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← Responses to 'Gods and Earthlings' by Richard Dawkins

Responses to 'Gods and Earthlings' by Richard Dawkins - Comments

82abhilash's Avatar Comment 1 by 82abhilash

I guess the la times where being 'fair and balanced' in their response section.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:09:00 UTC | #157701

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 2 by Border Collie

So, OK, "all" of the information isn't in yet. And, we don't have an answer for "everything" yet. Therefore, everything outside of "all" and "everything" must be the result of some sort of religious hocus pocus. Right? OK, whatever.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:12:00 UTC | #157702

spacewaltzer's Avatar Comment 3 by spacewaltzer

n the end, he, like everyone else, must confront one of two choices: Either the universe has always existed, or it was created by someone who has always existed.


If you wanted an example of a bifurcation fallacy, could you ask for any better? The use of "someone" also cracks me up: it could have been any one of the crowd of people milling around before the universe began!

Of course the statement "the universe has always existed" can be taken two ways. I think what the author means is "the universe has existed for an infinite amount of time". If, however, time itself began with the creation of the universe, then the universe has existed for the whole of time, i.e. always, but not for an infinite amount of time.

The author gives no consideration to the possibility of multiple universes, either.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:14:00 UTC | #157703

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 5 by Steve Zara

Either the universe has always existed, or it was created by someone who has always existed.


I do wish people would leave speculation about the origin of the universe to those who have an understanding of cosmology and physics. "Folk wisdom" is totally inappropriate here.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:14:00 UTC | #157705

TuftedPuffin's Avatar Comment 4 by TuftedPuffin

Eh, if this is a list of everyone who responded. I'm betting this is just a list of the article's critics, without the occasional "you go, Dawkins!" letter.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:14:00 UTC | #157704

Naranja Mecanica's Avatar Comment 6 by Naranja Mecanica

I found William S. LaSor's letter mildly thought-provoking, whereas the others - and Elaine Fleeman's in particular - to be laugh-out-loud funny. Cheers for posting these, they're almost as humourous as Riise's own goal in tonight's Champions League match.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:15:00 UTC | #157706

Styrer-'s Avatar Comment 7 by Styrer-

Josh, I sometimes think that you toss out these utterly puerile, shit-filled pieces of nonsense masquerading as 'thought' in order to drag us away from a thread(s) where our teeth are getting rather too used to the ample amounts of fresh meat available here recently.

If so, for shame, sir. But I'll play along.

Richard, the above comments are entirely your doing and you must answer for them.

That you could ever have had the temerity, the audacity, the sheer brass balls to submit religion to the very same criticism that is applied to football, haute cuisine, fine art and politics says far more about you than it does about religion.

While you may be successfully 'raising consciousness' to entirely new and unexpected levels, I trust that you will take full responsibility for your utterings and be prepared to, er, well - say it all again as soon as you can.

Best,
Styrer

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:22:00 UTC | #157711

ricey's Avatar Comment 8 by ricey

Just "god of the gaps" arguments; some good points made by the contributors though.

Where science ends god begins for many people. If there is a god what religion is he?

(edit: he/she/it I should have said)

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:23:00 UTC | #157712

theantitheist's Avatar Comment 9 by theantitheist

Naranja,

Not funny.

Grumble brumble bloody chealsea grumble grumble

(Oh and those letters can be referred to the appropriate discussions in this site)

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:31:00 UTC | #157715

MPhil's Avatar Comment 10 by MPhil

To be fair, Steve, this is also a conceptual problem - concerning our notions of causality and especially necessity and contingency.

It was a possibility open for exploration by philosophers that a creator is a conceptual and metaphysical necessity. In that case we would be truly irrational and unjustified in denying the existence of "whatever entity x that terminates the infinite regress of causes".

A serious question.

Swinburne's cosmological argument was serious philosophy for the most part. Also consider modal logic. It is indispensable... and when Plantinga came up with his ontological "proof" that was a major advancement. Mackie and others have shot Plantinga and Swinburne in their cosmological and ontological arguments down, but it was certainly a serious advancement in the debate.

That is to say - if their premises and arguments were correct, they would indeed prove what they set out to do so... but they aren't - and we're back to science and real philosophy. :)

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:34:00 UTC | #157716

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 11 by Dr. Strangegod

That one could derive comments such as these from the article RD wrote is simply amazing. Some people you just can't reach, no matter how simple you make it.

In my view, based on considerable lay and academic, but not professional, study of astrophysics and the cosmos, the universe is most likely both finite and infinite, both eternal and bound by time. It all kind of depends on what you mean by universe.

The difference between me and the folks above is that I base my theories on, to the best of my understanding, the actual, scientifically observable data. I make no claim to absolute truth or knowledge of reality, just a good solid guess that is ever-changing. Add a little sci-fi imagination, and there are all kinds of possibilities that are far more probable than any God of any kind. There's more likely a Galactus.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:38:00 UTC | #157717

WilliamP's Avatar Comment 12 by WilliamP

Well, maybe these writers just haven't heard of Okham's Razor. Dawkins said:

They admit that their god is complex but assert that he had no beginning: He was always there and always complex...you might as well say flagellar motors were always there.

This deals with most of these responses- no god is still a better explanation even if you don't know the real answer.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:40:00 UTC | #157720

DamnDirtyApe's Avatar Comment 14 by DamnDirtyApe

I really just don't think they read it properly.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:46:00 UTC | #157727

MPhil's Avatar Comment 13 by MPhil

I don't think the complexity-argument applies as Dawkins thinks it does to the traditional theistic dogma.

The laws of causality and the concept of "simply appearing by chance" apply only in spacetime. But most theists assert that god is not within spacetime, ie not a physical being. If true, this would mean he is not subject to the laws of causality and since metaphysical entities need no causal explanation of their being, the probability of such a complex "suddenly appearing" is a meaningless concept.

Of course the idea of god as metaphysical gets the theist out of this trap, but right into a more serious one - namely that of logical incoherence (not physical but present everywhere and always in the physical world; not physical but effecting events in spacetime) and category mistakes (a person, an agent outside time? Agency requires change, change requires being subject to time) etc.

Anyway - this is where I think Dawkins could do better, his arguments doesn't hit home. Others (like the one I have laid out above) do - and are fatal to theism.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:46:00 UTC | #157725

MPhil's Avatar Comment 15 by MPhil

...and Occam's Razor still applies anyway - bloated ontology...

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:47:00 UTC | #157729

Pilot22A's Avatar Comment 16 by Pilot22A

Dawkins isn't trying to prove the "Big Bang" mysteriously sprang from nothingness, as are the religionists. (If I may speak for Dawkins.)

I don't need to believe in a benevolent heaven and/or scary hell of the theists, I chose to accept that which is not understood as simply that which we don't understand. I chose to think that in the future, if religion spares the human race, we will discover and explain things like the "Big Bang" and what occurred, if anything, before that singularity.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:58:00 UTC | #157733

huzonfurst's Avatar Comment 17 by huzonfurst

The most economical way to refer to a deity whose gender is uncertain (never mind the question of existence) is to use the compound pronoun s/he/it - pronounced rapidly.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:59:00 UTC | #157735

EvidenceOnly's Avatar Comment 19 by EvidenceOnly

The common response to "we don't know yet" is "god-did-it".

The life of a scientist is to discover what we don't yet know and each time we learn something new, we also find new things we don't yet know.

Under the "god-did-it" philosophy, we scientists would have stopped long ago searching for answers:

- Computers and the internet would not exist

- Travel would still be with horses and sailboats

- Diseases would still kill millions/billions of people

- IDiots would not be able to create a movie full of lies in which they expelled any form of intelligence.

- Scientists would no longer say that they don't have an answer yet

- Everyone would be pious, pray and praise their favorite undefinable supernatural creator

- All would be well, at least if you define never ending religious wars of our history as "well".

I prefer the alternative: science in search of answers annoying the crap out of the "god-did-it" folks who are all too happy to use the results of science (electronics, transportation, healthcare, entertainment, ...).

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 15:01:00 UTC | #157738

Styrer-'s Avatar Comment 18 by Styrer-

Comment #165913 by Steve Zara on April 22, 2008 at 3:14 pm

I do wish people would leave speculation about the origin of the universe to those who have an understanding of cosmology and physics. "Folk wisdom" is totally inappropriate here.


May I say that I think this is spectacularly unfair and arrogant. Even small children are fascinated by 'what's up there?' and 'where do we come from?' We all are, I think, similarly fascinated, regardless of our expertise in cosmology and physics.

To ask for such speculation to remain the sole domain of the cosmologists and of the physicists is to immediately preclude their findings access - a la Dawkins Professorship of the Public Understanding of Science - to those who want to know but who know next to nothing about the mechanisms which discovered such findings.

Best,
Styrer

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 15:01:00 UTC | #157737

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 20 by Steve Zara

Comment #165945 by Styrer-

We all are, I think, similarly fascinated, regardless of our expertise in cosmology and physics.


I was not clear. I meant it was inappropriate to put forward such speculation as any kind of argument in public. Being fascinated is one thing. Feeling you have any kind of authority to question those with decades of experience in a subject is quite another. Someone writing to a newspaper to question Einstein's understanding of gravity would be considered a nutcase, yet for some reason people feel qualified to discuss the origin of the universe, or matters of evolution, or global warming, or stem cell research.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 15:12:00 UTC | #157747

atari_age's Avatar Comment 21 by atari_age

"As a former evolutionist" ?!?

Sorry, only a creationist refers to people who accept the validity of evolution as "evolutionists". She might as well say, "as a former Biologist (as I now renounce all Biology)..."

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 15:16:00 UTC | #157750

Styrer-'s Avatar Comment 22 by Styrer-

Comment #165957 by Steve Zara on April 22, 2008 at 4:12 pm

I am still not quite sure.

Part of the problem seems to me to be people willing enough to proffer ideas - or 'any kind of argument in public' based on those ideas - which have inevitably been formed precisely because they think themselves excluded from participating in the cosmological and physics-based discourse which could stop their inane rantings.

As such, your elitist injunction that those without sufficient qualification be silent in this matter is a single and real manifestation of a perennial problem in the public education of science.

Best,
Styrer

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 15:28:00 UTC | #157764

SPS's Avatar Comment 23 by SPS

Dinesh D'Souza misrepresents Dawkins' position on his blog;

http://news.aol.com/newsbloggers/2008/04/21/how-did-life-begin/

For the faithful the idea of 'no evidence is evidence' is the only evidence they've got...for that which they supposedly require no evidence in the first place.
We don't know 'x', therefore 'y' must be true.
How do they know this? Well, as they often remind us, we are limited in our ability to comprehend, therefore what they have to say about the unknown is the only truth possible. Makes perfect sense, no? No.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 15:34:00 UTC | #157771

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 24 by Steve Zara

As such, your elite injunction that those without sufficient qualification be silent in this matter is a single and real manifestation of a perennial problem in the public education of science.


I am afraid I don't care about seeming elitist. There is much debate about the "framing" of science, that it needs to be pitched in the right way so as not to offend or discourage the public. I am on the side of PZ Myers and others who consider this a poor strategy.

Science is hard, and some of it is very tricky to understand. And yet, we hear people with little or no qualifications attempting to influence scientific discussions. This is a problem.

If people feel excluded, the answer is to get educated and to ask questions. Someone untrained would not seriously try and tell a pilot how to fly, or a surgeon how to operate. They feel no injustice about being excluded from those areas, yet somehow everyone is entitled to push their opinions on cosmology and biology.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 15:34:00 UTC | #157772

ThoughtsonCommonToad's Avatar Comment 25 by ThoughtsonCommonToad

If people feel excluded, the answer is to get educated and to ask questions. Someone untrained would not seriously try and tell a pilot how to fly, or a surgeon how to operate. They feel no injustice about being excluded from those areas, yet somehow everyone is entitled to push their opinions on cosmology and biology.

Nail. Head.

(Although with poor Joinery skills and no qualifications in said area I feel I must qualify my comment with this disclaimer).

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 15:41:00 UTC | #157780

forksmuggler's Avatar Comment 26 by forksmuggler

Love the shirt, Steve. And spot on, as always.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 15:45:00 UTC | #157784

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 27 by Dr. Strangegod

Steve, you're taking a hard line, but you're essentially right. Stryer, you're essentially right as well. I think you guys are talking about different kinds of discussions, though, in different contexts.

I'll use myself as an example. Like I said, I'm no scientist, but I read or watch whatever the scientists put into a form my humanities-educated brain can understand. Many of my friends are scientists. I love positing ideas to them based on my lay understanding so that they can explain what's wrong with it. I don't pretend to have a detailed grasp of physics or biology, but I get the basics and have been educated on these subjects both formally and informally.

All of this allows me to make fairly good guesses about stuff like the structure of the cosmos, but I will of course always defer to the experts. I would never dare tell a physicist he was wrong unless I'd worked the problem out for myself using the same science.

So there are different catgories here. Yes, Steve, people with no science knowledge, or even those with some but not a lot like me, should not really be involved in serious discussions about objective reality. But less serious ones, like on this site, sure. We can all speculate, and we are free to ignore the speculations of those who are clearly unknowledgable.

I guess I would also just add that ya ain't gotta be a scientist, but its awful dumb to ignore and refute what they say. I for one am counting on those guys in labs and planetariums to provide me with a cyborg body and faster-than-light spaceship so that I may explore the universe (or multiverse) forever. Keep at it fellas! And ladies! (When I say guys, I mean gals, too.)

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 15:53:00 UTC | #157791

mmurray's Avatar Comment 29 by mmurray

Part of the problem seems to me to be people willing enough to proffer ideas - or 'any kind of argument in public' based on those ideas - which have inevitably been formed precisely because they think themselves excluded from participating in the cosmological and physics-based discourse which could stop their inane rantings.


I feel the same about flying 747's. Every time I get on one the secretive elist, cabal of pilots, aided by their stewards, steer me to a seat without controls. Why can't I fly the plane ? It's the same in hospitals -- I'm never allowed to have a go at the scalpel's. It's all a big conspiracy.

Seriously this isn't about elitism. If you don't have the right qualifications for the job you shouldn't do it. So if you want someone to comment when a differentiable manifold admits a spin structure I'm your man but if I'm at the controls when you get on a plane I would get off quickly.

Michael

EDIT: Oh bloody hell Steve has already posted this. Read the thread before posting. Read the thread before posting. Read the thread bef .... Sorry Steve.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 15:57:00 UTC | #157796

Lil_Xunzian's Avatar Comment 28 by Lil_Xunzian

Have these people even read (and understood) atheists' arguments? How many times is someone going to say, "well you can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God"? And how many time must we pull teapots out of our pockets and say: "teapot!"

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 15:57:00 UTC | #157795

AmericanGodless's Avatar Comment 30 by AmericanGodless

Ken Savage: "the assumption that the universe is rational and logical and not absurd";
James McDermott : "the Big Bang and evolution are the ways God created";
Paul Rosenberger: "God 'is,' meaning he always was and always will be";
William S. LaSor: "Either the universe has always existed, or it was created by someone who has always existed";
Elaine Fleeman: "There is no advantage to non-living material becoming a living cell".

Five responses, all of which (with the possible exception of the last) simply assume the prior existence of an "intelligence" -- not just "complexity," but "intelligence." The only example of intelligence we have that could inspire such a conjecture is that of human beings; so human intelligence either (a) evolved here on earth and is being falsely projected by some onto a "creator god"; or (b) it is a product of a previously existing and inscrutable intelligence (the "creator god") that has implanted a small bit of itself into humans, some of whom are now foolishly trying to understand that tiny chip off the divine block.

What repeatedly strikes me as odd in this conflict of ideas is the lack of attention paid to the radical incompatibility of the two scenarios ("it's the way God did it" just won't work here).

If we are going to impute intelligence to something outside of human beings (or other biological entities), shouldn't we first have a definition of what it is? Science is telling us a lot about human intelligence (the necessary prototype for positing a "divine" intelligence), and the best story so far is that it evolved as an elaboration of brains, which evolved to make it possible for animals to move around in their environment. Is that what the divine intelligence does too? If not, then what does it do? Our biological intelligence is in service to the project of (ultimately) propagating our selfish genes. To what project is the divine intelligence in service? How does its definition differ from that of the intelligence we can really know something about? Is it at all fruitful to compare the two?

The impertinence of science seems to be in trying to understand intelligence (or anything) at all. If intelligence evolved, we have some hope of understanding how it got here and what it does. If it is an implant from a non-material, non-evolving entity, we may as well give up hope of ever understanding it.

But then, that's the major bone of contention, isn't it. What are humans, to try to understand their own material origins and workings? Better to just serve God (whatever that means) and admit that there is "no advantage to non-living material becoming a living cell" (or a living human).

Sorry, folks, but I don't think there is any way of doing science and not appearing to be elitist in the eyes of those who just don't WANT to understand who and what they are.

Tue, 22 Apr 2008 16:03:00 UTC | #157801