Richard Dawkins interview on his new book.

Worth a listen.

19 thoughts on “Richard Dawkins interview on his new book.

  1. My hero!  Dawkins for President!  Or perhaps better yet, Dawkins for God!

    A great interview.  My only personal disagreement with Dawkins is that I’m not so sanguine about a rational (godless) society almost certainly being a better place to live.  I’m not convinced we’re grown up enough for that, and I don’t know if we ever will be.

  2. When the interviewer asked where the evidence was that a secular society would be better than a religious one, I immediately answered, “Israel”.

    Of course you could also add Iraq, Northern Ireland and many others.

    I was a little disappointed that when the interviewer asked about religion giving people comfort, purpose and a moral code, Dawkins only addressed the comfort point.  He’s already written on what kind of purposes and moral codes some people get in their religion (and I’m sure some of that is in the book), but I would have liked to see some of it in the interview too, because I don’t think it’s a claim that should ever be allowed to pass unchallenged.

    Religion does give people moral codes.  Since there is more than one religion, it gives different people different moral codes.  Often, it gives them *thoroughly vile* moral codes.

  3. I like him too!  smile

    Zilch: My only personal disagreement with Dawkins is that I’m not so sanguine about a rational (godless) society almost certainly being a better place to live.

    As Dawkins said near the end, it’s better to live in a society that’s not built on a lie.
    Have you ever contemplated what great steps could have happened in human progress if we hadn’t invented gods?
    Tribes and societies would still have eked out the same laws for survival – just not inspired by invisible Omnimax creatures.
    Religiously based societies, as many of ours are, make the same mistake as Hitler did when he wasted all that time, energy and all the resources, murdering Jews.
    This is an amusing little video of hardly any relevance.  LOL.

  4. Well, LJ, I would like to believe that you and Dawkins are right.  But I don’t think it’s self-evident.  Since no society has ever evolved without religion, and religion has such far-reaching effects on behavior, it’s pretty hard if not impossible to imagine how it would be.

    And I certainly agree about the rapaciousness of religious cultures, and I’ll go along with Dawkins saying it’s better not to live a lie, even if the lie makes you happy.  I guess I must believe that we’d be better off without religion, because I argue with believers all the time.  All I’m saying is, that it’s not necessarily certain that we would have been, or would be, better off altogether without religion.

    Julia Sweeny is very funny.  It’s encouraging that more and more atheists are coming out of the closet.

  5. You just have no FAITH, mate.  wink  LOL

    I argue with believers all the time

    In other words even if you don’t believe in Santa, it’s better for others that they do so.  confused smile
    Aaahh, Zilch, methinks I recognise a romantic at heart.

    Since no society has ever evolved without religion

    Is that an absolute fact?  – This is not a trick question …
    Don’t mind me, mate – glasses of Fruity Red, a pleasant smoke, whilst listening to Delibes’ Flower duet.
    At the same time I’m watching/listening to a forum about teaching in Oz on SBS TV, a PBS.
    One teacher said that much of her time was taken up with ‘unsettled home lives’ of her students.
    One of my mates is a 40 yo art teacher.
    He’s one I know who loves most of his days. smile
    Quote from the programme: I was disgusted to hear we were paying our beginner teachers 30k per year. That’s not worth getting outa bed for … and we’re entrusting our children to them?!?

  6. Since no society has ever evolved without religion, and religion has such far-reaching effects on behavior, it’s pretty hard if not impossible to imagine how it would be.

    I think you’re wrong there.  People have religion, but ever since the Catholic church was born, and probably before then, governments have been manipulating religion, or being manipulated by religious leaders who were NOT motivated by God and “the right thing to do” but by their own politics.  Religion has not evolved society.  Governments and religious leaders have used religion to make people do what they want.  I think a people without a religious foundation in government would be a people who has to think for themselves and will have to be convinced of the merits of a course of action, not merely that “God wants it”

    I would much rather live in such a society.

  7. zilch: Since no society has ever evolved without religion

    LJ: Is that an absolute fact?  – This is not a trick question …

    Just what is an “absolute fact” for you, LJ? tongue wink I don’t believe in them either.  It’s typically godders who want “absolute facts” from science, and when they’re not forthcoming, they say that science is a crock because it’s full of holes, and God has no holes.  Anyway, LJ, of course I don’t know for sure if no society has ever evolved without religion, but as far as I know, none has ever been documented.

    zilch:  Since no society has ever evolved without religion, and religion has such far-reaching effects on behavior, it’s pretty hard if not impossible to imagine how it would be.

    swordsbane: I think you’re wrong there

    Your powers of imagination must be much better than mine (quite possible).  But if you look how societies evolve, you can’t really cleanly separate out religion and politics from society, or from one another.  I, too, would rather live in a secular society.  I do believe it would be better overall.  But I’m not absolutely sure.

  8. Based on some of the books about how our brains work that I’ve read recently I’d have to agree with Zilch. Research seems to indicate that the tendency toward religious belief is a side effect of how our brains process the overwhelming amount of data it takes in constantly.

    In short, it takes conscious effort for most people to think rationally as our brain’s first response is to jump to conclusions rather rapidly on the smallest of evidence. When you add in how easily our senses can be fooled it’s not hard to see how mystical thinking is common place.

  9. In short, it takes conscious effort for most people to think rationally as our brain’s first response is to jump to conclusions rather rapidly on the smallest of evidence.

    This would explain why ancient societies had a rather large number of gods—the existance of each god explained a different phenomena.  It appears that there are 47 known thunder gods and a similar number of wind gods.  Norse mythology even has a god of skiing, named Urrl.  I understand that ski instructors consider themselves to be gods, but they are false gods. 

    Later, things were simplified and the assortment of single purpose gods was replaced by one general purpose god, which made things much easier. 

    The Catholic church made things difficult again when they introduced the various patron saints.  This means that Catholics pray to saint Anthony when they loose their keys instead of to a lost-and-found god. There actually is a saint Martha, who is the patron saint of cooking.

  10. Zilch: Just what is an “absolute fact” for you

    Yeah, I stuffed that up.  red face
    A fact is just a fact just like truth is truth – no adjectives are needed.

    I don’t know for sure if no society has ever evolved without religion, but as far as I know, none has ever been documented.

    I couldn’t remember any either.
    Having said that, I still think too much time and energy is wasted in worshipping an invisible deity and then being manipulated by people, usually men, who say they know what the deity wants us to do.

  11. One of the interesting things about that interview was the bit about leaving the possibility of the existence of God open.  I run into a polarization of thought when dealing with devoutly religious people, and it’s the same thing I run into with people who believe in aliens and the paranormal.  You challenge them and they ask you: “Don’t you think it’s possible?”  and I always say “Yes,” because in a literal sense, anything is >possible<  Like they say, you can’t absolutely prove a negative.  Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10 when I answer ‘yes’ it somehow confirms that my skepticism is a lie, that I secretly do believe, but I’m either playing devils advocate or I’m not being honest with myself.  You either believe or you refuse to believe.  There don’t seem to be any alternatives.

      The truth is, I am perfectly willing to believe in God, or even in aliens or the paranormal, as soon as I see some real evidence.  The problem is that I don’t see any evidence, and when confronted with the ‘evidence’ that convinces most people, I remain skeptical.  So I’m considered an ‘unbeliever’ instead of someone with an open mind who just hasn’t been convinced.  After all, something convinced them, so from their point of view, it’s so obvious and I’m just being silly.

    Being open to the possibility is not the same as accepting something as fact.  It seems all too common to mistake critical thinking for a closed mind.

  12. Yep, swordsbane.  This is the very point many debates with the religious stick on, and something Spocko covers nicely in his post.

  13. Since no society has ever evolved without religion, and religion has such far-reaching effects on behavior, it’s pretty hard if not impossible to imagine how it would be.

    And I certainly agree about the rapaciousness of religious cultures, and I’ll go along with Dawkins saying it’s better not to live a lie, even if the lie makes you happy.  I guess I must believe that we’d be better off without religion, because I argue with believers all the time.  All I’m saying is, that it’s not necessarily certain that we would have been, or would be, better off altogether without religion.

    zilch and Les:

    Your willingness to concede points when it is apparent that they should be conceded is why you both have my respect.

  14. Consi: Thanks.  You have my respect too.  You’re smart and care about people.  And anyone who calls Bush an “idiot” can’t be that bad.

  15. You challenge them and they ask you: “Don’t you think it’s possible?” and I always say “Yes,” because in a literal sense, anything is >possible< Like they say, you can’t absolutely prove a negative. Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10 when I answer ‘yes’ it somehow confirms that my skepticism is a lie, that I secretly do believe, but I’m either playing devils advocate or I’m not being honest with myself. You either believe or you refuse to believe. There don’t seem to be any alternatives.

    I ran into that very problem recently. My response (after a little thought) was to ask my fundie friend if he thought it was possible that I had a monkey in the trunk of my car. He started out by saying “of course not” and I led him through a logical path, showing him that I hadn’t been around him all day, nor had my car, and it was indeed “possible” that I had slipped up to the zoo and kidnapped a monkey and locked him in my trunk. After I got him to concede that it was possible, I asked him how likely he thought it was and he just shook his head and walked away.

  16. KPG: I ran into that very problem recently. My response (after a little thought) was to ask my fundie friend if he thought it was possible that I had a monkey in the trunk of my car. He started out by saying “of course not” and I led him through a logical path, showing him that I hadn’t been around him all day, nor had my car, and it was indeed “possible” that I had slipped up to the zoo and kidnapped a monkey and locked him in my trunk. After I got him to concede that it was possible, I asked him how likely he thought it was and he just shook his head and walked away.

    Thanks.. The imagery alone I got from that made my day smile

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