Here we go again

Over at Foreign Policy, Robert Wright repeats his usual spiel against the “new atheists,” but this time he’s turned up the invective:

The accusations:

1. We want to spawn a generation of venom-spewers.

But the New Atheists’ main short-term goal wasn’t to turn believers into atheists, it was to turn atheists into New Atheists — fellow fire-breathing preachers of the anti-gospel. The point was to make it not just uncool to believe, but cool to ridicule believers.

Umm. . . that isn’t my goal.  I’ve had some conversations with these NA’s, and never have I sensed that their goal was to ridicule believers.  Sometimes they ridicule belief, of course, but more often they’re involved in serious discourse about ideas.  Given the choice between turning believers into atheists or turning atheists into New Atheists,  there’s not one of us who would opt for the latter.

2.  We’re hurting the acceptance of evolution.

If you’re a Midwestern American, fighting to keep Darwin in the public schools and intelligent design out, the case you make to conservative Christians is that teaching evolution won’t turn their children into atheists. So the last thing you need is for the world’s most famous teacher of evolution, Richard Dawkins, to be among the world’s most zealously proselytizing atheists. These atmospherics only empower your enemies,

No evidence for this assertion, of course.  I still haven’t encountered a believer who says, “You know, if Dawkins would just stop dissing God, I’d embrace evolution!” And does Wright really want us to lie here?  After all, teaching evolution, like teaching other forms science — indeed, like teaching any sort of critical thinking and rationality — will help turn some children into atheists.  Are we supposed to say, “No — not a chance in hell of that happening”?

3.  We’re reactionaries and hurting the cause of world peace.

Dawkins, for example, has written that if there were no religion then there would be “no Israeli/Palestinian wars.” This view is wrong — the conflict started as an essentially secular argument over land — but it’s popular among parts of the U.S. and Israeli right. The reason is its suggestion that there’s no point in, say, removing Israeli settlements so long as the toxin of religion is in the air.

I don’t recall Dawkins saying anything about settlements; that’s Wright’s ridiculous mischaracterization.

4.   We’re intolerant and uncivil.

All the great religions have shown time and again that they’re capable of tolerance and civility when their adherents don’t feel threatened or disrespected. At the same time, as some New Atheists have now shown, you don’t have to believe in God to exhibit intolerance and incivility.

Yeah, right.  Clearly it is the atheists who are responsible for making the faithful intolerant — we haven’t respected them enough!  That, of course, is why the Catholic church prefers death by AIDS to the use of condoms, and why it frowns on homosexuals and women priests.  Catholics wouldn’t do that if the atheists hadn’t backed them into a corner!

And that’s why Islam keeps suppressing women, preventing them from getting a decent education (and dousing them with acid if they try), swathing them in burqas, bumping them off in honor killings, and making them second class citizens (a woman’s testimony counts only half as much as a man’s in a sharia court).  Clearly, Muslims do this only because they feel threatened. It would all stop if we’d just give them a little more respect!

Shame on Wright for implying that Islam’s brutally oppressing half of its adherents stems from a lack of respect for Muslims, and for laying at the door of atheism the blame for acid-dousings, suicide bombings, persecution of gays, and the spread of AIDS. These phenomena are, pure and simple, the products of religious scripture and dogma.  In what world can a man like Wright be seen as a serious thinker?

— A world in which the Templeton Foundation laps up this brand of piffle like a cat after cream.  And so I proffer a prediction:  Wright will win the Templeton Prize within two years.

70 Comments

  1. John D
    Posted December 6, 2009 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Interesting prediction. He’s definitely got all the credentials, i.e. sufficiently vague concept of god and religion. It’s fascinating how several winners of Templeton (Paul Davies, Loyal Rue, Jonathan Haidt spring to mind) come nowhere close to orthodox religious belief and may even be open atheists (Haidt).

    I’m also not sure that Israel/Palestine was ever just a secular dispute over land. It’s certainly true that religious fundamentalism (on both sides) is making resolution seem ever further away.

    In fact there was a video about this posted to Dawkins’s site a couple of days ago:
    http://www.richarddawkins.net/articles/4706

    • Posted December 6, 2009 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

      I’m going to chirp in here to say I encourage people to lay off the Templeton stuff. It’s really ad hominem.

      And John D, the I/P issue was originally a secular dispute. The 1948 state of Israel was likely the most atheistic country ever. And the PLO was (is?) strictly secular.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted December 7, 2009 at 10:11 am | Permalink

        It’s really ad hominem.

        Is it?

        An ad hominem is “an argument which links the validity of a premise to an irrelevant characteristic or belief of the person advocating the premise.

        How can analyzing or noting the religious organization Templeton’s actions be irrelevant to the actions of religious people or to people discussing religion?

        [To finish up this analysis, I note further that such an analysis would not link the validity of a premise just by mentioning (!) Templeton (“lay off”), nor would it necessarily be a fallacy as noted in the link.]

        the I/P issue was originally a secular dispute.

        I’m no historian, nor have I read Dawkins on this point, but if Dawkins made such a claim as described he certainly doesn’t have to concern himself with any secular causes, only if religion was a necessary cause.

        Looking at the conflict and it’s historical roots in forced relocations, there are several points where religion indeed seems to be necessary.

        For example:

        “Although most of the Jewish people, especially the wealthy families, were to be found in Babylonia, the existence they led there, under the successive rules of the Achaemenids, the Seleucids, the Parthians, and the Sassanians, was obscure and devoid of political influence. The poorest but most fervent of the exiles returned to Judaea during the reign of the Achaemenids. There, with the reconstructed Temple in Jerusalem as their center, they organized themselves into a community, animated by a remarkable religious ardor and a tenacious attachment to the Torah as the focus of its identity. As this little nucleus increased in numbers with the accession of recruits from various quarters, it awoke to a consciousness of itself, and strove for political enfranchisement. [My bold.]”

        … and many more such historical events in there, such as prominent “religious riots” spanning _decades_.

      • Posted December 7, 2009 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        Okay, I give. It questions his motivations, not his arguments.

      • Firejester7
        Posted December 8, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        Are you serious Norwegian? Israel was never atheist. They are a Jewish country and always have been. Please.

      • Posted December 8, 2009 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I’m serious. Do you think a Jewish atheist is impossible?

      • Antlera6@gmail.com
        Posted December 9, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        Seriously? PLO is strictly secular? You really think so?
        I guess the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades were all about a rational approach to ending the conflict?
        Really? You mean it’s not all about Islam and irrational hatred of Jews? Hamas was never involved? The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood wasn’t involved in the whole I/P thing either?
        It’s all really just a secular misunderstanding about orchards then? Phew. That’s lucky. Should be all sorted quite soon then yeah?

  2. Posted December 6, 2009 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Wow.

  3. Eric MacDonald
    Posted December 6, 2009 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Wow! is right. This stuff is really beneath contempt. How does this sort of ridiculous hyperventilating get published at all, yet alone in a ‘respectable’ publication? There is not one iota of evidence produced for anything that Wright says in this article, not a speck. It’s really a stunning piece of non-reporting and innuendo.

    • Posted December 6, 2009 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      I think he must have scored a lot of cheap straw on Black Friday, and now he’s trying to find a use of it. Like building straw men. Big ones. Lots of them.

  4. nal
    Posted December 6, 2009 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Robert Wright:

    So the last thing you need is for the world’s most famous teacher of evolution, Richard Dawkins, to be among the world’s most zealously proselytizing atheists.

    Christians have known that evolution is antithetical to many of their core beliefs as far back as Darwin. Conservation Christians oppose evolution regardless of who espouses it. They reject the message and hence, the messenger, even when the messenger is Christian. That is why there can be no accommodation.

    • Posted December 6, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      Conservation Christians oppose evolution regardless of who espouses it. They reject the message and hence, the messenger, even when the messenger is Christian. That is why there can be no accommodation.

      I agree that accommodation is broken in that context, but there are certainly plenty of theists who embrace evolution. Would you say that applies even in that case?

      I mean, I learned about evolution from Catholic teachers. I also learned that religion was vital for preserving literacy (via the need to read the Bible) during the dark ages.

      I think the story of Frankenstein’s monster makes a nice parable for how the religious see science. In trying to play God we’ve created a monster.

      • Posted December 6, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

        But to be clear, “we” are the Christians who promoted literacy and science, i.e Gregor Mendel and others.

        You can view the enlightenment itself as Frankenstein’s monster, birthed by the Church.

  5. Posted December 6, 2009 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Back during the Behe/BHTV kerfuffle, I thought it was odd that Wright ignored my request to ‘debate’ Behe, or film a ‘rebuttal’ show.

    Guess its not odd that he doesnt want me on his program anymore *shrug*

    • mk
      Posted December 6, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      Exactly. Wright was repeatedly saying he wanted to see a debate between someone like Dawkins and Behe. But he ignored–repeatedly!–your offer and comments here and elsewhere that pointed out your offer.

      Is he genuinely interested in the “debate”? Is he insincere? Or is he only looking for the “big name”? The spectacle?

      • Posted December 6, 2009 at 11:42 am | Permalink

        Well, I just think its now obvious he would rather sell out science for the Templeton, then defend science with an Out and Proud Atheist.

        He doesnt want any more out atheists on Science Saturday, even if theyre relative experts on HIV-1 and evolution. I mean, its pretty clear he hates out atheists.

        In other words, he hates me (as an atheist) more than he ‘disagrees’ with Behe, and he doesnt give a shit about science.

        Thats why he ignored me.

      • Posted December 6, 2009 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        It certainly is clear that he hates out atheists.

        I keep being surprised, over and over again, how willing people are to do this othering routine – not Palin types but Wright types, Mooney types, Chris Hedges types, Nicholas Kristof types. This resort to knee-jerk enemy-language – you’d think they would know better.

      • mk
        Posted December 6, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        It’s really gotta sting to be criticized by the likes of Phil Plait, Sean Carroll, Jerry Coyne, PZ, ERV and Ophelia Benson. You know deep down he needs their approval more than the folks at Discovery Inst.

      • Screechy Monkey
        Posted December 6, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        By the way, if anyone really thinks Wright has a problem with “incivility,” check out his most recent bloggingheads.tv diavlogue with Mickey Kaus. Wright ends up practically sputtering with outrage (admittedly, Mickey can be rather infuriating) and constantly interrupting and badgering Kaus.

        Which is not really a big deal — Kaus has a thick skin and seems more amused by it than anything — but Bob Wright should not be lecturing anyone on civility.

  6. Posted December 6, 2009 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    It’s garlic, not fire. Get it right Wright.

  7. Furcas
    Posted December 6, 2009 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Wright is scum.

  8. Posted December 6, 2009 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    All the great religions have shown time and again that they’re capable of tolerance and civility when their adherents don’t feel threatened or disrespected.

    Here was me thinking FP was a respectable journal, yet it published that ridiculous claim. How pathetic.

    • North of 49
      Posted December 6, 2009 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Actually, my take-away from that quote was that if you look at the historical record, it seems there has almost never been a time when the adherents of the great religions, judging by their actions, did not feel threatened or disrespected.

      Like children throwing a two-thousand-year-long tantrum.

    • Posted December 8, 2009 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      He almost got it right. You can see lots of tolerance for other religions and cultures in the bible, Koran, etc. Unfortunately, it’s only when the religion in question was weak and/or powerless. When the religion was strong/dominant, they’ve been quite the arseholes.

      So, when a muslim talks about Islam being the religion of “peace,” it’s true. And when they talk about the “jihad” being an “internal struggle” and not a ground war, it’s true.

      But it’s only true when they’re seriously out-numbered and helpless in a society. So they grasp at those interpretations, put in their Koran when they were weak and accommodationist.

      Just like they do here in America. I have a mosque near my house. Like all the Churches around here the quote scriptures. You’d be amazed at how conciliatory those quotations are…

      OTOH, you get to the mid-east, where Muslims are dominant, all Mr. Nice Religion goes the way of the dodo. Then it’s the hostile, Taliban-friendly, women-crushing load of bullshit we see on the news. The part of Islam the “civilized” Muslims don’t want us to talk about.

      Just the horrible parts of Christianity we see, that the “civilized” Christians don’t want us to talk about. Like Wright, who wants to pretend Christianity is all “Mr. Nice Guy.”

      Well it isn’t. It’s witch hunts, domination, death and destruction at it’s worst. It’s lying and stealing and condemning people to death over obscure bronze-age/iron-age beliefs.

      It is, in fact, a parasite on body human. Taking far more from humanity than any incidental benefit it may provide.

  9. newenglandbob
    Posted December 6, 2009 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Wright is wrong, as usual. It was hard to read it all, since it made me nauseous to read.

  10. Anders
    Posted December 6, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I don’t recall Dawkins saying anything about settlements; that’s Wright’s ridiculous mischaracterization.

    Another point worth making, is that these two “races” fighting over land are separate “races” ONLY because of religion. Their respective religion’s strict rules of ingroup breeding is not only one of the main reasons they don’t want to share lands with “the others”, but it’s a major reason why they see themselves as distinct groups.

    Precicely because religion is so essential in this conflict, and so effective in shaping and preserving BAD cultural traditions, it is next to impossible to imagine its overnight removal, but if it did happen, my bet is that these two groups would interbreed and blend within a century, and the conflict would not only be settled, but be seen as pointless and absurd, because there would be no sides anymore.

  11. Yakaru
    Posted December 6, 2009 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    In effect, Wright is calling on atheists to play politics instead of being honest.

    How stupid and easily deceived does he think Christians are?

  12. Chayanov
    Posted December 6, 2009 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    “So the last thing you need is for the world’s most famous teacher of evolution, Richard Dawkins, to be among the world’s most zealously proselytizing atheists.”

    Isn’t that just code for “I’m jealous of Dawkins because he’s sold more books than I have”?

    • Yakaru
      Posted December 6, 2009 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Maybe it means “If I just agree with Dawkins no one will pay any attention to me, so I’ll make some noise.”

    • Screechy Monkey
      Posted December 6, 2009 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Remember, folks: writing books in which you consistently promote an idea is ok if it’s something like “history is consistently moving in the direction of greater co-operation.” Writing ONE book in which you promote the idea that there is insufficient evidence for the existence of a god makes you a “zealous proselytizer.”

      Since faitheists like Wright have such low standards for words like “zealous,” “fundamentalist,” and “militant,” I think we need to throw it back at them.

      Robert Wright is a militant zealous fundamentalist, zealously proselytizing his faith of Nonzerosumness. Pass it on!

      • AdamK
        Posted December 7, 2009 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

        Wright has one single simple-minded idea, which he clothes in verbiage in book after book. To the degree his one idea is testable, it’s wrong. He’s a crackpot. Why he gets any attention is beyond me.

  13. llewelly
    Posted December 6, 2009 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    All the great religions have shown time and again that they’re capable of tolerance and civility when their adherents don’t feel threatened or disrespected.

    Unfortunately, the most ridiculous and unimportant events – like a mild-mannered biology professor throwing away a cracker, or a few cartoons – make them feel so “threatened” and “disrespected” they issue mass death threats.

    • H.H.
      Posted December 6, 2009 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. What Wright is really saying is we need to fear religion. Pamper and protect the religious, nurture their insecurities and soothe their tempers, or else they’ll set the world on fire. It’s nothing but a veiled threat. But remember, it’s atheists who are the “militant” ones.

  14. MadScientist
    Posted December 6, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    “We’re hurting the acceptance of evolution.”

    Ah, the Mooney Gambit. Yet more evidence that accommodationism only makes the shrill creationists even louder. I wonder how many letters Mooney has received telling him how they were once religious but turned atheist thanks to his coddling creationism.

    • MadScientist
      Posted December 6, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      Oops … I should say ‘religious delusions’ since Mooney isn’t directly coddling creationists.

      • SLC
        Posted December 6, 2009 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        Let’s be a little charitable towards Mr. Mooney and Ms. Kirshenbaum who are currently taking a terrible beating on their blog from the climate change denialists over climategate.

      • MadScientist
        Posted December 6, 2009 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

        Sorry SLC, if Mooney wants to start fires all around him, that’s his problem. Unfortunately for him, the “New atheists are hurting the acceptance of evolution” is something he’s said over and over again (if not using those exact words). I might wander over and see how he’s handling the climate email scandal though; I suspect he’s having a hard time since he doesn’t seem to put an effort into controlling trolls.

      • Screechy Monkey
        Posted December 6, 2009 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

        SLC, I’d go over there and help them with those climate change denialists, but I’m sure they wouldn’t want my militant incivility fouling up their nice polite comments section.

  15. Posted December 6, 2009 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    We’re hurting the acceptance of evolution.

    If you’re a Midwestern American, fighting to keep Darwin in the public schools and intelligent design out, the case you make to conservative Christians is that teaching evolution won’t turn their children into atheists. So the last thing you need is for the world’s most famous teacher of evolution, Richard Dawkins, to be among the world’s most zealously proselytizing atheists. These atmospherics only empower your enemies,

    I disagree often enough with “New Atheists,” but this is where I really get sick of the “accommodationists.”

    Wright seems to be completely oblivious of the history of the “evolution wars,” either that or he doesn’t care about being honest. I don’t know if “New Atheists” are reactionary, yet they are reactive, that is, they’re reacting considerably against the fact that atheists were doing basically nothing when the IDiots started attacking theistic and atheistic evolutionists for hating religion, for persecuting mindless pseudoscientists who insisted that religious lies be taught in school, and for supposedly being anti-religious bigots in general.

    Has Wright even read the Wedge Document?

    The internet is probably partly responsible for atheists becoming more vocal, indeed, but the real drive force for it was exactly the fact that IDiots were telling the religious and everybody else that evolution leaves no room for religion (true, except that it is science at large, with evolution merely filling in the last large gap in which “god existed”), and that evolutionists were atheists or the atheists’ lackeys, who pushed for evolution to be taught in order to destroy religion.

    Since we did basically nothing, and were attacked as haters and persecutors simply because that was useful for the IDiot-religionists’ agenda to establish the BS that new developments have “re-opened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature” (from the Wedge Document), Wright is clearly not speaking to the history of the recent religion wars, only to some fantasy that he harbors regarding it.

    Note that I’m not saying that the “new atheist” approach is the right one, although I do think it’s one of the right approaches. I’m saying that atheists clearly have some cause to react to unprovoked attacks upon science and atheism, and that by no means did atheists in general bring up the fact that religion and evolution (really science in general) at best fit together uneasily. The IDiots pointed that out, and have tried to destroy science for daring to prefer evidence over dogma.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  16. H.H.
    Posted December 6, 2009 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Wright wrote:

    Dawkins, for example, has written that if there were no religion then there would be “no Israeli/Palestinian wars.” This view is wrong — the conflict started as an essentially secular argument over land —

    Secular argument over land? No. It’s a religious argument over land that both Jews and Muslims believe to be holy ground. Does Wright honestly think all the acrimony, hostility, and violence in the Middle East is over a few acres of desert with no religious significance? What a dishonest piece of garbage.

  17. Posted December 6, 2009 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    I take no delight in the impolite spite of Robby Wright. His screed is in need of some serious mothereffin’ rigour. It’s got vigour, but I figure that it’s not worth a widow’s mite – no! It’s kind of a slow bleed of real thought. It’s caught in error. It’s trite .. a kind of thinking-lite, yeah – an unpedigreed stampede of special pleading for creeds and unholy deeds and religious terror. It’s like Wright has smoked too much weed or got too much greed, and now he’s a satellite. An acolyte. A parasite on superstition. He’s turned off the light of reason, looking for a coming season when it gets him a treasonous prize, a kind of commission. His ambition has made him unwise: so now he’s a temporiser, when he ought to be a despiser and a pulveriser. It’s hideous sight, a benighted blight that we have to fight without remission. Thank Jerry for his demolition!

    • newenglandbob
      Posted December 6, 2009 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      Hmmm, where have I see this style of writing before?

      Oh yes, 5 minutes ago on your blog. 🙂

    • Michelle B
      Posted December 6, 2009 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

      Downright perky writing, Russell!

      Wright and other middle of the roaders pride themselves as peacemakers while both sides, the theists and the atheists, want no part of their insipid mush and think they are ridiculous.

      Hell has no fury as a peacemaker scorned (but a Templeton win could take the edge off the fury a bit).

    • bad Jim
      Posted December 7, 2009 at 3:35 am | Permalink

      Just say it: Wright is wrong.

  18. SaintStephen
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 3:09 am | Permalink

    Jerry says:

    “And does Wright really want us to lie here?”

    If we atheists lie ANYWHERE suitable to waffling wafflers like Wright, we will be lying much too damn close to the cliff edge of religion. It wouldn’t be a first step towards atheism, it would be a giant leap BACKWARD towards theism.

  19. bric
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    The trouble seems to be that we lost our shame at not believing in gods

    http://blog.case.edu/singham/2009/09/15/being_a_new_atheist_means_not_saying_youre_sorry

    I recall a similar situation when we were marching and campaigning for gay rights – if only we were not so brazen in our demands to be treated like other people, and felt bad about our need for homosex and homolove, many fine people would have found it in their hearets to tolerate us.

    • MadScientist
      Posted December 8, 2009 at 4:26 am | Permalink

      That’s right, if only the homosexuals would shut up and let the preachers slander and demonize them – the religions would instantly realize that homosexuals are just a natural part of any society. I mean, it’s obviously worked in .. in .. well, I’m sure it worked in heaven ’cause god told me.

  20. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    teaching evolution, like teaching other forms science — indeed, like teaching any sort of critical thinking and rationality — will help turn some children into atheists.

    Not exactly AFAIU. What statistics reveal is that formal education dis-empowers religion, making theists agnostics and agnostics atheists.

    [But, interestingly, perhaps not “modern atheists” as such. This, as indicated in the comments, seem to be a reaction to religion trying to empower itself in answer to modern science.]

    This happens whether or not individuals are migrating away from religion for other causes. Yes, it may cofactor in, but it doesn’t have to.

    Bonus anecdote: Day before yesterday I hear two guys next table discussing their bible groups at the lunch restaurant. One guy is fawning over an academic girl, and notes how rare it is in their religious community.

    That positive claim made me almost stand their antics of waving bibles around the table. 😀

  21. aratina cage
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Mischaracterizing Dawkins on Israel-Palestine and telling thinking atheists to sit down and shut up is all Wright does anymore. I can’t stand his ornery screeds and demagoguing.

  22. Mel N
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Let’s face it, religious organizations have had thousands of years of experience intimidation, ostracizing and smearing their detractors.

  23. NMcC
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    His Darwininess might make a bet with you. This is Dawkins on RD.net:

    “Robert Wright is a prime exemplar of the power of the Templeton Temptation. The world of science is crawling with previously decent people who are now greedily and shamelessly sucking up to the faith-heads. Only one person can win the Templeton Prize in any one year, so it is not all that expensive for the Foundation. If it only suborned the winner in any one year, it would hardly be cost-effective. But, for every previously distinguished winner who takes the bribe to betray science there must be a dozen losers. Robert Wright is surely a born loser (not distinguished enough to be Templeton-bait), but losers still try just as hard, and the resulting subversion of everything that science stands for is what Templeton stands for.”

    • Screechy Monkey
      Posted December 7, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      “a born loser” — ouch!

      That seems a bit rough, and not a sentiment I share, but I guess I can’t blame Dawkins for being a little churlish about someone who it seems never passes up an opportunity to sneer at him.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted December 7, 2009 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        I agree that Robert Wright is NOT a born loser. He earned the term loser by his writings. It is his well deserved badge of shame and not a fault of genetics.

      • Posted December 7, 2009 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

        Well it’s ambiguous – literally he just meant that Wright is a born loser of the Templeton Prize, and then the colloquial phrase is behind that. I think in context it’s not as harsh as calling someone a born loser period.

      • mk
        Posted December 7, 2009 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

        @NewEnglandBob…

        Excellent! Well said.

  24. TreeRooster
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    A couple of small points to be made about Dr. Coyne’s replies. First, although it is clearly true that the fundamentalist Christians fear the teaching of evolution for itself, it is also true that they often stock their arguments before school boards and college classes with examples of atheists who have used evolution to directly attack Christianity. This is from first-person experience.

    On the issue of the Palestinian conflict: I do not think Wright is accusing Dawkins of thinking that the settlements might as well stay. Wright is claiming that the religious conflict is not as real as is supposed by Dawkins. Wright is saying that Dawkins has perhaps been partly taken in by the rhetoric of right-wing groups who themselves want to keep the settlements, and are inflating the severity of religious conflict as an excuse for not removing them.

    • MadScientist
      Posted December 8, 2009 at 4:22 am | Permalink

      Perhaps Wright should go to Israel and tell the illegitimate settlers that there is no religious war? Alternatively he can tell Hamas that there is no religious war. Does Wright also claim that Hitler was really a very nice guy, just a little misunderstood? Wright must be a very special kind of stupid indeed.

    • Eric MacDonald
      Posted December 8, 2009 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      Come on TreeRooster. Wright says it straight out that this is a secular dispute about land. It’s not, and not only because of right wing groups who want to keep the settlements. Those groups are religious, known to be religious, and have been known to show a very dark side of themselves. They take their inspiration from the Torah, since the whole of the land was promised to them. They will not let it go. It’s a promise from their god. On the other side are those who consider the whole of Palestine a Muslim waqf, basically, a Muslim trust, to be held in perpetuity. Wright is deliberately (and, I suggest, knowingly) ignoring these things for rhetorical purposes.

      As for fundies using evolution’s atheist supporters, what’s new? The basic premise is that anyone who questions the Genesis account is an atheist anyway, or certainly temporising with the truth. And shall we temporise with the truth as well, and say that learning about evolution will not change the way you look at the Genesis narratives? T’ain’t so. It will, and Wright knows as well as anyone else what the parameters of this particular dispute are. But he’s found a scapegoat, a lighting rod for all his spite against those who have spoiled his party – the one where you eat your cake and get to have it too!

      • TreeRooster
        Posted December 8, 2009 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

        Yes, agreed that Wright’s argument is weakened by many many examples of actual religious conflict over that land. I didn’t want to defend his point, just to clarify it–as opposed to the original reading of it as a “ridiculous mischaracterization” of Dawkins. Wright is not assuming that Dawkins thinks that the religious conflict is a smokescreen, rather he feels that Dawkins opinion may be misinformed. Again, probably wrongly.

  25. Posted December 8, 2009 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I also learned that religion was vital for preserving literacy (via the need to read the Bible) during the dark ages.

    Did you also learn that a large part of the reason for the continuation of the Dark Ages was the supression of education by the Catholic Church, or did they leave that part out? The common people weren’t supposed to read teh Babble, that was reserved for people who could actually read Latin, i.e. the classically educated nobility and the clergy, so they were a tad mendacious on that note as well.

    Sorry, I am aware that the Catholic church technically supports the teaching of evolution, but that doesn’t give them carte blanche for their historic and continued injustices. They’re no better than fundamentalists IMO; the treatment of the condoms/AIDS prevention issue in Africa is completely reprehensible.

    • Eric MacDonald
      Posted December 8, 2009 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Indeed, just as well to remember that John Wycliffe, translator of the Bible (into English), was condemned by the Council of Constance (1415), which ordered his remains to be exhumed, burned, and the ashes dumped into the river Swift. All his books were banned, including his translation. The Bible contributed very little to literacy until the Protestant Reformation, and it has been said (with what justice I do not know) that generations brought up on the Authorised or King James Bible have lost so much of the English language as to make much that was written before 1611 inintelligible to most English speaking people.

  26. Monty Gaither
    Posted December 8, 2009 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is religious. It is fundamentalist jews that insist that all that land belongs to them and that the golden dome mosque must be destroyed. It is fundamentalist muslims that are yelling “allah is great” before blowing themselves and others up.

    Secularist Israelis are usually quoted as saying give back the occupied lands. I have never heard of a secular Palestinian blowing himself and others up.

    Both groups are claiming the land based on previous ownership and religion. Had neither religion (no religion) existed there still could have been problems (on a tribal basis) but it would not be as bad. It is much harder to get non-religious people to kill themselves without the promise of great rewards in a mythical “after-life”.

  27. Kmita
    Posted December 8, 2009 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    It’s apparent to me that the religious WOULD accept evolution if its most public supporter weren’t an atheist. Take Heliocentric theory for example. It took xians forever to accept that, mainly because Galileo was an atheist.

    What’s that you say? Galileo wasn’t an atheist? GG Wright, you obscene moron.

    • Monty Gaither
      Posted December 9, 2009 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      Kmita,

      It is not true that the religious would accept evolution if it’s most public supporter weren’t an Atheist.

      The fundamentalists xtians who believe that the bible is the literal and inerrant word of their mythical god have never and will never accept the fact that life today evolved from primative life.

  28. anthonzi
    Posted December 8, 2009 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    they’re capable of tolerance and civility when their adherents don’t feel threatened or disrespected.

    I’m not sure why he didn’t catch the immediate hypocrisy of this statement O.o

  29. kino
    Posted December 8, 2009 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    The New Atheism movement almost turns into an evolution. I think the problem isn’t with the leaders. Dawkins, as far as I know, has never said that religious people are stupid – they’re delusional for sure, but not that they are foolish and stupid. Pointing out they have wrong belief is one thing, ridicule and call them stupid and arrogant is another, and people can’t think critically and rationally when they feel offended. Dawkins points out that the religious belief is delusional and there’s no point on fighting over that. But the NA followers have pushed it too far and say whoever hold that belief don’t even worth talking to and reasoning with because they’re just too stupid. I think what Wright tries to point out is that by pushing it too far, NA can’t do its supposed job because religious people’d just feel too offensive to listen.

    • newenglandbob
      Posted December 9, 2009 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      But the NA followers have pushed it too far and say whoever hold that belief don’t even worth talking to and reasoning with because they’re just too stupid.

      kino, your argument is nothing but a straw man. No one says this.

  30. Pray Hard
    Posted December 8, 2009 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    For me it was real simple … read Origin, as many times as it takes to get a decent grasp of it. It was probably five to ten times for me. Demanding respect, civility, all of the other crybaby BS, etc., are not part of the equation. Then, let the chips fall where they may. Richard, Jerry, Dan, Christopher, Sam, PZ, et al are all already showing the highest form of respect to the faithheads by slapping them in the face and yelling at them to pull their heads out and smell the roses.

  31. Posted December 8, 2009 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    I donot understand what happened to Mr. Wright. I read and was hugly impressed by both “0 Sum” and “The Moral Animal”. In neither did I detect a hint of these sympathies w faith that he seems to be going out of his way to demonstrate since his latest book, t poorly titled, “The Evolution of God”. I read somewhere how much more reasonable a title “The Evolution of Belief in God” or even “Evolution of faith” would have been.

    Also I have enjoyed his interveiw of Daniel Dennet on google video. While he did not agree w Dennet on all his positions he did not at all seem to have any qualms at all w Dennet’s secularism.

    If it is not sympathy w faith then from where comes his antipathy for us who oppose faith. Is it that Wright thinks that us secularists should stand silent in responce to t harm done by faith. Or is it that he thinks we should oppose it in a more respectful manner.

    I have only huge respect for those who practic a limited acomodation w t faithful on certain issuse like Barbara Forrest and Ed Wilson. But I donot think I have ever heard either critisise those who opppose faith head on. It is simply not t tactic that they choose to practic. So I am just bewildered at this new path that Robert Wright has recently started down.

    B


4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] and Society Scientists have little tolerance for nonsense: Over at Foreign Policy, Robert Wright repeats his usual spiel against the “new atheists,” but […]

  2. […] at Why Evolution is True, Jerry Coyne elegantly rips the egregious bleating moron Robert Wright a brand new […]

  3. […] Robert Wright — the man whose shoulder is a meatspace ad for Doritos. […]

  4. […] argument over “framing” science continues today on Jerry Coyne’s blog, where he responds to Robert Wright’s latest piece in Foreign Policy. Wright criticizes the “new […]

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