Sunday, March 16, 2014

What is up with Jonathan Haidt?

I've heard a few interviews with Jonathan Haidt in which he generally comes across as a reasonable person. That is until he starts talking about the "New Atheists." Suddenly, his brain turns off and he starts acting like a self-righteous deceitful and willfully ignorant dumb-ass.

His most recent bullshit laden diatribe* focuses on the idea that the so-called new atheists are more certain (implying arrogance among other mythical smears) than religious extremists. It has been reported in some places that this conclusion is based on a "study." It isn't. It is Haidt's opinion. He claims to have support for this view since he used a third party algorithm to count a specific set of words in a specific set of works by "new atheist" authors. There is a bit of a problem with this approach. It is completely inaccurate. It does not account for context or even attempt to control for modifiers (adjectives and adverbs). It simply finds and counts each word completely apart from the sentence in which they exist. Some of these word are themselves modifiers but they still are not cross-referenced with the other listed words. His words include; Always, Never, Certainly, Every, and Undeniable.

Consider this sentence:
Eve though it is undeniable that science is an excellent method of determining what is factual, I am certainly not claiming that it is always without errors.

According to Haidt's method this sentence would be proof that the speaker is completely certain of his claim and therefore more arrogant and self-deluded than a religious extremist. It contains three of the target words. See the problem? The point of the sentence is to express and embrace uncertainty which is the exact opposite of Haidt's claim. He can only make that assertion by completely separating the individuals word and imposing rather dubious means of interpretation.

Perhaps, deep down he realizes his opinion of the "new atheists" is baseless but just can't seem to help himself. He doesn't like them so he has to find a way to justify his antipathy. There's no real evidence so he resorts to fabricating it in a way he can sort of claim is scientific.  Either way, when it comes to his fellow atheists Haidt's ability to reason seems to completely disappear. I don't get. I wished he'd either come up with reasons he can back up or just shut the fuck up about it.

*Haidt's piece has been noted and summarized by a handful of bloggers (both atheists and theists) but the original can be found on This View of Life website titled "Why Sam Harris is Unlikely to Change his Mind.
" Sam Harris has responded to this type of shit from Haidt before. An example can Be found on the Edge website, "Sam Harris Response to Jonathan Haidt."

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