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Enemies of Reason - Comments

ClemIsMe's Avatar Comment 1 by ClemIsMe

Have I mentioned how much I love the internet?

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 11:51:00 UTC | #61583

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 2 by Tyler Durden

Part 2: The Irrational Health Service

Class! :-) Kudos to whomever came up with that title, so simple, yet so true.

As for the piece on homeopathy: I wonder how many "patients" would also use homeopathy for their children/newborns? Or would they be off to a REAL doctor right quick as soon as little Timmy got a cold/infection.

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 12:21:00 UTC | #61594

corduroy11's Avatar Comment 3 by corduroy11

RD at a seance to tap into his inner Chakras? Priceless. Excellent documentary... I can't wait for the backlash against it!

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 12:33:00 UTC | #61598

etny's Avatar Comment 4 by etny

Thank you, RD, for exposing, not the king of mambo, but the king of mumbo: our friend Deepak. I read one of his books a while back, in which he mixed quantum physics and reptilian brain with the vista of French cook. Back then already, the overwhelming thought that came to my mind was: "What a bunch of mumbo-jumbo".
That's his trick, which he performs in this 1 minute interview, without missing a beat... and when cornered, retreats behind the pitiful "this is all a metaphor". Priceless!

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 12:45:00 UTC | #61601

BicycleRepairMan's Avatar Comment 5 by BicycleRepairMan

Seriously I cant stop laughing at the part where that loony woman explains the 12-strand DNA from Atlantis to RICHARD DAWKINS, thats so far, far beyond priceless. And that "Oh, Really...?" look on Dawkins face as he patiently listens, you just cant fake that.

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 13:08:00 UTC | #61613

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 6 by Steven Mading

I do like the fact that he went after Deepak. There's too much of a sense of "if the religious mumbo-jumbo sounds pleasant then that means there's no good reason to speak agaisnt it" about people's reaction to him. Many in the US who find him to be meaningless drivel seem to think it's perfectly safe harmless drivel so let him be.

It is NOT harmless to slander the methods of science with false mischaracterizations of how it works. It's a practice that when widely practiced condemns the next generation to more suffering than they otherwise would have had, as ignorance prevents humanity from finding real solutions to its problems.

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 13:13:00 UTC | #61615

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 7 by Steven Mading

Is it just me, or did anyone else find that the video and audio were way out of sync, by something like several seconds, giving it the look of a foreign film dubbed in English?

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 13:15:00 UTC | #61616

Elli's Avatar Comment 8 by Elli

I especially loved the musical homage to Monty Python in the closing credits.

I enjoyed this documentary, but was left wondering why Professor Dawkins had been so gentle in his admonition. I was hoping for, dare I say it, a more militant approach to this nonsense. ;-)

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 13:17:00 UTC | #61617

etny's Avatar Comment 9 by etny

Re: Steven Mading
The problem is that Deepak makes a lot more sense that the medieval religious leaders he often appears with on Larry King and the likes! In their presence, he suddenly sounds like a progressive, tolerant, modernist individual.
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king... And boy does he know it and exploits it shamelessly.

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 13:21:00 UTC | #61618

thirdchimpanzee's Avatar Comment 10 by thirdchimpanzee

Watching the second episode - dealing with alternative medicine - I was reminded of stories regarding the re-emergence of witch doctors in post-apartheid South Africa, and the devastating consequences of their influence on a population trying to contain one of the world's worst rates of HIV.

Until recently I confess to very much a live-and-let-live attitude regarding my atheism, and others belief. But RD is right to turn attention to new age quackery - because it is nothing more that a return to "witch doctors", and will have a devastating impact on a world that is biologically interconnected in ways that allow the global spread of disease in days.

On a recent trip to Northern Australia, we saw rock paintings stretching back more that 10,000 years. But some of the most poignant were recent, and depicted the arrival of Europeans amongst the aborigines. With the Europeans came diseases that devastated the aboriginal population, often taking the young and active. Without any theory of why they were getting sick and dying, many tribes assumed it was the work of witchcraft, and compounded the impact of disease by warring with each other trying to stamp out the sorcery that was afflicting them. This was recorded on the rocks.

The beauty of going to a place like Kakadu is to realise that we are all little changed in 10,000 years - except by now, thanks to our "wonderful" school systems, supposed to know a bit better.

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 13:51:00 UTC | #61627

lflcorreia's Avatar Comment 11 by lflcorreia

To anyone interested, this YouTube's user:

has posted the videos of the 2 episodes of this documentary. Each episode is divided in five parts.
I've already watched both of them and they're ok with the sound in sync.

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 14:13:00 UTC | #61635

The Buxter's Avatar Comment 12 by The Buxter


I can't wait for the backlash against it!

I find it strange how many times a review of "The enemies of reason" has started with: "Well of course RD is right about woo woo, it's obvious. BUT that doesn't make him right about religion, and I'll tell you why... " *sigh*

Anyways, I find it perfect timing (perhaps a little late?) for this documentary. Woo woo has much to long been tolerated *way* to much!!

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 14:14:00 UTC | #61636

phil rimmer's Avatar Comment 13 by phil rimmer

How does he keep such a straight face!?

I can only imagine the makeup person dashes in before the take to whack a shot of novocaine into each cheek.....

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 14:45:00 UTC | #61647

JackR's Avatar Comment 14 by JackR

Great stuff. I'm particularly interested in the placebo effect and I was glad Richard mentioned that real doctors can produce it too - even if not intentionally. I've certainly experienced it myself several times. You know... you wrestle with a worrying pain or symptom for weeks until your anxiety level peaks and then you go to the doctor and... almost immediately you feel better. Maybe not completely better, but you notice a real improvement. The pain diminishes, or becomes less frequent. I've talked to many friends - skeptics and rationalists all - and they've experienced this too. The placebo effect is real and surprisingly potent, and RD is right to highlight the fact that alternative therapists really play up the factors which might amplify it. The attention. The listening. The sense of caring. The delivery of reassuring words and noises. And so on.

I'm enjoying this series a lot.

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 15:04:00 UTC | #61652

shaunfletcher's Avatar Comment 15 by shaunfletcher

I would like to compliment Richard on his, to me, astonishing ability to be excruciatingly polite to all these people. Especially towards the simpletons and fools he is dealing with 75% of the time.

It seems the only ones he cannot in the end stand for are the doctors and scientists who abuse their training. I find that extremely understandable, as listening to the homeopath try to justify (to himself mostly it seemed) that snake oil made me angry in the extreme. The man knows it doesnt work, he knows it's just sugar water for the plebs, and yet he keeps taking the cash and smiling and hoping it either works through wishing or at least does no harm.


Wed, 22 Aug 2007 15:05:00 UTC | #61653

Yorker's Avatar Comment 16 by Yorker

2. Comment #64951 by Tyler Durden

You make an interesting point.

Since homeopathy is clearly a placebo effect, babies could be excellent test subjects since soothing words and mumbo-jumbo bullshit would be lost on them. The ethics of such testing is another matter of course but still, a good weapon to use against woo-woo supporters.

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 15:18:00 UTC | #61660

idragosani's Avatar Comment 17 by idragosani

I've just watched the first few minutes of the second episode... I recognized the woman from the beginning of the first episode and then she starts talking about DNA and then I did a double take... Did she just say Atlantis? Rewind... by golly, she did! I played it over several times, and am still laughing...

I have a lot of neo-pagan friends, too, who talk just like that, all of the time. But boy do they get pissed when you equate what they say to creationism!

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 16:06:00 UTC | #61672

agg's Avatar Comment 18 by agg

Hi, everybody. This is my first post here and I want to start by thanking the person who uploaded the videos for those of us around the globe who don't have access to Channel 4. I just hope there aren't any copyright issues with this.

About the episodes: I must say I am a little disappointed. The point is sorely needed to be made, but I expected a bit more rigorous an approach to debunking these weird claims. Some of the things (e.g. dowsing, cold reading, homeopathy) were subjected to evidential treatment but for many (e.g. the scene with the angels or the chakras) it came out as Prof. Dawkins' word against the practitioners'.

Perhaps, RD meant to let them do the talking, assuming that the audience will see for themselves how ridiculous they sound. But that's not a good example for science (which is what's most needed by the people we expect to benefit from these episodes). I am also not sure if it would work -- Unfortunately, I know more than enough people who would actually find (some of) the interviewees perfectly reasonable (You don't have any angels around you? That's because you haven't invited any!) and fail to see why Prof. Dawkins is saying that they're wrong.

So I can see a large part of the audience agreeing with the videos (but who would have agreed even beforehand) and another large part remaining utterly unconvinced. I am not sure if there will be a significant third part who would actually change their opinion (or even think about that for a while). I must say I am not sure exactly what the target audience for these episodes is and I hope I am wrong about this.

I understand that it is not up to Prof. Dawkins to disprove every weird claim but up to those who make the claim to present the evidence for it. I guess my point is that perhaps Prof. Dawkins could have been more insistent on evidence for each grotesque claim and let the person who touts it show that there isn't any.

Oh, well. I should not complain too much. There is only this much one can cram in two hours and it is still a lot better than I would have done...

Anyone else felt the same way?

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 18:11:00 UTC | #61703

LauraD's Avatar Comment 19 by LauraD

I'm only through about 16 minutes of the first show but it's almost too painful to watch. Not Richard of course, but the way these charlatans blather on and on as if what they're saying has any basis in truth or reality. It's kind of like watching Bush speak where you spend the entire time cringing inside and wanting to hurl something at the screen.

Thanks for the links, I've been wanting to watch the show but I live in the US and had little hope it would ever get aired here.

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 22:08:00 UTC | #61749

Rieux's Avatar Comment 20 by Rieux

I thought the second episode was much better than the first, if only because I think charlatanry in medicine is vastly more destructive than is silly superstition about astrology and the like. I agree that the latter category does denigrate reason and science, but in that respect ordinary superstition can't hold a candle to the far and away world champion in that regard--traditional religion.

Too bad Professor Dawkins has never put together a documentary questioning traditional religion.


BTW, what was that bizarre music over the closing credits to Episode 2? My first reaction was "Goodness, this is a ridiculous tone with which to end this series." My second was "Wait a minute--is this 'The Universe Song,' from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life? I guess that would be fairly apropos, topically." And then my third reaction was "No, it's not 'The Universe Song,' it's just a bad, cloying synthesizer tune."

So what was going on there (er, besides me talking to myself)?

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 22:14:00 UTC | #61750

Axulus's Avatar Comment 21 by Axulus

Thank you very much for making these available. I know that there often copyright issues with things like this, but I am very happy to see that is really trying to spread knowledge for free as much as possible. Thank you very much to Richard and the whole support team for making this documentary, I enjoyed it very much.

Wed, 22 Aug 2007 22:53:00 UTC | #61760

Prufrock's Avatar Comment 22 by Prufrock

I really enjoyed the second part of the series. I was expecting Richard to give Deepak a real tongue lashing quite simply because Deepak has been trained to know better than spout nonsense for cash. In my opinion Deepak's inappropriate use of scientific jargon to justify the seemingly unjustifiable really compromises any professional, let alone the medical profession. This kind of quackery reduces every professional to the level of the dodgier, unprincipled type market stall trader we try to avoid or street hustler, in my very humble opinion.

Thu, 23 Aug 2007 01:07:00 UTC | #61781

gibodean's Avatar Comment 23 by gibodean

Yes, when that woman was talking about DNA and how it was different lengths, I had to pause the TV to say "Oh my God".

Richard, when you filmed that, did she have any idea of who you were, or what your day job is ?
How could you stop from laughing ?

Thu, 23 Aug 2007 04:56:00 UTC | #61837

Richard Morgan's Avatar Comment 24 by Richard Morgan

I found the approach most effective : the "cut your own rope to hang yourself with", "shooting yourself in the foot", "own-goal" technique. Just let them talk and act and their quackery will become self-evident.

A more militant approach would have been like using an AK46 to kill a fly.

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;

and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
Reason with gentleness of mind and manner,
Let humility fragrantly perfume your questions,
And take no harsh joy nor solace,
As the quacks and charlatans pitifully shit upon themselves,
In the market place, as in the hidden stench of their consulting rooms.
If music be the food of love,
Then let truth and reason be
The twin suppositories
To the constipated mind
Of the blind and the ignorant...

See what I mean....?

(I suspect that I've improvised a little when quoting Desiderata, but you get my message, don't you?)

Thu, 23 Aug 2007 05:12:00 UTC | #61840

macros_man's Avatar Comment 25 by macros_man

I wonder if Deepak has ever had a discussion with a real quantum physicist.

For Richard's documentary, it would have been nice to have a relatively prominent (or at least knowledgeable) quantum physicist respond to Deepak's comments - or even for them to have had a discussion.

To anyone that even remotely grasps things like quantum mechanics, and cosmological constructs, like black holes... it's mind-numbingly obvious how meaningless his words are... but I think that most people haven't got a clue about these things, and the little that they do hear about them, from the popular media, are so mis-characterized, that it shouldn't surprise us in the least, that people actually buy into his nonsense.

I know it isn't the job of scientists or physicists to speak out against mischaracterizations of their areas of study - and that's why we have people like Richard Dawkins... whose job it is, truly, to promote an accurate understanding of science (thank you Charles Simonyi!).

But just as Richard speaks on behalf of evolution, I think we need someone who speaks on behalf of physics.

Far too long have we gone without eminent personalities in the areas of physics... (yes - Stephen Hawking is great... but aside from "A brief history...", he's been much too busy to dabble in public relations)

And of course there are many people working in the field - even in areas of active research - but there hasn't been anyone to rouse the public's interest in physics. It's sad that people can't just be interested in physics, for the sake of physics alone... but it's true.

If nothing else, I think we need someone to publicly dispel the myths about things like quantum mechanics... and to give the public a better understanding of the terms, so that they cannot so easily be misused by people like Deepak.

We need more films that actually attempt to explain physics (ie - "Elegant Universe"), rather than ones that only obfuscate it (ie - "What the bleep").

Thu, 23 Aug 2007 06:28:00 UTC | #61850

bluebird's Avatar Comment 26 by bluebird

macros_man, agreed, thanks. We think Neil DeGrasse Tyson does a fine job ('Nova' series, running the Hayden Planetarium, new book). Still, doubtful that he, Brian Greene, et. al. are household names; what a shame.

Richard Morgan, thanks for your post-piquant. Had not read 'Desiderata'.

Thu, 23 Aug 2007 06:54:00 UTC | #61860

Lionel A's Avatar Comment 27 by Lionel A

I thought these programmes quite well done. What surprises me is that these people have not refused to allow them to be broadcast.

Spencer, the astrologer, came across as knowingly devious with most of the others being a joke – that is if the probable adverse outcomes from believing in this codswallop were not so full of risk, in this way the business that these people conduct is both fraudulent and treacherous.

Unfortunately I am getting some stick here from my wife who considers me bigoted and blinkered for considering the truth behind Richard's message and the awfulness and danger these quacks pose.

Some of this stick is because I have talked about it to a sister who has used homeopathic practitioners in the past and her husband is accusing me of being as closed minded as those who believe in this stuff and also about that other question of faith in a god. His usual argument is to scoff at the silly idea of a big bang starting the universe from nothing. I try to point out that this isn't quite what scientists think and that an understanding of the nature of the origin of the universe is still a work in progress.

He has demured at my offer of loans of the many books on quantum mechanics, evolution and related topics that I have, many aimed at the lay reader.

What can one do with such people?

I have just been reading Matt Ridley's book on Francis Crick – good stuff.

Thu, 23 Aug 2007 07:52:00 UTC | #61872

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 28 by Cook@Tahiti

The very opening sentence of Program 1 is incorrect - we have never sent orbiters to Neptune. Voyager 2 flew past Neptune, but it never orbited any planet. No other probes have been to Neptune.

I know it's pedantry - but it's a bit of a howler to open a program on exposing misunderstanding of science, with an erroneous statement about science.

[btw, the second part of the sentence, about eradicating smallpox is not technically true either].

Thu, 23 Aug 2007 08:55:00 UTC | #61880

kuberE's Avatar Comment 29 by kuberE

what makes me really sad is that the believers here aren't fanatics or extremists. they're not nut-jobs. almost any CAM or new age group you attend these days speaks all the same stuff as casually and openly as anything.

good programme.

Thu, 23 Aug 2007 09:06:00 UTC | #61881

jakelovatto's Avatar Comment 30 by jakelovatto

Did anyone catch the bit near the end of episode 2 when richard is talking to the woman outside and as he is talking to her he looks to the left then a squirrel runs up a tree to make it look like dawkins attention was caught by the squirrel.


Thu, 23 Aug 2007 09:35:00 UTC | #61889