Friday, June 18, 2010


We were initially surprised that our co-authored book, Unscientific America, was so strongly attacked for observing that scientists should strive to improve their skills at public communication–and that this probably includes not alienating potential religious allies or mainstream America.

What? Wait? What? This is an astonishing non-sequitur.  There’s a whole bunch of issues involved with the charge that scientists in general can do better at communication.  I think we certainly have plenty to learn, but it’s the ‘should’ part that bothers me: it’s a complicated issue and doesn’t deserve to be reduced to ‘should’.  That’s one issue.  To follow this with the claim that better communication “probably includes not alienating potential religious allies or mainstream America.” is highly disingenuous, trotted out as though it were an obvious conclusion of the dubious requirement for better science communication. 


But it gets much, much worse.

But in a sense, the attacks made a kind of sense. Mostly, they came from those for whom this advice ran contrary to their particular project of denouncing much of America and the world for alleged ignorance and superstition–the New Atheists.

This piles consternation on top of astonishment.  It’s news to me that we New Atheists have any such project and it seems as though Mooney is using the claim as a rhetorical excuse to put everyone who disagrees with him into a box. It leaves him free to move the goalposts, which is the very hallmark of a specious argument.

Extra brilliantness for “America and the world”, by the way.

No comments:

Post a Comment