Friday, August 31, 2012

Why Stephen Bond left the "skeptics"

WHY I AM NO LONGER A SKEPTIC by Stephen Bond, Stephensplatz blog, 28 Aug 2011

While I share the impetus toward derision of the skeptics movement, for most of the same reasons, this hyperbolic argument is deficient in certain respects.The author is more philosophically perspicacious than 98% of the people who could be counted as having some relation to the atheist/humanist/skeptics movement, but the downward pull of bourgeois thought, even left bourgeois thought, is difficult to resist. This fellow is on the right track, but his reasoning and philosophical-methodological perspective need tightening up.

(1) The overblown accusations of sexism & racism, both in the way specific examples are addressed and the phenomenon is generalized to the entire movement, detract from the argument.

 (2) Neoliberalism: the author is missing something here: the way neoliberalism impacts skepticism is not that they are all neoliberals, but that neoliberalism has also pulled the left to the right.

(3) Feminism, etc.: the author doesn't see that bourgeois feminism and diversity management are also deficient & affected by the neoliberal order.

(4) The treatment of metaphor in science & its improper (and proper?) uses is badly handled. What other sources of knowledge other than science could be more useful are not specified. Had the author moved to the question of social theory & ideology critique, he would have done better.

(5) Politics: while the author is correct about pseudoscience (such as racist pseudoscience) flourishing in liberal democracies, he is rather vague about the relation between science & politics, other than the assertion than science is necessarily political.

(6) The author does not adequately address the relationship between liberal abstract ideals & their realization or non-realization in actual societies.

(7) Skeptics issues: note comments on alternative medicine, sociobiology, linguistics, economics. Aside from linguistics, I'm inclined to agree with the author. He could have said more about economics, since Michael Shermer is one of the leading purveyors of pseudoscience in this area.

(8) Harmlessness of paranormal superstition: this was my position in the '70s, but no longer. As for ridiculing the disenfranchised, their superstitious mindset is ripe for the pickings by fascism.

(9) Skepticism as dogmatism? Of course.

(10) Positivism: this treatment needs treatment. Positivism (in a loose sense) really is a problem. The fawning over every statement by Dawkins, the scientism of Harris, or the authoritative pronouncements of Hawking on the death of philosophy, are all indicators of how deeply uncritical & positivist in tendency is the whole atheist movement. Science, scientific method, etc. repeatedly endlessly, along with the obliteration of social theory & philosophy: this is how they do.

(11) Author's disillusionment: he had illusions in the first place. His were not mine.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Lenin: On Religion

I knew that this little book existed, but it is not easy to find these days. I wasn't sure whether I had a copy buried in my archive, but I found one. I know I read this many many years ago, and found it eye-opening. I've already blogged about several of the essays anthologized here. The ones I missed on my own, but which are included in this collection, are: (1) Tolstoy; (2) Classes and Parties; (3) Working Women's Congress; (4) Draft Programme.

Lenin, V. I. On Religion. 3rd rev. ed. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1969. 83 pp.

Preface to the Russian Edition

"Socialism and Religion," in Collected Works, Volume 10 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1965), pp. 83-87. Originally published in Novaya Zhizn, No. 28, December 3, 1905.

"Leo Tolstoy as the Mirror of the Russian Revolution," in Collected Works, Volume 15 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1973), pp. 202-209. Originally published in Proletary No. 35, September 11 (24), 1908.

"The Attitude of the Workers’ Party to Religion" [translated by Andrew Rothstein and Bernard Issacs], in Lenin's Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1973), Volume 15, pp. 402-413. From Proletary, No. 45, May 13 (26), 1909. (Also available on the From Marx to Mao site.)

"Classes and Parties in Their Attitude to Religion and the Church,"in Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1973), Volume 15, pp. 414-424. Originally published in Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 6, June 4 (17), 1909.

V. I. Lenin to Maxim Gorky, written on November 13 or 14, 1913 [translated by Andrew Rothstein], in Lenin's Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976), Volume 35, pp. 121-124 [#55]. First published in Pravda No. 51, March 2, 1924. Sent from Cracow to Capri. (Text also available on From Marx to Mao site.)

V. I. Lenin to Maxim Gorky, written in the second half of November 1913 [translated by Andrew Rothstein], in Lenin's Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976), Volume 35, pp. 127-129 [#58]. First published in 1924 in Lenin Miscellany I. Sent from Cracow to Capri. (Text also available on From Marx to Mao site.)

Speech at the First All-Russia Congress of Working Women, November 19, 1918, in Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1974), Volume 28, pp. 180-182. [On Religion states: Newspaper report published in Izvestia, no. 253, November 20, 1918.]

From the Draft Programme of the R.C.P.(B.: Section of the Programme Dealing With Religion, in Collected Works, 4th English Edition (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972), Volume 29, p. 134 (out of pp. 97-140).

"The Tasks of the Youth Leagues", Speech Delivered At The Third All-Russia Congress of The Russian Young Communist League, in Lenin's Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1966), Vol. 31, pp. 283-99. Speech written and.or delivered on October 2, 1920, published in Pravda, Nos. 221, 222 and 223, October 5, 6 and 7, 1920. (Also available on the From Marx to Mao site.)

"On the Significance of Militant Materialism" (12 March 1922), in Lenin’s Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972), Volume 33, 1972, pp. 227-236. First published in Pod Znamenem Marksizma, No. 3, March 1922. (Text also available on From Marx to Mao site.)


Name Index

Monday, August 6, 2012

William R. Jones, Jr., author of 'Is God a White Racist?', dies

Here is an obituary:

Rest in Peace – Rev. Bill R. Jones, Rev Josh Pawelek, July 20, 2012

Jones died on Friday, July 13, 2012, close to his 79th birthday.

I have posted about him several times. One of my posts is referenced in this obituary:
Ralph Dumain has a helpful review of Is God a White Racist? here