It's Not about the New Atheism*
Let's start with the wrong view. The wrong view is that there are these two teams--the new atheists, and the accommodationists. (I hate that term--in fact, it's actually inane. Atheists are a tiny minority in the US. You need to have some power before you get to accommodate...or not. Better word: pragmatists.) Next part of this wrong view: since I'm an accommodationist, I've vouched for Chris Mooney, who is another accommodationist.
To begin with, that construal doesn't even get the teams right. I do like Chris's pragmatism. (Basically, he seems to think we should first figure out what really matters. Then decide how to get there. And he thinks full frontal assaults on religion might not be the right way. OK...right. I'll buy that.) But I like some of the new atheists, too. My husband and I sometimes joke that we ought to set up a Richard Dawkins altar. We are huge fans of The God Delusion, as well as other books by Dawkins. I also love Sam Harris's book The End of Faith. It's not so simple for me to put myself on a team.
So no, it's not "the new atheists vs. the accommodationists." The right view is that this is about fairness. Look at how William's "confession" that he had made up Tom Johnson (and duped Chris Mooney) was greeted. Confession: July 7, 2:12 pm. At 3:39 Chris Mooney comes on and says he's shocked and will look into it. At the same time, PZ Myers comes on and says Mooney owes him a "groveling" apology. Despite Williams' admission of serial lying, PZ has believed him and gone even further. He'd made up his mind, with no evidence, that it was Mooney's fault he was duped.
Watching the whole thing unfold, I thought--not fair. OK, duped. But culpably duped? How can we know that? After Chris's amazing revelations in this post, and especially after seeing the supporting evidence, I realized the reaction to William was even more erroneous than I had first thought. It was wrong to trust the guy--he'd just confessed to huge numbers of lies! It was also wrong to assume Chris had been culpable. His decision was regrettable--no doubt about it! But culpable for being duped? No.
Alright--main point is: by vouching for him I really don't see myself as taking a stand on new atheism or accommodationism. This is just about basic fairness.
Comments moderated. Be reasonable, be nice.
* Take off on It's Not About the Bike, by Lance Armstrong.