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Desc:Tyson polietly explains to Dawkins why he is a douche
Category:Educational, Science & Technology
Tags:Tyson, SCIENCE!, dawkins, douche
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Comment count is 61
Swear this is on here before. However, I really would like to see Tyson vs Dawkins. That's a PPV I could get behind.

This, I think, speaks to why Dawkins is pretty awesome. If you get butt-hurt by the incision of one's rhetorical scalpel, then you can fuck off.
He has a point, I fucking hated Dawkins until I finally caught a rare moment of him talking about something else besides what idiots people who disagree with him are. He's mindbogglingly insightful and knowledgeable on other topics.
Dawkins entirely misses the point by being fixated on proving/disproving literal truth. For an educated man, he doesn't seem to have any grasp of the complicated anthropological and psychological needs served by religion. Also, he really is a prick.
Actually, he's discussed it before. If I recall correctly his argument was something along the lines that there is no need "served" by religion that isn't served better and healthier by something else. He also did a full chapter concerning the anthropological roots of religion. My advice to you is to read a fucking book.

Then his argument sucks, or why haven't those things been implemented already in tens of thousands of years of human history?

Human societies are deterministic; we develop things that serve our needs in much the same way that we end up getting the government we're ready for or 'deserve'. Read Marvin Harris on how there are few accidents in the way the organizing principles of society (including religion) are laid down. Hell, read Campbell on how complicated the psychology of religion actually is and how far down it goes. In other words, my advice to you is to read more than one fucking book. :)

Allow me to prevent everyone running to their nearest academic database: Truth is a construct, "meaning" is a construct, as is everything else we speak about. The idea is in deciding which things are relevant and which are not. Dawkins: religion is a construct we do not/no longer need.

Paracelsus, take your naturalistic fallacy and sit on it. Just because something isn't an accident, or couldn't've happened differently, that don't make it right (or useful or just or *). Shit happens, sure, but then you clean it up.

Also, read Fauerbach. Dawkins mostly just cribs off him, plus douche.

Well yeah, but how do you know your brain isn't in a jar? Spooky...

All I'm saying is that one chapter in one book describing religion as some kind of 'evolutionary by-product' (based on The Golden Bough, for Chrissakes, as if there had been no further work in comparative religion or religious anthropology since 1890) does not even begin to address why we have it in a thoughtful or thorough manner.

Pfff, any grade schooler can tell you religion is a socialized case of hyperactive agent detection (in the fantasy universe I daydream about).

Tom, my point is not that religion is right or just in any way. My point is that it exists for a reason, and it exists for far deeper reasons than Dawkins' facile analysis suggests. Not so much that it is right or just, but it fits. The question is, why does it fit so well?

Best explanation in my Psych degree for the religious impulse came from Julian Jaynes' The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Which is, unhappily, little known.

And any behaviour displayed by every human culture is likely to be hardwired into the brain to some degree, so it seems right that our brains are biologically predisposed to some sort of religious explanations, which will vary depending on the culture we are born into.

Which doesn't make it right, of course - many are the ways that our brains will habitually make errors.

Walt Henderson
I'm going to sidestep this whole argument here and just chime in to second crotchy's recommendation of Jaynes' book--it's pretty interesting. (Being nothing more than an amateur who's interested in the subject, you're the first person I've run into who's actually heard of it! Neato.)

Thirding a recommendation for The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. The validity of his theory can be disputed. The fact that the book is fucking amazing, however, is beyond question.

Also, I do not understand why anybody of a non-religious bend would label Dawkins as a prick. Is there an atheist who has actually read his material that doesn't like him, and if so, what don't you like about Dawkins?

Robert Sapolsky (Stanford endocrine/hormone biologists who works with baboons in the wild) did a very nice essay on the matter of religious impulses being (pseudo) heterozygous variants of diagnosable mental disorders. In particular, mythmakers and dogma originators often exhibit characteristics of schizotypal personality disorder, subsequent codifiers of ritual, and the rituals themselves, show signs of obsessive compulsive disorder, and parietal lobe epileptics are drawn to thinking about religious doctrine obsessively. In the former two cases, subdiagnostic amounts of these traits actually improved biological fitness in our pre-modern environments.

I couldn't find the essay itself, but all his points are addressed well in this lecture: http://blip.tv/file/2204956/

Busby Berkeley
And people who endlessly subclassify human behavior have autistic characteristics.

I don't like Dawkins because he has an all or nothing philosophy about religion. He wants us to just outright do away with it and that's just not a realistic proposal. He is a very smart man but he's not a good envoy for science to gain converts.

We need to embrace the moderates of religion and marginalize the extremists. Most moderate religious people will peacefully coexist with the secular world and not try to pull us back to earlier centuries. But if you attack religion as a whole you embolden the extremist elements and prove their conspiracies of science and atheism right.

I feel like him and Hitchens and Mahr are all extremist atheists and they make the rest of atheists look douchey by proxi.

his argument against religion boils down to "if you believe you are weak and deluded. sorry!"

that's the definition of being a douche

I'm not entirely sure this is Dawkins' stance, but most athiests look at it like so:

When religions were first being created they were useful, healthy, and helpful to the growth of human societies around the world.

Today that doesn't hold up. They are archaic remnants of world views of the past, and almost entirely counter productive. You can achieve anything positive religions provides through other means that don't require blind faith in supernatural dogma. The only real reason they still exist today is because they was ingrained in our cultures for so long.

I agree that if you don't think science is interesting, you can fuck off.

Nope, the reason they still exist today is that they serve complicated, culturally-determined needs. And if there are these great alternative solutions (a workable example of which seems to be lacking), then I ask again: why aren't they in place? Religions have changed over time to adapt to the needs of their adherents, so religion is a dynamic rather than static system, as Dawkins seems to imply. The Reformation, Vatican II, and so on--all adaptations.

You can't just go to a spiritually complicated place--India, for example--and announce through a megaphone to its billion-plus inhabitants, "Your fucking milennia-old folkways are entirely counterproductive! You can achieve anything that your spiritual orientation provides with...well, other things that I haven't figured out yet but I know they're out there! So get on that and for Dawkins' sake quit wearing those things on your heads. And get out of that fucking river! Abandon the systems that work for you and your culture at this moment, because my scientific orientation demands it for the good of all mankind from my extraordinarily narrow Western perspective!"

This is what atheists, real hard-core atheists, just don't grasp. It's way more than dogma, way more than bible-belt blind faith and superstition. Religion is a technology that served a purpose and still does, though we in our enlightenment have decreed that there must be better ways, though we never specify. It's staggering in its arrogance, egotism, and real ethnocentrism.

You talk as if Religion was a single homogenous entity. Let's say I did go to India - I think I might find two different religions each telling each other that their millenia old folkways are entirely counterproductive. Surely if I went there as a Christian the Hindu and Muslim supernatural tales of wonder would seem to me to be just as much bullshit if I went there as an athiest?

I think humans are hard wired to reach for religion. I think suppressing that impulse is likely to be about as successful over the long term as suppressing sexual desires. But that still doesn't mean that you can act like a dick and think that 'God told you to do it' is in any way a justification.

So Dawkins is saying something true that people don't want to hear because they prefer their delusions, and this makes him a prick. Also their delusions are more important than truth because they're old and developed naturally. Good to know.

So what's so wrong with just working twords improving humanity (as the human you are) because it's your own species, and your decendents would live in a better world, instead of doing it because you think you will go to a bad place if you don't?

Religion is also bad because it offers an easy out...many religions have acts you can perform to have your sins forgiven/washed away, so you don't neccessarily have to fix or make up for doing bad things. Just do your little ritual to the sky wizard and poof, you get a clear concience/"soul".

Also; Indias caste system is AWESOME, people are locked into grinding poverty because religion says they were born into it.

(and fuck you and your many idiotic strawmans, you little douchebag)

Crotchy, I don't think I said that at all, and if I made that impression it's important to clarify. Religion is a phenomenon of immense diversity--it's the more hardcore atheists who seem to regard it as a single homogeneous entity in need of sweeping, unspecified reform without looking at the specific whys and wherefores in local or regional contexts.

I'm not sure what your attitude would be as a Christian in the face of Muslim or Hindu (or Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, etc.). That would be up to the individual attitude of the person involved. The point is that religion is not just simple myths and tales of wonder--it informs culture on its most basic level, providing prescriptions for living that may really look strange to an outsider and easy to dismiss as 'bullshit', without close examination of the important question why. This is where Joseph Campbell is so brilliant, though he tends to dip into Jung a bit much.

I think your example of different religions colliding is very useful, though--because what is being argued in those conflicts is really not individual articles of dogma (though that is what it may look like on the surface). In those conflicts, it's culture that's being argued, which I think is where we see that religion digs far deeper than one's belief in individual items like Jesus' rebirth or the reverence of cattle.

The point is that both, or all sides, would be right. Because they would have arrived at their folkways through a long history of determined belief that satisfied their needs. Atheists find that no religion serves their needs, and that's just fine. But that doesn't empower them to diagnose the majority of the world's population as sadly misguided primitive screwheads.

How about all the descrimination that religion justifies (and promotes), you going to just keep glossing over it?

Sol, the point is not what YOU think of India's caste system. It's what THEY think of it. See? I understand there's a movement to reform it, which I think would be great because it's pretty despicable from my point of view. Many devout Hindu hate it. What do you make of that? Would it seem that religions are difficult to broad-brush the way you seem to want to so badly?

Again, I never said religion was right or just. All I said--and I don't know why this is so hard for you--was that religion is far more complicated than believing in some 'wizard in the sky'--which I have to tell you has got to be the most shallow understanding of spirituality I've heard in a while. Congratulations. One more time: these things emerge, right or wrong, because they fit cultural need. Cultural needs change, and so do religions to fit those needs--the slowly changing caste system is a good example. It's really not that difficult a concept.

Talk about idiotic strawmen! You seem to want to make the case that:

A) All religion is universally bad, m'kay, because of your debatable understanding of Catholic confession-if that's what you mean. Way to broad-brush, there, champ. Ever heard of the concept of Karma, for instance, and its emphasis on consequences? Well, perhaps not.

B)All religions believe in a hell and their adherents are motivated out of fear. This is also not true. Again, there are in fact other religions out there besides the ones in the bible belt you hate so much. Check them out sometime, you might learn something about something other than your own narrow belief system.

There's nothing at all wrong with being an atheist and trying to move humanity forward on that basis. I'd never say there would be. The problem is you're never going to be able to force everyone into your little box of what you think is an acceptable way to behave or believe. That must be frustrating for you.

Na na na na na na na STRAW MAN, Staw man


Dumbass, I never said I want to force people to be athiest. I just think you're idiots...I cannot tell a regular idiot to be smart and have it work, much as i cannot tell a religious person to be athiest and have it stick...but both take a good education to fix.

Also, numbnut, multiple religions (including islam and hinduism) have practices to remove sins via ceremony. Becuase you don't know that, you need to stop pretending like know jack shit about religion beyond christianity.

finaly, coercing people with the threat of hell is about the same as coercing them with the threat of not going to heaven (or whatever other magical reward)

Please discribe the "cultural need" for christian evangelism/missionaries, beyond expansion of said religion and a cultural superiority complex (which is something you seem to hate about athiests)

Also? What I'm seeing a lot is a few themes that are a little troubling:

1) Religion is responsible for all wars and bloodshed in history. Debatable...certainly it's been used that way, but what would you say about the secular Stalin? Mao? Khmer Rouge? And that very rational French Revolution, that was as humane and progressive as can be....right? Humanity doesn't need any help from religion to slaughter itself.

2) Almost every angry, intolerant response I've seen here has to do with one's concern about one specific religion--pure-bred American fundamentalism, which is definitely a retrograde movement using religion as a cloak. There are other religions out there, people. Please keep those in mind as you're condemning them all to, well, damnation.

3) Actually talk to someone who believes differently than you do. Try to get where they're coming from. It's incredibly illuminating. Try to do this without saying they're delusional, that tends to help a bit.

4) Religion's not on trial. It's not for you to pass judgment on it. It exists, and will continue to exist, again because it will always serve basic human needs even in a time of gross cultural ferment. The inference that WE JUST WON'T RESPECT YOUR BELIEFS ANY LONGER AFTER MAY 10 is, well, stupid. Let me know when that comes together for you.

5) Practice the tolerance you preach. But this really isn't about a brave stand against repression, is it? It's about attacking everyone who disagrees with you. Welcome to fundamentalism.

yay, we're down to the pure diatribe now.

Sol, the cogency of your arguments continues to amaze me, but I'll try one more time. Since you bring up education, some more for you might help you make arguments in complete sentences with an adult vocabulary. But nevermind, that may be out of reach.

Again, you're completely fixated on Christianity, and specific types of Christian practice that you find personally objectionable. Can't help you there, that's your issue.

What I'm talking about--and again, please try to grasp this--is that religions (not rituals) emerge for culturally determined reasons that go way deeper than dogmatic belief in any specific ritual of any kind. Ritual follows culture, and as cultures change rituals change. It's kind of basic anthropology. Do yourself a favor and read some Marvin Harris, he explains it far better than I could. That education thing again. You could benefit from a little more. Understanding religion based on why it originally arose is where I think Dawkins is lacking, for reasons I outlined above.

As far as I see it, I think I've made the point pretty reasonably. I had no idea that an honest refutation of what I see as Dawkins' shallow analysis would raise such a ruckus.

Also, thanks to those who offered adult debate, some interesting stuff came out of this. Now for more videos of people getting hit in the nuts.

wow this sure got out of hand

Dear Paracelsus, apparently I was mistaken and hasty to yell at you, so I apologize. I was under the assumption you hadn't read Dawkins and were doing an active job of misrepresenting him, which apparently you have and that you have some legitimate complaints. There's a lot said that I could object to or agree with or whatever, but this has become a THING, so I'm going to concede.

I kind of wish one of the videos I upload would get this treatment, just so I could feel the false swell of pride that comes with having this much attention over something you brought to the table.

Architeuthis Tux
Paracelsus, the difficulty I'm having with your argument is that you seem to be saying that atheism is exogenous to the religious ecology, and Dawkins is a dick for trying to change a system that you yourself define as highly fungible using this alien ideation.

If I accept your (borrowed) argument that religion has served a wide variety of social purposes -- and I do, I would have to be a moron not to -- it seems equally logical that some cultures will minimize their religious belief down to atheism or effective atheism (moving further and further from literal interpretation, de-emphasis of interventionism, etc -- see trajectory of CoE). In that context, Dawkins, Hitchens and even horrible assholes like Penn Jillette are all a part of the cultural impetus to alter religious thought. This makes Dawkins et alia as natural as anything else.

James Woods
Paracelsus, the way I see it, religion serves only as place holder for better information. Our brains do indeed depend on religion and faith to shape a reality we can deal with when we don't have answers for big questions. We need to get on with shit, so god takes care of us. But we're not in the fucking bronze age anymore. We know the earth is round, in fact we also know it's relatively small on a universal scale and largely irrelevant except to us. We also know that evidence is a better guide than blindly believing someone you've been convinced is an authority on your questions because we ALSO know that people have used blind faith THROUGHOUT HISTORY as a tool to pray on innocent people. Religion has no place in our better informed society. People do need a structure of belief, but these mass organized faiths are fucking shit up real bad. Why can't we just believe that the universe is indifferent and that the only place in the universe we know of where grace, mercy, hope, security and love exist is here on earth among the human race? Why can't we just celebrate life because it's amazing to be alive? Is that not enough to believe in? If there's more to life than that, I don't think I need to know about it yet.

Totally understood, Keefu, I should have said something more detailed in my initial post. And I did sound a little like a wanker.

Godot: I'd love to see it, it really would mean a turning point.

Fatatty, you're totally right about the causes of war in my opinion. The faith or religion is just an excuse. It's always for economic reasons.

Eloquently said, Woods, though I'm not sure we're anywhere near that level yet.

Tux, I don't disagree.

NOW can I watch an Arab getting hit with a barrel? Let's watch together.

William Burns
I stongly identify with Dawkins' final statement.
Seriously, forget the cowards who feel this need to label Dawkins a douche. Five for the last ten seconds.

Dawkins is the Jerry Falwell of atheism.

Any positive effect his preaching (because that's what it is) may have is swallowed up and killed by his total contempt for anyone who doesn't march in lockstep with his views.

It's not preaching, it's saying that we are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams, and we don't negotiate with terrorists.

Dawkins has lots of views, from his preferred breakfast to the coolest Ninja Turtle (Donatello). He doesn't ever demand that anyone agree with him. The one thing he is strident on is what standards we use in our fundamental search for truth. He insists on the scientific method when applicable, and otherwise rationality as a bare minimum. And that's not an unreasonable thing to ask.

I thinks its completely unfair to compare him to Falwell. Falwell insists on the absolute truth of his opinions, particularly when they contradict obvious physical evidence, because he's shameless enough to claim that is what an omnipotent God insists on and all people who don't agree will suffer infinitely for eternity. Dawkins insists that because truth matters opinions need to be subject to critique and examination, it should be based on physical evidence, that he relies on no higher authority than whatever argument he can present, and that people who disagree with those propositions are stupid or misinformed.

In a nutshell, if you read his work he doesn't think poorly of religious people, just of the fundamentalists and the overall impact of religion in suppressing rationalism. Meanwhile Falwell and his ilk have no problem threatening and deeply insulting both atheists and every Christian and non-Christian that doesn't agree with their personal views. One thing you won't hear Dawkins say is "Oh I blame my tax dodging and Carribean rentboys on Satan, and now God's forgiven me and you need to sned me money or burn forever."

I need smaller nutshells.

They're both right, of course.

I love what Tyson does but you can't help but get pissed off that guys like him need to exist in the first place. Being a scientist used to be a respectable thing, but now nobody wants to go to school for twice as long and make half as much as the guy with the MBA.

Certain industries require passion for the subject from the outset, and their market value reflects the fact that people are willing to put up with a lot of crap to do what they love. The specific benefit of science is that you are forcing nature tell you its secrets. That *is* fucking cool.
Well said. If you really want to find a douchey athiest, I'd go after Chris Hitchens. Dawkins engages Christians much the same way as Tyson Engages Dawkins - that is with politeness and respect.

If I were Christian I'd be looking for a reason to call Dawkins a douche too. It would ease the asspain a little bit. ...but this ain't it.

Fair enough, really.

Jeff Fries
Hitchens isn't an atheist douche, he'll argue with anybody

Wait, this isn't a boxing video
I wouldn't go so far as to say he's a douche. It's just that sensational rhetoric sells books, and he knows it. It's what sets him apart from equally intelligent but less successful popular science authors.
The fact that so many people call Dawkins a "douche" just because he puts his foot down so hard on religious thought essentially proves many of the points he makes, namely that religion has seeped so much into every nook and cranny of society that even particularly non-religious people have been trained to be overly tolerant about it and even defensive about it even though it doesn't really effect them. Most people who talk shit about Dawkins and Hitchens and the rest of the main icons of the modern Atheist movement have never actually read any of their books or serious writings, that's something I've discovered over the last few years reading all of these authors. If more people did, they would find a lot of answers to queries like the one Tyson is getting at here.

I like Tyson; he's a great scientific mind and he enjoys making science fun and easily digestible for the masses which is one of the keys to improving the world. But Dawkins and others have already answered this question numerous times over. In summary, the argument is that the time for being sensitive to the position of religious people is swiftly coming to an end. That the world can no longer afford a calm, slow, leading-you-by-the-hand approach to taking deeply religious people and showing them that the churches and societies they are part of are slowly corroding and destroying the world. The time for tolerance is, basically, over. For thousands of years the fundamental INTOLERANCE that religion breeds has resulted in wars, oppression, death on massive scales, and all the rest of it. The automatic responses are of course the usual "oh but religion is good because of X." Good things that have resulted from religion happened in SPITE of their religious origins or background, and the good things cannot excuse the bad things anymore. By being "tolerant" and not wanting to offend the religious structure, we continue supplying it with power.
Call Dawkins a "douche" if you want, but his atheist writing is essentially a wake-up call to draw the line in your own personal life and say "no more." To proudly question the role of religion in society, identify yourself as an atheist, and "come out of the closet" so to speak as someone who is tired of churches influencing what you can and can't read in school or what your kids might learn or who you can marry, etc.
Saying that religion is a "delusion" is a little confrontational, but Dawkins' argument is that it's time for this confrontation to come. It's ridiculous that thinking people who DON'T believe in and worship and magical sky man should have to be the ones who must tread lightly and act like THEY'RE the ones doing something harmful.
The problem is that religion has seeped into all the nooks and crannies of society so we can't just draw a line in the sand and try to end it all. That tact would take just as long or longer than the leading them by the hand approach.

Leading them by the hand also has proven results. The Pope accepted evolution as a real process and told his followers it's okay to let your kids learn it. Muslims in the west no longer stone women who get raped. Hindus who don't live in India can escape the caste system.

Also wars are never fought for religion. Wars are fought for power, territory and resources. Religion is just a tool used by those in power to get the masses to fight for their cause. Without it they would just find another tool to entice people into military service.

Dawkins would be better served finding ways to help science and religion co-mingle on this planet better. His current stance of a war against religion is doomed to fail. Imagine a planet full of religious people who are actually being persecuted instead of just thinking they're being persecuted. The Iraqi insurgency was hard enough, a world religious insurgency would be a never ending battle.

I look forward to the day when an American president can be an avowed atheist (instead of a secret atheist like Obama). But we can only get there by getting the religious to accept us, not think like us. I know that's seems like the weakling way out when you know you're right, but sadly they know they're right too.

5-starring this comment.

Its pretty clear to me that throughout history a substantial minority have been atheist (though not publically identifying as so), and many avowed "believers" were motivated by personal gain or fear of social dissolution. The Internet is playing a pivotal role in our generation (in the US at least) in allowing this hitherto silent minority to speak openly. Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Armstrong, Ehrman are all riding this crest, but I see them as simply articulate voices as the pendulum swings back to the Enlightenment.

Paracelsus above is absolutely right about there being a woeful absense of inclusive secular institutions that are ready now to supplant the social roles religious life did. The closest I've found so far are Unitarian Universalists, the American Zen community, and artists/ravers at things like Burning Man. If you don't like hokey candle rituals or staring at walls, or listening to electronic dance music you may be out of luck. Part of me hopes that in my lifetime, there will be a movement of secularists that recognize a common, regular human urge for ritual, memorialisation, and festivity, and create inclusive, voluntary, non-commercial, and non-embarrassingly hokey organisations to do it. Kurt Vonnegut would be our patron saint.

You're right about music & art fests being basically divine experiences and you're right about making Vonnegut our high priest.

Man does not live by bread alone, that's for sure. I just don't want that unleavened stuff.

* patron saint. But digging up Vonnegut and having him perform masses Weekend at Bernie's–style...I like to think he would have wanted it that way.

Religion is bullshit AND Dawkins can be a douche.


Five stars for Dawkins being awesome, and five stars for how long it took me to read the enormous debate at the beginning of the comments.
It's my intention to read-up this entire thread, but all the same, five stars for Richard Dawkins saying the word 'fuck'.
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