Pharyngula

Mike S. Adams, glib hypocrite

I did manage to get to Mike S. Adams’ talk here at UMM. It was a packed room (not our biggest lecture room here, but it was filled to capacity) and I arrived late, so I had to stand outside the door to listen in. Kudos to our students, who were polite and attentive, and let him blather on without interruption.

Adams is a slick, fast-talking, folksy guy, and he made the audience laugh quite a bit. He had to talk fast, though, to keep his story from sinking beneath the weight of its improbabilities, and I do wonder how many of our students actually caught on to his inconsistencies.

To summarize his schtick: it was the standard conversion story, of the sort I’ve heard so routinely from the loons of the right. He was a liberal! Democrat! atheist! feminist! But then, because he is a down-deep nice fellow who is a champion of little guy, who opposes abuses of civil liberties, who thinks we need to stand up for free speech against those in power, who was unfairly persecuted himself, (these were nice stories, you could see that his audience was entirely sympathetic with these positions), he had to take a stand against the extremist politics of the people in power, and side with those who shared his principles.

The powerful were the feminists; the principled was the Republican party.

Repeat after me: WHA…??? How could anyone make such a silly argument?

After his tale of woe, his sad saga of political correctness at his university run amuck and leading to university officials poking into his private email, he bragged of the events leading to his affiliation with people like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh, the doubling of his salary, and his mention on the pages of national news magazines. Seriously, the most horrible things that happened to him as a consequence of the vast powers of those awful feminists were that his email privacy was violated (a deplorable act, I agree, and his university administration bungled everything impressively) and he was offended by The Vagina Monologues, and as a result he is richer and more famous, and has obviously allied himself without argument with the truly powerful and wealthy…and he has parlayed this into speaking gigs where he pretends to be the oppressed and abused.

There were other inconsistencies. I frankly believe his accounts of university hiring committees where people tried to turn applicants down because they were religious or male were lies; I can imagine more subtle biases sneaking in, but to claim that ‘feminists’ (it was always wicked feminists) would openly state that someone was unsuitable because they were religious is absurd. I don’t believe him when he said he regretted a women’s resource center pulling ads for Planned Parenthood when he demanded that they also run ads for one of those fake pregnancy crisis centers that offer nothing but religious browbeating against abortion: he was suing the resource center. Is that the kind of action you take when you are sincerely concerned about seeing that women are informed about reproductive health? Baloney. He’s simply an anti-feminist kook. If he could have sued them into bankruptcy, he would have done so cheerfully and profitably, and would have turned it into another of his stories about the underdog (him) triumphing over the tyrants (feminists).

He got a few general questions at the end, nothing too challenging at first—he was asked about his attitudes toward racism, for instance, and got a few happy comments from our young Republicans. The event was scheduled for 7:00 to 9:00, and then at 8:30…trouble. Someone asked how he could be for civil liberties while supporting the actions of the Republican party in making wiretaps without warrant, especially since he’d been so outraged that his university administration had unjustly dug into his private email (his answer: his paranoia about terrorist attacks justifies it.) Then a fellow with a darker complexion and a long ponytail raised his hand to ask a good question, one that was actually very close to what I was going to ask as I was working my way up towards the room. He pointed out the fundamental inconsistency in Adams’ conversion story—it didn’t make sense that a good liberal would, in anger at feminism, abandon all liberal principles to so whole-heartedly embrace all of the completely contrary principles of conservative extremism (his answer: it was complicated, and there was more to the story than he’d been able to tell—I bet). The questions were just starting to warm up and drill down into Adams’ hypocrisy, when one of our local ringleaders, who had jumped up out of his seat when Mr Radical Ponytail had raised his hand, abruptly cut off the questions. I was not surprised. Free speech is fine and all, until it starts to cause Republicans mild discomfort.

It was familiar Horowitzian bombast. I really don’t understand how anyone can take these guys seriously; their angle is to whine aggrievedly about cruel and politically correct liberal academics who strangle free speech and unfairly oppress conservatives with speech codes and denial of their right to air their opinions on college campuses…at college campuses, their expenses paid for, honoraria in their pockets, with those liberal academics and administrators all sitting right there in the audience, listening. You’d think the dissonance between their claims and the obvious reality of the situation would kill ‘em dead from shock on the spot, but no…they just rave on obliviously.

Comments

  1. #1 Intellectual Rigor & Honesty
    October 26, 2006

    No doubt the person you went to see was full of inconsistencies and a glib hypocrite.

    But PZ it must be said that on Dawkins latest book that both you and he are might actually be regarded as glib hypocrites and lacking in intellectual honesty or rigor.

    I think that Marilynne Robinson provides some devastating blows to Dawkins (see her review http://darwiniana.com/2006/10/23/marilynne-robinson-on-dawkins/)

    Are you going throw another temper tantrum a la your spectacularly dishonest response to Eagleton’s review?

    And no I’m not a theist but I do value intellectual rigor and honesty. Not the self-serving infantile crap that Dawkins unfortunately has produced.

  2. #2 Intellectual Rigor & Honesty
    October 26, 2006

    No doubt the person you went to see was full of inconsistencies and a glib hypocrite.

    But PZ it must be said that on Dawkins latest book that both you and he are might actually be regarded as glib hypocrites and lacking in intellectual honesty or rigor.

    I think that Marilynne Robinson provides some devastating blows to Dawkins (see her review http://darwiniana.com/2006/10/23/marilynne-robinson-on-dawkins/)

    Are you going throw another temper tantrum a la your spectacularly dishonest response to Eagleton’s review?

    And no I’m not a theist but I do value intellectual rigor and honesty. Not the self-serving infantile crap that Dawkins unfortunately has produced.

  3. #3 Intellectual Rigor & Honesty
    October 26, 2006

    No doubt the person you went to see was full of inconsistencies and a glib hypocrite.

    But PZ it must be said that on Dawkins latest book that both you and he are might actually be regarded as glib hypocrites and lacking in intellectual honesty or rigor.

    I think that Marilynne Robinson provides some devastating blows to Dawkins (see her review http://darwiniana.com/2006/10/23/marilynne-robinson-on-dawkins/)

    Are you going throw another temper tantrum a la your spectacularly dishonest response to Eagleton’s review?

    And no I’m not a theist but I do value intellectual rigor and honesty. Not the self-serving infantile crap that Dawkins unfortunately has produced.

  4. #4 George
    October 26, 2006

    “…infantile crap that Dawkins…”

    Examples, please.

  5. #5 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    October 26, 2006

    But PZ it must be said that on Dawkins latest book that both you and he are might actually be regarded as glib hypocrites and lacking in intellectual honesty or rigor

    Interesting although irrelevant point. Why did you choose to raise in in this post?

  6. #6 Azkyroth
    October 27, 2006

    I haven’t read Dawkins at book-length yet, but while I have noticed what seems like a tendency to sometimes bring up creationism for contrast in cases where it’s not really relevant to the discussion, nothing in the essays I’ve read could be described as “infantile crap.”

  7. #7 Intellectual Rigor & Honesty
    October 27, 2006

    Well for a start Dawkins’ postulates a theory of human history that involves the working of a ‘mysterious zeitgeist’ [note his own terms NOT mine]. Zeitgeist means ‘spirit of the age’ and is derived from Hegel’s philosophy. This ‘wave’ somehow – and the mechanism seems rather obscure, moves history along. Moreover ‘whole wave keeps moving’ and that ‘the progressive trend is unmistakable and it will continue’. Hegel is generally regarded as one of the most obscure philosophers ever with many other philosophers charging that Hegel’s thought is nothing other than obscurantist mumbo-jumbo.

    Now I think if Dr Dawkins’ went back to Oxford and enrolled as a history undergraduate he might not make it through his first tutorial with that theory. Try reading the essay I linked to on Dawkins’ mistakes and incompetent attempts at human history (he makes quite simple factual errors if nothing else).

    There are other problems in his attempts at philosophical arguments and his use of the concepts of complexity and statistical probability are questionable (hint the universe actually goes from order to disorder – it’s called entropy and natural selection can only build complexity as the earth is a open system at the local level). As Thomas Nagel suggested it is not immediately apparent what ‘rules’ or paradigm should be applied to something that if it existed is non-physical and is not bounded by time. Also see Hume on the objections to induction and then try to apply inductive reasoning across from a physical to a non-physical realm.

    I’m sorry but if you want to seriously ‘do’ history and philosophy the required intellectual standards are somewhat higher than Dr. Dawkins seems able to reach.

  8. #8 Intellectual Rigor & Honesty
    October 27, 2006

    Well for a start Dawkins’ postulates a theory of human history that involves the working of a ‘mysterious zeitgeist’ [note his own terms NOT mine]. Zeitgeist means ‘spirit of the age’ and is derived from Hegel’s philosophy. This ‘wave’ somehow – and the mechanism seems rather obscure, moves history along. Moreover ‘whole wave keeps moving’ and that ‘the progressive trend is unmistakable and it will continue’. Hegel is generally regarded as one of the most obscure philosophers ever with many other philosophers charging that Hegel’s thought is nothing other than obscurantist mumbo-jumbo.

    Now I think if Dr Dawkins’ went back to Oxford and enrolled as a history undergraduate he might not make it through his first tutorial with that theory. Try reading the essay I linked to on Dawkins’ mistakes and incompetent attempts at human history (he makes quite simple factual errors if nothing else).

    There are other problems in his attempts at philosophical arguments and his use of the concepts of complexity and statistical probability are questionable (hint the universe actually goes from order to disorder – it’s called entropy and natural selection can only build complexity as the earth is a open system at the local level). As Thomas Nagel suggested it is not immediately apparent what ‘rules’ or paradigm should be applied to something that if it existed is non-physical and is not bounded by time. Also see Hume on the objections to induction and then try to apply inductive reasoning across from a physical to a non-physical realm.

    I’m sorry but if you want to seriously ‘do’ history and philosophy the required intellectual standards are somewhat higher than Dr. Dawkins seems able to reach.

  9. #9 Intellectual Rigor & Honesty
    October 27, 2006

    Well for a start Dawkins’ postulates a theory of human history that involves the working of a ‘mysterious zeitgeist’ [note his own terms NOT mine]. Zeitgeist means ‘spirit of the age’ and is derived from Hegel’s philosophy. This ‘wave’ somehow – and the mechanism seems rather obscure, moves history along. Moreover ‘whole wave keeps moving’ and that ‘the progressive trend is unmistakable and it will continue’. Hegel is generally regarded as one of the most obscure philosophers ever with many other philosophers charging that Hegel’s thought is nothing other than obscurantist mumbo-jumbo.

    Now I think if Dr Dawkins’ went back to Oxford and enrolled as a history undergraduate he might not make it through his first tutorial with that theory. Try reading the essay I linked to on Dawkins’ mistakes and incompetent attempts at human history (he makes quite simple factual errors if nothing else).

    There are other problems in his attempts at philosophical arguments and his use of the concepts of complexity and statistical probability are questionable (hint the universe actually goes from order to disorder – it’s called entropy and natural selection can only build complexity as the earth is a open system at the local level). As Thomas Nagel suggested it is not immediately apparent what ‘rules’ or paradigm should be applied to something that if it existed is non-physical and is not bounded by time. Also see Hume on the objections to induction and then try to apply inductive reasoning across from a physical to a non-physical realm.

    I’m sorry but if you want to seriously ‘do’ history and philosophy the required intellectual standards are somewhat higher than Dr. Dawkins seems able to reach.

  10. #10 Zarquon
    October 27, 2006

    Well IRH, you’ll have to do better than that. How about some extensive quotes from Dawkins showing that his worldview is as you say, rather than an ad-hominem like ‘Hegel is generally regarded as one of the most obscure philosophers ever ‘

    Another thing:

    hint the universe actually goes from order to disorder – it’s called entropy

    No, entropy S = kln(&omega) (k is Boltzmanns constant) Please show how this relates to ‘order’ and ‘disorder’. Define the terms and produce a proof.

    How about some of that ‘intellectual rigour’ on your own behalf?

  11. #11 Intellectual Rigor & Honesty
    October 27, 2006

    Now how am I to ‘prove’ that I’m not a ‘troll’ what possible action could I take? Why if someone decides that the arguments of PZ or Dawkins are not infallible are they under superstition? Not really the spirit of open and critical inquire to simply dismiss a point you don’t like as trolling, and then to not engage with the arguments. That’s not what I call scholarship.

    Moreover the review I link to does make an excellent number of of points about the issues involved. If in the case ‘for’ science – if eugenics is bad science (The bad scientific views of for example RD Fisher, WD Hamilton amongst other notable evolutionary biologists) – and is not allowed to count as a minus against science in the broader cultural sense then the question must be why are the worst and most egregious example from religion the only ones to be counted? Why isn’t say the Christian abolitionists and the life and work Martin Luther King Jr. to be given as examples of the ethos of religion positively adding to our moral and cultural life?

    Equally what is the ethical status of scientists in the second world war that helped develop technology that now threatens all of our lives? Neutral, trivial unimportant presumably. How are we to decide the best way to use scientific knowledge – on cluster bombs and nukes or on provide shelter and necessities of life of everyone? Shall we decide by doing some more science and coming up with a P value of the ‘rightness’ of dropping some cluster bombs?

    I love and respect the scientific process and method. I don’t believe in any Gods but I have too much respect for science to turn it a false God and uncritically worship at its feet. Science does not occur in social or political vacuum. We have too many examples of the use of scientific language and the authority of science to ideologically justify oppression and injustice to blithely postulate that it is ‘inherently’ progressive culturally and politically – equally it is simple minded to suggest that religious is always ‘inherently’ reactionary in political and cultural terms.

    Primarily as both activities are carried out by human beings and divide between doing the right thing or doing the wrong thing cuts through us all. Everyone is capable of the most self-serving hypocrisy and cant when it benefits themselves; everyone is capable of the most awful cruelty and abuse of power under the right conditions – even if they wear a lab coat. I am a scientist but I do not think of other human beings as ‘sub-human’ as one poster (Caledonian) at this blog stated he/she did on another thread. If your brand of so called – ‘rationality’ results in large groups of people being given over to the ‘sub-human’ tag then I want NONE of it. Thanks very much.

  12. #12 Intellectual Rigor & Honesty
    October 27, 2006

    Now how am I to ‘prove’ that I’m not a ‘troll’ what possible action could I take? Why if someone decides that the arguments of PZ or Dawkins are not infallible are they under superstition? Not really the spirit of open and critical inquire to simply dismiss a point you don’t like as trolling, and then to not engage with the arguments. That’s not what I call scholarship.

    Moreover the review I link to does make an excellent number of of points about the issues involved. If in the case ‘for’ science – if eugenics is bad science (The bad scientific views of for example RD Fisher, WD Hamilton amongst other notable evolutionary biologists) – and is not allowed to count as a minus against science in the broader cultural sense then the question must be why are the worst and most egregious example from religion the only ones to be counted? Why isn’t say the Christian abolitionists and the life and work Martin Luther King Jr. to be given as examples of the ethos of religion positively adding to our moral and cultural life?

    Equally what is the ethical status of scientists in the second world war that helped develop technology that now threatens all of our lives? Neutral, trivial unimportant presumably. How are we to decide the best way to use scientific knowledge – on cluster bombs and nukes or on provide shelter and necessities of life of everyone? Shall we decide by doing some more science and coming up with a P value of the ‘rightness’ of dropping some cluster bombs?

    I love and respect the scientific process and method. I don’t believe in any Gods but I have too much respect for science to turn it a false God and uncritically worship at its feet. Science does not occur in social or political vacuum. We have too many examples of the use of scientific language and the authority of science to ideologically justify oppression and injustice to blithely postulate that it is ‘inherently’ progressive culturally and politically – equally it is simple minded to suggest that religious is always ‘inherently’ reactionary in political and cultural terms.

    Primarily as both activities are carried out by human beings and divide between doing the right thing or doing the wrong thing cuts through us all. Everyone is capable of the most self-serving hypocrisy and cant when it benefits themselves; everyone is capable of the most awful cruelty and abuse of power under the right conditions – even if they wear a lab coat. I am a scientist but I do not think of other human beings as ‘sub-human’ as one poster (Caledonian) at this blog stated he/she did on another thread. If your brand of so called – ‘rationality’ results in large groups of people being given over to the ‘sub-human’ tag then I want NONE of it. Thanks very much.

  13. #13 Intellectual Rigor & Honesty
    October 27, 2006

    Now how am I to ‘prove’ that I’m not a ‘troll’ what possible action could I take? Why if someone decides that the arguments of PZ or Dawkins are not infallible are they under superstition? Not really the spirit of open and critical inquire to simply dismiss a point you don’t like as trolling, and then to not engage with the arguments. That’s not what I call scholarship.

    Moreover the review I link to does make an excellent number of of points about the issues involved. If in the case ‘for’ science – if eugenics is bad science (The bad scientific views of for example RD Fisher, WD Hamilton amongst other notable evolutionary biologists) – and is not allowed to count as a minus against science in the broader cultural sense then the question must be why are the worst and most egregious example from religion the only ones to be counted? Why isn’t say the Christian abolitionists and the life and work Martin Luther King Jr. to be given as examples of the ethos of religion positively adding to our moral and cultural life?

    Equally what is the ethical status of scientists in the second world war that helped develop technology that now threatens all of our lives? Neutral, trivial unimportant presumably. How are we to decide the best way to use scientific knowledge – on cluster bombs and nukes or on provide shelter and necessities of life of everyone? Shall we decide by doing some more science and coming up with a P value of the ‘rightness’ of dropping some cluster bombs?

    I love and respect the scientific process and method. I don’t believe in any Gods but I have too much respect for science to turn it a false God and uncritically worship at its feet. Science does not occur in social or political vacuum. We have too many examples of the use of scientific language and the authority of science to ideologically justify oppression and injustice to blithely postulate that it is ‘inherently’ progressive culturally and politically – equally it is simple minded to suggest that religious is always ‘inherently’ reactionary in political and cultural terms.

    Primarily as both activities are carried out by human beings and divide between doing the right thing or doing the wrong thing cuts through us all. Everyone is capable of the most self-serving hypocrisy and cant when it benefits themselves; everyone is capable of the most awful cruelty and abuse of power under the right conditions – even if they wear a lab coat. I am a scientist but I do not think of other human beings as ‘sub-human’ as one poster (Caledonian) at this blog stated he/she did on another thread. If your brand of so called – ‘rationality’ results in large groups of people being given over to the ‘sub-human’ tag then I want NONE of it. Thanks very much.

  14. #14 Torbjörn Larsson
    October 27, 2006

    Sigh! It is hard to stay away from feeding the troll when the Robinson review was so bad.

    On the whole she does at every point what she accuses Dawkins on: being tendentious, going outside her area of expertise, being indiscriminate.

    Especially tiresome is when she remarks that scientists participates in war efforts as all other parts of society. A similar problem of distinction is when she dismisses Dawkins on eugenics being unscientific. Calling an unsupported idea bad science doesn’t make it so. (BTW, Robinson puts that against “bad religion”. But what is a religion specific objective criteria for that? Internal inconsistency is accepted by believers, so that doesn’t make it bad obviously. Bad consequences like promoting war – that indiscrimination we dealt with above. So what is a ‘bad religion’ really?)

    When Robinson starts discuss real science she stops listen entirely. Dawkins usually (I havent read TGD) describes his awe of nature and how it is enhanced by his science. Robinson conflates all details down to fundamentals, and when dismisses them as beyond comprehension. This is exactly the opposite of Dawkins view. And the claim is done at a time when it appears we have started to attack those problems (cosmology and its initial and final states, string theory and the possible states.)

    Robinson makes a similar hatchet job on Dawkins on dualism and complexity.

    The last takes me back to the entropy arguments in the thread. Entropy as a measure of disorder (probability of states) isn’t a problem for evolution. Whether a system is closed or open we can make ordered subsystems – the “earth is an open system” makes it only easier to discuss.

    “Unlike almost all other laws of physics, this associates thermodynamics with a definite arrow of time.”
    No. With this description reversible systems are disconnected from the arrow of time. The proper way to look at it is that the arrow of time gives thermodynamics the second law.

    The problem(s) of time is partially to find out why the universe started in an unprobable low entropy state – if it had not the second law had not existed. (Eternal inflation naturally explains this. This is one of many reasons I’m constantly blathering about it.)

    Dawkins is right, contrary to Robinson – probability is what moves our world. But selection is why it moved our way.

  15. #15 Arun
    October 27, 2006

    Just accept that Dawkins, PZ Myers and some of those here have an incurable blind spot – we all have at least one but in different areas – and move on. This is at the heart of what is called tolerance.

  16. #16 The Ghost of Gould
    October 27, 2006

    Very interesting discussion. Phyrangula certainly makes me think. And it helped me wake up to the fact that the thing I perhaps most dislike in the world is dogmatism – “I am right and that to suggest otherwise is stupid, bad or mad etc.” I can’t stand dogmatists of any type. It’s a dangerous mind set that thinks it’s immune to error – dogmatic ideology is likely to be the cause of our collective end. I look at history and I am amazed that so called intelligent people can dismiss the role of what has past for ‘science’ and ‘rationality’ in being used to facilitate unspeakable cruelty and harm, and then go on to speak uncritically of ‘rationality’ and ‘science’ in the process displaying of some the most naïve scientism I’ve ever seen.

    Science has taught me to have an open mind – the world is far more complex than we think – science gives all sorts of counterintuitive results and insights yet our ideas must always be open to revision. However science in its philosophical foundations simply goes beyond the evidence at hand. Indeed there are a great many beliefs that people hold that don’t have a fully rational nor fully satisfactory evidential basis. Reading Phyrangula has also made me think hard about the nature of liberalism. I think I’m with Sir Isaiah Berlin in that people will always likely disagree as to the nature and goals of the good life. Hence we must somehow make the idea of modus vivendi workable and recognize that negative and positive liberties are inherently in tension with each other.

    I was reading a book about the Crow people the other night – it’s a work that might be described as philosophical anthropology and the author suggests that we need to approach beliefs and statements with what was described as the principle of humanity. That is there should be a sympathetic attempt to understand what the person meant even if it is not immediately obvious.

    I also sense a great deal of emotionality and anger from the majority that are part of the Phyrangula crowd. Is a lack of confidence in one’s position that generates such an over the top hostility? I don’t know. I get why people are upset about ID and biology education, and why the reactionary right is something to be combated at every turn but I really can understand why people have to imply that anyone outside of the magic circle are Untermensch. Sorry contra Dawkins, Harris and fellow travellers if I don’t pass the ideological purity test because I can’t honesty equate the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., with the likes Osama bin Laden, but that’s just the way it is.

    Anyone who has read Adorno & Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment will have a sense of how the Enlightenment contains its own dehumanizing, destructive apparatus. The book begins by noting, following two World Wars and a shocking genocide, that “Enlightened earth radiates disaster triumphant”.

    How did the Nazis proceed to exterminate their designated opponents, except through the use of science and technology? The justifications for their actions were rationalistic in form if not content: they were, in their own view, ‘scientific’ racists. With all the best will in the world how can anyone dismiss the abuses of science and the deep strands of scientism within fascist ideology of the period as mere trivia whilst maintaining that they are presenting a balanced account of history? Then again no-one here really ‘into’ history – unless it’s a simple self-serving account – are they?

  17. #17 Caledonian
    October 27, 2006

    Let’s be fair: the term that would be better and was probably intended (although possibly vocabulary wasn’t sufficient) was ‘obscurantist’. Hegel can indeed be described as an obscurantist, and is generally recognized as such.

    Oh, and Mr. Arun:

    Just accept that Dawkins, PZ Myers and some of those here have an incurable blind spot – we all have at least one but in different areas – and move on. This is at the heart of what is called tolerance.

    You are utterly wrong. We do not all have at least one blind spot, and that is not what tolerance is about.

  18. #18 Gerard Harbison
    October 27, 2006

    Well for a start Dawkins’ postulates a theory of human history that involves the working of a ‘mysterious zeitgeist’ [note his own terms NOT mine]. Zeitgeist means ‘spirit of the age’ and is derived from Hegel’s philosophy. This ‘wave’ somehow – and the mechanism seems rather obscure, moves history along. Moreover ‘whole wave keeps moving’ and that ‘the progressive trend is unmistakable and it will continue’. Hegel is generally regarded as one of the most obscure philosophers ever with many other philosophers charging that Hegel’s thought is nothing other than obscurantist mumbo-jumbo.

    What a load of cobblers. I was wondering if this dope and I had read the same book; so I got my copy of The God Delusion, checked the index, and found Hegel isn’t even listed. And if he thinks Hegel is an obscure philosopher, he needs to go back to college.

    Zeitgeist is a word in common usage, though maybe not on the comics page. (Except, perhaps, Zippy)

  19. #19 Azkyroth
    October 27, 2006

    Mothra:

    IRH’s chosen name suggests an intent to tweak a few noses, which might contribute to his being labeled a troll, and his argument sounds like it stems from an oversimplified misunderstanding of Dawkins’ position. However, I haven’t read the book in question yet, so I haven’t commented. I will certainly agree that both straw-man bashing and “feeding frenzy” (or “dogpile,” if you prefer) argument dynamics have become surprisingly, and rather distressingly, common around here, and I feel that this is likely to significantly impact both the general credibility of the community and the quality of discourse within the site. I wonder, however, what you would suggest be done about it.

  20. #20 Kagehi
    October 27, 2006

    Sure. Dogma in any form is bad and the cause nearly all of the worlds problems. However… One needs to consider the fact that just as someone’s car mechanic can “seem” dogmatic, when they insist its some Paris Hilton’s types own stupidity for trying to “clean the engine” by adding laundry soap to the gas tank, when someone with limited or “no” comprehension of a scientific subject, or just rational thought in some cases, finds themselves confronted with an expert on either, its impossible to not “sound” dogmatic. One of the most distressing things I have ever encountered in my life is the imfernally stupid fact that about half the people I ever dealt with when writing computer software insisted *they* knew what it did and was supposed to do than I did. Not because they actually understood anything past clicking on the pretty button to get it to go Bing!, but simply because, in their strange little world, the machine worked like X, and I, even as the one that coded the program, couldn’t **possibly** know more than they did about what was going on.

    There are way more Paris Hiltons in the world than Dawkinses, there are also way more, smarter, but still ignorant, Joe Nobodies than Dawkinses, and nearly all of them, especially if they are significantly religious, are all “certain” that what ever vague, inaccurate and barely comprehensible explaination they have come up with for a subject is “true”. The religious are more prone to this especially, since their entire up bringing has been based on, “Once you have had a revelation or had something explained to you in a nice comfortable and simplistic way, no more discussion is required, or maybe even **allowed**.”

    Of course someone that actually knows what the hell they are talking about sounds “dogmatic” to these sorts of people.

  21. #21 Steven Sullivan
    October 30, 2006

    What IRH is doing in rather hysterical fashion is trying to redact the Robinson review, apparently feeling impatient that it hasn’t been taken up at length on Pharyngula yet. I’m halfway through Dawkins’ book but read all of Robinson’s review yesterday. The review was an entertaining read — it’s written in a mode of high literary contempt by a very good writer — and makes one point that I’d like to see Dawkins address (about God being outside of time), but much of it devoted to the sort of ‘see, scientists have done bad things too!’ straw man argument that’s not exactly unfamiliar to Dawkins, I’m sure. Robinson sees Dawkins as either hopelessly naive, intellectually dishonest, or simply ignorant of religion and history, reiterating what’s appearing to be the common thread of critiques of TGD (Jim Holt said some of the same things, with much less of a barb, in the NY Times review). However, the *crucial* issue of self-correction by reality-testing, as a virtue of science that religion lacks, isn’t engaged by these reviewers. And to that extent they miss a huge point of Dawkins’ championing of science *over* religion.

    I’ll be interested to see what the science blog community has to say about the critiques of TGD appearing in ‘intellectual’ nonscience media like NY Times Book Review and Harper’s. (Though I note Harper’s also recently published a disgraceful AIDS-skeptic article by Celia Farber.) Even more interesting will be what Dawkins has to say!

  22. #22 Ichthyic
    October 30, 2006

    Adams responds at ClownHall:

    fight! fight!

  23. #23 truth machine
    October 31, 2006

    Hey, “Intellectual Rigor & Honesty”, you’re not any relation to Larry Fafarman, are you? Like, say, the identity relation?

    No doubt the person you went to see was full of inconsistencies and a glib hypocrite.

    But PZ it must be said that on Dawkins latest book that both you and he are might actually be regarded as glib hypocrites and lacking in intellectual honesty or rigor.

    Uh, why must that be said, when it isn’t relevant to the topic, and you’ve provided no argument for it? Particularly, how does the content of Dawkins‘s book demonstrate anything about Myers? Would you agree that someone who is intellectually rigorous and honest would necessarily admit that they are really an intellectually sloppy lying scumball when that is demonstrated to be so?

  24. #24 truth machine
    October 31, 2006

    Sorry contra Dawkins, Harris and fellow travellers if I don’t pass the ideological purity test because I can’t honesty equate the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., with the likes Osama bin Laden, but that’s just the way it is.

    For someone who despises dogmatism, you’re showing an awful lot of it. Neither Dawkins nor Harris has ever equated MLK Jr. with ObL. In fact, what I find most disturbing about Harris is his completely dogmatic special treatment of Muslims compared to adherents to other religions; consider his recent L.A. Times editorial in which he lambasted liberals for thinking that U.S. or Israeli policy in the ME has anything to do with the rise of radical Islam, Al Qaeda, and ObL. Harris, like many American chauvinists and consumers of AIPAC propaganda, seems to have a crypto-racist view of Muslims and Israelis (the former being necessarily bad and the latter necessarily good).

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