Thursday, October 21, 2010

Andrew Brown, missing the point again

Andrew Brown has had an attempt at satirising Gnu Atheist arguments, substituting "human rights" for religion. He gets off to a bad start with his first sentence being entirely wrong...
The essential point about human rights is that there is no evidence whatsoever that they actually exist.
Sadly, given that there is a wealth of evidence for the evolution of morality, and thus human rights, and so, the nail has not been hit on the head. For a nice satirical piece, it's best not to start with an entirely false premise, and base your argument around it, unless you're supposing that what you parody is as equally false. Unfortunately, the rest of the article is so stupid it burns, as it is essentially a case study in how Andrew Brown fails to see the point of almost every Gnu Atheist argument, or doesn't like us asking for evidence.

Is it so bad for atheists to say "I've not seen any evidence yet, please could you show me some? (Not this kind).

It's also true that children are born religion free, and only learn to have a religion from their parents (backed up by the uneven distribution of religions acros the globe). When this point is made in paragraph three, it's all the more ridiculous as children do actually learn to play fair by themselves when they're not even two years old, also religious indoctination can be a form of child abuse.

PZ Myers "courtier's reply" is also mentioned, it argues that one needn't be a top tailor to reject the Emperor's new clothes. Again, we're back to Andrew Brown not liking evidence.

I'll repeat the last paragraph:

I know that some people will be shocked by this argument. It's all very well, they will say, to dismiss God, or religion in this way, because those are things that other people believe in, and they are silly, and nasty, and wrong. That's why they're other people. But to demand evidence that the things exist which we believe in – that's absurd. 
But, I, and the atheists I have met, have all been skeptics, wanting evidence for everything.

I'm also baffled at how someone sees wanting evidence as a bad thing. How else can you evaluate things? How else could you learn new things?

In the comments he added:
But one should look at what actual philosophical theories which deal with this issue say instead of just assume ( as Andrew does ) that there isnt anything sensible that can be said about rights.
Well, that is the assumption of this article. It is not my real position, of course. There are sensible things to be said about rights, just as there are about god. But in both cases, a demand that we start by proving their existence excludes all the interesting possibilities.
Evidence doesn't exclude interesting possibilities, it makes things even better! As Richard Dawkins said at TAM: "Science is the poetry of reality".

The truth really is stranger than fiction.

And it's awe inspiring!

And it's exciting!

And it's true.

(We know because we have evidence).



  1. Nice post. I read the article by Brown and it gave me a headache.

  2. Thanks Andy. A thought struck me - is Andrew post essentially a slightly fancier sounding Insane Clown Posse Miracles type piece?

    F*cking ethics, how do they work?


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