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South Park trashes Dawkins!
Posted: 12 November 2006 06:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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more, more, more… how do you like it?

Doug said: ...the version of humanism that I and many others follow does include issues of politics, society and economics. In particular, it discards any religious aims as proper in these fields.

What do you mean by ‘religious claims?’  Are you saying that religion as a set of one’s beliefs about how the world is (even for supernaturalists) does not influence his or her sociopolitical ideas and opinions?  This hardly seems likely.

Doug: It includes a very strong governmental role in the social safety net, universal health care, etc.

How do these things come from humanism?  I do understand that in a rabid neo-liberal capitalist society such as ours is now in America, these things would seem to make people’s lives better, but only perhaps compared to NOT doing these things in such a country…

Doug: But the main aim is the betterment of society and the proper care of each individual, and the best way to plan and gauge the effectiveness of any such scheme is through the a posteriori methods of science, rather than the a priori methods of some political or religious ideology.

I wholeheartedly agree!

Doug: As I say, I agree with CFI’s stand, and not because I simply want to “allow the money to flow” in your words (once again, too cynical), but because I do believe that humanism has to be a large tent: there is room within it for debate and disagreement. I am concerned that in your eyes it is rather a fundamentalist enterprise, and fundamentalisms are quasi-religious. They are things with credos and excommunications.

1) I am not being cynical re CFI’s business ideology… just factual.

2) There should be a large tent within the camp ground we call humanism, yes.  There needs to be discussion and debate about a very many things… But not about what is the core of humanism… Or about its very definition.

3) How am I a fundamentalist?

4) Credo is based on Creed.  Creed can mean:

A. A formal statement of religious belief; a confession of faith.

or

B. A system of belief, principles, or opinions:

How is Humanism not ‘B?’  Humanism IS a system of belief, principles or opinions based on scientific naturalism and the understanding of the human condition.

5) I do not wish to xcommunicate anyone.  If only humanists self-identified as humanists in the first place, there would be no one to xcommunicate! If a Christain refused to believe in Jesus, would they really want to be a Christain?  Why would someone with anti-humanistic politics want to be called a humanist?

Doug: Well, I don’t know that society “sucks”; it is far from perfect, that is true. But our aim can’t be the literal utopian perfection of society: that is fantasy.

Pardon me.  I was just being South Park-like (re “sucks”).  Actually there is good and bad in American society, of course.  But I’d have to say that there is plenty more of the latter due to very many things including capitalism, our form of “democracy,” nationalism, racism, homophobia, violence levels (the worst of all western nations and Japan, and by far), our militarism, etc.  And though I am NOT expecting to find Utopia, as Oscar Wilde once said, “A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.  And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail.  Progress is the realization of Utopias.”

Doug: Our aim has to be the more difficult and realistic goal of continuing compromise with people of different political leanings, in ways that exclude sectarian religious aims, and in ways that follow careful epistemically achievable goals.

We have to deal with the sectarian religious aims just as we have to deal with the neo-cons, right-libertarians, capitalists, jingoists, rednecks, racists, homophobes, etc.  But compromise might not be the best way to do this.  Education is one of several better ways.

Barry wrote:
See, one of the points I am trying to make is that the term ‘Republican Humanist’ is an oxymoron ... at least in most of the 20th or 21st centuries.
Doug replied: See, but one of the points I’ve been trying to make is that this sort of fundamentalism about humanist goals is wrongheaded. When I discuss this with you one day and with an outraged Republican another, you will understand the difficulty it is to be pinned in the middle. But it’s the position I honestly believe is best for humanism to flourish.

1) jhcarr misses Mooney’s point.  Mooney, on my radio program, said that Democrats have done similar things in the past (recall the Dems were the conservative, racist, authoritarian party most of the 19th and part of the 20th centuries, not the Republicans), but that no party has even been so dangerous in their ideological attacks on science and reality until the Neo-Con Republicans we have with us today came along.  These folks are not just politicking for their constituents, they are true believers in what they do.  Thinking otherwise would be like believing Rush Limbaugh when he said recently that he only “carried the water” for these Republicans out of a sense of loyalty and not because he believed in what they did or said.  As Penn & Teller would say… BULLSHIT! 

jhcarr obviously does not understand authoritarianism or neo-conservatism very well, because that IS the Republican Party.  And if ANYone wants to call these people humanists (even the atheists among them), they’re nuts.


2) Humanism flourishing in the big-tent manner of which you advocate would be flourishing as what?  Atheism? Perhaps.  Secularism? Maybe.  Humanism? Not likely. 

Watering down humanism so that it “speaks” to every atheist or secularist rips any meaning humanism has out of its core.. leaving a black hole in its place where nothing relevant to creating a better society can escape.

Barry wrote:
But Dawkins is not changing things in his book either. He is just offering old arguments mixed with some new insights re science, and in the end, calling religionists mad. Harris is opening the debate, and this is good, but he has not yet written anything about how to change things besides asking why people don’t question their beliefs? Duh!

Doug replied: Not “duh” at all, Barry. The point that needs to be appreciated with these books is that there is a hunger people have now to understand what religion is all about. There are a mass of people, as Dawkins says, who are in the middle or on the fence, who aren’t totally at home with religion, or have been brought up having never heard a decent atheist argument.

Showing these people the force of arguments against the literal truth of the Bible, against the knee-jerk assumption that god exists, can be a breath of fresh air for many. Again, just look at the reception that Dawkins is getting in his trip around the US to see the amount of pent-up frustration with holier-than-thou religious know-nothings.

See this essay.  It points out the wrong-headedness of the “new atheists” you so tout, and leaves partially open the question of how best to deal with the dangerous aspects of religion in society… I’d answer with these two words: humanistic naturalism.

The Church of the Non-Believers

A band of intellectual brothers is mounting a crusade against belief in God.  Are they winning converts, or merely preaching to the choir?

By Gary Wolf

...Where do you stand on God? It’s a question you may prefer not to be asked. But I’m afraid I have no choice. We find ourselves, this very autumn, three and a half centuries after the intellectual martyrdom of Galileo, caught up in a struggle of ultimate importance, when each one of us must make a commitment. It is time to declare our position. This is the challenge posed by the New Atheists. We are called upon, we lax agnostics, we noncommittal nonbelievers, we vague deists who would be embarrassed to defend antique absurdities like the Virgin Birth or the notion that Mary rose into heaven without dying, or any other blatant myth; we are called out, we fence-sitters, and told to help exorcise this debilitating curse: the curse of faith.

The New Atheists will not let us off the hook simply because we are not doctrinaire believers. They condemn not just belief in God but respect for belief in God. Religion is not only wrong; it’s evil. Now that the battle has been joined, there’s no excuse for shirking. Three writers have sounded this call to arms. They are Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett….

...The irony of the New Atheism, this prophetic attack on prophecy, this extremism in opposition to extremism, is too much for me ... those of us who sympathize intellectually have good reasons to wish that the New Atheists continue to seem absurd.  If we reject their polemics, if we continue to have respectful conversations even about things we find ridiculous, this doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve lost our convictions or our sanity. It simply reflects our deepest, democratic values. Or, you might say, our bedrock faith: the faith that no matter how confident we are in our beliefs, there’s always a chance we could turn out to be wrong.

View the full essay here:
 

Rogerflat said: The point obviously being that religion is not the cause of all conflict, and without it, conflict would still be prevalent. However, I don’t like that logic, because it’s like saying that without meth, drug use would still be prevalent, so we might as well legalize it and condone it.


Religion is much more than just its bad parts.  We cannot, and should not, destroy it.  And even though it is true that the pseudo-reality religious fundamentalism creates is always looped back into the culture from which it sprung, creating an even worst society then before it arrived, it is clear to me that fundamentalism is like a diseased form of spirituality which rushes into societes where people with bad lives exist.  If we want to end religious fundamentalism, we need to get people out of bad lives.  This is why the brilliant atheistic, naturalistic, deterministic philosopher -Ted Honderich - says that destroying religion will not end suicide terrorism in Palestine.  Ending the bad lives of the Palestinians however, will.

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Posted: 13 November 2006 02:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Re: more, more, more… how do you like it?

[quote author=“Barry”][quote author=“dougsmith”]...the version of humanism that I and many others follow does include issues of politics, society and economics. In particular, it discards any religious aims as proper in these fields.

What do you mean by ‘religious claims?’  Are you saying that religion as a set of one’s beliefs about how the world is (even for supernaturalists) does not influence his or her sociopolitical ideas and opinions?  This hardly seems likely.

What I said was “religious aims”. I’m clearly not saying they don’t influence beliefs—it’s all too obvious that they do. I’m saying they shouldn’t, or at the very least they shouldn’t be priveledged in any respect.

[quote author=“Barry”][quote author=“dougsmith”]It includes a very strong governmental role in the social safety net, universal health care, etc.

How do these things come from humanism?  I do understand that in a rabid neo-liberal capitalist society such as ours is now in America, these things would seem to make people’s lives better, but only perhaps compared to NOT doing these things in such a country…

They do for the reason I cited in the next paragraph: the social safety net, universal health care, etc., make society function better and provide for the proper care of each individual. These are humanistic aims.

[quote author=“Barry”]There should be a large tent within the camp ground we call humanism, yes.  There needs to be discussion and debate about a very many things… But not about what is the core of humanism… Or about its very definition.

3) How am I a fundamentalist?

4) Credo is based on Creed.  Creed can mean:

A. A formal statement of religious belief; a confession of faith.

or

B. A system of belief, principles, or opinions:

How is Humanism not ‘B?’  Humanism IS a system of belief, principles or opinions based on scientific naturalism and the understanding of the human condition.

Well, the fundamentalist creed comes in having a precise a priori definition of what humanism is, and in judging whether one is “in” or “out” depending on that definition.

In my view part of the investigation has to be into what constitutes humanism itself, or as the Greeks put it, what constitutes the good life. This is not the sort of question that one can answer a priori in any interesting way.

[quote author=“Barry”] I was just being South Park-like (re “sucks”).  Actually there is good and bad in American society, of course.  But I’d have to say that there is plenty more of the latter due to very many things including capitalism, our form of “democracy,” nationalism, racism, homophobia, violence levels (the worst of all western nations and Japan, and by far), our militarism, etc.  And though I am NOT expecting to find Utopia, as Oscar Wilde once said, “A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.  And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail.  Progress is the realization of Utopias.”

Well, re. the problems in US society, we are largely in agreement, although I haven’t the same problems with capitalism that you do, so long as it is properly regulated, which at the moment it is not entirely.

I am glad to hear you are not expecting to find utopia, since it’s the utopian dream that seems to be directing the stuff on anarchism. The genius of the american Founding Fathers (whatever their foibles) is that they knew that utopia was not achievable; they had to produce a fallible and editable founding document.

Utopian dreams tend to lead to real-world nightmares.

[quote author=“Barry”]jhcarr misses Mooney’s point.  Mooney, on my radio program, said that Democrats have done similar things in the past (recall the Dems were the conservative, racist, authoritarian party most of the 19th and part of the 20th centuries, not the Republicans), but that no party has even been so dangerous in their ideological attacks on science and reality until the Neo-Con Republicans we have with us today came along.  These folks are not just politicking for their constituents, they are true believers in what they do.  Thinking otherwise would be like believing Rush Limbaugh when he said recently that he only “carried the water” for these Republicans out of a sense of loyalty and not because he believed in what they did or said.  As Penn & Teller would say… bullsh*t! 

Well, clearly I agree with you on this point. But I am willing to believe there are humanist Republicans for all that.

BTW, I do love Penn and Teller, but they are no friends to the social safety net. They are economic libertarians, and I did hear Penn give quite a diatribe against “socialism” in one of his talks. You may be forced to excommunicate him as well from your humanist tent ... Just FYI.

[quote author=“Barry”]Humanism flourishing in the big-tent manner of which you advocate would be flourishing as what?  Atheism? Perhaps.  Secularism? Maybe.  Humanism? Not likely. 

We’ll see. It’s clear that any atheist position will have to clarify its own sort of morality. Kurtz and others have done a rough job of this for CFI. My sense is that it is too far to the center for you, so you’re not willing to countenance it as “humanism”. But I am.

[quote author=“Barry”]See this essay.  It points out the wrong-headedness of the “new atheists” you so tout, and leaves partially open the question of how best to deal with the dangerous aspects of religion in society… I’d answer with these two words: humanistic naturalism.

I’ve seen the essay already, Barry. It’s a pretty junky piece, poorly argued and mistaken on many counts. Just to take a couple of examples from the bit you quoted:

...The irony of the New Atheism, this prophetic attack on prophecy, this extremism in opposition to extremism, is too much for me ...

In no way is atheism “prophetic”. There is no prophet or prophecy involved. This is just false polemics. It is also only “extremist” for someone not used to hearing religion questioned in public, and one ought to be asking oneself why this is the case.

those of us who sympathize intellectually have good reasons to wish that the New Atheists continue to seem absurd.  If we reject their polemics, if we continue to have respectful conversations even about things we find ridiculous, this doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve lost our convictions or our sanity. It simply reflects our deepest, democratic values. Or, you might say, our bedrock faith: the faith that no matter how confident we are in our beliefs, there’s always a chance we could turn out to be wrong.

... which is exactly what all the atheists he is attacking say. Indeed, Dawkins’s very chapter on the subject is titled: “Why There Almost Certainly is No God”. (You can find me discussing this very issue here ). The problem all these atheists have with religion is precisely that it is fundamentalist in the sense that it believes it could not be wrong. When this sort of approach is tied to a know-nothing view of the universe as 10,000 years old, or a know-nothing morality based on Biblical teachings, there are problems. While the atheist a la Dawkins and Dennett may believe quite strongly in his position, it is simply false to claim that he believes he “couldn’t be wrong”.

Further, these atheists are only “new” in the sense that they wrote books recently; we have not had a good atheist book in decades, and that is part of the very problem.

At any rate, all this shows that Wolf either didn’t read the books he is criticizing, or didn’t understand their arguments. I rather incline to the former supposition.

[quote author=“Barry”]If we want to end religious fundamentalism, we need to get people out of bad lives.  This is why the brilliant atheistic, naturalistic, deterministic philosopher -Ted Honderich - says that destroying religion will not end suicide terrorism in Palestine.  Ending the bad lives of the Palestinians however, will.

I agree that the state of the Palestinians is horrible, and we ought to be acting as best we can to make it better. And I do believe that in the long term this could potentially make some difference in peace in the Middle East. But if Honderich says this will end suicide bombings generally, he hasn’t looked at how poor suicide bombers usually are. Just look at the Sept. 11th bombers. These people were not motivated by wealth or poverty, they were motivated by religion. To say otherwise, as Harris and Rushdie have pointed out so incisively, is simply to miss the reality in front of your eyes.

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Posted: 13 November 2006 07:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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More with Doug

dougsmith wrote:
...the version of humanism that I and many others follow does include issues of politics, society and economics. In particular, it discards any religious aims as proper in these fields.

Barry wrote: What do you mean by ‘religious claims?’ Are you saying that religion as a set of one’s beliefs about how the world is (even for supernaturalists) does not influence his or her sociopolitical ideas and opinions? This hardly seems likely.

Doug then relied: What I said was “religious aims”. I’m clearly not saying they don’t influence beliefs—it’s all too obvious that they do. I’m saying they shouldn’t, or at the very least they shouldn’t be priveledged in any respect.

Yes, aims.  I am sorry, that was a typo or spell-check accident I did not catch.  I stink at proofreading sometimes :( 

So, they should not be privileged to the point where they could lead to a theocracy in our Rep. Democracy… Agreed.  But they can’t help but be influential as much as your atheistic beliefs are.

Dougsmith wrote:
It includes a very strong governmental role in the social safety net, universal health care, etc.

Barry wrote: How do these things come from humanism? I do understand that in a rabid neo-liberal capitalist society such as ours is now in America, these things would seem to make people’s lives better, but only perhaps compared to NOT doing these things in such a country…

Doug: They do for the reason I cited in the next paragraph: the social safety net, universal health care, etc., make society function better and provide for the proper care of each individual. These are humanistic aims.

Yes, as I said, in America as it is constituted, these things are humanistic aims.  But only because we need to counter the problems with our neo-liberal, capitalistic, hierarchal democracy.

Barry wrote:
There should be a large tent within the camp ground we call humanism, yes. There needs to be discussion and debate about a very many things… But not about what is the core of humanism… Or about its very definition.

3) How am I a fundamentalist?

4) Credo is based on Creed. Creed can mean:

A. A formal statement of religious belief; a confession of faith.

or

B. A system of belief, principles, or opinions:

How is Humanism not ‘B?’ Humanism IS a system of belief, principles or opinions based on scientific naturalism and the understanding of the human condition.

Doug: Well, the fundamentalist creed comes in having a precise a priori definition of what humanism is, and in judging whether one is “in” or “out” depending on that definition.

In my view part of the investigation has to be into what constitutes humanism itself, or as the Greeks put it, what constitutes the good life. This is not the sort of question that one can answer a priori in any interesting way.

But I never “answered” this most important question - what is humanism -by any “a priori” means.  I examined humanist history, the manifestos, and current humanist writings, and where I found consistency as to ethical principles - principles which must be based on scientific naturalism or at least hold up to scientific scrutiny - I gleamed the definitions of humanism.

Doug: Well, re. the problems in US society, we are largely in agreement, although I haven’t the same problems with capitalism that you do, so long as it is properly regulated, which at the moment it is not entirely.


Capitalism will never, and can never be properly regulated for very long.. If at all.  Even the ‘New Deal’ (which some saw as saving capitalism and others saw as socialistic) was about helping big business’ which has led to Corperatism and the fascism we are seeing growing in America today.  Capitalism is as problematic at its core as supernaturalism is.

Doug: I am glad to hear you are not expecting to find utopia, since it’s the utopian dream that seems to be directing the stuff on anarchism. The genius of the American Founding Fathers (whatever their foibles) is that they knew that utopia was not achievable; they had to produce a fallible and editable founding document.

Inclusive democracy (the sort of anarchism I most advocate for) is not utopian by any means.

Doug: I am willing to believe there are humanist Republicans for all that.

What can be humanistic about such people’s polity, Doug?

Doug: BTW, I do love Penn and Teller, but they are no friends to the social safety net. They are economic libertarians, and I did hear Penn give quite a diatribe against “socialism” in one of his talks. You may be forced to excommunicate him as well from your humanist tent ... Just FYI.

I never said I thought Penn and Teller were humanists to begin with.  There is no reason to EXcommunicate them AS humanists if they are not already humanists, right? 

They are Right-Libertarians, and while the ‘social safety net’ of socialism or social-democracy are indeed humanistic - in response to Right-Libertarianism or Neo-Liberalism - the non capitalistic, non “free market” aspects of Left-Libertarianism are more humanistic than socialism or social democracy in that they are not a primarily a Band-Aid to Right-Libertarianism or Neo-Liberalism.  Instead, they are humanistic ideas from the get-go.

Barry wrote:
Humanism flourishing in the big-tent manner of which you advocate would be flourishing as what? Atheism? Perhaps. Secularism? Maybe. Humanism? Not likely.

Doug replied: We’ll see. It’s clear that any atheist position will have to clarify its own sort of morality. Kurtz and others have done a rough job of this for CFI. My sense is that it is too far to the center for you, so you’re not willing to countenance it as “humanism”. But I am.

Correct.  I am skeptical of the “radical center” Kurtz proposes.  The American love affair with the ‘Middle’ is dangerous because it leads to no social change whatsoever.  It is similar to being neutral on all the real important issues we face.  Dante wrote that “the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises remain neutral.”  CFI’s “humanism” allowing into its belief system, for the sake of big-tentism, people who might be atheists or secularists but not humanists, restrains humanism from being relevant toward social change.  This leads to having humanism be neutral on many issues… including crisis issues. 

Example: CFI identifies and defends Chris Hitchens as being a humanist.  But his ridiculous stance on the invasion and occupation of Iraq clearly defy humanist principles.  By allowing for “open debate” about his anti-humanistic diatribes, CFI is claiming there is a reason for real debate within humanism about this “war”... It’s like ‘teaching the controversy’ re creationism. 

But it is a false controversy!  Hitchens ideas on Iraq are not humanistic any way you slice them.  So CFI is, in my opinion, neutralizing humanism on one of the most important principles OF humanism..
..Therefore, if there was a Hell in the first place, CFI might begin today seeking better air-conditioning!

Barry wrote:
See this essay. It points out the wrong-headedness of the “new atheists” you so tout, and leaves partially open the question of how best to deal with the dangerous aspects of religion in society… I’d answer with these two words: humanistic naturalism.

Doug: I’ve seen the essay already, Barry. It’s a pretty junky piece, poorly argued and mistaken on many counts. Just to take a couple of examples from the bit you quoted:

A debate on the obviousness of Wolf’s enlightened opinion(s) is not what I want to get into here.  I have already spent much time debating these issues, and Wolf is “right-on,” in my opinion.  Debating his ideas now even further would be a waste of time.  You are clearly, to me, more of an atheist ideologue than you think you are.

Barry wrote:
If we want to end religious fundamentalism, we need to get people out of bad lives. This is why the brilliant atheistic, naturalistic, deterministic philosopher -Ted Honderich - says that destroying religion will not end suicide terrorism in Palestine. Ending the bad lives of the Palestinians however, will.

Doug: I agree that the state of the Palestinians is horrible, and we ought to be acting as best we can to make it better. And I do believe that in the long term this could potentially make some difference in peace in the Middle East. But if Honderich says this will end suicide bombings generally, he hasn’t looked at how poor suicide bombers usually are. Just look at the Sept. 11th bombers. These people were not motivated by wealth or poverty, they were motivated by religion. To say otherwise, as Harris and Rushdie have pointed out so incisively, is simply to miss the reality in front of your eyes.

You should listen to Honderich’s talk with me on ETFF.. show’s number 191 and 192 found here:  

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Posted: 13 November 2006 07:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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More with Doug

dougsmith wrote:
...the version of humanism that I and many others follow does include issues of politics, society and economics. In particular, it discards any religious aims as proper in these fields.

Barry wrote: What do you mean by ‘religious claims?’ Are you saying that religion as a set of one’s beliefs about how the world is (even for supernaturalists) does not influence his or her sociopolitical ideas and opinions? This hardly seems likely.

Doug then relied: What I said was “religious aims”. I’m clearly not saying they don’t influence beliefs—it’s all too obvious that they do. I’m saying they shouldn’t, or at the very least they shouldn’t be priveledged in any respect.

Yes, aims.  I am sorry, that was a typo or spell-check accident I did not catch.  I stink at proofreading sometimes :( 

So, they should not be privileged to the point where they could lead to a theocracy in our Rep. Democracy… Agreed.  But they can’t help but be influential as much as your atheistic beliefs are.

Dougsmith wrote:
It includes a very strong governmental role in the social safety net, universal health care, etc.

Barry wrote: How do these things come from humanism? I do understand that in a rabid neo-liberal capitalist society such as ours is now in America, these things would seem to make people’s lives better, but only perhaps compared to NOT doing these things in such a country…

Doug: They do for the reason I cited in the next paragraph: the social safety net, universal health care, etc., make society function better and provide for the proper care of each individual. These are humanistic aims.

Yes, as I said, in America as it is constituted, these things are humanistic aims.  But only because we need to counter the problems with our neo-liberal, capitalistic, hierarchal democracy.

Barry wrote:
There should be a large tent within the camp ground we call humanism, yes. There needs to be discussion and debate about a very many things… But not about what is the core of humanism… Or about its very definition.

3) How am I a fundamentalist?

4) Credo is based on Creed. Creed can mean:

A. A formal statement of religious belief; a confession of faith.

or

B. A system of belief, principles, or opinions:

How is Humanism not ‘B?’ Humanism IS a system of belief, principles or opinions based on scientific naturalism and the understanding of the human condition.

Doug: Well, the fundamentalist creed comes in having a precise a priori definition of what humanism is, and in judging whether one is “in” or “out” depending on that definition.

In my view part of the investigation has to be into what constitutes humanism itself, or as the Greeks put it, what constitutes the good life. This is not the sort of question that one can answer a priori in any interesting way.

But I never “answered” this most important question - what is humanism -by any “a priori” means.  I examined humanist history, the manifestos, and current humanist writings, and where I found consistency as to ethical principles - principles which must be based on scientific naturalism or at least hold up to scientific scrutiny - I gleamed the definitions of humanism.

Doug: Well, re. the problems in US society, we are largely in agreement, although I haven’t the same problems with capitalism that you do, so long as it is properly regulated, which at the moment it is not entirely.


Capitalism will never, and can never be properly regulated for very long.. If at all.  Even the ‘New Deal’ (which some saw as saving capitalism and others saw as socialistic) was about helping big business’ which has led to Corperatism and the fascism we are seeing growing in America today.  Capitalism is as problematic at its core as supernaturalism is.

Doug: I am glad to hear you are not expecting to find utopia, since it’s the utopian dream that seems to be directing the stuff on anarchism. The genius of the American Founding Fathers (whatever their foibles) is that they knew that utopia was not achievable; they had to produce a fallible and editable founding document.

Inclusive democracy (the sort of anarchism I most advocate for) is not utopian by any means.

Doug: I am willing to believe there are humanist Republicans for all that.

What can be humanistic about such people’s polity, Doug?

Doug: BTW, I do love Penn and Teller, but they are no friends to the social safety net. They are economic libertarians, and I did hear Penn give quite a diatribe against “socialism” in one of his talks. You may be forced to excommunicate him as well from your humanist tent ... Just FYI.

I never said I thought Penn and Teller were humanists to begin with.  There is no reason to EXcommunicate them AS humanists if they are not already humanists, right? 

They are Right-Libertarians, and while the ‘social safety net’ of socialism or social-democracy are indeed humanistic - in response to Right-Libertarianism or Neo-Liberalism - the non capitalistic, non “free market” aspects of Left-Libertarianism are more humanistic than socialism or social democracy in that they are not a primarily a Band-Aid to Right-Libertarianism or Neo-Liberalism.  Instead, they are humanistic ideas from the get-go.

Barry wrote:
Humanism flourishing in the big-tent manner of which you advocate would be flourishing as what? Atheism? Perhaps. Secularism? Maybe. Humanism? Not likely.

Doug replied: We’ll see. It’s clear that any atheist position will have to clarify its own sort of morality. Kurtz and others have done a rough job of this for CFI. My sense is that it is too far to the center for you, so you’re not willing to countenance it as “humanism”. But I am.

Correct.  I am skeptical of the “radical center” Kurtz proposes.  The American love affair with the ‘Middle’ is dangerous because it leads to no social change whatsoever.  It is similar to being neutral on all the real important issues we face.  Dante wrote that “the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises remain neutral.”  CFI’s “humanism” allowing into its belief system, for the sake of big-tentism, people who might be atheists or secularists but not humanists, restrains humanism from being relevant toward social change.  This leads to having humanism be neutral on many issues… including crisis issues. 

Example: CFI identifies and defends Chris Hitchens as being a humanist.  But his ridiculous stance on the invasion and occupation of Iraq clearly defy humanist principles.  By allowing for “open debate” about his anti-humanistic diatribes, CFI is claiming there is a reason for real debate within humanism about this “war”... It’s like ‘teaching the controversy’ re creationism. 

But it is a false controversy!  Hitchens ideas on Iraq are not humanistic any way you slice them.  So CFI is, in my opinion, neutralizing humanism on one of the most important principles OF humanism..
..Therefore, if there was a Hell in the first place, CFI might begin today seeking better air-conditioning!

Barry wrote:
See this essay. It points out the wrong-headedness of the “new atheists” you so tout, and leaves partially open the question of how best to deal with the dangerous aspects of religion in society… I’d answer with these two words: humanistic naturalism.

Doug: I’ve seen the essay already, Barry. It’s a pretty junky piece, poorly argued and mistaken on many counts. Just to take a couple of examples from the bit you quoted:

A debate on the obviousness of Wolf’s enlightened opinion(s) is not what I want to get into here.  I have already spent much time debating these issues, and Wolf is “right-on,” in my opinion.  Debating his ideas now even further would be a waste of time.  You are clearly, to me, more of an atheist ideologue than you think you are.

Barry wrote:
If we want to end religious fundamentalism, we need to get people out of bad lives. This is why the brilliant atheistic, naturalistic, deterministic philosopher -Ted Honderich - says that destroying religion will not end suicide terrorism in Palestine. Ending the bad lives of the Palestinians however, will.

Doug: I agree that the state of the Palestinians is horrible, and we ought to be acting as best we can to make it better. And I do believe that in the long term this could potentially make some difference in peace in the Middle East. But if Honderich says this will end suicide bombings generally, he hasn’t looked at how poor suicide bombers usually are. Just look at the Sept. 11th bombers. These people were not motivated by wealth or poverty, they were motivated by religion. To say otherwise, as Harris and Rushdie have pointed out so incisively, is simply to miss the reality in front of your eyes.

You should listen to Honderich’s talk with me on ETFF.. show’s number 191 and 192 found here:  

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Posted: 13 November 2006 08:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Re: More with Doug

[quote author=“Barry”] You are clearly, to me, more of an atheist ideologue than you think you are.

Well, fair enough; you appear to me entirely a political ideologue. So I guess we’re square.

:wink:

You may be interested to know that I have all sorts of quite religious friends. Just as I have (some) conservative friends. While I do have strong views on issues of politics and religion, I do believe that in the final analysis we must all work out a way to live together. If a Republican wants to give up on his party’s religious fantasies and try to work together to discuss what constitutes the Good Life, or if a religious person wants to discard fundamentalism and do the same, I’m happy to lend a hand. If he wants to call himself a humanist, it’s no skin off my nose, either.

Humanism is a work in progress. It stems essentially from a rejection of supernatural ideals for human existence: once we give up reliance on sacred texts or an afterlife, we are left with this human existence. I’m happy to work with all parties to see how best to realize our short lives on this troubled earth.

You are happy to support people who give voice to radical political ideas, but basically nothing else in the humanist, atheist or skeptical vein interests you. OK, that’s fine. I have no disagreement with people who aren’t jazzed by all the topics within CFI’s umbrella ...

But I don’t get the yearning you have to “trash” people like Dawkins and Harris (not to mention Pinker, Dennett, etc.), except that you do so on solely political grounds. After all, you yourself are an atheist, so you can’t say you disagree with them. But none of them are talking about political issues; they are talking, largely, about science and religion.

You also say you want them to tone things down ... now, I will certainly agree that both Dawkins and Harris do go overboard at times, but their larger aims are clearly well justified by the nascent US theocracy that you yourself see as a real problem.

The nub of Wolf’s silly critique of Dawkins was that “there’s always a chance we could turn out to be wrong.” I wonder, do you think you could turn out to be wrong about the nature of humanism?

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Posted: 13 November 2006 10:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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humanism is as humanism does

Doug said: Humanism is a work in progress. It stems essentially from a rejection of supernatural ideals for human existence: once we give up reliance on sacred texts or an afterlife, we are left with this human existence. I’m happy to work with all parties to see how best to realize our short lives on this troubled earth. You are happy to support people who give voice to radical political ideas, but basically nothing else in the humanist, atheist or skeptical vein interests you. OK, that’s fine. I have no disagreement with people who aren’t jazzed by all the topics within CFI’s umbrella ...

Doug…  Humanism is not just about the rejection of supernatural ideals or sacred texts… sorry to say.  But as those go, I am on your side; I am just not willing to attack people to be on your side.

My political ideas are only “radical” because so many pathetic political ideas are considered mainstream today.  Democracy was considered radical to those maintaining monarchies or feudal nations.  It is a shame that inclusive democracy is considered radical to those who live in a hiararchal democracies today. 

Anyway, I do not give credence to politics above all else in Humanism in the manor you suggest ... and I am interested in very many atheist or skeptical ideas.  You are building a strawman argument against me above.  Remember that, at this time, I define humanism as such: “Secular Humanism is a sociopolitical philosophy both democratic and non-hierarchal, which is informed by scientific naturalism, and promotes individual freedom, economic and social equality, human cooperation and planetary peace.”  Understand that most of what YOU call humanism fits into just two words of this definition… scientific naturalism

Dougsaid: But I don’t get the yearning you have to “trash” people like Dawkins and Harris (not to mention Pinker, Dennett, etc.), except that you do so on solely political grounds. After all, you yourself are an atheist, so you can’t say you disagree with them. But none of them are talking about political issues; they are talking, largely, about science and religion.

I do not disagree with their atheism, Doug.  With Dawkins and Harris I disagree with their methods of arguing for atheism to American society.  With Pinker, and to some extend Dawkins and EO Wilson, I disagree with their take on human nature and their confidence in “evolutionary physiology.”  And yes, as far as Pinker and perhaps Wilson go, this clearly leads them to advocate for bad policies and bad economics. 

Recall, that no matter what becomes of religion vrs atheism, real life is about politics and economics (and society)... this is where humanists must be most concerned.

Doug said: The nub of Wolf’s silly critique of Dawkins was that “there’s always a chance we could turn out to be wrong.” I wonder, do you think you could turn out to be wrong about the nature of humanism?

Yes Doug, I am not infallable!  But Humanism is not an objective thing like supernaturalism or naturalism are.  It is a philosophy based on the latter, but a philosophy nevertheless.  This makes it fairly subjective.

Now I may be wrong to think that humanism is the best philosophy toward creating a better society; and I may be wrong to think that humanism makes sense because naturalism makes sense.  But I can not be wrong about the definition of humanism because this is based, as I said, on much work over the centuries to define this thing called humanism ... and because there will always be inconstancies that creep in (like calling Hitchens a humanist), humanists need to be vigilant about being honest and consistent about what it is they are talking about (and advocating for), if they want their worldview to be taken seriously.

Barry

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Posted: 13 November 2006 11:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Re: humanism is as humanism does

[quote author=“Barry”]Doug…  Humanism is not just about the rejection of supernatural ideals or sacred texts… sorry to say.

<snip>

Remember that, at this time, I define humanism as such: “Secular Humanism is a sociopolitical philosophy both democratic and non-hierarchal, which is informed by scientific naturalism, and promotes individual freedom, economic and social equality, human cooperation and planetary peace.”  Understand that most of what YOU call humanism fits into just two words of this definition… scientific naturalism

Barry, I never said humanism was only about the rejection of supernatural ideas and sacred texts. I said that was the “stem” of humanism, which is both a historical fact (humanism stems from the enlightenment rejection of religion), and a philosophically uncontroversial statement.

Indeed, you will note that above I talked about such things as the social safety net, universal healthcare, proper care for each individual, etc., all as part of the humanism that I care to defend. I have defended issues of human freedom many times as well.

So far as I can tell, Dawkins and Pinker support a nearly identical sort of humanism.

With respect to the question as to whether you could turn out to be wrong about the nature of humanism, you said:

[quote author=“Barry”]Yes Doug, I am not infallable! 

<snip>

But I can not be wrong about the definition of humanism because this is based, as I said, on much work over the centuries to define this thing called humanism ...

So how does your not being infallible jibe with your inability to be wrong on the definition of humanism? Even Dawkins says he could be wrong about the nonexistence of god ...

Indeed, I’d argue that precisely the “much work over the centuries” tells me that humanism is not a facile thing to define or grasp. It is a general mindset and research program, founded upon the rejection of sectarian aims, holy books and afterlives.

Dawkins, Dennett, Pinker, Harris, Wilson, so far as I know all of them support these ideals, and are liberals in the classical western sense of the term.

Of course, at this point we have entirely left behind Dawkins’s book; we are once again back to the issue of humanism, about which Dawkins wasn’t writing. The same thing happened in our discussion of Harris’s book. Neither of them wrote a book about humanism, much less a book about your brand of humanism, so it isn’t quite fair to indict them for not having done so. They wrote different books, instead dealing with a more fundamental problem: that of religious fundamentalism. It needs to be weeded carefully before the humanist garden can really grow.

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Posted: 19 November 2006 02:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Weeding & Humanism

Doug: It needs to be weeded carefully before the humanist garden can really grow.


Yes, the “weeds” of religious fundementalism need to go before the humanist garden can really grow, but so do the weeds of authoratarianism, neo-conservatism, neo-liberalism, captialism, and conservatism… not to mention war-hawkism, militarism, racism, gender or sexual bigotry, and so much more.

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Posted: 19 November 2006 05:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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About the episode

The 2 South Park episodes actually portrayed Dawkins as a nice person who was against forcefully putting down religious inquiry. It was his ‘girlfriend’ who introduced the intolerance.

If I remember correctly, he even mentions the famous spaghetti monster when teaching the South Park kids.

The episode can be interpretted many ways.

Regarding the debate of the past few posts, I would just like to echo Doug’s point that there ARE readers of The End of Faith who decided to give up religion after reading the book. Inasmuch as this area of the forum is ‘Religion and Secularism’, there are many tools that can be used to move people from religion to secularism. There is no perfect tool, as different people are attracted to different approaches. There are many people on the fence who are best served by the forceful styles of Dawkins and Harris.

Perhaps the valid point of South Park is that the ideas of Harris or Dawkins could spawn radical followers who, instead of heed the call to reason, might lead to the hate of religion and violence towards religious ideas and people that we see in the parts of the episode that takes place in the future.

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Posted: 20 November 2006 01:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Re: About the episode

[quote author=“dmoreau”]Perhaps the valid point of South Park is that the ideas of Harris or Dawkins could spawn radical followers who, instead of heed the call to reason, might lead to the hate of religion and violence towards religious ideas and people that we see in the parts of the episode that takes place in the future.

This is, indeed, a valid point. Whenever we strenuously argue against something we have to work to dispel this sort of hatred and violence. My concern with the sort of ‘intolerance’ rhetoric of Harris in his first book is that it all too easily can be misinterpreted. Harris means to argue that we shouldn’t be so accepting of faith-based language in ordinary conversation. But surely it’s one thing to “accept” and another to “tolerate”. By arguing for “intolerance” he risks being misunderstood to advocate hatred of the pernicious sort you mention.

After all, “toleration” language is usually used between, e.g., factions where mutual dislike is obvious.

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Posted: 20 November 2006 03:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Re: About the episode

[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“dmoreau”]Perhaps the valid point of South Park is that the ideas of Harris or Dawkins could spawn radical followers who, instead of heed the call to reason, might lead to the hate of religion and violence towards religious ideas and people that we see in the parts of the episode that takes place in the future.

This is, indeed, a valid point. Whenever we strenuously argue against something we have to work to dispel this sort of hatred and violence. My concern with the sort of ‘intolerance’ rhetoric of Harris in his first book is that it all too easily can be misinterpreted. Harris means to argue that we shouldn’t be so accepting of faith-based language in ordinary conversation. But surely it’s one thing to “accept” and another to “tolerate”. By arguing for “intolerance” he risks being misunderstood to advocate hatred of the pernicious sort you mention.

After all, “toleration” language is usually used between, e.g., factions where mutual dislike is obvious.

Rejection of ideas tends to lead to, at the very least, frustration with holders of that belief. Contempt might be a more common response than frustration, especially when those ideas harm the society we and our families live in.

I tend to believe that most people worldwide either don’t care about truth and reality, or. if they do, they seek truth to beat people over the head with it. Many who appear to value truth seem to me to truly value proving that they are correct. I like to think I am not this way.  I tend to argue vehemently for an idea to see if it goes anywhere. If it doesn’t, I can accept I was mistaken and re-evaluate the evidence. Most people just force all incoming data into their model of the world.

We can all agree that people tend to be driven more by emotion than logic. It seems logic itself barely moves anyone, unless their emotions are stirred by the logic. Sadly, most people don’t think too well, so logic is lost on them. Many who can think resist being led by logic anywhere they themselves didn’t decide to go.

What I like about Harris and Dawkins is the power of their books to touch the passive non-believers and the fencesitters. They are able to move people and we need that if we ever figure out where to move them.

I understand that Barry is unimpressed with Harris. I suggest waiting to see how things progress as he continues to publish books. I expect that, in time, he will try to build more than tear down.

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Posted: 20 November 2006 03:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Re: About the episode

[quote author=“dmoreau”]What I like about Harris and Dawkins is the power of their books to touch the passive non-believers and the fencesitters. They are able to move people and we need that if we ever figure out where to move them.

I understand that Barry is unimpressed with Harris. I suggest waiting to see how things progress as he continues to publish books. I expect that, in time, he will try to build more than tear down.

I expect so as well. And certainly Dawkins has a long and illustrious history as a ‘builder’.

In the most recent (excellent) issue of Free Inquiry magazine there is a book review of Dawkins’s God Delusion by Dan Dennett where he tackles this issue of contempt ... I think Dennett is able to get at the problems involved with critiquing something of which one is, at least in part, contemptuous. It’s a difficult issue, but nevertheless needs to be done. And I think he’s largely right (in that review and his response to an earlier one of his own book) that this sort of vigorous argument is only seen as over-the-top because it’s religion that’s at issue, and that in itself is a problem. These kinds of arguments would be seen as relatively mild in the context of a purely political argument.

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Posted: 20 November 2006 09:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Harris and Dawkins—moving us where?

dmoreau: What I like about Harris and Dawkins is the power of their books to touch the passive nonbelievers and the fencesitters. They are able to move people and we need that if we ever figure out where to move them.


Yes, they seem to be able to move folks who are passive agnostics or close to being atheists, but are not quite there.  I said this same thing in a recent post about my having read George Smith, Michael Martin and Paul Kurtz back in the early 1990s.  But unlike Smith’s and Martin’s basic academic philosophical arguments, and Kurtz’s blend of atheism and humanism… Harris and Dawkins are about attacking, name calling and dismissing whole groups of people.  Their otherwise philosophical arguments are lost in such hyperbole.

Harris and Dawkins may appeal to newbie atheists (or longtime angry atheists) who are pissed off at everything religious (as I was once, I admit); but unlike Smith, Martin or Kurtz… Harris and Dawkins are “moving” people to an extremist, hatred-filled, “Us Vs. Them” place.  I do not think I want current or future atheists to be moved there.  It’s not where Smith, Martin or Kurtz moved me.  These three helped me NOT become overly Harris-like as my natural inclination at first was to become. 

Plus, nowhere did these three confuse science with philosophy as Dawkins does, nor were they Islamaphobes (Harris) who made arguments in favor of torture!

dmoreau: I understand that Barry is unimpressed with Harris. I suggest waiting to see how things progress as he continues to publish books. I expect that, in time, he will try to build more than tear down.

I can only hope so!  He first needs to amend his political stances I just mentioned above.

Doug:. And certainly Dawkins has a long and illustrious history as a ‘builder’.

Building what?  “Building” an understanding of evolution as opposed to creationism, fine… but many have done that.  He has also helped “build” the “selfish-gene” idea which is not only bad science (according to folks like Pigliucci, Margulis, Eldredge, Gould and Mayr), but it has lead to the quazi-scientific field of “evolutionary psychology.”

“Traditional humanism and social science have been more right than wrong ... Culture has increasingly guided our way to economic (and reproductive) behavior over the past 2.5 million years. Culture frequently runs counter to, and overrides, biological drives and processes ” To see ourselves as mere shells being marched around by our inner genes, is not just bad biology, it verges on being a willfully stupid joke or, even worse, a malevolent political doctrine.” - Niles Eldredge (Why We Do It: Rethinking Sex and the Selfish Gene; W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition, 2005

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Posted: 20 November 2006 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Re: Harris and Dawkins—moving us where?

[quote author=“Barry”]Building what?  “Building” an understanding of evolution as opposed to creationism, fine… but many have done that.  He has also helped “build” the “selfish-gene” idea which is not only bad science (according to folks like Pigliucci, Margulis, Eldredge, Gould and Mayr), but it has lead to the quazi-scientific field of “evolutionary psychology.”

The notion of the selfish gene is not bad science. The Eldredge quote you provide simply shows he misunderstood Dawkins’s position. Very few practicing biologists or philosophers of biology are quite as nave as Eldredge was in this quote, assuming that you have not taken it entirely out of context. (In particular, Dawkins himself would agree entirely with the second and third sentences. They are entirely consistent with the theory of the selfish gene. If you think otherwise, you should read Dawkins’s books again).

Further, Dawkins never claims that the genes “march us around” “as mere shells”.  That is an absurd straw-man claim and really Eldredge should be ashamed of himself for such a silly misconstrual. And I am a fan of Eldredge generally. Dennett understands the claim in a way Eldredge has simply decided not to.

Evolutionary psychology is another field in which Dawkins, along with people like Carl Sagan, E.O. Wilson, Dan Dennett, Robert Trivers, Leda Cosmides, John Tooby and Steven Pinker have made strides against politicically motivated anti-science foes in the academy. Fortunately the absurd physical threats that met Wilson and others during the 1970s and 80s have largely dwindled as people have become aware of the power of evolution to make clear our psychological heritage, not to mention the potential of describing ‘human nature’ itself.

That EP is in a nascent stage, a sort of proto-science, nobody doubts. Many of the claims it makes are tentative. But that it is the proper way to look at the human mind and brain is simply not up for serious doubt. We are animals, and our minds are just as shaped by our evolutionary past as are the minds of our animal cousins.

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Posted: 20 November 2006 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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[Dawkins] has also helped “build” the “selfish-gene” idea which is not only bad science (according to folks like Pigliucci, Margulis, Eldredge, Gould and Mayr), but it has lead to the quazi-scientific field of “evolutionary psychology.

You’ve said before you never actually read The God Delusion and still you felt competent enough to criticize it. And now also The Selfish Gene? Maybe this upcoming Friday when you visit your bookstore, you might actually want to buy some of Dawkins’s books instead of just scanning through them.

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