the gift that still keeps on giving…

October 5, 2009

When you write a roundly criticized book which comes up way short of the lofty goals you set for it, deal with criticism by trying to pit those who disagree with against a respected scientific group while essentially telling them to pipe down, one would assume that you would take some time to think before letting loose with another potshot at the people against who you seem to hold deep personal grudges. And in the case of Chris Mooney, one would be wrong. For example, take his latest characterization of an interview with Dawkins as an example of a rocket assisted leap to conclusions…

Wow. No more denouncing the “Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists”; rather, Dawkins now stands up for Francis Collins! […] Assuming Dawkins is being quoted correctly, then it appears he is espousing the basic stance that we, and NCSE, have long been arguing for. Certainly, if Richard Dawkins is moving to this ground, there’s reason to rejoice.

Why all the excitement? Richard Dawkins, one of Mooney’s grand examples of everything that’s wrong about atheist scientists educating people about evolution, said that there seems to be a compatibility between the theory and religious views in the minds of those who ascribe to both. He’s standing up for Collins by making the statement that the man accepts the merits of evolution and is also an ardent theist? Really? Sorry but I’m not seeing it here and for good reason. As pointed out on Jerry Coyne’s blog by Dawkins himself, he’s just talking about the ability of the human mind to hold contrarian beliefs. This is hardly embracing the banner of declaring science and religion totally compatible and inviting everyone to gather around a fire, make s’mores and sing Kumbaya as Mooney and Kirshenbaum are fantasizing.

There’s also something very disconcerting and irritating in Mooney’s approach to Dawkins as a very simplistic and single-minded atheist steamroller on a warpath. The professor is actually a rather soft-spoken, cerebral man who can think in more than one dimension. To catch a moment of his normal thought process and use it to justify a highly dubious idea is disingenuous and speaks very poorly of the person who tries to do it. After all the time and effort invested in trying to show Mooney that the world isn’t populated by nasty cardboard villains standing in the way of his and Kirshenbaum’s glorious vision for the future, it seems that he still wants to cling to the idea of pulling a bait and switch on the believers with no thought to the consequences. Dawkins’ words shouldn’t be taken as gospel, true. He may not always be right. But at this point, Mooney isn’t even wrong.

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  • reggie

    Does Mooney have a brain tumor or something?

  • Greg Fish

    I’d say that’s rather harsh. My opinion of the situation is a little more cynical.

    Chris just thinks he had some sort of grand epiphany he must now spread through the scientific world and collect the accolades that will rain down on him once the wise sages in the halls of academia realize how right he is.

    Since that hasn’t happened, he’s trying to escalate his campaign and grasp at every straw, becoming more and more irrational in the process.