How philosophically uninteresting are the atheist debates?
Yes, it's nice that something akin to philosophy is actively debated in the media, that ongoing disputes about religious matters will hopefully keep the spirit of the times moving forward by providing active intellectual and/or spiritual alternatives to people beyond whatever religion they may have been brought up with.
But as a veteran now of Dawkins's book The God Delusion, I can say that it's about 15% actual philosophical argumentation and 85% tedious debunking of poor arguments foisted by and/or upon the general public.
In this 9/17 USA Today article, we see Dawkins "incandescent with rage" (and even though that phrase is a self-description from Dawkins, I'm still going to sneer at the media for always emphasizing how supposedly raving these generally calm atheists are supposed to be) at the Pope for equivocating atheism with Nazis, or (says the article) maybe Dawkins misinterpreted the Pope, so we'd better go look up the Pope's actual speech to confirm but... wait... who the hell cares?
Dawkins's point is correct, of course: immoral behavior is not a logical consequent of being an atheist, and the fact that it is necessary to point this out in the face of repeated claims to the contrary, with Nazis being given as a tedious example makes one... well... tired, maybe? In need of Buddhist detachment from the slanders and squabbles of the world? But I do not envy Dawkins his role as intellectual policeman and defender against such things, or... wait... you mean I could be like Sam Harris and go on TV shows and have lots and lots of fame and cash that more traditionally scholarly philosophers don't have? Sign me up, I guess!
Just to clear this up in advance: Not only does it not matter what Hitler believed, it also doesn't matter what Stalin believed, or Albert Einstein, or Thomas Jefferson, or that pleasant-looking person on TV, or the mass of the civilized world throughout history. None of this would be a particularly good argument for the fact that you should believe, and the tedium of this current paragraph has now infected me with a sticky film of self-loathing. Thanks, Mr. Dawkins and Mr. Pope, keep up that whole talky talky thing you've got going on, and please go give us a good rating on iTunes!
Daniel Horne says
Score a point to Dawkins, though, for reminding us that it might be more logical for one to associate, y’know, Hitler Youthism with Nazis. It might also have been worth mentioning the “Gott mit uns” inscription on the belt buckles worn by WWII-era Wehrmacht. I’m sure the Hitch would not have let such an opportunity slip by.
… and sure enough!
Google, I love you!
‘As a result of his own intellectual self-satisfaction, the scientist asserts his opinions over the whole range of human endeavor, with absolutely catastrophic consequences’
Mark Linsenmayer says
@Jonathan: I know it’s not exactly fair to respond to your comment, which comes on my screen in 9 pt font or something, with a new blog post, which is in bold and maybe 16 pt font, but I did credit and link back to you. 🙂