Thursday 4 April 2013

New Apologists attack "New Atheists". Defending Sam Harris

Goodness me, what a kerfuffle!

After Tuesday's post about Nathan Lean attacking the so-called New Atheists -- especially Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens -- we have a real stoush between Glenn Greenwald for the Apologists and Sam Harris for the Atheists. And, of course, their fellow travellers.

If you're interested in Islam, in Apologetics, in Comparative Religion, in Racism, in Profiling, in the Ethics of Torture, in Millinariasm, the End of The World or the Future of the West.... or just in a Jolly Good Verbal Fisticuffs, settle down in bed, fire up the iPad and get ready for a couple of hours of most enjoyable reading....

I give the links below in the order you ought to read them....

Supporters of Harris and critics of both Hussein and Greenwald have weighed in:
I was going to point out myself some of the errors of fact or mischaracterisations in Hussein's piece, but Bensiger has done a thorough and thoroughly good -- and better -- job of it ("BEST OF ALL", above). Not much left to say, save: It's clear -- to me at least -- that the context of Harris' comments on European fascists and what they say about Islam (the start of this whole palaver) is thoroughly mitigated by its context: Harris is NOT supporting fascists, or even their comments on Islam; but Greenwald does not see that.
Greenwald had a long exchange with someone in his Twitter account, which he's subsequently deleted.  In it he was walking back his stance; you could almost see it.... admitting that he'd not followed the internal links in Hussein's piece, could not vouch for it in all its points (though he'd earlier done so in his email exchange with Harris), and that all he stood by was Harris' quote about fascists and Islam (on which I -- and many others -- think he's plain wrong).
He also had a definition of "New Atheism", which said it was focussed on being anti-Mulism.  He's since deleted that too.  Wikipedia does not have that in its definition.
And, finally, though many others have criticised Hussein on matters of fact and interpretation, none that I've seen has pointed out the over-arching problem with his essay: mainly the thesis, utterly unsubstantiated, that the New Atheists are like the Scientific Racists of the past.  He states it, ipse dixit, but it's unsupported by his argumentation, which is essentially ad hominem.
BTW, too: I've read just about everything Harris has written.  There's not, to me, a skerrik of evidence that he is a racist, let alone, as Hussein claims, guilty of "the most virulent racism imaginable".  Dear, oh dear, what is wrong with me that I have failed to see that, in all his writings.
Harris' original words are well worth reading. Particularly in the case of Torture and Profiling, it's easy to see that his positions are far more nuanced than the crude characterisation of some of his critics, to the extent that they are often setting up straw men to attack.