Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dinesh' Dimness...

Few people on the US conservative side rile me more than Dinesh D'Souza, aka Distort D'Newza. It's flabbering that this little nitwit manages to sell tons and tons of books. But then, so does Ann Coulter (who nearly blew a fuse when confronted by Alan Colmes last night on her despicable "perfecting Jews"-stance), whom Tnesh had dated for some time. (Christ, what a couple these two would have made!)

Then there Tgnash' most controversial book to date. From Wiki:
In early 2007, D'Souza published "The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and its Responsibility for 9/11," in which he argues that the American left was in large part responsible for the Muslim anger that led to the September 11 attacks.

This thesis has been widely disputed by, among others, prominent conservatives such as Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt [and Daniel Pipes - my edit], who contend that D'Souza openly sympathizes with Al Qaeda in The Enemy At Home, and who contend that his thesis that Muslim radicals would not hate the United States if not for cultural liberalism is a myth.

The book was almost universally criticized in major American newspapers and magazines and called, among other things, "the worst nonfiction book about terrorism published by a major house since 9/11" and "a national disgrace.".

And now there's Tgnashing's debate with Hitchens, brilliant polemicist and self-proclaimed anti-theist. I didn't see it but caught only the small excerpt Fixed Noise put up, the one where D'Newsa contends that Einstein was a theist. Dear me, this does not bode well for this vile little man's chances of winning the debate. The "Einstein was a theist" flap is a fallacy of 4th grader level and stems (still!) from that often misused Einstein quote that "God doesn't play dice" (Einstein's dig at the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics). Einstein however very convincingly refuted the idea that he was religious in the classic monotheistic tradition. Hitchens claimed Albert was a Deist (someone who believes in a divine creator but not in the living, interventionist God of the Abrahamic monotheisms), but I'm not entirely convinced of that either.

After the excerpt with the Einstein flap, D'Souza, came on Faux Noise for a follow-up debate with Hitchens, but the latter couldn't make it. D'Souza then went on to try and revive another old croc: scientific anthropocentrism, a very interesting school of scientific thought, which alas for D'Souza has long been abandoned by mainstream science. I read The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (featured right) years ago and thought it was a cracking good read, but for the "fine-tuning problem" mainstream science now has more plausible and non-deistic explanations.

The brilliant Pharyngula science blog has a great piece on D'Newsa's latest burps:

It's Monday. You're tired after your weekend, you aren't too enthused about getting back to work, and it's just so dispiriting to have to get back into the grind. What do you need with your coffee? An unsurprising tale of a very stupid person, so that your boss and your coworkers will look like shining beacons of reason by comparision, and you'll realize your job isn't so bad after all. You need to hear about Dinesh D'Souza, because you'll realize that even in the state of sluggish stupor on a Monday morning, you are a thousand times wiser and more perceptive than that crank.

You will especially enjoy the irony of D'Souza declaring that atheists aren't very bright.

I don't need to dwell on it (if you want more, Dust in a Sunbeam is more thorough), because early on the whole of D'Souza's argument collapses in a torrent of straw.
The Fallacy of the Enlightenment is the glib assumption that human beings can continually find out more and more until eventually there is nothing more to discover. The Enlightenment Fallacy holds that human reason and science can, in principle, unmask the whole of reality.

So atheists aren't very bright because they think they can understand all of reality. How silly. We don't think that at all. I'm fairly sure I can only grasp 93.4% of reality, and that's only after drinking so many cups of coffee that my reality is reduces to a painfully full bladder and life is nothing but an episode of prolonged micturition. But seriously, this is not part of the premise of either atheism or science; we don't claim completeness at all. So how can something we freely admit be an argument against our position?

All it takes is one very silly man to spiral his delusions up into a fantasy case against science and atheism, and that man is Dinesh. After going on and on about Kant in a pointless appeal to the authority of a poorly understood philosopher, he gives us his refutation of atheism.
It is a shared doctrine of those religions that the empirical world we humans inhabit is not the only world there is. Ours is a world of appearances only in which we see things in a limited and distorted way, "through a glass darkly," as the apostle Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians 13:12. Ours is a transient world that is dependent on a higher, timeless reality. That reality is of a completely different order from anything we know, it constitutes the only permanent reality there is, and it sustains our world and presents it to our senses. Christianity teaches that while reason can point to the existence of this higher domain, this is where reason stops: it cannot on its own investigate or comprehend that domain.

A thousand words berating atheists for having a certainty that they do not claim, and then he announces his own dogma of certainty, and refutes himself.

So this spiritual world is different from anything we know, and we cannot investigate or comprehend it with reason.

So how does Dinesh D'Souza know anything about it?

The atheist position does not rest on any claim of absolute perfect knowledge. It is based on a very simple principle: that we have to be able to explain how we know what we know, and support it with some kind of independently confirmable evidence. When people make extravagant religious claims, like this invention of D'Souza's that there is an independent reality supporting the one we can see, we ask, "How do you know that?" And what do we get? Silence. Or meaningless babble that skirts the question.


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