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Friday, July 10, 2009

Chris Mooney and SIWOTI

I am annoyed with Chris Mooney, not, as some might guess, because every time I hear his name a little voice in my head annoyingly pipes up, "...Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs", but rather because I think he is wrong (and, as I have shown in the past, I am rather susceptible to SIWOTI syndrome). Of course, I have not had a chance to read his book, so I will concentrate my criticism on his blog. The situation would seem to go like this: Chris Mooney and his compatriot Sheril Kirshenbaum wrote a book called Unscientific America that had a section highly critical of PZ Myers. PZ Myers read the book, pointed out that he was admittedly biased but would nevertheless give an attempt at a proper review, and then proceeded to write a post of substantial criticism for the book, followed by another one. Chris Mooney responded first by pointing out a small collection of people who liked the book, and then dismissing PZ Myers' review because he was criticized and therefore not objective. Promising more on PZ Myers response soon, he then cherry-picked a (admittedly awful) comment off of Pharyngula and used that to once again dismiss PZ Myers' response.

Although I doubt Chris Mooney will ever read this blog, in the off chance that he does, here is my response:
It is not a valid objection to an argument to say, "I criticized this person, therefore he is not objective, and therefore his criticism of my work is not valid." If I wrote an essay (baseless or not) all about some sort of horrible aspect of your character or work, and you responded to it with a series of both general and specific criticisms of my essay, would you expect me to respond to your list or dismiss it out of hand because you are "not objective"? Remember that you sent your book to PZ Myers for review, and he has offered (granted, publically) a review. To then thumb your nose at his review as not worth responding to in substance because he was criticized in your book (something you presumably were aware of when sending the book to him with an oddly redundant little note asking him to try to suspend judgement until after reading the book) brings up the suspicion that you only sent the book to him so that he would publically criticize it, thereby drumming up potential readers based on the old pearl of wisdom that there is no such thing as bad publicity. If that is the case, then you are, frankly, being an ass. If somehow you actually do ever end up reading this, take offense to my assessment of your motives, and respond, I assure you that I at least will endeavour to respond to your specific points detailing how you are not an ass, rather than dismiss any response as not objective and thus not worthy of my notice.


Robert said...

Chris Mooney's book "The Republican War on Science" has often been recommended to me as a great book. I am pretty sure he was on the Daily Show promoting it. It is sad that he could have gone off the deep end.