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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Shalini Doesn't Like Appeasers

 
Shalini, over at Scientia Natura: Evolution and Rationality has written a longish criticism of appeasers [ Appeasers: The spineless pushovers]. Appeasers are also called accommodationists, they are atheists who do not want to criticize religious beliefs out of a mistaken impression that it's wrong and counter-productive to question another person's faith. The accommodationists believe that religion deserves some kind of protective status that they do not grant to people who believe in astrology, bigfoot, and UFO's.

You have to read Shalini's entire article to appreciate what she has to say but here's an important paragraph that I agree with. It gives you the flavor of her argument.
Contrary to what appeasers think, this is not about one issue or another. It is not about young earth creationism, ID, evolution, climate change, stem cell research, marijuana or the latest hot-button issue. These are merely battles in the course of the real war -- the war between rationalism and superstition. In this war, only one side will be the winner. There is no room for appeasers, and the superstitious, at least, will have none of this cowardly garbage. They may be ignorant, deluded, liars or plain kooks, but they are certainly not cowards, and that is more than I can say for the appeasers. Remember, no change has ever been achieved by shutting up and bowing down to oppressive institutions. If we fail to make our voices heard, superstition has already won.

34 comments :

  1. There is no room for appeasers, and the superstitious, at least, will have none of this cowardly garbage.

    That sort of black and white thinking annoys the heck out of me. The world is full of "superstitious" people who have no problem with atheism. It's a polemic language that no one arguing for "rationalism" should ever employ. I agree that atheists should speak up, and I don't think it does "more harm than good"...as long as people stick to the facts. When people start attacking strawmen, they lose credibility.

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  2. I will remark that it is pretty damned difficult to win a war without winning any battles. Those who think the war can be won without fighting and winning specific battles are living in Wonderland.

    And I will further remark that there is a range of alternatives beyond the simple-minded dichotomy of courageous loudmouths vs cowering cowards that's usually implicit (but is becoming increasingly explicit) in this flamewar. I'd say more, but I just got home from four hours spent fighting a house fire with my volunteer fire department, which is composed of atheists, agnostics, and Christians, none of whom are cowards.

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  3. Wars are often won one battle at a time. I was raised a Roman Catholic and my personal supersition was chipped away bit by bit; by the middle of grad school it was more or less gone.

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  4. You know some people have brain damage when they have only a narrow, non-pluralistic set of thoughts in their heads. For example, do I have to belive there is a war between reason and superstition, where only one will prevail, or....be a spineless appeaser?
    That I don't belive in such silly nonsese means automatically that I muts be a pnasy that bows to religion and never vocally expresses my atheism nor criticize bad religion?. No sir. I call stupid when I see it; and that includes not only stupid religious people, but also misguided fellow atheists like Shalini.
    People like Shalini make this a question of on which side of "stupid" will you be. My answer is: none!! Go ahead, now, call me fencesitter.

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  5. Shalini says:

    The best solution, as sad and pessimistic as it may seem to some, is for both sides to part ways.

    Yeah, you do that. You'll become a tiny, irrelevant isolated group with no power base at all, who no one listens to. Unfortunately in this world, we don't have the luxury of dealing exclusively with people we like.

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  6. ian says,

    That sort of black and white thinking annoys the heck out of me.

    It's called "framing." She did an excellent job, didn't she? I think Nisbet and Mooney would be pleased.

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  7. It's called "framing."

    Surely "satire" is a better word. That 'we're not militants' but any atheist who disagrees with us is a 'cowardly, spineless pushover' was masterful. And to then combine that with 'we're just exercising our free speech rights' but if they don't agree its because 'they're behaving dogmatically' is inspired! And that's just in a couple of short paragraphs! This ranks up there with Kubrick's scenes in the war room in Dr. Strangelove.

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  8. Larry, do you mean Shalini is not for real?
    Are we getting SCAMMED?

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  9. IOW: whoever is not with us is against us? How very.....Biblical.

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  10. This token rationalism is old stuff. "Rationalism" was common between the XIXth and early XXth century, specially in the 30's. They were predicting the immanent clash with superstition back then too. They claimed that science would lead humanity into peace.

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  11. You'll become a tiny, irrelevant isolated group with no power base at all, who no one listens to.

    By this you mean that no one is listening to the likes of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens.....?

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  12. By this you mean that no one is listening to the likes of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens.....?

    Are they saying, "the best solution is for both sides to part ways."? And if so, will Dawkins personally fight the next creationist battle in the courts for us? If you think his book is going to magically make them disappear, I'm afraid you are in for a rather rude awakening.

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  13. somebody who (understandably) doesn't want to be identified, said,

    Are they saying, "the best solution is for both sides to part ways."?

    Nope, they are saying that believers should give up their superstitions and become more rational.

    And if so, will Dawkins personally fight the next creationist battle in the courts for us?

    I doubt it. Most of the vocal atheists think that courts are exactly the wrong place to do battle. Some of us even think that the part of problem in America is due to the fact that Americans look to the court to solve a social issue. The vocal atheists recognize that the old strategy isn't working so they're taking the battle to the source (superstition) and not the symptom (religion in public schools).

    If you think his book is going to magically make them disappear, I'm afraid you are in for a rather rude awakening.

    No single book is going to make the Christian fundamentalists disappear. But these books are a step in the right direction. They've moved the debate about the existence of God out into the open so that believers can no longer count on a common unquestioned assumption that the basis of their belief actually exists.

    Religion is on the decline in many countries and it's only a matter of time before this becomes evident in the USA as well. Winning court cases didn't have any effect but it looks like vocal atheists do have an effect.

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  14. Well. I didn't expect to learn something from an obviously polemic post on an obviously polemic blog. But the idea that accommodation, NOMA-style, may backfire among some groups when science yet again finds facts that clash with dogma is, well, obvious in retrospect.

    Since the issue of pluralism was raised I can frame, ..., ehrm, be an outright poseur about the splitting among atheists or skeptics that Shalini wants to see. Philosophers have grouped atheists and agnostics together, which is an issue of some confusion among laity. Similarly, I find it confusing that philosophical atheists and agnostics are grouped with empiricist atheists ("enough data") or agnostics ("not enough data"), since the formers inhabit unmovable and therefore essentially fundamentalist positions.

    So Shalini's third dimension of free speakers vs appeasers is but a new source of confusion, strife and flame wars. Nothing new here, the next subject for debate will arise any year. (But that doesn't detract from a necessary debate, obviously. As RBH noted, the amount of aggressiveness may be gradual. So let's at it, then! :-P)

    You'll become a tiny, irrelevant isolated group with no power base at all, who no one listens to.

    I don't think you can answer Shalini with the exact type of unsubstantiated argument that gets her goat. And if anything, the "new atheist" speakers have shown that this attitude works to generate debate.

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  15. Religion is on the decline in many countries

    Great. This gives me opportunity to recycle part of an earlier comment about something on eventual signs of declining religion that shook me a bit the other day, and is another perspective on this debate of special pleadings for religions:

    In Sweden the most active social grouping organizing atheists doesn't seem definable by atheism, but by humanism in the larger sense. Humanisterna (the Swedish Humanist Association) have become more active in the social debate of late.

    Their latest suggestion threw me a bit, partly because it seems I still have to get rid of lingering adolescent idealism (people grow up late nowadays - very late :-), partly because american or international debates have different context. Humanisterna are questioning the necessity of laws concerning religious freedom!

    The context is that the laws for freedom of speech, freedom of organization, et cetera are robust enough.
    Apparently Humanisterna see no problem with the state - my guess is that it is defined in law as independent (secular) which would explain why we have no special laws separating state and religion as I suspect. (I have to get to the bottom of this now.)

    So Humanisterna wants to deflate the special status that superfluous religious laws lend to religion. If it works it would be nice, though perhaps not the usual method among secular nations.

    While I don't see much of a reaction unfortunately, the christians who spoke up were as non-sequitur and whiny as we are used to see. ('They are making us second level citizens!' 'History gives us special status.' Et cetera.)

    Oh, and I learned that Björn Ulvaeus from ABBA is one of the spokespersons.

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  16. I think the real point of Shalini's post is that these "appeasers" are ostracizing the "militants" for this trivial offense of SPEAKING OUT. The appeasers would have a leg to stand on if the militants were true radicals who were throwing bombs and pushing legislation to disenfranchise Christians or similar absurdities -- but the reason that the appeasers deserve the label of spinelessness is that they are quailing at the thought of their fellow unbelievers mereely writing and publishing and drawing attention to themselves.

    Many of us are here in a country where religiosity has become a prerequisite to public service, where religious institutions receive preferential treatment from the government, and where the fears and hatreds of the religious right have fueled our entry into an unjust war. And we do have fence-sitting cowards who are more aghast at a few academics and writers forcefully arguing against the supernatural and for greater secularism than they are at their legislators who think school prayer is a more important issue than the soldiers they're sending off to risk death in a futile exercise in the Middle East.

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  17. I think the real point of Shalini's post is that these "appeasers" are ostracizing the "militants" for this trivial offense of SPEAKING OUT.

    Oh, bullshit. Anyone can say anything they want on the web. Maybe the problem is that "militants" are so spineless that they can't take any criticism. They can dish out plenty, but they can't take anything. Reminds me of the scene from Python's holy grail - "Oh look at that, did ya see that? I'm being repressed!"

    And to repeat the bolded line in Shalini's post: The best solution, as sad and pessimistic as it may seem to some, is for both sides to part ways.

    That didn't come from an "appeaser".

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  18. Suuuuuuch bull. The blowhards are trying to make a philosophical issue (note: the existence of god is NOT a scientific issue) into a MORAL issue since they lack any truly sound reasoning and thus have to find a way to FORCE it on you.
    Pretty muhc waht theists say when they arge only religion is moral. IN this case, only atheism is moral?
    Thinkig of th worlds problemsa as outcomes of "reason vs superstition" is a simplistic and useless sophism that some just use to think nicely of themselves as wariors on the behalf of "reason".

    As I said before, historically, "rationalism" is useless and a failure.

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  19. I think shalini exemplifies perfectly well why "rationalism" is not reasonable: Just saying you stand for reason does not stop you from saying dumb things.
    Notice that creationists also spend a lot of time blabbing about how they stand for science, reason and intelligence. It doesn't make THEM smarter, either. All that takes is pretentiousness.
    Just alking about being on the side of reason and intelligenece is the very stuff of which poseurs and phonies are made of.

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  20. PZ:

    ... "appeasers" are ostracizing the "militants" for this trivial offense of SPEAKING OUT.

    Just how are the "appeasers" "ostracizing" anyone other than by speaking out themselves against what they see as uncalled for militancy? You can't (reasonably) have it both ways, where you get to speak freely and others don't.

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  21. Pieret, you must be a lawyer. The appeasers are the ones that are telling atheists to hide their atheism so it doesn't scare the kittens and make them afraid of science. It is less militancy than self-defense against flak from fellow atheists. We are attacking their stance that we should "shut up."

    And it seems especially directed against PZ. Check out aetiology comments

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  22. these "appeasers" are ostracizing the "militants" for this trivial offense of SPEAKING OUT

    It might be my one-sided blog reading, but I got the impression the "militants" are, well, not ostracizing, but blasting the "appeasers". Moreover, that the "militants" have an attitude of: "who is not 100% with me is against me".

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  23. Pieret, you must be a lawyer.

    Heh, that's hardly a secret.

    The appeasers are the ones that are telling atheists to hide their atheism so it doesn't scare the kittens and make them afraid of science.

    That's still not "ostracizism" and I doubt it is a fair description of their position (a toning down of the rhetoric is not the same as "hiding"). Even accepting your characterization, that is still no more than a belief they hold as to the proper tactics to achieve an end, that they have as much right to air as you have to air your views.

    It is less militancy than self-defense against flak from fellow atheists. We are attacking their stance that we should "shut up."

    I see ... attacking someone else's position is not militancy? Haven't looked up the word, have you? You might at least accuse your opponents of being the militants for attacking your position. That'd at least make some sense ... though you might have to come up with a new name for them. "Militant appeasers" doesn't come trippingly off the tongue.

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  24. Sanders:

    the existence of god is NOT a scientific issue

    You mean that your concept of gods isn't. The existence of the Thor as making all lightning is rather precarious. So is the YHWH who punished the egyptians.

    "rationalism" is not reasonable: Just saying you stand for reason does not stop you from saying dumb things.

    Rationalism is IMO bounded, ie an area can be internally consistent and rational. But "rationalism" in the larger sense is consistent with observation and empiricism (and thus useful), we can't have it any other way. That doesn't make rationalism or empiricism infallible, nor does fallibility make it unreasonable.

    John Pieret:

    attacking someone else's position is not militancy?

    It is the appeasers who are attacking the free speakers position. You voided your argument.

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  25. It is the appeasers who are attacking the free speakers position. You voided your argument.

    Not reading well today, Torbjörn? I suggested to Mike that he could try that as a response. One problem is the fact that, even if the "appeasers" are militants too, that doesn't make their opponents non-militants. You just get into the messy question of who is more militant or less justified in their militancy. (I also suspect you'll also have a tough time coming up with examples of the "appeasers" using rhetoric like 'cowardly, spineless pushovers' ... but be that as it may.)

    Just don't look to me to get in the middle of any argument over which band of atheists is more militant than another!

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  26. Everybody should read philosopher-historian José Ortega y Gasset's "mand and crisis" (In spanish another title was used, "En torno a Galileo") . You'll find it used for cheap at amazon. It is engrossing and enlightening. The author has great understanding of science too. A surprisingly complete thinker. I've never met anyone with a bad opinion on that book. You'll thank me forever, hahaha.

    "You mean that your concept of gods isn't. The existence of the Thor as making all lightning is rather precarious. So is the YHWH who punished the egyptians"

    I'm sorry, I did't empower my phrase enough:
    The existence of ANY gods is not a scientific topic.

    "Rationalism is IMO bounded, ie an area can be internally consistent and rational. But "rationalism" in the larger sense is consistent with observation and empiricism (and thus useful), we can't have it any other way. That doesn't make rationalism or empiricism infallible, nor does fallibility make it unreasonable"

    So? All I'm saying is that you look at that form a afar saying "its all rational"... well of course it is, and of course it isn't. What I'm pointing out here is that mere asserting that reason is good or the best is obvious, and as any vacuous general assertions, they provide nothing and can be used by anyone.
    Mindless assertion of reason does not generate true use of reason.

    "It is the appeasers who are attacking the free speakers position"

    No, Larsson. It is the militants who are attacking the position of the pluralists!!!!
    I hope this helps you realize, you sometimes say some pretty flat-out stupid things, hahaha.
    Don't be a funnelhead!

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  27. Just saying "we must use reason" is about as informative as saying "we must love": It provides no how. These are statements almost as obvious as saying "we must breathe".

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  28. There will always be superstition. There will alway be reason. There is no such thing as a final kaiju battle among both monsters, where only one prevails. What may happen is that one may be more predominant during a given historical episode; yet both will continue to exist. In fact, it is almost trivial if the dominant form is more religious or more humanist. Both will fall into decadence with time. The persistence of their stable "niche" will allow them to show the signs of a fatigated ystem: corruption, dogmatism, alienation from the real world. Totalitarianism can ensue at that point. Society responds, aggravating into a crisis and the need for radical change, for revolution. If the previous system was "rational·", its decadence ends up overthrown by a mystical, religious revolution (for instance, from roman empire to christian middle ages). If it was religious-conservative, it gets overthrown by humanism (from middle ages- to renaissance). Go ahead and look for yourself for other instances like these in history...you'll find several that fit the mold... nowadays the turnover may be a bit faster, haha but similar fatigue-and-renewal phenomenons are delivered in miny-performances, hahah

    Supersition is not an enlightening term . There is an irrational component to existence in itself. Our ultimate sensory experience of the world is not rational. It is the bare experience that we set out to explain: we can use reason to explain experiences through other experiences; we can set things out to see if we get what we expect. Many questions are answered to complete satisfaction. But then, each experience composing the explanation will require in itself also an explanation. Eventually, we will always get down to basic staments and observations, where no other explanation is possible beyond saying: open your eyes, and see.
    Reason is attainable within boundaries, that is, it exists in a parenthesis within the irrational, primal sensory experiences of the phenomenon we wish to explain, and the basic components of its explanation.

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  29. John:

    I suggested to Mike that he could try that as a response.

    Who's on first? I wasn't making the response you suggested, I am noting that the appeasers are the initiators. If you think that behavior is militant, you can't turn around and complain that free thinkers are militant.

    You just get into the messy question of who is more militant or less justified in their militancy.

    Now it is I who must suggest a dictionary to you. Viz, "[a] fighting, warring, or aggressive person or party."

    Yes, free thinking can be aggressive, but defending ones rights isn't an aggressive position. But Mike already told you so.

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  30. Sanders:

    The existence of ANY gods is not a scientific topic.

    You don't explain how that answer my challenge, though.

    What I'm pointing out here is that mere asserting that reason is good or the best is obvious, and as any vacuous general assertions

    Not so. There are non-rational, falsely based or inconsistent, areas of thoughts as well. You may have heard of a major one that breaks both conditions - it is called religion.

    they provide nothing

    The rationality in empiricism have provided plenty. But I told you this already - I must assume you won't listen.

    It is the militants who are attacking the position of the pluralists!!!!

    Define "pluralist", and compare appeaser ('shut up') and free thinker ('all views must be heard'). In your own words, that was pretty flat-out stupid said of you.

    When you are finished with that you may take a look at "militant" as well, see my reply to John. There you can also try to puzzle out what my claim meant, since it isn't obvious to you.

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  31. Genrally discussion with larsson is pretty futile.

    The existence of ANY gods is not a scientific topic.
    You don't explain how that answer my challenge, though.

    Larssson, speak clearly. You want to say that the existence of god IS a concern of science. But not a single religion believes in a scientifically testable god. You can debate yourself over this as much as you want as to gods can be testable or not, but you shoul really try to adress the concepts of god that are actually used by religious people. And you should not cloud the fact that the actual existence or not of these gods has never been a worthy topic for science.

    "There are non-rational, falsely based or inconsistent, areas of thoughts as well. You may have heard of a major one that breaks both conditions - it is called religion."

    So? How does this refute what I pointed out, that hailing reason is not using reason? Because of this, even the most absurd religion or crazy ideology can hail reaosn and claim rationality. So clearly, hailing reason in a frivolous way (like Dawkins and many others do) does not make you rational. It's not making anyone any smarter.

    "The rationality in empiricism have provided plenty. But I told you this already - I must assume you won't listen"

    I do listen, don't deceive yourself. Using reason has certainly provided plenty. Hailing reason has never provided anything, if anything it has watered-down the use of reason.

    It is the militants who are attacking the position of the pluralists!!!!

    "Define "pluralist", and compare appeaser ('shut up') and free thinker ('all views must be heard'). In your own words, that was pretty flat-out stupid said of you"

    Dummy. I'm giving you a symmetrically unfair statement. I am appalled you think I'm actually being serious, demanding defintions. I guess you are unable to see when you are being unfair. Funnelhead indeed: all to one side, none to the other.

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  32. We can agree that a discussion involving Sanders aka Alipio aka Nucleo Decenio aka Alexander Vargas is futile, whether it is biology or religion or any other subject involving "rationalism". I commented earlier that I have stopped reading these comments. But here the discussion turned to a misconception of rationalism which I wanted to comment on in spite of these difficulties.

    not a single religion believes in a scientifically testable god

    Ah, but I gave examples of how it can be testable, whether the religion believes it or not. All it takes is that it makes testable claims. As I noted earlier and verified here, you won't listen.

    So we should stop here. One last thing though:

    I'm giving you a symmetrically unfair statement. I am appalled you think I'm actually being serious,

    Yes, obviously it is unfair, and obviously it was a lame attempt of a joke. But I showed why it is its lack of support that makes it unfair, while what I said have obvious support (read the post) and so is fair.

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  33. "what I said have obvious support (read the post) and so is fair"

    Jeez...what a dick! hahahah
    Last time I head a discussion this level it was with my little sister. no YOU! YOU! no, YOU! (Maybe its the swedish style. Do you have the blonde curls, larsson?)
    Byebye, Larsson. And have some self-respect, don't answer back this time. hahaha

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  34. Catching up on some very old threads.

    Sanders:

    Last time I head a discussion this level

    Well, you took it there. I'm answering your comments in an analysis. If you think that is some sort of contest, it's your problem.

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