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Richard Dawkins - Science and the New Atheism
Posted: 07 December 2007 08:37 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Richard Dawkins - Science and the New Atheism

Richard Dawkins, considered one of the worldâs most influential scientists, is the first holder of the Charles Simonyi professorship of the public understanding of science at Oxford University and the recipient of a number of awards for his writings and for his science, including the International Cosmos Prize, the Kistler Prize, and the Shakespeare Prize. He is the author of a number of critically acclaimed books, such as The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Unweaving the Rainbow, The Devilâs Chaplain, and The Ancestorâs Tale. His most recent title is the best selling The God Delusion which is now out in paperback. In this candid discussion with D.J. Grothe recorded in front of a live audience at the recent Secular Society and Its Enemies conference, Richard Dawkins discusses the impact of his book The God Delusion, whether or not his uncompromising attack on religion undermines science education, and how people can find meaning in a godless universe. He also explores strategies for advancing atheism in society and highlights what secularist can learn from the gay rights and feminist movements. Additionally, during the audience question and answer period, professor Dawkins fields a question from the eminent ethicist Peter Singer.

What a pleasure to get some new insights from Dawkins. I’m currently listening to the God Delusion on tape (well , mp3) while walking my St Bernard smile Having read the book some time ago it’s fun to hear it in his own (and his wife’s) voice.

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Posted: 07 December 2007 08:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Ok… I just have to get this off my chest…

I was there when they interviewed him… Well, so were a lot of other people…

But less than one hour later I was also eating dinner with him in an Irish pub. Ha.

Anyway, yeah…

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1. God is omnipotent.
Source: Several incidents where I’ve annoyed fundamentalist Christians by challenging God’s power.
2. If God is omnipotent then he can travel faster than the speed of light.
Modus Ponens
3. Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.
Source: Einstein
Therefore, God is nothing.
QED

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Posted: 07 December 2007 09:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Somebody got their wish, eramusinfinity :grin:

Airing this now is great timing for PoI. This episode is definitely going to be a hit.

I have to listen from the PoI web site, it’s not downloading on my iTunes.

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Posted: 07 December 2007 09:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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If it’s not downloading simply go to the POI site, click on XML FEED in the yellow bar below the episode blurb. On the page it leads you to right click the mp3 file to download (if you just click it it will open and play).

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Posted: 08 December 2007 01:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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They have the interview posted on RichardDawkins.net.

I bet we have more presents coming from the AAI conference.  surprised

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Posted: 08 December 2007 09:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Excellent interview, Richard is eloquent and communicates science probably better then anyone I am aware. Personally I hope Richard returns to putting science front and center now that so many people are really paying attention to him.

What I would like to understand a bit better is his thoughts on vegetarianism. If I am hearing him correctly he is saying that yes there is a certain moral argument to be made to become vegetarian which is based on current understandings of animals. Yet, he appears to then say what it will take for him to become a non-meat eater is a consensus since he already fully understands the moral arguments and agrees with them. It’s a slightly odd position that I find myself in also. But, clearly the choice is mine to eat meat knowing full well the arguments that Richard highlights. These ideas are not new by any means and I find it difficult to fully accept this idea that what would change my behavior is for me to convince others of the moral argument so there becomes a tipping point of people who will accept the argument and change their behavior which will then finally allow me to convince myself.

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Posted: 08 December 2007 11:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Welcome to the century of the moral arguments. wink Why not go all the way and stop eating DNA altogether? You can always munch on viruses, dirt, and red blood cells.

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Posted: 08 December 2007 12:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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George - 08 December 2007 11:52 AM

Welcome to the century of the moral arguments. wink Why not go all the way and stop eating DNA altogether? You can always munch on viruses, dirt, and red blood cells.

It’s strange in a way because I keep coming back to this “is-ought” problem when talking about morals, ethics. Ever since I heard Sam Harris say that not only is the is-ought problem a myth but we can apply oughts to “happiness” (contentment etc.) I can’t help but think this issue is more spongy then just making the claim as fact. Looking at the moral argument for vegetarianism as an evolutionary understanding we are faced with an “ought”. I ought not eat meat because I recognize the moral dilemma of killing and eating other animals. So, as human animals we ought not eat meat.

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Posted: 08 December 2007 08:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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logicisrefreshing - 07 December 2007 08:44 PM

Ok… I just have to get this off my chest…

I was there when they interviewed him… Well, so were a lot of other people…

But less than one hour later I was also eating dinner with him in an Irish pub. Ha.

Anyway, yeah…

1. What did you have to eat?  big surprise
2. Any comments on the response of other attendees?

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Posted: 08 December 2007 09:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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zarcus - 08 December 2007 09:59 AM

Excellent interview, Richard is eloquent and communicates science probably better then anyone I am aware. Personally I hope Richard returns to putting science front and center now that so many people are really paying attention to him.

What I would like to understand a bit better is his thoughts on vegetarianism…..

I agree with Zarcus—thanks to D.J. for getting this interview and keeping us up to date on Dawkins.
I will have to play the interview again, but I have these points in mind:
1. D.J. I think the God Delusion was perfectly fine without needing an additional section on what to do with your life once you realize that there isn’t a God—how will you make moral decisions, how will you fill the void, etc.  I think this is baloney and I’m sorry Dawkins didn’t say so. It’s like Dorothy and Ruby Slippers—you always had the power and the responsibility yourself.

2. I think ending with this vegetarian stuff is NOT the way to close out the interview. It leaves people thinking about that and not whatever Dawkins was really saying through most of the interview.  I thought his response was confusing (I basically agree with Zarcus) and I think the thought experiment that “imagine if all the missing links that ever exist were here—would we behave differently” is a false analogy. Completely false. For me though I started thinking “wow! I wonder why the missing links ARE missing—why is that? why does that always happen?” and this sort of distracted me.
    I wrote more and then erased it because I think just discussing vegetarianism is a digression.
 

Lawrence Krauss had a nice op-ed in the Wall St. Journal on Thursday
http://genesis1.phys.cwru.edu/~krauss/dec6opedwsj.html
and noted that a 2006 NSF survey found 25% of Americans didn’t know that the Earth went around the Sun :ohoh: .  Let’s get some of this easy stuff taken care of first.

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Posted: 09 December 2007 07:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Well said, Jackson.

I agree with you almost completely, but I may add (though I am sure this is pretty well understood) that Peter Singer has been working on creating a discussion on “animal liberation” for almost 30 years. For the most part these discussions break down quickly in the freethought community, but keeping the conversation alive has been one of his primary goals. Often I do notice a kind of waffling amongst many of my meaty brethren which at times creates fruitful dialogue. Here I am thinking about the debates over animal rights. Recently Peter has argued, in Free Inquiry, that a starting point for ethical treatment of non-human animals (consciousness raising terminology) is to go for organic meats and stay away from buying meats that are gotten from “farm factories” which treat their animals sometimes very poorly. (Is saying non-human animals a form of political correctness? I mean why not just say animals, we already don’t eat each other, well not in the bad way)

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Posted: 09 December 2007 05:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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we already don’t eat each other, well not in the bad way)

hehehe… You’re a cunning linguist!

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Posted: 10 December 2007 07:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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George - 08 December 2007 11:52 AM

Welcome to the century of the moral arguments. wink Why not go all the way and stop eating DNA altogether? You can always munch on viruses, dirt, and red blood cells.

Ah, but do DNA, Viruses, dirt, and red blood cells suffer?

All due respect for freedom of choice with regards to the various ways that individuals choose to deal with their animal nature.  I do not claim to be any less animal.  But, let’s at least allow ourselves to distinguish between foods that are needed in order to nourish our health and foods that we eat entirely for the purpose of indulging our sensual temptations.  As humans we do need to eat, but we don’t need to eat meat.

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Posted: 10 December 2007 07:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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zarcus - 07 December 2007 09:09 PM

Somebody got their wish, eramusinfinity :grin:

I suppose that I should thank the lord.  LOL

Actually, I was more impressed with DJs choice of questions than I was particularly with Richard’s answers.  DJ did a great job of confronting Richard, in a constructive third party manner, with some of the criticisms that have been directed toward Richard about the direction that he is steering the humanist movement.  While I am a strong supporter of Dawkins arguments in a broad sense, I will confess that I don’t feel that he answered all of the criticisms that DJ posed very well head on.

You are right zarcus, that there are certain issues of tactic that have humanists divided, and I think that we all need to work toward resolving them via discussion and constructive argument.  If we truly stand for reason, then this ought to be at the forefront of our activities.  I would like to see more dialog between Richard Dawkins and his non-religious detractors over issues of disagreement.  “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

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Posted: 10 December 2007 07:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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erasmusinfinity - 10 December 2007 07:20 AM

but we don’t need to eat meat.

Of course, I agree, eramusinfinity. One thing that comes to mind is there would need to be a concerted effort needed by everyone to change their behavior in ways they may not realize at first. In the case of fish I think lessening intake quickly would not cause a disruption and they would be able to live in their natural environment with less disruption. With animals for which we already control their populations we would have the immediate problem of having an unprofitable market so retaining certain animals, such as cows, would quickly decline. Cows for the most part in North America would find it very difficult to survive in a more ‘natural’ environment. In essence cows would become either pet like or placed in zoos.  Then their is the more wild variety of animal, such as dear, where human activity also puts controls on their population. Since they are wild, population control becomes an issue, such as seen with ‘suburban sprawl’, where the natural environment for dear is eroded. Killing other animals to control their populations is common and we would be left with killing but not eating, unless a radically altered approach was taken by humans.

Edit: change “dear” to deer, dear folks.  red face

[ Edited: 10 December 2007 08:13 AM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 10 December 2007 04:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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zarcus - 10 December 2007 07:43 AM

One thing that comes to mind is there would need to be a concerted effort needed by everyone to change their behavior in ways they may not realize at first.

Kind of like trying to convince people to abandon their religious faith, huh?

We need a good strategy.  LOL

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