Why I Don’t Read Ideological Media: Dawkins Edition

Eric Reitan breaks good ol’ Dick down:

How are books born? The one you’re reading now was born when a colleague gave me a photocopied page from a book, without identifying information, and asked me to evaluate it as I would a student’s paper. The page offered “summaries” of the first three of St Thomas Aquinas’ five arguments for God’s existence (popularly called the “Five Ways”). The writer of the passage got the arguments wrong – and then objected to them at precisely those points where he got them wrong.

The writer was Richard Dawkins. The book was The God Delusion. The photocopied passage, had Dawkins turned it in to me for a grade, would have earned him a whopping “D.” And for many people, this D-level work may be their only exposure to Aquinas’ arguments for God’s existence.

And so I bought Dawkins’ book. And as I read it, I was taken in by the author’s swagger. Dawkins is clearly confident, writing as if he knows what he’s talking about. The only problem is that, as often as not, he has no idea what he’s talking about.

Eric Reitan. Is God A Delusion: A Reply to Religion’s Cultured Despisers (Kindle Locations 1430-1435). Kindle Edition.

UPDATE: Upon reflection, I thought this too cavalier an attack so I decided to provide an example. Continue reading

Why I Don’t Read Ideological Media

Coates’ great post, Dishonesty Is The Seventh Killer App:

You should read James Fallows’ takedown of Niall Ferguson deceptive case against a second Obama term. You should also read Andrew’s, and you should read Joe Weisenthal’s.

 
But one thing to keep in mind is there is no real penalty for respectable lying in our world of intellectual discourse. Ferguson will almost certainly continue to have a field for his thoughts, regardless of how little effort he puts into stringing them together. The Krugman rebuttal in which Ferguson claims he was only talking about the insurance end (it’s detailed in Weisenthal’s piece) is not a debatable opinion, but the sort of thing that would raise a red-flag for any fact-checker worth their weight.
 
When I first started wading my way into the world of ideas, I thought having a big university on your C.V. along a PhD held said something about your trustworthiness. I would have seen that Ferguson was a historian at Harvard and thought, “No way he’d fudge facts. He’s a Harvard big-shot who publishes in big magazines.” I would have been, of course, dead wrong. 
 
Dishonesty of this sort is insidious. It can’t be dismissed with the ease of plagiarism or manufactured evidence. As long you’re not egregious, you can actually make a career as respectable public intellectual, and occasionally lie. No one will stop you. Almost no one cares.

(Via Ta-Nehisi Coates :: The Atlantic)

I do.

Pulling Your Card

Stewart seen as winner in showdown with Cramer – CNN.com:

“‘People want to see a lot of the financial gurus on a shish kabob, being skewered,’ Seaman said. ‘It’s really important to hold people accountable, and as we saw last night, Jon Stewart is a bit of a wild card, so if you aren’t living up to expectations, he may call you out.'”

(Via CNN.)

Which is exactly why I watch the show. I need that “powerful tool of illumination.”