Hey, I thought an atheist was just someone who didn’t believe in gods

At least, that’s what people keep yelling at me. But apparently, even an idiot can recognize that there are wider implications to non-belief…of course, if you’re an idiot as big as Satoshi Kanazawa, you get them all wrong.

It is ironic because, according to Dawkins himself, I am actually more atheist than he is in the original meaning of the word. Fellow Big Think blogger Mark Cheney quotes Dawkins as saying “On a scale of seven, where one means I know he exists, and seven I know he doesn’t, I call myself a six. That doesn’t mean I’m absolutely confident, that I absolutely know, because I don’t.” It’s funny, because, unlike Dawkins, I absolutely know for sure that God doesn’t exist, as any scientist would. For scientists, it’s very simple; absolutely nothing exists in the universe, except for those entities for which there is credible scientific evidence for their existence. So I know for sure that God doesn’t exist for the same reason that I know Santa Claus or Superman doesn’t exist

But I am not an atheist.

So why does he argue that he’s not an atheist?

  • Because atheists are assholes.

  • Because religious people are not all evil and oppressive (except Islam! Islam is evil and oppressive!)

  • Because Americans are religious, and a Reader’s Digest survey found that New Yorkers are civil.

It’s a typical Kanazawa-style argument, in other words: stupid, reliant on assumed propositions, and using dubious statistical arguments and inferences, with a repulsive undercurrent of bigotry.

I’m happy to see you disassociate from atheism, Satoshi!

Comments

  1. DLC says

    allow me to second PZ. Kanazawa, don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

    Nobody’s arguing that Atheists are the milk of human kindness, always happy and always rational.
    Nor are we Mr Spock, always logical except for every 7 years when we get horny.
    (talk about the 7 year itch.)
    We’re mostly just decent ordinary people who reject the notion of deities. Most of us also want some social change for the better (thus the A+ business) .

  2. Mattir says

    You forgot this amazing quote:

    Dawkins’s major problem is that he doesn’t know Americans and how religion works in the United States. Americans are by far the most religious people in all of the western industrial world. And anyone who has lived in and traveled to as many places as I have will unanimously tell you that Americans are the kindest and most generous people on earth. Although it would be difficult to demonstrate it scientifically, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Americans are the kindest and most generous people on earth because they are deeply religious.

    Um, yeah. Whatever you say.

    I’m becoming increasingly fond of my replacement for “stupid” and “moron” as insults: maliciously ignorant seems to capture the wrongness and lack of good faith present in the quoted paragraph.

  3. says

    So I know for sure that God doesn’t exist for the same reason that I know Santa Claus or Superman doesn’t exist
    But I am not an atheist.

    Yes, you are.

    Deal with it.

  4. says

    “For scientists, it’s very simple; absolutely nothing exists in the universe, except for those entities for which there is credible scientific evidence for their existence.”

    They once said that quarks did not exist, because there was no evidence for their existence. And about neutrinos. And about the Higgs boson. They still say it about gravitons and tachyons, even though our current theories say they should exist.

    Only a mediocre scientist speaks in absolutes. Unlike this yahoo, Dawkins is enough of a scientist to realize that while current evidence points strongly against and the universe seems to work quite well without, there is no telling what will be discovered 100 or 500 years from now.

  5. Randomfactor says

    “They once said that quarks did not exist, because there was no evidence for their existence.”

    And they were right to do so. Heck, someone pointed out that the best minds once thought the earth was FLAT, and THEY were right to do so. To the limits of their measuring devices, it served as a decent working hypothesis–the buildings stayed up. Only when evidence comes into the picture does it make a difference.

    There is equal evidence for the existence of JHWH and Zeus. I.e., none to speak of.

  6. Ogvorbis says

    But I am not an atheist.

    Yes, you are. You seem to be uncomfortable with the ramifications of your atheism and are grasping at straws (well, grasping at strawmen) to avoid accepting what you actually are.

  7. radon says

    You see, Kanazawa, there is a problem here. God as you lay out is a specific entity, presumably the Judeo-Christian variety. That must be why you have the urge to capitalize it, right?
    The same goes with Superman or Santa Claus, these are reasonably defined. But can you deny that there might be a planet, with human like creatures, that gets incredibly strong on Earth? No, right? It is the same with gods, unless you define the specific god, and abilities and whatnot, then there is a chance that that might exist out somewhere in the universe.
    It is plausible, yet highly unlikely.

  8. dianne says

    If BBC or Deutsche Welle were to produce “On the Road,” it would go off the air in less than a year, because there are not that many extraordinary individuals in the UK or Germany (or anywhere else in the world) for them to feature week after week.

    May I have a WTF for this statement? Does he really think that the US has a near monopoly on extraordinary individuals?

  9. Sastra says

    The article is actually one long Little People Argument: because those with simple minds need religion, it is cruel and stupid to tell them they’re mistaken. Even though they are. It’s an incredibly arrogant position, one which elevates the “non-atheist who knows(?) there is no God” above that of the common folk, refusing to grant them the same strong character and ability to handle the truth as oneself. “The Little People need their delusions — and they need me, too, to defend them!”

    I often wonder how many religious people are grateful for this condescending argument, once they realize the implications. Is it really worth anything to get an atheist to shut up?

    Thanks to Richard Dawkins and his ilk, “atheist” now means someone who is (and acts as if he is) intellectually superior, and who mocks and derides the deeply held and personal religious beliefs of less intelligent others by pointing out how wrongheaded and stupid they are to believe what they believe.

    Notice, once again, the lack of actual quotations. Faith is such a weak, fragile concept that mere strong disagreement is enough to cause people to froth at the mouth and pretend the attack has been personal, vicious and uncalled for.

    The existence of God is a hypothesis, people care whether it’s true or not, and it has been protected from public analysis and criticism for far too long. Get over it.

    Kanazawa must be a theist’s wet dream: he not only apparently fits the nonsensical caricature of ‘what an atheist believes’ (“if science doesn’t already know about it, it doesn’t exist!”), but he falls all over himself dissing Dawkins and reassuring the faithful that they are better people than him and he would never, ever try to take their faith away. Sad.

  10. dianne says

    And anyone who has lived in and traveled to as many places as I have will unanimously tell you that Americans are the kindest and most generous people on earth.

    No. Just no. I don’t know if I’ve traveled as many places as Kanazawa, but I can say that in my experience Americans can be kind and generous or complete assholes. The same is true of Germans, Swiss, Costa Ricans, Mexicans, French, Australians, Dutch, etc. People are people. And seriously, the US for “most generous”? Huh? Has he looked at welfare and taxes in the US? Or does it only count as “generosity” when it’s an individual doing something petty for someone.

  11. Ogvorbis says

    Does he really think that the US has a near monopoly on extraordinary individuals?

    Bachmann, Palin, Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, Bush, Rove, . . . .

    The rest of the world should be thanking us for our near monopoly on extraordinary individuals.

    Not what you meant, but that’s where my mind took it.

  12. Matt Penfold says

    May I have a WTF for this statement? Does he really think that the US has a near monopoly on extraordinary individuals?

    He obviously never listens to Radio 4. A central part of Radio 4′s programming is interviews with fascinating people with a story to tell no matter where in the world they come from.

  13. dianne says

    Bachmann, Palin, Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, Bush, Rove, . . . .

    The rest of the world should be thanking us for our near monopoly on extraordinary individuals.

    Harper, Le Pen, Holger Apfel, Rubert Murdoch, Kurt Waldheim…No, sorry, can’t say the US has a monopoly.

  14. dianne says

    I’d like to think that the US had a monopoly on that sort of individual, then we could just move away from it. Alas…

  15. Galactic Fork says

    So he claims to meet the criteria for atheism (though with questionable absolutism), but just doesn’t like the term atheist? Isn’t that the same thing we saw in the experiment on anti-feminism thread? “I believe men and women should be equal, but feminists are all man-hating harpies who want women to rule.”

  16. consciousness razor says

    “They once said that quarks did not exist, because there was no evidence for their existence.”

    And they were right to do so.

    Whoever “they” are,* they were in fact wrong, so would you say they were right to be wrong? They weren’t factually right, but they were right… how? Isn’t it a claim about facts (which they got wrong)? So what are they supposed to be right about?

    *Are they modern people talking about quarks? Nineteenth-century people claiming atoms are indivisible? Anti-atomists throughout history since, what … Parmenides? Not all of these could be “right” in the same sense, if any of them are.

  17. Sastra says

    Galactic Fork #17 wrote:

    So he claims to meet the criteria for atheism (though with questionable absolutism), but just doesn’t like the term atheist? Isn’t that the same thing we saw in the experiment on anti-feminism thread?

    Yes: “I can’t call myself an atheist anymore because outspoken atheists like Dawkins have ruined the term for the rest of us!” It’s been tainted and he needs a new word. Which of course makes no sense, because the word is analytically descriptive, it’s not the name of a club.

    There’s an interesting assumption running through Kanazawa’s rant, and it’s the same assumption I’ve seen coming from a lot of religious believers: if you’re wrong and there is no God, then you’re stupid. Not “you’ve made a mistake” — but “you’re an idiot.”

    I don’t know if this is a sign that people of faith are secretly embarrassed that they believe what they believe, or if this is simply an immunizing strategy designed to deflect any and all criticism. “That dress doesn’t look good on you.” “You’re saying I’m ugly!!!” “No, no — the dress is fine, just fine, never mind, really, it’s great.”

  18. Rob Grigjanis says

    Gregory @4: “They still say it about gravitons and tachyons, even though our current theories say they should exist.”

    Which current theories say tachyons should exist, and who are “they”?

  19. chrislawson says

    Maybe I’m being uncharitable, but my own take on this is that Kanazawa is sick of his horrible, sexist, pseudoscience being shot down by critics like Dawkins, so he’s off on a rant to smear his ilk even if it means pandering to religions he absolutely does not believe in.

  20. says

    Sastra said:

    There’s an interesting assumption running through Kanazawa’s rant, and it’s the same assumption I’ve seen coming from a lot of religious believers: if you’re wrong and there is no God, then you’re stupid. Not “you’ve made a mistake” — but “you’re an idiot.”

    I don’t know if this is a sign that people of faith are secretly embarrassed that they believe what they believe, or if this is simply an immunizing strategy designed to deflect any and all criticism.

    Well, or they’ve just been listening to the number of atheists who actually believe this.

  21. dantelevel9 says

    When is an atheist not an atheist? When he believes in god less than Dawkins does? Time for another double shot of espresso. My neurons aren’t firing fast enough to process this. You really can’t make this stuff up, can you?

    As for Americans being the kindest, most exceptional people, blah, blah, blah . . . I suggest Kanazawa live in the Deep South or the big sky, empty Plains states for a year. He may find that being an atheistically inclined Asian isn’t exactly an entre into the locals big, lovable hearts. He could do a sequel to Bad Day At Black Rock.

  22. says

    Although it would be difficult to demonstrate it scientifically, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Americans are the kindest and most generous people on earth because they are deeply religious.

    If it’s “difficult to demonstrate scientifically,” that’s probably because it isn’t really true. Or, at best, it’s a claim that’s untestable because it’s poorly worded and poorly thought out.

    Also, has this guy ever heard of something called the Taliban? I’m sure he’d agree they’re a LOT more religious than Americans in general; and I’m also sure he’d agree that they’re not more kind or generous than we are — even when you include our most recent unkind acts, both at home and abroad — which, by the way, were perpetrated and supported by the most religious parts of our society.

  23. says

    Thanks to Richard Dawkins and his ilk, “atheist” now means someone who is (and acts as if he is) intellectually superior, and who mocks and derides the deeply held and personal religious beliefs of less intelligent others by pointing out how wrongheaded and stupid they are to believe what they believe.

    Seriously? He can actually say that, after bigots of all four Abrahamic religions have been doing the same thing for thousands of years? This guy is nothing but an unscrupulous hack, engaging in blatant projection. Indeed, I could call his career one of “projectile hackery.”

  24. Rip Steakface says

    Only a mediocre scientist speaks in absolutes.

    I hope you’re not a scientist or you’re referencing that hilariously bad line from Star Wars Episode III.

  25. says

    @Rob Grigjanis – Our current understanding is that the speed of light is a barrier. Mass approaches infinity as it approaches the speed of light; only massless particles like the photon can actually move at that speed (and, being massless, can ONLY move at that speed.)

    Objects with mass cannot cross the light barrier. However, the equations describing the relationship between mass and velocity are symmetric, and have no problem with objects aready moving at superluminal speed. In fact, our current understanding is that an object moving faster than the speed of light actually decreases in mass the faster it goes. It goes backwards in time, and has an imaginary (in the mathematical sense) mass, but the equations are perfectly fine with that: mass can be expressed as a complex number with both real and imaginary components, and time is fully one dimensional, capable of moving in either direction.

    Tachyons are hypothetical particles with imaginary mass, which move backwards in time and have a velocity that is always faster than light. Not only can they exist, the symmetry of our quantum equations pretty much requires that they exist.

    The issue is moot, however, as humans may never be able to build detectors capable of measuring imaginary, superluminal mass. Tachyons will remain hypothetical until either we have such detectors, or our current theories are revised to prohibit them.

  26. consciousness razor says

    Not only can they exist, the symmetry of our quantum equations pretty much requires that they exist.

    I don’t see how an aesthetic evaluation, like some symmetry in a theory, could ever “require” anything. It might demand you admit how beautiful and symmetrical and simple the theory is, but it’s not making any demands on reality (which is a fairly messy place, if you ask me).

  27. jbegan says

    Aside from his article being absolute nonsense, Satoshi Kanazawa chooses to not allow comments. That’s the refuge of a coward. Insult people and hide in the bushes.

  28. Akira MacKenzie says

    …there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Americans are the kindest and most generous people on earth because they are deeply religious.

    WHAT???

    You’re talking about some other America? Right? There is no fucking way you’re referring to the United $tate$ of AmeriKKKa, Inc.. A nation where any mention of nation health care will be responded by assault-rifle-carrying thugs will show up at town hall meetings to intimidate those who would support such “Communist” policy. This is the same nation who concocts racist lies about “Welfare Queens” as an excuse to cut social programs and economic myths of such a “trickle down” to justify cutting taxes for the mega-wealthy. AmerKKKa is a nation where a significant number of the electorate hold to the ecomonic beliefs of a crazy “philosopher” and bad novelist who preached that selfish individualism is a virtue; a nation where even the our “liberals” only pay lip service to progressive causes becauses they’re just as greedy as the right-wingers.

    And who are the bulk of those who wave the flag for cut throat, I’ve-got-mine-so fuck-you, “free market” capitalism? Why the same people who attend the mega-churches, vote to ban abortion and same-sex marriage, try to sneak Creationism, and do their damnedest to impose their filthy god on the rest of us!

    Fuck you, Kanazawa! Fuck you, up the ass,with a running chainsaw!

  29. Rob Grigjanis says

    Gregory @27: “the symmetry of our quantum equations pretty much requires that they exist.”

    Which symmetry do you mean? And yes, as CR @28 says, symmetry doesn’t demand anything.

  30. Akira MacKenzie says

    Edit: …justify tax cuts for the mega-wealthy.

    Sorry, but that clueless pig fucker REALLY made me angry.

  31. says

    Sorry, but that clueless pig fucker REALLY made me angry.

    And I have no doubt that said pig-fucker will use that anger as proof that atheists are chronically angry meanies who hate America and Mom and Apple Pie. Like most religious con-artists, this guy is probably as manipulative as he is dishonest. It’s an integral part of the Christian Reich’s script, and probably has been since the time of Christ.

  32. scrawnykayaker says

    “You’re talking about some other America? Right? There is no fucking way you’re referring to the United $tate$ of AmeriKKKa, Inc..”

    In which people who construct economic myths clearly designed to benefit the mega-wealthy can be considered LIBERALS by most of the country (although they are really neo-liberals.) Shit like the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, one of the great causes of the 2007 crash, weren’t just signed by Clinton, but written and championed by the Clinton Administration. Because all that matters is that Wall Street be able to charge fees for bullshit, even if their nonsense dwarfs the world’s real GDP.

    We’re real generous to asshats in suits, anyway.

  33. says

    @consciousness razor #28, @Rob Grigjanis #31 – Poor choice of words on my part, so let me rephrase.

    The equations describing physics at the quantum level allow for particles to have spin and charge opposite from what is observed in normal matter. This created “slots” in our understanding of the universe that remained unfilled until the existence of antimatter was proven. We now know that every particle has an otherwise identical antiparticle, and that particles with neither spin nor electric charge (like the photon) are their own antiparticles.

    As the Standard Model began to evolve in the 1960s, observations indicated that there were three “generations” of particles, with normal matter making up only one of those generations. That opened a number of “slots” in other generations that were not experimentally filled until decades later, such as the verification of the tau neutrino in 2000 and the apparent verification of the Higgs boson last year.

    In the same manner, the equations describing physics at the quantum level allow for particles to have imaginary mass (that is to say, a mass that when squared produces a negative number), to have a velocity faster than light, and to move backwards in time. This creates “slots” in our understanding of the universe that are currently unfilled. For all intents and purposes, these tachyon particles can be ignored: the equations indicate that they have very little, if any, effect on the observable universe. That is not to say that they do not exist, or that we will never develop a way to prove or disprove their existence.

    My point is that the universe is explainable and seems to work quite well without imaginary masses or superluminal particles; however, it would be incorrect to assert that such things do not exist. I am willing to give the god hypothesis the same benefit. Mind, though, that have no problem treating goddists with the same derision I would aim and people who claim that harnassing tachyons will solve the world’s energy needs.

  34. fastlane says

    Ogvorbis@6:

    well, grasping at strawmen

    It’s more of a loving caress…fondling.

    Wanking, if you will.

  35. Rob Grigjanis says

    Gregory @36: “In the same manner, the equations describing physics at the quantum level allow for particles to have imaginary mass ”

    No, not in the same manner. Just because equations allow solutions with imaginary values, doesn’t mean we take them seriously. That’s math, not physics.

    That said, the Higgs boson does arise from what starts out as a “tachyonic” field in the sense of having an imaginary mass term (which with symmetry breaking gives mass to particles in the Standard Model, with Higgs bosons left over), but you’d be hard pressed to find a physicist who attaches any physical significance to tachyonic particles. Pretty good discussion here.

  36. rasholm says

    even an idiot can recognize that there are wider implications to non-belief

    PZ you have your causality mixed up. It is not that there are wider implications to non-belief. Non-belief is an implication of critical thinking and rationality. They are wider implication to rationality and critical thinking than atheism.

    Atheism is a consequence not a cause.

  37. says

    Although it would be difficult to demonstrate it scientifically, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Americans are the kindest and most generous people on earth because they are deeply religious.

    Well, that’s all you need, isn’t it. Never mind about that pesky evidence. As long as you personally have no doubt, then the matter is settled.

  38. coralline says

    Quote of No. 38:

    No, not in the same manner. Just because equations allow solutions with imaginary values, doesn’t mean we take them seriously. That’s math, not physics.

    It sure as hell had better stay physics until experiment rules out those complex values. Historically, one of the most fruitful ways of finding or predicting new phenomena has been to take transcendental solutions seriously, so long as the boundary conditions don’t cause blow-ups (and, in the case of things like the self-interaction of unshielded charges, even then). Things such as evanescent waves, anti-particles, and so on are all solutions of the equations with complex-values, and whenever nature has the chance to make use of different branch cuts, complex solutions, and so on, it seems to do it.

  39. Rob Grigjanis says

    coralline @48: I should have been more specific. Complex numbers are obviously important in physics. Particles with imaginary mass, not so much, unless there is a pressing need for their presence. One example of a pressing need (no imaginary mass, though) was in the years following the discovery of the b quark. The Standard Model, if it had any validity, demanded that it must have a partner, the t quark. Eventually, it turned up. Whew.

    In particular, quantum field theory seems to insist that tachyons can’t exist, although my knowledge is not exactly up to date. Negative mass-squared arising from an imaginary mass results in an unstable vacuum state, and a phase transition to a new vacuum state with real masses (e.g the Hiigs mechanism). Hence, no tachyons.

    More generally, though, physicists don’t spend a lot of time on so-far-imaginary particles which they don’t need. They’re always in the literature if they are needed. There’s other stuff to worry about, like gravitons.

  40. tonysnark says

    Satoshi seems really bothered about people feeling morally superior to him. I bet that happens to him a lot!