It's the Apocalypse, Isn't It?

Sorry, but under the circumstances, Los Links shall have to wait until tomorrow.  Allow me to ‘splain.  Or sum up.  After all, it’s the apocalypse, and we haven’t got much time.

The Gnus among you are probably already aware of Chris Mooney and his history of, how to put it nicely, being an utter fucktard when it comes to all matters framing and his habit of so rabidly hating the Gnus that he happily falls head-over-heels for lying, sockpuppeting sociopaths who tell him what he wants to hear.  And then spends most of his time deleting comments on his blog that a) would’ve shattered his dream or b) were the least bit critical of him.  And when forced to admit he’s a dupe, snivels he couldn’t possibly have known, even though all he had to do was listen to a few folks who were telling him that he’s a dupe.  And that coming after a long history of blacklisting people (yes, plural) and being an utter fucktard.  I’d already written him off after the Great Frame Wars of 2009; the Unscientific America debacle just put paid to the whole thing, because here we had a man who obviously couldn’t get a clue even when hit simultaneously by dozens of clue-by-fours, so by the time he’d got dicked by Tom Johnson, I’d been conditioned by his own actions to merely point and laugh when Chris Mooney appeared on the scene.

In fact, it took me years to unfreeze toward Sheril Kirshenbaum because she’d been so tainted by that whole affair.  Chris Mooney, though, never displayed any reason why I should give half a tug on a dead dog’s dick about a single thing he said.  He’d killed his credibility a dozen times over and done bugger-all to get it back.  If I clicked on an unknown link and ended up on one of his posts, I’d experience physical revulsion, compounded after reading a few paragraphs. It got to the point that I couldn’t stand to see his smarmy, smiling face, so I blocked him on Twitter just so his Colgate grin wouldn’t show up in retweets and put me off my grub.

(And for those who think I’m being too harsh, just click a small selection of the links above and tell me where the rat bastard’s ever proven himself trustworthy.  Criticism is fine, but deceit, blacklisting and endless whining, plus taking forever to make even a minor course-correction after being taken in by a con, all the while proclaiming Gnus the Enemy of All because they told him he can stick his framing where the sun don’t shine – no.)

This has been a rather long introduction to the apocalypse.  You see, not five minutes after I’d become so fed up with seeing Chris Mooney’s mug plastered all over my Twitter feed by the people who still, for reasons unknown to me, sometimes take him seriously, blocked his butt, here was this tweet from Bora:

I was waiting for this schism for years – Mooney leaving Nisbett behind: Good for Chris.

I couldn’t help myself.  A schism between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum?  I had to see!  And, to my horror, I found myself cheering Chris Mooney on.  Because while I have no respect for Chris Mooney, I actively despise Matt Nisbett.  And Chris dispatches a particularly idiotic bit of Nisbettian dumbfuckery with aplomb.

Credit where it’s due and all.  I decided I’d grab it for Los Links.  Look, just because I think a man is a shit-for-brains doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a small spark of intelligence when it manifests.

But that is not why I believe it’s the apocalypse.  This is:

Psych Evidence that Supports New Atheism Mooney is really on a roll today, isn’t he?

Oh, how that must have hurt him!  To have to admit, after so long kicking and screaming and howling that those evil, evil New Atheists would ruin absolutely everything ever, that he was actually not correct in this assumption.  Of course I had to click through to his bloody blog twice in one day.

You can tell it pains him.  He clings to his final remaining shred of plausible deniability, trying very hard to believe (without adequate evidence) that we are still icky and wrong, even though he was wrong:

In general, I believe what we know about human psychology runs contrary to the New Atheist approach and strategy. However, I do my best to follow the data, and here’s a study that suggest at least one aspect of their approach may work. The tactic finding support here is not necessarily being confrontational–that would tend to prompt negative emotional reactions, and thus defensiveness and inflexibility towards New Atheist arguments–but rather, making it more widely known that you’re actually there–as “out” atheists try to do…

Oh, Chris.  Chris, Chris, Chris, Chris, Chris.  Gather your crow recipes while ye may, because you shall be forced to eat a banquet’s worth of it one day, and you have proven today might be man enough to swallow it.  After, of course, kicking and screaming and refusing to do so for too many years, but still.  At least there’s the possibility you’ll hold your nose and do it.  Bravo, sir.  Bravo.

But, despite this minute concession, he still misses the point by a country mile.  We must be forgiving, he’s always had terrible aim.  But there’s the fact that, for a subset of people, being confrontational does go a long way toward snapping them out of religion.  I’m sure some clever dick (or vagina) will do a study someday – perhaps already have done, for all I know, considering I’m not as well-read in the psychological literature as I should be – and prove even to Chris’s satisfaction that he’s full of shit.  But even saying he’s not.  Let us be generous and grant him the conceit that shouting the truth at religious people without sparing their feelings never, ever works and only makes them dig their Sunday-shoed heels in.  He still misses the fucking point, even so.

Because, you see, New Atheism isn’t about bringing the true believers into the bright light of reason.  It’s about telling the damned truth without sugar-coating.  It’s about breaking the spell.  And you do not, cannot, do that by treating religion with respect and deference.  If you treat religion as a thing to be respected, you end up with religion still thinking it’s a thing that is entitled to respect.  And what does religion do when it and everyone around it believes it is entitled to respect?  It demands respect, it attempts to force itself on the masses, it insists all to bow and scrape to it, it bullies people and sullies science, science education, and secular government, and it basically runs around believing it owns the place.  Non-believers are treated as something nasty to be scraped off society’s shoe.  And people who don’t believe or don’t believe all that much end up silent and cowed, because no one has told them in no uncertain terms that religion deserves no such respect, is due no such deference, and moreover needs to be ushered firmly out of the public square. 

We have no problem with doing so politely, but if it kicks up a fuss, we reserve the right to boot it in the arse.  And religion has a distressing tendency to kick up fusses.  Ergo, we apply the judicious toe to the nether regions.

There’s also the bystander effect.  This atheist, for instance, would not be an out-and-proud atheist without the New Atheists.  I wouldn’t be here in love with science and defending it against fundie fuckwits if it weren’t for those evil, evil gnus.  I wouldn’t even have understood there was a problem.  So no, standing up and shouting in believers’ faces may not work directly on them all the time, but it sure as shit can be effective with people like me.

There’s room for gnus and for the softer, fluffier, make nicey-nice with the believers sorts in the battle to keep creationist hands off our science.  Nothing in the rules says we can’t use all of the tactics at our disposal.  And if the accommodationists would just stop sniping at gnus long enough, they might come to see the value in a good-cop-bad-cop strategy.

I will know that the apocalypse has truly come the day Chris Mooney realizes all that and apologizes for being such a massive shite to his fellow atheists.  Not holding my breath on that one.  I want to live.

But it’s nice to see him take the first step on the long road.  We’ll see how far he gets before he decides it’s too far to walk.

It's the Apocalypse, Isn't It?

As For Being Shrill, Strident, Etc.

Once again, the “tone” argument’s making the rounds (does it ever cease?  It circles like a dog attempting to capture its own fugitive tail).  Ophelia Benson’s already pointed out a few of the more annoying examples.  And she led me to this delightful bit by Jason Rosenhouse, which comes just in time, because a dear (and horribly neglected) friend of mine posted rather more sensibly on the issue (hi, Paul!).  I’d meant to come up with something thoughtful and considered that would explain my position, but find I don’t have to.  All one has to do is read Jason’s post and imagine me standing there jumping up and down going, “Me, too!”

I’d quote from it, but I can’t find a single bit I want to excerpt because I want to excerpt it all.  But if you’ve ever wondered what we shrill, strident, unabashed defenders of evolution, atheism, and all things rational are thinking, this is pretty much it in a nutshell.

And remember, my dearest Paul, that we’re not trying to convert the unconvertable.  Nothing we do will reach the men and women who spend their days swearing Jesus rode a dinosaur.  Politeness won’t do it, any more than a good sharp smack will.  Think of the old psychologists-changing-a-lightbulb joke: the only way anything works is if they want to change.

No, we’re rallying the troops and aiming at the fence-sitters.  And as one of those who got knocked off the fence and had some good sense jolted in to me by those horrible shrill Gnu Atheists, as a person who disavowed woo for science because PZ, Orac et al didn’t have any trouble calling a spade a silly little shite, I can testify that being contentious sometimes does more than raise morale for the choir.  Sometimes, it awakens passion, wonder, and courage in people who might’ve sat it out.

It takes all kinds.  Changing the world isn’t a simple task!

(For those who haven’t had the pleasure, I can wholeheartedly recommend Paul’s lovely Cafe Philos blog.  After a long day in the trenches, it’s nice to sit with a cup of coffee and just enjoy some thought-provoking serenity.)

As For Being Shrill, Strident, Etc.

Fuck Your Framing

I’m remarkably pissed right now.

I generally enjoy Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Ed Brayton’s got a sharp wit and a sharper pen. He calls bullshit with concision. And he’s merciless with a variety of right-wing hate merchants. So I went over there tonight expecting the usual incisive posts, not a flame war over framing and an incredible degree of bullshit from… Ed.

But this isn’t about Ed. This is about the smarmy little fuckers who want us atheists to shut up and play nice with the pious.

For those of you coming late to the party, a bit of history, as I understand it. A bloke named Matt Nisbet has decided that science needs to bow and scrape to religious sentiment. It needs to defang itself in the interest of not scaring away all the godly folk. He calls it “framing.” Another bloke named Chris Mooney, who used to be well-respected, has turned into a toadying worshipper of this framing. And they both like to beat up on people like PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins because they’re vocal atheists and that might scare the timid religious folks away.

I haven’t been keeping up on that drama. I read a few posts by both of the gents in question and found them smarmy suck-ups with no balls and fewer morals. I’ve heard Mooney’s not that kind of man, that he’s actually a grand defender of science who’s done great things. I have no idea if that’s true, simply because his recent work has been pure fucking swill and I can’t stomach it.

Right? Now that you’re up to date, let me ‘splain what’s got me steaming like a pan of water on the sun.

Ed put up a post saying that Expelled wasn’t much of a success. Mr. Mooney dropped by to say this:

Hi Ed,

If you compare Stein to the single most successful political documentarian ever, Michael Moore, then no, Ben Stein hasn’t beaten
him after one week.

In other words, if you define success as something virtually impossible to attain, then no, Ben Stein did not succeed.

He got his ass soundly handed to him by many of the commenters, as well he should. If ever a man deserved to take his balls home in a baggy, it was him. You do not preach to a bunch of independent-minded scientists to shut the fuck up and let the big boys do the framing, and then fail to frame. You don’t post a defeatist claim that Expelled succeeded wildly and then come by to belabor the point on the blogs of people who believe otherwise. He seems to have developed the same desire for martyrdom that the IDiots have. I dropped by his blog to make sure I wasn’t treating him unfairly, and got a blast of “oh, poor me, I’m fearfully mistreated!” whining worthy of the Republicans. Chris – here’s some pearls, and I’m sure the neocons will be happy to budge over on the fainting couch so you’ve got room, dear. Have a good lie-down and stop fucking bawling.

Jesus H. Christ.

But that wasn’t what got me outraged. That’s tangenital. What’s really gotten up my nose here is the little fuckers who’ve taken it upon themselves who decide who speaks and who doesn’t. Commenters and bloggers who like to tell folks like PZ that they should engage in some enlightened self-censorship:

Now PZ is probably getting a lot of negative newbies at his blog this weekend, and this was on the front page for a good portion of it. Now imagine what some of the moderate Christians who are new to his site think when they see that post.

So I throw out this question to every one. Could PZ have framed this post better? I think if he had said “Parents – don’t send your children to THIS Christian school”, that the moderate Christians new to his blog would have agreed with him entirely.

You know what, Doctorgoo? No, he fucking well couldn’t. It’s not PZ Myers’s fucking job to muzzle himself. He has not been annointed the Supreme High Science Ambassador. He is a vocal atheist who couldn’t give two shits about framing. He’s one of the loudest and clearest voices speaking against religion’s hypocrisy and evil. It’s beyond ridiculous to expect him to switch to a fruit-basket offering, smiling, conciliatory atheist just because you think that maybe if he did that the fundies would start thinking of him as actually a pretty nice guy. I have news for you, all of you, who want us to “frame” things in a nice and inoffensive manner: you don’t know fuck about fundies. An atheist who whispers sweet nothings into religion’s ear is just as demonic to them as one who blasts them at every opportunity.

Don’t hand me this bullshit about framing. Do not stand around wringing your fucking hands talking about how we should all be nice to each other, even to the bastards who are doing their level best to destroy science and impose their fucked-up fundamentalism on the rest of the country.

We got to the state we’re in because we were nice and conciliatory and tried desperately hard not to offend people.

It’s time to go on the fucking offensive.

And if you think that’s not so, why is PZ hands-down the most popular blogger on ScienceBlogs?

It’s time for the non-believers to start screaming. It’s time to come out with fist and fang. These people see moderation as weakness. And the folks on the sidelines, they hear the loudest side. The sweet voice of reason doesn’t rise above the din. But people come out swinging for science, and suddenly there’s more than the religious freaks to watch. There’s something fascinating going on.

And you know what? They learn a little science.

I’m so fucking through with treating religion with kid gloves. My ideas and philosophies get trampled and spat upon and derided, and you want to tell me and people like me that we should be nice? Bull fucking shit. I’m not pummeling the moderates. You know my stance. But this bullshit about atheists needing to step aside for religious folk, that stops now.

If religion’s too fucking delicate to take it, that’s its problem. The Christians I know, they’re not afraid of contentious atheists, and you know what? I respect them a fuck of a lot more than those fainting violets who think they’re teh awesome in God but need to hide behind snivelling “no fair” arguments the second someone says the least little thing not nice about it.

It’s not fucking fair. It’s not supposed to be fair. You go into a lion’s den, you’d better fucking expect teeth. You’d better enjoy danger. PZ’s not going to moderate himself for a few folks with delicate sensibilities and a “can’t-touch-this” attitude toward religion, and it is beyond insane for his fellow free-thinkers to expect him to. Maybe, just maybe, instead of asking PZ, Dawkins et all to don muzzles, the more religiously inclined scientists could take theirs off and join the brawl.

Oh, and Ed? No hard feelings. I still respect you. But you’re making an ass of yourself running around demanding apologies for poor Mr. Mooney. He’s a big boy. He can wipe his own tears and maybe earn back some of the respect he lost when he became a pandering whiner.

For a more level-headed view of the need for a good fight, see Greg Laden, Nullifidian, and Blue Collar Scientist. You’ll get a more reasoned opinion from me later. This was the initial eruption. This volcano has not yet begun to explode.

Fuck Your Framing