This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Comments by Jared

Go to: Democratic Candidates on a Personal God

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 31 by Jared

Here's how I'd answer, if I were somehow running:

"I notice that none of the other candidates addressed the specific terms used in the question, something I will be careful to do. I do not believe in a personal god, and do not feel compelled to accept any sort of god as true. But that is my own opinion on the matter, and as President I would be certain to accept and respect people simply as people, and regardless of their faith or lack thereof.

I do not think that there is any power contained in prayer, nor any other force yet known to man, to prevent such disasters or stop them once they've begun. There are only two options: knowing what preparations are possible to prevent any disasters we ARE capable of preventing, and acting swiftly and effectively to lessen the impact on life and property of any disasters we do not or cannot prevent.

As to prayer, I believe the choice to pray or not to pray is personal to each individual. If the act of praying makes you feel better, or gives some form of comfort to those around you, then so be it. For me, the only source of comfort I find in troubled times is knowing the role my own knowledge and actions have played, accepting those situations where I've done my best, and learning to improve in those instances when I have not. I will leave the praying to those who find it helpful for themselves. I prefer contemplation, informed discussion, and reasoned action."

Who'll vote for me in 2020? :-P

Mon, 20 Aug 2007 20:15:00 UTC | #61243

Go to: Is this another Sokal Hoax?

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by Jared

::sigh::

This is the sort of stuff that drives me up the wall. I end up encountering a lot of it in the literature from my field (film studies), and it never manages to make any sense. As this sort of material becomes the intellectual 'norm' in liberal arts academia, I find myself begrudgingly turning more and more anti-intellectual.

As Chomsky has implied about Derrida, it COULD be that I just don't understand this school of thought. But I'd like to think that I'm intelligent enough, and that its incumbent upon the authors to demonstrate what bearing the things they say have on practical reality. For me, that's the key issue: WHY is anything these people say necessarily so? I've yet to find a sufficient answer.

Sun, 01 Apr 2007 04:27:00 UTC | #26662

Go to: Happy 66th Birthday, Richard Dawkins!

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 16 by Jared

A very happy birthday to Professor Dawkins!

It is my hope that you never get tired of hearing people say 'Your work has changed my life,' because that is precisely what I've come here to tell you.

Since I first read 'The Selfish Gene' some years back, my way of looking at life on Earth has been fundamentally altered. It is strange to think of a gene survival machine, such as myself, taking pleasure from reading about its own true nature, but there you have it.

So again, happy birthday to YOUR survival machine, Professor, and may there be many more birthdays (and many more books and documentaries) to come!

Mon, 26 Mar 2007 03:14:00 UTC | #25374

Go to: Religion

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by Jared

Ha, Yorker beat me to it...should have refreshed the page before posting...funny stuff!

Thu, 22 Mar 2007 16:51:00 UTC | #24690

Go to: Religion

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by Jared

'God bless Joe Pesci!'

This has always been one of my favorite Carlin rants, without a doubt. Along the same lines, I also enjoy his revision of the Ten Commandments (which may have been posted here once before, I can't recall now). But if it hasn't been, it should be :)

Thu, 22 Mar 2007 16:50:00 UTC | #24689

Go to: The Certainty Bias

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by Jared

Instead, we must have the MRI, or the CT scan, or whatever. Even, as in my case, when the patient is willing to live with uncertainty, the doctor has a problem with it.


I think that doctors have a pretty good reason to strongly suggest tests. It's way too easy to get sued these days for missed diagnoses. To a doctor, I think, ordering tests is about more than being comfortable with 'uncertainty.' With the prognoses for so many problems depending on early detection, it makes sense to want to find out what's what for certain in order to assure the best chance of treatment and a high standard of care.

Most patients are not going to use Bayes' theorem to determine their risks! And while I think that, of COURSE, any and all treatments are up to the patient, it's a bit unreasonable to assume that a doctor is just going to let people go without expressing disappointment and trepidation. If a condition that COULD, in theory, have been confirmed or ruled out by a simple test ends up costing a patient his or her life, the doctor comes out looking bad and the family may not KNOW that the test had been refused.

And again, there's the simple matter of wanting to do as good of a job as possible. Even when, as a teen, I worked in a supermarket, I always wanted to make sure that people's groceries were bagged properly. If a customer wanted to walk out with things falling out or packed in a way that the bag was likely to rip, I would be disappointed and try to prevent them. Groceries are hardly as important as one's health, so why shouldn't a doctor also feel that erring on the side of caution is the proper strategy?

Mon, 26 Feb 2007 15:20:00 UTC | #20988

Go to: Interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by Jared

OK. I may not be the first to say it, but I don't care. deGrasse Tyson for President '08! :-P

I know, I know, he'd never take the job... but it doesn't hurt to dream, does it?

Wed, 31 Jan 2007 14:19:00 UTC | #18076

Go to: Blasphemy Challenge on FOX

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by Jared

I am, typically, loath to apologize for the actions of my less thoughtful countrymen. However, I once more feel that it is my duty as a rational, reasonable American to apologize to the world community for Fox News. Granted, Fox's Mr. Murdoch is an Aussie, but let's be realistic: America is where this crap flourishes and it is this that allows it to be pumped out to the rest of you. Again, my apologies.

Every sentence Kasich spoke was FULL of emotional impact words and 'spin' words. Brian did well to not address the garbage and to stick to his key points, although you could tell, by the end, that his patience was running out. And who could blame him?

The most disgraceful bit came right at the conclusion, when Kasich told Brian that he 'hoped he turned around' or whatever his exact words were, suggesting that he had 'erred' from the path of the 'true' faith, Christianity. Could you imagine the uproar if he had said something like that to a Jewish or Muslim guest? But because, to the Fox Newsites of the world, a lack of belief is not a position worthy of respect, Kasich gets away with it.

This stuff just angers me to no end. Thankfully, most of the people who watch that dreck already agree with it, so he's only preaching to the converted. Still, it's a shame that even they get such a negative and one-sided portrayal of the atheist movement.

Mon, 29 Jan 2007 01:46:00 UTC | #17604

Go to: Mr. Deity

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by Jared

Brilliant stuff. I'd watch this show were it on TV. Too funny!

Sat, 20 Jan 2007 03:10:00 UTC | #16363

Go to: Secret Life of Brian

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 16 by Jared

Denoir,

I guess I was thinking of the States, where I'm not sure that, even now, the film could be aired on a non-cable TV station. But I take your point about the UK, things seem to have improved here. But back in my home country, there are far more Whitehouses than I'd care to think about.

I keep wanting to throw in quotes from her verse in Pink Floyd's "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" but I can't find a good place to do so!

Mon, 08 Jan 2007 02:33:00 UTC | #14726

Go to: Secret Life of Brian

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by Jared

Thank you ever so much for posting this! The fact that 'Life of Brian' is still as relevant and controversial now, if not MORESO, is somewhat chilling. As fantastic a film as it is, there's nothing I'd like more than for people to be able to see it from a more detached perspective...a perspective where 'Oh, people used to believe in that stuff?' is a more common response than 'they can't talk about my savior that way!'

I'm not sure we'll ever get to that point, but it's worth a try. Thanks for giving me something rather interesting to watch while recovering from a heinous ear infection :)

Sun, 07 Jan 2007 19:02:00 UTC | #14689

Go to: Without God, Gall Is Permitted

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 51 by Jared

Logicel:
Thank you! I appreciate the compliments :) It makes it worth the EXTRAORDINARY ammount of time it took to make that video using Windows MovieMaker...I cannot in good conscience recommend that program to anyone, as useful as it COULD be.

And yes, YouTube is QUITE inconsitent with commenting! It would not let me comment on a friend's short film, and kept sending me through a loop of "confirming my email address" despite having done that several times previously. Oh well, I'm glad you liked it and don't need a rating to tell me that :)

Sat, 06 Jan 2007 04:38:00 UTC | #14384

Go to: Without God, Gall Is Permitted

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 47 by Jared

I'm going to cast my lot in among the 'young' here. Ageism of any sort is silly. Have any of you looked at Phil Plait's summary of the arbitrariness of a year? Pretty interesting stuff.

I mean, age is merely a statement of how many times, roughly, you've been around the sun. A simple count. It's no measure of what's happened to you in those years, no description of how much you may or may not have experienced or learned. It's no absolute. I'm sure that there are some people in their fifties who've got far, far less of an idea about the world than many people half their age; heck, that's a simple product (sometimes) of the advancement of education and the progress of information: we simply know more now than our forbears did, and there are many cases where it shows (though not as many as I would like!)

But even that misses the mark. Age is only one of many factors you can use to assume information about another human being. Beyond certain developmental issues, age speaks little about intelligence, cognitive faculty, education, social circumstance, or any of the other things that might contribute to 'maturity' or 'immaturity' in an individual. As someone who as always been 'older' than my age, I take it as an insult when someone calls me 'young' as if that invalidates my arguments.

Yes, a well-lived, well-educated 60 year old is likely to have more experience than a well-lived and educated 20 year old. In that case, time clearly is the trump card. But even that says nothing about the youth's ability to express him/herself, nor about much else. I understand the attitude that LDMiller is criticizing, but I think even he'd be surprised to learn that some of the 'immature' people, the people whose attitudes he is mocking, are likely older than he expects. Age is a poor guarantee, on all fronts.

Sat, 06 Jan 2007 01:19:00 UTC | #14355

Go to: Pat Robertson: God told me of 'mass killing' in 2007

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 11 by Jared

mintcheerios:

Hmm. You know, I think even I'd watch Robertson if he made predictions on behalf of Poseidon. That's far too amusing to me. :) At least then he'd have some credibility as far as his predictions for coastal storms and tsunamis are concerned!

Thu, 04 Jan 2007 00:34:00 UTC | #14010

Go to: Beliefwatch: Blasphemy (Challenge)

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by Jared

Since the other thread got old before I managed to put this together, I'll post a link to my own blasphemy challenge:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgZC86Y92VU

I did this according to the guidelines I came up with through the course of reading the other thread. Enjoy :)

Mon, 01 Jan 2007 16:24:00 UTC | #13712

Go to: A Christmas thunderbolt for the arch-enemy of religion

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 103 by Jared

Binx Bolling:
I don't have time to reply fully, I'm afraid, but I wanted to point out a couple of things:

Here's a challenge: [...]
I call shenanigans and say your challenge is irrelevant to what I was saying. However, I take your point about 'begging the question' of whether how people feel has a logical connection to some kind of prescriptive morality. As the question is unanswerable, in any practical sense, I'll withdraw it.

I agree that reason and logic can be applied to questions about good and evil, just as they can be applied to questions about the nature of god. While the reasoning may be sound, if the the premises are faulty, the conclusions will probably be wrong.

Ah, but how can there be a 'right' or 'wrong' on a moral question if there is no underlying morality? Wouldn't 'wrong' be an irrelevant definition in your world view? Or, if you simply mean that any kind of morality is 'wrong,' then where do the 'faulty premises' enter into it? To you, ALL such premises are faulty and the argument can never have merit. That is, of course, unless there is some natural 'right' and 'wrong' to be applied in questions of good and evil.

See, there's a little Nietzsche in all of us!

Yeah, there was when I was sixteen years old and depressed by all the people 'holding me down'. That I was saying YOU could take the Nietzchean route was by no means my way of saying that I would approve of your behavior or join you in it. Nietzsche was a brilliant thinker, to be sure, but I'll be damned if I find as much to agree with as I grow older, and I'm nowhere near old.

We call Stalin bad. What we really mean is that his actions failed to conform to socially acceptable norms. We will punish that kind of behavior when possible because it threatens our own self interest.

Self interest, or the interest of the group? I think that as social creatures we have an amount invested in living in groups, and I think we are likely to 'punish' actions that would harm our group. Or do you deny that altruism exists?

Now that we have that sorted out, let's take the next logical step and eliminate both. There is no god. There is no ought. We are free to act any way we please.

I think it's impossible for you to eliminate 'ought,' again due to the interdependent nature of our species. But please, do try, and tell me how your efforts fare. Just as the desire to convince EVERYONE to be rid of god is likely impossible to fulfill, you may find the same is true in 'eliminating' ought for good. Within a generation (or conceivably even less) these precepts would be likely to return via the same biological routes that gave rise to them in the first place.

I agree with your premise that man is 'responsible' enough to live without 'ought,' in principle. But I do not think it is possible in practice. Man, as an animal, tends towards order and social grouping. That is undoubtedly true. I would wager that 'ought' is a byproduct of our urge to group, perhaps because it helps lead to group stability, but I can't say for sure. Certainly the ability to conceive of 'ought' or at least 'ought not' is conducive to better social grouping.

I guess my basic problem with RD and TGD is that they are ostensibly atheistic, but not really[...]

Don't you mean they are atheistic in FACT but still 'irrational' in principle? After all, atheism means nothing more than the lack of belief in a deity. It says nothing about what other beliefs you may have about leprechauns, psychics, OR morality.

You are, then, taking issue NOT with his claims of atheism, but with what you perceive as the mixing of support for rationalism (leading to a logically atheistic conclusion) and irrationality (leading to a belief in 'ought' and morality). Why didn't you say that in the first place instead of calling us all dogmatic and reactionary for not listening to the pap in this article which, ostensibly, has little to do with your real grudge? You would have saved us a lot of time and typing.

Personally I cannot speak for RD on that. I think it's a bit presumptive of you to call his belief in morality 'irrational' without having him explain it himself. Clearly if we can all spill this much ink trying to prove whether there are rational grounds for keeping concepts of 'good' and 'bad' around, he at least deserves the same opportunity.

His book, as we have already determined, was (unlike this conversation) not geared towards being a philosophical examination of the rationality of morality. Again, that is the book YOU would like him to have written, not the book he wanted to write. Just because you find his pseudo-Hegelian perspective hypocritical in your narrow Nietzschean point of view doesn't mean it IS irrational to think that way. I'd be willing to read what RD has to say about that side of the coin, so to speak.

I suppose I wrote a more full answer than I intended to. Oh well. Kudos to Jonathan Dore, JohnC, and Kingasaurus for their recent good posts, with which I largely agree, as well.

Fri, 29 Dec 2006 00:59:00 UTC | #13209

Go to: A Christmas thunderbolt for the arch-enemy of religion

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 89 by Jared

Binx Bolling:
Please don't take me out of context like that again. You know as well as I do that I meant Dawkins straddles the is/ought line in terms of your bit about morality. I certainly did not mean it as applied to the whole work.

I disagree with your sentiment that prescriptive premises are required to create prescriptive conclusions. I think that one could write a series of descriptive premises about conditions and trends in how action X makes percentage Y of the population feel, making a logical case, and then conclude that action X should be considered 'bad.' This is obviously a logical abstraction and not the precise means by which this principle works in society, but I think it is evidence enough for my point.

I also disagree with your refutation of my premise about a rationally derived 'good,' where you say 'Replace 'good' with 'God' or 'the Tooth Fairy,' two other concepts for which there is no empirical evidence.' You clearly know that I'm implying a social consensus here and not something as nebulous as a Tooth Fairy or God. There is empirical evidence that people put their heads together and decide how 'good' something is, which is all that I'm saying. In that case, your refutation is irrelevant.

When making personal choices, why should I care what the general moral concensus is, beyond considering how it might affect consequences not in my control, such as a prison sentence if I get caught?

Ahh, NOW we finally see what you are getting at! The short answer is that, you're right! You shouldn't care, as nothing more than an individual. I still suggest you'd come up with a sense of morality even if you were born and raised in utter social isolation. But that's besides the point. Morality is CLEARLY a social construct most likely derived from our judgment making and cost/benefit analysis faculties, as I've suggested before.

If you do not care about the risks of socially taboo behavior, then you certainly do NOT need to choose to share society's semi-consistent constructed morality! You are still going to be committing acts fitting some sort of personal criteria which, for all intents and purposes, comprise a system of morality. We can go into the infinite regress of 'if you choose to act against the common morality, then your morality says it's OK to act against common morality. But what if you KNOW it's not OK to act..." and so on, but let's not as to do so would not get us anyplace.

I was not necessarily making a Platonic argument, as you suggest above, by stating that, taking as a given the existence of natural faculties within our brains that would give rise to a form of morality, we can suppose the existence of 'morality' at an intellectual level. I merely meant to say that conceding that our brains tend to work in a certain manner (ie pattern recognition, judgment, risk analysis, memory) it is inevitable that we should create 'morality' as a concept.

And I will preempt your likely riposte to this, as well. Those same functions have a tendency to create a 'god' concept, as well. Neither the 'god' nor 'morality' concepts need to have any ACTUAL existence or truth to exist as concepts (NOW I'm getting a bit Platonic). The trick to BOTH of these is that we can use another faculty of our brain, the ability to reason, to temper or even eliminate these concepts.

I also notice that you ignored my last paragraph about the irrelevance of your criticisms of Dawkins. I wonder if I can take that as a tacit recognition of the illegitmacy of your claims against him? That doesn't mean that your points are not interesting in a general sense, merely that they don't have to apply to TGD. You say "the straightforward reasoning applied in TGD has morphed into what seems to be a whole lot of impenetrable mumbo-jumbo" and I agree, but I think that is due to YOUR line of questioning (which is, after all, philosophical) and no fault in RD's book.

Thu, 28 Dec 2006 17:37:00 UTC | #13174

Go to: A Christmas thunderbolt for the arch-enemy of religion

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 78 by Jared

Binx Bolling:

Ah, I'm glad that we've come to your actual disagreement with Dawkins at last! It's good to see that your argument about the ad hominem and arrogance claims has little to do with your intentions.

You are right to point out Dawkins's hesitation to face morality head on. I think he is trying very hard not cross Hume's line from 'is' to 'ought' so to speak. There's a huge difference between description and prescription, as you note, and science is most definitely descriptive and not prescriptive.

That has little bearing on whether REASON is descriptive or prescriptive, or on whether the things that science describes can help people decide on a prescriptive function. I would argue that, through application of reason, humans can come to prescriptive conclusions independent of those derived from 'revelations' thousands of years old.

Obviously there is no such thing as a 'subatomic morality force' or a property of 'good' or 'evil' and I take your mentioning this as an attempt to bait us into your narrow Nietzschean conception, which I personally will not go for. It is possible to understand WHY something is often considered 'good,' however, and although people may disagree with any prescribed definition of it (as well they should; such concepts are prone to change) humans CAN use logical thought to come to some sort of general consensus about what is, at a given moment, 'good.'

This does not answer your question, however, of the provenance of our ability to decide 'good' and 'evil,' nor our (in your mind) hypocritical applications of these concepts to our society but not to those of other apes. And I think this is where your argument weakens. Despite our genetic similarities, we are NOT chimpanzees. Several of our faculties have improved through evolution since we separated from the chimp/bonobo line. Included amongst these improvements, putatively, is an improved decision making faculty within the brain. It is a likely consequence of the improvements within our decision-making/judgement mechanisms that we have expanded our applications of whatever basic 'morality' chimps possess.

I also point out that you chose only to respond to part of JohnC's post and ignored a significant part, that being the following:

The likely explanation is that a combination of evolutionary "rules of thumb" and common cultural development have given us a sense of "ought" that is reliably but not infallibly shared by all Homo sapiens alive today.

In this way, evolution allows for a general faculty of decision making and cost/benefit analysis that, in some sense, must be shared amongst all homo sapiens. Whether we all come to the same agreements based on the judgments produced by this faculty is largely culturally based. We've seen how easily this can be manipulated by leaders who have great influence, and environment plays a large part as well. That is why our 'morality' is somewhat flexible yet not quite utterly relativistic.

As Kingasaurus points out above, the words we use to describe concepts of 'good' or 'evil' in no way legitimate an ACTUAL tangible existence of either. So, whether your 'guilt' in burning down your neighbor's house is derived biologically or not, your decision to do so is only 'evil' in so much as it goes against what the flexible and rational 'moral' consensus dictates to be an acceptible action.

You can switch the debate to philosophical concepts of 'good' and 'evil' which CERTAINLY do not exist in the same way as an object like this plate of leftover pork roast in front of me. But even without switching from is to ought we can posit the existence of faculties capable of creating a conceptual morality and, from that, infer that such things do exist on a purely intellectual level. I think any attempt to implement a 'morality' that is not rationally and socially defined in the terms outlined above would be an illogical step. We need not invoke gods or demons in discussing the existence of sensations or thought processes when biology and sociology can certainly do so in more concrete terms.

If your trouble with Dawkins is that he will not admit that there is no general, overarching, prescriptive 'morality,' I think he has done so, if only tacitly. If you are suggesting, as it seems, that humanity in general can live without coming to various consensuses on issues of behavior, that is another thing entirely and is FAR beyond the scope of Dawkins's work (not to mention irrelevant to it as THIS is the way we have developed and evolved, which is the best grounds from which Dawkins can examine the issue.) If you'd like to continue questioning it's necessity, I invite you to write a follow up to Beyond Good and Evil and examine evidence for what is, at the moment, purely a speculative argument. However it seems irrational to criticize Dawkins for not writing the book you want him to have written, as it were, rather than the book he has chosen to write.

Thu, 28 Dec 2006 14:08:00 UTC | #13155

Go to: A Christmas thunderbolt for the arch-enemy of religion

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 60 by Jared

(THIS is going to be a long post, so I apologize and invite anyone who'd like to skip this to do so now)

Binx Bolling:

Thank you for the civility of your reply. I still disagree largely with your characterisation of those of us who comment on this site. Perhaps that description fits some, and since I don't use the forums I may, in fact, be missing more. However, out here there are at LEAST as many thoughtful, rational people who criticize both these articles AND RD as there are groupthink-infected types. I'd actually argue that there are more, but I'm not up for a statistical analysis at this hour! Regardless, please look at posts by Sancus, Logicel, Yorker, JohnC, and far too many more whose names don't come to mind immediately and tell me that they fit your description of dogmatic adherence.

As to rejection of all criticism out of hand, that may happen a bit more than I'd like to think. However, I'd say that much of the criticism has been been debated and discussed before and that, although the authors of the various critical texts may not have time to read ALL OTHER reviews/articles related to Dawkins or TGD, we here do. We see the trends and, like humans of any stripe, get tired of the same arguments. The results are often quite funny, like P.Z. Myers' Courtier's Reply linked from the front page here.

Regardless, neither you NOR Cornwell have shown WHICH bits of logic it is that Dawkins's hubris is supposed to have overstepped, and that is the issue I am getting at. Here's a quote from the article:

But then, what need of scholarship when in possession of a superior intellect like yours! You are described on the book's dustjacket as "one of the world's top three intellectuals". Not a peer-group verdict, but the opinion poll of a small-circulation, avowedly atheistic, British monthly.

There is no hint of a criticism of any actual argument made by Dawkins here, only an emotional appeal for the reader to consider his 'hubris' about being a leading intellectual. I might add that, in most cases, the book jacket is somewhat out of the author's control as it is, in and of itself, a marketing device designed to 'sell' the book, as it were, and not a direct statement of the author (who quite frequently doesn't even write the description/summary of the book on the jacket).

Another quote:
There was a time when Oxford dons prided themselves on modesty — the more learned, the more unassuming. But your self regard, Richard, has assumed bizarre proportions, privately and publicly. Witness the admission that you allowed Mrs Dawkins, the former Lalla Ward of Doctor Who fame, to declaim out loud The God Delusion in its 400-page entirety; not once but twice. As you usefully inform your readers, such a service is best performed by a partner with appropriate speech and drama training

Where, in this, is Cornwell pointing out a rational argument made by Dawkins that his hubris is ruining? I don't see one, I only see a string of what could be described as vitriol directed at the WIFE of the man whose logic Cornwell is supposed to be attacking. I have taken large quotes so as not to be accused of quotemining. I realize that this bit follows on the heels of Cornwell questioning Dawkins's background reading, which may be a fair criticism. None of what is said, however, in either of the two following quotes, attacks a single piece of logic.

This is why I qualified it as an ad hominem: it IS one. You can attack a man's hubris, if you like, by showing how it has impacted his logical process. Cornwell does not do this, and therefore has made a fallacious (or, at least, currently irrelevant) argument. If you wish to be more specific and make a text-based critical claim, please do! It would at least cast off the taint of the ad hominem of which Cornwell is guitly.

You say that we try 'to convince differently minded people to join us (aka "evangelism")', and perhaps my overly-long post here is an example of my evangelizing to you, though I would not characterize it as such. Nor do I, for instance, go and post arguments on Theist websites trying to convince them to 'come on over.' I can't speak for the others, though that is not the general impression I get from most. When we 'evangelize,' it is in the fashion of logical debate or argument (such as we are having now) where each side presents a case and hopefully some middle ground is met. If logical debates and academic arguments are evangelizing, then there are a lot more evangelicals in the world than I thought :)

I also disagree with your assertion that we have '(a) religious impulse, programmed into us by evolution.' I tend to think that we likely have an evolutionary impulse that religion uses, rather than to say that 'religion' is inborn or that it cannot be shaken. And, as social animals, we ALL tend to look for groups (or seek 'fellowship,' as you said) in a way that has little to do with religion. It may use some of the same machinery that religion uses, but in the end it is religion which is subverted here, and not the impulse.

In other words, the fact that both atheists and theists seek to group is NOT an indication of 'religiosity', but an indication that humans tend to seek groups. Your argument is no different than saying 'I think that because sports fans and church goers tend to seek fellowship, church goers should be careful not to be seen as too sports-fan-like!" Correlation does not imply causation and, in this case, I think it's the generic instinct that wins out and not one of its specified forms: the community-seeking side of religions.

Anyway, this post ran on and on, and I do apologize. I just had all of these thoughts in my head and needed to commit them here in response to your post because I'm really interested in seeing your response. Cheers!

Thu, 28 Dec 2006 00:56:00 UTC | #13096

Go to: A Christmas thunderbolt for the arch-enemy of religion

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 54 by Jared

Binx Bolling:

I disagree. RD's comment had little to say about this particular article. His respect for Cornwell's intelligence seemed to be of a more general sense and not in praise of any subtlety of thought or argument within this piece.

I don't think this article is particularly thoughtful. It is filled with ad hominem attacks on Dawkins's supposed lack of humility, all of which are irrelevant, whether true or false. People commenting here have ably noted this and pointed it out. No, that does not disprove any logical points Cornwell makes. It simply cuts his argument down significantly.

Furthermore, his attack on Dawkins's self-confessed 'literal-mindedness' is something of a straw man. Dawkins's boredom (in Cornwell's example) stems from what seems to have been a seminar regarding critical, interdisciplinary interpretations of figs. I can't blame his mind for straying to Darwinian views rather than listening to a bunch of academics go on about figs! It isn't, as Cornwell seems to suggest by his suggestion that Lear be replaced with a medical study, that Dawkins is against 'art' or 'artistic truth'! At worst, Dawkins is unimpressed by non-empirical critical interpretations of this 'truth,' at best he's saying that that sort of truth has little or nothing to do with scientific truths about the universe. The arguments that follow from Cornwell's faulty premise are then, by this logic, swept away.

Other commenters have taken on Cornwell's remaining points (many of which we've encountered in NUMEROUS articles on this site, making them by no means exceptional) and refuted them in what seems to me to have been a thorough and somewhat professional manner. This is why I take issue with your claim that :

Cornwell is no idiot. Repeatedly denouncing him and his arguments does nothing to refute them and only makes adherents of TGD look like just another fundamentalist sect.

I agree that attacking Cornwell himself is no more logically tenable than Cornwell's own personal attacks on Dawkins. And, for all commenters who only 'denounced' his arguments, there have been several who HAVE refuted them with good, logical arguments. You almost seem to be suggesting that, as Cornwell is 'no idiot' and is a thoughtful and erudite man, we have no right to dispute his logic and claims! Furthermore, you imply that, by applying logic to a piece that is somewhat lacking in it, we risk becoming like the non-logical, unthinking fundamentalists we oppose! I could not disagree more, on either count.

Wed, 27 Dec 2006 17:23:00 UTC | #13080

Go to: Fallen Angels Assault: Heaven at Christmas

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 33 by Jared

I'm going to have to say that, unlike denoir, I don't think that there must needs be anything good OR bad in patriotism itself in nature, nor do I equate it with nationalism per se.

I see nothing wrong with being happy with where you live, especially if you've chosen to live there. I see even less wrong with supporting the ideals on which a country was founded, even in times when those ideals are being trampled by the powerful.

I feel that there are TYPES of patriotism, and that the type most worthy of fear is (as always) the BLIND type. The sort that does it for the reasons you suggest: religion, the current adminstration, belief in some sort of 'chosen' country. Not for any rational consideration of what is SUPPOSED to make the United States 'exceptional' or different.

I think anyone who just supports whatever the country does is, to me, far less patriotic than those of us who choose our battles, so to speak. I am an American, and speaking with so many Europeans since leaving the US for school has only thrown that into sharper relief.

I support my country's ideals, not its leaders or current agenda. Those ideals are, to an extent, rational ones and that, to me, makes supporting them a logically defensible position. And to my mind, NOT supporting the leadership when it subverts those ideals is the highest form of patriotism available. That's how I divorce my own patriotism, for what it's worth, from nationalism or any other tenet that suggests infallibility.

It may not be the popular form of patriotism, but I think it is the better form, perhaps, and does not warrant being tarred with the same brush used against nationalists and blind patriots.

Just my two cents, though, as a frustrated fan of the American constitution :-P

Tue, 26 Dec 2006 14:10:00 UTC | #13002

Go to: The Courtier's Reply

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 16 by Jared

My good Robert O'Brien, in your haste to be a smart-alec troll, you neglected some salient information:

1. Ed Brayton's educational status or putative failure as a comedian do nothing to either credit or discredit his logic. This argument is called an ad hominem attack.

2. Ed Brayton's opinion of Myers or Dawkins have nothing to do with quork's point that you have an award named after you for your trolling.

3. Ed Brayton's information about TGD, which may very well be accurate, still has little to do with you.

When you try to counter someone's claims, stick to attacking those claims rather than bringing in irrelevant information. Otherwise I fail to see how anything you say is better than the 'pseudoargumentation' of which you accuse Dawkins.

Tue, 26 Dec 2006 10:30:00 UTC | #12990

Go to: A Mission to Convert

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by Jared

JohnC:
"William James? Wittgenstein? Are they the stuff of real religious belief?"

I know some academics who can't even slog through Wittgenstein. I hardly think that my ultra-religious, Roman Catholic grandparents have him in mind when they think about their faith or their god. That, indeed, is one of the biggest repeated flaws in reviews of TGD: ignoring the fact that MOST PEOPLE DON'T KNOW PHILOSOPHY OR THEOLOGY!

Mon, 25 Dec 2006 07:08:00 UTC | #12910

Go to: A Mission to Convert

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by Jared

Aussie:
The sheer extent of this article alone is flattering.

No kidding.

Is this the complete article? If so, I'd hate to be Lewis Wolpert or Joan Roughgarden. Some review, here! A summary one-paragraph dismissal and perhaps another mention each somewhere within a sprawling mass of text dedicated to Dawkins. Why even bother to mention Roughgarden's or Wolpert's books at all, I wonder?

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 21:50:00 UTC | #12858

Go to: The Courtier's Reply

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by Jared

Robert O'Brien:

Fair enough. For that portion of my post, you have my apologies.

That in no way means, however, that you haven't been a troll :-P No worries, I'll not feed you any more!

[Sorry about that Jared and Robert O'Brien. I have fixed the piece of code that was causing this error. -Josh]

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 19:59:00 UTC | #12847

Go to: The Courtier's Reply

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by Jared

Hmm, Robert O'Brien, that avatar looks familiar to me. Perhaps that's because it's my own userpic and is a portion of a photograph I took. Funny that you'd use it.

As I may have inadvertantly made the image public domain by using it here, I probably can't ask you to cease using it.

It's a pity, though, that so wise a bird as a raven gets adopted by such a thoughtless troll.

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 19:49:00 UTC | #12845

Go to: Orr on Dawkins

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by Jared

Rosenhouse says almost exactly what I would WISH myself capable of saying about Orr's article. Well done, sir!

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 18:21:00 UTC | #12833

Go to: The Courtier's Reply

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by Jared

I read this over at Pharyngula earlier today and found it utterly fantastic. P.Z. Myers is a brilliant man!

I'm reminded, in a way, of Bob Dylan's 'Subterranean Homesick Blues,' when he says (albeit in a different context):

'You don't need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows'

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 17:20:00 UTC | #12831

Go to: A Christmas thunderbolt for the arch-enemy of religion

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by Jared

I'm sorry. After reading about a quarter of this and hearing absolutely nothing new, I simply cannot rationalize spending any more time on it.

The author claims Richard Dawkins is immodest...um, so taking on the guise of GOD HIMSELF is the height of modesty?

The fact that all of these attacks against Dawkins himself (who CARES if he let his wife read his book aloud???) are being substituted, by and large, for attacks on his logic does two things for me:

First, it shows me that the believers truly do not have solid ground on which to stand and are the ones (as Eagleton said in the title of his own GHASTLY review) lunging, flailing, and mispunching. None of them has yet landed a solid blow.

Second, the increasing frequency of publication of these stale arguments shows that Dawkins has touched a nerve, and that these people are most definitely put off! To me, that can only be a good thing. A book about god's likely non-existence that bothers no-one is an ineffective book.

Thank goodness this debate is back in the public eye. It probably would require more faith in humanity than I have currently to assume that people will recognize Dawkins's superior logic and not simply follow these ill-informed screeds. However, I have little reason to not at least HOPE that some people are seeing through the mist of religious indoctrination and finding more important and tangible things in life than god.

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 17:11:00 UTC | #12829

Go to: 10 myths - and 10 truths - about atheism

Jared's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by Jared

There's a discussion about this piece going on over at www.fark.com , with all of the typical snark and foolishness, alongside the harried words of frustrated reasonable folks as well.

Some seem to think that Sam is making straw-man arguments...which blows my mind, considering that, clearly, all of the myths he so effectively refutes are, in and of themselves, STRAW MEN! Sometimes people simply astound me...

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 17:00:00 UTC | #12828