You will become like us

So, emotive language is now apparently something we should not be using when defending Science, Philosophy, proper Theology and so forth. Or, at least, this is what the people at ‘The Briefing Room’ seem to think. In this post, on Atheism, Dawkins is criticised for being emotive and all the atheistic commentators seem to have been told to come back when their emotional laden statements have been tempered with Christian righteousness.Now, I am neither a fan of Dawkin’s take on religion and nor am I entirely sure that atheism doesn’t, in some way, count as a religion. On the latter point I’ll just gesture at a previous post and I’ll also add that even if you don’t think atheism is a religion you have to admit that some atheists treat it as such (I have met as many irrational atheists as I have met irrational Christians, and I spent a very long time in Roman Catholicism, which is saying something). As for Dawkin’s; well, the latest e-Skeptic had a great article that somewhat supports part of why I think Dawkin’s is utterly and incredibly wrong in ‘The God Delusion.’ Basically, Dawkin’s view that group selection is the wrong way to talk about evolution is out-dated; once we allow that natural selection affects both genes and populations (dependent on context) then we can tell evolutionary stories about why religions might well be adaptive strategies (and thus it may well be that there is a god illusion but it isn’t proper to refer to it as a delusion[1]).Still, irregardless[2] of all of that, the people at ‘The Briefing Room’ have entirely the wrong end of the stick. Scientists are allowed to be emotional in their language use; it may well be a bad move in an academic paper to go all poetic or to show a certain degree of anger about a bad view being entrenched, but in a book or article, for lay public consumption, emotional, even flowery language is more than just okay; it is bloody necessary![3] Scientists, whether natural or social, need to engage the public, and as long as they back up everything they say with reason and evidence a little anger or joy is not misplaced. The commentator on the ‘Atheism’ thread at ‘The Briefing Room’ irrationally dismisses ‘The God Delusion’ for containing emotional language, admitting that he simply skimmed the book. Had he actually read it he would have found that a) Dawkin’s backs up his emotion with reason and b) once those reasons are made clear it is fairly easy to show that Dawkin’s really has no idea what he is talking about. He has taken a form of Christianity, generalised it not just to all Christianity but all religious belief, and then performed a Strawman. No wonder the rest of the academic community (with a few unusual exceptions) has taken little time to critique him; he just isn’t engaging with the literature on religion as it currently stands.The moral to this story is simple. So simple I’m not even going to assert it.–1. i.e. The role of god might well be fictional but useful (thus, illusionary), rather than fictional and disadvantageous (thus, delusional).2. ‘Irregardless’ means the same thing as ‘regardless’ and is now thought to be an unnecessary addition to your everyday lexicon. I disgree; irregardless of ‘irregardless’ being unnecessary I shall continue to use it. Indeed, I plan to resurrect it; use it in your blog post today! 3. I usually avoid exclamation marks like the plague, but I deemed that one necessary.    


lyndon says:

My impression was that the commentator in question considered it ’emotional’ to express disagreement with him. Not – as if to prove your point – that I read the thread very carefully.

HORansome says:

Yes, I probably should have made it clear that they are using the claim ’emotional’ as a reason not to engage the arguer; because they are using emotional language they are obviously not using reason and rationality… Which would be almost kind of fine if they weren’t guilty of the same ‘sin.’