Why don't Nisbet and Mooney frame Dawkins for the religious instead of slamming the closet door on him?
I got back a few hours ago from hanging out much of the day with a bunch of cool philosophers in the wet mountains (yes,it actually rained!) discussing Emerson, Thoreau, Darwin, Sartre, and global warming, my head abuzz with all kinds of interesting ideas, particularly about how to encourage and teach critical thinking (I'll write more about the day after I've digested this annual dose of philosophy a bit). Having been away from the internets all day, I thought I'd take a quick peek before turning in, and what do I find but the continuing exhibition of remarkably uncritical thinking and poor framing by Nisbet and Mooney, who have now taken their chastising of scientists to NPR and the editorial pages of the Washington Post!
It seems as if their response to legitimate and thoughtful questions about their Science article by a number of scientist bloggers (Coturnix has links to most of the relevant posts) is to dig in their heels and start crying even more shrilly about how scientists are poor at communicating! What is especially galling is their attack on Richard Dawkins, who, as Larry Moran notes, and even Bora "Coturnix" Zivkovic acknowledges, has done more than these guys (and their allies in decades past) have to shift the Overton window on framing to make science more palatable to more of the public; and in the process, Dawkins has also raised the profile of atheists in this benighted country, encouraging more of them to speak out publicly. So one would hope that this might give a few more of the less extreme religious folks some pause before banishing all atheists from the public square. Yet that is precisely what N&M want to do - tell articulate and widely read scientists like Dawkins (who has never been anything but clear in communicating his positions whether you agree with them or not) to shut up about atheism! PZ and Moran have hit back with typically trenchant criticism, of course, and my brain can't come up with anything better.
Before completely giving up on N&M, though, I would like to ask them this (as ERV has in urging them to stop digging the hole they find themselves in): why don't you, experts in media and framing, and working so hard to retain credibility with the religious folks, do a better job of framing Dawkins (whom you claim to admire), and atheism in general, to that religious audience, instead of telling him (and us) to shut up and go quietly back into the closet? Why not appeal to the supposedly tolerant and forgiving elements of the Christian frame that I keep hearing about (and that you know much better than I do) to stop treating atheists as evil and lesser citizens? Why not point out that atheists like Dawkins are no different in their humanity from religious people, and may in fact be morally superior because they do good deeds and behave morally despite their lack of belief in some eye-in-the-sky watching them 24/7? Also, point out that there are even atheists like EO Wilson trying to "frame" science to appeal to the evangelical voters? Why not lend a shoulder to Dawkins, Harris, PZ, Moran and the rest of us in pushing that damn frame to where atheism is not a dirty word in the US (perhaps the only "developed" nation where this is the case) instead of trying to slam the closet door shut in our faces? If you don't want to do that, I'd have to agree with Moran that your real problems appears to be with lack of god-belief far more than effective science communication.
I may have more to say on this and framing in general after I get some sleep...