I found this engaging and filled with insight, so I reduplicate it here, its source is here.
NEW ATHEISTS AND THE DUNNING-KRUGER EFFECT
The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.
Are the new Atheists suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect?
In 1999 two psychologists of Cornell University (David Dunning and Justin Kruger) put forward the hypothesis that people of lower competency in an activity tend to overconfidence. This overconfidence comes from the inability to do a particular task while at the same time not recognizing their level of incompetence. On the other hand those with sufficient competence to undertake the task, tend to lack confidence because they are aware of their own deficiencies, especially in comparison with others.
This observation has moved into popular parlance with any number of illustrations observed. So, for example, the drunk thinks he can walk along a straight line because he is so busy thinking how to do it that he is no longer able to analyse his inability to do it. Or again somebody using a mobile phone while driving is so concentrating on both talking on the phone and driving that they do not notice their significant drop in driving competency.
Coming to a beginners understanding of this field of study, it occurred to me to ask the question: “Are the new Atheists suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect?” For example, many of the reviews of Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion, have pointed to his incompetence in the areas in which he writes. Some of these reviews are not written by Christians or theists defending themselves from his attacks, but by non-Christian professionals embarrassed by his misuse of their academic disciplines.
Writing in the New York Times in 2007, the Roman Catholic journalist Prof. Peter Steinfels noted that the criticisms of Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion come not just from the believers but also from atheists and unbelievers. He pointed to the reviews of such academics as The Oxford literary critic Prof. Terry Eagleton, The Harvard literary critic James Wood, the Rochester evolutionary-biologist Prof. James H Orr and the New York philosopher Prof. Thomas Nagel. And Steinfels could have added others like the Florida philosopher of biology Prof. Michael Ruse. The chief complaint of these critics of Richard Dawkins is his incompetence in dealing with the subject of God and theology.
Prof. Dawkins rejoinder to complaints about his lack of serious study of theology is his rhetorical question “Do you have to read up on leprechology before disbelieving in leprechauns?” This is contrary to the famous Chinese advice on the Art of War: to know your enemies. Unfortunately for him, those of us with some training in Christianity are left unmoved by his anti-theistic tirade. We know enough to recognize incompetence and the need for considerably greater humility before the facts.
Many Christians have written against The God Delusion, but being believers their viewpoint gets little airspace in public media or debate – being discounted with “of course they would disagree”. Writers, with as much academic credibility as Prof Dawkins, such as the Oxford Professor of Mathematics John Lennox or biologist turned theologian Prof. Alistair McGrath have published helpful criticisms of the new atheism. Prof. McGrath, who earned doctorates from Oxford University in both biology and Divinity, turned from atheism to Christianity through his ‘discovery of the philosophy of science’ and his investigation of ‘what Christianity really was’. He has written a helpful little book called The Dawkins Delusion. (SPCK)
To discount such writings because of the authors’ bias is as irrational as to discount the atheists’ writings because of their bias. Each must be weighed on its merits.
To accept what they say because of their academic credentials is also irrational. There are moments in time when the little boy in the crowd can see through the academic pretense and declare the emperor naked. But on that occasion a quick check of the facts brought hilarity on all sides. It is reasonable to expect that scholars with reputable academic qualifications will write in their area of expertise and be self-aware of the limitations of their knowledge.
And that brings us back to the Dunning-Kruger effect that the less competent you are the more confident you are likely to be. To launch out on a world-wide campaign on subjects over which you know little and have researched less – to say nothing of intentionally not studying because you do not believe – is less than acceptable as genuine public debate or academic discussion, to say nothing of failing in the art of war.
It was Prof. Dawkin’s great hero Charles Darwin who wrote in his introduction to The Descent of Man: ”Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”
Dawkins and his ilk are beset by ignorance and the fact that they don’t know it is the greatest proof of their authentic dilettantism.
Ed West (no relation) writes
Amid all the warm words expressed by public figures after Pope Benedict announced his retirement one comment rather stood out. “I feel sorry for the Pope and all old Catholic priests. Imagine having a wasted life to look back on and no sex,” wrote Richard Dawkins on Twitter. Even with the generally low standards of decorum on the site, the 71-year-old biologist’s comment caused groans. For while he still has his fans and admirers, Prof Dawkins has been preaching to the choir for some time, and the choir shrinks as embarrassed followers slink away from the scene. New Atheism has finally had its day.
As atheist writer Douglas Murray recently noted, after sitting alongside Dawkins in a debate: “The more I listened to Dawkins and his colleagues, the more the nature of what has gone wrong with their argument seemed clear. Religion was portrayed as a force of unremitting awfulness, a poisoned root from which no good fruit could grow. It seems to me the work not of a thinker but of any balanced observer to notice that this is not the case. A new … dogma has emerged. And the argument has stalled.”
And much more sage observation. One word in addition: Schadenfreude. I mourn its death as much as I mourned the deaths of Sadam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Good riddance to bad rubbish. In fact, it never was really even alive for thinking people of all shades. Dawkins’ ‘god’ was a straw man and his view of religion as accurate as a dog’s view of Kant.
From the Guardian–
As public disagreements go, few can have boasted such heavy-hitting antagonists.
On one side is Richard Dawkins, the celebrated biologist who has made a second career demonstrating his epic disdain for religion. On the other is the theoretical physicist Peter Higgs, who this year became a shoo-in for a future Nobel prize after scientists at Cern in Geneva showed that his theory about how fundamental particles get their mass was correct.
Their argument is over nothing less than the coexistence of religion and science.
Higgs has chosen to cap his remarkable 2012 with another bang by criticising the “fundamentalist” approach taken by Dawkins in dealing with religious believers.
“What Dawkins does too often is to concentrate his attack on fundamentalists. But there are many believers who are just not fundamentalists,” Higgs said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. “Fundamentalism is another problem. I mean, Dawkins in a way is almost a fundamentalist himself, of another kind.”
What makes Dawkins so useless is precisely his fundametalism. He’s a spoiled whiner, nothing more: the reprehensible child in the room everyone finds contemptible and are relieved when the brat departs. His idiotic pronouncements are of the same nature as Harold Camping’s senseless end of time predictions. They may differ in substance, but their form is exactly identical. Dawkins is Camping. Camping is Dawkins. Dawkins is Terry Jones. Dawkins is Fred Phelps.
I noticed today that you have been supportive of Francesca but you were never that charitable towards John Loftus or Richard Dawkins. All of them are atheists. Why do you like one but not the others? I think it’s just because Francesca is a pretty woman.
I’ve tried to explain this before but since you ask I’ll explain it again. I draw a distinction between atheists and angry atheists. Atheists are disbelievers in God who have arrived at their (erroneous) conclusion because they find no evidence for God. Angry atheists are either former Christians who worshiped a God of their own making who, consequently and inevitably, didn’t live up to their expectations; or, like Dawkins, are just atheists for the novelty of it because they love to be controversialists (akin to the folk who are gay simply because it’s chic).
These angry atheists aren’t atheists by conviction, they’re atheists by convenience. And I find that simultaneously loathsome and childish.
As to your intimation that I only am friendly with the good looking: Francesca is, in fact, a very attractive young lady. But that’s hardly the reason I am willing to befriend her. I’ve also befriended James Crossley and Philip Davies- neither of whom are Christians and yet both are incredibly unattractive (no offense). A person’s physicality has nothing to do with whether or not I am willing to operate on friendly terms with them. My criteria are more cerebral. Atheists who have respect for Christians in spite of their differing opinions are excellent dialogue partners and in my experience, excellent friends.
Angry atheists, on the other hand, are mouth-breathing, dull witted, wretched little complainers and life is too short to engage with such things on anything but the level which they deserve: contempt.
I hope this clears things up, Tony.
Oh this will make the angry atheists so very, very sad. Their patron saint has come to the conclusion that he can’t be sure God doesn’t exist, so he deems himself an agnostic rather than an atheist.
He told the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, that he preferred to call himself an agnostic rather than an atheist…. There was surprise when Prof Dawkins acknowledged that he was less than 100 per cent certain of his conviction that there is no creator. The philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny, who chaired the discussion, interjected: “Why don’t you call yourself an agnostic?” Prof Dawkins answered that he did. An incredulous Sir Anthony replied: “You are described as the world’s most famous atheist.” Prof Dawkins said that he was “6.9 out of seven” sure of his beliefs. “I think the probability of a supernatural creator existing is very very low,” he added.
Dawkins has grown! He’s left the dogmatic fundamentalism of his former ‘faith’ and embraced his own ignorance. So good for him.
Roll up, roll up for the heavyweight shadow-boxing championship of the world! A grand contest between Oxford’s undisputed champions of atheism and Christianity, Professor Richard Dawkins, and Archbishop Rowan Williams! In the blue corner, the charismatic preacher who has made thousands of converts around the world; in the red corner – Rowan Williams.
Personally I wouldn’t give a plug nickel to cross the street to hear either of them. Angry atheists are a predictable and boring lot and Williams looks like a guy who needs to trim his eyebrows: who can listen to him with those things waving in the air?
Anyway, if I want to be bored, I’ll just watch YouTube videos of cats falling.
[These ‘debates’ are more debacle than useful exchange of ideas. They’re pointless and mere publicity seeking].
Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and prominent atheist, is used to criticism from those who do not share his views on religion or the origins of mankind. But he has expressed surprise at the latest attack which claims the scientist faces awkward questions because some of his ancestors were slave owners. An article in the Sunday Telegraph reported that Henry Dawkins had amassed more than 1,000 slaves in Jamaica by the time of his death in 1744 and quoted campaigners calling on Dawkins to pay reparations.
Yes Dick, pay reparations! It’s the very least you can do since your family was evidently so rich in slaves and destroyed so many lives.
British Christians do not think religion should have a special influence on public policy and display low levels of belief and practice, research suggests. Despite identifying themselves with the religion, most turn out to be overwhelmingly secular in their attitudes on issues ranging from gay rights to religion in public life, the Ipsos Mori poll found. Almost three quarters (74 per cent) agreed that religion should not influence public policy, while only about one in eight (12 per cent) thought it should, the survey found.
And the source of this supposed research?
Conducted for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (UK), it also found that 92 per cent of Christians agreed the law should apply to everyone equally, regardless of their personal religious beliefs.
First, Christians (who are really Christian) do in fact want the values they assert to influence society since to behave otherwise is to abandon faith. Faith lived in isolation from life is no faith at all.
So what kind of ‘Christians’ did the “Dawkins” foundation interview? Disenchanted ones who hang out on message boards hosted by angry atheists? Or did he send his tools into actual Churches and ask actual Christians their views? I doubt it was the latter. Or did he poll angry ‘people’ who used to be ‘Christians’ but who turned from their faith because God didn’t heal them (Avalos) or because they think they’re smarter than God (Ehrman) or because they couldn’t manage their own lives and marriages and blamed God for it (Loftus) or any number of persons who have made themselves into the silly little self adoring idols they’ve become?
Trusting research by Dawkins is like trusting satan to tell the truth. His anti-God agenda so colors every sappish nonsensical word out of his mouth and pen and work that only someone with his same hatred of faith would believe anything he or his feckless dimwitted minions assert.
Stephen tells us
Something is afoot in Oxford. The Christians are fighting back. To herald the ‘Reasonable Faith Tour‘ with William Lane Craig, Oxford’s buses are carrying the slogan: There’s Probably No Dawkins. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Oct 25th at the Sheldonian Theatre. The advertising campaign follows Richard Dawkins’ refusal to debate the existence of God with philosopher William Lane Craig as he visits the UK this month. He has an open invitation to debate Professor Craig at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre on 25th October.
Fun times indeed.
In November 2006, Wired magazine identified Richard Dawkins, Daniel C Dennett and Sam Harris as a “band of intellectual brothers”, whose bestselling books on atheism, published between 2004 and 2006, heralded an era of 21st-century nonbelief. The media quickly dubbed this “the New Atheism”. What differentiates this movement from more old-school atheism (besides the mainstream media’s ever-present need to anoint, brand and categorise thought leaders) is that New Atheists take a vehemently zero-tolerance approach to faith, mysticism and even agnosticism. Though the basics are the same – non-belief in a god or gods – the new system also calls for pushing non-belief on others, almost to the point of abject proselytisation.
Anyone who evangelizes and proselytizes is a member of a ‘religious organization as far as I’m concerned. Hence, these angry atheist are hypocritical in that they too are religious. It’s just that their religion is their own intellect (and what a sorry, weak, pale, empty, silly god they serve!). If these angry sad-sacks weren’t religious, why would they care so much what others believed and why are all the loudest angry atheists (like Hitchens and Dawkins and Avalos and Ehrman and the rest of the merry band of god-haters) men?
Tom Flynn, editor of the secular humanist journal Free Inquiry and executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, agrees that there’s a strong gender skew in the atheist movement. Though organisations like his have worked to recruit and retain female members – with mixed results – he’s aware that more men are recognised as atheist leaders. That said, he won’t necessarily concede that there’s sexist intent behind that recognition, saying:
“The numbers [of atheist authors] are so small, it’s largely coincidence that these authors who are all men emerge as superstars.”
Felicity, however, doesn’t fully explain female atheists’ under-sung presence.
Read the remainder of the essay. It’s quite interesting, and it makes the point quite well that the problem with angry atheism is its practitioners sense of impotence and hence their need to express themselves more rambunctiously than normal folk. Or in other words, if these insipid droolers would just buy a sportscar, they wouldn’t feel so impotent and they would abandon their silly ‘let’s rid culture of God’ ignorance.
The head of the Evangelical Alliance Wales has hit out at a call by leading academics to ban the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in state funded schools.
Naturalist Sir David Attenborough and atheist Prof Richard Dawkins are among the academics arguing that evolution should be taught from the time children start school, as opposed to waiting until they start their GCSEs, as happens at present.
The academics say on their new website that creationism and intelligent design “are not scientific theories” but rather only portrayed as scientific theories “by some religious fundamentalists who attempt to have their views promoted in publicly-funded schools”.
In reponse, Elfed Godding, national director of the Evangelical Alliance of Wales, said he was “baffled” by the group’s position. He called for a “balanced” curriculum.
“Education at all levels involves the careful analysis of a variety of ideas and viewpoints. To insist on the validity of one theory alone to the detriment of all others exemplifies intolerance and doesn’t belong in the classrooms of Wales and the rest of the UK,” he said.
“Christians hold different views when it comes to the origins of the universe. Although believing passionately in the creative activity of a loving God, Christians hold a range of scientific opinions in relation to how the universe has taken shape. “Children and young people are entitled to be exposed to these opinions within the context of a balanced curriculum.”
I’m with Godding- anything that annoys Dawkins is worth doing in spades! The more annoyed he gets the better. And if PZ and his ilk are annoyed along the way, well that’s just even better.
Rebecca Watson meant it as a funny story, almost an aside. In a video blog, the popular skeptic blogger recalled a man following her into an empty elevator and inviting her up to his room
after she spoke about feminism at a European atheist conference last June.
“Guys,” she said with a bit of a laugh, “don’t do that.”
Hers and other atheist/skeptic blogs were soon flooded with comments. Many women told of receiving unwanted sexual advances at freethinker gatherings. Some men, meanwhile, ridiculed Watson as overly sensitive or worse — or threatened her with rape, mutilation and murder. Before she knew it, Watson, 30, was subsumed by what everyone now calls “Elevatorgate.” And when best-selling atheist author Richard Dawkins chimed in, the incident went nuclear.
“Stop whining, will you,” Dawkins wrote in one of three comments on Pharyngula, a popular freethinker blog, comparing her experience to that of a fictional Muslim woman who had been beaten by her husband and genitally mutilated. “For goodness’ sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.”
Dawkins telling people to stop whining is like Al Gore telling people to buy Hummers. But the fact that atheists are sexist isn’t surprising. Given the fact that they think they are descended from apes, they owe it to themselves to behave like animals. But that they act like dogs – well that’s just unfortunate.
Professor AC Grayling was forced to abandon a public talk after protesters opposed to his plans to set up a private university set off a smoke bomb.
A stink bomb would have been more ironically appropriate.
The renowned philosopher was shouted down by more than a dozen protesters during the debate about cuts to the arts at Foyles bookshop in central London. At the end of the heated hour-long debate, during which Prof Grayling was verbally abused by students protesting against his plans, protesters set off the device. Prof Grayling and the three other speakers were quickly ushered from the room as it filled with pungent red smoke. Organisers were forced to evacuate about 100 people amid fears for the safety of the crowd just moments after Prof Grayling said he would talk to the protesters.
Now that’s fun. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving soul unless Dawkhitch had been there too.
- That New ‘Atheist University’? Plagiarists Live There (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- It’s Neither ‘Elite’ nor a True ‘University’ If it’s Conclusions are Already Decided (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- And now an atheist college (geneveith.com)
- The Stupid, It Burns! (collegiate edition) (barefootbum.blogspot.com)
An ‘Atheist’ university which styles itself as elite but which, a priori, has already drawn its conclusions on the existence or non-existence of God can’t seriously call itself a university at all. It’s simply the equivalent of an Islamic School where radicals are radicalized further in a particular viewpoint.
News broke over the weekend of a new private elite university, that will compete with the Oxbridge universities, set up by A. C. Grayling, Richard Dawkins, and other leading lights from the world of atheism and humanism.
Students attending such a ‘school’ won’t be learning to think, they’ll be learning to blindly obey the atheist line. If it were truly an educational enterprise worthy of the name it would allow students to discuss issues openly and without hindrance and come to their own, well informed decisions. Anything that Dawkins is involved in is biased in the extreme from the very start.