Dawkins Foundation Attacks Unreason

| 108 Comments

According to a short blurb, “Dawkins Versus the Gods,” by Eliot Marshall, in the December 1 issue of Science, Richard Dawkins has started a new foundation dedicated to promoting science and reason. Here is Mr. Marshall’s blurb in its entirety:

After scanning the titles in a local bookshop, Oxford University geneticist Richard Dawkins discovered that “real science” was “outnumbered three to one by pseudoscience.” Concerned that “the enlightenment is under threat,” the author of The God Delusion has created and will help fund the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason. The new charity, with U.S. and U.K. branches, will support research on “the psychological basis of unreason,” produce videos and books, and run a Web site (richarddawkins.net/foundation). Another goal, “to oppose … well-financed efforts to teach creationism in science classes,” will put it up against the U.K.–based Truth in Science, which recently sent “intelligent design” promotional packs to 5700 British secondary schools. Truth in Science claims it received 59 positive responses.

The foundation’s Website is very preliminary right now, but the trustees plan to incorporate in both the US and the UK, partly for tax reasons. The Website includes a video by Professor Dawkins, which I will not discuss because the transcript is posted as well; links to books by Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Matt Ridley, and Sam Harris (but not, alas, Why Intelligent Design Fails); and a short list of lecturers, not least P.Z. Myers. We can additionally look forward to a calendar and a newsletter.

I wish Professor Dawkins luck, but I fear it is 300 years after the Enlightenment, and unreason seems to be increasing, not decreasing. He (and we) have a long, hard row to hoe.

108 Comments

When did Dawkins become a “geneticist?”

about the time the media couldn’t figure out what an “ethologist” was.

“the psychological basis of unreason,”

it’s about time the focus was placed where it belongs; a dogmatic belief in creationism is merely the symptom of an underlying psychology, and hopefully increasing publicity of work in this area will start bearing this out.

Well, I guess I just hope that Dawkins actually means what he says and intends to use this to promote legitimate science and rationalism, and isn’t just trying to coopt rationalist terms like “unreason” in order to promote some kind of personal agenda.

It is good, at the least, that finally somebody’s going to be making an organized attempt to move against the new British creationists. Let’s see what comes of that…

I’ve been hanging around the Dawkins forum (the pc’s at work have an easier time with their server) and some people have managed to get a look at these ‘promotional packs’. They apparently DO contain links to the DI. They even sent them to Bluecoats School in Liverpool (close to me) and the Head seems to think they’re a good idea. They had a segment on BBC’s Newsnight about teaching creationism last week (unfortunately I missed it).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnigh[…]11/monday_27th_november_2006.html#commentsanchor

Just when we thought we were safe in the UK… :(

They had a segment on BBC’s Newsnight about teaching creationism last week (unfortunately I missed it).

So did I unfortunately. However Darth, check out Sunday Sequence on BBC Radio Ulster, this Sunday, 10/12:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernirelan[…]quence.shtml

Apparently there’s a discussion on creationism etc. and I’ve been told Dawkins is one of the guests. You should get quite a reasonable signal in Liverpool from the 1341khz AM transmitter. It’s also available across the UK on Sky Digital 0118 and they have a webstream as well (you’ll need a Real Player to listen )

Well, I guess I just hope that Dawkins actually means what he says and intends to use this to promote legitimate science and rationalism, and isn’t just trying to coopt rationalist terms like “unreason” in order to promote some kind of personal agenda.

I just hope that you don’t beat your wife.

I respect Dawkins but I can understand how others might see him as being arrogant. Why did he name the foundation after him self and then put his own picture all over it?

some people have managed to get a look at these ‘promotional packs’. They apparently DO contain links to the DI.

It’s Unlocking The Mystery of Life, which stars most of the well known DI people.

Don’t forget: another group that has been fighting the “‘Truth’ in Science” crowd is the BCSE.

Dawkins was not enthusiastic about naming the foundation after himself (or at least, that’s what he told me), but the thing is that he does have widespread name recognition, and that was thought to be helpful in getting the word out. If you’ve got a PR tool, you’re crazy not to use it.

Does everyone also get bent out of shape about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Templeton Foundation, the Nobel prizes?

…Oxford University geneticist Richard Dawkins discovered that “real science” was “outnumbered three to one by pseudoscience.”

I’d be interested to know how he defined “real science” and “pseudoscience.”

Thanks, Peter Henderson. I’ll need to sort out my radio (ISP broke). :(

Hang on a minute! 8:30AM?!? A bit enthusiastic for a Sunday morning, aren’t we? I plan to have a HUGE hangover! Maybe they do repeats. ;)

The foundation’s Website is very preliminary right now, but the trustees plan to incorporate in both the US and the UK, partly for tax reasons.

Now this is the kind of Coalition of the Willing we need more of.

As for me, I plan to donate my ten percent as soon as is feasible… ;)

If truth in labeling laws applied it would have to be renamed the Richard Dawkins Foundation for the pretense of Science and Reason.

Speaking of which, where is Dawkins’ research? Perhaps he, like the DI, conducts it in some secret, underground laboratory (No doubt he rents space to Myers, which explains his absolutely anemic publication record.)

Is that the best you can do? The principles of evolutionary biology do not rest on the scientific works of any one person. Attacking a scientific theory by attacking the publication record of a single scientist is stupid. And besides, the last time I checked, Dawkins has written more books on the subject than … well … quite literally … god. If you want to attack a theory, attack the data advanced in support of the theory. Or advance an alternative theory that better explains the data. That’s the way it works in this neighborhood. Deal with it.

Maybe they do repeats.

They do indeed Darth. At one stage you could listen to edited highlights on Sun. evening but this seems to have been removed from Radio Ulster’s schedule. You can listen again via the website and it really does work if the Real Player is installed. Speaking of which, there’s a very good interview Crawley did with Ken Ham when he (Ham) visited belfast in March 2005. William Crawley actually had Ham lost for words at one stage (when he tackled him on the Babylonian creation myths), something which many interviewers have failed to do. Definitely well worth another listen.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernirelan[…]_major.shtml

If you scroll down the page the interview with Ham is 9th from the top.

Is that the best you can do? The principles of evolutionary biology do not rest on the scientific works of any one person. Attacking a scientific theory by attacking the publication record of a single scientist is stupid. And besides, the last time I checked, Dawkins has written more books on the subject than … well … quite literally … god. If you want to attack a theory, attack the data advanced in support of the theory. Or advance an alternative theory that better explains the data. That’s the way it works in this neighborhood. Deal with it.

Did I mention evolutionary biology?

Personally, I believe it is a good thing to have a “leading spokesperson” for a campaign such as Mr. Dawkins’. Carl Sagan was one such high visible scientist, and because of that I believe more people have read science related books just by the mention of Carl Sagan. Anytime someone increases his/her name recognition their appeal to the general public increases. We need many more high visible scientists.

Not to mention the fact that every debate and video I have reviewed, which contained Mr. Dawkins, he appeared to speak clearly and articulately, his arguments were well reasoned and inspiring. Check out the Lynchburg Q&A for a good question and answer session in defense of the God Delusion.

Another dynamic speaker is Neil deGrasse Tyson. His speech at the Beyond Belief conference was great. I hope to see much more of him.

The head of the Church of England explicitly rejected creationism earlier this year. Does Dawkins plan to join forces with such like-minded theists?

A bit enthusiastic for a Sunday morning, aren’t we?

Thank goodness for the miracle of Sky +, although the kids will probably have me up quite early anyway !

I’d be interested to know how he defined “real science” and “pseudoscience.”

you could try reading some of his books and find out.

Is that the best you can do?

indeed it is; that post was double RO’s normal output.

this:

Did I mention evolutionary biology?

is more along the lines of his typical lackwit one-liner output.

oh, did i mention RO is a waste of space yet?

@Sir T

You don’t like Robert much, do you? I must say I agree with the “waste of space” assessment.

Robert,

Have a go at reading “The Ancestor’s Tale”. If nothing else, it should give you an insight into the mind of the enemy.

Alan: who are you calling “the enemy?” And why does your URL redirect to a golf-gear site?

Because Alan spells it “bolgspot”.

Raging Bee said:

The head of the Church of England explicitly rejected creationism earlier this year. Does Dawkins plan to join forces with such like-minded theists?

Well, considering the foundation’s stated goal is to promote reason and not simply combat creationism, I fail to see why they would enter into a union which runs contrary to their mission.

So Dawkins doesn’t want the support of theists who support reasonable public policies?

So Dawkins doesn’t want the support of theists who support reasonable public policies?

I doubt he would if it came at the expense of reason in other matters. This foundation seems intended to be one of education and outreach, not one intent on establishing alliances of political convenience on a limited issues.

ROB is a waste of space, by definition.

And I floss between my toes regularly, so nothing like *that* is contaminating me into reaching a false empathy with Sir_TJ.

Fine – so why not solicit or accept help from churches in this “education and outreach” mission? Given that many established churches have schools, why not, say, encourage those schools to draw a line between “reason” (as in honest math, science, logic and history) and “unreason” (as in pseudoscience, obsolete ideas, bad logic, and interpretations of the bible that conflict with observable reality)? If a given church is receptive to Dawkins’ suggestions, then Dawkins can work with them; if they’re not, he’ll have a solid case to attack them.

Also, if he can get a few ministers here and there to start talking about his message from their pulpits, that might widen his audience a bit.

Don’t forget rational vs. irrational.

Liz Craig Wrote:

It is a more complicated subject than Dawkins and other anti-religionists believe.

It is no more complicated than human psychology itself. If you mean that it would be better for all religious fundamentalists to get extensive counseling than to be frankly criticized by the likes of Dawkins, I don’t know that I’d disagree. Unfortunately, those who need help have to want help first.

Also, Bee, after reading your linked blog entry about Dawkins’s Salon interview, I can see many places where you misunderstand him, often with an almost willful verve. As I read the entry, the last word of its title became more and more ironic, to my dismay. I also read the Edge discussion, and I noticed that both Atran and his detractors made mistakes in their arguments, and each deserved criticism. I hope you saw that as well, as much as you may side with Atran.

Yes, I should have mentioned that, RBH. But the mere fact that he used it… well, he’s got meatballs.

Why would I need to click the mouse twice if you like the rationale of the link that I reach on the first click, RB.

That’s all I was trying to find out. Needless to say, I found most of that critique as unfair and unpersuasive as I have found your (of Dawkins, that is; I almost always agree with and enjoy your critique of trolls and IDists!).

We can debate specific examples if you like. Or, if you’re not interested in advancing the discussion, that’s fine too…

Raging Bee Wrote:

Long story short: [Dawkins] uses guilt-by-association to blame religious moderates for “enabling” extremism, regardless of said moderates’ actual deeds. He also explicitly rejects the “non-overlapping magisteria” doctrine that keeps science separate from religious belief.

I think you mischaracterize Dawkins’s point by calling it “guilt-by-association”. It is not mere association; it is the specific shared notion that faith is as respectable or valid (or worse—moreso) than science, reason, etc. That notion is simply false, whether held by saint or sinner. Faith is a rejection of reason, be it a broad or highly-focused one. It is a rejection made for real psychological reasons, but a rejection nonetheless. It is not in competition. It is not separate-but-equal. It is not a non-overlapping magisterium. Further, it is imbued by the faithful with a mystic aura of validity to serve the egos of said faithful. That is not a moral judgment. It is not a condemnation. It is a fact of human nature, and I fear no constructive discussion of the topic can take place until the participants recognize it.

Until then, the great circle-j*** of religious argument will continue as scheduled.

raging bee,

As for you, you’re too stupid to bother with. Your supposed fisking of Dawkins’ Salon interview is just a juvenile game of gotcha. If you truly don’t understand that when Dawkins said “You cannot actually disprove the existence of God. Therefore, to be a positive atheist is not technically possible” he meant only that one cannot be certain that God does not exist because there is no disproof, not that one cannot legitimately hold a positive belief that God does not exist that does not rise to the level of certainty, then your reading comprehension ability is so limited you probably don’t understand anything else the man has written either. But I think you probably did understand it perfectly well and simply chose to misconstrue “positive atheist” in order to claim that you had caught Dawkins in a contradiction. The rest of your post is similarly idiotic. I guess its title (“Surprise – Atheists can be Stupid Bigots Too!”) should have clued me in to the level of intellectual seriousness I should have expected from it. You certainly haven’t displayed the slightest interest in any kind of serious good-faith debate of Dawkins’ position in any of the comments of yours I have read in PT.

Raging Bee wrote:

Anyone here wanna regale me with their expertise on French fiction? That shouldn’t be too hard — it’s all made up!

Anyone that can read can discuss fiction. With religion the bar is much lower since plenty of preachers will tell you all about religion without you having to read anything.

…and if you want to learn about religion, the rational thing to do is to listen to someone who has knowledge and/or experience in religion.

Actually, the rational thing to do is to think for yourself, something believers have no experience with. Like most believers you seem to think that only true believers are qualified to discuss religion. Strange, though, that you feel fully qualified to discuss Dawkins while bragging that you’ve never read anything he wrote. The thing about religion is that it’s quite easily understood by almost anyone, perhaps that’s part of its appeal. Unfortunately, since most believers are indoctrinated as children they can’t see through the lies and deception on which it is based.

If Dawkins can help the spread of logic and reason perhaps the next generation will be able to see a little more clearly. The current crop of religionists is too heavily invested to ever be expected to change, but if young people can be shown that religion is strictly for cowards who are afraid of reality maybe some of them can be saved from drowning in the morass that is religion, whether it is the fire and brimstone of Christians or some simpleton Pagan teaching his kid that every rock has a spirit.

Besides, if you read the page Katarina cited, you’ll find I’m not the only one criticizing Dawkins’ take on religion.

so cohorts implies coherence?

hardly.

you failed previously, and still do, to have any excuse for regailing Dawkins other than your misintrepretations of his postion and works, which you have admittedly never read.

really, it just seems so foolish to me for you to continue to proceed in such a vein over and over again, and it sure does have a parallel with exactly how the creobots argue.

again i ask, why on earth should anyone consider your position on the issue logical or relevant?

Katatina: I’ve been reading Harris’ response to Atran’s comments. Bloody ‘ell, does he even understand how stupid he sounds? Can’t he argue with anyone without misrepresenting his statements?

glad I’m using irony divining rods today, as my electronic irony meter would have exploded on that one.

So tell us, greg, what have YOU accomplished in that regard? How many religious moderates have you “dunked” in the “toilet bowl of life?” What results can YOU show for your valiant efforts?

have you ever considered actually reading Dawkins’ books to get background on where he really stands, so you could actually understand his “approach” and then ask the same questions of it yourself?

of course not.

you don’t WANT to know the reality of the situation, because you’re simply afraid you might be wrong about him.

all of his books and papers and symposia commentaries are readily available. as are those of folks like Hamilton, Wilson, etc., who also have great influence on Dawkins’ thinking in these issues.

blind ignorance is a tool of the creobots; the fact that you refuse to educate yourself on that which you consider in “opposition” to your beliefs is quite puzzling considering your efforts on the anti-creationist front itself.

AC — Well and truely stated! Thank you…

The problem with Dawkins’ approach is that most people don’t care about reason - they aren’t motivated to follow it, they’re motivated to use it to reach predetermined conclusions.

I submit that if your conclusion is pre-determined, then “reason” is a poor label for whatever you’re using to justify it. There’s a difference between presenting a reasoned conclusion and seeking reasons to justify a conclusion.

The continuing special pleading for religion in all matters is tedious. It is also contraproductive since the unthinking reflex explicitly takes any ‘special’ claims out of it.

We have also the fact that many atheists like Dawkins started out religious. Their view of their abandoned religiosity is as valid as any other personal view. To make the unnecessarily strong claim that they don’t understand any of it is preposterous. It is also demeaning of personal views such as religion.

I would be the first to agree that atheism is not a religion. But it is a worldview, and an atheist analyzing worldviews is nothing remarkable. Religions also makes objective claims, and again special pleading is unwarranted. Finishing off a reductionist analysis, the remaining cultural and psychological aspects of religion are unremarkable studies. And lastly of course reductionism, if that is what Dawkins does, is at least as valid as other analyzes (more so by successes in science).

All of which makes the usual showstopper ‘goddidit’ and the current showstopper ‘godsaidit’ rather bleak in comparison.

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 1, column 54, byte 54 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

ROB Wrote:

I am sure he could have made some worthwhile contributions to the discipline.

That and some change could probably buy you a coffee. Apparently his research was unremarkable - I think that was discussed here or on talkreason by a mathematician.

But yes, most of us think it is a shame Dembski didn’t do anything worthwhile.

AC — Well and truely stated! Thank you…

I’ll second that. Beautifully put AC.

“By the way, I think it is a shame that Bill did not continue in probability; I am sure he could have made some worthwhile contributions to the discipline.”

Maybe, maybe not. I don’t see mathematics departments in the prestigious universities wooing him away from the bible colleges. Perhaps that’s the problem; maybe he has never been a good scholar, and had to find a small pond in which he could be a Big Fish.

Raging Bee Wrote:

Steviepinhead: my comments on Dawkins, along with a link to his interview with Salon, are here:

http://motherwell.livejournal.com/77504.html

[giggle]

You know RB, I’m starting to think you’re a masochist. :-D I can’t think of any other reason someone would put up a link to their own blog, where they are slamdunked (about 50 times what is more!) for lousy logic.

Fascinating, absolutely fascinating.

We have also the fact that many atheists like Dawkins started out religious.

indeed, continuing the comparison with other ethologists who are also atheists, EO Wilson was raised Southern Baptist.

seriously, check out the article in the October Seed magazine; though his books are eminently more interesting.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on December 5, 2006 9:02 PM.

Our Scientific Output was the previous entry in this blog.

The Panda’s Thumb nominated for a Weblog Award is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter