Is Richard Dawkins a bully?

100

In the preface to his best-selling book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins explains the fundamental reason for writing the book: “If this book works as I intend, the religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.”


While many of his followers will undoubtedly think of this as a fine and noble aspiration, it is worthwhile pausing to consider what such a claim means, what it presupposes and, if Dawkins is correct in his general scientific naturalism, what it makes of Dawkins himself.

Simply put, Dawkins’ book is a prolonged argument against religious belief. It promotes a scientific worldview as contrary to religious beliefs and argues that maintaining such beliefs in the face of the dominance of this worldview is nothing less than irrational. The unbeliever is the person of reason; the believer is deluded. If you read his book and you are a reasonable person, you will come to the same conclusion as Dawkins; if you don’t concur you are lacking in rationality.

What assumptions are operating in such a stance? What is Dawkins’ implicit understanding of human beings?

The first is, of course, that human beings are reasoning beings, that they can follow arguments and evidence and come to a reasonable conclusion. Indeed, the primacy of reason is central to the whole scientific enterprise, as he regularly reminds his readers. This much is explicit.

However, there is also a second assumption, albeit a less explicit one: that the dictates of reason have the power to compel human actions, that they have a normative significance of human living. Implicit in Dawkins’ understanding of human beings is that if a belief is irrational, then one should not follow or uphold it. To be irrational in the face of evidence is somehow to fail in what it means to be fully human.
. . .
Neil Ormerod is Professor of Theology at Australian Catholic University. With his colleague Cynthia Crysdale, he has written a book on God and evolution (forthcoming from Fortress Press in 2013).


continue to source article at abc.net.au

100 COMMENTS

  1. “To be irrational in the face of evidence is somehow to fail in what it means to be fully human.” That is not Prof Dawkins or most of the rationalist/atheist community claim. To me the claim is quite clear,

    To be irrational and live in the fear of a big brother/sister fails as a fullfilling life
    To be irrational and subjucate women and children is to fail as a human being
    To be irrational and to believe that the whole planet is created for us and be cruel to animals & exploit the planet mindlessly is to fail as a living being

  2. This is so typical of the many attacks on Dawkins. I’ve read close to a dozen critical reviews of the God Delusion and every time I came away wondering if the reviewer had even read the book he was reviewing. Mr. Ormerod is just the same, he completely ignores the many well thought out arguments in The God Delusion and goes to meta-issues about how Dawkins is a bully — without producing a single quote that shows Dawkins displaying “contempt and anger” towards religious people. He can’t produce one because they don’t exist. Dawkins never gets personal or rude even though his critics often do. 

  3.   Implicit in Dawkins’ understanding of human beings is that if a
    belief is irrational, then one should not follow or uphold it. To be
    irrational in the face of evidence is somehow to fail in what it means
    to be fully human.

    Or at any rate to fail as an intellectually mature reasoning human!

    Then the obfuscating, verbose, ramblings begin:-

    A couple of points here are worth noting. Richard Dawkins has moved
    from a matter of fact (a belief is irrational) to a moral conclusion (one should not uphold such a belief). In philosophical parlance, he has moved from an “is” to an “ought,”  .. .. …

    This says something about Dawkins implicit understanding of free will.
    With the scholastics, he implicitly holds that will is “rational appetite” – that is, an orientation, desire or exigency to do what is reasonable. In that case, free will is not some arbitrary power to choose this or that, with the choice being a matter of indifference;
    rather it has a normative structure to it so that an act of choice can fail to do what it is meant to do

    Or at least a choice to fail to do what is in its best interests to do, or to account for predictable  outcomes.  

    People can CHOOSE not to believe in gravity, and CAN step out of a tenth floor window as a result of religious FAITH or hallucinogenic drugs.  The question is , “Is it reasonable to call such people “DELU-DED”. “BRAIN-DEAD”, (or just plain “dead”)

    That’s the thing about exercising “free-will” based on faith rather than science!  It is the freedom to be TOTALLY WRONG, with only a random chance of being right by accident!

  4. “To be irrational in the face of evidence is somehow to fail in what it means to be fully human.”

    This line grabbed me and I would argue that to be irrational in the face of evidence has no bearing on whether we fail or succeed at what it means to be fully human. There is no meaning to be human and delusion is as much a part of being human as being rational.

    I would agree, if he said. “To be irrational in the face of evidence is somehow to fail in what humanity can be.”

    We cannot be anything more than the precepts of religion via religion. To be rational opens up all possibility.

  5. This goes some way to explaining why Dawkins and his multitude of followers feel entitled to express such contempt and anger toward religious believers.

    Someone needs to check the dictionary. Particularly the word ‘contempt’.

    Nothing religious believers say can be tolerated because they are at heart irrational human beings; they are free to be otherwise, and in not choosing to be rational they are failing in some sense to be what human beings should be.

    Indeed. Isn’t that what defines the human being from all other life?

     

    They are like a watch that does not properly tell the time. They need fixing. And the proper fix is to be more rational, a better human being, and drop their religious beliefs.

    Drop most of their religious beliefs…the silly ones….the ones that spur humans into flying passenger jet aircraft into buildings. Cut baby boys penis skin off. Or suggest that as long as an act of contrition is made to an invisible man in the sky, fucking little boys is just a misdemeanour. That sort of thing. 

    If these are not Dawkins’ and his followers’ beliefs about what it means to be human, then all their contempt and anger is nothing more than an attempt at bullying believers, like alpha male primates beating their chests to warn off rivals.

    I thought it was the other way around…isn’t it the non-believer that is destined to an eternity in hell with a red hot poker up the arse? That’s providing some mad Muslim doesn’t lop the head off with a  scimitar beforehand.  

    It is the religious hierarchy that has all the contempt and anger, didn’t the Pope have this to say about Atheist secularism…”a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society”…I think ‘sophisticated theologians’ really should guard their words a bit better.

  6. Well, I could upbraid him on his understanding of scholastic positions on Free Will. To say that scholastic philosophers had one single take on the subject is rather like saying that modern scientists have one single take on string theory. The account this man gives of the “scholastic” view of free will – as some kind of teleological process involving consonance with a higher end – is Anselmian, but diverges considerably from the more mainstream Augustinian understanding where freedom to choose otherwise very  much is at the heart of it. And Anselm’s take is very different to what Aristotle himself intended. But that’s not the interesting mistake he makes – theologians all too frequently reduce the history of ideas into monolithic blocks like that.

    No, this guy’s main problem is that he projects onto Richard’s thinking a model he is familiar with himself – the (highly Anselmian version of) this Aristotelian teleological view of rationality. That is an entirely unwarranted assumption to make. Richard no more sees the use of reason as the implicit and intrinsic goal of humanity, either in a metaphysical or social-convention sense, than he sees reproduction as an implicit “goal”.

    Reason gets you as close as it is possible to get to what is true. If you care about what is true then you need to follow the processes of reason to get there. If you don’t care about what is true then you can go off and do whatever you like. Richard certainly cares about what is true, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say that everyone SHOULD care about what is true as an absolute principle of nature. What is apparent, though, is that most people, as a matter of fact, DO care about what is true. There are good evolutionary explanations for why we care about what is true. Most religious people claim that they care about what is true – a commitment to one religion over another in anything more than a blandly cultural sense is taking a position on that religion’s truth claims, and therefore shows that the individual cares about what is true. Indeed, to be either a theist or an atheist, one has to care about what is true – if one simply couldn’t give a toss one is merely intellectually apathetic. Thus any theist who picks up The God Delusion is, by definition, a person who cares about what is true.

    And once you’ve admitted that, you also have to admit that science and reason are how we get to the heart of the matter. It follows on naturally. As does the conclusion that modern science has reached on the issue of the existence of gods – there aren’t any.

  7. Vacuous crap.

    How hard is it to simply say ‘We don’t know’ rather than invent ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’ (without ever defining these terms beyond a fuzzy feeling at the base of the testicles) and then pretend we have ‘reasoned’ our way to them through a special way of ‘knowing’ called ‘spirituality’?

    How convenient, also, that said ‘spirituality’ cannot be known – or even explained – to not only the uninitiated, but also (and magically?) to ex-initiates whose power of ‘knowing’ is removed without trace or memory the instant reason and rationalism posit the prefix ‘ex’ before the word ‘initiate’.

    Even more convenient then (and desperately so) to discard any discourse that attempts to apply reason and rationality to said ‘meaning’, and ‘purpose’, and ‘spirituality’ as bullying.

    Nothing more than pretending to know things that you don’t.

    Vacuous crap.

    Anvil.

  8. Well, Dawkins won that round. If the ad hominem attack is all you have then you’ve lost immediately. Dawkins could be a serial killer but that still wouldn’t change the argument and its principles. Play the game, not the player. 

  9. Fascinating read.  I doubt that the author read “The God Delusion” since he seems to be attributing to Richard points he doesn’t suggest.  I found it laughable arguing that rationality by itself is a bad thing somehow.  What alternative is provided?  Superstition?  Myth?  Authoritarianism?  Somehow, I think it all comes down to the last one.  Religious believers feel threatened when the authority they defer to is shown to be a poor means of knowing things.  And the discomfort this causes appears to make rationalists appear to be bullies to authoritarian followers.  When Dawkins and others rationally point out that their prostrations are in vain and misguided, the discomfort they feel is warranted. 

  10. The striking thing is that the author appears to have an issue with people insisting on operating from a rational viewpoint. “People can choose to do what is irrational, but in doing so they act against what it means to be human.”
    This is what is expected in each and every single other walk of life: How to behave in your job, how to operate in a court of law, how to budget your money, how to raise a family. In every other case one would be expected to make an informed call according to the evidence available to them. Failure to do so results in lost jobs, bankruptcy, unhealthy children, criminals released and innocents jailed…
    It is ONLY in the field of religion where leaving rationality aside is seen as am acceptable and, indeed, virtuous route to take.

    Aside, of course, from the rank hypocrisy of a man in a catholic instituation having the gall to accuse people of bullying others who don’t agree with them…

  11. If only the bullies that beat me up every day of my school life had resorted to Dr. Dawkins’ tactics, writing books about why my beliefs were wrong and leaving it up to me to buy, read them and be persuaded. He does not even ask atheists to make life miserable for Christians. Christians have no such restraint.

  12. Well said. I would add that the conclusion Ormerod implicates from Prof. Dawkins ( “To be irrational in the face of evidence is somehow to fail in what it means to be fully human.”) is not in the least what is being said. It may very well be (and no doubt is) true that humans are not naturally rational. However, as is similarly stated in The Selfish Gene, we have the ability to overcome our irrationalty and indeed it is vital that we do so if we are to survive. It takes work to know and understand and perhaps that is what is so frightening to theists.

  13. Is Richard Dawkins a bully?

    If I wrote an essay of the form “Is person P an X?”, I would define X at some point. As he won’t, let’s head to a dictionary. Dictionary.com gives the following definitions (excluded
    are: archaic and obsolete definitions; any definition which isn’t a noun, e.g. verbs; and any clearly unintended definition, e.g. a type of fish):

    a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people
    (From the World English Dictionary) a
    person who hurts, persecutes, or intimidates weaker people

    Both these definitions imply RD would have to be picking on people weaker than himself. Who are these people?

    Richard Dawkins has moved from a matter of fact (a belief is irrational) to a moral conclusion (one should not uphold such a belief). In philosophical parlance, he has moved from an “is” to an “ought,” Of course, David Hume argued that one cannot derive an “ought” from an “is,” but Alasdair MacIntyre has countered that Hume’s argument fails when the reality under consideration has an end or purpose. In moving from an “is” to an “ought” Dawkins is imbuing human beings with a purpose

    This argument conflates “Hume’s wrong in case X” with “Hume’s wrong only in case X”. We don’t need to claim the meaning of life (or being human) is to not do a certain thing to say that thing is a dumb thing to do. Also, like many defences of religion, it conflates “I have an argument for why even more stuff is irrational than my opponent notes” with “my own irrationality is more acceptable than my opponent concedes”.

    Nothing religious believers say can be tolerated because they are at heart irrational human beings

    This is a straw man. That theism is irrational doesn’t make a theist irrational in any areas other than theism; let’s hear everyone out on every issue one by one. What’s more, it’s not even that we shouldn’t listen to theists on religious questions because theism is irrational; it’s that we owed it to theism to hear out its case, then it turned out to be paltry. The debate
    has nowhere else to go now until some new case for theism is given. Cosmological, ontological, teleological, we need something new.

    If these are not Dawkins’ and his followers’ beliefs about what it means to be human, then all their contempt and anger is nothing more than an attempt at bullying believers

    Since bullying must be a mistreatment of those weaker can yourself, this charge can only hold if criticism of our differences on grounds considered worth raising is directed only at those weaker than one’s self – which can’t be true, because “you’re wrong and here’s why” is used by people on *both* sides. It’s likely some theists are weaker than some atheists and vice versa. But when atheists critique theism, and when theists critique atheism, each
    person is critiquing all their opponents en masse, regardless of strength.

    What is the nature of this demand to do what is rational? Clearly, it is not like the compulsion of OCD. When people are held by such a disorder and follow its demands we might feel sorry for them and praise them when they resist its compulsion. With the demand to be rational, we praise people when they follow it and complain when they don’t. Furthermore, it is difficult to resist the force OCD, while it seems relatively easy to resist the demand to be rational.

    That paragraph is a train wreck. He’s trying to critique a stance, finds a bad thing, and works out that that bad thing isn’t comparable to the stance he’s critiquing. What have we learned from that to advance the case for or against RD’s advocacy of rationalism? Worse still, the “something could be like OCD if it had this property, though RD’s thing doesn’t” points both make it seem that *ir*rationality *is* comparable to OCD. (I’m sure in other ways that analogy will break down. I really don’t like analogies.)

    Indeed, according to Dawkins, there are billions of religious people who resist it all the time. However, for many religious traditions this demand for rationality is what is meant by saying that we are “spiritual” beings

    However much religious people claim we are rational, and however rational we are, the fact remains that if religion considers rationality a part of “spirituality”, which it thinks is a good thing, it must then be rational in and of itself, and therefore this piece should have tried to debunk the “religion is irrational” claim, not the “irrational beliefs shouldn’t be held” claim.
    Could we have an argument for the truth of some specific religious doctrine please? It could be an open-ended one, like at least one god existing, or something specific, such as that the creator of the universe hates abortion, or something in between.

    The whole universe is a purposeless, meaningless set of forces and particles banging into one another according to the laws of physics. How then might Dawkins construe the apparently purposeful appeal to live according to the dictates of reason that is implicit in the aims of his book?

    This is a composition fallacy; to the say the universe lacks a purpose doesn’t mean no entity inside it has a purpose, and indeed such purposes may be anthropogenic. This same author points to the purpose of watches.

    He might view it as merely as social construct, something which makes for social harmony and cohesion, but which has no larger metaphysical significance. But if an appeal to be reasonable is simply a social construct, then it has no absolute claim on us. What is reasonable in one society might not be reasonable in another, and to hold to such reason is simply an instance of a herd mentality at work.

    Firstly, why is absolutism important, and what does it mean anyway? Secondly, what is reasonable is not culturally contextual; take a maths or logic class anywhere in the world and the rules of the game will be the same. Thirdly, if something helps social harmony, isn’t that a case for it?

    Dawkins seems to reduce morality to altruism and then claims it has an evolutionary advantage. His appeal to reason would then be like an attempt to shift the herd
    into a different direction, but it would not constitute a genuine normativity to reason itself. Moreover, morality as the exigency to follow the dictates of reason is much more than altruism.

    So why claim RD excludes reason from morality? In any case, if you want a source for the “be reasonable” norm, that source is to be found not in our evolutionary history, but in the fact that reason is the only approach to anything that has any reliability, as anything else will succeed only by coincidence. Reason has the added benefit of being self-correcting, hence self-enhancing.

    He might view what we think of as our free choices as nothing more than the statistical outcome of more basic physical processes, so that some move one way and others another. In which case, people are not moved by reason to change their position, but by complex forces they cannot grasp. The appeal to reason, then, is simply a mask for other forces which shift the probability of people moving in the direction Dawkins wishes them to move in. It really is then nothing more than an alpha male beating his chest in a display of force seeking to intimidate the weaker members of the group into accepting his leadership. Among human beings, this is called bullying.

    No; it’s called persuasion. If you believe otherwise, get a dictionary to back you up. And for the record, advocacy isn’t automatically rendered pointless by us being driven by the motion of our atoms. Aside from the advocates being subject to this to, they form part of the factors which influence others. If I make a reasoned case for a view, my audience is a tad more likely to realise the view’s veracity – just as if I turn up the thermostat, they’ll probably take off their coats. Unfortunately the former is less reliably successful than the latter, but it does have the kind of statistical property needed to make the policy sensible. We *can* grasp the factors that drive us, or at least some of them.

    So which Richard Dawkins should we accept? Is it the one who implicitly believes that human beings have a purpose to their living, and that this purpose is to be
    guided by reason, who appeals to the innate reasonableness of every human being and the exigency to be led by that reasonableness? Or it is the one who explicitly eschews meaning and purpose in the universe

    As I said before, our lives can be purposeful without our home universe being so.

  14. Still, looking forward to his forthcoming book release on God and Evolution.

    Wonder how rational his publishers will want him to act with regards to the draft deadlines?

    I’ll review it – if and when it’s published – in an ‘otherly’ way, a ‘spiritual’ way, metaphysically and irrationaly – I intend to start this review by not buying it.

    Fuck me, it’s easy this spiritual shit, innit!

    Anvil.

    [edit: shit, just realised that 'not' buying it would be the 'rational' choice. Doh!]

  15. The article has that rather annoyingly vacuous semanticism of someone desperately trying to bootstrap into existence a position from which he can go ” nanananana……I’ve caught you out ! “

  16. Jos Gibbons

    Is Richard Dawkins a bully?

    .. ..  As he won’t, let’s head to a dictionary. Dictionary.com gives the following definitions

    a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people 
    (From the World English Dictionary) a person who hurts, persecutes, or intimidates weaker people

    Both these definitions imply RD would have to be picking on people weaker than himself. Who are these people? 

    This is of course the classic theist backside-first thinking in which academically and intellectually, unarmed and unprepared, fundamentalist ignoramuses,  CHALLENGE leading scientists to a contest in their science specialisms.

    “WaHHH!!! what a bully!  He and his science followers say he beat me 20,000 debating points to nil!  How unsporting and mean!!! -  but nothing he said made any sense to me, so I won!!! – See!! – I KNOW God-did-it”!!  – none of this confusing sciency stuff!! – and my (red-neck-rent-a-thicky) mates at the church agree with me! – So there!!!”

    Fancy bullying those poor little BLACK KNIGHTS! http://richarddawkins.net/disc

  17. You got it right in the first sentence. “We don’t know”. Nobody ‘knows’ anything! That’s one thing religious people and atheists alike, simply can’t accept. You simply CANNOT know if a God exists or doesn’t exist unless you know everything there is to know in the freaking universe (or universes). U guys have more things in common than you’d like to admit. For one thing, science cannot prove God because God, by definition, is not a quantifiable measurable entity and is supposed to ‘defy all human understanding’ anyway. So telling a religious person that science can’t prove God does nothing to their faith because they already know that and that might be damn well why they even believe in a God. Atheists, the ‘self-acclaimed champions of science, reason and progressive thinking’, believe that you simply cannot come to a conclusion without concrete evidence. This follows logically and is one reason why most are atheists in the first place. There’s only one problem.

    These atheists forget that for many centuries, and even now (and forever), science – ‘that beakon in the sky for the intellectually starved, the true salvation for mankind’, was built on a very fundamental ‘principle’, which is way up there with “observation, methodology, experimentation etc”, and that ‘principle/pillar’ is speculation. Speculation, in layman’s terms and in this scientific context, is an idea – a few things point to the liklihood of that idea so you toy with it a bit, it seems to make sense though there’s no concrete proof, then you believe it anyway. E.g. The ‘Multiverse Theory’ – technically it is all hypothetical (which is what you get after contemplating a ‘speculation’), but the fact that it is called a theory now in scientific circles means that a damn well majority of our scientists believe it! Many things in the scientific world work that way though, some speculation, a few shreds of proof here and there, after a while you have a theory, and this a good thing, it’s paved the way for a lot of technological advancements. Well it’s good sometimes.

    This speculation has a synonym religious people would rather use though, and it’s called faith. Faith has many definitions, one of which is, “to believe in something you have not seen”. In other words, to believe in something you have no concrete evidence for.

    Bottom line is, in science the only thing we’re certain about is a method. Methodology. A structured system of doing things. Most of the things science has helped us discover, that we think are absolutes and ‘laws of physics’, has been proven over time that they’re aren’t as absolute as we thought (e.g. The speed of light), and scientists and philosophers world over admit that there is very little, if anything, we can be certain about. Richard Dawkins himself said in a debate that he is not 100% sure a God doesn’t exist. This is a very rational answer because to claim certainty about a universe we know so little of, is folly, or in simple English, plain stupid. The one thing religious people should get is that the only thing they can be certain about is Religion – a structured method. A heirachy. I’m surprised a lot of atheists and religious people don’t hear themeselves but they’re both saying the same thing – what they ‘BELIEVE’, not what they ‘KNOW’, because like I said, u can’t really KNOW unless you have infinite knowledge. So it all boils down to a sentimental exhange of sorts – “my belief is right and yours is wrong. I use science and u use faith” (and vice versa), which is really the farthest you can get from ‘rational’.

    So! Who are the winners in all of this? I don’t know, but I’ll put my money on the agnostics, cause they’re the only ones who admit the simple fact that certainty, about a reality besides this, is impossible.

  18. Erm, I think you’ll find most of the people on this board, and indeed on the atheist spectrum ARE agnostic atheists – i.e. we don’t believe a God exists, but we don’t claim to know this for certain. But the same is true of fairies, unicorns, elves, trolls (excluding internet ones), goblins, centaurs, continue the list as long as desired.

    Since we can live our lives under the assumption that these beings don’t exist as there is insufficient evidence to support them, we see no reason why we can’t extend that list to include Gods.

  19. Ha ha. This could have been published in the Onion. It’s becoming a cliche, isn’t it?
    It’s even under  the banner of “Religion and Ethics”. lol 

    But, the most disturbing thing is the pic on the right of the  hospital chaplains. Can you imagine one of them showing up at your bed side? Good grief.

  20. Being irrational is a BAD THING. So, statements like the one’s Prof Dawkins tends to make should only be insulting to irrational people. It’s like Sam Harris asks “What rational argument can you put forward to convince someone that they should value rational consistency?” (or, words to that effect.)
    So if your not keen on logistical consistancy, then prepare to feel insulted all the time. Dawkins cares about what is really actually true about our existence. And anyone who feels put down by this grand idea clearly DOESN’T care about what its really actually true about our existence.
    Trying to figure out what people “could have possibly mabye sorta meant by this, or that statement” is just desperately fishing for insults that aren’t there. Its a smear campaign.

  21. florads

    You got it right in the first sentence. (…)

    Yup.

    …”We don’t know”. Nobody ‘knows’ anything! That’s one thing religious people and atheists alike, simply can’t accept.

    Nope. If I didn’t accept that all knowlege is conditional I wouldn’t have understood the scientific method and wouldn’t have got it right in the first sentence. Would I.

    I like speculation though. Feynman – a real ‘champion of science’ – says science begins by taking a guess about something. He goes further, though, in stating that if your guess doesn’t agree with experiment, then it’s worthless.

    I’ll guess the earth wasn’t magicked into existence 6,000 years ago.

    I’ll guess lightening isn’t the wrath of an angry god.

    I’ll guess that prayer doesn’t work.

    I’ll guess that, well… I’m sure you get my point.

    You don’t have to prove the non-existence of – for example – the christian deity, or a hebrew god of war to show where they are not, or what they do not do, to force these gods into ever decreasing spaces.

    Nobody has faith in science. Your analogy with religious faith is incorrect.

    Ultimately if it doesn’t correspond to experiment it will end up in the bin, along with all the 40,000 or so deities.

    Anvil.

  22. florads
    You got it right in the first sentence. “We don’t know”. Nobody ‘knows’ anything!

    This is simply wrong.  When it comes to knowing, the scientific methods of objective observation and repeatable testing, provides knowledge at the highest probability available.

    These atheists forget that for many centuries, and even now (and
    forever), science – ‘that beakon in the sky for the intellectually starved, the true salvation for mankind’, was built on a very fundamental ‘principle’, which is way up there with “observation, methodology, experimentation etc”, and that ‘principle/pillar’ is speculation.

    This is nonsense! Speculation only identifies areas for investigation.  It has nothing to do with confirmed, repeat-tested peer-reviewed science.

    You simply CANNOT know if a God exists or doesn’t exist unless you know everything there is to know in the freaking universe (or universes).

    You cannot know if fairies, leprechauns, invisible dragons, or celestial teapots exist, but you can know that there is absolutely no evidence or reason to believe they do.  There is neurological evidence about where CLAIMS of gods exist, and that is in the brains of believers.

    U guys have more things in common than you’d like to admit. For one thing, science cannot prove God because God, by definition, is not a quantifiable measurable entity and is supposed to ‘defy all human understanding’ anyway.

    Perhaps you could explain how and where you got this god definition of this non-quantifiable non measurable, undetectable entity? Made up by some priest perhaps? 

    – and why you are referring to a single “God” with a capital “G”, when there are so many of them? – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L

      but I’ll put my money on the agnostics, cause they’re the only ones who admit the simple fact that certainty, about a reality besides this, is impossible.

    So, how many gods and mythical creature/spirits are you agnostic about?  You are suggesting only one god, but surely this implies the certain disbelief in the others. A certainty which you have previously disparaged!

    what they ‘BELIEVE’, not what they ‘KNOW’,

    You see science does have real knowledge, and I do KNOW that if you walk out of a 20th floor window on to air, gravity WILL  throw you to the ground below.  Science can even give a pretty good estimate of the terminal speed and the force of the impact.  All opinions are NOT  equal!

  23. Well, the author is quite right in that we can’t use reason to show that we ‘ought’ not jump off a cliff and flap our arms rapidly wishing to fly. However, we can use it to calculate just how many seconds later we will go splat on the ground or into the ocean.

  24. I don’t think Richard Dawkins’ attack on religion in any way suggests that someone falls short of humanity by acting irrationally. He might even say that people are acting all too humanly i.e thinking with their gut rather than their brains when they act irrationally. However, the charge of irrationality still stands. If there is no reason for believing something you shouldn’t believe it. And this has nothing to do with being human. It goes as much for aliens and hedgehogs as for humans.

  25. @Jos Gibbons “…the following definitions:

    a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people; (From the World English Dictionary) aperson who hurts, persecutes, or intimidates weaker people.”

    Those all just mean “strident”. I rest my case. ;-)
     
    @Mods:
    What is “ETHCIS“, please?
    Steve

  26. As usual, the “sophisticated theologians”, have nothing positive to say about their belief in the absurd. Have a go at Dawkins instead!

    I really have to laugh when an RCC apologist accuses Richard of “bullying”, in his ever so sly way! There’s one thing the RCC does understand, and that’s the art of bullying!

    Bar-stewards!

  27.  

    alf1200 
    The term “unbeliever” is insulting. It suggests the person was once a believer.

    I would see it as arrogantly assuming and asserting, without evidence, that there is some exclusive “valid” belief of the pontificator, and all other beliefs and non-beliefs are wrong.

    It is like claiming to be”an agnostic” not an atheist.  Then stating “agnostic about God” with a capital G signifying an assumption of an Abrahamic god!

  28. Well, Hell . . .

    I was going to post on this topic until read the other posts and realized there wasI nothing left to say. You were all spot on with one little exception (and you know who that was). Not to disparage anyone else, but Paul (IA) and Carto said about all that needs to be said about this. I suspect the authors have quite limited educations (or maybe intelligence).

    It is imperative that they buy and read Kahneman’s book as soon as possible. I would send them a copy but I don’t think they will read it. If they do, it will take them three to four tries to understand it.

  29. A bully is someone who aims to control somebody with no regard for truth or fairness or the well-being of others.  They will use whatever means they have available to them to win.  A bully wants to control you.  A bully never appeals to reason.  A bully’s worst nightmare is a world of people thinking for themselves and those people standing together to question the moral and intellectual assertions of people and cultures who aren’t used to being questioned. .

    I’ve never seen Professor Dawkins beat anyone up and steal their lunch money.  I’ve seen religion do it again and again. 

    The only way to stand up to bullies is to think for yourself and to subject your ideas to others who are doing the same.  We need to argue about reality.  We need to get better at understanding it. 

    Richard Dawkins has taken great risks to encourage this.  Religion discourages it. 

    Bullies are the first ones to burst into tears when somebody stands up to them.  If you refuse to be their victim, they will accuse you of victimizing them. 

    It’s perfectly predictable that they accuse him of being arrogant, strident, robotic, extremist AND a bully. 

    There are bullies and there are heroes.  Heroes stand up to bullies.

    Richard Dawkins is a hero. 

  30. @alan4discussion

    “When it comes to knowing, the scientific methods of objective observation and repeatable testing, provides knowledge at the highest probability available”

    Keyword: Probability.
    And your first paragraph just summed up everything I have to say. My case was on rational certainty, and yes we all *assume* fairies, loch ness monsters etc don’t exist, but there is a possibility that they do, exist. Which is why you used the word “assume” in the first place.

    Also, speculation is not nonsense. It does have something to do with “confirmed, repeat-tested, peer-reviewed science”. Our most brilliant scientists think so. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki

    About the God confusion, I apologize. That was a grammatical error on my part. I should have replaced ‘God’ with ‘theism’ or ‘divine diety’ or ‘divinity’ or ‘that thing atheists don’t believe in’. My definition for God did indeed come from a philosophical source and from a study of the Quran and Bible.

    And when you quoted me saying, “what they ‘BELIEVE’, not what they ‘KNOW’”, surprisingly, you took it out of context. I was very clearly talking about certainty in the existence or non-existence of a divine diety etc.

    Hope I’ve addressed all.

  31. @anvil

    I would retract my first statment saying it was pushing it too far, but for the context I was hoping was plain to see.
    Context: comments on the certainty of the existence of an alternate reality/divine blah blah.

    I believe Einstein was certain there was sufficient experimentation of his ‘speed of light’ theory (this is a favorite of mine), yet until very recently, we all know Einstein’s certainty in the experimentation and his theory was misplaced. This doesn’t in anyway undermine science though. I think it’s obvious that instead implies progress.

    However, experimentation on whatever deities seems incompatible with the dieties themselves, so science does not ‘toss it in a bin’. For one thing, ‘science can’t test a diety walking on water’. So it’s not certainly deemed impossible which renders it, however minutely, possible.

    I don’t believe my analogies and comparisons were incorrect, but I won’t expand on them more than I already have.

  32. I must admit – all things being relative, it was rather one of the better attempts of argument against Dawkins. Raises issues I only became aware of in reading a book by Sam Harris on morals, in which there is a compelling argument about why we should strive for a higher morality (and how science can help us do this) IF we want to maximize human pleasure and minimize human suffering, which it seems should inform arguments here about how science and reason SHOULD be embraced – IF we care about finding out about THE TRUTH.

  33.  I was always told, when I would run into the house in tears as a child, that bullies were nothing more than cowards.

    This would make me feel awful.

    There I was, left thinking “Shit – even the cowards are bullying me!”

    What hope?

    Anvil.

  34. Hi florads, thanks for your reply.

    @anvil

    I would retract my first statment saying it was pushing it too far, but for the context I was hoping was plain to see. 
    Context: comments on the certainty of the existence of an alternate reality/divine blah blah.

    This was your first statement:

    …”We don’t know”. Nobody ‘knows’ anything! That’s one thing religious people and atheists alike, simply can’t accept.

    Theists/Deists generally hold the existence of of their chosen diety to be a certainty, a truth, a claim to knowledge, whereas science claims all knowledge to be contingent and such knowledge as we do accept, that will give us a clearer image of reality, of truth, is that which conforms to, and is confirmned by experiment and falsification.

    Your context, surely, was one of equivalence. On this it falls.

    I believe Einstein was certain there was sufficient experimentation
    of his ‘speed of light’ theory (this is a favorite of mine), yet until
    very recently, we all know Einstein’s certainty in the experimentation
    and his theory was misplaced. This doesn’t in anyway undermine science
    though. I think it’s obvious that instead implies progress.

    Of course. Why would the application of the scientific method undermine science? Sorry, could you re-state your point here?

    However, experimentation on whatever deities seems incompatible with
    the dieties themselves, so science does not ‘toss it in a bin’. For one
    thing, ‘science can’t test a diety walking on water’. So it’s not
    certainly deemed impossible which renders it, however minutely,
    possible.

    Who says experimentation on deities is incompatible with the deities themselves? If I’m told that a deity lives under a bridge or upon a cloud and if I go there I will die, this claim is open to experimentation and falsification.

    If I then go there and find nothing and do not die, I do not then hold as contingent that both these deities may still exist. They have failed at the first hurdle and are ‘tossed in the bin’.

    If I’m told that Thor, a northern god, or Yahweh, a southern desert god, throws lightening bolts at miscreants or creates the world in six days 6,000 years ago, then these claims are open to experiment and falsification.

    I don’t believe my analogies and comparisons were incorrect, but I won’t expand on them more than I already have.

    Well, your analogy, again, was one of equivalence – that people who have faith in the existence of a two legged, blue coloured god with four arms is equivalent to speculation within science.

    Your original post states:

    Many things in the scientific world work that way though, some
    speculation, a few shreds of proof here and there, after a while you
    have a theory, and this a good thing, it’s paved the way for a lot of
    technological advancements. Well it’s good sometimes.

    This speculation has a synonym religious people would rather use though, and it’s called faith. Faith has many definitions, one of which is, “to believe in something you have not seen”. In other words, to believe in something you have no concrete evidence for.

    This is called the fallacy of false equivalence.

    Forgive me if I have misunderstood you.

    By the way, I’ve not seen an electron. Have you? 

    Anvil.

    [editod for speling]

  35. Only an irrational mind would say that a watch that
    dose not tell the correct time is not a very good watch!

    A rational mind would say, Why dose the watch not
    tell the correct time?  Is it a battery
    watch and is the battery dead, or is it a wind up watch and it just needs a
    good wind?

    It is good to be rational, it saves a lot of money on
    watches!

  36.  Thanks for the reply.

    florads

    “When it comes to knowing, the scientific methods of objective
    observation and repeatable testing, provides knowledge at the highest
    probability available”

    Keyword: Probability. And your first paragraph just summed up
    everything I have to say. My case was on rational certainty, and yes we
    all *assume* fairies, loch ness monsters etc don’t exist, but there is a
    possibility that they do, exist. Which is why you used the word
    “assume” in the first place.

    Remote possibilities can be discounted for practical purposes, unless supporting evidence turns up.  The fact someone has made a wild guess does not justify wasting time unless there is credible evidence.

    Also, speculation is not nonsense. It does have something to do with
    “confirmed, repeat-tested, peer-reviewed science”. Our most brilliant
    scientists think so. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki

    The point was that speculation is an entirely separate process to that of repeat testing and confirmation from experimental results.  Speculations which fail testing are promptly dumped.

    As I pointed out, speculation is only the early stage of identifying areas for study and testing.  Confirmed  scientific conclusions (such as the example of gravity) are not speculative, and while possibly modified by new evidence, objective observations are not going to be overturned.

    About the God confusion, I apologize. That was a grammatical error on
    my part. I should have replaced ‘God’ with ‘theism’ or ‘divine diety’
    or ‘divinity’ or ‘that thing atheists don’t believe in’. My definition
    for God did indeed come from a philosophical source and from a study of
    the Quran and Bible.

    So are are you equally agnostic about all gods? or like atheists are you making value judgements on probabilities? -   Of course judgements about gods, require evidenced definitions of gods – a regular point of failure in god-claims! – especially biblical ones.

    And when you quoted me saying, “what they ‘BELIEVE’, not what they
    ‘KNOW’”, surprisingly, you took it out of context. I was very clearly
    talking about certainty in the existence or non-existence of a divine
    diety etc.

    Much scientific evidence is checked to a very high level of probability.  That is why it can be used in engineering, medicine, astronomy etc.  It is also why it massively dwarfs supernatural mythology as far as credibility goes.

    “Faith” without evidence, as a method of decision making, has a track record of repeated failure and disaster.

    With gods, the questions remain as to why any particular god-claim should be seen as more valid than others. 

    While there is no scientific evidence for any gods,  admittedly some are so self-contradictory that they are easily refuted, while others are inconsistent with well evidenced science or history.  For practical purposes in everyday life, absence of evidence (after extensive searches), is evidence of absence, so fairies, leprechauns and gods can be regarded as non-existent.

  37. Oh dear another erudite contribution from our national broadcasters Religion and Ethcis portal.  It warms my heart to see my taxes being so well spent.
    Don Quijote has it right. Stop when you see the words Australian Catholic University. Michael

  38. @anvil

    For the record, I am very much enjoying this discussion and I appreciate that you’ve been straight forward so far. Also, I think it’s easier this way:

    1) Science does not hold all knowledge as contingent else we wouldn’t have absolutes/laws, which every educated person I’ve come across calls scientific truths. E.g laws of physics, fundamental quantities.

    2) Sarcasm aside, my analogies were indeed of equivalence because the point here was in the employment of probability. As ridiculous as it sounds (reads), it logically follows that as long as there’s no certainty, it is possible. That being said, a blue bodied creature and the multiverse are equally plausible (or implausible).

    3) If you’re told a diety isn’t bound to the laws of physics, pray tell, how do you test that? Of course some claims can be tested and falsified, but some claims (miracles – not Jesus-toast) have been tested and verfied as well. When the dieties themselves are engineered either in the minds of the believers or in actuality, to be incomprehensible, we’ll have to wait for science to get more advanced before any quality expereimentation is possible.

    4) Have you ever used an STM? I suggest you call up your friendly neighbourhood scientist and enjoy the experience.

  39. @alan4discussion

    Thanks. My response is that it’d be easier if you read my previous replies to you and @anvil, because I find repeating myself, modifying only technicalities with each reply is quite tiresome.

    I believe my underlying case is this: the existence of an alternate reality or of a diety (dieties) which allegedly inhabits said reality, will always be up discussion/debate because certainty in either case is virtually impossible.

    And I hope that was me stating the obvious.

  40. @anvil

    For the record, I am very much enjoying this discussion and I
    appreciate that you’ve been straight forward so far. Also, I think it’s
    easier this way:

    Cool, mate.

    1) Science does not hold all knowledge as contingent else we wouldn’t
    have absolutes/laws, which every educated person I’ve come across calls
    scientific truths. E.g laws of physics, fundamental quantities.

    A scientific law is simply where experiment matches prediction/repetition over time. We cannot call this an absolute as this ‘law’ may not apply under ‘other’ conditions such as at the very small, or the very fast, or the very hot, or the very cold, or the very dense. Indeed history shows us that ‘fundamentals’ are ‘likely’ to be changed, and modified, and replaced, by new evidence and observation.

    Past experience is not an infallible guide to what may happen in the future.

    All knowledge is therefore contingent.

    2) Sarcasm aside, my analogies were indeed of equivalence because the point here was in the employment of probability. As ridiculous as it sounds (reads), it logically follows that as long as there’s no certainty, it is possible. That being said, a blue bodied creature and the multiverse are equally plausible (or implausible).

    I’ll admit, I struggle with possibility and probability, truth, knowledge, and certainty. Let’s explore this briefly by returning to our basic premise of knowledge being contingent:

    If ‘knowledge’ isn’t ‘certainty’ then we have to ask what exactly is ‘knowledge’?

    Scientifically ‘knowledge’ rests in how strong the evidence is that supports a particular assertion. In this sense then, an absence of evidence is evidence of absence, and the stronger the evidence for a particular assertion the greater the knowledge, and the greater the knowledge the closer we are to an approximation of what we may call ‘truth’.

    This is the relationship between knowledge and truth.

    Given this relationship between knowledge and truth, are particular assertions more, or less, probable than others? More, or less, possible than others? More, or less, plausible than others?

    You would have to work a lot harder to persuade me that all assertions are equally plausable, possible, or probable.

    3) If you’re told a diety isn’t bound to the laws of physics, pray tell, how do you test that?

    You can’t. Unless such claims have an effect on the material world. You can, of course, test that effect.

    Of course some claims can be tested and
    falsified, but some claims (miracles – not Jesus-toast) have been tested
    and verfied as well.

    What is the probability that others here have asked you for evidence of this before I have finished writing this post?

    When the dieties themselves are engineered either
    in the minds of the believers or in actuality, to be incomprehensible,
    we’ll have to wait for science to get more advanced before any quality
    expereimentation is possible.

    The gaps may become more numerous but they also become infinitely small, don’t they?

    4) Have you ever used an STM? I suggest you call up your friendly neighbourhood scientist and enjoy the experience.

    Sorry, I wasn’t aware you could see an electron with an STM. I presumed an electron was too fast and that its motion could only became ‘apparent’ through using light pulse technology.

    Heh, ever seen a charmed quark?

    Anvil.

  41.   – florads –
    @anvil
    3) If you’re told a diety isn’t bound to the laws of physics, pray tell, how do you test that?

    Science starts with evidence, so first I would ask where such information came from – given that the theist making the statement is a material being and without interactions involving the laws of physics would be unable to have such knowledge communicated to them. This essentially is begging the question and then asking for proof of a negative. (celestial teapot? invisible dragon?)

    (3)Of course some claims can be tested and falsified, but some claims (miracles – not Jesus-toast) have been tested and verified as well.

    Really?  Can you quote examples which were not fiction, ignorance, hysteria or fraud?

    When the dieties themselves are engineered either
    in the minds of the believers or in actuality, to be incomprehensible,
    we’ll have to wait for science to get more advanced before any quality
    expereimentation is possible.

    Not really.  While it may be possible for aliens etc to be in some other universe or distant part of our universe, once claims are made moving from vague undefined nothingness to biblical gods with properties to intervene in our physical reality, their effects would be measurable and their presence detectable.

    The irrational astronomical leap from “I’ve defined a god with no identifiable properties” to  – “therefore Jesus – and the bible is true” has been seen here many times before.

    For the record, I am very much enjoying this discussion and I
    appreciate that you’ve been straight forward so far. Also, I think it’s
    easier this way:

    This is an educational site promoting science and reason – regardless of what may be said about it elsewhere! 
    But errors are challenged – and not just theists’ errors.  Anyone presenting rubbish as science or reasoning is likely to come up against subject specialists.  (See my earlier link on “Black Knights”)

    1) Science does not hold all knowledge as contingent else we wouldn’t have absolutes/laws, which every educated person I’ve come across calls
    scientific truths. E.g laws of physics, fundamental quantities.

    I think you misunderstand “scientific theory”  -  The term “theory” in the vernacular is quite vague and different.

    Scientific Theories – the·o·ries
    1. A set of statements
    or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena,
    especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and
    can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena. -  http://www.thefreedictionary.c

    While science never closes the door on possible new evidence modifying present knowledge, some repeat observations (as with gravity) are so heavily evidenced that they are for all practical purposes “fact”.  As Einstein showed, this does not preclude adjustments in special circumstances.

    2) Sarcasm aside, my analogies were indeed of equivalence because the point here was in the employment of probability. As ridiculous as it sounds (reads), it logically follows that as long as there’s no certainty, it is possible. That being said, a blue bodied creature and the multiverse are equally plausible (or implausible) .

    There can still be a false equivalence of probabilities and possibilities as they are variable.  Some are evidenced near solid facts, ( as used in engineering) others are very remote vague possibilities, so all are not are equally plausible (or implausible).  Evidence is the issue.

    florads – @alan4discussion

    I believe my underlying case is this: the existence of an alternate
    reality or of a diety (deities) which allegedly inhabits said reality,
    will always be up discussion/debate because certainty in either case is
    virtually impossible.

    I have no problem with understanding that many religious views (or for that matter political views) involve an “alternative reality”.  The problem is where this “god-of-gaps” is.  My reading of neurology indicates it is in the brains of the various believers. 

    As well as scientific tests showing which parts of the brain are active, and which ones are shut down during spiritual experiences, there is the simple logical issue that these “alternative realities” are as diverse, numerous and conflicting with each other, as are their believers.

    My knowledge of astronomy suggests that there is no “alternative reality” anywhere within the (very long range) range of scientific observations, (other than in brains).

    There is evidence these images of “reality” are in brains.  There is no evidence they are anywhere else – although should someone produce evidence it could be scientifically examined.

  42. @florads:disqus

    I believe my underlying case is this: the existence of an alternate
    reality or of a diety (dieties) which allegedly inhabits said reality,
    will always be up discussion/debate because certainty in either case is
    virtually impossible. 

    Yes. ‘Certainty’ in either case ‘is’ impossible. So ‘how then’ can we say which – the possibility of a ‘multiverse’ or a ‘green triangular shaped god’ that I’ve just made up – is a closer approximation of the truth?

    Anvil

    ps: ‘diety’ – Is this a thin god? Or a fat god who want’s to be thin? ;)

  43. >As ridiculous as it sounds (reads), it logically follows that as long as there’s no certainty, it is possible. That being said, a blue bodied creature and the multiverse are equally plausible (or implausible).

    No, there is mathematical evidence which tracks physical evidence that indicates multiverses may very well exist. There are obviously blue bodied creatures, but I think you had something more exotic in mind, like a four armed god. There is no evidence of such a creature, therefore they both MAY exist, but the likelihood of the one is far greater than the other. This fallacy of false equivalency used to by called the “fallacy of the beard,” or “the black and white fallacy.”

    >3) If you’re told a diety isn’t bound to the laws of physics, pray tell, how do you test that? Of course some claims can be tested and falsified, but some claims (miracles – not Jesus-toast) have been tested and verfied as well. 

    No. Simple enough?

  44. Cartomancer, Mr. Ormerod’s religion, in all likelihood, is based on the proposition that one can choose to accept christ — which certainly implies free will — or not, and be damned to heck!  For him to then criticize the Good Professor for suggesting the use of free will is hypocrisy.

    Not that hypocrisy is difficult for theists.

  45.  Just on Neil Ormerod – he pops up on the media here every now and then. I’ve yet to read a well-constructed argument from him; he simply doesn’t have the skill. But that’s what happens when your ‘critical’ thinking is predicated on a fantasy.

  46.  

    – gr8hands
    florads, do you have any evidence to support your claim ‘science can’t test a deity [sic] walking on water’?

    I take it you mean without the boat, the tow-line and the skis!

  47. I suppose it depends on what your definition of a bully is, nothing Richard has said or done can be construed as bullying unless you are a religious nutter who do not like him pointing out the error of their ways.

  48.  

    – florads
    … .. my analogies were indeed of equivalence because the
    point here was in the employment of probability. As ridiculous as it
    sounds (reads), it logically follows that as long as there’s no
    certainty, it is possible. That being said, a blue bodied creature and
    the multiverse are equally plausible (or implausible)
    .

    Mmmmmm!

    The bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix), called tailor in Australia,[1] is a species of popular marine gamefish found in all climates. It is the only extant species of the Pomatomidae family. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F

  49. For me it is a matter of motivation, if he offers free choice, with respect, to inform decision then he is a ‘whistleblower’. I f he has a will to impose on anothers faith then he is a bully.

    I hope he is a whistleblower, the skeptic in me admires that.

  50. “1) Science does not hold all knowledge as contingent else we wouldn’t have absolutes/laws, which every educated person I’ve come across calls scientific truths. E.g laws of physics, fundamental quantities.”
     
    Perhaps it might be best to clarify a couple of things here.

    The fundamental quantities are not ‘absolutes’, but have been measured and tested over and over again so they can be quoted to a high degree of accuracy, but NOT to an absolute value. Any decent source for these numbers will still quote the values alongside the error margins.

    The proper ‘laws’ are ones which have been mathematically backed up. For instance, the Second Law of Thermodynamics has been shown by probability that it MUST be true.

  51. Impossible scenario (I’m guessing you mean at T=0 incidentally?). Mathematically, you cannot divide by zero. Physically at T=0 there is no energy, since temperature is a function of energy, which is also impossible since zero energy is only possible with zero mass (see Boltzmann distribution – another mathematical function). Any equipment set up to try and measure such a scenario would contain mass, and therefore energy, if nowhere else from the equipment itself. Thus the only way to actually acheive T=0 would be if there were no mass, or energy anywhere in the universe, i.e. if the universe itself did not exist!

    It’s a bit like trying to calculate the mass of an object at the speed of light. Mathematically it is impossible, as it would be infinite.

    Or like asking what is north of the North pole I guess.

  52. Hi AW.

    I was referring to how known fundamentals can break down at potential boundary events such as the big bang. Time/temp’/entropy. I’d always thought that t=0 was a mathematical nonsense. A point of seeming infinite density (and mass, energy, temp’) with zero volume.

    An impossible scenario within the Standard Model pointing to a potentially unique dynamic at, or prior to, this singularity – or the other side of the coin: pointing to a potentially unique dynamic post event which is observable to us simply because within this unique dynamic we can exist to observe it.

    I then usually open another bottle of red wine, close my eyes, and try and imagine a universe where time and entropy are reversed, or…

    It is at this point that my head explodes and I have to go and wallpaper a front room, clean a cylinder head, fend off a priest – that sort of thing.

    Anyway, point being that all scientific knowledge remains contingent as it lacks the concept of certainty – certainty being impossible.

    Anvil.

  53. Very true, but then mathematically it is shown that, yes these principles do break down under these conditions. In other words, back to my original point, there is no mathematical proof for the atomic theory, for instance, wheras there is for the second law. Yes, it breaks down, but the boundary conditions are included in the proof and so it can still remain a mathematically proven law, wheras things like the Atomic Theory can’t, despite the overwhemling evidence showing it true beyond all reasonable doubt.

  54. Here we go, surely this offended and bullied Prof of Theology is not going to force us to remind him of the barbarism in the religious texts again?  Anyone heard of a newish book called something like ‘The man who created God’.  Was almost tempted the other day and may still be tempted to buy it but got a bit sick of all the usual warped behaviours/decrees that the deity apparently authorised.  But I suppose it’ll be useful to arm myself with so references when the next Jehovah’s Witness knocks on my door.  So I decided to buy a positive psychology book instead.  By the way is someone here going to show me how to buy Jim Lassiters book.  Can R.D but a few more titles in his RDF store by any chance?

  55. It appears unbeliever is better English than non-believer….

    http://www.thefreedictionary.c… One who lacks belief or faith, especially in a particular religion; a nonbeliever. (Christian Religious Writings / Theology) a person who does not believe or withholds belief, esp in religious matters.Whereas non-believer is a bit suspect….the word being nonbeliever…http://http://www.thefreedictionary.com/nonb...  One who does not believe or have faith, as in God or a philosophy.All a bit semantic if ya ask me…or perhaps just an American foible?

  56. Richard Dawkins a bully?…..How about the church leaders that live a life of luxury while children starve to death. They make people “God fearing” and oppressed. Those hypocrites have been bullying people for centuries.

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