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Why Richard Dawkins is still an atheist - Comments

Mark Jones's Avatar Comment 1 by Mark Jones

A handy antidote to the frantic tabloid journalism of the past couple of weeks.

Which is handy, because it saves everyone the trouble of making them up.

Oh if only it would stop them! Some like to wallow in their myths, I think, and gain a great contentment from lies they find comforting. Misrepresenting Richard as a bogeyman, and then imagining him succumbing to the same madness that grips them, is one of them.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 17:02:49 UTC | #923160

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 2 by Schrodinger's Cat

Yes, its the age old case of people presuming that if one doesn't rule something out with absolute 100% certainty then one has somehow 'accepted' it wholeheartedly. Very little in science is known with total certainty. Quantum Mechanics has passed every predictive test in 80 years, and is daily used in millions of computers.....yet there is still the tiniest chance ( 1 in 10 ^ 200 or something ) that QM could all be a load of tosh. Admitting that doesn't mean one has suddenly abandonded QM and now believe leprechauns run the universe instead.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 17:03:08 UTC | #923161

rrh1306's Avatar Comment 3 by rrh1306

Good explanation of the Agnostic Atheist, which I think a good percentage of Atheist would actually fall under. In a perfect world a person wouldn't have to make that distinction, but with idea that the "New Atheist" are a bunch of fundamentalist fanatics becoming a more and more pervasive meme I guess it's important to let believers know that even us strident super atheist know it's impossible to completely disprove something as vague and nebulous as the concept of an invisible god.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 17:09:32 UTC | #923163

Jarl Carlander's Avatar Comment 4 by Jarl Carlander

99% of people I argue with about religion equate all of atheism with Richard Dawkins, and most of those haven't even picked up TGD. It's annoying but it does make them easy to beat. The problem is there's so many of these people all over the place, and some of them even get paid to write articles.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 17:18:40 UTC | #923165

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 5 by Alan4discussion

So how can this be? How can an atheist also be an agnostic? The answer is simple.

Ah the difference between theist numeracy and atheist numeracy in evaluating probability!

While I may call myself an atheist because I evaluate the 99.99999999999999999999999% chance that there are no gods, the theist will grasp at the 0.0000000000000000000000001% that they are not wrong in their assumption that such unevidenced entities (each to his own) exist, and that atheists may secretly really believe in the theist's own personal version after all!
Of course almost everybody else's gods are just silly, but theists know, their's is the correct god!

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 17:20:19 UTC | #923168

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 6 by Peter Grant

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/why-richard-dawkins-is-still-an-atheist/2012/02/29/gIQATWjKiR_blog.html Why Richard Dawkins is still an atheist.

Thank you, Paula!

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 17:21:53 UTC | #923169

yanquetino's Avatar Comment 7 by yanquetino

The irony in these instances is thicker than molasses in Alaska. It seems to me that the reason believers like John Lennox misinterpret this or that statement by Dawkins is precisely because he is not strident!

Dawkins always tries to be polite, thoughtful, accommodating, even expressing that he can understand if someone else "could make a reasonably respectable case for that." Inevitably the "faithful" sieze upon such olive branches and then stop listening when he also states that it is "not a case that I would accept."

Isn't it amazing how people hear what they want to hear, and not what is actually expressed.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 17:27:00 UTC | #923171

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 8 by prettygoodformonkeys

Well written, and well worth the writing.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 17:40:58 UTC | #923175

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 9 by SaganTheCat

TGD may be the most mis-represented book since Origin of Species. everyone seems to have an opinion of it and not many people I know have actually read it, can think of only one person who still has my copy!

found this today on atheism/agnosticism

http://scienceblogs.com/evolvingthoughts/atheist_chart.gif

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 17:45:24 UTC | #923178

Tony d's Avatar Comment 10 by Tony d

Paula has brilliantly spelt out the professors position on this matter in such a clear way ,that anyone capable of reading her article will be incapable of misunderstanding it.

If some theist does claim to not get it after that then quite frankly i will suspect them of a wilful incomprehension and i will start doubting their honesty.

Atheists can be relied upon to show the most intellectual honesty because we can concede that we don't know everything with out the fear of condemning ourselves to eternal damnation for lack of faith.

well done Paula.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 17:55:35 UTC | #923183

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 11 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 5 by Alan4discussion

Ah the difference between theist numeracy and atheist numeracy in evaluating probability!

In tests...8 out of 10 agnostics were atheist agnostics, and also preferred a certain brand of cat food.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 18:01:17 UTC | #923184

papa lazaru's Avatar Comment 12 by papa lazaru

"You're either with us, or against us".

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 18:12:11 UTC | #923187

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 13 by Jos Gibbons

Let's remind ourselves that positions 1 to 7 respectively give the probability of a god existing as 1, 1 - a negligible amount, 1 - a non-negligible amount that's < 1/2, 1/2, a non-negligible amount that's < 1/2, a negligible amount and 0. Therefore, you can't be a theist or deist, let alone a Christian, without being, at most, a 3. (I say at most based on the values of the positions, e.g. 2 < 6.) This shows just how true it was that 6.9 doesn't come close to making Dawkins what Lennox pretended he was.

Incidentally, a YouTuber I follow called Dechha1981 has extended the scale even further so that a 0 is thinking one has met God, a -1 is thinking one is a prophet or a Messiah, and a -2 is thinking one is a god. Technically this is no longer discussing the probability of a god existing, but I bring it up because there are two interesting points he made with this idea:
(1) Some "well you were never really a believer anyway" arguments (which I know are a pet peeve of Paula Kirby's) seem to require a score of at most 0 to qualify as a believer;
(2) Kim Jong Il type figures, who become gods of political religions, are more like -2 than the 5+ you need to be called an "atheist", which is where the idea of atheism being responsible for such politics falls apart.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 18:20:10 UTC | #923189

Hume's Razor's Avatar Comment 14 by Hume's Razor

There is obviously no Excuse for the intellectual dishonesty of people like Lennox as well as the countless journalists who engage in this kind of quote mining. Still I kind of wish the good professor wouldn't say things like that. As Dawkins himself pointed out, Einstein was annoyed when people mistook his obsessive God-talk to mean he was a believer, to which Dawkins - rightly in my opinion - responded (from memory): "But what did he expect? The hunger to misunderstand should have been obvious to him".

What can you expect indeed...

How about:

Everything you say can and will be used against you.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 18:27:18 UTC | #923191

SuedeStonn's Avatar Comment 15 by SuedeStonn

          [Comment 3](/articles/645143-why-richard-dawkins-is-still-an-atheist/comments?page=1#comment_923163) by  [rrh1306](/profiles/145647)          :


                 Good explanation of the Agnostic Atheist, which I think a good percentage of Atheist would actually fall under. In a perfect world a person wouldn't have to make that distinction, but with idea that the "New Atheist" are a bunch of fundamentalist fanatics becoming a more and more pervasive meme I guess it's important to let believers know that even us strident super atheist know it's impossible to completely disprove something as vague and nebulous as the concept of an invisible god.

Their are two problems, one from each side of the fence, and neither will ever be resolved simply because of human nature. The first is that atheists will never 'hop the fence' because we will never accept a religion until we have actual, concrete evidence of 'God'. Our having to disprove it can't be done, and more importantly it isn't on us to need to disprove someones claim... the person making the claim needs to provide proof. That said it just isn't going to happen, 'God' hasn't made a guest appearance in millenia and I see no reason why he will any time soon (read: 'God' isn't real so don't hold your breath). The religious, on the other hand, won't abandon faith without critically thinking about 'God' and why it's totally erroneous... they just don't want to analyze it. It's the old "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink to save it's life" problem. I was watching a video with RD in it yesterday where he appeared on a religious TV program, and despite offering all the scientific evidence the host basically said,"That all sounds good and right, but the gospel says differently and that is what I believe." It's just blind, unreasoning faith. To be honest, I don't know if atheists (or anyone else, whatever they believe) can ever disprove 'God', the 'positive to disprove a negative' problem, but that isn't the route we should take. What we need people to understand is they have to prove 'God' exists, give us facts, evidence, and the Holy Grail of them all... 'God' himself. But you know, as well as I, that it's never going to happen. 'God' doesn't exist. Never has, never will. The religious have, in fact, NOTHING to offer us!

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 18:36:43 UTC | #923194

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 16 by Neodarwinian

To the dichotomous, religious mind anyone who has any position that is not starkly black or white is incomprehensible. That is why these people also suck at science. Answers that are tentative and subject to change are also incomprehensible to these people. And anything couched in terms requiring the support of evidence for your arguments and conclusions derived from evidence are also incomprehensible to people like Lennox who do not live in the real world but a world where the conclusion that Dawkins " is coming around " to a nonsense position, devoid of evidential support, is possible.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 18:51:37 UTC | #923196

Sample's Avatar Comment 17 by Sample

"Richard Dawkins rediscovers his baptismal faith, says he was wrong about God"

An unlikely headline for sure, though not impossible. With all the misinformation (disinformation?) in the press about Prof. Dawkins' agnosticism, an important teaching moment is presenting itself.

Prof. Dawkins could publish a faith-based manifesto rejecting the principles of biology tomorrow yet Darwin's theory of evolution would remain unscathed. That's the point I see being missed.

Religion needs people while Nature certainly doesn't need scientists.

Mike

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 18:53:29 UTC | #923197

blitz442's Avatar Comment 18 by blitz442

Comment 16 by Neodarwinian

Answers that are tentative and subject to change are also incomprehensible to these people.

That's it. That's also why these people may tend to excel at politics - speaking in a non-tentative manner resonates as self-confidence and strength to many people.

Unfortunately, this does not bode well for scientists looking to roll up their sleeves and enter politics.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 19:01:25 UTC | #923201

StephenH's Avatar Comment 19 by StephenH

My theory is that the 'flea' books had something to do with this.

The long list of books that were written and published in a panic response to TGD eg - The Dawkins Delusion

Books written by creationists for creationists

A lot of those people did not read TGD, instead they read the misrepresentations of TGD

I bet some of them are already brainwashed to the point where they are convinced not to touch the original works, as they are the work of the devil / satan

That evil bloke with the well-spoken British accent ;)

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 19:14:03 UTC | #923205

Starcrash's Avatar Comment 20 by Starcrash

Would it matter to us atheists if a famous Christian apologist turned atheist? I'm sure it would be news, but not only would we probably be skeptical of the "conversion" --- it wouldn't be evidence that Christianity is wrong and Atheism is right.

But as a former Christian, I know that this is considered evidence by theists... or at least it was for my family and me. I heard so many times about how the writer of Ben Hur started out trying to disprove Christianity and converted instead. Christians can and do lose their faith, but we didn't hear about them because that would've been considered evidence against God's existence. It wasn't and it's not. Conversion stories are just interesting anecdotes.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 19:44:00 UTC | #923214

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 21 by Peter Grant

Comment 4 from the above link is also rather good:

Sara121

Thank you Paula. I always like to tell people that I am an agnostic atheist, that the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. I am glad that idea is being pushed more, because I find that the distinction between the two is important. One can also be a gnostic atheist, the 7 on the scale, and that is frankly an untenable position. But I think a lot of people hear the word "atheist" and interpret it as "gnostic atheist" which is absolutely not the case. Some people certainly are that. But the distinction is extremely important, because it reminds people of the importance of evidence and sufficient evidence can, and should, change minds. The question can then shift to what constitutes sufficient evidence and what it means to have evidence of a particular phenomenon, which is a much clearer discussion to have, in some ways.

That makes sense, a 7 would be defined as a gnostic atheist. I often mock gnosticism by claiming that God told me He doesn't exist.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 19:48:53 UTC | #923215

Quine's Avatar Comment 22 by Quine

Nice piece, Paula! It is unfortunate that some make such a fuss over these labels.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 19:53:09 UTC | #923217

brighterstill's Avatar Comment 23 by brighterstill

Where are the poor ancient sect of gnostics in all this and what do they have to say about everyone being against them?

Why can't we just abandon the rediculous labelling system which apparently more often than not leads to confusion? Much simpler by far to answer the question "Do you believe in a god or gods?" with "No," than to declare you're an agnostic atheist and then spend twenty five minutes explaining what that means to people who are holding their breaths hoping you're about to convert to Teapotism right before their eyes.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 19:54:26 UTC | #923218

monkey's uncle's Avatar Comment 24 by monkey's uncle

I tend to describe myself as an atheist when talking to most people & a 6.9 agnostic to those that I think will understand (none of these are theists).

If I make the merest hint of agnosticism to a theist they often advance silly arguments along the lines of "Well your obviously not sure (for some reason they always assume 50:50 not sure, no matter how you explain it) & I am sure so that even if the probability is somewhere in the middle even you must accept that its more likely than not." For some reason they believe that the truth must necessarily be somewhere between our two positions.

I usually end the conversation there. It really is not worth spending time applying reason & intelligence to unreasonable & unintelligent people. Life is too short.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 19:56:21 UTC | #923220

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 25 by drumdaddy

If Richard should go batty and join a religion in this lifetime, I promise to posthumously baptize him as an atheist.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 20:00:44 UTC | #923222

jel's Avatar Comment 26 by jel

Thanks Paula, a well reasoned piece which will be totally ignored. Let's face it, these people could have read his books before commenting on them, they could have studied the evidence before writing any articles, but they didn't ( the proof is, these types of stories) so what are the chances they will read this? Yeah, don't hold your breath!

As for Dawkin's scale, I have to be a 6 because I can never truly know that there isn't a god but I'll live my life as a 10!

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 20:04:55 UTC | #923225

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 27 by Mr DArcy

Nice article Paula, but hang on a minute!

Do you really think someone like Lennox would welcome Richard into the Christian camp, knowing:

a) He had a single celled organism as an ancestor?

b) He had a Christian ancestor who owned slaves?

c) He had many Christian ancestors who didn't believe in evolution and many more who hadn't even heard of it?

d) He had many different Christian ancestors who didn't know Matthew was the first book of the NT?

e) He had many Christian ancestors who hadn't even heard of, let alone like, Bach's St Matthew Passion!

No indeed, the last couple of weeks has been a time for shooting the messenger, because the religios know full well their powder keg is empty. ISTM that people like our PM, Cameron, who seems pretty unreligious to me, together with his atheist Deputy PM, Clegg, are so desperate that whatever else, the proles have to have "respect" for faith. Otherwise they'll be running around chopping off the Quueen's head and eating babies. [Stage direction] Bring on Baroness Warsi, and Eric Pickles reading copies of the Telegraph.

Meanwhile in the Honours deciding bit of government, there is some discussion as to whether this here chap , Dawkins, should be given an honour or not. I will leave to the more imaginative people here to conjure up the kind of discussion when Richard's name is promoted, as it surely has been. This may be worth a discussion item?

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 20:06:54 UTC | #923227

Daryl 's Avatar Comment 28 by Daryl

My usual answer is that:

In the Bronze Age, when the world was so small, the Med was so called because it WAS the middle of the earth, and the concept of God, complete with Adam, Eve and sin was formulated. In the Iron Age, the book was rewritten, and the world was accepted to be this big round thing, with all these spheres with stars in them revolving around us, and there the concept of "God" has stopped.

BUT, we've known since Galileo that Jupiter was its own center, and they threatened to burn him at the stake, but the God concept could not be changed; Roemer came up with the concept of a speed of light in the 141,000 miles per second range, opening up the universe to size concepts beyond imagining; Newton quantified the universe; Einstein understood the enormous scope of space/time; Planck started imagining the very small. Still this God concept never went past the Bronze Age. In the 19th century we realized we were in this enormous galaxy and Charles Darwin taught us why we were really here. Bronze Age God remained; by 1915 we found ANOTHER galaxy, opening up the universe to an incredible size. Now we know the Milky Way is in the Virgo Cluster, and there are something like 400 Billion galaxies (am I wrong on this number?); and still Bronze Age God constrains too many people.

The "religious" always love to trumpet when science confirms (which is almost never) some written in those Bronze and Iron Age books; the scientific community could care less if the "religious" confirms something from science.

So I then tell people they are certainly welcome to their Bronze Age beliefs.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 20:08:36 UTC | #923228

kaiserkriss's Avatar Comment 29 by kaiserkriss

Well done Paula! It amazes me over and over that so called Journalists in once respected papers stoop so low that they are being not only intellectually dishonest but also stooping to down right lying. Are they too lazy to have researched the material properly- or is it a case of not being able to recall or understand it?

Individuals such as Lennox and the other fleas are exactly that- fleas who are trying to make a few dishonest $$ while having no problem lying through their teeth and misrepresenting statements. I wish more people would take them to task to the extent that they have to make make public apologies of misrepresentation and forfeit any financial gains made from those misrepresentations.

I suspect once it hits them where it hurts most- namely in the wallet these fleas and lazy Journalists would be a lot more careful if taken to task. So BRAVO Paula! Keep up the great work! jcw

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 20:19:36 UTC | #923231

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 30 by Richard Dawkins

Comment 29 by kaiserkriss :

Well done Paula! It amazes me over and over that so called Journalists in once respected papers stoop so low that they are being not only intellectually dishonest but also stooping to down right lying. Are they too lazy to have researched the material properly- or is it a case of not being able to recall or understand it?

Individuals such as Lennox and the other fleas are exactly that- fleas who are trying to make a few dishonest $$ while having no problem lying through their teeth and misrepresenting statements. I wish more people would take them to task to the extent that they have to make make public apologies of misrepresentation and forfeit any financial gains made from those misrepresentations.

I suspect once it hits them where it hurts most- namely in the wallet these fleas and lazy Journalists would be a lot more careful if taken to task. So BRAVO Paula! Keep up the great work! jcw

To give the fleas their due, I don't think money is their motive. I think they really care about Jesus. They are desperately seeking reassurance – and taking it from wherever they can – that that their pathetic delusions can remain intact.

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 20:25:59 UTC | #923234