Most of us know that Ron Lindsay, the head of the Center for Inquiry, pretty much took apart Chris Mooney’s feeble arguments for accommodationism in a Point of Inquiry podcast made during a Mediterranean junket (see Ophelia‘s and P.Z’s takes on the podcast). The only one defending Mooney, apparently, is Josh Rosenau, who didn’t hear the podcast.
I did, and Mooney’s performance is embarrassing, especially where he claims that there’s plenty of evidence that atheism turns people away from science but then admits that he can’t cite any. Mooney, of course, is incapable of admitting he screwed up, and tries to defend himself in a new post at the Intersocktion (you know it pains me to send you over there). His defense is twofold, and hilarious:
1. He’s created a Rorschach test. If you’re familiar with Mooney, you’ll know that every time he says something dumb, temporarily raising traffic at his blog as people get angry at him, he claims victory, arguing that he’s “struck a nerve” or created a Rorschach test for disparate beliefs. This podcast is no different:
The response to the show is, typically, polarized. The more I study how we reason on contested issues, the less it surprises me that on this topic, the things I say become a Rohrschach. (That includes this comment, by the way.)
Yes, A Rorschach test for whether you’re slick and willfully ignorant. How self-important can a guy get?
2. Confrontational arguments won’t work because worldviews, coded in the brain, are there for keeps:
I’m not saying it [the grip of religion on America] can’t change, by the way. Societies do change; US society is itself becoming more secular, although I doubt New Atheism is the reason. I’m just saying I have pretty good reasons for doubting there will be change in response to confrontational arguments among those for whom religion is a core of their identity. Maybe PZ will be more persuaded if I quote George Lakoff, from his book The Political Mind, p. 59:
“One of the things cognitive science teaches us is that when people define their very identity by a worldview, or a narrative, or a mode of thought, they are unlikely to change–for the simple reason that it is physically part of their brain, and so many other aspects of their brain structure would also have to change; that change is highly unlikely.”
Does Mooney not realize that everything we believe is physically coded in the brain, and that every time we form a new memory or have a new and remembered thought, that also causes physical changes in the brain? If you thought all day that you were going to have roast beef for dinner, but then see that turns out to be duck, that’s a change in a physical part of your brain. Do Mooney and Lakoff know how many interrelated changes in brain structure are involved in accepting Jebus? And why, exactly, are physical changes in the brain refractory to confrontational arguments but malleable to congenial ones?