Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

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Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby Altercator » Thu Sep 18, 2008 9:57 pm UTC

There was a basis for this Religious War. Stephen Jay Gould & Richard Dawkins have been feuding since, well, ever, just google the two names together. Stephen Jay Gould once wrote an article called the Darwinian Fundamentalism, which criticises Dawkins, Dennet & Co.
Two Darwinians butting brains, and declaring war on each other? How glorious is that?
Unfortunately, Gould passed away, while Dawkins continued to walked the Earth.

So on which side of the Darwinian Wars would you go with? Gould or Dawkins?

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:05 pm UTC

Dawkins was correct, but a douche.

Gould was correct, but a prick.

...

I'll evolve, and leave them behind.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby Xanthir » Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:40 pm UTC

Dawkins is still alive to spread his genes.

I think that answers the question...
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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby troyp » Thu Sep 18, 2008 11:00 pm UTC

It's been a long time since I read anything by Gould, so I can't comment in detail.
I'm just going to say that Gould was quite ideological, and imo, allowed his political beliefs to influence his thinking on substantive matters. Also, at times he appeared to somewhat...disingenuous. His whole "punctuated equilibrium" thing didn't really seem to amount to much beyond what other evolutionary theorists thought anyway, but he gave it a snazzy name and, well, marketed it...

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby OOPMan » Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:39 am UTC

I'll go with Dawkins on the basis that he's still kicking around today making fun of religious people :-)
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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby troyp » Fri Sep 19, 2008 11:36 am UTC

Hell, yes.
Richard Dawkins is a god an awesome, but non-divine, being.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby recurve boy » Sat Sep 20, 2008 10:07 am UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:Dawkins was correct, but a douche.


Why is Dawkins a douche?

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Sat Sep 20, 2008 4:28 pm UTC

I can't locate the precise quotes at the moment, but where he's given the opportunity to say something either politely or dickishly, he tends to go with dickishness. That's not a terribly good way to be taken seriously by the people your message is trying to reach.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby OOPMan » Tue Sep 23, 2008 9:33 am UTC

Eh?

Let me see...

The people who aren't idiots realise get why Dawkins is pissed and take him seriously...

The people who are idiots will never realise why Dawkins is pissed and always froth at the mouth over his statements...

I don't see the problem :-)

Frankly I think it's about time someone dropkicked religion in the back of head, so to speak...
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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby recurve boy » Tue Sep 23, 2008 11:55 am UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:I can't locate the precise quotes at the moment, but where he's given the opportunity to say something either politely or dickishly, he tends to go with dickishness. That's not a terribly good way to be taken seriously by the people your message is trying to reach.


I've watched a couple of his documentaries and video of talks on youtube. I've never considered him very rude. Occasionally I think you can see him lose his patience a bit. Other than that, he's pretty normal. Perhaps you think he is rude because he does not pander to people's delusions.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Tue Sep 23, 2008 3:53 pm UTC

... yes. That's why I think he's rude. His use of the word "idiot" has nothing to do with it.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby troyp » Tue Sep 23, 2008 7:35 pm UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:... yes. That's why I think he's rude. His use of the word "idiot" has nothing to do with it.

You're being a bit cryptic. Could you tell us exactly (or even roughly) what he said that you're upset about?
I have to agree with recursive boy: Dawkins has always seemed quite patient to me. In fact I admire him for having the patience to do what he does.
I certainly wouldn't be surprised if his politeness slips now and then. I wouldn't blame him either. I agree it's a poor policy, but he's only human. What he does is important and he has to deal with the sort of people I normally just ignore, so I won't be the one to judge him if he occasionally gets a bit snappish.
(side note: you should also consider the amount of hostility he has to deal with. He has to sort through hate mail, replete with threats and personal insults, every time he makes a calm, reasoned argument)

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby recurve boy » Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:05 am UTC

If I am parsing correctly troyp, MJ's objection is that Dawkins does not pander to delusions.

That's crazy. We do not humor the following groups either
- Flat Earthers
- Holocaust deniers
- Moon landing conspiracy theorists

Why should we? We have mountains of evidence why these people are wrong. And some groups that become large enough endanger communities and the world at large.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby Haistfu » Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:20 am UTC

Rude is in perception, not in action.
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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby falsum » Wed Sep 24, 2008 1:46 pm UTC

Gould all the way, simply because he has a bit of humility on his side.

Dawkins is a brilliant evolutionist and insightful science writer. However, he really should stick to questions of biology. He knows about as much about history, religion, sociology, and philosophy as your average second year BA student knows about cellular biology. What's more, he seems to take pride in his ignorance of some of these subjects. In most of The God Delusion, he resorts to whiggism, scientism, and revisionist history to make most of his points. Most of my faculty consider him about as much of an authority as Dan Brown when it comes to matters of scientific or religious history. Yet he considers himself qualified to write a book which claims to resolve several century old philosophical disputes. This speaks to his arrogance more than anything else.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby troyp » Wed Sep 24, 2008 6:02 pm UTC

falsum wrote:Gould all the way, simply because he has a bit of humility on his side.

By "humility", perhaps you mean "flirting with cognitive relativism due to ideological requirements."
Or: "declaring that biologists may not consider human behaviour in evolutionary terms, since such an enterprise may threaten his fragile belief system".
[I wasn't going to say any more about Gould, since my memory is so vague on him, but this bloody puppy's woken me up at an ungodly hour, so I don't care. I do remember distinctly that there were reasons I stopped reading anything he wrote.]
Dawkins:
whiggism
I'm just not trendy/intelligent enough to understand what this means.
scientism
[trying to calmly ignore alarm bells in my head] If you mean he applies science to areas that makes you uncomfortable, well, my heart bleeds. If you really think he applies science to areas to which it does not apply (eg. ethics), or applies it inappropriately, could you be more specific? That would be a valid concern.
revisionist history
I tend to doubt Dawkins has deliberately misrepresented history to suit himself. He's no historian, and I'm sure there are things he's got wrong/not understood as well as an expert. That's inevitable, and probably true of any popular work of such broad scope.
Yet he considers himself qualified to write a book which claims to resolve several century old philosophical disputes.
What outstanding philosophical disputes is he claiming to have personally resolved?


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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby troyp » Wed Sep 24, 2008 6:51 pm UTC

*gasp* You've caught me! One pseudonym down, but I've got hundreds to go!
I could be anywhere...

Seriously, I'm not president of the Dawkins fan club. I just admire him. He's rational and he has a knack for seeing things in a clear way and getting to the heart of them - and then explaining them to others. I think he's done a lot to promote the understanding of science and, more importantly, to encourage people to think critically about their beliefs and about things they hear. I don't see him as either rude or arrogant. He's willing to call a spade a spade, but that's a good thing. There are some cases where people are just wrong, period - and someone has to be willing to stand up and say so, despite the fact that it will inevitably draw hostility. That's what Dawkins is doing, the way I see it.
(PS. I should acknowledge that in the early days, Dawkins probably did a lot to promote misunderstanding of science, but this was mainly the fault of others, especially the media - the only thing he was guilty of was naivete.)

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Wed Sep 24, 2008 7:15 pm UTC

I'm a fan, as well... however, like Dawkins, you respond to criticism with pureile, unwarranted dickishness.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby troyp » Wed Sep 24, 2008 7:47 pm UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:I'm a fan, as well... however, like Dawkins, you respond to criticism with pureile, unwarranted dickishness.

(sigh) I think we have a different conception of both criticism and "puerile, unwarranted dickishness". In fact, I think you've got the terms a bit confused.
If you think my response to falsum was harsh or inappropriate, you could simply say why. Better yet, you could let him/her do so, and I'll apologize.
But all I've done is disagree with you and falsum, and I gave my reasons. You're the one who is insulting people while being quite reticent about explaining exactly what the problem is.
I don't want to fight (and I'm not going to), but I'm not sure how else I can respond to this.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Wed Sep 24, 2008 7:54 pm UTC

troyp wrote:
whiggism
I'm just not trendy/intelligent enough to understand what this means.

Rather than try to look it up, you tried to imply that it was a trendy term, and had no place in the discussion.

I have gotten a few comments / users mixed up in this discussion, but my points still stand. There's calling a spade a spade, and there's calling an opposing viewpoint moronic. Dawkins is (sometimes) breeding the divisiveness that he is simultaneously deploring.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby troyp » Wed Sep 24, 2008 8:09 pm UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:
troyp wrote:
whiggism
I'm just not trendy/intelligent enough to understand what this means.

Rather than try to look it up, you tried to imply that it was a trendy term, and had no place in the discussion.

Okay, that's a fair point. "Whiggism" is one of those terms that seems to get used as a pejorative without having a really clear meaning. I have tried (briefly) to look it up, but couldn't find a relevant definition. It's true that an explanation of this and request for clarification would have been more constructive than sarcasm.
I have gotten a few comments / users mixed up in this discussion, but my points still stand. There's calling a spade a spade, and there's calling an opposing viewpoint moronic. Dawkins is (sometimes) breeding the divisiveness that he is simultaneously deploring.

Certainly he's sometimes divisive, but I don't see how he can avoid it.
It's always seemed to me he was quite fair to opposing viewpoints: we might just have to disagree on this.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby recurve boy » Wed Sep 24, 2008 10:19 pm UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:I have gotten a few comments / users mixed up in this discussion, but my points still stand. There's calling a spade a spade, and there's calling an opposing viewpoint moronic. Dawkins is (sometimes) breeding the divisiveness that he is simultaneously deploring.


Ah! But he [calls them morons] and then offers to show them evidence why! As opposed to calling someone a [moron], offering no reasonable explanation and then trying to cause the other person bodily harm or sending death threats in the mail.

Most of my faculty consider him about as much of an authority as Dan Brown when it comes to matters of scientific or religious history. Yet he considers himself qualified to write a book which claims to resolve several century old philosophical disputes.


Hmm. The first time I heard of him, was when I watched "The Root of All Evil". It's highly probable that his knowledge of history is poor. But none of the arguments he made (at least in that documentary) rely on a complete understanding of it. I think that was part of his point. There are many religious people who understand theology poorly or who are capable of pointing out the inconsistencies in religious texts. Yet, they don't question their faith.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby falsum » Thu Sep 25, 2008 1:28 am UTC

troyp wrote:By "humility", perhaps you mean "flirting with cognitive relativism due to ideological requirements."


NOMA makes perfect philosophical sense. It's a debatable concept, sure, but it's hardly a sell-out. If there are supernatural explanations for any phenomena on Earth, then they will (by definition) not be measurable by normal means.

Dawkins:
I'm just not trendy/intelligent enough to understand what this means.


Whiggism, as I intended it here, was intended to mean a biased view of history which shows an inherent and inevitable progress towards the world we live in today. It's like the intelligent design of history, only one need not posit a divine being to fall for it. Dawkins sees scientific history as a constant struggle between the forces of reason, enlightenment and truth, religion's intellectual oppression. Here are some reasons why this is an invalid:

-Muslim scholars preserved Greek philosophy (the closest thing to science at the time) after the fall of Rome
-Once this philosophical knowledge was recovered during the Crusades, it was studied in Christian monasteries
-Almost all of the modern foundations of structural engineering were learned building cathedrals
-The Copernican cosmological model (heliocentrism) was originally posited as a more accurate way for the Vatican to pinpoint Easter
-I think you get the idea. Dawkins refuses to recognize any of this.

trying to calmly ignore alarm bells in my head If you mean he applies science to areas that makes you uncomfortable, well, my heart bleeds. If you really think he applies science to areas to which it does not apply (eg. ethics), or applies it inappropriately, could you be more specific? That would be a valid concern.


Dawkins' problem with scientism is that he insists that science is the final arbiter of any intellectual question. An example of this is his treatment of the first cause argument. He simply says that physics will one day have an answer which does not involve the supernatural, and we should look forward to that day without bothering to answer the question by other means. Same with the anthropic principle.

I tend to doubt Dawkins has deliberately misrepresented history to suit himself. He's no historian, and I'm sure there are things he's got wrong/not understood as well as an expert. That's inevitable, and probably true of any popular work of such broad scope.


Not good enough. When you accuse every religious believer in the world of enabling thousands of years of violence, ignorance, and oppression, you'd better have the facts to back it up. If you don't, then don't write books about such things.

What outstanding philosophical disputes is he claiming to have personally resolved?


His complete dismissal of the entire discipline of theology is a good one. He claims that this is justified based on his naked emperor analogy, saying that one need not read the endless writings on the grandeur of the emperor's wardrobe in order to point out that the emperor is, in fact, naked. This makes for a funny speech in a debate, no doubt, but a creationist could just as easily use it to justify not reading any evolution textbooks. In fact, if he were to take the time, he would realize that issues like the problem of evil, and the exact form of God (teapot or othewise) have been debated for centuries. He really isn't adding anything new.

Don't get me wrong, I don't hate Dawkins, and I'm not going to damn him to an eternity of fire and brimstone, as some of his detractors will. I just think he should stick to stuff like The Ancestor's Tale. Now that was a good read.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby recurve boy » Thu Sep 25, 2008 1:34 am UTC

falsum wrote:Whiggism, as I intended it here, was intended to mean a biased view of history which shows an inherent and inevitable progress towards the world we live in today. It's like the intelligent design of history, only one need not posit a divine being to fall for it. Dawkins sees scientific history as a constant struggle between the forces of reason, enlightenment and truth, religion's intellectual oppression. Here are some reasons why this is an invalid:

-Muslim scholars preserved Greek philosophy (the closest thing to science at the time) after the fall of Rome
-Once this philosophical knowledge was recovered during the Crusades, it was studied in Christian monasteries
-Almost all of the modern foundations of structural engineering were learned building cathedrals
-The Copernican cosmological model (heliocentrism) was originally posited as a more accurate way for the Vatican to pinpoint Easter
-I think you get the idea. Dawkins refuses to recognize any of this.


Reference please. I have not read anything by Dawkins that I would have had to pay for. No time to read books these days.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby aleflamedyud » Thu Sep 25, 2008 4:30 am UTC

OOPMan wrote:Eh?

Let me see...

The people who aren't idiots realise get why Dawkins is pissed and take him seriously...

The people who are idiots will never realise why Dawkins is pissed and always froth at the mouth over his statements...

I don't see the problem :-)

Frankly I think it's about time someone dropkicked religion in the back of head, so to speak...

Kafir, I think it's time religion drop-kicked you in the back of the head.

Now see where that gets us? Do you really want to go there?
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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby troyp » Thu Sep 25, 2008 4:46 am UTC

@ falsum: I don't have time to dig up the God Delusion now, so I'll answer as best I can.
falsum wrote:His complete dismissal of the entire discipline of theology is a good one. He claims that this is justified based on his naked emperor analogy, saying that one need not read the endless writings on the grandeur of the emperor's wardrobe in order to point out that the emperor is, in fact, naked. This makes for a funny speech in a debate, no doubt, but a creationist could just as easily use it to justify not reading any evolution textbooks. In fact, if he were to take the time, he would realize that issues like the problem of evil, and the exact form of God (teapot or othewise) have been debated for centuries. He really isn't adding anything new.

I'll get this out of the way, since I don't think there's going to be much dialogue on this point (*wince*).
I'm sorry, but I think dismissal of the entire discipline is completely reasonable. I'm not familiar with theology and it may well deal with genuine philosophical or ethical questions, but the basis of the discipline is the study of made-up beings. I'm not trying to be offensive, but I can't see any better way to say this. Dancing around it just seems more insulting to me. The only thing Dawkins would need to consider is evidence for God's existence. Without that, he doesn't need to consider any other God-related issues. I would completely agree that any creationist needs to study the evidence for evolution's existence before they concern themselves with any more specific topic.
On a less contentious note, Dawkins isn't claiming to have 'solved' the problem of religion himself: if you asked him he'd probably say the issue was settled before he was born.
NOMA makes perfect philosophical sense. It's a debatable concept, sure, but it's hardly a sell-out. If there are supernatural explanations for any phenomena on Earth, then they will (by definition) not be measurable by normal means.
I haven't read Gould's later books. I have to go on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia wrote:In his book Rocks of Ages (1999), Gould put forward what he described as "a blessedly simple and entirely conventional resolution to ... the supposed conflict between science and religion." He defines the term magisterium as "a domain where one form of teaching holds the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution" and the NOMA principle is "the magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for example, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty)."

(Sounds like he's trying to re-brand others people's ideas again, but I guess I should give him the benefit of the doubt: at least he called it "entirely conventional", rather than, say, "revolutionary")
Certainly, things like science and ethics are different types of "knowledge" with different methods...I could say a lot about this whole topic - better not go into it. Salient points:
1. Religions make empirical claims - the way I use the term, this is one of the defining properties of a religion.
2. I see no reason why "religion" would be anyone's approach to seriously answering ethical questions. Every religion makes a different set of arbitrary claims
[This isn't what I meant by cognitive relativism, but I can't remember what it was he actually said - I shouldn't have said it]
Whiggism, as I intended it here, was intended to mean a biased view of history which shows an inherent and inevitable progress towards the world we live in today. It's like the intelligent design of history, only one need not posit a divine being to fall for it. Dawkins sees scientific history as a constant struggle between the forces of reason, enlightenment and truth, religion's intellectual oppression. Here are some reasons why this is an invalid:

Are you sure his view is really so extreme? I don't remember what he said, but I doubt he was claiming "no religion has advanced knowledge in any way, ever". In think his view is more like "the presence of religion has systematically (but not uniformly) inhibited the progress of knowledge and understanding". From a layperson's view, this certainly seems to be true.
Dawkins' problem with scientism is that he insists that science is the final arbiter of any intellectual question. An example of this is his treatment of the first cause argument. He simply says that physics will one day have an answer which does not involve the supernatural, and we should look forward to that day without bothering to answer the question by other means. Same with the anthropic principle.

I'm not completely getting you. I'll try to look up what he said about this stuff later.
In any case, I'd say he believes science is the final arbiter of any empirical question - it is the only reliable method we have to acquire and evaluate such knowledge. The anthropic principle, while relevant to science, is a philosophical statement as far as I can see. I'm not sure what you mean about that.
Not good enough. When you accuse every religious believer in the world of enabling thousands of years of violence, ignorance, and oppression, you'd better have the facts to back it up. If you don't, then don't write books about such things.

This is a misrepresentation of what he said. Observing that religion has long had links to violence, ignorance and oppression, is not accusing individual believers of retroactively enabling such crimes. What 'facts' did Dawkins get wrong that would really alter his important points?
Don't get me wrong, I don't hate Dawkins, and I'm not going to damn him to an eternity of fire and brimstone, as some of his detractors will. I just think he should stick to stuff like The Ancestor's Tale. Now that was a good read.

Yeah, I enjoyed The Ancestor's Tale. I wasn't actually planning to read the God Delusion, but I started it and sort of got into it. I read it quite casually, though. I think it's intended more as an attempt to make people ask questions about religion than as any sort of serious scholarly work.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby recurve boy » Thu Sep 25, 2008 4:47 am UTC

aleflamedyud wrote:Kafir, I think it's time religion drop-kicked you in the back of the head.
Now see where that gets us? Do you really want to go there?


Didn't this already happen?

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby OOPMan » Thu Sep 25, 2008 10:49 am UTC

aleflamedyud wrote:
OOPMan wrote:Eh?

Let me see...

The people who aren't idiots realise get why Dawkins is pissed and take him seriously...

The people who are idiots will never realise why Dawkins is pissed and always froth at the mouth over his statements...

I don't see the problem :-)

Frankly I think it's about time someone dropkicked religion in the back of head, so to speak...

Kafir, I think it's time religion drop-kicked you in the back of the head.

Now see where that gets us? Do you really want to go there?


Actually...yes

I would like to go there...

To paraphrase your avatar...

"Religion...is a...disease"

I personally find Dawkins` bullishness refreshing. Unlike some people he realises to attempting to appeal to rationality
when dealing with the irrational is unlikely to ever succeed and does not pander to the delusions some have in this matter.
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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby markfiend » Thu Sep 25, 2008 11:03 am UTC

In terms of biology, Dawkins > Gould. Gould's so-called insight of punctuated equilibrium is mentioned (not by name) in Origin. Dawkins's insight that genes are the unit of selection is (while still debated) hugely influential.

In re: religion, NOMA is a crock. It's all very well to say "science won't tread on religion's toes, religion won't tread on science's toes" while both parties actually stick to it, but the problem is that religious leaders advance negative opinions on scientific matters all the time (evolution vs creationism, stem cell research, contraception, etc. etc. etc.) while still expecting scientists not to express antipathy to religion in return. Well sorry, but f*ck that.

Scientists and pro-science lay-people need to stop acting like doormats where religion is concerned. We need to turn round and say "put up or shut up. We want evidence."

Richard Dawkins does a great job of that IMO.
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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby OOPMan » Thu Sep 25, 2008 11:21 am UTC

Exactly.
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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby recurve boy » Thu Sep 25, 2008 1:00 pm UTC

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Ja ... .28NOMA.29

So that is what that's called. I never knew the concept had a name. I agree, crock.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby falsum » Thu Sep 25, 2008 4:25 pm UTC

markfiend wrote:
In re: religion, NOMA is a crock. It's all very well to say "science won't tread on religion's toes, religion won't tread on science's toes" while both parties actually stick to it, but the problem is that religious leaders advance negative opinions on scientific matters all the time (evolution vs creationism, stem cell research, contraception, etc. etc. etc.) while still expecting scientists not to express antipathy to religion in return. Well sorry, but f*ck that.



Stem cell research and contraception are more than just scientific questions. They also have a large ethical component. No religious person I've ever met has told me that stem cell research and contraception don't work. They simply express an opinion regarding the moral side of these technologies. For the record, I am all for both aforementioned technologies.

Now creationism is a good example of religious people treading on science's toes. So are modern geocentrism (yes, it exists), and pseudo-scientific talk about the nature of homosexuality. However, these opinions are not held by the majority of religious adherents. We have a word for the people who criticize science using religion: fundamentalists. It applies just as well vice-versa.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby alterant » Thu Sep 25, 2008 5:11 pm UTC

falsum wrote:Here are some reasons why this is an invalid:

-Muslim scholars preserved Greek philosophy (the closest thing to science at the time) after the fall of Rome
-Once this philosophical knowledge was recovered during the Crusades, it was studied in Christian monasteries
-Almost all of the modern foundations of structural engineering were learned building cathedrals
-The Copernican cosmological model (heliocentrism) was originally posited as a more accurate way for the Vatican to pinpoint Easter
-I think you get the idea. Dawkins refuses to recognize any of this.


This is quite a straw man. I don't think anybody's arguing that religious people never did anything good, ever. I suspect Dawkins would say that people, good or bad, had virtually no choice but to be religious for a very long time. So all the most interesting events and personalities in less recent history are coloured by religion. They didn't have to have been. Do you really suppose that nobody would have learned about structures if there had been no cathedrals? Or that nobody would've had occasion to develop a better calendar except for deciding when holy days were?

Besides that there is always the ontological question, which actually matters to some people, including me, of is there or is there not a divine creator of the universe? Muslim scholars preserving the Greek philosophers, while admirable, has zero bearing on that.

falsum wrote:His complete dismissal of the entire discipline of theology is a good one. He claims that this is justified based on his naked emperor analogy, saying that one need not read the endless writings on the grandeur of the emperor's wardrobe in order to point out that the emperor is, in fact, naked. This makes for a funny speech in a debate, no doubt, but a creationist could just as easily use it to justify not reading any evolution textbooks. In fact, if he were to take the time, he would realize that issues like the problem of evil, and the exact form of God (teapot or othewise) have been debated for centuries. He really isn't adding anything new.


Once you're sure that the answer to "does god exist?" is No, it more or less follows that theology is sophistry. You don't need to go back to the medieval "how many angels on the head of a pin?" arguments to see this clear as day. I once heard a debate between two devout Jews, torturing themselves over what sins the Jewish people had comitted to deserve God's inaction during the holocaust. How much more sickly and undignified can your view of the world get than that?

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby troyp » Thu Sep 25, 2008 8:32 pm UTC

@ markfiend: I have to agree with falsum about contraception and stem-cell research: religious arguments I've heard against these are ridiculous, but they generally don't concern scientific issues. Putting those two examples aside, though, I agree with what you're saying. There seems to be an idea that major religions can just make whatever claims they want and that anyone who calls them on it is somehow wrong and disrespectful. You're right, we can't put up that. (I remember Dawkins talking about this specifically in - I think - TGD)

@ alterant: I agree.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby alterant » Fri Sep 26, 2008 2:53 am UTC

falsum wrote:Stem cell research and contraception are more than just scientific questions. They also have a large ethical component. No religious person I've ever met has told me that stem cell research and contraception don't work. They simply express an opinion regarding the moral side of these technologies. For the record, I am all for both aforementioned technologies.

Now creationism is a good example of religious people treading on science's toes. So are modern geocentrism (yes, it exists), and pseudo-scientific talk about the nature of homosexuality. However, these opinions are not held by the majority of religious adherents. We have a word for the people who criticize science using religion: fundamentalists. It applies just as well vice-versa.


In Re: Stem cells & contraception, I agree that there are moral questions involved. I don't think the non-religious should be scared of talking about morality, as they often have been.

As to science and moral issues: science cannot provide moral judgments, but it can elucidate moral/ethical questions. We could do with more of this happening, in fact. The perfect example is homosexuality: whether or not "it's a choice" isn't merely a matter of opinion - there is a correct answer. Or take genetically modified food. As uneasy as I am about some aspects of this issue, it is simply not true, as people seem to assume, that a fruit with a gene from a lizard is somehow "reptilian."

I long for the day when moral questions are decided based on people's instincts combined with fairness and rationality, not dogma.

Calling RD or anybody in that vein fundamentalist sounds very fair-minded and pox-on-both-their-houses, but is a misuse of language. Fundamentalists are dogmatic; they're not listening. Dawkins is only insistent on the truth; he's "dogmatic" the way Winston Smith in "1984" is dogmatic when he insists that 2+2=4.

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby markfiend » Fri Sep 26, 2008 9:46 am UTC

In retrospect, I'm not sure what I was trying to say with regards to stem-cell research, so I'll concede that point.
falsum wrote:No religious person I've ever met has told me that [...] contraception don't work.
The Roman Catholic Church has denied condoms' efficacy in prevention of HIV infection -- IOW religious authorities are lying about the science. (Source) Abstinence-only sex-education advocates (who are universally religiously motivated) deny the fact that unwanted pregnancies actually increase when abstinence-only policies are put in place. This is also a matter of science. It's not simply a case of the religious expressing a moral opinion. They lie about the facts in order to advance their "moral" agenda.
falsum wrote:We have a word for the people who criticize science using religion: fundamentalists. It applies just as well vice-versa.

I ageee with alterant: I don't think that it does apply in the other direction. Fundamentalists posit a set of fundamental core dogmas in which they place their faith. There are no such dogmas in scientific pursuits -- or even in 'scientism' -- there is only the (reasonably held) belief that the universe is susceptible to investigation through the scientific method.
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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby troyp » Sun Sep 28, 2008 2:47 am UTC

markfiend wrote:The Roman Catholic Church has denied condoms' efficacy in prevention of HIV infection -- IOW religious authorities are lying about the science. (Source) Abstinence-only sex-education advocates (who are universally religiously motivated) deny the fact that unwanted pregnancies actually increase when abstinence-only policies are put in place. This is also a matter of science. It's not simply a case of the religious expressing a moral opinion. They lie about the facts in order to advance their "moral" agenda.
\

That's a good point. I was thinking of contraception in terms of debates in Western nations (esp the US) when I disagreed before, but it's true: in developing nations, the main thrust of the Church's campaign against condoms seems to rely on misinformation about their safety and effectiveness (mostly re: disease control, but it's contraception the Church is really arguing against).
(btw: love the avatar)
[off-topic: I don't get why they make an exception for the rhythm method. I know the Onan story talks about spilling of seed on the ground, but if that was the issue, female contraception would be OK. Maybe the rhythm method is so unreliable they can't be bothered banning it ;) ]

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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby markfiend » Mon Sep 29, 2008 10:33 am UTC

I think they make an exception for the rhythm method because it doesn't work ;)

I think I'll have to .sig info about my avatar, I get lots of PMs asking about it :mrgreen:
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Re: Stephen Jay Gould vs Richard Dawkins: The Darwinian Wars

Postby sakeniwefu » Tue Sep 30, 2008 3:19 am UTC

markfiend wrote:I think they make an exception for the rhythm method because it doesn't work ;)

Oh no, the rhythm method is 100% effective against unwanted pregnancy if the woman doesn't ovulate out of schedule(The Hand of God(TM) <- this is why they like it). In practice, it does fail more often, but that is due to human error in the application of the method. Even when the human factor fails horribly, pregnancy isn't really that easy at all. Pregnancies are getting all the attention, but even fertile couples trying to get pregnant every day can have 100% anti-baby "success" for many months until everything 'clicks'.
STDs are more of a 1:1 chance it's not worth taking.


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