1440 Strong?

Jerry Coyne was recently bragging:

Exhibit 1 is what used to be called Dawkins’s “Converts Corner,” now called simply “Letters, Converts“. There are 120 pages of these, each page containing 12 letters. If you do the math, that’s 1440 people who wrote in, most testifying that Richard’s writings, especially The God Delusion, helped wean them from their childish superstitions.

Let’s do the math. I went to the Dawkin’s Promotion site and read the first 12 letters on the front page. I’ll assume that’s a fairly representative sample, which is probably a safe assumption. I’ll also assume that all letters are legitimate and not atheist trolls acting like they have been converted (this is NOT as safe assumption).

When I read the 12 letters on the front page, I found only 2 clear examples of conversion-because-of-Dawkins: a 13 year old who switched to atheism after reading ‘The Magic of Reality’ and someone, with previous issues with his religion, who switched after reading ‘The Blind Watchmaker.’ There were a few that were so poorly worded and ambiguous that you can’t tell when/how the conversion happened. There were a couple of agnostic-to-atheist conversions and finally, almost half had no conversion story to tell- they were just praise for Dawkins.

So, about 17% (2/12) were conversions from religious to atheist and another 17% were conversions from agnosticism to atheism. 0% mentioned The God Delusion as a book that helped wean them from their childish superstitions. There was one person who treats The God Delusion as if it was a Holy Book. Another person treated The God Delusion as if it was a devotional, clinging to it while others around her were criticizing her.

Anyway, it’s clear to me that even by unjustifiably assuming no atheist trolls at work, there simply are not 1440 letters from people claiming The God Delusion led them out of religion and into atheism. That’s just an over-inflated claim that is part of a sales pitch.

Of course, I could be wrong. I skimmed the letters and am writing this early in the morn. So feel free to check out those letters for yourself and tell us what you think of them.

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

No Respect

April 13th was the birthday of Madalyn Murray O’Hair. She was probably the first true, New Atheist and paved the way for people like Sam Harris, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, and Jerry Coyne. In fact, the only truly sigificant difference between O’Hair and Harris/Myers/Dawkins/Coyne is that O’Hair didn’t have the internet. So she had to resort to writing books, making TV and radio appearances, and setting up American Atheists (with all its publications). Other than that, the arguments, the hateful attitude, the goals, were pretty much the same. In many ways, Dawkins et al. really are Madalyn Murray O’Hair in a cheap tuxedo.

Which raises an interesting question. Why do the modern day atheist leaders ignore their founder? On April 13, did Jerry Coyne blog about her? Nope. He was posting about squirrels. Did Sam Harris tweet about her? Nope. He was tweeting about meditation. Did Richard Dawkins tweet about her? Nope. He was tweeting about Mein Kampf. Surely PZ Myers wrote about her? Nope. He was blogging that most Men’s Rights Advocates are atheists.

Squirrels, meditation, whether one should read Mein Kampf, and MRAs, all deemed more important than paying respect to the first New Atheist. How symbolic.

But you know, the atheist movement does have a serious woman problem. Not only are its leaders all rich, white men, but many female atheists have complained vigorously of sexual harassment in the atheist community. So you would think, for PR purposes alone, the Gnu leaders would at least pay lip service to the pioneering O’Hair. In fact, one has to wonder if O’Hair would still have been so thoroughly ignored if she…..had been a man.

Posted in atheism, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, New Atheism | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Free Speech

Jerry Coyne is upset again:

This is reprehensible, unconscionable, and ridiculous. Yesterday’s New York Times reports that Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, which was planning to award an honorary degree to author and anti-Muslim activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali—one of the bravest women on the planet—has cancelled those plans.

The best part is when he concludes, “I am ashamed that my fellow liberals, who prize freedom of speech and the right to dissent, nevertheless suppress that freedom by bowing to Muslim pressure.”

For now, let’s ignore how Coyne is treating his “fellow liberals” is if they have free will and whether something called “free speech” can exist among entities with no free will. Instead, notice how Coyne abandons scientific thinking. He has a belief – “my fellow liberals prize freedom of speech.” They do? Seriously? If they do, how does Coyne explain his “fellow liberals” cancelling those plans? People who truly do PRIZE freedom of speech don’t behave that way.

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Posted in atheism, Intolerance | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Arrest Those Who Don’t Agree!

Adam Weinstein wrote a post entitled, “Arrest Climate-Change Deniers.” He asserts:

Man-made climate change happens. Man-made climate change kills a lot of people. It’s going to kill a lot more. We have laws on the books to punish anyone whose lies contribute to people’s deaths. It’s time to punish the climate-change liars.

And adds:

Attempts to deceive the public on climate change, and to consequently block any public policy to tackle it, contribute to roughly 150,000 deaths a year already…..Those denialists should face jail. They should face fines. They should face lawsuits from the classes of people whose lives and livelihoods are most threatened by denialist tactics.

Given his fascist-like desire to put people in jail for holding a contrary viewpoint, I came up with a hypothesis – I’ll bet this guy is an atheist. The rationale behind the hypothesis came from a growing awareness that modern atheism seems to be blending with authoritarianism, given the rhetoric of many leaders in the New Atheist movement. So I tested my hypothesis with google (which means, according to people like Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne, I’m doing science here).
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Posted in atheism, Intolerance | Tagged , | 29 Comments

Atheist AC Grayling Displays His Inner Authoritarian

New Atheist AC Grayling doesn’t have much tolerance:

“On my travels around the states last year I visited the Creation Museum in Oklahoma,” Professor A.C. Grayling, the master of the New College of Humanities, said last month at a humanist convention. “I kid you not. My gast was flabbered the minute I set my foot across the threshold of that place. They have these sort of electronic vegetarian Tyrannosaurus rex playing with the children of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.”

“The really dismaying thing about it was the troops and troops and troops of small schoolchildren being taken through and presented with all this as fact. That seems to me to be a human rights crime,” he added.

My oh my. A human rights crime? Why is it that these New Atheists leaders always seem to tap into some incredibly extreme rhetoric? So tell us, Proferssor Grayling, just what is society supposed to do about this human rights crime?

And why stop there? Does the Professor also think that teaching children God-guided evolution instead of creationism is a “human rights crime?” In fact, what about simply teaching children God exists? Is that a “human rights crime?” I think Grayling would stutter and stammer if he tried to answer such questions.

According to these New Atheist leaders, religious parents are infected with a dangerous brain virus and are guilty of child abuse and human rights crimes. So what do you think these militant atheist leaders would do if they had one thing – power?

Posted in atheism, Intolerance, militant atheism, New Atheism | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Gnu Atheists are Easily Hoodwinked

Hemant Mehta, the Gnu Atheist activist who misleading sells himself as the “Friendly Atheist,” recently posted a blog entry entitled, Another Dramatization of a Message Written on a Christian Forum. He writes:

Brilliant: An actor dramatically reads a comment from a Christian forum:

Here is what he posted.

Oh, my. Since Gnu atheists suck at critical thinking, this is going to be too easy.

Two simple questions for Hemant:

1. Is there any evidence that the person who wrote that is a Christian?
2. What Christian forum was this comment originally posted on?

Hemant, the man who claims to be guided by reason and evidence, never pauses for the briefest of moments to consider those two basic questions. Yet anyone who values critical thinking would have immediately asked them. Add it up, people.

Since I value critical thinking, I will try to answer them. I’ll start with #2.

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Posted in atheism, evidence, Hypocrisy, New Atheism | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Can New Age Atheism and New Atheism Co-exist?

After writing about Sam Harris’s blog entry where he promotes himself and his new book, I decided to check out Amazon to see if it was selling. It turns out the book does not come out until September, but I did find the book description to be very interesting.

First, it looks like I was spot on when I noted, “Harris is trying to set himself as the First Man in History who can bridge the gap between science and woo. “ Here is how his book is described on Amazon:

Waking Up is part seeker’s memoir and part exploration of the scientific underpinnings of spirituality. No other book marries contemplative wisdom and modern science in this way, and no author other than Sam Harris—a scientist, philosopher, and famous skeptic—could write it.


But then the really interesting part preceded this:

From multiple New York Times bestselling author, neuroscientist, and “new atheist” Sam Harris, Waking Up is for the 30 percent of Americans who follow no religion, but who suspect that Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi, and the other saints and sages of history could not have all been epileptics, schizophrenics, or frauds. Throughout the book, Harris argues that there are important truths to be found in the experiences of such contemplatives—and, therefore, that there is more to understanding reality than science and secular culture generally allow.

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Sam Harris: New Age Atheist Helping Us to Better Appreciate the Religious Dimension to New Atheism

Sam Harris has begun to peddle his new book on atheist spirituality. He begins by complaining that scientists and “New Age thinkers” don’t get it right:

Scientists generally start with an impoverished view of spiritual experience, assuming that it must be a grandiose way of describing ordinary states of mind


New Age thinkers usually enter the ditch on the other side of the road: They idealize altered states of consciousness and draw specious connections between subjective experience and the spookier theories at the frontiers of physics.

Now I am not sure why New Age thinkers can’t be called Iron Age thinkers, but I suppose it has something to do with Harris’s fondness for gurus and other forms of woo.

Few scientists and philosophers have developed strong skills of introspection—in fact, many doubt that such abilities even exist. Conversely, many of the greatest contemplatives know nothing about science.

Harris is trying to set himself as the First Man in History who can bridge the gap between science and woo. On one hand, he has been meditating and experimenting with alternative states of consciousness for decades. On the other hand, he got a PhD in neuroscience. So Harris begins to promote just how special and unique he is:

I know brilliant scientists and philosophers who seem unable to make the most basic discriminations about their own moment to moment experience; and I have known contemplatives who spent decades meditating in silence who probably thought the earth was flat. And yet there is a connection between scientific fact and spiritual wisdom, and it is more direct than most people suppose.

And then we get to the really interesting part:

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Posted in atheism, New Atheism, Religion, Sam Harris | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Confused Thinking of Alan Sokal

It looks like Alan Sokal, the physicist most famous for committing a hoax, is now trying to further dumb-down the definition of science. Activist Jerry Coyne, giddy to have an ally for this agenda, quotes him extensively. So let’s take a critical look at Sokal’s arguments.

Sokal writes:

Thus, by science I mean, first of all, a worldview giving primacy to reason and observation and a methodology aimed at acquiring accurate knowledge of the natural and social world.

Note that from the start, Sokal defines science as a “worldview.” Okay. But if science is a “worldview” that does this, it would mean that such primacy must always apply in all areas of life. Otherwise, it’s not much of a “worldview.” The problem is that it is too easy to find examples of people with this scientific “worldview” who do not give primacy to reason and observation. Consider Richard Dawkins and the way he promotes the pseudoscientific nonsense about a religious upbringing being a form of child abuse.

Second, why is it that those who claim to have this “scientific worldview” can never seem to agree on much? Consider the multiple examples of atheist vs. atheist, whether the topic be feminism, guns, or religion.

Third, do not lose sight of the simple fact that this description also applies to confirmation bias – anyone engaged in confirmation bias will tell you they are giving primacy to reason and observation and using a methodology aimed at acquiring accurate knowledge of the natural and social world.

This methodology is characterized, above all else, by the critical spirit: namely, the commitment to the incessant testing of assertions through observations and/or experiments — the more stringent the tests, the better — and to revising or discarding those theories that fail the test.

And folks who are engaged in confirmation bias have a very critical spirit – for they also rely on disconfirmation bias when it comes to competing viewpoints. But the key thing to note in Sokal’s description is that the “testing” can be in the form of observations OR experiments. In other words, as long as someone is making some type of observation, there is no need for experiment. Experiments become superfluous to science.

One corollary of the critical spirit is fallibilism: namely, the understanding that all our empirical knowledge is tentative, incomplete and open to revision in the light of new evidence or cogent new arguments (though, of course, the most well-established aspects of scientific knowledge are unlikely to be discarded entirely).

Yes, but how are we supposed to know that the “fallibilism” exists? Just because someone claims they hold to “fallibilism” does not mean they do. It just means they know they are supposed to convey the notion they are holding onto beliefs tentatively. Go with the flow. Social behavior. For example, we have seen it is very common for New Atheists to posture as if their atheism is tentative and open to revision. Yet we have also seen that by probing with some simple questions (what would you count as evidence for God?), such posturing is an illusion.

Until Sokal comes up with a method for determing that fallibilism exists, I’m afraid that criterion is completely useless. As such, Sokal has no way of distinguishing confirmation bias (and disconfirmation bias) from science. And that comes in very handy for any activist trying to masquerade as a scientist. As such, Sokal is doing subtle damage to science here. Having stuck the knife into the back of science, he then proceeds to twist it:

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Posted in atheism, Religion, Science | Tagged , , | 30 Comments

Hypersensitive Flowers

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker recently tweeted “Philippians 4:13.” This caused the activists for the Freedom From Religion Foundation to go into full meltdown mode:

To say, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me”, seems more like a threat, or the utterance of a theocratic dictator, than of a duly elected civil servant.

LOL! So I guess that tweet was supposed to be a coded signal for Walker to declare himself Dictator of Wisconsin and then begin rounding up atheists for those secretly built concentration camps, right? Er, there is no evidence to support such melodramatic claims. I wish atheists would make at least a tiny effort to back up their wild claims with something called…evidence. What a perfect demonstration of how many atheists are so emotional and so hypersensitive that they are incapable of rational thought.

Here’s a prediction for you all: if the GOP takes the Senate in 2014 and takes the presidency in 2016, the “Theocracy is Coming” fever is going to spread throughout the atheist movement like wildfire and the resulting over-the-top hysteria is going to be very fun to watch.

Posted in atheism, New Atheism, Politics, Religion | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments