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Richard Dawkins

Discussion in 'Non-Music Chat' started by Staypuff, Aug 21, 2014.

  1. JasonWakefield

    JasonWakefield New Member

    He'd be a very bad professor of science if he wasn't educating people. If the evidence and logic are on his side, and there are people who deny the evidence and the logic, then he should be educating them. Since when is it a bad thing to try and change someone's mind if we think they are wrong? Why is it frowned upon to simply present alternative viewpoints to people who might not have considered them? How insulted would you feel if someone thought you were too frail and stupid to simply look at the evidence?

    The admirable thing about Dawkins is that he doesn't slowly and delicately meander around a point until it eventually clicks. This is the approach his more left-leaning critics want him to take, and I find it patronising and frequently messy. Instead he is clear and direct. The truth is the truth, and facts don't care if we find them distasteful or not, they just are. It's clear from his language that he approaches sensitive moral issues with the same directness and honesty. I personally wouldn't have tweeted that it is immoral to have a down syndrome baby if the choice was there (he's partly right but the point needs more nuance than what a few tweets can offer), but knowing he is clearly capable of nuance and reasoned argument outside of that single tweet I would at least give him the benefit of the doubt. Many of you are not willing to do that, which I find quite sad. Even when he has clarified his point in an appropriately longer post, he is still deemed wicked for writing the tweet in the first place. I think this is cynical, and it's really just an opportunity to drag someone down from their perceived ivory tower.
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  3. Eccles

    Eccles Member

    It seems to be a common mistake, and consequently a fallacious argument, that Dawkins' (and other scientists') faith in empiricism is somehow synonymous with religious faith.

    There are two glaring reasons why this is wrong. Firstly, the default position of any scientist is "we don't know." The second is that the scientist can tell you exactly what it would take to make them accept they are wrong (the old Rabbit in the pre-Cambrian routine.) Dawkins and his clan are not preachers for a particular scientific world view. It is not religion vs evolution. It is blind religious faith vs reason and empiricism.

    So to claim that Dawkins is just as bad as religious fundamentalists, in that sense, is patently wrong.
  4. Eccles

    Eccles Member

    To return to the original point I think it's really sad that Dawkins seems to think that the simple desire to have a child is inherently immoral. I very much doubt that religious commitment is the main reason that abortions are rejected.

    I like to think I'm as logical and reasoned as the next man, but after seeing the 12 week scan of my currently unborn child no moralistic argument could make me feel OK with aborting. The fact that Dawkins seems to completely disregard this feeling, which I'm sure I'm not alone in, makes me wonder whether whether his lack of empathy is on an autistic scale.
  5. JimShatner

    JimShatner Member

    I often find myself defending Dawkins, though he does have a tendency to put his foot in it with ill-judged comments. He recently said something about there being grades of pedophilia and being groped as a kid never did him any harm, and so on. So he's not perfect and perhaps not as au fait as he should be with the modern twittery world. "Lacking empathy" may be a good summary.

    As has been said, he is first and foremost a brilliant science writer, the whole "athiest figurehead" thing tends to distract from that. "The God Delusion" isn't that great as a book when compared to the other 'new athiest' tomes from people like Sam Harris. He became a public athiest because he was constantly being picketed by creationists seeking to undermine his life's work. Which is fair enough.

    The one area I totally take issue with is the idea that somehow being fearless and acerbic in condemning religion constitutes "bullying." If you take the view that religion is simply a harmless activity for nice people to do on a Sunday morning which them feel better, then this would be true. It is patently NOT that in the modern world. People act on their beliefs, it has an effect. Religion is politics, from ISIS to gay marriage, it matters. There is no reason why religion should be ring-fenced and off-limits to criticism, yet that's exactly how it's treated, allowing all sorts of abhorrent politics to creep into the world under the cloak of "beliefs which must be respected".

    This is why, like him or not, Dawkins provides a necessary voice in the public sphere. He upsets people, but in general this is a good thing.
  6. Staypuff

    Staypuff Active Member

    Religion shouldn't be ringfenced, it should be debated and challenged publicly, however in those cases where it is a positive force in people's lives those people should be free from persecution, a distinction Dawkins is incapabale of making. Dawkins labels anyone who follows a religion as being in some way insane, in that way he, himself, is an extremist. It's possible to discuss race without being racist, it's possible to discuss sexuality without being homophobic, yet where religion is concerned people seem to think that prejudice is fair game.
  7. Staypuff

    Staypuff Active Member

    ...though my original point was more in line with Eccles' last post
  8. JimShatner

    JimShatner Member

    Stu I cannot accept for a minute that when Richard Dawkins makes public statements challenging or even mocking religion that it constitutes "persecution".
  9. JimShatner

    JimShatner Member

    ....further, that's a word bandied about in somewhat pathetic fashion by Christians attempting to portray themselves as the victims when not allowing gay couples to stay in their hotels, isn't it?

    Ironic considering how genuinely persecuted athiests and other non-believers have been for centuries, whether they're Jews, Gentiles, Kaffirs, or whatever 'others' - and still are around the world today. Despite preaching tolerance for their own believers, religions the world over are extremely intolerant of dissent.
  10. Staypuff

    Staypuff Active Member

    ...Deleted as I can't be arsed...
  11. JoeBRG

    JoeBRG Member

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    Not to get into a ridiculous numbers game here like, and while I agree christians in this country aren't subject to persecution and it's not a useful term when discussing secularisation in this country, there have also been notable atheistic regimes who are pretty intolerant to dissent.

    People are good at intolerance.
  12. JimShatner

    JimShatner Member

    Stu it's a shame you deleted your post because I had a humdinger of a response. :)
  13. Ayala

    Ayala Member

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    Does he? I think he considers religious beliefs to be delusional, but I don't see any issue with that. You may not be harming anyone by having such beliefs, but I don't see much that is controversial in saying that genuine belief in men who can walk on water, virgins giving birth to babies fathered by celestial creators, omniscient gods listening to our thoughts and so on probably is delusional.
  14. JasonWakefield

    JasonWakefield New Member

    I think the real test of an idea is if it stands up to scrutiny, and in most cases an idea will die if logic and evidence are in opposition to it. However some ideas have in-built mechanisms to bypass logic and evidence, as well as defence mechanisms to fend off potential threats to their existence. When an idea has the capacity to adapt and spread, it follows suit that it will gradually evolve and develop new, more efficient methods of survival. Some of these may include suggestions that:

    a) The idea is divine, therefore unquestionable.
    b) The idea is really old, therefore came from a place of deeper wisdom.
    c) Ritual, conformity and belief for its own sake are virtuous.
    d) Logic and evidence are only worth anything if they support the idea / it is okay to believe two opposing ideas at once.
    e) Your life will be better if you convince others to believe the idea.
    f) If you believe the idea you will be rewarded after you die.
    g) If you don't believe the idea you will be eternally punished after you die.
    h) You must be suspicious of anyone different or "other" who may not share the idea, and might even challenge it.
    i) The idea is more important than your body, so your genitals and your sex lives are not really yours to take charge over.
    j) Morality originated from the idea, so if you don't believe it you lack basic goodness.
    k) If you are a good person it would be morally wrong for someone to challenge your idea.
    l) You have the right to believe the idea, but no one has the right to criticise your idea - any attempt would be to control or censor you.
    m) Critics of the idea are stupid and/or bullies, and vociferous critics are as bad as suicide bombers.
    n) You are always being watched, your thoughts are always being heard, you have no choice but to stop thinking and just accept the idea.

    None of the above statements would be necessary if the idea in question was actually true. The above positions do not really have truth as their main goal - they just want to spread an idea, or at least protect it. As an example: If you challenge someone for voting conservative, then that is just your political view. If you challenge someone who denies the holocaust, then you are a worthy history teacher. If you challenge someone who believes in a literal winged horse, then you are an arrogant bigot who is probably racist and not worth listening to.

    This is the same approach people take towards Dawkins, who simply challenges people's preconceptions as any good professor should. He hasn't advocated any violence or hatred towards anyone, yet that is still how people choose to see and convey him. So far we've heard he is stupid for a smart man, that he's arrogant, prejudiced, that he's hungry for money and attention, that he lacks empathy on an autistic scale, and that he has the gall to try and educate people. The amount of otherisation is astounding, and it makes me wonder how feeble the ideas he has challenged really are.
  15. ohgee

    ohgee New Member

    When somebody mentioned Eugenics earlier on I felt, "Steady on! That's a bit strong!" Then I read this exchange.

    In reply to Dawkins' initial response, the original correspondent asked him a further question:
    "What about people on the autism spectrum (which I am)? Where would u draw the line?"

    To which Dawkins responded:
    "People on that spectrum have a great deal deal to contribute, maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. DS not enhanced."

    Any of the apologists care to explain away that for me?
  16. JoeBRG

    JoeBRG Member

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    LOGIC M8
  17. Tom Russia

    Tom Russia New Member

    Sorry, I can't be arsed reading through the whole thread, but does he at any point consider that people with Downs Syndrome can live enjoyable, self-fulfilling lives, quite apart from their contribution to society? Downs isn't exactly a wasting disease where the sufferer is in pain 24/7, is it? Seems like his point referes more to the parents and society as a whole than the actual person with Downs.
  18. Ayala

    Ayala Member

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    It's not really about people with DS to be fair. It's not even about people at all.

    The point is about people who 'could' exist, but would have Down's. I don't think anyone is saying people with Down's can't have enjoyable lives. People who are deaf, blind, unable to walk and so on can have wonderful lives. But nobody is disputing this. The issue is whether it's morally right to bring someone into the world into a situation that nobody at all would choose to be in, or to stop them existing in the first place and try for a better option. In short, making a decision that everyone would make if it were to effect them, before they exist as a functioning human being.
  19. JoeBRG

    JoeBRG Member

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    "Stop them existing" - is there another word for this? Also, I'm not sure everyone WOULD make the choice to kill themselves for having Down's Syndrome. Like, if someone said to me "you are either now going to never have existed or you will start your life again with Down's Syndrome", I'm pretty sure I'd just go with the option where I'm alive.
  20. bongobenny

    bongobenny Well-Known Member

    I can't imagine a Down's person would kill themselves for having Down's it's not something that you can catch. They've always had it.

    I like your bizarre 'never have existed' paradoxical scenario.
  21. Ayala

    Ayala Member

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    But that's the point he's making. It's not a question about living people with Down's. It's about the morality of bringing someone into the world with Down's, which is something no person would choose to have.

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