Seriously, Man

god rockA couple of posts ago I mentioned the accommodationism debate, and I wrote then that I had said pretty much everything I had to say about it for while, so I skipped talking about my ideas on the subject. Well, now I’m going to say something about it again. This is not a response to one of the usual suspects, e.g. Chris Mooney, the many contributors to HuffPo, or anyone over at BioLogos. This is aimed at some clearly on “my side” in general, a couple of people for whom I have a great deal of respect. I’m talking here about Massimo Pigliucci and Eugenie Scott.

Pigliucci, along with Julia Galef, does a very good podcast called Rationally Speaking.  The episode from a couple of weeks ago, number 11, had Eugenie Scott from the NCSE discussing the usual NCSE stuff, mostly how creationists are still a problem when it comes to teaching good science in public schools.  Everything was fine right up to the end where the discussion briefly shifted to whether or not science could say anything about the supernatural.  The question is relevant as, if it is “no,” then there is good reason to accommodate believers in the supernatural as their beliefs are perfectly in line with scientific inquiry (or not, but this seems to be the suggestion).  This is the position that both Pigliucci and Scott take, and it strikes me as both weird and, well, a little intellectually dishonest.  If it’s not dishonest, then it’s naïve.  Very naïve. (EDIT:  I should have been more clear about this,  so I’ll do so now.  I do not personally think dishonesty is the issue here.  Rather, I think the issue stems from a naivety that results from not taking the beliefs of the groups in question seriously, hence the title of the post.  That said, it is the case that intellectual dishonesty is a charge regularly leveled at accommodationists, and the charge is at least plausible.  That’s why I mentioned it, but, rereading what I wrote, it looks like I’m offering that as what I think to be most likely, and this is not the case.  My bad.)

Before I go further, let me put out the usual disclaimer here.  I support the mission of the NCSE, I have huge respect for Scott, and I greatly admire Pigliucci.  I own books by both, and I would recommend them without hesitation to others.  Really, I can’t say enough good things about both individuals.

That said, this position they take here is just wrong, and it’s wrong for a very simple reason.  Toward the end of the podcast, Pigliucci says, “The supernatural essentially means that anything goes. You have no reliability, no repeatability, because it can do whatever the hell it wants for whatever reason.”  Scott immediately agrees saying that the supernatural is “not constrained.”  The point that both are trying to express is that, in order to perform a scientific experiment, one must be able to hold variables fixed.  The concern here is that because the supernatural is not natural, because it does not follow natural law, it can do anything.  As such, there is no way to effectively study it in any empirical way as it doesn’t allow for holding specific variables fixed as a way of determining what’s happening elsewhere.  And, indeed, there might be some way of conceptualizing the “supernatural” such that this is an apt description.  The problem here is that it just isn’t a good description for the beliefs of any of the opponents of things like evolutionary biology that this accommodating position is supposed to address.

As the dominant opponents of the teaching of evolution in the classroom here in the US are evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, those are the people at whom such concerns are most properly directed.  The question, then, is whether or not it is appropriate to describe this Christian notion of the supernatural as a case where “anything goes,” and the answer there is a very, very clear and resounding “No!”  Christians may believe that God is all-powerful, and, as such, it is technically possible for Him to do anything, but this is not the way they believe He handles His affairs (Affairs?).  On the contrary, God has made several covenants with humanity, and, as He is perfectly Good, He will never betray those covenants.  In fact, for Christians, God is the only thing that can be counted on to always act the same way.  Things here on Earth might change, but God does not.  He is the only one “who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV).  He is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV).  Etc, etc; I could list lots of verses saying something similar.  The point is that it is simply not the case that the Christian god, God, is conceived of as an entity who is constantly changing with “no reliability.”  On the contrary, ask these Christians, and I am certain they will tell that God is the only thing that is completely reliable.

This, then, is exactly why it is possible for science to examine the claims about the world made by these Christians.  What’s weird about this is that this should never have been in question, and Eugenie Scott knows this all too well.  The creationists think science is on their side!  The don’t go around saying that science can’t say anything about the many, many empirical claims their religion makes.  On the contrary, they are explicit that science is a fantastic means of discovering exactly what God has done, and that fact is exactly my point here.

Whoever the believers that are addressed by Pigliucci’s and Scott’s claims about the supernatural are, they are not the evangelical Christians who have fought tooth and nail to keep evolution out of the schools.  As such, this approach of attempting to accommodate and placate them by invoking a NOMA-like division is doomed to failure.  It is doomed because it does not take the believers seriously! At some point the bulk of the science community is going to have to get this.  Sure, lots of Christians accept that evolutionary biology is an accurate science, but they are not the problem.  They are already on the side of science, so the attempt to accommodate as a means of placation so as to get them on board with a genuine science curriculum cannot be directed at them.  Clearly, it is directed at those who oppose the teaching of evolution, and those people do not believe in a god who changes with the wind.  Their god, God, is exactly the opposite of that characterization.  He is Constant.

We need to take people seriously in their claims if we hope to get anywhere.  I feel like I’ve run this point into the ground on this blog, but it’s a huge point.  Funny enough, the skeptic community understands this about most the other paranormal claims.  Science-based paranormal investigators try to investigate in good faith.  The various skeptic publications are full of such investigations, and they almost always try to approach the issue without a preconceived conclusion.  They don’t approach a haunting or UFO sighting presuming they outcome.  They take the case seriously. But when it comes to religion, so many are willing to not look closely at the actual beliefs of the people in question.  That’s especially true for these accommodationists.  They want to point to people who already agree with them on the science stuff, like the BioLogos crew, and rely on their theology as a basis for what is believed generally.  But it could not be more obvious that this is an absolutely terrible approach.  Again, those people are not the ones fighting the NCSE.  If you want to figure out how to address those people, you need to look at their beliefs, and you need to take those beliefs seriously.

Until we get serious about taking people seriously, all we’re doing is spinning our wheels.

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What’s So Bad about Science?

Karl Giberson, science-and-religion scholar

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The debate over the compatibility of science and religion is something about which I’ve written frequently on here.  In particular, I have repeatedly addressed the arguments from the accommodationists, those who think religion and science are perfectly compatible.  As such, and as they keep saying the same thing over and over, I don’t particularly feel like repeating myself today.  However, Karl Giberson of BioLogos has recently written a piece over at HuffPo addressing this issue, and in it he expresses a concern that I don’t particularly understand.

Giberson writes,

Jerry Coyne and I had an interesting exchange yesterday that will appear in a brief video on USA Today’s website at some point. The question related to the compatibility of science and religion. Can one accept the modern scientific view of the world and still hold to anything resembling a traditional belief in God?

My answer to this question is "yes, of course," for I cannot see my way to clear to embrace either of the two alternatives — a fundamentalist religion prepared to reject science, or a pure scientism that denies the reality of anything beyond what science can discover.

I want to address this issue of “scientism” and the kind of caricature that is painted by the term when it is used to describe the position of the non-accommodationists.  First, I’m not aware of anyone saying they are in favor of a position that “denies the reality of anything beyond what science can discover.”  In that sense, the position presented seems to apply to almost no one.  There might be all sorts of things that science cannot know that are, in fact, true.  This is obvious in practice as there are literally innumerable things that we don’t currently know, and it seems very, very likely that there will always be things we don’t know.  There are possibly even things we cannot know in principle via science, though it seems wise to avoid specifying what those might be as science seems to have a way of constantly closing the gaps we have imagined to be forever uncrossable.  Still, it is absolutely possible that there are things for which the method of science is simply ill-suited, hence things which are, in principle, shut off forever from scientific inquiry.  And, again, all the big names on the side of the non-accommodationists have said things of that very nature.  In this way, the worry of “scientism” is simply a strawman.

Now would be a good time to talk about how this is irrelevant to the science/religion compatibility discussion at all for numerous reasons, one big one being that the fact that science cannot reach something does not in any way mean that religion can, and, indeed, I keep meaning to write something on that subject.  But that’s not what I want to address, either.  No, what I want to hit is the concern that if it did turn out to be the case that all things can be known by science, this would, in some sense, be bad.  But for the life of me I cannot see the worry here.  What if it were true that science could know everything and there were no place for religion?  So what? 

Presumably, religious folk, and non-religious folk who are sympathetic to the religious in the sense that they are accommodationists, are interested in the way things are.  Let’s say they are interested in truth.  If that’s their concern, and if it were true that science was a way to know about everything, I cannot see how this would cause anyone to be unhappy.  That would mean we would have a way to get just what they wanted, namely the truth.  That would seem to be a good thing.

Now, I do understand that most, if not all, of those expressing such concern do so because they think that there are things science cannot know which religion can.  But there is typically something more than that to their worry.  It is that something would be lost, that it would be a bad thing, if there were nothing other than wholly natural processes of the type that science describes going on in the world.  And that’s what I don’t get; that’s what leaves me puzzled.  I just cannot see what would be lost.  In fact, it would look like something amazing would be gained.  Specifically, this means of acquiring knowledge that has been so massively successful would be the same way we could acquire all knowledge.  Yay!  Good for us!  At least, that’s the way it looks to me, and I will readily admit that I don’t understand the urge to pooh-pooh the knowledge we get from science as somehow less important than some other kind of knowledge.  If you’re interested in something like the truth, it seems cool that you get it however you can.  If you’re not interested in the truth, then I’ll admit that I’m not really clear on what your concern is.  Whatever it is, I would appreciate it if it were made clear so I would know how to address it.

I get thinking that something like scientism is wrong, but I don’t get the desire for it to be wrong.  If that’s all there is, then that’s all there is, and I don’t see what’s so bad about it.  I don’t get what is lost.  And, so far, no one has been able to explain that one to me at all.

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The Principled Vs. the Practical

There is an issue that seems to get missed, or get in the way of, genuine dialogue both in the blogosphere and in real life.  This issue involves the distinction between principled points and practical points.  While practical concerns are certainly legitimate issues to be discussed, we must keep in mind that they are not the same thing as and do not affect the correctness and legitimacy of any particular position.

As a way of highlighting this concern, let’s look at the issue of accommodationism that has been repeatedly discussed here on this blog.  Accommodationism here refers to the attempt to reconcile scientific explanations with religious explanations, and it is a topic I have discussed at length.  One of the common arguments put forward by the accommodationists is that telling religious folk that there is a distinct tension between science and religion will only ostracize potential allies from those who are interested in pushing for greater scientific education and greater overall scientific literacy in our society in general.  That is, if it is the acknowledged position that science and religion are often in conflict, then, when push comes to shove, most people will choose their religion, and that leaves science out in the cold.

One clear case of such possible tension has to do with the teaching of evolutionary biology in public schools.  There is a very vocal group of religious fundamentalists, primarily Christians here in the U.S., who maintain that evolution is diametrically opposed to Scripture.  In such a case, as they take Scripture to be the Truth (note the capital ‘T’), evolution must clearly be false, and, as such, should not be taught.  Various means have been attempted by these groups to remove or diminish the teaching of evolution in the biology classroom, and all of these attempts put such people at odds with defenders of science who do not want religious concerns to corrupt the teaching of the best science available to us.

However, while this group of fundamentalists may be quite loud, they’re also a minority in most, though not all, areas of the country, and this prevents them from completely taking over school boards and other avenues of control in public education.  In order to be successful in such an attempt to wrest the power to decide what gets taught in the science classroom from genuine educators, they need the support of the majority of voters.  This majority also happens to be religious, though not of the fundamentalist persuasion.  That said, they do like to think of themselves as “people of faith.”  One way fundamentalists can build bridges to this majority is to show that the science is at odds with the religious teachings of even this religiously liberal majority.  A very easy way to achieve this would be to point out scientists and proponents of strong science education saying that there is, in fact, a definite tension between science and religion.  In this way it appears that the pro-science camp is saying religion is false, thus pushing the liberal majority into the waiting arms of the fundamentalist minority.  Science education comes out the loser, and it appears that a strong aspect of that loss is the result of the actions taken by those science advocates who suggested that religion and science are somehow at odds.

At least, that’s the story told by the accommodationists.  I think there is evidence that this just isn’t the problem we are often told it is, but that will have to wait for another post.  The important point to note here is that nothing in that story has anything to do with whether or not science and religion really are at opposed to each other in some way.  That is, the concern expressed by the accommodationist view in this story is entirely of a practical nature, and it has nothing to do with the principled concern of such a tension.  It is quite possible that it is true that such a tension exists while at the same time being true that the highlighting of such a tension would result in the advocates of science losing this battle.  So, from a practical standpoint it might well be a good idea to downplay or ignore a point that is, in principle, true.  But, again, that has absolutely nothing to do with the question of whether or not such is, in principle, true.

The kind of analysis given above, obviously, does not merely apply to the debate about accommodationism.  I only used that example as it so often seems that those with whom I disagree on the issue express concerns that completely miss the points that I and others make.  But there are issues that arise daily that result in exactly the same kind of error.  Anytime anyone points to the practical consequences of something, they are discussing something other than the principle issue, and such concerns have no bearing on the truth of that issue.  It is irrelevant to the accommodationist issue whether or not admitting such a tension would result in a net loss for science education.  It is irrelevant to the question of the existence of God whether or not life would be meaningless without God, whether or not morality would be possible without God, etc.  It is irrelevant to the issue of free will vs. determinism whether or not not having free will makes people sad.  It is irrelevant to the efficacy of homeopathy whether or not believing it to be efficacious makes someone happy.  And on and on. 

Principled concerns are not the same as practical concerns, and offering up the latter in a discussion about the former is as good as conceding the argument to your opponent.

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Who are the Accommodationists Accommodating?

Though it has been going on for a while, there is a tension in the skeptical community that seems to have captured a lot of interest lately over the question of whether or not science has anything to say about religious claims.  In as much as we can say there are sides, the divide is often described as the accommodationists vs. the purists.  I doubt either side is entirely comfortable with those titles, but those are the ones being used, so I will use them here as well.

To me, the question of whether or not science has anything to say about religious claims seems to be, in almost all cases, an obvious “yes.”  Are there some claims that are out of the reach of science and reason?  I don’t think so.  How about just science?  Well, sure, but, as it turns out, I think the overwhelming majority of religious claims just happen to eventually have some kinds of empirical implications as they involve the supernatural acting upon the physical world in some way.  Looking at the various types of claims science can address:  any story having to do with the origin of humanity is fair game; any story about the origin of the world in general is fair game; any story about the nature of the mind is fair game; any claim about historical figures or events is fair game; any claim about any physical process at all is fair game.

So what kinds of religious claims are left?  Mostly those that never touch the world.  For example, science cannot say anything about the various kinds of angels that might exist in a purely non-physical world that never touches or interacts with the physical.  The problem is that very few of the people described as purists worry about that kind of stuff.  So far as I can tell, PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, nor any of the other “new atheists” are griping about those kinds of claims.  Rather, the issues over which they worry are things that affect the world.  And this, I think, begins to get to what I find so odd about this debate. 

The accommodationists seem to want to privilege religious claims as beyond the reach of science.  How do they do this?  Let’s look at a couple of specifics.  Recently, Massimo Pigliucci (whose blog that you should be reading has long been linked in the blogroll in the sidebar) addressed this issue on his blog and podcast, both entitled “Rationally Speaking.”  In the podcast Pigliucci is concerned that purists are wrong when they suggest that "science is sufficient to debunk or disprove or reject religious claims." He allows that science can reject specific empirical claims that come out of religion, but he does not think that this is the issue at hand. To demonstrate the insufficiency of science to address religious claims he leans on the idea of “Last Thursdayism.”  Last Thursdayism is the hypothetical belief that the entire world was created last Thursday to look as if it were the result of wholly natural processes identical to the ones science posits now.   He also says he’s heard Creationists actually making this claim. I’d like to see that referenced as I personally know lots of Creationists, and none of them would say anything of the sort. Further, I have never heard any of the prominent Creationists say anything like this. Indeed, it seems to be explicitly contrary to any of the well-discussed notions of Creationism, all of which require that the world was created as laid out in some religious text. Now, they might well concede that their god could do such a thing, but they don’t actually think that such is the way it was done.  In fact, it is the assertion of all the prominent Creationist that the world looks exactly as one would expect if God created it.  This, of course, is absolutely something science can address.

But let’s allow that someone does believe such a thing as Last Thursdayism. That puts them in the strange position believing something that is indistinguishable from its not being true. Pigliucci correctly points out that such a position is unfalsifiable, but he then claims that this moves such a question beyond the realm of any kind of scientific reasoning.  I do not think this is right.  While Last Thursdayism may not technically be falsifiable, the notion of parsimony is still active in scientific reasoning. That gives one good scientific reason to reject the unnecessarily complicated hypothesis of Last Thursdayism, even if it is, technically, unfalsifiable.  An analogy would be useful here.  Let us imagine that some scientist claims that, contrary to the understanding of carbon we have now, something else is happening.  In fact, there is some other element that is completely undetectable by any instrument, and, moreover, it has the uncanny property of doing everything carbon is thought to do.  The scientists further asserts that, as it happens, carbon has some set of properties that allow it to look like it has the properties of this newly posited element, but it really has none of the properties we now think it to have.  Further, this new element is always connected to carbon in some way such that it is always present when carbon is but never when carbon is not.  The result of all this is that it is that everything looks exactly as it does now, but it is actually the case that there is some undetectable element doing everything carbon is thought to do while carbon does something completely different.

The above description is completely unfalsifiable, and it is completely consistent with all possible observations.  That being the case, would it be appropriate for other scientists to rule out such a claim?  I imagine that most of you are thinking to yourself, “Of course.”  But this is exactly the same kind of claim as Last Thursdayism.  It is a difference that makes no difference, is completely superfluous, and for which there is no good reason to believe it at all.  In such a case, there is nothing that prohibits science from tossing this claim.  Parsimony is as much a part of science as anything else, and in this case it dictates that the Non-Carbon theory be discarded along with Last Thursayism.

Let us now turn to a recent post by Steven Novella (who writes for several of the blogs linked in the blogroll).  Here Novella says that religious claims cannot be examined as they fall outside the bounds of methodological naturalism, the process assumed for scientific activity.  He writes,

Any belief which is structured in such a way that it is positioned outside the realm of methodological naturalism by definition cannot be examined by the methods of science. In short, this usually means that the beliefs cannot be empirically tested in any conceivable way. One can therefore not have scientific knowledge of such claims, and science can only be agnostic toward them. Any belief in untestable claims is therefore by definition faith.

Now, he does say that some religious claims are, in fact, testable.  He further says, “They intrude upon science on a regular basis, and whenever they step into the arena of science, they are absolutely fair game.”  It just turns out that, according to Novella, very few of the claims of religion are of this type.

Here is where I am deeply puzzled.  What are these claims that are being made that never touch the physical world, that are, in principle, untestable?  As I said above, I can imagine some class of claims that fall into this category, but they make up almost none of the actual claims made by believers of various stripes.  Almost all claims of genuine interest to believers have to do with things that touch the world science examines.  And this gets to the title of this post.  Who are these people being accommodated?  They are not the overwhelming majority of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, or even Buddhists.  The overwhelming majority of the claims made by these religions, and certainly the ones that are of interest to the overwhelming majority of adherents, end up being testable in some way.  In fact, the only group that seems to genuinely make the kinds of claims that really make no difference are deists.  While it is certainly not the case that there are no deists in the world, it certainly is the case that there are very few, and none of the purists seem to care at all about them.  Rather, the purists are concerned about the majority of religious believers, those who believe that the supernatural interacts in detectable ways with the natural world.  But, as both Pigliucci and Novella explicitly say, those kinds of claims are fair game for science to examine.  In which case it appears that everyone is on the same side.  Except, of course, they aren’t, because the accommodationists keep chastising the purists by telling them that religious claims are out of bounds.

So what are the accommodationists really doing?  In the end, it is hard for me to think that accommodationism is not merely a political move.  Its advocates all concede that science can address religious claims that have a discernable effect, but those are the only kinds of claims about which the purists cared anyway.  Questions about the ranks of wholly non-material angels were simply never a concern.  That makes it look like the accommodationists are simply trying to avoid offending theists as a way of keeping their assistance in terms of fighting other issues they believe to be more problematic, like science education.  And this might be a very practical concern.  I am not sure about that, but it might be, and that too is an empirical claim that we could test.  However, if that is the case, they should be explicit about it and not couch their arguments for accommodation in arguments about the limits of scientific reasoning.  The most such arguments can do is “protect” articles of faith that cannot possibly affect the world in any way.  But, of course, those beliefs were never under any serious attack, so that kind of move is a dead end.

 

I want to say here at the end that it seems some people have misunderstood some of the things I’ve said on here before even though I tried to be clear.  I’m not trying to convince everyone that they should be attacking theists.  I’m not making a case for atheism at all.  All I’m doing is addressing this issue of various people saying that religious claims are somehow off limits for discussion.  That seems both perplexing and worrying.  I don’t think anything should be off limits.  That’s my whole point.  It is not that atheists rule and theists drool.  If that’s what you got out of my posts, you have seriously misread me.

Oh, and before someone feels the need to address the grammar of the title, I am well aware that it should be ‘whom’.  However, colloquially, that sounds odd, and I’m not the kind of pedantic bastard who feels the need to correct colloquial phrasing.

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Thank God the New Atheists Take God Seriously

defenders of "faith" There’s a bizarre trend that I think needs some comment.  Over and over various people who defend faith in some form keep attributing to the faithful things that almost no one believes.  I’ve talked on here about various “accommodationists,” that is, atheists who defend believers from other atheists, doing this.  But this also comes from apologists for faith who count themselves as believers.  However, when they begin describing their beliefs, the faith that they are defending, it turns out to be a strain of belief that is wildly different from that of any mainstream religion.  Even stranger, it is typically some “New Atheist” that is highlighting the fact that the defender of faith is not defending anything that is recognizable to most believers.

A recent example of the issue at hand comes from ABC’s Nightline program.  It was entitled “Does God Have a Future?”  (The full program can be viewed at the link.)  The participants were, for the non-believers, Sam Harris and Michael Shermer, and Deepak Chopra and Jean Houston represented the believers.  Early in the debate Harris made explicit the concern that the “believers” would talk about a kind of god in which almost no one believes.  He said, “…there are two very different kinds of conversations you could have, here.  We can talk about religion as it is for most people most of the time, and we can talk about what religion could be or should be or perhaps what it is for the tiniest minority of people.  And I just want you to be aware of the difference there, because it could get lost.”  He continues with a list of the distinctions between the description of God that Chopra gives and that of mainstream believers.  Of course, unsurprisingly for people familiar with this kind of debate, this warning about the differences between mainstream notions of God and “sophisticated” ideas of the kind held by Chopra and Houston do nothing to prevent the persistent conflation of these ideas by these two defenders of faith.

Throughout the debate, this issue came up again and again.  Putting aside the sheer absurdity of the nonsense that Chopra dribbled out, at one point he was asked point-blank what he meant by “God,” since he explicitly did not mean anything like the god of any mainstream religion, especially that of the three big monotheisms.  His response was that the world ‘God’ is an acronym that stands for “Generation, Organization, and Delivery,” whatever the hell that means.  He also said that all the mainstream religions at issue are “religions of the past,” that they’re dead.  Of course, Houston was no better.  She suggested that all holy books are, rather than revealed Truth, some sort of dialogue that can be rewritten as need be.  Forgetting about what the use of a book of truth, wisdom, or whatever that could be changed at will to something else, thereby demonstrating that no genuine truth or wisdom was contained therein, could even be, it is just not the case that mainstream believers think their holy books are anything like what Houston describes.  Whatever faith she holds, it bears no resemblance at all to the faith described by mainstream believers.

All of the above is just to bring out the dramatic irony of this situation.  There actually is a group of people who are not condescending to Christians, Jews, and Muslims.  There is a group of people who take the articles of faith proclaimed by the billions of believers on this planet entirely seriously.  The mentioned irony, here, is that this group is not who you would expect.  It is not those people who have taken on the title of “defender of faith,” nor is it those people who claim to be accommodating the believers while telling them that they don’t really believe what they believe in an attempt to dismiss the very real tensions between those beliefs and the positions of those doing the “accommodating.”  Rather, the group taking the beliefs of the vast majority of people of faith seriously, even defending those ideas to the degree that they maintain that those beliefs should be considered as they genuinely are rather than mischaracterized as something potentially more palatable, is that of the New Atheists.  Time and time again these “strident” and “offensive” individuals are the ones we find standing up for the actual beliefs of the “true believers.”

When I hear anyone attacking atheists for being unwilling to keep quiet, allowing theists to believe whatever they want, I am always puzzled.  I genuinely don’t get it.  Ideas should be taken seriously.  Or, even if you have so little respect for someone that you want to pat them on the head as if they are a child scared of the boogeyman, as if you are superior in some significant way that precludes any genuine dialogue with those “foolish” theists, you should not attack others who do not share your pretension and condescension and, as such, have enough respect for believers to engage in genuine discussion instead of patronizing them.

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