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Source: (consider it) Thread: Purgatory: DawkinsWatch - 2007
CrookedCucumber
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quote:
Originally posted by The Atheist:
We are probably a bit too liberal with terms, but it's more of an occupational risk than something which is going to muddy the waters too much.

I don't agree. In my view, the `religious right' of the USA is a cause for concern, and it matters a great deal how widespread are the attitudes it espouses.

Inasmuch as `evangelical' is broadly the same as `protestant' (the difference is fairly technical) I would image that more than 50% of UK Christians would describe themselves as evangelical (yes, this is a wild guess).

But I would be very surprised if more than a tiny minority of these people identified with the `religious right' of the USA.

So using historical terms like `evangelical' as a synonym for (essentially) `mad Christian' hugely overstates the number of `mad Christians' there are.

This is how witch-hunts get started.

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Alaric the Goth
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quote:
Originally posted by The Atheist:
...Fair point. The trouble is that the "fundy" churches have no structure as such. It's very easy to count Catholic and Anglican churches and know that they are the same as the one down the road, but how can I tell the difference between the Elim Christian Church, the International Baptist Church and the Evangelical Church of Christ?

We are probably a bit too liberal with terms, but it's more of an occupational risk than something which is going to muddy the waters too much.

Anglican churches are indeed not the same. The one I am now going back to, that used to be my regular church years ago, is very far to the 'evangelical' end of the spectrum. The one in a different town I went to last Sunday, (whilst visiting a shipmate and family!) was breathtakingly ‘Catholic’, so different in fact that you’d wonder the two churches were in the same denomination.

It was a worthwhile experience to attend such different churches on two consecutive Sundays to see what a ‘broad church’ the Church of England can be.

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Noiseboy
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Whoa, what a load of posts!

If the quotes in the Times have been subbed to changed Dawkins' meaning, then I retract my first post. I have no particular desire to give Dawkins any of my money in the form of a shiny new paperback edition - does anyone have the actual full relevent Q&A to hand?

In the meantime, in the absence of any evidence to suggest otherwise, I'll continue to work with the assumption that what he wrote is what he meant. And what he wrote - his answer to many months of intelligent criticsim - was nonsense.

True, there are an alarmingly high percentage of US Christians who are fundamentalist (and believe in nonsense like Young Earth Creationism). But say it again - this is not the point. Dawkins says ALL religion - every variety, everywhere on the globe (including the very significant percentage of American Christians who are not fundamentalist). Now maybe his own definition of reasonable religion does not encompass people like Rowan Williams, in which case he is either an appalling writer, has been apallingly edited or is decietful. But if he does view Williams as reasonable, one cannot evade the conclusion that he is the leader of a large mainstream religion whose followers could reasonably be expected to accord with his views.

He tells the majority of religous people in the world that their beliefs are the same as fanatical extremists. In which case, all global surveys of religious opinion are wrong, and the people making their statements are liars. This would not be the first time that Dawkins has told other people that they do no mean what they say - he did so with Stephen Jay Gould. This is the classic Dawkinsian response - "an intelligent person does not agree with my prejudiuces, therefore they must be lying". The evidence is disregarded, in favour of pre-existing beliefs.

The charge of fundamentalism stands. Of course, I could make the point that why should I worry about being offensive with this, since he has said exactly the same thing to at least 3/4 of the world's population? But even though this is exactly how Dawkins behaves, this would be a little cheap. I do know some fundamentalists, and some are very decent, caring, intelligent people, and not at all dangerous to man nor beast. I just can't see how they reconcile their beliefs with the world around them. At the moment, no doubt this is the kind of fundamentalist Dawkins is. However, since his pronouncemnets become ever more extreme, I am concerned about the increasingly irrational path his beliefs are taking him - an more more extreme Dawkins may be lurking around the corner for all I know.

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Alaric the Goth
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I'd have to agree, Noiseboy, with most if not all of that last post. It is incredibly lax of Dawkins not to look into the facts before slagging off all religious belief; lumping together very disparate categories of believer. I am not a fundamentalist, but am an evangelical, and that statement would probably cause Dawkins to develop apoplexy.

[ 22. May 2007, 10:20: Message edited by: Alaric the Goth ]

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Off Centre View
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quote:
Originally posted by Alaric the Goth:
I'd have to agree, Noiseboy, with most if not all of that last post. It is incredibly lax of Dawkins not to look into the facts before slagging off all religious belief; lumping together very disparate categories of believer. I am not a fundamentalist, but am an evangelical, and that statement would probably cause Dawkins to develop apoplexy.

I'm also going to say that I agree as well. I respect Dawkins, but some of his increasing rants have come across as provocations rather than complete arguments (i.e. everyone who has a religious belief is bad, that sort of thing).

Does anyone remember, I think it was either last year or a few months ago, when Dawkins went on a massive rant against the comedian Peter Kay? I think that was something to do with Peter Kay saying that he believed in a God and found that somewhat comforting, only for Dawkins to rant at him for it.

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Callan
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Originally posted by Off Centre View:

quote:
Does anyone remember, I think it was either last year or a few months ago, when Dawkins went on a massive rant against the comedian Peter Kay? I think that was something to do with Peter Kay saying that he believed in a God and found that somewhat comforting, only for Dawkins to rant at him for it.
IIRC, he was set up by the press who read the quote over the phone without attributing it. (Silly old Dawkins not asking for an attribution, or indeed context, perhaps, but clearly someone was stirring things up to get a story.)

Apropos of the whole fundamentalism thing, I think fundamentalism is about the relationship between believer and text. It is about believing that a given text is literally inerrant. It isn't about holding strong views and expressing them in an objectionable manner. If that were the case half the people who post in hell could be classed as fundamentalists.

So I don't think that Dawkins can accurately be characterised as a fundamentalist. I think 'aggressive and intellectually lazy (at least on the subject of religion)' is a more accurate characterisation. To paraphrase George Orwell on H.G. Wells, he squanders his talents on slaying paper dragons. But what it is to have talents to squander.

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Sioni Sais
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quote:
Originally posted by Callan:
Originally posted by Off Centre View:

quote:
Does anyone remember, I think it was either last year or a few months ago, when Dawkins went on a massive rant against the comedian Peter Kay? I think that was something to do with Peter Kay saying that he believed in a God and found that somewhat comforting, only for Dawkins to rant at him for it.
IIRC, he was set up by the press who read the quote over the phone without attributing it. (Silly old Dawkins not asking for an attribution, or indeed context, perhaps, but clearly someone was stirring things up to get a story.)

Apropos of the whole fundamentalism thing, I think fundamentalism is about the relationship between believer and text. It is about believing that a given text is literally inerrant. It isn't about holding strong views and expressing them in an objectionable manner. If that were the case half the people who post in hell could be classed as fundamentalists.

So I don't think that Dawkins can accurately be characterised as a fundamentalist. I think 'aggressive and intellectually lazy (at least on the subject of religion)' is a more accurate characterisation. To paraphrase George Orwell on H.G. Wells, he squanders his talents on slaying paper dragons. But what it is to have talents to squander.

I don't think it is wrong at all to describe Dawkins as a fundamentalist. He appears to believe that scientific facts are literally true which is not so. Every experiment, every hypothesis and antithesis, requires interpretation so that we can say that x is the outcome, which is good enough for all practical purposes.

By your own measure I think that makes him a fundamentalist.

As for his rant against Peter Kay, he was just being a bully, thinking that the statement was from a nobody. He was Found out by Fame. I do wish Dawkins would stick to his job, which is the public understanding of science, although you wouldn't know it.

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Callan
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What does 'literally true' mean in this context?

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dj_ordinaire
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He has said on many occasions that he is not a fundamentalist for precisely that reason - although he believes scientific facts to be established to varying degrees of confidence, he would always be willing to change his mind if better evidence came along. The worst that can happen to a scientist in this respect is that she/he can become too attached to a 'pet theory' that the scientific method suggests they ought.

What could be argued is that Dawkins' belief in the non-existence of God - not justified by any scientific evidence - is a bigoted one in that it is intolerant of dissent. I'd still be leary of using the term 'fundamentalist' which should probably be left with the more specific meaning that it already enjoys.

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Sioni Sais
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quote:
Originally posted by Callan:
What does 'literally true' mean in this context?

(with a nod to dj_ordinaire too)

I take literally true to mean true to the very letter. I don't think one needs to be attached to literal truth to be a fundamentalist though: some fundamentalists interpret scripture and arrive at non-literal conclusions and I should hope so too: I don't think God speaks to us in a man-made language. Amongst fundamentalists I'm sure they interpret scripture differently.

Ditto scientists, some have more confidence in established fact than others and the scientific community can get as attached to established wisdom as can part of any religion. So long as scientists don't denigrate religion on grounds of unreasonableness nor preachers run down science on the grounds of deviation from scripture I'll be happy.

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Eliab
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quote:
Originally posted by Noiseboy:
Now maybe his own definition of reasonable religion does not encompass people like Rowan Williams, in which case he is either an appalling writer, has been apallingly edited or is decietful. But if he does view Williams as reasonable, one cannot evade the conclusion that he is the leader of a large mainstream religion whose followers could reasonably be expected to accord with his views. […]
He tells the majority of religous people in the world that their beliefs are the same as fanatical extremists.

You’ve missed the point completely.

Dawkins’ objection to “moderate” religion isn’t just about the content of people’s views, it’s an objection to religious faith as a means of forming views at all. If he thinks that Rowan Williams is reasonable, it isn’t because Rowan Williams has moderate views rather than extremist views – it’s because Rowan Williams has good reasons for his views. So the fact (assuming it to be a fact) that most Anglicans agree with their Archbishop does not make those followers reasonable. If they believe the same things, but for worse reasons, then they are unreasonable.

Dawkins’ argument (with which I happen to disagree) is that because faith seeks no reasons and resists rather than welcomes contrary evidence, ANY faith position is as valid as any other. It is a historical accident that we worship Yahweh rather than his old rival Baal. Sometimes faith may lead to morally good acts, sometimes to morally bad ones – in the same way that making decisions by flipping a coin sometimes leads to good decisions – but faith in and of itself can never offer rational grounds for choosing the good and rejecting the bad. It is therefore an inherently bad way of thinking.

The way in which I am (according to Dawkins) like Osama bin Laden is not that we believe the same things, but that we believe in the same way – we believe in a transcendent God, who has a moral claim on our allegiance, who can and does communicate by miraculous revelation, and whose commands are to be obeyed even when they exceed our understanding. And he’s right. Where I disagree with Dawkins is that I don’t think that it is a matter of mere accident or statistical distribution on a scale, that my faith leads me to commend forgiveness and Bin Laden’s leads him to commend suicide bombing. I think that there are solid reasons, within a faith-centred world-view, to distinguish and choose between the two. That is, I think that one can rightly choose between religious positions on religious grounds whereas Dawkins thinks that you can only distinguish extreme and moderate religions reliably by using non-religious rational and moral reasoning. But it is by no means an easy task to explain the sort of reasoning possible within a faith position to someone who doesn’t know or understand religious faith at all, and the fact that Dawkins doesn’t get it does not make him stupid, or intellectually lazy, or dishonest, or fundamentalist. He is none of those things.

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Dave Marshall

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quote:
Originally posted by IngoB:
I ... reject the notion that empirical falsifiability is the be all and end all of determining truth values.

It's not about falsifiability as the be all and end all of anything. The question is one of acknowledging and retaining the field of legitimacy inherent in any particular determination.

For a proposition that cannot by its nature be empirically tested, for example if it relies on "spiritual evidence", any "determination" of its truth value has no non-speculative connection with reality. It's essentially opinion based on interpretation of personal experience, perhaps compounded many times over.

You characterise the scientific method as an error-correction algorithm, but in doing so obscure its critical strength. It is always applied to the physical universe, our common shared reality. It is explicitly designed to exclude opinion. That gives its determinations universal legitimacy because, other things being equal, anyone can check if they're right.

A non-empirically testable truth claim is of a different order, one that requires faith not in a physical reality based system but one based on human opinion. That in my view means such "truths", from the point of view of humanity as a whole, are never determinations. They are things only we as individuals have the legitimacy to conclude.

Richard Dawkins is I think only making this distinction. He just has the desire and the position to object more vocally than most of us about religion that conflates personal convictions with universal truth.

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Callan
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Originally posted by Dave Marshall:

quote:
You characterise the scientific method as an error-correction algorithm, but in doing so obscure its critical strength. It is always applied to the physical universe, our common shared reality. It is explicitly designed to exclude opinion. That gives its determinations universal legitimacy because, other things being equal, anyone can check if they're right.

A non-empirically testable truth claim is of a different order, one that requires faith not in a physical reality based system but one based on human opinion. That in my view means such "truths", from the point of view of humanity as a whole, are never determinations. They are things only we as individuals have the legitimacy to conclude.

Richard Dawkins is I think only making this distinction. He just has the desire and the position to object more vocally than most of us about religion that conflates personal convictions with universal truth.

That's an interesting take but it's basically a reiteration of Popper's demarcation between science and metaphysics with (not unreasonable) political consequences (metaphysical beliefs should be a matter of individual conscience).

I think Dawkins' position is rather stronger than this. It is that religion is a positive evil, which derives from the strength of religious memes, which is based on an irrational and arbitrary adoption of a belief system due to social conformity and which issues in suicide bombing and people writing to him in green ink telling him that he's wrong about evolution. (I disagree with him because he ignores the extent to which religion functions as a form of ideological legitimation, because I think the notion of memes is an attempt to conflate evolutionary theory with a very crude form of Anglo-American philosophy and because the notion of 'religion' as a simple and undifferentiated concept is absurdly naive, but I'm sure we've had this discussion.) You seem to read him as a Dave Marshallite - True religion is the quest of the individual for spiritual truth unencumbered by man-made dogmas. I read him as saying Ecrasez l'Infame!.

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Mad Geo

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quote:

Dawkins is a failure. I'm very happy if he continues his crusade though. As far as I'm concerned, the best he can do is make atheism look like an idiotic option, the worst he can do is to separate Christian chaff from wheat. So his worst is not so bad at all for Christianity. [/QB]

Really? #2 on Amazon and #4 on New York Times Best Selling non-Fiction (10 weeks on the list) is failure? I'd like to hear your definition of success!

And it may be a coincidence but the first congressman came out of the atheist closet.

quote:
"....I have been inundated (with responses) from literally all over the world.''

Of the 500 or so responses Stark has received, all but about 25 them have been supportive. Even those weren't the type of harsh screeds that might be expected on a hot-button topic like religion.

"The negative responses were the most reasoned and reasonable I've ever received,'' he said. "In this instance, the people who have disagreed with me have been polite and reasonable. All in all, this has been a pleasurable experience.''

If you think Dawkins makes atheism look like an idiotic option than you haven't seen what categorically stupid things your boys have been saying over here. Pat Robertson, Fallwell, Haggard, Phelps, for that matter The Pope, all make Dawkins look like a Rocket Scientist, as we say over here.

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Papio

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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
But it is by no means an easy task to explain the sort of reasoning possible within a faith position to someone who doesn’t know or understand religious faith at all, and the fact that Dawkins doesn’t get it does not make him stupid, or intellectually lazy, or dishonest, or fundamentalist. He is none of those things.

Yes, but if he had ever bothered to read any theology then he would get it.

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Papio

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quote:
Originally posted by Mad Geo:
I'd like to hear your definition of success!

A good, intellectually rigorous argument displaying all the hallmarks of exceptionally good scholarship?

That is hardly what TGD is.

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Mad Geo

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I see, you haven't read the book then.

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Papio

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It's simply ranting drivel, IMO of course.

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Noiseboy
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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
Dawkins’ objection to “moderate” religion isn’t just about the content of people’s views, it’s an objection to religious faith as a means of forming views at all. If he thinks that Rowan Williams is reasonable, it isn’t because Rowan Williams has moderate views rather than extremist views – it’s because Rowan Williams has good reasons for his views. So the fact (assuming it to be a fact) that most Anglicans agree with their Archbishop does not make those followers reasonable. If they believe the same things, but for worse reasons, then they are unreasonable.

That, if correct, is not what he actually says. His only description of religion which he presumably approves of is that it is "decent" and "understated", "subtle" and "nuanced". Your interpretation may be correct, but it certainly isn't to be found or inferred in his answer. The apparent reason for his tacit approval of Williams or Bonhoeffer appears to be that they are decent and understated, not that they are uniquely posessed with a power to reason.

How can he possibly determine that 3/4 of the world's population have not thought through their faith, anyway? On what evidence does he base the view (if held) that those many billions have not thought through thier own faith position? Quoting extreme examples is no use to him - remember that he has stated that virtually ALL of them are simply ignorant and / or deluded, enitrely unlike Williams (and himself of course). Where is the evidence?

It is no co-incidence that those whom he cites as examples of typical religion are either shouting and judgemental, or extremely violent, and he says that "most believers echo them". Based on his own words (again, months in gestation) I can't see how your interpretation is found. To echo means to repeat.

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Stars
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quote:
Originally posted by Papio:
It's simply ranting drivel, IMO of course.

crunch

You realy did walk into that one

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Papio

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quote:
Originally posted by Stars:
quote:
Originally posted by Papio:
It's simply ranting drivel, IMO of course.

crunch

You realy did walk into that one

I've never hearrd or read anything of Dawkins's views on religion that amounted to anything more whatsoever. Personally.

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Mad Geo

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My definition of success is actually attempting to study something before I rant on it. Your mileage appears to vary.

[Razz]

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Noiseboy
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I haven't read The God Delusion either, but I have read an awful lot of quotes from it and seen interviews with Dawkins. Alister McGrath has, IMHO, definitely demonstrated that there is very little geniune scholarship involved in his arguments, and Dawkins' public response to the criticism is risible.

This is totally different from saying that Dawkins is not a genius in his own field. But as Terry Eagleton's almost legendary review of The God Delusion said in the London Review Of Books, "Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology". Outside his field of expertese, he literally does not know what he is talking about.

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Papio

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quote:
Originally posted by Mad Geo:
My definition of success is actually attempting to study something before I rant on it. Your mileage appears to vary.

[Razz]

I am familar with his "work" on religion. It's bullshit from top to bottom. I've read numerous reviews of Dawkins Being Deluded that appear to agree with me.

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Papio

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Which is to say, I have read/watched/listened to just about everything Dorkbreath has to say about religion until very recently, and it is risable. From his pathetic TV programmes, his laughable interviews, his ranting hogwash that the papers for some reason decide to print, his totally ignorant asides on theolgy in other stuff.

As Noiseboy said, the bloke doesn't know what he is talking about. Literally. I haven't got time to read a book that is almost certainly just more ranting masturbation, from which literally every qoute I have read is a pile of bollocks and of which I have yet to read a single positive review.

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IngoB

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# 8700

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quote:
Originally posted by Dave Marshall:
You characterise the scientific method as an error-correction algorithm, but in doing so obscure its critical strength. It is always applied to the physical universe, our common shared reality. It is explicitly designed to exclude opinion. That gives its determinations universal legitimacy because, other things being equal, anyone can check if they're right.

Well, no. That's quite wrong. The scientific method is not designed to exclude opinion, it is rather designed to build a consensus opinion through a constant formal exchange of opinions. That it can arrive at a strong majority consensus at all, unlike say politics, has indeed to do with limiting the field of discussion to the "physical universe". Although truth to be told, that limitation is more a guideline - scientists sometimes do go and play with the fairies. And almost nobody can check the conclusions reached these days by most hard sciences. Science sort of "freezes out" into a hierarchical system of knowledge with time. In the beginning amateurs can contribute, but rapidly it becomes less and less accessible except for an educated elite - the scientists. All a layperson generally can do is to believe one scientist or the other.

quote:
Originally posted by Dave Marshall:
A non-empirically testable truth claim is of a different order, one that requires faith not in a physical reality based system but one based on human opinion. That in my view means such "truths", from the point of view of humanity as a whole, are never determinations.

I would rather say that determinations rely on simplicity. The point of the basically reductionist scientific method and of empirical data collection is to break down some complicated problem into parts which are simple enough to be evaluated by human minds with great consistency. A "scientific proof" is actually just a sequence of steps building up to a final truth, where every single step is considered to be obvious enough to dismiss the select few who disagree as exceedingly stupid. Many questions in many fields resist any such process, for example the question "Which political party is the best?" There is generally no way of breaking any answer down into a sequence that all but the exceedingly stupid will agree with. So we call such answers "opinions". There are non-empirical truths which are simple enough to allow a determination. For example that nothing can be both true and false in the same way at the same time - that is true, and all but the barking mad will have to agree. Or that a human being has a certain intrinsic value that cannot be ignored but for a good reason - that is true, and all but the psychopaths agree. Etc. A question like "Does the Christian God exist?" cannot be broken down into a sequence of undeniable non-empirical truths. So this is an "opinion", or as we say in this case, a "belief". But I think our time is way too pessimistic about the possibility of constructing meaningful sequences out of non-empirical, or both empirical and non-empirical, undeniable truths. I think sequences like Aquinas' five ways of proving the metaphysical God are generally more ignored as a whole than followed with an open mind step by step.

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Posts: 12010 | From: Gone fishing | Registered: Oct 2004  |  IP: Logged
Basket Case
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# 1812

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from mad geo:
quote:
I think Dawkins is speaking globally. He gets that the US has enormous influence and that we are ran by religious freaks at the moment. Not to imply that everyone that is religious is a freak, but that the ones in power in the US are.I completely "get" Dawkins (I think). The problem with being the near-sole-voice in pointint out the flaws of the other side, is that you are immediately rendered into a caricature of yourself.
You can't possibly believe that Dawkins is the "near-sole-voice" in pointing out the flaws of Christians!

My own family contains numerous members who have thought like him for years upon years.
Funnily enough, one of them at a recent nice (up until then) family gathering pounded on the table & walked out in a huff, talking about bad Christians & GW Bush & Jesus Camp & how everyone needs to see it so they can know what people like me (the only Christian in the family) have in store for them.

If Dawkins is a caricature, it's not because he is a lonely, brave voice crying out in the wilderness. It is because he is bigoted & a simplistic thinker (and live-er).

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Papio

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# 4201

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Dawkins is British, and Britain has been called the most athiestic country in the world. Less than 10% go to church. Athiesm is mainstream here.

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Mad Geo

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# 2939

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quote:
Originally posted by Noiseboy:
I haven't read The God Delusion either, but I have read an awful lot of quotes from it and seen interviews with Dawkins. Alister McGrath has, IMHO, definitely demonstrated that there is very little geniune scholarship involved in his arguments, and Dawkins' public response to the criticism is risible.

This is totally different from saying that Dawkins is not a genius in his own field. But as Terry Eagleton's almost legendary review of The God Delusion said in the London Review Of Books, "Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology". Outside his field of expertese, he literally does not know what he is talking about.

Again, you have not read the book for yourself. It's a very nice soundbite Eagle-ton (ironically) came up with, but it is for the birds.

Eagleton and others here simply see theology as an actual thing worthy of study. My read of his book says that Dawkins dismisses Theology completely out of hand. Completely unworthy as an academic pursuit. It is best summarized by his Flying Spaghetti Monster argument(s). When he throws around the arguments used by theologians rightly or wrongly in their eyes, it is as though he was debating with people that believe in Flying Spaghetti Monsters. To him, it is: what is the point of that debate? He engages with some of their arguments out of sport, as examples of piling absurdity upon absurdity. But even Papio's Libertarian Strawmen would have more credibility that Theologians as Libertarians actually exist.

Dawkins explains his root premises in his book. That theologians and others simply can't believe that he invalidates their entire way of being with a pass of the hand is the funny thing to watch.

"Yes but he's a shite theologian!" is hillarious argument. He simply doesn't CARE. And neither do I, frankly, on his behalf. It's as if theologians are arguing Spaghetti Monsters all the way down. Again, he makes this point nicely in his book, better than I.

If the best arguments of mythology are more mythology, why bother to play their game? It's like watching Dawkins skewer the believers in Athena.

Believer: "Yes, but St. Whoever says that Athena is real!"

Dawkins: "Well, no, clearly Athena is not real and who the heck cares what St Whoever says about that which is not real".

Believer: "Well the epistomoligical raster baiting of Dr. Atrocious says that your argument is specious because he says so!"

Dawkins: "Again, Athena is a myth, so Dr. Atrocious argument is simply false from the get go."

Believer: "But But but...."

And so on. Ad infinitum.

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Papio

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# 4201

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quote:
Originally posted by Mad Geo:
My read of his book says that Dawkins dismisses Theology completely out of hand. Completely unworthy as an academic pursuit. It is best summarized by his Flying Spaghetti Monster argument(s).

And yet both you and him are suprised when people dismiss his views on theology as unworthy of serious attention. Why?

If I say "Bob believes X" when Bob does not, in fact, believe X then that is my telling a lie about Bob, or at the very least making misleading and false statements about Bobv's beliefs. Why should I then be taken as an authority on what Bob believes?

You clearly disagree with me about who looks absurd when Dawkins argues theology. I don't expect that to change.

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Papio

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# 4201

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quote:
Originally posted by Mad Geo:
"Yes but he's a shite theologian!" is hillarious argument. He simply doesn't CARE. And neither do I, frankly, on his behalf. It's as if theologians are arguing Spaghetti Monsters all the way down. Again, he makes this point nicely in his book, better than I.

If the best arguments of mythology are more mythology, why bother to play their game? It's like watching Dawkins skewer the believers in Athena.

Believer: "Yes, but St. Whoever says that Athena is real!"

Dawkins: "Well, no, clearly Athena is not real and who the heck cares what St Whoever says about that which is not real".

Believer: "Well the epistomoligical raster baiting of Dr. Atrocious says that your argument is specious because he says so!"

Dawkins: "Again, Athena is a myth, so Dr. Atrocious argument is simply false from the get go."

Believer: "But But but...."

And so on. Ad infinitum.

And many of us simply don't CARE what Dawkins has to say about theology, and never will, because he skewers nobody but himself.

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Mad Geo

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# 2939

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Oh I not only doubt that, I know you care deeply. Why else would you have, what 16 posts to this thread on Dawkins alone.

Methinks you protest too much.

[ 22. May 2007, 17:52: Message edited by: Mad Geo ]

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Soror Magna
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# 9881

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quote:
Originally posted by Papio:
... Any reasonably bright theology undergrad knows that Dawkins arguments about theology are simply wrong. He is wrong about the sort of questions theology asks. He is wrong about the sort of language it employs. He is wrong about where theologians get their ideas. He is wrong about the history of theology. He is wrong about what theology actually is, and most of all he is wrong to assert that religious faith and blind, unquestioning certainty are the same thing. ...

The thing is, to an atheist, all theology is fundamentally based on, to put it bluntly, an imaginary friend. Whether it's the Summa Theologica or a "Jesus is my boyfriend" song. Theology was called the queen of the sciences, but in terms of doing experiments and collecting data, it bears no resemblance to anything else I would describe as science. So a particular theology is intellectually and metaphysically self-consistent? If it's all fiction, it should be easy to make it so - look at J.R.R. Tolkien. I've only read some of Dawkins' biology books, and I'm not defending him - I'm just trying to point out where his antipathy to theology comes from. From that point of view, theology and e.g. astrology are equally (non)valid. OliviaG

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Papio

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# 4201

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quote:
Originally posted by Mad Geo:
Oh I not only doubt that, I know you care deeply.

I'm merely amused that anyone with any intelligence can still not tell the difference between Dawkins wanking himself off in public and a serious refutation of God. I mean, WTF?

TGD is not one iota more scientific than the worst fucking theology ever written. Not is it any more interesting. [Killing me]

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Papio

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# 4201

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quote:
Originally posted by OliviaG:
quote:
Originally posted by Papio:
... Any reasonably bright theology undergrad knows that Dawkins arguments about theology are simply wrong. He is wrong about the sort of questions theology asks. He is wrong about the sort of language it employs. He is wrong about where theologians get their ideas. He is wrong about the history of theology. He is wrong about what theology actually is, and most of all he is wrong to assert that religious faith and blind, unquestioning certainty are the same thing. ...

The thing is, to an atheist, all theology is fundamentally based on, to put it bluntly, an imaginary friend. Whether it's the Summa Theologica or a "Jesus is my boyfriend" song. Theology was called the queen of the sciences, but in terms of doing experiments and collecting data, it bears no resemblance to anything else I would describe as science. So a particular theology is intellectually and metaphysically self-consistent? If it's all fiction, it should be easy to make it so - look at J.R.R. Tolkien. I've only read some of Dawkins' biology books, and I'm not defending him - I'm just trying to point out where his antipathy to theology comes from. From that point of view, theology and e.g. astrology are equally (non)valid. OliviaG
So that means he can criticise something he knows bugger all about and then we should all fall flat on our faces and hail him as the wisest man in the universe? [Killing me]

That is, according to Dawkins himself, and Geo.

Esp when any number of athiests have put a better case forward than Dorkboy is even capable of...

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Jengie jon

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# 273

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OliviaG

What you don't seem to understand is that there are some good atheist theologians. The fact is you do not need to believe the theology to study it and understand it. This is clearly shown in the fact that there exists in academia people who are expert on the Egyptian Cult in the second millenia before the the Christian Era. Theology can and is studied as a history/sociology of ideas and a history/sociology of cultic practise, particularly in many red-brick Universities in the UK.

By the way the statement "There is no such thing as a god" is a theological statement. What you are actually making is the atheist statement that God/gods if they did exist are imaginary friends. I think you will find such as statement is a simplification of peoples belief as much as Marx's statement that "Religion is an opiate of the masses". You'd have great difficulty in persuading a Buddhist that their belief implied "God was an imaginary friend". The problem with atheism is you always have to say what God you don't believe in.

Jengie

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IngoB

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# 8700

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Mad Geo, please read the following from St Thomas Aquinas concerning argumentation about faith:
quote:
Summa Theologiae Ia q1 a8:
Whether sacred doctrine is a matter of argument?
...
I answer that, As other sciences do not argue in proof of their principles, but argue from their principles to demonstrate other truths in these sciences: so this doctrine does not argue in proof of its principles, which are the articles of faith, but from them it goes on to prove something else; as the Apostle from the resurrection of Christ argues in proof of the general resurrection (1 Cor. 15). However, it is to be borne in mind, in regard to the philosophical sciences, that the inferior sciences neither prove their principles nor dispute with those who deny them, but leave this to a higher science; whereas the highest of them, viz. metaphysics, can dispute with one who denies its principles, if only the opponent will make some concession; but if he concede nothing, it can have no dispute with him, though it can answer his objections. Hence Sacred Scripture, since it has no science above itself, can dispute with one who denies its principles only if the opponent admits some at least of the truths obtained through divine revelation; thus we can argue with heretics from texts in Holy Writ, and against those who deny one article of faith, we can argue from another. If our opponent believes nothing of divine revelation, there is no longer any means of proving the articles of faith by reasoning, but only of answering his objections - if he has any - against faith. Since faith rests upon infallible truth, and since the contrary of a truth can never be demonstrated, it is clear that the arguments brought against faith cannot be demonstrations, but are difficulties that can be answered.

So the problem is not at all that Dawkins believes nothing of the Christian faith. That is understood given that he is an atheist. But if Dawkins claims that his objections to faith are reasonable, then intellectual honesty forces him to listen to the counter-arguments to his reasons. And intellectual honesty furthermore forces him to not only listen to counter-arguments of intellectually weak and misinformed opponents, but rather precisely to the counter-arguments of his brightest and most knowledgeable opponents. He does not have to accept any counter-argument that makes use of an article of faith which he does not share, of course. But he must deal with counter-arguments engaging him on his own terms. And if what he claims about Christianity in some argument is not in fact what Christianity says, then a counter-argument based on that is engaging him on his own terms. The counter-argument is not that Dawkins has to believe what Christianity really says, the counter-argument is that Dawkins cannot critique validly as Christian that which is not. Thus Dawkins must have sufficient knowledge of Christian doctrine, for otherwise he is wide open to such entirely rational counter-arguments which are not depending on faith. If he does not have a clue, then his argument is not reasonable. Instead, it is simply what on these boards is called "crusading". It is not surprising that Dawkins is crusading, since his belief in materialistic scientism is clearly fundamentalist, and fundamentalists love to crusade...

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Ricardus
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# 8757

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quote:
Originally posted by Dave Marshall:
quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
My view is that if God exists, then He is almost certainly the God described by traditional Christianity, because this is the only way I can reconcile His existence with human suffering.

I don't how you've arrived at that. As far as traditional Christianity speaks with a single voice on suffering, I've not seen it offer any reconciliation with a loving God that I found convincing.
The Incarnation. OK, not by any means an answer, but a good promise of an answer.

Anyway I'm not asking you to agree with me. I'm just asking you to be more careful about throwing stones in glasshouses. The existence of God is a big claim, Virgin Births and so forth less so. It's as though I claimed there was a giant blue Spode teapot orbiting Pluto, and you said "But that's absurd! Spode never made blue teapots."

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Ricardus
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# 8757

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quote:
Originally posted by Mad Geo:
Eagleton and others here simply see theology as an actual thing worthy of study. My read of his book says that Dawkins dismisses Theology completely out of hand. Completely unworthy as an academic pursuit.

But he can't have it both ways. If theology is unworthy of study, then why does he bother to attack specific theological positions at all?

Supposing I said "Belief in fairies is absurd. Firstly, the whole concept of fairyhood is impossible because XYZ. Secondly, fairies can't have two heads because PQR." And a fairy-believer points out that nobody ever claimed fairies do have two heads.

Now, on the one hand the fact that my Secondly was a strawman doesn't in itself invalidate the conclusion drawn from my Firstly; but on the other hand it does make me look a bit of a prat, and therefore undermines my credibility when assessing my Firstly, and hence my conclusion; and it was also a totally unnecessary step if my Firstly was in itself sufficient.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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Mad Geo

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# 2939

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quote:
Originally posted by IngoB:
The counter-argument is not that Dawkins has to believe what Christianity really says, the counter-argument is that Dawkins cannot critique validly as Christian that which is not.

You and Papio both seem to be claiming this. I now call you out to provide examples of this.
I deny that he is claiming things for Christianity that somewhere it doesn't claim for itself and I am over halfway through his book, unlike you. I think you are arguing your specific flavor of Christianity, or your opinion, or both. But there are many versions of Christianity and while yours may not agree with his analysis, there are almost always others

Both of you, with two seperate examples, please. Welcome to Purg.

I can't believe you actually think someone with Saint in front of their name is any source at all in this debate. "Scripture has no science above itself". What a fucking stupid statement on Aquinas part. "Scripture has no science" at all.

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Mad Geo

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# 2939

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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
quote:
Originally posted by Mad Geo:
Eagleton and others here simply see theology as an actual thing worthy of study. My read of his book says that Dawkins dismisses Theology completely out of hand. Completely unworthy as an academic pursuit.

But he can't have it both ways. If theology is unworthy of study, then why does he bother to attack specific theological positions at all?

Supposing I said "Belief in fairies is absurd. Firstly, the whole concept of fairyhood is impossible because XYZ. Secondly, fairies can't have two heads because PQR." And a fairy-believer points out that nobody ever claimed fairies do have two heads.

Now, on the one hand the fact that my Secondly was a strawman doesn't in itself invalidate the conclusion drawn from my Firstly; but on the other hand it does make me look a bit of a prat, and therefore undermines my credibility when assessing my Firstly, and hence my conclusion; and it was also a totally unnecessary step if my Firstly was in itself sufficient.

Because he is addressing a bunch of people that can't see the forest for their cultural baggage trees. He HAS to address the arguments somewhat. If you have a bunch of people that are building buildings around the faerie mythology, and writing books advocating the faery lifestyle, and scientists that also believe in faeary, well shit, I guess you gotta engage the faery topic, bullshit or not, on SOME level. If for no other reason than to point to the absurdity of their position!

If you wrestle with pigs, you get muddy too.

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CrookedCucumber
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# 10792

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quote:
Originally posted by Mad Geo:
Both of you, with two seperate examples, please. Welcome to Purg.

I don't really see how examples help in this instance. If I say ``Dawkins says Christians believe X but I do not believe X'' you are always at liberty to reply with ``But 46.2% of Christians do believe X'' or whatever the figure happens to be.

I can't think of any example that you could play this kind of game with.

But, in the end, I'm not really concerned all that much with what other people believe. I'm concerned with what I believe.

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Mad Geo

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# 2939

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Which is the exact argument I would amke to the Dawkins detractors, including IngoB and Papio, in reverse. Thanks for the help. Sincerely. [Smile]

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Dave Marshall

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# 7533

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quote:
Originally posted by IngoB:
The scientific method is not designed to exclude opinion, it is rather designed to build a consensus opinion through a constant formal exchange of opinions. That it can arrive at a strong majority consensus at all, unlike say politics, has indeed to do with limiting the field of discussion to the "physical universe".

Fair point. What I meant was the scientific method is designed to exclude opinion unsupported by empirical evidence.
quote:
I think our time is way too pessimistic about the possibility of constructing meaningful sequences out of non-empirical, or both empirical and non-empirical, undeniable truths.
The question is, who decides when the meaning becomes undeniable.
quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
Anyway I'm not asking you to agree with me. I'm just asking you to be more careful about throwing stones in glasshouses. The existence of God is a big claim, Virgin Births and so forth less so. It's as though I claimed there was a giant blue Spode teapot orbiting Pluto, and you said "But that's absurd! Spode never made blue teapots."

You call me a fundamentalist and you're asking me to be careful about stones and glasshouses? If you want to retreat from reason and self-identify as a fundamentalist that's your choice. It's not mine.
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Noiseboy
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# 11982

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quote:
Originally posted by Mad Geo:
Eagleton and others here simply see theology as an actual thing worthy of study. My read of his book says that Dawkins dismisses Theology completely out of hand.

Indeed he does. What makes his position untenable, therefore, is that he asks theological questions, and makes theological statements - but refuses to listen to theological answers. It's like me saying "electrons smell like cheese, and anyone who thinks otherwise is mad", then putting my fingers in my ears when a physicist kindly points out I am talking bollocks.

On the Heaven and Earth show last year, Dawkins and McGrath shared a sofa for a few rare minutes. Dawkins said something to the effect that if we all believed the Bible, we should stone people we didn't like. Before McGrath could splutter, he continued "Now, of course, theologians will mutter 'oh, but we don't believe that any more'. Well my question is this - how do we know which bits to believe and which bits not to believe?" He looked patronisingly incredulous, as if he'd just pointed out the elephant in the room that no-one else had noticed.

This is why his method is so risible. He specifically asked a theological question. It is not enough for him to declare "there is no God" - he blunders right into deepest theology and falls flat on his arse.

Theology is the study of belief - a reasoned examination into what isn't and what might be. He poses questions believing they are bear traps, but he doesn't even open his eyes to see the bears plodding right over them. Despite posing the questions in the first place, he simply isn't interested, just as he isn't interested in psychology, metaphysics or philosophy. He appears to have ended up with the bizarre belief that natural selection answers every form of question or experience that mankind might ever encounter.

He is utterly blind to the parts of the world that do not fit his world view. For example, he has this fantastical notion that the world would be a much better place if religion just vanished and the world was run by benign atheists - as if Pol Pot or Stalin had never existed. He beleives suicide terrorism would not exist, despite Robert Pape's definitive study which all-but proves otherwise. Yet again, he replaces evidence with unsubstantiated dogma - the fundamentalist blind to his own faith.

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Eliab
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# 9153

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quote:
Originally posted by Noiseboy:
That, if correct, is not what he actually says. His only description of religion which he presumably approves of is that it is "decent" and "understated", "subtle" and "nuanced". Your interpretation may be correct, but it certainly isn't to be found or inferred in his answer.

What Dawkins approves and disapproves of in religion is set out in The God Delusion. Which you should read.

If you want to know (and critique) what he means in a short answer-to-question soundbite, you should begin by interpreting that answer in the light of his very clearly expressed views. If you did, you would learn that he agrees with you that mainstream, moderate religion is not the same thing as fanaticism, but does think that they are BOTH products of a dangerous failure of rationality, namely religious faith. Once you know that, the brief quote which you criticise is readily comprehensible in terms that are not plainly wrong or absurd.

quote:
How can he possibly determine that 3/4 of the world's population have not thought through their faith, anyway? [my emphasis]
Because it is his view that faith is inherently irrational. That's the whole point. He doesn't see that faith in anything is any sort of reason for reaching any belief whatever. And thus all people of faith do "echo" Bin Laden, Falwell, Haggard, Thomas Aquinas, me, you, etc... in taking the contrary view that in some cases it is right to form opinions based on faith. His book attacks that position.

I think he is wrong, but also that his ideas are honestly presented, and merit more than a blanket dismissal as 'fundamentalism'.

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"Perhaps there is poetic beauty in the abstract ideas of justice or fairness, but I doubt if many lawyers are moved by it"

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Papio

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# 4201

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I think Dawkins own position is one of "blind faith" just as much as the people he attacks.

I would read TGD but Andrex is probably cheaper. Wake me up when someone writes a book defending athiesm that actually has a clue.

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Noiseboy
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# 11982

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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
If you want to know (and critique) what he means in a short answer-to-question soundbite, you should begin by interpreting that answer in the light of his very clearly expressed views. If you did, you would learn that he agrees with you that mainstream, moderate religion is not the same thing as fanaticism, but does think that they are BOTH products of a dangerous failure of rationality, namely religious faith. Once you know that, the brief quote which you criticise is readily comprehensible in terms that are not plainly wrong or absurd.

Surprising though it may seem, this is exactly the views of Dawkins that I already thought he had. And I am £20 richer (which is actually the reason I haven't read the God Delusion - I may get it out of the library for a laugh one day though).

But yet again, it does not fit what he wrote. If all faith is dumb, then why does he apprently praise "subtle, nuanced faith"? By your (and I agree his) standards, any kind of faith is as bad as any other. So once again we land at an absurdity, and an interpretation which cannot be supported by his actual words. Which are nonsense.

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Soror Magna
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# 9881

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quote:
Originally posted by Noiseboy:
On the Heaven and Earth show last year, Dawkins and McGrath shared a sofa for a few rare minutes. Dawkins said something to the effect that if we all believed the Bible, we should stone people we didn't like. Before McGrath could splutter, he continued "Now, of course, theologians will mutter 'oh, but we don't believe that any more'. Well my question is this - how do we know which bits to believe and which bits not to believe?" He looked patronisingly incredulous, as if he'd just pointed out the elephant in the room that no-one else had noticed.

Elephant? You mean the dead horse, no? Should we accept that all scripture is to be accepted as truth? Or is it this one? biblical inerrancy After nearly 2000 posts on both threads, I think "how do you know which bits to believe?" is a very reasonable question for an outsider to ask. OliviaG

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"You come with me to room 1013 over at the hospital, I'll show you America. Terminal, crazy and mean." -- Tony Kushner, "Angels in America"

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Noiseboy
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# 11982

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quote:
Originally posted by OliviaG:
Elephant? You mean the dead horse, no? Should we accept that all scripture is to be accepted as truth? Or is it this one? biblical inerrancy After nearly 2000 posts on both threads, I think "how do you know which bits to believe?" is a very reasonable question for an outsider to ask. OliviaG

Indeed - and the answer is theology.
Posts: 512 | From: Tonbridge | Registered: Oct 2006  |  IP: Logged



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