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Jan 31 2013

I agree with this article

Islamic extremists have been destroying ancient manuscripts in an important library in Timbuktu. You know what that means? It’s time to chastise Richard Dawkins!

The latest furore comes after Islamist extremists burned down a sacred library in Timbuktu, Mali, during the ongoing conflict there. Prof Dawkins tweeted "Like Alexandria, like Bamiyan, Timbuktu’s priceless manuscript heritage destroyed by Islamic barbarians."

Cue much clutching of pearls and fainting. "He’s been mean about a religion!"

The article makes a very good point: “if you burn down a library, ‘barbarian’ is probably the right term.” I’d also add that if libraries are burnt down, your priority ought not to be to wag a finger at the people protesting the vandalism, but to at least wag that finger in the right direction…at the vandals.

49 comments

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  1. 1
    consciousness razor

    Prof Dawkins tweeted “Like Alexandria, like Bamiyan, Timbuktu’s priceless manuscript heritage destroyed by Islamic barbarians.”

    Yes, like the library of Alexandria. The Romans destroyed some of that heritage three different times. What have the Romans ever done for us?

    The article makes a very good point: “if you burn down a library, ‘barbarian’ is probably the right term.”

    Anyone who’s not a Greek is a True Barbarian™. Like those nasty, brutish Romans.

    The usual, not-so-jingoistic term for someone who’s culturally destructive (but not necessarily violent) is “philistine.”

  2. 2
    Arkady

    Via a friend on FB, latest news from the research project is that hopefully there have been relatively few manuscripts destroyed, thanks to the efforts of the research staff before the arseholes took over the city: http://www.tombouctoumanuscripts.org/blog/entry/timbuktu_update/

  3. 3
    J Dubb

    The thing is, most everyone in Mali is Muslim. The original creators of those priceless manuscripts were Muslims. These people were/are not Islamic extremists.

    Now, the idiots who poured in from Libya and other places and then went all Taliban on everything in sight? Islamic extremists. I hope the international community aids them in their quest to be martyrs in a real timely fashion.

  4. 4
    Simon

    It is not at all clear when or who destroyed the library of Alexandria. There are four possibilities and only one of them involves a Muslim conqueror: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_of_Alexandria#Destruction

    The other three possibilities involve Roman and Byzantine emperors.

    And as an FYI, the biggest destroyers of ancient Greek temples where the early Byzantine Christian emperors who wanted a break with Greece’s pagan past. Much more so than the Romans and the Ottomans. The temples that did survive, did so largely by being turned into Christian churches. The Parthenon being a prime example of this.

  5. 5
    peterh

    It’s refreshing to see that Chivers has kept the “shoot the messenger” approach in play, at least for the fish-wrap press.

  6. 6
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    The library (Ahmed Baba Centre) was a gift from the South African government to the people of Mali, to help them collate and protect the manuscripts. It was designed by a fellow architect from Cape Town, Derek Henstra.

  7. 7
    tbp1

    I LOVE the remark, “Eventually you just have to admit that if it looks like the absence of a duck, walks like the absence of a duck, and quacks like the absence of a duck, the duck is probably absent.”

  8. 8
    Owlglass

    Alas, it is very common that accommodationist confuse belief systems that meet certain criteria (as usually laid out and criticised), with a general populace that may or may not held such beliefs in varying degrees. Iconoclasm of any kind, like destroying religious artifacts is also something different than the people who made them, and the belief systems that inspired them.

  9. 9
    Gregory in Seattle

    @consciousness razor #1 – The Romans were responsible only twice, and both times were accidents, casualties of larger wars. The Christians and Muslims deliberately targeted the Library with willful intent of destroying all the knowledge it contained.

    As for using “barbarian,” it has had a meaning of “uncivilized” since ancient times. The word “philistine” comes from a root meaning “invade” with the sense of “conquer.” While it may appropriately describe the foreigners who have come to Mali to conquer it and force it into a Taliban state, the act of destroying Timbuktu’s library is better described with “barbarian,” in the sense that they are acting as destroyers of civilization.

  10. 10
    davidw

    @tbp1 – Agreed! The “duck” comment is well worth repeating!

  11. 11
    postman

    Doesn’t the word philistine come from those guys?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philistines

  12. 12
    birgerjohansson

    During early Islam until at least the eleventh century, the dominant intellectual faction was progressive in terms of science, and very deliberately translated Greek manuscripts to Arabic to integrate their intellectual heritage. Many Greek manuscripts are only known to us through Arabic translations.
    Around the eleventh century, there was an intellectual counteroffensive by traditionalist (we would call them fundies) and mysticist (sufi) groups, beginning with the book The Destruction of Philosophy or Criticism of Philosophy (depending on how you translate the title).
    The Mongols sacked Baghdad and burned the big library. Without a political center, increasingly ruled by kings who relied on the most conserva tive clerics, and with the Turks replacing the kaliphate Islam lost its early intellectual tradition. It is as if the Enlightenment had been aborted and replaced by Cotton Mather.

  13. 13
    Nangua

    Richard Dawkins is a very smart man, so it surprises me that he did not use the most appropriate term for this (Philistines). Blaming muslim barbarians for the burning the library is not historically accurate (at best it’s unconfirmed) and really just seems like a statement to piss a group of people off. Most Malians are muslims to the best of my knowledge, and they were preserving these priceless documents until extremist vandals decided to burn them. Many of the manuscripts we have that complete our knowledge of ancient Greek thought and philosophy were preserved by muslims.

    I am not a fan of religion in any form, but I do try to be as accurate as possible before pissing someone off because angry people will call your bull shit the moment they see it.

    By the way, the xenophobic term barbarian included a lot of people, not just muslims.

  14. 14
    clastum3

    A phillistine in the UK at least, is someone who though otherwise civilised just has no appreciation of art.

    And as others above have pointed out, it doesn’t have any connotation of violence.

  15. 15
    Eamon Knight

    @7: And also this one:

    The fourth “horseman”, Daniel Dennett, is gentler, as befits a man who looks like the love-child of Father Christmas and Charles Darwin.

    ;-)

  16. 16
    Nangua

    @clastum3: but philistine vandal would work perfectly well here, no?

  17. 17
    strange gods before me ॐ

    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2233/what-happened-to-the-great-library-of-alexandria

    I’d also add that if libraries are burnt down, your priority ought not to be to wag a finger at the people protesting the vandalism, but to at least wag that finger in the right direction…at the vandals.

    Fallacy: false dilemma.

    A commenter at Stormfront, in their “Atheist Professor Dawkins outrages Muslims with comments over Mali extremists wrecking library” thread, writes:

    I saw this on the news, only thing worse than a black guy or a Muslim is a MIXTURE OF BOTH!!

    That whole aria of Africa will be Muslim African in no time, and they’re all “immigrating” to a town near you..

    Another writes:

    Well, they are barbarians (do they even know what a fork is?) and they are followers of islam. I don’t see the problem.

    By your stated logic here, PZ, it is a problem to criticize these white nationalists.

  18. 18
    Fred Salvador, Onion Jumbler

    It is not at all clear when or who destroyed the library of Alexandria. There are four possibilities and only one of them involves a Muslim conqueror: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_of_Alexandria#Destruction

    The other three possibilities involve Roman and Byzantine emperors.

    I agree. The consequences of Dawkins splurging lyrical without engaging his intellect beforehand are readily apparent to anyone who’s been around FtB for any length of time.

    I share his revulsion at this act of vandalism committed in the name of Islam by Islamists, but find myself wishing upon clenched teeth that he’d thought more carefully about the words he used to make his point.

    And as an FYI, the biggest destroyers of ancient Greek temples where the early Byzantine Christian emperors who wanted a break with Greece’s pagan past. Much more so than the Romans and the Ottomans. The temples that did survive, did so largely by being turned into Christian churches. The Parthenon being a prime example of this.

    Keep hand-wringing like that and you’ll get calluses.

    Wailing “Christians did/ do it too!” whenever someone calls out Islamist vitriol, vandalism or violence committed by Islamists in the name of Islam is not only self-righteous and pathetic, it’s also a disservice to the atheist movement worldwide. Atheists in the West have been getting much, much better recently at lending their voices to the voiceless anti-religionists in Islamist states (where Islamists intimidate anti-religionists into silence in the name of Islam) by correctly ascribing the blame for Islamist actions to Islamists, and to the Islamic belief system – as fractious as it is.

    If you are physically incapable of criticising Islam or Islamism in any way, then please reserve yourself for discussions with people who erroneously ascribe culpability for Islamic misdeeds to all East Africans/ Arabs/ South Asians – although I should warn you that even in those discussions your half-baked “Christians did it too!” shit won’t fly.

  19. 19
    Pierce R. Butler

    consciousness razor et al. above: … “philistine.”

    Please be more careful using that word. The descendants of that particular ethnic group are still around, still a cohesive body, and still subject to an amazing and disgusting array of systematic human rights abuses. To join in the denigration of that group is to take sides in an ongoing nasty ethnic feud – on the part of those inflicting the most harm (tally up a casualty list, if you can even find one…).

  20. 20
    Rob Grigjanis

    SGBM @17: Priority implies precedence, not exclusivity.

  21. 21
    Simon

    @Fred Salvador – Colonialist #18:

    The FYI you quote is to relate information about Greece. The library of Alexandria is considered part of Greek heritage. I am from Greece and think this is information that many people do not know.

    I am perfectly capable and willing to criticize Islam thank you very much.

  22. 22
    Fred Salvador, Onion Jumbler

    By your stated logic here, PZ, it is a problem to criticize these white nationalists.

    Fallacy: Argumentum ad rectum.

    It is perfectly possible to criticise what these white nationalists are saying because what they’re saying is wrong – which is par for the course when dealing with individuals whose ideology holds that people deficient in certain proteins are somehow more entitled to Earthly wealth and privilege than people who are not. Islamic extremists committed an act of barbarous vandalism in the name of Islam, yet from this special case the respondents have extrapolated a general conclusion that they believe applies to everyone who has ever answered the azan.

    Which is wrong. And stupid. Again, par for the course.

  23. 23
    raven

    Meriam Webster dictionary:

    1. a native or inhabitant of ancient Philistia

    2. often not capitalized a : a person who is guided by materialism and is usually disdainful of intellectual or artistic values b : one uninformed in a special area of knowledge

    Philistine as a name for vicious terrorists doesn’t really work.

    Just call them wild eyed, violent, religious fanatics, terrorists, and murderers.

    And the Philistines were libeled. Most people know who they were from the bible and they were one of the enemies of the writers of the bible. IIRC, Samson was captured, got his magic hair cut off, and was blinded by the Philistines.

    The bible is very definitely a biased source for info about anti-Judaic enemies such as the Babylonians, Canaanites, Assyrians, Egyptians, Samaritans, and Philistines. It’s propaganda.

    Despite all the ink and papyrus demonizing the Philistines, the Judaics never actually conquered them. The Philistines held the Palestinian coastline well into Roman times and seem to have eventually just blended into the general population.

  24. 24
    consciousness razor

    The Romans were responsible only twice, and both times were accidents, casualties of larger wars. The Christians and Muslims deliberately targeted the Library with willful intent of destroying all the knowledge it contained.

    Well, the “Christians” were in the service of the Roman emperor, so if I were counting ancient crimes against groups of people today, I don’t see why I couldn’t count that against Romans (who of course today are mostly Christians anyway).

    As for using “barbarian,” it has had a meaning of “uncivilized” since ancient times.

    Or “not Greek,” because that’s how the Greeks used it. If “civilization” had anything to do with it, civilization was apparently only whatever Greeks did.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. bombs brown people like mad; but I never hear about how we’re “barbarians” or how “uncivilized” we are because of it. Some would call us “aggressive” or “imperialistic” (if they’re not totally deluded); but we somehow always manage to keep the stink of civilization on us, no matter if it’s libraries or people or whateverthefuck. Or if some think we do lose it or revoke it or something, for some reason that particular subject never seems to come up in conversation.

    The word “philistine” comes from a root meaning “invade” with the sense of “conquer.”

    I don’t know where you learned that….

    Philistine
    O.T. people of coastal Palestine, who made war on the Israelites, mid-14c., from O.Fr. Philistin, from L.L. Philistinus, from Late Gk. Philistinoi, from Heb. P’lishtim, “people of P’lesheth” (“Philistia”); cf. Akkad. Palastu, Egyptian Palusata; the word probably is the people’s name for itself.

    philistine
    “person deficient in liberal culture,” 1827, originally in Carlyle, popularized by him and Matthew Arnold, from Ger. Philister “enemy of God’s word,” lit. “Philistine,” inhabitants of a Biblical land, neighbors (and enemies) of Israel (see Philistine). Popularized in Ger. student slang (supposedly first in Jena, late 17c.) as a contemptuous term for “townies,” and hence, by extension, “any uncultured person.” Philistine had been used in a humorous fig. sense of “the enemy” in Eng. from c.1600.

    The most salient meaning of it for me comes from references Robert Schumann made, but I’m sort of a music nerd.

    Please be more careful using that word.

    Well, I tend to agree, but “barbarian” is no better. I don’t think of Palestinians as Philistines, but I can understand why it could be a problem. (But note the capital P there: that could be a way to distinguish the meanings, but I doubt that’s really enough.)

  25. 25
    raven

    The Moslems need to grow up.

    Part of growing up is putting your religious fanatics in a box with a short leash.

    It’s been a few centuries since we let the xians burn a library or living people. They can and do still burn books but they have to buy them first.

    I can’t remember the last xian book burning but IIRC, it was a Harry Potter bonfire a few years ago. They can be amusing when they try (and fail) to look like normal adults.

  26. 26
    Rob Grigjanis

    CR @24: “I don’t think of Palestinians as Philistines, but I can understand why it could be a problem.”

    I tried to find references to Palestinians being offended by the term, but there’s a lot of white noise when you google anything to do with Palestine. I can imagine at least some Palestinians might feel dodgy about it, since the Arab word for ‘Palestinian’ is pronounced something like ‘Filastin’ (‘Palestine’ and ‘Philistine’ are cognate).

  27. 27
    raven

    freedomforum.org: Book-burning in America: when wizards go up in smoke
    www. freedomforum.org/ templates/document.asp?documentID…
    6 posts – 1 author – 13 Jan 2002

    Harry Potter went up in flames in Alamogordo, N.M., one recent winter evening. … of Christ Community Church sang “Amazing Grace” in a public book … The first recorded book burning in the United States came in 1650.

    For anyone who wants to get in touch with their inner Dark Ages barbarian, you can either find a fundie xian death cult in New Mexico or join al-Qaeda in the Mahgreb.

  28. 28
    Fred Salvador, Onion Jumbler

    The lesson is clear, really; we should, in future, refer to Islamist vandals as “rat-fuckers” and militants as “shite-bags”, in order to avoid ridiculous debates over the semantics to flare up in response to indelicate criticism of incidents of Islamist violence or vandalism.

    It may also help deter the self-righteous from unintentionally disparaging an entire ethnic group in their hubristic clamour to find a less ‘offensive’ alternative to whatever word was used (the irony in this would be delicious if it weren’t so sad).

    The FYI you quote is to relate information about Greece. The library of Alexandria is considered part of Greek heritage. I am from Greece and think this is information that many people do not know.

    Excellent! I’ve got a few facts about Merseyside if you’d like to hear them? That’s where I’m from, y’see.

    Or maybe I should keep them for a different thread, since they are entirely irrelevant to this one.

    I am perfectly capable and willing to criticize Islam thank you very much.

    Make that clearer next time, because when you reply to a blog post about the meal-mouthy pearl-clutching that inevitably accompanies any indelicate criticism of Islam or Islamism with a string of facts about Greece it seems like you’re equivocating.

    Breathe and focus.

  29. 29
    clastum3

    Yes, Dawkins general point is ok, but he got it wrong on the library of Alexandria. That the story of the moslems destroying it was propaganda was recognized as long ago as Gibbon, who surmised that the library no longer existed when they conquered the city.

  30. 30
    Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun)

    Richard Dawkins is a very smart man, so it surprises me that he did not use the most appropriate term for this (Philistines).

    Actually, if you want to pin it on a historic population, “vandal” is more than sufficient. And with the bonus that no population group (at least none that I know of) identifies as Vandal or any similar term.

    Wikipedia on Vandals

  31. 31
    Fred Salvador, Onion Jumbler

    or join al-Qaeda in the Mahgreb

    It’s Ansar Dine doing the burning in Mali, actually. The context of the conflict involves a largely secular Tuareg rebellion seeking autonomy over the northern region of Mali, Azawad, allying themselves with the thoroughly Islamist Ansar Dine and believing they could ride the dragon of Islamism to victory.

    It backfired. Rather badly, considering Awazad is now being forcibly repatriated and the rebellion has incited a wave of intracommunal violence against ethnic Tuaregs by non-Tuareg Malians in areas of the country not claimed by the rebellion. It’s quite a nasty conflict all told, and it’s been going on for a few years now. Makes you wonder why it took the imminent establishment of an Islamist base of operations to spur the internatio-oh right, they don’t have oil in Mali.

    AQIM is a different beast altogether. The lines blur somewhat when considering the family ties (Ansar Dine’s leader is the cousin of AQIM’s figurehead) and they’re likely watered from the same (Saudi Arabia-shaped) hole, but they’re not the same group.

  32. 32
    Fred Salvador, Onion Jumbler

    *Azawad, not Awazad.

  33. 33
    clastum3

    Gibbon also reckoned that even had the library of Alexandria still existed in the 7th century, it would’ve been full, not of the treasures Greek philosophy, but of the dreary controversies of the christians: nicene creed vs. Arianism, gnosticism, the monophysites, the monotheletism etc. etc.

  34. 34
    neutrinosarecool

    The Roman emperor Diocletian was so fearful of the alchemists turning base metals into gold – and using it to finance insurrections – that he ordered the destruction of all chemical textbooks around 292 AD, putting chemical science in Europe on hold for a good thousand years or so.

    The Christian dictatorship in Europe wanted Galileo silenced because his solar-centric model threatened their claim to absolute authority and knowledge. And in Saudi Arabia, Islamic clerics try to prevent the teaching of evolution in state universities, just as Christian priests do in the United States, because it is in conflict with their respective holy books.

    It’s not just religion, however – Stalin (the atheist) allowed Lysenko to forbid the teaching of genetics in the Soviet Union, because it was opposed to communist ideology (leading to disasters in Soviet agriculture).

    Autocratic people are afraid of knowledge falling into everyone’s hands, because it might threaten their grasp on power. This applies to religious dictatorships, secular dictatorships, slave plantation owners, etc.

  35. 35
    strange gods before me ॐ

    SGBM @17: Priority implies precedence, not exclusivity.

    But “wag that finger in the right direction”, using the definite article, implies there is only one right direction. Then it is a problem to talk about this in any way other than criticizing the vandals.

    We know PZ thinks there’s nothing wrong with what Dawkins said. It’s reasonable to infer that he thinks that there can’t be any legitimate criticism of what Dawkins said, and thus any such criticism is wrongly “prioritized”.

    For instance, someone on Twitter said “@RichardDawkins Isn’t referring to people as Barbarians a little ethnocentric and nasty?” and “@RichardDawkins Obviously I agree with your outrage.”

    Is that criticism okay?

    It is perfectly possible to criticise what these white nationalists are saying because what they’re saying is wrong

    I agree it should be, but it is not admissible under PZ’s logic that there is only one right direction for criticism.

    The lesson is clear, really; we should, in future, refer to Islamist vandals as “rat-fuckers” and militants as “shite-bags”

    Or, better yet, as Islamist vandals and militants.

  36. 36
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Fred Salvador,

    What are you saying when you refer to yourself as a colonialist?

    Excellent! I’ve got a few facts about Merseyside if you’d like to hear them? That’s where I’m from, y’see.

    Or maybe I should keep them for a different thread, since they are entirely irrelevant to this one.

    Make that clearer next time, because when you reply to a blog post about the meal-mouthy pearl-clutching that inevitably accompanies any indelicate criticism of Islam or Islamism with a string of facts about Greece it seems like you’re equivocating.

    Breathe and focus.

    Yes, Fred, breathe. When you calm down, you might consider that Simon was responding to comment #1, not the OP.

  37. 37
    CJO

    The Roman emperor Diocletian was so fearful of the alchemists turning base metals into gold – and using it to finance insurrections – that he ordered the destruction of all chemical textbooks around 292 AD, putting chemical science in Europe on hold for a good thousand years or so.

    The sources for this are dodgy. It’s been offered as an explanation for why we have none of the “original” Graeco-Egyptian alchemical texts, but to me it sounds like an apocrophal story in search of an explanandum. That is, a much more likely answer to that puzzle is that practically nothing survives, of any sort, and charlatans are always at pains to surround their output with an aura of obscurity and secrecy.

    What is certain is that Diocletian was convinced as an autocrat that he could take this whole matter of coinage and taxes and prices in hand and sit atop a controlled economy. The results of this were particularly disastrous, of course, as he lacked a working understanding of any theory of markets. So the story is plausible as far as it goes. If Diocletian had come to believe that magicians in Egypt had some means of producing gold and silver by magic, he would certainly have tried to suppress it.

    But whether he issued such an edict or not, any such action could not have, at a stroke, “[put] chemical science in Europe on hold for a good thousand years or so”. The idea that some cabal of Graeco-Egyptian sorcerers operating out of Alexandria had a monopoly on metallurgic knowledge is a medieval fantasy.

  38. 38
    brucegorton

    Jean-françois Bélisle-

    Philistine is a bit racist – barbarian is more generic.

  39. 39
    anchor

    #18 Fred Salvador, colonialist admonishes:

    “Keep hand-wringing like that and you’ll get calluses.”

    Watch out for your own hand-wringing, spawning not calluses but blisters.

    Yes, seconding SGBM: by all means, ‘breathe and focus’…easy, or those hands might burst into flames.

  40. 40
    Fred Salvador, Onion Jumbler

    Fred Salvador,

    What are you saying when you refer to yourself as a colonialist?

    Some ex-pat Brit currently cloistered in the USA called me a “colonialist” in another thread because I dared to suggest that restricting ownership of assault rifles in the USA would prevent people being killed by them, like it does here in the UK. There’s a trope on Pharyngula whereby people incorporate the best insult they’ve received into their username, and ‘colonialist’ is the best one I’ve gotten so far (I did score a delicious ‘spiggot pig-fucker’ on Youtube a while ago but I don’t think we’re allowed to cross-code). I tend to think my communication skill is sufficient to bear out the irony.

    I agree it should be, but it is not admissible under PZ’s logic that there is only one right direction for criticism.

    Is that his logic? I can’t see how anyone could take that away from this post unless they were making a conscious effort to do so.

    Dawkins’ reference to the library at Alexandria was ill-considered, but nothing else he said was remotely inaccurate. We can tell the Prof to engage his brain fully before he next composes a Tweet whilst simultaneously deploring the act of Islamist idiocy that drew his ire in the first place. We don’t have to pick one or the other, and I’d be shocked if PZ was suggesting we should.

    Or, better yet, as Islamist vandals and militants.

    So why not do that? Why make your initial response to this post a swipe at your interpretation of PZ’s ‘logic’ with no reference whatsoever to the act of Islamist idiocy that precipitated it?

    Yes, Fred, breathe. When you calm down, you might consider that Simon was responding to comment #1, not the OP.

    Maybe he was, but his response is congruent with the cry of “Christians did it too!” that usually follows any criticism of Islam or Islamism in the West; and since reply #1 is basically a big ol’ bag of same I don’t really understand your objection to me having a go at him.

    I suppose I’m just surprised that everyone’s shitting their pants to whine about Alexandria and semantics when some Islamist morons burned an ancient library. The same Islamist shite-hawks who have been smashing up various Sufi shrines – some of them centuries old – across northern Mali whilst simultaneously carrying out a string of human rights abuses as part and parcel of their hijacked revolution. Then again it took the burning of a library to get people to pay attention to this nasty, violent little civil war that’s been grinding on for a goodly while now, so, y’know… ho hum.

    Watch out for your own hand-wringing, spawning not calluses but blisters.

    Yes, seconding SGBM: by all means, ‘breathe and focus’…easy, or those hands might burst into flames.

    Care to elucidate, or are we just going to fling baseless invective back and forth for a bit?

  41. 41
    clastum3

    #27 raven

    Harry Potter went up in flames in Alamogordo, N.M., one recent winter evening. … of Christ Community Church sang “Amazing Grace” in a public book … The first recorded book burning in the United States came in 1650.

    For anyone who wants to get in touch with their inner Dark Ages barbarian, you can either find a fundie xian death cult in New Mexico or join al-Qaeda in the Mahgreb.

    …according to you then our very own PZ is in contact with his barbarian inner dark ages?

    But I don’t agree with your islamist apologetics: putting the combustion of Potter and driving a nail through a couple of pages of your own copy of the Koran on the same level as destroying priceless cultural and historical artefacts is a false equivalent for me.

  42. 42
    Rob Grigjanis

    Fred @40: “his response is congruent with the cry of “Christians did it too!””

    I thought his response was congruent with “Alexandria was a poor choice for Dawkins”, and the Romans involved weren’t Christians anyway. Maybe congruence is in the eye of the beholder.

    “I suppose I’m just surprised that everyone’s shitting their pants to whine…”

    Departing from Fred-approved outrage amounts to self-soiling and whining? Well at least you didn’t indulge in baseless invective.

  43. 43
    dawnbyrnes

    I have a simple response to any form of deliberate destruction of cultural and historical objects and knowledge:

    “Fuck you.”

  44. 44
    Fred Salvador, Onion Jumbler

    I thought his response was congruent with “Alexandria was a poor choice for Dawkins”, and the Romans involved weren’t Christians anyway. Maybe congruence is in the eye of the beholder.

    It is, if you don’t read with the same diligence as you whine. Have another go.

    Departing from Fred-approved outrage amounts to self-soiling and whining?

    Alternatively, bloviating historical and/ or semantic on the content of a critical statement while the issue it criticises remains unaddressed demonstrates the wrong-headedness of many secular individuals. Apparently the disputable historical accuracy of the first example Dawkins chose and his failure to keep it agreeably anodyne is a graver concern than Islamists ruining a library (and various ancient shrines, and the lives of several thousand people in Azawad) in the name of Islam.

    Islamic extremists have been destroying ancient manuscripts in an important library in Timbuktu. You know what that means? It’s time to chastise Richard Dawkins!

    Seems PZ was right!

    Well at least you didn’t indulge in baseless invective.

    It’s not baseless if you deserve it.

  45. 45
    smellyoldgit

    Hmm, are the reports of mass manuscript destruction a trifle hyped up?

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/31/us-mali-rebels-manuscripts-idUSBRE90T0F020130131

  46. 46
    consciousness razor

    Alternatively, bloviating historical and/ or semantic on the content of a critical statement while the issue it criticises remains unaddressed demonstrates the wrong-headedness of many secular individuals.

    You keep talking about “semantics,” which is simply what things mean, not a club with which you can handwave issues into oblivion. The issue in question is Dawkins’ and PZ’s statements, because those mean things. Obviously, what happened to the library is another issue worth talking about (which is in fact being addressed, so I have no idea what you could mean by that), but that does not make the issue with their statements not worth addressing.

  47. 47
    clastum3

    Looking at wikipedia on the library of Alexandria, I see I got it a bit wrong in blaming christian propaganda for the story that the muslims destroyed it. In fact, the first sources to claim this were muslim, albeit over 500yrs after the alleged event. Scholarly opinion doesn’t accept their account, but doesn’t the fact that muslims were happy to claim responsibility for the destruction partially vindicate Dawkins on this?

    There are other places in the muslim world where things like this are still going on. We had a tv programme here recently about the destruction taking place right now of buddhist reliefs from the Gandhara culture all over the HinduKush and the Swat valley. The earlier destruction of many of the treasures of the Kabul museum was also covered.

  48. 48
    abear
  49. 49
    J Dubb

    The etymology of the word ‘barbarian’ refers to Berbers. By a strange coincidence, the Tuaregs are… Berbers.

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