In a recent post on Science Blogs, called Framing Science, the author takes some of us New Atheists to task for forcing the religious moderatesand others into overly cognitively dissonant positions.
Everything we know from social science research on attitude formation and beliefs predicts that the communication strategy of the New Atheist noise machine will only further alienate moderately religious Americans, the very same publics who might otherwise agree with secularists on many social issues.
So we should temper the message and be more like the flock I suppose. Wear the sheep's clothes while we stalk among them? How do you quietly annihilate nonsense?
He uses a Carol Tarvis interview from Point of Inquiry to support his view.
Well DJ, as someone who has read our book and who understands cognitive dissonance, you would know exactly what the prediction is. Well this is one of the things I think is so important for scientists to understand, how cognitive dissonance works.
When they go around saying "Oh look how foolish it is to believe such and such a thing." What they are doing is putting people into a state of dissonance. "I am a smart capable, wise, kind person and you are telling me I believe something that is stupid and wrong, to the hell with you!"
To understand dissonance is to understand how to persuade other people, because you can't do it by making them feel stupid that they hold such and such belief.
I think it is really important for skeptics and scientists to avoid that tone that we know what is right and you don't. "We are smart because we are scientists and you are not..."
Not only is the tone off putting to somebody you want to persuade, but you won't be persuasive, it makes the other person defensive and even more likely to protect their own views.
This is food for thought though I am not likely to eat it now. I need some more people, not on my team, to talk to about it. Any takers? Convince me that not only should I temper my message, but give me some ideas as to how without compromising the integrity of the message. I'm game if you are.