Man, it’s been a busy week for the gnu-hating crowd. There was Michael Ruse, then Jacques Berlinerblau, and now (it grieves me to say) Joseph Hoffmann. All three doing an extended yell of rage at “the new atheists” while seldom actually giving any specifics or quoting anyone or linking to anything, so that a reader could figure out exactly what they’re talking about. They do mention Dawkins and Harris, and Hoffmann quotes from a press release by the Center for Inquiry, but mostly there’s just a great deal of generalization.
I think the New Atheists are a disaster, a danger to the wellbeing of America comparable to the Tea Party. It is not so much that their views are wrong—I am not going to fall into the trap of labeling those with whom I disagree immoral because of our disagreements—but because they won’t make any effort to think seriously about why they hold their positions about the conflict between science and religion…
In fact, what is fascinating about the New Atheists is their almost complete lack of interest in the history and philosophical development of atheism. They seem not the least bit curious to venture beyond an understanding that reduces atheist thought to crude hyper-empiricism, hyper-materialism, and an undiscriminating anti-theism…
New Atheists, like Fundamentalists, only read “original texts” (kind of like the way Tea Party activists prattle on about the “original intent” of the Constitution). They don’t understand hermeneutics, or the interpretive process, and for this reason they are doomed to saying very silly things about their subject matter.
And now here’s Hoffmann:
…it is not clear that the EZs are listening, at least not directly, to their critics, because their royalty checks and speaking fees are talking too loud…
The mode of critique is lodged somewhere between “Stupid Pet Tricks”- and “Bushisms”-style humor, a generation-based funniness that thrives on ridicule as a worthy substitute for argument: Blasphemy contests, Hairdrier Unbaptisms, Blowgun-slogans (“Science flies you to the moon, religion flies you into buildings”), and my latest personal favorite, Zombie Jesus Jokes (“He died for your sins; now he’s back for your brains”)…
And so on and so on – lots of generality with very little specificity (although at least there is a link to Zombie Jesus Jokes, which is something). I don’t know who the new atheists in question are supposed to be, whether the four cowboys, or the four plus some more, or all new atheists (and how are they defined?). That means I don’t know how accurate the descriptions of them are, or how to check. That means I suspect that the whole enterprise is just bad temper as opposed to reasoned criticism. Yet a major pillar of the criticism or bad temper is how unreasoned the criticism by the new atheists is.
So the question is: what exactly is it, really, that they’re so pissed off about?
I don’t even know. You’d think I would, after all this time, but I don’t. They’re all over the place. They change their story every time they post. One minute it’s being political failures, the next minute it’s being too popular. I can’t possibly keep up.
The truth is I don’t think it’s really anything. I think they just don’t like us, in a dopy Leon Kass-ish “yuk” way, and that’s all there is to it. We really really get on their nerves, and they don’t know why themselves, but they don’t seem to have noticed that they don’t know why, so they keep self-importantly issuing noisy but incomprehensible jeremiads on the subject. This is good free publicity for the gnu atheists, so it all works out.