Switching claims in midstream

Hmmyes. I listened to some of the interview again. As Tyro pointed out, there’s one place where Mooney very sharply contradicts himself – admits he has no evidence then almost instantly says he has a lot of evidence and a lot of knowledge. It’s quite remarkable.

This is in the part where they’re talking about the controversy over Mooney’s dogma that frank atheism is “counter-productive” (to what, is not spelled out). Lindsay says what’s the evidence, isn’t it a hunch.

Mooney says no, we know this: religion is a deeply held belief, it’s part of people’s identity, challenges to it trigger a defensive response. Lindsay says yes but that’s a general theory of the psychology of belief; do you have any actual evidence that the books and so on of the new atheists have actually been counter-productive.

No, not as such, Mooney says, but you say it like I should have, it would be expensive, complicated, difficult, blah blah – someone should do a study, and if someone did and the results were – I don’t know what they would be, I have a suspicion, but I don’t know, but if they were different from what I’m saying, I’d be happy to acknowledge that.

Big of him, isn’t it.

Lindsay says right, so it’s a hunch, so do you have any evidence that –

And Mooney interrupts and says quite sharply:

It’s more than a suspicion, it’s an inference from a lot of evidence and a lot of knowledge.

This must be about ten seconds after admitting that he did not have evidence.

He’s apparently too glib and too pleased with himself and too self-righteous even to hang on to an awareness that he in fact does not have any evidence for the claims he’s actually making (as opposed to a much wider looser more obvious and common sense claim that some people don’t change their beliefs just because an atheist challenges them) for more than a few seconds.

It’s not about that claim. Duh. We know that some people cling to their beliefs no matter what. We don’t need Chris Mooney to tell us that. That’s not the claim that’s disputed. The claim that’s disputed is that frank atheism is counter-productive. That is a different claim. Chris Mooney doesn’t have a shred of evidence for it – and in fact he’s never even defined it.

Science communication indeed.

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