Channel 4: The Genius of Darwin

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The UK based Channel 4 is airing a three series program titled The Genius of Charles Darwin

He has presented television documentaries for Channel 4 including The Root of All Evil? and The Enemies of Reason. He is well known for his atheism and his forthright criticism of religious doctrine. In the forthcoming Channel 4 series Dawkins on Darwin he argues that Darwinism provides a more thrilling view of creation than any religion.

The first episode can be viewed at Google Video

The next few months the BBC and other channels will be producing some interesting programs for the celebration of the 200 year anniversary.

Make sure you check out the Channel 4 Site as it provides some useful materials.

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Charles Darwin was born on 12 February 1809 .He abandoned his studies of medicine to study theology when he was just 22 years old, joined a voyage around the world on the ship, the Beagle. The celebrations are beginning now as they span over two additi... Read More

97 Comments

PvM,

I’m sorry, but the way you’ve quoted this material makes it sound as if the focus is on Dawkins and attacks on religion, not Charles Darwin and evolution. Perhaps a quote that described the content rather than the host would be more appropriate.

I think Dawkins has done a good job communicating scientific ideas, and ‘reasonable’ job communicating atheism. I hope this program is not “The Genius of Richard Dawkins, Atheist”.

I thought it was a average program,only good in parts. Dawkins opening statement”that evolution is a vastly superior explanation to anything religion has ever provided” would not be well recieved in the US dispite it’s truth.

ivorygirl said:

I thought it was a average program,only good in parts. Dawkins opening statement”that evolution is a vastly superior explanation to anything religion has ever provided” would not be well recieved in the US dispite it’s truth.

Dawkins clearly is making a case for atheism or at least skepticism for religious claims here. I personally, as a Christian, enjoyed his questions to the classroom of children about why they believed in the Bible and if this meant that Hindu children are equally correct in believing the often contradictory claims. In other words, the fact that “I grew up xxxx” was shown to lead to some interesting problems when substituting Catholic, Islamic, Hindu for xxxxx.

While the program certainly explains the genius of Darwin, Dawkins also adds a hefty atheistic spin to the mix. Some of the responses by UcD have been predictable and yet they seem to be missing the point.

There are some interesting publications surfacing in the year of Darwin’s celebration. There is a book which, incorrectly I believe, accuses Darwin of having stolen one of Wallace’s ideas on natural selection. I will likely write a posting on this topic because I came to realize that there has been a rich history of writers who have accused Darwin of improper actions and an even richer history of writers who have studied Darwin and have compared his earlier writings, his notebooks and his letters with “Origins”. So much I did not know about Darwin, it was shocking to me. The depth and breath of Darwin’s research and writings is even more amazing than it used to be to me.

Of course, the fact that something is a better scientific explanation than religious explanations comes to me as no surprise. Religion is not meant to explain the how, but rather the why and evolutionary theory can never be, or should never be seen, as contradicting religious claims, lest said religious claims invade the realm of science.

As such we see how YEC, ID all subvert science and undermine theology with their foolish and in case of ID, vacuous claims and we come to realize how for instance the position of the Catholic church, however confusing given the guidance of the DI in providing talking points, remains one which separates science and theology and remains critical of Intelligent Design.

For us Christians, Dawkins’ message may be a wake up call showing how atheism, which does not rely on any theological baggage is better equipped to deal with scientific findings than the many religions we have come to be comfortable with. As Christians, our task is not to lament and complain about these facts but rather learn and adapt. Unless of course we insist on remaining foolish…

ivorygirl said:

I thought it was a average program,only good in parts. Dawkins opening statement”that evolution is a vastly superior explanation to anything religion has ever provided” would not be well recieved in the US dispite it’s truth.

Dawkins clearly is making a case for atheism or at least skepticism for religious claims here. I personally, as a Christian, enjoyed his questions to the classroom of children about why they believed in the Bible and if this meant that Hindu children are equally correct in believing the often contradictory claims. In other words, the fact that “I grew up xxxx” was shown to lead to some interesting problems when substituting Catholic, Islamic, Hindu for xxxxx.

While the program certainly explains the genius of Darwin, Dawkins also adds a hefty atheistic spin to the mix. Some of the responses by UcD have been predictable and yet they seem to be missing the point.

There are some interesting publications surfacing in the year of Darwin’s celebration. There is a book which, incorrectly I believe, accuses Darwin of having stolen one of Wallace’s ideas on natural selection. I will likely write a posting on this topic because I came to realize that there has been a rich history of writers who have accused Darwin of improper actions and an even richer history of writers who have studied Darwin and have compared his earlier writings, his notebooks and his letters with “Origins”. So much I did not know about Darwin, it was shocking to me. The depth and breath of Darwin’s research and writings is even more amazing than it used to be to me.

Of course, the fact that something is a better scientific explanation than religious explanations comes to me as no surprise. Religion is not meant to explain the how, but rather the why and evolutionary theory can never be, or should never be seen, as contradicting religious claims, lest said religious claims invade the realm of science.

As such we see how YEC, ID all subvert science and undermine theology with their foolish and in case of ID, vacuous claims and we come to realize how for instance the position of the Catholic church, however confusing given the guidance of the DI in providing talking points, remains one which separates science and theology and remains critical of Intelligent Design.

For us Christians, Dawkins’ message may be a wake up call showing how atheism, which does not rely on any theological baggage is better equipped to deal with scientific findings than the many religions we have come to be comfortable with. As Christians, our task is not to lament and complain about these facts but rather learn and adapt. Unless of course we insist on remaining foolish…

Words define members of tribes. The only people I see using the word “Darwinist”, a word I did not encounter in graduate school, are anti-evolution propagandists and atheists. So if a “Darwinist” is an atheist that “believes” in established science, what does that make me? Even though I’ve been speaking up against the anti-evolution movement since the 70s, I don’t think I want to be referred to as a “Darwinist”.

Dawkins idiosyncratic views on both Darwin and evolutions importance for atheism can be irritating at times.

But I don’t begrudge him the opportunity to make a hero worship program to his taste.

Mike said:

The only people I see using the word “Darwinist”, a word I did not encounter in graduate school, are anti-evolution propagandists and atheists.

Atheist are decidedly not using the term. And why should they?

Dawkins peculiar use, which seems to spill over from considering the importance of selection specifically to a description of common descent in general, is what I have seen irritating to many who works against antiscientists. And that includes most atheists with a rational world view.

Perhaps you can go back to his anglican background to find out why he takes evolution and selection in particular to be so important for (his) atheism.

Torbjörn Larsson, OM said:

Atheist are decidedly not using the term. And why should they?

Dawkins peculiar use,

Oh, and I forgot this claim: atheists aren’t much of a tribe, and I doubt you can identify them as such. See my example. Famously organizing atheists is like herding cats.

Even the term “atheist” is debated over and over, as it is a philosophical term that groups wildly disparate world views such as philosophical agnostics and naturalistic atheists.

Rough Guide to Evolution said:

It is an accomplished introduction for the naive viewer, but don’t believe everything you see in the programme!

I recently read John van Wyhe’s essay with delight, and, as a layman, I must say that you make a compelling case in your comments why “concern” is a minor or non-existent factor for Darwin’s delays in publication.

History is much a projection of today on yesterday it seems to me, at least that is how I have made mistakes here. OTOH it is harsh to judge it as “not a science” as commenters of yours do, perhaps unless one is convinced about absolute contingency. It could be possible to make statistical hypotheses on recurrent historical processes and test them. Biology is fraught with contingency, yet it manages to be a science.

PvM said:

Dawkins clearly is making a case for atheism or at least skepticism for religious claims here. I personally, as a Christian, enjoyed his questions to the classroom of children about why they believed in the Bible…

In the US if an evangelical minister were, in a secular classroom, to tell someone else’s children what to believe about God, like Dawkins is doing here, we would all be up in arms. Why is it alright when Dawkins does it? What the hell does promoting atheism have to do with biology education? I mean, besides motivating the anti-science movement. Is it stupidity, or just narcissism, or is there a difference? Like his contribution to “Expelled” wasn’t enough. I read elsewhere that this gem has been in the can for awhile. I wonder if it was kept back until “Expelled” blew over out of fear that Dawkins had already done enough damage.

I’m more upset with actual scientists, or former scientists, who insist on linking religious culture wars with support for biology education than I am with the other group that does the same thing: anti-evolution propagandists, the liars for Jesus. I expect scientists and university professors to have respect for the common good, if not someone else’s religious beliefs. The linking of science defense with prostyletizing atheism is obviously convincing the uninvolved majority that a “critical analysis/equal time” compromise is necessary in the biology classroom. This is insane. Dawkins and Myers aren’t leading us to a “new enlightenment”, they’re just giving political leverage to the other prostyletizing idiots on the otherside of the cultural divide.

Richard Dawkins is indeed a gifted communicator when he restricts himself to biology, the Selfish Gene and the Ancestors Tale for example fully justify his professorship in the Public Understanding of Science. However, like Torbjorn and others above I’m disappointed and irritated at his confusion of the case for evolution with the case for atheism, and at his use of the word Darwinism as if it were a cult of some sort! Darwin was indeed a genuine hero of modern science, and his findings certainly had a huge impact on modern Christian interpretations of our origins. However science itself has nothing to say directly about the absence or existence of God, there is no peer-reviewed body of scientific findings about such a purely philosophical or theological issue, and Dawkins should not imply that there is. Prof Michael Ruse and others have made the point that Mike rightly notes, that by exceeding their scientific brief, Dawkins and others are simply inviting modern creationists to claim Darwinism as yet another religion. In the videoed interviews about the TV series Dawkins refers dismissively to “bishops and cardinals” who claim that religion can accept evolutionary science. He does not mention the inconvenient views of scientists like Ken Miller or Francis Collins.

Evolution is by far the most satisfying explanation for the origin of species, because it is the only one for which actual supporting physical evidence has been presented. What on earth is so difficult to understand about this? Why is it necessary to get caught up in theological irrelevancies? Dr Dawkins and Professor Myers are certain that there is no god. PvM, Francis Collins and Ken Miller think that there is one. Me, I simply don’t know. What does it matter? None of us can present conclusive evidence either way.

(Yes, yes, we *can* argue about it, but those arguments have been going on for at least several thousand years and have engaged some of humanity’s sharpest minds, without a conclusion. There is no new evidence, and no way to get any. “It is a capital error to argue in advance of the evidence,” said Sherlock Holmes, and it’s good enough for me.)

So why take on people who think in theological terms on their own turf? The physical, verifiable, demonstrable evidence is for evolution, there’s stacks of it, and there is none for any other explanation. Anything else is irrelevant.

Tremendous communicator and splendid educator as he is, I believe that Dr Dawkins is making a tactical error by being drawn into the god question.

I believe that Dr Dawkins is making a tactical error by being drawn into the god question.

They aren’t being “drawn” into it, of course. My impression is that they think they’re leading us to a new enlightenment. I think its empirically obvious that its not working, that the effect is just the opposite. Linking biology education to criticism, and in some cases juvenile taunting, of religion is causing real damage to how our society thinks about, and uses, science.

Let’s please be clear on this. Dawkins, Myers, et al. have a right to their social movement, but they aren’t immune to criticism. They should not be leaving the impression that biology education is going to convert little Johnny. They could cut the rest of us some slack, but that’s not the solution. The solution is that the rest of the scientific community, those who have previously left defending science to the atheists, study the issue (very important to do that first) and speak up. One way to do that is to get everyone to see what a hash the atheists have made of things, and that they do not necessarily speak for the scientific community.

Dawkins approach drew this response, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/co[…]e4474112.ece Here is Dawkins answer,scroll down to comment 6 http://richarddawkins.net/article,2[…]Libby-Purves.

Jonathan A said:

However, like Torbjorn and others above I’m disappointed and irritated at his confusion of the case for evolution with the case for atheism, and at his use of the word Darwinism as if it were a cult of some sort!

To be clear, I’m not disappointed and irritated by his use of evolution (or any other observable fact) to argue for atheism. In as much as the title for his hero worship series is “The Genius of Charles Darwin” he is allowed to express his opinion as much as anyone else.

If nothing else, it serves as a refreshing counterweight to the all too common religious apologetics in television.

Mike said:

The solution is that the rest of the scientific community, those who have previously left defending science to the atheists, study the issue (very important to do that first) and speak up. One way to do that is to get everyone to see what a hash the atheists have made of things, and that they do not necessarily speak for the scientific community.

I see the confusion of portraying or describing science with defending it often on Panda’s Thumb, for easily understood reasons. Nevertheless, it is wrong to assume that every article, presentation or movie is, or should be, focused on the latter.

So we can summarily dismiss that atheists makes a ‘hash of things’ merely by speaking up. It is, btw, a boringly common attack, which is a major part driving atheists to speak up in the first place.

That the scientific community has left defending science to atheists doesn’t quite ring true either.

First, by a devastating margin the scientific community consists of atheists. But most scientists are more interested in science than religion - until religious movements threaten science of course.

Second, this web site is AFAIU an initiative by NCSE, which is religiously neutral, though it cooperates nationally and locally with religious organizations, as well as scientific and educational organizations like the National Academy of Sciences, the National Association of Biology Teachers, and the National Science Teachers Association.” It counts scientists among its members. That doesn’t seem like an atheist organization to me, yet it has defended science and science in education for quite some time now.

Mike said:

They aren’t being “drawn” into it, of course. My impression is that they think they’re leading us to a new enlightenment. I think its empirically obvious that its not working, that the effect is just the opposite. Linking biology education to criticism, and in some cases juvenile taunting, of religion is causing real damage to how our society thinks about, and uses, science.

Those of us who keep hearing this mantra chanted continue to eagerly await the first shred of evidence that this is the case. With the unprecendented popularity of atheist books, and the increasing level of social acceptability of atheism, it seems empirically obvious that it is working, as every other social movement has worked - not through playing nice and appeasing the enemy, but confronting him, his bigotry, and his ignorance head on. Idiocy flourishes when intelligent people say nothing.

Dear Rough Guide to Evolution:

Thanks for posting the links to your blog on the Darwin documentary:

Rough Guide to Evolution said:

It is an accomplished introduction for the naive viewer, but don’t believe everything you see in the programme!

http://roughguidetoevolution.blogsp[…]darwins.html http://roughguidetoevolution.blogsp[…]n-doubt.html http://roughguidetoevolution.blogsp[…]dawkins.html

I regret to say this, but it looks as though Dawkins got a lot of his facts wrong with respect to Darwin. For a shorthand version of what Darwin actually did and why, then I encourage fellow PT readers to take a look here:

http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/darwin

This special exhibition devoted to Darwin was curated by eminent AMNH invertebrate paleontology curator Dr. Niles Eldredge who was assisted by Dr. David Kohn, a retired historian and philosopher of science, and Darwin descendant Randal Keynes (The exhibition itself will be at the British Museum (Natural History) during the Darwin bicentennial next year.).

Dawkins also erred in referring to Dr. Craig Venter as the one solely responsible for sequencing the human genome. The actual hard work - not computer simulations - was done at MIT’s Whitehead Institute by a team led by Dr. Eric Lander (whom I regard as a potential Nobel Prize laureate alumnus from our New York City high school alma mater).

Appreciatively yours,

John

Jonathan A said:

However science itself has nothing to say directly about the absence or existence of God, there is no peer-reviewed body of scientific findings about such a purely philosophical or theological issue, and Dawkins should not imply that there is.

Perhaps you aren’t familiar with Dawkins book production (I know I’m not), but he wrote a whole book explaining why creationist gods are improbable. It is titled “The God Delusion” and is a good read.

Quite right it isn’t peer-reviewed, but it uses peer-reviewed facts, and to date no one has managed to make a valid response.

I’m not sure what type of research magazine one would want to pass it through, it seems quite paradoxical to try to pass it off as philosophy or theology while asking for scientific review. Taking out the central hypothesis it isn’t long or announcing any new or scientifically interesting result. Why would anyone want to publish that?

So my conclusion is that Dawkins makes it obvious that observation constrain factual religious ideas, including existence of this and that religion’s gods, but that as in so many cases of science applications it isn’t within the current purview of peer review.

Mike said:

In the US if an evangelical minister were, in a secular classroom, to tell someone else’s children what to believe about God, like Dawkins is doing here, we would all be up in arms. Why is it alright when Dawkins does it?

He didn’t tell them what to believe about the gods so much as challenge their epistemology of “damn the facts, I believe my book and how I was raised”. That answers the other question as well - the elephant in the room is that Dawkins is basing his views on evidence, whereas ministers base theirs on centuries old traditions of making shit up. It’s remarkable to me that something so obvious needs to be said.

FYI, my path to atheism was quite different from Dawkins’. I was a theistic evolutionist for the first 15 or so years of my cognative life. My atheism was prompted, ironically enough, by a challenge from a Church of Christ roommate to read the Bible.

Science Avenger said:

He didn’t tell them what to believe about the gods so much as challenge their epistemology

Its no ones business, certainly not your’s or Dawkins, what someone else’s children’s epistemology is.

Torbjörn Larsson, OM said: First, by a devastating margin the scientific community consists of atheists.

We need to get some facts straight.

Not surprisingly, the percentage of believers in the scientific community isn’t too different from that of the population that raised them. Those ratios haven’t changed much in a century. See, for instance: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpa[…]C0A961958260 and http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/rn[…]_30_1899.asp

Only a surprising few academics take the time to study the anti-evolution movement, and then take the time to get productively involved. If not for the enormous amount of time and sacrifice by just three professors in Ohio, Steve Rissing, Jeff McKee, and Patricia Princehouse, things would be alot different in Ohio. And Ohio was lucky to have three.

We are losing. Louisiana is far from alone. Most don’t realize that there are now more policies and laws introducing creation science into the public school biology class than can be turned back in court. See this link And these are presumably just the ones the DI knows about and has had a hand in. They apparently don’t include Kentucky’s 158.177 because of its upfront creationism language. Note that Kentucky’s creationism law has been unchallenged for years. Polls confirm my personal experience that there is a substantial fraction of high school biology teachers who introduce “alternatives to evolution” even if they themselves don’t believe in it. Its certainly the case in AP Biology. The ACLU has limited resources, so this can’t be fought in the courts alone.

We are at the present time raising a generation of voters who do not understand science, or the importance of peer review in science. They’re being taught that anyone’s “science” is as good as anyone else’s. These are the people who are going to be deciding the course of research funding.

So there isn’t a rising tide of atheism coming to our rescue, and we can’t rely on some lawyers working pro bono to fix things for us. The hard work of persuasion and education has to be used, and poking the student in the eye isn’t particularly good pedagogy. Biology education and atheistic prosyletizing have to be decoupled.

But is it not a fact that there is little question that exposure to a scientific education reduces the likelihood that a person will believe in God, and does so in a more or less linear fashion (about 10% of the general population are atheists/agnostics, 40% of doctors, 60% of research scientists, and 93% of National Academy members)?

Torbjörn Larsson, OM said:

First, by a devastating margin the scientific community consists of atheists.

We need to get some facts straight. Not surprisingly, the percentage of believers in the scientific community reflects the society they were raised in. There is no “devestating margin” of atheists in the scientific community. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpa[…]C0A961958260 and http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/rn[…]_30_1899.asp The NAS is an old boys club, and doesn’t reflect the demographics of the wider scientific community in a number of ways, gender for instance.

Sorry. Perhaps the post is too long? The error message doesn’t seem to be specific to whatever the problem is.

There are surprisingly few academics shouldering the burden of fighting the anti-evolution movement at state and local levels. For example, in Ohio just three biology professors did the bulk of time and professional sacrifice that kept creation science out of the state curriculum: Steve Rissing, Patricia Princehouse, and Jeff McKee. Ohio is lucky to have three. Things would also be very different in Ohio without the active partication of faith groups.

We are losing. This isn’t sufficiently appreciated. Louisiana is far from alone. There are now too many policies and laws promoting the introduction of creation science in the public school biology classroom than can be turned back in the courts. See http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/0[…]en.html#more

And these are just the ones that the DI knows about, and presumably had a hand in. They don’t include Kentucky’s 158.177 because of its honest creationism language. Note that Kentucky’s creationism law has been unchallenged for years. Polls show that anywhere from a quarter to a third of high school biology teachers introduce some form of “alternatives to evolution”. The ACLU’s resources are limited. We can count on them taking on one of these in the next few years, but that’s about it.

We are presently raising a generation of voters that do not understand the nature of science, or the importance of peer review in deciding accepted science. They are being taught that one person’s “science” is as good as any other, and the deciding what’s the best science can’t be left to the biased scientific community, which everyone knows is just made up of a bunch of atheists anyway. These are the people who are going to decide the course of research funding. Not only will they be electing officials who will directly control and interpret it, but increasingly they are also going to be directly voting on it.

So there’s no rising tide of atheism that’s going to save us, and a few lawyers working pro bono aren’t going to be able to fix things either. That leaves the hard work of education and persuasion. Poking the student in the eye is generally considered bad pedagogy. Biology education can not be mixed with prostyletizing atheism.

Mike said:

Sorry. Perhaps the post is too long? The error message doesn’t seem to be specific to whatever the problem is.

No you typed, many times may I say (we do have a preview button which would save me from a lot of painful editing) <http://xxxx> which is just not valid html either use http by itself or use <a href=”xxxd”>link</a>

Mike said:

PvM said:

Dawkins clearly is making a case for atheism or at least skepticism for religious claims here. I personally, as a Christian, enjoyed his questions to the classroom of children about why they believed in the Bible…

In the US if an evangelical minister were, in a secular classroom, to tell someone else’s children what to believe about God, like Dawkins is doing here, we would all be up in arms. Why is it alright when Dawkins does it? What the hell does promoting atheism have to do with biology education?

Did Dawkins promote atheism or did he promote critical thinking here? I do not even think he mentioned atheism but I will revisit the video

from 3:30 -6:00 the classroom scene “You were brought up to believe it. Is that a good reason to believe it?”

Watching.. Will report back if I find other scenes of relevance

As usual, Dawkins is misrepresented. Why is that? What you believe Dawkins said and what he actually said seems to be a bit different. But perhaps there are other scenes?

My statement was simple.

1. That people who believe in religious dogma are dumb or scared. 2. That no matter how much rational sense Richard Dawkins makes scared or dumb people won’t listen. 3. They are dumb because they cherry pick books that are full of hideous occurrences. See http://www.evilbible.com/ or http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/q[…]ty/long.html.

So to simplify…

Richard Dawkins won’t be able to teach people who are dumb because they believe nice things about hideous bronze age fables probably because they are scared of life or death.

Hugh Milan said:

My statement was simple.

1. That people who believe in religious dogma are dumb or scared. 2. That no matter how much rational sense Richard Dawkins makes scared or dumb people won’t listen. 3. They are dumb because they cherry pick books that are full of hideous occurrences. See http://www.evilbible.com/ or http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/q[…]ty/long.html.

So to simplify…

Richard Dawkins won’t be able to teach people who are dumb because they believe nice things about hideous bronze age fables probably because they are scared of life or death.

I’m sorry, and your clarification is appreciated, but it still doesn’t follow.

Saying “people who believe in religious dogma are dumb or scared” is a bit different from saying “they believe nice things about hideous bronze age fables probably because they are scared of life or death”. The first is a blanket statement that implies all of them are dumb or scared. The second, by use of the word “probably”, concedes that not all of them are scared, at least.

Also, the first statement uses the expression “religious dogma”, but the summation uses “hideous bronze age fables”. Either you are conflating these two, or else the summation doesn’t follow. In any case, the ability to select “nice things about these hideous bronze age fables” seems to imply that at least some religious people are not so dumb either - at least not so dumb as to believe that the fables give them licence to do hideous things, no matter if the original writers of the fables seem to approve of such actions. That is, believers may be and often are endowed with critical sense and judgement, they may and often do understand fictional narrative and limited narrators, and they may and often do have a moral sense independent of the “fables” themselves. That’s not so dumb.

The second statement is also interesting. It states that Richard Dawkins (and I suppose, his fellow-atheists) make “rational sense”, but implies that there are no counter-arguments to put. I’m not so sure of the last. At least it seems to me to be somewhat more complex than a simple matter of reason versus ignorance and superstition.

In any case, there is, to my mind, a large difference between saying that the arguments for the existence of God fail, there is no evidence for God, and no point in belief in Him, and saying “people who believe in religious dogma are dumb or scared”.

I’m not sure what you mean by “they are dumb because they cherry pick books that are full of hideous occurrances”. You seem to be saying that only happy cheerful stories can be of ethical value. You surely can’t mean that?

But of course you are right to be offended by unthinking dogmatic attitudes.

I am agnostic about deism. You can call nature god if you want to, though I don’t see the point. So god’s not the issue. Though all these tedious discussions about religion would cease if ONLY he’d show up occasionally. Then we wouldn’t need people like Dawkins and Hitchens to remind us that he never does.

In my explanation I did not mention god once, yet you go on about god. Or God if your hand happens to slip on the caps.

I only mention the two foul books of the desert, which pollute our minds with rape and wife beating and genocide etc etc. Please read the links I supplied. I just can’t see how beating your wife, as the quran suggests, has ethical value just because it’s not “happy and cheerful”. Beating your wife is cowardice plain and simple.

Richard Dawkins teaches science which is ONLY concerned with counter-arguments.

The books of the desert should be relegated to the stack next to, as I said before, hateful books like mien kampf.

I didn’t call nature god. I didn’t call anything but God, god.

My hand doesn’t slip when I write “God”, in the singular. It is conventional to capitalise the word. I regret that this convention appears to offend you.

You didn’t write “god”. You wrote “anyone who believes in religion”, and later “religious dogma”. People who believe in religion and its dogmas necessarily believe in God or gods, but they are not necessarily stupid or scared, nor prone to beat their wives or stone their children, which was the point at issue. To say flatly that they are is to state, um, dogma.

Science is certainly not concerned only with counter-arguments - to anything. Creationism is concerned only with counter-argument, (not that any of its arguments are valid) since it puts no testable theories of its own.

What science is concerned with is observable evidence that can be repeatedly confirmed. Dawkins thinks that’s all there is, or at least all that matters. He may be right. But his opinion on that subject is not necessarily the only rational one, and in any case he has no more expertise on it than anyone else.

I understand that you can see no good in the Bible or the Qu’ran at all. (Yes, it is also conventional to capitalise those words. Sorry about that.) Personally, I would be reluctant to part with, say, the story of Ruth. Or the rather beautiful, if metaphorical, tale of the Creation (whoops, there’s another one). Or the Sermon on the Mount (dang!), or the blessing of the children, or the words of Ecclesiastes, or the nunc dimittis, or most of the Psalms (and another). And that’s just off the top of my head.

But if you reckon it’s all nothing but horrid bronze age fables on a moral par with “Mein Kampf”, who am I to contradict you?

I threw the deist thing in to find out which god you believe in. So now I assume you are a christian er Christian.

As I never speak to christians may I ask you a question?

You are obviously well educated by the way you write. And you have read the bible.

My question is how can you believe in this book? I was bought up by atheists so I have no bias. To me this book is unintellectual cods wallop, to a degree that is staggering. I have had an interest in theology at times in my life so I have read quite a bit about it. The gospels for instance are contradicting and unintelligible. Jesus just keeps doing miracles and the disciples just keep saying “you can’t do that”. The loaves and fishes thing Jesus did twice and the disciples completely forgot about the first one. And in the end doubted this “superman” could rise from the dead. It’s just a really REALLY dumb book. But again I have no bias. No parental propaganda.

I know this is a personal question and I apologise if it is a bit rude to ask.

Your assumption is incorrent. I am not a Christian. I am agnostic, and I came to much the same conclusions about the Gospels as you have thirty years ago. I was raised Christian, though. My father was a Presbyterian minister, and I spent my childhood and young adulthood going to a church school and to church services twice every Sunday. I have read the Bible, cover to cover, several times. I’d want it retained simply because it is great literature. Yes, it’s often dark and bloody. So’s Homer. So’s Shakespeare.

The reasons why I distrust the factual basis of the Gospels are completely different to yours. I actually find your correct observation of the disciples’ inability to accept the miracles of Jesus oddly corroborative - but I think that’s exactly why it’s there: to convince. It is saying that the disciples were skeptics, but were convinced by the acts of Jesus. So (it implies) we should all be. Put that way, it’s not unintelligible. It actually lends support to the view that the Gospels were written as something between apologia and propaganda.

But this is a view, right? It’s not certain. Even the most dismissive accounts of the Gospels take it for granted that they are redactions of earlier writings, now lost. Most - not all - scholars think that they relate events that have some real historical basis, and that’s a view, too. But it’s tenable on the evidence.

But more than that, anyone who can read the Sermon on the Mount and not know that they are in the presence of great poetry has no ear. Anyone who can read the parables of Jesus and not know that this is a great storyteller, cannot recognise the power of narrative. And, for me, anyone who can read of him saying to his followers, “Inasmuch as you do it to the least of these my brethren, you do it unto me”, and not be moved, has no feeling for greatness. It is genuinely great.

And whatever else may be said about the man, he had no time for dogma, ritual purity, lies, hypocrisy or deceit. He would have found the Discovery Institute intolerable. He’d have been in there, hacking their website, overturning their donations box, calling them hypocrites and liars and belittlers of God, for exactly the same reasons as he went into the Temple one fine morning and drove out the moneychangers with a flail. I admire him. More, I think he was among the greatest, and perhaps the greatest of all the great teachers. I just don’t think he was God. I don’t know if God exists at all.

I do know that I live in an unthinkably vast Universe that is filled with wonders. I know that I know almost nothing about it, and that nobody knows very much at all. Study as you will, take whatever direction you like, and within a few years you will come hard up against the limits of human knowledge. We know so little - surely not enough to make doctrinaire statements about what we cannot know for sure. The great Chinese teacher Lao Tze was once asked whether there was an afterlife. He replied “I don’t know life. How can I know death?” Good answer.

You say you know little about Christians, or, I suppose, any religious people. You took me for one, despite my saying earlier that Dawkins may be right. Could it possibly be that you don’t know enough religious people to say with personal certainty that they are all scared or stupid, or all violent towards women and children?

You say you were raised by atheists, and that this means you have no bias. Think about that statement, if you will. Does it follow?

And with that, I fear that I have trespassed too much on the tolerance of this blog.

Thankyou

I really appreciate you taking the time trying to correct the ways of a religio bigot Nazi like myself.

Good luck and take care.

Maybe I’ve been watching too much Christoper Hitchens. Or maybe I’m right and religious people are a pain in the arse.

Whatever the case I agree with you nobody knows what the f..k going on.

Peace.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on August 6, 2008 5:15 PM.

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