9 of 11
9
Another topic idea: Chris Mooney (does not) owe the world an apology
Posted: 15 July 2010 05:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 121 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4097
Joined  2006-11-28

Can you see how members of this consumer protection group would be baffled, and legitimately concerned about why the organization hired someone who appears to be philosophically opposed to its goal?

That’s a legitimate point, and I acknowledge it. I am a bit concerned, though, that what is perceived as “philosophically opposed” to the goal of free inquiry may be merely a challenge to certain kinds of rhetoric. Again, I’m not going to speak to Mooney or his conduct or opinions prior to coming to CFI, but already in this thread I have been cast as at least a suspect of the crime of opposing or supporesing inquiry because I have dared to say I think people should try to be polite and respectful for ethical and practical reasons. So perhaps you can understand my suspicion that some at least will brook no opposition and no challenge whatsoever to their perceived right to be as inflammatory as they like and to represent the secular community publically in whatever way they choose, even if it is not always consonant with the tone or style many of us feel best suits our philosophy?

 Signature 

The SkeptVet Blog
You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place. 
Johnathan Swift

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 July 2010 06:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 122 ]
Jr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  80
Joined  2007-08-12

Okay, I apologize. I was irritated by what looked like a dig of some kind in the “Ms” plus first name, but you explained that. Sorry.

But there really is a difference between disagreeing with X’s views and thinking X’s views or behavior are not a good fit for CFI. Joseph Ratzinger would not be a good fit for CFI; lots of people wouldn’t; people who are dogmatic, authoritarian, closed-minded - all not a good fit for CFI.

You said yourself that Mooney apparently isn’t willing to explain. Well - why not? You seem to take that to be perfectly reasonable, but why? Why should it be? He considers himself an expert in communication - he had the time to chat with Darron - why is it obviously fine for him to refuse to answer perfectly reasonable questions about his claims?

To repeat: I still don’t know what he meant. I don’t know what he meant by saying Jerry Coyne “may be right that there’s no good reason to believe in the supernatural, [but] he’s very misguided about strategy. Especially when we have the religious right to worry about, why is he criticizing people like Miller and Giberson for their attempts to reconcile modern science and religion?”

That question means “why is Jerry Coyne writing a book review for The New Republic in such a way that it tells the truth as he sees it, when we have the religious right to worry about?” I still don’t know what he thinks we should do instead. I would like to know. Lots of people would like to know. Why is it so unreasonable to think Mooney should answer?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 July 2010 06:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 123 ]
Jr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  80
Joined  2007-08-12

my suspicion that some at least will brook no opposition and no challenge whatsoever to their perceived right to be as inflammatory as they like and to represent the secular community publically in whatever way they choose, even if it is not always consonant with the tone or style many of us feel best suits our philosophy?

Well, that perceived right is in fact a real right, you know. We really do have a right to argue for atheism publicly (I substitute that for “represent the secular community” because I don’t represent any community when I say something) in whatever way we choose, even if it is not consonant with someone else’s preferred tone or style. You may think doing so is regrettable or worse, and you may be right, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to do it. Atheism is not illegal, and free speech rights are pretty broad in the US (where CFI is located), so we really do have the right. (The right to be inflammatory is trickier.)

But in any case, that doesn’t really describe the issue accurately. And that’s just it, you see - we don’t know where Mooney thinks the borders are. It’s that simple. If a serious thoughtful review by a prominent scientist in The New Republic is not acceptable, then what is? I really, seriously don’t know.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 July 2010 01:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 124 ]
Jr. Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  66
Joined  2010-07-16

To me this isn’t really about “political correctness” but rather about “ethical obligations regarding second hand accounts.”

As a journalist Mooney should have checked not simply the identity of his source but the events in question. It is fairly clear he didn’t, otherwise as a journalist he wouldn’t have rested his story on one source. While journalistic ethics may not be held applicable to a blog, the reasons for those ethics existing in the first place are still valid - as can be demonstrated by the fallout from Mooney’s error. If you report a single source story without adequate fact checking, it is liable to blow up in your face and make you look like an idiot.

As a journalist up to this point Mooney was foolish. Foolishness is not however, unforgiveable.

But when it blew up in his face he should have made it quite clear the story was, to all appearances, false. Instead he claimed it “may still be accurate.” He failed to do his ethical duty. That alone, to my mind, undermines all credibility he may have. As he is employed by the CFI, this serves as a knock against this organisation’s credibility too.

There are other issues, most of which have been raised about his consistent bias, his tendency to turn a deaf ear to criticism, and the fact that he holding everyone to rules he has never actually laid out - but that central issue in his retraction of the Tom Johnson account remains to my mind the most damning.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 July 2010 01:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 125 ]
Jr. Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  66
Joined  2010-07-16

my suspicion that some at least will brook no opposition and no challenge whatsoever to their perceived right to be as inflammatory as they like and to represent the secular community publically in whatever way they choose, even if it is not always consonant with the tone or style many of us feel best suits our philosophy?

I am “inflammatory” in that I invite opposition. I am interested in dialogue as opposed to monologue - and as to publicly representing the “secular community”, frankly I have doubts as to whether it actually even exists. While there could be termed a secular mob - in that a large collection of people may agree on certain issues and secular communities have developed, quite frankly to say that anybody could speak for the secular community as a whole is like saying the Pope speaks for all theocrats.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 July 2010 01:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 126 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  3
Joined  2010-07-15
mckenzievmd - 15 July 2010 05:26 PM

4. And the moderator thing speaks for itself. If you have to admit that no rule was broken, then your lofty admonitions just sound like you have control issues. Which shouldn’t be a welcome trait in a mod.

I have to call self-serving psychobabble BS on this one. My objections and criticisms were sincere and clearly articulated, so attempting to dismiss them in this faux Freudian way is ridiculous.

How is what I said “self-serving”? And you think that it is “bullshit” to say that a moderator tried to control the posting here when he said:

Occam - 13 July 2010 04:58 PM

Please.  The originator of the thread said drop it.  Let’s do so.  I don’t want to be a prig and delete all the posts after Darron’s final one, I will do so if people keep stiring the bucket.

The OP’s suggestion to let it go is no reason whatsoever for a moderator to threaten deleting comments that don’t take that as an order. And since when is “stirring the bucket” an offence here? As you yourself have said, the moderator panel has decided it isn’t and that no rule was in fact broken.

Given that my description is factually correct, will you take back the “gratuitious personalized sarcasm” (though I’m not sure about ‘sarcasm’ in either case) that “serves no legitimate purpose except to express your own irritation and to anger your interlocutors and thus lower the level of debate”?

And one more thing. Why did you respond only to my point number 4? All other points were directly related to the OP’s initial question. That looks rather suspiciously like you’re hiding behind a spurious complaint about ‘tone’ in order to dodge the substantive debate. Which, funnily enough, is exactly what Chris Mooney has been doing for well over a year…

[ Edited: 16 July 2010 03:41 AM by Peter Beattie ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 July 2010 09:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 127 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4097
Joined  2006-11-28

We really do have a right to argue for atheism publicly (I substitute that for “represent the secular community” because I don’t represent any community when I say something) in whatever way we choose, even if it is not consonant with someone else’s preferred tone or style. You may think doing so is regrettable or worse, and you may be right, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to do it. Atheism is not illegal, and free speech rights are pretty broad in the US (where CFI is located), so we really do have the right. (The right to be inflammatory is trickier.)

Excellent, this is the kind of issue-based dialogue I was hoping for.

We certainly do have a legal right to say pretty much anything within very minimal limits associated with public safety, and I support that right unequivocally. I’m just not seeing that anyone within the atheist community is really challenging or threatening that. What I, at least, often say is that certain kinds of speech are counterproductive, or emotional to the point where they no no longer embody a rationalist perspective regardless of what is actually being said, and that it may be better under some circumstances to speak in more restrained ways. This sort of critique is not a challenge to the constitutional right of free speech, but for some reason it is perceived as such, and words like “censorship” are thrown around with a freedom that strips them of their meaning or power.

Again, it is only my perception based on interactions I’ve had with you and others here on these forums, and a few “real” conversations, but it seems that some in the atheist/secular community become offended when told their style of rhetoric is strategically unwise or frankly unecessarily inflammatory, and that offense moves them to twist the critique into some kind of suppression of speech. I certainly don’t have the power to inhibit anybody’s speech except by perhaps convincing them of my position. Yet when I suggest that I think some individuals go beyond the bounds of civility or sense, people act as if I’m burning God Delusion in the streets or rounding up outspoken atheists and throwing them in the gulag. There seems to be a visceral emotional reaction that exaggerates a small but real difference of opinon into a major schism. So we go about savaging each other while the wolrd merrily ignores us and our agendas fail to make headway.

I substitute that for “represent the secular community” because I don’t represent any community when I say something

Here I have to disagree, and this is part of why some of us are concerned about the more extreme ways of presenting atheism and attacking religion. The reality is that certain prominent media figures are taken as representatives of all atheists or the secularist community when they speak, and I cannot imagine that those of you who are well-known atheist writers do not know this. You may not intend to represent others, and hopefully you may even make a deliberate point of that in your writing and interviews and so on, but we all know that the media picks a Dawkins or Harris or whomever when they want to represent “the atheist side” of an issue, and the public isn’t very good at making fine distinctions between factions within a community they generally dislike anyway. I spend a lot of time in individual conversation with people who don’t know me well and find out I’m not religious trying to accurately characterize my position and how it converges with, and also differs from, their generic notions of what the non-religious think, which almost always come from the limited exposure they have had to prominent individuals who identify as non-religious.

Again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t write or say what you honestly think. Only that it is naive not to realize that in the role as a public intellectual you contribute to perceptions and stereotypes that encompas more than just you, and if you are going to “play the media game” you ought to accpet that and think carefully about the moves you make and their consequences.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet Blog
You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place. 
Johnathan Swift

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 July 2010 09:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 128 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4097
Joined  2006-11-28

to say that anybody could speak for the secular community as a whole is like saying the Pope speaks for all theocrats.

As I pointed out to Ophelia, the reality of how the media create perceptions is that people do see prominent, outspoken individuals as representing everyone who shares what is seen as a core position with them. The Pope clearly doesn’t speak accurately for all Catholics, much less all theists, and yet even we in the non-religious community often point to the Pope as an example of the problems with “religion” when illustrating a point, though we ought to know such a reference is likely to be misleading. It may be annoying, but people who choose to be public fiigures proimoting an agenda have to deal with the fact that their position is going to be superimposed on everyone identified by the media or general public as part of their “group,” and it is a mistake to ignore this.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet Blog
You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place. 
Johnathan Swift

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 July 2010 09:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 129 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4097
Joined  2006-11-28

Peter,

Please read more carefully.

1. “gratuitous personal sarcasm” was specifically a reference to something written by someone else, not you, and it has nothing to do with my response to your posts.

2. What I consider BS is the idea that my criticisms of this thread have anything to do with whatever it is you meant by the the nebulous, vacuous phrase “control issues.” You are free to disagree with my criticisms, but psychoanalyzing them is pointless and silly.

3. I only responded to Point 4 because the rest all deal with Chris Mooney, and as I’ve said repeatedly I’m not going to get involved in the debates about him and what did or didn’t happen on his blog or elsewhere.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet Blog
You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place. 
Johnathan Swift

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 July 2010 09:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 130 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  9
Joined  2010-07-15
mckenzievmd - 16 July 2010 09:21 AM

The Pope clearly doesn’t speak accurately for all Catholics,

Well, essentially, yes he does. That is what it means to be the head of an autocratic theocracy. Catholicism is a religion with top down dogma. Large issues are not open to debate. It is not a democracy. There is no analog in the “secular community, nothing to confuse Ophelia with. She is not head of a top down organization that dictates what non-theists must do lest the be tortured for all of eternity. And even if people are confused on that issue, she still has the right to speak her mind openly, without mincing words to spare the sensitive feelings of those who’s religious beliefs are contradicted by science.  (I remain unconvinced by the lure them with vague assurances approach is an efficacious one.)

People who disagree with the Pope on substantive matters are called Protestants—I say that only slightly tongue in cheek, though. I find Cafeteria Catholicism rather ironic—Catholics seem to have a harder time differentiating between being a cultural Catholic and a religious Catholic, if they even consider such a distinction possible.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 July 2010 09:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 131 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  3
Joined  2010-07-15
mckenzievmd - 16 July 2010 09:28 AM

Please read more carefully.

It’s not exactly Self-Awareness Day today, is it?

mckenzievmd - 16 July 2010 09:28 AM

1. “gratuitous personal sarcasm” was specifically a reference to something written by someone else, not you, and it has nothing to do with my response to your posts.

I am and was perfectly aware of that; that’s why I wrote “though I’m not sure about ‘sarcasm’ in either case”. Did you perhaps not read carefully enough?

mckenzievmd - 16 July 2010 09:28 AM

2. What I consider BS is the idea that my criticisms of this thread have anything to do with whatever it is you meant by the the nebulous, vacuous phrase “control issues.” You are free to disagree with my criticisms, but psychoanalyzing them is pointless and silly.

There are none so blind… I specifically quoted Occam’s threat of deleting comments. Not everything is about you personally—unless you choose to make it so. The phrase “control issues” was directed at the group of moderators, for whom Occam surely speaks when he posts in blue. If you want to distance yourself from that, then clarify, update, or remove that particular post. But don’t whine about how people are so mean to you.

mckenzievmd - 16 July 2010 09:28 AM

3. I only responded to Point 4 because the rest all deal with Chris Mooney, and as I’ve said repeatedly I’m not going to get involved in the debates about him and what did or didn’t happen on his blog or elsewhere.

The rest are about the OP’s initial question. If you are not interested in that particular discussion, then why do you participate in it? Your oh so convenient ‘I am not discussing anything that mentions Chris Mooney’ is nothing more than a transparently selective dodge, and pathetic as such.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 July 2010 09:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 132 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4097
Joined  2006-11-28

Skep,

Well, having grown up in an Irish Catholic family I’m afraid I don’t think very many American Catholics would agree with your assessment. The Pope may be titular head of the church, but his opinions are routinely ignored by thousands of priests and millions of believers. Anyway, we obviously aren’t going to agree on the general point, so as long as we understand one another I’m happy to let it go.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet Blog
You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place. 
Johnathan Swift

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 July 2010 10:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 133 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  9
Joined  2010-07-15
mckenzievmd - 16 July 2010 09:54 AM

Skep,

Well, having grown up in an Irish Catholic family I’m afraid I don’t think very many American Catholics would agree with your assessment. The Pope may be titular head of the church, but his opinions are routinely ignored by thousands of priests and millions of believers. Anyway, we obviously aren’t going to agree on the general point, so as long as we understand one another I’m happy to let it go.

I think you are coming off as somebody trying to lecture the rest of us about tone. So, what is with the condescending bit about you being “happy to let it go.” What, exactly, are you letting go? The situation in question is the curious case of a church who’s dogma is that it’s authority comes from the top down, with the Pope being god’s official representative here on earth. Many Catholics choose to disagree with official church doctrine and ignore it and still consider themselves good Catholics, yet you apparently don’t see the irony of their position. I suggest that such people are, in effect if not name, Protestants.  Agree with me or disagree with me. Debate it or don’t. Give me your facts and reasons. Or say nothing at all. But, please, don’t condescend to me as if you are giving me some sort of gift by “let[ting] it go” and as if I did something wrong by disagreeing with you.

[ Edited: 16 July 2010 10:17 AM by Skep ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 July 2010 10:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 134 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4097
Joined  2006-11-28

Wow, we sure aren’t communicating! I meant exactly what I said, which is that since we don’t seem to agree but we’ve each had a chance to explain our position,  I’m happy to agree to disagree, no hard feelings and so on. It was really a minor part of the point I was making, so I don’t see any reason to go back and forth on it when it seems like we understand each others positions and we just don’t see it the same way.

I understand lots of conversational clues get lost in text-only conversation, but I can’t see how you got such a hostile impression from such a simple response.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet Blog
You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place. 
Johnathan Swift

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 July 2010 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 135 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  9
Joined  2010-07-15
mckenzievmd - 16 July 2010 10:20 AM

Wow, we sure aren’t communicating! I meant exactly what I said, which is that since we don’t seem to agree but we’ve each had a chance to explain our position,  I’m happy to agree to disagree, no hard feelings and so on. It was really a minor part of the point I was making, so I don’t see any reason to go back and forth on it when it seems like we understand each others positions and we just don’t see it the same way.

I understand lots of conversational clues get lost in text-only conversation, but I can’t see how you got such a hostile impression from such a simple response.

By the context of the rest of your comments in the thread and by the post itself.

But, I’m glad to hear that you say that is not what you meant. Thanks.

Profile
 
 
   
9 of 11
9