An appetite for Richard Dawkins » Portland State Vanguard

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Can religion and science truly co-exist? According to Richard Dawkins, the answer is no.

The critically acclaimed scientist and author visited Portland State on Friday while promoting his new autobiography, An Appetite for Wonder. Hundreds of people were attracted to his talk on why the closest thing to a religion, for him, is science. “What you believe is not important,” Dawkins said to the audience as he eased into an hour– long appearance on stage. “It’s about what the evidence shows.” The notoriety of Dawkins’ lifelong campaign to in his words, “cure” the world of religion has brought him a mixture of both gracious support and venement criticism.

While some praise him for liberation from their own religious lifestyles, others see his work as an offensive attack on their faith. In response, Dawkins poses the question, “Why shouldn’t you offend people?” Dawkins was accompanied on stage by Peter Boghossian, a PSU philosophy professor and author of A Manual for Creating Atheists. Boghossian gave voice to a series of questions that touched upon mysticism, reason and the multitude of theories for why the universe exists. “What would it take for you to believe in God?” Boghossian asked Dawkins. After pondering the question for a moment, Dawkins was met with laughter when he answered, saying, “I used to say [it would take] the second coming of Jesus, or this great, booming voice saying, ‘I am God!’” With reddened cheeks, he added, “But the more probable explanation is that it’s a hallucination—or a trick by David Copperfield.”

Dawkins went on to explain that despite his responsibility as a scientist to remain unbiased, he admits there is likely nothing that could prove to him the existence of God. “Trouble is,” he said, “I can’t think what that evidence would look like.” Following the conclusion of Dawkins’ and Boghossian’s public discussion, the microphone was turned over to audience members with questions they wished to ask for themselves. In one of the few questions that time allowed, one woman asked Dawkins what his hope for the future was. “I hope for a world in which everyone is rational and believes things only when there is evidence in favor of them,” Dawkins responded. “And does not believe things because of tradition, authority, scripture, revelation… but only because of evidence.”
 

Written By: RYAN VOELKER
continue to source article at psuvanguard.com

31 COMMENTS

  1. I was at Richards talk in Chicago and his call to regard evidence as the criterion for knowing is very much consistent with his Portland appearance, I hope this this event, unlike Chicago, was filmed.

  2. Following the conclusion of Dawkins’ and Boghossian’s public discussion, the microphone was turned over to audience members with questions they wished to ask for themselves. In one of the few questions that time allowed, one woman asked Dawkins what his hope for the future was.

    “I hope for a world in which everyone is rational and believes things only when there is evidence in favor of them,” Dawkins responded. “And does not believe things because of tradition, authority, scripture, revelation… but only because of evidence.”

    Sounds like a pretty dull world. It’s probably achievable if science manages to identify and remove the genes responsible for creativity, imagination, passion and so on.

    Who would want to live there though?

    • In reply to #3 by Katy Cordeth:

      Sounds like a pretty dull world.

      I can think of nothing duller than tradition, authority, scripture and revelation.

      It’s probably achievable if science manages to identify and remove the genes responsible for creativity, imagination, passion and so on.

      Scientists are the most creative, imaginative and passionate people we have. If such genes are to be found they will be found mostly among scientists.

      • In reply to #6 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to #3 by Katy Cordeth:

        Sounds like a pretty dull world.

        I can think of nothing duller than tradition, authority, scripture and revelation.

        It’s probably achievable if science manages to identify and remove the genes responsible for creativity, imagination, passion and so on.

        Scientists…

        Scientists frequently use their creativity and imagination to solve problems and even perceive problem areas to begin with. I shouldn’t generalise, but I think they could be the most imaginative segment of the community.

        I’ve recently finished reading “the Demon Haunted World” and was really impressed by the way that Sagan could see the past in such perspective.

    • In reply to #3 by Katy Cordeth:

      Following the conclusion of Dawkins’ and Boghossian’s public discussion, the microphone was turned over to audience members with questions they wished to ask for themselves. In one of the few questions that time allowed, one woman asked Dawkins what his hope for the future was.

      “I hope for a world…

      I can’t see why creativity, imagination and passion would be excluded in this Dawkinsian utopia. Art and music are often cited as reasons for believing in a higher power, though I cannot see why the absence of one would mean that all creative endeavours would cease.

      Christian art generally does not hold any appeal for me and I think the baroque period is quite hideous in many instances. It has historical importance though, as it provides a window into the thinking of the time.

      • In reply to #7 by Nitya:

        In reply to #3 by Katy Cordeth:

        Christian art generally does not hold any appeal for me and I think the baroque period is quite hideous in many instances. It has historical importance though, as it provides a window into the thinking of the time.

        Baroque – I’m right with you there … and so are quite a few others by the number of likes you’ve attracted. I do however find the more naive christian art somewhat appealing, particularly all those doleful Greek Orthodox saints.

        • In reply to #14 by GPWC:

          In reply to #7 by Nitya:

          In reply to #3 by Katy Cordeth:

          Christian art generally does not hold any appeal for me and I think the baroque period is quite hideous in many instances. It has historical importance though, as it provides a window into the thinking of the time.

          Baroque – I’m right with…

          I like the icons found in the orthodox religions as well as I find them aesthetically pleasing. I particularly dislike baroque paintings…all that lamenting and agony! I can’t bear the pious depictions of the Madonna either. I hate the doleful expressions and fleshy bodies! I think that the art of this period hit a low point. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel didn’t fill me with awe and wonder and I thought the painted drapes on the wall were just plain tacky. I have a personal preference for contemporary art though I realise that it’s not to everyone’s taste.

  3. @#3
    It’s the world we live in, you prefer smoke and mirrors to actuality, go to a fun house. I prefer the real world where there isn’t a god who gives a damn where I stick my dick. It’s not as tho the world is dull at all, you only lack the required information to appreciate what time you have left in this life. Otherwise go and be happy living an unprovable, likely improbable reality.

  4. I live in the world of proof and evidence and am excited to wake up every morning and scour the science news sources for the latest and newest. I could not visualize a better way to exist. Certainly not the alternative that is posed by opponents of science.

    However, in the true sense of a scientist, I’d be open to any viable alternatives and I’d weigh them carefully and perhaps make a conclusion, or perhaps hold out for more info. But the only alternative that has been proffered is awful.

    Any viable alternatives? I am all ears.

  5. “Why shouldn’t you offend people?”

    He stronger case that that:

    “Why shouldn’t you offend people?”
    When they are spreading lies and untruths.
    When they are molesting children and killing gay people

    To pretend not to notice is extremely immoral position.

  6. I bet that many religious leaders would love to bask in the sunny uplands of scientific advances and achievements, but sadly for them that cannot be justified until or unless they abandon the way of viewing the world which they currently advocate.

    In other words stop thinking a priori and adopt the a posteriori methodology; at present they’ve got it arse about face.

  7. In reply to #10 by Agrajag:

    In reply to #2 by rod-the-farmer:

    Moderator – small typo “venement”

    Careful, Rod! You can get your post deleted for such trivial comments. ;-)

    And Mike (“Sample”) wins the thread! (#5)

    Steve

    Challenge accepted.

    In reply to #5 by Sample:

    In reply to #3 by Katy Cordeth:

    Who would want to live there though?

    Your straw man aside, me.

    Mike

    Be sure to pack a fully-loaded kindle before you get in your DeLorean, take that thing up to 88mph and make the one-way trip to this brave new world. Because without conflict to inspire it, the literature there is going to suck big time. No future equivalent of A Tale of Two Cities will exist; any future Terror would/will not have come about because there would have been/will be (I’m having trouble with my tenses) no aristocracy to rebel against. I guess that applies to future Hamlet, Prince of Denmark too. No princes; probably no nations. Future Macbeth? “Er, I believe you’ll find there’s no such thing as witches.”

    No future To Kill a Mockingbird, Invisible Man, Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. No future Moby Dick, because what’s rational about a vendetta against an animal?

    No Crime novels because… well, no crime. No Fantasy or Horror to keep us awake at night and make us check under the bed before we get in. No Romance fiction, because romantic love is purely about hormones and biology; you might as well have books about people going to the lavatory. Don’t call us, future Bronte sisters and Jane Austens.

    Maybe pack a couple of kindles. You know, just in case the first one breaks.

    The music’ll probably be good though, so there’s no need to take an iPod. True, where you’re going, in addition to not needing roads, musical output will be pretty passionless. Slavery and religion are but a distant memory, so no Gospel or Soul. But on the other hand, no Cliff or Jonas Brothers.

    No Blues as no one has any reason to be sad anymore. Same goes for Country. Sorry future Johnny Cashes, Hank Williamses, Tammy Wynettes, you’re going to come of age in a perfect society and will never feel the need to express your angst and exorcise your demons by picking up a guitar and pouring your soul out through your mouth, because you won’t have angst or anything to exorcise in this utopian idyll.

    No protest songs of course, as there’s nothing to protest about. No Ska or Reggae. “No more rivers to cro-o-oss”, “because every little thing is already all right, so sorry to bother youuu.”

    No Jazz, because it’s just too unpredictable and that’s a big no-no.

    Will narcotics be proscribed in Futureworld? If so, no equivalent of Sgt Pepper. No Let it Bleed or Ziggy Stardust. Probably no Rock music at all; have you ever tried listening to that stuff without being high?

    Just elevator music awaits you then, I’m guessing. You’re going to be looking at this sort of thing, as opposed to this; this rather than this; this, this and, ultimately, this

    Might want to think about bringing the iPod along after all.

    Oh, and future Vincent van Gogh’s mental illness was identified early on, he was prescribed the appropriate medication, and went on to live a full and happy life, never once picking up a paintbrush.

    I’m guessing not. Utopias are always such dull places to live (I have my own time travel/dimension hopping vehicle), the only way to cope is to be off your face every hour God sends.

    Thinks: won the thread my butt.

    • In reply to #16 by Katy Cordeth:

      Challenge accepted.

      Well Katy – I feel someone must reply out of respect for the effort you have put in on your futuristic essay on a world without conflict. However, I feel you have misunderstood the Dawkinsian future. You can have a future where everyone makes decisions based on fact and evidence without losing any literature or music etc. There will still be conflict and disagreement because not all the facts are yet in. How many years will it be before we resolve (for example) long sentences v short sentences for criminals; or which is better for wildlife – one large area of wilderness or many small islands of wilderness; or is there a god or isn’t there?

      I feel a tune coming on.

    • In reply to #16 by Katy Cordeth:

      Oh, and future Vincent van Gogh’s mental illness was identified early on, he was prescribed the appropriate medication, and went on to live a full and happy life, never once picking up a paintbrush.

      A genius writer friend has schizophrenic episodes. When they are bad they are debilitating, but when they are chemically coshed creativity is all but drained away. A combination of meds and carefully modulating nicotine puts a control on the side of his head. He is an atheist (religious, though, in full glow). Dancing on the edge he is maximally creative. Skipping the cigars a little more he can rein it back in and see what he has done and weed out the nonsense.

      As Simon Baron Cohen asked, if we could eliminate schizophrenia, should we? The answer is probably no if it risked this edge dancing creativity. But if we could prevent its worst excesses and return a level of choice to individuals regarding it then we would probably make the world a better place….and possibly even more (usefully) creative.

      Why might schizophrenia be related to enhanced creativity. One theory has it that it results from a failure to access semantic memory (our knowledge of how the world works). The world becomes puzzling and we make up shit to explain it away. We invent and reinvent answers for things that most others would feel need no answer.

      The greatest scientists are creative, perhaps in like manner, but they sit within a culture of the most refined reason (The sceptical principle and the need for corroborated evidence is most celebrated by the scientific community.) This seems the best of both worlds. Creativity tested and appreciated.

      What Dawkins calls for is entirely appropriate for communities, but less so for individuals who suffer to bring us new stuff from the edge. We need fully sceptical communities and license for “loons”.

      As for believers in dogma, that doesn’t figure on the wanted list at all. That is an entirely anti-creative palliative. It works, perhaps, because it is easier to remember and think with, when those semantic memories are getting hazy.

      I think you have a narrow but important point in the foregoing, but the bulk of your list is truly counter-factual. Besides, our aesthetic responses quite precede reason (as Ramachandran argues) and are scientifically fascinating.

      • What Dawkins calls for is entirely appropriate for communities, but less so for individuals who suffer to bring us new stuff from the edge. We need fully sceptical communities and license for loons.

        What percentage of the greatest artists, writers, scientists had some form of mental illness?

        Great scientists like Stephen Hawking, Francis Crick, & Alan Guth have brought us new stuff from the edge but I am not aware that they have/had mental illness. I know there has been research suggesting Bipolar can increase creativity (or reduce inhibitions) and maybe people with these disorders are over-represented among the greatest artists and scientists. If cures or preventions for these mental illnesses were found, that doesn’t mean we lose fully sceptical communities or license for loons – some would say that those scientists I mentioned have had some loony ideas.

        If you ask people with Bipolar whether they would want a cure, many would say no because their illness is part of who they are and perhaps they wouldn’t want to give up those highs. I wonder how van Gogh’s life would have turned out without the illness – he may well have lived a long and happy life and we would not have those paintings and this great song:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dipFMJckZOM

        But if there was an inoculation developed that could be given to children to prevent these mental illnesses, would you support the idea of making it compulsory? Would the decrease in the potential for great art or great science sway your decision?

        Of course Katy was suggesting that the Dawkinsian world of rational and reasoned decision making could only be obtained by the removal of all imagination and creativity, which is silly. I’ve enjoyed some very imaginative books by people like Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov – I’m sure they would be considered rational people by most of us.

        In reply to #21 by phil rimmer:

        In reply to #16 by Katy Cordeth:

        Oh, and future Vincent van Gogh’s mental illness was identified early on, he was prescribed the appropriate medication, and went on to live a full and happy life, never once picking up a paintbrush.

        A genius writer friend has schizophrenic episodes. When they are b…

        • In reply to #30 by Marktony:

          What Dawkins calls for is entirely appropriate for communities, but less so for individuals who suffer to bring us new stuff from the edge. We need fully sceptical communities and license for loons.

          What percentage of the greatest artists, writers, scientists had some form of mental illness?

          Your mention of bipolar is entirely apposite. The symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar are part of a constellation of symptoms with substantial overlap. I think a case of particular and enhanced creativity could be made for many many on all edges of the cognitive norm. I am currently reading a book by Professor Temple Grandin, “Thinking in Pictures”. Grandin, a particular hero of mine is famously autistic. As the book title indicates her particular creative genius has a related root. She has great insight into how animals think and feel and she has done super work in reducing their distress at the callous hands of us humans.

          Katy’s straw-man of losing all creativity in the rational future proposed by RD is more than a little unfair in my view, but she is a pamphleteer by temperament and I think it worth noting that any novelty is proved rational, valuable, meaningful or whatever (and if at all) only at some time in its future. Creativity can only proceed if a thing is imagined hazily complete, before all its parts are gathered and it can be justified so. The half-baked abounds, and in my self defence, it abounds necessarily so.

          • Katy’s straw-man of losing all creativity in the rational future proposed by RD is more than a little unfair in my view, but she is a pamphleteer by temperament and I think it worth noting that any novelty is proved rational, valuable, meaningful or whatever (and if at all) only at some time in its future.

            “and if at all” – which is no problem in the Dawkinsian world. Creativity untested but still appreciated.

            If you make rational and reasoned decisions based on evidence, that doesn’t mean you can’t imagine all sorts of things that are not rational. I think the inhabitants of a Dawkinsian world would still appreciate such irrational tales as “The Hitchhiker’s Guide” and ” The Hunting of the Snark”.
            Some might say we would not have “The Hunting of the Snark” because Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgeson) was religious, but how can anyone calculate the influence on an authors life and writings of religion (superstition) among all the other life experiences.

            BTW, have you watched this talk by Douglas Adams recorded days before his death:

            Parrots the Universe and Everything

            In reply to #32 by phil rimmer:

            In reply to #30 by Marktony:

            What Dawkins calls for is entirely appropriate for communities, but less so for individuals who suffer to bring us new stuff from the edge. We need fully sceptical communities and license for loons.

            What percentage of the greatest artists, writers, scientists had some…

          • In reply to #33 by Marktony:

            Parrots the Universe and Everything

            DNA continues to be a delight…thanks for the reminder. Stuffed with new ways of seeing and thinking down to the smallest detail…..the monkeys finally arrived due to advances in twig technology…decreasingly excellent…a boat full of ocean…

    • In reply to #16 by Katy Cordeth:

      Thinks: won the thread my butt.

      I think you spent an awful lot of time typing a long winded response to a scenario no-one’s proposing.

      None of what you wrote is even remotely relevant to the quote you referenced in post 3…

  8. In reply to #24 by Smill:

    In reply to Phil Rimmer, post 21. I’m sorry, but i think this is nonsense. People with schizophrenia can also be creative. It is not the painfully debilitating schizophrenia that makes them so. The majority of people with schizophrenia live very limited lives as a result, or find me research and…

    I think you have entirely misapprehended what I was saying. People exist along a continuum of this, debilitating schizophrenia at one end and (possibly) locked up Parkinsonism at the other and most of us folks being towards the middle.. All other things being equal a slight tendency to the schizophrenic has been associated with enhanced creativity. Clearly beyond a certain point creativity is not even possible. The condition is often episodic and variable and those described as badly schizophrenic may yet find occasions to be creative when in better control, even bringing material back from over the edge (so to speak).

    My genius friend has, through his condition, medication and self medication with nicotine, some ability to travel along this line.

    I think you have also asked me to provide evidence for something we completely agree on to whit, those medically declared schizophrenic (unless they respond well to their meds) have miserable limited lives….

  9. In reply to #28 by Smill:

    In reply to Phil Rimmer, post 26. Actually, let me be clear. It seems to me you have a penchant for putting words into people’s mouths. My statement was likewise quite clear. Don’t add to it.

    Well let me try again-

    People with schizophrenia can also be creative.

    I agree

    It is not the painfully debilitating schizophrenia that makes them so.

    In one profound sense I also agree. (My point being that a creative sweet spot may be found in the lower foothills of schizophrenia where a great many of us live some portion of our lives, not its terrifying peaks home of an unlucky few.)

    The majority of people with schizophrenia live very limited lives as a result, or find me research and statistics that suggests otherwise.

    I completely agree, so I do not want to go find evidence to prove otherwise. So…..I said-

    “I think you have also asked me to provide evidence for something we completely agree on to whit, those medically declared schizophrenic (unless they respond well to their meds) have miserable limited lives….”

    and you replied-

    “It seems to me you have a penchant for putting words into people’s mouths. My statement was likewise quite clear. Don’t add to it.”

    I’m stumped. I thought I understood and I didn’t. My attempt at an agreement flunked badly and I still don’t know why.

    Ah! Was it this-

    (unless they respond well to their meds)

    ?? This was a caveat of my own hence the brackets…

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