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Sam Harris’s Challenge

Prolific atheist Sam Harris put an intriguing tweet up yesterday:

I’d love to take Sam’s money.  What do I have to do?

Anyone who believes that my case for a scientific understanding of morality is mistaken is invited to prove it in 1,000 words or less. (You must refute the central argument of the book—not peripheral issues.) The best response will be published on this website, and its author will receive $1000. (source)

All right.  I’m game.  I wanted to read that book, anyway.  I also wanted to get some more material for this blog.  So starting in about a week, I will blog my way through Dr. Harris’s book.

Then, I will consolidate the best of my replies into one executive summary of about 1,000 words.  That I will send to Dr. Harris on the due date next year.

It’s on!

Controversy: The Vox Day Quote

Updated to clean up some awkward phrasing (9/21/11 @ 8:30am EDT)

Alex has had some strong words to say regarding my recent posting of a Vox Day quote and labeling it as the best quote ever.

He said the quote was ignorant and stupid.  I told everyone that it was meant humorously and to please lighten up.  Then, he said posting the quote makes me look stupid:

Oh, I always have fun, however that shouldn’t justify stupidity. And it’s a bit scary that the quote is supposed to be awesome in a theistic perspective; you’re embracing unsubstantiated and stupid claims, said in a poor way, using words he doesn’t understand. And you think that is awesome? No, Cory, it makes you look stupid next to it, and hopefully that isn’t what you intended.

And then he tries to shame me into investigating why by bringing up my recent declaration that I seek truth.

But, I don’t think the quote is stupid or that it makes me look stupid.  I’m going to examine why that is, but first, I would like to whine.

Why do I have to justify everything I do to atheists?  None of them justify a single argument, even when I’ve asked.  All I ever seem to get is the whole burden-of-proof-is-on-me-the-theist talking point.  Fine.  But in a court case, the defense still presents an argument.  So man up and stop asserting stuff with no justification.

The reason I whined about that is because that is all Alex does.  Specifically, between two comments in that post, he asserts that the quote:

  • is a remarkably stupid example of argument from ignorance
  • demonstrates poor understanding of the concepts touched on
  • makes unsubstantiated assertions
  • misuses “esoteric”
  • states its point poorly

None of his own claims are substantiated, yet I’m about to expound on why I think this is a great quote.  Fine, let’s get this over with. Read the rest of this entry

Best Quote Ever

I am saying that they are wrong, they are reliably, verifiably, and factually incorrect. Richard Dawkins is wrong. Daniel C. 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 orders of magnitude of his wrongness.

— Vox Day

The Textbook Example of Strawman Arguments

A strawman argument is basically arguing against something that’s easier to debunk than what your opponent actually said.

For example, John W. Loftus calls this one of the most asinine claims made by Christians:

It’s claimed that people like Dawkins, or Hitchens, or Harris don’t know enough to reject Christianity. How much should a person know about a religion or the various branches of it in order to reject it? Really. I’d like to know. (source)

If that’s the way that Christians actually articulate this objection, then yes, that’s asinine!  However, I don’t think that anyone is saying this in spirit, even if they are in words.

What I think they are trying to get across is that Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris don’t know enough about Christianity to adequately criticize it.  Dawkins is the prime example–one of the arguments central to The God Delusion is the second grade retort, “Well, who made God then?”  That’s pretty sad coming from a man of Dawkins’s caliber.  He’s a decorated scholar and an eminent scientist; you’d think he’d realize that philosophy has long progressed past that point.

It’s undeniable learned scholars such as Dawkins venture into territory which they are not as familiar with as they should be before taking the plunge.  Maybe they know enough to confidently reject Christianity–they probably know at least as much about Christianity as I do about Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Roman Catholicism and I reject all of those.

However, before I try to criticize something, I attempt to become familiar with what it actually argues.  These guys don’t.  They stick to surface-level arguments and barely take a nick out of those.  Much of what they do is argue by outrage, which is the direct opposite of the rational inquiry that they always call for.

I have no doubt that, in a slip of many tongues, Christians have probably said that the New Atheists don’t know enough about Christianity to reject it.  However, that isn’t correct.  These men don’t know enough about it to criticize it.  I have a feeling that, while the formulation may have been incorrect, the articles by my fellow apologists would clearly explain that these men have seriously misplaced criticisms due to profound misunderstanding of basic Christian doctrines, theology, or arguments.

And that makes this a strawman argument from John Loftus.

If Life Were Like a Game…

If real life were like Dungeons & Dragons, atheism wouldn’t be an option.  Especially if you challenged a god by temple desecration and lynching followers.

Here’s a novel idea for an awesome web comic.  Replace the Knights of the Dinner Table with the Four Horsemen.  I bet it would look something like this: