Saturday, September 10, 2011

The dishonest anti-atheist and his word games

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Darwin fish (by sethness @ deviantArt)

It seems that an atheistic commenter over at Vox Day’s blog has struck a nerve:

This statement by Cabal demonstrates why one always has to assume, until it is demonstrated otherwise, that an atheist is a lying snake who will deceitfully redefine the language to suit his arguments at need.

Darwinism...a meaningless expression that only exists in creationist literature.

It doesn't surprise me that some atheists, particularly the militant and evangelical ones, should practice their own form of Taqiyya. They reject the source of morality, after all, so they have no rationale for behaving in a truthful, moral manner. But what astonishes me time and time again is that they should choose to tell such stupid, easily exposed lies over and over again.

From the Oxford English Dictionary:


the theory of the evolution of species by natural selection advanced by Charles Darwin.


noun & adjective

No doubt we'll soon be hearing new fictions about how the Oxford English Dictionary is creationist literature. And then I'll have to point out that "Darwinism" is also in the Collins, Merrian-Webster, and World Heritage dictionaries as well.


the Darwinian theory that species originate by descent, with variation, from parent forms, through the natural selection of those individuals best adapted for the reproductive success of their kind.
1855–60; Darwin + -ism

To any casual reader unfamiliar with the matter at hand, it does look like Vox just trounced another one of ’em lyin’ heathens. (Hey, it’s in the dictionary! QED.) But, of course, to anyone who is cognizant of what’s happening, here, it’s clear that Vox is either engaging in the very sort of deceit he purports to decry, or else he truly is as clueless as he appears to be.

For starters, he’s using standard English dictionaries to try and rebuke a claim concerning how a specific term is used in present times. If this doesn’t sound either dishonest or ignorant, think about it: Dictionaries serve to present us with the true and impartial definitions of words. One thing they do not do (not usually, that is, and certainly not in the excerpts quoted by Vox) is to inform us about the colloquial usage of these words – how they’re used by which sorts of people, what contexts they’re used in, and the connotations often implied. This is actually the crux of the issue, here: Indeed, in itself, “Darwinism” is an acceptable synonym for the Theory of Evolution (albeit an awkward one; who ever uses “Newtonism” to describe gravity, or “Einsteinism” in reference to relativity?). But anyone who’s ever heard the term used in common parlance, especially in North America (specifically the United States), cannot pretend that the term is not used primarily as a pejorative intended to smear the Theory and Darwin himself as that monkey-man who brainwashed science into thinking that dogs gave birth to cats and whatnot. (Essentially, this is the only time where I would recommend Urban Dictionary over the OED.)

Now, “Darwinism” was used as a neutral synonym for Evolution back in the early years of the Theory (ie. circa mid-1800s to early 1900s), and it is still used commonly by some scientists, especially ones from Europe and elsewhere (notably Richard Dawkins, himself). In that respect, commenter Cabal was incorrect to state that the term is used exclusively by Creationists. But even if he/she is mistaken in the details, his/her obvious overall point is nonetheless absolutely correct and undeniable by anyone who pays the slightest amount of attention. To call him/her a “lying snake” who “redefine[s] the language” is both unfair and presumptuous, given that Vox doesn’t know (and nor can he) whether Cabal was either honestly mistaken, knowingly lying, or simply using (clumsy) rhetorical exaggeration. In addition, it’s even more egregious that Vox should condemn him/her when he completely ignores the whole point Cabal was presumably getting at to focus solely on what is frankly little more than a technicality.

Vox responds to the (implied) claim that a certain term is used primarily as a pejorative by quoting from dictionaries and pulling excerpts that don’t even mention how that certain term is actually primarily used in the first place. Essentially, in his quest to dismiss criticism from one of those doggone atheists, he utterly evaded the issue and gave a complete non-answer that in no way rebukes what Cabal said (again, minus the technicality regarding his use of ‘only’ instead of ‘mostly’). But, hey, I’m sure the only reason reputable atheists repeatedly refuse to debate him has everything to do with “cowardice” … and not the fact that they just see him as an impertinent and pretentious clown.

Edit: 09/10/11 9:15 PM – Minor wording tweaks.
Edit: 09/12/11 3:46 PM – Same.