“I’ve Got a Social Disease!”

One of the few lines that stuck with me from watching the local high school’s production of “West Side Story” when I was young.

Anyway, I came across Vox Day explaining why he doesn’t remove the comments of a specific post in what some have called an amazing takedown of the commenter. Now, I personally think that that commenter is someone that should just be ignored; the comments generally make little sense and often have no relation to the actual topic being talked about. As a note, if you do that on my site your comments won’t show up; I think that I’ve only ever done that once, though. Hey, if your comments are indistinguishable from spam you’ll be treated as spam.

But Vox Day’s argument is basically this:

The reason I don’t delete these is that they demonstrate more cogently and convincingly than I ever could one of my major points about atheism, which is to say, that it is indicative of psychological disorder. Now, obviously not all atheists exhibit this incessant vulgarity, intellectual immaturity, and general social autism. But there is a sufficiently strong correlation than more research into the potential causal relationship is indicated; I note that the initial research into the subject has already offered scientific support for my original hypothesis of a link between atheism and Asperger’s Syndrome.

Now, one of my continual pet peeves is the attempt by atheists to claim that theists are delusional and that they should therefore be acknowledged as having that sort of psychological disorder, with the then unstated — and usually, when pushed, undefended — position that therefore their position is not to be taken seriously. I dislike this because in general the accusations are based on a lot of contortion of definitions and have no bearing on the topic; in the case of theists, you can only claim delusion if you know it to be false, and that’s not something that most atheists even claim. In short, to claim that theists are delusional in an argument over whether or not God exists already presumes an answer to the proposition that’s under debate: does God exist? It’s an attempt to win by claiming that your opponent is wrong, not arguing for it.

Now, here Vox Day is making the same sort of argument against atheists. Worse yet, the psychological disorder that he can maybe link to is not one that’s actually in any way really problematic. There are challenges for people who are on the autistic spectrum, certainly, but Asperger’s cases tend to be people who are of at least average intelligence if not higher. So determining the truth of and arguing for or against the truth of propositions is not in any way impeded by that disorder. Nor, in fact, do Asperger’s cases tend to make the sort of social faux pas that the commenter is making. All in all, associating atheism with Asperger’s would in no way lessen the intellectual credibility of atheism, nor would it imply anything about its falsehood.

But associating all atheists with the behaviour of that commenter is just plain false. I’ve seen theist trolls with the exact same behaviour. It’s not limited to atheists and many atheists do not do anything like that, no matter how badly I tick them off [grin].

So this is nothing more than a smear, and a smear of the same type as calling theists delusional simply on the basis of their belief. And if it’s wrong to do it to theists, it’s wrong to do that to atheists as well. What we need is to focus on the question, not the purported psychological disorders of the various players.

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One Response to ““I’ve Got a Social Disease!””

  1. Sigmund Says:

    If the claim is that atheism is associated with a higher percentage of aspergers syndrome compared to the population at large then you probably won’t get too much argument from most atheists. Aspergers cases tend to be quite mathematically minded and so tend to associate with scientific pursuits and interests and as such they have more exposure to skepticism and therefore atheism (which one can consider skepticism applied to religion).
    That said, they are a rather small percentage of the population as a whole and not even a sizeable percentage of atheists – they are just (probably) statistically more common amongst atheists. The vast majority of atheists will not be aspergers cases and so it is a clumsy argument to try to say, in effect, that atheism is a symptom of aspergers.

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