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Richard Dawkins - Science and the New Atheism
Posted: 12 December 2007 04:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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I especially enjoyed Singer’s contributions to The Great Ape Project, a collection of essays investigating (albeit from a pre-convinced point of view) the definitions of personhood and how these might be applied beyond the strict species level (i.e. humans and nothing else) that is traditional.


As for envy, every time I am moved by a musician, an actor, or an artist of some other kind I think how amazing it would be to have the ability to evoke feelings and to crystallize elements of the human experience so succinctly and beautifully as artists can. So back at ya! wink

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Posted: 12 December 2007 04:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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erasmusinfinity - 12 December 2007 03:49 PM

The classic Singer starter is Animal Liberation.

I’ll have a look at it. Thanks.

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Posted: 12 December 2007 04:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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mckenzievmd - 12 December 2007 04:00 PM

I especially enjoyed Singer’s contributions to The Great Ape Project

Okay. Thanks, Brennen.

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Posted: 12 December 2007 04:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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I highly recommend the book Created From Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism by the late philosopher James Rachels. Rachels makes explicit, through careful and clearly constructed philosophical argument, what Singer and Dawkins were trying to get at the end of the podcast.

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Posted: 12 December 2007 05:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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mckenzievmd - 12 December 2007 01:30 PM

I find it interesting that attempts at rational discussions of the ethical issues involved in vegetarianism seem to stimulate a lot of hostility among skeptics. 

The discussion of these ethical issues is probably a good thing, although I still think it sort of pulls the focus off of ‘atheism’. 
I don’t see why one can’t be a theist of some flavor and a also vegan, right…

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Posted: 12 December 2007 05:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Sure.  Seventh Day Adventists.  Rastafarians.  Hindus.  Buddhists.  Etc.  I’m OK with pulling the focus a bit away from atheism though.

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Posted: 12 December 2007 05:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Sorry for more peanut gallery, but I can’t resist this one.  The real question…

Should Animals Be Doing More For The Animal Rights Movement?

... a la The Onion.

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Posted: 12 December 2007 06:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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erasmusinfinity - 12 December 2007 05:51 PM

Sorry for more peanut gallery, but I can’t resist this one.  The real question…

Should Animals Be Doing More For The Animal Rights Movement?

... a la The Onion.

Thanks for this link to ONN headline news…

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Posted: 12 December 2007 09:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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For me, I have no problem with people eating whatever they can afford when they don’t have the income to do otherwise.

For those of us with the sufficient income, I feel we shouldn’t subsidized the institutionalized mistreatment of animals with a sufficient nervous system to feel pain. Grouping animals won’t be trivial in certain areas, but the most common farm animals clearly do react to pain much like how we do, which seems to indicate that it is just as unpleasant to them as it is to us.

Another issue is the feelings related mammals have for their kin. How long does a pig lament when her mother or her child is taken away or slain in her sight? That would help us evaluate the ethics, but I don’t know what data we have on that. I suspect evidence points to this factor being a complete non-issue with fish and birds.

Considering I am usually too lazy too cook regularly, I am pretty much too lazy to put my money where my mouth is on this issue for more than a week at a time. Nevertheless, I am not willing to ignore the problems with the traditional way we eat.

I also find it interesting how we allow hunting of various species to control population growth, but almost all find it unethical to euthanize homo sapiens to control overpopulation.

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Posted: 13 December 2007 03:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Hello!

I’m new here (I’ll try to get a post up introducing myself soon).

I just listened to the podcast (I’ve been listening for some time now, and I’m a big fan of the both the show and Dawkins) and I’m was a bit amazed that I was really disturbed my some of the points Dawkins made.

When the discussion came up on how The God Delusion offer very little “sugar” on the meaning of our lives, Dawkins (after a while) says something about how we should be grateful to be alive and that being bored is an insult to everyone not born.

I was a bit offended by that statement since it shares so many common lines with the pro-life movement.

I feel that anything not being “born” (i.e. not existing) can’t have rights and hence, there is no one to actually offend or respect. In the same way you argue where to draw the line of existence (1 cell? 2? 4? a million?). What offended me really is that I think it is the wrong question to ask really. Being atheist I find that there is so much else to be grateful for that this kind of statements makes us no better than theists since we are supposed to be grateful / respectful / thankful to something that is non-existent.

This is my first post, so if this was the wrong part of the forum I sincerely apologize and I’d hate to flame in some way.

And to the makers of the show: thank you for something fantastic!

Regards,

J

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Posted: 13 December 2007 05:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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J - 13 December 2007 03:47 AM

When the discussion came up on how The God Delusion offer very little “sugar” on the meaning of our lives, Dawkins (after a while) says something about how we should be grateful to be alive and that being bored is an insult to everyone not born.

I was a bit offended by that statement since it shares so many common lines with the pro-life movement.

I feel that anything not being “born” (i.e. not existing) can’t have rights and hence, there is no one to actually offend or respect. In the same way you argue where to draw the line of existence (1 cell? 2? 4? a million?). What offended me really is that I think it is the wrong question to ask really. Being atheist I find that there is so much else to be grateful for that this kind of statements makes us no better than theists since we are supposed to be grateful / respectful / thankful to something that is non-existent.

Welcome to the forum, J!

FWIW, I was at the conference and heard his talk. You highlight a point Dawkins has made in other places; I see it as basically a rhetorical move on his part without real content. And you’ve nailed the reason why what he’s saying makes no real sense when you think about it. You can’t insult something nonexistent. It’s not like there are these souls-without-bodies floating around in some liminal space, waiting to be born.

To be fair to Dawkins, I think he would agree with what we’re saying. He’s just trying to make the point that there are many genetically possible human beings (= possible shufflings of DNA) that will never in fact be born. But really it’s sort of a banal point.

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Posted: 13 December 2007 08:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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I dont see the point as banal at all, unless you misunderstand it—I take Dawkins to (merely?) be saying how rare it is that we are alive, and to be calling for gratitude at our existence. Obviously, he isnt talking about the “rights” of the nonexistent not to be insulted. Instead, he is saying what Sagan and others have said—it is amazingly improbable that we should exist at all and so we should be grateful and live life fully, etc. I found the text he paraphrases from Unweaving the Rainbow to be very moving and inspiring, and see it as something of a guiding principle in my life.

Of course, Marcus Aurelius and others have made the similar point in the history of the western intellectual tradition, and I find it as inspiring when they do as well. Dawkins just says it more beautifully.

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"Few have the courage of their convictions. Fewer still have the courage for an attack on their convictions." - Nietzsche

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Posted: 13 December 2007 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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DJ Grothe - 13 December 2007 08:35 AM

... it is amazingly improbable that we should exist at all ...

But in what sense is that true? Are you identifying yourself with your DNA? Yes, it’s a low probability that precisely that genetic pattern turned up. (That is what I take Dawkins to mean; he’s said as much). But you aren’t identical to your DNA anyway, so the analogy doesn’t go through. And the low probability of a particular genetic pattern is banal.

In what other sense is this true—the sense that doesn’t make it banal?

I understand that one might say: “I am more than just my DNA, I’m a person with that DNA and this history.” And the probability of someone being born with just your DNA and your history is even lower. OK. So what?

The thought experiment as I see it is to say, basically, (and as I recall Dawkins has done), “Think of all those poor people who never get born, and how unlucky they are compared to you!”

But that’s just nonsense talk. Something nonexistent can’t be lucky or unlucky.

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Posted: 13 December 2007 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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I thought it was a very good interview. Reference the ‘animal rights’ side of things. Looking back, i became vegetarian at a similar age to when i identified myself as an atheist. I do not know if they were related in a functional way, but i do find it difficult to make a distinction between humans and (non-human) animals in a moral sense.

This does lead me to some strange moral positions. As an example, i was thinking of joining the british army (medical issues have so-far stopped me). I was trying to decide if i could bring myself to kill in the right circumstanses. I found that i would have more of a problem with the prospect of killing an animal for food, than I would for killing an enemy! The distiction being, that the enemy has CHOSEN to put himself in the situation he is in, where the animal simply is, and is not threat to me. I do not know what that says about me, although I would like to think i am a very moral person.

I am not special,
I am not a beautiful and unique snowflake…..

Ski.

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hmmmmm  π

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Posted: 13 December 2007 09:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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dougsmith - 13 December 2007 09:18 AM
DJ Grothe - 13 December 2007 08:35 AM

... it is amazingly improbable that we should exist at all ...

But in what sense is that true? Are you identifying yourself with your DNA? Yes, it’s a low probability that precisely that genetic pattern turned up. (That is what I take Dawkins to mean; he’s said as much). But you aren’t identical to your DNA anyway, so the analogy doesn’t go through. And the low probability of a particular genetic pattern is banal.

In what other sense is this true—the sense that doesn’t make it banal?

I understand that one might say: “I am more than just my DNA, I’m a person with that DNA and this history.” And the probability of someone being born with just your DNA and your history is even lower. OK. So what?

The thought experiment as I see it is to say, basically, (and as I recall Dawkins has done), “Think of all those poor people who never get born, and how unlucky they are compared to you!”

But that’s just nonsense talk. Something nonexistent can’t be lucky or unlucky.

Doug, of course he isnt saying literally that nonexistent entities are unlucky, any more than a nihilist saying it is luckier to never have been born in the first place would mean the never-existing would be literally lucky (a line supposedly from Asclepius if I remember).

Dawkins’ is obviously a more poetical point, and I take it as having great meaning. To be a literalist with Dawkins in the way you seem to be seems especially ungenerous and contrarian.

Look, we are exceedingly rare (on many counts) as far as we know. Dawkins is saying what Paul Kurtz, Sagan and others have said movingly: that in our rarity there is preciousness, and building on that, we should suck life dry for all its worth, be grateful, and not be bored with this fleeting life.

This is PK’s “exuberance” and Sagan’s “preciousness” of life. Thoreau, Marcus Aurelius and so many others also make this anti-nihilist point, and I find Dawkins’s flourish the best of the bunch.

To dismiss this kind of appreciation of the brute facticity of our existence as being “banal” because you are asking in what literal sense we’re “lucky” to be alive when those who have never been born are “unlucky” is to miss the point impressively—to imagine Dawkins saying things he clearly didnt say (that we are just our DNA, that nonexistent being have rights not to be insulted by our ingratitude at our actually living etc) misses the opportunity at the wonder and awe at our life that he, Sagan and others advocate.

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