Michael Shermer on the New Atheist Noise Machine
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
In his Sept. column at Scientific American, Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, echoes the very same warnings about the Dawkins-Hitchens PR campaign emphasized here at Framing Science and in our articles at Science and the Washington Post. He argues against the irrational exuberance of the New Atheist Noise Machine for the following three main reasons:
1. Anti-something movements by themselves will fail.
2. A positive message about what it means to live life without religion is absolutely critical. Other than selling books and further polarizing the public, where is at all going? To what end?
3. It is irrational to take a hostile or condescending attitude toward religion because by doing so we virtually guarantee that religious people will respond in kind. Most importantly we alienate many moderately religious Americans who otherwise agree with us on most social and scientific topics.