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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. J says:

    Thanks for posting these videos!

    The book that Richard Dawkins is promoting in the Newsnight interview (The God Delusion) is excellent, by the way. And, more to the point, it mentions the Flying Spaghetti Monster, too (twice – the FSM is listed in the index: ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster, 53, 55′). In fact, I only learned of the FSM through this book, which essentially makes it an evangelical Pastafarian sourcebook (sort of).

    Oh, and Scurvy Kills: 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?

    To One Eyed Jack, and anyone else who wishes they could see the rest of the second video: so do I! It’s from a two part documentary series called (obviously) The Root of All Evil?, which was shown in Britain at the beginning of this year. I was very cross about missing it at the time. However, there may be hope. Dawkins refers to the series in The God Delusion, saying that bootleg copies are being downloaded from various US websites, and that legitimate DVDs may become available soon. He also says that updates will be available at his website: http://www.richarddawkins.net. Since he’s been so good as to plug the FSM in his book and on television (I think he also mentioned His Noodlyness on a spiritual subjects TV show called Heaven and Earth a couple of weeks ago), I think it’s reasonable to return the favour here!

    Oh, lastly, to Christian. Assuming your post is serious, you don’t deserve to be viciously attacked for it (sadly, that’s the way a lot of vocal religious apologists reply to atheists – and pastafarians), so here’s a more polite response. It’s not a question of being able to *claim* evidence, it’s a question of actually *having* any. The reason people say that no religion can claim to have better evidence than any other is the very good one that no religion actually has any evidence whatsoever. The reason that science *can* claim to have better evidence is that it has absolutely loads of it. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since the entire scientific process is all about reasoning from evidence, whilst the usual religious approach is about, quite literally, God knows what. Dawkins and other sensible atheistic types will always admit that, if a Muslim (say) turned up tomorrow with iron-clad evidence for the existence of Allah and the whole of the Islam faith, and this evidence was demonstrably stronger than anything evolutionists have to offer, they’d have to accept their mistake with good grace.

    Of course, the FSM has a graph, so He’s okay.

  2. Christian says:

    Dear J,

    My question was serious. Thanks for your polite response. I’m not upset by the attacks. I’ve seen much more vicious attacks elsewhere on this site, for and against Pastafarians, and I don’t assume these people speak for everyone in their respective movements.
    I don’t agree that Christians don’t have any evidence, or don’t care about evidence. For example, there’s historical documentation, from both Christian and non-Christian sources, that Jesus was a real person who was executed as a criminal. Here’s one, from Annals of Imperial Rome by Tacitus (AD 55-120):
    “Nero [...] inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Chrestus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate…”
    and this confirms some of the details in the gospel accounts.
    My point is that we don’t just make things up and then try to believe them. We don’t have proof, but we do have evidence.

  3. J says:

    Hi, Christian,

    Nice to hear back from you. I’ll try (and probably fail) to give a quick answer (as it’s very easy to spill into essay-length rantage).

    I take your point. My suggestion that ‘no religion actually has any evidence whatsoever’ is perhaps a bit overstated. But, I’m sure you can see the difference between different types of evidence. The quote you supply, for example, suggests strongly that the author believed in the literal existence of one Chrestus, who was executed on the command of Pilate. I don’t know anything about the reliability of the source (who was the actual author? For whom would he have been writing? What beliefs would he have held? Exactly when within the AD55-120 span would he have written it, and from whom would he have taken his authority on the event, given that this span leaves a very clear possibility that he could easily have not been actually present at the execution described?), but, assuming that it’s trustworthy, this document may well be taken as an indication in favour of Jesus having actually existed.

    On the other hand, it doesn’t give any indication one way or another that Jesus was the Son of God (or was God incarnate, or the Son of Man, or all of the above). The possibility that a man called Jesus lived at around the right time to fit in with the claims of the New Testament is an entirely different issue from the suggestion that there is an omnipotent creator of all things. Evidence of the former is in no way evidence of the latter (indeed, many atheists are quite happy to accept a reasonable likelihood of Jesus having existed – as a man).

    As for the veracity of the gospels – that’s a whole other kettle of pirate fish. The historicity and reliability of the bible is something I’m not going to pretend to be equipped to discuss in any detail. But I can certainly indicate people who do. (Dawkins, once again, makes a lot of pertinent points in The God Delusion, for example, and refers to theologians who give more detail.) I will just say that firstly, a lot of questions have to be asked of any historical source in assessing its likelihood of being true (as with the Roman quote you gave). And secondly, the more unlikely the claims within such a document seem in light of other evidence, the more stringently backed up that document needs to be to convince.

    If I were to call you in the middle of the night and tell you that I have found a set of your car keys, you might thank me for the information – at least until you’ve checked whether you’ve actually lost a set. But if you were to discover that no, indeed, you had all your sets of keys safely at home, whilst I went on to maintain that I was at this very moment joyriding your car down the motorway – against the evidence of your own eyes, watching your car parked safely in front of your house – you would doubt the accuracy of my testimony, to say the least. It would be a lot simpler to interpret my call as a prank than to believe that it’s your own senses at fault. This is pretty much how reason works. And it’s also why we don’t accept the word of a derivative, selectively compiled two-millennia old anthology when it makes claims that contradict all the evidence we can muster about how the world around us works.

    I agree that Christians don’t just make things up and believe in them. However, I’m afraid I do think that, knowingly or unknowingly, you believe in things that someone else has made up. They – the people who did the making up – may well have arrived at their beliefs in good faith (no pun) at a time when their interpretation of existence was in fact a perfectly valid scientific approach to the universe – as Christianity would perhaps have been, 2,000 years ago.

    But scientists are never satisfied and will continue chipping away at the world, seeking new facts and trying to prove themselves wrong. The result is that while Christianity has spent 2,000 years with precisely the opposite attitude – discounting newly-discovered facts and declaring itself right – science has moved on considerably. Whilst Christianity may well have been consistent with our understanding of the world two millennia ago, today it sticks out like a sore noodly appendage. It takes a lot of explaining to make scientific sense of a Christian’s – or Muslim’s, or Jew’s, or Pastafarian’s – view of the world. (Perhaps even more explaining than is provided by the temperature/pirates graph – and I can feel the spaghetti tightening around my throat as I write…)

    Thankfully, there are people who are much better at discussing and analysing these matters than I am, and who are much better acquainted with the necessary science (and opposing theology). Richard Dawkins is such a man, and Carl Sagan was one. Douglas Adams (see The Salmon of Doubt) presents a great example of a highly intelligent man converted from Christianity to atheism purely by the power of honest reasoning and a desire for truth. As a Christian (I’m guessing that’s not just your first name) you will be very familiar with the knowledge that the right path is rarely the easiest. I would never suggest that maintaining a Christian – or other – faith is simply an easy choice. But I am suggesting a different path with a different kind of difficulty. It’s not about declaring your faith bad or any such thing. It’s just about honest, reasoned appreciation of such information about the world as humanity has, with its best efforts over thousands of years, been able to glean. And following that where it leads.

    And, whilst it takes some getting used to, it leads to a pretty good place, as it turns out!

  4. Christian says:

    I think that Richard Dawkins believes any two rational people faced with the same evidence will come to the same conclusion. That’s why, I guess, he is so puzzled by good scientists who are also Christians. But I think this belief is a fallacy. The evidence for any claim is rarely so good as to remove all doubt. You only have to look at the many controversies within Science to see that rational people can come to different conclusions based on the same evidence. The step from ‘Here is the evidence’ to ‘Here is what actually happened’ or ‘Here is the truth’ almost always involves an element of risk, a subjective judgment. That’s what faith is – not belief in the absence of evidence, but rather, the informed risk you take after you’ve considered the evidence. It’s as necessary in Science as it is in religion, even if the risks, and the stakes, are higher in religion.

  5. Christian says:

    I should correct a typo in the quote I used above, just in case anyone reproduces it. ‘Chrestus’ should have been ‘Christus’.

  6. J says:

    Christian,

    Where I live, it is too late to further this discussion now. I hope to be back, though, to continue it. It is a pleasure talking to you.

  7. B says:

    @Christian
    ROTFL Please get your facts right.

    Emperor Tacitus (or Marcus Claudius Tactius) reigned from 200-275 AD, please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Claudius_Tacitus
    along with
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=emperor+Tacitus+&btnG=Google+Search

    Far to late to be an authoratitive source for the execution of Christ.

    Also your quote:
    “Nero […] inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Chrestus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate…”

    Is clearly biased… The idea that christians were thrown to the lions has never been proven or accounted for in any objective substantial way that I have heard of.

    The Roman empire flourished becasue of their tollerance, so the idea that they developed this deep seated hatred for christans… well its reaching for it.

    Second… Read some books that are written with the point of disproving Christ, you will learn far more. Then read a book trying to prove his existance, you will also learn alot. Now compare their respective evidence.

    I have done this, and my conclusion is that : 1) there is an incredible lack of evidence for Christ. 2) Not a conclusion, but remember that it is impossible to fully disprove somthing.

  8. Nick2 says:

    “The step from ‘Here is the evidence’ to ‘Here is what actually happened’ or ‘Here is the truth’ almost always involves an element of risk, a subjective judgment.”

    True, it does. This is because everything in science is based off of postulates, claims that are known to be true but cannot be proven. For example, one of Euclid’s postulates is that between any two points, there is exactly one straight line connecting them. Makes sense, right? Sadly, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity proved that spacetime is curved, and Euclidean geometry is nothing more than an accurate guess. Because of this, anything that is has loads of evidence for it, no matter how much we believe it to be true, can never be anything more than a theory. The rank of “theory” is the highest any hypothesis can reach.

    That is why the argument “Well, evolution is only a theory” is dumb, because Evolution has been proved beyond reasonable doubt, just because there is a slight chance of it NOT being correct doesn’t mean you should call it dumb and ignore it. I’m not accusing you of saying that, it’s just that I’ve heard this alot and had to get it off my chest.

    I recently learned that the Aztecs believed that God pulled man out of an ear of corn. This is a claim, there can be no evidence for it unless the man that was pulled out is still alive, and even then he might just be crazy. This is not repeatable, either. We cannot pull a man out of an ear of corn in a laboratory, and even if we could it would prove that it is possible, not that it actually happened.

    Now compare that to the story of Adam and Eve. Adam was made by God out of clay, and Eve was made out of Adam’s rib.

    Good day.

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