Wednesday, March 28, 2007

You can say what you like about Dawkins...

...but he gets to the point.


23 comments:

monix said...

Can I say what I like? He may be articulate, direct and amusing but he is the most arrogant man on the planet. He makes Mugabe look like a diplomat.

Brit said...

I wouldn't go that far.

monix said...

Are you proposing Piers Morgan as a contender for 'Most arrogant man on the planet' award? He might be a close runner up.

Susan's Husband said...

It's funny to me that he mentions New Scientist, as I subscribe and pretty much every issue has some howler of political bias. The best were back to back editorials, the first "it is wrong to question AGW!" and the second "it is wrong to stifle dissent about science!". It seems apropos that Dawkins would like a magazine with such flexibility to make its ideological point.

Gordon McCabe said...

That's an interesting point about New Scientist. In the 1980s and 1990s it seemed to have a very strong left-wing bias, and I always wondered why this should be so for a scientific magazine. The conclusion I came to is that the majority of scientists (and academics, in fact) are left-wing, hence New Scientist simply responds to the demographics of its audience.

So why are scientists and academics predominantly left-wing? My personal suspicion is that it's motivated by financial jealousy: academics see their less talented contemporaries earning far more money than themselves, in the world outside the university, and, consciously or unconsciously, they seek a means of political retribution. Supporting the redistribution of wealth by political means is an attempted form of retribution.

Mark said...

"it's motivated by financial jealousy: academics see their less talented contemporaries earning far more money than themselves, in the world outside the university"

I think you might well be making the mistake of taking them at their own estimation. They might - might - know a lot about a little, but the ones who have anything interesting to say about anything else are few and far between. Most academics are not hugely impressive and suffer from an inflated sense of entitlement.

As for Dawkins. Any man who can take pride in not knowing anything about the the subject he is purporting to write a phillipic against must think we all take him at his own estimation.

Still, between him, Piers Morgan, Rory Bremner and Mark Steel it comes down to a difficult choice, and I think he might be let off if only because he is slightly less of a prig.

Gordon McCabe said...

What's a 'phillipic'?

Brit said...

Mark:

I'm glad you said that. I thought I was the only one who can't stand Bremner any more.

joe shropshire said...

So why are scientists and academics predominantly left-wing? My personal suspicion is that it's motivated by financial jealousy: academics see their less talented contemporaries earning far more money than themselves, in the world outside the university, and, consciously or unconsciously, they seek a means of political retribution.

That's a slightly narrower version of Robert Nozick's argument in Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism? To Nozick the jealousy is over status more generally, with financial success as one marker.

Mike Beversluis said...

"The fact is that up to now the free society has not been good for the intellectual. It has neither accorded him a superior status to sustain his confidence nor made it easy for him to acquire an unquestioned sense of social usefulness. For he derives his sense of usefulness mainly from directing, instructing, and planning-from minding other people's business-and is bound to feel superfluous and neglected where people believe themselves competent to manage individual and communal affairs, and are impatient of supervision and regulation. A free society is as much a threat to the intellectual's sense of worth as an automated economy is to the workingman's sense of worth. Any social order that can function with a minimum of leadership will be anathema to the intellectual."
Eric Hoffer

Mike Beversluis said...

Also, concerning environmentalism:

"The intellectual craves a social order in which uncommon people perform uncommon tasks every day. He wants a society throbbing with dedication, reverence, and worship. He sees it as scandalous that the discoveries of science and the feats of heroes should have as their denouement the comfort and affluence of common folk. A social order run by and for the people is to him a mindless organism motivated by sheer physiologism."
Eric Hoffer [via]

Harry Eagar said...

I'd have thought that scientists are distinctly less left wing than non-scientist academics.

Hofer, who is usually trenchant, needs a good shaking. If free society has not been good to the intellectual, the unfree society has been a good deal less good to him, usually not letting him exist at all.

A rather odd thread, this. Perhaps it depends upon which scientists you read. I have not noticed Duckians posting many lampoons of research scientists -- not nearly as many as of social scientists or liberal artists.

The idea that scientists have little interesting to say outside their fields also puzzles me. Take Medawar, for example.

The latest number of Skeptical Inquirer (not online, I don't believe) is devoted to atheism and religion. Michael Ruse and Daniel Dennett have particularly interesting, and contradictory, takes. I, of course, disagree with both.

There is also a pretty good review of Dawkins' atheism book by Kendrick Frazier.

I can hardly agree with mark that Dawkins does not know anything about his topic (whichever topic of Dawkins's that mark was fingering).

A philippic is a tirade, although I believe it is supposed to be in verse. Don't see a lot of those these days, except here, of course.

Harry Eagar said...

I had never heard of Piers Morgan but followed Brit's link. As an American newspaperman, I was astonished to discover that British editors have a code of conduct.

Cannot imagine what's in it.

Brit said...

Harry:

Yes, the mind boggles at the notion of a tabloid editor's code.

As for Piers Morgan, if there is such a thing as a git anywhere on this planet, Morgan is that git.

Duck said...

If Dawkins and New Scientist (of which I have no familiarity) were content to just say "this is interesting" then there would be little controversy around them, save for the neanderthal religionists who find their claims hostile to their literalist worldviews. But he goes beyond that. He didn't answer Tyson's question. Educating, as he said, is persuasion. That's more than saying "this is interesting".

I'm not sure what context Dawkins earlier talk was about for which Dyson was referring, whether religion or evolution. Dawkins points on evolution are spot on, but his points on religion are ham-handed inanities. When your point is inane, there is no virtue in getting to it quickly.

Mike Beversluis said...

Harry,

In my experience, scientists are leftist to libertarian. Academics in general skew left.

Also, Hoffer would agree that intellectuals precipitate their own demise by creating non-free societies.

Brit said...

Oh come, come, Duck. I thought Dawkins rather generously rescued the guy by giving his long, aimless, rambling, confusing speech a neat punchline.

Duck said...

Yes, in comparison to Dyson's rambling and confusing, though not aimless question Dawkins reply was refreshingly concise, if evasive. I'ts all about style for you Brits, innit?

Brit said...

Once every argument that can be made has been made, only style matters.

You Americans haven't got this far yet, cos a you're young and excited people, intcha?

monix said...

Duck
Brit, in this context, is singular and personal. We don't all agree with his views all of the time.

Harry Eagar said...

Mike, I could only agree that intellectuals create unfree societies if we limit 'intellectual' to priests, magi etc.

The liberal or Enlightenment intellectual tradition, which I think we are talking about here, though without explicitly limiting it to that, created free society or at any rate co-evolved with it.

If you take intellectual to mean anybody who thinks for a living, then most are obscurantists who get paid for justifying despotism.

This is as true of the salons of Paris today as of Petersburg yesterday, but the most intellectual town in the world, more so than either Cambridge, is Timbuctoo, followed closely by dozens of 'holy cities,' each vying with the rest for the honor of being the world's worst hellhole.

Peter Burnet said...

Yeah, c'mon Duck. He may be a hate-monger, but he is a very witty and sincere hate-monger. Surely that is all that is important to the cool guys in the wine bars.

Duck said...

Monix

True, but evey when we disagree I admire his style.