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God’s best gift to intelligent design

You’ve got to wonder what the staffers at the NCSE are thinking when they go to such lengths to assure the public that there’s no problem reconciling evolution and religious faith, only to have Richard Dawkins come along and utter the following (taken from his BBC program “The Root of All Evil?”):

The suicide bomber is convinced that in killing for his God he will be fast tracked to a special martyr’s heaven. This isn’t just a problem of Islam. In this program I want to examine that dangerous thing that’s common to Judaism and Christianity as well. The process of non-thinking called faith. I’m a scientist [well, actually, I just talk about science these days] and I believe there is a profound contradiction between science and religious belief. There is no well demonstrated reason to believe in God. And I think the idea of a divine creator belittles the elegant reality of the universe. The 21st Century should be an age of reason, yet irrational militant faith is back on the march. Religious extremism is implicated in the world’s most bitter and unending conflicts. America too has its own fundamentalists. And in Britain, even as we live in the shadow of Holy Terror, our government wants to restrict our freedom to criticize religion. Science we are told should not tread on the toes of theology. But why should scientists tip toe respectfully away? The time has come for people of reason should say enough is enough. Religious faith discourages independent thought, it’s divisive and it’s dangerous. . . .

People like to say that faith and science can live together side by side, but I don’t think they can. They’re deeply opposed. Science is a discipline of investigation and constructive doubt, questioning with logic, evidence, and reason to draw conclusions. Faith, by stark contrast, demands a positive suspension of critical faculties. Science proceeds by setting up hypotheses, ideas, or models, and then attempts to disprove them. So a scientist is constantly asking questions, being skeptical. Religion is about turning untested belief into unshakeable truth through the power of institutions and the passage of time.

Dawkins refers to religious faith as a “delusion,” “superstition,” “backward belief system,” “shallow pretense,” “parasite,” and “supporting Bronze Age myths.” He refers to evangelicalism as “an American Taliban.” He contends that “the abundance and variety of life on earth may seem improbable, but it’s self-evidently futile to invent an improbable god to explain that very improbability.” Later, when contrasting evolution with creationism, he announces, “Evolution by natural selection is supported by mountains of evidence, while creation contradicts the evidence and is only backed by some ancient scribblings.”

Anyone who hasn’t seen this two-part program by Dawkins needs to see it. I understand it is not available in this country (and for good reason — given the sensibilities of Americans, it would be a public relations disaster for evolution this side of the Atlantic). I’ve got the two-part program as two 260Mbyte wmv files. If someone has unlimited bandwidth and is willing to upload the files (perhaps at lower resolution) on, say, a Cayman server (where there may be fewer worries about copyrights), let me know.

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47 Responses to God’s best gift to intelligent design

  1. Isn’t ID “a discipline of investigation and constructive doubt, questioning with logic, evidence, and reason to draw conclusions.”?

  2. Bill,

    You can stream the first part in three realtime Flash segments at these links:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPaD6D54L4o
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUy-Uq3WuhA
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GgD3lgspQE

    Dawkins is indeed a piece of work.

    Gil

  3. “He refers to evangelicalism as ‘an American Taliban.’”

    This is language abuse. No American Evangelicals are calling for establishment of a state religion (compare Dawkins’ U.K. where they’ve had a state religion for centuries), public beatings of women for immodesty, mandatory wearing of burkhas, public beheadings for adultery or religious conversion, the destruction of other faiths’ monuments, harboring of terrorists, etc.

    If people who are known by their neighbors to be ordinary, decent folk are also “like the Taliban”, then being a Taliban is either okay, or Dawkins is recklessly slandering millions of people and depleting the word “Taliban” of it’s powerful connotations.

  4. 4

    You can pick it up in much higher quality off of most p2p services. Ed2k/kad is a good one for this, the client is emule. Probably copyright infringement though… but I dont think its any great moral crime to download a program you cant get legally.

    I can be of some service here though – the networks are full of poor qualitity and fake files, but if you download the eMule client ( http://www.emule-project.net/ ) and feed the following two hash-links into it (just put them in start->run, emule registers as a protocol handler), you will get high-quality copies out. The two files total 620M. They may take a few days to download though – ed2k has the greatest selection of the p2ps, but its not the fastest.
    ed2k://|file|Richard.Dawkins.The.Root.Of.All.Evil.Pt1.avi|283070464|293ecc00e3c8e0e1fde551fcfe4d3ac2|
    ed2k://|file|Richard.Dawkins.The.Root.Of.All.Evil.Pt2.avi|368091136|a0a5786c2b2c32ae31d21957d3aecfe5|

    I have this version on my webserver for supplying to those in a debate channel on IRC where I often chat. I would happily provide this service if I could. However, I am on a residential broadband connection, and my upload would not handle the demand. The links are the best I can offer.

  5. Just occured to me why Dawkins dislikes American Evangelicals so much. They’re more successful at biological reproduction than their political opponents, and he knows his selfish genes are doomed by this Darwinian advantage.

  6. I’d just like to point out that Dawkins doesn’t speak for science, and isn’t talking about science when he writes this stuff. The fact that Dawkins thinks religion is bogus (and worse) doesn’t mean he’s right, and it doesn’t negate the fact that millions of religious people have different perspectives that, among other things, don’t conflict with evolution.

    Dawkins is an easy target – he is an evangelical anti-religionist, but many of us (myself included,) don’t agree with him at all in respect to the things being quoted here.

  7. Jack,

    Are you speaking for science when you claim that Dawkins is not speaking for science? How does science determine who is speaking for it and who is not?

    The claim that Dawkins is not talking about science is patently absurd. Dawkins claims he’s a scientist who just talks about science these days. Are you calling him a liar or a deceiver? What indication does Dawkins provide to his listeners in this particular “talk about science” that would lead his listeners to believe that he’s not really talking about science in this particular talk?

  8. The most astounding thing about this to me is the statement, “The process of non-thinking called faith.” The implication is that religious people have faith commitments and Dawkins does not. This is patently absurd. Dawkins, like everyone else, accepts certain things on an a priori basis. Another way to say the same thing is “on faith.” Dawkins seems to be saying that his faith commitment (in metaphysical naturalism) is not faith. One can say a lot of things about Dawkins, but he is not stupid. He does not believe that, which means he is a deceiver.

    Also, people always act on their faith commitments, whether that faith commitment is to theism or naturalism. Dawkins implies that only religious people’s faith commitment leads to violence. This, too, is absurd. Has Dawkins never heard of the Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Kampuchea, Hitler’s Germany? Every one of these regimes was militantly atheistic – i.e., they had the same faith commitment to metaphysical naturalism that Dawkins does.

    Over 100,000,000 died in the 20th century as a result of people acting on that faith commitment. If one adds the total number of those who have died in religious wars and acts of religious oppression and/or terror from the beginning of time to the present moment, that number would still be a small fraction of the number who died at that hands of the atheists in the 20th century. This is not in any way to excuse violence based on religious belief. It is repressible. But if one is going to choose which faith commitment to worry about, the choice should be obvious. The 20th century was one long lesson in what should, by now, be an obvious fact: those whose faith lies in naturalism are far more violent than those whose faith commitment is to theism. And if Dawkins doesn’t understand that, to quote one of his fellow Brits, “He’s a loon.”

  9. Dr. Dembski, if this Dawkins documentary is copyrighted, you should be cautious about aiding the unauthorized distribution of it.

    Having followed the p2p and file-sharing wars for a while, I know that the RIAA (Record Industry Association of America) and MPAA (its counterpart in Hollywood) have already sued thousands of people in the USA for distributing copyrighted works (music and movies) on file-sharing networks. They are very litigation-happy. My fear here is that some Darwinist zealot is going to pounce on this proclaimed idea of yours and report you to the authorities.

    I am no media-industry cop and I sincerely admire your ideas regarding intelligent design. This is offered as friendly advice.

    Best regards,
    apollo230

  10. Dawkins is a special breed- that’s for sure. I would absolutely love to see a debate featuring Dawkins v. Berlinski. But anyway, when someone sez this:

    “There is no well demonstrated reason to believe in God.”

    My response would be:

    “There is no well demonstrated reason to believe our existence is due to sheer dumb luck. So where does that leave us?”

    Then there is Einstein, who gave us:

    “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”

    Close-minded clap-traps, such as Dawkins, can NEVER fit the definition of a scientist. I take it he finally realized that and that is why he now just “talks about it these days.” It reminds me of some of my “working” buddies who got promoted to supervisor or manager-> It was the best thing that happened to the technical ability of the department…

    That people can (and do) abuse religion is a reflection upon the people, not the religion. The “Dawkins’ defense”- religion made me do it man. Sorry Dick but PEOPLE have to stand up and take responsibility for their actions.

    It would be a neat experiment though- go back in time and stop all religions from originating- then see what happens.

  11. BarryA

    I did not like these programmes either. Dawkins seems to be obsessed with the evils of religion; to ignore the good that comes out of it; and to score cheap points by selecting patently absurd extremists to represent religious people. However, I am sure that Dawkins is sincere, if unreasonable, and your attack on atheism or naturalism is almost as extreme and unreasonable.

    To take this step by step.

    1) There is an important difference between believing things to be true a priori and having faith. I believe the laws of arithmetic a priori, but I don’t have faith that 2+2=4. To believe something out of faith is to believe it independently of logic and evidence. It may be that logic and/or evidence will support your faith, but what kind of Christian would give up their faith because they come to have doubts about the ontological argument? Faith in the religious context also has implications of making a commitment, adopting a certain relationship with the object of your faith, and observing certain behaviours.

    2) Atheism in this sense is not a faith (some people might hold an atheist position out of faith I guess – but I have never met one and I am sure Dawkins isn’t one). I don’t think it is an a priori belief either. Most atheists come to their position because they can see no evidence for a deity. They see various religious hypotheses contradict the evidence and each other and sometimes in an attempt to avoid the evidence turn into a meaningless mush. This is something you learn from experience, not a priori. It is a position grounded on evidence.

    3) Atheism has no logical implications for any kind of relationship with another being or for how to behave. The morality of an atheist does not stem from their atheism. It comes from other sources such as a desire for compassion and fairness, which is just as much as a human desire as the desire for self-preservation.

    4) Hitler was not an atheist. His religion was all mixed up but he was not anti-religious and to some extent he justified himself with religious language and there is no reason to think he was insincere. To quote from Mein Kampf:

    “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

    5) Communism does have atheism as one of its foundations but it is hardly the essence of communism – not in the sense that religion was the essence of some of the crusades (not all I admit); the Bartholomew’s day massacre; or many, many other such incidents. Although the sheer numbers of deaths due to communism outnumber all others it is not at all obvious this was due to the leaders’ atheism. Had Marx decided that religion and communism were compatible the whole horrible business might have happened in much the same way.

    6) Western Europe is full of atheists and yet these countries are relatively free of massacres and indeed the homicide rate is much lower than countries with more believers including the USA. I don’t argue that this is because of atheism – just that there is no necessary connection between atheism and violence.

    Rgds

  12. 12

    It would be a neat experiment though- go back in time and stop all religions from originating- then see what happens.

    I’ve played around with this thought experiment a little Joseph, the results I came to every time I do this is; there is no civilization, meaning that civilization simply never would have come about. Take a short journey with me in a just-so story of my own…
    All the way from ancient man cowering from the thunder and lightening, through shamanism, all the way up to today, part of what religion does is to explain what is percieved. Some of these explanations give way to laws governing interaction between people and personal conduct. Some explanations give way to laws governing group conduct. Some explanations give way to statements about the world or universe and how it works.
    Thus religion is the parent of the physical sciences, the social sciences, and (perhaps counterintuitively to some) politics and society.
    To sum up, science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind
    (I tell ya, that Einstein boy, he’s smart as a whip that one is)

  13. sometimes it pays to look at the essence of what ‘the enemy’ has to say and to take it seriously. Obviously I think Dawkins is completely deluded. However, religious people should never be quick to defend religion at all costs: rather, the allegiance of the spiritually pure is always to the truth. “every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” If Dawkins says anything at all which is true, it should be freely admitted. It certainly is true that religions are responsible for tremendous harms throughout history, and this fact cannot be glossed over or dismissed just because materialism is responsible for MORE harms. If something comes from the Light, it is light. Only the darkness has attributes of darkness and evil. Therefore, if religion has done evil, it has attributes of evil which must be honestly recognized and ‘cast off’. When Jesus taught that we must behold not the mote in our brother’s eye but the beam in our own, he offered a key insight into the human spiritual condition: rather than focus on the sins of another, we can conclude that when something bothers us in another, it is precisely because we carry that same fault in our own soul (usually to a far greater extent, since beams are bigger than splinters). This process is referred to in psychology as ‘projection’: when someone is unable to bear the awareness of their own evil, they imagine it as existing in another, who they then persecute and hate. Dawkins hates the type of religious people who are just like him: zealots whose blind and unquestioning faith leads to the destruction of goodness and beauty, and perhaps most importantly to an overwhelming self-righteousness which blinds them to anything but their own view. If religions didn’t demand blind faith, but really contained the truth, undimmed by error, then nothing but beauty and light would ever flow forth from them, and people like Dawkins, if they could even exist, would certainly never attract attention as anything but the raving lunatics they are.

  14. Jack Krebs writes:

    I’d just like to point out that Dawkins doesn’t speak for science, and isn’t talking about science when he writes this stuff. The fact that Dawkins thinks religion is bogus (and worse) doesn’t mean he’s right, and it doesn’t negate the fact that millions of religious people have different perspectives that, among other things, don’t conflict with evolution.

    Well stated, Jack. Dawkins’s chair at Oxford should be changed from “The Charles Simyoni Chair for the Public Understanding of Science” to “The Charles Simyoni Chair for the Public Understanding of Atheism”. Ultimately, that’s all Dawkins ever talks about anyway. Simyoni should ask for a refund!

  15. You know, just once I’d like to see Dawkins apply his own criteria of logic and reason to his own arguments. If he did, intellectual honesty would force him to abandon about 90% of his arguments and rethink the other 10%. Argumentum ad hominem, straw men, and violations of the law of non-contradiction do not an argument make…unless your Richard Dawkins whose ego allows him to believe that he can pontificate about anything and the undeducated masses will swoon to his every utterance. His arguments would be rejected out of hand if the general public scrutinized his arguments with the level of logic and reason for which he advocates. No doubt the Dawkins sycophants will not utter one word of criticism against anything he says in this series, no matter how far out in left field he is. These are the same people who parse every utterence of Dembski, Behe, Wells, Nelson, Witt, Luskin, et.al. This BBC series by Dawkins demands that they scrutinize and criticize thier own…but I won’t hold my breath, such is the level of disingenuousness and intellectual dishonesty that exists in the anti-ID crowd.

  16. Mark Frank wrote, “To believe something out of faith is to believe it independently of logic and evidence.”

    This is an interesting proposal, Mark.

    What do you make of the story of that famous “doubter,” Thomas, as related in John’s gospel (John 20: 24-29)? Needing evidence, Thomas says, famously, “Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands…I will not believe.” Then Jesus appears, and invites Thomas to see and to touch the marks. Thomas does, and believes. Jesus says, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have come to believe.”

    What do you suppose the word “believe” means as it’s used here, Mark? It may (arguably) be independent of logic, but–at least as the word is used here in John’s gospel–it’s not necessarily independent of evidence. In other words, faith is not necessarily blind; for Thomas, seeing leads to believing.

    John notes (v. 24) that the other other disciples had already encountered the post-resurrection Jesus, and had come to faith; Thomas just happened to be missing when they did.

    (Please note that I’m not arguing for the resurrection here…I’m merely trying to point out that words like “faith” and “belief” can be defined in various ways. To “have faith” or believe in something or someone isn’t necessarily a counter-empirical or even a counter-logical move.)

  17. Dawkins is doing the classic guilty by association tactic. He tries to bundle all Darwin critics as “Talibans”, and waves his hand in a dismissive way.

    But, even so, I have to say that Dawkins is at least more honest than the likes of Dr Eugenie Scott. Dawkins says in public what Eugenie and all “God and Evolution are in harmony” atheists say in private.

  18. Lutepisc – of course any word as generic as “faith” can be used in many different ways. However, don’t you agree that faith in a religious context is usually used to mean believing unconditionally or similar? What would you say someone had faith if they said “I have weighed the evidence and I think God exists, but if contrary evidence arises I will revise my belief”. Actually your example seems to support this definition. “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have come to believe.” i.e. the ones that have really shown faith are those who believe without evidence.

    Looking specifically at BarryA’s post – he talks about a faith committment. A belief based on evidence alone is not a committment. In fact one should be ready revise it in the face of contrary evidence.

  19. I asked, “What do you suppose the word ‘believe’ means as it’s used here, Mark?”

    Would you be so kind as to take a stab at my question? You say you are addressing faith “in a religious context.” The gospel of John would qualify, right? So how is the author of that gospel using the word “believe” here? Yes, those who have not seen are called “blessed,” but there’s no reason to suppose that they’re any more blessed than Thomas, who saw. One can believe with or without seeing, according to John. (But what do you suppose he means by “believe,” please? Does it match the definition you’re proposing?)

  20. Would anyone mind taking a look at how Dawkins has come to his viewpoint?

    Firstly, let us start with Marx and his viewpoint, of religion being ‘the opium of the masses’. He saw that organised religion was a system in which the few elite (genericaly the priests) could control the masses without being challenged, because they hid behind dogma. He saw that such religions often disolved into groups that held their power through pure blind obedience, because people would not or could not question their faith.

    The power of such a system is massive. If you want another, more acceptable example of such a system, look to the fruit of Marx; Stalin and Marx imposed his concepts on their nations, but then imposed their own unquestionable state religion – themselfs. People were, for want of a better word, religiously indoctrinated into following the unquestionable leader.

    The Roman Catholic church is normaly quoted as the ultimate example of such a power system stemming from unquestionable religious beliefs. American superchurches, where one man can have the ears of hundreds or even thousands of people who hold his words above all else (and so often they do, often defining their own beliefs by what their preacher has told them) give the chance for a smaller, but just as controling system, in this case controled by one man with next to no checks on his teachings.

    You can’t deny that at times such power is abused. I don’t need to give the obvious example, as I am sure that everyone has seen the new stories or websites. Extremist groups do crop up from time to time.

    Now, most of us see this problem as caused by those who take control; the people who corrupt the religion to their own end. This gives you a major headache when trying to work out how to control such systems. Religion is such a taboo area that to try to put any controls on it is impossible, as well it should be. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be dangerous.

    Dawkins takes the things one step further and says that blame lies in the very system of belief. In the blind faith that followers have in their systems; the way they willingly give up ever increasing degrees of control over their own life to the priests and preachers.

    It is quite obvious to me that this is what he is talking about when he talks about faith. Having blind faith in anything destroys your ability to make any probes deeper into that area. To some degree, I do agree with him, but not in taking it to the extremes. He says that any religion will eventualy end up as a system of control, and lead to extreme ‘we are right and they are wrong, so should die’ views. I personaly think that if every follower has a strong faith, not in the church, but in the teachings, then there should be no problems whatsoever.

    But then, my views are biased.

  21. I gave links above for Part 1. It appears that Part 2 is available here with BitTorrent:

    http://www.mininova.org/tor/201337

  22. TANSTAAFL, you speak repeatedly of “blind faith.” I’m wondering if my point from John’s gospel is too obscure. “Faith” in the biblical sense of the word, is orthogonal to being “blind.”

    Defining “faith” as counter—empirical and counter—logical is a “straw man” definition, I believe.

  23. Mung, in response to my comment #6 above, writes,

    “Jack, are you speaking for science when you claim that Dawkins is not speaking for science? How does science determine who is speaking for it and who is not?”

    Of course I am not speaking for science, for both the reasons Dawkins isn’t: we are talking much more about religion here than science, and no one person can be a spokesperson for science. I should be clearer here: no one person can represent the question of how science intersects with metaphysics, because that is outside the domain of science and is a question each person has to answer for himself.

    Dawkins, and any other prestigious person or body might be able to make a somewhat definitive statement about an aspect of scientific knowledge because they would be thoroughly conversant with the consensus view around the world. But, again, that is not what Dawkins is doing here. He speaks for himself about religion, he does not speak about science for science; and I disagree strongly with much of what he says.

    Mung writes,

    “The claim that Dawkins is not talking about science is patently absurd. Dawkins claims he’s a scientist who just talks about science these days. Are you calling him a liar or a deceiver? What indication does Dawkins provide to his listeners in this particular “talk about science” that would lead his listeners to believe that he’s not really talking about science in this particular talk?”

    I am certainly not calling Dawkins a liar, nor a deceiver. I am calling him wrong. Nor did I say people were mischaracterizing Dawkins intent: he does invoke his status as a scientist to support his statements, and I think he is wrong about that also.

  24. Question: What’s the name of the hip hop group that does the Lord’s Prayer on the first of the Dawkins videos?

  25. 25

    I think it’s Puff Daddy.

  26. 26

    I have long agreed that the atheist and the materialist are coming from a metaphysical position which is a kind of faith.

    But I think that faith is somewhat underestimated by Christians. There is a tendency to praise blind faith. But what is faith? To a materialist, faith is just gullibility and cannot be anything else. If, however, there is a God, then what can faith be, and why is it praised? It would make absolutely no sense if faith were based upon nothing real. We could believe in anything at all if faith were some sort of quality that when someone comes along and says something, we believe it. Why would that be a good thing, and how could such people have any inner compass for truth? That is why we have all the idiotic jokes about belief in a flying spaghetti monster.

    The only way to have an inner compass for truth is if that truth is in some way verifiable to us, and the only way I can see for that to work is if that truth is in some way part of us or connected with us inwardly. There must be an actual, unbroken link between the soul and God in order for our faith in God’s existence to be reasonable. We can look at the world logically and decide that there must be a God, but most people believe in God by intuition. That intuition is either nonsense, based upon nothing at all, or it is a flicker of knowledge of what is true. For this reason, I consider faith a weak form of knowledge. Knowledge of God, that is. In other words, in the same way that you can say “I know I exist because I experience myself” you should also be able to say “I know God exists.”

    Looking at it this way, I don’t consider atheism a faith, except in the sense of believing an unprovable metaphysical position. Instead, if the prayer I was taught as a child is true, that the Holy Spirit is “everywhere present and fills all things” then God’s spirit lives inside us and is knowable that way. Thus, our intuition.

    The atheist is simply a person whose perception of that inner reality is weak.

  27. It is just a bunch of liberal bs that Dawkins is assuming. He puts himself above all religious “thinking” people and claims he is a “free thinker” that does not need any faith,any believe. As far as I can think, I have not seen nor met one Naturalist that required less faith than believing in say Christianity or any other believe system. Naturalism is another religion not more not less. What Dawkins does is mere libaral propaganda – compare to Michael Moore. Playing with the “non thinking” watchers emotions to obtain the right results (“Yeah he is right – lets burn some churches!!!”) Idiolic bs mixed with linguistic fallcies aiming at an emotional weak point – (and by the way the Holocaust also never happend) My 2 cent on Dawkins

  28. Re #19. Lutepisc. I don’t have any special meaning for the world “believe” in the excerpt from John. Most dictionaries define it as something like “accept as true” and that seems fine by me. I am not sure what you are getting at?

  29. Alister McGrath’s book “Dawkin’s God” is highly recommended as an analysis of Dawkins’ theological ignorance (particularly Dawkins’ idiosyncratic and ill-informed definition of the word “faith”). One interesting feature of McGrath’s book is that McGrath clearly admires Dawkins on a scientific level, but takes exception to Dawkins’ *metaphysical* views – which McGrath argues are not actually derived from Dawkins’ scientific views at all (despite Dawkins’ own belief to the contrary).

    (For more information about McGrath’s book, I did a short series of posts on my blog about it. To read this, start from the last post which then has links to the previous posts in the series.)

    [Note to moderator, for removal if/when comment cleared for posting: I know you took exception to some of my previous posts, but I hope this can be seen as a constructive contribution to the discussion.]

  30. Lutepisc, in responce to 22, the idea of a securely grounded and questioned faith (what is called for biblicaly) is not what is being questioned here. I, and I am sure others who have similar views, have no problems with people who are sound in their faith and understand the questions of their religion. People who actualy use the bible as their source on Christianity, and insist on discovering the source for teachings themselfs.

    However, that is shockingly uncommon today.

    It is the system of religion, and peoples blind faith in that that is the problem. People unquestioningly follow a religious teacher who speaks from the bible, even when he wanders from that original source, teaching his own beliefs as those of the religion.

    The Taliban are the ultimate example of this. Their teachings have strayed so far from the Koran that they are guilty of the sins (within Islam) that they are preaching against, but people still follow. Their faith is truely blind, and given to the religion rather than the religious teachings or texts.

    As churches get more powerful, the temptations to consolidate and secure that power is strong, as is the temptation to use it. Most churches do a good job, and use the power to the ends of furthering the faith and the good works in its name. Some abuse the power to achieve financial or social ends. In both cases, the process involves taking peoples attention from the faith they have in their religion, and bringing that faith towards the church itself, so they will follow the teachings of the leader rather than the bible.

    People who look blindly to a church for their morality and direction in life are the problem. It isn’t faith that is the dilema. It is where faith can lead, to that blind faith in other people being right and a source of morality/Truth, that gives you disastrous results.

  31. Mark Frank writes: “I am not sure what you are getting at?”

    Well evidently no one else is, either, Mark. And I’m not sure I can make the point effectively in this forum. I’ll give it a try, and try to stay brief.

    When John, as a biblical example, uses the word “faith,” its meaning is akin to the quality of the relationship between a sheep and its shepherd. The sheep has confidence in the shepherd, who (in John’s day) has lived with the sheep and earned the sheep’s trust. The sheep recognizes the voice of the shepherd, and responds to it. There is a resonance there. The sheep will go where the shepherd leads. In this way, the sheep “has faith in” the shepherd.

    It doesn’t mean “the sheep believes a shepherd exists, even though the sheep has never seen or heard a shepherd.” What would be the point of that? As James points out (James 2:19), the demons also believe that God exists. That’s not what faith is, in the biblical sense.

    Faith isn’t just a function of the intellect. It also has an emotional component. I would propose, for example, that Darwin lost his faith in the shepherd after his daughter died. I’m guessing that the emotional “loss of faith” for him preceded any intellectual “loss of faith.”

    The amount of vitriol which Dawkins demonstrates toward religion makes me suspect that something is going on in the emotional realm for him, too. But I don’t know enough about his biography or family heritage to guess what that might be.

  32. Lutepisc – I think maybe I do see what you are getting at. It rather supports the point I am most concerned to make. Religious faith (or in this case belief) does not rely on evidence in the same manner as common or garden belief. Therefore, to say that atheism is just an alternative faith is wrong.

    I should emphasis – I am not knocking faith. I see many people whom I admire and like who openly admit to a faith based on personal revelation. Fine – and I expect they are happier and better people for it. I am just opposed to the argument that atheism is another faith to be lined up along side Islam, Christianity and Hinduism – but one that leads to immorality and evil.

    Rgds

  33. Tina Brewer:
    It certainly is true that religions are responsible for tremendous harms throughout history, and this fact cannot be glossed over or dismissed just because materialism is responsible for MORE harms.

    That is false. While it may be true that tremendous harms throughout history have been done in the name of religion, the common factor is they were all done by humans.

    IOW religions are harmless, PEOPLE are harmful. We are clever and can shirk responsibilty also…

  34. Hi again, Mark. You wrote: “I think maybe I do see what you are getting at. It rather supports the point I am most concerned to make. Religious faith (or in this case belief) does not rely on evidence in the same manner as common or garden belief.”

    Mark, you’re not far from the kingdom.

    You can see, I reckon, that the biblical understanding of “faith” is primarily “trusting; having confidence in.” The question, then, is, “If you do not place your trust in God, then where do you place it? On what or whom do you rely?”

    Communism places its trust in the inexorable process of dialectical materialism. Darwinsim places its trust in the evolving play of random mutations and natural selection. These are faith systems; adherents “believe in” them as sheep “believe in” shepherds. There is nothing necessarily irrational or blind about any of these belief systems. Adherents have confidence that their system shows them the way forward.

    Of course, you can use any definition of “faith” or “belief” you wish, Mark. I’m only trying to show that a Judeo–Christian perspective does have a particular understanding of these words, and it’s not the one you were using.

  35. joseph: I think it is dishonest to say “religions are harmless, people are harmful” simply because it ignores the very real relationship between people and the religions to which they adhere. I agree that truth is harmless and people are harmful, but to conflate religion with truth is impossible. Otherwise, there would be but one religion. Religion is an outward form which humans place around their conceptions about truth. Depending upon the inner maturity of the people who contribute to the religion, the form is either uplifiting or degrading. In its more degraded forms, religion has been responsible for terrible atrocities. Yes, people committed these atrocities. THey did so, in many cases, because they were absolutely convinced that they were justified, by their religion, in these acts. It is no more honest for believers to distance themselves from the acts of their philosophical ancestors by such semantic tricks than it is for atheists like Dawkins to distance himself from the atrocities of nihilistic doctrines. The trick is the same, and springs from the same inability to look in the proverbial mirror…

  36. In USA our whole money system is based on nothing but faith. There nothing backing the dollar but people faith it will be worth something tomorrow. But in reality we could all wake up and find all that paper money and bank numbers are totally worthless which is reality. Paper money is in reality worthless yet it’s back by a promise (Words) which is the same with scriptures. Faith is the substance of things hope for, the evidence of things not seen.

  37. 37

    Lutepisc, what a good point you make that faith is more about trust than belief, esp. blind belief. In Russian, the word for faith and trust are the very same word. And I think this also supports what I said above, that faith is really a form of inner recognition. If one feels that recognition running strong within, then there is trust. A person cannot trust that of which is has no experience. It is the experience of God that leads to real faith and trust.

    I must concur with Tina. It is true that people are responsible and that they often use their religions to justify bad actions. At one era, completely different lessons are emphasized than in another one. Many teachings in the Bible are all but ignored or downplayed and others emphasized. But it is hard to deny that what people are taught from their spiritual leaders will have a big impact. Just as belief that life has no meaning or purpose might have an impact on teenage gunners, or the belief that others are all infidels and it is holy to kill them, resulting in immediate paradise if one dies in the attempt, leads to suicide bombers.
    So then, are we going to deny that Christianity has ever had that sort of teaching?

  38. Re #34 and #37. What you both say about faith is absolutely what I was trying to say as well. I just didn’t extend it to include the word “belief” as well. Everything I have read about religious faith (including your posts above) describe it as something quite different from the usual types of belief that something is the case. It is much more to do with committment, trust and loyalty than with evidence.

    My point is that atheism cannot be like that. You can’t have committment, trust and loyalty to nothing. Atheism is based on the same processes that we come to believe that there are moles in our garden or CO2 on Venus. It is based on rejecting committment, trust and loyalty as reasons for believing and relying purely on mutually observable, preferably repeatable, evidence. This is the difference that Dawkins was referring to when he, unfairly, described religion as “non-thinking”.

    I just want to knock on the head this idea that atheism is just another faith.

  39. “My point is that atheism cannot be like that. You can’t have committment, trust and loyalty to nothing.”

    Well of course you can, Mark! Maybe you don’t, but there are plenty of “evangelical atheists” who organize clubs and wish to spread their–uhhh–religion. Do I need to point you to some web sites or will you “stipulate to that” as the lawyers say?

    Dawkins is a shining example of an “evangelical atheist” who would like the rest of the world to join the club. Dennett is another one, who has deemed faithful followers to be “brights.”

  40. Lutepisc

    My point is a logical one, not a pyschological one. In practice people have all sorts of reasons for holding various beliefs. Scientists are quite evangelical for example about such things as best model of the immune system, the link between MMR and autism or the possibility of cold fusion with net energy gain. They may, as a matter of psychology, have arrived at their position to show loyalty to colleagues who think the same. But, however committed they might be to their position, they don’t use that committment as one of the reasons for holding that position. They have to quote mutually observable evidence or they are considered absurd and illogical. Atheism has the same relationship to evidence. An atheist who explained his position by saying the absence of a God had been revealed to him and that he was committing himself to this absence and trusting it would be a laughing stock.

    However, in the case of religious faith it is not absurd to say I have faith because I trust Jesus Christ and have committed myself to his cause.

    Incidentally, in case you are interested, I found I was so deeply into this that I tried writing it all up here http://mark_frank.blogspot.com.....vised.html. It is not a proper blog – just a place I occasionally put things. All comments welcome – no moderation.

    Mark, I took you off the moderation list. Your comments will now show up immediately. -ds

  41. Dawkins should know better than to rely on the “slippery slope” argument. If there are similarities between Catholicism and Talibanism, for example, that does not mean that acceptance of one requires acceptance of the other.

    Having said that, I offer this to the forum: is there any more evidence for the healing powers of the waters of Lourdes than there is for the paradise awaiting Islamic martyrs?

  42. Mark, you wrote, “An atheist who explained his position by saying the absence of a God [had been revealed to him] and that he was committing himself to this absence and trusting it would be a laughing stock.”

    Perhaps so; perhaps not. I’m not sure about the “revealed to him” part…but what do you make of this Aldous Huxley quotation?

    “I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves…For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.” Aldous Huxley: Ends and Means, pp. 270 f.

    I’m simply saying that, from a Judeo-Christian perspective, the words “faith” and “belief” have an affective component, and mean something different than “ascribe to something in the absence of any evidence for it.” Avocationist wrote, helpfully: “In Russian, the word for faith and trust are the very same word.” The same goes for the Latin word “fiducia,” which means both “faith” and “trust.” That’s where “fiduciary” and its cognates originate. From my perspective, then, atheism can be a kind of “faith.”

    You are entitled, of course, to define “belief” and “faith” as you wish. I’m afraid we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

  43. There are torrent files for both these videos in very high quality divx avi.

    http://files.nrcharles.com/The.....vi.torrent
    http://files.nrcharles.com/TheRootofAllEvil RichardDawkins pt1 ^mininova.org^’.torrent

    You will need the divx plugin and a bittorrent client to download the files, but the more people that start downloading, the faster the download will get.

  44. Lutepisc

    I am so confused. As far as I can see I define “faith” in much the same way as you and there is little disagreement in our positions – except the psychology of why people become atheists – which is what Huxley was talking about. I think we should agree to agree :-)

    Cheers

  45. Jack Krebs wrote:

    I’d just like to point out that Dawkins doesn’t speak for science, and isn’t talking about science when he writes this stuff.

    And:

    I am certainly not calling Dawkins a liar, nor a deceiver. I am calling him wrong. Nor did I say people were mischaracterizing Dawkins intent: he does invoke his status as a scientist to support his statements, and I think he is wrong about that also.

    Perhaps Dawkins is just deluded then. He certainly seems to think that science supports his statements.

    So, Jack, what do you say about the latest anti-ID book? Intelligent Thought: Science Versus the Intelligent Design Movement? These guys certainly seem to think they are speaking for science. Where have you spoken out against these authors?

    Shouldn’t the title be “Scientists Versus the Intelligent Design Movement?”

    But then, wouldn’t they be using their status as scientists, the very thing Dawkins is doing which you disagree with.

  46. Sorry, the 2nd bittorrent link I gave was bad. this one should work:
    http://www.mininova.org/get/208466

  47. “Readers can rely on the writings of the scientists in this volume.” – John Brockman

    Using their status as scientists to support their statements?

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