Monday, February 8, 2010

Edwin K.P. Chong's Delusions (II)

Original article as it appeared in the newspaper - as a Freethought Advertisement. (Note header: 'This montly article is underwritten by the Freethinkers of Colorado Springs 'etc.)

Chong’s attempted debunking article next tries to take me to task for the use of the term “infectious”

He blabs:

Again, we see the introduction of a derogative word, 'infectious'.

However, this professed academic (in a Mathematics Dept. no less) seems oblivious to the most remote clues for sourcing and citations! Had he the least bit of awareness on these matters, he’d have quickly ascertained that NONE of the claimed memetic (mind virus) attributes he assigns:

1) Performance value
2) Propagation Value
3) Infectious vale

Originated with me. They were ascribed and defined by biochemist Jacque Monod (referenced in the original paragraph of my piece) in his book, ‘Chance and Necessity’ (Chapter Nine: The Kingdom and the Darkness). I will give Chong a break on this since the direct citation in the original article was omitted by the newspaper's editors and not reinstated by the Freethinkers. (Though he ought to have at least consulted the index of Monod's monograph, given I referred to it, to ensure the attributes given were genuinely mine)

Chong goes on:

Looking down the list of attributes to be used to assess the 'infectious power' of the faith meme, we see the next fallacy, notably in item 2. Notice his examples for the 'means employed' in the spreading of faith: 'beheading' and 'burning'. This is a clear case of propaganda by associating faith groups with offensive acts.”

Again, given a 550 word limit, those examples – while admittedly extreme – were most efficient in underscoring the point given limited space. However, as Scott Bidstrup references, a much vaster and more ubiquitous mechanism is FEAR.

Bidstrup again:

“Yes, good old fashioned "hell-fire and damnation." Of course it has its greatest effect on the ignorant and superstitious, but it can be an effective motivator even among the learned when it synergizes well with other mind games, such as the burning of bridges and the induction of dissociation.

It would appear that this conflicts directly with the sweet, likable persona of the first mind game. It actually doesn't; they work well together as a carrot and stick. Even a casual reading of the New Testament will uncover plenty of examples of this mind game. Damnation, judgment, punishment for sin, blasphemy, etc., all are based on the fear mind game, and are so commonly employed by evangelicals they've become a stereotype.”

Thus, while “offensive acts” may not be 100% apropos, offensive manipulation of thought via fear, certainly qualifies as mental terror. And again, we see this used again and again by the likes of Pastor Mike.

Chong continues:

“Several fallacies are involved here. First, this is an ad hominem attack on people of faith. Second, this argument involves hasty generalization; burning of heretics by Christians is surely an exception to the means of 'propagating' Christianity. Third, this accusation involves an appeal to fear (argumentum ad baculum). Fourth, the attack commits the fallacy of guilt by association.”

Now, let’s dispel each. First there is no "ad hominem attack on people of faith”- only an association of meme -mind virus attribute (by way of example) to those who actually practice the atrocities. In any case, the prof misuses ad hominem here, since it is taken to mean (in logical circles) an attack on a PERSON- specific! Thus, if I said that: “Pastor Mike is a tyrant and bully who would beat up anyone who disagrees with him” – THAT is an ad hominem. Or, if I wrote that: “Edwin Chong is a weenie sycophant of the Christian Right” – THAT would be an ad hominem. But not strictly in the generic reference I made – which again, was a limited example never intended to be all-inclusive.

Thus, “hasty generalization” also falls by the wayside since examples mean narrow illustrations from a subset of actions associated with the category. No one in their right mind takes an example as a generalization for the WHOLE category. If I say that split personality is one example of psychosis, I am surely not saying that ALL psychoses are manifested by split personality!

The “appeal to fear” claim is also bogus, since there is NO appeal. A putative example (especially given in the context of limited space –but for which high impact impressions may be desired) cannot be rightly called an appeal to fear. If I am writing about the dangers of psychosis and cite split personality – possibly resulting from childhood sexual abuse, that is not an “appeal to fear”. It is a specific example of how a particular manifestation of psychosis (split personality) may arise.

The fourth critique also fails in similar vein, since there is no “guilt by association”. Indeed, NO Christian with a grain of sense asserts or even accepts that “beheading” was ever a part of Christian behavior (Burning was, as for heretics during the Inquisition). However, it remains part of the Islamic “solution” for infidels (e.g. atheists, or other non-Muslim religious believers) as Howard Bloom points out in his book The Lucifer Principle.

Thus, Chong is guilty of overt Christian chauvinism in projecting said example solely onto Christians, when – in fact- it was a generic RELIGIOUS example applicable to Islam in particular (but to Christianity during the Inquisition in burning heretics – though I hasten to add here that the Inquisition STILL exists in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith).

Chong then bloviates:

“Specifically, (he) constructs a 'straw man', a supposed proponent of faith who rejects all rational scrutiny, resorting instead to characterizing rational scrutiny as 'emanating from Satan'. This is clearly a false characterization of faith-based traditions as a whole”

Actually, all Chong would need to do to ascertain I’ve constructed no “straw man” is to check out my brother’s blog (“Pastor Mike’s Blog") and see how he consistently paints all rational arguments – given to defend everything from abortion to non-absolutist ethics - as “Satanic” in origin. Or painting those who use such arguments as “brothers of Satan” or “coming from Satan”. Indeed, more than once he’s painted me as “an agent of Satan”.

Only one exception disproves the rule, maestro, and throws your strawmen onto the logical bonfire it deserves.

We also know that rather than being “false characterizations” of faith based traditions, they are fully implicit in them. As Professor of Philosophy Daniel Dennett observes (p. 349, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea):

The meme for faith discourages the exercise of the sort of critical judgment that might decide the idea of faith was – all things considered- a dangerous idea”

As we know, critical judgment is part and parcel of what a rational mind is able to do. Going back now to one of the mechanisms to sow insidious memes, Scott Bidstrup invoked verbicide (Part I) or the deliberate distortion or destruction of the meaning of words so that they have a different meaning to the believer than the non-believer.

I also used examples of how good ol’ Pastor Mikey invokes this tactic all the time. I believe he changes the meaning of defined words so often now that he doesn’t even realize when it happens! So when he writes that “atheism is a religion” he really believes it is, destroying all concepts of the meaning of religion in the process.

The point is that any group that distorts verbal meanings (and thereby thought) has to be anti-rational and hence (since most faith based religions do this)it can’t be a false characterization.

Indifferent to how supercilious his whole critique is by now- Chong cites my sentence:

Having debated Christian ministers (in Barbados) I can attest to encounters with the faith meme."

Then blathers:

Here, an appeal is made to his alleged authority on the subject. He also provides personal testimonial support. These are common propagandist interjections.”

And this is total nonsense. First, no “authority” is being appealed to, I’ve merely cited my own experience in which I engaged “assorted Xtian ministers” in debate. This is to establish the parameters of my EXPERIENCE, not authority – since any half -aware person would discern I never mentioned Islamic clerics, Rabbis, or Buddhist monks. Thus, to claim an “authority” to pinpoint all religious memes, I’d have to have claimed exposure to the whole gamut of religions via representatives in debates. Which I didn’t – it was only a limited subset – but sufficient to reference the extent of my experience.

Thus, the only interjection here is one of Christian chauvinism in Chong’s own mind. As for propaganda, he clearly doesn’t know the meaning of the term, or if he does – isn’t attentive in his use of it.

Chong then whines:

“Here again we see multiple cases of fallacious and propagandist devices. He continues to construct his straw man, uses ad hominem attacks, and poisons the well by calling his opponent’s views 'delusions'”

after I recalled a Minister's question directed at me in one debate – in which he asked if I was “possessed by Lucifer

Again, total gibberish. "Straw man" - not, since the incident did occur and moreover can be seen in almost any reference Pastor Mike makes to atheists, or to me on his pathetic blog(which sometimes reads more like a Beavis and Butthead cartoon strip). Again, having referred to me as an agent or ally of “Satan” numerous times. This is therefore not poisoning the well”.

However, if Chong really suspects that my then debate opponent – who asked if I was “possessed” – isn’t under any delusion, then HE (Chong) surely is! Big time!

Chong then pulls up another of my remarks:

“In each instance, of course, what we behold is the operation of a mind virus that has efficiently parasitized a brain.”

And squawks:

This claim is made without support whatsoever.”

Actually it fully was. The support was in reference to this segment of my piece noting:

-one opponent who actually asked the audience: ‘How can we be certain that he isn’t possessed by Lucifer and doing Lucifer’s bidding? I am supposed to be here to debate a human lecturer – but of course I can have no chance against an agent of Satan.’

- Another warned the audience that he could not 'be responsible for their immortal souls’ if they listened to me.

Of course, though anecdotal this does qualify as support. It is Chong’s choice not to accept it- and it certainly does qualify as a mind virus parasitizing the respective brains, as illustrated by Dennett (ibid.,), Bloom (The Lucifer Principle :'One Man’s God is Another Man’s Devil', p. 73), and Scott Bidstrup’s The Mind Virus, highlighting malevolent meme mechanisms such as verbicide and fear(Part I). Thus Chong’s assertion that my illustrations even suggest the ignoratio elenchi fallacy is pure balderdash. This prof would do better to explore his own brain workings, and ascertain that his own temporal lobes haven’t been compromised – before he next delves into the logical fallacies lexicon to pick and choose what confections he will use to attack Materialists, realists and others who have a broad (as opposed to parochial) appreciation of memetics.

Chong ends his miasma of misinformation, misinterpretation and misconstrued fallacies with the following:

“(His) article began with what appeared to be a goal to describe memes and their relation to faith. But, in the end, what have we learned from the article about memetic models of faith and its spreading? Not much, I’m afraid. It is evident that Stahl’s article is not meant to be expository at all – it is propagandist in nature, employing a myriad of tactics in achieving a specific agenda of public persuasion. I should stress that I take issue not with the idea of a meme per se, but with Stahl’s use of the idea as a pseudo-technical prop to support an anti-faith program.”

And by this time one wonders what this prof is using for insight, brains or acumen. Again, the expository nature of the piece would have been clear- even given its abbreviated form (550 words) to anyone who’s read Dennett’s books, or Dawkins, or Monod’s or Bloom’s repudiation of “ravenous religious memes” in The Lucifer Principle. However, since this prof – like Pastor Mike – has probably only scoured the bible, it isn’t surprising his intellectual purview for the meme is so limited, and so pathetic. It’s not in his interest to expand it further, so he excludes other aspects. He's the embodiment of Dennett's victim of the faith meme who eschews internal inquiry since "the meme discourages the exercise of the sort of critical judgment that might show faith is a dangerous idea".

“Pseudo-technical prop to support an anti-faith program”? Hardly – not if one reads Howard Bloom’s account of how Islamic fundamentalism is festering and spreading its tentacles worldwide – with aspirations to dominate the whole planet!

What will be interesting in the future, in terms of the religious mind virus denialists like Chong and Pastor Mike, is to see how the final battle of faiths plays out between their pet mind virus imbued in a militant, conquering fundie Christianity and the “ravenous memes of Islam”. If we’re lucky, maybe both will get rid of each other and we’ll have two less to worry about.


Unknown said...

Terrific skewering of a crashing bore and pedantic prof. Who uses overkill via all his invocations of logical fallacies to attack what is basically an ADVERTISEMENT!

Yes, I know because I saw trhe original in the Colorado Spings Independent in a Freethinker *advertisement*. Clearly, the newspaper puts out these small columns as ads to get people to notice the Freethinkers.

So basically he's using nearly a 2000 word essay to try and deconstruct an AD!!!! I mean, cheez whiz, I guess I could invoke all the logical fallacies in the library to go after Prius or Exxon Mobil or JP Morgan ads too, nuh? Kinda like shooting fish in a barrel.

The guy's pathetic and clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer though that might be why a clown like your brother uses him.

What I'd do is drag out the original ad (if you have a clipping- else use another) and post it as an image in your article, part 1 or 2, to show the advert nature and what this guy Chong was actually using 2000 words to try and take down.

I wonder how many brain-hours Chong used: how many hours of thinking, drafting, going to his references - to go after an AD! I will bet at least twenty times longer than you took to write it.

Jeez, no wonder the religious blowhards get nowhere and never appeal to people of intelligence. If Chong is really as sharp as he thinks, and not a legend in his own mind, I'd like to see him try to go after some real grist: like the 3-parter you did on your blog on 'Order & disorder'.

I can hardly wait to see if he's able to impress us as much as he did ambushing an AD!!!

As for "spanking" - I never ever thought I'd see two clowns (Chong and Pastor Mite) get taken to the shed on the same day. But you sure did it!

Copernicus said...

You're very correct about the ad nature of the piece. all FT articles are originally published in the Indy as ads and this sets the 550 word limit on account of the space allotted.

So you are correct that he squandered all that mental capital on an ad (wherein discursive explanations must be curtailed, lbviously). When I can find a suitable image showing the typical FT article I will put one up!