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Thread: Noam Chomsky on "New Atheism"

  1. Default Noam Chomsky on "New Atheism"

    Everybody has got some 'intellectual hero' or the other. For some here it's Richard Dawkins and Co. One of mine is Noam Chomsky.

    So here is what Chomsky has to say about the "New Atheists":

    Chomsky answers a question about the new crop of writers advocating atheism and wars against "Islamofascism" in the name of secularism such as Christopher Hitchens. Chomsky reply is first, followed by the original question to him. Chomsky, of course, incorrectly lists Jeane Kirkpatrick as Reagan's Secretary of State when in fact she only served as UN ambassador. Chomsky's reference to to the killing of tens of thousands of Africans refers to the effects of Clinton's bombing of the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan in 1998 and Hitchens's denunciation of Chomsky for comparing that bombing to 9-11.
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    Reply from NC,

    I don't think it's worthwhile to review Hitchens. On "moral equivalence," to my knowledge the concept was concocted, or at least popularized, by Jeane Kirkpatrick, as a way of slandering anyone who dared to raise some objections to the murderous terrorist wars that she was helping to implement as Reagan's Secretary of State, and as an apologist for state terror and repression. It's a term of vulgar propaganda, which should be dismissed with contempt. The same is true of the analogies of the kind you mention.

    I haven't been thrilled by the atheist movement. First, who is the audience? Is it religious extremists? Say right-wing evangelical Christians like George Bush (as you rightly point out)? Or is it very prominent Rabbis in Israel who call for visiting the judgment of Amalek on all Palestinians (total destruction, down to their animals)? Or is it the radical Islamic fundamentalists who have been Washington's most valued allies in the Middle East for 75 years (note that Bush's current trip to the Middle East celebrates two events: the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel, and the 75th anniversary of establishment of US-Saudi relations, each of which merits more comment)? If those are the intended audiences, the effort is plainly a waste of time. Is the audience atheists? Again a waste of time. Is it the grieving mother who consoles herself by thinking that she will see her dying child again in heaven? If so, only the most morally depraved will deliver solemn lectures to her about the falsity of her beliefs. Is it those who have religious affiliations and beliefs, but don't have to be reminded of what they knew as teenagers about the genocidal character of the Bible, the fact that biblical accounts are not literal truths, or that religion has often been the banner under which hideous crimes were carried out (the Crusades, for example)? Plainly not. The message is old hat, and irrelevant, at least for those whose religious affiliations are a way of finding some sort of community and mutual support in an atomized society lacking social bonds. Who, in fact, is the audience?

    Furthermore, if it is to be even minimally serious, the "new atheism" should focus its concerns on the virulent secular religions of state worship, so well exemplified by those who laud huge atrocities like the invasion of Iraq, or cannot comprehend why they might have some concern when their own state, with their support, carries out some of its minor peccadilloes, like killing probably tens of thousands of poor Africans by destroying their main source of pharmaceutical supplies on a whim -- arguably more morally depraved than intentional killing, for reasons I've discussed elsewhere. In brief, to be minimally serious the "new atheism" should begin by looking in the mirror.

    Without going on, I haven't found it thrilling, though condemnation of dangerous beliefs and great crimes is always in order.
    http://www.myspace.com/chomsky/blog/395413368

    Spot on. There are real problems out there. Of course religious fanatics who want to teach creationism in science classes are worrying, but as Michael Ruse has once aptly pointed out the new atheists aren't really helpful to fight that problem, quite the contrary.
    The big threat to independent science these days is not religion but corporate power, for example here: http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agric...-research.html
    So get your priorities straight, guys!
    Last edited by junobet; Mar 02 2012 at 12:30 PM.


  2. #2
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    as sharp as noam is, he failed to administer the reality of his argument.

    atheist are labeled by theist

    atheism is not a 'new' diety

    but to comprehend HIS belief system, then realize guilt is the method of imposing a responsibility to another, without looking at the self.

    ie... he never observed that an atheist is like an insomer with different identifiers based on its source

    That quote (of OP), if even from him, is perhaps one of the stupidest items i could have identifed from him, today!
    Last edited by Bishadi; Mar 03 2012 at 03:35 AM.

  3. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bishadi View Post
    as sharp as noam is, he failed to administer the reality of his argument.

    atheist are labeled by theist

    atheism is not a 'new' diety

    but to comprehend HIS belief system, then realize guilt is the method of imposing a responsibility to another, without looking at the self.

    ie... he never observed that an atheist is like an insomer with different identifiers based on its source

    That quote (of OP), if even from him, is perhaps one of the stupidest items i could have identifed from him, today!
    Sorry Bishadi, but obviously you don't even have the slightest clue what the issue is here.

    This link might help you to understand, but to be honest judging from previous discussions with you I doubt that you will:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_atheism

  4. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by junobet View Post
    Everybody has got some 'intellectual hero' or the other. For some here it's Richard Dawkins and Co. One of mine is Noam Chomsky.

    So here is what Chomsky has to say about the "New Atheists":

    http://www.myspace.com/chomsky/blog/395413368

    Spot on. There are real problems out there. Of course religious fanatics who want to teach creationism in science classes are worrying, but as Michael Ruse has once aptly pointed out the new atheists aren't really helpful to fight that problem, quite the contrary.
    The big threat to independent science these days is not religion but corporate power, for example here: http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agric...-research.html
    So get your priorities straight, guys!
    I'm not sure I see a point to this. It seems like an irrelevant discussion in total.

  5. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Someone View Post
    I'm not sure I see a point to this. It seems like an irrelevant discussion in total.
    The point is "What is the point to the New Atheism" ?

    It doesn't seem to have one other than raising non-problems (such as a supposed immanent conflict between science and religion). Their broad rejection of religion as the supposed monolithic source for all evil leads them to wear blinkers that keep them from aptly recognizing and addressing real problems.

  6. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by junobet View Post
    The point is "What is the point to the New Atheism" ?
    It's some intellectual-types mouthing off for money. I'm surprised that Chomsky can't recognize the point of this and the audience for it. It's intended to make some people money, and the audience are the people who buy in-fashion books because they're on the non-fiction bestseller list and being discussed in intellectual circles.

    He has noted similar instances in the past of other intellectuals cashing in through that precise mechanism.

    It doesn't seem to have one other than raising non-problems (such as a supposed immanent conflict between science and religion). Their broad rejection of religion as the supposed monolithic source for all evil leads them to wear blinkers that keep them from aptly recognizing and addressing real problems.
    They're writing incendiary books because they know it will win them attention from people who like to think about thinking, and will therefore buy all the accessories one is supposed to have when thinking.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Someone View Post
    It's some intellectual-types mouthing off for money. I'm surprised that Chomsky can't recognize the point of this and the audience for it. It's intended to make some people money, and the audience are the people who buy in-fashion books because they're on the non-fiction bestseller list and being discussed in intellectual circles.

    He has noted similar instances in the past of other intellectuals cashing in through that precise mechanism.



    They're writing incendiary books because they know it will win them attention from people who like to think about thinking, and will therefore buy all the accessories one is supposed to have when thinking.
    You mean like Dawkins, Hitchens, et al?

    Funny how a standard can be some daming when it is turned on teh accuser.

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Neutral View Post
    You mean like Dawkins, Hitchens, et al?
    That's who we're talking about, after all. Chomsky would not fall into the same category.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Someone View Post
    That's who we're talking about, after all. Chomsky would not fall into the same category.
    Oh, well, I guess we'll take your owrd at it?

    I mean Dawkins is a standard biology book, and Hitchens is used in every history class in the world!

    Agh, you getting that double standard criticism yet?

  10. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Neutral View Post
    Oh, well, I guess we'll take your owrd at it?
    When was the last time you saw a Chomsky book on the best seller list? I think the only time one has popped up there in recent years was when Chavez gave one of his books a recommendation.

    I mean Dawkins is a standard biology book, and Hitchens is used in every history class in the world!
    We're not talking about their other works, we're talking about their books on atheism.

    Agh, you getting that double standard criticism yet?
    What are you even talking about? You're literally not making sense. There's not two sides of this to be applying a standard to unevenly. We're talking about atheists who write books on atheism, and I commented on the atheists who write books on atheism, and nothing else. Where's the "double" part of "double standard"?
    Last edited by Someone; Mar 03 2012 at 11:36 AM.

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