The OUT Campaign: RichardDawkins.net

Posted: August 28, 2007 in Atheism, Evolution, News, Religion

scarlet_a.pngThe RichardDawkins.net website has started something of a campaign, called the OUT Campaign, a means of asking Atheists to come out and give a voice to their convictions and support of rational thought and reasoning.  To that of objective and critical thinking.

Highly recommended.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. psuche says:

    Here’s an odd thing: I am educated in both Business administration, the liberal arts and electronic technology, with post-graduate studies. I have retired from two professions. One in national defense and the other in the medical field. I have been around this ‘ole land for 7 decades of experience. I understand rationality, and the consequences of irrational thought. But alas! I believe in God.

  2. Dan says:

    Matt,
    Yep, I just signed on to the OUT campaign a couple days ago myself. The only thing that bothers me about it is that rationalism needs political advocacy in the first place, but I guess that’s the crazy world we live in…

  3. Every time I encounter Richard Dawkins, I have a vision in my mind of….Jimmy Swaggart. How can this be, I wonder. Ahh, yes, now I remember: they’re both a couple of self-aggrandizing blowhards who want to SELL me something. They’re both a couple of Kool-Aid salesmen; they just peddle different flavored Kool-Aid.

    Extremists of any kind–and make no mistake, Dawkins is an extremist–make me positively ill. Dawkins likes to portray himself as the champion of reason, but by portraying anyone who disagrees with him as a lower form of life, Dawkins is as much an enemy of reason as any religious fanatic.

    I know this comment won’t be popular here, but so be it.

    -smith

  4. Dan says:

    smith,
    How so? He’s always sounded pretty reasonable to me, when I’ve seen clips of him speaking on YouTube, etc.

  5. Dan, here’s a quote from Dawkins himself: Creationists “don’t mind being beaten in an argument. What matters is that we give them recognition by bothering to argue with them in public.”

    Now just so you don’t get the wrong idea, I have little patience with Creationists myself. But a remark like the one I quoted above betrays an intellectual arrogance that I find distasteful. If someone like Pope Benedict or Billy Graham (both of whom I have major issues with) made a similar remark about atheists you would be outraged, and justifiably so.

    If Richard Dawkins doesn’t believe in God, or in any higher power, good for him. He’s certainly entitled to his belief. But his insistence on the correctness of his beliefs is nothing short of dogmatic, and the taste he leaves in my mouth is the exact same taste that religious fanatics leave. His rigid denial that ANY good has come out of religion is every bit as silly as the fundamentalists blind belief that the world is only 6000 years old. A man of his education should be the first to welcome the free exchange of ideas on this subject.

    Another interesting quote of his runs thusly: “Evolution…is rather like a detective coming on a murder after the scene. … the detective hasn’t actually seen the murder take place, of course. But what you do see is a massive clue …Circumstantial evidence, but masses of circumstantial evidence. Huge quantities of circumstantial evidence.” I agree with him whole heartedly here. But it strikes me as ironic that this exact same statement could be applied to the possible (note my choice of words) existence of a higher power. There is certainly enough circumstantial evidence to at least explain why trillions of people, dating from man’s earliest days, have believed in some sort of a higher power. There is enough circumstantial evidence to at least suggest the possibility that there is something going on in the universe that we as human beings haven’t quite fathomed yet.

    Now if you’re not buying this, fine. But the problem I have with Dawkins is that he would dismiss me outright for simply suggesting the above speculation. He’s become so entrenched in his own mindset that he will not even consider the possibility that he might be wrong; he is therefore no longer espousing reason, he is espousing dogma. Just like the religious fanatics he despises.

    -smith

  6. Dan says:

    Smith,
    I’m not quite sure that I understand what he was trying to say in the first quote that you mention – what context was it said in? By itself, it sounds strange.

    Anyway, if you find him arrogant, that’s fine. I was just asking. On the “huge quantities of circumstantial evidence” for a higher power, I think you’re mistaken. The evidence for science and the ‘evidence’ for a higher power are entirely different beasts – the one is objective and reproducible, not to mention corroborating. The latter is purely intuitive, subjective, personal, and, I would say, imagined.

  7. Dan says:

    Smith,
    Since you haven’t responded, I’ll prod back a little more. 😉

    There is certainly enough circumstantial evidence to at least explain why trillions of people, dating from man’s earliest days, have believed in some sort of a higher power. There is enough circumstantial evidence to at least suggest the possibility that there is something going on in the universe that we as human beings haven’t quite fathomed yet.

    Sure, there’s circumstantial evidence on how and why people believe in a certain power. Does this mean that imagining god(s) is somehow a useful function for human beings, or is it dysfunctional? Dawkins appears to find it dysfunctional – on this I disagree to a point. Clearly, before science and inalienable human rights, believing in god(s) was a good thing. Now, it’s detrimental in how religion promotes ignorance, and rising tolerance of not believing makes it possible to be atheistic and not be persecuted.

    And yes, there’s circumstantial evidence that there are things we haven’t fathomed yet: dark energy/matter is a case in point, as is the recently noticed possibility of some short comings of Einstienian Relativity.

    Does this mean that there is any evidence, other than from psychology and post hoc ergo propter hoc (and related) logical fallacies, for god(s)? Of course not! One can find God within himself, by way of enlightenment or tranquility, but you can’t find any god(s) anywhere, can you? Zeus, Yahweh, Vishnu, the Flying Spaghetti Monster – all mythological metarepresentations of bygone eras.

    I think that’s the main point of Dawkins, and I gotta say, it doesn’t sound arrogant at all – merely impatient with ignorance and delusion.

  8. Hello, Dan!

    Didn’t see your comments until today, and unfortunately my employer takes a rather dim view of their employees engaging in theological debates on company time. 😉 But I must say I’m enjoying our little give and take.

    Before you form the wrong impression of me, I should probably mention that I have on more than one occasion had this debate with born-again Christians as well as a Muslim of my acquaintance, all of whom are convinced I am the great Satan, because I used arguments that are not all that dissimilar to Dawkins’ to suggest that their blind faith is a little misplaced. I guess the price one pays for being a moderate is that you piss off both sides. 😉

    You may also find it interesting that four years at a Catholic College did more to beat the Catholicism out me than any thing you or Dawkins might have said to me. But that’s a post for another day.

    The problem I have with all of them is their unshakable belief in the correctness of their beliefs. Anyone who disagrees with them is damned.

    Similarly, the problem I have with Dawkins and his ilk is their unshakable belief in the correctness of their beliefs. Anyone who disagrees with them is a rube.

    So my purpose here is not to try to prove the existence of God (I know I can‘t), nor am I trying to persuade you to start believing in God (I know you won‘t). My point is simply this: just as it is impossible for me to prove the existence of God, it is equally impossible for you to disprove it, which brings us to a bit of a stalemate. No doubt you will argue at this point that one can’t prove a negative, to which I will reply, “You’re absolutely right. Thank you for making my point.”

    We can present arguments back and forth all day, but because neither God’s existence NOR non-existence is provable, both must be entertained as possibilities (but only as possibilities). I AM willing to acknowledge that I MAY very well be wrong. Is Dawkins? Are you?

    For all I know, the Flying Spaghetti Monster really IS running things. (Actually, that might not be so bad.) Yes, I do happen to believe in a higher power of some kind, but I do not claim to know the true nature of that higher power, and therefore I have no right to claim my belief as a FACT. Here I part company with the B.A. Christians, the fundamentalist Muslims, the evangelical Protestants, and all the rest who claim that THEIR view of God, the universe, and man’s place in it is the correct one.

    But by the same token atheists also have no right to claim THEIR views as fact either, which is essentially what Dawkins does. Ultimately, his beliefs about God’s existence/non-existence are nothing more than that: beliefs, based on his perception of the universe, just as mine are based on my perceptions of the universe. We’re talking about the universe, after all, and no human being knows even a fraction of what there is to know about it.

    So where does this leave us? I believe in a higher power, while not believing in any standard orthodox religious dogma. You don’t. So I will respect your belief and acknowledge the POSSIBILITY that you may be right. All I ask in return is that you acknowledge the POSSIBILITY that I may be right.

    And if you know your Aristotle, you realize that ONE of us IS right. We just don’t know which of us it happens to be.

    But, as I’ve stated elsewhere, if I do happen be right, I’ll be sure to put in a good word for you. 😉

    Be well.

    -smith

  9. […] Yeah, I know, I’ve got a lot of free time on my hands.  But if you’re interested in this topic, or you just want to see two reasonably intelligent people debate, click here. […]

  10. Bad says:

    murderofravens, if a a group, like creationists, really has practiced all manner of intellectual dishonesty and basically just waste people’s time, how is it arrogant to say that we should stop helping them promote their ideas by pretending that they are part of a legitimate debate?

    I think you are far far too eager to characterize Dawkins the in way that you have.

    “I AM willing to acknowledge that I MAY very well be wrong. Is Dawkins? Are you?”

    Dawkins has said many many times that is an agnostic atheist in the sense that he doesn’t know for sure that there is no god, but the point is that there is no convincing evidence for it, and he requires a reason to believe before believing.

    Dawkins is not attempting to definitively prove that there is no god (though he debunks specific theologies that claim things for which the evidence directly contradicts) but that the reasons FOR believing such a thing are faulty and unjustified, despite being advertised as convincing.

    That’s a crucial distinction that I think is often missed when people try to take a “pox on both their houses” view.

    Myself, I agree that Dawkins goes too far in his use of language, though if you read the context of what he’s saying, it’s often far less generalized and harsh than a few scant quotes appear. If you’ve ever seen Dawkins sit down and talk to some moderate theists, you’d probably find that he is exceedingly polite and mild-mannered. What he doesn’t like are claims that people should do and believe things that have no basis, or that misrepresent science to pretend they have a basis.

  11. Lolly says:

    It does seem safer to err on the side of believing in Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of our souls. Is there a religion that believes you are doomed if you put your trust in Jesus?

  12. tinyfrog says:

    Creationists “don’t mind being beaten in an argument. What matters is that we give them recognition by bothering to argue with them in public.”

    I’m not quite sure what you think is wrong with this statement. You say it is evidence of “arrogance”. I’m pretty sure that he’s talking about engaging in public debates in front of audiences. There is concern among evolutionist that public debates confer an appearance of legitimacy to creationism. One of the problems with these debates is that it depends heavily on a speaker’s charisma, public speaking ability, ability to hound your opponent like a good lawyer, ability to think on one’s feet in front of crowds, it requires a wide variety of knowledge, favors debaters who play on people’s pre-existing biases, and favors sound-bites. It’s no surprise that in politicians have made a habit of finding one concise sound-bite statement (e.g. “flip-flopper”) and hammer it home over and over. No one is going to get a good education of evolutionary theory in a one hour debate (which is shared by two antagonistic speakers) over evolution and creationism. Similarly, no politician has time to explain a complicated economic policy in a political debate. Debates give the appearance that two ideas have just dueled, and one came out victorious, but it actually does a poor job. (Which is why debates over the flat earth versus spherical earth that occurred in Britain in the late 1800s often resulted in the flat earth proponent winning.)

    Evolution has won in the scientific realm because the people who take the time to fully explore the evidence for evolution (rather than try to learn everything in a one hour debate) virtually always end up siding with evolution.

  13. tinyfrog says:

    Is there a religion that believes you are doomed if you put your trust in Jesus?

    Yes, Islam teaches that Christians will go to hell.

  14. Bad:

    “if a group, like creationists, really has practiced all manner of intellectual dishonesty and basically just waste people’s time, how is it arrogant to say that we should stop helping them promote their ideas by pretending that they are part of a legitimate debate?”

    It is arrogant to suppose that the truth of your position is so self evident there is no need for you to defend it. Atheists claim to be the guardians of reason and rationality. Reasonable and rational people welcome the free exchange of ideas, even if they don’t agree with them. By attempting to quash debate, atheists are engaging in exactly the same odious practices as the creationists they disdain.

    And for the record, I happen to believe in evolution.

    “I think you are far far too eager to characterize Dawkins the in way that you have.”

    No, not really; he’s merely a convenient example for my argument, which is that atheism is in itself merely a belief, because it too rests on a premise which cannot be conclusively proven.

  15. Tinyfrog:

    “There is concern among evolutionist that public debates confer an appearance of legitimacy to creationism.”

    Therein lies the arrogance. Personally I believe in evolution. You have no idea how many migraine inducing debates I’ve had with creationists about this. Creationism is nonsense. But I also believe in free speech and the free exchange of ideas. I also believe that all things being equal, the evolutionist will that debate hands down.

    And in any event, the fact that creationism is hooey does not not disprove the existence of a higher power. It just proves that creationists are nitwits. 😉

  16. Matt says:

    It does seem safer to err on the side of believing in Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of our souls.

    That seems to be close to the infamous “Pascal’s Wager” argument, which really is based on poor logic.

  17. Bad says:

    It is arrogant to suppose that the truth of your position is so self evident there is no need for you to defend it.

    But that surely is not a fair reading what he said at all. The issue this quote is about regards a creationist obsession with public verbal debate formats with only the most popular scientists (like Dawkins), wherein the creationists over and over seemed more interested in the publicity than in taking the debates themselves seriously. After going through these particular exercises over and over, some scientists felt like they were simply being used.

    In fact, there is no claim here at all about not defending ones views. I mean, for goodness sakes, what do you think has been the bulk of Dawkin’s written output is if not that? But the point is that scientists (as a whole, and without some singular and strange obsessions with Dawkins alone just because he is well known, and not because he is especially more expert notable than any other scientist) spend considerable and perhaps even lamentable amounts of time responding to creationist criticisms at great length: responses which show far far more patience and respect than the creationists making them (often they just copy and paste a few recycled claims that are easy to state, but take a lot of explaining to rebut).

    There is also the issue of creationists piggybacking off of big showy debates (instead of the far more relevant debates in print) so that they can argue that there is controversy, and then from that arguing that it must be taught in public schools. You’ll forgive me, but I don’t see what’s at all arrogant about refusing to go out of ones way to play a part in that game.

    By attempting to quash debate, atheists are engaging in exactly the same odious practices as the creationists they disdain.

    You are equating intellectual debate in general with the specific venue of adversarial Lincoln-style debates that Dawkins was talking about. There is no lack of the former, so your charge of arrogance seems ill-aimed. There is, in fact, not really even much lack of the latter: it’s just that creationists can’t count on getting a high publicity figure to help them promote their cause.

    But I also believe in free speech and the free exchange of ideas.

    Perhaps then you can explain to me why Dawkins refusing to attend a dog and pony show in a stadium is a restriction of anyones free speech, or a barrier to the free exchange of ideas.

    And in any event, the fact that creationism is hooey does not not disprove the existence of a higher power.

    Agreed. But then, at least on the subject of Dawkins, he does also talk about why suggestions that we must conclude that a higher power exists are unjustified.

    Personally, that’s where I part ways with Dawkins, or at least lose interest in spending much time or energy on the issue, since it doesn’t matter to me in and of itself if people believe such things. I’m not convinced, and I agree that lousy arguments should be argued against, but only for the sake of honesty and a full debate, not because it matters by itself what people believe. It’s rarely even people’s willful choice in any case.

  18. It does seem safer to err on the side of believing in Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of our souls.

    That seems to be close to the infamous “Pascal’s Wager” argument, which really is based on poor logic.

    Matt, I agree with you. I thought Pascal’s Wager was a poor excuse for an argument back when I was twenty. I suppose it makes sense in a very narrow context, but as a proof of God’s existence it’s just nonsense.

    Also, I have to apologize for taking up so much space on your blog. This thread seems to have taken on a life of it’s own. As you know doubt observe, this is a subject near and dear to my heart, but more as a logical debate than a religious one.

    Plus I happen to be a cantankerous SOB. 😉

    But it was not my intention to monopolize your post, so just in case you’re getting annoyed with me, please accept my apologies in advance.

    -smith

  19. Oops! The first four lines of the above comments should have been in quotes. Sorry!

  20. Matt says:

    Go for it. Personally, I’m loving the exchange. More the merrier!

  21. Thanks, Matt. Would it be possible for you to edit my above quote by putting the first four lines in quotes? Otherwise it looks like I’m the one who’s pushing Pascal’s wager, which, I think you’ll agree, is NOT what I’m arguing here.

    Thanks again. See you in the trenches. 😉

    Smith

  22. I don’t know whether anybody here saw the recent CNN trilogy on the Judaism, Islam and Christianity, I think it was titled “Warriors of God”. Have to say that I heard very wise and very silly things being said (in my sole opinon of course).

    In the end, we all will have to make our own decision in what we believe in. And just as we like to own that right, we need to grant others that same right. Having said that, I think it’s humanily impossible to achieve that fully. Which is why laws exist.

    Asking a friend of mine the “Do you believe in God”-question, he responded:
    “I don’t know, nobody has been able to proove his/her existence but at the same time, nobody has been able to disprove it either.”

    Richard Feynman once said: “Humans will believe in God as long as there are mysteries, as long as there are things they can’t explain”.

    I have to agree with Smith in the sense that anybody who is completly fixed on their belief and uses that (not facts) to discredit other people’s beliefs, looses in my humble opinion, creditibility.

    Interesting rally. Which to me is the precisely what should happen to work towards understanding and learning. And if I understand right, Mr. Dawkins would rather remain in his world only.

  23. Dan says:

    Hey Smith,
    Sorry for my delay in responding this time!

    I have to say, that while I do indeed disagree with you on your agnosticism (for lack of a better word) and on your characterization of Dawkins, it looks as though you anticipate the replies that I would give, at least for the most part. So I’ll save it, and just repeat that I find all of the gods mentioned above to be equally not-disprovable and laughable. But you already know that.

    In any case, thanks for the exchange!

  24. Dan (and everyone else):

    First, I was mortified when I re-read some of my comments, and saw some of the spelling and grammatical errors. Yikes! But it WAS 3 o’clock in the morning so I hope everyone will cut me some slace. Embarassing, nonetheless.

    It has been a pleasure debating everyone on this subject. I admire all of you for not only your intelligent manner of expression, but also for your ability to keep the debate both rational and civil. These things cease to be fun when people forget how to be polite.

    What’s interesting here is that for the most part I think we agree on more than we disagree. Like you, my feet are planted firmly in the evolution/big bang/scientific method camp. Like you, I have little faith in the standard dogma of organized religion. As I mentioned elsewhere, four years at a Catholic college pretty much beat the Catholicism out of me forever.

    Where we part company lies in what we did when we reached this point. Once one rejects the orthodoxy of conventional religion, one can either reject religion altogether, or develop a new religious understanding that is based on a belief in a higher power that is balanced with the understanding that one can never really KNOW what it’s all about. Making this personal choice allows me to still find something of value in religion, while at the same time reminding me to respect the religious beliefs of others, even if their choice is non-belief. So I guess you could call me a sort of Deist/Agnostic. It works for me. 😉

    So again, I say to you all that it has been a pleasure discussing this with all of you. There is nothing I love more than a good debate with intelligent people. My best to you all.

    -smith

  25. Matt says:

    For me I do not think it is a matter of knowing, I don’t think we can really know anything 100% certainly (though a lot of things indeed we know 99% certain). It is more about which is more likely or probable.

    As there is no evidence for a supernatural figure I find the likelihood of one existing to be rather small and thus the likelihood of one not existing rather large. Of course, I’m always open to new evidence and await the day where I might be proven wrong.

  26. Paul says:

    *rather cautiously dips his toe into this calm pool of debate ;-)*

    murderofravens has fingered an unease I share at statements made by the likes of Dawkins too.

    Matt, you make some rather sweeping statements in that last comment if I may say so!

    As a believer myself in the deity you refer to as “supernatural” I could be rather taken aback by such a sweeping dismissal of the mountains of evidence I see around me.

    If I wanted to be provacative (which is not my intent) I could rephrase your comment right back at you: As there is no evidence for Darwinian evolution, I find the likelihood of it existing to be rather small.

    Now of course, immediately I say that, I risk provoking the ire of the opposite point of view. The supporters of evolution will say “but there’s mountains of evidence for evolution all around us”.

    But isnt that what this is all about and the nub of murderofraven’s original point?

    Seems to me we are all faced with the same data set. But you and I (and others like us) “see” completely different things.

    We’re both free to believe as we choose. (I believe that the deity referred to above has always given us that choice.) I respect your belief, but disagree with it. We should all be able to get along fine like that!

    Also, to Dan (above) who said:

    Which one were you talking about? science or the higher power? ;->

    *climbs back out, hoping he hasnt rippled the surface too much!*

  27. Paul says:

    Hmm. Made rather a mess of those blockquote tags didnt I! Sorry.

  28. Dan says:

    Paul,
    It seems that you make the common mistake of many to conflate empiricism with belief, by saying:

    Seems to me we are all faced with the same data set. But you and I (and others like us) “see” completely different things.

    It’s the objective versus the subjective; experimentation versus pure intuition. A biologist who makes claims based purely on what they ‘see’ is laughed at; one that makes tentative claims based on rigorous examination and scrutinizing is lauded. There’s no ‘seeing’ involved beyond the cold, hard reality of solid results.

    Sorry, but calling such science a ‘belief’ is absurd, and belies a lack of familiarity with the practice of science, the edifice of scientific knowledge, and the strain that each and every scientist goes through to make the simplest new concept acceptable to other scientists.

  29. Paul says:

    *seems I was unsuccesful in my quest to not make ripples!*

    Guilty as charged.

    But Dan, are you saying that rigorous examination and scrutinizing does not involve a fair amount of interpretation of the data too?

    I mean, we see the evidence before us. We see the results of experiments. We then have to interpret those results. Nomally we do this against known and established benchmarks.

    But what if we have no benchmarks? What if those benchmarks are wrong? Or perhaps just a little bit off? It’s happened before. To deny the possibility of that happening again would be foolish, dont you think?

    Witness your comment about Einsteinian Relativity.

    IMO the wisest scientists are the ones who admit that the more we know the less we know.

    Which I think is all murderofravens was saying*. Dawkins (in the quotes above anyway) seems to suggest that there is only one truth. And that to even entertain the idea of there being other valid explanations is wrong. And in so doing creates his own dogma.

    *murderofravens – feel free to correct me if I misunderstand you.

  30. Matt and Dan:

    It occurred to me as I re-read all this today that I think I see the crux of our disagreement, and perhaps even a way for us to find common ground.

    Question: are you saying that there is no evidence for the existence of the various and sundry petulant and self serving deities that man has created over the years in his attempt to figure out what the hell is going on, or are you saying there is no evidence for the existence of any sort of higher power at all.

    I will await your replies before I comment further.

  31. Dan says:

    Paul,
    “But Dan, are you saying that rigorous examination and scrutinizing does not involve a fair amount of interpretation of the data too?”

    Yes, and then such interpretations are themselves tested. (see: Scientific Method) It’s a cyclic and cumulative process of interpretation followed by testing of interpretations, that enables sorting facts from nonfacts. It’s a slow, imperfect process, to be sure, but it generates clear results of the kind that theism never even dreams of attempting.

    “Dawkins (in the quotes above anyway) seems to suggest that there is only one truth. And that to even entertain the idea of there being other valid explanations is wrong. And in so doing creates his own dogma.”

    There’s truth and then there’s the rhetorical Truth. What’s the difference? Dawkins, myself, probably Matt, and others think that there’s no one Truth other than the subjective Truth we create for ourselves. Theists think otherwise. For truth, however, is synonymous with fact. There are many facts and truths, that we can objectively understand. And it is confusing these two entities, truth and Truth, that atheists like myself abhor, but you appear to cling to.

    So, not to be rude or anything, but I think you should leave Murderofravens to speak for himself – he was doing just fine I thought.

    Murderofravens,
    To your question, ‘higher power’ can mean a lot of things. I accept the version of a higher power espoused by Spinoza and Einstien (so does Dawkins, for that matter), but that’s an abstraction of the universe, not a god.

  32. Bad says:

    murderofravens: were you unconvinced by what I pointed out about Dawkins? Underwhelmed? No longer interested? I mostly just wanted to know if you saw my latest response. 🙂

    As to your latest point:

    I do not see evidence of a higher power of the sort usually meant (i.e. some sort of controlling intelligent force that has purposes and a will and so forth and watches over reality), and all of the arguments I’ve so far heard for such things in both the specific gods as well as in the abstract deistic sense just seem very unconvincing to me.

    I’m willing to agree, on the other hand, that people may have personal or internal justifications for belief which I cannot directly evaluate, and so I don’t really have any beef with belief, in that sense, unless it comes back out into the realm of public debate and makes claims, which of course I feel people can legitimately respond to and question.

  33. Matt says:

    I see no evidence of any sort of higher planar/supernatural intelligence which either created the universe as we know it and/or uses said intelligence or will to control or watch over the Universe.

  34. Matt, Bad, and Dan: Thanks for answering so promptly. Allow me to pose a couple more questions if I may.

    Do any of you believe in either UFO’s, or intelligent life on other planets?

    Obviously I have a reason for asking this, but please don’t presuppose where I’m going with this. Just answer the questions as honestly as possible, and then I’ll make my point.

    But not tonight. I’ve worked three straight weeks without a day off and I’m exhausted. Plus I’ve been up til three in the morning blogging. So I’m taking a night off.

    Bad: I honestly didn’t realize you were looking for a response to your comment about my comment on Dawkins. I’ll address that one as well after I’ve had eight hours of sleep.

    -smith

  35. Bad says:

    No problem. I just thought it was an important issue since you quoted that statement as a major part of your case against Dawkins, but I hope I’ve shown that your interpretation really misses the context of it.

    I don’t see any reason to believe in UFOs, and while intelligent life could exist on other planets, we honestly just don’t know enough about life or other planets to have any real clue.

  36. Matt says:

    Depends what you refer to as intelligent life, really.

    UFOs? No evidence so far that has held up to independent scrutiny. Life? Life of some sort … good chance it exists somewhere in the universe. Probability tells us that. If it’s Intelligent … not enough data yet.

  37. Dan says:

    UFOs? I’m quite skeptical. Intelligent life elsewhere in the universe – definitely more plausible.

  38. writerchick says:

    Interesting debate – thanks Smith for making me read all of it. LOL.

    I wonder though, isn’t it all apples and oranges? Some of you seem to be trying to use the physical plane to explain the spiritual plane and vice versa.

    Personally, I don’t think you can address the spiritual through the physical sciences – as the physical sciences address the physical, not the metaphysical.

    By and large, the truth is what we each, subjectively, find to be real.

    If you want to prove or disprove the existence of God, then don’t you have to use a criteria that aligns to the subject? I don’t think you can use physics/science as a valid criteria for measuring a spiritual quantity.

    To me, the problem lies in the fact that there isn’t enough metaphysical criteria known/available to measure the existence or nonexistence of God.

    Anyway, just some random thoughts. Interesting reading.

    WC

  39. Dan says:

    WC,
    It all depends on who is speaking, and what their definition of god is, but by and large no one here has argued against there being a personal/subjective spiritual plane for each of us. The point being made, at least by me, is that many religious apologetics are distorting the difference between what our emotional and spiritual senses tell us and what is objectively real.

    For instance, someone says that they’ve ‘found God’ – they haven’t actually found anything outside of themselves; instead, they’ve found some measure of peace and harmony within themselves. They also claim that they speak to their God, who can hear and answer their prayers, which is of course just wishful thinking, albeit effective thinking for overcoming our existential anxieties. Similarly, they claim that their loved ones who’ve passed on still look after them from beyond the grave – a comforting notion to be sure, but it’s all in our minds.

    And this is the point – that some of us wish to distinguish between what is in our minds and what is actually out there. Religious apologetics make assertions which simply aren’t factual.

  40. writerchick says:

    Hi Dan,
    I knew I shouldn’t have posted to this thread because I was bound to be pulled in. So, let me try to respond short and sweet.

    “It all depends on who is speaking, and what their definition of god is, but by and large no one here has argued against there being a personal/subjective spiritual plane for each of us. The point being made, at least by me, is that many religious apologetics are distorting the difference between what our emotional and spiritual senses tell us and what is objectively real.”

    Okay, but who is to say that our emotional and spiritual senses are not real? Since they don’t actually exist in the same plane as the physical you cannot use the same yardstick to measure the two. I don’t believe science has proven that the spiritual does not exist. And by your own admission, you agree that it is real.

    And really if you strip away all the religious dogma what is beneath it is a belief or even knowledge of something much larger than this physical plane and existence. We have a mind, we are not our minds. Neither are we our bodies – just as we aren’t the rock on the ground or the beautiful sunset we may be looking at. If we were our bodies then we wouldn’t refer to them as our bodies but as me. Yes?

    To me, religion has its basis in our spiritual nature. Is there a God? I don’t know. Did we evolve from apes – frankly, I hope not but so what if we did? Who cares?

    But I do think this: whether you are a Christian Fundamentalist, a Muslim or an Aetheist, you are all practicing a religion. A prescribed set of beliefs from which you are not allowed to wander. The only difference to me between an Aetheist and someone who practices or adheres to a ‘religion’ is that with an Aetheist, God is the individual.

    Nuff said.

    WC

  41. Dan says:

    WC,
    You speak metaphorically of the world, I speak factually and empirically of the world. Neither of us appears to be contradicting each other on the area that the other is speaking. You do realize this, I hope.

    As to ‘practicing a religion,’ look up ‘religion’: “Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.” Atheism does not fit this definition; call it an ideology or philosophy if you really must, but calling it a religion is quite incorrect.

    Rhetorical question: why is it that so many people (like yourself) cannot understand what ‘there is no god’ means? ‘God’ is not an individual, it is just a word to describe metaphorical concepts, mythologies, and mysticisms.

  42. Bad says:

    WC: the burden of proof is on those who claim that things like spirits and gods are real. Without good reasons to believe in them… well, there is no reason to believe in them.

    Not believing in a god has nothing to do with worshiping the individual.

  43. purefnevyl says:

    I find the term ‘agnostic atheist’ highly dubious. Next thing you know he will be a born-again atheist.

  44. Gee, it’s tough to get the last word around here, isn’t it? ;>)

    I’ve taken a few nights off to sort of step back and evaluate what it is I believe and don’t believe. That in itself has certainly been a benefit of having joined in this debate. Having done so, I would like to make a few points, as well as respond, directly or indirectly, to some of the comments made previously.

    First, I think it would be helpful to review just what we agree on, before venturing into the turbulent waters of disagreement. Like Matt, Bad, and Dan, I am a staunch evolutionist. I am a believer in the scientific method as a whole. I believe that science, not religion, has taught us most of what we really know about the universe we happen to be a very, very small part of.

    I have little patience with religious fundamentalists of any denomination. I deplore the way they dismiss rationale argument with an unwavering faith in the correctness of their beliefs, irrespective of any facts to the contrary. In this I am in complete agreement with Dawkins.

    As I’ve stated before, I am NOT trying to prove the existence of God here. I know I can’t. In fact the only reason I’m using the word God instead of a phrase like “higher power” is because it’s easier to type.

    But here’s the crux of my argument: neither Dawkins nor anyone else can prove that he DOESN’T exist. Therefore in the absence of proof, the non-existence of God is not a fact, it is a belief, or, if you prefer, an opinion. Therefore atheism is merely a belief, albeit a belief in the non-existence of something. And as such, the proponents of this belief must accept the unpleasant truth that they MAY be wrong, just as adherents of traditional (and non-traditional) religious thought must also accept that their views on God and the universe may be wrong (although they rarely do, another point where I agree with Dawkins).

    Please don’t hit me with the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” argument. The fact that I can’t disprove the existence of anything you happen to dream up on the spot (other than to make the fairly obvious point that it can’t exist because you just told me you made it up) in no way lets you off the hook here. Once you make the move from “I don’t believe there is a god” to “There is no god”, at that point you have ceased to state a negative . You have attempted to make an argument, and like all arguments, you have to have some proof, otherwise what you’re stating is not fact, it is opinion.

    I asked you folks if you believed in any sort of higher power. You all replied in the negative. I asked if you believed in life on other planets. Your responses were:

    “while intelligent life could exist on other planets, we honestly just don’t know enough about life or other planets to have any real clue.”

    “Life? Life of some sort … good chance it exists somewhere in the universe. Probability tells us that. If it’s Intelligent … not enough data yet.”

    And

    “Intelligent life elsewhere in the universe – definitely more plausible.”

    The reason I asked this was because I wanted to see to what extent you were willing to allow for the possibility of something existing, even if there were scant scientific evidence for it. And it seems that while there is little scientific evidence for the existence of intelligent life on other planets, you’re willing to at least consider it because, to you, it seems plausible, given the enormous number of planets in the universe. On this I happen to agree with you.

    But once you’ve admitted the possibility of life elsewhere, then you must also allow for the possibility that this life is more advanced than us, not just in the technological sense, but also in the, yes, evolutionary sense. And once you’ve acknowledged that a higher form of life may exist in the universe, you have to ask, how much higher? Surely it is no great intellectual feat to imagine a form of life that exists on an infinitely higher plain than us. And if you allow for that, the notion of God is not really such a stretch, is it?

    What I find truly fascinating about Dawkins is his willingness to accept the implausible when it’s convenient for his arguement. He writes: “The origin of life on this planet – which means the origin of the first self-replicating molecule – is hard to study, because it (probably) only happened once, 4 billion years ago and under very different conditions from those with which we are familiar. We may never know how it happened. Unlike the ordinary evolutionary events that followed, it must have been a genuinely very improbable – in the sense of unpredictable – event: too improbable, perhaps, for chemists to reproduce it in the laboratory or even devise a plausible theory for what happened.”

    In other words, we don’t know. We may never know. So why is the notion of some sort of higher power so unthinkable, given the general lack of understanding that Dawkins admits is part and parcel of this issue?

    Another quote: “It is as though there were, say, half a dozen dials representing the major constants of physics. Each of the dials could in principle be tuned to any of a wide range of values…. Almost all of these knob-twiddlings would yield a universe in which life would be impossible. You can estimate the very low odds against the six knobs all just happening to be correctly tuned, and conclude that a divine knob-twiddler must have been at work. But, as we have already seen, that explanation is vacuous because it begs the biggest question of all. The divine knob twiddler would himself have to have been at least as improbable as the settings of his knobs.”

    This argument is self serving. Dawkins concludes that a “divine knob twiddler” is more improbable than the universe itself, merely because it doesn’t fit into his overall view of the universe. Dawkins and I agree: the universe is very, very, improbable. What Dawkins doesn’t seem (or want) to understand is that a reasonable, rational human being can look at this very improbability and come to a different conclusion about it than he has, one that includes the notion of a higher power.

    And finally, there is this bit of musing: “Physicists already have reason to suspect that our universe – everything we can see – is only one universe among perhaps billions. Some theorists postulate a multiverse of foam, where the universe we know is just one bubble. Each bubble has its own laws and constants. Our familiar laws of physics are parochial bylaws. Of all the universes in the foam, only a minority has what it takes to generate life.”

    Now let me see if I’ve got this straight: he says our universe is just a bubble amongst an infinite number of bubbles, and I’M living in fantasy land just because I happen to believe in a higher power of some kind?

    The “multiple universe theory” is hardly new. But as things stand right now, while it is certainly fascinating, there is scant evidence for it, and more importantly, no way whatsoever of proving it by somehow discovering those other universes. As soon as Dawkins uses words like “suspect” and “postulate”, what he’s really saying is: “I don’t know. It just kind of makes sense to me”.

    But as a means of factoring God out of the equation, the “anthropic principle” is a self-serving argument. It is a variation on the old idea that if you have an infinite number of monkeys pounding away on an infinite number of keyboards, eventually they will produce Shakespeare. This is patent nonsense. An infinite number of monkeys pounding away on an infinite number of keyboards will produce an infinite number of broken keyboards. But, say the adherents of the “anthropic principle”, what if we had an infinite number OF infinite numbers of monkeys…, etc.

    Many scientists who embrace this idea, but there also are many who don’t. Both groups seem to agree on one thing: it’s impossible to prove. But it may be impossible to disprove. Just like the existence or non-existence of God.

    So Dawkin’s argument as to “why there is almost certainly no god” rests on the anthropic principal, which itself rests on an idea of multiple universes which even its proponents state is empirically unprovable. Apparently Richard Dawkins is free to make speculations about the universe that are unfounded by any scientific evidence, but no one else is. Surely my belief in some kind of a higher power, the nature of which I in no way claim to know, is no sillier than the notion that our universe is one of billions. Conversely, this speculation which he is ready to believe has no more evidence to support than my belief. So why are Dawkins beliefs more valid than mine? It it’s good enough for Dawkins, it’s good enough for me.

    So that said, is it so unreasonable to look at the universe, with all it’s complexity AND its implausibility (as even Dawkins admits), to SPECULATE about the POSSIBILITY of the existence of some higher power?

    I look at the universe, and I surmise the existence Something Intelligent. You look at the same universe, and you don’t. Who can really say, given how little we truly know about it, who is right?

    That’s all I’m saying here. As I’ve stated before, it is not Dawkins’ atheism which bothers me. But like the religious fundamentalist, his unshakable belief in the correctness of HIS position is arrogant, disturbing even, and puts him squarely in the same category as a Jimmy Swaggart, even if he’s arguing the opposite point.

    –smith

  45. […] some of you know, I am engaged in a life or death struggle with the atheists over on Matt’s Notepad. What started as an offhand remark on my part has evolved (there’s that word again) into a […]

  46. The above comment was generated by a track-back, and is regrettably out of context. Taken in context, it is meant to be tongue in cheek. Sorry.

    Smith

  47. anonymum says:

    i must say i’m enjoying this enormously! i have no desire to enter the debate, merely thought i’d compliment the post and commenters…

  48. Dan says:

    Murder,
    I see your point, but I don’t think that the analogy between deities and extraterrestrial life is a very good one. For one, there’s the assumption that the rest of the Universe works according to the laws of nature that exist here on Earth – this allows for the possibility (though not the fact) of life elsewhere, and opposes the idea that supernatural entities (i.e., gods) could exist in our Universe at all, at least in a literal sense.

    But, as I’ve said and Writerchick mentioned, there are metaphorical gods all about us – a Christian god here in the US, Hindu gods in India, etc. – who’s to say that alien civilizations, should they exist, don’t worship their own metaphorical/imagined/perceived gods?

  49. tinyfrog says:

    writerchick:
    > But I do think this: whether you are a Christian Fundamentalist, a Muslim or an Aetheist, you are all practicing a religion. A prescribed set of beliefs from which you are not allowed to wander.

    Since when is atheism “a prescribed set of beliefs from which you are not allowed to wander”? There are no prescribed beliefs in atheism. It is not *a religion* – there are no holy texts. Atheism is, quite simply, not believing in God. Calling it “a religion” is about as wrong as calling disbelief in the loch-ness monster “a religion”. And atheists are quite free to “wander” from that position. It’s quite different from Christianity or Islam which believes in heretics (i.e. people who have wandered too far from the prescribed teachings).

  50. tinyfrog says:

    murderofravens –

    It is a variation on the old idea that if you have an infinite number of monkeys pounding away on an infinite number of keyboards, eventually they will produce Shakespeare. This is patent nonsense. An infinite number of monkeys pounding away on an infinite number of keyboards will produce an infinite number of broken keyboards. But, say the adherents of the “anthropic principle”, what if we had an infinite number OF infinite numbers of monkeys…, etc.

    I think you misunderstand the “infinite monkeys” argument. What the monkey’s argument says is that if you produce an infinite number of characters, you will produce all possible texts (of finite length). It’s not “patent nonsense”, you are misunderstanding the implications of the word “infinite”.

    But, say the adherents of the “anthropic principle”, what if we had an infinite number OF infinite numbers of monkeys…

    No one says that.

  51. Paul says:

    This continues to be fascinating!

    murderofravens, well done, you put it very eloquently (though it might disturb you to know that a fundamentalist Christian finds himself in complete agreement with you!)

    😉

  52. Dan says:

    Paul,
    I take it that you don’t see his obvious error?

  53. Paul says:

    Nope. I guess I’m about to!

  54. Dan says:

    Please (re-)read my comment timestamped “(04:43:56)” of today then.

  55. Paul says:

    Hmm. You’re going to have to help me Dan!

    Are you in agreement with that assumption or not?

  56. Paul says:

    *not getting the tag thing, sorry*

    Here’s the part of your comment I need clarifying:

    there’s the assumption that the rest of the Universe works according to the laws of nature that exist here on Earththere’s the assumption that the rest of the Universe works according to the laws of nature that exist here on Earth

  57. Dan says:

    Which assumption? This one: “that the rest of the Universe works according to the laws of nature that exist here on Earth”? I know of no reasonably intelligent person that disagrees with that assumption.

  58. Dan says:

    Ah – yes, I got the right assumption. Technically, that’s an assumption. But it’s an assumption that the entirety of science operates on, so I’m not really sure why you think I wouldn’t agree with that as a given.

  59. Paul says:

    Well, I think murder is citing Dawkins here:

    And finally, there is this bit of musing: “Physicists already have reason to suspect that our universe – everything we can see – is only one universe among perhaps billions. Some theorists postulate a multiverse of foam, where the universe we know is just one bubble. Each bubble has its own laws and constants. Our familiar laws of physics are parochial bylaws. Of all the universes in the foam, only a minority has what it takes to generate life.”

  60. Dan says:

    Yes, Dawkins does say that. So? I thought we were talking about THIS Universe, and whether life elsewhere was a good analogy for gods.

    Even so, why would they become analogous in other universes within the multiverse theory?

  61. Dan says:

    Not to mention, Dawkins is speaking of a theoretical postulate.

    It’s the job of theoretical physicists to ask such questions (what would science be if no one asked that question?), but the rest of us operate under the assumption that the Universe operates under natural laws, and even other universes would be bound by their natural laws (if they differ from our own), kinda nullifying the concept of gods there too.

  62. Paul says:

    Hi Dan. I agree with everything you say in the last 2 comments.

    Let me be clear about where I’m coming from. (You may think me a fool, but I am not foolish enough to attempt to convert you to my particular brand of Christianity! I’m not even interested in arguing the relative merits of evolution or creationism. It’s not why I am here nor what piqued my interest originally.)

    I jumped into this merely because murderofravens fingered something about Dawkins that bugs me too. IE that he has a type of arrogance that mirrors that of evangelical christians (and I suppose other religious zealots). The comparison wasnt mine, but I found myself agreeing with it.

    It seems that Dawkins is allowed to entertain ideas about other universes not yet discovered, the origin of the first self-replicating molecule (for example), neither provable or disprovable using current scientific methods, yet he does not allow some of his fellow humans that same freedom.

    I agree that it is the job of theoretical physicists to ask these questions and others like them. Can it also be allowed that it is the job of theoretical theists (my phrase) to ask other questions?

    Having now been to his site and read his piece on the reasons for the “OUT” campaign, I kind of understand where he is coming from actually. From what I can gather, atheists seem to be getting a bit of a raw deal in the US from what I would characterise as over-zealous Christians. I’m not sure a campaign like his would make much sense anywhere else. Indeed he says as much himself.

  63. My, my, this HAS been fun, hasn’t it? What are we up to now, 63 comments? I can honestly tell you that no post on MY blog ever generated that many comments. 😉

    What do you say we have a contest? A Grand Prize for whoever posts the 100th comment, along with a Consolation Prize for whoever posts 99.

    The Grand Prize is the special omnibus edition of the world’s religious writings, including the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita, delivered to your door in once a month installments over the next 50 years or so.

    The consolation prize is the Complete Works of Richard Dawkins.

    And of course, everyone who has contributed a comment to this post will receive a free Richard Dawkins bobblehead doll.

  64. (smith grins and ducks to avoid the very large book hurtling at him with alarming velocity)

  65. Bad says:

    murder: are you under the impression that everyone is posting just for the heck of it? I’m not treating your comments like that, I hope you understand.

    Paul,

    It seems that Dawkins is allowed to entertain ideas about other universes not yet discovered, the origin of the first self-replicating molecule (for example), neither provable or disprovable using current scientific methods, yet he does not allow some of his fellow humans that same freedom.

    As I pointed out on murder’s blog, this sort of critique is missing an understanding of the sort of argumentation Dawkins is using. It’s not at all about theists not being able to speculate: it’s about theist arguments that assert that because so and so, we must conclude that there is a God. Dawkins is simply pointing out that this conclusion is by no means warranted or inevitable, as it is being presented.

  66. Dan says:

    Paul,
    Ah, yes, back to the argument like “[Dawkins has the ] type of arrogance that mirrors that of evangelical christians.” Never mind that he may be right, but he’s arrogant. Oh my.

    But even if that were a valid criticism (which I think is a rather feeble one), then I must disagree again. I’ve seen every clip of Root of All Evil and Enemies of Reason on the web that I can get my hands on, I’ve read The Blind Watchmaker and the God Delusion, and I have never actually seen this arrogance you speak of. He can be brutally honest however – is this what you mean?

    Oh my – he’s right, but he lacks manners. Tsk tsk.

  67. “murder: are you under the impression that everyone is posting just for the heck of it? I’m not treating your comments like that, I hope you understand.”

    Bad, I am certainly not under that impression. I was simply trying to introduce a little levity in to the thread, that’s all. No offense intended, I assure you. I was just making a joke (clearly not a very funny one.)

    As I said, I genuinely enjoy the free exchange of ideas and the give and take that goes along with a debate like this. Obviously I am not alone here. This is probably the best thread I’ve ever been involved in. It has been a genuine pleasure to debate you and the others. And thank you for visiting my blog, btw.

    Now, about that Dawkins bobblehead…….;)

    -smith

  68. Paul says:

    #69

    Yes, about that bobblehead…

    *Murder, your attempt at levity was understood and appreciated here. I too do not want this to revert to name-calling as so many other discussions like this one become*

    Dan, I’m sorry to keep coming back to the arrogance argument but that IS actually what prompted me to post here and what I thought murders’ comment was about. I’m NOT arguing the correctness of Dawkins’ view. (Others have done/are doing that here and elsewhere, and I have no doubt those kind of debates will continue. I DO happen to disagree with him, but that isnt what is at issue here for me nor why I commented here, as I have already stated.)

    Nor am I accusing him of a lack of manners. I’ve heard him in debate and he is nothing if not impeccably polite.

    I’m sorry, but it’s to do with the “intellectual arrogance”. Period.

  69. Dan says:

    Paul,
    Sorry – I don’t buy that. A person’s position cannot be simultaneously correct and arrogant. That’s what makes the Evangelicals so arrogant – they’re wrong, sometimes staring agonizingly so, and yet have the ridiculousness to keep going. If they’d be right, and God would materialize like Michael Jordan and (not just seemingly) defy the laws of physics, then we’d all turn around and say, “You know, those Evangelicals were right all along.”

    Dawkins talks (rightly so) how that’s not likely to happen, and even then, why not some non-Christian god? And he’s right – yet you’re still trying to tell me that he’s arrogant.

    The only explanation that I can see is that you just don’t like him, that you have something personal against what he’s saying, and/or you think that he’s incorrect. But that’s not the same thing as him being arrogant. But, just to be sure, Merriam-Webster’s definition of arrogance:

    An attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions

    So is Dawkins overbearing? No, he’s quite polite in the interviews I’ve seen him in. Presumptuous (overstepping due bounds, as MW defines it)? Again, no, he comes off rather calm and respectful.

    He disagrees, and is (rightly so) flabbergasted by the things some theists say, but arrogant?

  70. Paul says:

    OK. No sale then!

    ;->

  71. Dan, a couple of thoughts here. I did not mean to imply that the possibility of life on other planets necessarily leads one to the conclusion that god exists. I was simply saying that if one can accept the idea of one, the idea of the other isn’t so strange, once one thinks along the lines of higher and higher forms of life. But I agree with you: the physical laws of the universe are probably the same throughout the universe. This is what scientists tell me, and it seems like a reasonable proposition. I haven’t done much research on this, but I seem to recall that some scientists have postulated a theory about parts of the universe where those laws change, black holes or some such. Again, I don’t know, but I imagine it would make interesting reading.

    As far as multiverses go, well, if there really are an infinite number of universes offering an infinite number of possibilities, then it logically follows that in some universes God exists, and in some, he doesn’t, since both of those conditions are possible. That would make everybody happy, right? 😉

    -smith

  72. Paul says:

    Dan, I respecfully disagree. Plainly it IS possible to be correct and arrogant. Correctnes is one thing. Arrogance is all about manner. One can be correct in a self deprecatory way. One can also be correct in an arrogant way. Needless to say, arrogance is not necessarily the preserve of the correct!

    I actually DO think that the MW definition you found describes exactly Dawkins minus the “overbearing manner” part.

    I DO happen to disagree with Dawkins and have made no secret of that. Does this mean I dislike him? I dont think so. I havent met him in person of course. I’m sure he is charming in person. (Here goes the “some-of-my-best-friends-are-atheists” argument!!)

    Seriousy though (and here I AM getting to grips with the actual claims he makes NOT his manner) can someone explain the following to me:

    “The temptation is a false one, because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.”

    Is that so?

    (just trying to understand Dawkins’ argument)

  73. Paul said:

    “murderofravens, well done, you put it very eloquently (though it might disturb you to know that a fundamentalist Christian finds himself in complete agreement with you!)”

    Thank you for the compliment. And yes, one of the ironies of this thread is that I could just as easily be arguing with you from the opposite direction, and believe me, I would be every bit as dogged. You might not be so inclined to pay me a compliment after we’d gone a few rounds. 😉

    As I’ve said before (many times by now) it’s not the belief (whatever the belief may be) that riles me, it’s the insistence on the correctness of that belief. A belief, by definition, cannot be proven. Prove a belief to be true and it’s no longer a belief, it’s now a fact. Until you do, it’s still just a belief. And all our beliefs are equally valid. That applies to atheism as well as Christianity.

    -smith

  74. Dan says:

    Well we can agree to disagree then – because in all the clips and interviews I’ve seen of him, he has always seemed quite respectful of others to me, giving them time to speak without being interrupted, keeping his voice calm, etc.

    By that criterion, I would hate to have an honest opinion of what you think of me – some impetuous slime, most likely!

  75. Dan says:

    Also, I actually do partly agree with you on the criticism of his infinite regression argument. It’s just not a very effective argument. More effective, and to the point, is asking something along the lines of ‘Okay, so which God should we worship, or would it be more effective to invent a new God?’ Because that is the state of religion in the world today – no distinguishing between one god or another, except on purely subjective and emotional grounds; nothing rational or objective whatsoever. (again, I assume you’ll find that an arrogant claim also)

    The only rational or objective response is to choose ‘none of the above.’

    Calling that ‘arrogant’ is just a cop-out.

  76. Paul says:

    *I’m probably the most arrogant person I know*

    ;->

  77. Paul says:

    Anyone here familiar with Margaret Somerville? I’m not really, but I heard a recorded lecture series she did in Canada (Massey Lectures) back in November 2006. I must say I preferred her approach to science and its impact on the spiritual domain. To sum it up it was that science should move us to a humble awe of what surrounds us and what we dont know and have yet to understand. It stood in marked contrast to Dawkins’ approach (I know Dawkins and Somerville have had run-ins before).

  78. Paul says:

    Obviousy I need to read The God Delusion before commenting further on the integrity of his arguments (I wonder how many fundamental christians have actually bought the book?) but most of the rebuttals I have seen/read so far, fail to do a great job I must say.

    Dawkins seems to be saying that in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, why should we believe in a God. And that seems an entirely reasonable question to me. The problem with that argument for me, is that I do have evidence. At least, evidence sufficient for me to believe. I’m sure that that evidence would not be sufficient to persuade a committed atheist, and so I havent bothered to mention it to date. But to suggest that Christians believe without any evidence I think is just plain wrong.

    Sadly, the fact that most Christian apologists attempt to refute Dawkins by resorting to arguments of logic, rather than talking directly about the evidence they might have, is I think an indication (as you suggest) of the bankrupt state of most organised religion. At the very least, it has become unfashionable or politically incorrect to use biblical examples. Witness the revisionist trend with regard to (specifically the Old Testament) parts of the Bible that no longer fit with modern thought.

    If you are going to found a church on the basis of a religious text (I’m talking here about the Bible) and then spend the latter half of the last century undermining the validity of large chunks of that text, it follows that you eventually end up doctrinally bankrupt.

    Of course, the evidence to which I refer is not without it’s critics (just like that offered in support of Darwinian evolution) and it does make some initial assumptions (ditto).

    Dawkins has probably made only a cursory review of that evidence since he has already decided that all religion is baseless superstition and that he therefore doesnt need to waste his time studying it. Which is fine. But it does make it all a little too easy for him to dismiss. I realise he has been presented with that argument already and dismissed it. But, at the same time he wants me to take his theories seriously. Which means I have to read them thoroughly and familiarise myself with a whole area of specialty which is quite inaccessible to the layperson.

    Or, I guess, I could be lazy and just accept what the preacher is telling me.

  79. Dan says:

    “Dawkins seems to be saying that in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, why should we believe in a God. And that seems an entirely reasonable question to me. The problem with that argument for me, is that I do have evidence. At least, evidence sufficient for me to believe.”

    That’s good enough for me. Whatever your conclusion though – don’t just “be lazy and accept” anyone else’s view, even if that leads you to Dawkins point of view or mine! Thinking for one’s self is a great thing.

  80. Dan says:

    Paul and Murder/smith,
    Incidentally, for the theists in the house, have you heard of the new book coming out in a few months: Thank God For Evolution? Of course I probably wouldn’t go for that book, but it wasn’t written for me, was it? – maybe you guys would enjoy it more than I.

  81. Paul says:

    Err, thanks but no thanks! Just had a quick look at the site and it looks like a pretty unconvincing attempt at having a bob each way too me. Reading the site just made me cross. Frankly, Dawkins is far more believable than this.

    As I said above, whatever happened to good old honest biblical integrity? People need to stop playing fast and loose with the data on both sides!

    *just my 2¢*

  82. Paul says:

    Sorry Dan, didnt mean to sound ungrateful to you in that last comment. I appreciate the gesture.

  83. Dan says:

    No prob – and sorry, I forgot that I was dealing with a fundamentalist, which probably rules out much acceptance of science, much less all-out rationalism.

  84. Paul says:

    I think, if you read the stuff on that link, you wont find much science or rationalism there.

  85. Dan says:

    True, but I didn’t say that there was much science or rationalism there. I said “acceptance of science.” While there isn’t all-out rationalism to be found there, there is an attempt to reconcile blind faith with empiricism to be found there.

    Fundamentalism, on the other hand, refuses to reconcile faith and facts.

  86. Dan says:

    To be fair though, I didn’t think the ThankGodForEvolution concept to be all that rational either, because of its theism. Baby steps, I suppose.

  87. bill says:

    please be open minded and look at this link
    http://www.jesus-is-lord.com/

  88. Matt says:

    Heh. I read in that a lot of paranoia and ignorance, I’m afraid. And, not surprisingly, no actual evidence presented to support arguments.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s