Monday, April 23, 2007

Goodbye Mixing Memory

 
Chris over at Mixing Memory posted an article on the comparision between the Women's Suffrage Movement and other attempts to change public opinion [You're No Suffragist]. He completley misunderstood the point of what I was saying so I posted a comment to help direct him toward the truth. I also took a poke at him for deliberately mispelling my name in the first paragraph of his posting.

My comment didn't survive on his blog. Now you see the following comment from him.
First, my apologies to anyone who's responded to Larry's comment. I deleted it, because I don't want him dirtying up my blog.

Next, Matt, I have nothing but contempt or the nouveau atheists (I use that phrase to convey their tackiness, in case that wasn't apparent). I have been saying as much for about 6 months now, and will continue to do so. I won't apologize for it, either. They deserve nothing but contempt. And it should be noted that contempt for a relatively small, privileged group does not entail contempt for anyone else (I do have contempt for other groups, of course, but most people on the planet I'm OK with) or a broad sense of superiority. Do I feel superior to them? Anyone who's read a few books would. Do I feel superior to everyone else? Certainly not.

Mike, atheists should respond by pointing out how insane that kind of talk is. They should note that saying a group is not really American, or doesn't matter, sounds more and more like, say, Nazi antisemitic rhetoric when it's used by people in power (and that includes people in the media, who are, obviously, in positions of power). Of course, one doesn't have to call all religious people stupid, and advocate for the eradication of religion (which, I should add, also sounds a lot like Nazi rhetoric) to do so. I have nothing against being mean by itself. I have something against being mean, stupid, and totalitarian (little "t").

Richard, my point is that, by and large, they aren't even being "rude" in the same way. Instead, what they're trying to do is force their narrow world view on the entire rest of the world (go read Moran and others' talk of ridding the world of superstition, by which they mean all religious beliefs, on their blogs), through aggression and violence. Granted, it's rhetorical aggression and violence, but it's still aggression and violence. And perhaps worst of all, it is rhetoric with no obligation to facts or truth. Perhaps a better name for the nouveau atheists would be "evangelical" or "proselytizer" atheists.
I've decided not to read Mixing Memory any more. I'm thinking that Chris has gone off the rails and I don't want to be the one that tips him over the edge.

35 comments :

  1. "Gone off the rails" is exactly how I'd describe it. It's sad that Chris, who says intelligent things elsewhere, has sunk to this egregious level of class-baiting to bash those who disagree with him.

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  2. The guy accuses you of "rhetorical aggression and violence" while at the exact same time making Nazi comparisons...

    How low can you go?

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  3. Censoring opposing opinions is a great way to establish that your own ideas can withstand rational and evidential analysis. Don't you think?

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  4. Well, Chris has gone a bit farther off the rails than most, but I'm fed up with both sides.

    The Thought Leaders and their Acolytes in these parts have produced as great a collection of arrogant excluded-middle, straw-man arguments as I've seen in a long time. There's no value left .... let it die.

    An example, you ask??

    He completley misunderstood the point of what I was saying so I posted a comment to help direct him toward the truth.

    Interesting. No notion of "I explained in more detail..." or "I pointed out where I thought he'd misinterpreted me ...".

    Nope - "I posted a comment to help direct him toward the truth."

    Waste of time. I'm out of there ... I'm out of here. You're both wrong, and you're both too arrogant to even consider the possibility.

    A plague on both your houses, I say ...

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  5. Larry, when you take Rush Limbaugh as your style guide, it does the opposite of lending you credibility.

    In case Rush Limbaugh isn't heard in Canada, he's a rightwing, loudmouth who has a 15 million people listening to him on the radio every day just south of you. I believe he coined the term femi-nazi.

    Dawkins, on the other hand, is a pretty good role model for your position.

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  6. "Misspelling", my eye. That was intentional. Strike one.

    "... like Nazi anti-semitic rhetoric ..." Strike two.

    "I deleted it, because I don't want him dirtying up my blog." Strike three, and out.

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  7. I find it pretty rich that someone is accusing Larry of being Limbaugh-esque, specifically using the term "femi-nazi" as an example, when in the very comment Larry quoted Chris compared Dawkinsian atheists to Nazis.

    That's the problem with these people. Their so wrapped in autoeroticism for their "moderation" that they've lost their ability to detect irony.

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  8. "Larry quoted Chris compared Dawkinsian atheists to Nazis."

    Um, no. His point was clear. The line of reasoning of Moran and others appears to have been that certain tactics were effectively used in the past to effect social change, and this justifies the use of these tactics now. He brings up the Nazis in an attempted reductio ad absurdum of this line of reasoning. You are rationalists, here, right? Try attacking the argument being made instead of reducing it to a strawman.

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  9. Uh-oh. That was a little too effective -- if we make more of them blow up that completely, everyone will realize that the way we're planning to deal with the apologists for religion is to drive them insane.

    Larry, turn down your head-asplodey rays a couple of notches!

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  10. PZ: "if we make more of them blow up that completely, everyone will realize that the way we're planning to deal with the apologists for religion is to drive them insane."

    Well, yes, if you goad people enough with aggressive asininity, then some of them will snap. Luckily, Trinifar kept a cooler head, and pointed out that you haven't been too good about staying on the rails yourself.

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  11. "He brings up the Nazis in an attempted reductio ad absurdum of this line of reasoning."

    Bullshit. He's comparing the verbal tactics of Larry and PZ to "Nazi anti-semitic rhetoric". That by proxy is comparing people like them to Nazis.

    "Try attacking the argument being made instead of reducing it to a strawman."

    It isn't a strawman, it's exactly what Chris did. Not to mention lumping all "nouveau atheists" into "white, male, middle-class ex-Protestants" without a shred of evidence beyond his own personal bigotry. He's a blithering idiot in that post. Really, don't embarrass yourself by defending this class-baiting buffoon.

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  12. tyler dipetro: "Bullshit. He's comparing the verbal tactics of Larry and PZ to 'Nazi anti-semitic rhetoric'. That by proxy is comparing people like them to Nazis....

    "Really, don't embarrass yourself by defending this class-baiting buffoon."

    I should have been more careful to make a more partial defense, yes, and I was looking at a comment further down from the one he quoted. Sorry.

    That said, you should pay more attention, since the actual reference to "Nazi anti-semitic rhetoric" is in response to a comment by Mike Haubrich, which I quote below.

    Mike Haubrich: "I am just curious as to how atheists should respond when we are told to 'sit down and shut up' because we don't really matter?"

    Chris: "Mike, atheists should respond by pointing out how insane that kind of talk is. They should note that saying a group is not really American, or doesn't matter, sounds more and more like, say, Nazi antisemitic rhetoric when it's used by people in power (and that includes people in the media, who are, obviously, in positions of power)."

    That's not a comparison of atheists to Nazis. That's a comparison of the people Haubrich was talking about to the Nazis.

    Now to be fair, he does Godwin the debate in the parenthetical remark in the following line: "Of course, one doesn't have to call all religious people stupid, and advocate for the eradication of religion (which, I should add, also sounds a lot like Nazi rhetoric) to do so." Whether advocating for the eradication of religion is like Nazi rhetoric depends a lot on how one wants it removed. I suppose one could argue that the so-called New Atheists' casual treatment of the facts could be compared to similar casual treatment by the Nazis, but a comparison to more garden-variety ideologues, such as political partisans, would be more apt.

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  13. In contrast to the framing issue I have a comfortable lead time on Larry this time. I stopped reading Chris' blog months ago.

    "the nouveau atheists"

    It should be atheists nouveau I think, and it feels nice to me.

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  14. Does any one cares how much who reads who's blogs? there IS a bunch of them.

    I read this blog bacuse larry is an odd mixture of things. An antidaptationist: Good, and unlike Dawkins. Non-censorship philosophy (or so it seems): Good, unlike PZ scissorhands.

    Contras, however:
    Advocate of exaggeration and insolence (unlike Dawkins)
    These can be understandable demonstrations of frustration and distress, OR...
    self-indulgent and sadistic practices with unnecessary bad blood.
    Actually most rabid atheists do just that.
    Very different from suffragetes. More like sadistic armchair suffragetes, if anything haha

    Dawkins has it right here. He does not use those means, an important difference from PZ and Larry. But, this is not so important a point. The most important thing are the ideas, regardless of how they are presented

    Moran, PZ and Dawkins converge on ideas. Actually, they are all are token representatives of an old rationalism-scientism. "Noveau atheists"? Not at all! There were plenty of guys, perhaps even most lay people, thinking like this in the 1930's.
    Nothing new, of course: blame religion, conflate it with superstition, aiming to hygienize the world from unreason under the triumphant banner of science, blablabla. A "morality of reason", with lots of conflation and simplification.

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  15. "There were plenty of guys, perhaps even most lay people, thinking like this in the 1930's. "

    But it is new now. :-)

    "conflate it with superstition"

    Organized religion is pretty much superstition by definition: "the irrational belief that future events are influenced by specific behaviors, without having a causal relationship." Prayers, rituals and paraphernalia sees to that.

    But there is also direct evidence of religious superstition in the form of prayer studies.

    And for example Dawkins has a book detailing this, I believe.

    "aiming to hygienize the world from unreason under the triumphant banner of science"

    You are projecting unrealistic goals here. Most people aim to clear out organized superstition and anti-science.

    Unreason will always be with us. For example as setting up unrealistic goals. ;-)

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  16. Scientism is far from new, thanks to this we already know it leads nowhere. Noveau atheists you are not, if that makes you happy, so be it, but history shows you're going nowhere.

    "Organized religion is pretty much superstition by definition: "the irrational belief that future events are influenced by specific behaviors, without having a causal relationship." Prayers, rituals and paraphernalia sees to that"

    "But there is also direct evidence of religious superstition in the form of prayer studies"

    Evidence of supersition within religon does not mean that the totality of religion IS "superstition". Are you capable of acnowledging this?

    The first thing you have to know about religion: Religion is made by people. It is a social cultural phenomenon in many ways adjusted to people's needs. It can contain true knowledge and wisdom: "supersititon an openly misleading as a central concept for understanding what religion is TRULY about.

    Another thing: rituals and parapehernalia are obviously metaphorical and related to myth and doctrine. And of course, artistic and propagandist. If you cannot tell the difference from superstition, that's OK. Scientistic physicists are usually worthless in social sciences.

    The problem is when they attempt to lecture the rest.

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  17. First there is our primal biological life, within which science can be one of our specific activities. This is why scientism doesn't work; because science is about the growth of available knowledge, but it is not about telling people what to do with their lives; it can only assist on what people decide to make their life about. Life is first; science afterwards.

    I guess the question for all token "rationalists" out there is...reason for what? Science for what? reason for the sake of itself, and science for the sake of science?
    Must reason be understood as a moral imperative? Because you rabid atehists seem to be on a some moralistic high most of the time...

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  18. I guess the question for all token "rationalists" out there is...reason for what? Science for what? reason for the sake of itself, and science for the sake of science?

    Well, try living without reason, and tell us how that works out.

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  19. Precisely. You need reason to live. Why then proclaim it in itself as if it were a moral imperative? If you trust that reason is necessary, you will realize that proclaiming reason in itself is unwarranted, and not very informative as to how (not any more than saying "defend love").

    Reason is needed simply to face the challenges of real life. People have to deal with their rational faculties, whether they like it or not.

    My point is that as much as it is a necessary part, reason&science is not about telling us "what life is about" or giving us "the direction of progress", but rather what it can do is enable us to put into effect whatever we want to do with our biological existence. Our biological existence is not ultimately "rational". We deal with it using reason and science, one of our specific biological activities.

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  20. "Scientism is far from new"

    Um, I think you will find that many atheists are humanists. And even scientists likes money. ;-)

    More to the point, no person can make science and its methods a rule for social behavior or a basis for morality. Social scenes doesn't admit full analysis for reasons of complexity, time and resources. So 'scientism' is a meaningless term, related to how 'darwinism' is used.

    "Noveau atheists you are not"

    If the suggestion that the latest series of books, web sites et cetera ushers in a new era/generation fits, I think I can accept Chris et al suggestion.

    "Evidence of supersition within religon does not mean that the totality of religion IS "superstition"."

    I don't think so, I didn't say so, and it wasn't my point.

    You were claiming that the argument from atheists noveau were based on conflating it with superstition. I pointed out that it is based on superstition, and organized superstition is what these people tries to clear out.

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  21. "You were claiming that the argument from atheists noveau were based on conflating it with superstition. I pointed out that it is based on superstition, and organized superstition is what these people tries to clear out."

    Too many "it"'s here:
    You were claiming that the argument from atheists noveau were based on conflating religion with superstition. I pointed out that religion is based on superstition, and organized superstition is what these people tries to clear out.

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  22. It is a social cultural phenomenon in many ways adjusted to people's needs.

    But then you're just arguing that religion is equal to superstition plus culture. It's not like rabid atheists are going book burnin', social segregatin' and general de-culturalifying. For instance, I believe Dawkins brings up funeral eulogies as an example, highlighting how culture minus religion is just as effective (or more so) than culture plus superstition.

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  23. Larsson,I have no interest in discussing with you on the fascinating topic of "whether indeed religion is based on superstition". No, and I already explained why.

    Dunbar, so what's the point? What you call the "superstition" element is more adequately described as a belief in the supernatural, and the irrational acceptance of certain "truths". I have already hinted above that complete acceptance of common premises, without a rationalization for everyoen, allows for much easier and immediate social synergy;
    So there you go: add some "superstition", some accepted truths beyond any debate... and you will produce greater social integration. Example: Gandhi, or current islamic identity.

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  24. "More to the point, no person can make science and its methods a rule for social behavior or a basis for morality"

    Agreed

    "Social scenes doesn't admit full analysis for reasons of complexity, time and resources"

    Hahaha no of course that is not the reason!!
    Even if you had all the information at hand, it is still up to your royal ass to define what you think is "best" to do. Nature is not going to tell you what you want.
    Notice how this mistake reveals your scientism; you stilll want to empower science with showing you the way; it's just a mattter of material limitations, huh?

    "So 'scientism' is a meaningless term, related to how 'darwinism' is used"

    C'mon. You want to kick the chessboard by saying we are discussing menaningless terms? Context can provide meaning to whatever word. In this conversation I think it is clear enough what is meant by scientism. If not, it is still good enough for me if you look it up in wikipedia, but I am not going to engage in a silly discussion over rigid semantics. That is a demosntration of not understanding how language works, usually with the mere intent of inaviladating the entire conversation.

    I am arguing here that scientism is about the moralization of science. Proclaiming science and reason as a moral imperative, without any actual thinking, is quite popular not only among rabid atheists; but also among the creationists.

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  25. Alipio:

    "I have no interest in discussing with you on the fascinating topic of "whether indeed religion is based on superstition"."

    Fine, it was you who started arguing the width of the claim when I noted that there is direct evidence of religious superstition in the form of prayer studies.

    "that is not the reason"

    That is the reason why a scientific approach wouldn't work. Whether the values chosen are objective, subjective, absolute or relative doesn't come into it. Here it is you who continues to reveal your preconception of science.

    "it is still good enough for me if you look it up in wikipedia"

    If you look it up in wikipedia you can see that it is a definition often used by a subculture (christians) "against vocal critics of religion-as-such".

    But the misappropriation is not the main reason why it is meaningless. It is meaningless because 'scientism' wouldn't work. There are no persons who acts according to 'scientism'. It has no real connotation, exactly as 'darwinism' in the sense creationists uses it, or 'blaglargle is greener than busuggle' for that matter.

    "scientism is about the moralization of science"

    No, I don't think you mean applying morals to science as here, but science to morals as in the rest of your comments.

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  26. Excuse me you are saying,

    That the only reason why we can't make science and its methods a rule for social behavior or a basis for morality is that social scenes don't admit full analysis for reasons of complexity, time and resources.

    I already answered that before, Larsson. I said "even if you had all the information"... so this time, please, think it over.

    Larsson, your ultimate faith in science to achieve anything is why I describe you with the word scientism. There is no better word. Sorry! Here is the core of the wikipedia defintion:

    Scientism is a term often used today as a pejorative to describe someone of holding the view that science has primacy over all other interpretations of life such as philosophical, religious, mythical, spiritual, or humanistic explanations. It has also been applied to the view that natural sciences have primacy over other fields of inquiry such as social sciences (...) In contrast with this was its usage in the early 20th century, which was as a neutral descriptive and roughly synonymous with logical positivism

    On this latter point I disagree; some discussion in philosophy in the early 20th century DID discuss scientism pejoratively; however, scientism was way more popular then.

    And just a reminder: logical positivism has been heavily debated and is not a unanimously accepted philosophy of science. I don't wish to reproduce those debates here, only make it clear that to me, logical positivism is an idealization of science made by philosophers who did not do science. Creativity and inspiration in science has a much greater role than that admitted by the frame of logical positivism..

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  27. One more thing: scientism can lead to bad science.
    Like Dawkins's selfish genes, for instance. Sounds very sciencey but is ultimately as much a load of reductionist crap as was some physiologists of the thirties saying that even the most complex behaviors would be sometime understabable by science in terms of "tropisms".
    We could get tired finding delusional optimistic statements, made by scientists, whose falsehood has become pathetically obvious.

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  28. "That the only reason why we can't make science and its methods a rule for social behavior or a basis for morality is that social scenes don't admit full analysis for reasons of complexity, time and resources."

    I didn't say it was the only reason, I said it was the basic reason. It is enough for the purpose of the discussion.

    Since I was tired the last time I didn't follow your lead to open the scope the discussion. I will do that now FWIW.

    "You want to kick the chessboard by saying we are discussing menaningless terms?"

    If we accept the usage of a meaningless term (no real connotation) we will have to state that it is stupid (no real connotation) and demeaning. Is that a better discussion?

    Since I hold to the moral that we should tolerate but not need to respect others and their views, "demeaning" is perfectly all right. However, I don't see why you prefer that I say that you are acting stupidly instead of using meaningless terms.

    "Proclaiming science and reason as a moral imperative"

    As I noted this would be meaningless. What we can say however is that morality has some biological basis. (Altruism and kinship, for starters.) The observed relativity of morals also means that utilitarism can sometimes be used to choose morals. I don't think we currently can say much more.

    You can continue to mention scientism against what we know is possible, and you can continue to think that recognizing biological and/or analytical parts of morals aren't possible. For obvious reasons I don't think many will listen and I don't think this discussion has moved anywhere, or actually opened in scope. So I will likely stop here.

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  29. So...

    "the BASIC reason why we can't make science and its methods a rule for social behavior or a basis for morality is that social sciences don't admit full analysis for reasons of complexity, time and resources"

    No.
    Because what is "best" is ONLY according to what you WANT.
    And science does not provide any such guidance. If you had all the scientific information at hand, you may decide to use it for the preservation of life, ensuring justice, decrease suffering or any other objective, but the information shows constraints and possibilities, but contains no specific message as to what is to be done, and we frequently must choose between one action or another. You could use the same scientific information to do antiethical and criminal deeds.
    Again: having the scientific information does not tell what you want and, in consequence, what to do.

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  30. Alipio:

    "Because what is "best" is ONLY according to what you WANT."

    I'm glad you implicitly agree that your suggestion of scientism isn't what we in fact do.

    It is of course a mistake of thinking that we can act unconstrained. For example according to what we want (to use a truism, it will instead be according to what we get :-), and other constraints I already mentioned.

    But that is mere details at this point.

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  31. Don't be silly: I talk about constraints right above. Science is "what you get". That does not mean that there is no space for what you want. As I said, with "what you get" (science) you can make wonderful humanitarian deeds or massacres. It's up to you.

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  32. The definition of scientism I am using is that of the wkipedia that I delivered above. And you still fit the bill quite nicely...

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  33. Alipio:

    I'm not sure if you are trying to troll or to discuss any more, considering that I used the same definition before discussing why scientism wouldn't work.

    And now you have deviated from your claim that some atheists are "token representatives of an old rationalism-scientism" to a personal attack. I should ask you to support your curious claims (curious, since I consistently argue against it). But I rather stop here since I have no interest in this.

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  34. call me a troll? That custom IS pretty much a token custom among defenders of scientism.
    I'm not trolling. It is you who has answered, insisting in that science could provide morals; and I have been kind enough toexplain to you why that's horsepooey.
    Your claim is obviously scientistic if you think the ony reason Science does not deliver morals are "technical"
    Alas, you can take the donkey to the water, but you cannot make it drink.
    Byebye

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  35. Hmmm, not to be unfair...
    About the biological basis of altruism:
    Biology makes everything that we do possible. In this apect, "morals" is no different than walking. Of course our morality has a biological basis. Altruism is a primal biological fact, not something that we do as any rational or "scientific" conclusion.
    Let's be clear: there is plenty of room for scientific facts and reasoning in ethics and morality. That's obvious. They help us face the challenge of simply surviving day to day. But the fact remains, that science in itself is not capable of showing us any ultimate "good" that we should strive for (nor does it justify any "non-interventionist" philosophy of "natural pathways").
    Even if we observe some big natural constraint, such as biological altruism, there are still huge degrees of freedom, and choices can be made. That is how we get to the really good question:

    what do we want?

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