Well, this is probably going to hurt someone's feelings, so I apologize in advance.

Right-wing WND columnist and oft-frequented blogger Vox Day (VD) has a book available on-line called 'The Irrational Atheist' in which he takes some of the most visible atheist writings of the last few years (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, etc.) to task for what he feels are their unsupportable arguments, errors in fact, etc.

Me? I read Vox's book partially, and I got bored with the snarky, self-indulgent prose. As I told Vox privately in email, he's got some good arguments in there, but he could've benefited from a good editor. That's just not VD's style, apparently, and it's not my style to regard such as this (a milder example) as suitable discourse:

"Richard Dawkins is wrong. Daniel Dennett is wrong. Christopher Hitchens is drunk, and he's wrong. Michel Onfray is French, and he's wrong. Sam Harris is so superlatively wrong that it will require the development of esoteric mathematics operating simultaneously in multiple dimensions to fully comprehend the order of magnitude of his wrongness."

I happen to think that these gentlemen don't get everything right, as well, but I don't see what is gained by exploiting their personal lives for a one-liner within the text. As the saying goes, it doesn't edify me. Your mileage may vary, though, and if you want to wade through all that, the link to VD's dartboard is given above.

Now, my understanding is some atheists, including VD's targets, have run away from VD's criticisms, fostering charges of cowardice. Ha! Color me unimpressed: if I was a public intellectual of the first rank, I wouldn't fence with an academic outsider like VD, either: it's a 'no-win' situation for them.

But happily for those who like debate, there are others, like Kelly of the Rational Response Squad, who have attempted to engage the book.

However those things turn out, if you can stomach it, you can follow along at the links given above. I'm not really all that interested in the substance of that debate, but I am a bit troubled over some posts by Norm Doering, who I have encountered more than once at PZ's place and elsewhere in the Innertubes. In the past, I've felt that Doering had some pretty trenchant and penetrating comments, and I always made sure to read what he had to say when I came across it. I am therefore disturbed to see name-calling and misplaced charges of lying. I went to Norm's site and left a comment. I remarked that I had enjoyed his posts previously, explained why I thought he was in error with respect to VD's book, and encouraged him to rethink his approach.

Since that time, the original post on Norm's site that VD took exception to has disappeared, without explanation.

So has this post, the one I left a comment on.

As if they never happened. Well, that disappoints me. This is not what I would've expected from the Norm Doering I've read previously, and I hope this is an aberration. Not only is Norm missing an opportunity to set things right, he's giving the cranks on VD's side more ammunition.



Cody Cobb said...

The "Richard Dawkins is wrong. Daniel Dennett is wrong..." is a fine example of the kind of humorous writing I find to be completely worthless. It has a snarky tone, which some may appreciate, but it is otherwise without substance. The easiest way to determine if a piece of writing falls into this category is to substitute the subjects with their polar opposites:

"Alister McGrath is so superlatively wrong that it will require the development of esoteric mathematics operating simultaneously in multiple dimensions to fully comprehend the order of magnitude of his wrongness."


R. Moore said...

Scott, you have had quite a bit of back and forth with Vox Day -- I am curious what keeps you interested? When I read his stuff (including the latest) -- it appears to be no more than the usual misapplication of logic to the natural world. Am I missing some clever argument he makes (because he surrounds it with so much ad hominem attacks and other nonsense)?

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Hi, Richard! Vox interests me because he isn't 'the same old, same old'. I think he's fundamentally misguided in his skepticism, but his arguments are not those of a YEC or an IDevotee. They are original arguments that turn on the ontological status of scientific claims. You may have noticed I've taken Stan (who I think is one of Vox's regular readers) to task for the same reason. The difference between Stan and Vox is between someone who is emotionally committed to the rejection of evolutionary theory and someone who is toying with what he perceives as the idea's weakness.

That's probably not most folk's cup of tea, but it interests me, and I hope to learn from it.

Blake Stacey said...

I recall Norm saying somewhere (a comment at Pharyngula, I think) that Vox had accused him of criticizing a paragraph which was not in the book; Norm had the MS Word file which Vox had sent him and was looking for a public place to post it. He may have taken down the posts in the interim.

Anonymous said...

Scott, I wrote a response to your assertion of emotionalism, but I am gonna settle for this:

Discuss with me the conclusion of the Grants in "Evolutionary Dynamics of a Natural Population" (Darwin's finches on the Galapagos) where they claim to have found a regression toward the genetic norm (return to stasis, "loss of variation"), and did not find any sign of actual speciation.

Then tell me why my skepticism is emotional.


J Myers said...

Scott, Evangelical Realism has been picking apart "The Irrational Atheist" for some time now (a post on TIA is published every Tuesday).