Om å debattere med nyateister

Advarsel: Kontroversiell post følger!

Okay, jeg innrømmer det. Jeg er blitt ganske stor fan av katolikk og thomistisk filosof Edward Feser, til tross for at han har en tendens til å behandle nyateister med samme brutale og nedlatende tone som de selv viser (resutatet er morsomt å lese, selv om vi kristne egentlig skylder å holde et høfligere nivå). Feser skiller seg likevel ut på en fundamental måte. Han har en sylskarp kontroll og bakgrunnskunnskap på temaene han kaster seg ut på (kanskje fordi han holder seg innenfor sine egne felt), en uangripelig systematikk i det han skriver og er til og med i stand til å skryte av mer gjennomreflekterte ateister, som Nagel, Rosenberg, Mackie, osv.

cartoon

Denne posten tiltalte meg særlig. Kanskje fordi jeg har vært borti litt for mange lignende “samtaler” selv i det siste med Dawkins-disipler som er sikre på at de klarer å sette religiøse fast på 140 tegn eller med en utblåsing i diverse kommentarfelt. Favorites og likes samler seg, før man utroper seg selv til vinner, og venter på neste mulighet. “Debatten” videre ligner skremmende mye på denne.

Se for deg følgende hypotetiske samtale mellom en vitenskapsmann og en vitenskapshatende “skeptiker”: (Jeg prøvde å oversette, men det var for mange poenger som forsvant i oversettelsen)

Skeptic: Science is BS.  Physicists believe in these things called “quarks,” which are little flavored particles that spin around and work like magic charms.  Their evidence is that they read about them in a James Joyce novel.  Some of them think the universe is made up of tiny shoelaces tied together, though they admit that they have no evidence for this and have to take it on faith.  Einstein said morality is all relative – which is why he stole his ideas from this guy who worked in a patent office, and why Richard Feynman stole atomic secrets during WWII.  Meanwhile, the chemists contradict the physicists and believe instead in little colored balls held together by sticks.  Biologists believe monkeys can give birth to human beings. What a bunch of crap!  It’s child abuse to teach kids about this stuff in schools.

Scientist: Are you joking?  If not, I suggest that you actually read some science before criticizing it.

Skeptic: I’ve already read a lot about it, in blog comboxes like this one.  And why should I waste my time reading anything else?  Ialready know it’s all BS!  Didn’t you hear the examples I just gave?

Scientist: No, you’re missing my point.  You’ve completely distorted what scientists actually say.  It’s not remotely as silly as you think it is.  In fact it’s not silly at all.  But you need to actually read the stuff to see that.

Skeptic: So you deny that physicists believe in quarks?  What flavor are your quarks, chocolate or vanilla?  Do you deny that they think we came from monkeys?  Which monkey was your mother?

Scientist: No one says that monkeys gave birth to humans.  That’s a ridiculous caricature.  And of course I don’t deny that physicists believe in quarks, but you’re badly misunderstanding what they mean when they attribute “flavor” to them.  They don’t mean that literally…

Skeptic: Oh so it’s just empty verbiage, then.  See, you’re just proving my point for me.

Scientist: No, it’s not empty verbiage.  It’s technical terminology.

Skeptic: I see, like magic spells.  That’s why they talk about “charm.”  Really, you’re just digging the hole deeper.

Scientist: Actually, it’s you who is digging your own hole deeper. That’s not what they mean by “charm.”  If you knew anything at all about physics, you’d realize that.

Skeptic: See, every time I debate people like you, you always whine about how everyone misunderstands what you mean.  You always say “Go read this shelf of books and come back when you know what you’re talking about.”  It’s like one of the naked emperor’s sycophants telling the kid who sees that he’s naked that he needs to read the learned works of Count Roderigo concerning the fine leather of the emperor’s boots, etc.

Scientist: What a ridiculous analogy.  You’re just begging the question.  Whether science is really comparable to the naked emperor is precisely what’s at issue.

Skeptic: OK, I’ll bite.  Explain it to me, then.  Prove to me here and now in this combox that science is worth my time, as opposed to being the tissue of superstition, lies, and bigotry that I already know it to be.  And don’t get long-winded like you people tend to do, or start throwing around references to this scientist I should know about or that book I should have read.

Scientist: What is this, an invitation to the Star Chamber?  How am I supposed to explain fields as complex as quantum physics, or evolutionary biology, or chemistry to the satisfaction of someone as hostile to them as you are in a combox comment, or even a blog post or series of blog posts?  Besides, there are so many things wrong with what you’ve said I don’t even know where to begin!  And if I keep it short, you’ll tell me that I’m dodging whatever issue I don’t address, while if I respond at greater length you’ll tell me I’m a windbag.  I can’t win!  But why are you wasting time in a combox anyway?  Why don’t you just read the work of some actual scientists?  It’s right there in the library or bookstore if you really want to understand it.

Skeptic: I knew it.  You won’t defend yourself because you know you can’t.  But then, arguing with people like you just gives you credibility.  That’s why you uneducated, irrational fanatical bigots need to be shouted down by reasonable, open-minded, well-read, tolerant people like me.  Science is BS, and you know it.  It’s just so obvious.  So why don’t you go back to eating your tasty flavored quarks and tying your vibrating 11-dimensional shoestrings over at your Uncle Monkey’s house, OK?  I’ll be here in the reality-based community reading my copy of The Science Delusion.

Selvfølgelig ville de samme nyateistene ropt sine forbannelser høyt dersom de hadde sett denne behandlingen. Likevel ender de opp med å være, som de altfor ofte gjør, mistenkelig lik hva de kritiserer. Bytt ut begrep som “science”, “physicist” og “quarks” med andre ord som “theism”, “philosophers” og “God”, så finner de fort en reinspikket kopi av seg selv.

Problemet med å innse problemet med å argumentere på denne måten blir dermed som følgende: De kan ikke lenger bare si “jeg tok feil”. Å innrømme feil, vil være det samme som å si: “Jeg er akkurat den type person som jeg så mange ganger høyt og offentlig har anklaget og hengt ut, og som har fått meg til å føle meg intellektuell.”

Forståelig nok, ville det krevd en umenneskelig mengde mot og ærlighet, så vi kan nok ikke forvente at det vil skje med det første. I mellomtiden fortsetter de nystartede nyateistmenighetene sin misjonsvirksomhet på nett; i rasjonalitetens og moralens navn naturligvis…