Pharyngula

Shrill atheists barking at the moon

My sermon-skit was too clever by half and the point seems to have been missed by some — so maybe you’d prefer the simpler clarity of Revere’s Sunday Sermonette or the straight-ahead, full-throttle atheism of the latest Carnival of the Godless.

But be careful. Concentrated strident atheism might just repel you into changing your views on the Designated Hitter rule.

Comments

  1. #1 John Danley
    September 30, 2007

    A remarkably astute analysis.

  2. #2 CalGeorge
    September 30, 2007

    “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United Federation of Planets, and to the galaxy for which it stands, one universe, under everybody, with liberty and justice for all species.”

    WOO-HOO! Give that kid a medal.

    Fuck the Pledge. Fuck the people who obsess over it. Long live Mr. 8.

  3. #3 Blake Stacey
    September 30, 2007

    If Revere’s story about the young Mr. 8 happened two years ago, then the lil’ munchkin would be plenty old enough now to have seen The Prisoner. Maybe he’ll show up in one of these comment threads declaring, “I am not a number!”

  4. #4 CalGeorge
    September 30, 2007

    And long live Mr. 10!

  5. #5 Russell
    September 30, 2007

    I belong to the Howler Sect of Rabid Atheists. Barking is for sissies. We howl at the moon.

  6. #6 lylebot
    September 30, 2007

    I first read that as the “Designated Hitler” rule. I supposed that to be a sort of corollary to Godwin’s Law: the designated Hitler is the one whose argument triggers comparisons to Nazism.

  7. #7 Kamehameha the Great
    September 30, 2007

    What do you think of what Richard Dawkins is doing.

    I think Richard Dawkins is doing a lot of damage. I disagree very strongly with the way he’s going about it. I don’t deny his right to be an atheist, but I think he does a great deal of harm when he publicly says that in order to be a scientist, you have to be an atheist. That simply turns young people away from science. He’s convinced a lot of young people not to be scientists because they don’t want to be atheists. I’m strongly against him on that question. It’s simply not true what he’s saying, and it’s not only not true but also harmful. The fact is that many of my friends are much more religious than I am and are first-rate scientists. There’s absolutely nothing that stops you from being both.

    Dawkins calls religion a virus.

    I disagree totally. He has the arrogance to say that anyone who does not share his views is infected with a virus. No wonder he cannot coexist peacefully with them.

    You write about the importance of “heretical thoughts” in the scientific community. What do you mean?

    This is mostly about politics. In “A Many-Colored Glass” I came out of the closet as far as global warming is concerned. I believe global warming is grossly exaggerated as a problem. It’s a real problem, but it’s nothing like as serious as people are led to believe. The idea that global warming is the most important problem facing the world is total nonsense and is doing a lot of harm. It distracts people’s attention from much more serious problems. That’s an example. It’s not so much to do about science. It’s really a political question.

    Why did you choose to be heretical about climate change?

    I’m heretical because I was in the business of studying climate change at least 30 years ago before it became fashionable. I used to go to Oak Ridge National Laboratory [in Tennessee], which was then the leading place for studying it, and they had a very good group of people there. I went there regularly and wrote a paper, which was published, essentially about the connection between climate and vegetation. It was amazing how little we knew, and that’s still true. It’s just very interesting that, scientifically, almost all the statements that are made publicly are wrong.

    We have no reason to think that climate change is harmful if you look at the world as a whole. Most places, in fact, are better off being warmer than being colder. And historically, the really bad times for the environment and for people have been the cold periods rather than the warm periods. The fact that the climate is getting warmer doesn’t scare me at all. There’s no reason why one should be scared. The economic conditions in the world and the technology change much more rapidly than the climate, so I don’t see any reason for being in a hurry.

    There’s a huge movement among scientists and policymakers making the case that global warming is urgent. Have you publicly debated any of them?

    It’s not very helpful. True believers are not going to change their minds just because of me.

    Freeman Dyson
    http://salon.com/books/feature/2007/09/29/freeman_dyson/

  8. #8 gorobei
    September 30, 2007

    Heck, I’d be a proud mom if my kid did that.

    I’m watching my 5yro and 3yro fall asleep in their little soft chairs, wrapped in blankets with their favorite toys beside them (a 3ft red ant stuffed toy for the 5yro.) This after 8 hours of relentless questioning from both of them about water and the sun and rabbits’ motives and penguin sex and mice and hedgehogs and guns and cheese and firemen. Thank God I didn’t have to think what the sky-fairy would say before I answered – I really don’t have the energy for anything but the truth.

  9. #9 Space Parasite
    September 30, 2007

    3-foot stuffed ant?! EXCELLENT! Plush toy invertebrates FTW!

  10. #10 J Myers
    September 30, 2007

    I do not have any children, but if I did, and a school administrator suspended my child for anything half as ridiculous as that pledge incident, said administrator would be in for a very unpleasant experience. At a minimum, it would include enduring a withering tirade and issuing my child an apology; in all likelihood, it would also include seeking a restraining order against me.

  11. #11 Bronze Dog
    September 30, 2007

    Arooooo!

  12. #12 akemor
    September 30, 2007

    You asked why Deepak Chopra is seen as credible. Media attention is the answer.

  13. #13 Jay Andrew Allen
    September 30, 2007

    I don’t deny his right to be an atheist, but I think he does a great deal of harm when he publicly says that in order to be a scientist, you have to be an atheist.

    Has Dawkins actually said this? The closest I could find was this from THE DEVIL’S CHAPLAIN, which merely argues that religious scientists are *effectively* atheists:

    “Are science and religion converging? No. There are modern scientists whose words sound religious but whose beliefs, on close examination, turn out to be identical to those of other scientists who straightforwardly call themselves atheists.”

    Unfortunately, if Dyson is being over-emotional on this point and is misquoting Dawkins, then it calls into question the rest of the interview, including his anti-global warming missive. (Which, frankly, I’d love to believe. Summer vacation at the North Pole, y’all!!!)

  14. #14 coathangrrr
    September 30, 2007

    I wonder when they’ll stop putting words in our mouths?

  15. #15 JimV
    September 30, 2007

    From Dyson’s “The Scientist As Rebel”:

    From a review of “Debunked: ESP, Telekinesis, and other Psuedoscience”, by Charpak and Broch:

    … There are strange events which appear to give evidence of supernatural influences operating in everyday life. They are not [always] the result of deliberate fraud or trickery, but only of the laws of probability. The paradoxical feature of the laws of probability is that they make unlikely events happen unexpectedly often. A simple way to state the paradox is Littlewood’s law of miracles. Littlewood … a professional mathematician … defined a miracle as an event which has a special significance when it occurs, [and which] occurs with a probability of one in a million.

    Littlewood’s law of miracles states that in the course of a normal person’s life, miracles occur at the rate of roughly one a month. The proof of the law is simple. During the time that we are awake … we hear and see things happening at the rate of about one per second. So the total number of events that happen to us is about … one million per month.

    [Discussion of attempts to detect paranormal “abilities” by the Rhine methods and others, “a sorry story”.]

    … Charpak and Broch and I agree that attempts to study ESP … have failed. Charpak and Broch say that since ESP and telepathy cannot be studied scientifically, they do not exist. Their conclusion is clear and logical but I do not accept it because I am not a reductionist. I claim that paranormal phenomena may really exist but may not be accessible to scientific investigation. This is a hypothesis. I am not saying that it is true, only that it is tenable, and to my mind plausible.

    … One fact that emerges clearly from the stories is that paranormal events occur, if they occur at all, only when people are under stress and experiencing strong emotion.

    … I should here declare my personal interest in the matter. One of my grandmothers was a notorious and successful faith healer.

    … Whether paranormal phenomena exist or not, the evidence for their existence is corrupted by a vast amount of nonsense and outright fraud.

    … A deluge of eloquent letters came in response to this review. Orthodox scientists were outraged because I considered the existence of telepathy to be possible. True believers in telepathy were outraged because I considered its existence to be unproven.

    I enjoyed most of the book, but I side with the orthodox scientists on this issue.

  16. #16 dahan
    September 30, 2007

    “I wonder when they’ll stop putting words in our mouths?”

    Not even when we’re dead and gone. Non-theism will be a threat to them forever, so they will forever mistate us and miscast our arguments. Reality is not their friend.

  17. #17 windy
    September 30, 2007

    So… Freeman Dyson thinks that Dawkins is arrogant towards people he disagrees with (the religious). But what about Dyson’s language when he talks about the people he disagrees with? For example, Al Gore is the “chief propagandist” of the “religion” of climate change.

    More Dyson from that interview: “For me, religion is much more about a community of people than about belief. It’s fine literature and music. As far as I can tell, people who belong to my church don’t necessarily believe anything. Certainly we don’t talk about that much.”

    That’s all very nice, but why do you need God, then?

    “The Aristotelians wanted to keep the heavens separate from the earth so there would be room for God in the sky. Galileo said the moon was a world like the earth with mountains and seas. Translated into modern language, Galileo was saying that the size and shape of the universe are not telling us anything about God.”

    Call me crazy, but it sounds more like Galileo was talking about what he was seeing through his damn telescope?

    Translating Dyson into modern language, theological conclusions based on scientific findings are all right as long as they are in the right direction.

  18. #18 Scott Hatfield, OM
    September 30, 2007

    You know, I’ve got no problems with A-Theism per se, but the New A-DH-ists movement has me up in arms. Don’t they realize that their public critique of the designated hitter rule leads to the wrong message that science is necessarily against the DH? We must maintain our DH allies who, despite their allegiance to Ron Blomberg, are otherwise solid supporters of science.

  19. #19 James
    September 30, 2007

    Very funny, all of them, but the Star Trek pledge is my favorite…

  20. #20 sailor
    September 30, 2007

    The interview with Freeman Dyson is interesting and quirky. Sometimes he just seems to get stuff wrong:
    take: “‘A polar bear sitting on a melting piece of ice. The poor bear is going to drown, and it’s a tear-jerker. But in fact, the bears are doing very well. The numbers of bears in the Arctic are increasing rather than decreasing. On the whole, they like it to be warm”. The reference he gives is a bit off the wall and certainly not like most. A typical one from Wiki: The polar bear is a vulnerable species at high risk of extinction. Scientists and climatologists believe that the projected decreases in the polar sea ice due to global warming will reduce their population by two thirds by mid-century.[4][1][5][6] Local long-term studies show that 7 out of 19 subpopulations are declining or already severely reduced.[7][8]
    “Dawkins calls religion a virus. I disagree totally. He has the arrogance to say that anyone who does not share his views is infected with a virus. No wonder he cannot coexist peacefully with them.” He seems to misunderstand here that to Dawkins all culturally transmitted ideas are akin to viruses (also called memes). There is not necessarily a negative connotation, after all science is a meme. But the concept does help us understand how people can be infected with bad ideas.
    But I imagine the book is worth reading…..

  21. #21 Anton Mates
    September 30, 2007

    Jay:

    I don’t deny his right to be an atheist, but I think he does a great deal of harm when he publicly says that in order to be a scientist, you have to be an atheist.

    Has Dawkins actually said this?

    I’m sure he hasn’t. He name-checked a number of “good scientists who are sincerely religious” in The God Delusion, and he’s said that his first choice for a pro-evolution book to give to a creationist would be Ken Miller’s, not least because the latter is a devout Christian.

    Dawkins has said that a lot of scientists often thought to be religious really aren’t, such as Einstein, and maybe Dyson is misremembering such statements. Or maybe he just made it up, I dunno.

  22. #22 melior
    September 30, 2007

    I first read that as “Designated Hitler rule”. Which also makes sense.

    And that Star Trek kid is very cool.

  23. #23 dikkon
    September 30, 2007

    I couldn’t bear to read the Carnival of the Godless – the white text on black was bad enough, but the brown links were very hard to see.

    Anyway, #8, or now #10, reminds me so much of my son who led a walk-out at his middle school because they wouldn’t let the kids sing a song at graduation because it was composed by someone who died of a drug overdose. The class chose the song because it resonated with them, not because they idolized the composer. My wife and I were also “invited” to meet with the principal. This entire event turned into family lore, spoken of fondly at family reunions.

    The kids didn’t really back down – they hummed the tune at graduation since they were not allowed to sing it.

    I am so proud of him and the other kids who backed him up (the entire class).

  24. #24 Jerad Kaliher
    September 30, 2007

    Thanks for the links, great posts.

  25. #25 jdb
    September 30, 2007

    Dawkins may be rivalling George Carlin, Dennis Miller, and Albert Einstein for “most falsely attributed quotations on the internet.”

  26. #26 Sean
    October 1, 2007

    Letter to the editor in my local paper….

    The resurrection of Christ is the most provable fact in the history of mankind. Do your own study. The grave of Jesus Christ is empty, thereby validating everything he ever said and did.

    *blank stare* And atheists are the ones who need to quiet down for fear of making statements that might just maybe perhaps be interpreted poorly?

    Not that providing evidence can even make a dent in the delusion bubble surrounding these folk. A continuing thread on this newspaper’s website (open to dead wood subscribers only) turned to everyone’s favorite canard, the Nazis were atheists. I provided a nice long set of data points detailing church attendence figures, policies toward unbelievers, revealing speech quotes, use of religious ceremonies and dogma, etc etc. You all know the drill. The core of the three sentence rebuttal? “The Swaztika was not a Christian symbol, but from India and used to ward off evil spirits.” I stand corrected. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Hitler was an atheist because a symbol had Aryan roots.

  27. #27 S
    October 1, 2007

    Dear PZ,
    Will you please review this book on your website? Seems like it might be of interest to you.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/01/books/01lame.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
    It’s a memoir of a boy who grew up in an orthodox Jewish community and later broke away from it. His punchline: “There is no sicker comic than God”
    Thanks!
    ~S

  28. #28 Pieter B
    October 1, 2007

    I do not believe in a god, but I do believe that the Designated Hitter Rule is an abomination before Him. As is Astroturf.

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