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Richard Dawkins - Science and the New Atheism - Comments

sillysighbean's Avatar Comment 1 by sillysighbean

D.J. Grothe has a podcast on iTunes, he has terrific guests on a regular basis. It is worthwhile to check out.

Fri, 07 Dec 2007 21:28:00 UTC | #90925

Riley's Avatar Comment 2 by Riley

Also check out the Point of Inquiry interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson:
http://www.pointofinquiry.org/?p=137

It includes some comments about Richard Dawkins and the "New Atheists" movement in general near the end of the interview.

Fri, 07 Dec 2007 22:18:00 UTC | #90932

logical's Avatar Comment 3 by logical

RD: Minute 30: I DO complain to be born, because I am the product of rape and an existing abortionforbidding law.
I am also in bad health and have always been, now that I am old it is accepted that children can already have the very painful illness of rheumatism, but I have been getting my regular daily dose of painkillers for ten years only!
In my youth the nuns said that I had to thank their god for "life" which meant pain and abuse (not only by them), now I am very cross with you just because what you say sounds so similar.

I am an atheist because the very few atheists I met in the course of my escaping religious dumbth accepted my fight against the abortionforbidding law and there is still a close connection between atheists and the euthanasia movement.

I do recognize that most people who endorse selfdetermination are still atheists, and that your argumentation of the theoretical combination of genes is something different, but only a few of these combinations feel good!
We the others, born or not, are better off without existence.

CETERUM CENSEO VATICANEM ESSE DELENDAM

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 01:20:00 UTC | #90949

ADH's Avatar Comment 4 by ADH

So Dawins has an uneasy conscience about eating meat. Maybe my spoof in an earlier post, on another thread, about the slaughter of turkeys at thanksgiving and Christmas making the holocaust pale into significance was not as much of a straw-man as some people said it was. Dawkins' and Singer's arguments require one to believe that there is, ontologically and morally, no difference between taking the life of a fellow sentient creature and taking the life of another human being. Therefore canabalism, and killing a human being to satisfy whatever physical, territorial, surval or supremacy need, is actually no more abhorrent than sitting down to a turkey dinner. At the most, it is wrong because protectiveness towards and empathy with members of our own species is somehow wired into us, and therefore it seems unfitting to fly in the face of that. But there are no moral categories left whereby we can condemn such behaviour, any more than there are any moral categories whereby we can condemn wild animals for killing members of their own species in defense of their territory, or over who gets the female they both want!

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 01:23:00 UTC | #90950

Goldy's Avatar Comment 5 by Goldy

Aaah, but ADH, you appear to be assuming all athiests are unthinking examples of automatic inhumanity. We aren't. Neither are we very rational. We are all....human :-)

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 01:51:00 UTC | #90953

ADH's Avatar Comment 6 by ADH

"Aaah, but ADH, you appear to be assuming all athiests are unthinking examples of automatic inhumanity. We aren't. Neither are we very rational. We are all....human :-)"

In that case, God save us from rationalists! The hypothetical (potential??) root of much evil.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 02:08:00 UTC | #90958

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 7 by the great teapot

ADH
As a vegeterian atheist I haven't got a clue what you are talking about.
I didn't check moral categories before i decided I didn't want to cause unnecessary pain to sentient beings. I stopped doing it because it seems like a cruel thing to do.
You clearly couldn't care less. I have no respect for you.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 02:21:00 UTC | #90962

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 8 by Steve Zara

Dawkins' and Singer's arguments require one to believe that there is, ontologically and morally, no difference between taking the life of a fellow sentient creature and taking the life of another human being.


Depends what you mean by sentient. A human is more sentient than a turkey, which is more sentient than a carrot.

Therefore canabalism, and killing a human being to satisfy whatever physical, territorial, surval or supremacy need, is actually no more abhorrent than sitting down to a turkey dinner.


No, because of the difference in sentience.

At the most, it is wrong because protectiveness towards and empathy with members of our own species is somehow wired into us, and therefore it seems unfitting to fly in the face of that.


That is far too simple. We are more protective towards close relatives than others because of kin selection. But there tend to be limits to what we allow ourselves to do to others, but those change due to other influences - we can interact with others and change our minds. For example, in the past few centuries most of us have realised that all races are equally human.

It is a combination of wiring and culture; nature and nurture. We see changes in ethical standards in all cultures, no matter which God-given book they believe in, assuming they believe in any.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 02:29:00 UTC | #90964

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 9 by Steve Zara

In that case, God save us from rationalists! The hypothetical (potential??) root of much evil.


Oh come on now. This is just silly!

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 02:32:00 UTC | #90965

jaf's Avatar Comment 10 by jaf

[...]the question of whether science and religion are really at war.


I thought that one was solved when they started putting lightning conductors on churches. . .

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 02:56:00 UTC | #90969

briancoughlanworldcitizen's Avatar Comment 11 by briancoughlanworldcitizen

Therefore canabalism, and killing a human being to satisfy whatever physical, territorial, surval or supremacy need, is actually no more abhorrent than sitting down to a turkey dinner.

That is, in a very real sense, quite correct. That is why the idea of eating dead relatives makes you and I feel physically ill, and yet there where humans doing that as little as a hundred years ago, who considered it not only perfectly reasonable behaviour, but sacred ritual. A common greeting among these people, considered especially flattering, was "I eat you.".

Morality is simply what culture says it is, what we collectivley agree. The bedrock which you are desperate to find, does exist, but it is not provided by "God", but by the evolutionary advantageous impulse to protect, love and do good to kin. Most readily summed up by "Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.". Sometimes, that means "Eat me when I've died.". The trick will be to extend that golden rule to all humans equally, erasing the artificial barriers of race, religion and nationality. The good news is we seem to be stumbling along the right track, and may even make it:-)

However, what now seems certain, is that we don't benefit from the contradictory 10th hand hearsay of a very nasty God, filtered through notoriously unreliable acolytes, telling us what is right or wrong. That simply breeds unjustified pious certainity and rage, as evidenced by the entire span of religious history to the present day. It also puts Teddy bears and teachers at terribly risk.

It seems to me that 6,000 years of "revelation", has simply led to the same kind of manipulative assholes (albeit with different headgear) lying and killing for basically the same bad reasons.

Yet, people in simple dialouge with each other, rejecting anything as especially sacred do a far better job of reaching rational conclusions, conclusions that do much better justice to the spirit of the golden rule, than religion EVER has.

So lets dump all the holy books and do that. Talk, argue, consult and come to agreement.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 03:44:00 UTC | #90978

ADH's Avatar Comment 12 by ADH

"You clearly couldn't care less. I have no respect for you."

Then neither do you have any respect for meat-eaters who are also atheists, or at least those atheists who eat meat with an easy conscience.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 04:08:00 UTC | #90981

eXcommunicate's Avatar Comment 13 by eXcommunicate

Eddie Tabash's interview is a good too.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 06:21:00 UTC | #90996

TheHardProblem's Avatar Comment 14 by TheHardProblem

at around 15 minutes: (on the subject of atheist style of rhetoric in politics)
RD:"and I guess i'm not a very good seducer, because uhm, I find it very hard to.. to do that. If somebody is talking palpable nonsense, uhm, then I find it's just not quite my style to say "well, Very interesting point you make there, but have you considered... "(laughs from public)

Hmm, now who could prof. Dawkins have lampooned there? ;)

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 06:42:00 UTC | #90997

OhioAtheist's Avatar Comment 15 by OhioAtheist

Dawkins' and Singer's arguments require one to believe that there is, ontologically and morally, no difference between taking the life of a fellow sentient creature and taking the life of another human being.


If you had any familiarity with Singer you would know that this is bullshit. He makes quite clear that he considers the taking of a human life more wrong than the taking of, say, a cow's, on the preference-utilitarian grounds that, as a person (a being with a conception of a "self" persisting over time), the human is more able to value his own life than the cow, a non-person, is. In other words, you wrong the human you kill more than the cow you kill. He does believe that it wrong to place human interests, by default, above animal interests of comparable value (say, their interest in avoiding the torment inflicted upon them in the billions by the modern meat industry); but this is quite a different matter from what you allege. Animals unable to consciously value their own lives simply have no interest in staying alive, Singer implies, which is why he has, as Joey Kurtzman of Jewcy says, "left many of us with the understanding that death has no value whatsoever in Singer's utilitarian calculations, and is undesirable only to the extent that it comes with associated suffering. If Charles Eisenstein were to detonate a neutron bomb on a small island full of chocolate labrador puppies, I don't know that Singer would find this of any great concern."

In the future please deign to stay away from straw men.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 07:04:00 UTC | #91001

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 16 by Paula Kirby

I think there's a strong ethical case for vegetarianism regardless of your religious views, or lack of them.

It avoids the taking of life on an enormous scale, it avoids the hideousness of intensive farming methods and the horrors of the slaughterhouse, it is dramatically less extravagant with limited resources such as land and water and, when pursued with a modicum of attention to nutrition, can be healthier than a non-vegetarian diet, leading to less human suffering too.

And despite Richard's remark in the interview, veggie food can be absolutely delightful - though I do agree with him that a horrible number of chefs haven't cottoned on to this yet!

Christianity gives meat-eaters some wiggle-room, of course, by claiming that man has dominion over the rest of the animal kingdom. Not one of Christianity's finest pronouncements. But there's no obvious reason why it should outweigh the ethical considerations I've suggested above. The case for vegetarianism is strong on its own merits - no need to bring religion into it either way.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 07:49:00 UTC | #91013

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 17 by Steve Zara

yet another thread of comments muddied up with ADH and Steve. Boring!


If the consensus is that it is boring, then I am happy to stop. However, I thought that one of the purposes of the site should be to engage with people of different views. Even if we don't change their minds, surely it is an educational experience for both sides, and is a positive message about the nature of this site.

ADH is not a nutter - he represents mainstream Christian opinion. And as for uninvited, where does it say "atheists only" regarding membership here?

We could resort to a mutual admiration group; nothing more than patting each other on the back and praising each other for how rational and sane we are regarding religion. But that surely be behaving in precisely the way we have been stereotyped as behaving, wouldn't it? And wouldn't it be just a bit dull?

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 08:17:00 UTC | #91015

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 18 by Paula Kirby

Some of us just enjoy the debate, coretemprising! What a dull place RD.net would be if we all just sat around agreeing with each other. I have yet to read a post by steve99 that I have found boring, and there haven't been many of them that I haven't learned something from either so Steve, please keep them coming.

I do agree that very few people are likely to change their minds about anything by reading what other people write - but don't you find that the very process of gathering your own thoughts to respond to someone else makes you question and challenge them, identify areas of them that aren't strong and that you therefore need to explore more deeply?

As an example, if I hadn't started engaging in debates with theists on a different forum about a year ago, I doubt very much whether I'd have felt the need to understand evolution better, or cosmology. Has my learning more about evolution and cosmology in the last year transformed those theists' views in any way? No, of course not. But it has transformed and strengthened mine and opened up whole new areas of interest to me. If I'd just decided those theists weren't worth debating with and walked away, they wouldn't be any the poorer now. But I would be.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 08:19:00 UTC | #91017

Polydactyl's Avatar Comment 19 by Polydactyl

I agree with Northern Bright: steve99 is always interesting to read.
Surely, surely, atheists have to engage with others who disagree--and communication is hard work: fatally easy to misunderstand each other. Lots of the debates here show that people are not really understanding the position of the other side at all.

And it would be powerfully boring to read only atheists' comments congratulating each other on their insight.
Please carry on, Steve99 (and all those other tireless folk who keep up the rational arguments).

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 08:24:00 UTC | #91019

jimbob's Avatar Comment 20 by jimbob

...and then there's always the point about it being unlikely that a human brain could have evolved without meat-eating ancestors.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 08:45:00 UTC | #91020

ADH's Avatar Comment 21 by ADH

Forgive me if I have misrepresented Singer. So it seems that what distinguishes humans from other sentient beings is self-awareness. OK, I need ti read a few more things written by Singer. I've just read some articles, in on of which he states that a new-born babby is actually of less value (until they acquire consciousness) than a sentient and conscious animal. But is the distinguishing trait "consciousness", as I understood from the article, or "self-consciousness", which is the faculty that allows the human to value his or her life and therefore be aware of what they are losing? I'm just trying to get my head around this one.

If it is "self" awareness, then that is a big difference indeed. Have any animals (the higher primates for example) bee shown to be self aware? How do they react when they look at themselves in a mirror? Dogs and cats show no sign of such awareness.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 08:49:00 UTC | #91021

briancoughlanworldcitizen's Avatar Comment 22 by briancoughlanworldcitizen

18. Comment #95380 by coretemprising on December 8, 2007 at 7:58 am

I think I'll go back to just reading the articles. Having ADH here is like having an UNINVITED annoying stranger in your house who's intent to challenge and make wrong everything you say.


I'm bemused by this attitude I have to say. I've seen some fairly deranged theists, and ADH just doesn't qualify. Are you threatened by alternate points of view? If not then whats the problem?

No one is forcing anyone here to participate or contribute, it's entirely voluntary. However, wouldn't it be sterile if the only people we ever spoke to where those that agreed with us?

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 09:11:00 UTC | #91025

briancoughlanworldcitizen's Avatar Comment 23 by briancoughlanworldcitizen

23. Comment #95389 by ADH on December 8, 2007 at 8:49 am

If it is "self" awareness, then that is a big difference indeed. Have any animals (the higher primates for example) bee shown to be self aware? How do they react when they look at themselves in a mirror? Dogs and cats show no sign of such awareness.


ADH ... several animals have passed the test you mention.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_test

Ready to join the atheist legions now;-)? If not, why not?

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 09:16:00 UTC | #91027

Jayday's Avatar Comment 24 by Jayday

It is interesting that the conversation has focused on human animals eating non-human animals. Other non-human animals who eat their prey do it because they have evolved to do so. Isn't that also true of humans? In my mind it is more about eating animals for food (survival and nutrients) and not inflicting unnecessary cruelty in the process, or killing for the prize sport of it.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 09:16:00 UTC | #91028

Vaal's Avatar Comment 25 by Vaal

Saw my cat plucking her eyebrows in the mirror this morning...

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 09:17:00 UTC | #91029

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 26 by Paula Kirby

...and then there's always the point about it being unlikely that a human brain could have evolved without meat-eating ancestors.
Interesting point! Even if it's true, though (and sorry, I'm not intentionally doubting you - I just genuinely don't have the knowledge on this score), wouldn't that still leave the question of whether meat-eating is ethical NOW?

Also, I can well imagine that meat would have been required at earlier stages of our evolutionary development, not least because our ancestors wouldn't have had the access to the wide range of vegetables, fruits and grains that we have these days. Meat is undoubtedly a very concentrated source of all kinds of essential nutrients, so "back then" it was probably an excellent solution. But whether it would still have been essential if they'd had the array of alternatives we have today is perhaps another question.

I suspect I'm sounding more hardline on this question than I actually am - I occasionally eat meat and fish myself. But I do see vegetarianism as the preferable option, for the reasons I gave before. Even if most of us just made a point of eating less meat and avoiding buying the factory-farmed stuff, there'd be a big reduction in animal suffering and extravagant use of resources.

EDIT: OK, in the interests of scrupulous honesty, I have to acknowledge that there may be an element of post-rationalisation in what I've written: I do think vegetarianism is the more ethical option ... but that's not actually the reason I choose to eat veggie food most of the time: it's simply that I prefer it! And I also find having lumps of dead animal in my fridge rather nauseating.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 09:21:00 UTC | #91030

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 27 by Diacanu

coretemprising-

yet another thread of comments muddied up with ADH and Steve. Boring!


Hey look, it's the world's smallest violin playing the world's saddest song just for you.
*Eyerolls*
*Jack-off gesture*

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 09:26:00 UTC | #91031

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 28 by Steve Zara

Northern Bright:

There is an interesting theory that human brains require certain fats that are present in seafood for full development, which is highly suggestive of an aquatic, or at least seaside phase in our ancestry. Of course, with our current knowledge of nutrition, vegetarians need not suffer from this deficiency.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 09:28:00 UTC | #91032

briancoughlanworldcitizen's Avatar Comment 29 by briancoughlanworldcitizen

But I do see vegetarianism as the preferable option, for the reasons I gave before. Even if most of us just made a point of eating less meat and avoiding buying the factory-farmed stuff, there'd be a big reduction in animal suffering and extravagant use of resources.

Sigh. I thought giving up that religion stuff would allow me to live exactly as I pleased with no regrets. So this morality business is independent of religion. Who knew?

Maybe when we can grow meat in the lab ... we'll finally be in the clear. In the meantime, eating mammals strikes me as a kind of cannibalism, but I still do it because :

a) I like meat.
b) I have yet to have explained to me why eating humans (who have consented to it) is "wrong". The only coherent case that can be made against it is based on health issues, rather than morality.

Let me quickly add, I don't actually want to eat humans :-), I simply find cannibalism a fascinating context to discuss morality and ethics in.

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 09:30:00 UTC | #91033

Diacanu's Avatar Comment 30 by Diacanu

krisking-

for health reasons....e.g. circumcision


And know what a simpler solution to the "health reasons", for circumcision is?

Wash your dirty pecker!

(I use "your", in the global sense not personal)

Sat, 08 Dec 2007 09:39:00 UTC | #91038