For those of you who don't know, Rob Talisse and I have been posting about atheism and argumentative civility over at 3QuarksDaily. First, here; the follow up here. Our book, Reasonable Atheism is on the shelves now, too. In the blog posts, we've been trying to untangle the ugliness about the charge of 'accommodationism' among the atheists. Well, that angers the gnus, because they keep thinking that people are wagging their fingers at them about tone. And angry atheists don't like to be told to be nicer. (And, by the way, nothing about what we'd written was about tone, anyway. So…)
We criticized PZ Myers, of pharyngula fame, for making an error we see a lot: holding a person in contempt for believing something you think is false. The point is that there's a difference between being wrong and being stupid, and Myers makes the error all too often. He posted a comment on our first entry (Feb 7, 2011 10:36:49 PM) and said that there are 'irrational reasons'. But only people are irrational. Reasons are irrelevant, insufficient, poorly arranged, and so on. A person may be irrational for holding those reasons, but that's the point. He's making the error in spades there. We made the distinction again in the follow-up and even provided some examples. And then Myers defends himself with this:
Dear sweet goddess of academic loquaciousness, is the whole book written in that style? Is anyone going to be able to read it? Those three paragraphs nearly killed me with their preening opacity! And, near as I can tell, all they're doing is fussing over the conjunction of two words that they found incomprehensible.
Wow. That we were hard to read is a defense? Seriously? I now know why Myers thinks that most sophisticated defenses of religious belief are totally stupid. He doesn't understand them, because he has no interest in reading hard things. A shame, really, that someone who stands for rational discourse and reason helping has no interest in responding to criticism with any.
Oh, and if we needed to make explicit the form of the fallacy, it's ad hominem abusive. Classic, baby, classic.