Sunday, June 14, 2009

Men are from Mars, Fucktards are from Uranus (part 1)

Rod Dreher (himself a fucktard, but that's another post) interviews fucktard John Gray, who trots out all the bigoted anti-atheist canards (presumably satisfying Dreher's own fucktarded bigotry with a veneer of pseudo-intellectual rationalization). Dreher describes Gray as a "skeptic" about religion; one can only infer that Gray endorses the "noble lie" theory of religion, itself an intolerable ethical offense to anyone who calls himself a scientist.

Gray, being a little more sophisticated (and a lot more famous) than the typical religious fucktard, deserves a slightly more thorough fisking. (I'm assuming that as fellow fucktards, Dreher is accurately representing Gray's views in his own narrative. If this assumption is incorrect, the fucktardery should be attributed directly to Dreher.)

Gray starts off with the usual charge against the New Atheists (specifically Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and Dennett) are guilty of "a vulgar and intolerant form of utopianism." Of course, calling someone intolerant simply expresses outrage that they would have the temerity to disagree with you, in public no less; the only disagreement and criticism that's acceptable, of course, is against disagreement. And "utopianism" simply expresses disdain that someone thinks life could be better — especially when that improvement would come at the expense of a multimillionaire hack pop-psych bullshit artist such as Gray, who preys on the ignorance and mis-education of the general population.

Gray first starts off asserting there's "almost nothing new about the New Atheism." What does this charge even mean? Did Dawkins simply plagiarize The God Delusion from an earlier author? Who cares whether there's anything "new"; the question is: is it true?

Gray then gives us an enormous non sequitur: The New Atheism "is ignorant of the past, and the history of ideas. This is more than unfortunate, because the 20th century is littered with tens of millions of bodies of human beings, the collateral damage of atheism in power. It is undeniable that atheism, and an ideological suppression of religious belief, was central to communism." I do not think that word (undeniable means what you think it means. The connection between atheism and alleged communist atrocities is not only deniable, it is not even asserted by most conservative scholars of Russian history. Gray is simply making up facts to support his bigotry.

In general, philosophers try to avoid contradicting themselves in the successive sentences. Gray has apparently not received this memo: "Under Nazism, insofar as there was an intelligentsia, it was atheist, though it made tactical alliances with Christian churches, and some of the Nazis believed in reviving a "comic-opera Wagnerian form of pre-Christian European paganism." Why would atheists, apparently bent on an ideological suppression of religious belief, make tactical alliances with Christian churches? And was the Nazi intelligentsia atheist or pagan? (I could simply invoke Godwin's law here for the win, but real Fascism is making an actual resurgence in the West and Godwin's law must sadly be retired except in cases of obvious hyperbole.)

There are atheists in every intelligentsia, liberal, conservative, capitalist, communist and fascist, ... heck even Sprong shows that there are atheists in the theological intelligentsia. Likewise there are theists in every intelligentsia, even the scientific intelligentsia. So what?

"Gray pointed out that the durable assumption that modernization and the march of science through society will bring about secularization and the marginalization of religion has been refuted by experience." True. So what? None of the New Atheists make this assertion. Indeed it is because they have abandoned (or never held) this belief that all the New Atheists (not just the "Four Horsemen") directly confront and challenge religion; like the bourgeois state, religion must be defeated, it will not simply wither away.

"He brought up the example of Chinese scientists, doctors and other professionals today gathering for prayer and Bible study. Said Gray, 'These are not illiterate fools.'" Perhaps they are. I've heard Ken Miller and Francis Collins talk about religion; if I didn't know they were accomplished and well-respected scientists, I would draw no other conclusion than that they were indeed illiterate (in the looser sense of not being able to read critically) fools. And why Chinese scientists? I doubt Gray is quite so obviously racist; I assume he refers to Chinese scientists since the "communist" Chinese government deprecates religion. But again the honest (i.e. almost, but not completely, unlike Gray) scientist looks at all the evidence: what about the American scientists (in a profoundly religious culture) who are mostly atheists? (And giving special authority to the philosophical opinions of doctors and professionals is nonsensical; outside of their specialty, there is no evidence whatsoever that "professionals" have any better opinions than anyone else.)

"New Atheism, in Gray's view, is a cruder version of 19th-century Positivism, the philosophical position holding that the only real knowledge is knowledge acquired through the senses. It's hard materialism, in other words, one that regards metaphysical discussion as simply a matter of subjective preference." Why should we believe this assertion? Having read all the cited works, I've seen no evidence of a connection between these works and 19th-century Positivism. And who cares what Gray's view is? No one is required to have any evidence or argument to say he has a "view". This is typical weaselry to introduce an unsubstantiated opinion as fact. "This is the basic position of Dawkins et alia, according to Gray." Perhaps we might examine the position of Dawkins et alia according to... oh... maybe Dawkins et alia?

Furthermore, Gray presents this view as if it were obviously false, that merely saying the New Atheism is a version of Positivism is just as damning as saying it's a version of phrenology or astrology. But perhaps there's nothing more wrong with Positivism than there is 19th century scientific investigation.

"Liberals in the media take this positivist stance as a normative description of reality, and don't inquire about the connection between atheism, values and politics." Another non sequitur: what does an philosophical semantic and epistemic theory have to do with the connection between atheism, values and politics?

Gray asserts "it is understandable why the New Atheists suppress, consciously or not, the way atheism in power actually acted out its values." Excuse me? What precisely are we suppressing, and how are we doing so? Has Dawkins been named to the Communist-Fascist British Censorship board? Does Gray mean that we simply don't talk about the atheism of those who have committed atrocities (for various, complicated reasons)? Again, Gray is making up facts (a.k.a. lying); the topic has been addressed numerous times by both professionals and amateurs. (And do Christians suppress the way Christianity in power, or Islam in power has acted out its values.) Again saying that atheists "suppress" such examination dishonestly relieves Gray of having to address the substance of the examination that's actually occurred.

Gray goes on to say, "There is no logical connection between atheism and liberalism..." Well duh. There's no logical connection between atomic physics and liberalism either. So what? (And precisely what the qualifier, "in the sense that all of us in the modern West are liberals," actually mean? Especially in a paragraph that goes on to specifically distinguish and disparage "liberals in the media". The qualifier transforms the preceding from the vacuous to the nonsensical.)

He goes on, "[T]he bedrock institutions of liberalism come out of the Judeo-Christian tradition." Notice the weaselry: one can mean anything at all by the Judeo-Christian "tradition". By definition everything in the West is the Judeo-Christian tradition, from democracy and human rights to crusdades, Fascism and clerical child rape. Even atheism and Enlightenment secularism is part of the Judeo-Christian "tradition". Gray manages to sound profound while actually saying nothing at all.

The fucktardery continues; I'll respond to more egregiously moronic and dishonest statements tomorrow.

5 comments:

  1. Furthermore, Gray presents this view as if it were obviously false, that merely saying the New Atheism is a version of Positivism is just as damning as saying it's a version of phrenology or astrology. But perhaps there's nothing more wrong with Positivism than there is 19th century scientific investigation.

    That's certainly a lazy assertion on his part, but just to play devil's advocate for a moment; if the New Atheism was just gussied up Positivism, it would be cause for some derision. Logical positivism does suffer from being self-refuting.

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  2. Hence my comment: "Why should we believe this assertion? Having read all the cited works, I've seen no evidence of a connection between these works and 19th-century Positivism."

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  3. Yes, and I agree with you. I'm just saying that Gray does have some license to refer to positivism derisively, even if it's lazy for him to leave his derision unexplained, and dishonest or stupid of him to conflate New Atheism with positivism.

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  4. I don't think that Gray has license to refer to Positivism derisively. The Positivists were mistaken, but they were mistaken in an interesting and subtle way, and they made their mistakes in good intellectual faith.

    I don't see any evidence at all that Gray understands at all where or why the Positivists were mistaken, nor does he see the value of their contribution to philosophy. I don't think his thinking was any deeper than, "I heard the Positivists were wrong, and I hear the atheists have something or other in common with the Positivists, so I'll draw the comparison knowing that my uneducated and mis-educated readers (not to mention knuckle-dragging conservative bloggers) will be duly impressed.

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  5. But perhaps there's nothing more wrong with Positivism than there is 19th century scientific investigation.

    This was really the only phrase that I suspected fucktards could make hay out of, but on some reflection, I suppose that concern was unwarranted. I tend to reflexively evaluate arguments for any rhetorical openings fucktards might take advantage of, and the above statement, at first blush, reads as if you're saying there's nothing wrong with Positivism. After all, there was nothing "wrong" as such about 19th century science, it simply wasn't as sophisticated relative to today's science.

    But on some reflection, I suppose you were saying that both Positivism and 19th century science, while unsophisticated and mistaken in some respects with the advantage of hindsight, were valuable tools that inform modern day thought, and Gray is fucktarded to dismiss Positivism so cheaply.

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