Another vituperative demand for civility
Josh Rosenau has an unpleasant and in places inaccurate post about Mooney and his critics. In places it’s also just badly thought through, like here:
…we’ve had Chris Mooney winning a grant so he can write a book. In this day and age, any science writer or journalist of any stripe who can stay employed and be funded to do research deserves praise and congratulations. But because Mooney’s funding comes from the John Templeton Foundation, a group dedicated to promoting a particular view on the compatibility of science and religion, that praiseworthy achievement has won opprobrium.
What, any science writer or journalist of any stripe who can stay employed and be funded to do research deserves praise and congratulations no matter what, no qualifications or stipulations, no matter what the source of the funding is? So any science writer or journalist of any stripe who can stay employed and be funded to do research deserves praise and congratulations even if the funding comes from the Tobacco Institute, or the oil industry, or a cabal of climate-change denialists? I really doubt that he means that – but if he doesn’t mean that, then his claim falls apart. If he does mean that, I disagree with him. I don’t think any science writer or journalist of any stripe who can stay employed and be funded to do research deserves praise and congratulations no matter what the source of the funding is. I think that’s a ridiculous claim.
Some of the inaccuracy has to do with things he claimed I said. I commented on that and other things there, but my comment is being held in moderation, so I’ll repeat some of what I said here.
Ophelia Benson picked up not on that post but on Jerry Coyne’s bribery charges. Not, alas, to chide Coyne for his absurd double standard, but to pile on Chris. The question she poses is whether “Chris Mooney is a man more sinned against than sinning.”
That’s not true. I did not ‘pick up on’ ‘Jerry Coyne’s bribery charges’; my post has nothing to do with Jerry Coyne’s post; I neither linked to it nor mentioned it; my post was in response to one by Sheril Kirshenbaum, and that’s the post I linked to. I wasn’t ‘piling on’ Chris, I was stating my own view.
Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s wrong to equate getting a grant with taking a bribe. Maybe it’s wrong to demonize your critics just because they demonized you.
Maybe. But then again maybe it does matter, maybe it is worth asking who funds particular grants, and criticizing sources that seem to have a particular agenda or bias, maybe doing that does not equate to demonizing your critics.
I would say it’s the kind of thing Chris Mooney himself has done, and done well, and done usefully. I would say it’s an important and valuable thing to do. I would say Josh’s casual dismissal of it is deeply wrong-headed.
Ophelia is right that there were criticisms offered of their ideas as well, but the notion that their critics were focused only on the intellectual merits of the claims advanced in the book and at Chris’s blog is laughable in its revisionism.
Maybe it would be, but I didn’t say that. What I said was that Sheril ‘should consider the possibility that the personal attacks are actually not baseless – that people accuse Chris of saying things that he really has been saying.’ That doesn’t imply that there’s no personal anger, it states that the personal attacks are not baseless.
Whoever started it, it’s fair to say that Chris and Sheril have gotten their just desserts. Endlessly picking on them because they wrote a book, or criticized a book review before that, is unspeakably petty.
But they have gone on making their personal accusations against people, by name, with exaggeration and weak arguments and (to use Josh’s word) ‘demonization.’ Chris, in particular, keeps returning to the issue and his same old claims. We get to reply.
Ophelia argues (as PZ does implicitly as quoted above) that “Chris picked a fight.” But the idea that he originated the fight is, again, patent revisionism. It’s a fight that’s raged for a long time.
That really is very sloppy. I said Chris ‘picked a fight’; that is not the same thing as saying he originated the fight. Obviously. Of course I don’t think he’s the origin of the whole conflict, but he did pick this particular fight, so it is pretty whiny to claim now that he’s the one being picked on. Josh also fails to mention the huge advantage Mooney has in relative access to media – he fails to mention the fact that Mooney’s been (to use Josh’s language again) ‘piling on’ the ‘New’ atheists in mass media while the ‘New’ atheists have been replying on blogs. The advantage is his, not ours.
I have no idea what that is supposed to mean.