Ruse has long been in his maundering dotage, but at least he could be counted on to maintain a thought in his head for more than a few minutes…and sadly, he has now written an inconsistent and incoherent pile of drivel in which he clearly rides his favorite hobby-horses while failing to notice that he’s skewering his own windmills.
Let us begin with Micheal Ruse’s wounded pride. It’s a common marker of a Ruse article: the litany of his grievances, the stinging memory of past defeats. He will never forget an insult. It’s as if every time he mentions me, it’s solely to complain that I once called him a ‘clueless gobshite’ (a remark made in passing; if I’d known it was going to be immortalized by Ruse I would have tried to be more creative.) Yes, he brings it up again in his latest article.
And yet I, and others of my ilk, am reviled in terms far harsher than those kept for the real opponents like the Creationists. We are labelled ‘accommodationists’ for our willingness to give religion a space not occupied by science. We are put down in terms that denote powerful emotion, way beyond reason. In The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, I am likened to Neville Chamberlain, the pusillanimous appeaser of Hitler. Jerry Coyne, the author of both the book and the blog Why Evolution is True and an ardent fan of Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, wrote about one of my books in terms used by George Orwell: ‘There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.’ The Minnesota biologist PZ Myers, who writes the blog Pharyngula, has referred to me as a ‘clueless gobshite’.
Let it go, Michael. It was 3½ years ago. I’ll try to find something new for you to be bitter over.
And then he says this:
I don’t care about the personal attacks. Indeed, I have the kind of personality that welcomes being in the public eye, even if the attention is critical.
He doesn’t care? Michael Ruse obsesses over past insults more than anyone else I know…well, except maybe John Kw*k.
What else is this article about? Why, the horribleness of those New Atheists. They’re just like those religious fanatics, especially that guy Richard Dawkins. It’s yet another familiar tirade about how atheism is just another religion.
But then, this is weird…after excoriating the New Atheists for their fanaticism, he declares that he, Michael Ruse, is the fanaticalest of them all.
Dawkins has said that on a scale from 0 to 7, from belief to non-belief, he scores about 6.9. I place myself even higher than that. I am a true non-believer. I am also a fanatical Darwinian — more so even than Dawkins because I think that, when it comes to culture, genes do much that he hands over to his own special cultural notion of ‘memes’. I have written many books about the implications of Darwinian thinking for epistemology and ethics.
What’s more, I think that religion has done and continues to do much harm to society.
If certainty and aggressive advancement of ideas are the signifiers of a ‘religion’, and if Michael Ruse really dislikes those atheist proselytizers, I suggest that he go lock himself in an empty room and beat himself up for a while.
But wait! There are more paradoxes! One of the big problems with the New Atheism, says Ruse, is the way we idolize and support our leaders unquestioningly.
There are other aspects of the New Atheist movement that remind me of religion. One is the adulation by supporters and enthusiasts for the leaders of the movement. It is not just a matter of agreement or respect, but of a kind of worship. This certainly surrounds Dawkins, who is admittedly charismatic.
We worship Dawkins? And possibly Hitchens and Harris? Has he ever noticed how much we all freaking argue with each other? There are no saints and popes in the New Atheist movement.
Oh, wait, yes he has noticed. In the very next paragraph.
Freud describes a phenomenon that he calls ‘the narcissism of small differences’, in which groups feud over distinctions that, to the outside, seem totally trivial. It is highly characteristic of religions: think of the squabbles about the meaning of the Eucharist, for instance, or the ways in which Presbyterians tear each other apart over the true meaning of predestination. For those not involved in the fights, the issues seem virtually nonsensical, and certainly wasting energies that should be spent on fighting common foes. But not for those within the combat zone.
The New Atheists show this phenomenon more than any group I have ever before encountered.
So which is it? Blind, unquestioning worship of our leaders, or incessant fractiousness and dissension? It doesn’t matter. Ruse is just spinning his wheel of deplorable sins and accusing us of whatever random flaw pops up.
It’s a freakishly odd article. It turns out that a major crux of his argument is that these New Atheists are all Humanists…and Humanism is bad. It’s an awful muddle, free of all distinctions and thought. Atheism is the same as Humanism is the same as Religion. It’s the most useless philoosophical assertion ever.Which makes it entierly appropriate that the comment is coming from the most useless philosopher ever.