Thursday, November 16, 2006

Interview With Richard Dawkins

As close to a hero as I can have as an adult.


Blogger MichaelBains said...

Mr. Dawkins, why are so wound up about .. the .. position of Faith in our society?

Nothin' like starting an interview with an open mind, eh... Puts your guest right as ease, don't ya know.

Still, great interview: as if D could give a bad one.

6:25 AM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

He handles himself very well.

9:08 AM  
Anonymous Robin Edgar said...

"Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices." - Voltaire

That applies very well to some of the absurdities about God and religion that Richard Dawkins would have people believe. . . If you have any doubt just look to the injustices against religious people in the former Soviet Union, Pol Pot's Cambodia, and other fundamentalist atheist Utopias. . .

"It is impossible to reason someone out of something that he did not reason himself into in the first place." - Jonathan Swift

I sure do have to agree with that great saying by the creator of Yahoos. . . Richard Dawkins is going to find it impossible to reason himself out of the foolish things that he reasons himself into in the first place.

I have a saying about people like Richard Dawkins. It was originally inspired by the mayor of a Montreal suburb where I grew up but it has a much broader application and applies well to most demagogues.

I don’t know if he keeps putting his foot in his mouth because his mouth is so big, or if his mouth is so big because he keeps putting his foot in it. . .

I really don’t know why some people describe Richard Dawkins as “brilliant” because when it comes to his views on religion he is anything but brilliant, indeed he is not even “bright”. . . The fact of the matter is that he is constantly putting his foot in his mouth to the point that he can be quite justifiably put under quarantine for suffering from foot-in-mouth disease.

Here are a few of my responses to some of his arguments on Beliefnet:

12/7/2005 5:06:19 PM
Backing Richard Dawkins into an intellectual corner no. 2 -

Interviewer - How would you feel if your daughter became religious in the future?

Dawkins - I think she’s much too intelligent to do that, but that’s her decision.

Thus if anyone every becomes religious or indeed already is religious they are lacking in intelligence or at least much less intelligent than Richard Dawkins daughter. . .

12/7/2005 5:12:49 PM
Backing Richard Dawkins into an intellectual corner no. 3 -

Interviewer -If you were able to teach every person, what would you want people to believe?

Dawkins - I would want them to believe whatever evidence leads them to; I would want them to look at the evidence, judge it on its merits, not accept things because of internal revelation or faith, but purely on the basis of evidence.

So what if the available evidence of existing religious beliefs, or indeed direct personal revelatory experience of God of some variety, judged on its merits. . . leads people to belief in God?

12/7/2005 5:20:01 PM
Backing Richard Dawkins into an intellectual corner no. 4 -

Dawkins - Not everybody can evaluate all evidence; we can’t evaluate the evidence for quantum physics. So it does have to be a certain amount of taking things on trust.

So according to Dawkins it’s perfectly OK not to be able to evaluate the evidence for quantum physics, and thus be obliged to take a certain amount of things on trust, (dare I say faith?) but it is NOT OK to do so with respect to evaluating the evidence for God, and taking a certain amount of things on trust in God. . .

12/7/2005 5:39:00 PM
Backing Richard Dawkins into an intellectual corner no. 5 -

Dawkins - I have to take what physicists say on trust, for example, because I’m a biologist.

Even though he just said that even physicists “can’t evaluate the evidence for quantum physics.”

Richard Dawkins “trust” sounds a lot like “faith” to me. If it’s good enough for Dawkins with respect to physics, especially untestable quantum physics, why is it not good enough for your average person who places some trust in theologians, prophets, and religious leaders?

8:52 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

Well, I guess very obviously I don't agree with you, but I appreciate your visit and the time you took to contribute to the dialog.

10:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

regarding the question about dawkins daughter, if she found religion what would dawkins say. i thought he gave the correct response when he said she'd most likely be to intelligent to find religion. all the studies show atheist are far more intelligent the religious people so chances are very good she presumably being intelligent would reject religion as most intelligent people do.

1:48 AM  
Blogger Soundsurfr said...

It troubles me when people make claims about intelligence and religion or lack of religion.

The misapplication of critical thought is something that can occur in even the most intelligent mind, and none of us are without our own personal filters.

This is one of the things that bugs me about Dawkins.

If I'm a buddhist and you're an atheist, does that make me dumber than you? As atheists, can we claim mental superiority over someone like Jimmy Carter?

2:06 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

I agree that that aspect of him is a flaw, but it is at least an entertaining one.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haven't checked in in a while... Fascinating interview. I haven't picked up his book yet, but I do plan to at some point, as he seems to mirror my own views very well. If you've read it, does he ever discuss agnosticism versus atheism? Just curious.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Neddie said...

Boy, those are some mighty, mighty weak arguments, there, Robin. That "intellectual corner" you claim to have backed Dawkins into looks more like the ball-pit at Chuck E. Cheese.

If you have any doubt just look to the injustices against religious people in the former Soviet Union, Pol Pot's Cambodia, and other fundamentalist atheist Utopias. . .

Some atheists have been murderers; therefore, all atheists are murderers? Try again.

So what if the available evidence of existing religious beliefs, or indeed direct personal revelatory experience of God of some variety, judged on its merits. . . leads people to belief in God?

This is a fatal misuse of the word "evidence." "Direct personal revelatory evidence" is not "evidence" as a scientist defines the term. God has never ever moved a needle on a sensor in a laboratory, Robin. Ever. In fact, God does an absolutely astonishingly good impression of a being that does not exist at all. Two possible conclusions: 1) God is hiding; and 2) God doesn't exist. I know which way I go on that one.

Dawkins' points about intelligence and faith are not intended to insult all people of faith, and it's a red herring to imply that they do. Taking his words as an insult says more about the hearer's closed-mindedness than it does about Dawkins' assertions. A truly faithful person would not be threatened by a Richard Dawkins -- and that, of course, is a major part of the problem.

First off, Dawkins attacks the idea of the personal god of the three major monotheistic religions -- that is, an overarching intelligence that directs events in the universe. He's far less critical of belief systems that don't posit the existence of this god. He is highly critical of, say, Einstein, who used the word "god" (as in "God does not play dice with the universe") in a way that implies personality. What scientists mean when they speak of God is the emotional awe and wonder they feel when contemplating the mysteries of the universe -- something that Dawkins himself happily admits to feeling as well. But -- and this is really, really important, Robin, so pay attention -- if a scientist uses the word "God," that does not automatically imply a Trinity, a Heaven, a Hell, a Jesus, a Mohammed, or a Moses.

As for your cherrypicked quotes from Dawkins about taking on trust scientific principles from outside your discipline, it would be profoundly dishonest for him to say anything else. I have to trust (not have faith in) explanations of quantum physics from physicists for the blindingly simple reason that I haven't studied the science! But -- and here's where the enormous difference between science and religion becomes clear -- I can go and study the evidence for myself if I'm so inclined. It will be there. It will not disappear in a puff of smoke or hide behind logical pixie dust.

If I'm a buddhist and you're an atheist, does that make me dumber than you?

Buddhists don't believe in a personal god, and it's arguable (I argue it myself constantly) that Buddhism isn't a religion at all, but a philosophy that supports a personal code of ethics. I like Buddhism.

If you've read it, does he ever discuss agnosticism versus atheism? Just curious.

I'm halfway through "The God Delusion" myself, BSUWG, and he calls agnosticism a "fallacy" for reasons too complicated to go into in a blog comment. It has to do with probabilities and a hierarchy of assertions one can make about the existence of God, from "He exists" at one end of the spectrum and "He existeth not" at the other end. Do pick up the book, it's essential reading. (I highly doubt, e.g., that Robin up there has actually tried to read it; his/her head would explode.)

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To date, I didn't rush out to buy the book, mainly because I didn't think there'd be anything new in it (having spent so many hours immersed in, say, Sagan -- my own personal hero). But, the agnosticism fallacy interests me enough to take a look. I'll definitely pick up a copy over Christmas with the Borders Books gift certificate that I'll be placing into my own stocking. (No matter how atheistic or agnostic one is, I maintain that he or she can still enjoy Christmas - if considerably more secularly than most people.)

You two (Neddie & the Viscount) are admirably patient with certain commenters. I wish I'd been like that a few times on my own blog. Usually, I just post a picture of Satan and everyone freaks out.

12:16 AM  
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