Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The economist does religion, poorly

The Economist's Democracy in America blog has a dyspeptic moment today and asks that the criticism that atheists can be fundamentalists too be dropped from acceptable discourse.

This is followed by two arguments. The first is that some fundamentalist religious people are terrorists and no atheists are terrorists, therefore atheists cannot be fundamentalists. A brief bout with a Venn diagram disposes of this one but this is left to the reader as an exercise.

The other argument starts by defining fundamentalists as those who do not change their beliefs in the face of evidence and then argues that because certain narrow types of evidence, evidence not even consist with some theistic models, have not been provided to certain atheists, that all atheists are not fundamentalists. Huh? How does the absence of certain types of evidence show that an entire group of people would change their beliefs in response to evidence, which is what is required to demonstrate that atheists could not be fundamentalists under this definition?

I have no brief for fundamentalists of the theistic, the atheistic or the political sort, but this post is just a tangled mess of poorly argued silliness. The economist can, and should, do better (or should reflect on the many benefits of the division of labor).