The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Does The Hoover Institution Manufacture Idiots?

Peter Berkowitz. Do you know that name? I didn't until I read his Op/Ed piece from the Wall Street Journal that was bad enough to make me just about hurl my kosher pickle right back up onto my desk. He's not as bad as the tremendous douche Dinesh D'Souza, but he's obviously working on it.

Berkowitz's bio says he has a Ph.D in Poly.Sci. from Yale. I guess they don't teach people to read what they're criticizing over there in the Ivy League anymore, because he says shit in his article that lays out all pink and naked the fact that he's ignorant as a slack-jawed yokel about Dawkins' and Hitchens' books, even though he claims Hitchens is a friend!

Why would I say these things? Well, let's take a look at what he wrote. He says some cursory niceties then gets into the "here's where they've overlooked/overstepped their boundaries" stuff. He says:
They (Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and the rest) contend that from the vantage point of the 21st century, and thanks to the moral progress of mankind and the achievements of natural science, we can now know, with finality and certainty, that God does not exist and organized religion is a fraud.
This is not even close to accurate. Berkowitz is revealed here to be a flasher with no dick - he's saying what should be a slam-dunk, no argument fact, but he just made the contention up out of his somewhat fuzzy head.

Dawkins and Harris are scientists, Dennett a philosopher, and Hitchens a journalist. All have, as far as can be ascertained through their writings and lectures, open minds about the idea of a "creator". The fact that someone is open to an idea is no assurance that they will not mock and decry lame attempts to prove the premise. I and many others are very open to the idea of life on other planets, in other solar systems, but I'll continue to laugh and point at the gomers who say they've been abducted and have married an alien and have had three hybrid kids, one of whom lives on Venice Beach.

He goes on to say that Hitchens is a great debater and that he is, "incapable of uttering or writing a dull sentence", but that:
...his arguments do not come close to disproving God's existence...Even were he to concede that religion doesn't poison everything, Mr. Hitchens presumably still would cling to his claim that the findings of modern science prove that God does not exist.
Well who the hell can disprove the existence of anything? When are supposedly learned people going to, I don't know, learn that you can't prove a negative?

I once gave a talk on skepticism and critical thinking to my massage therapy class. I gave an example that went something like this: Let's say I want to see if reindeer can actually fly. My experiment is that I'm going to take 50 reindeer to the top of a 20-story building and, one by one, get them to go over the edge. As expected, each reindeer plummets to his or her death as their turns come up. Now, after all 50 are in a broken pile on the sidewalk oh-so-far below, what can we say?

Is the premise that reindeer can't fly proven? No. Well, none of the reindeer flew, so why the question? There's still a question because there are more reindeer in the world, there are other situations to test in, different weather conditions, different heights, and so on and on. All we can say is that these reindeer, under these conditions, either couldn't or chose not to, fly.

Now, do I seriously think that it's likely that an animal, heavier than air and with no visible means of keeping itself airborne, could hover or fly around? No. But I'm open to the possibility provided the evidence is convincing enough. See? That's how science works. There's always more testing needed.

I'm a goddamn massage therapist with an English degree - I would think someone with a B.A. in English Lit., an M.A. in philosophy, a Ph.D. in political science, and a fucking journalism degree would know at least as much as I do. Perhaps my standards are too high.

Berkowitz comments on Hitchens' assertion that the story of Abraham in the Bible (you know, he was told by God to kill his only son, Isaac, so he took him to a mountain, built an altar so he could burn Isaac after he slit his throat, but then God said, "Ha ha! I was just fucking with you...there's a goat. Thanks for showing you're loyal to me") is insane and not worthy in any capacity of admiration. Berky says that the "common interpretation" is that the story is intended to show, "that the then widespread practice of child-sacrifice was contrary to God's will, and must be put to an end forever." Sorry? Wasn't it God who used child sacrifice like the mafia uses murder to test whether they can trust a guy? "Never mind that there's blanks in the gun, the point is, you were willing to do it." What kind of God are you worshiping, anyway?

Then we get the tired old argument of:
why the 20th-century embrace of secularism unleashed human depravity of unprecedented proportions.
Yeah, yeah, Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. I mean, haven't enough people pointed out that Dawkins deals with this in the last part of chapter 7 in Delusion and Harris deals with Stalin on page 79 and Hitler/Holocaust in chapter three of The End of Faith. Thanks for not-reading, Berky. Were you one of those guys during your literature classes who read the first and last chapter and the first and last page of each middle chapter to get the gist of the novel, and then just made up what seemed sensible to you for the rest?

He again highlights his ignorance by saying (quoting, actually):
"there are many questions that by their very nature must be recognized to lie beyond the legitimate scope of the scientific method." Such questions...include: Where did the universe come from, and is it governed by purpose?
Well the first question is clearly NOT beyond the realm of scientific inquiry. Just because no one knows the answer doesn't mean it's not able to be answered sometime.

Think of floating in a lake on an inner-tube. You see something in the water off in the distance. What is it? Well, you can't tell. You can guess - maybe it's a duck, or a piece of wood, or perhaps it's a monster - but you will have to paddle closer or get some binoculars to make a more accurate assessment of the situation. Maybe you'll never find out what that was, but you can keep trying to figure it out and it is certainly not beyond your abilities.

Berkowitz had to take a shot at Islam, of course. He says: treating all religion as one great evil pathology, today's bestselling atheists suppress crucial distinctions between the forms of faith embraced by the vast majority of American citizens and the militant Islam that at this very moment is pledged to America's destruction.
Yes, because the crazy Christian fundie asshats have no desire whatsoever to make your beloved America a theocrazy theocracy. I'm not saying Islam is great, far from it, but don't be saying that other faiths are just vitamin-filled, warm-sunshine and puppies good for us.

All in all, this article sucked balls. I'm sorry to have to degrade my writing to that level, but it's fitting. Berkowitz shows nothing new, he blatantly ignores the writing of his targets and makes shit up about what they think so he can criticize them, and then proceeds to make crap assertions about things he demonstrably doesn't understand. It's shameful.

If there was any doubt that Berkowitz appeals to dumbasses, he's linked to over at Bill Dembski's blog, Uncommon Descent. I would advise not going there - it's sadness stuffed with insanity, roasted, and finally coated with a fine glaze of fucking stupid.

7 Barbaric Yawps:

At 19/7/07 10:02 am, Blogger tina said...

Well who the hell can disprove the existence of anything? When are supposedly learned people going to, I don't know, learn that you can't prove a negative?

Can I use this quote from you on my Yahoo 360 blog?? I love it! I promise I will post your blog site name...:)

At 19/7/07 10:05 am, Blogger BigHeathenMike said...

You sure can, Tina. Quote away! To your pretty little heart's content, even!

At 19/7/07 2:35 pm, Anonymous Yojimbo said...

Gee Mike - when are you going to quit sugar coating everything and just tell it like it is?

Love ya, dude (in a manly sort of way, of course).

At 19/7/07 2:48 pm, Blogger tina said...

Thanks Mike.

At 19/7/07 3:57 pm, Blogger BigHeathenMike said...

I have a bad habit of beating around the bush. Sorry.
And of course in a manly way. I'd expect nothing less.

At 19/7/07 10:15 pm, Blogger Tommy said...

Of course, what these people who trot out the atheism = Stalin and Mao argument fail to point out that societies like China and Russia have traditionally been autocratic societies with little or no tradition of institutions that served as a check on absolutism.

Ivan the Terrible considered himself to be a very pious Christian, and yet he committed terrible atrocities and was a source of inspiration for Stalin.

At 21/7/07 12:03 pm, Anonymous Michael Smith said...

We've all heard it: "You can't prove God doesn't exist!"

Mike is right, you cannot prove this type of negative, and for very good reason.

What is proof? Proof consists of facts, of data, of evidence, which, when examined and evaluated under the rules of logic, point to some truth about reality, i.e. about that which exists.

The point is that only that which exists can ever give rise to any facts, data or evidence. That which does not exist will never have any affect on reality, it will never manifest itself in any fashion, it will yield no data, it will make no waves in reality for us to detect. Thus, by its very nature, proof applies only to that which exists. That which does not exist will never produce any effect in reality that can be cited as proof of its nonexistence.

In some cases, it is possible to prove that something contradicts a claim that something exists. For instance, if someone claims that a city of 8 million people exists 200 miles due east of Los Angeles, California, I can travel to that spot and prove that all that’s there is sand and desert, thus refuting the claim. But even in this case, observe that all the proof I gathered relates to what actually exists: the sand and the desert. The claim that a city of 8 million exists there is rejected based on Aristotle’s law of non-contradiction: a thing cannot be itself and something different at the same time and in the same respect.

Of course, theists escape this sort of proof-of-nonexistence-by-proving-what-really-does-exist by defining their god to be undetectable and supernatural.

The fact that you cannot prove these types of negatives is why the burden of proof rests with the prosecution in our criminal justice system. To fully illustrate this point to someone, ask them to imagine being arrested, hauled into court and accused of murder. “Prove that you are not a murderer or we will give you life in prison!” says the prosecution. They don’t tell you who was murdered or how or when -- they just demand proof that you are not a murderer.

Well, can you prove that you are not a murderer? Can you provide an alibi for every moment of your life? No. Can you prove you’ve never had access to a murder weapon? No. Can you prove you’ve never had a motive to kill anyone? No. Your goose is cooked!

This is the exact status of the demand, “Prove that God does not exist!”. Your inability to offer such a proof means nothing and does not constitute any sort of evidence supporting God’s existence.


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