Martin Cohen's bizarre review - further thought

A further thought on Martin Cohen's review of my book Believing Bullshit (scroll down for my first comment).

I tell you what has surprised me somewhat. Although the book is provocatively titled, it is written in a fairly measured and qualified way, and certainly doesn't go round saying all religion is bullshit, etc. It's actually fairly polite about religion, I thought - I certainly intended it to be (I have no interest whatsoever in insulting religious people per se). But the book has provoked some very strong emotional reactions, and insults, from some religious (and non-religious) people (in fact other religious people have rather liked it, and said so).

So what explains Martin Cohen's astonishing review, packed full, as it is, with obvious falsehoods, blatant misrepresentations, etc?

I am thinking, perhaps unfairly, that Dawkins is onto something with his "viruses of the mind" idea. In effect, I am installing anti-viral software. The virus gets very aggressive when it detects what's going on, immediately takes command of the subject and sends out a warning message to other infectees not to expose themselves to the contents of the book - even telling barefaced fibs about it in order to prevent the virus being attacked in others.

It's as if Cohen has been taken over by a mind-bot of some sort (not necessarily religious, I should add). His review is so weird, it's almost like it's not him that's writing it, but the virus itself.

If so, then I forgive him.

P.S. This is pure speculation, of course (it's for, as those psychic hotlines put it, "entertainment purposes only").
P.P.S. Hope this doesn't mark me out as a "follower of His Holiness, Richard Dawkins".


wombat said…
Could it not equally well be a simple case of demonic possession or the start of yet another alien invasion?
Tony Lloyd said…
I don't think you should be surprised. Isn't it the old cognitive dissonance working?

Cohen really, really wants homeopathy, astrology, and lots of stuff to be reasonable and will use any tactic to protect them. Here he creates a straw man of your book: that you’re telling people what to think rather than telling them what not to think. So by mis-representing your book as some sort of dogmatism he can accuse you of the very same bullshit that is needed to support homeopathic and astrological bullshit.

It’s even clearer with Mark Shulgasser:
“But the idea that there is this thing called Method that has some privileged connection to Truth, Goodness and Progress strikes me as irrational, religious, even cult-like”

Well it would be were one to be posited, but implied accusation is pure invention.

On a personal level, shouldn’t you be delighted? Rationalists will see the reaction and think “wow, this book has really pissed off the woo merchants, best give it a read”. Woo merchants will see the reaction and think ”boo! best write a response that will utterly destroy it”. Either way they buy the book!
Anonymous said…
I just read your book and loved it. I was raised in a cult and can say that you're spot on in your outline of the logical fallacies and emotional traps found within cults. As a convert to Roman Catholicism, it made me realize that I very well may have fallen prey to similar tactics and fallacies. This is not owing to any specific treatment of Chrisitianity or Roman Catholicism in general found in the book - for none exists. But primarily to the intellectual principles you elucidate. Kudos!
Matt said…
You could always come out with a new edition which includes a "Ninth Intellectual Black Hole" called "Going Cohen."

-Just a thought.