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Q and A - Adventures in Democracy - Comments

Mark Jones's Avatar Comment 2 by Mark Jones

Marvellous performance from Richard, in the face of quite a lot of dimwittery. The Creationist was particularly vacant - "Look.... *silence*...some people believe in one thing, and er...look...*silence*... some people believe in other things, that's my position.", summarises his contribution. Did *all* the other panellists believe in the afterlife? These people need to grow up. But the audience reaction was pretty good, on the whole.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 15:35:00 UTC | #447421

cmnw's Avatar Comment 1 by cmnw

Just wish to say thank you to Richard for your performance on qanda tonight - I so wish I had been there to back you up on the loaded panel. You give me strength to speak up about science and atheism and ti make people think outside the square. Again, my thanks.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 15:35:00 UTC | #447420

Friend Giskard's Avatar Comment 3 by Friend Giskard

Any priest worthy of the name (2:10)? What is that supposed to mean? Does it, perhaps, refer to the "true churchmen like the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Pope" which Richard has mentioned elsewhere? (

I suppose when someone talks publicly as often as Richard does, daft things are bound to slip out from time to time. I hope it was a mistake. It is worrying.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 15:50:00 UTC | #447423

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 4 by Steve Zara

Sparkling performance by Richard. I loved the bit where he was being worryingly intolerant by simply quoting from the New Testament.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 15:51:00 UTC | #447424

Friend Giskard's Avatar Comment 5 by Friend Giskard

The mp4 which I downloaded stops playing at about 8 minutes. I don't know if it's just me.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 15:56:00 UTC | #447426

georgielandy's Avatar Comment 7 by georgielandy

Oh Richard ..I almost felt ashamed to be an Australian tonight. While I expected Steve Fielding to be an embarrassment and Julie Bishop to be pushy and attempting to sound intelligent, I never expected Tony Burke to perform so poorly. These 3 politicians proved clearly that you don't need to have intellectual ability or discipline to be in the job and/or to be able to engage in reasoned argument ...!! To not have even one other 'humanist' or athiest on the panel didn't help either but it seemed that the other panelists mostly didn't even comprehend what Richard was essentially saying/arguing. The rabbi and the other guy weren't as bad but neither was really courageous enough to do anything but "fence-sitting" and trying to avoid the issues. The politicians personalised most of what Richard said and merely became defensive, especially Tony Burke. I mistakenly thought it was really just Americans who were this sad frightening for the future of this country!!

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 16:02:00 UTC | #447430

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 6 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #467408 by Friend Giskard

I noticed the same problem, so downloaded the WMV afterwards. It works fine.

I’ll critique the speakers when a transcript is available tomorrow to make it easier. I'll say now, however, that the creationist was a fascinating figure. On the one hand, he was infuriatingly evasive; on the other hand, it was nice to see a "Keep off science's turf, don't preach etc." stance being taken by a creationist for once, rather than being limited to the religious people whose beliefs are least at odds with science's findings.

They want my opinions; they can have it (on some of these questions).

Can one be a believer in God as well as a believer in the theory of evolution?
One can accept the fact of evolution on the basis of overwhelming evidence whether one believes in a god or gods or not, though believing both doesn’t work out well. At best, the latter is extraneous; at worst, religious evolutionary biologists have to misunderstand convergent evolution in order to feel at ease. (Ken Miller and Simon Conway Morris have done this quite notably.)

Do you think that a belief in the transcendent (whatever that might be, but including 'God') is important within a healthy human psychology, or do you regard it as a symptom of mental illness?
”Transcendent” is vague. In terms of believing in something unevidenced, like a god or gods, it’s a bad idea – let’s just leave it at that.

That’s a new word on me (try irreligion, researcher).

Why do you feel the need to express your views so stridently when they're not always welcome? Isn't it rather like going around to playgrounds and telling children that Santa Claus isn't real?
1. What’s so strident about saying “your beliefs are silly for reasons A, B and C, and are not similarly defensible”? We say that automatically anywhere else. 2. It’s one thing to spoil children’s fun. But what about adults believing in Santa Claus? What about them not only doing so, but also doing silly things (or calling for others to do so or to be legally required to do so or legally unable to do something OK) as a result? What about planning to get children to believe in it from now on, long into adulthood?

do you think there is any value in teaching religion in schools?
Teaching about it, yes. Teaching any of it as true, no.

Considering atheism cannot possibly have any sort of absolute morality, is it not then an irrational "leap of faith" (which atheists themselves so harshly condemn) for an atheist to decide between right and wrong, considering they have no absolute moral standard?
1. There are sources for absolute morality besides gods. 2. There can be moral facts without morality being “absolute” (at least under some of the more demanding definitions of that vague, slipper term). 3. Philosophers have considered several ways in which people can classify things as right or wrong without even meaning it in a factual sense, such as emotivism or prescriptivism. You will note these 3 points give conflicting ways to challenge this argument; there are many ways it could be wrong. Moral philosophy has no consensus yet as to which is right, but the claim the argument itself makes is pretty much rejected by all of them.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 16:02:00 UTC | #447429

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 8 by God fearing Atheist

I got to 8:11 in the quicktime download, and then it glitched. Anyone got further?

EDIT: Download the .wmv from the linked site - its fine. The QT doesn't work

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 16:05:00 UTC | #447431

TheRationalizer's Avatar Comment 9 by TheRationalizer

This video cuts off for me at about 8 minutes, is there another download somewhere?

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 16:07:00 UTC | #447432

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 10 by Chrysippus_Maximus

A better question might be: Can one's particular belief-set non-inconsistently contain both beliefs which attribute features of reality to the supernatural and beliefs about the evolution of life as a natural phenomenon on this planet?

The answer could only be yes if you took Gould's NOMA absolutely seriously and made sure that the sphere of beliefs for each category were in no way at all overlapping. I think it's logically possible to do (that is, it is possible that one's thought could conform to such strictures), but as far as whether any particular person's beliefs are that rigorously organized... I doubt it.

In fact, I doubt most people including most atheists are that organized in their beliefs. It is far more likely that people generally cherry-pick things to be consistent about (based on what they happen to care about), while ignoring the rest. At least, so far as I can tell.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 16:12:00 UTC | #447433

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 11 by Jos Gibbons

So many people asking about the MP4, so few reading my point about the WMV being fine. It's my fault for putting everything I say in a long comment.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 16:38:00 UTC | #447435

godsbelow's Avatar Comment 12 by godsbelow

Comment #467412 by georgielandy:

'I mistakenly thought it was really just Americans who were this sad frightening for the future of this country!!'

Scary, ain't it? And we have it from the lips of the evangelical Steve Fielding (whose only notable talent seems to be for equivocation) that our Prime Minister carries a bible around with him and proselytises to other politicians!

For those unfamiliar with Australian politics, the creationist is a Federal Senator from a conservative Christian party, and he has a swing vote. This is what we have to contend with here.

[edit: spelling]

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 16:40:00 UTC | #447436

archfarchnad's Avatar Comment 13 by archfarchnad

I appear to have the same problem as "Cubud." MP4 downloads but stops at about 8.05. Can anyone suggest anything?

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 16:51:00 UTC | #447437

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 14 by Jos Gibbons

Would people dissatisfied with the MP4 shut up about it and download the WMV and thus have their problem solved if I disclosed the fact that is its download link? I've no idea - let's find out!

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 16:55:00 UTC | #447438

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 15 by mordacious1

I like the fact that the panel was loaded with believers. If you want to come across as extremely bright, surround yourself with a group of idiots.

Richard did a wonderful job on this panel, too bad the last part was taken up by local politics.

[edit] Yay. Latest comments are back.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 16:58:00 UTC | #447439

ridelo's Avatar Comment 16 by ridelo

Oh, what was he strident again! Can't bear it any more. Have to plug my ears.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 17:14:00 UTC | #447441

carasing's Avatar Comment 17 by carasing

I had a problem with the download too but then I just went to the original link and it worked fine.

These panelists are silly.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 17:23:00 UTC | #447443

archfarchnad's Avatar Comment 18 by archfarchnad

Thanks "Jos Gibbons" for the WMV link. It worked like a charm.

Another fabulous performance by RD as always: shame he was surrounded by believers and believers-in-belief as this could have been something much more engaging.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 17:54:00 UTC | #447446

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 19 by God fearing Atheist

RD got taken down a peg by Tony Burke. Bugger! Shame RD didn't come back with something like "Religions have taken full advantage of having political power for 3000 years in crush dissenting ideas. Now the playing field is more level, we shall redress the balance before being nice". Ok, my phrasing is crap. I am sure RD can do better. Anyway the "I'm really just a nice cuddly Prof." didn't work with Burke.

EDIT: Burke wanted "respect" for religion. RD was mocking. However, the definition of "respect" is ( "high regard". That is the wrong word in the context. I might have a "high regard" for the idea that all people are equal under the law, but a "low regard" for a person's gullibility to religious woo-woo. I might be persuaded to "respect" the right of a person to hold whatever views they like in private, but I will never be persuaded that those views themselves should be "respected".

In general, Richard was very good. He was the most entertaining, and was playing to at least 50% of the audience who were clapping and cheering. The good natured mocking of religion worked. However, in that sparring with Burke, Burke scored one point too many. Richard needs a move to skewer "a Burke" "the next time".

I did particularly like the reply to the rabbiting rabbi and her changing definition of "god". Richard's "what does it mean?" nailed it, but I'm not sure how widely that decisive riposte will be understood. Her citing of the "theologian" who stated that "defining what we mean by god, undermines the concept", is a particularly delicious example of religious nonsense.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 17:56:00 UTC | #447447

CZEKing's Avatar Comment 20 by CZEKing

"Richard did a wonderful job on this panel, too bad the last part was taken up by local politics."
Yeah and funny part is the Q was "...I would like to hear the views of the **non-politicians** on the panel.."

Anyway.....OMG !! I feel so sorry for Richard to be in their company, I wouldnt last even 5mins and just go HULK on them...(although mordalicous' point about idiots was hilarious :D)
Btw what was the score ? Like Dawkins 15:0 Rest of panel ?

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 18:00:00 UTC | #447449

Gordicans's Avatar Comment 21 by Gordicans

As a local it was embarrising watching Tony Burke who was the worst. Richard never attacks anyone personaly, whereas Tony Burke's response was personal and moronic. And this guy is a senior minister on the front bench. Remarkable.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 18:22:00 UTC | #447452

Hossain Salahuddin's Avatar Comment 22 by Hossain Salahuddin

Tony Burke acted like an ignorant bigot. I am ashamed that he is an MP from my area. He asks for 'respect' and raises the same old question about 'Stalin-Hitler-Mao'. What respect we possibly can show to people who believe stupid things without a shred of evidence?

I think Richard did a great job. I especially liked his response to the young man at the front who asked him about 'absolute morality' and to the other guy who asked about 'atheism' being an ideology.

But, overall I am ashamed by the performance of our ignorant politicians.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 18:24:00 UTC | #447453

Aratina Cage's Avatar Comment 23 by Aratina Cage

I've only listened to the first round of responses, but wow those are some woefully ignorant people. Nothing bugs me more than the position that every belief is valid and should be respected. No! All beliefs in gods are equally delusional. I believe it will be fun seeing Richard go after these politicians as he did already to the man sitting next to him.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 18:28:00 UTC | #447454

LWS's Avatar Comment 24 by LWS

Thanks to Richard hitting the road in Australia we are learning that the nation seems a lot like Utah in that fundamentalism infuses the psyche of the general population. This is terrible and disheartening. Moving that culture forward will take some doing.

Richard you were eloquent, patient and gentle. If only more would get it.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 18:34:00 UTC | #447455

Quine's Avatar Comment 25 by Quine

I liked Richard's comment about kids growing out of Santa, but, somehow not the equivalent in religion. I wish there would have been just a little more time after Richard commented about the brain decay with death so he could ask everyone what, exactly, they thought they were going to be for all eternity without any memories of themselves or their lives or family? People decry the loss when their parents don't remember them because of Alzheimer's, that is only a partial brain decay, death takes it all.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 18:37:00 UTC | #447457

odalvarado's Avatar Comment 26 by odalvarado

Even though I don't agree with many of the speakers, Mr. Dawkins excluded, I find it admirable that you could have a show like this with thoughtful debate. A show like this could not exist in the US. I am embarrassed about my country sometimes.

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 18:38:00 UTC | #447459

SteveN's Avatar Comment 27 by SteveN

Great performance by Richard! I was once again struck by the contrast between the clarity of Richard's straightforward and honest replies and those of the weasly politicians.

If it hasn't been suggested already, I would like to propose that the Richard's direct question (as to whether one believes the Earth to be only 10,000 years old or not) be named the 'Politician's Dilemma'. The creationist politician almost visibly squirmed while avoiding saying something that would either make him a laughing-stock or alienate his creationist supporters. Very entertaining (I do despise (most) politicians so very, very much).

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 18:44:00 UTC | #447460

Harps's Avatar Comment 28 by Harps

For the first few minutes I really thought this was satire!

Great performance Prof!

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 18:56:00 UTC | #447463

CZEKing's Avatar Comment 29 by CZEKing

It might not be equivalent but it wasnt Richard who made that comment (about Santa vs religion) in first place.

Edit: but is it rly not equivalent ? Wouldnt you try to talk adults out of belief in Santa Clause ? (if they failed to learn the truth ?)

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 19:00:00 UTC | #447464

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 30 by crookedshoes

I am murderous because evidently SANTA CLAUS is not real. Anyone who is similarly disenfranchised by this revelation, I am calling for us to band together and fight for the existence of that Jolly Old St Nick. Who ever heard of such strident bosh??? No Santa? No Santa? Dammit someone's paying for this.

Kidding aside, why does only one panelist make any fucking sense? Every other moment of that presentation was waffling apologist horsecrap. The family first idiot simply didn't want to commit to anything and the politicians were clearly trying to assuage as many voters as possible. The Australian "man of the year" actually said a few useful things but they seemed to be said in order to get out of the way of the real question. EVADE EVADE EVADE EVADE>>>>

Mon, 08 Mar 2010 19:03:00 UTC | #447465