Religion linkage

the_alchemist, who is an e-friend-of-a-friend, writes about The God Delusion, disagreeing with Dawkins’s argument that children should not be labeled with the religion of their parents. The discussion in the comments is interesting. I got involved in a thread about whether scientists are ignoring the god-shaped hole in human knowledge.

I’m also involved in another thread discussing religious language and whether the New Atheists are spouting off about fields they know nothing about. Pharyngula dismisses some of those sort of arguments as the Courtier’s Reply, but still, I’m interested in quite what the “non-literal” Christians are saying, and I don’t understand it yet.

Meanwhile, robhu has been listening to the sermons of Julian Hardyman, who preaches at the other big student church in Cambridge (the one I didn’t go to, because I was an Anglican). The three sermons robhu discusses are about the reliability of the Bible; science and religion; and atheism. Again, the comments are worth reading too.

I’ve now finished both Robin Lane Fox’s The Unauthorized Version and Sam Harris’s The End of Faith, so I’ll post about those when I get round to it.

6 Comments on "Religion linkage"

    1. Pharyngula is P Z Myers, who’s already fairly heavyweight (one of Nature‘s top 5 science bloggers, according to wikipedia). But yes, if he originated the term (which Google seems to thing he did), he might have just made himself famous.


    2. I think the ‘Courtier’s Reply’ is rather sneaky and comes close to begging the question. It’s easy to read it as: “Ha! God doesn’t exist, so there’s no need to read the works of any of these so-called experts on God”.

      For comparison, imagine a creationist saying “Ha! Evolution is a myth, so there’s no need to read the works of any experts on evolution.”. Clearly wrong.

      To extend the Courtier’s Reply metaphor, the sartoriosceptic says “I can see the emperor’s dangling genitalia, therefore the emperor has no clothes”.

      To which, the Courtier replies “The emperor is wearing a hat, a tie, boots, socks, legwarmers, gloves, a vest, a shirt, and cellophane pants. Of course you can see his dangly bits, but he’s still got clothes on! If you knew more about clothes, you’d realise that not all of them impede one’s view of the royal knob.”

      I think the point Pharyngula is making is that when arguing about the existence of God, it’s not necessary to have read works of theology that already assume the existence of God and go on to talk about, say, whether the virgin Mary died or was lifted bodily into heaven, if the Assumption (as opposed to the assumption, ha ha) is not under discussion.

      But what about works of theology discussing the existence of God, the literalism of the Bible, or how the universe came to be? The “Courtier’s Reply” doesn’t show they would not be relevant. It merely implies that theologians can’t know anything because God doesn’t exist, hence begging the question.

      There are plenty of reasons to criticise Orr’s review of the God Delusion. Jason Rosenhouse does a sterling job (linked from the Courtier’s Reply article) so I won’t try to do it myself.

      Pharyngula says:

      “I’m afraid that when I read H. Allen Orr’s criticism of The God Delusion in the NY Review of Books, all that popped into my head was a two-word rebuttal: Courtier’s Reply. You would be amazed at how many of the anti-Dawkins arguments can be filed away under that category.”

      I disagree. “Courtier’s Reply” is not a fallacy per se and can’t be used alone to demolish an argument.


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