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Interview: Richard Dawkins Celebrates Reason, Ridicules Faith - Comments

dansam's Avatar Comment 1 by dansam

I don't understand people who feel that Professor Dawkins mocking and ridiculing insane beliefs are doing a disservice to atheism. Isn't "respecting" someone's outlandish beliefs just being condescending and effectively infantilizing them?

Yes... I can see how "mocking" could be counterproductive as a tactical maneuver but where does one draw the line? What if someone's sincerely & deeply held belief was that they were born on Mars... or that they could fly into outer space by flapping their arms? Do we look at these people and with a straight face say "Yes.... I truly respect your views. They are just as valid as evolutionary theory or quantum theory"? Is it only certain crazy biblical theories we have to respect? What about other books? How old does a crazy theory have to be before it "earns" our respect?

Remember that the transmogrification of the wafer and wine (as I understand it) means that it LITERALLY turns into Jesus's body & wine (not symbolically). Some people believe that the "miracles" actually happened! Not that they are just metaphorical!

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 03:56:51 UTC | #930684

alaskansee's Avatar Comment 2 by alaskansee

@ Barbara

It was a reason rally, so yes Dawkins' comments seem entirely well placed. It's not the national day of atheists appreciation or hug an atheist day?

Religions is the opposite of reason and is the biggest barrier to reason, progress and science.

"it's not just an error, it's a preposterous error"

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 04:21:38 UTC | #930690

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 3 by Jos Gibbons

Although I intend to listen to the audio later (after which I might comment on it here, for now I'd like to comment on her article:

I questioned whether Dawkins was the best choice to be headline speaker at the March 24 Reason Rally in Washington, given that one of its goals was to change negative stereotypes about atheists.

These are the negative stereotypes that lead those holding them to object to even the most mild-mannered of pro-atheist statements, e.g. “You can be good without believing in a god”. This is well-attested by the history of which atheist ads get banned, pulled, defaced etc. They don’t even go after “meaner” ads with more gusto than they go after the “softer” ones. So what would be a better option than Professor Dawkins?

he came across as utterly confident in his ability to suss out courageous versus self-deluded ways of thinking.

What’s any of this got to do with courage? Insofar as views are labelled as being courageous, it’s because they can only be held at odds with evidence, orthodoxy or wishful thinking. In the first case, there is no distinction between those and self-deluded ways of thinking; in the other two cases, they are still self-deluded if evidence doesn’t support them, and a scientist is well-placed to tell whether it does.

His exact words after describing the Catholic ritual, were "Mock them. Ridicule them." So by "them" did he intend to refer to Catholic beliefs, not Catholic people? In context, it doesn't seem so to me.

Why?

How much does that distinction matter? When it comes to religion, does demeaning a person's belief not also demean the person?

I wouldn’t conflate “mock” with “demean”, especially in the case of people. No-one’s human rights are being challenged here.

Why use demeaning terms, and urge others to use them, for either the belief or the person? Surely it's not adequate justification that some religious people are guilty of the same sin, or worse. Doesn't the embrace of reason compel a person to rise above a grade school calculus of that sort?

If any kind of lazy generalisation were present, I might agree. But there isn’t. If no evidence exists to support a claim, literally every single person who believes it is irrational to do so.

As the world's alpha atheist

Here’s the thing: the only reason Professor Dawkins is classified in that regard is because of what he says about religion; so, if being “the world’s alpha atheist” makes it irresponsible for him to say things like this, what that boils down to saying is “The person who most acts this way shouldn’t act this way because his acting this way makes it irresponsible for him to act this way, whereas if only he didn’t act this way he wouldn’t bear the responsibility of making sure he didn’t”. That’s formally known as a catch-22 situation. (A lot of people misuse that term, but the book of the same name makes clear what it means: a situation where you are only forbade from doing something if you choose it.)

My steadfast disagreement with Dawkins emerges from his refusal to see that the expression of faith isn't inevitably a simple-minded approach to living. I'm a big fan of reason. I'm just no fan of the stereotype, embodied by Dawkins, that we atheists equate others' religious faith with a lack of intelligence or courage, or both.

Firstly, “approach to living” is a separate question from “approach to thinking”, and faith is a bad approach to thinking, if it can even be called an approach to thinking at all. Secondly, if you dislike the stereotype in question, it is those who assert or believe its validity you should be going after. Thirdly, Dawkins doesn’t exemplify it. He doesn’t claim religious people are unintelligent (he acknowledges scientific evidence possibly suggesting a small difference in the intelligence levels of theists and atheists, but notes intelligence is far from being the most decisive factor in who ends up being religious, and in any case only discussed this once in a brief section of The God Delusion even its critics seem to have barely noticed), and again this “courage” discussion is tangential to what Professor Dawkins has been saying.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 06:36:17 UTC | #930697

Rawhard Dickins's Avatar Comment 4 by Rawhard Dickins

Sounds like a bunch of apes there!

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 07:10:07 UTC | #930701

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 5 by mordacious1

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 08:09:53 UTC | #930702

AtheistButt's Avatar Comment 6 by AtheistButt

Catholic League president Bill Donohue (linked to by mordacious @5) referring to atheists, finishes with 'They don't have a prayer'.

Can't argue with that really.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 08:16:54 UTC | #930703

Tony d's Avatar Comment 7 by Tony d

Barbara certainly was hostile to the Professor.I had to listen to the interview twice before i could put my finger on what her problem was.

I came away with the impression that Barbara is a very non confrontational, cant we all just get along type. Not only that she want's everyone else to be like that to.Barbara's biggest gripe with the Professor is that he takes a different approach to her.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 08:17:33 UTC | #930704

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 8 by Peter Grant

http://youtube.com/watch?v=4QocLHL-sVc Richard Dawkins' Reason Rally speech!

http://public.npr.org/anon.npr-mp3/npr/blog/2012/03/20120326_blog_rd.mp3 Interview: Richard Dawkins Celebrates Reason, Ridicules Faith By BARBARA J.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 09:30:43 UTC | #930710

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 9 by AtheistEgbert

I think Barbara J King prepared well for her interview, and at times it was frosty but that's how a good journalist does their job. So well done to both.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 09:49:04 UTC | #930714

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 10 by drumdaddy

Good interview. Inch by inch we will get past the perifory items such as 'Are we being polite enough to the lovely folks who call us a scourge and damn us to eternal torture?' When being shouted down from every pulpit and every election stump, one's demure rebuttals go unheard. In fact, atheists' historic retreat to obscurity through quiet deference to religions has got us into this place.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 11:02:16 UTC | #930716

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 11 by Stafford Gordon

What an irritating crowd.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 11:16:28 UTC | #930718

mmurray's Avatar Comment 12 by mmurray

Comment 1 by dansam :

Remember that the transmogrification of the wafer and wine (as I understand it) means that it LITERALLY turns into Jesus's body & wine (not symbolically).

This is not quite right. The official mumbo-jumbo is slightly more complicated than this. It is real and not real it seems:

In Roman Catholic theology, transubstantiation (in Latin, transsubstantiatio, in Greek μετουσίωσις metousiosis) is the doctrine that, in the Eucharist, the substance of wheat bread and grape wine changes into the substance of the Body and the Blood of Jesus,[1] while all that is accessible to the senses (the appearances - species in Latin) remains as before.[2][3][4]

Catholics are aware that the appearance of the bread and wine has not changed. They just try to get around this by arguing that the appearance if not the reality.

Michael

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 12:01:56 UTC | #930723

peter mayhew's Avatar Comment 13 by peter mayhew

Whenever I get questionned about the distinction between disrespecting a belief, and disrespecting the person holding that belief, I always respond that that is what everyone always does and should be doing, and is what I do too. I usually take the example of Nazism and Nazis. I ask people if they disrespect Nazism. They say yes. Then I ask them if they disrepect all Nazis. And I usually get hesitation. I say that a Nazi might have been coerced into joining the party by threats, or might have been indoctrinated as a young child. They might just never have been exposed to the evil Nazism does and believed the propaganda. They can change their minds. And yet, I say, it is right to speak out against Nazism isn't it? Yes they say, they get the point.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 12:14:09 UTC | #930724

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 14 by drumdaddy

Regarding Michael's last post, isn't the RC claim that any testable changes to the baker's wafer or the vintner's wine are not "accessible to the senses" the exact same as the claim that the rituals are "senseless"?

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 12:22:47 UTC | #930725

Southern Humanist's Avatar Comment 15 by Southern Humanist

I don't find Richard Dawkins bombastic at all...in fact, I'm always amused at the people who suggest for example, when Dr. Dawkins calls the notion of transubstantiation absurd, that he's being provocative. Remind me again who is being provocative: the folks claiming to eat flesh and drink blood, or the guy saying they're looney?

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 13:44:03 UTC | #930737

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 16 by Tyler Durden

Comment 12 by mmurray :

In Roman Catholic theology, transubstantiation (in Latin, transsubstantiatio, in Greek μετουσίωσις metousiosis) is the doctrine that, in the Eucharist, the substance of wheat bread and grape wine changes into the substance of the Body and the Blood of Jesus,[1] while all that is accessible to the senses (the appearances - species in Latin) remains as before.[2][3][4]

Catholics are aware that the appearance of the bread and wine has not changed. They just try to get around this by arguing that the appearance if not the reality.

This "sophisticated theology" sure is tough - as is trying to nail jelly to the wall.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 13:50:42 UTC | #930738

xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 17 by xmaseveeve

Comment 13, Peter,

I think that's really good. Questions always work better in this situation, because our entrenched positions only shift when we have to examine them. Good analogy and strategy. The only danger would be that they try to pretend you're saying they are Nazis. I got this recently on Facebook and have hardly posted there since. The guy flagged me for abuse for calling him a Nazi, which of course, I didn't. (Its'a a good story but for another thread.)

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 14:54:13 UTC | #930747

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 18 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 15:03:44 UTC | #930748

helena!'s Avatar Comment 19 by helena!

This interviewer lady is SO annoying! Very passive aggressive. The whole time she is just trying to convince Richard that he is rude and is trying to scold him on his "tone". It really distracts from the conversation and is really just so petty. I hate this kind of apologetic view it's just so weak and wishy washy. Richard is nothing but soft spoken and polite answering her questions.

Personally I don't get all this righteousness against Richard. I find it absurd. I find Richard to be truthful and honest and to me that is so refreshing.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 15:51:47 UTC | #930754

YHWH's Avatar Comment 20 by YHWH

I don't think faith is believing things without evidence.

I think faith is believing things which we all - believers and non-believers - know, deep down, to be stupid.

That's why hardly any believers actually act on their beliefs, and why those that do are seen by everyone as dangerous and objectionable. Fundamentalism, in which beliefs are taken to their logical conclusion, is the reductio ad absurdam of religion.

When we are being polite, we let these stupidities pass to spare other peoples' embarrassment and our own, and this is why Richard Dawkins seems so shocking, no matter how polite and softly spoken he is, when he points out that it's all rubbish.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 15:53:49 UTC | #930755

privatize education's Avatar Comment 21 by privatize education

Comment 20 by YHWH :

I don't think faith is believing things without evidence.

I think faith is believing things which we all - believers and non-believers - know, deep down, to be stupid.

unlike "without evidence," "stupid" is opinion based. the definition of "faith" is fine the way it is, don't try to confuse it.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 16:11:36 UTC | #930756

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 22 by Peter Grant

Comment 21 by privatize education.

unlike "without evidence," "stupid" is opinion based. the definition of "faith" is fine the way it is, don't try to confuse it.

Opinion is relative, in the sense that some people's opinions are better than other's.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 16:32:26 UTC | #930758

YHWH's Avatar Comment 23 by YHWH

@privatize education

Less with the logic please. This is an observation about believers, not any kind of deduction about belief.

People know their religion's dogmas are daft. Especially educated believers,

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 16:41:45 UTC | #930760

YHWH's Avatar Comment 24 by YHWH

Perhaps "wrong" would be a more defensible word, even if less accurate. As in ...

Faith is believing things which we know to be wrong.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 17:03:48 UTC | #930764

Cliff Melick's Avatar Comment 25 by Cliff Melick

Or as Twain would have it, "Faith is believing what you know ain't so."

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 17:22:06 UTC | #930768

xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 26 by xmaseveeve

Comment 24 YHWH,

''Faith is believing things which we know to be wrong.''

And for you, the operative word is 'know'? The statement is untrue, as you don't have to know it's wrong to disbelieve it.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 18:11:33 UTC | #930782

Xor's Avatar Comment 27 by Xor

I personally think that the acual definition of faith is perfect, as it's perfectly objective and largely proves its absurdness.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 19:24:17 UTC | #930796

Katy Cordeth's Avatar Comment 28 by Katy Cordeth

Are most of us not, for want of a better word, guilty of faith-based thinking? I believe with almost absolute certainty in evolutiion, in an ancient universe, in the non-existence of any gods, but I don't have any actual evidence for these things. I could go back to school, study biology, astrophysics, metaphysics, what have you, examine the available evidence and then come to my own conclusions, but I have neither the inclination nor the time.

Instead what I do is put my 'faith' in those people who have studied these things and whom I have come to trust and respect. But that's all it is: faith.

Isn't the ability to put our faith in other people and trust them to do right by us an essential part of our species' evolutionary make-up? We're not solitary creatures; we've always lived together in large and complex hierarchical groups of people to whom we're not necessarily related and who have no genetic interest in keeping us alive and healthy.

I know that there is a big difference between religious faith and faith in one's fellow man. I just think that before we ridicule the beliefs of those we find contemptuous, we might want to consider just how we know what we think we know and whether it's based on our own empirical research or our own blind faith.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 19:42:22 UTC | #930801

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 29 by Tyler Durden

Comment 28 by katy Cordeth :

Are most of us not, for want of a better word, guilty of faith-based thinking? I believe with almost absolute certainty in evolutiion, in an ancient universe, in the non-existence of any gods, but I don't have any actual evidence for these things.

Theists are guilty of blind-faith, not just faith-based thinking.

Humans exist, trust, and interact with others in society sometimes based upon faith, there is nothing wrong with this approach once the faith-based thinking is based upon evidence i.e. faith in one's parents, spouse, partners, family, friends, guardians, doctors, teachers, and colleagues.

Once we have established intimate, trusting and loving relationships with such individuals, we can trust them on faith, based on previous interactions, and the evidence for such. For example: "I have faith my parents will be there for me tomorrow.", "I have faith if I ever needed any financial help, my family would pitch in.", or "I have faith my close friends will advise me appropriately should I need their help."

It is when we use blind-faith based upon authority, tradition, dogma and no evidence whatsoever to make decisions are we guilty of mirroring the behaviour of theists.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 20:35:24 UTC | #930815

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 30 by Peter Grant

Comment 28 by katy Cordeth

Are most of us not, for want of a better word, guilty of faith-based thinking? I believe with almost absolute certainty in evolutiion, in an ancient universe, in the non-existence of any gods, but I don't have any actual evidence for these things. I could go back to school, study biology, astrophysics, metaphysics, what have you, examine the available evidence and then come to my own conclusions, but I have neither the inclination nor the time.

Evolution and the age of the universe are well defined concepts, God isn't. Biology and astrophysics are real subjects which describe real observations and make real, testable predictions. Theology and metaphysics are a waste of time.

Instead what I do is put my 'faith' in those people who have studied these things and whom I have come to trust and respect. But that's all it is: faith.

It's not faith if they can demonstrate that their science works.

Isn't the ability to put our faith in other people and trust them to do right by us an essential part of our species' evolutionary make-up? We're not solitary creatures; we've always lived together in large and complex hierarchical groups of people to whom we're not necessarily related and who have no genetic interest in keeping us alive and healthy.

Yes, and an important part of that process is deciding whom to trust.

I know that there is a big difference between religious faith and faith in one's fellow man. I just think that before we ridicule the beliefs of those we find contemptuous, we might want to consider just how we know what we think we know and whether it's based on our own empirical research or our own blind faith.

Trusting experts who have already demonstrated a real ability to explain observations and make predictions about the world is not blind faith, it's just rational.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 20:57:44 UTC | #930820