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An atheist's call to arms - Comments

Greg23's Avatar Comment 1 by Greg23

Ahhh, I love the TED talks. So many interesting people with so many interesting things to say. Probably my favorite thing on the web.

Tue, 01 May 2007 09:52:00 UTC | #33923

BaronOchs's Avatar Comment 2 by BaronOchs

He remarked that the Pope supports evolution, though I personally find the pope at best very ambivalent on the subject. I think there was an article on the matter on this site . . .

Tue, 01 May 2007 10:19:00 UTC | #33930

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 3 by Quetzalcoatl

This was 2002, so he would have been talking about the last pope.

Tue, 01 May 2007 10:40:00 UTC | #33933

flyingscot's Avatar Comment 4 by flyingscot

Good stuff, I really enjoyed this talk.

Tue, 01 May 2007 10:45:00 UTC | #33934

cassdenata's Avatar Comment 5 by cassdenata

Hey Greg23. What are some other interesting TEDtalks that you enjoyed?

Tue, 01 May 2007 10:49:00 UTC | #33935

AnatheistinNigeria's Avatar Comment 6 by AnatheistinNigeria

Reading the posts on this site, let me believe that there is a world filled with well-thinking people.

But look at the comments made on Richard Dawkins TED talk. Filled with nonsense and such empty allegations of miletant atheism of the side of RD.

Perhaps we shopuld devote some of our energies to responding to the more general blogs

Tue, 01 May 2007 11:50:00 UTC | #33954

AtheistJunkie's Avatar Comment 7 by AtheistJunkie

I never get bored of this stuff. Thanks RD.

Tue, 01 May 2007 12:05:00 UTC | #33961

Greg23's Avatar Comment 8 by Greg23

cassdenata -

There are so many. If you are not familiar with TED there are the 'wish' talks where people get TED money to help with their attempt to 'change the world' (affordable housing, clean burning local fuels, improving a ghetto neighborhood, peace through media, $100 computer, etc.). They are people who are already working on the projects and get a boost from TED. Those are interesting to see what people's visions are.

There are talks by famous people or people in the news.

There are a few 'artistic' presentations.

There are talks by visionaries.

Just off the top of my head, I can think of:

Julia Sweeney - an excerpt from her "Letting go of God' one woman show.

Gladwell - wrote 'Blink' and 'The Tipping Point' talks about how we came to have 43 choices in spaghetti sauce.

Schwarz - who tells us why having too many choices is making us miserable (Good combo with the previous one).

Levitt - wrote 'Freakenomics' and talks on the chapter about street drug dealing as a business.

Deutsch - paints one h*ll of a picture of the universe and the contribution of knowlege.

Dawkins - has another talk about 'middle man' why we have such a hard time understanding the very small and the very large.

Rutan - did the non stop flight around the world and is working on private space launches. Tells whats wrong with the way space exploration is being conducted.

Rosling - talks about countries, populations, health and how they interact. Great graphing software presentation.

Huang - Cool 'hands on' computer input interface (think - Minority Report movie).

Gore - If you didn't think he had a sense of humor. Everyone's told him, if he had been like this he would have won the election going away (I know, he won anyway but that's different story).

Kurzweil - something futuristic about computational power not being able to keep up with progress in bio-genetics, maybe using DNA as computers (It's been a while, I think that's what his talk was).

There have been very few I haven't liked. It depends if you just like anything that's intelligent and creative or you have a particular area of interest.

I download them, convert them to DVD then watch them on T.V. They are only 18 - 20 minutes each. Good for when you have a free moment.

Happy hunting.


Tue, 01 May 2007 13:03:00 UTC | #33971

nine9s's Avatar Comment 9 by nine9s

What does TED stand for?

Tue, 01 May 2007 13:33:00 UTC | #33980

AtheistJunkie's Avatar Comment 10 by AtheistJunkie


TED = Technology, Entertainment, Design

Tue, 01 May 2007 13:36:00 UTC | #33981

sane1's Avatar Comment 11 by sane1

The TED talks are great. 'Twas I who sent this to Josh.

Peruse the list your self at:

They have recently posted many new ones. They are organized and delightful. Personally, I like the science ones best, but many others are interesting as well.

And Greg23 left off one of my favoites: Micheal Shermer on "why people believe wierd things."

Tue, 01 May 2007 14:16:00 UTC | #33984

Shuggy's Avatar Comment 12 by Shuggy

Greg 23:

Deutsch - paints one h*ll of a picture of the universe and the contribution of knowlege.
What do you think would happen if you spelt "hell" in full?

Tue, 01 May 2007 14:25:00 UTC | #33986

Greg23's Avatar Comment 13 by Greg23

sane1 -

Afraid I've gotten too familiar with Shermer and lost my sense of awe. No rap against Shermer I've got all the books and heard him speak many times.

Many others I left off as well. Too many to remember them all. I think there are about 100 total, although I've never counted them up.

Shuggy -

A leftover habit from apparently offending people's sensitivities once too often, in other groups. Wasn't really thinking.

Should I even give the concept of hell credence by writing the actual word??? Hmm, I'll have to think about that. At least I didn't go for heck as a euphanism. ;-)

Tue, 01 May 2007 14:39:00 UTC | #33994

catchy_nick's Avatar Comment 14 by catchy_nick

I highly recommend Dennett's TED lecture. Good shit.

Tue, 01 May 2007 15:19:00 UTC | #34004

Atticus_of_Amber's Avatar Comment 15 by Atticus_of_Amber

2002. Hmm. This really does look like the "birth of the movement", doesn't it?

Tue, 01 May 2007 17:14:00 UTC | #34027

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 16 by Enlightenme..

^On the contrary, watch the excellent Jonathan Miller series "A brief history of disbelief" to appreciate the enormous debt we owe to many brave people who dared challenge what Hitchens labelled 'the origin of authoritarianism'.
I'm saying the birth of the movement dates back past Epicuris, probably to the unknown's who challenged the village witch-doctor!

Tue, 01 May 2007 19:16:00 UTC | #34050

chionactis's Avatar Comment 17 by chionactis

This is an excellent speech. Thank you, Dr. Dawkins. I remember exploring my neighborhood when I was a child, and the sense of wonder, the mystery of the natural world, and I remember wanting to share it with others. I always wondered why other people weren't as excited about the fantastic organisms we live with. Religion teaches you that an invisible man made it, and that's it. Religion doesn't want you to dig too deep, because the truth is a very real threat to an institution based on belief without evidence.

Tue, 01 May 2007 20:36:00 UTC | #34058

oao's Avatar Comment 18 by oao

As a militant atheist, I watched quite a few presentations by RD and I noticed he tends to use judaism/yahweh as a specific reference more often than other two major religions/gods.

Given that judaism is the least virulent/violent of the three -- indeed, his references are mainly from the old testament, while christianity and islam have tons to answer for in much later times, the latter in the present -- it suggests that whether consciously or not he is not using the most blatant evidence supporting his main argument.

Given RD's sophistication I do not think that this is inadvertent. Whether consciously or not, I suspect that he either (a) senses that referring to judaism is not as dangerous as to islam (b) given the current general anti-semitism/anti-zionsim, judaism is a more acceptable example or (c) both.

If that is the case, this is rather incongruous with the spirit of his position and he should be more sensitive to it.

Tue, 01 May 2007 21:16:00 UTC | #34063

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 19 by Richard Dawkins

I find it hard not to resent the implication of Comment 36645 by oao. I obviously refer to Christianity, by default, more than to Judaism (or Islam) because I am a cultural Chrstian, writing in a cultural Christian country (Britain) with an eye to a larger audience in another (more than merely cultural) Christian country (USA). I use the name Yahweh when I want to refer to the Abrahamic (Judaeo-Christian-Islamic) God as opposed to other gods such as Zeus or Wotan. When I specifically want to refer to the Islamic God I use "Allah", although that is just the Arabic word for God/Yahweh. If I wanted to refer to the Christian God AS OPPOSED TO the Jewish God, what name does oao suggest I use? I do not believe that such a name exists.

The accusation of anti-Jewishness is ludicrous, offensive, and one might almost say paranoid. It reminds me of an occasion when I was lecturing on a ship, and I spoke strongly against religion in general, ALL religion. I never once mentioned Jews or Judaism. Yet I heard afterwards that a Jewish member of the audience was going around accusing me of anti-Semitism behind my back. To him, the very word "religion" was apparently synonymous with Judaism, and therefore to be anti-religious was tantamount to being anti-Jewish.

I don't know enough about the recent history of Israel/Palestine to be either pro or anti-Zionist, but I do know enough to say that oao's phrase 'current general anti-semitism/anti-zionism', implying as it does that anti-zionism is equivalent to anti-semitism, is offensive to my many Jewish friends who do know a lot about the history of that unhappy region, and who are passionate anti-Zionists.


Wed, 02 May 2007 01:56:00 UTC | #34106

JackR's Avatar Comment 20 by JackR

Yes, professor Dawkins, it's a sad and hugely irritating fact of life today that you cannot breathe a word of criticism of something even tangentially connected with Judaism, Jewishness or Israel without a knee-jerk response of "anti-semitism!" from certain people who are more interested in a political angle than in fairness or truth.

I have been a critic of some of Israel's recent activities on a number of political message boards and I have to deal with this sort of response all the time. It's frustrating.

Wed, 02 May 2007 05:07:00 UTC | #34159

CJ22's Avatar Comment 21 by CJ22

Best of all, having just taken posession of my shiny new Video iPod, the source site contains links to downloadable iPod compatible video versions. Great commute entertainment :)

Wed, 02 May 2007 06:05:00 UTC | #34168

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 22 by the great teapot

Excellent talk.
I take back any criticism of Richards style/humour etc. I 've made in the past.
His delivery is brilliant here, even if we have heard it all before I still enjoyed it.

Wed, 02 May 2007 08:31:00 UTC | #34194

yoursdhruly's Avatar Comment 23 by yoursdhruly

Fascinating talk, perhaps the best I have heard by RD on atheism. Carl Sagan's statement at the end is so true - if only all that time spent in religious activity was diverted to the wonder of the world we live in...

The only thing I want to add is regarding the pie chart RD showed about religions in the US - I would imagine that the majority of theists believe that having SOME faith (even if it's not the same as theirs) is better than no faith at all. Therefore, if a politician represents the atheist section of that pie, he risks the ire of the rest of the pie...a Jewish lobbyist on the other hand can be tolerated better. And that's why I think a-theism is not a useful word: the wonderful logic of "one-god-less" and the belief in science and its pursuit is lost in the negation of theism. Anyway, my two cents...

Thanks for posting! This site is such a wonderful place...if websites were places, this site would be a Hawaii for the intellect...or should I say Galapagos?

Wed, 02 May 2007 09:12:00 UTC | #34204

oao's Avatar Comment 24 by oao

And I resent the nature of RD's response, which is more akin to how theists would respond to criticism, than it is an honest attempt to understand what I said.

1st, TODAY islam is the elephant in the room, the best possible evidence to the root of all evil argument. To focus almost exclusively on the other two just because RD "does not know much about it" is befitting neither that important argument, nor the caliber of RD as an advancer of it.

2nd, at some point in history, what was christianity's religious antagonism towards the jews became an explicit RACIST blood libel. It is not the jews who made the switch, they were the target of it. Today there is, in fact, a resurgence of the latter which never really went away, and which was brought to the surface by moslem and arab propaganda, which found fertile ground in Eurabia, and useful idiots in the so-called "left".

There is a HUGE amount of readily available clearcut evidence about all this, and that much--THOUGH NOT ALL!!!--anti-zionism today is good old anti-semitism by another, more acceptable name. By his own admission RD is not very educated on this subject. If RD wants to remain loyal to empirical evidence rather than faith, I can refer him to plenty of sources on the subject.

I did not accuse RD of anti-semitism. Rather, my point was that he is taking the lazier route, by failing to refer to the elephant in the room (which is more dangerous and less popular in current societies).

As an aside, I invite RD to ponder why ONE SINGLE person on a ship who accused him of anti-semitism prompts him to infer what seems to be general jewish paranoia. Be that as it may, has he ever reflected on whether, given the history of the jews, including present times, they would have to be insane not to be sensitive about it, when those who state openly they want to exterminate them are kept out of the story, but they are not.

RD's is on a firm foundation when he uses his scientific knowledge to discuss science. He should strive to be equally knowledgeable about history and politics when he criticizes the latter.

Wed, 02 May 2007 09:55:00 UTC | #34212

Fishpeddler's Avatar Comment 25 by Fishpeddler

"What do you think would happen if you spelt "hell" in full?"

"A leftover habit from apparently offending people's sensitivities once too often, in other groups. Wasn't really thinking."

You're just as well off to stick with the old habit. I have emails kicked back at me all the time because somebody's company screening software didn't like me saying things like, "Traffic was a bitch" or "Work was hell today". It's a total pain in the b*tt.

Wed, 02 May 2007 10:12:00 UTC | #34217

Fishpeddler's Avatar Comment 26 by Fishpeddler

Comment #36688 by Richard Dawkins

"The accusation of anti-Jewishness is ludicrous, offensive, and one might almost say paranoid."

"To him, the very word "religion" was apparently synonymous with Judaism, and therefore to be anti-religious was tantamount to being anti-Jewish."

Comment #36796 by oao
"As an aside, I invite RD to ponder why ONE SINGLE person on a ship who accused him of anti-semitism prompts him to infer what seems to be general jewish paranoia."

Oao, RD was talking first about you, then about the guy on the boat. At no point did he go from the specific to the general. Please read with more care.

Also, your "elephant in the room" metaphor regarding Islam is misplaced, since Islam is most certainly NOT something that everyone in the room is politely refusing to talk about, especially not RD. He can hardly be said to be letting Islam off the hook. If one is arguing against theism, all the Abrahamic faiths are seriously impugned. And I agree with RD about his selected pronoun: what the heck else is he supposed to call the god of those faiths? 'Gojiac' (God of judaism, islam, and christianity)? It certainly doesn't have much of a ring to it.

Wed, 02 May 2007 10:46:00 UTC | #34227

yoursdhruly's Avatar Comment 27 by yoursdhruly

Ahem...If I may join this discussion. I was born into a Hindu family in India and have observed that RD (almost) never addresses Hinduism in his talks. I put this down to one fact alone: his background and his audiences do not share the same background as me. Which is fine...most of the arguments RD makes are as relevant to Christianity as they are to Hinduism, some to a lesser degree, others not.

My point is, I don't see the need to isolate religions and discuss their relative merits - that is what religious scholars do, I imagine. RD makes his points based on where he's coming from, and you have to recognize that and adapt it to your specific thoughts and background, not the other way round.

Wed, 02 May 2007 11:00:00 UTC | #34230

oao's Avatar Comment 28 by oao


Since I stated I am a militant atheist, by what logic do I confuse anti-religious to anti-jewish?
Just the opposite: I made an explicit point that racist anti-semitism today masquerades as anti-judaism.

An automatic dismissal of such concerns and equation with paranoia is, as I said, of the same nature as jewish religious accusations of anti-semitism.

I did NOT say "politely refuses to talk about it". What I said is that FOCUSING on christianity and judaism in the presence of jihadism today makes one cringe. And to sort of bundle them together as "abrahamic" is just plain ignorant and it is the real confusion.

Wed, 02 May 2007 11:20:00 UTC | #34233

oao's Avatar Comment 29 by oao


Well, if you want to argue that religion is the root of all evil based on empirical evidence of its consequences, I understand why the focus should not be on Hinduism for the same reason that I understand the same about Judaism. But I sure cannot understand why the focus should NOT be on islamism.

Get my drift? Does pacifism vs. genocidal help as a hint?

Wed, 02 May 2007 11:25:00 UTC | #34235

oao's Avatar Comment 30 by oao

I think this is the rabid societal context to which I was referring:

Wed, 02 May 2007 11:29:00 UTC | #34236