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Genesis and the origin of the Origin of the species - Comments

hobar's Avatar Comment 1 by hobar

If people are willing to make so many concessions concerning god, in the process forcing him into a highly more likeable name like "Nature," one wonders why you'd need to believe in (much less pray to) him at all.

Fri, 29 Aug 2008 22:28:00 UTC | #226804

Shuggy's Avatar Comment 2 by Shuggy

We will no doubt hear it asserted that Darwin dealt a death blow to religious belief.

That, it should be said, is quite untrue. What it dealt a death blow to was one very poor argument for the existence of God, namely the argument from design.
Or rather, it dealt a death blow to the idea that the argument from design made God necessary. With hindsight, Rabbi Sacks may call the argument from design "one very poor argument" but when the Beagle sailed it was the main argument, and considered compelling. It is only thanks to Darwin that he can call it "very poor".

In fact none of the most important truths can be proved: that right is sovereign over might, that it is better to be loved than feared, that every human being however poor or powerless is worthy of respect, that peace is nobler than war, forgiveness greater than revenge, and hope a higher virtue than resignation to blind fate.
All noble sentiments in general, but all with particular exceptions. The God of the Hebrew scriptures seems to disagree with all of them at some time or another. They can't be proved because they aren't universally true at every time and place. Exploring the exceptions is an interesting excercise.
The Bible forbids cruelty to animals. This is the polar opposite of the view of Descartes, that animals lack souls and therefore can be used as we will.
Not quite polar. Evolution demonstrates that we are not a separate creation from animals but related to them in the same way we are to our cousins, only (much) more distantly. The biblical view says we are fundamentally different from them and our considerations take absolute precedence over theirs. Our duty to them is only one of "stewardship".
The believer might wonder, ...
The believer might mention other mysteries ...
Rabbi Sacks is having a bob both ways, flirting with the argument from design without either embracing it or rejecting it. These questions are amenable to the scientific method, and may well be answered quite soon. What will he do then? Find a narrower Gap to put his G-d in?
he might cite the curious paradox, noted by Richard Dawkins, that selfish genes get together and produce selfless people.
Is this really any more mysterious than the curious paradox that a colourless liquid like water, spread sufficiently thin, generates rainbow-coloured patterns?

Fri, 29 Aug 2008 22:48:00 UTC | #226812

SteveN's Avatar Comment 3 by SteveN

This article is so full of cherry-picked half-truths , straw-men and woolly thinking that I am, not for the first time, appalled that it is given space in the Times. The Rabbi obviously didn't get his knighthood for his intellectual contributions. Another fine example of religious belief destroying the ability for rational thought.

Fri, 29 Aug 2008 22:51:00 UTC | #226813

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 4 by irate_atheist

The more we know about the intricacy and improbability of life, the more reason we have to wonder and give thanks.
The more we know about the intricacy and improbability of life any proposed god, the more reason we have to wonder and give thanks why so many people are stupid enough to belive in them.

There. That's fixed it.

This article is full of misrepresentations, wilfull ignorance, arguing from false premises and strawmen.

Thank fuck I saw through all this bullshit even as a young child.

And yes - my usual epithet applies about this man.

Fri, 29 Aug 2008 22:52:00 UTC | #226815

Jeremy Nel's Avatar Comment 5 by Jeremy Nel

I love how he uses the nebulous, abstract God in this article. As P.Z. Myers said of this "confusion between different concepts of this god-thingie":

Theologians play that one like a harp, though, turning it into a useful strategem. Toss the attractive, personal, loving or vengeful anthropomorphic tribal god to the hoi-polloi to keep them happy, no matter how ridiculous the idea is and how quickly it fails on casual inspection, while holding the abstract, useless, lofty god in reserve to lob at the uppity atheists when they dare to raise questions...It gets annoying. We need two names for these two concepts, I think. How about just plain "God" for the personal, loving, being that most Christians believe in, and "Oom" for the bloodless, fuzzy, impersonal abstraction of the theologians? Not that the theologians will ever go along with it�quot;the last thing they want made obvious is the fact that they're studying a completely different god from the creature most of the culture is worshipping.


With this God in tow, he can happily admit that the argument from design is awful - he has a thousand more "mysteries" with which to prop God-the-latter up.

The second half of the article alternates between vacuous and erroneous. For instance, "the curious paradox, noted by Richard Dawkins, that selfish genes get together and produce selfless people" is only superficially a paradox, and has been resolved by (amongst others) the very same author, in his very first book.

Fri, 29 Aug 2008 22:54:00 UTC | #226816

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 6 by irate_atheist

3. Comment #239567 by SteveN -

Fuckit. I may be forced to by The Guardian today. At least it has an in-depth interview with Alastair Darling. As a bit of a politico myself, I've more interest in what he has to say than having a paper with this bilge in it.

Fri, 29 Aug 2008 22:55:00 UTC | #226818

Stormkahn's Avatar Comment 7 by Stormkahn

I have pondered your whole article at length Mr Sacks and formulated the following well considered response....Bollocks.

Too many holes, just can't make up my mind which one to go for!!!

Fri, 29 Aug 2008 22:59:00 UTC | #226821

8teist's Avatar Comment 8 by 8teist

The believer might continue that Darwin helped us to understand one of the key ideas of the Bible: the kinship between humans and animals. The first humans were forbidden to kill animals for food. The covenant with Noah after the flood was made also, as Genesis ix states five times, "with every living creature". The Bible forbids cruelty to animals.


Does this mean that Jews and Christians are supposed to be vegetarians?
Well there`s the first rule broken right from the start.I don`t think this will go down to well in certain regions of the western world.

Fri, 29 Aug 2008 23:01:00 UTC | #226822

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 9 by irate_atheist

8teist -

He talks about the flood. So he claims it happened. Exactly as it states in the old testament. He is therefore a complete idiot.

Moreover, having dismissed the argument from design, the entire article is an argument from design.

Humans were designed to have consciousness - how else could we have evolved to be like this!

Life was designed - simple self-replicators could never have arisen due to natural chemical processes!

The universe was designed - nothing to do with vacuum wuantum fluctuations. No Hawking radiation involved. Nothing like that. Just an immense bieng that somehow popped into existence - knowing everything - and then created everything.

He is either mad, stupid or a liar. For his sake I hope he's just a liar.

Fri, 29 Aug 2008 23:10:00 UTC | #226824

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 10 by Laurie Fraser

Sorry, irate - you're wrong. Mad and stupid - a nominee for the Golden Fucktard award.

Fri, 29 Aug 2008 23:19:00 UTC | #226827

NMcC's Avatar Comment 11 by NMcC

"That, it should be said, is quite untrue. What it dealt a death blow to was one very poor argument for the existence of God, namely the argument from design."

I was under the distinct impression that, far from being 'one very poor argument', the argument from design was just about their only argument.

What other arguments do they have? The argument from design impacts on every one of their claims. And, certainly, as noted by another poster above, before Darwin, would have constituted THE argument for the existence of God.

People like Jonathan Sacks have simply been forced to make the best of a bad job by bending further and further in their theology in order to (try and) accommodate more and more contrary evidence.

I believe that for people like Sacks and the Archbishop of Canterbury, it would be a blessed relief for them to throw up their hands in defeat and proclaim, Basil Fawltyesque fashion, 'Right, OK, you win! It's a lot of stupid nonsense and I'm not going to defend it anymore!'

Fri, 29 Aug 2008 23:49:00 UTC | #226830

Sargeist's Avatar Comment 12 by Sargeist

She might cite the curious paradox, noted by Richard Dawkins, that selfish genes get together and produce selfless people.


What? I just find myself sitting here at the laptop so often these days, struggling to find something else to say other than a gob-smacked "what?!"

Articles like this worry me greatly. Like most people, I presume, I like to think that I think sensibly and rationally, but articles such as this demonstrate that one can be an absolute fuckwit, seemingly without realising it.

Fri, 29 Aug 2008 23:59:00 UTC | #226831

Oystein Elgaroy's Avatar Comment 13 by Oystein Elgaroy

This argument figures nowhere in the Hebrew Bible.


I am not aware of any argument for God's existence in the Bible. No wonder since it was written when most people took the existence of gods for granted. But the Bible does make claims about God's nature and his plans for his creation. Unlike this deluded rabbi I am not able to see how these claims can be compatible with evolution by natural selection. I wish "advanced theologians" would stop writing drivel like the piece above.

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 00:04:00 UTC | #226832

nalfeshnee's Avatar Comment 14 by nalfeshnee

This is what I love about RD.net: an apologist "amuse bouche" as a starter and then the main course: a whole slew series of intelligent, funny and knowledgeable commentaries on it.

RD.net: apologetics exegesis at its finest!

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 00:13:00 UTC | #226834

Chris Davis's Avatar Comment 15 by Chris Davis

Verily, a wise man hath said: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Sacks uses his partial ignorance as a weapon - Look, I agree with Darwin! See, I read Ridley! Therefore what I say is scientific.

And then he falls straight back into wooliness: I can't prove that right is better than might, or compassion better than hate; therefore goddidit!

Perhaps if he'd read more of Ridley's work - like 'Origin of Virtue' - he would see that Good is a convention, not a universal; and it's wired into our genes because what we call Right Action is beneficial to the social animals that we are.

It's perfectly possible to 'prove' that 'good' is 'better' than 'bad'. You just have to analyse their effects on society and its individuals. It's not necessary for God to have declared Right and Wrong - the axioms are built into the structure of social animals.

Which is why we value compassion, fairness and trust, and leopards think they're stupid notions.

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 00:26:00 UTC | #226837

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 16 by rod-the-farmer


the Bible forbids cruelty to animals.

Unless you ARE god, in which case feel free to drown most of those alive at the time of the flood. Different strokes for different folks.

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 00:36:00 UTC | #226840

AllanW's Avatar Comment 17 by AllanW

Paraphrase of this article;

Scene; Mob of religious believers worried about the intrusion of scientific facts and the application of reason into their universe.

Enter; Jonathan Sacks in costume.

Waves hands.

"You don't need to listen to these ideas."

Response; We don't need to listen to these ideas.

"They're not the ideas you're looking for."

Response; They're not the ideas we're looking for.

"You can go back to sleep now."

Response; We can go back to sleep now.

"Move on."

The mob moves on.

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 00:48:00 UTC | #226843

DamnDirtyApe's Avatar Comment 18 by DamnDirtyApe

Beware he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 00:59:00 UTC | #226844

Logicel's Avatar Comment 19 by Logicel

Sachs, I am feeling in a generous mood today, so here's a tool that will come in handy for your next 'article':

www.mtmultipleuse.org/public_access/images/big shovel close.jpg

The crapball that you are rolling down the hill of irrationality demands a bigger shovel for transportation from one vacuous article to the next.

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 01:05:00 UTC | #226847

Shuggy's Avatar Comment 20 by Shuggy

And the ultimate ontological question: why is there something rather than nothing?
I seem to remember that RD deals with it in TGD but I can't find the reference. I would like to ask some metaquestions about it:
1. Does there have to be a reason?
2. What would an answer look like?
3. What kind of answer is "Because something that is not something conjured something into existence"?
4. Doesn't the previous answer imply that God is not something, i.e. does not exist?

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 01:35:00 UTC | #226851

Logicel's Avatar Comment 21 by Logicel

Shuggy, from River Out of Eden:

"I have lost count of the number of times a member of the audience has stood up after a public lecture I have given and said something like the following: 'You scientists are very good at answering 'how' questions. But you must admit you're powerless when it comes to 'why' questions.'

"Behind the question there is always an unspoken, but never justified implication that since science is unable to answer 'why' questions, there must be some other discipline that is qualified to answer them. This implication is, of course, quite illogical. . . . Questions can be simply inappropriate, however heartfelt their framing."

http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Media/riverla.shtml

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 01:47:00 UTC | #226854

ImagineAZ's Avatar Comment 22 by ImagineAZ

This article is really just a classic example of: "Hopefully none of my readers have ever read the Hebrew Bible, so if I'm vague enough, everyone will assume that I'm making a point, and that my point is right."

A couple people have already mentioned these ideas, but I couldn't sit still without saying something:

"peace is nobler than war..." Rabbi, have you ever read Numbers? The Book of Joshua? Please give us your summary of how God commanded the Israelites to peacefully take over Canaan.

"God forbids cruelty to animals." Rabbi, have you ever read Leviticus? (Genesis has already been mentioned.) How many times did God say that he enjoys the smell of burning animals?

After you finish reading the Hebrew Bible (for the first time, apparently), please read some Victor Stenger and Steven Weinberg, lest you come across as a moron when it comes to the "fine-tuning argument."

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 01:52:00 UTC | #226855

RichardofYork's Avatar Comment 23 by RichardofYork

Sacks your a noob, nothing there of any substance just a banal claim to knowledge you cant possibly have .

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 02:38:00 UTC | #226860

Duff's Avatar Comment 24 by Duff

The rabbinical version of "thats not my god" shtick.

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 02:46:00 UTC | #226862

Vaal's Avatar Comment 25 by Vaal

What Bible has he been reading? It isn't the one I read from cover to cover. Talk about cherry-picking. He should be ashamed of himself.

We might wonder at the fact that Homo sapiens is the only known life form in the Universe capable of asking "Why?"

YOU might wonder. Yep, as you have said, the "only known life form in the Universe", but as we only know about life in our microscopic backyard and have barely explored a minuscule part of our own solar system, it is the height of arrogance and stupidity to assume we are the only sentient being in the ENTIRE universe. It is a bit like a crab in a puddle in England speculating that they are the only crabs in the known universe, yet to them a crab in a puddle in Australia is something they will never be able to detect, just speculate about.
The heavens declare the glory of God

Really, how is that? Most of the Universe is an extremely unfriendly place, even on Earth we are regularly smashed with asteroids, are at the mercy of any titanic astronomical or geological event that could end life instantly on the planet. Most of the Universe is nothing more than violence on a colossal and unimaginable scale.
the kinship between humans and animals

Again, how long does it take to get in your thick skull that we ARE animals, not separate from them, we are placental mammals (primates) who evolved large brains, and all animals on the planet are related to each other. Wakey wakey eggs and bacey! Credulous fool.

All the rest of it is the usual straw man drivel that has been dissected again and again and again on this site, and elsewhere. Honestly, if these are the best arguments for the existence of God(s), then these guys are living in Disney land. It is utterly embarrassing, and deserves nothing more than contempt.

EDIT: Man, the religites really are on full retreat.

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 02:56:00 UTC | #226864

tkdvipers's Avatar Comment 26 by tkdvipers

What makes my brain so fuzzy is it seems he's essentially saying.

"There's stuff we don't yet know, so therefore we know that god did it."

What was the point in mentioning Descartes? Does he think the reader will read between the lines and decide that every atheist lives by Descartes ideas?

Since there is negligible scientific evidence for the flood he shouldn't assert it to be true.

With an article like this I just wish somebody with more experience than myself could sit down with the writer and go through each point until their only defence of their belief is just that, belief.
Not "well atheists are attacking something I don't subscribe too, therefore I'm safe."

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 03:01:00 UTC | #226866

ergaster's Avatar Comment 27 by ergaster

The believer might wonder, as does Lord Rees, president of the Royal Society, in his Just Six Numbers, at the extraordinary precision of the six mathematical constants that determine the shape of the Universe...


The good name of Martin Rees is dishonestly besmirched here. It's been years since I read Rees's book but AFAIK, he never implied a goddidit solution to the universal constants. Rees is a proponent of the many universes theories and it's preposterous the see his name in the same article as stuff like "the covenant with Noah".

Is the Rabbi similarly dishonest about using Matt Ridley's name?
The believer might go on to say, as does Matt Ridley...
I haven't read Ridley's book but I've seen his name many times in other books and made a mental note that he is a real scientist.

The Rabbi's choice of words suggets to me at least that Ridley (and Rees) shares the Rabbi's views.

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 03:08:00 UTC | #226869

Beusfalus's Avatar Comment 28 by Beusfalus

the Bible forbids cruelty to animals


What compendium was Leviticus in again then.....??


(Chapters 1 - 9)
God's instructions for animal sacrifices

God gives detailed instructions for performing ritualistic animal sacrifices. Such bloody rituals must be important to God, judging from the number of times that he repeats their instructions. Indeed the entire first nine chapters of Leviticus can be summarized as follows: Get an animal, kill it, sprinkle the blood around, cut the dead animal into pieces, and burn it for a "sweet savor unto the Lord."

Maybe the Rabbi hasn't read the bible....doesn't surprise me though....how many times has TGD been ciritcised by the fundies with out even the decency of having read it.

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 03:20:00 UTC | #226871

JanChan's Avatar Comment 29 by JanChan

Why does this stupid kind of argument keep popping up from bishops and rabbis and all the other people who say "evolution is true, but somewhere out there there must be something..."?

"...at the extraordinary precision of the six mathematical constants that determine the shape of the Universe, such that if even one were fractionally different neither we nor the Universe would exist. "

Don't they realise that there is nothing to compare the fundamental constants of the universe to? That we only know about THIS universe and not any others? That a slight change doesn't cause all life in all possible universes to not exist, just that it would not cause the kind of universe with the kind of life we see today to appear. The most anyone can say is that we wouldn't be here if the constants were different, which doesn't seem like a big deal. It's like saying "if I didn't eat that rotten food, I wouldn't get that stomach ache", so what? Big Deal! It's not as if not eating rotten food would cause all stomach aches to cease to exist.

Any statistician can tell you that it is a terrible argument, you can't predict all possible universes with different constants by just using 1 data point. You can't even draw a line on a graph with 1 data point!!! And then these idiots try to tell us that we can discern what will happen for all other data points on the graph, and all you want to do is find some way to strangle the stupidity out of their heads. Hmm, I wonder what these people were doing in Math class or in school.

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 03:21:00 UTC | #226872

Ygern's Avatar Comment 30 by Ygern

The good old: Argument from Ignorance, therefore God of the Gaps.

*sighs*

I wish such a respected scholar could come up with a more original idea.

But I guess he can't. Or can't be bothered.

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 03:25:00 UTC | #226873