Pharyngula, The Intersection, Unscientific America, and crap

Many of you have probably been following the increasingly tense and raucous exchanges between PZ Myers of Pharyngula and Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum of The Intersection (like the Chimp Refuge formerly part of the ScienceBlogs.com network but now part of the Discovery group). To summarize, Chris and Sheril have just co-authored a book called Unscientific America that purports to examine, and offer solutions for lessening, the divide between the general U.S. public–not the most scientifically literate of societies–and those responsible for reaching out to that public.

Sheril was kind enough to send me a copy gratis, but I don’t have it yet, so I can’t comment on it. But I wanted to write a few of my thoughts down in advance so that the review itself can stand on its own and not be conjoined to the toxic elements I am introducing now.

At the heart of the aforementioned disagreement is PZ’s disagreement with Chris (also the author of The Republican War On Science and Storm World, both great reads) and Sheril about the best way to deal with religious interference with scientific education, and perhaps with scientific endeavors in general. PZ is of course a shameless aggressor when it comes to religion (as am I in my incomparably more anonymous ravings), while Chris, and apparently Sheril, are voices of moderation. PZ has much to say about the whole book in his review, but complicating the matter is that Unscientific America contains a substantial amount of criticism of PZ himself, in particular over “Crackergate.” Chris and Sheril’s responses to PZ’s review consumed three blog posts, and you can find these here (the link is to part three, the intro to which includes links to its precursors).

I don’t want to get into specifics about a book I have not read, but I do want to note some unnecessary moves that have discolored this already unseemly fracas. For one thing, a lot of commenters at The Intersection who are, in the main, part of PZ’s regular readership and commenting crew have jumped all over Chris and Sheril for not responding directly, sufficiently, or in a timely manner to PZ’s criticisms. (Various other “Sciblings” and other science-oriented bloggers have reviewed and in many cases criticized the book, and the Intersectites have linked to these, but naturally none of PZ’s loyal readers seem to care.) While it didn’t help Chris and Sheril’s stock in the eyes of most commenters to put up “placeholder”-type posts assuring readers that they would get around to responding to PZ in detail eventually, they followed through. And although PZ is largely correct in stating that Chris and Sheril don’t include a lot of back-up in their tripartite rebuttal to him, they do tell readers where this can be found–in the book itself. As someone with one book in print and on the cusp of signing a contract for a second one, I can hardly fault Chris and Sheril for refusing to quote vast sections of a newly published book just to slake the thirst of an army of mostly obnoxious commenters.

But PZ, I believe, has no personal animosity toward the Intersectites; he merely believes they are dead wrong, and his criticism, however on the mark it may or may not be, is focused and sincere. PZ simply hates what he sees as bad ideas, and I’m with him all the way there. So I was a little surprised on Tuesday when he took a step I found unnecessary–creating a thread specifically inviting people to unload on Chris and Sheril because he lacked the time at that point to respond to their third rebuttal installment. This is the last thing anyone needed; people were already ripping into Chris and Sheril in at least three or four active threads on The Intersection and a handful more on Pharyngula. And I didn’t see anyone laying into PZ for his “not now” declaration even though the Intersectites were hounded mercilessly for doing exactly the same thing.

Regardless, I can see the three of them sitting down one day over beers and laughing a little about the entire affair. I’ve met all three of the combatants mentioned here and found all of them to be pleasant and interesting people, which makes all of this a little more disconcerting than it would be otherwise. But the whole thing wouldn’t stink so much were it not for the tirelessly shrill efforts of Abbie Smith, the proprietor (does that word apply to bloggers? I like it!) of ERV, another “Scibling” blog.

Abbie is a master of manufactured rage. Granted, she’s quite capable of legitimately losing it and concomitantly experiencing a rapid and severe decline in her cognitive faculties, as occurred here, months before she moved into the scienceblogs.com network. A fair reading of this post and the one on the Refuge that inspired it should suggest that Abbie quite unfairly demonized my co-blogger Jim and was fantastically immune to what either of us was trying to convey to her.

Abbie and I come down on the same side on a great many issues, although I have never been much of a reader because of her deliberately agrammatical and grating style. And I won’t deny that I’m at least as profane as she is, and just as nasty when it comes to creationists and other arrant fools. But because Abbie would rather be noticed and perhaps reviled by a few than largely anonymous but more widely respected, she has chosen to insinuate herself in the Unscientific America melee in a most explosively repugnant way. Beneath a post she titles “Congrats on the transformation, Sheril and Chris,” she comments:

Ive been criticizing Mooneys ‘arguments’ since 2006. Though he read those posts at old ERV (and commented), he has yet to address my problems with his message.

Three fucking years Ive been ‘addressing Mooneys arguments’, with no reciprocation.

Now he is personally attacking someone in a print book, who previously provided him support, encouragement, positive PR…

I will not be addressing Mooneys ‘arguments’ any more, at any point, in the future. Assuming Mooney and I were best buddies, I wouldnt be addressing his arguments, at any point, in the future. Why would you help someone who bites the hand that feeds?

Chris Mooney is an ungrateful, back-stabbing bitch, and he can go fuck himself.

Note to Chris: You can take this comment as a post ‘representative’ of ERV. I encourage you to post this comment as a blog entry on Intersection.

That last bit hearkens to an unabashed craving for attention. In a later post, she refers to Chris and Sheril as “Mooneytits” and “Cockenbaum” respectively, and to the two of them as “Tittycocks.” That’s more moronic than it is offensive, but in any case is hardly justified on the basis of a simple difference of opinion.

On Chris’s and Sheril’s blog, she writes:

You are a disgusting, despicable creature, Chris Mooney.

Enjoy the warmth from the bridges youre burning now No one will build them with you again.

This, because Chris wrote a book critical of someone Abbie worships. The nerve!

Her own commenters are no better, having been selected over time to be routinely exposed to such hollow, overstated salvos. Only a couple of people spoke out against her unfounded bellicosity. Her reaction (she never ignores her critics and never credits them with possibly being accurate) is to offer virtual shrugs and bland dismissals. As in the pit-bull mess, she creates her own reality in which other people are either misinformed or evil.

That she thinks that Chris Mooney owes PZ something is a joke (PZ would laugh at this too, I’m certain), but Abbie’s comments about burning bridges and biting feeding hands seem to suggest that Chris owes her something, too. She says she’s been mixing it up with Chris for three years. You know what? Big friggin’ deal. Everyone’s been fighting with everyone else on the Web since its inception. People disagree. Does Chris merit this kind of treatment, even if his ideas could be categorically shown to be dead wrong? No, he doesn’t. As a prolific journalist–especially for a 31-year-old–he has plenty of experience dealing with such static, but Sheril does not, and I admit I find myself troubled to see her in the crosshairs so much lately (but be assured she can handle it just fine as well).

It doesn’t help her standing in this that someone who is raucously opposed to the input of ignorant people–as Abbie is and should be–has apparently not read the book that has seen her baseline scatologia rise to remarkable levels. To me, that’s just the perfect hypocritical touch to close out a silly and pointless one-blogger pogrom. It’s fitting that one of her areas of focus as HIV, because she has presented herself as he consummate opportunistic infection in this kerfluffle.

I suppose I could be branded a hypocrite myself for using the Unscientific America skirmish as an excuse to take shots at someone for using the Unscientific America skirmish as an excuse to take shots at someone. There’s a difference, though. Even if you think Chris (an atheist) and Sheril (an agnostic) are badly misguided in both their book and their general stance about how to bring science to the masses, and believe that they have failed to adequately respond to criticism of their book on their blog, they have not been firebombing the blogs of their interlocutors and telling them to go fuck themselves or labeling them with insipid pejoratives (and for that matter have not rigged posts so as to expressly invite the excoriation of specific individuals). I can only conclude that anyone who doesn’t see Abbie as having gone so far over the top as to position herself as a parody, not a paragon, of meaningful criticism is not reading with both eyes open. And I’m not the only Scibling or former Scibling to make a note of this; Isis the Scientist and Zuska have both opined on Abbie’s antics, with their focus being on Abbie’s mocking of a situation in which Sheril was evidently treated as a sexual object in an institutional setting and the thoroughgoing inanity of Abbie’s complaining about Chris and Sheril criticizing PZ in print format, where he cannot directly respond.

That’s all. The next time I mention this it will be to (horrors!) describe my impressions of the book itself.

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  1. #1 by FraserH on July 17, 2009 - 5:02 am

    One important post in this episode I think you missed is when Chris Mooney quoted a comment from a thread at Pharyngula, in a way that looked like it was attributed to PZ (I doubt Chris did this on purpose, it just shows how careful people sometimes have to be not to be misinterpreted) and passed judgement on commentators at Pharyngula over tone and swearing, rather than content. This definitely inflamed matters, and I think he was rightly excoriated for this. All that aside, it has now degenerated into a troll/troll feeder fest.

    There are also some relatively simple questions yet to be answered that I don’t believe would stop people buying his book if he did answer them in the comments – just pointing out where he got the evidence to imply that the “new atheists” are harming science literacy would be a start. The high point of this all, before it degenerated into a flame war was PZs post:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/07/unscientific_america_and_those.php

    a side of PZs writing I would like to see more of (from a selfish point of view). His passion for science and having people involved in it really comes across. In all, my desire to read Chris’s first two books still remains high, this one, not so much.

  2. #2 by ERV on July 17, 2009 - 8:46 am

    Youre also a complete retard if you didnt notice that my criticism of Tittycock is that they behaved/are behaving like Creationists, thus they received their Creationist nicknames, like all Creationists on ERV.

    You would also notice that I have been supportive of Mooneytits, trying to figure out how we need to communicate better for three fucking years. While I have received no response, no productive answers, he chose to stab PZ in the back in a real life book for ‘doing in rong’… even though PZ defended Mooney against Creationists when they were doing the same thing to him. Oh, Mooneytits has also admitted he fucked up the ‘New Atheists’ section. Im sure he will be sending you and everyone that bought his 130 page Magnum Opus will be getting a correction letter soon.

    If he had attacked you, or Orac, or any other blogger, I would be defending that individual. What Tittycocks did was wrong, no matter the target.

    But apparently either your lack of honor (like Creationists inability to detect irony) or your inability to read English got in the way of you figuring this out on your own.

    Also, you might want to notice who else has fallen on their fainting couch over my 126 word joke. You, ZuskAIDS, and Isisanon. Throw DrugMonkey in there and maybe the sex-police will like you again!

  3. #3 by Pascale on July 17, 2009 - 9:47 am

    I will not comment on the book until I have at least started reading it.
    I had heard a bit about it in MSM last week, but the ongoing shitstorm at SciBlogs has me ready to download it as soon as I get in Wi-Fi range. And there is the real irony. All of the rantings online may really lead to more book sales. If I were an author, I would encourage it as well- whatever it takes!
    Long live capitalism (unless you are talking about health care financing, and then I’m a socialist, according to all the commercials I’m seeing on TV right now).

  4. #4 by ERV on July 17, 2009 - 10:01 am

    If I were an author, I would encourage it as well- whatever it takes!
    Including stabbing a former supporter in the back, in print.

    *blink*

  5. #5 by DrugMonkey on July 17, 2009 - 10:11 am

    Having read the offending comments in the book about PZ and Crackergate….where’s the beef, ERV? Serious overblowing here.

  6. #6 by Doc Bushwell on July 17, 2009 - 11:34 am

    If I were an author, I would encourage it as well- whatever it takes!
    Including stabbing a former supporter in the back, in print.

    *blink*

    Huh. I guess I’m too jaded to *blink*. Given how much “back-stabbing” I have witnessed in academia and industry over the years, such pointed criticism – and yes, sometimes in print even — is pretty much par for the course. I have seen supporters become bitter enemies, but also, as kemibe alludes, I have also seen scientists disagree vehemently – even engage in bloodbaths over data and their interpretation – and then go out and have a beer or a dozen later. So, as much as I loathe to agree with the ubiquitous Drug Monkey, this vitriolic hyperbole really is Teh Drama, to use interwebz parlance. But hey, whatever works for garnering publicity for books or blogs. We are all attention whores.

    Tangentially related to the considerable amount of energy you appear to be spending on this imbroglio, I am genuinely curious about this, ERV, how you — as a grad student and working scientist at the bench — manage your time to be able to engage yourself so fully on your blog and also fight the Good Fight on the evolution/ID-creationist battleground? I ask this sincerely. I worked my ass off as a grad student and post-doc and I still felt like a slacker compared to some of my classmates in biochemistry and organic chemistry. I also knew grad students in the late Howard Temin’s labs and they were very dedicated to the lab. My impression from former colleagues (quite talented folks, too) who graduated from Charlie Rice’s (Wash. U.) lab is that they similarly were held to high expectations for time devoted to their research. Also, the fellows on my doctoral committee looked askance if a grad student or post-doc had an abundance of extracurricular activities; some were even asked to leave the labs if they were too distracted. Clearly, this is not the case for you. My bet is that you are dedicated to your research, but really, how do you manage your time? Do you sleep? Eat? Ever?

  7. #7 by kemibe on July 17, 2009 - 11:58 am

    @ FraserH:

    You’re right, I should have mentioned that misleading pst. Chris screwed up there, and his later amendment to the post doesn’t change this. I’m not trying to say here that he’s blameless or above criticism, period, and the extent of this set-to guarantees that I’ve left many details out on both sides.

    Anyway, my observations about over-the-top behavior really does not rest in anything involving the Pharyngula-Intersection wars, other than the “Thread for open revilement” business (and even that I night have barely noticed had it not been for further programmed and personal bashing from other sources). I think PZ’s criticisms of the book were fair and free of spite (and again, until I read the book can’t say whether I agree with them), and he’s not responsible for the fact that a certain fraction of his huge cavalcade of commenters and followers are too busy virtually fellating him at every turn to do anything other than malign any and all criticism of him. (Hey, it’s tempting, the guy’s been one of my own heroes for years.)

    @ Doc B:

    “Do you sleep? Eat? Ever?”

    I think she runs on high-octane venom. I know from past personal experience that it’s possible to do for extended periods, until the mental ketosis sets in and something has to give.

    I’ll respond to ERV separately and later.

  8. #8 by Doc Bushwell on July 17, 2009 - 12:38 pm

    I think she runs on high-octane venom. I know from past personal experience that it’s possible to do for extended periods, until the mental ketosis sets in and something has to give.

    Ah! Vitriolotoxin then. Yes, I believe I recall the occasions when your synapses were under the influence of this potent GPCR* antagonist.

    *Generally Pleasant and Considered Reasoning, a rare receptor sub-type for most of us.

  9. #9 by Rev. BigDumbChimp on July 17, 2009 - 1:43 pm

    yikes.

    I’ve mostly tried to ignore the attacking nature of the whole incident as I pretty much agree with PZ on the subject but get a little “squeamish” on the types and severity of barbs hurled about. It’s unfortunately the nature of the beast with PZ’s blog and his “horde” (I’m frequently guilty) of getting ramped up to thermonuclear at a pace that leaves examination of the issues at hand and some basic cordiality behind in favor of one-upmanship. I don’t mind that when dealing with the typical “foes” of science, ID and creationists, but it feels overdone when having a legitimate disagreement with people that we would agree with on most all other subjects.

    It’s just a big disappointment in that things are missed, allies are put off, points made are misinterpreted and the discussion is trashed.

  10. #10 by kemibe on July 17, 2009 - 3:18 pm

    @ ERV

    “Youre also a complete retard if you didnt notice that my criticism of Tittycock is that they behaved/are behaving like Creationists, thus they received their Creationist nicknames, like all Creationists on ERV.”

    OK, I’m a complete retard, then. Creationists willfully lie and distort, and on top of that many of them are stupid as hell (not that they can help it, but it’s still nauseating). Sure, Chris and Sheril have taken a different stance than you or I or PZ would here, but are they actually lying? Are they stupid?

    And…*blink* I have to admit it’s been a while since I’ve seen someone trot out the “It’s not a problem that I label so-and-so with mindless pejoratives because I do the same to lots of others!” defense. It’s kind of like defending anti-semitic remarks on the basis of being a misanthrope in general. *blink*

    “You would also notice that I have been supportive of Mooneytits, trying to figure out how we need to communicate better for three fucking years.”

    I can only look at this in its current context–the discussion and comments surrounding Unscientific America. In your rants on your own site you wrote what you did above–that you’ve tried to engage Chris for three years without success–but you didn’t link to any relevant material from your old or current blog, so this is just so much empty blather.

    Furthermore, it’s irrelevant, because your main gripe, by your own admission, isn’t that Chris failed to engage you, but that he “chose to stab PZ in the back.” Let me ask you something, Abbie: Have you ever known PZ to be incapable of defending himself? It’s actually you who is acting like a creationist here–they, too, feel the need to vociferously shield a supposedly all-powerful being from criticism. And all of this leaves aside the fact that the term “back-stabbing” is very questionable here. PZ hasn’t broached this idea in his thousands of words on Mooney, so maybe he wouldn’t agree?

    “Oh, Mooneytits has also admitted he fucked up the ‘New Atheists’ section. Im sure he will be sending you and everyone that bought his 130 page Magnum Opus will be getting a correction letter soon.”

    Probably not, but don’t you think that was a positive move on his part? When’s the last time you admitted you shat on your own keyboard?

    “If he had attacked you, or Orac, or any other blogger, I would be defending that individual. What Tittycocks did was wrong, no matter the target.”

    I believe you. I may not have been tops on your list after the pit-bull mini-fiasco, but you nevertheless called that situation for what it was. I don’t miss the fragile-ego-choked, hypersensitive one-upmanship of the SB backchannel, that’s for damned sure. But again, as with your labeling games, having standards you would happily apply globally doesn’t make them useful. Think about it.

    “But apparently either your lack of honor (like Creationists inability to detect irony) or your inability to read English got in the way of you figuring this out on your own.”

    I don’t see the relevance of this. For whatever other faults I have, I can read English just fine, and it would help your case if you would write in it. The LOLspeak no-apostrophe schtick is more an impediment than a signature. ( I know, I know–*shrug* to that.)

    “Also, you might want to notice who else has fallen on their fainting couch over my 126 word joke. You, ZuskAIDS, and Isisanon. Throw DrugMonkey in there and maybe the sex-police will like you again!”

    “Fainting couch”? Overdramatize much?

    DrugMonkey, Zuska, and Isis (not even then a part of SB) were not involved in the “sex-police” nonsense you’re referring to–that was solely the work of the departed Chris MM, although his babbling successfully misled PhysioProf and a few others into thinking I’d said something outrageous. But regardless of how they felt or would have felt about it, I’ll say what you more or less said above: I’ll support people I agree with even if I might disagree with them about a host of other things. That includes things you might write in the future. And on a side note, I don’t know if that Knology tool is still around, but I don’t know if I have ever seen a more insufferable agent of the LORD in all of my Internet travels. I never ban anyone, so I would have had to shoot that guy if he’d washed up on the Refuge.

  11. #11 by FraserH on July 17, 2009 - 9:20 pm

    @kemibe

    never thought you were trying to absolve him of all blame, just felt that that particular post explained a lot of the initial vitriol.

  12. #12 by kemibe on July 17, 2009 - 9:27 pm

    @ FraserH,

    Yeah, but it could be (mis)interpreted that way by those less objective than yourself. Once Internet battles reach a certain point and people choose sides, many observers are wont to read posts as all-or-nothing–and when the protagonists are doing more or less the same thing (PZ classifies UA as useless across the board; C&S in return seem to see PZ as little more than a menace to science communication), this inclination becomes all the more strong.

    None of these three, despite strong words, has personally flamed their respective opponent(s). That’s noteworthy, because their commenters, while mostly a reasonable lot, have featured some bona fide hotheads–some of them taking the side of PZ, others longtime PZ haters who are using this as a chance to get some licks in, not that PZ cares much what the Kwoks of the world think. Abbie’s not the only blogger to take Mooney (mostly) and Sheril (mainly by association) to task, but she’s done it with a uniquely abrasive inverse panache that bears mentioning.

  13. #13 by PZ Myers on July 18, 2009 - 9:26 pm

    Some minor stuff: M&K could have taken a few months to get around to replying, or could have not bothered at all. I had no expectation that they would, and certainly didn’t demand it. I also think they screwed themselves over with those sloppy, barely coherent posts (not that their book did them any favors, either.)

    I didn’t put up a placeholder post. The problem was that people were dumping comments about M&K all over the place, in threads where it was hardly appropriate. I put up an open thread just to consolidate all that stuff, so that it wouldn’t consume the entire blog. I seriously considered not replying at all to their final rebuttal, but finally just threw out one final salvo.

    I agree that M&K have not been “firebombing the blogs of their interlocutors and telling them to go fuck themselves or labeling them with insipid pejoratives”. That would be uncivil, and if we’ve learned anything, it’s that the most important thing to them is the appearance of politeness. Instead, they’ve relied on misrepresentation and half-truths. I think I’d rather they were just rude.

    I should also point out that while declaring that they were going to police their blog (and while many people were complaining that their comments were being held up for moderation), and while one of their major points was that my “horde” were profane and obnoxious, those “hotheads” on their side — which included some rather notorious kooks — had their comments sail through without a glitch.

  14. #14 by kemibe on July 19, 2009 - 9:59 am

    PZ,

    I thought about what I at first saw as an invitation to ramp up the bashing and remembered that you do have a habit of trying to consolidate certain comment streams and themes (something that your volume of commenters renders wonderfully futile, but as an anal sort myself I appreciate the impulse), so I had already re-thought that a little. And more broadly, people who hold bloggers accountable for what their commenters say–whether those commenters are legion or all but nonexistent–are badly misguided, which is why I thought it was silly for Chris to post that “classic” comment from your blog whether he implied it was from you or not. Focusing on what the mob is saying (though members the mob can be sharp indeed) leads only to distraction.

    I know that Chris and Sheril have no choice but to be civil whether they want to or not, as it’s central to what they argue. But I don’t think you have been uncivil, merely insistent. If you look only at the back-and-forth between you and the Intersectites and ignore the comments (and all references to them by the three of you), you’re left with one more vehement disagreement, but no venom, rather like a typical Sam Harris debate with a theist. (Abbie is a different matter as she has served merely as an opportunistic infection in this; that’s her privilege an her style, and it won’t be the last time she does it.

    Anyway, I have a feeling what I’m going to think about the book, but I’ll shut up until I read it.

  15. #15 by foolfodder on July 19, 2009 - 11:18 am

    I don’t want to get into specifics about a book I have not read, but I do want to note some unnecessary moves that have discolored this already unseemly fracas. For one thing, a lot of commenters at The Intersection who are, in the main, part of PZ’s regular readership and commenting crew have jumped all over Chris and Sheril for not responding directly, sufficiently, or in a timely manner to PZ’s criticisms. (Various other “Sciblings” and other science-oriented bloggers have reviewed and in many cases criticized the book, and the Intersectites have linked to these, but naturally none of PZ’s loyal readers seem to care.) While it didn’t help Chris and Sheril’s stock in the eyes of most commenters to put up “placeholder”-type posts assuring readers that they would get around to responding to PZ in detail eventually, they followed through. And although PZ is largely correct in stating that Chris and Sheril don’t include a lot of back-up in their tripartite rebuttal to him, they do tell readers where this can be found–in the book itself. As someone with one book in print and on the cusp of signing a contract for a second one, I can hardly fault Chris and Sheril for refusing to quote vast sections of a newly published book just to slake the thirst of an army of mostly obnoxious commenters.

    My $0.02.

    A part of the debate started well before the book was released for review and any of the content of the book was known about. The situation as of the 12th June can be found here. This part of the debate was really begun by Chris calling new atheists uncivil. Much criticism was levelled at his criticisms, which he seemed to ignore. But then he continued to snipe occasionally, but still didn’t answer criticisms of his point of view.

    Is it any wonder that some people had become frustrated by the time that PZ reviewed the book? A lot of those comments were from people who were trying to get answers to criticisms that were related to a ‘debate’ that had been taking place for over a month and separate from the book. It doesn’t help that Chris seems to dismiss anybody who criticises his point of view as biased and therefore not worth listening to, and that he doesn’t even seem to understand the position of his critics.

    From my point of view it seems a bit wrong to start a debate on the blogs by criticising someone and then reply that “the answers to your criticisms of my criticisms can be found in my book” or something to that effect. Still, it seems clear that the answers to those criticisms probably aren’t in the book anyway.

  16. #16 by kemibe on July 19, 2009 - 11:38 am

    foolfodder (nice name, BTW),

    I admit that I only started regularly reading The Intersection (the name of which always makes me think of “The Intersect” in Chuck) in recent weeks, when the book was on the verge of publication. And I know that people have become frustrated with Chris over the past year or more because of his accommodationist views, but Matt Nisbet has set the bar so high (or low) in terms of what it takes to be a truly irrelevant and self-important jackhole when it comes to “framing” that I suppose I didn’t notice. And I do read Coyne, and have followed his own back-and-forth with Chris pretty closely, but I did miss some of those numbered posts on various blogs in Coyne’s June 12 entry–when shit spiders out with such speed and force, even I and my 12 online hours a day can’t keep up.

    Also, I admit that I can’t stand the term “new atheist.” It has about as much meaning as “god Christian” (when my grandfather lost both his wife and his squash in his twilight years and was convinced by a Masonic Lodge buddy to start attending a Baptist church, he would often refer to people as “good Christians” when extolling quite secular-sounding virtues. Well, who are the bad Christians? Christans don’t ever speak of them. But I digress).

    I’ve heard people say that the book offers no more answers than Chris has online. Chris and Sheril have denied this. Most damning is the charge that only one side of “Crackergate” was presented, and I hope that isn’t true, although I can’t deny that I’ve heard this from various sources. When I read the book, I will give it as fair a review as I can, which at this point may require the induction of retrograde blog amnesia.

    Again, though, I considered blogging about the wars between Chris and his commenters (I don’t see what’s gone on between him and PZ as anything nearly as charged) by way of examining a more general online dynamic, but mostly posted what I did because I was curious as to what Abbie would say in response, Some people are so averse to the idea of saying “I may have fucked up” or some variant thereof that one would swear an admission of error by these people would cause them to explode. She’s one of them.

    Thanks for the links, in any event.

  17. #17 by windy on July 19, 2009 - 4:50 pm

    In your rants on your own site you wrote what you did above–that you’ve tried to engage Chris for three years without success–but you didn’t link to any relevant material from your old or current blog, so this is just so much empty blather.

    Compare and contrast your approach with this:

    http://almostdiamonds.blogspot.com/2009/07/todays-question.html

  18. #18 by kemibe on July 19, 2009 - 5:19 pm

    Hi windy,

    If you are suggesting that I was perhaps lazy or negligent for not doing the investigative work you did and therefore deprived myself and possibly others of key background info, understand that I took Abbie at her word when she claimed to have engaged Chris in just the manner she said she did, because I long ago read her posts about him, Casey Luskin (who would probably run away screaming if he knew Abbie was in the same zip code as him) and Nisbet. Judging from the comments under your post, however, a lot of people were genuinely surprised to learn that Abbie’s contributions to the general topic of Mooney have long consisted of more than just recent bursts of lackluster nicknames and general profanity.

    My main questions are these: One, if the past few years of lobbying on behalf of Mooney are so important to Abbie, why didn’t she provide her blog visitors with the same links she gave you? It would have lent a lot to her posts, even if she’d left in the “Chris can go fuck himself” stuff. And two, why does Abbie feel that Chris has “backstabbed” anyone? What does he owe anyone (other than, one hopes, some semblance of journalistic integrity)?

    Abbie has chosen her own sides and blog topics over the years–neither Mooney nor anyone else has paid her to act on their behalf. So she thinks the guy behaves like a creationist now. Well, cry me a friggin’ river. I’m sure if she calls him “Mooneytits” enough times, he’l go back to thinking and blogging in just the manner she thinks he should. And again, her anger appears rooted not in what she thinks Chris owes her so much as what he owes the much more visible PZ Myers. Why isn’t PZ going apeshit over this? Maybe because he’s old enough to accept that people change their minds about things?

    By the way, if you’ve looked at this blog at all, you’ll see that my ideas about how to handle religious intrusion into good sense and forward thinking are about 99% Abbie/PZ and 1% Mooney/Kirshenbaum. I really don’t understand the motives of people who are genuinely freaking out at what many so lovingly call “The Colgate Twins” (the nerve of them to smile for pictures!) without having read the whole book. Who knows, judging from overall appearances, maybe Abbie is angling to herself become the subject of a future literary excoriation by Chris.

    I have to admit I got a laugh out of this:

    I mean Jesus, Im a young, relatively attractive, cutesy female, and I cant get a science speaking gig around here.

    I wasn’t aware that these were prime qualifications for delivering science lectures, but at least she’s not short on self-confidence.

    Anyway, thanks for the heads-up on the post. Abbie would do well to link to it as you’ve done a lot of work o her behalf.

    KB

  19. #19 by windy on July 19, 2009 - 7:19 pm

    If you are suggesting that I was perhaps lazy or negligent for not doing the investigative work you did

    It was not my work (although I wish it had been) it was Stephanie’s! I just think it’s disingenous to dismiss her statement (on the technicality of not providing the links) as “empty blather” when you yourself admit to having reading the posts at the time. What gives?

    And if you take her at her word of having engaged Mooney since 2006, why do you dismiss her as an “opportunistic infection”? Isn’t that a “chronic infection” at the least?

    My main questions are these: One, if the past few years of lobbying on behalf of Mooney are so important to Abbie, why didn’t she provide her blog visitors with the same links she gave you?

    a few things
    1) Why not go over to her blog and suggest she do that as an improvement, instead of dismissing her entirely?
    2) Although Stephanie’s summary is very admirable, it would be rather cumbersome to provide that much background information for every blog post.
    3) People often make general references to past discussions without linking to every single relevant source.

    For example, PZ has also hinted at past disagreements with Mooney. In the post “Coyne on Unscientific America” PZ said this:
    “I am still endlessly amazed at how proponents of congenial communication, like Mooney and Nisbet, manage to so consistently piss off the targets of their discussions while trying to appease the people who care least about good science.”

    No links! How is a poor person to know what PZ is talking about?

  20. #20 by kemibe on July 19, 2009 - 7:52 pm

    “It was not my work (although I wish it had been) it was Stephanie’s!”

    OK, gotcha. I’m not familiar with the players at that blog.

    “I just think it’s disingenous to dismiss her statement (on the technicality of not providing the links) as ’empty blather’ when you yourself admit to having reading the posts at the time. What gives?”

    What gives is that although I knew much of the history between Abbie and Chris, the bulk of it dating back to ERV’s Blogspot days, Abbie had no reason to think the vast majority of readers did–and as evidenced by the reactions to Stephanie’s post, they in fact did not. Abbie was far more concerned with name-calling than with substance in this recent posts–she’s given up on Mooney, obviously, and has therefore lost interest in re-hashing history even though many of her followers might be curious as to why she apparently became so hostile and unglued.

    “And if you take her at her word of having engaged Mooney since 2006, why do you dismiss her as an ‘opportunistic infection’? Isn’t that a ‘chronic infection’ at the least?”

    Well, the two aren’t mutually exclusive ;o). But given that Abbie never said she felt personally back-stabbed by Chris (although she implied neglect of a sort), claiming instead only that Chris had dicked PZ over, an invective-filled post offering no specific background appears to be little more than an attempt to garner attention, issues be damned. Did you miss the part where she implored Chris to use one of her tirades as a blog entry? That’s just self-aggrandizing nonsense.

    “1) Why not go over to her blog and suggest she do that as an improvement, instead of dismissing her entirely?”

    Because I’ve seen how she responds to criticism, that’s why. Besides, if it didn’t occur to her to flesh out her post with the same background that has seen a lot of people change their minds about her for the better, it’s not anyone else’s job to tell her how to blog or read people. I consider my own blogging to be a waste of otherwise valuable time, as is most blog reading, so there’s only so far I’m going to go with any of this.

    “2) Although Stephanie’s summary is very admirable, it would be rather cumbersome to provide that much background information for every blog post.”

    Come on. Abbie could have provided every relevant link in a single sentence in chronological order and let people do the rest of the research for themselves.

    “3) People often make general references to past discussions without linking to every single relevant source.”

    But they don’t often link to zero relevant sources in the one or two emotionally charged posts they make on a given topic–if they want to be taken seriously by anyone not already convinced of the validity of her views, anyway.

    “For example, PZ has also hinted at past disagreements with Mooney. In the post “Coyne on Unscientific America” PZ said this:

    “I am still endlessly amazed at how proponents of congenial communication, like Mooney and Nisbet, manage to so consistently piss off the targets of their discussions while trying to appease the people who care least about good science.”

    “No links! How is a poor person to know what PZ is talking about?”

    Now who’s being disingenous? PZ virtually always links to discussions he mentions. The post you quote was from five days ago, and you know damned well that PZ has spent the past couple of weeks writing posts with well over a dozen links to The Intersection and other relevant sources. You conspicuously cherry-picked a paragraph here and it’s not even one that demands links given how closely the majority of “Pharyngulites” have been following this lovely drama.

    Let me just ask you this: I don’t know if you yourself have a blog, but if you believed you or an associate had been wronged by a fellow blogger or author, would you publicly react similarly to how Abbie did? And I’m not saying she’s the only “villain,” here, by the way. She just has a special kind of charm that makes her fun to quote and write about.

  21. #21 by foolfodder on July 20, 2009 - 3:50 am

    Did you miss the part where she implored Chris to use one of her tirades as a blog entry? That’s just self-aggrandizing nonsense.

    I think she was tweaking Chris’ nose over a post where he used one of the comments on PZ’s blog as typical of the commenters on PZ’s blog but managed to imply that it was typical of PZ himself. (The clarification came several hours later and it probably isn’t fair to use that comment as typical anyway, in my opinion.)

  22. #22 by kemibe on July 20, 2009 - 1:50 pm

    foolfodder–

    Yeah, I’m sure that was part of it, but something tells me Abbie would have experienced a series of paroxysmal orgasms (or their psychological equivalent) had Chris and Sheril actually used her insults in one of their posts.

    The “classic comment from PZ vs. classic comment from RealClimate” was the one post on The Intersection that I would call unquestionably misguided. John Kwok accounts for about 1/4 of comments on the Intersection, or so it sometimes seems, but using him as a representative commenter or as someone who reflects the general tenor of the place would be underhanded. Then again, Larry Farfaman makes Kwok (and anyone else yo might name) look like a bastion of understatement and sanity.

  23. #23 by Wes on July 23, 2009 - 6:07 pm

    I used to read it regularly, but I got tired of Mooney’s blog back during the Framing Wars. I just don’t like this tactic of promoting one’s own view of science communication by singling out one highly visible loudmouth (Dawkins, PZ, etc.) and blaming them for the problem, meanwhile insisting that you have the one and only solution. Yeah, PZ can be abrasive and even childish at times, and it would be a disaster if all scientists behaved like him. That’s obvious. But he probably understands that. There’s no evidence that having a small minority of very sharp-tongued scientists does any measurable damage to science communication.

    M&K have basically admitted that they have a personal beef with PZ and that’s what’s fueling this. That annoys me. And it clearly has clouded their thinking on this issue. I don’t agree with calling them names (“concern troll”, “closet creationist”, “Cockenbaum”, ect). They don’t deserve that. However, I find it difficult to take pity on them. They took some very needless and personal swipes a person they know has a popular blog and lots of supporters. Like Nisbet, they’re getting swamped by his commenters. What else would you expect?

    “Crackergate” was a non-controversy. It was drummed up by Bill Donahue. If he hadn’t created a big stink about it, would anyone care? I doubt it. But Mooney sees fit to write a book chapter and a Newsweek article holding it up as the bane of science communication. What a crock. I don’t care about Mooney’s personal vendetta against PZ, and I’m certainly not interested in reading books and articles that make that incident out to be much more than it was, which Mooney seems to be doing.

    I just hope this all blows over soon. I still think Mooney’s a great writer and PZ’s a great blogger. It would be better if the two of them just kept their distance.

  24. #24 by windy on July 24, 2009 - 4:25 pm

    Now who’s being disingenous? PZ virtually always links to discussions he mentions. The post you quote was from five days ago, and you know damned well that PZ has spent the past couple of weeks writing posts with well over a dozen links to The Intersection and other relevant sources.

    Er, all links that I saw during the recent discussion were to current posts at The Intersection and elsewhere. There were no links to support PZ’s generalisation about framing proponents consistently pissing off their targets. But it would have been obvious to most long-time readers what PZ was referring to. In that respect I think it was similar to Abbie’s generalisation about Mooney not responding to feedback.

    Let me just ask you this: I don’t know if you yourself have a blog, but if you believed you or an associate had been wronged by a fellow blogger or author, would you publicly react similarly to how Abbie did?

    I don’t know. After 3 years of non-responses I’d probably be rather pissed off, too. But why is it important?

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