The Trouble with Atheism, by Rod Liddle: part 1, part 2.
It’s about fifty minutes long, and all of it is contrived drivel. The only thing it has going for it is that Dawkins appears in it a few times.
It’s funny how this was uploaded by “richarddawkinsnet”. Dunno if he’s officially connected with the RDF, but it should tell you something about how unconvincing this “documentary” is.
My take on it, divided in chapters because a lot of text. Stream of consciousness, written as I’m watching. Probably not worth reading any more than the video is worth watching.
He makes some common mistakes, all of them painfully obvious to anyone with half a brain, I should hope.
One of them was to say, essentially, “science cannot answer all questions yet, therefore it must be wrong”, and “informed speculation is no better than random shots in the dark”. He doesn’t get that science isn’t a collection of facts, it’s a way of approaching the world.
Yes, scientific knowledge is incomplete. It always will be, by its very nature. The existence of the occasional paradigm shift (not as common as he’d like to believe) also doesn’t speak against it. Scientific knowledge is, and always will be, an approximation. To say that this makes it inferior to “revealed truth” is ridiculous.
His problem mostly seems to be that he doesn’t understand the things he’s talking about—the “unknowable” truths he refered to.
The fact that he would try to bring up the fine-tuned universe speaks to that. “I don’t get it, so it must be wrong.”
He also doesn’t seem to get that the fact that you cannot prove a negative does not mean that there’s a 50/50 chance of God existing. Though it did amuse me when he almost literally said “it makes me feel good, so it must be true”.
I suppose it is a natural reflex for the non-scientific to reach for arguments from authority. I’m not sure why else he would bring up the fact that some scientists are religious.
Reality isn’t determined by majority vote. The fact that there are religious scientists is no more an argument in favor of the existence of God than that “atheist messiah” guy.
The second part is worse, though. Charles Darwin has suffered some terrible abuse over the years, and the fact that Liddle would refer to the theory of evolution as “Darwinism” is a sure sign that he’s going to continue in that tradition.
As a side note, it should be established that Darwin was by no means “taking on the Christian establishment” when he wrote On the Origin of Species. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest he took pains to write as unconfrontationally as he could, for the sake of his religious wife Emma.
This isn’t particularly relevant to the theory itself, though.
The idea that “Darwinism” is central to atheism is also somewhat silly. Dawkins may have said he believes Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist, but to many atheists, the theory of evolution isn’t important at all.
The idea that Origin is a sacred text, even as deliberate hyperbole, is bullshit.
Darwin’s original theory is generally admired because it gave us a new way of thinking about the world, but many of the particulars of it have been shown to be false or inaccurate.
The theory of evolution as we know it today is rooted in Darwin’s writing, sure, but most of its actual details were discovered and refined by dozens of later writers. For one thing, Darwin focused on phenotypic adaptation, because he didn’t know about DNA or the (earlier) work of Mendel, while genotypic mutation is now so central to our understanding of the process of evolution.
Quite frankly, Liddle’s attempts at positing a controversy are laughable.
I’m not sure who this Jeffrey Schwartz is, but if he’s an actual scientist I hope for his sake his dialogue was heavily edited. Given the infatuated looks Liddle was giving him, I doubt it.
I’m not sure what he was trying to say, but it sounded to me like he read an article about genetic drift a few years ago, and then tried to combine that with middle school knowledge of genetics. Was he seriously trying to say all variation is the result of recessive genes?
If he seemed like anything but a pseudo-scientist I might try to explain why apparently sudden appearances of species aren’t a problem to the theory of evolution (punctuated equilibrium), but gah.
And as for the rest of his comments, let me just say that there is some genuine controversy regarding some aspects of evolution (but none that is likely to cause a massive “paradigm shift”), but absolutely none of it stems from the inability to distinguish between Darwin and Lamarck.
He had to bring up Stalin and Mao, of course. Hitler was a Catholic, as I’m sure we’ve discussed, but this is besides the point.
What he doesn’t get, as many people don’t, is that the fact that Stalin and Mao were atheist doesn’t have anything to do with the horrible atrocities they visited upon their countrymen.
This is the entire point. Atheism, in itself, does not motivate anything. No war has ever been fought in the name of atheism. There have been tons of religious wars, of course, but not a single atheistic one.
Stalin and Mao were monsters, but they committed their atrocities in the name of some perversion of Marxism, not in the name of atheism.
(In fairness, Hitler did not commit his own atrocities in the name of Catholicism either.)
Nobody is claiming atheism will automatically make people good. It is not a system of moral guidelines. It doesn’t claim to be. There are atheistic moral systems, such as secular humanism, but atheism in itself does not have anything to do with good or evil.
The eugenics thing is brought up a lot, for some reason, as if it were a natural consequence of the theory of evolution.
He’s the point they’re missing: all the theory of evolution says is that natural selection did and does happen. It in no way implies that it ought to happen, or that natural selection and the survival of the fittest is a “moral imperative”.
This is a particular variety of the naturalistic fallacy.
Science does not claim to provide morals.
The fact that some people are willing to pervert science (and it is a perversion; eugenics is almost entirely pseudo-science) has no bearing on whether or not it is true.
The fact that people use the theory of evolution to advocate eugenics no more disproves evolution than the atomic bomb disproves the existence of nuclear fission.
Yes, the theory of evolution (and science in general) “places man in nature”. So what? Did you think we were supernatural? People who are capable of this type of conceit shouldn’t be allowed to call anyone arrogant.
The idea that we need religion for moral guidance is ridiculous.
Even if you do away with all the supernaturalism, all you have left in most religions is absolutist morality. It’s obvious Liddle is in favor of this, but the changing moral Zeitgeist (as Dawkins said) means that almost none of it applies today.
The Bible advocates the slaughter of non-Christians (and earlier on, non-Jews), the total subjugation of women to men, and the stoning to death of disobedient children, among many other things. Anyone deriving their morality from that would be arrested immediately.
Alternatives do exist, in the form of secular humanism, for example.
Rod Liddle was very probably dropped on his head as a child.
It may be true that it’s part of human nature to be irrational and violent, and that religion is just a manifestation of that.
Does this mean atheists are necessarily better people? No.
Does this mean religion shouldn’t be discouraged like the evil, wasteful thing it is?
“But that’s so arrogant!”