Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Richard Dawkins

I haven't been a fan of Richard Dawkins.   As a spiritual person who has various "delusions" about the supernatural, I find it hard to stomach Dawkin's outspoken atheism.

But now my dislike of him has faded a little bit.

I'm over watching the 7:30 Report.  Now my new thing is watching Q and A.  

I've been watching a panel that includes Dawkins, and he's actually quite charming.

He reminds me of Professor Slughorn—not really in personality, but in how he looks and speaks.

I have such a weakness for Australian and British accents.

There are certain Australians I know, from online, that I don't like.   But I'm betting if I met them in real life, I'd think they were adorable.  

Well, maybe that's going too far.

I think, though, that I'd dislike them a little less.

Yes, and that's another example of me being prejudice.


I'm totally going off the path here.

What I wanted to say is that I loved what Richard Dawkins said in this video in response to a question regarding atheist's not having absolute morality.

I'm thinking I should transcribe in case people don't want to bother watching the video.

It's long, though.


I guess I should do it.   

For those wanting to see the part themselves. It starts at 5:31.

It starts with the question man asking:

Considering that atheism cannot possibly have any sense of absolute morality. Would it not then be an irrational leap of faith, which atheists themselves so harshly condemn, for an atheist to decide between right and wrong?

Then Dawkins says: Absolute morality. The absolute morality that a religious person might profess would include what? Stoning people for adultery. Death for apostasy. Punishment for breaking the sabbath. These are all things that are religiously based absolute moralities. I don't think I want an absolute morality. I think I want a morality that is thought out, reasoned, argued, discussed, and based upon...we almost can say intelligent design.

There's some stuff here I'm not transcribing. I think Dawkins was just trying to gather his thoughts.....

If you actually look at the moralities that are accepted among modern people...among 20th century people.

We don't believe in slavery anymore. We believe in equality for women. We believe in being gentle. We believe in being kind to animals. These are all things that are entirely recent. They have very little basis in biblical or Koranic scripture.

They are things that have developed over historical time through a consensus of reasoning, sober discussion, argument, legal theory, political and moral philosophy.

These do not come from religions to the extent that you can find the good bits in religious scripture. You have to cherry pick. You search your way through the Bible or the Koran. And you find the occasional verse that is an acceptable profession of morality. You say "Look at that. That's religion". And you leave out all the horrible bits. And you say, "we don't believe that anymore. We've grown out of it". Well, of course we've grown out of it. We've grown out of it because of secular moral philosophy and rational discussion. 

How awesome is that?

I think it's very awesome.

Although I'm being hypocritical, since what I'm doing is cherry picking with Richard Dawkins.

I don't really like his way of thinking.  But I do like SOME of his thinking.

One problem I have with this episode is the audience seems a bit skewed. When Richard Dawkins says something, there's lots of applause.   When Steve Fielding says anything, the audience loudly laughs at him.  My guess is that there's more atheists than religious people in the audience; or the atheists are more vocal.

I think the laughing is impolite...and mean.   It's okay to be quietly amused, but to laugh loudly....

I don't think it's a way to treat someone, even if their beliefs and ideas are totally wrong to you.

I wonder if Fielding felt bad.

If he did, I hope he remembers to act differently when he's in a situation where his opinion is the one accepted by the loud majority.  


FruitCake said...

Thank you for this clip, Dina. it’s very interesting.
With the exception of the recent Q&A featuring Barry Humphries and others, it’s just one of the many current affairs shows I avoid like the plague. It’s just like The View only people take it in turns to show their bias instead of just talking over the tope of each other.
I don’t know any practical way we might eliminate bias from current affairs discussions. The traditional way of some of Australia’s first peoples is for every single person to be allowed to speak, gather their thoughts without interruption, repeat what others have said if they agree until every one has nothing more to add. It takes a long time and would probably drive most of us nuts, but it would be fair.

For once I’ll agree with Julie Bishop – it is important for kids to learn about the Bible because it is at the core of our current legal system which in turn reflects some widely accepted ideas about what is right and wrong. Additionally, where another panellist is absolutely correct is that studying the Bible should only be part of a total study of comparative religion.

Kids should make up their own minds, but it might be better if they know what the options are, or what they are rejecting. Hopefully they will be rejecting ideas rather than people.

Absolute morality, in my mind, is a contradiction in terms.

Martin said...

From memory (if this is the recent QANDA where Cardinal Pell also appeared) a jet-lagged Dawkins thought the audience had been stacked with Catholics. I don't think either form of stacking was actually possible. I think Dawkins really misinterpreted the actually conceivably sympathetic amusement he heard expressed as laughter hostile to himself in some way on at least two occasions (where he angrily cries out things like "WHY IS THAT FUNNY" in response). The only balance the organisers make sure to achieve is between LNP, Labor and Greens. This isn't even Dawkins at his best but I'm glad you liked it. As you may know or remember, I have my own issues with Dawkins (specifically over what I see as his unreconstructed and possibly unconscious neo-colonialist and Islamophobic attitudes - not unusual in one of his background and class but still unfortunate) but am generally a fan.

Dina said...

Fruitcake: You've given me a lot to think terms of shows like these.

Is there any benefit of hearing people share their biases?

Do the guests on the show ever learn from each other? Do they ever change their minds about things? Maybe not immediately, but in time?

Do viewers of the show ever learn anything?

I'm not sure if watching the show changed me at all...besides gaining a little bit of liking for Richard Dawkins. Although after I transcribed; I watched the rest and wasn't impressed with Dawkin's further talking.

I was thinking maybe these shows could be helpful not just in the fact that they might open our minds. But they could give us a better understanding of how the "other side" thinks. The problem there though is it can lead to stereotyping. I might end up imagining that ALL atheists share the exact opinions of Dawkins.

Martin: Do you think Dawkins is more harsh towards Islam than he is towards Christianity and Judaism?

Oh and it actually wasn't the Cardinal Pell episode.

This one was with Patrick McGorry, a female rabbi, Steve Fielding, Julie Bishop, and two other men. I think at least one was an MP; but I'm not positive.

It's interesting about the laughter. I guess sometimes it's hard to tell when someone is laughing at you or with a sympathetic type way.

Martin said...

Yes, he calls himself a cultural Anglican so that gives a clue to his biases, I think. He's also quite anti-Catholic but I don't hear him mention modern Judaism much at all. He wouldn't be a fan, of course, as it's not likely to be sufficiently British. I understand that Britain is a strangely agnostic Christian society (which is better than actually believing anything much of anything, of course).