Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mutual Assured Destruction

John Loftus has been defending ridicule. I wonder if he has seen all the implications of his position. 
OK, but consider people like Holding, Hays, and Ilion. These people are Christians who regularly use ridicule. Ilion, for example, thinks that I am way too nice, and says so on a regular basis. I say that niceness isn't the real issue, that in discussions of this type ridicule tends to feed the suspicion that the objects of ridicule are not being adequately represented. If you can ridicule and accurately represent at the same time that's quite an accomplishment. Effective critique of an opposing viewpoint requires the use of, for example, the principle of charity, which just doesn't go together with ridicule.
But do you now see that your arguments for ridicule could just as easily be used by Christian apologists. If I remember correctly, you wanted me to ban one of more people on my site who you thought weren't civil. But if your argument works for you against, say, Jeff Lowder, it means that, in the in-house debate on our side, my ridiculing colleagues are right and I am wrong. I need to get nastier.
Now I suppose you can say that since my arguments are good and my colleagues' arguments are bad, that you have earned the right to use ridicule but they haven't. But THEY think they also have good arguments, and that gives THEM the right to ridicule. We would then be, on my view, headed on the road to mutually assured destruction.
Now I suppose you can take the Dawkins line and say that "our ridiculers are smarter and wittier than your ridiculers."
RD: You might say that two can play at that game. Suppose the religious start treating us with naked contempt, how would we like it? I think the answer is that there is a real asymmetry here. We have so much more to be contemptuous about! And we are so much better at it. We have scathingly witty spokesmen of the calibre of Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Who have the faith-heads got, by comparison? Ann Coulter is about as good as it gets. We can’t lose!
But I wonder how well that would hold up against the Outsider Test for Ridicule. Is Dawkins maybe a little biased? Has he read J. P. Holding? I'll bet not.
And do you really want the issue settled on these grounds in any event?

25 comments:

Ilíon said...

"Ilion, for example, thinks that I am way too nice, and says so on a regular basis. ... But if your argument works for you against, say, Jeff Lowder, it means that, in the in-house debate on our side, my ridiculing colleagues are right and I am wrong. I need to get nastier"

You don't really pay attention, do you?

What I say is that you are so committed to being perceived as "nice" or "civil" by the people who hate Christ that you will even lie to yourself about what fine, upstanding "nice" or "civil" persons they are ... even when they periodically insult not just your fellow Christians, but you yourself, to your face.

I *also* say you're a hypocrite in your "liberal" politics.

I expect that there may well be some overlap going on.

Victor Reppert said...

I have been gradually coming to realize the extent to which New Atheism in particular has turned debate about religion into a political exercise.

Ilíon said...

Just to be clear, while your "niceness" may be held for misplaced reasons (and frequently leads you to refuse to see some true things), unlike every other "nice" person I have ever encountered in my entire life, you do generally stick with it (*), you don't give yourself an excuse to be "mean" because "he mase me angry". That is, your "niceness" itself isn't hypocritical; it's that your commitment to misplaced "niceness" above truth leads you to hypocrisy.


(*) That time, a few years ago, when you were commiserating with BDK about me even being a commenter here was hardly "nice". I happened to see it some months afterward when I was Googling for something I recalled (never found it, whatever it was). It's that incident I refer to when I sometimes tell you (when the commentariat here is particularly inane) that it seems you got the on-line grouping you wanted. Or deserved.


"I have been gradually coming to realize the extent to which New Atheism in particular has turned debate about religion into a political exercise."

Let's see: "religion" is about How *should* we behave, individually and collectively, toward God and toward one another?

On the other hand: politics is about "What can we (in this grouping) get away with compelling others to do as we will, to our benefit?"

Clearly, politics needs to be subordinated to "religion". But, just as clearly, there is a great deal of overlap in what the two are about.

And, of course, those who disparage "religion" have only politics left as a vehicle by which to even think about moral issues.

cl said...

If Loftus is so for ridicule, why is he such a wimp? Show up at his site and give him the same ridicule he endorses espousing on believers, and watch what happens. He'll literally ban you off his blog if YOU ridicule HIM.

Loftus is the biggest kook in this scene. Far and away. The guy is a danger to true critical thinking. All he does is foster pseudo-rationalism. And people wallow in it.

im-skeptical said...

"You might say that two can play at that game. Suppose the religious start treating us with naked contempt, how would we like it?"

The "naked contempt" that Dawkins refers to here is a particular type of contempt, comparable to what Dawkins himself has advocated. However, it goes without saying that theists have ALWAYS treated atheists with naked contempt, if not outright hatred.

We have seen church-sanctioned torture and murder of atheists, laws against blasphemy and apostasy. Some time ago, Victor posted an essay written by Augustine that illustrates this - it oozes his contempt for atheists. In recent times, the esteemed philosopher Plantinga says that if you don't believe in God, you are mentally defective. Victor himself (nice guy that he is) engages in name-calling.

Spare me your crocodile tears over how nasty those new atheists are. I can't manage to gin up a whole lot of sympathy.

Victor Reppert said...

I have enormous respect for many nonbelievers. Shoot, two of them were on my doctoral committee. And I don't mean really friendly ones like Nagel, but people like Keith Parsons and J. L. Mackie.

im-skeptical said...

Victor,

You are the nice guy, as was pointed out. That doesn't change the truth of what I said. I'm not trying to paint everyone with the same brush, but it is undeniable that many theists do just that.

cl said...

SKEP

"I'm not trying to paint everyone with the same brush..."

Then why don't you THINK before you write patently stupid stuff like,

"it goes without saying that theists have ALWAYS treated atheists with naked contempt, if not outright hatred."

LOL

im-skeptical said...

cl,

Why don't you get a brain? What I said is absolutely true. I didn't say ALL theists have always treated atheists with naked contempt. But if the shoe fits, wear it.

Victor Reppert said...

Some theists treat atheists with naked contempt, others don't. And some are contemptuous of some atheists and not others. For example, I think accusing me of being a child abuser because I took my stepdaughters to church and Sunday School, and comparing my doing so unfavorably with sexually abusing those children, is beneath contempt.

im-skeptical said...

The way you misrepresent what Dawkins says not too cool, either, Victor.

Papalinton said...

Let's add a little empirical realism into this debate about 'naked contempt' for theists and/or atheists. Not only the historical record but recent research and surveys demonstrates so clearly which has the bigger footprint when coming to demonstrating 'naked contempt'.

SEE HERE.

One need only to put an assertion to the test and the test is pretty reliable; In the US, theists dislike atheists big time. There is no getting away from this historical fact.

So, whatever Dr Reppert might offer as an example of atheist excess simply does not resonate in the remotest with the facts of the matter. He would do well not to egregiously conflate atheist incidences to the level of theist excess for unconscionable behaviour and 'naked contempt'. The evidence does not support his overwrought posturing.

Papalinton said...

HERE IS ANOTHER review of the research about atheists being the most distrusted group in the US.

cl said...

?I didn't say ALL theists have always treated atheists with naked contempt."

Ooh, nice one, where'd you get that the junior high playground? Inhale, rewind, reread. I didn't say you said that. You pseudo-rationalists really need to slow down, read, and ... ahem, think critically.

Because, what you said is *NOT* absolutely true, unless of course you mean to water it down to some variant of, "Somewhere, in the world, at all times, there is a theist being mean to an atheist." At that point it's moot.

im-skeptical said...

cl,

I asked you already, why don't you get a brain? You really, REALLY need one.

Dan Gillson said...

According to Pittsburgh philosopher John McDowell, the difference between Plato's Gorgias and Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics is that Gorgias is concerned with the question of convincing others who do not accept morality to be moral, whereas Nichomachean Ethics is concerned only people who are already interested in morality. I'd suggest following Aristotle's model instead of worrying about the ridicule of someone so petty as Loftus.

Dan Gillson said...

And anyways, Loftus is a crybaby who can dish it out but can't take it, so who cares about what he ridicules? Make fun of his shitty books and he becomes a sopping mess.

DJC said...

Victor,

I have been gradually coming to realize the extent to which New Atheism in particular has turned debate about religion into a political exercise.

I see the New Atheism strategy as adopting the techniques religion uses as its most effective weapons: the language of moral persuasion instead of rational persuasion. Ridicule in particular seems to originate from the other-condemning moral emotions contempt, anger and disgust (Haidt) and can be seen as a moral persuasion techniques similar to but milder than ostracism, shaming, and revenge.

(My view: religion requires moral persuasion to continue to exist (i.e. at the very least morally persuasive weekly meetings) and cannot survive through rational persuasion alone. On the other hand, atheism seems to have come into existence solely via rational persuasion so defending it with moral persuasion seems to me to be a mistake and an attempt to turn atheism/humanism into a religion.)

Aragorn said...

I think ridicule has a place in the marketplace of ideas. It's not ideal but it's not entirely useless either. A lot, including me, have been shaken out of theistic belief only by the strength of ridicule.

Kathen said...

I think accusing me of being a child abuser because I took my stepdaughters to church and Sunday School, and comparing my doing so unfavorably with sexually abusing those children, is beneath contempt.

It certainly is. Who is doing this? I suggest you consider a libel suit.

Victor Reppert said...

Dawkins said that this is true of all Christians, and I am one of them.

I am going to argue that this is the only reasonable way to take his comments, though some people have disagreed.

im-skeptical said...

"Dawkins said that this is true of all Christians, and I am one of them."

It's a gross misrepresentation of what he said. It's not the most reasonable way to take his comments - it's the most uncharitable way to take them, and certainly not what he intended.

Kathen said...

Victor Reppert

You are nearly always fair, reasonable and able to deal politely with people who disagree with you, and that is no small praise since blogging often seems to bring out the worst in people. But for some reason you just have a blind spot where Richard Dawkins is concerned. You cannot be either fair or charitable to him.

Dawkins has said many things that should be criticised. You could criticise them but instead you attack what are obviously misrepresentations of his opinions. Why? No one will pay attention to you because you are obviously being unfair.

Ilíon said...

^
Didn't I say, from day-one, that Kathen would turn out to be another Im-skeptical?

Ilíon said...

It's *impossible* to reason with people who will say just anything.