Well, now I understand why Clay Farris Naff assumed Dawkins was “infuriated” by disagreement. It appears to be sheer projection.
Friday, my response to Naff’s attempt to hypothesize a secular explanation for our universe that still encompassed intentional creation was posted at the Scientific American guest blog. Shortly thereafter, I started to get mentions on Twitter from Naff. Well, the first one I didn’t get because he had my Twitter handle wrong.
I received a few more tweets from Naff Friday.
Being at my grandfather’s funeral, I didn’t respond. So yesterday morning, Naff brought the argument to my teaser post here. Well, it was more of a lack of an argument:
You are, of course, entitled to take your best shots at what I wrote, but if those are indeed your best shots, well, let’s say I won’t be printing a retraction anytime soon.
And to my SciAm guest post:
I find it fascinating and rather sad that those who step in to defend the “New Atheists” against my critique cannot seem to help invoking religion. Stephanie Zvan does it in the very first line of her rebuttal, and then as if to make clear that this wasn’t just a rhetorical flourish brings God back into the argument after quoting my atheist credentials. Torbjörn Larsson accuses me of introducing a “religious strawman” into the argument and thereafter refers indirectly to me as a “faithist.” Yet another critic thinks I’m self-contradictory because I disavow belief in theistic creation and yet end up *hypothesizing* creation via technology.
If nothing else, I hope my essay gives fellow atheists a moment of pause and reflection. Not about whether my scenario is right or wrong, but about whether some have become so deeply invested in their fight against religion as to become ideologically blinkered and subject to groupthink.
How else to explain this insistence on labeling and dismissing an essay so clearly and explicitly nontheistic as “religious”?
And took a potshot in the comments on his piece:
Ms. Zvan’s ideologically motivated mockery notwithstanding, this is an evolutionarily sound conjecture. As such I would think it would attract interest from those who have a science-based worldview. It’s a pity that many cannot get past their fight with religion to give it honest consideration.
Whee! I’m a dishonest ideologue engaging in groupthink whose criticisms can be ignored (at length) because he wasn’t talking about religion.
Let’s start with that point about religion. I would hope that Naff understands that the point being made in a God of the Gaps discussion is that there is no actual god there. (I’m not confident about him on this point, but oh, well.) What does exist in those gaps is exactly what Naff wrote about: a hopeful projection of those ideas that have failed in testing everywhere but those gaps.
The God of the Gaps is not a religious argument. It is a denialist argument, used by the religious among others. It’s used here to defend intentional creation–we’ve ruled it out in a lot of places but not over…here.
Similarly, it’s easy to say that one’s argument is not supernatural. However, in order for an argument to be non-supernatural, it has to be, well, natural. A science fictionish story is not natural unless it takes into account the realities revealed to us by science. Not being very interesting is not enough to make it true.
I made a number of critiques of the science in Naff’s story. His responses are weak where they exist at all. His story relied on evolution creating a compulsion in a species to make life continue. When I pointed out that evolution doesn’t do that, his response was simply to restate that his premise was “evolutionarily sound.” Given that I ran my post past an evolutionary biologist before it was published, I’m waiting for Naff’s explanation for how that compulsion is created by evolution.
His other response was to my statement, “Similar hand-waving is required to move from the need for a new universe to the possibility of creating one.” It was a mention of this article by Michio Kaku, which is remarkably like the story that Naff presented in his post for not having been cited in his post. It even has the same weaknesses of eliding the hard parts of the tale–surviving long enough to achieve interstellar travel, finding the resources to maintain us in those travels, and, oh, solving the problem of creating another universe. It is still hand-waving, something for which Kaku has previously been criticized, and it may now be out-of-date hand-waving as well.
So, despite all his comments here and there and his mistaken impression that my mockery of his story was ideologically motivated (or is liking to see things done well an ideology?), he doesn’t really have much to say about the substance of my criticism. We can make up all the stories we like about how our universe came to be. We still require those stories to be grounded in observations about our universe in order to take them, or their authors, seriously.