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

Comments by Richard Dawkins

Go to: Celebrating Curiosity on Twitter

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by Richard Dawkins

I'm dreading the day that a US astronaut steps onto the surface of Mars for the first time, and utters the requisite soundbyte praising god for the beauty of the universe that he created, and for delivering the crew safely to their destination. When I hear scientists talking about "God," it's hard for me to take them seriously as scientists. I guess not all astronauts are scientist though.

Don't despair, things may not be as bad as they seem. Last year, at the splendid STARMUS conference in Tenerife that brought together astronauts and scientists, I had many agreeable conversations with Bill Anders, astronaut who famously read from the first Chapter of the book of Genesis while orbiting the moon on Apollo 8 in 1968. Major General Anders, a gallant, intelligent and entertaining man, told me he has no respect for religion. He read the Bible in space only because he was told to by NASA.

Mon, 06 Aug 2012 16:59:29 UTC | #950439

Go to: Effect of the concept of hell on children

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 36 by Richard Dawkins

If there's one thing above all else that I loathe and despise about religion generally, and Roman Catholicism in particular, it is telling lies to children with the deliberate aim of terrifying them.

Maybe you'd be amused, and even consoled by, Dawkins' Law of Conservation of Terror:

"Threats expand to fill the vacuum of their implausibility."

The more implausible the threat, the more terrifying it has to be in compensation. A plausible threat, such as a teacher's threat of punitive detention, doesn't have to be very terrifying in order to be effective, because the child knows that it will probably be carried out. A very implausible threat is unlikely to be believed, so it has to be made very terrifying in order to have any hope of persuading the child. Now think about the most terrifying threat you have ever met, namely the threat of hell. What does that suggest to you about its plausibility?

Richard

Wed, 25 Jul 2012 11:21:02 UTC | #950032

Go to: The Magic of Reality - paperback release June 21

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by Richard Dawkins

Comment 3 by memetical :

Dear Prof D, I hope they corrected that prism perspective error on page150? (Prof D,"What prism error?") Actually, I think the slit card is at the wrong angle. The slit should be rotated 90 deg - in the vertical position - to allow ONLY red light thru! (Prof D, "Oh God, so it is.") Me thinks Sir Isaac is turning 'redfaced' under his apple tree. A pair of grey herons gently glided over my very green cricket square today. No blue skies yet.

This is the paperback (and Kindle) edition without illustrations, so the problem doesn't arise.

Comment 5 by Quine :

Hope they corrected the 536,447,737,765,488,792,839,237,440,000 error on page 27.

Yes.

Richard

Tue, 19 Jun 2012 17:32:13 UTC | #947863

Go to: Sarah Outen in a typhoon

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by Richard Dawkins

Comment 5 by Mark Ribbands :

Hmm…

Whilst I applaud the reckless courage of people who, perhaps unnecessarily, put themselves in such a position – be it lone yachtsmen/women, blokes in bathtubs rowing the Atlantic, stratospheric balloonists, or, my personal favourite, aficionados of extreme ironing – never forget the equal courage of the crews who then need to fly SAR aircraft in, by definition, spectacularly dangerous meteorological conditions to rescue them.

I’m assuming something of the Devil’s advocate position, but is it acceptable for extreme sports-people to expect others to subsequently endanger themselves in rescue attempts?

Yes, I see exactly what you mean. And in many cases they go into it recklessly, without adequate preparation and inadequately equipped, which could justly arouse the ire of the rescue services. I don't think Sarah Outen could be accused of that. She has one hugely successful crossing to her credit, which was extremely well prepared. And also well prepared was the present voyage, which was well on its way to success before the typhoon struck. I think a typhoon is something nobody could reasonably be expected to budget for.

Richard

Fri, 08 Jun 2012 19:45:07 UTC | #946399

Go to: Spanish artist faces prison over 'how to cook Christ' film

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by Richard Dawkins

Comment 7 by Jonathan Dore :

Excellent -- let's hope this goes all the way to trial, so that the law in question can be shown to be unworkable, embarrassing, and unfit for the modern world, and can then be struck down.

Plus, we hope, massive compensation paid to the man by the loathsome Catholic church – not that it would make more than a tiny dent in church finances.

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 13:03:40 UTC | #946134

Go to: Classroom Clashes: Teaching evolution

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 25 by Richard Dawkins

Halfway through, she noticed a girl crying.

“The girl was so upset — she was sitting in the dark bawling,” says Mickie Pemberton, the assistant principal at McKnight Middle School in Renton, Washington, a diverse suburb 12 miles from downtown Seattle. “She said she couldn’t watch the video anymore — that it went against everything she believed.”

I too caused a girl to cry, for the same reason, when I made a cameo appearance in a classroom at a small university in America earlier this year. I felt remorseful at the time, but afterwards I thought about it and remorse turned to anger. Anger at the girl's stupid parents. Anger at the girl herself for being so weedy. What the hell did she think a university was for, if not to encourage her to think in new and unfamiliar ways, going beyond what she was exposed to when living with her ridiculous family? I didn't in any way insult the girl herself or say unpleasant things about her or her family. I didn't even tell her to grow up, although I should have. All I did was lay out the facts of evolution and the evidence for it, in unemotional, scientific terms. And that was enough to make the little fool cry.

The story above is about a school, not a university but, even so, what a pathetic little idiot. All remorse having left me, I now think the undergraduate I encountered thoroughly deserved her self-imposed distress, and it sounds to me as though the teacher in the present case was bending over backwards, further than she should, to be nice and accommodating.

Richard

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 11:42:39 UTC | #946108

Go to: Stop female genital mutilation in the UK! - Avaaz.org petition

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 36 by Richard Dawkins

Signed, but I don't think my name appeared in th list of recent signers, so maybe it didn't work?

Please don't let's be distracted by male circumcision whataboutery. FGM is many orders of magnitude more horrible.

Richard

Wed, 06 Jun 2012 11:54:43 UTC | #945849

Go to: Nun's sex talk raises the Vatican's ire

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by Richard Dawkins

The Vatican is here simply upholding the vile doctrines that their church has always stood for. This was the church, and these were the vile doctrines, that Sister Farlwy bought into when she became a nun. If she disapproves of them, why did she become a nun in the first place? Why doesn't she get out now? Perhaps she has decided she can do the church more damage, and hasten its total destruction more effectively, by attacking from within rather than from outside? In that case I wish her well.

Richard

Wed, 06 Jun 2012 09:10:17 UTC | #945826

Go to: Sixty Years of British Science Innovation

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 31 by Richard Dawkins

Sir Andrew Huxley's obituary in today's Guardian reminds me of his brilliant discovery, with Sir Alan Hodgkin, of how the nerve impulse works. He was a grandson of T H Huxley and half brother of Julian and Aldous, who were much older than him and whom he treated as uncles. He became President of the Royal Society and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.

I would also have mentioned Sir Alec Jeffreys's invention of DNA fingerprinting and W D Hamilton's brilliant theory of Inclusive Fitness.

Richard

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 17:52:42 UTC | #945027

Go to: The Descent of Edward Wilson (with Polish translation)

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 157 by Richard Dawkins

May I make a suggestion? We might all try to have a look at what the modern consensus among evolutionary biologists actually is, with regard to group selection.

By all means let's do so. The modern consensus among evolutionary biologists is that organisms work to maximise their inclusive fitness, as explained by the late W D Hamilton. If you actually read the modern literature on evolutionary biology, you will find that Hamilton's theoretical framework is overwhelmingly what guides field workers in ecology, ethology, behavioural ecology, sociobiology, evolutionary psychology . . . I can't see what else 'consensus' might mean. One thing is for sure, D S Wilson, to whom Helga Vierich bizarrely refers us, does not represent a consensus of anybody but himself.

Richard

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 17:50:55 UTC | #945025

Go to: The Descent of Edward Wilson (with Polish translation)

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 40 by Richard Dawkins

Comment Removed by Author

Fri, 25 May 2012 16:59:43 UTC | #943521

Go to: The Descent of Edward Wilson (with Polish translation)

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 39 by Richard Dawkins

Comment 28 by Roedy :

This is the second imperious article I have read of Dawkins trashing Wilson. He just baldly states that Wilson is wrong and Dawkins is right. I said so. End of story.

It may well be true, but that is no way to argue the point.

He is is arguing like the Pope. Egad.

The article needs to be redone explaining why Wilson is wrong. What is the evidence? -- not just all the experts, especially me, say so. Part of the problem is the evidence is too familiar, too obvious to Dawkins. He has not the patience to elaborate it for a non-expert audience or even to properly recognise that it needs to be explained. Perhaps someone else should write the article for him.

Roedy, did you actually read the article? Or did you stop after the brief 300-word excerpt that is all that we were allowed to reproduce here? As always when we post articles that are published elsewhere, we put "Read on" prominently at the bottom. "Read on" means Read on. You click it and you get taken to another place, in the present case to the website of Prospect Magazine, where you will find almost exactly ten times as many words, explaining in great detail why Wilson is wrong.

Fri, 25 May 2012 16:59:12 UTC | #943520

Go to: UPDATED: Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 135 by Richard Dawkins

In a fascinating piece on his website, my friend Matt Ridley is sceptical that anything so well-written as the King James Version could really be the work of a committee. And indeed, he follows Brian Moynahan's Book of Fire in arguing that the KJV (or at least the well-written bits) is actually the work of one man, William Tyndale, executed in 1536 (strangled in public while tied to the stake at which his body was then burned). In Ridley's words, Tyndale was "Murdered – for translating the bible – at the behest of the very church, which 75 years later adopted so much of his text without acknowledgement." All that the King James committeemen did was collate and edit Tyndale's translation.

Incidentally, Matt doesn't mention it but he has a family interest in the theological disagreements of the period, as his own forebear Bishop Nicholas Ridley was burned at the stake in 1555, along with Bishop Hugh Latimer, who uttered the memorable martyr's valediction while they were burning: "Be of good comfort Master Ridley and play the man: we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."

(Please, if you comment on this, don't derail the thread by banging on about Matt's views on other, and totally irrelevant, matters. Thank you.)

Richard

Mon, 21 May 2012 10:05:49 UTC | #942591

Go to: UPDATED: Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 132 by Richard Dawkins

Comment 129 by xmaseveeve :

Ridiculous posturing from Michael Gove. Disgusting and pointless waste of money, albeit from patronising, charitable charlatans flaunting their pitiless piety. Odious, outrageous move.

Brilliant reaction from Richard Dawkins. He picked up their grenade and casually chucked it back, saying they forgot to pull out the pin. Michael (dim and not even nice) Gove.... I'll edit myself here... oh, you missed some good insults.

Rebuild society? This government couldny put a nut in a monkey's mooth.

Thank you xmaseeve, you really get what I was trying to do. And thank you Susan Latimer for seeing it too, with your usual perceptiveness.

Richard

Mon, 21 May 2012 07:14:49 UTC | #942578

Go to: UPDATED: Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 105 by Richard Dawkins

Oh please, I of course never said read it from cover to cover. I used the unkind phrase 'verging on the barbarian' only for people who had never read a single word of it, not even the word "Matthew".

Richard

Sun, 20 May 2012 18:35:27 UTC | #942465

Go to: UPDATED: Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 89 by Richard Dawkins

Do you know that over 99.9% of all claims in science has been wrong?

When you read something like that, you don't even need to investigate it. You KNOW it has been simply made up (Christian apologists are so used to swallowing stuff that has been simply made up, it's not surprising if they think nothing of making up new stuff whenever it suits them). The third decimal place is specified, which seems to suggest a very precise statistical survey of some kind. But what survey could conceivably be made of "all claims in science"? How would you decide what constituted a "claim in science"? Something published in a peer-reviewed journal? Something said in a pub by somebody who called himself a scientist?

If you really believed that only 0.1% of scientific claims were correct, you would never trust a plane to fly, never trust a ship to float, never have a vaccination or take an antibiotic, never trust a telescope or a microscope or a doctor. When somebody makes a stupid remark like this, the best you can say is that they have probably picked up a smattering of the history of science, say a couple of erroneous theories like phlogiston or ptolemaic epicycles, and somehow distorted that into "99.9%".

The statement was made by the same Christian apologist who claimed, and failed to produce evidence, that I called the bible "filthy literature". I now think it is not worth responding to him by name (why give him the satisfaction?) But it is perhaps instructive to call attention in general to ways in which you can tell, from internal evidence alone, that a claim is not to be taken seriously. In particular, note the bogus appeal to accuracy of that third decimal place.

Richard

Sun, 20 May 2012 14:05:28 UTC | #942439

Go to: UPDATED: Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 41 by Richard Dawkins

Comment 35 by ConsciousMind : Why would Richard Dawkins want all children to read the bible, I thought he said earlier that children should not be exposed to, what he refers to as "filthy litterature". Have you changed your mind Richard?

Please either document your statement that I referred to the bible as "filthy literature" or apologise.

Richard

Sun, 20 May 2012 09:41:08 UTC | #942377

Go to: Intelligent Design and the cruelty of nature

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 59 by Richard Dawkins

In 1856, three years before the publication of On the Origin of Species, and before he wrote the famous letter to Asa Gray about the Ichneumonidae quote above, Darwin wrote to his friend Hooker:

What a book a Devil's Chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature.

I adopted the phrase A Devil's Chaplain as the title of my book of collected essays and wrote one new essay with the same title, which deals with this whole question. I follow T H Huxley and George C Williams in regarding natural selection as an object lesson in how not to behave and how not to plan human society. Huxley was uncompromising:

Let us understand, once for all, that the ethical progress of society depends, not on imitating the cosmic process, still less in running away from it, but in combating it.

And here is Williams, saying much the same thing a century later:

With what other than condemnation is a person with any moral sense supposed to respond to a system in which the ultimate purpose in life is to be better than your neighbor at getting genes into future generations, in which those successful genes provide the message that instructs the development of the next generation, in which that message is always "exploit your environment, including your friends and relatives, so as to maximise our genes' success", in which the closest thing to a golden rule is "don't cheat unless it is likely to provide a net benefit"?

Bernard Shaw's revulsion actually led to his preferring to believe in a kind of Lamarckian evolution. He said of Darwinian selection:

When its whole significance dawns on you, your heart sinks into a heap of sand within you. There is a hideous fatalism about it, a ghastly and damnable reduction of beauty and intelligence, of strength and purpose, of honor and aspiration.

Shaw fell into the common trap of assuming that because something is unpleasant it cannot be true. Even Darwin tried to mitigate the horror, at the end of his chapter on the Struggle for Existence:

When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.

I wish I could believe it. Terrible as it is, I stand by what I wrote in River Out of Eden:

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear; others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites; thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease. It must be so. If there is ever a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored.

And I ended the chapter in melancholy vein:

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A.E.Housman put it:

For Nature, heartless, witless Nature
Will neither care nor know.

DNA neither cares nor knows. And we dance to its music.

Richard

Fri, 18 May 2012 10:42:13 UTC | #942157

Go to: Bullying, lies, and discrimination aren't "religious liberty"

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by Richard Dawkins

Oh behalf of RDFRS US, I am immensely proud of the videos that Sean is now putting out. They are truly superb, and I especially like the way he ends them with an appeal for action. In this case, please respond to his appeal for information about the infamous "Liberty" University. It surely deserves to lose its accreditation to award degrees – in biology at least. Otherwise, the degrees given by real universities are devalued.

Richard

Wed, 16 May 2012 09:01:14 UTC | #941792

Go to: How much water is there on, in, and above the Earth?

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by Richard Dawkins

This is exactly the kind of image I love to use in presenting science, because it is counter-intuitive, yet very easy to check the calculation. Just note the diameter of the 'droplet' of water (a substantial fraction of the width of North America), then remember that the volume of an object goes up with the cube of the linear dimension, then smear the volume (4/3 pi r cubed) of water out over the available surface area and it all makes sense.

It's valuably counter-intuitive in the same sort of way as those calculations that show that every time you take a breath you are inhaling at least one molecule that went through the lungs of . . . name any historical character you like.

Tue, 15 May 2012 09:45:46 UTC | #941555

Go to: Human Races May Have Biological Meaning, But Races Mean Nothing About Humanity

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 21 by Richard Dawkins

Of course, I am not an evolutionary biologist so what do I know ?

Indeed.

Thu, 03 May 2012 20:41:46 UTC | #939431

Go to: Patrick Coffin, with Edward Feser, Receive a Call from Sean Faircloth of the RDFRS (US)

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 21 by Richard Dawkins

Am I suffering from déjà vu, or didn't we post this quite a long time ago?

Wed, 02 May 2012 20:45:36 UTC | #939137

Go to: Richard Dawkins on Beautiful Minds - BBC Four Wed April 25

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 161 by Richard Dawkins

Comment 160 by guwest :

Great programme and who was the left wing commentator who thought Dawkins' work led to Thatcher's election, as mentioned in it?

The following is from A Devil's Chaplain

I should be allowed a personal word here because I am tired of being identified with a vicious politics of ruthless competitiveness: accused of advancing selfishness as a way of life. Soon after Mrs Thatcher’s election victory of 1979, Professor Steven Rose wrote, in New Scientist, as follows:

I am not implying that Saatchi and Saatchi engaged a team of sociobiologists to write the Thatcher scripts, nor even that certain Oxford and Sussex dons are beginning to rejoice at this practical expression of the simple truths of selfish genery they have been struggling to convey to us. The coincidence of fashionable theory with political events is messier than that. I do believe though, that when the history of the move to the right of the late 1970s comes to be written, from law and order to monetarism and to the (more contradictory) attack on statism, then the switch in scientific fashion, if only from group to kin selection models in evolutionary theory, will come to be seen as part of the tide which has rolled the Thatcherites and their concept of a fixed, 19th century competitive and xenophobic human nature into power.

The ‘Sussex don’ was John Maynard Smith, and he gave the apt reply in a letter to the next issue of New Scientist: What should we have done, fiddled the equations?

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 05:22:11 UTC | #938102

Go to: Rare Protozoan from Sludge in Norwegian Lake Does Not Fit On Main Branches of Tree of Life

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by Richard Dawkins

Irritating, headline-seeking rubbish. This creature may be our most distant eucaryotic cousin, but that makes it a very close cousin compared with bacteria.

Richard

Fri, 27 Apr 2012 13:16:00 UTC | #937695

Go to: In defence of obscure words

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 56 by Richard Dawkins

As a PS to Orwell's Rules of Writing, Samuel Johnson said, "'Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.'" I can't believe he really meant it as a general rule, but occasionally I kind of get it.

Richard

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 10:22:29 UTC | #936966

Go to: Dear E. O. Wilson: Please retire or stick to ants

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by Richard Dawkins

No they are not a clone. and no the colony doesn't behave as a single organism. It's much more interesting than that. It's the middle of the night and I must try to get back to sleep, but it isn't hard to look up. It's all in The Selfish Gene and lots of other places.

Good night.

Comment 13 by Steven Mading :

Doesn't an ant colony all share the same DNA? The workers, the soldiers, the queen - they're all the same genes, and differentiate only based on what they are fed - is that true?

If so, then I don't see what the difference is between group selection and kin selection in an ant colony. They're the same thing. If you're an ant, then your whole group you interact with is the tightest sort of kin you can have - they're your clones.

Could it be that someone who studies ants primarily would mistake kin selection for group selection because of this?

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 01:10:23 UTC | #936388

Go to: Faircloth in Maryland-DC May 5

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by Richard Dawkins

Sean is one of the most electrifying speakers I have ever heard. No wonder audience members regularly shout "Faircloth for President!" He not only gives great prepared speeches but is extremely quick on his feet too. On our previous joint tour, I recall one reporter in Detroit – actually from Fox News, which makes the story even better – who asked me a challenging question. I wasn't confident of my answer, so I deflected the question to Sean. Sean battered the reporter into the ground and the reporter then turned to me and said, "I want this guy as my lawyer."

Also, he knows how to punctuate, and how to spell criticism.

Richard

Sun, 15 Apr 2012 22:29:23 UTC | #934955

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

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 85 by Richard Dawkins

On the question of the stacking of the audience by Catholics, the following interesting comment by mitchgarside is reproduced from Pharyngula:

I can shed a little light on the audience, I’m a politically involved uni student in Aus and I heard about this from a few contacts: First some context, the show Q&A is on the ABC, a publicly funded channel, and is principally a political show that attempts to find real balance by having the best of all sides involved (not like the faux balance of many news programs, especially in the US). Hence the audiences are vetted by political leaning to attempt to produce a balanced crowd of right and left leaning, the way they do this is by asking which party you support/vote for when you apply to be in the audience.

This week the Catholic groups on campus discussed plans to stack out Dawkins appearance by applying as both Coalition voters (which would be true, they are our conservatives, yet still closer to the Democrats really, heh) and also as Green party voters (the most left wing party that has seats in Australian Parliament). So they managed to stack out both sides of the audience.

Bearing false witness being a sin doesn’t seem to have come across in this plan.

Tue, 10 Apr 2012 06:21:02 UTC | #933554

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

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 84 by Richard Dawkins

I too was disappointed in this so-called debate. I don’t want to put all the blame on my jet lag (I had spent the whole night on the plane from Los Angeles and, incidentally, missed the whole of Easter Day crossing the Date Line). The two things that really threw me were, first, the astonishing bias of the audience and, second, the interfering chairman.

Right from the start when we were introduced, it was clear that the studio audience was dominated by a Catholic cheer squad. The cheered whenever the Cardinal said anything, however stupid and ignorant. To be fair to the ABC, I am confident that they were not responsible for stacking the audience. I believe it was genuinely first-come-first-served, and I can only think that the Catholics must have got off the mark very swiftly and rallied the troops. Our side just isn’t very good at doing that: perhaps it is one of our more endearing qualities. It was encouraging that the vote of viewers at large came down heavily on our side, to the evident surprise and discomfort of the studio audience.

Such an extreme audience bias was a little off-putting, but it wouldn’t have mattered so much if the chairman had allowed us to have a proper debate instead of continually racing ahead to get in another dopey question. There were times when the Cardinal had doled out more than enough rope to hang himself but then, in the nick of time, the chairman blundered in and rescued him with yet another samey question from the audience. The only time the chairman did a good job was when he pressed the Cardinal on what seemed perilously close to anti-Semitism.

More and more, I am thinking that discussions of this kind are positively ruined by an interfering chairman. That was also true of my encounter with the Archbishop of Canterbury, which could have developed into an interesting conversation but for the meddling chairman who, to make matters worse, was a ‘philosopher’ with special training in obscurantism.

Cardinal Pell had evidently been well prepped, formally briefed (for example with his alleged fact that Darwin called himself a theist on page 92 of his autobiography). I knew it wasn’t true that Darwin was a theist and said so, but I obviously couldn’t counter the “Page 92″, which duly got a cheer from the touchline. I’ve since had a chance to look it up and, as expected, it refers to the way Darwin felt earlier in his life, not his maturity when he said he preferred to call himself ‘agnostic’ because the people “are not yet ripe for atheism”.

Another missed opportunity on my part was when the Cardinal nastily insinuated that I had not read to the end of Lawrence Krauss’s book having written the Foreword. Actually I didn’t write the Foreword, I wrote the Afterword, which suggests that the Cardinal hadn’t read the book. Indeed, the content of what he said suggests that he (or whoever briefed him) had read only the infamous review in the New York Times, again by a philosopher not a scientist.

Altogether an unsatisfactory evening. Much better was the radio interview the following morning, which served as a kind of postmortem, after I had had a night’s sleep and had my wits more properly about me:

Richard

Tue, 10 Apr 2012 06:12:54 UTC | #933553

Go to: This is a short promo for the two-hour documentary, "In God We Trust?" by Scott Burdick.

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 27 by Richard Dawkins

The whole film is long, but well worth watching. One highlight, for me, was the spectacularly stupid woman around 0:22:40. She begins by denying that God could ever sanction slavery. Scott then gets her to read aloud the relevant passage from Leviticus and she then completely changes her tune, saying that homosexuality is worse than slavery. That's right: homosexuality is WORSE than slavery. Why? Because the Bible condemns homosexuality and (as she has just that minute learned from Scott) it doesn't condemn slavery.

Even more horrifying is the section (starting around 0:59) labelled "Following Orders": a covert allusion to the Nuremburg Defence. Scott asks people to put themselves in the position of Joshua, ordered by God to slaughter the native peoples already living in the promised land, or of Abraham, ordered by God to sacrifice his son. One after another, the faith-heads say (reluctantly in the case of the young man with glasses and curly hair, but with something close to relish in the case of the odious man with a bald head and little beard) that yes, they would commit genocide and infanticide if God ordered them to. This is as clear an illustration of the evil of religion as I have come across for a long time.

Richard

Mon, 09 Apr 2012 10:00:25 UTC | #933259