Saturday, September 20, 2014

North Korea: Gnu Paradise

Ever notice that North Korea's state atheism is hardly ever reported, despite it being not only official, but entirely obvious due to events like this:
A third American, Jeffrey Fowle, was arrested for leaving a Bible in the toilet of a sailor's club in the port city of Chongjin and is currently awaiting trial.
In defense of North Korea, religious belief is a serious threat, and - as PeteBog has made clear - interventions must be made in order to contain and eradicate it.

But really, if you're the sort to read international news regularly, play this game:

Compare how many times an article about Iran (especially when Iran has done something odious) involves declaring it a 'right wing', 'conservative' or 'religious' state with how many times North Korea is referred to as 'left wing', 'liberal' or 'atheist' state.

That said, the North Korea government basically runs itself as a kind of 'New Atheists but with a military' regime. We're talking about a group that reacted to Christmas tree lights by saying it was psychological warfare and an attempt to spread Christianity in North Korea, and the sort of thing that North Korea threatens war over.

Clearly they've been reading their Dawkins.


Luke said...

Ever read what Western intellectuals managed to convince themselves of about Communism during Stalin's reign? Peter Berger has some delicious things to say about this, and being a sociologist, he's the most sciencey of scientists when it comes to making such observations. But when I post his comments, they are ignored or rejected as, well, that's a sociologist and he's obviously biased! I've had to get several new irony meters as a result.

Jakeithus said...

But Crude, what you need to understand is that when a religious person does something bad, their religion is their motivating factor. When an atheist does something bad, it has nothing to do with their atheism. Communism is a religion, therefore they're not real atheists. If you want to look to a true atheist country, look to Sweden, not any of the atheist, communist hellholes we see around the world.

And those would be many of the bad excuses you're likely to hear from the Cult of Gnu.

Jakeithus said...

Silly me, I almost forgot this Gnu Classic and catch-all response.

Maybe so, but Hitler was a Christian.

More seriously, you just hardly ever see leftist, atheist, etc used pejoratively in mainstream media. It would be interesting to do a study to find out exactly at what point someone would become an extremist leftist/atheist. My guess is a person would have to be literally on the lunatic fringe before that label would be applied. On the other hand, I just got to see a local political appointment negatively labelled with a conservative, religious brush simply because he belongs to a church that teaches homosexuality is a sin. The double standard is enormous.

Crude said...


In the defense of everyone, my trust of sociologists is tremendously low. Then again, I'm also not very trusting of any scientist. I prefer data.


Pretty much. There's an easy reply to that: "Okay, it's not people who lack God-belief that's the problem. It's those anti-theists with the bloody record."

And yeah, 'leftist' or 'atheist' or 'liberal' and especially 'progressive' never gets a negative slant. It's insidious.

Luke said...


It isn't you who I'm calling to trust sociologists, though—it's the Gnu Atheists, who place their utmost trust in scientists. And yet, they wish to make sociological statements, while ignoring what a famous sociologist has observed. The irrationality is simply incredible.

A good book on the failure of all theoretical [braches of] sciences which depend on anything close to an accurate model of human nature is Donald E. Polkinghorne's Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences; I highly suggest reading the three-page Google Books preface. Polkinghorne was/is a dual-academician&clinician, and so he saw huge mismatches between the theory and the practice. As you might imagine, the practice—helping actual human beings—was forced to bend to reality, while the theory (academic psychologists, sociologists, economists, etc.: the human sciences) went off into lala land, with predictable results.

Another good book is F.A. Hayek's Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason. You probably know about the fiction that is "economic man", a fiction which may be traceable to Enlightenment thinker Julien Offray de La Mettrie's 1748 Man a Machine. The Mechanical Philosophy errs when it goes to reductionism and "I completely understand it"-ism; merely thinking that we can gain better and better understandings (of things and people) was a good result of it. Too much of a good thing...

Finally, in defense of sociologists I raise up Jacques Ellul and his The Subversion of Christianity. The subversion of Christianity truly is a sociological phenomenon, as well as a spiritual one. The error is not sociology qua sociology; instead it is the twisting of a discipline based on erroneous presuppositions. The harder sciences are merely less easily perverted by terrible conceptions of human nature than the softer sciences.

Crude said...


It's not sociology I have a problem with, but sociologists. Just as it's not scientists I have a problem with, but scientists.

Still, I get your point. On the other hand, the Cultists will just point at scientists they like (and there will be some who parrot talking points they prefer), and that will be that. The others will not even be considered scientists.

Shadow to Light often covers how the CoGs mangle 'science' - it comes the stuff of controlled double-blind experiment subject to intense peer review when they need it to be that, but also 'a plumber is a scientist' when they need it to be THAT. I think less appreciated is how they, and most other people, mangle 'scientist'. It's become a word people can't apply to people they dislike.

Luke said...

It's not sociology I have a problem with, but sociologists. Just as it's not scientists I have a problem with, but scientists.

Heh. However, there has been a bias against sociologist, which can be maintained a few different [non-mutually-exclusive] ways:

(1) people are harder than particles
(2) you have to actually understand people somewhat well
(3) your biases show up more with people
(4) political pressure for sociological results >>> political pressure for Higgs

That being said, tons of the actual debates had are about issues allegedly studied by sociologists. That atheists aren't referencing such studies is very, very telling. "I'm gonna say religion is hurtful but I'm NOT gonna use any science, except maybe this tiny little not-peer-reviewed piece over here. Oh and correlation ⇒ causation if it's religion."

As to the inconsistencies, all you can really do is collect them, and have them ready to whip out when appropriate. At least, I don't know what else there is to do. Oftentimes I won't admit badness in myself until I can see at least a few clear examples, so it's not like that's a crazy thing to do. How precisely this interacts with logizomai in 1 Cor 13:5 would be a fun project.

Crude said...

I'm not so sure. Don't atheists reference those studies whenever they show what they want? 'Conservatives dumber than liberals' wasn't claimed by physicists, but do you really think the Cultists of Gnu turned their nose up at that result? You're talking about people who will get onboard with secondhand anecdotes if it's framed in a way they like. See Dawkins on belief in hell and child abuse.

You saw me argue with Andy at Lothar's. Andy was more than happy to regurgitate some common sociology claims from the Cult, complete with studies. When I had him outgunned, what did he do? Went silent, reframed, and generally didn't change his mind whatsoever. Whether that's because his atheism blinds him, or he'd rather eat his own foot than admit that I not only had a point, but had one that burnt his allegations to the ground, I leave to others to decide.

Another issue would probably be that the Cult doesn't really approach the topic of religion as 'something they are arguing' but 'a conclusion that is true, period'. There's no need for evidence to support your point when you take the position that what you say had already been proven and is certainly true.

Luke said...

Don't atheists reference those studies whenever they show what they want?

Actually, in my experience: no. I mean, they might cite a really tiny study, like the one Lothar identified, or some study showing that Europe does better on some indicators than the US. But I've actually seen nothing approaching a rigorous argument, and I've actually seen very few atheists pretend that an argument is rigorous when it is not. On that blog post of Lothar's, you can see me presenting sociological and legal evidence to @tildeb, with him falling utterly silent afterward. So even someone like him can be shut up in this way. Even he isn't willing to be embarrassed past a certain level.

See Dawkins on belief in hell and child abuse.

So, I've read The God Delusion as well as a few posts from him, but what's the most evidence he ever cited? In recent flipping through my copy of TGD, I noticed that I had repeatedly pointed out where he said, "It is reasonable to suppose..."—this is, of course, deeply revelatory. It is 'reasonable' to suppose when the evidence does not actually indicate.

You saw me argue with Andy at Lothar's.

That particular argument was a bit unstructured, fuzzy, and spread-out for my tastes, when it comes to demonstrating the kind of point you're making here. I'm inclined to agree with you, but not very strongly; I'd want further examples. I also find it helpful to refer to scholarly work when people talk about 'fairness'; two good books are Alasdair MacIntyre's Whose Justice? Which Rationality? and Steven D. Smith's The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse. Andy actually mocks me for bringing up Smith's book now; he says he gave a good response to some bit of it I posted, but I don't recall it being a good response. So, this may be an example of him mocking that which he cannot refute.

I guess that I'm saying here is that out-gunning is an additional tactic to Socratic cross-examination. The sad thing is that I'd absolutely love to dig into MacIntyre and Smith's work with folks. The only reason I found them is through online debate! There is always more to learn. However, it becomes clear that many—as you know—have zero interest in learning anything new, except another technique to sophistically advance their positions. The ends justify the sophism.

Another issue would probably be that the Cult doesn't really approach the topic of religion as 'something they are arguing' but 'a conclusion that is true, period'.

True. Religion is their scapegoat. They will frequently deny this, but I merely throw out Eric Schwitzgebel's The Unreliability of Naive Introspection and cite something like model-dependent realism. These are more sophisticated versions of "if the shoe fits", but hey—if the Sophisticated™ version works and if it's still true, I say use it.

BTW, you might like these two comments I recently made: '⇒' vs. '↝' truth/goodness issue and 'some' ⇒ 'all' reasoning/evidence issue. I have to believe you know about them, but perhaps they will add something to your understanding, or you will add something to mine! :-)

Tom Gilson said...

Fowle has been released, thank God.