Thursday, August 06, 2009

More Reason for Ya

If you are short of amusement this morning, be sure to check out the spectacle of a Neuroscience PHD student with a BA in Philosophy to his name, lecturing the scientific community on who can and cannot be 'a true scientist'. This would be like me attempting to lecture the academic community of historians on how 'you cannot be a Marxist and a proper historian at the same time'; except of course my MA is actually in the subject I would be addressing. Eric Hobsbawm would still be more than entitled to tell me to 'sod off' though.

Of note is his comment that:

While it is invariably advertised as an expression of “respect” for people of faith, this accommodationism is nothing more than naked condescension, motivated by fear. Mooney and Kirshenbaum assure us that people will choose religion over science, no matter how good a case is made against religion. In certain contexts, this fear is probably warranted. I wouldn’t be eager to spell out the irrationality of Islam while standing in the Great Mosque in Mecca. But let’s be honest about how Mooney and Kirshenbaum view public discourse in the United States: watch what you say, or the Christian mob will burn down the library of Alexandria all over again. By comparison, the “combativeness” of the “New Atheists” seems entirely collegial.

This would be a remarkable achievement, not least because a Christian mob never burned down the Great Library of Alexandria in the first place. See:

The Mysterious Fate of the Great Library of Alexandria - James Hannam
The Foundation and Loss of the Royal and Serapeum Libraries of Alexandria - James Hannam
Tim O' Neil's treatment of the New Hypatia Movie - The Great Library and it's myths
The (rather heated) discussion in the comments here
This discussion by Roger S Bagnall in 'Hellenistic and Roman Egypt'

Interestingly, Roger S Bagnall says that:

Passions still run high on this matter. When Glen Bowerstock first invited me to present this paper, I hesitated because of a traumatic early experience. I wrote an article on the Alexandrian Library on commission for a short lived magazine called 'The Dial', published for Channel 13. The editor did not like my caution about the accounts of the destruction of the library and , without telling me, rewrote the article to blame everything squarely on the Christians. Whether he hated Christianity or just liked a simple storyline I do not know'.

So far, that's all these much vaunted 'secular values' of The Reason Project' appear to consist of. Simple stories, long-winded rants and rapidly disappearing up one's own posterior.

Discuss this post at the Quodlibeta Forum


Unknown said...

Well, Harris acting like a self-centered, know-it-all jackass totally convinced of his own infallibility isn't exactly new. And considering that he has a proven track-record of talking about subjects that he knows absolutely nothing about means that this recent outburst isn't exactly surprising.

Humphrey said...

I wonder why he brought up the Great Library of Alexandria. Maybe he has been watching the trailer for Agora on youtube?.

Unknown said...

it appears the The Reason Project has pulled this article down, for some strange reason.

Humphrey said...

It's still there. I have fixed the link.

Unknown said...

Maybe he has been watching the trailer for Agora on youtube?.

Probably, although it could be the only (false) example he can think of given his limited knowledge on history in general.

Joel said...

The part where he talked about how it's immoral to count an unborn child's life as more valuable than a whale made me SO angry.

Noons said...

That comment is irritating to me as well. However, I think the nature of Harris' comment mandates that he must come up with some kind of situation in which we are forced to choose between the life of an unborn child and a whale.

Hmm, maybe that should be a contest.

Humphrey said...

Hi Roger

The anecdote from Bagnall was in the essay I linked to in 'Hellenistic and Roman Egypt'. I would click on the link to the essay and read the whole thing as it is very interesting.