Pharyngula

You can’t wish the conflict away

Uh-oh. Chris Mooney has roused the wrath of both Brian and ERV with his argument that people on the science side should avoid reacting to the anti-science ranters, because we’re just promoting their lies for them.

I sort of agree — it is true that we can’t criticize these loons without simultaneously bringing them to wider attention. But that’s the operational dynamic, and if Chris could come up with a strategy to educate and rebut that doesn’t actually involve mentioning the stupid things people say, I’d like to hear it. I don’t think it exists.

We do have a real problem. Science is providing a perspective that does not support tradition, that often reveals an uncomfortable reality like global warming or our familial relationship with worms, and it’s difficult — there are no simple, intuitive paths to understanding the details of our disciplines. Religion, creationism, climate skeptics, the whole spectrum of ideologies that deny reality are easy: they are selling comfortable lies, the lies your parents and grandparents and whole darn family hold, the lies that make promises that the whole universe likes you personally and will help you out, the lies that require no intellectual engagement to support. You don’t even need to be able to read a bible, as long as you can thump it.

And now we’re supposed to ignore those easy liars, and simply set up our own little science clubhouse, make it look all spiffy and beautiful and lively, and wait for the hoi polloi to rush to join our side. Get real. Reality and hard work vs. wishful thinking and pretty reassurances? Who do you think will win the membership drive?

We must counter the superficial advantages of the anti-science side by directly countering their claims. Look at it this way: if one side is promising a million dollars for free, and my side is promising an opportunity for hard work, I don’t win by announcing that I don’t have a million dollars, but I do have some tools. What I have to do is show that they don’t have a million dollars — I have to go straight for the dishonest advertising practices of my competition and expose them.

This is the flaw in Chris’s proposal. It allows falsehood and error to stand unquestioned. That won’t work. It’s how we got to the situation we’re in today — by allowing generations of people to dwell in their hothouses of dishonesty, never intruding, never confronting. We’re not going to succeed by continuing a policy of neglecting the fraudulent hucksters.

That was also a theme of Nisbet’s awful AAAS panel, an advocacy of cowardice, either avoiding all conflict or trying to coopt the grifter’s ways. That’s a disaster in the making. Those of us who are already on the side of science can see the beauty in the natural world and we can too easily delude ourselves into believing that everyone else will, too … but it’s not true. We are battling people who promise their adherents immortality in paradise, a world of perfect plenty that will never fail, and while there may be horrible diseases out there, they only strike immoral wicked sinners. If there were any truth to those promises, heck, I‘d be joining them.

The conflict is necessary, as is bringing the battle right to them and confronting them with their failures. You don’t persuade people to shun liars by letting the lies pass.

Comments

  1. #1 AllanW
    March 20, 2008

    “The conflict is necessary, as is bringing the battle right to them and confronting them with their failures. You don’t persuade people to shun liars by letting the lies pass.”

    Exactly; He’s not here, get over it.

    Nice post, PZ.

  2. #2 James F
    March 20, 2008

    What I have to do is show that they don’t have a million dollars — I have to go straight for the dishonest advertising practices of my competition and expose them.

    Exactly. Otherwise, you get people taking organizations like Answers in Genesis seriously, as in the first comment to a Ben Stein interview here.

  3. #3 unicow
    March 20, 2008

    Charles Peguy once said “He who does not bellow the truth when he knows the truth makes himself the accomplice of liars and forgers.” I’ve always liked that quote.

    While “truth” is a tricky concept, it doesn’t change the fact that you have to confront the falsehoods or you become complicit in their spread.

  4. #4 nlightnmnt
    March 20, 2008

    I agree, but even if the confrontational approach wasn’t the best strategy, I’d still rather go down fighting than ignore the problem and hope it would go away if we just promise to be nice and do what the forces of darkness say.

  5. #5 Primate
    March 20, 2008

    I think that there is a misconception among academics that provocative Christian posters only represent the fringe. That is not the case. That world view is embraced by the majority of Americans.

    As an example, here is a collection of quotes from some of the Christian forums.

    The hide-in-your-lab-til-the stupid-people-leave policy is not working well.

  6. #6 RoaldFalcon
    March 20, 2008

    I was stupid until I read the talk-origins archive. Now I’m not stupid anymore.

    I thank God that people are out there rebutting ignorance. OK, maybe not God exactly, but still…

  7. #7 Scott Belyea
    March 20, 2008

    I’m just a frustrated lay individual here, and one who is moreover not in the US. I’m frustrated because the “debate” about how to proceed is becoming about the biggest “excluded middle” fallacy I’ve seen in a long while, with quite a number of the smart science types either preaching to the choir or screeching at “the enemy” … and ignoring the effect on the large bunch of folks who they might actually be able to influence. And you’re often slagging the people as much (or more) than the ideas.

    I’ll just mention one aspect that’s annoying. Here’s a small sample of terminology used on various “science” blogs in the last week or two – fucktards … assholes … wankers … jerkoffs … pussies … shitheads … fuckwits … droolers. As a say, just a sample.

    How to win friends and influence people … right.

    Damn, you smart science types can be boneheaded sometimes.

  8. #8 PixelFish
    March 20, 2008

    By discussing, dissecting, and then discarding the crazy mixed-up pseudo sciences and crackpot theories, promotion is the last thing going on.

    If I’ve never heard of the theory before, then it is being presented in such a way that the logical fallacies are made obvious, or that I am given a starting point to question the validity.

    But if I have already discovered this idea, and supposing I didn’t know enough about the sciences that were supposedly involved, then such dissection would reframe the ideas.

    Real life example: When I was a wee hippie tyke, on the verge of leaving the Mormon church for good, I saw What the Bleep Do We Know? And for somebody raised in an environment that had encouraged a certain mystical mindset, Bleep looked downright intriguing. I totally thought the Ramtha person was full of shit, mind you, but the bits about the hormones and body chemicals effecting us looked interesting and given my limited knowledge (thanks, Mormon upbringing!) I found the movie to be pretty neat. So I googled it. And found that the whole thing had been paid for by the Ramtha cult. Found discussions of the shoddy science work. Found people explaining the motivations of the film makers. And as I read more and more critical reviews, I realised where I’d been duped and how. People exposed the crackpot ideas for what they were….just like PZed is doing for Expelled right now.

    So, sure, it does air the crackpot ideas, but in a way which reframes them and exposes their irrational underbellies.

  9. #9 Christophe Thill
    March 20, 2008

    Chris Mooney’s change of heart is painful to see. It’s hard not to interprete it as bitter and disillusioned. But I think the invitation to shut up (because we tried so hard, and all our efforts have turned against us, etc.) is not a good idea. First, because some people are fighters and just won’t give up. But also because the problem is not “to speak or not to speak” but rather what to say. That’s something I would expect the advocates of “framing”, such as Chris and his pal Matt Nisbet (who teaches communication), to express clearly. Perhaps a new way of speaking to people will have to be invented. But the war of words is definitely not lost, and while being on the side of truth doesn’t automatically give you victory, it is nevertheless a great strength.

  10. #10 Primate
    March 20, 2008

    Scott Belyea said

    I’ll just mention one aspect that’s annoying. Here’s a small sample of terminology used on various “science” blogs in the last week or two – fucktards … assholes … wankers … jerkoffs … pussies … shitheads … fuckwits … droolers. As a say, just a sample.

    You know what Scott, you’re right. I have a fowl mouth and have decided to clean it up after getting into an argument over someone else’s misogynistic word choices that I found off putting.

    I’ve heard that swear words are a throw back to the concept of using magical language – a ‘curse’ to conjure supernatural powers.

    Atheists cursing – oh the irony.

  11. #11 firemancarl
    March 20, 2008

    My own opinion mimics that of Richard Marcinko. Although his was directed towards fundie terrorists, but can be used in this instance as well. He subscribes to the “Full fucking Faulkner” theory when dealing with enemies. That is to say. Lost of lights, sound, and fury.

    Let’s wage an all out war on the fundies.

  12. #12 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 20, 2008

    uh oh. Don’t get ERV riled up. Abby has specially evolved appendages that have adapted specifically for ripping you a new one.

    If no one addresses the false claims and lies of the anti-science types (be they anti-whatever branch of science) then those that are susceptible to their flashy showmanship and appeals to emotion will jump right on board. Unfortunately judging from polls on the state of our country regarding sciencey issues, there is a large portion of the population who fall into this demographic.

    Not addressing the bad science essentially gives it an air of validity. This air is easily jumped on and used to promote the false claims.

    Mooney is wrong here.

  13. #13 hyperdeath
    March 20, 2008

    There should be some sort of “notability threshold”, which determines whether a crackpot (or a crackpot belief) should be ignored or confronted. There have certainly been cases where direct confrontation has done harm. For example, when James Randi did a televised exposé of “psychic surgery”, the studio received over a hundred phonecalls from viewers wanting to know how they could contact these “surgeons” for treatment. It has even been suggested that the famous humiliation of Uri Geller on The Tonight Show in 1973 gave a huge boost to his career.

    On the otherhand, once nonsense has been established, there is no alternative but to strike, and to strike hard. If a belief has started to infiltrate schools (as “Intelligent Design” has), then it has all the attention it needs. Therefore it must be fought, debunked and ridiculed at every step.

  14. #14 ye olde grad student
    March 20, 2008

    It seems to me like the problem may be organization on our part. If instead of having a lot a people criticizing idiotic claims, we had ONE well put criticism, then the publicity may not be increased. However, that gets back to the main issue of organizing atheists many of whom aren’t “out” yet.

  15. #15 David H
    March 20, 2008

    Scott:

    “I’m just a frustrated lay individual here…”

    Then shut up and get educated already. There’s wikipedia for help and this blog actually has a lot of science content.

    Oh, didn’t you notice that? Or were you just reading the religious stuff?

    I wonder what brought you here in the first place? Were you interested in the controversy or interested in the wonders of science? Would you even be aware there was a controversy without loud, strong opposition from Dawkins, Hitchens, PZ and the like?

  16. #16 Norman Doering
    March 20, 2008

    PZ wrote:

    We must counter the superficial advantages of the anti-science side by directly countering their claims.

    I agree in principle, but sometimes what attracts me to your blog is more of the freak show aspect of some of the loons you feature: The baby preachers, the psychotics treating psychotics at Mercy Ministries, the odious Sally Kern, Ben Stein, Vox Day and the rest. Are these the important ideas we have to counter, or are they just the rare freaks we like to gawk at?

    I remember when Alexandra Pelosi’s movie, “Friends of God,” came out there was a lot of complaining from Christians that the movie wasn’t a fair picture of what they were like, it was a freak show. Worse, it was a freak show that confirmed secular liberal fears about evangelicals; “…that they are unchangeable, unrelenting, and utterly uninterested in other points of view. Not to mention deeply weird. You can’t help but cringe at scenes of children being taught that dinosaurs not only coexisted with humans but actually worked for them as beasts of burden, or of prepubescent girls asking God to ‘invade’ them after watching a Christian wrestling match.”

    You admitted this yourself in your post “Why do we even stoop to mentioning Vox Day?” and then you answered you own question this way:

    …because he is an appallingly freakish idiot, and always a reliable source for the most amazingly inane claims.

    Maybe we should look for the kind of people we can actually engage in a dialog rather than the freaks? You can’t really engage Vox Day or Ben Stein, they will not argue in good faith, but others might.

  17. #17 Deepsix
    March 20, 2008

    If we remain silent, even more people will believe in nonsense like this: Nightline: Because the Bible Tells Me So? http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/FaithMatters/story?id=4467337&page=1

    From Nightline last night. There is also a video.

  18. #18 justawriter
    March 20, 2008

    “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning.”

    – Frederick Douglass

  19. #19 Josh
    March 20, 2008

    If you ignore the crackpots, they will simply declare that you are unable to dismiss their claims – the argument from silence.

    But if you don’t ignore them, then by virtue of the fact you are paying them attention, they will claim they are just as good an alternative to you – honour by association, perhaps?

    Either way, they will find a way to turn things to their advantage. The truth doesn’t matter, so why should your actions have any direct effect on them either?

  20. #20 Gingerbaker
    March 20, 2008

    Science is about discovering truth.

    And the truth is a lot of folks are nefarious liars.

    There is an excellent, though underused, word one can use in public discussion about people who lie. The word is “liars”.

  21. #21 maureen
    March 20, 2008

    You are right, PZ.

    Those who come onto this blog with time-wasting tactics and half-baked theories – theories already refuted many times if they would only check – have political objectives. So do those whom they call upon as authorities (sic). They may all dress them up in cod theology but those objectives have nothing whatsoever to do with helping the world’s people to live in harmony with eachother or with any god which may exist. As I see it from the other side of the Atlantic those political objectives are two – to control the thinking of as many people as possible and to bring scientific enquiry to a grinding halt.

    Of course we must fight back! Surrender is just not an option – not for me at any rate.

    If someone stepped into my living room and insisted on talking rubbish he would be shown the door. If he not only carried on, with much repetition, but insisted that I must agree because he was bringing a message from some god or other then I would be very rude indeed. The same applies here. This blog is, if you like, an annexe to PZ’s brain and one of the things I do remember from the bible – most of which I have actually read – is that you do not, repeat not, abuse anyone’s hospitality.

    I am often amazed here at how patient people are in countering nonsense and pointing the ignorant politely at sources of good information. If the discussion sometimes becomes rather more rude then it is my considered opinion that the idiots have brought it upon themselves.

    By the way, I am not a scientist. Most of my understanding of science comes from a university teacher, born in Philadelphia, who in the days of Sen Joe McCarthy was not prepared to be told what he was allowed to think or to teach. I’m glad that he decided that what he had to impart was worth knowing – it was – and didn’t just settle for a quiet life in some third-rate US university. Even though it meant uprooting himself and beginning his academic life all over again.

  22. #22 Oldfart
    March 20, 2008

    Y’all should know by now that your targets are not those “True Believers” who spew the Creationist, IDer, CAM garbage. Those people are lost. No amount of presenting them with evidence will change their minds. Only time can do that and, for some, there may not be enough time. Your target are those who are not committed yet. Who think that Creationists, IDers, CAMers “have a point and ought to be listened to”. And you need to hit them by challenging the True Believers over and over and over to produce proof. Until those who are not committed begin to realize that there is nothing there. You can’t outright tell them there is nothing there. You have to show them. Trust me. As a cranky old man who confronts the right-wing almost daily using their own tactics against them, all those TBs will begin to retreat as soon as you begin forcing them to hold to the same standards they require of you. Lengthy technical explanations and scientific kill shots don’t get it. The uncommitted are for the most part not technical and wouldn’t know a scientific kill shot if it hit them between the eyes. But they do understand demands for proof or evidence. They do understand when there is no response or when the response is a moving of the goal posts. They do see that, slowly. It does leave an impression. And feel free to point out that your opponent has not responded in any sensible way and that he/she/it has avoided responding by moving the goal posts once again. Do not get into highly technical discussions with the TB idiots. Try to distinguish honest inquiries for information from trolling. Never belittle the intelligence of your foes for two reasons: (1) appearing to be effete intellectual snobs is not endearing and (2) most of those uncommitted who are actually taking the time to read your blog or your book or listen to your opinion will be put off by the indirect implication that they, too, are some kind of lesser human being. And be aware of your own TB tendencies because we all have them to a greater or lesser extent.

  23. #23 Deepsix
    March 20, 2008

    Norman:
    ” Are these the important ideas we have to counter, or are they just the rare freaks we like to gawk at?”

    No, they aren’t “rare freeks”. As a matter of fact, I’d say they are just voicing what many already believe, at least here in the U.S. And, especially here in the South.

  24. #24 Joe
    March 20, 2008

    “Reality and hard work vs. wishful thinking and pretty reassurances? Who do you think will win the membership drive?”

    This is really key, and a big hurdle for the side of science to get over. The vast majority of people are not greatly versed in science and true skeptical thinking. They are also very busy making ends meet, raising a family, etc. and many take the path of least resistance.

    Refuting nonsense is a necessary but not sufficient response. There also needs to be more creative effort put toward engaging the public in science.

  25. #25 BC
    March 20, 2008

    I think it is incumbent on all of us who value science and truth to debunk the quote mining and other forms of deceit by creationists and IDists. Of course, that means writing 3 times more or talking for 3 times longer, since as PZ has shown us, it takes more time and effort to present the truth than it does to lie about a subject. It also means we have to be on top of the lies and quote mining so they can be debunked. So many times I have friends say things about global warming or evolution that are wrong, but I don’t know the context of what they saw or read so it’s hard to respond. Or, as Mark Twain said, a lie can be around the world 3 times before the truth has a chance to put its shoes on.

  26. #26 Vernon
    March 20, 2008

    What we need is PZ Meyer’s Traveling Science Revival and Medicine Show. Hey, it works for the Bible thumpers.

  27. #27 Lana
    March 20, 2008

    David H? I believe by “frustrated lay person” Scott meant he is not a scientist. Neither am I. I’ve also been troubled by the sneering vitriol of a (very) few people. It would be more effective for the professionals to calmly explain things than to heap scorn on posters with less science education. Probably most of those who visit this site daily are truly trying to learn something.

  28. #28 RAM
    March 20, 2008

    “We must counter the superficial advantages of the anti-science side by directly countering their claims.”
    PZ is right on the money here.
    By a different method, I started a very good fundie friend to do the same. We once took a road trip go hiking near Mossyrock Wa., where there is a rock outcrop a few hundred feet above the road. He pointed at a shadow up on the hillside that he said was a cave that he had pointed out to his now grown children for the past 20 years as the sped by in the car. He even had a story about someone who used to live in the cave, again for 20 years. But they never got out, climbed the hill and looked.
    I asked to to pull over, and let’s really go see the this cave. When we actually got there, we found it was actually just shadows playing on the rockface, there never was a cave. He was so sure, he spent the better part of the next hour scouring the area, but no cave.
    The next time he so positively spouted something from his bible, I reminded him of the cave, and how he should check his facts. He is now on the road of becoming a happy non-believer.

  29. #29 SLC
    March 20, 2008

    Re Chris Mooney

    Ms. Smith of ERV has contrasted the 2006 Mooney with the 2008 Mooney. What happened is obvious. In the interim, Mr. Mooney met Matthew Nesbitt and the former has been brainwashed by the latter. If only Mr. Mooney had moved to Los Angeles in 2006!

  30. #30 DS
    March 20, 2008

    David H:

    Then shut up and get educated already. There’s wikipedia for help and this blog actually has a lot of science content.

    I didn’t see that that post #7 was professing ignorance of science, nor did I read the posting’s author as a creationist troll. So why react that way?

    This is germane to the discussion, I think. I agree with PZ that stepping out of the fray is the wrong strategy, and I too am disappointed that Chris apparently feels a change in tactics is necessary. I’m particularly disappointed because Chris has been such an effective voice in the culture wars in the past. I hope he’ll come back around on this.

    But at the same time, we do need to think about how we address folks. PZ’s blog is a great place to come and vent and let off steam, in addition to getting informed about substantive issues in science. Any creos who wander in are quite justifiably cut down where they stand by other readers. I’m not even averse to some good “Faulknerian” treatment when called for, either.

    But it is arrogant and unhelpful to attack people and make assumptions about their ignorance for raising what is, truth told, a fair point. You’ve now just alienated someone who, while not a scientist, probably reads and thinks about science, and wants to participate in the broader conversation about these issues. Those are exactly the people we need on our side–a little club for the initiates only gets us nowhere.

    As I said, it’s fair play to bash the liars, but if you read this blog just because you’re looking for an opportunity to call someone an idiot, I’d suggest more productive uses for your time.

  31. #31 Bruce
    March 20, 2008

    #17
    Deepsix, thanks for the link. Now I can hear those kids chanting their Xian mantras in my head… Poor little tykes.

  32. #32 Vic
    March 20, 2008

    Scott Belyea belched:

    How to win friends and influence people … right.

    Damn, you smart science types can be boneheaded sometimes.

    Seems you couldn’t take your own advice, I see… hypocrite. (see how that works?)

  33. #33 Pierce R. Butler
    March 20, 2008

    PZ Myers: …if Chris could come up with a strategy to educate and rebut that doesn’t actually involve mentioning the stupid things people say, I’d like to hear it. I don’t think it exists.

    Yeah, but I’m gonna go see The Moses Code, and then I’m gonna manifest one!

  34. #34 Miles
    March 20, 2008

    Since I’ve been following the ID nonsense I have always thought “science” should go on the offensive. Recall the recent “debate” PZ had on the fundy radio station with the IDiot IDer (Dr whatshisname). All of uncommondescent cultists realized the IDer was an ignorant fool, in fact davetard deleted every single comment when it was obvious the general consensou suggested a landslide “victory” for PZ. I’m not implying we’ll change any IDers mind, but it is John Q Public whom we want to educate, not IDiots.

    I was talking to my mother recently about evolution and even she said “but isn’t there a lot of unanswered questions about evolution” (or something close). No, mom is not a tard or a fundy, she just has a USA Today understanding of evolution – like probably 90% of the population.

    And the tards typically have the best sound bites and a bigger presence in the media. Most people have a USA Today understanding of evolution which means they think somewhere in our distant past lies a half man half ape creature, or they think evolution is bunk.

    I get Google news alerts for any ID related article and the DI gets probably 5-10 times the amount of exposure than any science organixation. That’s not the result of a ID conspiracy, they just do a better job at PR.

    I’m thinking PZ or guys/gals like him ought to be the ones making the debate challenges instead of waiting around for the IDiots to invite you to a fundy radio “debate”. Everytime Dembski gets outside the safety of a fundy school he falls flat on his face. We should be inviting him to a debate every other week, on college campuses.

    I’ve often thought some school or science group should do a series of commercials explaining what biologists do to not only educate the public but get kids excited about biology and thus possibly seeking a future in science.

    My offensive would be make science exciting to the general public, especially children, and take on the DI and their ugly cultists head on. The burden of proof should be on the IDiots, but unless we publicly demand that proof the public is likely to never know the IDiots don’t have any proof.

    The PR value of someone like PZ inviting Dembski or Wells to a debate could be big. If Demsbki shows he’d get slaughtered, if he refuses then he’s admitting what a coward he his in front of his own cult.

    I also think we should do more things like the recent “find the mark of an intelligent designer” challenge that Ian did at the Pandas Thumb and neither Dembski nor any IDiot could do it. I think the Pandas Thumb should challenge Behe, Dembski or any of the primary tards each month.

    Don’t ignore the IDiots, engage them and they will lose. I’m not sure the culture war can be won if you’re hiding in a bunker.

    Anyhow…

  35. #35 Deepsix
    March 20, 2008

    Bruce, yes it was disturbing hearing those young kids parrot what they were told. Hopefully, as they mature, some of them will discover sites like this one for deprogramming.

  36. #36 spurge
    March 20, 2008

    #27

    “It would be more effective for the professionals to calmly explain things than to heap scorn on posters with less science education.”

    The scorn is heaped not because they have less science education.

    The scorn is heaped because they don’t have a science education and yet feel they can dismiss entire fields of science in their ignorance.

    Many people who post here are scientists and that pisses them off to no end.

  37. #37 Interrobang
    March 20, 2008

    I’m definitely on the side of saying the facts don’t just speak for themselves; one actually does have to do some work in presenting one’s facts in a manner in which one’s audience will be most likely to receive them. Yes, that takes work on your part, and actually trying to understand what makes some people tick — tough shit. To riff on something from XKCD, “Audience analysis: It works, bitches.”

    To use the same analogy I’ve been using before, no professor would attempt to start out a first year undergraduate course using the same approach as they would when teaching a graduate seminar, which goes about the same for communicating with laypeople. Tailor your message appropriately, without distorting the facts. PZ teaches, for goodness sakes, he almost certainly knows how to apply that principle in practice.

    Count me also among the people who think that courting the nutcases and lost causes is, well, nutty and a lost cause. People who are communicating rationality (not just science) need to get hold of the mushy middle, the ones who are honestly — as opposed to dishonestly — inclined to commit that false neutrality fallacy and say, “Weeeell, I just don’t know… Shouldn’t we be fair and let both sides have equal say?” (Obviously, some of the anti-science contingent realises this appeal works on a lot of people, or else they wouldn’t have adopted “Teach the controversy!” as a slogan.)

    I’m also going to defend the use of language that some people perceive as having a “tone problem,” especially on sites like this one. If the pro-rationality contingent has continually to hold itself to a higher rhetorical standard than the anti-rational side, all we’re doing is self-censoring and denying ourselves a safe space in which to vent. Why should we have to do that? We’re not the ones throwing out the hate speech, after all, no matter how blue the language gets. Why should we deny ourselves the opportunity to get our frustrations off our chests using invective in case some judgemental someone somewhere is watching? I’ve even heard the argument made that we should censor ourselves in case children are reading. Really. Is there a kid on the internet anywhere who has somehow managed to reach the age where they’re interested in reading about complex scientific and philosophical information and yet has never been exposed to four-letter words? Give me a break. This is not a site for kids or adults with a fainting-couch mentality. It’s also PZ’s personal site, and he’s welcome to enforce whatever rules on it he likes. If you currently have a problem with the way the general flow of the discourse runs, you are cordially disinvited to continue reading. (Get your own blog, if you think you can do better.)

  38. #38 SLC
    March 20, 2008

    For anyone who wants to see what its like getting into a discussion with a creationist, I am attaching a link to a thread on the evolution blog in which an asshole fucktard calling himself JonS engages in a discussion with several commentors. Mr. JonS is a young earth creationist and a total nincompoop.

    http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2008/03/is_richard_dawkins_a_fundament.php

  39. #39 wonderer
    March 20, 2008

    Thanks Oldfart…

    for saving me the trouble of writing a lot of the same things.

    Anyone willing to serve humanity as a missionary to the godfull can get some important tips from reading that post carefully.

    Yes, many theists are stupid and/or liars, however there are plenty of honest and intelligent theists as well, and it is possible to get through to them with effective communication style. These honest and intelligent theists can be very influential to other theists, so there is a trickle down affect to getting them to think about things differently.

    In my experience, a fundamental aspect of an effective communication style is having a good understanding of issues of respect, and being willing to earn it, and grant it. These issues of respect are pretty deeply wired into us social primates. If you are working against normal human inclinations to get drawn into mutually respectful discussions, don’t be surprised if you don’t find your viewpoint being taken seriously.

    Don’t jump to the conclusion that I’m writing this to criticize ridiculing of theistic beliefs. That has it’s place too. However there is value that comes from choosing targets to discuss things with carefully, and using a style that ‘can’ work with the other individual in a discussion.

  40. #40 G Felis
    March 20, 2008

    I left the following comment on the article itself, and I thought it worth reproducing here. I should note that PZ is especially good about consistently taking what seems to be the wisest approach – not just refuting the cranks, but pointing out their fundamental dishonesty while doing so.

    —–

    Mr. Mooney, you are both dead right and dead wrong.

    Bad news first: When scientists and science supporters *fail* to refute people engaging in willfully truth-ignoring emotional appeals, cherry-picking deception, and outright lies – which is the only accurate way to describe the activities of anthropogenic global warming and evolution denialists – that’s when science supporters are enabling the enemies of science. Lies work very effectively on people who simply don’t know any better, and if no one is even bothering to refute the lies publicly, how can anyone ever come to know better? You are simply wrong on this: These people must be opposed, publicly and vociferously, even at the risk of lazy journalists making a hash of the issues through phony controversy-mongering. There will always be lazy journalists, after all, and controversy will always sell – so the result you fear (controversy-mongering) would seem impossible to avoid, and the cost of your suggested “method” for avoiding that result (letting lies go unanswered) seems ridiculously high.

    On the other hand, you are on track when you say that SIMPLY refuting the claims of denialists is not enough. However, the wise response is not to give up and remain silent in the face of lies: Rather, scientists (and other critics) should make absolutely certain that EVERY TIME they refute the denialists, they ALSO point out the fundamental dishonesty of denialist methods and rhetoric. Preferably, they can also point out the ways in which the denialists’ methods and rhetoric exactly duplicate those of some other group of cranks that the audience is less inclined to be sympathetic towards, such as purveyors of harmful quack remedies: Certainly there are many parallels, both in general and in specific historical examples, between snake oil salesmen and the evolution/anthropogenic global warming denialists. Hell, there are genuine parallels between the “arguments” and rhetorical strategies of evolution/AGW denialists and Flat Earthers! Defenders of the Enlightenment and scientific integrity should take pains to point out these parallels at every opportunity.

  41. #41 Stephen
    March 20, 2008

    I’ve also been troubled by the sneering vitriol of a (very) few people. It would be more effective for the professionals to calmly explain things than to heap scorn on posters with less science education.

    I’ll go along with your first sentence; I also doubt whether peppering a post with expletives is useful. However I think it is uncommon (very rare, even) for the scientists in this debate to heap scorn on people merely because they have less science education. Generally speaking, the receivers of such scorn richly deserve it, being one or more of:

    – not merely ignorant, but proudly ignorant: without apparently ever having opened a textbook on evolutionary biology, they think themselves well able to correct professional biologists on the subject;
    – wilfully ignorant: they ignore the corrections they have received in the past;
    – liars.

  42. #42 Norman Doering
    March 20, 2008

    Oldfart wrote:

    Y’all should know by now that your targets are not those “True Believers” who spew the Creationist, IDer, CAM garbage. Those people are lost. No amount of presenting them with evidence will change their minds. Only time can do that and, for some, there may not be enough time. Your target are those who are not committed yet. Who think that Creationists, IDers, CAMers “have a point and ought to be listened to”. And you need to hit them by challenging the True Believers over and over and over to produce proof.

    Again, I agree in principle, but there is another aspect to this. Consider this analogy, let’s say that Christopher Hitchens instead of going after Juan Cole and other higher level anti-war arguments instead just continually wrote articles about the absurdities of Code Pink. After awhile you’ll start to wonder if Hitchens can really deal with Cole. Someone who can only argue against Code Pink isn’t going to affect my anti-war stance.

    And if PZ focuses too much on Vox Day, Ben Stein and that ilk, well, they’re just the Code Pink of ID arguments. Someone who thinks ID is all about complex math and irreducible complexity and accepts that evolution to some degree does happen, well, they’re not going to be impressed by an argument against Answers in Genesis.

    Shouldn’t PZ be going after the higher levels? (What are the higher levels here? Behe and Dembski?) Not the Code Pink level arguments?

  43. #43 James F
    March 20, 2008

    Also on the topic of confronting the ID crowd, I’m interested to see how this debate between Bill Dembski and Niall Shanks turns out:

    http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=9776501534

  44. #44 MarkH
    March 20, 2008

    I agree as well.

    Although there are pitfalls to straight debunking that if done carelessly do not work, the goal is to teach people the difference between how real science is done, and how political hacks try to jive the system.

    But then, I’m biased towards my own approach.

  45. #45 ERV
    March 20, 2008

    Miles (#34)-

    Behe has been invited to debate me on multiple occasions. He has either ignored those invitations or told the inviter to fuck off.

  46. #46 Glen Davidson
    March 20, 2008

    Mooney just thinks that what Mooney says is important. He’s going to posture as the expert no matter what we do.

    It’s not like he’s completely wrong, of course. There really should not be public statements about Expelled splashed all over the media prior to its coming out, but then again there haven’t been any such things, so I don’t know what he’s blabbing about.

    Once there are public statements being put out by their side, though, it’s imperative that they be answered properly. There’s nothing worse than letting a pack of lies slide by unanswered. Presidential candidates have found that out, and most of us have too. True, Mooney doesn’t exactly disagree with my points in this paragraph, but unfortunately he doesn’t even acknowledge them.

    Mooney ends with this tripe:

    “If people think God is interesting, the onus is on them to show that there is anything there to talk about. Otherwise they should just shut up about it.” And then in comes Ben Stein to play the rebel, the Galileo, against this oppressive scientific orthodoxy, against “Big Science” that tells the little guy to “shut up.” How’s that for enabling?

    What’s the matter, Mooney, you don’t like framing? That’s, of course, what has happened. But so what? Yes Expelled is making the issues of science to be about atheism (they’re related, but separable, and necessary to separate for legal and demarcation reasons). Is Dawkins supposed to be a quiet little atheist because of the BS from their side?

    And actually, the most enabling act I’ve seen is Mooney aping the defective reasoning of Expelled. Dawkins did not tell the little guy to “shut up,” he told the theist to put up or shut up, which Stein, Miller, Ruloff, Mathis, and Mooney, happily misrepresent.

    The only thing to be learned on our side from this little incident is that it might be better not to give interviews to people who require you to sign release forms so that they can do almost anything they want with it, while they have nearly no obligation to you other than a monetary one. We know that their side (and Mooney) can and will misconstrue things, and it just so happens that they will do so whether or not our guys interview for a movie (that just made it all easier).

    So what are we supposed to do when Expelled manipulates what Dawkins said? Just let them kick our teeth in?

    I nominate Mooney as their punching bag, since he’s so eager to volunteer everybody else.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  47. #47 Dave
    March 20, 2008

    Both atheists and theists share an intense interest in how the universe works, but tend to get worked into a sweaty argumentative lather for no good reason. I am of the opinion that both sides CAN (and should) get along. Most of the history of biology, remember, was (and continues to be) basically a taxonomic endeavor, explicitly started in order to ‘better understand the order of God’s creation’, and ‘elucidate the mind of God’ (c.f. histories of Carl Linnaeus). Should we discount several centuries of biology because it was driven by religion? Isaac Newton is sometimes attributed with the idea that force (as in gravity, or F=MA) represents the “finger of God” (though actually this was a contemporary colleague’s interpretation of Newton’s belief; Newton himself was more circumspect, and suggested merely that force might represent an added quality added to matter during the Creation. But Newton didn’t argue with the Finger of God idea either). Should we throw out Newtonian physics because ‘force’ — a central unexplained idea if there ever was one in science — seemed sensible to the guy who thought it up because it could be attributable to God? The whole theist/atheist argument is, in my opinion, a silly waste of a lot of energy on both sides. An argument is not going to decide the nature of reality. Either God exists or He doesn’t, regardless of which side manages to convince the most people.

    The only reasonable approach — for both sides — is to sell the pragmatic benefits gained by a certain view. Religious folks can talk about all the feel-good stuff and camaraderie that comes with belonging to a church, and atheist scientists can talk about the psychological relief and technological benefits of their world-view. You want to promote science? Then USE IT to cure diseases, feed people, predict the weather, advance technology. Science is a technique, a practical philosophy, a WAY OF FIGURING THINGS OUT. If you argue about a ‘scientific world-view’ without using science, then you really are simply using it like a religion. Stop.

    Are you religious? Then USE IT to promote love and reassurance and psychological well-being. You’re not going to get converts preaching hate and telling people the world isn’t the way it clearly is. If God made the world a certain way, He made the world a certain way, and arguing otherwise is silly, regardless of what some old book says. Can’t you consider scientific breakthroughs revelations from God about how the world works? Does He have to keep carving stone tablets and burning bushes and sending Angels? Why wouldn’t he send a message via microscope? Believing science isn’t a betrayal of faith or the Bible; it’s listening to what the universe is telling you NOW.

    I am an atheist. Personally, I haven’t yet found a compelling reason to believe in any particular religious view or God in general. But I’m not anti-religious. Like most human pursuits, religion has some bad things about it. But who can tour the cathedrals of Europe or temples of Asia without awe for the vision and common purpose that led to their creation? What proponent of scientism isn’t jealous — at least a teeny little bit — of the intense emotional reassurance religion brings to many people? Unlike a lot of people here, I understand that religious people’s attempts to ‘convert’ me aren’t mean-spirited. I just hope that religious people also understand that scientist’s attempts to accurately understand the universe are simply that. If God exists, aren’t scientists the ones reveling most in His Wonders? Don’t you want to do that?

  48. #48 Stephen
    March 20, 2008

    You’re not going to get converts preaching hate and telling people the world isn’t the way it clearly is.

    Where did you get that idea? That is precisely what the American religious right has indeed done over the last 10-15 years.

  49. #49 Tulse
    March 20, 2008

    Religious folks can talk about all the feel-good stuff and camaraderie that comes with belonging to a church, and atheist scientists can talk about the psychological relief and technological benefits of their world-view.

    Hey look, it’s NOMA! How cute!

    If religious folks did that, if they just stuck to “we throw a mean potluck” and “ask us about bingo”, that would be fine, and frankly there would be no “New Atheists”. But they don’t just do that, they also say “teach this bullshit about how the earth is only 6000 years old”, and “don’t do research on the origin of homosexuality, because gays are an abomination”, and “don’t give girls vaccinations against a common cause of cancer, because of TEH SEX!” In other words, the religious regularly stride into the domain of science, interfering with the process of science and insisting on teaching material that is contrary to the actual world.

    And yeah, some of us get uppity about that. Sorry — we didn’t start this fight, but we’re going to finish it.

  50. #50 Oran Kelley
    March 20, 2008

    PZ, suppose I take a dislike to you and I decide I’m going to do what I can to tear down your reputation by spreading falsehoods about you. I tell folks at the local cafe that the P in PZ Myers stands for “Preposterous.” I tell the bus driver that you got your degree through a mail order company. I tell everyone you were arrested for streaking at a Twins game.

    Since the conflict can’t be wished away, Can I expect postings from you like “I Was Not Streaking at that Twins game, dammit,” or “I spent ten arduous, boring years getting that damn degree! Shut Up you dumb mick!” or “It actually stands for Pretzels!”?

  51. #51 Kenny B
    March 20, 2008

    I was a creationist for many years but fortunately I never hardened into a ‘true believer’. I think it’s helpful to understand that for most conservative Christians creationism is not a central issue but rather adjuvant. So when they happen to hear an argument against creationist beliefs they will end up holding the argument in abeyance. My commitment to creationist ideas grew or faded based on various proximity issues.

    Based on my own experience I think it is vitally important that Christians be exposed to logic as much as possible. Without the tireless work of many skeptics I would not be here today.

    I also think exposure on the whole increases wihen not accompanied by vitrol, venting, ad hominem attacks, etc. I also suggest we think hard about the use of grey terms like liar and idiot. Even when the terms are used with logical precision, the probability is that the person to whom the term is addressed (and those who may be lurking and have similar but not as hardened views) will view it as an attack. Is this helpful on balance? Cognative dissonance exists. IMHO it is important to reduce the white noise as much as possible.

  52. #52 Norman Doering
    March 20, 2008

    Dave wrote:

    But who can tour the cathedrals of Europe or temples of Asia without awe for the vision and common purpose that led to their creation?

    But who can tour a field of giant telescopes or the Arecibo Observatory or CERN’s monster particle accelerator (an underground ring of superconducting magnets that reaches from Switzerland into France) or even just the Sears Tower in Chicago without awe for the vision and common purpose that led to their creation?

    Don’t all those structures put those petty little cathedrals and temples to shame?

  53. #53 IvanI
    March 20, 2008

    I have to say, to the ones commenting that scientists are far too antagonistics and uppity you simply have to understand that to a large degree there is a different culture within science (or at least a recognition that there should be, we’re certainly not all that good at this). Which is that we don’t feel there is a particular need to respect ideas and people, nearly as much as experimental evidence (i.e. facts). This may seem really arrogant at first glance, but what it practically means is that scientists are perfectly willing to develop their own ideas about things even if they contradict accepted wisdom or the opinion of well respected/older scientists (in theory at least, in practice it doesn’t work alot of the time). In religion and other more conservative areas of life there is an expectation to always value tradition and “your seniors”, which is completely against the spirit of science.

    I think this is why even among people who are not just idiot liars there can be alot of argument over who is more humble, scientists or religious people, because the expectation for who ought to be humble is different. In science, you expect senior/respected scientists to be humble enough to at least evaluate new opinions and ideas no matter how conflicting with their own views. On the other hand in religion it is “the flock” who are expected to be humble and listen to the priest/pastor/whatever.

    Needless to say, being an atheist,physicist and young, I’m in favor of the scientific way.

  54. #54 Norman Doering
    March 20, 2008

    Did I say “a field of giant telescopes”? ack! I was thinking of places like the Jodrell Bank radio telescope.

  55. #55 PixelFish
    March 20, 2008

    Norman@52 said: Don’t all those structures put those petty little cathedrals and temples to shame?

    Um. No. Those cathedrals and temples are still pretty cool. Nifty wonders of their time, and artistic masterpieces in their own right. However, I, as an artist, see them as human masterpieces, not God’s gift, or proof of God’s majesty. The Arecibo Observatory is pretty nifty, but so is the Sistine Chapel or Angkor Wat. (aside from all the bonuses you get in Civ IV. *grin*)

  56. #56 Norman Doering
    March 20, 2008

    PixelFish wrote:

    Um. No. Those cathedrals and temples are still pretty cool.

    That’s your subjective opinion. If you want to go by size alone all those structures I named are larger than the largest cathedrals.

    Consider one of the largest cathedrals, like the Cologne Cathedral which is 144.5 metres long, 86.5 m wide and its two towers are 157 m tall. Now compare that to any of the structures I named, like the Arecibo Radio Telescope which is the largest single-dish radio telescope on the face of the planet at this moment. Imagine an enormous dish-like construction spanning 305 meters and you would have a vague idea of the impressive size it. The dish-like structure is rather deep, about 167 feet deep, and the entire construction including other parts of the telescope found around the dish covers a minimum of 20 acres of land. It is also comprised of several other high-tech parts including reflectors and antennas hanging more than 400 feet in the air through steel beams, bridges and cables.

  57. #57 PixelFish
    March 20, 2008

    Sure it’s a subjective opinion. So is yours.

    Consider too the circumstances under which most of those cathedrals were built. Again, I say that I don’t care about them as God-y signifiers, but as part of the HUMAN history of art. (But that’s crazy, me being an artist and all, to have a subjective reaction.) NOTE: My loving the cathedrals doesn’t prevent me from thinking the Arecibo structure is pretty damn cool. It’s not an either-or proposition for me. Why does the nifty technical achievement of one segment of humanity have to override the nifty technical achievement from centuries past?

  58. #58 Norman Doering
    March 20, 2008

    PixelFish wrote:

    Sure it’s a subjective opinion. So is yours.

    No, size is not subjective. Whether you’re talking tallest, widest, area measured in square feet or volume in cubic meters, there are many structures devoted to science that simply, and objectively, dwarf all those old cathedrals and temples in any dimension you can name.

  59. #59 Rey Fox
    March 20, 2008

    And have you ever actually seen the Mona Lisa? It’s tiny. That valley in California that Christo covered with umbrellas dwarfs it in any dimension you could name.

  60. #60 Peter Ashby
    March 20, 2008

    Here in the UK nobody would give the time of day to views like Vox Days etc. Whenever the religious loonies of whatever stripe show their faces they get hooted and laughed at. This situation did not arise de novo, we used to have silly fundie creationists, but gradually their views became beyond the pale in public places and forums. I think part of it is that in this country there is not he anti intellecualism that there is in places like the US. I remember visiting some of my wife’s elderly relatives and when I said I was a scientist you could have heard a pin drop, but not because they were hostile, just that being fairly simple working class people they didn’t quite know how to take me. But it turned out that I drank beer and ate food like everyone else and I was forgiven by being married to the missus being father of our delightful offspring.

    We also have a culture of people going to the pub, having a couple of pints and spending the evening having a pleasant frank exchange of views and nobody takes offense. This means that stuff can be aired, views tried out and if they get demolished well no harm done, no friends lost and there is next time try something different.

    the blogosphere is sort of like that with the added advantage that unlike in the pub you can cite supporting evidence. One of the disadvantages in the pub is you get knowitalls who carry authority and when they come up against someone who actually does know…

    So countering these IDiots online is necessary. I hang out in various usenet groups (anyone younger than 35, ask your elders) and have been debating various forms of findies and purveyors of woo, opponents of GM plants on spurious grounds, monarchists etc, etc. The good fight must be fought, not least because the internet is replete with lurkers, those who read and do not post. If wingnut views go out unchallenged then these people see only one side of the argument. This is why many of the IDiots and their ilk censor the comments on their blogs and online forums. They think about those who read and do not post and so should we.

  61. #61 Stephen
    March 20, 2008

    Norman: it’s entirely a subjective matter what measure you choose to take. If you take mass, I suspect that most cathedrals outrank Arecibo, and if you take enclosed space then of course cathedrals outrank radio telescopes. And if you insist on using length, then Arecibo is a piddling little thing compared to the Great Wall of China.

    Frankly, comparing the relative worth of such structures by using length or area is a pretty childish approach.

  62. #62 Pixelfish
    March 20, 2008

    I suppose if you want to nitpick….you can certainly say that such structures dwarf the others. But nitpicking right back, I think you said “Puts them to shame.” Which kinda puts the ball back in the subjective court.

    But again, why do you need to deny the prior achievements of humans? Is the engineering achievement of the cathedral, considering the knowledge of the time, seriously less impressive than the CERN particle accelerator with the knowledge we have today? Isn’t it possible that the early work on the cathedrals somehow contributed to the CERN accelerator or to the observatories we have now?

    (From an artistic point of view, Rey makes a good point. Likewise, I could argue that Giotto wasn’t a patch on Rembrandt, for realistic representation, but without Giotto or his contemporaries, would Rembrandt’s culture been at a place where Rembrandt could have emerged?)

    I’m not a scientist, but I can appreciate the CERN structure or Arecibo as well. Again, I say, pretty nifty. Well done mankind.

  63. #63 RamblinDude
    March 20, 2008

    Both atheists and theists share an intense interest in how the universe works, but tend to get worked into a sweaty argumentative lather for no good reason.

    What lala land do you live in? Science/investigation/critical thinking is under constant attack from many fronts. If it isn’t the drooling idiocy of creationism working its way into schools and politics, it’s celebrities like Joe Rogan arguing that we never went to the moon, and giant corporations arguing that globing warming is a hoax. We have creepy evangelists arguing for a first strike against “heathen countries” in order to give God a helping hand with Armageddon. And in case you weren’t paying attention, religious fundamentalists have a president in the white house who is running this country into the ground. Oh, and we have a leading presidential candidate who publicly endorses John Hagee.

    Superstition is as rampant and destructive today as ever, and if you honestly believe that we are arguing for “no good reason” then you are clueless.

    What proponent of scientism isn’t jealous — at least a teeny little bit — of the intense emotional reassurance religion brings to many people?

    I for one. “Reassurance” based on a lie, the willing embrace of play pretend over reality, is not appealing in the slightest. I would rather be discontented and doubtful than self deceiving and untroubled by it.

    I’m glad to see all this arguing over strategy; it means that people like PZ have done a good job of getting people’s attention. Perhaps someday (even soon, perhaps) enough people will be paying attention to what scientists have to say that a genuine dialogue can take place.

  64. #64 Tulse
    March 20, 2008

    We also have a culture of people going to the pub, having a couple of pints and spending the evening having a pleasant frank exchange of views and nobody takes offense.

    They just blow off steam instead by beating up opposing football fans…

  65. #65 Norman Doering
    March 20, 2008

    Rey Fox wrote:

    And have you ever actually seen the Mona Lisa? It’s tiny. That valley in California that Christo covered with umbrellas dwarfs it in any dimension you could name.

    You’ve lost track of the terms of the argument which is about “the vision and common purpose that led to their creation?”

    Vision is a fuzzy term, but when it comes to “common purpose” Christo does have Leonardo da Vinci beat. It took more people to make Christo’s work than da Vinci’s.

    And when it comes to “common purpose” in big science tools versus ancient cathedrals, well, big science is international and cathedrals were local.

    As for vision, it’s subjective, yes — and in my opinion those cathedrals are grotesque and oppressive.

  66. #66 Norman Doering
    March 20, 2008

    Stephen wrote:

    Frankly, comparing the relative worth of such structures by using length or area is a pretty childish approach.

    Do you know of another approach that doesn’t allow you to slip off into vague and subjective assertions that have no weight at all?

    I think science beats religion on the field of common purpose — that leaves you to make fuzzy claims about the vision behind those cathedrals.

    What exactly is the vision behind those cathedrals that impresses you?

  67. #67 PixelFish
    March 20, 2008

    The vision behind the cathedrals that impresses me is getting a town of humans to work on hauling stone and shaping a building and getting everything into place without it falling over or going kaputt. The load-bearing arches, the flying buttresses, the artistry of the finials, lintels, cornices, gargoyle-y downspouts, all of that adds up to a single coherent graceful building that has withstood many centuries, wars, human avarice, and the ravages of time. They did this with very basic tools: squares, plumbs, compasses. I actually see the cathedral as a marriage between art (which has rules of proportion, symmetry, rhythm, etc.) and math and engineering. I’d recommend reading David Macaulay’s Cathedral, as it shows a lot of what went into making a cathedral. http://www.amazon.com/Cathedral-Story-Construction-David-Macaulay/dp/0395175135

    Similarly, I find Angkor Wat with its amazing stone sculptures and its attempt to portray Hindu cosmology as a map of the universe to be another attempt to describe where we came from. They may have been mistaken–so a thousand celestial maidens didn’t churn the Sea of Milk for the gods–but the technical and artistic achievements themselves are not to be sneered at.

  68. #68 Wisaakah
    March 20, 2008

    What proponent of scientism isn’t jealous — at least a teeny little bit — of the intense emotional reassurance religion brings to many people?

    RamblinDude addressed this earlier, but there’s another side to his answer (at least for me). It’s not just that I don’t pine for false reassurance, and would rather have doubt than self-deceive. It’s that I already have perfect contentment with the way the universe is – I have that emotional reassurance without the lie. We are here. I was born, as many others before me were born, and as many others after me will be. I “fit” here no more than and no less than any other critter on this planet. I was not created out of “sin”, or as the clay sculpture of a fickle God. I don’t need to worship or serve anyone or anything. I can simply enjoy the world for what it is. So, no, I’m not envious of either the love of, or the fear of, God – and I’m happier now than I ever was when I believed in hell. I take from your comment that you are jealous of that feeling – I’m sorry to hear that, but I would suggest looking for it elsewhere. It doesn’t need to come from religion and lies.

  69. #69 Sastra
    March 20, 2008

    Reality and hard work vs. wishful thinking and pretty reassurances? Who do you think will win the membership drive?

    That dichotomy is not necessarily going to work against us. Yes, religion provides easy, simplistic answers, appealing to our intuitions and biases. But one of their major selling points, ironically, is “we’re the hard way.”

    Faith, we are told, takes “work.” Being a Christian is “difficult.” Following God demands “discipline.” Atheists refuse to believe in God because they want it easy — they don’t want to obey rules or practice self-control. Religion is supposed to toughen you up.

    Framing science as “an opportunity for hard work” is not a bad idea. Although pseudosciences really are lazy and sloppy, they are in part propelled by how much they mimic the actions of the guy who’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get the job done. Mainstream science has gotten fat and here comes the lean and brave new theory, ready to spar. People want to think they’re hard workers and creative thinkers. Hitting home the valid point that creationism is a lazy path for lazy people is going to count against them.

    As for the tactic of insulting the opposition, I’ve come round a bit on that over the years. I used to think that it simply doesn’t work at persuading anyone. I now think that it doesn’t work for some people, in some situations — and does appear to work for other people in other situations.

    Some atheist writes a funny but abusive screed against religion in general and creationism in particular. The pundits come out and shake their heads about how “counterproductive” this is. It only hurts the science-side by turning away moderates and completely shutting down any constructive or respectful dialogue. A few months or years later, people start to pop up here and there and say that the thing that really got them started on the road to science and freethought was this nasty little essay they read once which poked fun and mocked their cherished beliefs and got them really, really mad — but they couldn’t get it out of their mind, somehow. It was kind of funny and weird, when you thought about it. It had never seemed that way at all before, when everyone was so respectful.

    My own tactic is to approach every opponent with courtesy and respect, as if they were reasonable and likable and just on the brink of being persuaded. But you never know. Sometimes other approaches may be more effective.

  70. #70 Scott Hatfield, OM
    March 20, 2008

    The conflict is necessary, as is bringing the battle right to them and confronting them with their failures. You don’t persuade people to shun liars by letting the lies pass.

    Yes. To me, how to bring the battle, how to confront, how to persuade is up for discussion. I challenge people who you probably wouldn’t waste your time with, and we could disagree about whether that is wise. But letting the lies go unchallenged shouldn’t even be on the table. Cowering and fawning is not engagement, it’s surrender.

  71. #71 thalarctos
    March 20, 2008

    I challenge people who you probably wouldn’t waste your time with, and we could disagree about whether that is wise.

    It’s just a question of niches, Scott–you challenge those people; I challenge a different subset of people (CAM believers who are not hard-core alties, but simply faute de mieux); there are other people in other domains challenging others. It’s the Circle of Life :) /lionking.

    My own tactic is to approach every opponent with courtesy and respect, as if they were reasonable and likable and just on the brink of being persuaded. But you never know. Sometimes other approaches may be more effective.

    Absolutely, Sasta; that’s a very effective approach. It doesn’t mean you keep coming back for abuse if the initial respect is rejected, but there are a lot of people who can be reached with a little effort. For me, it’s worthwhile; it would not be so for everyone in the same case.

    Which is not to agree we should muzzle ourselves here in PZ’s joint–I can be perfectly civil and patient to students and bystanders, and extend myself further in my own niche, precisely because I get to vent by kicking the ass of Creationist grifters and posers like Dr. Steve and FtK here (the very types who are trying to con my students), outside of my niche, in a zone that’s safe for rationalists. It’s kind of an ecosystem, having those different areas in which different ways of operating are appropriate.

  72. #72 Dave
    March 20, 2008

    I like that this thread has turned (mostly) into a celebration of a few of Mankind’s greatest architectural triumphs, rather than what often happens in the comments of this often excellent blog: a goofy scientistic frenzy just as faith-based and crazy as some of the palm-waving tongue-talking prayer-fests that have ever happened in any church. Some of the people here, before they write something, need to seriously ask themselves: Is this science, or scientism? Mindless faith in a book, whether it’s the bible or a biochemistry text, is stupid. The great thing about science is that it’s a powerful pragmatic philosophy. People will always accept it. They may carry a bible, but they’ll also have their cell phone and opt for surgery when recommended. More support for science funding in the U.S. has come from religious republicans than democrats (look it up!) Ignore the theists, and they will eventually go away or stop arguing against science, because their world view has relatively limited use. But twist science into a faith-based religion — scientism — and we’re really in trouble, because science advances only when people first find flaws in the current scientific world-view. Honestly, I think PZ does more to promote science with his excellent posts that describe how science explains things, than when he rants against ignorant media-hounds. Those rants are, well, like sermons. Science isn’t about that.

  73. #73 Ichthyic
    March 20, 2008

    Mooney is wrong here.

    If you read Mooney’s post, you’ll see that he is primarily just following Nisbet’s lead.

    Nisbet, having really just thrown himself into this fray (he just finished his PhD what, a year ago?), still doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about, but can obviously be quite persuasive when he wants to be.

    Expect this to dribble into nothingness as Mooney rethinks it, and recalls all the efforts he has made chiding the creobots in the past.

    I predict you won’t see Chris pushing this particular point much in the future.

    sure, controversy sells, but how could one possibly forget that it sells in both directions?

  74. #74 Kseniya
    March 20, 2008

    Tulse (#49):

    BRAVO.

    Norman and Pixelfish:

    Does size matter?!? :-)

    I am awed by all the structures you’ve both named, for the reasons you’ve both cited. Arecibo is amazing (and imagine the size of a dish built in earth-orbit!) But Norman, when you said “If you want to go by size alone” I think what you meant was “I do go by size alone.” Pix never mentioned size.

    Furthermore, comparing size alone doesn’t offer a meaningful comparison in terms of what the structures represent. If you adjust for era and for available construction techniques and technologies – and to make a meaningful comparison, you must – those cathedrals are the equal of the CN Tower and so forth. That’s not a purely subjective or purely artistic judgement. I can’t quantify the equivalence, but the obvious fact that the newer structures dwarf the older structures doesn’t mean they put the older structures “to shame.” That notion is disrespectful to the considerable accomplishments those old stone, wood and glass structures represent, and to the people who made them.

    The Shoulders of Giants, and all that… :-)

  75. #75 Rey Fox
    March 20, 2008

    ” Ignore the theists, and they will eventually go away or stop arguing against science, because their world view has relatively limited use.”

    Man, what la-la land are YOU living in? “Stop arguing against science”? They’ve been doing that for as long as there’s been science, why would they stop any time soon? Just because they all have their cell phones now? No. And there are very real consequences to these anti-science attitudes.

    “More support for science funding in the U.S. has come from religious republicans than democrats (look it up!) ”

    How much of that has been for military applications?

    “But twist science into a faith-based religion — scientism — and we’re really in trouble, because science advances only when people first find flaws in the current scientific world-view.”

    What’s more, your scare word “scientism” is nothing but a straw man. We are well aware that science changes, we have no “blind faith” in any science books. I don’t know where you get these notions. Just because we’re passionate about something?

  76. #76 Ichthyic
    March 20, 2008

    And there are very real consequences to these anti-science attitudes.

    Dover comes to mind…

  77. #77 Ichthyic
    March 20, 2008

    The great thing about science is that it’s a powerful pragmatic philosophy tool.

    there, that’s somewhat better, anyway.

  78. #78 Ichthyic
    March 20, 2008

    … btw, when you speak of science as a “philosophy”, you yourself have already attempted to turn it into “scientism”.

    I suggest you spend some time rethinking exactly what point you wanted to make.

  79. #79 Peter Ashby
    March 20, 2008

    Dave Biologists used to believe all sorts of things from Lamarkism through the humours to false ideas about inheritance. It is arguable that, stamp collecting apart, there is little worth paying attention to in biology pre the Modern Synthesis. I know people who say that prior to automated sequencing and pcr biology was simply pissing in the wind. My own career has straddled that last boundary and I moved with it having seen the way the wind was blowing. My PhD is utterly, totally and completely without any molecular biology or biochemistry. It contains not a single gel or data therefrom. In my first PhD in a ‘Laboratory of Eukaryotic Molecular Genetics’ I had to show my thesis to a colleague who needed convincing that such a thing could exist. Mind you I contend that many molecular biologists should remove the b-word from their titles as they are ignorant of the subject.

    So the motivations of those in the past are not relevant to how biology is done today. There are too many different reasons these days. There is money, biology is VERY big business. There is modern medicine becoming closer and closer to being based on science as we work through a history that is far too much pre Modern Synthesis. Medicine is going through its own MS with molecular medicine and pharmacogenetics transforming our understandings of so much. So enormous amounts of modern biology is motivated by a desire to cure people. People who work in Zoology of various flavours are often motivated by caring for ecosystems in ways that people 200 years ago, even Darwin could not have conceived. Well maybe Darwin, did you know he was the first to work out and prove that worms process vegetable matter and distribute it through the soil, aerating and improving it? By doing so he almost invented ecology. One problem with the religious impetus to understand is that it doesn’t want to know about the nasty things.

    Tell a moslem or a jew that they should eat pork because we know about Trichonella and can let them have pig meat that is safe and what response will you get? That is why dealing with the religious and modern biology only works up to a point and evolution is only one of the possible points of friction. L Ron Hubbard’s mob aren’t the only ones who don’t like modern psychology, demons die hard it seems.

  80. #80 Ichthyic
    March 20, 2008

    More support for science funding in the U.S. has come from religious republicans than democrats (look it up!)

    source?

    just guessing, though, I’d say the “religious” part is correct, especially given that over 80% of Americans, republican or democrat, self-identify as such. Statistically, it wouldn’t be a stretch to guess that more money comes from the religious (80%) than atheists (8%).

    On the “republican” side…

    would those be the same religious republicans, like GW, that have deliberately modified and excised scientific reports from federal science agencies like NASA and NIH in order to have them better fit with their personal philosophies? The same republicans that have cut funding for basic science tremendously over the last 30 years?

    If republican voters love science so much, why do they keep voting obviously anti-science candidates into office over and over again? Aside from the administration over the last 30 years, the House and Senate have/had quite a lot of anti-science champions like Rick Santorum.

    yes, so much respect for good science there.

  81. #81 Peter Ashby
    March 20, 2008

    They just blow off steam instead by beating up opposing football fans..

    But nobody has died due to an Old Firm match for a few years now. Failure to acknowledge that a whole slew of measures has made Britain far ahead of many European countries on the football violence front. We are streets ahead of Italy for eg and we don’t have the terrace racism that is apparently de rigeur in Spain. Be pleased that things are way better than they used to be.

    And if it bothers you, then do what we do, go watch the rugby then in the pub afterwards have a good argument with some guys who supported the other team. We were at the Edinburgh Sevens last year and the World Cup and the variety of races, nationalities and creeds enjoying the occasion and each other was just wonderful to be part of it.

  82. #82 Peter Ashby
    March 20, 2008

    Oops, in my post at #79 the line that begins:In my first PhD, should be: In my first Postdoc… Then it might make sense.

  83. #83 Dave
    March 20, 2008

    Re posts #77, #78: You should take a class, or at least be able to look crap up in the dictionary yourself, but…

    phi·los·o·phy [fi-los-uh-fee] -noun, plural -phies.
    1. the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct.
    2. any of the three branches, namely natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and metaphysical philosophy, that are accepted as composing this study.
    3. a system of philosophical doctrine: the philosophy of Spinoza.
    4. the critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge, esp. with a view to improving or reconstituting them: the philosophy of science.
    5. a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs.
    6. a philosophical attitude, as one of composure and calm in the presence of troubles or annoyances.
    [Origin: 1250-1300; ME philosophie < L philosophia < Gk philosophía. See philo-, -sophy]

    Re: post #80. Read Science Magazine (even Nature, lately, has been focusing on NIH), NSF bulletins. Check the budget & congressional records via web. Democrats aren’t anti-science; they just tend to prioritize social programs in preference.

    Re: post #79: Dude, I get it. I am a tenured biology prof at a university in the top 50 for research expenditures. My lab has hundreds of thousands per year in grant money.

    My point is that ranting does NOT sell science. Science is a very successful philosophical technique; it is not a world-view. Please let’s not make it into one, because then we’ll only be left with dueling world-views — but no science.

  84. #84 Tulse
    March 20, 2008

    But nobody has died due to an Old Firm match for a few years now. […] Be pleased that things are way better than they used to be.

    Sorry, I probably should have put a smiley in my original comment — it was honestly meant in jest, to provide ironic contrast to the rather staid and pastoral image your remarks evoked.

  85. #85 Ichthyic
    March 20, 2008

    1. the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct.

    not science.

    2. any of the three branches, namely natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and metaphysical philosophy, that are accepted as composing this study.

    ditto.

    4. the critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge, esp. with a view to improving or reconstituting them: the philosophy of science.

    CAN be science, especially in the case where there is an experimental analysis of what motivates specific philosophies. Not science by definition, however.

    3. a system of philosophical doctrine: the philosophy of Spinoza.

    ditto.

    5. a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs.

    again, that would be a good description of scientism, not science.

    6. a philosophical attitude, as one of composure and calm in the presence of troubles or annoyances.

    not science.

    what was your point, again?

    My point is that ranting does NOT sell science.

    oh, you mean to clarify a point that is totally irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is:

    You don’t persuade people to shun liars by letting the lies pass.

    frankly, I don’t care who you are, you’re simply wrong.
    It’s not the point of challenging the liars like Wells and Dembski to “sell science”, it’s quite simply to point out that they are, in fact, lying.

    I would have said exactly the same thing (minus the confusion about philosophy masquerading as science) 20 years ago. However, I’ve personally witnessed the damage people like Wells can inflict with their lies, not just on science, but on people in general.

    There is really more at issue here than just selling science.

  86. #86 Kseniya
    March 20, 2008

    (Oops. Refresh, like Preview, is my friend! I see that I’m waaaay behind the curve on the cathedral topic.)

  87. #87 Ichthyic
    March 20, 2008

    Check the budget & congressional records via web.

    I have, and have found funding for basic research relative to the number of labs and projects submitted, has gone down significantly over the last 30 years.

    I’ve watched entire departments get fragmented and absorbed as their NIH and NSF funding dried up. watched my own major prof. lose his NIH funding for his studies on mate choice that he had been receiving for over 20 years prior.

    hardly had anything to do with the value of his work, or his publication record, since he was one of the top researchers in that particular area, and DID have by far and away the best publication record.

    I don’t know where you are coming from, but you have horribly misread what the numbers mean.

    I’m scanning what you posted for ANYTHING that actually IS accurate…

    ah, here:

    Democrats aren’t anti-science; they just tend to prioritize social programs in preference.

    true, but of course irrelevant, since nobody was talking about democrats being anti-science.

  88. #88 Longtime Lurker
    March 20, 2008

    The pubs are a good front for those interested in fighting the good fight. Such groups as Brooklyn’s “Secret Science Club” (Dorian, Margaret, and Michael are a national treasure!) and “Cafe Scientifique” allow laypersons to hear a science lecture in a lively, convivial environment. Even non-fundies are usually stymied by science, and view scientists as another sort of “priesthood” handing down edicts from on high. Having a beer with a Neil Degrasse Tyson or a Michael Novacek, and hearing them casually discuss their work serves to remove most people’s vague misgivings about “science”.

    That being said, how about more “drinking with a scientist” events, or “dinner with a scientist” for families?

  89. #89 Peter Ashby
    March 20, 2008

    There was a fascinating little graph in New Scientist showing spending on energy R&D projects in the US over time. Nuclear has decline from 2.5Billions in 1980 to 0.5 today. Fossil from $2B to 0.5 and Renewables from $1.5B to 0.5.

    At a time when you have fought wars, fought over drilling the Arctic and fought over global warming you have spent progressively Less and Less on energy research. If you are lucky the EU might license the tech we develop at um reasonable terms.

  90. #90 Ichthyic
    March 20, 2008

    If you are lucky the EU might license the tech we develop at um reasonable terms.

    don’t we still have military bases in the EU…

    ;)

  91. #91 Sastra
    March 20, 2008

    Peter Ashby #79 wrote:

    There is modern medicine becoming closer and closer to being based on science as we work through a history that is far too much pre Modern Synthesis. Medicine is going through its own MS with molecular medicine and pharmacogenetics transforming our understandings of so much.

    And, to reinforce the point you make below this — that “evolution is only one of the possible points of friction” with religion — one of the big well-funded changes in medicine today is for “Alternative Medicine” therapies like homeopathy and reiki. Energy healing is now being taught in standard medical schools. I read websites like scienceblog’s Respectful Insolence and follow the attacks on mainstream science coming from vitalists. They’ve apparently got as much — or more — power and clout than the more traditional supernaturalists.

    I would suspect that many non-scientists would look at your statement above and guess that the “Modern Synthesis” in medicine you’re speaking of is how we are now bringing spirit back into our understanding of biology.

    Pseudoscience is infiltrating mainstream health care at an astonishing rate because people do not understand the scientific method, they do not understand the findings of modern science, and they do not understand that their magical, mystical world view has not been getting supported and reinforced by the discoveries of modern science.

    That last part needs to be pointed out, and this is in part what PZ and people like Richard Dawkins are trying to do by promoting the theory of Naturalism, above and beyond evolution. It is not “scientism” to look at the view of the world which our discoveries have shown us, and form a falsifiable model from that which jettisons our prior assumptions on supernatural forces and skyhooks.

    Until people realize that, taken as a scientific hypothesis, magic and magical entities (like God) have NOT done well or made successful predictions, you are going to see pseudosciences pop up again and again, because these beliefs still seem not just plausible — but without any serious challenge — to too many people.

  92. #92 Peter Ashby
    March 20, 2008

    Sastra I agree completely. Here in the RSS reader I know use for blogs I have a folder labelled ‘Quackery’ for the sceptic blogs I read and contribute to. Here in the UK we are fortunate, the Guardian newspaper on Saturdays has a column titled Bad Science with a picture of Frankenstein’s monster in place of a photo. NHS doctor Ben Goldacre takes apart some aspect of woo every week, he has a blog at badscience.net, there is the Quackometer where you can submite a website and have it rated for quackery and the inestimable Prof David Colquhoun from UCL Pharmacology. Here in the UK a campaign based on ensuring that scarce health funds get spent on proven remedies and techniques are seeing long established homeopathic hospitals closing.

    That is not to say that ‘alternative medicine’ is on the run but homeopaths here are complaining about a lack of patients.

  93. #93 me
    March 20, 2008

    I agree with oldfart(#22)

    I’d add that us science types would do well to better understand the motivations and culture that underlie the reactionary protestant fundamentalism movement in the US.

    They are a paradoxical culture. Science threatens the very core of their belief system; yet they take what is argued to be a rational, scientific approach to their faith in the form of biblical literalism–that is, they attempt to interpret the texts with their own peculiar logic and rules. This duality is no more evident than in all of the scientific mimicry practiced by the creation “science” movement.

    Perhaps most importantly, their culture feeds and absolutely depends upon conflict. There MUST be outsiders. It’s probably only an historical quirk that they chose to wage war against biologists and other scientists. But for the Grace of God, it might very well have been computer programmers…

  94. #94 poke
    March 20, 2008

    Reading the comments on Ars Technica’s write-up of “Nisbet’s awful AAAS panel” was pretty eye opening. Is it representative of how anti-“New Atheist” the geek crowd is?

  95. #95 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 20, 2008

    Emphasis added:

    Real life example: When I was a wee hippie tyke, on the verge of leaving the Mormon church for good, I saw What the Bleep Do We Know? And for somebody raised in an environment that had encouraged a certain mystical mindset, Bleep looked downright intriguing. I totally thought the Ramtha person was full of shit, mind you, but the bits about the hormones and body chemicals effecting us looked interesting and given my limited knowledge (thanks, Mormon upbringing!) I found the movie to be pretty neat. So I googled it. And found that the whole thing had been paid for by the Ramtha cult. Found discussions of the shoddy science work. Found people explaining the motivations of the film makers. And as I read more and more critical reviews, I realised where I’d been duped and how. People exposed the crackpot ideas for what they were….just like PZed is doing for Expelled right now.

    Praise Google!

    Shouldn’t PZ be going after the higher levels? (What are the higher levels here? Behe and Dembski?) Not the Code Pink level arguments?

    ScienceBlogs has a search function supplied by Google. Which is to say: it works. PZ has shredded Behe and Dembski repeatedly, and linked to other blogs shredding them. Just open your eyes and look.

    PZ, suppose I take a dislike to you and I decide I’m going to do what I can to tear down your reputation by spreading falsehoods about you. I tell folks at the local cafe that the P in PZ Myers stands for “Preposterous.” I tell the bus driver that you got your degree through a mail order company. I tell everyone you were arrested for streaking at a Twins game.

    Since the conflict can’t be wished away, Can I expect postings from you like “I Was Not Streaking at that Twins game, dammit,” or “I spent ten arduous, boring years getting that damn degree! Shut Up you dumb mick!” or “It actually stands for Pretzels!”?

    Two words for you: Kerry, Swiftboat.

  96. #96 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 20, 2008

    Emphasis added:

    Real life example: When I was a wee hippie tyke, on the verge of leaving the Mormon church for good, I saw What the Bleep Do We Know? And for somebody raised in an environment that had encouraged a certain mystical mindset, Bleep looked downright intriguing. I totally thought the Ramtha person was full of shit, mind you, but the bits about the hormones and body chemicals effecting us looked interesting and given my limited knowledge (thanks, Mormon upbringing!) I found the movie to be pretty neat. So I googled it. And found that the whole thing had been paid for by the Ramtha cult. Found discussions of the shoddy science work. Found people explaining the motivations of the film makers. And as I read more and more critical reviews, I realised where I’d been duped and how. People exposed the crackpot ideas for what they were….just like PZed is doing for Expelled right now.

    Praise Google!

    Shouldn’t PZ be going after the higher levels? (What are the higher levels here? Behe and Dembski?) Not the Code Pink level arguments?

    ScienceBlogs has a search function supplied by Google. Which is to say: it works. PZ has shredded Behe and Dembski repeatedly, and linked to other blogs shredding them. Just open your eyes and look.

    PZ, suppose I take a dislike to you and I decide I’m going to do what I can to tear down your reputation by spreading falsehoods about you. I tell folks at the local cafe that the P in PZ Myers stands for “Preposterous.” I tell the bus driver that you got your degree through a mail order company. I tell everyone you were arrested for streaking at a Twins game.

    Since the conflict can’t be wished away, Can I expect postings from you like “I Was Not Streaking at that Twins game, dammit,” or “I spent ten arduous, boring years getting that damn degree! Shut Up you dumb mick!” or “It actually stands for Pretzels!”?

    Two words for you: Kerry, Swiftboat.

  97. #97 Calilasseia
    March 21, 2008

    With respect to this that was stated above in PZ Myers’ original post:

    “Science is providing a perspective that does not support tradition, that often reveals an uncomfortable reality like global warming or our familial relationship with worms, and it’s difficult — there are no simple, intuitive paths to understanding the details of our disciplines.”

    I’m reminded of Euclid’s words …

    “There is no royal road to geometry”.

    In other words, you have to do the intellectual spade work. Trouble is, religion encourages a state of mind which says that such things are forever unknowable, therefore god, don’t bother asking questions, just shut up and conform to doctrine.

    Fortunately for the human species, people like PZ Myers behave differently, ask awkward questions, set out to find the answers, and in the process teach us a LOT. Without the PZs of this world, we’d still be banging rocks together.

  98. #98 Norman Doering
    March 21, 2008

    David Marjanovi? wrote:

    PZ has shredded Behe and Dembski repeatedly, and linked to other blogs shredding them. Just open your eyes and look.

    Why does no one pay attention to what I actually said?

    I said “if PZ focuses too much on Vox Day, Ben Stein and that ilk, well, they’re just the Code Pink of ID arguments.” It doesn’t matter that in the past PZ has taken on the “higher level” arguments because he hasn’t done it lately. Lately the freak show aspect of this blog has been a little too dominant; “Oh look at these pathetic, crazy people.”

    Maybe the problem is that there are no higher level arguments left to shred? Maybe there never were.

    No matter what the problem, the apparent quality of the fight in you is judged by the apparent quality of the opponents you can take down. If Vladimir Kramnik, who defeated Gary Kasparov at chess, started to spend the rest of his days beating 12-year olds at chess in the playground those playground games aren’t going to do much for his reputation. You’d have to wonder why he’s not playing higher level opponents. Is he exhausted? Insecure?

  99. #99 AlanWCan
    March 21, 2008

    You know, it’s weird. I read Chris Mooney’s book the Republican War on Science, and it really seemed like a call to arms. haven’t read stormworld yet, but from the snippets I’ve seen it seems the same. Then all this Neville Chamberlain crap. What gives Chris?

  100. #100 Ichthyic
    March 21, 2008

    What gives Chris?

    Nisbet.

    Nisbet gives.

    this all started when he started hanging around with Nisbet.

    I tell ya, that boy’s a bad influence!

  101. #101 windy
    March 21, 2008

    Expect this to dribble into nothingness as Mooney rethinks it, and recalls all the efforts he has made chiding the creobots in the past.

    I wouldn’t count on it; Mooney answered, over at ERV’s, that he sees no real contradiction between his previous efforts and what he wrote now.

  102. #102 Norman Doering
    March 21, 2008

    AlanWCan wrote:

    haven’t read stormworld yet, but from the snippets I’ve seen it seems the same. Then all this Neville Chamberlain crap. What gives Chris?

    Stormworld is not the same kind of call to arms as the Republican War on Science. (I’ve not only read Stormworld, I’m in it). By the end of Stormworld it’s still something of an open question whether global warming is increasing storm intensity or frequency.

    Also, Chris’s top chosen battle now is Global Climate change and the evangelicals are starting to get on board (in their own smug and screwy way). It’s certain industries that are threatened by potential regulation that are denying climate change in order to fight the regulations that will hit them.

    There are some positive political shifts going on in the evangelical/fundy community that you won’t notice here on this blog. (Or my blog – yet – I haven’t made much sense of it so far.)

  103. #103 Ichthyic
    March 21, 2008

    I wouldn’t count on it; Mooney answered, over at ERV’s, that he sees no real contradiction between his previous efforts and what he wrote now.

    yeah, I saw that after I posted here.

    *shakes head*

    *throws hands up in air*

  104. #104 GumbyTheCat
    March 23, 2008

    I am one of the volunteer foot soldiers in the war against creationism. I, and many others like me, regularly confront this idiocy in the science forums on Topix.net. It DOES get frustrating… every time we squash one fundie’s claims then another one pops up spouting the exact same gibberish. It’s an endless game of whack-a-mole. When I think of giving up, I think of the people who are following the debate but not posting on the thread. For all I know, there are many silent “undecideds” out there. And for those people, I’ll be damned if the creationists get the last word. Luckily for us, the creationists do much of the work for us just by looking so darned foolish. Keep up the good fight!

  105. #105 Tiffany L
    March 23, 2008

    I have to admit, I usually run from arguments about intelligent design. If you have any recommendations on how students should approach these discussions, I would love to hear them. I tend to see the arguements as a tremendous waste of my time because the people I argue this with have been spoon-fed creationism since birth.

    My friends roommate was delighted to let me borrow the creationist textbooks his private high school used. I was horrified at the complete butchery of science contained in them.

    I don’t have the luck of having an even temper in these arguments, which definitely weakens my position. I definitely believe that prominent critics like yourself are important. You have a stronger voice to persuade school systems to teach science properly. I can’t help but feel that many people are lost causes due to indoctrination. However, if we can push for the proper teaching of science maybe we can make a difference.

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