"What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism." - G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Militant Atheists

Hour 1:

Hour 2:

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Blogger Alex said...

Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett AND Sam Harris! All at the same table even! My bet is the room is consumed in flames by the end of the conversation. ;-)

Look forward to having a listen when I can carve out a few hours.

8:45 PM

Blogger Matt M said...

When I watched it I kept imagining some God looking down and thinking: "Revelation or thunderbolt? Revelation or thunderbolt?"

7:03 AM

Blogger Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

Crikey, Hitchens looks like a character out of a Graham Greene novel.

1:21 PM

Blogger Matt M said...

Heh. I'm just struck by how much Dan Dennett looks just like a disillusioned Santa Claus.

(PS - Compare Hitchens' drinking with the three others. Dennett and Dawkins don't even touch their Martinis).

1:30 PM

Blogger DSK Samways said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:26 PM

Blogger DSK Samways said...

Something that struck me as rather odd is the fact that Richard Dawkins' publication record (peer-reviewed) is so thin. He's arguably more of a science writer than a scientist.

4:38 PM

Blogger Timmo said...

dsk samways,

So far as I understand it, many of Dawkins "philosophical" views about human life have been undermined by recent work in evolutionary biology. For instance, Dawkins holds on to the old party line when he writes about individual selection in The Selfish Gene. However, there is mounting evidence that the basic unit of survival for many organisms, possibility including humans, is groups rather than individuals. I am thinking about papers like Janssen and Goldstone (2006) Journal of Theoretical Biology 243 p. 134-142. Do you know if Dawkins has responded in the technical literature to any of these developments? After all, they seem to undermine his "unique" political ideology.

10:39 PM

Blogger Linda said...

For fun... check this out. Courtesy of Single Serving Jack

I found it two months ago when I was looking for images of the Four Horsemen for my jibjab video. :-)

11:58 PM

Blogger Matt M said...


Dawkins is 'Professor for public understanding of science' and is most widely known for his popularisation of the gene-centric view of evolution, though I believe he has contributed a number of papers on the subject as well.

6:05 AM

Blogger Matt M said...


Great pic. :-)

6:28 AM

Blogger Matt M said...

To return to the video, am I the only one that thought it would be great to see a similar discussion but with theists (or deists, or polytheists) involved?

Too often discussion of religion seems restricted to either one person (or group of like-minded people, as above) giving their views or point-scoring type debates where the goal is winning rather than "enlightenment".

It seems to me that there are two types of discussion: quiet and noisy. The former include individuals such as Jonathan Miller (in The Atheism Tapes), while the four above fall into the latter category.

I don't want to sound disparaging of the four above. I have a lot of respect for them and it has to be admitted that noisy atheism is largely a reaction to noisy theism. But it's the quiet conversations that I think do most good. Tell someone he's an idiot, and you're affect on them will be weak. Involve them in a discussion where you can consider their point of view and introduce them to yours and you can have a much greater affect.

As just one example - I think that 'The God Delusion' has less more potential to change someone's world-view than 'The Blind Watchmaker'. The former just tells people they're wrong, while the latter can open them up to a whole new way of seeing the world.

6:40 AM

Blogger Matt M said...


"less more" above should be "far less".

6:51 AM

Blogger Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

I find the idea of multilevel selection highly compelling. It also makes intuitive sense, but as I understand it, it is a hypothesis that has remained very difficult to test. It's all very much in the theoretical (game theory?) domain of evo-psych, and many mainstream evo-devo types are wary of the cranks that tend to appear in this sister field from time to time (Social Darwinists have found it particularly attractive in the past). That said, I think some solid findings with regard to group selection would be met with relief rather than skepticism.

8:30 AM

Blogger Linda said...

OH! I forgot to show you the jibjab movie of the four. Actually, five. I made it for Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, for New Years. Enjoy! Bye! :-)

10:45 PM

Blogger Matt M said...

Heh. I saw that when Hemant posted in on his blog.

It's a difficult image to forget. :-)

1:10 PM


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