Friday, January 29, 2010

Bump and grind with Dickie Dawkins, you whited sepulchres!

This is a salutary lesson about why you should never write comment pieces for the Times while frothing in a righteous rage.

Here, Richard! Lend us your brain, I'm building an idiot.

27 comments:

Peter Burnet said...

If he had been around in 1861 watching Union soldiers march off to fight slavery, it's easy to imagine he would have been fulminating about how evil it is to claim thine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

malty said...

Yeah, him and his wonkey scientist mates, watched 'Time' last night, Chinkey looking bloke called Beaker did the Janet and John commentary, think they used every location on the planet and Nigella's cameraman. Time apparently ain't the pointers on your watch, oh no, this clever clogs reckons it can go backwards, yeah, right. Bloke was a raving nutter, and Dawko and his clique think that religion is barking.

Peter Burnet said...

Yes, malty, it is amazing what they can get away with, especially when they preen in counterpoint to American fundamentalists. My personal favourite is the multiverse. It's weird as weird can be and there isn't any evidence for it (and arguably there could never be), but it has grabbed the loyalty of Dawkins and many brilliant scientists with the fervor a 17th century Jesuit might have shown towards the Immaculate Conception.

At the risk of imposing on our host, here is one great takedown of scientific pretension by David Berlinski, a sceptic and scientist himself:

"We seem to live our lives in perfect indifference to the Standard Model of particle physics, the world we inhabit nor only remote from the world it describes but different in detail, thank God."

"Over there, fields are pregnant with latent energy, particles flicker into existence and disappear, things are entangled, and no one can quite tell what is possible and what is actual, what is here and what is there, what is now and what was then. Nothing is stable. Great impassive symmetries are in control, as vacant and unchanging as the eye of Vishnu. Where they come from, no one knows. Time and space contract into some sort of agitated quantum foam. Nothing is continuous. Nothing stays the same for long except the electrons, and they are identical, like porcelain Chinese soldiers. A pointless frenzy prevails throughout."

"Over here, space and time are stable and continuous. Matter is what it is and energy does what it does. There are solid and enduring shapes and forms. There are no controlling symmetries. The sun is largely the same sun now that it was four thousand years ago when it baked the Egyptian deserts. Changes appear slowly, but even when rapid, they appear in stable patterns. There is dazzling variety throughout. The great river of time flows forward. We anticipate the future, but we remember the past. We begin knowing we will end."

"The God of the Gaps may now be invited to comment--strictly as an outside observor, of course. He is addressing us. And this is what He has to say: 'You have no idea whatsoever how the ordered physical, moral, mental, aesthetic and social world in which you live could ever have arisen from the seething anarchy of the elementary particles.' "

"'It is like imagining sea foam resolving itself into the Parthenon.'"

Brit said...

Here Think of England would like to point out that while it disapproves of the simplistic anti-religious views of Richard Dawkins, it does not in any way condone the pseudo-scientific twaddle of David Berlinksi and other proponents of the so-called theory of 'Intelligent Design'.

Peter Burnet said...

Good man. I wouldn't condone any pseudo-scientific twaddle from him either. As soon as I encounter some, I'll have a sharp word.

Seriously, what is this burr about Berlinski and why do you associate him with ID (I presume you mean the tweaking god)? Are you aware he is a declared agnostic?

worm said...

To those who would propound Intelligent Design, I would say only "Stephen Baldwin"

Brit said...

Berlinski is a "Senior Fellow" of the Discovery Institute, worldwide hub of psuedo-science.

Peter Burnet said...

Really? Not just a hub, but a worldwide hub? Mom always said they were the worst kind.

I could debate you on this, but it's Friday, so I'll just wish you a great weekend and close by saying: Aaaaarrrrgggghhhh!!

Brit said...

"Worldwide hub" is modest indeed compared with the DI's stated aims ...to "defeat scientific materialism", "reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions" and "affirm the reality of God", no less.

Peter Burnet said...

A Christian worldview? That sounds scary. I sure hope they don't start giving scientists at the Vatican any ideas. If we don't nip this one in the bud, we'll soon have rabbis hiding the Pentateuch in their research on neuroscience.

Is there not at argument for listening to what a scholar actually has to say rather than just assuming it's a camouflage for his employer's mission statement?

David said...

Geez, it's almost as if his atheism wasn't based on rationality but on hatred of Christianity.

Brit said...

Of course, Peter. But since you brought Berlinksi into it I just wanted to insert a disclaimer making clear that my anti-Dawkins statements are not to be interpreted as pro-ID statements, as if it were not possible that both are wrong.

Peter Burnet said...

Not only is it possible, I suspect Berlinski would say it is highly likely, as just about everything he has ever written is on the theme that we are much, much further away from a comprehensive understanding than we believe, and that our popular pet theories can't do anything like they claim to. I've never seen anything by him touting tweaking gods or irreducible complexity.

BTW, in addition to being a brilliant mathematician and having done post-doctorate work in biochemistry, he has also taught English Lit. So you can relax, the reference to the God of the Gaps in the quote was allegorical.

Brit said...

Sounds like a real Renaissance Man.

David said...

Actually, on second-thought it occurs to me that Dawkins in wrong about what caused the catastrophe, and that Robinson, though also wrong, is closer to the truth.

David said...

And by "Robinson" one of course means "Robertson." It goes without saying.

Brit said...

Come on then, David, out with it you terrible old tease.

Hey Skipper said...

Is it what Dawkins said, or how he said it?

David said...

I didn't intend to tease; I intended to post about it on my own blog. Now, I think it doesn't deserve it's own post.

What I realized was that the earthquake was caused by the movement of the continental plates, but the catastrophe was caused by the fragile nature of civil society in Haiti. Granted the earthquake didn't happen close to the capital of the Dominican Republic, but note that we're not hearing anything like the trouble getting aid to remote areas of the DR that we're having in Haiti.

A Magnitude 7.0 quake is a major quake, and would bring down some buildings even in a rich country. (The Northridge quake, in 1994, that killed 63, was a 6.8 quake.) So the quake itself would have likely caused fatalities if it occurred in any populated area, but the after-effects are better explained by social science, not geology.

Even in China, which suffered from badly built buildings, a strong civil society, including a responsive army, kept fatalities after the fact to a minimum.

The catastrophe in Haiti is not the earthquake, but the society that, even when the earth isn't shaking, fails the Haitian people. This is not the fault of the Haitian people, or at least not more than it's the fault of the United States, but it is the result of evil left unopposed

Gadjo Dilo said...

'E was fuming, wasn't he! "Your entire theology is one long celebration of suffering..." whereas the legacy of atheism is, err, yeah right.

Hey Skipper said...

A Magnitude 7.0 quake is a major quake, and would bring down some buildings even in a rich country. (The Northridge quake, in 1994, that killed 63, was a 6.8 quake.)

The Good Friday Earthquake of 1964 was magnitude 9.2. Anchorage was just about as close to the epicenter as Port au Prince.

9 died, the only deaths caused by the earthquake. Another 110-ish by subsequent tsunamis.

This is not the fault of the Haitian people, or at least not more than it's the fault of the United States, but it is the result of evil left unopposed.

Whose evil, unopposed by whom?

David said...

The evil of the, for want of a better work, government. Unopposed by Haitians and by the United States, but mostly by those who are more worried about the appearance of colonialism than be the reality of misery.

ghostofelberry said...

He doesn't seem to grasp that, for example, an omnipotent God could cause an earthquake by arranging bits of the earth to collide with each other, in such a way that to use it would look like mechanical cause & effect.

He also seems in some ways the mirror image of Pat R - at least as far as i can tell, knowing not much about either man. Perhaps that accounts for the note of admiration and secret erotic attraction in the piece.

A strange man. It pleases me that RD looks so much like we imagine 17th C witchfinder generals to have looked.

Hey Skipper said...

The evil of the, for want of a better work, government.

Well, yes, the government is perfectly awful.

But if, say, the Bahamas were to have a 7.0, the loss of life would be pretty massive there, too.

The combination of being an island, and not having had a serious earthquake for generations is very bad.

Never mind that, though. Apparently a vengeful God is not part of the problem, despite the fulminations of some theologians.

Peter Burnet said...

elberry:

He also seems in some ways the mirror image of Pat R

Yes, the two have a very strong co-dependency relationship. Each absolves the other from responding to critics within, and neither would get the attention he does without the other.

Brit said...

Yes, you get the feeling from the article that Dawkins's first reaction to a disaster - or at least his priority - is to look forward to what Pat Robertson has given him to use as a weapon in his crusade.

What's really unpleasant about Dawkins's rant is that he thinks that Haiti is a good reason to launch a vicious attack on moderate believers - so his target includes most of the rescuers and donators.

Peter Burnet said...

Not to mention the overwhelming majority of the citizens of Haiti.