Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Responding to Petulant Pandering Parades



We open the Forge with a strike upon the anvil that has been well-deserved in coming. In over 15 years of apologetics ministry, I have acquired a fair number of what could be called parasitic hangers-on of varying quality. Having little of quality to offer in arguments they seek in the main to gain public exposure by riding on my coattails.
To that end, there were produced some time ago rather petulant panderings in response to my item, “Dawkins’ Ironic Hypocrisy” available on creation.com at http://creation.com/dawkins-ironic-hypocrisy We will not here credit the source of this pandering with the dignity of a name, for to do so would be to serve their purpose of bringing undeserved exposure to themselves as a marginal entity.
Instead we will indicate and address what few actual arguments (if they may be called that) may be beheld. There is little reason to otherwise credit persons under the impression that having an unerring ability to say in 5000 words what could have just as capably been said in 50, and gyrating incessantly in modern renditions of the Red Herring Two-Step, serve in place of quality argumentation.
Petulance #1: It is said to be “misleading” when I indicate that Dawkins “appeals to the work of G. A. Wells.” Reason: By using the word “appeals” I have insinuated that Dawkins finds “appeal” in the thesis that Jesus did not exist.
One can only wonder at this sort of suggestion, by which the author indicates an exhaustion of local supplies of aluminum foil for the purpose of constructing his extended personal haberdashery collection. There is nothing “misleading” whatsoever in my use of the word “appeals” – this is a figment of a limited linguistophobic imagination, as is the attempt to correlate the meaning of “appeal” in the sense of “a reference to some person or authority for a corroboration” and the meaning of “appeal” in the sense of “the power or ability to attract.”
Despite the vain semantic fantasies, Dawkins indeed “appeals” to Wells -- he references Wells as an authority who can corroborate the claim that one can mount a case for a mythical Jesus. No amount of lexical gerrymandering will change that. He does not merely refer to him as an example of an author who has written about the Christ myth, but provides Wells as a reference for a “serious” and “historical” case for the Christ-myth. The pretension that I have somehow quoted Dawkins out of context is an exercise in despair.
Rather imaginatively, it is supposed that by way of replacing Wells’ name and book title with my own in Dawkins’ quote, it proves some sort of point, and this is supplemented by asking the inane question: “Would this make Dawkins an advocate of creationism?” No, and that subject is not mentioned by Dawkins with reference to Wells. I referred to nothing of evolution or creation, or any other topics; I referred only to the bare issue of the existence of Jesus. So goes the methodology: Hoist red herring, rub vigorously beneath armpit.
It may however, legitimately be asked what I do expect Dawkins to say about the Christ myth, if indeed I am to be the guide. The answer is that I want Dawkins to mind his own business on subjects he knows absolutely nothing about. The reference and implicit endorsement of Wells is completely gratuitous and serves no other purpose in Dawkins’ book than simply to endorse consideration of, and bring attention to, a crackpot theory. Those who fail to see this link might consider asking a child of five for assistance, as Groucho Marx might say.
My sole subject was Dawkins’ hypocrisy, and his intellectual honesty, in endorsing a crackpot theory outside is expertise (this is a critical point; see below) even as he accuses young earth creationists of adhering to crackpot theories. I am not addressing any criticism of creationism by Dawkins. The fact is, I could be a materialist, evolutionist, and atheist and the point would be the same: If you’re going to accuse others of being crackpots, you’d best not do so while sporting tinfoil millinery. In any event, those who do think that there is no evidence that Jesus was a historical person may take in hand my own materials on the subject , and see if they can answer them; provided, of course, that they are not too busy trying to contrive cross-fertilizations in the meanings of words to address that case.
Petulance #2: I wrote that Dawkins made an “appearance” in the film The God Who Wasn’t There. This is misleading because a) the film never appeared in theaters, only on DVD; b) Dawkins provided only an audio commentary, and not on the Christ myth.
What point is being reached for in the first portion is hard to discern. Presumably the point is that actors only “appear” in films if they hit the silver screen; if the movie is on DVD only, they do not actually “appear.” We will simply have to wait for the evolution of language (sorry!) to proceed further before finding out what the argument here is meant to be.
But the appeal is foolish in any event. At http://www.cmt.com/news/country-music/1579902/rhonda-vincent-back-on-road-with-new-album.jhtml we find one example of many of this sort of phraseology: “She even came up with the wedding song, ‘I Give All My Love to You,’ which appears on the album.” Presumably the author of this piece is to be counted ignorant for supposing that the words of the song “appear” inscribed on the physical compact disc associated with the “album.”
In terms of the secondary objection, yes, it is true that Dawkins’ appearance was merely a six-minute narration on the subject of memes. But apart from semantically limiting “appearances” to purely visual expression – a questionable, if not wholly gratuitous, nitpick of expression [see note below], this is merely a contrivance to act as though there is little significance in Dawkins lending his credibility to the film’s subject matter simply by appearing in a supporting role. If, for example, Lee Strobel lent his voice to a film where the main subject was the denial of the Holocaust, I doubt he would be excused from that, provided he was talking about how history was sometimes made up by people (and didn’t mention specifically the Holocaust). The main issue here is Dawkins lending his celebrity to the film – not information.
Petulance #3: I accuse Dawkins of endorsing the Christ myth as a crackpot theory, but I write articles for CMI, which promotes the crackpot idea of young earth creationism.
Whether or not a young earth view is indeed “crackpot” is something the critics can argue about with others here without begging the question. Nevertheless, this misses a vital difference in a vain attempt at guilt by association: Although I may indeed serve CMI in this capacity frequently, I do not make the mistake Dawkins does of addressing topics I know nothing about. I have never “endorsed” young earth creationism by saying, “it is possible to mount a serious, though not widely supported, historical case that the earth is 6000 years old.” That is because I recognize that my knowledge of relevant fields is insufficient to say such things with authority. This is the lesson Dawkins has not learned when he endorses the Christ myth as a plausible thesis.
It may be argued that in this sense, my work for CMI is still comparable to Dawkins’ work for Flemming’s film. But it is not, for two reasons. The first is that Dawkins has elsewhere, in The God Delusion, given the Christ-myth specific intellectual support, whereas I have nowhere written anything in specific defense of young earth creationism, acknowledging freely that I hold to it as a personal decision only. Second, it should be manifest that whereas I serve CMI as one whose ministry is of lesser reputation, Dawkins’ reputation is such that his name adds credibility to Flemming’s film in the eyes of observers. It is thus not so much what Dawkins said in the film as that he appeared in a supporting role at all.
What makes this analogy even more inappropriate is that the Christ-myth is considered crackpot by persons with no axe to grind in the debate – that is, even non-Christian or even atheist historians. Contrarily, it is hard to find disinterested parties when it comes to young earth versus old earth, creation versus evolution. Dawkins, in endorsing the Christ myth as plausible, is setting himself against experts in an entirely different field, and with no unanimous ideological alignment. As I said quite clearly in my prior article, to Dawkins “it doesn’t matter at all whether those ideas are considered a minority, crackpot view by experts in other fields!” The last phrase is most critical – and thus, I repeat, my indictment of Dawkins would be the same regardless of what ideology I was offering otherwise.
In sum, again, if Dawkins had simply kept his silence on this subject, then he would not be a hypocrite. If he merely held to the Christ-myth as a personal belief, and did not try to persuade others in any way that it was viable, I would have had nothing to write about. It is Dawkins’ public commentary that creates the hypocrisy – not that he merely holds a certain viewpoint.
Petualance #4: I say Dawkins praised Flemming's movie warmly in The God Delusion, despite its crass errors, but all he did was call it "a sincere and moving film advocating atheism."
It seems that we have here yet another case of redefining terms into insensibility. Calling a film “sincere and moving” is, to put it mildly, warm praise. The last I checked, “sincere” and “moving” were adjectives used to describe person, books, and films in a highly positive way. It also adds to Dawkins’ hypocrisy for the same reasons we have already noted. It also does not matter if Dawkins’ praise for the film was not more effusive. This is an attempt to excuse someone breaking a window with a rock simply because they did not level an entire city block with a nuclear bomb
In the final analysis, it is only those who lay their coats at Dawkins’ feet who can possibly contrive any excuse for his irresponsible behavior here. It is also simply one example of many in The God Delusion in which Dawkins speaks out of turn on subjects he knows nothing about – and thus I could in fact multiply the examples of hypocrisy easily. The example of his tacit endorsement of the Christ myth was simply one I found most glaring and relevant. I might add that Dawkins’ tendency to speak far outside his field is affirmed by no less than atheist philosopher Michael Ruse, as documented for example at http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/ruse-on-dawkins-delusion/ where he says:
Dawkins is brazen in his ignorance of philosophy and theology (not to mention the history of science).
Dawkins is a man truly out of his depth. Does he honestly think that no philosopher or theologian has ever thought of or worried about the infinite regress of the cosmological argument?
And on the front cover of Alister McGrath’s The Dawkins Delusion, Ruse offered: “The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist, and the McGraths show why.” In effect, I could readily cite Dawkins’ commentary on philosophy, etc. as further examples of his hypocrisy.
So it is that those who palm themselves off as critics prove once again that they deserve the unlinked obscurity to where I relegate them. Cry me a river, little man.

3 comments:

  1. Alister McGrath. I know him, he wrote, The Twilight of Atheism, which was published right before atheist books first begain rising to the tops of bestseller lists worldwide, and before meetup.com atheist groups began forming worldwide, and campus atheist groups sextupled in size.

    McGrath also wrote, in that same book, "I retain a profound respect for [atheism’s] aspirations for humanity and legitimate criticisms of dysfunctional religion... There is something about human nature which makes it capable of being inspired by what it believes to be right to do both wonderful and appalling things. Neither atheism nor religion may be at fault."

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  2. Another pointless off-topic ramble courtesy of Ed "I'm Talking and I Can't Shut Up" Babinski. But at least he didn't do all these from work this time.

    How's that social life going, Edski? Sheila still says "no" to that date offer you made.

    Campus atheist groups grew that much? Sorry, I don't put much trust in your skills as a statastician, Edski, much less as a reporter of truth. But what's the big deal if they grew from 2 to 12? And when will you grow up out of being a fundy and get past "argument by majority"?

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  3. Alister Magrath is an awesome reasoner. It doesn't surprise me that most atheists fear to face him.

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