Richard Dawkins

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Anonymous

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had a strange idea when watching an interview with him.
do you all think it's possible that someone would one day start a religious movement based on his ideas? he does seem to have quite a large theology looking at his works. it would be ironic if what he fought (in an iterlectual sense) against grew into an instituatuion based round his work.
but in the mean time i like the guy. more power to richard dawkins.
 

Bilderberger

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Well, I can't imagine any cult around his "personality" but to a certain extent, your scenario has already been achieved.

By that, I mean the idea of science as religion - which is a feature of our current culture.

Dawkins would shoot me for saying that (and not go to hell - which doesn't exist etc).

P.S. I am also quite a fan of his work- rather dogmatic - but never less than well researched/argued.
 
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you hit the nail right on the head. i suppose a science of religion has been developing since the enlightenment. are there any good post-modernist critiques of Dawkins? i think the old "you can't prove if it does or doesn't exist" line would spark some interesting ideas in responce to dawnkins works.
 
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Dawkins is certainly charasmatic enough IMO but surely he would reject the whole idea of a cult based around him, or maybe he would have no say in the matter. If i had to join any 'cult' this would be the one I admire the man tremondously.
 

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I am a biiiiiig Dawkins fan. My son bought me his latest book and got RD to sign it specially for me.

I like his absolute certainty that religions etc are all in the mind. Especially as he is careful not to say it to Muslims- scientific pragmantism or mere cowardice? :D

He is on my '6 Degrees' list as he has lunch regularly with my son's infant teacher's son...........

I read his books as they come out. The experience of spending a loooooong summer afternoon in Newborough Forest, Anglesey, enjoying 'The Blind Watchmaker' while the half-dozen kids I'd brought climbed trees and ate fruit convinced me- yes, it's all true, we are apes after all..................... :)
 

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escargot said:
I like his absolute certainty that religions etc are all in the mind. Especially as he is careful not to say it to Muslims- scientific pragmantism or mere cowardice? :D
Not sure if I've missed the point of what you are saying, but I would have thought that this famous article is nothing less than critical of the Muslim religion.............

http://www.guardian.co.uk/wtccrash/story/0,1300,552388,00.html
 

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While I am an Atheist , like Dawkins, and there is much that I would agree with him on, my personal feeling is that when I have seen him speaking on TV he does not particularly come across very well nor with any "charisma" which ironically is a term of religious origin. Like say, James Randi. not without faults but a useful and all too rare, skeptical counter voice against superstition.

I think one needs to distinguish between the majority of Theistic Religions and the non-theistic ie Buddhism. Perhaps the exception but it does acknowlege that for most of us there are simply concepts that we are unable to comprehend such as Eternity and Infinity (how big is the universe and how can it ever really end - or begin?).
 
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i like him on telly. he's a bit grandad-ish. he's often isn't his best when interviewed (espescially if there is a panel newsnight style) he goes from being antagonistic to meek with in a couple of sentances. but i think i like that ecentricity about him.
 

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His books are excellent, but on TV he sometimes comes across as a bit dogmatic and aggressive.

A pity as he could shred most of his opponents through sheer strength of argument without getting sneery.

On a trivial note he's married to Lalla Ward (Romana:2 in Doctor Who), apparently he gets quite sharp when people compare him to the Doctor.
 
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Funnily enough Richard Dawkins was responsible for my 'conversion' to atheism. I read an article in which he explained very clearly why astrology could not be true. I found that I couldn't argue with anything he was saying, therefore I was forced to agree with him!

It is no exaggeration to say it changed my life, as up to that point I had been regularly reading tarot cards etc. After reading that article I couldn't do that anymore as it just seemed completely pointless.

So yes, I would agree that Dawkins' views could be considered a 'religious belief'. It certainly had an unexpected emotional impact on me.
 
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I'm not a big fan of Dawkins. He seems to think that, in order to describe a circle, you have to have one angle of arc of greater import than any other.

A common scientific error. ;)
 
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A Devil's Chaplin - the rise of aggressive atheism

I've just finished "A Devil's Chaplin", a compendium of articles published by Richard Dawkins over the past few years.

The tone of some of the more recent pieces surprised me.

What's always made the professor's full-length works so compelling is his passionate desire to inspire in readers a sense of awe at the scientific method and its success in revealing to us some of the fundamental truths of the universe. But lately, by his own admission, he has become more interested in hounding religion and religious beliefs than expounding scientific wisdom for its own sake.

The Guardian article mentioned above in Bilderberger's post, and which appears in the new book, is a perfect example.

And while I applaud Dawkins' efforts to show up the idiocy of much "wooly thinking" (astrology, crystal healing, biblical creationism etc.), he is on dodgy ground when he attacks the notion of spirituality itself.

It doesn't help that he's becoming increasingly arrogant. This is a man with an unshakeable belief in himself and a quite breathtaking contempt for anyone who doesn't "get it". He sounds as though he's frustrated that there are still people out there who have instinctive religious beliefs, but here he's overlooking one big point.

For as long as the really big questions - for example, "why is there something instead of nothing" and "what gave life to the first cell", remain the preserve of philosophy, Dawkins has a problem.

To a certain extent, if you can't answer everything, you can't answer anything. This does not mean we should put religious belief on a par with scientific theory. The fact that answers (or credible guesses) to these "big questions" are currently lacking does not leave the way clear for strongly held beliefs for which there are no evidence (Dawkins's own definition of faith) to be upheld as truth.

But it does make room for a "God spot" in society at large, as well as individual consciousness.

The situation in which we find ourselves is an absurd one. Clinging to a rock ninety million miles from a giant ball of gas, somehow imbued with the ability to contemplate our own existence, and fighting to preserve it long enough to reproduce and pass on a set of coded genetic information.

Science can currently tell you how many of the curious physical laws of the universe operate. It can divide the "fundamental forces" into four categories of wildly differing strengths. It can tell you what particles get up to at magnifications thousands of times beyond the purvey of the naked eye.

But until it can paint a broader and still more complete picture (and I share Dawkins' belief that, given enough time, it could divulge the answers to everything), science cannot squeeze religion completely from the picture.

It needn't harm you to leave space for spirituality. If those feelings give rise to a conviction that one or other faith has the answers, that can give you comfort and needn't harm anyone else either.

In fact, it just might make you a nicer person than Richard Dawkins.
 

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Re: A Devil's Chaplin - the rise of aggressive atheism

Conners_76 said:
In fact, it just might make you a nicer person than Richard Dawkins.
Don't judge a man solely by his work. Any friend of the great and gregarious Douglas Adams can't be all bad. There's a video of his speech at DNA's memorial service here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/celebration/dawkins.shtml

You can be a fierce creature in debate and still be as nice as the day is long. :)
 

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I find the dogmatism of the guy rather annoying, mainly because of the fact that I used to be just like him: a dogmatic, argumentative atheist and radical materialist. I'm not anymore, and am now a very religious person and I can see the huge arena of human experience the guy's missing. There are things out there that he will never have come across, experience-wise. Since I can see both sides of the religious divide, or rather materialistic/spiritualistic divide, I have no real truck with people who only shout from one side or another - they haven't left themselves open for the big picture.
 
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Re: Re: A Devil's Chaplin - the rise of aggressive atheism

The Yithian said:
Don't judge a man solely by his work. Any friend of the great and gregarious Douglas Adams can't be all bad. There's a video of his speech at DNA's memorial service here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/celebration/dawkins.shtml

You can be a fierce creature in debate and still be as nice as the day is long. :)
cheers for that Yitth. Yes, I'm sure he's a charming bloke, great company etc, and believe it or not I am speaking as an admirer of the man who believes simply that he's lost his way, and is taking his role as prof of public understanding to extremes.

Actually, the speech he gave is featured in Devil's Chplin too.

Giant robot, it's very interesting that you went from the atheistic side of the divide to embrace spirituality. What led to to this? Can you give any examples of the way in which you think your life has been enhanced by this? It's the sort of stuff it would be good for Dawkins to hear (not that I'm suggesting he reads the Board!)
 
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Re: Re: A Devil's Chaplin - the rise of aggressive atheism

The Yithian said:
You can be a fierce creature in debate and still be as nice as the day is long. :)
Not really. It tends to reveal your true colours... Depends what one means by "fierce" though.
 

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Re: Re: Re: A Devil's Chaplin - the rise of aggressive athei

Conners_76 said:
Giant robot, it's very interesting that you went from the atheistic side of the divide to embrace spirituality. What led to to this? Can you give any examples of the way in which you think your life has been enhanced by this? It's the sort of stuff it would be good for Dawkins to hear (not that I'm suggesting he reads the Board!)
Okay - bit of background. I'm a Soto Zen Buddhist with a big interest in the Yogacara and Madhymaka philosophies, tending towards the former.

What I have got from this is a tool that enables me to get to the bottom of things in a very experiential way - meditation is basically directly observing the way your mind works, the way you react to things around you and how you construct the world you live in, that is to say, how your own ideas, predelictions, concepts and biases can cloud your view. Dogmatism, when it's finally seen in the light of being a restriction is something you become rather averse to.

Practice, at least as far as I've experienced it can be difficult but the rewards are numerous. I'm so much more chilled out and easy going than I was before. This is, AFAIK, I can see that some things just aren't worth bothering with, and also I don't always have to be right - I'm always seeing how I've gone and misunderstood something, so I just assume I'm doing the same as we speak about something or other.

There's also the side of religion about things such as faith, which for me is like being certain that when you sit on a chair it won't break - you can't be sure of it, but you trust it anyway and park your butt. Since all I've come across in Buddhism has made sense (and if it doesn't it's usually because I've come across a simplified version of a complex - and better - explanation), and if I don't like it I'm not forced to accept it, then there's no reason to not keep on doing it. It's certainly very interesting - and the distinct feeling of "this makes sense, give me more!" is what drew me in in the first place, and is probably what draws in most converts. There's a gradual build up of an emotional element too which starts to appear at this point - a kind of devotion. It's kind of a driving force and a sense of determination and also a sense of respect and gratitude.

I've a great deal of respect for other religions, but I don't really understand the ones so steeped in dogma and blind belief.

A well cited quote of the Buddha, from the Kalama Sutta (where a town of people subject to preachers end up being confused by them all as to what to do and who to follow) is of interest to both scientists and Forteans:
Now, look you Kalamas, do not be led by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. Be not led by the authority of religious texts, nor by mere logic or inference, nor by considering appearances, nor by the delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming possibilities, nor by the idea; "this is our teacher'. But, O Kalamas, when you know for youselves that certain things are unwholesome (akusala), and wrong, and bad, then give them up ... And when you know for youselves that certain things are wholesome (kusala) and good, then accept them and follow them.
Like I said, this makes sense to me.
 
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GiantRobot said:
I find the dogmatism of the guy rather annoying, mainly because of the fact that I used to be just like him: a dogmatic, argumentative atheist and radical materialist. I'm not anymore, and am now a very religious person and I can see the huge arena of human experience the guy's missing. There are things out there that he will never have come across, experience-wise. Since I can see both sides of the religious divide, or rather materialistic/spiritualistic divide, I have no real truck with people who only shout from one side or another - they haven't left themselves open for the big picture.
Not that I doubt you really believe what you post, GR, but the fact that you have been an atheist doesn't automatically qualify you to speak for anyone else's (personal) experience of atheism -any more than your present religiosity automatically qualifies you to to speak out on anyone else's (personal) experience of the Divine. The notion that you enjoy some deeply insightful perspective on these matters simply because you have dwellt in both camps, is a non-starter. You either have a deep insight into others' experience, or you do not, and if you are not by nature a deeply insightful person, then no amount of personal experience of either viewpoints will grant you the power to state with authority what anyone else in either camp is or is not depriving themselves of. If you wish to say that you "wouldn't be surprised if Dawkins is depriving himself of x, y, or z", then fine, no problem, because there you would be implicitly acknowledging the limitations of attempting to extrapolate what Dawkins is, or is not, experiencing, from the basis of your own experience.

In short, you have no way of knowing just how big the picture that Dawkins sees might be, you only know how big the picture you saw was, and about that part of the picture Dawkins has spoken and written about, (and probably not all of that either). The fact that your post implies that you feel that you yourself were not 'open to the big picture' when you were an atheist, argues against a deeply insightful nature on your part, I feel, as a deeply insightful atheist would be aware, at least, of missing something. But then I'd be extrapolating from my own experience of atheism, and so I could be wrong about that. :D

But I'm not wrong about you not being able to guage how much of that big picture Dawkins sees merely from your own experiences. :hmph:
 

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but the fact that you have been an atheist
I still am, technically.

But I'm not wrong about you not being able to guage how much of that big picture Dawkins sees merely from your own experiences.
Yes, it's just an inference on my part.

What I (think I) missed was the fact that my views were just views, and so shouldn't really be held onto - you, me, Dawkins and probably just about everyone else is wrong about something major - you just have to have a good look to see what it is in your own case. I've found through bitter experience it's usually the thing you're most certain about at the time.

Want a recent example? The bit you just pointed out in my inference! :D
 
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i have always found Dawkins to be a religious thinker myself... that accusatory challenging head posturing when making a point...just like a sermonizing vicar... he has a complete fervor for his view points that is evangelistic and dogamatic... (and i know unlike most religions he can use logic and experiment to "prove" his views)
 
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There was a piece of his that got quoted in the Guardian last year sometime, where - and my recollection is imperfect here - he proposed that the children of religious parents be separated out as somehow less intelligent than the children of atheist parents in schools.

Which sounded a bit fascist to me. But as I said, my recollection is hazy (I only really remember being outraged at it). Does anyone know the piece I mean? Is that what he really said? Does he really think that?
 

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Wood said:
There was a piece of his that got quoted in the Guardian last year sometime, where - and my recollection is imperfect here - he proposed that the children of religious parents be separated out as somehow less intelligent than the children of atheist parents in schools.

Which sounded a bit fascist to me. But as I said, my recollection is hazy (I only really remember being outraged at it). Does anyone know the piece I mean? Is that what he really said? Does he really think that?
Was it this:
http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,12084,981412,00.html

Seems like the guy is very influential in trying to push for a more organised 'free thought' (if that's not an oxymoron) movement, specifically the notion of 'brights'. A movement with a religious position? Well, it seems to be, and Dawkins features heavily in it...
 
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GiantRobot said:
Was it this:
http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,12084,981412,00.html

Seems like the guy is very influential in trying to push for a more organised 'free thought' (if that's not an oxymoron) movement, specifically the notion of 'brights'. A movement with a religious position? Well, it seems to be, and Dawkins features heavily in it...
Hmm...I'm not sure what's religious about it? Certainly "brights" claim an affiliation, but to logic and naturalism, not God or a saviour. There's no faith involved.

Of the definitions of religion listed by Merriam-Webster, the one that comes closest to allowing you to see Dawkins' movement as a religion is this one: "a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices".

But then you have to clarifiy what you mean by religious, and any sensible understanding of the term comes back to belief in a deity.
 

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Hmm...I'm not sure what's religious about it? Certainly "brights" claim an affiliation, but to logic and naturalism, not God or a saviour. There's no faith involved.
I think there's a problem with using the term 'faith' by itself - it's a meaningless word unless it relates to something. This is the same as 'freedom' - freedom from what?

The 'brights' certainly have a faith - they strongly believe that the scientific method can solve any question about the nature of reality, that there is no supernatural element to the world and usually they also would include the philosophical position of radical materialism too.

But then you have to clarifiy what you mean by religious, and any sensible understanding of the term comes back to belief in a deity.
That would exlude Buddhists, Taoists and Jains - all of which are certainly religions. Such dictionary definitions aren't that helpful - it's like Wittgenstein's idea of family resemblences with regard to the definition of a 'game'.

Edited to add:

Hmm...I'm not sure what's religious about it?
I meant it's a religious position in the sense it's a position ABOUT religion from a strongly believed philosophical position. This strongly held belief is most certainly a belief, but whether it's religious in and of itself is an awkward question tangled in semantics. Another question could be is Marxist-Leninism a religion? It certainly has some elements of religion, but not others...
 
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GiantRobot said:
The 'brights' certainly have a faith - they strongly believe that the scientific method can solve any question about the nature of reality, that there is no supernatural element to the world and usually they also would include the philosophical position of radical materialism too.
well of course they don't believe that the scientific method could answer every question about the universe at the moment. But if they believe that it will ultimately be capable of such a feat, this is only because science is a way of uncovering facts about the universe, whatever those facts may be.

To believe in science is not to put your faith in someone's idea of what is right and what is wrong - it is simply to acknowledge that there is an objective reality out there and the more we understand about it, the more we can describe it. If the universe turns out to be the work of a conscious creator, a being that can be equated with God, this is not a problem for science per se.

If brights believe that there is no supernatural element to the world, that is only because there is no reason to suppose such an element exists, becasue there's no evidence for it.

As Frank Tipler said, if theism has any truth behind it whatsoever, it must ultimately become a branch of science. If there really is a god, or forces in the universe that could permit psychic powers etc., then one day these phenomena will be analysed, dissected, written up and understood, becoming no more surprising than the fact we can use radio waves to transmit meaningful data.

I don't really know what radical materialism is tbh, so I can't comment on that part of your post, Robot, but I take your point about the existence of religions without a deity, and the limitations of dictionary definitions.
 
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GiantRobot said:
. Another question could be is Marxist-Leninism a religion? It certainly has some elements of religion, but not others...
sociologicaly speaking yes.
 

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Conners_76 said:
well of course they don't believe that the scientific method could answer every question about the universe at the moment. But if they believe that it will ultimately be capable of such a feat, this is only because science is a way of uncovering facts about the universe, whatever those facts may be.

To believe in science is not to put your faith in someone's idea of what is right and what is wrong - it is simply to acknowledge that there is an objective reality out there and the more we understand about it, the more we can describe it. If the universe turns out to be the work of a conscious creator, a being that can be equated with God, this is not a problem for science per se.

If brights believe that there is no supernatural element to the world, that is only because there is no reason to suppose such an element exists, becasue there's no evidence for it.

As Frank Tipler said, if theism has any truth behind it whatsoever, it must ultimately become a branch of science. If there really is a god, or forces in the universe that could permit psychic powers etc., then one day these phenomena will be analysed, dissected, written up and understood, becoming no more surprising than the fact we can use radio waves to transmit meaningful data.

I don't really know what radical materialism is tbh, so I can't comment on that part of your post, Robot, but I take your point about the existence of religions without a deity, and the limitations of dictionary definitions.
Radical materialism is the belief that the universe is ENTIRELY material and that there is no reality to be given to anything else - consciousness does not really exist but is somehow a by-product of the material world. It's the opposite of radical idealism where all that is said to exist is mind and objects in it.

I certainly think that anything now thought of as paranormal that is actually real will be eventually discovered, although 'understood' is possibly a bit too far. I personally class concepts such as 'God' as outside the realm of science (how on earth would you test for Him/She/It?) and to be honest as ultimately nonsensical concepts, not because they're 'silly' but because they have no real meaning to them.
 

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Toffeenose said:
sociologicaly speaking yes.
Especially with the notion of 'Historical Imperative', ie 'Will of God'. ;) :D
 

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I always enjoy reading Dawkins - I find his powerfully argued atheism bracing.

However...

It does come down to a characaturing of opposing views (his Guardian article referenced earlier in this thread being a good example) and the resort to the argumentium ad ignoratium - the absense of proof confirms or denies. Logical bad manners.

Dawkins work strikes me as confirming that the only philosohically valid stance on these issues is agnosticism - in the absense of an imperative to make the leap of faith or a shattering gnostic experience.

So, fine rhetoric but poor philosophy. But well worth engaging with.

:)
 
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