2009-07-27 Chris Mooney is Not My Friend Anymore

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Excerpt

Chris Mooney took his ball and went home. And closed the blinds. But only to me.

I am, of course, talking about a Facebook relationship (I do not know him personally), which he ended after I dared to state that science illiteracy in America is not the fault of scientists as he and his co-author assert.

When I first met Mr. Mooney at a Skeptic Society Conference a few years ago, I thought he was a brilliant young man with a very bright future. My view today is very different, largely because of the manner in which he and his co-author, Sheril Kirshenbaum, have promoted their new book, Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future.

When PZ Myers wrote a not-so-positive review of the book on his blog Pharyngula, my own bias filed the review away under "this may be a little too harsh". After all, they had personally attacked PZ in the book. I would be mad, too.

But, I liked The Republican War on Science, and I refused to throw the baby out with the bathwater until I had more evidence.

...It was not until a Boston Globe article in which Mooney and Kirshenbaum place the blame and responsibility squarely on the shoulders of scientists that the camel's back broke.

...

A layperson whose scientific literacy is marginal or worse will walk away thinking that the scientific process is negotiable. It is not.

Scientists disagree about the weight of evidence and sometimes what that evidence suggests. They debate these disagreements rationally, without incorporating personal values such as how attached the public is to their view of Pluto as a planet. Such matters are irrelevant and discussing them is counterproductive.

First, most efforts by scientists to communicate findings are mangled beyond recognition by "journalists" and other pop news outlets. Scientists are misquoted, scientific findings are misrepresented, fabricated, twisted, filtered, and misinterpreted, and the conclusions drawn are invalid. This is the fault of those who care more about selling magazines and programming to the public than about communicating news. It should not be surprising, then, when scientists avoid such communication.