Who said women killed science fiction?

WisCon: a report from the very large, reinforced trenches:

Thinking Ahead: Feminists thinking about possible near and middle futures and feminist responses to them

WisCon description: What challenges and opportunities will feminists face in the coming decades? Feminism has always looked to the future. But are feminists now in danger of falling behind the curve? Isn’t it time to use our SFnal skills to feminist advantage?


* Moondancer – A white woman who is Native American because she wears a cowboy hat and has wolves all over her shirt. And because she calls herself Moondancer.
* Xakara (no last name) – Saucy black woman who writes multicultural, bi-poly-transamorous science fiction.
* (Three other people…)

This panel seemed innocent enough. Future feminism. I can do this. Seems like a sane crowd.

Moondancer starts going on about how your womb space has power, and that men are threatened by your womb power. Women exude energy during their moontime.

Feminism is making progress, because Moondancer’s son is a little pussy who gets beaten up by his sister and takes it.

Then, out of nowhere, a broad-shouldered woman with an Adam’s apple shouts out, “How can we say we are moving forward when Hillary just gets consistently struck down!”

The crowd gasps. This is what I came for!

“She opened her mouth and said things she shouldn’t have said!”

“A president can’t be nice! She can only go so far because women have to be nice!”

“Systematic, intentional vilification of Hillary as a nagging woman is because of socialization of men!”

“Every strong woman is a lesbian!”

“My magi-shapeshifter race is council-governed by all women!”

After reading this, I feel inspired to run against John Scalzi for SFWA President next year. My platform is going to involve disenfranchising all of the female members and endorsing a Federal law banning women from writing any science fiction or fantasy that does not contain vampires or wereseals and comes with a warning label: WARNING: this is Vampire/Wereseal fiction, not actual science fiction or fantasy.

Yes, it shows

PZ Myers provides an illuminating example of the careful logic and deep thought that goes into so much atheist reasoning:

A couple of years ago, I sat down one morning, bemused by yet another bit of empty apologetics from god’s sycophants, and banged out a short bit of amusement called The Courtier’s Reply. It got picked up everywhere, to my surprise. I mean, seriously, I have to confess that I whipped that out in 20 minutes, no edits or rewrites, just shazam, it’s done.

That’s certainly amusing, if not exactly surprising to anyone who has read it. As I have mentioned before, The Courtier’s Reply is a blitheringly stupid attempt to justify atheist ignorance of that which they are criticizing. In his recent post, PZ tries to claim otherwise, but the fact of the matter is that whatever PZ’s original purpose may have been, that purpose is not synonymous with either its logical consequences or how it is habitually utilized by atheists who refer to it. He states “they see the Courtier’s Reply as an attempt to excuse atheists from bothering with theology at all, when it’s quite the opposite: it’s a rebuke to theologians, pointing out that going on at length about rarefied epiphenomena and delicate points of dogma is a waste of time when you haven’t even established the central point of the matter, a reasonable justification for believing in a god or gods, period.”

Of course, being cited to excuse atheists from bothering with theology at all is exactly how The Courtier’s Reply is utilized; it is the ONLY way it is utilized. PZ’s attempt to provide a belated defense is easily proven to be false by no less than Richard Dawkins himself, who publicly cited it as an excuse for his own ignorance of theology in the Times.

You can’t criticise religion without detailed study of learned books on theology.

If, as one self-consciously intellectual critic wished, I had expounded the epistemological differences between Aquinas and Duns Scotus, Eriugena on subjectivity, Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope (as he vainly hoped I would), my book would have been more than a surprise bestseller, it would have been a miracle. I would happily have forgone bestsellerdom had there been the slightest hope of Duns Scotus illuminating my central question: does God exist? But I need engage only those few theologians who at least acknowledge the question, rather than blithely assuming God as a premise. For the rest, I cannot better the “Courtier’s Reply” on P. Z. Myers’s splendid Pharyngula website, where he takes me to task for outing the Emperor’s nudity while ignoring learned tomes on ruffled pantaloons and silken underwear.

As if Richard Dawkins knows the first thing about the theology of Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Tertullian, or even CS Lewis. But this example of Dawkins is far from the only one and many more can be found on PZ’s own site for those with the fortitude to slog through that swamp of pseudo-scientific smuggery. The core problem with The Courtier’s Reply is that it is a category error. PZ does not understand that while the discussion of God’s Will or divine characteristics are conceptually related to discussions of God’s existence, they are not synonymous. The Courtier’s Reply is that of the innumerate individual claiming that because no one has ever shown him a “one” or a “two”, it is a waste of time for mathematicians to go on at length about rarefied imaginary numbers and delicate points of calculus. The fact that religion and the theology from which it derives makes real, material, and observable differences in the lives of its practitioners, be they for good or for ill, is sufficient to justify its study regardless of whether one can establish its ultimate source to the satisfaction of scientists or not. And only a complete ignoramus who knows nothing of history, economics, socionomics, or demographics would be foolish enough to assert that the material effects of theological differences are too unimportant to bother with the matter.

The thing that is so ridiculous about latter day atheists like PZ is that they are not only theologically ignorant, but they know next to nothing about secular philosophy either. Intelligent atheists have known for decades that science can never provide the replacement for religion that fantasists like PZ and Sam Harris believe it can for the simple reason that science does not and cannot dictate values. This is why a strong dedication to rational science, with or without the additional complication of atheism, so readily produces monstrous leaders like Hitler, Lenin, and Stalin in such short order, monsters of the sort that were so few and far between in the centuries prior to the Enlightenment.

Theology is the precise opposite of useless because it provides that which science intrinsically cannot; a basic framework upon which guidelines for human behavior can be structured in a viable manner that is coherent, self-consistent and understandable even to the non-believer. Consider how it is entirely normal for the atheist to criticize the Christian for failing to live up to the standards set by Christian theology; to what scientific standard can the non-atheist ever hope to hold the atheist?

Myers further demonstrates his astounding ignorance when he claims: “Science provides tangible evidence of its accuracy and importance. Religion makes excuses for its absence of the same. There is no “rich tradition of rigorous inquiry” in religion, as we can see from its lack of progress, and the apologists are deluding themselves when they claim there is.” And yet, ironically enough, there is no shortage of empirical evidence, scientific evidence, demonstrating both the accuracy and importance of religion. PZ’s incompetent blathering would be entirely amusing, were it not for the panoply of self-deluded idiots at Pharyngula that actually take the man’s illogical meanderings seriously. But, if nothing else, the forthcoming book he mentions should provide for a deliciously target-rich environment.

UPDATE – Buttressing my point about how mathematics, among other disciplines, demonstrates the philosophical absurdity and irrelevance of The Courtier’s Reply, wrf3 quotes from Introduction to Artificial Intelligence by Philip C. Jackson:

“[T]he mathematical theory of Euclidean geometry gives us certain axioms or postulates concerning the undefined concepts of “point,” “line,” “plane,” “between,” etc.; the “thing” described by this theory is a “geometry,” consisting of interrelationships existing among lines, points, planes, circles, spaces, etc.

The ingredients of a mathematical theory, then, are the following:

1. A set of basic words (e.g. “point,” “line,” “between,” “distance,” “x,” “y,” “not,” “implies,” “for all,”) that refer to different objects, relations between objects, variables, logical connectives, quantifiers, and so on. These are the undefined words or symbols of the theory.

2. A set of basic sentences made of these basic words. These basic sentences are the axioms or postulates of the theory.

3. A set of logical rules, also made of these basic words, that tell us how to derive new statements from the ones we are given.”

If one is so foolish as to take The Courtier’s Reply seriously, one must then throw out all mathematics since mathematicians haven’t established the central point of the matter, a reasonable justification for believing in the undefined words or symbols of the theory. As I have said on numerous occasions before, the New Atheists are logical incompetents and philosophical ignoramuses. This is precisely why I have referred to them from the very start as The Clowns of Reason.

Mailvox: libertarian success

JY asks about the prospects for an applied libertarian society:

Do you believe that the success of applied Libertarianism is at all related to a society’s “collective morality”? The question I’m dealing with is whether a form of limited government, which some Libertarian’s advocate, is sustainable apart from a moral society (in this case, by “moral society” I mean one that closely aligns with the general Judeo-Christian ethic).

Not in the slightest. Libertarianism is a secular defense mechanism against evil; a moral Christian society can tolerate and survive big government much better than a purely secular one due to the limits built into Christian morality. Those limits will be violated from time to time, Man being fallen, but the centuries-long history of hundreds of Christian near-absolute rulers who never once engaged in the sort of routine butchery of their people that secular irreligious rulers regularly do shows that it is secular and immoral societies that are the most in need of libertarian government.

The problem is not that people are not Christian enough to pursue libertarian government, it is that they are not intelligent enough. Anyone who seeks special favors from a government empowered to grant them is a self-interested, shortsighted, gambling fool, because the government that can give can also take away and will do so whenever its own interest comes into conflict with the individuals.

Non-libertarians want cheap government health care, but they don’t want the government to deny them care or euthanize them when their health care threatens to become expensive. The problem is that most people are insufficiently intelligent to recognize that the former necessarily dictates the latter.

UPDATE – TZ points out an omission: I don’t think you answered the question that was asked: “whether a form of limited government, which some Libertarian’s advocate, is sustainable apart from a moral society”

Fair enough. Okay, my answer is this: no form of limited government is sustainable in the long term because no form of government is permanently sustainable. The most that can be said is that a moral society can be sustained longer than an immoral one, regardless of whether the form of government is limited or unlimited.

What books would you recommend for a young person (teen) just forming political ideas, leaning libertarian?

A lot of Robert Heinlein. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Tunnel in the Sky are probably the two best. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is the conventional work that has probably has the most influence on current libertarians. Orwell’s 1984 isn’t libertarian per se, but is well worth reading. And Hayek’s Road to Serfdom is a must. Unfortunately, I haven’t read much in the way of explicitly libertarian philosophy or ideology that I find worth recommending.