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Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins Comes to Call

Dr Rupert Sheldrake has given me permission to post his commentary on his ‘involvement’ with Richard Dawkins’s recent documentary Enemies of Reason (Part 1 and Part 2 on Google Video). Given the one-sided judgements of the documentary, I think it is important to put forth Dr Sheldrake’s account. It certainly shows that it’s worth understanding *all* points of view before coming to a decision, considering the ability of television programs to shoot and edit things to their liking. My thanks to Rupert for allowing us to reproduce the article here on TDG:

Richard Dawkins Comes to Call

By Dr Rupert Sheldrake

Richard Dawkins is a man with a mission – the eradication of religion and superstition, and their total replacement with science and reason. Channel 4 TV has repeatedly provided him with a pulpit. His two-part polemic in August 2007, called Enemies of Reason, was a sequel to his 2006 diatribe against religion, The Root of All Evil?

Soon before Enemies of Reason was filmed, the production company, IWC Media, told me that Richard Dawkins wanted to visit me to discuss my research on unexplained abilities of people and animals. I was reluctant to take part, but the company’s representative assured me that “this documentary, at Channel 4’s insistence, will be an entirely more balanced affair than The Root of All Evil was.” She added, “We are very keen for it to be a discussion between two scientists, about scientific modes of enquiry”. So I agreed and we fixed a date.

I was still not sure what to expect. Was Richard Dawkins going to be dogmatic, with a mental firewall that blocked out any evidence that went against his beliefs? Or would he be open-minded, and fun to talk to?

The Director asked us to stand facing each other; we were filmed with a hand-held camera. Richard began by saying that he thought we probably agreed about many things, “But what worries me about you is that you are prepared to believe almost anything. Science should be based on the minimum number of beliefs.”

I agreed that we had a lot in common, “But what worries me about you is that you come across as dogmatic, giving people a bad impression of science.”

He then said that in a romantic spirit he himself would like to believe in telepathy, but there just wasn’t any evidence for it. He dismissed all research on the subject out of hand. He compared the lack of acceptance of telepathy by scientists such as himself with the way in which the echo-location system had been discovered in bats, followed by its rapid acceptance within the scientific community in the 1940s. In fact, as I later discovered, Lazzaro Spallanzani had shown in 1793 that bats rely on hearing to find their way around, but sceptical opponents dismissed his experiments as flawed, and helped set back research for well over a century. However, Richard recognized that telepathy posed a more radical challenge than echo-location. He said that if it really occurred, it would “turn the laws of physics upside down,” and added, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

“This depends on what you regard as extraordinary”, I replied. “Most people say they have experienced telepathy, especially in connection with telephone calls. In that sense, telepathy is ordinary. The claim that most people are deluded about their own experience is extraordinary. Where is the extraordinary evidence for that?”

He produced hardly any evidence at all, apart from generic arguments about the fallibility of human judgment. He assumed that people want to believe in “the paranormal” because of wishful thinking.

We then agreed that controlled experiments were necessary. I said that this was why I had actually been doing such experiments, including tests to find out if people really could tell who was calling them on the telephone when the caller was selected at random. The results were far above the chance level.

The previous week I had sent Richard copies of some of my papers, published in peer-reviewed journals, so that he could look at the data.

Richard seemed uneasy and said, “I don’t want to discuss evidence”. “Why not?” I asked. “There isn’t time. It’s too complicated. And that’s not what this programme is about.” The camera stopped.

The Director, Russell Barnes, confirmed that he too was not interested in evidence. The film he was making was another Dawkins polemic.

I said to Russell, “If you’re treating telepathy as an irrational belief, surely evidence about whether it exists or not is essential for the discussion. If telepathy occurs, it’s not irrational to believe in it. I thought that’s what we were going to talk about. I made it clear from the outset that I wasn’t interested in taking part in another low grade debunking exercise.”

Richard said, “It’s not a low grade debunking exercise; it’s a high grade debunking exercise.”

In that case, I replied, there had been a serious misunderstanding, because I had been led to believe that this was to be a balanced scientific discussion about evidence. Russell Barnes asked to see the emails I had received from his assistant. He read them with obvious dismay, and said the assurances she had given me were wrong. The team packed up and left.

Richard Dawkins has long proclaimed his conviction that “The paranormal is bunk. Those who try to sell it to us are fakes and charlatans”. Enemies of Reason was intended to popularize this belief. But does his crusade really promote “the public understanding of science,” of which he is the professor at Oxford? Should science be a vehicle of prejudice, a kind of fundamentalist belief-system? Or should it be a method of enquiry into the unknown?

Dr Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and the current Perrott-Warrick Scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge. His web site is:

  1. I Like Richard Dawkins But
    He is dogmatic. Or that seems to be the behavior he projects. Yet I understand his urgent desire to change the world. So many terrable things happen in the name of religion and superstition. It has to be stopped!
    That being said, I too have felt the pull of the cosmic godhead, and have had ESP, dreams of future events in my life, worked everyday for 2 years with a ghost. So I feel there is more then we understand, or some sense we ignore most of the time. There is more then Science, but something with less dogma and death.

    1. Love/Hate
      Hi Bladerunner,

      I agree – I’m actually a fan of Richard Dawkins. I also enjoy reading much of Richard Wiseman, Penn and Teller, and numerous other ‘skeptics’ who I disagree with on a number of points (maybe I just like conjurors…). Even Michael Shermer at least has fun with it all.

      Such a shame about the occasional obnoxious behaviour which spoils the moment…

      Kind regards,
      You monkeys only think you’re running things

      1. Dawkins
        Has helped me frame my arguments, as to why I don’t believe in the God/Goddess of religion. But as a scientist he should not ignore the proofs of someone he wishes to interview. That is wrong. Maybe he does need a little religion to remind him about “honesty” and “pride”.

    2. I like Dawkins But
      Why is it that people blame religion for mass deaths but ignore to mention how Hitler and Stalin murdered millions in the name of Darwinism?????

      Nothing like being hypocritical.

      1. Ideology
        Ideologies are to blame, regardless of the form they take.

        But of course, one’s own ideology is never to blame because it stands for truth.

        That is how the German population got taken, how religious fanatics got taken, and how the left and the right cannot see their common need.

        Ideology projects division amongst people and make it impossible for any real discussions to happen. So, people don’t really learn anything while they are busy proving their adopted ideology as ‘the’ truth.

      2. Stalin may have been an
        Stalin may have been an athiest, but Hitler was a Roman Catholic and neither of them commited their attrocities in the name of darwinism OR atheism.

        1. Hmmmmm
          Im pleased to see at least one rebutal of the linking of Nazism and Stalinism with Darwinism, but there should be a million more. This argument is easily accepted by those with compatible memeplex’s, but is pretty weak really.

          Hitler would never have succeeded if so many Christians hadn’t been willing to do his bidding, but the actions of national socialism mixed with anti semitism, mass unemployment, national disgrace at the position following the outcome of the 1st world war and the affect of the great depression, not to mention the affects of a philosophy of appeasement, reparation and the Treaty of Versailles, and the failure of the League of Nations as a political body are a much better fit to the historical evidence.

          Somehow Hitler had to convince alot of people like you and me that going off killing was a good idea. Most people were church goers, which we are told should have stopped his opinions before they did the damage they did. I dont really understand how he did it, but i doubt that appealing to their understanding of selection did it. It must have taken alot of wickedness, everything mentioned in the above paragraph, manipulation of church leaders, bribery, and faking of ‘christian-ness’ to appear like them.

          Many of Hitlers speeches are either littered with, or peppered with, religious language and quotes of Jesus and how God favoured Germany. Quite a bit of the ‘God bless Germany and her people’ type rhetoric. He claimed to be catholic, but i would never say he behaved like one. How i wish he had, then i might have met more of my relatives instead of losing them in that war. He did not follow any ideology except his own, and he did whatever it took to do it. That definitely was not standing before the people talking about evolutionary theory.

          As for whether he took anything from it personally. He wrote Mein Kampf detailing his views. Any idea that he properly understood evolution and it was a factor in his evil is ridiculous. Simplistic views of natural selection and ‘fittness’ correspond with Hitlers views that the strong survive, nothing more, but it is only the simple views. If Hitler decided to misinterpret a scientific theory then that was his right. The murderous intent had to spread though millions of Germans before it would become the monster it did, especially baring in mind that he was democratically elected.

          There is no such thing as ‘darwinism’ in this context. There are bastards in the world who are out to gain power, there always has been. Trying to label them as Darwinistic simply reveals something about the person doing the labeling. Darwin did propose that the ‘fittest’ survive, but the ‘fittest’ can also be the most loving and caring, the most altruistic. You dont increase your ‘fittness’ just by bashing people around the head. We all know this. We look for mates who are kind and honest, loving, who will make good parents. Crocodiles, who have evolved different do differently. As do birds or plants and every other living thing.

          The linking of Darwin and nasty cruel people just because evolution mentions that the strong/fittest survive just shows the lack of thought put into the argument. I am strong because i am good and because i love my friends and family. This increases my chances of having children. Love is as much the essence of Darwinism as big teeth. It depends on the species. We are a social species so we have evolved behaviors not seen in non social species.

          This is terrible behavior, but all too typical sadly.

          Atheism doesn’t contain a framework for the spreading of morals like religion does because it isnt a system in of itself but a declaration of a position towards ideas of gods, but many argue about the morals religion is trying to spread. Some are very good, some are terrible. It also contains nothing about promoting genocide. Miss-reading of evolution can be twisted, but there have been as many mad men claiming God spoke to them and asked them to kill (including plenty in the bible, if you believe that book to be true). You can savagely justify cruel actions based on anything though, such as quantum indeterminism gives me the right to define an indeterminate morality or nonsense like that. The point is that evolution says nothing of the sort.

          I would add one thing here though. The incorrect version of evolution taught by some churches does appear to sanctify it, because they have twisted it into a method of attacking the theory itself. By twisting it into this incorrect characterisation and then teaching it to children and adults alike they are doing harm to the theory, to science and also to those people. It cant be a good thing for anyone to teach that if you are an atheist morality doesnt apply to you and i’m not saying that anyone listening will believe it, but there are likely to be alot of atheist children being dragged to hear that and it could be a very bad thing to be telling children.

        2. stalin did…
          commit at least some of his atrocities in the name of atheism…especially the brutal slaughter of clergymen (and the destruction of places of worship)…and it could be argued that hitler acted out of (social) darwinist ideals (eugenics) in both the mass killings AND his aryan baby programs…(darwinists like to point out that it was darwin’s nephew spencer who applied “darwinism” to human society)

          1. I think this would be a
            I think this would be a stronger argument if he had only gone after clergymen. It seems more like he went after anyone that challenged his authority.

            Ultimately he seems to have reckoned himself as the ultimate authority.

            Anyone wishing to believe such a thing, or to behave in such a way as to try and increase their own power in such way is definitely going to confront religion both in its philosophical claims as to where absolute power lies, and in its kind hearted followers who will stand up to people like that.

            This is made even more relevant when we remember that clergymen are placed in positions of importance in communities. They are prime targets for any power obsessed nutter who intends to amass community based power and control – just like any local or national politicians who might oppose a person like that will also be in the line of fire. And even more especially when we consider many would point out a tyrant’s immorality and, correctly, wear their better morality on their sleeves.

            The fact is that a theory like evolution is so wide ranging that it is not possible to use it like this. Only narrow bits of it could ever be used, but it is a theory describing the natural freedoms and consequences of them in the interplay between genetics and environment and all the myriad complications of emergent complexity.

            It isnt the same as a bad man killing anyone that crosses his dreams of empowerment.

            It is very very important to understand this about the theory- just how wide it is. Love, honesty, compassion, hope, these are all just as much a part of it as death. It is not possible to behave in any particular single way because of it becuase it features all ways.

            All that can be revealed is something about the individual when they choose to act in a certain way. How a knowledge of the existence of genes to the behaviour of people like hitler or stalin changed their behaviour is not clear over a tribal leader of a thousand years ago wiping out neighbouring tribes in favour of his own. Precise knowledge of genetics is not necessary; it is obvious to everyone that if you kill someone they, and their line, will not exist in the future. All histories show that this fact has been well understood by Kings, Queens etc throughout history. In fact artificial selection has been understood for far longer than the history of the theory of evolution. There is no reason not to say that the English Kings and Queens were not thinking along the rough lines of artificial selection when exterminating their enemies or trying to maintain their own bloodlines.

            The fact is that any behaviour or activity is concordant with the theory of evolution, because that is what it is, a wide theory of life and behaviour. In this sense it is impossible not to do something in line with it; we all understand the rules of evolution, even without understanding the theory itself.

            So did evolution or atheism change hitler or stalin? Did it change their actions? Why did they not take on the full implications of the theory? Why did they only choose sections aligned with their own intent? How did hitler decide who would live or die?

            This is very much like trying to decide why someone chooses particular old testament or new testament versus to follow. Except that evolution features no lines saying that Germans are better than Englishmen or that Jews should be eradicated. Remember that a slug is just as evolved as a human. There is no direction to evolution. If something has survived then it is just as evolved. It is just as ‘fit’. What made hitler choose his preferences? How did stalin choose which clergymen or religious or social institutions would suffer? Or did he just choose those that stood against him?

            Having said all that- just like a school grade level of human anatomy would no doubt improve a murderers ability to kill, even though anatomy itself says nothing about actually doing it, the theory of evolution does show how gene frequency alters under natural as well as artificial conditions. Of course, like anatomy, it says nothing about murdering ones enemies, and I think that understanding that if you kill someone that they will have no more children is so obvious that evolutionary theory is not necessary. Further more if hitler had understood evolution he would have known that eugenics was pointless. Perhaps what both men needed was better understanding of evolution, not less, but I suspect that both their fates were independent of knowledge. Probably very little would have stopped them and their followers.

  2. Dawkins seems confused
    What is Dawkins afraid of–that if there’s evidence for the paranormal, that it will serve as evidence for the reality of religion (or that many people will interpret it that way)? Or is he afraid that evidence for the paranormal might replace religion? Either way, he’s confused, and hasn’t carried the thought very far. If these are his concerns, then that’s what he should be addressing–not expressing some bizarre stance that evidence shouldn’t be taken into account. Some people do use their belief in the paranormal as a form of religion, and that’s often unfortunate, but if many people feel they need to have some kind of religion, wouldn’t it be better for it to be based on something that might turn out to have real evidence behind it?

    I know we’ve seen many scientists take Dawkins’ stance for years, but it always still strikes me as peculiar and transparent, and simplistic.

    If Dawkins’ dislike for religion were only centered around a dislike of theocracy, deism, false mysticism, and their impact on humanity, which I thought it was, it would be worth hailing. But if it also hides an attempt to squelch investigation of, or contemplation of, the possibility of the paranormal, then it seems he’s confused by the difference between the two.

    While Dawkins is right that real science includes having as few beliefs (in other words, untested ideas) as possible, it also includes being willing to test those ideas, and any number of other ideas, especially ones that seem to have some evidence behind them, even anecdotal and minimally measured evidence, such as telepathy and many other paranormal phenomena. Even though most supposed paranormal events are coincidences, misinterpretations, hoaxes, etc., there’s enough evidence to make it a worthwhile area for true scientific study. Science isn’t simply a matter of limiting one’s view, but of opening up to many possibilities and then seeing if there’s evidence for them. I don’t mean entertaining possibilities like invisible pink elephants sit on everyone’s head, since we have little evidence of even an anecdotal nature for that, but rather evidence, even if just observational and fleeting, for things we don’t yet understand.

    A real paranormal phenomenon, and a coincidence, or a poorly measured test, etc. can look identical, or so closely similar, as to seem to be the same thing, which can falsely add to the body of evidence, at least among sloppy investigators, making investigation difficult, but not impossible for a real investigator. Dawkins seems to think that because most paranormal evidence is wrong, tainted, sloppy, etc., that it all should be thrown out, and no longer investigated. That’s not scientific.

    One of Dawkins’ puzzling statements is that telepathy “would turn the laws of physics upside down”. Who says? Why can’t it obey the laws of physics, even laws we currently understand? Even if it obeys laws we don’t currently know or understand, that wouldn’t be turning the laws of physics upside down–it would either supplement them, or expand our understanding of them. Last time I looked, we don’t know if telepathy turns the laws of physics upside down, since we don’t yet know what laws of physics that telepathy operates according to. Whatever all the laws of physics turn out to be, by definition, nothing can “turn them upside down”–everything simply operates according to them, including the “paranormal” (which becomes normal after we understand how it works).

    1. Mr Dawkins
      Good morning everyone,
      As you can see, I use the heading, ‘Mr’ Dawkins. To apply scientific credentials, as a zoologist he is scientifically unqualified to talk about the paranormal. So let’s be true to science and reduce him to a layman.
      I did this in my post here:

      Comments 3 and 7 show what a challenge we have in attempting some rationality concerning such subjects.
      I’m afraid Rupert was very naive in agreeing to the programme. As a fellow Brit he must have known that Channel 4 are NEVER open-minded enough to properly discuss both sides of an argument. They’re notorious for this in their documentaries. The term ‘pact with the Devil’ has never been more apt regarding TV documentaries.
      I fail to see how an understanding of telepathy can turn the laws of physics upside-down. Dawkins gives the impression that they’re written and understood.
      Oh dear, that layman again!

      I’m certain of only one thing. Nothing is certain

      Anthony North

      1. Dawkins as layman outside his field
        Anthony: I guess that does put the finger on it–“Dawkins gives the impression that [the laws of physics are] written and understood.” We see this every now and then–an otherwise good scientist strays outside his field, and ends up revealing that he has not much more, and sometimes less, knowledge about that field, than the average layman.

      2. Upside down
        I think that what would be turned upside down is his understanding of the nature of reality – and that is a big deal. The more you look at the so-called paranormal, the more it refuses to be constrained by the materialist paradigm. That is what Dawkins can’t accept … the need to invoke the supernatural, i.e. the non-physical.

        You can see it from his point of view – he has spent his life explaining to people that there is no inherent intelligence in the universe. That we are a product of chance; that our own apparent intelligence is a mere epiphenomenon of electro-chemical activity in the brain. He writes of how we have climbed Mount Improbable in order to reach this pinnacle of evolution and that we have done so by the simple but powerful mechanism of Natural Selection. Of this, in his mind, there can be no question or doubt: it is a fact proven by the evidence of 150 years of scientific endeavour and billions of years of fossil evidence.

        To throw all of that into doubt by “wasting time” on silly anomalies such as telepathy or fairy-tale philosophies such as religion or any other form of spirituality, is to deny the obvious truth. It is a heresy and nothing less.

        Of course, if you do turn from materialism to its philosophical opposite of idealism, then you can embrace almost all of his evolutionary evidence with one profound difference: intelligence (consciousness) is not only built into the system, it is the system. That is what he means by turning it all upside down and that is what he fears because it will mean that his life’s work, his considerable academic and public profile and his most deeply held beliefs have all been built upon a fallacy.


        1. Upside-down?
          Hi Kamarling,
          I’d argue you don’t have to turn materialism upside-down and embrace idealism at all. This would be making the same mistake as Dawkins.
          As for that mistake, it is accepting a single system of thought. I’m afraid it leads to digging a great big hole and ending up with fanaticism.
          I advocate the moderate stance of looking at all options and taking the commonsense bits from each.

          I’m fanatical about moderation

          Anthony North

        2. Inverse Laws
          Could it possibly be that the only thing to be inverted would be the rising-barlines graph in the sales of Richard’s books and audience for these pop-sci TV shows? Perhaps he equates his financial success with the laws of physics and thus could only comprehend his own personal discreditation as a collapse of the very fabric of space and, who knows, maybe even time itself!

          Somedays what Richard says and does seems to shoot himself in his own foot so fabulously well, well, y’know, it’s really a strain to credulity to attribute them all to pure chance …

  3. personally……
    I feel any comment about Dawkins is a waste of time and energy. He is a show pony, nothing more or less.

    A T.H.Huxely quote comes to mind,“Sit down before fact like a little child, and be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you will learn nothing”.

    “Life can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you do what your told.”

    1. Show Pony
      We have a TV program here in the UK called “Top Gear”. The show has a presenter called Jeremy Clarkson and he just pushes all the wrong buttons with me – he’s such a bigot. But so many people take his views seriously that he would probably win an election for president if we had such a political system here. And although I scream at the TV every Sunday night, I still watch him because he is my opposite (he’s also very funny). To follow the point further, I read a lot of sceptical websites for the same reason: to test the validity of my own views (not because the sites are funny – which they aren’t).

      Richard Dawkins falls into the same category as Clarkson and for me they fill an important role in helping to keep my own feet on the ground.


      1. Clarkson
        Good morning everyone,
        What Clarkson offers in Top Gear is the dream of our youth – fast cars, fast life, big mouth. I no longer believe in those dreams, so I often cringe during that programme. But yes, he and his fellow presenters are hilarious and it’s infectious.
        And, of course, Clarkson’s a fellow Yorkshireman 🙂

        A brilliant idea crawls out of the corpses of a hundred failures

        Anthony North

      2. Top Gear
        I watch top gear and like it. I certainly would not put Clarkson in the same category as Dawkins. Dawkins is a radical. We need skeptics sure, we should all be until we are satisfied enough to commit to a belief structure. The show pony comment is more to the way he comes accross in a TV show. This is done more for shock and entertainment value then anything else. Ratings!… pays the bills.
        If he is a serious scientist then he will look at every angle and not be closed minded……yes?

        “Life can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you do what your told.”

        1. Big no no
          Definitely a big mistake on Richards part! No way should he have said that. He could say that the program is not about evidence and just admit that it is a summing up of his feelings about some quirks in the knowledge field of humanity, but he should have said what he did.

          There should be a lot of study before any program about the supernatural is ever produced claiming a scientific backing.

          Abuse of ‘science certainty’ in the media is a big problem today.

          It was interesting to see that homeopathic doctor admit how poor the proper research was. The program was really only strong where it could reference good science. Most of the paranormal needs a really good dig into.

          [quote]If he is a serious scientist then he will look at every angle and not be closed minded……yes?[/quote]

          In principle yes, but in practice no.

          Scientists should with the paranormal i think. There has been a lot of good quality research disproving paranormal claims though, but the challenge is that having no effect turn up in an experiment doesnt actually disprove anything when looking for effects that could be mysterious, random, and weak anyway; as well as only doing anything if the experiment is good. Plus disproving one story about twin telepathy, alien abduction, telekinesis or divination doesnt actually disprove the possibility. Many scientists have given it a go and given up in the end. It is to their credit that they tried though.

          I dont know what subject your work involves. I am a geologist. If someone came to me saying that there are a large number of people who belief that plate tectonics is wrong and that elfs do the pushing i would probably look into it to see what evidence they had, just to challenge myself, then compare it to plate tectonics and dismiss it. I would receive the same criticism from the elf crowd for not thoroughly investigating it. Perhaps i would deserve it.

  4. Call yourself a scientist?!
    I despair, I’m a particle physicist with a healthy interest in the paranormal. I despair because I like to tackle ideas in physics and paranormal ideas in the same way, with an un-biased view. And I despair because a zoologist is talking about being worried about turning the laws of physics upside down. If the experiment I’m working on at the moment succeeds, it will turn the laws of physics upside down, and how wonderful is that? And how boring if the Universe behaved exactly as we think it should!

    This guy pisses me off, because he’s not using scientific method and he’s stimulating debate without taking part in the debate himself. Scientists will always try and push their own views through their research, but that’s just it – where is his proof one way or another?

    Popular science? Popular hogwash!

  5. Silly Richie
    Good comments by everyone.

    The scientific agnostics should really consider getting a new poster-boy. Dawkins fails miserably at promoting their ideas (which do have value) outside of their already loyal niche groups. They need a person who comfronts all these things that seem “heretical” to mainstream science and instead of saying “Those are pure lies and foolishness” would rather say “I don’t know, but it seems unlikely”; with a person like that you can have a discussion, and even agree to disagree.

    It’s not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me…
    It’s all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

    Red Pill Junkie

    1. Proselyting is the problem.
      And it stems from the fact thought systems are organized over the same psychological platform. The only things that change are the variables and those variables are the value an individual and a collective give to memory, therefore to knowledge.

      But, in the end, a thought system is just that, be it materialistic or mystic.

      And thought systems are the basis for ideologies and ideologies fight for supremacy the same way organisms do in a petri dish, like viruses they infect cells that would otherwise have been ‘clean’ and they then turn them over to their cause.

  6. Fundamentalist Skepticism
    Great discussion. Most are not willing to hang Dawkins immediately, which is what he would probably do with most of this lot.

    “I don’t want to discuss evidence” is the fundamentalist mindset in a nutshell. That’s not science, that’s belief.

    It might even be something like…RELIGION.

    1. Not science but belief
      Interesting comment.

      It is worth noting that one’s ideology always gives the impression of being in his own rectitude. That the ideology is more based on facts than that of the neighbour.

      So, the scientist will claim he is free from belief, as an example. I am making a broad generalization here of course.

      It is only outside of ideologies that one can begin to look with objectivity.

      So, in my book, whether the ideology is based on some rationality, some logic, some insight or some subjective interpretation of the value of an experience, it always is tainted with belief.

      1. Ideology
        Of course an ideology – any viewpoint, infact – is tainted by a touch of belief, and usually a big dose of emotion. And that’s where moderation is so important. It can attmept to whittle away at belief and emotion.
        And yes, I believe this is an emotional way as well as rational. But then again, nothing’s perfect. I’d just argue that this system is more perfect than the rest, as it takes into account toleration and open mindedness.

        Reality, like time, is relative to the observer

        Anthony North

  7. You can embrace almost all
    You can embrace almost all of his evolutionary evidence with one profound difference: intelligence (consciousness) is not only built into the system, it is the system. That is what he means by turning it all upside down.

  8. “is” and other misleading words…
    I found the Dawkins shows interesting, but he exhibits one of the same “delusions” he accuses his targets of: blind adherence to his beliefs.

    The above post mentioning the upside-down turning of the laws of Physics — by this statement Dawkins assumes Science already knows all the laws of Physics at this point in time (which is laughable) and also presupposes that the mechanism for these so-called paranormal events/methods breaks current laws of Physics.

    Science has been very wrong in the past, and only by new scientists willing to challenge the earlier beliefs do we find progress in Science, and inch closer to truths.

    Dawkins (and many other popular science authors/celebrities/documentaries) love to use the word “is”, as if the final word has been spoken on the subject. Phrases such as “the universe ‘is’ X years old” are inferred observations, and make me cringe when I hear them. A phrase such as “our current understanding leads us to believe that stars are X light-years away” would be much more palatable.

    If anything, the history of science shows us that most likely the current scientific worldview is at the very least incomplete. Openness to new ideas is at the heart of Science.

    I do not however think Dawkins or the rest of the skeptics should blindly accept every claim. In fact, I quite enjoy exploring a healthy balance of both the “true believer” as well as the skeptic arguments. But instead of just flat out rejecting all alternative claims with bias and prejudice, I would like to see a more balanced approach.

    Most accepted “facts” and “truths” of Science were — in their early phases — considered heresy by the scientific establishment. The germ theory he touts in his medicine show is a perfect example of scientists proposing new theories that were ridiculed by their peers at the time. And Dawkins should also be corrected — leeches are in fact still used in modern hospitals, at least here in the States.

    I am not stating the case that all these “alternative” theories and remedies need to just be accepted, but rather that instead of just closing the door they should at least be scientifically ruled out, not sneered at in a fluff television show with a few self-authoritative dismissals as if that were the final word on the subject. The Sheldrake situation is such a case where the clinical studies and double-blind tests Dawkins repeatedly asks for are actually provided, and then conveniently ignored. Shameful.

    However I will in closing also give props to Dawkins for some of the experts/gurus he spoke with, which he gave the chance to explain their point of view, however briefly. I did find some of Dawkins questions and arguments interesting and valid. I agree with him in that there seems to be a lot of self-delusion in many “alternative” claims.

    Going to the New Age conventions is hardly proof that alternative claims are bogus, however. Talk to the researchers and accredited scientists who have done the work which Dawkins demands, not these small players. Sheldrake is a perfect candidate for this, and with the Dawkins Agenda, it’s no surprise that he was conveniently left out of the show(s).

    1. Turning the laws of physics upside-down
      The argument that if “paranormal” phenomena were true it would turn the laws of physics upside down just beggs the question: the conclusion is that “paranormal” phenomena is bogus and the premise that supposedly bolsters that conclusion is that it would turn the laws of physics upside down. Now, it isn’t granted that it would turn them upside down and, also, it isn’t clear why would that be a bad thing even if it were true. This isn’t granted, it should be argued for. That kind of stuff is called circular thinking (begging the question).

  9. And he calls himself a scientist?
    “I don’t want to discuss evidence” – he might have meant “right now while I’m doing another polemic” but to me that epitomises Dawkins’s attitude. He’s as closed-minded – and as bloody-minded – as any fundie of the religious stripe.

    I haven’t followed all the posts on this, so I may be repeating someone, but Dr Sheldrake’s comment about what one describes as extraordinary is the core of it, for me. I don’t believe in the “paranormal” or “supernatural” because for me it is ALL part of nature.

    Dawkins and co. really do seem to want to reduce everything, and everyone, to mathematic formulae and biological robots. If it can’t be proven by today’s science it doesn’t exist and you’re a total loser for allowing anything other than cold calculation into your mind. Of course they’d deny that’s their stance, but so much of what they say confirms it. Look at Dawkins – Mr Don’t Indoctrinate the Children – and his ‘fantasy is bad for you’ rubbish, and his ideas of writing a children’s book to teach kids how to think … no indoctrination, hmm? Anyone know if the man’s had a humour bypass?

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