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Richard Dawkins - Science and the New Atheism
Posted: 13 December 2007 09:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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LOL

I certainly agree that life is precious, both in the sense that our own life does not last long, and that the lives of those we love does not last long. We should enjoy life, accept it exuberantly as Kurtz says so eloquently, etc.

And I have time and again been an enthusiastic supporter of Sagan, Druyan and Tyson’s overtly “spiritualist” view of the universe, looking at it with wonder and awe!

So I think we’re probably talking past one another here, DJ. What can I say? Maybe I have a tin ear for the poetry when it comes to this point of Dawkins, but I think honestly it’s the philosopher in me. The point that he’s making is incoherent in that instance, as J noted.

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Posted: 13 December 2007 09:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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SkiCarver - 13 December 2007 09:20 AM

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.

I agree with your point about being related to animals in a “moral sense.”  I very much appreciate your point about getting into vegetarianism as simultaneously to your identification as an atheist.  I have been non-religious much longer than I have been a vegetarian, but I do find there to be remarkable parallels between the thinking that led me to stop eating animals and the thinking that led me into the world of humanist thought (which happened much later than my abandonment of “god” ideas).  Clearly, the removal of a single arbiter of moral authority, or god, also means unraveling much of the stratification of moral value that stems down through clerics to common folk to the rest of the animal kingdom, which is placed at bottom.  It is in the exploration of myself as being responsible for my own moral choices, and the weighing of my actions in relation to others and to nature, that I made the decision that I didn’t want to hurt others.  It was a rather simple next step to include other species in the “as others” category.

SkiCarver - 13 December 2007 09:20 AM

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

I think that you are special, beautiful and unique.  Indeed.

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Posted: 13 December 2007 09:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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Nod. But I took J’s post to be an understandable misunderstanding (conflating) of “those who have never lived” with “the unborn”—one means all the class of people or almost-people who were conceived but aborted and the other means those who havent even been conceived. What got J’s hackles up was how similar he took Dawkins point to be wit the right-to-lifers. So in that sense we may be talking past one another.

But your back and forth with me wasnt about abortion rights but about the poetical use of the term “lucky to be alive.” And based on what you just said, we agree there—we are “lucky” to be alive and should live life fully etc.. You seem to mostly just object to Dawkins’ rhetorical point about luck, and when it comes to poetry as in most other forms of art, de gustubus non disputandem est..

I still find that introductory passage one of the most moving summations of life’s rarity and preciousness and found it moving when I read it in the 90s and still do today. Unweaving the Rainbow is my favorite book that came at a great time for me personally, so I am biased.

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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 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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dmoreau - 12 December 2007 09:41 PM

For me, I have no problem with people eating whatever they can afford when they don’t have the income to do otherwise.

I don’t either dmoreau.  Which people in the “third world” are you referring to?  Or do you think that there are Americans who can not afford to be vegetarians?

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Posted: 13 December 2007 10:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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Right, DJ, only I wouldn’t call J’s point a misunderstanding. I mean, s/he is aware that Dawkins is not a pro-lifer. What s/he is saying is that Dawkins is playing the same sort of nonsensical metaphysical game that some pro-lifers do; he’s serving the ball up in their court, as it were.

Just to be clear, I am a big fan of Dawkins’s style generally, and also loved his book Unweaving the Rainbow. But I do recall when reading that book before that the same issue came up for me in the back of my mind. It just rang false for me. He says:

Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born.

To be a philosophical pedant for a moment, this is either trivial (banal) or false. Trivially, however you count possibility, there are many possible persons who will not be actual. But we have no moral obligation towards nonexistent entities.

And of course it’s false to think of these nonexistent “people” as existing somewhere, longing to be born. But it seems to me that one has to be thinking as if there were such unhappy folks out there somewhere in order to make Dawkins’s point gripping.

De gustibus non disputandem est, yes, or chacon a son gôut.

wink

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Posted: 13 December 2007 10:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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erasmusinfinity -
[quote author="SkiCarver" date="1197580820">

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

I think that you are special, beautiful and unique.  Indeed.

EI,

It is a quote from the film “fight club”. It was intended to juxtapose with my comments about looking for understanding on a personal level.

Hey, I’m dyslexic, I do try and “rite goood” but it is not easy!

Ski.

edited to fix formatting

[ Edited: 13 December 2007 10:10 AM by SkiCarver ]
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Posted: 13 December 2007 10:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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erasmusinfinity - 13 December 2007 09:56 AM
dmoreau - 12 December 2007 09:41 PM

For me, I have no problem with people eating whatever they can afford when they don’t have the income to do otherwise.

I don’t either dmoreau.  Which people in the “third world” are you referring to?  Or do you think that there are Americans who can not afford to be vegetarians?

As a vege, i too have little problem with people eating meat if the need to. It is interesting that we (as a society) may need to dramatically cut down on our consumption of meat, both from the perspective of land use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Ski.

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Posted: 13 December 2007 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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SkiCarver - 13 December 2007 10:12 AM
erasmusinfinity - 13 December 2007 09:56 AM
dmoreau - 12 December 2007 09:41 PM

For me, I have no problem with people eating whatever they can afford when they don’t have the income to do otherwise.

I don’t either dmoreau.  Which people in the “third world” are you referring to?  Or do you think that there are Americans who can not afford to be vegetarians?

As a vege, i too have little problem with people eating meat if the need to. It is interesting that we (as a society) may need to dramatically cut down on our consumption of meat, both from the perspective of land use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Ski.

As a vegan/skeptic/atheist of many years, I have little problem with people eating meat—including other Homo sapiensif need be. I’m not speciesist when it comes to meat eating. However, the fact is that very few people in Western industrialized nations need to eat meat for anything other than the satiation of their palates. There are many compelling and rational arguments for moving towards a plant- rather than meat-based diet, not the least of which is the enormous contribution of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (a.k.a, factory farms) to the production of greenhouse gases. See, for example, this article from the October 2007 Los Angeles Times, or this article from the February BBC online, or have a look at Peter Singer/James Mason’s recent book The Way We Eat.

And as I mentioned in an earlier post, I highly recommend having a look at James Rachels’ Created From Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism for an extended, sustained, and powerful argument of the form that Singer and Dawkins were getting at in the last few minutes of the podcast.

[ Edited: 13 December 2007 11:11 AM by rcjones ]
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Posted: 13 December 2007 11:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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rcjones - 13 December 2007 10:51 AM
SkiCarver - 13 December 2007 10:12 AM
erasmusinfinity - 13 December 2007 09:56 AM
dmoreau - 12 December 2007 09:41 PM

For me, I have no problem with people eating whatever they can afford when they don’t have the income to do otherwise.

I don’t either dmoreau.  Which people in the “third world” are you referring to?  Or do you think that there are Americans who can not afford to be vegetarians?

As a vege, i too have little problem with people eating meat if the need to. It is interesting that we (as a society) may need to dramatically cut down on our consumption of meat, both from the perspective of land use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Ski.

As a vegan/skeptic/atheist of many years, I have little problem with people eating meat—including other Homo sapiensif need be. I’m not speciesist when it comes to meat eating. The fact is that very few people in Western industrialized nations need to eat meat for anything other than the satiation of their palates. There are many compelling and rational arguments for moving towards a plant- rather than meat-based diet, not the least of which is the enormous contribution of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (a.k.a, factory farms) to the production of greenhouse gases.

I would suggest that eating humans should only be considered if you are going to die otherwise. There are HUGE desiese risks associated with any animal eating members of its own species. examples include, BSE (cows being fed cows), kuru (or however it is spelt) wiped out an indonesian tribe who practiced canibalism, Aids (from eating a related species)....

Ski.

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Posted: 13 December 2007 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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SkiCarver - 13 December 2007 11:05 AM
rcjones - 13 December 2007 10:51 AM
SkiCarver - 13 December 2007 10:12 AM
erasmusinfinity - 13 December 2007 09:56 AM
dmoreau - 12 December 2007 09:41 PM

For me, I have no problem with people eating whatever they can afford when they don’t have the income to do otherwise.

I don’t either dmoreau.  Which people in the “third world” are you referring to?  Or do you think that there are Americans who can not afford to be vegetarians?

As a vege, i too have little problem with people eating meat if the need to. It is interesting that we (as a society) may need to dramatically cut down on our consumption of meat, both from the perspective of land use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Ski.

As a vegan/skeptic/atheist of many years, I have little problem with people eating meat—including other Homo sapiensif need be. I’m not speciesist when it comes to meat eating. The fact is that very few people in Western industrialized nations need to eat meat for anything other than the satiation of their palates. There are many compelling and rational arguments for moving towards a plant- rather than meat-based diet, not the least of which is the enormous contribution of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (a.k.a, factory farms) to the production of greenhouse gases.

I would suggest that eating humans should only be considered if you are going to die otherwise. There are HUGE desiese risks associated with any animal eating members of its own species. examples include, BSE (cows being fed cows), kuru (or however it is spelt) wiped out an indonesian tribe who practiced canibalism, Aids (from eating a related species)....

Ski.

Agreed, Ski, but on pragmatic not ethical grounds.

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Posted: 13 December 2007 06:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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DJ Grothe - 13 December 2007 08:35 AM

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.

I agree with D.J. and I think Doug is making an ad hominem argument with a circular flavor (calling things banal is itself banal?)
I also think Dawkin’s point was clearly that we don’t need a God to appreciate life.

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Posted: 13 December 2007 08:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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Jackson - 13 December 2007 06:17 PM

I agree with D.J. and I think Doug is making an ad hominem argument with a circular flavor (calling things banal is itself banal?)
I also think Dawkin’s point was clearly that we don’t need a God to appreciate life.

Ad hominem? Do you know what that means? Neither I nor J was talking at all about Dawkins the person ... (And in fact I respect him very much!)

And I certainly agree with the point that we don’t need a God to appreciate life. I’m happy to argue on the merits, but I’m not convinced you’ve read what we had to say.

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Posted: 13 December 2007 08:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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SkiCarver - 13 December 2007 11:05 AM

I would suggest that eating humans should only be considered if you are going to die otherwise. There are HUGE desiese risks associated with any animal eating members of its own species. examples include, BSE (cows being fed cows), kuru (or however it is spelt) wiped out an indonesian tribe who practiced canibalism, Aids (from eating a related species)....

Yes, there are also enormous health risks involved in people eating other species of animals, particularly mammals.  Diseases, coronary, liver, kidney, stomach and intestinal issues, etc.  And as with humans, of course, its not very nice to be killed, chopped up, cooked and eaten (and in many cases tortured gruelingly for the whole of one’s life).  So I think that it would be tough to rationally argue that it could be ethical in some way.

Say, since we’re on the topic, have any of you all seen the film Earthlings?  If you are a meat eater and can stomach watching it, you’ll never eat meat again.

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Posted: 13 December 2007 09:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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dougsmith - 13 December 2007 08:10 PM
Jackson - 13 December 2007 06:17 PM

I agree with D.J. and I think Doug is making an ad hominem argument with a circular flavor (calling things banal is itself banal?)
I also think Dawkin’s point was clearly that we don’t need a God to appreciate life.

Ad hominem? Do you know what that means?

Sorry to ruffle feathers.
I realize you are a fan of Dawkins and are just trying with best intentions to explain your point of view. 

I think these sections of Dawkins books lend themselves to individual interpretations (I think that’s a point you & D.J. made too). When Dawkins said “Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born”, I personally didn’t think he was pointing at obligations to the unborn.  I thought he was trying to emphasize in a slightly different way the appreciation for life and its opportunities, and that somewhat paradoxically the fact that our lives are finite makes them more precious. 

I do appreciate the thoughtful comments on this forum; they’ve been helpful to me.

[ Edited: 13 December 2007 10:24 PM by Jackson ]
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Posted: 14 December 2007 02:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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DJ Grothe - 13 December 2007 08:35 AM

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.

Hi DJ,

I’ve been thinking about the connection I see between what Dawkins said about this and vegetarianism. Most animals we eat are farmed animals and would not exist if we did not eat them.

Assuming Dawkins is right then it seems to follow that to think it is wrong to eat farmed animals, we need to think it would be better if they didn’t exist and that they are not lucky to have the life they have.

If they are kept in bad conditions and suffer a great deal at the end of their life perhaps that’s true but then we would have to concede that many humans are not lucky to exist either.

Stephen

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