Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Stupid! It Burns! (agnostic edition)

the stupid! it burns! It's Tough Being an Agnostic
It’s tough being an agnostic. You exist constantly caught between those vast, angry pillars of religious fundamentalism and new atheism. ...

My first port of call was the Reverend Dr. John Hughes of Jesus College. Over twenty minutes, a cup of tea and a packet of minstrels he took me through one of the most potent challenges put to religious believers.[*] The perceived conflict between faith and reason. ... [W]hen it comes to “life and death and morality and reasons for existence” we reach an impasse in which rational proofs are no longer useful. ... [F]aith can be the voice that fills the silence. Where conventional reason finds itself out of depth, the believer turns to other forms of rationality[**] for their answers. So if not logic and reason, what compels a believer to their belief? “A sense of awe and beauty at the universe. The example of someone living a life of purpose and value that we ourselves want to lead.”

*You're at fucking Cambridge, learn how to use a colon.
**There's no such thing as "other" forms of rationality, just as there are no "other" forms of rocks. There is just rationality and things other than rationality.

I usually don't comment on this sort of egregious stupidity, but I do have a few words. I've seen any number of these idiots. Manji is not an agnostic, a person who sincerely doesn't know whether or not god exists (in the same sense I sincerely don't know whether or not there's extraterrestrial intelligence). He is, rather, a theist in search of a theology. He's not a skeptic, he's not looking for a "measured debate", he's just looking for a line of bullshit he can really buy.

4 comments:

  1. Hey man was going over some old stuff and saw this and thought I better put in an apology.

    You're right I'm not really an agnostic, I'm an atheist, go figure. And you definitely don't need to be amazingly accurate with grammar to get into Cambridge (or even particularly good at your subject if you wing it), as the colon thing shows.

    I guess the point I was trying to make with the article is that it'd be nice to engage with something that talks about the kind of stuff that reason can't have a say on. But I completely get your point, so yeah once again apologies for the egregious stupidity.

    Yours,
    Ayaz

    ReplyDelete
  2. OK, Ayaz, it's cool. But I'm troubled by this statement: "It'd be nice to engage with something that talks about the kind of stuff that reason can't have a say on." Why should there be anything reason can't have a say on? How can you "engage with someone" on any basis but reason?

    Just as a side note, you remark, "And you definitely don't need to be amazingly accurate with grammar to get into Cambridge (or even particularly good at your subject if you wing it), as the colon thing shows." What do you need to be good at to get into Cambridge?

    Typos are typos, no big deal (which is why I relegated the comment to a footnote), but I consider proper colon use to be far below amazing accuracy; it's part of minimal competence at written English. I expect my tutoring students at community college to master not only the colon, but also the comma and semicolon.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well I would definitely class the omitted colon as a typo rather than misunderstanding of the punctuation, though I and my editor probably should've picked it up upon proofreading the article.

    And I maybe over-egged it with what you need to be good at to get into Cambridge. The amount of people with the highest grades has gradually increased to the point that the interview is the only way to meaningfully distinguish between candidates. So I guess they chose me based on my ability to distinguish between the intrinsic and non-intrinsic qualities of a banana, answer some logic questions and talk about the philosophy of punishment.

    Though I guess that's besides the point. There definitely are huge areas of human life over which reason can have no say. Reason is value-neutral and necessarily hypothetical. Reason essentially boils down to definitions. It can say if x is true, then not x must be false. But it can never provide reasons in themselves.

    Reason might tell you that if you don't want to hurt others then don't do x,y and z and that's how secular ethics largely function. But as to why we shouldn't hurt others. Well we basically just assume that on trust/faith/instinct/basic principle.

    It doesn't seem a huge problem as most of us agree on those basic tenants, but it's unsettling nonetheless that when the odd psychopath comes along we can't actually use reason to demonstrate why he's wrong, all we can do is disapprove.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well I would definitely class the omitted colon as a typo rather than misunderstanding of the punctuation, though I and my editor probably should've picked it up upon proofreading the article.

    No worries. I make my share of typos too. Of course, I don't have an editor, and I don't publish under the masthead of a world-class university. ;) But it's cool.

    There definitely are huge areas of human life over which reason can have no say.

    I've responded in a new post.

    ReplyDelete

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