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Posted 18-Jun-2010 at 06:12 AM (06:12) by Gurdur
Updated 18-Jun-2010 at 06:18 AM (06:18) by Gurdur

There has just been recently an AAAS panel discussion, "Re-Envisioning the Science and Religion Dialogue", on Wednesday, 16 June. The AAAS is the Wikipedia link for American Association for the Advancement of Science American Association for the Advancement of Science, which is "an .... organization with the stated goals of promoting cooperation between scientists, defending scientific freedom, encouraging scientific responsibility, and .... is the world's largest general scientific society ... and is the publisher of the well-known scientific journal Science", and there they are, holding a panel. Like everyone else, scientists love being on panels, it makes them feel like society and the media care, it's lamplight and audience, and there's often free feasting and merriment, or at least the chance of a free bacon sandwich. Outside, claimed to have been cast out into the darkness, there is a right old weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth of those not invited to be on that panel.

There have been recently just a few beanfeasts, just a couple, but those who love themselves are sure they should have been invited to those, and they weren't, and some are rather disturbed about it. So exactly why are the usual suspects making so much fuss about their long-drawn-out self-imposed martyrdom (a martyrdom too frequently marked by dishonesty) all over again this time? One weeper claims the panel "only included pious apologists for religion", except that that weeper, PZ Myers, has a track record of abusing anyone daring to disagree with him. So knowing his track record for substanceless abuse, one rather discounts his opinion.

One wailer is sure that it's all because everyone else is very so brutally nasty; but then, just recently, Chris Mooney said:

Quote:
"... We were initially surprised that our co-authored book, Unscientific America, was so strongly attacked for observing that scientists should strive to improve their skills at public communication–and that this probably includes not alienating potential religious allies or mainstream America. ....."
And the aforementioned wailer, Ophelia Benson, commented on that by saying in response, "...it’s untrue, and distorted, and misleading. It’s dishonest and unreasonable .... it is, rather, untrue, and distorted, and misleading. .... hostile and dishonest. The quoted passage is untrue and distorted in several ways .... It’s a curiously anti-intellectual and paranoiac description .... ".

Except that only a very short time ago, that wailer had dumped empty, childish scorn all over Chris Mooney for daring to blog on why striving at improving their skills at communication is important for scientists. Whoooops. Oh snap. And while we're looking at the sight of Ophelia Benson continually claiming persecution, it actually damn well looks like she is the one doing the persecuting.

Then there is the sight of the gnasher of teeth, Jerry Coyne, bitching about being left in the cold, in fact petulantly demanding that if the beanfest does not include him or someone who echoes his opinion, then there should be no beanfest; yet that same gnasher delights in childish little contests to see who can come up with new derogatory abusive labels for anyone disagreeing with him.

And so on, and so on. Do you think these people will ever grown up and learn the point that you can't continually act like a puerile jerk yet still get invited to all the parties? That is one of the important questions highlighted by the relatively new and very recommendable site You're Not Helping (YNH).

But let's consider if such panels, those beanfests, banquets, smorgasbords, should be held at all? Is there all that much to say all over again for the umpteenth zillionth time about science and religion trying to cuddle but discovering they're spatiotemporally incompatible?

Well, yes, I think there is a point to them, and a need for them, but it is my suspicion that pretty much everyone involved in these things actually doesn't quite get the point consciously. That is, the real point goes through the lovefests almost unnoticed: when people get together to talk about science and religion, while the ostensible theme is if religion and science can overcome time and space and actually get it on in a mutually respectful, adult consensual, caring kind of way, the actual real themes are instead just how do we all get on together and how best we shoudl run our societies as of right now? What values do we need right now, how can we change social values, how do we manage our present social problems, and so forth and so on? And those real themes get handled about a little bit on suchlike panels, and so something does get done and accomplished.

Let's get back to the martyrs. Often self-described as the New Atheists, though we're looking at the second-stringers of New Atheists here, really. Do they have a real place at such galas? Do they have something to contribute to the jollifications?

Well, yes and no. First off, there is the none-too-small problem that a sizeable segment of them act like jerks. Continually. No-one needs a continual jerk around.

Then there is the problem of actually having something new to contribute. We all know science and religion have, ah, difficulties of compatibility. The big so what? Just repeating the mantra that they're terribly incompatible gets boring, because even though they are, they sometimes have interesting things to say to each other, and things can get accomplished despite being not the ostensible theme.

And it's simply no good if Sean Carroll puts in the tired old implicit claim that everyone should be listening to the (approved) scientists only, and to no-one else, since very bluntly, natural scientists have no better knowledge of ethics and management and politics than anyone else does. So maybe they better listen as well as lecture.

And there's a big danger very slowly creeping up here; the New Atheist second-stringers are becoming old hat. Despite their having a bee in their bonnet that if only they could get their message out, everything would be OK, they really ignore everyone has heard their message already a zillion times.

The New Atheist B-team seem to imagine that if only people would listen, they would understand; but what those evangelists don't really get is that alleged core beliefs (such as say evolution) are rarely as important to anyone as is thought, and while it is frustrating that people will cling to core beliefs like limpets in a tank of super-glue, what is really far more important to most people is what they should do today about today, and how they can draw on legitimization for whatever they need to do. It's precisely that area where the loud New Atheist B-squad fall down so badly.

PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson, Jerry Coyne, are all so busy always attacking Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum for being all accommodationist and wrong and stuff etc.; but Kirshenbaum and Mooney win the game slowly but surely by simply talking about everything else, by talking about important social issues, oil, politics, kissing, how to talk better, and so on. The important stuff.

And those New Atheist second-rankers aren't good at public communication and often don't try to be; for example, PZ Myers roundly and very stupidly abused an Australian newspaper journalist/commentator, despite the atheist conference in Australia getting very good press and publicity precisely because of that reporter and others like him (and I shall blog on that especially, a while later). The New Atheists second-stringers include people who simply are far too arrogant and too incompetent at activism for their own good.

They are at risk of rapidly becoming the fashion of yesteryear. Old hat.


This blog post is one of four all to do in some way with hats. The four grouped blog posts are:

New Atheists: old hat [this blog post]

Old atheist: new hat

Religious schisms: no hat

Republican Joe Barton: talking through his hat



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  1. Old Comment
    Makbawehuh's Avatar
    Quote:
    Except that only a very short time ago, that wailer had dumped empty, childish scorn all over Chris Mooney for daring to blog on why striving at improving their skills at communication is important for scientists. Whoooops. Oh snap. And while we're looking at the sight of Ophelia Benson continually claiming persecution, it actually damn well looks like she is the one doing the persecuting.
    L.O.L.

    I can't help it, LOL. I know this was supposed to be serious, but all I can do is facepalm and laugh.

    Offhand- Gurdur, you need a facepalm smiley.
    Posted 18-Jun-2010 at 04:39 PM (16:39) by Makbawehuh Makbawehuh is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Who is this Benson woman? She seems to be rather passive-aggressive, imho.
    Posted 18-Jun-2010 at 04:41 PM (16:41) by Mackenzie777 Mackenzie777 is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mackenzie777 View Comment
    Who is this Benson woman? She seems to be rather passive-aggressive, imho.
    Ophelia Benson is a bit of a self-taught person (like me). She set up a blog on commentating on atheist issues, which morphed into a whine/attack blog. A bit of a pity, since if she wasn't so bent on whining then being really nasty repetitively, she would indeed have worthwhile things to say. But the points of worth get drowned in the bile.

    I did invite her here a while back so she could give her point of view about my criticisms; but the dialogue I attempted with her did not go down well, and she took off.
    Posted 18-Jun-2010 at 05:16 PM (17:16) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Makbawehuh's Avatar
    Which is very sad, because I can't properly flame the hell out of someone if they aren't around to look at it. I mean, I -can-, but it's not as fun as when I don't know they're reading it and seeing red.
    Posted 18-Jun-2010 at 07:54 PM (19:54) by Makbawehuh Makbawehuh is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Makbawehuh View Comment
    Which is very sad, because I can't properly flame the hell out of someone if they aren't around to look at it. I mean, I -can-, but it's not as fun as when I don't know they're reading it and seeing red.
    She may well read it even so. Right at this time, she seems to be on a bit of a hunt trying to identify the 4 or so anonymous bloggers who comprise the You're Not Helping site. So she seems by report and self-report to be running a fair bit around the net for that.
    Posted 19-Jun-2010 at 03:25 AM (03:25) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  6. Old Comment
    Makbawehuh's Avatar
    What is her thing with anonymous people? lol. Silly woman.
    Posted 19-Jun-2010 at 04:59 PM (16:59) by Makbawehuh Makbawehuh is offline
  7. Old Comment
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Makbawehuh View Comment
    What is her thing with anonymous people? lol. Silly woman.

    It could be that she has difficulties with trying to control others. Rather like the old joke about not being able to sleep because someone on the internet is wrong.
    Posted 19-Jun-2010 at 07:12 PM (19:12) by Mackenzie777 Mackenzie777 is offline
  8. Old Comment
    Makbawehuh's Avatar
    I haven't heard that joke, I think.
    Posted 19-Jun-2010 at 07:21 PM (19:21) by Makbawehuh Makbawehuh is offline
  9. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Makbawehuh View Comment
    What is her thing with anonymous people? lol. Silly woman.
    Basically, what Mackenzie777 said. In this one very particular case, though not in others she's bitched about, she really wants to know who exactly is behind the You're Not Helping (YNH) site. She is not alone in that; Jerry Coyne and others have all been getting very upset in very hidden ways about the YNH. You see, the anonymous 4 or so bloggers of the YNH have been making very trenchant, hard-hitting exposés and criticisms of people like PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne, Larry Moran and Ophelia Benson, wtih a side-dish of every now and then slapping Chris Mooney around (the YNH folk, as far as I can see, really do try to be very objective and consistant --- and it is precisely on the point of consistancy, or rather the lack of it, that they criticise PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne, Larry Moran, Ophelia Benson and Chris Mooney.

    But Jerry Coyne and Ophelia Benson have been trying hard to pretend YNH does not exist -- while very obviously getting very uptight about what YNH is saying. Then Ophelia Benson let slip very recently that she, Greg Laden, and so on, have all been in contact trying desperately to work out who the specific people behind YNH are, I guess so they can make some kind of personal counter-attack, since they cannot make a factual counter-attack (because too much of the time YNH are too obviously right).

    It's quite fun to watch.
    Posted 20-Jun-2010 at 12:06 AM (00:06) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  10. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Makbawehuh View Comment
    I haven't heard that joke, I think.
    SIWOTI Syndrome.

    Someone Is Wrong On The Internet.


    Courtesy of XKCD:


    Posted 20-Jun-2010 at 12:09 AM (00:09) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  11. Old Comment

    YNH dishonest

    I read YNH for a while thinking that they are serious and just try to keep people honest.

    Unfortunately in the last few days I have after reading in more detail what the quote, come to the conclusion that they exaggerate other's views, sometimes mischaracterize them.

    Today it broke the camel's back for me though. They basically charged Ophelia with a Lie of Omission, by themselves omitting comments she made on the very blog post she made on a topic. That not being enough, they have a second post up attacking PZ commenting on that very blog post, just above the comment that proves that she didn't omit anything. Yet they are happy to omit that again.

    So basically they omit stuff to construct a lie of omission. That is not serious, in fact I think that asking who is behind this is starting to get relevant. Why do these people have to construct negative cases against a certain small set of bloggers and even revert to dishonest tactics doing so?
    Posted 26-Jun-2010 at 11:08 AM (11:08) by Hitch
  12. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar

    YNH dishonest?

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Hitch View Comment
    I read YNH for a while thinking that they are serious and just try to keep people honest.

    Unfortunately .... Today it broke the camel's back for me though. They basically charged Ophelia with a Lie of Omission, by themselves omitting comments she made .... Why do these people have to construct negative cases against a certain small set of bloggers and even revert to dishonest tactics doing so?
    Hi and welcome, Hitch.

    I think to make this charge stick you need to anchor it a bit; you need to build up your case point by point, and with all relevant links and partial quotes. You see, basically I see you asserting things here, but not actually proving them. And if you want to make your charge stick, you need to make your case more water-tight.

    I hope you do do that, since I don't agree with your view of events here, but I think it's very important you have full ability to be able to mount a more solid case, and I really do hope you do so here. As said, I disagree with you, but such a debate is very damned important.

    By the way, if you register on the board (the Hub), that will give you extra functions such as messages and emails and so on, as well as being able to take part in threads on the board proper, rather than only on blog comments.

    Welcome again!
    Posted 26-Jun-2010 at 12:37 PM (12:37) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  13. Old Comment
    When you capitalise "Lie of Omission" it sounds as if you are going to chuck stone tablets and lightning bolts at them. How Biblical of you.
    Posted 26-Jun-2010 at 12:41 PM (12:41) by Unregistered
  14. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Unregistered View Comment
    When you capitalise "Lie of Omission" it sounds as if you are going to chuck stone tablets and lightning bolts at them. How Biblical of you.
    I know you're talking to Hitch on that one, but hey. Biblical imagery can be fun, though DiscWorld and Small Gods imagery is even better.



    On a more serious note: I have made a new blog post which is an open public invitation to Hitch and others to discuss this specific matter, the lying by omission, and for Hitch to build his case.
    Posted 26-Jun-2010 at 02:07 PM (14:07) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  15. Old Comment

    The case

    Small Gods rocks. In any case, the story is documented in detail in the comment section of YNH.

    Let me make the case from scratch including details about counter charges that I have seen so far. I'll do this in chronological order and with detailed annotations. It will be long. I will not defend it when I'm done. I'm wasting WAY too much time on this already. All I will ask is that you judge what I say fairly and make up your own mind.

    1) YNH posts this: http://yourenothelping.wordpress.com...s-of-omission/
    Note the time of posting: 9:46 pm.

    2) It is posted in response to by Ophelia: http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2010/helping/
    Note the time of posting of Ophelia's first comment: 4:09 pm (that's over 2-5 hours time difference between the two assuming, which is likely true that both blogs are NA continental).

    3) Ophelia's blog discusses this content: http://www.evolutionaryleaders.net/gulf/

    So that's evidence block (A). Please read in full and make up your own mind. I will issue a, I hope sensible enough summary here, but don't take my summary for it.

    YNH charges Ophelia with a lie of omission. How do they arrive at the case? They claim that reading Ophelia's post one gets the impression that no donations are involved and it's just about praying. My own reading of Ophelia's post is to discuss the prayer event. Now you be the judge, read up Chopra's event. To me that is clearly a prayer event where one happens to also be invited to donate. To me that is immaterial. This is standard exaggeration on YNH/bias against certain bloggers on YNH. I think it's a tad on the extreme to say:

    "And more than anything here is the issue of Ophelia Benson’s blatant dishonesty, of lying by omission to make what is a prayer-and-action tandem look very much like a prayer-and-nothing-else event."

    First this is not advertised as a donation event. In fact you can participate in the prayer without donating!

    People can construct lie of omission cases against anyone constantly. We don't write bullet-proof case and discuss all aspects of everything.

    While it is true that the main blog of Ophelia does not mention donations, it provides a link for anybody to check her sources! And the fact that she doesn't discuss X does not mean that she wants to hide it. This clearly is a prayer event and it is OK to discuss that aspect. It is not clearly a donation event because hypothetically noone can end up donating and it is not at all clear what the money will do exactly.

    So to make it clear. It's not at all universal or obvious that Ophelia _meant_ to mischaracterize anything, in fact one can contend that she didn't relaly mischaracterize at all. Yes she is called "balantly dishonest" and "lying by omission".

    But that's not what triggered my complaint. I didn't even comment on anything at this point (in fact I hadn't read anything yet).

    Then a new post goes up.

    4) YNH posts http://yourenothelping.wordpress.com...racy-question/
    Note the time of posting: 11:29 pm.

    This one is charging PZ Myers who posted a short comment with begging the question. First note that PZ Myers comment went up 4:00 pm. That's before Ophelia's first comment and also over 2-5 hours before the first(!) YNH post.

    I think this charge against PZ too one can view in many different ways but it is not at all relevant to the case. (The quick summary of this is: I actually think it's a legitimate question, how precisely donations are used. This is not by default begging the question, but it is indeed what any donor should ask of any charitable event. So I think it's again not a universal that PZ just begged the question. YHN makes it into PZ posting a short comment asking this question as "What happened to the bedrock of reason?").

    It is irrelevant to me that they charge PZ. What is relevant is that it should be rather clear at this point that YNH must have seen Ophelia's comment. This is important because one commenter on YNH charged that the comment wasn't there when the first YNH post went up, which is unverifiable, and I content likely wrong given the time line. But regardless. Here is what indeed could have happened. Ophelia posts her post. YHN has an alert on her blog and immediately researches and writes a respond. And they post it without checking how things evolved. That is credible enough, in fact I think likely.

    But! When PZ's comment goes up it is (a) not presented as clarification to Ophelia's blog post, which it is, and it is not discussed how (b) Ophelia's reaction to it contradicts the "lie of omission" story. Clearly from her wordage she doesn't want to omit this at all. Now given that this was up on the blog before YNH ever blogged anything, clearly this is not in any way causal to anything YNH did, so Ophelia's "intentions" are unbiased.

    This is my charge. At least now YNH can no longer uphold the charge of the first post that there is a lie of omission. There isn't. But rather than correct that false accusation, they posted a second thing attacking the very question that was the first to clarify the content. No correction issued by YNH to date. Instead I get attacked in the comment section by in particular one commenter. I do not know if he is affiliated with YNH, though given the tight time argument he presents himself, I suspect that he might, it is irrelevant though.

    Ultimately there are two questions here.

    1) Is YNH's characterizations of other's views overall fair or is it exaggerated?
    2) Is YNH's conduct in this particular case fair to the people they criticize or did they omit a crucial piece of information that changes the story, voiding at least one of the two charges they issued (the one against Ophelia)?

    Now you go and make up your own mind.

    But I'm done wasting time on them. YNH is a small god that has shrunk. We need foklks who are accountable, fair and who provide real accountability, not hatchet jobs or worse.
    Posted 26-Jun-2010 at 06:42 PM (18:42) by Hitch
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