January 25, 2011

Brights vs. Liberals

If Richard Dawkins had anticipated a cakewalk through a crowd of uniformly acquiescent ditto-heads in the comments to his boingboing guest post about the Martin Gaskell case, he was in for a surprise. You can color me surprised as well, frankly. Result: an unexpectedly interesting discussion.


Dawkins has contributed to the ensuing discussion, asking this leading question:

What has emerged from the comments on Boing Boing is that there is apparently no level of absurdity that can serve my purpose of serving as a baseline for further discussion. For some people, the taboo against prying into a candidate's private beliefs is so absolute that there is literally no belief, no matter how absurd, that could rule him out.

I am now curious about where this taboo comes from. Does it come from religion itself? Or does it have something to do with the 'cultural relativist' belief that all opinions are equally valid?

The answer is that freedom of conscience and freedom of religion is an important, perhaps the most important, liberal value, enshrined in our Constitution and, apparently, still ingrained in our culture to the extent that an otherwise receptive audience (I'd have thought) nonetheless balks at its dismissal in such cavalier fashion. Calling this a mere "taboo" or associating it with "cultural relativism" merely continues the tactic. Frankly, old cynic that I am, I am rather shocked and encouraged to find this tradition so alive and well.

Posted by Dr. Frank at January 25, 2011 05:20 PM | TrackBack

I was pleasantly surprised by the discussion as well. Dawkins is preaching a disturbing gospel with an (apparent) startling lack of awareness of human history.

Posted by: Cody at January 25, 2011 05:53 PM

How do you feel about the Gaskell case, Frank?

Posted by: GroupHugz at January 25, 2011 05:58 PM

I was very encouraged by that thread, as I felt Dawkins's argument to be kind of unfair.

I got the feeling in college that a couple of my arguments in papers and class discussion were dismissed out of hand because they had "a whiff of Christianity" to them. I never actually argued anything overtly Christian and did my best to appropriately qualify my reasoning, and in fact never spoke about my religion to anyone, or made any really Christian claims. But I guess people could tell what I believed anyway and sometimes seemed content to associate their version of Christianity with my arguments, despite that their version wasn't very representative of the actualities and that I had never myself applied those ideas, actual or imagined. I don't know, maybe I was just being paranoid, but some arguments I thought were at least worth addressing went totally dismissed.

Posted by: Nate Pensky at January 25, 2011 06:01 PM

I read "The God Delusion." A very weak book, by a smug, insular and bigoted author. Dawkins does not merit the attention he gets. I was almost embarrassed for the cause of atheism, which has many stronger and more appealing champions.

Posted by: Lexington Green at January 26, 2011 01:57 AM

I wonder if Dawkins knows that he been pwned?


Posted by: josh at January 26, 2011 08:06 PM

I was confused, Josh, till I realized that that post must be an IQ test in which your score is higher the sooner you decide to stop reading it. Am I right? Part 1!

Posted by: Dr. Frank at January 26, 2011 08:26 PM

I'm telling you, it gets really good. To each, his own, I guess.

Posted by: josh at January 27, 2011 02:57 PM

Yeah, it is good -- just required a longer attention span than I had at the moment. That guy really is something else.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at January 27, 2011 04:25 PM
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