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Dawkins in Salon
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rhinoceros
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Dawkins in Salon
« on: 2005-04-30 10:41:31 »
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There is an interview of  Richard Dawkins in Salon, mostly about religion. You will need to click on "Day Pass" and view some ads to read it. Here are some snips:



The atheist
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2005/04/30/dawkins/

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins explains why God is a delusion, religion is a virus, and America has slipped back into the Dark Ages.

<snip>

Q: Once again, evolution is under attack. Are there any questions at all about its validity?

Dawkins: It's often said that because evolution happened in the past, and we didn't see it happen, there is no direct evidence for it. That, of course, is nonsense. It's rather like a detective coming on the scene of a crime, obviously after the crime has been committed, and working out what must have happened by looking at the clues that remain. In the story of evolution, the clues are a billionfold.
<snip>
British scientist J.B.S. Haldane, when asked what would constitute evidence against evolution, famously said, "Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian." They've never been found. Nothing like that has ever been found. Evolution could be disproved by such facts. But all the fossils that have been found are in the right place. Of course there are plenty of gaps in the fossil record. There's nothing wrong with that. Why shouldn't there be? We're lucky to have fossils at all. But no fossils have been found in the wrong place, such as to disprove the fact of evolution. Evolution is a fact.


Q:Still, so many people resist believing in evolution. Where does the resistance come from?

Dawkins: It comes, I'm sorry to say, from religion. And from bad religion. You won't find any opposition to the idea of evolution among sophisticated, educated theologians. It comes from an exceedingly retarded, primitive version of religion, which unfortunately is at present undergoing an epidemic in the United States. Not in Europe, not in Britain, but in the United States.
<snip>


Q:You delve into agnosticism in "The Ancestor's Tale." How does it differ from atheism?

Dawkins: It's said that the only rational stance is agnosticism because you can neither prove nor disprove the existence of the supernatural creator. I find that a weak position. It is true that you can't disprove anything but you can put a probability value on it. There's an infinite number of things that you can't disprove: unicorns, werewolves, and teapots in orbit around Mars. But we don't pay any heed to them unless there is some positive reason to think that they do exist.


Q: Believing in God is like believing in a teapot orbiting Mars?

Dawkins: Yes. For a long time it seemed clear to just about everybody that the beauty and elegance of the world seemed to be prima facie evidence for a divine creator. But the philosopher David Hume already realized three centuries ago that this was a bad argument. It leads to an infinite regression. You can't statistically explain improbable things like living creatures by saying that they must have been designed because you're still left to explain the designer, who must be, if anything, an even more statistically improbable and elegant thing. Design can never be an ultimate explanation for anything. It can only be a proximate explanation. A plane or a car is explained by a designer but that's because the designer himself, the engineer, is explained by natural selection.


Q: Those who embrace "intelligent design" -- the idea that living cells are too complex to have been created by nature alone -- say evolution isn't incompatible with the existence of God.

Dawkins: There is just no evidence for the existence of God. Evolution by natural selection is a process that works up from simple beginnings, and simple beginnings are easy to explain. The engineer or any other living thing is difficult to explain -- but it is explicable by evolution by natural selection. So the relevance of evolutionary biology to atheism is that evolutionary biology gives us the only known mechanism whereby the illusion of design, or apparent design, could ever come into the universe anywhere.


Q: So why do we insist on believing in God?

Dawkins: From a biological point of view, there are lots of different theories about why we have this extraordinary predisposition to believe in supernatural things. One suggestion is that the child mind is, for very good Darwinian reasons, susceptible to infection the same way a computer is. In order to be useful, a computer has to be programmable, to obey whatever it's told to do. That automatically makes it vulnerable to computer viruses, which are programs that say, "Spread me, copy me, pass me on." Once a viral program gets started, there is nothing to stop it.

Similarly, the child brain is preprogrammed by natural selection to obey and believe what parents and other adults tell it. In general, it's a good thing that child brains should be susceptible to being taught what to do and what to believe by adults. But this necessarily carries the down side that bad ideas, useless ideas, waste of time ideas like rain dances and other religious customs, will also be passed down the generations. The child brain is very susceptible to this kind of infection. And it also spreads sideways by cross infection when a charismatic preacher goes around infecting new minds that were previously uninfected.


Q: You've said that raising children in a religious tradition may even be a form of abuse.

Dawkins: What I think may be abuse is labeling children with religious labels like Catholic child and Muslim child. I find it very odd that in our civilization we're quite happy to speak of a Catholic child that is 4 years old or a Muslim of child that is 4, when these children are much too young to know what they think about the cosmos, life and morality. We wouldn't dream of speaking of a Keynesian child or a Marxist child. And yet, for some reason we make a privileged exception of religion. And, by the way, I think it would also be abuse to talk about an atheist child.
<snip>


Q: Fifty years ago, philosophers like Bertrand Russell felt that the religious worldview would fade as science and reason emerged. Why hasn't it?

Dawkins: That trend toward enlightenment has indeed continued in Europe and Britain. It just has not continued in the U.S., and not in the Islamic world. We're seeing a rather unholy alliance between the burgeoning theocracy in the U.S. and its allies, the theocrats in the Islamic world. They are fighting the same battle: Christian on one side, Muslim on the other. The very large numbers of people in the United States and in Europe who don't subscribe to that worldview are caught in the middle.

Actually, holy alliance would be a better phrase. Bush and bin Laden are really on the same side: the side of faith and violence against the side of reason and discussion. Both have implacable faith that they are right and the other is evil. Each believes that when he dies he is going to heaven. Each believes that if he could kill the other, his path to paradise in the next world would be even swifter. The delusional "next world" is welcome to both of them. This world would be a much better place without either of them.
<snip>


Q: How would we be better off without religion?

Dawkins: We'd all be freed to concentrate on the only life we are ever going to have. We'd be free to exult in the privilege -- the remarkable good fortune -- that each one of us enjoys through having been being born. An astronomically overwhelming majority of the people who could be born never will be. You are one of the tiny minority whose number came up. Be thankful that you have a life, and forsake your vain and presumptuous desire for a second one. The world would be a better place if we all had this positive attitude to life. It would also be a better place if morality was all about doing good to others and refraining from hurting them, rather than religion's morbid obsession with private sin and the evils of sexual enjoyment.
<snip>


Q: Is there an emotional side to the intellectual enterprise of exploring the story of life on Earth?

Dawkins: Yes, I strongly feel that. When you meet a scientist who calls himself or herself religious, you'll often find that that's what they mean. You often find that by "religious" they do not mean anything supernatural. They mean precisely the kind of emotional response to the natural world that you've described. Einstein had it very strongly. Unfortunately, he used the word "God" to describe it, which has led to a great deal of misunderstanding. But Einstein had that feeling, I have that feeling, you'll find it in the writings of many scientists. It's a kind of quasi-religious feeling. And there are those who wish to call it religious and who therefore are annoyed when a scientist calls himself an atheist. They think, "No, you believe in this transcendental feeling, you can't be an atheist." That's a confusion of language.
<snip>


Q: Humans may not be products of an intelligent designer but given genetic technologies, our descendants will be. What does this mean about the future of evolution?

Dawkins: It's an interesting thought that in some remote time in the future, people may look back on the 20th and 21st centuries as a watershed in evolution -- the time when evolution stopped being an undirected force and became a design force. Already, for the past few centuries, maybe even millennia, agriculturalists have in a sense designed the evolution of domestic animals like pigs and cows and chickens. That's increasing and we're getting more technologically clever at that by manipulating not just the selection part of evolution but also the mutation part. That will be very different; one of the great features of biological evolution up to now is that there is no foresight.
<snip>
That never happened in natural evolution; there was never a "let's temporarily get worse in order to get better, let's go down into the valley in order to get over to the other side and up onto the opposite mountain." So yes, I think it well may be that we're living in a time when evolution is suddenly starting to become intelligently designed.

« Last Edit: 2005-04-30 11:44:56 by rhinoceros » Report to moderator   Logged
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Re:Dawkins in Salon
« Reply #1 on: 2005-05-03 15:51:38 »
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I really like Dawkins remarks about intelligent design; though it has nothing to do with evolutionary history, it may have everything to do with our evolutionary future!

Dawkins is optimistic that the global movement toward enlightenment will prevail against the retarded religion now in control of America and the Middle East. I am optimistic too, but I think intellegent people have a real fight ahead of them.

There are some really powerful people who seem intent on bringing about Armageddon. It's up to us to stop them! Spread the Virus...




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Re:Dawkins in Salon
« Reply #2 on: 2005-05-17 00:51:39 »
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Quote from: Mentor on 2005-05-03 15:51:38   

I really like Dawkins remarks about intelligent design; though it has nothing to do with evolutionary history, it may have everything to do with our evolutionary future!

Speaking of ID... a person unknown to me recently asked for the link to an old Virus posting from 1999 be restored>> http://www.churchofvirus.org/virus.1Q99/0510.html which rhino traced to this article>> http://www.kcfs.org/Fliers_articles/Wedge.html

One of the 5 year objectives is this:
"1. A major public debate between design theorists and Darwinists (by 2003)"

I guess they are 2 years behind schedule....

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Re:Dawkins in Salon
« Reply #3 on: 2005-05-18 10:38:33 »
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Quote:
We'd all be freed to concentrate on the only life we are ever going to have.
  I could not agree more with Dawkins. In arguments where I have been involved defending my atheism, I have said those very same words. Any religion that bases itself on abhoring your current life and merely living this one so to earn the other will be fatal for any progressive or scientifical movement. Yet the battle is indeed hard, my only goal is to at least leave my grain of sand to help those scientist like Dawkins help us correct our mistakes and leave a better world for our sons and daughters.
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God is just an equation,
who equals slavery.
God is just a perception,
of people's misery.
                            (Mindfuckers, Victor Rivera 2004)
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