Talk:Richard Dawkins/Archive 1

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I'm unsure what the sentence "Richard Dawkins has written many books in the field of biology, as well as his current book" was supposed to convey, so maybe somebody who has a greater understanding of this subject could clarify that. MountainDew 02:37, 5 March 2007 (EST)

I don't think his support of evoloution in schools should be explicitly linked to his atheism.lil_cain 03.29, 10 March 2007 (GMT)

Why is this article so nice. He doesn't beleive in Jesus, so it's not like we'll have to deal with him once we are in heaven. Am I right guys??
Because... we're an encyclopedia? We may be biased, but at least we base ourselves off of sources... --Hojimachongtalk 14:05, 18 March 2007 (EDT)
I would have thought that the way this site deals with entries like this one is a good indicator as to how even handed it is. --Horace 21:53, 19 March 2007 (EDT)

Links to articles critical of Richard Dawkins have been removed.

Links critical of Richard Dawkins or his work were removed. If the links below disappear I would suggest returning them:

Conservative 21:42, 19 March 2007 (EDT)conservative

George Hammond

We need a citation to Hammond's opinion on Dawkins. I'm going to remove the sentence and whoever can provide a reference can revert my edit. Airdish 21:17, 30 March 2007 (EDT)

Is there something particularly notable about Hammond's opinion? Why are we referencing him, in particular? Tsumetai 07:20, 4 April 2007 (EDT)

Universities

"Dawkins taught zoology at the universities of California and Oxford." Does "the universit[y] of California" refer to UC Berkeley? Ylmw21 23:44, 23 April 2007 (EDT)

Perhaps...

We should place his religious affiliation in a separate section. His religious beliefs have brought him into much criticism from both scientists and evangelists.--TimS 10:52, 5 June 2007 (EDT)

I wouldn't have a problem with a separate section on his religious beliefs, but I also wouldn't remove its reference in the summary paragraph as he has chosen to make it a defining characteristic of how he is known. Learn together 11:50, 5 June 2007 (EDT)

Kuddos on a well done piece. Not an easy thing to accomplish given his views but a service to the site overall. Just for the record I may not agree with him but he is a man worth listening to. --AGivenVoice 19:49, 31 July 2007 (EDT)

Impartiality

Its nice to see Dawkins been treated with the impartiality any scholar deserves. If only this could be extended to more people. Johnjoe 11:45, 28 August 2007 (EDT)

Exactly. I wish liberals would respect creation scientists rather than simply mock them. Bohdan 11:49, 28 August 2007 (EDT)
So do I, my friend Johnjoe 11:53, 28 August 2007 (EDT)

Reversion

Nearly all of the most productive scientists in history were Christian.--Aschlafly 01:12, 23 September 2007 (EDT)

That is probably true about pre-1900 European scientists, but where is your evidence for such a broad statement? Many great 20th century scientists were atheists. RSchlafly 03:01, 23 September 2007 (EDT)
I guess that it depends on what he means by "in history", but his comment should be read in the context of the wording in the article that was being referred to, which is "the most productive scientists, from Isaac Newton to Louis Pasteur, were devout Christians" (my emphasis). The comment above, in isolation, is possibly too broad. But the important factor is the wording in the article, which is, if anything, too narrow, in starting with Newton. Philip J. Rayment 22:21, 23 September 2007 (EDT)
"Many great 20th century scientists were atheists." Whom are you talking about, and what did they accomplish? I can't think of a single example. Godspeed.--Aschlafly 22:30, 23 September 2007 (EDT)
I didn't make the claim, so there's no onus on me to defend it, but I guess it would depend on what you call "great", and on what you consider an "accomplishment". But to mention two, how about the discoverers of DNA? Philip J. Rayment 22:39, 23 September 2007 (EDT)
I know you didn't make the claim, and that's why my indentation was outside of your comment rather than within its margin. I'm open to information about the belief system of the discoverers of DNA ... at the time they made the discovery. Personally, I wouldn't rank that discovery as among the greatest scientific discoveries in history, but I'm open to discussing it. Godspeed.--Aschlafly 23:30, 23 September 2007 (EDT)
I didn't mean to imply that you thought I made the claim. I simply put that as a disclaimer because I was answering it. As for the discovery of DNA, I think the problem here is that what is "great" is quite subjective. One can always dismiss a claimed atheist discovery as not "great" as long as there is no empirical criteria for that. As far as I know, the discoverers of DNA were atheists (or similar) at the time (they certainly were later), but I'm not 100% certain of that. Philip J. Rayment 22:44, 24 September 2007 (EDT)
I'm not completely sure if Paul Erdos was atheist, he referred after all to "the book of proofs", but he wasn't too kind in this references to the author of this book. If not atheist, he could be called an anti-theist. Order 04:18, 24 September 2007 (EDT)

The following statement is false:

In his 2006 book "The God Delusion," Dawkins states his belief that fundamentalist religion "subverts science and saps the intellect," a view that is contrary to the fact that the most productive scientists, from Isaac Newton to Louis Pasteur, were devout Christians.

It is not true that the most productive scientists were devout Christians, and no source is given for that. Furthermore, Dawkins' statement is about fundamentalist religion, and it is hard to find any productive scientists today who are fundamentalist Christians. RSchlafly 11:21, 24 September 2007 (EDT)


You never responded to substantiate your statement that "Many great 20th century scientists were atheists." In fact, almost no great scientists have been atheists ever.
Many great scientists were "fundamentalists". Isaac Newton was. Many English scientists were. The great French, Italian and Polish scientists tended to be devout Catholics, so they were not Protestant but there were on the fundamentalist side of their chuch. LeMaitre, for example, was even a priest.
Perhaps what you mean to say is that the Nobel Prize is not given to fundamentalists. That is true, as many deserving recipients have been slighted by the bigotted committee that controls the prize. E.g., Damadian, Reagan, Pope John Paul II, Dicke.--Aschlafly 17:24, 24 September 2007 (EDT)
Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and Dicke were not fundamentalists. I don't know about Damadian. Most distinguished scientists today are not religious. Just look at Nobel prizewinners or recipients of other honors. You'll have a hard time finding any who are fundamentalists. RSchlafly 22:48, 24 September 2007 (EDT)
I guess his point is that if even those non-fundamentalists can't get the Nobel prize, so what hope has a fundamentalist got? I don't like the connotations of the word "fundamentalist", so generally avoid it, but Damadian is a six-day creationist, one of the main discoverers of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, but missed out on a Nobel prize for that (two others got it), allegedly because he was a creationist (even an anti-creationist suspects this was the reason). But given the claim that fundamentalists can't get the Nobel prize, it's disingenuous to refer to Nobel prize winners to support the idea that most are not fundamentalists.
By the way, I agree that most distinguished scientists today are not Biblical Christians, but would reply that (a) there are still quite a few who are, (b) it's hard to become "prominent" when you are a Biblical Christian these days, given the rampant discrimination, (c) probably around half are Christian, albeit not creationist, and (d) most are religious, it's just that in many cases their religion is Marxism, Secular Humanism, etc.
Philip J. Rayment 23:00, 24 September 2007 (EDT)
Under your last definition everybody who has an opinion on the transcendent is religious. It is probably fair to assume that all of them had an opinion, given that they were smart people. But to say that the atheist were religious too doesn't help Andy's claim that all great scientists were Christians. Order 23:29, 24 September 2007 (EDT)
I agree with your first two sentences. Your third sentence appears to be a non-sequitur. Philip J. Rayment 09:18, 25 September 2007 (EDT)
Why should it be non-sequitur? The fact that it doesn't help follows directly from the fact that your inclusive use of "religious" differs from Andy's exclusive use of "Christian". How does your claim that atheistm is a religion support that all great scientists are Christians?Order 12:08, 25 September 2007 (EDT)
I was taking your comment that it "doesn't help" to be a common euphemism for it "is counter-productive". That is a non-sequitur, as one has nothing to do with the other. If you were instead simply saying that it doesn't actually help because it has nothing to do with it, then I agree—that point wasn't meant to help. It was just meant to respond to RSchlafly's comment that most are not religious. Philip J. Rayment 22:40, 25 September 2007 (EDT)
(Replying to RSchlafly) Whilst I agree that no source is given that the most productive scientists were devout Christians, I disagree that the statement is false. The vast majority of the early scientists were Christians, and effectively creationists. See further below. Philip J. Rayment 22:44, 24 September 2007 (EDT)

As for the point about Newton, and the other scientists back in the day who claimed to be Christians - how else could they not? If they didn't, they would be branded sorcerers! As for Atheist Scientists, let me see now...

  • Sigmund Freud - the father of modern pschology
  • Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar - Pioneer of Astronomy
  • Francis Crick - Co founder of DNA
  • Paul Dirac - Founder of Quantam Mechanics
  • G. H. Hardy - Advanced number theory and mathematical analysis
  • Ernst Mayr - One of the 20th centuries leading biologists
  • Fritz Müller - Well known naturalist and an early advocate of Evolution
  • Linus Pauling - Leading 20th century Chemist
  • Richard J. Roberts - Advanced the mechanism of gene splicing
  • Alan Turing - The father of modern computer science
  • Einstein - No explanation needed

ETC.

Something tells me you haven't done your homework Schlafy. Graham 17:37, 24 September 2007 (EDT)

I agree whole heartedly. Even if we go back to Medieval times some of the great advancements in Maths (such as geometry, the origins of the usage of 'zero') were down to the great Islamic scholars. Someone's faith when it comes to scientific progress is quite frankly irrelevant. If we begin to judge the discoveries of scientists based on their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) then we have a serious endemic problem which threatens the progress of humanity itself. Graham 12:12, 24 September 2007 (EDT)

I would go that far that it threatens human progress. But is is indeed irrelevant to the discovery what the faith or political conviction the discoverer was, and I would like to add that it is even more irrelevant to the discovery, what any of us thinks about the discoverer. Order 21:29, 24 September 2007 (EDT)
(Replying to Graham and Order) What is "typical liberal" (referring to Graham's comment in the next section) is for them on the one hand to claim that a creationist can't be a true scientist (I've heard the claim numerous times), and on the other to claim that someone's faith is irrelevant when it comes to scientific progress. You can't have it both ways.
Also typical liberal is to claim that being a creationist is inconsistent with being a scientist, but then trying to explain away the fact that most early scientists were creationists with the excuse that this was simply due to the times. Again, you can't have it both ways.
Have a look at Natural science#Beginnings. You will see there that it is indeed true that most early scientists were Christians who believed the Bible, and based their science on that.
As for the Islamic contributions. The following is from a review of Rodney Stark's "For The Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the End of Slavery": "The Islamic world embraced classical scholarship enthusiastically, and made significant progress in mathematics, astronomy and medicine, but they never developed science".[1]
I'm not going to respond to specific names on Graham's list above, because I do accept that atheistic scientists have made important discoveries, but I do think that the list could be disputed in some places.
Finally, an atheist believes that the universe, and us, are here by chance (not design). And that their brains are the result of chance. And therefore that there thought processes are the result of chance. So when they do science, why should I take any notice if their thought processes are just the result of fixes chemical processes that have their origins in chance? I do take notice of them, because I don't believe that. I believe that their thought processes are the result of a well-designed brain created by a master architect. So even godless atheists are capable of great discoveries, because they are using their God-given brain. What's your rationale?
Philip J. Rayment 22:44, 24 September 2007 (EDT)
  • Not sure where you I said anything about creationism in this thread. But I'll respond anyway. The faith of the scientist is not the problem with creationism, many just doubt whether if it scientific, in particular, if it is falsifiable. I happy to admit that are a few creationist claims that are falsifiable, which is a good thing. It seems, however, that most if not all falsifiable creationist arguments have been falsified. But that a discussion that should take place at the creationism part. Lets agree that creationism can be scientific, if it makes falsifiable claims that hold water.
  • Sure, most early scientist were Christians? Did anybody here dispute this? Even many modern scientists are Christians, as you pointed out correctly. But in modern times there are even more atheists scientists. But for the scientific findings itself it still doesn't matter.
  • You are using "chance" fairly loosely. There are scientist that believe that in the beginning of the universe there was some chance involved, like the bouncing universe theory, while others claiming that the universe is necessarily the way it is. And there are those who admit that they simply don't know, and then those who claim that it cannot be known. Don't generalize that they all scientists believe that the beginning was all chance. Because it's not true.
  • And in science "chance" doesn't mean something isn't predictable. There are lotteries every week, and who wins is decided by chance, but that somebody will win is dead certain. You claim that just because the winner is uncertain the fact that there is a winner is uncertain. Sorry, mathematics tells you otherwise, and scientists know this and use this. And this is just a tip of probability theory, stochastics, and statistics.
  • And this usage of "chance" then means altogether something completely different from "without purpose". Or "without cause", a meaning that you also employ. Order 23:20, 24 September 2007 (EDT)
  • Creationism comes into it because we are talking about Bible-believing Christians. Claiming that one's faith doesn't matter, then claiming that creationist beliefs don't count because creationism isn't science is making an artificial distinction. And it's rubbish to claim that most or all falsifiable creationist claims have been falsified.
  • You might think it rubbish, and we can disagree on it. I hope we do not disagree that creationist should at least produce falsifiable claims if they want to be counted as science. Order 12:08, 25 September 2007 (EDT)
I agree there, just as evolutionists should at least produce falsifiable claims if they want evolution to be counted as science. Philip J. Rayment 22:40, 25 September 2007 (EDT)
  • Nobody clearly disputed that most early scientists were Christians, but there appeared to be dispute that this was relevant. My reply, which you are questioning, answered that point (see my italics), but you only questioned the first part, i.e. you've taken my comment out of context.
  • You italics were a quote saying that Muslims weren't doing science, only mathematics, astromomy and medicine. Not sure what this quote says about modern scientists and their beliefs. Order 12:08, 25 September 2007 (EDT)
I was referring to the previous italics, the rest of the sentence that you were replying to. I wasn't just pointing out that most early scientists were Christians, but that they (to repeat the italics) based their science on that. Philip J. Rayment 22:40, 25 September 2007 (EDT)
Most early Christian scientist based their science on Aristotle, who was officially endorsed by the Catholic Church. If you call this basing their science on faith, yes, then they did. Order 02:21, 26 September 2007 (EDT)
When I said that they "based their science on that", I was talking about their motives and philosophy of science, not specific scientific ideas. Natural science#Beginnings says it was based on "...the faith ... that it was dealing with a rational universe controlled by a creator who did not act upon whim...". Philip J. Rayment 03:05, 26 September 2007 (EDT)
Sure. And I don't see any conflict with Aristotle's science, to the contrary. Order 03:27, 26 September 2007 (EDT)
  • I'm not using "chance" loosely at all. What else would you call the opposite of design? If the universe is "necessarily" the way that it is, why is it "necessarily" that way? That seems to imply that there are laws that it must comply with, but where did those laws come from? Design, or chance? by implicitly invoking laws that make it "necessary", you've simply pushed the question back one more step, not answered it. As I indicated, chance is the opposite of design. If scientists don't believe the universe was designed (i.e. they are at least deists), then they must believe that it came about by chance (assuming they've even thought about it).
  • Your lottery example proves the opposite of what you propose: Lotteries are designed to be won by someone. Sure, there is chance regarding who wins, but not regarding that there will be winners. Furthermore, predictability with chance is only possible where you are predicting averages, not specifics. For example, there is no way to certainly predict the outcome of a coin toss. But you can predict that, on average, with multiple tosses, 50% will be heads and 50% will be tails.
  • But as you correctly point out, this is a side issue, as it is not what we are talking about. We are talking about assigning meaning to meaninglessness. If our brains are the results of chance, what meaning can they produce? Meaning comes from purpose, which is an aspect of design. Chance does not produce meaning.
Philip J. Rayment 09:18, 25 September 2007 (EDT)
  • What I'd call the opposite of design? Not sure, but I wouldn't call it chance. Just like lotteries employ chance to ensure that the bank wins, your wifi adapter uses chance to connect to the gateway. Both are designed, and both use chance. Thermodynamics also uses chance, and reason about averages, and is still useful. Monte-Carlo simulations, and genetic algorithms have proven to work and be able to give reasonable answers to non-trivial optimisation problems. Those employ chance as well. No, chance in the meaning of a probabilistic or stochastic distribution is not the opposite of design. It can be part of design. And just because chance is part of a system, means neither that the system cannot have purpose, nor cause.
You do really use "chance" in different ways.
  • When you say scientists claim that the universe and it laws are here by chance, you mean "without purpose". And indeed, most atheists scientist will tell you that there is no purpose, at least no teleological reasons.
  • But when you say that it is unlikely that the e.g. the brains or the laws of physics couldn't come about by chance, you suddenly mean "without cause". And all scientist will tell you that both have very likely a cause, they even tell you which cause they think causes it, and might even involve a random process. Studying the causes is kind of all that emirical scientists do. Yes, when they look for causes they might just push the answer one step back, this is what science quite often does. And beyond that bad scientist speculate, and good scientists will tell you that they don't know. Order 12:08, 25 September 2007 (EDT)
Yes, I'm using "chance" to mean, in the first instance, "without purpose". But if there is no purpose, then ultimately there can be no cause, else at some stage you have to invoke something from nothing with no cause. If bad scientists speculate, there must be a lot of bad scientists around. And why should a good scientists will tell you that they don't know, if in fact they do know (albeit from non-scientific sources)?Philip J. Rayment 22:40, 25 September 2007 (EDT)
If a scientist reasons from nonscientific sources then its not science. They are free to hold any belief about the ultimate cause, but its still not science. The ultimate cause is scientifically probably the least interesting one, since it is somewhat outside of the realm of empirical science. Maybe logicians can get excited about it, who knows. Logically speaking it might be interesting to contemplate if an ultimate cause is necessary in all useful models of causality.
And even the ultimate cause might exist without any purpose. You might think that the universe would be pointless then, and this is exactly what many atheists believe. They don't care that it is pointless in the big scheme, as long as its not pointless to them. Order 00:23, 26 September 2007 (EDT)
It may not be science, but it can still be true. Science is not the arbiter of truth, it's merely a useful method of studying creation.
How can the ultimate cause exist without any purpose? This seems to be a idea plucked from thin air with no basis at all. And if atheists believe that the universe really is pointless, how can they then (remaining consistent) believe that it is not pointless (to them)?
Philip J. Rayment 03:05, 26 September 2007 (EDT)
Unless a claim is contradictory, it can indeed be true, even if it refers to something that is outside of the reach of empirical science. A round triangle cannot exist, not even outside of the universe, but Huckleberry Finn might very well exist. Who knows. While science is not just about creation, it is about building a model of the world, and in the end it is indeed just a tool. Either to achieve an aim, or to satisfy our curiosity.
How a universe without purpose can exist? Pretty much like a universe with a purpose can exist. Things can exist without purpose. You might need to find a cause outside of it, but not a purpose. I didn't pluck it out of thin air, its a very common assumption among atheist. But I should have been more precise. There is no need to assume that something outside of the universe has a purpose to explain what is going on inside. I can explain how a car works, without knowing whether its used for leisure, or business. And the universe doesn't have to have a purpose for anything outside of it, to have a purpose for those inside. Our chat on this page can be meaningful to us, while nobody outside of CP gives a bit. Order 04:03, 26 September 2007 (EDT)
I think your key point there was that it's an "assumption among atheist[s]". (I didn't say that it was you who plucked it from thin air.) Of course, the assumption has to be, else they could not be atheists. But an assumption is not evidence or even an argument. And being able to explain how something works without knowing why it was created is a separate matter. Whether something matters to someone is also a separate matter to what the purpose of something was. Philip J. Rayment 22:56, 1 October 2007 (EDT)
The Nobel prize wasn't given to Reagan or Pope John Paul II due to bias, and so of course it isn't going to be given to devoutly religious scientists either. Damadian invented the MRI, one of the greatest scientific advances of the 20th century, and the prize was given for the MRI, but the prize was not given to Damadian. Why? Because he is thought to be a fundamentalist. He disproves the claim above that there are no great 20th century fundamentalist scientists.
As to the above list of atheists, it's a mixture of fraudsters (Freud), unimpressive scientists (Hardy, Muller) and scientists who were not atheists (Einstein), and scientists who became atheists after their productive years in science. Remove all those from the list, and there is little left. Then compare that to the likes of Newton, Pasteur, Gauss, Riemann, Maxwell, Kelvin, LeMaitre, Damadian and so on, and there's little doubt which side has accomplished more.--Aschlafly 01:02, 25 September 2007 (EDT)
Reagan and the Pope are irrelevant. They weren't scientists. The science prizes are given out by the Swedes. The Nobel Peace Prize comes from Norway. Yes, the peace prizes have been influenced by politics, but that has nothing to do with scientists being religious.
Damadian didn't invent the MRI. He found some medical applications to MRI. Even if I concede that he should have gotten a Medicine prize and that he missed it because he is a fundamentalist Christian, he is just one out of 100s of science prize recipients. The vast majority of them were not fundamentalist Christians or even devout Christians.
Yes, a lot of pre-1900 great scientists were devout Christians, but it just isn't true anymore. RSchlafly 02:00, 25 September 2007 (EDT)
You are downgrading Damadian's contribution. See here for more detail. And you are still improperly using Nobel prize winners as a measure of Christians involved with science. Philip J. Rayment 09:18, 25 September 2007 (EDT)
The article says that Damadian was one of nine MRI pioneers. I agree that Damadian was a productive scientist who may be a fundamentalist. But where are the others? If you don't like counting Nobel Prize winners, then use any measure you want for counting productive scientists in the last century. I say that non-fundamentalists outnumber fundamentalists by 100 to 1. RSchlafly 14:13, 25 September 2007 (EDT)
I'll first of all point out that I'm not arguing that "fundamentalists" even come close to outnumbering others, but also note that some people seem to want to minimise the fact that most early scientists were Christians, but make a big deal about how most present-day ones (allegedly) aren't. And as I mentioned in an earlier post regarding "great", a problem is defining "productive". It's too rubbery to be all that meaningful. Despite arguing that using Nobel prize winners is not an appropriate measure, I'm not arguing that better measures will give completely different results. Different probably, but not greatly different. Philip J. Rayment 12:15, 25 September 2007 (EDT)

ASchlafy, Enjoy your cosy little world with fluffy clouds and pink elephants... Man, I'd love to be living there. Frued is a fraud!??? Give me a break Graham 07:05, 25 September 2007 (EDT)

Yes, Freud was a fraud. He faked his data and his results were bogus. RSchlafly 11:54, 25 September 2007 (EDT)
Fraud might be to strong, but he got more recognition for his style of writing, than for his science. Maybe because most of his claims were easily falsified, or unfalsifiable, and his methods in addition questionable. He was a good writer, but but not a great scientist.Order 03:31, 26 September 2007 (EDT)