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Richard Dawkins on The Big Debate - Comments

NAIANF87's Avatar Comment 1 by NAIANF87

Dawkins is the man, as always.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 14:33:00 UTC | #112178

Matt H.'s Avatar Comment 2 by Matt H.

I remember this being advertised, but I was out that evening. Thanks for the heads up.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 14:44:00 UTC | #112184

maton100's Avatar Comment 3 by maton100

Keep it going, goddamnit!

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 14:50:00 UTC | #112188

xdrive's Avatar Comment 4 by xdrive

Video isn't working for me.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 15:11:00 UTC | #112192

atheist1981's Avatar Comment 5 by atheist1981

Anyone going to upload to YouTube?

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 15:15:00 UTC | #112196

Lhowon's Avatar Comment 6 by Lhowon

Not working for me either... YouTube would be appreciated!

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 15:19:00 UTC | #112198

Skepsis's Avatar Comment 7 by Skepsis

I might be wrong, but i think this has been on youtube before.

Here is a link for the playlist:
The Big Questions - BBC Live Debate

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 15:30:00 UTC | #112199

Dr Technical's Avatar Comment 8 by Dr Technical

Yep broken download link I am afraid.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 15:33:00 UTC | #112200

Matt H.'s Avatar Comment 9 by Matt H.

I might be wrong, but i think this has been on youtube before.
Here is a link for the playlist:

The Big Questions - BBC Live Debate


Nope this is something different, but it still has Dawkins in it so thank you for the link

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 15:34:00 UTC | #112201

Morro's Avatar Comment 10 by Morro

MAN! When Dawkins kept asking over and over "what is the penalty for apostasy? What do you teach the children will happen if they leave the Muslim faith?" and the guy repeatedly would NOT answer... wow. I'm ususally not the biggest fan of Dawkins in these sorts of debates because I think his voice and delivery come off a little poorly when he gets riled, but this is one case where he just OWNED. That was just a slaughter.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 15:39:00 UTC | #112202

Bill Pugsley's Avatar Comment 12 by Bill Pugsley

Try this:

http://www.teachers.tv/video/24057

And also, did anyone see Bush's national address a day or two ago? I turned on C-Span for 2 minutes, long enough to hear him tell America he wants to pour money into faith based schools to "help children that are in failing public schools". Now far be it for to comment on American policy, but wouldn't it be a better idea to fix the problems in public schools? I mean, that's admitting defeat that their government doesn't care about the school system they are in charge of running. Pass off the problem and a bundle of money to faith based schools.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 15:46:00 UTC | #112205

fischercat's Avatar Comment 11 by fischercat

I love how Richard stuck to the question of apostasy -and finally got the answer he was looking for.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 15:46:00 UTC | #112204

ricey's Avatar Comment 13 by ricey

For those that don't know, Nicky Campbell is an attention-seeking wanker [sic] who's parents (hopefully) didn't love him. And an arsehole who thinks the camaras are put there specially for him.

He is tiresome, repetative, pretentious and unaware of all of the above - an ideal candidtate for BBC internal promotion (a la Jonathan Woss).

Dawkins should not have appeared with this set of clowns; compered by this "look at me" ringmaster, tosser and self-publicist who thinks he knows but dosn't - Nicky Campbell (pronounced "wanker")

As a reluctant BBC licence payer I demand better - and anything would be better.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 16:51:00 UTC | #112214

Matt H.'s Avatar Comment 14 by Matt H.

Ricey: Surely that comment is best suited for the other comment thread for 'The Big Questions'. That was the programme Nicky Campbell was presenting.

I'm about half-way through 'The Big Debate' right now and it is somewhat different. There are some interesting points being made, especially by the Humanist representative who in my view hits the nail directly on the head when it comes to religious education in schools.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 17:47:00 UTC | #112234

IaninPA's Avatar Comment 15 by IaninPA

Ricey,

What the hell are you talking about? The host was Jonathan Dimbleby.

Me thinks you just made a wanker out of yourself mate.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 17:50:00 UTC | #112235

Labyrinthos's Avatar Comment 16 by Labyrinthos

I thought the host was brilliant. Is it just me or are British hosts vastly superior in professionalism and intellect to their American counterparts?

Notice faith-school supporters were repeatedly backed into a corner where they had to redefine, avoid the question, attempt a diversion and finally throughly murky the waters with wishy-washy pseudo poetic nonsense.

Richard Dawkins' points were clear and rational. The opposition hardly had a point at all. The muslim chap was especially sinister; I could almost feel his anger as he was being exposed as the power-hungry addict to a random brand of insanity that he really is.

Why does the bishop even bother with the faith? He seemed rather useless in the debate as he would hold no particular view at all on any issue, always being careful to leave a way out or a different interpretation should he ever be required to justify his position.

This was one of the rarer occasions where Richard Dawkins was not alone on the side of rationality in a debate. I found that very refreshing.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 18:23:00 UTC | #112242

MPhil's Avatar Comment 17 by MPhil

I agree, - quite well moderated. From what I know (I'm quite an anglophile and "americophile", though more out of interest than identification :) I'd say yes, there's little of that in the US, but sadly, there's as far as I know nothing quite like that in Germany. Some formats are quite well, but there's usually not much discipline among the participants of the discussion, even if and when they're politicians, professors, scholars etc... they will interrupt each other, raise their voices etc.... it's sad.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 18:31:00 UTC | #112248

Foth's Avatar Comment 18 by Foth

I liked the Hindu guy

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 18:59:00 UTC | #112253

cerbera's Avatar Comment 19 by cerbera

I wished the debate had been longer, as we usually do, I imagine, but RD's contribution was efficient, effective and well-delivered as ever...

Shame they didn't dwell on the apostasy angle a bit more - I would have been interested in the answers given by the Muslim representatives if Richard had been allowed to press them on the differences, if any, between what is taught to children about apostasy in the UK, and in Muslim countries...

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 19:02:00 UTC | #112256

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 20 by Enlightenme..

"Why does the bishop even bother with the faith? He seemed rather useless"

No, I disagree, he was very useful.
In seeming to be so harmless,.. so,. Christian, he allows the general populace to be reassured.
You only started to see his true colours when challenged by the rabbi about the sectarianism this road will lead to now that we can't deny other faiths the same ridiculous entitlements we've allowed the CofE to retain.

I was impressed by the Iranian-born woman, she's got more courage than I could ever have, and called that bloody Mufti on his weasel 'ignorance and prejudice' defence,
And the way he dismissed her was unbelievable - saying she was 'muddling issues' and asking did the father who killed his daughter go to a muslim school?

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 19:05:00 UTC | #112258

82abhilash's Avatar Comment 21 by 82abhilash

I too liked the Hindu guy. He made a reasonable, sensible point without playing in the faith card.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 19:07:00 UTC | #112259

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 23 by Enlightenme..

Oh yes, I forgot..

Sir Richard Dawkins!!
..and well done to Dimbleby for agreeing that it ought to be by now.

Oops..please excuse my use of the ought word ;)

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 19:22:00 UTC | #112261

prometheusMed's Avatar Comment 22 by prometheusMed

Watch at about 44 min how Dr. Mukadam almost loses control when a women, who he considers an apostate, openly responds to his criticism. Watch his facial expression and body language. For a moment he begins to twitch. Half a minute later he displays his complete disrepect by talking over the speaker at the podium. This type of attitude is a sad tragedy that is becomming more common today.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 19:22:00 UTC | #112260

MelM's Avatar Comment 24 by MelM

News: According to CNN, with 80% of the Florida precincts reporting, Huckabee has only 14%. I'll feel better this evening anyway.

Secularist opportunity
Well, secularists really did have quite a lot of time to speak--I don't believe such views would be represented nearly so well in the U.S. in a similar format.

Christian Nation
I noted the "Christian Nation" ploy being used which is a favorite trick in the U.S. where it's used to equivocate between being demographically Christian and being politically Christian despite the fact that our founders could have easily built (having plenty of examples) some form of theocracy, but clearly did not. The "Christian Nation" propaganda is responsible for House Resolution 888 which we've already seen on this forum.

Indoctrination
Somehow, the religious students didn't believe they were being indoctrinated. I don't believe this for even one second.

Point for Dawkins
Getting the Muslim guy to inform everyone what the penalty for apostasy is in Muslim countries was certainly a score for Dawkins. Hip Hip Hooray!


"Our beliefs." "Our beliefs." "Faith." "Faith." "Faith."..........disgusting!

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 19:52:00 UTC | #112268

Styrer-'s Avatar Comment 25 by Styrer-

Hats off to Jonathan Dimbleby.

In my numerous viewings of him, there is no debate to which he cannot bring the most profound intellectual inquiry, the most probingly incisive questioning and the most expert handling of both guest and audience.

Far better than his bruv, by the way.

Sadly, his abilities stand in stark contrast to the Professor's own rather dubious handling of his own appearance here. Jonathan made more of the points we would have expected Richard to make than the Professor was able to make himself.

Richard's continuous utterance of a very good point (religious labelling of children is child abuse) came across as an idee fixe, when there were bigger fish to fry at the time. Richard let that bastard Bishop of Bath and Wells off with nary a nay-say. Richard's 'sit back and wait' policy gave no assistance whatsoever to a nearly-convinced Sheerman. His attention to that poor child of religious conversion to Islam was diverted, immediately and incomprehensibly, away from her own person to that dreadful Mukadam, in order that a repeated question about apostasy be answered. Well done, sir, for finally getting the answer - but did its answering serve you well here? No.

That the Professor did not from the outset state the inherent problem of faith got him off to a bad start.

In this one, he never recovered. Poor show.

But there's always the next time. The Professor is, after all, the best I can cling to.

Best,
Styrer

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 20:12:00 UTC | #112271

MelM's Avatar Comment 26 by MelM

Does this appearance by Dawkins mean that he's achieved the status of being the "go-to" guy when the UK media needs a representative of the secular point of view?

The woman from Iran deserves a lot of credit--a lot of credit.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 20:56:00 UTC | #112278

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 28 by Cartomancer

Ugh! Nobody seems to have made the crucial point about the whole gay rights / women's rights / abortion issue.

The religious apologists seem quite content with their position: "well we teach our faith's views on gay rights / abortion / the treatment of women, and we also teach the views of all the other faiths on the same matter. Then we have a big debate and the children can decide for themselves which view they subscribe to". I shall assume, charitably, that this statement implicitly includes teaching about rational, secular, scientific, non-religious views (though in reality I have severe doubts about that). Given this, what is so wrong with letting the children have their debate and decided for themselves what to believe?

It's precisely the same as Professor Dawkins's argument as to why creationism should not be taught in school science classes. Creationism is not a valid part of science. Likewise, religious dogma is not a valid part of moral and ethical inquiry. What this approach is actually doing is setting up irrational, superstitious and unevidenced religious views as both valid standpoints to take and equally worthy of consideration alongside proper, secular, discussions of morality. This is bound to skew the subsequent "debate", and is of a particularly sinister character given a) the sensitivity of the issues involved, b) the fact that, implicitly, a faith school will be promoting one of the invalid viewpoints as its preferred communal viewpoint, and c) the rational debating skills of most children are not especially sophisticated. To the last objection it might be put that school is precisely about developing sophisticated debating skills, which is true, but it is still grossly unfair to sharpen these developing skills on the important issues they are to be used to fathom. Surely they should be let loose to make up their own minds once they have learned how to look at the evidence properly, rather than confused by muddying up the issue while their analytic toolkit is still incomplete, and bits of half-remembered poor argument can make a huge impact?

What does this look like in practice? Well, let's take gay rights, an issue close to my heart, and see how this method would teach it. A class of impressionable sixteen year olds in a Catholic school is told

"Right then, well, Catholics beleive that homosexual acts are sinful, objectively disordered and against nature. Some think they might be punished by eternal torment, others are more moderate and just think they should be avoided for the common good. Other Christian sects are broadly similar, though with a few liberal ones seeing no problems in it at all. Muslims all believe it is grossly sinful and punishable by death. Jews think it is an abomination. Eastern religions are divided, with as many tolerant of it as there are which shun it. Oh, and modern secular humanism says it's fine, natural, normal and nothing to worry about.

Right children, those are the positions you could take, which one appeals to you? Bear in mind that if you don't like a religion's stance then you have to go some way to abandoning that religion (and of course you have all been told that you are catholics in a catholic school, so implicitly you really are supposed to pick that one)."

What message is this sending out to people? Nothing less than the message that there are valid arguments for considering homosexuality wrong, that homophobic attitudes are perfectly justified by religious faith, that choosing to be a homophobic bigot is OK, and even implicitly supported by an institution of which you are, even though you have not chosen it, a part. It is nothing less than the state-sanctioned promulgation of homophobic attitudes.

What a burden to place on the shoulders of a confused gay sixteen year old! All his heterosexual counterparts won't have this problem. Nobody is saying to them "well, a load of people on this planet, and we technically count you among their number, think that your natural biological urges are wrong and abhorrent, and those people are deserving of respect for this". Even if nobody tells the boy outright that what he feels is wrong, the mere suggestion that it might be, and the assertion that the issue is still up for debate, will do tremendous damage to his confidence. Subtle suggestions and unseen biases are powerful, very powerful - unspoken claims of parity really are taken very seriously by children of all ages. This happened to me when I was this age, and I didn't even go to a faith school - I shudder to think what that kind of implicit labelling must do to exacerbate the problem.

What he really needs at this vulnerable stage in his life is reassurance that what he feels is normal and perfectly fine. Yes, he can engage in the study of comparative religion and learn that there are noisome, bigoted people out there who think differently to the way he does, but he must do so from a position of confidence in himself just as his peers do. Making this sort of debate over what is actually a rather minor point in the history of ideas into the cornerstone of modern ethical teaching runs entirely counter to the secular, liberal, inclusive values of British society. It is actively harmful and destroys the confidence of affected minority groups. It is standing up for the right of minority groups (e.g. catholics and muslims) to make the minorities within them (e.g. homosexuals and women) feel oppressed, worthless and discriminated against. It is state-sanctioned psychological torture in the truest sense.

So HOW DARE these people stand up and say that their faith school ethics lessons are fair, balanced and helpful. They are an utter disgrace to the educational profession and those who teach in this way should feel utterly ashamed. What we need is a standardised, compulsory modern ethics curriculum that focuses on tolerance, fairness, inclusivity and building up the confidence of vulnerable people in our society - a curriculum that admits not one whiff of religious input and is entirely secular in character. This curriculum should be taught in all schools, irrespective of location, constituency or funding staus. Faith schools should be banned utterly.

Schools are vital to the propagation of communal values in modern society, especially given the corrective they provide to indoctrination at home. There really is no more important issue to our society than this.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 21:46:00 UTC | #112288

shaxanth27's Avatar Comment 27 by shaxanth27

Richard's continuous utterance of a very good point (religious labelling of children is child abuse) came across as an idee fixe, when there were bigger fish to fry at the time


I thought the professor was right to keep on the point with the way it was being swept off as somehow being just another thought to barely give any time to. How is the religious labeling of children (and the government taking a complicit role in it) not central to faith-based schools? They're not talking faith-based universities here.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 21:46:00 UTC | #112287

MPhil's Avatar Comment 29 by MPhil

Cartomancer,

I don't suppose you are saying that a priori, there can never be even somewhat considerable arguments against homosexuality or abortion?

Mind you, I have absolutely no problem with either abortion(before there's a developed neuronal system) or homosexuality... nor with atheism... but I don't exclude the possibility that there may be valid arguments against those positions which I myself take.

Still, I have never heard any conclusive arguments against equal rights and treatment of homosexuals or against legal abortion (with the qualification pointed out above)... and I do agree with your other points, especially about the religious pressure exerted on these children.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 22:01:00 UTC | #112289

Styrer-'s Avatar Comment 30 by Styrer-

Ugh! Nobody seems to have made the crucial point about the whole gay rights / women's rights / abortion issue.

The religious apologists seem quite content with their position: "well we teach our faith's views on gay rights / abortion / the treatment of women, and we also teach the views of all the other faiths on the same matter. Then we have a big debate and the children can decide for themselves which view they subscribe to". I shall assume, charitably, that this statement implicitly includes teaching about rational, secular, scientific, non-religious views (though in reality I have severe doubts about that). Given this, what is so wrong with letting the children have their debate and decided for themselves what to believe?

It's precisely the same as Professor Dawkins's argument as to why creationism should not be taught in school science classes. Creationism is not a valid part of science. Likewise, religious dogma is not a valid part of moral and ethical inquiry. What this approach is actually doing is setting up irrational, superstitious and unevidenced religious views as both valid standpoints to take and equally worthy of consideration alongside proper, secular, discussions of morality. This is bound to skew the subsequent "debate", and is of a particularly sinister character given a) the sensitivity of the issues involved, b) the fact that, implicitly, a faith school will be promoting one of the invalid viewpoints as its preferred communal viewpoint, and c) the rational debating skills of most children are not especially sophisticated. To the last objection it might be put that school is precisely about developing sophisticated debating skills, which is true, but it is still grossly unfair to sharpen these developing skills on the important issues they are to be used to fathom. Surely they should be let loose to make up their own minds once they have learned how to look at the evidence properly, rather than confused by muddying up the issue while their analytic toolkit is still incomplete, and bits of half-remembered poor argument can make a huge impact?

What does this look like in practice? Well, let's take gay rights, an issue close to my heart, and see how this method would teach it. A class of impressionable sixteen year olds in a Catholic school is told

"Right then, well, Catholics beleive that homosexual acts are sinful, objectively disordered and against nature. Some think they might be punished by eternal torment, others are more moderate and just think they should be avoided for the common good. Other Christian sects are broadly similar, though with a few liberal ones seeing no problems in it at all. Muslims all believe it is grossly sinful and punishable by death. Jews think it is an abomination. Eastern religions are divided, with as many tolerant of it as there are which shun it. Oh, and modern secular humanism says it's fine, natural, normal and nothing to worry about.

Right children, those are the positions you could take, which one appeals to you? Bear in mind that if you don't like a religion's stance then you have to go some way to abandoning that religion (and of course you have all been told that you are catholics in a catholic school, so implicitly you really are supposed to pick that one)."

What message is this sending out to people? Nothing less than the message that there are valid arguments for considering homosexuality wrong, that homophobic attitudes are perfectly justified by religious faith, that choosing to be a homophobic bigot is OK, and even implicitly supported by an institution of which you are, even though you have not chosen it, a part. It is nothing less than the state-sanctioned promulgation of homophobic attitudes.

What a burden to place on the shoulders of a confused gay sixteen year old! All his heterosexual counterparts won't have this problem. Nobody is saying to them "well, a load of people on this planet, and we technically count you among their number, think that your natural biological urges are wrong and abhorrent, and those people are deserving of respect for this". Even if nobody tells the boy outright that what he feels is wrong, the mere suggestion that it might be, and the assertion that the issue is still up for debate, will do tremendous damage to his confidence. Subtle suggestions and unseen biases are powerful, very powerful - unspoken claims of parity really are taken very seriously by children of all ages. This happened to me when I was this age, and I didn't even go to a faith school - I shudder to think what that kind of implicit labelling must do to exacerbate the problem.

What he really needs at this vulnerable stage in his life is reassurance that what he feels is normal and perfectly fine. Yes, he can engage in the study of comparative religion and learn that there are noisome, bigoted people out there who think differently to the way he does, but he must do so from a position of confidence in himself just as his peers do. Making this sort of debate over what is actually a rather minor point in the history of ideas into the cornerstone of modern ethical teaching runs entirely counter to the secular, liberal, inclusive values of British society. It is actively harmful and destroys the confidence of affected minority groups. It is standing up for the right of minority groups (e.g. catholics and muslims) to make the minorities within them (e.g. homosexuals and women) feel oppressed, worthless and discriminated against. It is state-sanctioned psychological torture in the truest sense.

So HOW DARE these people stand up and say that their faith school ethics lessons are fair, balanced and helpful. They are an utter disgrace to the educational profession and those who teach in this way should feel utterly ashamed. What we need is a standardised, compulsory modern ethics curriculum that focusses on tolerance, fairness, inclusiveness and building up the confidence of vulnerable people in our society - a curriculum that admits not one whiff of religious input and is entirely secular in character. This curriculum should be taught in all schools, irrespective of location, constituency or funding staus. Faith schools should be banned utterly.

Schools are vital to the propagation of communal values in modern society, especially given the corrective they provide to indoctrination at home. There really is no more important issue to our society than this.


Daunting.

Concision, sir. Please.

Best,
Styrer

Tue, 29 Jan 2008 22:02:00 UTC | #112290