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They let anybody onto the faculty at Oxford nowadays - Comments

Audley Strange's Avatar Comment 1 by Audley Strange

Reason cannot debate with absurdity.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 16:27:00 UTC | #57446

v4ri4bl3's Avatar Comment 2 by v4ri4bl3

Excellent article. I caught myself thinking, "Wow. Dawkins' writing seems to be improving quite a bit," before I realized it was written by someone else.

No offense to Dawkins. I think he's brilliant. But I also think this guy is a better writer.

He doesn't seem to use too many words or, it would seem, any words that don't fit well or flow easily. A nearly perfect article.

I agree it is amazing to think how certain individuals are comfortable following this line of reasoning. It is so patently erroneous and yet they seem to fly by with it, no problem. But then again this is the whole problem with religious ideology in the first place. Convincing yourself that it is acceptable to believe nonsense.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 16:33:00 UTC | #57448

rmercad2's Avatar Comment 3 by rmercad2

"Reason cannot debate with absurdity."

No but it can kill it.

Intolerance for the intolerant!!!!

Atheist Jihad!!!!

Just kidding=)

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 16:34:00 UTC | #57449

Yorker's Avatar Comment 4 by Yorker

Very good article by PZ, one of his best I'd say.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 16:42:00 UTC | #57453

tieInterceptor's Avatar Comment 5 by tieInterceptor

I would dare anyone to read or 'look closely' at the Nicene Creed and be convinced by it (or even understand it truly).
But the dare has one rule, it must be presented to someone that has never been indoctrinated or know about Christianity (much).

no one would buy it served cold like that, I bet anything.

I doubt that McGrath really studied the text and found the phrases and logic of it 'just fine' and went with it. For him it was the other way around, Accepted the religion first, then the Creed was just another bit of text that had to be digested as part of the Christian package that Alister ordered...

basically he is dishonest, or deluded, probably a bit of both.

Amazing article, so enjoyable to read clear thinking.


Thu, 02 Aug 2007 16:43:00 UTC | #57455

rmercad2's Avatar Comment 6 by rmercad2

You guys don't like the idea of atheist jihad?

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 16:50:00 UTC | #57458

Monkey2's Avatar Comment 7 by Monkey2

When I first saw Alistar McGrath debating with RD. (#14 Top 100 Articles). I came away feeling very stupid because I couldn't follow AM's argument.

I thought it was because I was out of his league. Him being an Oxford Professor of Historical Theology.

Thank you PZ for demonstrating so clearly that he just talks nonsense.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 16:56:00 UTC | #57464

SRWB's Avatar Comment 8 by SRWB

What I would like to say is ... McGrath is still full of shit and Hitchens' comments about "enemas and being buried in a matchbox" came to mind!

PZ's article is outstanding. Lots of good info to add to the growing arsenal of reason and logic here.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 16:59:00 UTC | #57466

Linda's Avatar Comment 9 by Linda

Dawkins seems to terrify McGrath in this interview:,1212,Richard-Dawkins-and-Alister-McGrath,Root-of-All-Evil-Uncut-Interviews

He looks like he's wetting his pants trying to come up with a response to Dawkins that doesn't come across as utterly preposterous. McGrath tends to fumble while attempting to skirt the issues of his belief in science fiction tales of a virgin birth and the resurrection of corpses.

Most likely McGrath is only interested in keeping his job and pension plan after all his book sale revenues must be pathetic and no doubt his anti-TGL publishing attempts will quickly be sent to discounters' remainder shelves.

Meanwhile Mark Roberts another guy who calls himself a professional theologian (snake oil salesMAN) admitted to Hitchens that that his historian self could never believe such things but in wanting to maintain his job as a delusion peddler he had to say that yes resurrection is true.,1291,The-Great-God-Debate,Hugh-Hewitt-Show-Christopher-Hitchens-Mark-Roberts

Roberts is worried that loss of his belief system would be a personal Armageddon. There just aren't enough mental health counselors around obviously.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 17:03:00 UTC | #57468

troodon's Avatar Comment 10 by troodon

What a masterful dissection of McGrath's fuzzy ideas and contradictions. I'm looking forward to his book, "Natural Revelation".

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 17:07:00 UTC | #57469

jonecc's Avatar Comment 11 by jonecc


If you're not familiar with PZ Myers, it's well worth checking out his blog.

It's a mixture of science, secularism and Internet gossip, usually about the first two. Oh yeah, and he has this weird thing about squid. Mind you, since I started going there, so do I.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 17:12:00 UTC | #57470

Dr Benway's Avatar Comment 12 by Dr Benway

One moment he's claiming you can't study god like you would the possibility of water on Mars, and next he's claiming the validity of using observation and theory to justify the existence of the remote and directly unseen. How … inconsistent.
Hey, don't knock this sly strategy of equivocation. I've seen What the Bleep Do We Know? I know about The Secret. This flavor of bullshit can run many more years before everyone catches on. See Dianelos on the McGrath thread for a further taste.

The trick is to equivocate between metaphysical naturalism and methodological naturalism. Here's the game:

1. Establish that materialism, idealism, and deism are all reasonable metaphysical positions. Establish that science cannot offer any evidence to distinguish one metaphysical position from the other. Say, "God is outside science," or "non-overlapping magesteria."

2. Once you've got a metaphysical God on the table, a God outside reality, a God that cannot be proven or disproven using the scientific method, do a slide from metaphysics to physical reality. Give the metaphysical God interventionist qualities. Assert that your God became a man, died, rose from the dead, answers prayer, provides an inner knowing, etc.

3. Fail to note that an interventionist God becomes a part of our shared phenomenological world, and thus ought to be studied as we study all other phenomena. Fail to note that you've got no evidence for this God - a fatal flaw for your side. If anyone points this out, jump back to #1. Bamboozle.

4. Say, "Theism has more explanatory power concerning:
- those wacky QM observations
- consciousness; so mysterious!
- (insert other gap in scientific understanding).

Theism posits that God causes reality and consciousness. Naturalism (metaphysical naturalism) can't posit anything because naturalism (methodological naturalism) has all those ugly gaps!

5. Conclusion, an echo of #1 but with a twist: "Theism (interventionist God, part of physical reality) wins and naturalism (metaphysical naturalism) loses!"

6. Epilogue: Jesus, holy ghost, crackers, nice bits of the Bible, Dawkins is a fundie, buy my book, etc., etc.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 17:36:00 UTC | #57482

Zaphod's Avatar Comment 13 by Zaphod

I don't think PZ is a better writer than Richard as such but he is more abrasive and comedic. He combines reason and logic with some great quips and humour. Alistair McGrath is an intellectually dishonest flea and I am glad whenever anyone takes him down a peg. He seems to attack stupid atheist stereotypes and sometimes it as if he is just making shit up.

I am looking forward to PZ's book.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 18:17:00 UTC | #57500

ross's Avatar Comment 14 by ross

Excellent summation Dr. Benway.
All too often they try to have it both ways - God is outside of matter, (after all he created it, don't y'know), but can intervene without being detected.
This has been an exasperating line of argument.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 18:40:00 UTC | #57510

hasty toweling's Avatar Comment 15 by hasty toweling

I don't know about PZ being a better writer than Dawkins. They're both very good, but with two very different styles. PZ's concise prose may be a touch more effective at debating, but Dawkins' flair makes for fascinating science reading. I'm thinking in particular of The Ancestor's Tale or especially chapter two of The Selfish Gene.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 18:41:00 UTC | #57511

philos's Avatar Comment 16 by philos

I don't mind McGrath being Oxford Faculty; since Dawkins spends the time in debate with him in interviews and varied retort, Dawkins obviously respects him in some ways and not in others - and so worthy to throw the bone to on occasion.

That is what a Liberal Education is about.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 18:42:00 UTC | #57512

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 17 by robotaholic

How do you assign credibility to someone who thinks a talking snake coerced humankind into the slavery of doing things that an invisible sky being says is wrong? - this guy calls himself a scientist - that's bull*#)%- he may as well be a realian, believe in reptoids or faeries. To think that someone who has a magical worldview can criticize a preeminent British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and popular science writer- is utterly backwards. That psudoscientist author Alister McGrath will find no reader in me!

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 18:44:00 UTC | #57514

Crazymalc's Avatar Comment 18 by Crazymalc

Wow. Nice work.

I've never seen the alternative creed before. Very good.

This type of thinking was one step on my path to Atheism. I caught myself as one stage saying, "Hey wait a minute... A snake in a garden testing a whatsit, a dude on a cross fixing in, seven headed dragrons with three eyes eating the earth... Hmmmm."

Here ( is a talk from a lady who went through a similar stage and catching herself with her absurd beliefs

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 18:45:00 UTC | #57515

maton100's Avatar Comment 19 by maton100

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 19:03:00 UTC | #57526

philos's Avatar Comment 20 by philos

McGrath is an educated, reasonable man - in some ways better than others.

As to his credibility, that depends on what subject of course; Oxford University thinks he's credible in something. After all, they are the ones who brought him aboard.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 19:06:00 UTC | #57527

Goldy's Avatar Comment 21 by Goldy

Philos, so is Michael Behe at his university. Yet read this

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 19:09:00 UTC | #57529

troyreynolds86's Avatar Comment 22 by troyreynolds86


You shouldn't have felt bad about not understanding McGrath and don't ever think that because you cannot follow an argument that the argument comes from someone that is just out of your league. McGrath may be an Oxford theologian, and he is obviously intelligent and learned, but if ever you feel that way again about an argument that you cannot make heads or tails of just do a bit of reading and never assume yourself to be so inferior. Instead think of it as a failure of the speaker to clearly describe his position. I would doubt that any person on this website is sooooo mentally inferior to anyone that we can not understand the intelligable and able to recognize nonsense.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 19:20:00 UTC | #57532

philos's Avatar Comment 23 by philos

Therefore, all academics who aren't evolutionists and those who don't subscribe to the Darwinian worldview shouldn't be in a University? What about the English Department, who may know nothing, nor care, about evolution, them too? How absurd.

Please, look at the Liberal Education link provided above.

I'd love to debate more but gotta go
watch Behe on Colbert...


- a 6.8 Agnostic

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 19:26:00 UTC | #57533

waxwings's Avatar Comment 24 by waxwings

"no one would buy it served cold like that, I bet anything."

Haha, well said, sir.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 19:29:00 UTC | #57536

Veronique's Avatar Comment 25 by Veronique

5. Comment #60697 by tieInterceptor on August 2, 2007 at 5:43 pm

I think I'm pretty close to your stated criteria (but I am learning all the time:-))

Spot on, mate.

I really like PZ's writing, it's just different from Dawkins. I am so glad he's coming on board with the writers' team. One more:-)

Crazy, thanks for that link. Haven't seen it for ages. She's very good and very funny:-)


Thu, 02 Aug 2007 20:18:00 UTC | #57556

AdrianB's Avatar Comment 26 by AdrianB

Everything that I read or hear from this man always includes the phrase "I used to be an atheist....."

Does he really think this gives him some sort of moral high ground. It seems rather childish to keep on repeating this.

Does anybody else think he is just plain lying though?

Lying for God is okay I guess.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 22:28:00 UTC | #57566

ridelo's Avatar Comment 27 by ridelo

I'm envious about how PZ always knows how to poke his finger on the sore spot. Splendid article.
Oops, maybe I will be accused of belonging to his claque also!

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 22:45:00 UTC | #57568

Russell Blackford's Avatar Comment 28 by Russell Blackford

Anybody? Hmmmm, I might just test that next time there's a job in my field.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 22:53:00 UTC | #57569

Tumara Baap's Avatar Comment 29 by Tumara Baap

This isn't the first pot-shot I've seen hurled at Dawkins' writing, and frankly it's a little irritating. The only Dawkins book many of you have read is probably The God Delusion. TGD, in contrast to Dawkins earlier books like the superb Ancestor's Tale, is dumbed down for mass consumption ... imbued as it is with repetition and emphasis for the sake of clarity and glossed in a more layman language than what Dawkins' mind naturally revels in. A second point is that the British style is more embroidered with nuance and reflection at the expense of tight and punchy delivery. Some of us Americans are not used to this. (At least we don't have to put up with the tortuous ruminations of Russian analysis, or the comically coerced sophistication of the French, or the pithy hyberbole of Indians and Arabs!). Those who've read Dawkins' works more extensively no doubt consider him a writer par excellent.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 22:58:00 UTC | #57571

Russell Blackford's Avatar Comment 30 by Russell Blackford

What I actually find difficult about someone like McGrath is that he can't seem to make up his mind about whether to believe in God as some kind of transcendent explanation of how the universe comes to be ordered, or how reason comes to be trustworthy, or whatever exactly it is that he thinks needs explaining by the ontological prioity of reason and consciousness (or whatever the sophisticated view of God is supposed to be) ... while also believing in the barbaric and parochial doctrines of the Nicene Creed. I realise that there's no formal contradiction here, but the two mindsets are miles apart.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 23:17:00 UTC | #57573