A noisome affair

July 28, 2011

Martin Cohen's unpleasant review of my book Believing Bullshit ("Strong whiff of a weak argument", 21 July) begins: "Do you believe in God? Or even wonder if there might be a purpose to the universe? Do you suppose that human consciousness is more than merely chemical changes in 'brain states'? Do you think natural selection is a zombie theory or that alternative health remedies can sometimes work? Then you believe in bullshit. That is the uncompromising message of Stephen Law's new book."

I don't claim, nor do I believe, that if you believe in God, or wonder if there is a purpose to the universe, then you believe in bullshit. I don't claim, nor do I believe, that consciousness is "chemical changes in brain states". I nowhere discuss criticisms of natural selection. Nor do I deny, anywhere in the book, that alternative remedies "sometimes work".

And that's just the opening few lines of Cohen's review. There is barely a line that is accurate. What on earth is going on here? Might his mistaken assumption that I am "a follower of His Holiness, Richard Dawkins" have clouded his judgement? That's the most charitable explanation I can come up with.

Stephen Law, Senior lecturer in philosophy, Heythrop College, University of London

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