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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.

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“A New Breed of Atheist” Friday, August 3, 2007

Posted by henry000 in atheism, Christianity, Christopher Hitchens, Dawkins, humanism, rationality, reason, religion, Richard Dawkins, secularism.
10 comments

A writer at ChristianPost has joined a chorus of concerned religious lots in attacking the current atheism movement spearheaded by Dawkins and Hitchens and all. He identifies this new breed atheism, or anti-theism, as something that is:

There’s no substance, just anger and a lot of hot air.

The lack-of-substance argument has been widely used as a main criticism to these hot-selling anti-theism books such as The God Delusion; some even calls them naive and simplistic. I have stressed it previously that when criticising religion or any other ideology systems you need not to be a complete scholar in the subject – there is a difference between being completely ignorant and being knowledgeable enough.

Further, the writer notes:

They don’t argue; they yell. They’ve decided that, simply because they dislike religion, there is no reason to respect it. In their minds, it’s stupid, dangerous, and that’s all that needs to be said.

He also addresses the current atheism trend from the more concerned atheists (emphasis mine):

The old-guard secular humanists are questioning this new trend, and rightly so. Most traditional atheists simply had their own belief system, and if we wanted our belief system that was okay. The new breed reflects the death of truth. They’re like the communists who feared religion more than anything else because it was a competing truth claim.

How many wrongful claims can you find in this single paragraph along?

Incredibly atheism has been equated once again to a belief system. No it isn’t! If so, what is it and what is its faiths and beliefs?

We don’t fear religion. We are incredibly concerned about the dangers religion has shown over and over again, and these dangers are based on irrationality and blind faith. The dangers range from discrimination against non-believers, to religious-based practices such as honour-killing, genital-mutilation, creationism to name just a few, and to global-wide conflicts that I need not to mention here.

This is why the new atheism is being blunt and in-four-face, bringing the religion down from its pedestal.

Further, in a sweeping generalisation the new atheism movement is being labelled as a system that competes with religion to claim truth. Again this is wrong. Atheism keeps an open mind as to what the so-called truth is – it never claims truth. Religions do. And they do that based not on rational approaches but on dogmatic beliefs and ancient writings. Each religion claims it is the truth religion, let alone the plethora of cults and denominations.

The new atheism may be too loud and blunt – get used to it and get over it.

The Monthly Dembski Watch – July 2007 Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Posted by henry000 in anti-creationism, anti-evolution, anti-fundamentalism, Behe, creationism, Dembski, evolution, fundamentalism, intelligent design, materialism, MIT, rationality, religion, Richard Dawkins, science, Uncommon Descent.
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This is a summary of Bill Dembski’s July posts at Uncommon Descent. I started this last month when I was utterly appalled by Dembski’s classless act of making fun of Coyne’s physical appearance. Since then I have been interested in what Dembski writes, and this post is a result of it. I am particularly curious in what kind of positive contribution Dembski (and ID in general) can provide. Note that it is not the purpose of this post to provide anything substantial; it is merely a summary with some element of sarcasm (with people like him – why not?).

So these are what Bill has written in July 2007 (in reversing chronological order):

27th of July – SCIENCE’S BLIND SPOT by Cornelius Hunter

This is a short post from Bill recommending an anti-science book to his audience.

26th of July – A Scoville Scale for Dangerous Questions

This is a good one from Dembski – he is using the scale that measures the hotness of chilli as a way of rating questions proposed to “materialists”. Bill can be very creative too.

24th of July – Intelligent Design in Business Practice

Dembski cries and feels sorry for ID and wants to make it go into business practices. Be aware, the emptiness of ID has turned from school classrooms to business offices! Let’s see what ID has to offer for the success of the economies around the world.

Bill says:

Get used to it: ID is going every place that Darwinism has gotten its fetid little fingers.

I am seriously worried about Dembski’s state of mental health, no kidding. His bitterness has turned to this me-against-the-world ill feeling which has shown time and time again.

20th of July – Casey Luskin interviews Robert Marks, director of Baylor’s Evolutionary Informatics Lab

A short post by Bill advertising for his colleague Robert Marks. If you have read Bill’s post earlier, they are actually writing a very important and critical academic papers on, er, disproving Jesus Tomb.

20th of July – Kevin Padian: The Archie Bunker Professor of Paleobiology at Cal Berkeley

For those who aren’t familiar with Padian, he is a paleontologist who testified in the now famous Kitzmiller v. Dover trial in 2005 which led to the defeat of the Intelligent Design side. Here is the entire testimony by Padian. Given this background, no wonder our oh-so-lovely Bill takes issue with Padian.

Bill creatively calls Padian the Archie Bunker this month, and as reported here last month Bill called the evolutionary biologist Coyne Hermant Munster. I am eagerly waiting what Dembski the creative soul will come up next month.

Incredibly Bill is actually on the defensive for once.

For a rebuttal of Dembski’s whining and vileness, see the wonderful Jason Rosenburg’s post here (and its comments). Jason said well to sum up William Dembski’s mentality:

Mentally healthy human beings do not write paragraphs like that.

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The Out Campaign – I am All For It Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Posted by henry000 in atheism, OUT campaign, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins.
2 comments

There is a new atheist meme on the block, and this time we have the OUT Campaign designed to make the atheists come out and make themselves known!

It is created by the atheism vanguard Richard Dawkins Foundation for us atheists to basically come out. This makes a good sense, and I think it is a good move in the current overall atheism movment, riding on the successes of a string of atheism books. So I am all for it. You will note that I have put the big A on the side of this blog too.

The only complain I have is that the big red letter A looks rather boring and as the Friendly Atheist has pointed out, how would the Average Joe know what it means – which kind of defeats the purpose. And I believe there are better and more creative designs out there. What is the rationale behind the design of the big A? How is the campaign going to be implemented? Is this part of the so-called New Atheism Movement? What is next in the big scheme of things?

OK, perhaps I shall stop being so hard-to-please and critical (just like your damn typical atheist mentality…) 🙂

image

Here is the code for the big A if you like it:

<div style=”text-align:center”><a href=”http://outcampaign.org/”><img src=”http://pharyngula.org/images/scarlet_A.png&#8221; border=”0″ alt=”image” width=”143″ height=”122″ /></a></div>

I shamelessly stole the big A image from PZ, and copied the idea of Shalini of having the big A on the side of the blog.

God’s Inbox – Comic Friday, July 27, 2007

Posted by henry000 in comic, funny, God, humor, humour, Richard Dawkins.
5 comments

This is ultra clever!

God gets emails from famous people such as Buddha, Pat Robinson, Pope Benedict… and I love the one from Richard Dawkins!

And of course, God gets some from the everyday people too like a teenager girl and a US soldier.

God’s Inbox MAC

I originally got this comic from here.

Echoing Dawkins – Don’t Call Us Fundamentalists Thursday, July 26, 2007

Posted by henry000 in anti-fundamentalism, atheism, Bible, Chinese, Christianity, Dawkins, faith, fundamentalism, God, Islam, Judaism, Koran, rationality, reason, religion, Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion.
9 comments

Richard Dawkins has lately written an article titled “How dare you call me a fundamentalist” as a response to some of the main criticisms he received for his controversial bestseller The God Delusion. Here I will add my own arguments to what Dawkins has already said, because when rational people criticise god and putting religion in perspective, they get unfairly judged, and this we must address.

The criticisms made on Dawkins are in bold.

I’m an atheist, but I wish to dissociate myself from your shrill, strident, intemperate, intolerant, ranting language.

How you feel about the tone and language of the book is entirely up to you. Some might find it clear and concise. I find it to be passionate and blunt, and I think blunt is a much better and objective description of the tone and language of the book.

Take the first chapter for example. The one line where I can find people might find it offending is this line:

The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive.

Now seriously, how shrill and intolerant is this? Try replacing the words “a personal God” with something else say “United Nations” or “the Live Aid concert”. Does it make a difference?

I offer this advice to people who feel the book is arrogant and condescending: read it again (or at least some of it), and you might come to feel differently about it as the first time might come as a shock.

You can’t criticise religion without detailed study of learned books on theology.

The book is not ignorant on theology and various aspects of religion – see Dawkins’ own explanation – this alone should settle this particular criticism. I would add that you need not to be a scholar to highlight the obvious problems of religion, such as the blind faiths people have in ancient scriptures that drive them to happily hurt and kill others for no other reason than religion. There is a difference between criticising something while being completely ignorant (such as simple-minded creationists), and being knowledgeable enough.

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UK Flooding: Judgement from God Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Posted by henry000 in anti-fundamentalism, Asian Tsunami 2004, Bible, Christianity, church, Church of England, flood, fundamentalism, gay marriage, God, homosexuality, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, United Kingdom.
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According to the senior bishops of Church of England, the recent flooding in the UK is a punishment from God because our society and government have become morally corrupt. One particular bishop says that the recent introduction of pro-gay legislation has prompt God to flood parts of the UK.

Says one bishop:

“This is a strong and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way,”… “We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused.”

He blames the government in particular:

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Dollo’s Law Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Posted by henry000 in anti-creationism, biology, Dawkins, Dollo's Law, evolution, genetics, Richard Dawkins, science, sea snails, Stephen Gould.
1 comment so far

Dollo’s law is one interesting hypothesis in the theory of evolution. In its original form, it states that evolution is irreversible – that is, once an organism has lost or discarded a structural feature during the course of evolution, then it cannot regain that feature.

This law was proposed firstly in 1890 by a biologist named Louis Dollo. In its modern form, this law should be understood as one that hypothesises that evolution is highly unlikely reversible – that is, it is highly improbable that an organism would regain a lost feature.

This law kind of makes sense under the first impression – life evolves from simple to complex, and it seems that there is no known case of organisms regrowing a previously discarded feature. However, on a second thought, one must pause and examine the issue further. None of the evolution mechanisms – natural selection, sexual selection, genetic drift, genetic mutation, genetic recombination, symbiogenesis and so on – dictates that organisms cannot completely regain lost features. In fact, scientists have argued that at least theoretically there is no block to evolutionary reversion.

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Behe Writes Richard Dawkins on “100 Most Influential People of the Year” of Time Magazine Friday, May 4, 2007

Posted by henry000 in anti-creationism, anti-ID, creationism, evolution, faith, fundamentalism, intelligent design, Michael Behe, rationality, religion, Richard Dawkins, science, Time Magazine, top 100, Uncommon Descent.
2 comments

It is well-known to Richard Dawkins’ fans and observers that he has been listed as one of the “100 Most Influential People of the Year” by Time Magazine. This is all very well, given that his book The God Delusion has been selling extremely well (in the UK and US anyway).

Now, what is interesting – and outrageous – is that the Time Magazine editor has asked Intelligent Design advocate Michael Behe to write an entry on Dawkins. This has understandably caused a mass outrage amongst bloggers. Just take a look at Pharyngula’s post. Needless to say I am equally appalled by Time Magazine’s journalistic choice.

What is even more interestingly though, is that according to a post on the Intelligent Design blog site Uncommon Descent, some portion of the original entry has been edited out by the magazine.

So, here is a copy of the entire original text submitted to Time Magazine by Behe:

Of his nine books, none caused as much controversy — or sold as well — as last year’s The God Delusion. Yet the leading light of the recent atheist publishing surge, Oxford University’s Richard Dawkins, has always been a man driven by the big questions. Born in Kenya in 1941 of British parents, he received a mild Anglican upbringing. But at the age of sixteen Dawkins discovered Charles Darwin’s theory, and thought he’d found a pearl of great price.

Obsolete imperialist myth-maker

His academic career as an evolutionary biologist got off to a fast start in the 1970’s with his first book, The Selfish Gene, which argued a then-unfashionable notion: like many politicians in Congress, individual genes of a genome are looking out just for their own good. So if somehow an unconscious gene mutated to be copied more effectively, it would outcompete its fellow DNA fragments. The fundamental idea of this “gene-centered” view of evolution had been proposed by other researchers. But, using his remarkable gift of scientific exposition, Dawkins painted the abstruse concept so clearly, and drew out the logic of its problematic premises so brightly, that it quickly became evolutionary orthodoxy.

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Great Radio Interview on Richard Dawkins by Brian Lehrer Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Posted by henry000 in Brian Lehrer, evolution, faith, God, radio interview, radio talk show, rationality, religion, Richard Dawkins.
2 comments

Here is the audio of an intelligent and civilised radio interview of Richard Dawkins conducted by Brian Lehrer of WNYC. In this 25 minutes or so interview Dawkins outlines why he is almost certain that God does not exist, why the indoctrination of religion to children is considered almost child-abuse, why he is spiritual in the sense of arts and poetry, and much more.

I have spent quite a bit of time in writing down the entire transcripts as accurately as I could. There are certain words that I could not understand, which I have marked with “[???]”. Hopefully some of you can help me with them, and point to any other mistakes I might have made.

I thought this interview is much more in depth than the highly anticipated television interview with Bill O’Reilly, where a transcript can be found here. This is the first time I come across Brian Lehrer, and he seems rather thoughtful.

Download the video, read the transcript, and enjoy the interview.

Richard Dawkins