Growing A Thick Skin

I am preparing a scientific blog for next week but as there is an article published this week that is relevant, I guess I should post this now.

Sharon Begley of the Newsweek magazine has written an article on “Why We Believe” which refers to SuperSense and some of the stuff that appears on this site. The comments on the article by readers are not only numerous but seem particularly nasty and vitriolic.

Meanwhile on the other side of the fence, the article has also just been posted on the Richard Dawkins discussion site where there is a totally different set of comments.

I guess what I am saying is that when SuperSense comes out, I think I may pull off that rare feat of antagonizing both sides, believers and rationalists. On the one side, by arguing for a natural origin of belief and on the other, by claiming that reason cannot readily change beliefs.

Oh well, roll on next Spring. I hope I can grow a thick enough skin in time. 


Filed under book publicity

10 responses to “Growing A Thick Skin

  1. Good luck, Bruce. For readers seeking more on the same topic, check out “Implausible Beliefs in the Bible, Astrology, and UFOs.” See

  2. Whenever I point people to your blog, the most attractive point to them is precisely because it’s more about learning than shouting opinions. I think the term ‘rationalist’ needs to be taken away from a lot of authors who blow more hot air than examine belief.

    I like this part of the article:
    “Their more aggressive attitude provides a sense of mission and community that skeptics, no less than believers, crave. It takes effort to resist the allure of belief, with its promise of fellowship, community and comfort in the face of mortality and a pointless, uncaring universe. There must be compensating rewards.”

    I’ve always felt the impatience and snobbery adopted by DH&H is disingenuous and loses them respect – even if it gains them supporters.

    I’m only part of a very small community Bruce, but everyone I know appreciates your far more scientific and *rational* approach to belief. While quite a few fit atheist definitions, it doesn’t keep them from being curious about how weird human beings are.

  3. brucehood

    Thank you Katie…. I really appreciate your support and I agree that we need to re-think how we go about discussing this most fascinating and non-trivial aspect of human thought. I happen to think that not only is this type of thinking inevitable but actually probably essential for us as a social animal to form cohesive groups that collectively bind by notion of sacred values. Otherwise, everything is reducible to cost-benefit analysis which is inherently non-human.



  4. Gus

    Bruce, you’ll need a thick skin, no doubt!
    The very rationality of your thesis will irritate almost everyone, I expect.

    I don’t buy the argument, however, that “…fellowship, community and comfort in the face of mortality and a pointless, uncaring universe” necessarily require belief or, in your phrase, a ‘notion of sacred values’.

    I’d rather go with the fictional Professor Levy in Woody Allen’s ‘Crimes and Misdemeanours’ who asserts: “Events unfold so unpredictably, so unfairly, that human happiness does not seem to be included in the design of creation. it is only we, with our capacity to love that give meaning to the indifferent universe.”

    A capacity to love requires no belief in the ‘sacred’, God, fairies or whatever…

    Of course (before someone else points it out) the above is taken from Professor Levy’s suicide note…

  5. brucehood

    No sacred values???….hmmm…. I don’t what to be your friend!

    Seriously… I mean sacred in the secular sense. Something that transcends. It does not have to be cultural creatures like Gods and fairies.

    I have not laid out the whole theory on this website as I want people to read about it when SuperSense is published and consider the criticisms it will attract.

    Not long now.


  6. The very best of works act like intruders in a beehive, if you don’t send everyone buzzing, you haven’t written anything new.


  7. Gus

    …and you get stung, more or less inevitably.

    See your point about ‘sacred’ – I’d assumed you meant it in a religious sense…which in turn makes me think how much vocabulary has been co-opted, and thereby devalued by religion…

  8. It’s sad isn’t it? So many words that can’t be used without stepping beyond secular lines.

  9. Susan

    Don’t agree that “The very rationality of your thesis will irritate almost everyone, I expect”. I think there are plenty of readers out there who will sync with your style and theories particularly those who are rationalists but don’t subscribe to the scorn dealt out on some websites to those who do believe. In addition there are plenty of religious people who are seeking an explanation and may see answers in what you are saying, possibly not for all their beliefs but certainly for some. I have felt for some time that a voice that has a constructive and intructive, message that does not belittle those who disagree or who have alternative views, is sadly lacking in the debate. Unfortunately the rabid rationalists have done their cause as much damage as the fundamentalist religious. On reading websites where the rationalist or religious debate goes on, there appears to be a sport of one upmanship such that intellectual masterbation and point scoring turns off the majority of the public who may wish to engage in the discussion. Well done for avoiding those pitfalls!

  10. brucehood

    Yes, I do try to avoid “master bation” – he’s a little bit of a mister know-all.


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