The Quadripartite Equine Riders, part 2 of 11

This is part two of an eleven part essay in which is a review of a conversation that took place between Prof. Richard Dawkins, Prof. Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens.

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2:
Strident, Arrogant, Vitriolic, and or Shrill?
Part 3:
Amazing Perplexity and Anonymous Confession of an Atheist Clergyman
Part 4:
Tri-Theism? Nice Try
Part 5:
Faith, Evidence and Doubting Thomas and It’s Absolutely Relative
Part 6:
On Scientific Authoritarian Faith
Part 7:
Cosmology and the Pathetic Bible
Part 8:
On Cosmology, Theology and Eternal Regress
Part 9:
Dennett the Mesmerist and Atheism is Humbler and Holier Than Thou
Part 10:
The Universe is All About Me
Part 11:
On Jihad and Abortion

Strident, Arrogant, Vitriolic, and or Shrill?
The discussion begins with Prof. Richard Dawkins asking, “One of the things we’ve all met is the accusation that we are strident, or aahm, arrogant, or, or vitriolic, or shrill, aah, what do we think about that.” The answers are basically that no matter how naughty or nice they are they simply cannot win because merely criticizing religion instantly labels them as strident, arrogant, vitriolic, or shrill. I personally believe in staying well away from these sorts of labels since they make it all too easy to fall into the logical fallacy of the ad hominem. I have no problem referring to, for instance, Prof. Richard Dawkins’ lazy scholarship since it seems very obvious to me that he is accepting vast amounts of research by others and merely repeating it uncritically (see my essay Planting God More Firmly on His Throne for some examples).

Sam Harris chimes in with one of his very common statements to the effect of, they are considered as such merely for breaking a taboo by criticizing religion. Of course, he is missing the point which is that whilst allegedly breaking the taboo by criticizing religion (which we apologists have been doing for millennia) they are, in fact, also strident, arrogant, vitriolic, or shrill. For example, Sam Harris could criticize religion without making statements such as, “‘If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion.’”[1] Even Prof. Daniel Dennett gets into the act by peppering his book “Breaking the Spell” with virtual triple-dog-dares to the effect of, “I dare you to read this book and if you are reading my dare then I bet you won’t be able to finish reading this book.” How these are supposed to be a logical, philosophical or scientifically respectable statement is indiscernible. No, their critics are not verklempt due to shock at someone daring to question, or even besmirch, their fragile faith but because the Horsemen often come across as horse’s… well, you know the saying. Sadly, they are too easily dismissed as being too childish to be taken seriously. I say “sadly” because they aught to be taken seriously enough to have the arguments, which they hide like needles in hay stacks of childish rhetoric, dealt with. Many of us have done just that (I have written various responses to Sam Harris and Prof. Richard Dawkins and two to Prof. Daniel Dennett, here and here). Vox Day has carefully dissected many of the Horsemen’s claims that are premised upon statistics (The Irrational Atheist, freely downloadable). It is also interesting to note that four times criticisms of their works are referred to as “attacks.”

They are also surprised and disappointed that “our fellow secularists and our fellow atheists” are neither on their paint with a broom besmirching bandwagon but are often their staunchest critics. They appear to think that all secularists and atheists should convert to their particular, and peculiar, sect and become activists who join the fray by their prescribed rules of engagement.

[1] Jörg Blech, THE NEW ATHEISTS - Researchers Crusade against American Fundamentalists (October 26, 2006)


  1. *yawn*........and 9 more to go????!!

  2. *yawn* indeed, that is exactly how I felt watching these guys trying very hard to appear cleaver.

  3. Y'know I used to think these four men were smart and articulate, but now that you've transcribed all of the "aah"s and "aahm"s in their unrehearsed conversation, it has become clear to me that they are not. Thanks, Mariano!

    And I look forward to reading Vox Day's book, because I expect every sentence to be "a logical, philosophical or scientifically respectable statement".

    Page 2:

    There is simply no more fitting description of the cerebral snake
    oil that Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens are selling to the unwary
    reader—and the media—under the false label of science and reason.
    I am confident that no one, not even the most purely rational, überskeptical
    agnostic or card-carrying ACLU atheist, will take serious
    exception to my charge by the time they finish this book.

    Calling people snake oil salesmen and daring the reader not to be convinced by the awesomeness of his book looks like a pretty good start. I can't wait to see what's next.

  4. kuhlmann;
    Actually, as I noted in part 1 the transcript is found on Prof. Dawkins’ website.

    As for Vox, he certainly has his own style, shall we say. He does do a good job dissecting studies/stats though.