Questionable Motives

April 3, 2013

Is New Atheism a cover for racist hatred of Muslims?

wahhabi libertyI’ve come across this trope so many times that I realize people are actually falling for it… people (I presumed) who have great difficulty comprehending the written word. After all, I know that even in my country of Canada with its high standing in comparative public education achievements, nearly a third of the population is functionally illiterate. So it’s no surprise to find those who suffer from this unnecessary problem may have difficulty grasping the well written explanations describing why it’s a good thing to criticize ideas and doctrines that have profoundly negative effects in the public domain. And it requires a similar kind of illiteracy to fall for this lie that islamaphobia – an irrational fear of islam – is driven by racist motives rather than good reasons based on compelling evidence.

As if this willful blindness to the very real danger to our secular principles islam contains isn’t bad enough, these people who criticize us – those who have the bad manners to point out why islam requires robust and public critcism – fail to see the obvious: what is truly disturbing is how easily this blindness, this abject stupidity to blame the messenger for the message,  morphs into support for the trope that any and all criticism of the doctrine that empowers islam to be so dangerous in reality is really racism in action.

What is remarkable is that this blatant lie is so easily embraced by those who can read, who can comprehend the written word, who can understand why this misrepresentation and misapplication of what the criticism is all about matters. And to add insult to injury, those who promote and extend this dangerous trope seem to suffer no qualms to attribute the real danger to be those of us who have the moral fortitude and intellectual integrity to point out why the doctrine of islam in particular is so dangerous to us all by standing contrary to the foundational principles that support the liberal secular democracies we have inherited, namely, the New Atheists.

The doctrine of islam is the teachings of koran. If you ask any muslim a specific, straight forward question like this, “Do you believe the koran is the perfect word of god?” be prepared for the fundamentalist answer: “Yes.” This answer does not come only from some fringe element, some extreme radical group of the religion, but the mainstream, from the average muslim. If pressed about what constitutes the difference between a good muslim and a poor one, you will find out from the muslim that how closely the koran is followed determines this status. Why we delude ourselves to think that there will be some maturation of this mainstream fundamentalist thinking with exposure to western secular values is simply as mystifying as it is foolish and dangerous. (The latest evidence is from a trio of high school graduates – who classmates describe as normal and nice and typical – from London, ON who converted to islam, and then participated in mass murder in an attack on gas workers in Algeria.) The motivating factor for this travesty of misdirected young lives was islam. It was not New Atheists!

Those muslims who speak publicly about the evolution of the religion from its violent origins to become what it is not, namely, a tolerant, moderate, living doctrine that respects the rights and freedoms of its members similar to liberalized christianity and judaism, are not speaking on behalf of the religion as good muslims and they know it. The listener – eager to show common cause in the name of secular values like tolerance and respect for the beliefs of others – is ripe for the picking. Such muslims who speak publicly about islam, as if it were an equivalently tolerant religion to those who wish it were, are not moderate muslims at all and do not represent the majority: they are poor muslims by definition… unless they are lying to your face in order to promote by stealth the advancement of islam and shari’a into the public domain. This technique is called taqiyya (for anyone unaware of its religious approval) and it describes why and on what koranic authority this intentional deceit (that fools well meaning but gullible people in secular democracies) is the right thing to do for a good muslim!

At the end of the day, the point of the doctrine of islam is to live a godly life, and by faith this means living under god’s law, which is not compatible with either the secular principles of tolerance and respect showered on its adherents in the West. This law is shari’a and it is incompatible in authority with your individual rights of autonomy, your individual freedoms for legal equality, your secular principles of tolerating and accommodating religious differences, your allegiance to your nation. Shari’a is incompatible with the foundational principles of western liberal secular democracies. These are the facts and not some imaginary racist assertions meant to to slander.

But don’t take my word for. Find out for yourself (first by reading and then by asking real muslims) why claims about the peacefulness of the religion of islam are not true in practice by good muslims. Ask about their interpretation about the  verse of the sword, the one used to overturn all the previous koranic claims about promoting peace and love, when defending the faith (or watch a short video about it here). Find out for yourself why islam and shari’a are not like the doctrines of any other liberalized religion but stand firmly against any social advancement past the seventh century morality that has been encoded in the koran. Check out ongoing violence done in the name of islam and ask yourself how and why this is any different from other religions. In other words, stop pretending that tolerating and respecting freedom of religion means that it is only right and proper for you to respect islam. By doing so, you are threatening the very values of tolerance and respect you are self-righteously exercising!

Now that we have compelling evidence from reality that the doctrine of islam is incompatible with western secular values, how much sense does it make – and who does it serve – to vilify New Atheists for talking about this compelling evidence in the public domain?

You guessed it: it serves only to grant more cover for stealth jihad. How can any literate person who supports western secular values be so stupid as to be intolerant of much needed criticism towards the doctrine of islam? Well, I think there are four possibilities: illiterate, ignorant, delusional, complacent, or complicit.

For those who are illiterate, get help.

For those who are ignorant, open your mind and eyes and ears and learn.

For those who are delusional, respect reality. Recognize that your beliefs – especially religious beliefs – do not create reality but require adjudication by it if you wish to have them respected.

For those who are complacent, who wish that these inherent conflicts between faith-based beliefs and our valued principles would just go away, wake up. Recognize the danger and join in the criticism or get out the way.

For those who are complicit, who try to lay the blame for islamic intolerance on some fringe element of it rather than the doctrine that empowers the whole, who will not think for themselves but go along with the charade that islam is a religion of peace and tolerance in spite of compelling evidence to the contrary, who will not see the danger to themselves -  to their own legal welfare and that of their neighbours – or others, who allow their complicity to enable the advancement of islam and shari’a unimpeded by legitimate criticism, know that you are exposed for the ethical hypocrites and moral cowards you are.

As a shining example of what it is we face as New Atheists in this battle to get more of us to respect reality rather than faith-based beliefs about it, consider this exchange between one the Four Horsemen of New Atheism, Sam Harris, and the usually reasonable columnist Glenn Greenwald. I have extracted Sam’s final reply and added the bold for emphasis:

The idea that “new atheism” is a cover for a racist hatred of Muslims is ridiculous (and, again, crudely defamatory). I have written an entire book attacking Christianity. And do you know what happens when I or any of my “new atheist” colleagues criticize Christians for their irrational beliefs? They say, “Of course, you feel free to attack us, but you would never have the courage to criticize Islam.” As you can see, our Christian critics follow our work about as well as you do.

Needless to say, there are people who hate Arabs, Somalis, and other immigrants from predominantly Muslim societies for racist reasons. But if you can’t distinguish that sort of blind bigotry from a hatred and concern for dangerous, divisive, and irrational ideas—like a belief in martyrdom, or a notion of male “honor” that entails the virtual enslavement of women and girls—you are doing real harm to our public conversation. Everything I have ever said about Islam refers to the content and consequences of its doctrine. And, again, I have always emphasized that its primary victims are innocent Muslims—especially women and girls.

And for the money quote:

There is no such thing as “Islamophobia.” This is a term of propaganda designed to protect Islam from the forces of secularism by conflating all criticism of it with racism and xenophobia. And it is doing its job, because people like you have been taken in by it.

Exactly:, propaganda.

Are you falling for it?

November 1, 2011

Of what value is atheism?

If you happen to respect what’s true in reality and how we can know anything about it, then the value of atheism is pronounced.

How so? Well, reader Joshua has asked me the following questions:

Where’s your positive case for atheism? Why is it a superior worldview? What explanatory power does it have for anything? What has atheism contributed to the advancement of the human species? Those are questions I want you to address. Not here, but on your blog.

Okay. Let’s take a look at these one at a time.

1) Where’s your positive case for atheism?

My answer to this is two-fold.

In the first case, atheism in regards to religious claims means non belief. The question is the wrong one in this regard to establish good reasons for not believing. This becomes apparent if we test the same question against, let’s say, non belief in the Easter Bunny. Where’s your positive case for non belief in the Easter Bunny? It’s a silly approach to understanding the role atheism plays in finding out what’s true in reality. Non belief is a negative claim, meaning that because there is no positive evidence for the positive religious claim that it is true, non belief is reasonable alternative. We do this all the time in the face of every absurd claim that has no reasonable case in its favour. Because there are no good reasons to believe in the religious claim based on evidence available to all, there is no reasonable case to be made in its favour. The default, therefore, is non belief in exactly the same way the questioner does not demand of himself a positive case to be made for not believing in faeries, not believing in wood sprites, not believing in Zeus, and so on.

In the second case, my answer is that non belief in the absence of good reasons to believe something is true provides us a tangible benefit, namely, a healthy dose of scepticism to protect one’s self from being foolish and gullible. The shell game, played by religious supporters who cannot provide coherently good reasons independent of their favoured beliefs to make a positive case for their positive religious claim, becomes in this light rather obvious: they believe the religious claim because they have had to elevate belief itself to be a good enough reason in the absence of good reasons based on independent supporting evidence. And here’s the problem: once you accept belief itself as the benchmark for establishing the validity of a truth claim about reality, you have fallen into a rabbit hole of foolish gullibility. There are no longer any belief claims that can be ruled out as false because one has already capitulated any means to establish and inform what’s actually true in order to maintain the validity of holding the religious belief.

2) Why is it a superior worldview?

Atheism itself is not a worldview. It is non belief in religious truth claims. How is one’s worldview altered, for example, by not believing in the literal truth of the Tooth Fairy? The absence of the Tooth Fairy doesn’t alter anything; again, it’s the wrong question. Believing in the Tooth Fairy, however, most assuredly does alter one’s worldview. Accepting the belief itself as valid means one has accepted the reality of the supernatural, and has accepted this double blueprint of a singular reality. That’s why religious believers have to compartmentalize religious beliefs in reality over here and reality as it is over there. We get evidence of this intellectual duplicity all the time with phrase like, “I’m a great fan of science, but…”, and “Religious belief is compatible with science because science doesn’t know everything…” This belief in belief stands in stark contrast to the lack of positive evidence for this positive claim. But the believer has already isolated the religious belief from legitimate critical review not vbecause it isn’t deserving but because what’s true in reality doesn’t matter; the only thing that matters in faith-based beliefs is the application of faith itself, which is why only in religion is faith considered a virtue. This worldview is a distorted worldview because it accepts belief without evidence as the arbiter of what’s true in reality.

Compare the products of belief in the supernatural with the products of methodological naturalism. Belief in the supernatural produces easy pseudo-answers to whatever questions about reality one has; when in doubt, pretend that the supernatural is just as likely a cause and look at what is produced: superstition and ignorance and all the negative effects these produce. Why is the sky blue? Because god made it that way. Where do we come from? We come from god because he created the heavens and the earth and everything in it. These aren’t answers; these are childish pseudo-answers that cannot withstand critical scrutiny. This is why no useful and practical applications have ever been produced by elevating belief to be ‘another way of knowing’. It doesn’t produce knowledge. That’s the brute fact believers don’t care to face. It doesn’t produce consistent explanations of cause and effect that are in any way useful, practical, or reliable because it cannot reveal an understandable mechanism by how it works to cause effects. It’s magic, you see, done by critters that leave no evidence of their time spent among us. It’s intellectual hand waving, a rationalized sleight-of-mind that produces nebulous terminology to infuse the beliefs with the appearance of meaning. But let’s be honest: behind such an appearance we find that belief produces no new knowledge. As ‘another way of knowing’ about anything other than the imagined, belief is an abject failure. Atheism, if understood to be a worldview that simply respects what’s true by allowing reality and not belief to arbitrate our claims to knowledge, is superior because it does produce the intellectual ground for knowledge to be honestly extracted from the universe we inhabit…knowledge that translates into reliable and consistent applications that work for everyone everywhere all the time. That’s not a trivial achievement.

3) What explanatory power does it have for anything?

Atheism as non belief doesn’t try to explain anything because it makes no positive claim. But the mindset to respect reality’s role in arbitrating what’s true about it has the benefit of clearing the table of our preconceived notions and biases and prejudices and allows us to respect a method of inquiry  that we know produces consistently reliable and practical results for everyone everywhere all the time that works… regardless of our beliefs. When one starts with an open mind that doesn’t have to filter incoming information through a belief screen first and judged to be friendly or hostile to the belief, one can allow an epistemology to prove itself, to yield to its own judgement of real value in this universe. This has the immediate benefit of keeping one’s mind sceptical about all claims until the preponderance of evidence from reality lends its weight. Claims about stuff outside of reality with no way to test them have no business being presented as if true in this one without this preponderance of evidence. Those dishonest enough to pretend this drawback to the veracity of  supernatural claims isn’t really much of problem to being compatible with the scientific method are absolutely wrong. Truth claims of supernatural causal effect are a priori statements of belief only, equivalent to making shit up. To consider these supernatural belief claims are in any way compatible with claims derived post facto  from our scientific method are without merit… regardless of how sophisticated and nuanced the belief claim may sound to the uncritical mind, the willingly deceived, the defenders of the faith, the pretenders of respecting what’s true in reality. These religious claims remain solely a belief only… equivalent to and indistinguishable from a delusion.

4) What has atheism contributed to the advancement of the human species?

Non belief – and not respecting the beliefs of others as equivalent to knowledge – has freed our minds to pursue what’s true in reality. The advancements in our collective knowledge over the past two hundred years are directly attributed to developing applications that have greatly enhanced every aspect of human life in every appreciable way. From healthcare to technology this increase in knowledge has yielded tangible and practical benefits. In addition, the reasoned-based approach to political expression and governance derived from Enlightenment values has come unprecedented advances in recognizing human rights as the foundation for our freedoms from the indifference and mindless cruelty of a brutal world. Although we still have much to achieve in respecting equal rights and freedoms of all the world’s citizens, we are on the right path. The evidence for this is overwhelming.

But like anyone trying to reach the age of maturity, we have to face the difficult task of letting go of our childish need for parents as well as letting go of our adult children from our desire to over-nurture so that they can find their own way. Faith-based religious beliefs stand opposed to this letting go, insisting that we need to rely on some authority other than our own because we just can’t be trusted. One of the most common comments from theists who have become atheists is facing this fear of independence and finding liberty as well as responsibility. Autonomy and responsibility go hand in hand and it can yield many results both good and bad. But at least both outcomes are personally owned rather than attributed to some oogity boogity. It is a recognition that the world’s problems are our problems to be solved by us who must live with the consequences of our collective actions. Maturity in this context is recognizing the need for each of us to find that balance between human needs and wants and what the world is willing to tolerate. Atheism means the opportunity for intellectual maturity and intellectual honesty, to grow up and leave the belief-feathered bed of wishful thinking and childish dreams behind, to realize the truth in reality that irresponsible actions will not taken care of by some concerned sky daddy, to become fully human in the here and now with all its personal foibles and take ownership of how we live our lives as well as we can under whatever circumstances in we may find ourselves, all the while working towards helping others achieve their own birthright of intellectual independence from the ancient ignorances and false idols of that are the foundation for all faith-based beliefs.

It’s time to let go of faith-based beliefs and grow up. Reality beckons and we have one shot at it. Let’s grab it, respect what it offers, and live a life worth living.

September 13, 2011

Why is the creationist movement so dangerous?

Because it is anti-intellectualism writ large. It most often an anti-science, anti-evolution stance (even when it pretends to be compatible) and it is infecting half of the governing parties of the US to the extent that someone who recognizes evolution and global warming as built on scientific foundations commits political suicide in the Republican party. Nearly 70% of Republicans reject evolution. So how does this reflect anti-intellectualism and anti-science to believe in creationism?

Too often too many of us buy into a notion that this difference of opinion between – let’s pick one particular science-based position – evolution and creationism means a difference in where we place our beliefs: with one side claiming some form of belief in an active, intervening creator – one who intervened and created humans either directly or intervened at some historical moment to instil into humans qualities which links the specialness of being human to our divine Designer – and the other side presented as exercising the same kind of belief in science – that all life on earth today descended from common ancestors subject to natural selection over a great deal of time. But this framing is a false dichotomy – one that favours the notion that everyone is a similar kind of believer differing only where we place our faith-based beliefs: in god or science . This, of course, is simply not true.

Faith-based belief lies entirely on the one side that false divide, one that favours the POOF!ism (or POOF!-insertion) of an intervening diety. On the other side of this divide are not those who apply the same kind of faith-based belief whatsoever; people who respect evolution are those who respect science. They respect that inquiry into the nature of the universe means to inquire into it using a method that provides us with testable, practical knowledge about it, knowledge that works reliably and consistently well for everyone everywhere all the time. That’s not faith. That’s not a faith-based belief. That’s a method that uses reality. Because this inquiry relies on reality to arbitrate what’s true in nature, it is not a faith-based belief that relies on something supernatural to arbitrate what is and is not true by the authority of god… in whatever form that message may seem to appear (scripture and revelation). Confidence in the results of the scientific method is not – in any way, shape, form, or fashion – a similar kind of faith-based belief that presumes the truth of an untestable conclusion as a premise but rather a method of inquiry that follows the evidence wherever it may lead and that reveals only what’s true from testing in that reality.

These two positions are not similar, nor do they produce equality of confidence. They are neither compatible methods of inquiry nor mutually supportive ways of knowing. They stand diametrically opposed when in conflict – like they do between belief in creationism versus confidence in the mutually supportive and overlapping causal evidence of evolution (the micro/macro qualification introduced by theists is scientifically incoherent) and are uneasy allies only when faith-based beliefs align with what’s true in reality, although many organizations responsible for promoting good science will claim that the two approaches are not mutually exclusive. Although technically true if no conflict is present, the position is untenable when it is. Only creationism that places intervention in such a way to not stand in conflict with the irrefutable evidence for evolution seems at first glance to be compatible, but on closer inspection reveals a decisive incompatibly, namely, the difference between evolution properly understood as a mindless, agency-less natural process versus one that is guided in some way – presumably with purpose and intention – by some mind with agency. The two are not compatible descriptions of evolution at all, any more than it would be if someone were to insist that gravity or erosion is guided by mindful agency when no evidence is available to support these claims about these process in reality.

There is no middle ground to be found here that is mutually supportive; one position is either true in nature or it is not. With no way to test the faith-based claim that there really, really, really is agency, there is no way to avoid a fundamental conflict over whether evolution is a natural or an unnatural, supernatural process; whether evolution is a mindless, unguided, purposeless process or a mindful, guided, purposeful process. Evolution in reality cannot be both. Theistic evolutionists would argue it’s possible, but only when the language becomes so befuddling that no one knows what anyone is actually describing. Metaphysics plays a central obfuscating role in this regard. Clarity, however, is the first but by no means the last casualty in this rearguard action by the faithiests.

Creationism, then, is one expression of a faith-based belief that stands contrary to science. There are no scientific results that support it. Those who say there really, really, really are results that can only be ‘explained’ by inserting a supernatural agency (followed closely by the assumption that this divine mind just so happens to favour Jesus’ over Thor’s as the inevitable result by a vast margin) do so only by grossly misrepresenting data, exaggerating both what is known and unknown by ruling out any role for plausibility, and even outright lying by presuming they can speak as if informed on what they cannot by their own admission know… keeping in sight the same sense of the term ‘know’ as they do of the influence of gravity and erosion.

Yet there are scientists who support creationism, so surely there must be something scientific to their belief. Nope. When their theistic evolutionary beliefs are examined, we find they believe for entirely the same reason as anyone else: as a faith-based faith.

So why is creationism so dangerous?

It is dangerous because it is politicized to bring benefit to those politicians who elevate faith-based beliefs over and above the findings of science if they just so happen to be contrary and incompatible to the faith-based claim. This means that respect for science as a method of inquiry and respect for why science’s findings inspire a higher level of confidence when something is true for everyone everywhere all the time are held as a value to be lower than, and secondary to, faith-based beliefs that have no such requirements. When this trust in faith-based beliefs plays out in other political areas where the results from scientific inquiry is incontrovertible but contrary to some faith-based belief, guess which side these politicians will support? Faith over science… what is believed to be true over and above what is true in reality. And this is exactly what we see in the political considerations from climate science; the results show anthropomorphic global warming leading to significant effects in climate refuted by many of the pious not on the basis of good science where 98 out of every 100 climate scientists concur, but by the faithful elevating the 2 scientists who disagree on theistic grounds to be an equivalent ‘side’ of some imaginary ‘debate’. But the debate is not in the scientific community (other than very normal, highly typical, quibbles); it is between those who respect faith-based beliefs as the primary revelation of what is true in nature and those who have confidence that reality arbitrates what’s true in reality. When leadership hopefuls don’t really care about reality, then surely the vast majority of citizens being asked to vote will judge this lack of caring to be a significant liability. It is a liability in every other area of life, so that should offer us a clue if we aren’t sure.

This incompatibility between faith-based beliefs and science cannot inform wise public policies when we have conflict between them. And because those who support faith-based beliefs cannot even agree among themselves what is true in nature, I see no reason to think that anything will or even might change should such people get into public office intent as they are on serving first and foremost those reality-deniers who put them there. Not only will science be relegated to a supportive role of faith-based beliefs, which I think is bad enough, but to the shock of no one except the colossally stupid I think we find it inevitable that we will have public conflict between those who support competing faith-based beliefs. How can those who view faith-based beliefs as equivalent to what’s true in reality not make faith positions part of our political discourse? How can they not use the state to influence policies that will tend to favour one set of faith-based beliefs over another? Even those who hold faith-based beliefs superior to what’s true in reality really have almost as much to lose as those who respect science by supporting a winning faith-based politician. This is where accommodationism leads, where belief in the compatibility between science and religion will take us: into the political and into public office and into the public domain and all its institutions. We already see this on the Supreme Court of the US, its military, its public education in ongoing battle with ‘teach the controversy’ and ‘academic freedom’ to teach Oogity Boogity as some kind of alternative yet compatible science.

The danger of the creationist movement is to replace our quest to know about reality backed up by what’s true in reality with the assumption we already have the ability to answer all the questions we might have through faith, and can then safely ignore – like we are doing with AGW’s causal link to climate change – reality’s role in telling us we are wrong in our beliefs. Nothing good can come from this delusional trust of Oogity Boogity, and that’s why it’s dangerous to have any confidence in those who are so willing to reject reality and present themselves as the champions of what is indistinguishable from a collective of ignorance.

August 17, 2011

What does gullibility look like in print?

Check this out:

3000 Years of Science in a 21st Century Delivery System

CieAura Transparent Holographic Chips™ use a proprietary combination of homeopathic formulas consisting of intrinsic energies that affect positive health responses. CieAura Chips have the look of simple decals on the body or clothing and are totally non-invasive, without any chemical component. When placed along sensitive acupuncture meridian points, results such as increased energy, improved stamina, deeper, more restful nights, and other assorted reactions occur, depending on the program formula of the Holographic Chip and the related placement.

You might think these magical chips actually do something, mightn’t you? Thank goodness the disclaimer tells us it’s all bunk:

CieAura products are sold for learning, self-improvement and simple relaxation. No statement contained in this writing, and no information provided by any CieAura employee or retailer, should be construed as a claim or representation that these products are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease or any other medical condition. The information contained in this writing is deemed to be based on reliable and authoritative report. However, certain persons considered experts may disagree with one or more of the statements contained here. CieAura assumes no liability or risk involved in the use of the products described here. We make no warranty, expressed or implied, other than that the material conforms to applicable standard specifications.

Yet people actually buy these kinds of products because they are gullible. And they are gullible because they allow their faith-based belief in woo to guide them. The problem, however, is that belief in woo is equivalent in all ways to delusion. When we are willing to trust our delusions as if they were true, we are bound for disappointment. In the meantime, far too many of us are simply gullible… to the great profit of integrated medicine and religious industrial woo-meisters who peddle its virtues.

(h/t neurologica)

 

The Rubric Theme Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 84 other followers