mooney and co. vs. the new atheists

August 11, 2009

Usually when you’ve managed to dig a hole for yourself during an argument, you don’t bring in heavy mining machinery and redouble your efforts. But then again, you have to realize what you’re doing and after all the debates and even a toxic spoof that tries to embody all the criticism of their book, neither Mooney or Kirshenbaum seem to grasp that maybe they went off on the wrong track. Instead, they decided to lambast Richard Dawkins’ anticipated book about evolution before it comes out.

It will surely be an impressive display, as Dawkins excels at making the case for evolution. But it’s also fair to ask: Who in the United States will read Dawkins’ new book (or ones like it) and have any sort of epiphany, or change his or her mind?

Surely not those who need it most: America’s anti-evolutionists. These religious adherents often view science itself as an assault on their faith and doggedly refuse to accept evolution because they fear it so utterly denies God that it will lead them, and their children, straight into a world of moral depravity and meaninglessness. An in-your-face atheist touting evolution, like Dawkins, is probably the last messenger they’ll heed.

via the Los Angeles Times

At this point one wonders if they’re actually in touch with the real world anymore. After they say exactly why American creationists reject the science behind evolutionary biology, do they honestly expect them to go out and buy books by a nice enough author and change their minds? Are people who think that science is a gateway to the evils of atheism going to run out and change their minds if you sweet talk them a little before hitting them on the head with the hard evidence? They’ll just decry it as a bait and switch. Audiences that willfully stick their fingers in their ears and scream really loud not to hear the world around them, aren’t going to accept science just because we give them a lollipop and pat them on the back while nodding with a serious expression as we tell them that their views fit perfectly with the modern world.

But this is exactly what Mooney and Kirshenbaum want scientists to do. According to them, instead of “simply declaring a holy war on religion,” vocal atheists should pipe down and scientists should be telling everyone that science and religion are perfectly compatible even though they differ at their very core. So what happens when the oh so very nice scientists tell religious fundamentalists that evolution doesn’t seem to require a supernatural creator? Or that life is a series of persistent biochemical reactions? Or that the only tangible thing about religious faith is the belief of its followers? What then? Well, our self-appointed masterminds of faith/science relations didn’t develop their train of thought that far.

Of course, we should point out that Mooney doesn’t spend all his time on a high horse. Why after an interview with The Young Turks on Air America, he thought it was “kinda fun to bash Republicans and the religious right again” less than two weeks after he sternly warned that the internet’s vocal atheists are just motivated by culture war instincts and don’t invest enough in civil dialogue that’s necessary to build bridges between scientists and the public. However, it’s ok when he publicly bashes political parties and the religious people he lambasted in The Republican War on Science and now tries to defend from those evil godless heathens. He doesn’t have to practice what he preaches because after all, he just wrote the books.

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  • http://www.clistersbackchannel.wordpress.com Brian In NYC

    Black holes and planetary formation are easy compared to this stuff Greg! Frankly I feel trying to convince creationists of anything is pretty much casting pearls before swine and a prime example of an exercise in futility.

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  • http://white-nuclear-snow-flake.blogspot.com H. Springer

    I’m amused at the crowd stuck in all the major philosophical arguments of 1859, as if they had meaning today.

    Post Einstein, post-Heisenberg, post Tielhard de Chardin, the avante discussion must be about the limits of mind
    (can we ever know anything beyond monkey feeding/mating rituals ?)…

    the limits of science
    (if 99% of reality is untestable neutrino flux or dark matter …can we ever know anything salient about it?)….

    and the extension of evolution into the human phenomenon
    (do we evolve toward unison as thinking creatures, is there an actual noosphere a-gathering?)

    If you’re busy knocking down bible thumpers, using all the great 1859 atheism canards, you’re defacto absent from the all the really good discussions.

    To me, its oh-so B-O-R-I-N-G !!

    The point Mooney and the other 1859ers miss , is the really scary notion (for a secularist) that religion per se is a “best fit” for the human thinking process.

    Forget the corrupt rump religions of western Europe… they were already beginning to die in 1859. To see the best fit at work, you need a vital religion, untainted by infection with covert atheism, such as today’s Islam. Islam, unlike christianity, and religious judaism, is not on its deathbed. Islam strongly motivates entire cultures to behave in rough unison, and maps all of history, as a salvation tale, going forward till the “end of time”, providing memes for political cooperation, primitive justice, mandated charity, and family structure (albeit retrograde and tribal in outlook).

    If you are a westerner, secular or religious, and you value western culture, you ought to be very afraid of Islam.Muslims have an internal integration, and a philosophical basis for dominating their wives, beating their children, enslaving unbelievers, (or killing them) that fits exactly with the old monkey habits of dominating mates, beating juveniles, and enslaving strangers (or killing them). War itself is deified, and war is a uniquely human invention, the quickest route to self aggrandizement, and self enrichment ever devised. Islam very cleverly lays out the rules for muslims to enter a new culture, and gradually islamicize it, eventually supplanting it with sharia culture. Not since communism, has the west possesed any method so efficacious at enslavement, and communism lies in tatters, dead at the moment. Environmentalist secularism lacks the dominating wherewithall to withstand today’s awakening Islam (Capital “I” this time).

    If human phenomenal evolution allows a melding of the persona with the communication gadgets surrounding it, the west may simply disappear into its own electronic navel, never leaving the apartment so to speak, while Islam rules the streets (and the nations). I would hate to see it, but right now, I think I see it beginning.

    THIS is the discussion we need.

    Not Mooney’s mooning over Andrew Jackson’s imaginary Yahweh.

  • Greg Fish

    I’m amused at the crowd stuck in all the major philosophical arguments of 1859, as if they had meaning today.

    Well, they do, but certainly not nearly as much as they did back in the day. This is why I cringe every time I end up discussing Darwin when talking about evolution. There’s probably an entire city worth of people who made major contributions to the field over the last than 150 years. Why not talk about them and our modern knowledge?

    If you are a westerner, secular or religious, and you value western culture, you ought to be very afraid of Islam.

    No. We have to keep an eye on Muslim fundamentalists who advocate theocracies. I spent time with a number of Muslims and in my experience very few of them want to see Sharia law in the West and consider it enough just to follow their faith in peace. The threats we see from the right wing in Europe and the US about grand plans for a colonization of Western nations seem to be more indicative of paranoia then anything else, especially since many people who tend to voice them are Christians terrified of Muslims and the potential to see significant Muslim populations on their turf.

  • Gerald Murphy

    My cubicle mates at work are nice Pakistani/Bangla Deshi emigres, one of whom just made Hajj. I keep his picture, one hand touching the Kaaba, as one of my screen savers.

    Islam is a program, a plan, more than it is a codified ruleset (as are Christendom & Judaism).The plan is, for the world to submit to sharia, be it by conversion, or by Dhimmitude (enslavement). There is no malice in this thought, just the will of Allah & the prophet, and I feel no malice at all from my Muslim buddies.

    Their role, in a new country (Dar al Harb…the house of war) is to provide the peaceful, harmless community, or Ummah, in which the few good men (the base…al Quaeda) may swim, whilst bringing about the submission.

    The good men to come (the Quaeda) are NOT extremists, simply the sanctified few willing to endure Taqfir, (exile) for the sake of the Ummah. Their exile, is as the hammer of the prophet, flattening the defenses of the Dar al Harb.

    So now you see the stepwise , programmatical progress, which is Islam.
    Nothing extreme about it. Simply very inevitable (and mandatory).

    Those in the Ummah, but not in the base (non-Quaedists) view the base, as superior, sanctified, much as we might view St Francis of Assisi, or Mother Teresa. Thus our “terrorists” are not some deluded anomaly, but actually the fruit of Islam…. and are called just that.

    But I posted about Islam simply as an example of a non-dying religion. All the western religions are roundly not-believed by their own followers.

    Not so with Islam.