Be careful what you wish for

I’m deeply irritated. I’ll tell you why. If Chris Mooney can, I can. If Chris Mooney can single out PZ Myers for a damn good scolding not once but twice in his (and Kirshenbaum’s, but he’s the one with the PZ-vendetta) short book, then I can single out Chris Mooney for another in the privacy of this little place.

I know it’s futile. G ignores him, Josh says he should be ignored, and I’ve been ignoring him ever since he went all Matthew Nisbet on everyone’s ass. No bad things resulted from my ignoring him all this time, as far as I know, and I could have just continued to ignore him. But then he started up with the hectoring.

Religion is a very private matter, and given that liberal religionists support church-state separation, we really have no business questioning their personal way of making meaning of the world. After all, they are not trying to force it on anybody else…In a recent New Republic book review, [Jerry] Coyne took on Kenneth Miller and Karl Giberson, two scientists who reconcile science and religion in their own lives. Basically, [Barbara] Forrest’s point was that while Coyne may be right that there’s no good reason to believe in the supernatural, he’s very misguided about strategy. Especially when we have the religious right to worry about, why is he criticizing people like Miller and Giberson for their attempts to reconcile modern science and religion?

I pointed out why that is stupid: since Miller and Giberson had written books on science and religion, to that extent their religion was not a private matter at all, and since Jerry Coyne had written a review of their books for a respected magazine, it’s beyond absurd to rebuke him for doing just that.

That was more than a month ago. Then Mooney sent me the book. Then I read chapter 8, and said what I thought about it, including the fact that it starts by singling out PZ for a scolding. Then several people read the book and lots of people wrote posts or posted comments on the Mooney/Kirshenbaum blog to try to get Mooney to see a few things. We pointed out that he offered no evidence or argument for the claim that atheism causes Americans to be hostile to science. We noted that he kept misdescribing what atheists said. We observed that he kept ignoring what everyone said while he went right on doing posts that went right on misdescribing what atheists said. People pointed out that he was quoting favorable bits from reviews while not mentioning the other bits. People said ‘will you please engage with the arguments?’ People made a stink when he did a post about a comment at Pharyngula that had a Naughty Word in it, without saying that it was a comment rather than a post by PZ – and then failed to fix the post until many people made more and more stink – and even then didn’t apologize.

And so on and so on and so on. Tawdry stuff. Bad behavior. Vain, obstinate, belligerent behavior – from a guy whose whole schtick is giving everyone instructions in how to be ‘civil’ and how to bridge divides between people.

Today in yet another display of petulant shunning, he fell on the neck of one commenter (who in fact disagreed with him about much but is apparently a friend, probably one with a Name) – and trotted out one point that is in fact one that I have been attempting to get him to acknowledge for days – as if it had been his view all along. (What point? That atheists don’t dispute that it is possible to combine religion and science [as he put it yesterday when talking about Francis Collins] ‘in one’s life’ but that that is not the same thing as compatibility, it’s just brute force. Mooney put it this way – ‘It seems to me that Scott is just making the blunt empirical point that a lot of people reconcile the two in some way–which is undeniable.’ I have never seen him admit that or phrase the matter that way before, and I don’t think he has, because it undercuts much of what he keeps saying. And that ‘blunt’ is a giveaway – that’s my word – I vary between ‘brute’ and ‘blunt.’ He got that from my comments, but never had the minimal decency to admit as much – and here he’s actually absorbed it and regurgitated it, still without ever so much as saying ‘yes that’s a point.’)

I said so, and also pointed out yet another misdescription of what atheists say. Other people, such as Peter Beattie, also said useful things. Mooney ignored us in order to single out two posts that he considered ‘civil.’

Boring, right?! Unbelievably boring. Yes but here’s what’s interesting – it’s the same as what was always so interesting (in a boring way) about Matt Nisbet. Nisbet is supposed to be a professional in ‘communication’ – yet he is stunningly, conspicuously, unmistakably terrible at it. Not just below average; terrible. It’s the same with Mooney – he claims to be centrally concerned with civility and respect and behaving decently – while he is conspicuously, strikingly, energetically rude, and belligerent, and unfair, and deceptive. He behaves horribly – day after day after day! With people protesting at him the whole time! It’s hilarious, in a way. ‘Be nicer, doggone it – be like me! Misrepresent what people you don’t like say – then ignore them when they try to set you straight – then do the misrepresenting all over again, right after people have just told you you’re misrepresenting them – then do some more ignoring – then take over some of what they tell you but pretend it’s your idea not theirs – then call them uncivil – then do it all over again!’

I wonder if there is a lesson here. Don’t try to set yourself up as an especially nice, respectful, civil, decent, bridge-building person – because it will turn out that you’re just as rude and hostile and ego-protecting and pugnacious as everyone else, and maybe even worse than some. Then you’ll look silly. Silly and not at all nice or respectful or civil. Sic transit gloria.

I feel ever so much better!

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