Re: Dawkins on Channel 4 tonight

From: Ben Dawson (
Date: Tue 17 Jan 2006 - 18:37:34 GMT

  • Next message: Ben Dawson: "Re: Religion and evidence"

    On Tue, 17 Jan 2006 09:49:19 +0000, you wrote:

    >Dawkins should employ you to clarify his arguments and put them so
    >reasonably that religious people actually want to engage in discussion
    >with him!

    Well, although I do agree with Dawkins in general, I try not to adopt the same religion-bashing stance. It would certainly make me a very unpopular person in my household!

    In fact, from what I've read today, I'm inclined to think that perhaps Dawkins is a little too hard on religion after all.

    >I hope this is an accurate summary of what you've said: "Belief in a
    >scientific theory comes from the cogency of objective evidence that
    >compels us to accept it. Belief in a religious proposition is purely
    >subjective and cannot be proved in the same way."

    That's it in a nutshell, yes.

    >I have a couple of thoughts in reply. First, I think that it is
    >possible to overestimate the objectivity of science and scientists. You
    >knew that I was going to say "phlogiston" at some point, so here it
    >comes . . . It is just such a classic example of how scientists can be
    >so attached to a theory that they stop being able to be objective about
    >it. Just as we can in any walk of life.
    >Having said that, though, of course I accept that there is a difference
    >between religion and science. Science, as you say, is based on evidence
    >which is "objective" in the sense that everyone can agree about it: if
    >the evidence convinces one person in any given field of science then it
    >should be capable of convincing all the others as well.
    >Problems arise, as you point out, when people don't bother to
    >investigate the evidence. I feel cross and embarrassed when I hear
    >Creationists saying, with an air of triumph, that evolution is "just a
    >theory". Not only have they not bothered to investigate the evidence
    >for evolution, they haven't even bothered to find out what the word
    >"theory" means when it's used by scientists!
    >Further problems arise when people stop thinking for themselves at all,
    >and accept for example that if they are Christians then that
    >automatically compels them to believe that evolution/Harry Potter is A
    >Bad Thing. People who talk about what "we believe" (rather than what "I
    >believe") always make me feel rather wary.
    >I think that this attitude arises from fear. Fear of questioning the
    >basis for their beliefs in case they might be proved wrong. Whereas
    >science at its best is a search for the truth, which is perceived as
    >more important than any specific hypothesis.
    >Likewise, though, if God exists, if the claims about him are true, then
    >he can stand up to any amount of questioning and investigation. And if
    >he doesn't exist, isn't it better to find that out than to base your
    >life on a falsehood?

    Yes, I'd agree with all of the above.


    >But I think that the *type* of investigation you mount will be different
    >in religion from what it is in science. More about that in my reply to
    >Chris. This is quite long enough as it is.
    >This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    >Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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