Phillip Ball bitchslaps Mr. Harris

My lab amigo unfortunately fails to present much of an argument. If he was an economist, we would be forced to conclude that he was an extreme practitioner of the Ricardian Vice:

One somewhat frustrating aspect of this exchange for me has been that you seem to insist that any disagreement with your point of view is not genuine disagreement as such but is missing the point. My sense is that you cannot conceive how any sane, rational person can hold a point of view different from your own, so that if they insist on doing so, they are obviously being either obtuse or stupid. Your first long paragraph is all rhetoric along those lines. I’d add here that, while I won’t accuse you of intellectual laziness, I do feel that your absolutism is, like most absolutisms, the easy way out. There is then always a right answer, and your convictions supply it ready-made. I understand everything you say about religion being generally filled with irrational beliefs, and it would be very easy for me too to say that ‘people should not believe anything for bad or invalid or flaky reasons, and therefore we must strive to ensure that they never do.’ I suspect that philosophers might find that an epistemologically dodgy position to take, but I can see that it makes life easy. I don’t find it either attractive or useful, however….

But to the meat of your argument. I stated in my original article that at least your position can claim some philosophical rigour. I think this is the one aspect of the piece I might now have to withdraw.

I’ll write up a full review of this debate between atheists later, but the root problem is that because Harris’s basic argument is tautological in nature and empirically absurd – if you believe in religion then you must be incapable of scientific rationality – he finds it hard to understand how anyone can disagree with him. Compounding this is the fact that he pays no attention to what his opponent is actually saying and so fails to respond to the point at hand. And notice how, as usual, Harris is complaining that he’s being misunderstood. The thing is, if intelligent people continually fail to understand what you are saying, then the onus is on you to learn to communicate more clearly.