Naughty Boy

As she walked away, she looked over her shoulder and gave an almost imperceptibly slight roll of the hip while mouthing the words “Naughty boy!”

He had been actually somewhat gracious in his reaction. That wasn’t his normal reaction, he being a direct and blunt “public intellectual:” he is not known for mincing his words or being upstaged by the Iron Lady.

Using his words as weapons, he had ripped into his opponents with relish: their station in life or credentials didn’t matter.

He loved to talk, preferably as part of an argument.  Most public pundits no doubt would be intimidated by him: he was articulate and extremely knowledgable, and Oxford educated. His encyclopedic literary and historical knowledge was unmatched in public discourse.

Skeptical and Cynical, he was known for his admiration of George OrwellThomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson and for his excoriating critiques of Mother TeresaBill and Hillary Clinton, and Henry Kissinger.

Not a mainstream pundit.

My own opinion is enough for me, and I claim the right to have it defended against any consensus, any majority, anywhere, anyplace, anytime. And anyone who disagrees with this can pick a number, get in line and kiss my ass.

Christopher Hitchens died of cancer on December 15, 2011.  Probably an Inventor Rational, Hitchens advocated Reason and Science over Religion as a moral basis.

“Identified as a champion of the “New Atheism” movement, Hitchens described himself as an antitheist and a believer in the philosophical values of the Enlightenment. Hitchens said that a person “could be an atheist and wish that belief in god were correct”, but that “an antitheist, a term I’m trying to get into circulation, is someone who is relieved that there’s no evidence for such an assertion.” According to Hitchens, the concept of a god or a supreme being is a totalitarian belief that destroys individual freedom, and that free expression and scientific discovery should replace religion as a means of teaching ethics and defining human civilization. He wrote at length on atheism and the nature of religion in his 2007 book God Is Not Great.”  Wikipedia

Christopher Hitchens was in boarding school when he first learned that “words could function as weapons.” He was small, bad at sports and got picked on. He worried he was becoming “a mere weed and weakling and kick-bag.” So one day he turned on a tormenter. “You,” the young Mr. Hitchens declared, “are a liar, a bully, a coward, and a thief.” His stunned tormentor slunk away.   He would grow up, a process recounted in his electric and electrifying new memoir, “Hitch-22,” to confront wartier bullies.

An Argument for Science and Reason:  Religion’s historical resistance to the Rational.

Hitchens discussed in the the book the ideas of several important intellectuals, including Socrates, Albert Einstein, Voltaire, Spinoza, Thomas Paine, Charles Darwin, and Sir Isaac Newton. Hitchens claimed that many of these people were atheists, agnostics, or pantheists, except for Socrates and Newton. Hitchens said that religious advocates have attempted to misrepresent some of these icons as religious. He described how some of these individuals fought against the negative influences of religion.

The Need for a New Enlightenment

Hitchens argued that the human race no longer needs religion to the extent it has in the past. He claims that the time has come for science and reason to take a more prominent role in the life of individuals and larger cultures.

Rationals are the problem solving temperament, particularly if the problem has to do with the many complex systems that make up the world around us. Rationals might tackle problems in organic systems such as plants and animals, or in mechanical systems such as railroads and computers, or in social systems such as families and companies and governments. But whatever systems fire their curiosity, Rationals will analyze them to understand how they work, so they can figure out how to make them work better.

All Rationals share the following core characteristics:

  • Rationals tend to be pragmatic, skeptical, self-contained, and focused on problem-solving and systems analysis.
  • Rationals pride themselves on being ingenious, independent, and strong willed.
  • Rationals make reasonable mates, individualizing parents, and strategic leaders.
  • Rationals are even-tempered, they trust logic, yearn for achievement, seek knowledge, prize technology, and dream of understanding how the world works.


His confrontational style of debate made him both a lauded and controversial figure. As a political observer, polemicist and self-defined radical, he rose to prominence as a fixture of the left-wing publications in his native Britain and in the United States. His departure from the established political left began in 1989 after what he called the “tepid reaction” of the Western left following Ayatollah Khomeini’s issue of a fatwā calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie. The 11 September attacks strengthened his internationalist embrace of an interventionist foreign policy, and his vociferous criticism of what he called “fascism with an Islamic face”. His numerous editorials in support of the Iraq War caused some to label him a neoconservative, although Hitchens insisted he was not “a conservative of any kind”.  Wikipedia

Perhaps Hitchens’s most surreal encounter was with the highly distinguished former prime minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher. Having just written a piece for the New Statesman, in which he infamously claimed that Thatcher was “surprisingly sexy,” a claim that, by his own admission, received more anger-mail than any other piece he had written, he found himself at the same party as the gallant former Prime Minister.

In true Hitchens fashion, he approached the then prime minister in an effort to discuss her Rhodesia/Zimbabwe policy, one with which he strongly disagreed. Just as soon as he attempted to initiate a policy debate, Thatcher ordered Hitchens to bow. Not one to refuse an order from the second most powerful person in the UK, he obliged, only to be ordered to “Bow lower!” Hitchens, now feeling self-conscious about the whole ordeal is ordered once more to bow “Much lower!” Seemingly content with the arc of his bow, she began to walk a slow circle around him as if she were stalking prey and continued to do so until she took her hands from behind her back brandishing a rolled up parliamentary order-paper and spanked Hitchens directly on the buttocks and walked away from a freshly embarrassed Hitchens. He straightened his back, struggling to comprehend what had just occurred, only to see Thatcher glance back in his direction and flirtatiously remark: “Naughty boy!”

Tribute to Hitchens.

Quote1.pngExceptional claims demand exceptional evidence.Quote2.png — Christopher Hitchens

0 thoughts on “Naughty Boy”

  1. I absolutely agree with the above comment, well put, Jodi. I see no reason why science must conflict with faith in God at all. If anything, I find science and the furthering of our terrestrial knowledge to further support the very idea of God. Spirituality and science will hopefully coexist peacefully at some point, and not suffer such an explicit divide.

  2. It is interesting to note how Christopher’s full brother Peter left the atheist position he once shared with Christopher in order to become a believer in Christ Jesus. Peter Hitchens wrote the book, “The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith.” I suspect Peter is also a Rational, but I’m not sure which of the 4 subtypes….

  3. How and why we think, isn’t what it seems. Reason’s a tricky and deceptive beast, especially since its proponents tend to cite it as an authority, rather than a tool.

    Reason is the logical extension of our presuppositions. It always needs an ‘A’ to conclude a ‘B’: for without an ‘A’ there can’t rationally be a ‘B’. This means that ‘A’ must be accepted by faith, since it lies before reason.

    The same faith is needed at every step in a logical argument, for to have any credence, one has to believe that the rational process is correct: but our ideas of correctness also come from our presuppositions. Apart from having a certain self-reinforcing circularity, this makes Reason very dependent on, and so easily swayed by, the non-rational. (This is different to ‘irrational’.)

    Being pre-rational, presuppositions tend to reside in the more primal, emotional side of our psyche. They produce our non-verbal or aesthetic sense — a deep love for the beauty of a thing — and in the mind of a Rational, this love is attached to logic. Reason is thus as much driven by feeling as anything else, yet its proponents usually, quite irrationally, claim the opposite as their penultimate authority.

    Because presuppositions use reason and not so much the reverse, they are self-reinforcing. This is what drives the circularity in Reason. Being a self-sustaining system, Reason is thus inherently conservative, as is evinced by the resistance to presuppositional change in the Scientific Establishment.

    Thus the purpose of an argument is always more than the argument: for an argument is not what it seems, but is actually our non-verbal, aesthetic presuppositions seeking to perpetuate and reproduce themselves. Logic is, if you will, the tree that grows from the seed of our presuppositions in order to produce fruit containing the same DNA. Subconsciously, we want to convince other minds, so our ideas can take root and produce more of themselves.

    This is the canvas on which Christopher Hitchens, like anyone else, painted his view of what was good for the world. Did it make him a better person? Well, that depends on your aesthetic sense.

    1. Reason is not only tricky, it is complicated. Moreover, there is still a lot to be discovered, both 1) on how “the brain (and body)” perform action and recall “memory” and 2) the foundations of “logic” and “computablity” (e.g., induction, deduction, abduction, reduction, impredicativity, abstraction) are based currently on quicksand. (see Robert Rosen on the latter issues)

      Although I am an atheist and enjoyed Hitchen’s rhetoric and logic, I prefer to do science rather than promote it as a moral basis, and I do not actively rail against its opponents or those who do not embrace it. On the other hand, it should be noted that Rand, Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins, Shermer, and others do not in any shape or form compare to the number and extremes of the promoters of Faith (those unexamined axioms — with dubious theorem provers).

      In the Spirit of America (diversity of opinion), I am glad we have a couple of shock jocks for Science and Reason. I will let others watch Rosie. Different Drums, and Different Drummers.

      1. I don’t’ think finally understanding the mind’s underpinning hardware will yield as much personal relevance, as deciphering the mechanics of its psychological operation. It’s a performance versus stats argument. Indeed, all of our study of the hardware is for the express purpose of repairing or improving its performance.

        Ultimately even logic is servant to aesthetics, so that no argument can be won unless what it is, or offers, is perceived as inherently attractive by the other party. Rather than the defenders of Science or Faith thinking that the members of the other party need logical rejigging — with all the conflict that presupposition implies — perhaps both sides should try to understand what inherent beauty is so worth defending by their opponents.

        Even within Science, Newton’s universe can’t coincide with Einstein’s, nor can Relativity as currently envisaged, mesh with Quantum Mechanics. Likewise within each Faith tradition, as well between them, there are the greatest of divides.

        So perhaps we are making too much of the gap between Science and Faith.

        Perhaps there’s a greater Theory of Everything than that which will one day unify Physics, one which can pin each of these relative Philosophical divergences onto a larger continuum.

        Perhaps we will then find better ways to accept difference, by treating others as we would want to be treated were our situations reversed.

        1. To me, the problem of Faith is the refusal to acknowledge overwhelming evidence (e.g., evolution) or the lack of evidence.  To me this a major difference, and thus religions, in this regard, are essentially same (to me). Robert Rosen addresses the problem of any kind of a “Theory of Everything,”  I highly recommend looking at his work to regards on the frontiers of Science. Sam Harris, another of the “new atheists” advocates Kant’s categorical imperative — which is close to my father’s Different Drummers, and your suggestion.

      2. I think Hitchens was a Fieldmarhal; his drinking and smoking show examples of extraverted sensing. However, Se causes ENTJs to be great at sports. Often, INTJs are bad at sports because they have inferior Se, so maybe he was an INTJ.

        1. Keirsey Temperament is different from Myers-Briggs, they only correlate. We don’t use the Myers-Jung concepts of “Se”, “extraverted sensing,” also Fieldmarshal’s are “leaders of leaders” — Hitchens never seemed to be interested in creating or running organizations.

  4. Thanks David.

    For my part, I see Faith as encompassing all human endeavour, relationships and belief. It’s a fundamental mechanism of thought. So I would argue that Science has as much faith in its Method, as those more spiritually inclined do in Revelation. The divergence is in the presuppositions which define the differing parameters of each — what each uses to determine the acceptance of evidence as valid.

    Evidence is only overwhelming if you believe it, if you have faith in it. Faith and evidence are closely linked in a presuppositionally self-reinforcing way. For this reason, evidence is context-dependent. Since evidence is only contextually evident, without the same context, evidence simply isn’t.

    Thus if we differ in presuppositions, the parameters that define our self-reinforcing filters will be different. As a result, what is evidence to me, may not be valid for you, and vice versa.

    Since all knowledge is abstract and hence approximate, there’s no point at which we can ever know fully. Since we can never truly arrive, wisdom and folly are only matters of degree. So in the absence of the Absolute, the most telling aspect of any belief, is its effect on those who hold it.

    Assuming Truth favours virtue, the questions to ask to gauge the validity of a belief are something like: “What is its effect on the life of its possessor? Are they a better person as a result? Are they kinder, more unselfish, nobler? Is the world enriched by their presence? Is the result replicable, so that if others accept the same belief, do similar ennobling results follow?”

    1. No.

      Either Newton was right or Einstein was right on the angle bend of star’s light near the sun’s eclipse. No Faith here. “Assuming Truth favors virtue” is a fuzzy and not very useful postulate, in understanding things. And as Saunders Maclane has said: “The remarkable thing is understanding never stays put. It is important always to get a new understanding … … … understanding can be improved”

      I prefer Feynman’s take.

      1. With respect, you have faith that either Newton or Einstein was right. There is faith there. Faith is expressed by certainty. It is the “if then” that links ‘A’ and ‘B’ causally, and so makes logic work.

        According to Feynman, the first step to a solution starts with a guess. By their nature, guesses are necessarily fuzzy postulates. Usefulness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, so what one sees in the fuzzy postulate of a guess, may have layers and connections that aren’t readily apparent to those who may not find it so useful. This, however, doesn’t deny its usefulness. A case in point is the bewilderment of other Physicists in response to Feynman’s imaginative, guess-based, methodology.

        New understanding can be in two forms: incremental and paradigmatic. They are quite different, with the first usually leading to greater complexity and the second to more significant simplicity. New understanding in both can also either be correct or incorrect. If understanding is pursued simply for its own sake it can lead to either, so that new understanding isn’t necessarily either good or useful.

        If you’ve ever had the joy of working in a Government bureaucracy, you’ll know how lacking in intelligence the quest for new understanding for its own sake can be. Cultural fundamentalism can be just as silly as the Religious kind.

        I like Feynman too. What a breath of fresh air in the stuffy history of conventional progress — if only there were more like him.

  5. “With respect, you have faith that either Newton or Einstein was right. There is faith there.”

    I do not believe Newton or Einstein were right. Their models are useful, and are approximations. Einstein’s prediction of the bend of light was right. No faith there. You are getting closer in understanding.

    “Science is my religion, and I have faith in reason” DMK
    However, I also subscribe to my niece’s statement “Everything has a reason, but not everything is reasonable.”

  6. Oh, and before it’s mentioned, sorry if that sounded a rude way to put it. I am not trying to start a flame.

  7. If you do not believe Einstein and Newton are right though, what precisely are we arguing about?

    Be that as it may if understanding “never stays put” it is not understanding. For it to be understanding there must be some thing for it to conform to. If Theory A and Theory B claim to be right or at least closer to being right then that might be understanding. To postulate a continual change in theories none of which are expected to make a claim to rightness, is accepting violation of the Law of Non-contradiction. To claim to be improving understanding there must be an acknowledgement of the hypothetical possibility of perfect understanding. Otherwise it is not an improvement, it is just a change.

    1. “To claim to be improving understanding there must be an acknowledgement of the hypothetical possibility of perfect understanding.”

      No. “Perfect understanding” does NOT exist, except as a concept (vacuous at that). Nothing “perfect” can exist in percept: Even the Universe.

      “You must posit at least one logical contradiction to generate existence.”

      Inconsistent Mathematics is an interesting subject.

      And there is also graded logics.

      And of course, there is Formatics 😉

  8. Though now that I think of it, the propriety of arguing philosophy over a dead man’s grave is dubious. Unless perhaps he would have wanted it that way?

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