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A Revelation - Comments

JD Cherry's Avatar Comment 1 by JD Cherry

That's Dr. Dawkins to you. Also what's "revalation"?

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 06:00:00 UTC | #74527

Matt H.'s Avatar Comment 2 by Matt H.

Not even Dr., he should be called Professor as he currently holds the Simonyi Chair at the University of Oxford!

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 06:13:00 UTC | #74531

Jiten's Avatar Comment 3 by Jiten

"creationist lunacy,"

That's not provocative,that's the truth!

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 06:22:00 UTC | #74533

MartinSGill's Avatar Comment 4 by MartinSGill

From what I understand of the US system a professor is anyone that teaches and hence seems to hold little respect.

In the UK a professor is an academic "rank" that ranks higher than Doctor. It's awarded to academics who have contributed significantly to their university. Where I studied Engineering, the head of the department position (of about 35 Phds) rotated biannually through only 4 professors.

I could, of course, be wrong, maybe it's even one of those state-to-state issues.

Anyone care to enlighten me?

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 06:37:00 UTC | #74539

MartinSGill's Avatar Comment 5 by MartinSGill

Oh.. as to the article... maybe it's just me... but it seemed very skewed towards Christianity and the theists.

Lennox wasn't criticised at all whereas Dawkins was infamous, provocative and picking an example of humour that implies RD was evading.

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 06:39:00 UTC | #74540

ChrisMcL's Avatar Comment 6 by ChrisMcL

Interesting. A review of the event from a religious person trying to be impartial. It's respectful, but not what I'd call unbiased.

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 06:45:00 UTC | #74541

Vendetta's Avatar Comment 7 by Vendetta

You are right, MartinSGill, there is a difference in terms of rank and title between the US and UK. You don't necessarily have to be a Dr. to be an instructor in a college (and hence be called a professor) although about 99% of professors have doctorate degrees or PHDs. There is no formal "professor" rank that is similar to what you have described in the UK. That explains some comments I've seen on here where people point out that they should address RD as PROFESSOR. Someone from the US (like myself) would read that comment and scratch their head, wondering what the big fuss is. Of course he's a professor since he works at a college, so what?

Thanks for explaining the uproar over the proper way to address RD. :)

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 06:54:00 UTC | #74543

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 8 by prettygoodformonkeys

"..whether it was Christianity that began the scientific revolution.."

Are you fucking kidding me? That same old saw again, that just because everyone in Christendom was by definition "Christian", then all of our accomplishments as a species have been therefore Christian.

It's true that Christianity, as a world view, has been intimately involved in the struggle for knowledge, namely during the centuries-long bloodbath called the Dark Ages (and long before) during which it monitored all thought like a pinch-brained, hook-nosed old crone, and suppressed every new idea for as long as it possibly could, then put a godly spin on its inevitable failure. Some contribution.

I hope it was quickly ridiculed, and that they moved on...

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 06:56:00 UTC | #74544

Matt H.'s Avatar Comment 9 by Matt H.

I see. Thanks for clearing that up. It always seemed disrespectful to me when in Q&A sessions (particularly the one at Virginia), people called him Doctor instead of Professor. As Martin points out, Professor is a title given in universities to Doctors who have proved themselves and contributed a great deal to their particular field. The head of Ancient History at the University of Manchester, where I studied last year, was Professor Tim Parkin. In honorific terms, he would rank above Dr. Daryn Lehoux, who ran my course on Rome.

So it's settled. To anyone from the UK, 'Professor' holds significant meaning. To anyone from the US, 'Professor' simply means teacher. That's a big difference, and it explains why he's known as Dr. more in the US.

Back to the article, its obviously biased from a Christian point of view, it's quite a shame really because I bet the people of Alabama are sick of having such idiots represent them.

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 07:01:00 UTC | #74546

davorg's Avatar Comment 10 by davorg

The title on the original web site is the more sensible-sounding "A Revelation".

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 07:03:00 UTC | #74547

Vendetta's Avatar Comment 11 by Vendetta

Forgive me for going off topic for a sec:

College and university are pretty interchangeable terms here in the US as well, which I understand is also a bigger difference for those of you across the pond.

Google answers: In a global context, the words "college" and "university" can
inspire confusion. Different countries use the same words to name
different things. What is usually called a "college" in Europe is
really more like the two-year institution called a "Community College"
in the U.S.

In the United States, when you ask someone what differentiates the
two, the first response is likely to be "not much"

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 07:18:00 UTC | #74555

bamafreethinker's Avatar Comment 12 by bamafreethinker

Living in the south (Alabama) is different I suppose. People are friendly and warm on average and you really wouldn't know that most people are fundamentalists unless you really pull it out of them. Most people just live out their lives and pretty much function day-to-day as if there was no god. I honestly believe that most people aren't really fundamentalists and instead they; a. enjoy the social benefits that come church-going, b. don't want to be an outcast, and c. go to church just in case it is real so they can avoid going to hell. A few years ago, when I traveled over the central and northern parts of the nation I found that the south has no monopoly on stupid Americans and there is plenty of closed-minded ignorance everywhere. Don't get me wrong there is a minority of people I know that seem to structure their lives around their religion, but they generally mind their own business. People may profess an unwavering faith, but their actions prove them to be paying lip-service – to some extent at least. I have worked at a company of about 600 for almost three years now and so far, I have not been asked one time about my beliefs or heard anyone talking religion at the water cooler. I think that faith is slowly dying in the south, but church-going is a little behind the curve. Hell, I even go to church because my family does and some of my best friends are Christians – hell… all of my friends are "Christians"… by title at least!

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 07:32:00 UTC | #74558

epeeist's Avatar Comment 13 by epeeist

Comment #78214 by Matt7895

Not even Dr., he should be called Professor as he currently holds the Simonyi Chair at the University of Oxford!

I would have had no problem with it if they hadn't called the moderator "Judge".

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 07:42:00 UTC | #74561

crazy4blues's Avatar Comment 14 by crazy4blues

I think that 'Bama has it about right, but I'd add, from my experiences in South Carolina, that religion as a cultrual trope is simply more visible. It was in the South that I first saw a sign in front of a church decrying the evils of Holloween! You'd never see anything like that in the liberal San Francisco Bay Area, but sentiments like that are very public in the South and the "fly-over" section of the U.S.

As the U.S. economy continues to worsen, the only cultural identifiers that people have are religion and political conservatism, Rush Limbaugh style. Neither one requires much thought or soul searching, if you will; it's simply the easy way out for someone suffering from the fact that the "American Dream" is no longer accessible for the middle class.

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 08:28:00 UTC | #74566

Roger Stanyard's Avatar Comment 15 by Roger Stanyard

Sometimes I despair when I see this sort of thing:

"That is the attitude that John Lennox says he was raised with. In a brief biographical statement at the beginning of the debate, Mr. Lennox described a childhood in Northern Ireland surrounded by "sectarian violence" in which his parents encouraged him to read everything and "develop an interest in the great questions of life."

"Mr. Dawkins, on the other hand, says he had a "harmless Anglican upbringing." As a teenager, he says he realized that his religion was merely an accident of his birth and soon thereafter gave up his faith. In some sense, it seems he was rebelling less against religion, per se, than against the kind of "harmless" worldview that simply glosses over "the great questions of life." And who can blame him? But if their interest in this debate is any marker, the people in this Birmingham audience did not come out of that tradition."

Naomi Schaeffer Riley seems incapable of recognising her own blatant irony. For 350 years the Anglican Church has kept the genie of religious extremism in the bottle for England. That it has failed to do so in Northern Ireland speaks for itself and the province. There is a straight issue here. The Deep South is riddled with religious extremism and is a menace to itself and the United States as a consequence. Strewth, Riley even quotes Lee Strobel and he is an out and out fundamentalist creationist. Lennox is touching on being a Northern Irish fundamentalist with his backing of Intelligent Design.

That province is infested with fundamentalism and its politics are putrid as a consequence.

Let's spell it out plainly. Fundamentalism in the USA is behind ludicrous dangerous pseudo-science, dominionism (the movement to make the USA a theocracy) and dispensationalism (a glorification of war and genocide). The Southern Baptist Convention has been controlled by extremists for years. Christian fundamentalism is exactly the same as Muslim fundamentalism. Scratch any fundamentalist and they are all the same underneath. They think that they are absolutely right and want to impose their religion on everyone else. It is not benign by a massive margin. That is the traditional that Birmingham, Alabama and Northern Ireland come out of and it is not a pretty sight.

Roger Stanyard

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 08:30:00 UTC | #74567

Vendetta's Avatar Comment 16 by Vendetta

bamafreethinker -

Apparently these people paying lip service and going to church "just in case" haven't yet realized how naive Pascal's wager is.

I recently moved from Seattle back to Montana, where I was born. Let me assure you, there are MAJOR differences. These differences go beyond Democrat & liberal vs Republican & conservative. You can tell religion is far more powerful here based on church attendance, conversations at work, letters to the editor, jewelry, bumper stickers, etc.

It's no surprise that there's also a similar abundance of belief here in other superstition such as astrology, alien abduction, psychics, etc. It's not that there is a lack of skepticism, it is where that skepticism is directed. For the most part people here don't point their skepticism towards religion, they are skeptical of science (how do we know they're right when they keep changing their theories?) and the government.

I wish the Professor would come to Montana, this state is at least as ignorant as the South.

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 08:34:00 UTC | #74568

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 17 by Cartomancer

What, might I ask, does a "Deputy Taste Editor" actually do? Presumably the Wall Street Journal thus has a fully-fledged Taste Editor as well. I have images in my mind of somebody munching page after page of slipshod journalism and commenting on its piquancy, saltiness and flavour...

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 08:56:00 UTC | #74574

Rob Schneider's Avatar Comment 18 by Rob Schneider

Vendetta wrote:

For the most part people here don't point their skepticism towards religion, they are skeptical of science (how do we know they're right when they keep changing their theories?) and the government.

I wonder where the fundamentalists get that notion about science? Hmmm... where could it be propagated? Have you seen the excerpt of Ted Haggard talking to RD in "Root of All Evil"? Paraphrasing Haggard: "I have here a book written thousands of years ago, by 40 different authors, and it doesn't contradict itself. On the other hand, we can't even get two scientists to agree for a week about some theories."

That kind of thinking doesn't grow of its own accord... it is force fed down the gullets of the gullible, listening to idiots like Haggard DEFINE "science" and "evolution," who then go out and think they understand either science or evolution.

They are actively teaching that disagreement over truth-claims (i.e. the heart of the scientific enterprise) is EQUAL to those truth-claims being wrong. The short hand: "Thinking about truth is wrong. Accepting it as handed to you is right."


Also... they're skeptical of the "gubmint", not government. :-)

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 09:05:00 UTC | #74576

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 19 by Cartomancer

I should also like to register my displeasure at prettygoodformonkeys' scurrilous misrepresentation of medieval intellectual culture, though I fear he is simply retailing the usual stereotyped picture of the Middle Ages we have all inherited from their Renaissance and Enlightenment detractors.

The precise relationship between the church and scientific endeavour in the Medieval centuries is neither a simple nor a monolithic one, and it would take me far more time and space than I have here to do it justice. Suffice to say that while Christian doctrine had a profound effect on scientific thinking in these centuries it was no more restrictive than, for example, Darwinism is now. You can't just come up with any old theory today unless it fits with the accumulated evidence and theoretical background of modern science, just as back then scholars had to take their own theoretical background into account. The fact that their physics and metaphysics were wrong is immaterial - Newton's physics are in many ways fundamentally wrong but scientists until Einstein had to take them into account and don't receive flak for doing so.

It is with the end of the middle ages, with Renaissance humanism, the counter-reformation and the reaction to the Enlightenment that the church really becomes the enemy of science. Copernicus and Galileo are the examples everyone tends to think of when religious oppression science comes to mind, but in fact they are products of a rather different intellectual climate to the one which produced Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus and William of Ockham. It has become too fashionable these days to label everything repressive and backward-looking as "medieval", or worse to conflate "medieval" with "dark-age", which are in fact two distinct periods in European history. The "dark ages" refer roughly to the period from the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west (c. 350-450 AD) to the seventh or eighth centuries when the Frankish, Anglo-saxon and similar stable kingdoms emerge. They are so called not primarily because of their cultural backwardness but because there is hardly any written evidence on which to base their history - they're dark because we can see only very sketchily what was going on. The ancient Greek "dark age" from the collapse of the Mycenaean empire in c. 1200 BC to the emergence of the classical city states in about 700 BC gave us the epics of Homer and the didactic poems of Hesiod, so it is not entirely fitting to call these periods culturally backward - often they are evidence of changing and developing culture and give rise to unprecedented new cultural forms when history writing re-emerges.

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 09:19:00 UTC | #74578

Dr Benway's Avatar Comment 20 by Dr Benway

My American experience with formal style:

As a high school student taking a few classes at a community college, I addressed my instructors as "Dr. X." I assumed that instructors at large universities might be either "Doctor" or "Professor", the latter being more formal. I didn't understand tenure then.

As an undergraduate, I addressed tenured instructors (associate and full professors) as "Professor X." Others I called "Doctor X."

I addressed all medical school instructors as "Doctor X" whether tenured or not, MD or PhD.

I never addressed any instructor older than myself by a first name.

I would have addressed Dawkins as "Professor Dawkins."

I would never write an article for print that included "smarter remarks" or "he says he realized" unless for humorous or ironic effect. Such colloquialisms advertise a shoddy education.

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 09:31:00 UTC | #74585

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 21 by Steve Zara

To anyone from the UK, 'Professor' holds significant meaning.

In the UK, 'Professor' is more like a job title than an academic qualitification, where as 'Doctor' is purely academic. It is possible to retire from a professorship, but 'Doctor' is life-long. I don't think addressing Dawkins as 'Doctor' is in any way impolite, but I guess what matters is how he feels.

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 09:51:00 UTC | #74593

Duff's Avatar Comment 22 by Duff

Most any article concerning a debate, printed in the Wall Street Journal, will of necessity demonstrate a bias in favor of whomever is more conservative, be it a political, commerce, or even a religious debate. Professor Dawkins, in the eyes of America's conservative press, is about as liberal as one can be, and he, therefore, will automatically get the sharp end of the biased stick. This girl probably doesn't know squat about the nuances of the topics being debated.

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 10:40:00 UTC | #74617

bamafreethinker's Avatar Comment 23 by bamafreethinker

To better understand how we Americans define a professor – please see Gilligan's Island re-runs… : )

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 10:50:00 UTC | #74619

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 24 by prettygoodformonkeys

19. Comment #78262 by Cartomancer:

"..Christian doctrine .... was no more restrictive than .... Darwinism is now.."

You're correct; perhaps I should have said dark ages, not Dark Ages, to demonstrate a layman's understanding. I'm sure, if only by your tone, that your dates are accurate, but perhaps you could expand further on the above excerpt for me, especially in relation to things like the church's general historical approach to geocentrism, disease vs. demons, the astronomy of heaven and hell, the persecution and torture of those who dissented? I would be so surprised to learn that it WAS "Christianity that began the scientific revolution", but I'd be open to the idea if it were true.


And, my apologies to all medieval intellectuals.


Fri, 12 Oct 2007 11:28:00 UTC | #74634

cowalker's Avatar Comment 25 by cowalker

I totally agree with Bamafreethinker:
Most people just live out their lives and pretty much function day-to-day as if there was no god.

Personally I think the growing interest in books about atheism, and theological debates over the existence of God stem from increasing numbers of people realizing this. Young people especially are becoming conscious of the fact that belief in God has no effect on their values or decisions. They have friends with different beliefs and friends who are unbelievers, and what is different about their lives? I suspect they're looking for intellectual support for their gut feelings that religion is indeed a delusion. Apparently the Christians quoted in this article are doing the same. Telling that they feel the need, in my opinion.

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 11:57:00 UTC | #74650

Polydactyl's Avatar Comment 26 by Polydactyl

On medieval scientific thought: most ideas grew out of the theories of ancient Greek thought, especially that of Aristotle. There was a bit of trouble when Aristotle's works first became known in the West,but it did not take very long for them to become the staple of the university curriculum. They might be, by our views, erroneous, but they were real scientific theories, and expounded at great length by medieval academics such as St Albertus Magnus: so, no: the medieval church was not opposed to science at all. Medieval medicine is similarly based on erroneous foundations (the theory of the four elements), but within that framework it is 'scientific' in reasoning. I have found nothing on demonic possession in medical texts of the high Middle Ages, and it is safe to assume that most of them were written by clerics of one sort or another. PGFM must be thinking about the Renaissance turmoil over Galileo, etc. but Copernicus was a cleric, and it didn't seem to prevent him from elaborating the heliocentric theory.

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 12:13:00 UTC | #74655

leodavinci's Avatar Comment 27 by leodavinci

"He notes that 200 men show up to church at 6 a.m. once a week for a class on Christian doctrine."


Fri, 12 Oct 2007 12:35:00 UTC | #74667

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 28 by Bonzai

26. Comment #78342 by Polydactyl

On medieval scientific thought: most ideas grew out of the theories of ancient Greek thought, especially that of Aristotle...

Except the medieval Church claimed Aristotle was infallible and his theories were enshrined into dogmas. Aristotle emphasized the importance of empirical observations over philosophical speculations even though many of his own observations turned out to be wrong. He would have been spinning in his grave if he knew what the Church did with his ideas.

Science doesn't mean expounding some "theories" in great length and erudition, if it were the case theology would be a science. The approach of the medieval Church to science was exactly the same as theology, it was based on tedious scholastic arguments within the limit set by some overarching dogma,--whether it was the Bible or Aristotle.

While the Church's tradition might have fostered some skills and habits that turned out to be useful later on for the scientific revolution and its institutions such as universities no doubt facilitated the advent of science, the Christian tradition at its core was anti-science in spirit.

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 12:47:00 UTC | #74670

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 29 by prettygoodformonkeys

26. Comment #78342 by Polydactyl

Thanks; that was helpful. I mean it. But:

Copernicus' book was suspended until corrected by the Index of the Catholic Church in 1616, because the Pythagorean doctrine of the motion of the Earth and the immobility of the Sun "is false and altogether opposed to the Holy Scripture". These corrections were indicated in 1620, and nine sentences had to be either omitted or changed. The book stayed on the Index until 1758. In that period Galileo Galilei was found guilty in 1633 for "following the position of Copernicus, which is contrary to the true sense and authority of Holy Scripture ...", and was sent to his home near Florence where he was to be under house arrest for the remainder of his life in 1638.

I do find medieval history interesting, but I am not a historian and am fuzzy with the dates. I learn a lot on this site from academics; I am not one. However, I think my initial point is a simple one, still unaddressed: that most everybody was Christian by default of birth, and many, if not most, scholars were clerics or monks (who else had time for it?). But what did Christianity, with its doctrines and the subsequent conduct of the church, do to further progress in science?

Of course they were in favor of science, they didn't yet know what it held; "by all means, let's have a look around", and so they did. And then they didn't like it.

It seems you were free to elaborate your theory, and the church was free to throw you in confinement for it; not much of a recommendation for having begun the scientific revolution.

And now here we are today, with Christianity doing its best to cut science off at the knees: Archaeology, Biology, Physics, Astronomy, Geology, etc. etc.

It galls me that they would also take credit for having started science in the first place. That puts "History" on the list as well.

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 12:51:00 UTC | #74671

bamafreethinker's Avatar Comment 30 by bamafreethinker

I think that people like Robertson, Falwell, and Haggard, et al, have hijacked the long train called Christianity and the moderates and even some liberals are content to remain calm and wait for the train to start running out of fuel to get off. Thank goodness the train has been slowing down of late – partially because of stupid remarks by some of the radicals and partially from the pens of RD, CH, SH and the like. Most moderates may never openly rebel against the radicals (they can't because they protected by the cloak of "faith"), but they can quit supplying the coal that the charismatic leaders need to keep it going. I do see a change in the zeitgeist, even in Alabama, but you can bet we will be the last ones off the train! We are the highest on the poverty scale and the lowest on the education scale (except for Mississippi of course) so we will be behind the curve - just like we were with racism. But hey, once we come through it we'll still have our southern hospitality and some of the most gorgeous landscapes in North America. They don't call it "Alabama the Beautiful" for nothing!

Speaking as someone who has not studied the time periods being discussed here, I would say from a layman's perspective that the church has always been against any and all science that does not compliment the current doctrine and for any part of it that agrees. Religious people are happy to grab hold of any so called "scientists" like Lennox – it gives them the satisfaction that smart people are on their side too. We all tend to cherry pick when it comes to these things.

Fri, 12 Oct 2007 13:19:00 UTC | #74677