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

Comments by RichardC

Go to: Q&A: Pell vs Dawkins - April 9, Easter Monday night

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by RichardC

Comment 10 by mordacious1 :

"Dawkins describes himself as an evolutionary biologist, author and militant atheist". He does?

Actually, perhaps surprisingly, Richard Dawkins has described himself as a "militant athesist" on a recent BBC programme; 2min 40s into the video link text

I think he means 'militant' in the sense of being a combative activist in support of reason and science. However, we all know that the word 'militant' usually has negative connotations of being aggressive and frequently violent, e.g. militant islamists. In this sense the word is not at all applicable to Dawkins or the 'New Atheists'. It's a shame Richard described himself in this way as his opponents will inevitably twist his words into 'Dawkins admits to being an extremist', or some such nonsense.

Fri, 06 Apr 2012 10:10:03 UTC | #932728

Go to: Robert Wright promotes accommodationism, disses Dawkins

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 32 by RichardC

I must admit that hearing Richard Dawkins at the Reason rally encouraging the crowd to show 'ridicule' and 'contempt' for religious belief did jar with me. The problem is that, in hearing this, some supporters (and most of his detractors) will think he is encouraging the kind of mindless response where an atheist holds a board saying 'Fuck this guy' with an arrow pointing to a religious believer: link text

Now, I know Richard doesn't support this kind of ridicule and even commented that he didn't like the picture. This picture represents an extreme that very few of us agree with. One of Richard's strengths is his civility, relying on argument rather than ridicule, and I don't like to see this aspect undermined. In using the word ‘ridicule’, I suspect that Richard has in mind intelligent satire (e.g. 'The Life of Brian') and sharp, observational comedy, which can be very effective. However, I think he should take care, especially when speaking at large rallies, not to use language that can be misconstrued (by supporters and detractors) and used against him and us. Coyne is right to object to Wright's accommodationism, but Wright’s general point, not to unnecessarily alienate those who may be open to persuasion, is good. This needn't entail showing ‘respect’ for their beliefs, but rather, attempting to encourage a conversation in areas where progress is possible. For various strategic reasons, this can sometimes mean avoiding areas of controversy as well as not deliberately riling people through open ridicule and contempt.

Fri, 30 Mar 2012 11:23:14 UTC | #931330

Go to: An Answer for Jehovah's Witnesses

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 34 by RichardC

I read the whole bible earlier this year so was quite well primed when the JW's came to call. The put an enormous store in the book and it's 'consistency' and 'truth', so I thought it best not to generalise but to quote the book directly back at them to hopefully reveal it's weaknesses. Firstly I told them how I found the morality of the Old Testament really barbaric and repugnant. They countered this by saying that the New Testament superseded the old and ushered in a new moral order. I expressed surprise that they thought God's laws weren't eternal and that he could change them as he went along. They said that Jesus changed everything. So I said, 'What about Matthew Chapter 5, verse 17'? and showed it to them:

"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."

Thus, Jesus clearly does not repudiate the harsh laws of the Torah (Leviticus, Deuteronomy etc), but supports them fully in every 'jot and tittle'. My JW visitors admitted they couldn't provide me with a satisfactory answer and said they'd consult their authorities and then get back to me. They haven't visited me since! - I think I may have been put on their black list!

Thu, 07 Jul 2011 22:30:10 UTC | #847478

Go to: Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by RichardC

Strange that he says at 3:38 "Anything we can do to minimise the destructiveness of religion is a blow for civilisation." - Surely he means the opposite as a "blow for civilisation" implies that it would be bad for civilisation. He should have said something like "a benefit for civilisation" instead.

Mon, 09 May 2011 07:30:29 UTC | #624800

Go to: Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by RichardC

Comment Removed by Author

Mon, 09 May 2011 07:21:58 UTC | #624797

Go to: [Update-YouTube] The Big Questions - Series 4 - Is the Bible Still Relevant?

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 37 by RichardC

Comment Removed by Author

Sun, 08 May 2011 16:18:45 UTC | #624583

Go to: [Update-YouTube] The Big Questions - Series 4 - Is the Bible Still Relevant?

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 36 by RichardC

Comment 20 by seals

When they applauded the person who said there could be no forgiveness without cost, that was puzzling. Surely if there is a cost extracted that is not forgiveness, but compensation. And a god who requires, or even permits, compensation in the form of human sacrifice isn't immediately appealing as being worthy of worship.

This was very nicely put.

Sun, 08 May 2011 16:18:21 UTC | #624582

Go to: Pope: Humanity isn't random product of evolution

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 33 by RichardC

I understand the good reason for criticising the pope for saying that humanity "evolved randomly". Clearly evolution is anything but random. However, when religious people say this I think they are using the word 'random' is a different way to us, i.e. random for them is synonymous for without purpose. Since a universe without God is necessarily without purpose in their eyes, our existence and evolution would therefore have to be random. Moreover, while religious people use the word evolution in this context they probably have the idea of abiogenesis more in mind. Why would life have appeared here in the universe at all in the first place? What circumstances could have brought this about? Was it merely fortuitous, a happy accident? Were we are thrown up as so much flotsam and jetsam from an indifferent universe? Put like this our existence does seem rather 'random', although the pope was clearly inaccurate in the use of his terms. Or perhaps not if his intent was really to undermine the concept of evolution, which I suspect it was.

Mon, 25 Apr 2011 15:02:01 UTC | #619249

Go to: Should employers be blind to private beliefs?

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 43 by RichardC

It's natural for people to be suspicious of others who believe things that are different to their own beliefs. Having read both the bible and the Koran, I am mystified as to why anyone could believe in the far-fetched stories contained therein. I can't help but wonder at the intellectual integrity and honesty of people who accept these stories as being true, although most of them seem quite sincere and genuine in their beliefs. Perhaps they are genuinely mistaken, although I suppose that many of them think that I am genuinely mistaken - either that or a 'fool' as the bible likes to call we honest doubters.

I understand why Richard would feel justified in not employing the candidates in the 4 examples given. These examples are extreme and do suggest that "there is something wrong" in the head. But I think that most of the contributers to this site (including me!) half suspect that there is "something wrong in the head" of all religious people, at least to some degree. The question then becomes one of where to draw the line in not employing 'wrong-headed' people. Do we have a slippery slope here? How much wrong-headery is acceptable given certain contexts and situations? I agree with Richard, but the subject does raise some interesting and difficult questions.

Tue, 25 Jan 2011 11:04:52 UTC | #583885

Go to: Best atheistic songs?

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by RichardC

I wrote an atheist song myself 25 years ago or more, which I've kept to myself until now. A long time before the so called New Atheist movement, I'd not even heard about Dawkins, but I was always a heretic! I can't get it to format correctly on this page but never mind. I hope some of you like it.

You Can’t Explain

You sometimes feel sad, you sometimes feel cold, You’re sometimes uncertain, the things you are told, There’s a man dressed in black closing in for attack, Crying God only knows, a penny a throw, And then you’ll be fulfilled, it’s a bargain a deal

So gather around and a tale he will tell, From the book all about it in which he’s read well, All the doubts of your mind will be left far behind, You need only agree, repeat ABC, Ah, but should you then fail you’ll burn down in hell.

But you can’t explain a whole world that’s full of pain, When I ask you why you make me no reply, You just run away and hide, You run away and hide

A word in your ear, I’ve heard you loud and clear, You the man with the book, you who’ve played on our fears, You the man and your kind who through time out of mind, Have cried ‘Come follow me, for I hold the key, Take my hand understand, I’ll set you free’.

I say believe what you will, the grist to your mill, All the philosophies and all your remedies we still need our pills, As the world spins around I stay close to the ground, For I’ve heard it all before so now just ignore you, Crying God only saves you rant and you rave.

But you can’t explain a whole world that’s full of pain, When I ask you why you make me no reply, You just run away and hide, You run away and hide

Thu, 09 Sep 2010 19:07:52 UTC | #514819

Go to: Best atheistic songs?

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by RichardC

I love Iris Dement's song 'Let the Mystery Be'

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlaoR5m4L80

Thu, 09 Sep 2010 18:54:41 UTC | #514810

Go to: [Updated] Transcript from The God Debate

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 99 by RichardC

I'd not heard of Ruth Gledhill before and assumed she must be very young, poorly educated, and not up to the task of debating Richard. I was quite shocked to see that she is the religious correspondent for The Times. It wasn't just that her ideas were 'silly', but she wasn't even able to articulate them into anything that sounded coherent. Her only recourse was to blame her keyboard. Was she having an off day? I was reminded of a point that Sam Harris made about religious people playing a game of 'hide the ball'. She tried that game with Richard but he was having none of it. He exposed that ball, brought it out into the open, shone a light on it. And then, surprise surprise, it became obvious and clear - The ball didn't even exist!

Fri, 03 Sep 2010 14:07:17 UTC | #510657

Go to: BHA calls for inquiry as documentary reveals creationism in 'faith' schools

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 24 by RichardC

Not trained in science I nevertheless thought it odd to claim that salt water and fresh water do not mix. Since Richard didn't explicitly challenge this in the programme (at least not strongly), I thought, well, perhaps there is something scientific in this. I have since googled it and and have found this given as the "best answer"! link text

Blockquote

Why don't freshwater and saltwater mix?

This is not my field, but I'll take an educated guess, based on what I remember from high school. Sweet water is less dense than salt water, therefore it tends to 'flow on top of it'. This happens in the Strait of Gibraltar, where the water from the Atlantic flows superficially, into the Mediterranean, whereas the saltier water from the Mediterranean (b/c of the evaporation) flows outside underneath it. Imagine a stream of sweet water fending a body of salt water, like the prow of a ship. The relatively high viscosity of water is the cause for the salt water being displaced as a whole, rather than mixed with the sweet water.

Blockquote

Perhaps this is nonsense, although the bit about varying densities sounds plausible. Excuse my own ignorance, but can someone please give me the definitive answer, preferably with a link to an authoritive web source. It would also be good if someone with authority and knowledge countered the answer on the website link itself - a small contribution to disseminating scientific and understanding!

Thu, 19 Aug 2010 17:41:14 UTC | #502538

Go to: Richard Dawkins Interview

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 21 by RichardC

Of his forthcoming book Dawkins has said: "I plan to look at mythical accounts of various things and also the scientific account of the same thing. And the mythical account that I look at will be several different myths, of which the Judeo-Christian one will just be one of many.

"And the scientific one will be substantiated, but appeal to children to think for themselves; to look at the evidence. Always look at the evidence."

So Iswanason, I'm sure you will be reassured by this. Your favourite God myths will also be represented in Dawkins book. And surely you will not feel threatened by Dawkins's intention of encouraging children to look at the evidence and to 'think for themselves'.

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 10:04:00 UTC | #450178

Go to: Intelligence Squared debate: Catholics humiliated by Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 168 by RichardC

Apparently, in this debate Widdecombe claimed “that members of the Waffen SS had to renounce their Christianity before entering the organisation”. I wondered if this is really true and did a little google search. From the link below her claim appears to be very questionable as various members of the Waffen SS say they were able to practise their religion some of their units had chaplains. It maybe that there were instances of christians having to renounce their faith, but was this a general policy and did it happen often? It is also a well-known fact, however, that many Nazi soldiers had “Gott Mit Uns”, meaning “God With Us” on their belt buckles during WWII. http://www.redrat.net/thoughts/iraq/gott_mit_uns.jpg

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=50&t=4732

Can anyone else shine some light on this issue?

Wed, 21 Oct 2009 15:35:00 UTC | #407310

Go to: Intelligence Squared debate: Catholics humiliated by Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 48 by RichardC

I downloaded Lithium_joe's MP3. Nice effort but unfortunately practically impossible to hear. I don't know what equipment was used but it sounds like it must have been one of Marconi's prototype transmitters from the turn of the 20th century. Good luck to any one attempting to listen to this!

Tue, 20 Oct 2009 10:19:00 UTC | #406954

Go to: Interview with Richard Dawkins

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 62 by RichardC

Comment #397911 by Roger Stanyard

‘Social Darwinism’ is certainly a word that belongs, thankfully, to a period that is now long gone. But the associated concept of eugenics is very powerful and unlikely to disappear. We are already at the stage where we can choose to ‘interfere’ at the gene level to ‘improve’ the stock. Most people would welcome attempts to use this knowledge to eradicate congenital diseases. But what happens if and when our knowledge of the brain and human behaviour becomes such that we can use this knowledge to actively interfere here too? Could society resist that temptation? Should it?

Comment #397912 by Hellene

I share your fascination with the nature/nurture conundrum. You raise some excellent questions that I wish I could answer. I really should read up more on evolutionary psychology, although my guess is that these questions are still too ‘big’ for anyone to provide any convincing and definitive answers. Science keeps us waiting...

Sun, 19 Jul 2009 04:27:00 UTC | #380517

Go to: Interview with Richard Dawkins

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 58 by RichardC

Comment #397879 by Hellene

Yes, Professor Dawkins does frequently make the distinction between social Darwinism and Darwinism. I suppose he really means ‘social Darwinism’ when he says that we shouldn’t get our morality or draw our politics from Darwinism. But I wish he would say this unequivocally and take more care in qualifying his use of the word Darwinism. It seems strange that he leaves himself so open to misinterpretation, especially when he is usually so articulate. If I were an ‘enemy of reason’ I would certainly take comfort from his apparent rejection of Darwinism. He appears to imply that we need to find our morality from somewhere outside of our evolved animal state – some kind of higher source. What else (I would think were I religiously inclined) could this source be but God?

Sun, 19 Jul 2009 02:34:00 UTC | #380505

Go to: Interview with Richard Dawkins

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 51 by RichardC

I'm glad that someone has finally responded to my comment. Most of the subsequent comments have focused on the relatively trivial point about whether the interviewer brought up Richard's ancestor merely to undermine him; a very weak point I thought since who’s likely to judge anyone on the actions of their ‘great great great great great’ grandfather in any case! Richard’s ancestor was invoked simply by way of an amusing and mildly provocative way to launch the conversation, a typical piece of journalese, which didn’t really warrant any comment or written defence (some of the respondents on this website are very defensive!).
I can see that it is ‘anti Darwinian’ to use condoms in the sense that it contradicts the prime directive of life, to pass on our genes. But Richard also says that we should be anti Darwinian in our politics. This seems to assume a very narrow definition of Darwinism, one that only acknowledges the primitive and selfish, implying somehow that the virtuous and altruistic are qualities that have nothing to do with Darwinism. I know that Richard doesn’t believe this but this is what he implies. A religious person may interpret this as equivalent to admitting that we are more than evolved animals, that our morality has nothing to do with Darwinian evolution because Dawkins himself declares that we must not be guided by it.
I can think of only two reasons why Richard may be using this meaning of Darwinism in this context. 1) He is distancing himself from the destructive aspects of ‘Darwinism’ to dissociate himself from those who adopt a selfish ‘survival of the fittest’ approach to life. This is understandable, but I wish he would express himself more precisely because it undermines his own position and is confusing. 2) He is clinging, perhaps unconsciously, to the idea that we really do have free will and can choose to be other than evolved animals. This is also understandable!
It would be nice to think that Richard himself would read this and explain to ‘phatbat’ and myself what he really means and why he expresses himself in this way. But, since this is really too much to hope for, I would be grateful if anyone else can offer their own explanation and interpretation on Richard’s behalf.

Sat, 18 Jul 2009 09:57:00 UTC | #380406

Go to: Interview with Richard Dawkins

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 26 by RichardC

When I hear Richard say, as he often does, that he is anti-Darwinian when it come to politics etc. I always think; No, hold on. I have read your books and understand that while evolution has made us competitive and graspingly selfish, it has also developed in us all that is fine and commendable - altruism, considerateness, the foresight to plan for the future and to consider wider consequences (even though this may in a sense be merely a mask and ultimately reducible to fundamental selfishness at the gene level).
It may seem anti-Darwinian to wear condoms but at a deeper, more subtle level it must really be Darwinian because this is how we have evolved to behave. In speaking like this Richard seems to endorse the simplistic and erroneous idea of Darwinian evolution producing only that which is primitive and selfish; this seems to undermine the main thesis of his wonderful Selfish Gene book. I agree that we must resist our destructive urges and instincts, but in doing this our only resource are the urges and instincts that have also evolved through Darwinian evolution - altruism, foresight, etc. (Of course this touches on the whole subject of choice and freewill and whether ultimately we are free to make any choice at all!). I’m a huge fan of Richard’s, but every time I hear him speak like this I sense an inconsistency. I’ve never seen this point brought up before and wonder if anyone else thinks as I do.

Fri, 17 Jul 2009 07:42:00 UTC | #380083

Go to: Have We Ever Faced An Enemy More Stupid Than Muslim Terrorists?

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 44 by RichardC

Although Liddle does make many good points, his tone is too taunting and tabloid, almost childish in a name-calling, playground style. Yes, many of the islamic zealots are unintelligent and poorly prepared, and he makes an excellent point in drawing a parallel with the disaffected 'forever demanding respect' generation. But there is a danger of the tone here being inflammatory. Likewise, Dawkins' advice to laugh at 'islamic morons' isn't really the tone I'd expect from the illustrious professor. I'd prefer and expect a more dispassionate overview, the kind of almost style (almost Socratic) that Sam Harris has.
I also think the old charge of calling your opponents 'cowards' very weak. It obviously takes a fair measure of courage to carry out jihadi atrocities, terrible and misguided though their actions are. Again, Liddle's criticism here strikes me as typically 'tabloid', the kind of unthinking and reflexive response you'd expect to read in a paper like The Sun or Daily Mail.

Sat, 13 Sep 2008 15:43:00 UTC | #234012

Go to: Jerry Falwell Deconverted on Deathbed!

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by RichardC

"He had an attack where his heart should have been,"
LOL

Good one, Kristine.

Fri, 25 May 2007 05:50:00 UTC | #41862

Go to: Foreword for the UK edition of 'Letter to a Christian Nation'

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 34 by RichardC

Sam's book is a great read. I gave mine to a religious friend because I thought it was much more likely to be read than the God Delusion, simply because of it's brevity (my friend is, like many Christians, not particularly given to reading large books, especially ones that seem intellectually taxing). In terms of size and physical dimension, Sam's 'Letter to a Christian' reminds me of some Christian prayer books, and for this reason I think it may appeal to many Christians who may be put off his 'End of Faith' book or TGD.
Finally I would like to concur with those who have remarked on Sam's amazing powers of articulating his ideas. It really is something to behold - he never stumbles over his ideas/words, is completely unpeturbable in debate, and in listening to him I always feel privileged to hear his ideas and the wonderful way he has of expressing them. I am currently enthralled by his debate with Andrew Sullivan and amazed that Sullivan is still hanging in there and not yet thrown in the towel, since he suffers badly with each exchange. I will continue to follow Sam Harris's career and work with the greatest of interest.

Sat, 17 Feb 2007 07:09:00 UTC | #20287

Go to: Not Yet The Majority But No Longer Silent

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by RichardC

'Bright' seems to imply that we are cleverer and 'brighter' than non brights, which is rubbing it in rather (even though it may be true in many cases!). I can well imagine that many visitors to this website would welcome the implied name-calling of using such a word, but I think its adoption would probably only help confirm religites in their characterisation of atheists as cocksure and arrogant. They love to call atheists arrogant and this is simply providing them with extra ammunition. Consequently, it's not a word that I'd like to use. How about 'non-theist'? I like this. It might not sound as catchy as bright but it says what I am not rather than what I am, which is all I wish to express. Moreover, it doesn't convey any sense of arrogance or superiority. Using 'non-theist' also avoids quantifying my unbelief or fixing my position on the belief/non-belief spectrum. It also puts the shoe on the foot of the theist by implication – the onus is on them to defend their position. They are making the claims, not the non-theist! Obviously, non-theist does sound very similar to a-theist, but at least it avoids the negative connotations.

Sun, 31 Dec 2006 12:12:00 UTC | #13550

Go to: God's Enemies Are More Honest Than His Friends

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 30 by RichardC

The trouble with the word 'atheism' is that, while it is an etymologically correct description to imply absence of theism, many people assume it to mean someone who is certain that God doesn't exist, so naturally assume such certitude must reflect arrogance. I can understand that this is an easy mistake to make. Before reading TGD I called myself 'agnostic' because I realised I could not be certain that God did not exist. However, in TGD Dawkins defines agnosticism as a position which apportions equal likelihood to the existence or non-existence of God and criticises it accordingly. But I do not think that most self professing agnostics really subscribe to this completely neutral definition of agnosticism, nor do I think that most people understand it in this way, perhaps partly due to the long PR campaign mounted against it by religites! Some of the mud has stuck and now many if not most people think that the proper word for anyone who is not absolutely sure of God's non-existence is agnosticism. Such a definition would in reality embrace nearly all professed atheists. At what point I wonder on the belief/non-belief spectrum does an agnostic become an atheist?

It's all a bit of a semantic tangle. Now we have people coming up with 'bright' to join such traditionally used words as 'freethinker' and 'humanist'. Well 'bright' seems to imply that we are cleverer and 'brighter' than non brights, which is rubbing it in rather (even though it may be true in many cases!). I can well imagine that many visitors to this website would welcome the implied name-calling of using such a word, but I think its adoption would probably only help confirm religites in their characterisation of atheists as arrogant. Therefore, it's not a word that I'd like to use. How about 'non-theist'? I like this. It says what I am not rather than what I am and doesn't convey any sense of arrogance or superiority. Using 'non-theist' also avoids quantifying my unbelief or fixing my position on the belief/non-belief spectrum. It also puts the shoe on the foot of the theist by implication – the onus is on them to defend their position. They are making the claims, not the non-theist! They are the ones who profess to know so they can't turn around and criticise others for being arrogant.

Fri, 29 Dec 2006 09:10:00 UTC | #13269

Go to: Beneath The Surface

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by RichardC

I think the song is 'Let the mystery be' by Iris Dement. In fact I liked it so much I have just downloaded it from Limewire. Great singer and great song!

Wed, 20 Dec 2006 15:02:00 UTC | #12130

Go to: The Blasphemy Challenge

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 8 by RichardC

I would like to see the DVD 'The God who wasn't there' but I don't think it's available in the UK yet. I could order it from the states but suspect I wouldn't be able to play it in my British DVD player. Dawkins has reportedly seen it and he's also a Brit - I wonder it if watched it from within his English home or on his travels abroad.
Maybe if I could utter some really terrible blasphemy the Rational Response Squad would even pay for the international postage!

Fri, 15 Dec 2006 17:39:00 UTC | #11280

Go to: The Blasphemy Challenge

RichardC's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by RichardC

I agree with Kergillian and don't think this is really the best 'rational response', being rather childish and needlessly provocative.
It's just going to get religious people's back up and entrench them in their own camp.
Better to charm other's by the strength of your arguments rather than simply mocking other people's religion.

Fri, 15 Dec 2006 16:38:00 UTC | #11276