Posts Tagged ‘Dawkins’
Before an accidentally shot dead two year old has even had a funeral service, Richard Dawkins has no problem saying the Grandmother is an idiot:
I get that Richard Dawkins is angry, that a gun manufactured for children happens legally, a five year old can be given a weapon to fire legally. That another tragic death with a firearm will not help bring in further gun control.
Yet it is also an opportunity for Dawkins to do a bit of faith bashing. New tweet this second while blogging:
Again, as with the winged horse, time allows a more polite way of putting the case that would have been preferable if pursued earlier.
There is a serious case to be made for gun control, and for not excusing thoughtless beliefs that avoid real introspection and questioning of why an event happened.
I just hope people would draw a line at hurling personal insults at a grieving Grandmother. To put that in perspective, would Dawkins go up to the Grandma who is attending her granddaughters funeral service today and say that? Or expect us militant atheists to have his Grandma tweets on banners and placards marking the funeral procession to make the point?
I hope you would agree that would be in bad taste. Doing it publicly on twitter is not the mark of a charming man.
The Ghost of Peter Kay
“I believe in a God of some kind, in some sort of higher being. Personally I find it very comforting.”
Unknown to Richard, that sound bite came from Peter Kay’s “The Sound of Laughter” which was in competition with “The God Delusion” for a literary award. Dawkins therefore gave his standard view on God as comfort:
“How can you take seriously someone who likes to believe something because he finds it ‘comforting’?”
“If evidence were found for a supreme being I would change my mind instantly -with pride and with great surprise. Would I find it comforting? What matters is what is true, and we discover truth by evidence, not what we would ‘like’.”
Richard realised that he was being manipulated for publicity for the award ceremony and books, and that Kay has a very different position than the quote suggested. He apologised.
Wonder if publicly calling a grieving Grandmother an idiot for taking solace in her beliefs, before her granddaughter is even buried, qualifies for an apology?
The real lesson, as with Sandy Hook, is to look at who you give guns too and how we can regulate effectively so the right to bear arms applies while still reducing gun related deaths. Then somehow get Congress to pass.
Let us do this in public discourse without agendas on God, the first amendment or the second, or letting the NRA veto any meaningful discussion needed in the formulation and implementation of public safety. To be fair Dawkins is calling for that on twitter.
Just leave personally insulting a grieving Grandma out of the equation while you do Richard.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
Be careful when being open minded in a debate; it will be used against you. In this case Krauss discussing incest at the recent Islam/Atheist debate in London (see previous blog on seating segregation)
Finally we have a video highlight of what Krauss actually said:
It was a bad start, as the audible shock from the audience reflects, though he does recover to explain that there is a factual physiological and therefore societal justified bias against incest. Krauss reflects on the thought experiment of a brother and sister (presumed consent age) having loving protected contraceptive sex which increases love for each other – is it immoral, having used contraception to avoid pregnancy? He admits he would be willing to listen to a rational argument to understand why the hypothetical situation may not be morally wrong.
Clearly though he was stressing, in answer to the question is incest immoral, that there are other reasons beyond a divine injunction which give a stronger incentive not to allow incest. Biological genetic reasons beyond an appeal to morality. Take those away (genetically weak offspring impossible) it may weaken the argument needing to rethink the rationale that justifies our intuitive taboo of incest.
The main debaters have taken to twitter over whether Krauss was actually saying nothing wrong with incest:
Dawkins has also emphasised what Krauss said:
Hamza, as any seasoned debater would have realised, was really asking Krauss that atheists without god lack absolute morality. Krauss answered the question as asked rather than seeing the purpose behind the question as a trap. Instead, an honest response has been twisted by Hamza into nothing wrong to sleep with your mother. On a helter-skelter of a slippery slope based on something Krauss does not think and did not say if you watch the clip.
Have a look at the above twitter accounts for the conversational blazer trail which is heating up on there.
It looks like iERA will be producing highlights, like the incest one, to produce publicity for the debate before the full video is made available.
UPDATE 8/4/2013: Video of Debate
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
No one can try to use my blog as an example of blasphemy for the Christian religion, and have me sent to prison. Not that anyone would, given the Religious Hatred Act already protecting the right to express a negative view and disagreement about religion.
Last Thursday by 148 to 87 the House of Lords abolished the offense of blasphemy.
So will I be trying to write ever more polemic attacks on Christ and his followers, hounding them and subjecting them to ridicule and laughing at them?
Well that is not my style. Manners as far as I can make out is one example of morality, the ability to be civil to one another. There is nothing wrong with being satirical.
For example the last prosecution for blasphemy in the UK was in 1922. The point was that a mistranslation in the original Hebrew suggested that the messiah would enter Jerusalem riding simultaneously two donkeys. One of the gospel writers actually writes that Jesus did ride two donkeys at the same time when entering the city – perhaps as a way to make the prophecy appear to have come true. A member of the National Secular Society made the point by drawing Jesus as a circus clown to be able to perform the trick. The months of hard labour he did deteriorated his health and he died soon after.
The question is do we legislate for manners, or do we consider that there is a protocol to social interaction which we would consider normal and ones that we would consider uncouth, bad taste. Perhaps even immoral. However we would not consider them illegal unless there was a greater public good. Dropping litter is bad manners but there is a public cost to society; there is a legal sanction prohibiting it with fines to counter such behaviour.
However the blasphemy law was an example of a public cost to society sanctioned on the statue books. For one, it was not well used. It favoured the Church of England over all other denominations and faiths. Potentially it was a matter of sensibility – and the law should not be about that.
However, if someone was to write a blog full of obscene vulgar language insulting people of the Christian faith in that fashion I would consider that bad manners. Also I would point them to Christopher Hitchens – for it is not about shocking and outraging people but demonstrating the theist argument.
When Dawkins wrote in The God Delusion that the Christian God was:
a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully
This is not bad manners. It is a view that is backed up by some pretty damning evidence called the bible. If you want to question the rendering then make the argument. You think the reason flawed, go ahead. But to make the cry of blasphemy – one petition on the 10 Downing Street website actually called for a law that retrospectively could have Dawkins put in prison for his book (not many signatures) – is to call for the point of contention not to be discussed, not to be aired.
Such a thing is not part of a pluralistic democracy at ease with itself. If you are offended by such discussion, well so be it. That is your right – but I am not constrained to cave in to such emotions that you have chosen to have on the subject. A fundamental principle is the right to disagree and the freedom to do so without penalty on matters of thought. To not be able to express them is nonsense – and the law is better for getting rid of blasphemy.
Unless we would rather allow people to legitimately complain with legal sanction people that name teddy bears with a name that corresponds to most people’s and someone called a Prophet.
Or a society that debates all matters of thought and finds strength and common purpose from doing so in the battle for ideas.
Richard Dawkins was a guest on the BBC show, which Mat, Hyrax and myself watched in Oxford shortly after watching Paul Nurse’s lecture (on Mat’s barge). One thing it shows is that if you are going to describe anyone as militant that adjective does not fit Dawkins at all. Maybe we could actually try and discuss things in a rational way, rather than used hurt feeling and supernatural belief as trump cards in the discussion.
I decided to Google “dangers of atheism” and came across Creation Science Movement, the web page to which can be found here.
What I find interesting are moments like:
Quite simply Dawkins atheism predicts that Dawkins mind should not exist.
Really? Atheism is the lack of belief in a supernatural deity as the basis of existence. What I find incredible is the linking that:
evolution = atheism
In any case I would refer the writer of that web page to Carl Sagan’s Dragons Out Of Eden. Examination of how the human mind developed is a fascinating neuroscience since his day with many books. To link a lack of belief in the supernatural as defying the development of the mind is to assume that personal incredulity at existence at all has a logical basis in reasoning. Just because something is inexplicably awe inspiring does not mean that you can jump to a wow factor based on ancient superstitious belief. Needs to be evidence in the natural world that points to that.
Then another piece:
While Dawkins blames God for all the suffering in the world, the Bible reveals an account of spiritual warfare being fought out in heavenly places and on earth.
Really, Dawkins as an atheist does not blame God for the suffering in the world - the schizophrenic accusation that we hate a God we do not profess to exist is a strange one.
Then on to what some regard is the evil of atheism:
Dawkins also fails to acknowledge the evil that has been carried out in the name of atheism during the last century, including the work of Stalin, Mao, Lenin, Hitler and Pol-Pot.
[Dawkin's] atheism removes the only objective means of evaluation of good and evil, namely a divine unevaluated evaluator.
Was Hitler motivated by godlessness? May be more prominent factors were fascist political ideology, nationalism, a skewed sense of historical perspective, anti-semitism and a historic religious persecution of Jews that his Roman Catholicism sadly encouraged in Europe. History has shown that a belief in a supernatural creator and supposedly being accountable to such a deity has not had much influence in impacting moral behaviour. The judgment of others and accountability for actions on the other hand are very real checks and balances. Hitler never claimed to be an atheist but the article seems to suggest neo pagan is the same difference. If he was a closet atheist, we can point to other factors that influenced his behaviour. What you cannot point to is that a non belief in god caused him to be psychotic towards political opponents and Jews.
I might add that as an atheist I do not blame religion as a cause for all wars and human conflicts. Often though I see people using them as a motivating factor for hatred, and calling for violence in this life. As a means to sow discord and civil strife. A willingness to reinforce the insider outsider perspective that human behaviour has. It really does poison the view of people towards our common humanity that defies reason and empathy with others. That is not to say that religion cannot be a basis for charity, love, peace and harmony. But it is not the cause of these noble virtues. Nor do we need an abstract concept of god to explain such virtues or give them weight. We should be able to recognize their benefits and how to encourage them.
How do we recognise the objective benefit of moral behaviour? Well thankfully we can because of something mentioned earlier called the human mind.
Then there is the challenge:
This too seems to be Dawkins aim, to construct a non-conformist cult of humanity as a political objective with the associated despotic dangers that Huxley acknowledged and history sadly records.
At this point it seems this is nothing more than propaganda rather than a serious deconstruction. Dawkins has never claimed that science is the basis of morality or political objectivism (or subjectivism). Political ideology has nothing to do with what science tells us about the universe we live in, nor does evolution or atheism point to what our morality should be.
One thing noticeable is that there is no referencing to The God Delusion, where Dawkins does deal with the comments levelled here. Yet what we end up seeing is the promise that the bible is literally right and from that premise everything questioning it must be wrong.
That has nothing to do with science. It has nothing to do with whether there has to have been a creator as a first cause. It does have everything to do with a faith movement that cares not for the evidence but an ancient piece of literature it considers sacred and beyond being proved wrong.
All booked in at the Minneapolis Marriott® City Center hotel that the conference is at (staying Wednesday 19th till Monday 26th) more on the conference can be found here. The preferential rate on stays there are going fast so be quick to get them.
Mind you to save money I have a plan that involves leaving at midnight arriving at Gatwick 3:30am for an 11:30 am flight. Nine hour fly time and thanks to the five hour time difference be there for the mid afternoon. The plan is to sleep on the plane.
Some of the speakers I met at the AAI conference last year in Washington DC (well Virgina but hey, the Crystal City gets that a lot). But for me the key thing is meeting up and networking with like minded people and the excitement of being an Englishman abroad.
Will be on the RDFRS stall so please if you are coming by say hi and stop for a chat. If anyone knows any good things to do in Minneapolis do please suggest them – especially sightseeing. For example at AAI we did the walk from the Jefferson Memorial to the White House on the last day. The Minneapolis equivalent would be good. Only, if I am honest, until I Google I am very ignorant about the area. Except that everyone tells me it will be cold (unlike Cornwall where on the beach I read Dennett).
So please say if you are attending and drop by and say hi.
The archbishop recently praised Richard Dawkins for increasing public understanding about the natural world, that allowed believers to be in awe of the natural world (though of course the Archbishop of Canterbury thanks god for creation). In this theology science helps with the understanding of the natural world, it’s theories verified explain the wonder of what god has accomplished.
In the view of god-of-the-gaps god created the world and what is more evolution is not the way he did it. Any evidence is either fraud committed by scientists or a trick of the evil one. It takes away the idea that god lends an active hand in nature and the world around us. Not only does intelligent design explain it all, but any question that cannot be answered by science is proof god did it, or if the answer is too complicated fingers in ear god did it personally.
Much was the reaction when my mother watched some of the Ken Miller lecture on Intelligent Design. So why is it that Ken Miller and the Archbishop do not find the theory of evolution a threat to their religious belief and way of life but others professing faith (like my mum) do?
In some ways Ken Miller spoke about it in his lecture. Basically the theory of evolution is seen as suggesting that we in common with other forms of life have a common ancestor. We are therefore not made in his direct image. From this theological problem is that because we are part of the animal kingdom than all manner of evils can be done, because we are no better than animals. So bring on the porn, rape the woman next door, steal from your boss and let Satan take possession of your soul.
This misses a very crucial point. Because the theory of evolution makes no moral claim on how we should live our lives. Rather game theory, tit for tat concept, the human cognitive ability to live by rules and empathises with others play their part. One reason we exist as a civilisation is that we are so capable of doing so – this has in terms of population benefited us.
Science is no way to base morals. Social Darwinism (nothing to do with Darwin) is to be confined to the trash bin of political ideology. When anyone suggests that we should have a public policy based on it shout them down with reason and humanity. As Dawkins points out we fight, outwit and go against what would benefit our genes all the time because it benefits us as people in terms of our goals – why on earth should we live our lives for them?
The other reason is that people are skeptical of experts. BSE, climate change, MMR, SARs, GM crops – confidence in science, let alone politicians, is shaken. People are questioning a materialistic culture in a world where most people barely survive. People question not only organised religion but anything just because it is an institution.
So into this vacuum come the alternative ideas – new age therapies, homeopathy. Supposed Gurus tell people to search themselves for the answers, and even the way to heal themselves. Most religious claiming people belong to no church – they are in touch with god because they feel the divine everywhere. I am convinced that this abstract concept is what the majority of religious people mean when they say they are religious but more detailed surveys would be illuminating on this point (see Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell” for a much more detailed suggestion on how to try and do that).
Gather all the empirical evidence you want. Explain science with enthusiasm about beauty, exhibiting the awe of understanding. For some belief in belief will never be broken down by mental appeal. Rather, it could only work by understanding why the person needs their belief. When that is based on fear (of people and other ways to live) and love (of other people and ways of thinking) - when you say evolution for some people you are not just questioning their god, but their whole system by which they survive in this world. It is rooted that some benevolent force will make things right now or in the future – it is a shred of hope held so tightly that to know how it is rooted by fear and love you would never get at it in a debate on ID and evolution.
In short those that think one day reason and facts will win over superstition and super naturalism need to really appreciate how people reflect on things. The way we think lends itself to a self centred ego placed in the central point of the universe. This feeling gives rise to spiritual explanations of how things are or could be for you. Religion survives down the eons because it piggy backs well in the way the mind thinks of itself.
On an intuitive level it seems to most people to make sense. Intuition has been seen as the way to overcome supposed expert opinion – you know best, come to your own conclusion, live your life. In some ways that has been part of the individualistic agenda as demonstrated in Thatcher’s Britain.
In short, it really has to be up to a person to be curious about what science has to offer. And prefer the higher knowledge questions of how rather than answering lower intuitive questions of why. Science answers the how very well. Why questions denote the self discovery aspect of what we deem the way we think (consciousness) – and religion jumps in there whether being the old guard or menu-a-la-carte of the modern age.
So does it really matter? Yes because science is our best hope of not only understanding the cosmos, the natural world and us, but also in improving our quality of life. A world where science is belittled and challenged by religion would signal a world of introspection, skepticism of everything accept how you feel. Where progress is not measured by who benefits but whether it offends sensibilities of some group that can veto it otherwise. This extends not just to science but to culture as well.
In this sense are the values of the enlightenment under threat. We are the in touch generation, the one that has access to so much information and yet is skeptical of so much that is credible. Yet where MMR scares are accepted as “medically proven” (they are unfounded), where homeopathy is seen as a credible medical practice (there is no proof it does anything physically changing). Where ideas about Princess Diana’s death by agents of the state take precedent over a drunk driver. When more people believe in horoscopes than any organised religion. Where writers and broadcasters are put to death or threatened for what they say.
It is in this society that we make our stand. If I am sounding pessimistic that is not my intention. This is climbing the mount improbable of thought. By slow careful steps it can be done. But to think this is one quick charge is a grave error in calculation. This is a war of attrition. One can only make the case – but the priority for me is that science education should not be subjected to religious belief, that children should not be branded by their parents religious beliefs, that religious education of all faiths and philosophy is more necessary in the modern age not less.
Above all is the recognition that life is precious and fleeting – that life is over too quickly for too many in this world. We must use our collective talents to get a grip on the problems of this world. Too often religion, ideology, nationalism, even the human ability of kinship get in the way of recognising that as humans we are descended from the same ancestor. These differences are few compared to the many similarities we have – yet we allow trivial things to divide us.
In the global world how will we respond to the challenges facing ourselves and the planet? Can we go beyond our selfish self preservation and do what benefits all? What will we look to for the answer – because whether we think it is faith or science (or even both) one thing I do agree with the Archbishop on in his sermon:
It starts with us embracing our common humanity.
Oh to have been a fly on the wall I thought, as we marched from Jefferson Memorial to the White house during the Atheist Alliance International Conference 2007, as I had got wind of this Round table discussion happening but kept my mouth shut sworn to secrecy. So it is with great delight that the discussion between Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens is now available to watch on the internet, and will be on DVD next month.
In many ways the Round table discussion is better than the talks. Because they are bouncing off ideas, anecdotes, and experiences between them back and forth – and dealing with the common criticisms that they have encountered. Do enjoy, about two hours split in two parts below or watch via this link here