Coyne on Unscientific America

An important tip to book authors who want to decry the ability of others to engage a consensus: don’t alienate the literate, thinking part of your readership yourself. Mooney and Kirshenbaum make much of the fact that those wicked “New Atheists” are going to drive away support for science, a fact not in evidence, but they seem oblivious to the fact that their recommendation to hush up a significant element of the public voice of science is going to alienate us, and it’s working to bite them in the ass right now. In other words, Jerry Coyne’s review of their book is online.

I’ll start with my overall opinion of the book, which is that it is confused, tendentious, evanescent, and preachy.  It is a blog post blown up to book length.  Yes, there are some useful parts, in particular the emphasis on science communication and the need to reward those who are good at it. But these solutions are hardly new; indeed, I could find little in Unscientific America that has not been said, at length, elsewhere. And what is new—the accusation that scientists, in particular atheist-scientists, are largely responsible for scientific illiteracy—is asserted without proof.

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.