Debating Unscientific America

Pzm_profile_picPZ Myers reviews Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum’s Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future:

They sent me a copy of their new book, Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), with a strange request: “We hope that like Dr. Coyne, you will suspend judgment until reading the book, at which point we’ll be interested to hear what you think.” I was a bit offended; of course I was going to read it with an open mind. Why would they think it necessary to ask me to do so?

That was before I got to chapters 8 and 9, however, which open with very direct and personal attacks on me and on Pharyngula, atheists in general, and anyone who fails to offer religion its proper modicum of respect. “Oh, that’s why they warned me,” I realized, “it’s like asking the victim of a hatchet job to hold still for a moment so they can get in a good whack.” They definitely did need to request my forbearance, so I wouldn’t just toss their hypocritical and ignorant paean to mealy-mouthedness in the trash right away, which was one perceptive moment on their part. And yes, I freely admit that my opinion of the book is colored by the palpable contempt they hold for me.

Mooney and Kirshenbaum respond in 3 parts (here, here and here). From Part 3:


9. Bigotry. At the end of his review, Myers says something astonishing. He claims that our “bigotry blinds [us] to a range of approaches offered by the ‘New Atheists’…a group that is not so closed to the wide range of necessarily differing tactics that such a deep problem requires as Mooney and Kirshenbaum are.”

This is a baseless accusation. Chris is an atheist, and he is not bigoted against himself, his mother (an outspoken secular humanist), or any other atheists. Sheril is Jewish an agnostic, and not bigoted against Chris or any other atheists, either.

Myers provides no evidence of our supposed biogtry. He just makes an inflammatory accusation, one not at all conducive to rational or calm discussion.

It is precisely this kind of rhetoric that led us to address Myers so directly in Unscientific America.

10. The Trouble With PZ Myers. In his review, Myers doesn’t address our criticisms of him–of his public writings and actions. But we will end by elaborating upon why, in the wake of the communion wafer desecration, we decided we had to speak out about Myers in a way that would really be heard.

Though we have not said so until now, Myers is among the central reasons we left ScienceBlogs. There were many factors involved, of course, but one was our shock at what he calls “Crackergate.”

And Myers responds here.