Is New Atheism Incompatible with Transgenderism?

A popular claim among the New Atheists is that religion is incompatible with science.  Of course, I have debunked that claim several times now, so why not proceed to more interesting issues?  That is, consider the possibility that the New Atheist approach to epistemology is incompatible with transgenderism.

In my previous posting, I laid out the core elements of the New Atheist approach:

Atheists tell us our beliefs are supposed to be rooted in evidence. As Richard Dawkins once wrote, “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence”  Dawkins also tells us, “Yet scientists are required to back up their claims not with private feelings but with publicly checkable evidence” and “evidence is the only good reason to believe anything.”  He sums up this approach as follows: “Sceptical rational inquiry is always the best approach. […] we can think independently, be truly open-minded. That means asking questions, being open to real corroborated evidence.”  Fellow atheist activist Lawrence Krauss concurs, adding that  “in fact we should be encouraging our children to question everything. It’s part of education.”

I then did exactly as I said I would do (nothing more, nothing less) – follow the lead of Dawkins and Krauss.

Dawkins and Krauss tell us to question everything.

So I did.

They tell us our beliefs must be grounded in publicly checkable evidence.

So I checked.

Needless to say, this did not go over well with some people in the comments section of that blog entry.

It was implied that I should steer clear of the question.  The only evidence that Muscato is a women turned out to be nothing more than Muscato’s private feelings, along with the private feelings of other transgenders. As commenter Paul insisted, “The evidence of gender is exactly what a person says is his or her gender.”  The request for evidence was attacked as silly, malicious, mean-spirited, harassment, cruel, shameful, ignorant, and inhumane.

It would thus seem we have a strong case for incompatibility here.  Unlike the mushy “science is incompatible with religion” posture, here we have two contradictory approaches. The New Atheist approach insists we “question everything,” while the transgender approach insists certain questions should not be asked.  The transgender approach contradicts the New Atheist approach by insisting that private feelings and personal testimony are indeed legitimate forms of evidence, entirely sufficient to elicit strong belief.  The transgender approach completely ignores the New Atheist demand for “publicly checkable” and ” real corroborated” evidence and expects all to be satisfied with personal testimony and anecdotes.

The transgender approach appears to be at the opposite end of the spectrum, coming off as some post-modern expression of fideism (in contrast to the scientism that characterizes New Atheism).

It’s actually quite fascinating.

The New Atheists will attack me as being delusional and self-deceived for not conforming to the hardcore scientism, yet Paul, representing transgenderism,  attacked me as being inhumane for not conforming to the extreme fideism.

Why is it that people like Dawkins, Krauss, Harris, and Coyne are not addressing this example of incompatibility?  Or are we all supposed to pretend it does not exist?

Advertisements
This entry was posted in New Atheism, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

71 Responses to Is New Atheism Incompatible with Transgenderism?

  1. SteveK says:

    If transgender surgery actually changes your gender from male to female, can face lift surgery actually change your age from 60 to 40? Hopefully someone will respond and explain.

  2. RegualLlegna says:

    If you need a surgery to change gender then is not about feelings, if is about feelings you don’t need a surgery. And you still can’t, physically, have children as a male-to-“women” (important).

    Is not fideism, becuase the belief is not about others (god, gods, people, etc.), but about yourself, then is more close to auto-theism the belief that the self is god in this case, with Muscato, the self is “women”.

    Most people (specially self described atheist) think that auto-theism, maltheism, anti-theism and maybe pandeism are synonymous of atheism (big mistake). True good fideism and true good anti-theism require much more wisdom than one self view.

  3. TFBW says:

    RegualLlenga Said:

    Is not fideism, becuase the belief is not about others (god, gods, people, etc.), but about yourself …

    The example in question consists of the demand that you accept, without question, someone else’s claims regarding their gender, not your own. To question or doubt such a claim is to be cruel and inhumane, you see. It’s fideism in the sense that it demands we accept revealed truth from an authority.

  4. RegualLlegna says:

    TFBW says: “It’s fideism in the sense that it demands we accept revealed truth from an authority.”

    Except that whe know Muscato the surce of conviction, so no fundamental authority, why trust Muscato authority if we know is about his feeeling

    Muscato don’t rule the knowledge about gender, so no a god, Muscato is not the concept of gender himself, so not deity, Muscato self knowledge don’t unrule/ is not more important that others humans knowledge, so no divinity, Muscato don’t create/invent/produce the knowledge and labels about gender, so no creator. So faith in he yes, but not in fideism sense, like i say true fideism requires wisdom, if not ou are defining faith as “blind faith”, don’t have value, like gnus often do and anti-theism requires wisdom to oppose every form of theism which includes atheism, the apathetic one, otherwise it will be a synonym of anti-religion like gnus often.

    I am personally deists, but if i have to deal with others people belief about a god/gods i do it as omnist, i know how to differentiate a atheist claim from a auto-theism claim and a anti-theist claim from one anti-religion (often anti-“insert specific religion here”).

    Note: I learn that the true essence of a fideist is how much he/she trust the belief that he/she have about a god/gods, those people need a very good reason to ask/pray a god/gods free stuff and almost every time don’t ask for personal gain because god is essencially a ruler of the reality not a human authority about what is real and what is not. Fideist are rare to find next to full panentheists.

  5. RegualLlegna says:

    DarkMatter 2525, a self described atheists, in this animated video (made by him) he clearly confuse wisdom with intelligence (the character who represents him even says so). I am not a christian but:

    Psalm 14:1 – “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.””

    This is not about intelligence is about wisdom. Is about what is right not how to be smart. And:

    Exodus 20:7 – “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.”

    Is the only commandament that i keep for myself with personal oath, all because my own sense of honor, because for me this commandament is all about honor “You shall not take the name/words/oath of others in vain.” and that’s why i object the validity of the marriage/oaths if include divorce/disruption as a posible outcome.

  6. jbsptfn says:

    New atheists attacking you for not being a scientismist? The heck you say (lol).

    Speaking of scientism, here is more drivel from a professional one:

    http://theskepticzone.blogspot.com/2016/12/reppert-and-principle-of-charity.html

  7. Paul A says:

    Joe Atheist says he likes pizza. Oh but how do we know he likes pizza? Where is the evidence that Joe likes pizza? Because Joe Atheist is an atheist, he needs to show us the evidence that he likes pizza, otherwise he’s a hypocrite. Joe can’t just say he likes pizza and expect us to believe it on faith! Joe wants us to have faith! For crying out loud!

    That is how preposterous your argument is. Reasonable people, both religious and nonreligious people (but apparently not you), understand the difference between stating a personal preference and making a scientific claim.

  8. TFBW says:

    Oh, so “gender” is just an expression of personal preference? Exactly like one’s tastes in food?

  9. Paul A says:

    TFBW: Of course transgenderism is like a personal preference. What else would it be? Did you listen to the interview? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2_wHpsEZ6g) Incidentally there is some evidence for transgender brains being different, but that is beside the point. We don’t wait for the brain scans before respecting what people say about themselves.

  10. SteveK says:

    Paul
    Reasonable people don’t prefer to think a pizza is a lasagna. But, hey, if someone has a disordered brain like that I won’t get in their way. I’m kind to the disabled so I can play along for a period of time. At some point I’m going to stop playing though.

  11. RegualLegna says:

    Paul A says: “Incidentally there is some evidence for transgender brains being different, but that is beside the point. We don’t wait for the brain scans before respecting what people say about themselves.”

    So no definitive evicence, and we can’t wait? so accept a physical fact on faith?, specificaly blind faith or a favor to a man that claim that he doesn’t have any faith at all? hypocrite.

    Most of the times gnus atheists accuse christians and all theists in general of having the exact same beliefs that the terrorists or christians and theists enabling terrorism, other times like, you now, they accuse christians of not be Christ-like to much.

    So you want to christians to use faith for transgenderism but gnus atheist accuse christians and all theist of being bad or evil people in general for having faith in a god.

    AND: “Incidentally there is some evidence for transgender brains being different, but that is beside the point.”

    Beside the point… beside the point… BESIDE THE POINT!!!! SO NOW THE EVIDENCE DOESN’T MATTER TO YOU.

    1) This is dishonest, a classic case of double standar or a big lie.
    2) Some evidence cannot be evidence for the gnus, try again.
    3) There are studies that show that there is not difference between male and female brain too, this debunk the trans brain are different.
    4) Equality rights people, most of they time, only talk about the differences that people have.
    5) THis is a simply case of logic: Gnus say they don’t have belief only facts, there is not facts about gender preference outside the personal feeelings of trans people so not verificalbles, out rulling scientist studies as surce, facts.
    6) Why you want that we (people on a blog online) have faith in Muscato gender preference?

    Muscato can choice to label himself as female/women/girl/others, but there is not reasons, much less good reasons, or obligations toward me to see him as another thing that male/man/somebody that i don’t know.

  12. Paul A says:

    Steve: As I did with others, I would just appeal to your sense of humanity. I know it’s in there, somewhere. Listen to the interview (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2_wHpsEZ6g). Listen to the person you are calling disordered and disabled. Imagine the person sitting in front of you, a human being with feelings not unlike yourself. Attempt to bring forth the common sense of compassion and empathy that human beings share. Take the person seriously, just as you wish to be taken them seriously. Try it. Seriously.

    If all that fails then I have to ask, what do you mean you’ll “stop playing”? You’ll tolerate transgender people for a time, but eventually you’ll express your contempt and disrespect to them? You’ll tell them that they’re disordered and disabled? Perhaps you would take it further into a good ol’ fashioned queer beating? Whatever you could mean by “stop playing”, it doesn’t sound like anything good can come of it.

  13. SteveK says:

    Paul,
    My level of compassion and empathy have nothing to do with a pizza being a pizza and not a lasagna.

    What I mean by stop playing along is that at some point, when it’s appropriate, I will speak the truth.

  14. Paul A says:

    Steve: So how does that translate to the girl in the interview? You did listen to it, right? If you happened to meet her, would you confront her with “the truth” that she is disordered and disabled? Would you openly show your disdain and disrespect for her by not accepting what she says about herself? Are you going to treat her kindly, the way you would wish to be treated, or are you going dehumanize her, using her as the target of your righteous wrath?

    RegualLegna: You haven’t thought any of that through. The idea of a brain scan leading to a definitive diagnosis of gender dysphoria is science fiction. It’s possible, but it probably won’t work out that way. In any case the research is in the preliminary stages. If our understanding does advance that far–if we can do a brain scan and a machine goes “BING!” for gender dysphoria–then it will only be through of studying people who report having gender dysphoria. That is, the research itself depends upon the subjective testimony of individuals.

  15. TFBW says:

    Paul A said:

    As I did with others, I would just appeal to your sense of humanity.

    Can you please explain how this is such a deeply vital issue that you must appeal to our sense of humanity if it’s also just a matter of personal preference and taste? I mean, if someone’s favourite food is pizza, then it’s not inhumane to express the opinion to them that pizza is junk food, or to say, “no, you can’t have pizza for dinner.” And yet if we dared to do anything like that with someone’s tastes in gender, you’d go off the deep end about how inhumane we are.

    Clearly your analogy is false in its most important respects, if not completely false.

  16. Michael says:

    Can you please explain how this is such a deeply vital issue that you must appeal to our sense of humanity if it’s also just a matter of personal preference and taste? I mean, if someone’s favourite food is pizza, then it’s not inhumane to express the opinion to them that pizza is junk food, or to say, “no, you can’t have pizza for dinner.” And yet if we dared to do anything like that with someone’s tastes in gender, you’d go off the deep end about how inhumane we are.

    Clearly your analogy is false in its most important respects, if not completely false.

    Good point. Imagine you are in a restaurant and your dinner date orders a sheep head.

  17. Michael says:

    Paul: That is how preposterous your argument is.

    Nonsense. It’s starting to become clear you don’t even bother to read my arguments. I told you, your problem is with the epstemology of the New Atheists. Krauss tells us to “question everything.” Dawkins claims “evidence is the only good reason to believe anything.” Your only evidence is the private feelings of others, yet as Dawkins says, claims need to be backed up with publicly checkable evidence, not private feelings.

  18. SteveK says:

    Paul
    You’re not getting it so I’ll stop trying

  19. RegualLegna says:

    Paul

    This entire topic is not about transgenderism, is about “if new atheism (belief/logic/self description) incompatible with transgenderism?”, and the answer is simply: NOPE. This guy is using a selective-restrictive logic methodoly for one thing and other for other thing, so he is saying lies about one of the two topics or he have a serious cognitive dissonance problem.

    You say: “… he research itself depends upon the subjective testimony of individuals.”
    If i was a moral relativist i will ask what i win with any of this or why should i care?

    You say (to Stive): “If you happened to meet her, would you confront her with “the truth” that she is disordered and disabled?”
    First: “Her” (haha! i think that you are one that want to be pleased with everyone).
    Second: Most gnus atheists believe that all the theists (mayority of the population of the world) are mentally ill (“delusional”), you could check that mocking is the first method (almost the only used) of “solution” of mental problem to these people, so i believe that ABLEISM is a horrible gnu atheists problem, and:

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2012/09/11/atheists-continue-to-push-for-911-cross-ban-claiming-it-has-caused-them-physical-and-emotional-pain/

    You want that i, a “non-christian” deists/omnists in general sense, someone that put HONOR as one of the sacred features of people that are really good forgive this, when i know that the only thing that these people don’t want to feel is guilt, in fact i believe that these people are moral relativist that are continually trying to sell the: “you should never have to feel guilt” as a talking point againts theist in general, based in the usual christian belief that every body born with sin and nobody is perfect.

    1.- You really want to intercede between this guy and me, and appeal to my humanity, in this case empathy, to completely forgive the faults that this guy and his group (The American Atheist) have?
    2.- You will be responsible for their problems?
    3.- Do you will put you honor and trust in the line for them?
    4.- You will trust life in their humanity?

  20. Paul A says:

    Michael: Let’s get this straight: you’re saying that atheists must necessarily reject any diagnosis of gender dysphoria because diagnosing gender dysphoria requires the subjective testimony of an individual.

    Why pick gender dysphoria in particular? Virtually every diagnosis in psychiatry is based in part upon the subjective testimony of the person being diagnosed. According to your argument, atheists must reject the entire field of psychiatry.

    And why stop at psychiatry? According to your argument, atheists must reject the entire scientific literature covering the efficacy of pain medications, for example. That research is done using double-blind studies in which subjects are asked to rate their own level of pain. But those are personal testimonies based upon subjective feeling! Atheists can’t allow that!!! Checkmate, atheists!

    Ask yourself: have you alone made this great discovery about the incompatibility of atheism and gender dysphoria–indeed its incompatibility with psychiatry and a whole mass of scientific literature? Or you have you just misunderstood something? Which is more likely?

    Now let’s look at your Dawkins quote, “Yet scientists are required to back up their claims not with private feelings but with publicly checkable evidence.” Do you see the word “scientists” in there? I do! The quote is about scientists making scientific claims. Do you think that applies to the girl in the interview expressing what it’s like to have gender dysphoria? Wait. Don’t go any further until answering that question. Here’s some help: Is she a scientist making a scientific claim?

    I went a bit further and looked up the source of the quote. It’s from a Sunday Times article 20 years ago about paranormal phenomena. Context:

    …Scientists certainly do not have an adequate explanation for everything. But “paranormal” claims must be treated with the same rigorous scepticism as scientific hypotheses are. On a recent episode of BBC 1’s Out of this World, presented by Carol Vorderman (shamelessly abusing her Tomorrow’s World “scientific” credentials), “Mystic Carol” spent a night alone with a camcorder in a haunted hotel. Unfortunately she did not see a ghost, but she did feel pretty spooky in one room that was abnormally cold. Oooh!

    Yet scientists are required to back up their claims not with private feelings but with publicly checkable evidence. Their experiments must have rigorous controls to eliminate spurious effects. And statistical analysis eliminates the suspicion (or at least measures the likelihood) that the apparent effect might have happened by chance alone.

    Your argument makes use of what is surely one of the most egregious quote-mines I’ve seen.

  21. SteveK says:

    The way I see it, a person with gender dysphoria is not unlike a person with cosmological dysphoria who identifies with the universe being a few thousand years old.

  22. FZM says:

    Paul A,

    Let’s get this straight: you’re saying that atheists must necessarily reject any diagnosis of gender dysphoria because diagnosing gender dysphoria requires the subjective testimony of an individual.

    Michael is usually writing about ‘New Atheists’, people like Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens et al. many of whom espouse various forms of scientism; the idea that science is the only source of reliable/true knowledge. Mostly they also are strong adherents of forms of evidentialism; unless there is some ‘evidence’ to confirm or support a claim, belief in it is unwarranted, if not dangerous. Then, sometimes you also find ideas about the centrality of empirical evidence, along the lines of; proposition X must be an empirically falsifiable hypothesis of some kind because if it isn’t it must be meaningless.

    I don’t think you need to quote mine to get an idea that the writers I mentioned above believe in and advocate things like this. On the other hand, the points of view these guys advocate aren’t necessarily shared by all atheists, nor necessarily typical of atheists in general, hence the ‘New Atheist’ tag.

    I’m not sure what exactly they might think of gender dysphoria, psychiatric diagnosis or the testing of medication. Usually they make use of terms like ‘science’ or ‘scientific’ without going into the specifics of where the demarcation between what is scientific and what is non-scientific lies. I guess they could be flexible about the need for empirical evidence/testability/predictability in support of a claim for it to count as scientific. In the case of generic claims about the need for ‘evidence’ and justification for beliefs, but that don’t claim that scientific evidence is essential, there would be even greater scope for flexibility.

  23. TFBW says:

    Paul A said:

    Your argument makes use of what is surely one of the most egregious quote-mines I’ve seen.

    Then read “Good and Bad Reasons for Believing”, also by Dawkins. See if it leaves any room for transgenderism, or psychiatry in general, or even history as a field of knowledge, let alone knowledge of moral truths. Note that it’s not aimed at scientists in particular, but makes general claims about proper bases for belief. You be the judge as to whether this outcome is bad for transgenderism, or bad for Dawkins’ rather popular New Atheist epistemological prescriptions.

    Are you not planning to address my challenge to your “taste in gender is like taste in food” analogy? I’m not surprised — it was an astoundingly weak argumentative move. Maybe you’d like to try something else.

  24. RegualLlegna says:

    TFBW says: “Are you not planning to address my challenge to your “taste in gender is like taste in food” analogy? I’m not surprised — it was an astoundingly weak argumentative move. Maybe you’d like to try something else.”

    Like, in this case, if the gender is the clothes that one uses?

  25. In keeping with the general theme of the OP, we should also remember that the New Atheists also routinely tell us that ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’, and since claiming to be a woman when you have the physical appearance of a man is an extraordinary claim, we can ask: Is subjective testimony sufficient extraordinary evidence to justify belief in such an extraordinary claim? And if it is, then would the New Atheists grant that subjective testimony of an experience of God would be sufficient to justify belief in that claim? I doubt that they would in the latter case, and yet I am sure that they would in the former. But why the difference? Both are subjective experiences felt only by the person testifying to them and not subject to external check. So perhaps this is another New Atheist double-standard on display.

    Regards.

  26. Michael says:

    Paul: Let’s get this straight: you’re saying that atheists must necessarily reject any diagnosis of gender dysphoria because diagnosing gender dysphoria requires the subjective testimony of an individual.

    What I am noting is that the scientism that Dawkins et al. promote would require us to reject the notion that Muscato is a woman given that the only evidence for such a claim is Muscato’s private feelings.

    Why pick gender dysphoria in particular? Virtually every diagnosis in psychiatry is based in part upon the subjective testimony of the person being diagnosed. According to your argument, atheists must reject the entire field of psychiatry.

    Does this help your position to liken Muscato’s state to a psychiatric diagnosis? What if a psychiatrist had a patient who believed he was Alexander the Great or simply a dog?

    And why stop at psychiatry? According to your argument, atheists must reject the entire scientific literature covering the efficacy of pain medications, for example. That research is done using double-blind studies in which subjects are asked to rate their own level of pain. But those are personal testimonies based upon subjective feeling! Atheists can’t allow that!!! Checkmate, atheists!

    It’s not my argument – it’s the demands of New Atheist scientism. I would agree that the experience with pain poses another challenge to such scientism.

    Ask yourself: have you alone made this great discovery about the incompatibility of atheism and gender dysphoria–indeed its incompatibility with psychiatry and a whole mass of scientific literature? Or you have you just misunderstood something? Which is more likely?

    It’s not the incompatibility of atheism and gender dysphoria. It’s the incompatibility of New Atheist epistemology and gender dysphoria.

    Now let’s look at your Dawkins quote, “Yet scientists are required to back up their claims not with private feelings but with publicly checkable evidence.” Do you see the word “scientists” in there? I do! The quote is about scientists making scientific claims. Do you think that applies to the girl in the interview expressing what it’s like to have gender dysphoria? Wait. Don’t go any further until answering that question. Here’s some help: Is she a scientist making a scientific claim?

    Dawkins and the New Atheists do not make this demarcation. They expect all people, not just scientists, to back up their claims not with private feelings but with publicly checkable evidence. That’s the very basis for their attack on theism. Recall that Muscato claims religious people are self-deceived and delusional when it comes to their false belief in God. Those attacks are built on the “there is no evidence for God” posture, which is itself derived from expecting God’s existence to come with publicly checkable, scientific evidence.

    Your argument makes use of what is surely one of the most egregious quote-mines I’ve seen.

    Oh, please. I picked the quote up from Wikiquotes. The only way to demonstrate this is a most egregious quote-mine is to show that Dawkins only meant this standard be applied to paranormal claims. The claim clearly stands on its own and is meant to be generalized. Which is why it is easy to find many other examples making the same basic point.

    Here’s some more:

    The patient typically finds himself impelled by some deep, inner conviction that something is true, or right, or virtuous: a conviction that doesn’t seem to owe anything to evidence or reason, but which, nevertheless, he feels as totally compelling and convincing. We doctors refer to such a belief as “faith”.

    This would mean that gender dysphoria is an example of faith.

    Here’s another:

    And, next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: ‘What kind of evidence is there for that?’ And if they can’t give you a good answer, I hope you’ll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.

    According to you, Dawkins is being inhumane.

    Here’s another:

    Science replaces private prejudice with publicly verifiable evidence.

    Notice again the distinction between private and public. As I informed Clay, Dawkins and the New Atheists clearly insist that subjective evidence is not sufficient merit for belief. We need objective evidence.

    Look, the fact that you have not included Muscato’s attack on religious identities when judging others for being inhuman and your unwillingness to easily sidestep this whole problem by acknowledging the New Atheist epistemic demands are extreme and irrational strongly suggests you yourself are a New Atheist wrestling with the fact that your Gnu views are incompatible with your views about transgenders.

    Anyway, I have to second TFBW’s request. He asked you, ” Are you not planning to address my challenge to your “taste in gender is like taste in food” analogy?”

  27. Dhay says:

    Peter Boghossian has recently been interviewed by Malhar Mali for Areo Magazine, and the interview is jam-packed with interest. What I single out as of interest for this particular thread is New Atheist Boghossian’s misogynistic approach towards the LGBT community — which surely includes Trans people like his fellow New Atheist, Danielle Muscato.

    A+ atheist Richard Carrier has described Boghossian as a misogynist, and won’t now collaborate with him; so it’s no surprise that some “ersatz intellectuals” [professors, surely] who study LGBT and Feminist issues (including misogyny) have been outspoken critics of Boghossian. Boghossian slaps back at them:

    There are communities of ersatz intellectuals in the humanities in general and gender studies in particular which have been impacted by the legacy of post-modernism. These people are pumping out complete bullshit and indoctrinating a generation of students to believe total nonsense.

    Note that his criticism is of ersatz intellectuals [professors] in “the humanities in general” as well as [professors] in “gender studies in particular”; and the valid-or-otherwise criticism is “that they have been impacted by the legacy of post-modernism”; what particularly stings him is that they have attacked Boghossian, he, himself with venom. These ersatz intellectuals:

    … they’re … going to harass you or your family. They’re … going to try and get you fired. They’re …going to call you a racist, a sexist, a bigot, a homophobe.

    Boghossian has upset them; and been upset by these [professors] in the Humanities and in Gender Studies. Yet it’s not both the Humanities and Gender Studies that Boghossian reserves his venom for, it’s Gender Studies alone:

    One of the first orders of business is that we need to completely defund gender studies departments. These places are toxic cesspools of misinformation pumping out dangerous, dangerous nonsense.

    https://areomagazine.com/2016/12/08/peter-boghossian-on-critical-thinking-the-atheos-app-and-the-post-modern-influence-on-universities/

    And Boghossian wants to completely defund [abolish] not just those Gender Studies departments [and those annoyingly critical professors of Gender Studies] which “have been impacted by the legacy of post-modernism”, he wants to completely abolish each and every single one, right across the board.

    Boghossian’s target is not post-modernistic clap-trap, not in practice: Boghossian’s target is Gender Studies, the study of LGBT and Feminist issues.

    Gosh, there’s “ersatz intellectuals” who study the issues around eg Trans people like Muscato sympathetically, and who criticise misogynists like Boghossian; so Boghossian wants a tit-for-tat reversal of fates: they should be harassed, they should lose their jobs, he’s going to call them “toxic cesspools of misinformation pumping out dangerous, dangerous nonsense”.

  28. Dhay says:

    I wondered why, if Peter Boghossian is teaching a course on Atheism in the Portland area, there should be so few Street Epistemologists in his locality — check the map at the top of the List, and scroll-wheel to zoom; it turns out that Boghossian isn’t teaching his course this year, he’s on a year’s sabbatical leave (starting last June) so he can write a book, in ten chapters, each chapter vigorously attacking a section of the “Regressive Left”.

    Bet one of those chapters deals with Gender Studies. The subject’s obviously currently very much on his mind, hence the Areo interview’s vituperative content, he’s probably drafting that chapter right now.

    It’s a book Sam Harris was originally planning to write, but had the good sense not to. Boghossian is more pugnacious and evidently reckons he doesn’t have much reputation to lose.

    https://www.allthink.com/1302408

  29. Dhay says:

    I note that since deciding to write his book, Peter Boghossian has become almost mellow towards Christians, and is almost complimentary when contrasting Christians with the “Regressive Left”:

    Christians almost never want to shut me down – they want to argue or complain or debate,” he explains, “it’s only the left that wants to shut me down.

    https://www.allthink.com/1302408

    Here’s what is surprising: with very few exceptions, and there are exceptions, Christians are very kind decent people all over the world. I do talks and we go out afterwards for drinks etc., and we talk with civility.

    The far Left in contemporary academia is not like this…

    https://areomagazine.com/2016/12/08/peter-boghossian-on-critical-thinking-the-atheos-app-and-the-post-modern-influence-on-universities/

    But only almost mellow: Boghossian famously thinks that Christians are clinically mentally ill, clinically delusional, and in need of clinical medical interventions — this is clear from his A Manual for Creating Atheists, where he also acknowledges and laments that delivering those interventions, as he had been doing via his Street Epistemology and his followers are now doing, was and continues to be (until and unless there are changes to the DSM) unethical.

    Ah, yes, Christians are good people, mostly, and some of his best friends are Christians.

    Odd that they would go out drinking with him; would you associate by choice with someone who has publicly, emphatically and repeatedly declared you delusional, mentally ill.

    If Boghossian’s now treating Christians with kid gloves, he must really be going hard after the “Regressive Left”. We’ll see in due course how nasty he gets.

  30. Dhay says:

    Peter Boghossian: “These people are pumping out complete bullshit and indoctrinating a generation of students to believe total nonsense.” and “One of the first orders of business is that we need to completely defund [implied all] gender studies departments. These places are toxic cesspools of misinformation pumping out dangerous, dangerous nonsense.”

    I really do admire how the study of philosophy trains the practitioner into habits of thought which are subtle and nuanced.

  31. TFBW says:

    Boghossian has less claim to the title “philosopher” than Sam Harris does to the title “neuroscientist”.

  32. Kevin says:

    It’s always nice to hear a New Atheist admit that Christians are nowhere near as bad as NA hyperbole paints them.

  33. FZM says:

    TFBW,

    Then read “Good and Bad Reasons for Believing”, also by Dawkins. See if it leaves any room for transgenderism, or psychiatry in general, or even history as a field of knowledge, let alone knowledge of moral truths.

    I’ve never see that piece before but it looks like classic Dawkins. I agree that reading it you could get a general impression that unless their was testable empirical (he calls it ‘observational’) evidence in favour of a claim, Dawkins doesn’t really think there is a good reason for thinking we can make a claim to know that it is true.

    But parts of the letter seem to run against this view or create ambiguity about it, for example:

    But now I want to move on from evidence, which is a good reason for believing something, and warn you against three bad reasons for believing anything.

    …where it looks like he switches from talking about knowing things to talking about believing things and making value judgements about different kinds of belief.

    (This seems to raise questions: how do we discover what the words good and bad mean in this sentence? Can we claim to know or just entertain beliefs about their meaning? Does observational evidence tell us how to define and understand the meaning of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in this context, or are there ‘inside feelings’ involved? Can ‘inside feelings’ provide good evidence for believing something provided they don’t come from authority, revelation or tradition? Etc.)

    Elsewhere there is:

    People sometimes say that you must believe in feelings deep inside, otherwise, you’d never be confident of things like “My wife loves me.” But this is a bad argument. There can be plenty of evidence that somebody loves you. All through the day when you are with somebody who loves you, you see and hear lots of little tidbits of evidence, and they all add up. The outside things to back up the inside feeling: looks in the eye, tender notes in the voice, little favours and kindnesses; this is all real evidence. It isn’t a purely inside feeling, like the feeling that priests call revelation.

    How do we know that certain looks in someone else’s eye, certain notes in their voice, certain behaviours they adopt towards us or things they do for us indicate they feel love towards us? These things count as ‘evidence’ of love because of the ‘inside feelings’ we have about them.

    Creating (or failing to clear up) ambiguity about the nature of evidence and what can count as a good reason to believe something is probably one way Dawkins could justify the claims he makes in that letter that seem to lack testable empirical evidence to back them up (for example the motivation people had for fighting wars in history, when he engages in Theology/religious studies with his account of the establishment of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by the Catholic Church etc.). That’s one reason I find it to be classic Dawkins.

    It’s also interesting that these themes, epistemology, evidence, justification or warrant for beliefs are all very important to Dawkins’ arguments against Theism and Religion but I don’t remember seeing him explain his views on them at such length outside of this letter to his 10 year old daughter?

  34. TFBW says:

    It’s also classic Dawkins in that, as a letter from a parent to a child, it is classified as “tradition” using the terminology of the letter itself, and “tradition” is one of the “bad reasons” for believing anything. As such, if his daughter believed any of it, she effectively ignored the advice of the letter itself in doing so. As a philosopher, you can always count on Dawkins to cut off his own argument at the knees.

    Meanwhile, we seem to have lost Paul A, for whom that link was provided. You may recall I asked something along the lines of, “if taste in gender is just like taste in food, then why do you get overwrought about people criticising the former but not the latter?” Paul seems to have opted for the “slip away quietly” response. Maybe calling him out on it will encourage him to buck up and form an actual argument.

  35. Kevin says:

    If one conflates gender with sex, then gender fluidity is a legitimate view and it is indeed much like deciding what to eat that day.

  36. Dhay says:

    Hmmm, Peter Boghossian is taking a year’s sabbatical leave, notionally in order to write the book attacking the “Regressive Left” that Sam Harris had too much good sense to write. Although it might be concluded, and we might be intended to conclude, that Boghossian has taken a year’s sabbatical in order to write this book, I smell a rat.

    We are presumably expected to assume that A Boghossian wanted to write this book, hence B he took a year’s sabbatical; now let’s follow Boghossian’s advice on how to do critical thinking, (if A then B unless C) and let’s look for one or more defeaters C.

    I note that if Boghossian wants (see the Areos interview) to “completely defund gender studies departments”, which implies he wants all professors therein sacked, this includes not just Gender Studies departments in general, it includes abolishing the Gender Studies department at his own PSU university and sacking the PSU Gender Studies professors.

    Yes, Portland State University does have a “College of Liberal Arts & Sciences: Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies” department. (https://www.pdx.edu/ws/)

    I also note that in the Areos interview Boghossian complains that “ersatz intellectuals in the humanities in general and gender studies in particular” are “going to try and get you fired … going to call you a racist, a sexist, a bigot, a homophobe.” The strength of Boghossian’s anger indicates this has already happened to him, and the obvious people to have been up in flames about the particularly opinionated and abrasive individual, Boghossian, are the PSU’s own Gender Studies professors. I’ll bet with Boghossian’s misogynistic views, his name was mud; and after Boghossian’s full-on attack mode in the Areos interview, together with his current obsessive re-tweeting of the like-minded misogynists on RealPeerReview, he’s going to be doubly hated. (https://twitter.com/peterboghossian)

    He would have to expect it to be a popular book, royalties from which would make up for a whole year’s (plus summer recess?) lack of an Associate Professor’s income. Looks like a poor financial investment.

    The A and B in the “if A then B unless C” are, A Boghossian chose to take his year’s sabbatical B in order to write his book; now let’s follow Boghossian’s advice on how to do critical thinking and identify what possibilities or probabilities (defeaters C1, C2, C3 … Cn) might lead us to think Boghossian might have been forced to take his sabbatical and to find something to occupy his time. I’ll assume the analysis above concluding that Boghossian has really pissed of fellow PSU professors who then laid into him, hard, even to the point of agitating to get get him sacked, is correct:

    Unless C1: Boghossian decided on his own bat it would be best to lie low for a year, hoping the controversy will have died down and been forgotten in a year’s time. Fat chance, especially as he’s been flaming Gender Studies and its professors publicly, and it’s a safe bet the book he’s writing flames further.

    Unless C2: the PSU gave Boghossian a “choice” of punishment; either dismissal or a “voluntary” sabbatical; the latter saves face for Boghossian while serving as a punishment.

    There’s also the comments on RateMyProfessor that “As he says, the whole class is a ‘trigger warning’” and the warning “easily triggered students stay clear”; Boghossian might have triggered too many students and been complained about; but my bet is on the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies professors he so aggressively hates and won’t shut up about.

    It will be interesting to see whether Boghossian returns to the PSU at the end of his sabbatical (and if so, for how long) or whether he finds, if he can, a position teaching elsewhere.

    *

    I see Harris is now busy filming (and tweeting about) Islam and the Future of Tolerance, The Movie. I expect he will get flak for that from that “Regressive Left”. It will be interesting to see how much flak.

  37. Dhay says:

    TFBW > Boghossian has less claim to the title “philosopher” than Sam Harris does to the title “neuroscientist”.

    A lot less, I think, now that Harris has finally co-authored the paper he promised way back in 2011.

    UPDATE (June 15, 2011): Project Reason is currently preparing to run another neuroimaging study on belief. Our goal will be to discover which regions of the brain allow people to change their beliefs, or prevent them from doing so, in response to new evidence. If you would like to support this work, donations of any size are greatly appreciated.

    We will announce our results once they have been published in a scientific journal.

    –Sam Harris

    https://web.archive.org/web/20110929053602/http://www.project-reason.org/project2/
    [Loads slowly]

    I commented back in the 23 June 2015 thread, Has Sam Harris Been Busy Doing Scientific Research?, that: “After May 2013 the first two sentences, announcing plans for future research, remained, but the last two sentences, soliciting funds and promising to publish the results, were removed, indicating the plans had actually been dropped. In January 2015 the entire page was removed, so I’d say he finally gave up on the idea entirely. “

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/has-sam-harris-been-busy-doing-scientific-research/

    There’s also a discussion in that thread of some of the methodological difficulties Harris would face if he ever did manage to get the above research in progress.

    Well, we now find that Harris hadn’t dropped his plans, and the long-promised research has finally been completed and the paper now published. It’s entitled Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence.

    http://www.nature.com/articles/srep39589

    Harris is one of three authors of the paper; how much did he actually contribute to it:

    Contributions
    J.K. and S.H. developed the concept for the study and designed the experimental procedures. J.K. and S.G. collected and analyzed the data. All three authors participated in writing the manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission and are responsible for its content.

    That is, Harris’s contribution was to have the initial idea and funding ** for the research, and after that to help – Jonas Kaplan was the lead researcher, involved at every stage – to design the experiment, help to analyse the results and help write it up.

    ** I see that clicking on his name (under the title) reveals “Project Reason Los Angeles, CA, USA”, so presumably he, via his Project Reason, contributed some or all of the funding. It was evidently premature to claim, as we and I did in previous threads, that Harris was no longer a practising neuroscientist, though I think we can take the disappearance of Project Reason to be a declaration of intent not to do any more neuroscience. We’ll see.

    *

    What I find particularly interesting is that the research doesn’t make any attempt to examine the brains of religious people who are resistant or otherwise to changing their minds when presented with new evidence, it examines the brains of liberals. Do we see a change in Harris’s primary focus, paralleling a (probably temporary) change in Peter Boghossian’s primary focus, focussing now on the “Regressive Left”? Interesting.

    I haven’t had time to absorb it well, yet, but I note that Harris and Kaplan recruited only subjects who, on a seven-point scale from very strongly liberal (1) to very strongly conservative (7) scored an end-of-spectrum 1 or 2; this raises the obvious question about how well this research might or might not generalise to people on the conservative end of the political spectrum and especially how well it might or might not generalise to the majority(? – is there a Bell curve in political opinion?) who are the ordinary political moderates forming the bulk of the Bell curve.

    And I do wonder whether Harris et al have demonstrated other than the obvious commonsensical and readily foreseeable result that if you present a liberal with “new” contrary evidence to a subject they are already very familiar with and consider important, where they have long known both sides of the arguments and which they have thought long and hard about the best answer to, hence it is in no way “new” contrary evidence – in the link below, the example is gun control – they are going to be far more resistant to changing their minds (and will use different parts of their brains) than when presented with interesting but trivial genuinely new evidence about the history of light bulbs.

    http://www.nature.com/article-assets/npg/srep/2016/161223/srep39589/extref/srep39589-s1.pdf
    [PDF]

    So I wonder how genuinely useful and informative this research is, and what practical implications and applications it might have. Any suggestions, anyone?

  38. TFBW says:

    Given Sam’s penchant for research on “Neural Correlates of X”, for some highly ideologically-charged value of X, one wonders whether the research can have any use beyond providing citation fodder in some pre-planned pop-science book, lecture, or video. It strikes me as the wrong approach if the aim is to discover generally-applicable rules and avoid confirmation bias — the usual goals of scientific research.

  39. Dhay says:

    Ah yes, material for the next book; which Peter Boghossian tells us was going to be Letters to a Young Liberal, “an aborted book project that would have confronted the Regressive Left head on”.

    (The Allthink article — https://www.allthink.com/1302408 — attributes that quote to a Harris podcast dated summer 2011; but as the events Harris cites as reasons for aborting the book, events involving Ferguson Missouri and Cornel West, occurred three years (and again a year later, by the look of it), I have no real doubt that Boghossian (or an Allthink editor) was mistaken and that the quote and book abortion will date from 2014 or 2015.)

    Makes sense: this latest “Neural Correlates…” the “Regressive Left” is not just rhetorically “regressive”, it’s scientifically regressive, demonstrated or proved by the neuroscience of strong liberals who, allegedly perversely, wouldn’t change their minds when presented with counter-evidence strongly persuasive to Harris.

    *

    As an aside, Scott Adams (the Dilbert cartoonist) has an interesting blog post on persuasive evidence and persuasive counter-evidence and on the difficulty in practice and principle of deciding definitively that one set of very persuasive argument is better than a contrary set of very persuasive arguments: http://blog.dilbert.com/post/155121836641/the-illusion-of-knowledge

    I reckon it also makes a good case (implicitly) contra Boghossian’s claim that:

    To survive [the threat of nuclear armageddon, global warming, etc] we have exactly one option. We must trust science. We must listen to experts”; that is, we are to believe scientists simply because we trust them.

    http://richarddawkins.net/2016/12/we-must-trust-science-or-die-like-e-t/

    As regards avoiding nuclear armageddon, are we to trust social scientists and political scientists; or are we to trust that hard-physical scientists have invented some device that neutralises nuclear blasts and radiation, so that the former two categories need not be trusted.

    Should we perhaps believe, should we trust, economic scientists, those experts who will usher in a new age of prosperity devoid of economic crashes — as we observe they have in times past.

    Should we believe, because we trust, neuroscientist Sam Harris. Where should this trust in scientists start, where end. And in view of the plethora of criticisms of peer-reviewed scientific papers (eg not reproducible, cherry-picking, etc etc) by scientists themselves, should the belief and trust be specific and particular and limited, or should it be sweeping and general. Is there a reliable epistemology underlying whatever answer is given to this?

  40. James says:

    This is the most hilariously absurd analogy I’ve ever heard, a desperately contrived, wilfully stupid piece of writing. Or perhaps it’s a clever piece of satire and I’ve been had. Although I suspect not.

  41. Kevin says:

    I notice you guys never actually prove your insults/assertions. Is that because you can’t refute it but still don’t like it?

  42. TFBW says:

    If you can’t argue, you can always sneer. It works for Dawkins.

  43. James says:

    Gender isn’t an evidence-based opinion; it isn’t and shouldn’t be objectively provable. Anyone who likens it to an empirical debate is either accidentally stupid or deliberately inflammatory.

  44. Kevin says:

    “Gender isn’t an evidence-based opinion”

    How do you know this?

    “it isn’t and shouldn’t be objectively provable.”

    Then how do we know it exists?

  45. James says:

    What’s your gender, Kevin? And what do you base that on? If you say you’re male, how male are you? If you’re female, then to what extent? How would you define gender?
    Because to my mind it’s a very fluid and non-binary concept which is heavily culturally and socially influenced. And to my mind, it’s also something only individuals themselves can realise, decide on or choose.
    I should remind you that it’s a fundamental human right to be able to live according the gender you feel you are. And by the way, the same goes for non-transgender people too! They have also realised what gender they are; they are just lucky that it happens to correlate with their sex.
    That is why gender doesn’t have to be proven to anyone. And while I’m at it, maybe it actually doesn’t exist either, since you ask. For a given group of people to whom stereotypical gender concepts don’t apply, it may as well not exist as an idea at all. And it would do a lot of the narrow-minded posters on this site (I’m not saying you’re one necessarily) a lot of good to really think about that idea. Once you accept that you notice the author’s argument for the wantonly insincere utter tosh it is.
    That’s it from me I’m afraid. If that heartfelt missive doesn’t win you over, there’s no hope!

  46. TFBW says:

    @James:
    Basically, from what you’ve said, it sounds like the whole concept of “gender” is incompatible with science. It’s “something only individuals themselves can realise, decide on or choose,” and “maybe it actually doesn’t exist,” and it “doesn’t have to be proven to anyone.” We must simply accept people’s reports of their gender as indisputable fact, and there’s no way to check it empirically. In other words, we must accept it on blind faith alone.

    I think you have just amply proved the point of this post. Gender, as you have defined it, is fundamentally incompatible with science, and New Atheism bases its objection to religion on an alleged incompatibility with science. Thus, if New Atheists are to be consistent, they should also reject the very idea of gender as utterly imaginary, like Santa Claus and fairies at the bottom of the garden, to employ some of their favourite memes.

    I take it that you are not a New Atheist.

  47. James says:

    I accept that an ephemeral concept like gender might cause problems if you demand to pin absolutely everything down in provable facts. You are an idiot if that is your approach to life, though, just as you are an idiot if you never submit anything to scrutiny and expect others simply to accept it.
    True intelligence and judgement lie in knowing which things demand proof and which don’t.
    The wanton stupidity of this article is the reduction of atheist beliefs to the simple facet of demanding evidence for every personal opinion and preference, as well as the idea that only transgender people have thought about their gender. It’s a deeply malicious article. Or deeply stupid. I can’t work out which.
    If science is indeed compatible with religion (as the same author states in another article), as religion supposedly doesn’t preclude all logical thought, then of course atheism is compatible with gender, as atheism doesn’t preclude the simple expression of personal preference. So no, I haven’t proven the statement, far from it.
    To recap: the argument only works if you adopt a mendaciously or fallaciously reductionist understanding of what it is to be an atheist.
    Bloody hell that last sentence was a beauty. Got to accept that at least! My work here is done.

  48. stcordova says:

    What evidence is there that Muscato is a woman. He calls himself a woman, but what if others don’t view him that way, don’t they have a right to call him a man pretending to be a girl? I merely asking the question. Is it mean spirited to ask a question? Should people’s daughter be forced to share restrooms with Muscato? Is it mean spirited to explore such questions? What’s the evidence that the way Muscato wants to be treated is right? What is the standard of right? Muscato says he’s a woman. He doesn’t fit my biological criteria of what constitutes a woman. Why am I wrong for viewing him as a dude? It’s like forcing me to tell an anorexic woman she’s fat because she feels she’s fat even though she’s skin and bones.

    The backlash against questioning trangenderism violates the policy of open inquiry supposedly espoused (but not really) of the New Atheists where the desire to “question everything” is a core value. So Michael is right.

  49. stcordova says:

    There are a certain segment of female feminists who object to transgender “women” like Muscato.

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/04/woman-2

    A female woman named Robin Morgan said:

    “I will not call a male “she”; thirty-two years of suffering in this androcentric society, and of surviving, have earned me the title “woman”; one walk down the street by a male transvestite, five minutes of his being hassled (which he may enjoy), and then he dares, he dares to think he understands our pain? No, in our mothers’ names and in our own, we must not call him sister.”

    So why should I listen to Muscato instead of a RadFem? Am I not following the GNU policy of questioning everything?

  50. TFBW says:

    @James:

    The wanton stupidity of this article is the reduction of atheist beliefs to the simple facet of demanding evidence for every personal opinion and preference, as well as the idea that only transgender people have thought about their gender.

    Personal opinion and preference? Is that what gender is, in your view — a matter of taste, like one’s taste in food, clothes, or music?

  51. Kevin says:

    I do not believe the issue is one that should be independent of some form of verification, if gender identity is considered a legally protected trait that can be discriminated against and result in financial or legal repercussions for that violation. After all, if I as an employer was given Candidates A through L to choose from, with that being their only identifier, and I just happened to select every candidate that was white and left out every other race, then I could not very well be accused of discrimination based on race, could I? There’s no way for me to possibly verify race based upon “Candidate A”. For a violation to occur, there must be intent to discriminate based upon a trait – and if a trait cannot be verified, then no violation can be said to have occurred.

    As an employer, it would be my responsibility to ensure a safe and welcoming work environment for my employees, and most women would be very upset if someone who looked like Muscato (http://www.daniellemuscato.com/) walked into their restroom or locker room, particularly the latter. Thus, legally I need to be able to ensure that men are not going into the women’s areas, while also not violating a person’s rights based upon gender identity – which you say is not evidence-based and is not provable.

    How would you approach this as an employer, James? You have rejected the standard that atheists demand of Christians toward God, that of physical scientific evidence, so what standard would you use to both keep women safe and not violate rights based upon gender identity?

    You also asked me what my gender is. I do not conflate gender and sex – I’m a male. There is no argument that can be made that I’m anything but a male. Gender, on the other hand, is more of an adjective – the state of being masculine or feminine. In most ways I am masculine, I suppose, but in others I might be considered somewhat feminine – I’m soft spoken, I couldn’t care less about sports, I never feel the need to prove my abilities against others, etc. That doesn’t mean I’m not a male. Gender is culture-based, sex is biology-based.

    James, the reason I would demand some form of verification to the claim that Muscato is a woman is that gender identity now has legal weight. In some situations, it is entirely possible that I could suffer real repercussions if I did not agree that Muscato was a woman. Think about it like this – would you be content with public policy being based around an unverifiable religious text, and you could get punished for violating a commandment? Of course not, and you’d be perfectly justified in demanding proof that the religious text was an appropriate standard. It is no different with something like this – if gender identity is nothing but a sensation experienced by an individual and that’s as far as it goes, then fine, whatever. If it becomes something that I am legally beholden to, then there had better be some sort of system of verification. I think that’s entirely fair.

  52. James says:

    Look guys, it’s been fun but I’m done here. I’ve got a busy life and I haven’t the time to carry on.
    It seems I totally disagree with most of your opinions on this issue and that’s fine. We’re not getting anywhere so I’m bowing out of this one.
    Enjoy your atheist-baiting.

  53. James says:

    Kevin,

    I’ve just read your reply, which you have put succinctly and sensitively. You raise some very important issues and highlight that this is a complex problem involving several conflicts of interest, all vying for top priority. I totally understand the points you mention and don’t pretend to have a solution. But thankyou for taking the time and effort to respond.

    To be clear, my beef here is with the aims of the original article. I’ve been clear about that all along. I hope you see what I mean there, that it simply a piece of misinformed anti-atheist propaganda.

    I’ve signed off as I’m out of time but having seen the detail in your response I thought it would be churlish not to acknowledge it.

    Maybe you and I prove that Christians and agnostics aren’t so different after all (I’m assuming you’re a Christian. My apologies if not).

    That really is it from me.

  54. TFBW says:

    @James:

    … that it simply a piece of misinformed anti-atheist propaganda.

    It’s clear that you consider it so, but you never really did make an actual case for it. To the extent that you answered questions relating to your objections, we’ve discovered that you consider gender to be a simple matter of personal preference, and yet it’s also somehow “a fundamental human right to be able to live according the gender you feel you are.” Presumably by this you mean that the rest of the world is morally obliged to go along with your gender identity, and address you by your preferred pronouns, or allow you in the appropriate restrooms of whatever. That’s somewhat extraordinary, since no other personal matter of taste that I know of gets treated as a fundamental human right like this.

    I’m not surprised that you don’t want to elaborate. Our earlier participant, Paul A, bailed out under similar circumstances.

  55. James says:

    @TFBW

    ‘You never really did make an actual case for it.’

    Yes I did. It deliberately misinterprets atheism and it only focuses on transgender rather than all gender. I’ve made this point about 5 times now in various different ways.

    ‘…you mean that the rest of the world is morally obliged to go along with your gender identity’

    It is frustrating that you are so preoccupied with an adjunct of my original complaint. You’ve built a load of trees in front of the wood and you can no longer see the wood. But I’ll indulge you anyway, one last time: yes I do think this, although I’ve conceded that it’s a complex debate, to Kevin, who at least seems to have thought about what I’ve written.

    Read, TBFW, read. Think, understand, then read again. You’ll notice I’ve dealt with all your issues already.

    You need to give it up now. By which I mean, you’re not accepting defeat, we’re simply both accepting that we’re getting nowhere and it’s a waste of time. That’s why I’m trying to bow out of you’ll have the dignity to let it go without claiming it as a victory.

  56. TFBW says:

    @James

    It deliberately misinterprets atheism and it only focuses on transgender rather than all gender.

    That kind of shallow analysis doesn’t really engage with the original post: it merely caricatures it and dismisses it. But hey, if you want to declare victory and leave, be my guest. I’m happy to let the public record stand as is.

  57. Michael says:

    Jamkes:
    Yes I did.

    No, you did not. You insult and sneer, but such insults and sneers are not attached to a substantive rebuttal. In fact, you don’t even seem to understand the core issue I have raised. Let me demonstrate.

    You claim:

    It deliberately misinterprets atheism

    No it does not. The post isn’t even about “atheism.” The issue is the epistemology of the New Atheists, as I clearly laid out in the blog entry:

    That is, consider the possibility that the New Atheist approach to epistemology is incompatible with transgenderism.
    In my previous posting, I laid out the core elements of the New Atheist approach:………..

    The New Atheist approach is essentially scientism and spelled out with quotes from New Atheist leaders. For example, we are supposed to “back up [our] claims not with private feelings but with publicly checkable evidence.”

    Thus, in order to score your points (in your own mind), you deliberately misinterpret my core argument.

    and it only focuses on transgender rather than all gender.

    It focuses on transgenderism because a male New Atheist activist (who attacks people who self-identify as religious as being delusional) wants everyone to acknowledge him as a woman. When I applied the very approach the New Atheists mandate – questioning the claim and asking for evidence of the claim, I was attacked. Such vitriolic responses led me to realize that New Atheism was incompatible with transgenderism. Pay attention. The attacks and insults I have received do not stem from me expressing my views about transgenderism. They stem from me simply applying New Atheist epistemology to the issue of transgenderism.

    I’ve made this point about 5 times now in various different ways.

    Your five different ways are not convincing anyone because they are five different ways to make the same irrelevant point. Let’s simplify it for you.

    Dawkins wrote:

    And, next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: ‘What kind of evidence is there for that?’ And if they can’t give you a good answer, I hope you’ll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.

    Do you agree? If so, what kind of evidence is there that Muscato is a women?

  58. Michael says:

    James lashes out:
    The wanton stupidity of this article is the reduction of atheist beliefs to the simple facet of demanding evidence for every personal opinion and preference, as well as the idea that only transgender people have thought about their gender. It’s a deeply malicious article. Or deeply stupid. I can’t work out which.
    If science is indeed compatible with religion (as the same author states in another article), as religion supposedly doesn’t preclude all logical thought, then of course atheism is compatible with gender, as atheism doesn’t preclude the simple expression of personal preference. So no, I haven’t proven the statement, far from it.

    Wow. It would help if your insults and attacks were rooted in an understanding of the position that was actually on the table.

    The question is whether your misinterpretation of my argument is an example of wanton stupidity or deep malice.

  59. TFBW says:

    Or, more likely in my estimate, an example of “being triggered”.

  60. James says:

    I should’ve gone to a Dawkins quotation sooner.

    So here you go:

    ‘Is trans woman a woman? Purely semantic. If you define by chromosomes, no. If by self-identification, yes. I call her “she” out of courtesy.’

    Publicly checkable:

    https://mobile.twitter.com/RichardDawkins/status/658622852405534721

    Ok, let’s have a look. At first there’s a new atheist agreeing with you that if you adopted an absolutist approach then you would refute someone’s claims about their gender.

    Incidentally that approach would also refute whatever gender you yourself claim to be, as well as whether you like poached or scrambled eggs, what your favourite colour was, whether red was red, what your fashion tastes were, whether you fancied women or men or both, if you thought Julia Roberts’ performance in ‘Pretty Woman’ was good or not, whether you liked beards, if Shakespeare was any good, if sunshine was nice or just a bit too hot for your liking, or whether the skiing in Bulgaria matched that in the Alps.

    But what is Dawkins’ conclusion about this issue?

    ‘I call her ‘she’ out of courtesy’

    Oh dear. This looks bad for you pal. The arch new atheist accepts that common decency trumps strict scientific reasoning and some things you accept because you are tolerant.

    You see, your new atheists aren’t what you think. There is incompatibility except that which you have contrived for your own ends.

    Debate over buddy.

  61. Michael says:

    Oh dear. This looks bad for you pal. The arch new atheist accepts that common decency trumps strict scientific reasoning and some things you accept because you are tolerant.
    You see, your new atheists aren’t what you think. There is incompatibility except that which you have contrived for your own ends.
    Debate over buddy.

    LOL. Thank you for supplying a quote from Dawkins that nicely supports my point. Since you seem unaware of this, let me try to explain.
    You write:

    At first there’s a new atheist agreeing with you that if you adopted an absolutist approach then you would refute someone’s claims about their gender.

    “Absolutist” is not the right word here. The better word is “scientific and/or objective.” Let’s translate Dawkins’ tweet:

    ‘Is trans woman a woman? Purely semantic. From a scientific/objective perspective, no. From a subjective perspective, yes. I call her “she” out of courtesy.’

    That the two perspectives reach the opposite conclusion nicely demonstrates the incompatibility. Dawkins’ escape from the incompatibility is nothing more than an appeal to the social convention of “courtesy.” He retains his scientific perspective, putting quotes around “she,” but, in this case, he has chosen to be polite. Why the man who has long insisted religious people by publicly mocked and labeled delusional suddenly decides to be polite on this issue sounds like the subject for an upcoming blog posting. 😉

    Look, you still don’t seem to get it. That Dawkins feels the personal need to be courteous about transgenders doesn’t in anyway undercut the point that the hardcore scientism of New Atheism (a form of espistemology) is incompatible with the notion that truth can be rooted in private feelings. That Dawkins’ leaps down the courtesy escape hatch actually helps to illustrate this point. After all, logical consistency is not Dawkins’ strong point.

    Incidentally that approach would also refute whatever gender you yourself claim to be, as well as whether you like poached or scrambled eggs, what your favourite colour was, whether red was red, what your fashion tastes were, whether you fancied women or men or both, if you thought Julia Roberts’ performance in ‘Pretty Woman’ was good or not, whether you liked beards, if Shakespeare was any good, if sunshine was nice or just a bit too hot for your liking, or whether the skiing in Bulgaria matched that in the Alps.

    Indeed. The hardcore scientism of the New Atheists, needed to bash religion and religious people, is itself unlivable. I have made this point before. That New Atheists selectively apply this extreme approach to religion is best explained by their atheism being rooted in emotion and bigotry.

  62. SteveK says:

    Why isn’t Dawkins likewise polite to religious people for the same reason?

  63. SteveK says:

    “The arch new atheist accepts that common decency trumps strict scientific reasoning and some things you accept because you are tolerant.”

    On the subject of religion, there is a huge pile of evidence against this claim. Your statement is false.

  64. Kevin says:

    James: “Incidentally that approach would also refute whatever gender you yourself claim to be…”

    I’m assuming by this statement that you are referring to gender as the state of being masculine or feminine from a cultural standpoint, correct?

  65. TFBW says:

    John said:

    The arch new atheist accepts that common decency trumps strict scientific reasoning and some things you accept because you are tolerant.

    Ha. As Michael points out, all that’s been identified here is a massive double-standard on Dawkins’ part. Decency and tolerance are off the table when it comes to his attitude towards people who believe in God. So thanks for pointing out that Dawkins doesn’t live by his own epistemic standards when it doesn’t suit him to do so.

  66. Michael says:

    So thanks for pointing out that Dawkins doesn’t live by his own epistemic standards when it doesn’t suit him to do so.

    And here’s the ironic twist. Even though Dawkins is trying to back off his extreme scientism in this case, and James thinks it’s an example of “The arch new atheist accepts that common decency trumps strict scientific reasoning and some things you accept because you are tolerant,” the transgender actvists attacked Dawkins for that tweet:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/10/27/richard-dawkins-taught-a-lesson-by-trans-women-_n_8397344.html

    James just doens’t seem to have a clue about the severity of this incompatibility. He doesn’t seem to understand that even Dawkins’s tweet is unacceptable to the transgender community.

  67. TFBW says:

    “Severity” is right. I note that one transgenderist in the article to which you link accuses Dawkins of adopting “the same old binary thinking that has bedevilled debate on these issues lately: an attempt to create two frameworks – the social and the biological – and within those to identify two wholly separate categorisation systems: sex and gender.” I hadn’t realised that non-dualism transcended the question of gender itself, but I stand corrected: non-dualist mysticism is clearly a rather core property of the movement. Transgenderism is anti-evidence, anti-objective, anti-consistent, and anti-distinct. It is a fog of subjective, indistinct, transient inclinations and whims, with the exception that utmost respect for those whims in others is an absolute fundamental moral imperative. (Non-dualism doesn’t pervade as far as “right” and “wrong” behaviour in that area, evidently.) Basically, it stands opposed to every good principle of scientific analysis. For incompatibility with science, monotheistic religion has absolutely nothing on the mystical fulminations of transgenderism.

    Dawkins might notice this incompatibility eventually, but probably not until he’s been thoroughly burned by it. He still perceives himself as being among friends, as far as I can tell, because they never fail to make appropriately anti-theistic noises on cue.

  68. stcordova says:

    ” the transgender actvists attacked Dawkins for that tweet”

    Whoa!

  69. Dhay says:

    I announced the (others and also Sam Harris) paper, Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence, in a response above, so despite the incongruity of breaking into the current active discussion, this seems to be the most obvious place to put this further response on the same subject.

    I found a review by science writer Brian Resnick at Vox, which included:

    The researchers then countered with statements making such assertions as, “Russia has nearly twice as many active nuclear weapons as the United States.” (Note: The counterarguments, like this one, weren’t all factual. They were exaggerated or manufactured to be extra compelling, Kaplan said. For the sake of the experiment, he says, it doesn’t matter if the participants knew some were lies. Being skeptical “is definitely part of the process we were studying.”)

    http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2016/12/28/14088992/brain-study-change-minds

    Ah, the counterarguments were sometimes lies – lead researcher Jonas Kaplan’s words are not quoted from the paper, so Resnick has evidently enquired and clarified this directly with Kaplan – and were sometimes known to be lies. They were big lies, too:

    Each political and non-political statement was associated with 5 challenges. In order to be as compelling as possible, the challenges often contained exaggerations or distortions of the truth. For instance, one challenge to the statement “The US should reduce its military budget” was “Russia has nearly twice as many active nuclear weapons as the United States”. In truth, according to statistics published by the Federation of American Scientists: Status of World Nuclear Forces (www.fas.org) in 2013, Russia has approximately 1,740 active nuclear warheads, while the United States has approximately 2,150.

    That’s from the paper itself, http://www.nature.com/articles/srep39589#f3

    Not “nearly twice as many”, then, but 19% fewer; that’s a whopper of a lie. And for some inexplicable reason – can anyone explain it? – “it doesn’t matter if the participants knew some counterarguments were lies”. I’d call that counter-productive: if were me being experimented on, as soon as I realised I was being fed bollocks, bullshit or especially lies, all of the counterarguments would be treated as being also probably outrageous lies; and I would be outraged; instead of the counterarguments being “compelling as possible” they would default to uncompelling unless clearly veridical (and compelling).

    It’s worth asking whether the experiment measures the characteristic brain states of those who are prepared to change their mind versus those who won’t, or whether what is being measured is the difference between ignorance and naïve gullibility versus the angry cynicism of the better informed.

    Probably most did see through the lies and became very wary:

    Behavioral Results: Credibility and Challenging Ratings
    Following the fMRI scan, participants rated how credible they found the challenges in general, and how challenging they were to their beliefs. On average, participants rated credibility of the challenges at 3.63 ± 0.21 and how challenging they were to their beliefs at 3.92 ± 0.20 on a scale from 1 to 7 where 1 was not credible/challenging at all and 7 was very credible/challenging.

    4 is the mid-point of a scale 1-7, and last I knew credibility was a synonym for believability. So an average credibility score of just 3.6 odd tells us the experimental subjects thought the enhanced “compelling as possible” evidence was of pretty dire believability. As I said, found-out lying tends to backfire on the credibility of everything presented.

    Couldn’t they have found real compelling arguments? Why was it necessary to resort to lies? If the researchers could not find genuinely compelling counterarguments, doesn’t that in itself tell us that the initial positions the subjects agreed strongly with didn’t have and don’t have believable and compelling counterarguments!

    The subjects were told of the lies afterwards::

    During the debriefing, subjects were given a packet of sourced information which detailed the truth of each challenge they read inside the scanner and provided resources on where to find further information.

    But there’s nothing in the paper that states or suggests the subjects were warned beforehand they would be intentionally misled and not get honest communication.

    *

    One of the researchers, fully involved in the experiment design and its methodology, hence fully involved in providing exaggerations, distortions and deliberately lying to the experimental subjects, is prominent New Atheist Sam Harris; who wrote the short book Lying, which book says:

    As an undergraduate at Stanford I took a seminar that profoundly changed my life. It was called “The Ethical Analyst,” and it was conducted in the form of a Socratic dialogue by an extraordinarily gifted professor, Ronald A. Howard. Our discussion focused on a single question of practical ethics: Is it wrong to lie?

    … What was so fascinating about this seminar was how difficult it was to find examples of virtuous lies that could withstand Professor Howard’s scrutiny. Even with Nazis at the door and Anne Frank in the attic, Howard always seemed to find truths worth telling and paths to even greater catastrophe that could be opened by lying. I do not remember what I thought about lying before I took “The Ethical Analyst,” but the course accomplished as close to a firmware upgrade of my brain as I have ever experienced. I came away convinced that lying, even about the smallest matters, needlessly damages personal relationships and public trust.

    So “the course accomplished as close to a firmware upgrade of my brain as I have ever experienced” – an unshakeable conviction, in other words, that one should never ever ever lie.

    What does Harris say a lie is, in his book:

    To lie is to intentionally mislead others when they expect honest communication.

    By that definition, the paper’s exaggerations and distortions are, as Kaplan admits up front, are lies; and Harris was plainly involved intimately in developing the concept and design of the experiment, including the decision to include those exaggerations, distortions and deliberate lies.

    Contributions
    J.K. and S.H. developed the concept for the study and designed the experimental procedures. J.K. and S.G. collected and analyzed the data. All three authors participated in writing the manuscript. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission and are responsible for its content.

    No wriggle room there on responsibility for the lies, I think.

    *

    We appear to have a dichotomy: we can either admire Harris for demonstrating so clearly and unambiguously that it is possible, in a researcher if not in his experimental subjects, to change one’s mind on a matter of deeply held principle. And whereas his experimental subjects were only being asked to change their minds in principle, Harris put his change of mind into actual practice.

    If this is so, I would love to see the compelling counterargument or counterarguments that persuaded Harris it is actually OK to lie, indeed to lie outrageously about Russian missile numbers etc.

    Or we can simply recognise that Sam Harris is a liar. And a hypocrite, to boot.

  70. Dhay says:

    Sam Harris’ 02 January 2017 blog post entitled “Edge Question 2017” and subtitled “Intellectual Honesty” is interesting; here’s the beginning and ending:

    Wherever we look, we find otherwise sane men and women making extraordinary efforts to avoid changing their minds. …

    … The ability to change our minds, even on important points—especially on important points—is the only basis for hope that the human causes of human misery can be finally overcome.

    https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/edge-question-2017

    Yep, that has to be a reference to the Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence he co-authored; though alluding to that paper might be more impressive and convincing if it could not be, apparently equally validly, have been called the Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of known exaggerations, distortions and whopper lies, as I explained in my previous response. It is insane to change one’s mind in response to those, and very sane to maintain one’s beliefs in the face of known bollocks, bullshit and lies.

    I have no beef with either the importance of intellectual honesty or the importance of willingness to assess good counterarguments and to change one’s mind when appropriate — so long as they are good. Having set that out, let’s look at Harris’ post, let’s interpret it — look between the lines — to see what he might really be saying.

    “Wherever we look, we find otherwise sane men and women making extraordinary efforts to avoid changing their minds.”
    I can’t find good arguments to persuade people to my own viewpoint, so I’ll insinuate they are insane.
    Those others who, like Harris, call the religious “delusional”, they also do this.

    “Tenaciously clinging to your beliefs past the point where their falsity has been clearly demonstrated does not make you look good. We have all witnessed men and women of great reputation embarrass themselves in this way. I know at least one eminent scholar who wouldn’t admit to any trouble on his side of a debate stage were he to be suddenly engulfed in flames.”
    I didn’t convince my debater, I didn’t convince any but my fans, but I’ll claim the debate victory anyway.
    This is perhaps ironic in view of Harris’ inability, time and again, to see the other person’s argument, accept them, and either change his mind, accept debate defeat, or both; he always claims to have won the debate; if he’s conceded defeat after his drubbing by Noam Chomsky, I’ve missed it.

    Who, pray, are these “men and women of great reputation [who have] embarrass[ed] themselves” by not changing their minds in the face of allegedly overwhelming counterarguments? And who are these “at least one” “eminent scholar” who “wouldn’t admit to any trouble on his side of a debate stage were he to be suddenly engulfed in flames.” **

    That sounds impressive — as it is meant to, to impress — and it suggests that Harris could provide names to “men and women of great reputation” and also suggests Harris could name this or these “eminent scholars” he has so thoroughly trounced (or so he seems to claim); but Harris provides no names whatsoever, identifies no debates whatsoever; I presume that’s because if Harris did, other people’ verdicts might prove embarrassing, he can’t back up his claims with real-life examples.

    ( ** A typical wholly over the top flight of rhetorical fancy — Harris’ fans probably love it and lap it up avidly, but I just think him a fantasist and a prat.)

    It continues in like vein, affecting intellectual superiority, patronising: “a person who surrenders immediately when shown to be in error will appear not to have lost the argument at all. Rather, he will merely afford others the pleasure of having educated him.” I’d just love it if someone were to concede defeat.

    “Intellectual honesty allows us to stand outside ourselves and to think in ways that others can (and should) find compelling.” Or I can be intellectually dishonest and make counterarguments compelling in my research by substituting truth with exaggerations, distortions and deliberate lying.

    The last couple of paragraphs are to do with how unreasonableness can result in violence; it is probably uncharitable to suggest Harris is actually threatening violence, or it would be if Harris didn’t have history. Here’s The End of Faith (P 129): “What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own.” He continues, “Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but …” Yeah, but … Harris has thought the unthinkable and has it already in mind.

    The whole is a piece of fluff, telling us nothing except how puffed up with his own inerrancy and self-righteouness Harris is. Oh, and that intellectual honesty and willingness to change your mind where appropriate are important. But we already knew that. I’d say he’s posturing for his fans rather than providing Edge Question level answers to genuine questions.

  71. Dhay says:

    Previous response > … in the Areos interview [Peter] Boghossian complains that “ersatz intellectuals …” [are out to get him]

    Looks like, for Boghossian, “ersatz intellectual” is a sneering term of denigration. Interestingly, a writer for his university’s Catholic Campus Ministry website has called Boghossian an “ersatz intellectual” — well, an “ersatz professor”, which I presume is the same:

    Boghossian has a large and faithful following. Like a skillful cult leader, he passionately delivers what the listeners want to hear. If religious cults offer ersatz religion, Boghossian offers ersatz philosophy, fit to quench the thirst of the most sublime members of the keep-Portland-weird crowd.
    [PDF download]
    pdxcatholic.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/What-does-an-atheist-look-like.pdf

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s