I’ve written a lot about my disagreements with the accomodationist view that’s apparently advocated by in Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum’s (M&K) latest book (here, here, here, here, here, and here). I finally thought I was done talking about M&K’s much criticized book but every time I think I’m out, they pull me back in.
This time it’s Mooney’s response to Sam Harris’ criticisms during his criticisms of Francis Collins. Now I still haven’t read the book at the heart of the controversy and I’m not really planning on it. So I’m not critiquing their book, only their blog response to Harris, which I have read.
Mainly, I wish to focus on this paragraph here in Mooney’s response:
“The point is not to watch what you say, but to understand the context in which you are trying to communicate—and to recognize that most Americans are not going to be dragged all the way from fundamentalism to atheism thanks to the force of reasoned arguments. No matter how much we may wish it, it just isn’t going to happen. Giving them some more moderate stopping off points along the way is the only common sense approach if you want to change minds, or change the culture.”
Here I think Chris is giving away his hand. Harris is right. This is about M&K just trying to get converts who will say they accept evolution. Chris is himself an atheist, and I surmise that if asked about it, he’d say he has good reason for his atheistic position. But his argument condescendingly says that while you and I might be able to understand the full atheistic ramifications of science, some people aren’t as smart as us, so we need to feed them science-lite first to ween them off religion slowly to a less true middle ground. Then once they reach science OT Level III, we can tell them the full truth about Xenu–err, I mean we can eventually get them to embrace full science a lot easier once we’ve gotten them to this bogus middle ground position we originally told them was correct.
It’s just a strategy, a deceptive tactic for manipulating people in order to convert them to our way of thinking. But that’s not what scientific-minded people should do; that’s what the cranks do. We’re better than that. We should be teaching people critical thinking and have enough confidence in our scientific conclusions to expect critical thinkers to embrace it on their own. Even if we assumed that M&K’s tactic was more effective at getting more evolution converts than just being honest with people by admitting the atheistic implications of science, I’d still prefer honesty to Chris’ “giving them some more moderate stopping off points along the way.”