18 April 2007

"You can use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!"

Sam Harris is a very skilled writer.

Now that I've gotten the obligatory "something nice" out of the way, geez-o-pete! [Beware of links in this post -- I'm expressing my anger with silly websites.] Second page: ignoring context much?? Broad generalizations! Unfair hyperbole! And the poetry of it is beautiful, which makes it so much worse. This is possibly the worst thing I've ever read. It makes the Enlightenment cry. And it's not even a physical thing.

Harris points out -- but seems not to notice the parallel, exactly -- that the progression of Islam (at least as he sees it) is right on track with Christianity, offset by 600 years because, well, it's that much younger. It's like the "terrible twos" of religion or something -- a bunch of devout followers decide they need to go on a crusade while the levelheaded moderates hide and keep their mouths shut. Though he is against all religions, he says, he is inordinately unfair to Islam, probably because it's happening now and not in the middle ages.

He also "supports" his argument with all sorts of misguided "facts" that really made me angry. As an avid atheist, I'd think he would be better acquainted with proper epistemological and rational reasoning skills. I've outlined some of my favorite claims below:

  • Saying that "lesser" jihad is a "central feature of the [Muslim] faith" (111) is like saying that burning heretics is a "central feature" of Catholicism. It's simply the most visible part.
  • He insists that Muslims are out to conquer the world as an ultimate goal of jihad, a point which is entirely unsupported by any evidence whatever, and to me seems just plain foolish. This would be a blatant attack, which is not defense of Islam.
  • His quotes from the hadith are, actually, not specifically about attack, if read with more than cursory attention. They could be construed this way, of course, but there is nothing in their context to suggest that this is the proper reading -- he is interpreting "fighting" in a far too restricted matter, as only physical battle, and then assuming that it also means against any non-Muslim. This is simply ridiculous.
  • "But this injunction [in the Koran, to not be the aggressor] restrains no one." That's just false.
  • And then on p. 113 he has the audacity to mention that someone else's argument "might be misleading."
  • P. 123, on his five pages of quotes: "This is all desperately tedious, of course." Then why did you put it there? Out-of-context quotes are all but meaningless, Sam. You can make them mean anything you want. And then he personally attacks anyone who dissents. Now that's bad sportsmanship.
  • P. 124-5: Math cries. 75% of possible responses to the question were grouped into one column in the table, 25% into another, and a response not offered was in the third. He doesn't explain how he did this, either, or even try to explain the addition problem. I find that sufficiently disturbing. Imagine if this man took care of important numbers. NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!! EVERYTHING HERE IS INTENTIONALLY MISLEADING.
If I don't stop now, this will just become an angry ramble, and the Interwub has too many of those. This book is the work of a man with an agenda, and he's going to get it across whether it's legitimate or not, and rationality be damned! Or... some atheistic equivalent. Ahem.

The world is in an unstable state. Some people fight to keep it from being worse, others incite the anger of the moderates and extremists alike. It breaks my heart when obviously intelligent people use their gifts to mislead others to accepting disgusting propositions like this, when they could be helping to provide the voice of reason our planet so desperately needs.

Oh well. Give it a hundred years, and we won't recognize this place anyways.


Stacy Klemme said...

My own rant came out rather incoherent, with random sputterings of "WTF" being the highlights of meaning. Please forgive me if I quote you extensively in my respone blog, which will primarily consist of "Yeah, what she said!"

Sarah M said...

lol! I heart you, Stacy :)