Sunday, February 05, 2006

More Humor From Richard Dawkins

What is an article about intelligent design and macroevolutionary theory without some juicy quotes from Richard Dawkins? This guy never fails to make me laugh. He always strikes me as a ridiculous caricature of an atheist, but I think he really believes this stuff. Of course, it is the logical consequence of what he believes, and I respect the fact that he has the courage to say it:

"Anyone who chooses not to believe in evolution is ignorant, stupid or insane," said Dawkins, professor of public understanding of science at Oxford University.

Among religious people, Dawkins is known primarily not for his science but for his militant views on evolution's implications, especially as they pertain to religion in general and Christianity in particular. What beneficent creator, Darwin himself asked after his voyage of discovery to the Galapagos Islands in South America, would permit the sort of suffering so widespread in nature? "The God of the Galapagos is careless, wasteful, indifferent, almost diabolical," agreed the American philosopher David Hull, writing in the scientific journal Nature. "He is certainly not the sort of God to whom anyone would be inclined to pray."

. . .


"I honestly think it comes from being clear," he said. "Some people can't bear clarity . . . to say someone is ignorant is not insulting. I'm ignorant of baseball, and I wouldn't be insulted if someone said, 'You don't know what you are talking about.'

. . .


And evolutionary science has a great deal to say about ethics and morality, Dawkins said. Being "pro-life in debates on abortion or stem cell research always means pro-human life, for no sensibly articulated reason," he once wrote. The fact that humans think of themselves as altogether distinct from other animals -- and the biblical notion that humans have dominion over other animals -- is a sort of racism, Dawkins said. Evolution shows that fox hunters and bullfighters are tormenting their own distant cousins, which is why the biologist sends money to anti-bullfighting groups in Spain, and why he notes with pride that fox hunting was banned on the family farm. "The melancholy fact," Dawkins wrote in an essay called "Gaps in the Mind," "is that, at present, society's moral attitudes rest almost entirely on the . . . speciesist imperative."


Unlike Dawkins, I admit to being a "speciesist." On the other hand, (unlike Dawkins, arguably) I do my best to avoid anti-religious bigotry toward others in my own species.


29 Comments:

At February 05, 2006 10:50 AM, Blogger Hans said...

More humor still:Russell Stannard, a religious physicist and the British director of the fellowship where Lipton spoke to a group of journalists, bristled at the idea. "I can't see how a Christian can approach the New Testament as a novel," he said. "Whether there is a Resurrection or not is not the stuff of novels -- it is supposed to be historical fact."

 
At February 05, 2006 5:02 PM, Blogger Red Reader said...

Dawkins said:
"And evolutionary science has a great deal to say about ethics and morality, Dawkins said. Being "pro-life in debates on abortion or stem cell research always means pro-human life, for no sensibly articulated reason," he once wrote."

There are lots of political blogs out there. Liberal & conservative. How many realize that the *political* battle they are fighting--the polarization in politics, the intractable inability of left and right to work together--have their roots in the opposing views of origins?

Here Dawkins cavalierly expresses the underpinnings of Western Liberalism: for example, the "pro-life" position is absurd because it seeks to protect human life for "no sensibly articulated reason". In other words, humans are animals just like cows, fish, chickens, cockroaches: we kill them at will for our own pleasure and/or convenience.

Liberalism and Darwinism must be defeated. ID is on the front lines.

 
At February 06, 2006 10:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to see if Dawkins thought the same way if a member of his family temporarily got knocked off the top of the food chain, like say near a crocodile or shark.

"Oh well, one species is as good as another. Looks like Junior is not as evolved as I would like him to be."

 
At February 06, 2006 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a way it's not fair going after Dawkins, seeing how he pretty much always leads with his chin.

Still, much of the work being done by his colleagues in the medical sciences is nothing less than biological ethnic cleansing, as they seek to wipe out whole populations of "their own distant cousins."

Does Mr Dawkins also support the the Save the HIV Foundation? Where does a good, moral naturalist draw the line?

 
At February 06, 2006 7:48 PM, Blogger Vargas said...

They don't. Why should there be a line for them? (their reasoning, not mine) People who lull themselves into thinking wanton destruction of human life is fine will cross any boundary drawn in front of them.

 
At February 06, 2006 9:28 PM, Blogger stewie said...

I've never understood the imperative that humans hold some sort of dominion over all other species. It's arrogant, and wrong. If we were to select a species to extinct by the greatest environmental benefit to the planet, the choice would clearly be humans.

What's wrong with admitting you're a member of the kingdom animalia? You have all the parts of a primate, and that's what you are. If you have kids, they're animals and primates too. So are your friends. This is somehow wrong? Because of religion? No... the creed that disputes fact is wrong.

 
At February 07, 2006 9:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we were to select a species to extinct by the greatest environmental benefit to the planet, the choice would clearly be humans.

I hope you believe this for yourself instead of just for other people. That way, you can provide solid evidence that Darwin was correct. Those who believe as you do will be bred out of existence, leaving the truly fit more resources and living space.

 
At February 07, 2006 12:14 PM, Anonymous Steve said...

"I've never understood the imperative that humans hold some sort of dominion over all other species. It's arrogant, and wrong."

We are at the top of the food chain Stewie. That gives us dominion over all. When Lions and Tigers learn how to shoot guns and such then maybe they can compete with us.

"What's wrong with admitting you're a member of the kingdom animalia? You have all the parts of a primate, and that's what you are. If you have kids, they're animals and primates too. So are your friends. This is somehow wrong? Because of religion?"

We don't deny we are animals, just that they have the same rights as humans. What does that have to do with religion? Yes the Bible says God gave us dominion over all animals, but wouldn't Evolution do the same? Does our intelligents not qualify in the Evolution process? Survival of the fittest Stewie!

 
At February 08, 2006 5:10 PM, Anonymous Farshad said...

the must funny thing about Dawkins is the famous icon he used in his website. A sequence showing evolution of the Eye. A nonsense which any engineer like me would laugh at it loudly. He believes in a nature that can randomly create A flexible Lens, a 10 MegaPixel Retina(RGB Color), The most advanced Image Processor u can imagine just out of thin air. Well the only mechanism is mutation and selection. What a fairytale.

 
At February 10, 2006 5:20 AM, Blogger Sean said...

We are at the top of the food chain Stewie. That gives us dominion over all. When Lions and Tigers learn how to shoot guns and such then maybe they can compete with us.

No, that gives us the greatest responsibility of them all. We have the ability to shoot all the lions and tigers, but should we?

That's retorical, of course.

 
At February 10, 2006 5:23 AM, Blogger Sean said...

He believes in a nature that can randomly create A flexible Lens, a 10 MegaPixel Retina(RGB Color), The most advanced Image Processor u can imagine just out of thin air.

Um, no.

He believes it was evolved. Big difference.

Funnily enough, it's those who believe in design that say your eye is created out of thin air.

Sean (another engineer).

 
At February 10, 2006 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, that gives us the greatest responsibility of them all.

Who says we have any responsibility to any species but our own? Surely not Darwin. I remember some passages in some silly old religious book telling us we are responsible for the care of the earth and the lesser species among us, but our knowledge has advanced far beyond such fairy tales, hasn't it?


We have the ability to shoot all the lions and tigers, but should we?

Why shouldn't we? What have lions and tigers done for us, besides entertain us in zoos and circuses? If one species is no more valuable than another, then the most powerful species (ours) may do whatever it wants. This is only natural, right?


That's retorical, of course.

Rhetorical or not, it shows inconsistency in your pattern of thought. You seem to have vestiges of hoary old superstitions roaming around in your head, but you overlook them to point out perceived flaws in others' reasoning. Purge yourself of cognitive dissonance and try again.

 
At February 10, 2006 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funnily enough, it's those who believe in design that say your eye is created out of thin air.

That's what the fossil record seems to show.

Just because you and others like you believe otherwise doesn't magically make evidence of it appear. Science can make guesses, but it cannot label them as absolute truth until absolutely conclusive evidence is shown.

Labeling guesswork and fantasy as truth and rebuking those who say otherwise is dogmatic.

 
At February 10, 2006 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sean,

I don't think having dominion over something implies abuse. I am merely stating that we are the dominate spiecies. Somehow Stewie thinks that is arrogant and wrong. It's merely the truth, whether you believe in Evolution or Creation. I love animals, I just don't hold them to the same standard as humans. Like PETA! Now thats wrong.

 
At February 11, 2006 12:06 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Sean: Funnily enough, it's those who believe in design that say your eye is created out of thin air.

Anon: That's what the fossil record seems to show.


Interesting comment, Anon. Let's unpack that a little.

Conjecture: the fossil record shows that the eye was created out of thin air.

Does it? Or would it be more accurate to say that the fossil record contains a bunch of rocks in the shape of dead creatures, and that people bring their own interpretations on it.

You see, the thing about the fossil record is that it contains a bunch of fossils whose number is really only a drop in the ocean of the amount of life and species that have lived on earth. Everything else is educated guesswork.

Let's face it: how many fossilised dinosaur eyes do we have? It's a fleshy organ that might leave a small geological impression over time, but we have no idea on its details.

Then I guess the answer is no, the fossil record has no record of the development of the eye.

But if that's the right attitude to have, then we might as well say that according to the fossil record all past life on earth were skeletons that lived under the ground.

So, the fossil record might have little to say directly on the subject of eyes, and the evolution there of.

But there is also the so-called Just-So-Story of Darwin's transitional model of the eye (http://www.origins.tv/darwin/eyes.htm)

Guess work in conjuction with elements from the fossil record, but also existing animals, like snail, slugs, and other types of molluscs.

Just because the evidence isn't directly there doesn't mean that you can't make inferences (in accordance to theory) on what is there.

 
At February 11, 2006 12:21 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Sean: That's retorical, of course.

Anon: Rhetorical or not, it shows inconsistency in your pattern of thought.


Huh? Could you run that past me again? I don't understand how I'm being inconsistant! (Seriously.)

Just to pre-empt you: is it because of this notion that belief in evolution also means belief that life is a moral-less, God-less mess?

Am I being inconsistant (and even a hypocrite) in believing in evolution and lamenting the fate of lions and tigers and bears?

 
At February 11, 2006 12:26 AM, Blogger Sean said...

I love animals, I just don't hold them to the same standard as humans. Like PETA! Now thats wrong.

Fair enough, Anon. I gotta say, I do love ham!

Just on another note, why are their so many anonymous commentors here? I just feel I've replied back to either one person with three personalities, or there is a room out there full of people avoiding each other's gaze and not wanting to introduce themselves!

 
At February 11, 2006 2:11 PM, Anonymous John said...

Just on another note, why are their so many anonymous commentors here?

Apologies for that. I was unfamiliar with this tiered type of commenting system.

My previous comments were at 10:11 a.m., 9:00 a.m. (response to stewie), 9:02 a.m. and 9:25 a.m. (responses to you).


Interesting comment, Anon. Let's unpack that a little.

[paragraphs about inference from fossil record gaps]


Inference is not absolute truth. To rephrase what I wrote before, labeling inference as absolute truth and rebuking those who say otherwise is dogmatic.


Huh? Could you run that past me again? I don't understand how I'm being inconsistant! (Seriously.)

Let me explain your inconsistency.

You haven't suggested that Dawkins is wrong about this issue, so we can infer that you agree with his stance.

You say we have some sort of responsibility to other species. This is a religious belief, no matter how vestigial that belief may be, since it is completely unsupported by science in general and Darwin in particular.

Dawkins has espoused this strange idea that we humans should not dominate other species, which is practically a religious belief. This is inconsistent with his being a professed anti-religionist and Darwin proponent.

If you agree with his personal anti-religion philosophy and also believe that we have some responsibility to other species, you are likewise inconsistent.


Just to pre-empt you: is it because of this notion that belief in evolution also means belief that life is a moral-less, God-less mess?

Evolution is amoral. If it is the only guiding principle in your life, then indeed your life is most likely a "moral-less" mess. "God-less" is optional, since (as very few atheists know) there can be religion without a belief in deities.

 
At February 12, 2006 6:40 AM, Blogger Sean said...

John,

You say we have some sort of responsibility to other species. This is a religious belief, no matter how vestigial that belief may be, since it is completely unsupported by science in general and Darwin in particular.

What a ridiculous notion. Compassion is a religious belief?! I can have compassion without being religious. The world isn't black and white "what isn't science must be religion." You should take a philosophy class and read up on Socrates.

Evolution is amoral. If it is the only guiding principle in your life, then indeed your life is most likely a "moral-less" mess.

Evolution is amoral in the same way the second law of thermodynamics is amoral. (Entropy doesn't give a damn about good or bad; it just keeps on increasing...)

You would use evolution as a guiding principle in your life the same way you would use the second law of thermodynamics as a guiding principle in your life. How? Easy: you wouldn't! Evolution and the second law are explanations of what we observe in the universe. They aren't moral codes!

I believe in evolution, which is not the same as using it as a guiding principle of life. That's just dumb!

You and I have incredibly evolved brains that we can use to discover the world and think for ourselves.

For instance, I don't need fear that God will send me to hell to stop me from leading a hedonistic life. A hedonistic life is shallow, base, and unfufilling.

What drives me is the desire to be a better man. There's no manual for this, so I do the best I can by studying the works of other people - philosophers mainly. For instance, of particular interest to me at the moment is Joseph Campbell's "Hero with a thousand faces." I encourage you to read it.

I could go on espousing my personal philosophies, but I don't want to preach.

By-the-bye, how old are you?

 
At February 12, 2006 10:51 PM, Anonymous John said...

What a ridiculous notion. Compassion is a religious belief?! I can have compassion without being religious. The world isn't black and white "what isn't science must be religion." You should take a philosophy class and read up on Socrates.

You mean Plato, supposedly quoting Socrates.

What is your reason for being compassionate towards species that are of no benefit to you? Because that's the "right" thing to do? Because it would be "wrong" to do otherwise? Who says, Plato? He was a man just like any other man. Why listen to him? Can't you think for yourself?


Evolution is amoral in the same way the second law of thermodynamics is amoral.

[Other denials about Darwinism's encroachment on philosophy and theology]


"The second law of thermodynamics made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist."

Nope, doesn't have the same ring to it. I trust you know the actual quote and its author.


You and I have incredibly evolved brains that we can use to discover the world and think for ourselves.

Bingo. Think for yourself.

Why should we "discover the world"? What possible use could that be to a bunch of animals, dominant though they may be?


For instance, I don't need fear that God will send me to hell to stop me from leading a hedonistic life. A hedonistic life is shallow, base, and unfufilling.


I don't care what you think about an imaginary place.

Why is a hedonistic life shallow, base, and unfulfilling? Is this not the life that is prescribed for us by the fact that we are merely animals, as stewie said? Is it not fulfilling to simply survive long enough to reproduce?


What drives me is the desire to be a better man. There's no manual for this, so I do the best I can by studying the works of other people - philosophers mainly.

There is no "better", because as you and Dawkins (and most existentialist philosophers) believe, life is inherently directionless and purposeless. There is no good and no bad, so you cannot become a better man. You are an animal, just like all other animals.

Philosophers are human, who are also animals. Why listen to them? Why can't you think for yourself?


By-the-bye, how old are you?

Born yesterday, thanks for asking.

 
At February 12, 2006 10:55 PM, Anonymous John said...

By the way, Plato believed in humans having souls, invisible men in the sky, and whatnot. Why should I believe anything he wrote? I'd rather think for myself, thanks.

 
At February 13, 2006 12:07 AM, Blogger Sean said...

By the way, Plato believed in humans having souls, invisible men in the sky, and whatnot. Why should I believe anything he wrote? I'd rather think for myself, thanks.

I'm betting you're 18 to 22 years old.

 
At February 13, 2006 4:12 AM, Anonymous Farshad said...

Funnily enough, it's those who believe in design that say your eye is created out of thin air.

Not created out of thin air but designed by intervention of a pure intelligence who is aware of all details of optics, RGB color decoding techniques and advanced image processing.

But what Dawkins says about eye or in general macroevolution is a funny story for true believers of neo darwinism.

The reason is that their mutation selection mechanism is too vague and again is a theory produced out of thin air.

The Neo Darwinists understand that they need to prove any possible macroevolutionary step using the random mutation and selection fable. Otherwise they have to open a door to metaphysics. Metaphysics is the last thing they want to hear about so they must insist on their mutation thing in cost of advocating any possible nonsense.

They just assume:
1-Bad mutations simply just don't happen or they are rare! (Magic?)

2-Most of mutations are neutral?
Any mathematica model proving this? No!
(Magic again?)

3-They ignore the fact if there are enough good mutaions to drive macroevolution engine, then the number of bad mutations must also be billions of time more than good ones, so in reality bad mutaions would very soon cease the life to exist at first place instead of evolving it to any direction.

4- They assume good mutations always happen at right place, just in time and correct order. (Are we living in a magical world?)

5-The igonre the problem of intermediate design. Any engineer knows that a design task takes many small steps which has no advantage or meaning until the step is totally completed. Since macroevolution believes things must have happened in many tiny steps, how nature can understand the intermediate steps are going to be useful or not?
How nature can figure out a randomly generated non-functional muscle attached to the Lens must be enhanced to perform the focus function in the future?
If we assume those muscles just appeared in correct place, having a correct size, direction, order and being functional just in one step then again you are opening a wide door to improbability and magic.

However neo-darwinism still will insist to go forward and suggest imaginary new models or in general just-so stories.

Are there any empirical mathematical proof or sofware models to prove such a nonsense like macroevolution of the eye? of course not! It is just what Dawkins and in general neo darwinists tucked away in science.

Farshad

 
At February 13, 2006 6:42 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Farshad,

I'm not going to convince you and you're not going to convince me.

But I will make a couple of points.

Read Dawkins. Go and get his books and read them. They can be a bit heavy in places, but I can recommend The Devil's Chaplin for a good selection of his short works.

Many of the problems you present here have been refuted by him and others long before today.

I know, that's a cop out. But he's said it better than what I can sum it up in several sentences.

Also, consider approaching the problem from a biology perspective to help consider how particular systems that may have one function, my have had other functions several iterations ago.

Good luck!

But for my own curiosity, what do you believe? When do you see the designer doing his stuff? How does he fit in to the history of the universe?
(Serious question for you...not rhetorical, snide remarks. I want to know your opinion!)

 
At February 13, 2006 7:16 AM, Blogger Sean said...

John,

A quick philosophy lesson for you:

o Socrates had this perculiar habit in the street of Athens where he went up to random people and asked them questions like "What is your opinion on love?" and "Do you think justice exists?"

He challenged people to think and question assumptions.

[Probably why they eventually executed him, but that's another story!]

o Existentialist philosophers do not believe "life is inherently directionless and purposeless." They believe that there is no predefined essence to humanity except that which people make themselves.

Life is what you make it, morals and all.

(Where did you get your definition from?)


Which brings me neatly to:

o Dawkins said "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist" not because evolution was a good guiding principle to life. He said it because Darwin's theory removed the Ark, removed Genesis, removed all of the
of the Bible.

With a clean slate, the existential philosopher could then define some essence to their life.

Evolution means there isn't a God to to behold, so what now? Well, with their highly evolved brains they could make up their own minds.

So, repeat after me: Evolution is not a guiding principle to life! It's how we came to be, but not what we should be.

Oh, and speaking of philosophers:

o Yes, philosophers are human. (Well, most of them...) And they write about aspects of the human condition that other people may not have thought about before. Also, there are many great thinking tricks you can learn from them. For instance, I love Plato's Cave, the Vege-O-Matic of metaphors...it slices! it dices!

So, dude, don't be so hard on them! ;)

Personally, I like to take the highly evolved brain of mine, feed it with some great writing from philosophers and thinkers through the ages, and, like you say, do some thinking for myself.

Man, it's good to be human and beat those primary urges of mine! You know the ones that I mean: the thoughts that leak out just above our brainstem in the areas decended from our reptillian ancestors of ours. I love being human!

(So, am I right about your age?)

 
At February 13, 2006 8:03 AM, Anonymous Farshad said...

Sean,

Well I've read Dawkins. His works are based on scientific way of wishful thinking. The problem is that he starts his assumptions with a huge prejudice: "since there is no intelligent intervention from outside the neo darwinism and all of its aspects must be true"

neo darwinism always fail when it is challanged on a probabilistic and statistical ground.

Well If you are an engineer I strongly recommmend you to read the books:
"Mathematics of Evolution" by Fred Hoyle.
"Shattering the myths of Darwinism" by Richard Milton

The big question here is not "Who was the designer?" For me the right questions are "1)Is life a design? or 2)Is it here as a result of natural forces?"

For me the correct answer is YES for the first one and NO for the second.

After this point I'm free to believe in anything I want. Gods, Panspermia or even the famous Spaghetti Monster.

It can be said that believing in Spaghetti Monster is as sensible as the notion that human is evolved from bacteria.

Good luck,

 
At February 13, 2006 10:47 AM, Anonymous John said...

I'm betting you're 18 to 22 years old.

Enlighten me on how my age is relevant to anything we are discussing. You act like you're trolling for a date. Sorry, can't help you there. Hetero, married, two kids.

You avoided explaining why you revere some superstitious old man who wrote about immaterial souls and gods back in an age that has no relevance to our current times. That's the kind of thing those ignorant bible-thumpers do: believing what was written by some superstitious old men back in an ancient, irrelevant period.

That's not thinking for yourself, obviously.


Existentialist philosophers do not believe "life is inherently directionless and purposeless." They believe that there is no predefined essence to humanity except that which people make themselves.

inherent: built-in: existing as an essential constituent or characteristic.

Rephrasing of my comment using definition: "Life has no built-in direction or purpose."

Your phrasing: "there is no predefined essence to humanity. Life is what you make it, morals and all."

Contrary to what you claim, our definitions are congruent. Thinking for yourself doesn't seem to be working out for you.


Dawkins said "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist" not because evolution was a good guiding principle to life.

[More examples of Darwinian evolution's impact on philosophy and theology, with self-contradictory denials of its impact on philosophy and theology]

Your cognitive dissonance is, once again, unconvincing.


Personally, I like to take the highly evolved brain of mine, feed it with some great writing from philosophers and thinkers through the ages, and, like you say, do some thinking for myself.

Your brain has not evolved enough to purge itself of contradictory thoughts.

You cannot tell others to disbelieve superstitious old men who wrote things in an ancient, irrelevant age when you yourself believe superstitious old men who wrote things in an ancient, irrelevant age.

Evolve. Think for yourself.


Man, it's good to be human and beat those primary urges of mine! You know the ones that I mean: the thoughts that leak out just above our brainstem in the areas decended from our reptillian ancestors of ours. I love being human!

You imply that being human is better than being some sort of other animal. This, according to Dawkins, smacks of "speciesist imperative". Make up your mind on whether you agree with Dawkins or not.

 
At February 13, 2006 3:26 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Your phrasing: "there is no predefined essence to humanity. Life is what you make it, morals and all."

Contrary to what you claim, our definitions are congruent.


Except, John, you missed the second bit:

"They believe that there is no predefined essence to humanity except that which people make themselves."

Remember that bit, and everything else I've written stops being "cognitively dissodent".

And don't worry, I'm not trawling for a date! :) There is something in your tone of argument that suggests you are in that age bracket.

 
At February 13, 2006 3:38 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Farshad,

Thanks for the references. I'll look them up.

I think the crux of it lies here:

neo darwinism always fail when it is challanged on a probabilistic and statistical ground.

I think statistics is the incorrect way of looking at it, which I've read somewhere but can't remember where, so I'll have to look that up. Cop out, I know...

The big question here is not "Who was the designer?" For me the right questions are "1)Is life a design? or 2)Is it here as a result of natural forces?"

For me the correct answer is YES for the first one and NO for the second.

After this point I'm free to believe in anything I want. Gods, Panspermia or even the famous Spaghetti Monster.


Here's the bit that gets me, and the bit that I haven't yet got an answer for, yet.

Part of it is in this comment I left a few weeks back about how ID sit in the rest of scientific theory.

Cheers,

Sean

 

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