New Atheism And Islamophobia

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Richard DawkinsTo go along with blasphemy and hate-speech criminalization, there’s a new line of attack on atheists that has recently gained some popularity. Critics of atheism are trying to associate atheistic arguments against Islam with Islamophobia. In a recent article in Salon, Nathan Lean has written what is basically one long ad-hominem fallacy focusing on Richard Dawkins. Lean’s attempt to link Dawkins with the Islamophobia of the far-right is totally lacking in substance.

Lean claims that Dawkins is “on record praising the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders.” We have previously discussed Wilders’ trial as a threat to free speech, here, and his travel ban from England for his anti-Islam movie “Fitna,” here. Dawkins wrote:

To repeat, Wilders may have said and done other things of which I am unaware, which deserve condemnation, but I can see nothing reprehensible in his making of Fitna, and certainly nothing for which he should go on trial.

Dawkins characterizes Wilders’ trial as “pandering to the ludicrous convention that religious opinion must not be ‘offended’.” Russell Blackford wholeheartedly agrees with Dawkins when Dawkins wrote: “In Fitna, taken on its own, I have found no cause to put Wilders on trial or even to censure him in any substantial way.” Lean conflates Dawkins’ praise of Wilders’ film with praise for Wilders’ other views, while offering no supporting evidence. The support of free speech rights, especially for those with whom we disagree, is a cornerstone of liberty. Lean’s article is devoid of any reference to the right of free speech.

Lean quotes Dawkins’ Twitter account:

Islam is comforting? Tell that to a woman, dressed in a bin bag [trash bag], her testimony worth half a man’s and needing 4 male witnesses to prove rape.

Lean makes no attempt to deny the validity of the content, he only notes that Dawkins, by his own admission, hasn’t read the Quran. Lean offers no explanation as to why reading the Quran is a prerequisite for criticizing the words, deeds, and beliefs of its adherents.

Lean notes Dawkins’ criticism of the gender segregated seating at a University College of London debate. Lean seems to find nothing wrong with the “separate seating option for conservative, practicing Muslims.” I’m a “conservative, practicing” civil-libertarian and a Muslim’s Female-segregation is not to be accommodated. Lean goes on to cite a similar situation when “Barclays Center in New York recently offered gender-separate seating options for Orthodox Jews.” Lean is fallaciously directing attention away from Muslims’ Female-segregation by pointing out someone else’s Female-segregation. Lean’s article is devoid of any reference to equal rights for women.

Powerful philosophical arguments, such as the imaginary nature of God and the impossibility of omniscience/omnipotence, are just as valid with respect to Islam as Christianity. The arguments for creationism are just as vacuous when they come from Muslims.

Lean’s substance-free diatribe only highlights the intellectual flimsiness that supports religion.

H/T: Jerry Coyne, Eugene Volokh, Russell Blackford, Taner Edis.

74 thoughts on “New Atheism And Islamophobia”

  1. Michael Murry 1, April 27, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    “The application of Scientific Method is universal. … there is nothing too lowly, repulsive, obscure, contentious, or deceptive to come within its scope. Neither is there anything too ‘sacred,’ which generally means a fear that the things so denominated cannot bear investigation.” [emphasis added] — F. C. S. Schiller, Logic for Use (1930)

    Subjecting “religion,” like any other subject, to Scientific Method quickly reveals its fundamentally ludicrous supposition: namely, that the world works not according to discoverable laws working everywhere the same but through the whim of obscure, fickle personalities whose “powerful” appetites and prejudices one can assuage or conciliate through stereotypical ritual practices such that the world will work otherwise than predictably, and to one’s own personal advantage.
    Oh, if only reality was that simple.

    A scientist many have heard of once said “make things as simple as possible, but no simpler than that.”

    Another champion with many trophies, and currently a world renowned scientist, said:

    Quantum mechanics is an incredible theory that explains all sorts of things that couldn’t be explained before, starting with the stability of atoms. But when you accept the weirdness of quantum mechanics [in the macro world], you have to give up the idea of space-time as we know it from Einstein. The greatest weirdness here is that it [quantum mechanics] doesn’t make sense. If you follow the rules, you come up with something that just isn’t right.

    (The Memes of Penrose, quoting who else, Dr. Sir Roger Penrose, emphasis added). The venerable Penrose dissing the venerable Einstein (many orthodox scientists and their laity, wielding pitchforks, have advanced on the labs and classrooms of Penrose for talking out of school like that).

    A very recent paper (March 2013) has indicated that biological life is older than previously hypothesized:

    An extrapolation of the genetic complexity of organisms to earlier times suggests that life began before the Earth was formed. Life may have started from systems with single heritable elements that are functionally equivalent to a nucleotide. The genetic complexity, roughly measured by the number of non-redundant functional nucleotides, is expected to have grown exponentially due to several positive feedback factors: gene cooperation, duplication of genes with their subsequent specialization, and emergence of novel functional niches associated with existing genes. Linear regression of genetic complexity on a log scale extrapolated back to just one base pair suggests the time of the origin of life 9.7 billion years ago. This cosmic time scale for the evolution of life has important consequences: life took ca. 5 billion years to reach the complexity of bacteria; the environments in which life originated and evolved to the prokaryote stage may have been quite different from those envisaged on Earth; there was no intelligent life in our universe prior to the origin of Earth, thus Earth could not have been deliberately seeded with life by intelligent aliens; Earth was seeded by panspermia; experimental replication of the origin of life from scratch may have to emulate many cumulative rare events; and the Drake equation for guesstimating the number of civilizations in the universe is likely wrong, as intelligent life has just begun appearing in our universe. Evolution of advanced organisms has accelerated via development of additional information-processing systems: epigenetic memory, primitive mind, multicellular brain, language, books, computers, and Internet. As a result the doubling time of complexity has reached ca. 20 years. Finally, we discuss the issue of the predicted technological singularity and give a biosemiotics perspective on the increase of complexity.

    (Cornell Archives). What is wrong with hypothesizing like that?


    But one of the fundamental assumptions of the paper is problematic, i.e., that certain things have remained the same during a period of split second Big Bang changes going way faster than the speed of light.

    Additionally they may have overly associated their rear view mirror analysis with Moore’s Law, which concerns the technological evolution of computers within human society when they write “The increase of genetic complexity follows Moore’s law” (page 1).

    Additionally, they do not adequately overturn a basic tenet of the Big Bang Theory, which is that carbon formed in stars as those stars eventually declined and went Nova, releasing that carbon into space to later make its way to planets, and then carbon based life.

    Just sayin’ …

    Let’s face it, there are denominations in science as there are in religion.

    To take the pose of some mechanistic purity of scientific thinking or doctrine, or to take the pose of some mechanistic purity of religious thinking or doctrine, is to overly simplify reality.

  2. there are time it is obvious that euthanizing dogs would not be a bad thing. They stopped being cute the second time you posted & now are just pointlessly annoying.

  3. Religion is the opiate of the people. If you do not believe me and need opium then ask your doctor. Otherwise turn on the tv to the religious channels this morning or if you are up early then any of the networks. ABC, CBS and NBC cover all the bases on Sunday morning. If ya dont like Jimmy Swaggert wait forr the commercial and listen to them tell ya to buy some drug for your COPD and to ask your doctor. Then its back to Jimmy Swaggert with a room full of chumps with heads either bowed or looking upward to the lord or the doctor– all drugged up on oxycotton wishing Cotton was a monkey.

  4. “Hi mom, hi dad, hi everybody. And this is for you Herbie.” [flips the middle finger]

    How many of you out there are from Saint Louis and watched The Howdie Doodie Show fifty plus years ago and recall the Herbie story? Anyone?

  5. If you grow up in a family and you get subjected to doses of religion on a daily basis then when you climb out of the swamp and cast off the beliefs based on Faith, then you are deemed an Atheist. But there is room for discussion about a deity called God who did some things to set life on Earth in motion and then stepped aside.

  6. Did the Prophet Mohammed really marry a six year old child and have sex with her when she was only nine? That would be scandalous in Dallas. How does that play in Istanbul today for example? Would it be a crime? Is it blasphemous to merely discuss such an historical event like that? Should a young girl fear Islam? If so should she be termed phobic? Inquiring dogs want to know.

  7. What exactly is a person who is an Islamophobe? The use of the word phobe has some DSM IV connotations. Does one dislike or fear Islamic people. Or merely dislike the religion, the hogma so to speak. The phobe word is used when the discussion is gays. Would not an Atheist be phobic against any religion? Therefore sort of equal. He would be religionphobic. I think that I am religionphobic. If I watch the God channels on tv, especially on Sunday when they have the palm out for money, I get disgusted. Palm Sunday is the worst. Then they mix up holidays like Christmas and Easter with Sinter Klaus and the Easter Bunny. It is no wonder that inquiring young minds will walk away from the faith when the truth is revealed about Santa or the Bunny. When the youth learns that the Seven Dwarfs are just midgets then the whole schmeil of Christ, the Cross, the Resurrection get questioned. And that is as it should be. Maybe Atheists are just skeptics and not phobes. Phobes is a bit rough.

  8. pete,

    A perfectly rational fear. :mrgreen:


    Why some people insist on considering Islam a monolithic construct without any sectarian and doctrinal differences is beyond me. “Islam” is not one thing any more than “Christianity” is one thing and both of them are guilty of having sects that are backward, oppressive, bigoted, stupid, intolerant and proselytizing. Neither all religious practitioners, practices nor organizations are created equal and to paint them with so broad a brush ignores the facts and is a false equivalence. And in the end, that is the problem with Dawkin’s thoughts on this matter – overly broad generalizations. Religion can be, has been and is currently used like a weapon . . . but not always. He is, however, not an Islamophobe as Lean describes. He’s equally harsh on all organized religions.

  9. The usual going after the messenger when you cannot refute the message. As Islam causes more violence and backwardness than other religions, it should be given more criticism and not less. Why some of the left have to defend a basically fascist ideology that is opposed to the freedoms they are supposed to believe in is beyond me.

  10. Dredd,

    I have heard people in the south say “I am so mad I can’t see straight.”

    “I think we can concede the point that Dawkins is that way when it comes to religion, and that Pat Robertson is that way when it comes to atheism.”

    Is Dawkins so angry that he can’t see straight? Is Pat Robertson so angry that he can’t see straight? I really couldn’t say. I don’t presume to know how others think/really feel.

  11. As for Dawkins? I admire him as a thinker, but he’s just as zealous and extreme as those he rails against. As an mostly agnostic/occasionally atheist, at times I wish he’d “keep it in his pants” as it were. He does the cause of atheism as much harm as clowns like Robertson and Tilton do for Christianity. Extremism isn’t an attractive trait or an good persuasive technique.

  12. Let’s put it this way, raff.

    I’d be okay with a dime for every one, much less a dollar.

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