Sunday, August 05, 2007

Quote of the Time Being

I believe that the cause of evolutionary biology is hurt by her "diplomacy" (and especially Michael Ruse's) because it is so transparent--I think it persuades many religious people that evolutionists will lie to avoid a confrontation.
-Daniel Dennett, Free Inquiry Dec. 2006/Jan. 2007

6 comments:

Alon Levy said...

And I believe that the cause of evolutionary biology is hurt by people who insist on treating it as a political or religious issue--I think it persuades many religious people that they have to deconvert to be evolutionists.

Hallq said...

Well, every scientific issue is can become a religious issue when a religion makes some scientifically false claim and science discovers the fact. It's the case with the first two chapters of Genesis. And what's really bothersome among the people Dennett is attacking is that they often attack Dawkins et. al. on purely tactical grounds, with a disregard for what's true. Transparent, as Dennett says.

Bronze Dog said...

I don't treat evolution as a religious or political issue. The thing that causes so much consternation in my opponents is that I treat religion and politics as scientific issues: In other words, I care whether or not something is true or false.

Alon Levy said...

Yeah, how dare those political types think that in politics you have to get allies occasionally. Better to gratuitously piss everyone off.

Seriously. If all Dawkins said was "Evolution is true," nobody would care. You don't generate book sales by giving evidence for evolution unless you do it remarkably well, and Dawkins doesn't; The Blind Watchmaker has nothing on The Panda's Thumb there. However, you can generate book sales by acting like a third grader, using words like "faith heads" to describe people who disagree with you.

One of the keywords here is totalization. The radical mentality is often based on taking one thing and proclaiming it the root of all problems in the world. For Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens, it's religion; as such, they shoehorn unrelated evils into religious terms, or, in Hitchens' case, attack virtuous religious people such as Gandhi. For radical feminists, it's the patriarchy, so you have Catharine MacKinnon attacking the gay rights movement for not viewing itself as a subsidiary of feminism. For Z Magazine, it's Western imperialism plus Israel. For fundamentalists, it's secularism...

Hallq said...

I don't have the time for a full reply, so let me just point out one blatant falsehood: Dawkins has explicitly rejected the idea that religion is "the root of all problems in the world." (See the wiki on his documentary.) I suspect Harris and Hitchens would take a similar position.

Alon Levy said...

It doesn't matter whether he says he does. For a feminist analogy, Susan Brownmiller does say the discovery of rape led to all other evils, but Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin to my knowledge never did. Still, you see the same totalizing tendencies in MacKinnon, for example in her lashing out at gay rights activists, and in Dworkin, when she asked for a 24-hour period in which no rapes would be committed and expected people to take her seriously.

It's the same with Dawkins et al. For example, Harris ends up endorsing an incredibly conservative agenda about Muslims that a consistent empiricist would eschew; some of the things he says about Muslims would do Rush Limbaugh proud. Dawkins invented a whole pseudoscience, memetics, so that he could pathologize religion. Neither seems to have ever seriously considered the possibility that people can consider the evidence unbiasedly and come to different conclusions, or the possibility that in a world with 5.5 billion religious people, a lot of unrelated problems would be superficially entangled in religion.