Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dan Dennett vs. Andrew Brown

I remember meeting Andrew Brown in a London pub seven years ago. He didn't like the New Atheists then and he still doesn't like them. I remember struggling to understand his accommodationist position back in 2006 and failing completely. At the time I attributed it to the beverages we were consuming but later on as I read his articles—when we were both sober—I realized that his position made no sense.

Andrew Brown sat down with Dan Dennett to discuss "Do the New Atheists have any new ideas?.
Andrew Brown challenges philosopher and atheist Daniel Dennett to convince him that the New Atheists have new ideas – and that they have really changed the face of belief in America. Dennett, one of the original 'four horsemen' of new atheism (along with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens), has argued that belief in God is not merely mistaken, but dangerous.
Watch the short video and judge for yourself whether Andrew Brown is making sense.

[Hat Tip: Jerry Coyne]


  1. The idea that atheism is 'new' is ridiculous, of course. The basic arguments that the world is better explained without gods and that it's possible to live a good life without religious beliefs predate monotheism, let alone Christianity.

    Here's what the Dawkins-brand of atheism does differently: Shaw and Nietzsche went down the rabbit hole and played theists at their own games. If you read them, they're arguing whether Jesus was good, what a miracle was, the role of faith and so on.

    The 'New Atheists' argue it the other way: OK, here's evolution, it's real, if it doesn't agree with your stories, it's up to you to explain why not, not us. So ... let's talk biology.

    Instead of allowing theists to conduct this purely in theological terms, 'new atheism' just says theism can be entirely dismissed until it's shown to intersect with reality.

    That's the difference. They've moved the debate squarely onto grounds of science, history, politics and the universe. And the moment you do that, theism's dashed to pieces, it's got nothing to say about any of those fields.

    1. Yeah, especially history. Hammer them on their treatment of Jews, accused witches, Muslim "dogs", Native Americans, Aztecs, Incas, Australian aboriginals, Tasmanians, Bushmen, and other Africans. They've got no come-back.

      But the so-called "New Atheists" had very little in common with each other-- Dawkins is a squishy liberal (in the American sense) and Harris is I suspect a Muslim-hating right winger.

      The one idea they had in common was saying in public that faith is not a virtue. It is not a virtue to believe things without evidence. Religionists will argue like William Lane Craig about how they've got proofs of God's existence, but when you demolish all their proofs, it always comes down to their belief that they're morally superior because they choose to believe things without evidence. Well, so did Hitler. So did Torquemada. So did Pizrro. So does (let's be fair) Bill Maher.

  2. Re Diogenes

    I think that Sam Harris gets a bit of a bad rap relative to his views on Islam. Compared to the ex-Muslims Maryam Namazie and Taslima Nasreen who blog over at the Freethoughtblogs, Sam is wishy washy on Islam.