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

← Richard Dawkins: Life is astonishing

Richard Dawkins: Life is astonishing - Comments

prolibertas's Avatar Comment 1 by prolibertas

Great opening quote.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 03:09:00 UTC | #448305

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 2 by Cook@Tahiti

Coming soon... Richard Dawkins & Anthony Robbins.... Personal Power III.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 03:11:00 UTC | #448306

david k's Avatar Comment 3 by david k

Just signed up and feel thrilled. I've been reading the articles for years. Many thought provoking posts by members and I look forward to the challenge of keeping up with them . Can still remember being 5 yrs old and having conversations with myself doubting the existence of you know who. Just like to give a big HELLO to everyone. David

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 03:12:00 UTC | #448307

Bala's Avatar Comment 4 by Bala

Take that...Julie Bishop of "is-this it?" fame.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 03:20:00 UTC | #448309

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 5 by Cook@Tahiti

>3. Comment #468322 by david k

Hello David, welcome onboard. You'll get to know the factions soon enough: hard-liners, moderates, accommodationalists, trolls, right-wingers, left-wingers, Israel-lobby, Palestine-lobby, ex-theists, Dawkins' fanboys, Dawkins' wannabes, and many more.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 03:21:00 UTC | #448310

InverStone's Avatar Comment 6 by InverStone

I have been a lurker for quite some time as well, thought I would say hello. Dawkins has been a great positive influence to my worldview.

I remember being 9 years old in "advanced" bible studies class and our teacher was lecturing about our 6000 (or thereabouts) year old earth. I was sat in the corner and admonished about the punishments for "sin and foolishness" when I asked in bewilderment about the dinosaur fossils I had learned about that week in school that were millions of years old. So began the conversion.

Cheers everyone.

Inver

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 03:46:00 UTC | #448317

Prieten's Avatar Comment 7 by Prieten

Hello Inver and David, welcome and I look forward to reading your comments. I confess I hardly ever post, I am just so amazed by the intelligent commentary here. I think I have become a richarddawkins.net addict.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 04:23:00 UTC | #448327

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 8 by Cook@Tahiti

7. Comment #468342 by Prieten

>I think I have become a richarddawkins.net addict

Yes, the discussions here on religion/atheism are generally a lot more nuanced and intelligent than the equivalent coverage in the mainstream media.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 04:40:00 UTC | #448329

bethe123's Avatar Comment 9 by bethe123

Coming soon... Richard Dawkins & Anthony Robbins.... Personal Power III.

As Robbins claims to believe in God, that probably will not happen. Having said that, it might be fairly easy to disabuse Robbins of that belief since the argument he mistakenly believes in is easily refuted, by RD, among others:
To say that there is no source of intelligence that we may call God is like saying Webster's Dictionary is the result of an explosion in a print factory and everything came together perfectly and in balance." (Robbins, Unlimited Power, 1987, p. 392)

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 04:51:00 UTC | #448333

Gnu Atheist's Avatar Comment 10 by Gnu Atheist

You'll get to know the factions soon enough: hard-liners, moderates, accommodationalists, trolls, right-wingers, left-wingers, Israel-lobby, Palestine-lobby, ex-theists, Dawkins' fanboys, Dawkins' wannabes, and many more.


Rtambree,

Which one are you?

Bob
(Moderately hard-line, somewhat left-winger, ex-theist of no particular lobby, wannabe Dawkins fanboy, troll.)

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 05:27:00 UTC | #448337

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 11 by Cook@Tahiti

Bob, the 'rogue loose-cannon faction' (is that an oxymoron?). Actually, I overlap substantially with your self-described faction.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 05:38:00 UTC | #448338

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 12 by Ignorant Amos

Hello there david k & InverStone, good to have you onboard....isn't it nice just being in a place where one is in the company of other non-believers? And what's even nicer is that quite a few of them are very intelligent people indeed.

Prieten said

I am just so amazed by the intelligent commentary here. I think I have become a richarddawkins.net addict.


Ditto!

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 05:43:00 UTC | #448340

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 13 by Cook@Tahiti

>As Robbins claims to believe in God, that probably will not happen

That was just a lame joke in reponse to the almost self-help guru nature of the opening line.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 05:44:00 UTC | #448341

Gnu Atheist's Avatar Comment 14 by Gnu Atheist

Pleased to meet you, as well as the new guys!

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 05:52:00 UTC | #448342

jdoldham831's Avatar Comment 15 by jdoldham831

I saw this twitter update made by some Christian and it made me laugh out loud. Just thought I should share it.

"tryandsaveface: Was just offered to lead the YEC (young earth creationism) debate team of the Creation vs evolution conference. Praying about it =>!"

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 06:15:00 UTC | #448349

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 16 by InYourFaceNewYorker

Life is astonishing, and if you don't agree you can fuck off! :)

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 06:57:00 UTC | #448354

GoodbyeGodNZ's Avatar Comment 17 by GoodbyeGodNZ

I was at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington last night, 5 rows from the front with my scarlet A teeshirt on and The God Delusion under my arm for later signing by RD.

The whole night was just stunning. The capacity crowd of Wellington intelligentsia was abuzz before and after the lecture and you could have heard a pin drop during RD's address. The audience was rivetted to a talk which was an original pulling together of various strands of Richards works.

Great discussion and Q&A and massive queues for book signing afterwards.

All in all a fabulous occasion. Richard is a real rock star here in Wellington. This was obviously the case at venues in Australia and will be also the case in Christchurch and Auckland over the next couple of nights.

Thanks for coming down under Richard!

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 07:53:00 UTC | #448365

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 18 by SaintStephen

He cited palaeontologist and intelligent design advocate Simon Conway Morris who argues if humans were wiped from Earth they would be replaced, eventually, by more humans. Dawkins stopped short of this, saying a species very similar to humans would emerge.
I may be going out on a limb, but it would be my WAG (wild-ass-guess) that whatever did eventually arise as the dominant, big-brained species in a second run of Evolution, it would be something that dwelled originally in the trees.

Explanations that point to the existence of tools as the primary stimulus for the development of higher intelligence make sense to me. The tools existed first, creatures began toying with them, and this challenging cognitive activity then provided the catalyst for, and explains the ontology of -- larger brains.

Not brain first, and then tools; but tools first, and then brains. (I have no idea what I'm talking about, so continue to bear with me.)

Living in (and later swinging through) trees, must have provided a very rich, visual, geometrical learning environment for monkeys. All the different angles their eyes were forced to deal with every day; all the different sizes of branches and limbs and possible gripping surfaces for their hands and feet; and particularly the presence of gravity itself (and hence precipitous drops to death or waiting predators) -- these brain-teasers challenged monkeys in ways most other large metazoans were not.

A monkey's life was one continuous, realtime, mathematical puzzle. To survive, a monkey must play -- and mostly win -- a long-running 3D video game with many spatial and geometrical problems, all being performed quickly and intuitively with few errors. Natural selection made sure only the best (and quickest) "mathematicians" survived. It was this creature that eventually came down and inhabited the grasslands, and learned how to throw things and hit things, etc. In a second go of Evolution, whatever adapted to the trees as their niche would develop along similar lines.

Just a crazy theory. I have no idea how the relatively sluggish tree sloths and Koala bears can be explained, however.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 08:40:00 UTC | #448372

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 19 by Stafford Gordon

I'm grappling with the idea that, given the circumstances on this planet life was inevitable, while at the same time if my parents hadn't met I would not exist; with former no luck was involved but the latter is pure luck.

Or do I completely misunderstand absolutely everything?

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 08:41:00 UTC | #448373

nonsuch's Avatar Comment 20 by nonsuch

19. Comment #468388 by Stafford Gordon:
...if my parents hadn't met I would not exist
Doesn't it actually even come down to what they had for dinner the night you were conceived? Nay, the exact time of day and even the sexual positions? (It's a tough one even thinking about when it comes to one's parents!)

It is not just a matter of whether your parents met. If they had sex an hour later than they did and conceived a male, and they chose the same name, then the guy called Stafford Gordon who just wrote that post wouldn't be you exactly, just someone who sorta looks like you (as you imagine a brother to look like). And he probably wouldn't have wrote that post because he would have a different personality (might even be a theist!)

At least that is my (limited, non-expert) understanding of it. Anyone with a better understanding (or to correct my view, if need be) please chime in.

If I HAVE got it right (once again, if anybody thinks I've got it wrong, please correct me), but if I HAVE, then this usual response "if my parents hadn't met I wouldn't have been born" may reveal, to some extent, a hidden bias in the human psyche, or an assumption embedded in our culture (or both). That is, after the fact of being born, one looks back and assumes that IF ones parents were to meet and have kids, there is a tendency to think that those kids would inevitably be the kids that happened to be, like it was written in the stars or something.

Maybe this is because people don't like to think their unique existence was so random that it was actually dependant on how many thrusts daddy did before they both said "Oh god!"

AT the same time it was completely DETERMINED by so many thrusts and therefore quite the opposite of random.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 09:22:00 UTC | #448379

Gibbon's Avatar Comment 21 by Gibbon

I was there at the Michael Fowler Centre as well, and I thought Richard Dawkins gave an interesting lecture. One of the more interesting things though was brought up during the Q&A session, specifically it was on the issue of why the ancestors of whales didn’t re-evolve gills since the ancestors of all tetrapods had them. I can’t remember entirely, but I think there was mention of the implication this has for creationist arguments. Why would the creator design a whole new system for aquatic respiration when a perfectly good one already existed?

Interestingly, the person who introduced Dawkins to the audience at the start didn’t mention The God Delusion at all when naming some of the more notable books that he has written; instead the books mentioned were those on evolution.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 09:34:00 UTC | #448382

Szymanowski's Avatar Comment 22 by Szymanowski

@SaintStephen

In a second go of Evolution, whatever adapted to the trees as their niche would develop along similar lines.
:o like the Na'vi!

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 09:34:00 UTC | #448383

SteveN's Avatar Comment 23 by SteveN

From the article:

He cited palaeontologist and intelligent design advocate Simon Conway Morris who argues if humans were wiped from Earth they would be replaced, eventually, by more humans. Dawkins stopped short of this, saying a species very similar to humans would emerge.
I find myself in the unenviable position of disagreeing with Richard on a topic about which he has probably forgotten more than I will ever know, but I am not at all convinced that this is actually a reasonable assumption. While there is no doubt that the evolution of the eye, for example, is of such huge evolutionary advantage that it will always happen, I don't think that the co-emergence of intelligence, tool-use and intricate communication (which is what I assume he means by 'human-like') falls into the same category. It seems to me that the traits that we so value as humans have come together in us as the result of a very unlikley fluke.

The fact that our 'intelligent, technological' species has only appeared in the latest moments of geological time is what leads me to think that this is the case. If species similar to humans are a likely (or even inevitable) event in evolution, why did some other 'intelligent' species not appear earlier? (It would be nice to speculate about advanced civilisations of velociraptors, for example, but alas there is no evidence for this). Even our own species, intelligent, tool-wielding and social though it is, almost died out in prehistory, and most of our similarly equipped close cousins indeed disappeared. There is no doubt that a certain degree of intelligence can have a significant survival value (e.g. dolphins, elephants etc) but we only have one very recent and possibly transient example of success through 'higher' intelligence and technology.

I personally think that whereas the appearance of life will be almost inevitable given the correct conditions and is probably ubiquitous in the universe, intelligence will be very, very rare. Indeed, This would help explain the Fermi Paradox ('where are they'?). Another, more sinister possibility of course is that the evolution of techology is a 'lethal mutation' inevitably leading to self-destruction as all natural restraints on population growth are removed.

I have heard Richard make this comment before and it always bugged me a little. I would be interested to hear his reasons for thinking that human-like species are a likely outcome of evolution if the 'clock were to be reset'.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 09:38:00 UTC | #448384

billzfantazy's Avatar Comment 24 by billzfantazy

@stafford:

Imagine some hypothetical poppy seed which has only a chance in a million of germinating.

Imagine you spread a trillion of these seeds in a field.

A field of poppies will almost inevitably flower (about a million), but it is very unlikely any given poppy will flower.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 09:44:00 UTC | #448385

louis14's Avatar Comment 25 by louis14

"If we were not here as a species ... then something else [similar] would be. There's a predicability in evolution which is very different from ... random luck."

I agree with SteveN. I find myself far from convinced about this idea. In some ways it seems to skirt too close to the false idea of the ladder of progress from single celled organisms to humans.

I do understand the idea about ecologocal niches and animals adapting to them when opportunity arises. But another intelligent, technological species? Does our kind of intelligence confer enough of an evolutionary advantage that it's as inevitable as the evolution of eyes?

If so, why does it not seem to have happened many times before now? (For that matter, could any evidence of technological intelligence survive say 20 million years?)

Are we not just in the realms of wild speculation rather than deduction or inference?

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 11:19:00 UTC | #448404

louis14's Avatar Comment 26 by louis14

Bravo billzfantazy #24. I was thinking about the same argument, but you put it so much more clearly and simply than I would have done!

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 11:22:00 UTC | #448405

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 27 by Stafford Gordon

NONSUCH: Uhm!

I suppose I was asking for it really.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 13:33:00 UTC | #448437

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 28 by the great teapot

It's an interesting thought. What would be left if an intelligent species of dinosaurs with our technology were wiped out 56 mya. Perhaps there is an Ithinkisaurus Blue Peter time capsule out there waiting to be discovered.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 13:38:00 UTC | #448440

phasmagigas's Avatar Comment 29 by phasmagigas

inverstone

I remember being 9 years old in "advanced" bible studies class and our teacher was lecturing about our 6000 (or thereabouts) year old earth. I was sat in the corner and admonished about the punishments for "sin and foolishness" when I asked in bewilderment about the dinosaur fossils I had learned about that week in school that were millions of years old. So began the conversion.


i was in a big departmant store the other day (USA) I heard a childs voice asking some question or other and the mums answer was 'you'll learn about that in bible study class' i couldnt help but take a look at said parent and daughter, poor child was but 3 years old!

study class? try indoctrination class.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 13:52:00 UTC | #448445

gobes's Avatar Comment 30 by gobes

"The fact of your own existence is the most astonishing fact you'll ever have to confront, don't dare ever see your life as boring, monotonous or joyless."

Ok... this is now my favourite RD quote.

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 14:11:00 UTC | #448455