Is atheism no different than atoothfairyism?

In the syllabus for Peter Boghossian’s university class on atheistic apologetics, we are told:

Logically and epistemologically, atheism is no different than atoothfairyism.

Really?  In the same syllabus, we are also told:

This course is a systematic examination and analysis of atheism. It is primarily focused upon understanding contemporary secular arguments regarding religion and faith-based belief systems. It is secondarily focused upon exploring what secularism means for metaphysics, epistemology, morality, politics, aesthetics, etc.

Hmmm.  Then what does atoothfairyism mean for metaphysics, epistemology, morality, politics, aesthetics, etc?

Look, if you insist there is no God, then much more is involved than denying the existence of some other Being.  As Boghossian himself admits, it also has implications for metaphysics, epistemology, morality, politics, aesthetics, etc.

For example, if there is no God, there is no ultimate meaning to life.  No reason why we exist.  We invent our own meaning (or pretend to have one).  What is of value is simply that which we decide to value.  Morality is what we want it to be.  In fact, many atheists also argue it means we have no free will and thus the concept of moral responsibility is an illusion.  Even our sense of self is an illusion.  If there is no God, everything changes.  If there is no tooth fairy, it merely means there is no odd creatures that swaps human teeth for quarters.  Other than that odd fact about the world, everything remains the same.

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39 Responses to Is atheism no different than atoothfairyism?

  1. Dhay says:

    > If there is no God, everything changes. If there is no tooth fairy, it merely means there is no odd creatures that swaps human teeth for quarters. Other than that odd fact about the world, everything remains the same.

    If I understand it right, according to the First Cause arguments of Aristotelian philosophy and Thomist philosophy, if there is no God there is no world.

    *

    Peter Boghossian has taught Aristotle as part of his courses:

    Within my discipline, philosophy, students need a rudimentary understanding of key thinkers like Plato and Aristotle, and also a basic understanding of reliable methods for parsing the truth.

    https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2011/07/192/boghossian

    That being so, the question arises whether Boghossian is ignorant of his subject of philosophy, and of the First Cause ideas of that “key thinker” (Boghossian’s description), Aristotle, or whether Boghossian does know his subject but is deliberately distorting and misrepresenting it for polemical purposes — which would be intellectual dishonesty, surely.

  2. Kevin says:

    Logically and epistemologically, atheism is no different than atoothfairyism”

    “This course is a systematic examination and analysis of atheism. It is primarily focused upon understanding contemporary secular arguments regarding religion and faith-based belief systems.

    These two things are a couple of the primary reasons I get such a kick out of New Atheists. I wish I could sign up for this class just to get myself kicked out for pointing out all of Boghossian’s fallacies and errors.

    Atheism no different than atoothfairyism, eh? Well the reason that no one believes in the Tooth Fairy is that there are exactly two pieces of evidence for it – oral tradition handed down for a few generations, and the astounding disappearance of a tooth replaced with some sort of gift under the child’s pillow when they wake up in the morning. The reason this is not sufficient evidence to believe in the Tooth Fairy is that not only does every adult and probably most kids know what is actually going on – as in, we KNOW the correct answer and are not pretending to know what we don’t know – but even if you took a group of people who didn’t know for sure, there are better explanations than a supernatural creature for why the tooth is getting replaced with a dollar or whatever while the child sleeps.

    Theism is nothing like this. While we do have explanations for most natural phenomena that do not directly require a deity, we absolutely DO NOT have naturalistic explanations for ultimate causes – why anything exists, why what exists has the features it does, etc. For many, including myself, God is a drastically superior explanation for these things than anything weakly (and rarely) tossed out by New Atheists as a counter explanation. We have evidential and logical reasons to believe in God…not so much a tooth fairy.

    At this point, New Atheists will retreat from their assertiveness (which is always a strategy of offense, never defense) and claim that atheism is simply, as Boghossian tries to also claim in his syllabus, a “lack of belief” in gods, much like atoothfairyism. Okay, but the obvious question remains – is that lack of belief justified? Am I justified in not only disbelieving in the Tooth Fairy, but actively attacking those who do, if I am completely unable to offer up anything resembling a credible alternative? The lack of belief itself could be justified, but simple skepticism is not justification for devoting one’s life to attacking belief in the Tooth Fairy if atoothfairyism itself has no answers. Same goes for belief in God – ultimately, if you have no answers of your own, why are you so convinced that a deity is the wrong answer, when my belief in God is supported by logic and evidence?

    But New Atheists don’t care if their own position has any sort of evidential or logical foundation. New Atheism exists to attack religion, which is why Boghossian’s class syllabus on the Atheism shows that it deals primarily with – you guessed it – attacking religion! Can you imagine a class on Christianity that was devoted to attacking secularism, with a little blurb at the end dealing with the moral and metaphysical ramifications of Christianity being true? That would be a ludicrous class that would completely fail to teach understanding of what Christianity actually is and means, and I find the Atheism class to be no better. Boghossian couldn’t create a single atheist (which is his goal in these proselyting classes) if he only stuck to trying to justify atheism evidentially and logically. He and every other New Atheist know that the only effective strategy is to attempt to shatter the foundational belief in God as having no supporting evidence, without trying to replace it with any sort of failed ultimate naturalistic explanation. Which is ironic, because as Richard Dawkins might say, atheism apparently teaches us to be content with not understanding the world.

  3. Dhay says:

    Peter Boghossian > Within my discipline, philosophy, students need a rudimentary understanding of key thinkers like Plato and Aristotle …

    Before following the lead of Boghossian’s other “key thinker”, Plato, and before starting to praise and use the Socratic Method, beware that for Plato — especially in The Republic, the “Cave” metaphor from which features so prominently in Boghossian’s app, so plainly Boghossian approves of the ideas therein — the Socratic Method leads to the idea of Forms.

    So what’s a Form? Nothing in nature is perfectly round, perfectly straight, there are no points of zero extension — and we can multiply examples indefinitely; such perfect examples of what in nature is always at best mere very nearly circular, etc etc — such perfect entities “exist” in Euclidean geometry; and Plato called these perfect circles and other perfect entities “Forms”.

    It is no surprise, then, that fully ten years of the training of those anti-democratic philosopher-oligarchs he called “Guardians” would have been in mathematics, the clearest example of the usefulness of the idea of Forms.

    But Forms are not an idea he confined to maths: just as all earthly circles are imperfect imitations of the real Form of a circle, so are all earthly tables imperfect imitations of the real Form of a table; ditto everything in nature such as butterflies and human bodies; ditto such things as “justice”, which on Earth is the imperfect imitation of the perfect Form of justice — the philosopher-oligarch was to be trained on mathematical and rhetorical examples to intuit what the relevant Form was, from which he could pronounce what ought to be.

    This is actually profoundly anti-scientific, this intuition of Forms and this dictating of what earthly reality should be like — like the Forms, of course, which only the trained elite can discover. Contrast it with the Christian notion that God provided a regular and orderly and predictable world; that to find out what reality is like, we have to actually go and look, collect data, reason about it, and draw conclusions. It’s Christianity, certainly not Platonism and the Socratic Method, which supports scientific thinking and method.

    *

    Lastly, let’s get back to that Cave metaphor which Boghossian so obviously loves. That the “cave-dwellers” are looking at deceptive distorted shadows is pure Platonic propaganda: if you read The Republic you find that the “world of shadows” which the cave-dwellers “mistake” for the real world is actually … is actually our world, this ordinary reality which can be studied by observation, reason and science.

    The bright-lit “reality” world towards which the philosopher-oligarchs are depicted attempting to drag the cave-dwellers, kicking and screaming, and presumably towards which the Atheost Appistemologists imagine themselves attempting to drag Christians, kicking and screaming, is … is not everyday reality but the fantasy world inhabited by those eternal unchanging Forms.

    That being so, the question arises whether Boghossian is ignorant of his subject of philosophy, and of the Forms ideas of that “key thinker” (Boghossian’s description), Plato; or whether Boghossian does know his subject but is deliberately distorting and misrepresenting it for polemical purposes — which would be intellectual dishonesty, surely.

  4. Joe says:

    I am not sure it is worthwhile to engage rabid atheists like Boghossian. But you are correct that rejecting God would have profound effects on other beliefs. I blog mainly on the meta-ethical implications. My last blog was in response to a non-rabid atheist who I respect asking how our views of morality would change if we found out God did not exist.

    I explain why this would undermine my belief in morality altogether at his blog and in my own blog post here:
    https://trueandreasonable.co/2016/05/10/evidence-of-objective-moral-realism/

  5. Ilíon says:

    Look, if you insist there is no God, then much more is involved than denying the existence of some other Being. … If there is no God, everything changes. …

    The question of whether God is is the First Question, for all other questions one may ask about reality follow from the answer one gives to it.

    … [If God is not, then] we have no free will and thus the concept of moral responsibility is an illusion. Even our sense of self is an illusion. …

    If God is, then humans may indeed be selves and agents; there may indeed be an “I”.

    But, if God is not, then there is no “I”.

    And, to try the “agnostic” dodge is really just to say that nothing at all may be known about reality.

  6. dognillo says:

    Let’s suppose that our sense of self really is an illusion, and that nothing at all may be known about reality. What does that mean to you? Just asking.

  7. Doug says:

    @dognillo,
    It means that questions about what things mean to me are meaningless. 😉

  8. TFBW says:

    Boghossian’s course notes (week #1 questions) say:

    Is there something “weird,” and maybe harmful, about analyzing a position defined by its absence of making a claim? Logically and epistemologically, atheism is no different than atoothfairyism. Why not a course on the latter?

    As an atoothfairyist myself, I resent this remark: I claim unreservedly that the tooth fairy does not exist. Furthermore, I claim that all cases of teeth being replaced by money are actually the work of human beings, not the tooth fairy. There is no tooth fairy, okay? At most, “tooth fairy” is just a role which ordinary people play from time to time. Damned cowardly “atheists” like Boghossian simply frame their position as an “absence of making a claim” so that they don’t have to defend a claim with actual reasoning. Grow a backbone, claimless cowards, or at least stop sullying the good name of atoothfairyism.

    More people would call the New Atheists out on this blatant nonsense if it weren’t for the fact that atoothfairyists, unlike the New Atheists, are singularly unoccupied with their status as atoothfairyists. That’s another point of difference, although not a logical or epistemological one. Atoothfairyists are, generally speaking, not ideologues about the existence of the tooth fairy. We don’t get worked up into a lather at parents telling their kids that the tooth fairy will come. We don’t even care if it turns out to be true that there is a tooth fairy. And, in general, we don’t care what people say about the tooth fairy and/or one’s belief or lack thereof in it. I’m only pointing all this out because I’m incensed by dishonest intellectual shenanigans, not because I’m genuinely upset by Boghossian et al co-opting my atoothfairyism for their own ends.

    This man teaches philosophy? I think I hear crying coming from the general direction of Aristotle’s grave.

  9. Michael says:

    Atoothfairyists are, generally speaking, not ideologues about the existence of the tooth fairy. We don’t get worked up into a lather at parents telling their kids that the tooth fairy will come. We don’t even care if it turns out to be true that there is a tooth fairy. And, in general, we don’t care what people say about the tooth fairy and/or one’s belief or lack thereof in it.

    Spoken like an accomodationist. Those of us who are New Atoothfairyists recognize toothfairyism as one of the world’s greatest evils. Parents who “play” tooth fairy are actually abusing their children. There is a webpage of ex-toothfairyists filled with testimonies from people who were terrified of the tooth fairy sneaking into their rooms at night when everyone else was a asleep. Toothfairyism must be stopped!

  10. Dhay says:

    Back in July 2011 Peter Boghossian wrote an article for Inside Higher Ed[ucation] entitled “Should We Challenge Student Beliefs?” A student had written on her “Science and Pseudoscience” exam paper that although she had faithfully regurgitated the course material to pass the exam, she was (in-yer-face, Boghossian) still Christian.

    Boghossian evidently made ‘would-you-believe it?’ comments to two of his colleagues, and was quite startled when the two strongly criticised not the student but Boghossian. For a short while it made him question whether he had the right attitude — but that lasted no time at all, he resumed with renewed vigour, as this revealing article, explaining “why professors must challenge assumptions with facts”, tells us.

    https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2011/07/192/boghossian

    It’s ironic that Boghossian is not good at challenging his own assumptions with facts: the two bizarre definitions of “faith” that Boghossian presents in his book, namely “belief without evidence” and “pretending to know things you don’t know”, have been challenged as unfactual time and again.

    But Boghossian appears quite resistant to fact, and I fully expect that the app and the Appistemologists will echo those unfactual definitions.

    Plato’s Forms and The Republic could well have featured in that course as a prime example of anti-scientific woo, complete with reasons why the Socratic Method which arrived at the idea of Forms was an inadequate method; and how and why just saying something is so — in this case, that the alleged glorious clear light of day is the supernatural world of Platonic Forms, and what we (and scientists and engineers) think of as reality is the alleged shadows in the cave — doesn’t make it so, be skeptical, be very skeptical; but I doubt Boghossian included any of that.

    Boghossian’s article tells me he will have started his atheist proselytising before his 2013 Atheism course, and has been pushing his atheism at his students since 2011, or probably before that. Quite likely the material in that book of his which forms much of the Atheism course material is a condensation of what he was already inflicting on his students in an earlier “Science and Pseudoscience” course which, notionally, had nothing to do with religion or atheism. Poor students.

    In view of the strong negative reaction from Boghossian’s two colleagues, which presumably was replicated when he told other staff, I wonder whether Boghossian, instead of choosing to run an Atheism course soon thereafter, wasn’t pressured into changing the name of his existing course – I note that the original “Science and Pseudoscience” course name is no longer on the Portland list of available courses – to something which would more accurately and honestly reflect what Boghossian had been quietly treating the course as, already.

  11. Ilíon says:

    me: “If God is, then humans may indeed be selves and agents; there may indeed be an “I”.
    But, if God is not, then there is no “I”.

    To continue: but it is absurd even to attempt to assert that there is no “I” — that is, that there are no selves, that selfhood is an illusion — for it is a self who is attempting to assert it.

    ERGO: We can know, without possibility of being in error, this — since the denial of the reality the human self inescapably follows from the denial of the reality of the divine self, and since the denial of the reality the human self is absurd, therefore, the denial of the reality of the divine self is absurd.

    dognillo: “Let’s suppose that our sense of self really is an illusion, and that nothing at all may be known about reality. What does that mean to you? Just asking.

    Doug: “It means that questions about what things mean to me are meaningless.

    Dognillo, as Doug has pointed out, once one supposes the absurdity that selves are illusions — and illusion that one’s own self is experiencing (can you not see the meta-absurdity therein?) — then one has asserted that there is no possibility of asking meaningful questions, or of getting meaningful answers, or of there being meaning, or knowledge, at all.

  12. Dhay says:

    Correction: the “Science and Pseudoscience” course (PHL 306) is still running, I missed it (despite CTRL-F pseudoscience) when I looked at a list of all courses instead of at the philosophy courses list.

    https://www.pdx.edu/philosophy/courses

    Looks interesting, including a martial arts instructor talking on “differentiating reality from myth in martial arts”.

    http://www.twitter.com/peterboghossian/status/730117226833973248/photo/1.

  13. dognillo says:

    Ilion, I wasn’t supposing that it’s possible that I don’t exist. Yes, something has to perceive what I am perceiving as reality. I was supposing that it’s possible that what I see, including what I take for my sense of self, may not be reality. I may not be what I think I am and, for all I know, everyone else may just be a figment of my imagination.

  14. Dhay says:

    Looks like Peter Boghossian is similarly infatuated with that idea of martial-arts-as-ultimate-reality-check as Sam Harris is. This is in Boghossian’s foreword to John Loftus’ recent book, How to Defend the Christian Faith:

    In order to discern truth from falsity, you need a resisting opponent. In the martial arts, for example, if you want to figure out which techniques work and which do not, you will need to try them on someone who does not want them to work—in other words, someone who wants to win the fight. Resisting opponents act as correcting mechanisms, that is, as a way to keep your ideas about reality in check. Getting to the truth requires checking your beliefs mercilessly against reality.

    How to Defend the Christian Faith is the ultimate resisting opponent for the Christian apologist. It is the titleholder in the Ultimate Apologist Championship. Take it down, and you will be the new belt holder. You will know that your ideas about reality actually correspond to reality and you will have arrived at truth.

    https://richarddawkins.net/2015/10/forward-to-how-to-defend-the-christian-faith-by-peter-boghossian/

    Well there’s pretence for you, and what looks like very muddled thinking: the Loftus book is allegedly “the ultimate resisting opponent for the Christian apologist”, but if I am any judge of atheist-speak, the book is actually meant to be a non-resisting alleged “ultimate” alleged “opponent” for atheists to play at “taking down”. I am minded of the half-dead mouse the cat brings home for the kittens to play with.

    Note the gaming overtones (Only YOU can save the universe); take down the titleholder in the Ultimate Apologist Championship (the book), and YOU will be the new belt holder. Aimed at Christians, this ain’t.

    *

    A little further on, Boghossian describes himself not as a professional philosopher but, “I am a professional atheist”.

    Well, that’s revealing.

  15. Peter says:

    @Dhay…

    It’s a good thing that Boghossian doesn’t describe himself as a professional philosopher, because he really isn’t one. His doctorate is in education. Wikipedia describes him as a “philosophy instructor,” which I think is most accurate.

  16. TFBW says:

    For even greater accuracy, I suggest “sophist”.

  17. Dhay says:

    Thanks, both. Sophist indeed.

    But Peter Boghossian is not an engineer, definitely not an engineer.

    In his Inside Higher Ed article Boghossian says:

    In every discipline there are certain signature pieces of information that need to be known in order for students to have a basic familiarity with the subject matter. … This is true in all disciplines. If one is teaching civil engineering, for example, it is not enough that students merely know how much pressure various metals can withstand …

    The context of this is his final paragraph, his punchline:

    Such a regime would leave many students in the dark, believing knowledge need not be based on facts. Bridges would collapse. Those inclined to escape their ignorance might not believe it important enough to do so.

    Gosh, if students do not at least “know how much pressure various metals can withstand” (and also apply that knowledge) then according to Boghossian their “bridges would collapse”; and if his female student does not at least hear and understand Boghossian’s course’s teaching (and also apply that teaching by enthusiastically embracing atheism), metaphorical bridges will collapse.

    What Boghossian supposes the metaphorical equivalents of alleged “Christian-designed collapsing bridges” to be is unspecified in the article. It sounds pretty horrible, some sort of disaster, probably life-threatening; but it seems to be just a slick bit of mere rhetoric, a vague threat as of “the bogey men will get you”, a non-conclusion of a non-argument.

    It gets worse: that “it is not enough that students merely know how much pressure various metals can withstand” is red rag to a bull to any engineer; or any physicist; or anyone with a school-leaving level of knowledge of applied maths; or even anyone with any common sense. I could give a basic primer on pressure, and how a metal can withstand enormous pressures — right up to the supernova threshold, I think — but this xkcd comic strip gets the message across very simply and clearly through its annotations saying “Moon-sized iron sphere” and “30 million psi” :

    http://xkcd.com/913/

    OK, iron can withstand at least 30 million psi, if xkcd has the figures even vaguely right. Er, this is relevant to bridge designing, bridge building, bridge strength and bridge stability — how?

    If Boghossian is complaining that students need to know their arses from their elbows, and which to actually sit on, he really ought to avoid demonstrating that he himself knows his arse from his elbows, rather than demonstrating that he doesn’t, that he’s bluffing and bullshitting.

    The course under discussion was entitled “Science and Pseudoscience”, and should teach how to recognise (and do) science and recognise (and avoid) pseudoscience. It is ironic that Boghossian should apparently have been teaching Pseudoengineering as part of that course, claiming it as Engineering; doubly ironic because Engineering is applied Science, so Boghossian effectively thinks pseudoscience is science.

  18. Dhay says:

    Peter > It’s a good thing that Boghossian doesn’t describe himself as a professional philosopher, because he really isn’t one. His doctorate is in education. Wikipedia describes him as a “philosophy instructor,” which I think is most accurate.

    I find this Randal Rauser comment in the Discussion Section of his blog, which enlarges on that:

    Also telling is Boghossian’s academic rank. He is an “instructor”. For those who are unfamiliar with North American academic rank, that is a non-tenure track teaching position. When you are hired for an instructor’s role, you are hired to be a teacher, not a scholar, so it is hardly surprising that his publication record reflects this.

    Of course there is nothing wrong with being a teacher. But it does explain why Boghossian writes with such inexcusable ignorance on philosophical issues.

    http://randalrauser.com/2014/02/peter-boghossians-manual-for-wasting-paper-part-2/

    Employed as an instructor, not as a scholar.

  19. Dhay says:

    The RDF website is a mess: the site I linked to earlier in this thread is headlined “Foreward to How to Defend the Christian Faith by Peter Boghossian”, the web address repeats the error with an amusing variation:

    https://richarddawkins.net/2015/10/forward-to-how-to-defend-the-christian-faith-by-peter-boghossian/

    And when you click on the link saying “Download the Foreward by Peter here”, that downloadable pdf turns out to be the foreword not to Loftus’ book but to James Lindsay’s Everybody Is Wrong About God.

    Illiterate and incompetent.

  20. Dhay says:

    It’s interesting that Peter Boghossian wrote the foreword to James Lindsay’s Everybody Is Wrong About God; Boghossian says:

    With Everybody Is Wrong About God, God—and with it atheism—is finally and unequivocally interred. … it articulates how and why we’ve fundamentally misconceptualized theism. Theism is not a philosophy. It is not a Weltanschauung. It is not a symptom of an underlying social pathology. Theism is mythology. … God is a psychologically satisfying idea believed in via mythology; Lindsay exposes the roots of the myth and thus argues for a psychological as opposed to philosophical or scientific understanding of the term “God.” Treating theism on its own terms is a mistake that gave the title to this book—it gets God wrong. Consequently, because theism does not merit consideration, atheism as a counterpoint is senseless. When atheism gets treated as its own kind of thing it becomes ridiculous. … atheism is not even a nostrum: atheism is harmful to the goals of leaving God behind and constructing a post-theistic world.

    https://richarddawkins.net/file/2015/10/Lindsay_foreword.pdf

    Very interesting: “[Both theism and] atheism is finally and unequivocally interred”; theism “is not a symptom of an underlying social pathology”, so presumably is not the mind-virus Boghossian had claimed; “atheism as a counterpoint [to theism] is senseless” and “becomes ridiculous”; “atheism is harmful to the goals of leaving God behind and constructing a post-theistic world.”

    If Boghossian is on board with these of Lindsay’s ideas which he presents in his Foreword — do read the whole — whatever is he doing running an Atheism course and planning a New Atheism course.

    *

    The Amazon webpage for the book says:

    A call to action to address people’s psychological and social motives for a belief in God, rather than debate the existence of God

    With every argument for theism long since discredited, the result is that atheism has become little more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs. Thus, engaging in interminable debate with religious believers about the existence of God has become exactly the wrong way for nonbelievers to try to deal with misguided—and often dangerous—belief in a higher power. The key, author James Lindsay argues, is to stop that particular conversation. He demonstrates that whenever people say they believe in “God,” they are really telling us that they have certain psychological and social needs that they do not know how to meet. Lindsay then provides more productive avenues of discussion and action. Once nonbelievers understand this simple point, and drop the very label of atheist, will they be able to change the way we all think about, talk about, and act upon the troublesome notion called “God.

    http://www.amazon.com/Everybody-Wrong-About-James-Lindsay/dp/1634310365

    Did you spot that, “With every argument for theism long since discredited …”; and also that, “… whenever people say they believe in “God,” they are really telling us that they have certain psychological and social needs that they do not know how to meet.”

    The page tells us: “Biography — James holds degrees in physics and mathematics, including a doctorate in the latter …”

    Degree in physics, doctorate in maths: good qualifications to be writing a book which casually dismisses “every argument for theism” and reduces religion to psychology and sociology, do you think; it’s surely a book for a psychologist or sociologist to write, not a mathematician; for me, something doesn’t add up.

  21. Dhay says:

    Peter > It’s a good thing that Boghossian doesn’t describe himself as a professional philosopher, because he really isn’t one. His doctorate is in education. Wikipedia describes him as a “philosophy instructor,” which I think is most accurate.

    In his blog post dated 23 August 2014, entitled “Take My Course on Boghossian’s Making Atheists!”, Richard Carrier announces that he would be teaching a short course on Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists, and includes:

    Boghossian has a Ph.D. in philosophy … I have a Ph.D. in the history of philosophy …

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/6441

    Carrier’s Ph.D is in knowing what some ancient philosophers thought — is in ancient history; it might be or might not be that Carrier actually possesses those thinking skills which qualify one to assume the mantle and title of “philosopher”, but a Ph.D in history isn’t proof of those philosophical abilities; Boghossian’s Doctorate of Education certainly isn’t. (What next, will a Ph.D in physics make one a philosopher?)

    *

    Looks like the Atheos app has been being “fine-tuned” (by students) for quite some time:

    Richard Carrier is moderating a special webinar about A Manual for Creating Atheists, with author Peter Boghossian visiting for the second half of this September course. … Your expert guide through this book’s topics for the whole month is Dr. Richard Carrier, and he will be joined by Peter for class discussions and student Q&A during the third and fourth weeks of September. BONUS just for September – Peter will bring to the class his in-development app that teaches users how to employ a step-by-step guide to reasoning people out of unreason. Perhaps you will make a contribution to the fine-tuning of Peter’s powerful new project!
    [Emphases original.]

    *

    In the comments, Carrier speaks disparagingly about Boghossian:

    Like Dawkins, he doesn’t realize twitter is a terrible medium for making nuanced arguments. And he too readily pronounces knowledge in subjects he has little studied and thought even less about. My thoughts are to see if this can be changed. If it can’t, I’ll have to roll my eyes and write him off. But if it can, progress.

    And at the very bottom Carrier announces there will be no more collaboration with Boghossian on courses — evidently he has rolled his eyes and written him off — and links to three consecutive blog posts where he has severely criticised Boghossian.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/7079

  22. Dhay says:

    Biologist Jerry Coyne pioneered the process (so far as I know), with the help of Maarten Boudry — or rather, Coyne helped Boudry, as the order of names indicates: get a philosopher to write a philosophy paper with help or “help” from yourself — Coyne, a philosopher? — and submit it to a peer-reviewed philosophical journal with your name as ‘second author’. Hey presto, you can now claim to have a peer-reviewed paper in philosophy to your credit, you can claim you are a “real” philosopher.

    Physicist and mathematician and Everybody Is Wrong About God author James Lindsay (see response two above) has now hopped aboard that bandwagon, with the help of the educator Peter Boghossian — or rather, Lindsay helped Boghossian, as the order of names indicates: Lindsay got Boghossian to write a paper, with Lindsay helping or “helping”, which Boghossian then submitted to a peer-reviewed philosophical journal with Lindsay’s name as ‘second author’. Hey presto, Lindsay can now claim to have a peer-reviewed paper in philosophy to his credit, he can claim he is a “real” philosopher.

    http://www.philosophersmag.com/index.php/tpm-mag-articles/11-essays/131-want-to-be-good-at-philosophy-study-maths-and-science

  23. Dhay says:

    James Lindsay and Peter Boghossian have now published a political article together, this time with Lindsay’s name first and Boghossian in the lesser-contributing place of ‘second author’. The article is in Quillette and entitled “The Article About Trump Nobody Will Publish”. to ram that last home, it starts:

    [Editor’s Note: This article was rejected by 45 different magazines, periodicals, and journals across the political spectrum: Far left, left, center, unaffiliated, right, far right, and libertarian.]

    The wonder is, that it found any publisher at all. It basically says: Trump … cancer … cancer … cancer … cancer … cancer … cancer … cancer … cancer … cancer; oh, and a couple of references to chemotherapy. Talk about harping on one string.

    Great intellectual content, guys. Keep up the good work.

    http://quillette.com/2016/06/05/the-article-about-trump-nobody-will-publish/

    *

    Just for interest, I looked at the article before it, “The Mathematics of Happiness”, by a Sam Harris fan, and that’s dreadful, too, if in a different way. Happiness, if it can be quantified, can be compared by dividing each life into eg twenty-year segments, a happiness value given to each, and the segment values added: hey presto, the happiness of that life is quantified as that figure. This enables a mathematical answer to the question of what maximises well-being (or happiness, at any rate).

    The problem, of course is that pesky “if”. Harris has merely suggested, but has provided nothing concrete to work with, that “science” has the answer to quantifying well-being.

    Great intellectual content, guys. Keep up the good work.

    http://quillette.com/2016/06/03/the-mathematics-of-happiness/

    *

    Oh, and Jerry Coyne reports that his favourite anti-theist rabid attack dog, Jeffrey Tayler, often writes there now.

    Looks like Quillette is the outlet of choice (or last resort) for crap argumentation.

  24. Dhay says:

    In his blog post dated 16 September 2016 and entitled “Boghossian, Linday and Torres extol New Atheism in Time Magazine”, Jerry Coyne says:

    It’s a sign of the times, and of Time Magazine itself, that three atheists—Peter Boghossian, James Lindsay, and Phil Torres—can publish piece at that venue arguing that atheism is a useful way out of the malfeasance of religious extremism.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/boghossian-linday-and-torres-extol-new-atheism-in-time-magazine/

    And he provides two quotes, one he likes and one he doesn’t like. The quote Coyne doesn’t like, and his comment on it, are:

    New Atheism may have inched into the Islamic world, but it has not found deep roots. And its current approach isn’t well-suited to further penetrate Muslim societies. The condescending speech of New Atheists—calling religious people delusional, for example—is not an effective cross-cultural strategy for generating change.

    Seriously, how many New Atheists call the faithful “delusional”? I don’t often hear that. Boo!

    Wowee, is Coyne losing it, now he’s retired? Let’s see, shall we:
    Richard Dawkins — his book, The God Delusion, and in the quote from A Devil’s Chaplain starting the Afterword to The End of Faith;
    Peter Boghossian — his book, A Manual for Creating Atheists
    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/so-are-christians-supposed-to-be-mentally-ill-or-not/;
    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/the-bible-of-psychiatric-diagnosis-exempts-religion-from-delusions-even-though-it-is-one/;
    Sam Harris — “al-Qaeda is filled … with God-intoxicated sociopaths”, also the closing words of the Afterword to The End of Faith
    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/pz-myers-roasts-sam-harris/#comment-8340;
    John Loftus — his book, The Christian Delusion;
    Richard Carrier — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28PjVaW4kKI.

    I’ve missed somebody, I know I have. Ah, yes:
    Jerry Coyne — his blog post, The bible of psychiatric diagnosis exempts religion from “delusions”, even though it is one

    Looks like Coyne is seriously deaf: a large part of the New Atheist pantheon has called the faithful “delusional”; he himself has done so; has he not even heard himself.

  25. Pennywit says:

    If neither monotheistic not polytheistic gods exist, then each of my days is a quest to find my own meaning and seek my own joy.

  26. FZM says:

    If neither monotheistic not polytheistic gods exist, then each of my days is a quest to find my own meaning and seek my own joy.

    If some kinds of monotheistic and polytheistic don’t exist the amount of joy available to be enjoyed seems to be seriously diminished.

    In the quest for meaning and joy without any form of God or gods, is meaning something that people should go looking for and try to discover, or is it something they create or make up for themselves from nothing (so it’s largely imaginary?)?

    How much value is there in a specifically *personal* quest for meaning or joy, as opposed to, say, finding meaning and joy in things that other people already identify as having meaning and joy and which you can enjoy with them?

  27. pennywit says:

    In the quest for meaning and joy without any form of God or gods, is meaning something that people should go looking for and try to discover, or is it something they create or make up for themselves from nothing (so it’s largely imaginary?)?

    Yes.

    How much value is there in a specifically *personal* quest for meaning or joy, as opposed to, say, finding meaning and joy in things that other people already identify as having meaning and joy and which you can enjoy with them?

    That’s a subjective thing, FZM.

  28. Dhay says:

    The just-out Time article by Peter Boghossian, James Lindsay (again) and Phil Torres (Whoever he is) entitled “How to Fight Extremism with Atheism” looks interesting. What particularly interested me was this portion:

    … New Atheism may have inched into the Islamic world, but it has not found deep roots. And its current approach isn’t well-suited to further penetrate Muslim societies. The condescending speech of New Atheists—calling religious people delusional, for example—is not an effective cross-cultural strategy for generating change. …

    http://time.com/4484681/new-atheism-jihad-apocalypse/

    Let’s see, that says: Don’t call religious people delusional. Hmm.

    Peter Boghossian’s book claiming that religious people are delusional was published a little over two and a half years ago, Boghossian’s Atheos App with its Cave Level 10. “Freed from delusion” has only just been released; that is, in the years and days leading up to this article, Boghossian has been both openly and by insinuation calling religious people delusional.

    So the purpose of the article is … what? Spin, PR, misinformation? The purpose of the main part seems to be to claim that promoting atheism is effective (sort of, without “deep roots”) as a counter to Islamic extremism. The purpose of the portion I have quoted looks like a sop to reassure Christians, don’t worry about attacks from New Atheists like themselves; or a cosmetic exercise to make Boghossian and the articles two other authors look better — New Atheists (in general) use condescending speech, but <we three New Atheists are different, we are like you.

    Isn’t that double-faced and hypocritical.

    It goes on:

    The way ahead requires being able to speak honestly about religion, and New Atheism has been the most effective cultural effort to broker this conversation.

    (Note it’s “New Atheism”, complete with initial capitals, not “atheism”. Presumably run-of-the-mill ordinary moderate atheists or Humanists aren’t up to the job.)

    And thar she blows. New Atheists like Boghossian, Lindsay and Torres, and New Atheists in general, “speak honestly about religion” — including “when calling religious people delusional, for example”, remember, so Boghossian et al are calling religious people delusional; and this is meant, surely to insinuate the flip side, calling religious people those who don’t, or won’t speak honestly about religion, or aren’t able to .

    Or put another way, Boghossian et al are claiming religious people are dishonest and/or … deluded.

    Isn’t that double-faced and hypocritical.

    It’s slyly worded propaganda.

  29. pennywit says:

    On some level, atheists consider theists delusional; and theists feel the same way about atheists. But “delusional” is such a loaded term, isn’t it? I think that avoiding the d-word is less deception and more an exercise in manners.

  30. TFBW says:

    No, pennywit: theists and atheists consider each other to be wrong. “Delusional” is not the same as “wrong”: it implies that the target is not only wrong, but incapable of rational thought on the matter. It is not only offensive, but poisons the well. Both of those traits are entirely compatible with New Atheism, however, particularly as promoted by Dawkins. He’s exhorted people to “stop being so polite” on more than one occasion, and wrote The God Delusion.

    On the subject of the Time article itself, I started reading it with some view towards critiquing it, but the first page is loaded with so much self-congratulation that I doubt I can stomach it. Boy, do those guys think the sun shines out of them, or what? There’s a possible case for delusion right there — delusions of grandeur, that is. More likely, though, they’re just using Time to project an image of success and credibility (i.e. it’s marketing puffery). It’s fairly nauseating either way.

  31. Billy Squibs says:

    Hand on heart, I’ve never thought of atheists as delusional because they don’t believe in God. I can respect atheism in principal because it poses serious challenges to theism, and I can respect atheists like Micheal Ruse because they return the favour. Like TFBW, I consider the word ‘delusion’ when used in the context of the God debate to be nothing more than an insult.

  32. Dhay says:

    Peter Boghossian > Logically and epistemologically, atheism is no different than atoothfairyism.

    As Michael summarily pointed out in the main post, that’s false; but it’s not just false, it’s a myth. And the Boghossian/Lindsay/Torres Time article is another salvo in the New Atheist War of Myths.

    New Atheists fight their propaganda war for hearts and minds with various myths: although obviously false, or obviously false after a little examination, such as Michael has here provided, the New Atheists ignore the refutations, however many times provided, and in whatever variety — and instead keep push, push, pushing the myths.

    The main New Atheist weapons in their anti-theist warring is not Science (Boghossian and his App substitutes Platonic Truth — the Forms — for Science) and Reason, it is myths.

  33. FZM says:

    On the subject of the Time article itself, I started reading it with some view towards critiquing it, but the first page is loaded with so much self-congratulation that I doubt I can stomach it. Boy, do those guys think the sun shines out of them, or what? There’s a possible case for delusion right there — delusions of grandeur, that is. More likely, though, they’re just using Time to project an image of success and credibility (i.e. it’s marketing puffery). It’s fairly nauseating either way.

    I agree that reading one page of the article feels like enough. Unfortunately I also clicked on one of the links on the first page and read several paragraphs of a strange article by a Moroccan ‘activist’ about the intellectual greatness of Richard Dawkins.

    It’s interesting that the article seems to draw on a narrative in which the ‘New Atheism’ represents something genuinely new, other than just a contemporary restatement of the kind of criticism and attacks on theistic belief that people, often on the political left, have been engaging in for 150+ years.

  34. FZM says:

    Jerry Coyne — his blog post, The bible of psychiatric diagnosis exempts religion from “delusions”, even though it is one

    The idea that religious belief was delusion and a psychiatric illness was taken very seriously in the Soviet Union. It seems like quite a few educated Orthodox believers were incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals for long periods and subjected to painful treatments to cure their ‘illness’.

    Things like this may still go on in Communist countries; it continued in the Soviet Union until 1992. The history of ‘ideological psychiatry’ and using psychiatry to pathologize your ideological opponents is probably quite interesting.

    “Delusional” is not the same as “wrong”: it implies that the target is not only wrong, but incapable of rational thought on the matter. It is not only offensive, but poisons the well. Both of those traits are entirely compatible with New Atheism, however, particularly as promoted by Dawkins.

    Dawkins also used the idea of religion as a ‘virus of the mind’ in a similar way I think. When I think about it though it is surprising that Dawkins retained the kind of credibility he enjoyed in the mainstream media when these were the kind of scientific arguments he was relying on.

  35. pennywit says:

    Potay-to, potah-to.

  36. Michael says:

    I’ve missed somebody, I know I have. Ah, yes:
    Jerry Coyne — his blog post, The bible of psychiatric diagnosis exempts religion from “delusions”, even though it is one

    Looks like Coyne is seriously deaf: a large part of the New Atheist pantheon has called the faithful “delusional”; he himself has done so; has he not even heard himself.

    This is good. And its not just Coyne, the authors of that article have some explaining to do.

  37. FZM says:

    Dhay,

    New Atheists fight their propaganda war for hearts and minds with various myths: although obviously false, or obviously false after a little examination, such as Michael has here provided, the New Atheists ignore the refutations, however many times provided, and in whatever variety — and instead keep push, push, pushing the myths.

    This sounds a bit like the kind of techniques used in psychological warfare; control and dominate the narrative with some big, sensational claims repeated systematically?

    Billy,

    Like TFBW, I consider the word ‘delusion’ when used in the context of the God debate to be nothing more than an insult.

    Perhaps the ‘delusion’ claims are not dissimilar to a religious believer asserting that atheism just arises because of the influence of demons or other malevolent spirits on vulnerable people’s minds.

  38. TFBW says:

    @Billy Squibs:

    Like TFBW, I consider the word ‘delusion’ when used in the context of the God debate to be nothing more than an insult.

    It’s slightly more than an insult. It’s an insult which attempts to deflect any duty to engage the other’s arguments.

  39. Dhay says:

    Looking again at the Boghossian/Lindsay/Torres Time article:

    The Arabic translation of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, for example, has been downloaded ten million times, and pictures of people holding it while overlooking Mecca are remarkably commonplace given the draconian penalties for doing so—ranging from ten years imprisonment to death.

    http://time.com/4484681/new-atheism-jihad-apocalypse/

    The emboldening is mine, and indicates where there was, but isn’t now, a working link to a Twitter tweet; a link which presumably linked when the article was published, but which now comes up with Twitter’s “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!” message.

    OK, think about it: given “the draconian penalties for doing so” — a link which continues to work — what sort of callous, er, three authors would stoop to publicise someone tweeting that picture of themself at Mecca, holding The God Delusion — knowing full well the the draconian penalties that would descend upon the tweeter once the tweet came to the attention of the authorities.

    Why’s this atheist tweeter in Mecca? Probably he lives there (or his family does), or he works there, or he’s visiting on the Hajj pilgrimage and is pretending to be a devout Muslim. As long as he’s a nonentity of interest only to the few like-minded mates who follow his tweets, he thinks himself safe from those draconian penalties and from the hell that will descend about his head when the neighbours and family and the authorities find out.

    And then … and then Boghossian, Lindsay and Torres shine the public spotlight on him.

    Words fail me.

    One way or another, I think New Atheism has one less supporter; add in those he was originally tweeting to.

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