The appeal of the career woman

One of these days, women are going to figure out that it’s not at all ironic that they have a great education and a great job, but their romantic options are limited. The latter actually follows naturally from the former.

Blue-eyes, blonde hair, and most importantly on a salary considerably lower than her boyfriend or husband. These are key attributes that define the perfect woman, if the latest survey if to be believed. According to recent poll of 66,000 men, their idea of the ideal female would also weigh a slim nine-and-a-half stones, live on her own and occasionally wear glasses. The research, carried out by the online dating site, also found that 54 per cent of males would not date anyone who earns more than £25,000 a year.

The only thing that surprises me is the ideal weight. 133 pounds? Not unless she’s 6’2″. The truth is that most men want a woman who will be a wife first and a mother second. We already have friends who share far more of our interests than you ever will, and the only guys who specifically prefer a high-income earner are either self-centered evolutionary dead-ends, lazy gigolos, or artists incapable of supporting themselves. If that sounds appealing, then hey, go for it, that’s your business. The important thing is to realize that it’s a trade-off and that being a high flier will be significantly reduce your appeal to the greater part of the opposite sex.

This demand-side issue is exacerbated from the supply side too, because few high-flying women are willing to marry down. It happens, of course, but either way, you’re looking at a minority on one side and a minority on the other. Better make sure you’re really into that prospective career before embarking upon it… or at the very least capable of being genuinely enthusiastic about sharing your life with Moggy, Sox, and Mr. Tiddles.

Sam Harris responds

As anyone who has read TIA knows, I’m not exactly what you would call respectful of Sam Harris’s performance in The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. But to his great credit, he’s not afraid to answer substantive and very specific questions about his work. We even discussed the possibility of a debate in Europe, but while he’s open to the idea, he’s understandably busy completing his dissertation now, so perhaps we’ll do it next year.

Here are his responses, I’ll let you chew on them today and will post my take on them tomorrow:

1. When you wrote the Red State/Blue State argument quoted by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, were you aware that the electoral data for the various counties in which the various cities mentioned are located was available? If you were not, are you willing to concede that the more accurate county data supports a conclusion that is the precise opposite of the one you reached in Letter to a Christian Nation?

I haven’t seen the electoral data you mentioned. Feel free to send a link, if you have one.

2. Are you willing to admit that religion is not the explicit cause of more than 90 percent of the war throughout recorded human history? Are you also willing to admit that religious faith is not a significant aspect of military strategy, tactics, recruitment or discipline?

I wouldn’t be able to quantify this, but I freely admit that religion is not the only explicit cause of war and it probably is not the main cause. I would say that tribalism generally is the cause, and religious tribalism is a subset. Still, I think religion creates the most energetic and pathological forms of tribalism, and it is the form I am most worried about in the future. The other forms are showing clear signs of evaporating (racism, nationalism, etc.). Religion is the only one that has very good defenses against modernity.

3. Were you aware that the professional historians’ estimated bodycount of the most deadly Inquisition, the Spanish, was less than 3,000 deaths over 345 years when you described the inquisition as one of the two “darkest episodes in the history of faith”? I’d also be interested in knowing your understanding of the inquisition’s lethality at the time you wrote that.

I wrote about the Inquisition as a whole (not just the Spanish). Here is what I said in The End of Faith (p.87) Witches,in all likelihood, did not even exist, and those murdered in their stead numbered perhaps 40,000 to 50,000 over three hundred years of persecution;19 Along with the associated endnote (p. 255). 19 R. Briggs, Witches and Neighbors: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft(New York:Viking,1996), has this to say on the

“On the wilder shores of the feminist and witch-cult movements a potent myth has become established, to the effect that 9 million women were burned as witches in Europe; gendercide rather than genocide. This is an overestimate by a factor of up to 200, for the most reasonable modern estimates suggest perhaps 100,000 trials between 1450 and 1750, with something between 40,000 and 50,000 executions, of which 20 to 25 percent were men.”

Such a revaluation of numbers does little to mitigate the horror and injustice of this period. Even to read of the Salem witch trials, which resulted in the hanging of “only” nineteen people, is to be brought face to face with the seemingly boundless evil that is apt to fill the voids in our understanding of the world.

4. How does your long-term vision of world government differ from Bertrand Russell’s? Why are you opposed to American national sovereignty?

I’ve forgotten what BR said about world government. And my brief comments on the subject were made with the full knowledge that it is unlikely to be desirable or practical any time soon. In the meantime, I am not opposed to American sovereignty. I’m opposed to nationalism (because it is idiotic), but I am not opposed to safeguarding civilization. For what it’s worth, I think we need to put even more resources into our military than we do.

5. Are there other forms of “unjustified belief” or “an absence of rationality” than religious faith?

Of course.

6. Did you forget that you had defined Buddhism as not being a religion of faith when you compared the societal health of the U.S.A. to that of “the least religious states”?

But I said that most Buddhists don’t realize this and practice Buddhism like a religion.

7. If the world is genuinely imperiled by nuclear weaponry in the hands of religious individuals, isn’t it true that science is as much to blame as religion? And if the peril is both imminent and genuine, wouldn’t it be more practical and far less costly in terms of human life to end science rather than religion?

You are committing a genetic fallacy here. The problem with Nazis, for instance, was not the railroads and ovens. The problem was their beliefs (and subsequent actions). Blaming the technology (or its source in science) misses the point. That said, I believe that certain types of scientific information should not be published (and there may be some that should not be sought in the first place) — things like the recipe for synthesizing the smallpox virus, etc.

As I said, I’ll provide my take on these answers tomorrow, but they reveal two interesting things. First, I no longer suspect Sam Harris is intellectually dishonest, it’s pretty clear that he’s merely – let’s be polite – imprecise. It’s this imprecision which led to the various contrary definitions and tautologies as well as creating the occasional impression of duplicity in his writing; it also explains why he so frequently complains of being misunderstood. And he is correct, actually, because when he writes two inherently contradictory statements, the reader cannot correctly understand the one without being forced to misunderstand the other.

Second, his willingness to explain himself and take concrete positions leaves a lot of his defenders out to dry. They’re far less honest than he is and are wholly dependent upon being able to dance between one contradictory explanation and the next in order to cry strawman, so his answers tend to leave them pinned down and exposed.

Two contrasting TIA reviews

Catkiller! thinks rather highly of TIA:

In recent years, the intellectual foundation has been laid for the cultural and political ascendence of the right. Forget all the electoral ups and downs of the GOP, for they are little more than the final death throes of the old struggle between two sides in a staged match. A change is coming because the curtain has been lifted and the Wizard is just now finishing his pleas to pay no attention to the man behind it.

Powerful books have been written recently that will change this country as they have in the past. Common Sense convinced American colonists, among other things, that one need not blindly follow a king to please God. Narratives on the Life of an American Slave showed the intellectuals of its day what one of their own had to go through in order to become one of them. Today, we see the blooming spring created by books such as Jim Powell’s FDR’s Folly and Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man which have defintifively put to rest the notion that left-wing economics saved the United States from collapse. Philip Hamburger’s Separation of Church and State has dispelled the myth that today’s concept of ‘separation’ is rooted in the same idea of anti-establishment religious liberty that animated the Founding Fathers. And Jonah Goldberg is turning the conventional political spectrum on its ear with Liberal Facism. If we give weight to these books as they warrant, those of us on the right will never again lack for an ironclad historical basis form which to contend with the left.

I’m confident that Vox Day’s The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens will take its place among this new canon as well.

Richarddawkins.netter Zarbi, on the other hand, seems to have been concerned enough about the book to lie about it, when he managed to even follow the arguments at all. Among many other things, he fails to understand that Richard Dawkins’s failure to properly define complexity can’t reasonably be blamed on me. The amazing thing isn’t that his self-refuting review manages to be almost entirely unrelated to the actual text of TIA despite its length, but the fact that some dim-witted atheists seriously consider it to be a substantive rebuttal.

I have to say that having read the book, it is still hard to determine what “dissect” is intended to mean. The best I can come up with is “try and show they are wrong about lots of stuff”. Well, fair enough. No-one should be surprised if three (or five?) atheist writers don’t make a mistake or two over the years. The problem for Day is that he is attempting to see dogma where there is none. You don’t score points by pointing out fallibility when there has been no claim of perfection, or by showing differences in the viewpoints of people who never claim any kind of unity. This kind of “straw man” approach is common in the book. But, anyway, how is this dissection attempted? Well, if one ignores the ad-hominem attacks that make up close to half the writing, it is by attempts to show that the Trinity are factually wrong in a considerable number of cases. In fact, a very large number of cases indeed. The book is apparently full of facts. There is no doubt that it has required a considerable amount of knowledge and research to write. The question is, is this mountain of facts relevant to the points being made? Well, much of the time, no. The facts are mostly used to very carefully take to pieces straw man arguments….

I feel I have dealt with sufficient chapters to reveal the nature of the book, and how the author’s case is put. There is much more to the book, but this is a review, not a full-length response. I shall leave that to others with more time and patience! I think the pattern here is clear. Day has attacked the “Trinity” with vigour, passion and energy. But his aim is poor, and he mostly puts considerable effort into dealing with positions that are clearly straw men, or that he seems to have simply misunderstood. There may be a book to be written about the phenomenon of the so-called “New Atheists” that deals with weaknesses in their arguments and their views. That book may well be useful, to help the debate about religion to proceed productively. “The Irrational Atheist” is certainly not such a book.

I’ve posted Zarbi’s review on the TIA forum, and below it I’ve also posted a list of 42 of the specific arguments addressed in the book, 12 of which were specifically made by Richard Dawkins – including the one Dawkins himself described as the central argument of The God Delusion – and 22 made by Sam Harris. I believe each argument is accurately and fairly described when it is not quoted in full, so I would be very interested in knowing precisely which of those 42 arguments Zarbi considers to be straw men. I tend to suspect that he doesn’t actually believe any of them are and that he is blatantly lying when he writes that I am “dealing with “positions that are clearly straw men”. Sam Harris’s forthright responses to my questions should suffice to prove that this is not even remotely close to being the case.

And since apparently it’s necessary for some of the dimmer brights, let me explain that by “dissect”, I mean to take apart, closely examine and adjudicate the factual and logical legitimacy of the arguments made by the three – no five – individuals. And for further clarification:

Unholy Trinity: Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens
New Atheists: Dawkins, Harris, Dennett
Four Horsemen of the Bukkakelypse: Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Hitchens
Atheist Icons: Ingersoll, Russell, Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Dennett, Onfray