Andrew Brown joins the brawl

Andrew Brown joins in the war on the ‘new’ atheists.

The ideas I claim are distinctive of the new atheists have been collected from Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Jerry Coyne, the American physicist Robert L. Park, and a couple of blogging biologists, P Z Myers and Larry Moran. They have two things in common. They are none of them philosophers and, though most are scientists, none study psychology, history, the sociology of religion, or any other discipline which might cast light on the objects of their execration.

How on earth does he know that? How could he know that? I suppose he could have asked all of them, and they could all have answered him, and all have agreed that they don’t ‘study’ (by which Brown presumably means to say they know nothing whatever about) psychology, history, and the sociology of religion…but I suspect that he didn’t and they didn’t and didn’t. I don’t know that, but I suspect it, not least because I think if he had gotten their confirmation he would have said so. Short of asking them, how would he know it? How would he know what seven people do or do not read about and discuss and otherwise inform themselves about? He doesn’t (of course) say. It’s the Chris Hedges school of journalism: just make stuff up, no need to offer evidence or documentation or quotation.

Brown offers ‘propositions’ that he claims are distinctive of the ‘new’ atheists and not of the good old kind who used to pass out toffee apples on Brown’s way to school. Or something.

There is something called “Faith” which can be defined as unjustified belief held in the teeth of the evidence. Faith is primarily a matter of false propositional belief.

Um…yes. Is it not true that faith can be defined that way? Is that a self-evidently and grossly inaccurate defintion of faith? It’s not an exhaustive definition, certainly – but is it a wildly offbase one? Not that I can see, but apparently Brown thinks it’s whacked.

Science is the opposite of religion, and will lead people into the clear sunlit uplands of reason. “The real war is between rationalism and superstition. Science is but one form of rationalism, while religion is the most common form of superstition” [Jerry Coyne]

Um…so he can’t follow what someone says even when he is quoting it and has it right in front of him? Look at it. Jerry Coyne says one thing and Brown seems to think he said another – and that’s by way of illustration. Well no wonder he gets everything wrong – he can’t grasp the meaning for the extent of even one sentence.

And the others aren’t much better.

Oh look – I’ve read some of the comments now and there’s Richard Dawkins saying (someone pointedly asked why Brown hadn’t included Dennett) –

The reason Brown fails to mention Dan Dennett is obvious, and entirely typical of him. It is simply that he would then not have been able to say “They are none of them philosophers”.

Exactly. The guy is not what you’d call an honest fighter.

Dennet commented too. Andrew Brown didn’t come off very well in this particular round.

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