Friday, December 14, 2007


No, seriously. Otherwise why would he be so fond of straw men? In the case of D'Souza, there's the added complication that he doesn't even understand the purpose for which he erects those fine men of straw.

Consider his endearing latest attack on Daniel Dennett in which he lambasts Dennett for making the contention that children should be handed over to secular educators rather than their parents for a more balanced and secular education. While I don't completely agree with Dennett's generalisation- after all parents can also be marvelous secular educators like mine were- the essence of his argument is very important. Many if not most parents invariably even if with well-meaning enthusiasm foist their religion upon their children. Even if parents don't wish to indoctrinate their children in a fundamentalist sense (although many still do), the religion of the parents inevitably becomes the religion of the children.

Dennett clearly wants to wean children away from such a religious atmosphere at home. Now I agree that this is a complicated issue, because a "religious atmosphere" at home entails much more than worship and rituals; it introduces some values and elements of culture which are important for molding the individual. But irrespective of the complications, Dennett's fundamental thesis is spot on, that parents have no right to foist their religion on their children, and that most schools are secular schools that could inform the child better.

But the straw-loving D'Souza does not understand this fundamental thesis, or he probably willfully dismisses it. Instead, he launches into a strategy commonly used by anti-secular religious people these days; to brand secularists and atheists as worshipping their own brand of dogmatism ("Darwinism" being a favourite label to describe this "religion). That is hogwash. Secularists want children to keep an open mind. There's no "secular fundamentalism" that encourages keeping a closed mind. Unlike religious people, secularists would discard their ideas if the evidence proved otherwise. Except for a very few, no secularist or atheist wants to completely avoid exposing their children to any religious ideas. In fact atheists would be happy to present both religious and secular ideas in front of children and ask them to judge. The point is that most children are quite intelligent. If they are truly exposed in an unbiased way to religious ideas and informed that there's no evidence for most of them, they will have the sense to reject religion and embrace an open-minded way of thinking. All secularists want to do is to teach the children to keep an open mind.

Perhaps people like D'Souza are afraid of this, that children will actually have the good sense to reject religion if its tenets are laid bare in front of them with all their gory limitations. In fact that's why I think creationists are more intent on finding flaws with evolution than declaring evidence for creationism that's nonexistent. They want to create reasonable doubt in the minds of children because they know that if both ideas are presented in a truly balanced way to children, if children are flatly told that there's no evidence whatsoever for creationism, then most children would reject it as they would many other religious dogmas. Maybe that's why they want to keep children away from the "secular fundamentalists" by branding them as such in the first place. Many times I think it's just a political ploy. But then, given his growing misunderstanding of issues and his spouting of erudite gibberish, I wonder if D'Souza is just stupid as opposed to politically shrewd. I am leaning towards thinking the former these days.

Previous posts on D'Souza's boring "scholarship": 1, 2

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Blogger gawker said...

To be honest, I don't think D'Souza is stupid because if someone were that stupid, he would have to stay in bed all day due to shoelace-tying difficulties. In my opinion, he is just a conservative mercenary like Ann Coulter, again, who I am sure cannot seriously be expected to believe her own ramblings. Both these worthy citizens have embraced the conservative ideology in order to sell books, obtain speaking gigs and publish syndicated columns. Basically, what is known in liberal circles nowadays as "wingnut welfare".

11:06 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

What really gets me about him is that Ann Coulter somewhere does appear like she knows she is saying something outrageous. But D'Souza's pretense at trying to make what he says sound logical and "obvious" really is pathetic. I agree, he is probably not stupid, but sometimes to me he remarkably succeeds in appearing that way. Sometimes I think he is like Ravi Zacharias, part of the pseudointellectual group of devout-appearing religious loons who want to shamelessly pander to the Republicans. He is really pushing himself these days.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

I like the phrase "wingnut welfare" btw

12:24 PM  

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