Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Atheist fundamentalism?

In an earlier post, I mentioned an article in Nature by Philip Ball (one of my favourite science writers) . He is an atheist but critical of the New Atheists such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. His article drew a very negative reaction from Sam Harris and an extended debate between the two. This blog posting describes Ball's perspective on the debate. The end of the post is illuminating:
The fact is that this is all indeed a minor matter, and could have been easily dealt with by a brief acknowledgement that would allow us to move on. But Sam seems to have a real fear of making any concession whatsoever – a sign of a brittle position? – which regrettably turns this into an issue of intellectual honesty.

However, however. The truly sad thing about this exchange is that it has turned into adversaries two people who are unambiguously atheist, deplore the encroachment of creationism and fundamentalism, and are deeply opposed to the oppressive and anti-intellectual practices of some religious groups. I entered into this debate believing that we would find some way of agreeing to disagree. I leave it feeling that the kind of hardline atheism Sam espouses is, in its unyielding purism, potentially undermining of the very aims it claims to have.

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