Richard Dawkins is underrated as a scientist

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Richard Dawkins is underrated as a scientist

Postby russells_teapot » Fri Mar 12, 2010 5:24 pm

I find it sad he is known best to the general public as a religion-basher, a rather crude and confrontational figure, when in fact he is a hugely talented biologist who has a very sensitive, cultured and articulate writing style. He's one of the best science popularisers out there - to me he's like the Carl Sagan of biology - and yet all people can talk about is how 'shrill' he is.
I think it's hugely unfair, because I really can understand where he's coming from. While religion itself is by no means inherently 'bad', humanity's tendency to stick rigidly to dogma, in the face of all empirical evidence, has harmed us in the past. And I'm not just talking about religion here - Galileo's persecution at the hands of the Catholic church, for instance: physics was held back for centuries because scientists were so reluctant to give up on the theories of Aristotle who, while undoubtedly a genius, was at the same time a bit of a scientific nutjob.

I think we can all agree that the theory of creationism is, to put it bluntly, wrong. Though feel free to argue with me.

As well as this, creationism poses a direct threat to the subject for which Dawkins has a burning passion, and a certain genius too: evolutionary biology. I mean, I would be pretty miffed if someone tried to convince me that God created the English language a relatively short period of time ago, and it has not changed since then at all since then, and that this is definitely true because it says so in the Bible, and all the works of Chaucer and all the copies of Beowulf I show them aren't proper evidence, because there are 'gaps in the record'. Wouldn't I have a right to argue with this obviously ridiculous idea?

It just really annoys me that in all his other books Dawkins writes so passionately, so clearly and so inspiringly about science, and yet he's most famous for the book in which he's being a bit rude to religionists. It just doesn't seem right.
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Re: Richard Dawkins is underrated as a scientist

Postby Alice » Thu Mar 18, 2010 8:27 pm

I have only read one of his books, the one I assume you are refering to (the God Delusion), even that I didn't finish, because it is so monotonous. It seemed to me like a sad, opinionated litle man rambling on and making assersions outside of his feild.

He damaged his own reputation with the book. A scientist, like any other professional, has a code of conduct which must be adheared too even outside of work. To write something which is so heavily biased, deliberately enturprating things to mean what you want them too without giving due weight too at least the obvious alternatives, and going at length into topics with which you are unfamiliar in something which you plan to publish all smack of unproffesionalism.

Most informed pepole hold evolution to be the soundest proposed theory (there is no such thing as a fact, things can only be disproved not proved), and that creationism is hardly a sensible explanation. If he wants to spend his time writing books for crazy pepole who will probably just burn them once the look at the blurb, fair enought, it's his own time he's wasting. If he wants to convert pepole to athiesm on grounds of its scientific acuracy, I want to see some convincing evidence, preferably from a number of experiments performed in a number of feilds.
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Re: Richard Dawkins is underrated as a scientist

Postby babooshka2002 » Sun Mar 21, 2010 8:52 pm

I think the idea that science can disprove gods is remarkably silly.

Science has not shown any need for any outside influence. Evolution happens quite happily, apparently all by itself. This is not the same as saying no outside influence exists. I don't believe in an outside influence personally, but I wouldn't try to tell other people they shouldn't delude themselves with religion because science proves no god, because that's not true. Dawkins harms the theory of evolution with his talk, because the right-wing Christians point at him as evidence that evolutionary theory is about being anti-god. Which it isn't. And Alice, I am sad to say that certainly a large proportion of Americans do not accept evolution. You seem to be dismissing them as "meh, crazy people" but that accounts for a VAST NUMBER of people who have a lot of power. Sarah Palin was not unusual - we thought she was a complete loony, which she was and is, but she spoke for thousands.

Science has nothing to do with god and god has nothing to do with science.

Unfortunately, too many people think god should have a part in science, in some places in America it is mandated that Creationism must be taught alongside evolution as a theory. I understand why people who love science are angry at this and the other hijacking that religious people try to do, but the answer isn't to tell them they're all deluded, because they only get defensive and angry.

PS. When I say religious people, I tend to mean people who are like the right-wing Christians in America. I don't mean what I would consider to be "normal" religious people. I have gotten myself into quite a lot of trouble with this in the past - I'M NOT PIGEONHOLING YOU ALL IN THIS WAY, MMMKAY? Love ya.

PPS. Americans, I'm also not saying all Americans are like this - the people who are like this would probably not have voted for your current President due to him being an evil [black Muslim atheist communist fascist Marxist socialist baby-killing bleeding-heart liberal.] <--- this is sarcasm - there are many hysterical people who would speak of Obama in a way that was like this - not quite the same, but for example calling him a communist and a fascist, or calling him both a Muslim and an atheist.

PPPS. Nor am I saying that anyone who doesn't like Obama is a right-wing crazy Christian. I am merely saying that since he got the Presidency, not all Americans are like that.
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Re: Richard Dawkins is underrated as a scientist

Postby Alice » Mon Mar 22, 2010 8:07 pm

babooshka2002 wrote:Science has not shown any need for any outside influence. Evolution happens quite happily, apparently all by itself. This is not the same as saying no outside influence exists. I don't believe in an outside influence personally, but I wouldn't try to tell other people they shouldn't delude themselves with religion because science proves no god, because that's not true. Dawkins harms the theory of evolution with his talk, because the right-wing Christians point at him as evidence that evolutionary theory is about being anti-god. Which it isn't. And Alice, I am sad to say that certainly a large proportion of Americans do not accept evolution. You seem to be dismissing them as "meh, crazy people" but that accounts for a VAST NUMBER of people who have a lot of power. Sarah Palin was not unusual - we thought she was a complete loony, which she was and is, but she spoke for thousands.

Five crazy pepole, or a thousand, it doesn't make them anymore rational. Also, there is a major difference between not beleiving in evolution and beleiving in creationism. I am not aware of a third theory, but there may well be one that I haven't heard of or even that hasn't been thought of. I personally cannot accept the existence of random chance. Recent physics has shown that the best explanation for a number of phenomenon is random chance. That doesn't mean that I think modern physics is a step backwards, I merely think that there is probably an underlying set of phenomenon we have yet to understand fully.
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Re: Richard Dawkins is underrated as a scientist

Postby babooshka2002 » Wed May 05, 2010 6:58 pm

Alice wrote:
babooshka2002 wrote:Science has not shown any need for any outside influence. Evolution happens quite happily, apparently all by itself. This is not the same as saying no outside influence exists. I don't believe in an outside influence personally, but I wouldn't try to tell other people they shouldn't delude themselves with religion because science proves no god, because that's not true. Dawkins harms the theory of evolution with his talk, because the right-wing Christians point at him as evidence that evolutionary theory is about being anti-god. Which it isn't. And Alice, I am sad to say that certainly a large proportion of Americans do not accept evolution. You seem to be dismissing them as "meh, crazy people" but that accounts for a VAST NUMBER of people who have a lot of power. Sarah Palin was not unusual - we thought she was a complete loony, which she was and is, but she spoke for thousands.

Five crazy pepole, or a thousand, it doesn't make them anymore rational.


Certainly not. I definitely wasn't saying that! But it does make them more scary, that so many people are that wilfully stupid.

Also, there is a major difference between not beleiving in evolution and beleiving in creationism.


True. That's what the creationists would like us to believe though, that it has to be one or the other and that people who accept evolution are "anti-Christian". Because Dawkins is so openly contemptuous of religious faith, and he is a biologist, the creationists use him as evidence that that's all evolution is, an attempt to do away with God.

I am not aware of a third theory, but there may well be one that I haven't heard of or even that hasn't been thought of. I personally cannot accept the existence of random chance. Recent physics has shown that the best explanation for a number of phenomenon is random chance. That doesn't mean that I think modern physics is a step backwards, I merely think that there is probably an underlying set of phenomenon we have yet to understand fully.


Random chance/lack of random chance is an interesting discussion, yes. Evolution doesn't involve random chance though, only in the sense that the mutations that arise appear to be random. The other part of evolution is natural selection, which is certainly not random chance.
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Re: Richard Dawkins is underrated as a scientist

Postby Alice » Wed May 05, 2010 10:12 pm

babooshka2002 wrote:
I am not aware of a third theory, but there may well be one that I haven't heard of or even that hasn't been thought of. I personally cannot accept the existence of random chance. Recent physics has shown that the best explanation for a number of phenomenon is random chance. That doesn't mean that I think modern physics is a step backwards, I merely think that there is probably an underlying set of phenomenon we have yet to understand fully.


Random chance/lack of random chance is an interesting discussion, yes. Evolution doesn't involve random chance though, only in the sense that the mutations that arise appear to be random. The other part of evolution is natural selection, which is certainly not random chance.

I think you are missing my point a little. I have no problem with the theory of evolution myself, and until a more rational alternative is presented I will continue to beleive that it is the origin of the genetic variation present today. The point I am making is that just because something apears closer to the truth doesn't mean that you have to beleive it is the one absoloute truth. Somebody who finds fault with evolution for whatever reason could just as easily look for more of what underlies the process and find answers ther as they could dismiss the evidence. They would be taken more seriously, and would be able to understand more about that aspect of the world then pepole have before.

It's like the blind men and the elephant. Some guy thousands of years ago (well before christ) got the tail, and because they beleive him about everything else, the creationists take his word that an elephant is like a paintbrush. Darwin felt the leg, a peice much easier to make out, but the evolutionary biologists got so preocupied going "come over here you nitwits, it's shaped like a tree" that they forgot to feel for the rest. I'm a physicist by nature, we started at the tip of trunk shortly after the other guy got the tail. Each time we put our hands an inch further and colaberate what we felt, somebody notices something strange, and goes back to feel around again. One day, we hope to get a model of the whole damn elephent, but we're only about as far as the ear. Mabye if the other end could stop bickering they could help us out a little.

btw, what is this obsession pepole have about not beleiving scientific theory? Nothing is conclusively proven, and a single inconsistency can bring the most accepted theory crumbling down. I draw the distinction between beleif and faith, but I don't see how it can be true knowlage in the technical sense. I have faith without basis, beleif with basis which has room to be disproven, and knowlage of what is set in stone. Perhaps my definitions are confused.

Edid: fr some reason large chunks of text were missing, my brin must have been running to fast, I've tried to fill in the gaps as best I can
Last edited by Alice on Wed May 12, 2010 5:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Richard Dawkins is underrated as a scientist

Postby Macha » Tue May 11, 2010 6:34 pm

As an atheist, I find Richard Dawkins an embarassing person who inflicts his opinions in others.

If atheists can feel that way about him, it's safe to say religous people, being his target, can.

If his behaviour has led to these feelings, it's his own fault that his work as a scientist isn't what people care about.
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Re: Richard Dawkins is underrated as a scientist

Postby PopOnImpact » Mon Sep 27, 2010 11:35 pm

I like Dawkin's, he is an excellent scientist, a clever person and he speaks sense (most of the time) but he comes across as arrogant. He is by no means my favourite major atheist speaker out there, Christopher Hitchen's takes that nugget though if Stephen Fry did more religious debates he would but the God delusion was good. But I definitely he should stay out of philosophy, stick to the scientific criticisms, he should also try to come across less arrogant at times!
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Re: Richard Dawkins is underrated as a scientist

Postby Remus » Fri Mar 04, 2011 1:02 am

I have recently being writing about Dawkins in Animal Behaviour as we had to look at behaviourism over the course of history and discuss which scientists made an impact on views and foundations of behaviour and Dawkins was one of them.

I have to admit, it has been quite interesting studying him and researching his work, he certainly is an interesting character. I really enjoy reading his theories on the genetics and I was especially impressive with reading his work about the extended phenotype, that was quite remarkable. I think some of his theories do make sense and I do think some people do just see all the bad stuff about him and that is that.

However, I really do not agree with his thoughts on religion. I find them quite insulting and offensive. Fair enough, if you aren't religious, that your beliefs but to purposely try and wipe out other people's just because you don't like them is quite spiteful.
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Re: Richard Dawkins is underrated as a scientist

Postby Elessar » Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:08 pm

Late Edit:- If this post sounds like its attacking you R_T, it isn't. I'm not slamming you in any way, although I am disagreeing with you. If I'm slamming anyone, it's Richard Dawkins, Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking.

russells_teapot wrote:
I think we can all agree that the theory of creationism is, to put it bluntly, wrong. Though feel free to argue with me.


That's what Einstein thought too. His pet theory was the "Universal Constant", which championed the powers of gravity and expansion balancing and the space-time continuum having no beginning or end, and space-time itself being infinite in size. All those have since been proven wrong, starting with Hubble and ending with Brian let-me-stare-at-the-sky-till-I-get-neckache-and-prate-about-the-Wooonduhs-of-the-Yooneevehse Cox.

Now, if you told me you thought the Creationism propounded by the likes of Sarah Palin and Ann Widdecombe was wrong, I would both wet myself laughing and agree with you. It's based on the warblings of one seventeen hundreds divvy called James Ussher, who counted the begats in the Bible. Radiocarbon-dating it ain't.

Thus far, I've heard various atheistic theories from various scientists like Stephen Hawking (who I respect massively because he seems to have a brain polygenically spliced with an alien) and Cox himself (who I don't respect anywhere near as much, because he's a twentieth as clever as Hawking and because he's only a TV star because of his regional accent and his past in a band - (makes him more "relateable" apparently) and none of them actually stand up to even the most ephemeral examination.

Hawking says he can't believe in a God because before the moment of creation there was no space-time, so there was no space or time for a god to exist in. This is despite the fact that one of his pet theories for creation is the "Brane Theory", which posits the clashing of the membranes of two other material universes, both with probably radically different laws of physics, causing the spurt of energy which gave birth to matter in ours. If time and space can exist outside of our universe then it doesn't take even the most imbecilic of numpties to know that any possible god's existence does not depend on physical matter and space-time existing in our universe.

Like, duuuuuhhh...


And of course never mind the fact that terms like "eternity" in whatever religious texts don't mean "for a long time", or even "forever, as long as time lasts", but from a very old concept which effectively means outside of time. Simultaneously past, present and future. Timeless. Temporally liberated. A bit like a club 18-30 holiday.

My round of applause goes to Carl Sagan, who said:

"Any atheist has gotta know more than I do. I'm an agnostic."

Science has thus far proven nothing about the beginning of the universe, as regards as to what was the actual "trigger" for it all. But what it has done, since the 1920's onward is categorically prove that Einstein was wrong and that creationism of one sort or another is more likely than we ever thought possible. This is despite the fact that so many famous scientists have the ultimate dogmatic approach: "Don't bother me with possibilities or contradictory facts, my mind is made up."

russells_teapot wrote:As well as this, creationism poses a direct threat to the subject for which Dawkins has a burning passion, and a certain genius too: evolutionary biology. I mean, I would be pretty miffed if someone tried to convince me that God created the English language a relatively short period of time ago, and it has not changed since then at all since then, and that this is definitely true because it says so in the Bible, and all the works of Chaucer and all the copies of Beowulf I show them aren't proper evidence, because there are 'gaps in the record'. Wouldn't I have a right to argue with this obviously ridiculous idea?


No it doesn't. The possibility of consciousness being able to transcend or pre-date space-time does not pose any sort of threat to the idea that multi-cellular structures and the atomic makeup of matter can and will certainly change over time. Entropy increasing and all that. Every religious or spiritual text that ever existed knew the reality of entropy increasing until the universe ended, before science picked it up. The Norse tales of Ragnarok are probably the ones that most pictorially reflect the view of modern science. Just a little scary.
The idea of God is not restricted to the sort of loopy pillocks who get involved in American politics.

russells_teapot wrote:It just really annoys me that in all his other books Dawkins writes so passionately, so clearly and so inspiringly about science, and yet he's most famous for the book in which he's being a bit rude to religionists. It just doesn't seem right.


Well, it's that nasty old word "popularism", isn't it? Most people couldn't give an airborne act of copulation about advanced biology theory or the division of cells in phytoplankton, but most have some sort of belief in something spiritual, no matter how muddied or vague. Then when someone who is so "recognised" as an "authority" lays down so concrete an opinion with no proof or even evidence to back it up, people will get the weeniest bit narked about it. Hey presto, instant and everlasting notoriety. Somehow, I doubt he's losing sleep over it. It'll have done his royalties the power of good.
Last edited by Elessar on Sun Jun 10, 2012 10:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Richard Dawkins is underrated as a scientist

Postby Elessar » Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:16 pm

Here's an interesting nugget from Wikipedia....



Stephen Jay Gould, who, while totally disagreeing with Ussher's chronology, nevertheless wrote:[15]
I shall be defending Ussher's chronology as an honourable effort for its time and arguing that our usual ridicule only records a lamentable small-mindedness based on mistaken use of present criteria to judge a distant and different past
Ussher represented the best of scholarship in his time. He was part of a substantial research tradition, a large community of intellectuals working toward a common goal under an accepted methodology…
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Re: Richard Dawkins is underrated as a scientist

Postby monkey » Sun Jun 10, 2012 10:28 pm

I belvie in creationism. I belive in natural selection but not evolution. most christians agre with evolution. I do not.
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Re: Richard Dawkins is underrated as a scientist

Postby Elessar » Sun Jun 10, 2012 10:54 pm

monkey wrote:I belvie in creationism. I belive in natural selection but not evolution. most christians agre with evolution. I do not.



Why not? Not that you're obligated to answer, but I am curious.
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Re: Richard Dawkins is underrated as a scientist

Postby monkey » Mon Jun 11, 2012 12:02 am

lots of peopel explain evolution to me. I watch documentarys to understand. I try to read about it and understand. But it does not make sence to me. I can not see it. It does not fit together in my brain. maby it fits together for other people. I can not see it.
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Re: Richard Dawkins is underrated as a scientist

Postby Elessar » Mon Jun 11, 2012 12:30 pm

monkey wrote:lots of peopel explain evolution to me. I watch documentarys to understand. I try to read about it and understand. But it does not make sence to me. I can not see it. It does not fit together in my brain. maby it fits together for other people. I can not see it.



Well that's fair enough. We're all dyspraxic, so our brains have lots of "normal" things that don't fit together. But not being able to picture something isn't a good reason to decided it doesn't exist. I can't picture the process of nuclear fusion very well, but I know it works because the sun is hot.
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