Two men I admire most are Harris and Hitchens. Awesome speakers and writers, they have the courage to say it like they see it. In an age where politically correct mealy mouthed prevarication oozes out of spineless leaders leaving a slimy track for the mindless to follow, Harris and Hitchens restore my faith in humanity and I am assured that this is just a temporary phenomenon because truth abides. Here’s a video, an editorial, and a news item.
Sam Harris argues that science informs our understanding of what we call moral behavior. He talks about science and human values. He claims — contrary to popular opinion — that science can help us (to some extent, in my opinion) tell use what we ought to value. In other words, I hear in his TED talk the claim that science can help us out with the normative as well, not just the objective or positive.
He uses a few telling examples such as the status of women in Islamic societies to show that different cultures have different values and all of them are not objectively valuable. He is not for moral relativism. Nor am I. I think cultures, much like many other human attributes, occur along a continuum ranging from the dysfunctional to the good. Not all of them in all their aspects are good.
Now on to Hitchens. Writing in Newsweek in Dec 2009, “The Death of Theocracy“, he makes a related point —
My colleague and friend Fareed Zakaria wrote not long ago in these pages that there was a significant difference between, say, the Taliban takeover of the Swat Valley and the launching of suicide attacks on the non-Muslim world. I said to him then and I say once more that in the long run this is a distinction without very much difference. A country that attempts to govern itself from a holy book will immediately find itself in decline: the talents of its females repressed and squandered, its children stultified by rote learning in madrassas, and its qualified and educated people in exile or in prison. There are no exceptions to this rule: Afghanistan under the Taliban was the worst single example of beggary-cum-terrorism, and even the Iranians were forced to denounce it—because of its massacre of the Shia—without seeing the irony.
But when the crops fail and the cities rot and the children’s teeth decay and nothing works except the ever-enthusiastic and illiterate young lads of the morality police, who will the clerics blame? They are not allowed to blame themselves, except for being insufficiently zealous. Obviously it must be because the Jews, the Crusaders, the Freemasons have been at their customary insidious work. Thus, holy war must be waged on happier and more prosperous lands.
India is likely to prosper relative to Pakistan and Bangladesh. I am afraid that India’s rising prosperity will provoke increasing Islamic terror. It will arise out of a mixture of envy of the material wealth of and the hatred for an infidel India.
And lastly, a news item from Indian Express: To attract youth, Gadkari seeks new Hindutva idiom
“Our credo has always been ‘justice for all; appeasement of none’. A true Hindu can never attack a Muslim, and a true Muslim can never attack a Hindu. A terrorist, on the other hand, has no religion, caste, or creed. It’s the pseudo-secular brigade that has unduly highlighted the religion of terrorists who happened to be Muslims,” said Gadkari.
I am supposing the new Hindutva idiom is an attempt to be more pseudo-secular than the Congress. Mr Gadkari is a politician and has many reasons to — how shall I put this most delicately — be very sparing with the truth. He has elections to win and therefore cannot alienate the pseudo-secular voters. But I am afraid that this tactic is not going to work.
First of all, those who are opposed to the BJP on religious grounds are not going to vote for a party that is at best a “wannabe Congress B team” merely because Gadkari makes meaningless statements about terrorists not having a religion. I think it is pretty clear to all that an overwhelming majority of terrorists are Muslims and are motivated by Islam. I am not making this up. The terrorists themselves claim that they are doing it for their god and their religion. They shout Allahhuakbar as they slit the throats of the infidels. Don’t believe me. Go listen to the videos and voice recordings; go read the transcripts; do read their manifestos; go hear them make their statements in open court defending their actions.
How dare Mr Gadkari speak on behalf of the terrorists?
I disagree most vehemently with Gadkari’s claim that a true Hindu can never attack a Muslim. In the many wars, many Hindus and Muslims have been killed by the opposing side. Is it his claim that all the Muslim soldiers who killed Hindus were not true Muslims? Or that all the Hindus who killed Muslims were not true Hindus?
How did we come to this sorry state of affairs where leaders spit on the memory of people who gave their lives in defense of the motherland?
In earlier times, I would laugh at this sort of mealy mouthed nonsense and point out the “no true Scotsman fallacy”. In July 2008, I wrote in “No true Terrorists”
The Hindu reports that an official of the “Indian Union Muslim League has asked the media and public to not to brand the perpetrators of the deed as Muslims.”
“I appeal to the media and the public not to brand the perpetrators of the Bangalore blasts as Muslims,” State president of IUML K M Khader Mohideen told reporters here on Saturday night.
“These kind of people are neither Muslims, Hindus or Christians. The Centre and the state government should take steps to nab them quickly,” he said.
That’s an example of what is called the “No true Scotsman” fallacy, a fallacy of equivocation and question begging. Here it is, from Thinking about Thinking (1975), by Andrew Flew:
Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the “Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again.” Hamish is shocked and declares that “No Scotsman would do such a thing.” The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again and this time finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, “No true Scotsman would do such a thing.”
As long as we are declaring that the self-proclaimed bombers who self-identify themselves as Muslims and their organizations as explicitly Islamic are not Muslims, why don’t we go the whole hog and declare that there were no terrorists bombings, that there were no deaths, that everything is peaceful and tranquil?
Let’s live in fairy-land as the reality is too painful and our so-called leaders are powerless to do sh!7.
Now I will not do so because it is no longer funny. We have to oppose this sort of nonsense without apology.