Don’t be a phick

Phil Plait is disappointing some very long-term fans. They’re telling him so in comments.

He did a post yesterday saying congratulations to Chris Mooney on being appointed to the Board of the American Geophysical Union

to advise the AGU on how to better and more effectively communicate with the public and lawmakers in Washington.

Comments came in saying skeptical things about Mooney and effective communication. Phil asked for evidence that Mooney “isn’t above banning reasonable dissent from his own blog.” Evidence came in from commenter after commenter. That was more than 24 hours ago, and as recent comments have pointed out, Phil has yet to acknowledge it. What kind of science communication is that?

What sort of science communicator demands people do something and then just ignores them when they do? I would consider most people who do that to be dicks, honestly. You don’t enter a discussion, demand people provide facts to back up their case, and then just vanish when people actually do so. That behavior is typical of creationists, denialists of all stripes, and various proponents of woo. It is the absolute last thing I would expect from a skeptic.

I stuck my nose in yesterday, because Sigmund told me my name had been mentioned, and I found that it had appeared in three separate comments, so I thought I should corroborate what the comments said; so I did.

From this far away, it could look as if I planned and intended all this. It could look as if I set out to goad Mooney into banning me and thus looking like someone who bans reasonable dissent from his blog. But I didn’t. I asked my questions repeatedly, but I always thought Mooney would answer them. Each time, I thought (however fatuously) “this time he’ll answer.” I didn’t intentionally set him up. What happened to him is not my fault. I bother to say that because one or two people who used to be friends of mine think it is. They’re mistaken.

I guess I also bother to say it because…well because it clearly did work out badly for Mooney. Those comments on Plait’s site make that obvious. They’re by people I don’t know, so it’s not just a matter of groupthinky loyalties. There is a big segment of the skeptical and pro-science “community” that knows about Mooney’s short way with dissenters, and does not admire it. He gets exciting gigs all the same, so perhaps it doesn’t matter, but I suspect he cares what that “community” thinks of him.

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