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Comments by Aleatorica

Go to: A brutal price still paid for daring to challenge faith

Aleatorica's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by Aleatorica

On seeing the headline, I thought for one terrible moment that someone had been strung up from a lamp-post for apostasy. But no, it's only Richard Dawkins being called 'strident' again. How terrible for him. What brutality!

Wed, 22 Feb 2012 22:23:54 UTC | #920836

Go to: Is Britain a Christian country?

Aleatorica's Avatar Jump to comment 32 by Aleatorica

I don't understand why RD would do this programme. Surely it will look better in Nicky Campbell's CV than on his?

Sun, 19 Feb 2012 23:23:56 UTC | #919821

Go to: UPDATED (EARLIER TIME): Richard on BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, 8.30 a.m. GMT, Tues 14 Feb

Aleatorica's Avatar Jump to comment 28 by Aleatorica

... I got it in the end, thereby demonstrating that I knew it all along but was temporarily flustered by the unexpected ambush ...

Face it, RD, you were bested, and it was self-inflicted. You could have chosen to make the point that the comparison was not a good one, but instead allowed your vanity to get the better of you, and ended up looking not quite so Bright as you like to think. But thanks anyway for a hilarious breakfast-time moment.

Tue, 14 Feb 2012 17:56:53 UTC | #917780

Go to: Faraday and Templeton brainwash British kids

Aleatorica's Avatar Jump to comment 24 by Aleatorica

The Geoffrey Cantor biography of Faraday is fascinating, and raises the possibility that Faraday's aversion to describing the world in mathematical terms (in stark contrast to the slightly later physics of James Clark Maxwell, say) may have been psychologically linked to his religious views. So that in a sense he was the kind of scientist he was because of his religion.

Wed, 04 Jan 2012 22:24:58 UTC | #905382

Go to: 'You just don't understand my religion' is not good enough

Aleatorica's Avatar Jump to comment 103 by Aleatorica

Comment 99 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee : Most people don't "come to faith", they are indoctrinated as children into believing it, and this is enforced by a carot and stick approach of promising reward for believing and punishment for not believing. This has such a deep psychological impact that even many very intelligent and otherwise rational adults are unable ever to shake it off.

I'm aware that your view is the orthodoxy in these parts, so much so that it is almost fruitless to point out that many young adults brought up in a Christian household experience a period of doubt from which they emerge either confirmed in their faith or free of it.

The existence of such an orthodoxy explains why Rowan Williams is such a disappointment to some here: he is not prepared to be dogmatic like a 'proper bishop', and does not come out with 'evidence' for the faith that can be ridiculed or dismissed without personal engagement. What's worse, he offers neither the promise of a reward for belief nor the threat of punishment for disbelief. The only possible crumb of comfort is that he disappoints the extreme evangelical wing of the church in exactly the same way.

Tue, 08 Nov 2011 17:19:19 UTC | #888674

Go to: 'You just don't understand my religion' is not good enough

Aleatorica's Avatar Jump to comment 97 by Aleatorica

(Talking about the quotation from Rowan Williams).

The context is still that he 'feels' certain things, or is referencing other people who felt certain things.

I'd expect someone who claims to be the representative of a major faith to have somewhat more ammunition in his arsenal than a few touchy feely moments sitting in the vicarage armchair.

I read Williams as saying that many people come to faith not because of some knock-down argument for the 'existence' of a God, but because of a gradually increasing feeling that won't go away, a feeling that there is something more to the world than the account of it given by everyday materialism, or in short by science. In this, he seems to me to be both accurate and honest.

Tue, 08 Nov 2011 16:25:30 UTC | #888654

Go to: 'You just don't understand my religion' is not good enough

Aleatorica's Avatar Jump to comment 78 by Aleatorica

I'd hate to spoil your fun with that silly quote (no, really I would), but Archbishop Rowan's words become quite a bit clearer if you look at a bit of the context, from a radio interview in John Humphrys' series 'In Search of God' from October 2006.

ABC: No, I hear you. I could say the basic question, the challenge if you like to you is, can you believe that you John Humphrys are the object of an unconditional eternal love which values you in such a way that your contribution as you to the world is uniquely precious to the one who made it?

JH: No I can't because I don't believe that there is one who made it, so I'm stuck

ABC: Does it help at all to give the time not just to talking to God but to the silent waiting on the truth, which for some people is the beginning of this? I mean pure sort of sitting and breathing in the presence of the question mark, because ...

JH: Presence of what? You've got to remove the question mark.

ABC: Well I can remove it for you theoretically, I can't remove it for you personally. For me, the presence of an eternal personal love. But thinking of people I've known who've found their way to faith, sometimes it's been in the context of that silence in the presence of and the question mark very, very gradually, very gradually eroding, as something of love comes through.

It seems churlish to introduce this into a discussion that was getting along quite well on bigotry in the absence of evidence. Of course, spoken words never look polished when they are written down as a verbatim transcript, but it seems to me (a) that the Archbishop wasn't particularly describing his own faith, and (b) if he was, he was far from saying that silent contemplation is the sum total of his faith. I hope I haven't spoiled the discussion, which perhaps can now continue even in the teeth of the evidence.

And of course the picture has nothing to do with the words, but shows Rowan at his best, engaging with people, willing to throw himself into a conversation.

Tue, 08 Nov 2011 09:51:06 UTC | #888524

Go to: Bringing Dawkins home to the kids

Aleatorica's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by Aleatorica

There are enough marks of condescension -- "there are a lot of problems with your comment"; "yet you, for some reason, assert"; "now that I've laid it out for you" -- in Miranda Celeste's response to my earlier comment to make me think that I have somehow transgressed the unwritten rules of this forum, in which case I am sorry to have intruded here. She surely can't think that this way of talking makes her remarks more persuasive.

What she has to say after that seems to confirm the impression I have of the book: that it's not really a celebration of science at all, but a promotion of the doctrine of "scientism" masquerading as one, with the help of some nicely drawn pictures. That's why I called it "polemical propaganda": polemical because the approach is disingenuous, and propaganda because the aim can't be other than irreligious indoctrination of the young. If scientism is a religious view, and I think it is, then RD stands condemned out of his own mouth.

Writing a book that was a pure celebration of science untainted by polemic might have done a great deal of good, because heaven knows there are few enough really appealing and informative science books to share with children. As it is, I trust and pray that this book will turn out to be a dead letter: those who already subscribe to scientism will find their views confirmed with attractive illustrations; but for members of faith communities it will only strengthen their suspicions that science is somehow incompatible with the faith in which they belong, so that any antipathy they feel towards science will only be made stronger. That I take to be a travesty of the truth, because there are plenty of able scientists known to me who see no such incompatibility; and there being two opinions on this matter that may be sincerely held, it's plain dishonest to present just one of them in a book and expect children to swallow it whole. All that said, like many here I've yet to see a copy of the book.

I'm distressed that Sci Fi's son should have come home with such a story as she describes. All I say is that, as far as I am concerned, what he understood from his teacher has nothing to do with the Christian faith.

And finally: the point I wanted to make about miracle stories is this -- that we don't need science to tell us that the events described are impossible. We can dismiss them, if we like, as unlikely truly to have happened, and that makes them useless as evidence for the supernatural. Doesn't that just mean, though, that if we are to appreciate their meaning, it isn't by pretending that the stories are either scientific propositions or statements made in a law court?

Three strikes, and I'm out, because there are many other things I should be doing. Thanks for the interesting responses. I'll read what others write, but I won't post again.

Sat, 17 Sep 2011 19:19:09 UTC | #871993

Go to: Bringing Dawkins home to the kids

Aleatorica's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by Aleatorica

I suppose what I think is sad is this: the magic of science is so wonderful that RD could have taken a holiday from his amateur sport of faith-bashing and written a book that just explained and celebrated the wonder of the world and of our success in understanding it. But that other magic -- the magic of myth -- is so powerful that he just can't leave it alone, and he has to intersperse the science with polemical propaganda. That makes it, as far as I'm concerned, a book that is wholly unsuitable for children.

Scientific theories explain the world in the narrow sense that they have empirical consequences that can be compared with observation, at least under the carefully limited conditions of a scientific experiment. The idea of describing the world in this way is pretty recent, and whatever the myth-makers were doing, and even if they were aiming to explain natural phenomena in some sense, it seems clear to me that they weren't even trying to do science. So it seems to me to be no answer to a myth (let's say the myth that the sun is carried across the heavens by the the sun-god's chariot) to point out that Newtonian physics implies that the earth orbits the sun and not the other way round, or to say that astronauts have never succeeded in seeing the chariot.

And it's useless to point out that it would not have been physically possible for Jesus to turn the water into wine. We already knew that.

Fri, 16 Sep 2011 22:12:12 UTC | #871740

Go to: Bringing Dawkins home to the kids

Aleatorica's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by Aleatorica

I haven't seen a copy of the book yet, but it sounds like each chapter presents some mythical accounts of an aspect of the world, then shows that, considered as scientific theories or explanations, they are inferior to the truth as now accepted by scientists. Doesn't that just show that, if we are to make sense of myths, it won't be by treating them as if they were intended as science?

Fri, 16 Sep 2011 18:25:34 UTC | #871640