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William Crawley meets Richard Dawkins - Comments

JackR's Avatar Comment 1 by JackR

Okay, that was pretty good. Crawley is pretty good. Because he asks the questions believers typically want to ask, but gives Richard a full chance to answer.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 17:54:00 UTC | #21123

The Science Pundit's Avatar Comment 2 by The Science Pundit

Crawley really tried to go after him with tough questions. I just love the way RD had an answer for everything. I know I couldn't do that.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 17:55:00 UTC | #21124

MIND_REBEL's Avatar Comment 3 by MIND_REBEL

Amazing as always. The world is a meme infested mess. Prof Dawkins is one of only handful of real scientists, that are brave enough to stand up to the evil grip that religion holds over our collective minds.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 17:56:00 UTC | #21125

HappyPrimate's Avatar Comment 4 by HappyPrimate

Dr. Dawkins did a great job as usual in this interview which was very grueling. Under fire Dr. Dawkins is so calm and articulate. I really admire him for the way he handles himself in these interviews.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 18:04:00 UTC | #21128

philos's Avatar Comment 5 by philos

Excellent interview - good ending!

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 18:08:00 UTC | #21129

Pastafarian's Avatar Comment 6 by Pastafarian

If only television in America had the testicular fortitude to devote so much time to Professor Dawkins, or Sam Harris, in such a civilized forum. We Americans are so afraid of having our happy fantasies challenged in even the slightest way that a show like this would be impossible to air today. It is that aversion to honest debate that leads so many believers to think of Professor Dawkins as an arrogant, malicious attacker of their faith. They are very unlikely to ever read any of his books, or listen to him speak, and so will likely never develop a true sense of the message he is trying to convey. Yes, the message is a tough pill to swallow, but critics who attack the messenger both ignore and confirm Dawkins' point simultaneously.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 18:43:00 UTC | #21132

topherclay's Avatar Comment 7 by topherclay

I really liked the ending also. It was as if Crawley heard what RD said about belief and responded, "Awww alright, I guess you're correct we're done here."

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 18:47:00 UTC | #21133

Janus's Avatar Comment 8 by Janus

I couldn't watch past the first minute. I'm sorry, but to say that labelling children is child abuse is such complete nonsense. What harm does mere _labelling_ do?

It can be said that teaching certain religious beliefs to children is child abuse (Hell, for instance), and there are beliefs that will foster divisiveness when these children grow up (the doctrine that your scripture, or your interpretation of scripture is the only true one, for example). But it's the actual beliefs that do harm, not the labelling. Why does Professor Dawkins keep insisting on the labelling? It's one of his weakest arguments.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 18:52:00 UTC | #21134

davyB's Avatar Comment 9 by davyB

I think Dawkins misses a point about the reasons people Believe with a capital B. Before the advent of monotheism and the Big Three, religion was just bad science. After, it was a way for the powers that be to control and manipulate the masses.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 18:52:00 UTC | #21135

bornabaptist's Avatar Comment 10 by bornabaptist

Dr. Dawkins was calm and articulate as usual. Great job! I just finished reading; On Truth, by Harry G. Frankfurt. It is a little book (1 hour read) that discusses the value and importance of truth. Dr. Dawkins usually has the chance to mention he cares about what is true during his interviews. This book may help us all explain the importance of truth, when called upon to do so. On Bullshit, by the same author is worthwhile, and thankfully, short.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 18:53:00 UTC | #21136

Yorker's Avatar Comment 11 by Yorker

I listened to, rather that watched that show while I was doing a little coding, suddenly I became aware that I was putting words in Dawkins mouth, or so it seemed. I was answering each question slightly before or at the same time as Richard did, as if by magic, we were saying almost exactly the same words!

Of course it wasn't magic, simply that I'd heard Richard answer what are often the same questions again and again, so I knew what he was going to say. The questions get re-phrased, but basically most interviewers ask the same stuff, I think the Prof. must have it all down pat by now but still I admire him for not yawning or showing other signs of boredom. This interviewer was above average though.

I guess I'm not alone and others have had similar experience so if Richard ever needs a stand-in, there will be plenty to choose from!

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 19:08:00 UTC | #21137

Janus's Avatar Comment 12 by Janus

Okay, I watched it all, and I have to say that that last line, "What's so special about belief?" was bloody brilliant. I still love you, Professor! :D

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 19:22:00 UTC | #21138

charlesj's Avatar Comment 13 by charlesj

Loved the ending as well. However, one part made me really uncomfortable, and that was talking about the basis for science itself.

I completely agree that it works. What bothers me is at the most fundamental level, the interviewer had a point. It's a sort of circular logical reasoning to say, 'well, because science works we don't question the most fundamental basis of it.'

That's a perfectly good enough answer for me. The thing I'm finding is that when presented such a front in a debate, it's never accepted, and in one sense puts science on the same level of religion.

It's about that time I try to move the debate back towards the details of religion, and how demonstrably absurd they are.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 19:30:00 UTC | #21139

Yorker's Avatar Comment 14 by Yorker

8. Comment #23312 by Janus

You're not the first to ask that question.

The problem lies not with the label, but with the effect the labelling has. Dawkins has often used the Northern Ireland conflict as an example of how calling some kids Catholic and others Protestant, serves to perpetuate the sectarian divisiveness. I used to live in a part of Scotland where divisions like this held sway, I came across a few kids who had been told by parents not to play with such and such because he/she was a Catholic/Protestant.

Young children are natural atheists, they don't give a shit about religion and play with each other for fun. But the label serves its evil purpose, the child accepts that anyone not of his/her label is bad and should be at least avoided and if necessary, attacked. No labels would mean one less excuse for religious violence.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 19:32:00 UTC | #21140

DistrictSelectman's Avatar Comment 15 by DistrictSelectman

I, too, was put off by the claim that labeling children is child abuse, not the teaching. As I recall, Dawkins has stated it the other way around in the past, i.e., teaching children to fear hell is child abuse, while labeling them is merely nonsensical. After all, it is hardly abuse to call a child a capitalist or an existentialist if the kid doesn't know what those terms mean.

I think this line of argument has to proceed on a case-by-case basis. Some kids probably are fairly disturbed by threats of hell, but most are more curious if their doggy will meet them in heaven. It detracts from the force of Dawkins's argument to lump the latter in with the former.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 19:40:00 UTC | #21142

Yorker's Avatar Comment 16 by Yorker

13. Comment #23317 by charlesj

I understand your worry here Charles, but it's not really a problem once you accept the fact that at its root, everything is indeterminate, we can't be absolutely sure of anything. So it's OK and not circular to say that in the real world as we experience it, science works and religion doesn't. Science for example, can make predictions that with almost complete certainty, will come true; religion can not, has not and will not, ever predict anything with any better success than pure chance.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 19:47:00 UTC | #21143

Conrad's Avatar Comment 17 by Conrad

The idea that science lies on the same philosphical assumption quicksand as claims to religion, while true in the most technical philosophpical sense, rings hollow when we remember that that very claim itself is also based on logic. And logic itself victim to it's own logic. If we can't make assumptions at some level and recogonize that there are simply some brute facts, then nothing makes any sense at all.

What Dawkins was getting at in his answer that everyday life too, is open to the same counter arguments, is that we don't accept such silly philosophy in real life. The reason why happens to be because we EXPERIENCE the fruits of "common sense" and science. It's where logic connects to what actually is going on. I may be assuming such and such is true in order to make sense out of the real world, but the test of that assumption is going to be how my beliefs hold against expereincing the real world. It's experience that matters. And it's where claiming that science and religion are on par fails. The simple answer is that while they may both begin with an assumption, this one pans out, the other does not.

Arguments like that are what happens when philosophers don't get out enough. Simply because something makes sense logically outside of experience does not mean it is true. Otherwise Aristotle would have been right about objects twice as heavy, falling twice as fast.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 19:51:00 UTC | #21144

k1mgy's Avatar Comment 18 by k1mgy

"I was a good man.. I was honest.. I was kind. Isn't that more important than belief?"

Professor Dawkins was coupled with a great interviewer who brought out the very best.

I'm glad I was able to see this. Dawkins' final words brought some mist to my eyes.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 19:57:00 UTC | #21145

LDmiller's Avatar Comment 19 by LDmiller

I agree with what was said about Crawley posing some of the better questions to RD that I have heard, and giving the professor decent chance to respond within the time constraints of a half hour program.

One of the things that I find baffling about those who say "I live by Science" is that many (particularly non-scientists) do not seem to realize how much of the rock-bottom tenets of science are axioms, which are pretty equivalent to "dogma". I thought RD ducked on that, as he and the others (Harris, Dennett) always do. Science as a method offers a correction mechanism if applied honestly, but our present understanding isn't nearly complete enough to justify some of these gentlemen's statements without further discussion.

For example, the "multiverse" view hasn't a shred of evidence to support it, but if it is true, it might even give a place for a "designer god" to live outside of our universe, a frequent argument used by RD. A parallel universe could be much older and much more complex than ours. This kind of blows away much of RD's arguments.

RD has often said that if the universe were designed by a god "it would look much different", but he never elaborates on that. Sam Harris does the same thing on many occasions for many statements. "Because I say so" seems to be an adequate reason to both of these gentlemen.

One could understand that under pressure of time we have to accept such statements without much examination, but at some point it is time to start getting into finer detail on what seem to be unsubstantiated claims. Maybe another book opportunity, but I wish some of the interviewers would follow up more.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 20:01:00 UTC | #21146

DistrictSelectman's Avatar Comment 20 by DistrictSelectman

That had to be the most challenging and fair interview of Dawkins to date. And I think Dawkins got a little off message because Crawley didn't give him the same prompts that the other hacks consistently lob at him. In particular, I think Dawkins did an inadequate job of explaining why he is on this particular crusade. It appeared to me that Crawley cowed him into backing off, e.g., the use of the word "delusion."

A good number of religious people are delusional. Many more may be merely superstitious or metaphysically romantic, but their reliance on faith insulates the delusional and corrupts pragmatic policy. One way of straightening this mess out is to delegitimize dogmatic faith. That's the argument, but Dawkins got off that message early and he never, to my mind, got back on the rails. Still, that last line was pretty sharp!

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 20:26:00 UTC | #21147

VoxMoose's Avatar Comment 21 by VoxMoose

While I think Crawley's point about questioning the underlying assumptions associated with the scientific process is philosophically interesting, it is ironic that the very process of inquiring about them in that piercing manner is, in fact, an implementation of the very process he is questioning.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 21:03:00 UTC | #21148

CDG's Avatar Comment 22 by CDG

Richard says: "Well tough, your life is worthless, so what?"

I love that. The arrogance of people to think they are so special as to deserve an eternity of bliss is comical. You are only a homo sapien, get over it.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 21:44:00 UTC | #21150

chauvinj's Avatar Comment 23 by chauvinj

Labelling propels belief in some cases. For instance, a child being told he or she is fat over and over again, may later develop the belief that it must be true. From this belief, the child may grow to foster psychological disorders (e.g., Anorexia Nervosa). Although I admit this is a very crude example, it does serve a purpose. While it may be harsh to say that calling a child "Catholic" or "Muslim" is child abuse, there is certainly cases where labelling does profound psychological damage.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 22:29:00 UTC | #21151

mmurray's Avatar Comment 24 by mmurray

While I agree with the line

"The reason why happens to be because we EXPERIENCE the fruits of "common sense" and science. I"

Won't some religious people say they experience the love of god on a daily basis.


Tue, 27 Feb 2007 22:48:00 UTC | #21152

Kimpatsu's Avatar Comment 25 by Kimpatsu

Michael, they may say it, but it won't be true. I can share my car (a fruit of science) with you, but you cannot possibly share your internal thought processes with me.

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 23:32:00 UTC | #21153

Quine's Avatar Comment 26 by Quine

There are some basics of human nature that make religion easier to spread than to remove. Richard should remind the interviewer that atheists do not get points in heaven for converts.

Wed, 28 Feb 2007 00:49:00 UTC | #21155

Russell Blackford's Avatar Comment 27 by Russell Blackford

Good interview. I just responded at some length on Crawley's blog.

Hopefully, it will make sense. Some of it got a little complicated, which is the problem with these arguments.

Wed, 28 Feb 2007 01:13:00 UTC | #21156

Kristian Z's Avatar Comment 28 by Kristian Z

Comment to nr. 9: Seeing religion as a tool for the powers that be to control the masses does not in any way explain why the masses in such large numbers do believe (only why someone would want them to), just as seeing telephones as a tool for communication does not explain how they actually work. So Dawkins does not miss a point, as you say, when he's confronted with the question of why people believe.

Comment to nr. 13: This is the point I felt Dawkins failed to answer properly. It is a common argument from religious people that atheists also make leaps of faith. And while that is true, both in science and in everyday life, one should argue that the leaps of faith in science and everyday life are much, much smaller than the giant leaps of faith in religion, and demonstrate with a couple of examples, such that believing the earth is round or that I had bread for breakfast today are both much smaller leaps of faith than believing in resurrection, transubstantiation or virgin birth.

Wed, 28 Feb 2007 01:22:00 UTC | #21157

Ole's Avatar Comment 29 by Ole

As many of you already said: This was very good!

Imagine if the TV people would learn from this.
How to conduct an interview, how to put forward good questions, how to use that much time, etc. etc.

Hopefully some media people will see this.


Wed, 28 Feb 2007 01:35:00 UTC | #21160

Kevin Ronayne's Avatar Comment 30 by Kevin Ronayne

Just to clarify something here: at one point, RD refers to an Irish radio discussion, but what he was actually referring to was his TV appearance on "The Panel" program in early December last year.

I don't know much about William Crawley, so I wasn't sure if he was genuinely trying to trip RD up, or just acting as a "devil's advocate". Whatever his motive, it seems to have brought out the best in the Prof., who was able to answer calmly and at length. What a contrast to some other interviews! (Are you listening, CNN?)

Wed, 28 Feb 2007 01:52:00 UTC | #21161