February 17, 2009
Fabian Tassano ponders social skills and cleverness.
In my experience, the exceptionally clever are not ‘crazy’ in any meaningful sense of that word, at least not the functional ones. They are just not particularly good at office politics, which is something you need to be brilliant at in modern academia to avoid being marginalised. To be good at something requires you to be interested in it. Being interested in (say) the frontiers of theoretical physics is relatively incompatible with being interested in the machinations of a professional hierarchy. And vice versa - which may be why modern scientists tend to be dull, if by ‘dull’ you mean incapable of having an original thought.
Ophelia Benson notes how “defamation” is being slyly redefined.
Critics of Islam, however reasonable, also know they are likely to fall foul of people who have, as Kenan Malik says, internalized this idea that criticism of Islam is (1) taboo and (2) in and of itself ‘defamation’. As I mentioned, the copy editor for Does God Hate Women? flagged up ‘possible defamation’ in eight places. What I didn’t spell out (but you probably guessed) is that all the items cited were simply criticism, with arguments and evidence, of a kind that is utterly taken for granted in ordinary public discourse. They were not in any normal sense ‘defamation’ – it’s just that they were not flattering. The copy editor seems to have made exactly the leap that some protectors of religion would like everyone to make, and equated frank criticism of religious ideas and practices with ‘defamation’. The copy editor seems to have drawn the conclusion that frank criticism of Islam (as I noted, there were no such queries about other religions, which got their share of criticism) is somehow illegitimate.
And Edmund Standing reads the Qur’an. He isn’t terribly impressed.
These are clearly not the writings of a rational mind. Deranged by religious delusions, the author or authors of these passages would no doubt be considered mentally ill or psychologically unbalanced were this ‘holy’ book to be written today. Yet, as a religious text, the Qur’an is all too often given a special exemption from normal criticism, and we are told that we must show it ‘respect’, despite the hateful attitude it takes towards those who do not accept Islam. Around the world, children are taught to revere the Qur’an as the very words of the creator of the universe, as a perfect book with a timeless message, yet how can texts like those I have just cited do anything but instill a negative or contemptuous attitude towards non-Muslims? And why would anyone in their right mind claim that this book should be held up as the most important book ever written, or even as a great work of literature?