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Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 1 by Cartomancer

Well well, maybe I spoke too soon over on the Fleabytes thread about Telegraph opinion pieces...

Sat, 01 Mar 2008 22:51:00 UTC | #129891

helen sotiriadis's Avatar Comment 2 by helen sotiriadis

refreshing.

Sat, 01 Mar 2008 23:12:00 UTC | #129894

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 3 by irate_atheist

Not a bad article, but I disagree with:

Not only does he set out to prove that God is a statistical improbability, a pretty ambitious task for any scientist.
I'd say this was a trivial task.

And:
Dawkins spends a lot of time discussing evil acts committed in the name of religion, but little time disentangling religious motivation from political or economic factors, or acknowledging the acts of charity or goodness directly inspired by religion.
If RD did this, all the theists would grasp it like a drowning man grabbing a lifebelt.

Sat, 01 Mar 2008 23:19:00 UTC | #129897

Matt H.'s Avatar Comment 4 by Matt H.

Wait, this is from the 'Telegraph'? I'm a bit startled to find this in Britain's most conservative broadsheet. But pleased, too.

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 01:23:00 UTC | #129916

Dr Nev's Avatar Comment 5 by Dr Nev

Well It's a pretty good article but I'd have to agree with 3. Comment #136877 by irate_atheist

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 02:51:00 UTC | #129930

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 6 by Steve Zara

Comment #136877 by irate_atheist


Not only does he set out to prove that God is a statistical improbability, a pretty ambitious task for any scientist.


I'd say this was a trivial task.


You optimist!

I think you assume a wide understanding of terms like "statistical improbability"! Much of the battle is education about how to use such words, the public not really knowing anything, and with theologists feeling that they can use words like "simple" as they wish.

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 03:05:00 UTC | #129934

seqenenre's Avatar Comment 7 by seqenenre

"His name is Richard Dawkins", while neo-con firebrand Ann Coulter (who Dawkins initially took to be a satirical character from The Onion) apparently gets a kick out of imagining him burning in hell."
I am having some problems here with the English language (I am Dutch). Who held whom for a character from the Onion. Did Coulter think Dawkins was a character from the Onion or did Dawkins think Coulter was a character from the Onion?

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 03:08:00 UTC | #129938

zoomlines's Avatar Comment 9 by zoomlines

@seqenenre - RD thought Ann Coulter was a character from the Onion.

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 03:21:00 UTC | #129945

Mr Happy's Avatar Comment 8 by Mr Happy

Dawkins spends a lot of time discussing evil acts committed in the name of religion, but little time disentangling religious motivation from political or economic factors, or acknowledging the acts of charity or goodness directly inspired by religion.


I think the reason for spending little time "acknowledging the acts of charity or goodness directly inspired by religion" was that you don't need religion to inspire acts of charity or goodness: and people would do more good if they weren't wasting their time deciphering ancient texts and praying.

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 03:21:00 UTC | #129944

GordonHide's Avatar Comment 10 by GordonHide

As far as Ann Coulter goes, I think she must be an atheist who has decided she can make more money out of duping the religious and, as a bonus, bring Christian apologetics into disrepute.

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 03:51:00 UTC | #129954

GBile's Avatar Comment 11 by GBile

This is a strange conclusion:

I also have my doubts about the post-religious utopia he seems to envisage - I suspect Big Macs and Nike trainers will feature more strongly than love of nature and scientific zeal.

Is Ceri Radford suggesting here that religion gives people 'love of nature' and 'scientific zeal'? I suspect that the 'love of nature' that most believers have is rather shallow and that 'scientific zeal' is often discredited by them, because the outcome often challenges their beliefs.
For the rest it is well worth noting that she got the right 'message' from TGD.

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 04:48:00 UTC | #129997

Forti's Avatar Comment 12 by Forti

I'm adding 'geekery' to my list of favourite words now.

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 05:07:00 UTC | #130003

agn's Avatar Comment 13 by agn

Good article, but:
"It makes me wonder how people can argue that Islam is somehow a barbaric religion and Christianity a civilised one based on their texts"

I do not think this lady has even read the Quran.

The Quran is a paranoia-inducing text that has nothing of the (fairly minuscule) redemptive passages of the Bible, and is intensely preoccupied with the sadistic punishments in the afterlife.

People think Christianity is (or was) obsessed with Hell, but it comes nowhere close to the obsession with Hell in the Quran. Every single page is filled with "and they'll be cast into fire", "they are to be flayed over and over again" (skins resewn inbetween) and so on.

The hatred is palpable and dominant in the Quran, it is just an under-current in the Bible (not that that makes the Bible and iuts messages morally uplifting in the slightest).

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 06:30:00 UTC | #130032

LetMeBeClear's Avatar Comment 14 by LetMeBeClear

If the author reads these posts, Richard has answered the question of religious people doing good because they were religious, on several occasions. Sam Harris speaks brilliantly about this topic at bigthink.com recently.

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 07:06:00 UTC | #130040

Darwin's badger's Avatar Comment 15 by Darwin's badger

GBile, I think she's referring to RD's love of nature and scientific zeal, not religious believers'.

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 09:11:00 UTC | #130072

Neil Schipper's Avatar Comment 16 by Neil Schipper

GBile @ #12,

She's saying that people migrating away from the belief that "there is a god, and I must follow his law and worship him" are not necessarily going to become nice and rational, but that their behaviour will often be influenced by the desire for fast yummy food and having nice, cool stuff. In other words, she's not optimistic that less religion will be associated with a huge reduction in greed, gullibility, and herd-like behaviour.

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 15:18:00 UTC | #130264

Richard Morgan's Avatar Comment 17 by Richard Morgan

There's blood, gore, incitement to genocide, glorification of rape â€" in fact about everything you might find in an 18-rated video game.
And 18-rated video games are very popular with the under-18s!
Saying things like this is going to encourage thousands of unhealthy teenagers to start reading the Old Testament.
And you can bet your booties that someone, somewhere is working on the video game version of Sod'em and Gomorrah!

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 15:40:00 UTC | #130276

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 18 by Diacanu

Richad Morgan-

Well, there's already those violent "Left Behind", games.

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 15:43:00 UTC | #130280

Double Bass Atheist's Avatar Comment 19 by Double Bass Atheist

This is a very refreshing article.

Diacanu -
I was in a local video store the other day and saw "Left Behind, The Movie." It stars Kirk Cameron (but of course!)
I guess I had no idea this was a movie! Stupid book series, yes, but a movie?!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0190524/

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 16:49:00 UTC | #130323

Eric Blair's Avatar Comment 20 by Eric Blair

"Dawkins spends a lot of time discussing evil acts committed in the name of religion, but little time disentangling religious motivation from political or economic factors, or acknowledging the acts of charity or goodness directly inspired by religion."

I think it's important to note that Dawkins acknowledges TGD is a polemic, not a scientific or "balanced" work in all its elements (though it contains many sections that are scientific in all but tone).

On the other hand, Dawkins often says he is pursuing truth in his discussion of the existence of God, not practical or political goals. This may apply to God but not to his analysis of religion.

While he brings to this study a fine mind (one of the best around today), his field is not anthropology or history - which provide the best lenses to scrutinize the role of religion in society. And, it must be said, he does come to the subject seeking to confirm certain answers.

On the Bible vs Qu'ran (which is worse?) debate, from my limited understanding I think the Q is probably worse in its directives regarding treatment of non-believers. More important, though, is the point Ayaan Kirsi Ali has made that Islam is yet to go through an equivalent of the Enlightment, which means it has not yet sought to re-interpret its dogma in the light of reason (as has Christianity to a limited extent) nor has it at all embraced the notion of a secular state overshadowing religion.

EB

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 21:55:00 UTC | #130416

Teratornis's Avatar Comment 21 by Teratornis


I also have my doubts about the post-religious utopia he seems to envisage - I suspect Big Macs and Nike trainers will feature more strongly than love of nature and scientific zeal.


That's almost certainly true if human talents remain completely beyond the reach of scientific meddling as they have been thus far. Humans have been sociobiologically programmed to be more interested in things like sports, sex, celebrities, and of course food.

If civilization does not collapse first (for example, in the first critical decades after peak oil), I expect science to be the first belief system that actually expands its habitat of suitable minds. Religions are mere opportunists that exploit the naturally-evolved human capacity to believe nonsense. I expect science to figure out how to actually change human brains to give them more capacity to think scientifically.

Currently, science does nothing to increase the underlying scientific aptitude of people. We still depend on the occasional rare genius to fuel the enterprise of science.

When it comes to recruiting and training scientists, we are still very much like diamond hunters, who must trek all over the world and dig up mountains of ore to find a few prized gems. New technology can produce artificial diamonds that are so good, the only way to distinguish them from natural diamonds is to note their lack of flaws. Science needs a way to mass-produce artificial scientists who are as good as a Prof. Dawkins.

Science needs to advance beyond its current hunter-gatherer phase and learn to manufacture intelligence. Science needs to experience its own industrial revolution.

Sun, 02 Mar 2008 22:47:00 UTC | #130424

Shuggy's Avatar Comment 22 by Shuggy

teratornis:

Currently, science does nothing to increase the underlying scientific aptitude of people. We still depend on the occasional rare genius to fuel the enterprise of science.

When it comes to recruiting and training scientists, we are still very much like diamond hunters, who must trek all over the world and dig up mountains of ore to find a few prized gems. New technology can produce artificial diamonds that are so good, the only way to distinguish them from natural diamonds is to note their lack of flaws. Science needs a way to mass-produce artificial scientists who are as good as a Prof. Dawkins.

Science needs to advance beyond its current hunter-gatherer phase and learn to manufacture intelligence. Science needs to experience its own industrial revolution.
While science does nothing to make humans think more scientifically, it has done wonders in the last few decades to make it possible for humans to think more scientifically.

I'm thinking how very literal-"thinking" computers force us to think about what we really mean, because they will do what we ask, if we know how to ask for it.

Also, high-speed, stop-motion, microscopic and telescopic TV, video, movies and Internet, etc have brought the previously unseeable into view of not just scientists but ordinary people. I admit that to a very large extent, people have blown the opportunities these present (Did any Huxley, Asimov or Vonnegut predict how porn and violent games would dominate computer usage?), but not all, and not always.

Mon, 03 Mar 2008 00:13:00 UTC | #130437

GBile's Avatar Comment 23 by GBile

Badger and Schipper.

Thanks for responding and clarifying Ceri Radfords statement.

I am not pessimistic about a post-religion era of 'trivial living'. The 'hour of power' might then very well be people studying nature, discussing scientific findings, exploring new technologies etc.

Mon, 03 Mar 2008 04:00:00 UTC | #130492

Johnny O's Avatar Comment 24 by Johnny O

Whilst I like the article I'd like to point out...

Posted by Ceri Radford on 25 Jan 2007 at 16:50

It's over a year old and was written not long after the release of the book, when everyone was still reading it after receiving it for Christmas.

Mon, 03 Mar 2008 05:17:00 UTC | #130504

Teratornis's Avatar Comment 25 by Teratornis

In reply to comment #137464 by Shuggy:


While science does nothing to make humans think more scientifically, it has done wonders in the last few decades to make it possible for humans to think more scientifically.


The situation is analogous to someone figuring out how to mass-produce violins that are genuinely as good as the finest Stradivaria, and selling them in unlimited quantities for $10 each.

It wouldn't matter much if you could give every human on earth his or her own Stradivari. The vast majority of humans would not be able to play them very well. Only a few humans have the ability and desire to learn. The strictly limited supply of high-quality stringed instruments we have now may be almost adequate for the similarly limited supply of virtuosi to play them.

It's nice to have better tools, of course. But if we do nothing to improve human ability to use tools, we will end up vastly under-exploiting the great tools we have. A mind will become an increasingly terrible thing to waste.


I'm thinking how very literal-"thinking" computers force us to think about what we really mean, because they will do what we ask, if we know how to ask for it.


Computers force us to think about what we really mean to computers.

I agree this is a useful exercise. It's something of an antidote to the slippery, watery world of shifty humans, where nothing is ever quite what it seems to be or says it is.

Online communication between humans offers a similar opportunity to figure out how to craft statements precise enough to say what we want to say without the real-world crutches we are used to (facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc.). Once again only a small fraction of humans make much headway with it.


Also, high-speed, stop-motion, microscopic and telescopic TV, video, movies and Internet, etc have brought the previously unseeable into view of not just scientists but ordinary people. I admit that to a very large extent, people have blown the opportunities these present (Did any Huxley, Asimov or Vonnegut predict how porn and violent games would dominate computer usage?), but not all, and not always.


Asimov's computer predictions were, in retrospect, laughable, not that I think my predictions of 50 years from now will be much better.

Lots of science fiction depicts violent epic battles, so I doubt the guys who wrote that stuff would be very surprised by video games. Obviously the appeal of vicarious violence increases when adolescent males can see it instead of merely reading about it. Animation beats imagination hands down, once the animation gets up to a certain level of quality.

I don't know if any of Asimov's contemporaries got any closer. Back then, science fiction was all about exponentiating materials and energy.

Some later writers began to move toward the information leg of the wealth triad, I gather, as its real-world importance began to grow. The three basic ingredients of wealth, which are interchangeable with each other to a surprising degree, are: materials, energy, and information. Hubbert's curve means material and energy are likely to get steadily more expensive for at least the next two decades, while Moore's law means information is likely to keep getting cheaper.

Future technology is going to be about relentlessly analyzing things and getting rid of every bit that isn't necessary. Thereby zeroing in ever more accurately on the Aristotelian essence of what we want, as opposed to the accidents.

Mon, 03 Mar 2008 21:54:00 UTC | #131009

mixmastergaz's Avatar Comment 26 by mixmastergaz

Replying to Matt (post No. 5)

I wouldn't say the Telegraph is Britain's most conservative newspaper (although it depends how you define 'conservative'). I usually read the dear old Torygraph on Fridays (generally I take the Indie or the Grauniad) and find it to be a much less conservative read than either the fucking Daily Mail or the unconscionable Daily Express (which I would never actually buy you understand, but I'll flick through abandoned copies of either on the train in a spirit of 'know thine enemy'). The Telegraph compares pretty favourably with the Mail and Express. Actually, parts of 'Mein Kampf' compare pretty favourably with the fucking Daily Mail (there, I've said it again; now I feel a bit better) or the hateful Express, but you take my meaning...

Wed, 12 Mar 2008 09:19:00 UTC | #135028

_J_'s Avatar Comment 27 by _J_

That is refreshing. Though I lean more toward the Guardian, I read the Telegraph a lot. A lot of good journalism in there, and it occasionally persuades me to attitudes I wouldn't have expected to hold. But then it occasionally turns into an objectionable five-year-old-child of WWI-era parents, and gives gibberingly mental coverage of issues like the 'cybrids' embryo research.

This was a really good piece, and if I saw Ceri, I'd buy her a drink (and not only because she shares a name with someone I used to be hopelessly in unrequited love with). Although 'a chain-saw passing through warm butter' is not the way to renovate a cliche. 'Now, I want a little butter; I'm very lazy; what would be the easiest way to slice a bit off without, say, splattering it all over the wallpaper? Oh yes, I know...[R-VRRMMMM...]'

Thu, 13 Mar 2008 17:29:00 UTC | #135920