Do you like how Dawkins, Hitchens et al. represent atheists?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by francois, Jul 31, 2007.

  1. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Proteins generally need to be expressed, they don't reproduce. And they are expressed by genes that are translated into RNA containing the code for the amino acids that make them up.
     
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  3. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    There is the scientific fact (all scientific facts are uncertain) of evolution, and the theories that explain it

    especially the current standard theory, which is Darwinian.

    Anyone who uses the word "merely" when describing a scientific theory has a fairly big hole in their understanding of science. Of course Dawkins might look arrogant in his presentation of some theory as superior to the sincere beliefs of others, in the eyes of someone who does not know what is implied by the existence of a standard, fundamental, scientific theory. But that would be an error of perception.

    And of course Dawkins's attention to, and respect for, empirical support is on view and visible in his discussion of the empirical support for a deity - any deity. It's a big part of his new book, I am given to understand, and has always been a theme of his commentary on religion.

    As far as smart people being atheist - it's not an equivalence relation. Intelligent people tend to be atheist at higher rates (or have really sophisticated and subtle deities), but that does not mean atheist people are always, or even usually, more intelligent; and it certainly does not mean that non-atheists are non-intelligent.
     
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  5. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    So would you define the meme theory as a scientific theory or as a lay theory? I do not consider it a scientific theory, hence the merely.

    Yes I have heard Dawkins declaring that lack of empirical support means absence (of a deity). More gibberish, totally against scientific principles.
     
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  7. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    You blame the polarization on him?
    That's either not gibberish at all (in the case of necessary consequence denied by reality) or something you have badly misread, in any writing by Dawkins I have ever read.

    If Dawkins's writings generate misreadings, the complaint directed at him should be obscurity or confusion - if present.

    We were talking about memes, in this thread about Dawkins and atheism?
     
  8. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    I think I mentioned this before, but Dawkins actually never says that. He never uses absence of evidence to conclude that God doesn't exist. However, absence of evidence combined with evidence for anthropogenic myth-making leads to the rational conclusion that the existence of God is extremely unlikely. So much so that no rational person should believe it.


    No, that's the unknown. Supernatural means it's not possible to know.


    I acknowledge, as does Dawkins, that there may indeed be beings of such superiority that we would think of them as Gods. But that doesn't mean they are supernatural, or that they didn't become complex due to an evolutionary process just like us.


    Of course not. However, I have found that although they are fine people, they tend to be less smart. There are exceptions.
     
  9. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Perhaps we haven't read the same things, I refer to his interview with Collins.

    I think there is very little criticism of his writing from the scientists and this may be due to his stance as a rationalist. Off hand I can only recall Stephen Jay Gould defining how Dawkins confuses gene evolution with gene selection (as competition between genes, rather than a natural development as a result of adaptation to external factors, among others). I do not recall a single criticism from the scientific community. Has there been any? And we have embarked on a whole new field of mimetics that is based on a faulty premise that it exists.

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    That, to me, is misrepresentation.
     
  10. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    That is a false argument. It leads to no such conclusion. You merely believe it does. Sort of like the black swan. Or the possibility of 9/11. The possibility of walking on the moon was extremely unlikely; if rational people had not been encouraged by myth making science fiction, it would never have happened. By your logic all the people who continue to believe that we did not walk on the moon, that it is a giant delusion perpetrated by myth makers for profit, are the true rationalists.
     
  11. Exhumed Self ******. Registered Senior Member

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    Exactly, thank you.
     
  12. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

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    Interestingly, I never heard the term until I was intorduced to it by an atheist, and atheists are the ones who incessantly insist I use it.
    Some because they consider themselves "hard atheists" and consider those who simply do not believe closer to agnostics and therefore "weak atheists".
    Others because they believe that any hard-line stance, stating that God does not exist, takes no less faith than theists.

    I hope you are not implying that I was doing that.
    I made the distinction for the reasons above.
    I get into many conversations with atheists that seem to get get offended by the term atheist, and argue on and on about the proper definition of "atheist" (I'm sure you've seen it).
    So what I am simply saying is those who claim that God does not exist, as opposed to those who simply do not claim he does (and I have met quite a few who do, on these boards alone) do certainly have a lot in common with theists - though they would never deign to admit it.

    It takes as much faith to say that God does not exist as it does to say that God does exist.
     
  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    It's also due to the fact that there is little to criticise, from a scientific viewpoint, in his handling of scientific issues.

    If its the same thing from Gould I saw, IIRC Gould was wrong about that. Gould has published a couple of errors in the logic of evolutionary theory - he had a similar disagreement with Dennett, and was wrong there as well.

    I have seen quite a bit of criticism of Dawkins's meme stuff - but that has been mostly a heuristic, rather than a theory, or anything to do with science, so the criticism that I have seen has been mostly philosophical. It's a convenient vocabulary, meanwhile, for some discussions - the lack of clear definition of a "meme" is not that great an obstacle in some contexts. Problem?
    It doesn't ? Why not? It's the sort of argument one automatically invokes to find the existence of Hank unlikely, in this scene: http://www.jhuger.com/kisshank.php , for example.
    Nah. One can come to judgments without faith. It depends on which God you are denying, as well - it requires no faith at all to deny the non-fiction existence of Odin, or the Virgin Mary, or the immortal Jesus, or the God of Abraham, if one was not raised in these religions. (Except of course the sort of faith that we have in the existence of an oustide world, other people, etc. )

    The sort of atheist one "gets into" conversations with about atheism is not a randomly selected representative of the class.
     
  14. lightgigantic Banned Banned

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    This leads us to the second point: today's scientists are not shy about tackling philosophical questions yet they are not trained in philosophy and, as Wolpert admits, they follow a rule that all scientific ideas are contrary to common sense.* Here's an example. Wolpert puts forward the oft-heard argument that a scientific theory ultimately counts for nothing if it does not measure up to what can be observed in nature.* Yet he approvingly quotes Albert Einstein as saying that a theory is significant not to the degree it is confirmed by facts observed in nature, but to the degree it is simple and logical; and he quotes Arthur Eddington as saying that observations are not to be given much confidence unless they are confirmed by theory.* Common sense tells us there's a contradiction here. Wolpert admits it: Scientists have to face at least two problems that drive them in opposite directions.* The first problem is that science postulates causal mechanisms to explain why the world appears as it does to us. The second is that since a fundamental cause is always before its visible effect in the form of the bodily objects of this world, the cause cannot be perceived as a bodily object can be. In other words, the objectivity of a scientist is restricted by his material body. Thus from his embodied standpoint, he has a difficult task proving that his postulated fundamental cause is real. But prove it he will try, starting with what Einstein termed free fantasy.*

    - substance and shadow S.Swami

    "Metaphysics is a developing logical system of thinking whose foundations cannot be obtained by extraction from past experience according to some inductive methods, but come only through free fantasy."
    - Einstein


    hallelujah !!!!

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  15. Quantic Registered Member

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    I think there is good reason for the attitude you see as being arrogant. On this forum, look at the replies to threads where the poster claims to have disproved General Relativity, discovered perpetual motion, or any number of crack pot ideas; you will see the same kind of attitude. Sometimes it is hard to find a polite way to tell a person they are ignorant of some subject, especially when the person refuses to learn and improve their knowledge.

    There is also the social tendency to not criticize religion. Dawkins and others argue that this "get out of jail free" card shouldn't exist for religion. Thinking that Noah's flood actually happened is a religious belief, but that won't prevent such a belief from being criticized as nonsense. The time has come for religious beliefs to be subjected to the same standards as any other belief.

    Also, many religious beliefs that people try to spread or influence policy because of are harmful to our technological society. Only one example is the poor state of federally funded sex ed. in the U.S. and the cause of this is religious belief.

    Yay science!
     
  16. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    I disagree and I've already explained my reservations.
    I think Gould's criticism is right. Evolution is not directed, so any competition between genes with an eventual fit winner is complete nonsense. The Pima Indians are a good example of how environment determines genetic fitness, not the other way around.
    Precisely my complaint; its convenience leads to misrepresentation of concepts, with people being misled into believing that there are "better" genes and "worse" genes; that memes are an actual unit of cultural information rather than a fancy word for an idea or a trend or fad.

    Nope it doesn't. The lack of empirical evidence in no way determines the likelihood of absence of the concept; it is not a reasonable argument since it presumes that we are at this moment, capable of measuring or detecting all there is to measure or detect in the world; rather a silly presumption that ignores the advances of the last 100 years and how they negate this very point.
    A faith based rejection of a God is no problem. An scientific denial requires a burden of proof. e.g. is there life on other planets yes or no?

    But like the religious fanatics, they would be the most visible.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2007
  17. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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    I'm not familiar with this criticism of evolutionary theory by Gould; do you have a link? I don't much care for his naturalist terminology, if that's how he put it: "development as a result of adaptation to external factors" sounds to me like a way to avoid the issue of selection rather than mathematically accept it. Isn't adaptation also a competition among genes? One wins, one loses in a diallelic system on the long road to its Fisherian optimum.
     
  18. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Is it really a competition between genes? Would you say that those with "better" genes could survive any change in environment?

    Can't remember where I read Goulds stuff.

    Here is one place where you can find it though

    http://www.amazon.com/Dawkins-vs-Gould-Survival-Fittest/dp/1840462493
     
  19. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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    Not necessarily - some are superior to particular environments. Global superiority assumes complete connectivity, and a flat environmental-fitness landscape. It's the difference between Fisher and Wright, basically. But that doesn't mean either is wrong: Fisherian processes almost certainly do operate over small evolutionary-adaptive distances; Wrightian local fitness is the metapopulational geography.
     
  20. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Well that went over my head, my outlook is that environment defines which genes survive and no matter how much you control the environment, the genetic diversity is also a function of environmental insults, and so is not an inherent characteristic of the gene itself (since all genes in a population do not react in the same way to the environmental changes)
     
  21. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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    Sorry. I agree that it probably isn't a function of total supremacy, since that would mean with any migration one type would go to fixation. So, it's unlikely. But locally you could certainly have the kind of competition Dawkins is talking about.

    Yeeeeet...there are any number of genes in a given species or population that are, indeed, fixed - no polymorphism. I think there's a question as to how they got like that. For example: in any survey of molecular markers, some will be monomorphic. How did they get like that? Drift with migration? Or selection? Unknown. I'd like to do a survey of fixed differences in molecular markers among a closely related group - monkeys or snails or some bloody cluster of salamanders or something - and see if there were any (chromosomally-localized) association of fixation with morphological or life-history fixation. That might answer a few questions.
     
  22. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, that's right. Hmm, I wonder if that is related to the age of the gene; ie are the older genes less plastic? Is there a point at which the gene can "defend" itself from mutation? Am I making any sense???

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  23. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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    Definitely. Mutation in some systems results in critical failure. Lemme think - if a gene were central to "being" something - a snail, say - then it stands to reason it would be 'insulated' against mutation. So an "old" gene - one involved in the formation of a lineage - should be well defended.
     

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