Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Stupid! It Burns! (fatwa edition)

the stupid! it burns! Against the Neo-Atheists:
This has been enough to bring the full force of a neo-atheist fatwa crashing down on his head. The temple idea in particular made them reach for their best books of curses.

Oh my! A fatwa you say? I'm waiting with worms on my tongue* for the hideous, violent pronouncements of doom from the New Atheists. Happily, Appleyard gives us an example:

*Bated breath

“I am rolling my eyes so hard that it hurts,” wrote the American biologist and neo-atheist blogger P Z Myers. “You may take a moment to retch. I hope you have buckets handy.”

The horror! The violence! Rolling one's eyes is so clearly outside the bounds of civilized speech that Myers should be ashamed of himself.

Appleyard helpfully gives us a definition of neo-atheism:
By “neo-atheism”, I mean a tripartite belief system founded on the conviction that science provides the only road to truth and that all religions are deluded, irrational and destructive.
(This first part contains two parts, but I'm not here to critique Appleyard's math.) He's close enough for rock 'n' roll on this point, so let's push on. The second part is
Secularism, the political wing of the movement, is another third. Neo-atheists often assume that the two are the same thing; in fact, atheism is a metaphysical position and secularism is a view of how society should be organised. So a Christian can easily be a secularist – indeed, even Christ was being one when he said, “Render unto Caesar” – and an atheist can be anti-secularist if he happens to believe that religious views should be taken into account. But, in some muddled way, the two ideas have been combined by the cultists.
And the stupid meter begins to move into the red. Appleyard does not cite or quote anyone who says that atheism and secularism are identical, or that secularism entails that religious views cannot be "taken into account". (Secularism, of course, entails only that the actions of government should be neutral with regard to religion; per the First Amendment, Congress (and the state legislatures, per the Fourteenth Amendment) cannot prohibit the free exercise of religion nor establish a religion.)

The third leg of neo-atheism is Darwinism, the AK-47 of neo-atheist shock troops. Alone among scientists, and perhaps because of the enormous influence of Richard Dawkins, Darwin has been embraced as the final conclusive proof not only that God does not exist but also that religion as a whole is a uniquely dangerous threat to scientific rationality.
And the stupid meter explodes.

As usual, there's a lot more stupid in the article. Some tidbits...

Francis Crick and James Watson conceded that one of their main motivations in unravelling the molecular structure of DNA was to undermine religion.
Uh, yeah. The Nobel Prize, the thrill of discovery... piffle. It's all about undermining religion! And even if they were motivated by opposition to religion, so what? DNA really is how genetics work.

[PZ] Myers the provocateur announced that he had no intention of reading [Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini's book, What Darwin Got Wrong] but spent 3,000 words trashing it anyway, a remarkably frank statement of intellectual tyranny.
This is why responsible scholars cite and quote. In his article, "Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini get everything wrong," (which took me twelve seconds to find) Myers says, "I haven't read their book, What Darwin Got Wrong, and I don't plan to; they've published a brief summary in New Scientist . . . and that was enough." Apparently it's "intellectual tyranny" to accurately identify the authors' work and criticize what you've accurately identified.

Fundamentally, Appleyard assumes as fact that it is bizarre and pointless to use science to explain religion and "the human experience." In addition to the neo-atheists, I suppose Appleyard will be going after the dogmatic, ideological, and intolerant sociologists, anthropologists, economists, political scientists, psychologists, neuroscientists, etc. leaving only the literary critics... such as Christopher Hitchens.


  1. First, many of the atheists I encounter are *not* atheists - they are merely anti-christians, which is at best like having training wheels for atheism.

    But this should be offensive to any atheist who has actually considered their opinion and approach beyond its "I just wanna stick it to the man" mentality. If you want to hate on Xtians then go ahead but don't act like its anything beyond a reaction to the populist mentality.

    Are there "real" atheists ? Maybe a better way to ask this question is "are there people who have carefully considered their position as an atheist and what it actually means after having experienced the challenges that life has to deal out ?" But most atheists I encounter have yet to experience a fraction of a fraction of what life has to deal out. Its easy to be an "atheist" if you are living in your parents basement hitting the bong and watching Dawkins videos on youtube in between tokes.

    So this book comes out and the "atheists" are all up in arms since it seeks to find some degree of commonality between opposing factions. The irony is that atheists are equal in their capacity to bore to any TV evangelist or jihadist. These opposing groups have more in common than not - yet they get all emo when a guy advocates that atheists could learn something from religion. Its just two sides of the same coin.

    If you can define atheism as more than just anti-christian then you have a shot at getting some respect.

  2. At any point did anyone actually provide any evidence that any god exists? Larry, your initial link at the top does not work (mistakenly links to itself). In the parts excerpted though, there are plenty of personal criticisms, but nothing about showing that atheists are even wrong about god and that such a thing exists. It is about as convincing as claiming that leprechaun non-believers represent a grave threat to knowledge and intellectual discourse.


  3. If you happen to be following comments on this post, my response to the anonymous commenter is posted here: Stupidity and arrogance.

    Brian: I've fixed the link. Thanks for the heads-up.


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