Blackford vs. Pigliucci: scientism, religion, and the “demarcation problem”

Ah, the philosphy fracas continues! First Russell Blackford wrote a laudatory review of Faith versus Fact for Talking Philosophy. Then Massimo Pigliucci, who never fails to remind us that he has three—count them, three—doctorates, and is therefore more qualified than anyone to assess both philosophy and biology, took out after Russell’s review—without having read my book. That would be okay (I do it myself sometimes) if Pigliucci had not also characterized—actually, mischaracterized—what I said in my book, something that could have been avoided had he read it. Pigliucci’s piece, “In defense of accommodationism: on the proper relationship between science and religion”, was a bit on the nasty side, and in a post on this site I took issue with several of its claims (in bold):

  • Religion isn’t about believing in facts about the cosmos, but about meaning, morals, and values. Here Pigliucci is just wrong. Even Sophisticated Theologians™ admit that religion is based on assumptions about “how things really are” in the universe, and they note as well that the moral and value claims rest at bottom on empirical claims. (1 Corinthians 15:14: “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.”) I won’t belabor these points, as I discussed them in detail in my earlier post.
  • Religion and science are logically compatible. Therefore they’re compatible. End of story. Had Pigliucci read my book, he would know what I meant by “compatibility,” which has nothing to do with logic and everything to do with practice and outcomes.
  • Accommodationists are almost invariably atheists. I have no idea why Massimo made that statement, but it shows that he doesn’t get out enough. Yes, many atheists are accommodationists, but the bulk of the accommodationist literature comes from religionists and theologians. I ought to know: hell, I spent two years reading the likes of John Haught, Alvin Plantinga, Alister McGrath, Ian Barbour, John Polkinghorne, Karl Giberson, Francis Collins. . . ad nauseam.

Well, Russell, who is a genuine credentialed philosopher, has finally responded to Massimo on his own, in a piece at the online TPM (The Philosophers’ Magazine), “On Accommodationism: A reply to Pigliucci.” As usual, Russell is more civil than I am. (I try to be, but sometimes fail.) His words:

Massimo Pigliucci is someone I normally have time for. I’ve enjoyed amicable and efficient dealings with him in the past, and I don’t doubt that his long-running critique of pseudoscience has achieved a degree of good. But on any topic related to the “New Atheism” – including the relationship between science and religion, or that between science and morality – he appears to lose all objectivity.

I don’t really care what history, or what quirks of psychology, might lie behind this – I don’t even want to speculate. The result, however, is that he does himself a disservice, since I’m surely not the only person to have noticed how these topics bring out the worst in him.

That’s about as nice as you can be before ripping apart your opponent’s arguments. At any rate, while Russell goes over some of the same ground I plowed, he also discusses other issues. Defining “accommodationism” as “the idea that there’s room for religion in a scientifically informed understanding of the world” (not a bad definition!), Blackford makes the following points—and more. Go read his piece to see for yourself:

  • There are tactical and political reasons why people favor accommodationism. He doesn’t accuse Pigliucci of hewing to these tactics, but it’s useful to remember why people like Eugenie Scott and Michael Ruse (not to mention Stephen Jay Gould), atheists themselves, nevertheless vociferously defended the principle that there’s no conflict between science and religion. By claiming that science and religion are incompatible in a land of believers, you render yourself a skunk among Americans.
  • Pigliucci engaged in unwarranted smears toward Blackford when Russell characterized Gould as a “celebrity scientist.”
  • Pigluicci, despite implying otherwise, actually agrees with both Russell and me that Gould’s NOMA principle is untenable.
  • Russell is on the fence about whether endeavors like archaeology or history can be seen as “science broadly construed,” which is how I characterize disciplines that use the toolkit of science to find truth. And, truth be told, I don’t care that much about this “demarcation problem”. The issue for me is whether a discipline claims to be finding truth, and, if so, if it uses the time-honed tools of science to ascertain those truths. The main conflict is whether religion can ascertain truth (the answer is no), and whether areas like literature have “ways of knowing” that can ascertain truth (I doubt it). Frankly, I don’t care if one sees archaeology as “science broadly construed” when it finds out about ancient civilizations; all I care is if they archaeologists draw their conclusions using methods similar to those of scientists who study historical phenomena.

I’ll finish with two quotes from Russell’s piece, the first about whether religion is in the truth business, and the second about Pigliucci’s style of argument.

Although Pigliucci does not accept the principle of NOMA, he claims, without much argument, that religion is primarily about ethical teachings and questions of meaning (whatever these really amount to; it’s not straightforward!). Thus, Pigliucci thinks, most of religion, or perhaps the most important part, cannot be contradicted by empirical findings from the sciences (or perhaps it’s just the natural sciences, exclusive of psychology). To see things otherwise is “a gross misreading of history,” so Pigliucci claims – but again, claiming this does not make it so.

As Pigliucci himself appears to acknowledge, many theologians got out of the cosmogony business precisely because they felt pushed out by the success of scientific inquiry. As a result, yes, many Catholics, such as Pigliucci’s mother, are not biblical literalists – but that is precisely an example of what I discussed in my post: religion has been forced to come to terms with challenges from science and modernity. The historical record that Pigliucci refers to supports my case, not his. (That said, plenty of mothers and others are biblical literalists – at least in the US. See the statistics provided by Coyne in his response to Pigliucci.)

Unfortunately for Pigliucci, religions are not in any measurable way “primarily” about moral claims or “ethical teachings.” Such teachings are often, though not always, important elements of religions. But they are important as elements in systems that integrate many other elements, such as (yes!) cosmogonies, eschatologies, sacred histories, epistemologies (contrary to one of Pigliucci’s ex cathedra pronouncements, religions do indeed offer methods of finding truth, such as faith, prayer, revelation, and study of holy books), and prescribed forms of ritual and worship.

Religions typically make claims that are, at least to some extent, open to empirical scrutiny by the sciences and humanities. If those claims don’t check out – or even if they are rendered explanatorily superfluous – then of course there is a tendency for the religions concerned to lose their prestige and their aura of authority. If a religion retreats to offering only allegories and moral guidance, it may then lose much of what made it psychologically attractive to adherents in the first place. Besides, we can often rationally ask why the retreat was necessary – if a religion was divinely established, as many purport to be, why were its claims not correct from the start?

Furthermore, without their pretensions to possess a wider explanatory authority, religions lose their appearance even of moral authority. Given the oppressive and miserable nature of many moral norms associated with one or another religion, that’s probably just as well.

Well said. And one of Russell’s biggest beefs with Pigliucci appears to be the latter’s style of argument:

Finally, I confess to being blindsided and annoyed by this turn of events. I don’t mind being disagreed with, but it creates an awkward situation when such a hostile and rhetorical post is lobbed my way from someone with whom I have various ongoing professional dealings. I won’t labor the point: to be sure, I’ve put up with much worse, in my time, and from far nastier people than Pigliucci, but it’s still unexpected and objectionable.

More worryingly, anyone reading Pigliucci’s post from outside the discipline of philosophy will form a poor view of the discipline. If this is the way one of its better known tenured professors chooses to engage with others, and to discuss ideas, the rest of us will struggle uphill when we try to present philosophy as a counterweight to propaganda and tribalism. I hope outsiders won’t interpret Pigliucci’s approach to “New Atheist” topics as typical of how philosophers go about their business. We usually display – I hope – a bit less belligerence and a bit more intellectual substance.

I’m really not much for back-and-forth intellectual catfights, though of course I won’t shy away from criticizing pieces that I see as misguided. I just don’t want to engage in repeated back-and-forths But in this case, it’s Massimo who was initially misguided, and so both Russell and I felt justified in writing responses. Let us now mercifully draw the curtains closed and proclaim “FIN” to this argument.

49 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. ChrisH
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Prof(E)CC, have you thought about installing Russell Blackford as the Official Site Philosopher?

  3. Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I’ve never really worked out Massimo on this issue. On many things he writes intelligently, perceptively and sensibly and is well worth reading. When it comes to the New Atheists, though, his need to disagree comes to the fore.

    Guessing a bit, it’s as though he starts from the assumption that New Atheists are unsophisticated, simplistic and wrong; whereas he, as a credentialed philosopher, has a deeper, more sophisticated and more nuanced understanding. Therefore he needs to contrast the two whenever he can. In particular he always needs to include put-downs of Dawkins whenever possible, regardless of how tangential to the topic. Maybe it’s just that he thinks that he should be the better known and better selling of the two.

    • darrelle
      Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      I saw a hint of this from Massimo during the Moving Naturalism Forward conference that Sean Carroll hosted, but this recent critique by Massimo of Jerry and Russell was a surprise to me. I don’t follow Massimo closely, but as you say on many things he is well worth reading, and had never experienced him like this before. Disappointing.

      • Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

        Massimo has previous form on this. Here’s something I wrote about his previous attack on New Atheism.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 26, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        Though it’s been awhile now, I’ve watched the available video from the Moving Naturalism Forward conference. At that conference, it seemed to me, Pigliucci did a pretty good job of curbing his stridency and presenting his views reasonably. It also seemed that, as to their differing views, and at least for the duration of the conference, he and Jerry reached their own form of, well, accommodationism. Shame Massimo has reverted to his misplaced stridency here.

        • darrelle
          Posted January 27, 2016 at 7:08 am | Permalink

          That matches my impression of him at the Moving Naturalism Forward conference as well. Some tension was evident at times, but he kept a lid on it for the most part.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 26, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      The best revenge is of course to embrace M. Pigliucci as one of the very best of the New Atheists. And then we go out and buy his books and rush up to tell him how we bought all his New Atheist books and absolutely loved them. He, Russell Blackford, and Jerry Coyne are all awesome and deserve the highest praise: how wonderful that New Atheism embraces such diverse and yet consilient views.

      Now what can he do? Bringing up yet another demarkation problem will seem churlish — especially when giving an autograph.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 26, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        The smother-him-in-love-and-book-residuals strategy. Could work! There’s nothing like flattery and profit to soothe the wounded ego.

    • Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:09 am | Permalink

      Mummy issues?

      /@

  4. BobTerrace
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    To paraphrase Luke 4:23

    Dr, Dr, Dr; heal, heal, heal thyself.

    (The moral of the proverb is counsel to attend to one’s own defects rather than criticizing defects in others)

  5. Scott Draper
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    “Russell’s biggest beefs with Pigliucci appears to be the latter’s style of argument:”

    A while back, Massimo mentioned on his blog that he had become a devotee of Virtue Ethics and it had led him to change how he treated people. I remember thinking at the time that I hadn’t noticed anything different.

    Which brings me to a point of my own personal philosophy, which is to never tell anyone what your personal philosophy. If you do, that will only motivated them to look for ways in which you don’t live up to it.

    In general, if you want people to see a change in your behavior, you have to adopt the opposite behavior, rather than to just stop doing something. For example, if you want to stop being a jerk, it’s not enough to control jerky behavior, you have to work on being kind and considerate.

    • Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Which brings me to a point of my own personal philosophy, which is to never tell anyone what your personal philosophy.

      Oh look, you just told us about your personal philosophy — so you aren’t living up to it! 🙂

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 26, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        Yes, beware “Draper’s Personal Philosophy Paradox.”

      • Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

        lol

  6. Geoff Toscano
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I think you should consider this exchange as representing significant progress.

    Science and secularism has been chipping away at religion for a long time now, but at least the believers have had the comfort of knowing that scientists say something like ‘there, there, science and religion are completely compatible’. And ‘look at all the scientists who are also committed believers’. Well not any more. The last bastion of the faithful, accommodationism, has been exposed as the meaningless platitude it only ever was.

    No wonder people like Massimo are panicking.

  7. Another Josh
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Not to get all Freudian about it, but I think it’s interesting Pigliucci uses his mother as an example of accommodationism. New Atheists are basically attacking his mom. No wonder he’s so testy.

    I don’t think he’s alone in this. In the heart of every accommodationist argument is dear mom.

    • Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      A notion worth considering.

    • Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:14 am | Permalink

      Ah. You beat me to it.(See my terse reply to Coel, above.)

      /@

      • Another Josh
        Posted January 28, 2016 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        We must be on to something.

  8. Historian
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Accommodationists argue that religion is primarily about teaching morals and ethics. But, as confirmed by polls the great majority of the faithful view religious teachings, as presented in holy books, as fact statements. I do not know if accommodationists have attempted to reconcile their view with the empirical evidence. But, now I speculate as to what they may say to reconcile the apparent contradiction. They may argue that, indeed, religion’s primary purpose is to teach morals and ethics, but how can it effectively do that and why does it do it? Its technique is to trick the masses into believing that if they follow the rules of the religion, they will be ultimately rewarded with a ticket on the express train to heaven. Religion teaches morals and ethics for the purpose of maintaining social control. The morals and ethics that are taught largely preach submission to authority. The fairy tales in the holy books (which the masses accept as truth) help achieve this. The supposed reward of heaven is, in effect, a propaganda tool to help maintain that social control. In other words, religion is a tool of the ruling class and is necessary to prevent the masses from running amok.

    I would argue that religion is not only a form of intellectual bondage, but, in many countries, it was and is a method to maintain the ruling class and to keep the masses in check. Some may view this interpretation as Marxist, but, nevertheless, I think there is a lot of truth to it.

  9. Heather Hastie
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    I found Russell’s response clear and balanced.

    I know little of the world of philosophy and philosophers, but I have noticed (similarly to Coel above) that many seem to have an irrational and overly aggressive response to New Atheists. I don’t understand it, but I get the impression it’s some sort of intellectual snobbery.

    • Scott Draper
      Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      “intellectual snobbery.”

      Agreed. I think they’re jealous of the popularity of New Atheists, none of whom are philosophers.

      Philosophers have the nerd problem. In their desire to be so totally correct, they bore you.

      • Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

        … New Atheists, none of whom are philosophers.

        Russell Blackford. AC Grayling. Dan Dennett.

        • Sastra
          Posted January 26, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

          Rebecca Goldstein.

        • Scott Draper
          Posted January 26, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

          Why do you consider Blackford and Grayling to be New Atheists? There’s nothing new about philosophers arguing for atheism. New Atheism seems almost synonymous with arguments against theism based on science, generally from scientists; Dennett, although a philosopher, is also a neuroscientist, so he qualifies on this score and his arguments generally aren’t philosophically based.

          • GBJames
            Posted January 26, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

            I don’t think Dennett has a neuroscience background. You may have him confused with Sam Harris, who does.

            • Scott Draper
              Posted January 26, 2016 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

              Sorry, cognitive science, according to Wikipedia.

          • Posted January 26, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

            Why do you consider Blackford and Grayling to be New Atheists?

            Because of what they write. Grayling is pretty widely considered to be among the ill-defined grouping “New Atheists”.

            New Atheism seems almost synonymous with arguments against theism based on science, generally from scientists;

            Of the “Four Horsemen” only one (Dawkins) was a scientist. Hitchens and Dennett were not, and nor was Harris (*after* the books that made him a “Horseman” Harris did do a PhD in neuroscience, but that alone doesn’t really make someone a scientist). Further, even Dawkins’s TGD was more philosophical than scientific.

            • Scott Draper
              Posted January 26, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

              You’ll have to define “New Atheist” for me then. All of the four horsemen generally criticized religion from the “lack of evidence” point of view, and that’s what Dawkins would give as his primary argument. Even though he did delve into the philosophical arguments, I’d say they were really secondary ones, more responses to anticipated objections.

              Even Hitchens, a total non-scientist, gives four evidence-based reasons for not believing on page four of “God is not Great”.

              • Posted January 26, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

                You’ll have to define “New Atheist” for me then.

                Defined as: atheist; doesn’t respect religion; says so.

                (Yes I know that plenty of older atheists also qualify. But the term is more a media invention rather than having a clear-cut and accurate definition.)

          • Bruce Gorton
            Posted January 26, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

            Actually the new atheist critique of religion does not simply deal with religion’s lack of evidence – but also focuses on it as a social justice issue.

            That is probably the real defining difference between “new” and “old”.

            The new atheism actually doesn’t focus as much on the science, as it does on the social ills propagated by religion – hence the internal conflicts over issues of race, LGBT rights and gender.

            For example because part of the “new” atheist mandate is to fight the sexism that religion has entrenched in so much of world culture, that builds an expectation of a higher degree of gender egalitarianism than would be the case if it were simply a matter of philosophy and evidence.

            However it is important to note that for all that these fights can get heated and passionate – under Pope Smiley Frank the Progressive the Catholic Church won’t even consider a female priest, when CFI merged with Richard Dawkins’ foundation, Robyn Blumner moved from being the head of the Dawkins’ foundation to the head of both.

            Dawkins for all his occasional bouts of Twitter idiocy leading to charges of sexism, is significantly less sexist than Pope Smiley Frank.

            But then of course Pope Smiley Frank is such a champion of gay rights that his church is campaigning in Malawi – against them doing away with their anti-gay laws.

            And Francis gets his dick sucked by “progressive” media, while Dawkins is treated as a source of constant gaffes.

            • Scott Draper
              Posted January 26, 2016 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

              I see that as evidence-based criticism, since it focuses on the empirical results of religion. So that’s science “broadly construed”, as Jerry uses the term.

              • darrelle
                Posted January 27, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

                I don’t understand why you are taking issue with the suggested, or any, new atheist philosophers. The term new atheist was coined by believers. They have defined the term and have largely decided who to apply the label to themselves. Though in some cases people are assumed to be New Atheists merely by association with others who have been so labeled previously by believer or accommodationist critics.

                I can’t really see any significant difference between New Atheists and atheists in past eras and places that have been outspoken. Arguments from evidence have always been prominent by atheists from the ancient Greeks to the present day.

                There really is no question that Daniel Dennett, AC Grayling, Russell Blackford and Rebecca Goldstein are New Atheists simply because they have been labeled that by the people who coined the term and their fellows.

            • Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

              Yep. That double-standard is pretty infuriating.

  10. TJR
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Morality and ethics are only a part of what religions teach.

    However, its nice to see that most of the religions that have survived and have large numbers of adherents are the ones that have adopted some sort of vaguely sensible moral system, and sometimes abandon the dodgiest bits of it when the surrounding society makes them untenable. All the religions with human sacrifice have died out.

    Moral codes are very popular, people love them, so its hardly surprising that the most visible religions tend to have them.

    • Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      Well, many of the faiths that marginalize women, gays, and believers in other faiths have not died out. Think of Catholicism and Islam. Do you like their “moral cods”?

      • TJR
        Posted January 26, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

        I quite like the idea of a moral cod!

        I was very careful to say “most” and “vaguely sensible” in the above. I would never defend islam or popery in particular.

        Just noting that moral codes are key selling points and survival mechanisms for religions, so its not surprising that these are often foregrounded.

        Hence this deceives some people into thinking that moral codes are a bigger part of religion than is in fact the case.

    • Kevin
      Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      I’ve met a growing handful of Catholics who are actually embarrassed of some of their ‘moral codes’. People love their moral codes, the one’s they build for themselves, partly out of religion, but mostly out of the desire to pick and choose what they like best.

      • josh
        Posted January 26, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        This is a really good point. The more liberal and moderate religious believers are at least as likely to throw out the moral teachings as they are to chuck the literal history and metaphysics. In fact, for many I would say disagreeing with the moral claims is what motivates them to ditch the “factual” claims that are used to support them.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 26, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      To the extent that religions “have adopted some sort of vaguely sensible moral system,” it is because they have been forced to trim their sails to evolving secular standards of liberty, egalitarianism, and respect for individual rights. This, they do by reinterpreting their sacred texts to ignore the odious and emphasizing the benign.

      Then, in a switcheroo worthy of the pigs in Animal Farm, they claim that scripture has always stood for such principles, and that secular morality is in fact derived from the religious.

  11. Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  12. Kevin
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    It is odd that Massimo falls into a trap of metaphysics.

    Any definition of a religion can be arbitrary. Typically the more powerful the statement the lest testable that statement becomes.

    If it is not useful or predictable, then it’s function is unclear. Massimo might as well believe he will win the lottery. It makes less sense to believe in religion, because a lottery is for real.

    I am going to lay it out for you Massimo:

    Science. Religion has made no contribution to our understanding of the universe. Nothing testable, and all previous explanations are incorrect.

    Ethics. Religion has made some useful claims about how to act, however science does better. It understands motivations, is statistically capable of working out engineering and administrative controls that maximize the greatest good for people. In short, science improves ethics, religion only follows, through endless reformation, the application of the scientific method to ethical problems.

    If religion were compatible with science, the first thing that would happen is that prayers would begin to be answered. Until Massimo, keep on praying.

  13. squidmaster
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    “I’m really not much for back-and-forth intellectual catfights…”. This particular three way exchange has been quite informative, as are many of PCC’s (Professor Ceiling Cat shares initials with Posterior Cingulate Cortex, hmmm) comments on articles in the gnososphere (yes, I made that up). The back and forth helps sharpen the arguments used by all sides generally clarifies the core disagreements. So, from my perspective, these discussions are helpful, at least through the first few iterations.

  14. Sastra
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    1.) Religion isn’t about believing in facts about the cosmos, but about meaning, morals, and values… 3.)Accommodationists are almost invariably atheists.

    I haven’t had time to read the essays yet. But if Pigliucci really believes both statements, maybe the second one would be a major hint that the first one isn’t true.

    Try asking any religious person if they think it’s time to throw out extraneous concepts like “God” and an “afterlife” so their religion can concentrate on the important bits — morals, meaning, and values. We could call it “humanist philosophy.” And then we could all play “what’s ‘God’ a metaphor for?” Wouldn’t that be great??

  15. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Pigliucci and accommodationists of his ilk get to their accommodationism only by blinking the reality of religion as it’s actually practiced, and by shrinking religion until its borders are contiguous to, rather than overlapping with, science. If this were the case — if religion really did restricted itself to matters of meaning, morals, and values — then all religion would be as benign as Unitarian Universalism. And then all of us nonbelievers could be as happily accommodationist as Pigliucci.

  16. madscientist
    Posted January 27, 2016 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    All hail Massimo P. – the man with a monopoly on The Truth about how science and religion should interact.

    Personally I think science should always trump religion on any scientific matter because science is open to scrutiny and verification while religion can only offer bullshit as ‘proof’ of other bullshit.

  17. Posted January 27, 2016 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Massimo has posted a ‘non-response’ here:

    https://platofootnote.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/in-defense-of-accommodationism/

    It appears to be a re-statement of points from his original article, with all the problems that had, followed by a postscript in which he says he was ‘struck and somewhat taken aback by viciousness of Russell’s personal attack’ on him.

    I guess we assess criticism directed at ourselves as more ‘vicious’ than we would assess similar criticisms directed elsewhere. I don’t see Russell’s criticism as any more ‘vicious’ than Massimo’s, tbh, but, more to the point, Russell’s arguments are clearly persuasive ones, so it’s a shame Massimo didn’t take the chance to address them. Maybe he will another time.


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