More Recycled Gnu Arguments

The other day, while searching for Dawkins’s mocking strategy, I stumbled across a blog entry by John Loftus entitled, “On Justifying the Use of Ridicule and Mockery.” As I read the blog entry, I experienced a profound sense of deja vu. Loftus wrote:

These people cannot be convinced by satire, so satire is not written to change their minds. It’s written to marginalize them by laughing at them. It persuades people who don’t yet have a settled opinion on the issue, in part by using social pressure. No one wants to be a laughingstock. No one wants to be the butt of a joke.

Hmmm. That sounded awfully familiar. In fact, it sounds just like Dawkins’s argument. Let’s compare.

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Why the New Atheist Strategy Will Fail

Several years ago, Dawkins outlined one of the core methods of today’s New Atheist movement:

I have from time to time expressed sympathy for the accommodationist tendency so ably criticized here by Jerry Coyne. I have occasionally worried that – just maybe – Eugenie Scott [of the NCSE] and the appeasers might have a point, a purely political point but one, nevertheless, that we should carefully consider. I have lately found myself moving away from that sympathy.

I suspect that most of our regular readers here would agree that ridicule, of a humorous nature, is likely to be more effective than the sort of snuggling-up and head-patting that Jerry is attacking. I lately started to think that we need to go further: go beyond humorous ridicule, sharpen our barbs to a point where they really hurt.

Michael Shermer, Michael Ruse, Eugenie Scott and others are probably right that contemptuous ridicule is not an expedient way to change the minds of those who are deeply religious. But I think we should probably abandon the irremediably religious precisely because that is what they are – irremediable. I am more interested in the fence-sitters who haven’t really considered the question very long or very carefully. And I think that they are likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt. Nobody likes to be laughed at. Nobody wants to be the butt of contempt.

You might say that two can play at that game. Suppose the religious start treating us with naked contempt, how would we like it? I think the answer is that there is a real asymmetry here. We have so much more to be contemptuous about! And we are so much better at it. We have scathingly witty spokesmen of the calibre of Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Who have the faith-heads got, by comparison? Ann Coulter is about as good as it gets. We can’t lose!

This stategy can only go so far before it fizzles out.

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More Anti-Science Views from a New Atheist Leader

As we have seen, Bill Maher is a recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award and sits on the Advisory Board of Project Reason (Sam Harris’s private “think tank”). We have also seen that Maher is an anti-vaxxer, leading us to question just how sincere the New Atheist movement is when it postures as being “pro-science.”

Now there is more reason to question this “pro-science” posturing, as Maher not only opposes Western medical science, it turns out he opposes the use of animals in scientific experiments. Maher once said:

To those people who say, ‘My father is alive because of animal experimentation,’ I say, ‘Yeah, well, good for you. This dog died so your father could live.’ Sorry, but I am just not behind that kind of trade-off.

Maher is also a longtime celebrity spokesman for PETA and has also wished people would die of mad cow disease:

If ten people in America died of mad cow disease, in the long run it would save probably millions of lives. Because people would stop eating meat. That’s not a catty thing to say, to say — in the long run this is what I hope.

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Communists Taught Science is Incompatible with Religion

As I mentioned in the previous blog entry, one of the core arguments of the New Atheist movement appears to be recycled communist propaganda. Here’s some more evidence along those lines.

The following excerpt was written in 1963 and published in Lituanus, which is “an English language journal dedicated to Lithuanian and Baltic art, history, language, literature and related cultural topics.” The article is entitled, “Communism’s Struggle with Religion in Lithuania.” Understandably, the author did not want to use his/her real name.

Check it out:

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Science and Religion Incompatible? Just a Recycled Argument from the Soviet Union

Let’s start with a quote.

 Scientific atheists believed that their technological and scientific successes would obviously disprove the validity of religion because the two are fundamentally in opposition.

What if I were to tell you this comes from a scholar posting on his blog?  You’d probably say, ‘So what?  Everyone knows the Gnu atheists think religion and science are fundamentally opposed and the success of science has effectively disproved religion.”

Of course, if you read carefully, you’d notice that this person is talking in the past tense.  That’s odd.  Is this person trying to write some fictional historical account from the vantage of the future?

No, the sentence comes from a sociologist’s peer-reviewed paper that looks at atheist propaganda in the Soviet Union.   Here is the reference:

Froese, Paul.  2004. Forced Secularization in Soviet Russia: Why an Atheistic Monopoly Failed.   Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 43, 1, Mar, 35-50

I remember when people used to document examples where leaders in the ID movement were making claims/arguments that creationists had made many years before them.  The consensus was that this type of evidence showed a clear and distinct link between creationism and intelligent design.

If we are to be intellectually honest and consistent, then we should be able to use the same approach with the Gnu movement.  Are its leaders making claims/arguments that were made by other movements many years before them?  And as we can see, the argument that science opposes and defeats religion is not something invented by the Gnus.  Soviet atheists were making this same argument long before modern day Gnus were born.

Yet the similarities in thinking don’t stop there.  Let’s consider some more excerpts from this journal article too see if anything else sounds familiar.

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Still Obsessed with Other People’s Children

Richard Dawkins really needs to get out of his intellectually inbred cocoon. He’s been on this 10+ year mission to get people to stop referring to children as “Christian children” or “Muslim children.” He is stuck on this crazypants notion that such labels are “child abuse,” although he backs away from using the term “child abuse” in his latest rant.

Consider this gem:

Would you ever speak of a four-year-old’s political beliefs? Hannah is a socialist four-year-old, Mark a conservative. Who would ever dream of saying such a thing? What would you say if you read a demographic article which said something like this: “One in every three children born today is a Kantian Neo-platonist child. If the birth rate trends continue, Existentialist Positivists will be outnumbered by 2030.” Never mind the nonsensical names of philosophical schools of thought I just invented. I deliberately chose surreal names so as not to distract from the real point. Religion is the one exception we all make to the rule: don’t label children with the opinions of their parents.

And if you want to make an exception for the opinions we call religious, and claim that it is any less preposterous to speak of “Christian children” or “Muslim children”, you’d better have a good argument up your sleeve.

No problem.
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A Question Dawkins, and His Fans, Can’t Answer

When New Atheist Craig Hicks murdered three Muslim students, Dawkins condemned the murder as follows:

“How could any decent person NOT condemn the vile murder of three young US Muslims in Chapel Hill?”

But here is the unanswerable question – Why didn’t he write the following?

“How could any decent person NOT condemn the vile murder of three young faith-heads in Chapel Hill?”

After all, Dawkins claims to use the term only because it is “concisely factual.”

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Misusing Evolution As Part of an Agenda

According to the New Atheists, atheism is supposed to follow from evolutionary theory. Activist Jerry Coyne does a nice job summarizing the Gnu thinking on this issue, asserting that evolution has “implications” that point away from theism. Let’s take a look at these “implications.”

Coyne writes:

The theories of gravity and relativity don’t impinge on anyone’s religious beliefs. Evolution carries implications that no other science does—save, perhaps some branches of cosmology. It implies that humans evolved by the same blind, materialistic, and naturalistic process involved in the evolution of every other species, and so we aren’t special in any numious sense. It implies that we’re not the special objects of God’s creation.

This is silly. Let’s take away the hot button issue of evolution and human origins and instead consider the fact that religious people think we are all special. Each one of us. Yet each one of us came into existence through a blind, materialistic, and naturalistic process called fertilization. Each one of us exists because a particular sperm fertilized a particular egg. If the belief that each one of us is special can co-exist with the process of fertilization, without the need to imagine God tinkering with each fertilization event to ensure the right eggs and sperm are used (which would also involved tinkering with the desire to have sex), then evolution is no problem.

Is such co-existence possible? Of course. I showed this in the first entry when I set up this blog back in 2009.
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Recycled Arguments

In 2002, Olga Homolova, a journalist from the Czech Republic wrote an article entitled, DREAM OF A GODLESS COUNTRY. ANTI-RELIGIOUS AND ATHEISTIC PROPAGANDA IN SOVIET RUSSIA IN THE 1920s.

I have become intrigued by the parallels between the modern day New Atheist movement and the Russian Godless movement (as Homolova calls it). For example:

The real heart of the propaganda in the Godless press, however, was the campaign for a scientific approach to the world, which the agitators believed would result in the ultimate inevitable demise of the religious world view. “God will fall under the weight of science,” as the illustration announces in the first edition of Bezbozhnik u stanka in 1926. Contributions on this subject are in various forms but they all carry one basic message: all religion stems from ignorance and merely keeps Man in shackles; the only correct and scientific approach is to be a disbeliever.

How is this any different from the real heart of the propaganda in the New Atheist press (books and web pages)? In fact, notice the last sentence: “the only correct and scientific approach is to be a disbeliever.” So Jerry Coyne’s new book is simply recycled Soviet propaganda.

It continues:

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Craig Hick’s Militant Atheist Meme

Here is one of the atheist memes posted on Craig Hicks site:

It is unfortunate for Hicks, the New Atheist who murdered three Muslim students, to have such a militant meme on his FaceBook page. But that’s not the point I want to focus on. I am struck by the honesty of this meme.

The meme indicates I have been right in maintaining the New Atheist demands for “evidence” are mostly a smokescreen. For New Atheism, at its core, is not atheism. It’s anti-theism and anti-religion. Even Jerry Coyne recently confessed, “Yes, Reza Aslan, I’m an anti-theist.”

But how does an anti-theist fight against an omnipotent being?

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