we who are about to facepalm… hard.
Poor, poor Chris Mooney. I’m seriously beginning to think he’s unwell. After desperately grasping on to Josh Rosenau’s attempt to present Richard Dawkins as an accommodationist and trying to cheer victory for his rather confusing and poorly thought out cause, he took his message to the Huffington Post with the thesis that the evil leader of New Atheism has turned a new leaf and gave up on advocating his godlessness. Much of the article is a rambling recounting of his self-congratulatory blog post, complete with a cherry-picking of the two quotes in question, and the reaction it provoked from atheists and Dawkins himself. Only in the end of his rambling does he actually get to the point he so desperately wants to make.
But what’s truly noteworthy is where Dawkins hints as to how this all happened-e.g., he’s got an evolution book to sell now, and he’s sick of people thinking it’s an atheism book, so he’s trying to steer interviewers away from that, and seems frankly annoyed that they don’t get the difference…
After writing a million-selling atheist “consciousness-raiser” and “come-out-of-the-closet” book, is it at all surprising that Dawkins now finds his evolution book being prominently linked to atheism in the media mind?
All right Chris, I’m going to explain this slowly and carefully. Reporters and science writers will often get stuck on doing the same thing over and over again, promoting their favorite angle on a story no matter the real topic at hand. Just like you’re doing by using every mention of PZ or Coyne or Dawkins as an argument for your big pet project of promoting accommodationism so ardent theists will really like you. But Dawkins already laid out his case for atheism and is moving on to talk about evolution as a scientist, so anyone expecting another fiery affirmation of his godlessness is going to be disappointed. If reporters with one-track minds like yours go on to make The Greatest Show on Earth seem like a sequel to The God Delusion, he’s going to have lots of very dissatisfied fans out there. Hence the damage control.
Now, you would think that having promoted a book and being vaguely aware of the marketing requirements in doing so (though his ability to handle criticism needs whole a lot of work), Mooney would be able to consider this train of thought. But that’s not what he does. Instead, he starts beating his battle drum with wild abandon.
In this context, perhaps what’s really going on is that Dawkins would like to promote his new book without too much religion-bashing attached to it. And given what he’s now trying to achieve — to communicate about the science of evolution, which is a very important objective — that’s a very wise thing to do. If Dawkins wants to change minds about evolution, and break down barriers, it makes a heck of a lot of sense to move to the center on religion, and not alienate religious believers or the U.S. media any more than he has to.
Religion bashing? Hello? Is this the author of a book that tore into Republicans for following an anti-scientific religious dogma in corrupting scientific literacy in America talking? Has Mooney lost the ability to put together logical arguments? Does he really think being nice about how to promote the science behind the evolutionary theory will sway people who think that accepting evolution means they’ll be tortured by Satan’s minions in the pits of Hell for blasphemy? Is he still as detached from reality as he was when writing that ridiculous op-ed in the LA Times which sought to pit atheists against the NCSE as part of his Quixotic crusade? It’s sad to see a once promising science writer shooting himself in the foot again and again. It really is.