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Monday, October 11, 2010

The Great Accommodationist Dud: Round 2

Point of Inquiry is a series of podcasts financed by the Center for Inquiry. Chris Mooney is one of the people CFI pays to produce the podcasts. He decided to continue the accommodationist debate with PZ Myers and selected the moderator from round 1 to step in for him on the podcast. Unfortunately, Jennifer Hecht doesn't understand the concept of "moderator" so the podcast ends up being Jennifer and Chris against PZ.

PZ does a good job but it's tough defending yourself against two people who are coming at you from very different directions. Jennifer Hecht does not sound very convincing to me. She seems to believe that "a little bit of religion" is perfectly compatible with science and shouldn't be challenged. Towards the end of the podcast, Chris tries to bring up the fact that there are people who find the Gnu Atheists annoying and offensive. PZ replies, very effectively, by pointing out that many people find Chris Mooney annoying, arrogant, and offensive but they aren't telling him to shut up! I would add Jennifer Hecht to the list of people I find arrogant,1 annoying, and offensive.

Here's the podcast, it's a better utilization of your time than the first round was.

PZ Myers, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Chris Mooney - New Atheism or Accommodation?

1. By my definition, you aren't "arrogant" if you are right. You are only arrogant when you are close-minded and wrong.


  1. The question I don't understand about accomodationism is what it's meant to achieve.

    Is it meant as a patronizing pat on the head to theists?

    Is it meant to protect us from bullying theists?

    Is it somehow meant to be a viable scientific thesis?

    Is it meant as pure legal and political pragmatism?

    Whatever it is, I can't think of a way in which it isn't theists getting special pleading and privilege, just for being theists.

    And isn't that different accountability precisely the problem?

    'Some say God guides the evolutionary process'. OK, and then lay out the evidence and counter-evidence. Please. Conclude with an objective statement about the value of that evidence. Please.

  2. I didn't want to believe you but ugh, it was even worse than I feared. Hecht interrupts PZ, spends more time talking than either of the headline guests when she's supposed to be a moderator.

    Impressive that PZ can keep his cool but beyond that it was an uninformative discussion. I actually believe that had Mooney and PZ talked directly without a moderator it would have been a much more productive time.

  3. I just finished listening to the podcast and I agree with you Larry.

  4. I thought Hecht was an embarrassment.

    I am having difficulty understanding what PZ and Chris Mooney are disagreeing about. Personally, I am not a confrontational kind of person, so would probably interact the way Mooney prefers. But I don't have a problem with PZ, and I think his methods do some good.

    Mooney comes across as if he has a grand strategy to solve all of the problems, and it will work provided that everyone uses his tactics. But Mooney's own argument should show him that people are complex, and no single approach could work. So I say that Mooney should act himself, and he should stop complaining when PZ acts himself.

  5. Hoo boy...
    I love how the "moderator" summarizes her position at the end of the debate.

    The weakness of these debates is exactly that - their success is too dependent on the skillfulness of the moderator. And this one was utter failure.

  6. "PZ replies, very effectively, by pointing out that many people find Chris Mooney annoying, arrogant, and offensive but they aren't telling him to shut up!"
    And miss the entertainment that comes from it? I think not!

    But seriously speaking, I'm a little confused by the rhetoric Mooney and Hecht seemed to be advocating. While PZ was just asking to be one of many different voices, Mooney and Hecht while agreeing that fundamentalism should be opposed the gnu atheists are putting moderates offside because of the way they speak to those fundamentalists. It was like a slightly more nuanced version of the grandma gambit but with the same effect. The way X speaks puts off Y therefore shouldn't speak at all even if it doesn't bother Z and may even be necessary against Z.