Further to “Cosmologist Sean Carroll would retire falsifiability as a science idea. Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci defends it,” Pigliucci has published a paper on the new atheist movement (whose creation story is Darwinism):
The so-called “New Atheism” is a relatively well-defined, very recent, still unfold- ing cultural phenomenon with import for public understanding of both science and philosophy. Arguably, the opening salvo of the New Atheists was The End of Faith by Sam Harris, published in 2004, followed in rapid succession by a number of other titles penned by Harris himself, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Victor Stenger, and Christopher Hitchens. free download
In it, Pigliucci says,
My goal in this paper is to analyze the new Atheist “movement” from a particular angle: what I see as a clear, and truly novel, though not at all positive, “scientistic” turn that it marks for atheism in general. To do so, I will begin in the next section with a brief discussion of what I think constitutes New Atheism broadly construed, as well as what counts as scientism. I will then present a brief historical overview of atheism in the Western world (to which the impact of the New Atheism seems to be largely confined), to make clear how classical Atheism differs from the new variety. The following section will then explore some examples of what I term the “scientistic turn” that has characterized some (but not all) New Atheist writers (and most of their supporters, from what one can glean from the relevant social networks).The next to the last section will summarize the problems with scientism, and I will then conclude by proposing a new middle way between classical and New Atheism as more sound from both the scientific and philosophical standpoints.
On the evidence, he’s right, of course. Most of the backlash against scientism recently has been coming from secular sources.
Well, the new atheist elite reacted as if their PR firm had gone rogue. As Pigliucci tells it:
Oh dear, I pissed off the big shots among the New Atheists — again. If you are on Twitter or happen to have checked a couple of prominent NA blogs recently, you will have noticed a chorus comprised of none other than Jerry Coyne, Sam Harris, PZ Myers and, by way of only a passing snarky comment, Richard Dawkins — all focused on yours truly. I’m flattered, but what could I have possibly done to generate such a concerted reaction all of a sudden?
Uh … Rationally Speaking so to speak, not much, but …
But then I realized that the mini-storm was making precisely my point: the whole episode seemed to be a huge instance of much ado about nothing, but nasty. So I decided a counter-commentary might be helpful after all. Here it is, organized by the three major authors who have lashed out at me in such an amusing way. I’ll start with a point-by-point response to Coyne’s longest blog post, followed by a more cursory commentary on PZ (who actually makes most sense out of the whole bunch, and indeed was himself mentioned only in passing in my paper), and ending of course with Harris, in whose case I will simply let Dan Dennett (another NA, did you know?) do the job for me. (If, however, you are tired of the somewhat childish back and forth, however, by all means skip to part IV below.) More.
More coffee, please, and pass the biscuits this way.
See also: Scientism is to science as egotism is to ego
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose
Follow UD News at Twitter!