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The Richard Dawkins - Thunderf00t discussion - Comments

Cosmin's Avatar Comment 1 by Cosmin

A very nice New Year's present from RD and TF. Thanks and a kickass 2010 to all!

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 14:48:00 UTC | #427661

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 2 by justinesaracen

I only watched the first segment, but found that the interviewer took way too much time to ask the same old hackneyed questions. Poor Richard held up, as usual, and parried back each question with a well-formed non-strident answer.
I think at this point after each fallacy, myth or non-sequitur(sp?) that is thrown to him, he should simply hold up a large card with the name of the fallacy, and then a second card refuting it. It would save a lot of useless talking.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 14:54:00 UTC | #427662

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 3 by Richard Dawkins

I'm sorry to say I was so distressed by the sound quality when I heard this that I didn't persist with listening to it. The YouTube comments include some recommendations of software solutions to improving the sound quality. I haven't tried them, but maybe they help.


Sat, 02 Jan 2010 15:00:00 UTC | #427663

trapwater's Avatar Comment 4 by trapwater

@ esuther, Thunderf00t is like a disciple for non-theists on Youtube. He uploads many educational videos on science, and is a strong critic of creationists.

Please actually check out his channel. You'll really like him.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 15:11:00 UTC | #427667

JustBusiness's Avatar Comment 5 by JustBusiness

The audio is pretty hard to handle. I couldn't watch more than a minute... Good effort though.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 15:19:00 UTC | #427671

Cosmin's Avatar Comment 6 by Cosmin

@ Richard, indeed the sound quality is really poor, but your ears get used to it after a while and you can easily hear everything TF says. On the other hand, I think your voice was actually quite clear.

Anyway, I was expecting something a bit more... dynamic so to say, perhaps less emphasis on religion. I know this may sound stupid to some, but really... there was so much left untouched.

They did went on a sidetrack about the internet, and I thought that was really interesting, but sadly it was near the end.

Anyhow, like I said, a really nice present.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 15:27:00 UTC | #427674

ImAnAtheistGodDamnIt's Avatar Comment 7 by ImAnAtheistGodDamnIt

I like it, there were some ideas I haven't heard before.
Yes, the audio is pretty bad but you get used to it after a while. Richard is easier to understand than thunderf00t.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 15:28:00 UTC | #427676

RichardofYork's Avatar Comment 8 by RichardofYork

Thunderfoot has made some good youtube vids but Im afraid this one is naff the sounds terrible so I didnt get past 2 minutes

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 15:44:00 UTC | #427679

chuckg's Avatar Comment 9 by chuckg

I didn't think the audio was that bad. It may be the marginal audio, coupled with a low fidelity playback becomes less legible. I rather like the non-polished, quaint, home-made qualities of these video's, especially when the content is top notch. Contrast this with 1080p high def televangelists, being watched on many thousands of 60" widescreens across America. The fact that ThunderfOOt has not invested hugely in technology, means he undoubtedly has more money to take trips such as this. Time is on the side of us poor low-tech folks, because the cost of technology is always dropping.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 15:47:00 UTC | #427683

olegus's Avatar Comment 10 by olegus

The spread of Islam does not explain why Islam is stable by itself. TFoot had made absolutely astonishing contribution to critical thinking and education. However, when it comes to "evolutionary questions" I would like him to be more on the Richards side - group selection is a controversial mechanism, so need be careful using it for explanations.
This is of course topic for scientific publications and computer simulations, not "kitchen talks".

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 16:05:00 UTC | #427688

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 11 by InYourFaceNewYorker

This was a great discussion!

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 16:12:00 UTC | #427690

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 12 by NewEnglandBob

I was not too thrilled with this talk. There is too much speculative psychology from TF. RD often brought things back from speculation.

The last part about the internet was interesting.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 17:42:00 UTC | #427712

Ilovelucy's Avatar Comment 13 by Ilovelucy

Enjoying this so far, Richard's natural public speaking voice is still nicely audible despite the tech problems. I am, however, far more perturbed by TF's seating posture.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 17:45:00 UTC | #427714

LawyerSA's Avatar Comment 14 by LawyerSA

Great to see Richard in dialogue with youtube atheists such as Thunderf00t. These discussions can really help to promote science and reason in the anti intellectual world of youtube.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 17:46:00 UTC | #427716

Stephen of Wimbledon's Avatar Comment 15 by Stephen of Wimbledon

It's time to stop pussy footing around with the dicussion on the survival value of religion.

In Rapa Nui (so called by the Polynesian people who live there - and more often called Easter Island by Europeans, and those of European descent) we have a perfect example of a people who were so isolated from other cultures that the islanders' history offers a petri dish equivalent for anthropology.

The basis - the ultimate output - for the Rapa Nui, Polynesian, society was religious artefacts. These huge stone statues and plynths exhausted the island of larger trees, and demanded a large workforce that required slash and burn to clear more forests for agriculture. This left the soil open to erosion.

Eventually, after destroying all the trees and reducing the productive capacity of the land to subsistance levels, tne Rapanuin came up with a solution - a new religion! The so-called birdman cult.

But by then it was too late. The original religion had been so ingrained in the Rapanui that they could not stop and ask each other; Where is this going to lead? At least, one would think, when the larger trees had all been used and they could no longer build canoes to connect them back to Polynesians on other islands, or to fish, they would have stopped for a breather and taken stock.

But no, instilled in the Rapanui was the conviction that their religion was right - that it was infallible - and they carried on. How else to explain that they did, unarguably, carry on?

It is far too easy to be trite, not to say triumphalist, when one considers the archaeological and anthropological evidence of a society that failed. Nevertheless, Rapa Nui stands out as a stark lesson from history.

Religion, when it goes unchallenged, may lead a society to the appearance of success in the short term - as it must have seemed for the first three, or possibly more, generations of Polynesian settlers on Rapa Nui. But, eventually, it will lead directly to the destruction of the very society that holds that religion to its bossom.

Rapa Nui is not alone. There are other societies that have collapsed despite of their established (integrated into the society) religious convictions. Whenever I read of Rapa Nui, I am also reminded of Percy Bysshe Shelley's sonnet; Ozymandius. Ozymandiyus, in case you didn't know, is another name for the Great Pharoah of Ancient Egypt, Ramsses.

Be moved. Read the sonnet, and it's history, here:

Read more on Rapa Nui here:

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 18:35:00 UTC | #427728

j.mills's Avatar Comment 16 by j.mills


At least, one would think, when the larger trees had all been used and they could no longer build canoes to connect them back to Polynesians on other islands, or to fish, they would have stopped for a breather and taken stock.

But no, instilled in the Rapanui was the conviction that their religion was right - that it was infallible - and they carried on.
There being only archeological traces of the Rapa Nui left, I figure your comments must include speculation. Surely we can't know that the Rapa Nui never wavered in their (inferred) convictions: they may equally have come to their senses in large enough numbers, but at a time when it was too late to reverse the deforestation and erosion.

Your essential point about being doomed by religion remains unchallenged: I only question what sounds like unwarranted certainty in your account of what happened.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 19:08:00 UTC | #427736

BigJohn's Avatar Comment 17 by BigJohn

Fortunately, my audio card has software to modify the sound. I set it to full treble with loudness equalization which made the audio tolerable. I cannot give any more technical information because the software doesn't make it available.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 19:27:00 UTC | #427743

cryptographix's Avatar Comment 18 by cryptographix

I enjoyed this.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 20:21:00 UTC | #427760

TurkishAtheist's Avatar Comment 19 by TurkishAtheist

i had to stop watching otherwise my head would explode

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 20:28:00 UTC | #427763

Jeppo's Avatar Comment 20 by Jeppo

Good to see Mr Dawkins chatting amiably with Thunderf00t. Given TF's appeal on Youtube it's a shame the audio was so naff. Many will probably skip over this, but it's still good publicity.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 20:39:00 UTC | #427768

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 21 by bendigeidfran

You've all been spoilt. Sound is good enough. TF is an international star doing great work. I would listen to him through a cocoa tin on the end of a string.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 21:02:00 UTC | #427776

Hypoluxa's Avatar Comment 22 by Hypoluxa

I listened to it all, it wasn't that bad. Just the beginning one was a little off putting. But it might depend on your audio output, my speakers are fairly decent.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 21:03:00 UTC | #427777

Logicel's Avatar Comment 23 by Logicel

What really happened at Easter Island remains controversial.

At least, one would think, when the larger trees had all been used and they could no longer build canoes to connect them back to Polynesians on other islands, or to fish, they would have stopped for a breather and taken stock.

From the Wikipedia article:

The cult of the birdman (Rapanui: tangata manu) seemed largely to blame for the island's misery of the late 18th and 19th centuries. Contradicting these "legends", however, Katherine Routhledge (who systematically collected the island's traditions in her expedition in 1919) showed that according to the natives, all these conflicts and misery are precisely dated to the period after the arrival of the Europeans. Regardless, with the island's ecosystem fading, destruction of crops quickly resulted in famine, sickness and death.


In his book A Short History of Progress, Ronald Wright speculates that for a generation or so,[when?] "there was enough old lumber to haul the great stones and still keep a few canoes seaworthy for deep water". When the day came that the last boat was gone, wars broke out over "ancient planks and wormeaten bits of jetsam". But this statement is flawed since the sea going craft the islanders used were not made of wood, but of bundles of freshwater reeds planted in the Rano Kao crater which, according to Wright,...

Also there has been evidence that part of the deforestation was caused by climate change.

So I agree with j.mills that there is no reason to think what really happened is all wrapped up.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 21:15:00 UTC | #427783

GregG's Avatar Comment 24 by GregG

I think Richard Dawkins's work on animal signals may shed some light on religious ideas as phenotypic tools for deception and manipulation. If culture is an adaptive product of evolution, then certain political and religious ideas themselves may be effective manipulative signals that influence the behavior of others, for the genetic benefit of the manipulators. Likewise, we should expect mind reading mechanisms to evolve to counter the manipulative influence of certain ideas, and an arms race to ensue. Religious memes may be especially virulent because they are products of both genetic and cultural evolution towards better and better manipulative signals.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 22:18:00 UTC | #427817

Lisa Bauer's Avatar Comment 25 by Lisa Bauer

Well, stick with it (headphones may help; odd how you can hear traffic going by but have to strain to hear some of it) and it'll pay off -- I thought this was a fascinating conversation.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 22:35:00 UTC | #427825

Raiko's Avatar Comment 26 by Raiko

My poor old laptop couldn't handle the sound quality, either. It's just way too difficult to try to listen (especially because I am not so used to British English).

I am sure I'll get my chance, though. Until then: Seeing TF and RD get together for a chat is one of the nicest treats for the new year. Thank you, you two!

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 22:41:00 UTC | #427828

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 27 by God fearing Atheist

I have seen the first two parts and I'm underwhelmed.

The sound didn't help, but it was OK.

No doubt I have been spoiled by seeing too many professional presenters interview RD. TF rambled.

TF was very speculative. RD kept the lid on it.

TF speculated about "group selection". Not good in a conversation with RD of all people unless you have a huge amount of new evidence ...

TF was speculating about the "evolution of religion". I would have thought a better interviewee would have been Dan Dennett for those questions. I want to hear RD on biological evolution and new atheism.

Do parts 3 & 4 get better?

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 22:49:00 UTC | #427832

Gruff Mckenzie's Avatar Comment 28 by Gruff Mckenzie

Maybe I have a better sound card or something but the audio was not as bad as some complain about.

I found it an interesting talk between two people I admire.

I didn't see it as an interview more of a chat about things TF wanted to talk about with RD.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 23:00:00 UTC | #427838

decius's Avatar Comment 29 by decius

Comment #446481 by God fearing Atheist

Do parts 3 & 4 get better?

They don't, I was underwhelmed as well. TF looked positively stoned and unfocussed throughout.

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 23:09:00 UTC | #427843

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 30 by InYourFaceNewYorker

Richard Dawkins: I'm sorry to say I was so distressed by the sound quality when I heard this that I didn't persist with listening to it.

My guess is that this happened because of the way Thunderf00t exported the video and what compressor he used (unless his camera had dirt on the head). I wouldn't be surprised if he reuploads them in higher quality.


Sat, 02 Jan 2010 23:11:00 UTC | #427844