I would never have been able to keep my cool as well as Richard Dawkins does on this Australian television program where he’s faced with a group of creationists (who refuse to admit what they really believe) as well as religious sympathizers who demand “respect and tolerance” for their views. All the usual criticisms of atheists come up, and I’m impressed with how well Dawkins handles them. My favorite is his answer to the accusation, “Isn’t your strident atheism like going around and telling children that there’s no Santa Claus?” I would have been stymied for a bit, but his answer is a few short words that stops the argument cold.
Isn’t it odd how atheists are supposed to show respect and tolerance for the palpable nonsense that people embrace, while those same people get heated and strident when faced with those who don’t buy their palaver?
Now if you can watch this and still argue that Dawkins is a “strident atheist”, then you’re engaging in deliberate misrepresentation.
34 thoughts on “Dawkins keeps his cool when surrounded by irrationality”
There was a similar exchange with Cardinal Pell 🙂
The irony of the discussion in that episode is that Tony Burke, Julie Bishop, and Steve Fielding talk about respecting peoples views and not ridiculing people’s personal “beliefs” and “interpretation”. They say this while having beliefs that openly ridicules/insults the century of scientist whose science discoveries have given us the luxuries for grants. So, their personal offence (for having ridiculous beliefs) takes precedence over the offence collective scientific knowledge garnered thus far. Such hypocrisy should be presented and rightfully be ridiculed/chastised because, by definition, it is ridiculous.
Yes, Dawkins was excellent – and kudos for keeping his cool in the face of such ignorance and evasiveness.
If you can keep your cool when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you …
… You’ll be a Dawkins, my son!
There are people in the world who cannot have their opinions challenged, in even the most gentle way, without feeling personally attacked.
Poor Christians, not getting the respect their righteousness requires.
It’s a tactic. Clever atheists like Dawkins have a knack of making religionist seem stupid, absurd or ignorant (your video is exhibit a). The only way to counter Dawkins’ arguments is to try to shut him up.
That, of course, would be following millennia of religious tradition.
It’s not hard to make religionists look stupid, absurd and ignorant etc.
I felt bad (only a little bit) for the people he was debating. They were out of their depth.
Me, too. They were waaaaay out of their depths.
Religious people always want to say that you have to pick the right bits out of a religion for it to make sense, and I always wonder why God needs to be edited like that. All of God’s words should be golden. It was good to hear the clapping for RD’s points and the moans when the evasive guy went to his platitudes.
Dawkins is excellent but also strident, at least in the mind of many believers, who weren’t used to being challenging. Religious communities seem to co-fabulate their beliefs together, so that each church and community has its own local “dialect” which is similar to the next one nearby. The further you move away, the more dramatic the changes. It seems it’s against the rules to point out that something doesn’t make much sense. Such argument can only be theological, where the literary world of scripture is investigated as if it was reality itself, and which flows through theological exegesis mixed with personal cherrypicking, attuned to the beliefs of others around.
The atheists is disturbing this great game of make-belief with their presence, for atheism is only ever sensible in direct contrast or rivalry with religion. This is at least the case in Europe, where we’re not a besieged minority and need not construct a reified atheist identity. It’s more a quality of one’s worldview, much like that your car might have just two doors, or four. Any feature, no matter how trivial, can be used to create a category, and then take on prototypical features.
I never saw Dawkins angry or loud, though he did argue for “stridency” himself in his TED talk. But heated anger is so much against his type that religious people couldn’t possibly mean it, but perhaps their own feelings when provoked. Interestingly the typical religious agitator is a often a blustering and shouting shock jock, televangelists, or someone like Bill Donohue, or Bill O’Reilly.
Right. Whether he is strident or not is subjective. I see no point in debating the issue unless it is to point out an inconsistency. The question to ask people who find him strident is, if that is the only objection they have, or if they object to the content of his statements as well. Insisting that a person respond to and not evade a question and calling a person out for being disingenuous or intellectually dishonest is considered inappropriate by some. It is an attitude that stymies progress. A culture that implicitly values such an attitude is not conducive to progress.
One of many classic clips. Finding troves of this stuff on YouTube was my transition from “I’ve heard religious claims all my life – when am I going to see the evidence?” to “okay, I’ve watched and read all this stuff – if there were evidence, I’d have found at least a little of it by now. There doesn’t seem to be any.”
(I know it would raise some ethical murmurs, but it almost felt like a failure of omission from public schools not to have answered this question for me much earlier.)
Yes indeed, an old clip but, oh boy, does he make Australian politicians look like a bunch of numpties!
Now that I think about it, I’d love to see similar clips around the current issues regarding science education in New Zealand. That feels like just what’s called for, actually.
I don’t agree. The Australian politician did it to himself.
“Isn’t it odd how atheists are supposed to show respect and tolerance for the palpable nonsense that people embrace, while those same people get heated and strident when faced with those who don’t buy their palaver?”
I find religion is still considered the default belief by most people. That’s why they seem to feel that atheism is the belief that requires justification even though it is clearly the other way round.
I want to see Dawkins debate this in New Zealand with Maori tribesmen!
I’d made this remark as well in here someplace – it seems like a media format that’s particularly called for at the moment. (I’m not sure the Māori themselves are the ones pushing the curricular changes, though.)
I’d like to go off on a tangent from a throwaway comment of the politician, to wit, “People can believe what they want to believe.” We have to disabuse ourselves of this notion. This philosopher has a good way of putting it, and coincidentally he’s Australian.
But deliberate misrepresentation is one of the most popular rhetorical ploys of the religious. It’s not as if they have many options.
See also “liarsforjesus” … which to my moderate surprise is actually a book and website , and from some chapter headings (“Father of Our Country”,”the Constitution”) might even have been published in America. That’ll have some of the wingnut fraternity looking for reds under their beds.
I could not keep my cool.
But compare that still relatively respectful and patient discussion from both sides to what we might have today with an audience of mixed viewpoints.
It continues to amaze me how creationists are usually stridently accusing atheists of being amoral and needing to prove their stance. Furthermore, how about all the wars that have been fought in the name of “G..d” and religion.
The man is just fucking great. I admire him for stepping into the fray, and pwning his opponents.
Not strident, but I can see how the way he argued about Jesus’ sacrifice being taken as unnecessarily offensive.
Still, I’m armchair quarterbacking. It may be easy to think of more academic ways to make the same point here and now from my couch, but should we demand perfection when someone is put on the spot in a live TV show? No. He did generally great. Kept more cool and rational than most of us ever could in that situation.
You’ve got a problem if just restating the central dogma of your religion is “unnecessarily offensive”.
His “come on” sort of talk is obviously intended to convey he thinks the belief is stupid. So he’s not just restating it or explaining it, he’s opining on it.
I’d have much preferred he attack it from the academic angle or use a socratic response: ask the believers, why did your deity use such a solution? Could he snap his fingers to make up for our sins…and chose not to? Or was he impotent to make up for our sins any other way? Make the believers explain how their proposition makes sense (because in telling us the explanation, they will find that any such explanation falls short).
But again, in saying that I don’t want to give the impression I think he did a bad job. He did a good job. It is extremely easy for someone like me to criticize a live TV performance from the couch – and much harder to actually give such a performance. Coming up with the ideal response in a live televised round table not a reasonable standard for ‘good argument’, it’s the exception. He made good arguments. He kept cool. One nitpick does not “strident” make.
“Each person will come to their own conclusion …”
That’s the disingenuous defense used for both pseudoscience and religion. They make fact claims about the nature of a shared reality, claims which would impact every person whether they believed in it or not. It’s the framework and language of truth. But when challenged, they start using the framework and language for personal choice.
“Look, I like pineapple on my pizza, but I would never force others to put it on their pizza. Why are you trying to force me to take it off? After all, each person will order their own pizzas …”
It’s a dishonest tactic. The people who use it, however, are usually bamboozled by it. It’s the usual failure to make rational distinctions.
And for all their criticisms of Dawkins for being “strident” and “mocking,” it’s funny that the oh-so-sensitive didn’t take offense with the believer’s comparison of people who believe in God and children who believe in Santa Claus. When used in the service of insulting the atheist, grave insults seem to slip under the radar.
Dawkins is amazing. He was one of my first mentors on my way out of religion, for which I will be eternally grateful (metaphorically speaking of course!)
Dawkins behaves like a man who never forgets that his mission is to persuade those who can be persuaded, not to win fights. The seeds he plants may bear fruit in time in even the most defiantly ignorant. People can and do change, sometimes after years. The human mind is an amazing thing…