Dawkins-The Greatest Show on Earth

by KateWild 189 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • adamah

    PS on the 'Dawkins is not a scientist' BS:

    Clinton Richard Dawkins, Sc. D., FRS, FRSL (born 26 March 1941) is a Kenya-born English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, [1] and author. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, [2] and was the University of Oxford's Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008.

    He attended Oundle School, an English public school with a distinct Church of England flavour, [11] from 1954 to 1959, where he was in Laundimer house. [16] He studied zoology at Balliol College, Oxford, graduating in 1962; while there, he was tutored by Nobel Prize-winning ethologist Nikolaas Tinbergen. He continued as a research student under Tinbergen's supervision, receiving his M.A. and D.Phil. degrees by 1966, and remained a research assistant for another year. [8] Tinbergen was a pioneer in the study of animal behaviour, particularly in the areas of instinct, learning and choice; [17] Dawkins's research in this period concerned models of animal decision-making. [18]

    From 1967 to 1969, he was an assistant professor of zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. During this period, the students and faculty at UC Berkeley were largely opposed to the ongoing Vietnam War, and Dawkins became heavily involved in the anti-war demonstrations and activities. [19] He returned to the University of Oxford in 1970, taking a position as a lecturer. In 1990, he became a reader in zoology. In 1995, he was appointed Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, a position that had been endowed by Charles Simonyi with the express intention that the holder "be expected to make important contributions to the public understanding of some scientific field", [20] and that its first holder should be Richard Dawkins. [21]

    Since 1970, he has been a fellow of New College, Oxford. [22] He has delivered a number of inaugural and other lectures, including the Henry Sidgwick Memorial Lecture (1989), the first Erasmus Darwin Memorial Lecture (1990), the Michael Faraday Lecture (1991), the T. H. Huxley Memorial Lecture (1992), the Irvine Memorial Lecture (1997), the Sheldon Doyle Lecture (1999), the Tinbergen Lecture (2004) and the Tanner Lectures (2003). [8] In 1991, he gave the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures for Children on Growing Up in the Universe. He has also served as editor of a number of journals, and has acted as editorial advisor to the Encarta Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Evolution. He is a senior editor of the Council for Secular Humanism's Free Inquiry magazine, for which he also writes a column. He has been a member of the editorial board of Skeptic magazine since its foundation. [23]

    He has sat on judging panels for awards as diverse as the Royal Society's Faraday Award and the British Academy Television Awards, [24] and has been president of the Biological Sciences section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2004, Balliol College, Oxford instituted the Dawkins Prize, awarded for "outstanding research into the ecology and behaviour of animals whose welfare and survival may be endangered by human activities". [25] In September 2008, he retired from his professorship, announcing plans to "write a book aimed at youngsters in which he will warn them against believing in 'anti-scientific' fairytales." [26]

    To say he is NOT a scientist is as outlandish as a charge as any, since he didn't get invited to teach/conduct research at Oxford or UC Berkeley based on his looks.


  • adamah

    Etude said-

    Now, tell me if I’m wrong in assuming that the characterization of Dawkins by some here has not been one of a purveyor of scientific facts. Tell me if at any time, I have said that Dawkins doesn’t know jack shit.

    The problem is you are challenging Dawkins on highly esoteric and questionable grounds which are well above the level of the topic discussed in the book under discussion (eg bringing the God Delusion into the discussion) , when readers here (like Kate) need little excuse to dismiss Dawkins, having not yet learned to crawl on the topic.


  • Etude


    Your inability to ascertain whether or not I know the difference between Dawkins the writer from his “advancing certain ideas” makes my point of how narrow you are. So, here we have a writer who is popular and can explain in common terms certain aspects of science while conjecturing how the interaction of those scientific points lead to something he invented, like Memes. So tell me, really, what is the difference?

    When or where did you get from me that I “don’t like Dawkins as a popular writer”? See what I mean? You really are obtuse. I’ve read several of his books. Did I mention that already? Hmm… I guess you missed that too. Think deeper, man. Why would I continue to read someone’s work whose style I detest? Duh! The part you’re missing is that Dawkins’ conclusions are not as holy as you will have them. You also miss that I don’t think this is the case for everything Dawkins writes.

    If my vocabulary is too much for you, please excuse me. English is my second language. As a non-native speaker, I try to bring out the right words that will convey as much clarity as possible. I’m sorry if they escape you. But I understand. This is why you need to resort to insults rather than a more intelligent discussion. That requires paying attention. When in doubt, ATTACK! It’s natural, since you missed the contrast I offered between Sierra Cartwright and Masters & Johnson. So naturally, even though I suspect you don’t know who Masters & Johnson are, your visceral reaction rose to MASTURBATION! It goes to show how you think. I guess you know a lot about it.

  • bohm

    Etude: Adamah has already addressed the main points.

    When or where did you get from me that I “don’t like Dawkins as a popular writer”?

    from you ranting about him...

    If my vocabulary is too much for you, please excuse me. English is my second language.

    oh its not the vocabulary, its more like it reads like a cow ate a thesaurus and its stomach did not agree with it.

    It’s natural, since you missed the contrast I offered between Sierra Cartwright and Masters & Johnson

    quite frankly it weirded me out you began talking about my testicles.

  • braincleaned

    Etude... I'm shaking my head in utter disbelief. Wilson has a bone to pick with Dawkins — and you trust him rather than me — which makes sense, except that I was defending Dawkins the Scientist, not my own opinion.
    You are really talking out of school my friend... quoting Wilson refusing to aknowledge Dawkins as a scientist is not in your honor. It's embarrassing...

    Has anyone noticed how Etude moves the goalposts, or is it just me?

  • Etude


    Well, there's part of the problem: you're reading a book intended for lay-people and expecting it to be a published journal study.

    OK, then. Please advise me on which particular work of Dawkins I should read in order to determine if “memes” is a viable hypothesis. I’m not being sarcastic here. I just think that if the criticism I’ve read of that postulate means anything, I would have to reconsider a scientist who is making the same mistake you’re suggesting I’m making: taking a proposal from a lay-book rather than a scientific paper.

    I already mention Wilson’s Beyond Demonic Memes: Why Richard Dawkins is Wrong About Religion as a reference. I’m not sure, but I venture to guess that someone of Wilsons caliber would base his criticism on more than a popular book. I took two courses in college on Biology and one included Evolution. We converd Phenotypes and Genotypes; Molecular Evolution; Inheritance and other topics. Even then I had some interesting questions for my professor. But, I don’t think you’re really that interested since you’re assuming I’m still carrying the “sticking thinking” (?) of the JWs. OK, whatever.

    Sure, but I think the greatest abuse of the English language is how believers are not called on the carpet for creating a false equivalency by using a single word ('faith') to support beliefs in theology AND science.

    I’m with you there. No argument from me. It has been my mission for a while to expose what is false and misleading. I’ve done plenty of that. However (drum roll please)… you are incorrect in saying that the question of belief is binary. You’re likely thinking about a mathematical numbering system that only has ones and zeros. Well, that would exclude other logic models that are tri-state or even multi-state. Don’t close yourself to other possibilities. Beyond that comparison, I have never conceived of what we can or cannot logically deduce as a state of belief. Yes, in logic you can have a positive answer or a negative answer. But you can also have an inconclusive answer, one where there isn’t enough information to be certain either way.

    When most people flip a coin, they generally think that there are two possible outcomes: heads and tails. Would I be incorrect in assuming that it would never occur to you a coin could land on its edge? Do you consider that out of the realm of possibility? One of the easiest sources I find is this one on Wikipedia: “Agnosticism is the belief that the truth values of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, as well as other religious and metaphysical claims—are unknown.” [1][2][3] But one repercussion, at least for me, is that the very lack of reasonable assertions or evidence leads me to conclude the question of a deity is a non-issue. It is that same criticality that helps me examine other subjects. By your line of thinking, it would be impossible for an electron to exist in two places at the same time. For you it either is or it isn’t and Schrodinger’s cat is either alive or dead and can’t possibly be both while still in the box. Well, not everything in life is that way.

    Again: “In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.” [3][4][5] Is that dogmatic enough for you? Can it change in definition? Sure. But then, we would have to revisit the whole issue. You can wait for the day “when the clouds part and God reveals Himself” so you can ask Him/Her/It questions. I have no such illusions and will not contemplate what will happen if that take place. Oh wait, were you being a bit facetious? That’s OK because we’re in agreement then and I’m not so much as you suggest, with my JW "sticking thinking" and all. All-righty, then.

  • Etude


    Your marbles are falling out of your head. I never ranted about “him” without recognizing his good qualities. Does that not count for something? I did speak of his smugness to illustrate how he responds to his critics. I also spoke about the nature of the criticism brought on by other experts due to disagreement with his postulates. So, rants? Please put the marbles back in.

    Hey, sorry if you can’t handle a Thesaurus. I understand, having witnessed your limitations. That’s why you think I spoke about testicles, which I didn’t. If you’re thinking of mine, since you’re already have masturbation in your head, STOP.

  • Etude


    Are you saying then that Dawkins does not have a bone to pick with Wilson because Wilson critiqued Dawkins findings? It works both ways. Furthermore, Wilson has been on the forefront of research a lot longer than Dawkins. A this point, it’s not a matter of trust for Wilson (although it is if compared to you). It’s a matter of the reasons and level of argument that Wilson makes. Even if that argument is debatable, it demonstrates that Dawkins assertions are not above question. For me, the issues regarding memes and several others of Dawkins raise serious questions. Remember, I never explicitly refused to acknowledge Dawkins as a scientist. But when another scientist says that someone who writes a lot of books is not a scientist, he does it in a specific context. What Wilson was saying is that Dawkins is not a “scientist” the way people in his class are scientists (they do research; they publish peer review papers, etc.) I mentioned this before. Using one and only one definition, anyone can call any titled podiatrist a “scientist”. And before that statement gets corrupted, I’m not saying that Dawkins is comparable to a podiatrist. Don’t regret the lack of “honor” for me. In my research, I have found several other scientists with, I presume, better credentials than you who have helped me reach my present opinion.

  • Anony Mous
    Anony Mous

    @Etude: Dawkins is not necessarily an atheist. He classifies himself as a de-facto atheist but still in the agnostic part, he can be proven wrong.

    “Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. ‘I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”

    Excerpt From: Richard Dawkins. “The God delusion.”

    Now whether or not you like Dawkins or not or whether his scientific research is valid or not does not matter to the fact that the Christian god as described in the Bible simply cannot logically exist.

    And Dawkins is a scientists who also happens to write other things besides pure science. He is a great writer but he himself is humble enough to tell people not to put him up or take everything he says for granted. That's the point of his books, to get people to think critically about what they believe regardless of whether or not you agree with everything he says.

    Dawkins on the other hand is not a physicist so he has to accept (believe) that the laws of physics as he knows them are correct and he can reasonably assume that in his realm, the laws of physics as we know them hold true. The reason we can make that decision is because of peer reviewed, good, science. That's what science is, there are a handful of researchers that find out the critical and important stuff and thousands of others supporting them, contradicting them, testing it. You never hear of the thousands of people that were directly involved with eg. the discovery of the Higgs Boson. I work with one of the 5 people that devised the experiment and worked at Fermilab to lay the ground work, but the Nobel price only allows 3 people to get the price (they picked two), that guy is quite old and this is his life's work. But the results are there and if you want, you can replicate them and test them. The guy isn't even pissed that they didn't pick him, if it were disproven, Higgs himself would be just as happy, scientists do not hold on to dogma, they are interested in the results.

    That's where religion is different - there is no testing, there is no proof and if you even logically disprove a dogma, people get pissed off and defensive.

  • Etude

    Anony Mous

    ...whether his scientific research is valid or not does not matter to the fact that the Christian god as described in the Bible simply cannot logically exist

    Agreed. I don’t think I ever raised that up as point of contention. That is why I’m no longer a theist. But perusing through Dawkins’ web site shop, I have very little doubt that he endorsed the Scarlet A (for Atheist) and sanctions instructions on how to be an atheists. As an echo of what I compared to religious fervor for the cause, he has on his web site a “testimonial” corner, where letters from recent atheist converts are posted. And that’s OK. I don’t really care and don’t fault him for making money on the side. What I find hard to tolerate is the idea that because he’s prominent and writes well that he somehow has the keys for the populace to understand Natural Selection even when serious challenges arise from critics. I don’t think I’ve yet stated my personal challenges to his posits. What I have tried to do is to present the challenge that others (learned critics) have offered to balance the issue.

    Anony Mous, here’s the catch. Dawkins has discussed at length the Anthropic Principle. This is the theory that says (at its most comprehensive level – the Strong Anthropic Principle) there must be a multi-verse (an infinite number of universes) that give rise to every possibility or combinations of matter that would yield the particular universe we’re in. Fine. Forget that such a thing is extremely unlikely to be verified. Forget that there’s contention among theorists whether such a principle applies everywhere. As you said, Dawkins is not a physicist. Nevertheless, he will chastise one, namely Paul Davies, for suggesting that since the laws of nature break down at the quantum level, a scientist must accept (believe) without any additional support that the laws are what they seem to be. That is agnosticism in a pure sense: not being able to make any conclusions or finalities where why and how something happens cannot yet be known. When it comes to Cosmology and Physics, I defer to Davies over Dawkins any day. If some other Cosmologist reasons better than Davies, then that will be the new bar to measure up to.

    Dawkins on the other hand is not a physicist so he has to accept (believe) that the laws of physics as he knows them are correct and he can reasonably assume that in his realm, the laws of physics as we know them hold true.

    Personally, I give Dawkins a little more credit. I believe that he is intelligent enough to understand the fundamental laws of physics the way a high School or college professor would. I don’t believe that he can write down equations to show how time varies depending on the relative speed of objects or that he can jot down and explain the formula for the Standard Model. But, please understand that I don’t believe such things are necessary in order to make a cogent argument about related sciences. What I have found instead is that some of the conclusions Dawkins makes are not sustainable for various reasons.

    For example, memes. He defines memes as “units of cultural inheritance”. The problem is that he doesn’t factually define what incorporates a unit. Memology is controversial among other scientists, namely because a meme can be subjective, difficult to unitize and therefore hard to measure and study. While it appears to me to be a brilliant alternative for a replicating system, I can see the difficulty some individuals have determining what a meme constitutes. Could culture as a whole be considered a meme or could a component of culture, like the banality of the “wave” at baseball games or the more insidious racial bigotry, be a meme? This is the problem other scientists face studying memes. In addition, memes don’t map to genes. However, according to Dawkins, the replication process is either tied to or co-evolving with Natural Selection. How? Well, that’s not clearly demonstrated because of the difficulties associated in tracking and measuring memes and because we have no genetic markers as reference and I haven’t seen Dawkins advance a method via which that could be accomplished

    So while some of what Dawkins proposes is titillating and thought provoking, it hardly amounts to gospel. You say about science: “…results are there and if you want, you can replicate them and test them.” Precisely. That is what is unfortunate about some of Dawkins proposals. How do you replicate and verify a meme? Remember, his invention of the meme was to explain how traits that cannot be attributed to genetic inheritance manage to persist throughout generations. Religion, he says, fits into that category. So, while he makes an interesting attempt at explaining it, the reason for religion for me remains illogical and inexplicable.

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