Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Unliterate Hallq

“Unliterate” is a neologism used to refer to someone who is able to read but doesn’t bother to do so.  Atheist blogger Chris Hallquist, who calls himself “The Uncredible Hallq,” might consider adopting it as a replacement for his current adjective. “The Non-credible Hallq” would be a good choice too.  About my recent post on the Reason Rally, Hallquist writes: “Ed Feser has a post up denouncing the Reason Rally on the grounds that it is a mass gathering and all mass gatherings are bad.”  He then accuses me of “hypocrisy” for not similarly denouncing the Catholic Mass and Catholic World Youth Day.  He suggests that “it should be obvious that Feser started with his conclusion (atheists are evil) and then set out in search of a way – no matter how lame – to justify it.”  But did I really say that all mass gatherings are bad?  Did I hypocritically make an exception for rallies for causes to which I am favorable?  And did I say that the reason I objected to the “Reason Rally” is because its participants are atheists, or that all atheists are evil?

As those who have bothered to read my post already know, what I actually said there was:

I dislike such rallies even when the cause is good and the participants well-meaning.  They may sometimes be necessary, but they are always regrettable and to be avoided if possible.

The reason is that reason is impossible with a crowd.  Serious matters require calm reflection, sufficient background knowledge, careful distinctions, the give and take of objections and replies, and always the willingness to submit oneself to superior arguments and objective truth.  But the thinking of a crowd is, in the best circumstances, dumbed down, slipshod, and banal…

And in combox remarks posted three days before Hallquist’s rant, I wrote:

[W]hat I had in mind were rallies intended to promote some program or ideology and… I dislike such rallies even when I am sympathetic to the cause.

Hence, I don't much like even e.g. pro-life rallies or Tea Party rallies, even though I despise abortion and big government as much as the next guy.  I'm not saying that such rallies, or even all rallies of the left-wing sort, count as raving mobs -- of course they don't, and I never said they did.  The point is that they are still rallies, and thus prone to a mild level of groupthink where one is moved by feeling and group identity rather than reason.  And the reason why that matters is that the point of political rallies is to promote an end which should be primarily rationally- rather than emotionally-driven.  Still, I also explicitly said that such rallies are sometimes necessary.  They just rub me the wrong way.

At the same time, not all crowds count as rallies.  For example, concerts, sporting events, funerals, and events whose aim is religious devotion (e.g. outdoor Masses or gatherings to receive a papal blessing) are not intended to promote an end of a political or quasi-political sort.  These don't bother me at all, because they don't involve the paradoxical attempt to promote an ideology or program in an emotive rather than rational way…

It's silly to accuse… [any] school of thought (including atheists) of "groupthink" merely because they share firmly held opinions.  That's not what "groupthink" is.  Groupthink is evidenced by things like being moved by the feelings prevailing in a mob rather than by reason (as at a rally) or by mostly reading only each other's work, and ridiculing and demonizing outsiders without even attempting to understand their views (as "New Atheists" do though other atheists -- e.g. Mackie, Smart, Smith, Sobel -- do not).

Are some conservatives and Christians guilty of groupthink?  Sure. Are some left-wingers and secularists innocent of groupthink?  Sure.

End quote.  So, contrary to what Hallquist tells his readers, I explicitly denied that all mass gatherings are bad, I explicitly said that I dislike rallies of a political or programmatic sort even when I am sympathetic to the cause, I explicitly noted why there is a principled difference between such rallies and other mass gatherings (such as religious gatherings), I explicitly said that what was problematic was promoting a practical agenda about complex matters in an emotive rather than rational way (rather than the content of the rally, atheist or otherwise), and I explicitly acknowledged that not all atheists are guilty of the sort of groupthink I was criticizing.  One is tempted to conclude (to paraphrase the Unliterate, Non-credible Hallq) that “it should be obvious that Hallquist started with his conclusion (Feser is evil) and then set out in search of a way – no matter how lame – to justify it.”  

This isn’t the first time Hallquist has exhibited his unwillingness actually to read something before criticizing it.  In a bizarre blog post about my book Aquinas some time back, Hallquist complained that in the 15 pages of the book he’d bothered to read, all I’d done was defend Aquinas’s metaphysics against certain objections, but hadn’t made a positive case on its behalf.  In particular, he complained that while at pp. 8-23 I provide an exposition of some of Aquinas’s key metaphysical claims and respond to various criticisms, I don’t thereby show that those claims are true.  And on the basis of these 15 pages, he judged that:

[S]howing that objections to a view fail is different than showing the view is correct, and as far as I can tell Feser isn’t even trying to do the second thing, at least in the bits of Aquinas I’ve read.  That means that, personally, I don’t find the book very interesting…

Because he doesn’t even try to show Aquinas was right, Feser can’t expect atheists to be very interested in his book.

Now, leave aside the obvious point that one can hardly make the case for a certain view without dealing with objections that have been raised against it.  (And you can be sure that if I had not dealt with the objections that have been raised against Aquinas, Hallquist would have been badmouthing me for that.)  Let’s just consider the fact that most readers in Hallquist’s position would think: “Gee, I’ve read 15 pages and I still haven’t seen what I’m looking for.  But maybe it’s there in the remaining 177 pages of text, so I’ll keep reading before drawing a sweeping conclusion about the book, or at least before posting a sweeping conclusion about it on my blog and thereby making a complete ass of myself in public.”  

But most readers aren’t the Uncredible Hallq.  Because most readers, you know, read.  And as those who have actually read the book know, in the long chapter on Aquinas’s metaphysics, pp. 8-36 are mostly devoted to an exposition of his general metaphysical claims (though there are in fact some positive arguments for those claims there too), while pp. 36-61 are mostly devoted to making a positive case for those claims.  And of course, positive arguments for various other aspects of Aquinas’s philosophy can be found throughout the rest of the book.

“[M]ost of what [Feser] write[s],” Hallquist assures us in his recent post, “is a transparent post-hoc rationalization for bigotry.”  This from a guy who by his own admission draws sweeping conclusions about what’s in a book whose conclusions he dislikes without bothering to read it first!

Really, what is it with these New Atheist pots constantly calling the kettle black?  Do they get paid per kettle or something?

115 comments:

Tom Esteban said...

In the comments section of his blog someone named 'Eric' defends you (basically saying the same thing as you have said here). The Hallq quickly tries to cover his bases. I lost interest when he called the the power to consecrate and bless "magic powers". Whenever I see those kinds of phrases - 'magic powers', 'bearded sky wizard', 'cosmic Jewish zombie', 'cookies and wine cult', etc etc I lose all interest. God bless you for trying, Dr. Feser.

Over and over again I come back to the story of Moses and Pharaoh (and the books of Samuel/Kings), and Jesus and the authorities where Scripture talks about 'hardness of heart'. It's the most tragic thing on this earth to witness.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

Ed, there's nothing "unliterate" about responding to a blog post on the basis of the blog post, rather than something posted in the middle of the comment box.

Now I could have gotten into a discussion of what purposes an event like the Reason Rally can serve. I didn't, because your original post showed no signs of interest in actually providing evidence for your claims about the Reason Rally. You just assumed the worst and ran with it.

You also apparently don't understand the meaning of the phrase "post-hoc rationalization." I never accused you of reasoning from "atheists are evil" as a premise. Rather, you're obsessed with reaching that conclusion, and routinely come up with the lamest justifications for it.

You may claim that you don't think all atheists are evil, and only mean to single out the ones who don't (in your opinion) do enough to understand their opponents' views. In the past, however, your ridiculous denunciations have included professional atheist philosophers of religion, as well as extremely dedicated amateurs like Jason Rosenhouse.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

@Tom: According to Exodus, it was God who hardened the Pharoh's heart. So you're saying this is all God's fault?

The Uncredible Hallq said...

One other thing: it's not true that I read only 15 pages of your Aquinas book. I mentioned pp. 8-23 in response to a comment you left saying chapter 2 was especially important. But I'd also read the introduction, first chapter, parts of other chapters, and skimmed what I didn't read.

This is what normal people who value their time do when they're reading a book and it starts off a bit weak. I can't remember the last time in my life when I didn't have a long list of books I was meaning to read but didn't have the time for. It probably hasn't happened since college. So if I read a book and it starts off weak, and skipping/skimming ahead doesn't suggest it's going to get any better, it's on to the next book.

In Feser Land, if someone doesn't read everything you think they should be reading, they're "unliterate," and if they don't focus their energies on the thinkers you think they should be focusing on, that is a "brutal fact" about them (as you said of Keith Parsons.)

This is what I mean when I talk about lame excuses for calling atheists evil.

Tom Esteban said...

The same kind of people who call Priestly power 'magic powers' are usually also the kind who think they're biblical experts and scholarly exegetes.

Would it do any good to explain Hebraisms particular to scripture to a man who has got it all figured out (who also has a 'long lists of books to read')? Let me guess, Hallq, you've also got the "Skeptics annotated Bible" as a favorite bookmark in your preferred browser?

Tom Simon said...

@Haliq:

So if I read a book and it starts off weak, and skipping/skimming ahead doesn't suggest it's going to get any better, it's on to the next book.

Fine. But then don’t review it on your blog, or you WILL make a colossal fool of yourself.

There are only two absolute rules for book reviewing; everything else is a matter of the reviewer’s purposes and the review-reader’s interests. But if you violate these two rules, you disqualify yourself as a reviewer:

1. Don’t review a book you haven’t read.
2. Ever.

(No, skimming doesn’t count.)

Martin S. said...

A very gracious reaching out to a 'feebthought' young man. Perhaps Blessed Mother inspired.

Asadullah Ali said...

Hallq,

You're still a mind-numbing idiot, aren't you? Seriously. And don't go on throwing out fallacies you don't understand like "that's an adhom" when I haven't even suggested you're wrong because you're an idiot.

Your idiocy comes from you being wrong so many times and never (and I mean never) admitting your mistakes when debating with people you disagree with. Its clear from your post as well as your comments here that you are simply lying because you got caught with your rational pants down.

Get over yourself and get a real education. The fact that you even have the audacity to attack a professor in this way (and thats different from mere disagreement) shows how much you really respect education: not at all.

Anonymous said...

I said it on your other post and I'll say it again here, political rallies aren't for reason. What a rally is about is not generally practiced at a rally. They can serve a number of innocuous political functions so long as they are of limited scope. The Nazi rallies were dangerous, they bolstered a number of dangerous group-think and mesmerizing notions. However, to compare modern liberal democratic political rallies to Nuremberg rallies (or to something dangerous) is to really play with some egregious hyperbole. If you don't like rallies, great, more power to you. Don't go to them.

It's still significant that it was an atheist rally that finally spurred you to announce your feelings. If you were actually honest about that, then nobody would be calling you a hypocrite.

Corrigan1 said...

At any given time there are maybe half a dozen "great" people alive, and by "great", I'm talking about Picasso, Einstein, Newton and the like. Everybody else, no matter how rich, famous or celebrated they may become, is a mediocrity; you may be a hugely successful mediocrity, you may make millions of dollars out of your particular mediocrity, but if you're not in the special group marked "great", you're still just a mediocrity, and nobody's going to remember you ten minutes after you've died.

The thing is, that's not really a problem. Mediocrity is fine. Mediocrity is sufficient to keep the old world turning at a comfortable rate. Greatness is like leaven to the bread - you only need a touch of it to make the dough rise.

Unfortunately, there is a huge number of people out there who simply can't stand being mediocrities. They hate it and they'll do anything to convince themselves that they're better than that, and that's where the New Atheism scores: it gathers the low hanging fruit who think that skimming a book they don't really understand makes them literate and cultured, as "great" people are supposed to be.

I suspect that this is the real source of the rage, the anger, the fury we have come to associate with them. The irony is that, contrary to the standard NA sneers about Christians believing themselves special and chosen by God for a place in Heaven, it is actaully the NAs who perceive themselves the special ones - believers accept their own ordinariness, knowing that it's better to be a human mediocrity than the cleverest orang-utan that ever swung through the trees of Borneo. People like Hallq really need to get over themselves.

TheOFloinn said...

Ach. 'Tweren't that it was an atheist rally, but ostensibly a rally for reason. The inherent self-contradiction in such a stated purpose is too deliciously ironic for any Late Modern to pass up. I can hear the crowds now uttering TWCs (Three-Word Chants) like "Think, Don't Chant!"

But of course the real problem is that on the evidence they have no idea what "reason" actually means. Rallies are for self-affirmation and emoting, not for reasoning.

RD Miksa said...

Hello Everyone:

I have to say, based on my on-line experience it appears that not-actually-reading-something-but-then-voraciously-and-viciously-criticising-it seems to be such a consistent trait of the New Atheists that it can almost be singularly used to identify them in the absence of other evidence.
Indeed, so many conversations with them go something like this:

New Atheist (NA): Christian theism such-and-such just wrote a massive argument for his position. I skimmed it and determined that it is utterly full of fallacies. I am not going to waste any more time on it or explain the fallacies. And I have to say, it always amazes me how stupid Christian theists are; they really need to learn logic before commenting on stuff.

Christian Theist (CT): Hello, I wrote the argument. Care to actually show me some of the fallacies that I make, rather than just asserting that I do.

NA: But there are so many that it
would take twenty pages to refute them all, so I will not bother.

CT: Thus meaning that you will make another assertion rather than an argument, which is actually a demonstrable fallacy, unlike the alleged fallacies that you accuse me of making.

NA: Fine, here are a few points that are fallacious. And here are points that your argument does not address, thus making it dishonest. Plus, you’re stupid.

CT: Actually, here is why those points are not fallacies (explains). And actually, my argument directly addresses and answers all the points that you raise, so it has to make me wonder if you actually read the argument or not. And why are you poisoning our conversation by calling me stupid.

NA: OK, but here are some more points.

CT: But my argument actually addresses all those issues. Have you actually read it?

NA: I read the short version.

CT: But I did not write a short version. So have you read the actual argument?

NA: Here are some more points?

CT: But these points are irrelevant to my argument. Speaking of which, you still have not answered if you actually read my argument!


And so the conversation continues indefinitely in the same vein. This truly has been my experience with the New Atheists (to be clearly separated from just atheists).

Take care.

Sincerely,

RD Miksa

BenYachov said...

>@Tom: According to Exodus, it was God who hardened the Pharoh's heart. So you're saying this is all God's fault?

Yes since God is the formal cause of all things he is the formal cause of Pharoh's hard heart.

So what that verse isn't teaching God is the efficient cause of the Pharoh's heart hardening. Pharoh's responsible for that.

We Catholics don't believe in Scripture Alone numb nuts!

Gnu'Atheists are not just idiots they are f***ing idiot.

They are mentally inferior to the last man & woman. Otherwise they wouldnm't be Gnus but regualr Atheists.

Tom Esteban said...

Our atheist friend also misses the parts (in Exodus at least) where it clearly states that Pharoah hardens his own heart. No doubt, with his 'Skeptics annotated Bible' in hand, he'll show how the Bible 'contradicts itself'... Hmmm.

The Deuce said...

RD Miksa:

I have to say, based on my on-line experience it appears that not-actually-reading-something-but-then-voraciously-and-viciously-criticising-it seems to be such a consistent trait of the New Atheists that it can almost be singularly used to identify them in the absence of other evidence.

Hell, they even advocate the practice openly at times. As Ed mentioned in the previous post, PZ's "Courtier's Reply" is an explicit rationalization for replying and mocking things without reading or understanding them. There really seems to be something about the atheist worldview (specifically, I believe, it's the implication of materialism that "truth" is relative and subjective, and determined by consensus and force) that psychologically predisposes them to this sort of behavior.

Anonymous said...

"But of course the real problem is that on the evidence they have no idea what "reason" actually means. Rallies s are for self-affirmation and emoting, not for reasoning."

I'll say it again (and again) until it gets through the hardened shell.

What rallies are about is not usually practiced at rallies.

What rallies are about is not usually practiced at rallies.

What rallies are about is not usually practiced at rallies.

Ray Ingles said...

Tom Simon - "Don’t review a book you haven’t read."

Speaking of 'unliterate', the title of the blog post in question is "So I bought Edward Feser’s Aquinas (a non-review)" (emphasis added).

Tony said...

TOF, that's good: "Think, don't chant!"

I have much the same feeling as Ed about rallies. They typically tend to promote "groupthink" which is either not thinking at all, or a deformed version of it that replaces principled argument with oversimplistic "argument." In either case, it puts real thinking on the back burner. And for that reason I tend to avoid them, and I usually feel like a fish out of water in the few that I cannot avoid.

On the other hand, I would be a little cautious in denouncing them across the board. In a perfect world we would all be good little philosopher-bus drivers and philosopher-army sergeants, using reason first and then allowing emotion to enter in. But we don't live there and won't for quite some time. Lots of our fellow citizens don't philosophize, won't, and (frankly) can't. And even those that can / do, they don't always get off their duff and apply their thought to action energetically. Rallies may, perhaps (in some cases), fill a role given those defects in human nature. For example, they provide a service to those who labor in the vineyard so hard that they don't really get a chance to notice whether anyone else is laboring along with them: stopping and doing a rally means finding, and being refreshed by, the fact that thousands of others are working for the same goals.

I still don't like them, and specifically campaign political rallies are probably the worst sort (of the ones not given over directly to evil ends).

Tom Esteban said...

@Ray Ingles, you're not seriously suggesting that the Hallq's book review isn't actually a book review based on his cutesy post title? Clearly, it was a review. A thoroughly inadequate one, as exposed by Dr.Feser... we've already seen the backtracking start, is this just another instance of it? "Well my review wasn't really a review because I called it a non-review!" Fact is that he published a review, a critical review, of the book. He could've called his post "Ed Fesers book on Ice Cream Vans and why I like Unicorns"; it doesn't change the substance of what he wrote.

Verbose Stoic said...

The Uncredible Hallq,

"Now I could have gotten into a discussion of what purposes an event like the Reason Rally can serve. I didn't, because your original post showed no signs of interest in actually providing evidence for your claims about the Reason Rally. You just assumed the worst and ran with it"

What would that have had to do with Feser's argument that whatever purposes they may have, those sorts of rallies are appetitive and not cognitive, and so have nothing to do with reason? You can challenge the idea that appetitive claims are divorced from reason, but you can't try to appeal to other purposes than being rational to show that the Reason Rally is rational in that sense. Thus, your example of the mass doesn't work either, since that isn't meant to argue for a position, and so isn't meant to be a cognitive or rational event. It's there to promote group identity, as you would admit. Are you going to claim that the Reason Rally is all about fostering a group identity? Which group identity is that?

"This is what normal people who value their time do when they're reading a book and it starts off a bit weak. I can't remember the last time in my life when I didn't have a long list of books I was meaning to read but didn't have the time for. It probably hasn't happened since college. So if I read a book and it starts off weak, and skipping/skimming ahead doesn't suggest it's going to get any better, it's on to the next book."

No, what normal people do when they start reading a book and it starts off weak is either a) stop reading it and simply say that they aren't reading it without commenting on what it does wrong or what, in their perception, it doesn't do or b) read the whole thing anyway if they have reason to do so. So, if you wanted to address a complaint that you hadn't read the relevant text, then you read the whole thing so that you can say you do it. Or, otherwise, you don't make sweeping statements like "The book doesn't do this" when you haven't read it all.

Full disclosure: I commented on "The Moral Landscape" without reading the chapter on religion. I pointed that out in my comment at the very beginning and pointed out that there might be more in there on some of the things that I thought were missing. You didn't even do that.

Arthur said...

"...it's not true that I read only 15 pages of your Aquinas book. I mentioned pp. 8-23..."

Oh, I just love this. "It's not true that I read only 15 pages of your book. I actually read 23 pages! So there!"

I wonder if Hallq would be so merciful to someone who had read the first 23 pages of The God Delusion and only "skimmed" the rest.

It amazes me more and more how guys like Hallq can pull stunts like this and still think of themselves as some superior breed of rational free-thinker.

PatrickH said...

So if he says it's a "non-review" that must mean it's not a, uh, review!

And if they say it's a Reason Rally, it must be a, uh, reason, uh, rally!

Thanks for the reading lesson, Ray.

Arthur said...

"What rallies are about is not usually practiced at rallies."

Believe me, Anonymous, we get it. The people at the Reason Rally won't be reasoning. The thing is that when you say that, you are actually agreeing with Feser's main complaint; that the Reason Rally isn't really rational at all.

Arthur said...

Oh, and another thing. It's not just that the people at the Reason Rally won't be reasoning, it's that they will be doing things that are positively antithetical to reason. Do you still not get that?

Tom Esteban said...

Reason Rally. It's just too much of a self-parody to not be taken seriously. It's the same back-slapping self-reassuring lunacy that leads atheists to form alliances like the 'Freethought' blog, or the suggestion that atheists be called 'Brights'. It' ludicrous and yet they can hardly see it themselves.

We Christians should make blogs called 'Bestest Thought' and have 'Awesome Rallies' and call eachother 'Sir Most-Intelligent'. Surely this will show the world how serious we are? How great we are? Surely?!

These same people will insist that atheism is not in any way similar to religion.... except for the promotion, the proselyting, the ideology, the political agenda, the hatred of Christ, etc and finally, now, the mass gatherings at 'Reason Rallies' were they all insist on how reasonable they are and triumphantly go on to tell everybody how atheism isn't anything but a "lack of a belief" with asserts nothing at all.

Thursday said...

These don't bother me at all, because they don't involve the paradoxical attempt to promote an ideology or program in an emotive rather than rational way

A strong case can be made that masses and other religious services are at least partially intended to induce belief in the supernatural using non-rational means.

So, it is a bit hypocritical of Feser to denounce rallies like this.

Arthur said...

"...masses and other religious services are at least partially intended to induce belief in the supernatural using non-rational means."

I think the difference there is that masses aren't called "Rationality Masses" or something similarly tendentious.

Thursday said...

Feser is entirely right though that his book does make a positive case for Thomism.

Eduardo said...

Thursday is either a troll or a Rebecca Black fan =____= .... I think it is the latter! It has to be.

BenYachov said...

>So, it is a bit hypocritical of Feser to denounce rallies like this.

You are full of shit.

It's simply a brute fact based on Feser's actual words that he did not denounce rallies like this.

He has already explained his nuanced position and it's completely rational.

So I repeat you are full of shit.

BenYachov said...

>A strong case can be made that masses and other religious services are at least partially intended to induce belief in the supernatural using non-rational means.

Gnu'Atheists can't separate their kneejerk political thinking. They seem to be channeling the old leftist adage "The Personal is the Political".

Masses and other religious services are public acts of worship mandated by Christ for persons who already believe regardless if their belief is rational or non-rational.

You go to Mass because you already believe in Catholic Christianity. Not to be convinced to believe in Catholic Christianity.

So full of shit.

Ray Ingles said...

Tom Esteban - you're not seriously suggesting that the Hallq's book review isn't actually a book review based on his cutesy post title?

Of course not! Based on the title and "the substance of what he wrote", naturally.

Some of that substance: "...after my initial look at it, I don’t think I’ll be finishing it... The few sections I’ve read... personally, I don’t find the book very interesting, and I suspect most readers of this blog wouldn’t be terribly interested in a detailed critique... On its own, this is a fairly mild criticism of Aquinas... the book didn’t look like it had any arguments that both (1) pertained to something important and (2) were new to me"

In other words, he (to quote a wise man named Edward Feser) "explicitly said" he didn't finish the book and thus could only make a few brief comments on it. And he "explicitly said" that his post wasn't a "detailed critique".

Ray Ingles said...

BenYachov - "Masses and other religious services are public acts of worship mandated by Christ"

Um, not all religious services are Christian. I'm reasonably sure Christ didn't mandate a pilgrimage to Mecca, for example.

Verbose Stoic said...

Thursday,

"A strong case can be made that masses and other religious services are at least partially intended to induce belief in the supernatural using non-rational means.

So, it is a bit hypocritical of Feser to denounce rallies like this."

Why? According to many -- and the New Atheists specifically -- religion itself is not about limiting one's beliefs through stricly rational methods. Thus, religion isn't pretending that all legitimate mechanisms are rational and then willingly engaging in irrational ones. How can it be hypocritical, then, for him to not condemn them? He's condemning the others for trying to appeal to things that must be settled by reason particularly in the minds of the participants through means that are not rational. If the people at the Reason Rally want to stand up and say that they aren't trying to be rational here, then I doubt he'd be too concerned ... although it would make it clear that these self-proclaimed defenders of reason don't always practice what they preach.

Anonymous said...

I'm an atheist, but I must reward Dr. Feser a +1 Internets for that picture of Hulk. So perfect!

Pattsce said...

"Um, not all religious services are Christian. I'm reasonably sure Christ didn't mandate a pilgrimage to Mecca, for example."

Dang, Ray, you sure stuck it to him there! You're super smart and really perceptive. You're like that really intelligent guy in a college classroom who points out that "Native Americans actually discovered America before Columbus" or that "Jesus wasn't actually white." Everybody loves that guy.

I actually feel kind of bad for this Hallq guy. This is just...embarrassing. I remember reading the original Reason Rally post's comments and being like, "are people actually getting confused about this? Are they really trying to GOTCHA! him??...Nah, that's stupid."

Stupid.

BenYachov said...

@Ray

If you are going to be a jerk & split hairs. Let's meet you on your own ground.

Feser said "This isn’t the first time Hallquist has exhibited his unwillingness actually to read something before criticizing it."

Hallquist did criticize the book.

Where does Feser say Hallquist "reviewed" his book or made a "detailed critique"?

What the point of you?

Ray Ingles said...

BenYachov - "Where does Feser say Hallquist "reviewed" his book or made a "detailed critique"?"

Um... I never said Feser claimed any such thing. Indeed, I specifically addressed Tom Simon, and quoted Tom Simon's words.

(Or is that splitting hairs?)

Ray Ingles said...

Pattsce - "Dang, Ray, you sure stuck it to him there!"

I know. In an environment like this where rigor is valued and sloppy thinking is discouraged, that's gotta hurt, right?

Anonymous said...

The Uncredible Hallq, along with Tom Simon and Ray Ingles missed the point. The point is not wheather Uncredible Hallq wrote a review, but whether what Hallq wrote about "Aqunias" is legit or not - and of course it is not.

I have trouble believing that Hallq even skimmed through the book. Because if he had, he would not have failed to notice that Dr Feser actually try (read TRY) to lay a case FOR Aquians' views. Whether or not he was sucessful in doing so is another matter all together. One can say that his arguments were weak or unconvincing (As Hallq thought of it as he read the intro and first chapter) but it is ABSURD to pretend that he "doesn’t even try to show Aquinas was right", for he blantly did and the evidence is there from cover to cover. A lack of time and pressure to get through as many books as possible is NOT an excuse for misleading people.

But I see he is not done ignoring "brute facts", as his mention of Keith Parson shows. The post that Hallq refers to mentioned that Parson took the following as something that both sides could agree on: "Both theists and atheists begin with an uncaused brute fact". Of course, that is one thing that theists DON'T do, rather theistic arguments that Dr Feser has been defending is to SHOW that God exists, NOT to assume that He does in premise of the argument. And I agree with what Dr Feser said, if Parsons never understood THIS brute fact (once again, backed up by evidence), then maybe it is better that he called it quits on the philosophy of religion.

BenYachov said...

So there is no point to you Ray.

Reactor said...

"Uncredible"?

Do you think he means "incredulous" as in "not credulous"?

Ray Ingles said...

BenYachov - So there is no point to you Ray.

No point addressed to Feser at the moment, true. The Toms (Simon and Esteban) went past what Feser said, though.

Of course, no one addresses anyone else's comments here. You, for example, never correct any other commenter. So I guess I was out of line?

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Correction: Eeeesh. Ray : theism :: moth : ylamp. The noisier you are, the more genuine an attraction you have. #wishAtheistsWouldGetOnWithTheirLivesandShutUpaboutMine

Gio said...

Lol. "Uncredible Hallq". I remember falling out of my computer chair laughing at the username when JP Holding was discussing Hallq's arguments on the resurrection (here it is, for those interested: http://tektonticker.blogspot.com/2010/11/resurrection-debunked-in-eight-easy_17.html)

By the way, this guy also thinks Augustine's City of Gos was written in 2009. http://www.amazon.com/review/R2PBK35JRU4ZLB/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1598563378&nodeID=&tag=&linkCode=

Uncredible indeed.

BenYachov said...

No Ray I just enjoy slapping you.

Tony said...

Gio, how can ANYONE be that stupid, even a dumb Gnu Atheist? Wasn't that review a tongue-in-cheek satire, maybe?

Anonymous said...

When did they claim they would be reasoning at the Reason Rally? Do abortions take place at abortion rallies?

It's stupid, but I don't see any contradiction in getting emotional over "Reason."

Ray Ingles said...

Codgitator (Cadgertator) - The noisier you are, the more genuine an attraction you have.

Huh. When Anonymous said Feser had a 'man crush' on Dawkins, for the same reasons, everybody laughed. But maybe the 'logic' is valid...

Ray Ingles said...

BenYachov - No Ray I just enjoy slapping you.

I hope your enjoyment doesn't depend on actually landing a blow...

Eric said...

"When did they claim they would be reasoning at the Reason Rally? Do abortions take place at abortion rallies?"

Anon, the point is (1) that to the extent that rallies promote groupthink, and (2) to the extent that groupthink is anti-reason, they're not merely 'not reasoning' at the rally, which wouldn't be a problem in itself, but are (3) promoting/occasioning/inspiring/prompting (etc.) something that is inherently anti-reason. The 'non'/'anti' distinction is key here, as I understand it.

"Ed, there's nothing "unliterate" about responding to a blog post on the basis of the blog post, rather than something posted in the middle of the comment box."

Hi Chris (I'm the same 'Eric' who responded to you on your blog)

But the problem is that no fair minded reader would have reached the conclusions you did from Professor Feser's post. I mean, for example, how do you squeeze "*all* mass *gatherings* are bad" from talk about mobs, demonstrations and rallies?

"You may claim that you don't think all atheists are evil, and only mean to single out the ones who don't (in your opinion) do enough to understand their opponents' views. In the past, however, your ridiculous denunciations have included professional atheist philosophers of religion, as well as extremely dedicated amateurs like Jason Rosenhouse."

But with every example you could provide, excepting perhaps Parsons, Feser has shown, in great detail, just where those he criticizes go wrong.

"In Feser Land, if someone doesn't read everything you think they should be reading, they're "unliterate,""

I don't think that's the point, Chris, and it seems to me that you're too smart to think it is. The obvious and uncontroversial point is, if you're going to publish a critique of some book in which you say, 'This book neglects X,' you should, you know, read the book to see if you're right about X. Now sure, your critique was on your blog, and not in the NYT Review of Books, but imagine if Feser had published, on his blog, a critique of Ehrman's or of Loftus's or of *your* book, in which he claims that you neglected X, but in which he demonstrates that he hadn't actually read much of the book he's critiquing? And sure, you obviously weren't going for an in-depth critique of 'Aquinas,' but you should be accountable for what you say in public, right? This is pretty basic stuff, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I skimmed through the comments section and noticed most of you are capitalizing the "G" in God, therefore your arguments are full of fallacies because you all believe in fairy tales.

I bid you good day.

Eric said...

"therefore your arguments are full of fallacies because you all believe in fairy tales."

Naahhh -- too easy.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else read that review on Amazon posted by Gio? Does this Hallquist guy actually think that Augustine is a pen name used by a contemporary Christian? What a complete ass.

Eric said...

"Did anyone else read that review on Amazon posted by Gio? Does this Hallquist guy actually think that Augustine is a pen name used by a contemporary Christian? What a complete ass."

At first, I thought that this had to be a parody, and was going to give Chris the benefit of the doubt (maybe someone was posting under his name, etc.). But, when I checked his website, I found this post, written just under four weeks from the Amazon review. In it, Hallquist makes some of the same criticisms (with some of the same words and phrases) of Augustine's work that the review does. So, it seems to be Hallquist's review.

That said, we're all guilty of some whoppers on the web, so I'll try not to let this negatively bias my evaluations of Hallquist's arguments in the future. However, it does lend a lot more weight to Professor Feser's criticism of Hallquist, viz. the charge of his being 'unliterate,' at least when reading works he's decided must be horrible before he picks them up (and, unfortunatley, when critiquing them online).

Edward Feser said...

That Amazon.com review really does seem to have been written by Hallquist. I have emailed him to confirm this. I'll let you know if he responds, and if so, what he says.

Bobcat said...

I don't know Chris Hallquist, though I've had a couple of exchanges with him (either through email, or online, I forget where). That said, I'm sure of two things:

(1) He wrote that review; and
(2) The review is sort of parodic.

By "sort of parodic", I mean this: I take it that Hallquist's motivation in writing the review is to attack the view that St. Augustine is a thinker whose philosophical opinions are worth taking seriously. His basic stance, if I understand him right, is that if we treat Augustine as we would treat a contemporary Christian philosopher, we would discover that he is a below-average Christian apologist. There's no way that Hallquist actually thinks that City of God was written in 2009; he simply thinks it's a lousy book.

I don't know this for sure, but just reading it, that interpretation immediately struck me. I'm close to certain that this is the effect Hallquist was going for.

Eric said...

Bobcat, I had initially thought the same thing. In the comments below the review, however, Hallquist wrote the following in response to the obvious 'haven't you heard of Augustine' response:

"What are you talking about? Amazon clearly states that this book was published in 2009. And besides, it's written in English. English didn't even exist in the 5th century."

He also said this, in response to a similar comment:

"Hmmm... I had initially assumed you must be a fan of this guy [Augustine], but now I'm thinking *you* must be the one who hasn't read the book, otherwise you'd realize what I said [in the review] was accurate."

Now certainly, he could simply be continuing the joke, but comments like "what I said was accurate" make me wonder.

I think that what's most interesting here, however, is that we're encountering something akin to what internet atheists call 'Poe's Law,' viz. creationism/fundamentalism etc. is so ridiculous that you couldn't distinguish a parody of it from the real thing, for here too, it seems, the ignorance of the New Atheism is such that it's difficult to distinguish a parody of it from the real thing.

Edward Feser said...

Hallquist has replied, directing me to this post:

http://freethoughtblogs.com/hallq/2012/03/21/on-augustine/

As you'll see, he says that he did write the review, but that it was intended as a joke.

I agree with Eric that it is odd that in the combox discussion of his review at Amazon, instead of saying "I was joking," Hallquist says things that give the impression that he seriously thought that City of God was written in English in 2009 by a guy using the pen name "Augustine" (!) And even after later commenters ridicule or correct him -- as late as a month ago -- he still doesn't say that it was meant as a joke. Again, very odd.

But, he does now say that he was only joking. So, there you have it.

Anonymous said...

Eric: "Anon, the point is (1) that to the extent that rallies promote groupthink, and (2) to the extent that groupthink is anti-reason, they're not merely 'not reasoning' at the rally, which wouldn't be a problem in itself, but are (3) promoting/occasioning/inspiring/prompting (etc.) something that is inherently anti-reason. The 'non'/'anti' distinction is key here, as I understand it."

Eric, point taken. And don't misunderstand - I think this "Reason Rally" is absolutely clownish in both letter and spirit and that it really ought to be disregarded simply on the grounds of good taste.

However, I still maintain that it isn't contradictory - at least superficially - for these "Reason-worshippers" to engage in an instance of anti-reason for the time being and with the goal of eventually producing a maximally reasonable society. So there's one preliminary question that crops up: How would one of these Gnu Atheistic "Reason-worshippers" characterize himself: As (1) someone who claims to never engage in anti-reason or any activity that would inspire it, or as (2) someone who strongly desires the eventual emergence of a maximally reasonable society, even if the attainment of that end requires the occasional utilization of loud, irrational mobs.

After all (to use a cliched example), is going to war for the sake of peace a contradictory notion? Obviously not. And furthermore the 20th century is rife with examples of godless tyrants bloodying their own soil for the sake of some pristine Utopia. So even though the preponderance of these dunderheads obviously won't be doing the following, I could in theory envision a couple of them saying: "Well, yes, we are participating in what could in a certain sense be considered 'anti-reason.' But the Socratic approach is ineffectual in engendering the large-scale, rational, social changes we want. So this rally is a necessary evil. Hence, in this sense, we are not being anti-reason at all. We will use any means necessary to maximally align our world with the truths revealed to us by reason."

Bobcat said...

It seemed very clear to me that Hallquist was just continuing the joke in those comments. Whatever you think of his Internet style, and I find it grating, I don't think he's covering his butt by claiming that those comments are just continuations of the joke.

Edward Feser said...

Hi Bobcat,

Well, I've read very little that Hallquist has written, so I am not familiar with his style. But if one has to be well-read in the Hallquist oeuvre properly to understand even his combox remarks at Amazon.com, then the dude is in serious need of an editor.

It also makes his snotty, uncharitable, and downright dishonest readings of other people's work that much more appalling. If he expects people to see an implicit joke in what to all appearances was meant seriously, he really ought to be more careful accurately to represent what other people have explicitly said.

goddinpotty said...

This idea that a Rally for Reason is somehow self-subverting continues to interest me, although I don't agree with it.

There are many other things besides rallies that are one can paint as incompatible with reason if one is so inclined. For instance, money. Truth should be independent of the market, and a proposition surely doesn't depend for its truthfulness on how much money one is willing to spend on it. So, then by Feser's style of reasoning, it is laughable to spend money on books, since the very idea of money is anathema to reason.

Now obviously I don't agree with that either. What I do believe is that truth and power (including the kind of social power demonstrated by rallies) are not independent, and that their relationship is worth thinking about deeply.

Arthur said...

"...the very idea of money is anathema to reason."

I think the trouble here is this premise. It's been mentioned already, but it's important to distinguish what's irrelevant to reason with what's positively antithetical to reason.

Anonymous said...

Hallq, son of a dentist from WI, was a different lad growing up.
As a youth he was the type that would disagree and act difficult for the sake of being difficult and the sake of disagreeing.

"My dad's a dentist, he makes more than your dad."

Funny lil' fella.

When he went to UW-Madison it was the most fitting move for him.
Arguing and bickering against anything with a hint of tradition.

Bobcat said...

Hi Ed,

I'm not well-read in Hallquistiana, but I really didn't find those combox remarks misleading. It could be because I knew he was, at one point, a graduate student in philosophy at Notre Dame, and so the possibility that he really didn't know that St. Augustine was a 4th-5th century theologian seemed very small.

I don't know what standards he holds people to when they read his work, but if he's like most people on the Internet, he holds to the following principle: "When you read my work, really scrutinize it and try to understand it as charitably as possible before making any comments about it; when I read your work, I will dash off whatever comments occur to me as they occur to me. If you get me wrong, you're a dishonest reader; if I get you wrong, you should have written more clearly."

Anonymous said...

Bobcat:It could be because I knew he was, at one point, a graduate student in philosophy at Notre Dame...

This tells me a lot about the current state of academic philosophy. If a philosophy department as renowned as Notre Dame thinks it perfectly acceptable to admit someone as demonstrably foolish and dishonest as Hallquist, imagine the state of graduate students at lesser programs.

BenYachov said...

@Ray

So it seems Hallquist does do reviews? He is just not honest about it? It seems Tom & Tom where right?

Do yourself a favor guy. Don't defend Gnus. You don't see me defending Jimmy Swaggart types because well I have pride in my beliefs.

If you choose to be a rational Atheist vs being a Gnu you should hold Gnus in the same contempt I do religious fundies.

Or you could ignore my obvious correct advice.

Your call.

Bobcat said...

Ben,

What do you think distinguishes a new atheist from an old atheist? I imagine Hume counts as an old atheist (though he wasn't an atheist, so maybe not); does Bertrand Russell?

BenYachov said...

@Bobcat

Simple answer Zen like response:


What do you think distinguishes a Fundamentalist religious believer from a mere orthodox religious believer?

I'll get into it more later.

Bobcat said...

Hi Ben,

Just in case you're thinking this, I'm not trying to challenge you. I'm genuinely curious. I was trying to think of what distinguishes them and I found it difficult.

However, I find it more difficult to distinguish fundamentalists from more traditional orthodox. I want to say that fundamentalists are biblical literalists whereas orthodox aren't, but I'm not sure that being a literalist rules you out from being orthodox. Next, I'd want to say that fundamentalists are more intolerant of disagreement than the orthodox, but I'm not sure that fundamentalists are necessarily intolerant of disagreement, and I'm not sure that the orthodox are necessarily tolerant of even reasonable disagreement. I suppose I'd want to say that fundamentalists are more skeptical of reason than the orthodox, and are more emotion-based in their faith life, as well as their day-to-day conduct, than the orthodox. That sounds right to me, but I'm thinking here of Ed Feser as someone who's orthodox, rather than, say, Teresa of Avila, so at the end of the day, it may not be right.

So I find this hard. Moreover, I'm not sure if the distinction between the orthodox and the fundamentalists is analogous to the distinction between the new and the old atheists.

BenYachov said...

>Just in case you're thinking this, I'm not trying to challenge you. I'm genuinely curious.

I know you are no worries bro.

Cheers!:-)

BenYachov said...

BenYachov's definition of a fundamentalist.

A Fundamentalist is an anti-intellectual person who dogmatically holds fast to his or her obviously invalid argument at all costs even at the cost of his correct core truth.

The could mean the Theist who insists the Israelites during the Exodus had literally 600 thousand men of military age (which seems to go against Archeological evidence) vs having a mere 600 military units of unknown number(since the hebrew word Aleph can mean 1,000,chieftain, officer, or military unit) and of course he insists on it to the point that might lead others who don't know any better to reject the historical fact of the Exodus.

Or the Atheist like Stephen Law(thought I think he has pulled back a little) who insists against all reason his Evil God Challenge somehow must apply across the board to all forms of Christian Theism including Classic Theism(which Feser has shown definitively to be a non-starter).

Fundies! Gotta love em!

Eric said...

"What do you think distinguishes a new atheist from an old atheist?"

Hi Bobcat

I agree that it's not exactly easy to set out the necessary and sufficient conditions one must meet to be categorized as a New Atheist, but a jumping off point might be this (feel free to shred this mercilessly if you think I'm way off base here!):

(1) New atheists tend to be relatively uninformed about the areas they critique (Dawkins or Hitchens on philosophy of religion are obvious examples)

(2) New Atheists tend to be either relatively unconcerned about the fact that they are uninformed (I'm thinking about P.Z. Myers and Dennett here), or they tend to reject the charge, despite repeated corrections (Dawkins and Harris seem to fit well here; of course, I'm sure that this is true in many fields, but I'm not sure that the combination of manifest ignorance and either a lack of concern or an impressive incorrigibility about it are, at least to the same degree)

(3) New Atheists tend to see religious belief as evincing a moral and/or intellectual defect

(4) New Atheists tend to be more vocal, not just in their (generally uninformed) criticisms of religion, but in their denunciations of it

A fifth characteristic might be a tendency towards scientism, but this is less clear, it seems to me, than the others.

Now one problem might be that many 'old atheists' would qualify as 'new atheists' on this view (e.g. Ingersoll or Darrow, or perhaps even Russell). Another problem is that many new atheists might only qualify as new atheist when they speak about certain subjects (e.g. Dawkins on ID versus Dawkins on the ontological argument). And I'm sure there are plenty of problems that I'm missing here. That's enough for now -- let the shredding begin! ;)

BenYachov said...

New Atheists act as if tolerating religion is the same as tolerating holocaust denial.

New Atheists condemn Old Atheists for having a mature tolerant view of religion & call them appeasers.

New Atheists treat arguments about religion as arguments about politics.

This hit me home when I leafed threw Victor Stenger's latest tedious tome where he all but equated the promotion of religion with the spread of Right wing political power as part of his justification for seeing religion as dangerous.

New Atheists justify their ignorance of religion & general philosophy with quips like "Do I need to be an expert in Faerie Lore to disbelieve in Faries?".

New Atheists equate Philosophy with Theology & metaphysics with magic and are oblivious to the non-religious secular definitions.

They can be anti-philosophy. They are hard to completely classify for example.

I bang on Stephen Law for his fundie overconfidence in this EGC but OTOH in old Atheist fashion Law recently allied with Swimburne to defend the validity of philosophy as a method of legitimate knowledge against Dawkins and Atkins in a public discussion on religion.

So there is some grey areas. That goes for Fundie vs mere Orthodoxy.

Tony said...

Ben and Bobcat, I agree in part with your sense of what a fundamentalist is, but I would slice up the category a little differently.

I think that a fundamentalist is someone (1) who adheres to an idea as if it were a root truth when it is not; (2) who adheres to it by way of attachment that is unsuited to its proper character for knowability (e.g. as if it were directly revealed when it is indirectly revealed, or as self-evident truth when it is rather derivative from self-evident truth); and (3) who is unwilling to engage in discussion about the above 2 considerations openly and honestly, instead acting as if it were impossible to consider as doubtable that 'fundamental' idea as an honest investigator.

If this is a fair way to identify fundies, then their fault is a fault principally in the intellectual virtues: treating as known what isn't known, or as known in one mode as if known in a more certain mode. But the fault then flows over into failures against charity toward their neighbor, because they attribute to bad will the neighbor's very attempt to draw out a discussion of the fundamental idea and test it as if it really needed investigating and testing.

The Deuce said...

BenYachov:

New Atheists condemn Old Atheists for having a mature tolerant view of religion & call them appeasers.

Yup. If I were asked to narrow down what characterizes the New Atheists to a single trait, it would have to be immaturity. In tone, in argument style, in philosophical sophistication, in grasp of social workings, in ability to assess consequences to behavior, and in emotional development, they just come off as incredibly juvenile.

machinephilosophy said...

Well said, Ben.

Appeasement is when you pimp logicality and then don't bother delivering (it's *work* bragging about intellectual precision, apparently)---and yet say *others* are weakening atheism's hand. Huh?

machinephilosophy said...

Deuce

A great comment that nails it.

The other blink is the cyclic paranoid reverting to issues about Christianity when atheism should be enough to eliminate all religion.

These people are simply not reading or doing careful analysis, and the reason-logic-rigor mantra is just an ongoing bluff that they never really exemplify themselves.

Westcountryman said...

I think fundamentalism is utterly a derivative of modernism; it is the turning of religion into an ideology with all the narrowness one would expect from such an attempt.

Personally I quite like the New Atheists. They are the perfect objects of satire. Their movement was made to be mocked Besides, as silly as they can be, as much idiocy as they peddle, it pales in comparison to the sheer tedious idiocy of Derrida et al. The post-modernists have no redeeming features, they are not fun to mock, they are just the pushers of idiocy that will suck the life out of you if you get too close.

So next time you get annoyed at Dawkins, just remember he isn't Derrida. It might even bring a little smile to your face.

Dr.M. said...

Chris Hallquist is indeed non-credible.

I have read his so-called "arguments" against the Resurrection which he claims will 'defeat W.L. Craig in any debate' (paraphrasing here)... but I found them utterly unimpressive copies of standard arguments that Craig tackled many times (and not only Craig).

Most (all?) of his anti-Christian work is like this.

Perhaps Chris Hallquist wants to be the atheist W. L. Craig... but he falls short... and I must say I have some critique on Craig as well (e.g. his ideas regardng I.D.)

Perhaps he wants to be the "Incredibly Rich Hallq"... and clearly he noted that the bast way to do so it is to write anti-Christianity books, which are so very popular today (all atheists and non-Christians unite... and give me your money!!!).

Taking pointers from Dawkins perhqaps: fame and fortune come from attacking religion, not serious scientific work, he has shown.

PatrickH said...

The New Atheism (henceforth Newbism) differs from Old Atheism in that the Newbists engage in nothing but rhetorical maneuvers. Oldie Atheists (like everybody) did sometimes make use of rhetorical cleverness over substance (Russell was guilty of this), but they did offer substantive arguments, too.

An Oldie will use the problem of evil, say, to disprove God’s existence. He will summon argument, evidence, and lay out his position in such a way as to make a response possible, even a rebutting or refuting response. Newbists offer no arguments, no evidence, and refuse even to admit that they have a position at all. Newbists refuse to take chances of being on the receiving end of any rebuttal or refutation. That is their distinguishing characteristic. Newbism is all about not taking any chances.

For example, the Newbist will say, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, so that he can feel good about not having any genuinely rebutting or refuting criticism to make. The Newbist will cry, “Flying Spaghetti Monster!” so he doesn’t have to listen for even one second to any claim by theists that there is evidence for the existence of God. The Newbist will shout, “One God Further!” so he can keep believing that his Newbist position is not a position at all, and that theism is nothing but the failure by the theist to apply the Newbist’s “view from nowhere”, his “Outsider” stance, his transparent, non-contextual, disembodied scientistically verified non-position. And especially, the Newbist will scream, “Courtier’s Reply!” whenever any theist dares so much as to suggest that the Newbist might be more credible in his attacks on religion if the Newbist bothered to put even an ounce of effort into knowing what he’s talking about by, say, just occasionally, every now and then, picking up a book by a theist (any book! even just one!) and actually DOING THE READING.

Newbism is a transparent set of rationalizations that lets the Newbist feel good about not offering arguments; that lets the Newbist feel really good about never having to listen; that lets Newbists everywhere feel great about never having to take responsibility for their own position; and above all, lets every kool-aid drinking member of the cult of Newbism not only feel really great about never ever DOING THE READING...it lets him positively brag about it. Bragging about, exulting in, weeping tears of overpowering radical self-esteem about NEVER DOING THE READING...that is how you identify the Newbist.

I expect there’s going to be a lot of rhetoric at the Reason Rally. Nothing but rhetoric. Why? Because there are going to be great fripping wodges of Newbists there, and not one of them will have DONE THE READING.

Why should they? Newbists don’t need no steenkin’ readin’! They got somethin’ better! They got rhetoric!

BenYachov said...

There is money in both religion & anti-religion.

Stephen Hawking is a prime and shameless example. He has openly said he knew he would increase the sales of A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME by adding the sentence "then we will know the Mind of God" at the end of his book.

OTOH we have THE GRAND DESIGN which poo-poo's belief in God and gives Dawkins a major woody. It doesn't tell us anything we didn't learn from BHT except for rah rah's toward M-Theory which he never gets into & like anything Krauss might publish from the standpoint of philosophy of science it's pure shit.

Martin Rees an Atheist & a Cosmologist has openly said that he knows Hawking personally and that in spite of his brilliance the man knows precious little about philosophy and Theology.

There is a niche market in godlessness for those who want it low quality.

Untenured said...

I have to say that I am really puzzled that Bertrand Russell keeps getting mentioned as an example of a "serious" atheist. He was indeed a great philosopher, but his arguments for atheism were not terribly impressive, nor were his critiques of the standard theistic proofs much better than the stock internet-infidels objections. Is there some secret stash of rigorous Russellian arguments for atheism that I have yet to happen upon?

BenYachov said...

Patrick H makes an excellent point.

The Gnu refuses to take up the burden of proof. They assume without argument a hermeneutic of radical skepticism without justifying it.

They assume without proof all "proof" must be empirical in nature.

If you point out they have badly misunderstood an argument or butchered the philosophy instead of owning their mistake they flip the argument and demand you "prove" your view of God to them.

When this happens I like to say "I really don't have to believe in God & if I stopped believing in Him tomorow I would still hold your argument invalid."

They hate that!

BenYachov said...

Untenured,

Compared to Dawkins Russell is a breath of fresh air. Same with Sagan.

Arthur said...

"The Gnu refuses to take up the burden of proof."

For what it's worth, I think that the very idea of Burden of Proof is a pernicious myth. The 'Burden of Proof' card was one of the first atheist arguments I heard, and I've never been comfortable with it. I eventually asked my favourite philosophy blogger about it and he agrees:
(http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/.services/blog/6a010535ce1cf6970c010535c82845970b/search?filter.q=Burden+of+Proof)

As I understand him, Aristotle wouldn't have believed in Burden of Proof either. He thought that you should always attack your opponent with argument, not whine about Burden of Proof and expect someone else to do all the work. How much easier would debate be if everyone followed that example?

Anonymous said...

"Compared to Dawkins Russell is a breath of fresh air. Same with Sagan."

Ben, this isn't saying much at all. Compared to Dawkins, Hitchens is a breath of fresh air. Same with Harris.

BenYachov said...

@Arthur

When I would argue with Protestants they would assume the Bible is the Sole Rule of Faith & judge Catholicism wanting by that standard.

If I want to cause them distress I would always ask "Where does the Bible alone teach we must follow the Bible alone(i.e. sans Tradition 2 Thes 3:6)?". Is it true by it's own standard? I would say no.

Many an Atheist simply assumes Materialism, Naturalism, Scientism and reductionism are the default true positions without asking himself. Why do I believe these views are true? What are the implications to me believing them? Are they really more reasonable?

In my experience the average Gnu treats them as the self-evidential correct default positions.

That is just lazy thinking.

Unknown said...

For all the voluminous excuse-making and pirouettes, the plain fact is that if Edward Feser had picked up any atheist tract--like Krauss' new book, for example--and loudly proclaimed that it was so terrible he was not going to finish it, and criticized the book anyway for failing to convince him how wonderful and comprehensive the argument was after a couple of chapters, Feser would simply never hear the end of it. We can know to a practical certainty that it would be used rhetorically to demonstrate what closed-minded, prejudicial, and intellectually incurious people theists really are.

But just as being a theists means, in the minds of the new atheist set, having to submit to a unique and tendentious evidentiary burden, they also expect theists to adhere to general standards of behavior in public debate that they themselves utterly eschew. They frequently substitute snark for reason, brazenly declare their intention resolutely to ignore the actual works of people with whom they disagree, bully the listening audience with loaded rhetorical questions in place of actual logical argument, use obvious equivocation to shift the terms of debate onto their own territory without informing the unwary reader that they have done, so, and on and on and on.

Oh, and when they don't think they can best you in an argument they'll just accuse you of favoring genocide or of being an apologist for the Holocaust, slam and lock the the door, and run away. None of these things would be considered in the least bit tolerable by atheists if they were done by theists, and they would not be so kind as to distinguish between those theists who did these things, and theists in general--of that you can be certain.

Verbose Stoic said...

Arthur,

Well, burden of proof arguments don't arise much in philosophy because the conclusion is generally less interesting than the process, so philosophers generally always start with their argument -- as if it proves something -- and have people point out the flaw in the arguments. But the notion of burden of proof that atheists tend to rely on is not a bad one, as it relates to someone making a claim and then saying that if you can't prove it wrong then it should be believed universally. This is often a strawman of the position -- the position is usually more like "If you can't prove it wrong, then it's okay for me to continue believing it until you do" -- but that's not a problem in and of itself. Where atheists go wrong is in assuming that they NEVER have the burden of proof, meaning that they quite often make quite grandiose claims that when they are asked to support their claims they retreat to the position that they don't have the burden of proof.

This would all be elminated if we could just make those atheists understand that strong atheism clearly has a burden of proof, and so atheism in and of itself is not a position that can never have the burden of proof.

Verbose Stoic said...

To me, what marks the New Atheism is its intense focus on the (purported) conflict between science and religion. Almost all of them are either scientists annoyed at what they see as religious encroachment into their areas, or are at best philosophers that take a very strong naturalist position when it comes to philosophy. Since the focus is so very scientific, the problems that the others have cited just follow:

1) Most of them are not philosophers or theologically inclined, and so they have a strong tendency to get philosophy and theology wrong.

2) They'll be prone to scientism because their main concern is preserving scientific knowledge and primacy in at least some areas.

3) Because they view it as an ongoing conflict they will feel the obligation to be very vocal and very confrontational.

machinephilosophy said...

You're poppin wheelies, OFloinn.

"Think, don't chant!
Think, don't chant!
Think, don't chant!

Give me a T, don't chant!
Give me an H, don't chant!
. . . "

Out of respect for Joey Skaggs, I'll be at the rally with my "It's OK To Assume Self-Referential Inconsistencies" sign with some show-stealing working girls assisting.

BenYachov said...

New Atheists are also obsessed with the Political & are often kneejerk left-wingers or liberals.

At least I don't know of any right wing Gnus( I don't discount their existence).

Thought I know of some right wing Atheists like SE Cupp or David Stove. I do know of ex-Atheist but politically liberal fans of Feser like Richard.

Also Herbert McCabe whom Brian Davies cites profusely, was a brilliant Thomist & very conservative in his Thomism yet favored Marxist Liberation Theology and thought Women Priests would be a good idea.

At this point I tell the Gnu if I stop believing in God why should I become a leftist?

People can & may still be conservative even if they deny all gods & liberal Alan Comes says he believes in God.

So there you have it.

Westcountryman said...

The New Atheists, and older prototypes like Russell (who is not even a true philosopher in the ancient sense, let alone a great one) simply show they do not understand discursive thought when they make these burden of proof arguments.

Discursive thought relies on (1) valid premises, and (2) valid reasoning from these premises.

The New Atheist, burden of proof arguments 'work' by arbitrarily taking their own premises as axiomatic whilst treating those of the theist as reasoned conclusions.

They also work by drawing a strange distinction between negative and position claims. As if a negative claim about whether or not God exists or whether it is likely did not include positive claims about the kind of evidence and knowledge we human have and can have on the issue, and vice versa.

The idea the burden of proof is on the theist is one of the most widespread, yet spurious claim of intellectual debate out there.

Westcountryman said...

The Gnus are undoubtedly, and not surprisingly unreflectively, left of centre in almost all cases I'm aware of. Indeed, it is hard to understand a irreligious bent that could be both conservative (I mean by this not just warmed up 19th century liberal economics, but actual, social and cultural conservatism) and want to do away with religion in the way Gnus do.

Even a little bit of a genuinely conservative impulse should make them think twice about uprooting all that is religious, or mythological, or non-scientific from human society.

Anonymous said...

It is true that the organizers of the Reason Rally think that being unreligious is the only way to be rational. I submit that if there is no rationally compelling case to be made in favor of religious doctrines, then they are right. (Here I am rejecting non-evidential views of faith such as Reformed Epistemology and accepting Dr. Feser's own view that even faith claims must be derived from evidence -- that one is never obliged to close one eyes and "believe really hard" to have faith.) Therefore, the best way to counter their idea would be to present a rational case for the faith claims that the Reason Rally organizers say are antithetical to reason. Just SHOW that religion is rational to believe in. Give arguments for the Catholic Church being what it claims it is, for example. (What would such an argument look like? If it exists and is compelling, why is it not heard about more often?)

Neil Parille said...

A "fundamentalist" used to be a conservative protestant, almost always of a premillennial dispensationalist type.

I don't see any merit in extending the term, but it's probably too late.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Ed,

I wonder what you think of pastor Dennis Terry introduction of Rick Santorum in this church meeting ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2emBxDOY7g ).

Anonymous said...

Anon, of the top of my head, one can argue that in the very least the Church is a guardian of established values (even the ones most of us agree on - value of human life, importance of protecting the weak, etc) and an inertial force which can add stability in general and confound those movements which could be too extreme but which could come to power due to populist support - and we have examples of that in the Church standing up to Communism and Nazism. Adding another player, such as the Church complicates things for all politicians. Where it counted, the Church has stood for freedom and equality, while the track record of secular organisations has them all over the spectrum among the heroes and villains.

As a further example I can add the fact that in France, most Catholics vote for centrist to right wing parties, but very few vote for extreme right parties. This may not be entirely to your liking but at least it is a buffer of sorts against the most extreme of views, and helps prevent or in the very least hampers the worst people from coming to power.

Bobcat said...

To anonymous @ 3:54 am:

Your question, why isn't the reasoned case for religion heard more often?, is a great one. I do think there's a culture-wide narrative going on, according to which you believe religion on the basis of faith, and you believe in science on the basis of reason, and that religion and science are opposed, and that faith and reason are opposed. I recall hearing William Lane Craig talk about how a journalist contacted him to talk about religion, and when it became clear that Craig accepted evolution, the journalist lost interest. A young-earth creationist ended up taking Craig's place.

DNW said...

The Westcountryman writes in part:

"The Gnus are undoubtedly, and not surprisingly unreflectively, left of centre in almost all cases I'm aware of. Indeed, it is hard to understand a irreligious bent that could be both conservative (I mean by this not just warmed up 19th century liberal economics ..."

That's an important point which is often made implicit, or taken for granted. But which, if we are to be led to an understanding of the "GNU" phenomenon, or the modern liberal claims of interpersonal entitlement, cannot be explicitly stated too often.

Take a collection of GNU "metaphysical premises", or axioms if you like, and list them for yourself.

Now I know that some among the anti-religious readers of Feser's blog will feel justified in crying "Strawman!" at this, that, or some other element which may appear, but the fact is that the collection of anti-religious people taken as atheistic political progressives, share a significant number of physical and anthropological assumptions which is easy to list, and easy to verify, simply by reading their own essays.

Hell, most of us were schooled in them at university. Internalize enough of them and you metamorphose into a political progressive, it seems.

The collection obviously includes: Man as meat machine, mind as brain, brain as meat computer; the illusion of objective meaning and the illusion of consciousness and identity; metaphysical monism, hard determinism, values relativism or nihilism, and the the instrumental nature and limits of a reasoning power fundamentally in service of the unconscious; and ultimately, the supreme importance of recognizing the relative unimportance of humanity, and the great importance of the non-human, in an overall pointless universe destined for ultimate heat death, or obliterating collapse ... Amen brother.

We've all seen it all before.

The "mystery" (for it's no real mystery at all) is how they manage manage to "deduce" from their axioms, those collectivist leaning social solidarity *imperatives*.

The fact is that although they talk as if they deduce, they don't. And although they deploy rhetoric as if they are presenting imperatives, they are not.


Oh a few, like Robert Wright scramble to serve up an evolutionary psychology brew which will they imagine, kind of, sort of, produce the same psychologically comforting, if objective-lite, effects as teleologically derived morals once did.

But for the most part it's just a matter of those bespectacled Cheetos chomping basement dwellers of blogging lore pushing their glasses up their snub noses, and after placing their faces in your face, engaging in various forms of primate posturing and threat display.

And that is supposed to convince you, I guess, that although they don't on their own account have "souls", nor intrinsic value, nor even instrumental value as far as you may be concerned; and although they do not make very useful or noble, and certainly not trustworthy, allies, nonetheless, you should sacrifice a great deal of your own interests to theirs.

Though on their own say so, their interests are ultimately from a cosmic point of view, pointless anyway.

You should do it because ... uh .. Well, because gosh darn it, they're just so worth it.

And because they *want*. And because they want you to care about what they want, and what makes them feel "good"; which is to say of course, feelings of pleasure and significance.

Just don't ask why you should care about what they care about - absent any implied threat of violence from them if you don't - and everything will be alright.

Otherwise you had better prepare for a GNU chimp attack.

Anonymous said...

Just stumbled upon this blog. Mr. Feser is clearly in love with himself, but he's also a hateful little man.

He seems to have a very dedicated following of minions, though, so he doesn't even have to defend his petty disqualifications.

Westcountryman said...

Anonymous, I'm sure your comments will have Dr.Feser crying into his breakfast cereal.

Tony said...

Anon @ 3:54: I submit that if there is no rationally compelling case to be made in favor of religious doctrines, then they [atheists] are right... If it exists and is compelling, why is it not heard about more often?

It is not necessarily the case that "if there is no rationally compelling case to be made in favor of religious doctrines, then the atheists are right." Logically, they could BOTH be wrong, just for example. Here's one way (among others): if man really is literally nothing but a collection of atoms, like Rosenberg and his confreres believe, then there is no capacity to reason about abstract things like "truth", and all attempts at reasoning are simply illusory. Thus the atheists attempts are illusory, and they are wrong just like the theists.

Alternatively, some religious doctrines could be true even when there is no rational proof of them available to us right now. Being true isn't the same as being provable at our current state of evidence.

Alternatively, some religious doctrines could be true but fundamentally of a higher order of being and reality than scientific truth (like the Trinity), and therefore not subject to scientific proof.

But the real problem is that your question is not the right question to ask. Intelligent Christians don't think that religious doctrines ought to be provable, or "rationally compelling". Even the most rational of Christians insist that there is something MORE in the content of what is held by faith than what one has compelling rational evidence for - THAT'S what FAITH is about. Instead, your question should focus on a more limited scope for rational evidence: It should be established by rational argument that belief (i.e. the act implied in faith) is the sort of act that is suitable and appropriate for rational beings like man.

And there are such rational arguments. They tend to involve premises that stem from classical philosophy and metaphysics, two fields of study in which atheists - especially Gnu atheists - are notoriously unlettered. So they are catastrophically unprepared for actually judging the rational arguments being made.

Thursday said...

You go to Mass because you already believe in Catholic Christianity. Not to be convinced to believe in Catholic Christianity.

This is at best only a half-truth. Church services are also there to shore up belief among those who may be falling away and to convert those who are interested but not yet committed. In doing so, they frequently use non-rational means of persuasion, including the very presence of the group.

This is all common sense.

BenYachov said...

>This is at best only a half-truth. Church services are also there to shore up belief among those who may be falling away and to convert those who are interested but not yet committed.

Obviously you are not Catholic. I have never seen what you describe at Mass. Father assumes everyone there already believes otherwise they would stay home.

>In doing so, they frequently use non-rational means of persuasion, including the very presence of the group.

I must have missed something in the past 43 years of being Catholic.

>This is all common sense.

No it's not.

Anonymous said...

> I must have missed something in the past 43 years of being Catholic.

Apparently, you did. It's called guilt-inducing peer pressure.

Westcountryman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Westcountryman said...

Thursday, Christian (indeed all traditional religious) belief and experience is not simply a matter of starting from unbelief and in one day having perfect faith and then finishing one's journey towards God. It is a process of drawing ever closer to God. St.Gregory of Nyssa describes the truly religious and mystical life as an infinite progress into God.

Discursive thought is not the only mean whereby we come to know and to be. Intellectual, imaginal, and mystical knowledge exists above reason (as the Schoolmen, as well as the Scriptures, Fathers, mystics and Hesychasts maintain), and various forms of knowledge, such as the emotional, sensory, and intuitive, exist below reason. Whatever limitations there are to these latter, lower than rational, forms of knowledge, they have a validity and role to play on their own level, and are a not insignificant part of genuinely human experience. So to simply point out that other than rational elements are involved in common Christian activities and services is not necessarily to be able to devalue them all as irrational.

Verbose Stoic said...

Thursday,

"This is at best only a half-truth. Church services are also there to shore up belief among those who may be falling away and to convert those who are interested but not yet committed. In doing so, they frequently use non-rational means of persuasion, including the very presence of the group.

This is all common sense."

Translation: This is what I think happens and so while I can't be bothered to check I'm just going to assume that that's how it all works.

In actual fact, services are more about community building and education than they are about conversion and shoring up belief. The only part that isn't just a sharing of rituals with texts that we've all heard before is the sermon, and even here rarely is it about eliminating doubt but more about how to act Catholic/Christian in the world we live in.

And where I grew up, if the sermons were too long people complained [grin].

Tom Esteban said...

Thursday is actually kinda correct. In a sense. The Mass is of course primarily the re-enactment of Calvary in an unbloody manner, and this is why we go to Mass as the Priest offers the sacrifice. At the same time, the Mass does 'teach' the faith [and I don't mean the sermon]. The Mass teaches Catholicism --- which is why Protestants find it repugnant and fallen away Catholics sometimes don't understand it, and why liberals want to change it. It teaches Catholicism, but not in the way we think of teaching where people are told xyz by the teacher and they believe it. It teaches Catholicism by it's very happening. So in that sense, Thursday is correct. I'd say though, that it's also true that those at Mass pretty much believe what goes on anyway, so the Holy Sacrifice of Mass is not teaching them something new it's just affirming what they do believe. It's not like someone goes to Mass day and day out and says "oh wow, I learnt something new today, I'm convinced of Catholicism thanks to all that indoctrination".

The sermon itself is not technically part of the Mass (which is why the Priest removes his maniple during the sermon and sometimes his chasuble too) but even so, Thursday's point is true since the sermon is meant to be teaching us in the normal sense (teaching doctrine, spiritual edification, scriptural exegesis etc). Particularly during Missions or Pilgrimages sermons will be done with some specific focus in mind. So, a mission focusing on bringing lapsed Catholics back to the faith will definitely be trying to show, teach and convince.

Of course, Thursday is incorrect in saying it is non-rational. I reject the assumptions and hidden meanings he may have attached to his little paragraph too.

BenYachov said...

>Apparently, you did. It's called guilt-inducing peer pressure.

Never saw that either. I hear stories of this Catholic super guilt Church but I have never seen it.

If anything my local Church was all touchie feely.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, you did. It's called guilt-inducing peer pressure.

Someone is mad because his parents made him go to Sunday school while he wanted to stay home playing videogames and picking his nose.

Moi said...

I'm really starting to wonder if there is some organization funding the idiocy of these New Atheist types. They can't really be that stupid can they? Oh, please tell me they're just play-acting for a check...