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Another topic idea: Chris Mooney (does not) owe the world an apology
Posted: 07 July 2010 08:26 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Chris owes Ophelia Benson, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins and several people a heartfelt apology for branding them New Atheists and using a sock puppet’s lie as evidence for his preconceived notions. He owes the world an apology for being a credulous journalist who ignored people who told him he was promoting a sock puppet and is now naively appalled that he was duped.

How about it Chris? Record a Point of Inquiry podcast apologizing for your negligence. Invite Ophelia Benson on the show and apologize to her for banning her from your blog. Admit she was right and you were wrong. You made a humiliating journalistic error of judgment. The first thing I learned in Journalism 101 was “Consider your source.” That means actually verifying your source’s veracity, not running with a story because it agrees with your viewpoint.

Since publishing Unscientific America you have refused to debate your critics and repeatedly attacked the aforementioned people (and others) as strident and confrontational. Promoting a sock puppet’s lie on our blog shows you have more regard for confirming your biases than you have for the truth, especially when many of the comments on your blog warned you TJ was a sock puppet and his story was most likely bogus. Man up. Admit you were wrong and sincerely ask forgiveness from those whom you have offended. Point of Inquiry would be an excellent place for you to do so: and your own blog, of course… and PZ’s blog… and Ophelia’s...

[ Edited: 12 July 2010 08:49 PM by DarronS ]
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Posted: 08 July 2010 02:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Good idea! I’m available. I’ve even done a Point of Inquiry. :- )

I won’t hold my breath though.

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Posted: 08 July 2010 03:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I think CFI owes its members an apology for bringing Mooney on to host its Point of Inquiry podcast. I used to listen every week, but now not so much because I have to assume Mooney’s hosting will be just another case of fraudulent framing.

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Posted: 08 July 2010 09:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’m not holding my breath either. Chris has proven himself incapable of admitting error, and it looks like he may have sent me to the same netherland to which he sent Ophelia. If so I am proud to be in her company. I submitted the following several hours ago, when there were only five comments on Chris’ latest post about the TJ incident.

Chris, please, for your own sake, consider how easily and willfully you fell for the sockpuppet’s story and promoted it (twice) after not adequately vetting the source. You have a lot to learn about critical thinking, and this episode is an excellent learning opportunity.

Also, you need to apologize to those you have wronged. Not just the commenters on your blog, to the people you branded as New Atheists and blamed for the schism between science and religion. And especially to the person you banned for disagreeing with you.

Your actions since publishing Unscientific America have eroded your credibility as a journalist. It is not too late to repair the damage, but evading the real issue here will only further erode your credibility.

As of this writing there are now 13 posts on the thread, but mine has not appeared. Maybe Chris will get around to it in the morning. He did, after all, promise to not censor posts respectfully critical of him.

[ Edited: 09 July 2010 07:18 AM by DarronS ]
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Posted: 08 July 2010 11:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Darron, while I have not been following the issues to which you refer, and so have no idea as to their veracity, nevertheless it might help your case to dial the rhetoric down a couple of notches.

[ Edited: 09 July 2010 12:56 AM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 09 July 2010 05:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Perhaps this is an occasion to look into the veracity of the claims - you are way behind in this. I don’t find the post in the least overly rhetorical; Darron is understating the level of offense created by blind acceptance (and elevation) of a fraudulent impostor’s claims.

Perhaps start with some of the links provide in the original post above.

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Posted: 09 July 2010 05:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Darron and all: I have to agree with you here overall. I have been losing interest in POI since D.J. Grothe left, and the Bob Price vs. Chris Mooney show was the last straw—I cut it off midway. Sad, as the archives are so enjoyable and thought provoking.

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Posted: 09 July 2010 07:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Doug, Chris is the one who has been using incendiary rhetoric. Since publishing Unscientific America Chris has publicly blamed scientists for the pitiful state of science literacy in this country and repeatedly accused the people he branded as New Atheists (PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne, Christpher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, among others) of being strident militants who are driving people away from science. He has no proof of this, of course, but he repeats it as often as possible, not only on his blog but in newspapers around the country. Then last October Chris found a post on his blog that supported his viewpoint, so he copied it out of the comments sections and elevated it to a blog entry titled Counterproductive attacks on religion - Exhibit A. A commenter identified as Tom Johnson wrote:

Many of my colleagues are fans of Dawkins, PZ, and their ilk and make a point AT CONSERVATION EVENTS to mock the religious to their face, shout forced laughter at them, and call them “stupid,” “ignorant” and the like – and these are events hosted by religious moderates where we’ve been ASKED to attend. They think it’s the way to be a good scientist, after all.

Chris’ response?

Exactly. In the real world, it is vastly more important to build bridges with those who might be different from ourselves so as to achieve shared goals, than to score intellectual points when only a small and relatively homogenous intellectual group is even keeping track of those points.

Read the entry, then srcoll down and read the comments. Many commenters doubted the story and pointed out Chris’ logical fallacy in accepting it uncritically. How did Chris react? His next blog entry was titled My thanks to Tom Johnson.

Last week, the New Atheist comment machine targeted the following post, in which I republished a preexisting blog comment from a scientist named “Tom Johnson” (a psuedonym). In the comment, Johnson had related how some of his New Atheist-inspired scientist colleagues had behaved toward religious folks at bridge-building conservation events.

The comment obviously reflected one individual’s experience and point of view, and nothing more. But it struck me as worth highlighting, in light of my many well known concerns about the New Atheist movement.

I’m a bit surprised how much hoopla the simple elevating of a comment into an individual post, with minimal additional commentary, has caused. Clearly, Johnson really touched a nerve. Accordingly, my post unfortunately subjected him to various attacks; fortunately his real identity remains unknown (though I am aware of it).

[ Edited: 09 July 2010 09:49 AM by DarronS ]
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Posted: 09 July 2010 07:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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(I had to break this into two parts due to length.)

Emphasis added. Of course, if you click these links you will see Chris has added disclaimers that “Tom Johnson” was merely a sock puppet. The person behind the deception had at least three IDs on The Intersection, and most of the supporting comments in the blog entries linked above were from those sock puppets. That is bad enough, but the real issue here, which Chris has so far refused to acknowledge, is Chris Mooney’s credulity and how easily he let himself be fooled just to back his preconceptions. In yesterday’s blog entry, More on Sock Puppets and Tom Johnson, part 1 Chris apologizes to the people who commented on his blog, admits he never checked for sock puppets, while ignoring his own actions in unwittingly promoting the fraud.

To those legitimate commenters who were annoyed by bad behavior—and had reason to be!–I’m sorry we didn’t catch on to what was really happening before now. And I want to emphasize: That apology goes out to ANY commenters who may have encountered a sock puppet on our site.

As a measure to help prevent sock puppets in the future, Chris has gone to full-moderation mode and promised:

(For now, rest assured that if your comment is substantive, thoughtful, not an attack, etcetera, then it will appear fairly promptly, although not instantly of course.)

My post has still not appeared. Ophelia Benson is still banned from The Intersection. If fact, it seems Chris set up a filter that will automatically delete any post that even mentions her name.

Chris Mooney has:
1. Published a trite book blaming scientists for the dismal state of science education in this country, which is especially grievous considering just a few years earlier he published The Republican War on Science.
2. Used numerous outlets (including his book and the Los Angeles Times) to brand at least a half dozen people with a pejorative term meant to discredit them
3. Refused to debate his critics.
4. Banned Ophelia Benson for having the temerity to criticize him on his own blog. Keep in mind her posts there were thoughtful and noninflammatory.
5. Grasped at a random post from an anonymous commenter and elevated it to blog status twice, the second time taking to task the “New Atheist comment machine” for doubting the story.
6. Failed to properly vet “Tom Johnson’s” identity before highlighting his lie as evidence the New Atheists are bad people.
7. Ignored the issue of his own gullibility and failure to check facts before publishing.

I do not think my rhetoric is a bit over the top. There is no excuse for a professional journalist behaving as Chris is behaving right now. In fact, some journalists have rightfully lost their jobs over transgressions similar to this. Chris needs to come clean and admit his error, ask for help developing some critical thinking skills, lift the ban on Ophelia Benson at The Intersection and publicly apologize to the individuals mentioned above. After that, he should return the money he got from the Templeton Foundation.

[ Edited: 09 July 2010 07:20 AM by DarronS ]
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Posted: 09 July 2010 07:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Rhetoric? What rhetoric? Darron stated some facts. He wrote a comment at The Intersection, and it hasn’t been posted. I am banned from commenting at The Intersection (for reasons which Mooney has never deigned to explain or even state).

I should add that I am now far from alone in being banned from commenting at The Intersection; several people have reported at various blogs (Pharyngula, my place, others) that all their attempted comments have been deleted.

This Mooney is one of the hosts of Point of Inquiry. Point of Inquiry. Think about it.

I do hope that’s not too steamily rhetorical.

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Posted: 09 July 2010 07:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I posted my comment while Darron was posting his much more informative pair. If I’d seen his I wouldn’t have bothered!

(I should add, for the sake of not being a prima donna if nothing else, that Mooney hasn’t publicly named me as one of “the New Atheists” as he has Myers and Coyne and Dawkins. I’m nowhere near as well-known as they are, and I’m also not a biologist [or a scientist of any kind]. Mooney is particularly exercised about biologists who are explicit atheists, because of the whole “atheist Darwinian scientists scare off moderate believers” claim that is central to his…campaign.)

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Posted: 09 July 2010 07:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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JustinVK - 09 July 2010 05:57 AM

Darron and all: I have to agree with you here overall. I have been losing interest in POI since D.J. Grothe left, and the Bob Price vs. Chris Mooney show was the last straw—I cut it off midway. Sad, as the archives are so enjoyable and thought provoking.

Same here, I’m afraid. If I wanted to listen to some “folksy” blowhard waxing rhetorical about the usual Right talking points, I could tune into Fox and not have to go through
the trouble of sync’ing my iPod.

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Posted: 09 July 2010 09:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Ophelia Benson - 09 July 2010 07:27 AM

(I should add, for the sake of not being a prima donna if nothing else, that Mooney hasn’t publicly named me as one of “the New Atheists” as he has Myers and Coyne and Dawkins. I’m nowhere near as well-known as they are, and I’m also not a biologist [or a scientist of any kind]. Mooney is particularly exercised about biologists who are explicit atheists, because of the whole “atheist Darwinian scientists scare off moderate believers” claim that is central to his…campaign.)

Thanks for the correction. I edited my comment and took your name out of the parenthetical list.

Steve, subscribe to For Good Reason. It is DJ’s new podcast.

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Posted: 09 July 2010 10:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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DarronS - 09 July 2010 09:50 AM

Steve, subscribe to For Good Reason. It is DJ’s new podcast.

Thank you for the reference, Darron! I am listening to the show right now… DJ is always great. I was so happy for him with the JREF position.

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Posted: 09 July 2010 01:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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DarronS - 09 July 2010 09:50 AM
Ophelia Benson - 09 July 2010 07:27 AM

(I should add, for the sake of not being a prima donna if nothing else, that Mooney hasn’t publicly named me as one of “the New Atheists” as he has Myers and Coyne and Dawkins. I’m nowhere near as well-known as they are, and I’m also not a biologist [or a scientist of any kind]. Mooney is particularly exercised about biologists who are explicit atheists, because of the whole “atheist Darwinian scientists scare off moderate believers” claim that is central to his…campaign.)

Thanks for the correction. I edited my comment and took your name out of the parenthetical list.

Steve, subscribe to For Good Reason. It is DJ’s new podcast.

Sweet. Thanks for the pointer.

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Posted: 10 July 2010 05:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Darron, I went back and read all of your links. It portrays a less than flattering picture of Chris Mooney… downer

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