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Dawkins in Austin

Last week was spring break at Southwestern Seminary where I teach. The seminary is located in Ft. Worth, about 200 miles north of Austin. As it is, in the middle of the break (last Wednesday), Richard Dawkins was going to be speaking in Austin. I therefore challenged my class to go listen to him and provide proof that they had actually been there (the preferred proof was to have him sign a copy of THE GOD DELUSION). The incentive to go was extra credit for the course. Six of my students went. I told them that they should greet Richard from me should they speak to him. One student got Dawkins’s signature, shook hands, and then greeted him from me. Another made the mistake of first greeting him from me and then trying to shake his hand — Dawkins refused. Below is a blog entry from one of my students about the event:

On Wednesday, a friend from Seminary and I drove down to University of Texas in Austin to see renowned atheist Richard Dawson speak. If you’re not familiar with Dawkins, he is a scientist who has now moved into the realm of theology, and has recently written a book called “The God Delusion” that has sold 1.5 million copies in the United States. While our original motivation was to get extra credit for Apologetics class, we were both interested to see what Dawkins would have to say.

Dawkins was speaking at 7PM, so we showed up at the auditorium at about 5:45PM, thinking: “How many people really want to see Richard Dawkins?” Boy, were we surprised! Several thousand people had already showed up at that time, and the line to the auditorium snaked on for miles. We estimated that over 3,000 people showed up … and the auditorium would only hold 1,200 people. At about 6:45, some university staff showed up to tell folks in line that if they did not already have a free ticket, then they would not be able to get in. So we went to the front of the line and bought some free tickets for the lecture from some members of the Longhorn Atheist club. We ran into several of our fellow class members, and they ended up paying to get into as well. So, ironically, the Christians had to pay to see the head atheist.

My synopsis of what Dawkins had to say follows the old joke about atheism:

Q: “What are the two central beliefs of an atheist?”
A: “1. There is no God; and, 2. I really hate God.”

As Dawkins is more renowned for being a scientist than a philosopher, I kept waiting for him to have something scientifically profound to say … and I kept waiting. I was stunned that there was exactly ZERO scientific content to what Dawkins had to say. Opening up, he stated that there are two ways atheists can deal with Christianity: be conciliatory or be ridiculing. And ridicule he did. Dawkins essentially went on a 45 minute rant about why he hates Christianity. I won’t go over every point Dawkins made (because there weren’t many anyway), but here’s a couple bigger ones:

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34 Responses to Dawkins in Austin

  1. What? Dawkins made the crowd applaud himself twice? Is that true?

  2. I’m surprised that when he was asked how evolution can account for human reason he replied “we’ll probably never know.” Usually, it’s more of the promissory materialism bent: “we don’t know yet, but science is working on it”

  3. Berceuse

    Re:

    when he [Professor of teh Public Understanding of Science, now about to be retired, Mr Clinton Richard Dawkins, PhD] was asked how evolution can account for human reason he replied “we’ll probably never know.”

    Later last year, we had a thread here at UD that looked at that quite extensively.

    This — explanatory collapse into self-refutation — is what Mr Dawkins is covering up:

    _____________

    [evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of "science"] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance and psycho-social conditioning, within the framework of human culture.)

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

    Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

    In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . .

    In Law, Government, and Public Policy, the same bitter seed has shot up the idea that “Right” and “Wrong” are simply arbitrary social conventions. This has often led to the adoption of hypocritical, inconsistent, futile and self-destructive public policies.

    “Truth is dead,” so Education has become a power struggle; the victors have the right to propagandise the next generation as they please. Media power games simply extend this cynical manipulation from the school and the campus to the street, the office, the factory, the church and the home.

    Further, since family structures and rules of sexual morality are “simply accidents of history,” one is free to force society to redefine family values and principles of sexual morality to suit one’s preferences.

    Finally, life itself is meaningless and valueless, so the weak, sick, defenceless and undesirable — for whatever reason — can simply be slaughtered, whether in the womb, in the hospital, or in the death camp.

    In short, ideas sprout roots, shoot up into all aspects of life, and have consequences in the real world . . .
    _______________

    GEM of TKI

  4. Dr. Dembski,

    I wonder what would have happened if you’d gone yourself and tried to shake his hand?

  5. 5

    Dawkins was in Austin last week?

    I wondered what that stinch was coming over the city, but then thankfully, it rained.

  6. Although it may seem rude, I was taught that shaking hands is an understanding that an agreement has been made, and the two parites involved are indicating that they have come to a meeting of minds, so it would be inappropriate for someone not agreeing with Richard Dawkins, and his agenda, to shake his hand at an event set up to let him air his views, unless both parties had already come to the understanding that they had “agreed to disagree”.

    Richard Dawkins speaks against, and, in the public mind, stands opposed to my own deepest beliefs.

    I cannot judge him too harshly for refusing to shake hands with someone who has just identified himself as a “follower of Bill Dembski”; I expect I might have had the same reaction if the roles were reversed.

  7. 7

    “On Wednesday, a friend from Seminary and I drove down to University of Texas in Austin to see renowned atheist Richard Dawson speak.”

    As I recall from The Family Feud, Richard Dawson was really more of a kiss-kiss guy than a handshake man.

  8. larrynormanfan,

    And the survey says?

  9. Once I was offered the chance to shake hands with a man who would be President. “No thank you,” said I, which I now think was a little too self-righteous. Why not indulge a little curiosity and not miss the opportunity to peer into the eyes of the man Jesse Jackson was later to describe as having no core beliefs . . . just “appetite all the way down”?

    Anyway we can be thankful that Dawkins loudly proclaims one core truth: DARWINISM IS ATHEISM. What is disconcerting is that so much of the intelligentsia is so ready to embrace his militant atheism.

  10. Excellent synopsis of Dawkins’ drivel. I pity and pray for him as well. He can huff and puff great bloated words signifying nothing all he wants but it won’t change anything. His blather is good for contrasts in absurdity, nothing more.

  11. 11

    Does Dawkins hate Dembski, I wonder?
    Not shaking a persons hand, because they like Bill Dembski.

    Dawkins is a drama queen.

  12. Dawkins’ arguments are non sequitur. No matter how strident Dawkins argues he cannot successfully defend his philosophical materialism.
    When someone represents what he despises but cannot refute, his reaction is similar to an earthworm having to endure crawling through a salt bed. If I were in his position I would want to get as far away from Dr. Dembski or anyone associated with him as possible.

  13. I wonder whether the three thousand in attendance generally agreed with Dawkins, or were they there primarily out of curiosity?

    And, with this string of atheistic books and speaking series, how successful is the new, slick marketing of atheism likely to be? And what is the best way to counter-balance the propoganda?

  14. The sad reality — when Dawkins preaches, “Religion is child abuse” He is speaking from personal experience. He admits being homosexually abused as a child in a Christian bording school. The sad reality of Dawkins’ situation is that he has not recognized that this tragedy in his life has been such a destructive force. If he were to serously recognize the trauma, he may be able to allow anger to turn to forgiveness, he may be able to love his enemies. He may be able to give up his righteous hatred of Christianity.

  15. scheeseman –I was taught that shaking hands is an understanding that an agreement has been made,

    Shaking hands is also — and much more often used as such — a polite means of greeting and stems from the days when men routinely carried swords and knives (hence showing you had no implement of destruction in your right hand).

  16. Dawkins seems to think of himself as the Clarence Darrow of our time. Frankly, it strikes me as being more akin to this era’s Marylyn Manson.

  17. tribune7:

    Shaking hands is also — and much more often used as such — a polite means of greeting and stems from the days when men routinely carried swords and knives (hence showing you had no implement of destruction in your right hand).

    Yes, of course you are correct. Context is a big part of this, too. I might react quite differently if I were to bump into Richard Dawkins on the street, than if he had just completed a lecture as the above in which I was in attendance, where a handshake might appear to indicate “well said, old chap!”. Certainly all our dealings, even with those we disagree with, should be civil, as far as it is possible to be so.

  18. I think it’s pretty admirable that Dembski offered extra credit for his students to go see one of Dawkins’ lectures. So much for the typical casting of christians/theists as being afraid of exposure to those who disagree with them.

    Then again, at this point, there’s really not that much Dawkins presents for a theist to intellectually fear. The man’s little more than an angry rant with an unrelated PhD, at least one subjects of philosophy and theology.

  19. Ekstasis says, “And, with this string of atheistic books and speaking series… what is the best way to counter-balance the propaganda?”

    I’ve got an idea. Click my ad on this page.

  20. scheeseman

    And of course, if I were to meet Dawkins I would want to make sure he didn’t have a knife in his hand :-)

  21. Gerry Rzeppa:

    That’s a cool font, but very difficult to read.

  22. Ekstasis: I second the suggestion to check out Gerry Rzeppa’s ad for one response to the atheist flurry (or should I say, athiest fury?). ;-)

    Another specific response is the excellent book by mathematician John Lennox, God’s Undertaker — Has Science Buried God?

    Review by Denyse O’Leary

    Another possibility is The Devil’s Delusion by David Berlinski.

  23. 23

    BFast, is that true about Dawkins being sexually abused? That’s awful.
    His hostility to religious belief makes more sense now. Poor man.

  24. Aesthetics and objective morality don’t make sense within an atheist worldview. At least the morality point has been pointed out by Dawkins. Actually, he made the point himself in “the God Delusion” that it was hard to figure that one out.

    Bad philosopher.

  25. Aaaww, I go to UT, I’m so upset that I missed the opportunity to ridicule Christians. The funny thing is an atheist friend of mind said he liked what Dawkins had to say, so he bought three of his books. To say the least, my friend and Dawkins argue against Christianity in the same way.

  26. *To listen to Dawkins ridicule Christians.

    There’s no editor for this…

  27. I wonder if Prof Dawkins would trust his students to go and listen to Dr Dembski talk?

  28. SeanSean..

    The problem with taking Darwinian Evolution as your world view is that it leads to genocide, mass murder, abortion, sex changes…

    Shall I go on?

  29. idnet.com.au says, “I wonder if Prof Dawkins would trust his students to go and listen to Dr Dembski talk?”

    Ah, yes. The old “who’s afraid of the light” test.

  30. I feel that Darwinism has led to ethical and social decadence.

    Darwinism is essentially the death blow to human decency and self respect. Therefore all kinds of things are possible in a society, where a great many people believe, “anything goes”.

  31. About the joke above:

    Q: “What are the two central beliefs of an atheist?”
    A: “1. There is no God; and, 2. I really hate God.”

    Interesting that biologist Dr Don Batten from CMI has argued that Dawko should be called a misotheist (From Greek ????? mise? = hate; ???? theos = God) rather than an atheist. See Is Richard Dawkins an atheist?

  32. About the joke above:

    Q: “What are the two central beliefs of an atheist?”
    A: “1. There is no God; and, 2. I really hate God.”

    Interesting that biologist Dr Don Batten from CMI has argued that Dawko should be called a misotheist (From Greek ????? mise? = hate; ???? theos = God) rather than an atheist. See Is Richard Dawkins an atheist?

  33. dr kim smith…

    Man i love reading your blog, interesting posts !…

  34. [...] Dawkins in Austin | Uncommon DescentMar 26, 2008 … The seminary is located in Ft. Worth, about 200 miles north of Austin. As it is, in the middle of the break (last Wednesday), Richard Dawkins was … [...]

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