I must issue an apology to Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum. I admit to having wondered whether their intention in criticizing the world’s most popular science blogger and a much-awarded science communicator whose books all remain in print as being bad for science literacy was merely to generate publicity for their own book. After all, picking a fight with someone better known than you has proven successful in drawing heaps of attention to people who would otherwise be ignored.
But lo, I shouldn’t have doubted, for while digging back into the history of such conflicts, I discovered what their true purpose in making such an attack must be, and it is a noble purpose. They are simply trying to help the “New Atheists”‘ cause. We already know atheism has a huge PR problem.
No, I suspect this is a gift to Pharyngula, a gift to Richard Dawkins. The controversy raises the profile of the New Atheists, people–especially with a book like this, which is by its very nature courting controversy and baiting working science communicators.
It took some time and thought, but I must now conclude that Chris and Sheril are doing more here than merely trying to set themselves up as a new voice emerging reflecting our diversity, tolerance, the encouragement of ideas, and ultimately, in fact, promoting a similar message to that of Expelled…that we must question what we’re told–in religion, in science, in life.
Because if the general public thinks all they’ve got to say is ‘shut up,’ they lose.