This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← Macleans interview: Lionel Tiger

Macleans interview: Lionel Tiger - Comments

root2squared's Avatar Comment 1 by root2squared

Since five billion humans seem to accept that there is a heaven or reincarnation or something after death, then I have to say this is something that comforts the species.


I think most people most of the time use religion to cope with the harsh realities of life rather than to cope with the fear of death. The heaven in afterlife is just an extra benefit tagged on.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 15:14:00 UTC | #446760

Roger Stanyard's Avatar Comment 2 by Roger Stanyard

I don't understand his argument.

I don't believe in any religion; nor do the vast majority of people posting to Richard's web site.

So what is the explanation of that£ He seems to be suggesting that it doesn't happen.

Moreover, I take issue with him about 5 billion religious believers.

Here in Western Europe (and I suspect its much the same in China and Japan) most people simply pay lip service to religion. They neither believe in a religion nor outright reject religion. They certainly don't practice it.

Lack of religious belief in mankind is the norm. Religious belief the exception.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 15:28:00 UTC | #446763

gcdavis's Avatar Comment 3 by gcdavis

Reads like the argument of a 10 year old, don’t bother!

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 15:31:00 UTC | #446764

gos's Avatar Comment 4 by gos

I’ve been on panels a couple of times with Richard Dawkins and invariably we come to the point where Richard will go on about how terrible religion is, and I’ll say, “Richard, are you a naturalist?” And he says, “Well, of course I am.” And then I say, “Would you agree, as you’ve in fact argued in your books, that over 90 per cent of people have some religion?” and he finally says, “Yes.” “How can you be a naturalist and assume that the great majority of the species is not natural?


Facepalm. The man is not qualified to interpret any data he gathers.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 15:48:00 UTC | #446767

pkruger's Avatar Comment 5 by pkruger

Tiger started with some interesting observations, but as soon as he began with his applications, they went from silly to inane. As if the alterative to religious society ia Marxist society. Come on.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 16:14:00 UTC | #446772

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 6 by Ignorant Amos

Nobody likes to die.


A bit of a generalisation there Lionel, there are lots of people who "like to die", not lest the lunatic suicide bombers. Apart from those eedjits, there are those in society who just can't cope and see death as relief and accordingly "top" themselves, then there is those with no future quality of life and see euthanasia as the only alternative to the thought of wasteing away from degenerative desease, they would "like to die"....just a couple of examples, pillock.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 16:25:00 UTC | #446774

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 7 by Ignorant Amos

I thought it was an immense scientific question, and I was not content with simply saying it’s tradition, it’s culture, or fall into the trap of saying—as Richard Dawkins and others have said—if you believe in religion you’re a moron.


Lionel, this is a question Prof. Dawkins also feels is very important, but I don't remember him calling all religious believers morons, delusional yes, some ignorant perhaps, but morons, citation please?...a bit disingenious of you I fear.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 16:34:00 UTC | #446778

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 8 by Jos Gibbons

Wow, this guy really doesn't get it. He doesn't get the distinction between disapproving of something and not wishing to learn more about it, or the distinction between that which is unnatural and that which is supernatural. As for his comments on environmentalism, it seems religion's defenders can't help but be wrong about other stuff also.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 16:36:00 UTC | #446780

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 9 by irate_atheist

...as Richard Dawkins and others have said—if you believe in religion you’re a moron.
Strawman alert.

Since five billion humans seem to accept that there is a heaven or reincarnation or something after death...
Evidence for this assertion?

I was invited to a meeting in Beijing two years ago sponsored by the government which wanted to see if there was something else they could teach people in China other than to get rich or that Mao was a great leader. I think they’re still struggling with that.
How about - and here's a novel idea - teaching them critical thinking instead of dogma and lies.

Q: Despite increasing secularization, especially in the West, most people have not become flat-out rationalists. Do you think that for many environmentalism is a religion?
A: That’s absolutely right, and that’s interesting because it is finally the fruit of pantheism, a very, very old religious idea. For many people, not using more than four sheets of toilet paper is an act of moral purification.
Many people? How many.

Q: That’s because religion eases stress, and what causes more stress than sexuality?
A: Well, precisely, and mate selection. I hope that in the book we were respectful of the fact that it’s not just mad Puritans that are interested in this; it’s a more general kind of issue about human affairs. We can’t just assume that any effort by religious people to intervene in private sexuality is one of those bad things that we’re now rid of, without acknowledging the complexity of the reproductive urge and its relationship to the future and to social probity, and to taking care of kids. I just read an article by an orthodox Jewish woman about how restrictive their sexual rules are—for example sex only 10 or 12 days of the month—but that people in this system are in fact very happy. And not only are they happy but they will have seven, eight, nine, 10 children. So in that regard, it’s working biologically in terms of reproduction.
WTF? Srsly? Happy? Repressed, controlled, deluded yes. But happy? Oh, FFS. Give me a break with the moral relativism please. Truth matters, Lionel, truth matters.

Q: From the outside, then, it’s not religion’s strangeness you see, but its naturalness?
A: I’ve been on panels a couple of times with Richard Dawkins and invariably we come to the point where Richard will go on about how terrible religion is, and I’ll say, “Richard, are you a naturalist?” And he says, “Well, of course I am.” And then I say, “Would you agree, as you’ve in fact argued in your books, that over 90 per cent of people have some religion?” and he finally says, “Yes.” “How can you be a naturalist and assume that the great majority of the species is not natural? That doesn’t make any sense.” As a social scientist I wanted a deeper explanation for this otherwise remarkable activity. When you think of the cost of religion—the buildings, the tax exemptions, the weekly offering—it’s not trivial, it’s simply not trivial. If only out of respect, one has to pay attention to this.
Equivocation. And one can hardly accuse Richard et al of regarding the breathtaking fuckwittery that is religion as trivial.

pkruger Thanks for pointing out the false dichotomy he presents. You saved me from writing a couple of lines of depressing prose.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 16:41:00 UTC | #446781

chawinwords's Avatar Comment 10 by chawinwords

I have spent some years trying to understand the roots of the human's willingness to believe in things unseen (base of religions).

I have come to understand that such beliefs date back to a time when language was first being developed; a time of what I consider "word captions."

Across the planet in areas where cave art depicts even animals long extinct, none appear with "captions" in language.

So, most likely, when humans starting living in ever-larger groups they needed rules (civilization) established by caption -- or either oral traditions or written language. Let's call this period the human species evolutionary adolescence, following the infancy-toddler period before language.

The problem about so many religions is that for thousands of years, religions, both the good parts and the evil parts,have kept the human species trapped in its adolescence, almost stopping further evolution into the scientific/rational destination, natural to evolution.

How odd, the journey from nature worship to shamanism to animism to organized religion and priesthood had to quit evolving for so long. Who would have thought that priesthood would evolved backwards into a version of shamanism, wherein, so many would cling to communication with the spirit world -- those things unseen and non-falsifiable?

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 16:43:00 UTC | #446782

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 11 by Ignorant Amos

The Catholics have done it in a brilliant manner with the confessional, and it’s dazzling how that works. But the point is that it’s a place to go for the individual and for the group, and it unites the individual to the group in an agreeable, warm-hearted way, unlike, say, paying taxes.


So does going to the pub or following a sports team for example, but they both have their downside too.

Perhaps starting a Basket Weaving Society is the way forward and a more virtuous gathering group. LOL

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 16:47:00 UTC | #446785

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 12 by irate_atheist

10. Comment #466746 by chawinwords -

Who would have thought that priesthood would evolved backwards into a version of shamanism, wherein, so many would cling to communication with the spirit world -- those things unseen and non-falsifiable?
Probably because it stops them being prosecuted under Section 3 of the Trade Descriptions Act (1968).

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 16:50:00 UTC | #446787

Stephen of Wimbledon's Avatar Comment 13 by Stephen of Wimbledon

Q: The ubiquity of belief in all human societies, you argue, means religion is rooted in our brains. You see it originating about 150,000 years ago when we were coming out of Africa, and were smart enough to contemplate death?
A: Yes, we had developed enough cortical tissue to anticipate a whole series of things about the future. The utterly astonishing one, the defining feature of religions, is the notion of an afterlife. It’s really hard to deny that this is an act of marketing genius, if you were to look at this in a cynical sense.

"If you work in marketing, kill yourself now."
Long live Bill Hicks

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 16:59:00 UTC | #446791

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 14 by Ignorant Amos

Had to stop reading....generalisations, more straw men than a covention of scarecrows and unsubstantiated declarations abound. Lionel, put a Tiger in your tank and GTFOH ya doting old goatskin.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 17:03:00 UTC | #446793

canatheist's Avatar Comment 15 by canatheist

Well.... he either hasn't done a very good job of explaining himself, or he is a complete and utter moron.... I'm leaning toward the later.

I agree with the premise that many (maybe not 5 billion) people take comfort and solace from religion, and there is anthropological history of religion in virtually all cultures. However, to make the argument that that somehow makes it alright and we shouldn't call people morons for believing, is total missing the point.

The fact that we've had religion is so many cultures for so long is because of the wide spread ignorance of how things in universe really work was prevalent until only the last few centuries. I submit anyone who has been exposed and open to science fact, loses their need and even desire for religion. And those who don't cling to their ignorance like a child clings to their security blanket.

Religion has no place in an modern and educated society and saying it does, simply because it has, is no argument for it.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 17:03:00 UTC | #446794

chawinwords's Avatar Comment 16 by chawinwords

Oh I forgot to add how dependent civilization was on the evolution of the concepts of ethics and morality -- once again, totally dependent upon the development of language captions.

If you don't think that the concepts of ethics and morality evolved over the needs of a group society (civilization), well, you are very religious minded indeed.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 17:04:00 UTC | #446795

SecularSuz's Avatar Comment 17 by SecularSuz

I'm sorry, this is completely unrelated to this article. But I have to say it! This guys head is just so adorable! His face just makes me want to run to him and say, 'grandpa!' squeeze him tight in a big hug and give him a kiss on the cheek. I mean, come on? Isn't that the sweetest, cuddliest head you've ever seen? *giggles*

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 17:44:00 UTC | #446805

knutsondc's Avatar Comment 18 by knutsondc

Apart from the misleading charicature of Richard's views on religion -- I don't think Richard's ever said that anyone who's religious "must be a moron" or that religion is somehow "unnatural," just that religion is irrational and often detrimental -- I don't have as big a problem with Tiger as the other commenters do.

Granted, Tiger makes fairly broad generalizations and factual assertions here, but how much detail, nuance and supporting evidence can you expect the subject of a short magazine interview to supply? Sounds like the book he and McGuire wrote investigates potential neurophysiological evidence for explanations for the ubiquity of religion that many others have offered before. It also sounds like he rejects ideas such as "the afterlife," reincarnation, etc., but seeks to understand why so many people believe (or purport to believe) such stuff. I wouldn't be so quick to write Tiger off as a deluded apologist for religion without actually reading the book he and McGuire wrote.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 17:53:00 UTC | #446807

MAJORPAIN's Avatar Comment 19 by MAJORPAIN

Why do these guys always pick on Richard? Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris are both way more likely to call religious people morons than Richard -- who I've actually never heard do this (although he might have). I guess using Richard's name in your article scores you a few points or something.

Anyway, I thought this article was interesting. From the North American point of view, church does seem to be a "serotonin factory" type thing. My friends who attend church every Sunday say it always makes them "feel better" and "feel connected" to each other and the community. He may have been off the reservation about everything else but on this point, I think he's close to being right.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 17:58:00 UTC | #446808

mlgatheist's Avatar Comment 20 by mlgatheist

If you’ve got a very bad idea in your head—death—which is causing stress, and you can put another idea which is a very good one in its place, then the level of serotonin—which fights depression and anxiety and makes people feel good about themselves and others—begins to build.


And when someone tells religious people the facts about religion in general or their specific religion it appears that the serotonin levels drop and one or more of the following rise: Anxiety, Fear, and/or Anger. Fear and/or Anger can lead to violence. Which is what the history of religion and the world is filled with.

Also, does anyone truely feel better thinging that they will spend enternity singing praises of one of the most sadistic entities created by man's imagination£

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 18:19:00 UTC | #446813

George Lennan's Avatar Comment 21 by George Lennan

wowaweewa - gotta get this book. This article has crystallized so many questions - and answers.

Yes believers are clearly deluded. But Why? Why why why? THAT is the question to be addressed. Pointing out *how* you're deluded is getting us nowhere (and slowly!!). *Why* you're deluded is the new deep and fascinating question that's going to motivate my googling.

hooray for neurotransmitters :-)

(edit)

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 18:34:00 UTC | #446816

George Lennan's Avatar Comment 22 by George Lennan

roger, gcdavis, gos, jos, irate, canatheist and others - this article is an alternative approach which you'd do well to praise as, at least, novel. The tone of your replies smacks in each case of denouncing unorthodoxy, with all that implies. Especially the nit picking bits like having a go at when he said 'nobody likes to die'.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 18:46:00 UTC | #446819

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 23 by Ignorant Amos

19. Comment #466772 by MAJORPAIN

Go into any Rave in any country in the west and you'll see a real serotonin fest....but the come down Sunday/Monday is a totally different animal.

My point is, that the youth is taking to their own "churches" and won't be influenced by ignorant "oldies" on the effects of serotonin release drugs (Ecstasy), possibly a reason why youngsters are giving Sunday service and religion the bird. But like religion, the reality in the following week of all the sinning means a yearning for another fix on the coming weekend....like everything else that excessively uses your serotonin levels....there will be a come down to reckon with.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 18:46:00 UTC | #446820

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 24 by NewEnglandBob

I don't like his tone. He is dismissive and superficial. I will wait to read reviews of the book - none exist yet on Amazon. If it is written like he spoke in this interview then I certainly will not read it. The marketing states that the book relies on evidence.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 18:50:00 UTC | #446821

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 25 by Ignorant Amos

George, going on this interview, do you see anything worthwhile in this book that will enthuse you to part with your $/£ and of course, your time to read the book. I dunno, maybe you have a point, we would all like to know why? Perhaps you could read the book and critique it for us....with a recommendation to buy and read or to give it a by ball.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 18:52:00 UTC | #446822

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 26 by Ignorant Amos

I agree NewEnglandBob...when RD gives book interviews, he gives out details and snippets of the evidence he relies on to whet the readers appetite. I could be so wrong, but without further evidence, the jury is out I'm afraid.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 18:56:00 UTC | #446823

GBile's Avatar Comment 27 by GBile

Mr. Tiger paints a rather damning picture of religion in my opinion. For instance:

The idea of an afterlife, for you and for loved ones, is very attractive. It seems to me wholly improbable—what’s the evidence?—and yet it works, it just works.


Also his description of what is going on in churches as 'ritual' is telling. Evidence not required. Meaning not required. Just 'Soma' in the form of serotonine and some good music.

The highlight of the interview, his example of arch-religious pantheistic sentiments:
For many people, not using more than four sheets of toilet paper is an act of moral purification.


All this made it an article well worth reading. Maybe I will buy the book.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 19:47:00 UTC | #446832

Bruno's Avatar Comment 28 by Bruno

Note to George Lennan:
"Why are people deluded?" I always thought Ernest Becker answered that question best. Read his classic book, "Denial of Death." If you find it fascinating, then read his "Escape From Evil." If you are still fascinated, then read "The Birth and Death of Meaning." And that's it. "Denial of Death" will get you there, though

These are just suggestions, of course. There is a fundamental reason WHY human beings EVERYWHERE are attracted to supernatural beliefs, especially the belief in the afterlife. Becker rocks.

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 19:57:00 UTC | #446834

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 29 by robotaholic

just because something is comforting doesn't make it true- I believe Richard has said that a few times...and it seems the perfect response to this childish argument

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 22:45:00 UTC | #446854

firestarter's Avatar Comment 30 by firestarter

Since five billion humans seem to accept that there is a heaven or reincarnation or something after death, then I have to say this is something that comforts the species.

Billions of flies cannot be all wrong... let's step on shit!

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 23:23:00 UTC | #446861