Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

I mean, I said in the title. Do I need to repeat it?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blogs at a Glance!

Over at Reppert's blog, the local Village Idiot atheist yammers on at length about something (philosophy of intentionality) he demonstrably knows nothing about. People fight him and point out his flaws. He doesn't understand, or care to understand: he's too busy angrily denouncing all things theological, because he's certain that to reject naturalism is to embrace Christianity.

Meanwhile at Feser's blog, a new Village Idiot atheist shows up and yammers on about the exact same thing, with the same lack of knowledge, the same responses, and the same inability to understand why he's getting some basic facts wrong - and an apparent lack of either understanding or care for the fact that he can, in fact, be wrong.

I could probably repeat this for almost every site of interest. Well, not so much Valicella's blog, since he has the wisdom to be a comment nazi. Or Triablogue - I don't comment there anymore, since Steve went apeshit with the anti-Catholic stuff (I was able to put up with it until the graphic images came into play), but they at least know how to keep a conversation properly framed.

It's sad that 95% of all worthwhile Christian blogs go down this same hole. There really has to be a change to comment culture, because holy God, you can generally find the same 5-10 atheists on a wide variety of sites, babbling like crazy and drawing fire all day. And they Never*. Are. Very. Intelligent. And I just don't have the time to engage in this shit anymore - I'd rather converse with people, or present an idea. Not fight the same ten jackoffs who aren't even saying anything salient.

(* I'm talking here about the guys who camp multiple comment boxes, and make it their living to basically fight the Big Scary Theist Ideas wherever they show up. Except they fight the Big Scary Theist Ideas the same way dogs fight the Big Scary Mailman. By making a lot of noise, and hoping that does the trick. It doesn't, but there ya go.)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Meanwhile, in New Zealand

Glenn Peoples writes an obit for Hitchens that goes against the grain. I like it. Stern, but not mean. Honest. I'd probably have done it with more reserve - I'm picky about my dial between 'respect and courtesy' and 'being blunt' when it comes to a situation like death. But I gotta say, I like Glenn's entry more than I dislike it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

About Hitchens

I stumbled upon this comment over at Quodbileta:

No, you fools. Hitchens wasn't a great thinker, but he was a great--I won't pussy out and say "very good" or something--writer, speaker, and general stylist of words. I say this as an orthodox Catholic who was against the war in Iraq and hostile to most of his other views. I saw him speak at the University of Tennessee in 2009, and he was both hugely charismatic and charming and possessed of an astounding facility with words. He talked better than most people wrote, and wrote better than nearly everyone.

That said, he was polemical to the point of punditry--and on a lot of things, just kind of stupid--and no one will know who he is in fifteen or twenty years. But everything he wrote and said, even when it was wrong and stupid, was striking and comely and interesting. He was wrong, but he was brilliantly, admirably wrong.

Of all the commentary I've caught wind of so far, this quote seems to do Hitch the most justice in the truest sense of the word. A very skillful writer, great with words, but not exactly wise or supremely intelligent - and probably destined to fade out of the public's memory before too long. It was nice to read this, because I felt somewhat alone in my lack of praise of Hitchens on his death. Everywhere I turned, Christian after Christian piling on praise for him. It felt overdone.

The problem in this case is partly on my end: I'm not all that impressed with a grand command of words. I can recognize and appreciate a stirring speech, a good turn of phrase, but a minute after the experience I'm done with it and onto examining the idea - and if you start to examine Hitchens' (or Dawkins', or Harris', or...) ideas, to the point where they take center stage, the magic disappears immediately. You start to notice how much bullshit is present, or how the abundance of skillful writing is camouflaging the lack of depth or some flimsy reasoning, and by then it's all over.

That's not to say that the great command of language isn't impressive, or hell, deserving of praise. But there's this nasty habit of confusing "the guy who speaks well" with "a guy who's really a genius and intelligent". As our idiot president of the moment shows, it simply doesn't cash out that way. But damned if you can't get a lot of people mistaking the two.

Anyway, RIP and all that. And Merry Christmas to anyone who stumbles on by here, if I don't get a chance to wish it on the appropriate day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Scientism: Not As Popular As You Think

Stop me if you've heard this bit before, or something very much like it.

The problem with the New Atheists is that they are beholden to scientism. They have, understandably, a tremendous respect for the power of science - as well as reason - but their enthusiasm for science has combined with their ignorance of philosophy and metaphysics. The result is that they fail to appreciate the power and utility of reasoning that comes from sources other than science, and... (At this point comes a range of examples.)

I come across this often. "The New Atheists - they love science and reason. The problem is they love science too much!" It's a great line. But after encountering dozens of the Cult of Gnu over the years, I've come to realize that this is a complete load of crap.

Now, I speak from anecdote here. Years of anecdote at this point, but anecdote all the same. And my experience has been that most of the Cultists of Gnu could really care less about actual science. Rather, they love science the way a politician or an activist loves statistics: people who would have trouble defining "margin of error" and aren't all that interested in learning, but give them a study that supports the issue they want to boost and they won't be shutting up about it anytime soon. Give them a study that undermines an issue they want to boost, and their interest extends as far as their ability to undermine or discredit it. Give them an extremely detailed, well-researched, well-supported study that does neither of these things, and they will get very bored, very quickly, if you try to tell them about it.

It should go without saying that that isn't a love of science - or, if that does constitute a love of science, then just about everyone loves science. Young earth creationists love it. Parapsychologists love it. Intelligent Design proponents love it.

Worse, it doesn't even tend to provoke very much interest in the science they quote. I've run into multiple Gnu cultists who will not shut up about quantum physics, and proceed to tell me about how "scientist see particles come into existence from nothing all the time, and they see it's totally uncaused!" I've run into evolution fans who struggle to explain what natural selection really is, and cosmology fans who will excitedly talk about the multiverse and who are barely aware that there's a multitude of, rather than a single instance of, multiverse concepts.

Now, maybe you can reply, "That's just the pedestrian Gnu cultists, Crude. The guys they look up to though? Those guys love science!" And again, that's a popular attitude. But does it stand up to scrutiny?

Have a look at the best example - Dawkins. And hey, he's got quite a rep as a scientist doesn't he? How many times have you seen him introduced as an evolutionary biologist? And he certainly praises science like mad. He loves it so much, his last peer reviewed paper - what I'm also told is the gold standard of science - was written, what... two decades ago? Are we pushing three at this point? If Dawkins really loves science, one can only suspect that he decided scientific research was best served by him abandoning the field years ago in favor of writing popular science books. There's evidence the guy hasn't even bothered to keep up with his field since he's left it - he's preaching old-school selectionism in what's increasingly an Evo-Devo world.

No. The scientism charge - scientism taken as loving science too much, having too much of an attachment to science, being too damn interested in science - doesn't wash. The Cult of Gnu is beholden to science the same way the Cult of Reason was beholden to reason: hardly at all. What they love is the authority that comes with suggesting their beliefs are backed by science - even if those beliefs are philosophical, metaphysical, or purely political. Just as the Cult of Reason loved reason, only insofar as the 'reason' in question lined up with what they wanted.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Violating the Separation of Church and State

American soldier's remains have been disposed of by dumping into a landfill.

The government should be sued immediately, on the grounds that the soldiers were given an atheist-style burial without their consent.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Prophet Dawkins and the Cultists of Gnu

I see Feser chimed in on the Dawkins-Craig debate fiasco. And at this point it really is a full-fledged fiasco, at least in an intellectual sense. Anyone who'd stumble on this blog doesn't need a recap of the events - but what may be necessary is a convenient distilling of what's been going on since William Lane Craig's UK tour.

Here it is: Dawkins is afraid of debating Craig because all odds favor he'll get his clock cleaned, which will harm both his reputation and his cause. He's tried to think up multiple excuses why he's ducking Craig - none have been even remotely believable, and some have actually been inconsistent with his other statements.

Now, the reflex is to say that the above is a biased view of the situation. I'm a theist, I'm a Catholic - shoddy of one as I am - so I'm giving Team Theism's version, which is in conflict with the current dogma of the Cult of Gnu. But frankly, I don't think that holds up. Except for the real slow-wits among them - not to be discounted - most of the Cult of Gnu realize the summary I gave is correct as well. They just see it as strategically unwise to admit it.

There's a line from a Steven Seagal movie which differs from all the other lines from Steven Seagal movies in that it's actually worth repeating: "Guangzhou is a chemical weapons plant masquerading as a fertilizer plant. We know this. The Chinese know that we know. But we make-believe that we don't know and the Chinese make-believe that they believe that we don't know, but know that we know. Everybody knows."

That's the line that keeps coming back to me whenever I see atheists and theists discuss Dawkins ditching Craig. The theists know that Dawkins is ducking Craig to avoid an assbeating. Atheists know that Dawkins is ducking Craig to avoid an assbeating. And the theists know the atheists know, and the atheists know the theists know that they know. But the theists make believe they don't know, and the atheists make believe they don't know. But, as the quote says... everybody knows.

Now, there are a few reasons why theists - even reflexively - would make believe they don't know. For one, it involves psychoanalysis. And even if you have good reason to believe the psychoanalysis is true, it's bad form to bring it up in debate. It's a conversation stopper, and it gets the discussion nowhere. And for some of the Cult of Gnu, there's always the possibility that they really are just that credulous. (Remember, the prime effect of the appearance of the Cult of Gnu has been to pick up some of the slower, less stable individuals from Team Theism.) Also, these debates tend to be carried on by people who just plain have an addiction to arguing at length, and the one thing deemed most important is to just keep the conversation going at all costs.

Of course, the Cult of Gnu has their reasons for pretending they don't know as well: Dawkins is the closest thing the Cult particularly, and atheists generally, have to a leader right now. Certainly he's a, even the, figurehead. (Dennett's a philosopher embracing ideas which sound nutty if they get drawn out, Hitchens isn't respectable beyond being a good trash-talker, and Harris is too much of a punk and controversial besides.) If Dawkins is viewed as losing to a theist, or almost as bad, avoiding any particular theist in an intellectual capacity, it's a defeat for the most central idea of the Cult of Gnu: that theism is not only wrong, but irrational to believe. As Dinesh D'Souza noted, the Cult of Gnu has framed the question such that if theists or religious people so much as argue atheists to a draw, the Cult loses badly. Theism, period, in any form, is supposed to be irrational and crazy. Lunatics shouldn't be able to pull a draw in discussion. And if they actually make the better case? Disaster. I congratulate D'Souza for noting this, which is impressive since really - I can't help but look upon the guy as the Scrappy Doo of Christian Apologetics.

There's more to this - hey, humans are complicated and psychology is multifaceted - but the short of it is, what you have here is an opportunity to see the cultier aspect of the Cult of Gnu in full play: the protecting and attempted promulgating of a pious lie for a certain brand of atheists. Everyone knows why Dawkins is ducking Craig. But the Cultists of Gnu, God bless 'em, have to pretend they don't know why, and that no one else knows why either. And little demonstrations like this are educational - they let you see how supposedly secular, irreligious and even atheistic groups can, easily can, take on the nastier modes of thinking and behavior that are normally attributed to the worse forms of "religion".