Monday, June 11, 2007

O'Reilly's Delusion

Bill O'Reilly has an amazing piece of self-delusion and sheer intellectual laziness, if not dishonesty, with regard to atheists in general, and his conversation with Richard Dawkins. It is the kind of article that clearly illustrates why O'Reilly doesn't allow comments to his articles on his sight, because such tripe cannot withstand honest, critical, scrutiny. Right out of the gate, O'Reilly departs from reality:

Atheism is chic, it's cool, it's the latest craze. The book stores are chock full of authors declaring that "God is Not Great," that God is a "Delusion," that you are a moron if you believe in the Deity.

While there seems to be a recent uptick in the number of atheists willing to be vocal about it, I've seen no data at all suggesting that there is an actual increase in atheists that significantly departs from the long term increasing trend that position has had for years. We are a minority that numbers anywhere from 3-30% of the American population, depending on how the question is asked. At one extreme, very few people are sure there are no gods, at the other, a sizeable minority hold no formal god belief. It is a testament to how spoiled some Christians like O'Reilly have become, so used to their position of dominant social privledge that the slightest ripple against the tide is viewed as a "craze".

Notice there is no reference for BO's claim that atheist authors believe "you are a moron if you believe in the Deity". There's good reason for that: he made it up. We are quite capable of reconizing the intellect of those that believe. We just believe they are wrong.

But BO is either unwilling, or unable, to engage the intellectual content of atheists: what we actually believe, and why. Instead he chooses to poison the well by association with terms of frivolity like "chic", "cool", "craze", "stylish", "trend", and of course Hollywood. He is blatantly playing to his audience. He knows when most of them hear those terms what immediately springs to their miniscule mind is a bunch of liberal, dope-smoking fags, trying to get your 10-year-old daughter to have sex and abortions. BO is creating his own reality in his head and in his audience. That way he can say batshit insane things like

Believing in God is not very stylish in mainstream media circles these days.

Excuse me? Ever watched football players in the end zone Bill? God apparently got credited for a LOT of touchdowns. And you know, no one in the "secular progressive" media has ever asked them why they do this apperently idiotic thing (like the all-powerful creator of the universe gives a rats ass who scored a touchdown). And did you see the powder puff treatment Ken Ham's creation museum got, even from the NY Times! You would think it had made some amazing new discovery, instead of just being hyped old nonsense, from reading much of the media reaction. Let's also not forget the discussion of atheism on CNN with 4 nonatheist panel members. Then after the complains, CNN apologized and had a new panel discussion: 1 atheist, 3 nonatheists. The idea that the mainstream media is anything but overly friendly to Christianity is absurd on its face.

To my amazement, BO followed that blunder with a run of remarkable lucidity:

The question then becomes, is there anything wrong with [atheism]? After all, we have freedom from religion in America; the Constitution makes it clear that no power in this country has the right to impose religion on anyone. So the atheists have clear sailing, and I say: Thank God. That's because people of faith should be challenged and think about their beliefs. Critical thinking in all areas makes the mind sharper, your philosophy stronger.

He's got the philosophy down there, even if he still needs some help with the facts. But really, he has no intention of subjecting his beliefs to critical thinking. He's just learned, as have many of us, that this is just the sort of thing we say in polite society, just like we say "I don't mean to offend you" right before we say something offensive. He's like a child chanting the words of the pledge of allegiance with no comprehension of their meaning. They just know it was morning and the flag went up.

And so, he then celebrates a fairly silly exchange with Richard Dawkins they had while Dawkins was on his show:

But I stopped him in the fourth round with this right hook: "[The earth] had to come from somewhere, and that is the leap of faith you guys (atheists) make—that it just somehow happened."

Dawkins replied: "You're the one who needs a leap of faith. The onus is on you to say why you believe in something ... you believe in, presumably, the Christian God Jesus."

"Jesus is a real guy," I said. "I know what he did. I'm not positive that Jesus is God, but I'm throwing in with him rather than throwing in with you guys, because you guys can't tell me how it all got here."

"We're working on it," Dawkins said.

"When you get it," I shot back, "maybe I'll listen."

This is a knockout Bill? "You can't explain how the earth got here, therefore I'll 'throw in' with Jesus"? Do you decide which airline to fly by the colors on the plane?

Then of course Bill trots out a creationist oldie but goodie:

But the atheists will never get it. The universe and the earth is so complex, so incredibly detailed, that to believe an accidental evolutionary occurrence could have exclusively led to the nature/mankind situation we have now, is some stretch of the imagination. I mean, call me crazy, but the sun always comes up, while man oversleeps all the time.

Uh, Bill, the sun one day isn't going to come up. It's got a finite life span. It might be billions of years, and that's a big big number, but it's not infinite, however much it may seem that way to you. Likewise, evolution is a very long, slow, bit by bit process, and that may be hard for you to grasp. It might seem like just one big accidental occurrence, but in fact, it is not very accidental at all. Selection is the opposite of chance. The unfit systematically, nonrandomly, die out. So no, it does not take much imagination at all.

It does however, take a great imagination to think:

I just don't think we could have lucked out to have, the tides come in, the tides go out, the Sun go up, the Sun go down. Don't think it could have happened.

is a scientific statement, or would be the slightest challenge to someone like Dawkins.


Little David said...

Your link to the Bill OReilly article is invalid. It only links to the "current article". I attempted to get at it through the "archives" section, however to get to that you have to be a "premium" subscribing member.

I kinda like Bill OReilly. I tend to think of him as being a rather "reasonable" right wing voice. I do not always agree with him, however in comparison to other right wing talk show hosts, he is not what I describe as a clown like some of the others (for example Rush Limbaugh).

I am motivated to write a piece in defense of Bill on my own blog using your piece as a launching pad for my discussion. I'll provide a link to your piece if I do. I'm not 100% certain that I will get to it, since I am a truck driver and will be probably returning to the road tomorrow, however I will do my best to find the time.

I like your blog and respect your viewpoint. I believe I might provide a general link to it on my own blog. Keep up the good work.

ScienceAvenger said...

I appreciate the comments, and look forward to seeing your entry.

I don't consider O'Reilly reasonable, because I think he is a hack, rather than a conservative, as is Ann Coulter. For my reasonable conservatism, I turn to guys like Joe Scarborough and Tucker Carlson. I also don't care for O'Reilly's habit of having experts on the show and then approaching them like he has something to teach them rather than the other way around.

Little David said...

Yes, Bill OReilly does have a rather aggressive interview style doesn't he? Some people like that style, which perhaps might help explain why his programs are so successful.

I am not that familiar with Joe Scarborough or Tucker Carlson. They must primarily be on television. Most of my experience with talk show hosts is pretty much limited to radio since I spend most of my time behind the wheel.

Bill OReilly does not describe himself as a conservative, though I personally describe him as at least being right of center. My opinion of him is shaped by his program relative to other talk shows from both the left and right. Air America's hosts (from the left) were not much better then most hosts coming from the right.

My "gold standard"? National Public Radio (NPR) is my favorite, though I describe them as at least left of center in how they approach subjects. My only wish is that NPR would include my two most favorite programs "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on their Sirius Satellite Radio broadcasts, which they thus far do not do.

I've completed my piece in defense of Bill OReilly. Let me warn you in advance (if you care to read it) that it is rather biting.

If you leave any comments to it I might not get back to you for several weeks or even a couple months. I've taken quite abit of time off this time home and I have to make up for it. While on the road I rarely find free WiFi hotspots coinciding with occassions that I have idle time.