Richard Dawkins and Derren Brown talk about "psychics"

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77 Responses to “Richard Dawkins and Derren Brown talk about "psychics"”

  1. jesperk says:

    It’s funny. I’ve read quite a lot of books by Dawkins and seen a lot of YouTube videos as well. He is undoubtedly a man of science and he uses it to great philosophical lengths. That’s when it strikes me as funny – if a bit tragic – that the single most unifying factor, the single accusation unparallelled by any other single thing is … that Dawkins is, oh the horror, ARROGANT. Or some variation over the theme. I guess that for all they have to say against Dawkins they’d really help their case more by not saying anything at all. In case they insist and will persist with their criticism … hell, I’ll even help you to a couple of new phrases like “well, Dawkins got an UGLY NOSE” and “I don’t LIKE him so nothing he says can be right”. Though, I’d by far prefer a more civilized and reasonable debate about our ideas.

  2. 13strong says:

    @ ARKIZZLE:

    “Maybe Derren Brown.. is HUMAN!”

    That I definitely DO refuse to believe.

  3. pyota says:

    i agree that dawkins is losing the plot a bit when he goes after harry potter and other childrens fantasy stories. however, i greatly admire him as an author and as a defender of reason (which i am sorry to say is dearly needed these days). people who call him smug or arrogant i suspect are religious folks who have no other way to defend their beliefs.

  4. 13strong says:

    @ PYOTA:

    “People who call him smug or arrogant i suspect are religious folks who have no other way to defend their beliefs.”

    I think he’s somewhat smug and occasionally arrogant. I’m an agnostic atheist.

    I honestly don’t think he is going after Harry Potter, as it were. I think he’s just questioning what effect fairytales and other fantasy stories have on children’s development and their ability to rationalise and criticise things. I think it’s an interesting question.

    Personally, my experience has been that those raised in atheistic families tend to be a lot more sceptical about spirituality and the supernatural in general, while those raised in religious homes, even if their faith has lapsed, tend to be more open to the possibility of the supernatural (just speaking from personal experience, here).

    So it would seem that your exposure to these things as a child may have an effect. The difference being that children usually KNOW or are TOLD that fantasy stories aren’t real, while they’re usually told that religious figures and stories ARE real. I would think that would make a big difference.

    I doubt there are many parents raising their children under the church of JK Rowling. At least, I hope not.

  5. rusure says:

    Dawkins and the whole evangelical atheism thing is a form of religious fanaticism. I don’t believe in atheists.

  6. buddy66 says:

    “If a major world conflict happens in future, it won’t be between religious faiths – it will be between the rationalists and the spiritualists.

    Then we better continue surrendering. We’re too rational to even use the weapons rational men have created, knowing they would also destroy us. What we need as defense against spiritualists is to isolate the “belief gene,” and then create an airborne virus….

    I kid the gene seekers.

    Pipenta mentions the pain entailed in losing one’s religious beliefs or faith. I never had them to lose, but when I became, willy-nilly, an academic counselor (however bad a one) I witnessed the effect on a few young people of its loss. I assure you that it is a devastating process. I had nothing to offer but sympathy for their distress and the hope that they would find some purpose to substitute for their lost destiny. No wonder Dawkins was unnerved to encounter it.

    The excellent Cowicide urges the teaching of “Critical Thinking” in our public schools. I would enthusiastically agree, although the near certainty that it would result in merely analyzing advertising and political rhetoric deters me; they already do that, anyway; it is in no way controversial. But to expose religion to genuine critical thinking would lead to teacher firings, school board recalls, administration purges, and community witch hunts that would scandalize the civilized world.

    The only complaint I have with Professor Dawkins is his coining the word “meme.” It’s an ugly and unnecessary addition to our common language pool, although it did make quite a splash.

  7. PaulT says:

    Nice find! Though I think that simply calling Dawkins “the God Delusion guy” and Derren Brown a stage hypnotist is doing a great disservice to both of their talents and achievements…

  8. Man On Pink Corner says:

    #17 Roger

    I am not a believer, but I’ve always thought that those who disparage religion are denying something fundamentally human — like dance, music, and the arts. These are not “rational” activities either, yet they are a fundamental part of who we are as a species.

    A ridiculous comparison. Dance, music, and art do not negatively affect the larger, non-participating world. They don’t deserve the reaction that religion is beginning to encounter among rational, thinking people.

    The realization that all forms of superstition are equivalent is, culturally speaking, as important as Turing equivalence was to logicians.

  9. Hayduke says:

    Man, I love Richard Dawkins. What a breath of fresh, reasonable air. I think the only people who find him offensive are the large percentage of very superstitious people who don’t like to think they’ve been duped.

  10. nanite2000 says:

    Great video, but sadly I feel that Richard Dawkins is preaching to the choir these days. Speaking only personally from conversations with friends and family, the general impression I get is that people who have a sceptical nature and aren’t really religious love Dawkins (I do). But those who are even slightly “spiritual” (which is still most of the population) don’t like the idea that Dawkins tends to shatter their lifelong beliefs and refuse to listen to reason. Even when he can conclusively prove that people’s beliefs are mistaken, they won’t accept it.

    Many people want to be deceived, because a simple lie is more comforting than the complicated truth.

    If a major world conflict happens in future, it won’t be between religious faiths – it will be between the rationalists and the spiritualists.

  11. Pantograph says:

    A good informative talk, marred as usual by Dawkins’ insufferable smugness.

  12. fergus1948 says:

    Yes, PaulT is absolutely right. Derren Brown is not a hypnotist and would have a fit at being so described and would, I think, also be horrified to be described as a magician.

    However, excellent post. I’m sure I’m not the only person to be increasingly despondent at the growing number of cable channels showing ‘ghost-hunting’ shows and quacks telling people that their dead mother is in the studio and wants them to tidy their bedroom.

  13. Man On Pink Corner says:

    If you’re right, it’s OK to be smug.

  14. Cory Doctorow says:

    Derren’s a friend of mine and I don’t think that you’re correct, Fergus. For one thing, he wrote a book about applied hypnotism.

  15. Luc says:

    What’s Derren Brown if not a magician? Sure, he’s not pulling rabbits out of his hat and I can see how he might want to stand apart from that crowd, but mentalism is still stage magic.

  16. Pantograph says:

    That’s what the clergy have been saying for most of human history.

    Dawkins throws himself up as the High Priest Of The Church Of Reason, with all the smarmy mannerisms of a catholic bishop, and doesn’t even see the irony of the situation. He is doing both sensible atheists and skeptics a disservice.

    As a militant agnostic who believes that there is no certainty anywhere (yes, I’m ok with that thankyouverymuch), I am offended by the idea that mathematical models that more or less mirror reality (which is what al of hard science is) are taken as absolute. They are far more successful models of reality than astromancy or palmistry, but they are far from being the true language of God or other such grandiose statements that come out of reductionist circles.

  17. Jackanaples says:

    Pantograph, Dawkins isn’t smug in that video. He just generally comports himself like a brilliant man who actually knows something and is secure in that knowledge. It’s exceedingly rare to meet one of those.

    Nanite2000 -The “Rationalist choir” is not one that normally gets preached to. If that were the only thing Dawkins was looking to achieve, then good on him. For every person like me who watches one of his videos and just nods in agreement, there must certainly be a few like the teenage boy I was: Raised in a Pentecostal family and going to church three and four times a week for fire and brimstone preaching, faith healing, etc. Not a bit of rationality in sight.

    Somehow I knew that my parents worldview didn’t make sense and was able to seek out intelligent material that enabled me to change my worldview. But it took YEARS. If I’d had the internet back then and access to a website like Dawkins’, it might have been done in a matter of weeks. My point: You never know who’s watching. It may not be helping you, but there’s always someone else for whom it’s the first time they’re encountering the material.

  18. acx99 says:

    “If a major world conflict happens in future, it won’t be between religious faiths – it will be between the rationalists and the spiritualists.”

    I sincerely hope not. Because the rationalists will know they can’t win a fight against those who claim they have god on their side :)

  19. Man On Pink Corner says:

    Well, this thread turned out to be relatively free of polarization, I must say.

  20. 13strong says:

    I think there’s real value in this film.

    That said, I do find Dawkins increasingly insufferable. You can hear the excitement in his voice when he thinks he’s conclusively uncovered a “charlatan”, and see the disappointment in his face when Derren Brown (who has always seemed like an extremely smart and sensitive guy) insists on being a little more sympathetic to those practicing or believing such “psychic” services.

    I remember watching Dawkins’ “Christmas Lectures” on TV as a kid. He was so friendly, enthusiastic and fun, while still achieving the goal of educating people about science and the world. His Christmas Lectures were a much more effective remedy against dangerously irrational beliefs than this current, unpleasant crusade.

  21. Takuan says:

    yes, I stayed out.

  22. 13strong says:

    OK, he’s actually not as smug as usual, but there’s still an unappealing glee in his discovery of “irrationality” or “charlatans”.

  23. acx99 says:

    I’m a hardcore skeptic, aren’t most of Derren Brown’s “tricks of the mind” mostly attributed to “tricks of the cutting room”?

  24. Sindigo says:

    I’ve never found Dawkins to be smug but I thought there would be a lot more hate for him on here. It’s kind of encouraging to me.

    The assertion that he “throws himself up as the High Priest Of The Church Of Reason” I find pretty silly. He wrote a bestselling book about religious belief and the media elevated him to the position of Atheist at large.

    As for the excitement in his voice when he has uncovered a charlatan, I’m not surprised. He is obviously genuinely disgusted that peoples’ treasured memories of their loved ones are being trampled over in the name of entertainment and making a quick buck, as he should be.

    I disagreed with a couple of points made in the God Delusion but I support him in this. Describing the film as an “unpleasant crusade” seems a strange if you agree with his conclusion and are familiar with the behaviour of his adversaries in this case (Sylvia Browne, James van Pragh, Derek Acorah, etc).

  25. Cory Doctorow says:

    ACX99: If you think that’s true, you need to see one of his stage shows.

  26. 13strong says:

    @14:

    I didn’t mean that this film is “an unpleasant crusade”. I meant his more recent work I find a quite unpleasant crusade. This film is actually one of the more reasonable, interesting pieces of work I’ve seen from him in a while.

  27. Roger Stanton says:

    I am not a believer, but I’ve always thought that those who disparage religion are denying something fundamentally human — like dance, music, and the arts. These are not “rational” activities either, yet they are a fundamental part of who we are as a species.

  28. AudioTherapist says:

    I’ve got to admit I was quite relieved.

    As quite a long time fan of both Derren Brown & Richard Dawkins, a happy skeptic and atheist I was cringing a little at the start of these vids.

    RD has, in recent years strongly over-stated his views, particularly when linking indoctrination into a religion in childhood as being akin to child abuse. I found that deeply offensive and rather sloppy to say the least, the latter fulfills no higher aspiration, the former at least attempt to.

    But this was a far more human and discursive view of RD, and I feel more of what he ought to have been doing all along. A Derren Brown impressed me as a very decent human being indeed. Hurrah!

  29. akirabergman says:

    The super rich are also atheist extremists aren’t they? They even have cults. But they hire religious proxies and atheist scientists to fool the public.

    Lets don’t throw the baby with the bath water. Just because there are many religious charlatans does not prove anything. Dawkins is smug, I agree with many here.

    The whole rationalist thing is based on the axioms of mathematics. Where the axioms come from is a mystery. B.Russell demonstrated that mathematics is based on a paradox.

    Creative acts like musical improvising, painting or having a conversation are based on fuzzy foundations. Their source is also fuzzy. Eg the uncertainty principle of information theory.

    Quantum mechanics is based on fuzzy foundations.

    The atheist agenda is materialist extremism. Can they prove to themselves that they exist? Or is all a wank?

    Paradox is perfection fallen
    reality is paradox broken.

  30. lego7 says:

    In general, Richard Dawkins tends to be a complete douchebag when it comes to his supreme belief in things which cannot be proven, or disproven.

    My $0.02

  31. Cupcake Faerie says:

    The world and nature is full of irrationality – as evidence I give you the hypotenuse of a square – aka the square root of two. It is irrational – it is an endless sequence of numbers with no plan. The irrational is part of the world. We must accept this. No scientist will ever explain why this is so.

  32. arkizzle says:

    The atheist agenda is materialist extremism. Can they prove to themselves that they exist?

    Cogito ergo sum. No more presicion is necessary (or useful, probably) for ‘material’ existence.

  33. Man On Pink Corner says:

    #58: Materialist extremism, Godelian incompleteness, paradoxical wharrgarbl. That’s all well and good. Now, explain again why I can’t buy beer on Sunday?

  34. Pipenta says:

    As someone who as abused as a child, I can assure you that religious indoctrination can certainly be child abuse. And there are countless other victims of abuse who would back me up on that.

    There is a video of Dawkins speaking to an audience in some southern US state. I’m don’t recall where, exactly. In it, the audience has been seeded with students from a local fundamentalist “university” and they’ve all been prepped with arguments to trump Dawkins. Of course they can’t do it. Dawkins is dispassionate and in control the entire time. I suspect this is what many of you read as smugness. Not me.

    What struck me about that appearance was an interaction that Dawkins had with an audience member, a young woman obviously with some pain. She told him that she had anger about her religious upbringing. It was the only moment in the evening where Dawkins seemed a little unsteady. He looked a bit shocked.

    Dawkins views these things with a scientist’s eye. That he has stepped forward to be the spokesperson and champion for a point of view that many, many people share, but feel too threatened to voice, shows passion and courage. But he is cool and rational in his analysis of religion.

    So to be faced with the emotional impact of religion on someone who found it to be a painful and damaging experience rattled him a little. You can see him just rolling it around in his head, the implications of it.

    And when I saw that I wanted to write him and tell him hell yes, I’m angry. Hell yes I was abused and hurt by religion. The toxicity of it might not be so apparent when you are male. But to be a young girl and to be told that the universe was created by a male force, to be told this by males who have power over you and who are heavily invested in keeping you suppressed, this is an abuse.

    And I wanted to write him and tell him about how terrifying it is to be a young child and to be threatened with hell. I wanted to write to him and tell him many things.

    But I did not.

    Doubtless many people did write him and tell him about their experiences. He is the most visible public figure who is taking a stand against the sacred cow that is religion. He is going to be at the epicenter of public awareness. I’m sure he gets emails and letters from people every day telling him about the pain and misery their religious upbringings have caused them.

    Every religious upbringing is not abusive, but many of them are. This is a simple fact.

  35. arkizzle says:

    Meme hater, eh?

    I think it’s a useful word, and a nice concept.

    Also, you forgot to put a pun warning on “quite a splash”, or even to say “OW!” :)

  36. Sindigo says:

    13Strong:
    Sorry, I misinterpreted. Can you give an example?

    Lego7:
    Firstly, if you are talking about the existence of God (one has to assume as you made no real assertion) then it absolutely *can* be proven. A well placed lightning bolt and a firm, but godly “No” from the heavens whenever Dawkins gives a lecture would be an excellent demonstration.
    Secondly, you cannot *disprove* anything. You are confusing belief and a lack of belief. However strident his argument Dawkins has never posited a belief in the non-existence of the almighty as far as I am aware.

  37. MachineElf says:

    It would have been interesting to see Rupert Sheldrake’s “uncut” interview for Enemies of Reason included in the DVD pack….
    ;)

    (see Sheldrake’s retelling here – http://dailygrail.com/node/5817)

  38. Piers W says:

    #20 Cupcake Faerie

    If, every time one tried to calculate the square root of two, one got a different sequence of numbers, the world would indeed be an irrational place.

    Luckily the Flying Spaghetti Monster watches over numbers for us and this does not happen unless we get our sums wrong.

  39. Cowicide says:

    This goes up there with one of my all time favorite Boing Boing posts. I truly think spreading content like this will help humans evolve.

    This kind of knowledge might even lead us to one day having our children take public school coursework where a class called “Critical Thinking” is given just as much weight as (if not more than) English, Mathematics and certainly History.

    I hope that others that found this interview inspirational will join me in the struggle to get “Critical Thinking” courses into every public school in the United States.

    I think our pursuit of happiness and maybe even our very human existence depends upon it.

  40. 13strong says:

    Not that it’s worth responding to an anonymous, troll-like post, but:

    @ #63:

    “Dawkins built his career on making one point, but he does so with as much abrasiveness and condescension as he is able to muster.”

    Built his whole career on making one point? Hardly. The man has been an extremely popular and well-respected evolutionary biologist for decades now. This more recent venture into anti-religious programming is not representative of all his work.

    His best known work (until “The God Delusion”) was “The Selfish Gene”, released in 1976. And as I said earlier, I grew up watching his fantastic Christmas Lectures on TV.

  41. 13strong says:

    Also, we’ve already shown that the people who dislike Dawkins’ style and approach are not all religious or superstitious. Can we drop that now?

  42. joncro says:

    good lord please use two cameras……

  43. Angstrom says:

    On the subject of the moral case to expose charlatans. I’m not sure if anyone has ever tried this with a person who enjoys having these odd beliefs, it is like telling someone that their favourite football team is merely some athletes running up and down for no particular reason.
    Audiences for horoscopes / psychics/ etc have a requirement to beleive, for people who don;t and then try and impose or expose their own knowledge .. it does not help.
    The implication that the audience for this psychic stuff requires the curtain whipped away and they will then be happy, that is wrong. Sure they are deluded, and taking enjoyment from delusions, but many people are deluded by many things. Many people cling to their own delusions as it gives them some meaning to their otherwise meaningless lives.

    Again, I compare it to a non-sports fan trying to explain how pointless a particular sport is. You may be ‘right’, but that does not mean that it will be ‘right’ for the person who really needs to escape to the game on a Saturday to forget their damn awful job.

  44. FoetusNail says:

    One of my favorite games when I was working, was to read co-workers each others horoscope.

  45. 13strong says:

    I may be mistaken, but I thought Dawkins was a “strong” atheist – someone who believes in the non-existence of god?

    @ SINDIGO:

    Personally, I find programmes such as “The Root of All Evil” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_1Gpt6dKFo) part of his unpleasant crusade.

    He simplifies many of the world’s conflicts as being based in religious belief, which is simplistic and quite often utterly misleading. I’m sure if you spoke with a wide range of experts working in conflict resolution or studying violent conflict, they would tell you the same (I work with some such people).

    The hard thing for me is that I’m a sceptic, and an agnostic atheist, and I do genuinely feel that there are many, many problems with religion. That said, I see many of the problems with religion as being human problems.

    Obviously, he has some excellent point to make, but the way he makes it (referring to religious people as a “herd”, and so on), and the aspects of religions he very deliberately ignores (those many, many religious people who are private and progressive in exercising their faith) reduce the value of his work in my eyes.

    He often chooses to discuss these issues with the most crackpot “believers” he can. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him discuss his concerns with more considered, thinking religious people (of which there are plenty).

  46. Trent Hawkins says:

    “He often chooses to discuss these issues with the most crackpot “believers” he can. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him discuss his concerns with more considered, thinking religious people (of which there are plenty).”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=po0ZMfkSNxc&eurl=http://forums.penny-arcade.com/showthread.php?t=76540&page=10&feature=player_embedded

    Ok, now you’ve seen it.

  47. buddy66 says:

    Foetusnail,

    This must be it:

    When religious science students of talent leave their colleges for university graduate schools they often experience crises of faith, especially if their schools were conservative or fundamentalist. It can be a wrenching experience when the notion that evolution is a universal process and is EVERYWHERE overtakes them. I have seen such students in crisis and it ain’t a pretty sight.

    I was called out by some nerdy nit-picker for not being more specific about what I meant by evolution; but I ignored him, knowing that most readers wouldn’t be so challenged by its common usage as to try to sidetrack my point.

  48. akirabergman says:

    #59 ARKIZZLE

    Thinking is based on feeling. Language is based on music. Biology is based on chemistry. Conscious is based on sub-conscious. Try not thinking for an hour without going to sleep. Isn’t your logic a bit too needy?

    #58 MOPC

    I can here mate. Come around lets have a party. Lets celebrate the 21st century where no extremist has any place to hide. Or maybe you should not drink. You seem to need your gray matter to appreciate mathematics.

  49. sirkowski says:

    For some people being right is being smug.

  50. arkizzle says:

    Me @ 59

    *Precision

  51. 13strong says:

    @ 29:

    Thanks, TRENT HAWKINS. Never seen that before, and only about half-way through it (hard to work and listen to it at the same time), but it’s the kind of thing I’d like to see from Dawkins more often.

    I don’t agree with Father George Coyne, but the whole film is much more interesting to me than any of “The Root of All Evil” and other works of Dawkins’ like it.

    What programme was that from?

  52. Anonymous says:

    Dawkins built his career on making one point, but he does so with as much abrasiveness and condescension as he is able to muster. He reminds me a lot of Bill O’Reilly, in that regard.

    Maybe someday, someone will bitch-slap him just as he reaches the height of one of his smug little tirades.

    If you know you’re right about something, it’s very important to be considerate of those you’re trying to convince. Chuckling at their ignorance and patting them on the head only builds hatred.

  53. 13strong says:

    Also, just want to add, that the argument relating to religious faith and cultural upbringing is something I’ve heard from other religious people I know (including Catholics), and it’s an interesting one.

  54. arkizzle says:

    ‘Cogito ergo sum’ is the test, not the lot.

  55. Takuan says:

    we need to find or coin a term for when the word you use is misused in the sense it carries. Not “malapropism”…”bushism” is tempting, but I’d rather the Shoo Prezzidunt’s memory mostly slip into the void. Sort of Yogi Berrish, definitely not spoonerism…

  56. rAMPANTiDIOCY says:

    @ Pantograph:

    not all hard science is mathematical models. consider geology for example.

  57. Cowicide says:

    #2 POSTED BY NANITE2000:

    If a major world conflict happens in future, it won’t be between religious faiths – it will be between the rationalists and the spiritualists.

    I sincerely doubt that. Rationalists are the only reason we don’t have more wars than we do already.

    #3 POSTED BY PANTOGRAPH:

    A good informative talk, marred as usual by Dawkins’ insufferable smugness.

    Dawkin didn’t appear to smug to me whatsoever. But, on the udderhand… I’m glad you found the “talk” to be “good” and [cough] “informative”.

    #7 POSTED BY LUC:

    What’s Derren Brown if not a magician?

    Fuck, here we go again with another thread derailed into a debate over trite semantics instead of the compelling content of the post.

    Will it ever end?

    Of course, you probably don’t get the irony of this considering the discussion of semantics in the interview for fuck’s sake.

    #8 POSTED BY PANTOGRAPH:

    That’s what the clergy have been saying for most of human history. Dawkins throws himself up as the High Priest Of The Church Of Reason, with all the smarmy mannerisms of a catholic bishop, and doesn’t even see the irony of the situation. He is doing both sensible atheists and skeptics a disservice.
    As a militant agnostic..

    Pantograph, please show me where… anyfuckingwhere… whatsoever where Dawkins “throws himself up as the High Priest Of The Church Of Reason”?

    Jesus Christ, he just writes books and does this wonderful interview. Could it be that you are simply jealous that your agnostic militancy hasn’t gotten you any well deserved attention from your peers?

    Pantograph, please go out and write your own books and post your own interviews and show us all how it’s done without any smarmy mannerisms. I’d love to see it.

    I am offended by the idea that mathematical models that more or less mirror reality (which is what al of hard science is) are taken as absolute. They are far more successful models of reality than astromancy or palmistry, but they are far from being the true language of God or other such grandiose statements that come out of reductionist circles.

    Sigh… you just don’t get it, do you?

    Well, be offended all you want, but neither of them were saying that whatsoever. They also mentioned Carl Sagan in the interview and if you bother to read The Demon-Haunted World, you’d notice a very strong support of critical thinking which includes “hard science”.

    #11 POSTED BY 13STRONG:

    I do find Dawkins increasingly insufferable. You can hear the excitement in his voice when he thinks he’s conclusively uncovered a “charlatan”, and see the disappointment in his face when Derren Brown (who has always seemed like an extremely smart and sensitive guy) insists on being a little more sympathetic to those practicing or believing such “psychic” services.

    #12 POSTED BY 13STRONG

    OK, he’s actually not as smug as usual, but there’s still an unappealing glee in his discovery of “irrationality” or “charlatans”.

    I didn’t see that at all. I saw very much a heartfelt comradeship between the two especically at the very end. Also, where is all this sympathy shit coming from? Derren constantly referred to the charlatans behaivor as reprehensible to say the least.

    I mean, what do you guys want? For Dawkins to walk around cowering before the ignorant masses begging for mercy?

    Fuck that.

    #17 POSTED BY ROGER STANTON

    I am not a believer, but I’ve always thought that those who disparage religion are denying something fundamentally human — like dance, music, and the arts. These are not “rational” activities either, yet they are a fundamental part of who we are as a species.

    Roger, when is the last time someone killed someone in the name of dance? When is the last time someone killed someone else in the name of music? When is the last time someone killed someone else in the name of art?

    Your comparison is incredibly flawed.

    #19 POSTED BY LEGO7:

    In general, Richard Dawkins tends to be a complete douchebag when it comes to his supreme belief in things which cannot be proven, or disproven. My $0.02

    I think 2 cents is way too high a value for your remark.

    #20 POSTED BY CUPCAKE FAERIE:

    The irrational is part of the world. We must accept this. No scientist will ever explain why this is so.

    How do you know that will not “ever” happen? Your faith? You sound pretty close-minded to me.

    #21 POSTED BY PIPENTA

    There is a video of Dawkins speaking to an audience in some southern US state. I’m don’t recall where, exactly. In it, the audience has been seeded with students from a local fundamentalist “university” and they’ve all been prepped with arguments to trump Dawkins. Of course they can’t do it. Dawkins is dispassionate and in control the entire time. I suspect this is what many of you read as smugness. Not me.

    Thank you, Pipenta. Well said. Well said.

  58. akirabergman says:

    #63 ARKIZZLE

    “‘Cogito ergo sum’ is the test, not the lot.”

    It is not the whole test either, since at the source they are inseparable. Our history is no guide us if we just pick and choose.

  59. 13strong says:

    @ COWICIDE:

    Regarding the quotes of mine:

    1) Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough.

    I think Derren Brown recognises, more than Dawkins, that these beliefs in the supernatural can be comforting or supportive to some people, particularly those in pain. Similarly, Derren Brown recognises that some of those practicing these “supernatural abilities” such as tarot, seances etc, genuinely believe that what they’re doing is real and that they are not intentionally conning people. Dawkins, to me, seems keen to mark all practitioners of “supernatural abilities” as con-people and charlatans.

    I’m just giving my impressions of viewing his reactions and tone. For me, it’s a general tendency of Dawkins to disregard the more positive causes and effects of religious belief, and there’s an element of that here, as well.

    So no, I don’t want Dawkins to cower before the ignorant masses. I just want him to try and be more comprehensive in his understanding of people’s beliefs in the supernatural.

    Oh, and @ #2:

    “If a major world conflict happens in future, it won’t be between religious faiths – it will be between the rationalists and the spiritualists.”

    I sincerely doubt it. And I think it’s misguided to divide the two camps so rigidly. I know plenty of non-spiritual people who are far from rational.

  60. 13strong says:

    “Dawkins is dispassionate and in control the entire time. I suspect this is what many of you read as smugness. Not me.”

    That’s not what I read as smugness. And the man is certainly not always “dispassionate”.

  61. Scixual says:

    This, Penn & Teller’s Bullshit!, and Mythbusters.

    Proof that skepticism can still be fun.

    (I’ve always wanted to learn mentalism)

  62. arkizzle says:

    My point was that “material extremis[ts]” don’t need any more proof than that.

  63. sterling says:

    Dawkins is a nutcase. He’s just the Bizzaro World version of the religious nutcases.

    There’s room in the world for science, and there is room in the world for faith. I haven’t been in a church in a long time, but I am guessing I would see many men and women of science there on Sunday.

    Case in point

  64. Nur says:

    I really like the idea that Richard Dawkins is talking to Derren Brown – I watched Dawkins’ TV series up until the point where he turned his undeniably eloquent and finely tuned Oxford Professor debating brain (a very necessary asset when debating with fellow academics about his area of expertise – biology) against the poor and unpracticed English of an elderly ultra orthodox Jewish Rabbi without any offer of a translator.

    The Rabbi clearly came out of that debate the loser, but I would have prefered if it was not becase the old man had furrowed his brow and stuttered out every other word in a clearly unfamiliar language. If the Rabbi had been able to debate with Dawkins to the same level and Dawkins had knocked down each of his points then that would have been a much more satisfying interview.

    In the same episode he used a voice over to cover up a majority of his English speaking interviewees’ responses to his questions (which, notably to me at least, were never talked over) with commentary that sounded really patronising like “[this teacher] means well, but I can’t help but think he’s misguided”.

    After that I’ve always considered him a bully who uses his skills to attack easy targets and one who’s willing to edit footage to hide the arguments of his opponents. If you add in the fact that he’s using these TV series to sell a book series, well that’s just getting into charlatan territory.

  65. 13strong says:

    @ STERLING:

    It doesn’t help your case to link to a Daily Mail article. They’re a bunch of sensationalist, right-wing, opportunist hacks whose articles are designed only to outrage middle England.

    Reading that article, it’s obvious that they’re taking Dawkins’ ideas for his book out of context.

  66. buddy66 says:

    All extended metaphors are puns, Arky, and sometimes one gets through my pun detector.

    Not gonna believe me, huh? Okay: OW!

  67. 13strong says:

    @ COWICIDE:

    My impression of Dawkins’ admission that some of these people truly believe the supernatural stuff they spout was that he was coming to that impression having been convinced by Derren Browns’ personal encounters with such people. But I may well be wrong – I was watching at work, and maybe didn’t pick up all the details. I’ll watch it again when I get a chance.

    Regarding the “agnostic atheist” point, it’s not that controversial a phrase. I, and other people I’ve discussed these things with, find it useful to distinguish between “hard” atheists and “soft” atheists, on the understanding that an atheist in general is someone who doesn’t believe in a god or gods. A “hard” atheist is someone who believes there is no god. A “soft” atheist is more or less an agnostic (and of course there are different kinds of agnostics, too). I just find it useful in discussions to refer to myself as an agnostic atheist, because it indicates that a) I don’t believe in god, and would be extremely unlikely to without any proof, b) I don’t believe in the “non-existence” of god, c) I’m not just “sitting on the fence” or “waiting to pick a side”.

    Actually, your line about being “an impotent sex machine” is quite appropriate. There are other ways to have sex besides sticking your cock in things.

  68. chemo says:

    Was anyone else struck by Derren Brown’s hesitant speech and awkward body language in this video? Those extended errms accompanied by chin pulls and ear scratches- gestures we have come to associate with shiftiness or uncertainty- seem odd from someone who must be one of the most polished and deliberate communicators around. Perhaps when not performing he amps-up the non-verbal texture a little to put people at ease. Or maybe he was mindful of the disastrous consequences of the smug-bomb that would have been set-off if Brown and Dawkins had converged at full certitude levels. Or maybe a twinge of unease crept up on him as he recognised that participating in a campaign out of concern for the duped entails a little self-duping also.

  69. arkizzle says:

    OW!

    all is, once more, in balance :)

  70. arkizzle says:

    OW!

    all is, once more, in balance :)

  71. FoetusNail says:

    Buddy, I remember a particularly descriptive post of yours that discussed this painful process. Please repost a synopsis. I too had little or nothing to lose.

    Pipenta, I have always felt religious indoctrination was abusive. I remember well lying in bed scared after saying “if I should die before I wake”, but I must confess I have never given the affect this may have on young women as much thought. I do understand the subordinate role of women in many churches, but being male it is beyond my experience. Thanks for your comment.

  72. arkizzle says:

    We’re out of Balance again!

    OW! phew!

  73. FoetusNail says:

    That’s it, thanks. Being a somewhat pissed off atheist has not left as much room for empathy as I profess to have at times. That post really helped me understand something I will never experience. These discussions have brought to mind so many things I haven’t thought of for years. MY viewpoint is changing and I’m finally starting to understand what it is I’ve been asking people to give up. Not that many have listened over the years.

  74. Cowicide says:

    #63 POSTED BY ANONYMOUS:

    Dawkins built his career on making one point, but he does so with as much abrasiveness and condescension as he is able to muster. He reminds me a lot of Bill O’Reilly, in that regard.

    Maybe someday, someone will bitch-slap him just as he reaches the height of one of his smug little tirades.

    Bitch-slap him? Who do YOU remind you of, Anonymous?

    Comparing Dawkins to O’Reilly is pure idiocy. But, funnily and ironically enough… YOU remind me of Bill, Anonymous.

  75. arkizzle says:

    Chemo,
    Or maye he was considering his answers and feeling as exposed as anyone might when revealing something of their true self, when usually it’s all scripted and rehearsed.

    Maybe Derren Brown.. is HUMAN!

  76. Cowicide says:

    #34 POSTED BY 13STRONG

    Dawkins, to me, seems keen to mark all practitioners of “supernatural abilities” as con-people and charlatans.

    Bah… please re-watch this part again where Dawkins brings up this very subject at around the 7 minute mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3QYNjCmQeI

    He brings it up a few more times during the interview as well where he basically says that he DOES think some of these idiots believe their own bullshit.

    Contradicts your point, I think.

    #44 POSTED BY 13STRONG;

    … I’m an agnostic atheist. …

    Yeah, and I’m an impotent sex machine.

    @#45 POSTED BY BUDDY66

    > it would result in merely analyzing
    > advertising and political rhetoric

    “Merely” advertising? Advertising starts wars. Advertising has a very real body count…. as does political rhetoric for that matter when it’s not countered with critical thought by the masses. Serious stuff to me.

    > they already do that, anyway

    Not anywhere near the extent that I think would be adequate. Critical thinking coursework needs to be up there with all the other major subjects as I’ve suggested. Nowhere near that point now.

    > expose religion to genuine critical thinking would lead to
    > teacher firings, school board recalls, administration purges,
    > and community witch hunts that would scandalize the
    > civilized world.

    I’m not saying that the teacher plops down the Holy Bible onto the art table and tells the children to dissect it point for point. I’m saying teach children to look at all aspects of communications and show them how to dig and find sources and ENCOURAGE such behavior through years of training. Things like comparing sources and tracking sources over time to help determine reliability, etc. (I could go on forever in this regard, but I’ll spare everyone).

    If a kid on her own time takes such skills and determines religion is bullshit. That’s not the school’s problem. That’s only a problem for the purveyors of bullshit.

    With your train of thought here, we might as well give up on teaching science at all. Some kid might study dinosaurs and see a conflict with the bible or study other things and wonder why their hippy dad keeps power crystals up his ass. It can’t be helped… teaching children tends to make them smarter (and in many cases, safer).

    Critical thinking skills…

    Will it be a pain in the ass for old, stubborn people who never progress? Hell yes, as it SHOULD if we are to ever evolve. Will there be a fight from those in power who would rather keep a bunch of slaves around? Sure…

    But, it’s a fight very much worth fighting. I think our very survival depends upon it, actually.

  77. 13strong says:

    @ CHEMO:

    Just my own personal interpretation of Brown’s manner, but I think he’s just a little more hesitant and thoughtful when discussing these issues. Also, as the interviewee, especially discussing some quite personal issues (his own personal beliefs, his lapsed faith, his upbringing), it’s possible he was feeling quite vulnerable or uncomfortable.

    Overall, though, it seemed like he enjoyed the discussion a lot.

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