Andrew Brown throws a pie in his own face

Aha – Andrew Brown did a follow-up piece, inspired, it seems from what he says, by the comments of Dawkins and Dennett on his piece and another comment of Dawkins on the same piece on his site. Well yes I can see why that would make him itchy. Here’s Dennett’s comment:

Andrew Brown trots out an old atheist, Anthony Kenny, who (he surmises) would reject all six of the tenets he attributes to the New Atheists. What would that show, even if it were true? His six points are all caricatures in any case. The uniting feature of the New Atheists is that we have all decided that the traditional atheist policy of diplomatic reticence should be discarded. Brown doesnt tell us if he himself is any kind of atheist, old or new, but I suspect from the confusion of his essay that he is one of the tribe of But Atheists, as in Im an atheist, but . . . . I find that But Atheists are the most frantic defenders of religion these days; they themselves have no need for religion, they say, but they are worried that hoi polloi do. It puts me in mind of another old philosopher, Henry Sidgwick, a utilitarian who thought that utilitarianism should be a secret kept by the elite, a pernicious doctrine often called Government House utilitarianism. The seminaries and churches are full of atheist clergy who live their own version of this paternalism. We New Atheists think more highly of our fellow human beings; we think its time for us all to grow up.

Here’s Dawkins’s from his site:

Dan Dennett wasn’t the only philosopher omitted so that Brown could say “They are none of them philosophers.” There’s also A.C.Grayling.

Incidentally, on one of Andrew Brown’s books, his publishers had such a hard time finding endorsements from distinguished people to put on the cover, they resorted to fine-sounding quotations which, if you looked carefully, turned out to have nothing to do with Brown’s book. The only quotation that mentions Andrew Brown, or his book, was the following, from Dan Dennett:

I wouldn’t admit it if Andrew Brown were my friend. What a sleazy bit of trash journalism!

Well yes that must have left him feeling rumpled, so back he went. But he merely dug the hole deeper. In particular…

[Dennett’s] book on religion was very much better and more subtle than the God Delusion. I cannot believe that Dennett, for example, would pass within fifteen pages from dilating on the wickedness of Popes who had Jewish children compulsorarily baptised to asking whether the state should not have a right to remove the children of fundamentalist Christians to protect them from their parents’ beliefs.

Brown provides a link to the Google copy of page 326 so that we can all see that – Dawkins did not say what Brown said he said. He quoted Nicholas Humphrey arguing in an Amnesty International lecture in 1997 that children ‘have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people’s bad ideas’ and that parents have ‘no right to limit the horizons of their children’s knowledge’ and that ‘we as a society have a duty to protect them from it.’

So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe in the literal truth of the Bible or that the planets rule their lives, than we should allow parents to knock their children’s teeth out or lock them in a dungeon.

Dawkins then says that such a strong statement needs, and received, much qualification.

So…Brown simply gave a false account of what Dawkins says on page 236. A commenter said exactly that and Brown replied, outrageously, ‘Jonathan it doesn’t say anything different. He is quoting Nick Humphrey with approval when he asks exactly that question.’

That takes a lot of gall.

Steve Jones finds him irritating too. He commented later on Brown’s claim that Dennett ‘has written some extraordinarily offensive and unpleasant things to and about me’:

Can you give us links to all his comments about you so we can decide if they were offensive and unpleasant or merely accurate?

Hahaha! A palpable hit.

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