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Richard Dawkins

Published October 4th, 2006 by Bobby Henderson

World-famous science author Professor Richard Dawkins, during an interview about his new book The God Delusion, mentions the Flying Spaghetti Monster. (Around 1:50).

[youtube]kfnDdMRxMHY[/youtube]

It seems that he’s saying the existence of the Christian God is as likely as the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and that you can’t disprove either. Perhaps he’s not aware of the evidence we’ve gathered in support of the existence of the FSM, and all the academic endorsements, etc. Or, maybe he’s tentative about revealing his true faith, Pastafarianism.

*update* – I Just found an interesting comment:

Regarding your suspicion of Dawkins’ closet Pastafarianism. I quote from The God Delusion, p53:

“I am delighted to see that The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has now been published as a book, to great acclaim. I haven’t read it myself, but who needs to read a gospel when you just *know* it’s true?”

I’d say that’s evidence for Dawkins’ Pastafarianism at least as strong as the Global Temperature/Pirates correlation, wouldn’t you?

*update 2* – Further evidence of Richard Dawkins’ Pastafarian beliefs: On today’s NPR Science Friday radio show, Professor Dawkins again mentions the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Link to the radio show.

Here’s another good video of Richard Dawkins.

[youtube]AB2vmj8eyMk[/youtube]



147 Responses to “Richard Dawkins”

  1. nikkiee says:

    Christian
    Only if the defence can prove they are a reliable witness. If other testimony and evidence go agaist that witness they may be discredited. But usually hard evidence wins the day. I have some basic legal knowledge. Drank with a lot of law students at uni. Not knowledgeable about the finer points. I’ll ask one of my friends to post.
    RAmen

  2. J says:

    Hi, Christian!
    .
    Good to have you back. You were only away a day, but some of us were genuinely starting to miss you.
    .
    You are absolutely within your rights to want some kind of additional scholarly back-up on the Mithraism thing. Of course you’re entitled to want the same kind of back up we’re demanding of Christianity.
    .
    Before we even get some, though (which I hope we will), two logical points follow from the current situation:
    .
    1- Whether the Mithraism thing is true or not, you will accept that it *could* be, right? This and many other explanations for the origins Christianity are plausible. Now, to pursue our legal parallel, this alone would be enough to undermine Paul’s testimony. Why? Because guilt has to be established ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. The jury is faced with the prosecution (ie the case for guilt; ie the case for the veracity of Paul’s testimony and the existence of the Christian God) on the one hand and the defence on the other. All the defence has to do is show that there are more likely explanations for Paul’s testimony than him being factually correct and jury has to swing towards innocence. The jury will simply have to choose whether it seems more reasonable that embryonic Christianity was influenced by other religions (and they’ll be able to draw upon first-hand experience of seeing the many religions in today’s world), or that supernatural events that they have never experienced in the course of their own lives were Paul’s source. If the jury went for the latter, you can be quite sure there’d be an appeal.
    .
    (Confession: I’m not a lawyer. If anyone with superior legal knowledge can shoot me down on this, go right ahead. I’ll adjust my metaphor accordingly.)
    .
    2- We actually have two sources for the Mithraism issue, now. One of them is KingOfRedLions, who we might assume to have an anti-Christian stand point (apologies if I’m wrong, here). The other, though, is the author of the website One Eyed Jack pointed out. S/He acknowledges the Mitharistic parallels but then dismisses tham as nonsense, appearing to have a Christian standpoint. So, that’s two sources with opposing biases. This raises the probability of it being true a bit.
    .
    OEJ is right to chastise the latter author on the evidence of this author’s own writings, because s/he presents a set of evidence and then dismisses it without actually showing any reasoning. Certainly, s/he gives some instances in which Christianity amd Mithraism are different, but that’s to be expected – no one is suggesting that they are the *same*, only that parts of Mithraism were borrowed for Christianity. (I could list a number of differences between myself today and myself as a baby, but most people would agree that there’s a certain connection between us.)

  3. J says:

    This eyewitness testimony thing, again. I’ve got a chunk I’d like to say about this. Anyone know how you can start a new thread…?

    J

  4. J says:

    WARNING – THIS POST IS VERY LONG, SLOW AND REALLY PICKY. I HONESTLY RECOMMEND SKIPPING IT. (EXCEPT CHRISTIAN. IT’S FOR YOU)
    (Also, I use ‘he’ instead of ‘he or she’ a lot here. Sorry – bad habit)
    .
    Christian,
    .
    Thanks for your polite explanation of the purpose of your list of questions. I did not, however, find them overwhelming. That’s why I wrote:
    .
    ‘…you raise a list of questions that comes across as a rhetorical device to overwhelm. Well, in fact, sure, these things need to be taken into account. They’re no more complex than what happens in law courts, after all.’
    .
    What I meant (apologies if I was unclear) is that you stack up a list of questions in rapid succession as if to suggest that they can’t be answered, when in fact the *relevant* questions *can* be answered.
    .
    Let’s look at your questions again. You said:
    .

    ‘What is the regulation number of witnesses? Is two enough? Do you need more witnesses to establish that a miracle has taken place? Does it depend on how surprising the miracle is? Does it depend on how vivid the testimonies are? Does it depend on the intelligence and integrity of the witnesses? How do we quantify such things as vividness, surprisingness and integrity? Assuming we can quantify them, what’s the formula that takes into account all of these factors and tells you whether you have sufficient reason to believe? Of course there’s no such formula. There is no objective way to set the bar, and no objective way to determine whether it’s been crossed. You have to make a personal assessment of the risk, and you have to personally decide whether you’re willing to take it.’
    .
    Breaking it down:
    .
    ‘What is the regulation number of witnesses? Is two enough?’
    .
    We don’t need a ‘regulation number of witnesses’. We need to establish a reliable account of reality. This may involve witnesses, it may involve evidence of other types – it depends on how outlandish the claim being made is. By reducing this simple common sense to an impossibly finicky matter of defining a ‘regulation number of witnesses’, you create a straw man of your opponent in argument. Not a safe strategy.
    .
    ‘Do you need more witnesses to establish that a miracle has taken place? Does it depend on how surprising the miracle is?’
    .
    Following on from above, not necessarily ‘more witnesses’ (though that might help) but better evidence, perhaps. Let’s say you show up in court accused of killing a man. You say someone else did it. If we can find a witness or two to back up the claim that you didn’t do it, or who saw someone else doing it, you’re on the way to convincing us.
    .
    But suppose you say that you didn’t do it, but you saw a glowing AK-47 descend from the sky and unleash a torrent of divine bullets at the victim, whilst a voice like unto thunder spake ‘THIS IS MY WILL’.
    .
    We’re going to need more than a mere couple of witnesses.
    .
    ‘Does it depend on how vivid the testimonies are?’
    .
    Probably not. People have vivid dreams, vivid hallucinations, vivid false memories (as in the ongoing imagined child abuse issue). People also tell very vivid lies.
    .
    How internally consistent the testimony is might matter. How does the testifier do when plugged into a conventional lie detector? How well do they tell the story if distracted by other tasks at the same time? Could a neurologist or psychiatrist detect something about them that might make them unusually likely to invent or imagine this type of thing? There are lots of angles we might pursue, and we have specialists who can pursue them. Vividity may or may not be a factor in some of these.
    .
    ‘Does it depend on the intelligence and integrity of the witnesses?’
    .
    Intelligence – maybe. Hard for me to say. A very stupid (or, more likely, very ignorant or uninformed) person might give what sounds like a supernatural account of something actually quite commonplace, because they do not understand what they are seeing. A person with a high degree of specialised knowledge might be inclined to interpret something in terms of their specialised field and again misrepresent it. Types of knowledge and intellegence may be important.
    .
    Integrity is of obvious importance. If our eyewitness has a history of talking suffocating gobshite, then we are of course less likely to credit his wonderful new story. We should check him out, just in case this time he is crying wolf in earnest – but we’ll have our eye on him, alright.
    .
    Whether he has a demonstrable reason to mislead us is something we would be interested in, though. Does he stand to gain something – whether actual or perceived by him? Can we discern any ulterior motives?
    .
    ‘How do we quantify such things as vividness, surprisingness and integrity?’
    .
    If by quantify you are suggesting some kind of number scale, then we don’t really need to, unless we find that helpful. We just compare, don’t we? Surprisingness – how surprised were people? How much unlike the world as we know and anticipate was that testimony? As compared with this other testimony, or with that potential alternative testimony. Integrity and vividity I’ve touched upon.
    .
    ‘Assuming we can quantify them, what’s the formula that takes into account all of these factors and tells you whether you have sufficient reason to believe?’
    .
    Right, so that *is* what you meant by ‘quanitify’. But to acknowledge the unavoidable role of subjectivity in our assessments is not to give rise to the overblown scepticism that you then launch into.
    .
    To say that people are subjective is fine. To say that people are incapable of objectivity is not.
    .
    Sometimes, I may give a very subjective judgement and say something like: ‘I’m being subjective here, but I think that is the ugliest dog in the universe.’
    .
    At other times, I might say: ‘Thinking objectively, I don’t think there is a god’.
    .
    Of course, my objectivity is not *pure* objectivity. It’s just more objective than my subjectivity – more evidence-and-reason, less gut-feeling.
    .
    If I were part of a team of ten people, all trying to be objective, we could reach a more objective consensus. We’d have more knowledge to bring to the table and could cut through some of one anothers’ biases.
    .
    If we consulted various different specialists on the subject, too, making ourselves aware of their biases and comparing their verdicts, our objectivity would again be enhanced. By now, we’re becoming pretty objective.
    .
    If we could only use the word ‘objective’ to describe pure, 100% objectivity – ie impossible objectivity – it would be a useless word. Everything, as we are often told, is relative.
    .
    All I am saying is that we can minimise these risks you talk about. It’s not a simple, George Bush, polar ‘with us or against us’ position. There’s a huge spectrum from ‘completely subjective’ to ‘completely objective’, and we do the best we can. The fact that this might, in a matter like the existence or non-existence of god, involve great amounts of knowledge, some of it very specialised, does not make it unapproachable. We live in an era when people specialise in pursuing esoteric fields of knowledge, and present conclusions rendered as objective as possible by arguing them out with other specialists. Their hard-earned theories are the most reliable testimonies that humankind has ever had its disposal. We can gather them, compare them and reach heights of knowledge and understanding impossible for our ancestors.
    .
    Lastly:
    ‘I was trying to emphasize the large extent to which reasoning relies on personal judgments that are heuristic rather than procedural.’
    .
    I’ve had a quick think about what you mean by ‘heuristic’, as it’s a word than can mean slightly different things in different places. (My dictionary, for example, gives: ‘allowing to or assisting to discover’, which doesn’t do much for your argument.) I guess you are using an application of the word that refers to automatic, psychological processes for understanding that don’t rely on deliberate reasoning.
    .
    Whatever, the point I’ve been trying to make for several posts now is that RELIGION IS NOT JUST A PERSONAL CHOICE. Your religion affects your ethical judgements and behaviour, and this affects other people. It may FEEL instinctive, it may SEEM personal, but is is NOT. Your decision may be personal, but the effects of it are not.
    .
    I reason that we owe it to each other to examine the bases of our decisions regarding our belief systems quite closely. In particular, we should analyse the conduct that stems from them. Because if we are doing things to other people based on an ‘it just feels right’ subjectivity that would fall apart under objective inspection, then we are doing them an injustice.
    .
    (I’m really sorry if the above is full of type-os. It’s so long and tedious that I haven’t properly proof-read it. Writing it was bad enough.)
    .
    Profound apologies to the FSM Himself for this rantage. May I be keel hauled through ragu by his Noodly Appendage.

  5. NowtheworldhasMeaning says:

    J please stop writing your thesus on the website, LOL, how long that take you to put together?
    .
    Good to see you are still around I have not seen many posts from you for a while, now I obviously know why.

  6. The Aussie says:

    Wow…

  7. J says:

    Sorry again about that! I’ve been doing some stuff at a local theatre in the evenings, then I come in here and respond to stuff that gets me going. The later it gets, the tireder I get and the more asleep my internal editor becomes. Result: verbiage explosion.
    .
    As an excuse, that was a kind of a one-off attempt to answer a bit of ‘Just look at all these questions’ rhetoric with a very pedantic ‘OK, then’.
    .
    I’ll sharpen my editorial cutlass, I promise.
    .
    Arrrrrrr, y’all.

  8. Christian says:

    Hey J,
    Wow. I’m going to give a brief response because I think we are in substantial agreement. I agree that complete objectivity is impossible. I agree that the degree of objectivity involved in a judgment (I would say the degree of risk, but I guess that’s nitpicking) depends on the circumstances. I would agree that we often (legitimately) use consensus as a substitute for objectivity. I agree that our religious choices affect the way we behave towards others. In fact I don’t think there was anything substantive there that I disagree with.
    .
    Here are some uses of the word ‘heuristic’ obtained from an online dictionary. All of them are relevant to the point I was making, put particularly 3:
    1. encouraging a person to learn, discover, understand, or solve problems on his or her own, as by experimenting, evaluating possible answers or solutions, or by trial and error: a heuristic teaching method.
    2. of, pertaining to, or based on experimentation, evaluation, or trial-and-error methods.
    3. pertaining to a trial-and-error method of problem solving used when an algorithmic approach is impractical.
    .
    Has anyone made any progress on finding out the extent to which the ‘Paul was a Mithraist’ theory has been taken up by NT scholars and historians? What about a source for the ‘testimony of a single witness does not stand up in court’ claim?

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