Re: Dawkins on Channel 4 tonight

From: Chris Taylor (
Date: Mon 16 Jan 2006 - 17:21:35 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: Dawkins on Channel 4 tonight"

    I can only imagine that the religious scientists assume that God created a nice universe with rules that they can investigate. I suppose then it is resolvable (to a point). Actually I could shoot Martin Rees for saying that once you get to the _really really_ big questions ('where/why is _everything_', 'what is beyond that' and so on), God is as rational an explanation as anything else (iirc). Nooooo...

    And sure there are many non-religious nutters out there, but are their reasons any less valid? What is the proof that supports faith when faith necessarily eschews proof? An 'experience'? I dunno. There's that guy that can tweak a 'god spot' with EM, epilepsy etc.

    An overanalysis of an interesting set of coincidences (remember the coin toss experiment with enough people for one to get ten heads in a row) could also lead one astray, or believe that
    _this_ guy really is a prophet not like all the other 100s of
    'nutters'. Jericho is in an earthquake zone; it wasn't the trumpetting...

    This actually tallies nicely with the reason I was so 'up for' Ted's unceasing battery of all that we hold dear scientifically speaking; as Kate says (paraphrasing) orthodoxy is like a constitutional law (i.e. one that takes a bigger-than-50% vote to overturn as a rule) his major challenge was that we did have core beliefs that we were loath to really examine (whether that was accurate or not is not the point). And I do avoid abandoning a previously valued tenet until the evidence mounts. In behavioural theory this equates with the advantage of being a resident over an invader for a niche -- adapted over time to all the intricacies of filling it, increasing fitness.

    But I just can't help myself with the religious variant of this. Earthquakes? Comet strikes? Still births? Pedophile rings? Hyperparasitoid wasps ffs. It is a merry dance to try to keep God as 'good' in this world to be sure (and what _is_ _purely_ good eh -- sounds like a make-work scheme for some of the biggest landholders ever and their philosopher mates). My Dad died of cancer when I was eight and my brother was five; he was a little bit racist living in the 70s as he did but he also did lots of nice things for people at the drop of a hat. Death sentence? C'mon... Did god get more tolerant by allowing the advent of better oncotherapy?

    Spare me.

    For once I'd like to hear Keith's main suit played. I think that we have a real love as a species of group cohesion, and in the world best described by Marx (in full below for the hell of it) religious groups provide the closest modern approximation of the tribe we pine for, both in church and as part of God's family.

     From Marx via Wikipedia:

    "Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

    Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

    The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo."


    Kate Distin wrote:
    > Ben Dawson wrote:
    >> 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).
    >> Ben
    > This is true of the meme of "faith" as defined by Dawkins: faith as
    > belief-without-evidence. But no serious Christian writer would accept
    > this definition. I don't know where he's got it from. It is one of the
    > straw men he's so keen on fighting (see Derek's point about his
    > reluctance to engage with McGrath).
    > Faith is not about believing things because there's no evidence/proof
    > either way. Faith is about sticking to beliefs for which you *have*
    > what you regard as convincing evidence, in the face of what appear to be
    > counter-arguments or contradictory evidence. Sticking to them, anyway,
    > until you are convinced of the need to ditch them.
    > Scientists have this kind of faith in established theories. If some new
    > bit of evidence arises that seems to contradict an established theory,
    > the scientists don't immediately ditch the theory. They hold on to it
    > while they investigate the apparent new evidence more carefully. This
    > is a rational way to behave and,as it happens, perfectly in keeping with
    > a memetic view of what's happening. It's what religious people do, too.
    > So, for example, a Christian is taken ill, or betrayed by a friend, or
    > is scared about an impending challenge. Faith is about not being able
    > to see her way out of the current situation, but knowing that in the
    > past God has never let her down. Faith is about praying, and trusting
    > God with the situation, on the basis of all her life's experience to
    > date, even though just now she cannot see how on earth she is going to
    > be able to cope with the situation.
    > This is what we do in our human relationships, too. We consider our
    > loved ones innocent until proven guilty. We display faith in them. All
    > perfectly reasonable.
    > I'm not sure that I understand what is going on in the minds of people
    > who fly aeroplanes into buildings, or say (as Dawkins's interviewee did
    > last week) that they "hate atheists". But nor do I understand what is
    > going on in the minds of people who commit atrocities in any cause, be
    > that political, gang-related, tribal or whatever. And I am pretty clear
    > that what is going on in these minds is not very much like what is going
    > on in mine when I engage in robust philosophical or theological debate
    > with my Christian, Muslim, Sikh, or atheist friends.
    > Kate
    > ===============================================================
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    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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