Pigliucci strongly rebukes the organization of which he is a lifetime honorary member, for an ad calling all religions "scams":
First, the ad is simply making a preposterous claim that cannot possibly be backed up by factual evidence, which means that, technically, it is lying. Not a good virtue for self-righteous critical thinkers...
Yet, several atheists I have encountered have no problem endorsing all sorts of woo-woo stuff, from quasi-new age creeds to “alternative” medicine, to fantapolitics. This is partly because many of them seem to be ignorant of the epistemic limits of science (in which they have almost unbounded faith) and reason (ditto). At the very least it seems that we ought to treat factual evidence with due respect, and claiming that religions are scams flies in the face of the available factual evidence. Hence, it is a bad idea that damages our reputation as an evidence-oriented community.
A thoroughly enjoyable take-down of those who bring -- without any sense of irony -- true religious fervor to their atheism. Incidentally, Pigliucci is an atheist and does not think even agnosticism is a tenable position -- something about which I think he is wrong. More on that soon.
What I really like about Pigliucci is his scientifically-minded intellectual honesty, and the fact that he is more interested in honoring the practice of science than worshiping its fetishized ideal. In other words: his determination to follow evidence and arguments wherever they take him, even when they lead him to conclusions concerning the limits of scientific inquiry that many partisans find so threatening to their ... faith.
-- Wes Alwan
Thanks for the link.
I thought this one was interesting as well – dates from 2008. As a ‘Groucho Marx’ style of non-believer, this stuff just bemuses me.
Jeffrey Jeffers says
Excellent post. Looking forward to the discussion on the merits of agnosticism.
Wes Alwan says
Thanks Geoof and Jeffrey; I’ll check out that link and look at anything else I can find for my agnosticism post.
And here’s a follow up — a reply by a former president of American Atheists (and see Massimo’s reply in the comments): http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2011/01/some-further-thoughts-about-in-your.html. All I’ll say for now is that I get a creepy ultra-religious feel (especially with talk about “false comfort” and “accomodationism”) from Ed Buckner — concealed as it often is by a disjointed, unthoughtful hyper-rationalism (his bullet-point approach to the argument).
In short: My fundamental objection to (movement) atheism is its hyper-religious quality.
Wes: “My fundamental objection to (movement) atheism is its hyper-religious quality.”
I think this is the tendency that I am most discomfited by. I have mentioned before the nature of my youthful stance, which would probably be on board going: “yeah, its all a scam and you Christians are all idiots”.
While it may be satisfying to let rip on occasion, I wonder if atheists would not be better off reflecting on the number of times that there opinion has been successfully changed by someone insulting them, as opposed to the gradual shift as that occurs as we take on and incorporate new knowledge into our schema.
Jeffrey Jeffers says
My frustration is simply with the part Wes highlights. I’m not automatically put out by hyper-religion per se, but that fact that it’s “concealed as it often is by a disjointed, unthoughtful hyper-rationalism” is to me the frustrating part.
I have a similar reaction to the moralizing passion that comes out of fundamentalist religion (which is not only hyper-religious, but also seeks to establish a broad cultural hegemony). This passion is often committed to a morality I find very narrow, and often doesn’t hold its own members and leaders to the same high standard they do those outside the tribe. Same general principle with the New Atheist movement: I’m not particularly impressed by the intellectual values being peddled, in practice or in theory.
Jeffrey Jeffers says
I guess fundamentalist religion is hyper-religious… Oops.
I meant to cite the religious fundamentalism of the American right wing as a source of my frustration. I’m certain this isn’t the only example of fundamentalism, but I’m also confident that not all hyper-religious communities seek a broad, or very large, cultural hegemony (the Amish, for example, or the Shakers, probably a better example).
I think this is somewhat overly broad and assumes there is one WAY to attain knowledge (I love to use “WAY” ever sense the Chuang Tzu session). For instance “alternative” medicine mentioned above. What do the quotation marks mean? Shouldn’t they be on the “medicine” part if I’m following his intention?
Is there one WAY–Western Scientific–to health, to cure? I’d say this is far from a proven case given that much of Western Medicine takes the tack of trying to “cure the part” while killing the whole. But this is endemic to the kind of thinking we do–we are men of parts and we cannot conceive the whole. Radiation and chemotherapy are disastrous “medicines” and to me these often make less sense than leeches. (While it should be know that leeches and maggots do have their place as curatives.)
Also, this brings me to the “emptiness” in our smallest ideas of matter (I’m not sure about the term as I’m going to apply it)–what do we know about those empty spaces in the nuclei of atoms? Surely they are integral and necessary to their mechanics. Perhaps it is this emptiness in our very core of existence that we cannot know and can never know and so can never have a very real knowledge of any aspect of the “bottom” of our biology let alone our cosmology and so on.
If we take seriously the quantum mechanics idea of indeterminacy (and again I am way out of my depths so please correct where necessary) then shouldn’t we not think that all of our recreations of things in the world cannot be “natural” or act in the same way as the thing as it arises in itself? There will always be a difference, right? Is it a difference that has significance?
Theology is hampered by the need for a story that conforms to our various pictures of “man in the world”. Human creations of images that are so simple as to be laughable. A child’s tale at best. It doesn’t do to erase possibility if you do not believe in a specific tale. I would supply some words of Hamlet here if they weren’t so hackneyed by now in this context.
“should we not” or “shouldn’t we” above.
Quoting from a forum I was reading today:
“Just as philosophy was unable to answer questions about the nature of the Universe until science gave us quantum mechanics and special relativity, so it will be unable answer questions of morality until we understand biological character of behaviour.”
So that is it guys. Best put all ethical discussions on hold. There is nothing you can say until science says give philosphers the all clear to start talking about it again. Also, the only decisions we may make until that time must be amoral ones.
What was that about a fetishized ideal?
Nice, Geoff…in the blogosphere re Giffords and the psychology of Loughner a Neuroscientist/Psychologist points out at “new term” in this field is “priming”:
“As a psychologist, I find it remarkable that we’re having this discussion at all, especially in light of both the weight scientists put on prediction – Gabby Giffords’ own interview at the Capitol during the election when she warned that Palin putting people like her in the crosshairs has “consequences”— and what we know about what neuroscientists call priming, the influence of a prior stimulus on a later reaction, usually unconsciously.”
Sound familiar fans of Hume or James?
I still want to suggest that the mind can in fact “create” the “science” it discovers. Chicken/egg discussions are of course somewhat futile, but the idea of habituation exists prior to the “discovery” of such as a “scientific fact”.
But, practically, does habituation create a “lively” cause to effect action? Right Wing vitriol…kill, assassinate, destroy, over and over offers the idea and the impetus to act. But it is not an observable habituated “action”–these are words and one can’t see the observable consequence of words–that is to say words are so slippery, requiring interpretation that it is hard to “blame” them for an ACT. I mean the habitual here is “listening” to vitriol isn’t it? One would have to then believe that words/ideas can slide into agency rather readily.
I may be confusing myself! Oh well, this is possibly far less than a partial examination on my part. A little help?