Saturday, April 14, 2007

Okay, Chris, Matt-- Stop digging. Stop it.

Chris, Matt-- you arent making things better. I have no idea why you think this is "helping." Youve dug a hole, deal with it, but for the love of Pete, stop digging. Its getting painful for me to read this stuff.

Ive stated this same thing several times, and I think you all are missing it, so let me be very, very clear:
Saying stupid things like this-

If the defenders of evolution wanted to give their creationist adversaries a boost, it's hard to see how they could do better than Richard Dawkins, the famed Oxford scientist who had a bestseller with "The God Delusion." Dawkins, who rose to fame with his lucid expositions of evolution in such books as "The Selfish Gene," has never gone easy on religion. But recently he has ramped up his atheist message, further mixing his defense of evolution with his attack on belief.

Leave aside for a moment the validity of Dawkins's arguments against religion. The fact remains: The public cannot be expected to differentiate between his advocacy of evolution and his atheism. More than 80 percent of Americans believe in God, after all, and many fear that teaching evolution in our schools could undermine the belief system they consider the foundation of morality. Dawkins not only reinforces and validates such fears -- baseless though they may be -- but lends them an exclamation point.

...eables Creationists/Deniers/etc. You are not helping. Youre validating anti-science talking points ("Richard Dawkins is a MEANY!") instead of confronting them.

You say arguments like evolution-->immorality are stupid, but instead of cutting that argument off at the knees ("If evolution leads to immorality, why am I the one doing HIV and cancer research, while Good Christians are shuffling funds around to prevent victims of sexual abuse from collecting awarded funds? I mean certainly that doesnt mean theism=amorality, its just that your claim makes no sense."), you say "Dont be an 'out' atheist"?

What the hell?

Another weird comment:
In 2000 Americans didn't pore over explanations of President Bush's policies; they asked whether he was the kind of guy they wanted to have a beer with.
And more people would rather have a beer with me than Billy Dembski (probably including his ID buddies). Im sorry, Im completely missing the point, here. You keep saying "Oh I dont mean to dumb things down" but thats exactly what it sounds like youre suggesting with trite comments like this.

Another one:
Making complicated issues personally meaningful will activate public support much more effectively than blinding people with science.
Well thank you for the news flash. Thats exactly what I do, quote:
Another reason would be to get these kids to transmit this information to their parents. Like Ive said over and over and over, Average Joe Creationists slide right off that Creationist-Wagon when they realize how evolution is directly connected to their quality of life. Its not just about 'dogs turning into cats'-- its about Mom not having to go on chemo when she gets breast cancer because her genotype matches the cancer that can be treated with radiation alone. Its about inventing new drugs and vaccines to make our lives better. Get high school kids to write about these kinds of real-world benefits, and suddenly Mom and Dad dont mind evolution being in the curriculum anymore. Might even be inclined to start fighting against Creationism.
I dont know why Chris isnt believing me, but Im exactly the kind of scientist hes viewing riding in on a horse over the horizon... And Im having extraordinary difficulty getting 'the message' out through traditional means! Chris, Matt, you all are the one missing the point! Ive said it over and over and OVER! We have this mystical cadre of 'science communicators'. It already exists. But WE arent the ones being asked to speak about evolution/vaccinations/etc on CNN! Talk to your journalist buddies, buddy! Stop digging yourselves in a deeper hole, and stop validating anti-science proponents! Just stop!


Foxy said...

I've thought about writing a post on this sort of thing myself. Honestly, I tend to avoid things like this because I feel like it's out of my league. I'm just a fox who likes math.

I think that what the goal should be, and in a sense what Mooney and Matt (M & M, if you will), are shooting for is increased Science Awareness. Not increased science - how many people really need to be able to do gel electrophoresis? Though it is pretty cool.

The part about muzzling the atheists - eh. My take is that atheism really shouldn't be a factor of the equation, and neither should theism. The impression I get is that M&M are arguing that Dawkins and the rest need to hush because they're distracing from what should be the focus, all the good things science does. And I think there's a point to be had there - it's much more significant to show how science has helped increase survival rates for cancers and the like than show how science takes the place of religion.

I'm reminded of those billboards, black background, white text, that say things like, 'If man had evolved from monkeys, there would be no more monkeys.' Instead, we need things like say 'Evolutionary biology allows us to detect and treat (Fill in Debilitating Disease) early on, increasing your chance of survival by more than 70%' Things like that. I almost envision a team of volunteers who just go through the city constantly, stopping people to point out the shoes on their feet, the food their eating, the medication they're taking, and saying 'Look! Science!'

I think Bill Nye just needs to save the world.

In summary, M&M have a point, but they talk about too much and don't get it across well and just blah.

Of course, in the interests of full disclosure, I haven't actually read any of their pieces, just the largely negative commentary ^.^

Kristjan Wager said...

I think Mooney, and especially Nisbet, should work on their communication skills (ironic isn't it) - they are incredible bad at selling their ideas, and tend to piss off a lot of people while trying to do so.

I have written a post of why I think they are completely wrong about Dawkins, and why such statements distract from their message.

The Factician said...


The reason why theism/atheism becomes a part of the debate about science is that theism demands a way of thinking that is antithetical to the practice of good science: belief in the absence of evidence. You can't do science with belief in the absence of evidence. But folks who think you can also tend to believe in crystals, and herbal medicine and chi and god.

Science is about proof. And folks who are comfortable walking around believing in something without proof are going to have a *very* hard time understanding why science is uniquely able to solve difficult questions.

Foxy said...

I see what you're saying, factician. That makes a lot of sense and I don't think I'd looked at it that way before.

Anonymous said...

I also have my own post up on the issue, and I take a similar attitude now to Kris'. I thought they might have had a point or two worth heeding at first, but my opinion of their idea has now taken a nosedive. "Framing" is now starting to sound a hell of a lot more like "pandering".