Friday, September 08, 2006

John Horgan criticizes Adler's Newsweek piece on "The New Naysayers"

Science writer John Horgan (author of the excellent book Rational Mysticism) weighs in on Jerry Adler's "The New Naysayers" in Newsweek, an article about Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris:
As I expected—can it be otherwise for a mass-market essayist?–he panders to his audience, which is after all predominantly religious. (Adler notes that a recent Newsweek poll found that 92 percent of Americans believe in God and only 37 would vote for an atheist for President.) He does a fair job of summarizing the “highly inflammatory” arguments of Dennett/Dawkins/Harris, namely, that religions make false and contradictory claims and spur people to commit destructive acts. But Adler not-so-subtly distances himself from the skeptics’ viewpoints.
And what is Adler really saying here? Just this: we must give a pass to delusional beliefs that are held sincerely by millions of people, especially if they are Newsweek subscribers. I have my differences with Dawkins et al, but I admire their courage, especially compared to the cowardice that afflicts pop-culture intellectuals like Adler when they write about religion.
P.Z. Myers has are more detailed critique of the Newsweek piece here.

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