Thursday, September 20, 2007


Matching Shouts

Okay, I've counted to ten a few dozen times since Larry Moran took such great offense at the opening of a recent post of mine. Let me see if I can clarify my position, which has, so far, eluded Larry, on the current argument between the "framers" and the "anti-framers."

I have not been closely following the framing "debate" (if it can charitably be called that), so the nuances (if there are any) are not what I'm interested in. For example, if Larry wants to claim that the framers are telling him and the other "New Atheists" to "shut up," I'm content to go with that, even though my impression is that they are simply calling for a change in tone and the careful distinction, in public, between science and atheism ... something that is not always done.

I think that the tone of the "New Atheists," particularly calling the people they purportedly want to persuade "deluded" and worse, is probably counterproductive to their stated cause. But, if I'm right, selection, as always*, will take care of it. And I think that giving the general public the notion that science and atheism are one and the same thing is probably harmful to science education, especially in the United States, since that falsehood will likely turn a significant portion of the population away from learning about science. But if I cannot persuade Larry and his ilk of the correctness of that position, the solution is simply to be as loud or louder than they are.

What is laughable for anyone who has known Larry and his debating style over the years is the thought of Larry claiming that it is unfair, unethical and even reprehensible for anyone to so much as suggest that he "shut up." Let me be clear, if someone tries to use the power of government to stop Larry from talking, I'll be on the ramparts right next to him. If someone writes to his employer trying to get him fired for his message, I'll be happy to write to say that would be wrong. But the spectacle of Larry, of all people, whining about others saying mean things to him is surreal comedy worthy of Monty Python!

And that goes for the rest of the "New Atheists." After all, they get called "new" precisely because they are loud enough and persistent enough, in the face of much worse than what the framers are suggesting, to have finally impinged to some degree on the general public's consciousness. If they were the type of shrinking violets who might need some protection from the rough-and-tumble of public debate, there'd be no debate to be had in the first place.

Stop whining about the Mooneys and Nisbets of the world and get on with making your case. Meanwhile the Mooneys and Nisbets will get on with making their case and the general public will get on with deciding if they give a damn at all.

Less sound and fury and more substance would be the best framing of all.

* It is possible this joke is too subtle.

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