Is the Emperor Naked?
I’ve been reading through my free online copy of The Happy Atheist this month, by which (of course) I mean old Pharyngula blog posts. This morning I found myself reading through The Courtier’s Reply for the first time in many years, wondering why I’ve never written on this topic before.
Here is an outline of how the reply it is supposed to work, to the very best of my understanding:
- An anti-theistic author makes an atheological argument against some particular conception of a god, e.g. Dawkins Ultimate 747 Gambit.
- A critic of that author notes that the atheological argument(s) under consideration would fail against a more sophisticated conception of god, or against more sophisticated arguments for the existence of a god or gods.
- PZ steps in and (like the proverbial innocent child) unthinkingly declares that the Emperor is clearly naked, that God is just as obviously fictitious, and that all this jargon-laden philosophical arguing back and forth between theologians and atheologians may be casually swept aside with a convenient two-word rebuttal: Courtier’s Reply.
This is such a stunningly naive approach that I have to assume I’ve misapprehended the gist of his argument on some key point. Surely PZ cannot be arguing that theism is obviously false, since less than 10% of his countrymen have come around to that allegedly obvious position. More saliently, Professor Myers used to spend a decent amount of time and effort actively arguing against theism, often quite effectively, which is indicative his own belief that people need to be brought around with arguments rather than simply berated for missing something really quite obvious.
As I said, I have to assume that I really did miss something here. Did I get one of the steps wrong, or are some crucial suppositions left out? It looks like an intellectually lazy conversation-stopper to me, but I’d be happy to be shown how it really works. Can anyone think of any real world examples of apologetic writings wherein The Youthful Ejaculation turned out to be an appropriate and persuasive rejoinder to The Courtier’s Reply?
Related reading: Can Atheists Simply Ignore Theology by Eric Reitan.