Wednesday, January 31, 2007

My Friends, What We See Here Is A Cult, Not Science

I suppose there are admirers of Richard Dawkins and maybe even Sam Harris who aren’t dishonest but I’ve met very few of them recently.

Since I wrote this piece last fall I have had intermittent trouble with flaming e-mails and trolls stemming from misrepresentations by self-identified atheists on various blogs of what I wrote on the subject of the Dawkins-Harris school of atheists and their childishness. No, let’s be entirely frank. Since I have repeatedly asked them to stop misrepresenting what I said, pointing out the falsity of what they said, and there has been no correction I am going to call their diatribes what they are, lies. These people represent themselves to be scrupulously realistic and clear headed, holding the world to the highest standard of rigor in proof while being abject liars in defense of their heros. I will point out that there have been some atheists who have agreed with what I said, who think Dawkins is wrong. To put it mildly.

The old charge against the Jesuits, those intellectual warriors of the Pope, is that they were educated in and practiced a very high level of casuistry. Casuistry was one of the principle charges against them, a charge that was made with full justification in too many cases. I just wish that in these fights with the Dawkins cult that they could get to the level of casuistry, it would be several steps up from where they choose to argue. Modern Jesuits include many great and honest thinkers, the late Robert Drinan and the Jesuits murdered by the junta in El Salvador are just a few examples. Many of them are scientists, many of them have led lives of rigorous honesty, devoted to freedom and democracy. Yet these people are some of the primary targets of people who never heard their names or know the first thing about them. That doesn’t stop them from lying about them as a group. Individuals and their responsibility for only those wrongs they have done, don’t seem to matter much for the Dawkinsites, much less so the followers of Harris.

I know that some of the points I’ve tried to make on these subjects are more subtle than the angry blanket condemnations and wholesale conflation that the cult of Dawkins and, more so, the followers of Harris, are used to. But I hate to tell them, they are not my intended audience. I hope to appeal to the reason of people who haven’t drunk the punch and swallowed the pill. I don’t care to convert people who are so content to follow the leader and toe the line. I don’t want converts, I don’t want followers. I want people to think for themselves.

What are we to call a group of people who lie, distort, apply double standards, make special pleadings for and absolve their Masters from even the basic standards of fairness and honesty, isn’t it a quasi-religious cult?* Since all I’ve ever called for in this debate is freedom of thought, I’ll let you decide for yourselves. I know that’s how I’ll think of it until there is evidence that I’m wrong.

I am not in the prediction business, having written specifically against that in most cases, but I’ll make one here. If, someday, the Dawkins cult gains a foothold and even, God save intellectual freedom, power, a new war will break out. In this case it will be a war between the Dawkinsites and the followers of Sam Harris. Dawkinsites will smugly point to his priority and his actually having produced published science. I am confident that they will lord it over that lesser cult, those who have not mastered “the meme” in its full and, by that time, baroque complexity. They, friends, will consider the others to be nothing but hangers on, they will refer to them as Harrisites.

* And I could add insistence on their right to be unquestioned due to their AUTHORITY. Alon Levy, of the blog Abstract Nonsense, one of those who I have requested to not misrepresent what I’ve written, had this to say on why we should kow-tow to Richard Dawkins,

In 2007, I say that the rational layperson must accept scientific authority on issues such as physics, climatology, evolutionary biology, medicine, and chemistry.

Must accept. My friends, do you not appreciate being told that we MUST accept the authority of these people? Because, in the end, where else does “scientific authority” reside but in people?
I could be really cruel and say that by Alon’s declaration we would have to unquestioningly accept the odious and, thankfully, late William Shockley’s tirades on the subject of biology. He was a scientist, a physicist with a Nobel Prize, for crying out loud. So what if he was a total flake and racist, a well funded one who fully used his authority to advance his racism, I’ll point out. If I was as intellectually dishonest as the Dawkinsites I might point that out, it’s the standard they use for other people. I am, however, not going to stoop to that level. I know perfectly well what Alon Levy means and it isn’t that. Now, if only he would return the favor.

I will point out that it is very specifically in the field of Dawkins activities that no such “authority” exists. His beliefs in even his relatively grounded work isn’t universally accepted, there are different viewpoints (see my response at Alon’s website). His more airy speculations are even less widely accepted. Where is the AUTHORITY that we are supposed to genuflect to?

Update: In Which I Rest My Case
Now, of the many people who distorted what I wrote last weekend I chose Alon Levy for two reasons, he is a student in the rigorous sciences, he chooses to repeat his distortions in the face of my factual refutation. Here is what he posted on his blog last night after I gave him a heads up that I was going to be writing about what he said:

You’re damn right they don’t. But recall that the argument against Dawkins, which Olvlzl largely repeats, is,
1. Dawkins demands that Christians not criticize evolution without knowing about evolutionary biology;
2. Dawkins criticizes religion without knowing much about theology;
3. Therefore, Dawkins is inconsistent.
The distinction isn’t between Dawkins’ writings on religion and religious pronouncements, but between evolutionary biology and religious pronouncements.

Considering that the second part of this very sillygism is exactly the point that I kept correcting this student of math on, a point I made to him at least four times with quotes from what I'd written and requests that he point out why he kept repeating it, I suppose this is the best that the Dawkins cult has to offer.

Alon, I don't know if you ever studied either the logic of the syllogism or symbolic logic, but included in the requirements is that the parts of the form have to be true or the argument is false. Please, don't take a job in which you will have a part in designing important systems in real life. And stop lying about what I said.

Alon, and his friend Tyler, are two of the more unscrupulous debaters I've encountered on the blogosphere. You can see part of our encounter in the same thread you link here, and in a number of related topics. In essence, they are very much unwilling to admit demonstrated falsehoods when called on them.
whig, my experience with them certainly confirms what you say.

I'm not putting up with someone who lies about me behind my back as I'm trying to correct the lies they tell about me in front of my face.

I hope that they are in the purely theoretical sciences, I'd hate someone's life to depend on such dishonest people.
"Since I have repeatedly asked them to stop misrepresenting what I said, pointing out the falsity of what they said, and there has been no correction I am going to call their diatribes what they are, lies."

They're atheists, what do you expect? An atheist is his/her own god. If he/she wants to lie then it's fine because this creature is the god of it's own universe, hence all the lies and childish behaviour. Just look at the dork Dawkins, same type of behaviour in a more polished language. If he/she wants to murder you it's fine by the atheist dogma, because he/she is it's own god, and that explains clearly why atheists are such little hellions.

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