Posts Tagged ‘Richard Dawkins’

Irony

Oh goodness, I love the irony here. I just love it.

I’m not going to be taking this as an opportunity to bash the arguments of creationists cdesign proponentists ID proponents, but just to remark at how ironic and hypocritical this whole event has been, and how lamentable it is that I wasn’t able to get to the Minnesota American Atheists convention.

First, the makers of Expelled! obtain footage from Richard Dawkins through highly questionable means.

For months, the makers of Expelled! only let people who won’t write negative reviews to see their screenings.

Then, when they finally allow for a public screening, PZ Myers brings his family along. PZ gets kicked out, Richard Dawkins gets in, and asks a question during the Q&A session, with testimony from a theist who was obviously confused about what was actually going on.

Oh, what irony! Reading all this news went wonderfully with the cup of tea I had just made.

But the most astonishing meaningless coincidence of it all…

The night before I had a dream about Ben Stein!

If you’re curious, it involved him dressed in a leotard, panty hose, and high heels and with a very gargantuan ass. Alright, that sounds very wrong…

Of course, that’s just a meaningless coincidence. But, I don’t know which situation would leave Ben Stein more embarrassed. The panty hose, or being exposed as the hypocrite that he is.

I’m going to call this whole laughable ordeal an…

EPIC WIN!

Defending Dawkins

Haha. I think that that title’s a bit ironic, him being a defender of reason.

When I first read Skeptical Inquirer magazine, it was in the library at the University of Denver. I had been attending a summer program there for gifted students, and started reading the magazine for an article on quantum mechanics… and then kept reading. I instantly loved it, but it wasn’t until the Fall of my 8th grade year that I finally bothered myself to get a subscription to it. This was probably sparked by my discovery of the infamous website, Answers in Genesis. Through the Center for Inquiry, I began to become exposed to even more new ideas, and a whole new world of skepticism, which held such names as Joe Nickell, Daniel Dennet, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and others… But as much as I greatly admire these names, I think that the person I most admire is Richard Dawkins.

The first time I was exposed to him was listening to an episode of Point of Inquiry, and it really was quite nice listening to a voice that I could so whole-heartedly agree with. I hadn’t read any of his books, and wouldn’t get one of them for several more months because I’m just lazy like that, but I already knew that I admired him. He delivered quite a devastating blow to religion, and I liked that…

But, at the same time, I was hearing criticisms of him. Criticisms from fellow skeptics, criticisms from the media…

What really got me writing this blog entry was the most recent issue of Skeptical Inquirer which had an article on him that, though I’m not quite sure it was exactly criticizing him, still used words such as “hostile” and “militant atheist” to describe him. I couldn’t help but start thinking about all those criticisms (I’m getting really sick of the word now) that I had heard before.

I have heard “militant atheist” used to describe him dozens of times, I have heard fellow skeptics say that he comes across as arrogant and pompous, and I have heard theists say that he must be a twisted, lonely man. Also prominent in my mind, the episode of South Park in which Richard Dawkins has sex with Mrs. Garrison, finds out that she’s (it’s?) a trans-sexual, is disgusted, and says “How could I have been so stupid?!?”

Having read many of his articles, and books, and seen videos, and heard him on radio shows, and met him, I have never really been able to know what they were talking about. I suppose I can see how some of the things he has said can be seen to be arrogant, especially when not read in context, but I would like to use this blog entry to argue otherwise.

I think that one need only read one of his books to know that that is far from the truth, and the well-known quote in the beginning of Unweaving the Rainbow, I think, should effectively shut up people who say the man is a twisted, arrogant, pompous ass.

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you, and I, in our ordinariness that are here.”

That entire paragraph is laced with a sort of… spirituality… for lack of a better word. But, I put that last part in bold to point out Dawkins’ lesser-known humbleness. I don’t think that he really does think that he’s better than all of us, though I do admittedly think that he is the coolest person ever (might not take too kindly to reading that if he ever stumbles across this blog), he is nowhere near as egotistic as I am and he could probably justify being egotistic if he was.

Well, I should clear up that last part… I don’t actually think that I am that great. I think that I was lucky enough to have parents who cared about me, who shared their knowledge of the world with me, who encouraged me to gain more knowledge of the world, and sent me to a charter school. Any precociousness that I may seem to demonstrate is not because of a destiny, or my genes, but because of the learning-rich environment in which I was brought up.

Which brings me to something else. Like I said, I don’t think that I’m really that special. I’m just motivated to learn, and this is because I was lucky to be brought up that way (I blame public school for not exposing students to a love of learning like the one I have but that’s a entry for another time…). But if you’ll see my first entry, “I Am Great”, it contains an excerpt from an e-mail that Richard Dawkins sent me shortly after he met me. He told me that I had bowled him over.

Would a pompous ass really be greatly impressed with a 14-year old girl like me? I am not trying to brag at all (for once), but when one of the world’s greatest minds can be bowled over by something so simple as a 14-year old girl who stood up in an Irish pub to give a 5-minute speech about a skepticism club she’s starting at her high school, I think that that has to be one of the most humbling things possible. Would a man who said “How could I be so stupid?” after having sex with a trans-sexual (by the way, I have reasons to doubt that he’d be disgusted by that anyway) say that? I doubt it.

I have often heard fellow skeptics longing for “another Carl Sagan”. I admittedly haven’t read as much of Carl Sagan’s books as I should, though I have seen Cosmos a few times, but I think that Richard Dawkins is another Carl Sagan. Passionate about science and the truth. Utterly fascinated by the world. A remarkable ability to share science with the general public. Highly moral. Eloquent. All one has to do to know this is true is listen to him talk, or read one of his books. He always manages to bring a smile to my face. Richard Dawkins is a defender of reason, and another Carl Sagan, but nominating him for the “Bad Faith” award and supporting the South-Park-Richard-Dawkins impression on the general public is not going to help get the message across.

So, to those who think that Richard Dawkins is ineffective/bad for the cause of skepticism, if you want him to be effective, stop supporting the media’s impression a person that he’s not.

Ok, so I don’t like how I ended that… Let me word it a different way…

Richard Dawkins’ message is beautiful, and persuasive. However, when the theists keep hearing the words “militant”, “hostile”, and “arrogant”, that’s just already biasing them against him. The media does it enough, and it doesn’t help when we do it either.

Mm… no. I don’t like how I ended that either…

I’ll just end with these thought-provoking words…

Boom-shabba-labba-labba.

On Faith

This morning, I had quite an amusing experience around the passing period between second and third period. See, the route I take takes me right past two of my friends moving in the opposite direction, and if I’m not too worried about being tardy for English that day, I change directions and walk with them until I’m nearly on the opposite end of campus, and then I walk as quickly as possible to my class… three buildings away.

Anyway, I have often been accused of being obsessed with Richard Dawkins. Granted, it’s hard to think of anybody who I admire more than him (except, perhaps, some fictional characters if they count… which they don’t), but I’d like to point out that one of these two friends actually wants to call him. The other friend, who happens to be a theist, kept bothering me about getting his e-mail address so that he could debate him. I am content with dinner, and an e-mail.

Now that I’ve gotten that off-topic thing out of the way…

My theist friend who wants to debate him over e-mail was bothering me for it again today, when I switched directions to walk with them. We began debating about whether you could disprove the existence of God. My other friend pointed out to him that though you can not disprove the existence of the deistic God, you still can disprove a text-based God, like the God of the Bible.

“I know” he said, “but I still believe in God.”

And of course, I pulled out the argument that Richard Dawkins uses often (again, I am not obsessed… it’s simply a good argument worth committing to memory) and pointed out “You also can’t disprove the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or the Celestial Teapot, or Ra, Thor, Zeus. Why don’t you believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, to?”

“Well, there’s more evidence for God than there is for the Flying Spaghetti Monster.”

“Is there?”

“Look. I’m not going to convince you to believe in God, and you’re not going to convince me to not believe in God, so just shut up about it.”

“But you haven’t got a reason to believe!”

“I don’t care. Just shut up.”

At this point, I was nearly on the opposite end of campus from my English class, and I began walking back with a grin on my face at his quick change of mind from wanting to debate about God with Richard Dawkins (and I was basically using the arguments he would get if he had tried debating with him, assuming Dawkins decided to waste his time replying to him) to wanting me to shut up… but someone is not getting Richard Dawkins’ e-mail address (yes… he could Google it like I told him to, but he obviously is too lazy to do so because he asked me again today) since I learned today that he, like all the other theists I know (except for perhaps one), are actually unwilling to debate about the existence of the Skyfairy, and are content to remain blindly faithful without having it challenged.

Actually, I was quite surprised.

I used to divide theists into two groups. Those that want to debate and don’t want to admit that the only reason they believe is faith, and those that take great pride in it and love ending arguments (sometimes before they’ve even started) by shouting “It’s something called FAITH! Something that you will never understand!” in my face.

Either way, I normally counted him amongst the former of the two types of theists, having a keen interest in having me meet his other theist friends, and showing me books. I was quite surprised when he transformed into the latter of the two types. Actually, I see this behavior a lot. More often than not when I debate theists, I hear them admit that I was winning just before they blow up, or stick their fingers in their ears and chant “La la la la la. I can’t hear you.”

The point is, up until today I always divided theists into those two groups. Those who tried to defend their claims, and those that simply didn’t. I’m starting to think that I was wrong. There is only one type of theist, but some can go longer before retreating to their little warm, cozy, fuzzy corner of their mind called faith. It’s the faith obstacle that I’ve never been able to get past. With only that type of theist, is there really any hope for the world?

Thankfulness

Mm… Thanksgiving. One of the best times of the year. No school, large meals, friends, family… and thankfulness.

So, I take it upon myself to share the short list of things that I’m thankful for.

1. Richard Dawkins

No, seriously. I know the man is hated, but he spontaneously offered to get me in touch with a speaker from his foundation to come speak to my CFI-On Campus group. I’ve been thinking about bringing one in for some time but I didn’t think we’d have the funds to do so. That’s a random act of kindness right there. Dawkins > Falwell. That, and his books have really helped me appreciate life and science even more than I used to. I’ve always liked science, and I’ve never been emo, so that’s saying something.

2. Living in a non-third-world country

I get to spend my time reading, watching TV, and doing fun stuff… Other people have to sit on a street corner and beg all day. Not only do I live in the States, I also have parents who provide me with food, a roof, and all the other comforts…

3. Living now, as opposed to in the Dark Ages

Technically, if I were living in the Dark Ages, they couldn’t kill me for being an Atheist for another two years until I turned sixteen, but I’m still glad that I live in a time when I don’t necessarily have to worry about someone trotting out an antiquated blasphemy law. Well, at least I hope they don’t. All I have to put up with is the awkward silences and the dirty looks… not the angry mobs with torches and pitchforks. Also, I have the benefit of living in a time when the scientific method has been developed. Not only are my living conditions greatly improved, but I also understand the world and get to experience the reality of it without having to fill in every blank with “God did it, God did it, God did it.” Most people don’t take advantage of this… *cough* Creationists *cough*

In addition:

4. Ice Cream

5. Chocolate, especially in the form of brownies and cookies.

6. Rainbows, and other pretty things.

7. Being alive.

I think that that covers it in a nut shell…

The last thing I want to talk about is this…

The definition of thankfulness if not only to express gratitude, but to hold responsible for. What the dictionary means by that is like… when you say “thank you” or something… What I’d like to point out is that I often hear people say “I thank God for saving me from cancer” or “thank God for ______.” What I see especially often is people saying grace before eating their food. They used to make me do it in Girl Scouts and often overreacted whenever I started eating before they said it…

“OH MY GOD! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!? THEY HAVEN’T SAID IT YET! BAD BAD BAD!”

I eventually learned to restrain myself from picking up little crumbs and eating them just to be amused by their reactions, but the main issue I had with saying grace was that it seemed to take the credit away from the person who actually brought the snack. The grace we most commonly said went along the lines of this…

“We thank you for our food, Lord. Our family, friends, and you, Lord. We thank you for our food, Lord, to get us through the day.”

Of course, God did not just put everything in front of you. Normally, some organism (plant, or animal) had to be grown for a long period of time, before it was killed, and shipped off to your store. Somebody had to work for x amount of time to gain the money necessary to purchase the food, and then possibly had to work for x amount of time to prepare it so that it would be edible and tasty. You can thank your family for being kind and caring (at least, I hope that yours are), and your friends for being your friends.

The point is, to be truly thankful, I think you have to thank the right people and right things… and sometimes there isn’t really a reason why you have something to be thankful for except luck. Instead of thanking God for the vaccine that kept you from getting polio, thank medical science. Instead of thanking God for your food, thank your parents or food provider, or yourself if you provided the food. If you have something to be thankful for, there often is a person directly responsible for it. Don’t deprive them of credit.

I Am Great

Egotistic, yes. But come on… It’s good for my self-esteem. You wouldn’t want to take away my self-esteem, would you? That would be politically incorrect!

But why am I great?

I’m fourteen years old.

It all started… Two weeks ago on a Saturday evening in New York City. I was attending a CFI conference called The Secular Society and Its Enemies which Richard Dawkins, my personal hero, just so happened to be speaking at. He wanted to have dinner with all the students who were group leaders of a CFI-On Campus group so that he could learn more about their activities, and since I just so happen to be a group leader of a CFI-On Campus group, I got the excellent privilege of eating dinner with him and sitting at the same table…

In fact, he wanted my seat so he kicked me out and let me sit across from him…

Anyway, we helped him pick his meal (he got some kind of fish that was served with rice and peas and carrots) and then he toasted us… or did he toast us first and then? Nah… He ordered, then toasted us… Yeah.

So, we were taking turns standing and talking about the activities on our campuses and the challenges we faced…

And I stood up…

And I talked about how I’m starting one at a high school (I was the only high school student there)…

And he took interest somewhat, asked what age range high school was. I said 14-18. He asked me how old I was… and… I said fourteen. I must’ve left an impression, because when I e-mailed him this Monday he said this:

“Oh my, what a truly delightful letter. Splendid (I kind of used the adjective splendid about five times in the letter), even! Thank you so very much for writing it. It is a joy to me that you like Unweaving the Rainbow so much and that it has helped to make you happy.


I think you must have realised how impressed I was, when I learned that you were fourteen. When you stood up to speak to the company about your work at your high school, I assumed that you must be a university undergraduate who had visited old her high school to give them a talk and persuade them to start a secular group. I thought that was a fine thing to do. Then it became clear that you were not a university student at all, but still at your high school. I asked you how old you were, expecting you to say 18, and about to leave for university. When you said FOURTEEN, I was bowled over, and I think I said something to that effect. If you carry on at your present rate, you are certainly going to make your mark in the world. If there is anything I can do to help you, please let me know.”

Now, I don’t mean to brag… but that’s why I’m great.