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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dick Dawkins: "What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right?"

This is a Spleen Flashback.
I am reposting here parts of a post I originally did in 2008 ~

But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast. Abstain from evil [shrink from it and keep aloof from it] in whatever form or whatever kind it may be.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

“Faith is one of the world's great evils,
comparable to the smallpox virus
but harder to eradicate.”
~ Richard Dawkins

Religion is the opium of the masses
~ Karl Marx

Obammunism is the Hopium of the Asses
~ Outraged Spleen

Divinyls ~ Science Fiction ~ 1982

It is through the sciences that the secular will come to know the face of GOD
~ Maimonides

Richard Dawkins: The Atheist Evangelist
by Larry Taunton
byFaith Magazine
Issue Number 18, December 2007


DAWKINS: “Of course I have doubts all the time,” he said, “and I think in a way the word ‘atheism’ is misleading because it suggests that there’s just one alternative, which is God. I’m constantly on the alert for changes of mind, but extremely skeptical that those changes will just happen to be in the direction of embracing a god of Bronze Age camel herders from the Middle East,”


"What is the objective of your anti-religious campaign?" I asked.

"I think my ultimate goal would be to convert people away from particular religions toward a rationalist skepticism, tinged with … no, that’s too weak," he said, correcting himself, "… glorying in the universe and in life. Yes, I would like people to be converted away from religion to skepticism."


In September, the Atheist Alliance International (AAI) sponsored a conference in Washington, D.C., featuring Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett, among others. The conference sold out. The purpose was to encourage, inform, and unite the unbelieving. Something like a Promise Keepers for atheists—minus singing, crying, and Tony Evans, of course.


Make no mistake about it: Richard Dawkins is their leader. As the Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at arguably the most prestigious university in the world, Dawkins occupies the bully pulpit of science and culture and uses it to maximum effect. That he receives top billing at the AAI conference in D.C. should come as no surprise. Unlike Hitchens, a flamethrower and a mere pundit, or Harris, an upstart graduate student, Dawkins is a fellow of the Royal Society, the author of eight bestsellers, and a highly respected scientist. As one Oxford journalist told me: “Richard Dawkins IS Oxford University.”


But for all of Dawkins’ sophistication, there seems to be little appreciation of the fact that religious faiths and practices are not monolithic. Dawkins disregards all nuances. To him, all religions are the same—irrational and opposed to the rigors of scientific inquiry. And that is the way Dawkins frames the debate: science vs. religion. We may reasonably translate this as “fact vs. fiction” or “rational vs. irrational.”


“What defines your morality?” I asked with genuine curiosity.

There was an extended pause as Dawkins considered the question carefully. “Moral philosophic reasoning and a shifting zeitgeist.” He looked off and then continued.

“We live in a society in which, nowadays, slavery is abominated, women are respected, children can’t be abused—all of which is different from previous centuries.”

He leaned forward as he warmed to his subject.

“I’m actually rather interested in the shifting zeitgeist. If you travel anywhere in the Western world, you find a consensus of opinion which is recognizably different from what it was only a matter of a decade or two ago. You and I are both a part of that same zeitgeist, and [as to where] we get our moral outlook, one can almost use phrases like ‘it’s in the air.’”

At this point, perhaps a word of explanation is necessary. Zeitgeistis a German word meaning “spirit of the age.” Dawkins here refers to the prevailing moral climate or mood of a given place or time. We may observe that what constitutes moral or ethical behavior differs from one culture to another; indeed, it may even differ within a given culture. This is not in dispute. The question, rather, is this: should moral standards be based on the societal zeitgeistor should they look beyond it to something else?

I asked an obvious question: “As we speak of this shifting zeitgeist, how are we to determine who’s right? If we do not acknowledge some sort of external [standard], what is to prevent us from saying that the Muslim [extremists] aren’t right?”

“Yes, absolutely fascinating.” His response was immediate. “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question. But whatever [defines morality], it’s not the Bible. If it was, we’d be stoning people for breaking the Sabbath.”



People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and they pass themselves by without wondering.


DAWKINS: "My personal feeling is that understanding evolution led me to atheism"

Show 208: Intelligent Design/ Evolution Debate
This is an audio version of the Firing Line debate held in 1997.
Audio MP3 Podcast 78 minutes long, 18MB.


Intelligent Design Proponents:

William F. Buckley Jr
Columnist and Host
No description is apt enough or even necessary. This man did not descend from an ape!
~ BZ

God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of "Academic Freedom,"

is a book published in 1951 by William F. Buckley, Jr., who eventually became a leading voice in the American conservative movement in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Buckley wrote the book based on his undergraduate experiences at Yale University. In the book, he criticized Yale and its faculty for forcing liberal ideology on its students. He criticized individual professors by name for their trying to break down students' religious beliefs through their teaching. Buckley also claimed in the book that Yale was denying its students any sense of individualism by forcing them to embrace the growing creed of liberalism.

God and Man at Yale received mixed reviews when it was first published. Many underestimated the ultimate impact that the book and Buckley would have on American society, thinking that it would quickly fade into the background. Quite the opposite happened, as Buckley used it as a sort of launching pad into the public eye. He went on to be an active force in the conservative movement through the political magazine he started, National Review, and his television show Firing Line. The book and its author played a crucial role in tying together the different factions of the arising conservative movement to form a potent political force.

Phillip Johnson Law Professor, Berkeley , Co-Founder Discovery Institute
With the publication of his book "Darwin on Trial" in 1991 he began a second career as one of the foremeost critics of Darwin's Theory of Evolution and its wider sociological and cultural implications. Johnson is one of the leading members of the Intelligent Design movement and has done much to help these ideas gain acceptance and a wider hearing worldwide.

Johnson is best known as one of the founders of the intelligent design movement, principal architect of the Wedge Strategy, author of the Santorum Amendment, and one of the ID movement's most prolific authors. Johnson is co-founder and program advisor of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture (CSC)

Johnson is the author of several books on evolution, philosophical naturalism, and other cultural issues and speaks extensively around the country. His "Leading Edge" column appears regularly in Touchstone Magazine.
Michael Behe
Biochemist, Lehigh University
American biochemist and intelligent design advocate. Behe is professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. He advocates the idea that some structures are too complex at the biochemical level to be adequately explained as a result of evolutionary mechanisms. He has termed this concept "irreducible complexity"

Animation of The Flagellum Motor

The Department of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University has published an official position statement which says "It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific."
David Berlinski PHD Philosophy, Post Doctorate Fellow of Mathematics and Molecular Biology
Berlinksi is a secular Jew and self-described agnostic, and according to a 2008 Slate magazine profile "a critic, a contrarian, and — by his own admission — a crank."




Evolution Proponents:

Barry Lynn
~ Americans United for Separation of Church and State
The single greatest threat to church-state separation in America is the movement known as the Religious Right. Organizations and leaders representing this religio-political crusade seek to impose a fundamentalist Christian viewpoint on all Americans through government action"

Eugenie C. Scott
~ National Center for Science Education
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) defends the teaching of evolution in public schools. We are a nationally-recognized clearinghouse for information and advice to keep evolution in the science classroom and "scientific creationism" out.
NCSE is the only national organization to specialize in this issue.
Kenneth Miller
Biologist, Brown University

Miller has proudly voiced his support for what he calls "pro-science" candidates in politics. He has actively campaigned for school board and education candidates who support the teaching of evolution in Kansas and Ohio. In the science community, he has sought to elevate the understanding of scientists of the roots of the creationist movement, and to encourage the popularization of scientific concepts.

Miller has appeared in court as a witness, and on panels debating the teaching of intelligent design in schools. In 2002, the Ohio State Board of Education held a public debate between two scientists, including Miller, and two proponents of intelligent design. He was a witness in Selman v. Cobb County, testing the legality of stickers calling evolution a "theory, not a fact" that were placed on the biology textbook Miller authored. In 2005, the judge ruled that the stickers violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution . This decision was vacated on appeal on a technicality, and was remanded back to the lower court and was eventually settled out of court Miller was also the plaintiff's lead expert witness in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, challenging the school board's mandate to incorporate intelligent design into the curriculum. The judge in that case also ruled decisively in favor of the plaintiffs.

In 2006 the American Society for Cell Biology gave him a Public Service Award. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) also recognized Miller for his contribution to the public education of evolution in the United States. Miller also appeared at the 2006 Dwight H. Terry Lectureship at Yale, delivering a lecture entitled "Darwin, God, and Dover: What the Collapse of 'Intelligent Design' Means for Science and for Faith in America."


Michael Ruse Philosopher of Science

Philosophy of science is the study of assumptions, foundations, and implications of science. The field is defined by an interest in one of a set of "traditional" problems or an interest in central or foundational concerns in science. In addition to these central problems for science as a whole, many philosophers of science consider these problems as they apply to particular sciences (e.g. philosophy of biology or philosophy of physics). Some philosophers of science also use contemporary results in science to draw philosophical morals. Although most practitioners are philosophers, several prominent scientists have contributed to the field and still do.

Issues of ethics, such as bioethics and scientific misconduct, are not generally considered part of philosophy of science. These issues may be studied in ethics or science studies.




"One person who comes in for withering scorn in The God Delusion is me. Even though I am not a Christian, I nevertheless think that one can be a Christian with integrity and that Darwinism does not in itself preclude Christianity. In fighting fundamentalism - from scientific creationism to intelligent design theory - one should be willing to work with liberal Christians.

Suppose it is true - that if you are a Darwinian, then you cannot be a Christian. How then does one answer the creationist who objects to the teaching of Darwinism in schools? If theism cannot be taught in schools (in America) because it violates the separation of church and state, why then should Darwinism be permitted? Perhaps, given the U.S. Constitution, the creationists are right and Darwinism should be excluded. ”

~ Michael Ruse


But the critical question is: compared to what? And here Dawkins is less convincing because he fails to examine the question in a systematic way. Tests of religion's consequences might involve a number of different comparisons: between religion's good and bad effects, or between the behavior of believers and nonbelievers, and so on.

While Dawkins touches on each, his modus operandi generally involves comparing religion as practiced—religion, that is, as it plays out in the rough-and-tumble world of compromise, corruption, and incompetence—with atheism as theory. But fairness requires that we compare both religion and atheism as practiced or both as theory. The latter is an amorphous and perhaps impossible task, and I can see why Dawkins sidesteps it.

But comparing both as practiced is more straightforward. And, at least when considering religious and atheist institutions, the facts of history do not, I believe, demonstrate beyond doubt that atheism comes out on the side of the angels. Dawkins has a difficult time facing up to the dual facts that (1) the twentieth century was an experiment in secularism; and (2) the result was secular evil, an evil that, if anything, was more spectacularly virulent than that which came before.


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