The sad face of atheistic fundamentalism

Posted on 11/05/11 5 Comments
While I am not a Facebooker, I was informed by somebody of the discussion at the Facebook page of the Society of Edmonton Atheists regarding my November 1st visit. (Incidentally, be sure to befriend the SEA page; for the most part they are indeed friendly.) The comment came from “Rodrigo de la Jara” who commented as follows:
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“Although I already linked to this other video as a comment, I saw that it had a part relevant to the Flying Spaghetti presentation we saw this week. At least one of us atheists accepted that it was fair to criticize Richard Dawkins for avoiding sophisticated theology. Eminent philosopher Dan Dennett comments on this specific accusation starting at 48 min, 1 sec in this video.”
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What should we think of this? Well it is interesting, because what we have here is an appeal to the authority of Daniel Dennett as a way to marginalize my entire presentation. Philosophical theologians and philosophers of religion don’t know what they’re talking about. Why? Because Dennett said so and Rodrigo linked to it! That’s all you need right?
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If you have a lot of faith in Dennett and Rodrigo perhaps.
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But what if you have your doubts about these authorities? What if you’re an independent thinker and you’d like some actual evidence before you marginalize Randal and his entire presentation? Alas, this isn’t the place for such free thinkers. Just take Daniel’s unsubstantiated word for it. After all, Rodrigo provided the link.
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Or maybe not. I have a high degree of confidence that SEA breeds independent thinkers who will ask for evidence of the futility of a particular knowledge discourse (and the slighting of all those who partake in that knowledge discourse) rather than acting like lemmings that blindly follow internet links over a cliff and into the fundamentalist abyss.
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Of course Rodrigo is always welcome to come on over and defend his views here in the court of public opinion rather than hiding in the coattails of the aging bearded doyen of philosophical naturalists. But I offer him a warning: we don’t look favorably upon unquestioning dogmatism, even if it is granted to one’s cherished secular philosophical authority.
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  • http://www.atheistmissionary.com/ The Atheist Missionary

    I thought I would share this useful excerpt from the website Fallacy Files which I am currently using in an online discussion with some evolution deniers:

    … before relying upon expert opinion, go through the following checklist:

    Is this a matter which I can decide without appeal to expert opinion? If the answer is “yes”, then do so. If “no”, go to the next question:

    Is this a matter upon which expert opinion is available? If not, then your opinion will be as good as anyone else’s. If so, proceed to the next question:

    Is the authority an expert on the matter? If not, then why listen? If so, go on:

    Is the authority biased towards one side? If so, the authority may be untrustworthy. At the very least, before accepting the authority’s word seek a second, unbiased opinion. That is, go to the last question:

    Is the authority’s opinion representative of expert opinion? If not, then find out what the expert consensus is and rely on that. If so, then you may rationally rely upon the authority’s opinion.

    If an argument to authority cannot pass these five tests, then it commits the fallacy of appeal to misleading authority.

    • randal

      TAM, the website advises “Is the authority an expert on the matter? If not, then why listen?”

      The grossly simplistic way that that is written is rather troubling since there is a wide spread between “expert opinion” and “worthless opinion” which it fails to acknowledge. But fine, I’ll play along. So then the next question is whether the person who wrote this is an expert, and if not then why are you bothering to listen?

      Much else in the advice is also brutally simplistic. For instance, this: “Is the authority’s opinion representative of expert opinion? If not, then find out what the expert consensus is and rely on that. If so, then you may rationally rely upon the authority’s opinion.” Now this one is actually funny. But before I point out how funny it is, let me point out that I routinely advocate for consensus opinion. That’s not the issue. The issue, rather, is with the individual’s claim that going against consensus opinion is irrational. And this is actually funny because the consensus among the relevant field of experts (epistemologists) is that this is false, in which case if you accept this advice you ought to reject it!

      Thanks for brightening my morning with this advice!

  • Dogmatic Daniel

    Randal, I’m assuming you disagree with Dennett’s assessment. Do you think that in general the “new atheists” lack a sufficient understanding of philosophy? If so, wouldn’t the corollary of this be that in order to be a theist one need have a certain pre-requisite philosophical education? So Christians ought not to waste their time evangelizing but should instead focus their efforts on mandatory philosophical education standards in schools?

    • randal

      “Do you think that in general the “new atheists” lack a sufficient understanding of philosophy?”

      Depends which new atheist and which area of philosophy you’re referring to.

      “If so, wouldn’t the corollary of this be that in order to be a theist one need have a certain pre-requisite philosophical education?”

      Um, no that wouldn’t follow.

      “So Christians ought not to waste their time evangelizing but should instead focus their efforts on mandatory philosophical education standards in schools?”

      I have no idea what you’re talking about.

      In my book You’re not as Crazy I go through the writings of the new atheists to demonstrate how they marginalize entire knowledge discourses by imputing to those who engage in those forms of discourse either woeful ignorance or, even more soberly, malicious intent. This latest quip from Dennett is but one more example. And the really tragic thing, as I illustrate, is that their methods are fundamentally indoctrinational in nature. Thus it is really sad, comically sad, that when some cognitive dissonance emerges because of exposure to different opinions people react by quoting one of the new atheists engaging in just that kind of marginalization.

      Stick around if you can. I’ll put up a new post that quotes Dennett verbatim, and I’d like you to decide whether you want to defend it.

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