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Monday, May 04, 2009

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That took him long enough to figure out. Noam Chomsky was ahead of him by several months.

(I have to say, I don't have much use for Hedges. I didn't much like War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning either.)

I like Bernard and most of his posts, but he seems to rub some people the wrong way. I sent a friend of mine a link to this post and he reacted very very negatively. But he's also an Obama fan, though I think he'd deny that's the reason he hated it. He thought Bernard sounded self-righteous. The problem is it's hard to talk about US foreign policy and the cluelessness of many liberals without sounding self-righteous--I'm acutely aware of how I sound when I rant about it, but don't see how it can be helped.

I remember your evil, Duncan--you disagreed with Arthur Silber. Gasp.

John--A geekfest? See, that's why it's best kept safely tucked away.

The link worked, but there seemed to be some underlining side effect to my html use.

Fixed, Donald...your closing tag had the slash after the "a" rather than before.

Duncan: Hedges supported Ralph Nader this time around, as he has consistently, and he's also consistently knocked Obama. I'm sure this isn't a brand new revelation for him—he's just writing down some of his thoughts at a time when people are looking for evaluations of Obama.

Personally I have plenty of use (and a tremendous amount of respect) for Hedges. He's one seriously dour dude in his writing, though, which does dampen my enthusiasm for reading his stuff. Nonetheless, I agree with him about 99.82% of the time...as long as he's not writing about religion.

Okay, that was dumb--I meant to put both of those posts in the previous thread where I had brought up Tolkien. I should just go to sleep before I accidentally put something up at Redstate.

I LOVE Hedges! Everything he writes? Nah, but his fury is such a great antidote to the touchy-feely, smiley-face, kindergarten crap we're inundated with so throughly. It's a catharsis--and so is yours, Caruso.

Thanks, Rosemary, much appreciated. And I agree that part of Hedges' appeal is how different his writing is from so many others; I said "dour", but I could just as well have said sober, serious, and thoughtful.

That man can state the obvious like no one else can. His style is too 'drill in your head' until it hurts. I like more subtle writing. But he's still an important voice out there.

I found my notes on War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, and they weren't as copious as I remembered, which means the book probably didn't annoy me as much as I remember. But it looks like Hedges largely went along with the US line on Serbia/Kosovo, and that was enough to turn me off, along with the pomposity of his writing.

His attack on the New Atheists didn't work for me, though I haven't read the book he got out of it. (Do I have to, Mom? Awwwwwww.) When you attack someone I dislike so badly that I end up having to defend the targets, it's not good. Hedges needs to remember that just because Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett are bloody fools, that doesn't mean that religion or believers are therefore innocent. ("The enemy of my enemy is not my friend" is not exactly rocket science.)

But to each his own. Mnyeh.

Duncan: I'd defend Dawkins, but I *especially* think that you are engaging in some baseless aspersions if you haven't read Dennett before calling him a "bloody fool." His book is hands down the best of the crop of New Atheists, very measured and intelligent and thoughtful. Personally, I think Hedges' take on the New Atheists is mostly a misguided attempt to defend the remaining vestiges of his religious sensibility from, ah, well-founded critique. I say this even about Harris, though I despise the man and anything he says about Islam.

Alaya, that's a bit of a reach; why do you assume that I haven't read these guys? I've read Dennett for years, though (I confess) none of his books. I read his debates with people like John Searle and Stephen Jay Gould in the New York Review of Books years ago, and what I took away from that is that he prefers tantrums and ad hominems to reasoned debate. That's supported by his recent interview at The Beast, where he still relies on (baseless, I would add) ad hominems against Searle. He's also, like Dawkins, a champion of the meme meme, which has no scientific basis I know of. Maybe he's better in Breaking the Spell, but saying that it's "hands down the best of the crop of New Atheists" is on its face like saying that Ann Coulter is hands down the smartest of New Right media whores.

I have read Dawkins's Selfish Gene which contains some elementary mistakes about elementary theory (retained in later editions, by the way), and of course introduced the meme. The interesting thing to me about both of these guys is that neither one of them is a scientist. That's important because sociologists and historians of scientists are often accused of a lack of scientific training (often falsely) by their critics such as Gross and Levitt. But apparently it's okay to be a non-scientist as long as you will defend the true faith against all its enemies -- rather as Christians can get away with outrageous misinformation about Christianity, as long as they defend it against the infidels. (It's the same with politics and history; you don't need to have your facts right as long as you believe that America is always right, or that its virtues outweigh its defects.)

I wasn't defending Hedges's attack on the New Atheists, if you'll look again. As I said, the enemy of my enemy is not my friend. Your explanation of his motives may well be correct, but I doubt Dawkins' or Dennett's or Hitchens' or Harris's motives would stand much scrutiny either. Most of these guys have signed onto the War Against Terror and Islamofascism, even though it means making common cause with Christofascists and Judeofascists -- they're willing to make certain sacrifices of principle, it seems. Harris's book got a favorable blurb from Alan Dershowitz, which is almost enough to discredit him in itself; but he went on to write Letter to a Christian Nation, in which he asks Christians to join hands with him against the Islamic beast.

Now, I'm an atheist, but in itself atheism is not a rational position: what makes it rational or not is one's reasons for taking the position, and one's reasoning from it afterward. One reason I haven't read Dawkins or Dennett's books against religion is that I don't get the impression they have anything new to say to me, and what I have heard of their presentation is not particularly rational. For instance, they keep talking about religion as though it were some external, autonomous force imposed on human beings instead of something that human beings ourselves invented and developed. Which indicates that, as I found when I read Philip Kitcher's recent book on Darwinism and religion, they are ignorant about religion and haven't thought very deeply about it. I find these guys embarrassing to read. As I wrote about A.C. Grayling, why should I read Grayling or the other New Atheists when I have already read Bertrand Russell? Or Antony Flew, or Walter Kauffmann, or any number of others?

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