I’m not sure whether he’s making some kind of obscure point, or just trolling, but John Scalzi gave a recent installment of his “Big Idea” series over to the witterings of “Vox Day,” talking about his book The Irrational Atheist. Curse you, Scalzi, for getting me to even look at that.

And it’s not just me– John undoubtedly has readers who had never encountered Mr. “Day” before. Don’t you know that exposing innocent people to “Vox Day” has been classified as a war crime, and earnes you ten thousand years in Purgatory?

Anyway, having spent a bunch of time recently complaining about a lack of moderation among the local militant atheists, I should probably take this opportunity to calmly and moderately say:

“Vox Day” is a fucking lunatic.

I’d be more specific about what’s wrong with this piece in particular, but it really just failed to resolve into… anything, really. There were recognizable English words arranged into patterns approximating English sentences, but the whole mess seemed to be devoid of any kind of coherent point. It was clear, though, that it wasn’t worth the mental effort that would be required to wring a drop of sense out of it.

I have, however, encountered “Day” before, elswhere on the Internet, and found him a thoroughly repulsive little troll, whose most enlightened political opinions aspire to some day rise to the level of “troglodytic.” So, really, the chances of him making a useful and important contribution to the discourse on the question of religion are about as good as the chances of a bunny made of cheese materializing on my desk and singing “I’m a Little Teapot.”

I have no idea why John posted that, unless he had a bet with some other author that he could make 20,000 people dumber by three IQ points in the course of an afternoon.

Comments

  1. #1 John Scalzi
    April 10, 2008

    “Curse you, Scalzi, for getting me to even look at that.”

    I have the power to drag your eyes across something against your very will? Interesting.

    No, I’m not ashamed. Vox Day sold the book to a non-religious publisher; the book is out in the real world, not just jammed into the corner of some religious bookstore. And I suspect you know very well there are lots of folks sympathetic to his views. I knew people wouldn’t like me giving it or Vox Day a slot in “The Big Idea” and would be pissed off about it, but I figured the resulting conversation in the comment thread would be instructive and useful, in a number of ways. Also, I don’t mind throwing people the occasional curve ball. You are free, of course, to disagree with the both the choice and the utility therein.

  2. #2 Hank Roberts
    April 10, 2008

    Wait, this thread is mistitled — isn’t this the “Humorless Scold Smackdown” thread? As in, written as though you were one?

    Good grief, people who don’t understand skiffy shouldn’t be allowed to read postings by and for those who do — they get all grumpy.

    Acknowledging the presence of, even searching out, utter whacko stuff that ought to be science fiction is recreation, for some of us.

  3. #3 Kate Nepveu
    April 10, 2008

    Since you responded, John (and since you shut comments down on your own post before I’d decided whether to say this):

    Possibilities, as the steerswomen say, are three.

    Either you knew that Vox Day was a flaming idiot (by which I refer to the *quality* not the content of his argument), or you realized it during the thread, or you never realized it.

    I find the last two extremely difficult to believe. Therefore I find it hard to take you seriously when you claim that you thought the inevitable fish-barrel-blam would be “instructive and useful.” Therefore I am measurably less likely to engage in serious discussion on your blog.

    I absolutely do not expect that my opinion will matter to you or change your view of your decision in any way, which is why I hadn’t decided whether to say it before; but in the event that this was an unanticipated and undesired consequence, now you know.

  4. #4 Kate Nepveu
    April 10, 2008

    Hank Roberts:

    You’ll note that John Scalzi explicitly disclaims any such recreational intent, which is where Chad’s (and my) disapproval comes in.

    Also, you apparently haven’t been reading this blog very long if you think Chateau Steelypips isn’t a household involved in SF fandom (though, I admit, neither of us use the “skiffy” pronunciation).

  5. #5 Hank Roberts
    April 10, 2008

    Unless I’ve mixed up his metaphor, a “curve ball” is by definition recreational — for the bystanders watching.
    It’s an occupational challenge for the pitcher and the batter.

    Sorry to disagree with your feelings this shouldn’t have appeared, but there are so many lunatics out there publishing that seeing one more hauled up into the light to laugh at isn’t something I think merits this kind of serious distress.

    I mean, this is the framing argument all over again — don’t talk about THAT, leave it to the professionals.

  6. #6 John Scalzi
    April 10, 2008

    Kate Nepveu:

    “Therefore I find it hard to take you seriously when you claim that you thought the inevitable fish-barrel-blam would be ‘instructive and useful.’”

    Certainly it wasn’t either instructive or useful to *you,* I will grant. However, the Whatever gets up to 40,000 visitors a day, not all of whom hold the same opinions or beliefs as you do. Experience with my own site over a decade tells me that the readership is not homogeneous. Even the tiny fraction of the overall readership with publicly comments on the site exhibits lots of variety of opinion on everything I write.

    Trust me when I say there are lots of folks who read my site who would generally *agree* with Vox Day’s book. My mother is one of them. The comment thread may indeed have been interesting and useful to them.

    Basically: remember that not everyone on my site thinks, acts, or believes like you do (or I do, for that matter), and occasionally I’ll pitch something to them.

    “I absolutely do not expect that my opinion will matter to you or change your view of your decision in any way”

    Your opinion does matter to me, as I’ve told you a number of times before; that said, I knew what I was doing, and chose to do it and have no problems having done it for my own reasons. If it makes you less likely to comment on my site, that’s your business, although I will miss you, because you are an excellent commenter.

  7. #7 Kate Nepveu
    April 10, 2008

    John: because of your past and present references to your mother, I am unable to continue this conversation past what I’ve already said without violating my personal standards of civility.

  8. #8 Åka
    April 10, 2008

    Wasn’t Vox Day the person who once wrote that women cannot write hard SF because they (we!) don’t understand the science? I know that it’s not nice to drag up old things in a new context, but that’s something that forever makes it difficult for me to take him seriously.

    Please correct me if I’m mixing things up.

  9. #9 John Scalzi
    April 10, 2008

    Kate Nepveu:

    Why?

    If you think I’m employing my mother as a shield to ward off complaints, you’re *seriously* wrong. My point is to use her as a personally-known proxy for that portion of Whatever’s readership who has views on atheism more in line with Vox Day’s than my own.

  10. #10 Kate Nepveu
    April 10, 2008

    John: No.

    Åka: Yes.

  11. #11 nepenthinator
    April 10, 2008

    Anyone else think Scalzi might be a little bit disingenuous when it comes to denying recreational intent? I can’t really imagine that one could hand-select a more ridiculous advocate for those ideas than Vox Day. What, was Ann Coulter unavailable?

    If Scalzi’s mother really finds Vox Day to be representative of her position on religion, then I am forced to wonder if Scalzi was, in reality, adopted.

    Oh, and the sentence, “I have no idea why John posted that, unless he had a bet with some other author that he could make 20,000 people dumber by three IQ points in the course of an afternoon,” just made my day.

  12. #12 John Scalzi
    April 10, 2008

    Kate:

    Then please explain what the issue is, because I honestly and sincerely do not understand.

  13. #13 Kate Nepveu
    April 10, 2008

    I think it would be a little hypocritical of me, don’t you, considering the bit where I said unable to continue this conversation past what I’ve already said without violating my personal standards of civility?

  14. #14 James Davis Nicoll
    April 10, 2008

    Are you thinking of this?

    The mental pollution of feminism extends well beyond the question of great thinkers. Women do not write hard science fiction today because so few can hack the physics, so they either write romance novels in space about strong, beautiful, independent and intelligent but lonely women who finally fall in love with rugged men who love them just as they are, or stick to fantasy where they can make things up without getting hammered by critics holding triple Ph.D.s in molecular engineering, astrophysics and Chaucer.

  15. #15 John Scalzi
    April 10, 2008

    Nepenthinator:

    “Anyone else think Scalzi might be a little bit disingenuous when it comes to denying recreational intent?”

    If you read my preface to Vox Day’s Big Idea piece, it’s pretty clear I’m well aware of the “recreational” possibilities of it, so I don’t think I can be accused of being disingenuous about that. However, I didn’t do it merely to chum the waters. I had other reasons too, which have been noted.

    As for why Vox Day, it’s simple: I put up a call for authors to participate in “The Big Idea,” and he responded, and I thought for various reasons it would be interesting to post and see what happened. There are perhaps better people to argue his position, but they didn’t respond to my call for authors, and for The Big Idea, I let the authors come to me.

  16. #16 Hank Roberts
    April 10, 2008
  17. #17 Hank Roberts
    April 10, 2008

    Or, if you want to truly appreciate the musical joke, go directly to the .mp3
    http://www.dansdata.com.nyud.net:8080/files/farnam_toccata.mp3
    Have that playing in the background as you read this thread and the original one.
    _Then_ read what Dan says about the organ catching fire.

  18. #18 John Scalzi
    April 10, 2008

    Kate @ 13:

    Well, no, I don’t think it would be hypocritical, since I am directly asking you to explain it, and the request itself takes it out of the general sphere of casual discussion. It would at that point my hypocritical of *me* to hold what you said against you as a matter of general discourse.

    I really am interested and really would like to know. If you prefer, we could discuss it privately via e-mail.

  19. #19 Dennis Howard
    April 10, 2008

    #8 “Wasn’t Vox Day the person who once wrote that women cannot write hard SF”

    Yes. And he (Ted Beale) is a member of SFWA’s 2007 Nebula Novel jury. I am astonished that he was appointed to the jury a second time.

  20. #20 JJS
    April 10, 2008

    I confess to being stunned and appalled that there are seemingly intelligent people who seem to believe that some ideas and opinions must be suppressed; that even to mention a book containing them is morally wrong. If you don’t like the author, don’t read the book. If you suspect he may express ideas counter to your own, and such expression is an unfathomable heresy, then don’t read the book. But to condemn someone else for being less narrow-minded and opinionated is hardly compatible with intelligent discourse.

  21. #21 Geoff Arnold
    April 10, 2008

    Let me rewrite John’s original intro to the Vox Day crap, to show how I felt about it:

    Busy day, not a whole lot of time for me to hang about here at the moment. But you know how I like to leave you all something to talk about listen to amongst yourselves while I’m away. And I was thinking, hmmmm, what do I have in the cupboard MP3 collection that will precipitate a lot of conversation while I’m busy? Then I remembered I had this: A Big Idea piece from Vox Day, talking about his latest book, The Irrational Atheist this mash-up of a dentist’s drill, fingernails on a blackboard, and “It’s A Small World After All”. And I thought, yes, well, that should just work just about fine. Enjoy.

    And I wondered, “Why doesn’t John like me any more?”

    (For some reason the del tags don’t seem to render properly, so I added italics as well.)

  22. #22 jm
    April 10, 2008

    I agree with Prof. Orzel. Honestly, Mr. Scalzi should be ashamed in exposing his readers to something that differs from their opinions. We should never have to read anything with which we disagree. Furthermore, people should go out of their way to make sure we are never exposed to anything with which we disagree. Frankly, this is a failure on the part of the government, and it’s past time that we have a Cabinet-level department to protect the American people from differing opinions.

    I mean, it’s simple science, and if you don’t agree, it’s obviously a moral failing on your part.

  23. #23 Ellen Asher
    April 10, 2008

    What I find fascinating is how many people find themselves obliged to reply, at length and with considerable emotion, to what they consider an utterly stupid, useless and otherwise valueless post — at last count there were over 450 comments to the Vox Day piece. Why bother? Unless, of course, you think the other readers of John’s blog are too stupid to see what is obvious to you, and you must therefore enlighten them. (I’m not taking any position here on the piece itself; merely on the extent and anger of the commentary.)

  24. #24 Tom
    April 10, 2008

    Oh noes! People with opinions different than our own! Maybe if we pretend they don’t exist and make discussing them taboo they will go away!

  25. #25 stoolpigeon
    April 10, 2008

    I’d never heard of Vox Day before seeing his stuff at Scalzi’s blog. I haven’t read anything he’s written still, though I do find it interesting here that I find no rebuttal of his content but rather name calling only. It is unfortunate.

  26. #26 JimC
    April 10, 2008

    though I do find it interesting here that I find no rebuttal of his content but rather name calling only. It is unfortunate

    It’s been shredded in numerous places. Name calling may be silly I agree but in dealing with this Theodore and his absurd statements it gets some peoples ire up.

  27. #27 Spherical Time
    April 10, 2008

    John, I assume that Kate has personal standards against internet comments concerning people’s mothers, even when invited to do so. If that is indeed the case, I respect her for it. It isn’t easy to maintain high ideals on the internet.

    As far as the Vox Day article, I happen to think that criticism of Scalzi is unwarranted. I certainly don’t agree with Day: my beliefs run somewhere in the vicinity of Christopher Hitchens (past Dawkins, at the very least), but exposing Vox Day’s opinions doesn’t require endorsing them.

    In fact, for some of his readers who were unfamiliar with Day’s opinions (such as myself), it can be a sort of mental inoculation against him to encounter him in place that is relatively neutral.

    Even if he has readers that agree with those positions, I can easily see that I don’t, and my beliefs are unaffected by exposure to contrary opinions lacking substantial rhetoric or evidence. I certainly don’t think that it makes me dumber to encounter opposing opinions, even badly constructed ones. Day doesn’t appear to be at the level Gene Ray, anyway.

  28. #28 Simon Owens
    April 10, 2008

    Re: JJS

    I don’t think this is a matter of blocking other people’s opinions. In the same way that many argue that mainstream media outlets shouldn’t invite Ann Coulter onto shows to issue her opinions, an argument can be made that you shouldn’t give one of the internet’s most hateful trolls a voice on your blog. Not having Ann Coulter on doesn’t mean that you can’t invite conservatives to opine, just as not having Vox Day doesn’t mean you can’t have religious apologists.

    Anyway, that’s the debate as I see it. I have mixed views as to whether that Big Idea post should have been posted. I certainly took the opportunity to debate, so it did provide some entertainment. And there were some genuinely funny comments in that thread that were made by atheists — mocking religion can be quite humorous.

  29. #29 Kate Nepveu
    April 10, 2008

    John: Fine. This will also serve as a response to all the new people who are willfully misreading Chad’s post.

    I think you knew that Vox Day was an idiot who couldn’t present a coherent argument in favor of the utility of sliced bread. I think you knew that your commentors would rip his logic to shreds. I think that you knew that the inevitable outcome was that your mother would see a position she agrees with be represented poorly and mocked mercilessly. I think that calling that “salutary” is a perversion of the English language almost as bad as Vox Day’s.

    In short, I think you should be ashamed of the way you deliberately treated your mother.

  30. #30 John Scalzi
    April 10, 2008

    Spherical Time @ 27:

    Oh, absolutely, which is why I invited her into e-mail to discuss it. And it’s fine even if she chooses not to do that; I’m curious but (hopefully) not the point of being a total dick about it.

  31. #31 Badger3k
    April 10, 2008

    Stoolpigeon: you haven’t been looking very hard. Most of what Beale posts and writes has been rebutted completely, and the thread in question has some rather complete ripping apart of Beale’s “arguments”. Beale’s ignorance and misogyny is rather legendary. Search this website for “Vox Day” (that is, the Scienceblogs site) and you’ll find quite a few posts about him and his bizarre world. Another post here at sciblogs has some links to more complete debunkings. Heck, read a good philosophy text, or any book by an actual biblical scholar (apologists like Strobel or Craig do not count) and you’ll see many of the arguments he makes falls apart like paper mache in a thunderstorm. Do some research and see what you come up with.

    – - – - – - — – - – - – -

    I don’t see this as an issue of censorship. We should be allowed to laugh at all the ignorant and stupid people out there (and they don’t have to be both, one can be ignorant without being stupid). I think exposure is needed to show how vacuous people like him actually are. As was said, there are a lot of ignorant people who think as he does, and if he isn’t exposed to the light of day, his fungal ideas can spread and endanger us all more than they already do.

  32. #32 Jay D
    April 10, 2008

    Jim C:
    It’s been shredded in numerous places.[citation needed]

  33. #33 Spherical Time
    April 10, 2008

    Huh. Whatever appears to be gone for me at the moment, so I can’t point out to Jay D that there were several links to counter arguments in the comments of the “Big Idea” post.

    I didn’t look at them that closely, but I don’t doubt that from Jim’s position, what he says is a statement of fact, not needing a citation.

  34. #34 JJS
    April 10, 2008

    “I think you knew your commenters would rip his logic to shreds.”

    Well, I haven’t seen any comment about the arguments he makes, or his logic. Not one of his arguments has even been mentioned. All I see is hatred of the author, with much name-calling, and condemnation of a blogger who dared suggest that some people might find the book interesting. Reminds me of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson vilifying someone they don’t like.

  35. #35 Chad Orzel
    April 10, 2008

    John: “Curse you, Scalzi, for getting me to even look at that.”

    I have the power to drag your eyes across something against your very will? Interesting.

    It’s not so much that, as the fact that merely posting his screed sufficed to shatter my willful pretense that he didn’t exist. I had just about managed to forget the last time I encountered him, and then you had to go and bring the whole thing back up…

    As far as the substance of the post, I’m not actually personally offended by your decision to post his stuff. It’s your blog, and you can do whatever you want with it– “Vox Day” wouldn’t be among my first N choices for a “Big Idea” post, but it did prove to be an, um, lively topic.

    As this has, for that matter… Had I known that tempers would run so high, I probably would’ve put more thought into this post. Really, it was just a short, vaguely humorous thing I could bang out in ten minutes before running to Dunkin’ Donuts to get Munchkins for my class.

  36. #36 Kelly
    April 10, 2008

    How is this argument any different from that repulsive Monique Davis telling Rob Sherman that his views were dangerous to America and we should shield our innocent children from them? Are we so afraid of “Vox Day” that we can’t let his opinions see the light of day?

    Grow up, people. If you don’t like what “Vox Day” has to say, skip that post. I did — I’ve had enough of his lunatic blatherings. But Mr. Scalzi can, and does, post w/W/hatever he likes, and I think he had excellent reasons for posting the “Vox Day” Big Idea. If it offends your sensibilities, then move along.

  37. #37 Crom
    April 10, 2008

    @26 JimC posted the following: “It’s been shredded in numerous places.”

    Links, or it did not happen. Posting “Vox sucks” in many colorful different ways does not shred his arguments. Shouting “straw man straw man” is not a profound refutation of his arguments.

    Are you all so sensitive that your personal distaste for the man’s politics completely robs you of the ability to form a coherent response to his statements?

    The man is inviting you to kick his ass. The book is free, there is a website that he posts and discusses all substantial arguments made to his book, he can and does engage all serious debaters.

    So to paraphrase the words of Morpheus, stop trying to hit him and hit him. If you can.

  38. #38 John Scalzi
    April 10, 2008

    Kate Nepveu:

    “I think you should be ashamed of the way you deliberately treated your mother.”

    Ah! Now I get it. Thanks for the clarification.

    You may have a different relationship with your mother than I do. I love my mother dearly, but she’s well aware there’s a lot of stuff she believes that I think is patent nonsense, and which I take a delight in whacking at. Nor is this the first time I’ve done so on Whatever. A few years ago she offered up the suggestion that the ACLU has inherently anti-Christian and that no Christian lawyers could possibly work for the ACLU. So I posted that if a Christian lawyer who had worked for the ACLU would stand up, I’d make a donation to the organization. That netted the former head of the Arkansas ACLU (I think it was Arkansas; I’ll have to check). And the Creation Museum write-up is rather directly on point to some things she believes.

    I don’t feel in the slightest bit about challenging her worldview. Mom can handle it, and has handled it for at least 25 years, i.e., when I started being able to argue with her in a relevant fashion. Part of the reason I know she can handle is, well, where do you think I first learned to do this? And she loves her infidel son anyway. Which I think is sweet of her. I love her too.

    But I do sincerely thank you for your concern, Kate. It’s very kind of you, and I appreciate it on my mother’s behalf.

  39. #39 Vox
    April 10, 2008

    Another post here at sciblogs has some links to more complete debunkings. Heck, read a good philosophy text, or any book by an actual biblical scholar (apologists like Strobel or Craig do not count) and you’ll see many of the arguments he makes falls apart like paper mache in a thunderstorm. Do some research and see what you come up with.

    Yes, do. And you’ll find nothing of the sort. False claims of attacks on strawmen and empty assertions are not debunkings. It’s interesting to see how the details are always – always – omitted.

    And since Mr. Orzel is a Real Smart Atheist or whatever he happens to be, then he should have no problem disproving the arguments of this “fucking lunatic”. I’ll give him the chance to defend his favorite of the three New Atheists:

    1) Defend Sam Harris’s Extinction Equation or Red State/Blue State argument.

    2) Defend Daniel C. Dennett’s claim that a scientific division of doxastic labor is moral while a religious one is not.

    3) Defend Richard Dawkins’s self-described central argument of The God Delusion.

    Or, as I expect, he can demonstrate his intellectual cowardice by flinging a few more safely general metaphorical feces

  40. #40 stephenc
    April 10, 2008

    As for as the rebuttals of Beale’s work, specifically the Irrational Atheist, which has apparently been shredded in numerous places, it’s obviously insufficient to cite his legendary mysogyny given that the book in question hardly deals with the failings of the fairer sex. One hardly needs to consult “Logic for Dummies” to understand this point.

    That is to say, I’m really wondering where the rebuttal that shreds “The Irrational Atheist” may lie. The reason I wonder this is because I’d really like to read such a rebuttal.

    But all I’ve ever found are either a) someone griping about Beale’s legendary mysogyny, as if bagging on ladies and ripping irrational arguments are mutually exclusive activities; or b) someone who plainly hasn’t read the book making arguments about things which aren’t relevant to The Irrational Atheist.

    Anyhoo…intellectual cowardice is funny, and always appreciated.

    Your fellow irrational atheist,
    Stephen

  41. #41 Jonathan Vos Post
    April 10, 2008

    My Bias #1: I am a big fan of, and frequent commenter on the blogs of, both John Scalzi and Chad Orzel.

    My Bias #2: I became an active member of SFWA circa 1980, and was involved in the Science Fiction community since the 1950s through my father (a noted editor).

    My Bias #3: My mother was a woman. My wife is a woman and a Physics professor and a Science Fiction author.

    My Bias #4: I have been professionally published in Mathematical Biology since 1974, and other branches of Sciences (“hard” and “soft”) many hundreds of times.

    Having now warned you of my biases, here are my thoughts on this thread, as compactly as possible before the first cup of coffee kicks in.

    (A) First Amendment Free Speech is extremely important, to the extent of my willingness to fight for the right of people to say or write opinions that I find personally repulsive; hence John Scalzi should not be overly castigated for practicing it at a secondary level, in citing “Vox Day” at a primary level.

    (B) Not withstanding the above, I basically agree with Chad about the quality of “Vox Day” as to trollery, and lack of rationality; specifically that “Vox Day” (Ted Beale) insists that women “can’t hack” the Physics of Hard Science Fiction (as my wife and former SFWA President Dr. Asaro and others have done superbly), and in the blogosphere has demonstrated to me that there are essentially no meritorious ideas about humans individually, humans in groups (politics), nor the universe at large (Science).

    (C) It pains me that Chad and John and Kate show such anger at each other (in various permutations). Admiration, like friendship and love, is nontransitive. It often is true that one admires person A who admires person B, and you can’t stand person B. Tragedy in literature has a basic trope: A loves B, but B does not love A (noncommutivity), or A loves B who loves C but A does not love C. The main problem with table seatings at dinner parties, or panels at Science Fiction conventions, is that A likes B who likes C, but A does not like C.

    (D) There’s little point in complaining about any given SFWA officer or volunteer.

    (E) The best reaction to bad speech is good speech. Those who detest the words oozing from the infected brain of “Vox Day” onto the comments of blog threads, or even alarmingly onto bookshelves, may be most productive in calmly, rationally, framing the specious nature of said words; and ensuring that one’s own speech has positive content regarding the key questions to which we so strongly feel that “Vox Day” has mishandled:
    (i) What is a human being? (hint: the majority are female);
    (ii) What is the universe? (hint: Science has helped us more that any other magesterium to understand it)
    (iii) What is the role of a human being in the universe? (hint: to quote my Altadena neighbor whom I quote less often that Richard Feynman, namely Rodney King: “Can’t we all just get along?”)

  42. #42 John Scalzi
    April 10, 2008

    Also, just as a point of data, if you wander over to the Vox Day side of the Web, you’ll see that many there agree there was fishing shot in a barrel in that discussion thread, but they disagree on who was the fish and who was the shooter.

    Chad:

    “the fact that merely posting his screed sufficed to shatter my willful pretense that he didn’t exist.”

    Heh. Yes, I can see that. I have a list of “better left unthought of” folks myself. One of them is running for SFWA president at the moment, alas, so I’ve had to think about him a bit.

  43. #43 Chad
    April 10, 2008

    Vox, I have a prediction that the comments that follow yours will not even attempt to refute any of the points you brought up. Instead I forsee more screaming and crying.

    Let’s see what happens.

  44. #44 Mac
    April 10, 2008

    I wonder if one problem is that, due to page formatting, it wasn’t entirely clear to some where Scalzi’s comments ended and Day’s began?

    It did take me a moment or two to decipher, what with being at work and multitasking. It seems clear to me now that Scalzi was just throwing it out there, not endorsing, but I admit that I did not realize that instantly. I came away with the impression that he (Scalzi) was either trying to challenge himself and us to think outside a box, or letting Day string himself up for mass mockery. I admit I enjoyed the latter prospect more. (And I’m not even an atheist.)

  45. #45 StephenC
    April 10, 2008

    Jonathan Vos Post — As a really really smart guy, I take it you are quite aware that nothing you have written above has anything to do with the arguments put forward in The Irrational Atheist.

  46. #46 T-Boy
    April 10, 2008

    I found the book itself… somewhat disappointing. I mean, based on just the blurb itself, it seemed like a novel approach to responding to the assertions made by the New Atheists.

    Took me a while to realize that it was a thinly-disguised polemic against the New Atheists, and doesn’t really add anything more than some new informational tidbits that may or may not be of dubious value (too lazy to check, too lazy to care).

    Yes, I was annoyed, but it didn’t occur to me to be annoyed by Scalzi, just to the author of the book. And even then, all I did waste was my time, since the book was available for free.

    Since most of the time burnt was dead periods between work, which couldn’t be filled with anything else of importance, it wasn’t too big a waste for me, and it did at least give me an added bonus of clarifying my position vis-a-vis atheism & religion. Also, an excellent example of “doin it rong” on how to tackle the subject of how New Atheism is Bad.

    Was otherwise amused by the huge comment thread (only by its size, really, not by what was in it), and did not consider that Scalzi could have posted it for teh lulz. Did not matter if it did, because I found that while I considered the whole comment exchange “noise on the Internet” (as much Internet: srs bzns comments are), complaining about noise on the Internets is as useful and original as complaining about the presence of excrement in municipal sewage works, except that the metaphor does break down at some point, because you don’t use the Internet to carry noise away from your computer.

    Have suddenly realized that comment is actually noise, and more an attempt to share with Scalzi and People Who Give A Damn what I thought of the book.

  47. #47 Cubik's Rube
    April 10, 2008

    I was just about to delurk to make much the same comparison to the Monique Davis issue as Kelly @ 36 did. I certainly don’t want to draw any significant parallels between the appallingly bigoted diatribe she (Davis) went on and anything that Chad has ever posted – there’s nothing nearly so offensive going on here, and I’m a big fan of this blog, as I am of the Whatever.

    But the paragraph in the original post about Scalzi’s readers “who had never encountered Mr. “Day” before”, even with the obviously tongue-in-cheek war-crime remark, made me wince a little. I see now that it seems to have been made more in jest than I first realised, but it’s still worth saying that I don’t think there can be anything really wrong with allowing people to be aware of what this particular lunatic has to say. Vox Day and his tribe of ID apologists are often quoted at length in many ScienceBlog posts – the only difference in this case being that Scalzi refrained from personally eviscerating his blather line by line, leaving it all to the comments discussion. And it’s not like his opinions on the likes of Day are hard to uncover – he’s already mentioned here some pieces like the Creation Museum write-up which make things very plain.

  48. #48 Curious
    April 10, 2008

    Can somemone link to one of the places that keep getting mentionned where the Irrational Atheist arguments have been shredded? It seems strange that that continues to be said yet no arguments have been shared.

  49. #49 Simon Owens
    April 10, 2008

    Vox says:

    “Yes, do. And you’ll find nothing of the sort. False claims of attacks on strawmen and empty assertions are not debunkings.”

    I think he just adequately explained his own attempts at debunking atheist arguments. I especially found it humorous in the Whatever comment thread when he claimed that there is ample evidence for many events in the bible while ignoring the mountains of evidence contrary to the events of the bible, especially its very first book.

    He likes to claim that he debunked 36 different arguments made in the atheist books, when in reality he *responded* to them, a big difference. A response does not a debunking make. In one instance he tries to debunk Dawkins’s mention of an incredibly complex god by making ill-conceived, far-fetched real world analogies that don’t really compare to the popular conception of god. He also likes to change the goal posts for a definition of god so that he can try to slip it through the cracks of atheist arguments. It’s silly.

  50. #50 Chad
    April 10, 2008

    How dare anyone even THINK of questioning we atheists! It is us who tell everyone else that they’re wrong! Not the other way around! Our arguments aren’t meant to be questioned! They’re meant to be accepted on our authority alone! Stupid theists.

  51. #51 Vox
    April 10, 2008

    That is to say, I’m really wondering where the rebuttal that shreds “The Irrational Atheist” may lie. The reason I wonder this is because I’d really like to read such a rebuttal.

    There is no such animal as yet. Atheist reviews have either been grudgingly positive or, not unlike the majority of comments here, demonstrably beside the point. Most atheists appear to be frustrated that I am not arguing a positive case for God’s existence, virtually none have attempted to defend any of the 42+ specific atheist arguments I have addressed in varying degrees of detail.

    Here is a detailed chapter-by-chapter “debate” with Kelly of the Rational Response Squad, which is long, but just getting rolling.

    Here is the response by Sam Harris to seven of my questions, along with my comments on his response.

  52. #52 Spherical Time
    April 10, 2008

    Chad @ 43: Vox, I have a prediction that the comments that follow yours will not even attempt to refute any of the points you brought up. Instead I forsee more screaming and crying.

    Let’s see what happens.

    StephenC @45: Jonathan Vos Post — As a really really smart guy, I take it you are quite aware that nothing you have written above has anything to do with the arguments put forward in The Irrational Atheist.

    Just to point out to both of you, but this particular thread isn’t about refuting Vox Day. It’s about castigating Scalzi for giving him a speaking platform. As such, I don’t expect to see many arguments refuting Vox’s above points or criticizing The Irrational Atheist.

    This isn’t the place for it. This is a different subject completely.

    If you’re looking for those things, I would suggest trying elsewhere.

  53. #53 Craig
    April 10, 2008

    In post #3, Kate Nepveu, speaking to Scalzi about his posting of some writings of Vox Day, said:

    “Possibilities, as the steerswomen say, are three.

    Either you knew that Vox Day was a flaming idiot (by which I refer to the *quality* not the content of his argument), or you realized it during the thread, or you never realized it.”

    All three possibilities assume that Vox Day is a “flaming idiot”, and her choice of grammar eliminates consideration that there could be more than three possibilities (for example, that Vox Day is not a flaming idiot but fits a different classification).

    So her statement is based on flawed assumptions that there are only three possible logic states, unless some scientific evidence is presented (not simply hyperbole) that Vox Day meets some objective criteria that defines a “flaming idiot”.

    So my question to Kate is, “How does such narrowmindedness (refusal to consider other reasonable possibilities) and name calling (non-scientific and arbitrary classification) advance the cause of science?”

    Thanks to Prof. Orzel for providing the opportunity to post,

    Craig

  54. #54 Jonathan Vos Post
    April 10, 2008

    Re: #45, StephenC
    (1) “Nonoverlapping Magisteria” by Stephen Jay Gould. Google it, please.
    (2) “Framing” as debated, often with vitriol, on Science Blogs.
    (3) SFWA officers… see much-aired dirty laundry on blogs of John Scalzi, Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, et al., and know that SFWA trolls and flames as intensely in its internal organs.
    (4) I am not just a First Amendment absolutist in theory. I have taken those who defamed me to the California Supreme Court, and won unanimous victory: the key issue is, not whether disgusting things are published, or feelings hurt, but was there actual provable financial injury?
    (5) I tried to keep comment #41 as short as possible, rather than have to go off on any of these items as tangents.

  55. #55 T-Boy
    April 10, 2008

    @ 51: Just to point out to both of you, but this particular thread isn’t about refuting Vox Day. It’s about castigating Scalzi for giving him a speaking platform. As such, I don’t expect to see many arguments refuting Vox’s above points or criticizing The Irrational Atheist.

    Either I’m missing the joke here (which I think Orzel was doing, but now I no longer am sure), or truly the Internet is srs bzns and I missed the memo.

  56. #56 Curious
    April 10, 2008

    “This isn’t the place for it. This is a different subject completely.

    If you’re looking for those things, I would suggest trying elsewhere” Spherical

    But the argument being put forth is that Mr Scalzi was irresponsible in covering this book and this author. A commonly repeated point from those who hold this opinion is that Mr Day’s work is junk and that his arguments have been refuted – thus he is not worth discussing, and maybe even dangerous. Yet, no-one has provided proof that his arguments from this book have been refuted again and again. To properly scold Mr Scalzi, one must proove the point that Mr Day’s work has been “shredded”. This is most certainly the place where that must be done or at least referenced to support the argument. Yes? And I for one would like to read these and would benefit greatly from someone giving us a link.

  57. #57 Kate Nepveu
    April 10, 2008

    Craig et al.: To paraphrase what I said on Scalzi’s blog (I’d quote but it’s not loading for me just at the moment), Vox Day is someone who seriously asserts that the Bible would be admissible in U.S. federal court to prove the truth of its contents.

    As a lawyer, I assure you that this is such utter and patent nonsense that “flaming idiot” is, if anything, an understatement. Engaging with such a person is not worth my time.

    * * *

    John, glad we’ve got that cleared up. (Also, if I’d realized that everyone would assume that I was trying to avoid insulting your mother, rather than you, I’d probably have been less reticent.)

  58. #58 John Scalzi
    April 10, 2008

    Spherical Time @ 51:

    “Just to point out to both of you, but this particular thread isn’t about refuting Vox Day. It’s about castigating Scalzi”

    Yes! More castigation! Now! My site is down and I need stimulation!

  59. #59 WATYF
    April 10, 2008

    If you’re looking for those things, I would suggest trying elsewhere.

    Where, then? The issue is not that people aren’t using THIS THREAD to refute his arguments. The problem is that people are SAYING that the arguments have been refuted, but are not providing any EVIDENCE for such. So if Vox’s arguments have been so thoroughly refuted, then someone should easily be able to provide a link to an article where this has occurred.

    I’d frankly be very interested in reading a refutation of the arguments in TIA. I’ve read several attempts to do so, none of which went past chapter two of the book, and all of which mischaracterized the purpose and content of the book (which they hadn’t finished reading yet).

    I don’t give a shit if Vox is a misogynist or a communist or Hitler himself raised from the dead… someone should be able to counter these arguments. It can’t be that hard.

    .

  60. #60 Joshua Zucker
    April 10, 2008

    The Monique Davis comparison is rather absurd. There’s a fairly big difference between asserting that someone (indeed, a whole category of someones) shouldn’t have the right to even SIT in the house of government and, well, petition for a redress of grievances, as compared with answering free speech with more free speech (as in criticism of Vox Day), or criticizing someone for giving a widely-read platform to speech you find hateful (as, in this case, Scalzi).

    To quote one of the previous commenters here, “I don’t think there can be anything really wrong with allowing people to be aware of what this particular lunatic has to say” — well, wait a minute. Of course we should ALLOW people to be aware of it, but we shouldn’t ENCOURAGE them or help PROMOTE the lunacy and help it find its audience!

  61. #61 Onkel Bob
    April 10, 2008

    In response to #51, a poster on PZ’s entry on this chumming exercise suggested this site.

  62. #62 Spherical Time
    April 10, 2008

    55: Either I’m missing the joke here (which I think Orzel was doing, but now I no longer am sure), or truly the Internet is srs bzns and I missed the memo.

    It’s definitely srs bzns, and you must have missed the memo. ;)

    Scalzi: Yes! More castigation! Now! My site is down and I need stimulation!

    Out of curiosity, why is your site down? Otherwise, I may have to castigate you for my lack of stimulation.

  63. #63 StephenC
    April 10, 2008

    Spherical Time: “I don’t expect to see many arguments refuting Vox’s above points or criticizing The Irrational Atheist.”

    Nor do I.

    Cheers

  64. #64 Kate Nepveu
    April 10, 2008

    Scalzi gets stimulation. I get the motivation to finally hack Chad’s CSS to show visited links in a different color (I hope). I think this counts as a net win!

  65. #65 StephenC
    April 10, 2008

    #54 Jonathon Vos Post
    (1) “Nonoverlapping Magisteria” by Stephen Jay Gould. Google it, please.
    ————————–
    OK, but only if you google the Encyclopedia Brittanica first.

  66. #66 Chad Orzel
    April 10, 2008

    “Vox Day” wrote: And since Mr. Orzel is a Real Smart Atheist or whatever he happens to be, then he should have no problem disproving the arguments of this “fucking lunatic”. I’ll give him the chance to defend his favorite of the three New Atheists:

    This is too funny for words, given the argument we just finished having, about how I’ve written most of the “New Atheists” off as irredeemably childish…

    Defending any of them would sort of require me to agree with them, which I don’t. I could probably fake it, if I felt I needed to, but I have all these rocks in my back yard that I have yet to hit myself in the head with…

  67. #67 John Scalzi
    April 10, 2008

    Kate @ 57:

    I’m likewise glad it got cleared up. Thanks!

    Spherical Time @ 62:

    No idea why it’s down. It’s a server-side issue with the host, not something I did. For once.

  68. #68 Spherical Time
    April 10, 2008

    Scalzi: No idea why it’s down. It’s a server-side issue with the host, not something I did. For once.

    Well darn. No castigation for you then. I can’t blame you for something that isn’t your fault. ;)

  69. #69 Simon Owens
    April 10, 2008

    For those of you who keep wanting examples of debunking of Vox Day’s book, Evangelical Realism is currently shredding the book to pieces:

    http://realevang.wordpress.com/category/tia/

    I spend a good half hour reading through the posts there, and it really picks apart Day’s logic bit by bit. The blogger there is an excellent writer.

  70. #70 WATYF
    April 10, 2008

    This is too funny for words, given the argument we just finished having, about how I’ve written most of the “New Atheists” off as irredeemably childish…

    If you don’t agree with them, then what’s the problem with Scalzi giving “air time” to a book that disagrees with people that you also disagree with? One would think that you’d be happy that someone was pointing out how “irredeemably childish” those authors are.

    .

  71. #71 Vox
    April 10, 2008

    This is too funny for words, given the argument we just finished having, about how I’ve written most of the “New Atheists” off as irredeemably childish…

    I have to admit I was not expecting that, not being familiar with this blog. I don’t consider the New Atheists to be childish myself, except for perhaps Hitchens, I merely consider some of the arguments to be factually wrong, others to be logically fallacious, and some to be both factually wrong and logically fallacious.

    Of course, you may still find my refutations/responses to their childish arguments to be insufficient.

    Your Two Minute Hate may now continue as previously scheduled.

  72. #72 Chad
    April 10, 2008

    Chad Orzel wriote: This is too funny for words, given the argument we just finished having, about how I’ve written most of the “New Atheists” off as irredeemably childish

    I don’t see what the problem is then. That’s that same conclusion Vox Day makse in his book.

  73. #73 Salt
    April 10, 2008

    The problem with the Four Horsemen, and those that grovel at their feet, is that they must now reinvent their wheel, Vox having ripped the spokes out.

    I have yet to see anything new to replace it. Better to imagine the wheel as still intact than to admit the truth.

  74. #74 Vox
    April 10, 2008

    I spend a good half hour reading through the posts there, and it really picks apart Day’s logic bit by bit. The blogger there is an excellent writer.

    Read it, by all means. And if you’ve got any brains at all, you will soon realize how dimwitted that particular critic is. I leave it to the reader to decide what that implies about the judgment of Mr. Owens.

    For example, when I examined Sam Harris’s Red State argument, I spent a few pages demonstrating that his metric was a really stupid one. Then, I went on to demonstrate that EVEN IF one accepted that ridiculous metric, it proved the very opposite of what Harris claimed he had proved anyhow.

    That critic, in his reliable incompetence, somehow managed to reach the conclusion that these two things demonstrated that I was contradicting myself. Brilliant stuff!

  75. #75 Norman Doering
    April 10, 2008

    Chad Orzel wrote:

    I’ve written most of the “New Atheists” off as irredeemably childish…
    Defending any of them would sort of require me to agree with them, which I don’t.

    Not really. I sure don’t agree with everything Sam Harris has written, but I still caught Vox in a lie:
    http://normdoering.blogspot.com/2008/01/just-one-more-of-vox-days-lies-andor.html

    Still, slogging through the dull, tendentious and insulting prose of Vox Day is an unpleasant chore. My hats off to anyone who wants to do it without getting paid because it’s going to be tedious work requiring you to not only read Vox, but go back and read Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens.

    As far me, I’ll stick to things I enjoy:
    http://normdoering.blogspot.com/2008/04/why-new-battlestar-galactica-is-more.html

  76. #76 Simon Owens
    April 10, 2008

    Vox,

    Yes, I did find that particular post to be missing the point you were supposed to be making, as even he admits in the comments section, but his other criticisms are incredibly well-argued.

    The most likely reason he made that mistake was because your poor choice of rhetoric. You used the words “definitive proof” when it was anything but “definitive” even within Harris’s measure. Ever hear the axiom that correlation is not causation?

    Here’s your own quote:

    “This provides precisely the information that Harris claimed to have sought in vain, it is definitive proof that the social health of Red America is significantly superior to that of Blue America by Harris’s own chosen measure.”

    But it’s not definitive proof using “Harris’s own measure.” Your “definitive proof” doesn’t consider the other factors such as urban density and the outlying factors in both those blue and red cities. Just as Harris twisted the statistics to meet his desires, you twisted the statistics to meet your own desires, even if they were in the confines of his flawed reasoning.

    You basically said “Ok, I’ll play by your flawed rules” and reached an illogical conclusion within the confines of those flawed rules. Both you and Harris are wrong.

  77. #77 Simon Owens
    April 10, 2008

    To expand on the above statement, it would have been much better if you had merely said “here’s an example of how the statistics can be stretched both ways” to show that his claims were wrong, but once you entered with that “definitive proof” nonsense you went off the deep end.

  78. #78 Jonathan Vos Post
    April 10, 2008

    My position on the “Magesteria” which I was serious in referencing (albeit I believe that there are 5 nonoverlapping magesteria, each with its own definition of Truth and protocols of proof) is rather more nuanced, as I concede that of “Vox Day” — whether I agree or disagree. I have performed a number of weddings, often at Caltech, between pairs of scientists, typically agnostics or atheists but who want their religious parents to enjoy a formal event.

    As another example, on 4 October 2007 I give my big debate at Cal State L.A. on “Does God Exist” where I was the scientist / agnostic debating a rather well-known minister turned militant atheist (Dan Barker).

    Published as I am on Theomathematics and Theophysics, I framed my position in terms of axiomatic proofs and disproofs of the existence of God. Godel’s restatement of the Ontological Proof. Phlogiston versus Dark Energy in inflationary models and the multiverse.

    Good thing someone recorded the audio (albeit badly) on a cameraphone, so that Barker and I have a chance to eventually edit and footnote a transcript into something weirdly publishable, put it in our web domains at FAQs, and go on the road for geekish debates between atheism and agnosticism in a Humanist and logical positivist context. If a book emerges from this, I’ll throw more Science Fiction into it, and hope to be marketed by both Chad Orzel and John Scalzi.

    The surprising side effect of the debate, to me, was that it helped to rapidly solve some deep administrative problems at the grad school where I’m taking night classes (my second grad school, the first being 1973-1977).

    I spent 2 hours researching, writing, editing, printing, with attachments, a Petition to the Division Chairman of
    Applied and Advanced Studies in Education, Cal State LA, for a waiver of the prerequisite course “EDFN413: Psychological Foundations of Education” in my Teaching Credential program.

    I walked the bulky package to his office: petition form, 6-page cover letter listing courses taken, courses taught, professional
    publications, and 2 of my relevant papers. While I was chatting with the Division Secretary, Karen, the Chairman wandered by. He glanced it over, asked me a few questions, and signed the petition as granted, on the spot!

    Why?

    It seems that he’d been in my audience for that Golden Eagle ballroom debate on “Does God Exist” — and was very impressed by my erudition, communication skills, and having (he felt) won the debate against a slick opponent. This Chairman was pre-med, with lots of Philosophy, then did Ed Psych and EdSociology, PhD at UCLA. He was able to grasp my expertise in his fields quickly. The clerks and secretaries were astonished — these petitions usually take 1 to 3 weeks to evaluate, and don’t always succeed.

    As to the difference between the scientific side and the human side of these matters, Joseph Spence wrote that Lord Radnor reported to him “When Sir Isaac Newton was asked about the continuance of the rising of South Sea stock? —- He answered ‘that he could not calculate the madness of people’. [Spence, Anecdotes, 1820, p. 368].

    I did SO enjoy, in debate, quoting Euler to Diderot before the Empress of Russia:

    “Monsieur, (a^n+b^n)/n = x, therefore God exists!”

  79. #79 WATYF
    April 10, 2008

    I spend a good half hour reading through the posts there, and it really picks apart Day’s logic bit by bit. The blogger there is an excellent writer.

    I fail to see that. I read the first three and found fatal flaws in each one. For example, in this one he accuses Vox of arguing both sides of an argument and therefore trying to “have it both ways”, and then he says that Vox ends up actually “ridiculing” and “making the case against” the common Christian “myth” of moral superiority. However, Vox explicitly stated that he was arguing both sides in an effort to show that no matter which way you look at Harris’ argument, it fails.

    From TIA pg 123:

    So while the data may be striking, the argument based upon it can only be described as strikingly stupid. But just for kicks, let’s pretend that it is not a measure so ridiculously inaccurate as to be completely useless. Let’s imagine that Harris’s metric really is relevant, that an American voter’s 2004 presidential vote truly is indicative of his religious faith, or the lack thereof, and that statewide criminal statistics are a reasonable measure of an individual’s predilection for immoral behavior.

    Vox then goes on to show that even if you do use Harris’ flawed metric, the data actually shows that “Red” voters have lower crime rates. He doesn’t draw any real conclusion from this, of course, since he just finished saying that Harris’ metric is worthless, and he always appends “if you use Harris’ metric” to any “conclusions” that he draws during his experiment in arguing the other side. In the end, he simply shows that Harris was so wrong that not only was the metric he was using worthless, but even if you DO buy into that flawed metric, the conclusion is the exact opposite of what Harris says.

    After seeing this, ER somehow comes to the conclusion that if Red/Blue comparisons are worthless, and the data shows that Red = “better morals”, then therefore, Vox is actually arguing that the Christian claim to superior morals is FALSE! He notes the remarkable “irony” of the fact that Vox actually ends up making an argument against Christianity. Unfortunately, this is a logical fallacy. The first statement (“Red/Blue comparisons are worthless”) means that NO conclusion can drawn from the data… not that Christians ARE more moral or AREN’T more moral. And Vox states this very point. The ER reviewer is simply looking for a contradiction where there isn’t one and uses a logical fallacy in an attempt to “prove” it.

    He then claims that Vox’s attempt to use the Red/Blue data (even after admitting it was flawed) was probably because Vox saw that the Red/Blue argument started to look “good” for his side and he was therefore “seduced” by the pro-Christian result and started to argue in its favor. The only problem is, Vox never argued in favor of the Red/Blue results (even after being supposedly “seduced” by their pro-Christian results). He made it clear that the metric was flawed and that any conclusions made during his “let’s pretend” argument were theoretical “based on Harris’ metric”.

    .

  80. #80 Vox
    April 10, 2008

    No wonder you were impressed by him. Read what you wrote!

    “But it’s not definitive proof using “Harris’s own measure.” Your “definitive proof” doesn’t consider the other factors such as urban density and the outlying factors in both those blue and red cities. Just as Harris twisted the statistics to meet his desires, you twisted the statistics to meet your own desires, even if they were in the confines of his flawed reasoning.”

    I didn’t twist the statistics at all. Those other factors don’t enter into the equation, the cannot BECAUSE I AM LIMITED TO USING HARRIS’S CHOSEN METRIC. They didn’t enter into his, ergo they cannot enter into mine; I would have been rightly castigated for cheating had I brought any of those very obvious factors into play.

    Both you and Real Evangelist are completely missing the point. I am not saying anything about the social health of Red America at all, I am simply showing a) Harris is incompetent, and b) Harris is really, really incompetent.

  81. #81 Ulrika O'Brien
    April 10, 2008

    No, I’m not ashamed. Vox Day sold the book to a non-religious publisher; the book is out in the real world, not just jammed into the corner of some religious bookstore.

    Okay, so you’re actively proud of your inability or unwillingness to discriminate any better than his publisher? Please yourself, obviously. But if I can’t trust you discriminate — or worse, must suspect you of deliberately throwing aside discrimination in order to propagate food fights for your amusement — then I’m a lot less interested in what you have to say. And if, as Kate Nepveu suggests, the Vox post was an elaborate exercise in bear baiting, then I am inclined to give up in disgust. As Chad says, you can post what you want. But I do not have to read it.

  82. #82 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    People, can we just be clear about the fact that most of you consider Vox to be a troll, a ‘flaming idiot,’ a jerk, a creep, and a troglodyte because he is a vocal anti-feminist who does not censor his opinions for political or personal reasons? And that this is a completely separate issue from the logical arguments contained in TIA?

    Can we not look upon this conundrum as an opportunity to put our personal prejudices and emotional responses aside, and look at a set of arguments from a purely logical standpoint, as good, intelligent scientists and intellectuals pride themselves upon doing?

    That is how I choose to address Vox, and it is actually really fun. His true weakness is that he discounts emotion completely as a valid or relevant element of any discussion, and it’s an interesting exercise to note where this kind of blind spot ultimately takes people. Despite the fact that we disagree on many subjects, I have never found him to be stupid or illogical in his approach to things, and I’d encourage you to read his book all the way through and genuinely engage with his opinions.

  83. #83 Simon Owens
    April 10, 2008

    Vox,

    Again, I realize you’re working within his confines and that you’re not saying anything about the social health of Red America.

    What I’m saying is that I could have taken his “flawed logic” and twisted it any number of ways to reach conclusions about the state of both red and blue America, or the different political ideologies in between. You picked one of those 10 conclusions and defined it as the “definitive” one within his flawed logic. It wasn’t.

  84. #84 superninja
    April 10, 2008

    What a bunch of control freaks, trying to take Scalzi to task for this. Emotion trumps reason again!

  85. #85 Irene Delse
    April 10, 2008

    I can see one helpful consequence to VD’s pseudo-rational rantings and to John giving him space to develop them: now, when readers ofJohn’s blog encounter the same fallacies in the writings of (say) Pope Benedict (1), they can recognize them for what they are instead of being impressed by who utter them.

    Well, hopefully, of course.

    (1) For instance, that Jesus’ resurrection is “certain proof” of his teachings…

  86. #86 Ulrika O'Brien
    April 10, 2008

    Pretty Lady says, “Despite the fact that we disagree on many subjects, I have never found him to be stupid or illogical in his approach to things.”

    Then you have either not been reading what he was writing, or you do not understand what the word “illogical” means. Circular reasoning, which he employs, is a paradigm case of illogic. You seem to think that people have formed their negative opinions of Vox in a vacuum, without reading his arguments. I suggest to you that it is far likelier that they have formed their opinions precisely because they have seen his so-called arguments, and found them wanting.

  87. #87 WATYF
    April 10, 2008

    What I’m saying is that I could have taken his “flawed logic” and twisted it any number of ways to reach conclusions about the state of both red and blue America, or the different political ideologies in between. You picked one of those 10 conclusions and defined it as the “definitive” one within his flawed logic. It wasn’t.

    I’m curious, what 10 (or even 1) other conclusions could have been reached using Harris’ metric and the data provided?

    .

  88. #88 MikeT
    April 10, 2008

    Chad should be ashamed of himself for writing a seven paragraph long post that is almost entirely ad hominem, and that doesn’t even take a stab at proving why Vox is a “poopyhead” for making his arguments…

    One of these days, someone is going to be able to empirically measure the correlation between the amount of wild-eyed arm flailing and name-calling and the intelligence of the individual. I suspect that the relationship between those things and overall intelligence will not be flattering.

  89. #89 Onkel Bob
    April 10, 2008

    Umm, Chad, any post that brings you VD, is probably not a good post. The treatment regimen is rather painful and long. I see it has employed its usual tactics of speciousness and mendaciousness, not to forget the array of ad homimens. Its clones and dittoheads are already infesting and polluting the waters.
    Are you guilty of the same offense that many suspect Scalzi committed; i.e., invoking the controversial (no matter how puerile) to attract traffic?

  90. #90 Vox
    April 10, 2008

    What I’m saying is that I could have taken his “flawed logic” and twisted it any number of ways to reach conclusions about the state of both red and blue America, or the different political ideologies in between.

    That may well be true. But you’re failing to take into account the context of the Red State Argument, in which Harris explicitly states that he is looking for “some sign” that the social health of Red America is superior to that of Blue America. I show that by his own measure, there is definitive proof of the very sign that he could not find. Now, perhaps you could complain that I did not carefully point out that the “definitive proof” only refers to “some sign of the superior social health of Red State America” rather than “the superior social health of Red State America”, except that I claim nothing more than to provide “precisely the information that Harris claimed to have sought in vain”.

    Your first contextual clue should have been that the entire section is entitled “The Incompetent Atheist” and not “The Superior Social Health of Red State America”. But if you would like me to admit that I failed to conclusively prove the superior social health of Red State America in TIA, I will happily do so. I never claimed to have done so.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that a few of my atheist critics are so desperate to find any little error at all that they completely ignore the context of the New Atheist arguments in order to quibble over an irrelevant tangent that is completely unrelated to my critiques of those arguments. Mr. Owens’s comments appear to fall into that category. I was somewhat bemused to recently read a lengthy critique of Chapter Two that utterly failed to even mention what was the main subject as well as the title of the chapter, much less begin to criticize it.

    Even more bemusing, there were a few atheist readers who thought it was quite the debunking.

  91. #91 Simon Owens
    April 10, 2008

    “I’m curious, what 10 (or even 1) other conclusions could have been reached using Harris’ metric and the data provided.”

    Vox is using county data which is shrinking down the state data to a more micro one. One could continue this trend — why stop at the county? Why not individual towns or districts — down to lower and lower levels, reaching different conclusions at each one. Though I work in a county and can call the sheriffs department to get county-wide data, I can also call the town police department (run by a chief, not a sheriff) and find the data at a more accurate level, which would likely be wildly different from the county at large.

    So I can take his county conclusions, shrink them down to a more micro level, and reach different ones. You see how it works?

  92. #92 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    You seem to think that people have formed their negative opinions of Vox in a vacuum, without reading his arguments.

    Yes, I do. I have been reading Vox’s blog for over two years, and I have read TIA cover to cover, which is more than most of the commenters on this thread have been doing, judging by their complete ignorance of the substance of his arguments.

    Most of the people who accuse him of ‘circular reasoning’ seem to make the assumption that he’s trying to prove the existence of God through logical argument, which he specifically and explicitly declines to do. Then they state that in order to challenge the ‘arguments’ of Dawkins, Harris et al, he must attempt to do so, ignoring the actual lack of logic in the actual arguments of Dawkins and Harris. Then they accuse him of being a misogynist and commence mocking my blowjob post, as if whimsical sex-positivity obviated the capacity to analyze a train of logic. As I can assure you it doesn’t. The mind is generally clearer for benefit of a bit of physical release.

    As it happens, my dear Ulrika, I quite agree with your perspective on the possibility of belief creating phenomenological manifestations, rather than the other way around; in fact, my current ontological views rather revolve around such a possibility, though in a manner that is at once more fundamental and less literalistic. To wit, I believe that the phenomenological universe is a projection of universal consciousness, filtered through the blocks of the psychological self. Vox really hasn’t been able to address that one, and I’d encourage you to continue that line of discussion with him.

  93. #93 Anne KG Murphy
    April 10, 2008

    @41 Jonathan:

    a) I am a woman
    b) I am an experimental physicist
    c) I was the only woman in many of my classes and am the only woman engineer who works in the company I work for, though there are two female grad students who work in the lab where we borrow time in the vacuum chambers.

    I am disappointed in all the people who focus on “Women do not write hard science fiction today because so few can hack the physics” as a statement that asserts that women cannot do physics. Luckily I also studied English and can point out that “so few of them” is actually synonymous with “some of them” rather than “none of them” though clearly the author should have started his sentence with “Few women” instead of women in order for his generalizations to be accurate. With that amendment (and as a professional proofreader I cheerfully assert that is what the author really meant to say, which a good editor should have caught), the statement is true.

    Few women do write hard SF. Very few. Anne McCaffrey wrote some in her heyday. These days (actively writing) we have Elizabeth Bear, Kage Baker, Catherine Asaro, Nancy Cress, Elizabeth Moon, Sarah Zettel, Gwyneth Jones (more? I’d love to get their names). Then there are also a bunch of authors who write space opera or other future-setting or mythic sf (cyberpunk is one kind) that does not risk getting attacked by frothing rocket science students who feel the need to explain the whole speed up vs slow down thing for changing orbits, or the precise number of light-years between distant planets, or some other thing that yes, many of our female authors were never taught in school.

    He may make this point provocatively but I would prefer not to shy away from the point: Sadly, many female authors seem to get shifted away from SF into Fantasy. As to his estimation of their Fantasy plots, well, clearly he doesn’t actually read much of that genre. But why do you feel compelled to argue so ardently against his point? I don’t think he was saying “women by the gender can’t hack physics,” I think he was saying “here’s a pattern I see.” Why don’t you argue about the pattern instead of the tangential thing that’s easy to get huffy about?

  94. #94 Onkel Bob
    April 10, 2008

    Umm, Chad, any post that brings you VD, is probably not a good post. The treatment regimen is rather painful and long. I see it has employed its usual tactics of speciousness and mendaciousness, not to forget the array of ad homimens. Its clones and dittoheads are already infesting and polluting the waters.
    Are you guilty of the same offense that many suspect Scalzi committed; i.e., invoking the controversial (no matter how puerile) to attract traffic?

  95. #95 Onkel Bob
    April 10, 2008

    Umm, Chad, any post that brings you VD, is probably not a good post. The treatment regimen is rather painful and long. I see it has employed its usual tactics of speciousness and mendaciousness, not to forget the array of ad homimens. Its clones and dittoheads are already infesting and polluting the waters.
    Are you guilty of the same offense that many suspect Scalzi committed; i.e., invoking the controversial (no matter how puerile) to attract traffic?

  96. #96 Simon Owens
    April 10, 2008

    Expanding on the point I made about shrinking it down to a more micro level, I just went and checked the crime statistics for both the town I work in the county surrounding it. The town has a much lower crime rate than the county, but checking the county registrar voter ratios for the 2006 election, both the town and county are fairly red.

    So, given this, I can use Harris’s flawed logic to conclude that…red America is more socially healthy than…red America? See how inane the “definitive” claim is?

    You could go down even to a more micro level all the way to individual voters. That would move many of the urban criminals out of the equation entirely and mainly middle class and white collar criminals would be considered, which may or may not lean conservative.

  97. #97 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    I don’t think he was saying “women by the gender can’t hack physics,” I think he was saying “here’s a pattern I see.”

    Absolutely. My personal opinion is that we are perfectly capable of hacking the physics; we just don’t want to.

    There is a new book out which supports my assertions that women’s minds work more holistically and less linearly than men’s, which tends to mean that we focus more on relational activities than hard science or highly driven career paths. This is not, in my view, a weakness, so much as a genuine difference which has very good reasons for existing, and which we attempt to ignore at our peril.

    BTW, Lois McMaster Bujold may not write hard SF, but her extrapolations of sociological trends is masterful, as well as her character and plot development. I am hard put to see how her works could be improved upon.

  98. #98 Chad Orzel
    April 10, 2008

    #72: Chad Orzel wriote: This is too funny for words, given the argument we just finished having, about how I’ve written most of the “New Atheists” off as irredeemably childish

    I don’t see what the problem is then. That’s that same conclusion Vox Day makse in his book.

    It’s this ace grasp of logic that makes you all so unbeatable in reasoned debates. To his credit, “Vox” at least got it right in #71:

    Of course, you may still find my refutations/responses to their childish arguments to be insufficient.

    Um, yeah.

  99. #99 Tor
    April 10, 2008

    Scalzi can obviously post whatever he wants, and initially I was interested in the Vox Day discussion, as I hadn’t come across him before. I tend to avoid religious debates and pundits on the left and the right.

    But arguing with Vox Day, in my opinion, is like arguing with a man who willingly had ‘I’m an idiot’ tattooed on his forehead, and who now doesn’t understand why people don’t take him seriously enough to present a proper rebuttal to his ideas and theories.

    I did go to Vox Day’s blog, and read what he wrote about the inability of women to hack hard sciences. If someone wants to tell me that a specific woman can’t hack physics, I would respond by saying that neither can I – I picked my career in part because if I ever need to use math, I get to hire an expert witness. But I’ve known too many female engineers, physicists and others to know that anyone who holds the ideas that Vox Day does about women is nothing more than a misogynist with pretensions of intelligence. And the people who believe as he does on other matters are sullied by the association.

    For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

  100. #100 superninja
    April 10, 2008

    Tor, you kind of missed the whole point. No one is trying to get you in under Title IX.

  101. #101 superninja
    April 10, 2008

    Of course some women are capable of doing physics. When did anyone ever state otherwise? The sky is also blue.

  102. #102 Tor
    April 10, 2008

    Anne KG Murphy and Pretty Lady – The fact that fewer women choose to pursue graduate degrees in hard sciences, or to write hard scifi, or whatever metric you want to use, has no correlation to the assertion of Vox Dei that few *can* handle the math. There are numerous other reasons, many of which have been documented, that better explain this phenomena than simply asserting that women are unable to do so.

    Further, asserting these types of generalizations makes it much harder for the women who *do* pursue careers in the hard sciences – as it feeds into the prejudice that women *can’t* handle the math and/or science, and are only there because of affirmative action. If someone starts a job where everyone they work with is convinced they can’t do it, the surprise isn’t that so few women choose careers in the hard sciences, it is that any choose to do so.

  103. #103 Jonathan Vos Post
    April 10, 2008

    #93 by Anne KG Murphy was an extremely intelligent, reasonable, and interesting comment.

    Let my reply in three parts: first, on women in Physics; second, on women writing Hard Science Fiction; third on how women scientists are portrayed by Hollywood. I’ll preface this by saying that what we read is mediated by significant sexism within the Physics community (at least in the USA) and among Science Fiction editors.

    As I mentioned on the a propos blog thread “Nature Sticks One Toe In the Early 20th Century” by Zuska in these ScienceBlogs:

    My wife, as a Physics professor, has her own tales to tell of earning $25,000/year less than the man with no more degrees and many fewer publications, in the same project. And of suffering under a grotesque sexist male university department Chairman, who has had only one refereed paper published in his life (as GoogleScholar establishes), and is intentionally cruel to my wife (10 such publications by her pop out of GoogleScholar immediately). Of course, I’m also biased here…

    One of the better portrayals by a man of the institutionalized academic prejudice against women is by Greg Benford in Timescape. Timescape is a 1980 novel by science fiction writer Gregory Benford (with unbilled co-author Hilary Foister).

    It won the 1980 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 1981 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. The novel was widely hailed by both critics of science fiction and mainstream literature for its fusion of detailed character development and interpersonal drama with more standard science fiction fare such as time travel and ecological issues.

    An elderly woman wanders through some scenes at “UC La Jolla”, and is dismissed by the men as no more than a dotty old lady. She turns out to be nothing of the kind, and Greg explains that this part of the novel was based on his actual observations of the sexist treatment of Maria Goeppert-Mayer (June 28, 1906 – February 20, 1972). She was, also from Wikipedia summary, a German-born American physicist. In 1963 she received the Nobel Prize in Physics for proposing the nuclear shell model of the atomic nucleus, becoming one of only two women to receive a Nobel Prize in Physics (the other being Marie Curie).

    Also, consider Lise Meitner (November 17, 1878 – October 27, 1968), whom as Wikipedia summarizes was an Austrian born, later on Swedish physicist who studied radioactivity and nuclear physics.

    Meitner was part of the team that discovered nuclear fission, an
    achievement for which her colleague Otto Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize. Meitner is often mentioned as one of the most glaring examples of scientific achievement that was ostensibly overlooked by the Nobel committee. A 1997 Physics Today study concluded that Meitner’s omission was “a rare instance in which personal negative opinions apparently led to the exclusion of a deserving scientist” from the Nobel.

    Shifting now to Hard Science Fiction, I first reference my web page on the subject.

    http://www.magicdragon.com/UltimateSF/thisthat.html#hardsf

    The definition of “Hard Science Fiction” is important. The analogy is between the “Hard Sciences” such as Astronomy, Physics, and Chemistry, ruled by mathematics and repeatable laboratory experiment on the one hand, and “Soft Sciences” — fuzzy subjective fields such as Psychology, Sociology, and Anthropology where no two humans are identical the way two electrons are, and yet we still try to apply empirical methods.

    It is partly a matter of attitude. The Bible tells us:

    “Who seeks hard things, to him is the way hard.”

    [truncated]

    On that page, these women were mentioned (in order of appearance):

    Cleopatra, Kathryn Cramer, C. L. Moore, # Ursula K. Le Guin, Katherine Maclean, James Tiptree, Jr., Kate Wilhelm.

    Let me also mention these “Lab Lit” examples, not usually considered by those who summarize the Hard SF subgenre. I’m excerpting material from the Lab Lit web domain here:

    * The Secret by Eva Hoffman
    Drama: A futuristic account of a cloned young woman which contains a substantial amount of credible detail by a non-scientist who has done her homework

    * Survival by Julie E. Czerneda
    Drama: A biologist studying salmon gets captured by alien archaeologists for her unique perspectives on migration, featuring startling accurate field biology culture (first part of a series, ‘Species Imperative’)

    Since mad scientist Rotwang’s day [Fritz Lang, Metropolis, 1927], there have been at least 60 feature films featuring physical scientists and their research. Marie Curie and her husband Pierre (Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon) appeared early on, in
    Madame Curie (1943). Like other biopics of the era, the film made the protagonists unrealistically good looking and emphasized their heroic qualities, although it did show some insights into scientific life not often found in fictional stories. Indeed,
    given the need to encourage more women to study science, the issue of how female physicists are portrayed in films remains pertinent even today (see “Women in the movies”).

    Women in the movies

    Female physicists are rarely presented well in movies. An early example is When Worlds Collide from 1951, which features Barbara Rush as an astrophysicist. She only appears as a secondary character, whose main functions are to assist her father and to fall in love with a handsome spaceship pilot. Things had not changed much by the 1980s, when Kelly McGillis plays glamorous Charlie Blackwood in the 1986 blockbuster
    Top Gun. Despite being an astrophysicist, Blackwood is for some strange reason involved in training fighter pilots, notably Tom Cruise, with whom she has an on-screen romance.

    Thankfully, the film portrayal of female scientists has improved in recent years. One study by Jocelyn Steinke from Western Michigan University revealed that 31% of all on-screen scientists in films made between 1991 and 2001 are female. This compares with just 17% for all films between 1929 and 2003, according to a
    separate study carried out by Eva Flicker from the University of Vienna.

    One film with a positive image of a female physical scientist is Contact (1997), which features radio astronomer Eleanor Arroway, played by Jodie Foster. Dedicated to her work, Arroway comes across as a less glamorous but more complex and believable scientist than Blackwood. When her funding is withdrawn, Arroway works hard to find other support, and shows integrity in standing by her beliefs about scientific knowledge versus religious faith, even at personal cost. Offered a chance of romantic involvement, she chooses instead to continue her work, making her more than a typical Hollywood romantic cliché.

    Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue) in The Saint (1997) is also a serious scientist – an electrochemist who can make cold fusion work and is passionate about its possibilities. But The Saint (Val Kilmer) – a professional thief – manipulates her yearning for romance and steals the notes for her process. Eventually all is resolved, however: they fall in love, and Russell convinces The Saint that they should give cold fusion to humanity rather than profit from it. Although Kilmer is top-billed and has all the exciting action scenes, Shue emerges as the film’s scientific centre and as a gutsy, idealistic, and attractive woman. While these women are better examples than Hendron and Blackwood, not all is perfect: Arroway’s entire career is shakily based on finding intelligent aliens, and the cold fusion that Russell pursues has been discredited in the real world.

    I could go on, but I feel that I’ve exceeded my quota. It wate about its possibilities. But The Saint (Val Kilmer) – a professional thief – manipulates her yearning for romance and steals the notes for her process. Eventually all is resolved, however: they fall in love, and Russell convinces The Saint that they should give cold fusion to humanity rather than profit from it. Although Kilmer is top-billed and has all the exciting action scenes, Shue emerges as the film’s scientific centre and as a gutsy, idealistic, and attractive woman. While these women are better examples than Hendron and Blackwood, not all is perfect: Arroway’s entire career is shakily based on finding intelligent aliens, and the cold fusion that Russell pursues has been discredited in the real world.

    I could go on, but I feel that I’ve exceeded my quota. It would not advance my argument to name more women who write Hard SF, nor quibble about any given writer. Suffice it to conclude that there are several real issues intermingled in this discussion, and I greatly appreciate the quality of Anne KG Murphy’s contribution.

  104. #104 Tor
    April 10, 2008

    Vox Day:

    “Women do not write hard science fiction today because so few can hack the physics, so they either write romance novels in space about strong, beautiful, independent and intelligent but lonely women who finally fall in love with rugged men who love them just as they are, or stick to fantasy where they can make things up without getting hammered by critics holding triple Ph.D.s in molecular engineering, astrophysics and Chaucer.”

    http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=42958

    And ‘super’ninja – the quote was not made in the context of Title XI. Try again.

  105. #105 Jasper
    April 10, 2008

    I’m not quite sure how I got here from John’s original post, but now I’m here I notice a number of the same names popping up defending his arguments. Is there some kind of club that trails him around? In any case, I think it’s worth stating a couple of things. There’s nothing wrong with John allowing a guest post from Vox on his own blog, even if you disagree with Vox’s views on many things. The book is not a “threat” in any way – it doesn’t present a coherent narrative, and most of the arguments aren’t compelling – and it is essentially preaching to the choir.

    On the other hand, Vox himself seems to think that if people don’t read his book, that means they’re scared that he’s right – which is clearly arrant nonsense – and that if they don’t refute his ideas, then that means that they have conceded – also clearly arrant nonsense. However there’s no reason not to allow him to continue to maintain those particular beliefs – although not necessarily the beliefs in the book itself, most of which are a little sad, insofar as he genuinely appears to think that he’s resolved the Euthyphro dilemma. (A clue: he hasn’t.)

  106. #106 Tsunami
    April 10, 2008

    Here’s what I’d like to know: who are the male hard SF authors who are or were practicing scientists with credentials comparable to Asaro’s? Speaking as a scientist myself (CS PhD from top school in my field, approx 400 citations on Google Scholar), with some experience in evaluating publication records, the male SF authors who are supposedly the big names were science enthusiasts or at best mid-level working engineers, not really scientists. Seriously, someone name one male SF author with any kind of real scientific publication record? And Marvin Minsky doesn’t count.

  107. #107 Christie
    April 10, 2008

    Weird. Chad’s post was filled with so much humor that it didn’t occur to me to take the ‘castigation’ (as one commenter called it) seriously. It’s funny how the same words can land so differently in so many people. Occupational hazard for you blogging types, I guess.

    I read you both, and am enjoying the thread. Delighted to see you both keeping your sense of humor.

  108. #108 Hilary
    April 10, 2008

    The opinions that Vox holds are nothing new, the arguments he makes are old arguments (referring to the comment thread only). He is able to sling a prima facie arguments that sound reasonable to the average Joe. Considering a substantial proportion of average Joes and Josettes think the world is 6k years old, a public debunking if not a formal smack down is required. For that reason alone, unleashing the commenting muscle of The Whatever regulars, is a public service as far as I’m concerned. Anything and anyone who debunks this crap is just ducky in my opinion. Sure the amusement factor is high, but there were some well thought out and useful points made by many. As a tech geek, SNG’s little ditty (#59) on Titus Flavius Josephus is news to me, rather informative and filed away in this sty I call a memory for future reference. The value here is not in the post but the comments. Thank s John.

  109. #109 Tor
    April 10, 2008

    This person really expects intelligent people to take him seriously?

    “There may be a genuine moral argument against rape to be made outside of the Judeo-Christian ethic, but I have yet to hear it.”

    http://voxday.net/archive/2005/120505.html

    “The women of America would do well to consider whether their much-cherished gains of the right to vote, work, murder and freely fornicate are worth destroying marriage, children, civilized Western society and little girls. They can at least console themselves with the thought that, in the long run, it doesn’t matter what they do, because the women’s-rights ideology is an evolutionary dead end, and it is increasingly apparent that societies embracing it will not survive.”

    http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=45654

  110. #110 Tsunami
    April 10, 2008

    And Scalzi, yeah, I admit I don’t give a fuck what his arguments on atheism are, but I like you and I’m sad that you decided to give a forum to someone who regularly and viciously moonlights as a misogynist troll. If David Irving decides to write something provocative but unrelated to holocaust denialism, will you invite him to your blog as well? Surely there were better choices available to debate atheism. Hell, maybe you should’ve just invited your Mom.

  111. #111 WATYF
    April 10, 2008

    105 | Jasper | April 10, 2008 3:31 PM

    I’m not quite sure how I got here from John’s original post, but now I’m here I notice a number of the same names popping up defending his arguments. Is there some kind of club that trails him around?

    Curious. I saw you at another thread about Vox’s book, as well. By your logic, I can make inferences that there’s a club that trails him around making negative statements about his book.

    The book is not a “threat” in any way – it doesn’t present a coherent narrative, and most of the arguments aren’t compelling

    So how long ago did you finish reading it?

    On the other hand, Vox himself seems to think that if people don’t read his book, that means they’re scared that he’s right – which is clearly arrant nonsense – and that if they don’t refute his ideas, then that means that they have conceded – also clearly arrant nonsense.

    No, no… I think his problem with people who make sweeping statements about his book without actually having read it. I don’t see Vox trolling the streets of (wherever he lives) pounding people on the head with a hard-cover copy of TIA and shouting, “Why haven’t you read my book?!?! Are you afraid!?!?”

    .

  112. #112 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    Yes, Tor, I do take those statements seriously; I don’t agree with them, but I follow the logic and the empirical evidence required to arrive at them, and it is hermetic, if predicated upon assumptions which I do not share.

    You must remember that ‘rape makes women feel bad’ is not a moral argument. It is not based upon transcendent principles. In a moral system based exclusively upon the relativism of subjective experience and diversity of belief, the argument ‘rape makes women feel bad’ is countered by the argument ‘rape makes men feel good,’ and we are back at square one. Only an argument such as ‘every being has inherent value bestowed inviolably by a transcendent Creator’ is a basis for trumping the good/bad dichotomy.

  113. #113 Jasper
    April 10, 2008

    WATYF: you saw me on the thread at John Scalzi’s blog, which is why I said “I’m not quite sure how I got here from John’s original post”. This seems to mystify you.

    I think his problem with people who make sweeping statements about his book without actually having read it. I don’t see Vox trolling the streets of (wherever he lives) pounding people on the head with a hard-cover copy of TIA and shouting, “Why haven’t you read my book?!?! Are you afraid!?!?”

    No, but that’s exactly the argument that he presents on his blog, so it’s clearly what he believes. They’re not making sweeping statements about his book so much as they’re making sweeping statements about him. If you don’t believe that a writer is capable of presenting a coherent argument – on the basis of their previous work – why would you spend time reading an entire book by them?

  114. #114 Jasper
    April 10, 2008

    Only an argument such as ‘every being has inherent value bestowed inviolably by a transcendent Creator’ is a basis for trumping the good/bad dichotomy.

    The only problem being that such an argument only has any meaning in a society which shares the same beliefs. Since you live in a society which doesn’t fit that description, don’t you worry that you’ve painted yourself into a corner?

  115. #115 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    asserting these types of generalizations makes it much harder for the women who *do* pursue careers in the hard sciences – as it feeds into the prejudice that women *can’t* handle the math and/or science, and are only there because of affirmative action.

    If you’ll take a look at that book I linked to above (Sexual Paradox, by Susan Pinker) you’ll see that such prejudice doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for women in the hard sciences anymore. She conducted extensive interviews with women in business, law and the sciences, and few of them reported problems with institutional sexism. They walked away from successful careers for reasons unrelated to prejudice or poor treatment. And as it happens, the people who have been the most overtly sexist obstacles in my own career path have overwhelmingly been women–but that is another discussion.

    You are correct that such statements do feed into prejudice–the question is, are we effectively countering that prejudice by overtly excoriating those prejudice feeders, or are we objectively considering their arguments and conceding the elements of truth in them, while still rejecting gross, malicious and ungrounded conclusions?

    Calling Vox an idiot is simple and easy, but it isn’t true, and doesn’t do a thing to genuinely combat sexism and prejudice. It just drives them underground, where they fester.

  116. #116 Simon Owens
    April 10, 2008

    “Only an argument such as ‘every being has inherent value bestowed inviolably by a transcendent Creator’ is a basis for trumping the good/bad dichotomy.”

    I love it when religious apologists begin to demand moral proofs from atheists, as if their religious texts aren’t so incredibly ambiguous that you can find their kind on virtually every side of every moral issue known to man. That’s why you have Christians that are against legal abortion and those that aren’t, those that are for gay marriage and those that aren’t, those that are for starting endless wars in the middle east in anticipation of the rapture, and those that aren’t.

    Religious people claim that atheists can’t have morals or beliefs about what is right and wrong. To disprove this, rather than trying to get into a logical debate that the mouth-breathing troglodyte won’t understand anyway, one merely needs to point to an atheist who believes something is right or wrong. I’m an atheist. I believe rape is wrong. That’s proof that an atheist is capable of doing so.

  117. #117 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    don’t you worry that you’ve painted yourself into a corner?

    That’s the least of my worries, darling, since only a handful of people on the planet even understand my beliefs, let alone share them. They still allow me to interact with others in a productive way, however, so I’m keeping them.

  118. #118 Tor
    April 10, 2008

    Pretty Lady – “Rape makes women feel bad” was not a moral argument that I made – you are bringing that in from somewhere else. Further, you are somehow assuming that “rape makes women feel bad” is the moral argument that I *would* make. Instead, I think the statements I quoted are so glaringly stupid, that they don’t need to be addressed.

    In any event, you don’t agree with these statements, but you defend them? You referenced, “a moral system based exclusively upon the relativism of subjective experience and diversity of belief” – are you saying that such a moral system is what we have? It seems to me that such a moral system leaves out a lot of the world.

    But even if your moral system had some validity to anything, you totally ignore the comparative impact of rape on the victim and the incrementally minor benefit to the rapist. You say one counters the other, but there are massive differences in scale involved – in physical trauma if nothing else.

    So, in summary, you don’t agree with Vox Day, but you are willing to defend his statements because, even though they are incorrect, they were validly arrived at in some sort of thought experiment?

  119. #119 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    Of course you can have beliefs, Simon; you simply have no non-relative principles behind those beliefs. This is not a problem except in its tendency to provoke existential anxiety.

  120. #120 Ray
    April 10, 2008

    Tsunami @ 106

    Stephen Baxter
    Degrees in Mathmatics and Engineering from Cambridge and Southampton.

    Alastair Reynolds
    Degrees in Astromony and Physics from St Andrews, Scotland.

    Now go shine up your academic credentials.Or even better go write a book…

  121. #121 Ray
    April 10, 2008

    Tsunami @ 106

    Stephen Baxter
    Degrees in Mathmatics and Engineering from Cambridge and Southampton.

    Alastair Reynolds
    Degrees in Astromony and Physics from St Andrews, Scotland.

    Now go shine up your academic credentials.Or even better go write a book…

  122. #122 Vox
    April 10, 2008

    This person really expects intelligent people to take him seriously?

    Well, not you, anyhow. Look, there’s a basic fallacy being committed here. For example, given that scientists and SF/F writers are not generally known for their financial acumen, there is a very high probability that there is not a single person commenting here who is not a complete and utter moron when it comes to global economics, and moreover, that I could demonstrate this to everyone’s complete satisfaction. Don’t get distracted, for the time being, just posit this.

    Now, I could dismiss everything that John or Chad or Tor have to say because they don’t know a damn thing about something of a fair amount of importance. But I would be foolish to do so, as that would be making a massive logical error. Ignorance and incompetence in one area does not demonstrate ignorance or incompetence in another unrelated area, so even if my ignorance and incompetence on those various subjects had been demonstrated, which it hasn’t, that would still say nothing about TIA.

    Don’t get excited yet, because one could of course argue that an inability to argue in a logical manner does translate from one area to the next. But I have not seen a single demonstration of any flawed logic in the various examples given. Ulrika was amusingly blind to her inherent assumptions in her posts yesterday, Ann Murphy has already pointed out how most of the criticism of the Women of Hard SF is misguided criticism of a perceived factual error, (she’s correct, by the way), while Tor has merely pointed and shrieked. Compelling, to be sure but perhaps it would been even more convincing if he’d only thought to put his wrist to his forehead and faint.

    In summary, those who are attempting to generate an excuse for insisting TIA cannot possibly contain any valid critiques of the New Atheist arguments without reading it are demonstrating some poor logic themselves.

    On the other hand, Vox himself seems to think that if people don’t read his book, that means they’re scared that he’s right – which is clearly arrant nonsense – and that if they don’t refute his ideas, then that means that they have conceded – also clearly arrant nonsense.

    No, I assume most people who don’t read my book either haven’t heard of it or aren’t interested in the subject. But yes, I assume that people who demonstrate an intense interest in the subject, declare that Dawkins and company can’t possibly be wrong, and then attempt to generate excuses to not read the book while simultaneously attacking are not just scared, they are terrified that I am right. And if you don’t even try to refute my arguments while simultaneously attacking them, yes, I do regard that as a concession of sorts. As I will a failure to follow through on your next statement.

    However there’s no reason not to allow him to continue to maintain those particular beliefs – although not necessarily the beliefs in the book itself, most of which are a little sad, insofar as he genuinely appears to think that he’s resolved the Euthyphro dilemma. (A clue: he hasn’t.)

    As usual, nothing but safely general comments… because you can’t make the specific case. Regarding Euthyphro, you’re about the 20th atheist to claim this. And yet, every time I ask the person to explain precisely how my resolution of the dilemma on either Christian or Socrates’s own terms is mistaken, they fall silent. Every single time. So, by all means, Jasper, please show how my resolutions of it are flawed, as I always like to improve my arguments. Post your critique on my blog or email it to me, I’ll post it in its entirety and we’ll see how valid it is.

  123. #123 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    are you saying that such a moral system is what we have?

    In certain parts of California, yes indeedy.

    I am defending Vox’s statements, not because they are a ‘thought experiment’ but because they have a basis both in empirical evidence and valid logic. Ignoring that evidence and that logic only increases polarization and irrationality in public debate on crucial issues–such as race and gender, population, religion and culture–instead of tempering that debate into an honest search for truth, and harmonious ways of working in the world.

  124. #124 Tor
    April 10, 2008

    Pretty Lady: “Only an argument such as ‘every being has inherent value bestowed inviolably by a transcendent Creator’ is a basis for trumping the good/bad dichotomy.”

    I didn’t even get to this when I read through it the first time, but are you saying that a moral system can’t be created whereby every person is recognized for having utility to that society, and therefore value, without the need for a transcendent Creator to bestow that value?

    Or, to take a literal reading of your post, I take it you are a Jainist?

  125. #125 Simon Owens
    April 10, 2008

    Sure it’s possible to come up with non-relative moral arguments, it’s just difficult to deliver them in concise, easy-to-digest one-sentence morsels that religious apologists demand. For rape, a variety of arguments ranging from utilitarianism to “treat others as you wish to be treated” can be made, not to mention the damaging effects on a society that allows it. There is also the biological empathy that is instilled in most humans.

    What I take even more issue with is your unspoken assertion that religious moral arguments are non-relative, when they’re anything but. Take the morality of homosexuality for instance. On one side you have Jerry Falwell and on the other you have Peter J. Gomes, both of whom use biblical texts to assert their views on this moral issue. Religious text is so ambiguous that one can’t read it and leave with a concrete set of moral rules. Add this to the fact that modern society virtually ignores (and rightly so) many of the laws set down in the bible (especially the old testament) and the rational being can see how irrational your argument truly is.

  126. #126 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    are you saying that a moral system can’t be created whereby every person is recognized for having utility to that society, and therefore value, without the need for a transcendent Creator to bestow that value?

    Are you seriously equating utility with value? So what happens when someone becomes useless? Do we shoot them?

    And who gets to define ‘utility to society,’ anyway? The prospect of what that debate might look like is deeply horrifying…

  127. #127 Tsunami
    April 10, 2008

    Ray at 120 & 121:

    I’m not sure you get it. Catherine Asaro has a respectable research publication record in physics. I’m asking for a male SF author with a comparable record as a scientist. As I said, not just one who has a degree, has done some mid-level engineering work, or does popular writing about science. Do you understand the difference?

    From the two names you gave, Stephen Baxter has degrees but I see no evidence that he worked as a scientist (as a science teacher and engineer, yes). Alastair Reynolds does count, with 13 years as a working scientist, but without a pointer to an actual research publication list for him I can’t compare his scientific output to Asaro’s.

    Note that I’m reacting in part to previous (and wrong) claims by Nate on the Whatever thread that Asaro’s Harvard physics PhD didn’t count and that she was really just a ballet teacher. So I want to see male SF authors held to the same standard.

  128. #128 Tor
    April 10, 2008

    Pretty Lady @123 – so you admit that we don’t have “a moral system based exclusively upon the relativism of subjective experience and diversity of belief” – but because Vox Day’s theories use ‘valid logic’, it has value as something other than a thought experiment?

    You’ve already stated that you disagree with his assumptions, as well as admitting that the moral system necessary to make sense of his statements is not based on anything in reality. I don’t see anything compelling in a theory built on such poor foundations.

  129. #129 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    Religious text is so ambiguous that one can’t read it and leave with a concrete set of moral rules.

    Ten Commandments? Hello?

  130. #130 Simon Owens
    April 10, 2008

    “Are you seriously equating utility with value? So what happens when someone becomes useless? Do we shoot them?”

    You’re equating utility as the ability to complete work. A person’s utility to society extends far beyond this. An old grandmother with Alzheimer’s, who’s bedridden and totally dependent, would not be considered useless to her loving family members.

  131. #131 Crom
    April 10, 2008

    Simon@ #116 -

    Way to completely miss the point. Precisely where do you think you got your morals from? Could it be… the environment you were raised in? From your command of the English language it’s likely (but not certain) that you hail from a predominantly English-speaking country. If this is true, it’s far more likely that you grew up in a community founded on Judeo-Christian ethics.

    You simply assimilated the morals of the culture you grew up in, and for some reason are astonished now to find that they are nominally identical to Judeo-Christian values. Your rejection of the author of these morals notwithstanding, your morality is not something you invented by yourself, rather you are a product of the culture you grew up in.

    You cannot posit a moral law that applies to anyone outside yourself in your belief system. If your neighbor has an opposing belief system completely antithetical to yours it would have to be equally valid, according to you. That makes it kind of hard to place any value on any moral statements made by you, doesn’t it?

  132. #132 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    as well as admitting that the moral system necessary to make sense of his statements is not based on anything in reality.

    I have admitted no such thing. Please refrain from putting words in my mouth.

    I repeat: Vox’s arguments upon such things as relative population growth and decline, the rise of slavery in modern societies, and the hazards of the public school system are based on a great deal of empirical evidence and valid logic. They don’t tell the whole story, and they are based upon a rigid view of morality which is only effective to a point, but they bring up some very important issues which tend to get swept under the carpet of political correctness.

    It is a mistake to ignore the historical moral underpinnings of society in a quest to improve it. I don’t think that religion as it is practiced by people such as Falwell is the height of enlightenment, but I see that it provides a necessary starting point in the development of moral reasoning. To jettison it completely without examining its relationship to society, culture and human behavior is indeed to risk the collapse of what we think of as civilization.

  133. #133 Simon Owens
    April 10, 2008

    The Ten Commandments are by no means the only moral code in the Bible, and certainly not the only text that Christians use when making moral arguments. For instance, “Thou shall not commit murder.” There are plenty of instances in which Christians have justified the killing of others by referencing biblical quotes that provide exceptions. One could even debate the definition of what God meant when he said “murder.” Is it simply the act of killing another human being or does it hinge on a specific intent? And then when we start talking about words like “intent” we’re retreating further into the ambiguous world of abstract arguments.

    Christians are just as much moral relativists as anyone else. They arrive at a set of moral beliefs and then use sections of the Bible that affirm them.

  134. #134 Tor
    April 10, 2008

    Pretty Lady: “And who gets to define ‘utility to society,’ anyway? The prospect of what that debate might look like is deeply horrifying…”

    Seriously? More horrifying than the ‘inherent value bestowed inviolably by a transcendent Creator’ which has been filtered through the mind of some self appointed religious leader? At least ‘utility to society’ has a real world metric that you can debate – “I may be too old to lift a box of bricks, but I can show you how to build a pulley”.

    I’d much rather have value as set by utility (even assuming that it would fluctuate over time, which I don’t necessarily believe it must) than by what the Creator has told someone it is, which may or may not change depending on what the Creator’s mouthpiece thinks of the rest of my behavior.

  135. #135 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    I wish there was a way to compare the average Poster IQ at Vox’s place to this place. I would like to see that fer sher.

  136. #136 Norman Doering
    April 10, 2008

    Pretty Lady wrote:

    Religious text is so ambiguous that one can’t read it and leave with a concrete set of moral rules.

    Ten Commandments? Hello?

    You don’t think Ten Commandments are ambiguous? Okay, which Ten Commandments? There are at least two sets in the Bible. And explain to me how the fifth commandment; “thou shalt not kill,” applies when the next thing God orders Moses to do is kill the golden calf worshipers.

    And how is it Christians managed to interpreted this commandment to mean that it is okay to kill as long as you are wearing the proper uniform?

  137. #137 Vox
    April 10, 2008

    Religious people claim that atheists can’t have morals or beliefs about what is right and wrong.

    Perhaps some do. I claim precisely the opposite, as I agree with the atheist Michel Onfray that most atheists are morally parasitic on the morality that surrounds them. So, they have morals and beliefs to guide their individual behavior, what they lack is a universal moral warrant to explain why their moral standard applies to any other individual. Daniel Dennett implicitly admits this while Wilson completely destroyed Hitchens on this point in their debate.

    But even if your moral system had some validity to anything, you totally ignore the comparative impact of rape on the victim and the incrementally minor benefit to the rapist. You say one counters the other, but there are massive differences in scale involved – in physical trauma if nothing else.

    Ah, the infamous Harrisian moral metric! So, rape is bad, but gang rape is morally swell so long as enough benefit is accumulated amongst the collective rapists. And what about the possibility that the child with whom she might be impregnated by the rapits could provide her with a higher standard of living in her old age? Look, even Dawkins and Dennett know that utilitarianism is a philosophical dead end, which you would know if you’d read their books.

  138. #138 Simon Owens
    April 10, 2008

    “From your command of the English language it’s likely (but not certain) that you hail from a predominantly English-speaking country. If this is true, it’s far more likely that you grew up in a community founded on Judeo-Christian ethics.”

    I grew up in the US. Though of course there is some correlation with the beliefs of the family I grew up in, many beliefs I have are radically different. “Judeo-Christian ethics” is a useless term because of the reasons I stated above — the Judeo-Christian text is wildly ambiguous and those who call themselves “Judeo-Christian” have a wide range of beliefs, especially in the US.

    Your argument says nothing to the points I raised above about the moral relativism in Christianity because of the Christian tendency to cherry-pick quotes from the bible to fit their needs.

  139. #139 Tor
    April 10, 2008

    Pretty Lady wrote:

    [T] as well as admitting that the moral system necessary to make sense of his statements is not based on anything in reality.

    [PL] I have admitted no such thing. Please refrain from putting words in my mouth.

    In response to:

    [T] are you saying that such a moral system is what we have?

    [PL] In certain parts of California, yes indeedy.

    Since most of the world is not certain parts of California, and I took the tone of your writing to even be mocking even those parts of California, I understood your response to be saying that we don’t, in fact, have such a moral system. But since you clearly meant something else, and I totally missed it, are you saying that we live in a world where we have, “a moral system based exclusively upon the relativism of subjective experience and diversity of belief”? Otherwise, his comments are just a thought experiment.

    Also, Pretty Lady said:

    I repeat: Vox’s arguments upon such things as relative population growth and decline, the rise of slavery in modern societies, and the hazards of the public school system are based on a great deal of empirical evidence and valid logic.

    Actually, we were discussing his views on women and rape. So far as I can tell, you are the first person to mention these other issues. Does this mean you have given up saying that his views on women and rape are based upon empirical evidence and valid logic?

  140. #141 Simon Owens
    April 10, 2008

    “Ah, the infamous Harrisian moral metric! So, rape is bad, but gang rape is morally swell so long as enough benefit is accumulated amongst the collective rapists. And what about the possibility that the child with whom she might be impregnated by the rapits could provide her with a higher standard of living in her old age?”

    Vox, so many of your arguments boil down to you making horribly contrived scenarios in which your logic might work. You thinking up this “gang rape” scenario is right up there with the other quotable quotes that result in people not bothering to take you seriously. Your assumption that the orgasmic pleasure of ten penises can somehow outweigh the pain of a woman and her surrounding loved ones and the other rippling-effect-damage it can do to society has finally caused me to digress into an ad hominem insult, an insult that will be my closing statement in this comment thread: You’re a fucking idiot.

  141. #142 Norman Doering
    April 10, 2008

    Vox wrote:

    I agree with the atheist Michel Onfray that most atheists are morally parasitic on the morality that surrounds them.

    So says the future toddler chopper.

    I suppose that drivers who didn’t decide on the rules of the road are parasitic when they stop on red lights.

  142. #143 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    So says the future toddler chopper.
    I suppose that drivers who didn’t decide on the rules of the road are parasitic when they stop on red lights.

    Too many don’t.

  143. #144 Jasper
    April 10, 2008

    In seeking to resolve the dilemma, you state that At first glance, this looks easy enough, as simply substituting “obedience” for “the pious” will destroy the dilemma because it eliminates the tautology posed. One can’t do this since it’s not right to simply substitute whatever terms one likes and declare the problem solved. Later in the argument, you then say: At this point we can reach three conclusions: 1. The Euthyphro “dilemma” is defeated by shifting the focus from “the pious” to “obedience,” therefore it is an inappropriate criticism of Christian morality that is founded on obedience to God’s Will. So this point is based on you doing something that you have previously declared is not allowed.

    You also state that it can only be considered a genuine problem for those who insist that a fixed principle cannot be arbitrary. In other words, for those paying absolutely no attention to reality. There are a panoply of fixed variables which, if they were different than they are, would radically alter the reality of our universe. Here you conflate moral principles with physical variables; but they are not the same, and consequently this point is irrelevant.

    You finally state that The section about disagreement between gods regarding the pious and impious does not apply to a monotheistic god or a Supreme God who rules over other, lesser gods and deines their morality for them. Socrates and Euthyphro agree in the course of the dialogue to discuss that “what all the gods love is pious and holy, and the opposite which they all hate, impious” – in all respects, a situation identical to being under a monotheistic god. So this point is irrelevant.

    The rest of your refutation rests on a misunderstanding of what actually constitutes the Euthyphro dilemma. You focus obsessively on a literal translation of the language, rather than attempting to understand the underlying argument. In modern terms, this is phrased as: Is something moral because god commands it, or does god command it because it is moral? You simply don’t address this at all in your supposed refutation, as far as I can see; I may be missing the point entirely, but in that case you have not managed to convey your argument well. You may then say that you are not prepared to compromise your writing in order to make yourself understood; but then why did you bother to write in the first place?

  144. #145 Tor
    April 10, 2008

    Vox: So, rape is bad, but gang rape is morally swell so long as enough benefit is accumulated amongst the collective rapists. And what about the possibility that the child with whom she might be impregnated by the rapits could provide her with a higher standard of living in her old age?

    I was responding within the context of a moral system which I stated, just prior to the comment you are responding to, was utterly irrelevant to the real world. So this is just a thought experiment. But even within the morally truncated world you posit (or rather, Pretty Lady does on your behalf) your misogynistic world view still forces you to massively undervalue the trauma of rape. You blithely assume that a gang rape is equal to, or only slightly worse to the victim than a one-on-one rape. And that somehow, by adding enough men, you can make your utilitarian argument work (or rather, Pretty Lady’s, made on your behalf) – except that you still massively undervalue the trauma of rape, and the additional trauma of additional rapists.

  145. #146 Crom
    April 10, 2008

    Simon says: “…the Judeo-Christian text is wildly ambiguous and those who call themselves “Judeo-Christian” have a wide range of beliefs, especially in the US.”

    I think perhaps you are confusing the message with the recipients. The Bible itself is not “ambiguous” in it’s commandments, however I will agree that God’s followers certainly are. Christians are supposed to live to specific standards and they obviously fail. Atheists on the other hand do not usually fail to keep their moral beliefs since their morals are utterly fluid depending on the speaker. The Christian who cheats on his wife has in his system committed a sin. The atheist who has cheats has done nothing wrong if he thinks he was justified in his actions.

    You are still cadging your morals from your environment, “cherry-picking” them as you claim Christians do. If it’s not wrong for you to do so, on what basis do you condemn those Christians who do? By what moral metric are they wrong? Certainly you aren’t advocating judging them by a Christian moral viewpoint…

  146. #147 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    Prof. Orzel, I mean this respectfully, but by excoriating John, have you not done the same as that whom you excoriate?

  147. #148 Jasper
    April 10, 2008

    CThe Christian who cheats on his wife has in his system committed a sin. The atheist who has cheats has done nothing wrong if he thinks he was justified in his actions.

    Do you not notice the fallacy in your own logic. The theist who cheats on his wife thinks he has done nothing wrong if he thinks God approves of his actions; the atheist who cheats on his wife thinks he has done nothing wrong if he approves of his actions. The difference between the two is it is possible to persuade the atheist that his actions may have been wrong; whereas you will never be able to persuade the theist – after all, their actions are approved by God.

  148. #149 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    So far as I can tell, you are the first person to mention these other issues.

    I was referring to the second WND article you linked to, the one about feminism being an evolutionary dead-end. Did you even read your own quote? I admit that the rhetoric is over the top, but the trends it references are genuinely alarming.

    In fact, it is trends which I am referring to, in any discussion of morality, moral reasoning or the lack thereof, in modern society. Unlike Simon, I believe that the inherent ambiguity in Bible interpretation is one of its strengths; it speaks to people who are at different stages of moral development, and provides solid, effective guidance at all of these levels.

    (It is also much easier to excoriate a nominal Christian for overt acts of moral rationalization. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, ‘Love thy neighbor! Tsk tsk,’ and discussions have immediately returned to civility.)

    I subscribe to M. Scott Peck’s view that human beings go through several definable stages of moral reasoning, loosely described as 1) ego/anarchy, 2) rigid, paternalistic rule-following, 3) science/skepticism, 4) mystic/transpersonal. It is my observation that a rigid system of rules, e.g. evangelical Christianity, seems to be necessary for many people to haul themselves out of the devastating chaos of ego anarchy, and that there doesn’t seem to be a way around it.

    Furthermore, I note that although scientific skepticism is the next natural progression from rigid fundamentalism, there currently doesn’t seem to be much of a bridge between fundamentalist and mystical views, and that many people will use scientific skepticism to rationalize a return to egoistic chaos.

    Therefore I am pointing out that we got to the point where we are free to challenge received wisdom in society, due to the stabilizing effects of Christian morality, and that we don’t have to undermine it in order to transcend it.

  149. #150 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    Prof. Orzel, I was also curious if you believed in Dark matter, I am Physicist as well. And why you do or don’t.

  150. #151 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    The difference between the two is it is possible to persuade the atheist that his actions may have been wrong; whereas you will never be able to persuade the theist – after all, their actions are approved by God.

    As atheist myself, I tend to agree with you, I see this quite often, take Christians who believe in preemptive war, while it is clearly not a just war doctrine according to Christianity. But even if you point this out to Christians that think it is, they don’t change their minds. I have lost friends over this.

  151. #152 Norman Doering
    April 10, 2008

    Equus Pallidus wrote

    I suppose that drivers who didn’t decide on the rules of the road are parasitic when they stop on red lights.

    Too many don’t.

    Are you one of those drivers who slows down at green lights because you’re afraid someone might speed through a red one?

  152. #153 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    The difference between the two is it is possible to persuade the atheist that his actions may have been wrong; whereas you will never be able to persuade the theist – after all, their actions are approved by God.

    As a theist myself, I tend to agree with you, I see this quite often, take Christians who believe in preemptive war, while it is clearly not a just war doctrine according to Christianity. But even if you point this out to Christians that think it is, they don’t change their minds. I have lost friends over this.

  153. #154 Tsunami
    April 10, 2008

    PrettyLady, I recommend Unlocking the Clubhouse to you, as a counterbalance to the Susan Pinker book you mentioned (and in my opinion, one based on much sounder methodology and a lot less assertion of hypotheticals).

  154. #155 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    Are you one of those drivers who slows down at green lights because you’re afraid someone might speed through a red one?

    You Damn Right, I do.

  155. #156 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    you still massively undervalue the trauma of rape, and the additional trauma of additional rapists.

    Oh, good heavens. What is it about ‘utilitarianism is unworkable’ that you do not understand? We cannot know the ultimate results of any action; therefore we cannot make moral judgments on the basis of a good result/bad result metric. We can’t even define good and bad, as the well known Buddhist parable of the horse and the broken leg makes clear.

    (Horse shows up: good. Horse runs away: bad. Horse comes back with friends: good. Horse breaks son’s leg: bad. War starts, son isn’t drafted because of broken leg: good. Ad infinitum…)

    Furthermore, ‘trauma’ is not only subjective, but a function of conscious thought and response, not just a mechanical, reproducible result of a specific action. Different people may undergo the exact same experience and have wildly different responses to it. Thus, any attempt to define morality solely by its results in the world is doomed to complete schizophrenia.

  156. #157 Tor
    April 10, 2008

    Huh? You prefeced your comment with, “I repeat” – even though you hadn’t mentioned those aspects of the article earlier, and in any event, I didn’t see anything in that article about the rise of slavery in modern societies, nor was there anything about the hazards of the public school system – the things that you said were based upon a great deal of empirical evidence and logic.

    You know, you can just say – I cut and pasted and should have edited it better…

    And if you want to wander off and do your own thing, feel free. Just don’t do it in the guise of responding to my comments.

    Oh, and you still haven’t responded to,

    “But since you clearly meant something else, and I totally missed it, are you saying that we live in a world where we have, “a moral system based exclusively upon the relativism of subjective experience and diversity of belief”? Otherwise, his comments are just a thought experiment.”

  157. #158 Elyse
    April 10, 2008

    I was willing to give him a chance to hear the other side, because indeed I have read Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris. What I found made me die a little bit inside. It was all going somewhat alright up until this paragraph as follows:

    “Indeed, the very idea that one’s personal opinion has anything to do with the existence or non-existence of God is fundamentally irrational. Whether one contemplates the existence of God, Swaziland or string theory, the truth is ultimately whatever it actually happens to be, our current perceptions and ideas notwithstanding.” Theodore Beale (let’s not give him the pleasure of using his stupid pseudonym.)

    That first sentence I would definitely refute, but I read on to see what his supporting arguments would be. I was greeted with the non sequitur.

    Just more random ejaculations employing the borrowed language of the Big Boys. Or, should I say premature ejaculations.

  158. #159 Chad Orzel
    April 10, 2008

    Equus Pallidus #147: Prof. Orzel, I mean this respectfully, but by excoriating John, have you not done the same as that whom you excoriate?

    “Excoriate” is attributing far too high a degree of seriousness to this post. I would’ve thought that the “ten thousand years in Purgatory” line was obviously a joke, but evidently not…

    I don’t know whether to be amused or sad that this has shattered the local record for longest comment thread in the history of the blog.

  159. #160 Norman Doering
    April 10, 2008

    Pretty Lady wrote:

    We cannot know the ultimate results of any action; therefore we cannot make moral judgments on the basis of a good result/bad result metric. We can’t even define good and bad, as the well known Buddhist parable of the horse and the broken leg makes clear.

    So, since we can’t perfectly measure the results we should go back to a Bible based morality where the death penalty would be required for witches, homosexuals, incorrigible children, and people who disagree with the state religion?

  160. #161 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    Is something moral because god commands it, or does god command it because it is moral?

    You see, to a moral evolutionist such as myself, this question is not even interesting. Obviously morality is given to us as a set of practical guidelines which help us expand our minds beyond the ego, and lead us into a truer perception of reality. All this ‘moral/immoral=good person/bad person’ stuff is simply a function of egoistic perception in the first place.

  161. #162 Spherical Time
    April 10, 2008

    Equus Pallidus: Are you one of those drivers who slows down at green lights because you’re afraid someone might speed through a red one?

    You Damn Right, I do.

    I do now as well. I spent a year and a half recovering from a broken neck that I got from someone that ran a red light.

  162. #163 Tor
    April 10, 2008

    Pretty Lady, I don’t think you are actually female, as you seem to want people to assume. Trauma can be either subjective or objective. Most women wouldn’t forget that rape causes both psychological as well as physical trauma. Physical trauma is not subjective, and increases dramatically with the number of rapists.

    Regardless, my response was in the context of this:

    In a moral system based exclusively upon the relativism of subjective experience and diversity of belief, the argument ‘rape makes women feel bad’ is countered by the argument ‘rape makes men feel good,’ and we are back at square one.

    I first stated that the moral system you posit was useless and unconnected to the real world, and then pointed out that even within the moral system you chose, your argument was unworkable.

  163. #164 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    I don’t know whether to be amused or sad that this has shattered the local record for longest comment thread in the history of the blog.

    I actually view this as a good thing, Prof. I think it points out a certain amount of hypocrisies and bias among atheist as well as theists. I can see it a common theme of life, and I learn much about hum,an nature in these discussions when it doesn’t degenerate. I actually think what Vox, John and yourself have done as positive in my education of mankind, and thank all three for doing so.

  164. #165 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    are you saying that we live in a world where we have, “a moral system based exclusively upon the relativism of subjective experience and diversity of belief”?

    I responded by saying that we are trending that way. And I have been reading Vox’s blog for so long that feminism, rape, slavery, population decline and rotten education have become one holistic mishmash of social illness in my mind.

    since we can’t perfectly measure the results we should go back to a Bible based morality where the death penalty would be required for witches

    Did I say we should go back to such a morality, or did I say we should respect the roots of our moral system, and look to transcend it without undermining it?

  165. #166 Elyse
    April 10, 2008

    Ooh, I’m reading the online book now. In the first chapter:

    “But I am confident that I will convince you
    that this trio of New Atheists, this Unholy Trinity, are a collection of faux-intellectual frauds utilizing pseudo-scientific sleight of hand in
    order to falsely claim that religious faith is inherently dangerous and has no place in the modern world.”

    Remember when he said his book is irony stacked upon irony? Well here’s one right now!

    And how DARE he accuse Richard Dawkins of being a “faux-intellectual fraud” that “utiliz[es] pseudo-scientific sleight of hand” to do anything at all! As one of the leading scientists in the world today, if not THE leading scientist, Day has proved his complete ignorance of what is supposed to be a counter-argument to Dawkins!

    (Hitchens and Harris are brilliant too, although not scientists, I assure you they do nothing of the sort.)

  166. #167 Norman Doering
    April 10, 2008

    Pretty Lady wrote:

    Did I say we should go back to such a morality, or did I say we should respect the roots of our moral system, and look to transcend it without undermining it?

    You said neither one of those things.

  167. #168 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    Pretty Lady, I don’t think you are actually female, as you seem to want people to assume.

    I BEG YOUR PARDON. It is extremely easy to find a wealth of detail about my physical self which corroborates my persona, if you take the trouble to do minimal research, by following the links which I provide with every post I make. This is a wholly unnecessary and insulting proposition.

    the moral system you posit was useless and unconnected to the real world

    Yes, it is. I was positing it in order to make that point. So good we can agree.

    even within the moral system you chose, your argument was unworkable.

    What moral system did I choose? If you go back and reread the total of what I have written, you see that I am making observations, rather than mandates. I am observing that Christian morality is based upon non-relative principles, speculating as to why that might be, and observing that the meta-system produced by the interaction of the Bible with persons at various stages of moral reasoning (or spiritual development) does, indeed, work. On many levels.

  168. #169 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    And how DARE he accuse Richard Dawkins of being a “faux-intellectual fraud” that “utiliz[es] pseudo-scientific sleight of hand” to do anything at all! As one of the leading scientists in the world today, if not THE leading scientist, Day has proved his complete ignorance of what is supposed to be a counter-argument to Dawkins!

    I would argue that Francis Collins is the leading biologist of the day, who has a completely different take on God.

  169. #170 Vox
    April 10, 2008

    First, Jasper, thank you very much for presenting your response to my critique of the Euthyphro “Dilemma”. In summary, yes, you did miss the point, in fact, you managed to successfully miss the point on all four issues you raised. As promised, I will explain this in whatever detail is necessary on the blog tomorrow, so please consider stopping by.

    Tor, Pretty Lady is a woman. And your rape metric still isn’t working, as clearly roofie rape would be moral so long as the woman didn’t remember it. Utilitarianism has been a moral non-starter for a long time, it’s not a theist/atheist issue.

    Just more random ejaculations employing the borrowed language of the Big Boys. Or, should I say premature ejaculations.

    Speaking of premature, I wonder if I should have just ignored Clinton Dawkins’s book – since apparently we’re using given names here – since judging by the first chapter, it’s mostly about Albert Einstein. Seriously, what is the problem with these people who keep trying to judge a 320-page book by the preface, a post at Whatever, or my favorite, a column of the same name written three years prior?

  170. #171 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    You said neither one of those things.

    I did not say the first of those things; you did. In comment #149 I said:

    Therefore I am pointing out that we got to the point where we are free to challenge received wisdom in society, due to the stabilizing effects of Christian morality, and that we don’t have to undermine it in order to transcend it.

    Perhaps that wasn’t clear?

  171. #172 Norman Doering
    April 10, 2008

    Equus Pallidus wrote:

    I would argue that Francis Collins is the leading biologist of the day, who has a completely different take on God.

    I’m going with J. Craig Venter.

  172. #173 Norman Doering
    April 10, 2008

    the Lady wrote:

    Perhaps that wasn’t clear?

    It’s still not clear. And it sounds like a bad theory of what moral reasoning should be like since it involves weasle terms like “transcend.”

  173. #174 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    Why is ‘transcend’ a weaselly term? It seems exceptionally clear to me. You ground in a system of rules, which promote mental, emotional and social stability; you then transcend to the point where these rules become unnecessary, because the reasons for following them have become so clear that they are redundant.

  174. #175 Jasper
    April 10, 2008

    Vox: if that’s the case, I’ll withdraw my points, so there’s no need to post them on your blog. Since you accuse nearly everybody that disagrees with you of missing the point, your only problem is that you appear to be unable to communicate fairly simple points, which I would have thought was a pretty crippling problem for a writer.

  175. #176 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    I’m going with J. Craig Venter.

    A blog from Hell? I have never heard of this guy, but Francis Collins was the director of the Human Genome Project. I just see a hateful man with a blog, Norman. Why would he be the leading Biologist today?

  176. #177 Jasper
    April 10, 2008

    Incidentally, why are you not prepared to address my response on this blog? It’s all very Sun Tzu, but a little bit childish.

  177. #178 Tor
    April 10, 2008

    Vox – it isn’t my rape metric – it’s Pretty Lady’s. I believe she was trying to summarize your theory that a transcendent creator is required for a workable moral system. I was responding to her within the context that she created.

    Pretty Lady – my comment that you are male was not meant to be an insult, but from shear disbelief that any woman could think that the trauma from rape is subjective. People may deal with the psychological trauma differently, but the physical trauma from a gang rape is pretty damn objective, no matter who you are.

    Back at #112, please allow me to paraphrase your initial comment:
    [Description of an argument I didn't make.] It is not based upon transcendent principles. [Rape based argument based upon a moral system posited by you, which you now agree is useless and unconnected to the real world(see #168)] Only an argument such as ‘every being has inherent value bestowed inviolably by a transcendent Creator’ is a basis for trumping the [moral system posited by you, which you now agree is useless and unconnected to the real world].

    Your point was?

  178. #179 Vox
    April 10, 2008

    And how DARE he accuse Richard Dawkins of being a “faux-intellectual fraud” that “utiliz[es] pseudo-scientific sleight of hand” to do anything at all! As one of the leading scientists in the world today, if not THE leading scientist, Day has proved his complete ignorance of what is supposed to be a counter-argument to Dawkins!

    First, Dawkins isn’t really a scientist anymore, he’s now an ex-scientist and paid science propagandist. But you’re right, The God Delusion is just chock full of super science. I know I was particularly impressed by the way he demonstrated that a Catholic upbringing was worse than childhood sexual abuse, I mean, if that anecdote about Alfred Hitchcock driving through Switzerland wasn’t a spectacular piece of scientific evidence, well, I don’t know what is.

    It’s amusing, on the one hand, there are many atheists who think I can’t possibly take down the brilliant New Atheists, while on the other are a smaller number of more intelligent atheists who wonder why I waste my time with such obvious idiots. Now, one may have very good reasons for not believing in God or worshipping Jesus Christ, but if any of your reasons happen to be those given by these pseudo-intellectuals, you’re either pretty stupid or you haven’t given the matter much thought.

  179. #180 Norman Doering
    April 10, 2008

    Equus Pallidus wrote:

    I have never heard of this guy, … I just see a hateful man with a blog, Norman. Why would he be the leading Biologist today?

    There are a lot of Craig Venter links at the end of the post.

  180. #181 Jasper
    April 10, 2008

    I think it’s quite funny that Equus doesn’t appear to recognize Craig Venter’s name.

  181. #182 Norman Doering
    April 10, 2008

    Jasper wrote:

    I think it’s quite funny that Equus doesn’t appear to recognize Craig Venter’s name.

    I bet you don’t find it as funny as I do! He should be pretty embarrassed after claiming such a lofty title for Francis Collins.

  182. #183 Vox
    April 10, 2008

    Vox: if that’s the case, I’ll withdraw my points, so there’s no need to post them on your blog.

    Please tell me you’re kidding. You don’t seriously expect me to believe that you’re willing to just take my word that your critique is flawed after you’ve informed us how my arguments are mostly sad and my Euthyphro refutation is a failure?

    Since you accuse nearly everybody that disagrees with you of missing the point, your only problem is that you appear to be unable to communicate fairly simple points, which I would have thought was a pretty crippling problem for a writer.

    I don’t accuse anyone of anything I can’t demonstrate. I don’t pretend to be a particularly good writer, so fortunately, it’s merely a pasttime. Perhaps if I really concentrate and write really well, I’ll be able to demonstrate why the Euthyphro refutations are solid.

    Incidentally, why are you not prepared to address my response on this blog? It’s all very Sun Tzu, but a little bit childish.

    I’ll post it here too if you like. I just assumed that no one would see it if I post it here tomorrow. It’s after midnight my time and I may be busy tomorrow. But if Mr. Orzel doesn’t mind, I certainly don’t.

  183. #184 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    I bet you don’t find it as funny as I do! He should be pretty embarrassed after claiming such a lofty title for Francis Collins.

    Actually, I am a physicist not a biologist, you may find it funny, but I don’t. Sounds like a science outlaw to me.

  184. #185 Norman Doering
    April 10, 2008

    Equus Pallidus wrote:

    Sounds like a science outlaw to me.

    Oh, man! You’re killing me!
    You should be a comedian.

  185. #186 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    I guess I should define terms.

    Science outlaw: One who clearly has an agenda which has nothing to do with science.

  186. #187 Norman Doering
    April 10, 2008

    Equus Pallidus wrote:

    Science outlaw: One who clearly has an agenda which has nothing to do with science.

    You mean an agenda like making lots of money?

  187. #188 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    You mean an agenda like making lots of money?

    I guess one could argue that, but i/t was not the agenda I was speaking about. I meant an agenda where one uses their scientific authority to claim there is no God, which is not science. He is no different than Dawkins. All scientist should know the axiom that you can’t prove negative, and to try and convince people of a negative, is not science, it is opinion.

  188. #189 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    Norman, I am a physicist. I want to ask you if you believe in Dark matter or do you have another or no opinion on the subject out of ignorance of the subject? Ignorance is not a slam.

  189. #190 Norman Doering
    April 10, 2008

    Good-bye Equus, and good luck with your life — you’re going to need it.

  190. #191 wk
    April 10, 2008

    I, too, was disappointed to see that “Big Idea” posting, although it took me a while to pin down exactly what was so depressing about it. It wasn’t until I took the step of recasting this as if it had been about race that I understood what was really bothering me about it.

    I’m not black, but (like Stephen Colbert :-), I do have black friends. If I were also comfortable hanging around blatant racists, I think my black friends would have legitimate grounds for questioning my personal commitment to equality.

    Vox is a real misogynist. [Google around if you want more -- that's all I had stomach for.] This guest posting left me…, I’m trying to figure out a polite, non-inflammatory way to say this…, it left the impression that for Scalzi, the occasional trashing of women/feminism is no big deal — certainly not enough to disqualify one from a guest post. That’s not a feeling that I’ve ever gotten from Whatever before, and it left me somewhat confused for a while.

    For me, certain attitudes are “deal breakers” — racism and sexism are two of them. Scalzi obviously has different standards for those with whom he choses to associate himself, however peripherally.

    [In previewing this comment, I realize that last paragraph comes off as a bit snarky, but that is not the intent -- more genuine puzzlement that one can both find racism/sexism abhorent, and yet associate with those who promulgate it -- I really, really just don't get that.]

  191. #192 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    Norman, answer my question, or go in your own ignorance, I can educate you on this subject, or is your pride too strong?

  192. #193 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    from shear disbelief that any woman could think that the trauma from rape is subjective.

    Try me.

    Of course a violent gang rape is traumatic. But nobody has a monopoly on suffering, and nobody has the right to claim that their suffering trumps somebody else’s, particularly when suffering is impossible to quantify and hugely dependent upon both attitude and circumstance. Physical trauma is certainly quantifiable, but Nature itself relies on physical trauma as one of its basic principles of creation. Are earthquakes immoral?

    Your point was?

    For the last time: Utilitarianism, as exemplified by a thoroughly unrealistic attempt to define moral values by quantifying relative traumas, is a hopeless method of establishing a workable morality. Transcendent moral law, as exemplified by positing a Creator who bestows inviolable value upon the created, is somewhat more workable, particularly when observing the evolution of societies and moral reasoning, in the context of an allegedly divinely-inspired text such as the Bible.

  193. #194 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    Good-bye Equus, and good luck with your life

    I don’t believe in luck, never have.

  194. #195 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    more genuine puzzlement that one can both find racism/sexism abhorent, and yet associate with those who promulgate it

    I’m voting for Obama. I assume you’re not. Are you voting for the pathologial liar or George Bush’s third term?

  195. #196 tor
    April 10, 2008

    When I joined this discussion, I posted three quotes, and said that anyone who could write these three things is deeply stupid. Pretty Lady, you attempted to defend one of them by positing a particular moral framework which you later admitted had no basis in the real world.

    The morality of earthquakes notwithstanding, my original point still stands, while you and Vox seem to think that I have said at any point that one could create a moral framework using utitarianism. I have not – I have simply discredited Pretty Lady’s defense of the quotes.

  196. #197 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    I do now as well. I spent a year and a half recovering from a broken neck that I got from someone that ran a red light.

    I hope better things for you as we slow down for idiots. ;) It is really sad how many don’t respect others lives. But oh well, what to do about it. I sure don’t care for government to get involved. They are corrupt, and ban pot smoking and heroin, while they bring it in to fund their black market stuff and enrich themselves.

    If I ever set on a criminal jury again, which I have twice, there will be no user of narcotics going to prison. Who ought to be in prison are the corrupt government officials who use this to promote their “War” while imprison ing 1 in evey 100 citizens in this country. It is time we said no more, and we can do it i n the jury box.

  197. #198 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    The war on drugs is a war on liberty, and that is all I need to say.

  198. #199 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    As a Christian let me also say that Jesus never used the force of law to coerce anyone, he gave them a choice. I am for freedom to choose. You want to kill yourself, go ahead, and maybe I am wrong, that you may not kill yourself. How arrogant it is for me to presuppose what others fate are. God can use anyone, deal with it!

  199. #200 Sven DiMilo
    April 10, 2008

    Hey. it’s The Physicist! er, I mean…Equus Pallidus!
    Hi, Gregg! Debated anybody recently? Plagiarized?
    Someday maybe you’ll get a chance to ask Francis Collins who Venter is. He knows!!!

  200. #201 Hilary
    April 10, 2008

    Prof. Orzel, It is to be expected that Scalzi could provide grist for a post that causes your comment too rival the national debt.
    The gods of bacon and cats are his benefactors. You don’t think the OMW series is just talent, no no, it is obviously a concatenation of divine interventions by the lord of pussies of and the spiritual king of meats. Silly physicer I thought thy would know better…repent, two lol cats and a BLT should do it.

  201. #202 Hilary
    April 10, 2008

    Prof. Orzel, It is to be expected that Scalzi could provide grist for a post that causes your comment index to rival the national debt.
    The gods of bacon and cats are his benefactors. You don’t think the OMW series is just talent, no no, it is obviously a concatenation of divine interventions by the lord of pussies of and the spiritual king of meats. Silly physicer I thought thy would know better…repent, two lol cats and a BLT should do it.

  202. #203 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    Prof. Please forgive me and let me vent this. I don’t care if you are my brothers and sisters in the RCC. I don’t care if you are Protestant. I don’t care if you are Buddhist. I don’t care if you are atheist. I don’t even care if you are Islamic and want to kill me. I just don’t care. Jesus says “what so ever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.”

    How I wished to gather you under my wings, Jesus and the Psalms say. but it is not so, and it is said to be not so. But anyone who thinks that an atheist is going to hell is a liar. I don’t believe God created man for anything but salvation. Don’t quote the Bible to me, because I can out quote you 3 times over, and you don’t want to hear the worst of it. The atheist is my brother.

  203. #204 Equus Pallidus
    April 10, 2008

    Hi, Gregg! Debated anybody recently? Plagiarized?Someday maybe you’ll get a chance to ask Francis Collins who Venter is. He knows!!!

    Yeah, Vox as a matter of fact.

    I make no secret of my identity, and I care not for yours. Yet it seems to me, you gave an issue against truth, instead of an issue against the laws of man. I encourage you to try this tactic, as I know you will not prevail.

  204. #205 Bad
    April 10, 2008

    “Vox is a real misogynist.”

    While that’s certainly important to note when judging Vox as a person lacking in character, it’s quite irrelevant insofar as whether or not this or that argument of his is valid or should be heard from.

    For instance, I’ve never really seen arguments from him that have impressed me, and so I don’t generally rush out of my way to see what he has to say about this or that, especially when compared to the many sources with more reliably high information content I can barely keep track of. But that doesn’t mean that he couldn’t have a whole bunch of winning arguments I haven’t seen. It just doesn’t happen to seem very likely.

    However, if you are going to jump into critiquing whether his arguments have merit, then the time for considering whether he’s worth paying more consistent attention to is already over, its probably best to leave off on the ridicule of all the other ridiculous and laughable things he’s said: all the better to get to heart of whatever he’s on about now.

  205. #206 Jonathan Vos Post
    April 10, 2008

    In comment #122, Vox makes a challenge with the condition that one exception will prove him wrong. Specifically:
    “… given that scientists and SF/F writers are not generally known for their financial acumen, there is a very high probability that there is not a single person commenting here who is not a complete and utter moron when it comes to global economics, and moreover, that I could demonstrate this to everyone’s complete satisfaction. Don’t get distracted, for the time being, just posit this.”

    There are certainly science fiction authors who know more about “global economics” than I (though I don’t know that term to be used by the professional Mathematical Economists with whom I sometimes associate).

    However, there are 4 refereed published papers in which I am co-author which are currently on the arXiv (more will be there soon), let me list these:

    1. arXiv:0710.5046 [pdf]
    Title: Comparative Quantum Cosmology: Causality, Singularity, and Boundary Conditions
    Authors: Philip V. Fellman, Jonathan Vos Post, Christine M. Carmichael, Andrew Carmichael Post
    Comments: 17 pages, 2 figures. 7th International Conference on Complex Systems
    Subjects: General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology (gr-qc)

    2. arXiv:0707.4036 [pdf]
    Title: Disrupting Terrorist Networks, a dynamic fitness landscape approach
    Authors: Philip V. Fellman, Jonathan P. Clemens, Roxana Wright, Jonathan Vos Post, Matthew Dadmun
    Comments: 12 pages, 8 figures. Proceedings of the 2006 annual meeting of the North American Association for Computation in the Social and Organizational Sciences
    Subjects: Adaptation and Self-Organizing Systems (nlin.AO)

    3. arXiv:0707.0854 [pdf]
    Title: Adaptation and Coevolution on an Emergent Global Competitive Landscape
    Authors: Philip V. Fellman, Jonathan Vos Post, Roxana Wright, Usha Dasari
    Comments: 16 pages, 5th International Conference on Complex Systems
    Subjects: Adaptation and Self-Organizing Systems (nlin.AO)

    4. arXiv:0707.0324 [pdf]
    Title: Quantum Nash Equilibria and Quantum Computing
    Authors: Philip V. Fellman, Jonathan Vos Post
    Comments: 18 Pages, 6th International Conference on Complex Systems. Available from this http URL
    Journal-ref: InterJournal Complex Systems, 1846, 2006
    Subjects: Physics and Society (physics.soc-ph); Computational Physics (physics.comp-ph)

    Of these, #2 is global economics if you accept that there is a Global War on Terrorism, which the paper reasons can be addressed by covert economic means.

    #3 is, as this part of the title indicates: “Emergent Global Competitive Landscape” about global economics, as a domain for corporate competition.

    #4, in that it deals with Nash equilibria, is definitionally economics.

    I admit that #1 is speculative Cosmology, and not about Economics. Yet I feel no need to apologizing for being a scientist, and need not give more examples to establish that. Nor do I need here and now to brandish my credentials as a Science Fiction author.

    Now, generalizations aside, am I personally “a single person commenting here who is not a complete and utter moron when it comes to global economics” or not, by your criteria?

    Please explain. Feel free to go to arxiv.org and read any of these papers. They withstood referees in their fields, but I am willing to hear your INFORMED opinion.

  206. #207 Pretty Lady
    April 10, 2008

    my original point still stands

    Your original point that Vox is deeply stupid? Did you prove that one? I must have missed it…

  207. #208 Narc
    April 10, 2008

    …nobody has the right to claim that their suffering trumps somebody else’s, particularly when suffering is impossible to quantify and hugely dependent upon both attitude and circumstance.

    Hogwash. Just because something is subjective doesn’t mean it can’t be compared. We may not be able to agree on exactly when a cup of coffee stops being “hot” and starts being “tepid”, but you’re arguing that means there is no difference between “freezing” and “scalding.”

  208. #209 Jasper
    April 11, 2008

    You don’t seriously expect me to believe that you’re willing to just take my word that your critique is flawed after you’ve informed us how my arguments are mostly sad and my Euthyphro refutation is a failure?

    You didn’t say that my critique was flawed, you said that I’d completely missed the point of your argument. If I’ve missed the point of your argument, that means that my critique is not of your argument. Nobody knows your argument better than you, sow hy wouldn’t I take your word on it?

    I don’t accuse anyone of anything I can’t demonstrate.

    Since we’ve already established that you can’t convey relatively simple points, why on earth do you think you’re “demonstration” will be any more comprehensible than your original text? There are two possibilities here – either you’re a poor thinking or a poor writer – but in either case, why would anybody read your work?

  209. #210 Jasper
    April 11, 2008

    “Poor thinker”, of course, rather than “poor thinking”.

    Curses.

  210. #211 Vox
    April 11, 2008

    Now, generalizations aside, am I personally “a single person commenting here who is not a complete and utter moron when it comes to global economics” or not, by your criteria?

    I don’t know. Just answer three questions off the top of your head. I don’t care about precision, the general range will suffice.

    1) What is the USD rate of inflation according to the CPI?

    2) When did you exit USD-denominated investments?

    3) If you have a mortgage, what is the interest rate and is it an ARM? If not, at what price did you go into gold and how did you leverage it?

  211. #212 Vox
    April 11, 2008

    In seeking to resolve the dilemma, you state that “At first glance, this looks easy enough, as simply substituting “obedience” for “the pious” will destroy the dilemma because it eliminates the tautology posed. One can’t do this since it’s not right to simply substitute whatever terms one likes and declare the problem solved.” Later in the argument, you then say: “At this point we can reach three conclusions: 1. The Euthyphro “dilemma” is defeated by shifting the focus from “the pious” to “obedience,” therefore it is an inappropriate criticism of Christian morality that is founded on obedience to God’s Will.” So this point is based on you doing something that you have previously declared is not allowed.

    You’re skipping over the extremely relevant section wherein I distinguish between refuting the Euthyphro dilemma on its own terms and refuting its mistaken application to Christian morality because the definition of that morality precludes the second horn of the dilemma. Ergo, no tautology and no dilemma. One cannot simply change Socrates’s definitions and claim to be attacking the dilemma on its own terms, while one cannot apply the dilemma to a specific morality without changing those definitions.

    You also state that it can only be considered a genuine problem for those who insist that a fixed principle cannot be arbitrary. In other words, for those paying absolutely no attention to reality. There are a panoply of fixed variables which, if they were different than they are, would radically alter the reality of our universe. Here you conflate moral principles with physical variables; but they are not the same, and consequently this point is irrelevant.

    Conflate? Combine into one? Not at all. You’re forgetting the rather obvious fact that whereas the necessary physical variables of this universe are fixed, moral principles vary even within it. Therefore, it is a massive logical error on multiple levels to assume that in the universe next door, moral principles must be the same as they are in this universe, while physical variables are assumed to be different. In fact, given the competing moral principles currently on offer in this universe, one couldn’t possibly even say which of them must be the fixed ones next door.

    You finally state that The section about disagreement between gods regarding the pious and impious does not apply to a monotheistic god or a Supreme God who rules over other, lesser gods and deines their morality for them. Socrates and Euthyphro agree in the course of the dialogue to discuss that “what all the gods love is pious and holy, and the opposite which they all hate, impious” – in all respects, a situation identical to being under a monotheistic god. So this point is irrelevant.

    You’re incorrect. If you read the dialogue more closely, you will see that the situations are not identical because in the one case, the net result of “what all the gods love” is a drastically reduced set of polytheistic divine preferences to the lowest common denominator, whereas in the monotheistic case, that preference is exercised in full. For example, Athena’s love for Athens must be excised in the former case, but is retained were she the god in the latter.

    The rest of your refutation rests on a misunderstanding of what actually constitutes the Euthyphro dilemma. You focus obsessively on a literal translation of the language, rather than attempting to understand the underlying argument. In modern terms, this is phrased as: Is something moral because god commands it, or does god command it because it is moral? You simply don’t address this at all in your supposed refutation, as far as I can see; I may be missing the point entirely, but in that case you have not managed to convey your argument well.

    This is a false statement based on intellectual laziness. There is no “underlying argument”, Socrates makes a specific and detailed argument with various assertions and assumptions along the way, and as I have shown, some of them are not logically justifiable. If you want an answer to what you describe as the modern terms, it is that something is moral because god commands it. God’s game, god’s rules. Now, you can still argue that God doesn’t exist or that his rules are imperfectly understood by Man, but that’s a tangential subject that cannot be reasonably used to defend the dilemma.

  212. #213 Jasper
    April 11, 2008

    I think we’ll have a problem with continuing the dialogue. It seems fairly clear that – whether I have missed your points or not – you genuinely don’t understand either my comments or – more worryingly – the Euthyphro dilemma itself.

    For example, your response to my first point appears to be completely unrelated to the point that I’ve actually made – which was that you said “one could defeat it by doing X, but obviously one can’t do X” and then later said “by doing X, I’ve defeated the argument.” On the “drastically reduced” set of preferences – it’s irrelevant to the discussion. If there’s only one thing on the menu of divine command, it still poses exactly the same problem for theists. On the “variable morals”: well, you’re the one arguing that there is in fact only one set of fixed morals in this universe (your god’s) – and since some physical variables in this universe do vary depending on context, it seems that your point is defeated on both sides. To be brutally honest, though, your writing is poor enough that it’s possible that even you’re not sure what your argument is.

    Euthyphro stands. If you honestly don’t see that, there isn’t really anywhere for the discussion to go – we can just leave it here and other readers can decide for themselves.

  213. #214 Tetris
    April 11, 2008

    Narc,

    in order to use the (subjective) suffering as a basis for morals, it is not enough to be able to differentiate between “scalding” and freezing”. True, in many situations it is enough, but then we have these irritating situations where you have to decide between 38 and 36 degrees celsius (or whichever unit you prefer). It can be argued that these situations are highly unlikely and constructed, but given the sheer number of human beings and encounters between them, many unlikely situations will occur by statistics.

    When it is about the temperature of coffee, we have thermometers. When it comes to suffering, we are reduced to subjective tales, which are imprecise due to their subjective nature. Therefore, I conclude that utilitarism cannot be used to construct a complete moral system, that covers all possible situations.

  214. #215 Jasper
    April 11, 2008

    If you want an answer to what you describe as the modern terms, it is that something is moral because god commands it. God’s game, god’s rules.

    Quod Erat Demonstrandum! It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

  215. #216 Jasper
    April 11, 2008

    Therefore, I conclude that utilitarism cannot be used to construct a complete moral system, that covers all possible situations.

    I observe that these discussions are not so much between atheists and theists, as they are between people who don’t understand what they’re talking about as much as they’d like to, and people who don’t understand what they’re talking about but don’t realise it.

  216. #217 Vox
    April 11, 2008

    I think we’ll have a problem with continuing the dialogue. It seems fairly clear that – whether I have missed your points or not – you genuinely don’t understand either my comments or – more worryingly – the Euthyphro dilemma itself.

    Actually, Jason, you omitted what has become the most obvious conclusion, which is that you’re simply not very intelligent. The fact that you are having trouble understanding this doesn’t mean everyone is. But do keep making those little passive-aggressive statements, I’m sure they’re very convincing.

    For example, your response to my first point appears to be completely unrelated to the point that I’ve actually made – which was that you said “one could defeat it by doing X, but obviously one can’t do X” and then later said “by doing X, I’ve defeated the argument.”

    It’s not unrelated and I didn’t write “by doing X, I’ve defeated the argument”, I wrote “The Euthyphro “dilemma” is defeated by shifting the focus from “the pious” to “obedience,” therefore it is an inappropriate criticism of Christian morality that is founded on obedience to God’s Will”. It is not only appropriate to amend the relevant terms in order to correspond with a religion that differs from the original, it is necessary. You are clearly having problems understanding the distinction between refuting the dilemma on its own terms and explaining why the dilemma can’t successfully be applied to Christian morality. Christian morality != “the pious” or “what God loves”.

    On the “drastically reduced” set of preferences – it’s irrelevant to the discussion. If there’s only one thing on the menu of divine command, it still poses exactly the same problem for theists.

    No, it isn’t because the second horn of the dilemma depends upon this “irrelevancy”. You clearly haven’t read the dialogue closely enough. Socrates even admits that he is amending his original definition because he has to narrow it so closely that all individual preferences are removed in order to maintain the viability of his argument. This is why the second horn could be a problem for polytheists, (although it really shouldn’t, due to the bait-and-switch on Socrates’s part), but it is no problem for monotheists or those who worship one supreme God.

    On the “variable morals”: well, you’re the one arguing that there is in fact only one set of fixed morals in this universe (your god’s) – and since some physical variables in this universe do vary depending on context, it seems that your point is defeated on both sides. To be brutally honest, though, your writing is poor enough that it’s possible that even you’re not sure what your argument is.

    You’re dancing to avoid the obvious. Physical constants are assumed to vary from universe to universe. There is absolutely no logical reason to declare that moral principles could not vary as well, whether the Creator God is the same in both universes or not.

    Euthyphro stands…. Quod Erat Demonstrandum! It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

    It doesn’t stand in either modern or Greek terms. Do you also find William of Ockham’s logic to be funny and sad, given that he reached precisely the same conclusion I did?

  217. #218 Chad Orzel
    April 11, 2008

    I observe that these discussions are not so much between atheists and theists, as they are between people who don’t understand what they’re talking about as much as they’d like to, and people who don’t understand what they’re talking about but don’t realise it.

    I love this summary of the comments to this point.

    That said, this is edging toward the point where things become pointlessly and unamusingly nasty. I’m going away for the weekend, where I am highly unlikely to have Internet access. As I would rather not come back to 700 comments worth of sniping between the same three or four people, I’ll be closing the comments to this post at noon today, or shortly thereafter.

    It’s been fun, but it’s time to start winding this down. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

  218. #219 Tor
    April 11, 2008

    Pretty Lady: Your original point that Vox is deeply stupid? Did you prove that one? I must have missed it…

    Actually, I asserted it, and waited for someone to defend the three quotes that I posted. (#’s 99, 102, 104). You attempted to do so, by asserting a good/bad dichotomy based in “a moral system based exclusively upon the relativism of subjective experience and diversity of belief…” (#112). You later responded to my comment that “the moral system you posit was useless and unconnected to the real world” by agreeing with me. (#168).

    So other than halfhearted attempts to attribute an argument that I did not make – that you can create a moral framework using utilitarianism (not that I’m admitting that you can’t – I actually have no idea – but I do know that I haven’t tried to say that it is possible to do so) – nothing is left standing to refute my original assertion – that anyone who could write the passages I quoted is deeply stupid, and arguing with them is like arguing with someone who voluntarily had “I’m an idiot” tattooed on their forehead. Or being questioned about mortgage rates by someone who clearly took the 0% 7 Day Interest Only Option ARM. Seriously, arguing with you people is like talking with tax protesters – not matter how many times they get swatted down by reality, they keeping popping up to say that the 16th Amendment was never ratified.

    Jasper – In your description, I hope I was in the former, as opposed to the latter, but if you feel otherwise, I have only myself to blame. When you lay down with dogs….

  219. #220 Jasper Janssen
    April 11, 2008

    I don’t know whether to be amused or sad that this has shattered the local record for longest comment thread in the history of the blog.

    Wasn’t that unexpected for me, at least.

  220. #221 Chad Orzel
    April 11, 2008

    Jasper Janssen: I don’t know whether to be amused or sad that this has shattered the local record for longest comment thread in the history of the blog.

    Wasn’t that unexpected for me, at least.

    I’m a little surprised. I thought that I had waited long enough for most of the furor to die down over at Scalzi’s place, so the participants wouldn’t be all that eager to shift over here.

    Guess I was wrong.

  221. #222 Tor
    April 11, 2008

    Scalzi had a site outage around that time, and all the Whatever readers were left with nothing to read, just after he posted the link to your site.

  222. #223 Norman Doering
    April 11, 2008

    Chad Orzel wrote:

    I thought that I had waited long enough for most of the furor to die down over at Scalzi’s place, so the participants wouldn’t be all that eager to shift over here.

    It never would have happened if you had blogged about Battlestar Galactica instead of Vox Day.

  223. #224 Jasper
    April 11, 2008

    Chad: I enjoyed the party a lot – thanks for being a great host, and look forward to the next one!

    Where do you go with these kinds of discussions, when somebody misses the point of a basic philosophical argument so completely – and defends himself by accusing everybody who disagrees with him of missing the point? I begin to see what you were getting at in your original post…

  224. #225 Jonathan Vos Post
    April 11, 2008

    Re: Vox Day’s questions to me in comment #211:

    (1) What is the USD rate of inflation according to the CPI? Off the top of my head: 4%. Using the web:

    Current Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) 211.693

    Current Inflation Rate
    4.03%

    Released March 14, 2008 for February 2008

    (2) When did you exit USD-denominated investments?

    I sold my entire remaining portfolio of stocks (heavy with low-risk items such as tax free municipals and blue chips) over 2 years ago for about $120,000, excepting all but about 2,000 shares of LNUX which I got as the result of the acquisition of a company I was connected to, and were not bought. Other than my home, which was bought to live in, and only secondarily as an investment, I have long since exited USD-denominated investments.

    Oh, and when I was in management at EarthLink, I had as perk a large number of shares of their stock. I sold it all when it hit $90. As it turned out, that was the precise peak of their value.

    (3) If you have a mortgage, what is the interest rate and is it an ARM? If not, at what price did you go into gold and how did you leverage it?

    Yes, I have a mortgage. I bought the 11-room 2600 sq ft 1930-built home on 1/4 acre with orange trees, gardens, Brazilian Silk Floss trees, above the smog level, close to JPL and to the Angeles National Forest, when housing was down, for $200,000. It peaked at over $1,000,000 which was up 400% from purchase. It has declined into the $900,000s due to the recession and other macro problems, but it is still where my wife and I live, and also our son part-time, when he’s not on campus at USC Law School where he was accepted and began at age eighteen (18). The ARM is slated to decline again in September.

    I bought gold at about $500.

    You don’t seem to have read any of the papers that exhibited. I’ve made substantial money in stocks, in real estate, and in gold (my timing has been rather good in each case). I ask you again, as I did in comment #206:

    “In comment #122, Vox makes a challenge with the condition that one exception will prove him wrong. Specifically:
    ‘… given that scientists and SF/F writers are not generally known for their financial acumen, there is a very high probability that there is not a single person commenting here who is not a complete and utter moron when it comes to global economics, and moreover, that I could demonstrate this to everyone’s complete satisfaction. Don’t get distracted, for the time being, just posit this.’”

    Asking again, is it not true that:
    (1) I am a scientist;
    (2) I am a SF/F writer;
    (3) I’ve revealed some indicative refereed professional publications in the field and my actual handling of investments;
    (4) I am, contrary to your blanket statement, NOT “a complete and utter moron.”
    (5) By the way, my son graduate California State University at the age of eighteen (18) with a double B.S. in Mathematics and Computer Science, Dean’s List, full scholarship, and is currently at USC Law School, perhaps the youngest American currently in a top 10 Law School — so is my and my wife’s superior intelligence apparently inherited so that our son is also much smarter than you are, or have you invested genetically in progeny that you care to discuss? How have you invested your genes?

    This last question also relates to your public opinion on rape. Which way do you choose to reproduce? I contend that my and my wife’s and my son’s Darwinian Fitness is higher than yours, and history will be the judge.

  225. #226 Jamie Bowden
    April 11, 2008

    I’m just helping Chad achieve a new record before he closes the comments here.

    I got tired of arguing with rabid fundies of any stripe (including fellow non-believers who are way too fucking serious for their own good) long ago, but I’ve enjoyed the reminder of why.

  226. #227 Jonathan Vos Post
    April 11, 2008

    I’m posting this, which I received by email from someone else who is:
    (1) a scientist (many publications, see listing on his web site);
    (2) a SF/F writer (with Hugo- and Nebula-Award proof in hand);
    (3) NOT “a complete and utter moron” in matters economic.

    Two exceptions to the “Vox Day” statement that he admitted fell apart with even one exception. And where are his hundreds of science papers? His Hugo? His Nebula? Just asking…

    ===============

    well, I just went and read the original Scalzi blog post, and have to say that I agree with the title sentiment “John Scalzi Should Be Ashamed of Himself”.

    The reason he should be ashamed of himself is that the posted review of the book is almost completely content free. After reading the review, I have no idea if the “Irrational Atheists” book is worth reading– the review didn’t actually say anything.

    The single conclusion of the review is that he claims that atheists are wrongly ignoring this book… but that’s not actually a logical argument. There are HUNDRED OF THOUSANDS of books published in English every year; the *vast majority* of these get ignored; they have to be. Is there any reason whatever that this shouldn’t be one of that vast majority? Well, Scalzi doesn’t give me a clue as to
    whether this is a book worth reading. About all I learn about the book actually comes from the postscript by the author, which tells me that the book consists of “irony piled upon irony stacked on
    top of yet more irony.”

    Well, if atheists are in fact asking for a book “engaging in a substantive discussion based on scientific fact and reason,” apparently this book isn’t it– some people think that irony may be fun, I suppose, but it is the antithesis of “substantive discussion”.

    Frankly, I wasted my time even reading the review.


    Geoffrey A. Landis
    http://www.sff.net/people/geoffrey.landis

  227. #228 wEz
    April 11, 2008

    Wow. Way to go noobs, just look at how you dismantled Vox!! Such a pathetic group you are…

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