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Another topic idea: Chris Mooney (does not) owe the world an apology
Posted: 16 July 2010 10:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 136 ]
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mckenzievmd - 16 July 2010 09:17 AM

What I, at least, often say is that certain kinds of speech are counterproductive [...] it seems that some in the atheist/secular community become offended when told their style of rhetoric is strategically unwise

As I suggested earlier, what I personally object to is that people say certain kinds of speech are counterproductive or strategically unwise, but never offer any actual evidence that this is the case.  By contrast, various “New Atheists” have offered several lines of defence for their approach, varying from “people respect you more if you actually treat them as if their beliefs matter, rather than insincerely mollycoddle them” to “the notion of the Overton Window suggests that even extreme speech can push the debate by making less extreme positions seem more reasonable”.

My expectation was that the communications experts who argue against some types of approaches could offer solid demonstrations that such approaches were counterproductive.  But they haven’t, and until they do, this really seems to be a disagreement about aesthetics and personal taste, and not a well-founded discussion of the efficacy of tactics.

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Posted: 16 July 2010 10:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 137 ]
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McKenzie…your reply to me is kind of beside the point. No offense, but I’m not really all that interested in your views on “are the ‘new’ atheists mean & rude?’; that’s not what this thread was about so it’s not why I contributed to it. I don’t really want to have a lengthy discussion with you on the issue. I would quite like to see you answer the specific questions I asked you, such as why you said with apparent approval or indifference that Mooney is obviously not going to reply, but I wouldn’t quite like to make this whole discussion be about you. That’s not personal, it’s just that Mooney has a lot of influence, so what he writes and says on his blog and in major media makes a difference to the overall debate. I am somewhat interested in why moderators (2 so far) on a Center for Inquiry discussion board are so eager to shield Mooney from criticism, but I’m not terribly interested in substantive discussion with those moderators.

So actually it would be kind of nice if you just backed off. It would be even nicer if you used your clout to encourage Mooney to answer our questions, but it’s also pretty obvious that you have no intention of doing that. So you could just let us inquire, without interfering (unless someone breaks rules, of course).

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Posted: 16 July 2010 10:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 138 ]
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Well, I would argue that the “lines of defense” you refer to are plausible theories, but they are not “evidence” in any tangible, scientific sense either. As I mention in another thread, I think there is evidence in basic psychology amd social psychology research that direct, aggressive challenge hardens rather than softens opposition and that people are more likely to listen and absorb your argument if you treat them with respect and civility than with what they perceive as hostility. I think there is evidence that inflammatory rhetorical strategies may be ineffective or even counterproductive. I will list a few sources that mention some of these studies or make the argument in more detail, but unfortunately I don’t have a comprehensive list of reference on the topic nor the time and inclination to build one. And I don’t mean to suggest the issue can yet be definitively decided by empirical data at this poitn. We are all, to some extent, working on our intuitions about human communication. That has its weaknesses, certainly, but I’m not convinced it’s accurate to characterize one side as offering more evidence than the other for its position in this debate.

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Posted: 16 July 2010 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 139 ]
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mckenzievmd - 16 July 2010 10:59 AM

Well, I would argue that the “lines of defense” you refer to are plausible theories, but they are not “evidence” in any tangible, scientific sense either.

I agree, but I think they are at least arguments beyond “rudeness is bad, and insisting on taking people’s beliefs seriously is rudeness”.

I think there is evidence that inflammatory rhetorical strategies may be ineffective or even counterproductive.

As someone who has observed the US under the rise of conservative talk radio and the Tea Party, I would suggest that this claim is by no means universally supported.

And I don’t mean to suggest the issue can yet be definitively decided by empirical data at this poitn.

And that’s fine, and I for one am certainly happy for there to be multiple strategies on this issue, and to let a thousand flowers bloom.  No one has suggested that all secularist and atheists and science advocates should only adopt a more assertive approach.  But in contrast, others have suggested that they do have the only solution, the only correct approach, which is to avoid talking about inherent conflicts between religion and science.  If some people want to be “accommodating”, that’s fine, but don’t yell at me if I in turn say that’s not what I want to do.

We are all, to some extent, working on our intuitions about human communication.

I really don’t like to get too personal, but I very much doubt that Mooney would agree that he is only working on his “intuition”—I think he’d find that rather insulting.

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Posted: 16 July 2010 11:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 140 ]
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Ophelia,

Well, I am disappointed, but of course you’re free to choose who’s opinion you are interested in and who you feel is worth the effort to debate. A few points, then I’ll leave the thread apart from my official monitoring of it.

1) I can’t speak for Mooney and it would be foolish to try, which is why I refuse to do so.

My participation began by pointing out why I did not feel the banning of folks at Chris’ blog was as disturbing as some members find it, so I’ve already addressed the question of why I don’t feel Mooney is any more obligated to respond to you than you are obligated to respond to my opinions. You are, of course you’re free to dispute or ignore my perspective on the matter, but I have addressed it.

The only reason I offered my own opinion on the larger issue is because you specifically said you were not exclusively interested in talking about Chris but that “The issue under debate is whether or not there are pragmatic reasons for self-censorship on issues to do with religion, and science-and-religion, and whether the pragmatic reasons for self-censorship outweigh the reasons for open and free inquiry.” I misunderstood this as a willingness to discuss the larger issues, not just Mooney’s behavior or positions on the subject. If all you are interested in is rehashing the subject of Chris’ behavior, I’ve already said my say on that subject, so I’ll leave it to you.

2) I am a volunteer moderator with zero clout at all, so I certainly can’t pressure anyone actually employed at CFI to do anything even if I wanted to

3)  I have no interest whatsoever in shielding Mooney from criticism. I have already explained both the official, and my personal, criticisms earlier in the thread, and this is a mischaracterization of them. You clearly disagree with our concerns about what seems to some of us as unecessarily hostile and personalized rhetoric, and that’s fine. But it would be more appropriate to accept those concerns as articulated previously at face value, rather than suggest some sinister motivation to suppress your opinion or defend Mooney’s.

As I said, since I’ve had my say on the issues raised, and since the thread is currently operating within the forum rules, I will leave you to it.

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Posted: 16 July 2010 12:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 141 ]
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paul_w - 15 July 2010 03:26 PM
StephenLawrence - 15 July 2010 02:20 PM
paul_w - 15 July 2010 09:51 AM
mckenzievmd - 15 July 2010 08:28 AM

Paul,

The policies for discussion here are clearly set out in the Forum Rules, which you can read for yourself.

I have read them, repeatedly. 

Get a life.

Stephen

 

When I get this kind of shallow snarky response, is it kosher to give the obvious response involving a minor four letter word or two and suggesting that Stephen should have anatomically implausible interactions with himself?

Dunno, I haven’t read the rules.  LOL

Stephen

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Posted: 16 July 2010 01:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 142 ]
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This thread started as proposing that Chris Mooney owed the world an apology. Its initiator then reached the view, for reasons that he did not share with us, that no apology is due. I still think we do need an apology, though I accept that we are not going to get one, either here or on Chris’s own blog.

The Centre for Inquiry’s admirable blazon states that ‘To oppose and supplant the mythological narratives of the past, and the dogmas of the present, the world needs an institution devoted to promoting science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.’ Chris mysteriously now advocates, without evidence, that we should humour the mythological narratives of the past, apparently because his intuition tells him that this humouring will wean devotees of mythology into science. On his blog, he deletes comments which dissent from this intuition, and banned Ophelia Benson because she kept asking for evidence instead of intuition.

I entirely accept Chris’s right to blog about his intuitions, and to delete any comments he can’t refute, but I do not understand why he is allowed to claim any connection with the Centre for Inquiry.

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Posted: 16 July 2010 02:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 143 ]
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DarronS - 12 July 2010 05:29 PM
CMooney - 12 July 2010 05:18 PM

Darron, thanks for you “higher standards.” Exercising them, are you ready to back down from this statement too?

“It does seem rather pertinent, though, that you did not ban the sock puppets for trashing her for asking questions.”

What sock puppets? There were no sock puppets (that we know of) on our blog at the time your referring to. The sock puppets that everyone has been referring to and that were recently outed (“bilbo,” “milton c,” etc) all appeared later.

Were you aware of the timing of events here? Did you look into this? If not, how can you make this claim so confidently?

chris

Post#48
Yes Chris, I am ready to back down from those comments. I just read your post at The Intersection on why you banned Ophelia Benson. I was wrong to step into that scuffle, especially with only one possibly prejudiced witness to back my belief. I just tried to post this at your blog, but apparently you have, with valid reason, blocked me from posting, so I will put it here.

Chris, I owe you an apology for one of my comments at CFI. I would have posted this on the Ophelia Benson thread, but comments are closed. After reading your side of the story I realize I had no right to question why you banned Ophelia here. I regret doing so and will be more open minded in the future.

Is this what you are looking for?

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Posted: 16 July 2010 02:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 144 ]
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It seems to have gone unnoticed that Darron’s explanation for withdrawing had the facts reversed, something which I corrected. It looks as though Darron made a mistake when he said that he made a mistake.

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Posted: 16 July 2010 02:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 145 ]
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Oedipus - 16 July 2010 02:38 PM

It seems to have gone unnoticed that Darron’s explanation for withdrawing had the facts reversed, something which I corrected. It looks as though Darron made a mistake when he said that he made a mistake.

...or posted it incorrectly. I notice that he has remained out of this kerfuffle.

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Posted: 16 July 2010 02:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 146 ]
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Hah!  “Kerfuffle”.....I love that word.  Heh heh.  “Kerfuffle.”

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Posted: 16 July 2010 02:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 147 ]
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Dead Monky - 16 July 2010 02:45 PM

Hah!  “Kerfuffle”.....I love that word.  Heh heh.  “Kerfuffle.”

grin

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Posted: 16 July 2010 02:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 148 ]
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asanta - 16 July 2010 02:15 PM
DarronS - 12 July 2010 05:29 PM
CMooney - 12 July 2010 05:18 PM

Darron, thanks for you “higher standards.” Exercising them, are you ready to back down from this statement too?

“It does seem rather pertinent, though, that you did not ban the sock puppets for trashing her for asking questions.”

What sock puppets? There were no sock puppets (that we know of) on our blog at the time your referring to. The sock puppets that everyone has been referring to and that were recently outed (“bilbo,” “milton c,” etc) all appeared later.

Were you aware of the timing of events here? Did you look into this? If not, how can you make this claim so confidently?

chris

Post#48
Yes Chris, I am ready to back down from those comments. I just read your post at The Intersection on why you banned Ophelia Benson. I was wrong to step into that scuffle, especially with only one possibly prejudiced witness to back my belief. I just tried to post this at your blog, but apparently you have, with valid reason, blocked me from posting, so I will put it here.

Chris, I owe you an apology for one of my comments at CFI. I would have posted this on the Ophelia Benson thread, but comments are closed. After reading your side of the story I realize I had no right to question why you banned Ophelia here. I regret doing so and will be more open minded in the future.

Is this what you are looking for?

Nope, because that wasn’t even the point of the OP.

Here is the OP:

DarronS - 07 July 2010 08:26 PM

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...

Nothing about banning Benson after sock puppets slandered her. It was others who slandered her.

Mooney doesn’t rebutt any of the allegations in the OP, instead latching on to a side issue about *which* of the trolls in Mooney’s comments section called Ophelia Benson a liar before Mooney summarily banned and prevented Benson from responding to the slander. Mooney banned Benson not for breaking any rules but for being persistent, whereas other commenters were left free to make slander in what became a sea of sockpuppets.

It seems that DarronS was distracted by the fact that Mooney, the F list celebrity, deigned to speak to him and forgot all about the utterly unaddressed issues in his OP. So, no, we don’t know why DarronS changed his mind when Mooney did not, in fact, address the issues in the OP.

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Posted: 16 July 2010 02:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 149 ]
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...and you think all of this will accomplish….what????

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Posted: 16 July 2010 02:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 150 ]
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Really.  He’s not even beating a dead horse anymore.  He’s beating the gooey, red pulp that used to be a dead horse.

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