Not quite sure what to make of your post here, George.
[quote author=“George Benedik”]BTW, I am not sure to which category Nickell belongs. His claims that von Daniken is “implicitly” (as Doug Smith has suggested) a racist and his phantas magoria explanation of the origins of Nazca lines (the ritualistic walking paths) are just pathetic.
You’ve made a similar claim before, but it is not backed up by any sort of argument. Why is his explanation “pathetic”? It may be speculative, but at least it is a speculation that makes sense given what we know of the culture. It also makes sense of the fact that these pictures are drawn with a single curved line. It also makes sense of the fact that each of these pictures includes long, straight, parallel entrance and exit lines: these would have been the ritual entrance and exit to the figure.
So what evidence do you have that Nickell’s explanation isn’t at least a plausible speculation?
[quote author=“George Benedik”]Now take Dawkins for example. “The Selfish Gene”: good. The “memes” theory: interesting. “The God Delusion”? It’ll probably be an embarrassment. Dawkins is a biologist, not a psychiatrist. Before criticizing the existence of religious believe, we need to understand why it exists to begin with and if we can do without it.
Since none of us have read Dawkins’s new book, how do you know he doesn’t deal with such issues?
And what do you mean “if we can do without it”? What is so important about religious belief that we might not be able to do without it?
It would certainly appear to me that there are many aspects of religious belief that it would be very well for us to “do without”: the notion of supernatural causation, of supernatural beings for which we have no evidence, that there are various ‘chosen peoples’, that there exists hell and damnation, et cetera.
[quote author=“George Benedik”]The mission of The Point of Inquiry tells us that it “seeks to promote among its listeners a thoroughly scientific outlook”. Just because you hate religion, it doesn’t give you a scientific outlook.
True, but there are a few issues here that we need to get clear on. First of all, ‘religion’ is a very big topic. There are some good aspects to religion, to begin with, it has produced some very fine artwork. So to be against religions in general isn’t to say that they are universally and always bad.
But I would say the bigger threat today is people who are unwilling to criticize religion for fear of being labeled “haters”. How often do you see people on television criticizing religion? How often, on the other hand, do you see people, in sports, in politics, etc., invoking their notions of god?
Also, the biggest threat to scientific inquiry in the world today is religious bigotry and intolerance. That has stifled research into contraception for decades. It stifles research into stem cells today. It stifles knowledge of evolution in schools. And we all know that in the past it arrested and burned people at the stake for doing research into the heavens.
So yes, I would say that a properly scientific outlook is going to involve at least some healthy skepticism about religious claims.
BTW, glad you enjoyed Neil Tyson’s talk. He’s great. If you want to read some of his views on the intersection between religion and science, read his wonderful essay The Perimeter of Ignorance .