Friday, July 20, 2007

Chattering Classes Unite!

Simon Jenkins mentions the book is the Guardian today in the context of the row about the BBC. He urges the chattering classes to put down their ciabatta and philosophise with a hammer in his most recent column.

Friday, July 13, 2007

More Coverage for the Book

Last Thursday (July 5th) Popbitch decisively backed The Threat to Reason:

Worried you know too much about Britney and Lindsay? Easy way to make yourself look clever - Dan Hind's The Threat To Reason, a notorious but accessible new look at the Enlightenment, God botherers and God botherer-botherers.

And on Sunday Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times described the book as "fine, lucid and sharp".

On Tuesday 10th I talked at an Indymedia screening about 9/11 at the Inn on the Green. Anyone who wants to listen to my stray thoughts about conspiratorial research can find them here.

Apparently there are some print reviews still to come, maybe some this week end. Next week I will mostly be doing radio interviews, apparently.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

From SW3 to the SWP

The blog Lenin's Tomb carries reviews of The Threat to Reason and Hitchens' God is not Great here. The latest edition of the Spectator runs an article by Hywel Williams focussing on the role that a fantasy version of Enlightenment plays in the recent wave of atheist polemic. He gives the book a ringing endorsement along the way. You can read it online here.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Third Review for The Threat to Reason

Socialist Review has just published an extremely interesting and broadly positive review of The Threat to Reason:

Although different in emphasis, books like Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion, Sam Hall's Letter to a Christian Nation, and Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great are all loitering with intent on the same street corner, waiting to club passing believers insensible with the baseball bat of reason. It seems that two important Enlightenment virtues these authors have not absorbed are those of tolerance and respect for the views of others.

But, whatever other disagreements we may have with these authors, surely they are right to attack the obscurantism and irrationality of religious belief? In a commendably short and well argued book, Dan Hind argues that they are not. In fact, as Hind convincingly shows, they are either, at best, staging an unconscious diversion from the real threats to the Enlightenment tradition or, at worst, providing ideological cover for imperial politics. It is no accident that under the cover of attacks on religion in general the greatest bile is invariably reserved for Islam.

The reviewer, Neil Davidson, doesn't go along with everything I have to say, as you might expect. But I can understand his reservations; I am generally quiet about class relations in the book, and I don't advocate a straightforwardly Marxist position when I try to offer an revised idea of what it would to be enlightened. You can read the full review here.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Adventures Online

The Guardian have published a piece by me here. The comments have been either very favorable or wrong-headed so far, in my entirely fact-based opinion. The literary web site Ready Steady Book are running a long interview over the week here.

Being published in the modern era is an odd experience. Everyone seems to hate you suddenly, in real time. It is kind of fun.

The Pitfalls of Eloquence

What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

This is one of those bold assertions for which Hitchens is famous. It is billed by him as an ‘elementary rule of logic’, but if he seriously believes it, he is committed to a very exotic philosophy. For there is a class of assertions for which we cannot provide evidence, but which would be reluctant to dismiss lightly. Moral statements (‘It is wrong to murder’, ‘You should tell the truth’, you know the kind of thing) cannot be supported by anything like evidence. Of course you might tell a story about how we have evolved to be moral, or you could point out the prudential advantages of a moral life. But this very far from being evidence that you must be moral now.

If moral statements are in some sense true and at the same time cannot rely on evidence, we have to be very meticulous as to how exactly they differ from religious claims. Now there might be a case for treating religious and moral claims differently; but it is a case that must be made. Assertions that lack evidence cannot be dismissed by fiat, by the power of a well turned aphorism.

Another aphorist once said that 'the good is outside the space of facts'. This is a claim that lacks factual corroboration (how could it not), but it is very beautiful, and perhaps even true.

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