Chris Mooney's Epiphany

It’s fascinating when someone gets so smitten with a theory that explains EVERYTHING.

Lately, Chris Mooney can’t stop purring about “motivated reasoning,” which he discusses at length in this article. It’s even given him insight into his own behavior:

Blogs”“and blog commenting”“allow us to respond even more rapidly (without calm reflection) and emotionally (without editorial filter) than before. They are therefore a very ripe environment for motivated reasoning to occur.

And indeed, I must confess that I have done this, albeit unwittingly until now”“and I challenge any blogger who writes about contentious matters to claim that he or she has not.

So that explains his shabby treatment of Matthew Nisbet when the latter tried engaging in the comment threads here and here last month. Mooney simply wasn’t aware of his own churlish, passive aggressive tone. Well, armed with this new awareness, I’m sure next time around Mooney will do a better job at concealing his hostility to ideas that are contrary to his own.

4 Responses to “Chris Mooney's Epiphany”

  1. Gaythia says:

    Before you get too excited about the post you cite above, you should read this comment in one Mooney posted earlier today:
    “Interestingly, by the way, her {Naomi Oreskes’} book could be classified as being part of a “war on science” narrative, which Matthew Nisbet doesn’t like. And yet it is winning a “climate communication” award!”
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2011/05/31/congratulations-to-naomi-oreskes/
    Personally, I believe that Naomi Oreskes can be praised without passive aggressive swipes at Matt Nisbet or anyone else.  In my opinion, both Orekes and Nisbit are effective communicators.    I think that Mooney can be also.  (See my take on that in comments including #33 here: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2011/05/30/education-biased-reasoning-and-enlightenment/).     I’d even go so far as to say that sometimes (but not too often) you stray too far over the line into verbal jousting yourself.  (Maybe even a teeny bit of churlishness here?).
    Maybe the best we can do is dust ourselves off and start anew when emotions get the better of us.
    At any rate, I do not believe that science should speak with one voice. I also do not expect perfection from any individual voice, just solid attempts at honesty, accuracy, reasonableness and openness to new ideas.  If we all didn’t learn something from the experience, it would be a waste of time.
    That’s what keeps me reading.

  2. Menth says:

    1.”Maybe the best we can do is dust ourselves off and start anew when emotions get the better of us.”
     
    This is a very succinct and good way of putting it. There’s a very special kind of amnesia that affects anyone who tries to remain civil and objective when discussing/investigating something they feel passionate about.  I think there’s an old zen saying about the mind being like a mirror that accumulates dust that obscures accurate reflection.
    I don’t read much Mooney, haven’t been compelled, but I applaud his attempts at honest self-analysis even if he doesn’t end up walking the walk.

  3. Susan Anderson says:

    If everyone would honestly check Nisbet’s conclusions and follow through on where and how he managed to come up with conclusions that contradict the facts, it would be easier to sympathize with those who think people who point them out are biased.

  4. Susan Anderson says:

    I get tribal because I see of lot of confirmed biased information being accepted by the 50:50 crowd.  Not everyone can do the research, but facts are facts.

    Chris Mooney is a favorite target of those who don’t want others to know the history or facts, or understand how science works.  A good read of Storm World, for example, would correct the idea that this is a guy who doesn’t look at the facts.
    The kill the messenger campaign is very successful, but people need to think for themselves, and not just believe things because “everybody knows” them.  Al Gore, for example, has provided a whole lot of truthful information.  Or you could look at the Monckton-Abrahams arguments and see which one is polite and relies on facts.

    I for one am glad that Chris Mooney continues to find a way to penetrate the fog where the fog is mostly complex and persistent disinformation.

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