Science Writers Taking Jabs at God

Jessa Crispin at Bookslut has this complaint:

Can someone write a book about science without the snobby bullshit included? I would be much more willing to finish reading The Canon if Natalie Angier had not kept including constant swipes at people who believe in god, the superstitious, and people who read fortune cookies. I’ve always believed that the best way to convince someone they’re wrong is to call them an idiot.

I agree that you’re not going to win people over by calling them idiots.

Even though I’m not sure what else to call people who actually believe what cookies tell them… well, I can think of some words, but “idiot” might be the nicer way of putting it.

Richard Dawkins made slight jabs at religion and pseudoscience in his science books, too, but I never heard complaints about it. It seemed to go hand in hand with what he was talking about. Science is all about evidence and proof and logic. God, superstitious beliefs, and fortune cookies fly in the face of all that.

I’m not sure what Angier’s context was, but if she said that belief in God is not based on any scientific evidence (and as a result, in her opinion, we should not put faith in God as we would put faith in other things), there shouldn’t be a problem with that. That statement would fit perfectly well in a book about science.

If it was an unnecessary attack, then at least Crispin’s point could be argued.

Angier, incidentally, wrote a great piece a while back for the New York Times called “Confessions of a Lonely Atheist.” She knows how to write. Without reading the book, I’d find it hard to believe she would take superfluous swipes at religion.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Bible, God, superstition, The Canon, Natalie Angier, New York Times, Jessa Crispin, Bookslut, Richard Dawkins, Science[/tags]

  • http://upgrade01a.wordpress.com Upgrade01a

    http://upgrade01a.wordpress.com/2007/06/17/everybody-is-consistent/


    At the moment, both the religious and the authoritarians have been a lot more successful at passing both their genes and their memes along than either the atheists and the libertarians. If you want to change someone’s opinion to be more in line with your own, then try to have a little empathy for how they got to where they are. Remember how lucky you are that your particles and patterns happened to collide in just the right ways to give you your the intelligent, rational, and objective insight that you believe you have.

    Most people don’t call an ugly person “ugly” or a fat person “fat”….
    to paraphrase Daniel Dennett (my site has a post with several youtube references that discuss his book.) I think Dennett is a bit kinder and gentler than Dawkins. Although I did enjoy several of his books including “The Blind Watchmaker”.

  • Maria

    Can someone write a book about science without the snobby bullshit included? I would be much more willing to finish reading The Canon if Natalie Angier had not kept including constant swipes at people who believe in god, the superstitious, and people who read fortune cookies. I’ve always believed that the best way to convince someone they’re wrong is to call them an idiot.

    I agree that you’re not going to win people over by calling them idiots.

    I agree too, Fortune cookies or no fortune cookies, this approach really does not work overall. If someone wants to get me to change my mind about anything, even common, ordinary every day stuff, calling me stupid will usually automatically make me ignore you. Yes, it’s irrational, but it’s also human. You’ll find it to be true of many people. Many people have asked what turns some people off to nonreligion, and I would say it is this type of stuff. I’m not saying you should cozy up to beliefs you don’t believe in, but sometimes, within reason (assuming the party you are addressing is not out to hurt you) a little tact goes a long way. Hemant’s book proves that. Trust me on this one. The stupid approach usually fails.

    At the moment, both the religious and the authoritarians have been a lot more successful at passing both their genes and their memes along than either the atheists and the libertarians. If you want to change someone’s opinion to be more in line with your own, then try to have a little empathy for how they got to where they are. Remember how lucky you are that your particles and patterns happened to collide in just the right ways to give you your the intelligent, rational, and objective insight that you believe you have.

    Most people don’t call an ugly person “ugly” or a fat person “fat”….
    to paraphrase Daniel Dennett (my site has a post with several youtube references that discuss his book.) I think Dennett is a bit kinder and gentler than Dawkins. Although I did enjoy several of his books including “The Blind Watchmaker”.

    Agreed

  • Maria

    I’m not sure what Angier’s context was, but if she said that belief in God is not based on any scientific evidence (and as a result, in her opinion, we should not put faith in God as we would put faith in other things), there shouldn’t be a problem with that. That statement would fit perfectly well in a book about science.

    If it was an unnecessary attack, then at least Crispin’s point could be argued.

    I agree here too, saying that belief in God is not based on scientific evidence is not insulting. Guess I’ll have to take a look at the book………

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ John P

    There was a decent review of the book over at the NY Times by Steven Pinker. He had a few issues with her writing but on the whole thought it was worthwhile.

  • Mriana

    I don’t know, non-scientists are taking jabs at God too. Acharya S. had a doctrit degree in Classical studies or somthing like that. She has confirmed everything I’ve believed about religion, PLUS!

    Richard Price, who has a doctrit in Religion (I think) does nearly the same thing but not to the same extent as Acharya, has taken a few jabs at God too, also confirming what I’ve always thought.

    Earl Doherty also does similar in the Jesus Puzzle. Tim C. Leedom also does similar in The Book Your Church Doesn’t Want You to Read.

    Spong, a retired Episcopal Bishop, does similar when he says, “A nice myth” about Genesis and other parts of the Bible.

    So scientist are not alone with jabs and I think it’s great that the truth is coming out about modern religion. I don’t seem so alone in my suspecions anymore.

  • Jonas G

    I’m not sure what Angier’s context was, but if she said that belief in God is not based on any scientific evidence (and as a result, in her opinion, we should not put faith in God as we would put faith in other things)

    Bluring the terms ‘Belief’ and ‘Faith’ can get you into trouble. By the strictist definitions in the atheist literature (such as Barker’s ‘Losing Faith in Faith’ and Dawkin’s ‘Root of All Evil’ and ‘The God Delusion’ Having Faith in something means believing something without evidence, or in some cases in spite of evidence against it. By that argument Belief in God is correctly categorized as Faith. However so would be belief in fairies, the Flying Spagetti Monster, and gnomes.

    What exactly we would or should believe without evidence (or have faith in) may be a complex question, Anne Franke’s comment ‘Dispite everything I still think/believe people are good at heart’ leaps to mind. But then I could counter it with what I call the Snoopy argument – ‘He only pretends to like you, because you feed him. – that doesn’t count’ (from You’re a good man, Charlie Brown)
    — That is it’s in my best interest to be polite, follow the law, and in other ways be a nice person.


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