Thursday, July 30, 2009

Unscientific America

So, if you've been following the science blogs, the atheist blogs, or the skepticism blogs, you've no doubt heard of the giant kerfuffle over Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum's new book Unscientific America.

Because I'm lazy, I'm not going to link to the relevant posts, but it shouldn't be hard to track down the relevant back-and-forth salvos o'vitriol at Mooney/Kirshenbaum's blog and PZ Myer's blog.

Now, I'd like to preface this with noting that I have not read UA to date. I have read and enjoyed Mooney's previous books, The Republican War on Science and Storm World. But the consensus I've seen of UA seems to be that there's some good discussion of scientific illiteracy in this country, but that there are major flaws in their approach to how to solve the issue. Namely, Mooney and Kirshenbaum blame scientists for not being PR people in addition to being, you know, scientists; and blame the "New Atheist" movement for daring to not bow down to religious claims when they are contradicted by science. If you ask me, kowtowing to unscientific claims is a good way to INCREASE public misunderstanding of science.

There's a new review of UA by Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon. Though it seems to echo the earlier criticisms of the book, Amanda's review is the best encapsulation of the issues at hand I've read... For instance,
I am so sick of the argument that assumes religious people can state their beliefs as forcefully as they like and threaten non-believers with hell, but atheists have to approach the topic on our tip toes. Mooney and Kirshenbaum repeatedly state that there’s no conflict between religion and science as if it’s a fact, when at best that’s a point of strong disagreement.
Exactly. This is why I heart Amanda Marcotte. Go check out the full piece.

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