Thursday, October 09, 2014

Why SJWs are no better than New Atheists

I've been blogging lately about the fights between the New Atheists and Social Justice Warriors, of whom I've presented Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism as a leading example, especially since he tangled directly with Richard Dawkins as a result of writing a column attacking Dawkins in the British newspaper The Guardian.

But in his response to Bill Maher and Sam Harris vs. Ben Affleck, Lee demonstrated why SJWs and New Atheists are fundamentally the same: they hold simple-minded views of religion and human cultures.

Although he has some reservations, Lee basically agrees with Sam Harris and Bill Maher about Islam:
On the other hand, it’s not true, as defenders of Islam like Affleck have claimed, that Islam is a basically peaceful religion hijacked by a small minority of violent extremists. Even if you disregard terrorism and other non-state actors, nearly all of the countries where Islam holds power are repressive, illiberal theocracies.
This passage represents, perfectly, the ass-backwardness that SJWs and New Atheists share. Lee believes that because many countries that have repressive governments have a majority Muslim population, it means that the cause of the repression are the tenets of Islam itself.

Anybody who is not a half-wit can see through this mind-set by considering: the tenets of Christianity have not changed a jot since they were codified in the Bible, and yet majority-Christian nations are less repressive now than they were in the past. Clearly the cause-and-effect breaks down here.

The remarkable thing about the New Atheists and atheist SJWs like Adam Lee is that they attribute as much power to holy writings - to the actual words and prayers and books -  as any religionist does. Sweet mother of irony.

The mental model that they all use to comprehend the world was called by anthropologist Marvin Harris, "idealism" which he discusses in his book Cultural Materialism:
The intuition that thought determines behavior arises from the limited temporal and cultural perspective of ordinary experience. Conscious thoughts in the form of plans and itineraries certainly help individuals and groups to find a path through the daily complexities of social life. But these plans and itineraries merely chart the selection of preexisting behavioral "mazeways." Even in the most permissive societies and the richest in alternative roles, the planned actions - lunch, a lovers' tryst, an evening at the theater - are never conjured up out of thin air but are drawn from the inventory of recurrent scenes characteristic of that particular culture. The issue of behavioral versus mental determinism is not a matter of whether the mind guides action, but whether the mind determines the selection of the inventory of culturally actionable thoughts. As Schopenhauer said, "We want what we will, but we don't will what we want." Thus the human intuition concerning the priority of thought over behavior is worth just about as much as our human intuition that the earth is flat. To insist on the priority of mind in culture is to align one's understanding of socio-cultural phenomena with the anthropological equivalent of pre-Darwinian biology or pre-Newtonian physics. It is to believe in what Freud called "the omnipotence of thought." Such a belief is a form of intellectual infantilism that dishonors our species-given powers of thought. (Cultural Materialism, pp. 59 - 60)

"Intellectual infantilism" - that's exactly it. That's what Bill Maher, Sam Harris and Adam Lee all share.

And bonus in that passage above - Harris quotes Schopenhauer's immortal observation about free will (or absence thereof) - which I also quoted in my play JULIA & BUDDY. (And on my Facebook profile too, if you want to know.)

It should be noted that Sam Harris, along with all the other New Atheists, is a devotee of evolutionary psychology, which would seem to be mutually exclusive with idealism but evo-psycho doesn't have much to say about changes to human behavior that happen in a less-than-evolutionary time span, so it's useless when trying to explain, say, the changes in the relationship of nations and religions from the Enlightenment to the present. So they resort to the default mind-set of any common ignoramus.

Islam provides the "inventory of culturally actionable thoughts" but the impulse to violent behavior does not arise from reading the Koran any more than it arises from reading the Bible - the Koran and the Bible provide only a framework in which the violence - in response to infrastructural causes - happens.

But it's easier to be intellectually infantile, and so that's what SJWs and New Atheists do.