Re: Dawkins on Channel 4 tonight

From: Ben Dawson (
Date: Mon 16 Jan 2006 - 15:21:01 GMT

  • Next message: Derek Gatherer: "Re: Dawkins on Channel 4 tonight"

    On Mon, 16 Jan 2006 11:25:34 +0000, you wrote:

    >The point is that where people have no clearly-grounded
    >non-spiritual hypotheses about why things are the way they are,
    >or should be the way they might not be, God fills a many-faceted
    >niche in their mental make-up. That is a full-on
    >evolutionary-memetic raison d'etre. Evidentiary arguments as to
    >the truth of any assertions about God are unfortunately outwith
    >the boundary of things we can discuss, as there is naught but
    >And anyway isn't the set of things that could be God subsumed by
    >the set of things that are simply aliens? I don't seek to demean
    >a literal God (as opposed to the more C of E view [iyswim] of a
    >personal god) but as we look to and begin to understand the
    >stars and all that, surely religion founded millenia ago need a
    >polish? And although we can tie Judaism to Islam to Christianity
    >on a family tree, would you assert that the many other religions
    >are simply wrong?
    >Through my screaming (ex-Catholic) atheism let me acknowledge
    >that church-goers _are_ generally happier than matched controls
    >and do linger longer (that started as a typo but I liked it --
    >hooray for systemic errors). But how many have died for
    >unsubstantiated belief? I think the jury is still out on whether
    >it is a good thing.

    This is a point that has been on my mind since I watched Dawkins's program last week. Is religion really as bad a meme as Dawkins makes out? I really can't decide.

    On one hand, when presented with mad Muslims calling all Western women whores, it's easy to agree with him. Clearly that is bang out of order! On the other hand though, that is an extreme example. My parents and sister (all religious) are the nicest people you could meet, and would view their own religion as an entirely peaceful thing.

    But if faith causes people to fly planes into buildings, killing thousands, then surely our tolerance of this meme should only stretch so far?

    I think the problem is in the nature of the meme, rather than the meme itself. If I have a disagreement with a friend over the height of a building, say, we can resolve that quite easily by looking it up in a book or asking an authoritative source or even measuring the thing ourselves.

    But the meme of faith arises from not being able to empirically prove something one way or another. Thus, with no possible way to argue the issue out logically, humans turn to their last resort - the primeval instinct of fighting one other - because they are both equally certain they are right (take the Jew vs Muslim thing that Dawkins showed).


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