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← God vs. Science - A debate between Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins

God vs. Science - A debate between Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins - Comments

Michael Gray's Avatar Comment 1 by Michael Gray

This interaction between carefully reasoned evidence and instant infantile illogical wishful "thinking" made my blood boil.

A question for Richard: who manufactures your blood-pressure medication? ;)
I'll have some of what you are having, as it seems to do a marvelous job of keeping you calm in the face of stupendously stubborn stupidity!

Fri, 10 Jul 2009 22:44:00 UTC | #377796

critica's Avatar Comment 2 by critica

"And the pure truth of faith, which you can think of as this clear spiritual water, is poured into rusty vessels called human beings"

WTF? Indeed this is simply a cop-out - white noise of the purest sort. Anyone who finds affirmation in these words has jettisoned all respect for reason.

Fri, 10 Jul 2009 22:49:00 UTC | #377798

zengardener's Avatar Comment 3 by zengardener

Dr. RD,

outstanding closing statements.


Fri, 10 Jul 2009 22:51:00 UTC | #377800

Hominidae's Avatar Comment 4 by Hominidae

I don't think that it is God's purpose to make his intention absolutely obvious to us. If it suits him to be a deity that we must seek without being forced to, would it not have been sensible for him to use the mechanism of evolution without posting obvious road signs to reveal his role in creation? text

Huh? Man. No signs for a sky fairy. But if I'm wrong, then I'm going to hell.

This is all very confusing. I'll just pray to Joe Pesci instead, eh? Who's with me?!

Fri, 10 Jul 2009 23:00:00 UTC | #377804

Crazycharlie's Avatar Comment 5 by Crazycharlie

Excellent Richard.You make Collins look foolish. Collins practices double-think like all scientists who believe in religious nonsense.

Fri, 10 Jul 2009 23:02:00 UTC | #377806

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 6 by mordacious1

Richard said:

"Francis keeps saying things like 'From the perspective of a believer.' Once you buy into the position of faith, then suddenly you find yourself losing all of your natural skepticism and your scientific--really scientific--credibility. I'm sorry to be so blunt."

A good argument for Collins not being the Director of the NIH.

Fri, 10 Jul 2009 23:07:00 UTC | #377808

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 7 by Jos Gibbons

"God vs. Science - A debate between Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins". Whenever I read things like that, I may as well be reading this: "Astrology vs. Science - A debate between Stephen Weinberg and Mystic Meg." That's how I felt when I started reading it. Did FC make me think, "No, that's totally unfair"? Nope. His basic response to "But surely X is incompatible with God for reason Y?" is, "Erm ... erm ... no, definitely not."

And how dare he, as a man who claims to accept and specialise in evolution, act as if evolution hasn't explained altruism. What next? Will a religious physicist pretend we still haven't explained why the planets' orbits are in a plane?

I tend to feel that religious biologists, because they have this idea of our evolution being directed so humans would serve God's purposes, are technically creationists of a very diluted sort, rather than people who accept what the evidence tells us about the history of humans' ancestors. When someone says "The bacterial flagellar motor couldn't have evolved by natural selection, so God did it," they get told off by FC or Ken Miller, the same scientists who say exactly the same thing, but about morality instead of the motor.

Fri, 10 Jul 2009 23:08:00 UTC | #377809

Hominidae's Avatar Comment 8 by Hominidae

COLLINS: Richard, I actually agree with the first part of what you said. But I would challenge the statement that my scientific instincts are any less rigorous than yours. The difference is that my presumption of the possibility of God and therefore the supernatural is not zero, and yours is. text

Where did Dawkins say that the possibility of the supernatural is zero?

Fri, 10 Jul 2009 23:11:00 UTC | #377810

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 9 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #395175 by Hominidae

RD went to the trouble of a whole page of inventing and carefully explaining his scale and then saying he was a 6. That's a huge amount of effort to go to, just to say "I think the probability > 0". You'd think, after he'd put that much effort into it, at least some theists, the most honest, presumably including FC, would do him the courtesy of admitting it, instead of repeatedly lying about it. Oh, but no.

Fri, 10 Jul 2009 23:23:00 UTC | #377814

Bluff_King_Hal's Avatar Comment 10 by Bluff_King_Hal

two point's:

Occam's Razor: It is simpler to believe in billions of multiverses than a singe God, even if God were itself a very simple thing. that is because we know a universe exists - our own, whereas no God of any kind has definitely been observed. Once you have seen a horse, it is simpler to believe inm the existence of millions of slightly different horses, than in a single unicorn.

Zero probability:

RD has in fact said he thinks the probability of god existing is slightly above zero. however one can say the probabnility of god is zero while god remains possible. choose a point at random between 0 and 1. the probability of picking any particular point is zero, but you must choose *a* point, so it is still possible for something to happen/exist which has a probability of zero.

any particular combination of physical constants has zero proability if they are free to vary, but as RD points pout, perhaps they cant vary. Probability is only meaningful in terms of repeated trials. Hence we can only say the probability of the constants being right for life as near zero if there have been mulitverses either previously in time or existing alongside our own; hence either the probability of the values of the constants is meaningless or there is the possibility of sufficient multiverses as to make our known values perfectly probable.

Fri, 10 Jul 2009 23:29:00 UTC | #377816

Hominidae's Avatar Comment 11 by Hominidae

My whole point was to show that FC is likely mistaken on what atheism means. We are not saying that the existence of God is ZERO!

We do NOT BELIEVE that there is no God.

We simply reject the notion of a belief in God.

My favorite...If atheism is a belief, then not collecting stamps is a hobby.

Fri, 10 Jul 2009 23:43:00 UTC | #377818

janeteholmes's Avatar Comment 12 by janeteholmes

What does "Outside nature" actually mean? I don't get it.

And I would really like to hear some kind of substantive response to the question of the which god we should be worshiping. Christians just seem to take it as given that the only god worth discussing is The god of Abraham, I have never heard any cogent defense of why this god is superior to Brahma or Zeus or Allah - also supposed to be the god of Abraham but slightly different!

This just confirmed my feeling that talking to the religious is like trying to explain colour to the colourblind, it's a waste of time. They have so many fences and blinkers in their minds they can't think straight.

Fri, 10 Jul 2009 23:50:00 UTC | #377820

Daves reality's Avatar Comment 13 by Daves reality

COLLINS: Yes. God's existence is either true or not. But calling it a scientific question implies that the tools of science can provide the answer. From my perspective, God cannot be completely contained within nature, and therefore God's existence is outside of science's ability to really weigh in.

If this statement is to be taken seriously that Gods existence is either true or not and the answer lies outside of science's ability to test for it or validate it,then how does anyone in any meaningful capacity entertain the existence of god other than in an imaginary sense? Please help!!!!!!!!!! How do they pull off this monumental feat ?

Fri, 10 Jul 2009 23:55:00 UTC | #377822

Hominidae's Avatar Comment 14 by Hominidae

Comment #395187 by Daves reality on July 11, 2009 at 12:55 am
COLLINS: Yes. God's existence is either true or not. But calling it a scientific question implies that the tools of science can provide the answer. From my perspective, God cannot be completely contained within nature, and therefore God's existence is outside of science's ability to really weigh in.

If true, then why use science to show that God exists, Collins? Am I wrong to ask this?

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 00:11:00 UTC | #377825

Labyrinthos's Avatar Comment 15 by Labyrinthos

But if you believe, and Richard has been articulate in this, that natural selection operates on the individual, not on a group

Richard wrote a whole book about how it's neither the group, nor the individual, but the gene! Someone with Collins' background would almost certainly be aware of this distinction and of it's importance, so why would he intentionally mislead with this statement? Maybe because it's such a convenient strawman for the religious side... It's hard to view Collins as an honest man after this statement.

I still find it so difficult to understand how someone of Collins' scientific background can be so muddy in their thinking when it comes to morality and what constitutes an explanation and what is just nonsense babbling. Sam Harris keeps warning us that it's possible to be highly educated and still believe nonsense, but how can you not be surprised by it every time?

I always think the question that needs to be hammered on more in these discussions is "why YOUR god?" Richard often brings up how far apart the deistic god is from a particular god, but what I'd like to see more of is the religious trying to obfuscate their way out of the "of all the gods and religions, why your particular one?" question. They always seem to back up into a more ridiculous position than usual when asked this, because they have to both spell out and justify specifics from their religion, instead of just saying "god is grand and incomprehensible".

Anyway, I find the multiverse theory to be even more powerful than usually stated. Suppose we lived in a different universe than ours, with different constants that somehow do lead to individuals thinking and experimenting. If we did, and if we speculated what a universe having the particular constants our current one has would look like, would we really predict solar systems and complex molecules and biochemistry and life and thinking? How do we really know this is the only type of complexity that leads to thinking matter? Am I wrong on this?

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 00:33:00 UTC | #377829

notsobad's Avatar Comment 16 by notsobad

He may be a good manager, which will help a lot in his new position, but his opinions on life are infantile.
He actually sounds like some of those parodies of a liberal believer:

My God is not improbable to me. He has no need of a creation story for himself or to be fine-tuned by something else.
If you're willing to answer yes to a God outside of nature, then there's nothing inconsistent with God on rare occasions choosing to invade the natural world in a way that appears miraculous.

He also never explained how, or more importantly why, he jumped from his quasi-deistic god to the god of the desert, except for the childish waterfall story.

And god is far more incomprehensible than we could understand, but Collins knows exactly what the Genesis story is about.
What a pompous claim.

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 00:43:00 UTC | #377830

anetchi's Avatar Comment 17 by anetchi

"If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed."
:) Indeed! What a lovely mind you have Richard

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 00:49:00 UTC | #377831

a6ftmunki's Avatar Comment 18 by a6ftmunki

"COLLINS: There are sincere believers who interpret Genesis 1 and 2 ..."

This entire paragraph by Collins is appalling, he has now jumped up a level in intellectual dishonesty. Throughout the conversation, despite repeated challanges by Richard, he repeatly claims that he knows the character, nature and will of god. However, he then makes the statement that people believing in biblical literalism are wrong, because it contradicts with scientific knowledge! He has moved from having a personal belief, to judging the validity of other peoples' beliefs - a step on the road to jihad, crusades, witch hunts etc. etc. etc.

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 01:05:00 UTC | #377834

Roy_H's Avatar Comment 19 by Roy_H

What perfect(and somewhat ironic) timing. Just as I was reading this, The mail arrived, including my copy of "Religulous " on DVD .

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 01:20:00 UTC | #377839

gcdavis's Avatar Comment 20 by gcdavis

One thing that strikes me about most intelligent believers like Collins is that they never seem to question the particular religion that they have signed up to, why christianity? Why not islam or even ancestor worship? The answer is obvious if they cared to look, it is the one that is most familiar, that is culturally compatible, it has nothing to do with the “truth” of the doctrine.

How can a man who has dedicated his life to finding answers to scientific questions fail ask this one of himself?

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 01:36:00 UTC | #377841

Consciousmess's Avatar Comment 21 by Consciousmess

I admire Richard's patience every time!!

What winds me up, is that the debate the believers are arguing on is on the 'CREATOR'. This is the only point where the debate CAN occur, as arguing the rest of the crap they believe is farcical - here I refer to the Judao-Christian-Islamic beliefs and the holy books they are based on.

Those parts are even more silly, yet the 'arguers for there being a creator' don't dismiss this - and perhaps that also includes such people as Francis Collins!!

Does that make sense??

They may well have a debate about there being a creator and articulate and educated atheists can debate with them on this, but that is NOT the theologians argument in its ENTIRETY.

It is the ONLY aspect where the debate can occur.

I'll say it again, debating about a creator is the only operationalised debate as that can occur, but the theologians NEVER ALSO dismiss at the start all the other implications that their beliefs hold so dear. Examples of this we all know about from these mono-theistic faiths: born of a virgin, resurrected from the dead, taken up by a winged horse, miracle healing, there being at least 150000 years of death and suffering in humans before the son of god was sent to an inarticulate man in part of the middle-east etc.)



Sat, 11 Jul 2009 02:05:00 UTC | #377849

mjwemdee's Avatar Comment 22 by mjwemdee

The idea that the inevitability of the universal constants (as we understand them) might be compared to the ratio of a circle to its diameter is a good one. Another valid point (also expressed in TGD) is this: even if the IDiots are correct in saying life couldn't have evolved if one or more of the constants were differently-tuned, why couldn't there be a completely different COMBINATION of constants that would ultimately permit life to flourish£ Their argument for the existence of the divine Knob-twiddler has still not been proven.

PS - Has anyone been able to explain why the question-mark seems to always come up as a £ sign on this website £

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 02:33:00 UTC | #377852

MatthaiNazrani's Avatar Comment 23 by MatthaiNazrani

COLLINS: I think that is a fundamental difference between us. I'm glad we identified it.
That's it? He dismisses an entire field of research, dismisses Dawkins' explanation, postulates the independent reality of "Good and Evil" without any evidence, and gets away with saying that it is just a personal difference with Dawkins?

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 02:55:00 UTC | #377855

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 24 by rod-the-farmer

What I find beyond belief is the idea that

1) dog created the astoundingly huge universe 14 billion years ago, and then stopped all activity regarding humans

2) then, 10 billion years later, dog created our solar system (one among gazillions) as the special target for growing some humans later, ONLY SOME OF WHOM would worship him/her

3) let the earth sit there for almost 4 billion years

4) finally created life on earth at some point during those 4 billion years

5) caused or allowed evolution to work its' way from single cell animals to humans during several million years

6) thousands of years after humans appeared, dog decided to appear in person to a very small, obscure tribe of people in only one of several areas where people existed

7) then dog died, to save some humans from their sins, and caused some of those people to believe dog was a special entity sent to show them what to believe, and who to worship. No answer is ever given to the question of why dogs always appear to the very same people who are supposed to worship him/her. We never hear of a prospective dog appearing at the other side of the planet from where his/her target audience lives.

8) and now, 2000 years later, we are supposed to believe that a book written by un-educated sheep herders is a true account of all this, even though they had no knowledge at all of...well...anything. Other than this one obscure tribe who first came up with this story, none of the other tribes around at the time, came up with the same story. In fact, they ALL have different stories about the same things. Nor have beings from another solar system ever appeared saying

"Hey ! Did some weird dog create you guys out of dust too ? Same here !"

Seems way too far fetched for me.

As for Hominidae, the stamp collecting idea is good, but I prefer

"Atheism is a religion/belief system the same way OFF is a TV channel."

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 03:00:00 UTC | #377858

Beachbum's Avatar Comment 25 by Beachbum

This is all a part of their self absorbed arrogance, there has to be a divine knob twiddler to make their life. If we were all three eyed green slim balls that hung from damp tree like substances the knobs would have a different twiddle. They don't get it.

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 03:06:00 UTC | #377859

ahmunnaeetchoo's Avatar Comment 26 by ahmunnaeetchoo

Agreed Beachbum.

Theologians always seem to be under the impression that humans somehow represent perfection. But it's very apparent that we are limited and flawed, both in our physical and mental capabilities. We may be conscious, but is that really the limit£ Can't there be further levels of sentience and awareness£ Imagine what life would be like with a perfect memory, instant processing power etc. If we're made in god's image then he clearly isn't looking after himself!

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 03:54:00 UTC | #377866

Chris Davis's Avatar Comment 27 by Chris Davis

Wonderful stuff, but I'm a little surprised that Collins' musings on the genetics of morality didn't get a bigger trashing.

This site hosts a movie by Richard called 'Nice Guys Finish First', showing the iterated prisoner's dilemma work in Game Theory that demonstrates that cooperation is more profitable for a social animal than an every-man-for-himself. It benefits society, but also benefits the individual - providing a path for its genetic selection.

Matt Ridley covers the subject in 'Origin of Virtue'. We're moral because it's good for us. Indeed, our instinctive moral drive allows us to define good and evil.

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 03:58:00 UTC | #377867

Squigit's Avatar Comment 28 by Squigit

"justice and morality are two of the attributes we most readily identify with God"

I will never understand how someone could say this about the Abrahamic god.

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 04:27:00 UTC | #377869

Gregg Townsend's Avatar Comment 29 by Gregg Townsend

This article in Time magazine was the first time I had ever read of Richard Dawkins. In fact, it was just a few short weeks after reading Letter to a Christian Nation and I was in the middle of reading The End of Faith.

Now I'd always been an Atheist (or a Humanist as I called myself) but reading the two positions side by side in this format in Time magazine knocked me away forever from any feelings toward "woo" that I may have romantically been pining for (are you listening Santi? :) ) The next morning, I placed my name on a list at the library to check out TGD. The waiting list was a month long...and the library system had 50 Salt Lake City!! :O

Anyway, I still have this copy of Time stashed somewhere in the house and I still enjoy this article.

Francis Collins does a great deal of damage to his side of the arguement here. I think I'll send a link to President Obama.

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 04:58:00 UTC | #377871

colluvial's Avatar Comment 30 by colluvial

"COLLINS: Faith is not the opposite of reason. Faith rests squarely upon reason, but with the added component of revelation."

Interpretation: "I will follow reason until I don't like where it leads. Then I will jump ship and appeal to fairies."

Sat, 11 Jul 2009 05:31:00 UTC | #377873