Oh, jebus. Josh Rosenau has another post where the whole point sails over his head. He’s basically thrashing away again at the whole accommodationist/confrontationist conflict with more of his imaginary pragmatism and his weasely approach to the truth. If he had the slightest inkling of comprehension about the Gnu Atheist position, he simply wouldn’t bother saying stupid things like this:
The point being, it’s impossible to constantly be telling “the whole truth,” and no audience really wants you to do that. You pick and choose which truths (as you see them) you want to expound. Part of the way you do that is by thinking about how much of the truth you can express without driving your audience insane. Hopefully you also select your slice of the truth based on what will convince your audience that your central point is, in fact, true. Omitting parts of the truth that will drive your audience away (or insane) is not dishonest, and may well be the best service you can do for the truth.
Listen, Josh baby. Pay attention.
I don’t claim to possess the whole and complete truth. I don’t claim that science has the whole truth, but only that we have tools that allow us to work towards the truth.
But I do know what I hold to be true, and I will not be dishonest to myself and pretend to be something else, simply to make other people comfortable. If the free expression of ideas drives some people insane, then so be it; those who can’t cope with reality are better off in the asylums than running the country, anyway.
And I’m very sorry to break this news to you, but pandering to your audience and hiding the truth is lying to them, and in someone supposedly trying to promote science education, represents intellectual cowardice and a lack of integrity. I’m not going to do it. That you actively advocate it is shameful.
Jason Rosenhouse has a lovely long reply to Rosenau’s ridiculous pseudo-pragmatic approach. And by pseudo-pragmatic I mean not practical at all; if you are fighting for an idea, it is counterproductive to embrace facile strategies in which you deny the idea to avoid offending people, simply because various psychological studies show that people don’t like to be offended. Well, la-de-dah.
In defense of the New Atheist strategy of creating tension and making atheism visible we have a body of research on advertising that shows that repetition and ubiquity are essential for mainstreaming an idea. We have the historical examples of social movements that changed the zeitgeist by ignoring the people urging caution, and by working around the people whose value systems put them in opposition to their goals. We know that hostility towards atheists was at a fever pitch well before the NA’s arrived on the scene, a time during which accommodationist arguments were common but vocal atheism was not. And we have the all-important verdict of common sense, which says that you don’t mainstream your view by getting down on your knees and pleading with people to treat you nicely.
Against this Josh has a few papers breathlessly reporting that people don’t like it when you offend them. It is on this basis that he gives smug lectures about communications strategies.
I am underwhelmed.
I am unconvinced by these feeble appeasement tactics that don’t really advance the ideas, but do leave people unperturbed from their comfortable positions of ignorance. But here’s something else to consider, if the marshmallows of accommodationism are still committed to convincing me otherwise. Even if Rosenhouse’s argument wasn’t valid, if there were a thousand concrete empirical studies demonstrating that my approach was turning people into fundagelical Christians faster than a tent revival, it wouldn’t matter. I’d still be me. I’d still express myself as I do, as I want, because that is all I ever do here — I have never considered myself to be competing in a popularity contest.
It’s actually rather revealing that these guys would think that what their opponents say is somehow calculated to optimize positive reactions in the broadest possible demographic. They really don’t have a grasp of this mysterious truth thing.