Friday, February 14, 2014

"I don't want to discuss evidence"--Richard Dawkins

Richard seemed uneasy and said, “I’m don’t want to discuss evidence”. “Why not?” I asked. “There isn’t time. It’s too complicated. And that’s not what this programme is about.” The camera stopped.


Here. 

49 comments:

Samwell Barnes said...

"Why not?"

Simple. For Dawkins, "evidence" is just a buzzword. He has no clue about how to give an account of it, as a concept, in theoretical terms. And he's well aware of this fact, along with being highly conscious of his public image. (Cf. his refusal to debate William Lane Craig)

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Victor -- Why are you wasting so much time on Dawkins? Isn't this like the 1000th criticism of him? A professional philosopher such as yourself should surely devote at least some of your time to the best arguments for atheism and not always on its weaker (but admittedly more in your face) representatives.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Samwell:

(Cf. his refusal to debate William Lane Craig)

I happen to agree that Dawkins shouldn't debate Craig, but for a different reason than Dawkins has stated. I think Dawkins would be massively outmatched.

Unlike Dawkins, I've been studying Craig's arguments and debates for years and take Craig very seriously. But cf. Craig's refusal to debate me.

Victor Reppert said...

Because his approach to the issue is a) popular, and b) socially damaging. Kind of the reason someone might rebut Josh McDowell.

But I also think maybe the best way to respond to Dawkins-type religious debate might be to set an example by engaging more serious atheists.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Victor -- For what it's worth, in my opinion, the amount of time you spend on Dawkins is way out of proportion to the time atheists spend on Josh McDowell.

Bilbo said...

Hi Vic,

The Link to whatever you want us to read isn't working.

planks length said...

Bilbo,

Try THIS.

im-skeptical said...

"For Dawkins, "evidence" is just a buzzword."

Perhaps Dawkins was already aware of other evidence that Sheldrake wasn't so keen to discuss. The scientific community has examined his work, and found it lacking.

http://sams.scientificamerican.com/article/ruperts-resonance/

Victor Reppert said...

Is there a magisterium representing the scientific community?

Lots of ideas were scoffed at by mainstream in science only to be embraced at a later date by a new generation of scientists.

im-skeptical said...

"Lots of ideas were scoffed at by mainstream in science only to be embraced at a later date by a new generation of scientists."

That's true, but it doesn't change the definition of science. Like DI, this guy practices pseudoscience.

amorbis said...

For materialists, science only counts as "science" if it supports materialism. If it threatens materialism in any way, they dismiss it by calling it "pseudoscience" and ignoring all of its results, no matter how strong the evidence is. The lengths that materialists will go to protect their intellectually bankrupt ideology is absolutely breathtaking; as soon as the evidence falsifies materialism, suddenly their facade of caring about "evidence" goes away in favor of sheer dogmatism caused by unpleasant cognitive dissonance.

im-skeptical said...

amorbis,

You've got it all wrong. Science has a method. This guy's 'findings' couldn't be replicated by legitimate attempts to reproduce them. He's a fraud. Plain and simple.

amorbis said...

I won't pretend to be familiar with Sheldrake's findings, but I am familiar with the vast body of overwhelming evidence for the existence of weak psychic abilities, and it is absolutely astonishing how materialists will use sophistry, cognitive acrobatics, and even outright fraud to dismiss the evidence because it falsifies materialism. Of course, since you're a materialist (one of the most dogmatic I've ever seen, actually), you'll probably have some bullshit comeback to this comment where you pretend to be familiar with the evidence even though you're clearly not. So I don't know why I'm even bothering to post this comment. Maybe just to see what kind of sophistry you'll try to "respond" with.

planks length said...

Amorbis,

I'm with you on "weak psychic abilities". Far more times than I could possibly number (easily more than a hundred), I have known seconds before the phone would ring that it would do so - and who the caller would be. (Same thing with e-mails.) I've also experienced numerous instances where I would "out of the blue" start thinking about someone I hadn't run across or thought about in years, and I'd meet them by pure chance a few minutes later.

This has happened so many times that the laws of chance and probability cannot possibly have a role in their occurrences. Does this count as "evidence" for weak psychic abilities? For me, it does. Not "proof" mind you, just evidence.

im-skeptical said...

There will always be hucksters and there will always be ignorant people who gobble up their pseudoscientific bullshit.

This is the garbage this huckster professes: http://www.earthtribe.com/morphic.htm

What kind of energy is this? Has he ever measured it, or even detected it with some kind of instrument? If not, how can he claim that this phenomenon exists? How are the waves 'resonant'? How would he know that they are resonant? Does he even know what resonance is? Doubtful.

Longstreet said...

"Perhaps Dawkins was already aware of other evidence that Sheldrake wasn't so keen to discuss."

Will then perhaps he should have said so.

I mean, Dawkins has always been so eager to engage his opponents at their best I can't understand his reluctance to do so here.

Papalinton said...

Victor
You have this enduring fixation in selecting outliers as representatives of science and the scientific method. Rupert Sheldrake self selected to enter into the pseudosciences and forfeited his role as a scientist when he withdrew from his field in biology. Have a read HERE, HERE<, and HERE. This last entry is a clash between the pseudoscience of Sheldrake and the science of Wiseman, both awardees of the Perrott-Warwick Scholarship at trinity. Shejdrake has no peer-reviewed scientific articles on his parapsychology and 'morphic resonance' claims. None.

But to demonstrate I am not biased and look to providing a balanced overview I have included to Just help you out, Victor, something I thought you might like THIS PIECE from Sheldrake. It was published in Huff Post in the Religion section.

im-skeptical said...

"Will then perhaps he should have said so. "

How do you know what Dawkins said? This article was written by Sheldrake, who is not a disinterested party, and obviously not happy about Dawkins' program exposing hucksters like himself. The fact is his work has been examined by real scientists.

Don't you think it's a bit hypocritical to accuse a scientist like Dawkins of not being willing to look at evidence if you haven't bothered to examine the story and try to get an understanding of the bigger picture? People here love to dump on Dawkins, but they don't listen to what he says. Sure, he has made controversial statements, and he has said things that I don't agree with too, but that doesn't mean you should believe any negative thing you hear about him. There are plenty of people who refuse to listen to what he has to say, or worse, twist into something that he didn't actually say.

Jim Steele said...

Jeffery,

You state:

"Victor -- Why are you wasting so much time on Dawkins? Isn't this like the 1000th criticism of him?"

Why do you spend so much time criticizing God? I mean you don't even believe He exists. How many criticisms and attacks have you made on something you don't even think is real....seems like Victor is the more rational one here.

Crude said...

Jim,

While I think JJL is actually capable of being a worthy debate target, I do have to admit one thing.

First, Victor doesn't talk about Dawkins terribly much. I mean it's not like it's Dawkins Central on DI - he brings him up now and then, usually between open questions, his ongoing "interactions" with Cowboy Hat, etc.

But second... Victor also spends a good share of time criticizing -theists- on various grounds. Political and religious and otherwise. Friendly stuff, but then Victor's pretty well always friendly.

How much time does JJL, or really most atheists, spend criticizing fellow theists? If Dawkins is really worthy of little attention, you'd think the atheists at large would the first ones to have figured this out. And yet, and yet...

Papalinton said...

Where would you place Rupert Sheldrake's "morphic resonance" in this VENN Diagram?

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Jim --

I'm afraid you've missed my point. Start with the distinction between a position (such as theism or atheism) and various arguments for that position. A position may be worthy of ongoing debate. At the same time, specific arguments for or against that position may or may not be.

I think the existence of God is worthy of ongoing debate. I think the best defenses of theism are found in writers such as Swinburne, Plantinga, Craig, Moreland, and many others. I think the best defenses of atheism are found in writers such as Draper, Rowe, Schellenberg, Q. Smith, and many others.

Of course, it's useful to spend time on the "weaker" defenders of theism, such as Josh McDowell, Pat Robertson, and many others. Likewise, it's useful to spend time on the "weaker" defenders of atheism, such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

As useful as that is, however, professional philosophers of religion should still interact with the strongest and best arguments for the positions they reject. So I wasn't criticizing Victor for the fact that he criticizes Dawkins. Instead, my point is that he is beating a dead horse at the expense of spending time criticizing Draper, Rowe, Schellenberg, Q. Smith, and many others.

im-skeptical said...

I'd put in pseudoscientific/paranormal/quackery.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Crude --

How much time does JJL, or really most atheists, spend criticizing fellow theists? If Dawkins is really worthy of little attention, you'd think the atheists at large would the first ones to have figured this out. And yet, and yet...

I think there's a typo. I'm assuming you meant to ask, "spend time criticizing fellow [a]theists?"

I'd say a decent amount of time. Over the years, I've criticized Michael Martin, Richard Dawkins, Victor Stenger, Dan Barker, Alex Rosenberg, Wesley Salmon, John Loftus, Jerry Coyne, and probably many others I can't remember off the top of my head.

Crude said...

JJL,

I'd say a decent amount of time. Over the years, I've criticized Michael Martin, Richard Dawkins, Victor Stenger, Dan Barker, Alex Rosenberg, Wesley Salmon, John Loftus, Jerry Coyne, and probably many others I can't remember off the top of my head.

Better than most, I'll give you that. At the same time, if we're including 'over the years', then I'm pretty sure Victor's criticized the Churchlands, Dennett, Loftus, Coyne, Dawkins, Harris, Mackie, Smith and more.

Papalinton said...

THIS needs to be read, Victor.

amorbis said...

From the article:

We need not imagine that there’s no Heaven; we know that there is none, and we will search for angels forever in vain.

What scientific experiment was done (or even *could* be done) to prove that there is no heaven? Absence of evidence does not equal proof of absence. Unless you're a dogmatic materialist, in which case you'll believe just about anything.

planks length said...

"we know that there is [no Heaven]"

Au contraire. We know there is one with every fiber of our being, in the very deepest recesses of our our minds and bodies - with everything that makes us human beings. It is only by steadfastly jamming our eyes shut, by stopping up our ears, and by shouting down the message of our hearts, that one can deny Heaven.

But be warned - you get what you wish for.

Crude said...

Amorbis,

What scientific experiment was done (or even *could* be done) to prove that there is no heaven?

Not a one. Much less has an experiment been done on God, etc. It's just the usual atheist bloviating, pretending to bow at the altar of science and reason before summarily taking a dump on it, as the militant atheist forefathers of the past did.

If anything, the article illustrates that it's not reason or science, but other subconscious influences, which drives popular atheism. Which is why, to tie this back into the OP, Dawkins has finally started admitting that evidence doesn't really matter to him. It was a bluff from the start.

But hey, it made him rich and suckered his rube disciples - and if you're an atheist, isn't that really all that matters? ;)

Paul Mendola said...

Jeff, it's a blog, bro.

amorbis said...

Au contraire. We know there is one with every fiber of our being, in the very deepest recesses of our our minds and bodies - with everything that makes us human beings. It is only by steadfastly jamming our eyes shut, by stopping up our ears, and by shouting down the message of our hearts, that one can deny Heaven.

I'm really, really tired of hearing this. Let me be perfectly clear: No, I do not "know" that there's a heaven. I have no knowledge of whether there's a heaven or not; there's no "inner voice" or anything that tells me there's a heaven. I am completely in the dark about it. Same goes with whether or not there's a God: I have no "inner sense" or anything that tells me there's a God. I am completely in the dark about it. I have no idea. And I am NOT trying to deny God's existence or the existence of heaven - my mind is completely open to both; I just haven't had anything convince me.

But be warned - you get what you wish for.

Let me guess: You're talking about people being burned in unbearable, screaming agony for all of eternity for not believing the right thing? I'm fascinated by the belief in Hell; it's amazing to me that people can believe in a place where people are subjected to horrifying torture forever and ever and not be in the least bothered by it. How could *anyone* do *anything* to deserve being burned in unbelievable screaming agony forever with no hope of ever knowing anything but infinite pain and misery ever again? Are you that hateful of people who don't believe as you do, that you think they deserve it? If there is a God that sentences people to eternal torture, there's no way he could be anything other than pure evil: I have the moral sense and empathy to know that torturing people forever, no matter what they've done, is infinitely and absolutely cruel and evil. Unlike you, apparently.

planks length said...

"Let me guess: You're talking about people being burned in unbearable, screaming agony for all of eternity for not believing the right thing?"

Nope. If anything, I tend toward universalism. So did Saint Paul.

"Unlike you, apparently."

Where did I even mention hell? Please show me.

amorbis said...

Nope. If anything, I tend toward universalism. So did Saint Paul.

Oh. Well, this is embarrassing. I deeply apologize for the way I reacted. Hell is a *very* sensitive subject for me, so when I saw a hint of it I just flipped. I'll try not to make assumptions like that in the future.

Where did I even mention hell? Please show me.

Your comment "But be warned - you get what you wish for" seemed to suggest it, although clearly I was just reading things into it that weren't there. Again, I apologize.

planks length said...

amorbis,

I meant what I said. Read Dante's allegory of the First Circle of the Inferno. The virtuous pagans could imagine nothing better than this, and so that's what they got. Please note I realize that that's just allegory and even Dante would never have meant for it to be taken literally, but Dante was expressing artistically an extremely important point. We get what we wish for, and I do believe this.

I wish I could remember which writer (he was a poet) that essentially said "We all go to the same place. Heaven and Hell are what we make of it." But that's my view.

C.S. Lewis hinted at such a fate at the end of The Last Battle, in his description of how the dwarves reacted to being in Paradise.

Victor Reppert said...

It seems to me that whenever I discuss certain issues, I get responses that come straight from the Dawkins playbook.

I blame "new atheism" for the fact that Loftus's blog has devolved, and I see its influence in McCormick and Boghossian. It undermines civilized dialogue between theists and atheists.

Papalinton said...

"I blame "new atheism" for the fact that Loftus's blog has devolved, and I see its influence in McCormick and Boghossian. It undermines civilized dialogue between theists and atheists."

Who you blame is of little consequence, Victor. You seem to be under the misapprehension that theists were the paragons of virtue in what you characterized as 'civilized' dialogue. History almost diametrically recounts a very different narrative of the behaviour of christians towards those who did not, do not subscribe to the particular, special and very tribal belief system to which you adhere. No. Whatever passed as discourse by christians about others could never be reconciled as 'civilized', even at its most generous, then as now.

What is important to appreciate here is the groundswell in the community calling christian religious belief to account, vigorously challenging it to justify its participation in the community in matters of public policy and proper governance and as an explanatory tool about the universe, the world, the environment and about us. The devolution of Loftus's site is a response to the increasing level of deep and genuine concern in the community about the continued role of religion in its midst. The widening of views incorporating McCormick and Boghossian among so many others, ex-preachers, philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, etc etc is a demonstration of that shared concern. It is equally emblematic of the increasing importance in and the proper role of testing the uncritical claims of religionists and for debunking Christianity where it must be debunked.

What has significantly changed in the temperament of the community is that religion, christianity, now no longer is given a free pass. It is now societally unacceptable to bestow complaisant and unearned deference to a philosophy of life or conception of the world founded on a mythos, on a pretentious and historically barbarous theology, itself a product of a long tradition of promulgating unfounded supernatural superstition. It is no longer fitting for people to be compelled to observe the diktats of tribal praxis, ritualized incantations of religious spells and the participation in primitive blood sacrifices as a testament and a measure of one's morality and value or worth of character.

What it also demonstrates, is that there are better ways, more sophisticated, more epistemologically robust ways to look at the world and our relationship within it, that is not predisposing that relationship to some ineffable external source, but rather a more intrinsic and natural perspective that has far greater success in exploring and understanding that relationship than the direct punt, do not pass GO, do not collect $200, to theological mysticism. That is a veritable cul-de-sac.

Victor Reppert said...

Who wants a free pass? All I ask is that people take enough time to understand and not make straw men out of their opponents. Kindly, for example, don't deal with cosmological arguments by assuming that they can be dealt with simply by bringing up "Who made God?" as if the people who developed those arguments had never thought of the question before. Don't use the idiotic Courtier's reply rebuttal to cover for yourself when we point out that you badly misinterpreted theistic arguments. Avoid trying to peer-pressure theists out of their beliefs. When evidence is proffered for theistic beliefs, don't act as if those who proffer such evidence are really just fideists in disguise.

I never said theists were paragons of virtue in conducting discussion. All I can say for myself is that I try.

im-skeptical said...

"All I ask is that people take enough time to understand and not make straw men out of their opponents."

Victor, that is exactly what you do with Dawkins. What's the title of this post again? Do you honestly think it's a fair representation?

Crude said...

Victor, that is exactly what you do with Dawkins. What's the title of this post again? Do you honestly think it's a fair representation?

Your version of 'a fair representation' is 'an unbelievably positive one if it's an atheist you like, and an unbelievably negative one if it's a theist you dislike.' ;)

The title of this post is a quote from Dawkins. Apparently, quoting the man's own words is sufficient to cast him in a bad light.

Wait, I actually agree with that!

Papalinton said...

"All I ask is that people take enough time to understand and not make straw men out of their opponents."

Again, Victor, you seem to be under the misapprehension that I have not taken the time to understand the religious perspective. I was a christian for some thirty years of my life, reading the same book, studying the same apologetics, arguing for the same creator of the universe. How long does one have, to have taken 'enough time to understand'? I do not go into these discussions as if a blank slate on theology, on scripture, on participation in Sunday School, bible study, church services, discussion groups and reading, lots of reading. It is hardly surprising that the examples you offer you find objectionable. But your glass-eyed and blithe gloss over the commentary at your site speaks volumes of your confirmation bias. When have you taken leadership to impress upon the likes of Crude, Yachov to desist from imagining that atheists have not taken enough time to understand, desist in stereotyping as intellectually dishonest or intellectually bereft those who do not subscribe to supernatural immaterialism, there may well be opportunity to consider your plea. Ordinarily one would have sufficient reason to deprecate the substance of your whinge; pot... .kettle.... black.

For me, it is a sign of robustness of debate, a debate that must be had. In recent times we now give as good as we have taken. And believe me heretics, atheists, blasphemers have been taking it for millennia without reprieve. You seem oblivious, either through feigned surprise or purposed revisionism of the countless historical precedents when the christian phalanx confronted different peoples, different cultures with differing cultural, social and religious imperatives at far greater and global scales than the cosy tête-à-tête of this site.

It is, in its very essence, an element of the broader culture wars. The question is, does humanity continue to define itself away as nothing more than an artifact of an external non-human and ineffable alien supernatural intellect as an explanatory tool? Or does humanity take recognizance of a very different and more powerful and highly successful explanatory tool, a paradigm shift to a more epistemologically-based philosophical framework. It is in the nature of the human organism to experience transcendence in their relationship with the environment, the world, the cosmos of which they are an integral product. I as an atheist do most assuredly experience this grandeur of my connection to the universe.

Spirituality, of the christian kind as is practiced, the one variety of which I am culturally familiar, is the very alienation of humanity: the human (and the best part of human) attributed to the non-human. There is no substance to the claim that a christian Jesus-god, any more than the Aboriginal Giant Water Serpent creator, or the Hindu elephant-headed god Ganesha, or Shiva is the universal primogenitor of humankind.

"Avoid trying to peer-pressure theists out of their beliefs."
It's not a matter of peer pressure. It is a matter of managing the transition of your religion to a more decidedly humanistic, inclusive, non-discriminatory, and ecumenically neutral towards all people. That's the big challenge for humanity in the post-Christian era going forward.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Victor, that is exactly what you do with Dawkins. What's the title of this post again? Do you honestly think it's a fair representation?

Victor does not need my defense, but I'm going to give it anyway. How, precisely, has Victor done that with Dawkins? Do you deny that Dawkins said the words Victor attributes to him? Do you agree that Dawkins said the words, but claim that Victor has taken them out of context? Or is there some other objection? If yes, what is it?

planks length said...

Somewhat off topic, but I just discovered a passage in the Summa that could be interpreted to claim that St. Thomas Aquinas would have supported evolution! You can read it HERE, under the sub-heading in Article One, "Reply to Objection 3", where he discusses the possibility of new species appearing in the course of time, and how they would so so - asserting that such would appear through "the power which the stars and elements received at the beginning."

im-skeptical said...

Jeffery,

This was taken from an article written by someone (a known pseudoscientific fraud) who hates Dawkins. I don't know if Dawkins used those words. It certainly isn't a direct quote. But even if Dawkins did say something to that effect, its use here clearly isn't in context. Victor would give his readers the impression that Dawkins isn't interested in evidence when it comes to ideas that don't fit with his ideology. That's creating a straw man. And this isn't the first time I have seen this.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

im-skeptical:

This was taken from an article written by someone (a known pseudoscientific fraud) who hates Dawkins. I don't know if Dawkins used those words. It certainly isn't a direct quote. But even if Dawkins did say something to that effect, its use here clearly isn't in context. Victor would give his readers the impression that Dawkins isn't interested in evidence when it comes to ideas that don't fit with his ideology. That's creating a straw man. And this isn't the first time I have seen this.

Thanks for your reply; I have to admit I didn't check out the site and instead trusted that Victor wouldn't quote the material without comment unless he thought it were a fair and accurate representation of Dawkins's views.

So... Victor? What do you say?

Crude said...

Jeff,

How about we ask for support for these claims from Skep:

This was taken from an article written by someone (a known pseudoscientific fraud) who hates Dawkins. I don't know if Dawkins used those words. It certainly isn't a direct quote. But even if Dawkins did say something to that effect, its use here clearly isn't in context.

Let's see.

1) Where is the evidence that Sheldrake hates Dawkins? He has a disagreement with him. But where's the hate?

2) Known pseudoscientific fraud? According to who? People who dislike his theory? Say his theory is wrong. Fine - where's the fraud?

3) He says it's not a direct quote. What's his evidence?

4) He says that even if Dawkins said something like this, the context is wrong. What's his evidence?

Notice that Skep isn't just asking for corroboration. He's making a suite of claims, all of them spurious.

Victor Reppert said...

I did notice that this was reported by someone who is an ideological opponents of Dawkins. "Known pseudoscientific fraud" is, on my view, a bit much. But even if he were, the way to refute him is to discuss the evidence for and against his claims. He was a Cambridge biologist, and I suspect he has done more real science in his lifetime than has Dawkins, however weird his science might be to those who are more scientifically orthodox. If you're going to refute someone like that, then you have to do better than just to say "Gosh, your ideas are weird, extraordinary claim require extraordinary evidence, QED, you're wrong."

It also doesn't follow that someone whose science is weird is going to be a liar about what someone said in a conversation.

Papalinton said...

"If you're going to refute someone like that, then you have to do better than just to say "Gosh, your ideas are weird, extraordinary claim require extraordinary evidence, QED, you're wrong."

I think you example is an an entirely appropriate position to take, given the welter of pseudoscience and 'christian science' of the Discovery Institute variety out there. Sheldrake knows the score. He knows what is required if he wishes others to engage him in discussion of his 'evidence'. It's called peer review. And even with the peer review process itself science does not rest on the laurels of its orthodoxy. It seeks to ever improve the process with the establishment of Double-Blind Peer Review" protocols that came into effect in June 2013. You might want to read up on it Victor.

You say, "He was a Cambridge biologist, ...."
The operative word here is "was".
And you say, " ..... and I suspect he has done more real science in his lifetime than has Dawkins."
You observation offers nil beyond the level of misplaced platitude.

I am also somewhat bemused in your implication of scientific orthodoxy being a bad thing, while religious orthodoxy gets a free pass. Orthodoxy is my doxy; and Heterodoxy another man's doxy, eh? Victor? Right?

im-skeptical said...

Victor,

As I already pointed out, his work has been examined scientifically, and flatly rejected by the scientific community. And it's not because he is unorthodox. It's because he has abandoned scientific method. His experiments are shoddy and cannot be replicated by legitimate scientists. That's why I say he's a fraud.

Crude said...

As I already pointed out, his work has been examined scientifically, and flatly rejected by the scientific community.

A hypothesis being rejected by the scientific community does not make someone a fraud.

And it's not because he is unorthodox. It's because he has abandoned scientific method.

Please provide evidence that he's abandoned the scientific method.

His experiments are shoddy and cannot be replicated by legitimate scientists. That's why I say he's a fraud.

Now this is an interesting one. I'd love to see the peer-reviewed research attempting to replicate Sheldrake's findings. I'm sure you have these on hand.

And, by the by? A failure to replicate results is not indicative that someone is a fraud. Jesus Christ.

I say all this as someone who doesn't buy Sheldrake's arguments or claims.