Thursday, April 24, 2008

Investigating Atheism

Part I: Definition of Atheism

Current Controversies

This is a thin section, describing the publication of The Four Atheist Books That Everyone's Heard About. It's notable only in that the authors slip in "strident" and "militant" atheism, both pejorative adjectives unbecoming to an effort dedicated to "discourag[ing] oversimplification of the debate."

Causes of “New Atheism”

Another thin section, marred by inane tendentiousness and scholarly sloppiness.
As for the motivation of the New Atheists themselves, some believers (and also some nonbelievers) are inclined to interpret the present renaissance of public atheism as a sort of panic on the part of the secularists, as they realise that faith remains a powerful force in the contemporary world.[1]


[1] See Rachel Zoll's article 'Atheist authors grapple with believers' in the Los Angeles Times of 26 May 2007, republished on Sam Harris' website.
It is not necessary to speculate on the motivation of the New Atheists; to the extent that the authors mean Harris, et al., they can just be asked; regardless, it seems trivially obvious that asking any believers — much less the Fox News-like banality of "some" believers — about the motivation of atheists is an exercise in pure bias. Furthermore, the attribution of the footnote is inaccurate: The cited article does not at all support the notion that the New Atheists are motivated by panic.

This misattribution goes beyond even a rookie mistake and falls into the area of negligent intellectual dishonesty. It is intellectually dishonest to present a indirectly-derived conclusion as directly supported by a text by the placement of a footnote. Even if the conclusion is warranted, the author should quote and attribute the original text, and then present the conclusion as his or her own.


A mostly accurate section. The authors do not, however, understand the meaning of the word "irony":
Ironically, some of the sternest critics of the New Atheists to date have been fellow atheists.
It would have been ironic only if fellow atheists had not been among the New Atheists' sternest critics.

1 comment:

  1. Samuel Skinner
    They seem to have forgotten the whole evidence thing. It is a shame- at least the fundies come of as more consistant. But, I guessed sophisticated theology consists of closing your eyes and covering your ears with your hands.


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