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1996 Richard Dimbleby Lecture - Comments

Stuart Paul Wood's Avatar Comment 1 by Stuart Paul Wood

Superb as always. I'm becoming annoyed that there isn't a regular show for atheists on the BBC. There needs to be more RD on the TV.

The theists have "songs of praise" and "heaven and earth" so why can't we have our own programme? Anything to do with atheism is normally on BBC4 at hideous o'clock.

Sun, 23 Sep 2007 16:23:00 UTC | #69460

No Quarter's Avatar Comment 2 by No Quarter

Heaven and Earth has thankfully been cancelled.

Sun, 23 Sep 2007 16:31:00 UTC | #69461

Stuart Paul Wood's Avatar Comment 3 by Stuart Paul Wood

Heaven and Earth has thankfully been cancelled

Yes I heard but I also heard that there is going to be something else on (religion) to replace it, again on sundays.

How annoying - there must be enough of us atheists to make it worthwhile to produce something for us. Having said that I haven't seen any programmes for gay people on the beeb either. I'd love to know how the BBC decide who gets what and why.

Sun, 23 Sep 2007 16:59:00 UTC | #69470

skyhook0's Avatar Comment 4 by skyhook0

What exactly would a "show for atheists" be? It seems to me like every show that isn't about religion is a show for atheists. It's not a particularly interesting fact that there is no God, and I'm not sure how there would be a show about that. What matters is, there is no God, so now what? Every show that features history, science, or (good) philosophy is a show about the "now what" and should thus provide plenty of viewing material for atheists.

Also - Dawkins came down hard on the X-files - boo. That show was great and clearly took place in a fantasy world - there were aliens and vampire pizza boys, to name a few of its inhabitants.

Sun, 23 Sep 2007 17:24:00 UTC | #69475

home8896's Avatar Comment 5 by home8896

Very good. I would love to have a science appreciation class to take. I can't say any of my science teachers did much to improve my image of science as being much more than something only the mathematically inclined would ever understand, which left me unable to sense the great wonder in any of it. Really was a shame that science was kept as stringently un-wondrous as possible.

Oh, and I too thought that was a bit harsh about X Files, but the lecture was before the last episode which pretty much threw everything else out the window with a very pragmatic explanation for the biggest mystery of the show. Seems even the writers needed to have us all come back to reality before concluding it. Although I was a bit annoyed that the rational voice of the show still had religious convictions, and the skeptic of religion was so easily conned into other woo woo. I still liked the show, anyway.

Sun, 23 Sep 2007 17:32:00 UTC | #69478

Robert Maynard's Avatar Comment 6 by Robert Maynard

Great lecture. If you enjoyed this, I recommend reading Unweaving the Rainbow!

Sun, 23 Sep 2007 18:06:00 UTC | #69482

DNAtheist's Avatar Comment 7 by DNAtheist

skyhook0 wrote:
What exactly would a "show for atheists" be?

There is at least one show on atheism, The Atheist Experience. It serves a number of purposes. It educates believers on the nature of atheism and the character of atheists hopefully showing that we are generally normal, nice people. It addresses issues of church and state separation, raising awareness of the problems created by religious intrusions on our secular government. Perhaps most importantly it provides those who are questioning their religious beliefs with an alternative viewpoint while making non-believers living in isolation aware that they are not alone. The show can be viewed on google video.

Sun, 23 Sep 2007 18:49:00 UTC | #69484

paulwwww's Avatar Comment 8 by paulwwww

Superb, as always. The first book of Dawkins that I read was "The Devils Advocate". Since then I have been nothing more than an absolute (pitbull :-) ) follower. I could watch lectures of this sort all day. Brilliant!!!!

Sun, 23 Sep 2007 19:00:00 UTC | #69486

riemann's Avatar Comment 9 by riemann

Unweaving The Rainbow is the only Richard Dawkins product that i disagree with, as i wholeheartedly think that being alive is overall a purely wicked experience. But, oh boy, this speech (as well as the book), though brief, does provide some sense of awe in those moments when one feels most down and abashed. I wish science and the searching and understanding for wonders of the observable nature did come to me as natural as it comes to the Professor, instead my appreciation of the world via science was truely an acquired taste, acquired thanks primarily to Dawkins. I suspect it must be a borderline supernatural experince to contemplate the universe and its harmony from his point of view, through his mental dispositons. Thomas Nagel once wanted to know what it was like to be a bat, i am a humble man, i would happily settle for knowing what it is like to be Richard Dawkins any day.

Sun, 23 Sep 2007 19:24:00 UTC | #69490

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 10 by Cartomancer

Not enough material for a weekly television programme about atheism? We seem to get enough to fill this website every week. And magazines like The Humanist get by pretty well. Even if there was nothing at all to say and we had to just show a blank screen for thirty minutes it would still be a damn sight more informative than "The View"...

"Being Richard Dawkins" eh? Like "Being John Malkovich"? Now that I would pay good money to see. "Richard Dawkins and the Meaning of Life"? "Richard Dawkins and the Holy Grail"? "Richard Dawkins's Life of Brian"? "Pharyngula Actually"?...

Sun, 23 Sep 2007 20:35:00 UTC | #69499

Teratornis's Avatar Comment 11 by Teratornis

In reply to comment #73018 by riemann:

Unweaving The Rainbow is the only Richard Dawkins product that i disagree with, as i wholeheartedly think that being alive is overall a purely wicked experience.

Well, it certainly can be, but there is a simple solution, and according to the theme song from the television show M*A*S*H the solution is allegedly painless (although as we cannot get an answer from those who have gone through with it, perhaps we can only speculate).

I've heard the "We are the lucky ones" passage recited and excerpted several times, and while audiences seem enthralled by the mention of unrealized composers greater than Beethoven (even though classical music accounts for a negligible fraction of album sales), along with the famous poets (who most people don't read except under pedagogical duress), I cannot help but notice the odd similarity with the arguments of pro-lifers against abortion ("you might be killing a future Beethoven"). Why not give equal time to the tyrants worse than Hitler who never see the light of day? Or instead of focusing on the odd statistical outliers in either direction, how about the vast boring region about the mean? The overwhelming majority of all those unrealized people would be, in fact, much like the overwhelming majority of the people who do exist, which is to say, nothing particularly special.

Even if the sample size were to become astronomically larger, there would still be some sort of physical limits to the talents that could emerge from the human genome. It's hard to imagine, for example, that any combination of alleles would result in a human who could actually perform some of the weight lifts that Sri Chinmoy claims to have done (although not too surprisingly, Sri Chinmoy refuses to show off his prodigious strength in a sanctioned, refereed competition). And even if a human that strong could exist, we already have machines that are stronger.

In any case, it seems that if science and Moore's law keep progressing, our descendents 2000 years hence will actually all be composers greater than Beethoven, along with personally possessing greater skills than all the greatest luminaries in every field produced thus far by the indifferent process of evolution, rather than being condemned like most of us today who can only feel an uneasy mix of wonder and envy from afar when we contemplate the rarity of greatness from the perspective of ho-hum mediocrity which is what the Blind Watchmaker produces by far the most of (along with the occasional Survival Machine prone to run-on sentences).

Was it Abraham Lincoln who observed that "God must really love the common people because he made so many of them"?

Sun, 23 Sep 2007 23:09:00 UTC | #69511

Nefrubyr's Avatar Comment 12 by Nefrubyr

3. Comment #72996 by Stuart Paul Wood

(On Heaven and Earth)

Yes I heard but I also heard that there is going to be something else on (religion) to replace it, again on sundays.

The Heaven and Earth slot has been filled with The Big Questions, an audience debate in the Kilroy or Esther style, mostly about moral and ethical questions nearly always in the form of "Does God want us to ...?" There's usually a token atheist or two on the panel or in the audience. Yesterday's token atheist was simultaneously the token lesbian. There's also a Heaven and Earth style celebrity interview; yesterday it was with John Humphrys, the non-militant atheist.

Mon, 24 Sep 2007 01:40:00 UTC | #69530

scottishgeologist's Avatar Comment 13 by scottishgeologist

Regarding TV programs, I am not sure that "shows for atheists" per se is necessarily a good thing. What is needed, IMO, are the sort of shows that show exactly what the wonders of nature are, shows to realy popularise science (WITHOUT DUMBING IT DOWN) Preferably with presenters who are articulate and smart, not looking like mad scientist charicatures, or going the other way, avoiding the desire to have your presenters all "k3wl and hip".

Present hard, good, honest science - make it interesting ( becasue as we know: "science is interesting, and if you dont agree you! LOL) and above all EDUCATE

Programs that shed light and dispel the darkness of superstition and woo woo.

By the way I detest Sunday morning programs. The Heaven and Earth show was just vile. On Radio Scotland on a Sunday morning we get all sorts of religious "keich" (to use a fine old Scots word)

I normally like to have the radio on, but on Sunday it remains off. If I want the news, I'll got to google or


Mon, 24 Sep 2007 02:19:00 UTC | #69538

scottishgeologist's Avatar Comment 14 by scottishgeologist

Just noticed. David Dimbleby's tie bears a pattern not totally unlike the cover of David Robertson's book "The Dawkins Letters".........

Or have I totally lost it?



Mon, 24 Sep 2007 02:26:00 UTC | #69542

joco's Avatar Comment 15 by joco

I've just finished reading 'The God Delusion' and it was marvellous to have someone far more articulate and educated than myself validate my gut feeling since childhood that religion was the least likely explanation for the universe. I would recommend Bill Bryson's 'History of Nearly Everything' also for those, like me, who were left underwhelmed by Science classes at school. Both books make one realise how far more exciting and interesting the real world is to the unimaginative and primitive attempts of religions to explain the universe.

Mon, 24 Sep 2007 02:29:00 UTC | #69543

Yorker's Avatar Comment 16 by Yorker

9. Comment #73014 by paulwwww

"The first book of Dawkins that I read was 'The Devils Advocate'"

Never heard of that one, do you mean "A Devil's Chaplain"?

5. Comment #73004 by home8896

I'm glad you're looking for a science appreciation class but I'm more concerned about your health. Are you feeling OK? You look all faded and worn out. :)

Mon, 24 Sep 2007 02:44:00 UTC | #69546

dancingthemantaray's Avatar Comment 17 by dancingthemantaray

"The theists have "songs of praise" and "heaven and earth" so why can't we have our own programme?"

Because atheism is a lack of belief, not a positive belief in anything

Mon, 24 Sep 2007 02:45:00 UTC | #69547

pewkatchoo's Avatar Comment 18 by pewkatchoo

I don't know why everyone is going on about Heaven and Earth. I thought it was great. Best satire on the box and gave me endless laughs on a rather boring Sunday morning. The Big Questions, its replacement, is not nearly as funny. Though some of the audience can be a hoot.

Mon, 24 Sep 2007 03:10:00 UTC | #69551

keith's Avatar Comment 19 by keith

I agree with 'dancingthemantaray' about programs specifically for Atheists. As I once heard Mark Lawson say when asked about equal time on the BBC for all sections of the public, "What are you going to have for atheists after 'Songs of Praise'? 30 minutes of people chanting "God is dead"?
And re the comment about there being no programs for the gay community, neither are there programs for heterosexuals. This is because there are no programs about sex. If there were, I'm sure the gay community would have every right to insist on a proportionate share of the sex programming (around 5% if current estimates are to be believed).

Mon, 24 Sep 2007 04:24:00 UTC | #69563

Yorker's Avatar Comment 20 by Yorker

Programs for gay people, programs for atheists.

They sound impractical but I think an educational series about avoiding HIV would be very useful to all, but especially gay people since they are still most at risk.

What's wrong with a short weekly "Atheist News" program?

It would need to pander to lovers of celebrity, so each episode could feature such a person explaining how they came to atheism. It could report on the weekly increase in our numbers and give ongoing worldwide statistical analyses. It could show "as they happened" news items of atheists doing good things. It could screen short interviews with atheistic politicians and even non-atheist politicians, talk about the rise of atheistic political power which has already begun. I could think of many more things and they'd be suitable for general, not just atheist viewers, fence-sitters would probably love such a show. A program like this would kick the arse of any boring, stuck-in-the-past, repetitive bullshit program for religites, indeed, it would give religious shows a shot in the arm – something real to slaver about for a change!

There is too much negativity here; we need to buck up and brainstorm some new ideas; sure, some of them will be crap but that's the point of brainstorming. Most beautifully, positivism makes you feel good!

Mon, 24 Sep 2007 06:15:00 UTC | #69589

pete's Avatar Comment 21 by pete

In the second part, there's a nice shot of Douglas Adams sitting in the audience (about 3:13 from the end). Yay!

Mon, 24 Sep 2007 06:35:00 UTC | #69593

Dr Benway's Avatar Comment 22 by Dr Benway

What's wrong with a short weekly "Atheist News" program?
Yes. And after 30 minutes of updates regarding the gods atheists don't believe in, we could have a show about music most of us don't listen to. Maybe even a cooking show about foods we don't normally eat.

Mon, 24 Sep 2007 06:44:00 UTC | #69595

Veronique's Avatar Comment 23 by Veronique

22. Comment #73121 by Yorker

I don't have a problem with your proposal. I started looking at the link posted by DNAtheist and was bored within a couple of minutes, very amateurish. It didn't grab me. And that is the art of TV - to grab.

You know, it doesn't have to be just an atheist programme. It could be a consciousness-raising programme that encompasses much more and very interesting bits and pieces.

You would have to find funding for it, I assume. The pilot would have to be well put together properly, professionally with snappy bits of information on all manner of things including your suggestions and extending them a bit (no particular order);

*current news pertaining to reality
*archaeology showing no evidence of biblical treks (for instance)
*philosophy as it relates to the real world
*history – myths and exaggerations
*chemistry updates
*biological advances
*biochemical research updates
*neurological studies, theories and published views and results
*the status of stem-cell research throughout the world
*politics and religious politics as seen from a rational perspective
*speciation in island geography
*what's happening with plate tectonics
*latest debunk of silly alternative medicine
*state of theocracy as a desired outcome
*updated list of now extinct species
*list of severely threatened species due to human interference
*a reading or short lecture by a well-known atheist, philosopher, cosmologist, etc.
*updated diminishing percentage of the world covered by forests
*updated global population figures
*what overseas aid has conditions attached to the largesse
*what's happening with the ice-cap melt
*stats on the members of different religious groups
*what island population has had to relocate due to salinity and rising ocean heights

Everything, Yorker, just everything. And always from the point of view of rationalism. It would probably be only a ½ hour show. It would have to be tight, well-presented and in the sort of sound-bite manner that is the way people have become accustomed to see such TV. The presenter would have to be a personable, neutral type of person . An 'I am just delivering the news' type. Non confrontational, friendly etc etc.

It could be done. It would be interesting, because it can be made interesting, because it is interesting.

Now to get it off the ground:-). Don't be so negative Benway - tell me about cancer incidence that I asked you on another thread-Revcort's takeover, I think:-)


Mon, 24 Sep 2007 07:01:00 UTC | #69598

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 24 by robotaholic

I adore hearing Richard Dawkins speak. Thank you so much for posting this. Any new (unseen)clips of RD are always appreciated.

Mon, 24 Sep 2007 07:49:00 UTC | #69607

cynthax's Avatar Comment 25 by cynthax

One more brilliant response to the claim that life is meaningless if there is nothing beyond the physical world. I believe we need more of that sort of inspired and inspiring words. It would be great if people finally saw that there is enough grandeur in life as it is than any man-made divinity could ever explain.
BTW, I think that the occasional wickedness of life is part of how fascinating it is!

Mon, 24 Sep 2007 07:53:00 UTC | #69608

d4m14n's Avatar Comment 26 by d4m14n

Maybe even a cooking show about foods we don't normally eat.

You mean like Ray Mears' Wild Food? Excellent idea!

Mon, 24 Sep 2007 08:01:00 UTC | #69610

Yorker's Avatar Comment 27 by Yorker

25. Comment #73130 by Veronique

Ah Veronique, would that the world was full of positive types like yourself, what a much improved place it would be. The "bring-out-your-dead" types just never seem to realise the only time anything EVER gets done whether good or not, is done by positive enthusiastic people.

Well, I don't know what more to say; your list extends past mine, I can only salute you and hope you live for many more years and certainly long enough to say "I told you so" to all the (new coinage coming up) 'negatites' here!

Mon, 24 Sep 2007 08:07:00 UTC | #69611

Yorker's Avatar Comment 28 by Yorker

28. Comment #73142 by d4m14n

"You mean like Ray Mears' Wild Food? Excellent idea!"

Yes, it was a good idea, one of the few from TV nowadays and look at all the money we'd save by following Ray's example.

Mon, 24 Sep 2007 08:09:00 UTC | #69612

Yorker's Avatar Comment 29 by Yorker

24. Comment #73127 by Dr Benway

From your avatar I assume you're a Turing fan, thousands of people owe their lives to the fact he was a litlle more positive than you!

Mon, 24 Sep 2007 08:15:00 UTC | #69613

Richard Morgan's Avatar Comment 30 by Richard Morgan

No Quarter

Heaven and Earth has thankfully been cancelled.
My English is far from perfect, but shouldn't that be "Heaven and Earth have been cancelled"? Like the old Beyond The Fringe joke, isn't it : "The Earth will be totally destroyed tomorrow at mid-day : tomorrow has been declared a Day of Morning."

It could be a consciousness-raising programme that encompasses much more and very interesting bits and pieces.
Oops - for regular TV programmes, the reasoning works in the opposite way : you finance a programme when consciousness has already been raised, not the other way around. RD's TV programmes were relatively successful one-offs, but the Zeitgeist was ready for them.
I found your list of topics jolly interesting, but reading those subjects would have most young people zapping directly to Disney Channel.

Mon, 24 Sep 2007 08:17:00 UTC | #69615