Home » Atheism, Darwinism, Intelligent Design, News » Paper on new atheist movement turns out NOT to be press release. New atheist elite real mad.

Paper on new atheist movement turns out NOT to be press release. New atheist elite real mad.

File:A small cup of coffee.JPG

Further to “Cosmologist Sean Carroll would retire falsifiability as a science idea. Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci defends it,” Pigliucci has published a paper on the new atheist movement (whose creation story is Darwinism):

The so-called “New Atheism” is a relatively well-defined, very recent, still unfold- ing cultural phenomenon with import for public understanding of both science and philosophy. Arguably, the opening salvo of the New Atheists was The End of Faith by Sam Harris, published in 2004, followed in rapid succession by a number of other titles penned by Harris himself, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Victor Stenger, and Christopher Hitchens. free download

In it, Pigliucci says,

My goal in this paper is to analyze the new Atheist “movement” from a particular angle: what I see as a clear, and truly novel, though not at all positive, “scientistic” turn that it marks for atheism in general. To do so, I will begin in the next section with a brief discussion of what I think constitutes New Atheism broadly construed, as well as what counts as scientism. I will then present a brief historical overview of atheism in the Western world (to which the impact of the New Atheism seems to be largely confined), to make clear how classical Atheism differs from the new variety. The following section will then explore some examples of what I term the “scientistic turn” that has characterized some (but not all) New Atheist writers (and most of their supporters, from what one can glean from the relevant social networks).The next to the last section will summarize the problems with scientism, and I will then conclude by proposing a new middle way between classical and New Atheism as more sound from both the scientific and philosophical standpoints.

On the evidence, he’s right, of course. Most of the backlash against scientism recently has been coming from secular sources.

Well, the new atheist elite reacted as if their PR firm had gone rogue. As Pigliucci tells it:

Oh dear, I pissed off the big shots among the New Atheists — again. If you are on Twitter or happen to have checked a couple of prominent NA blogs recently, you will have noticed a chorus comprised of none other than Jerry Coyne, Sam Harris, PZ Myers and, by way of only a passing snarky comment, Richard Dawkins — all focused on yours truly. I’m flattered, but what could I have possibly done to generate such a concerted reaction all of a sudden?

Uh … Rationally Speaking so to speak, not much, but …

But then I realized that the mini-storm was making precisely my point: the whole episode seemed to be a huge instance of much ado about nothing, but nasty. So I decided a counter-commentary might be helpful after all. Here it is, organized by the three major authors who have lashed out at me in such an amusing way. I’ll start with a point-by-point response to Coyne’s longest blog post, followed by a more cursory commentary on PZ (who actually makes most sense out of the whole bunch, and indeed was himself mentioned only in passing in my paper), and ending of course with Harris, in whose case I will simply let Dan Dennett (another NA, did you know?) do the job for me. (If, however, you are tired of the somewhat childish back and forth, however, by all means skip to part IV below.) More.

More coffee, please, and pass the biscuits this way.

See also: Scientism is to science as egotism is to ego

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

Follow UD News at Twitter!

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

4 Responses to Paper on new atheist movement turns out NOT to be press release. New atheist elite real mad.

  1. The irony is that if Pigliucci is right and that the NA’s have diluted the definition of science to include almost every human activity, then what we are doing here at UD is science. :-)

    There is a part of me that sort of likes the expanded definition in light of this:

    You then realize that the presence of a creative deity in the universe is clearly a scientific hypothesis. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more momentous hypothesis in all of science.

    Richard Dawkins
    as reported in Dawkins on the Discovery Institute Payroll? </a.

  2. New Atheists are just as much a product of random evolutionary processes as are the religionists they so vehemently seek to denigrate. In ranting against people of faith, they too, being a part of evolved humanity, must needs include themselves in their rant. All world views must be equal if we all evolved and probably all world views are equally mistaken. Why should any of us have the gall to actually think that the worldview we hold to as a result of our evolution is trustworthy?

    These guys think they can exempt themselves from humanity and study it objectively, but forget they too are a part of it.

    It’s about time someone does a study on them and explains how and why they evolved. They need a taste of their own medicine!

  3. What were the factors that contributed to the evolution of scientism?

    How about this?

    If leaving behind offspring is the purpose of life, perhaps a philosophy like scientism would free people from the morally stringent religious codes, enabling them to sleep around with as many women as they want without violating their consciences. In this way, scientism promotes more offspring and so would be selected for.

    But it begs the question as to why religion evolved in the first place if it placed a curb on our sexual activities and resulted in fewer offspring.

    It also makes it hard to explain why homosexuality evolved given the fact that they can leave behind no offspring.

    But, never mind, if they think hard enough, someone will come up with a story to explain that too.

    Darwin made storytelling a necessary skill for scientists! A vivid imagination and ability to tell a good story goes a long way in helping an evolutionist to make a name for himself!

  4. @ News
    Hope this is okay to post as it’s at least tangentially related:
    http://salvomag.com/new/articl.....belief.php

    It’s an insightful interview with Bradley Monton, the ID-friendly atheist. I’m sure BA has already beaten me to this :-P

Leave a Reply