Monday, August 20, 2007

Popular atheists like Richard Dawkins and their lightweight media interviews

The trumpeting of smug atheists, especially Richard Dawkins, gets under my skin. The irritation is caused primarily by the media hosts, not the committed atheists. Dawkins, held up in these pieces as a rogue iconoclast, goes from fawning venue to fawning venue, where he is asked soft questions that allow for him to be portrayed as a relentless seeker of the truth.

Wow, you mean a Man-God didn't descend to the earth's center to spar with the Devil for a few days before rising back up through the crust and into a kingdom in the clouds? It's ignorant to maintain as much? Oh, how perspicacious, how erudite Dawkins truly is! I doubt Dawkins watches TV--he probably doesn't even own one (atheists aren't necessarily materialists, after all)!

Maybe next time he'll make mention of what ignoramuses blacks and women are compared to white guys. A Rottweiler isn't afraid of an unctuous feminist with an audio recorder, is he?

In the typical interview, it is insinuated that a belief in God reveals idiocy. Idiots might believe in the Celestial Teapot, which is the same as believing in Zeus, which is the same as believing in the Trinity. There's the obvious issue of staying power, strongly suggestive of some evolutionary benefit of the nature of the belief, which Russel's item is mostly devoid of, Zeus had some history of, and the monotheistic God of the Levant has tons of. But maintaining their existence is unempirical and unnaturalistic.

Much more courageous, however, would be for Dawkins, a self-described skeptic, to turn his high-pressure jaws on the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming or Zero Group Differences dogmas that these same fawning media outlets defend so religiously. Especially with regards to the latter, the stack of evidence piles to the sky.

Regarding atheism versus theism, the irreducible debate is reducible to this: By definition, natural laws and methods of investigation do not hold for the supernatural (if such a conception actual exists). No matter how outlandish, it cannot be positively proved or disproved. As best as can be done--relegated to the natural as we are--it's like telling someone who has a handful of lottery tickets (whatever the stated odds may be, to be drawn at some indefinite date in the future) that he cannot possibly win and should stop thinking that he might, or what he'll do with the money when he does.

It may seem absurd for him to think these things, but the drawing not having occured, absolute certainty is impossible. The vastly more important issue is how having those tickets alters his behavior. He's probably not the sharpest tool in the shed, else he wouldn't have bought in so heavily to begin with. Yet, did his acquisition of the tickets lower his IQ? Is it causing him to have more children, or fewer? To be empathetic, or socially oblivious? To do great things, or terrible ones?

What fills the teleological void? Existentialism, cynicism, hedonism, brights, unfettered impulsivity, empiricism? Many readers (myself included) favor the last. But that's not an option for someone with an IQ of 80. The Brights movement and cynicism probably aren't, either. Maybe they'll aspire to be soul survivors.

The idea of assigning people a mental age has become anathema. Political correctness aside, the idea provides for an illustrative hypothetical. You're the parent of three, ages six, ten, and sixteen. Your oldest feels insulted if you try to tell her she had better be good because if she isn't, Santa won’t bring her any presents. She wants a pragmatic and humanistic explanation as to why she should be nice to other people.

The ten year-old believes in Santa, but wants to know why the jolly guy wants people to be nice to one another—a sort of in between stage.

Your youngest, enticed by presents, will likely behave if he thinks there are presents on the line. But tell him he should be good because self-restraint is fulfilling in itself and it makes the world a better place... you’re a fool if you expect an angel. He's going to find a more compelling set of commands in Bonestorm.

All belief systems (religions included) rely on some set of principles, whether they be putatively proscribed by Allah, the Teapot, or the tenets of Eupraxsophy. The resultant behaviors of adherents are what is important.

That's what the media hosts should have Dawkins talk about. Tie it into his genocentric worldview--why do genes allow their hosts to so foolishly believe in a creator? Morever, why does that ignorance appear to be the winning strategy for the genes of the contemporary person? Fecundity and religiosity correlate at a statistically significant and vigorous .71 at the national level. Religious genes are mopping the floor with atheistic ones. The two arguments Dawkins is most famous for--that genes are everything and God is nothing--do not seem to mesh well in that the genes that think God most important on the ones who carry on. How to explain this?

That would be a much more stimulating interview than the predictable ridicule directed at the belief that an ancient virgin in ancient times conceived of a kid who could walk on water. That defies the laws of physics! Uh, you think? Is this elementary school? And this guy is a genius?

Yes. Among other things, he coined the word "meme". He is absolutely brilliant. It's a tragedy that he has to squander it by running through all the in vogue media circuits, saying the same predictable things that every college student has heard in the open discussion of his Philosophy 101 course.


Rob said...

Vox day had a little experiment where his readers(he's some bizarre brand of free-range Christian) and readers of maybe pharyngula, took an autism/aspergers quiz. On this admittedly self-selected data set, atheists and agnostics scored way more autistic than religious people did.

Anonymous said...

Don't hold your breath about Dawkins. He enjoys the softball interviews and the limelight and the press, and at least most of the press it seems, are happy to go along because they are leftists who don't particularly like religion except islam and when Obama and Clinton and other leftists talk about God, faith, etc...(but we know they don't really mean it, right?).
And it is too bad really, Dawkins, as you stated, is a very bright light. Too bad he isn't interested in actually, you know, improving society. But today, racial differences and global warming cannot be discussed, that doctrine cannot be questioned. So Dawkins goes after the soft target, religion, Christianity in particular it seems to me. (Wonder why he doesn't ridicule islam?)
I happen to be an agnostic, but I believe that religion is a necessary force, if only for social control and social order and to provide hope, charity, educational opportunity, art, philosophy, music, community and culture as the Catholic Church and Judaism has done for the last 2000 and 5,000 years respectively.
Dawkins could be a little more original as well, insinuating that the religious are stupid has been around long before he hit the interview circuit.

Audacious Epigone said...


You don't happen to have a link to that, do you?


The incentive for Dawkins to alter the nature of his hagiographic interviews would be neither economic nor an increase in social popularity. He would, like you said, have to decide an improvement to society via the exposition of the truth (or the repudiation of falsities) was the primary purpose. As it stands, he can beat up on Christianity, accomplishing nothing while allowing him to be portrayed as some sort of courage intellectual warrior.

Rob said...

Sure AP,

I'm sure there are other follow up posts too

Audacious Epigone said...


Thanks. At GNXP, Agnostic found pretty much the same thing.