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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

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William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

More on Dawkins

Posted by Adam Roberts on 09/09/07 at 06:42 AM

The controversy stirred up by Dawkins’s latest book The Fascism Delusion really seem to be heating up.  Here is one recent review, from many, that takes him to task:

Only Dawkins, or perhaps his psychiatrist, can say why this subject seems to make him so angry; but he should be advised that the intemperate hostility he exhibits towards his subject is counterproductive.  I’ll eat my shiny peaked cap if this book persuades even the most hesitant half-Fascist to renounce his beliefs.

… [Dawkins’s] sense of ‘Fascism’ is lamentably error-strewn.  Dawkins has only a superficial knowledge of Mein Kamf Kampf, or the poetry of Marinetti; and he seems entirely ignorant of the much more subtle and intellectually stimulating work of Fascist philosophers such as Hermann Graf Keyserling, Alfred Baeumler, Martin Heidegger, Giovanni Gentile, Rafael Sánchez Mazas, Alain de Benoist and many others.  Only somebody who has mastered the complete works of all these thinkers could even conceivably be in a position to advance an anti-Fascist argument.  The lack of that necessary body of knowledge fatally undermines Dawkins’s right to attack Fascism in the first place.

Right from the get-go he makes the mistake of talking about ‘Fascism’ as if it were some unified quality.  Of course the truth is that there are a great many varieties and flavours of Fascism.  Do his generalisations refer to Italian Fascism?  Hitlerian fascism?  Islamofascism? Falangism? Crypto-Fascism? Brazilian Integralism?  It is meaningless to extract an idealised, monolithic ‘fascism’ from this myriad patchwork of human practices, even for polemical purposes.  Nor is it right to call Fascism ‘right-wing’ (what about the career of Otto Johann Maximilian Strasser?) or ‘militaristic’ (many Fascists are wholly peaceable).

Dawkins repeatedly compares the best of non-Fascism to the worst of Fascism.  He (again repeatedly) accuses Fascism of being an ‘extremism’.  There have been some Fascists who were extremists, of course; but this doesn’t mean that Fascism itself is extremist.  I certainly did not recognise myself, or any of my local Party organisation, in Dawkins’s bitter, hate-filled portrayal.  Worse, he does not seem to realise that his own position, so-called non-Fascism, is actually a kind of Fascism: a structure of belief determined by Fascism, dependent for many of its core ideas on Fascist traditions.

… Take for example this biased observation:  “Fascism seeks to impose total state control over all aspects of life, from the political and cultural right down to questions of individual ethical and sexual choice.  It valorises strength, and exalts the nation state as superior to the individuals composing it.” Not even the junior Nazi Party secretary who first introduced me to Fascism believed that! ...

Almost all of Dawkins’s claims are easily dismissed.  His main one is that ‘the fascist mindset’ (whatever that is) ‘enables people to commit appalling acts of barbarism and violence’, that it ‘encourages a tendency to separate humanity into sheep from goats, thereafter not only permitting but actively encouraging the persecution of the goats’.  Then he trots out the tired old example of the holocaust.  I’ve news for Professor Dawkins: yes, Fascists killed six million Jews in the 1940s.  But they didn’t do this because they were Fascists; but because they were human beings.  All through history Jews have been killed.  Killing Jews is one of the things that people have always done; deplorable, perhaps, but a fact of life.  Since killing Jews predates Hitlerian Fascism, and since it has carried on after the decline in influence of Hitlerian Fascism, I think it’s pretty obvious that this particular mass-murder of Jews had very little to do with Hitlerian Fascism, and everything to do with people’s inherent capacity for evil—something, incidentally, for which Fascism has not only an explanatory theory, but a remedy; which is more than can be said for Professor Dawkins.

... Though he accuses Fascism of being an extremism; he flatly refuses to acknowledge the extremist bias of his own non-Fascist position.  He is also blind to the obvious truth that his beloved non-Fascists have killed just as many people as have Fascists—more, indeed.  Why doesn’t Dawkins focus his polemic on them?  The reason is that a peculiar hysterical hostility to the very idea of Fascism blinds him.  (He claims for instance that ‘non-Fascists don’t do evil in the name of non-Fascism’, which would be news to all the senior Fascists hanged by the Nuremberg anti-Fascist trials).  All ideals – political, transcendent, human, or invented – are capable of being abused. And knowing this, we need to work out what to do about it, rather than lashing out uncritically at Fascism.  But Dawkins cannot understand this. 

I am not, of course, suggesting that Fascism has been perfect; no reasonable Fascist would.  Whilst it’s true that the Leader is the inerrant embodiment of the will of the People—ordinary Fascists themselves are prone to all the fallibilities of the human condition.  Fascism has never claimed otherwise.  But whilst Dawkins is happy to highlight the occasional bad consequences of Fascism, he wilfully ignores the good that Fascism manifestly has done in the world.  There is no mention in this book of the prodigious architectural triumphs, the autobahns, the economic miracles, or most of all, the sense of belonging, purpose and meaning that being a member of a Fascist brotherhood brings to the ordinary man-in-the-street.  All the evidence shows that Fascists are more likely than are non-Fascists to dedicate themselves selflessly to an ideal higher and to forego their own individual gratification; indeed for many people this is the point of Fascism.

Far from being a serious philosophical book, this ill-edited and garrulous diatribe contains just about anything that crosses the author’s mind: page after sarcastic page of attacks against any aspect of Fascism Dawkins considers an easy target.  Dawkins avoids the real question of whether one’s political understanding terminates with a structureless, anarchic and social aggregation void of meaning, or with an authority who provides order, stability and reason for living.  The bottom line is that Dawkins cannot affird afford to entertain the possibility that Fascism fills a deep-seated need in people. But the evidence that this is the case is so strong.  Fascism could hardly have been as popular as it has been, for as long, otherwise.


Comments

This is the best thing I’ve read in ages.

By Richard on 09/09/07 at 09:13 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Compare this:

I’ve news for Professor Dawkins: yes, Fascists killed six million Jews in the 1940s.  But they didn’t do this because they were Fascists; but because they were human beings.

to this:

There is no mention in this book of the prodigious architectural triumphs, the autobahns, the economic miracles, or most of all, the sense of belonging, purpose and meaning that being a member of a Fascist brotherhood brings to the ordinary man-in-the-street.

with this in mind:

Dawkins repeatedly compares the best of non-Fascism to the worst of Fascism.

--

You know where else you can get a sense of brotherhood? A friggin family reunion.

--

All through history Jews have been killed.  Killing Jews is one of the things that people have always done; deplorable, perhaps, but a fact of life.

This would come as a surprise to the Mayans. Or to the Assyrians or Babylonians, who may have killed Jews, but killed them as political enemies, not as Jews. When did this change? Look to ideology, and for that, we don’t look to human nature.

By Karl Steel on 09/09/07 at 10:20 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Shouldn’t people have at least moved on to Hitchens or Dennett at this point?

By Adam Kotsko on 09/09/07 at 10:51 AM | Permanent link to this comment

You’re right Adam.  Nobody’s talking about Dawkins anymore.  I’m surprised people even remember who he is.

By Adam Roberts on 09/09/07 at 11:11 AM | Permanent link to this comment

That was actually going to be my follow-up question: Who is this Dawkins fellow?

By Adam Kotsko on 09/09/07 at 11:43 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Okay: I’m a dumbass.

Now that I’ve clicked through to the wikipedia, I get it.

By Karl Steel on 09/09/07 at 12:18 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Wow, I’m impresssed. That is an incredibly useful analogy. By the way, which brand of fascism is supposed to be analogous to Reform Judaism? Which brand is analogous to, say, the Episcopalian Church? Or Buddhism? Or Jainism?

By J. J. Ramsey on 09/09/07 at 12:40 PM | Permanent link to this comment

hey everybody!  it’s a P A R O D Y.

By on 09/09/07 at 12:47 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Yeah, what kind of Fascism is analogous to the church of the FSM?

By on 09/09/07 at 02:22 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I suppose that next we’re all supposed to denounce the celebration of Festivus by nerds.

By Adam Kotsko on 09/09/07 at 02:38 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Festivus! Wait—are you calling me a nerd?

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 09/09/07 at 02:58 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Well, J.J., I think the most fitting analogy is the fascism of Augustos Pinochet. After all, he only killed around 11,000 of his political opponents and ceded power to constitutional government after the Communist revolution had been quelled. Beautiful moderation, I say.

By Tyler DiPietro on 09/09/07 at 03:07 PM | Permanent link to this comment

It’s a good parody.  I’m not sure that Dawkins would agree that fascism was just Nietzschean atheism taken to an extreme in a corporate effort to create supermen—but the point is well taken.  Atheism has its monsters, too.

At the same time, I think it would be a mistake to ignore the discontinuities between Nietzsche and Nazism, just as it would be to assume that Heidegger’s philosophy is somehow inherently fascist simply due to the moral failings of Heidegger himself.

By Herr Ziffer on 09/09/07 at 03:48 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Tyler DiPietro: “Well, J.J., I think the most fitting analogy is the fascism of Augustos Pinochet.”

You didn’t quite answer my question. Is it Reform Judaism that is analogous to Pinochet or one of the other religions that I mentioned?

By J. J. Ramsey on 09/09/07 at 03:53 PM | Permanent link to this comment

You know, if you’re going to level charges of “only a superficial knowledge of Mein Kamf“ against Dawkins, you should probably at least know how to spell “Mein Kampf. ;)
And if I’m going to comment anyway to pick a nit, there’s an “affird” in there that could use some fixing.

By Randy Owens on 09/09/07 at 04:28 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Don’t fascist parents have every right to have their children brought up to believe fascism, just as Democrats teach their children the Democratic way, and Republicans teach their children to be republicans?

In fact there should be fascist schools, funded by the taxpayer, and in Britain at least, it should be made compulsory for the main TV channels to make programmes about fascism.

Fascists should also be given unelected seats in Britain’s parliament system, and fascists can then decide among themselves which of them should take up those seats.

Anything less than this is just totally unwarranted discrimination and persecution of fascists, and complaints about any of the above are the hallmark of angry militants.

By on 09/09/07 at 04:58 PM | Permanent link to this comment

the jews == pinochet?

fascist logic at it finest.

By on 09/09/07 at 05:41 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Such substitutions are not always appropriate. and care must be taken when using them. However, fascism is a belief system, comparable to theism, and as such non-fascism can be considered as analogous to atheism. My conclusion: the analogy is apt

By on 09/09/07 at 06:27 PM | Permanent link to this comment

bigbird: “the jews == pinochet? fascist logic at it finest.”

Indeed it is. I hope that isn’t what Tyler DiPietro meant.

Kadin: “Such substitutions are not always appropriate. and care must be taken when using them. However, fascism is a belief system, comparable to theism”

Actually, theism is a family of widely varying belief systems that as a whole don’t agree on much of anything besides the existence of one or more deities. The various forms of fascism have a heck of a lot more in common than that, and they are all more uniformly toxic. One *might* make a case that Catholicism had vaguely resembled fascism in the past, or that dominionism resembles fascism now. Making the case that, say, Wicca was akin to fascism in some material fashion would be stretching it.

And I have noticed that no one has still answered the question about what brands of fascism resemble Reform Judaism, etc.?

By J. J. Ramsey on 09/09/07 at 06:44 PM | Permanent link to this comment

And fascists should have tax exempt status and a larger input into moral values discussions than all others of course. After all, non fascists have no morals.

By on 09/09/07 at 08:03 PM | Permanent link to this comment

“the jews == pinochet? fascist logic at it finest."

No that’s not what I was saying.

My point was only that fascism (in the very general sense used here) has its own set of nuances and continuity that is similar to that of religion, its not all on the level of Hitler/Mussolini. There are varieties of it that are more “moderate” than others, as people often point out about religion. We do not use those examples of comparatively mild and ephemeral authoritarian governments as an excuse to avoid attacking the root problem in general.

And yes, this isn’t a perfect analogy. I doubt there is any such beast.

As for which religion J.J. mentioned that best fits the analogy, I would say Buddhism. If you’re looking for religion free of pernicious doctrine and bad influence, Buddhism isn’t exactly clean. It was used for centuries to justify aristocracy and serfdom in Tibet, for instance.

By Tyler DiPietro on 09/09/07 at 09:23 PM | Permanent link to this comment

"Only Dawkins, or perhaps his psychiatrist, can say why this subject seems to make him so angry; but he should be advised that the intemperate hostility he exhibits towards his subject is counterproductive. I’ll eat my shiny peaked cap if this book persuades even the most hesitant half-Fascist to renounce his beliefs.”

Well, yes. Even William Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” was more temperate than The God Delusion; while he indulged in some personal attacks on Hitler and moralizing about the evils of Nazism, they made up a far smaller proportion of his books than they do in Dawkins’ book. And, well, yes, just like Dawkins’ book has proven to be less than effective at convincing religious people to convert (by his own admission, ironically enough--he’s said of his reviewers, “it depends whether you get a religious person or not ;_;"), a book like this on fascism probably wouldn’t convince any hardcore skinheads or members of ~*da people’s party*~ of the virtues of democracy.

“… [Dawkins’s] sense of ‘Fascism’ is lamentably error-strewn. Dawkins has only a superficial knowledge of Mein Kamf, or the poetry of Marinetti; and he seems entirely ignorant of the much more subtle and intellectually stimulating work of Fascist philosophers such as Hermann Graf Keyserling, Alfred Baeumler, Martin Heidegger, Giovanni Gentile, Rafael Sánchez Mazas, Alain de Benoist and many others. Only somebody who has mastered the complete works of all these thinkers could even conceivably be in a position to advance an anti-Fascist argument. The lack of that necessary body of knowledge fatally undermines Dawkins’s right to attack Fascism in the first place.”

Well, yes. Any decent scholar of fascism displays considerably more than a passing knowledge of his subject--my graduate teacher in European history last year knew Mein Kampf pretty well, and Shirer spent a good part of the opening of his book on the roots of Nazism ranging from Martin Luther to Friedrich Nieztsche. And indeed, I’d expect anyone writing about Fascism today to be familiar with Heidegger, Benoist, etc. especially if talking about modern European neo-Nazism. So yeah, an anti-Fascist’s ignorance regarding fascism would be just as unforgivable as Dawkins’ ignorance regarding religion.

“Dawkins repeatedly compares the best of non-Fascism to the worst of Fascism. He (again repeatedly) accuses Fascism of being an ‘extremism’. There have been some Fascists who were extremists, of course; but this doesn’t mean that Fascism itself is extremist. I certainly did not recognise myself, or any of my local Party organisation, in Dawkins’s bitter, hate-filled portrayal. Worse, he does not seem to realise that his own position, so-called non-Fascism, is actually a kind of Fascism: a structure of belief determined by Fascism, dependent for many of its core ideas on Fascist traditions.”

Straw man--virtually everyone has met good, decent religious people; I’ve never met a skinhead who fit that description. Also, unfortunately for Adam Roberts, there ARE examples of self-proclaimed anti-fascists acting in very fascistic fashions--take the French Revolution, where mobs killed people in the name of ~*Liberty, Equality, and Fratenerity*~! So yeah, if Dawkins was writing a book on fascism, it’d probably be fair to say that he himself draws a bit too much from the very ideologies he purportedly confronts.

“… Take for example this biased observation: “Fascism seeks to impose total state control over all aspects of life, from the political and cultural right down to questions of individual ethical and sexual choice. It valorises strength, and exalts the nation state as superior to the individuals composing it.” Not even the junior Nazi Party secretary who first introduced me to Fascism believed that! ... “

Maybe he didn’t, considering the fact that there are plenty of Fascists who only subscribe to most, or even only some, of those doctrines--not every Nazi was (or is) a homophobe, for instance.

“Almost all of Dawkins’s claims are easily dismissed. His main one is that ‘the fascist mindset’ (whatever that is) ‘enables people to commit appalling acts of barbarism and violence’, that it ‘encourages a tendency to separate humanity into sheep from goats, thereafter not only permitting but actively encouraging the persecution of the goats’. Then he trots out the tired old example of the holocaust. I’ve news for Professor Dawkins: yes, Fascists killed six million Jews in the 1940s. But they didn’t do this because they were Fascists; but because they were human beings. All through history Jews have been killed. Killing Jews is one of the things that people have always done; deplorable, perhaps, but a fact of life. Since killing Jews predates Hitlerian Fascism, and since it has carried on after the decline in influence of Hitlerian Fascism, I think it’s pretty obvious that this particular mass-murder of Jews had very little to do with Hitlerian Fascism, and everything to do with people’s inherent capacity for evil—something, incidentally, for which Fascism has not only an explanatory theory, but a remedy; which is more than can be said for Professor Dawkins.”

Well, um, yeah. There are a few fascist regimes that were, in varying degrees, indifferent to Judaism and jews in general--I mean, with the USSR it’s obvious, they weren’t particularly anti-semitic beyond their hatred of all religion in general; in fact, I’ve read somewhere that Stalin actually didn’t make an effort to destroy synagogues and the like, though I’ll have to look. In any case, so then yeah, you can’t say that the particular anti-semitism expressed by Nazism is (in and of itself) condemnatory of fascism in general. Of course, then the author subtly but dishonestly jumps track by switching to “Hitlerian Fascism” rather than just “fascism,” obscuring the fact that while you can blame Nazism for its anti-semitism you can’t really use that brush to tar fascism in general, which is exactly why you can blame various bizarre religious ideologies (Wahabism, whatever weird offshoot of Christianity the God Hates Fags people belong to) to some extent for whatever atrocities they’ve caused, you can’t really follow that up and blame religion in general.

“... Though he accuses Fascism of being an extremism; he flatly refuses to acknowledge the extremist bias of his own non-Fascist position. He is also blind to the obvious truth that his beloved non-Fascists have killed just as many people as have Fascists—more, indeed. Why doesn’t Dawkins focus his polemic on them? The reason is that a peculiar hysterical hostility to the very idea of Fascism blinds him. (He claims for instance that ‘non-Fascists don’t do evil in the name of non-Fascism’, which would be news to all the senior Fascists hanged by the Nuremberg anti-Fascist trials). All ideals – political, transcendent, human, or invented – are capable of being abused. And knowing this, we need to work out what to do about it, rather than lashing out uncritically at Fascism. But Dawkins cannot understand this.”

Well, yes--non-Fascists can be just as critical of non-fascist governments as they are of fascist ones. Pretty much any American history book talking about WWII will also mention how Japanese citizens were discriminated against or how African-Americans were treated like shit no matter how well they served their country. William Shirer wrote not only about the horrors of Nazism, but also a couple of memoirs on Gandhi and his struggle against the domination of the (democratic) British. If we require history books to mention how those fighting for democracy failed to live up to their ideals on many occasions, why should Dawkins be exempt from mentioning how atheists surprisingly similar to himself (don’t believe me? Look up “The League of Militant Atheists” on Wikipedia) failed to live up to his ideals on many occasions.

“I am not, of course, suggesting that Fascism has been perfect; no reasonable Fascist would. Whilst it’s true that the Leader is the inerrant embodiment of the will of the People—ordinary Fascists themselves are prone to all the fallibilities of the human condition. Fascism has never claimed otherwise. But whilst Dawkins is happy to highlight the occasional bad consequences of Fascism, he wilfully ignores the good that Fascism manifestly has done in the world. There is no mention in this book of the prodigious architectural triumphs, the autobahns, the economic miracles, or most of all, the sense of belonging, purpose and meaning that being a member of a Fascist brotherhood brings to the ordinary man-in-the-street. All the evidence shows that Fascists are more likely than are non-Fascists to dedicate themselves selflessly to an ideal higher and to forego their own individual gratification; indeed for many people this is the point of Fascism. “

Well, yes--any honest book on any fascist regime will have to mention its successes as well as its failures, if for no other reason than to explain how it became as popular as it did/why it lasted as long as it did. You can’t understand WWII without acknowledging that (and wondering how) Hitler turned poor-ass, inflation-wrecked Germany into a military-industrial powerhouse. Hell, Michael Burleigh’s books on ‘secular/political religions,’ Earthly Powers and Sacred Causes, as well as many other books about fascist regimes, have detailed exactly how people have found belonging and purpose in “The Party.” So if we expect writers on Fascism to do this kind of stuff, why shouldn’t we expect the same of Dawkins when he writes on religion?

“Far from being a serious philosophical book, this ill-edited and garrulous diatribe contains just about anything that crosses the author’s mind: page after sarcastic page of attacks against any aspect of Fascism Dawkins considers an easy target. Dawkins avoids the real question of whether one’s political understanding terminates with a structureless, anarchic and social aggregation void of meaning, or with an authority who provides order, stability and reason for living. The bottom line is that Dawkins cannot affird to entertain the possibility that Fascism fills a deep-seated need in people. But the evidence that this is the case is so strong. Fascism could hardly have been as popular as it has been, for as long, otherwise.”

Yes, exactly. Hell, people attacked Rise and Fall of the Third Reich for being too condemnatory and moralizing, and just compare it to The God Delusion and you’ll see how level-headed and rational it is in tone compared to Dawkins’ book. Other authors have described how fascist regimes have provided purpose and all that other good stuff (again, Michael Burleigh, see also J.T Peukert, who actually looks at how Nazism *failed* to provide this for many people) and have attempted to explain why fascist regimes became so popular. If Dawkins wrote a book on fascism and offered no thesis regarding its success more convincing than “fascists are stupid, lol!” he would be justly excoriated by pretty much any honest scholar of fascism. By the same token, I can’t see why we should go easy on Dawkins when he writes a book on religion and simply pins the fact of its success and longevity as “theists being stupid, lol!”

tl; dr: The author of this article has succeeded magnificently in proving that if Dawkins wrote a book on fascism, it would be just as poor as his book on religion. GG, Adam Roberts. GG indeed.

By derp on 09/09/07 at 09:47 PM | Permanent link to this comment

"Whilst it’s true that the Leader is the inerrant embodiment of the will of the People—ordinary Fascists themselves are prone to all the fallibilities of the human condition.”

That is the funniest sentence I’ve read in quite a while, and this article is a great riposte to all of the theists who believe to have countered Dawkins. Thank you!

“We do not use those examples of comparatively mild and ephemeral authoritarian governments as an excuse to avoid attacking the root problem in general.”

Exactly. As Dawkins nicely describes it in the (real) book, belief unsupported by fact, and the willingness to exclude certain areas of human knowledge from rational examination, are two results of religion, and both are terrible. That some religions are not as bad as others is beside the point; they all share these two bad characteristics.

By on 09/09/07 at 09:56 PM | Permanent link to this comment

he forgot, “admittedly fascists do relegate women to kinder and kitchen but look how bad society has got since those uppitty women demanded equal rights”

By on 09/09/07 at 10:48 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Wow, my previous comment actually went though? I’m actually kind of surprised, I hadn’t expected it to. In that case, I’m sorry for the swear words (said ‘shit’ and ‘hell’ a couple of times) along with the somewhat unprofessional use of the little ~*sparklies*~. I didn’t actually think it would go through; I initially got it from a friend of mine on Livejournal then copied and pasted here because I was feeling bored and wanted to amuse myself for a few minutes. I didn’t actually think it’d pass through; either because the moderator wouldn’t like it or it was too large to go through properly. Guess I was wrong. Thus, sorry if the author/anyone else is offended by the swearing, and also, Mr. or Ms. Moderator, feel free to delete it if you really want, like I said I didn’t actually think it would start anything. Feel free to leave it up or just edit the swearing out too though, aside from that I don’t think it’s *that* offensive. Sorry again for the trouble ;_;

By derp on 09/09/07 at 10:55 PM | Permanent link to this comment

“So yeah, an anti-Fascist’s ignorance regarding fascism would be just as unforgivable as Dawkins’ ignorance regarding religion."

The problem is that the theists consistently fail to point out why any of this counting angels on a pinhead impacts arguments over whether god(s) exist. Similarly, one doesn’t have to tread to depths of analytic philosophers who influenced fascism to discuss whether, say, subordination of legislative bodies to executive power is justified. It’s just a particularly annoying bit of handwaving and obscuritanism.

“I’ve never met a skinhead who fit that description."

So do you think that all the people who lived in Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy, Spain, etc. were uniformly bad people? That would be an interesting claim.

“In any case, so then yeah, you can’t say that the particular anti-semitism expressed by Nazism is (in and of itself) condemnatory of fascism in general."

But it is also dishonest to isolate antisemitism when the general point (rather than simply the example cited) is the bad effect of tribalism, jingoism, political absolutism and other evils on the political culture of a nation and its people.

“...why should Dawkins be exempt from mentioning how atheists surprisingly similar to himself (don’t believe me? Look up “The League of Militant Atheists” on Wikipedia) failed to live up to his ideals on many occasions."

He isn’t, but since he doesn’t do this (despite the constant insistence of his detractors, theistic or otherwise) I am at a loss as to understand the relevance of this point.

“So if we expect writers on Fascism to do this kind of stuff, why shouldn’t we expect the same of Dawkins when he writes on religion?"

We do, and Dawkins does spend time in his book disputing the relevance of the comparatively “good” aspects of religion. The point of the paragraph you quoted above this wasn’t against examining the successes of fascism, but using the successes of fascism as a counterpoint to people who assail its intrinsic authoritarianism. This is exactly what Dawkins critics do when resorting to claims about “charity”, “consolation” and the (somewhat tenuous and exaggerated) connection of religion to several highly regarded social movements.

“If Dawkins wrote a book on fascism and offered no thesis regarding its success more convincing than “fascists are stupid, lol!” he would be justly excoriated by pretty much any honest scholar of fascism. By the same token, I can’t see why we should go easy on Dawkins when he writes a book on religion and simply pins the fact of its success and longevity as “theists being stupid, lol!”"

Well of course the primary problem with this is that Dawkins says no such thing. He spends an entire chapter (number 5) exploring the question of why religion enjoys such longevity, and so far as I can tell “theists being stupid” is hardly his thesis.

It seems that, like most of Dawkins’ critics, you are more interested in demonstrating your own erudition by attacking an imaginary version of what he says.

By Tyler DiPietro on 09/09/07 at 11:56 PM | Permanent link to this comment

The funniest thing is that much of this parody is actually correct. The term “fascism” has been so overused, that as George Orwell noted, it has come to mean “politics I don’t like”. Most people don’t know much about fascism. Observing its historical results, I can say I would dislike it (considering my near anarchist views I don’t think I’d even need evidence to sway that way) but I’d have a hard time debating a fascist on the inherent merits of his philosophy. Part of the problem is the identifying of fascism with Nazi germany, which was rather aberrant (vanilla fascism seems to be more something found in Catholic countries) and didn’t have much of a coherent philosophy (it is said that at one meeting some proclaimed “We don’t want higher bread prices, we don’t want lower prices, we want Nazi prices!"). Mussolini was an actual theoretician of fascism (even if he never succeeded in creating quite the totalitarian system he envisioned and hence his tenuous grip on power), and we don’t think about him as much in part because he didn’t do as many objectionable things. There is one area where I can definitely say I’d side with the fascists on: they were the only significant group to oppose the annexation of Austria because they were the ones in power who stood to lose it.

By on 09/10/07 at 12:08 AM | Permanent link to this comment

All of J.J. Ramsey’s questions are answered in this John Emerson comment to a previous Adam Roberts post about fascism.  It turns out that Tibetan Buddhism is the Buddhism of fascism, so to speak.

But in general the comments on this one seem to illustrate some of the varients of Godwin’s Law.  Start with a Hitler analogy; get a comment thread full of weird stuff.

By on 09/10/07 at 12:40 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Oh brother…

Guys, his point in rewriting the article to trash Dawkins for being anti-fascist isn’t to compare religion(which is the original anti Dawkins was being trashed for), but to show through reducing the author’s arguments to the absurd how said author failed to in anyway engage Dawkins argument.  The original author who is being parodied constantly attacked Dawkins for writing a “diatribe”, but Dawkins built his book around reasonable questions about the nature of religion and his own moral outrage at its excesses.  The reviewer totally avoided this fact to emotionally attack Dawkins character.  That is a diatribe.  How can you not see what the parodist is doing?  Its excruciatingly obvious, which is the whole point of it.

By on 09/10/07 at 01:20 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Randy O: thanks for spotting the typos.

By Adam Roberts on 09/10/07 at 05:46 AM | Permanent link to this comment

We scientists should all be delighted to see Dawkins finally abandon evolution to which he has contributed absolutely nothing and turn his attention to politics in order to do the same.  .

It is hard to believe isn’t it?

I love it so!

“A past evolution is undeniable,a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/10/07 at 07:22 AM | Permanent link to this comment

TGGP says: “There is one area where I can definitely say I’d side with the fascists on: they were the only significant group to oppose the annexation of Austria because they were the ones in power who stood to lose it.”

The main reason the Austrian Cathicolo-Fascists were the only signiifcant group at that time is that they had spent their time in power attacking and persecuting the Social Democrats, workers, liberals, communists, Jews and any other anti-fascists.  They paved the way for the Nazis by this.

The article itself was one of the funniest things I have read in a long while.  Of course it’s not spot on; it’s an anaolgy.

As for the different ‘disparate’ types of Fascism, see the work on fascism of Mark Neocleous and Roger Griffin to show the underlying sameness of fascism.

In another anology between fascism and religion, note the high degree of mutual antagonism between the varieties or religion and the varieties of fascism.

By on 09/10/07 at 07:31 AM | Permanent link to this comment

It’s bleedin daylight robbery - that Terry Eagleton ought to be informed.

Nice One although I still cherish Eagleton’s opening lines..

“If someone armed only with the book of British birds had written a book on Genetics he could hardly have done a worse job than Dakins has in the “God Delusion”....

By on 09/10/07 at 08:44 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Julian: “Guys, his point in rewriting the article to trash Dawkins for being anti-fascist isn’t to compare religion [to fascism]”

This is disingenuous. Fascism is being substituted for religion, and considering how many diatribes there have been over the years about religion has been violent or oppressive, both traits that fascism pretty consistently has, it strains either charity or credulity to suggest that a tighter analogy between fascism and religion isn’t being attempted.

By J. J. Ramsey on 09/10/07 at 09:11 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Guys, his point in rewriting the article

Point?  I thought there was no point.  It’s a parody.

By Herr Ziffer on 09/10/07 at 01:38 PM | Permanent link to this comment

JJ Ramsey, you quote Julian’s thesis, ignore his argument, and conclude from the fact that (1) arguments have been made that religion is violent and oppressive, and (2) fascism “pretty consistently” has these traits, that (3) a “tighter analogy between fascism and religion is[] being attempted.”

The whole point of this reductio type of argument is that we all feel quite justified in criticizing ideologies we find noxious without engaging in all the fancy footwork Dawkins’ critics require of him when it comes to his criticism of religion. It would therefore rather clearly defeat the purpose of the reductio to substitute for religion an ideology everyone finds commendable.

On the other had, if the shoe does appear to fit unexpectedly well, it’s hard to see how that would make the argument any weaker.

By "Q" the Enchanter on 09/10/07 at 02:06 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I don’t understand the point of this post.  It might be to say that religion is just like fascism, but I don’t think Adam R. thinks that.  Failing that, however, it’s really hard to come up with a purpose behind doing this.  If he’s trying to defend Dawkins or shame his critics, then it’s a really dumb and needlessly inflammatory way to do it.

By Adam Kotsko on 09/10/07 at 05:05 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam can speak for himself, but if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say he wrote it because 1) it’s damn funny, 2) it demonstrates the dishonesty of those among Dawkins’ critics who demand of him what they would never expect of themselves, and 3) it’s damn funny.

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 09/10/07 at 05:19 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Richard Dawkins is to Darwinism what Paul Kammerer was to Lamarckism, a perfect charlatan. Both have been exposed but only Kammerer killed himself.

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/10/07 at 06:39 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Normally I comment to disagree with Scott, but this time I agree.  Even the inflammatory quality makes for a funnier comment thread.

By on 09/10/07 at 06:45 PM | Permanent link to this comment

"Q” the Enchanter: “JJ Ramsey, you quote Julian’s thesis, ignore his argument ...”

The problem is that Julian’s argument is irrelevant. You can’t pretend that the history of past known commentary on religion--both good quality and bad--doesn’t effect how current commentary will be read. At best, Julian offers a case for semi-plausible deniability.

“Q” the Enchanter: “The whole point of this reductio type of argument is that we all feel quite justified in criticizing ideologies we find noxious without engaging in all the fancy footwork Dawkins’ critics require of him when it comes to his criticism of religion.”

The problem is that many of the objections that the parody reviewer writes fall into two categories:

1) Stuff that is a silly objection for fascism but isn’t so silly for religion (e.g the difficulty in making true generalizations about religion versus the difficulty in making true generalizations about fascism)

2) Stuff that would be legit objections regardless of the topic (e.g. writing a whole book on a topic about which one has superficial knowledge)

Both those things weaken the attempt at a reductio ad absurdum.

By J. J. Ramsey on 09/10/07 at 07:02 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Excellent piece!

By Strappado on 09/10/07 at 07:22 PM | Permanent link to this comment

JJ, I think both your points are mistaken. Point (1) begs the question. An objection can be adjudged “sensible” as applied to religion but “silly” as applied to fascism only on proprietary, definitional grounds. In fact the very example you give—that it is “difficult” to make “generalizations” about religion but not about fascism—is not at all consonant with the practice of most believers, or even secular apologists for religion, who are quite happy to “generalize” about “real” or “true” religion as commendable.

As to your point (2), suppose you were in Nazi Germany and took it as your task to write a polemic aimed at persuading tentative members of the party, and perhaps others sitting on the fence, that national socialism is misbegotten. Now, it’s immediately obvious to you that the suadable population at large doesn’t lend their credulity to National Socialism on the basis of arguments due to Hermann Keyserling, Martin Heidegger, Filippo Marinetti, Alain de Benoist or the like. Rather, they lend their credulity to it on the basis of certain simplistic, but widely held beliefs about patriotism, religion, culture, Judaism, and so forth. The question then arises: In your research and development for your tract, should you focus on the works of Keyserling, et al., or should you focus on developing commonsense arguments aimed at refuting the most widely held nostrums?

Obviously, your choice here has nothing to do with whether you have only “superficial knowledge” about the topic, and everything to do with whether you want to be effective in addressing this issue before a particular audience. (It’s quite possible that Dawkins has failed in this respect, but I’m setting that issue aside.)

By "Q" the Enchanter on 09/10/07 at 08:24 PM | Permanent link to this comment

John A. Davidson writes:

Richard Dawkins is to Darwinism what Paul Kammerer was to Lamarckism, a perfect charlatan.

Finally, an opportunity to avail myself of some of the useless expertise I’ve acquired these past few years. 

Mr. Davidson, Kammerer did experiments designed to prove the validity of Lamarckian thought at a time when no known mechanism of inheritance existed.  Dawkins, however, explicates scientific consensus at a time when the mechanism is known.  These are fairly important distinctions—ones which someone familiar enough with the history of evolutionary theory to know Kammerer’s name should be able to draw.

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 09/10/07 at 08:39 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I would just like to say that this post is hilarious.

By John Holbo on 09/10/07 at 10:26 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I was wondering where all the, er, non-Valve-like commenters were coming from, so I Googled this thing.  It’s been linked all over, including Pharyngula and richarddawkins.net, so pretty much everyone who likes to argue with atheists should be turning up.

By on 09/10/07 at 10:46 PM | Permanent link to this comment

"Q” the Enchanter: “JJ, I think both your points are mistaken. Point (1) begs the question. An objection can be adjudged ‘sensible’ as applied to religion but ‘silly’ as applied to fascism only on proprietary, definitional grounds.”

Nonsense. The various religions are all over the map as to acceptance of violence, which makes claims about religion’s propensity for violence suspect. They don’t agree on what happens after death, and the afterlife isn’t even necessarily pleasant, which makes the common claim about religion being a response to the fear of death suspect. Even the idea that religion is about making belief without evidence a virtue, as opposed to just absorbing religious tenets from the culture or even accepting religion on what appear to the acceptor as reasonable grounds, is problematic. Find me a cliched generalization about religion, especially if it is from a polemicist, and you will probably find an overgeneralization.

This isn’t to say that no generalizations can be made at all, or else religion wouldn’t be a category at all, but it is difficult to generalize beyond the most broad and uninteresting statements.

“In fact the very example you give—that it is ‘difficult’ to make ‘generalizations’ about religion but not about fascism—is not at all consonant with the practice of most believers,”

Most believers are mainly familiar with their own beliefs, and even most nonbelievers are mostly familiar with the dominant religion(s) of their culture. I am reminded of a quote from Taner Edis on Secular Outpost:

“Dennett received some very critical questions, some of which pointed out that a number of features of ‘religion’ he identified specifically had to do with contemporary conservative Christianity in the United States, and did not generalize to other traditions and other times.”

http://secularoutpost.blogspot.com/2007/01/do-more-aggressive-skeptics.html

I am sure that most believers have an easy time *making* generalizations. Making valid ones is another story.

“or even secular apologists for religion, who are quite happy to ‘generalize’ about ‘real’ or ‘true’ religion as commendable.”

And then there are those like Taner Edis who point out that as nonbelievers, we do not have to accept the idea that there is a “true” Islam or a “true” Christianity, etc., and accept that we are dealing with often messy and chimeric complexes of ideas.

“As to your point (2), suppose you were in Nazi Germany and took it as your task to write a polemic aimed at persuading tentative members of the party, and perhaps others sitting on the fence, that national socialism is misbegotten. Now, it’s immediately obvious to you that the suadable population at large doesn’t lend their credulity to National Socialism on the basis of arguments due to Hermann Keyserling, Martin Heidegger, Filippo Marinetti, Alain de Benoist or the like. Rather, they lend their credulity to it on the basis of certain simplistic, but widely held beliefs about patriotism, religion, culture, Judaism, and so forth. The question then arises: In your research and development for your tract, should you focus on the works of Keyserling, et al., or should you focus on developing commonsense arguments aimed at refuting the most widely held nostrums?”

Quite simply, I should guard my flanks as best I can and expect that my subject matter will throw me curves. Given that, I should do at least some research on Keyserling, et al. to at least make sure that my conception of Naziism matches reality and cannot legitimately be charged as being a distortion. Whether that research ends up in my tract is another story, but I shouldn’t rely too much on common sense because it has this nasty habit of often being only kinda sorta correct.

Bear in mind that with Dawkins, we aren’t talking about a tract, but a *book*, which can go into more depth. If I were writing a book with the same purpose as the tract, then I would definitely go into depth and deal at least a little with the Heideggers and such, if only to have credibility with my audience and let them know that I took Naziism seriously enough to be serious in my response.

Bear in mind, too, that you addressed your question at someone who has read various apologetics and anti-apologetics and found much of the anti-apologetics wanting. Something like Robin Lane Fox’s _Unauthorized Version_, even with its imperfections, is a rare jewel, a brutally honest book about the Bible that is more interested in being honest than brutal. Often it is easier to find accurate damning criticism of the Bible from moderate or liberal believers than from actual atheists. Given my experience, I am a bit more sensitive than most to crap and mediocrity coming from atheists.

By J. J. Ramsey on 09/10/07 at 11:04 PM | Permanent link to this comment

That’s on me, Rich.  I tossed PZ an email when I read this.

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 09/10/07 at 11:35 PM | Permanent link to this comment

If I have my information correct, the paperback edition of The God Delusion will feature something very much like this written by Dawkins himself.  Although, rather than delusions about fascism, delusions about the nature of the Emporer’s clothes will be the fulcrum of the criticism.

By on 09/11/07 at 01:39 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Yes, well. The satire is not so clear; it cuts both ways, but not with a style that makes me think Adam meant it that way. It’s an attack on Eagleton for demanding more than is reasonable from Dawkins. No, it’s an attack on Dawkins for reducing the incredibly variable social phenomena of religion into an easily attacked straw target that might just as well have been called “fascism” or “evil stuff.” I think Adam meant the first option, but the way that fascism is so much smaller, so much easier to define, and so obviously bad to nearly everyone, and therefore just not comparable enough to sustain the satire, makes me read it the second way.

By on 09/11/07 at 01:51 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Somehow the software at that comment. We’ll try again, then I’ll delete the mangled bit.

Adam K. writes: “I don’t understand the point of this post.  It might be to say that religion is just like fascism, but I don’t think Adam R. thinks that.  Failing that, however, it’s really hard to come up with a purpose behind doing this.  If he’s trying to defend Dawkins or shame his critics, then it’s a really dumb and needlessly inflammatory way to do it.”

I think it would be useful to explain what the point is - besides being hilarious, which is the main point. (I expected the response to it to be more angrily uncomprehending - maybe the next wave of anti-Dawkinist will roll in and fulfill my prophecy.)

So here goes. (This is quick. I reserve the right to modify later, because the statement is a bit delicate.)

On the one hand, the post is a good proof-by-example that a characteristic form of response has to be unsound, as a counter-argument to Dawkins. (Because if it were sound, then Adam would have to have successfully defended Nazism. That is, anyone who wished to make an argument of this form against Dawkins would be bound to accept a parallel argument, defending Nazism.)

But to say the argument is unsound is not to say it is wrong or flawed, merely that it is (as it stands) insufficient - incomplete. It might be that this sorts of complaints against Dawkins can be converted into sound argument through the addition of further premises/argumentative apparatus. What would those be? Well, they would need to amount to a (warranted) claim as to what makes religion different from Nazism. (Because if you have that, then Adam can’t run his analogy.)

Now we get to the only element of Adam’s argument that is likely to be missed, potentially. People are likely to be simply taking it as a tacit premise that ‘religion is pretty ok, at the very least’ whereas ‘Nazism is definitely a bit of not alright’. The problem is that ‘religion is pretty ok’ is vague. In fact, the only thing really clear about it is that it is question-begging, so far as Dawkins is concerned. So: it is a non-trivial exercise to find something to say to Dawkins’ that 1) does not beg the question against his conclusions; 2) is not the sort of stuff that is going to play right into this parody Adam has concocted.

Adam’s parody is properly read as a challenge to thread this needle.

In short, the thing to appreciate about Adam’s argument is that it is, in effect, a demonstration of the need for raised standards in argument. It does not - emphatically does not - assume that religion and Nazism are ethically equivalent.

(That said, I myself tend to think Dawkins is too one-note.)

By John Holbo on 09/11/07 at 03:14 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Now that I reread, my comment is not so clear. Other comments upstream do better. Patrick McArdle quotes (I take it) Dawkins himself (I don’t know): “We do not use those examples of comparatively mild and ephemeral authoritarian governments as an excuse to avoid attacking the root problem in general.”

This is rather key. The problem with my comment is that no one really thinks ‘religion is pretty ok, at the very least’ is adequate defense against Dawkins. What Adam’s parody shows is how many arguments that might seem more forceful reduce to something similarly question-begging - given the character of Dawkins’ complaint.

By John Holbo on 09/11/07 at 04:55 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Richard Dawkins is a living demonstration that belief or lack of same in a Creator has a firm heritable basis. He is a victim of his genetic composition, unable to reason in response to the enormous and continually increasing body of experimental evidence that chance could not conceivably have played any role in either the origin or subsequent evolution of life.

As Einstein put it -

“Everything is determined...by forces over which we have no control.”

My determinism, which I share with Einstein, has taken the form of the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis. It is firmly based on the shared and largely independently reached conclusions of six of the greatest biologists of the post-Darwinian era, not one of whom was either a Darwinian or a religious zealot. To these six I dedicated both my unpublished “An Evolutionary Manifesto: A New Hypothesis for Evolutionary Change” and my published paper “Ontogeny, Phylogeny and the Origin of Biological Information, Rivista di Biologia, 93: 513-524, 2000. Here they are in no particular order of importance as they all were devastating to the Darwinian myth.

William Bateson, the father of modern genetics, Leo Berg, the greatest Russian biologist of his generaton, Pierre Grasse, Berg’s French counterpart, Otto Schindewolf, unquestionably the greatest paleontolgist since Cuvier, Robert Broom who insisted there had been a Plan, and Richard B. Goldschmidt who independently reached exactly the same conclusion reached by Schindewolf, that all of creative evolution was saltational, without the transitional, incremental transformations required by the Darwinian model.

The primary reason my own work has been ignored and worse, denigrated and ridiculed, is because, if it should be recognized and it will be, the contributions of these great scientists must be recognized as well. That the Darwinians dare not risk and will go to any lengths to prevent as internet forums so dramatically testify. I am studiously avoided by the Christian Fundamentalists as well because, like both Einstein and my six sources I too have seen no reason to interject a personal God into my science. No true scientist ever has. There is no place for religion in science and Darwinism is most certanly a religion. Charles Darwin remains its God. Its major patron saints, in no particular order, are Ernst Mayr, Stephen J. Gould, William Provine, and more recently, P.Z. Myers, Wesley Elsberry, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, not one of whom has ever published a valid word on the only matter which has ever been in dispute - the mechanism of a long past evolution, an evolution no longer in progress.

“If you tell the truth, you can be certain, sooner or later, to be found out.”
Oscar Wilde

“Meine Zeit wird schon kommen!”
Gregor Mendel

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/11/07 at 06:51 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Scott E. Kaufman

The name is Davison, as in John Davison Rockefeller, not Davidson as in Glen Davidson who also displays his knee-jerk Darwinism here for all to savor and enjoy. You are also dead wrong about Kammerer who was active in the 1920’s twenty years after the discovery of Mendelian Genetics which had lied buried for 32 years.

Thanks for exposing yourself.

Who is next?

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/11/07 at 07:17 AM | Permanent link to this comment

John Holbo: “Because if it were sound, then Adam would have to have successfully defended Nazism. That is, anyone who wished to make an argument of this form against Dawkins would be bound to accept a parallel argument, defending Nazism.”

Except that the argument is less a defense of Naziism than it is an attack on Dawkins’ purported arguments against Naziium, so even if the argument were successful, it would only show Dawkins’ treatment is wrong, not that Naziium is right.

By J. J. Ramsey on 09/11/07 at 11:37 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Come on, this is weak. I expected better from The Valve.

The simple fact is that people are capable of accepting incredibly weak arguments for their own position, while going out of their way to criticise the positions of others. Dawkins has written a weak book, with weak arguments that no theist who is interested in arguing these things would accept.

Now one can ya boo and write articles like this to smirk smugly with ones secular liberal friends or one can actually except that Dawkins, for the sake of intellectual honesty, is not the best argument for atheism versus the arguments for theism and that his arguments for the persistance of religious belief and its social role are hardly the best arguments and ignore whole fields of study, as a number of secular anthropologists have pointed out.

Seemingly to many on this thread and the author of this post, it doesn’t matter that that Dawkins doesn’t get his basic facts right, historically or otherwise. For example, on the question of the origins of fundamentalism Dawkins is simply factually incorrect. Let me quote from a review by Nicholas Lash, stating a point I have made on the subject many times:

“Of course”, says Dawkins at one point, “irritated theologians will protest that we don’t take the book of Genesis literally any more. But that is my whole point! We pick and choose which bits of scripture to believe, which bits to write off as allegories”. Notice that “any more”. Dawkins takes it for granted that Christians have traditionally been fundamentalists, but that as the plausibility of fundamentalist readings of the text has been eroded by the march of reason, “irritated theologians” protest that they no longer take biblical texts literally. Paradoxically, he has the story almost completely upside down. Patristic and medieval theology worked with a rich, at times almost uncontrollable diversity of “senses of scripture”. Passages of Scripture gave up their sense only by being read in many different ways. Fundamentalism – in the sense of the privileging of the meaning which a passage, taken out of any context, appears a priori, on the surface, to possess – is, as the Old Testament scholar James Barr demonstrated thirty years ago, a byproduct of modern rationalism: of the privileging of timeless and direct description, of mathematics over metaphor, prose over poetry.

Simply put Dawkins is wrong, fundamentalism is a diversion from the classic way in which scripture has been read, not, as he thinks, allegorical meaning being a objectional intellectual swizz when theologians are undermined by the march of reason. Other blatent examples are his reading of the scriptures, where he just plain gets it wrong.

Yet anyone who points to this in the name of scholarship or otherwise, explaining why this is a weak book, is defending religion as one might defend fascism. I am fairly sure, if at The Valve someone had utterly misread the whole tradition of literary criticism and said that it was responsible for the decay of childrens minds (as some right-wing critics have said) then you would leap on it. It is as bad an understanding of religion and religious history as the intelligent design reading of evolution as having spaces for some designer to step in. Yet because it is the offical enemy, religion, then any person who says otherwise is defending “fascism” with fallacious arguments.

It is the equivalent in my work of reading Ann Coulter’s The Church of Liberalism as an argument as to why liberalism is philosophically flawed. Or equally, that the existence of God is proved because I like churches and find them tranquil places.

Had someone written a book blaming Nietzsche for fascism, then good scholars would be the first to leap on it, saying its arguments were flawed and its research piecemeal at best. However, when someone makes the same critique with regard to a book on religion, then they are defending the indefensible - defending fascism.

By Alex on 09/11/07 at 12:14 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I figured it was best mostly to keep out of this comments thread; a joke explained, and all that.  Besides I assumed it didn’t need an authorial steer; it’s hardly rocket science, after all, and neither is it particularly original.  But John A Davison’s claim to have ‘exposed’ Scott got me scurrying to the computer in the hope of seeing some naked flesh.  To be disappointed, alas; Scott, though headless, is as modestly and soberly dressed as ever.

It is interesting the way people react to this kind of thing.  When Jonathan Swift first posted ‘A Modest Proposal’ over on his blog (I can’t find the post there now; but luckily it’s been archived) most of the comments followed a similar pattern, viz.: ‘it’s needlessly offensive for Mr Swift to suggest that the English upper classes are cannibals.  In fact the incidence of cannibalism amongst the top five percent wealthiest people in England is no higher than in the general population...’; ‘...wealthy people constitute a large and important group; cannibals a small barbarous minority; it is illogical to compare the two’ and so on.  Hitchens says something relating in a general sense to this in God is not Great, apropos of the Muslim reaction to Rushdie:  ‘the literal mind does not understand the ironic mind and sees it always as a source of danger.’ Literalness may not be the best instrument with which to dissect an ironic text, even a not-very-good one such as this.

On the other hand, we can probably all agree that most religious people do not consider their religious belief and practice to be as bad as fascism.  We could say something further about the fascist self-image; but Mitchell and Webb got there first.

By Adam Roberts on 09/11/07 at 12:23 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Then again, I did very much like this, from derp:  “So yeah, if Dawkins was writing a book on fascism, it’d probably be fair to say that he himself draws a bit too much from the very ideologies he purportedly confronts.” Way to segue from the subjunctive to the indicative, dude.  Which is to say, even the books Dawkins has not yet written and almost certainly won’t write are wrongheaded and flawed.  That’s some toxic power the man has; he’s contaminating the counterfactuals with it.

By Adam Roberts on 09/11/07 at 12:26 PM | Permanent link to this comment

John A. Davison:

I found your comment profoundly interesting - particularly regarding the “enormous and continually increasing body of experimental evidence that chance could not conceivably have played any role in either the origin or subsequent evolution of life.”
Also - please feel free to send me examples of your own work. I’m sure it’s genuinely interesting. Will send you an email ASAP.

Best,
JWM

By on 09/11/07 at 12:38 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Mr. Davison, my apologies for botching your name; however, that doesn’t mean that you’re correct as to the difference between Kammerer and Dawkins.  As noted, it sounds like you should know better, which makes me curious as to why you don’t: yes, Mendel was rediscovered in 1900, but 1) Darwinism wasn’t the dominant mode of evolutionary theory, 2) even Mendel’s work lacked a mechanism, and 3) the various mechanisms proposed all left open the possibility that somatic changes might influence, say, the germplasm (i.e. that acquired traits might be heritable).  You’re assuming Mendel was as important prior to the Modern Synthesis as was after it, and that’s simply not the case.

Plus (again), Kammerer’s reputation was as an experimental scientist, whereas Dawkins’ is as a popular explicator.

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 09/11/07 at 12:56 PM | Permanent link to this comment

For the record: I haven’t read Dawkins’ book (though I’ve read some of his opinion pieces on the subject.) So I have no right to an opinion of the books’ merits. I don’t think that religion is ethically equivalent to fascism, so I don’t accept Adam’s argument by analogy. I do think the post was damn funny and, in its way, appropriately provoking. I think there may be a certain tendency not to take the depth of Dawkins’ animus intellectually seriously (I know enough about him to know that). But there is no point in arguing against him if you don’t take him seriously. (You can dismiss him if you like.)

By John Holbo on 09/11/07 at 01:02 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I for one am looking forward to the publishing of my book on the history of evolutionary theory, that I wrote citing all the major works on it by intelligent design theorists and young earth creationists.

By Alex on 09/11/07 at 01:13 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam Roberts: “Hitchens says something relating in a general sense to this in God is not Great, apropos of the Muslim reaction to Rushdie:  ‘the literal mind does not understand the ironic mind and sees it always as a source of danger.’”

And I should consider Hitchens an expert on the matter, why? Yes, it is a pretty looking saying, and it looks superficially profound, but the same thing can be said of David Carradine’s lines on Kung Fu.

Ironically, though, many of the ones being literal here were the ones trying to claim that no comparison between religion and fascism was being made. There is nothing fancy about this. You implied an overstated and inflammatory comparison, period. What did you expect would happen when you brought Hitler into the picture? As I’m sure you figured out, my own “literal-minded” question about what branch of fascism was analogous to Reform Judaism et al. was meant to show just how nasty the comparison was.

By J. J. Ramsey on 09/11/07 at 01:23 PM | Permanent link to this comment

JJ, you say, “I am sure that most believers have an easy time *making* generalizations. Making valid ones is another story.”

But this is the crux of the matter. Dawkins is addressing himself to the problem of popular religion—of what “most believers” take religion to be. The god of the philosophers is not a problem, except insofar as it creates a pseudojustification for popular belief in “god” (i.e., with suitable equivocation).

Yes, of course “the various religions are all over the map as to acceptance of violence,” though that’s primarily because any given religion itself will be “all over the map” about it as well. And unfortunately anything, including violence, follows from a contradiction.

Just to be clear, I don’t think religion is entirely evil (almost nothing is), and I think it’s fair to complain that Dawkins often overstates and mischaracterizes the causal role religion plays in sectarian violence. But that’s not what is in issue in this thread. What’s in issue is the adequacy of the critical response to Dawkins’ project. That being so, I’ll integrate what Holbo says above, and otherwise submit on what I’ve written. Last word’s yours, if you want it.

By "Q" the Enchanter on 09/11/07 at 01:24 PM | Permanent link to this comment

J. J. Ramsey:  “...meant to show just how nasty the comparison was.”

Do you mean ‘nasty’ in the Christina Aguilera sense of the word?

By Adam Roberts on 09/11/07 at 02:52 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Paul Kammerer did do some genuinely interesting and perhaps valid work with Ascidians. Richard Dawkins never did an experiment in his life or dirtied his hands in the field. Neither did Stephen Jay Gould, William Provine nor Ernst Mayr. Mayr’s field experience consisted entirely of assassinating thousands of innocent tropical birds in the nineteen twenties and then blessing museums with their borax preserved, carcinogenic carcasses probably never to be seen again.

Dawkins has generated an entirely synthetic world all his own, a world which is based on nothing but his own imagination. All four pontificated from endowed chairs at three of our most distinguished institutions, Harvard, Cornell and Oxford. It is for that reason alone that they have been effective in gathering thousands of adoring sycophants. Contemporary internet blogs are crawling with them. Panda’s Thumb is even named in honor of one of Gould’s numerous books. All were accomplished wordsmiths, but then so was Ray Bradbury. There is not a single word in all the books and papers by these spokespersons for the Darwinian fairy tale that even addressed the issue which has always been the only matter in question - the mechanism of a long past evolution. All were of course simply atheist worshippers of the Great God Chance.

Another devout Darwnian, P.Z. Myers, proudly introduces himself as a “godless liberal” and presents “random biological ejaculations” at a new thread frequency typically exceeding 10 per day! Like Dawkins, he too has thousands of like minded “prescribed,” “born that way,” “dyed-in-the-wool” followers. Incidentally, the last phrase, “dyed-in-the-wool,” was the way Ernst Mayr described his own Darwinism! The Growth of Biological Thought, page 132.

“Birds of a feather flock together.”
Cervantes

It is hard to believe isn’t it?

I love it so!

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/11/07 at 03:25 PM | Permanent link to this comment

John (if I may):

Paul Kammerer did do some genuinely interesting and perhaps valid work with Ascidians. Richard Dawkins never did an experiment in his life or dirtied his hands in the field.

It’s impolite to come into someone else’s house and claim their arguments as their own.  This is precisely what I said, and the very reason your comparison of the two is invalid.  In case you’ve forgotten, I wrote:

Kammerer did experiments designed to prove the validity of Lamarckian thought at a time when no known mechanism of inheritance existed.  Dawkins, however, explicates scientific consensus at a time when the mechanism is known.

You take exception of the fact that Dawkins assumes the mechanism of evolution is known.  That, at least, is what I take this to mean:

Dawkins has generated an entirely synthetic world all his own, a world which is based on nothing but his own imagination.

Only, it’s not his own imagination on which he bases his work, it’s the work of hundreds of thousands of other scientific researchers.  If you’re feeling uncharitable, you can turn that into a he-doesn’t-dirty-his-hands argument; but there’s also a degree to which the dynamic between theorist and surveyor is valuable in all professions.

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 09/11/07 at 04:09 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Dawkins remains one of the great scientists of his age.

“There is not a single word in all the books and papers by these spokespersons for the Darwinian fairy tale that even addressed the issue which has always been the only matter in question - the mechanism of a long past evolution”.  Not a single - bloody thousands of them.  Accepting a theory is not a matter of personal choice, but whether the evidence is reasonable and cannot (yet perhaps) be explained by another reasonable theory that explains the evidence.

“Facts are chiels that winna ding” - Burns or CSI version, “witnesses lie, are mistaken, forget”.  What is my point in this paragraph - evidence is more important than opinion.  Dawkins is honoured in the scientific community by an earned professorship (evidence); hasn’t got his hands dirty (opinion flying in the face of evidence).

Further analogy between religion and fasicsm - neither like criticism - they have both built-in mechanisms for attacking criticism.  Science and democracy (and liberalism and anarchism and some others coherently defined enterprises) both thrive on criticism; in fact, both have advanced through criticism - evolution, in fact.

Mr Davison; let’s have your arguments against evolution and not just name-calling of scientists, philosphers, ‘liberals’,etc.

By on 09/11/07 at 04:26 PM | Permanent link to this comment

"Q” the Enchanter: “Dawkins is addressing himself to the problem of popular religion--of what ‘most believers’ take religion to be.”

That’s not quite true. He discusses Thomas Aquinas. He discusses the ontological argument. He comes up with a philosophical argument against ID of his own, the “Ultimate 747 argument.” And on all of these he stumbles. He botches his treatment of Aquinas’ Fourth Way, even though it is fatally flawed in a way that he could have easily pointed out (See http://www.heardworld.com/higgaion/?p=511.). His treatment of the ontological argument mentions Kant as the one who disproved it, but he misdescribes what Kant was talking about. It’s as if he didn’t understand how to knock down the argument, so he bluffed his way through by patching together stuff from the web and padding it with anecdotes. His Ultimate 747 argument is terminally vague. It looks good until you ask tough questions like how the heck one even finds a common measure of complexity for a really weird omnipotent ghost (YHWH) and a universe that is really weird in its own way. What’s worse is that all these problems could have been avoided if he had just been more careful. It’s as if he went into writing TGD with the very attitude that the much maligned Eagleton had complained about: he didn’t bother to learn much about what he was criticizing.

By J. J. Ramsey on 09/11/07 at 04:50 PM | Permanent link to this comment

All were of course simply atheist worshippers of the Great God Chance.

Dingbat. Evolution doesn’t happen by chance. It just doesn’t happen teleologically.

Sheesh.

By Karl Steel on 09/11/07 at 05:15 PM | Permanent link to this comment

No one needs to learn about religion—everyone always already knows absolutely everything about it.  Those who say otherwise are charlatans and/or covert apologists for the religious right.

By Adam Kotsko on 09/11/07 at 05:22 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Also, facts about religion established by history, sociology or textual exegesis can always be trumped if the person expounding this fact is in favour of religion to any degree.

By Alex on 09/11/07 at 06:19 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I have no idea how anyone could imagine I was not a convinced evolutionist. Apparently some think that Darwinism is a synonym for evolution. Such idiotic comments do not deserve a response.

It is hard to believe isn’t it?

Incidentally, it is Dr. Davison and has been for 53 years.

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/11/07 at 06:20 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Mike Rogers regards Richard Dawkins as one of the greatest scientists of the age.

It is hard to believe isn’t it?

By on 09/11/07 at 06:25 PM | Permanent link to this comment

”... and has been for 53 years.”

You know, I kind of imagined that that was the case.

The many dedicated defenders of theism here—J.J. Ramsey, Dr. Davison, that guy who cut-and-pasted the long Livejournal post—should know that there is a blog, called the Weblog, that some of the students of theology who scorn Dawkins in this thread hang out at.  I think that they’d be glad if you turned up there, and sort of compared notes, or something.

By on 09/11/07 at 07:34 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I have never once defended theism.

By Adam Kotsko on 09/11/07 at 07:53 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I do not defend theism of any form. I am a Creationist but my science does not require a personal God any more than it was required by Spinoza or Einstein. I have even suggested that there may have been several Creators and several creations. Indeed, there is solid evidence in favor of the latter and no one knows anything about the former. Gods are like that don’t you know.

When little is know for certain, every man is an expert.”
John A. Davison

“Men believe most what they least understand.”
Montaigne

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. davison

By on 09/11/07 at 08:53 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Way to spoil my careful non-linking, dude.  Now they’re actually going to find you.

But I didn’t write that you defended theism, I wrote that you scorned Dawkins.

By on 09/11/07 at 09:00 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I scorn all atheist Darwinians as if there were some other kind. It is my favorite pastime. Got that? Write that down, dude.

By on 09/11/07 at 09:23 PM | Permanent link to this comment

This is absolutely the most annoying comment thread in history.

By Adam Kotsko on 09/11/07 at 11:00 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Rich Puchalsky: “The many dedicated defenders of theism here--J.J. Ramsey...”

Bad Move: Partial defense = support

http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/badmovesprint.php?num=52

If you had paid more attention, you might have noticed that I considered Dawkins’ mistakes avoidable, which isn’t much of a defense of theism.

By J. J. Ramsey on 09/11/07 at 11:22 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Scott E. Kaufman

Mendelism never had anything to do with evolution anyway. Mendelian genetics is the genetics associated with sexual reproduction. There is not a shred of evidence that any organism reproducing sexually has ever undergone a significant evolutionary change. The vast majority of all such creatures were doomed to extinction unchanged from their original state. Others degenerated before disappearing, a process Schindewolf called “typolysis.” Extinction was the most important feature of what I, with Robert Broom, believe was a planned evolution. Without it there could have been no progress. The number of organisms capable of leaving progeny significantly different from themselves has steadily decreased with geological time until today such creatures apparently no longer exist. I have presented these views in my papers so I will not defend them here.

The entire Darwinian model is wrong, dead wrong. With the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis I have presented an alternative evolutionary model which remains in concert with everything revealed by both the fossil record and the experimental laboratory. If it proves to be erroneous, and I do not anticipate that it will, nothing will save Darwinian mysticism from oblivion.

To imagine that it is intrinsic for inert matter to spontaneously assemble itself into a replicating, evolving organism even once is transparently absurd. Yet that is exactly what every Darwinist blindly assumes. The mystery is that tens of thousands still support such a scenario. There is no middle ground. Since chance has been eliminated as a creative element, evolution must have been planned. Furthermore, there is every reason to believe that Homo sapiens is the terminal mammal species ever to appear. Sadly, judging from what we see around us, he may also prove to be the one with the shortest life span, in my opinion no more than a few hundred thousand years.

It is hard to believe isn’t it?

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/12/07 at 05:59 AM | Permanent link to this comment

John A. Davison: “Since chance has been eliminated as a creative element, evolution must have been planned.”

What does “planned” mean?

Like how a rock balanced on the edge of a cliff is “planning” to fall off?

By on 09/12/07 at 11:26 AM | Permanent link to this comment

"The number of organisms capable of leaving progeny significantly different from themselves has steadily decreased with geological time until today such creatures apparently no longer exist.”

John, I’ll give you an analogy. Here’s a Las Vegas jackpot machine that guarantees to return you an average 99.999999999999999999999 per cent of your stake. Even so, after long enough, you don’t have any money left.

Similarly, if sexual reproduction were 99.999999999999999999999 per cent efficient - or better - because it’s not 100 per cent efficient (we won’t go into the boring proof of that now) eventualy after long enough you get a decendant that’s only 75 per cent the same as its ancestor, then eventually one that’s only 25 per cent of the original ancestor left, and so on (we’ll also ignore the fact that certain bits can’t change because change would leave a dead organism) If, in these tiny but fundamentally random changes, one change turns up that gives those creatures that have it the most minuscule advantage, just like the jackpot machine that has a 0.000000000000000000001 per cent advantage over you, eventually they’ll win and the others will lose. Big leaps are not necessary.

“To imagine that it is intrinsic for inert matter to spontaneously assemble itself into a replicating, evolving organism even once is transparently absurd.”

To imagine that it happened suddenly certainly would be absurd. But yes, I can imagine that in half a billion years (do you have the inagination to understand how long that is, John?) of chemical reactions, self-replication molecules turned up which eventually developed the characteristics we call life.

“Furthermore, there is every reason to believe that Homo sapiens is the terminal mammal species ever to appear. “

What about the polar bear, to name but one?

By on 09/12/07 at 11:45 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I’m coming a little late to this party, but can I ask a question?  Why is it considered a valid argument--both by the parodic reviewer and by actual commenters on this thread--to say that Dawkins’ arguments are not likely to convince theists of the value of atheism or the non-value of theism?  Since when is conversion the goal?  After all, there have been some very well-written books--starting with, say, the Bible--arguing for theism, but none of them are sufficient to make me believe in God.  Are they failures on those grounds?  I take the point of Dawkins, Hitchens, et al. to be the establishment of atheism as a credible, uncompromising intellectual movement, as opposed to the standard “but religionists are very nice people” version.  As a resident of a country where an atheist could not be elected President, this seems like a valid project to me.

By tomemos on 09/12/07 at 01:38 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I give up.

By on 09/12/07 at 05:59 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I’m frankly shocked that John A. Davison was unable to convince people of his extremely idiosyncratic views.

By Adam Kotsko on 09/12/07 at 06:11 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I have even suggested that there may have been several Creators and several creations. Indeed, there is solid evidence in favor of the latter and no one knows anything about the former.

There’s solid evidence for multiple gods being responsible for evolution?  I’d love to see it.

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 09/12/07 at 06:33 PM | Permanent link to this comment

tomemos: “Why is it considered a valid argument--both by the parodic reviewer and by actual commenters on this thread--to say that Dawkins’ arguments are not likely to convince theists of the value of atheism or the non-value of theism?”

Well, it’s an argument from the parodic reviewer because it’s such an insistently repeated argument from the people being parodied.

Why is it so often repeated by the people being parodied?  I’d guess it’s because that for them, conversion really is assumed to be the goal.

By on 09/12/07 at 06:38 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Kaufman

Read my comment again.

By on 09/12/07 at 07:25 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I am not in the least interested in convincing anyone of my views. I am a scientist, not an evangelist or a rabid atheist either. It is my task to enlighten which is what I have always tried to do. It is also my responsibilty to expose chicanery and blind ideology which I have also always tried to do, often with remarkable success. To paraphrase an old saw -

“You can lead a man to the literature but you cannot make him comprehend it.”
John A. Davison

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable”
John A. Davison

By on 09/12/07 at 07:45 PM | Permanent link to this comment

"Well, it’s an argument from the parodic reviewer because it’s such an insistently repeated argument from the people being parodied.”

Sorry, that must have looked like a stupid question.  I got that that’s why this appears in the parody; I was clumsily trying to indicate that many people on this thread derided the parody and then argued in exactly the way the parody … parodied.

By tomemos on 09/12/07 at 08:09 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I should add to my comment above that almost all of the people against Dawkins get what he’s doing wrong, at the level of overall strategy.  As far as I can tell, he’s trying to build atheism into a recognized subculture that has to be taken into account in public life; for instance, he makes explicit comparisons between atheists and gays.  That’s not a strategy that relies on conversion—I’d say, any more than gays convert, but that would bring up a whole inappropriate side issue of whether the comparison works because homosexuality is innate.  It’s really not “I’m trying to convert everyone to atheism, so I’m going to make a great, learned argument against theism”, it’s “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.”

I don’t understand why certain sane anti-Dawkins people in this thread who I’ve argued with before don’t understand this.

By on 09/12/07 at 08:50 PM | Permanent link to this comment

In my carefully considered opinion Richard Dawkins is either a charlatan, mentally impaired or both, most probably both. You may quote me. It has been firmly established that whether we believe in a Creator or not has an established verified heritable basis. Dawkins, like his New World counterpart P.Z. Myers, is homozygous for both Darwinism and atheism, DDAA, which may even be pleiotropic manifestations of the same genetic locus. I have yet to meet a professed Darwinian who would even dream of a planned universe and in my 50 odd years in Academia I have met plenty of them. They are genetically incapable of it. Myers has even added the scarlet A to his home page, right along with his “godless liberalism’ and his equally revealing “random biological ejaculations.” The man is a Freudian psychiatrist’s dream come true! Such people have never been scientists and never will be.

I ask anyone anywhere to name a single scientist of note that would even dream of flagrantly denying a Creator. They won’t because they can’t.

It is hard to believe isn’t it?

I love it so!

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/12/07 at 10:11 PM | Permanent link to this comment

JAD, I was starting to compose a response to your comment, but then I realized that you are not a person, but rather a bot that has found some way to post automated comments here.  Your endless repetition of “It is hard to believe isn’t it?” “I love it so!” and “random biological ejaculations” gives you away--nice try, though!

By tomemos on 09/12/07 at 11:00 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I don’t know, Tom.  I’m almost inclined to trust a man who quotes himself in an autosig.  It’s like so, you know, dignified.

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 09/12/07 at 11:37 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Dr John:  “In my carefully considered opinion Richard Dawkins is either a charlatan, mentally impaired or both, most probably both.

Well if that’s your considered opinion, then I’m persuaded.  I mean, if it were just your opinion, I’d reject it; but since it’s an opinion that’s been considered ...

By Adam Roberts on 09/13/07 at 03:15 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Nonsense!

There is no response to my challenge because there can be none. It is as simple as that.

I love it so!

It is hard to believe isn’t it?

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
Johh A. Davison

By on 09/13/07 at 03:55 AM | Permanent link to this comment

"Wow, I’m impresssed. That is an incredibly useful analogy. By the way, which brand of fascism is supposed to be analogous to Reform Judaism? Which brand is analogous to, say, the Episcopalian Church? Or Buddhism? Or Jainism?”

I know you’re stupid, Ramsey, but you often surprise me at just how stupid. The parody points out errors in reasoning among critics of Dawkins; detailed analogies between fascism and various religions are irrelevant and in fact your request is an example of the same sort of error. Dawkins’ general critique of the existence of God doesn’t require any such detailed discussion of religion, any more than one must master the finer aspects of fascism to condemn it.

By on 09/13/07 at 04:05 AM | Permanent link to this comment

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20738173/?GT1=10357#storyContinued

I refer all to this report which supports my repeated claim that creative evolution is no longer in progress and that all that we see is rampant extinction. Furthermore, I see no sign that this will or can be reversed.

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/13/07 at 04:07 AM | Permanent link to this comment

"Since when is conversion the goal?”

Since Dawkins wrote in the book that that was his goal.

By on 09/13/07 at 04:07 AM | Permanent link to this comment

"Since when is conversion the goal?”

Since Dawkins wrote in the book that that was his goal.
----
That wasn’t the goal.  He explicitly said that he couldn’t hope to convert the staunch religionists as they are immune to any evidence against their beliefs. 

1) He wanted get atheists to out themselves (he launched the Come Out campaign along with the book http://richarddawkins.net/) and to generate discussion on the subject. 

Most people, from my experience, don’t even consider why they believe what they believe.

2) Write a popular book.  TGD has spent 1 year on the NY Times bestseller list with more than a million copies in print.

By on 09/13/07 at 04:39 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam K. “This is absolutely the most annoying comment thread in history.

Quite an achievement, in a dire sort of way.

No one needs to learn about religion—-everyone always already knows absolutely everything about it.  Those who say otherwise are charlatans and/or covert apologists for the religious right.

This is, of course, a very fair point.  But, I wonder whether the most appropriate line might not be somewhere in between (a) ‘you need to have invested in at least a decade of dedicated study of x before you are permitted to have an opinion (or, more to the point, a negative opinion) about x, and (b) you need know nothing about x to attack it?

Eagleton’s barb, quoted above a few times, about how The God Delusion is like an attack on avian zoology by somebody who has read only The Observer book of British Birds has some point.  As many antiDawkinists have pointed out, there have been a great many devout and extraordinarily intelligent thinkers who have pondered and debated these questions with great subtlety and nuance and insight, many of them spending their entire lifetimes doing so.  But, the thing is, their lifetime of pondering never precedes their devotion; first they believe, often in childhood; then they bring their enormous intellects to bear on the issues that belief entails.  The doing of things in that order seems to me really an immensely significant point.

As far as Dawkins focussing his attack on the theological equivalent of the Observer Book of Common Birds rather than, I don’t know, Kierkegaard; conceivably that is simply a result of his own laziness and ignorance, and many have asserted; but maybe it’s something more deliberate, a sense that the majority of religious people have faith that is based on, effectively, the theological equivalent of the Observer Book of Common Birds?

By Adam Roberts on 09/13/07 at 04:48 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I seem to have mislaid my snide and jokey voice for the moment, but whilst that mood holds.

Leafing through old copies of Journal of Theological Studies, as I like to do, I came upon this quotation from David Pailin, (April 1997):

Examination of the content and status of claims about the reality of God has led some theologians to conclude, to the surprise (and annoyance) of many believers, that religion will only have a healthy future if it abandons such claims.  For them, as Alasdair MacIntyre once put it, ‘understanding Christianity is incompatible with believing in it’ because its ‘form of belief … has lost the social context which once made it comprehensible.’

Because the crowd I hang out with includes a lot of university people, many religiously observant ones included, I’d say the religious people I know would tend, in my experience, to endorse this statement.  Certainly, they find Dawkins’s attack on religion to be irrelevant to, or crudely misrepresentative of, their own praxis and beliefs.  But I find it hard to believe that most of the world’s 4 billion religious humans (not just the fundamentalists, neither) would find such a claim acceptable.  For them the reality of God is surely a simple truth.  It’s the difference, there, between the “…has led some theologians to conclude…” and the “… to the surprise (and annoyance) of many believers”.  Dawkins, I suppose, has structured his book around the beliefs of the latter, not the former.

By Adam Roberts on 09/13/07 at 04:50 AM | Permanent link to this comment

John A.  “Nonsense! There is no response to my challenge because there can be none. It is as simple as that.

Your challenge was: “I ask anyone anywhere to name a single scientist of note that would even dream of flagrantly denying a Creator. They won’t because they can’t.”

I’d suggest to you that nobody has replied to this challenge not because they cannot, but because they believe the phrase ‘a single scientist of note’ actually codes ‘a single scientist that I, Dr John A Davison, personally hold in good odour’; and that therefore the listing of any of the very many eminent atheist physicists, cosmologists, evolutionary biologists, chemists, geologists, mathematicians etc. will be met by you with ‘but I said scientists of note! They’re not scientists of note!

Perhaps if you clarified what you mean by ‘of note’, and explained why (off the top of my head) Linus Pauling, Stephen Hawking, Francis Crick and Bertrand Russell are not ‘of note’, whereas Newton and John A Davison are ‘of note’, people might rise to your challenge.

By Adam Roberts on 09/13/07 at 05:04 AM | Permanent link to this comment

"http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20738173/?GT1=10357#storyContinued

I refer all to this report which supports my repeated claim that creative evolution is no longer in progress and that all that we see is rampant extinction. Furthermore, I see no sign that this will or can be reversed.”

I assume that the news item is in substution for an argument, I suppose along the lines of species are going extinct, therefore evolution is failing/ ended/ never happened (choose your conclusion).

Such an argument shows a lack of understanding of evolution; species do go extinct.  The article points out that the actions of one particular species are accelerating this process.  And that maybe we shouldn’t be.

No doubt, a certain someone will reply with just an assertion that he is right and all the rest of us are dogmatic, because we just don’t completely accept things without evidence.

Tired on last posting - should have said that Dawkins is one of the most honoured scientists of his age and that as this honouring comes from his peers, that makes him one of the greatest.  And he married Lalla Ward, and is a friend of Tom Baker, knows the Leakey family, was a friend of Douglas Adams, writes readable, informative, educational and entertaining books, etc.  It’s easy to see why some people are jealous (he says, poking the bear).

“In my carefully considered opinion Richard Dawkins is either a charlatan, mentally impaired or both, most probably both. You may quote me.” Why?  You quote yourself constantly (same quote, most of the time).  Reminds me of the Andy Capp comment: ‘I often quote meself.  It adds polish to my conversation.

I decided to see if we were dealing with a bot and found that there is a Dr. John A. Davison at University of Vermont - see http://www.uvm.edu/~jdavison/ and http://www.uvm.edu/~jdavison/davison-manifesto.html.  I wonder if there is a connection.

Read some of the semimeiosis article and am now convinced it must be true as so few people believe it according to Davison himself and following his own argument that appears to make it true.  I suppose mass acceptance would make it false.

There is a quote in the second article from Robert Burton: “A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant may see farther than a giant himself.” (Very similar to that of Newton).  One thing, what if the dwarf is short-sighted?

Back to my philosophy essay for now.

I reccomend the Fascism Reader Ed. By A. A. Kallas - could maybe do with an article or two by actual fascists, but on the limited reading so far (only recently got the book), it takes you into the heart of fascist ‘thought’.

By on 09/13/07 at 05:07 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Mike Rogers, whoever that is, is obviously a great Dawkins fan. So are thousands of others.

It is hard to believe isn’t it?

I love it so!

By on 09/13/07 at 05:48 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Regarding the Dawkins attacking the book of birds and not Kierkegaard because what believers believe in the book of birds, I always draw an analogy with politics. Lets imagine a standard out of the box cafe liberal, who has had a decent university education to BA level and is averagely smart. Could they defend their liberalism philosophically, against the most sophisticated attack provided by someone like Charles Taylor or even one by a decent conservative? When they crumble into saying liberalism just feels right? Yet, does this make the position of political liberalism any weaker because A.N. Liberal can’t defend it well? Equally, the position of theism might be defended by A.N. Christian for book of birds reasons, but this doesn’t make the position any weaker considering that there are more sophisticated arguments for the position. Equally, if I was to defend orthodox Darwinism because “its in the science text books” and nothing else, that does not make Darwinism any weaker when someone points out this proves nothing.

Now on Eagleton’s point, Dawkins is simply wrong on a number of points of his argument. Not philosophically wrong, but factually wrong. Should he be allowed to get away with this? Surely not. He might attack book of birds reasons, but he reads these wrong.

By Alex on 09/13/07 at 06:21 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Sorry to put in another post so soon after the last one, but looking through the comments (on a break from my essay), I came across “I am not in the least interested in convincing anyone of my views. ... It is my task to enlighten which is what I have always tried to do. It is also my responsibilty to expose chicanery and blind ideology which I have also always tried to do”.

I was quite stunned.  I am intested in convincing people of mine and, not being a blind ideologue being convinced of others.  This is part of the search for truth.  And something all persons should be interested in.  There needs to be a critical dialogue.

I am not sure how you enlighten people without trying to convince people of your views.  After all, if you are to enlighten people, then your own views must be enlightened (or at least you should think they are).  Even if you are criticising a view that is unenlightened, you must have some idea of what is enlightened.

By the way, I can empathise with someone whose views are eccentric, if only because these are needed to check out if the orthodox can stand up to competion and is not being held unthinkingly.

Also I can emphathise with the injustice carried out on JAD in 1991 (see the University of Vermont site in previous post), but consider the name-calling (e.g. mentally unstable) just bad form.

By on 09/13/07 at 07:10 AM | Permanent link to this comment

My science has all been published in refereed scientifioc journals. Internet blogs mean nothing to me except as a form of amusement. Where may I find the publications of Mike Rogers or anyone else pontifioating here which deal with the only real problem which is the MECHANISM of a long past evolution? Don’t be shy. Step right up. I anticipate, as usual, a stony silence.

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/13/07 at 07:47 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam R: “But I find it hard to believe that most of the world’s 4 billion religious humans (not just the fundamentalists, neither) would find such a claim acceptable.”

We can see this two-step in this very thread.  The people writing against Dawkins are divided into, broadly, two groups: 1) highly educated theology students who make it clear that they do not defend theism (or, in at least some cases, believe in God), and 2), a group of assorted barely-literate cranks who everyone, including the people in 1), secretly laughs at.  But if most religious believers were presented with the writing of those in group 1), I would guess that they’d find them incomprehensible, irrelevant, or heretical.  This is not to say that academic writing is any less valuable because people with average education or typical beliefs can’t understand it.  But from a public policy point of view, who cares?  The question is how we should act in relation to religious believers in the mass, not whether God really exists or not.

By on 09/13/07 at 09:02 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Rich,

I return to my original example of A.N. Political Liberal. If I went to the pub tonight and presented almost anyone there with some kind of advanced political discussion on liberalism, or even a law text book, it would be “incomprehensible, irrelevant, or heretical”. Please see any theoretical discussion conducted in the public sphere in Britain - “egg heads” who write things that are “incomprehensible, irrelevant, or heretical”. And to be honest, in my personal experience, this bespeaks something of your prejudice against religious people. Sure, they might find some discussions heavy going, but it has been my experience that when someone who is strongly religious (I am not), asks me what is going on in theology and I explain it to them, then they respond with interest and are willing to throw there own ideas into the hat. For example, I spent a good hour discussing radical orthodoxy with my friend who is a theologically uninformed evangelical. This question of the relationship between religious believers and theologians comes up a great deal, the emphasis being that theologians aren’t saying anything relevant to believers.

Aside from the fact the very same argument could be made regarding political discourse, sociology or any number of fields, every Christian theologian I know would believe that they are working for the Church, for the actual body of real believers.

Also, it is the result of the lack of religious education and community among religious believers - the important bit in Macintyre’s statement is “‘form of belief … has lost the social context which once made it comprehensible”.

By Alex on 09/13/07 at 09:49 AM | Permanent link to this comment

John A Davison writes:

“My science has all been published in refereed scientifioc journals. Internet blogs mean nothing to me except as a form of amusement. Where may I find the publications of Mike Rogers or anyone else pontifioating here which deal with the only real problem which is ...”

OK. Cut.

I’m going to try to put this in the kindest terms possible, which will still be pretty cruel. But don’t blame me for that. The problem is: you talk like a super-villain. Example. I pick up volume 2 of “Invincible”. Open more or less at random. Ah, here our heroes are fighting Battle Beast, who has been introduce a few pages earlier as “scourge of the twin galaxies (whatever that means)”. Fight, fight, fight. Exit villain, monologuing:

“Is this the BEST you can offer?

I could kill you all with my bare hands - but it would prove NOTHING. I came for sport - the thrill of the hunt. I was told this realm offered fierce and worthy combatants. I was deceived. You have nothing to offer me. You have been a pathetic waste of my time. Today is NOT a good day.”

Now, admit it. You write like that guy talks.

I have to say, it would be totally funny to write an academic paper in Battle Beast-ese.

If you actually came her for an argument you could always give reasons for your skepticism about natural selection as an engine for driving evolution.

By John Holbo on 09/13/07 at 10:20 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Neither P.Z. Myers nor Richard Dawkins are scientists by the wildest stretch of the imagination. They are both congenital, left-wing, ultra-liberal, hyperatheist relativists who are now dedicating all their energies to the proposition that everything in the universe is now and always was an accident.

Scientists do not deny a Creator. They only seek to understand that which had been created - millions of years ago.

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/13/07 at 10:24 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Truth is not subject to argument or debate, only to disclosure and then publication. I have done both.

“If you tell the truth, you can be certain, sooner or later, to be found out.”
Oscar Wilde

By on 09/13/07 at 10:30 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Dear Dr. Davison,

You chose to use place posts to here in order to slag off Richard Dawkins.  Your intemperate language and the general way you have behaved in your posts led me at first to believe you were just some bufoon, who had some irrational desire to attack verbally someone at a site they would normally not be at.  The safe way to do this.

Until some replied to you as Doctor John, I had no idea you were at all qualified in any subject.

Was it Dawkins who froze your pay at Vermont?  Or has physically or verbally attacked you?  I am interested in the wrong done to you, that he deserves such a slagging behind his back.

On urls, the only two I mentioned were yours.  I thought people may be interested in your ideas, your work, your grievance against Vermont.  You seem to object to this.

The url you pointed people to is a news item pitched at a general level.  Point us to the journals, books, etc., which support your work.  Perhaps we will be open-minded about this; perhaps even convinced.  It just seems to me that you are saying you are right, but do not want any of the rest of us to agree with you.

No, I don’t have any published papers.  I am an above-average intelligent member of the public (IQ tests have put me in the top 10-20% of the population; but IQ tests are only a rough guide), who is holding down a job, looking after family and trying to get an M.A. in philosophy.

I was pointed to the Slate website by the Butterflies and Wheels site (http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/notes.php) for the article.  I found it spot on in style of certain religious critics of Dawkins and was suprised to find that some people were not prepared to discuss the article or the ideas, bt to launch personal attacks.

From your own manifesto you quote Thomas Carlyle: “No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men.” I assume that Darwin, Dawkins “and that crowd” (quoting Tom Lehrer) are not great men, but that the six scientists you dedicate the work to are.  Do you include yourself as a great man, I wonder?  As a member of the public, I have not heard of five of them and Bateson only because of Batesonian Mimicry, if that is the Bateson here.

You expect stony silence, why?  Do people not normally stand up to you?

I agree that truth is not subject to argument or debate, but argument and debate are tools for discovering truth (along with scientific method, logic, mathematics and maybe a few others - I don’t like to give exhaustive lists as I find out that something is always left out.

“Facts are chiels that winna ding” - Robert Burns

I apologise to the good people on this site for taking away from the debate.

Just remember, good doctor, that I am not the only one who assumed that you were not learned - bot, wasn’t it?

I apologise to you for any thing that could be constued as a personal attack.

I suggest you apologise to Dawkins for your personal attack on him.

By on 09/13/07 at 10:50 AM | Permanent link to this comment

John H.: “Now, admit it. You write like that guy talks ...”

Most of the time, I can see this; but ‘I love it so!’ is surely lifted from the Haribo advert ... unless comicbook villains are also in the habit of quoting from sweet manufacturers?

By Adam Roberts on 09/13/07 at 11:02 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I present my views anywhere I can. I have been banned from virtually all the major forums whether they be Creationist or Darwinian. It is not becsue of my personality, it is because of my message. Any port in a storm.

It is Dawkins that owes an apology not only to me but to all the other scientists who have challenged his childish nonsense. Most of them including myself don’t even recognize the man in their publications. Why should they as he has contributed nothing of substance. He is the quintessential mystic, living in a world entirely of his own construction. He doesn’t even teach at Oxford any more, probably because a student might ask him a question.

I have no respect for the man or for his crony P.Z, Myers. They contribute nothing to our knowledge of the great mystery of evolution. Quite the conrary, they greatly inhibit progress by denying any purpose in the living world.

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/13/07 at 12:29 PM | Permanent link to this comment

It is not Batesonian mimicry it is Batesian mimicry and William Bateson had nothing to do with it. A ittle knowledge is a dangerous thing.

By on 09/13/07 at 12:34 PM | Permanent link to this comment

JAD:

“Scientists do not deny a Creator. They only seek to understand that which had been created - millions of years ago.”

That’s a pretty limited view of science, isn’t it?  For one thing, it leaves out those scientists who believe the world is only thousands of years old.  They’ve got a museum now, you’d have fun there.

“Truth is not subject to argument or debate, only to disclosure and then publication. I have done both.”

As a description of scientific discourse, this is so wrong that I realize I’m more of a scientist than you, and I’m an English student.  Just as a start, haven’t Dawkins and, um, Darwin been published once or twice as well?

By tomemos on 09/13/07 at 02:07 PM | Permanent link to this comment

"They contribute nothing to our knowledge of the great mystery of evolution. Quite the contrary, they greatly inhibit progress by denying any purpose in the living world. “

John, it’s this strain in your thought--even more than your rejection of scientific consensus--that keeps people from taking you seriously.  You claim to be a scientist, but it is obvious that a scientist’s mission is not to find “purpose in the living world”; it’s to find the truth about that world.  You’re taking a theologian’s values and applying them to science, and that isn’t how actual science is done.

By tomemos on 09/13/07 at 02:35 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Will people please stop slagging on or responding seriously to—or even responding mockingly to—Dr. D.?  I’d guess that he’s 79; he’s incoherent; we’re all going to be there eventually. 

Alex: “Sure, they might find some discussions heavy going, but it has been my experience that when someone who is strongly religious (I am not), asks me what is going on in theology and I explain it to them, then they respond with interest and are willing to throw there own ideas into the hat.”

Alex, first of all, I find the eagerness of certain theology students to deny religiosity comical.  Not because I think that you are lying; I accept that you are telling the truth.  But theology appears to me to be utterly and completely useless if you’re not religious; I mean, surely, if you don’t believe, the other main alternative is that it’s all B.S., and you should go into philosophy or social science.  So you’re setting yourself up as a highly trained expert on a sort of intellectual pinball machine; it whirs, it whizzes, you have to be good at it to play with it, you can get a high academic score, but it doesn’t do anything and you have no expectation that it will ever do anything.  I have no idea why you like the idea of this life of uselessness, but there it is.

Now, you don’t see that your A. N. Liberal example actually defends Dawkins.  So the liberal in your example falls back on “I just believe”, from a few circulating political ideas, and doesn’t really know why.  That’s great; I accept that there are many people like that.  Those are the mass of people that Dawkins is talking about.  If you wanted to argue down A. N. Liberal—or just claim space in the public sphere—you wouldn’t go in with fancy arguments that he couldn’t understand.  You’d go in with simple, maybe “incorrect” arguments that attacked the popular basis for belief.

By on 09/13/07 at 05:36 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Rich

I find the eagerness of you to jump on a minor point rather than engage my argument substantively “comical” in itself.

I didn’t say I wasn’t religious, but that I wasn’t strongly religious, as strongly as my friend. The point was to draw out a comparison not deny my own religiosity. How about responding to the points I substantively make rather than casting aspersions onto what I decide to dedicate my life to - who precisely are you talking to and for. As for the plain to belief being “it’s all plain B.S.” I know many, many people who study theology who are atheists, from undergraduate onwards as well as people within the academy. My historical Jesus lecturer was an atheist. I know a number of philosophers personally who though non-believers find theology interesting and read theology. Some people have more nuanced opinions than black and white.

Funny thing is you agree with what I said in the most part, but chose to open up by saying you found me amusing. I think your point stands with regard to the public sphere, but I think believers are correct to say that Dawkins misrepresents their position. As for more sophisticated arguments, I don’t really know if Dawkins actually has them considering his work as a whole. Other people do, don’t get me wrong, Mackie would be one. He doesn’t, he is an amateur philosopher at best.

By Alex on 09/13/07 at 06:02 PM | Permanent link to this comment

This blog is crawling with religious fanatics and atheist Darwinians. I have no use for either faction. Neither did Einstein -

“Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is the same as that of the religious fanatics, and it springs from the same source..They are creatures who can’t hear the music of the spheres.”
Alice Calaprice, The New Quotable Einstein, page 204.

A pox on both their houses.

“Let my enemies destroy each other.”
Salvador Dali

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/13/07 at 06:57 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Apropos of John Davison’s contribution, above, if Einstein were around today he’d probably be lumped in with Dawkins and the other “intolerant” atheists on the basis of his less religion-friendly remarks. (E.g., “I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own.... Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms.")

By "Q" the Enchanter on 09/13/07 at 09:29 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I gave up on this thread after 6 comments, so I was surprised to see it still going.  I see now that certain among you have decided to tangle with the legendary John A. Davison.

Dudes.  You do not know whom you are dealing with (although you are beginning to find out; points to Holbo for the comix trope).

For example, check out the comment thread [!] on this puppy.

Not when you’re drinking milk, though.  Your keyboard will thank you.

Ta!

By Dave Maier on 09/14/07 at 01:19 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Alex, all kinds of people like intellectual puzzles, or, more accurately, elaborated, arbitrary intellectual systems.  I can’t really think of any other reason for an atheist to be interested in theology, rather than, say, church history, philosophy, or sociology of religion.

And the point is germaine.  If Dawkins gets something historically wrong, then people can argue that he should have a better grasp of history—though why, precisely, he should do so when every emerging subculture’s grasp of history is notably weak or romanticized is rather beyond me.  But if he gets theology wrong, or doesn’t address sophisticated theological arguments, then I fail to see any reason why anyone should think that he should unless they think that theology is about something that is true.

By on 09/14/07 at 03:26 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Rich,

You may not be able to, but I actually know many people who are.

I sense strongly that I am ramming my head against a brick wall here and I don’t have the patience to “discuss” these matters with you since you appear quite content to just write haughty messages defending a book I suspect you haven’t read. I say this because I don’t know how any scholar of philosophy could without being unimpressed.

Wither intellectual honesty, dealing with the arguments at hand rather than making them up, addressing ones opponents directly rather than not at all? I am sure, as an environmentalist when you read some misguided polemic against global warming, it annoys and frustrates you. Yet I fail to see any reason why anyone should think that they should get their facts right unless they think that environmentalism is about something that is true.

Effectively you are arguing that if you believe a position is wrong you are quite welcome to misrepresent it when arguing against it, in fact, to say almost anything about it. If you can’t see anything remotely wrong with this stance then I don’t know what I can do.

By Alex on 09/14/07 at 05:27 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Dawkins has EVERYTHING wrong. Furthermore, I am convinced he now realizes it. The next few months will be very interesting.

I love it so!

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/14/07 at 06:20 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Dr Davison: it would indeed be interesting to see what would happen if a dogmatic academic who ‘has EVERYTHING wrong’ were suddenly to realise that this was the case.  That would be very interesting indeed.  I think I speak for most of the commentators on this thread when I say: we’d like to see that.

By Adam Roberts on 09/14/07 at 06:54 AM | Permanent link to this comment

"Effectively you are arguing that if you believe a position is wrong you are quite welcome to misrepresent it when arguing against it, in fact, to say almost anything about it.”

Come on, Alex, you should be able to understand this.  Are you one of those people who insists that, e.g., African-Americans should stop going on about the (imaginary) origins of black civilization in Egypt?  That Wiccans should get over their (imaginary) connections to ancient or even many-centuries-old traditions?  Do you spend as much time insisting that various Christian denominations give up their items of historical dogma that we now know to be false?

But theology, as I wrote above, is not even in this falsified-history category.  The difference between my argument with an anti-environmentalist, and an atheist theologian’s argument with Dawkins, is that I believe what I’m arguing for to be true.  Of course, I think that I can prove that anthropogenic global warming is actually real, based on scientific evidence, but my ability to prove it takes us away from its usefulness in religious arguments, in which I’ll stipulate that proof is impossible.  The point is that I’m not going to the anti-environmentalist and saying, “Hey, you didn’t get my system right!  We environmentalists have this centuries-old framework for handling certain ideas, you see, and you’ve misrepresented that framework.” No, the conflict is on the level of what’s actually happening and what we should actually do.  The anti-environmentalist is wrong because he or she is wrong about what will actually happen, not because he or she misrepresented some dogma created by some long-ago environmentalist conference.

By on 09/14/07 at 10:31 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam Roberts

You will see that. In the meantime, watch the obituaries. When the Lamarckian charlatan Paul Kammerer was finally exposed, he killed himself.

By on 09/14/07 at 10:56 AM | Permanent link to this comment

You really do enjoy patronising people don’t you?

Come on, Rich, you should be able to understand this. When you are arguing against a particular position, for example, the position of Christianity, then it is first neccesary to correctly represent that position. In the case of Christianity, this would mean engaging in some theology, whether you believe it or not, to see how the faith is articulated and what the conceptual grid of that faith is.

Lets stop beating around the bush and get down to some concrete examples. I fail to see why it doesn’t matter, for example, that Dawkin’s plain gets it wrong when he says that: “There are some weird things (such as the Trinity, transubstantiation, incarnation) that we are not meant to understand. Don’t even try to understand one of these, for the attempt might destroy it”. (The God Delusion, p 199). Now let me take you to any university with a theology library and show you the hundreds of books attempting to understand these things, what they mean, and what is there significance for the life of a believing Christian. Dawkins is making a claim, that there are certain elements of Christian theology which people are discouraged from studying or understanding, or even commenting on because it might destroy the mystery of them. Well, this is flatly wrong, plainly, baldly and absolutely. Dawkins is all for science, but let us judge him by his own “scientific” standards”: this claim is something which we can easily bring evidence to bear upon, and it is clearly false. This is one example, there are numerous ones.

With regard to the environmentalism question, what Dawkins is doing is akin in this discourse of saying “well, science is just ideology under another name - all you leftists are biased anyway because you hate capitalism pathologically, therefore invented this myth to justify this hatred”. It isn’t arguing with the case for global warming, but ignoring that case entirely. If someone had never picked up a book on environmentalism and launched into an attack on it, then one might cry foul. I don’t see how this is much different, though obviously this is a philosophical question rather than one of empirical data.

By Alex on 09/14/07 at 11:26 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Alex, Dawkins is writing propaganda, not making an academic argument.  When he says something about “don’t try to understand [some theological concept], the attempt might destroy it”, he’s making an implicit claim that anyone who does really try to understand one of these concepts rationally will conclude that it’s nonsense.

And really, what is their significance for the life of a believing Christian?  In my experience, Christian belief correlates with either lack of intellectual interest/ability, or venality, because the honest intellectuals tend to conclude that it isn’t true.  So no, the believers don’t really understand theological concepts, and don’t want or need to.  And again, I think that’s really why people like yourself make it plain that they are not strongly religious, and why the atheist theologian is so often brought up; they want to show that they aren’t stupid.

By on 09/14/07 at 01:12 PM | Permanent link to this comment

It goes without saying that most academic theologians I know are strongly religious, I was just earlier trying to point out one did not have to be in order to have an interest in theology, or even write on it. As I said earlier, the reason I said I said I was not strongly religious was to draw out comparison with my friend, who is much more involved with normal day to day practice of being Christian than academic theology, and this was to illustrate the point that academic theology is not necessarily of lack of interest to the “Christian on the ground”. You ignored this point, and instead decided to leap on me personally.

At the end of the day we are going toe to toe on personal experience which is a dead end.

Largely it is my experience is that in fact Christians on the ground are interested in theology and it does indeed have in importance in their day to day lives. The fact that all ministers of the major denominations are trained in it, shows that it has bearing on their ministry, and my friendships with a number of these ministers in my home town has illustrated this. The recent increase in the uptake of theology as an academic discipline in the UK bears this out as does the fact that most churches I know of have at the least a bible study group (this is theology) if not a religious instruction class. Even the most simplistic and evangelical of the groups at my university, The Christian Union, hold theological debates where anyone is welcome to attend.

Your experience is that Christianity correlates with low intelligence and education and that theology is of little concern to those people of low intelligence and education.

There is no way past this point, you can keep to your view that Dawkins has written an fairly unimpeachable polemic that finishes the problem of religion and I can continue with my view that his criticism is simplistic, crude and has little substance. And more importantly perhaps, seems to do no good.

By Alex on 09/14/07 at 02:15 PM | Permanent link to this comment

It’s like arguing about the prosody of poem that may or may not exist, and which nobody participating in the debate has ever read.  There could be very subtle debates by very smart people, hundreds of books written about the subject, but there is no valid position to be taken, since even if the poem existed there would be no source of information about it. 

So to take a position against the debate as such you wouldn’t have to read those hundred books.  You could simply say that the debate itself is pointless because the only possible point of reference is the position of some previous debater. 

Some who don’t feel strongly about the poem or its existence join in the fun anyway.  They like intellectual debate for the sheer gamesmanship of it.  They learn the rules of the game and what counts as a valid argument, which usually consists of manipulating previous arguments in a particular way. 

No particular argument about the prosody of the poem would prove the existence of the poem.  That’s the presupposition that makes the discussion meaningful in the first place, to the participants. 

The proliferation of rather abstruse theory in such a field of imaginary prosody should be taken as a sign that nobody’s position is based on anything meaningful, rather than a sign that it is a field highly worthy of respect due to its exteme subtlety and theoretical elaboration.

By on 09/14/07 at 02:56 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I have even suggested that there may have been several Creators and several creations. Indeed, there is solid evidence in favor of the latter and no one knows anything about the former.

There’s solid evidence for multiple gods being responsible for evolution?  I’d love to see it.

Don’t argue with the platypus, man. It has poison spines.

Also, just for the record Dawkins does have a little peer-reviewed work of his own, mostly on wasps. His undergrad work, the kind that involves running controlled experiments and darwing conculsions from them, was also largely focused on wasp ethology. Thanks, Mr. Davison, you can go home now.

By on 09/14/07 at 03:17 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam Roberts

I really believe that hardly anyone here pays any attention to what anyone else has to say. It seems to be largely a catharsis for unfulfilled, and most likely unpublished intellectual lightweights. At least you comprehended what I predicted.

My science is published and now stands for all time next to the works of the several distinguished scholars on which my own papers securely rest. Who else here has published a word on the only issue that has ever been in question -the MECHANISM of a long past evolution? Speak up and be sure to use your real name. Real scientists do you know.

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/14/07 at 03:26 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Hypocee, whoever that is, obviously has trouble comprehending my sentence. The evidence is for separate creations, not separate Creators!

Read it and weep.

I suggest hypocee go home as he contributes nothing of value here.

It is hard to believe isn’t it?

By on 09/14/07 at 04:21 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Alex: “you can keep to your view that Dawkins has written an fairly unimpeachable polemic that finishes the problem of religion”

Well, that’s not my view at all.  My opinion is that Dawkins has written a polemic which is intended to increase subcultural identification among atheists.  I don’t think that the problem of religion is finished at all, although I do have a fairly high degree of contempt for the mass religion of the part of the world that I’m from—a contempt that I think that they have earned by their political actions and identifications, among other things, and that is not limited to the “fundamentalist” boogeyman.

I agree with Jonathan Mayhew, too.

By on 09/14/07 at 04:44 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Dawkins has finally abandoned what little science he knew and turned to religion about which he knows even less. I still want to hear about any scientist of note who was so weak minded as to deny a Creator. Like all my other challenges, that one also has gone unanswered. Naturally -

I love it so!

It is hard to believe isn’t it?

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/14/07 at 08:14 PM | Permanent link to this comment

John A.  “I still want to hear about any scientist of note who was so weak minded as to deny a Creator. Like all my other challenges, that one also has gone unanswered. Naturally

By no means.  It was answered here.  You, however, elected not to respond to the answer.

By Adam Roberts on 09/15/07 at 03:37 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam, isn’t there an SF novel entitled The Note in John’s Eye?

By Bill Benzon on 09/15/07 at 07:28 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam Roberts

Sorry if I “overlooked” you. The link you provide is inoperative. I suggest you repeat your response here or provide another way that I can find it. Otherwise I will have to “overlook” you again.

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/15/07 at 01:22 PM | Permanent link to this comment

If Adam Roberts can’t provide his answer I will be forced to conclude that he is a liar. That I hate to do but is there any other conclusion to be drawn?

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/15/07 at 07:24 PM | Permanent link to this comment

No, he’s not a liar. The link that didn’t work for you, worked for me, twice, not that I needed it, as I caught his answer when he’d posted it. In any event, that answer you have so much trouble finding is upstream in this very thread. You obviously are too puffed up by your own self-importance and too damned lazy to look for it.

I suggest you retire from the field before you embarrass yourself further.

By Bill Benzon on 09/15/07 at 08:17 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Well then, let us all hear which great scientist it is that denied a Creator. No excuses now. I want his name and his contributions. If Bill Benzon can’t produce him then he is a liar too. How does that grab you Ben baby? I don’t ever retire from the field. I just get insulted by unpublished, unfulfilled nobodies like Ben Benzon. I never heard of you. Blowhards like you are a dime a dozen on blogs like this one. Either put up or shut up or have me banned. I couldn’t care less what you do. You bore me.

Got that? Write that down!

By on 09/15/07 at 08:34 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Yawn—if you can’t get my name right, I won’t bother about yours—you’re missing the point. The answer you seek from Adam Roberts is here on this page. If you can get here to post, then you can scroll around to find his answer. If you aren’t willing to do that, then . . . .

By Bill Benzon on 09/15/07 at 09:37 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Those scientists of note who would deny a Creator do not now and never have existed. If they had someone, anyone here would provide their names and ther invaluable contributions.

You know what I mean, like Galileo’s Law of the Pendulum, Newton’s Laws of Motion, Einstein’s Special Relativity. etc, etc. I would imagine there might be hundreds of them judging from the manner in which my simple request has been met, but who are they, where are their names, what did they do?

Now surely no one here is going to provide Richard Dawkins as an example are they or have they already done so?

It is hard to believe isn’t it?

I love it so!

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/16/07 at 02:43 AM | Permanent link to this comment

John A.: “The link you provide is inoperative.”

The link works just fine; it takes you upstream in this very comments thread, about a third of the way.  Richard Dawkins is not one of the examples I provided.  I’m puzzled as to your motives for ignoring, or pretending to ignore, my contribution.  I’m also insulted that you call me a liar.  I am not a liar, and do not take kindly to being called one.  Certainly I have given you no reasons to be so insulting.

It is not pleasant interacting with somebody who does not understand the rules, or importance of, common courtesy.

By Adam Roberts on 09/16/07 at 04:57 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam, Bill, don’t bother.  You’ve each tried multiple to point out the scientists in question, and John hasn’t seen them; what better demonstration of his scientific methodology could there be?  Do you think he could hold the positions he did without a great deal of willful blindness?

By tomemos on 09/16/07 at 06:27 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Actually, tomemos, I think we’re in the Turing Test phase of this conversation. One JAD is a human pretending to be a blockhead eccentric scientist while the other JAD is a computer pretending to be a human pretending to be a blockhead eccentric scientist. Which is which?

I think it’s all part of a fiendish Adam Roberts experiment in preparation for his next novel. Or maybe it’s a John Holbo experiment in preparation for his next exploration of intentionality.

By Bill Benzon on 09/16/07 at 08:43 AM | Permanent link to this comment

This “eccentric blockhead” just wants a list of all those great scientists who would even dream of denying a Creator. If you nasty mouthed, snotty, arrogant blowhards are not going to provide it, that will soon become evident. Have a nice “groupthink.” Let me know when there is something worthy of my further attention.

By on 09/16/07 at 10:33 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Project Steve currently lists over 800 Steves who support Darwinian evolution.  You can view the list here.

Have we a Project John anywhere? No. QED. I rest my case.

By Bill Benzon on 09/16/07 at 10:33 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Why not put the matter up to a vote? After all, majority opinion is all that ever mattered in all scientific matters. That is how Phlogiston was eliminated and the Ether of Physics too. Everybody knows that. Grow up children!

I am still waiting for a list of all those wonderful scientists who were so weak minded as to deny a Creator. I can’t think of one myself.

It is hard to believe isn’t it?

I love it so!

By on 09/16/07 at 11:38 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Bill, I love it so!

“I love it so!”
Scott Eric Kaufman

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 09/16/07 at 12:28 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Come on, people, let it go.  JAD is probably 79 or older, and look at his writing style.  This is sad; it’s what’s going to happen to many of us should we live that long and are still able to read and type.  Let pity move you to either ignore his statements or delete them.

By on 09/16/07 at 02:31 PM | Permanent link to this comment

My “I love it so!” has nothing to do with my writing style at all. It is the terminal portion of a comment from a man who, like Albert Einstein and myself, was also a convinced determinist. His complete statement goes this way.

“War, God help me, I love it so.”

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you literary lions who that man was.

Incidentally, I have been publishing papers in refereed scientific journals for over half a century and I don’t recall any complaints about my writing style in the only venue that matters. I regard internet blogs like this as nothing but a source of amusement where I get to listen to illiterate pompous lightweights make perfect fools of themselves. The real fun is exposing them as the ill educated blowhards that they typically are. That I have already done here as I have elsewhere.

I am still waiting for the names and contributions of those great scientists from the past or present who have found it necessary to openly deny the existence of a Creator. It is becoming increasingly evident that such creatures never existed. There have been plenty of homozygous atheists that professed to be scientists. Here are a few from recent times - Richard Dawkins, Ernst Mayr, William Provine, Stephen Jay Gould and P.Z. Myers. Not one of these men has ever contributed a single valid thought or tangible documented piece of concrete evidence that related to the ONLY matter which has ever been in question - the MECHANISM of a long since past organic evolution. Well I have!

That is why I sign off as I do.

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/16/07 at 06:09 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Well?

By on 09/17/07 at 06:28 AM | Permanent link to this comment

"Well?”

Well.  You asked a question; I answered it.  You ignored my answer, called me a liar, insulted everybody who has commented on this blog and now you are repeating your question.  You have shown yourself incapable of following a straightforward hyperlink, and too incurious or incompetent to find the answer (which is, I repeat, on this comment thread) any other way, for instance by actually reading the comments in the thread, or using a ctrl-F search menu to check the thread for the key terms in the original question.  Give me one good reason why I should have anything more to do with you, in this forum or anywhere else?

By Adam Roberts on 09/17/07 at 11:04 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam Smoith

I agree with you. You shouln’t have anything more to do with me nor me with you. You an arrogant snob, incapable of providing a direct response to my challenges. I recommend you hold forth at Ben Stein’s blog where I am having a ball exposing pontificating blowhards like you. Or try responding in your boorish fashion at ISCID’s “brainstorms” forum were I also am active. Good luck as you are going to need it!

I love it so!

By on 09/17/07 at 12:11 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam:

You have shown yourself incapable of following a straightforward hyperlink, and too incurious or incompetent to find the answer (which is, I repeat, on this comment thread) any other way, for instance by actually reading the comments in the thread, or using a ctrl-F search menu to check the thread for the key terms in the original question.

It is hard to believe, isn’t it?

I love it so!

“It is hard to believe, isn’t it?”
Scott Eric Kaufman

“I love it so!”
Scott Eric Kaufman

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 09/17/07 at 02:06 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Richard Feynman was atheist, no?  I’m sure there are plenty more.  I don’t see the point of this challenge.  A large percent of distinguished scientists have no personal religious belief in a creator.  A poll of the National Academy of Sciences found this to be the case eight or nine years ago.  All members of this academy are scientists of note, almost by definition. 

On the other hand, people in prison believe in god at a very high rate.  I don’t think you could name me a single prisoner “of note” who is an atheist.

By on 09/17/07 at 02:17 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Richard Deynman once compared scientific discovery to a religious experience. I agree as I have had the same experience. I think his comment speaks for itself.

Not to profess a religious affiliation does not make one an atheist. I repeat my challenge to name a single scientist of note who would be so weak minded as to DENY the existence of God. Even clowns like Richard Dawkins, P.Z. Myers and Christopher Hitchens should have hesitated before putting such a position in hard print. That they didn’t brands them as damn fools.

Just because a God or Gods cannot be demonstrated today does nor mean they did not exist in the past. That is why it is an error to describe Nietzche as an atheist. His celebrated “God is dead” implies he, she, it or them once lived does it not? That is all that is required by my Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis. That is all that is required to explain an orderly universe. That is the sine qua non without which nothing can possibly ever make sense.

I once a few months ago managed to introduce the following thread into Richard.Dawkins.net’s forum -

“God or Gods are dead but must have once existed.”

In a little over a week it produced nearly 60,000 views after which I was summarily banned and denied any further viewing of that forum. I recommend you visit that thread to observe the conquest of blind ideology over empirical science.

My own preference is toward at least two Gods, one benevolent, the other malevolent. It makes human behavior so much easier to comprehend. It also seems to be intrinsic in the Judeo-Christian ethic.

Incidentally, I am a confirmed baptized Roman Catholic who has never had to introduce his religion into his scientific publications. Neither did Louis Pasteur who was a lot more devout than I. It is the Protestant Bible Banging Baptist Bigots who are largely responsible for this idiotic debate we see raging all around us. We enlightened Catholics know better.

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/17/07 at 06:30 PM | Permanent link to this comment

If my last message does not appear you may all kiss me goodbye. I have other forums to keep me occupied.

By on 09/17/07 at 07:04 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I read a good chunk of this thread last night and all day “it is hard to believe, isn’t it” and “i love it so” were running through my mind. Sort of like some irritating pop tune or earworm (though I didn’t manage to attach any music to them). Very strange.

Also did anyone notice that sometimes it was “It is hard to believe...” followed by “I love it so” but occasionally it was the reverse. When the quotes are in the reverse order it has the odd effect of making it sound as if it is hard to believe that Davison loves it (whatever ‘it’ is). Whereas in the original usage it just sounds like he loves that it’s hard to believe. Or maybe that despite it being hard to believe he still loves it. Me, I’m still confused as to what ‘it’ is. And, though it might be hard to believe, I’m ok with that.

“Still lovin’ it”
Colin

By on 09/18/07 at 01:42 AM | Permanent link to this comment

There is that old April Wine song, “Hard to Believe”

When it’s hard to believe, in changes
And when it’s hard to believe, at all
When it’s hard to believe ...

Maybe this is Davison’s hard rock ballad anthem. Then there is Pat Benatar (aesthetically similar):

Hard To Believe
You ever would leave, but you did
Hard To Believe
You ever would leave ...

Then there is Husker Du, “Masochism World”:

I love it I hate it I
love it I hate it too
I love it
So how about you?

Doesn’t quite scan right.

By John Holbo on 09/18/07 at 02:43 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I hope I prove to be irritating to all the right people in this highly polarized world of homozygous atheist versus homozygous theist. There is no place for either religion in the world of science and I have managed to alienate both factions, one of my most gratifying successes. If you don’t care for my style you can always ban me. As you may have gathered, I love that too!

As I used to say on my blogs -

SOCKITTOME

That is one word - like BLOGHEAD!

I love it so!

“Everything is determined… by forces over which we have no control.”
Albert Einstein

And so to bed.

By on 09/18/07 at 03:24 AM | Permanent link to this comment

What an eccentric performance.

By Adam Roberts on 09/18/07 at 05:18 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Shhhh. He’s sleeping.

(What do you think he’s dreaming about? I think he’s dreaming about: victory!)

By John Holbo on 09/18/07 at 05:23 AM | Permanent link to this comment

On the only problem that’s ever mattered (in this thread at least), let’s put it to a vote. JAD is:

1. a bot
2. a blockhead
3. a fugitive from a lobotomy mill
4. a brilliant scientist the likes of which have never been seen on this earth before
5. the fourth Power Puff Girl
6. the fifth Beatle
7. the sonavagun seventh son of a seventh son
8. a self-shaving barber
9. none of the above
10. all of the above

By Bill Benzon on 09/18/07 at 05:42 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I really prefer bannishment to ridicule by imbeciles. That way I can add your shabby little “groupthink” to a long list of similar blogs and forums dominated by arrogant nobodies whose only pleasure and achievement is seeing their empty hateful rhetoric displayed in the ephemeral, totally insignificant world of cyberspace.

Of course if you prefer masochism to sadism, I will be happy to oblige you from to time and fit you into a very busy schedule enlightening those who can be and alienating those who cannot.

The ball is now in the court of that citadel of scholarship known far and wide as **THE VALVE**. Lets see if you know what to do with it.

It is hard to believe isn’t it?

I love it so!

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/18/07 at 07:10 AM | Permanent link to this comment

(He thinks we’re imbeciles. It’s working. Maybe he’ll go back to sleep.)

John, you really shouldn’t be sneaking out of bed to comment on blogs.

By John Holbo on 09/18/07 at 08:31 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Hmmmm . . . If we banish you, JAD, you’re going to put us on some nasty list. Wouldn’t want that, would we. So I don’t think we should banish you.

You also say that you prefer banishment over ridicule. Certainly wouldn’t want to yield to your preferences.

That’s a no-brainer. Looks like you’ll be back.

Here’s an Allman Brothers classic in honor of the occasion: Whipping Post.

“I love it so!”
– Scott Eric Kaufman

By Bill Benzon on 09/18/07 at 09:18 AM | Permanent link to this comment

It is perfectly obvious that you voluntary illterates know nothing about me, my 50 year history in academe, my several publications or those of the several distinguished sourcees on which my own science so very securely rests. Accordngky I must conclude that you prefer masochism to your pathetic sadism. I recommend you introduce your inane comments at ISCID’s “brainstorms” forum where I haven’t been banned yet or visit Ben Stein’s new blog where I am also holding forth with my usual devastating commmentary on this idiotic debate which the ID crowd were stupid enough to introduce.  They are no better than the Darwimpian worshippers of the Great God Chance, led by the likes of Richard Dawkins, a man who has contributed absolutely nothing of value to our understanding of the great mystery of organic evolution, the major unsolved problem of contemporary biological science.

I have to go now as I have better things to do than to deal with the denizens of this blog, just another flame pit for its unfulfulled membership to vent their ignorant spleens with gay abandon.

I love it so!

To modify an old saw -

“You can lead a man to the literature but you cannot make him comprehend it.”
John A, Davison

By on 09/18/07 at 10:01 AM | Permanent link to this comment

”...this idiotic debate ... no better than the Darwimpian worshippers of the Great God Chance...”

In a minute he’ll be boasting he can benchpress 500 pounds and telling us that Dawkins is a faggot.

By Adam Roberts on 09/18/07 at 11:40 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Oh, I forgot to sign off properly.

“It’s hard to be brief, isn’t it?”
John A Davison

By Adam Roberts on 09/18/07 at 11:42 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Oh man this is exhausting.

I am not a Dawkins fan at all, as my posts here have showed. But I will admit that he is a scientist and one of note - his Selfish Gene hypothesis, though now controversial (in scientific terms that is) was a big deal back in the day and brought evolutionary biology a step forward. I don’t see how anyone could seriously deny this.

By Alex on 09/18/07 at 02:46 PM | Permanent link to this comment

If Richard Dawkins ia a scientist, I am a Triceratops. Dawkins has always lived in his own private world, oblivious to the world around him, generatng fantasy after fantasy, each book more bizarre than it predecessor. Eveything he has penned is based on the same faulty assumption that has always rendered Darwinism a monumental failure. That assumption is that there was a tangible, testable, identifiable external cause for evolution. Such a cause cannot be found because it never existed. Phylogeny, exactly as ontogeny still does, proceeded entirely as the result of preformed information which was expressed on a predetermined, ascending schedule as the various phyla and their components, the classes, orders and species appeared, flourished and disappeared. That ascension is now complete and organic evolution is largely, if not completely, finished. There is probably not a single living organism that is capable of becoming anything different from what it is right now. The death of the individual is the counterpart of the extinction of the species, which is all that remains.

“La commedia e finita.”
Pagliacci

“A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
John A. Davison

By on 09/19/07 at 06:10 AM | Permanent link to this comment

A recent photo of JAD:

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/103/303239015_4201ce0a2d.jpg

It follows from this demonstration that Richard Dawkins is indeed a scientist. Actually, it doesn’t follow, but who cares about logic here? Certainly not JAD.

By Bill Benzon on 09/19/07 at 06:19 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I love it when trash like Bill Benzon insist on exposing themselves like this. That is your real name isn’t it Ben?

http://www.iscid.org/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=6&t=000370&p=63#000936

Be sure to visit the above where another intellectual defective is currently doing the same thing!

I love it so!

By on 09/19/07 at 06:36 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I believe that this thread has lived out the span of its natural life in graceful fashion. Everyone is clearly happy with how it went. Bill is laughing. John loves it so. I am sticking a fork in it. It’s done.

By John Holbo on 09/19/07 at 06:42 AM | Permanent link to this comment

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