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The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins (illustrated by Dave McKean) - Comments

deek999's Avatar Comment 1 by deek999

I'll be the first, but there is no real sport in it.

Drivel from start to finish. Same old, same old. The reviewer merely misrepresents what he thinks he knows about Richard's work and views.

For a book review, the book is barely mentioned, in a serious newspaper how can that be?

I don't know the Author of the piece but if I may stick my neck out and make a presumption of my own, I bet he is a catholic and is harbouring a grudge and has had this little gem tucked away waiting for the book's release, yep, written even before he had read it.

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 07:16:04 UTC | #874217

Explorer's Avatar Comment 2 by Explorer

Has Richard ever stated or written anywhere, that "love and jealousy" are illusory?

This guy is not reviewing a book, but is attempting to defend his own personal beliefs from a threat that he perceives Richard represents. Appalling, and presumably he will get paid for this piece of rubbish.

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 07:20:29 UTC | #874219

Daz365's Avatar Comment 3 by Daz365

"Coming next: a vegan reviews pepperoni pizza. " Chad Baker

My favourite comment on the comments page. well done :)

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 07:37:47 UTC | #874223

rkher531's Avatar Comment 4 by rkher531

One of the problems with people who criticize atheist that they just rant. Any arguments they present is just in the Air. What Plato or Spinoza thought must be made relevant in the modern context. Quote is not enough. Create a series of arguments that lead to a possibly logical conclusions. All assertions must be empirically supported or denied or tentatively accepted subject to some proof. Calling some ideas wrong, woolly headed is just the start but going to next adjective is not argument. And Miracles are nonsense.

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 07:37:53 UTC | #874224

T. S. Elliott's Avatar Comment 5 by T. S. Elliott

I'm afraid that Richard Dawkins is the victim of an elaborate hoax. It's quite obvious from the articles that these theistic reviewers are receiving books by a completely different Richard Dawkins, one who is angry and militant, doesn't understand religion and has no sense of wonder at the world.

If I may be so violent, I suggest we find this other Richard Dawkins and cut him open, so we can laugh as the straw spills out of his belly.

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 07:51:30 UTC | #874228

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 6 by Richard Dawkins

Comment 2 by Explorer :

Has Richard ever stated or written anywhere, that "love and jealousy" are illusory?

Here is what the book says about love and jealousy:

Does this mean that reality only contains things that can be detected, directly or indirectly, by our senses and by the methods of science? What about things like jealousy and joy, happiness and love? Are these not also real?

Yes, they are real. But they depend for their existence on brains: human brains, certainly, and probably the brains of other advanced animal species, such as chimpanzees, dogs and whales, too. Rocks don’t feel joy or jealousy, and mountains do not love. These emotions are intensely real to those who experience them, but they didn’t exist before brains did. It is possible that emotions like these – and perhaps other emotions that we can’t begin to dream of – could exist on other planets, but only if those planets also contain brains – or something equivalent to brains: for who knows what weird thinking organs or feeling machines may lurk elsewhere in the universe

Richard

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 07:53:25 UTC | #874230

MikeJ's Avatar Comment 7 by MikeJ

deek999 said it: absolute drivel. Tudge uses the review mainly as a platform for his own views. What other reason could he possibly have for shoehorning in the bizarre and irrelevant attack on genetic engineering?

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 08:10:22 UTC | #874235

Barry Pearson's Avatar Comment 8 by Barry Pearson

I thought that silly article needed a comment, so here is what I said at the Independent. Obviously, that was not the place to go into details, and I didn't spend much time thinking it through:

"Speaking as someone who HAS bought this book, I can confirm that it does not have the attitudes and themes asserted by this "review".

"The book makes it clear that science does not YET know everything, but that it is the best method we know of for finding out, for reasons he provides. And that religions (plural, throughout the book) give us contradictory stories that don't have longevity, and sometimes were probably not expected by the originators to be taken literally anyway.

"Expect a lot of attacks on this book! It is subversive; for example, the imagined journey of the time-traveler in chapter 2 shows us evolution in the context of "deep time" in a simple, graphic, way that will surely undermine so many spurious objections to evolution.

"I suspect this book will become a "classic"."

Edit: I think "The Ancestor's Tale" is in the top two or three of Richard's book, and I loved the re-use of the basic idea in chapter 2 in the above manner!

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 08:16:25 UTC | #874236

BMJT's Avatar Comment 9 by BMJT

I'm confused. A quick google search brings up this result: Colin Tudge, who it seems is the very same author of the above, yet his CV suggests a man of science not faith, and a biologist no less.

My immediate thought was that this would be some angry grudge ridden Catholic etc. but I'm a bit stumped on this one. Maybe i'm not digging deep enough. Does anyone else have a better insight? Why would this character have such a vendetta for old RD?

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 08:33:40 UTC | #874245

andersemil's Avatar Comment 10 by andersemil

Perhaps he feels jealousy, to such an extend that it couldn't possibly be explained in a material universe ;)

Comment 9 by BMJT :

I'm confused. A quick google search brings up this result: Colin Tudge, who it seems it the very same author of the above, yet his CV suggests a man of science not faith, and a biologist no less.

My immediate thought was that this would be some angry grudge ridden Catholic etc. but I'm a bit stumped on this one. Maybe i'm not digging deep enough. Does anyone else have a better insight? Why would this character have such a vendetta for old RD?

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 08:37:17 UTC | #874246

BMJT's Avatar Comment 11 by BMJT

Yeah I think you could be right Anders, it seems someone has a chip on their shoulder over RD's success and notoriety. I've noticed he mentions omniscience in the article and I found a reference to it on his own site, in an article entitled:

Evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral: Why Nature is ultimately unfathomable—and why reverence towards it is the only sensible attitude

And which finishes with...

They should also take note—we should all take note—of the core morality of all the great religions. All their great founders stressed that morality rests on attitude; and the attitudes that really matter, on which all else is founded, are those of personal humility, respect for other creatures, and reverence for nature as a whole. Science is wonderful and it is necessary, but it has not brought us omniscience and it never can. In fact its greatest lesson has been that nature is beyond our ken. To approach nature with humility and to treat it with respect and reverence isn't just a matter of piety. It is the only sensible survival strategy.

I think he might have some huge emotional investment in the reverence for nature, and scathes any real attempt to suggest we've understood it.

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 08:45:59 UTC | #874252

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 12 by Jos Gibbons

Material objections to the miracles of life

RD’s definition of three types of magic places any “miracles” that do happen, namely the poetry of reality, in a beautiful context. The only “miracles” objected to are supernatural claims, for which our evidence is none.

He rails against fundamentalists yet defends Thomas Gradgrind-style materialism as zealously as the Mid-West Creationists defend the literal truth of Genesis.

Firstly, this is a lie. Gradgrind defended “materialism” in the sense “get lots of material wealth!” Dawkins defends “materialism” in the sense “everything that exists is material”. Tudge may as well confuse two different meanings of “idealism”, “simplified assumptions that cheer you up” and “to be is to be perceived or, in the case of minds, to perceive”.
Secondly, there is no irony in railing against those who hold to something no less zealously than you hold to something contrary if their zealour is not what you dislike. The problem with creationists isn’t that their loud; it’s that facts can prove that they’re wrong. But, for observing that, Tudge will subject you to a factually inaccurate character assassination.

he seriously misrepresents religion

How, specifically?

he misrepresents science, in whose name he is assumed to speak.

Firstly, again, how? Secondly, he frequently says in The Magic of Reality that he doesn’t know enough about a subject to be asked about it, either referring to physicists as better experts or saying that his opinion on a subject is worthless precisely because it is just an opinion. So not only is Tudge’s charge unsupported, it is provably wrong.

He condemns the Catholics for filling the heads of children with a particular view of life before they have had a chance to think for themselves – and now, in The Magic of Reality, written for readers as young as nine, he has done precisely that.

There is a difference between telling people what to think and teaching people how to think, and there is a difference between telling people what to think without supporting it and teaching people what evidence exists for what you assert. The “first the myths, then the truth and the evidence for it” format of each chapter brilliantly illustrates both these differences, and proves these accusations against Dawkins are wrong.

"exists", he makes clear, means whatever we can see or stub our toes on, albeit with the aid of telescopes and seismographs. Everything else – including things we might think exist, like jealousy and love – derive from that material base and are to a large extent illusory.

This is another lie. Dawkins says that which is part of an empirically successful model is also real. Emotions, detectable from tell-tale signs in others and knowable in one’s self in much the same way as blood pH levels tell us how much we need to inhale, are within the purview of these desiderata. Don’t pretend for a moment knowing the emotions of ourselves or others is so far as unachieved as finding evidence for a deity.

Plato maintained that the ultimate reality is not stuff, but the idea. St John declared that "In the beginning was the word" – where "word" is translated from the Greek logos which can also be taken to mean "idea" but also means "mind" or indeed "consciousness". Many philosophers have argued that consciousness is not just the noise that brains make but part of the fabric of the universe. We do not generate consciousness in our heads: we partake of what is all around us, just as our eyes partake of light.

But all these comments are worthless because no evidence supports any of them. Every claim in The Magic of Reality is overwhelmingly supported by evidence. Tudge is trained as a biologist. Why then is he so disingenuous on these fronts?

Over the past 90 years or so quantum physicists, beginning with Niels Bohr and Erwin Schrödinger, have shown that the mind of the observer affects, or seems to, the outcome of experiments carried out on fundamental particles.

That is a lie. Firstly, the “observer” in quantum mechanics is any particle that interacts with a target or any instrument that reacts to the way this probe particle subsequently behaves. A dead eye pulled from a dead body can be used this way just like a living eye still inside a living body. This certainly has no mind; nor does a measuring device in a particle accelerator. Secondly, the sharp split between an observer and an observee is not a real difference; it is an approximation that works well because the observer is so much more massive, but the exact truth is that the ENTIRE system exhibits quantum behaviour. An “observer” doesn’t really collapse a “target’s” wave function; instead, the mutual wave function of everything present collapses. Thirdly, even if any of this were true, it would mean Tudge had physical evidence for the claims he was making about minds, which means he wouldn’t have challenged the claim that there are truths about reality that are knowable without such evidence!

what consciousness is is perhaps the most burning topic in modern science. The general conclusion so far is that the Dawkins-style concept of "reality" just won't do. This crude materialism belongs at best to the 19th century.

There is nothing crude about saying “we’ve no reason to think anything is there is we cannot somehow notice it”. However subtle is the interpretation of evidence about minds from psychological and neurological studies, it is indeed an interpretation of evidence, as Dawkins asks it to be. It’s not as if we DO know people have minds, but NOT because of direct or indirect observations thereof or empirical success of models according to which those minds are there. After all, if it ISN’T because of those, how IS it known?

science, as Dawkins conceives it, will lead us nonetheless to omniscience.

He never said that. What he said was that, however much or little knowledge we have at any time of the contingent facts of reality, it is entirely empirical in origin.

Already, he tells us, "We know exactly how DNA works". This is untrue, absurd and dangerous. If it was true there would be nothing new to find out, yet Nature each week reveals new insights including the many ways in which DNA is in constant dialogue with its surroundings ("epigenesis"). In this, as in all life science, we are only at the beginning of finding out.

“Exactly” does not mean “completely”, and the meaning of “works” is relative to the topic at hand. Dawkins discussed how living things manage to have heredity at all, and that is understood to the level he implied. Darwinian natural selection does not require we know any more detail than he presented.

we can never be sure that we haven't missed something and have no way of knowing what that might be

But Tudge frequently thinks herein that he knows what they might be; and, however he knows these examples if he really does know them, it will be through evidence.

Dawkins is an unreformed logical positivist, embracing the early-20th century philosophy which said that whatever you can't stub your toe on and throw maths at isn't worth bothering with and "meaningless".

This is another lie. Dawkins did not deny that unverifiable assertions lack meaning. On the contrary; for example, he considers theism not meaningless but false. Dawkins says we cannot legitimately conclude as true anything as yet unevidenced. This is a very far cry from logical positivism.

it lingers on in the heads of a few materialist philosophers like Dan Dennett and AC Grayling.

Neither Dennett nor Grayling believes logical positivism.

That the idea of scientific omniscience is supremely dangerous was demonstrated horribly in the late 19th and early 20th century by the zeal for eugenics.

How do you get from “we know everything” to “we should kill or sterilise certain types of people and/or artificially select people?” And, as I said before, no–one here is advocating scientific omniscience.

some gullible politicians who came to science late in life believe them.

Why, pray tell, shouldn’t crops be genetically modified to improve them? As Tudge was trained as a biologist, if anyone can answer my question he can.

Yet the greatest lesson of 20th century philosophy is that science does not and cannot deal in certainties

Dawkins never claimed otherwise; he frequently talks of probabilities, including in The Magic of Reality.

all its truths are partial and provisional, waiting to be knocked off their perch

That was never demonstrated by any philosopher, as any number of ideas may well be right; indeed, on many yes/no questions science has changed its mind, and it will not change back. Only very detailed hypotheses, and claims whose negations have not been falsified, are liable to be provisional.

we cannot in acceptable detail predict the results of our actions

What does “acceptable detail” mean? Is he saying scientific facts cannot tell us enough about likely consequences to inform our decisions? If so, he’s wrong. Just look at how well planes work.

science is merely "the art of the soluble"

That is what Dawkins asserts, since he doesn’t claim science can solve everything, but that everything that IS soluble is soluble empirically. This is the main crux of how Tudge misunderstands Dawkins.

Scientists take care to address only those questions they think they have some chance of making a plausible fist at, with the tools available. Omniscience is something else entirely.

If Tudge wishes to suggest Dawkins does otherwise, he not only claims something that is simply untrue, he implies Dawkins isn’t a scientist.

Dawkins is at his most inaccurate when he ventures into religion – which in this book he mentions only occasionally by name, though that is what it is mainly about.

This book is mainly about science, as can be seen from it occupying the majority of each chapter.

He assumes that people who are truly "religious" must believe in the literal truth of all the myths and miracles presented by their traditions; and takes it as obvious that miracles are nonsensical.

With regards to the first claim, no, he doesn’t; but he knows children can be encouraged easily to believe claims for reasons apart from their evidential support (not just religious ones either), and he seeks to immunise them against this. Does he consider it obvious miracles are nonsensical? He considers it demonstrable; what really matters is whether or not his critics can explain why his argument for that fails.

Religions do not depend upon their myths and miracles. They are there as illustrations.

No they’re not. Many aspects of our religions can only make sense if these stories are assumed true. For example, Jesus can’t need to save us from original sin if Adam never had it, the Koran is only likely to be informative if Allah dictated it, and much of what Vedic religions advocate would be pointless if we are not reincarnated in the ways they describe.

Neither is it true miracles can be compared to the pumpkin that took Cinderella to the ball. Any theologian could have put him right on this.

Then summarise what they would say, Tudge. How specifically would turning water into wine, or a man dead for days rising from the dead, be any less literally incredible than turning a pumpkin into a carriage?

you don't have to be a Catholic to find grotesque his description of the Virgin Mary: "a kind of goddess of a local religion"

Never mind whether it’s grotesque (read: upsetting). Either refute the charge, or don’t take issue with it. Oh, look; you didn’t refute it.

the notion that the revelations of science are necessarily at odds with religion does no favours to either.

Nor was it a contention of this new book (though Dawkins does suspect it); Tudge read that into it. The point is factual claims, WHERE they are made (whether or not religion necessarily does that), need to be evidentially processed.

the founders of modern science were all devout.

Of course they were; being the founders of modern science, they lived before any of its discoveries! EVERYONE was devout then. But they were somewhat heretical by their era’s standards (Newton was not a Trinitarian, and Galileo thought the RCC fallible), and the large number of non–religious people today is at least partially attributable to what science has found and done.

to explore the wonders of the world through science was to glorify God

That requires a god to exist, and you should only believe one does if evidence supports it, and if you believe without the evidence you’re not being scientific any more.

Bach said the same about his music.

His music didn’t discover facts that contradicted religious authorities or texts.

Dawkins's ultra-materialist view

You’re either materialist (monist, if you will) or you’re not.

How can we not believe in miracles, when stuff like this is presented as a serious contribution to the education of our children?

Because, however much you may hate this book, its being popular isn’t a miracle, since it isn’t against any physical laws.

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 08:53:22 UTC | #874256

adamaba's Avatar Comment 13 by adamaba

Religions not only depend on their myths and miracles, they are based on them. As Denis (in the original review's comments) says; take them away and what are you left with? A few nonsensesical, self-contradictory, morally questionable collection of texts, empty, pointless and completely out of touch with modern society. Come out into the light, Colin, it's a new day. Oh, and by the way, when can we expect your see your BOOK review?

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 08:58:18 UTC | #874258

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 14 by drumdaddy

I have to agree that this 'book review' exhibits the reviewer's negative bias and offers very little information about the book. Tudge holds a grudge, leading him to fudge.

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 09:24:21 UTC | #874265

Periphereality's Avatar Comment 15 by Periphereality

This is what I read:

"Leave me alone. I am tired of hearing about religion. I am tired of hearing about Richard Dawkins. People believe different things, and I take the idea that my values are scrutinized with great trepidation. I do not care about this subject."

Seriously, you cannot claim impartial journalism when you seem overtly bored of the subject matter. What are you a 10 year old? Perhaps you should have out-sourced the review to someone with a little more intellectual patience. If you can't be bothered to consider the potential impact and cause, then don't write a review.

For the reviewer: could you please name a single childrens book that advocates the beauty of that which we are taught to take for granted? I doubt it. I can't. Why, then, can you not see the altruism behind what you claim is nothing more than schoolyard jab at everyone who plays the spiritual card? If you do indeed want to defend spiritualism, you should realise that loving the material world, and a growing thirst for knowledge, is as much a transcendental, spiritual journey than any introspection caused by the beautification of contemporary religious texts written for children.

What this book does is opens the imagination in such a way as to promote substantial, well grounded thinking.

Lastly: what exactly is wrong with teaching children the darker side of dogma? Why, if they aware of Sata in concept, should they not be taught all the paths that Santa may produce.

This is the most important point:

Children are born with no beliefs. Religion, for children, is an unnecessary nanny. It is intellectual lazy. Anyone who argues that teaching children to think, grounded in what is real and observable as opposed to dogmatic and pre-conceived, either doesn't care about children, or cannot be bothered to school them appropriately.

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 09:32:38 UTC | #874271

peter mayhew's Avatar Comment 16 by peter mayhew

Methinks that Tudge bears a Grudge.

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 09:41:30 UTC | #874273

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 17 by Tyler Durden

Perhaps nine-year-olds are too young to be told that this is only one of many possible views – some emerging from science itself. Plato, four centuries before Christ, maintained that the ultimate reality is not stuff, but the idea.

Jeez, thanks for the history lesson Mr Tudge. Now please, run along and read some actual history regarding your friend Jesus.

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 09:46:19 UTC | #874276

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 18 by Tyler Durden

Dawkins assumes that people who are truly "religious" must believe in the literal truth of all the myths and miracles presented by their traditions; and takes it as obvious that miracles are nonsensical.

So a billion Christians don't actually believe in the literal truth of the resurrection?

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 09:51:44 UTC | #874278

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 19 by Tyler Durden

Many philosophers have, like Baruch Spinoza, argued that consciousness is not just the noise that brains make but part of the fabric of the universe. We do not generate consciousness in our heads: we partake of what is all around us, just as our eyes partake of light.

Has this man been living in a cave for the past 20 years?

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 09:57:44 UTC | #874282

peter mayhew's Avatar Comment 20 by peter mayhew

Science is wonderful and it is necessary, but it has not brought us omniscience and it never can. In fact its greatest lesson has been that nature is beyond our ken.

Oh well, perhaps Colin Tudge is right and we should all give up and surrender to our longing for God. Wait, I think I can feel it coming.....

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 09:58:41 UTC | #874283

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 21 by Stevehill

I've posted a couple of comments over at the Indy site, but there's no sport in it. It's more like shooting fish in a barrel.

Tudge appears to have no support, and can have done his own cause no good whatsoever, even amongst his fellow-travellers, with this worthless tirade.

Which is all good, no?

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 10:22:12 UTC | #874289

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 22 by Premiseless

I think he's piggybacking Richard for notoriety - making his name known in circles. Think Christopher Hitchens then Peter. Ones fame catapults the other, not on par, but far more conspicuously than they would otherwise become.

He's after fame to see where it gets him a la Skinners recent revival. Afterall religious debate is, of the moment!

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 10:28:05 UTC | #874294

Simon Templar's Avatar Comment 23 by Simon Templar

So a billion Christians don't actually believe in the literal truth of the resurrection?

Yes they do - it's in their profession of faith

link text

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 10:30:14 UTC | #874296

The Darwinian's Avatar Comment 24 by The Darwinian

"We know exactly how DNA works"-probably quoting Dawkins out of context here. No scientist claims scientific omniscience, they are not that arrogant. Dawkins has said many times that there is a wide variety of believers out there from the pure literalists to those who are agnostic and this mix of people reside within all religions. Dawkins has said that he doesen't want to live in a cruel Darwinian world where only the fittest people survive but a 'zeal for eugenics' is not what he espouses either. In the second last paragraph there seems to be a slight contradiction, why would any theologian put Dawkins straight if he already contends 'that miracles can be compared to the pumpkin that took Cinderella to the ball'? A poorly thought out article all in all.

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 10:36:47 UTC | #874300

deek999's Avatar Comment 25 by deek999

Comment 12 by Jos Gibbons :

Material objections to the miracles of life.................... (snipped assassination of Tudge's drivel)

Bloody hell Jos! we shoot fish in a barrel, you drain the water, shoot the fish several times again just to make sure, then have at the remains with a potato masher.

you have more patience than I, but well done I say.

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 10:55:59 UTC | #874307

Tryphon Tournesol's Avatar Comment 26 by Tryphon Tournesol

The sad thing is that when every stupid line from ever stupid article such as this is debunked, what was really written put in the right perspective, outright lies exposed and so on, there is always an new stupid article waiting in line that deserves the same treatment.

Is it just the pundits that will never learn? Or are some really that willfully hypocritical? One can only hope that 'the public' picks up the criticism on stupidity and filters the flow of information accordingly.

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 10:59:38 UTC | #874308

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 27 by Tyler Durden

Comment 23 by Simon Templar :

Comment by Tyler Durden

So a billion Christians don't actually believe in the literal truth of the resurrection?

Yes they do - it's in their profession of faith

Thanks, I was being sarcastic. Colin Tudge is of the opinion that Dawkins believes the truly "religious" must believe in the literal truth of all the myths and miracles presented by their traditions.

Which, according to your post, is true. Fine. So, what, if anything, is Tudge trying to accomplish here?

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 11:07:00 UTC | #874311

Starry Plough's Avatar Comment 28 by Starry Plough

Will the Independent be doing a real review later?

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 11:12:48 UTC | #874314

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 29 by Anaximander

So, what, if anything, is Tudge trying to accomplish here?

Well, did you (and all others) notice the first line: "Richard Dawkins has no sense of irony."

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 11:16:37 UTC | #874316

Follow Peter Egan's Avatar Comment 30 by Follow Peter Egan

Meh. What an idiot.

I much prefer my review: http://www.entertainment-focus.com/book-article/richard-dawkins-the-magic-of-reality

Fri, 23 Sep 2011 11:24:09 UTC | #874321