Tuesday, February 02, 2010

sad and bewildering news

Dj Grothe has recently left The Center for Inquiry to become president of the JREF.  That isn't the bad news.  I've always found Grothe to be entertaining and open-minded.  He's presented views that often differ from his own fairly but without punch-pulling.  I wish him well at the JREF and hope he makes his presence felt more than Phil Plait did.  Phil is great, but didn't really stamp his authority on the JREF.  He was excellent at TAM London though.

Anyway, that's not the bad news.  The bad news is one of his replacements.  There are three of them: Chris Mooney, Karen Stollznow, and Robert Price.  I'm afraid I haven't heard of Stollznow and know little about Price, but I'm all too familiar with Mooney and I'm more than surprised at this choice.

Mooney is an accomodationist.  He believes that all atheists need to adopt a single strategy (which happens to be his) when they talk about religion.  Specifically, atheists should be respectful of the religious.  Which means they should shut up. 

He believes this because of a cockamamie idea that playing nice with theists will smoosh us all together in a loving compromise that will somehow benefit science (he doesn't say why).  But if we atheists tell the truth about religion, we'll alienate moderate advocates of religion that would otherwise agree with us on things like teaching evolution.  Mooney has decided - with no evidence or worthwhile argument - that all atheists should be nice about religion to save science and that people who aren't nice should shut up.

This is a deplorable attitude.  Something is either true, or it isn't.  Got either exists, or he doesn't.  As humans, we get to decide what we want to believe, but that has no bearing on what is actually true.  The only way we know what's true is to examine it critically.  Accepting things we know to be both untrue and harmful in order to make it slightly easier to teach evolution in American schools - or for any other politically expedient reason - is too high a price to pay.

But this argument has been doing the rounds for quite a while.  I won't re-hash it here, but I'll link to a few blogs that say it better than I, in no particular order:

http://metamagician3000.blogspot.com/
http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/
http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/

Mooney plainly thinks that atheists should shut up and get back in their box.  Could there possibly be an attitude further from the spirit of open enquiry?

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