News | The atheist

You need to get a “day pass” to Salon to read this entire article: News | The atheist

It’s an interview with evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

The day pass is free. You just have to sit through an ad. And it’s worth it. I think Dawkins qualifies as one of the bravest men on the planet.

12 Responses to “ News | The atheist”

  1. Richard Beland Says:

    What makes him brave isn’t what he says, but the way he says it. Dawkins is pretty hostile. Carl Sagan said the same things for decades — but much more poetically.

    Any atheists and skeptics reading this should have and (James Randi’s enlightening website)added to their “favorites”.

  2. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    The problem is that, in his own way, he is a religious fanatic, as well. He fails to differentiate between fact and his own pollitical point of view, using them interchangeably. Reading him is remniscent of reading a Jack Chick comic.

  3. Steve Gerber Says:

    Bart: Not exactly, because Dawkins offers evidence for those things he believes in and asserts that there is no evidence for what he doesn’t believe in. The rest of us are free to agree or disagree. (Is he an evangelistic atheist, though? Yes.)

  4. Steve Gerber Says:

    Richard: You won’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ve always had a problem with the kind of knee-jerk skepticism promoted by James Randi and Michael Shermer. Weirdly, I suppose, I’m not convinced this or that phenomenon doesn’t exist just because we don’t understand it. My problem with conventional religion is that it tries to explain too much. If there is a larger force governing the universe, I’m pretty sure it can’t be reduced to ten do’s and don’ts, no pork, and Jesus. I’m not at all sure what other form, if any, it might take.

  5. Brent Wilcox Says:

    Great article!

    But I still love “Intelligent Design”, since even if true it doesn’t prove the actions or existence of any particular human-envisioned deity, any more than it proves the cosmos was designed by super-intelligent transdimensional toasters.

    In some sense I’d like to see the concept proven, but simultaneously disprove every single human religious preconception.

  6. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    I was referring to comments like, “Unfortunately, at present, it’s slightly outnumbered by the ignorant, uneducated people who voted Bush in.” Also, he says, “Evolution by natural selection is a process that works up from simple beginnings”, when natural selection is a sieve, not a mechanism (unless, of course, one accepts Lysenkoism; he actually misuses the term “natural selection” throughout the interview).

    Or “That trend toward enlightenment has indeed continued in Europe and Britain. It just has not continued in the U.S.,” and “Bush and bin Laden are really on the same side: the side of faith and violence against the side of reason and discussion.”

  7. Steve Gerber Says:

    I’m not smart enough to know what Lysenkoism is (I’ll look it up, though), but I think Dawkins’ comment about Bush and bin Laden are dead on. They’re not on the same “side,” exactly, but they’re working from very similar worldviews, and I’d even go so far as to say — unless Bush is a total hypocrite — toward similar objectives. Both of them would be most comfortable living in a theocracy.

  8. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    The point is that he is taking matters of opinion, and intermixing them with established fact.

    Natural selection is a not a cause of evolution; it merely causes population shifts. It is what determines whether or not a mutation succeeds, but it has nothing to do with the mutations. Lysenkoism, an evolutionary theory that was the law of the land in the Soviet Union (and was instrumental in causing the death by starvation of hundreds of thousands of people in some of the most fertile farmland in the world), among other things, accepts natural selection as the cause of evolution; that if you exercise a lot, your children will be more muscular.

    This was especially useful when taken in conjunction with the Marxist theory of complete malleability of the human character, where, under the correct political system, specifically Communism, greed and evil would naturally disappear from humans.

  9. Steve Gerber Says:

    Now, wait. I’m getting confused.

    I thought Dawkins was saying that evolution on the species level is almost an accidental by-product of natural selection on the genetic level — i.e., that genes are what’s evolving, not species — and that natural selection is simply nature’s favoring one mutation over another.

    He’s also saying, if I understand correctly, that humans tend to be molded by the societies in which they live, that the basic assumptions of those societies become almost hard-coded into the brain at a very early stage in the socialization process. To that extent, if you alter the society, you can alter the contours of the human character.

    But probably not human *nature*. That won’t begin to change until our genes catch up to our technology.

    Having said all that, let me ask — did I completely miss your point?!

  10. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    Well, my original point was that he insisted on intermixing his political opinion with scientific fact. In terms of “natural selection”, I’m sensitive about that because it is frequently grabbed by the “evolution is a Satanic plot” crowd as an arguing point, so I’m used to getting into arguments that natural selection is not thought to be the mechanism of evolution, but merely something which decides the direction.

    One problem in disucussing evolution is the fact that it is not so much a theory as a theoretical framework; a guiding principle for many different theories, where falsifying any one or number of them does not invalidate the framework. The opponents of teaching evolution concentrate on falsifying pieces, many of which have been long discarded, on the assumption it invalidates the whole. Therefore, when the theory for selection for genes replaced the theory for selection for species, it had no effect on the framework itself, but is taken by the opponents as evidence that the theory is bunk.

  11. Brent Wilcox Says:

    He doesn’t seem to draw the distinction in the interview very clearly, but Dawkins has written elsewhere that he considers social, ideational evolution to be the real “cutting edge” for the human species. I believe he’s the one who coined the term “meme” to create a conceptual parallel to “gene”. Society evolves via memes, biology evolves via genes, and memetic evolution is much faster (except for the new frontier of genetic manipulation, a frontier made possible by the spread of the genetic manipulation meme. Beliefs and ideas (memes) can become as hardwired in the nature of a society as genes become in the nature of a species.

  12. Gary Says:

    Richard Dawkins isn’t a very good scientist. I’d suggest you read Richard Lewontin instead.