Dawkins Attracts Bugs

I only have time for a quick blog post (Prison Break comes on in twenty minutes!), but do have a quick look at this post over at Richard Dawkins’ site. (Hat tip to Larry Moran for directing me to it).

It’s a diagram showing all of the book length responses that have been inspired by the recent books by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

Two things struck me about this. The first is simply that there are quite a lot of books out there responding to Dawkins and Harris that I didn’t know about. Some of them even seem to have been written by reputable people and published by serious houses. I’ll have to go check some of them out, though I’m not sure exactly when I will have the time to do that.

But the main thing that struck me is the complete willingness of people like Dawkins to provide free publicity to their critics. The post serves mostly to alert people to the existence of all these books. Beyond referring to these books derisively as “fleas,” there is nothing to the post beyond an announcement that these books are out there. You never see anything comparable to this at creationist blogs. William Dembski’s site, for example, does not contain prominent diagrams of all the anti-ID books that are out there.

This is not hard to explain. For all the bluster about what an arrogant, militant atheist he is, Dawkins has routinely shown himself to be perfectly happy to engage in polite discussion with people of different opinions on this subject. Likewise for Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. This is because those three worthy gentlemen care about ideas and arguments.

In this they differ from the ID folks, who are about propaganda and nothing more. William Dembski in particular has repeatedly shown himself to have no interest in engaging seriously with his critics.

But then, this too is easy to understand. Dembski can not engage his critics in a serious way, because that would mean conceding that his mathematical bloviations are entirely without merit. Dawkins and the others are happy to engage their critics, because they know their arguments will have little trouble weathering the critical storm.

Comments

  1. #1 Stuart Coleman
    September 17, 2007

    They’re also good speakers, and know that they can hold their own in a debate. That combined with being correct is quite the incentive to engage in conversation.

  2. #2 Richard Wein
    September 18, 2007

    This point has probably been made before, but am I the only one who dislikes the term “New Atheism”? I can’t see anything new about it. The arguments don’t seem to be new. (Though I must admit that I’m judging this second-hand, as I haven’t read the books myself.) Not that new arguments are needed. There have been good arguments for atheism for a very long time.

    The only new development is that there has been a growth of interest in the subject recently, leading to several popular-level atheist books being published within a short space of time. Perhaps it just seems new to people who were barely aware of atheism until recently.

  3. #3 MartinC
    September 18, 2007

    “am I the only one who dislikes the term “New Atheism”? ”
    I don’t even like the term ‘atheism’. Yes, its accurate in stating what I don’t believe (a theistic deity) but it doesn’t say anything positive about what I do believe. Stalin, Pol Pot and I really don’t have that much in common as regards our basic beliefs. I prefer terms such as scientific rationalist or secular humanist but reluctantly go along with ‘atheist’ as the commonly used term.

  4. #4 Valhar2000
    September 18, 2007

    Richard, the summary I would make of “The God Delusion” if I were asked is: pointing out the obvious.

    That said, it seems that very few people realize the obvious, so it does need pointing out. This is of particular importance to people who live surrounded by religiosity, who may be moved to forget the obvious by virtue of cultural pressure (think of former fundamentalists who have lost faith but don’t dare to tell anyone).

  5. #5 Felicia Gilljam
    September 18, 2007

    For all the bluster about what an arrogant, militant atheist he is, Dawkins has routinely shown himself to be perfectly happy to engage in polite discussion with people of different opinions on this subject. Likewise for Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. This is because those three worthy gentlemen care about ideas and arguments.

    Too true. Which makes it all the more ironic that creationists and ID-proponents frequently talk about how they’re being silenced and not taken seriously – “What are they hiding?” they ask about the scientific community with their best drama queen inflection. Oh boy.

  6. #6 Ebonmuse
    September 18, 2007

    It’s remarkable how many responses they’ve spawned – I haven’t heard of most of these titles either. We’ll have to bring this up the next time some poor theist complains about being censored by us nasty atheists.

  7. #7 Blake Stacey
    September 18, 2007

    I was never fond of the label “atheist”, for the reason that MartinC pointed out; also, there are umpty-ump other things in which I don’t believe, too. In fact, there’s a whole alphabet, which starts with astrology, biorhythms and crystal healing, and it doesn’t get to Yahweh Elohim until almost the very end!

    So, my reaction to the term “New Atheism” is rather one of distaste squared. Nothing in these books is particularly new; it’s just the first time that a clutch of books each devoted to the topic were published roughly simultaneously. The newest thing about the New Atheism is that people are actually buying the books.

    You might not be surprised, then, to find that my reaction to Nisbet’s catchprase, “New Atheist Noise Machine”, is irritation to the Nth power. As long as we’re slinging blame around, why not toss a little upon all the people who bought The God Delusion and made it more than the skeptical books which had gone before.

    That said, I think “New Atheist Noise Machine” would be a great name for a band. I’ll write the lyrics if somebody else can lay down the 1992-era Sonic Youth guitar tracks.

  8. #8 heddle
    September 18, 2007

    Richard,

    Oh, for sure there’s a lot that is new. The old arguments (see, for example, Russell) were smart and scholarly. The new arguments are dumb and sophomoric–the bulk of which boil down to: “you have to be an idiot to be a believer.”

    The old intellectual atheists followed the academic model, while the new voices of intellectual atheism: Dawkins (when he isn’t designing snappy clothes), Harris (when he isn’t on a different astral plane preaching for mysticism) and Hitchens (when he isn’t advocating war) follow the more streamlined Dembskian model: preach to the choir, write popularizations, go on book tours, appear on talk shows, and do the lucrative lecture circuit.

  9. #9 Irving Schwartz
    September 18, 2007

    Heddle’s just jealous because Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ books have sold a lot more copies than his own drivel.

  10. #10 heddle
    September 18, 2007

    Irving,

    Damn, you nailed me!

    Hmm… last I checked my book was 1.4 millionth on the Amazon rankings–I’m off to find posts praising those other 1.4 million authors ahead of me so that I can criticize them unmercifully!

  11. #11 Martin Wagner
    September 18, 2007

    Heddle, have you got anything other than ad hominems to toss out regarding the current crop of atheist bestsellers? Like, oh, a substantive rebuttal?

  12. #12 MK
    September 18, 2007

    It is my opinion that “New Atheists” is similar to the “Democrat Party.” People mostly use it as a poke in the eye. A subtly rude way of identifying your opponent with the added benefit of irritating them!

    I think Nesbit and all others should be called on it every single time.

  13. #13 J. J. Ramsey
    September 18, 2007

    MK: “It is my opinion that ‘New Atheists’ is similar to the ‘Democrat Party.’ People mostly use it as a poke in the eye. A subtly rude way of identifying your opponent with the added benefit of irritating them!”

    Nah. “New Atheists” is a term that got started in Wired Magazine and has made the rounds ever since, mostly because no one is too sure what else to call these atheists now in the public spotlight. It’s not as if the so-called “New Atheists” had a collective name before then, unlike the Democratic Party.

  14. #14 heddle
    September 18, 2007

    Martin,

    Heddle, have you got anything other than ad hominems to toss out regarding the current crop of atheist bestsellers? Like, oh, a substantive rebuttal?

    No, just the ad hominems. I don’t feel the need to respond to the level of the arguments they present–like “if god is the designer then who designed god?” or “religion has been the source of some very bad things that people have done to one another,” etc.

  15. #15 Jason Rosenhouse
    September 18, 2007

    Richard-

    Initially I also didn’t like the term “New Atheist,” but I have to admit that I’m warming up to it. Some term is needed to describe the books by Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris taken together. And as Blake Stacey notes, at least in the US there is something new about several books on atheism getting published in a short period of time, making it to the bestseller list, and getting talked about widely in the press.

    heddle-

    Harris (when he isn’t on a different astral plane preaching for mysticism)

    People who live in the glass house of Calvinism should not be throwing stones at Eastern mysticism.

  16. #16 heddle
    September 18, 2007

    Jason,

    People who live in the glass house of Calvinism should not be throwing stones at Eastern mysticism.

    Does a similar admonition apply to Sam Harris?

    People who live in the glass house of Eastern mysticism should not be throwing stones at western monothesim for being irrational.

    Or perhaps to Bill Maher?

    People who live in the glass house of germ theory denial should not be throwing stones at ID pseudo science.

    Or Hitchens?

    People who live in the glass house of being hell bent on going to war with Iraq should not criticize acts of violence condoned in the bible.

  17. #17 JohnnieCanuck, FCD
    September 18, 2007

    Heddle’s a Calvinist? The poor man. My atheist heart goes out to him and his family.

  18. #18 Jason Rosenhouse
    September 18, 2007

    Heddle-

    Does a similar admonition apply to Sam Harris?

    Harris is not the one bragging about his use of ad hominem attacks in lieu of actual arguments. You are.

  19. #19 heddle
    September 18, 2007

    Jason,

    Harris is not the one bragging about his use of ad hominem attacks in lieu of actual arguments. You are.

    I’ll take evade the question for $1000, Alex.

  20. #20 MK
    September 18, 2007

    “It’s not as if the so-called “New Atheists” had a collective name before then, unlike the Democratic Party.”

    Fair enough. Then again, the so called “New Atheists” didn’t come up with it like this is some new political party…or a club. I far as I can tell it was thrust upon them. It’d be something altogether different, for me, if Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris, et al, decided one day that this would be the name of their new movement (if you can call it that.), but that wasn’t it. I think I see it used too often as a bit of a sneer. Again, like “Democrat Party.”

    To me they are simply “atheists who’ve had enough.” (I’m thinking that’s too wordy, though!) heh-heh.

    In either case, it rubs me the wrong way. Different strokes I guess.

  21. #21 Jason Rosenhouse
    September 18, 2007

    Heddle-

    Funny, I thought I was speaking in terms sufficiently simple even for you to understand, But apparently not. Let me try again.

    The answer to your question is that no, a similar admonition does not apply to Harris. And the reason the admonition does not apply to him is that he is not the one bragging about using ad hominem attacks. He does not say that we should ignore religious people because they believe weird things. Instead he presents specific arguments, at book l ength, for why he believes the things that he does. See the distinction?

    You see, grasshopper, if you are going to dismiss Harris’ writing simply because he has some outre ideas about mysticism; boasting, no less, that a consideration of his arguments is beneath you; then you can not reasonably expect your own, far goofier, spiritual beliefs not to be used as a reason for dismissing you.

    I can explain it even more slowly, if necessary.

  22. #22 Blake Stacey
    September 18, 2007

    MK:

    Then again, the so called “New Atheists” didn’t come up with it like this is some new political party…or a club. I far as I can tell it was thrust upon them.

    Yep. To the best of my knowledge, we have Gary Wolf and Wired Magazine to blame for this particular bit of marketroid jargon. (It has a bit of history beyond that, but until Wolf, it basically languished in obscurity.) It’s a term invented in ineptitude and used with malice, rather as if a bumbling reporter had accidentally said “Democrat Party” and given that party’s opponents a new way to be snarky. The only label coined “from the inside” and not thrust upon us which I’ve seen gain any currency is PZ Myers’ contribution, uppity atheist.

  23. #23 heddle
    September 18, 2007

    Jason,

    Yes you might have to explain more slowly. Here is why.

    While my comment about ad hominems (which was not bragging, but never mind) appears in between my original comment:

    Harris (when he isn’t on a different astral plane preaching for mysticism)

    and your comment about my original comment:

    People who live in the glass house of Calvinism should not be throwing stones at Eastern mysticism

    I’ll point out that at that moment you did not say anything at all about ad hominems. A reasonable person might believe that your were simply responding to my comment about Sam Harris’s irrationality, independent of the intervening alleged bragging about ad hominems (which, again, you didn’t mention until a later comment.)

    A reasonable person might, it seems to me, speculate that you would have made your glass-houses comment even if I hadn’t “bragged” about ad hominems. But the so-called bragging has given you a tenuous reason to argue that it is teh stoopids for a Calvinist to throw stones at a guru of eastern mysticism, while it is fine for a guru of eastern mysticism to throw stones at western theism.

    And even then your reasoning is faulty. You say because Harris has substantiated his charges against western monotheism while I blithely ignored Harris’s arguments. But I haven’t, I have said in the past on this blog: Harris has not made any new arguments against theism. All his arguments have already been made and answered. (The same for Dawkins and Hitchens.) So the reason I don’t answer his arguments is that there is nothing new to add. If I am wrong, please give me an example of an new, substantive argument that Harris makes.

  24. #24 MK
    September 18, 2007

    ‘The new arguments are dumb and sophomoric–the bulk of which boil down to: “you have to be an idiot to be a believer.”‘

    No, no, no. You don’t just have to be an idiot–though that is a perfectly good reason–you can also be evil, ignorant or crazy. Or any combination of these.

  25. #25 heddle
    September 18, 2007

    MK,

    No, no, no. You don’t just have to be an idiot–though that is a perfectly good reason–you can also be evil, ignorant or crazy. Or any combination of these.

    Congratulations, your arguments are as sophisticated as any found in the canon of the new atheists. You have studied well.

  26. #26 MK
    September 18, 2007

    Many thanks. I am truly honored!

  27. #27 Jason Rosenhouse
    September 18, 2007

    Heddle-

    Very well, we’ll do this even more slowly.

    You asked me if I would admonish Sam Harris, Bill Maher, and Christopher Hitchens in the same way that I admonished you. The answer is that I won’t, because they did not commit the sin of which you are guilty. The sin in question was being dismissive of someone’s arguments in one area simply because they hold views in some other area that you consider absurd. This is known as an ad hominem attack, and there is a reason every introductory textbook in philosophy identifies it as a logical fallacy. You’re the only one here engaging in that style of criticism. Harris, Maher and Hitchens do not behave that way.

  28. #28 heddle
    September 18, 2007

    Jason,

    Well, OK, but let’s clear up the ad hominem charge, which I’ve played along with. What I wrote was:

    The old intellectual atheists followed the academic model, while the new voices of intellectual atheism: Dawkins (when he isn’t designing snappy clothes), Harris (when he isn’t on a different astral plane preaching for mysticism) and Hitchens (when he isn’t advocating war) and (later) a comment about Maher attacking ID while denying the germ theory of disease.

    Now, you gave this definition of ad hominem:

    being dismissive of someone’s arguments in one area simply because they hold views in some other area that you consider absurd.

    But that isn’t nuanced quite correctly, is it. An ad hominem is an appeal to an irrelevant characteristic in order to demonstrate that a person’s argument is incorrect. So there are two requirements: 1) that it is used in an attempt to refute someone’s argument and 2) that it is irrelevant. Bringing up someone’s absurd position, if it is relevant, is not an ad hominem.

    Because of the first requirement, none of these is officially an ad hominem, because in none of these did I say the person was wrong because of the inconvenient fact I presented. I didn’t say Dawkins was wrong in the God Delusion because of his fashion designs. Likewise for Hitchens, Harris, and Maher. These were mockings or insults, not ad hominems.

    But OK, suppose I implied that they were wrong because of these characteristics. Do they pass the irrelevant test?

    Dawkins–yes. On the (big) assumption that I was stating that he was wrong because of his fashion designs, that is an ad hominem.

    Hitchens–probably no. His views on the justness of the Iraqi war are at least arguably relevant when he criticizes the genocide of the bible and other violence stemming from religion.

    Maher–no. His whacko views on the germ theory of disease speak directly to his credibility to judge pseudo science.

    Harris–no. His claim that mysticism is empirically supported is directly relevant to his credibility in claiming that religion is irrational.

    So I think you should go back and look again at that introductory philosophy text.

  29. #29 Jason Rosenhouse
    September 18, 2007

    Heddle-

    An ad hominem is an appeal to an irrelevant characteristic in order to demonstrate that a person’s argument is incorrect.

    That is precisely what you did. Thank you for conceding my point.

  30. #30 heddle
    September 18, 2007

    Thank you for conceding my point

    Maybe I am wrong (which you didn’t demonstrate) but I certainly did not concede your point. Now you are engaging in proof by assertion.

  31. #31 MK
    September 18, 2007

    Maybe I am wrong (which you didn’t demonstrate)

    You did, however.

  32. #32 heddle
    September 18, 2007

    MK,

    No I didn’t. And just saying I did doesn’t make it so. What I in fact stated was:

    1) In no case did I say that my comment about this or that characteristic proved that an argument was wrong. For example, I did not write: since Dawkins engages in fashion design, we can assume his arguments against theism are wrong.

    2) In two, and probably three of the four cases, the comment was arguably if not demonstrably relevant.

    So no, I did not demonstrate that I was wrong. You too are engaging in proof by assertion.

    These were, in fact, garden variety mockings and insults, like when Jason writes, concerning me:

    Funny, I thought I was speaking in terms sufficiently simple even for you to understand

    That is calling me stupid, which is an insult, not an ad hominem.

  33. #33 MK
    September 18, 2007

    My saying it doesn’t make it so. The fact that it is so makes it so.

  34. #34 heddle
    September 18, 2007

    MK,

    The fact that it is so makes it so.

    Ah, I see. Now I’m just a humble nuclear physicist, not a mathematician like our host, but I wonder if similarly constructed proofs work in math? Does stating the square of the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle equals the sum of the squares of the lengths of the two legs constitute a valid proof of the Pythagorean theorem?

  35. #35 Jason Rosenhouse
    September 18, 2007

    Well, David, I guess I should thank you. Your increasingly comical attempts to defend your poor behavior in this thread have now elevated this post to the most active list.

  36. #36 David Harmon
    September 18, 2007

    Bah, has anyone adapted that Greasemonkey killfile script to cover other Sbs besides Pharyngula?

  37. #37 Blake Stacey
    September 18, 2007

    David Harmon:

    This oughtta do the trick.

  38. #38 386sx
    September 19, 2007

    No, no, no. You don’t just have to be an idiot–though that is a perfectly good reason–you can also be evil, ignorant or crazy. Or any combination of these.

    What’s wrong with being evil, ignorant or crazy? Your god creates people just so he can throw most of them into the pits of hell and have a few left over for… ummm whatever the heck they were left over for. Sounds pretty evil, ignorant or crazy to me. And yet you have no problem with it. The most evil, ignorant or crazy monster that ever lived could only dream of being so evil, ignorant or crazy!

  39. #39 Valhar2000
    September 19, 2007

    Don’t feed the troll, people!

  40. #40 heddle
    September 19, 2007

    Valhar2000

    Don’t feed the troll, people!

    That’s ok, after this comment I’m outta here.

    I was pretty amazed at Jason’s comment about poor behavior. Not hurt, my skin is way too thick for that, having spent years trolling on PT. But because of the pot-kettle-black aspect of it, which is disappointing. I’ll remind y’all once again what I wrote:

    The old intellectual atheists followed the academic model, while the new voices of intellectual atheism: Dawkins (when he isn’t designing snappy clothes), Harris (when he isn’t on a different astral plane preaching for mysticism) and Hitchens (when he isn’t advocating war) follow the more streamlined Dembskian model: preach to the choir, write popularizations, go on book tours, appear on talk shows, and do the lucrative lecture circuit.

    First of all as I have argued, these are not ad hominems, but really, who cares? That term gets misapplied so often that it really doesn’t matter. Only when Jason used it (in a snarky comment) as a reason for his justification that it was OK for the mysticism uber-proponent Harris to be a spokesman for rationality did I feel the need to wax pedantic. (No one has disputed my argument that these are not ad hominems by the way, beyond MK’s and Jason’s assertion that I have demonstrated that they are.)

    But Jason’s “poor behavior” comment is what is disappointing. My goodness, how sensitive you’ve become! These insults, being so mild, are almost not even worthy of the label, certainly by science blogs discussions standards. Furthermore, each is based on a demonstrable truth. But, as I said, what really bugs me is the pot-kettle-black aspect. I don’t feel like doing a search, but if I wanted to I could go all the way back to Jason’s blogspot evolutionblog days and enumerate quite a few insults Jason has hurled my way, and could not doubt fill pages with insults he has hurled at others. So what? That’s part of the arguably narcissistic game we bloggers play. But for Jason suddenly to claim the high ground is disappointing. Either argue with me reasonably or say “go away stupid troll,” but don’t get all uppity when it can be so easily demonstrated that you routinely engage in similar, if not worse behavior.

    Just on the front page you discuss D. J. Kennedy’s arrogance, stupidity, and manner of dress, and then go on to discuss his views on evolution. That is, in fact, an expanded example of my parenthetical micro versions:

    Hitchens (when he isn’t advocating war)

    except that it is probably harder to make the connection that what Kennedy wore is relevant when discussing his views on evolution than Hitchen’s advocacy of the Iraq war is for his views on the morality of the biblical god.

    Pot-kettle-black.

  41. #41 MK
    September 19, 2007

    Last post? Doubt it.

    Your arguments, nay, “insults”,(your word) were not substantive. They were plainly ad hominem. And yes, you consistently demonstrate this.

    And after that last post, exactly who’s the “sensitive” one? Heh-heh.

  42. #42 Graham
    September 19, 2007

    “Heddle, have you got anything other than ad hominems to toss out regarding the current crop of atheist bestsellers? Like, oh, a substantive rebuttal?”

    Martin Wagner,

    Dawkins makes a claim to the probability of God existing or not existing. He does this by claiming a lack of evidence. His requirement as ‘evidence’ is something that can be measured using the scientific method. The scientific method is precisely that…a method used to make accurate observations about our natural universe. Consensus is reached when it becomes highly probably that something is occurring within that natural Universe through repetition of results.

    Within our natural universe.

    The logic and rationality he uses are products of our closed system. They can not be applied to anything that may exist outside of that closed system, precisely because they are an interpretation of that system’s laws. Applying those laws outside of their own context is USELESS.

    All that can be measured is the effect a higher form may have upon our system, because then the action is taking place within our system and can be analysed using the scientific method.

    What if there are no effects? What if the higher form is not manipulating our closed system, but still exists outside of it?

    Unlikely, you might say – and Dawkins certainly does.

    Based on what? How is this probability being measured? Surely that should be a simple matter to explain if Dawkins is so confident about scientifically ruling out a God?

    Let me use an example. If our closed system were in fact a simulation, created by a higher form (which is essentially the same as a God hypothesis), then we could find out everything there is to know about the laws of that system and still be completely wrong about its origin.

    I hardly think we are anywhere near discovering everything there is to know about our system, despite much of the bluster that has been continually thrown around over the last two centuries.

    Again, this is where you scoff and tell me that’s ‘highly unlikely’ and there is no ‘evidence to suggest..’, so on and so on. I’ll refer you back to the first paragraph of this comment. Ask yourself how you can make that claim with any measure of certainty? Is that scientific?

    How is this claim of probability being made?

    Dawkins would then fall back on this chestnut. Something complex cannot just be!! It must develop from something less complex! That is the way our natural Universe works.

    Again..the way our Natural Universe works. Are we so sure ours is the only Universe? Are we so sure nothing can exist outside of it without directly affecting it? If we are sure then we should have the data. How is the probability measured?

    Both the God hypothesis and a no God hypothesis suffer from the same ultimate inconsistency. Something cannot come from nothing.

    And this is where the new atheist army chant …”maybe asking how something came from nothing is the wrong question? Maybe it just is!”

    To which theists reply, “Maybe asking how something complex can just be is the wrong question. Maybe it just is!”

    You see the similar logic being used here? You see the difficulties in ruling out either side?

    If Dawkins wrote a book critiquing religion and refuting the claim that an omnipotent god was acting within our Universe then that is one thing…

    …but he is deliberately making a claim to truth and claiming the idea of a higher form at all is delusional. He is doing so with an arrogance and a certainty that he has no right to.

    And a surprising number of supposedly critically minded people are joining him in his cause, chanting the same arguments, in the same manner, with the same arrogant certainty and zeal.

    Starting to sound a lot like the enemy!

    For the record I am not a theist. I am an agnostic in the true sense of the word. And no…not a ‘weak atheist’ like Dawkins claims all agnostics really are. An agnostic.

  43. #43 J. J. Ramsey
    September 19, 2007

    Graham: “What if there are no effects? What if the higher form is not manipulating our closed system, but still exists outside of it?”

    Then we are dealing with the god of the deists, not the god of the Abrahamic religions or the gods of the various polytheistic religions. One can be apathetically agnostic with regard to the deists’ god, on the grounds that it is both unfalsifiable and irrelevant to us, but more strongly atheistic against the gods proposed by actual religions.

    Graham: “Something cannot come from nothing.”

    Why not? Sure, we don’t see this happening in our universe (except perhaps temporarily with quantum vacuum fluctuations maybe???), but if we are talking about something outside the universe, all bets are off, as you yourself noted.

  44. #44 mk
    September 19, 2007

    Graham,

    Your post sounds very defensive…sounds as if you have been insulted. Maybe it is the fact that you think Dawkins thinks you are a “weak atheist.” Not sure.

    At any rate, in Chapter 2 of the God Delusion he does so much more than try to make the argument that agnostics are just weak atheists. In fact he ultimately considers himself an agnostic. He clearly recognizes that “reason alone could not propel one to total conviction that anything definitely does not exist.”

    He does on to say that he belongs in the category that says, “I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”

    Sound like the enemy?

  45. #45 Caledonian
    September 19, 2007

    One can be apathetically agnostic with regard to the deists’ god, on the grounds that it is both unfalsifiable and irrelevant to us

    Wrong. If it is conceptually unfalsifiable, it is false to claim that it is meaningful.

    If it’s merely practically unfalsifiable, there’s no evidence in favor of the assertion, so claims made about it are invalid.

  46. #46 Graham
    September 19, 2007

    “Then we are dealing with the god of the deists, not the god of the Abrahamic religions or the gods of the various polytheistic religions.”

    Dawkins avoids deism because he knows he couldn’t fill a book attacking it. Instead he dismisses it out of hand, as if it holds no relevance, much like Caledonian appears to be doing. He then tries to paint deists like Einstein as really being atheists. He is distorting the discussion in order to make a calculated attack on religion. Fine, but be up front about it then. His methods are deliberately attempting to polarise the issue. In Dawkins world there is no agnosticism, and deism is really atheism by another name!

  47. #47 Graham
    September 19, 2007

    Mk:

    Not insulted, and not defensive as such. But it does annoy me when people tend to take Dennet/Dawkins/Hitchins as gospel, obviously because I disagree with their methods.

  48. #48 mk
    September 19, 2007

    Graham,

    You didn’t address my point at all, I don’t think.

    And as far as Dawkins filling a book about Deism…why would he? Deists are not flying planes into buildings nor killing each other over parade routes.

    Furthermore, well right… Deism doesn’t really hold any relevance, does it?.

  49. #49 Graham
    September 19, 2007

    MK:

    I addressed your point in my post to JJ.

    Deism doesn’t hold any relevance to who exactly?? If a higher being created the universe and set it in motion, but now has no direct effect upon it….that still leaves room for a personal God, and it is still very relevant.

  50. #50 mk
    September 20, 2007

    In Dawkins world there is no agnosticism, and deism is really atheism by another name!

    Wrong.

    He says something very different from that in the God Delusion. He thinks either there is a god or there isn’t. We don’t yet know the answer, but that doesn’t make both equally likely.

    And Deism he calls watered down Theism. He does not call it atheism by another name.

    I’m begining to wonder… where are you getting your information from?

  51. #51 Robert O'Brien
    September 21, 2007

    “Heddle, have you got anything other than ad hominems to toss out regarding the current crop of atheist bestsellers? Like, oh, a substantive rebuttal?”

    Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and the other occupants of the ‘new atheist’ clown car would have to write something substantive first.

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