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Richard Dawkins: 'I never meet people who disagree with me' - Comments

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 1 by NewEnglandBob

I just love those quotes from Prof Dawkins.

Wed, 15 Sep 2010 23:59:37 UTC | #518617

John Jones's Avatar Comment 2 by John Jones

hmm... There's something BIG missing from the above account. It's hardly likely, even for the most anti-religious among us, to think that religious people will believe that two waters won't mix (assuming that the incident was correctly interpreted on a strict physical basis). Even religious communities know how to build a house, collect water and dispose of it separately.

So what exactly is being said here by the writer? It's clear that the extreme level of stupidity that is levelled at anyone who is religious doesn't stand up to examination.

Let me offer a suggestion. People in a community, ANY COMMUNITY, will believe what they are told if their life and livelihood depended on it. It has nothing to do with intelligence or beliefs. Similarly, we find the closed world of academic science shoring up idiocies that the public only accept because they are afraid that they might be made to look stupid and become ostracised. Parallel worlds, a "mental" illness, birthing flat on the back, the pathologisation of unusual experience, the idea that brains "cause" mind, empty concepts like "disorder", mental "states", the idea that "copying" a gene is survival of a gene, and ultimately the grand animistic idea that objects and processes carry their own limits and natures around with them - these are the sort of everyday stupidities that we have grown up with and carry to our grave. Occassionally, like the waters that won't mix, a really daft one takes hold. Can we honestly say that we don't entertain any of these NOW?

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 00:01:15 UTC | #518618

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 3 by mordacious1

There was one question from the audience which provoked a brief flash of the anger and rudeness which has given this generally mild man his notoriety.

Really? This is what has given him his notoriety? (shakes head...walks away mumbling)

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 00:04:15 UTC | #518619

mirandaceleste's Avatar Comment 4 by mirandaceleste

Comment 2 by John Jones :

hmm... There's something BIG missing from the above account. It's hardly likely, even for the most anti-religious among us, to think that religious people will believe that two waters won't mix (assuming that the incident was correctly interpreted on a strict physical basis). Even religious communities know how to build a house, collect water and dispose of it separately.

So what exactly is being said here by the writer? It's clear that the extreme level of stupidity that is levelled at anyone who is religious doesn't stand up to examination.

Let me offer a suggestion. People in a community, ANY COMMUNITY, will believe what they are told if their life and livelihood depended on it. It has nothing to do with intelligence or beliefs. Similarly, we find the closed world of academic science shoring up idiocies that the public only accept because they are afraid that they might be made to look stupid and become ostracised. Parallel worlds, a "mental" illness, birthing flat on the back, the pathologisation of unusual experience, the idea that brains "cause" mind, empty concepts like "disorder", mental "states", the idea that "copying" a gene is survival of a gene, and ultimately the grand animistic idea that objects and processes carry their own limits and natures around with them - these are the sort of everyday stupidities that we have grown up with and carry to our grave. Occassionally, like the waters that won't mix, a really daft one takes hold. Can we honestly say that we don't entertain any of these NOW?

What in the world are you going on about? Seriously, what does this have to do with the incident at the Islamic school? Did you watch the documentary?

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 00:05:52 UTC | #518620

John Jones's Avatar Comment 5 by John Jones

As I said, Dawkins levelled a degree of stupidity precisely at religious folk that simply isn't realistic e.g. the water example. There is something missing from his account. I suggested what that might be, and gave examples.

If Dawkins had wandered into a university of science or logic he would have found similar idiocies. I gave reasons and some examples. They seem fine to me. In fact, I suspect I left the best ones out, but then I always write in one sitting.

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 00:15:39 UTC | #518623

mirandaceleste's Avatar Comment 6 by mirandaceleste

Comment 5 by John Jones :

As I said, Dawkins levelled a degree of stupidity precisely at religious folk that simply isn't realistic e.g. the water example. There is something missing from his account. I suggested what that might be, and gave examples.

If Dawkins had wandered into a university of science or logic he would have found similar idiocies. I gave reasons and some examples. They seem fine to me. In fact, I suspect I left the best ones out, but then I always write in one sitting.

The water example is completely realistic. It happened. And it reflects the religious beliefs of the students and teachers at that particular school.

And, no, there wouldn't be "similar idiocies" at any "university of science or logic", as legitimate schools do not let baseless supernatural nonsense get in the way of facts and the dissemination of knowledge, scientific or otherwise.

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 00:24:08 UTC | #518625

wald0h's Avatar Comment 7 by wald0h

@John Jones I think you're thinking too much about the salt and water bit.

It's very clear that even at an institute that is well funded, well-run, and contains smart human beings, can be convinced of dumb things just because that's what they were told, or brought up with, or what-have-you.

It was merely an example of how much they degraded actual science, which is the biggest opponent to religion. They're deciding to take word of mouth as fact instead of running probably the world's easiest experiment.

I would propose that the religious, in general, are more likely to have dumb ideas to those who understand and practice the scientific method.

Updated: Thu, 16 Sep 2010 00:34:46 UTC | #518626

JHJEFFERY's Avatar Comment 8 by JHJEFFERY

2 JJ

"People in a community, ANY COMMUNITY, will believe what they are told if their life and livelihood depended on it. It has nothing to do with intelligence or beliefs."

More than a jot and tittle of incongruence there, John. And yes, the copying of a gene is, in evolutionary language, the survival of that gene. No time to explain it now. There's a brand new, hot of the presses book that can explain that to you. It's called The Selfish Gene. I forgot who wrote it . . .

Best

JHJ

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 01:14:41 UTC | #518638

green and dying's Avatar Comment 9 by green and dying

Comment 2 by John Jones :

hmm... There's something BIG missing from the above account. It's hardly likely, even for the most anti-religious among us, to think that religious people will believe that two waters won't mix (assuming that the incident was correctly interpreted on a strict physical basis). Even religious communities know how to build a house, collect water and dispose of it separately.

The Quran doesn't say that salt water and fresh water don't mix with each other in a glass. The claim is that fresh water IN RIVERS and salt water IN THE SEA don't mix with each other to create one mass of water with an intermediate dilution. It's not about whether they CAN mix but whether they DO mix in this one situation.

"He has let free the two bodies of flowing water, meeting together: Between them is a Barrier which they do not transgress." (Quran 55:19-20)

"It is He Who has let free the two bodies of flowing water: One palatable and sweet, and the other salt and bitter; yet has He made a barrier between them, a partition that is forbidden to be passed." (Quran 25:53)

Unless the girl mentioned water mixing in a glass and it wasn't included in the documentary I think this has been misunderstood.

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 01:25:14 UTC | #518640

sara g's Avatar Comment 10 by sara g

I suspect that by bringing it up at all they were boasting that they are perfectly aware that the waters mix, but are so faithful that they believe the prophet instead.

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 01:51:31 UTC | #518643

Save me jebuz!'s Avatar Comment 11 by Save me jebuz!

@ jj in view of the time your post was written, perhaps one was tired and emotional? I am very definitely tired and emotional right now and can still trace no sense whatever in your script. However, should a career in political discourse present itself, where an ability to wax lyrical on any topic without actually making any sense is greatly valued, I have but one question.. what were you drinking?

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 01:55:31 UTC | #518644

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 12 by Neodarwinian

Creationist have beaten that blood clotting fallacy to death. To think that in the 21st century that people not only believe that salt and fresh water do not mix, but are so besotted by their " magic book " that they have never checked this belief out.

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 02:08:59 UTC | #518647

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 13 by InYourFaceNewYorker

He admitted, when questioned about the reception he gets travelling in the US Bible Belt, that, "nobody who disagrees ever comes to my lectures – or if they do, they keep very quiet afterwards".

How about that idiot at the University of Oklahoma lecture in 2009 who started screaming, "You're a fraud!" YouTube classic!

At the March 2008 Barnes and Noble event in NYC for the paperback of The God Delusion, there was a guy who was saying, "How do you know there's no God?" and "What about Hitler and Stalin?" and all the usual religious boneheadedry. Then everybody told him to shut up. I think he what he needed was a good drop-kick into the East River. ;)

Julie

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 03:10:51 UTC | #518661

NakedCelt's Avatar Comment 14 by NakedCelt

Similarly, we find the closed world of academic science shoring up idiocies that the public only accept because they are afraid that they might be made to look stupid and become ostracised. Parallel worlds, a "mental" illness, birthing flat on the back, the pathologisation of unusual experience, the idea that brains "cause" mind, empty concepts like "disorder", mental "states", the idea that "copying" a gene is survival of a gene, and ultimately the grand animistic idea that objects and processes carry their own limits and natures around with them - these are the sort of everyday stupidities that we have grown up with and carry to our grave.

No, John Jones, you don't get away with running through all these as if each is proved false by a moment's reflection. Can you go through them one by one, please, with a demonstration of the incoherence involved in each case?

Here, to make it easy, I'll list them:

  1. parallel worlds
  2. mental illness
  3. birthing flat on the back
  4. the pathologization of unusual experience
  5. the idea that brains cause mind
  6. the concept of disorder, which you call "empty" (why?)
  7. mental states
  8. gene replication equals gene survival
  9. objects and processes carry their own limits and natures around with them

I have a nasty premonition, looking at #2, #4, #5, #6, #7, and #9, that your alternative hypothesis is some kind of Chopraesque "universal consciousness" wibble backed up by dreams or hallucinations. Please prove me wrong... if I'm wrong.

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 03:25:40 UTC | #518664

cixelsyd5's Avatar Comment 15 by cixelsyd5

Quick question....

Dawkins stated that the blood clotting argument proposed was a creationist lie but he never gave an explanation as to why it was a lie. I was just wondering what the answer was in case I get a similar argument.

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 03:36:51 UTC | #518666

k_docks's Avatar Comment 16 by k_docks

A lady wanted to know how evolution could explain phenomena like the clotting of blood, which – she claimed – required a number of agents all to be present at the same time, and if one were taken away, the blood would not clot. That, he retorted, was "a creationist lie". And even if it were true, it would not prove the existence of an intelligent designer. "You have got to look at the detail," he added. "You have got to stop being lazy and saying, 'Oh, I can't explain that so God did it.'"

Typical Dawkins answer, "There is no God so therfore 'evolution done it'!" Quick change the topic this question is too hard to answer! Maybe Richard should write a book about science and answer these type of questions, maybe then he might win the worship of the 'lazy' creationists!

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 04:17:28 UTC | #518668

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 17 by InYourFaceNewYorker

/begin sarcasm

k_docks,

Yeah, Richard has never written any books about science. The Blind Watchmaker, The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype and so forth have nothing to do with science. He's just pulling stuff out of his ears.

Love and Kisses,

Julie

/end sarcasm

Comment 16 by k_docks :

A lady wanted to know how evolution could explain phenomena like the clotting of blood, which – she claimed – required a number of agents all to be present at the same time, and if one were taken away, the blood would not clot. That, he retorted, was "a creationist lie". And even if it were true, it would not prove the existence of an intelligent designer. "You have got to look at the detail," he added. "You have got to stop being lazy and saying, 'Oh, I can't explain that so God did it.'"

Typical Dawkins answer, "There is no God so therfore 'evolution done it'!" Quick change the topic this question is too hard to answer! Maybe Richard should write a book about science and answer these type of questions, maybe then he might win the worship of the 'lazy' creationists!

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 04:45:51 UTC | #518671

mmurray's Avatar Comment 18 by mmurray

He's just pulling stuff out of his ears.

ears ? Did you mean that or did you put the e in the wrong place ?

Michael

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 06:43:55 UTC | #518688

ev-love's Avatar Comment 19 by ev-love

Still laughing!

"The closed world of academic science shoring up idiocies"...

Did someone really say that?

ev-love

Oh, and why was "mental illness" in quotation marks?

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 07:05:54 UTC | #518693

kmoposse's Avatar Comment 20 by kmoposse

hmmm... about the blood clotting comment by k_docks:

Yes, blood clotting is a very complex process. In my Tissue-Biomaterials Interactions class last Spring we spent two days modeling the system on the white boards in our classroom, trying to see which group (when groups were broken down to 4 individuals) could best demonstrate an all encompassing model of the process. I remember modeling my own system on several pages with feedback arrows and factors which had no meaning to me outside of suffix which represented it. There are competing models and it is not as straightforward as many models are in biological systems. But one thing is certain, in all competing models there is nothing out of the ordinary going on. No feedback loop which shows complexity beyond those of other systems. It is simply not an easy system to map accurately and with certainty. It is quite a waste of time to go through all the details for one person's question at an event like this in order for them to get the point that if some new, non-naturally occuring, method was taking place then the scientific community would be all over it.

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 07:46:55 UTC | #518708

GPWC's Avatar Comment 21 by GPWC

@ comment 9 green and dying

"He has let free the two bodies of flowing water, meeting together: Between them is a Barrier which they do not transgress." (Quran 55:19-20)

"It is He Who has let free the two bodies of flowing water: One palatable and sweet, and the other salt and bitter; yet has He made a barrier between them, a partition that is forbidden to be passed." (Quran 25:53)

The point about the salt water / fresh water thing is that it has recently become an argument of choice for Muslims around the world to prove the Quran was written by Allah. It's everywhere on youtube for example and I even heard the argument in the back of beyond in Syria earlier this year. The argument is that Mohammed couldn't have known this "scientific fact" at the time, so Allah must have told him.

Until now, I couldn't be bothered to find out what it was all about as I knew it would be pure bs. So thanks to green and dying above for setting out the quotes. It is pure bs told to gullible fools. Apart from anything else, I presume it is not even meant literally, but as a metaphor for something.

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 08:05:42 UTC | #518713

deek999's Avatar Comment 22 by deek999

re: the "salt and fresh water" not mixing.

I was fortunate enough to swim in Milford Sound a few years ago (freezing but wonderful) and there you do have two very distinct layers of fresh and salt water. The top couple of metres are fresh and it is a very strange sensation to dive through it to the salt water below. The colour, the temperature and the taste change very.....very dramatically!

Now were I a 7th century "scientist" I would be able to observe this phenomenon but it is unlikely that I'd have the ability to test this further at all depths and at all distances from the shore. The technology simply wouldn't allow it. So I may well extrapolate from what I see and come to conclusion that eventually is captured in the Koran.

Guess what? it is wrong. But it can be seen a very much the "best guess" that the science allowed at the time. Unfortunately this holy book doesn't allow us to keep a running change-log and so the faithful are left to tie themselves in theological knots. If anything, Such historically plausible, but incorrect explanations are very strong evidence for a man-made document that is a product of it's time.

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 08:17:51 UTC | #518718

John Jones's Avatar Comment 23 by John Jones

Comment 8 by JHJEFFERY

"2 JJ "People in a community, ANY COMMUNITY, will believe what they are told if their life and livelihood depended on it. It has nothing to do with intelligence or beliefs."

More than a jot and tittle of incongruence there, John. And yes, the copying of a gene is, in evolutionary language, the survival of that gene. No time to explain it now. There's a brand new, hot of the presses book that can explain that to you. It's called The Selfish Gene. I forgot who wrote it . . ."

What I wrote was fine, there was a misreading. People will believe what they are told in a community if their livelihood/lives depended on it, but this belief (its raison d'etre) has nothing to do with factual belief. It has to do with a way of life or a coercion.

We can make the distinction between a belief as it is used colloquially - "I believe it is raining" and a belief as a faith or practice. The belief/faith is different from the mere factual belief that two waters don't mix.

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 08:34:27 UTC | #518726

hairybreeks's Avatar Comment 24 by hairybreeks

Comment 14 by NakedCelt

I have a nasty premonition, looking at #2, #4, #5, #6, #7, and #9, that your alternative hypothesis is some kind of Chopraesque "universal consciousness" wibble backed up by dreams or hallucinations. Please prove me wrong... if I'm wrong.

What does 'Chopraesque' mean please? I Googled it and found nothing that seems to be relevant.

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 08:37:20 UTC | #518727

John Jones's Avatar Comment 25 by John Jones

Miranda celeste wrote

Comment 5 by John Jones :

As I said, Dawkins levelled a degree of stupidity precisely at religious folk that simply isn't realistic e.g. the water example. There is something missing from his account. I suggested what that might be, and gave examples.

If Dawkins had wandered into a university of science or logic he would have found similar idiocies. I gave reasons and some examples. They seem fine to me. In fact, I suspect I left the best ones out, but then I always write in one sitting.

The water example is completely realistic. It happened. And it reflects the religious beliefs of the students and teachers at that particular school.

And, no, there wouldn't be "similar idiocies" at any "university of science or logic", as legitimate schools do not let baseless supernatural nonsense get in the way of facts and the dissemination of knowledge, scientific or otherwise.

I'm not saying that religions don't pose significant problems for people. But then I can make the same comment in respect of science. Normally we wouldn't believe that lying flat on your back for birthing, or ECT would be beneficial, but the social pressure in favour of science convinces us that they are beneficial.

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 08:38:17 UTC | #518729

John Jones's Avatar Comment 26 by John Jones

Comment 7 by wald0h

@John Jones I think you're thinking too much about the salt and water bit.

It's very clear that even at an institute that is well funded, well-run, and contains smart human beings, can be convinced of dumb things just because that's what they were told, or brought up with, or what-have-you.

It was merely an example of how much they degraded actual science, which is the biggest opponent to religion. They're deciding to take word of mouth as fact instead of running probably the world's easiest experiment.

I would propose that the religious, in general, are more likely to have dumb ideas to those who understand and practice the scientific method.

See new post

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 08:45:02 UTC | #518733

Ian's Avatar Comment 27 by Ian

But then I can make the same comment in respect of science. Normally we wouldn't believe that lying flat on your back for birthing, or ECT would be beneficial, but the social pressure in favour of science convinces us that they are beneficial.

It's a good idea, when making a statement, to make sure it's factual.

The correct name for the birthing position is lithotomy. It was developed in ancient Greece for the removal of stones from hollow organs like the bladder, hence its name: litho refers to the Greek word for stone.

The lithotomy position is often preferred by obstetricians because it is easier to monitor things like fetal heart rate, which may prove vital in cases where there are complications. However, there is no scientific preference for lithotomy, it was just the position which became traditional.

Today, women have a wide range of choices available to them which they can choose with advice from midwives or obstetricians.

Regarding ECT, as far as I know Ealing Community Transport provide a useful service...

...Ooooooh, you mean electroconvulsive therapy. Why didn't you say?

Although somewhat overused for most of its history, ECT has been shown to be effective in the treatment of depression in comparison with placebos and drugs.

JJ, are you a scientologist?

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 09:28:23 UTC | #518741

mmurray's Avatar Comment 28 by mmurray

Comment 24 by hairybreeks :

Comment 14 by NakedCelt

I have a nasty premonition, looking at #2, #4, #5, #6, #7, and #9, that your alternative hypothesis is some kind of Chopraesque "universal consciousness" wibble backed up by dreams or hallucinations. Please prove me wrong... if I'm wrong. What does 'Chopraesque' mean please? I Googled it and found nothing that seems to be relevant.

Deepak Chopra

Michael

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 10:28:46 UTC | #518774

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 29 by Cartomancer

But Classical Latin only has a tiny handful of irregular verbs, and Medieval Latin has even fewer!

Updated: Thu, 16 Sep 2010 11:52:07 UTC | #518825

MrPickwick's Avatar Comment 30 by MrPickwick

"...the Prophet had said that salt and fresh water do not mix"

The following words from Bertand Russell ("An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish", written 67 years ago!) come to mind:

I am persuaded that there is absolutely no limit to the absurdities that can, by government action, come to be generally believed. Give me an adequate army, with power to provide it with more pay and better food than falls to the lot of the average man, and I will undertake, within thirty years, to make the majority of the population believe that two and two are three, that water freezes when it gets hot and boils when it gets cold, or any other nonsense that might seem to serve the interest of the State. Of course, even when these beliefs had been generated, people would not put the kettle in the ice-box when they wanted it to boil. That cold makes water boil would be a Sunday truth, sacred and mystical, to be professed in awed tones, but not to be acted on in daily life. What would happen would be that any verbal denial of the mystic doctrine would be made illegal, and obstinate heretics would be "frozen" at the stake. No person who did not enthusiastically accept the official doctrine would be allowed to teach or to have any position of power. Only the very highest officials, in their cups, would whisper to each other what rubbish it all is; then they would laugh and drink again. This is hardly a caricature of what happens under some modern governments.

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 11:54:42 UTC | #518827