I don’t normally double-post, but there are issues involved in this that are of relevance here as well as at the Journal.
Reporters depend on smart people to explain things to them. That generally means people who are intimately involved in the subject at hand. When the subject matter is an issue of controversy, that dependence comes with a price – the most knowledgeable people are most often partisans in the debate. So while they understand their own side of the argument intimately, they are often dismissive of the other side. For reporters, the real treasures are those who, while they may be partisans, are smart enough to understand where the other side is coming from, and are able and willing to have thoughtful conversations across the divide.
University of New Mexico history professor Tim Moy, who died Sunday in Hawaii, was such a treasure. Tim’s specialty was the history of science, especially the history of the nuclear era. Over the years, I had occasion to lean on Tim’s insights many times in two areas – the arguments over evolution and its alternatives, and things nuclear. Among the subjects I cover, I can think of none more polarizing than those two. A frustrating characteristic of both debates, for me, is the way the disputants talk past one another, each assuming the other is venal, or stupid, or both. Tim, while he had his own views, was smarter than that. His insights into the nature of those debates, their cultural underpinnings, showed a respect for the participants that I hope we could all emulate.
My thoughts go out to his family, to those in the UNM community who surrounded him, and to his many friends.