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Uncommon Descent Contest: Why do people refuse to read books they are attacking?

American Library Association view of books

(This contest is now closed for judging. (The first award, for “Why do they do it?”, is announced here. The second award, for “What do you call a guy who reviews/trashes a book without reading it?”, is announced here.) )

I’ve suggested it’s a strategy on the part of people who trash ID-friendly books unread: The reviewer who fails to read the book is not, in a Darwin-obsessed community, held responsible for spreading misinformation. Indeed, the community wants him to do it, to avoid conflict between with their worldview and reality.

The problem is, that only explains why he isn’t censured for his action. A more critical question is why would a scientist or scholar actually volunteer to do it? And, for a free copy of The Nature of Nature , that’s our contest question.

Second award offer: Yes, this contest riffs off “What do you call a guy who reviews/trashes a book without reading it?” Some good suggestions there, and because Discovery Institute’s “Ayala-ing” won’t make the New Urban Lexicon, we must come up with something catchier.

So a second, separate award will be made, of Don Johnson’sProbability’s Nature and Nature’s Probability for the best single word term to refer to such a reviewer.

It you put your suggestion for a name here, not to worry. It’ll be considered along with the ones entered in the combox below.

Contest judged: Saturday June 4, 2011.

mike, "Hypocritic." I think that's a winner! CannuckianYankee
"For every pro-Intelligent Design book and research article published, there will be an equally unintelligent response from the defenders of naturalism / scientism." Or, to put it another way, they're just passing UIND (Un-Intelligent Non-Design). Ilion
One who does that is a "Hypocritic" Or maybe just a lying weasel. mike1962
Thanks, Cannuckian. I think I still like illitacrit, though I did consider what you mentioned. I think it has a little bite to it without being over-the-top unkind. I would not want to be called an illitacrit, and for the reason that it does connote an inability to read. We may also think of it as "cannot be bothered to read". But I think the best part of illitacrit is that it gives a close enough sense to its actual intended meaning, I think, so that it wouldn't have to be explained. It should be able to be understood from the context in which it's used and, therefore, easy to just start using. Well, that's my thinking anyway. Brent
BA77. Excellent. Thanks. You've been busy. It's very helpful to have these references. CannuckianYankee
CannuckianYankee, As you asked, I put together some of the main references relevant to the post yesterday: Summary of Paper - references: https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1ubha8aFKlJiljnuCa98QqLihFWFwZ_nnUNhEC6m6Cys bornagain77
Brent, I like "Illitacrit," except that it suggests that the person is somehow illiterate and can't read what he/she refuses to read. How about "avoidacrit?" or "avoidocrat?" You're on a roll, though. Here's the elements: -Avoid reading, but base an argument on what is already assumed about the author or subject. -Introduction of a strawman based on those assumptions. -An agenda evident in persuasive words to get others not to read. -Introduction of ad hominem rather than reasonable arguments as part of the agenda. Put all those elements together in one word and I think you'll have a good one. Mine's not so good. :( CannuckianYankee
"A more critical question is why would a scientist or scholar actually volunteer to [review a book without reading it]?"
That may be a more critical question, but it may not be a better question. It's things like these that leave me a little torn. It seems the better question is why wouldn't a scientist or scholar volunteer to be an illitacrit? Mind you, I mean a naturalist/materialist scientist or scholar. The problem is, on the one hand, we rightly claim that there are no objectively grounded morals for the naturalist. How then can we be surprised, on the other hand, when they act according to that reality? Again, I'm torn. The naturalist is as bound by an objective moral reality as is everyone else, and they feel it, and they mostly live according to it and reject their own worldview in routine. But, at bottom, eventually and to some degree, more or less, everyone will betray what they really believe in actions and attitudes. I think, overall, this living according to one's stated worldview pleases me more than flat hypocrisy. Sure, it's wrong, and the illitacrit knows it just like everyone else, but I personally rejoice at the unmasking of the real monsters behind their costumes, pretending that what one believes doesn't, at root, lead to real life consequence. So, my answer as to why someone would offer to illitacrit (sure, it can be a verb, too), is that there is nothing to stop them. There need not be so much motivation as the question seems to imply. With nothing to impinge one's conscience, almost any motivation will do. I am reminded, for instance, of those who would sneak in to see "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" while buying a ticket for another movie. It wasn't even to save money! It was to make sure that what was spent didn't get into "enemy" hands. If that's what little motivation is needed to drive one over the edge to immoral behavior, then the motivation is simply not the determining factor, but rather a lack of brake fluid. Brent
Illitacrit. Brent
My single word for panning a book without having read it is: "ayalamoranning." Thus, a person who pans a book without having read it is an "ayalamoran." Here's the terms used in some sentences. "Quit ayalamoranning and read the book already. Geesh." "Sir, I'd say you've just committed an ayalamoran." CannuckianYankee
Tom at 8 Thanks for sharing your analysis of SITC reviews on Amazon. It's a fascinating study, and I think it confirms for us some of the issues we've mentioned here. I think everyone here should read it. And if they don't read it, I guess they're welcome to pan it anyway - or maybe not. :) Now I'm going to go ahead and read your take on Ayala's review of the same book. CannuckianYankee
Haha. I have to grab the moniker Creationist_Nonsense_Accepted_by_Scientists. Mung
BTW, sillysilly now goes by Creationist_Nonesense_Ignored_by_Scientists, and most of his comments have been deleted by Amazon, which is not surprising. CannuckianYankee
Plus, not reading a book is part of the strategy it would seem. If I don't read the book, I want others to follow in my example. True? CannuckianYankee
"Yes, but what is the purpose of a non-review review?" 3 things: To inform the public on what I haven't read, To inform the public on what I don't like, To inform myself on why I'm such an ignoramous - but that usually doesn't work. :) CannuckianYankee
The purpose of a review is to inform the public about worthwhile reading material.
Yes, but what is the purpose of a non-review review? :) Mung
What's the purpose of a review? The purpose of a review is to inform the public about worthwhile reading material. It is always subjective, but often informative. Good book reviewers are able to extract the main points the author wants you to understand. After that, the reviewer hypes or pans the book in such a way as to either make you want to read it or to pass on it. It would be possible to write a good review of a book without having read the entire book. However, it would be difficult without having read the parts of the book which lead to and bring out the main point or points. Reviewers who show signs they haven't read a book, are reviewers who misunderstand the main point or points, or who don't even mention them. When a reviewer skips over these issues, they should be held as suspect. No good reviewer is going to simply write: "I think it 's a terrible book and you should not read it" or "I think it 's a great book and you should definitely read it." They are going to go into detail as to how the author writes and clarifies his/her argument with appropriate prose, citations and footnotes. They are going to recommend the book not on it's writing style, but on the overall impression out of these elements. A person who has not read the book is not going to mention the elements that make the book what it is. He or she is going to pan the book on an impression of the subject matter or the author. For example, Intelligent Design is unpopular among people who read science books. A person who reads science books and comes across an ID book; if he/she is not fond of ID, is likely to have an agenda to read the book and pan it. Let's take two of these people - one who will read the book and one who will not. The person who will read the book will discuss all the elements I mentioned, then show for one reason or another why he or she did not feel that the book made it's point. The person who will not read the book, but pan it anyway, will decide those elements he/she does not like about ID, and mention those as if the author had written them. This is known as a strawman - yes. But strawman arguments are made because for one reason or another, the person does not understand that which he/she is commenting on; or because the person refuses to understand. Thus, I would say that the reason a person would pan a book he/she has not read is because he/she disagrees with the overall position of the person writing the book, and refuses to understand the argument made by such an author, while having an agenda to dismiss him/her. CannuckianYankee
"Someone should take the name “lying jerk” and respond to his reviews." HaHa. Not a bad idea. CannuckianYankee
Sillysilly’s “reviews” and comments are pretty much the same – “ID is religion and not science, and you’re a lying jerk if you believe otherwise.”
Someone should take the name "lying jerk" and respond to his reviews. Mung
Why would the "reviewer" subject himself to the temptation of considering the "opposition's" views and evidences? It is sooo much easier to build an uniformed caricture/straw man then proceed to knock it down with little resistance. MedsRex
The reviewer is more interested, and has an agenda in getting his point across rather than the point of the book. There's a guy on Amazon who's extremely anti-ID. He comments on or reviews just about every ID book, but it's quite obvious that he never reads the books. He goes by "sillysilly" sometimes, and other names, but you can tell it's him. Sillysilly's "reviews" and comments are pretty much the same - "ID is religion and not science, and you're a lying jerk if you believe otherwise." So people who review but don't read books (ID books in particular) are silly. :) CannuckianYankee
They don't even want to read peer-reviewed works on which they "pontificate" about.. Take a look.. http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_thread/thread/193d3e32a41923ff/80ff95f4f828f945?lnk=raot "..I'll say again, I'm not critiquing Axe's science. ***I haven't read the paper.*** But the abstract makes clear that his conclusions, tenuous and full of maybes ("appears," "seems," "at least some," "may be," "if," "imply," etc.) are hopeful and searching. Such language is often part of the standard methodological provisionality of science, but the problem here is that Axe's conclusions hang entirely on this huge mass of haziness and equivocation. That's what you get when you're making a gap argument.." Jonin
This article reminds me of an American Cinematographer magazine article I read maybe twenty years ago which was about the biases of movie critics. The magazine writer stated that for each action movie, there is an equal and opposite reaction by movie critics. After seeing how evolutionists "review" books about intelligent design, I guess we should propose a law similar to Newton's Third Law of Motion. For every pro-Intelligent Design book and research article published, there will be an equally unintelligent response from the defenders of naturalism / scientism. barrybowen
oops (I always do something like this)--close quote after results TomG
Here's a possible title for you: Re-skewer. If you think there's an allusion in it to "skew," as in "skewing the results, then you might be right; or if you think the allusion is to "skewer" (verb form definition 5), well, who am I to disagree with you? TomG
To show that this is not unique to this book, nor is it just an untested kind of impression that this happens, here's a statistical analysis of how this played out with Signature in the Cell's Amazon reviews. TomG
Pseudo-critic = those who are critical of things they haven't seen or read. It goes along with pseudo-skeptic or pseudoskepticism - those who are hyperskeptical of things based on ideology and not on merit. Meleagar
Why do people refuse to read books they are attacking?
When you are attacking something, the last thing you want to do is give it any semblance of worth or value, for that would undermine the very reason you are attacking it, for it is obviously worthless and without value (else why would you be attacking it). If I feel so inclined I may expand on this, but I think perhaps it's true of more than just books and therefore extending the same behaviour to books is not to be unexpected. Mung
I think I should be given my own thread and be restricted to posting only in that thread. :D Mung
JesseJoe at 1, would you care to say which authors you'd like to hear more from? We could persuade them to post more if they knew they had a fan club. News
“Why would a scientist or scholar actually volunteer to do it?” When you consider Darwinism axiomatic, you can immediately reject anything that argues against it. “What do you call a guy who reviews/trashes a book without reading it?” Illiterater. spesaeterna
1. "Why would a scientist or scholar actually volunteer to do it?" Assuming original sin is too broad, I'll go with one of these: A. He loves his worldview more than his integrity. B. He hasn't evolved enough to have intellectual honesty. 2. “What do you call a guy who reviews/trashes a book without reading it?” Slight repeat from the other post: The review is a noview and the reviewer is a noviewer. homerj1
...the best single word term to refer to such a reviewer.
A bookwyrm. def. This alternative spelling of bookworm is used to distinguish the person who actually reads books from one who does not. Mung
Since O'Leary is "News," I have a question: does anyone else besides Denyse O'Leary write for this blog anymore? It seems lately that 95% of the posts on UD are written by Denyse O'Leary-- or should I say recycled from her other blogs. JesseJoe

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