Monday, June 23, 2008

Responses to Berlinski

I wondered where were the responses from the atheist community to Berlinski's book "The Devil's Delusion". I can offer a few. Firstly, on Pharyngula, P.Z.Myers said he didn't want to read an extract of the book that was in Harper's magazine. The fact it was by Berlinski told him all he wanted to know.

Well, you know what? That's what I think when I hear something is by Richard Dawkins or P.Z.Myers. But because the debate is important to me, and it upsets me to admit the answer "no" when somebody says, "Have you read ...?" about something I am discussing, I generally swallow my nausea, and go ahead and read it anyway. That's how intellectual debate works, folks. And perhaps that's why "The God Delusion" has several book-length refutations whereas "A Meaningful World" and "The Devil's Delusion" are uncontested.

Then there's this post. Again, it's not a review of "The Devil's Delusion"; it's a review of the extract in a magazine. Geez, what's the matter with these ateleologists?! "Afraid you might taste something?" Do you not think the damage you could do with a really substantive rebuttal might outweigh the benefit the authors get by way of royalties? Or are you just lacking in confidence that you could do a rebuttal?

Aaaanyway, here's Hrynyshyn on the extract he did bother to read.
This is a writer for whom science's weaknesses are exemplified by its failure to "say anything of interest about the human soul." What a strange thing to say. Seeing as there is no scientific evidence for the soul, why should science have anything to say about it, interesting or otherwise?

In other words, I disagree with just about everything he has to say about the subject. What do you expect when you read of the "four most powerful and profound scientific theories" since the 17th century, but come across no mention of evolution by natural selection? What you do expect when you are told science is but an ideology? That "science has nothing of value to say on the great and aching questions of life, death, love, and meaning...?"

Evolutionary biology, neurophysiology, biochemistry — all of no value.
In actual fact, had the writer bothered to actually read Berlinski, rather than the digest version, he would have found out how Berlinski made his case. Still, when the gallery of ateleologists is happy with you wrestling with a straw man, why try harder?

I found (all on my own!) some more interaction with Berlinski, on the British Humanist Association Science Group blog. You can find it here. This is even worse - it is a selection of comments on the flyleaf notes! Why bother with the text? Just say that you don't agree with the conclusions! What a wonderful feat of free-thinking critical thought that was!