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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 06:19 PM
Original message
Science and Religion in a Post-Dawkins Phase
Richard Dawkins has a tremendous gift for finding a catchy metaphor. He is associated above all with two titles: The Selfish Gene (1976) and The God Delusion (2006). In the former he characterises humans as lumbering robots controlled by our genes: they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. This cluster of ideas, and his eloquent expression of them, attracted many rich admirers: one became CEO of Enron and another paid Oxford to make Dawkins a Professor for the Public Understanding of Science. In this post, Dawkins was freed to communicate without the need for research or peer review. In 2006 he launched his broadside against religion and became the UKs most famous living scientist. Whatever the success of the specific arguments he attempted, the smoke and noise increased the public perception of a serious conflict between science and religion.

But now that the smoke of his guns is clearing and HMS Dawkins has retired from his professorship, it is also becoming clear that we are moving into a post-Dawkins phase in terms of the public discussion of science and religion. The reasons for this are partly religious and philosophical, partly purely scientific. Here are three:

1. The claim that religious belief is harmful from an evolutionary point of view is simply false. Whether or not the tenets of (say) Christianity are true, there is overwhelming evidence that Christians have, on average, more children than atheists (surviving fertile grandchildren is really the acid test, but I dont know of any data on this). They also live longer, are healthier, and so on. The fact that there are individual counter-examples to this is beside the point: evolution works on populations and not on individuals. Such practical effects of practicing the Christian faith are at best only weak evidence for the truth of Christianity. But it is dishonest for evolutionary biologists to say Christian belief is harmful unless they make it crystal clear that what they mean is: Christian belief is beneficial from an evolutionary point of view, but I consider it harmful for other reasons.

2. The idea that evolution acts exclusively at the level of the gene is also false. Not only is there increasing evidence for a vast array of biological inheritance that is not based on changes to the genome (so-called epigenetic inheritance), the idea that genes are the programs of life turns out to be fundamentally misleading. Biology operates at many levels: genes, cells, organisms, populations, and ecosystems, to name just five. All these levels are interdependent and none of them functions at all on their own: cells require genes but genes require cellsand indeed ecosystems. Furthermore they interact in complex nondeterministic ways: at no stage can an outcome be predicted with certainty. The great systems biologist Denis Noble is wonderful on this, both in his masterly book The Music of Life and in subsequent writings; see also, for example, Evolution in Four Dimensions by Jalbonka and Lamb). In humans and other social animals the social group is clearly a fundamental unit of evolution, especially where most parents are members of the same social group, and from a biological point of view much of the function of religion is to regulate behavior within social groups. In a strange way, a denial of the fundamental biological importance of the social group lies at the heart of the fallacies of both The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion.

3. In The God Delusion Dawkins went well outside his area of competence, wading with gusto into areas of philosophy, cosmology, and theology without taking expert advice. This, combined with its aggressive tone, caused all but the most partisan reviewers to find it a deeply disappointing book. Nature illustrated its review with a cartoon depicting Dawkins as a sandwich-board man. Some of the politer comments about his forays into philosophy suggested that they were sophomoric. The idea that the truth of all statements can be decided scientifically is also palpably absurd: not only is this idea self-refuting (for its truth clearly cannot be decided scientifically), Kurt Gdel proved that even mathematics cannot be shown to be complete and consistent.

It is a remarkable fact about the intellectual atmosphere at the time that someone could write a book that is largely about theology whilst professing total ignorance of the subject. After all, there was (almost certainly) no historical Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, but no-one would be taken seriously if they wrote a book about Hamlet without having read Shakespeares play and at least some of the key literature. String Theory is even more obviously absurd than the most abstruse Trinitarian theology, but no-one would take a book like Peter Woits Not Even Wrong seriously if it were not written by a competent mathematical physicist who has studied the topic in depth.

I hope, and expect, that the Obama era, and the retirement of Dawkins, will mark a move to a more constructive phase of the dialogue between science and religion. Certainly the atmosphere amongst leading scientists on both sides of the Atlantic is much more favourable than the impression given by Dawkins and his followers. The leadership of the AAAS has been for a while in active dialogue with the leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals, greatly encouraged by E. O. Wilson, and I have heard AAAS President Jim McCarthy speak movingly of the value of this for both sides. John Polkinghorne and I hope that our little book book cover imageQuestions of Truth will help advance this dialogue as well, and it is interesting that we readily received permission to launch the book at this years AAAS Meeting in the U.S. and at the Royal Society in the UK.

Another case in point is a letter to the Daily Telegraph on 9 February 2009 signed by several scientists and Christian leaders (including Trinity Forum Senior Fellow Francis Collins and Nobel Laureate Sir Martin Evans) on the 200th anniversary of Darwins birth. Evolution, they write, has become caught in the crossfire of a religious battle in which Darwin had little interest. Despite his own loss of Christian faith, he wrote shortly before his death: It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist and an evolutionist.

Religion is not the same as science, but nor is philosophy or, for that matter, art. Science principally involves complex interactions between theoretical ideas and objects which can be manipulated by experiment. Religion involves an equally complex but very different set of interactions between ideas and persons, and real personal relationships are inevitably faith-based. But both explore questions of truth, and religionat least in Judeo-Christian forms, is also significantly based on evidentially motivated beliefs, carefully assessed.

However, knowledge without action is impotent. The world faces many serious problems and to achieve real progress in addressing them we need to engage both the deep values of large numbers of people and use suitably reliable factual information. This fundamentally requires engagement between the scientific and religious approaches to understanding of reality, and is perhaps one aspect of Einsteins famous dictum that Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

http://www.ttf.org/index/journal/detail/the-selfish-gen...
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 07:38 PM
Response to Original message
1. "we are moving into a post-Dawkins phase"
That sounds like "oh, oh, maybe I can make it true by saying it!" wishful thinking.

1. The claim that religious belief is harmful from an evolutionary point of view is simply false.

Who made this claim? Not Dawkins. He has spoken about what the evolutionary pros and cons might be, and obviously thinks religion is probably a net negative for humanity in the long term.

Next straw man, please...

2. The idea that evolution acts exclusively at the level of the gene is also false.

So when was it that Dawkins was supposed to have said this? What significance would it have in a case for or against religion anyway?

3. In The God Delusion Dawkins went well outside his area of competence, wading with gusto into areas of philosophy, cosmology, and theology without taking expert advice.

"Expert" advice is theology? Like you have to be an expert in tea leaf reading to criticize tea leaf reading? Since there is no philosophical consensus on religion, and since, pardon me, but a whole lot of erudite philosophy is either disconnected from issues of faith and/or it's just mental masturbation, just what important element of philosophy is Dawkins supposedly missing or ignoring? Since many scientists who study cosmology do not find therein a reason to believe in gods or subscribe to a religion, what's supposedly missing from Dawkin's understanding of cosmology that somehow disqualifies on the merit of religion?
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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 11:32 PM
Response to Reply #1
5. In this context:
This cluster of ideas, and his eloquent expression of them, attracted many rich admirers: one became CEO of Enron and another paid Oxford to make Dawkins a Professor for the Public Understanding of Science. In this post, Dawkins was freed to communicate without the need for research or peer review. In 2006 he launched his broadside against religion and became the UKs most famous living scientist. Whatever the success of the specific arguments he attempted, the smoke and noise increased the public perception of a serious conflict between science and religion.

But now that the smoke of his guns is clearing and HMS Dawkins has retired from his professorship, it is also becoming clear that we are moving into a post-Dawkins phase in terms of the public discussion of science and religion.


It would seem that:
(pre (1)) "post Dawkins phase" refers to his resignation from his professorship

(1) Same has certainly been suggested by his admirers in this forum. I think you're picking at bones on that one.

(2)Topic has been discussed in this very forum suggesting that the idea of "justice" is evolutionary/genetic

(3)Being expert and seeking advice from expert are two different things. Conclusions that are better quality than one might find, oh say, in one's local skeptic group, requires input from alternative sources. Dawkins is certainly free to come to his own conclusions about science and religion. But it is also true that he did so without advice from one of the fields he claims to analyze.

Looks like this has offered some things for you to think about.
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 07:05 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. Looks more like desperation...
Edited on Sun May-03-09 07:19 AM by Silent3
...hoping that the nasty, loud-mouth atheists will just go away.

It would seem that:
(pre (1)) "post Dawkins phase" refers to his resignation from his professorship

Dawkins has left a professorship. He hasn't died, he hasn't gone away, his books are still around and he's still free to write more, to keep make speaking engagements, etc. There hasn't been any sudden falling out of favor of his work.

To refer to the current time as a "post Dawkins phase" might make sense in the limited context of the goings-on at some particular department at Oxford, but anything much beyond that sort of usage smacks of desperate hope that all Dawkins represents is somehow in decline or will just go away.

Presuming you've had at least one job in your life that you've quit, how about we say we're in a "post Why Syzygy" phase right now?

(1) Same has certainly been suggested by his admirers in this forum. I think you're picking at bones on that one.

The only thing that matters is if Dawkins is or has claimed it. I've read The God Delusion, have you? Dawkins argument against religion, and his discussion of where it fits in terms of evolution, is a whole lot more subtle than some blanket claim that it's "harmful from an evolutionary point".

Were the teeth of any of the various incarnations of the saber-tooth tiger "harmful from an evolutionary point"? There's no clear yes or no to that question. They appear to have made these tigers very successful predators, but there are also indications that at least some saber tooth tiger extinctions (more than one species came and went) were caused by the tigers being too successful, devastating their own food supply through overkill.

The phrase "straw man" gets tossed around a lot in online forums, but it certainly applies here: Strip Dawkins argument of all subtlety, find some case where it looks like religion might do some good for species survival, and then jump up and down triumphantly cheering that Dawkins is wrong, wrong, WRONG!

(3)Being expert and seeking advice from expert are two different things.

What evidence do you have that Dawkins didn't seek any advice then? I wish I had a copy of The God Delusion here right now, because I'm pretty sure it has a lengthy bibliography, indicating that Dawkins took advantage of many outside sources of input. Dawkins has also had plenty of opportunity over his lifetime to discuss issues of religion with fellow scientists and well as clergy, theologians, and philosophers. I believe I recall him referring to some such dicussions (I won't absolutely claim that with research to back me up), and it seems highly unlikely given the circles he's traveled in that he hasn't done so on many occasions.

Is the point that until Dawkins has nicer things to say about religion then he obviously hasn't sought enough of the right sort of advice, because then he'd change his mind?

Looks like this has offered some things for you to think about.

Looks like pretty thin soup so far.

EDIT: I should add this...

If you haven't read The God Delusion, or simply don't remember this part of it, look for Dawkins's "The Emperor's New Clothes" analogy. He anticipates complaints being made about his lack of expertise in matters of religion, and compares this to the boy who points out that the emperor is naked being criticized for his lack of expertise in fashion and textiles. Sometimes "expertise" is nothing more that intricate elaboration built around little or no substance, and it takes an outsider, not an insider, to point that out.
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Dogmudgeon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 08:03 PM
Response to Original message
2. Did you ever notice -- ?
-- that whenever anyone makes ANY criticism of Dawkins, a whole lot of people get extremely emotional?

I've seen people completely lose their cool just from hearing the phrase, "I don't agree with Dawkins about ..." By the time the speaker specified what s/he disagrees with, the defender of Dawkins has already suffered a 60-point increase in blood pressure and has started thumbing through his list of Latin-named rhetorical tropes.

In other words -- buttered or plain?

:popcorn:

--d!
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 09:17 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. I'n no fan of Dawkinsian Gene-Selectionism but the bashing of him is lame.
My thinking is closer to the late Steve Gould. But I do think a lot of Dawkin's criticism of religion is correct. If you have read his writings you would no that he is sees nature as wondrous and beautiful and is thus not some "soulless mechanist" some of his critics claim him to be.
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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 07:43 AM
Response to Reply #3
7. Exactly what about this article is
Edited on Sun May-03-09 07:43 AM by Why Syzygy
"bashing" Dawkins? His IDEAS are disputed. Given how the atheists love to piss on God, it's amazing the reaction when one of your gods is discussed.
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 12:19 PM
Response to Reply #7
11. One of "our gods"? By my criticism of his gene-selection it should be obvious that we don't consider
him a "god" by any stretch of the imagination.
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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 12:52 PM
Response to Reply #11
13. What does he do for you?
Edited on Sun May-03-09 12:52 PM by Why Syzygy
Does what he provide give you a sense of comfort, security, warmth of certainty, love or a feeling of acceptance?
You've got your god.
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 01:02 PM
Response to Reply #13
14. So you admit that all a god is...
...is something that "give(s) you a sense of comfort, security, warmth of certainty, love or a feeling of acceptance"? Physical reality is optional, I guess.
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ZombieHorde Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 02:12 PM
Response to Reply #13
16. Are you claiming that anything that gives one a sense of comfort, security, warmth of certainty,
love or a feeling of acceptance is a god? My wife gives me these feelings, would you consider her a goddess?
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 03:05 PM
Response to Reply #16
18. "My wife gives me these feelings, would you consider her a goddess?" LOL!!!
Well, I do call my GF (a wiccan) a goddess when I'm in the flattering mood! :rofl:
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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 12:06 AM
Response to Reply #16
21. That isn't what I wrote.
Certainly we can set up other people in our lives as gods. And due to the attempted distraction with no answer to my query, I'll take that as an affirmative.
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 10:00 AM
Response to Reply #21
30. Since you'll obviously play up any cheap rhetorical trick...
...regardless of honest intellectual merit, here's a flat out answer for you: No, Dawkins is not my "god", not even by your convenient shifting definition du jour. I rather doubt that Dawkins is a "god" to ZombieHorde either, regardless of whatever points you think you might score by maintaining that pretense.

I called you on the "comfort, security" thing not because I truly believe that that's all you think a god is, but to point out (via, I would hope, obvious sarcasm) that it's intellectually dishonest to bring such a watered-down meaning of "god" into a discussion of Dawkins and what he has said.

Dawkins has argued against the validity of religious beliefs, and the potential pitfalls and dangers of the kind of uncritical and magical thinking that goes along with religion. He isn't running a campaign against all things that provide comfort and security, he isn't challenging the reality of all things that provide comfort and security, and he isn't trying to set himself up as a new to-be-worshiped source of comfort and security.

I will confess to the deep, dark secret that I like the guy and that I find it pleasant that there are articulate spokespeople like Dawkins out there promoting a philosophy similar to my own, writing books, giving lectures, and participating in public discussions that are getting good exposure. This brings up an important question: So what?

Show me something that I supposedly "believe" in that's based on nothing but feel-good, self-reinforcing Dawkins worship, something I can't argue for apart from appealing to my supposed Master, and you might have a point. Otherwise all you have is sly, dishonest innuendo.
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ZombieHorde Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 11:44 AM
Response to Reply #21
37. Then I am glad I asked for clarity instead of just assuming your position.
no answer to my query

If you mean "What does he (Dawkins) do for you?"; then I would have to say 'not much', since I have not read any of his books. My guess would be people like him because they agree with him and people like to consume media they agree with. This is one of the reasons we are here on DU.
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ChadwickHenryWard Donating Member (692 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 01:20 PM
Response to Reply #3
74. What specifically is wrong with the gene-centric theory?
I read TSG last year and thought it was a pretty elegant explanation of biologic history and phenomena, especially such things as the suicide-copulation of the praying mantis and kin selection (maternal/paternal care in mammals and birds, hive populations in social insects, and lion prides/wolf packs.) I also think it fits pretty well with the "early replicator/primordial soup" theory of the origin of life. I've never read any Gould.
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-11-09 03:41 PM
Response to Reply #74
114. Because selection occurs at several levels, not just at the level of genes.
Edited on Mon May-11-09 03:41 PM by Odin2005
Selection can and does occur at the gene level a lot, but to say it's the sole, or even dominant, level of selection is wrong. The things Dawkins describes are the exceptions that prove the rule, in complex organisms selection is mostly focused at the level of the individual organism. Genes are mostly, to quote Gould, "book-keepers of selection". This is because rampant gene selection tends to become suppressed in more complex organisms. Gene-level selection in general only occurs when individual genes themselves interact directly with the environment, in more complex organisms the phenotype is the result of many genes working together and thus selection then affects those genes as a whole unit. Part of the popularity of the gene-centric view developed out of a rejection of group-level selection, but a growing number of biologists, among them David Sloan Wilson (no relationship to Edward. O. Wilson), have criticized the rejection of group-level selection.
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 10:35 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. What exactly counts as EXTREMELY emotional?
Does my post fit that criteria?

When someone makes a bad argument, especially a lame bad argument, I'll call them on it. Quick! Get the straight jackets and sedatives! I'm using snappy sarcastic words again! :eyes:
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Dogmudgeon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 12:02 AM
Response to Reply #4
20. Re-read your post
Yes. But not all of it -- just the word "Quick!" and everything thereafter.

--d!
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 12:10 AM
Response to Reply #20
22. That's such as BS game you're playing
You encounter language that's heated slightly above room temperature and you call it "extremely emotional" and use that as a cheap excuse to dismiss the content. Then if your blithe dismissal generates any hint of emotion, lather, rinse and repeat -- keep the evasion going.
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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 06:54 AM
Response to Reply #22
26. I didn't even think your language was lukewarm.
But you're right, certain people will to use any excuse they can to avoid actual discussion and just feed their own superiority complex.
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 07:07 AM
Response to Reply #26
27. Now calm down there!
You're clearly in a tizzy over this. The only possible reason for these outbursts of yours is that you're feeling so very insecure about having your world view attacked, which you simply must know deep down is a fragile construct merely hanging on by a thread. Oh, and how it shows.

Yeah, that's the ticket! :evilgrin:
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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 07:19 AM
Response to Reply #27
28. Ah, you got me.
I will retreat to my secret bunker to regroup.
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ZombieHorde Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 11:08 AM
Response to Original message
8. "philosophy, cosmology, and theology without taking expert advice"
How does one determine who is an expert in these fields?
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 11:52 AM
Response to Reply #8
9. Well, for one thing, cosmology is a branch of physics
:-)

Some of the stuff cosmologists come up with makes the average science fiction novel read like the daily newspaper.

But theology and philosophy do have their own methodologies and histories, and someone who makes claims about philosophy or theology without knowing anything about them runs the risk of 1) Reinventing the wheel (harping on a particular point that philosophy or theology either rejected years ago or don't consider part of their purview), or 2) Making claims that no one in serious philosophy or theology actually makes.
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ZombieHorde Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 12:10 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. I should have extracted the word "cosmology" from my quote.
harping on a particular point that philosophy or theology either rejected years ago or don't consider part of their purview

Where does this authority come from? If one person claims the Christian Bible claims the earth has four corners, and another person claims the Christian Bible is using the term "four corners" as a metaphor, how does one determine who is theologically correct?

Making claims that no one in serious philosophy or theology actually makes

What objective method does one use to determine if any particular philosophy or theology is serious?

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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 12:51 PM
Response to Reply #10
12. Exactly.
Questions from a variety of theologists would be the solution. I haven't read his book, but if he's anything like some of the atheist here, he assumes the worst.
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SidDithers Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-05-09 09:42 PM
Response to Reply #12
54. Theologists. ROFL...
Edited on Tue May-05-09 09:49 PM by SidDithers
Youll love what Dawkins thinks about theologians:

http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-arch...

What has theology ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has theology ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? I have listened to theologians, read them, debated against them. I have never heard any of them ever say anything of the smallest use, anything that was not either platitudinously obvious or downright false. If all the achievements of scientists were wiped out tomorrow, there would be no doctors but witch doctors, no transport faster than horses, no computers, no printed books, no agriculture beyond subsistence peasant farming. If all the achievements of theologians were wiped out tomorrow, would anyone notice the smallest difference? Even the bad achievements of scientists, the bombs, and sonar-guided whaling vessels work! The achievements of theologians don't do anything, don't affect anything, don't mean anything. What makes anyone think that "theology" is a subject at all?


Why do you think questions from theologists would contribute anything?

Sid

Edit: should have read the entire thread. This quote is partially posted below.
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rrneck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 01:05 PM
Response to Original message
15. Wow! Did you see that?
Edited on Sun May-03-09 01:47 PM by rrneck
It is easy to conflate faith and religion. They are two very different critters.

Faith is, well, faith. The term itself is loaded with all sorts of connotations that send a lot of people into orbit. Atheists get all Spock when they hear it. Believers seem to suddenly turn into Joan of Arc. I would like to come up with a term to replace it, but that would be impossible.

Religion is the expression of a particular interpretation of faith. The practice of religion is the shared experience of that which is really unnameable because it is a transient experience. To name it is to freeze it in our consciousness and thus render it inoperable. The attachment of any noun, be it a person, place, or thing, to the experience of faith is to divert the experience toward the maintenance of the thing away from the person experiencing it. That diversion is in itself not bad, but too much of it will eventually replace faith. Cue Jean Baudrillard.

To make a profit from something you have to claim it, and to claim it you have to define it. Religion is frequently, if not inevitably, the practice of attaching a noun to a transient experience so that ownership can be defined. That is why religion has become such a moneymaking enterprise. It's why religion, in all of its permutations, invariably becomes so tenaciously attached to secular power. Because it pays.

I disagree with Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris (if I understand them correctly) in the sense that they feel that all religion is bad. They are overstating their respective cases to sell books. All religion is not bad. In fact it is inevitable, so asserting that it should be expunged from our culture is a waste of time. When two people experience something they will compare notes. Bet on it. Incorporated religion is bad. The shared experience of faith among a group of hunter gatherers gave social cohesion and a sense of community. The Southern Baptist Convention will ass rape you just as quick as Enron.

We all experience something that is frequently referred to as faith. Most religions are just some used car salesman telling you, "sure you need wheels, and do I have the wheels for you!"

damn typos
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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 12:11 AM
Response to Reply #15
24. Wouldn't it be interesting
to conduct a social experiment in the R/T forum? The Dawkins' hypothesis that this article addresses is that Religion and Science are incompatible. Some of his disciples state the same opinion. What would happen if we suspended the use of those two labels for a period of time? We would just refer to "world view" this or that. My theory is that discussion would more fully develop and new insights result.
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skepticscott Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 05:24 AM
Response to Reply #24
25. That hypothesis is so ridiculously overbroad as stated
that it can't even really be discussed. "Religion" as an umbrella concept involves so many variants and so many different worldviews, that there is nothing they all have in common. What Dawkins has actually argued is that when religions have as part of their fundamental doctrine truth claims about the physical universe or about matters of historical fact (as most do), those doctrinal claims cannot be justified merely as "matters of faith", but are subject to rational, scientific inquiry. He further argues that under scientific scrutiny, these claims virtually always fail to pass muster.

While religion in any form need not conflict with science, in practice it almost always does.
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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 12:06 PM
Response to Reply #25
39. Thank you for
an entirely rational answer worthy of further reflective thought.
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 07:53 AM
Response to Reply #24
29. Yes, let's start with ground rules which steer directly toward...
...your desired conclusions, by treating religion and science as merely "different world views", just "different approaches" to the same truths, and see how that leads to the "new insight" that anyone who sees incompatibility must be wrong! Won't that be amazing? :eyes:

Let's put it this way: Either science or religion are incompatible, OR you have to water down what you mean by "religion" so much that very few people would recognize what's left over as "religion".

There's also the matter of what one means by "incompatible". Whether or not particular people can and do manage to mentally compartmentalize their lives and successfully juggle things that wouldn't seem to go well together -- like gay Republicans or vegans who work at butcher shops -- is a different matter than whether two philosophies actually mesh with any real rational consistency.

Are you willing to accept a definition of "religion" which is little more than secular ethics, personal moral values, and tentative, cautious speculation about whether or not there might be something worthy of the description "supernatural" behind the meaning of those things? Do you think you can come up with a definition for religion that allows for things like a firm belief in the resurrection of Jesus while still somehow being compatible with a scientific outlook?
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rrneck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 11:37 AM
Response to Reply #24
36. It would be very difficult to do.
Since the transcendent experience most people call faith occurs on the fly, writing about it places those who wish to share their understanding of it at a disadvantage.

The language of science and logic is very concrete and well suited to expression in a place like this. Most of the social cues and signals required in the expression of a transcendent experience are not available. If we all sat around a campfire under the stars after hunting for game together all day it would be much easier for us to discuss it. I doubt there is any way for us to select a particular term for what we are talking about since the experience is by definition fluid and dependent on each individual's relationship to others, the world and to themselves.

But we should always try. Organized religion has so successfully co-opted the language of transcendent human experience we have difficulty finding words upon which they don't already hold a cultural copyright. For someone to adequately describe the magic of human perception in this place using text they would have to use literature or poetry. But I ain't Shakespeare. Not many of us are.

And that's the tragedy. Not only are science and transcedence perfectly compatible, their mutual existence within the human experience is what makes what we are. We have too easily allowed religion to produce standardized off the shelf cookie cutter versions of an experience that we should be exploring ourselves that we have lost any connection to the part of our experience that gives it meaning. Thanks to religion a theory of mind, self awareness, compassion, hope and, dare I use the term, faith, have been reduced to compartmentalized thinking. Our souls have been packaged and readied for shipment. They're selling us something we've already got.

Here's an example of the compatibility of human transcedence and concrete measruable results. And anybody can do it if they try hard enough.



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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 12:05 PM
Response to Reply #36
38. Who's arguing that "science and transcedence (aren't) compatible"?
If you're going to inveigh against a viewpoint you don't like, it would help to know where that viewpoint has been expressed.

I have no problem with a general concept of "transcendence", only with the baggage people try to tie to that idea.

It seems like you're in the contradictory position of considering transcendence to be a very different thing from religion, yet at the same time considering Dawkins argument against religion an attack upon, or dismissal of, transcendence.

Dare I ask you to define "transcendence", or will that only lead to hand-waving and claims that trying to define it misses the point of it, how you can't be told about, how you just have to experience it, etc., etc.?

I can live with the idea that some concepts are a little difficult to pin down, but when you're so vague that you can come to contradictory conclusions through shifting, floating definitions, I'm afraid that smells too much of plain old BS.
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rrneck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-05-09 01:39 AM
Response to Reply #38
46. Let me make another run at it.
I wasn't aware that I was inveighing against any viewpoint. It does seem that Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris are overstating their respective cases, but that doesn't mean that I necessarily disagree with them. I found this quote on Mr. Dawkins website in about thirty seconds which qualifies, to my mind, as an overstatement.

"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."


It sorts well with statements I have heard him make regarding faith as well as statements both Hitchens and Harris have made. They leave the impression that they feel those that profess faith of any kind are foolish and deluded. To my mind everyone has faith, it's just that the term itself has been co-opted by charlatans and mangled beyond understanding. But more on that later. As far as I am concerned Messrs. Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris are all making an important contribution to our understanding of faith in our culture, but they certainly aren't perfect because they certainly are human. Hey, everybody has rent to pay.

Dare you ask for my definition of transcendence? Dare, dare! Transcendence is content. In art, content is what the artwork means or why it was made. And if I may be forgiven for turning your phrase, trying to define it is exactly the point of it. Attempts to define the transcendence of human experience fill the libraries and museums of the world. Granted Van Gogh didn't have both oars in the water, but I doubt even he would claim to have actually seen what he depicted in Starry Night.

So why do we enshrine these abstract works of art, volumes of oblique poetry, and narratives of impossible events as if they represented anything real? Because they are incredibly accurate, precisely focused and verifiably true. They are masterful attempts to produce evidence of something that can only be experienced; things like a theory of mind, self reflection, memory and, dare I use the term, faith. You are probably already familiar with the work of Wilson, Dewall, Dutton and the rest regarding the evolutionary underpinnings of those traits.

The term content applies rather specifically to artmaking, but efforts to define content are certainly not confined to artists. In fact, everybody wants to do it. Don't let artists fool you. They don't have any special understanding of life the universe and everything; they're just real good at describing it. I never bought into any of that artist-as-shaman claptrap. We all try to give our lives meaning - or to use an art term - content. The term transcendence just seems more a more appropriate description of that basic human impulse. It seems a more accurate description our desire to be more than the sum of our parts.

The term faith is very difficult to use nowadays because religion has claimed it and turned it into a fucking slot machine. It's hard to think about faith outside the context of whatever significant personage, talisman, or real estate that has been grafted to it so that some guy with special feathers on his head can claim it and make people pay to access it. They're selling people something they've already got. It's the greatest scam in the world and that's a shame, because religion is supposed to help us understand our transcendent experience - not feed off it. Religion, as it is generally practiced today, is just bad art.

Here's another quote from Dawkins (emphasis mine):

"Scientific truth is too beautiful to be sacrificed for the sake of light entertainment or money. Astrology is an aesthetic affront. It cheapens astronomy, like using Beethoven for commercial jingles."

Something gets that guy out of bed in the morning. I would never presume to know exactly what it is since I have never met him. But I'm betting it's the same thing that drove Matisse to paint The Red Room, Dostoevsky to write Anna Karina, and Carl Samburg to write Chicago. It's probably also the same thing that drove Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Martin Luther.

This post ran long but I hope it makes more sense. I'm not trained as a writer, and to do justice to my transcendent experience I would have to produce literature or poetry in this place, and that ain't my thing.

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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-05-09 08:36 AM
Response to Reply #46
49. Faith is a cop out / Everyone has faith
Dawkins: ""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."

rrneck: "To my mind everyone has faith, it's just that the term itself has been co-opted by charlatans and mangled beyond understanding."

I really don't see any conflict between those two statements, as long as you understand that the word "faith" means different things in different contexts.

I can agree with the notion "everyone has faith", but only by a very mundane meaning of that word, such as the "faith" that the sun will rise the next day, or the faith you have when you get out of bed in the morning and don't worry that the floor is going to collapse under your feet when you walk to the bathroom. This kind of faith is merely taking for granted that things which have been reliable in the past will continue to be reliable, to the point you seldom give the slightest thought to the possibility of their failure.

There's also the kind of minimal faith that it takes so that you're not utterly paralyzed by existential doubt and indecision: you have to decide (although it can't be proved) that life isn't some kind of illusion or dream, or at least that if they are that you'll settle for those things being what your world is that you have to deal with, you have to believe that there's at enough coherency to your ability to think that you can at least string a two or three coherent ideas together and hope for some chance to recover from any errors you make or confusion you suffer, etc.

This is all very different from the kind of faith Dawkins is talking about.

If you're saying "faith" has something to do with the ability to create and appreciate artistic expression, then I'd simply say you're stretching the use of the word "faith" beyond any normal, reasonable use of the word, and it wouldn't make sense to hold Dawkins accountable for deliberately, or by accidental broad brush, attacking the kind of human experience found in artistic expression and the appreciation of beauty.

Let's go back to the very specific example of an article of faith I mentioned before: the resurrection of Jesus. For many, probably most Christians, this isn't about appreciation for a beautiful allegory, it's believed as a literally historical event where a human being who was literally born from a virgin (all the more surprising for a male child than a female child, because even the possibility of human parthenogenesis wouldn't apply) dies on a cross, lies dead for three days, and is miraculously brought back to life three days later, and then ascends, body and spirit, into some wonderful other-worldly place called "heaven".

Do you claim that everyone has that kind of faith, or something which is its moral equivalent?
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rrneck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-06-09 04:01 PM
Response to Reply #49
60. Actually I didn't necessarily intend to make the connection between faith and content.
But now that you mention it:

The Last Judgment
Sistine Chapel
Vatican City
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni
This is all about faith That holds true for pretty much everything painted from around the fourth century to the around the seventeenth century.


The Cave at Lascaux
Dunno, probably too long ago to say for sure. But I doubt they were doing zoology.
Many researchers have believed that the animals painted by the Ice-age hunter-gatherers at Lascaux (the Magdalenian culture) were simply those that they hunted. Certainly the animals they depicted comprise the most dangerous in the world of the Ice-age hunters and were both prey and food. The painted dots are thought by some persons to be perhaps no more than a tally of hunting kills. However, the concepts of hunting magic and hunting tallies would seem to be wrong. The hunted animal remains on the cave floor were largely reindeer yet reindeer are entirely unrepresented in the cave art. Some recent investigations suggest that beliefs involving connection to the spirit-world, through trance and hallucination, are perhaps the key to understanding the cave paintings (including the dot patterns).


Umberto Boccioni, The City Rises (1910)
Faith in Technology and modernism The Futurists even had a manifesto.


Pablo Picasso
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
Faith in himself (He was an arrogant little bastard)
Les Demoiselles would not be exhibited until 1916, and not widely recognized as a revolutionary achievement until the early 1920s, when Andr Breton (18961966) published the work.<32> Richardson goes on to say that Henri Matisse was fighting mad upon seeing the Demoiselles at Picasso's studio. He let it be known that he regarded the painting as an attempt to ridicule the modern movement; he was outraged to find his sensational Blue Nude, not to speak of Bonheur de vivre, overtaken by Picasso's "hideous" whores.


Piss Christ
Andres Serrano
Piss Christ is a controversial photograph by American photographer Andres Serrano. It depicts a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's urine.
The piece caused a scandal when it was exhibited in 1989, with detractors, including United States Senators Al D'Amato and Jesse Helms, outraged that Serrano received $15,000 for the work, part of it from the taxpayer-funded National Endowment for the Arts. Supporters argued the Piss Christ is an issue of artistic freedom and freedom of speech. Others alleged that the government funding of Piss Christ violated separation of church and state.<2><3> The journal Arts & Opinion describes the controversy as "a clash between the interests of artists in freedom of expression on the one hand, and the hurt such works may cause to a section of the community on the other.
The abuse of faith by the Catholic church As I recall, Serrano was raised and was a practicing Catholic. But I'm not sure about the practicing part.


Of course faith means many different things in many contexts. The two examples you cited are very good. But I think you are stopping a little short for me. Faith is anything we want to make of it. I hope you understand that the term faith is capable of incredible contextual malleability. A lot more than say, socket wrench. It's so malleble and ubiquitious it has at least some particular personal meaning to almost everybody on the planet. There are of course all the people who have faith in their kids, faith in their spouses, faith in their president, faith in their dog and faith that the Mets will win the pennant this year.

When Mr. Dawkins uses the term to apply to the ultimate cop out and infers that anyone who induldges in it will use it to evade the real world, he is making an overstatement. If he were trying to be anything approaching accurate he would qualify his use of the term to at least exclude aunt Jenny's faith in Fido. But that's not the point of the statement. And it's not why it is featured on his website among a collection of his quotes.

The statement, along with the title of his book which conflates God with Delusion, has more to do with rhetorical flourish than precise cultural commentary. And that's just fine. I think he's doing good work and he should keep it up. If Sam Harris had titled his book The End of Transcendence or The End of Content would it have sold nearly as many copies as a book titled The End of Faith? Do you really think Christopher Hitchens thought he would change any minds when he went on the Todd Friel show? All three men know that people are not entirely rational and if there is not some emotional appeal and literary craftsmanship their work will read like stereo instructions, and sell about as well.

---------------------------

I ran across this quote by Dawkins upthread and can't resist playing with it.

What has literary criticism ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has literary criticism ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? I have listened to literary critics, read them, debated against them. I have never heard any of them ever say anything of the smallest use, anything that was not either platitudinously obvious or downright false. If all the achievements of scientists were wiped out tomorrow, there would be no doctors but Harlequin Romance writers, no transport faster than horses, no computers, no printed books, no agriculture beyond subsistence peasant farming. If all the achievements of literary criticism were wiped out tomorrow, would anyone notice the smallest difference? Even the bad achievements of scientists, the bombs, and sonar-guided whaling vessels work! The achievements of literary critics don't do anything, don't affect anything, don't mean anything. What makes anyone think that "literary criticism " is a subject at all?


As for your last question. *sigh*

As I said upthread, "The term faith is very difficult to use nowadays because religion has claimed it and turned it into a fucking slot machine."

Also:
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph...
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph...
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph...
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph...



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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-06-09 09:16 PM
Response to Reply #60
63. Now that *I* mention it? Huh?
What "connection between faith and content" did I mention?

At any rate, what's with all of the pretty pictures? Are you creating a straw man that someone, somewhere has said that faith has never been inspirational, then triumphantly knocking it down? Are you blurring the distinction between faith and theology, related to the question, "What has theology accomplished?", and showing art inspired by faith, as if the art is a fruit of theology?

Faith is anything we want to make of it. I hope you understand that the term faith is capable of incredible contextual malleability.

We can't possibly have a productive conversation on the topic if the word "faith" means whatever you want it to mean. How about I decide it means that I've won this argument and you should concede now? :)

The various meanings of "faith" are contextual, and if we make the context clear the associated meaning should be clear.

What has literary criticism ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody?

I don't think this analogy holds at all. Besides the fact that the world of literary criticism is filled with a whole lot of worthless mental masturbation, much like theology, the goals of the two things are very different, and so are the measures of their relative success. Of course, I suppose if you consider religion to be a kind of entertainment, and theology is all about evaluating the type and quality of that entertainment, then the "fruit" of theology could be, I suppose, helping people find the religion that fulfills their spiritual entertainment needs.

As for your last question. *sigh*

As I said upthread, "The term faith is very difficult to use nowadays because religion has claimed it and turned it into a fucking slot machine."

So you put believing in the resurrection of Jesus in the "fucking slot machine" category of faith?

How does your response answer my question about what kind of "faith" it's supposed to be that everybody has some of?
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rrneck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 11:28 PM
Response to Reply #63
85. I hope these responses aren't too slow. This is my busy time of year.
Post 63 Silent3 What "connection between faith and content" did I mention?

Post 49 Silent3 If you're saying "faith" has something to do with the ability to create and appreciate artistic expression, then I'd simply say you're stretching the use of the word "faith" beyond any normal, reasonable use of the word, ...

As I explained previously, art has two basic components - form and content. (If you don't mind, I'm going to leave aside subject matter here as not germaine.) The production of art, in whatever form it takes be it visual, performance, literary, or musical, is the result of an object that expresses what the work means or why it is made. In the works presented here, there is a clear, intimate and inelastic relationship between faith and the content of the work.

That relationship is anything but monolithic. It ranges from laudatory to outright confrontational. The art presented here represents various individual's expression of faith from the modern era all the way back to the Upper Paleolithic. And that's just visual art. All of the other arts will prove to be just as varied and pervasive. Faith plays a role in the perpetuation of the species through sexual selection, and even in the inter species symbiotic relationship between humans and dogs. It informs contract law, constitutional law, economics and psychology. And almost none of the people whose lives depend on an understanding of and use of the concept of faith would consider it minimal or mundane.

That's not to say I consider your understanding of faith wrong or even wrong headed. You are at liberty to make of it anything you want, and I have every confidence that you will do well at it. Do you think your understanding of faith should be embraced by everyone?

Shucks, I had fun with that quote. The last time I looked, the Bible (for example) is a collection of words strung together to convey some sort of information. I don't consider it a technical manual no matter what the fundamentalists may think. Nor do I consider it a verifiable accounting of actual historical events. But millions of people have found inspiration and wonder in its stories for thousands of years; that makes it literature. Literary critics concern themselves with the study, discussion, evaluation, and interpretation of literature.

You are exactly right that the goals of theology and literary criticism are very different. At least nobody has been burned alive because some literary critic didn't like their interpretation of Huckleberry Finn. If all theologians behaved like literary critics the world would be a much better place.

There is abundant evidence of faith and its importance in the lives of humans everywhere for as long as there have been humans. That evidence is as varied as the experience that inspires it. But faith itself is transient in nature. The ubiquity of the evidence of that experience and the prominent role that evidence plays in our culture indicates that everyone has it in one form or another and they generally, although not always, take it pretty seriously.
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 10:12 AM
Response to Reply #85
92. What's your understanding of deteology? n/t
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rrneck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 10:19 AM
Response to Reply #92
93. None. Had to look it up.
Dictionary.com doesn't have much of an understanding of it either.

"No results found for deteology:"

Google couldn't find it either.

"Your search - deteology - did not match any documents."


Did you spell it right?
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 10:33 AM
Response to Reply #93
94. I made it up.
It means whatever you want it to mean, or whatever I want it to mean.

I can assure you, however, that deteology is wonderful and powerful, at least for some people, implore you to not expect other people to have to use or share your understanding of deteology, drift even further from anything that has any relevance to a critique of Richard Dawkins, and better insure that clear, concrete discussion of specific ideas is impossible.
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rrneck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 10:55 AM
Response to Reply #94
95. LOL! I love it!
You have a great career ahead as a performance artist if you decide to go that way.
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-09-09 09:19 AM
Response to Reply #95
106. I'm glad you appreciate the joke, but I hope you get my point.
There's a difference between expecting someone else to define words the way you do, or demanding that they understand things in the same way you do, and trying to sort out what meanings and understanding are in play in a particular context. You can't sensibly evaluate what Dawkins says about faith by reacting as if Dawkins is using your own meaning of the word, then getting upset, or saying he's in error, on that basis. If you consider it a virtue not to impose definitions and understandings on other people, that's a two-way street.

Which of these is it that your problem with Dawkins comes down to?

(1) Dawkins, when talking about faith, has no valid criticism to make whatsoever.

(2) Dawkins has a valid criticism, but it's of something he shouldn't call "faith". (Even if he's making it pretty clear in context what he means by the word, and even if he is hardly being very unconventional in his usage.)

(3) Forget clear meaning, there's just something bothering me, faith does amazing things, and why don't we all just sing Kumbaya and get along?

(4) Problem with Dawkins? Me? What problem?

(5) Other.
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rrneck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-09-09 10:17 AM
Response to Reply #106
107. I wouldn't be fair for
me to make much of any evaluation regarding Mr. Dawkins opinions regarding faith because I haven't read his book. My limited responses were confined to one quote, one book title, and a general impression of what he has to say based on the people he seems to agree with, other exerpts from his work, and a few youtube clips. That and he seems to really piss off the religious wingnuts, which is always great sport.

You are in a much better position to evaluate his work than I am. What are his opinions regarding faith?
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-10-09 07:28 AM
Response to Reply #107
110. If this is going to keep coming up, I'm going to have to buy a copy...
...of The God Delusion to have around, just for reference. :) When I read it before, I had a library copy.

If I were to try to encompass as broad an interpretation of the word "faith" as you seem to prefer, I wouldn't be able to answer your question because Dawkins doesn't speak about faith in his book in any similar sense. I can tell you that there's nothing to suggest in the slightest that Dawkins has anything against people being inspired, and that Dawkins doesn't have any trouble appreciating the artistry that goes into something like a Michelangelo painting or a cathedral.

He does object to faith in unproven, supernatural entities. He certainly doesn't see any special virtue is believing in something without evidence, or especially believing in something specifically because there isn't evidence, or worse, believing in something that's contrary to evidence. He acknowledges that people sometimes get positive benefits from faith, but he'd say that those benefits are available without supernatural baggage, and without the downsides that often accompany faith, like (as one example among many, not shared by every form of faith, because if I don't put this caveat in, someone is going to bleat indignantly about how not everyone's faith is like that) expecting God to fix things rather than fixing things yourself.

Further, I'd say that Dawkins sees a value, as do I, in trying to seek objective truth, and makes a distinction between whether something is true and whether something "works for you". For example (my example, not his) you might succeed in getting a child to do his homework by telling him "Santa won't bring presents if you don't do your homework". This might turn out to "work" in the sense that the kid does his homework (the parents get the behavior they want) and the presents arrive (the child gets the outcome he wanted), but none of that makes Santa real, it merely shows the story about Santa can be efficacious, in a way that doesn't hinge on the reality of Santa.

Ask people why they believe what they believe, and as a response you'll often get a list of things that these people think have improved in their lives since they started believing (this relates, I think, to the "fucking slot machine" you've talked about): "I got my act together", "I finally stopped drinking", "I found people who understand me", "It helps me teach my children 'values'", etc. None of that has anything to do with whether or not a divine entity exists, and none of it's even particularly good at being merely suggestive evidence -- those benefits can proceed from a variety of different, even mutually contradictory, beliefs.
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rrneck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-11-09 01:37 AM
Response to Reply #110
112. If I keep talking about his book
I guess I should actually read it. :)

It seems to me that Mr. Dawkins has with The God Delusion left hard sciences and is engaging in social criticism. Good on him. For years we have wondered when an actual scientist would stand up to religion and he appears to be doing a pretty good job of it. Of course it's pretty squishy out there, and when you play that game it doesn't matter how much shit you throw, it's how much sticks to you that counts. So now there are people accusing him of social Darwinism and not liking Harry Potter.(?) In the one quote that I found, I thought he went a little over the top, but I wasn't at all offended - probably because I felt he wasn't talking about me.

I don't necessarily mind faith in the unprovable whatever that might be, although faith in an unprovable God is hardly the only way to go. The arts are full of imaginary stuff and if we got rid of that our culture would suffer horribly for it. Just going to the movies requires a suspension of disbelief, not to mention all the literature that has been written. I would rather say that one's beliefs or the object of one's faith should be checked against evidence to see if it works. We have to verify the rationality of what our belief prompts us to do. Even a scientific hypothesis has a measure of faith. People who believe they can fly should avoid rooftops. If we create a God we are just exercising the very basic human trait of a theory of mind. If the God that we make is a good one, we will learn from an assessment our own actual tests regarding his desires. Bad God, bad results.

Mr. Dawkins rightly criticizes religion because the way it is practiced today, for the most part, frustrates an examination of the results of faith. That's why we get the absurdity of intelligent design and all the rest. The church has to keep producing ersatz results to justify its position as the arbiter of where to direct one's faith.

Humans can place their faith in anything. The term faith, unlike God, is even in the Constitution. I assume a very broad definition of faith because I seem to see it everywhere I look. People everywhere and at every time in history are calling something faith. Your desire for a definition of the phenomena is legitimate and understandable. It could be though that if you and I actually came to a close enough agreement upon the definition of the word faith, we would have created a new religion. For my part, I think it is unprofitable to indulge in those kinds of semantics since people determine the meanings of words through usage, and any attempt to dictate the meaning of a word that has such a fundamental relationship to the human condition is to unnecessarily restrict it. Religion has so reduced the word faith to little more than a logo it has become almost impossible to use it outside the context they dictate. It's everywhere, but nobody seems to realize that. I would indeed like to see it expanded to include what everyone understands it to be. That's the only way to resolve the definition of the term.

The benefits of faith can and should "proceed from a variety of different, even mutually contradictory, beliefs". You are exactly right here. The more objects of faith we consider, the more real data we acquire and the richer the human experience will be. The problem is that religion has set itself up to be the only legitimate proctor of those tests with disastrous results.

As you have no doubt surmised I am involved in the arts. Religion and the arts have been at loggerheads for years because the practice of creating (a loaded term in itself) and understanding art has much the same process and efficacy as creating and understanding God - and religion doesn't like the competition. And the dirty little secret that religion and some artists don't want you to know is that anybody can do it. And as far as I am concerned, everybody does. The big mistake is that a lot of people allow somebody else to produce their faith (and its object thereof) as an off the shelf product. Giving your life meaning is strictly a DIY project and it doesn't matter how you go about it, as long as you try.

This post is getting too long but I owe you an answer and it's late and I'm beat. I'll go ahead and throw it on even though I should pare it down to a more manageable and understandable size.
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-11-09 02:32 PM
Response to Reply #112
113. I think I see where we might be miscommunicating about "faith".
Edited on Mon May-11-09 03:31 PM by Silent3
I'm beginning to wonder if when I talk about "different kinds of faith", you're taking that to mean "faith in different things", where "faith" is the same basic feeling/sentiment/mental construct in each case, but invested in different objects.

I'd like to make it more clear now, if it wasn't before, that I'm talking about different meanings of "faith" which are different without regard to particular objects of faith.

Take the word "bark". It can refer to the sound a dog makes, or to the skin of a tree. There's also a kind of boat called a "bark". Three very different meanings, only one word. I don't think the various meanings of "faith" are quite that different.

Consider next the word "mouth". The primary meaning is a body part, specifically a bodily opening for food intake. We also talk about the "mouths" of rivers, caves, and bottles, where there's only a very loose conceptual connection to the primary meaning, the broader concept of a opening of some sort, perhaps an opening that permits something to enter or exit. "Mouth", especially in an adjective form like "mouthy", can refer to speech, particularly loud or rude speech, connected to the primary meaning in the sense that it refers to something that can issue forth from a human mouth.

What we're dealing with when it comes to the word "faith" is more like this second case -- a single word used to refer to a variety of different, but loosely conceptually connected, meanings. Unlike the case with the word "mouth", I'm not so sure that any one meaning of "faith" is clearly a primary meaning from which all of the other usages spring.

Here's a dictionary definition of faith:
  1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
  2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
  3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
  4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
  5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
  6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
  7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one's promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.
  8. Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.
I'd say that the connection between these various meanings and usages is, roughly, some confluence of concepts like trust, confidence, and belief, perhaps even expectation. These different meanings of "faith" aren't merely about different targets of faith, however, but different rational and emotional processes which generate trust or confidence, and different epistemological approaches to belief.

Although all of these meanings are connected to some degree or another, the various meanings are different enough that I think it's a mistake to treat them as manifestations of one singular, shared human trait/motivation/quality/drive/etc., as some singular thing that all people need or want to find a target for. I don't know if that's the view you're taking, but from the way I've heard others talk about faith, especially those who are eager to say things like "everyone has faith", or to equate "faith" in science with religious faith, I'd say that view of faith is not uncommon.

Often I see this kind of conflation of various meanings of faith as a defensive tactic: "How dare you criticize my faith! Everyone has faith, even you, and mine's just as good as yours!" The critic of faith is portrayed as an automatic hypocrite. He MUST have faith too, he's just "in denial" about it, and is criticizing something he is equally "guilty" of.

I get a hint that you are trying to conceptualize a single thing called "faith" behind all of the various meanings and usages of the word (but not in the above defensive way) when you say something like this:

I assume a very broad definition of faith because I seem to see it everywhere I look. People everywhere and at every time in history are calling something faith.

Let's go back to the word "bark" for contrast. It would clearly be a mistake to search for a single definition of "bark", or even to imagine that some elusive, comprehensive definition is somehow out there beyond human understanding, waiting to embrace all of the different meanings of the word. That the one word "bark" means so many different things is nothing more than an accident of etymology, a matter of separate words with separate meanings, derived from different languages, converging by happenstance on a shared group of letters and phonemes.

For my part, I think it is unprofitable to indulge in those kinds of semantics since people determine the meanings of words through usage, and any attempt to dictate the meaning of a word that has such a fundamental relationship to the human condition is to unnecessarily restrict it.

If I insist for clarity when I say "bark" that I'm talking about the sound a dog makes, this is not a disservice to, encroachment upon, or denial of botany or sailing or the particular usages botanists and sailors might have for that word.

Whether I'm trying to define either the word "bark" or the word "faith", it's not a matter of "unnecessarily restrict(ing)" the meaning of the word, it's a matter of escaping the Mad Hatter's tea party -- a conversation where all the words can mean whatever each of the participants wants them to mean might be amusing for a time, but it's more likely to simply try your patience, and it's not at all likely to be productive.

When you try to relate things like suspension of disbelief while watching a movie to the word "faith", I think that's going too far with the word. I have no desire to deny anyone the enjoyment of their movies (especially not me, especially not after I practically built a whole new house for the purpose of having a home theater!), I merely have a desire to avoid making an already confusing word more confusing.

To get back to Dawkins, it's clear when you read his book that he's talking about meaning (2) of "faith", especially as it relates to meanings (3) and (5). He's especially opposed to faith that goes beyond lack of proof to outright denial of contrary evidence -- the kind of "faith" in something like creationism that turns inconvenient fossils into tests of faith and tricks of Satan.
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Jim__ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-05-09 06:21 AM
Response to Reply #36
47. I agree. Religion has claimed transcendence. Also, science has claimed the stars.
Modern society is a society of compartmentalization and expertise. We go to work and work at a highly specialized job, and when we come home and eat dinner, we can't really discuss our job with our spouse because, chances are, they know nothing about our work. Preachers preach about transcendence, astonomers inform us about the heavens, and psychologists tell us how to adapt to it all.

The image is that around the campfire we all got to speak and share our experience. We knew and understood what everyone else did. If it was ever really like that, we've lost it. And we are the worse off for having lost it.
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ImOnlySleeping Donating Member (131 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 02:54 PM
Response to Reply #24
43. Its not labels that are incompatible
It's the entirely separate way of viewing the universe. Religion starts with answers and looks for questions to confirm the answer. Science starts with questions and looks for answers. This is why religions have covered less and less areas of expertise as the body of science has grown (where does thunder come from, what keeps clouds up, how old is Earth, how can I have a good harvest, etc). Realistically, religions have been pared down to answers to a handful of questions, that cosmologists and particle theorists will most likely never determine in their entirety (where did everything come from and such), but the religious answer is typically a product of geography and unflinching in certainty (as were religious answers to so many previous questions).
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Why Syzygy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 04:56 PM
Response to Reply #43
45. Well, those are some things we don't know for sure
exactly because it isn't a matter of conflicting labels. I don't think religion starts with answers. That's illogical. My personal quest started with the question of the presence of evil on our planet. That's something science would be interested to know from a sociological, perhaps body chemical, perspective. I'm pretty sure we all have the same questions. Reserve right to change my mind.

If science proposes to shut out the religious PERSON, that great divide will entrench. Quite a few of us are interested in investigating how it can be bridged.
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ImOnlySleeping Donating Member (131 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-06-09 05:33 PM
Response to Reply #45
61. That's not even science
Evil isn't something that a good scientist would care about. Noone expects to find an evil gene or chemical that makes people behave "good" or some nonsense. Your base assumption that there is "evil" invalidates your research. There are a series of actions in the world. By and large, the action is of benefit (or at least of perceived benefit) to the individual acting or they've determined that by hurting themselves they can benefit society/family/strangers. A sociologist might be interested in cause and effect. The likelihood that an action would harm others. What leads to sacrifice. Neurologists might be interested in what areas of the brain are active in the decision making process, but not in a single reputable scientific journal will you find the term evil used to define an action. This is what I mean by a completely different way of viewing the world.
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ChadwickHenryWard Donating Member (692 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 02:03 PM
Response to Reply #45
78. But you've done it just there.
You've assumed that evil is responsible for phenomena XYZ, and started questioning from there. Science would ask, "Does evil exist?" not "Why does evil exist?" This inquiry would require a definition of 'evil,' which, to me at least, is normative and not empirical, which makes probing the matter scientifically difficult if not impossible.
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ChadwickHenryWard Donating Member (692 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 01:54 PM
Response to Reply #43
77. Excellent post.
:thumbsup:
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immoderate Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 02:36 PM
Response to Original message
17. Over-population is a "benefit" of religion?
--imm
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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 03:45 PM
Response to Original message
19. Clearly there are plenty of religionists who are so threatened by this one human being...
they devote considerable energy toward convincing themselves (and their fellow believers) that he's wrong, he's stupid, or he's (now) irrelevant.

Funny. :)
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anonymous171 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 12:11 AM
Response to Original message
23. Holy shit was he really a social darwinist?
What a dick...
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 10:29 AM
Response to Reply #23
31. If that's sarcasm and I'm missing it...
...forgive me, but just in case it's not: No, Dawkins is not at all a "social Darwinist", and if that's the impression you got from the OP I don't get where that impression came from.

Even if you are being sarcastic, I don't quite get what you're playing off with your sarcasm either.
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TZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 10:56 AM
Response to Reply #31
33. Do you think the person who wrote this actually READ anything Dawkins wrote?
I don't. Its sounds like someone bashing Dawkins based on what they THINK he said.
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ChadwickHenryWard Donating Member (692 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 01:25 PM
Response to Reply #33
75. I don't think so.
Dawkins does not make the argument in point no. 1. He also makes it clear that he is not a social Darwinist in the book.
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anonymous171 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 11:04 AM
Response to Reply #31
34. My bad.
Edited on Mon May-04-09 11:04 AM by anonymous171
Looks like I misinterpreted the first paragraph. Sorry about that.
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ChadwickHenryWard Donating Member (692 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 02:04 PM
Response to Reply #34
80. You did not misinterpret it at all.
It was intentionally misleading.
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Commie Pinko Dirtbag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 08:05 AM
Response to Reply #23
70. News to you: Dawkins made it painfully clear that he's viscerally AGAINST social "darwinism."
MANY times.

But of course, that won't stop people with an agenda from spreading the lie. Kinda like "Hitler was an atheist" and other bullshit.
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ChadwickHenryWard Donating Member (692 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 02:03 PM
Response to Reply #23
79. Nope.
See post #73.
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TZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 10:54 AM
Response to Original message
32. Your point?
This article has nothing to do with science...(its gotten nothing correct about where Dawkins is on evolution or what he says about evolution and religion). Are you trying to show that atheists only beleive their is no god because Dawkins told them too?
Honestly, I'm not a 100% in agreement with him on evolutionary biologist (closer to him than Steven Gould though).
Sounds like yet another defensive believer trying to explain what Dawkins REALLY thinks and why us atheists are dangerously wrong.. :crazy:
I really enjoy it when people put words into the mouths of others. Goes over so well. Almost as much as telling other people what to think...
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 11:36 AM
Response to Reply #32
35. Ah, but the very fact that you're reacting to this thread...
...demonstrates that you're threatened by it. If you were "open minded" you'd appreciate the wonderful new perspective being provided by the quoted article and be thankful -- quietly thankful or with an appreciative response. Your "defensive" reaction clearly demonstrates that you're nothing but a "disciple" of Dawkins, responding emotionally to an attack upon your leader -- who is (go on! admit it!) practically a god to you.
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Evoman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 02:08 PM
Response to Original message
40. What do you need to know about religion?
Give evidence that god exists. In fact, give a half decent, rational argument.

Can't? Then I don't give a shit about the details.

You don't have to be an expert to know that religion is full of shit.
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Occam Bandage Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 02:37 PM
Response to Reply #40
42. There is one sub-aspect of that argument I agree with.
Edited on Mon May-04-09 02:37 PM by Occam Bandage
Dawkins came off as very silly when he was calling various aspects of Christian doctrine obviously absurd, when he freely admitted he did not bother trying to learn and understand them. Many things in science are absurd to people who haven't studied them.

That isn't much of a point, though. He wasn't claiming the Trinity, Assumption, and Transubstantiation were absurd and so Christianity was false; he gave a rational and pragmatic argument against the likelihood of a God of any sort existing. His pokes at Christian doctrine were not the core of his argument, or even related to his argument. They were just jests at the expense of something he finds silly.
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Evoman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 03:17 PM
Response to Reply #42
44. I find the Dawkin's book is mostly marketed towards atheists or agnostics in the first place,.
So some of the shots he took weren't meant to be arguments, per se, but entertainment. A dry, ultra-rational argument against religion is unlikely to appeal to the mass market. Still doesn't mean that the rational arguments he does make aren't good, though.

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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-05-09 12:05 PM
Response to Reply #42
50. What would Dawkins have to know about "the Trinity, Assumption, and Transubstantiation"...
...before he'd have "earned" sufficient standing to criticize these things without appearing "very silly"?

These doctrines are all based on clearly unproven assumptions (the existence of God is a minimal starting point), so how much more intricate detail authored by long-winded theologians do you need to know before you can call these derivative constructs absurd?

Given that there's no evidence for the existence of the Tooth Fairy to begin with, how deeply would you need to dig into Tooth Fairy lore before rightfully calling detailed treatises on the multipartite nature of the Tooth Fairy, and the metaphysical conversion of teeth into cash, absurd?
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Occam Bandage Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 11:35 PM
Response to Reply #50
86. I'm not referring to criticism. In fact, I explicitly say that I am not
Edited on Thu May-07-09 11:45 PM by Occam Bandage
suggesting that his arguments are any less valid. I am, rather, saying I found his breezy mockery of the above as "obviously absurd" without any argument whatsoever was flat (and not humorous, as he intended that mockery to be.) Again: not his arguments against them, but rather the claims of obvious absurdity that were not part of his arguments, but instead were conversational attempts to amuse. Almost anything that is complex seems absurd until you study it, and I've never liked humor that relies specifically on the ignorance of both the teller and the listener.

I get the impression that you did not actually read The God Delusion. I cannot imagine anyone who was familiar with Dawkins would fail to see the difference between an attack on his substance and an attack on the flourishes of style he uses to liven up his books between the substance.
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 12:23 AM
Response to Reply #86
87. What would familiarity with his book...
...have to do with distinguishing what kind of attack you're making? I hardly committed the book to memory, and it's been some time, but I did most certainly read, not skim, "The God Delusion", from cover to cover.

At any rate, I don't agree with your attack regardless of whether you're calling it an attack on style or on substance. I think there's plenty of good reason to call many aspect of Christian doctrine "absurd", and I don't agree that Dawkins comes off as "silly" for saying what he has said. Now, are these things "obviously absurd"? The notion of what's "obvious" or not can be debatable, I suppose, but I don't think it takes a doctorate in Christian theology to be qualified to point out absurdities within Christian doctrine.
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Occam Bandage Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 02:20 PM
Response to Original message
41. Why should he have had to study theology? Theology is beside the point.
It doesn't matter how many hairs I say are on a unicorn if you're trying to prove unicorns probably don't exist.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-05-09 06:57 AM
Response to Reply #41
48. That presumes that the principal concern of theology is ontological. But there are
many different "theologies." One of the most interesting texts I ever read was devoted to parsing "mystical" language as sociological commentary on the power-dynamics of the times, for example; another was devoted to attitudes towards social justice issues in the books attributed to the Hebrew prophets

There's nothing wrong, I think, with a person taking the view that such commentaries are uninteresting -- but if one is not interested, perhaps the proper attitude is to move on to something one finds interesting, rather than propagandizing stereotypes about material one has not read and does not intend to read
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-05-09 12:27 PM
Response to Reply #48
51. There's nothing in the non-ontological aspects of theology...
...that would have any impact on Dawkins take on God and religion, at least not from what I remember of reading The God Delusion.

It may be that some people throw a huge spectrum of ideas and beliefs under the umbrella of "religion", then compound the potential problems of an overly-broad definition by acting as if an attack on anything under that huge umbrella is an attack on everything under that umbrella, but I don't think it's Dawkins responsibility to have preemptively dealt with that kind of confusion, especially in regards to people who might be undergoing an overreaction without even having bothered to read the specifics of his argument.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-05-09 03:35 PM
Response to Reply #51
52. I suppose your first claim is true, in the sense that nothing will affect Dawkins' take
on the subject. That, however, is not really my point, which is related to your second paragraph: in Dawkins' view (and perhaps in yours also) religion is analogous to the study of fairies, and anything that isn't analogous to the study of fairies can't properly be described as religion. Religious thought, on this view, becomes worthless by definition:

"The achievements of theologians don't do anything, don't affect anything, don't mean anything. What makes anyone think that 'theology' is a subject at all?"
Richard Dawkins
Free Inquiry, Spring 1998 v18 n2 p6(1)
http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-arch...

Look, somebody who thinks the way I do doesnt think theology is a subject at all. So to me it is like someone saying they dont believe in fairies and then being asked how they know if they havent studied fairy-ology. I think it is as simple as that. Im all for professors of theology who write about little-known religious texts and study biblical history, but when theology turns to the study of the trinity, then I think its a non-subject
Laurie Taylor interviews Richard Dawkins
http://newhumanist.org.uk/1521
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skepticscott Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-05-09 05:48 PM
Response to Reply #52
53. You're putting words in Dawkins' mouth
He's merely using the analogy of fairies to demonstrate that you don't need to have devoted 20 years of study to a subject before you're qualified to say that it's nothing but intellectual silliness. By no sane leap of logic can you get from that the assertion that religion is analogous to the study of fairies, and anything that isn't analogous to the study of fairies can't properly be described as religion.

He's wrong in one sense...the achievements of theologians make the fundamental foolishness, harshness and contradictions of religion palatable to the mass of believers, but that's basically all that theology is good for, other than filling libraries and keeping theologians employed. While theology may provide a framework for debating issues, it provides no means for deciding them in any meaningful way. That's Dawkins' point...that theology is not a field of inquiry, that it is little more than erudite noisemaking.

Ask yourself this: What do we understand as a result of studies in theology that we didn't understand 100 years ago? What can we do now that we couldn't do 100 years ago as a consequence of theology?
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-05-09 09:53 PM
Response to Reply #53
55. I directly quoted Dawkins. He says the same thing again and again. Here's another quote to the same
Edited on Tue May-05-09 09:54 PM by struggle4progress
effect:

... we should devote as much time to studying serious theology as we devote to studying serious fairies and serious unicorns ...
Richard Dawkins answers reader questions
An edited version of this was published in The Independent (London), December 23, 1998, Wednesday, Page 8
http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-arch...

It is not difficult to multiply such examples

Let me be clear what my objection is. I do not object to the fact that he, or anyone else, holds such view: different people have different tastes and different insights; and there is no reason to expect everyone to react in identical ways. Moreover, in various possible concrete discussions about particular specific texts, I suspect he and I could agree that neither of us were able to make sense of the text or could find anything use actually meaningful in it. I do however object to the generality with which the claims are made, the ideological insistence that no other view is possible, and the crankish obsession with which he promotes his sweeping stereotypes. It is rather as if he decided he hated elevator muzak and then set out to persuade the world that all music is elevator muzak and hence a foolish waste of time, or as if he took a dislike to Harlequin Romances and thenceforth devoted his time to denouncing literature because none of it could possibly be much different than the Harlequin Romances. Wisdom is not synonymous with cleverness or knowledge, and there are many ways to become wise: some people find real insights in literature or music, for example, though neither of these subjects provides scientific understanding of our world; similarly, some people find real insights in theology, although such insights are not scientific insights. And some people simply find nothing of interest in literature, some find nothing of interest in music, and some find nothing of interest in theology. But if one finds nothing of interest in a subject, one usually accomplishes nothing of value by devoting one's time to denouncing the subject as uninteresting: one would do better to attempt to make progress on something one actually found interesting
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skepticscott Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-05-09 10:06 PM
Response to Reply #55
56. Get back to me
when you figure out the difference between religion and theology. Or between wisdom and "insight".

My questions still stand: What do we understand (in ANY way, scientific or otherwise) as a result of studies in theology that we didn't understand 100 years ago? What can we do now that we couldn't do 100 years ago as a consequence of theology?
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-05-09 11:09 PM
Response to Reply #56
57. That seems to be a verbose version of "Pbbpth!" Your question "What can we do now that we couldn't
do 100 years ago as a consequence of theology?" assumes that theology should be judged by whether it is objectively efficacious. But, of course, many people find personal values in subjects (such as music or literature) that do not aim at producing an objectively quantifiable effect on the world -- and similarly people can engage in religious activities or can have theological interests for personal reasons

It's not that difficult to establish useless standards for human enterprises. For example, one could ask "How has such-and-such a subject helped us reduce the tragic devastation of war in the last 100 years?" It seems to be a reasonable question: surely reducing the likelihood and impacts of war would be a good thing. But almost every human endeavor has been a failure, if judged by the answer to that question: neither diplomacy, nor science, nor music, nor literature, nor theology, for example, prevented the world wars -- should we therefore account them all worthless?

But I think that the real point of your question is to lay down a marker to the effect that I cannot convince you that religion or theology could ever be worthwhile. If so, I shrug that's your choice but I also wonder why you don't spend your time on something you do consider worthwhile, rather than merely wasting it denouncing something you don't consider worthwhile

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skepticscott Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-06-09 05:08 AM
Response to Reply #57
58. Here's the bottom line
Your analogies to music and literature are deeply flawed. Music and literature are forms of artistic expression, while theology presumes and pretends to be a field of inquiry. It is those who engage in theological "studies" that have made that representation, not me, and having done so, they open their field to judgement by the same standards as any other field of inquiry.

And it's a ridiculous strawman to pick one specific achievement (the prevention of the world wars) and try to argue that because science didn't accomplish it, it's worthless. If you have any intellectual integrity, I suspect you know that perfectly well. Science HAS achieved innumerable successes at what it does purport to be able to do (help us understand the physical world), and that's what it should be judged by.

The answer to your question is that I do consider it worthwhile to denounce things that are silly and foolish. Arguing for the truth and exposing lies and nonsense have never been a waste of time for me. My question, btw, had nothing to do with religion, so I'm not sure why you keep trying to slip it in there. Dawkins' statement that prompted this thread was about theology, and that's what I've been focusing on. Again, you don't seem to understand the fundamental distinction.
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Commie Pinko Dirtbag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 03:40 PM
Response to Reply #55
84. See posts #73 and #81. -nt
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 05:48 AM
Response to Reply #84
89. You must have posted this the wrong place, because neither 73 nor 81 is relevant to this subthread
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-06-09 02:17 PM
Response to Reply #52
59. I think when you set aside confusing overlapping meanings...
...of words like "religion", there isn't much left that uniquely belongs to religion that can't be covered by notions like "ethics", "morality", "a search for meaning and purpose", "a sense of awe and wonder", etc. other than superstition.

If I take Dawkins criticism of religion to be a matter of criticism of those concepts that belong uniquely to religion -- which is, I'd say, the most sensible approach to Dawkins's work -- I have no problem at all with the fact that there isn't much left of religion to recommend it. I have no interest in trying to leave religion any consolation prizes. Those things which some people may consider respectable or ennobling aspects of religion can be found elsewhere, without the superstitious baggage of religion.

skepticscott makes a good point about blurring the words "theology" and "religion", but I'd approach Dawkin's criticism of theology the same way: What is it that belongs uniquely to theology that isn't covered by other areas of study, like sociology or comparative anthropology? While it might sometimes go under the moniker "theology", I think it's a very different thing to take an arms-length, outsider approach to religion (such as "parsing 'mystical' language as sociological commentary on the power-dynamics of the times), and to be on the inside of a religion, working off a set of supernatural assumptions and trying to figure out something like how bread changes into divine flesh and wine into divine blood, as if that's actually a matter of serious import.

Would you claim there's value in those things which uniquely belong to religion and theology, even if all that's left to value is some kind of internal aesthetics, or emotional comfort found in unfounded beliefs, as if religion and theology were little more than performance art or security blankets?
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 07:06 AM
Response to Reply #59
66. And by "confusing overlapping meaning," you mean any interpretation of the word "religion" that
doesn't immediately equate the word with something like belief in fairies, right?
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 07:29 AM
Response to Reply #66
67. If you object to that interpretation so much, please give me a definition of religion...
...and a real-world example that fits that definition where you have something uniquely religious yet free from faith in unproven supernatural entities. It would really help defeat my current interpretation if you can come up with something that isn't an obscure, erudite, intellectualized version of the idea of religion, far from anything like religion as practiced by the vast majority of people who consider themselves religious.

If you can do that, perhaps I'd gladly amend my take on religion to account for this thing, whatever it is. Perhaps Dawkins would as well. Then again, maybe it's better to stick to vague and amorphous definitions of religion in order to maintain the view that Dawkins is a bad, bad, short-sighted man, viciously tearing down things he simply doesn't understand.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 07:59 AM
Response to Reply #67
90. Discussing definitions of religion in this forum leads to a pointless merry-go-round,
the more so because a certain number of posters here will demand that "religion" can only be understood in a pejorative sense and insist upon definitions that make "religion" approximately equivalent to "belief in fairies"

If you are interested in the real definitional problem, you might look (for example) at

The Complexity of Religion and the Definition of “Religion” in International Law
http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/hrj/iss16/gunn...
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 11:58 AM
Response to Reply #90
98. That's a legalistic definition which exists solely for the purpose...
...of evaluating whether or not people are being afforded freedom of religion.

This is getting off on a bit of a tangent, but I'd rather that there simply be general freedom of thought, freedom on conscience, freedom in all things that don't interfere with anyone else being able to exercise an equal degree of freedom. Calling out freedom of religion as a special thing leads to at least two messy problems which I think are better avoided: (1) putting governments in charge of deciding what is or is not a "valid" religion for purposes of legal protection, and (2) for those religions which are recognized as valid, the creation of conditions that can lead to some religious groups having not merely protected but privileged status.

Consider exceptions that are sometimes legally made so that followers of certain religions can use marijuana or hallucinogenic mushrooms. Can I start my own church so I can indulge too, without fear of legal consequences? Even if I am being transparent about the purpose of my so-called church, should the government be messing with deciding whether or not my new church is "serious enough" to warrant the same exemptions from legal prosecution that other groups can get?

If religion is good enough of a reason for some people to be allowed to do things other people are forbidden to do, then general freedom is good enough a reason for everyone to be allowed to do those things.

...a certain number of posters here will demand that "religion" can only be understood in a pejorative sense and insist upon definitions that make "religion" approximately equivalent to "belief in fairies"

I can't "demand" that understand anything in any particular way whatsoever. I can, however, tell you why I understand an issue a particular way, why I find certain definitions useful, and challenge you to point out where my understanding is in error, or why my definitions are incorrect or insufficient.

Instead of answering my challenge, however, it seems you prefer to merely complain about the challenge, as if I'm somehow obligated to leave you more wiggle room, as if the very fact that the understanding of religion that I'm putting forward is inherently unfair because it doesn't leave that wiggle room.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-09-09 04:58 AM
Response to Reply #98
103. I doubt if you will much like what I say in this regard: Everyone makes existential choices about
what to take seriously, and a person's "religion" is whatever s/he takes most seriously. For example, the person who takes money most seriously has money as a religion; the person who takes a political party most seriously has that political party as a religion; for the person to whom church attendance is the most serious matter, church attendance is the religion

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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-09-09 07:27 AM
Response to Reply #103
104. I'm not fond of that definition, true, but if I use that definition for a moment...
...it's pretty clear that Dawkins is not trying to tell everyone "whatever you take most seriously isn't real". Am I to take it that your disapproval of Dawkins is that he doesn't treat all "existential choices", including his own, as somehow equivalent, somehow equally valid or invalid?

Dawkins's message does turn into saying "whatever you take most seriously is very likely imaginary or even delusional" in the cases where the "whatever" is an unproven supernatural belief. I'm sure that this isn't a pleasant thing to hear someone when the subject is one's own beliefs, but we don't generally fault people for stating opinions simply because those opinions aren't universally soothing.

By the way, good luck trying to run a public school, or any other secular institution for that matter, while using your definition of religion. Governments could never, ever escape promoting several "religions". Science would be a religion, economics would be a religion, even history and physical fitness would be "religions" -- for all of those things, there are at least some people somewhere who take those things "most seriously".
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-09-09 08:53 AM
Response to Reply #104
105. In your last post, you were complaining about a "legalistic" definition: now you're complaining
the definition isn't legalistic enough! That is, of course, the sort of problem that results when one attempts to define "religion"

It would certainly be unfair for me to take my own definition of religion and to use it to draw conclusions about what Dawkins says. But, in fact, that observation is closely related to my objections to Dawkins: he begins from a definition of "religion" that essentially equates "religion" with "a belief in something like fairies" and proceeds to a denunciation of people who consider themselves "religious" and a denunciation of "theologians" based on the assumption that they cannot really mean anything different from the term than he himself means. The definition "whatever you take most seriously" is based on the theology of Paul Tillich, a socialist theologian who escaped Nazi Germany and spent the last part of his life coming to terms with the fact that allegedly rational modern scientific Europe had nearly destroyed itself in a war launched from its rational scientific center in Germany. If you do not like the definition, it nevertheless has some intellectual pedigree, since it resembles Durkheim's 1912 sociological definition that distinguishes "religion" as what is compared to "the sacred," in comparison to the merely "profane," a definition that does not involve the supernatural or particular cultural forms

Although you are right that a Tillich-like definition is inadequate for judicial purposes, it does actually capture a feature of the many first amendment lawsuits around freedom of religion: when, for example, a child insists that she cannot be made to salute the flag or that he cannot be required to acknowledge school-sponsored prayers, the underlying claim has the form you cannot require me to abandon the fact that I take something more seriously than this
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-09-09 03:14 PM
Response to Reply #105
108. The only "complaint" I had about the legalistic definition you linked to...
...was that it didn't seem very appropos to the discussion, either to Dawkins views on religion or in getting around the "fairies" thing. To the extent that government concerns itself with such things (which, as I stated before, I wish it didn't) perhaps that definition is as good as it gets when you don't have a generalized protection for all forms of freedom of conscience. I have no desire at the moment to deeply study the minutiae of all of that legalize in order to form a more detailed opinion.

It would certainly be unfair for me to take my own definition of religion and to use it to draw conclusions about what Dawkins says. But, in fact, that observation is closely related to my objections to Dawkins: he begins from a definition of "religion" that essentially equates "religion" with "a belief in something like fairies" and proceeds to a denunciation of people who consider themselves "religious" and a denunciation of "theologians" based on the assumption that they cannot really mean anything different from the term than he himself means.

Dawkins "proceeds to a denunciation of people who consider themselves 'religious'", does he? Where have you seen him do that? In the same kind of context where you have "seen" him denounce Harry Potter? Do you have anything better than someone else's second-hand opinion of Dawkins to go on for that, anything better than a sentence or two taken out of context where Dawkins hasn't weighed down each and every utterance with a dozen or so caveats in futile hope that someone somewhere won't confuse his criticism of a belief with criticism of the very person of the believer?

As for Tillich, I can somewhat understand his approach, even if I don't much care for it. (I'd say more, but that's already a tangent on a tangent about government and religion.) Dawkins can hardly be held accountable for making everything he says about religion take Tillich's particular views into consideration, and all the other possible views of religion, as long as he's stated a few general caveats and has made his own usage of terms like "religion" and "faith" clear. In my opinion, he's done that quite adequately.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-09-09 08:44 PM
Response to Reply #108
109. Dawkins accuses the religious of spreading some sort of mind virus, that stunts
the intellectual growth of children and causes war and xenophobia. There is nothing scientific about this style of sweeping denunciation, unsupported real evidence, and the pretense that his "caveats" somehow elevate the polemic is sophomoric

http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/Dawkins/viruses-of-the...
http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/booksellers/press_r...
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-10-09 08:53 AM
Response to Reply #109
111. Ignore caveats, then talk about "sweeping denunciation".
Yes, a lot of things become sweeping when you discount all attempts at not being sweeping. :eyes:

As for "nothing scientific": In The God Delusion, Dawkins is engaged in social commentary. It's my opinion (and obviously not yours) that he marshals his facts and reasons well, he does a good job of leaving anything speculative open to examination. That's as good as it gets in any sort of social or political commentary where you can't perform controlled experiments and isolate all variables.

I think the past eight years would have been a whole lot better, and that we'd be in much less of a mess now, if Gore became President in 2000 instead of Bush. No matter how much of a reasoned argument I tried to make for that, no matter how well documented my case, a right-winger could easily scream at me that I'm "not being scientific" and that I can't prove that. So what? Instead of petulantly demanding an impossible level of proof, the only intellectually honest response would be to point out any factual errors or bad reasoning on my part, and to offer a compelling alternative argument.

Would you rather make this into a childish game of, "Ha, ha, Mr. Scientist! You're not so scientific after all, huh?"?
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Commie Pinko Dirtbag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-06-09 07:44 PM
Response to Original message
62. The author lost me at that "Enron" cheap shot. Infantilic. -nt
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-06-09 11:22 PM
Response to Reply #62
65. That may not be a cheap shot. The book was one of several popularizing biological ideas,
Edited on Wed May-06-09 11:22 PM by struggle4progress
that all appeared around the same time and that were lauded by free-marketeers and conservatives as proving the natural rightness of the "selfishness is good" hypothesis. The other really well-known instance is Wilson's Sociobiology. Dawkins pitched the title to his publishers before he had actually written any text, and the publishers considered it a potentially red-hot sales item, based on the controversy that had attended Wilson's publication. Whatever Dawkins' actual political and economic views were at the time, it seems likely he picked the title in hopes of boosting sales by producing some such controversy; and the book title, at least, has been regularly cited by free-marketeers and conservatives ever since. Whether they, or Enron's Skillings, ever actually made a serious stab at reading any of the book, beyond the front material, is a different question, of course

<for some pre-publication info, see:>
The selfish gene at 30: the origin and career of a book and its title
http://rsnr.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/61/1/31....
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ChadwickHenryWard Donating Member (692 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 01:53 PM
Response to Reply #65
76. The selfish gene theory as morality is laughable.
Dawkins writes in TSG that the gene is the central unit of natural selection and provides the math to back it up. A gene, because of natural selection, always acts in its own favor. Stated mathematically, a gene that codes for behavior or traits that benefit copies of said gene will increase its representation in the gene pool at the expense of any alleles. This is all the theory says. It yields no moral maxims.

It's more than a little fatuous to attempt to draw any kind of moral code from that. No man thinks, "How will this action benefit my genes?" before doing something. That would just be silly. In fact the very existence of morality represents the genes confounding themselves. The brain is essentially a gamble on the part of your genes. The group of genes that code for your brain are essentially wagering that your brain will perform behaviors that will better provide for that specific cartel of genes' interests than any behavior those genes themselves could code. This obviously has been the case in the past, considering the huge increase in the size of the hominid brain in over the past seven million years. But morality itself represents behavior taking other considerations than the interest of the genes.

Of course, if the social Darwinists really cared about their genes, they would be making clones instead of having children because children only have half their genes. But because it is a philosophy and not a gene that is responsible for their behavior, the whole thing doesn't make sense to begin with.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 03:38 AM
Response to Reply #76
88. You need not convince me that "social darwinism" has little to do with Darwin's
science, nor need you convince me that scientific theories are more or less irrelevant to moral theorizing. On the other hand, we have at least of century and a half of social propaganda that conflates Darwin's science with certain self-justifying views of the ruling elite, and that propaganda is not going to vanish any time soon, as far as I can tell. My post concerned choice of the book title, and the reasons the publisher was excited: "social darwinist" controversies did contribute to the interest in the book, and the publisher expected in advance that they would. Given that beginning, it is unsurprising that the title has had a long shadow career among laissez-faire enthusiasts who may indeed simply be sprinkling the title into their conversations without having actually read the text

Whether one regards Dawkins' book as a particularly good popular exposition of science is a different question. Of course, the gene is the fundamental unit of heredity, so one expects that changes passed to the next generation will be changes at the genetic level -- but the real story will be much more complicated. Although random drift and catastrophe affect the entire genome, the regular selective pressures do not really act at the level of genotype but at least at the level of phenotype; there was, for example, a nice survey article in the American Scientist about a decade back on some known mechanisms by which the environment affected gene expression in offspring (in some species), producing a temporary pseudo-Lamarckian inheritance effects. Unexpressed or only partially expressed genes may affect reproductive fitness, not of a single generation but of a lineage, so that at time scales exceeding the lives of individuals a gene might be neutral or even slightly harmful much of the time but might irregularly be very beneficial for the survival and reproduction of the individual carrying it. My point is that evolutionary pressure does not act directly at the level of the gene but at a much higher level, though the permanent trace is left in the genetic library
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ChadwickHenryWard Donating Member (692 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 12:39 PM
Response to Reply #88
99. Yes, Libertarians love the book.
Though I don't know how helpful it has been to their movement. I've seen the book on a list of recommended reading dominated by Rand and the Austrian School, as well as The Bell Curve. They just like it because it has the word "selfish." I don't have the book with me, but I recall reading in the 30th anniversary edition that Dawkins regrets using the word in the title, not because it's wrong (he still stands by the description) but because of the amount of trouble it has caused him.

I've never heard about these psuedo-Lamarkian traits. Can you tell me more about that?
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 03:18 PM
Response to Reply #99
100. The broad outline was something like this: there are species known, for which it is
possible to manipulate certain characteristics of one generation by manipulating certain aspects of the environment of the previous generation; what is actually happening is not really permanently affecting the genome; certain biochemical markers are being laid down that have an effect on (say) the next generation but not their offspring

IIRC, the models were aquatic vertebrates, probably fish

I probably can't locate references quickly by search engine, since the examples were fairly specialized and this is not my field of expertise
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ChadwickHenryWard Donating Member (692 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 09:37 PM
Response to Reply #100
101. What are we talking about here?
Changing the parents' body chemistry? That's something I'd really like to study if I ever go back to school.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 10:03 PM
Response to Reply #101
102. You should probably look for something like "DNA methylation"
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-06-09 10:33 PM
Response to Original message
64. Sir Richard rides forth to slay another dragon (October 2008)
by Alan Jacobs
10/29/08

Richard Dawkins has a new crusade: he has declared war on fantasy especially works of fantasy for children. Well, thats not quite fair he claims a degree of uncertainty ... He doesnt know but boy howdy, does he have suspicions. In fact, he even wonders whether his parents carelessness in overseeing his own youthful reading material may have damaged him in some way ... Dawkins has precisely the same suspicions of fantasy and fairy tale that many fundamentalist Christians do ...

Long ago, C. S. Lewis wrote, About once every hundred years some wiseacre gets up and tries to banish the fairy tale. Why? It is accused of giving children a false impression of the world they live in. But I think that no literature that children could read gives them less of a false impression. I think what profess to be realistic stories for children are far more likely to deceive them. I never expected the real world to be like fairy tales. I think that I did expect school to be like the school stories. The fantasies did not deceive me; the school stories did ...

Thats from an essay called On Three Ways of Writing for Children, and Dawkins should read it before proceeding further in his research into this topic. But I dont think that likely. It seems to be a rule with Dawkins that when he disapproves of something, he makes sure not to read people who know anything about it before making his own pronouncements ... http://www.theamericanscene.com/2008/10/29/sir-richard-...
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 07:49 AM
Response to Reply #64
68. Why not link to the article about Dawkins too?
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/3255972/Harry-Potter-fa...

Even the title of that article is a bit sensationalistic compared to the content.

Dawkins (emphasis mine): "I haven't read Harry Potter, I have read Pullman who is the other leading children's author that one might mention and I love his books. I don't know what to think about magic and fairy tales."

From the above article (emphasis mine): "Prof Dawkins said he wanted to look at the effects of 'bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards'.

Dawkins (emphasis mine): "I think it is anti-scientific whether that has a pernicious effect, I don't know."

Ah, but from the article you linked to (emphasis mine): "It seems to be a rule with Dawkins that when he disapproves of something, he makes sure not to read people who know anything about it before making his own pronouncements."

Yes, yes, it must be that all no matter what Dawkins says about researching his new book or looking into things that he doesn't really mean it.

You, and the article you linked to, appear to be desperately groping for anything you can oversimplify or distort about Dawkins so that you can get a good sneer going.
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Commie Pinko Dirtbag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 08:03 AM
Response to Reply #68
69. Wow, he sounds... reasonable. But he must NOT sound reasonable! Must NOT! He's EEEEEEVUL!
Hence struggle4progress's choice of links.
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skepticscott Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 10:56 AM
Response to Reply #68
71. But exactly what does Dawkins mean by
"bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards"? Is he talking about parents teaching their kids that all of the things in the fantasy books they read really exist, and getting mad at them when they question or don't accept that, the same way that parents teach their kids that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit really exist, and fight tooth and nail to keep them from disabusing themselves of that notion? That doesn't seem likely.

Children engage in all kinds of fantasy play and make-believe when they're young, with varying degrees of disconnection from reality, but through normal development, they almost always move on. Dawkins knows that perfectly well. Sure, some parents choose not to deceive their children about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, even though those little delusions are always grown out of and cause no long term harm, but it's hard to imagine Dawkins or anybody else thinking that children should be permitted NO fantasy life at all.
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 01:02 PM
Response to Reply #71
72. If I were to guess what Dawkins is interested in here...
...is if all of the exposure to magical thinking, without much counterbalance in rational thinking, predisposes children toward the accepted-in-the-adult-world magical thinking of religion and other woo. There are obviously many adults who haven't "grown out of" things like "The Secret", believing that if they only wish hard enough they can make it their wishes come true.

If he does see a pattern after researching this more, I can hardly see him jumping on the bandwagon with the fundies to ban Harry Potter. Likely he'd simply recommend some additional alternative materials where rational thinking pays off, and parents having discussions with their kids about these issues.
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moggie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 02:54 PM
Response to Reply #72
81. He says he loves imaginative fiction
I NEVER said I was going to take on Harry Potter. I have never even read Harry Potter. All I did was to muse, aloud, on how interesting it might be to do RESEARCH on the possible effects on scientific education of children's stories about magic spells. I had in mind not Harry Potter at all (I've never read him, so how would I "take him on") but Hans Anderson, Grimm, and the Arabian Nights. I never said I was against magic stories, merely that I'd be interested to see some research done. Yet from this -- you might think harmless -- curiosity about possible educational research, I find myself accused of hostility to fiction, hostility to imagination, hostility to children, hostility to science fiction -- all of which I of course love.

http://www.richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&...
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 03:37 PM
Response to Reply #81
83. He's just back-pedaling now! We know he's a monster!
He can't hide it! Dawkins hates Harry Potter! Dawkins is going to take away all of your kids' books and toys and movies and cartoons and force every last child into dull, lifeless scientific reeducation camps!

And THEN he's going to steal Christmas!!! :mad: :mad: :mad:

Well, unless...


... a band of plucky, courageous children, and their adorable pooch, team up to foil his evil plans by finding their way into his cold heart, showing him how there's still magic and love in the world, if only you BELIEVE! :bounce: :loveya: :hug: :grouphug: :puke:
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ChadwickHenryWard Donating Member (692 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 01:07 PM
Response to Original message
73. Dawkins on Skilling:
"I was mortified to read in The Guardian that The Selfish Gene is the favourite book of Jeff Skilling, CEO of the infamous Enron corporation, and that he derived inspiration of a Social Darwinist character from it.... I have tried to forestall similar misunderstandings in my new preface to the thirtieth anniversary edition of The Selfish Gene...."


This is taken, not insignificantly, from The God Delusion.

In the titular essay of A Devil's Chaplain, Dawkins says the following:

"As an academic scientist I am a passionate Darwinian.... But at the same time that I support Darwinism as a scientist, I am a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics and how we should conduct human affairs.... I have always held true to the closing words of {The Selfish Gene}, 'We, alone on Earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.'"


1. Dawkins does not claim that Christianity is evolutionarily harmful. He claims it is harmful for other reasons. Dawkins has made it quite clear that he does not draw his morality from evolutionary theory (see above quotes.)

2. Claims made without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. You can claim that evolution acts on the social group, but until you can prove it all I will do is laugh.

3. This has always seemed like a silly criticism to me. Dawkins is always decried for speaking outside the area of his expertise, but that doesn't matter at all. Either his ideas are right or they are wrong. That objection entirely forgoes any substantial argument with his ideas. If he's wrong, why not just say why? Attacking his credentials is irrelevant.

"...and religionat least in Judeo-Christian forms, is also significantly based on evidentially motivated beliefs, carefully assessed."


Okay, that made me laugh.

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Commie Pinko Dirtbag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 03:36 PM
Response to Reply #73
82. Nice smackdown. Welcome to DU!
:hi:
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ChadwickHenryWard Donating Member (692 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 09:17 AM
Response to Reply #82
91. Thank you.
This is actually my third incarnation at DU. My previous two names went out the window when I stopped using their attached email addresses. I've been gone for a while though, so I will heartily accept your welcome.
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Commie Pinko Dirtbag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 11:03 AM
Response to Reply #91
96. And they were...?
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ChadwickHenryWard Donating Member (692 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 11:55 AM
Response to Reply #96
97. I honestly don't remember.
That goes back a couple of years. Probably not anybody you'd recognize. I wasn't very prolific.
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