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 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.

  3. #3 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.