anyone see dawkins on uk TV last night

bananabrain

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saw the eminent dr richard dawkins (or "ranting rick") socking it to religionists on channel 4 last night. here's a link to the website.

http://www.channel4.com/culture/microsites/C/can_you_believe_it/debates/rootofevil1.html

dr dawkins is at his most interesting and convincing when he's giving darwinian explanations for things. however, when he's getting outraged about "judeo-christian superstition", he just comes across as a very angry man with no sense of nuance about religion. he just thinks it's stupid and that all religious people are basically evil liars. now, fair enough, he's entitled to his opinions, but i get rather irritated when he reduces the entire religious experience to the PoV of literalist christian bible-bashers. it is not evident from the programme that he has the slightest knowledge of how the Torah works from a traditional jewish PoV, nor did he appear to be interested in knowing. he just takes the text, interprets it himself and then tells off these rather bemused midwestern fundamentalists for their views. it was, rather unfortunately, a systematic misrepresentation of judaism to include it in this even as inspiration. the one bit of judaism in the programme was him insulting rabbi herschel gluck (an extremely good man who i am proud to count as a friend) and then refusing to allow him to answer. i was disappointed.

b'shalom

bananabrain
 
Hello Bananabrain


I watched the first episode and didn't bother to watch the second. He is known in the Creationists circles as a brilliant scientist, in the sense that he knows his stuff, but more dangerously so how to magically put his abiogenesis theories across as if they are fact. Gloss that appeals to the public. As you say, his Darwinian diatribe is seemingly convincing, but the most absurd theorising are his ideas on abiogenesis.... making animate life from inanimate life.... on paper only, that is....With a few twists of the pen and a sprinkling of spice, it all becomes real !





On this programme he challenges theologians, but he has very little knowledge and understanding about the scriptures, pre-translational concepts, and the workings of God. The programme was contrived, and was basically a vehicle to promote his atheism. It all seemed to be soft targeting.
He has apparently refused a challenge to debate his theories by creationists on a pro-creationist website, and if he did actually take up debate with some creation scientist theologians that I've come across, his evo-abiogenesis theories and anti-theological ideas would be put to the test.





I did get the impression that he was rankled with religion, and is atheistic because of religions history of war-mongering, he seemed to be primarily searching for answers as to why we have to kill in the name of God all of the time. In this sense I sympathised with him and saw him in a different light….thinking that maybe he is closer to God than he realises.

 
I saw the listing, but didn't feel like forcing myself to watch a program evangelising secular fundamentalism...
 
Also notable was his choice of representatives of Christianity - I know he's going to extremes to make a point - but as a newspaper critic said, it would have been better to see him go up against a Professor of Moral Theology, rather than some easy-target evangelist.

I think the programme was fundamentally dishonest from that perspective.

Thomas
 
i only saw the second one, in fact - and i was struck by the way he was spectacularly rude to the hasidic rabbi he interviewed at the beginning, if only because said hasidic rabbi is a mate of mine and one of the most right-on people you could want to meet. it's such a shame, because it could have been quite an interesting programme, but at the end of the day, those sensible chaps and chappesses at "spiked" make my point for me:

http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/0000000CAF1A.htm
http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/0000000CAF20.htm

have a read!

b'shalom

bananabrain
 
I actually quite enjoyed the program, as much as I would enjoy a program made by a Jew or Christian, for example, about their beliefs.

This man's religion is science, and he believes in it strongly enough to tell us that it is not a belief, it is the truth, much like a man with strong theistic convictions might say about his religion.

I do think he was quite rude to a number of the people he interviewed, and that was not really acceptable.

He did choose some very extremist people to interview, but how else should he demonstrate his point if not by showing us what religion can do at it's worst?!

And I must say that I do agree with one of his main points, (I think it was the main theme of the 2nd episode) that some of the things God and his people do in the OT are, by today's standards, not just immoral/unethical, they are downright evil.

All in all, it certainly was not a balanced argument for/against religion, but there have been plenty of theistic programs on TV, why not some Atheistic ones too?
 
The trouble I have with that approach, is that there's an aggressive argument in Islam that claims that scientific rationalism is directly responsible for the major genocides in the 20th century.

Would Channel 4 really care to produce a program that shows scientists are evil and demonstrate science at it's worst is representational of science as a whole?

IMO, that would be the inevitable balance to Dawkin's approach.
 
I said:
The trouble I have with that approach, is that there's an aggressive argument in Islam that claims that scientific rationalism is directly responsible for the major genocides in the 20th century.

Would Channel 4 really care to produce a program that shows scientists are evil and demonstrate science at it's worst is representational of science as a whole?

IMO, that would be the inevitable balance to Dawkin's approach.

I think you are right I, Brian. The polemics will just get more and more extreme with each swing of the pendulum. Maybe that's what it takes to eventually get people back to the center--to see the very worst of each side. Not that I condone that, esp in this age of nuclear destruction, polemics and extremists can be more dangerous than ever before.

lunamoth
 
bananabrain said:
he just thinks it's stupid and that all religious people are basically evil liars.
You have the ability to read minds?

I said:
Would Channel 4 really care to produce a program that shows scientists are evil and demonstrate science at it's worst is representational of science as a whole?

IMO, that would be the inevitable balance to Dawkin's approach.
I missed the show. Did Richard Dawkins accuse religious people of being evil? That would certainly be intolerant.
 
I don't think he went so far as to say that all religious people were "Evil Liars" (although I would say that a few actually are) He simply considers them (us) to be irrational.

By the way, Jaiket, good to see you posting again, I for one have missed your input.
 
Jaiket said:
You have the ability to read minds?

I missed the show. Did Richard Dawkins accuse religious people of being evil? That would certainly be intolerant.
Here are some Dawkins quotes for your consideration, although they are not from this specific television program.
 
Ok. I had a little sift through some random Dawkins articles.

While I am prepared to agree and argue the points he makes regarding biology, in concern to religion he's on his own. He does actually appear to believe religion turns people into frothing loonies. I want it to be clear that I do not share his convictions.
 
Hi folks :)


I think I have said before on another thread that Mr Dawkins is a career athiest. This programe demonstrates that and then some, (wish I could get paid what he does for being so unoriginal :p). In that same light however most of his interviews were to career religionists. I think the world would be a much better place if people learned to disregard all of them and look in their own hearts for answers.

Regards

TE
 
This documentary hasn't been shown in my neck of the words but from the Web site descriptions & the reviews I've read here, it sounds like he's speaking out of alarm and frustration as much as anything. As a scientist & rationalist, he naturally distrusts the irrational and is quite understandably alarmed when he sees the irrational on the rise.

Defending the rational is one of Dawkins' preoccupations. Defending religion, which makes a special study of the irrational, is the preoccupation of many of the participants in these forums. Unfortunately, that often results in either/or statements that lead nowhere.

The more fruitful thinking I feel explores how all these tendencies interpenetrate. When Brian talks about "secular fundamentalism", it may be on one level only a polemical jab, but on another it shows how slippery & interconnected these ideas are. In one of the articles BB points to, the writer talks about the close relationship between religion & humanism in Europe. They're not either/or. They over-lap.

But the either/or world is hard to break down. We must always be defending one ideological order as against another. Totalitarian thinking must be religious, or it must be secular. Terrorism must be exclusively powered by modern ideology, or it must be a purely religious phenomena. And to point to an underlying identity in these modes of thinking is usually to invite little more than flames - or silence.

Or you can call it "nothing to do with" thinking. My religion, discipline, philosophy, tradition, sect, pastor, rabbi has nothing to do with that aberration, that error; there is no relation.

Why? Because I'm under threat. My science, my Christianity, my Judaism, my Buddhism, my system of government is under threat, and I will defend it. And while defending it I have no time for underlying identities, only for surface differences.

Funny how everything & everybody is under threat. I guess this is as good a definition of samsara as any.

So Dawkins was over the top. Like every outraged rationalist he retreats from the irrational in a spirit of disgust & fear. But I don't think we can retreat from the facts he points to. We don't have to make the same mistake.

Or maybe I'm just naive. Maybe we can never let down our ideological guard, even here.

But I'll leave off with a question: deeply ensconced in any tradition, however well-taught, can we really know what it is? Can we really see, under, over, around & through?
 
Hi Devadatta - nice post.

If I were to p[lay devil's advocate, and if we're going to be precise, then should not "... Defending religion, which makes a special study of the irrational ... " be disqualified?

The point here is polemical postitions are often taken, or positions polarised, when one side determines the ground of a debate and presents the other with an a priori determination - eg religion being irrational.

Aquinas among others has presented rational evidence, if not proof, for a belief in God, and I feel sure that these 'proofs' are no stronger nor weaker than the scientists' approach to some of their own findings.

And if the 'belief' that science will find a cure for all humanity's ills is not a leap of faith, I don't know what is.

Evolution after all is still a theory, it has yet to be proven.

Dawkins stands perilously on the threshold of becoming a caricature of himself, religion has become, it seems, his bête noir, and he pursues it with gusto. I would be interested to hear his response to his own community on issues such as multiple universes, which although way beyond proof, are almost a 'given' in some fields of Quantum mechanics.

Then again, even science proceeds by faith, the process of believing something to be the case, and then working towards it. Einstein's rejection of the emerging Quantum mechanics was founded in a belief in his own system and a rejection of theirs, even when the 'evidence' was coming down in their favour. I was a stance that left him increasingly isolated towards the end of his career.

I think the argument boils down to whether or not 'proof by empirical means' should become a baseline test by which everything is either accepted or rejected as 'real', or whether we allow for the possibility that there's more to this world than meets the eye.

Might I suggest, in closing, that we add 'evolution' to the Dawkins 'Index of the Irrational' (if not Dawkins himself)? It's been around centuries (the theory, not Dawkins), and yet still no-one can prove it, worse still, we are obliged to assume that if one element works (survival of the fittest) then we have to buy the whole caboodle (a species changes into a different species), made more difficult, as I understand it, as we learn more and more about DNA?

Sounds like a decidedly dodgey theory to me ...

Thomas
 
Devadatta said:
But the either/or world is hard to break down. We must always be defending one ideological order as against another. Totalitarian thinking must be religious, or it must be secular. Terrorism must be exclusively powered by modern ideology, or it must be a purely religious phenomena. And to point to an underlying identity in these modes of thinking is usually to invite little more than flames - or silence.
I think that a quote posted not long ago by lunamoth will help to provide some balance to this polarizing issue:
Faith, without depending on reason for the slightest shred of justification, never contradicts reason and remains ever reasonable. Faith does not destroy reason, but fulfills it. Nevertheless, there must always remain a delicate balance between the two. Two extremes are to be avoided: credulity and skepticism; superstition and rationalism. If this balance is upset, if man relies too much on his five senses and on his reason when faith should be his teacher, then he enters into illusion. Or when, in defiance of reason, he gives the assent of his faith to a fallible authority, then too he falls into illusion. Reason is in fact the path to faith, and faith takes over when reason can say no more. (Ascent to Truth)--Thomas Merton
Thomas said:
I think the argument boils down to whether or not 'proof by empirical means' should become a baseline test by which everything is either accepted or rejected as 'real', or whether we allow for the possibility that there's more to this world than meets the eye.
Where logical deduction and induction breaks down, there is still the Principle of Reciprocity, or The Golden Rule can still be applied as a diagnostic test as to an otherwise intangible concept can be tested both in its content and in its application as to whether it will be beneficial or harmful. This should provide some reasurrance for those who have an irrational fear of the irrational...
 
- Some very good points. I won't take issue so much as offer supplements.

- When I talked about religion specializing in the irrational I was only trying to state the obvious - which is my specialty, blowhard that I am. Religion polices the irrational on the everyday level of superstition and ordinary craziness - this is particularly noticed when that policing breaks down, in cases for example like suicide bombers or the KKK. And then it specializes in the Irrational in the larger sense of ultimate realties beyond reasoning, which science on principle excludes (a compelling reason for this I hope to show below). That's the well-known division of labour.

- So of course that doesn't mean reason has no place in religion, but again it's obvious and admitted in all traditions that you can't get there from here, that reason is useful in building doctrinal systems, among other practical social & political tasks, but that the God that can be logically demonstrated is not God. (The Book of Job makes the cognate point: the God that requires justification is not God.)

- I appreciate the quote from the great Thomas Merton, but here I think we need to keep it in context. He's speaking out of the Catholic tradition and its idea of Natural Reason, which I guess they would contend comes from God and so naturally tends toward belief in God. As a non-Catholic I might agree that one can find belief in God reasonable through natural reason, but that one is not compelled to belief in God through reason, i.e., there is no compelling, universal demonstration through reason of God's existence. Catholic theology, in fact, finally holds as much: all reasoning in the end is so much straw. I guess the difference would be in how much one feels reason really "tends" to make belief reasonable. My feeling is that various kinds of reasoning are only helps to particular sorts of minds in need of them; indirectly, they clear the path.

- The Buddhists have a word for this: upaya, or skilful means. In parallel with theistic traditions, the Nirvana, which can be logically demonstrated, is not Nirvana. Nagarjuna rigorously deconstructed all the philosophical positions of his day, not to end in nihilism, but in support of the core Buddhist doctrines of the Four Noble Truths & Eightfold Path.

- Similarly, Descartes employed radical doubt in the service of revealed truth.

- On the science side of the equation, the ideal is that all theories are provisional, and I agree with others here that when a scientist falls into dogma he's fallen off the wagon.

- I guess the problem comes in when theories become so well established they're taken for granted.

- But here I'd like to make a distinction between fact and description, which I think get easily confused. Take a really common example. We continue to say the sun rises & sets, though we're well aware that there are more accurate ways to describe these phenomena. We continue to use the old descriptors out of habit, because there's no pressing need to be more accurate and - most importantly - because it would screw up a lot of songs & poetry.

- I think the same applies to scientific descriptions, right through to the most sophisticated mathematics - which after all are only more rigorous types of language.

- So the issue is not the facts of electricity or gravity, say, but how they're conceived & described. I think this applies to even the most basic relations & functions. For example, the formula "the force of gravity varies in inverse relation to distance" depends on a certain conceptual order, and a certain understanding of gravity - which the last I've heard we still don't fully understand. A better understanding of gravity will likely dislocate - without disproving - current descriptors and bring in others.

- So here we've come to the core reason for mainstream science excluding the irrational. The party line is of course that scientific method by definition cannot be applied to these questions, and of course this consideration can't be discounted. But here I'm suggesting that there's a deeper problem of description. If we look at scientific writing, data & research as a kind of canon, then it's a canon that must remain open. The universe is the same but our descriptors must constantly evolve.

- Of course a distinguishing feature of Abrahamic religions in particular has been a closed canon, which has made the perceived conflict more acute in the West than anywhere else, but probably all traditions suffer from a degree of "closedness".

- But I guess the difficulty comes from the side of science as well, not from all scientists, but only those that suffer from a bigoted idea that it's their duty to dispel "myths" or "disprove" the bible.

- As I pointed out above, properly speaking, new descriptors only dislocate - which may be upsetting enough - but never in my view disprove the old ones.

- No myth is ever dispelled. The Bible remains true, the Vedas remain true, the Pali Canon is in full force, especially as expressions of the human condition, but may be located differently.

- Saints preserve me from all dispellers of myths. How can you understand anything that's been dispelled?

- Put me down for the opening of all canons - it will collapse the false distinction between religion & science, and lead to better policing & cooler concepts.
 
Thomas said:
Evolution after all is still a theory, it has yet to be proven.

...

Might I suggest, in closing, that we add 'evolution' to the Dawkins 'Index of the Irrational' (if not Dawkins himself)? It's been around centuries (the theory, not Dawkins), and yet still no-one can prove it, worse still, we are obliged to assume that if one element works (survival of the fittest) then we have to buy the whole caboodle (a species changes into a different species), made more difficult, as I understand it, as we learn more and more about DNA?

Sounds like a decidedly dodgey theory to me ...

Thomas

Hi Thomas, I wonder if these quips above are part of your game of devil's advocate, or perhaps a flourish of rhetoric?

Let me flip this on its head. The point of having a theory is not so much to prove it as to try to disprove it. Each time we fail to disprove the theory it gets stronger, each time we find a weakness in the theory we then seek to refine the model, again ultimately making it stronger. Evolution is the strongest theory modern science has to explain the phenomenae we see in the variety of species, in the fossil record, in the genetic code. As scientific theories go it is far far from "decidedly dodgey."

Even the Vatican tells us that there is no need to try to refute the ToE, that evolutionary science is not at odds with our Creation by God.

But I agree with all points above that Dawkins, in his zeal, becomes the mirror image of those religious fanatics he attacks.

peace,
lunamoth
 
Yes. I was being something of a devil's advocate (a catholic delight, methinks)

By every stretch an amateur, yet I delight in the sciences, and the wonders they reveal to us (although I do think Darwin will come in for some revision). I recall a scientist talking on TV with regard to Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time' - which I did read, and like, (its underlying metaphysic is more in accord with Scripture than the 'Big Bang',) but can only accept in faith - his comment was that a 'good' theory has two qualities; its appears beautiful in its simplicity, and it ties up a number of unrelated loose ends. Sadly, apparently, Hawking's hypothesis causes more problems than it solves, which mars its beauty...

I even like listening to scientists talk about their specialities...

And by flipping my theory on its head, you have shown the progress of Christological theology. The definitions of Ephesus through to Chalcedon and beyond were ever refinements of a general theory of the humanity and Divinity of the Son, that Jesus was He of whom the Apostles preached, true God and true man, without 'division', 'confusion', 'change' or 'separation'.

Subjectively (I have recounted this before), my favourite moment was listening to a scientist explain that the atomic structure of the heavy elements of the periodic table can only be produced in the furnaces of the stellar nebulae, and those elements are found within the human organism - we are indeed, stardust. Wonderful!

[aside - read this, it's delighful: http://origins.colorado.edu/uvconf/white_final/node5.html
can't understand a bloomin' word]

There was a moment (sadly momentary) when I understood Pythagoras' theorem as a mathematician drew diagrams in the sand ... of the Greek mathematician who placed two sticks in the sand a mile apart, and from the angle of the shadows worked out the world was round, and roughly 24,000 miles in diameter (he was right to within 100 miles!).

... It makes me wonder if we should cease to become bedazzled of the wonders of science, and rather look in awe upon that which we call 'mind' and which reveals these wonders to us ...

Anyway ... back to my essay on The English Reformation'.

Pax,

Thomas
 
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