UPDATE: The comments at the Intersection—normally only one or two per post—have swelled by an order of magnitude on the “birther post”. Many commenters point out, as I did below, that Mooney advocates firm and uniform rejection of birther claims but a kinder, gentler treatment of equally specious claims about religion.
When pressed in these comments, Mooney simply denies that unsupported birther claims have anything to do with unsupported Jebus claims, and takes the opportunity to once again flog Unscientific America. He also pulls a Fermat, saying, “I have a marvelous answer, but the margins of my computer screen are too small to contain it.”:
I want to thank everyone for the comments, but I must say, I’m a bit dazed by this thread…it just never occurred to me that we’d have a birther/totality of religion analogy. To address the questions being raised under this heading would be tantamount to redebating all the issues that were debated after Unscientific America came out in 2009…e.g., mega time consuming, and probably not productive, I’m afraid.
Sorry, but evidence is evidence, and what’s good for the birthers is good for the faithful.
I would not have thought this possible in the fractious blogosphere, but I’m pretty sure that the decline in readership at The Intersection mirrors its readers’ recognition that there’s little intellectual integrity—but a lot of self promotion—to be found at the site.
At the Intersection, Mooney discusses—and agrees with—House Majority leader Eric Cantor’s stand that Obama’s citizenship is a stupid issue that should be dropped. Mooney says:
I’m growing increasingly convinced that outside of true mental illness, people believing weird things–or even being in denial about certain facts–is not craziness or insanity. Rather, it’s very normal, even if often lamentable. It’s human nature to convince yourself of things that humor your prior beliefs. In this case, the prior belief is a certain strain of Obama hatred, but it could be pretty much anything.
And that’s why Cantor’s stand is important–because as Brendan Nyhan explained on Point of Inquiry, the more we see a uniform rejection of birther claims across the punditariat and political world, and especially on the Republican side, the more they will become simply untenable. At that point, many birthers will still cling to their beliefs–but their wrongheaded view, much like the view that cigarettes don’t cause lung cancer, will no longer trouble serious discourse.
I agree! But isn’t there another set of beliefs that is just as untenable, but even more harmful, than the claim that Obama is an alien? And shouldn’t we start uniformly rejecting those claims, too, knowing that that strategy will eventually purge them from serious discourse.
I refer to religion, of course, which Mooney thinks should not be rejected, but respectfully engaged.
I’d love to see Mooney also call religious belief “untenable” and “wrongheaded,” but I’m not holding my breath.