A fecolith is an ossified 'dropping', so fecolithology is the study of such offerings.

I found this first offering of histrionic boocr*p by Lee Siegel in the LA Times online. It is over-imaginatively titled Militant atheists are wrong: A flurry of literary attacks on God may also be closing the book on imagination.

Nor would anyone know from reading the latest rash of anti-God books that promiscuous sex and polymorphous sexuality are taken for granted in modern-day America (let's see a conservative Supreme Court try to roll that back);

Judging by Siegel's remarks, I'd have to assume that the New Atheists are promoting rampant sexual expression. This implication might boost book sales. I am currently reading The God Delusion by Dawkins and I have yet to come across Dawkins' exciting comments on promiscuous sex and polymorphous sexuality. I can hardly wait! If Richard disappoints on this score, I shall have to trust to Hitchens for titillation.

After all, in a nation where over 90% of the population claims to be religious, the scurrilous antics of "Paris Hilton, HBO, Internet porn and flip-flops" must, judging by Siegel's innuendo, be solely the result of atheistic influences from that so-influential less than 10%. If this were not the case, then why would Siegel be concerned about arguments for rationality and scientific understanding?

But they make me concerned nevertheless, because I think they strike a blow against something more important (at least to me) than belief in God. In their contempt for any belief that cannot be scientifically or empirically proved, the anti-God books are attacking our inborn capacity to create value and meaning for ourselves.

What utter boocr*p! Siegel, probably for the sake of getting his name in print, is jousting with an invisible straw man. This is not mere distortion of an argument made by the 'militant atheists', but it is something that they are not saying at all*. In fact, Dawkins quite clearly says the opposite of this in TV interviews and in the sections that I have already read of The God Delusion. Siegel is either deficient in understanding or has read theistic reviews rather than the books he is thus libeling. Judging by comments around the blogosphere that Siegel denigrated, the explanation lies largely in the former interpretation.

But that campaign against religious faith and superstition triumphed long ago in the West, where we now live in a technological, irreligious age beyond the wildest Enlightenment hopes.

Technology has definitely advanced in those 200 years, but the Founding Fathers, never mind Voltaire, would probably be horrified at the rampant fundamentalist religiosity that, amongst its other dubious manifestations, put Dubaya into power.

Even Siegel appears not to be impressed by Dubaya's administration when he complains, "For instance, Bush and his gang preach Christian values while lying us into a slaughterhouse overseas, ransacking our public coffers and ignoring social inequities and iniquities at home -- and so our heroic anti-religionists attack . . . Christian values."

Look again, Siegel, many religionists continue to approve of Dubaya, while liberals and atheists were among the first to declare horror at the damage to . . . human values. It strikes me as odd that a Jewish writer should be worring about 'Christian' values.

When our anti-religionists attack the mechanism of religious faith by demanding that our beliefs be underpinned by science, statistics and cold logic, they are, in effect, attacking our right to believe in unseen, unprovable things at all. Their assault on religious faith amounts to an attack on the human imagination.

Oh, go read The Sorrows of Young Werther if you want Romantic fantasy, Siegel! You are clearly unaware that science opens up the wonders of the universe to the imagination, whereas the God of the Gaps explains absolutely nothing and religious zealotry kills. Siegel is obviously unaware, or uncaring, that scientific investigation requires creative thinking on the part of hypothesizers and designers of experiments.

Because the existence of God is undemonstrable, unverifiable and the object of an impractical leap of faith, religion, it seems to me, is one of imagination's last strongholds.

Religion is indeed a product of fervent imaginations, but this comment is otherwise utterly and completely unjustified because, as exemplified by the wonders revealed by science and by the creative outpourings of atheists, imagination is not the sole property of religion. Boocr*p yes, creativity and wonder no. Siegel is probably incapable of discerning the difference.

*Mark Hoofnagle sums up the 'militant atheist' position admirably:

Dawkins et al., are not making the argument that we should become robots, tied to cold logic and unable to do anything new because rationality isn't prepared for the unknown. They are making the argument that we should free our minds from dogmatism and illogic which hampers our creativity, our compassion for our fellow men and women, and locks us into patterns of behavior prescribed by ancient texts that are contradictory, bigoted, and irrelevant in our modern age.

Siegel's arguments are absurd, and irrelevant. But then, so is Siegel.

PZ Myers never disappoints:

I love that admission. I wish more theists would make it. It's saying that the value of religion lies in its awesome idiocy — that no rational, reasonable person could possibly believe in that load of tripe, therefore, because so many people do believe in it, it must be valuable (and they so blithely overlook the possibility that the reason so many accept it is that they are irrational and unreasonable). A willingness to believe does not make a fact out of fantasy — it makes you a believer in nonsense, nothing more.

Pharyngulist comments are often worth repeating:

I am amazed that Siegel has never heard of George Carlin, Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Terry Pratchett, Salman Rushdie, George Bernard Shaw, Percy Bysshe Shelly, Woody Allen, David Cross, David Gilmour, Billy Joel, and, one of my personal favorites, H.P. Lovecraft. That list does not [even] include agnostics. So either Siegel is staggeringly ignorant of the contributions of non-theists to the arts or he does not consider the works of these people significant or he is aware and considers them important, but is being completely dishonest. Considering his past episode of sock-puppetry, I'm going with the last one. _ Atheotatous_

Websites: Washington Monthly :
Blogosphere: Play whack-a-mole with Lee Siegel : No Imagination Without Religion? Lee Seigel is an idiot. : Militant atheists are wrong - Los Angeles Times : Lee Siegel could try to be open-minded about reading secularist tomes, & : I Can Has The God? : T Bogg

Hardly surprising that rather than criticizing the rampant illogic of Siegel's piece (aside from the acknowledgement that religion requires 'an impractical leap of faith') religionist sites are merely providing links to the rubbish.



Lee Smolin said...

This piece in the LA times was written by Lee Seigel, not Lee Smolin

salient said...

Yes, you are correct, and I stand corrected. I owe the real Lee Smolin an apology for associating his name with that tripe.

It's interesting how we make errors involving vaguely familiar information. I realized the error as soon as I picked up The God Delusion again and read of the originator of multiverse-black hole theories. I was logged off by then, so your correction preceded my correction.

Thanks for pointing out the error, though.