Okay, after discussing Mooney Zombies commenting over at The Intersection blog and after that last blog where I criticized Mooney’s childish and false accusations against PZ Myers, I really thought that I was going to put this whole Chris Mooney business to bed. I did.
But then Mooney gone and dug himself even deeper. In an interview with the Daily Kos, one commenter responding to Mooney’s claims that critics have misrepresented his position, quoted from Myers’ review:
Following this, he proceeds to damn the “New Atheists” for “collapsing the distinction” between methodological and philosophical naturalism, and argues that Dawkins is taking a philosophical position and misusing science to claim it “entirely precludes God’s existence.”
So then the commenter asked Mooney:
“My question is, did you in fact say that Dawkins uses science to ‘entirely preclude God’s existence?'”
If you did, that is an extreme mischaracterization and strikes me as an easy way for you to just kick around Dawkins to make inroads with the masses. That is pragmatism rather than reality.
Here is what Dawkins actually wrote in his book:
‘I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.’
To which Mooney responded by saying. . .
we use that phrase
although it is not attributed to dawkins.
i’ve read dawkins book in some detail, and our objection is to his making god’s existence a scientific question. i realize he does not ascribe full certainty to his atheistic conclusion–but he claims he can reason scientifically about god’s existence. we’re saying that a lot of theologians, philosophers, etc, would say that’s a category error.
i really have to ask that you read our book, rather than its misrepresentation in skewed reviews.
So did PZ Myers “misrepresent” Mooney and Kirshenbaum’s position on this point? Myers quotes the whole paragraph from their book:
But much like the anti-evolutionists do, the New Atheists often seek to collapse the distinction between methodological and philosophical naturalism. In The God Delusion, for instance, Richard Dawkins makes the dubious claim that the existence of God is, as he puts it, “unequivocally a scientific question.” Quite a lot of philosophers — and scientists — would disagree. It is one thing to say that scientific norms and practices preclude ascribing any explanatory force to God in, say, the movement of atoms, or the function of DNA. It’s quite another to say they entirely preclude God’s existence. In rejecting God or any other supernatural entity, Dawkins is taking a philosophical position.
I invite you to reread the quote from Myers’ review above. He described their position almost verbatim from how they describe their position in their book.
But the other thing that really gets me is the way Mooney ends that response with “i really have to ask that you read our book, rather than its misrepresentation in skewed reviews.” He makes that same statement again and again in the comments section of his own blog linking to the Daily Kos interview as a substitute for actually addressing legitimate arguments people make about his position, the same position he’s been aspousing for some time already. He insists that the only opinions about his position that are worth addressing are from those people who happen to have read his entire book (which went on sale only this week). And of the few who have received advanced copies, have read the entire book, and given a detailed negative review to his position, he simply writes off as being biased and dogmatic. And of course the Mooney Zombies on his site back him up repeatedly.
So here’s my snarky response to that absurd demand:
Now remember everyone. No one has the right to judge anyone’s position until they’ve read their book. That means no one has the right to judge Hitler’s position until they’ve read his book (and if they never read it, they can’t have an opinion on Hitler’s position). I don’t care if Hitler had expressed his position elsewhere. You have to judge his position solely based on what he wrote in his book and that’s that. And also, one more thing. You’re not allowed to read Hitler’s book with any preconceived notions or prejudices of any kind. If you do, you’re just a dogmatic fool…which only means that no one is allowed to criticize you anymore because that’s the Meaney thing to do and not the Mooney thing to do.
For The Great Mooney Zombies have spoken!
This message is brought to you by the Chris Mooney Please, Please, Please Buy My Book Or You Have No Right To Have An Opinion Association and the Compare Yourself to Carl Sagan Every Chance You Get Foundation.