They’re all nuts » « I must be getting old Congratulations to Chris Mooney Chris Mooney has just been named a Templeton Fellow in journalism. It’s perfect for him. Many sincere congratulations on the excellent career trajectory. Abbie sees the bright side in all this. Share this:PrintEmailShare on TumblrTweet They’re all nuts » « I must be getting old
Glen Davidson says
Not exactly the way to inspire confidence in his journalistic standards, though, I’m afraid.
Obviously, it’s what he always wanted.
Meanwhile, Matt Nisbet sulks and whimpers,”why, oh why couldn’t have been ME?!!”
Um, my sarcasm detector is off the charts!
How…apt. I’m sure he’s utterly thrilled.
Paul W. says
My hearty congratulations not just to Chris, but to the Templeton Foundation for their fine choice.
It’s hard to imagine a better match of standards of objectivity, honesty, and intellectual rigor.
Urgh, I just had an image flash in my head of CM having a Sally Fields moment. “They like me! They really like me! Accommodationism really works!
Paul W. #5 wrote:
Oh gee. Isn’t that considered a preliminary to the George Orwell 1984 award for Doublespeak?
And the Sarah Palin award for coherent thought?
Josh, Official SpokesGay says
Oh. My. God. It’s just too perfect. It’s like something right out of a movie script. This explains everything.
Lynna, OM says
He sold his integrity. From the press release:
So Templeton likes bridges? Didn’t know he was a civil engineer.
Interesting that it’s just Chris. Aren’t we usually told off for forgetting give his partner in crime due credit?.
Paul W. says
BTW, and OT, did you see my followup about Karen Armstrong in the moribund Templeton Foundation thread?
A perfect fit …
Wow! 15 grand for developing a taste for licking religious ass. Such an honor.
This is bad… also for the Center of Inquiry at the Council of Secular Humanism, since Chris is now one of their replacement podcast presenters after DJ left. It makes me wonder whether DJ Grothe left for greener and more rational pastures (JREF) for more reasons than just moving to higher positions. DJ always seemed less of an faitheist.
I can only repeat Pauls (#5) sentiment.
recovering catholic says
PZ Myers says
Of course, to put ourselves in his shoes: he doesn’t care in the slightest that acceptance of such an award diminishes our respect for his integrity even more, since he has no regard for our esteem anyway, and knows already that there isn’t much he could do to drag it any lower.
So it’s just $15K in his pocket and a nice sojourn in England. No downside from his point of view at all.
Does this group include any who promote the view that science and religion have no common ground?
Brain Hertz says
Why would it? “Understanding the reasoning” here should be read to mean “trying to figure out why they come up with the wrong answer”.
“how religious traditions might illuminate the scientific realm.”
Has this “how” been answered?
Did I miss something horribly important in the argument arena for the existence of god?
religious traditions might illuminate the scientific realm
religious traditions illuminate scientific realm
religious traditions illuminate
Stereodax @ 15:
DJ and Chris are close friends, so I don’t think the JREF move had anything to do with Chris’ views (unless there’s been a recent falling out).
Jerry Coyne says
Therefore behoveth hire a ful long spoon
the schal ete with a feend.
I think they mean “illuminate” as in the medieval sense — splash it full of impractical decorations that take a long time to make and don’t really do anything; render it hard to read, and difficult to understand, and leave snarky little comments and doodles in the margins… :)
Paul W. #12 wrote:
No, I missed it! Thanks. Again, very well put. I agree. It’s a valuable summary.
And it’s not particularly off-topic, since this seems to be the cagey back-and-forth game that the Templeton Foundation is also playing. They’re making testable supernatural claims about reality — but they’re only making testable natural claims about how we can perceive reality — no, it’s the first — no, the second … I know, it’s both!!
According to the neurologists I’ve read, mystics can minimize the activity in their right parietal lobes and lose the ability to separate themselves from the outside world: they gain a heightened sense of being “one with the universe.” They lose the sense of self. This same extremely satisfying sensation can also be induced through drugs or disease, and studied in the lab. It’s called “transcendence.” There can even be positive long-term psychological benefits, as people reframe the way they view themselves, and their relationship to others.
I’ve also read that there are parts of the amygdala which, when stimulated, give a deep, inchoate feeling of significance to whatever is being experienced. I suspect that a physically explainable brain-based combination of both the loss of self, and the sense of indescribable importance, will satisfy most of the garbled divinity-sacred-mystical-God descriptions of Armstrong and the Templetons (now there’s a name for a band). There’s nothing new being found out about the nature of reality as a whole, and it being like a giant consciousness. It’s interesting in its own right.
But they can’t accept that, because you have to experience it to KNOW that it can’t be “just that.” It’s more. It really is. Because you know. You’ve become higher, because you’ve humbled yourself before the facts of your own experience.
Arguing with this is like arguing with a drunk on whether they think more clearly when they’re drunk, or with an anorexic on whether they’re too fat. They can give an intellectual assent to the reasonable side, but this is overwhelmed by their sense of being an insider, who has had a direct experience which needs no other interpretation — and others are outsiders.
You can’t do science from this foundation.
I used to really admire Chris Mooney, but have been losing that steadily for a few years now. I was living in DC in 2002 and discovered SEED (and combed the city looking for an actual issue, rather than an advertisement). That was my first real connection to science policy, which seemed like something interesting, but was missing from my science department, so Mooney became the one example I had of what I wanted to do (now I have many more, for the better). I have become more and more frustrated with him for only pointing out problems rather than proposing constructive solutions and for compromising in scientific debates.
What’s next for Chris, a professorship at Biola?
Kevin Anthoney says
I still think Richard Dawkins is the person who most deserves a Templeton award – if anything reconciles science and religion, it’s his meme theory.
Best play on words I’ve seen in a long time.
I wonder how long it will be until Mooney renounces atheism and claims he has found a belief in some sort of deity.
More like “you accommodate me, you really really accommodate me!”
That’s quite interesting Sastra, could you point at the best (or a couple) of references of these neurologists?
And as for Chris, hopefully this will speed up his descent into irrelevance among scientists. We need some smarter accomodationists, he’s just not that fun to dismantle.
I’m with Paul W.#5 on this one.
I think some people stated that Mooney must be looking for a Templeton Prize, but this is close enough for now. When someone claims to be a journalist and newspapers struggle to survive (don’t know about magazines though) I guess the Templeton Foundation is an obvious place to go. There were also many comments on Mooney’s claim to be an “atheist butt”, since the “I’m an atheist but …” tends to be a claim by liars for jesus, similar to the “I used to be an atheist but …”
Mooney’s Kristolesque ideals will suit him well in his work for the Templeton Foundation.
Sven DiMilo says
I am quite sure that I will regret this, but:
I don’t get why people keep mentioning Mooney’s “integrity”; I thought “Unscientific America” proved he had none.
I like Lynna’s quote #10: “… how religious traditions might illuminate the scientific realm.”
Yes, I see praying and pseudo-cannibalistic rituals helping science a lot. Or maybe it’s bible-reading that’s meant to help us scientists. Oh, I know – getting that smudge of ash on your forehead – yeah, how could science have been so blind for so long? Gay-bashing? Raping kids? Maybe Santa Claus will deliver some scientific knowledge next christmas? Perhaps we can experiment on virtual animals like the Easter Bunny – no more research with real bunnies. Facing Mecca and putting our asses high in the air? I know – getting circumcised! The Haj pilgrimage. Offering food to the spirits of the dead. Offering food to the gods. Oh yes, religious tradition has so much to offer science.
many who assert the two disciplines are without common ground
Without common ground… isn’t that the same as “not overlapping”?
“Science and religion share no common ground” – Fie, sir!! (or madam!!) How intolerant!
“Science and religion are non-overlapping magisteria” Aaaah. That sounds much more respectful!
Insightful Ape says
Actions of Chris Mooney do not bother or concern me. His position at the CFI does though. I like the CFI a lot and wish they reconsidered in light of this development.
You leave Chris Mooney Alone………”Channeling Chris Croker”. In reality though, I listened to him yesterday by accident on ABIS…I was really there for Carl Zimmer which was great. I really kinda saw this or something like it coming.
Pierce R. Butler says
… the region where science and theology overlap …
So can we officially declare the Gouldian NOMA Hypothesis disproved now?
Hey Zeus! says
Gratz, Moon-Moon! You totally deserve it!
Seriously, how do religious views illuminate scientific realm or any other realm?
I would really like to know.
No sarcasm here.
There must be some kind of reasoning in such an official message, why would they say it if there is none?
Paul W. says
Check out D’Aquili and Newberg’s book Why God Won’t Go Away.
The neuroscience is pretty interesting. They make it pretty clear that if their view of “spiritual” states is right, it’s a confluence of brainfarts, with a certain region of the brain shutting down. (This shows up on PET scans or FMRI’s; I forget which they used.) It’s a textbook case of hallucination, with one region giving no output or bogus output, and the brain regions depending on its outputs generating bizarre meaningful-seeming crap by trying to interpret the garbage.
Oddly, they then try to make that consistent with religion and actual belief in God by hypothesizing that God made us that way so that we could preceive spiritual truths.
Problem is, if it works the way they say, it is patently not perception. There are no real sensory (or even “extrasensory”) inputs being interpreted—just internally generated garbage due to a clear malfunction.
Their about-face about two thirds of the way through the book is rather stunning. They start out with an absolutely materialist viewpoint—all mental events happen in the brain, and spiritual states are functionally reducible to to material brain states in an utterly monistic way, and those brain states are simply and utterly hallucinatory… therefore God did it.
Another interesting line of work is Persinger’s on inducing a felt presence of God, with his “God helmet,” which uses transcranial magnetic stimulation of a certain brain region to make it malfunction.
Unfortunately, looking at some of his other work, Persinger strikes me as a bit of a crank, and I’d really like to see his “felt presence” stuff independently replicated. (It may have been by now… I haven’t kept up.)
According to Persinger’s explanation of his results, IIRC, you can garble the tagging of data being communicated between different parts of the brain, so that internally-generated thoughts appear to be coming from the outside, and therefore from someone else. (Or maybe the thoughts themselves get garbled so much they don’t come through as thoughts, exactly, but you still have the sense of a presence of another mind in operation—you mispercieve stuff going on in another part of your own head as happening in another mind.)
A little background on that: a lot of data being transferred across the brain is apparently tagged as a result of external perception, or as a result of internal imagination—that’s necessary to use certain brain regions for both kinds of purposes. (For example, mentally rotating an imaginary object in your head uses some of the same brain machinery as actual perception of a real rotating 3D object. That came as a shock to some brain scientists, who previously assumed that the representations and operations were fairly different, rather than being nearly identical.)
So the idea is that idle thoughts you’d normally recognize as idle thoughts coming to you get mis-recognized as products of another mind, because they come from the same place in your brain, but get corrupted so that they seem to be coming from somebody else, as though you were perceiving someone else nearby.
Whether or not that particular story is true, it’s a good example of a materialist explanation of seemingly compelling supernatural experiences.
Many people believe that science has nothing to say about the supernatural, and can’t possibly explain the supernatural experiences people claim to have had. Science can’t go there, because it only studies the “natural” world.
The actual problem we have is more nearly the opposite—it’s not that it’s hard to scientifically explain why people would have apparently supernatural experiences, it’s that it’s too easy, and it’s hard to tell which story is right.
And don’t forget the excellent Mario Beauregard…
Brownian, OM says
Why, much in the same way that a dark shadow makes the sunlit surroundings seem so much brighter in contrast.
I can haz templeton priz now?
Well. At least I have learned something new from all of this:
Science and religion are one field. No, there is no conflict between accepting claims without evidence, and expecting evidence before accepting claims. Not only is there no conflict, they are one and the same.
That is, until some obvious conflict between religious claims and science shows up, and then religion is about telling us the why of things but science tells us the how of it.
Ugh, I felt dirty just writing that.
Unified field theory!
Hey guys, this might be a BLESSING in DISGUISE!
THE LORD works in MYSTERIOUS WAYS!!!
Lynna, OM says
Paul W., See “Eureka Hunt” by Jonah Lehrer, in The New Yorker. (excerpts from an article in the July 28, 2008 issue of The New Yorker follow):
To my mind, this explains a lot of the “God spoke to me” and the “revelation” phenomena.
Perhaps with the fat wad of cash they’ve tossed him for his fawning obsequiousness he can afford to buy something strong enough to wash the taste of ass out of his mouth.
SC OM says
Thanks Paul W. and Lynna
Brian English says
Mooney is building bridges? Does this make him a pope?
Bear with me here. The pope is called the pontif. Pontif is from the latin Pontifex which means bridge-builder. The pope like the pagan priest of Rome apparently builds a bridge between the vulgar folk and the gods. So if Mooeny is building bridges he’s a pontif. Now, the question is, is Mooney pontifex maximus or just pontifex stultus?
Lynna, OM says
Whoops. I forgot the link to the article, Eureka Hunt:
Only the abstract (pretty good abstract, though) is available online unless you already have a subscription to The New Yorker. You can get very cheap online access if you have a subscription, or you can pay for a single article.
iordanov.ivan #33 wrote:
I don’t have links handy right now, but I think I’m pulling on what I remember mostly from V.S. Ramachandran, especially Phantoms in the Brain, and perhaps Owen Flanagan’s Problem of the Soul, or one of the books by Oliver Sacks. The same points re the brain’s construction of the sense of self, and the feeling of significance, are found in a lot of sources. So I’ll supplement Paul W. and Lynna with these writers.
'Tis Himself, OM says
Thank you, Sastra, Paul W, and Lynna for your comments and quotes on neuroscience. That’s much more interesting, to me at least, than some faitheist selling his soul for $15K.
Note to self: Remember Paul W. for a Molly nomination.
Matt Penfold says
He did that a long time ago.
He even gets to call himself a “fellow”, without having to actually have shown any ability in any academic discipline at all. Of course he will not be a real fellow. There are standards.
He might also find some of the real fellows can be quite rude when confronted with silly arguments. And one thing Mooney can do is make silly arguments.
Matt Penfold says
I have just thought of another upside, albeit one requiring Mooney be able to learn.
When in the UK he might notice that the media and politicians, and most of the public have no time for creationism and indeed find it laughable. He might also notice that the message coming from scientists about evolution is the same as in the US. He then might, just might, realise that if the scientific message is the same, but public, political and media acceptance of evolution is higher than in the US, then it is not the message coming from scientists that is likely to be the problem. He might, although I doubt it, then realise blaming scientists for America’s lack of scientific literacy is silly.
He already thinks that he is the one true God.
Sastra, are these ‘external’ thoughts tagged E1 or E2?
50 Internet points for nerds who get the OSPF joke.
That quote was from Paul W. I read something awesomely interesting and assumed Sastra wrote it.
Apologies to Paul W.
I second the thanks to Paul W, Sastra, and Lynna. Good stuff and interesting reading. Paul W is def on my Molly nominations list.
Josh, Official SpokesGay says
John Horgan’s Edge essay on his after-the-fact misgivings about taking Templeton journalism money is worth revisiting:
Gwydion Suilebhan says
I like Mooney’s podcasts.
Josh, Official SpokesGay says
That’s nice. You also seem to be offended that anyone would criticize him, since you had to express Concern (TM) on another thread that PZ was taking “cheap shots” at Mooney. Do you have any idea why no one here has any respect for his ethics? Do you know any of the backstory?
Wanna know what’s cheap? Mooney. Prostituting his intellect and ethics (what may remain of them) for the Templeton Foundation.
Rev. BigDumbChimp says
oh wait, nevermind.
books on brain neuroscience by newberg:
…all seemingly coming from a very Templeton-like direction of trying to confirm religious bias built into brains for religious purposes.
hence titles like:
“How God changes your Brain”
parsimonious they are not.
#69: What do you expect? Newberg is a Templeton yes-man and most of his papers have been published in Zygon. Go figure.
That’s exactly the conclusion I reached after reading Horgan’s “Rational Mysticism.”
Actually, looks like he’s updated his ‘publications’ page quite a bit since I last saw it.
Still, a woo-meister extraordinaire.
Miranda Celeste Hale says
Is he going to be posting about this? I guess I’d have a tiny bit (a super mega tiny bit, but, still) of respect for him if he would, at the very, very least, be upfront about his Templeton whoring and other similar activities.
a.debaser @ 32:
You’re absolutely right. Unfortunately, I can picture that. I need brain bleach.
Matt Penfold says
I thought it rather odd there was nothing at The Intersection about this. Mooney is not normally reticent in promoting himself.
Matt Penfold | February 27, 2010 5:19 AM:
Well, let us wait a few days. Perhaps his time is taken up by more pressing obligations. Perhaps he’s working on an especially high quality article on it.
(I keep hoping, perhaps without just cause, that he has not yet posted out of a sense of shame.)
What has Cross Money done now?
Kel, OM says
I’ve been thinking about this, and I’ve got to say even though I’ve been pretty negative about Mooney’s comments, I fully support his actions. I want him to success, I really wish that his tactics will work. And that’s just it though, it’s little more than hope. I honestly don’t think that he’s going down a successful path, and while he’s taking the “holier than thou” attitude towards conciliation all he’s doing is putting the people who share the same goals as him offside.
Good luck to him, I really hope he succeeds. We need someone to, and if indeed he can then I’ll be right behind him and his methodology.
Jerry Coyne pointed out that this fellowship is not just awarded, but candidates have to actually apply. In other words, unlike the Templeton Prize, where anyone can nominate you, for the fellowship you have to actively seek it out. The fellowship isn’t something that was unknowingly bestowed on Mooney — he sought it out, which to me makes it much much worse.
Aaron Baker says
Not really on-topic, except it’s about another person selling his integrity, and it’s a wonderful illustration of how much better the Brits do snark than anyone else:
Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan had this to say about Sting and his 1 million pounds plus singing deal with the Uzbek regime: http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/02/stings_defence.html It’s worth reading for the update alone:
Sting has come out with a spirited defence of his visit to Tashkent as the guest of Karimov’s daughter:
‘I supported wholeheartedly the cultural boycott of South Africa under the apartheid regime because it was a special case and specifically targeted the younger demographic of the ruling white middle class.
‘I am well aware of the Uzbek president’s appalling reputation in the field of human rights as well as the environment. I made the decision to play there in spite of that.
‘I have come to believe that cultural boycotts are not only pointless gestures, they are counter-productive, where proscribed states are further robbed of the open commerce of ideas and art and as a result become even more closed, paranoid and insular.
‘I seriously doubt whether the President of Uzbekistan cares in the slightest whether artists like myself come to play in his [words missing]’
But this really is transparent bollocks. He did not take a guitar and jam around the parks of Tashkent. He got paid over a million pounds to play an event specifically designed to glorify a barbarous regime. Is the man completely mad?
Why does he think it was worth over a million quid to the regime to hear him warble a few notes?
I agree with him that cultural isolation does not help. I am often asked about the morality of going to Uzbekistan, and I always answer – go, mix with ordinary people, tell them about other ways of life, avoid state owned establishments and official tours. What Sting did was the opposite. To invoke Unicef as a cover, sat next to a woman who has made hundreds of millions from state forced child labour in the cotton fields, is pretty sick.
Next time you see Sumner on television warbling on about his love for the rain forest, switch him off.
A commenter suggested a boycott of Sting’s music. I was going to agree, but on reflection it would take an enormous effort to track down someone who listens to it, before we could ask them to stop.
Chris Mooney is the Jay Leno of skepticism. By the simple act of not offending anyone, and by trying to be nice, he ends up being a total ass hole.
… and not very skeptical.
Paul W. says
Mooney has posted about this now. He says he didn’t know he’d gotten selected until about the time we did—there was no advance announcement to the “Fellows.”