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 Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.

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PostSubject: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Wed 20 Feb 2013, 21:08

Here's the video of the debate from this January. I haven't watched it yet, my venerable lap top is doing nasty things to the sound. I'll try later when it has had a wee rest.



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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Fri 22 Feb 2013, 11:02

Thanks for that Ferval, I finally got around to watching it.

I found it interesting that it was billed as "Dawkins v Williams" when I found that by far the best speaker against the motion was the journalist/editor of the Spectator, Douglas Murray (I think that's his name). Dr Williams is clearly intelligent but his performance there was decidedly lacklustre, his arguement boiling down to little more than Christians can be nice sometimes. But I guess he was rather handicapped by being the Primate of a major branch of the Christian religion, and so was required to toe the party line. Dawkins as, "a scientist passionate about scientific truth", as he introduced himself, was also rather handicapped by being limited to dealing with whether religion is "scientifically true" - which was rather incidental to the motion.

It was also somewhat ironic that Dawkins, a self-confessed "cultural Anglican", should be opposed by Murray, another atheist who as he himself (Murray) said was, "not much in agreement with very much said by my own side". I suspect Dawkins could well have said much the same since he has never claimed religion should be "abolished".

But of course the motion was not whether religion is true or not but was specifically: "that religion has no place in the 21st century".

Anyway, thanks again .... I wonder what the voting result was.

Also it was billed as "a rematch" ... what was the first Dawkins v Williams bout then?


Last edited by Meles meles on Fri 22 Feb 2013, 13:08; edited 6 times in total (Reason for editing : Clarification & quite a few typos)
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Fri 22 Feb 2013, 11:39

I still haven't watched it!

The voting went with the arch, unfortunately there wasn't a vote before as well as after so there's no way of knowing whether any minds were changed.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Fri 22 Feb 2013, 15:47

I am enjoying it, ferval. I'm about fifty mins into it now. I really like the Muslim chap: "Don't try to convert me - just show me who you are." Also, "We need one another."

I like his point about atheists having superiority complexes.

What a grumpy old sod Dawkins is.

Back in a bit.


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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Fri 22 Feb 2013, 17:14

@Temperance wrote:
What a grumpy old sod Dawkins is.
He did seem to lack some of his usual sparkle ... but I think he may have been feeling a bit under the weather. And it must get a bit tiresome being constantly either lauded or demonised as some sort of "apostle of Satan" every time there is even a slightly controversial debate about religion/morals/ethics, despite his primariy thrust being time and time again simply the scientific veracity or otherwise for God. He's an evolutionary biologist when all is said and done.

You really don't like Dawkins at all do you, Temp?
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Fri 22 Feb 2013, 18:00

I've got a new hero, MM - Douglas Murray!

Wasn't he superb: sane, good-humoured and fair. And the man's an atheist!

Very much liked what he said about the Dawkins gang thinking they could lead us all to the sunny uplands - God help us.

Also liked his humour - describing the Muslim Professor as being one of his dearest and closest enemies. If all atheists were like him, I might consider becoming one (only joking).

But I did enjoy it all - thanks to ferval for posting the video.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Fri 22 Feb 2013, 18:12

Yes Temp - I thought Murray brilliant too, and the very best speaker there regardless of whether for or against the motion. I gather he's a well known commentator on such matters but I admit I didn't know who he was. As you say: sane, good-humoured, fair ... and a fellow atheist, bless him! Wink
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 00:24

Sorry Temp but he's an arrogant, condescending, superior little git. Just look at what a large part of his argument consisted of: "I'm an atheist, that's just dandy for me and the likes of me but not for the great unwashed. They need the sanctions of religion to keep them from descending to the depths of depravity (TOWIE?) and its social arena to allow them the benefits of community which they couldn't get anywhere else. Even though I know its a load of ballocks, its so good for the lower orders".

Clever -yes, smooth - yes, eloquent - yes but a git nevertheless. Damn it though, I'll look out for his writings.

The standard of debate was disappointing but in part due to a rather ill thought out question; at times it seemed that the speakers were participating in different debates.

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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 08:58

Quote :
Also it was billed as "a rematch" ... what was the first Dawkins v Williams bout then?

They debated together at Oxford University in 2012. If one googles Rowan Williams Richard Dawkins 2012, one can read about it. It was deemed at the time to be pretty even.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 09:02

@ferval wrote:
Sorry Temp but he's an arrogant, condescending, superior little git.

Clever -yes, smooth - yes, eloquent - yes but a git nevertheless. Damn it though, I'll look out for his writings.




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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 11:03

I wonder if I may mention Bishop John Spong here?



I like this man (he starts speaking about four minutes into the clip), but he is seen as pernicious by most Christians - I really don't understand why. I wonder what Tim thinks of him? Is it possible to go along with Spong's "twelve theses" and still call yourself "a Christian"? I suppose not...


  1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.
  2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.
  3. The Biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.
  4. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ's divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.
  5. The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.
  6. The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.
  7. Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.
  8. The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.
  9. There is no external, objective, revealed standard written in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.
  10. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.
  11. The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
  12. All human beings bear God's image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one's being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.


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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 11:05

@Temperance wrote:
I am enjoying it, ferval. I'm about fifty mins into it now. I really like the Muslim chap: "Don't try to convert me - just show me who you are." Also, "We need one another."

I like his point about atheists having superiority complexes.

Yes me too Temp, I thought he was lovely. And whilst I do dislike organised religions, I could not help but to agree with his agrument. Athiests can be as dogmatic as those they rail against.

Edit. I loved Dawkin's speech though, and am in agreement. But he IS dogmatic and forceful which does him and his argument no justice. I suppose the conclusion of it all is that some people actually do need religion (in whatever form) whilst others simply do not and a little tolerance on all sides is the only way for us all to rub along together. And that sounds like a cop-out too! Sigh.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 12:21

I've just listened to Spong's talk. Frankly (as always) I thought it was an iteration of the blindingly obvious followed by vague platitudes. In fact, you could almost substitute 'Science' for 'God' and deliver much the same address but with different case studies.

His 12 points are sound provided you accept the God concept but I find it impossible to ascertain what that concept entails. As far as I can see it's something like the sum of all that is best in humanity but then he also implies that this whatever it is has an interest in humanity. There's real sense of having your cake and eating it.

Sometimes I think that good old the tribal deity makes more sense.

Edit - Jeeze, I'm so critical and sound so belligerent. My excuse is, I'm stressed with trying to write something half so good in another context. And without much success.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 13:10

I'm glad you added your "Edit", ferval. You do sound critical and belligerent at times, but then I suppose I am often irritatingly woolly.

But surely the whole point is that there is room in this world for us both - as long as we keep listening and talking to each other? Or is that just another platitude?

And platitudinous or not, I found Spong's lecture eloquent, rational and moving. In the final ten minutes or so of his address he states what is certainly my creed. He's my man - well, after Douglas Murray, that is (oh, forgot - Murray's an atheist - drat ).
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 13:32

@Islanddawn wrote:
I loved Dawkin's speech though, and am in agreement. But he IS dogmatic and forceful which does him and his argument no justice.
Dawkins in NOT being dogmatic .... his agument does not rely on any "received wisdom" ie dogma, but is based purely on what is observable and testable and what logic demands. And if he is forceful in the face of wanton ignorance, stupidity and weak thinking, then I'm not surprised. He also get accused of being arrogant and I'll admit to that myself, in that I do rather consider people who profess to be religious, to be mentally deficient. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh but that's the way I am ... I consider people who believe in a Biblical God much as I would any adult that truely believes in Father Christmas or the Tooth Fairy ... And I mean that honestly, though I don't usually prosletise nor evangelise, and I try to keep my contempt to myself.

I apologise if I'm offending anyone here but that is just the way I feel.

@Islanddawn wrote:
I suppose the conclusion of it all is that some people actually do need religion (in whatever form) whilst others simply do not and a little tolerance on all sides is the only way for us all to rub along together.
Fine ... but then the religious should not try to claim the moral high ground and seek to influence the law on the basis of their personal religious principals, nor should they seek exemption from the law by playing the moral card, or the religion is a special case card.

@ferval wrote:
Sometimes I think that the good old tribal deity makes more sense.
Well quite. And while I applaud religions when they try to become more inclusive and attuned to the needs of the people in the 21st century, ultimately if they are going to be like Bishop Spong, then they risk losing all credibility. It's a religion, he can't just pick and choose the bits he likes and if he really doesn't believe in all the fairy stories, fine, I fully understand his doubt, but I really don't see how he can still claim to be a bishop of the Anglican church (and still presumably draw his not inconsiderable stipend). Again, it's an exclusive club that he chose to join ... if he doesn't like the rules then he should leave but in the meantime, please, he really cannot try and claim any special moral authority!

And like ferval I'm afraid I sound really belligerent, but like Dawkins, it just makes me so frustrated that people can be so wilfully, and dangerously, stupid!

OK that's more than enough said. Rant over.


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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 14:09

Quote :
But surely the whole point is that there is room in this world for us both - as long as we keep listening and talking to each other

There's certainly room in this world for you Temp and I'm convinced that it's the only one there is.
Spong is obviously a decent, thoughtful man; it's the god bit that baffles me. His, and from what you say, your, creed seems indistinguishable from a Humanist one so what extra dimension does a deity bring to it unless it is proposed that all good qualities spring from him/her/it in which case we start on the old, bad road of where do the bad ones originate?

There is nothing in this universe, no energy, force or substance that cannot be detected by its effects; his god, this Modern god, doesn't seem to have any effects so what's the point?
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 14:27

Maybe I *am* a closet Humanist - one of my friends (who is one) says I am, and she reckons Jesus was too. The Jesus as Humanist confuses me a bit, I must admit.

But what a balls-up I've made of this - MM's "rant" as he calls it has really got to me. I'm going to Sainsburys now in an attempt to calm down. I'm not angry or huffed or anything daft - just a bit upset at that word "contempt".

But what the heck. In a hundred years time (to quote Woody Allen) who's going to care? By next Tuesday in fact who's going to care?
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 14:41

I was very sharp there. It is something that I am very passionate about but perhaps this is not the place to discuss it. As many have said, in conversation one should never discuss politics nor religion. Though I stand by the spirit of what I wrote, it was rude of me to be so contemptuous. And I do sincerely apologise Temp.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 15:41

Quote :
As many have said, in conversation one should never discuss politics nor religion.
The snag is, that really doesn't leave much else other than cats and maybe recipes and we know the Nordfather - where is he anyway? - doesn't approve.

I will park that hobby horse and behave, the last thing I want to do is hurt. I don't mind offending so much, we have no right not to be offended, but I'm conscious that some things I spout might be interpreted as a personal attack and I can hardly blame youthful impetuosity. They are most assuredly not, just a rather hamfisted way of trying to understand something that bemuses me and, in your case Temp, a kind of twisted compliment in that I really do value your opinions.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 15:55

@Meles meles wrote:
Dawkins in NOT being dogmatic .... his agument does not rely on any "received wisdom" ie dogma, but is based purely on what is observable and testable and what logic demands.

Listen to the video again from the 1hr 2min mark MM, it is this to which I was referring when I used the word 'dogmatic'.

Yes you were sharp, I just wish you hadn't been at me as I am basically in agreement with you.

I know the subject of religion tends to excite people and (like me) you obviously haven't been treated well at the hands of the supposedly 'religious' but isn't this exactly the point in the argument of the muslim chap (I can't remember his name)? That those arguing against can be just as belligerent as those arguing for, which does neither side any favours? People tend to turn off when they are being preached and yelled at?
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 15:58

But you should not apologise, MM, although it was decent of you to do so. If you feel contemptuous, you feel contemptuous. I should apologise for posting the Bishop Spong link: we were all happy and jolly after watching the Cambridge debate - I should have left it at that. Mea culpa and all that.

PS Tolerance for a different point of view - or a different way of trying to make sense of the absurd situation we all find ourselves in - is not to be confused with "weak thinking" - not in my book anyway. Dawkins is a superb scientist, with an icy, brilliant intelligence, but could it be that he is also missing something? I cannot stand the man, because he is so utterly without humour or a sense of the absurd.

PPS Yes religion and politics are deadly - how to lose friends and influence no one. Priscilla (wise lady) is always right. Oh bugger. Why am I still so cross?
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 16:05

Ferval, I value your opinions too - and ID's and MM's, even though the latter is a carnivore who eats fried pig's heart on toast (with garlic).


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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 16:06

@Temperance wrote:
Dawkins is a superb scientist, with an icy, brilliant intelligence, but could it be that he is also missing something? I cannot stand the man, because he is so utterly without humour or a sense of the absurd.

Listen to his speech again Temp, there was a lot of humour there and I found Dawkins to be, not only extremely logical but quite funny too on occasion. But then, one person's humour isn't to everyone's taste. Rather like religion.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 16:24

@Temperance wrote:
... Oh bugger. Why am I still so cross?
Parce ce que tu es très passionnante, ma chou, comme moi. Et j'étais un peu énervé aussi. Mais voila, ce n'est jamais un défaut.

Please Temp, you are the last person I would wish to offend.


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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 16:30

Oh it's all right, my little cabbage - I think we should all retire to the bar and forget all this religious - er - stuff.

Wonder when His Enormity will return? Haven't we all been good while he's been away?
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 16:57

One point though, Temp, that I think we are in agreement on:

@Temperance wrote:
Dawkins is a superb scientist, with an icy, brilliant intelligence, but could it be that he is also missing something? I cannot stand the man, because he is so utterly without humour or a sense of the absurd.

Whilst I have been familiar with his written works for many, many years, it is only with youtube and the internet etc that I have actually seen much (and in fact that is still very little) of Prof Dawkins in live performance. And I do have to admit that, while I still cannot fault his logic, arguments, nor incisive intelligence, when written, I do find him very uninspiring in the flesh. In those few vocal performances that I have seen, he does seem rather dour, intellectually incisive etc, but still rather dour. Having been almost brought up reading the brilliance of his written words, and then later media-led to view him as either a messiah or an anti-christ ... I do find myself somewhat disappointed by his in-the-flesh performance.

Ok nuff said, let's over to the bar....
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sat 23 Feb 2013, 17:41

I've said that here somewhere before MM, he's somehow really hard to like. He could never be a messiah nor an anti-christ, he doesn't have that ability to connect with the emotions, just the intellect. Quite a lot of his more recent stuff has irritated me as well; not the sentiments, not the logic but the tendency to go for the easy targets. That I think was my beef with Spong as well, going after the arrant nut jobs is shooting fish in a barrel, it's the thoughtful believers who propound a philosophy of love and compassion with whom he should be having a reasoned and incisive discussion to explore the basis of their convictions. That I would love to see.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sun 24 Feb 2013, 00:17

@ferval wrote:
That I think was my beef with Spong as well, going after the arrant nut jobs is shooting fish in a barrel, it's the thoughtful believers who propound a philosophy of love and compassion with whom he should be having a reasoned and incisive discussion to explore the basis of their convictions. That I would love to see.

But ferval, it's the "arrant nut jobs" whom we have to fear, be they Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or atheist. Those who "propound a philosophy of love and compassion" - and tolerance - whatever their faith, or none, have my support any day.

But I'm sure I'm preaching to the converted.


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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sun 24 Feb 2013, 01:27

Sent same post twice. Sorry.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sun 24 Feb 2013, 09:58

You're right of course, they are the most dangerous. I suppose it's significant and rather frightening that Spong felt it appropriate and necessary to give that speech to a university audience, one which one might hope would not need to be told such things. It's probably a kind of selfishness on my part that hopes for something more from all these debates rather than just restatements of positions.

An interesting question is: why is there this apparent growth in extremism in so many places? Is it in part the evil twin of the internet and social networking facilitating positive mass movements and popular uprisings against perceived injustice? Or is there some fundamental (no pun intended) root cause?
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sun 24 Feb 2013, 11:20

These so-called "debates" - and I have watched and listened to quite a few on the general topic of religion both on the internet and in the flesh - seem to me simply to illustrate that rationality and delusion cannot be distilled into two opposing viewpoints which can then be tested through rhetorical competition. It does not help of course when, as in the Cambridge debate this year, the organisers have plumped for such a badly phrased motion (made even worse by a belated attempt to bring it into focus through the use of the word "organised"). Nor does it help that all of the speakers, already handicapped by the inherent contradiction in the motion, then apparently eschew the basic requirement of a debating team of at least consulting each others' proposed material in order to present a cogent argument. The whole thing was shabby and could never produce a persuasive argument one way or the other, let alone a winning one.

But even when these events have been organised successfully, or at least with a modicum of intelligence, the basic problem of rationality versus delusion remains a handicap that such debates always fail to overcome, in my view. The root of the problem seems to be that even the most delusional fantasies have a rational explanation and likewise even the most rational notions have limitations in their ability to be expressed which constitutes a barrier that the deluded, by virtue of the nature of religious delusion, can blithely hop over and express quite easily - if not always convincingly.

About Spong - he is a speaker who, were he operating in the UK or indeed most of Europe would in fact be simply applauded for being reasonable (if deluded regarding the requirement of an over-arching "point" to the universe by many of us). Operating in the USA however he should rightly be applauded for his courage in putting his head above the parapet in a culture in which the loudest and most aggressive viewpoint is often the one deemed most persuasive. That culture requires more Spongs, at least as a starting point in its retreat from the brink of fundamentalist lunacy, a position on which a worrying amount of media-sanctioned rhetoric has been teetering for some time and which has begun to inform and motivate a worrying amount of those who formulate political policy on behalf of its citizens.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sun 24 Feb 2013, 15:01

Hi Temperance

I
Quote :
like this man (he starts speaking about four minutes into the clip), but he is seen as pernicious by most Christians - I really don't understand why. I wonder what Tim thinks of him? Is it possible to go along with Spong's "twelve theses" and still call yourself "a Christian"? I suppose not...


Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.

I cannot say I know enough about him to form an opinion, one way or the other. His first thesis, from which several of the others develop, seems to me to be a false premis that Spong treats as an axiom.

regards

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sun 24 Feb 2013, 15:17

Quote :
the basic problem of rationality versus delusion remains a handicap that such debates always fail to overcome

It also depends on one's view as what is rational and what is delusional.

There is, for an example, a book called 'The Dawkins delusion' [not a particularly good book in my opionion] and another titled 'Is religion irrational'. Both are written by former athiests, one who was a prof of philosophy as well a lecturer in logic, before becoming prof of theology - now retired.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sun 24 Feb 2013, 15:42

Well, "rational" normally means based on or in accordance with reason or logic, whereas "delusion" normally means acceptance as fact that which defies the same reason or logic. Religious belief therefore has of course a rational explanation, indeed several, one of which being recognition of the capacity of the human mind to delude itself regarding that which constitutes rationality itself.

I don't know about anyone else but in my view in the Cambridge debate Rowan Williams effectively killed the whole thing off (and in that sense "won" the competition, I think) by pointing out the bleedin' obvious. In the 21st century, whatever one's view of it, religion has a place. We know this because it exists and therefore speaking to the contrary would itself be an irrational standpoint to take. This - as it turned out - was the most relevant rational comment made all evening.

It was not necessarily a victory for those defending or even attacking religion's role (argued rather weakly by all concerned, I thought) but one for common sense - the losers were the boneheads in the Debating Society who came up with such a stupidly phrased motion. It is not every day that the religious side can claim such a victory so I do not begrudge them theirs. The anti-religious side however should also have conceded to rationality at that point. Arguing further seemed to imply that they did not recognise basic logic, the other side arguing further seemed to indicate more or less the same thing.

A shambles, in other words.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sun 24 Feb 2013, 16:51

Quote :
I don't know about anyone else but in my view in the Cambridge debate Rowan Williams effectively killed the whole thing off (and in that sense "won" the competition, I think) by pointing out the bleedin' obvious. In the 21st century, whatever one's view of it, religion has a place. We know this because it exists and therefore speaking to the contrary would itself be an irrational standpoint to take. This - as it turned out - was the most relevant rational comment made all evening.

I have not bothered to watch the debate, there are many other ways I would rather spend my time, but I would agree with you [not often that happens when it comes to matters related to religion] that it is obvious that religion has a place in the 21st century.

As a matter of interest have either you , or anyone else for that matter, ever listened to the 1986 Oxford Huxley memorial debate that pitted Dawkins and Maynard Smith v two 6 day creationists on the subject 'That the Doctrine of Creation is more valid than the Theory of Evolution' . The surprise to me is not that the creations lost the debate but the the vote was as close as it was. This is especially so as the two creationist were not even ID people but believers in a 'young earth'. I am not clear, however, if the debate was packed out with fundementalists or that Dawkins and Maynard-Smith were overconfident and also did not go into the evidence for an ancient universe/earth.

Quote :
It is not every day that the religious side can claim such a victory so I do not begrudge them theirs.

Actually I would say that religion is doing quite well these days, possibly helped by people such as Dawkins.


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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sun 24 Feb 2013, 17:07

Quote :
but I would agree with you ... that it is obvious that religion has a place in the 21st century.

Of course whether it has a rational reason to continue to occupy that place would indeed have been a subject of debate (and I think one that at least two of the speakers thought they were actually debating).

The argument for religion in the broader debate is certainly holding its own amongst many of those for whom the issue is already settled in their own minds - at least I don't see many converts one way or the other based on the arguments proposed. However in some societies, the one in which I live being a case in point, the inclination to be religious appears statistically to be on the wane, and rapidly so. This despite rather than because of any ongoing debate. Personally I put it down to a successful and non-sectarian educational system which does not take children at impressionable ages and fill their heads with irrational assertions posing as factual data.

As a total aside - billing this debate above as "Dawkins Versus Williams" was rather disingenuous. Is that how Cambridge promoted it?
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sun 24 Feb 2013, 17:51

Quote :
As a total aside - billing this debate above as "Dawkins Versus Williams" was rather disingenuous. Is that how Cambridge promoted it?

The Union Facebook page promoted it thus and the media were only interested n those two.

"This House Believes Religion has No Place in the 21st Century
Richard Dawkins and Rowan Williams debate about the role of religion in the 21st Century at the Cambridge Union on the 31st of January 2013. Other speakers include Professor Tariq Ramadan, Douglas Murray, Andrew Copson and Dr Arif Ahmed."

I first saw it was going to happen on the BBC website where it was headed up as "Richard Dawkins and Rowan Williams booked for Cambridge debate".
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sun 24 Feb 2013, 22:12

Quote :
Well, "rational" normally means based on or in accordance with reason or logic, whereas "delusion" normally means acceptance as fact that which defies the same reason or logic.

So one could view the universe and come to the consider that to believe that there is a God is in accordance with reason or logic and not to believe God exists is to be deluded.


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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Sun 24 Feb 2013, 22:59

Explain to me how, Tim.

To me even "viewng the universe" is a sight made possible through scientific, not religious, exploration. Give me one religious definition of "the universe" which has not had to be revised after intelligent investigation.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Mon 25 Feb 2013, 07:29

I very much respect your world of axiom and premise and clever deductive argument, Tim and nordmann. I've always wished I could be part of it. Here's my woolly offering - only an extract from "Burnt Norton", but perhaps to some it may make some kind of sense. The comments afterwards are from Helen Gardner, a nice lady who in 1966 became the first woman to hold the chair of Merton Professor of English Literature in the University of Oxford.

Burnt Norton


I
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.
There they were, dignified, invisible,
Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.
There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.
So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,
Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
To look down into the drained pool.
Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

The subject of Burnt Norton can be defined in various ways. If we adopt the method of commentators on The Divine Comedy, we may distinguish a literal, a moral and a mystical meaning. The literal meaning is simply that the poet has felt a moment of inexplicable joy, a moment of release, like the moment Agatha speaks of when she looked 'through the little door, when the sun was shining on the rose-garden'. It is a moment of escape from the endless walking 'down a concrete corridor'; or 'through the stone passages of an immense and empty hospital'. This moment of release from the deadening feeling of meaningless sequence, 'in and out, in an endless drift', 'to and fro, dragging my feet’, into the present, the moment when, in Agatha's phrase, 'the chain breaks', is connected here with the memory of 'what might have been'. The poem springs from this experience, and it sets by it another experience, which is sought deliberately, but which is the same, for 'the way up is the way down'. If we pass from the literal to the moral meaning we may say that the virtue to which Burnt Norton points us is the virtue of humility: a submission to the truth of experience, an acceptance of what is, that involves the acceptance of ignorance...if we pass then to the use of theological terms we may saythat mystically the subject of Burnt Norton is grace: the gift by which we seek to discover what we have already been shown...
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Mon 25 Feb 2013, 08:03

Hi Nordmann

Quote :
To me even "viewng the universe" is a sight made possible through scientific, not religious, exploration. Give me one religious definition of "the universe" which has not had to be revised after intelligent investigation.

I think you will find that scientifically our view of the universe is constantly being revised.

When Darwin first brought out his theory of evolution there was a real scientific objection to it from astronomers (I studied history of Astronomy at University amongst other subjects). This was that the sun and hence the earth could not, scientifically speaking, be older than 17 million years because there was no scientifically known method for the sun to generate energy for longer than that. Evolutionists knew that this was far too short a time for the live to have evolved from the simplest organisms to mankind and had to fall back on the scientifically entirely unsatisfactory statement that Astronomers had got it wrong in the past [entirely true but so had biologists] and that there must be some unknown method by which the sun was generating energy. They were, of course, to be proved correct but really scientifically on some unknown means of energy production, like relying on Q, to support a scientific theory is entirely unsatisfactory.

One of the thing that scientific study of the universe has shown is that it is fantastically fine tuned, as if to be able to produce intelligent life. Have you read either 'The Mind of God' [this is a quote from Hawkin's] or 'The Goldilocks Enigma' by Prof Paul Davies. He is neither a Christian nor a thiest.

regards

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Mon 25 Feb 2013, 08:17

Quote :
However in some societies, the one in which I live being a case in point, the inclination to be religious appears statistically to be on the wane, and rapidly so. This despite rather than because of any ongoing debate. Personally I put it down to a successful and non-sectarian educational system which does not take children at impressionable ages and fill their heads with irrational assertions posing as factual data.

From what I can see the rapidity of the wane seems to vary with the statistics one chooses. However, in the specific case of Norway, given that its population is less than 0.1% of the world's population statistically speaking, any wane, rapid or otherwise, if dwarfed by the growth in Christianity in China. A country which, population wise, makes up a somewhat larger share of the world. Clearly whatever is causing that growth it is at a very high arte. This is from the BBC

Quote :
Many of China's churches are overflowing, as the number of Christians in the country multiplies. In the past, repression drove people to convert - is the cause now rampant capitalism?

It is impossible to say how many Christians there are in China today, but no-one denies the numbers are exploding.

The government says 25 million, 18 million Protestants and six million Catholics. Independent estimates all agree this is a vast underestimate. A conservative figure is 60 million. There are already more Chinese at church on a Sunday than in the whole of Europe.

The new converts can be found from peasants in the remote rural villages to the sophisticated young middle class in the booming cities.

What is clear is whatever is causing that growth it is not due to

Quote :
[an] educational system which does take children at impressionable ages and fill their heads with irrational assertions posing as factual data
at least not as far as Christianity is concerned.

On a personal note, I was at a boys Grammar school in the 1960s and my experience was that there was little of no interest in religion in my entire clase, including me. This was despite having an excellent RE teacher who also taught me, at various points in my school days, latin [failed miserably] and statistics A level [somewhat more successully]
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Mon 25 Feb 2013, 08:27

PS Helen Gardner also said of Eliot's work:

"It is better, in reading poetry of this kind, to trouble too little about the ‘meaning’ than to trouble too much. If there are passages whose meaning seems elusive, where we feel we are ‘missing the point,’ we should read on, preferably aloud... We must find the meaning in the reading..."

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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Mon 25 Feb 2013, 09:14

Quote :
One of the thing that scientific study of the universe has shown is that it is fantastically fine tuned, as if to be able to produce intelligent life.

Sorry Tim, that just won't do, that's the puddle speaking. Just because the universe provides the conditions in which intelligent life could arise, it cannot then be inferred that those conditions were somehow preordained to facilitate the development of life.

Temp, that's a beautiful poem and the most profound insight is "human kind Cannot bear very much reality." But reality is beautiful and wonderful and inspiring as well as terrible and terrifying.
A bit like a God really.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Mon 25 Feb 2013, 09:43

@Tim of Aclea wrote:
... in the specific case of Norway, given that its population is less than 0.1% of the world's population statistically speaking, any wane, rapid or otherwise, if dwarfed by the growth in Christianity in China.

But is Norway a specific case in the sense of either isolation of incident or its size? The trend is reflected across Scandinavia and, whether this still represents numerically an inferior amount of people when compared to China or not, it is still indicative of an entire society which is increasingly finding religion inadequate to its needs.

As a statistics A level student you will appreciate that even if the conservative estimate of 60 million people in China is doubled it still represents just under 9 percent of the country's population. It would appear therefore that not teaching fantastic claims such as resurrection from the dead as fact in the state educational system does in fact inhibit mass superstitious adherence to the precept as fact, so I would still stand by my earlier statement.


Quote :
On a personal note, I was at a boys Grammar school in the 1960s and my experience was that there was little of no interest in religion in my entire clase, including me.

I would imagine a schoolchild's relationship with religion in terms of their enthusiasm for the subject would default on the negative side, so your personal experience would tally with that. However the crucial aspect to teaching is not the enthusiasm of the child - though this helps - but getting them to learn the imparted data. When very young children are taught by what appear to be responsible adults that two thousand year old rabbis come back from the dead they tend to believe it.

Your point in what you say about the universe escapes me in the context of the conversation. Scientific analysis and understanding of the universe is, by its very nature, an evolving process - a fact which you seem to acknowledge and yet you somehow feel the need to employ one facet of this evolution, the disparity that once existed between a biological as opposed to an astronomical model for the age of our solar system, to indicate that the scientific process brought to bear on both deductions from the data is somehow flawed. It is to the biologists' and the astronomers' credit that they aired this disagreement, thereby providing the impetus for others to later find out why the apparent disparity existed. Not only that but in resolving this dichotomy many others previously unimaginable have also been raised, and resolved, and even more are coming up all the time. This is a natural aspect of developing a more complete understanding of any subject. Assertion must be justified in terms of extant data and that justification tested in light of new data becoming available. Otherwise it does not work.

This evolution has occurred with minimal useful input from any religious source, namely because religious doctrine tends to abhor its assertions being tested at all except in terms that the doctrine allows. In fact our understanding of the universe (or anything understood through scientific principle) has occurred almost exclusively in spite of religious objection to its process, and when that objection fails, the pseudo-scientific tagging of unsupportable assertions on to those findings. That you could deduce a causality where none is suggested by the evidence, for example, is simply one example of that religious tendency.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Mon 25 Feb 2013, 12:37

Ferval

Quote :
Sorry Tim, that just won't do, that's the puddle speaking. Just because the universe provides the conditions in which intelligent life could arise, it cannot then be inferred that those conditions were somehow preordained to facilitate the development of life.

Why not?

regards

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Mon 25 Feb 2013, 13:00

@ferval wrote:




Temp, that's a beautiful poem and the most profound insight is "human kind Cannot bear very much reality." But reality is beautiful and wonderful and inspiring as well as terrible and terrifying.
A bit like a God really.

Well, human kind cannot bear very much of other people's reality, ferval. That's why I've come to like Derrida so much - well, the bits of him that I can just about grasp if it's explained very slowly and carefully to me. This is an article I think you will appreciate:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/14/opinion/14taylor.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0

During the last decade of his life, Mr. Derrida became preoccupied with
religion and it is in this area that his contribution might well be most
significant for our time. He understood that religion is impossible without
uncertainty. Whether conceived of as Yahweh, as the father of Jesus Christ, or
as Allah, God can never be fully known or adequately represented by imperfect
human beings.


And yet, we live in an age when major conflicts are shaped by people who
claim to know, for certain, that God is on their side. Mr. Derrida reminded us
that religion does not always give clear meaning, purpose and certainty by
providing secure foundations. To the contrary, the great religious traditions
are profoundly disturbing because they all call certainty and security into
question. Belief not tempered by doubt poses a mortal danger.


Fortunately, he also taught us that the alternative to blind belief is not
simply unbelief but a different kind of belief - one that embraces uncertainty
and enables us to respect others whom we do not understand. In a complex world,
wisdom is knowing what we don't know so that we can keep the future open.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Mon 25 Feb 2013, 13:29

Quote :
Why not?

Quote :
That you could deduce a causality where none is suggested by the evidence, for example, is simply one example of that religious tendency.

That puts it better than I did.

Are you not familiar with the puddle analogy? The gist is that the puddle thinks that the hole in which it formed was created especially for it because it fits into it so perfectly. Just because life on earth has evolved to fit so precisely into the conditions pertaining cannot be taken as evidence that those conditions were created to facilitate the development of that life. Apart from anything else, it's been too much of a close run thing when, on several occasions, those very conditions nearly killed off all the life for it to be some grand plan. Unless of course you think that there were multiple interventions by the creating power, to weed out some of the species and to save whatever fraction of the existing life forms it was that survived, in order to keep the whole show on the road.
That's just too complicated for me.


Temp, I'm thinking about your post. I'll come back to it.
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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Mon 25 Feb 2013, 13:49

Ferval asked the question further up:
Quote :
An interesting question is: why is there this apparent growth in extremism in so many places? Is it in part the evil twin of the internet and social networking facilitating positive mass movements and popular uprisings against perceived injustice? Or is there some fundamental (no pun intended) root cause?
Maybe it is because, contrary to what Mr Derrida says, the great religions are NOT "profoundly disturbing because they all call certainty and security into question. " (or at least not as viewed by most of their adherents). On the contrary to most people 'the great religions' appear to provide a simple and secure touchstone in a rapidly changing world - they're familiar, comforting and make no great demands on the intellect other than blind accepting faith. I suggest that most 'fundamentalists' (and indeed many people worldwide of any or all creeds etc), just want to be told what to think and what to do ... they want the answers simple in black and white, with no doubt - in a world that is now awash with conflicting views, new knowledge, questions, and very rapid change. And at the same time there are plenty of religious (and other) leaders who are all too happy to act the masterful controlling shepherds to these willing, wandering, woolly flocks.

But I doubt many fundamentalists, either the complacent sheep or the canny shepherds, would want to accept Mr Derrida's final, very incisive, point that: "Belief not tempered by doubt poses a mortal danger."


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PostSubject: Re: Dawkins v Williams - the rematch.   Mon 25 Feb 2013, 14:03

Hi Nordmann

Quote :
When very young children are taught by what appear to be responsible adults that two thousand year old rabbis come back from the dead they tend to believe it.

How many 2,000 year old rabbis is it claimed have come back from the dead?

However, given that you seem to have returned one particular rabbi, Jesus, to history, I would note that the particular RE teacher that I had for 6 years did not teach that that particular 'two thousand year old rabbi' did come back from the dead. He believed the conviction that the disciples had that Jesus had risen from the dead was due to them seeing visions of Jesus after he died.

That Jesus' disciples were convinced that he had risen from the dead is something that virtually all scholars, who have studied the subject, agree on.

Quote :
Your point in what you say about the universe escapes me in the context of the conversation.

Your previous query was

Quote :
Give me one religious definition of "the universe" which has not had to be revised after intelligent investigation.

My point was that scientific definitions of the universe have constantly had to be revised after ‘intelligent investigation’ so if religious definitions of the universe also have had to be revised that is nothing unusual. However, to answer your question 'that the Universe was created by God' is a religious definition of the universe that theists would see as unchanged despite the scientific change in the understanding of the universe. So you have your one definition of the universe that has not required to be revised. Someone as 'intelligent' as Prof Simon Conway Morris FRS, noted for his study of the Burgess Shale fossils, would not disagree with that, to quote

Quote :
Perhaps now is the time to rejoice not in what Darwin got right, and in demonstrating the reality of evolution in the context of entirely unexceptional natural processes there is no dispute, but what his inheritance is in terms of unfinished business. Isn't it curious how evolution is regarded by some as a total, universe-embracing explanation, although those who treat it as a religion might protest and sometimes not gently. Don't worry, the science of evolution is certainly incomplete. In fact, understanding a process, in this case natural selection and adaptation, doesn't automatically mean that you also possess predictive powers as to what might (or even must) evolve. Nor is it logical to assume that simply because we are a product of evolution, as patently we are, that explains our capacity to understand the world. Rather the reverse.

But wait a moment; everybody knows that evolution isn't predictable. Yes, a rich and vibrant biosphere to admire, but no end-product any more likely (or unlikely) than any other. Received wisdom pours out the usual litany: random mutations, catastrophic mass extinctions and other mega-disasters, super-virulent microbes all ensure that the drunkard's walk is a linear process in comparison to the ceaseless lurching seen in the history of life. So not surprisingly nearly all neo-Darwinians insist that the outcomes – and that includes you – are complete flukes of circumstance. So to find flying organisms on some remote planet might not be a big surprise, but certainly no birds. Perhaps all life employs cells, but would anybody dare to predict a mushroom? In fact the evidence points in diametrically the opposite direction. Birds evolved at least twice, maybe four times. So too with the mushrooms. Both are among the less familiar examples of evolutionary convergence.

Convergence? Simply how from very different starting points organisms "navigate" to very much the same biological solution. A classic example are our camera eyes and those of the squid; astonishingly similar but they evolved independently. But let's not just concentrate on the squid eye, from molecules to social systems convergence is ubiquitous. Forget also the idea that in biology nearly anything is possible, that by and large it is a massive set of less than satisfactory compromises. In fact, paradoxically the sheer prevalence of convergence strongly indicates that the choices are far more limited, but when they do emerge the product is superb. Did you know eyes can detect single photons and our noses single molecules? Evolution has reached the limits of what is possible on planet Earth. In particular our doors of perception can only be extended by scientific instrument, enabling a panorama from the big bang to DNA.

Yet how the former led to the latter, how it was that complexity emerged and is sustained even in that near-miracle of a chemical factory we call the cell is still largely enigmatic. Self-organisation is certainly involved, but one of the puzzles of evolution is the sheer versatility of many molecules, being employed in a myriad of different capacities. Indeed it is now legitimate to talk of a logic to biology, not a term you will hear on the lips of many neo-Darwinians. Nevertheless, evolution is evidently following more fundamental rules. Scientific certainly, but ones that transcend Darwinism. What! Darwinism not a total explanation? Why should it be? It is after all only a mechanism, but if evolution is predictive, indeed possesses a logic, then evidently it is being governed by deeper principles. Come to think about it so are all sciences; why should Darwinism be any exception?

But there is more. How to explain mind? Darwin fumbled it. Could he trust his thoughts any more than those of a dog? Or worse, perhaps here was one point (along, as it happens, with the origin of life) that his apparently all-embracing theory ran into the buffers? In some ways the former possibility, the woof-woof hypothesis, is the more entertaining. After all, being a product of evolution gives no warrant at all that what we perceive as rationality, and indeed one that science and mathematics employ with almost dizzying success, has as its basis anything more than sheer whimsy. If, however, the universe is actually the product of a rational Mind and evolution is simply the search engine that in leading to sentience and consciousness allows us to discover the fundamental architecture of the universe – a point many mathematicians intuitively sense when they speak of the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics – then things not only start to make much better sense, but they are also much more interesting. Farewell bleak nihilism; the cold assurances that all is meaningless. Of course, Darwin told us how to get there and by what mechanism, but neither why it is in the first place, nor how on earth we actually understand it.

To reiterate: when physicists speak of not only a strange universe, but one even stranger than we can possibly imagine, they articulate a sense of unfinished business that most neo-Darwinians don't even want to think about. Of course our brains are a product of evolution, but does anybody seriously believe consciousness itself is material? Well, yes, some argue just as much, but their explanations seem to have made no headway. We are indeed dealing with unfinished business. God's funeral? I don't think so. Please join me beside the coffin marked Atheism. I fear, however, there will be very few mourners.

I picked the example of the evolutionists v astronomers conflict, in part because it interested me at the time, I often wonder how the Soapy Sam v Huxley debate would now be viewed if Soapy Sam had raised apparent problems such as that instead of what he did, when, as Huxley put it, the Lord delivered him into Huxley’s hands. Additionally, in the God Delusion, Dawkins, who I presume did not study the history of Astronomy, unfairly maligned Lord Kelvin on this topic due to Dawkins failure to understand the level of Astronomical knowledge at the time together with aversion to Kelvin's religious views. Atheists do seem to have a bad habit of maligning theists when in fact it actually comes down to the atheists own lack of knowledge of a particular subject.

Quote :
This evolution has occurred with minimal useful input from any religious source, namely because religious doctrine tends to abhor its assertions being tested at all except in terms that the doctrine allows. In fact our understanding of the universe (or anything understood through scientific principle) has occurred almost exclusively in spite of religious objection to its process, and when that objection fails, the pseudo-scientific tagging of unsupportable assertions on to those findings. That you could deduce a causality where none is suggested by the evidence, for example, is simply one example of that religious tendency.

This is really nothing more than tedious stone throwing Nordmann, I wish you could refrain from it, but you do not seem able to. What is the most recent ‘objection to its process’ that Christianity, or religions (if you prefer), as a whole has made as an organised mass, as distinct form various ‘flat earthers’?

''Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night;
God said Let Newton be! and all was light.''

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As a statistics A level student you will appreciate that even if the conservative estimate of 60 million people in China is doubled it still represents just under 9 percent of the country's population.

It was actually ‘Pure maths with Statistics’. I did not claim that it was a large % of the Chinese population but merely pointed to the incredible rate of growth in belief in Christianity which you have not disputed and so I presume you accept. 60 million makes it a considerably larger number than the entire population of all the Scandinavian countries put together.

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It would appear therefore that not teaching fantastic claims such as resurrection from the dead as fact in the state educational system does in fact inhibit mass superstitious adherence to the precept as fact, so I would still stand by my earlier statement.

I would say that I look forward to read your evidence that the rest of the Chinese population, not having been taught about Christianity at school, for that reason, have actively rejected the idea that Jesus rose from the dead. The fact that they are not Christians does not demonstrate an active rejection. However, I am aware that you rarely if ever provide evidence to substantiate your claims. The Chinese are after all still taught the, to my mind, far more fantastic claim that Mao was largely a great leader - all the disasters he was responsible for, notwithstanding.

regards

Tim
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