Creationism/Evolution Debate

Discuss literature (e.g. books, newspapers), educational studies (getting help or opinions on homework or an essay), and philosophy.

Re: Creationism/Evolution Debate

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Tue Dec 09, 2014 4:26 am

James wrote:
WeiWenDi wrote:But I do sadly have experience enough to say that personally, sex outside of a committed relationship, preferably marriage, is not emotionally healthy for anybody involved. The few sexual relationships I was in before my marriage were all total emotional wrecks, and the one partner I had who I came off respecting afterward was the one who insisted on not going further than making out. I'm not going to comment on what other people for what they do in private, but don't try telling me sex outside of marriage is 'healthy'. It's really not.

Hmm... have to disagree in part here. Sex outside marriage is certainly more likely to produce a destructive result because it is a potentially emotionally engaging action with possible physical consequences introduced into an immature relationship. That necessarily creates greater risk than what would be the case in an established relationship (signing a piece of paper and corresponding legal parameters not required).

But it can also be just as (or even more) enriching depending on the emotional maturity (and other flavors of maturity) of those involved. And it can contribute in other ways not necessarily endorsed by religious views—emotional health, enjoyment, pleasure. And I'd add that it can also be enriching in the context of developing emotional maturity for a committed relationship. It can apply in even base levels. Having that experience with some emotional maturity can help a person to focus more on other aspects of a relationship when deciding marriage is appropriate.

But, hey, YMMV. Another person is abandoned financially destitute and pregnant.

- - -

That said, the discussion on the subject of sex inside/outside marriage should probably in its own topic. Yes? Maybe one of these, or a new one? 'Sex and Relationships'?


Good advice, per usual!

My reply to the pertinent above posts is here.
Some more blood, Chekov. The needle won't hurt, Chekov. Take off your shirt, Chekov. Roll over, Chekov. Breathe deeply, Chekov. Blood sample, Chekov! Marrow sample, Chekov! Skin sample, Chekov! If I live long enough... I'm going to run out of samples.
User avatar
WeiWenDi
Hedgehog Emperor
 
Posts: 3828
Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:09 am
Location: L'Étoile du Nord

Re: Creationism/Evolution Debate

Unread postby James » Thu Dec 11, 2014 8:00 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:With regard to religion, because religion asks one to ask very different questions, one has to ask not: 'is it statistically probable that X will result from Y', but rather 'is X consistent with what we understand or intuit about the human condition', operating under the assumptions that: a.) there is such a thing as 'the human condition', and b.) that X has anything meaningful to do with it. I realise that this is getting fairly philosophical, but these topics are unavoidably philosophical.

If you place a great deal of significance that human existence is, in the grand scope of the affairs of the universe, insignificant, then you're simply never going to agree with proposition b.). But even for many scientists who have studied natural history and evolution, and who contributed more than anyone else to the appreciation of the scope of the universe and the fragility of the human place in it - notably Alfred Russel Wallace - proposition b.) was never completely out-of-the-question. (For which, interestingly, he was ruthlessly and somewhat unfairly mocked by one Samuel L Clemens.)

I think philosophy and philosophical debate do have great value, but in my experience it can very quickly muddy concepts which really aren't all that complicated, and I believe this is one of those cases. For example, I believe any system which asks (whether itself or as a product of choices made by a student of that system) someone to avoid the question of 'is this belief probable—how probable?' is one which will inherently mislead. Probability should never be the only evidence used, but as probability diminishes the amount of evidence needed to support a claim should increase.

Or, in the words of some other assorted peeps:
"An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof." –Marcello Truzzi
"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" –Carl Sagan
"The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness." –Pierre Simon Laplace
"A wise man ... proportions his belief to the evidence", and "No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish." – David Hume

Even something we can 'intuit from the human condition' should be subject to probability. And, in my opinion, this doesn't really change my fundamental argument. It's enough to define a creative force. But once we start to make assumptions about that creative force? For example, any argument born of the perception that humans are the most advanced creatures, and thus, the most closely connected to this creator. Just as surely as there are small creatures which exist on a scale we cannot be perceived, there may be life existing on a scale humans cannot perceive. There may be similar life elsewhere in the universe. Or simply, other life, more advanced or less. Some scientists have argued for its improbability, but it seems shortsighted to me (and indeed, many other scientists)—once the scale of the universe is accounted for, and the progression of technology (why would that other form of life even be using radio waves after or before a certain point of advancement?), it seems an arrogant question to answer. We may or may not be the most advanced life in the universe. And if this creator is something ascribed with active thought, involvement, and intent, why must this creator concern itself with only one creation?

Fundamentally, though, my concern is not so much one of scale. Scale is my concern for specificity in defining the concept of a creator or ascribing to it actions. It is about, simply, basing belief on evidence, and expressing a greater degree of skepticism in light of a claim as it becomes more and more improbable.

Every step we take in defining a creator walks away from these concepts. Once we've defined a creative force, sure, I have no better answer. Why is there anything? But once we've described that creator—something completely beyond any perception of humans outside the select collection who claim to speak with or see it (mixed track record) and his intentions for our world and population; his ongoing care for our race—I'm lost. Evidence no longer matters at all. And then we can continue to describe this creator—sent its son to die for our sins, deliberately messed with Adam and Eve with an apple, created all those dead dinosaur bits just to add some tapestry to our relatively young world which actually started with and revolves around us... gone is any hope of an argument based on the human condition or really anything else. It's just one flavor of one of many religions which have come and gone from this world and a choice to accept its literature and the humans educating others about it at face value. Which they have done for those before them, and those before them have done for many generations.

Once we establish that it is not necessary to consider probability in choosing what to believe, though, it is very easy to conclude a debate such as this with 'agree to disagree'. It simply becomes a disagreement of how much weight one should place in 'having faith' within the confines of a given subject. And faith is a lovely concept—it cannot be challenged except by the person who has it, and it can allow for any belief.

WeiWenDi wrote:There are a lot of unfalsifiable conclusions that we live by in the modern world, though: that there are such things as 'human rights', or that human beings have inherent value, or that human beings have free will and are therefore responsible for their own actions. To paraphrase Kant, these things are never evidenced scientifically, but we simply have to operate by them for legal, social and pragmatic reasons.

And again, I'm not defending Christianity specifically (or religion more generally) as scientific fact, but as a different dimension of truth. Call it moral if you like, or aesthetic, or existential.

Sure! But something like 'human rights' isn't the same thing at all. Sure, someone could interpret the use of 'rights' in that word as a thing inherent to our people and not at all born of law or human interest, but I doubt many of those people would hold to that argument once someone questioned them philosophically or expressed the position you have here. 'Human rights', to myself and to most people, are a human construct used to frame law. And the most simple legal basis of, 'bad things happening to me are bad for you too' is a much better argument than exists for many other unfalsifiable positions.

Now, free will—that's another matter entirely. As far as we can perceive through any factual approach we do get to make our own choices and the consequences of those choices (however just) are ours. A counter-argument that, for example, our lives are destined, or that our actions are the subject to god's will (or any number of other conflicting considerations here) becomes just as faith based and distant from factual reasoning as the more specific religious interpretations of god.

WeiWenDi wrote::D

I know a few Mormons myself, as coworkers and friends. Incredibly good, decent and thoughtful people. I think their beliefs are a bit... shall we say, goofy? That's the word my dad used to describe them. But I have no problem at all being compared to them.

Regarding whether or not some human event is actually divinely-inspired or -sourced, that depends a lot on a certain kind of reasoning which is internal to the idea of faith. The Orthodox Church makes the distinction between saints and false teachers all the time, and one of the major standards is: are their words and works consistent with each other, and are they consistent with the life and words of Christ as they were imparted to us? Now this may seem like a kind of circular logic, particularly to someone who doesn't at the first principle consider Christ to have been God.

No foul intended for members of the LDS faith! I met quite a few outside Utah who were absolutely fantastic, open-minded, and considerate people. There's no person I have admired more than my own late grandfather, who was a devout Mormon. The Mormons here where they live in heavy concentration, though—they bizarrely seem like an entirely different people from those who live in minority elsewhere, but that's another subject.

Let's consider the strange beliefs of the Mormons. How strange are they, really? I think if we take an honest look at essentially any religion, its history, its beliefs for the afterlife—if we set aside our preconceived notions and try to think of them simply as new information being delivered to use—are they not extremely strange as well? The LDS faith is a little easier to pick apart than older religions because actual history exists to contradict many of its beliefs, or to provide an alternate biography for its original leaders.

What you wrote, though, does make me want to stress one important thing regarding Christians: damn, if they were actually to try and be Christ-like as Christ is described to them, they would be incredibly fine people. And I'm personally quite pleased to see Pope Francis talking the Catholic church in that direction. It's just far too rare for the actual clergy and followers to actually live up to. Accumulating great personal wealth is highly opposed to Christian teachings. So, I would argue, is a deliberate effort to express intolerance though the legal system (or indeed, in their own faith). Whatever I write, I don't want to express that religion is necessarily a bad thing in someone's life.

WeiWenDi wrote:There seems to be a fundamental (no pun intended, really) disconnect between the creationism / evolution controversy and all its assorted ends on the one hand, and the stem cell research and sexual orientation debates on the other.

The fundamentalist Protestants do not have a moral objection to evolution or to the idea of 'survival of the fittest' (with a very high-profile exception or two). The (American) fundamentalist Protestant embrace of capitalism, broadly stated, is proof of this - they obviously don't take exception to the idea of 'survival of the fittest' in the economic realm. In general, the fundamentalist Protestant objection to creationism is constative rather than moral - they take issue not with the moral implications of Darwinism when applied in a brutish and unsophisticated way to human affairs, but with the actual propositions for fear that they will undermine a faith which is dependent on conflicting propositions.

The same doesn't hold true with stem-cell research or sexual orientation. I don't think any intellectually-honest Catholics or Orthodox who are concerned with bioethics would deny that stem-cell research has the potential to drastically improve medicine; they just don't want said research to be conducted in ways that would treat human beings as lab animals rather than as, well, human beings. (I have the same objections about GMO research carried out on unwitting children in China; that doesn't make me anti-science.)

With regard to sexual orientation, the ascription of meaning to certain biological acts is, again, working on a different dimension than the dimension of scientific inquiry. It may indeed be that there is a genetic component to same-sex attraction, just as it may indeed be the case that there is a genetic component to other, more obviously problematic paraphiliac attractions (like paedophilia). But that doesn't make any and every action that follows from said attraction morally correct.

I won't get into this further on the current topic, as this is getting more into sexual ethics and should be moved to the appropriate thread, as you suggest. :)

Quite a few good points here, but fundamentally, whether a religion is opposed to something because it challenges their faith or beliefs, or because they see it as immoral—this reasoning doesn't really change the fact that those religions (really, Christianity in this case since that's the subject religion, though not far from the only viable example) are expressing their position in ways that oppose scientific research. In the real world it takes the form of political lobbying, activism (frequently sanctioned or even sponsored), and other efforts to gain leverage. Something as simple as opposing a politician for supporting something in lieu of their religious beliefs is an expression of religion opposing and hindering science.

What could be done about it? Well, maybe not that much. Society would have to more fully embrace the notion of separating church and state. But even then culture plays a significant role. I can see why a religion would be uncomfortable with a position that undermines their story of creation or which they deem (however properly or improperly) to be immoral.

A few asides:

Stem-cell research: I think there's a not-insigificant disconnect with an argument about stem-cell research treating humans as lab animals both with reality (typically real-world drug and treatment trials are consensual and informed, and frequently involve people who are struggling with existing treatment for a particular condition), and with actual sentiment expressed by those opposed. I think the most common opposition I've heard expressed is that it simply crosses into a realm not meant for mankind. Kind of a shame, really, given the potential to save so many lives and help so many people. But you never know where people land—there's the sort that opposes all medical treatment.

GMO: That example as it relates to GMO is rather similar to the police officer who shoots someone because they're black. It's a very rare case of bad ethics which should not be used to describe an entire peoples (or in this case, an entire branch of science). Actual GMO research involves very little overlap with human testing and, done responsibly, really shouldn't require it. There are really bad characters in the GMO world like Monsanto, but GMO is also probably our best hope for feeding our future generations as we overpopulate this world.

WeiWenDi wrote:My point was, though, that even to draw theories and conclusions based on observable realities, one has to be able to equate and compare observable realities across contexts in a way that would not be possible in a polytheistic universe. This is getting more into the anthropology of science, actually, but it stands to reason that if one god governs a particular place and another god governs another particular place, any differences between the empirical realities which hold true in each particular place can be 'chalked up' to the gods disagreeing with each other, or to them merely each going his own way.

The very idea that two realities in two different places and times of the universe can be empirically comparable to each other depends on the assumption that the same cosmic rules apply no matter where you go. Speaking in philosophical terms, such an assumption is only possible thanks to monotheism.

You might have lost me in a different direction here. :)

I don't see a polytheistic universe as necessarily less defensible than a monotheistic one. Outside, I suppose, an actual analysis of polytheistic systems. Having a god in charge of wine, another war, and another love—all with their own very human jealousies and other characteristics—serves as a highly specific and arrogant representation of the creator and steps well into the realm of the unbelievable as based on my arguments in this discussion. And obviously it is far less credible to accept that different patches of land and peoples in this world would have their own according structure of gods (as opposed to a structure of gods that applies to all peoples). I would say it's just another representation of religion through history that looks strange from the outside but somehow feels perfectly normal and acceptable to those inside. And another means of obtaining answers to the unexplainable.

WeiWenDi wrote:I'm not talking about Dr. Tyson here - he may be a science populariser, but he's also a qualified astrophysicist with a Ph.D. from Columbia. He's not just a talking-head or an ideologue. Mostly I'm talking about the Dennett-Dawkins-Hitchens-Harris school of liberal 'new atheists', who as a rule tend to have a highly-inflated sense of the long-term infallibility of human reason.

Hmm... in the context of your argument I'm not sure I have much of a disagreement to muster here. I actually do think even some of these people (I'm more familiar with some than others) play an important role in evolving these debates and contribute usefully to discussion. And I think being an atheist certainly is not a strike against scientific contribution. Indeed, an atheist view, if its product is not colored by an active dislike of religion, is generally excellent for evaluating fundamental concepts like fact and cause-and-effect. Once a person's motivation turns to philosophy and focuses more on advocating for or against religion, though, I honestly lose interest in it.

I'm much more interested in people like Dr. Tyson.
Their opinions, their actions, their contributions.

And for what it's worth, I think any steps people take (on either side) to turn science into an us vs. them (religion) argument are actively doing long-term harm. It can lead to the same sort of problems down the road that have plagued political subjects like climate change and if the goal is to encourage religious followers to think more critically about scientific subjects, it won't be successful built on a foundation of attacking their beliefs.

WeiWenDi wrote:But you're right that, at best, I think we're talking about the edges of the magisteria where things are the least clear, and maybe are in some disagreement about where religious understandings are most appropriate. But we seem to be in broad agreement at the least that there are certain fields of competence where different sorts of reason apply.

... *Leaves for Wikipedia*

That's a handy way to describe it. I'll have to remember that word.

P.S. I apologize for the length of this. It is, as Hermain Cain might say if he were discussing this subject in forums, too damn long. There's a lot of overlap between individual responses and I'll try to cull it in the future rather than responding point-by-point. :)

Edit: Multiple instances of 'it's' in a possessive context. I don't know if I'm selectively an idiot or if some autocomplete-like features on my computer are messing with me...
Kongming’s Archives – Romance of the Three Kingdoms Novel, History and Games
“ They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
  — Ben Franklin
User avatar
James
Sausaged Fish
Sausaged Fish
 
Posts: 17949
Joined: Fri Jun 14, 2002 3:21 pm
Location: Happy Valley, UT

Re: Creationism/Evolution Debate

Unread postby Shozuhn » Fri Dec 12, 2014 5:42 am

Let me just say that I very much enjoy just reading the conversations on here. Sometimes I don't bother to respond because I feel intellectually inferior :lol: And sometimes I just feel that I'm enjoying the conversation too much to want to interrupt it. However, I must speak on something James said real quick...

James wrote:What you wrote, though, does make me want to stress one important thing regarding Christians: damn, if they were actually to try and be Christ-like as Christ is described to them, they would be incredibly fine people. And I'm personally quite pleased to see Pope Francis talking the Catholic church in that direction. It's just far too rare for the actual clergy and followers to actually live up to. Accumulating great personal wealth is highly opposed to Christian teachings. So, I would argue, is a deliberate effort to express intolerance though the legal system (or indeed, in their own faith). Whatever I write, I don't want to express that religion is necessarily a bad thing in someone's life.


Living by the teachings of Christ is no simple feat. I believe that Jesus's teachings are a rather radical brand of pacifism and kindness.

Matthew ch5 38 - 42
Ye have heard that it hath been said, "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." But I say unto you that you resist not evil. But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also, And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee. And from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away.


This is rather extreme, is it not? I agree that if everyone would live by this code, we could have an excellent world. But it is a monumental task to undertake for any one person to live up to this ideal.

The Analects of Confucius - Book VII 30
Is benevolence really far away? No sooner do I desire it than it is here.


*sigh* If only it were that simple...
User avatar
Shozuhn
Initiate
 
Posts: 69
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2014 7:27 pm

Re: Creationism/Evolution Debate

Unread postby James » Mon Feb 02, 2015 8:01 pm

A missed response:

Shozuhn wrote:
James wrote:What you wrote, though, does make me want to stress one important thing regarding Christians: damn, if they were actually to try and be Christ-like as Christ is described to them, they would be incredibly fine people. And I'm personally quite pleased to see Pope Francis talking the Catholic church in that direction. It's just far too rare for the actual clergy and followers to actually live up to. Accumulating great personal wealth is highly opposed to Christian teachings. So, I would argue, is a deliberate effort to express intolerance though the legal system (or indeed, in their own faith). Whatever I write, I don't want to express that religion is necessarily a bad thing in someone's life.

Living by the teachings of Christ is no simple feat. I believe that Jesus's teachings are a rather radical brand of pacifism and kindness.

I'm not even talking about emulating to an even remotely reasonable extent the totality of what is attributed to him. Even on basic levels, such as not passing judgement, materialism, support/charity for others. It amazes me how frequently the most basic tenants are cast aside.

Shozuhn wrote:This is rather extreme, is it not? I agree that if everyone would live by this code, we could have an excellent world. But it is a monumental task to undertake for any one person to live up to this ideal.

And the most extreme examples of what a Christian might consider as having been asked of them is of little consequence when some far more rudimentary examples remain worthy goals to strive toward.
Kongming’s Archives – Romance of the Three Kingdoms Novel, History and Games
“ They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
  — Ben Franklin
User avatar
James
Sausaged Fish
Sausaged Fish
 
Posts: 17949
Joined: Fri Jun 14, 2002 3:21 pm
Location: Happy Valley, UT

Re: Creationism/Evolution Debate

Unread postby James » Mon Feb 02, 2015 8:02 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:I'm not talking about Dr. Tyson here - he may be a science populariser, but he's also a qualified astrophysicist with a Ph.D. from Columbia. He's not just a talking-head or an ideologue. Mostly I'm talking about the Dennett-Dawkins-Hitchens-Harris school of liberal 'new atheists', who as a rule tend to have a highly-inflated sense of the long-term infallibility of human reason.

This one lingered in my head for a while so I picked out Dawkins—someone who I've heard a fair amount and read a bit about, but not enough to comment much on—and started paying more attention to him, listening to some of his public speaking (one example off the top of my head), and now I'm curious why you singled him out. He is an evolutionary biologist and has a PhD from Oxford. He is a professional scientist.

How does he have a long-term infallible view of human reason? Like other leading scientists, he approaches problems in an evidence-based manner, acknowledging what is not known and what is supported by evidence while at the same time rejecting concepts which are not.

So I'm curious.
Kongming’s Archives – Romance of the Three Kingdoms Novel, History and Games
“ They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
  — Ben Franklin
User avatar
James
Sausaged Fish
Sausaged Fish
 
Posts: 17949
Joined: Fri Jun 14, 2002 3:21 pm
Location: Happy Valley, UT

Re: Creationism/Evolution Debate

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Tue Feb 03, 2015 5:54 am

James wrote:
WeiWenDi wrote:I'm not talking about Dr. Tyson here - he may be a science populariser, but he's also a qualified astrophysicist with a Ph.D. from Columbia. He's not just a talking-head or an ideologue. Mostly I'm talking about the Dennett-Dawkins-Hitchens-Harris school of liberal 'new atheists', who as a rule tend to have a highly-inflated sense of the long-term infallibility of human reason.

This one lingered in my head for a while so I picked out Dawkins—someone who I've heard a fair amount and read a bit about, but not enough to comment much on—and started paying more attention to him, listening to some of his public speaking (one example off the top of my head), and now I'm curious why you singled him out. He is an evolutionary biologist and has a PhD from Oxford. He is a professional scientist.

How does he have a long-term infallible view of human reason? Like other leading scientists, he approaches problems in an evidence-based manner, acknowledging what is not known and what is supported by evidence while at the same time rejecting concepts which are not.

So I'm curious.


Well, where to start?

Regardless of his credentials, the fact that he essentially runs his own cult of personality for fun and profit (complete with exorbitant, Scientology-style membership fees!) does not particularly endear him to me - and I will note right now that despite his high public profile, Dr. Tyson does not do the same thing. The fact that Dawkins seemingly spends most of his time not discussing science but rather browbeating elderly Jews, baiting Muslims on Twitter, defending paedophilia or promoting negative eugenics doesn't particularly help either. All of this is in line with his public stance of mocking and ridiculing people who don't believe what he believes, as though that will help to further civil discussion of any sort. Richard Dawkins's belief in the long-term infallibility of human reason is, I grant you, largely confined to his supremely unshakeable belief in the infallibility of Richard Dawkins.

Yes. Wow. Very professional. Much evidence-based. [Insert Doge meme here.]

Pretty much all of my family are scientists - my father, my mother and my sister - and to a one, none of them can stand Dawkins. In fact, my distaste for Dawkins I get directly from my father. Because of his bigotry and his lack of intellectual curiosity into humanistic questions, Dawkins tends to give his profession a bad name. In spite of his credentials, he's a poseur at best.

(Also, my dad is a geologist, my mom is an evolutionary biologist and my sister is a chemical anthropologist. All of them are very much on side with regard to the evolution debate. Their objections to Dawkins have far more to do with how much heat he brings to any debate he's in rather than light.)
Last edited by WeiWenDi on Tue Feb 03, 2015 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Some more blood, Chekov. The needle won't hurt, Chekov. Take off your shirt, Chekov. Roll over, Chekov. Breathe deeply, Chekov. Blood sample, Chekov! Marrow sample, Chekov! Skin sample, Chekov! If I live long enough... I'm going to run out of samples.
User avatar
WeiWenDi
Hedgehog Emperor
 
Posts: 3828
Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:09 am
Location: L'Étoile du Nord

Re: Creationism/Evolution Debate

Unread postby Sun Fin » Tue Feb 03, 2015 10:17 am

I just want to add to that that Dawkins is a world recognised Biologist and as I understand it very accomplished in that field and I wouldn't attempt to debate with him in that area. However he seems to spend a lot of time writing about Theology these days which is something that he has never studied academically. Yet people seem to defer to him as if he was a Phd in that field as well despite the fact that he is regularly out of his depth.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela
User avatar
Sun Fin
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 6758
Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2007 9:20 pm
Location: The birthplace of radio

Re: Creationism/Evolution Debate

Unread postby James » Tue Feb 03, 2015 8:15 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:Regardless of his credentials, the fact that he essentially runs his own cult of personality for fun and profit (complete with exorbitant, Scientology-style membership fees!) does not particularly endear him to me - and I will note right now that despite his high public profile, Dr. Tyson does not do the same thing. The fact that Dawkins seemingly spends most of his time not discussing science but rather browbeating elderly Jews, baiting Muslims on Twitter, defending paedophilia or promoting negative eugenics doesn't particularly help either. All of this is in line with his public stance of mocking and ridiculing people who don't believe what he believes, as though that will help to further civil discussion of any sort. Richard Dawkins's belief in the long-term infallibility of human reason is, I grant you, largely confined to his supremely unshakeable belief in the infallibility of Richard Dawkins.

So, after digesting and fact-checking, it seems your primary concern with him is that he's an active and outspoken activist of atheism? I'm not personally much of a fan of religious advocacy in terms of the general public. It's one thing to express views in conversation or press against practices which are actively harmful, but the 'mock them, ridicule them' suggestion of response to [sure, absurd] beliefs crosses the line into active antagonism I don't appreciate from any religious background. And I also think this brand of anti-religious advocacy has unintended consequences, such as generally failing to challenge beliefs (people hedge when attacked) and serves to increase the probability of religious organizations or government (through religious ties) pressing religious agenda on citizens (because they feel or can portray reasonably well that they are being attacked). Science should not be a religious subject. But he's as much right as any religious person to express those beliefs.

The other example I didn't appreciate was his concept of 'mild pedophilia'. I gathered context as best I could as the article is behind a pay wall and I couldn't find the full content, but his primary point was that events of times past should not necessarily be judged in the same light as those same events today (another example he's used is slavery). That I agree with. What I don't agree with is any generalization about it not being harmful to others, though it may have been harmless in his own life—the 'mild pedophilia' he experienced—and I also think such a position on 'mild pedophilia' is a position best not broached (it can give people the wrong idea) and it was a position he could have presented far more reasonably with other examples, or on the basis of slavery alone. That said, the extent to which his comment is being blown out of proportion is startling—it seems you become subject of admiration and hate alike as a public advocate of atheism—and that includes your characterization of it as an 'endorsement of pedophilia'. It wasn't.

He's right about Islam. The Islamic Golden Age was a thing, and it was extremist religious views beginning with the likes of Imam Hamid al-Ghazali who started to tear that era down. Islam continues to pay the price of extremism today. Maybe he's trolling, but he's not off base.

Aborting in the event of down syndrome is not uncommon and he's far from alone in suggesting it. I understand it goes against your religious beliefs and I, too, have reservations, but it's an opinion he's free to express. And outside anti-abortion religious considerations, some of the discussion ought to revolve around how soon it is detected and accuracy of testing.

As for the Jewish fellow, 'browbeating' seems inappropriate. If you've a religious belief and choose to discuss it, there's no harm in it, and those are discussions worth having. He was not forced to do so and he did not strike me as having been 'brow beaten'. He simply expressed his position/beliefs on the subject.

His 'cult of personality' is a system of donation to the Richard Dawkins Foundation, "[where members help strengthen the impact of our work online and in the community." It's a contribution to support the goals of this organization and, as is almost always the case, donations are associated with return rewards. What you mean to say here is that you don't like the organization and what it stands for.

Eh, because I also dislike negative or aggressive religious promotion I wouldn't donate either.
I'll still label it appropriately for what it is.

And theologically speaking, his philosophical end of the debate is one which should exist. If a person is going to be serious about their beliefs—if they want to say they are supportable—they should be challenged, and voices on all sides of the discussion should be shared and heard.

- - -

Overall, I agree with you that I'm uncomfortable with this part of his profession. I think the generally positive and thoughtful approach to some related subjects taken by Dr. Tyson and other scientists is far more productive.

But the response seems disproportionate to what he is.

WeiWenDi wrote:Pretty much all of my family are scientists - my father, my mother and my sister - and to a one, none of them can stand Dawkins. In fact, my distaste for Dawkins I get directly from my father. Because of his bigotry and his lack of intellectual curiosity into humanistic questions, Dawkins tends to give his profession a bad name. In spite of his credentials, he's a poseur at best.

He's no poseur, but I agree that his actions can make negative contributions to science.

WeiWenDi wrote:(Also, my dad is a geologist, my mom is an evolutionary biologist and my sister is a chemical anthropologist. All of them are very much on side with regard to the evolution debate. Their objections to Dawkins have far more to do with how much heat he brings to any debate he's in rather than light.)

Sounds very much like a respectable and well-reasoned position.

As opposed to the flipside of the same coin.
Kongming’s Archives – Romance of the Three Kingdoms Novel, History and Games
“ They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
  — Ben Franklin
User avatar
James
Sausaged Fish
Sausaged Fish
 
Posts: 17949
Joined: Fri Jun 14, 2002 3:21 pm
Location: Happy Valley, UT

Re: Creationism/Evolution Debate

Unread postby James » Tue Feb 03, 2015 10:06 pm

Sun Fin wrote:I just want to add to that that Dawkins is a world recognised Biologist and as I understand it very accomplished in that field and I wouldn't attempt to debate with him in that area. However he seems to spend a lot of time writing about Theology these days which is something that he has never studied academically. Yet people seem to defer to him as if he was a Phd in that field as well despite the fact that he is regularly out of his depth.

I imagine people defer to him because they agree with his arguments.

And you don't need a degree in theology to argue an evidence-based position on this subject. There's something to be said for being too aggressive, negative, or any mischaracterization—those are individual subjects of interest and anyone taking such a public stance in opposition to some mainstream views can be expected to be wrong or controversial—but fundamentally he's just advocating against religion from an evidence-based perspective.

More to the point, I'm not terribly surprised. While I disagree with some of these methods, and think there are unintended consequences involved, some of this scientific backlash is, in part, a response to religious views interfering with scientific progress. Examples include vaccination, climate change, evolution, stem-cell research. And for many a great deal of this frustration has to do with religious ideals being impressed upon society, such as is the case with opposing same-sex marriage or pushing for religious involvement in government and education on a public level.
Kongming’s Archives – Romance of the Three Kingdoms Novel, History and Games
“ They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
  — Ben Franklin
User avatar
James
Sausaged Fish
Sausaged Fish
 
Posts: 17949
Joined: Fri Jun 14, 2002 3:21 pm
Location: Happy Valley, UT

Re: Creationism/Evolution Debate

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Wed Feb 04, 2015 7:30 am

James wrote:So, after digesting and fact-checking, it seems your primary concern with him is that he's an active and outspoken activist of atheism?


And a total headcase.

James wrote: But he's as much right as any religious person to express those beliefs.


Did I ever say he hadn't? I believe I have only been exercising my own right to express my criticism of those beliefs.

James wrote:The other example I didn't appreciate was his concept of 'mild pedophilia'. I gathered context as best I could as the article is behind a pay wall and I couldn't find the full content, but his primary point was that events of times past should not necessarily be judged in the same light as those same events today (another example he's used is slavery).


In your attempt at Dawkins apologetics you're reading into his Twitter comment something that wasn't there to begin with. He was talking about 'mild paedophilia' and 'mild date rape' - even though he claimed he wasn't defending either one and proceeded to get into a tizzy over formal logic, his use of the modifier 'mild' itself was incredibly defensive to begin with. Besides, I feel the broader point he was making itself is ridiculous. Slavery was no more morally excusable in 1800 than it was in 1600, than it was in 1400, or than it is now. The only difference is that the perpetrators and defenders of slavery are no longer held to be respectable. And Dawkins was ultimately trying to defend the privileged position of his schoolmasters in the same way people still try to defend the privileged position of Thomas Jefferson in light of the horrific things he did to his slaves.

James wrote:He's right about Islam. The Islamic Golden Age was a thing, and it was extremist religious views beginning with the likes of Imam Hamid al-Ghazali who started to tear that era down. Islam continues to pay the price of extremism today. Maybe he's trolling, but he's not off base.


Dawkins never mentioned al-Ghazali, which makes his position infinitely less reasonable than your sanitisation of it.

My point was not that Islam doesn't have problems. My point is that Dawkins's preening on Twitter does nothing to address any of the real problems that Islam faces. It's an egotistical and self-congratulatory pose.

James wrote:As for the Jewish fellow, 'browbeating' seems inappropriate.


Really? You didn't find anything unseemly in it at all?

James wrote:Aborting in the event of down syndrome is not uncommon and he's far from alone in suggesting it.


He didn't 'suggest' it - he claimed it was a moral imperative to abort a baby with Down's syndrome.

James wrote:And you don't need a degree in theology to argue an evidence-based position on this subject. There's something to be said for being too aggressive, negative, or any mischaracterization—those are individual subjects of interest and anyone taking such a public stance in opposition to some mainstream views can be expected to be wrong or controversial—but fundamentally he's just advocating against religion from an evidence-based perspective.


On the one hand, academic theology is valuable but remarkably overrated.

On the other hand, people can be remarkably ignorant about what Christians actually believe. We don't believe in a 'sky-fairy'. We don't believe in magical wish-fulfilment through prayer. We don't believe that our actions in this life don't matter, because afterlife. Generally, the atheists who claim these things, as though Christians are childish in their beliefs, are being ignorant and buffoonish, and Dawkins is no exception. If you ridicule Christian theology without ever cracking open a book by someone as basic and accessible as CS Lewis, you're doing it wrong.

Even in other areas Dawkins is completely out of his field of competence, and actually comes off like a total tinfoil hat-wearing lunatic, completely impervious to anything resembling empirical evidence. When Dawkins hints that Jesus never historically existed, he quite simply has no idea what he's talking about. (Because even in secular historical studies, Dawkins's position simply isn't respectable. At all.) It's the functional equivalent of denying the existence of William Shakespeare - which a few deluded nutcases still unfortunately do.
Some more blood, Chekov. The needle won't hurt, Chekov. Take off your shirt, Chekov. Roll over, Chekov. Breathe deeply, Chekov. Blood sample, Chekov! Marrow sample, Chekov! Skin sample, Chekov! If I live long enough... I'm going to run out of samples.
User avatar
WeiWenDi
Hedgehog Emperor
 
Posts: 3828
Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:09 am
Location: L'Étoile du Nord

PreviousNext

Return to Literature, Academics, and Philosophy

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

Copyright © 2002–2008 Kongming’s Archives. All Rights Reserved

 
cron