All posts for the month April, 2011

The usual furore when Templeton awards its £1m dollar prize to a prominent scientist. This time it’s Martin Rees.

As usual I think this “Quisling” remark says more about Dawkins than anything.

Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and one of the most high-profile scientists in the aggressively pro-science, anti-religion ‘new atheist’ movement, once called Rees a “compliant Quisling” for accepting Templeton sponsorship of a lecture series when he was head of the Royal Society.

This is the reality, “publicity machine” basically.
Unlike constructive debate, polarization sells.
Just my previous post was on those excluded middles between polar opposites.

Denis Alexander, director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at the University of Cambridge, UK, welcomed Rees’s award and said that although “people who want to keep a very sharp demarcation” between science and religion are highly vocal, they are few in number. “The media tend to thrive on conflict so these loud voices in favour of a polarized debate tend to get heard quite often,” he says. Carroll agrees that Templeton Prize controversy has now become something of an annual event. “It’s a publicity machine and it works very well. Every year I get a phone call like this,” he says.

Good to see Anthony Grayling appointed president of the BHA (British Humanist Association).

He may not be my favourite philosopher, but he is streets ahead of Dawkins when it comes to understanding the arguments.

For the first time, I see I am not alone in seeing Dawkins as part of the problem. Andris Rudzitis and Matthew Byrd on Facebook.

I both agree and disagree with what he/you have to say! I agree that Dawkins isn’t equipped to deal with the enormous intellects of people like Keith ward, maybe even Alister McGrath but certainly Rowan Williams,and that his philosophy and knowledge of religion aren’t great but the fact remains that most theists aren’t this clever anyway. People like Hitchens and Dawkins, despite not being experts in disentangling the most erudite and complex arguments are more than capable at destroying the arguments of the run-of-the-mill theist. Yes, this is partly due to those arguments being weak – argument from design, pascal’s wager, argument from miracles etc. but also because these arguments are often more in the sphere of science (Dawkins) or sociology and politics (Hitchens) What Dawkins brings is his great desire to change peoples’ views, enough intellect to justify doing so, and the position in academia and society in order to do so.

You also have to bear in mind that a lot of Dawkins’ thought and writing engages the effect of religion on society – you don’t necessarily have to be a great philosopher to support these arguments. Finally, as I said earlier, a LOT of peoples’ reasons for theism are reasons which are best answered by science – design argument etc. In this regard, who better to challenge them then someone who was Oxford Professor for the Public Understanding of Science!?

Yes, Dawkins may be naive is he thinks that science can be used to respond to all claims of theism – but he isn’t wrong that it should be used to challenge a LOT of the arguments that are used – even if these are the more basic ones.

I personally set the other three “horsemen” (Hitchens, Harris and Dennett) quite apart from Dawkins in this respect, but a good balanced view IMHO. Ditto McGrath, but good to see another atheist recognise the qualities of  the Archbishop, Rowan Williams. The problem for me has always been the presumed monopoly of science when it comes to reason – and Dawkins has shown little else in his kitbag. (The odd glimpse, maybe.)

The other interesting point in that view from Andris, is the emphasis on “destroying” the arguments of others. We’ve reached a point where constructive dialogue requires mutual trust to make constructive progress. Again a recurring theme here, as recently as the previous post.

[Post Note: This lecture by Sam Harris has an excellent 2 minute intro - that incidentally points out that Richard Dawson (sic) is simply no longer relevant.]

[PS - Facebook is a very closed channel; I can't link in to a specific group or discussion from outside. Beware Facebook, it wants your eyes locked-in to its own advertising sales model. LinkedIn is almost as bad.]

Seems I’m not alone. Karl-Erik Sveiby, founding father of knowledge management, says:

Trust is the bandwidth of communication.

I like that. Thanks to David Gurteen for the link.

Interestingly, Sveiby also records aboriginal Tex Skuthorpe (in Treading Lightly) saying:

We don’t have a word for [knowledge].

Our land is our knowledge, we walk on the knowledge, we dwell in the knowledge, we live in our thesauras, we walk in our bible every day of our lives. Everything is knowledge.

We don’t need a word for knowledge, I guess.

The story owns the storyteller, not the other way around.

The roots are direct lived experience, dare I say “pre-intellectual participation” and custodianship.