Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:33 am

It's also considered inappropriate in some places to question politics. Like when Bush was in power, it was considered unpatriotic to question the decisions of the president during a time of war. Now that the GOP is out of power, it's considered patriotic to not only question Obama's decisions but make up lies about how he has secret death panels to execute grandmas and make up lies about how he's an illegitimate citizen. This isn't a problem with only religion or something moderates caused but it's human nature in general that most people don't like having their cherished beliefs challenged whether it's religious or non-religious like politics. After all, they say the three things you should never talk about with people are religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin. But I don't see what evidence there is that this is a moderate only problem or that atheists are somehow better at accepting criticism than anyone else in society.

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The Discussion After the Mooney Interview was Much Better

Post  j_silent on Tue Jul 13, 2010 3:09 am

First time commenter here, and a huge fan of the show. You guys consistently put out material of extremely high quality - really smart, interesting, and with a sense of humour.

I'm inclined to agree with much of what has been said already but I couldn't resist putting in my two cents on this one.

Part of the problem with the accomodationism discussion is there seems to be two (quasi-related) issues that sometimes get conflated. One concerns whether religion and science are "compatible", the other concerns tactics and the best way to interact with religious folks in order to advance secular goals.

As to whether religious faith and science are "compatible". I think it is reasonably clear that religion (as it is usually practised) is incompatible with science and rational inquiry. The fact is, religions tend to make grand truth claims about the world that are likely false. I also think that religious knowledge is typically derived from received authority and belief without evidence. This is in conflict with the spirit of scientific inquiry based on reason, testing, and evidence. I'm glad the oubtcasters seemed to tackle this fairly easily noting that except for vague deism, religion does tend to be in conflict. Chris Mooney, however, seems to disagree. Unfortunately, he seems to fixate on the fact that because some very good scientists can also be religious, there is no conflict. He mentioned this in the interview. And yes, in this very trivial sense science and religion are compatible, but so what? All it demonstrates is that people are able to compartmentalize conflicting ideas. It fails to address the much more substantive points raised by Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, Russell Blackford, etc.

I also have a problem with Mooney's approach to the tactics discussion. My main issue is that he seems to claim that pretty much any criticism of religion milder than fundamentalist creationism is rude and improper. For example, he came down on a column Jerry Coyne had in the New Republic criticizing Ken Miller and Karl Giberson's notions of theistic evolution as "bad strategy" and approvingly quote Barbara Forrest who argued that this sort of thing was a breach of etiquette. This is where people get the notion that Chris Mooney is telling atheists to shut up. Coyne's piece was polite, lauded Ken Miller's terrific work fighting ID, and was mild in tone. Certainly far milder than much of what passes for mainstream political criticism. What are atheists supposed to say if this is considered rude?

In my opinion, Mooney is also misguided when it comes to strategy. Part of the problem seems to be that he is focused on the relatively narrow goal of promoting the acceptance of certain scientific facts, whereas those snarky atheists are trying to advance reason, evidence, and a secular worldview more broadly. Mooney seems not to understand this and keeps harping on whether anti-accommodationist comments will turn certain people off of evolution. I think this misses the point that there is a broader strategy involved as stated by commenters here (e.g., Eric). The public taboo against public criticism of religion is really pernicious and needs to be broken. I'm also a bit sceptical that Mooney's approach would really have that much short term impact. I suspect creationists are not much more likely to exchange their faith for the liberal religion Mooney favours than they are to become atheists/agnostics. Regardless, this is why it is good to have a bunch of smart people trying different approaches.

Anyway, despite my obvious problems with Chris Mooney, it was good to have him on to explain his point of view and spark this discussion. Another great episode!

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And on Templeton

Post  j_silent on Tue Jul 13, 2010 3:27 am

Can't_stop_typing_ack!

Danceswithanxiety, I thought you raised some excellent points on Templeton. I too thought that part of the discussion could stand to go farther.

The actual research funding may be useful, but I'm not too sure what the science-faith "dialogues" sponsored by Templeton do for science. The religious people brought to the table tend to accept the evidence for evolution etc. And how does religious faith inform science? It looks to me like the benefits are mostly one way, with religion being able to borrow a patina of respectability by consorting with science.

I suspect that these dialogues are sort of a milder variant of the "teach the controversy" strategy of the ID movement and other denialists. ID-ers would try and spark a debate (despite being hideously outmatched) and then point to the debate as evidence that there is something there. To a layperson it just looks like two sciencey persons arguing and they assign equal weight to both sides. Similarly, Templeton can use religion/science dialogues to imply that theologians can inform science and vice versa.

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Play nice?

Post  Expat Lib on Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:58 am

What are atheists supposed to say if this is considered rude?

Well said. I think the core of this argument was mentioned a few comments ago and addressed on the show. Although liberal theists could be seen as allies in some regards, if they believe in any sort of god that influences the natural world, there is going to be a conflict between scientific reasoning and religion. I know there are liberal theists out there that don't believe in a literal interpretation of the scriptures, but unless you pull a Jefferson and cut all the magic out, at some point your faith and honest scientific reasoning are going to collide. That isn't to say, like someone posted before, that people can't compartmentalize.

I guess I really don't see the "new atheists" as attacking liberal theism. They're attacking the foundations that underlie all theistic thought. I hate to go back to the racism analogy again, but it seems to fit well. It would be like if MLK cozied up to the racists who thought black people were ok, but not equal to whites. If fact, politically, he may have, but I don't think he would have accepted other people in the movement saying, "just drop this whole equality thing, lets just ask them to stop lynching us. We may be able to get somewhere with that." To be clear, I'm not equating atheists to the racial equality movement in a oppressed minority sort of way. I also don't want to imply that I think theism equates to racism. I'm saying the central idea of the movement would not be acceptable to even the most liberal racists (I don't know if I've ever typed those two words in a row before). In other words, the new atheists are "attacking" liberal and moderate theists because the whole central tenant of scientific thinking runs contrary to what defines all but the most vague forms of deistic theology.

Like Coyne said in his his column (thanks for the link j_silent, I hadn't read that before), there is a room for discussion about tactics, but that's not what seems to be going on.

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:06 pm

j_silent wrote: Unfortunately, he seems to fixate on the fact that because some very good scientists can also be religious, there is no conflict. He mentioned this in the interview. And yes, in this very trivial sense science and religion are compatible, but so what? All it demonstrates is that people are able to compartmentalize conflicting ideas. It fails to address the much more substantive points raised by Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, Russell Blackford, etc.
Atheists are just as guilty of compartmentalizing. Bill Maher is skeptical of religion but doesn't even believe in germ theory and he promotes superstitious alternative medicine woo on his show yet he won Dawkins' science and reason award thing. Hitchens blasts moderates for enabling fundamentalists but he's one of the biggest Bush apologists out there and defends his policies all the time. Sam Harris condemns pacifism for being immoral but promotes torture as a legitimate form of scientific interrogation even though all the neuroscience research shows that torture produces unreliable evidence and the APA recently declared tortue is a form of pseudoscience and any psychologist who practices it should be stripped of their license. If moderates should be condemned for compartmentalizing, the New Atheists are hardly the epitome of rational thought and can be just as irrational as religious people in other areas outside religion yet their fans seem willing to give them a free pass.

It would be like if MLK cozied up to the racists who thought black people were ok, but not equal to whites. If fact, politically, he may have, but I don't think he would have accepted other people in the movement saying, "just drop this whole equality thing, lets just ask them to stop lynching us.
If we're using racism as an analogy here, I think a more accurate analogy would be like arguing since political cartoons are a legitimate form of satire, we should draw cartoons of Obama as a witch doctor because all forms of ridicule are legitimate debate tactics. If all forms of ridicule are legit, is it acceptable to draw cartoons of Obama as a witch doctor like some Republicans did?

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  j_silent on Tue Jul 13, 2010 3:39 pm

Thanks Expat Lib.

Atheists are just as guilty of compartmentalizing. Bill Maher is skeptical of religion but doesn't even believe in germ theory and he promotes superstitious alternative medicine woo on his show yet he won Dawkins' science and reason award thing. Hitchens blasts moderates for enabling fundamentalists but he's one of the biggest Bush apologists out there and defends his policies all the time. Sam Harris condemns pacifism for being immoral but promotes torture as a legitimate form of scientific interrogation even though all the neuroscience research shows that torture produces unreliable evidence and the APA recently declared tortue is a form of pseudoscience and any psychologist who practices it should be stripped of their license. If moderates should be condemned for compartmentalizing, the New Atheists are hardly the epitome of rational thought and can be just as irrational as religious people in other areas outside religion yet their fans seem willing to give them a free pass.

Hi Neon Genesis, all I was referring to was that a person holding two conflicting viewpoints is not evidence that the viewpoints are in fact compatible. Instead it is more likely evidence of compartmentalization. Whether or not theists compartmentalize as much as atheists is beside the point. Forgive me if I was unclear.

But since you bring it up, I haven't really seen Bill Maher et al get "a free pass". I do see Maher, Hitchens, and Harris criticized sharply where warranted. E.g., the first entry when searching "Bill Maher" on Pharyngula is this Maher really is a moron on medicine. Now this may not be the nicest way of putting it, but Myers seems to be just as forthright with secular folks.

Similarly, here's a couple excerpts from Myers on a Hitchen's speech to the Freedom From Religion Convention in 2007. So, while I fully agree that no one should be given a free pass, I'm not sure this is necessarily the case of new atheists. I haven't seen much of that. But, these are just a few examples of what I personally have read, no doubt I am missing a lot. In any event, we should take care not to overgeneralize.

It was simplistic us-vs.-them thinking at its worst, and the only solution he had to offer was death and destruction of the enemy.

This was made even more clear in the Q&A. He was asked to consider the possibility that bombing and killing was only going to accomplish an increase in the number of people opposing us. Hitchens accused the questioner of being incredibly stupid (the question was not well-phrased, I'll agree, but it was clear what he meant), and said that it was obvious that every Moslem you kill means there is one less Moslem to fight you … which is only true if you assume that every Moslem already wants to kill Americans and is armed and willing to do so. I think that what is obvious is that most Moslems are primarily interested in living a life of contentment with their families and their work, and that an America committed to slaughter is a tactic that will only convince more of them to join in opposition to us.

Basically, what Hitchens was proposing is genocide. Or, at least, wholesale execution of the population of the Moslem world until they are sufficiently cowed and frightened and depleted that they are unable to resist us in any way, ever again.

This is insane. ...

I could tell that he did not have the sympathy of most of the audience at this point. There were a scattered few who applauded wildly at every mention of bombing the Iranians, but the majority were stunned into silence. People were leaving — I heard one woman sing a few bars of "Onward, Christian soldiers" as she left to mock his strategy. The questions were all angry or disputative, and were all dismissed with comments about the audience's intelligence. The answers were always, "War, war, war," and that we weren't good atheists if we didn't agree with murder as the answer. He seemed unable to comprehend that people could despise and oppose all religion, Christian, Moslem, or otherwise, yet have no desire to triumph by causing physical harm to the believers. I've noticed the same intellectual blindness in many Christians, actually. ...

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re: Satire

Post  danceswithanxiety on Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:06 pm

Neon Genesis:
Neon Genesis wrote: If we're using racism as an analogy here, I think a more accurate analogy would be like arguing since political cartoons are a legitimate form of satire, we should draw cartoons of Obama as a witch doctor because all forms of ridicule are legitimate debate tactics. If all forms of ridicule are legit, is it acceptable to draw cartoons of Obama as a witch doctor like some Republicans did?
It's a fair point and my answer is, YES. It is "acceptable" in the sense that people have a right to advance that kind of garbage if they feel moved to do so. They do not have the right to be loved or agreed with when they do so. They do not have the right to be considered funny, witty, insightful, charmingly trenchant (or what have you) when engaging in such satire.

Atheists are not -- or I should say, they should not be, and to my knowledge are not -- declaring both (a) we have a right to trample on, ridicule, and uncompromisingly criticize religious taboos and (b) we have a right to be adored for doing so. We are saying (a) but not (b).

To carry the analogy forward, maybe they think satirizing Obama as a witch doctor is a means of provoking people to think more carefully about his origins on the exotic, mysterious island of Hawaii. And who knows, maybe some people are still dumb or deluded or crazy enough to think Hawaii is some kind of 'lost world' or cannibalistic outpost or Muslim caliphate or something (I'm not clear on the underlying theory -- it appears to be to hope that large numbers of people are extremely ill-informed and ready to fill their minds with noxious, easily-refuted idiocies, or in other words, regular FoxNews viewers).

The disanalogy lies in the fact that the "Obama-as-witch doctor" meme will play out completely in the realm of politics. To a substantial degree, anything goes in politics -- throwing mud is a proven winner there, heat often defeats light, etc. The spats there bear only a passing and occasional resemblance to truth-telling. Whereas in science vs. religion, there are genuine questions of truth and method at stake. So the hope is that any provocation done in this space will get people to look past the charged rhetoric and dig down to the truth of the matter. I would return to what I said before and note that that form of provocation is not unique to 'new atheism' -- not even close. It's a tried-and-true method of religious evangelizers: they issue threats and use very charged language in hopes of getting people to look more closely.

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Tue Jul 13, 2010 10:59 pm

I support their right to draw racist cartoons of Obama but my point wasn't about if it was legal or not. What I meant by acceptable was I meant was it effective for them to be photoshopping pictures of Obama as a witch doctor. Is it helping the Republicans' cause or is it only serving to make them look even more foolish than before? I supported something like the Draw Muhammed Day because even though some Muslims may find it offensive, it has an actual purpose behind the message about the importance of freedom of speech. But was there any point in the Smut for Smut campaign a college atheist group put on other than to reinforce atheist stereotypes in the minds of believers?

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  MagicMarker on Wed Jul 14, 2010 12:06 am

Accommodationism is an ugly word and, like Chris Mooney, I would hate for the term to be applied to me just because I try to be polite to believers. An accommodationist will water down, compromise his message so that he will not alienate the people he is trying to influence. I believe that it is possible to be uncompromising and polite at the same time. Somewhere between accommodationism and ridicule is something akin to congenial détente. That's what I'm shooting for.

Artful ridicule (thanks for brining it up Neon Genesis) is an exception. Everyone, believers and unbelievers need to see their own silliness.


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The middle ground

Post  Eric on Wed Jul 14, 2010 12:48 am

Taking the middle ground may sometimes be the best approach but I think we get in a trap if we automatically assume that doing so makes us the more reasonable. Sometimes the gentle approach is best. Sometimes the strong and loud approach is best. And sometimes seeking a middle ground is best. It depends on the situation and what your goals are. President Obama thinks that being "bipartisan" is a virtue. Just once I'd like to see him fight for the liberal side, he always bends bends bends until he has gone so far to the right he's lost all sense of purpose. I think no progress of significant value was ever accomplished this way. For example, in the 60s civil rights legislation was a huge partisan knock down/drag out fight. Nowadays this would be frowned on as "hyper-partisanship". All I'm saying is: consider both sides then decide what approach you want to take.

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Meanwhile over at the blog...

Post  Eric on Wed Jul 14, 2010 2:09 pm

For anyone who's interested, PZ Myers and Jeremy have been debating this issue in the comments on the RD blog here.

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Wed Jul 14, 2010 5:07 pm

This quote from PZ Meyers drives me nuts
Really, I've had much more respect with creationists, for instance, who resolve their conflicts with science by announcing, "god did it with a miracle," than with the weasely rat-bags who sit there inventing ever more contrived pseudoscientific explanations for the Flood or whatever. I'm not going to be the converse, the guy who makes sympathetic excuses for why religion is compatible with science when in my own life, I do not truck in such nonsense.
How exactly are moderates coming up with pseudoscientific examinations for the flood? Last I checked, it is the creationists who come up with psedudoscientific explanations for the flood, not the moderates. The moderates fully admit that Noah's Ark is a myth and not a scientific fact. This is what drives me nuts about the New Atheists. PZ Meyers claims that the confronationalist stance can help us reach an understanding with the other side but it's quite clear from this quote that he clearly doesn't understand the moderate Christian beliefs at all. He doesn't even back this claim up with quotes or citations. He's just making up lies about moderates to justify ridiculing yet it's the New Atheist side he claims is the most truthful. If he's so truthful, PZ Meyers should stop lying about what moderates believe. Only people living in a fantasy world would claim it's moderates and not creationists who practice pseudoscience and PZ Meyers doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. Only in PZ Meyers' delusional fantasy world are creationists honest and moderates who accept science are weasely rat bags. Does PZ even think before he opens his mouth about things he doesn't understand?

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uhh...

Post  Eric on Wed Jul 14, 2010 6:03 pm

Clearly PZ must be referring to this piece over at the Templeton funded BioLogos. They are also responsible for this nonsense about the historicity of Adam and Eve. This subject was much discussed on his and other atheist blogs.

What's interesting is that you seem to think that just because he didn't link to these in the comments that he was just making it up. Do you really think he's that stupid? It seems that he isn't the one who needs to think before he opens his mouth.

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Wed Jul 14, 2010 6:11 pm

I don't keep up with Templeton so I didn't know about it. In any case, PZ didn't give any indication what he was speaking of in his post. All he said in his posts were that creationists are more honest than those other Christians.

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Templeton

Post  Eric on Wed Jul 14, 2010 6:19 pm

Templeton is at the center of this debate. Mooney's relationship with that organization was discussed on the show. Blog comments are informal by nature and you shouldn't have made the assumptions that you did.

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:02 pm

Again, PZ didn't mention anything about Templeton in his posts. He merely commented that the creationists were more honest than those other Christians in the context of talking about ridicule. Where in his posts does he mention Templeton? Anyway, everyone came into this discussion with their already clear stance determined, so I'm done for now with this thread since we're not moving anywhere in the discussion and we're just butting heads at this point.

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Some things you may not have noticed about Episode 70

Post  JB on Thu Jul 15, 2010 8:48 pm

Hey everyone,

Its Jeremy from the podcast.

For the most part I've really enjoyed reading the discussion here at the forum and at the blog. There is a small contingent of people, however, who seem to have gotten the false impression that Dave, Luke and I (mostly myself) are in basic agreement with Mooney and have crossed over into the accommodationist's camp. I take blame for part of this (you'll see) but I think most of it is due these people not paying attention or just getting confused with the discussion afterwards.

So Im taking time to point out some things you may not have noticed about episode 70

The Interview

1. You don’t have to agree with someone to feel they have been misrepresented. I began by helping Mooney to clarify what he is NOT saying

a) He is NOT saying atheists should censor themselves -- he believes their idea that science and religion are incompatible is wrong. So he is not saying scientists should lie to win converts, he's saying they are mistaken on this point and should change their minds. I agreed with him in this ONE regard: you cannot logically leap from "there is no evidence of the supernatural" to "there is no supernatural" (that would commit the "argument from ignorance" fallacy)

b) He is NOT saying faith is just one rout to truth along with science. He does not believe faith can get you to truth. This shows that he is different from the religious accommadationists. it also shows that he's only half in the NOMA camp.

c) He is NOT saying that scientists should back down when religion makes testable claims. I was actually surprised by this one (I thought I was critiquing his stance when I brought it up) but I shouldn’t have been. He and the Templeton folks aggressively critique creationism and intelligent design.

These are all important to bring up for two reasons 1) Mooney has been falsely characterized (even in some of the posts on the blog) by his opponents on these point, despite his numerous attempts to put these criticisms down. We must avoid critiquing a straw man, so we need to get his position right before we attack it. 2) by mentioning where Mooney sounds more like his critics and where his critics sound like Mooney (such as the Dawkins and Coyne quotes I mentioned)…I was trying to dispel some of the heat in this debate. Its amazing to me how emotional people get over this debate when both sides are in agreement over most of the points.

2. I told Mooney that I agree, the "conflict thesis" in the history of science is oversimplified and misleading (he believes its totally false). This may seem extreme, but it’s the subject of episode 64 Rewriting History…and I don’t recall too many objections there.

3. I told Mooney that I was skeptical of his strict division between methodological and metaphysical naturalism because religion makes testable claims (which to my surprise he agreed).

4. I challenged a major premise of his argument: that the mistaken notion (in Mooney's opinion) of the incompatibility of science and religion is the primary cause of religious hostility towards science. I challenged it by showing the vast overlap between people who believe science and religion are compatible and those who hold pseudoscientific views like creationism, id, big bang denial. Mooney was caught off guard and admitted he didn’t know how to respond to that (Hey Jeremy haters...I think I deserve credit for that).

(Personal Commentary: Should I have pressed 2 & 3 with Mooney. Absolutely. Its my biggest regret about this episode. So here is my appeal to sympathy: imagine you are the interviewer. You're working yourself up over what you think are some wicked challenges against your guest. But when you bring them up the person either caves, or admits "good point. Not sure how to answer that." What do you do? If you're me you shake your head in confusion thinking "bwhaaaa?" And then, disoriented and slightly embarrassed, you lose your resolve to maintain the challenge. (Incidentally, that’s episode 41 with David Myers in a nutshell. I'm still learning)

5. I did say I agreed with Mooney on his critiques of the new Atheists tone, but I'm saving that point for later.

Post-Interview

1. I started off by saying my points of agreement with Mooney adding "but I don’t feel like an accomidationist." Yes I said feel--which suggests maybe I am an accommodationist, but that should have been cleared up when I immediately added "Im not in either camp."

2. Dave jumped in and said any religion worth believing in does make testable claims on the world. So (nearly all) religion will be incompatible with science. Luke and I agreed (which should put to rest any charge that we're accommodationists). We also affirmed that PZ and Coyne and Dawkins would say the same thing (hey look at that, we agreed with the New Atheists on something).

3. Luke illuminated why some people feel drawn to both sides. There are actually two questions here…a tactical one (how do we make common cause without alienating the religious) and one concerning truth (but science and religion are not really compatible)

4. Dave said the real debate here (for him and for me) is not incompatibility/compatibility but how aggressive our tone should be. I said this is an empirical question. Luke agreed.

God Thinks Like You

1. We shared Munros studies which suggests the aggressive tone will get in the way of people embracing science that conflicts with their worldview

2. Luke and I had slightly different takes on this:

a) Luke: The data suggests Mooney is correct. We'd have better short-term success in following the accommodationists strategy. But Luke felt this could only win a series of small skirmishes. He doesn’t want people just to accept science. He wants people to reject religion (or perhaps, that there is a smooth continuum across these areas).

b) I was looking for a way to have the cake and eat it too. Lets still challenge religion, but craft our critique in a way that diffuses some of the resistance. We could starting by identifying values you espouse that are also held by your opponent. By working this into the debate you can challenge while still affirming some aspects of their worldview they hold dear thus minimizing the resistance (I believe with most opponents this can be done sincerely). Another obvious strategy would be to avoid personal attacks and dehumanizing language. Dave seemed to agree.

3. Luke believed ridicule was appropriate in some contexts. Dave and I agreed stressing that it should be funny and not be overly vicious. Luke wavered on this, but agreed in the end…adding "you idiot"

To Sum Up:

1) Mooney is not as different from his opponents as some believe. But I don’t believe the notion that science and religion are in conflict is really contributing much to religious pseudoscience.

2) The doubtcasters are in agreement that, for all practical purposes, science and religion do indeed conflict.

3) There is data supporting the accommodationists claims but a) our goal of challenging religion itself takes precedence over winning the religious over to evolution, cosmology, etc. b) or there may be a way of using that data to craft more effective critiques while still challenging religion. This would require modifying our tone.

Obviously this doesn’t address all the critiques of this show, but I hope it makes it clear where the doubtcasters are coming from.

Homestretch:

There are two more things that I think could provide some much needed clarity to this debate (for everyone, not just our show and listeners).

One would be a more thorough philosophical examination on the relationship between science and religion. I think Mooney, Robert Pennock, the NAS, Eugenie Scott and even Massimo Pigliucci (Gasp!...believe me, I love him more than you do) have some mistaken assumptions on this matter that are, in part, fueling the accommodationist side of this debate. If time permits I will address this in the next episode (if not then, very soon).

Second, our critiques of the tone of PZ, Dawkins and others are just too vague. How far is too far? By what criteria (moral, pragmatic or otherwise) should one decide whether they've crossed a line. These are important questions and I will share my opinion on them, either in another post here or in a future episode.

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Aught3 on Fri Jul 16, 2010 2:39 am

Well I enjoyed the interview, it did seem to strengthen my opinion that the Mooney's and Myers' of the world don't really disagree on all that much. There is a question of tone, but I say nix on that. I couldn't care less and I like both approaches (soft and hard) being available, personally I prefer to read a Dawkins over a Miller on something like evolution but they are appealing to different audiences and that's all good by me. Besides, there no reason someone couldn't critique Miller's writing if he goes overboard on the religious stuff (or Dawkins if he goes overboard with the pseudo-history). Dawkins motivates the base, and Miller strikes at the core of the opposition.

I'll probably be disagreeing with most people here when I say that ridicule is not very important. Ridicule is only going to be funny if you already know why the thing being made fun of is wrong, and if you already know that then the ridicule is not changing your mind or challenging you in any way. However, I enjoy a funny video as much as the next guy so I wouldn't say that people should stop making them, just that they are no substitute for an argument. Example would be the responses to Expelled. There is a site called Expelled Exposed which goes through the misrepresentations and falsehoods portrayed in the movie and then there is the spoof video SExpelled: no storks allowed. Now SExpelled is very amusing but if I'm talking to someone who wants a response to Expelled, which one to point them to is a no-brainer. Btw, someone asked where the video ridiculing Dawkins' PhD came from, it was commissioned by the makers of Expelled (hence the robot which expels scientists) for a viral video campaign but they decided not to use it. The guy who wrote and stared in the video released it onto youtube himself.

Where I think the actual accommodationist/confrontationist argument lies is whether science and religion are compatible or not. I happen to think they are compatible and that the methodological/metaphysical distinction is a good one. But if Jeremy is going to talk more about it next episode maybe I will hold my comments until then.

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Fri Jul 16, 2010 3:53 am

Now I feel so tainted because I actually thought the Dawkins rap was rather clever. It seems almost too clever for Expelled.

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Reputations

Post  Eric on Fri Jul 16, 2010 10:15 am

Ridicule is only going to be funny if you already know why the thing being made fun of is wrong, and if you already know that then the ridicule is not changing your mind or challenging you in any way.
You assume that everyone has a well formulated opinion on the subject that informs their worldview. Where ridicule is most effective is in influencing the fence sitters which is a lot of people. Why do you think we have a natural aversion to being ridiculed? Because it can be devastating to our reputation. It's why politicians don't want to be the fodder for late night talk show hosts, history shows what it can do to their reputations. It's how a Hollywood A-lister like Tom Cruise my have ruined his career. People go with the flow, if it appears that everyone is laughing at something(or someone) then no one wants to be associated with that thing, even if before they had no problem with it.

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  Neon Genesis on Fri Jul 16, 2010 1:18 pm

I just wanted to say that one of the reasons I love the RD podcast is because of their moderate approach to these issues. Even though the doubtcasters aren't accommodationists, they're still respectful to people. They don't fall into the trap that so many atheist podcasts do of stereotyping religious people and I like that they don't just have atheist guests on or spend the whole show ranting about how delusional and crazy religious people are all the time. At the same time, they're not afraid to voice their criticisms but it's done so in a respectful manner so that even though I might disagree with them on an issue like vegetarianism, I still can respect them for forming intelligent and thoughtful arguments instead of going the "lawlz, meat eaterz are closed minded murderers" route they could have taken. I also appreciate how they're not afraid to critique all sides of the theological debate and I think the doubtcasters give the fairest treatment of the atheist vs theist debate and don't fall into the same trap that a lot of atheist podcasts do of misrepresenting peoples' religious views. I find atheist podcasts where all they do is yell a lot about how stupid and dangerous religious people are and who stereotype believers to be just as annoying and immature as conservative talk radio shows that do that.

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  JB on Mon Jul 19, 2010 4:22 pm

Thank you for the kind words Neon

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  foolfodder on Mon Jul 19, 2010 4:24 pm

Another great show, however, I kind of wish that you had had someone other than Chris Mooney to speak on this subject. It's an important topic and I find it difficult to take CM seriously on it any more. (E.g. the first time I've heard of the existence of any data to support some of CM's claims was provided in this podcast - by Dr. Professor - and I followed his blog for quite a while after the post criticising the review Jerry Coyne gave.)

Although, I am struggling to think of anyone to take his place in such an interview.

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Re: Episode 70 -- Accommodationism with Chris Mooney

Post  FurryMoses on Wed Jul 21, 2010 12:39 am

TheTrueScotsman wrote:I was interested that little or no mention was made in this episode about the power of ridicule in effectively influencing, not the subject of the ridicule, but the bystander or waverer who is being influenced by the subject.
Exactly what I thought! I came here to express it and you've done it for me, thanks.

I wanted to interject: Guys, guys, you are missing the point: of course we don't convince the subject by ridiculing them. PZMyers has made it clear that the 100's of people listening to the argument (sometimes silently or months after it's finished) is who the ridiculer has in mind. The person who is the subject of the ridicule is usually a lost cause.

From another commenter (ndt): The point of the ridicule is to help other people understand just how loony those people are so they will stop listening to them and respecting their opinions

That no one thought of this while discussing the issue, was a little disappointing - it seemed so obvious to me while listening.
It still might not justify the ridicule, but it should be taken into account as a significant part of the purpose.

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