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← Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss: Something from Nothing, at ANU (Canberra Australia)

Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss: Something from Nothing, at ANU (Canberra Australia) - Comments

RobertJames's Avatar Comment 1 by RobertJames

So that's where my daughters shoes went

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 16:11:02 UTC | #936294

Sample's Avatar Comment 2 by Sample

This was good, I watched it just the other night after accidentally finding it. Glad to see it posted here now. They both talk a little more about the Q&A discussion with Cardinal Pell. I like this conversation format without a moderator.

There were questions from the audience at the end and after allowing many questions from a talkative, self-described Catholic, Prof. Dawkins finally asked her if she really believed that the wafer was the actual body of Jesus and she said, convincingly, no.



Sat, 21 Apr 2012 16:54:52 UTC | #936297

Thayer79's Avatar Comment 3 by Thayer79

One thing I can't get an answer from theists is how the Heaven thing even works? It isn't very logical to me, to think that you will continue to be yourself and at the same time always be happy for eternity.

What part of us is taken away, for good or for ill, in order to allow you to always be happy? I assume our negative characteristics and even many of our positive desires would have to be nixed, but then at that point. How could that be considered us, because much of what makes us, us is the whole package. Could you imagine if we found away to genetically or medicinally alter humans to ONLY behave exactly like any of the religions say we should? I assume that even the religious would flip out.

Besides you could then ask why god didn't just create us that way in the first place, but this brings up their excuse for our imperfection, that sin is a by-product of free will. Does that mean that we'll cease to have free will in Heaven or that we'll still be sinners? Even if they made the argument that our negative characteristics are tempered and as a result, while we may still feel them, we wouldn't act on them, at that point they'd be saying that we then get to spend eternity doped up.

What kind of entity would need to dope up its followers in order to keep them in check or even just to tolerate them?

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 17:08:41 UTC | #936301

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 4 by Peter Grant Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss: Something from Nothing, at ANU

Thanks! I was hoping to see this :D

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 17:20:43 UTC | #936303

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 5 by Ignorant Amos

This was went like a synopsis of my experience and commenting on this forum over the past week or so. It's great when the big guys support many of the things in ones head.

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 17:43:39 UTC | #936308

Vitalic's Avatar Comment 6 by Vitalic

Really enjoyed this, huge thanks to both Richard and Lawrence for an intriguing discussion. It really does show how much better these events are without a moderator to get in the way.

I was arguing with someone on YouTube recently about the influence of the moderator in Richard's discussion with the Archbishop, and this is what they responded to my criticism with:

Are you kidding? The moderator is a genius! Do you know how much intelligence you need to do metaphysics? It is a study consisting of pure a priori reasoning, and requires strong analytical and knowledge of the rules of logic. This is a philosophical debate buddy, leave it to the Greeks.

I think that this highlights a key problem, it is not a philosophical debate, science has superseded philosophy in the ability to answer the deep questions of the universe, and as a result anyone retreating to philosophy in order to obfuscate the emerging picture of reality as revealed by science is doing a disservice to honest debate.

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 17:47:05 UTC | #936309

Vitalic's Avatar Comment 7 by Vitalic

By the way has anyone read the comments section on the linked website? They are quite amusing, Richard is accused among other things of being an extremist and fundamentalist. I can't help but wonder if some of them are fans of Cardinal Pell who took offence to the comments made about him during the discussion.

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 17:52:19 UTC | #936312

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 8 by justinesaracen

I get soooo sick of hearing the same old hackney'd remarks:

Atheism is a religion

We get our morals from religion

Science doesn't answer the REAL questions

blah blah. I couldn't watch this to the end. I was beginning to tear my hair out.

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 17:56:26 UTC | #936313

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 9 by justinesaracen

Oh, sorry. After the discussion with L. Kraus, I switched over to the Q&A with the cardinal and was responding to that, not to the original post.

Blushes and tiptoes out of the room.

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 17:58:03 UTC | #936314

Reveille's Avatar Comment 10 by Reveille

This was such a great conversation. I loved the conversational tone that this format was able to achieve.

I must admit that i am really intrigued by the premise of Lawrence Kraus' book and am now going to purchase and read it. The argument of "who created the big bang" or "where did the original something come from" has been used against me in discussions countless times as the ultimate last stand position of a religious mindset. I hope that after i have read Kraus' book that i will be able to more aptly refute even this last argument.

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 18:06:53 UTC | #936317

foxhole atheist 14's Avatar Comment 11 by foxhole atheist 14

     I  I sometimes wonder why richard wastes his time arguing with nutters like the carnital

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 18:30:31 UTC | #936321

Tord M's Avatar Comment 12 by Tord M

Richard has often quoted Johann Hari saying:

I respect you too much to respect your ridiculous beliefs.

At about 48:42 in this video Richard modifies the Hari quote into:

I respect you too much to believe that you could possibly hold those ridiculous beliefs.

I hope Richard is going to continue to use that phrase. I think it's exactly what has to be said.

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 18:43:10 UTC | #936322

Sample's Avatar Comment 13 by Sample

Re:Comment 11 foxhole atheist 14,

Well, there are all sorts of things that people do, like playing an instrument called the sackbut in a baroque-themed pick up band, or arranging flowers in the Japanese style of ikebana where one might say, "why bother"?

As an atheist and scientist and septuagenarian such that Prof. Dawkins is, I'm sure he is keenly aware of how precious each day of life is. I am also fairly certain he engages in activities that bring him, on the whole, more pleasure than discomfort.

Stepping into the arena of world-atheist educator seems a perfectly natural transition for him in my view. I would imagine he has met tons of new friends and has had jaw-dropping experiences. Essentially, I hope he is having fun (and I suspect he is).

That his endeavors also happen to benefit millions of people is a wonderful side-effect.


Sat, 21 Apr 2012 19:12:16 UTC | #936326

Perfect Tommy's Avatar Comment 14 by Perfect Tommy

Hmm, I didn't know that the PM of Australia was an atheist. Now that's pretty good news :)

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 19:12:17 UTC | #936327

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 15 by ZenDruid

Lawrence began with the idea that religion originally served the purpose of providing a unifying set of (obsolete) explanatory stories. I would really like to hear our favorite educators expose religion as nothing more than stories, demagogues as storytellers, theologians as spin doctors, and these so-called 'sophisticated theologists', well, as 'quantum-spin' doctors (Deepak Chopra?).

I enjoyed the discussion, for the free-flowing interdisciplinary ambience that prevailed as much as anything else.

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 21:38:25 UTC | #936358

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 16 by Anaximander

Reveille: where did the original something come from?

What kind of experiment would show that something cannot come from nothing? And if that experiment has been invented, has it ever been done?

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 23:20:14 UTC | #936375

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 17 by Cook@Tahiti

Comment 14 by Perfect Tommy :

Hmm, I didn't know that the PM of Australia was an atheist. Now that's pretty good news :)

Is it? If you actually judge by POLICY, then it doesn't seem to make any difference. She doesn't believe in gay marriage and she continues to support faith schools and state-funded religious school chaplains. I can't see any area of policy where the atheism expresses itself.

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 23:20:29 UTC | #936376

chrgodskesen's Avatar Comment 18 by chrgodskesen

A great conversation.

The young catholic woman who asked several questions at about 1 hour and 5 minutes is a very interesting case, I think. For one thing she claimed that Richard would have a problem with her challenging him. From where did she get that idea? Richard correctly pointed out that she was in fact challenging him at that very moment and he had no problem with that. She gave an exasperated sigh and said "fair enough".

Then the questioner said that she disagreed with Cardinal George Pell but that that didn't mean that she thought he was a paedophile as if insinuating that Richard thought example that about Pell. Again, what gave her that impression? Richard calmly answered that neither he did suspect such a thing. And once again she gave that exasperated sigh. She almost seemed annoyed that she couldn't get Richard to be an unreasonable aggressive atheist who persecuted Catholics.

The young woman then appeared to restate her original claim that Richard would "disagree" with her challenged his theories or opinion. Here, she seemed to conflate disagreement with reacted in an intemperate way. How can she not know the difference between disagreeing and arguing a point on the one hand, and coming to verbal blows and being intolerant of other people's right to challenge, on the other?

At that point, Lawrence jumped in an made the point that no student should be afraid the challenge a professor to which the young catholic asked why Richard and Lawrence were getting upset at her questions. They weren't getting upset! I am getting a little bit upset now, but Richard and Lawrence calmly answered her questions without telling her to shut up or denigrating her in the least. Why did she attribute any kind hostility to them at that point? Unfortunately, Richard seemed downright befuddled by her statement and Lawrence probably became a bit upset and cut off the exchange saying, honestly, I believe, that he and Richard were "trying to have a discussion". It's a shame, I feel, that Richard and Lawrence didn't respond more fully to her since she seemed to wildly misunderstand their intentions.

This questioner might exemplify how incredibly threatening Richard and atheists in general and what they think he and the rest of us stand for appears to a great number of religious people. The point has been made before, many times by Richard, that you can't challenge religious belief without appear inordinately strident in the eyes and ears of the religious. Why did she attribute the accusation of paedophilia (against Cardinal Pell) and so much hostility to Richard? What kind of disinformation about atheists is going on among the religious if a person who is able to study physics at a university (as the the questioner apparently was) can make the presumptions that the young woman did? Oh well... Religiosity really is dysfunctional. A part of me thinks that Richard and Lawrence would have done well to continue the discussion with the woman in a slightly more light-hearted manner in order to dispel her notion that they were getting upset and to demonstrate that debate and disagreement is okay but only reason and evidence cut any ice. Another part of me thinks that Richard and Lawrence actually should have gotten upset at her attributions and pointed out that she was the one making stuff up about them.

How can we best break the negative preconceptions that religious people have about us and import into conversations with us in a situation like this one? I, for one, think that Richard and Lawrence didn't quite get it right in this case. They did, however, do great in the rest of the conversation.

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 23:27:21 UTC | #936378

Stig K's Avatar Comment 19 by Stig K

As much as I admire these two scientists, It’s annoying to hear them dismiss subjects like philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, social anthropology and even logic(!) so hastily and arrogantly. Their science is founded on logic and the classical falsificationist philosophy of Karl Popper (building on empiricism and the verificationism of the Vienna Circle and A.J.Ayer) whether they like it or not, so why not just acknowledge and defend that intellectual debt?

Krauss at 0.27:55 tries to give a hypothetical example of when “classical logic just doesn’t apply”: But the logic behind the syllogism with “all men are mortal” holds just as well if suddenly men are immortal. All he has done is replace one of the premises, which happens to change the conclusion. Not a good display of logic after he earlier called cardinal Pell a Neanderthal in view of his understanding of evolution.

The deeper problem with their failure to clearly define their philosophical foundation of naturalism and falsification is they (Dawkins especially) regularly and happily avoid engaging with the most serious challenges to their worldview, which Popperian falsificationism would seem to require. For example Krauss discusses whether religious thinking can be rational at 0.26:30:

1) A woman in the US drowning her children in the bathtub because Jesus told her to do so;

2) an illiterate peasant visited by an angel 2000 years ago (conveniently ignoring that the Jesus tradition, whether it started with a real person or not, relies heavily on the written Torah and imports religious and philosophical ideas from the wider Graeco-Roman area) and

3) the bizarre beliefs of Mormonism.

As presented, all these are total non-challenges to the naturalistic worldview. So Krauss is reading his religious opponents in the most unsympathetic way and basically just shooting down a strawman, when instead he could be enganging the arguments of well-known philosphers and apologists like Craig, Moreland, Plantinga and Swinburne, or science/religion accomodationists like Ruse and Ken Miller. Clearly, some more respect for logic and philosophy of science would be in order.

Dawkins and Krauss are probably fundamentally right in their worldview. But the philosophically uninformed way in which they present it makes it too easy for those sophisticated theists to dismiss them. That’s way Craig can claim victory in his debate with Krauss (by sticking much more closely to the topic, which was one on which philosophy has had more to say than science) and maybe why Dawkins has to make up all kinds of excuses to avoid Craig’s challenge.

Most of The God Delusion is squarely a work in the philosophy of religion, and Dawkins has been doing philosophy of religion in debates ever since. And still he inexplicably ignores most of that field! So you get the situation where his “Boeing 747 gambit” argument gets carried into philosophy and argued against there by both theists (i.e. Craig, Feser) and atheists (i.e. Wielenberg). And Dawkins’s response to these critiques is nowhere to be seen, because he is busy picking on easier debate opponents like cardinal Pell. And in the present conversation at 0.23:43 Dawkins gives an interesting argument against Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN), probably without being aware of it himself. Wouldn’t it have been much better to engage and try to refute an argument that sounds so silly, yet is still popular among theist philosopher?

If Dawkins would only read up a bit on the philosophy of religion, he would not just find that some of the arguments he’s been using don’t work, but also find powerful support for his non-belief from philosophers like Paul Draper, William Rowe, Michael Martin and Gregory Dawes. A lot to gain and little to lose, if you ask me.

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 02:12:13 UTC | #936397

CdnMacAtheist's Avatar Comment 20 by CdnMacAtheist

This was about the best 'reality debate' I've seen so far - despite it being upside-down.....

I love the conversation theme, and enjoy watching these great brains transmit while relaxed, yet saying so much about many interesting and important things, while not pulling any punches where truth is required. Their blunt reality of our future in this century reflects how I feel, and there is much work to do.
My internal definitions in several areas have been nicely upgraded, and I'm now feeling quite uplifted .... Thanks to you both for everything, especially since it all emerged out of nothing .... 8-)

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 04:41:19 UTC | #936409

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 21 by aquilacane

I still can't get over the fucking title.

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 04:49:05 UTC | #936410

DefenderOfReason!'s Avatar Comment 22 by DefenderOfReason!

Comment 19 by Stig K :

....sophisticated theists...

I'm sorry to be the one to tell you, but there's no such thing.

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 06:50:27 UTC | #936419

ColdThinker's Avatar Comment 23 by ColdThinker

Stig K,

May I remind you that as Richard and several other "new atheists" have pointed out for several years, this so called sophisticated theology isn't what is causing the problems blighting our societies. And it certainly isn't what the huge masses of religious people believe in. If religion only were a sophisticated philosophical argument inside the academia, there would be little need for an atheistic movement.

You can't expect Dawkins or Krauss engage in a public debate with every possible opponent. Certainly the leader of the Catholic church of Australia is a better representative of the religious world view than any obscurantist philosopher.

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 08:30:10 UTC | #936426

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 24 by Anaximander

I'm sorry to be the one to tell you, but there's no such thing.

Even if that is right (which I don't know), there could still be a sophisticated discussion about the question "is there such a thing?"

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 09:48:26 UTC | #936432

Hume's Razor's Avatar Comment 25 by Hume's Razor

If "sophisticated believers" know of any compelling arguments for God's existence that don't boil down to yet another (more awkwardly worded) version of the familiar rationalizations ("Everything that falls into subset X [where X includes everything except God] requires a cause" etc.), they are free to present them any time. However, simply accusing atheists of ignoring these supposedly "compelling" arguments without specifying what they are, is just intellectual dishonesty. Even if atheists actively seek out the best arguments sophisticated theologians have to offer and deal with every argument they have thus far come across (as for example Jerry Coyne has done), they can still be accused of not having looked into all the others. In fact, part of the definition of “sophisticated theology” seems to be that you haven’t dealt with it yet. What qualifies as “sophisticated” is only ever specified in retrospect, and by definition only includes stuff you haven’t yet looked into. The moment you look into it and expose it as even more quasi-intellectual sophistry and obscurantism, it immediately becomes another example of atheists attacking “caricatures” and shooting down “easy targets”. I like the way Greta Christina deals with the “appeal to modern theology”:

So having considered approximately 876,362 religious arguments in my life, I find myself both aggravated and amused when a believer says, “But you haven’t considered Argument #876,363! How can you be so close-minded?” And I always want to ask these people, “At what point is it okay for me to stop? […] I find this especially aggravating — and at the same time, especially amusing — since when commenters say things like, “There are lots of good modern arguments in favor of God!”, they almost never say what those arguments are.

To which one commenter replied:

If, in fact it turns out that argument#876,362 is the one that will convince you, WTF didn't the apologists put it in the top 10?

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 10:49:11 UTC | #936437

squeegee's Avatar Comment 26 by squeegee

What an enthralling chat between two extremely interesting, reasonable and agreeable experts in their field. I'm always amazed that people [like the young lady who described herself as Catholic] have issues with not only the ideas and facts that are put forth but the way in which these ideas are portrayed. The young lady seemed to be at the point of exasperation simply because Richard and Lawrence answered her in such a matter of fact, honest way. In other words, her world view was so easy to demolish and not a hint of animosity to be seen by the operators of the wrecking ball.

Thanks for posting this.

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 13:05:03 UTC | #936454

Egon Voolavon's Avatar Comment 27 by Egon Voolavon

I enjoyed that, I appreciate how hard it must be for such topics to be easily relayed to the masses.I would assume basic education and cultural conditioning of which ever religious format(generally), being the major stumbling points. It works for me anyway.

I didn't understand a lot of it, and indeed near kacked myself with Richard's heavy emphasis on "Think!", where I sat up straight, only to leap up and salute when he went on to declare "I'm proud to be Human".

The nothing thing, I didn't get, I'll get it when someone gets it and can make it easily understood. Which appears impossible presently, given the masses apply common-sense, and to ask people to get out their heads to seek truth? That's too like voodoo to me. And quite frankly I expect better from (assumed) atheists.

The traditional right wing catholic who (eventually) denounced her (church) beliefs, was funny, and I liked the sincere comments about favourite Bible text. The lad at the end asked a good (social/political) question, and the answer/s rang true. For a reason & evidence based greater good, we should not tolerate something derailing it simply as it's "tradition". Plus if that tradition is based on the ridiculous, then why not ridicule it. It's the former that naturally creates the latter. In fact it's a tradition.

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 13:58:49 UTC | #936459's Avatar Comment 28 by

People like the catholic lady surprise me. She said, she is catholic, yet she rejects one of the basic dogmas of catholicism, namely the Transubstantiation. Why is she referring to herself as catholic then?

This sounds to me like the same as if someone were saying stuff like this:

-"Yes, I'm a christian. I just dont belive in that whole Jesus/God bullshit!"

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 16:00:27 UTC | #936471

steve3000's Avatar Comment 29 by steve3000

I enjoyed the setup without a mediator, very interesting.

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 17:39:37 UTC | #936481

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 30 by Mr DArcy

Richard and Lawrence are right, science offers explanations that work. Religion offers nothing but fog, - apart from threats!

Sun, 22 Apr 2012 17:48:47 UTC | #936482