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PZ Myers, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Chris Mooney - New Atheism or Accommodation?
Posted: 10 October 2010 11:07 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Recently at the 30th anniversary conference of the Council for Secular Humanism in Los Angeles, leading science blogger PZ Myers and Point of Inquiry host Chris Mooney appeared together on a panel to discuss the questions, “How should secular humanists respond to science and religion? If we champion science, must we oppose faith? How best to approach flashpoints like evolution education?”

It’s a subject about which they are known to… er, differ.

The moderator was Jennifer Michael Hecht, the author of Doubt: A History. The next day, the three reprised their public debate for a special episode of Point of Inquiry, with Hecht sitting in as a guest host in Mooney’s stead.

This is the unedited cut of their three way conversation.

PZ Myers is a biologist at the University of Minnesota-Morris who, in addition to his duties as a teacher of biology and especially of development and evolution, likes to spend his spare time poking at the follies of creationists, Christians, crystal-gazers, Muslims, right-wing politicians, apologists for religion, and anyone who doesn’t appreciate how much the beauty of reality exceeds that of ignorant myth.

Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author of award-winning books of philosophy, history, and poetry, including: Doubt: A History (HarperCollins, 2003); The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism and Anthropology (Columbia University Press, 2003); and The Happiness Myth, (HarperCollins in 2007). Her work appears in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, and The New Yorker. Hecht earned her Ph.D. in History from Columbia University in 1995 and now teaches in the graduate writing program of The New School University.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/pz_myers_jennifer_michael_hecht_chris_mooney_new_atheism_or_accommodation/

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Posted: 11 October 2010 02:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Chris Mooney pretty much summarized the argument that accommodationists use against new atheists when he accused new atheists of “yelling loudly at” the pushers of religious beliefs. PZ Myers was correct to immediately call him on that statement.

When I read, watch, or listen to any of the accomodationist-proclaimed “new” atheists, what I see and hear is eloquent prose, insurmountable evidence, and expert presentation of facts. Even Christopher Hitchens, the most vitriolic of the vocal atheists, does not “yell loudly” at his opponents.

If the alternative to this fantasized loud yelling is to shuffle one’s feet, proclaim, as Jennifer Hecht did, that “we [and religious believers] mostly believe the same things”, and make excuses for peddlers of lies, then I’ll throw my lot with the loud-yelling New Atheists.

How about, on a future podcast, you interview some of these people that Richard Dawkins supposedly converted from atheism to theism?

[ Edited: 11 October 2010 02:20 AM by 1000 Needles ]
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Posted: 11 October 2010 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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What this debate boiled down to:

Chris Mooney: “I think you are a bit rude.”
PZ Myers: “Maybe, but sometimes we need rude people.”
CM: “But as you can see, I am not rude. But you are quite rude.”
PZ: “Perhaps, but we need rude people and not rude people.”
Jennifer Hecht: “I once met someone who was put off by how rude you are”
PZ: “Well, I once met someone who liked how rude I was.”
CM: “....you’re rude.”

THE END

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Posted: 11 October 2010 08:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Tufty - 11 October 2010 07:36 AM

What this debate boiled down to:

Chris Mooney: “I think you are a bit rude.”
PZ Myers: “Maybe, but sometimes we need rude people.”
CM: “But as you can see, I am not rude. But you are quite rude.”
PZ: “Perhaps, but we need rude people and not rude people.”
Jennifer Hecht: “I once met someone who was put off by how rude you are”
PZ: “Well, I once met someone who liked how rude I was.”
CM: “....you’re rude.”

THE END

lol. I’ve not listened to it yet, but given what I know of the protagonists that is a perfect summary. PZ speaks bluntly and eloquently - for which many, many people admire him - and Mooney wrings his hands about being “rude”.

I’ll take plain-talking types like PZ Myers any day of the week over the “can’t we all just agree to disagree” wishy washiness of the accommodationists.

P.S. Why was Jennifer Hecht ‘moderating’? It was like having Rush Limbaugh moderate a debate between Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly!

[ Edited: 11 October 2010 08:32 AM by Davito ]
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Posted: 11 October 2010 08:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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POI has really gone downhill.  DJ was remarkable for being able to allow his guests to express their views even when he doesn’t agree.  In fact, he uses questions to give them the best opportunity of explaining themselves not fighting them.  Contrast this with Hecht who interrupts PZ and spends her time attacking him when she’s supposed to be a moderator!

Who is managing this train wreck?  Someone needs to get this back under control because it’s going off the rails.

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Posted: 11 October 2010 09:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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DavidC - 11 October 2010 08:29 AM

P.S. Why was Jennifer Hecht ‘moderating’? It was like having Rush Limbaugh moderate a debate between Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly!

I love the end where it’s Mooney who has to rein Hecht back in, remind people that the time is closing and call for closing statements.

By this time, Hecht has so totally lost the plot that she even gives her summary position!  Not only was she opinionated but yeah, like Limbaugh she didn’t even try to appear objective.

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Posted: 11 October 2010 10:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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To be honest, I don’t understand why we keep having debates like this. Here, I’ll summarise the conclusion of every single one of them.

Polite people dont like rude people. Rude people are sometimes necessary to deal with certain types of idiots. Polite people are sometimes necessary to deal with other types of idiots.

Luckily we have both rude people and polite people and, as such, can respond to a wide variety of the various types of idiot.

But still, polite people dont like rude people.

Herp Derp.

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Posted: 11 October 2010 10:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I have admired PZ’s tenacity in the past and who can forget his ID phone in, but what was he thinking… why go down the path of arrogance and ad hominem debate against all believers? Science and Religion are not mutually exclusive, famous scientists from Newton to Albert Einstein have expressed belief in God in some form or another - as well as being scientists.

Well according to what I’m hearing from PZ they must be “fools” and therefore in context are unworthy of intellectual debate - had they still been alive today. PZ is no fool, but he’s no Einstein either! 

Dawkins has been equally guilty of many logical fallacies lately. Why give away the high-ground by diluting the effect of the message by acting arrogant and using logical fallacies? 

Both PZ and Dawkins seem to be preaching to the converted or just setting out to poke fun at religious extremists in a manner that does neither any credit, because they don’t respect an opposing opinion. 

Bring us a real debate, lets hear a debate amongst equals like Dawkins vs Stephan Hoeller. I hate saying it but I think Hoellor would wipe the floor with both Dawkins and PZ put together the way they are going on these days.

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Posted: 11 October 2010 10:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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KiwiDon - are you just critiquing PZ in general or anything that he said in this interview because he was not arguing anything of the sort.

You also seem to be buying the notion that criticizing a belief is the same as attacking the people themselves.  And are questions like the existence of God or whether homosexuality is born or a choice really “opinions”?  I don’t think so!

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Posted: 11 October 2010 10:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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KiwiDon - 11 October 2010 10:33 AM

Both PZ and Dawkins seem to be preaching to the converted ...

http://richarddawkins.net/letters/converts - and I’ve seen many other people cite Dawkins (esp. The God Delusion) in their deprogramming. PZ writes a blog - I presume mainly for his own enjoyment - and his more abrasive style may be unlikely to sway many devout believers, but there are certainly main ex-faithiests that enjoy his acerbic wit and commentary.

Bring us a real debate, lets hear a debate amongst equals like Dawkins vs Stephan Hoeller.

Please! Let’s find a theist that can bring a good game to a debate - because I’ve never seen it. Dawkins, Myers, Hitchens, Dennet, et al have eviscerated every opponent sent against them. I note that many of the religious always believe someone *else* would “wipe the floor” with them. It’s like a continuous game of ‘No True Scotsman’ - if they didn’t win the debate, they weren’t real, serious, heavyweight theologians!

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Posted: 11 October 2010 10:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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KiwiDon - 11 October 2010 10:33 AM

famous scientists from Newton to Albert Einstein have expressed belief in God in some form or another - as well as being scientists.

Some scientists have also believed in UFOs, Bigfoot, and homeopathy. Just because an individual is a scientist does not mean that every idea of theirs is instantly credible. Kary Mullis is an excellent example. Does his belief in astrology mean that astrology has some valid tenants and should be treated with respect?

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Posted: 11 October 2010 11:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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PZ said and I quote “Name the person whose religious beliefs does not conflict with science… I would say their aren’t any.” About 10 minutes in.  PZ then says ”  “The proper tactic is open confrontation…” 31:16 “Religion is the problem we are going to criticize it no matter whose expressing it.” 31:30 “Belief in God is a problem’’ 38:43

Am I alone in thinking he’s getting too fanatical himself?

1000 Needles - that’s non-sequitur, are you saying Newton and Albert Einstein are non-credible? That was the measure, I’m saying that their are some credible where PZ was saying their aren’t any!

DavidC - I just gave you my example of what I believe would be a good debate, as “I agree”, so far I haven’t heard anyone put up a persuasive debate. That’s what I’d like to hear - “a debate amongst equals.”

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Posted: 11 October 2010 12:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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KiwiDon - 11 October 2010 11:57 AM

are you saying Newton and Albert Einstein are non-credible?

Newton and Einstein, like most individuals, have/had both credible and non-credible ideas. Credibility lies with ideas and the thorough testing of ideas, not with their discoverers.

Newtons ideas, in both physics and religion, were undoubtedly advanced for their time. However, both physics and theology have improved since Newton’s era. Relativity is more accurate than Newtonian dynamics for describing physics, and atheism is more accurate than religion for describing cosmology and morality and all other questions that religion claims answers to.

If Einstein was at all a deist or theist (and this itself is a subject of debate), then his ideas regarding religion were certainly less credible than his ideas about physics.

KiwiDon - 11 October 2010 11:57 AM

Am I alone in thinking he’s getting too fanatical himself?

How is PZ being fanatical? When he says “Belief in god is a problem,” he is making a true statement. You only need to look towards Islam or the Catholic church or the teaching of evolution in American schools to see the symptoms of god-belief.

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Posted: 11 October 2010 01:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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“Newton and Einstein, like most individuals, have/had both credible and non-credible ideas. Credibility lies with ideas and the thorough testing of ideas, not with their discoverers.”

I agree, however, that is not what PZ said.

“If Einstein was at all a deist or theist (and this itself is a subject of debate), then his ideas regarding religion were certainly less credible than his ideas about physics.”

Einstein’s view does not need debate, he himself used the word “God” in context of a creator.  It would be intellectually dishonest to say that it is subject to debate. What his beliefs were beyond his statements are the only thing open to debate, not what he wrote.

KiwiDon - 11 October 2010 11:57 AM

Am I alone in thinking he’s getting too fanatical himself?

How is PZ being fanatical? When he says “Belief in god is a problem,” he is making a true statement. You only need to look towards Islam or the Catholic church or the teaching of evolution in American schools to see the symptoms of god-belief.

All belief in God is a problem according to PZ, this includes the silent majority who have no issues accepting science, evolution et al.  Why isn’t this view fanatical in context with PZ’s quotes? I’m saying his statements are fanatical as he is lumping every Christian, Muslim, Hindu etc… into a one size fits all box which is obviously a fallacious argument.

I am happy for him to have his opinion but he’s not happy for anyone who is religious to have one…  that’s “Excessive, irrational zeal” or fanaticism.

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Posted: 11 October 2010 01:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Since I consider this type of debates almost a sport event, I see the score here as Accomodationism 0, New Atheism 1.  grin

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Posted: 11 October 2010 02:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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KiwiDon - 11 October 2010 11:57 AM

1000 Needles - that’s non-sequitur, are you saying Newton and Albert Einstein are non-credible? That was the measure, I’m saying that their are some credible where PZ was saying their aren’t any!

That is certainly what PZ was not saying. He said that Miller’s science was admirable but his religious beliefs were not. The same would apply to Newton and Einstein: their science was good, Newton’s ideas on alchemy and Einstein’s ideas on pacifism were nonsense.

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