October 15, 2006

"The moderate, sensible religious people... make the world safe for the extremists... by influencing society to respect faith."

Salon interviews Richard Dawkins, who is quite antagonistic toward religion:
My sense is that you don't just think religion is dishonest. There's something evil about it as well.

Well, yes. I think there's something very evil about faith, where faith means believing in something in the absence of evidence, and actually taking pride in believing in something in the absence of evidence. And the reason that's dangerous is that it justifies essentially anything. If you're taught in your holy book or by your priest that blasphemers should die or apostates should die -- anybody who once believed in the religion and no longer does needs to be killed -- that clearly is evil. And people don't have to justify it because it's their faith. They don't have to say, "Well, here's a very good reason for this." All they need to say is, "That's what my faith says." And we're all expected to back off and respect that. Whether or not we're actually faithful ourselves, we've been brought up to respect faith and to regard it as something that should not be challenged. And that can have extremely evil consequences. The consequences it's had historically -- the Crusades, the Inquisition, right up to the present time where you have suicide bombers and people flying planes into skyscrapers in New York -- all in the name of faith.

But don't you need to distinguish between religious extremists who kill people and moderate, peaceful religious believers?

You certainly need to distinguish them. They are very different. However, the moderate, sensible religious people you've cited make the world safe for the extremists by bringing up children -- sometimes even indoctrinating children -- to believe that faith trumps everything and by influencing society to respect faith. Now, the faith of these moderate people is in itself harmless. But the idea that faith needs to be respected is instilled into children sitting in rows in their madrasahs in the Muslim world. And they are told these things not by extremists but by decent, moderate teachers and mullahs. But when they grow up, a small minority of them remember what they were told. They remember reading their holy book, and they take it literally. They really do believe it. Now, the moderate ones don't really believe it, but they have taught children that faith is a virtue. And it only takes a minority to believe what it says in the holy book -- the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Quran, whatever it is. If you believe it's literally true, then there's scarcely any limit to the evil things you might do.

And yet most moderate religious people are appalled by the apocalyptic thinking of religious extremists.

Of course they're appalled. They're very decent, nice people. But they have no right to be appalled because, in a sense, they brought it on the world by teaching people, especially children, the virtues of unquestioned faith.
Read the whole thing. Dawkins, author of the wonderfully readable "Selfish Gene," has a new book, "The God Delusion."

ADDED: I edited the title to this one. It was hard to cut down the quote to fit the character limit Blogger imposes. I wish I could collect unused characters from all my many short titles to use for an occasional extra-long title. Or maybe Blogger could put in the equivalent of the old margin release buttons found on typewriters. The machine tells you not to go further, but you still have the power to override the machine. On a typewriter, you could keep typing right off the edge of the paper and onto the platen.

136 comments:

Ann Althouse said...

Feel free to use the margin release button as a religious metaphor.

John Thacker said...

So, does Professor Dawkins also feel that Charles Darwin and evolutionists like Huxley helped "make the world safe" for eugenicists and the Nazis?

We know what Darwin thought,

(page 286)
"The more civilised so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world."

Blaming all moderate religious people for extremists is akin to blaming the atheists and freethinkers and scientists for te Reign of Terror, eugenics, Nazism, and Communism, all of which were helped by societies influenced to respect rationality, science, and the idea that society could be rationally ordered and reshaped too much. All hid under the cloak of science just as religious extremists do under that of religion.

I don't think it's a fair argument either way, mind you.

Troy said...

"The consequences it's had historically -- the Crusades, the Inquisition, right up to the present time where you have suicide bombers and people flying planes into skyscrapers in New York -- all in the name of faith."

It will never cease to amaze me how an oviously brilliant man can be so awesomely ignorant. His blind hatred of faith mirrors almost exactly the fundamentalists he fears. Remove "infidel" from Osama bin Laden's rhetoric or "abortion" from Randall Terry's mouth and replace it with "faith" -- and a cool British accent and loads of education -- and he is just as fundamentalist as they are.

NO he is not advocating violence, but the rhetoric is just as hateful-- except couched in more elegant terms. I would wager my house this man has never (or rarely)set foot in a church and judges believers by what he sees and hears on TV or reads in the NYT, Salon, and the academic journals. This man has more faith than he knows.

Dave said...

"Blaming all moderate religious people for extremists is akin to blaming the atheists and freethinkers and scientists for te Reign of Terror"

Yes. Much as I loathe religion, it seems Dawkins always goes overboard when he castigates with a broad brush those religious people who wish not to commit violent acts against their fellow man.

JohnF said...

Dawkins misses the point. When he says, "If you're taught in your holy book or by your priest that blasphemers should die or apostates should die -- anybody who once believed in the religion and no longer does needs to be killed -- that clearly is evil." No, it's not. It's not because God has said it's not.

Now, there is no rational argument to be used here, except "against" people who, by their non-religious leanings, are already convinced. Dawkins' argument is simply not capable of changing anyone's mind. Yet he makes his points as if there is someone out there who can use his reasoning. It's not true, though. There is no one to convince. That's why I say he misses the point.

I could be wrong. Maybe some radical Islamic fundamentalist who has set off with his sword to slay the infidel could be talked out of it by Dawkins. That would be good.

[Segue...]

But if he cannot be talked out of it by Dawkins, what is the alternative? What is the alternative when it's not a sword but a nuke?

We will keep closing our eyes to what must be done, I fear, until it is much, much too late.

Pogo said...

I wonder how Professor Dawkins explains the fact that the anti-religious communists of the 20th century were the most murderous regimes in the history of the world, exceeding 100 million deaths?

Dawkins is the sort of idiot with a hammer (in his case, genetics) who thinks everything looks like a nail.

And it's a very short trip from spouting "religion has extremely evil consequences" to "the religious should be killed". It's happened before, by beliefs identical to Dawkins. What a moron.

Pogo said...

P.S. And by what standard does Dawkins define the word 'evil'?

It's an entirely religious word. What permits him to call a thing 'evil' except for a judeochristian provenance that is disappearing day by day? How does a humanist define 'evil' when the only standard is his own thought?

When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

David said...

How patronizing can you get? Apparently faith and science are mutually exclusive. Faith AND science have their own priests which makes them both religions.

The illusion that science can explain the unknowable while the rest of us 'rubes' accept that we are limited by our very humanity is absurd.


Dawkins is an ethologist which is, in my opinion, some hippy construct made popular in the 60's. They make incredible leaps of faith from miniscule observations of biology and call the everpresent lack of proof as "gaps" that they have been unable to observe yet.

So much for the Cambrian explosion and lack of fossils before then! Another anomaly in their thinking is the Larry Summers case where he gave the vapors to a female biologist who recoiled with nausea at the very thought of species difference!

Eugene said...

Dawkins obviously doesn't realize it himself, but his real gripe is with God. That is, God invented this thing called religion and Dawkins is pissed at how it turned out (the same way you could have been for invading Iraq, but pissed at how Bush et al. executed it). Because if God truly does not exist, then religion must necessarily be the result of social evolution--an organic product of the mind of the animal homo sapiens--going back as far as human history can document. So he's really talking about an integral aspect of human nature. Once Dawkins has conquered greed and lust and tribalism and intellectual temper tantrums, maybe then he'll be qualified to turn his full attention to religion. In the meantime, perhaps he'd like to book a lecture tour to, say, Riyadh? Or for that matter, Salt Lake City? If his superlative logic can't convince the masses there, then what exactly is the point, other than to make a living preaching to the choir? Hmm, sounds an awful lot like a religious cause.

Dave said...

"Another anomaly in their thinking is the Larry Summers case where he gave the vapors to a female biologist who recoiled with nausea at the very thought of species difference!"

Uh, this had nothing to do with evolution or Dawkins. The speech, as I recall, was about scientists generally, and physicists and mathematicians in particular. The issue which made the woman recoil was Summers' theory that innate gender differences explained the paucity of female academic scientists, especially in the hard sciences like physics.

Nothing to do with species, Dawkins, Darwin, evolution, or religion.

chuck b. said...

"You cannot actually disprove the existence of God. Therefore, to be a positive atheist is not technically possible. But you can be as atheist about God as you can be atheist about Thor or Apollo. Everybody nowadays is an atheist about Thor and Apollo. Some of us just go one god further."

lol.

Kirby Olson said...

Values can't be proven, they exist as axioms. That's what Dawkins doesn't get.

JohnF said...

On further review, I think Dawkins does make one point--which Ann did, in fact, highlight--that, in effect, any religion, no matter how mild, provides an environment where radical religion will be fostered. In contrast to my last comment, above, this is something that can be debated and can (in principle) convince doubters.

My own view is that he is wrong; I don't see any evidence that a general tolerance for [mild] religion has provided that environment. In fact, you could make the opposite point: in Europe, where religion has been on the decline for years, there is the most fertile environment for radical Islam, whereas in devout areas, such as Christian South America, there seems not to be much.

Here in the U.S., Islam is apparently the fastest growing religion, but it seems not to be of the violent sort found throughout Europe.

Finn Kristiansen said...

One does not know where to begin with someone like Dawkins, who, for all his intellect, makes a profound number of facile assertions.

He says:
I started getting doubts when I was about 9 and realized that there are lots of different religions and they can't all be right.


We can wonder if this faulty nine year old eureka moment could not be clarified by the idea that religions are variations on an inherently true theme. And in the same way that a correct result can be derived in math by moving closer and closer to accurate analysis, producing one correct answer, that same answer can often be derived via different methods of correct analysis. (And further, proving the rightness of the answer often enough cannot be done until one has the answer and can reverse engineer a proof).

Or that, quite possibly, the God who rationally cannot be disproven (as Dawkins acknowledges), is much like the resulting cake baked via the varying recipes of bakers. The fact that Hazel in Georgia and Megan on the Upper West side use different recipes to create the same pineapple upside down cake, does not in fact render the cake suspect. The misfortune that Megan makes her cake organic, vegan, and without sugar only proves she is rather deficient as to the point and purpose of cake (in the same way some religions and some extremists might drift quite far from an original kernal of truth).

Dawkins goes on to describe the irrationality of faith opening the door to untold evil, as though evil cannot be sourced from non-religionists. The fact is, religious faith has probably produced more rational and irrational acts of goodwill in the world than can be counted, and if you were to remove the faith factor from history, it would be a much darker world, the lack of the Crusades overwhelmed by all the other and greater evils done by secular folks, not to mention the evils that would still exist without the religious impulses of people of faith.

And finally, many a good scientist in the earlier ages came to some of their theories via faith or intuition, using scientific methods to prove what their minds had previously speculated about.

The absence of evidence might be more likely the absence of the right tools to prove or disprove the absence of evidence, and like anything, it may take hundreds of years till our intellect catches up with with our speculations and faith.

David said...

Dave;

Since when does species difference have nothing to do with intelligent design and evolution? The evolutionists are always looking for the new species developing from current stock. Gender is a subset of species!

Mark said...

Values can't be proven, they exist as axioms. That's what Dawkins doesn't get.

The "is/ought gap" does not exist. If you want to live, there are certain principles of action that you ought to abide by in order to accomplish that goal. One of them would be refusing to believe things without any evidence. If you want to die, acting consistently on faith would be one way to accomplish it. But a simpler, quicker method would be to shoot yourself in the head.

(Word verification: edenfqk -- Eden, faith quashes knowledge?)

Bleepless said...

Dawkins' view of rationality is irrational. The very best and most recent scientific (yes, that word again) research into human nature contradicts his narrow-minded rationalism. Like all bigots, Dawkins is wilfully ignoring facts which contradict his venomous passion.

Slac said...

I never thought of it that way... I suspect he's right, only insofar as respecting religion is not the same as respecting free speech. That's a very slim margin in our present society.

However, he's absolutely right about labeling babies as followers of religions or philosophies being child abuse. Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller) had a t-shirt for his baby that said "baby atheist" and Dawkins almost had a fit.

Seven Machos said...

When Dawkins sees competing scientific theories that cannot all be right, does he discredit science?

Science is a set of beliefs about how the world operates that is, at best, partially true (unless all current science is correct and entirely complete, which it is not). How is science different than any religion?

This loser reminds me of nothing so much as the Mensa Club members who take over Springfield (with disastrous results) in The Simpsons.

Gerry said...

The coming leftist storm (I really do believe there will be one before I die) will be very difficult, and dangerous, for religious folks, such as me.

downtownlad said...

Actually he's spot on. Too many religious people think that their faith is not allowed to be questioned and to do so is disrespectful.

Believe whatever you want - but please don't take offense when I compare your God to the tooth fairy.

Eugene said...

The typical shepherd of a religious flock can only dream of leading a congregation as all fired up about God as the average bunch of political activists are about their current cause célèbre.

Seven Machos said...

downtown lad -- Don't be offended when people compare your beliefs to the tooth fairy, either.

Old Dad said...

Seven Machos,

Science is grounded in data. No doubt, even well founded science has been proven wrong as better more compelling data surfaces.

You seem to argue that we can't "know" anything absolutely, and certainly our modes of knowing are open to critique, but I think we must agree that the data for the sun rising in the east is far more compelling than the data for the existence of Thor.

If, in fact, there is no data, only belief, then science is a religion, but that doesn't describe the reality that we seem to share.

peter hoh said...

Some of us believe that unquestioned faith is an oxymoron.

vnjagvet said...

I would love to be able to see Dawkins up agains CS Lewis for a debate about faith.

This thread of comments is pretty good, though.

My compliments to all above.

Seven Machos said...

Science is not grounded in data. Science is grounded in a set of a beliefs and assumptions -- another word for faith -- about the universe.

I certainly am not insulting science. Science is great. I'm not even particularly religious. But to say that science and religion cannot coexist, which is what Dawkins says, is absurd.

Doyle said...

Dawkins obviously doesn't realize it himself, but his real gripe is with God.

This is gold.

Old Dad said...

Seven Machos:

Given standard conditions, water freezes at 0 Celsius--there are no known exceptions. That's data.

There is no data supporting the theory that Noah built a vessel that could contain a pair of every species on earth. That's belief.

There's a useful ditinction to be made. We do it all the time. When you buy a used car do you check the odometer, or do you trust the seller's word. Why do you check?

Palladian said...

Science and religion are not flip sides of the same coin, no matter what the religious say. Rational, educated people do not use religion to understand the physical world, even if they pretend that they do. I differ from Dawkins in that I think religion is valuable, despite its regressive strands and history. Religion helps some people find metaphysical and existential meaning in their lives and provides comfort and solace and purpose for those that believe; Dawkins refuses to accept the importance of that. He is so vituperative that it makes even his important and sensible ideas repellant, and that's a terrible disservice to science. He has done his part to alienate even the most rational, moderate and intelligent religious people, esposing the bone-headed notion that science can fill all the daily operative needs in people's lives, which is not the purpose of science at all. Science is not a belief system, yet in his vehemence he makes it seem that it is.

Seven Machos said...

Old Dad --

First of all, you are conflating belief in a particular religion's God with belief in the veracity of a particular story that is a small, ancient part of the literature related to that religion. Whether or not God exists is in no way dependent on whether or not a guy named Noah built a boat.

Secondly, God can exist and water can boil and odometers can be correct. None of these things is mutually exclusive.

Third, science is a way of finding things out through empirical observation. There are several assumptions built into the model, which I won't rehash here. Science has limitations. As a body, it is incomplete. As a body, it is riddled with errors. (Scientists constantly find out they are wrong.) It is also, like logic, a hammer. It's a good tool but it doesn't address everything. It addresses what is, not what we should do about what is.

Fourthly, it's really quite ridiculous for people who don't believe in God or aren't religious to go on about how religion is dumb, or irrational, or inferior. What do you think? That these people are going to all change their minds? That religion is going to wash away with the tide? Religion will always be with us. To call it silly and backward is only to make adherents less likely to listen to other, more reasonable things you might say.

Freder Frederson said...

Given standard conditions, water freezes at 0 Celsius--there are no known exceptions. That's data.

And just knowing this (or the fact that if we let get of an object it will fall towards the center of the earth) is not good enough for scientists. We don't say "some intelligent designer decided water will freeze at 0" (that is the difference between science and ID), scientists want to know why water freezes at the temperature it does or how gravity works (which is something we still don't know).

Saying science relies on faith is to profoundly misunderstand it.

Freder Frederson said...

Old Dad was not attacking your assertion that science and religion cannot coexist (that is entirely valid), but your assertion that science is a kind of faith. It is nothing of the type.

Seven Machos said...

Actually, Fred, you are totally wrong. Science is a system designed to collect and assimilate empirical observations about the world. Science can determine that water freezes at a certain temperature. Answering the question "why?" is always deeply troubling and difficult for science. Answering the question "what should we do about it?" is impossible using science alone.

Seven Machos said...

Are scientists not working under the assumption that what they see is real? That what they find to be consistently true will remain consistently true? That new facts will fit into the universe the way similar facts have previously?

How is this not faith?

Old Dad said...

Seven Machos,

I agree with all your points except the first.

I make no claims about the existence of God, or the merits of a particular religion. Dawkins certainly does. He argues that many conventional religious beliefs are absurd--Noah's Ark, among them. Moderate Christians reject or ignore Leviticus. Some fundamentalists don't and act out on their beliefs--"Reverend" Phelps, for example. Dawkins thinks such beliefs are dangerous. I do, too.

Dawkins can be heavy handed, condescending, and overly political, but I think he has a valid argument. When our unfounded beliefs prompt us to kill people, that's a problem that ought to be confronted.

Why aren't the Phelps of the world more vigourously challenged? Why not radical Islam?

Dawkins rhetoric might be off putting, but he asks reasonable questions.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Dawkins gives this as an an example of a purely rational morality one could offer a child:

"And when a child says, "Why is it wrong to do so and so?" you can perfectly well answer that by saying, "Well, how would you like it if somebody else did that to you?" That's a way of imparting to a child the Golden Rule: "Do as you would be done by."

But Dawkins misunderstands the Golden Rule (does he know where it comes from?).

The Golden Rule is not an explanation of anything. It is an imperative, an assertion, a command. A rule.

Let's say Dawkins' child responds to Dawkins like this:

"I wouldn't like it if someone did that to me. But I plan not to let someone do that to me. But I still plan to do that to someone because it will be of advantage to me. If I can prevent someone from doing that to me, why shouldn't I do that to them?"

Dawkins actually comes close to answering this. He says society would fall apart if everyone behaved like that.

But what if Dawkins' child said, "So what? What do I care about society? What if society does fall apart, but I can still get what I want? What do I care about the future? I will be dead then. But now I am alive and I want what I want, even though what I want threatens society. I am not bothered by this. Tell me why I am wrong?"

Dawkins can't, but that's okay, because like he says, it's a stupid question not worth answering, and people who ask it are stupid and Dawkins is smart, which is why he is an atheist.

Seven Machos said...

Leviticus sure does come up a lot on Ann Althouse's blog. Some quick thoughts on it:

1. Leviticus is a legal code. Portions of it are essentially the law in every Western country today.

2. Deuteronomy is basically a Restatement of Leviticus and changes it drastically in many ways.

3. There is this thing in Christianity called the New Testament. Perhaps you've heard of it. It overrides the Old Testament. To say Christians don't follow Leviticus is exactly like saying this Dawkins guy doesn't subscribe to theories about the earth being flat.

Enough with Leviticus.

mcg said...

While I agree with you Seven Machos, I do think that we Christians often use the argument "the OT doesn't apply anymore" a bit to loosely. That is, while certainly many of the enumerated laws do not apply, the one thing we cannot escape is that our God made those laws, too. Thus in some context, at some time in history, God decreed that yes, Israelites who commit adultery, homosexual fornication, and bestiality should be put to death.

That the Mosaic law has been superceded in some way (or simply does not apply to Gentiles) does not change the fact that God held Israel to a very high standard of purity, in some sense of that word.

So I don't really think we can say, "enough with Leviticus", because it really is not in the past.

Old Dad said...

Johnny Nucleo,

I don't think you are being fair to Dawkins' argument. He's arguing that it's possible to establish moral principles without metaphysics.

The Golden Rule can be "right" because our experience suggests that following it reduces suffering and increases happiness for most people. It's authority need not be supernatural. It's authority can come from thousands of years of human experience ratifying its efficacy.

I don't defend Dawkins' rhetoric, but I can see his point. By the way, he knows full well the history of the Golden Rule and that it predates the New Testament.

He's more than usually prickly on this point because, as and agnostic/ atheist, he's often accused of being immoral.

Mark said...

Science is not grounded in data. Science is grounded in a set of a beliefs and assumptions -- another word for faith -- about the universe.

Are those sentences statements of fact? Or merely of your beliefs?

Freder Frederson said...

Science can determine that water freezes at a certain temperature. Answering the question "why?" is always deeply troubling and difficult for science.

Science doesn't "determine" that water freezes at a certain temperature ("determine" implies some kind of control), it merely observes the freezing point. Answering the question "why" may be difficult, but it is hardly "troubling". It is the purpose of science.

And of course doesn't address the issues of what we should do about it. Nobody was arguing you on that point.

Are scientists not working under the assumption that what they see is real? That what they find to be consistently true will remain consistently true? That new facts will fit into the universe the way similar facts have previously?

No to all these. If they did we wouldn't have quantum physics, germ theory, evolution, or most of the other truly staggering advances of science.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Old Dad,

I'm sure Dawkins is as moral as the next guy. I'm also sure his reasons are fundamentally metaphysical, but he either cannot or will not admit it.

The Golden Rule is fine for the sheep but what of the Men, or Supermen, if you will?

Why should Supermen be bound to rules that are efficatious on the large scale, but inhibiting on the small scale? The purely rational answer is: They should not.

Who out there, other than madmen and monsters, believes this? No one. Why not?

Old Dad said...

Mcg has a point. I'm completely unqualified to make a Scriptural argument, but I will point out that Matthew 5:17-18 seems to support Leviticus. I can easily see how it might be interpreted as condoning barbaric Old Testament behavior. I'm sure that the passage can and has been reasonably interpreted. I'm equally certain that it has been used as justification for murder.

John McAdams said...

"Another anomaly in their thinking is the Larry Summers case where he gave the vapors to a female biologist who recoiled with nausea at the very thought of species difference!"

Uh, this had nothing to do with evolution or Dawkins. The speech, as I recall, was about scientists generally, and physicists and mathematicians in particular. The issue which made the woman recoil was Summers' theory that innate gender differences explained the paucity of female academic scientists, especially in the hard sciences like physics.

Nothing to do with species, Dawkins, Darwin, evolution, or religion.


Wrong. It's extremely unlikely that evolution would not take advantage of dimorphism to produce somewhat different abilities in men and women.

Which is the dirty little secret of the secular crowd, which is happy to attack conservative Christians for not accepting evolution.

They reject evolution when the conclusions aren't politically correct.

Not to speak of the fact that they reject economics when it contradicts their leftist biases.

Opposition to minimum wage laws, for example, is as well-founded an orthodoxy in economics as evolution is in biology.

Freder Frederson said...

Thus in some context, at some time in history, God decreed that yes, Israelites who commit adultery, homosexual fornication, and bestiality should be put to death.

As should people who eat shellfish, pork, wear more than one fabric (damn those cotton/poly blends) or sleep with menstrating women. God really has some weird obsessions if we really want to take the list of prohibitions in Leviticus and Deutoronomy seriously.

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Decoder said...

What these anti-religious guys don't understand is that faith is a motivation for more positive things than negative ones.

Not everyone will come to the logical conclusion that "good" behavior is in their best interest. It's not true in any incontrovertible sense. Faith fills in the gaps and makes a free society work.

Arguing against faith as a motivation for good behavior is an argument to motivate good behavior in some other way (or to give up on goodness altogether).

I think "force" is the only motivation for good behavior that these anti-religious folks will accept as reliable. And so the end result of the application of their philosophy would be totalitarianism, whether that's the intention or not.

I'll take faith and freedom, despite their imperfections, over secular totalitarianism or unbounded anarchism and mayhem.

Freder Frederson said...

Wrong. It's extremely unlikely that evolution would not take advantage of dimorphism to produce somewhat different abilities in men and women.

Evolution doesn't "take advantage" of anything. It is an unfeeling, unthinking force incapable of action or concious thought. Don't try to anthroporphomize it. You obviously don't know the first thing about evolution.

Mark said...

Are scientists not working under the assumption that what they see is real? That what they find to be consistently true will remain consistently true? ... How is this not faith?

So, these "beliefs" are equally based on faith?

1. If I step in front of a speeding truck, I will be severely injured or killed.

2. God loves me.

Is there really no important difference, no more reason to believe one over the other?

George said...

"Democracy," wrote essayist and children's book author E.B. White, "is the recurring suspicion that more than half the people are right more than half the time."

He might have said the same about religion.

AJ Lynch said...

I guess Bill Maher was not available so they got this Dawkins guy instead.

Jim said...

Dawkins is apparently one of the few scientists who still deigns to attempt to educate the blind religious types like those who post here.

To say that science is just another faith or religion is an absurdity. What distinguishes science from faith, among other things, is that scientists depend on evidence for their assertions; the stronger the evidence, the more strongly a scientists relies on the truth of the proposition.

In faith it is the other way around: persons of faith most strongly assert the truth of propositions, such as the "power of prayer" the “assumption of Mary” or the "virgin birth," for which they have no (contrary, actually) evidence. For this reason, both Hitler and Stalin were religious leaders, not scientists. "Aryan supremacy" and sillinesses of communism were promoted and followed with religious fervor and not subjected to scientific proof.

Persons of faith will also not subject their beliefs to experimental proof. If they did, they would soon see that prayer is bunkum; any christianist could even win the Randi prize of $1M if he could set up an experiment that proved that prayer worked. Scientists are not natural foes of just christianity and islam, but of all other religions, such as animism, buddhism, polytheism, nazism, communism and, lately, Amerikanism.

Amerikanism is a religion that promotes superstition in medicine and insurance and unfounded faith over experimentation, deems homosexuality “unnatural,” favors wanton breeding, proclaims all races and both sexes equal in the face of scientific evidence, and genitally mutilates its male babies.

If you're looking for an oxymoron, it's "religious truth.

Cedarford said...

Johnf - I think Dawkins does make one point--which Ann did, in fact, highlight--that, in effect, any religion, no matter how mild, provides an environment where radical religion will be fostered.

While Dawkins does take his blame over the top, yes, I agree with Johnf, that the religious environment creates conditions where extremists can arise. Much of our analysis of radical Islam, by the Left and Right, has clearly been wrong. Islamic terrorists do not swim in a sea of oppressed peasants with "just grievances" as classic Lefty analysis says, nor in Right wing analysis that they lack "freedom", free trade, access to cheap Chinese goods, and "democracy".

A little told story of both the 9/11 terrorists and Rudolf, the abortion clinic bomber - is that they found so much support and enabling in their otherwise peaceful co-religionists..who sheltered them, gave aid. It is suspected dozens of fundie Christians knew who Rudolf was but kept it to themselves. The Muslims that helped the 9/11 hijackers avoid immigration traps and led them to fake IDs may not have known they were terrorists - but did know they were Muslim brothers who had very negative veiws about the West..

America really missed the religious sea, and the sea of Honor based on religion and tribalism Muslim extremists swim in. We were amazed that none of the hundreds who met Zarqawi, bin Laden, al-Zawahiri have turned them in for the 25 million Big Cash rewards that Bush and others thought would suffice to cause ready betrayal. We are amazed that "moderate Muslims" who really are moderate for the most part...would be so silent and not denounce their version of Crusaders.

And Dawkins is right that we have become so habituated in the West after our old religious wars and the case of the Jews that any criticism of religious people is "bigoted" and out of bounds. So we have immunized both the Jewish Bolsheviks that played such an important part in Red Terror and the Communist Democide, and the Islamic practices that we silently believe are incompatable with the West and...even silently we hesitate to say it to ourselves ...wrong and evil. Because of course saying any other religion is in part evil is of course "intolerant" and judgemental" and in polite circles we must never be THAT!!

And we have a real problem with deep-believing Christians seized by Fundy or mainstream ecuemenical impulses welcoming "fellow believers in the One God" as hundreds of thousands of refugees, hailing construction of thousands of Saudi-funded Salafist Mosques and madrassahs here and nearly 65,000 abroad since 1979 as "wonderful"...because it shows our tolerance.

Bush is locked into that mindset. Not a peep from him about State sponsorship of religion (by the Saudis). All his gibberish about the "Religion of Peace" which ignores the radical, intolerant nature of Wahabbism. And having a war on terror where the Administration pointedly ignores the hate being promulgated by Mullahs, the sanctioning of suicide bombers by them, and refusal to target arsenals (mosques), fight on "special Muslim holy days" - and we wonder why we are losing the 2nd of the 2 battles underway, the information war that shapes the insurgencies and widens the sea in which the radical Islamists operate.

Better luck to the next President "getting" the basic understanding of the radical Islamist challenge a lot better than Bush and company did..

Decoder said...

Mark,

Are you saying that the squirrels are following the scientific method when a speeding truck comes and they run to the side of the road?

It would be easier to make the case that they're doing it because God loves them.

It would be even more enlightening to the discussion if you and other folks wouldn't post extremely silly arguments.

mcg said...

Mcg has a point. I'm completely unqualified to make a Scriptural argument, but I will point out that Matthew 5:17-18 seems to support Leviticus. I can easily see how it might be interpreted as condoning barbaric Old Testament behavior.

And this somewhat helps to make a larger point, too. Old Dad here has of course called Old Testament behavior "barbaric." Now of course there is barbaric behavior in the OT, even by OT law standards, but of course I believe he's suggesting that the OT law itself is barbaric.

The only problem with that is this: by what criteria does one make such a judgement? I'm not saying I wish we were back in OT Israel applying those laws with impunity. I'm certainly not. But neither the value system that leads me to that conclusion, nor a value system that dismisses altogether the OT system as barbaric, rest on axioms which are not scientifically or objectively derivable---particularly if included among those axioms is the nonexistence of the supernatural.

mcg said...

Holy cow, I said "of course" a lot there. Sorry.

Seven Machos said...

Mark:

1. Your assignment is to consider the philosophy of science. What are its structural assumptions? How sound are they? Can you prove them to be true any more than anyone can prove the existence of God?

2. What does your stepping in front of a speeding truck have to do with science? What does it have to do with God. If science is wrong, or science is right, and if God is real, or God is fiction, it will not change what happens to you when you step in front of a speeding truck.

3. Allah is not predicated on any love. The God of the Old Testament is not predicated on love. Throwing out the old "God loves me" shows a vast and revolting ignorance about what religion actually is.

4. If God exists, then faith and belief are an observance of fact.

Old Dad said...

Cedarford,

I don't disagree, but I think we have to be very careful to honor the spirit and the letter of the First Amendment. The Founders were clearly not of one mind in terms of their personal religious beliefs, or lack of same. Rational tolerance of questions open to debate is, thus, required.

On the other hand, we're also free to challenge one another's belief. I can tolerate a practice that I find ridiculous so long as it is legal and not harming me. I can also speak out against it, argue for it's truth or falsity, etc., but civilly. We draw the line where belief translates into criminality. We should prosecute criminals, regardless of race or creed.

Finding that balance between civil tolerance, and self defense isn't easy.

By the way, I'd favor undercover penetration of all extremist and fundamental organizations, religious or not. But let's be very careful with what we learn.

Seven Machos said...

Jim -- "Amerikanism." That's cute. The "k" is especially touching. And "breeders."

You must lead a sad, lonely, misanthropic life.

mcg said...

The God of the Old Testament is not predicated on love.

I hope you don't mean to suggest that the God of the OT doesn't demonstrate love, because I think that is demonstrable false, unless you misdefine "love" the way modernists seem to---as some sappy sweet sentiment and the complete absence of any sort of justice or discipline.

Old Dad said...

Mcg,

That's fair. I should have been clear. I don't think that all OT behavior is barbaric. As you say, some certainly is by modern standards. I'm only saying that some literalists have used portions of OT law to rationalize murder. That's a problem.

Tim Sisk said...

Lot's of good comments here. I'm a Christian minister by vocation, so it is pretty clear where I stand on this issue. I particularly appreciate the point the comments of Eugene, as well as Pogo's point about evil being a completely religious word.

My question is for "Old Dad": How can Christians more "vigorously challenge" Fred Phelps? I can't think of anyone outside of his band of merry followers that even remotely support anything he says, preaches, proclaims, or does. He is an isolated and condemned figure who continually and bizarrely becomes more outspoken and outrageous to draw attention to himself. Christians (and non) aren't defending him. We can't lock him in jail (or kill him), we can't silence him, we can't engage him ('cause that is what he wants, it gives him a very public forum to spout his evil nonsense) so we ignore him. Is this wrong?

I would love to hear a debate between Dawkins and Alvin Plantiga ("Evolutionary argument against naturalism" which can be disputed, but is a very interesting work). Dawson's interaction/history with Antony Flew and Richard Swinburne is interesting as well.

Tim Sisk said...

I did hesitate suggesting Alvin Plantinga because he is certainly wrong in one respect. He is, according to wikipedia, a Calvinist, and I, as a Methodist (Wesleyan Arminian) doth protest.

Seven Machos said...

mcg -- The God of the ancient Old Testament chose the people who later called themselves Israelites. We are never told explicitly why. The emphasis is not on the idea that God loved the Israelites. In fact, we are usually told only about the times when God has been upset with the Israelites for not following the codes set forth and God punishes them with servitude. Then the Israelites call out to God and God "remembers" them and enables someone to lead a revolution to throw off the bonds of servitude foisted upon the Isrealites by another people. Then there's an interlude during which God is satiated with sacrifice and by Israelite good behavior. Then, the Israelites offend God again and the cycle begins again.

That's the Old Testament in a nutshell, at least through Judges. The New Testament is about love. It's a radical departure.

Johnny Nucleo said...

"Amerikanism is a religion that promotes superstition in...insurance...and genitally mutilates its male babies."

Hear, hear! I'm tired of these crazies with their crazy superstitions about insurance and their wing-wang mutilations.

Eugene said...

re: Jim. "Amerikanism" is the religion that in 2006 produced a clean sweep of the Nobel Prizes in medicine, physics, chemistry and economics. Not bad for a bunch of backward cultists. And keep in mind that arguable the greatest scientist in history--Isaac Newton--was consumed throughout his life with the study of alchemy and Biblical eschatology (though he subscribed to Arianism, if that makes you feel any better). It was Newton who wrote, "In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God's existence." Religiosity, scientific genius, and general nuttiness curiously tend not to be mutually incompatible states of mind. The same can be said of politicians, of course. And artists. And writers. And probably law professors. (I only said "probably"!)

Slac said...

Oh, I was going to ask, but I feel kind of embarrassed,

What's a "typewriter"??? :(


... just kidding. :)

Decoder said...

Old dad,

...some literalists have used portions of OT law to rationalize murder. That's a problem.

Murder is a problem. Rationalizations are not.

Rationalizations have no power. Someone who wants to do something can find a rationalization if they decide they want one. (Though I often wonder what the point is. If you can do a thing with a rationalization, you can do it without one.) The OT is simply an innocent bystander.

Critics of the OT seem to misunderstand the intended audience. "Pork is unclean", for example, is a good rule for times and places when one is likely to become ill eating pork.

Would it be better to avoid making a life-saving or civilization-preserving rule because 4000 years down the road some folks might mistake it for something they can use to rationalize evil? I don't think so.

Mark said...

Are you saying that the squirrels are following the scientific method when a speeding truck comes and they run to the side of the road?

No, I'm saying humans are using knowledge of the entities involved, inference from past experience, and logic to accurately predict what will happen when a speeding truck meets a human body. The fact that lower animals can make perceptual associations that reflect reality does not change how conceptual beings come to valid conclusions.

Now, is the man who avoids the truck acting on conclusions that are as faith-based as the person who believes there is a God who loves him?

Old Dad said...

Tim Sisk,

That's a great question. Truth be told, I don't know to what extent mainstream Christian leaders have ostracized Phelps, and media reports may or may not be an accurate reflection. Moreover, it's unfair to focus too much on a nutcase like Phelps. I'm confident that most Christians find him abhorrent. I can also see how it's somewhat impolitic to address him, but if he hasn't been formally and publicly rebuked by mainstream religious leaders, I think he should be, for exactly the reasons that Dawkins argues.

I'd be interested to learn. How does Methodism doctrinally steer clear of Phelps' brand of fundamentalism? (I know that this is probably not the forum for so complicated a discussion, so a link would be fine.)

Seven Machos said...

Mark -- What are humans who believe in God using? Are they using no knowledge of entities, inference from past experience, and logic? Also, upon what empirical observation are inference and logic based? If a conceptual being -- like, I don't know, say Tim Sisk -- comes to the conclusion that God exists, is that conclusion somehow invalidated because you disagree? Finally, is the person who avoids the truck not acting on a belief about the world?

You have been trounced.

Mark said...

3. Allah is not predicated on any love. The God of the Old Testament is not predicated on love. Throwing out the old "God loves me" shows a vast and revolting ignorance about what religion actually is.

My intent was not to state an article of faith shared by all religions, just to give an example of what some religious people take on faith. Are you saying some beliefs accepted on faith are more valid than others? By what means do you make such determinations?

4. If God exists, then faith and belief are an observance of fact.

Yes, if, but we are not speaking of people who can prove God exists. For them, no faith is necessary.

Seven Machos said...

Don't make me break out David Hume. Because I'll do it.

Old Dad said...

Decoder,

Gotta disagree about rationalizations. When they translate into actions, they have tremendous power. It's an open question whether or not we can act without a motive. Conventional wisdom describes that as a species of insanity, but there's interesting science being done on the subject.

And the OT, as you argue, is an inanimate object. Some people explain their evil acts by citing it. The result is certainly bad, but shouldn't the proximate cause be addressed. The OT didn't cause the behavior, but belief (or a misconstrued belief) in its content did.

Your point about pork seems reasonable. There may be an evolutionary argument to be made. Babies are afraid of heights for good reason, but they don't innately want to stone homosexuals.

Mark said...

What are humans who believe in God using? Are they using no knowledge of entities, inference from past experience, and logic?

Do you know what faith means? It is belief in the absence of evidence. It means believing something that reason alone does not support. You seem to be operating with a different definition, so perhaps you could share it to avoid future misunderstandings.

If a conceptual being ... comes to the conclusion that God exists, is that conclusion somehow invalidated because you disagree?

My agreement has nothing to do with it.

Finally, is the person who avoids the truck not acting on a belief about the world?

The question is not whether people have beliefs. It is whether the bases of all forms of belief are equally valid; in particular, is faith as valid a base as reason (of which the scientific method is an instance)?

Kirby Olson said...

I'm not a theologian but I think Lutherans still see the OT as valid. It discusses the Kingdom of Law, which is the world in which we live.

We believe in laws. But are laws founded in science and in nature? Dolphins rape. Chimps rape. But when people do it we feel that they belong in prison, or in the cemetery. Dawkins thinks it's just our genes acting selfishly.

Maybe so, but it's prison nevertheless. Or the cemetery.

The NT is the kingdom of Love, which Jesus describes, but he only promises it after the Second Coming, which hasn't happened yet.

Meanwhile, there's law. This is the blog of a law prof so I ask:

Are laws FOUNDED upon a scientific examination of NATURE?

Kant argues that you can't find any OUGHTS in nature. They come from another sphere: in our case, from the religious sphere, as someone pointed out. Leviticus is the watershed for a lot of our laws. Toss in the Ten Commandments and you've got a lot of the basis for our laws.

Which ones would Dawkins like to throw out so that we can act like monkeys?

Decoder said...

Mark,

Now, is the man who avoids the truck acting on conclusions that are as faith-based as the person who believes there is a God who loves him?

I guess you'd have to ask him.

Dodging trucks and understanding that "God loves me" are different thought processes.

The fact that this doesn't have anything to do with the topic underscores how poorly-chosen your original argument was.

If you'd like to come up with some examples that truely demonstrate your point, that might add something of value to the discussion. "God loves me" and dodging trucks are cartoonish (mis)representations of the thought processes you're trying to describe.

Religion vs. [other philosophy] can't really be enlightened by bumper-sticker-isms.

Seven Machos said...

faith  [feyth]
–noun
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one's promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.
8. Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.


Your definition of faith casts a complex concept in a negative, anti-reason light. The dictionary does a much better job of explaining what the thing actually is. Also, there are plenty of very good reasons to believe in God, and to be religious. Only a few are related to the possibility of God's existence.

mcg said...

That's the Old Testament in a nutshell, at least through Judges. The New Testament is about love. It's a radical departure.

Which brings us back to your original post about leaving Leviticus in the past. Christian theology claims that the Old Testament and New Testament Gods are identical. Either it is possible to reconcile these two "faces" of God or it is not. If it is not, then Christianity is false. If it is, then God did not change from one of wrath to one of love between Malachi and Matthew; he was both all along.

Given the fact that the central story of the New Testament is the brutalization and execution of his Son to pay the penalty required of us for our sins, it is clear that the wrath portion is, in fact, preserved in the New Testament. I certainly concede that it can be more difficult to see the love portion is present in the Old, but it can be found---even if you restrict yourself to Genesis-Judges.

Daryl Herbert said...

Here we see religious nihilism on full display.

If belief in God can't be justified, then neither can belief in anything else.

Even, for instance, believing in getting hit by a speeding truck. Something so simple and obvious.

No, if someone doesn't believe in God, it's because they "hate God." Claim anyone who doesn't agree with you has emotional problems. That's a real classy way to argue.

Cedarford said...

Old Dad -

I believe a case can be made that the 1st Amendment can be construed as barring all State sponsorship of religion - not just the US Federal or State governments. To say that Saudis are somehow free by the Venerated Wisdom of the Divine Founding Fathers to do as they please and spend Saudi ruler's billions to push their Faith - misses past US actions - where any suspected Vatican funding of Catholicism in the US was a cause for alarm and scrutinized (and found to be not the case in the 19th Century). After we bought Alaska, we had to take steps to end the Russian Tsar directly funding Russian Orthodox missions. And similar understandings with Utah and the Mormon Church were necessary to disaggregate Mormon-Mormon government joint funded activities prior to Statehood.

I like some things Bush has done, but he has been particularly blind in the area of the Saudis prosyletization using oil dollars to spread the cancer of intolerant Wahabbi Salafism in madrassahs worldwide and in the USA including our military and prisons. And the Bushies permit it, it seems, not to tick their friends the Saudis off, because they feel that Islam and Christianity are both noble religions of peace that will hapily coexist once a few minor frictions are worked out, and because they have somehow come to believe that spreading radical Islam is a fundamental religious right of overseas state sponsors of religion. A right not only protected by the 1st Amendment, but something the Bushies believe would be illegal and be intolerant if it was opposed.

Since radical Islamists swim and recruit from a Sea of like-minded co-believers, it is very dangerous for us to pretend that we can only oppose those that directly are involved in "criminal activity", as Old Dad suggested. It resurrects the old law enforcement mentality. When the Spaniards ended the Aztec religion or the Brits the Thuggees, they sensibly knew that the problem was not limited to just the "crimes" - the priests that cut hearts out, the minority of Thugs who strangled - but the beliefs of the whole group of extremists.

We of course did not pretend that the only bad Nazis or Communists were those that directly did atrocities and the rest were Good Nazis or Good Communists - we were frank that the movements themselves were flawed and dangerous expressions of ideology. As religion is ideology of a different form - we have to get away from the idea that the 1st Amendment bars any action against a Faith or foreign rulers spreading it - as bigoted or un-Constitutional - even if it is every bit as dangerous as National Socialism or military Shintoism.

My other post referenced honor. Honor is inherent in Islam and guides many actions the Bushies appear to not really understand. Nor do those opposed to Bush really appreciate how the Loss of the West as itself being an honor culture has weakened us. James Bowman has been writing about the loss of honor guiding Western leaders and how honor is so crucial to understanding Islamic motivations for a while now. He believes our communications with Islamic peoples have failed because we talk to much about how wonderful we are and how the Muslims would love us if they stopped being so obtuse and learned through "education" to like us. He comments on the Left's rejection of honor in favor of a guilt culture where they believe grovelling and apologizing to belligerant Muslim punks and terrorists will appease them - when in fact, such debasement only empowers Islamic honor and makes them more aggressive in demanding the "slight of the week, the cause of enragement and offense" be corrected by what they correctly see as weak people lacking honor and susceptable to bullying...

One article he wrote in Oct 2002 I sure wish the Bush people had read before going into Iraq:


http://www.jamesbowman.net/articleDetail.asp?pubID=1264

Interesting how the insurgents of Tal Afar tell the Marines that they hate them and seek to kill them, but how relieved they are that most Americans lack the honor of Marine warriors...so they will eventually beat the American Zionist Crusader...

Juliet said...

Believe whatever you want - but please don't take offense when I compare your God to the tooth fairy.

I don't think you can really expect people not to take offense at things you say that are offensive. Even if you say "please."

Paul Zrimsek said...

Buy term life on the 13th day,
And your policy all too soon will pay.


-- Rhyme from 18th century Connecticut, quoted in Actuarial Folklore in Colonial New England

Old Dad said...

Kirby Olson:

"Are laws FOUNDED upon a scientific examination of NATURE?"

Some are, some aren't--more's the pity--Kyoto, for example--on either side of the global warming argument.

Laws are FOUNDED on lots of things--profound belief, criminal self interest, delusion, insanity.

You note that chimps, our closest genetic cousins, rape, and kill fellow chimps. That's true, as do we homo sapiens. Perhaps, they are aping us, but doubtful.

Kant was right about OUGHTS. Evolution is indiscriminate--like gravity.

My guess is that Dawkins would probably drop the prohibition against blasphemy requiring punishment by death, but he's got his own ideas.

Decoder said...

Gotta disagree about rationalizations. When they translate into actions, they have tremendous power.

I disagree that this ever happens. Rationalizations follow from the urge to act, not the other way around.

It's an open question whether or not we can act without a motive.

The operative motive in almost all instances is: "I wanted to". Granted, this simplifies a lot of motives into a little package, but motives don't have to be looked for -- they are everywhere in vast abundance.

But we can disagree on this.

I don't think blaming the OT for the actions of people is really useful. If you're saying "the OT made them do it" then how do you argue with them when they say "the OT made me do it"?

I'd tell them they did it because they wanted to, OT or no OT.

Babies are afraid of heights for good reason, but they don't innately want to stone homosexuals.

Babies don't, but at the right place and time, families might. Folks responsible for strengthening a family are unlikely to welcome (or even tolerate) homosexuality. Most of the sexual rules in the Bible are about what promotes a strong family and what weakens it.

mcg said...

I believe a case can be made that the 1st Amendment can be construed as barring all State sponsorship of religion - not just the US Federal or State governments.

Not if you want that case to be consistent with history. States had considerable latitude to define religious standards in the early years of the republic. Quite a few state constitutions (PA,MA,NC, for example) imposed religious tests for those holding state public office, or even for those voting. The First Amendment did not render those null and void, save the Article VI provision preventing religious tests for federal public office.

Now, add the 14th Amendment in, and you might be onto something!

Revenant said...

Read the whole thing. Dawkins, author of the wonderfully readable "Selfish Gene," has a new book, "The God Delusion."

Woot! Thanks for the heads-up. :)

Old Dad said...

Cedarford,

Thanks for that. Ironically, "honor" is the problem in a world of moral relativism. We honor different beliefs for which we are willing to die--and kill--sometimes indiscriminately.

A moral of self defense tends to sort out the confusion in the near term. And thank Whomever that we have honorable young men and women ready to defend us.

Revenant said...

Science doesn't "determine" that water freezes at a certain temperature ("determine" implies some kind of control), it merely observes the freezing point. Answering the question "why" may be difficult, but it is hardly "troubling". It is the purpose of science.

Exactly. Besides, we DO know why water freezes at a certain temperature. So even if it used to be "troubling" not to know why it happens, those troubled days are in the past. :)

Old Dad said...

Decoder,

Still disagree about "rationalization," but I need to define terms. I mean "to make rational, or conforming to reason." The word is usually defined as I think you are arguing--to make the facts fit what you want. My bad. In my circle, "to rationalize" usually means to make sense. "You need to rationalize that proposal or I'm not gonna spend the dough." Most folks would think just the opposite.

And I hold the OT blameless, but some take the text literally as the Word of God, and they do awful things because of that.

Daryl Herbert said...

I do think Dawkins overstates the problem.

Pakistani Madrassas are not teaching young Muslims to be moderates. They are teaching young Muslims to be extremists. If they were actually teaching the Muslims to be moderates, the world would be a much better place.

I don't believe that true moderates just stumble into radicalism. In Dawkins' view, every moderate religious person is a potential terrorist. That's no more true than every atheist is a potential religious terrorist, because they could convert to a religion and become an extremist and then become a terrorist.

When Muslims teach their children to be super-sensitive to criticism, they are planting the seed of extremism. With the right conditions (a little criticism or even, gasp, disrespect) those Muslims become radicalized. So I don't consider teaching someone to be super-sensitive to criticism to be a "moderate" belief. If it makes you go crazy, it's not a moderate belief.

We need to work for a better future. A future where the vast majority of Muslims are truly moderate. That's obviously not the case today. That means Muslims have to accept the idea that Islam can be criticized, even by people who hate it.

They need to accept that they have only the same rights as everyone else. They criticize Christianity all the time, but want to be immune from criticism. Muslim terrorists carry out attacks all the time, but they want to be immune from terrorism. They want to be able to keep their women locked up and force them to marry other Muslims, but they want the right to pursue our women. They want to be able to convert infidels, but don't want to allow Muslims to convert away.

These double standards lead to great tension and need to be destroyed. If Muslims want to be isolated from us, they should stay out of our countries. If Muslims want to live in our countries, they should accept that Islam will not have special privileges. Whenever we give Islam special privileges, we only make the problem worse!

Seven Machos said...

Why does water freeze at a certain temperature? Remember that they had a theory about this in the 1700s that was highly sophisticated but looks quaint now. In 300 years, current theories will look similarly quaint.

Ultimately, water freezes at 32 degrees because it does.

Tim Sisk said...

Seven Machos: Any argument predicated on the fact that I am a rational being is probably suspect. That is, I'm suspected of being rational, but the evidence still isn't in on that.

Old Dad said...

Seven Machos,

Water changes state at 32 degrees F because that's the level of heat energy that overcomes or succumbs to weak atomic forces. The mechanics are very well understood. C'mon. Boyles' Law dates to 1662. Previous ignorance proves nothing, nor do future mistakes. Science builds on evidence. Crack pots, present company excluded, aside.

Why that is so is a fascinating question. If it is so is tedious.

buck turgidson said...

Kirby Olson wrote:
Values can't be proven, they exist as axioms. That's what Dawkins doesn't get.

Oh, my! We've got another moral absolutist...

Are "value axioms" knowable? Or can they only be approximated by the limited (more limited in some cases than others) human minds?

The reason I ask is simple--values seem to change depending on circumstances. Of course, we could argue that the value axiomatics is so broad that encompasses varying circumstances, but that could quickly become a vacuous argument. It's a lot like setting up so many variables, that the model ends up looking statistically random, despite all the variables being known.

Consider a couple of cases--Dick Cheney's stand on same sex unions and Nancy Reagan's on stem-cell research. It is possible that their positions are principled--but, given their other positions, that's not likely to stick. In fact, in each case, their moral choice was dictated by the specific circumstances that they found themselves in--Cheney with a homosexual daughter and St. Nancy with a husband with Alzheimer's. It is possible that they would have taken the opposite position on the respective issues had the issues not hit home for them. Even more likely is that they would not have taken positions on these issues at all had their lives not been affected by defining events that lead to their choices.

So, either you must assert that their "values" are lacking--in, at least, these situations--or admit that the values are rather flexible and are defined by experience or accept that their position is the morally correct one and that the "value voters" who believe otherwise actually lack values. No matter what choice you make in this trilemma, you have to reject values axiomatics. The only way to preserve it is by proposing that decisions on these issues have nothing to do with "values"--something that a lot of Americans all over the political spectrum will find very hard to swallow.

Daryl Herbert said...

Consider a couple of cases--Dick Cheney's stand on same sex unions and Nancy Reagan's on stem-cell research.

Buck Turgidson, there's a big difference between policy positions (e.g., gay marriage) and the underlying values. Policy positions can change when more social science data comes in, but the bedrock values are not supposed to change.

Why is human life good? Why are humans better than pigs? Why is human freedom good? The answering these questions won't solve the problem in a satisfactory way, because you're faced with the same problem again.

For example, if one was to say "freedom is good because it leads to creativity and happiness" -> why are creativity and happiness so great? Pinning down provable, objective moral axioms... I'm not sure it can be done.

Daryl Herbert said...

I think there's something very evil about faith, where faith means believing in something in the absence of evidence, and actually taking pride in believing in something in the absence of evidence. And the reason that's dangerous is that it justifies essentially anything. If you're taught in your holy book or by your priest that blasphemers should die or apostates should die -- anybody who once believed in the religion and no longer does needs to be killed -- that clearly is evil. And people don't have to justify it because it's their faith.

Just as faith can be used to teach a person anything, scientists must accept that their research can potentially lead them anywhere.

Just as religious people can teach their children to hate blacks and think of blacks as inferior, scientists could, as a result of their studies, come to the conclusion that blacks are inferior. A real scientist would not be afraid to publish the results, just as a real religious zealot would not be afraid to share his views and even suffer for them.

There is a major difference: that religious people can teach their children anything, whereas scientists are limited by the scientific method. But it can potentially lead anywhere. Science is in some ways more dangerous than religion, because religious people make up whatever subjective truths they want to. Scientists can only discover objective truths, they have no control over what those truths will be.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Buck,

If anyone compromises their principles for personal gain, they have betrayed their principles. Everyone betrays their principles. (Have you ever been a jerk? Mean? Insensitive? Do you thus believe these things are good?)

Humans betray their principles all the time because humans are imperfect beings. That does not mean an absolute moral code does not exist. Your examples prove nothing.

You and other relativists seem to be suggesting that because everyone falls short of the ideal, the ideal is worthless.

Seven Machos said...

Old Dad -- I'm saying that in 300 years, the idea of atoms as a way of explaining the world will seem quaint and dated.

Revenant said...

Old Dad -- I'm saying that in 300 years, the idea of atoms as a way of explaining the world will seem quaint and dated

Do you also believe that in 300 years the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun will seem quaint and dated?

If not, what's your reason for assuming that one scientific theory will be discarded and another will not be?

Seven Machos said...

Buck Turgidson's argument in a nutshell:

Silly people! Everything is relative. Take Dick Cheney and Nancy Reagan. They are callous. They are only actually exercising values when they agree with me. See, I am always right even though everything is really relative.

Your name is quite apt with regard to the way you write. Perhaps you should go back to tersely calling everyone homophobic. That was at least lucid.

Old Dad said...

Seven Machos,

I'd quibble with "quaint," but I won't be around to argue.

In some ways, I hope you are right. As a bidness man, I hate surprises, but as a human being I love them. I'd be delighted if the Hubble Telescope captured a picture of a teapot orbiting Pluto, but that's just me, and somewhat perverse. Pace. It's Sunday Night Football, and I'm out.

Seven Machos said...

Revenant -- You really can't win this one. We'll all be dead in 300 years. The history of science suggests that some of what we think we know is wrong. Some of what we know is right. Why is this era any different than all the previous ones?

Most of what we know right now is wrong but more more right than it was before and becoming more and more right.

Revenant said...

Revenant -- You really can't win this one. We'll all be dead in 300 years.

Um, ok. So it is ok for you to pull predictions for the year 2306 out of your ass, but when I question you on it I "can't win" because "we'll all be dead in 300 years"? Answer my question: do you think our belief that the Earth revolves around the Sun is wrong, and if not, what's your reason for believing in *that* theory and not in atomic theory?

The history of science suggests that some of what we think we know is wrong.

Some of what we think we know may well be wrong. But saying "science was wrong in the past, so it is probably wrong now" is irrational, particularly in light of the fact that the history of science *also* tells us that we get closer to the truth every year -- and, in many cases, such as the orbit of the Earth around the sun, reach it. In addition, even if it was rational to assume that we're wrong now just because we were wrong about a different theory three centuries ago, picking a particular theory as one we'll clearly think is wrong 300 years in the future is just plain dumb.

Most of what we know right now is wrong but more more right than it was before and becoming more and more right.

Please either (a) prove that most of what we know right now is wrong or (b) admit that you're talking out of your ass.

Seven Machos said...

Revenant -- Sorry you are angry. I said what I think. I can't prove it. You can't disprove it. We are stuck.

Revenant said...

Revenant -- Sorry you are angry. I said what I think. I can't prove it. You can't disprove it. We are stuck

You mistake contempt for anger.

If you're just offering your opinion, rather than making a statement of fact, then I won't take issue with it. Your opinions are of no consequence to me. What I found ridiculous was that you appeared to be trying to claim that it was a fact that most of what we now know is wrong.

Mark said...

Science is in some ways more dangerous than religion, because religious people make up whatever subjective truths they want to. Scientists can only discover objective truths, they have no control over what those truths will be.

So making things up at whim is considered "being in control"? While abiding by hard facts is being "out of control"? When you reach an absurd conclusion like this, I think it's time to check your logic and, as a great philosopher once said, your premises.

bearing said...

I read Dawkins' _The Ancestor's Tale_ a couple of months ago.

He's a brilliant writer. He really is. I'd recommend that book to anyone, for a number of reasons: the creative "Canterbury Tales" allusion, the notion of explaining evolution backwards (which really helps clarify a number of concepts), the crystal-clear writing style.

But I desperately wish he had an editor who would tell him how utterly distracting are his repeated, gratuitous, and completely unnecessary jabs at religious people (usually creationists, but not always) within the text.

I want to say, Richard. I know you don't like these people. Please. Ignore them. You're embarrassing yourself.

Seven Machos said...

Revenenat -- When I was in grade school, we had these worksheets in which we had to determine what was fact and what was opinion, as if there is some black-and-white distinction between the two.

There isn't. I do think most of what we think we know now is wrong, mostly because it is incomplete. That's my opinion. If it's true, it also is a fact. If it isn't, it's still my opinion, though my opinion will be wrong and, as a rational person, I will change it.

As I say, though, we'll all be dead. So none of this matters. You can quit condescending to me and all the little people who deign to challenge the awesome edifice that is 21st Century epirical materialism any time now.

Mark said...

I do think most of what we think we know now is wrong, mostly because it is incomplete. That's my opinion.

In other words until we know everything, we know nothing. Amazing how the theories of those know-nothing scientists can get people to the moon and back, create life-saving medicines, and allow us to type words at each other from thousands of miles away.

If you want to admit you know nothing, fine. (And you'll get no argument here.) But to dismiss the science that has brought us out of the dark ages and provided us all with unparalleled wealth and life spans -- with nothing more than the statement that people have been wrong before -- is disgusting.

Seven Machos said...

Mark -- Aren't you the guy who said that there is no God because you can get run over by a truck?

I am arguing that our knowledge of the world is wrong in the sense that it is (1) sometimes not correct and (2) awesomely incompletely. In 300 years. scientific principles that seem axiomatic now will seem silly. Values that seem axiomatic right now will seem silly, too.

None of this really has anything to do with the original idea: whether religious people make the world safe for extremists.

John Thacker really nailed it with post one: people like Dawkins make it the world safe for people like Pol Pot and Lenin, who would destroy the edifice that is the West using the completely scientific principles of dialectical materialism and Marxism.

This thread has gone downhill from there and I'm sorry to have contributed massively thereto.

no1special said...

Damn,,missed it again,living in Costa Rica has it's disadvantages. But anyway, was it Dawkins in the 8th by KO? or did the 'masses' revive tinkerbell?

amba said...

What you want from Blogger is "rollover characters."

Revenant said...

When I was in grade school, we had these worksheets in which we had to determine what was fact and what was opinion, as if there is some black-and-white distinction between the two. There isn't.

Well, I could reply to that. But I think I'll opt to be of the opinion that you never wrote it in the first place.

amba said...

Religion isn't evil, atheism isn't evil, nuclear power isn't evil. . . they are all just vessels to be filled with human lust for power and fear and hatred of differences. Good people will do good, and people who've sold their souls to evil will do evil, in the name of religion or atheism or whatever. Particular ideologies can be evil, and yet there were good people who tried to do good through Communism (they usually ended up as dissidents in the Gulag). I can't find it in me to say the same about Nazism although I suppose there were idealists who started out believing in it, but they soon parted ways. The categories "religion" and "atheism" are too broad to be characterized that way. The problem is the mind of man.

Seven Machos said...

Revenant:

"I like pie." Is that a fact or an opinion?

"Humans descended from apes." Is that a fact or an opinion?

These are trick questions. Only a fool would pick one over the other.

Revenant said...

John Thacker really nailed it with post one: people like Dawkins make it the world safe for people like Pol Pot and Lenin, who would destroy the edifice that is the West using the completely scientific principles of dialectical materialism and Marxism

Marxism was "scientific" the way that creationism is -- it used the terminology, but disregarded the underlying philosophy. That is why Marxists continue to believe in Marx despite his predictions being soundly refuted time and time again. Communism was a godless religion, like Buddhism or Taoism. It was not, and is not, a science.

But in any case, what defeated Communism was the scientific and materialistic philosophy of capitalism -- not religion. If we'd relied on religion to be our bulwark against Marxism we'd have lost the war.

Seven Machos said...

Well, let's all breathe a sigh of relief that there are no capitalist extremists. Let's be thankful that thousands of high school students (and some sorry adults) don't read about the exploits of capitalist extremists in novels year after year.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand

And let's be thankful that there have been no scientific extremists as well. Can't think of any of those.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unabomber

Revenant said...

I like pie." Is that a fact or an opinion?

It is a statement of fact. It may or may not be true.

"Humans descended from apes." Is that a fact or an opinion?

The correct way of putting it would be "apes and humans share a common genetic ancestor".

That statement is a theory, derived from three facts: (a) that organisms evolve over the course of generations, (b) that human and ape DNA are highly similar, and (c) that remains of creatures with similarities to both apes and humans have been discovered and dated to a time period consistent with the degree of drift between human and ape DNA.

Similarly, it is only a theory that the Earth revolves around the sun. This is derived from a set of facts as well, such as (a) that objects are drawn towards each other by some gravitational effect and (b) that the stars, moon, planets, et al, move within our field of view in the manner in which they would move if we were revolving around the sun. It may be that in reality the whole universe orbits us in a bizzarely complicated manner which perfectly mimics planetar orbits, just as it may be that all the life on Earth just coincidentally happens to be consistent with the theory of evolution. That's why both "humans evolved from earlier forms of life" and "the Earth orbits the Sun" are theories.

These are trick questions.

You're only fooling yourself with them.

Seven Machos said...

Only a fool would sit and argue semantical questions into the wee midnight hours. I like you, Revenant. You are a great wit and you make many salient points. But you are being silly to condescend to me with ideas about what is a fact, a theory, and an opinion. None of what changes what the universe is, or what we currently know and don't know about it.

Revenant said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand

Not quite sure why I'm supposed to be horrified by Ayn Rand. She wrote turgid and boring philosophical tracts, sure, but so did St. Augustine.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unabomber

Ok, so chalk up three kills for "science" and a few hundred million for "faith"? :)

Pogo said...

Re; "Ok, so chalk up three kills for "science" and a few hundred million for "faith"? :)"

Revenant, Marx called his work a science, and thought religion needed to go away:
"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness."

And for the record, those selfsame anti-religionists currently hold the title for mass murder on this planet, well over 100 million dead (see * and *), plus 3 for the Unabomber.

China (PRC) 1949-87 .... 76.702 million
U.S.S.R. 1917-87 ........ 61.911 million
Germany 1933-45 ....... 20.946 million (including 5.291 million Jews)
China (KMT) 1928-49 ... 10.075 million
China (Mao Soviets) 1923-48 ... 3.468 million
Cambodia 1975-79 ........ 2.035 million
Vietnam 1945-87 .......... 1.647 million
Poland 1945-48 ........... 1.585 million
Yugoslavia (Tito) 1944-87 ... 1.072 million


There are no such records indicating a similar death toll for "faith". Even if you grant the high end of estimates (see *), you reach perhaps 22 or 23 million.

TMink said...

Ya know, he misses the boat in a big way. We believe because of our experience. Not because we are told to! My experience of answered prayer, or God's love filling a room, of the rightness of His Word, those experiences are why I believe!

Same reason I trust my wife. She is trustworthy in my experience. I do not have numbers to back it up, her honesty and love cannot be measured, but I have experiential evidence to back up my trust in my wife as well as my trust in my God.

Trey

Freder Frederson said...

And for the record, those selfsame anti-religionists currently hold the title for mass murder on this planet, well over 100 million dead (see * and *), plus 3 for the Unabomber.

Now this is unfair in the extreme. If you are going to blame atheism for all the deaths of the twentieth century that are based on ideologies that reject traditional religion, then you should be fair and blame all deaths caused by western society on religion.

So let's reassess. We'd have to move the Nazi death toll back into the "religion", column, because while Hitler wasn't a Christian, he wasn't quite an atheist either (he was something along the lines of a Pagan), and there certainly was tacit support of the Nazi regime by most of the major churches in Germany, especially the Catholic Church.

So lets retally:

Nazi Germany--- 20.96 million
World War I (Mostly Christian empires slaughtering eachother)-- 10 million
The African Slave Trade (1500--1800) (Yes arabs and black africans did most of the leg work in Africa, but once they were delivered to the slave ports, it was almost all White Christians)--somewhere around 10 million.

Depopulation of North and South America (granted disease accounted for most of the deaths, but what disease didn't take, White Christians were willing to kill with impunity)--varies widely, but at least 10 million, maybe as much as 30 million.

Depopulation of Australia and the Pacific Islands--a much smaller number than the Americas, but probably a much higher percentage. Cash bounties were paid for dead Aboriginies in Australia as late as the 1860's.

The Irish Potato famine--1 million dead outright another 1 million emigrated, one-third of the entire population. While the Irish died in the tens of thousands, Ireland continued to export food.

Not to mention that Europe was in an almost a constant state of war from 1500--1870, then had a relatively peaceful forty years before the outbreak of World War I.

Pogo said...

Freder
You're quite wrong.

Those weren't religious wars at all (i.e. not conducted about religion qua religion).

The Nazi ideology was socialist and they were at best earth worshippers, but not religious by any stretch. While atheists use quotes from Hitler to make their case that he was a Christian, they ignore other facts.

"Incredibly, three dictators, Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin, all three sons of devout, doting mothers at whose knees they learned to recite their prayers, all three educated at Church schools, and all three emerged as atheists and persecutors of religion." (Delivered from Evil , the Saga of WWII, Robert Leckie).

"Hitler shared with Stalin the same materialist outlook, based on 19th century rationalist’ certainty that the progress of science would destroy all myths and had already proved Christian doctrine to be an absurdity (Alan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin)
Hitler was really reflecting the tendency of the age. Science had become the one truly unchallenged authority. As the laws of evolution and selection put forth by Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer were popularized in numerous pseudo-scientific publications, the average person soon came to know that the ‘struggle for existence’ was the fundamental principal of life, the ‘survival of the fittest’ the basic law governing the societal conduct of individuals and nations"
(Hitler, Joachim Fest)

"Beginning about 1881, a new type of anti-Semitism evolved in Germany. This type was based on racial grounds, rather than religious ones and was called scientific or racial anti-Semitism"(Why Hitler? The Greatness of the Nazi Reich, Samuel Mitcham Jr.)

Pogo said...

I would add that I put this up not to argue that atheism is worse than other religions, but that man kills under many banners, including religion, socialism, race, and nationalism.

Religion per se is no better a reason, or worse, than the others, so clearly my theory Professor Dawkins is an idiot is true.

Fitz said...

“Of course they're appalled. They're very decent, nice people. But they have no right to be appalled because, in a sense, they brought it on the world by teaching people, especially children, the virtues of unquestioned faith.”

This is the crux of the anti-religious attack by the children of the “enlightenment.”
They are the only ones who “think” and a religious tradition that’s 2000 years old (5000 as in Judeo-Christian) and is rigorously self-critical can be dismissed as “dogmatic”. Except such dogmatism is the careful result of the western worlds most studied ethical tradition. Containing some of the West’s most prodigious and influential thinkers.

Personally I think its just an exercise in narcissism, like racism – Dawkins gets to catapult himself above billions of people and be superior then those great unwashed.

Fitz said...

Freder

“and there certainly was tacit support of the Nazi regime by most of the major churches in Germany, especially the Catholic Church.”

This is an utter fabrication. The Myth of “Hitler’s Pope” has been debunked and admittedly so by the author of that work. The Catholic Church saved more Jews during the Holocaust years than any other single organization. Pius was honored as a righteous gentile by Jews after WWII ended.

Revenant said...

Revenant, Marx called his work a science, and thought religion needed to go away

If you'll check earlier in the thread you'll see that I already noted that about Marx. Calling something a science does not make it one; one must also follow the procedures and obey the restrictions of scientific methodology. This is why, for example, creationism, homopathic medicine, and Freudian psychoanalysis are not sciences, despite their claims to the contrary. Marx, like all prophets, believed in the obvious truth of his revelatory insights, and felt that actual experimental confirmation was unnecessary.

As for the following quote:

"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness"

Such sentiments are indistinguishable from those of, for example, Christian missionaries convinced that the existing faith of their prospective converts is the wrong sort of faith, and that the people will be happier and live more fulfilling lives after converting to Christianity. Marx had the same messianic approach to the problems of the world that Christians and Muslims have.

And for the record, those selfsame anti-religionists currently hold the title for mass murder on this planet

As I already noted above, I consider Marxism to be a non-theistic religion. Even if you quibble with that designation, it was indisputably based on faith, not reason and science. Either way, faith was the problem. Had followers of Marx actually bothered themselves with the question of whether his ideas actually held water, there wouldn't have been enough communists left by the 1910s to actually take over Russia or anyplace else in the world.

There are no such records indicating a similar death toll for "faith".

Every genocide on that list falls under the heading of "faith".

Revenant said...

They are the only ones who "think" and a religious tradition that’s 2000 years old (5000 as in Judeo-Christian) and is rigorously self-critical can be dismissed as "dogmatic".

Only a believer would seriously consider Christianity to be self-critical in any meaningful sense of the term. Christian self-criticism starts with the assumption that Christianity is fundamentally correct in its axioms and concerns itself merely with discovering the correct interpolation of those axioms. No serious effort is made to test the veracity of its core beliefs.

In any event, the purpose of criticism is to move nearer to the truth. The fact that Christians have been steadily becoming *less* in agreement about the truth for the last two thousand years would suggest that such self-criticism is serving no useful purpose -- if there is a truth to be discovered, either self-criticism won't help you find it or virtually all of you are self-criticizing the wrong way.

Except such dogmatism is the careful result of the western worlds most studied ethical tradition. Containing some of the West’s most prodigious and influential thinkers

... who tend to invoke "ineffability" whenever they come to a tough question they don't like the logical answer to.

For example, the answer to the "problem of evil" that best fits with the evidence is that there isn't an omnipotent, benevolent God watching over us. This answer is generally ignored in favor of a rogue's gallery of post-hoc rationalizations for the existance and benevolence of God.

Personally I think its just an exercise in narcissism, like racism – Dawkins gets to catapult himself above billions of people and be superior then those great unwashed.

Being an atheist in England isn't exactly "putting yourself above the great unwashed". Only a tiny percent of the population attends church, and over a third are atheists.

Paddy O. said...

"Only a believer would seriously consider Christianity to be self-critical in any meaningful sense of the term. Christian self-criticism starts with the assumption that Christianity is fundamentally correct in its axioms and concerns itself merely with discovering the correct interpolation of those axioms. No serious effort is made to test the veracity of its core beliefs."

Wow. Clearly you have never, ever, ever taking an advanced course in anything related to Christianity. This is like saying Law is uncritical. Every major research university in the world, and many other types of schools, offer advanced research degrees in Christian theology or related topics. To get a theology degree requires a level of study, mastery of languages, and knowledge of subjects that might shock you.

Rather than continue with this thought I suggest you check on Amazon and pick up a volume by Pannenberg or Moltmann or any number of other writers who actually write about the subject you, out of your ignorance, dismiss.

Only someone with absolutely no understanding of history, linguistics, or philosophy would think that Christianity has no capacity for self-criticism.

AlaskaJack said...

I'm afraid that the Rev. has dropped his guard. He claims to "know" that the future will resemble the past and that the laws of physics that hold today will hold at all times in the future. Of course he cannot possibly know this; he believes it on faith. And any argument that he may come up with to the contrary will necessarily be circular.

Because Rev is unable to continue, the decision must go to David Hume on a knockout.

Revenant said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Revenant said...

Clearly you have never, ever, ever taking an advanced course in anything related to Christianity.

I was raised a Christian, attended Sunday school regularly, and took several college-level religion classes. So yes, I'm familiar with the hype. I would even venture to say that most Christians honestly believe that they critically appraise Christianity.

But really, they're only fooling themselves. The debates within Christianity, where the core axioms are concerned (the benevolence of God, for example) are show trials and nothing more.

Every major research university in the world, and many other types of schools, offer advanced research degrees in Christian theology or related topics.

Every major research university in the world also offers doctorates in postmoderist literary criticism -- that doesn't mean it has intellectual merit.

In any case, neither Pannenburg nor Moltmann is among the Christian writers whose work I have read. Could you give an indication of which of their books criticizes the idea that God exists or that Christ was our savior?

Or -- let me guess -- do they, after perhaps a weak argument to the contrary, conclude that there is in fact a God, and Christ is in fact our savior, and concern themselves primarily with writing book after book analyzing what this means?

Revenant said...

He claims to "know" that the future will resemble the past and that the laws of physics that hold today will hold at all times in the future.

To the best of my knowledge I have never said anything of the kind. In fact, I specifically conceded that it may indeed be the case that the Earth doesn't really revolve around the Sun. I just said there was no reason to *believe* that the Earth doesn't really revolve around the Sun.

I did, however, criticize Seven for stating that most of our current scientific theories will be considered wrong in 300 years. That claim was based on the logical fallacy of an appeal to history -- that because we were wrong in the past, we must be wrong now too. In truth there is no rational reason to suspect that most of what we now know is wrong. That's why we think we know it -- because there *isn't* a good reason to think it is wrong.

Anyway, I certainly don't think every theory in physics will remain in its current state forever more. They'd better not, in fact, since the body of theory is known to be both incomplete and inaccurate in describing some of what we observe in the universe.

Of course he cannot possibly know this; he believes it on faith.

I don't believe it at all, on faith or otherwise. But in any case, invoking the tu quoque fallacy doesn't accomplish much. Just as the fact that some things fill me with rage doesn't imply that rage is a good thing, the fact that there are things in life I have to take on faith doesn't imply that faith is a good thing.

Remember, what Dawkins is criticizing here is the sanctification of faith -- the idea that it is *good* to believe in things without empirical evidence. The problem isn't that people take things on faith, but that they think that taking things on faith is admirable, rather than being something to be done only in extremity, as a last resort.