Friday, October 25, 2013

 

Oh, Fuck Off, Jerry!



I have been trying very hard to keep my pledge to lay off the philosophical deficiencies of Jerry Coyne.

I have resisted the temptation to comment on Jerry's increasing banning of people from his "website," that he ridiculously insists is not a "blog," because they are "rude" to him (probably including me, though I didn't hang around long enough to find out, because I've been at this too long). He has also withdrawn the "title" of "Uncle" from Eric MacDonald for the "sin" of disagreeing with him about scientism.

His latest, "Bertrand Russell on why the term "agnostic" is for show," has driven me over the edge.

He quotes Russell's short piece, "Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic? " as follows:
As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because, when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.

None of us would seriously consider the possibility that all the gods of Homer really exist, and yet if you were to set to work to give a logical demonstration that Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, and the rest of them did not exist you would find it an awful job. You could not get such proof.

Therefore, in regard to the Olympic gods, speaking to a purely philosophical audience, I would say that I am an Agnostic. But speaking popularly, I think that all of us would say in regard to those gods that we were Atheists. In regard to the Christian God, I should, I think, take exactly the same line.
Of course, Russell is making a nuanced point. Some years ago, I was asked if I was "religious" and I respected the questioner enough to answer that I was not technically an atheist "but most people might not be able to tell the difference."

Jerry, the alleged animal lover, enthusiastically dons one of his many pairs of dead animal hides to cover his feet while trying to stomp out any nuance that might intrude upon his world:
One problem here is that yes, you cannot give a logical demonstration that the Greek gods don't exist. (That's the "you can't prove a negative" line.) But you can give a practical demonstration that their existence is improbable, for if they interact with the world you should find some evidence of that interaction; and you find none.

One concludes from this piece that philosophers, at least in Russell's time, respected logic more than evidence, and were more concerned with logical possibilities than with probabilities.

The answer, of course, is that if you have no belief in gods, you should call yourself an "atheist." The term "agnostic" is for wimps.
Logic is for wimps! The mind boggles!

Jerry is becoming a caricature of a supposedly liberal intellectual buffoon ... of the sort that Jack Chick might draw!

Comments:
Especially JAC has convinced me that there are actually atheist equivalents of religious fundamentalists. I call it dogmatic atheism.
 
Jerry is becoming a caricature of a supposedly liberal intellectual buffoon ... of the sort that Jack Chick might draw!

That's pretty much the way Jerry has been looking to me.

I think he is playing to his audience, particularly the frequent commenters. I'm finding that fewer and fewer of his posts are worth reading.
 
Some years ago there was (not totally unjustified) talk about "fundamentalist atheists."

It wouldn't be so infuriating if Jerry was a bad scientist ... but he ain't. It's like hearing otherwise intelligent people arguing against evolution or climate change. You just want to somehow fix their blind spot, but you can't.
 
Yup. And sure enough he provides an excellent analysis why BioLogos fails (even though I don't agree on all points).
That's why I keep on reading him. It can be frustrating.

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/biologos-eliminates-reader-comments/
 
He does like cats so he can't be all bad.

But, yes, this is the same line P Z Myers and other so-called New Atheists push. The odd thing is that on a question of science they would be the first to jump on scientists, or critics of science, who claim greater certainty than is warranted by the evidence. It sounds a bit like cosmologists denouncing as a wimp anyone who doesn't accept the Big Bang theory and it makes them look like posturing blowhards.

My position, like yours and Russell's and Wilkins' I think, is that, technically, I'm agnostic. We don't know that there is no god and, depending on the god we're discussing, it may not be possible to know that there is no such thing. That said, for all practical purposes, I'm atheist, I act on the assumption that there is no god.
 
I've been impressed by your restraint up till now.

I'm giving Jerry the benefit of the doubt and assuming the title of his post is not actually intellectually dishonest. Rather it seems he really believes that the presentations one would give to a "philosophical audience" are just for "show," whereas the simplified, "popular" declamations are the real deal. Extremely telling.
 
I've been impressed by your restraint up till now.

I'm giving Jerry the benefit of the doubt and assuming the title of his post is not actually intellectually dishonest. Rather it seems he really believes that the presentations one would give to a "philosophical audience" are just for "show," whereas the simplified, "popular" declamations are the real deal. Extremely telling.
 
"this is the same line PZ Myers"
Only a few months ago I would have agreed with you, but it looks like he has mellowed a bit, has developed an eye for nuances. His articles have improved.
 
Hmmmmmmm....... a cat person excommunicating, er, I mean, banning people..... sounds suspiciously like Pope Benedict....

-- pew sitter and certified cat lady*

*I neither take responsibility for, nor claim any special political, religious, areligious, or other associational connection or affiliation with other cat people, except to say that it surprises me sometimes who else likes those pointy eared little buggers. The cats, I mean.
 
Only a few months ago I would have agreed with you, but it looks like he has mellowed a bit, has developed an eye for nuances. His articles have improved.

Could this have anything to do with the fact he is currently fostering a cat (even though it did kill his wireless router)
 
There are a lot of propositions I can't, strictly speaking, prove false, but that I also see no reason to take seriously. "God" (of any variety even vaguely resembling that of any orthodox theism) is among that set.

Which is good enough reason for me to call myself an atheist, and save the caveats for if I ever find myself in a philosophy of religion class.


 
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