A question that you have probly heard a million times.


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PricklyPoo

@ jebus197, I find that his atheistic comments work in most contexts which he usually explains well, but I'll admit that a few I can think of could be considered somewhat pointless. A lot of these popularized scientific writers are just less straight forward about it, like Stephen Hawking or Michio Kaku for example. They will never tell you there isn't a god, but rather bring up questions and examples demonstrating that there is no intrinsic need for one, etc.

I don't think many serious scientists think of it as a science vs religion issue. Science is completely independent of belief (as far as knowledge about anything goes), but the problems arise when religions start making "factual claims." For example, there isn't a single shred of evidence supporting the story of Noah's ark, but yet people still believe it. Everything we know about the earth goes against this story, so it isn't unreasonable to claim those who believe this myth are either deluded, or maybe they posses knowledge that the rest of the scientific community does not? :p

Obviously evolution doesn't make any claims about religion, but certain religions i.e. Christianity sure have they're own ideas about how life was brought about and progressed over the millennia. Evolution tells us that the story of Adam and Eve is simply not true. The physical evidence we've complied does not in any way, point to the hypothesis that human beings came about from one single man and one single woman. This in turn, brings about some serious problems for the entire Christian doctrine of original sin.

Of course believers will cherry pick and say that these stories weren't meant to be taken literally, some others were, some weren't....whatever. All I care, is that people who have unfounded beliefs, keep their beliefs to themselves. Science is based on testability, repeatability and evidence, faith is not. So when these two subjects don't agree on something, science wins. I don't need to hear that Santa Claus, The Flying Spaghetti Monster or "The Almighty Undefinable / Indescribable / Above All Human Knowledge God" is a plausible hypothesis / theory for anything, when it's clearly not.

The thing that evolution tells us, is that I was not hand crafted by god. Although Mazhar might think I was, I actually came from my mother, who also came from a long line of decedents, eventually leading down to simple cells. God did not create life, this is what the field of Abiogenesis explains. God did not create the heavy elements needed for life, supernovas did. Stars are not formed by god, they came from nebulae. God also didn't create these gases, the big bang did. If a theist really wants to attribute the big bang to his desired god / gods, then (ask him what created god? *just kidding*) I don't really see a problem with that (god of the gaps). I still hold the opinion that the correct answer to the question at this time is, "We don't know", so any assertions made about god or anything before the big bang are ultimately baseless assumptions, an infinite amount of seemingly foolish concepts I choose to dream up are equivalent to any belief in god. Besides, many believers will grasp at straws when it comes to reconciling both science and religion, no matter what we discover, I have no doubt they'll continue to do the same.

The current conflict of science vs religion imo, are the continual pushes for things like creationism in classrooms. I personally feel like this tedious issue isn't something the scientific community or the school boards should have to deal with at all...yet they do...but I'm sure science and religion will remain in a continual battle, as they have been since their conceptions.

The main issue I see with your opinion is that it's only applicable in a theoretical society. Somewhat like atheism actually. You don't see people calling themselves "aSantaClausists", but this is because most people don't actually believe a supernatural Santa Claus exists. A majority of people though, do believe in a supernatural "god" figure, so atheism is a rejection of that belief. I do agree with you, science has no fundamental reason to be against Santa Claus, Pink Ponies, or God, but human beings are actually positing that the latter exists. Science automatically disregards these empty claims until testable characteristics and actions are told to be associated with god, etc. - i.e. he is a creator of "blah blah". If one fails to assert any observable attributes about a certain object or entity, it is immediately thrown into an infinitely high pile of myths and ideas. (Example: We live in the matrix! *Not testable*)

I guess my point is that regardless of science vs religion. Faith / belief is the exact opposite of science and everything it stands for, therefore it is almost insulting to the former to even compare the two imo. There wouldn't be any need for science to comment on god if there were no people who attested to his existence.

...and I'm writing this during the last 10 minutes before I get off work, so good luck making any sense out of it. :whistle:

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jebus197

I was going to cite this too.

Dawkins explains why NOMA doesnt apply quite well, and im inclined to agree.

OFC, there is no such thing as Religion vs Science...its actually Art vs Science. Religion is merely the application of human creativity to imagine answers (which is an art). Science is the application of human reasoning to test our imagination in comparison to reality.

I'm inclined to agree with Dawkins and say that they are conflicting world views, in the sense that one works...and the other has no basis in reality...it could be true or it could be absolutely false, however its lack of applicability makes it unuseful outside the expression of human intuition.

Whether it's useful or not is not for Dawkins to decide. It is for those who chose to believe or not believe in it to decide for themselves. In any case my argument is not quite as simple as that as NOMA. It's possible that Gould may have got a hint of it and that why he chose to step back from criticising religion too much. I didn't come here to prove a point, only to offer advice to a young man who appeared to be struggling. However I can't help but find Dawkins a particularly unfortunate and unpleasant individual, because if he was as clever as he says he is, he would know already why it is impossible for any one perspective to predominate over any other within the rehlm of nature.

He has appointed himself (largely by his own popular demand) 'the pope of atheism', he make grand proclamations about what is right and wrong for everyone, yet without a God, where exactly does he claim the moral authority to do so? (Unless as I suspect, he feels that he already occupies a God like status in his day to day life). Dawkins is a good writer and a populist - who has long ago forgone the pursuit of any real science and who has let his popularity go to his head.

He has however succeeded in creating a loyal minion of fans who have had the unfortunate effect (as I think Gould may have feared), of spreading a great deal of ignorance, intolerance and fear and who in so doing have dragged science into a very negative light.

There are an increasing number of detracting voices in the scientific community however, who do believe in and see a need for this 'middle' way, of which I very much aspire to be one. (And no I don't mean 'intelligent design', I just mean intelligence!)

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TrueMonolith

Whether it's useful or not is not for Dawkins to decide. It is for those who chose to believe or not believe in it to decide for themselves. In any case my argument is not quite as simple as that as NOMA. It's possible that Gould may have got a hint of it and that why he chose to step back from criticising religion too much. I didn't come here to prove a point, only to offer advice to a young man who appeared to be struggling. However I can't help but find Dawkins a particularly unfortunate and unpleasant individual, because if he was as clever as he says he is, he would know already why it is impossible for any one perspective to predominate over any other within the rehlm of nature.

Thats not dawkin's claim...its my claim. And btw, an arguement from incredulety, is a fallacy, and is the reason WHY religion isnt useful. Even if it helps you, it doesnt form the basis for a rational understanding of our shared reality. It might happen that religion is benine or inline with reality in portions (much in the same way that a broken clock is right twice a day), but we have better explainations of reality than bronze age myths.

He has appointed himself (largely by his own popular demand) 'the pope of atheism', he make grand proclamations about what is right and wrong for everyone, yet without a God, where exactly does he claim the moral authority to do so? (Unless as I suspect, he feels that he already occupies a God like status in his day to day life). Dawkins is a good writer and a populist - who has long ago forgone the pursuit of any real science and who has let his popularity go to his head.

I thought that was a joke that started on the internet and he followed through it. BTW, if your morals come from god, i would not hesitate to say that i am a more moral person than you. This is because i know i'm more moral than the god described in the torah, bible and qu'ran.

He has however succeeded in creating a loyal minion of fans who have had the unfortunate effect (as I think Gould may have feared), of spreading a great deal of ignorance, intolerance and fear and who in so doing have dragged science into a very negative light.

Gould doesnt care...he's dead now. Not to mention, Gould wouldnt want to be idolised anyway.

There are an increasing number of detracting voices in the scientific community however, who do believe in and see a need for this 'middle' way, of which I very much aspire to be one. (And no I don't mean 'intelligent design', I just mean intelligence!)

Detracting from what? Ken miller and Francis Crick are christians, who some how console the two world views with the question "why are we here then?"

An Atheist Scientist would just say "do we even know if theres a why?"

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jebus197

@ jebus197, I find that his atheistic comments work in most contexts which he usually explains well, but I'll admit that a few I can think of could be considered somewhat pointless. A lot of these popularized scientific writers are just less straight forward about it, like Stephen Hawking or Michio Kaku for example. They will never tell you there isn't a god, but rather bring up questions and examples demonstrating that there is no intrinsic need for one, etc.

I don't think many serious scientists think of it as a science vs religion issue. Science is completely independent of belief (as far as knowledge about anything goes), but the problems arise when religions start making "factual claims." For example, there isn't a single shred of evidence supporting the story of Noah's ark, but yet people still believe it. Everything we know about the earth goes against this story, so it isn't unreasonable to claim those who believe this myth are either deluded, or maybe they posses knowledge that the rest of the scientific community does not? :p

Obviously evolution doesn't make any claims about religion, but certain religions i.e. Christianity sure have they're own ideas about how life was brought about and progressed over the millennia. Evolution tells us that the story of Adam and Eve is simply not true. The physical evidence we've complied does not in any way, point to the hypothesis that human beings came about from one single man and one single woman. This in turn, brings about some serious problems for the entire Christian doctrine of original sin.

Of course believers will cherry pick and say that these stories weren't meant to be taken literally, some others were, some weren't....whatever. All I care, is that people who have unfounded beliefs, keep their beliefs to themselves. Science is based on testability, repeatability and evidence, faith is not. So when these two subjects don't agree on something, science wins. I don't need to hear that Santa Claus, The Flying Spaghetti Monster or "The Almighty Undefinable / Indescribable / Above All Human Knowledge God" is a plausible hypothesis / theory for anything, when it's clearly not.

The thing that evolution tells us, is that I was not hand crafted by god. Although Mazhar might think I was, I actually came from my mother, who also came from a long line of decedents, eventually leading down to simple cells. God did not create life, this is what the field of Abiogenesis explains. God did not create the heavy elements needed for life, supernovas did. Stars are not formed by god, they came from nebulae. God also didn't create these gases, the big bang did. If a theist really wants to attribute the big bang to his desired god / gods, then (ask him what created god? *just kidding*) I don't really see a problem with that (god of the gaps). I still hold the opinion that the correct answer to the question at this time is, "We don't know", so any assertions made about god or anything before the big bang are ultimately baseless assumptions, an infinite amount of seemingly foolish concepts I choose to dream up are equivalent to any belief in god. Besides, many believers will grasp at straws when it comes to reconciling both science and religion, no matter what we discover, I have no doubt they'll continue to do the same.

The current conflict of science vs religion imo, are the continual pushes for things like creationism in classrooms. I personally feel like this tedious issue isn't something the scientific community or the school boards should have to deal with at all...yet they do...but I'm sure science and religion will remain in a continual battle, as they have been since their conceptions.

The main issue I see with your opinion is that it's only applicable in a theoretical society. Somewhat like atheism actually. You don't see people calling themselves "aSantaClausists", but this is because most people don't actually believe a supernatural Santa Claus exists. A majority of people though, do believe in a supernatural "god" figure, so atheism is a rejection of that belief. I do agree with you, science has no fundamental reason to be against Santa Claus, Pink Ponies, or God, but human beings are actually positing that the latter exists. Science automatically disregards these empty claims until testable characteristics and actions are told to be associated with god, etc. - i.e. he is a creator of "blah blah". If one fails to assert any observable attributes about a certain object or entity, it is immediately thrown into an infinitely high pile of myths and ideas. (Example: We live in the matrix! *Not testable*)

I guess my point is that regardless of science vs religion. Faith / belief is the exact opposite of science and everything it stands for, therefore it is almost insulting to the former to even compare the two imo. There wouldn't be any need for science to comment on god if there were no people who attested to his existence.

...and I'm writing this during the last 10 minutes before I get off work, so good luck making any sense out of it. :whistle:

I can't really do this. This is why I try not to post on Neowin. Far too time consuming! In any case your arguments are nothing new to me. Indeed I have read them perhaps several thousand times before in different formats across the web when I used to regularly participate in discussions like this. Probably most of the time I adopted a similar perspective to you. But then at some point or other maybe 4 or so years ago, my patience finally snapped. I got sick of all the same old arguments and I became suspicious about the harm they might be doing and who was motivating them and for what reason.

I also at that time became interested in a study of Eastern (Indian) religion and of meditation and Yoga - and it was as a result of this that my perspective began to change. I saw as it were, 'the benefits' of a more considered, contemplative and honourable way of life. I learned about ideas and principles that truly were beyond the realms of science to explain them. Were they supernatural? Probably not. But I don't wish to confuse my discussion of my science with religion. However what they did do was speak to the depths of human experience - something that is and that may always be beyond the capacity of science to explain. Gould saw it too, at least that there are two kinds of truth. There is human truth and there is natural truth, or the kind of truth that is dealt with by science. Human truth however may not always fit into the neat moulds and categories that might be placed on it by an understanding of natural science alone.

In a way I did this as a conscious exercise. I wanted to see things from the perspective of a religious person. I reasoned that I could not see or appreciate the significance of the reality they saw until I could see it myself. In this sense I achieved my objective. I learned to love my adopted God and my adopted faith and was (and am) hugely grateful for all of the wonderful insights it has given me. However as much as I love my God and my daily practice and as much as I am genuinely grateful for this, I remain almost to my core a 100% godless person.

How is this possible? Well it's possible though exposure to a regular practice that bestows great benefits on you for doing so. It's possible because you can come to love something so much that the question of whether it's real or not hardly matters at all to you. So here I am, an exact living embodiment of everything that that many people say is impossible. I have logical side that accepts the story of evolution (from cells to people) fully, but I also have an illogical passionate side that loves everything that my study and adoption of Hindu practices and principles has given to me.

In a way it is a bit like being in love. It makes no sense almost certainly. But who wants things like this to make sense anyway!?! The fact that it is illogical makes me love and appreciate it more!

However the upshot is that it has given me a rather unique outlook on life and has allowed me to see things from both perspectives. Nonetheless my message of tolerance isn't just motivated by this, it's motivated by an increasing appreciation of both science and of religion in my own studies. Religion has always fascinated me. I have always been a sceptic, so I have always looked at it from an anthropological perspective. I saw it as something interesting, because it appeared to be an early precursor of science. But my understanding has changed somewhat now, and now I tend to feel that religion does occupy a different sphere. Not all of life is about science. While were are here on this Earth we have the opportunity to indulge in a great many things. For example we have art, poetry, philosophy, sport, music and any one of a billion other similar things. I simply view religion in the same terms as these, as something that doesn't need to make sense (like dancing doesn't need to make sense, but can still bring us great joy), but still nonetheless holds the capacity to greatly enrich our lives.

What would you and Dawkins propose we do? Shut down religion? Ban churches and temples, tear them down? Destroy thousands of years of tradition and culture, of human passion and history, ban people from countless cultures across the world from desiring a more meaningful form of existence? Where exactly would this kind of deeply antagonistic atheism lead us? Is setting people directly at loggerheads with each other in this way, really a useful way to engage in a debate? They tried to do this in the USSR - and they failed! Religion will never go away, not until we can somehow climb inside people's heads an monitor their thoughts. And of course even if we could, I'm quite sure you already know where that could lead.

And just because religion sometimes says things about science, it is a non sequitur of the highest order to say that this means science has the ability to say anything about God or religion. Science is still no closer (nor is it likely it will ever be) to either proving or disproving the existence of God (or indeed even attempting to). As I said that's not what science is about. All Dawkins is engaged in is a childish game of "he said she said!" It doesn't change the fact that there is still a very real fundamental limit to anything meaningful that science can say about this.

In any case you'll have to forgive me if I don't comment any further. I'll read you posts. But I do promise myself I won't do this and end up getting sucked into these long discussions. However I'm afraid I have ran out of time.

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jebus197

Thats not dawkin's claim...its my claim. And btw, an arguement from incredulety, is a fallacy, and is the reason WHY religion isnt useful. Even if it helps you, it doesnt form the basis for a rational understanding of our shared reality. It might happen that religion is benine or inline with reality in portions (much in the same way that a broken clock is right twice a day), but we have better explainations of reality than bronze age myths.

I thought that was a joke that started on the internet and he followed through it. BTW, if your morals come from god, i would not hesitate to say that i am a more moral person than you. This is because i know i'm more moral than the god described in the torah, bible and qu'ran.

Gould doesnt care...he's dead now. Not to mention, Gould wouldnt want to be idolised anyway.

Detracting from what? Ken miller and Francis Crick are christians, who some how console the two world views with the question "why are we here then?"

An Atheist Scientist would just say "do we even know if theres a why?"

Lol, you have me all completely muddled up and wrong. I'm no more religious than you are! I have just taken a little more time perhaps (and have invested a bit more effort) to think things through.

And BTW. I didn't "argue through incredulity", in that specific post I was largely just expressing my views concerning an individual whom it's likely I genuinely detest.

Other than this, I believe I have made my argument very well.

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the evn show

What would you and Dawkins propose we do? Shut down religion? Ban churches and temples, tear them down? Destroy thousands of years of tradition and culture, of human passion and history, ban people from countless cultures across the world from desiring a more meaningful form of existence?

He expressed his intent clearly in the Four Horsemen interviews and in The God Delusion. The participants in the four horsemen interviews are about as well rounded a collection of atheist philosphers as you can hope to find. From Harris ("we must exterminate islam") to Hitchens ("religion poisons everything") to Dawkins ("science indicates god is ridiculously unlikely") to Dennett ("i believe in belief"). They're about as mainstream atheist (if there is such a thing) as you can find and they all held the same position: nobody wants to close churches, nobody wants to outlaw religion, and they all want mandatory religious education in schools. from grades 1 through 12.

Dawkins still attends church, Hitchen's children attend a religious school. There's no harm in singing songs and hanging out with your neighbors discussing ancient fairy tales.

It's when you let stories of demons and ogres dictate our policy on science and society that you have an issue. If religion could play the roll of Boyscouts for grown-ups I'm sure we'd all be find with that:

A common bit of lore to reflect on, a handful of guidelines for living well, an excuse to get together every week and through a party every few months, and as fodder for inclusion in new works of art.

And just because religion sometimes says things about science, it is a non sequitur of the highest order to say that this means science has the ability to say anything about God or religion

Nobody made that argument. It has never been "Religion talks about science therefor science can talk about religion". The argument is that the existence of god is a valid scientific hypothesis that can be tested: the reasons for this were spelled out in books you mentioned. Feel free to clarify your point. These questions can be raised whether or not religious people have any interest in science at all.

As I said that's not what science is about. All Dawkins is engaged in is a childish game of "he said she said!" It doesn't change the fact that there is still a very real fundamental limit to anything meaningful that science can say about this.

You still haven't spelled out your reasons for disagreeing with what he wrote in Chapter 2. Your arguments have amounted to "Nuh-ah! Science can't talk about this" but you haven't actually addressed any of the points raised in the book we're talkign about. You may have an interesting point that none of us have though of but so far you've shirked responsibility to clarify your arguments.

What exactly do you not agree with in his arguments for treating the existence of an interventionist god as a scientific hypothesis, and what do you disagree with with in his arguments for rejecting non-overlaping magisteria?

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jebus197

He expressed his intent clearly in the Four Horsemen interviews and in The God Delusion. The participants in the four horsemen interviews are about as well rounded a collection of atheist philosphers as you can hope to find. From Harris ("we must exterminate islam") to Hitchens ("religion poisons everything") to Dawkins ("science indicates god is ridiculously unlikely") to Dennett ("i believe in belief"). They're about as mainstream atheist (if there is such a thing) as you can find and they all held the same position: nobody wants to close churches, nobody wants to outlaw religion, and they all want mandatory religious education in schools. from grades 1 through 12.

Dawkins still attends church, Hitchen's children attend a religious school. There's no harm in singing songs and hanging out with your neighbors discussing ancient fairy tales.

It's when you let stories of demons and ogres dictate our policy on science and society that you have an issue. If religion could play the roll of Boyscouts for grown-ups I'm sure we'd all be find with that:

A common bit of lore to reflect on, a handful of guidelines for living well, an excuse to get together every week and through a party every few months, and as fodder for inclusion in new works of art.

Nobody made that argument. It has never been "Religion talks about science therefor science can talk about religion". The argument is that the existence of god is a valid scientific hypothesis that can be tested: the reasons for this were spelled out in books you mentioned. Feel free to clarify your point. These questions can be raised whether or not religious people have any interest in science at all.

You still haven't spelled out your reasons for disagreeing with what he wrote in Chapter 2. Your arguments have amounted to "Nuh-ah! Science can't talk about this" but you haven't actually addressed any of the points raised in the book we're talkign about. You may have an interesting point that none of us have though of but so far you've shirked responsibility to clarify your arguments.

What exactly do you not agree with in his arguments for treating the existence of an interventionist god as a scientific hypothesis, and what do you disagree with with in his arguments for rejecting non-overlaping magisteria?

Lol, I object for all the reasons you have just given. I object because he is as much out for a fight as you appear to be - and a very public one at that. I object because he has confused his atheism with science (and although he cleverly argues with every stroke of his pen that he doesn't) he has actively encouraged this view in others. I can't argue with a book I haven't read (yet). I have read the majority of his other works however. So it's slightly pointless to demand I justify my reasoning on the basis of a text with which I'm not familiar. Moreover it was not me (as you appear to imply) who mentioned this text originally.

To my eyes this is probably more of a problem in America than anywhere else. The reason for this is I suspect that the Christian doctrine can often appear quite dangerous. It isn't always easily given to a message of tolerance, education and understanding. It's effects on a societal level can also appear significant.

However on an individual level I can see how religion can be useful to people - and how in situations where there is otherwise little to hope for, it can give them the strength they need in order to survive. Moreover I think I have explained very clearly how it is possible for science and religion to occupy two entirely different spheres. Just as a book may be a fictional creation of the authors mind, or a work of art may depict a scene which in part reflects the inner workings of the artists imagination, or just as a song, or a piece of music may invoke feelings of awe connection and wonderment, it would be silly and pointless to say that none of these contained the potential to reveal many great truths to us, truth's which on the whole are often not subject to the narrow and piercing eye of science.

Moreover Dawkins view is not even supported by any of the science which he purports to be a proponent of. The game of evolution is after all a crap shoot (although mother nature is more like a skilled poker player, because the game is not entirely random). If we view all of the processes of life on Earth as a single mechanism, then we can ask what is the 'purpose' of this mechanism? In the absence of a God (which I think is the most likely scenario in this case), the purpose of it is the same now as when the first fully complete single cellular organism to have ever emerged, which is simply to survive and pass on the genetic code. Life as a system does no care how this objective is achieved (indeed 'objective is a much better word than purpose in this case, since purpose has too many connotations in the context of this discussion). It doesn't care if you are a bacteria, an ant, an aardvark, a rat, a worm, or indeed even if you are an ardent democrat, republican, bible belt Christian, or an atheist. Each in it's own subtle way can be regarded as simply another survival strategy. All it cares about is passing on the message. Intelligence (and probably in the terms that you frame it too) certainly need not be seen to confer any really long term survival advantage. The jury on this count is still very much out. You should possibly one day consider watching a movie called 'Idiocracy', although meant as a light hearted jibe at the then prevailing influence of Christian theism on American government policy, it portrayed a time in the distant future where society had in fact for whatever reason 'de-evolved' back to a much more primitive state. However that society still can function in this much more primitive state was and is evident (as the history of human evolution and of many of our ancestors demonstrates). It is too soon to call how useful our 'intelligence' as we understand it will be to us in the long run. It may be no use to us at all - and certainly it poses the risk to use that we could end up destroying ourselves because of it. As a modern trait it has only been around in its current form for a very, very brief period in the entire history of evolution on Earth. Life has proved she does not need it in order to survive.

In any case it's evident that as life cares so little how the original genetic message gets passed along, that it doesn't even care what you or I, or indeed what Richard Dawkins may think. The last man on Earth certainly need not be an atheist, just as they need not be a theist. Indeed the last life form left alive on Earth need not be intelligent at all. If I were a betting man, I would put my money on bacteria to win the day in this respect, due to it's massive propensity for survival and overabundance (and over production) in even the most extreme of conditions. Such bacteria could also remain relatively simple, and may even be significantly unchanged from the very first kinds of bacteria that first emerged perhaps 3 or so billion years ago. Putting this irony aside (all of the history of life and for it to end like this!), it is clear that in natures eyes at least, that all perspectives and all survival strategies are equally valid. Including indeed those of you and I and of Dawkins, and of a worm and a rat and a flea.

This is what Dawkins fails to acknowledge. It is in essence the ultimate conclusion of his own chain of reasoning, that if religion is false, then it is likely to be just another survival strategy and it is therefore just as valid as his, or any other he (or anyone else) might care to devise.

Such a perspective could lead to nihilism, however thankfully Dawkins does at least offer us an out on that count in that he rightly points out just how unique humans are. So unique indeed that it's likely (and certainly at least extremely possible) that nothing like us has ever existed in the history of the Universe in the past. (or might do again in the future). We have the capacity for thought, for reason, for art, for music, for science, for culture - and yes, the capacity for religion too! In that sense we have an opportunity to make of life what we will - and perhaps one day even to escape the limits of our genetic programming and as Dawkins himself puts it 'to become more than the sum of our parts.' However there exist the equal chance that we may do none of this and that we may wipe ourselves out, or be wiped out before we have the opportunity to realise this potential. The choice is probably quite arbitrary. You can chose to 'believe' what you will.

But since all perspectives in this way could be regarded as equally valid (if indeed we are to view them as a part of our overall survival strategy), it makes it at least very difficult to argue that one perspective should be considered predominant over any other. We can only view this in terms of competing perspectives (the selfish meme!) and it is therefore impossible for us to say in our limited single lifetime outlook, which perspective is likely to dominate and which may lose out. For me I prefer diversity. Like all diversity in nature, diversity in ideas is always best.

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trieste
intelligent design as that causes a logical fallacy (IE what created the creator?).
It doesn't make sense to start with 'what created the creator'. If there was nothing in the past, then there would have been nothing in the present and there will still be nothing in the future.

Start with this axiom: "There is a creator", and some things fall into place. Add in another axiom "all humans have sinned against this creator" and you may understand that death is not part of the natural scheme of things (that's why we mourn at funerals). Add in yet another axiom "this creator came to earth to die for our sins so that if we believe and repent, we are spared eternal death (eternal death being a deserved judgement in the first place)", and you have reached the crux of Christianity.

As an analogy, no one really bothers to flummox himself by asking "What is a question?" He knows full well what questions are and uses them to discover the world around himself.

I'm not out to fight your beliefs, but if you're kinda lost where you are now, I hope this will lead you to a place of rest. :)

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elantheros

It doesn't make sense to start with 'what created the creator'. If there was nothing in the past, then there would have been nothing in the present and there will still be nothing in the future.

Actually, it does. It shows the fallacy of religion. If all things need a creator, then so does the creator itself. If not all things need a creator and can exist out of nothing, then it's much more plausible that this world did, than some supposedly infinitely more complex creator.

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jebus197

On a closing note (from me at least) it has now become officially impossible to criticise Dawkins publicly in any meaningful professional of philosophical sense, since anyone who does is termed deridingly by his supporters as a 'Dawkins flea', or as someone who attempts to gain notoriety by criticising his work. This is clearly an untenable situation, as it goes fundamentally against the interests of an open, dispassionate scientific discourse.

If Dawkins has a hypothesis that he feels can be tested to disprove the existence of God, let him submit his hypothesis to a respected scientific journal and allow his hypothesis to be peer reviewed. So confident am I that is work in this regard would be likely to be rejected on almost every conceivable scientific count, that I would literally be willing to bet my house on it - and much of my income for the remainder of my working life too.

This is why science is not conducted within the arena of public opinion. It is not a valid place for genuine scientific debate to take place.

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the evn show
Lol, I object for all the reasons you have just given.

Please, be specific. So far you have yet to spell out what exactly you object to never mind the reasons for disagreement. You've evaded the call to support your assertions for 3 posts. How long do you plan to continue to demonstrate your ignorance of the topic we're discussing?

I object because he has confused his atheism with science

Cite an example? Book, page number, and quote please.

I can't argue with a book I haven't read (yet). I have read the majority of his other works however.

You're making assertions contradictory to what's written in a book dedicated to the topic. Feel free to quote one of of his other books if you like - given that the majority of Dawkins' work is about evolutionary biology it's possible that you misinterpreted one of his digressions and his meaning was clarified in The God Delusion. One of his stated purposes in The God Delusion was to clear up exactly the sort of misunderstandings that you may have.

I don't think it's unreasonable to ask you to cite your sources when you're making an assertions about what an author wrote.

Moreover Dawkins view is not even supported by any of the science which he purports to be a proponent of.

What exactly do you think Dawkins' view of evolution is? Also, what does being a good poker player in a crap shoot have to do with anything?

This is what Dawkins fails to acknowledge. It is in essence the ultimate conclusion of his own chain of reasoning, that if religion is false, then it is likely to be just another survival strategy and it is therefore just as valid as his, or any other he (or anyone else) might care to devise.

Which of his books have you read (or documentaries or lectures have you seen), and where does he make that claim?

It'd be much more productive if you'd just explain where you're getting the information about Dawkins position on evolution and religion. Right now it looks like you're raising a straw man.

It's days like this I wish my ignore list had a comments field so I could remember why people were on it.

On a closing note (from me at least) it has now become officially impossible to criticise Dawkins publicly in any meaningful professional of philosophical sense, since anyone who does is termed deridingly by his supporters as a 'Dawkins flea', or as someone who attempts to gain notoriety by criticising his work. This is clearly an untenable situation, as it goes fundamentally against the interests of an open, dispassionate scientific discourse.

You're at no risk of gaining notoriety from criticizing his work. it's not even clear who you're talking about and your arguments against whoever that is are so vacuous that they'll never spread beyond the dozen or so viewers of this thread.

Why the sudden leap to a victim-position? So far as I can read you've only been asked to indicate which points you're arguing and where those points are made.

If Dawkins has a hypothesis that he feels can be tested to disprove the existence of God, let him submit his hypothesis to a respected scientific journal and allow his hypothesis to be peer reviewed.

Journals aren't in the business of reviewing hypothesis.

It seems like you've latched on to the title of a chapter rather than the content thereof. It's probably best to read the chapter—if not the book—before making suggestions on what to do with it.

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jebus197

There is no victim status from me: http://richarddawkins.net/articles/2045 It is purely a factual statement of a term coined by Dawkins himself.

It is exactly your kind of response that makes any kind of meaningful discussion impossible. I will concede that not every text on that page is of a standard that would pose him any very significant threat, but it is clear from this the sheer extent in which he revels in his infamy, openly poking fun at anyone who even dares to raise even the mildest and most innocuous objection to his opinions.

You demand that I list every text I have ever read written by Dawkins, every interview I have ever watched, want me to list every objection I can possibly devise to his perspective here on this forum for your own perverse personal satisfaction? Well I do have a response to that and it's much shorter and sweeter than my other responses, since it basically boils down to **** you pal. I'm not going to play that game.

I did however briefly get a chance to meet the man (which I suspect is more than you) at a public lecture in St Andrews University in 2005. (Although meet is possibly somewhat of an exaggeration, rather than that I attended the lecture at the invite of a philosophy lecturer friend of mine who works there). He was then as ever a typically impressive individual. Witty, charming and cuttingly eloquent. I never got the chance to speak to him, or put any questions to him then, but I was probably much more of an ardent fan of him and of his views at that point than I am now.

You are correct however that Dawkins has probably never once openly said that there is no role in society for religion, however even at this lecture as polite and charming as he was then, it was abundantly clear to a largely receptive audience (including myself) what his views in this regard were.

However just in case you, or anyone else is in any doubt about what Dawkins views on religion are, here is a short list to help refresh everyone's memories.

Warning, for anyone who finds them too long to read, you can just skim through them to the discussion at the end.

I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.

-- Richard Dawkins (attributed: source unknown)

Religion teaches the dangerous nonsense that death is not the end.

-- Richard Dawkins, "Religion's Misguided Missiles" (September 15, 2001)

Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.

-- Richard Dawkins (attributed: source unknown)

Faith is powerful enough to immunize people against all appeals to pity, to forgiveness, to decent human feelings. It even immunizes them against fear, if they honestly believe that a martyr's death will send them straight to heaven.

-- Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

Yes, testosterone-sodden young men too unattractive to get a woman in this world might be desperate enough to go for 72 private virgins in the next.

-- Richard Dawkins, "Religion's Misguided Missiles" (September 15, 2001)

If death is final, a rational agent can be expected to value his life highly and be reluctant to risk it. This makes the world a safer place, just as a plane is safer if its hijacker wants to survive. At the other extreme, if a significant number of people convince themselves, or are convinced by their priests, that a martyr's death is equivalent to pressing the hyperspace button and zooming through a wormhole to another universe, it can make the world a very dangerous place. Especially if they also believe that that other universe is a paradisical escape from the tribulations of the real world. Top it off with sincerely believed, if ludicrous and degrading to women, sexual promises, and is it any wonder that naïve and frustrated young men are clamouring to be selected for suicide missions?

-- Richard Dawkins, "Religion's Misguided Missiles" (September 15, 2001)

My last vestige of "hands off religion" respect disappeared in the smoke and choking dust of September 11th 2001, followed by the "National Day of Prayer," when prelates and pastors did their tremulous Martin Luther King impersonations and urged people of mutually incompatible faiths to hold hands, united in homage to the very force that caused the problem in the first place.

-- Richard Dawkins, The Devil's Chaplain (2004)

My point is not that religion itself is the motivation for wars, murders and terrorist attacks, but that religion is the principal label, and the most dangerous one, by which a "they" as opposed to a "we" can be identified at all.

-- Richard Dawkins, The Devil's Chaplain (2004)

It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, "mad cow" disease, and many others, but I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.

-- Richard Dawkins, The Humanist, Vol. 57, No. 1

To describe religions as mind viruses is sometimes interpreted as contemptuous or even hostile. It is both. I am often asked why I am so hostile to organized religion.

-- Richard Dawkins, The Devil's Chaplain (2004)

I don't think God is an explanation at all. It's simply redescribing the problem.

We are trying to understand how we have got a complicated world, and we have an explanation in terms of a slightly simpler world, and we explain that in terms of a slightly simpler world and it all hangs together down to an ultimately simple world.

Now, God is not an explanation of that kind. God himself cannot be simple if he has power to do all the things he is supposed to do.

-- Richard Dawkins, "Nick Pollard interviews Richard Dawkins" (Damars: 1999)

If people think God is interesting, the onus is on them to show that there is anything there to talk about. Otherwise they should just shut up about it.

-- Richard Dawkins (attributed: source unknown)

[Excerpt]

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.

-- Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995), quoted from Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (2001)

[Passaget]

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

-- Richard Dawkins, "God's Utility Function," published in Scientific American (November, 1995), p. 85

People sometimes try to score debating points by saying, "Evolution is only a theory." That is correct, but it's important to understand what that means. It is also only a theory that the world goes round the Sun -- it's just a theory for which there is an immense amount of evidence.

There are many scientific theories that are in doubt. Even within evolution, there is some room for controversy. But that we are cousins of apes and jackals and starfish, let's say, that is a fact in the ordinary sense of the word.

-- Richard Dawkins, "Nick Pollard interviews Richard Dawkins" (Damars: 1999)

You cannot be both sane and well educated and disbelieve in evolution. The evidence is so strong that any sane, educated person has got to believe in evolution.

-- Richard Dawkins, in Lanny Swerdlow, "My Sort Interview with Richard Dawkins" (Portland, Oregon, 1996)

It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that).

-- Richard Dawkins, quoted from Josh Gilder, a creationist, in his critical review, "PBS's 'Evolution' series is propaganda, not science" (September, 2001)

Not a single one of your ancestors died young. They all copulated at least once.

-- Richard Dawkins, The New Yorker, "Richard Dawkins's Evolution" (September 9, 1996), debating "Does God Exist?" with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, as reported by Ian Parker, quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

The enlightenment is under threat. So is reason. So is truth. So is science, especially in the schools of America. I am one of those scientists who feels that it is no longer enough just to get on and do science. We have to devote a significant proportion of our time and resources to defending it from deliberate attack from organized ignorance. We even have to go out on the attack ourselves, for the sake of reason and sanity. Of course, excellent organizations already exist for raising funds and deploying them in service of reason, science and enlightenment values.But the money that these organizations can raise is dwarfed by the huge resources of religious foundations such as the Templeton Foundation, not to mention the tithe-bloated, tax-exempt churches.

-- Richard Dawkins, quoted from the press release, “The Cydonia Group Declares War On Religion” (December 15, 2006)

... Textbooks describe DNA as a blueprint for a body. It's better seen as a recipe for making a body, because it is irreversible. But today I want to present it as something different again, and even

more intriguing. The DNA in you is a coded description of ancient worlds in which your ancestors lived. DNA is the wisdom out of the old days, and I mean very old days indeed.

...

What changes is the long programs that natural selection has written using those 64 basic words. The messages that have come down to us are the ones that have survived millions, in some cases hundreds of millions, of generations. For every successful message that has reached the present, countless failures have fallen away like the chippings on a sculptor's floor. That's what Darwinian natural selection means. We are the descendants of a tiny élite of successful ancestors. Our DNA has proved itself successful, because it is here. Geological time has carved and sculpted our DNA to survive down to the present.

-- Richard Dawkins, in "Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder," The Richard Dimbleby Lecture, BBC1 Television (12 November 1996)

It really comes down to parsimony, economy of explanation. It is possible that your car engine is driven by psychokinetic energy, but if it looks like a petrol engine, smells like a petrol engine and performs exactly as well as a petrol engine, the sensible working hypothesis is that it is a petrol engine. Telepathy and possession by the spirits of the dead are not ruled out as a matter of principle. There is certainly nothing impossible about abduction by aliens in UFOs. One day it may be happen. But on grounds of probability it should be kept as an explanation of last resort. It is unparsimonious, demanding more than routinely weak evidence before we should believe it. If you hear hooves clip-clopping down a London street, it could be a zebra or even a unicorn, but, before we assume that it's anything other than a horse, we should demand a certain minimal standard of evidence.

-- Richard Dawkins, in "Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder," The Richard Dimbleby Lecture, BBC1 Television (12 November 1996)

Either it is true that a medicine works or it isn't. It cannot be false in the ordinary sense but true in some "alternative" sense. If a therapy or treatment is anything more than a placebo, properly conducted double-blind trials, statistically analyzed, will eventually bring it through with flying colours. Many candidates for recognition as "orthodox" medicines fail the test and are summarily dropped. The "alternative" label should not (though, alas, it does) provide immunity from the same fate.

-- Richard Dawkins, The Devil's Chaplain (2004)

[Alternative medicine is defined as] that set of practices that cannot be tested, refuse to be tested or consistently fail tests.

-- Richard Dawkins, quoted from Carl E Bartecchi, "Be Wary of Alternative Medicine" (Denver Business Journal: January 10, 2003)

Each week The X-Files poses a mystery and offers two rival kinds of explanation, the rational theory and the paranormal theory. And, week after week, the rational explanation loses. But it is only fiction, a bit of fun, why get so hot under the collar?

Imagine a crime series in which, every week, there is a white suspect and a black suspect. And every week, lo and behold, the black one turns out to have done it. Unpardonable, of course. And my point is that you could not defend it by saying: "But it's only fiction, only entertainment".

-- Richard Dawkins, in "Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder," The Richard Dimbleby Lecture, BBC1 Television (12 November 1996)

Are science and religion converging? No. There are modern scientists whose words sound religious but whose beliefs, on close examination, turn out to be identical to those of other scientists who straightforwardly call themselves atheists.

-- Richard Dawkins, The Devil's Chaplain (2004)

To an honest judge, the alleged convergence between religion and science is a shallow, empty, hollow, spin-doctored sham.

-- Richard Dawkins, The Devil's Chaplain (2004)

I believe that an orderly universe, one indifferent to human preoccupations, in which everything has an explanation even if we still have a long way to go before we find it, is a more beautiful, more wonderful place than a universe tricked out with capricious ad hoc magic.

-- Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow (contributed by Ray Franz)

Blindness to suffering is an inherent consequence of natural selection. Nature is neither kind nor cruel but indifferent.

-- Richard Dawkins, on describing how one need only look upon nature where the wasp lays her eggs inside the body of a living caterpillar in order to dispense with the idea that the Universe is supervised by a benevolent deity, in The Devil's Chaplain (2004)

The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite.

-- Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder (1998), p. x., quoted from Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (2001)

Science boosts its claim to truth by its spectacular ability to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command, and to predict what will happen and when.

-- Richard Dawkins, from "What is True?" in The Devil's Chaplain (2004)

Our leaders have described the recent atrocity with the customary cliche: mindless cowardice. "Mindless" may be a suitable word for the vandalising of a telephone box. It is not helpful for understanding what hit New York on September 11. Those people were not mindless and they were certainly not cowards. On the contrary, they had sufficiently effective minds braced with an insane courage, and it would pay us mightily to understand where that courage came from.

It came from religion....

-- Richard Dawkins, "Religion's Misguided Missiles" (September 15, 2001)

To fill a world with ... religions of the Abrahamic kind, is like littering the streets with loaded guns. Do not be surprised if they are used.

-- Richard Dawkins, "Religion's Misguided Missiles" (September 15, 2001)

The present Luddism over genetic engineering may die a natural death as the computer-illiterate generation is superseded.... I fear that, if the green movement's high-amplitude warnings over GMOs turn out to be empty, people will be dangerously disinclined to listen to other and more serious warnings.

-- Richard Dawkins, from "Science, Genetics and Ethics," in The Devil's Chaplain (2004)

That there is a continuous link from humans to gorillas, with the intermediate species merely long dead, is beyond the understanding of speciesists. Tie the label Homo sapiens even to a tiny piece of insensible embryonic tissue, and its life suddenly leaps to infinite, incomputable value....

Self-styled "pro-lifers," and others that indulge in footling debates about exactly when in its development a foetus "becomes" human, exhibit the same discontinuous mentality. "Human," to the discontinuous mind, is an absolutist concept. There can be no half measures. And from this flows much evil.

-- Richard Dawkins, from "Gaps in the Mind," in The Devil's Chaplain (2004)

Society bends over backward to be accommodating to religious sensibilities but not to other kinds of sensibilities. If I say something offensive to religious people, I'll be universally censured, including by many atheists. But if I say something insulting about Democrats or Republicans or the Green Party, one is allowed to get away with that. Hiding behind the smoke screen of untouchability is something religions have been allowed to get away with for too long.

-- Richard Dawkins, quoted in Natalie Angier, "Confessions of a Lonely Atheist," New York Times Magazine, January 14, 2001

Over the centuries, we've moved on from Scripture to accumulate precepts of ethical, legal and moral philosophy. We've evolved a liberal consensus of what we regard as underpinnings of decent society, such as the idea that we don't approve of slavery or discrimination on the grounds of race or sex, that we respect free speech and the rights of the individual. All of these things that have become second nature to our morals today owe very little to religion, and mostly have been won in opposition to the teeth of religion.

-- Richard Dawkins, quoted in Natalie Angier, "Confessions of a Lonely Atheist," New York Times Magazine, January 14, 2001

I suspect the reason is that most people ... have a residue of feeling that Darwinian evolution isn't quite big enough to explain everything about life. All I can say as a biologist is that the feeling disappears progressively the more you read about and study what is known about life and evolution. I want to add one thing more. The more you understand the significance of evolution, the more you are pushed away from the agnostic position and towards atheism. Complex, statistically improbable things are by their nature more difficult to explain than simple, statistically probable things.

-- Richard Dawkins, from The New Humanist, the Journal of the Rationalist Press Association, Vol 107 No 2

I became a little alarmed at the number of my readers who took the meme more positively as a theory of human culture in its own right -- either to criticize it (unfairly, given my original modest intention) or to carry it far beyond the limits of what I then thought justified. This was why I may have seemed to backtrack.

-- Richard Dawkins, The Devil's Chaplain (2004)

It's been suggested that if the supernaturalists really had the powers they claim, they'd win the lottery every week. I prefer to point out that they could also win a Nobel Prize for discovering fundamental physical forces hitherto unknown to science. Either way, why are they wasting their talents doing party turns on television?

-- Richard Dawkins, in "Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder," The Richard Dimbleby Lecture, BBC1 Television (12 November 1996)

Certainly I see the scientific view of the world as incompatible with religion, but that is not what is interesting about it. It is also incompatible with magic, but that also is not worth stressing. What is interesting about the scientific world view is that it is true, inspiring, remarkable and that it unites a whole lot of phenomena under a single heading.

-- Richard Dawkins (attributed: source unknown)

More generally it is completely unrealistic to claim, as Gould and many others do, that religion keeps itself away from science's turf, restricting itself to morals and values. A universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without. The difference is, inescapably, a scientific difference. Religions make existence claims, and this means scientific claims.

There is something dishonestly self-serving in the tactic of claiming that all religious beliefs are outside the domain of science. On the one hand, miracle stories and the promise of life after death are used to impress simple people, win converts, and swell congregations. It is precisely their scientific power that gives these stories their popular appeal. But at the same time it is considered below the belt to subject the same stories to the ordinary rigors of scientific criticism: these are religious matters and therefore outside the domain of science. But you cannot have it both ways. At least, religious theorists and apologists should not be allowed to get away with having it both ways. Unfortunately all too many of us, including nonreligious people, are unaccountably ready to let them.

-- Richard Dawkins, Richard Dawkins, "When Religion Steps on Science's Turf," Free Inquiry 18 no. 2 (1998): pp. 18-9, quoted from Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (2001)

In childhood our credulity serves us well. It helps us to pack, with extraordinary rapidity, our skulls full of the wisdom of our parents and our ancestors. But if we don't grow out of it in the fullness of time, our ... nature makes us a sitting target for astrologers, mediums, gurus, evangelists, and quacks. We need to replace the automatic credulity of childhood with the constructive skepticism of adult science.

-- Richard Dawkins , Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion, and the Appetite for Wonder (1998), page 142–3

To show how real astronomical wonder can be presented to children, I'll borrow from a book called Earthsearch by John Cassidy, which I brought back from America to show my daughter Juliet. Find a large open space and take a soccer ball to represent the sun. Put the ball down and walk ten paces in a straight line. Stick a pin in the ground. The head of the pin stands for the planet Mercury. Take another 9 paces beyond Mercury and put down a peppercorn to represent Venus. Seven paces on, drop another peppercorn for Earth. One inch away from earth, another pinhead represents the Moon, the furthest place, remember, that we've so far reached. 14 more paces to little Mars, then 95 paces to giant Jupiter, a ping-pong ball. 112 paces further, Saturn is a marble. No time to deal with the outer planets except to say that the distances are much larger. But, how far would you have to walk to reach the nearest star, Proxima Centauri? Pick up another soccer ball to represent it, and set off for a walk of 4200 miles. As for the nearest other galaxy, Andromeda, don't even think about it!

Who'd go back to astrology when they've sampled the real thing -- astronomy...?

-- Richard Dawkins, in "Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder," The Richard Dimbleby Lecture, BBC1 Television (12 November 1996)

I had always been scrupulously careful to avoid the smallest suggestion of infant indoctrination, which I think is ultimately responsible for much of the evil in the world. Others, less close to her, showed no such scruples, which upset me, as I very much wanted her, as I want all children, to make up her own mind freely when she became old enough to do so. I would encourage her to think, without telling her what to think.

-- Richard Dawkins, in a letter to his daughter, The Devil's Chaplain (2004)

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

-- Richard Dawkins, excerpt from Chapter I, "The Anaesthetic of Familiarity," of Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder (1998)

After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with colour, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn't it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked -- as I am surprisingly often -- why I bother to get up in the mornings. To put it the other way round, isn't it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be a part of it?

A brief search of Google using the terms "Dawkins" and "Atheism" will throw up countless seminars, interviews and events he has attended many of which have the topic of atheism referenced directly in the title. This of course is no crime or fault in its own right, but it would be difficult given this and his long history of publicly stated views on the topic to remain confused for very long about what his views concerning religion exactly are.

You are in any case asking me to do something that is clearly impossible. You appear to continue to demand that I make arguments against a text which I have already stated I have not read. In addition you ask me to make criticisms of any number of his previous texts also (given that doing so on a forum of this nature is entirely the wrong place to engage in such a feat and would waste far more of my time than I am willing to afford to it at this point). However if you are asking me to refute any of his views on evolution, you will not hear that from me either. If anything I am a much more ardent evolutionist that even he is, to such an extent indeed (as I have already stated) that I see all aspects of life, as either directly or indirectly being attributable to evolutionary processes. Where I differ from Dawkings is that I also see all viewpoints as being equally applicable. So what if religion is only something that stupid people believe in and if atheism is is only something that smart people subscribe to? What advantage in evolutionary terms (if any) does your cleverness confer on you? How and in what way does evolution and nature 'prefer' that cleverness over my own (or anyone else's) apparent lack of it? If all of the atheists in the world were wiped out tomorrow, leaving only right wing fundamental religious sorts to rule the world, would society still continue? It's likely in my view that it would. It might not be quite as developed as the world that we inhabit and recognise now, but I would wager that life (as life does) would still go on.

The point being made is that evolution cannot be used to argue which perspective is 'correct' and which is not. Evolution is purely a biomechanics process, it contains no moral, ethical, or inherent intellectual standpoint whatsoever. It is a single purpose (or at least single function) mechanism with one clearly defined objective only, which is to ensure that (by whatever means) the genetic code survives and is passed on to a subsequent generation. It is in this sense, nothing more than an unthinking unfeeling biological machine. (Clearly it's individual units may be cable of experiencing certain feelings, such as pain, happiness, pleasure, joy, sadness etc, but the mechanism itself does not care a single jot one way or another.)

You say you object to this perspective and that you find it vacuous, but you have failed to indicate any meaningful reason why you feel this to be the case? I have already been accused on this thread of attempting to argue through incredulity, yet all you offer is incredulity in return? Attempt therefore if you wish to offer a meaningful rebuttal of this perspective and explain why you feel this is not a useful interpretation of evolutionary theory? Answer if you will, the simple question of if religion confers no useful evolutionary advantage to those who subscribe to it, why it has persisted probably from the very dawn of man and why it is likely to persist (in the absence of a war or some other catastrophe that would serve to eliminate it) until the last few of us left alive on Earth? (Or at least the last few of whatever our descendants might become.)

Moreover my objectives to Dawkings are not based on his views with regard to evolution, for evolution in my eyes is a topic that is beyond question. For me it is simply about accepting evolution for what it is - and accepting that this perspective does not allow me to promote my views, or my preferences over anyone else's. It is a perspective that gives me equal respect for all of nature, and for all the different perspectives within human society too. It is undoubtedly an extreme stance, but if the world is indeed Godless, and I fully admit from an entirely logical perspective that there is more than a good chance that it might be, then this would at least appear the only and final conclusion that we can reach.

In any case I have taken some deliberate care not to respond too directly to any of Dawkins statements, exactly because I fully intend to refrain from ever becoming yet another of Dawkings 'fleas'. You are correct that my perspective may never reach much beyond the limited context of this forum. But it was never intended to. It is in this sense a purely personal philosophy of my own that I have developed after a large number of years of reading and individual thought on this subject. I have no desire to shout my views from the hilltop as Professor Dawkins regularly appears to enjoy doing. In effect there is no real disagreement between me and anything Richard Dawkins has said, except that it is possible that I am much more of an extremist (or at least a purist) than probably he is (or indeed you). The only really significant way in which I differ is that I completely accept all of the inherent diversity of life, and frame this in the context that each single unit of life has an equally valid evolutionary potential as any other. This is not to say that all life contains the same innate potential for survival - natural selection of course can put paid to this. But certainly there is no evidence that nature has any inherent 'preference' for any solution over any other - and certainly not for any single human perspective over any other either. Your opinion appears to be that human society would be better if atheism predominated and if the world became Godless, whereas my response to this is that nature and evolution probably doesn't give a toss what you think. (Or what I think either for that matter).

Nonetheless, since I think it's likely that I can obtain nothing more than a tirade of derision and abuse from certain posters on this thread, it seems evident that this discussion very much probably has reached the end of the road for me.

It is interesting I think that after years of being on the other side of the fence - of being an ardent supporter of a purely atheist perspective to experience even for a short while what it is like to be on the receiving end of the rage of a somewhat typically vocal advocate of Dawkinism. (I refuse to call it Darwinism (or even neo-Darwinism) since I suspect that even Darwin would be repelled by some of Dawkins more vocal stances, since I know from reading a great deal of his works and his personal letters that he was close friends and an active admirer of several very religious people in his day). It's an interesting and valuable experience and one that I hope I can gain something useful from.

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the evn show

You demand that I list every text I have ever read written by Dawkins, every interview I have ever watched, want me to list every objection I can possibly devise to his perspective here on this forum for your own perverse personal satisfaction?

You've claimed he's made statements that I'm not familiar with: I have a large collection of his work. Since you're unable to quote specific pages: knowing what you've read would allow me to perform a search of the contentious material more effectively.

Well I do have a response to that and it's much shorter and sweeter than my other responses, since it basically boils down to **** you pal. I'm not going to play that game.

I see. So your strategy is to make baseless claims, ignore calls for support, and then swear on your way out?

It's difficult to take anything you say seriously when you can't engage in simple civil discourse.

I did however briefly get a chance to meet the man (which I suspect is more than you) at a public lecture in St Andrews University in 2005.

I've seen him twice in person and I own a vacation property not far from where he lives. Are you trying to argue that merely meeting a Biologist would make you an expert on their works?

You are correct however that Dawkins has probably never once openly said that there is no role in society for religion, however even at this lecture as polite and charming as he was then, it was abundantly clear to a largely receptive audience (including myself) what his views in this regard were.

I want to be clear here: your argument is that "Despite no written or spoken quotes to support my assertion, and despite both written and spoken quotes that refute my assertion I'm going to hold true to my claims because 'they feel right'?"

That's not really something I think any of us can take seriously.

Where I differ from Dawkings is that I also see all viewpoints as being equally applicable. So what if religion is only something that stupid people believe in and if atheism is is only something that smart people subscribe to? What advantage in evolutionary terms (if any) does your cleverness confer on you? How and in what way does evolution and nature 'prefer' that cleverness over my own (or anyone else's) apparent lack of it? If all of the atheists in the world were wiped out tomorrow, leaving only right wing fundamental religious sorts to rule the world, would society still continue? It's likely in my view that it would. It might not be quite as developed as the world that we inhabit and recognise now, but I would wager that life (as life does) would still go on.

The point being made is that evolution cannot be used to argue which perspective is 'correct' and which is not. Evolution is purely a biomechanics process, it contains no moral, ethical, or inherent intellectual standpoint whatsoever. It is a single purpose (or at least single function) mechanism with one clearly defined objective only, which is to ensure that (by whatever means) the genetic code survives and is passed on to a subsequent generation. It is in this sense, nothing more than an unthinking unfeeling biological machine. (Clearly it's individual units may be cable of experiencing certain feelings, such as pain, happiness, pleasure, joy, sadness etc, but the mechanism itself does not care a single jot one way or another.)

He's never made that claim you're ascribing to him here or if he has, you've failed to demonstrate where.

Is this another one of those "Well of course he didn't write or say it but that's what he really means: 'I can feel it'" points?

You say you object to this perspective and that you find it vacuous, but you have failed to indicate any meaningful reason why you feel this to be the case?

Mostly I find your arguments pointless because they're strawman. You've ascribed a position to an author that he does not hold and then you've argued against it.

Answer if you will, the simple question of if religion confers no useful evolutionary advantage to those who subscribe to it, why it has persisted probably from the very dawn of man and why it is likely to persist

I offer up the final chapter of The God Delusion. It offers up a number of possible explanations ranging from the purely biological (ie: a miss-firing of neurons that once served a useful purpose) to purely social. There's no single reason and to do justice to the topic would require several pages. Rather than reiterate what's already been written by a much better writer than I, I'll simply point you back to the text that we're discussing. He does point out that the question of whether or not religion is "true' has nothing to do with whether or not the institution is socially or biologically beneficial. I'd add that "the dawn of man" is seconds ago in geological time, that biological evolution acting on religion would suppose that any particular religion is the expression of a gene, and that a behaviour that is useless need to be removed by evolution. For example: 'wingless' birds that still dry their wings in the sun are cited as one such example.

Are you confusing Dawkins with Dennett who has made the claim that religion no longer serves a useful purpose?

1. The only really significant way in which I differ is that I completely accept all of the inherent diversity of life

2. and frame this in the context that each single unit of life has an equally valid evolutionary potential as any other.

I don't understand what you're trying to say here so I split your sentence into two clauses:

1. Are you arguing that Dawkins rejects the notion that life is diverse? The Greatest Show on Earth is a celebration of diversity and I can't imagine that you'd be trying to put forth this as an argument.

2. Are you saying evolution acts on individual life-forms (as in: "Casey the Dog" rather than "German Shepherds")? That's the only way I can read your sentence and find disagreement with what Dawkins has written. If so, your understanding of the theory of evolution by natural selection is flawed. By definition evolution only acts at the species level. Maybe you're arguing that Natural Selection operates at the individual animal level - in which case you would disagree with Dawkins who argued that traits expressed by genes are the unit on which natural selection acts.

Please clarify.

Also, while you selected a number of quotes can you please describe exactly how you disagree with them. Let's pick one at random:

Not a single one of your ancestors died young. They all copulated at least once.

-- Richard Dawkins, The New Yorker, "Richard Dawkins's Evolution" (September 9, 1996), debating "Does God Exist?" with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, as reported by Ian Parker, quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

Given your own views of evolution—"[evolution has] a single purpose…which is to ensure…genetic code survives and is passed on to a subsequent generation."—what exactly are you taking issue with in this statement? Or are you taking exception to the statement "They [your ancestors] all copulated at least once.", surely you don't believe in "stork theory", so where's the disagreement?

Or a second:

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

Are you arguing that the DNA is not complex enough to account for trillions of possible human beings or that it is impossible for a poet more beautiful than Keats to be born? Are you arguing that there are the odds against this universe producing any particular human being are not tremendous?

It's a shame you haven't read the rest of Unweaving the Rainbow - he used a later passage combined with this one to close a lecture in California a few years ago. It's one of my favourite quotes and it seems a shame to leave it abridged. "We privilege few, whom won the lottery of birth against all odds. How dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred." (found later in Chapter 2).

Despite all of your quotes where Dawkins admits to being hostile toward religion he doesn't argue it has no place in society. A reduced position: certainly, but he never argues for religion to be purged from history. The God Delusion dedicates a chapter to the significant and beneficial role it can play. While religion may not be necessary fro some of that role (ie: to build a sense of community) it is fundamentally important to others (ie: a complete understanding of western literature).

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jebus197
You've claimed he's made statements that I'm not familiar with: I have a large collection of his work. Since you're unable to quote specific pages: knowing what you've read would allow me to perform a search of the contentious material more effectively.

I just don't see what right you have to demand this of me? However to be frank the reason I am having difficulty quoting specific passages of text is that I gave up reading Richard Dawkins around 1999. So that would include (but is not restricted to, due to reading some of other work on-line and watching a great many of his on-ne interviews and seminars) works such as The Selfish Gene,The Extended Phenotype, The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable etc. (I don't even own any of his books currently however, as the reason I gave up reading them was because I found much of his logic circular. There came a point where it became pointless to go on reading the many countless and ingenious ways in which he demonstrated the validity of evolutionary theory in an attempt to convince the reader of the accuracy of his views. However I didn't need any more convincing of this. Indeed I was already convinced of it before I read anything he wrote).

I see. So your strategy is to make baseless claims, ignore calls for support, and then swear on your way out?

It's difficult to take anything you say seriously when you can't engage in simple civil discourse.

Lol, I didn't swear. I edited my own comment. Any profanity was entirely a figment of your own mind. I don't think you understand just how much of my time this topic has already taken up. I have my own studies and my own responsibilities to attend to. Years ago I used to get caught up in similar debates here and elsewhere, but I forgot briefly just how wildly time wasting and destructive they can sometimes become. If winning an argument is all that matters to you, then you may get your wish, if only to the extent that I may be forced to ban Neowin and put blocks on my firewall to remind me not to come here.

I've seen him twice in person and I own a vacation property not far from where he lives. Are you trying to argue that merely meeting a Biologist would make you an expert on their works?

No of course not! Now you're just resorting to childish mudslinging. The statement you referenced was given in the context of the second statement, in which if you recall I said he left no one there in doubt as to what his views (at least on that evening) concerning religion were. Several members of local faith based groups were there, including notable members of the Church of Scotland, and also a prominent member of the Catholic clergy. He was as ever utterly charming and eloquent in the responses he gave to their questions, but it was this same eloquence that often seemed to make it impossible for the two opposing camps to engage in any meaningful discussion with each other.

His attitude on this evening was the same as on many other similar evenings and events and can probably be boiled down to something of another famous quote of his (although he didn't say this on the evening. Unfortunately I didn't see the need at the time to carefully take notes, as I didn't envisage a time in the distant future when I might need to reference them for anyone). In any case it basically boils down to a matter of attitude:

"I'm a friendly enough sort of chap," "I'm not a hostile person to meet. But I think it's important to realize that when two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong."

Clearly this can be true in the context of science, however for me there is also a separate sphere of human experience - and it is in this sphere that religion can often play a role. To my eyes it doesn't mater a single tiny little bit whether religion, or God is real or not, because in the context of human expedience they occupy different realms. I have however already given a very good account of this and do not feel inclined to give a full repetition of my views in this regard here. Moreover meeting him and seeing him work and reading several of his books (even if it was some time ago now) at least serves to give a good impression of him - and certainly gives a better impression of his views than the many angry atheists who commonly converge on forums like this to engage in debates and voice their support for him, without ever having read a word he has written.

My argument in any case is not one for the validity or otherwise of religion, it is for the tolerance and acceptance of the diversity of ideas - even those ideas that we may find objectionable or difficult to accept. It is an argument from the perspective of evolution that proposes that all ideas and perspectives are at least equally valid and that nature herself does not give a single flying spaghetti monster one way or another what we may chose to believe.

I want to be clear here: your argument is that "Despite no written or spoken quotes to support my assertion, and despite both written and spoken quotes that refute my assertion I'm going to hold true to my claims because 'they feel right'?"

That's not really something I think any of us can take seriously.

That's not being clear. That's just being derisive and insulting. This isn't an exam theatre. There is no requirement to provide references, cross references or use exacting quotations in order for someone to say, "I have read this man, I have seen him once, I have watched many seminars and interviews on-line in which he participate and I often find it difficult to like him very much." It's more a matter of style than content. Science used to be something people did quietly in the lab, but now it seems (at least in the case of Dawkins), it's out and it's loud and it's proud, and it's more than happy to slap anyone down who tries to stand in it's way. Moreover it's not just me that is labouring under this apparent delusion (at least in your eyes) that Dawkins might hold an unfavourable viewpoint with regard to religion. The whole ID thing (as silly as it may be) was pretty much a fear response to how vocal the whole debate was then becoming. Of course we can argue if you wish what came first, the chicken or the egg, Intelligent Design, or Dawkins? (Or indeed Gould or any of his other then contemporaries). Would the whole debate even have emerged (or at least been famed in the same virulent terms), if Dawkins has confined his work and his musings to the lab? Of course as a professor for the public understanding of science this would not have been possible for him, but there is still a question of how much of what he has done has really advanced the public understanding of science at all, or whether he has only enhanced a certain select section of it? Surely he has a responsibility to all of the public and should moderate at least his public persona (if not his views) in light of this?

He's never made that claim you're ascribing to him here.

Is this another one of those "Well of course he didn't write or say it but that's what he really means: 'I can feel it'" points?

A clever man should never always need to say exactly what he means. If he is clever enough, he can leave you to draw your own conclusions. In the case of Dawkins he probably is quite clever, because he always leads his readers to inevitably form the same set of conclusions. Not a bad thing - but certainly a very good way to shirk off any accusation of unreasonableness, or unfairness. It's the truth in-between the gaps in what he says that often speak loudest.

Mostly I find your arguments pointless because they're strawman. You've ascribed a position to an author that he does not hold and then you've argued against it.

This is inaccurate. What I have done is form an impression. My impression (and I'm not quoting by saying this) is that Dawkings probably doesn't like religion very much and that although he might not say it outright publicly, he probably thinks the world would be better off without it. As I said, it's an impression, not a quotation. Impressions about people and their opinions are something we form on our own. Why should you consider your opinions any less right, or any less wrong than mine? It is after all (like mine) just an opinion. My own opinions in this regard however remain unchanged.

I offer up the final chapter of The God Delusion. It offers up a number of possible explanations ranging from the purely biological (ie: a miss-firing of neurons that once served a useful purpose) to purely social. There's no single reason and to do justice to the topic would require several pages. Rather than reiterate what's already been written by a much better writer than I, I'll simply point you back to the text that we're discussing. He does point out that the question of whether or not religion is "true' has nothing to do with whether or not the institution is socially or biologically beneficial. I'd add that "the dawn of man" is seconds ago in geological time, that biological evolution acting on religion would suppose that any particular religion is the expression of a gene, and that a behaviour that is useless need to be removed by evolution. For example: 'wingless' birds that still dry their wings in the sun are cited as one such example.

Are you confusing Dawkins with Dennett who has made the claim that religion no longer serves a useful purpose?

This is a very nice quote, and one I have certainly not read! But again there is the clear implication here that religion is something that is now unnecessary. The wingless bird still dries it's wings. A gene is 'useless', the advantage once conferred to it as a useful survival strategy has long since passed into the annals of evolutionary history. Not once here does Dawkins say that religion is bad or useless thing, he uses analogy instead, and as I said he leaves you to form your own conclusions. What conclusions might I have formed from reading this statement for the first time, other than "why of course religion is an outmoded and unneeded evolutionary trait!" What other impression indeed could I have formed? I on the other hand would simply state that religion probably hasn't had it's wings clipped quite yet and that it retains a great deal of evolutionary and survival advantage to those who subscribe to it. Think for example of extremely poor people scratching out a living through subsistence farming in some remote part of rural India. (Or any other part of the world for that matter). Life in these conditions is hard. It is indeed often almost impossible and it is equally impossible to imagine how some of these people would be able to survive at all if it were not for the considerable faith and investment they place in their religious beliefs. Similarly in the West, even among often very affluent communities, people may consciously chose religion, because if often helps them cope with the extreme difficulties of life. Tell someone diagnosed with cancer that they must place all their faith in science and a chemical equation only, and often they will still turn to religion of some kind, because science and chemistry alone cannot account for the impact a condition like this might have on them or their families. Or perhaps go to a maternity ward and confront a young mother who has lost her child to some fatal disease or other, with stories of evolution and clever analogies to explain why in the larger scheme of things her experience might not matter all that much, and then tell me that there still aren't conditions even now where religion might not still be able to play a useful role. The role it plays in enabling many people to survive is still here, it is still real and it is still pertinent.

I don't understand what you're trying to say here so I split your sentence into two clauses:

1. Are you arguing that Dawkins rejects the notion that life is diverse? The Greatest Show on Earth is a celebration of diversity and I can't imagine that you'd be trying to put forth this as an argument.

No I'm saying that there is more to diversity than simple physical of phenotypic expression. I'm saying that diversity of ideas and of perspective is just as valuable. In fact scrub that, what I'm really saying is that they are probably not valuable in any really meaningful sense. In this regard you have to pick meaning apart from evolution, because evolution (as far as we understand it) contains no inherent meaning at all. What I am saying is that life and evolution doesn't care what perspective we may hold, because each perspective is at least a potentially equally valid solution to the survival imperative. Ideas (and particularly religion) don't in any case operate purely on the individual level, rather they operate on the group level. Natural selection works on the level of genes, cells, individual organisms, groups and species. None of these are mutually exclusive and selection can act on multiple levels simultaneously. An example of selection occurring below the level of the individual organism are genes called transposons, which can replicate and spread throughout a genome. (So it can happen!) Selection at a level above the individual, such as group selection, may allow the evolution of co-operation and for other behaviours. such as the emergence of religion.

2. Are you saying evolution acts on individual life-forms (as in: "Casey the Dog" rather than "German Shepherds")? That's the only way I can read your sentence and find disagreement with what Dawkins has written. If so, your understanding of the theory of evolution by natural selection is flawed. By definition evolution only acts at the species level. Maybe you're arguing that Natural Selection operates at the individual animal level - in which case you would disagree with Dawkins who argued that traits expressed by genes are the unit on which natural selection acts.

Please clarify.

Also, while you selected a number of quotes can you please describe exactly how you disagree with them. Let's pick one at random:

See above answer. Indeed I'm going to a seminar on group selection by a very prominent speaker on the subject of evolution next month. It's a pity you're not in the UK. I'm sure you would find it interesting.

Given your own views of evolution?paraphrased as: if evolution has any higher purpose than that purpose is simply survival and the passage of genetic information?what exactly are you taking issue with in this statement? Or are you taking exception to the statement "They [your ancestors] all copulated at least once.", surely you don't believe in "stork theory", so where's the disagreement?

I think the disagreement is largely in your head. You appear to have come to this discussion looking for some kind of ardent theist to beat up - and instead you found me, who is probably entirely the wrong kind to pick on. For one, I am a staunch and unswerving subscriber to the theory of evolution (indeed I have retuned to University as a mature student and intend to take Zoology as my major subject in my second year in 2011, since the first year follows the format of a standard biology course), secondly all I have ever argued for is a more considered perspective, that if evolution and nature don't care what perspective wins out, then by definition all perspectives are at least (potentially) equally valid. Such an outlook naturally promotes tolerance, since it becomes impossible to say which perspective is more 'favourable' than any other. Moreover you have yet to demonstrate any very meaningful way in which an atheistic (or godless) perspective confers any really useful long term survival advantage in evolutionary terms over a theistic perspective, choosing instead now (on multiple occasions) to simply avoid the question entirely. If all perspectives are equally valid, then surely it is useful to accept all perspectives and not seek to promote any single perspective as being preferable to any other? In a sense it's an almost completely circular form of logic in it's own right. Since you can''t use evolution to promote any single perspective, then you can't use it to promote any single perspective! It's game of tick-tac-toe - with each argument you throw at it it keeps coming up with the same conclusion, that evolution and nature doesn't care. (It doesn't care what perspective you have, it doesn't care about your beliefs and it doesn't care what your opinions are. This is not what nature is about. It only cares about its own survival and is entirely indifferent to how this is achieved). This doesn't mean that we need to despair, all it means is that evolution is nothing more than a cold unfeeling biological process, with no inherent sense of value and meaning and that as such, we can't use it to debate moral, religious or indeed philosophical perspectives. And in my view this should be the goal of science. To study natural processes and then to write quietly in the appropriate journals and forums about what it is we see. Certainly there is at least a case to be made that science and biology/zoology in particular, can probably do a much better job of describing these processes and then leaving people to make up their own minds than it seems Richard Dawkings has been able to do.

Lastly, bare in mind that I have no idea where your original objection came from. I stated an opinion that I got the impression that Richard Dawkins didn't like religion very much. As it was just an impression, I didn't supply specific quotes. However you demanded specific quotes, which I then supplied. You were still however dissatisfied with this and supplied your own quote, which ironically only served to strengthen this impression still further. I also stated that I simply did not like Dawkins very much. But there is nothing wrong in liking or disliking certain individuals, even if you agree with the majority of their opinions or not. Clearly however that someone could disagree with Dawkins, or that they could dislike him is something that you have taken considerable exception to. Again I have no idea why this might be the case, other than to assume that you must like him very much indeed.

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However I can't help but find Dawkins a particularly unfortunate and unpleasant individual, because if he was as clever as he says he is, he would know already why it is impossible for any one perspective to predominate over any other within the rehlm of nature.

So Dawkins is unpleasant because he calmly and politely puts forth his argument? I don't understand what you mean by that last part of your sentence.

He has appointed himself (largely by his own popular demand) 'the pope of atheism', he make grand proclamations about what is right and wrong for everyone, yet without a God, where exactly does he claim the moral authority to do so?

When did Dawkins make grand proclamations about right and wrong? Source, please.

I'd also like a source for the "pope of atheism" thing.

He has however succeeded in creating a loyal minion of fans who have had the unfortunate effect (as I think Gould may have feared), of spreading a great deal of ignorance, intolerance and fear and who in so doing have dragged science into a very negative light.

Really? What kind of ignorance and fear are these "minions" spreading, exactly?

There are an increasing number of detracting voices in the scientific community however, who do believe in and see a need for this 'middle' way, of which I very much aspire to be one. (And no I don't mean 'intelligent design', I just mean intelligence!)

What is this middle way, then?

However on an individual level I can see how religion can be useful to people - and how in situations where there is otherwise little to hope for, it can give them the strength they need in order to survive.

And guess what, Dawkins has mentioned and addressed this numerous times.

Moreover I think I have explained very clearly how it is possible for science and religion to occupy two entirely different spheres.

Dawkins disagrees. And the only thing you have done so far is to call him names. No valid arguments.

Moreover Dawkins view is not even supported by any of the science which he purports to be a proponent of. The game of evolution is after all a crap shoot

No it isn't. It's a guided process.

it is clear that in natures eyes at least, that all perspectives and all survival strategies are equally valid. Including indeed those of you and I and of Dawkins, and of a worm and a rat and a flea.

This is what Dawkins fails to acknowledge. It is in essence the ultimate conclusion of his own chain of reasoning, that if religion is false, then it is likely to be just another survival strategy and it is therefore just as valid as his, or any other he (or anyone else) might care to devise.

What does Dawkins fail to acknowledge? Certainly not what you write about survival strategies.

It looks like you are deeply ignorant of Dawkins' position.

But since all perspectives in this way could be regarded as equally valid

But that's not what Dawkins is talking about. He isn't talking about "the last organism alive". He's talking about how we can acquire knowledge TODAY.

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jebus197

So Dawkins is unpleasant because he calmly and politely puts forth his argument? I don't understand what you mean by that last part of your sentence.

When did Dawkins make grand proclamations about right and wrong? Source, please.

I'd also like a source for the "pope of atheism" thing.

Really? What kind of ignorance and fear are these "minions" spreading, exactly?

What is this middle way, then?

And guess what, Dawkins has mentioned and addressed this numerous times.

Dawkins disagrees. And the only thing you have done so far is to call him names. No valid arguments.

No it isn't. It's a guided process.

What does Dawkins fail to acknowledge? Certainly not what you write about survival strategies.

It looks like you are deeply ignorant of Dawkins' position.

But that's not what Dawkins is talking about. He isn't talking about "the last organism alive". He's talking about how we can acquire knowledge TODAY.

I think you're rather missing the point - and about 15 posts and several thousand words. If I haven't made my position abundantly clear by now then I'm never going to. No he doesn't talk about the future too much, probably because it is so uncertain.

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jebus197

BTW I have now officially unsubscribed from this thread as I simply no longer have the time. I wish the OP good luck!

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the evn show

His attitude on this evening was the same as on many other similar evenings and events and can probably be boiled down to something of another famous quote of his (although he didn't say this on the evening. Unfortunately I didn't see the need at the time to carefully take notes, as I didn't envisage a time in the distant future when I might need to reference them for anyone). In any case it basically boils down to a matter of attitude

I don't think anybody has ever argued that he's a fan of religion. I took issue with the following quotes:

  • They are not as Dawkins would have us believe, 'the same thing.' The study of one, does not automatically lead to the conclusion of the other
    Dawkins' argues concisely in The God Delusion that the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection does not prove god does not exist, at best it makes it unnecessary for one to exist in order to describe the abundance of life on earth. This is a message he's repeated in lectures and his three most recent books. If he has made this claim and hasn't clarified it in more recent works then it is extremely out of character and that's why I asked you to cite it.
  • because he roundly fails to realise evolution prefers no single survival strategy over any other.
    Dawkins didn't propose that evolution (in the classic biological sense) has anything to do with religion apart from being the process which lead to the development of the brain capable of being religious. Unless there is a 'jesus gene' or an 'islam gene' it's not something that natural selection can act on. If he has made this claim and hasn't clarified it in more recent works then it is extremely out of character and that's why I asked you to cite it.
  • There is no real debate in science about God - because that's not what science is about. You asserted without support that science cannot be brought to bare on the question of whether or not god exists. Rather than parroting arguments I'll point you to a best selling book that argues otherwise. If you care to spell out exactly why the existence of god cannot be spelled out in terms of a falsifiable hypothesis then I'll offer couter arguments (mostly, I'll just quote Chapter 2 of The God Delusion: the popular arguments against are listed). The most popular argument against testing god was proposed by Gould and the counterarguments are equally well known. You never spelled out why you disagree with the counter arguments and neither has Gould.
  • What would you and Dawkins propose we do? Shut down religion? Ban churches and temples, tear them down? At this point your argument shifted from disagreeing with things he said to disagreeing with things he's never said. Given that we have at least two sources (Chapter 11 of the God Delusion, 1h 40m at the Four Hoursemen discussions) that he argues for exactly the opposite I fail to see how this isn't a strawman. When called to provide a source for this argument you fell back to "well that's how it felt".

Just because somebody isn't a fan of religion doesn't mean it can't play a continuing roll in society or that banning religion completely wouldn't be a great loss. He's said as much in nearly every recent interview and his most recent books. If you're going to make claims to the contrary I don't think it's unreasonable to be called to provide sources.

Think for example of extremely poor people scratching out a living through subsistence farming in some remote part of rural India.

I don't accept that a false truth is good enough for the poor or sick but not good enough for a reasonably-wealthy, healthy, middle-class white guy living in a first world nation.

You appear to have come to this discussion looking for some kind of ardent theist to beat up - and instead you found me, who is probably entirely the wrong kind to pick on.
I took issue with a statement you made and called you to defend it. You accused an author I'm very familar with of making statements that are decidedly out of character and that raised my interest. I was drawn to find out which of the following was true:

  • I'm not as familiar with the author I think I am: are there books I haven't read, shows I haven't seen?
  • I completely misunderstood what I have read, if so - what else have I read but not understood?
  • The poster is mistaken or making things up.

From that flows my repeated calls for citations. If you provided citations then I know the issue is at my end: either I'm barely litterate or my library is incomplete. If you can't then I'll tend towards the third option.

indeed I have retuned to University as a mature student and intend to take Zoology as my major subject in my second year in 2011, since the first year follows the format of a standard biology course
I wish you good luck with that.
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HeretikSaint

I briefly read through this topic (as I have been away for a while) and I didn't see irreducible complexities explained to any large degree. I thought I would take a little time to explain these (usually creationist) arguments away. The irreducible complexity arguments come in several different forms:

  • There is no use for a partial eye.
  • There is no use for a partial lung.
  • There is no use for a partial wing.

This is an absurd argument since there are clearly organisms today with these "partial" elements. There are several species of worms which exhibit a proto-eye, ect. For the sake of argument, let's go ahead and pretend that these proto-advantages didn't exist today and ask the question again. What is the use of a partial eye? I (as well as other people) would argue that having partial sight is more advantageous than having no sight at all. Having the ability to detect light would be more advantageous than not. Maybe the partial eye can see in black and white. Seeing the silhouette of a predator would be an advantage of not seeing anything. The examples could go on and on. Chances are that you might be reading this through eye glasses. Take off your glasses and tell me that your partial sight is no better than having no sight at all. It's just a ridiculous claim.

What is the use of a partial lung? Ask a fish that has been trapped in a pool of water after the tide has receded. Having a partial lung and a limited time to breath air could allow a fish to flop from one pool of water to another or even eventually back to the ocean from which it came.

What is the use of a partial wing? Ask any kind of animal that lives in high areas such as tree tops. If a predator shows up or if the animal should fall, it would certainly be killed or severely crippled. Having a partial wing might allow that organism to glide or even slow the fall enough that it reaches the ground alive and without injury.

Richard Dawkins also points to an experiment in his book "The Greatest Show on Earth" in which the biologist set up twelve test tubes and inserted cultures from a bacterial colony into each of the twelve test tubes. A finite amount of glucose was inserted into each of the test tubes and the bacteria would consume the glucose and reproduce until the glucose was gone. At one point, one of the test tube colonies started reproducing about four times the amount of the rest of the other colonies. The scientists had frozen a sample of each generation of each test tube so they started going back generation by generation to see if they could reproduce the same adaption that allowed for the higher yield of reproduction. All of the generations (for that test tube) after the 20,000 generation would eventually get this adaptation. Any generation before 20,000 would not get the adaption. So the biologists figured out that the adaption started at generation 20,000. Generation 20,000 did not possess the adaption that allowed for higher yield reproduction of the bacteria but what they figured out was that this particular mutation required two separate mutations. Only generations after generation 20,000 had the first mutation. It was only after continuing to reproduce generation 20,000 (and generations there after) that the next mutation would surface. They studied generation 20,000 and found that the first mutation (that allowed for the second mutation) had no apparent use. It literally did nothing without the second mutation. This shows that mutations with no apparent use can still happen and that subsequent mutations can build onto existing mutations to create adaptions.

I apologize if this is a little hard to follow as I am very tired while writing this. If it is too incomprehensible, I'll come back to it and edit it.

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jebus197

Ahh what the hey, one last throw of the dice, lol:

I don't think anybody has ever argued that he's a fan of religion. I took issue with the following quotes:

"They are not as Dawkins would have us believe, 'the same thing.' The study of one, does not automatically lead to the conclusion of the other."

Dawkins' argues concisely in The God Delusion that the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection does not prove god does not exist, at best it makes it unnecessary for one to exist in order to describe the abundance of life on earth. This is a message he's repeated in lectures and his three most recent books. If he has made this claim and hasn't clarified it in more recent works then it is extremely out of character and that's why I asked you to cite it.

As I said Dawkins does not ever tend to say that God does not exist directly. I think indeed we may even be in agreement on this count, because what I have constantly said is that he merely points out why God isn't necessary for the majority (if not all) of what we see to exist. My argument is that whether it is necessary or not, it has and continues to confer a very real benefit to a great many of those who subscribe to it.

because he roundly fails to realise evolution prefers no single survival strategy over any other.[/b]

Dawkins didn't propose that evolution (in the classic biological sense) has anything to do with religion apart from being the process which lead to the development of the brain capable of being religious. Unless there is a 'Jesus gene' or an 'Islam gene' it's not something that natural selection can act on. If he has made this claim and hasn't clarified it in more recent works then it is extremely out of character and that's why I asked you to cite it.

I think this is all rather a matter of perspective - and the debate is still very much on in this regard. Either all that we are (and all that life is) is either a direct or indirect product of evolution, or some parts are independent of it. I personally have strong leanings towards the former of these. To know if the mind is free from the influence of our genetic programming is one of the biggest debates among scientists and philosophers today, but it is still for the time being a safer bet to assume that it isn't.

In any case there is a very good article on RichardDawkins.net that gives a run down on his (or at least a very close advocate of his) views on the possible origins of religion.

http://richarddawkins.net/articles/3534

But this, like much of Dawkins own work simply speaks about how religion is unnecessary to the biological functions of the physical world. It doesn't touch on what might be considered by some as a deeper level of human experience. Do as I did in 2006 and spend 6 months walking through India, spending time staying in some truly beguiling places and meeting and talking with deeply intelligent and thoughtful people while visiting some of the most sacred sites there - and then come away from an experience like that and tell me you still don't think religion has any deeper intrinsic value? Take up a practice of meditation, or Yoga, or any similar pursuit that might interest you and stick at it for 6 months or a year, and I guarantee you if you do any of this that despite yourself and whatever you may think now, there will come a time when your attitude will soften considerably.

Moreover a deeper level of human experience doesn't need to mean anything supernatural. For me it is also about a journey of self-development. I have seen gurus who have attained such absolute control over their minds and bodies that they can lineally slow their own heartbeats and breathing down through the sheer power of their minds alone, to such an extent that their heartbeat barely registers on a standard heart monitor. Is this supernatural? Possibly not - but it is at least a demonstration that the human mind and will is capable of much greater feats than are possible than through the application of sheer logic alone. My attitude did soften as a result of my own experiences, because I learned from this and from the many other people I spoke to then that the task of gaining control over one's mind and one's body was extremely worthwhile. Indeed this kind of self-control probably wouldn't be possible if it didn't have a deeply thought out philosophy and rational to accompany it. (There is too much to be gained from it - and too much to be lost by simply choosing to discount it). Also it's not always easy (regardless of how sceptical you may be when you start out) to always get a clear sense that there is nothing beyond brain and biochemistry in some of the things you may experience. After you have spent some time mastering some particularly difficult Yoga pose or other, or have spent time enthralled in a genuinely productive state of deep meditation (which doesn't need to follow the definition of 'fictive kin' detailed in the link above, since it is often a deeply personal practice), sometimes the lines between what seems real, or what seemed certain previously can become considerably blurred. Perhaps it is just brain/body chemistry, but occasionally these experiences can seem so other worldly, that they may well be beyond your capacity to be able to explain them rationally. (And before you scoff, I started out by probably being every bit as much, or more than a sceptic than you and I imagined I could find out about it without it really affecting me in any significant way. Fortunately, or unfortunately (depending on one's perspective) I was wrong. But I don't have any regrets abut it, I haven't suddenly become dumber, since what I got out of it in the end was very unexpected in that I can say with conviction that it has vastly enriched my life - and that without it, I would be a much, much poorer person. I know enough about science and evolution to say that I understand that this is one aspect of life, but I also acknowledge that there are other equally valuable aspects of life also. Why have I told you this? Well perhaps I think you and I might not be so different. However unlike you I do tend to prefer to try to view both sides of a debate as fully as I can first - and often this may mean adopting a particular perspective as fully as I can too. I walked an entirely atheist route for the first 38 years of my life and while I managed and muddled along for most of this and while there times when I was genuinely happy and where I enjoyed varying degrees of success in my career and personal life, it was often (compared to my outlook now) a very barren and unrewarding period. Largely probably my outlook hasn't changed all that significantly about the origins of life etc., however my own experiences have (as I said - entirely inadvertently) made me somewhat less certain (and a lot more tolerant person as a result of this) concerning the larger issue of overall human experience. The world of the body and of the mind and of the senses is not always entirely logical - and each of these at least deserves to be fully developed and explored in it's own right. Although I cannot speak for other people's experience I can possibly assume from this that this may be other peoples experience of their own religions too, that perhaps the rewards they receive from it far outweigh any doubts they may have, which is also why possibly it may be so difficult to argue against it. In any case for me the rewards really are so significant, that it simply became less and less important to me to ask if it was real or not.

There is no real debate in science about God - because that's not what science is about.[/b] You asserted without support that science cannot be brought to bare on the question of whether or not god exists. Rather than parroting arguments I'll point you to a best selling book that argues otherwise. If you care to spell out exactly why the existence of god cannot be spelled out in terms of a falsifiable hypothesis then I'll offer couter arguments (mostly, I'll just quote Chapter 2 of The God Delusion: the popular arguments against are listed). The most popular argument against testing god was proposed by Gould and the counterarguments are equally well known. You never spelled out why you disagree with the counter arguments and neither has Gould.

No I assert a number of things. I assert that religion and science can occupy two entirely different spheres of human experience. Unlike Gould I don't consider them non-overlapping units of majestria, I just say man is both an intrinsically logical, and illogical being and that as such each can be equally well accommodated. (And each in an appropriate context can be considered equally valid). I also say that not all of human experience can be attributed to, explained by, or resolved through the application of sheer logic alone. If that were the case our planet would be much more like the planet Vulcan in Star Trek, than the planet Earth. I however very much prefer living on the planet Earth and appreciate deeply all of the many beautiful and illogical things it contains. I also argue that as nature and evolution doesn't give a flying cr*p what you or I or anyone thinks or believes, and that science (or more specifically evolution) therefore can't be used to argue in favour (or against) any single perspective. Even if there is only one perspective that's correct, then as evolution is essentially a valueless system, it's impossible to define which system is 'preferable' over any other. It's odd that evolution in particular has been used on so many occasions in the past to rally the cause for atheism. It is the one branch of science that is referenced more often than any other in discussions about this topic. It never used to be like this. Strangely this change has only really happened in the last 25 years - and perhaps even more (or less) coincidentally, since Dawkins first published his book "The Selfish Gene" in 1984. This doesn't mean that science and religion (and in this case again specifically evolution were mutually exclusive during this period, all this means is that science used to take place quietly in the labs, while religion and preaching took place quietly in the churches - and everyone then just seemed to get along a lot better then because of it. There was a mutual sense of respect then from both sides. Not the kind of undue respect that Dawkins often speaks of, but a respect on a purely human and individual level for the diversity of human experience.

And I note that you continue to demand that I quote from a text that I have made it clear I have not read (yet). Frankly I find this bizarre. However as I don't wish to be accused of not knowing my subject I have downloaded it and will read it (or possibly listen to it, as I have both) very soon.

I did however read the beginning of Chapter 2 and I also watched this video:

http://fora.tv/2006/10/23/Richard_Dawkins

and to be honest I haven't encountered anything particularly challenging, or new so far that I haven't heard Dawkins say hundreds of times before, albeit in slightly different ways. His use of analogy follows a typical format to that which you supplied in your previous post. Things are often useless, defunct, outmoded - and because a) is true it must follow that b) is true. Only it is often the case that b) doesn't follow a). An entirely random example of this is when in attempting to convey just how much science has expanded human consciousness after centuries of religious repression, he uses the image of ‘the mother of all burkas’, a giant black cloak which for thousands of years had only allowed humankind to see the world through a small slit. Over the last few centuries, science has gradually widened that slit, allowing us to understand more about the world and the universe in which we live. And he hopes that, one day, we may metaphorically (or, in the case of those unfortunates forced to wear real burkas, literally) cast off the offending garment and have a full 360-degree view of our universe. There are so many things that in this statement alone that it's easy to take issue with. For example the burka image is a clear jibe at Islam, but it fails to acknowledge that Islam has had a long history of contributing to the wider body of both mathematical and scientific knowledge. However the message is more explicit. Burkas are outmoded, they are a symbol of the repression of women, of religion and perhaps (given some of his previous comments) even of some cases of terrorism too, they are a symbol of ignorance and paganism and of a primitive pre-Darwinian perspective - and therefore by definition science must both be true and preferable. However there are holes all over this kind of logic. Just because Dawkins finds some elements of a religion (specifically in this case Islam) to be distasteful to him, does not mean that religion can be regarded as having no value. A doesn't follow b in this case since not liking something is not evidence for it's invalidity. It s a non-cogent, highly weakly inductive argument. Indeed much of his work is riddled with exactly this kind of reasoning. In this case he does not acknowledge (at least in this section) the personal value and use of this religion to those who subscribe to it, or it's value on either a societal (particularly on the scale of communities) or cultural level (as in the contribution made by several of it's most notable scholars to the fields of maths and science, or by it's artists, or it's architects, or it's textile manufacturers, or it's poets, or historians, or authors, or its engineers. Of course the above post on Dawkins.net does briefly touch on the value of religion within communities, inclusive within the concept of fictive kin. Humans are after all social animals, we find it difficult to live in isolation, churches and faith based activities lend a form of cohesion that it might be difficult to maintain without this. However if this article reflects his views (and I have no reason from anything else I have read or seen to believe it dose not) then it is clear that he believes these despite their positive personal impact, to have a nonetheless negative impact on peoples intellectual development and on the development of society as a whole. They are in effect negative things that confer no long term advantage whatsoever. But the difference in opinion becomes far starker when one substitutes the assumption that religion confers no over-all survival advantage and that it is a defunct and outdated remnant of our evolutionary and psychological past, with with the opposite view that it still does confer a distinct advantage and is still therefore relevant and valuable. In evolutionary terms, both statements are at least equal in their potential accuracy. However there is still a great deal more evidence for the latter than the former of these. For example I lived in the same rural community in Scotland for nearly 16 years. The community was strong, opening and welcoming and as there was often few other forms of entertainment much of the social activity centred around the local church and pub. Life at the cloth factory there (which was the main source of employment) was often harsh, the work uncertain and the weather frequently atrocious. (Although Scotland can be a very beautiful place in the summer!) Disputes were usually resolved amicably through the medium of the Church and it was the Church in particular that helped provide the main source of cohesion for the community overall. About 8 years ago however due to the demands of a career and a growing family, I moved to an area that is just on the outskirts of London. While it is a reasonably nice enough place the degree of social cohesion I encountered there in contrast with my previous life in Scotland was almost wholly non-existent. None of my neighbours it seemed wished to know me, we never went out anywhere unless it was by car (as did everyone else) and it increasingly seemed that people did this often due to a fear of engaging in social contact. However what marked this community apart from my previous community, was it's almost entirely secular nature. There was a church, but it was a 3 and a half mile drive away and was poorly attended by local residents. (I have never been a Christian, but I still very much enjoy visiting churches). So from about 8pm onwards until about 6 am the following day, we would lock and chain-bolt our doors (which I never had to do when I lived in Scotland), draw our curtains and sometimes not speak to anyone outside of the work environment (and the small social circle we derived from this) for weeks on end. There was also often an underlying sense of fear in the area and the issue of crime was a constant concern.

So which of these scenarios I wonder is likely to confer the best overall survival advantage? Well they were both quite tough environments - and at least materially life in Scotland was sometimes harder. But if levels of happiness and contentment confer any kind of survival value at all, I can certainly say I was much happier when I lived in Scotland. I can say too that it was the strength and companionship of the community that often directly helped me survive. Where Dawkins and I and many of his supporters differ (and I presume you too) is that you might tend to talk about the value of religion in it's past sense, as something that is outmoded and out of step with the reality that science presents to us with, whereas I would talk about it in terms of its current value and would state that the science just as much supports the adoption of a non-secular view, as a secular view (or any other view for that matter). It both supports them all and it doesn't support any of them. A non-secular view can just as easily be argued to confer a survival advantage over a secular view. All Dawkings really says is that religion is bad, but he doesn't explain in any really clearly logical terms why it is bad, other than the potential it sometimes causes for social unrest. But he fails to address the kind of social unrest that can occur when the influence of the Church within communities is lessened, or as my my case, when it may appear to not exist at all. Locked doors, crime and social isolation are often an all too common experience in communities like these. Of course Dawkings is a rationalist - and often sees things in purely rational terms. He assumes that if reason can replace unreason, if logic can replace illogic, that people will always tend to behave in wholly rational ways towards each other. But I think this is an extremely unrealistic and optimistic assessment of human nature. My experience is that if you remove any motivation whatsoever to cooperate, then people will simply opt not to cooperate. Instead they will tend to form conclusions, make decisions and to act in ways that benefit only them most - and perhaps other members of their families too. Altruism certainly isn't the exclusive product of religion, however when religion is removed there is ample evidence to suggest that there is often much less of it. Nor is it to say that religion is a better solution, it just says that if altruism is useful to the wider community, then from an evolutionary perspective religion is better suited to providing the best conditions for it to occur.

"What would you and Dawkins propose we do? Shut down religion? Ban churches and temples, tear them down?

At this point your argument shifted from disagreeing with things he said to disagreeing with things he's never said. Given that we have at least two sources (Chapter 11 of the God Delusion, 1h 40m at the Four Horsemen discussions) that he argues for exactly the opposite I fail to see how this isn't a strawman. When called to provide a source for this argument you fell back to "well that's how it felt". Just because somebody isn't a fan of religion doesn't mean it can't play a continuing roll in society or that banning religion completely wouldn't be a great loss. He's said as much in nearly every recent interview and his most recent books.

Then what is the alternative? You see that's where I'm not getting the practicality of it all. We don't attempt to replace religion,but at the same time we certainly don't encourage its propagation? Religion is a old, outmoded and defunct thought process, an archaic world view that is no longer applicable in light of the truths that science has revealed to us, but oh, by the way, no one's saying we should do away with it? Yet every word that Dawkins writes implores us to consider why we should go on accepting such an outmoded outlook on reality? Don't do away with it, don't replace it, but try to argue it to a standstill until it has no response left? I really don't get where he's running with it. In addition even if you could argue religion out of existence (which appears to be what he has chosen to attempt to do), how exactly would that by definition 'enrich' the world? One of the most amazing things about the world we live in is the sheer range of colour and diversity it contains. Part of that diversity is indeed human diversity, and a large part of that is the division along ethnic and religious lines. There are many, many different religions in the world, and it would be hard to argue that the world would be a better off place without them. It would almost certainly be a much greyer place, much more bland and potentially less compassionate too. What should we do if we did persuade everyone to abandon their faiths and to dispose their religious texts too? Give them a copy of Dawkins "Unweaving the Rainbow" instead? I'm sure Dawkins (and possibly you) would probably quite like this idea (given that this would require by far the largest population of the world to read one of his books, but there are a great many reasons (some of which I have already covered) why this would be impractical. I often get the impression that ardent atheists such as Dawkins and yourself are labouring under the of illusion about the potential for some kind of perfect Utopian society. A good example of this is in the opening introduction to "The God Delusion", which you may be inserted to learn I am now listening to ardently as I type. Here Dawkins says:

Imagine, with John Lennon, a world with no religion. Imagine no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no 7/7, no Crusades, no witch-hunts, no Gunpowder Plot, no Indian partition, no Israeli/Palestinian

wars, no Serb/Croat/Muslim massacres, no persecution of Jews as 'Christ-killers', no Northern Ireland 'troubles', no 'honour killings', no shiny-suited bouffant-haired televangelists fleecing gullible people of their money ('God wants you to give till it hurts'). Imagine no Taliban to blow up ancient statues, no public beheading of blasphemers, no flogging of female skin for the crime of showing an inch of it.

But what on Earth does he think would happen if there really were no religion? As a rationalist he probably again believes people would behave rationally. But there is absolutely no evidence for this. Indeed there have been attempts in the past to ban religions, every religion under the sun has probably been subject to a ban at some point, the most notable of these being Christianity itself. (And we can all see where that got us!) Does he also believe that people would not continue to behave in often irrational and spiteful ways towards each other, that persecution would be lessened, that society would become smarter and more educated? Again where exactly is the evidence for this? In the UK for example we already live in a largely secular society, with up to 60% plus of the population claiming no belief in any kind of god at all. Yet our society does not match many of the predictions that someone like Dawkins might make for it under these conditions. We still have intolerance, hatred, crime, violence, social exclusion, injustice and often stark levels of poverty & deprivation. Moreover a probably very effective argument could be made from a sociological perspective that our country prospered more, and did so more rapidly and in a more sustained way during that time when the church did play a much more meaningful role in the wider fabric of society. From rulers of over 1/4 of the land surface of the Earth and much of it's seas, to a relative minnow in world affairs in a little under 100 years, this decline can probably quite accurately be mapped to a graph showing the rise and fall in the rates of Church attendance during that time too. So at least in this sense it could be argued that Dawkins preference for secularism might not be as productive or useful as he might hope.

Of course this doesn't mean by definition that God is real, it just means that it would appear that religion is probably as valid a solution [to the cause of survival] as is secularism. In this sense it would seem that each deserve at least an equal footing and that it's pointless to argue from an evolutionary perspective which is any better than the other.

If you're going to make claims to the contrary I don't think it's unreasonable to be called to provide sources.

I think it's slightly unreasonable to demand that I should do this. Firstly because you do not have the right to demand anything of me and secondly I already told you I hadn't read anything by him (in terms of books at least) since 1999. So you were asking (indeed insisting) that I quote from memory, things I read over 10 years ago. I just hope your memory is that good when you get to my age! Nonetheless I have become slightly curious again, and will probably catch up with his other works soon.

I don't accept that a false truth is good enough for the poor or sick but not good enough for a reasonably-wealthy, healthy, middle-class white guy living in a first world nation.

Hey I'm a middle class white guy! Go figure! (The last time I looked I wasn't alone either).

I took issue with a statement you made and called you to defend it. You accused an author I'm very familar with of making statements that are decidedly out of character and that raised my interest. I was drawn to find out which of the following was true:

I'm not as familiar with the author [as] I think I am: are there books I haven't read, shows I haven't seen?

I completely misunderstood what I have read, if so - what else have I read but not understood?

The poster is mistaken or making things up.

I don't think these questions really deserve an answer. But since you wish it, i) I am reasonably familiar with the author, have read several of his works, viewed many of his on-line interviews and seminars, have attended one of his lectures and will probably update the remainder of my reading of him over the next few weeks. ii) I think I have understood very well what I've read - and at least in the context of those aspect of his work pertaining directly to an expression of evolutionary theory (Of which unfortunately these is often precious little) I agree wholeheartedly with it. 'Disagreeing however is not the same as misunderstanding', nor is choosing to disagree an indication of ignorance. iii) There is no mistake in my opposition to some of the proclamations of stances of Dawkins and I have made very clear what these objections are here and I have explained in detail exactly why I disagree. Am I making things up? Not really, all I have ever done is "fill in some of the gaps" between what the author says and what he invites us to infer he means. Thankfully those gaps are becoming narrower by the second the more I listen to the God Delusion.

From that flows my repeated calls for citations. If you provided citations then I know the issue is at my end: either I'm barely literate or my library is incomplete. If you can't then I'll tend towards the third option.

I trust you are more satisfied. I have supplied some quotes here (and many quotes in my previous post, which you simply discounted), and will happily go on adding and supplying quotes as my reading progresses. This is actually quite easy to do, since the majority of Dawkins quotes in his popular works follow an extremely similar format - which is why I grew bored with them originally. Nothing I have heard yet in the God Delusion has changed this impression. The bottom line is I am definitely not afraid of Richard Dawkins, or anyone for that matter and I refuse to accept the prevailing contemporary doctrine that it should be considered impossible to criticise him effectively.

I wish you good luck with that.

I would thank you for your gracious comment, only I'm not certain that you mean it. I also wish you good luck with your studies too. However unlike you perhaps, I really do mean it.

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jebus197

In any case, for those who can't get through reading all of the above (and I'm sure not many will!) my basic question about Dawkins work is why from a purely scientific perspective (since he claims his views to be science) is secularism (and atheism) preferable to religion? Dawkins goes on in great length about the great many ways in which he feels it may be unnecessary (which only mostly serve to highlight that he doesn't like it very much). But he never offers and really sound genuinely scientific perspective for why it might be a bad thing.

Would secularism really be a better choice for society than theism? If so why exactly? There are many largely secular societies in Europe (and other parts of the world also), but few of these show the kind of improvements that Dawkins and his adherents would predict for such societies. Crime still exists, social injustice still exists, prejudice and intolerance still exist too and there is no really meaningful evidence that these have lessened proportionally with the increased levels of secularism. Indeed there is a very good case to be made for the harmful effects of increased levels of secularism. (See above).

So in terms of what quantifiable scientific rational is it possible to say that secularism is a better choice for society? Is it because religion 'harms' society? I think to believe this you would need to clearly define what harm is. (Good luck with that!) Indeed there is ample evidence to show that in many ways religion can often help societies. Is it because one perspective may be true and one may be false? Well why is that a difficulty? A lie in evolution (of which there are many examples) can be just as effective a survival strategy as the truth. All evolution gives a damn about is whatever works, it doesn't care at all how or why it works. What value does the truth have anyway, how do we quantify it? Life got by for countless millennia without the need for any concept such as 'truth' (we only arrived on the scene at the equivalent of a minute or so ago to midnight on the evolutionary clock) and it often thrived best by employing more than a fair measure of deception. In fact it is almost much easier to argue from a strictly scientific perspective why deception could be a much more useful survival strategy, since it has been around much longer and also because there is much more of it. The question of how much survival potential 'truth' has (again if we are indeed to stick purely with the science) is however still very much open to question. Indeed it remains to be seen if 'truth' has any long term survival potential at all - regardless of whether we may prefer it or not.

Maybe it's not science then after all and maybe it's just a value judgement? OK... So it's not science then? But I thought it was science??? How exactly though do you go about quantifying a value judgement anyway? Or maybe it's not so much about values (since religious people have plenty of these too!) and it's really just a personal preference? So OK, now it's just a personal preference and not even about values (since clearly it would be extremely arrogant and wrong to say that religious people have no values). So there we have it I suppose, secularism and atheism are a personal preference and are not very usefully supported by any of the science? Interesting.

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PreKe
I think you're rather missing the point - and about 15 posts and several thousand words. If I haven't made my position abundantly clear by now then I'm never going to. No he doesn't talk about the future too much, probably because it is so uncertain.

Those who are reading this will notice that I didn't just ask about his position. I asked you to provide us with specific examples of your claims.

You failed to do so. Like Dawkins haters always do.

my basic question about Dawkins work is why from a purely scientific perspective (since he claims his views to be science) is secularism (and atheism) preferable to religion?

You make all these claims about Dawkins, and you don't even know something as simple and basic as this?

Amazing.

Religion encourages mindless parroting of dogma. It effectively halts progress because you settle down with non-explanations. You stop looking for explanations.

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Memphis

A lot of good responses! I will be sure to read through all this tomorrow.

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jebus197
Those who are reading this will notice that I didn't just ask about his position. I asked you to provide us with specific examples of your claims.

You failed to do so. Like Dawkins haters always do.

On the contrary I provided countless specific examples of my my objections and claims. You should consider reading my posts again.

You make all these claims about Dawkins, and you don't even know something as simple and basic as this?

Amazing.

Religion encourages mindless parroting of dogma. It effectively halts progress because you settle down with non-explanations. You stop looking for explanations.

That's still just an opinion. A simple preference. A value judgement perhaps, but that is still stretching it as other people have other equally applicable sets of values too. As I said the science (and evolution) can just as happily support a lie as it can the truth. (Regardless of which side of the argument you may consider to be the lie, and which you may consider to be the truth). There are countless examples in nature of how deception is employed to confer a survival advantage to the organism in question. (Many of which I can happily supply if you wish.) I see nothing different in this debate that would suggest there is any aspect within it that could be considered an exception.

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PreKe
On the contrary I provided countless specific examples of my my objections and claims. You should consider reading my posts again.

I did not see any specific examples as a response to my questions. Please link me to such specific examples.

That's still just an opinion. A simple preference.

It is a well-founded observation based on factual information.

As I said the science (and evolution) can just as happily support a lie as it can the truth.

This is yet another empty claim. Evidence, please!

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