View Full Version : Dawkins and the perils of Atheist Crusading

06-09-2015, 05:06 AM
Is Richard Dawkins destroying his reputation? | Sophie Elmhirst | Science | The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/09/is-richard-dawkins-destroying-his-reputation)

06-09-2015, 10:58 AM
I've just skimmed the text but I think that some of the criticism levelled at Dawkins would be worth being discussed in the "Free speech, political correctness..."-thread.

06-09-2015, 12:46 PM
That desire to set things right in the world that Dawkins claims many people have can easily turn into a fascist belief in the perfectibility of human beings--whether they want perfection or not. I can't help but think of him as the kind of "gushing egghead" that Ligotti bemoaned.

I feel very very unsympathetic toward the guy. And I'm a stone atheist.
The bottom line: If I have to choose between fascist perfection or the irrationality of the average human being, I'll take the latter. It's one thing to try and put out unbiased knowledge, to get the information out for people to make up their own minds-- and quite another to bully them into what to think.

06-09-2015, 01:14 PM
Dawkins can be incredibly obnoxious but compared to the worst religious pundits out there (or even the Pope) he's almost saintly.

I miss Christopher Hitchens so much.

06-09-2015, 06:33 PM
I've somewhat warmed to Dawkins over the years. Everyone who takes more than a cursory interest now knows, anyway, that his grasp of theology is extremely loose. For the rest it's amusing to see the atheist community, or blogosphere, or whatever it is, wringing its hands over his inability to toe the PC line.

06-09-2015, 06:58 PM
He kind of seems like he has a bee in his bonnet. Not quite a screw loose, but...

06-09-2015, 07:29 PM
Well, I miss Hitchens too. Of course, I miss the early Hitchens and not the ugly, self-satisfied neocon clone that replaced him during his last decade alive. I miss Gore Vidal more.

06-09-2015, 08:08 PM
Hitchens was almost impossibly wrong about the Iraq war. I have to believe he was just being contentious for the sake of it.

06-09-2015, 10:13 PM
Give Hitch credit. He hadn't signed on to dismantle an entire country and indulge in the art of nation building. A lot of people were misled about the objectives of the War.

It was the neocons, a radical and dangerous group with mad dreams of nation building, that beat the drums in great part; but still respected experts like Bernard Lewis gave them plenty of encouragement. "Oh, the sectarian hate is greatly exaggerated, just a gimmick stoked by that madman in power." So much for some of the leading Mideast scholars like Lewis. And the Liberals danced along happily because removing a villain was a Good Policy based on "Human Rights". As if the Mideast could hold together without the strongmen.
Wait until Assad goes down. In the Mideast it's never a choice between Good or Evil but always between Bad or Worse.
Frankly, I prefer the Devil I know.

There was a brief point in time when many believed Saddam had played a part in the anthrax business. That passed quickly and should have been a warning to slow down our rush to judgement, but it wasn't. You don't hear much about those letters these days and I can't blame newsrooms for not wanting to wake sleeping devils. But I've always felt that episode and the official FBI conclusion, were far from being fully explained..

Hitch was half-right, half-wrong about a "moral imperative" for atheism. A moral imperative in the West is just nonsense; but one could argue there's a "moral imperative" in Islamic countries. Pity the courageous Arab who tries it.

06-10-2015, 02:59 AM
And the Liberals danced along happily because removing a villain was a Good Policy based on "Human Rights". As if the Mideast could hold together without the strongmen.
Wait until Assad goes down. In the Mideast it's never a choice between Good or Evil but always between Bad or Worse.
Frankly, I prefer the Devil I know.
Agreed. Most countries in the Middle East don't understand democracy and certainly can't function under it-- it was naive for anyone to think it could work in Iraq or Afghanistan. Without a strong man a la Saddam to bring order to the chaos, the whole place erupts into Sunni vs. Shiite madness with even worse psychopaths like ISIS emerging as the victors. And as far as Assad goes, he's relatively secular -- and there's been relative peace between Israel and Syria with him running the show. *Syria borders the Golan Heights.* Just saying...

As for Iraq, I'm afraid it's only a matter of time before Baghdad falls. Maliki managed to completely f**k what little "success" was made before the withdrawal. And even worse, he chased all of Iraq's good military generals (those who fought under Saddam and were Sunni) into the arms of ISIS/ISIL (pro-Sunni and backed by the Saudi's). At this point, we just need to cut our losses, divide the country up, give the north completely to the Kurds, support them, and say screw the rest. Let the Sunni's and Shiites do the inevitable and annihilate one another and then keep our fingers crossed that all the pain, suffering, and blood-shed will do for them what WWI and WWII did for Europe... that is, make them finally realize how stupid and pointless all their fighting was to begin with. And maybe America will finally learn not to play games like 'world police' or 'nation builder' just so their defense contractor buddies can rape taxpayers of literally trillions of their hard-earned dollars.

And for the record: I'm not one of those "glass parking lot" guys. There are many decent people in the Middle East, and there are more moderate/secular governments like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, and I feel very bad for them that they have to deal with this crap. But there's just not a whole lot of hope given the facts and the history.

06-10-2015, 03:53 AM
I had to sign on to thank two very astute political posts by Druidic and VanEaston101. As despicable as Saddam Hussein was, we should have left him alone. He knew power politics and how to keep order. And he wasn't an irrational crazy like the Taliban and ISIS. He used religion like all good politicians do, as "crowd control" as Ligotti puts it.

As to Malone's OP,

I was a fan of Dawkins before The God Delusion, having read his books The Selfish Gene, A River Out of Eden, and The Blind Watchmaker. I am a big time Darwinian atheist. When I heard he was writing The God Delusion, I was completely psyched. It may be the only book that I have anticipated as much as something new from Ligotti. I didn't even wait for it to published in the U.S. I bought an ARC copy from Abebooks from the U.K.

J.G. Ballard was a big fan of The Selfish Gene. He also later endorsed John Gray's book Straw Dogs. Both are outstanding.

Eugenie Scott, the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, gives Dawkins hell all of the time in her videos on Youtube. But she is an atheist too, of course. She is just more politically savvy.

Eric Rothschild, who was the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller vs Dover Area School District Trial where they defeated the Intelligent Design scam, told Dawkins that he would have been one of the last people he would put on the stand to argue his case, as he is the embodiment of science = atheism. The citizens in the U.S. are largely a religious group. Noam Chomsky once said that the U.S. population is religious comparable to countries like Iran. I don't doubt it.

Does Dawkins go too far in his advocacy of atheism? Probably. I think he gives people too much credit. He frames his arguments to convince someone rational, like himself. That is not going to work in the Bible Belt.

06-10-2015, 02:47 PM
I think he [Dawkins] gives people too much credit. He frames his arguments to convince someone rational, like himself. That is not going to work in the Bible Belt.

Spot on. But I'd like to add something else, because I've had many debates with Christian friends of mine - who are fairly intelligent, rational people - but even then their arguments mostly devolve into basically "Well, this is just what I think and believe and therefore that's the truth as I see it. And there's no way to dis-prove God, so... blah blah blah" And there's just no way to argue with them out of that line of thinking. Which is fine, because they're of the more nuanced variety of Christians who pick and choose what they want to believe from the Bible and simultaneously agree that evolution is real, the earth is billions of years old, same-sex marriage is fine, etc. So they're not doing any harm, really.

But being that I live in the Bible Belt, I've seen my fair share of crazy-ass Holy Rollers, many of whom are barely above being simple biological androids. For them, everything is purely anecdotal and dictated by how they "feel" rather than what's actually right and true, and you can shove as much evidence down their throats as you like, but it won't phase them at all whatsoever because they've been indoctrinated their whole lives to be totally f**king terrified of anything outside of what they were programmed to think as children. If anything, people like Dawkins only help to strengthen their beliefs, by giving a face to the perceived 'dark side' and hence feeding into their deeply in-grained persecution complexes.

Quite sadly, there's no winning for winning. :(

06-10-2015, 06:35 PM
Ben, thanks for the kind words. And you're right: VanEaston's post was spot on. Both of them, in fact.
But I just wanted to make clear I have great respect for Dawkins and his books but here's the thing: Years ago, I watched a debate on superstition that was televised. An obviously intellectual woman made the sensible remark that there were never such things as ghosts. An elderly man, clearly infuriated,rose and challenged her: "Are you telling me I'll never see my daughter again?" Despite his rage or maybe because of it--you could guess at what lie beneath--I found it all too sad for words. Yes, these people believe in something that isn't true; but how can you feel contemptuous of them when they have grown up hearing and desperately wanting to believe these pretty fictions since they were children?
I think Dawkins feels most when confronting the "wonders" of Nature (totally legitimate in my book though God help this atheist who can't get Ligotti's "gushing" remark out of his head). I don't believe he understands that some people, many in fact, will never respond to reason or insults; and that's why I find him unsympathetic. No doubt he's a good man and he's right in putting the truth out there--but the hope is in reaching children, young, smart and flexible enough to at least consider arguments about the nature of existence -- and not necessarily in insulting their deluded parents.

Hope the Durrenmatt arrived!

06-10-2015, 08:44 PM
I agree, Druidic. I think people like Dawkins focus too much on the harm that organized religion causes. I listened to a talk between him and the philosopher, Daniel Dennett. They discussed the possibility of an afterlife, and Dennett said he would never say categorically that their was no such thing for the reason you mentioned. No one really knows anyway. But Dawkins was pushing in that direction.