Atheists Leaders Embrace the Spiritual

Atheist activist Jerry Coyne gushes about Sam Harris’s spiritual life:

As my blurb notes, it’s a wide journey through the land of spirituality, ranging from the latest findings of neuroscience to a chapter on gurus Sam has known. He recounts his experiences with drugs, and tells us what he’s gained from his own many years of Buddhist study and meditation.

Wow. A a wide journey through the land of spirituality? I thought atheism was nothing more than a lack of belief. It turns out we can’t define Sam’s atheism as just a lack of God belief. His atheism is a spiritual journey.  Considering Coyne’s positive reaction, it looks like he too has a spiritual journey to share.

And given the inherent nihilism associated with atheism, it is no surprise that Harris’s spirituality amounts to distractions from reality with the use of drugs or meditation.

The book will surely anger or confuse those people who think Sam has gone soft on religion, but take my word for it, there’s not an iota of sympathy for the divine in the book.

Coyne is confused. “Relgion” and “the divine” are not the same thing. Yes, we know Harris hates God. But he also has clearly gone soft on religion through his attempt to turn atheism into a religion by blending it with a sanitized version of Eastern mysticism. Sorry guys, but when you turn atheism into a religion, you have gone soft on religion. 

And, having taken psychedelics in my youth, I have considerable sympathy for trying to understand what the brain is really capable of, and how our perceptions can be altered. (I myself am really glad I tried those consciousness-altering substances, for such experiences are both perceptually stunning and potentially life-changing.)

Is Coyne promoting the use of psychedelics?  Perhaps Coyne should share the way these drugs have changed his life?

Posted in atheism, Sam Harris, spirituality | 8 Comments

Is Richard Dawkins a Eugenecist?

Back in 2006, Dawkins wrote the following letter to the editor of Scotland’s Sunday Herald:

IN THE 1920s and 1930s, scientists from both the political left and right would not have found the idea of designer babies particularly dangerous – though of course they would not have used that phrase. Today, I suspect that the idea is too dangerous for comfortable discussion, and my conjecture is that Adolf Hitler is responsible for the change.

Nobody wants to be caught agreeing with that monster, even in a single particular. The spectre of Hitler has led some scientists to stray from “ought” to “is” and deny that breeding for human qualities is even possible. But if you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability? Objections such as “these are not one-dimensional abilities” apply equally to cows, horses and dogs and never stopped anybody in practice.

I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler’s death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons. Or why it is acceptable to train fast runners and high jumpers but not to breed them. I can think of some answers, and they are good ones, which would probably end up persuading me. But hasn’t the time come when we should stop being frightened even to put the question?

Keep in mind that Dawkins is not a philosopher and neither was he writing for some obscure philosphy journal. Dawkins is an activist who was writing to the general public. When you keep that context in mind, one has to wonder WHY Dawkins felt it important to distance eugenics from Hitler. If Dawkins is a eugenicist, this would make sense. He can’t advocate for some eugenics approach because of its association with Hitler and thus begins the slow, gradual process of getting the general public to divorce eugenics from Nazism. If there is a better explanation, I am all ears.

In fact, Dawkins is less unsure of himself in a less public context when reviewing the book of Steve Jones, president of the Galton Institute, the lineal descendant of the Eugenics Education Society. Here is what Dawkins wrote (note my added emphasis):

“I’ve enjoyed Steve Jones’ recent book The Language of the Genes. He’s a little bit too eager to bend over backwards to be politically respectable, because of the unsavory history of genetics, and he rather goes out of his way to disown those aspects of genetics that are politically disrespectable. I feel that that’s over and done with now, and we can forget about it and get on, and I feel he’s still a little bit unnecessarily eager to distance himself from the bad aspects of the history of genetics. But I have a lot of time for him;I greatly respect him.”

Recently, Dawkins’ tweets have provided further evidence that Dawkins is a eugenicist:

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Posted in atheism, New Atheism, Richard Dawkins | 4 Comments

Once again, Dawkins has to “apologize”

Tweety Dawk did it again:

Richard Dawkins has apologised for the “feeding frenzy” triggered by his tweet claiming it would be immoral to carry on with a pregnancy if the mother knew the foetus had Down’s syndrome.

The geneticist’s latest Twitter row broke out after he responded to another user who said she would be faced with “a real ethical dilemma” if she became pregnant with a baby with Down’s syndrome.

Dawkins tweeted: “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

I see. So a woman who chooses to give birth is being immoral. He wants to blame the mother for the unfortunate situation by classifying her decision as “immoral.”

In a fuller explanation on his website – entitled Abortion & Down Syndrome: Apology for Letting Slip the Dogs of Twitterwar – the author tried to set the record straight.

He wrote: “To conclude, what I was saying simply follows logically from the ordinary pro-choice stance that most of us, I presume, espouse. My phraseology may have been tactlessly vulnerable to misunderstanding, but I can’t help feeling that at least half the problem lies in a wanton eagerness to misunderstand.”

Dawkins again “apologizes” by blaming other people or something else for being misunderstood.

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Posted in atheism, New Atheism, Richard Dawkins | 6 Comments

Dawkins Quietly Tosses Inner Circles Into the Memory Hole

While Gnu Atheists seethed and lashed out at Andrew Brown, the evidence indicates Brown’s criticisms struck a very raw nerve.

From Dhay:

Interesting: the Richard Dawkins Foundation has responded to the criticism and ridicule by reducing the number of circles from six to three — my favourite “Fifth Horseman” circle has disappeared — and the maximum annual donation now being solicited is down from $500,000 to a paltry $9,999.

Why do you think Dawkins so quietly made this change?

Posted in atheism, New Atheism, Richard Dawkins | 9 Comments

Greedy Atheists

There is one thing New Atheist leaders are good at – coming up with ways to make lots of money off their devoted, gullible atheist fans. Andrew Brown skewers Richard Dawkins:

My man in the pub was at the very low end of what believers will do and pay for: the Richard Dawkins website offers followers the chance to join the ‘Reason Circle’, which, like Dante’s Hell, is arranged in concentric circles. For $85 a month, you get discounts on his merchandise, and the chance to meet ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science personalities’. Obviously that’s not enough to meet the man himself. For that you pay $210 a month — or $5,000 a year — for the chance to attend an event where he will speak.

When you compare this to the going rate for other charismatic preachers, it does seem on the high side. The Pentecostal evangelist Morris Cerullo, for example, charges only $30 a month to become a member of ‘God’s Victorious Army’, which is bringing ‘healing and deliverance to the world’. And from Cerullo you get free DVDs, not just discounts.

But the $85 a month just touches the hem of rationality. After the neophyte passes through the successively more expensive ‘Darwin Circle’ and then the ‘Evolution Circle’, he attains the innermost circle, where for $100,000 a year or more he gets to have a private breakfast or lunch with Richard Dawkins, and a reserved table at an invitation-only circle event with ‘Richard’ as well as ‘all the benefits listed above’, so he still gets a discount on his Richard Dawkins T-shirt saying ‘Religion — together we can find a cure.’

The website suggests that donations of up to $500,000 a year will be accepted for the privilege of eating with him once a year: at this level of contribution you become a member of something called ‘The Magic of Reality Circle’. I don’t think any irony is intended.

At this point it is obvious to everyone except the participants that what we have here is a religion without the good bits.


BTW, check out the comments section. Over here, we are told very few atheists take Dawkins seriously, so why talk about him? But over there, you will find an army of Gnu drones desperately defending their idol.

Posted in atheism, New Atheism, Richard Dawkins | 25 Comments

Jerry Coyne’s Conversion To Atheism Had Nothing To Do With Science

It looks like Jerry Coyne’s conversion to Atheism had nothing to do with science. Here is an excerpt from the Chicago Tribune, 1/20/2008 [HT: Dhay

One of the more colorful scientific de-conversion stories comes from Jerry Coyne, a professor of genetics and evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago. It happened in 1967 when Coyne, then 17, was listening for the first time to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album while lying on his parents’ couch in Alexandria, Va.

Suddenly Coyne began to shake and sweat. For reasons he still doesn’t understand, it dawned on him at that moment that there was no God, and he wasn’t going anywhere when he died. His casual Judaism seemed to wash away as the album played on. The crisis lasted about 30 minutes, he says, and when it was over, he had left religion behind for good. He went on to study how new species evolve, and found the Darwinian view of nature perfectly in tune with his abandonment of faith.

That Coyne’s conversion came from listening to the Beatles also means his conversion had nothing to do with reason or evidence and instead occurred because of some sudden, intuitive insight. Yet, to this day, Coyne tries to make it sound like he is an atheist because of reason, evidence, and science.

The most significant part of the story is that Coyne is like Dawkins and Myers – they all became atheists when they were teenagers. This means it was “adolescent logic” that led to their atheism. For example, having abandoned belief in God at 17, it’s safe to say Coyne has never given any serious, open-minded thought to God since he was 17. To this day, when he thinks about God and argues about God, he does so with the mind of a 17-year-old (or an adult trying to explain why a 17-year-old’s logic was right). And that explains why his arguments about God and religion are the arguments of an adolescent – demanding signs and magic while treating religious people, and those not hostile enough to religion, as if they are not part of the right clique.

Posted in atheism, Jerry Coyne, New Atheism | 28 Comments

Coyne Lashes Out at Myers

The Atheist Wars continue. Coyne writes:

Here’s how you don’t respond to Williams death: as P.Z Myers has in a post at Pharyngula, in which he claims that the media (and our government) has taken advantage of Williams’s death to draw attention away from racism and other social problems. In other words, we’ve been manipulated:

And then quotes PZ Myers:

I’m sorry to report that comedian Robin Williams has committed suicide, an event of great import and grief to his family. But his sacrifice has been a great boon to the the news cycle and the electoral machinery — thank God that we have a tragedy involving a wealthy white man to drag us away from the depressing news about brown people.

. . . Boy, I hate to say it, but it sure was nice of Robin Williams to create such a spectacular distraction. No one wants to think the police might be untrustworthy. [This refers to the police shooting of black teenager Mike Brown in St. Louis.]

Coyne then comments:

Wealthy white man? Really? This is one of the most contemptible and inhumane things I’ve ever seen posted by a well-known atheist. It reeks of arrogance, of condescension, and especially of a lack of empathy for those who loved and admired Williams not because they knew him, but because he brought them happiness and made them think.

(emphasis added)

Further demonstration that a world run by those “committed to reason and evidence” would be such a better place. ;)

When these atheist leaders are arrogant, inhumane, and condescending to religious people, their colleagues and followers pat them on the back. But then when they take the very same approach to a topic other than religion, POOF!, we have a serious problem.

Posted in atheist wars | 18 Comments

It may go down as one of the shortest-lived peace accords on record

The following article recently appeared on the Washington Post’s website: Richard Dawkins: Atheism’s asset or liability?

We learn some of the context behind in the latest flare-up in The Atheist Wars, namely, the fights have been so mean and vicious that the leaders of the two sects tried to hash out an “agreement.”

It may go down as one of the shortest-lived peace accords on record.

Late last month, two heavy-hitters within organized atheism, activist Ophelia Benson and scientist Richard Dawkins, reached a detente of sorts about online debate and posted it on their separate websites.

“Disagreement is inevitable, but bullying and harassment are not,” the statement reads. “ If we want secularism and atheism to gain respect, we have to be able to disagree with each other without trying to destroy each other.”
Before the virtual ink was dry, Dawkins had stepped in it again.

“Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse,” Dawkins said on Twitter, where he has almost 1 million followers. “If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.” Another tweet applied the same logic to “mild date rape” and “violent date rape,” and still another compared “mild pedophilia” and “violent pedophilia.”

Gotta love that atheist sense of morality.

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Posted in atheism, atheist wars, New Atheism, Richard Dawkins | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Tweety Dawk Does It Again

Rather than do any science, Dawkins has been sharing his opinions about rape on twitter. As you might expect, the only thing Tweety Dawk accomplishes is getting noticed:

And so, freshly released from the stocks, Professor Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and famed atheist, is today wiping off the rotten tomatoes from his lapel. He will be doing so unapologetically.

- From Atheist King Richard Dawkins’ Rape Fantasy

The leader of the New Atheist movement is getting slammed all over the place. For example:

You can almost imagine him tweeting this, his fingers jabbing away at the keyboard as his glasses slide down a face contorted with disappointment at how irrational everyone is being. This is Dawkins in 2014: a figure of mockery, a man so convinced that he possesses God-like powers of omniscience that he can’t understand why everyone’s getting angry at him for pointing out the obvious. Why won’t we all just learn how to think, damn it! Then we could all live together in a peaceful society where nobody wears “bin liners”, and women shut up about sexual harassment.

Remember when Dawkins was widely respected? When his biggest detractor was late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould? I don’t. Having grown up after Dawkins made the transition from lauded science communicator to old man who shouts at clouds, it’s hard for me to understand why anyone continues to listen to him about anything.

Sure, he wrote some pop science books back in the day, but why do we keep having him on TV and in the newspapers?

I’d have a simple question for Dawkins and his “sincere” attempt to use logic in the context of moral relativism – when it comes to eating meat (which Dawkins likens to slavery) and date rape, which is the “bad” one and which is worse?

Posted in atheism, New Atheism, Richard Dawkins | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

New Atheism Has a Real Problem with Morality

Michael Robbins has written a review of a book and uses the review to criticize the New Atheists and this greatly upset the militant atheist activist Jerry Coyne, who posted with a 3800 word reply that once again whines about atheists being “bashed.”

I’d like to focus on a small part of the dispute, as it nicely summarizes the New Atheist’s ability to deal with atheism’s morality problem.

Coyne provides the following quote from Robbins:

Nietzsche’s atheism is far from exultant—he is not crowing about the death of God, much as he despises Christianity. He understands how much has been lost, how much there is to lose.
. . . Nietzsche realized that the Enlightenment project to reconstruct morality from rational principles simply retained the character of Christian ethics without providing the foundational authority if the latter. Dispensing with his fantasy of the Übermensch, we are left with his dark diagnosis. To paraphrase the Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, our moral vocabulary has lost the contexts from which its significance derived, and no amount of Dawkins-style hand-waving about altruistic genes will make the problem go away. (Indeed, the ridiculous belief that our genes determine everything about human behavior and culture is a symptom of this very problem.)
. . . The point is not that a coherent morality requires theism, but that the moral language taken for granted by liberal modernity is a fragmented ruin: It rejects metaphysics but exists only because of prior metaphysical commitments.

That analysis is spot on. So how does Coyne respond?

Wrong again. Morality exists because a). we’ve evolved to have feelings of right and wrong and b). on top of our evolved emotions is overlain a veneer of secular morality derived from our preferences about how we should behave if we want a fair and harmonious society. As for us not being miserable and serious enough, life is too short, and there’s nowhere to go after it’s over. Many of us are perfectly happy with a secular morality, and don’t spend time bawling about its supposed “metaphysical grounding.”

That, in a nutshell, is the New Atheist response. Let’s now see just how weak it is as it collapses like a house of cards with some mild probing.
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Posted in atheism, Jerry Coyne, Morality, New Atheism | Tagged , , , | 41 Comments