Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Rattling my cage

Allen Small appears pleased that he has rattled my cage. Congratulations, Allen, you have successfully penetrated my carefully constructed mask of ironic detachment and amused indifference. Oh, wait, I'm not a hipster douchebag, and I'm not in junior high: I don't do ironic detachment. I'm a blogger: I write about stuff I feel passionate about, and I'm not afraid to let that passion show in my writing. It's hardly an accomplishment to get me upset or worked up: just say something egregiously stupid. There does not appear to be any shortage of stupidity in the world, thus I spend a fair amount of time upset and outraged. I can live with that. When I'm upset, I write; my high blood pressure is your gain, gentle readers.

Mr. Bum* and I have one thing in common, that is we are both skeptics of religious and mystical stuff, at least I am.
I'm not at all sure we do have that specific thing in common. Yes, we do not happen to believe that any deity exists, but I am not at all convinced that Allen is skeptical in any sense. Skepticism is not just "not believing", it's believing or disbelieving as the evidence directs.

*Allen knows my name; perhaps he does not realize that he is free to use it publicly. Let me reassure him (and everyone else): You are everywhere not just free but encouraged to call me "Larry", which is my actual name.
Mr. Bum's politics is statist, verging on Marxist/communist and of course I'm not.
"Verging on" communist!? I'm an openly self-described communist. And as Scott M. notes, "statist" is not a particularly well-defined term. (I'm reminded of db0 attributing unspecified "Maoist tendencies" to me.)

I'm more of an empiricist with principles, and debating fundamentals is not really my style. I prefer looking at evidence, which of course is one reason I am an atheist.
I've never seen Allen examine any, you know, actual evidence. About anything. I don't follow Allen's blog rigorously, though; I read him only when I see him on Planet Atheism. If someone can provide a link where Allen actually discusses evidence, I'd be much obliged, at least for the novelty value.

The right to live free, without coercion is a fundamental human right. It is not a right given by government or by a deity, or a proclamation by any authority. It is like oxygen, (the right to life) and almost as important. I won't debate that, and everything else that I believe follows from that.

Why won't he debate that? There's a lot to debate there. If these "rights" are almost as important as oxygen, then how have human beings survived for (at least) five thousand years under governments and social structures that seem to bear little relationship to Libertarian fantasies ideals? And what precisely do "freedom" and "coercion" mean? Since Allen himself won't "debate" these points, I'm forced to speculate: As far as I can tell Libertarians usually seem to mean by "coercion" the use of force against their own interests.

So, if you have read Mr. Bum's rants (or just scanned them), you might surmise Bum is a bully.
This quotation immediately follows the preceding quotation. But where's the actual connection implied by the conjunction "so"? The only connection I can make is: Allen supports "freedom" and hates "coercion"; anyone who disagrees with him is against "freedom" and for "coercion"; anyone who is for "coercion" is a bully; I disagree with Allen; therefore I am a bully. This sort of reasoning is not the mark of a skeptic or an empirical thinker. Allen calls me a "bully" simply and only because I disagree with him.

The essence of Marxist philosophy is that your life is not your own, you owe a debt to society by virtue of your birth and your upbringing, and in Canada and much of the Western world (including the USA) that is the philosophy that underlies our so-called democracies.
This is an egregious straw-man fallacy, one of the hallmarks of unskeptical thinking. Honestly, I cannot see that someone who actually is a skeptic could utter such an egregiously obvious fallacy. Not only does this statement reveal an almost complete ignorance of Marx's actual philosophy, but I also have explicitly and repeatedly disclaimed the label of "Marxism".

Why is he so upset with my New Years list?
This question again reveal Allen's complete lack of skeptical thought. I'm upset with it because it's wrong, and I wrote at length about precisely why I think it's wrong. What more reason does a skeptic need to be upset?

Why now? I've been ranting for two years, why is he so pissed off with me this week?
Sorry, Allen. There's a lot of stupidity in the world, and I'm only one blogger. Sometimes you just have to wait your turn. But I will reassure you: You're now on my short list, and I'll be giving your particular brand of bullshit considerably more of my attention.

He resorts to name-calling:
Hello, kettle? This is the pot. Know what? You're black! Sure, I resort to name-calling. As does Allen. The difference is that I don't rely on name-calling: I occasionally offer substantive critical examination of ideas. You'll note that nowhere in this post nor his recent comment does Allen actually offer a substantive defense of his New Year's list, nor a substantive reply to my critical examination. Their truth, I suppose, is revealed; anyone who disagrees, I guess, must simply be blind... or a "statist" (whatever the fuck that means).

He quotes me as saying I'm deeply suspicious of Libertarians and Randians. It's true, but it's not based on what they believe. I've been talking to Libertarians and Randians for more than thirty years: I've never met a single one who had a thorough commitment to skepticism, and I've met only a handful that were capable of thinking even a little bit skeptically about politics and economics. Allen is just the latest in a long line of Libertarian dogmatists and followers of Rand the Prophet.

So he is angry and frustrated with the media because now there are competitive viewpoints available on radio and television and because there are folks like me that spew libertarian propaganda and dogma across the internet.
When have I ever exhibited the slightest anger and frustration with "the media"? Why should I be angry and frustrated that there are competitive points of view? When have I ever advocated censorship? I'm not angry or frustrated that Allen can spew his "libertarian propaganda and dogma" across the internet; I just think it's wrong, and I'm unafraid to say so. Again, Allen simply refuses to engage with the substantive merits of his ideas: criticism is censorship, disagreement is bullying, and only need state the (presumably revealed) truth; it ought to need no defense.

Allen uses the words "skeptic" and "evidence", but I do not think they mean what he thinks they mean. He is "skeptical" of religion in only the same sense that a Muslim is "skeptical" of Christianity. Allen is not a skeptic; his protestations that he relies on evidence are at best disingenuous. Instead, Allen just has his own dreary Libertarian dogma, and interprets all disagreement through that lens: Anyone who disagrees must do so only because his dogma conflicts with their own. Lacking vindication in reason, logic and evidence, he relies only on history to vindicate his opinions.

If Allen wants to write anything of substance, I'll address the substantive merits. As long as he relies only on dogmatism, egregiously wrong slogans and cartoon bears with robot voices, I can't do much more than name-calling.

1 comment:

  1. Without detracting from your message, I would like to say that I think the real truth here that Allen doesn't like the tone of your message and that you are a communist. The real issue with him is your tone. I caught onto your blog from Planet Atheism and have linked to you several times because your tone matches my own. Your desire to call out people for being stupid is what makes me smile every day. I've been told several times that I'd do better to convey my messages if I was, 'nicer' to people. My answer to that is to ignore that advice because there ARE other people that recognize the tone, appreciate, and learn from it better than those who find it easier to learn from a more politically correct voice. Screw that, give me point blank bluntness, cut to the chase, get down to business, forget the small talk. As for the communist part, that was just ad hom with a weak attempt to make it not appear so, hence why he didn't try to refute you in the first place.

    Thanks for the brutal honesty! Keep it up!


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