Footnotes on footnotes

I mentioned that a commenter at The Intersection said I was lying. Tim Broderick, he is; here’s the central part of what he said:

When Ophelia Benson claims through her “questions” that Chris and Sheril have no evidence she is not telling the truth. It’s one thing for people who haven’t read the book to assert this – she has the book. So let me say that again and more emphatically: She is lying.

Here is the question from her own site: “How do you know overt atheism causes people to be hostile to science? How does that work? What is your evidence?”

From page 173 to page 185 there are detailed endnotes with citations to back up the assertions in Chapter 8…Benson doesn’t just disagree. She lies and asserts that they have nothing to back up their assertions.

Asking questions is not asserting, but never mind. He’s wrong on the substance too. This bit of chapter 8 for instance:

If the goal is to create an America more friendly toward science and reason, the combativeness of the New Atheists is strongly counterproductive. If anything, they work in ironic combination with their dire enemies, the anti-science conservative Christians who populate the creation science and intelligent design movements, to ensure we’ll continue to be polarized over subjects llike the teaching of evolution when we don’t have to be. America is a very religious nation, and if forced to choose between faith and science, vast numbers of Americans will select the former. The New Atheists err in insisting that such a choice needs to be made. Atheism is not the logical outcome of scientific reasoning, any more than intelligent design is a necessary corollary of religious faith. A great many scientists believe in God with no sense of internal contradiction, just as many religious believers accept evolution as the correct theory to explain the development, diversity, and inter-relatedness of life on Earth. The New Atheists, like the fundamentalists they so despise, are setting up a false dichotomy that can only damage the cause of scientific literacy for generations to come. [pp 97-8]

I would like to rip into the argument there, but won’t. (See Jason Rosenhouse on the subject.) But what I will do is point out that there is no endnote for that paragraph. None. Zero. You can easily check – the notes are on page 174. They go from one related to a passage on page 97 before that paragraph begins, to one on a passage on page 98 after that paragraph ends. That whole paragraph is note-free. So Tim Broderick was wrong.

The closest thing to a note for the overarching claim comes much later, for a passage on page 104 – and it’s worthless.

In fact, education researchers have found that defusing the tension over science and religion facilitates learning about evolution. “I submit that anti-religious rehtoric is counter-productive. It actually hampers science education,” a biologist at Davis and Elkins College in West Virgina. In Stover’s view, students who feel that evolution is a threat to their beliefs will not “want to learn,” and only reconiliatory discussion can open them up to evolution. (p. 183)

That’s just someone saying something, in the same way they are saying something. It doesn’t count as evidence. It could illustrate, or amplify, or clarify, but it can’t support.

So – are we clear? I wasn’t lying. M&K don’t provide support for all of their assertions, and some of what they purport to offer is actually worthless.

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