Tony Snow on the New Atheists

Ex-White House Press Secretary Tony Snow finds time in his busy schedule to explain to Christianity Today why he thinks the New Atheists Are Not Great.

While the chief atheists write beautifully, their works share a telling defect. They seethe with disapproval of God. Dawkins captures this trend in describing the YHWH of the Old Testament as “arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Such invective clings like chewing gum to atheist polemics and raises the question of why these people are so worked up about a creator they don’t believe exists. [Links added.]

Ironically, he does not try and claim that such accusations are wrong, exactly. He just thinks its somehow wrong of the New Atheists to mention it.

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XFiles Friday: Wrapping up Chapter 5

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 5)

We come at last to the end of Chapter 5, where Geisler and Turek kick back for a minute and pat themselves on the back for a “job well done.” They got an incredible amount wrong in this chapter, apparently without even dreaming that there was any question about their conclusions, and they even admitted, without realizing it, that they define “science” in such a way as to make it merely a tool for expressing their own preconceived conclusions, rather than a method for discovering the objective truth about the real world. But they think they’ve shown that atheists have the “wrong box top” for the picture puzzle of life, and that only their Christian “box top” lets us put the pieces together in a reasonable way.

Let’s sum up.

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Sri Lanka: “anti-Christian violence suddenly escalates”

Via assistnews.net, an apparently Christian news service, comes word of increasing religious violence in Sri Lanka:

Religiously motivated violence, including arson, threats and intimidation, has been escalating unchecked in the volatile eastern district of Ampara for some time. On 17 February 2008 Pastor Neil Edirisinghe (37), who was leader of The House of the Lord fellowship in Ampara, was fatally shot in the chest while his wife Shiromi (31) was shot in the stomach and critically wounded. Their young son received minor injuries and shock. Investigations exposed this as a contract killing organised by a local Buddhist nationalist angered by Pastor Edirisinghe’s ministry.Also on 17 February, a mob of some 50 angry locals attacked believers attending Sunday worship at King’s Revival Church, Mathugama (in the south-west), with Tamil Christians singled out for more severe treatment. The following Sunday the attackers returned and stopped the believers meeting. On the evening of 2 March, ten students of the Believers Church Bible College, Lunuwila (north-west), were walking from the railway station when they were ambushed by a group of about 10 masked men who kicked and bashed them mercilessly. On 3 March, Zion Mount Prayer House in Mulaitivu District (south-west) was set on fire while the pastor, his family and guests were inside — fortunately they all escaped.

This of course has to be wrong, after all, Vox Day has already proved that the violence in Sri Lanka is purely secular. Or at least, that’s what he says in The Irrational Atheist, in the course of trying to make Harris and Dawkins look ignorant for suggesting that religion has a role in violence and war. Perhaps TIA isn’t yet a real big seller down in Sri Lanka?

 
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TIA: A remarkable quote

I don’t want to belabor Chapter 5 of The Irrational Atheist, but there is a remarkable quote on page 87 that I think is worthy of special attention.

John Julius Norwich goes so far as to write of the First Crusade: “The entire Crusade was now revealed as having been nothing more than a monstrous exercise in hypocrisy, in which the religious motive had been used merely as the thinnest of disguises for unashamed imperialism.”

Vox wants to use this quote to try and discredit the idea that religion contributes anything substantial to wars, but in fact it actually goes to show that the New Atheists have a very good point indeed.

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TIA: Hoping something sticks

I think I’m becoming more familiar with Vox Day’s style of argumentation: just throw a bunch of nasty stuff and hope something sticks. Chapter 5 of The Irrational Atheist is a good example, and it opens with a tasty bit of ad hominem.

In the historical introduction to his famous military treatise, the Chinese general Sun Tzu advised the wise general to lure his opponent from ground where the opponent holds a strong position in the hopes of being able to attack him in a weaker one. It is interesting to see that Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins both make inadvertent use of this tactic with their mutual assertion that religious faith bears responsibility for enabling the making of war even when it is not, in itself, a primary cause of conflict. It is also ironic, given their near total ignorance of military history and the art of war.

Now we know what sort of role Vox wants to cast Harris and Dawkins in: that of ignorant buffoons pontificating about subjects they know nothing about. I’d be tempted to mention something about pots and kettles, if Vox had been able to demonstrate any actual ignorance on Harris’ and Dawkins’ part, but it seems that their “errors” are not so much factual contradictions as they are merely the “mistake” of looking at things differently than Vox does.

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Vox Day defends “Expelled: No Intelligents Allowed”

The inimitable Vox Day indulges in a bit of gloating over this complaint by PZ Myers:

If the producers of Expelled are so confident that they can make a strong case of conspiracy against scientists, then before they start showing this to uninformed politicians, they ought to screen it before scientists and historians and philosophers of science, who will be able to judge it on its merits.

Vox’s answer?

Because, PZ, as we’ve already seen with TIA, whenever someone does make a strong case against secular scientists or atheists, these self-proclaimed champions of intellectual discourse suddenly go silent and try to pretend they’ve never heard of it.

Um, yeah. The reason Ben Stein refuses to let qualified scientists review his film is because doing so would silence his critics.

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

 
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Recommended Reading: How to teach

A Blog Around The Clock has some thoughts up about The so-called Facebook Scandal, in which he addresses some very interesting points.

Science is supposed to be a collaborative activity. Why is it organized (and taught) as if it was a competitive activity? How does that affect science? Negatively, by increasing secretiveness and sometimes outright fraud.

The Web is changing all this. The teenagers already grok that the old selfish notions of intellectual property are going by the way of the dodo. They naturally think in terms of networks, not individuals. And thinking in term of newtorks as opposed to a linear, hierarchical, individualistic focus, is necessary for speeding up the advancement of knowledge and societal good.

In other words, it is not important what each individual knows or does, it is important what the interactions between individuals can do, and how the group or community (or global community) learns and acts upon the knowledge.

Thus, education, especially science education, from Kindergarden through post-doc and beyond, should be organized around collaborations, teaching people and letting them practice the networking skills and collaborative learning and action. Individuals will make mistakes and get punished by the group (sometimes as harshly as excommunication). They will learn from that experience and become more collaborative next time. The biggest sin would be selfish non-sharing of information.

 
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XFiles Friday: In over their heads

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 5)

I really should try not to get too bogged down in Chapter 5, but there’s one last paragraph or two in the section “Materialism Makes Reason Impossible” that really highlights just how out of their depth Geisler and Turek really are.

Not only is reason impossible in a Darwinian world, but the Darwinist’s assertion that we should rely on reason alone cannot be justified. Why not? Because reason actually requires faith. As J. Budziszewski points out, “The motto ‘Reason Alone!’ is nonsense anyway. Reason itself presupposes faith. Why? Because a defense of reason by reason is circular, therefore worthless. Our only guarantee that human reason works is God who made it.”

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TIA: the jealous husband

We’re up to Chapter 5 of The Irrational Atheist, but if you’ll bear with me, I’d like to go back and revisit something from Chapter 3 again. Sam Harris, you may recall, had made the argument that with the development of nuclear weapons and other catastrophic devices, it was no longer safe to let people run around thinking God had commanded them to smite unbelievers. Vox responded with a kind of gun control argument: guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people, so if you just deprive people of their guns, then everyone else will be safer.

Of course, Vox said “science” instead of “guns,” but the principle is the same: deprive people of the means (i.e. guns, bombs, science) and the motive (religion, etc) will no longer matter. Of course, the reverse could also be said, since violent crimes require both motive and means, so eliminating any of the contributing factors is bound to be an improvement. As I’ve suggested, the most prudent thing is not necessarily to throw the baby out with the bath water either way, but to specifically identify the significant risk factors on both sides, and try to eliminate or at least minimize them. But there’s another reason why I think Sam Harris’ proposition, while arguably too extreme, nevertheless makes more sense than Vox’s, and I’d like to illustrate that point via the analogy of a jealous husband.

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TIA: Deeper into the conspiracy

Who are the Enlightenmenati, and what do they really want? As we continue in Chapter 4 of The Irrational Atheist, we see that these insidious infiltrators are not content with parasitizing America’s Christian moral values. They’re out to take over the world!

Based solely on their theoretical reasoning, the New Atheists declare that it should be the goal of all scientists, indeed, all rational thinkers, to bring peace and harmony to the world of men. They don’t declare this in a succinct or straightforward manner, they don’t even lay out their case in a coherent manner, but this is the only conclusion that can rationally be derived from their cumulative premises, logic, and stated goals. It is unclear why none of them are able to come out and state this clearly, but there are a number of possible explanations.

Three guesses whether any of these “possible explanations” acknowledge any kind of intelligence or competence on the part of the New Atheists.

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