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Some Thoughts on Dawkin’s Enemies of Reason (Part I) Saturday, August 25, 2007

Posted by henry000 in astrology, Carl Sagan, Channel 4, Dawkins, documentary, dowsing, Enemies of Reason, medium, new-age, paranormal, pseduo-science, psychics, rationality, reason, Richard Dawkins, skeptics, spirituality, video.
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I finally got around to watch the much anticipated TV documentary, Enemies of Reason (part one), created by you-know-who – Richard Dawkins. For those who don’t know, it is a skeptical examination on the irrational, the superstitious, the disillusioned, and the unreasonable. The first part of the series includes a look at astrology, dowsing, psychics, medium (talking to the dead) and certain forms of new-age spirituality (which I will bucket them all with the term “the irrational” from now on).

Here is the link to the video you can watch online or download:

My gut feeling is that something is wanting in the documentary, something is missing. I think it lacks in stressing the dangers of the irrational present to the general public. It is not harsh and devastating enough. Dawkins approach is mainly that of a scientific one, as one might expect – he looks at why people tend to believe in the irrational (Skinner’s Pigeons), carries out controlled tests on dowsing and astrology readings, mentions repeatedly how science has advanced our species and way of life, and is genuinely interested in what the psychics have to say about their practices.

There is nothing wrong with all of the above and I agree with them all. However, the documentary needs to examine critically at the practical implication of the irrationals. From memory, there is only one instance of this, where in the case of communicating with the dead Dawkins is concerned with the mental states of those who have lost their loving ones. I would have liked to see Dawkins apply his usual scholarly excoriation to expose and bulldoze his way through all forms of irrationality, as well as mentioning some stories too. Astrology is not merely harmless as one might think, people do act based on the readings, and I think the quackery of communicating with the dead equates to a form of emotional abuse with these so-called mediums praying upon the fragile and needy mental states of people.

Having said that, I am looking forward to the second part of the series, where it looks at the dangers of the widespread irrationality sentiment in health and medicine – and hopefully Dawkins will emphasise the implication of irrationality in this utmost important issue. On a related note, I could never really understand why people ditch “Western” or “mainstream” medicine in favour of the largely un-confirmed and dangerous alternative medicine, but that is another topic altogether… I am curious about the how these pyschics and new-age people think. Some of them seem sincere, perhaps doing these irrational practices give them a sense of self and purpose; but of course some are utterly kooks who make a living based on misleading people.

Anyway here is a short video of Carl Sagan speaking out on astrology:

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