s their choice. They aren’t hurting science when it’s been a problem long before they got popular in this regard. Those who complain about their “stridency” are mostly religionists and ideological demagogues. They can’t argue about the science – they don’t know what they’re talking about. If they were polite it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

    ID adherents think ID = God. They have displayed this over and over despite the IDers trying to say it’s not. Those people think Talk Origins is a lefty site. They show up with oranges to board meetings regardless of nice scientists – they aren’t interested in science and you’ll be hard-pressed to change their minds. Again, going on for decades.

    When Dick Cheney said, “Go fuck yourself” to a fellow Congress member and Bush called a reporter a “major league asshole,” right-wingers thought it funny. And you worry about PZ? There are bigger fish to fry in this battle…swearing is just a distraction from a bigger problem.

    Phil Plait does not allow coarse language on his blog because his site is linked and recommended on children’s and students’ sites; some of his polite commenters also go on PZ’s blog and call people demented fuckwits. I guess there’s a need to call a spade a spade and get out some pent-up anger and sarcasm. So what? At least their not hiding it and not afraid.

    Neil de Grasse Tyson is a great communicator, but he hasn’t chosen to argue about religion. He has his niche and PZ and Dawkins have theirs. The Ken Millers have their niche. But to say that PZ and Dawkins are hurting the cause is folly. They have more people listening to them then you could hope for, and like Orac, et al., and their astute commenters, they are helping to formulate arguments, which then scientists and non-scientists spread to people on the street or to their representatives. How many people have you inspired lately?

    There’s way too much self-importance going on here and little appreciation of the big picture (not by the Greg Ladens, et al.) I have lurked over this framing issue for months and it’s proven to be pretty useless. Just do it! You are not demonstrating that you know how to frame things to the public. The majority of the public doesn’t read your book (or even two books a year). Look to the people and politicians who do know how to frame science to the public. It’s weird that you keep going on about it.

    You’ve devoted several posts to squawking about PZ and have done little more than whine. The commenters are doing all your work for you. I’d like to think you’re playing good cop/bad cop, but since this has been going on for months, I don’t think so.

    So, stop whining and start communicating. You have made no convincing arguments here. PZ and Dawkins are not hurting the cause of science. You simply disagree with their approaches. Too bad. Get over it. The most recent post by Sheril is embarrassing. Why are you going on about this? It’s silly and you’re losing respect from former admirers.

    Chuck your egos and start writing in-depth posts with good arguments. Then maybe you’ll get the over 100 comments as Phil Plait and PZ got on this subject.

  26. #26 Jim Lippard
    March 24, 2008

    “Because if the general public thinks all we’ve got to say is ‘shut up’, we lose.”

    Yet, ironically, that is the frame that Mooney and Nisbet have caught themselves in. Again.

    This now really has become a giant firestorm of absurdity that the intelligent design advocates no doubt really are taking pleasure from, yet it was created by the alleged experts on framing and public communication, who seem to find themselves unable to reach out for compromise and accomodation to their own fellow Science Bloggers, even while they insist that this is what scientists must do with religious believers.

    Are you not experiencing even a teensy-weensy bit of cognitive dissonance?

  27. #27 Scote
    March 25, 2008

    Whether it is Myers and Dawkins or Sagan and Tyson, all the Creationists see are atheist enemies of creationism/God. You can’t reason with people who’s minds are made up and you shouldn’t try and appease them by endorsing the notion that Myers and Dawkins should be quiet.

  28. #28 Shirakawasuna
    March 25, 2008

    “Because if the general public thinks all we’ve got to say is ‘shut up’, we lose.”

    Sure, let’s take that for granted. Now which is better: Dawkins/PZ having a clear, honest message, which is anything but ‘shut up’, or nothing at all? The timing of this post obviously has to do with Matt Nisbet’s and Chris Mooney’s commentaries on the issue in which the solution was to tell PZ and Myers in much more clear language to essentially `shut up`. The best part? It seems to be based entirely on the notion that we don’t want Stein/the producers of the film making money. I would rather people get the message from scientists that this film is bunk *and* allow Stein/Mathis/Miller to profit than to simply pay a petty game of keeping as much money away from dishonest creationists as possible.

  29. #29 Sheril R. Kirshenbaum
    March 25, 2008

    you shouldn’t try and appease them by endorsing the notion that Myers and Dawkins should be quiet.

    On the contrary, Scote. No one should be silenced. Let Stein have his film. Let Dawkins have his book. So it goes. Move on.

  30. #30 Peter Morgan
    March 25, 2008

    I don’t much recognize atheists as scientists. I don’t see the experimental evidence for the atheist position. I don’t see that the technological successes and repetitive environmental failures of science justify either theism or atheism. The intellectual successes of science are followed night-after-day by intellectual failures, often with other people cleaning up after.
    Scientists should ask themselves why they do not firmly denounce and reject atheism. We are supposed to be agnostic about even the best of our scientific theories, to leave the door ajar for some smart graduate student to show us a better way. The scientific theory of atheism is pretty poor, amounting, as it seems, to no evidence so far and no proposed experimental protocol that might settle the question. Atheism is currently a metaphysics, unconfirmable and irrefutable.
    Agnosticism and theism, on the other hand, are not more tenable as places to live all the time.

  31. #31 Tulse
    March 25, 2008

    Peter Morgan:

    The scientific theory of atheism is pretty poor, amounting, as it seems, to no evidence so far and no proposed experimental protocol that might settle the question. Atheism is currently a metaphysics, unconfirmable and irrefutable.

    Are you “agnostic” about fairies, the Easter Bunny, and Thor?

    Sheril:

    No one should be silenced. Let Stein have his film. Let Dawkins have his book. So it goes. Move on.

    So you don’t agree with Matt Nisbet that “Dawkins and PZ need to lay low […] Let others play the role of communicator […] Lay low and let others do the talking [italics in original] […] let other people be the messengers for science”. I think that if you had clarified that you disagree with Nisbet on this point, a lot of confusion would have been avoided.

  32. #32 David Wilford
    March 25, 2008

    Norman: I realize that Chris, Matthew, and Sheri likely disagree with me on many points. But we all agree that science is in trouble when people like PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins are some of its most prominent spokespeople.

    What a silly claim. If you want something to be truly troubled over, the latest round of budget cuts at NASA are resulting in more and more downtime being forced on the Mars rovers being monitored by the Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena, with the resultant loss of data from the planet’s surface. It would actually be helpful for space science for more attention to be paid to such cuts, rather than the tired subject of Intelligent Design, which Judge Jones in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case clearly and forthrightly judged to be creationism.

  33. #33 decrepitoldfool
    March 26, 2008

    Peter Morgan: “I don’t see that the technological successes and repetitive environmental failures of science justify either theism or atheism.”

    You can pin those environmental failures on Capitalism, Peter. It is Capitalism that drives new technologies into the marketplace on an industrial scale with zero regard for the consequences. Capitalism loves technology but isn’t really all that fond of science; it’s the pointy-haired boss walking into the lab every day and asking; “What do you have for me?” And if they say; “We just found out that bisphenol-a may disrupt hormones” his eyes glaze over.

  34. #34 Shirakawasuna
    March 26, 2008

    Tulse:
    “So you don’t agree with Matt Nisbet that “Dawkins and PZ need to lay low […] Let others play the role of communicator […] Lay low and let others do the talking [italics in original] […] let other people be the messengers for science”. I think that if you had clarified that you disagree with Nisbet on this point, a lot of confusion would have been avoided.”

    — Nah, you’ve missed the strategy here. There are two things wrong with her point: 1) It contradicts quite literally what Chris Mooney and Nisbet claimed, which is that PZ Myers and Dawkins need to back off. 2) The language usage implies a message which is a straw man. The language of ‘being silenced’ would imply an outside censor coming in and coercing people like PZ Myers or Dawkins, which certainly is not the case or the implication from Myers reaction. In fact, the point has been about self-censorship and an idiotic ‘framing’ interpretation.

    The response to this criticism has been shallow and pitiful. Rather than address the arguments against this last attempt at the ‘framing’ thesis, *both* authors on this blog have ignored them and proceeded to post about the number of commenters, the lack of sophistication in the comments, chided PZ for humorously saying ‘fuck you’ to Nisbet, implied that the commenters don’t care as much about thousands of deaths as about the word ‘fuck’, and attempted to deflect the issue in other ways, going so far as to now have an inconsistent account.

    As always, there will be no substantive response. There have been 6 blog entries since Chris Mooney’s first in which he jumped on Nisbet’s bandwagon, none of which even touch on defending the ‘framing’ issue or engagin in a discussion with PZ.

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