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Paul Kurtz & Harry Potter -  ‘Neo-Humanism” Oct-Nov FI
Posted: 29 September 2007 02:14 PM   [ Ignore ]
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The Oct-Nov issue still isn’t in our bookstore but some of the articles are [ONLINE].

Why does Paul Kurtz contradict his principles of “neo-humanism” with a criticism of Harry Potter…
He starts by saying that there had been a lot of ‘vitriolic comment’ in the press about the Dawkins/Hitchens/Harris books etc., and yet ‘nary a word of criticism’ about J.K. Rowling having a first printing of 12 million copies for this last Harry Potter Book. 

If Paul Kurtz wants to be considered seriously, much less “an old fuddy-duddy”, he needs to focus on real issues and not deplore the fact that millons of young people are rushing out to “devour books of fantasy”.

I’ve just finished nine years on a school board in upstate New York and I’m convinced READING is good for kids.

This exposes humanism to ridicule unnecessarily.

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Posted: 29 September 2007 02:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I agree that Kurtz’s discussion of Harry Potter was offbase. Reading fantasy has no connection with a belief in religion. Indeed, one of the fiercest opponents to Harry Potter has been certain of the more fundamentalist Christians, because they view it as glorifying satanism or somesuch nonsense.

Speaking for myself I loved Tolkein, and do enjoy science fiction from time to time. Most science fiction is in fact not of the “hard” variety, but of the “speculative” variety. And the line between speculative SF and fantasy is pretty blurry to my eyes.

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Posted: 29 September 2007 06:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I agree.  When my aunt criticized my father for buying me comic books when I was five rather than introducing me to “good literature” and the bible, he said, “I don’t care what Jerry reads, as long as he does read.”  And the fantasy stood me in good stead for when she bought me a child’s bible.  The comic books prepared me to enjoy the bible stories as even more delightful fantasy.

I’ve mentioned before that I think Kurtz is a very bright, pompous, egotistical jerk.  This just supports my opinion.

Occam

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Posted: 29 September 2007 06:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Occam - 29 September 2007 06:20 PM

I’ve mentioned before that I think Kurtz is a very bright, pompous, egotistical jerk.  This just supports my opinion.

Well now, Occam, I think that takes it a few paces too far. FWIW though I don’t agree with his take on Harry Potter, I hardly think that his opinion qualifies him of being a jerk. And as for pompous ... he may be opinionated, but he never comes across to me as pompous. Certainly he’s less so than virtually everyone else in these debates. His major push is for enjoyment and the good life, and most always when he speaks he does so with a smile.

But as they say, to each his own.

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Posted: 29 September 2007 06:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Well, maybe it was jet-lag, but the times I’ve seen him in California I agreed with his presentation, but then his responses to audience questions (and I didn’t ask any) were supercilious and put-downs to the young people who were genuinely trying to clarify their thinking. 

Occam

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Posted: 29 September 2007 06:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Occam - 29 September 2007 06:35 PM

Well, maybe it was jet-lag, but the times I’ve seen him in California I agreed with his presentation, but then his responses to audience questions (and I didn’t ask any) were supercilious and put-downs to the young people who were genuinely trying to clarify their thinking. 

Well, I wasn’t there so don’t know what went on. Perhaps it was a bad day for him. But FWIW I’ve never gotten that feeling from him when I’ve heard him talk, and he doesn’t have that reputation, at least not that I know.

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Posted: 29 September 2007 07:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Are we to expect some bad articles in FI this month also?  :(  Or is it better than the article in SI about the Apocalyse?  I’m starting to wonder what is happening in the latest issues that they are not of the usual quality.

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Posted: 30 September 2007 12:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I agree that it is somewhat bad arguement to criticize Harry Potter in stating that it encourages paranormal belief.  Fantasy is an important and vital genre for children, and is particularly age appropriate for young pre-adolescent boys.  That’s part of the reason it sells so well.  I also used to love Tolkein’s books when I was a young boy, and Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz books as well.  What is important, in the case of fantasy, is that children and/or adults understand that it is fantasy.

However, I think that we are missing Paul’s main point, a bit, in this thread.  He is contrasting the Harry Potter phenomenon with “controversy” over books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitches, and Victor Stenger.  He states that the six books written by these five authors have arrived in print with 1.5 million copies, whereas the latest Harry Potter book has appeared with 12 million.  He also correctly states that the so called “new atheist” books have been treated quite a bit harsher.  I agree with him, and as far as I’m concerned these books deserve no controversy.

Doug is correct in pointing out that Harry Potter did meet controversy, so perhaps Paul’s example was a bad one.  Paul also misses the fact that the Harry Potter controversy was not on the secular humanist, atheist, freethinker, agnostic side of things.  It was one of certain Christians thinking that Harry Potter was not Christian enough!  big surprise

We often use illustrative examples to make points, and some of them are not as effective as others.  But, I am inclined to think that his heart was in the right place.  Paul heads the section of the article in question with big bold letter: Methinks the Commentators Protest Too Much! This is clearly his central point here.  He concludes this section with the sentence “What an unfair assault on the effort to apply science and reason to religion.

AGREED!!!  cool smile

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Posted: 30 September 2007 07:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Well, I hardly think you could expect controversy over a childrens fantasy that takes a pretty soft middle stance on the dominant ideologies (no formal religion but a pretty strong intimation that there is an afterlife of a vaguely Christian sort, minus the judgement) to be as strong as that over adult non-fiction deliberately written to denigrate the predominant ideology and piss off its followers. Doesn’t seem a question of fairness so much as simple logic. Now as dissenters from the popular supernatural belief systems, you’d expect us to be the ones raging against Harry Potter. Except, as already pointed out, most of us enjoy a good story without getting our knickers in a twist about the implicit challenge to our ideology. So the controversy may illustrate, more than anything, that we’re just more reasonable people!  cool grin I suspect Kurtz was, as you say erasmusinfiinity, just making a point about where the culture’s priorities lie, but it seems a rather simplistic and obvious one.

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Posted: 30 September 2007 08:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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erasmusinfinity - 30 September 2007 12:26 PM

However, I think that we are missing Paul’s main point, a bit, in this thread.  He is contrasting the Harry Potter phenomenon with “controversy” over books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Stenger.  He states that the six books written by these five authors have arrived in print with 1.5 million copies, whereas the latest Harry Potter book has appeared with 12 million.  He also correctly states that the so called “new atheist” books have been treated quite a bit harsher.  I agree with him, and as far as I’m concerned these books deserve no controversy.

 

OK the way I look at it, first Harry Potter is fiction, not non-fiction.  That’s what makes Dawkins/Harris/Hitchens controversial. 

More to the point, they are telling hundreds of millions of people that what they THINK is non-fiction and BELIEVE is absolutely TRUE is as fictional as anything in Harry Potter or Beatrix Potter. 

I am sure the authors are not unhappy with controversy if it sells books—they make money and more people are exposed to their ideas.

The Left Behind Series
[LINK] claims to have sold 65 million copies.  Go figure.

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Posted: 30 September 2007 09:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Jackson - 30 September 2007 08:26 PM

More to the point, they are telling hundreds of millions of people that what they THINK is non-fiction and BELIEVE is absolutely TRUE is as fictional as anything in Harry Potter or Beatrix Potter.

But what these millions of people think to be non-fiction and absolutely true is not true.  Do you disagree?  Who is pedaling the falsehood and who is being regarding, unjustly, as controversial simply for insisting upon truth and rejecting such dogma.  How absurd is the idea that rejecting a dogma is a form of dogma.  I genuinely don’t understand why it is in such vogue amongst non-theists to criticize other non-theists for insisting on actual truth rather than compromising between perceived truths.  Is not actual truth imperative to genuine free inquiry?

I understand why this is controversial amongst religious dogmatists, but not why it is controversial amongst freethinkers.  Are we masochists?

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Posted: 30 September 2007 09:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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erasmusinfinity - 30 September 2007 09:06 PM
Jackson - 30 September 2007 08:26 PM

More to the point, they are telling hundreds of millions of people that what they THINK is non-fiction and BELIEVE is absolutely TRUE is as fictional as anything in Harry Potter or Beatrix Potter.

But what these millions of people think to be non-fiction and absolutely true is not true.  Do you disagree? 

 

Very sorry not to be clearer—I agree with Dawkins etc. that Bible isn’t literally true. 

But the fact that Dawkins/Harris/Hitchins are right on this point doesn’t mean everyone is convinced.

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Posted: 30 September 2007 09:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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What is controversial among freethinkers is not the criticism of religion but the form. It is deliberately being provocative and controversial that is controversial, much more than the content. We have had many debates about what is the most effective way of communicating about religion, and many of us feel that deliberately insulting and pissing people off is not useful or kind, even if we’re right. As for truth, let’s not forget that everyone thinks their story is the truth. The religious insist on it even more strenuously than most non-theists. So maybe we should jump up on a self-righteous, combative horse to proclaim the blindingly obvious truth of our position, since that makes us firghteningly difficult to tell from our “cultural competitors.”

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Posted: 01 October 2007 05:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Jackson - 29 September 2007 02:14 PM

I’m convinced READING is good for kids.

Reading any old garbage is good for kids?  Why have them read something that might make them think?

I accidentally got exposed to sci-fi but otherwise I would not have heard of Arthur C. Clarke until 2001 came out.

Clarke was the first person to suggest geosynchronous satellites for communications and got ridiculed by “experts” for it.  What has Rowling done comparable to that?  The problem is so much garbage gets so much hype and then the bandwagon effect kicks in.

Compare Clarke’s A Fall of Moondust to a Harry Potter book.  I haven’t read any but I waited for the first movie to come on cable to see what the big deal was about.  It lived down to my expectations.  Worse than Star Wars which is too dumb to qualify as science fiction.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Fall_of_Moondust

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Posted: 01 October 2007 07:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Well, technically Harry Potter is probably more Fantasy than Sci-Fi, though that’s not so important. No accounting for tastes, but I rather enjoy the series. Clearly not the layers of complexity of an adult novel, but it’s not avuncular or dummed-down as so much literature for young people is, and it gets more mature and a bit more unsettling (dealing with the idea of moral ambiguity) as the series progresses, which I think is a good thing.

The whole notion of reading in general being a good thing is questionable, but I do think thinking of reading as an attractive, enjoyable, and cool thing to do is more likely to lead kids to the worthwhile stuff to read than thinking of it as tedious and geeky. So if HP promotes reading generally (and I’m not sure it’s at all clear it really does), it’s probably a good thing on balance.

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Posted: 01 October 2007 08:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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psikeyhackr - 01 October 2007 05:54 PM

Compare Clarke’s A Fall of Moondust to a Harry Potter book.

You’re joking, right? How about comparing Harry Potter to Kafka’s In the Penal Colony? It’s also fantasy; I am sure the kids would love it.

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