Richard Dawkins letter to his 10 year old daughter (how to warn your child about this irrational world)

The following is a letter that Richard Dawkins wrote to his daughter when she turned 10. Richard is one of the worlds most renowned scientists who is known for speaking out against the dangers of religion.



To my dearest daughter,

Now that you are ten, I want to write to you about something that is important to me. Have you ever wondered how we know the things that we know? How do we know, for instance, that the stars, which look like tiny pinpricks in the sky, are really huge balls of fire like the Sun and very far away? And how do we know that the Earth is a smaller ball whirling round one of those stars, the Sun?
The answer to these questions is ‘evidence’.

Sometimes evidence means actually seeing (or hearing, feeling, smelling….) that something is true. Astronauts have traveled far enough from the Earth to see with their own eyes that it is round. Sometimes our eyes need help. The ‘evening star’ looks like a bright twinkle in the sky but with a telescope you can see that it is a beautiful ball – the planet we call Venus. Something that you learn by direct seeing (or hearing or feeling…) is called an observation.

Often evidence isn’t just observation on its own, but observation always lies at the back of it. If there’s been a murder, often nobody (except the murderer and the dead person!) actually observed it. But detectives can gather together lots of other observations which may all point towards a particular suspect. If a person’s fingerprints match those found on a dagger, this is evidence that he touched it. It doesn’t prove that he did the murder, but it can help when it’s joined up with lots of other evidence. Sometimes a detective can think about a whole lot of observations and suddenly realize that they all fall into place and make sense if so-and-so did the murder.

Scientists – the specialists in discovering what is true about the world and the universe – often work like detectives. They make a guess (called a hypothesis) about what might be true. They then say to themselves: if that were really true, we ought to see so-and-so. This is called a prediction. For example, if the world is really round, we can predict that a traveler, going on and on in the same direction, should eventually find himself back where he started. When a doctor says that you have measles he doesn’t take one look at you and see measles. His first look gives him a hypothesis that you may have measles. Then he says to himself: if she really has measles, I ought to see… Then he runs through his list of predictions and tests them with his eyes (have you got spots?), his hands (is your forehead hot?), and his ears (does your chest wheeze in a measly way?). Only then does he make his decision and say, ‘I diagnose that the child has measles.’ Sometimes doctors need to do other tests like blood tests or X-rays, which help their eyes, hands and ears to make observations.

The way scientists use evidence to learn about the world is much cleverer and more complicated than I can say in a short letter. But now I want to move on from evidence, which is a good reason for believing something, and warn you against three bad reasons for believing anything. They are called ‘tradition’, ‘authority’, and ‘revelation’.

First, tradition. A few months ago, I went on television to have a discussion with about 50 children. These children were invited because they’d been brought up in lots of different religions. Some had been brought up as Christians, others as Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs. The man with the microphone went from child to child, asking them what they believed. What they said shows up exactly what I mean by ‘tradition’. Their beliefs turned out to have no connection with evidence. They just trotted out the beliefs of their parents and grandparents, which, in turn, were not based upon evidence either. They said things like, ‘We Hindus believe so and so.’ ‘We Muslims believe such and such.’ ‘We Christians believe something else.’ Of course, since they all believed different things, they couldn’t all be right. The man with the microphone seemed to think this quite proper, and he didn’t even try to get them to argue out their differences with each other. But that isn’t the point I want to make. I simply want to ask where their beliefs came from. They came from tradition. Tradition means beliefs handed down from grandparent to parent to child, and so on. Or from books handed down through the centuries. Traditional beliefs often start from almost nothing; perhaps somebody just makes them up originally, like the stories about Thor and Zeus. But after they’ve been handed down over some centuries, the mere fact that they are so old makes them seem special. People believe things simply because people have believed the same thing over centuries. That’s tradition.

The trouble with tradition is that, no matter how long ago a story was made up, it is still exactly as true or untrue as the original story was. If you make up a story that isn’t true, handing it down over any number of centuries doesn’t make it any truer!

Most people in England have been baptized into the Church of England, but this is only one of many branches of the Christian religion. There are other branches such as the Russian Orthodox, the Roman Catholic and the Methodist churches. They all believe different things. The Jewish religion and the Muslim religion are a bit more different still; and there are different kinds of Jews and of Muslims. People who believe even slightly different things from each other often go to war over their disagreements. So you might think that they must have some pretty good reasons – evidence – for believing what they believe. But actually their different beliefs are entirely due to different traditions.

Let’s talk about one particular tradition. Roman Catholics believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was so special that she didn’t die but was lifted bodily into Heaven. Other Christian traditions disagree, saying that Mary did die like anybody else. These other religions don’t talk about her much and, unlike Roman Catholics, they don’t call her the ‘Queen of Heaven’. The tradition that Mary’s body was lifted into Heaven is not a very old one. The Bible says nothing about how or when she died; in fact the poor woman is scarcely mentioned in the Bible at all. The belief that her body was lifted into Heaven wasn’t invented until about six centuries after Jesus’s time. At first it was just made up, in the same way as any story like Snow White was made up. But, over the centuries, it grew into a tradition and people started to take it seriously simply because the story had been handed down over so many generations. The older the tradition became, the more people took it seriously. It finally was written down as an official Roman Catholic belief only very recently, in 1950. But the story was no more true in 1950 than it was when it was first invented 600 years after Mary’s death.

I’ll come back to tradition at the end of my letter, and look at it in another way. But first I must deal with the two other bad reasons for believing in anything: authority and revelation.

Authority, as a reason for believing something, means believing it because you are told to believe it by somebody important. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope is the most important person, and people believe he must be right just because he is the Pope. In one branch of the Muslim religion, the important people are old men with beards called Ayatollahs. Lots of young Muslims are prepared to commit murder, purely because the Ayatollahs in a faraway country tell them to.

When I say that it was only in 1950 that Roman Catholics were finally told that they had to believe that Mary’s body shot off to Heaven, what I mean is that in 1950 the Pope told people that they had to believe it. That was it. The Pope said it was true, so it had to be true! Now, probably some of the things that Pope said in his life were true and some were not true. There is no good reason why, just because he was the Pope, you should believe everything he said, any more than you believe everything that lots of other people say. The present Pope has ordered his followers not to limit the number of babies they have. If people follow his authority as slavishly as he would wish, the results could be terrible famines, diseases and wars, caused by overcrowding.

Of course, even in science, sometimes we haven’t seen the evidence ourselves and we have to take somebody else’s word for it. I haven’t with my own eyes, seen the evidence that light travels at a speed of 186,000 miles per second. Instead, I believe books that tell me the speed of light. This looks like ‘authority’. But actually it is much better than authority because the people who wrote the books have seen the evidence and anyone is free to look carefully at the evidence whenever they want. That is very comforting. But not even the priests claim that there is any evidence for their story about Mary’s body zooming off to Heaven.

The third kind of bad reason for believing anything is called ‘revelation’. If you had asked the Pope in 1950 how he knew that Mary’s body disappeared into Heaven, he would probably have said that it had been ‘revealed’ to him. He shut himself in his room and prayed for guidance. He thought and thought, all by himself, and he became more and more sure inside himself. When religious people just have a feeling inside themselves that something must be true, even though there is no evidence that it is true, they call their feeling ‘revelation’. It isn’t only popes who claim to have revelations. Lots of religious people do. It is one of their main reasons for believing the things that they do believe. But is it a good reason?

Suppose I told you that your dog was dead. You’d be very upset, and you’d probably say, ‘Are you sure? How do you know? How did it happen?’ Now suppose I answered: ‘I don’t actually know that Pepe is dead. I have no evidence. I just have this funny feeling deep inside me that he is dead.’ You’d be pretty cross with me for scaring you, because you’d know that an inside ‘feeling’ on its own is not a good reason for believing that a whippet is dead. You need evidence. We all have inside feelings from time to time, and sometimes they turn out to be right and sometimes they don’t. Anyway, different people have opposite feelings, so how are we to decide whose feeling is right? The only way to be sure that a dog is dead is to see him dead, or hear that his heart has stopped; or be told by somebody who has seen or heard some real evidence that he is dead.

People sometimes say that you must believe in feelings deep inside, otherwise you’d never be confident of things like ‘My wife loves me’.
But this is a bad argument. There can be plenty of evidence that somebody loves you. All through the day when you are with somebody who loves you, you see and hear lots of little tidbits of evidence, and they all add up. It isn’t purely inside feeling, like the feeling that priests call revelation. There are outside things to back up the inside feeling: looks in the eye, tender notes in the voice, little favors and kindnesses; this is all real evidence.

Sometimes people have a strong inside feeling that somebody loves them when it is not based upon any evidence, and then they are likely to be completely wrong. There are people with a strong inside feeling that a famous film star loves them, when really the film star hasn’t even met them. People like that are ill in their minds. Inside feelings must be backed up by evidence, otherwise you just can’t trust them.

Inside feelings are valuable in science too, but only for giving you ideas that you later test by looking for evidence. A scientist can have a ‘hunch’ about an idea that just ‘feels’ right. In itself, this is not a good reason for believing something. But it can be a good reason for spending some time doing a particular experiment, or looking in a particular way for evidence. Scientists use inside feelings all the time to get ideas. But they are not worth anything until they are supported by evidence.

I promised that I’d come back to tradition, and look at it in another way. I want to try to explain why tradition is so important to us. All animals are built (by the process called evolution) to survive in the normal place in which their kind live. Lions are built to be good at surviving on the plains of Africa. Crayfish are built to be good at surviving in fresh water, while lobsters are built to be good at surviving in the salt sea. People are animals too, and we are built to be good at surviving in a world full of … other people. Most of us don’t hunt for our own food like lions or lobsters, we buy it from other people who have bought it from yet other people. We ‘swim’ through a ‘sea of people’. Just as a fish needs gills to survive in water, people need brains that make them able to deal with other people. Just as the sea is full of salt water, the sea of people is full of difficult things to learn. Like language.

You speak English but your friend speaks German. You each speak the language that fits you to ‘swim about’ in your own separate ‘people sea’. Language is passed down by tradition. There is no other way. In England, Pepe is a dog. In Germany he is ein Hund. Neither of these words is more correct, or more truer than the other. Both are simply handed down. In order to be good at ‘swimming about in their people sea’, children have to learn the language of their own country, and lots of other things about their own people; and this means that they have to absorb, like blotting paper, an enormous amount of traditional information. (Remember that traditional information just means things that are handed down from grandparents to parents to children.) The child’s brain has to be a sucker for traditional information. And the child can’t be expected to sort out good and useful traditional information, like the words of a language, from bad or silly traditional information, like believing in witches and devils and ever-living virgins.

It’s a pity, but it can’t help being the case, that because children have to be suckers for traditional information, they are likely to believe anything the grown-ups tell them, whether true or false, right or wrong. Lots of what grown-ups tell them is true and based on evidence or at least sensible. But if some of it is false, silly or even wicked, there is nothing to stop the children believing that too. Now, when the children grow up, what do they do? Well, of course, they tell it to the next generation of children. So, once something gets itself strongly believed – even if its completely untrue and there never was any reason to believe it in the first place – it can go on forever.
Could this be what happened with religions? Belief that there is a god or gods, belief in Heaven, belief that Mary never died, belief that Jesus never had a human father, belief that prayers are answered, belief that wine turns into blood – not one of these beliefs is backed up by any good evidence. Yet millions of people believe them. Perhaps this is because they were told to believe them when they were young enough to believe anything.

Millions of other people believe quite different things, because they were told different things when they were children. Muslim children are told different things from Christian children, and both grow up utterly convinced that they are right and the others are wrong. Even within Christians, Roman Catholics believe different things from Church of England people or Episcopalians, Shakers or Quakers, Mormons or Holy Rollers, and all are utterly convinced that they are right and the others are wrong. They believe different things for exactly the same kind of reason as you speak English and someone speaks German.

Both languages are, in their own country, the right language to speak. But it can’t be true that different religions are right in their own countries, because different religions claim that opposite things are true. Mary can’t be alive in the Catholic Republic but dead in Protestant Northern Ireland.

What can we do about all this? It is not easy for you to do anything, because you are only ten. But you could try this. Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important, think to yourself: ‘Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority or revelation?’ And, next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: ‘What kind of evidence is there for that?’ And if they can’t give you a good answer, I hope you’ll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.

Your loving,

Daddy




Different languages analogy

I really like the analogy that  you make in regards to religion being like different languages. However, I believe in God. I do not believe in Mary rising up to heaven, etc. etc. and I frankly don't really believe in the bible at all. To me, your language analogy works in two ways. One, every language is different, however, they all express the same things. A cat in france may be called a chat, but whatever language it is addressed in it is still a four legged animal covered in fur.

Religion is very similar. We may have different anecdotes about how God behaves and how his disciples behave, but those different stories in different religions do not change the overall fact that these religions are addressing and describing a higher power.  The stories about God may be conflicting, sure, oftentimes they make no sense, but it doesn't change the basic fact that everyone involved in every religion believes in something more powerful than themselves. These stories, which are intended to translate meaning to various groups and cultures in the world are oftentimes mistakenly taken as truth and not a conveyance of meaning, which is where religion goes horribly wrong.  It would be like saying CAT is the only correct and single way of describing a 4 legged animal with fur. There are many different descriptions trying to convey a similar meaning in wildly differing cultures.

Science and Religion Can Co-exist

I believe this is a well intended letter but science and religion can co-exist. In my belief system, I stand on evidence but also know that looks can be deceiving and that research can be skewed to fit the intended results. Science - even empiracal science - is not totally foolproof. Science and research itself has proven that!

In metaphysics we deal with that which is beyond the physical. These things, as of yet, cannot be measured, felt, or proven. I say yet.

Science has come a long way and proven its own theories wrong over time. Remember, the world was once flat theory? In time, I think that science will begin to reconcile some of the beliefs we've come to understand under the umbrella of religion. But remember, religion is man-made, so with that comes the flaws of anything man-made.

I rely on what I can see, hear, think, feel, touch, and intuitively sense. And my faith in this reality lies solely not in science, nor in religion. Just something to think about!

 

 

Vastet's picture

Debbie Mahler wrote:I

Debbie Mahler wrote:

I believe this is a well intended letter but science and religion can co-exist.

Granted, but it rarely does.

Debbie Mahler wrote:
 In my belief system, I stand on evidence but also know that looks can be deceiving and that research can be skewed to fit the intended results. Science - even empiracal science - is not totally foolproof. Science and research itself has proven that!

You'll have to provide some examples of empirical science being proven wrong. It should be interesting to see what you come up with.

Debbie Mahler wrote:
In metaphysics we deal with that which is beyond the physical. These things, as of yet, cannot be measured, felt, or proven. I say yet.

We say that these terms are incoherant, as they refer to what something is not, not what something is. Therefore they are not terms that provide anything of value at all.

Debbie Mahler wrote:
Science has come a long way and proven its own theories wrong over time. Remember, the world was once flat theory?

That was never a theory. Nor was it ever science. In fact, it was religion. Irony.

Debbie Mahler wrote:
 In time, I think that science will begin to reconcile some of the beliefs we've come to understand under the umbrella of religion.

It'll take a new religion to accomplish that. Science has disproved all those that currently exist.

Debbie Mahler wrote:
 But remember, religion is man-made, so with that comes the flaws of anything man-made.

I wish everyone acknowledged this.

Debbie Mahler wrote:

I rely on what I can see, hear, think, feel, touch, and intuitively sense. And my faith in this reality lies solely not in science, nor in religion. Just something to think about!

To each their own.

Once-Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

deludedgod's picture

Quote:but science and

Quote:

but science and religion can co-exist. In my belief system

This doesn't actually mean anything. It is nonsense, in fact. The problem is that people who say this state that there are two distinct domains over which religion and science preside, with science dealing with empirical facts and the world and religion with “metaphysical” phenomenon. The problem is sort of obvious. While it is a necessary and axiomatic consequence of our experience that the empirical world which is the “domain of science” exists, there is absolutely no reason to suppose that there is a “metaphysical realm” at all. Then again, they might sidestep that by trying to say that it is the job of religion to investigate “metaphysical questions” such as “why are we here”? This is equally preposterous. There is simply no reason to suppose that religion has any domain at all, insofar as it has never produced a methodology which has ever delivered us useful answers about anything. Additionally, they might set up a false dichotomy by staking claim over those phenomenon which science has not explained, or questions which they argue cannot be answered by empirical means (such as why the universe exists). Once again, there is no reason to suppose that religion can or ever will deliver us answers to these questions. The fact that science cannot explain everything does not mean that religion can explain anything. Finally, there are those who turn to a vague, woo-woo sort of proposition (rather the opposite of NOMA) such as “science and spirituality are compatible and science should be spiritual”. The answer to this is a resounding NO. Science is science. It has to be compatible with one thing only. Raw data. That’s it. It does not serve to be mangled by those who desperately wish to give their nonsense a stamp of approval. And if it is incompatible with your religious beliefs, that is your problem. It does not have to be compatible with any religious doctrine, spiritual belief, teaching or concept. This should not even be a consideration. It doesn't matter at all. The assertions of religion, especially those that supposedly pertain to a non-material world, have no associated methodology and rigour the way scientific ones do and therefore can be regarded as completely worthless. In the course of any scientific analysis, religion should never come up. It is worthless and irrelevant. The question should not be "can science and religion coexist?" but rather "who gives a fuck?". Even if they could, it would say nothing about the validity of religion. We could certainly dismiss any religious claim that was incompatible with scientific investigation, and we shall, but even if there were some that not, it would be a denying the antecedant fallacy to state that those have any weight at all on those grounds.

Quote:

In metaphysics we deal with that which is beyond the physical. These things, as of yet, cannot be measured, felt, or proven. I say yet.

If you are merely discussing phenomena which may be measurable in the future, then you are not discussing metaphysics. Metaphysics is ultimately an empty notion because the material empirical world-the object of our study, is defined in terms of our experience. There are people who might say something like "It is the job of science to investigate the material world", implicitly stating that there is some "non-material" world which can be accessed by the methodologies of another discipline. It seems that “metaphysics” is a label applied to something until scientific investigation demonstrates a meaningful model behind it. I stress that since it is the job of science to investigate phenomenon then it appears, from an epistemological standpoint, to be problematic to say that we can conclude in a phenomenon that cannot be investigated by science (in other words, that a phenomenon is "non-material". Why is this so? Consider it. When it is through some complicated causal chain, which via deduction, we can link some model or external object to some feature of our perceptual experience, then we are performing a scientific investigation. Solely by means of using our intuitive understanding based on our immediate perceptual experience, we wouldn’t get very far, but, by means of accumulating knowledge, we can effectively link causal chains of experienced phenomenon to an external world behind the experiences. Thus, for example, we would be unable to conclude in “dark matter” on the basis of our analysis of galactic motions through telescopes if we didn’t already have an understanding of what galactic motion should look like based on Relativity, which in turn, we wouldn’t have been able to conclude in if we didn’t have a set of equations describing our intuitive basis for relative motion, called “Newtonian mechanics”, which in turn we wouldn’t be able to conclude in unless we had…

You get the idea. So, in effect, by asserting that some phenomenon is beyond the realm of science (or, equivalently, isn't material), we are, in effect, asserting that such a feature has no causal relationship, however complicated it may be, that is needed to explain our perceptual experience. Obviously, there is some confusion about this. We don’t perceive, for example, “electron density”, but through a complex causal chain employing deductive experiments and prior knowledge also based on experiments, we can link electron density to some feature of perceptual experience. If there was no way whatsoever to link some phenomenon to some feature of our perceptual experience, however complex the linking chain might be, then, in effect, we are making assertions about phenomenon that, through no amount of deduction or investigation, can we make conclusions about based upon our perceptual experiences, which are the source of all our knowledge. So, you are on impossible ground, epistemologically speaking. To make your assertion, you must relinquish any knowledge claims you might make about this phenomenon at all.

Quote:

Science - even empiracal science - is not totally foolproof. Science and research itself has proven that!

...Science has come a long way and proven its own theories wrong over time.

I don't think you have a very good understanding of how the scientific method works. Indeed, it is clear you have no idea what you are talking about all.

There is a reason that every undergraduate budding physicist studies the mechanics of Newton, Euler and Lagrange. There is a reason that Relativistic mechanics cannot be understood without a firm understanding of the Galilean transform group. There is a reason that Lavoisier’s Law is still used in chemistry. There is a reason that every student of genetics must have a firm grounding in the laws of Mendelian inheritance. There is a reason every student of statistical physics must be acquainted with the work of Joule and Clausius. There is a reason that every nuclear physicist must know the model of Rutherford and Marsden. The process of formulating new scientific theories work on principles of cumulative knowledge. The term “completely wrong” is used a little differently in scientific circles. Polywater and Phlogiston theory were “completely wrong”. Newton and Clausius were not. When a theoretical proposal is grounded heavily in empirical data gathered by sound methodology, it is almost never completely wrong. What we usually find is that it is a special case of a more general and more inclusive theory which explains a wider range of phenomenon which supersedes it. For example, consider the Relativistic equation of total energy of an observed object:

Et=Ek+Erest

Where:

Erest=m0c2

The total energy recorded in an arbitrary frame of reference in which the speed of the object is recorded to be v is:

Et=γ m0c2

Where:

γ =1/( √(1-v2/c2)

Thus:

Ek=( γ-1) m0c2

Let:

v2/c2=x

Now expand the following in a Taylor series:

(1-x)-0.5=1+(x/2)-(3x2/8)+(x3/3.2)…

Thus:

Ek= m0c2(1+(x/2)-(3x2/8)+(x3/3.2)....)-m0c2

Take the limit of the series as v becomes small compared to c:

Ek= m0c2(x/2)=m0v2/2

Which is equivalent to the formation of Ek derived to Newton’s laws. There is a perfectly good reason why this equation is still used to send rockets into space.

 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

Books about atheism

Archeopteryx's picture

Marissa G wrote:I really

Marissa G wrote:

I really like the analogy that  you make in regards to religion being like different languages. However, I believe in God. I do not believe in Mary rising up to heaven, etc. etc. and I frankly don't really believe in the bible at all. To me, your language analogy works in two ways. One, every language is different, however, they all express the same things. A cat in france may be called a chat, but whatever language it is addressed in it is still a four legged animal covered in fur.

 

Actually, it's not quite true that all languages have words for the things that all the other languages have words for. For example, in some languages, there are only a few actual numbers. The counting system goes something like "1, 2, 3, many" and that's all you've got. So clearly this language does not have a specific word for the number 9.

Also notice that English doesn't  have a word for piano. The word "piano" was borrowed from Italian specifically BECAUSE we had no word for it. In fact, almost half of the words in what you would consider "English" are borrowed.

Also, sometimes even when words from two different languages have the same referent, they do not mean the same thing. The English word "pencil sharpener" is synonymous with the German word "Bleistiftspitzer". The both are referring to the exact same object. However, the English word frames the object as a tool used to make a pencil sharp. If we translate the German version as literally as possible into English, it becomes something like "lead writing utensil chipper".  Or we could observe that our word for a certain animal, "anteater", is comprrised of two words that indicate that it is an "eater of ants". However, the Malay word for the same animal focuses not on what it eats, but on another behavior, calling it a "pangolin", indicating that is a "roller upper", or an animal that rolls up into a ball.

The point of all this is twofold:

1) Not every language has a word for every thing.

2) The words that different languages use to describe a thing do not necessarily describe the thing in the same way.

C) Technically, not all languages express the same things.

 

And this is only talking about words for nouns. Don't even get me started on abstract concepts and time expression. Eye-wink

 

 

Quote:

Religion is very similar. We may have different anecdotes about how God behaves and how his disciples behave, but those different stories in different religions do not change the overall fact that these religions are addressing and describing a higher power.

In one version of Christianity, Mary rises bodily into heaven. In another version of Christianity, she does not. However, both versions have a Mary. This kind of reminds me of certain characteristics of language. (See: The words that different languages use to describe a thing do not necessarily describe the thing in the same way.)

Some religions are pantheistic while others are monotheistic. Other religions don't have any god at all. This reminds me of certain characteristics of language. (See: Not every language has a word for every thing.)

Richard's analogy appears to be holding up.

Your conclusion seems to make a sweeping generalization about the theme of all religions based on a very particular observation about a very particular part of two languages. It would probably be better to say that, just as the theme of all religions is concern with a higher power, the theme of all languages is communication.

Quote:

  The stories about God may be conflicting, sure, oftentimes they make no sense, but it doesn't change the basic fact that everyone involved in every religion believes in something more powerful than themselves. These stories, which are intended to translate meaning to various groups and cultures in the world are oftentimes mistakenly taken as truth and not a conveyance of meaning, which is where religion goes horribly wrong.

What a marvelous No-True-Scotsman fallacy =]

 

Quote:

  It would be like saying CAT is the only correct and single way of describing a 4 legged animal with fur. There are many different descriptions trying to convey a similar meaning in wildly differing cultures.

 

But it's more fascinating than that, because cat means so much more than "four legged animal with fur". (Other words that would fit that category: buffalo, dog, mastadon, etc). The definitions of words are so much more complicated. What is the definition of "cat" for a person who has only ever seen one variety of cat compared to a person who has seen nearly a hundred varieties? These two people can employ the word "cat" in conversation and understand each other, but their understanding of what "cat" entails is entirely different.

There can be no CORRECT word for anything, since pronunciations, spellings, and meanings are arbitrary and essentially made-up.

Similarly, there can be no CORRECT practice of religion, since the rituals, the canon, and the parameters for interpretation (including yours) are arbitrary and essentially made-up.

 

 

A place common to all will be maintained by none. A religion common to all is perhaps not much different.

re: Marissa G *flame

re: Marissa G

 

*flame on*

your analogy is very apt Smiling because "all religions describe the same thing" is exactly the same as "different words in different describe a four-footed animal with fur"

definitions of what god IS vary widely, not to mention what he (she, it, they) wants or demands.

in much the same way, a four-footed animal with fur is a cat. or a dog. or a moose. or a sea otter.

*flame off*

BOOOORRRRIIINNNNGGGG

I love Dawkins. But it'd suck to have him as a dad! What 10 year old wants to read a long ass letter about this topic? He should've sent her some kinda scientific toy instead. You don't make kids logical by preaching to them; you make them logical by sparking their interest in science, and guiding their train of thought.

Talk about being boring :-/

Dawkins admits God exists lol now what?

Now that we all heard Dawkins admit God exists at one of his seminars and in a TIME magazine article...I would quit quoting him as he is no longer atheist.  He does more to prove there is a God than there isn't.  What a dope he is. lol

Um...

Do you have a link to prove your foolish assertion?  Dawkins has never said such a thing, though he has said things that quote-mining theists have tried to construe as such.

Vastet's picture

Shockawenow wrote:Now that

Shockawenow wrote:

Now that we all heard Dawkins admit God exists at one of his seminars and in a TIME magazine article...I would quit quoting him as he is no longer atheist.  He does more to prove there is a God than there isn't.  What a dope he is. lol


What an imbecile you are. Your comment warrants only ridicule.

Once-Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Letter to Veronica

Fancy writing a letter like that to a child, especially your own child. Remember Jesus' wprds....."Suffer little children to come unto me". Your belief - or rather lack of it - makes me feel very angry at times but also very sad that a person of some intelligence can be so proud as to imagine that there's nothing worth knowing unless you can prove it with an equation or a theorem. But nevr fear, God loves you just as he loves everyone else more bountifully than you can ever hypothesise. Hope we meet up in heaven one day Richard; I can't wait to see your face.

Atheistextremist's picture

Yeah it's a long-arsed letter

But this is Richard D's daughter so she probably has a massive brain. The message is pretty simple and I think it works fine. In comparison, my evangelical minister father raised me to believe I was utterly worthless and deserved to be tortured for eternity in a fire because eve raided god's orchard. Discounting the father factor, I know who I'd rather have as a dad.

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck

Atheistextremist's picture

For fuck's sake

Tony Waring wrote:

Fancy writing a letter like that to a child, especially your own child. Remember Jesus' wprds....."Suffer little children to come unto me". Your belief - or rather lack of it - makes me feel very angry at times but also very sad that a person of some intelligence can be so proud as to imagine that there's nothing worth knowing unless you can prove it with an equation or a theorem. But nevr fear, God loves you just as he loves everyone else more bountifully than you can ever hypothesise. Hope we meet up in heaven one day Richard; I can't wait to see your face.

 

This reply makes me very angry.

 

 

 

 

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck

butterbattle's picture

Tony Waring wrote:unless you

Tony Waring wrote:
unless you can prove it with an equation or a theorem.

Reason and evidence. Why would it have to be a mathematical equation?

Tony Waring wrote:
Hope we meet up in heaven one day Richard; I can't wait to see your face.

Or, you can watch him while he's burning in hell I reckon...then, you can watch any of his kids that won't be Christians as they burn in hell....and their kids...and their kids. 

 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare
http://myanimelist.net/profile/butterbattle

Richard D's daughter

 Does Prof Dawkins's daughter have a massive brain?  It seems unfair to her to make that assumption.  Nothing like being set up for a fall (if you'll excuse the expression) from the age of 10, is there?

I'm sorry about your dad, I hope you've healed your relationship or at least come to terms with it.

I doubt anyone would remember Jesus' words...

Tony, I would be very surprised if anyone who was alive and able to send entries to an internet forum would actually remember Jesus' words.  So going back to Prof. Dawkins' letter, you only believe he said that because tradition tells you so.  What evidence do you have that Jesus said that? 

All Dawkins did here was

All Dawkins did here was teaching his daughter to think for herself, and not automatically accept any claim simply because she's told to by someone else.

This is hilarious. It must

This is hilarious. It must have been another fellow atheist joking around because that response is just too perfect. LOL @the heaven part and having physical feature there too

 To whom it may concern,I

 To whom it may concern,

I found this essay to be overwhelmingly refreshing. To previous comments, I was intrigued by the format of the piece as a letter to his daughter. I do not believe that it was written purely for his daughter, which I have no objections to. The essay dumbs down the claims made against all religions, but only does so to point out that this is the only way that pious individuals can understand it. I have read intensive papers and books on the fallacies and wording of the Bible and religion. This essay introduces most of these topics efficiently, while not bogging itself down in complicated reasoning and wording that can turn a non-atheist or non-agnostic away. I have gone through a Catholic High School and have first hand seen the pressures that are put on children at a very young age. Bringing up that there is no evidence for god, or reasoning is useless against the now throughly trained minds of religious followers. However, most of the arguments can be refuted as simple logical fallacies, such as “The Bible says that God is real. God wrote the Bible, therefore God is real,”. You may either want to burst out laughing or become furious by this quote because of its utter stupidity. But throughout my life, asking well respected religious figures, I have hear quotes similar to this. I am no one but a concerned citizen for my country and our world.
This is a link to an extensive look at the Bible that opened my mind to an argument that I had never encountered. I hope that anyone interested will take the time to real at least the beginning of this essay:

http://rationalrevolution.net/articles/jesus_myth_history.htm

Sincerely,
Charles

 

 

Charles: Christ Myth Theory:

Hi Charles,

 The Christ Myth Theory has been debunked for over 50 years. If you research any of the claims of the theory it is difficult to prove any of it. Believe it or not it did become a subject of interest to non-religious men who debunked the whole theory that the story of Jesus came from similar myths prior to Jesus' supposed existence.

 

I won't pretend to know more than I do but I recently watched the zeitgeist movie that has a 15min introduction that made several claims that they never supported with sources or references. I spent the next 6 months finding those quotes and their sources and I would encourage you to do the same. If you want to stand against Christianity, it is better that you stand on something not so silly and spineless. It makes Christians think they won when you lose to such a silly stance and bad science.

 

Just a suggestion

 

To the rest of the post: I don't think Science and Christianity have ever been contradictory. Religion is usually superstition based on a misunderstanding fear of the metaphysical which is itself based on lies and/or abusive authorities exploiting true or false "sacred" writings. When Dawkins refers to the general idea of religion in his letter, he is referring to that kind of religion. Christianity has always agreed with Dawkins' understanding of authority, tradition and revelation even if many who call themselves Christians do not.

 

I am a Christian and do not disagree with Dawkins' letter nor do any of the comments addressing the ridiculous approaches of religious people. I have never really seen Christianity accurately represented in your comments.

 

Maybe it would help to know that I'm not some guy with one of many interpretations of the Bible trying to sound like my view is the only correct view. I know many many Christians like me who believe like me and would probably not take the time to comment on forums like this because it is silly to them. Religion has a virulent effect on everything, including Christianity and in all of Dawkins' writings he is always addressing religion.

 

Although I do believe in a young earth which puts me back in Dawkins' range of fire.

Answers in Gene Simmons's picture

 So yah, you have spent

 

So yah, you have spent months finding the evidence against the myth theory. And you can refute it trivially.

 

The thing is that your refutation does not involve giving us the evidence that you claim to have in your possession. So at this point, your assertion exists at the level of a seven year old child screaming:

 

“IS NOT!!!”

 

Please do better if you think that you have a point.

NoMoreCrazyPeople wrote:
Never ever did I say enything about free, I said "free."

=

I'm 12 and I find this stuff

I'm 12 and I find this stuff pretty interesting. Been finding it interesting for years now. Plus if your own dad wrote you a letter I'm sure you would wanna read it.

"But first I must deal with

"But first I must deal with the two other bad reasons for believing in anything: authority and revelation. Authority, as a reason for believing something, means believing it because you are told to believe it by somebody important."

Mmmmm okay, isn't Dawkins an authority figure to his daughter? So, either he's contradicting himself or he doesn't believe he's of any importance to his child.

Well, all I have to say is that it's a pretty pathetic life to spend all your time trying to convince other people that what you don't believe in is not real. It all comes down to manipulation, control, and an "I'm smarter than you" mentality that is essentially the same side of the coin as the religious that Dawkins has such disdain for.

Vastet's picture

I love how a theist can

I love how a theist can travel through a kilometre of text yet end up somewhere the road didn't lead to.

Dawkins wasn't being a hypocrite, he was educating his daughter to not accept information simply because it comes from an authority figure, himself included.

Once-Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

How can someone so intelligent make such foolish claims?

 I call it foolish because any advice that is self-referentially defeating is foolish.

First, Dawkins tells his daughter:

"Something that you learn by direct seeing (or hearing or feeling...) is called an observation.

Often evidence isn't just observation on its own, but observation always lies at the back of it."

This is the first case of self-referential defeat.  I'm going to list statements drawn verbatim from Dawkins. I will letter these statements [(A)...]. In addition, I will paraphrase these statements in my summary statements marking them with numbered propositions [(1) ...]

We will begin in this article with the scope and foundational claim of Dawkins' epistemology. Next, I will critique it with respect to the problem of infinite regress. Then I'll focus on the problems of self-referential defeat and the falsity and arbitrariness of his claims.Dawkins claims that all credible beliefs must be rooted in evidence, and evidence always traces back to observation from the five senses. This is a terribly naive empiricism. It is naive because Dawkins provides no evidence which traces back to observations from the five senses to justify the criterion itself. He just stipulates it! So what sort of evidence derived from the five senses could he possibly provide for the claim that the only kind of evidence is that which ultimately derives from observations rooted in the five senses? Dawkins lays out his epistemology (his theory of knowledge) in the introductory section of his advice to his daughter. And this advice provides the framework against which everything else is understood. Thus, it is of pivotal importance and will occupy our attention here.

Dawkins begins with a question for his daughter:

 

(A) "Have you ever wondered how we know the things that we know?"

Now we need to be clear on the extent or scope of this statement. Dawkins is not asking how we know some things, e.g. facts about the natural world or the facts of natural science. Rather, it is a sweeping, comprehensive question: how do we come to have knowledge simpliciter? Consequently, any attempt to narrow the scope of Dawkins' remarks to one subset of our knowledge (e.g. to claim he is only talking about science) is simply inconsistent with his own stated focus.

With that in mind how does Dawkins claim we know the things we know? Dawkins answers with several statements. We'll consider the first here:

(B) "The answer to these questions is 'evidence'."

We can summarize (A) and (B) together as follows:

(1) "We know that p is true (where p is any statement) if and only if we have evidence for p."

That is Dawkins' first claim. And already a fatal problem looms.


Dawkins' core claim is fundamentally flawed for a very basic reason: it leads to an infinite regress. In other words, it initiates a regress of appeals to justification or evidence which is infinite ... it never ends. Since an actual infinite cannot be traversed through successive addition (particularly one of this type!) it would follow that we could never satisfy the evidentiary demands for even one claim to knowledge.

[Summarized succinctly: In order to believe p I appeal to the evidence of p-1. But then to know p-1 I need to have further evidence p-2. And to know p-2 I need to appeal to further evidence p-3. And so on. So to know even one thing I would need to appeal to an infinite regress of evidences.']

Consider as example, belief in (1). How could Dawkins' daughter know (1) is true? In order to know this, she'd have to have evidence for (1). For instance: (1-1) "Daddy is smart and he says (1) is true." But then according to (1) Dawkins' daughter would need evidence for (1-1), such as (1-2) "I heard Daddy say (1) is true." And then she'd need to appeal to something like (1-3) "I usually hear correctly." And on it goes. For any evidence, summarized by a statement, Dawkins daughter would need further evidence summarized by a further statement.

Of course this only follows if (1) is true.

Since, as I said, we cannot traverse even one infinite regress of justification then we could know nothing if we accept that (1) is true.

That's the problem. 

Next Dawkins says that in contrast to "evidence, which is a good reason for believing something," there are "three bad reasons for believing anything. They are called 'tradition', 'authority', and 'revelation'."

 

Authority. According to Dawkins: "Authority, as a reason for believing something, means believing it because you are told to believe it by somebody important."

Apparently this is always bad, according to Dawkins.

Really? Better tell the courts that they can't rely on expert testimony anymore because that's "authority" and thus not a good reason to believe anything. And how many undergraduates are listening to the authority of their professors? We must call an end to that! And how many people will make picnic plans for tomorrow based on what the meteorologist says today? Agh!

Now for some more self-referential defeat: what role is Dick Dawkins playing in this letter to his child? That of an authority. So according to Dawkins' own advice his daughter better not listen to him. She better seek validation for this disavowal of authority from her five senses because that's the only evidence that matters. Yeah, except that even that is rooted in her father's "expert" testimony that the only evidence worth having traces to the five senses.

So how did Dawkins come to know all that to begin with? Revelation?

As for "tradition", does Dawkins realize that he is inculcating his daughter in an empiricist, humanist, skeptical tradition which dates back centuries?

Dawkins advises his daughter that "People sometimes say that you must believe in feelings deep inside, otherwise you'd never be confident of things like 'My wife loves me'. But this is a bad argument."

Why is it a bad argument? Because such claims do not have empirical evidence which, according to the authority and tradition of Dick Dawkins, is the only kind of evidence worth having.

What about a moral claim like "Raping women is evil"? The layperson's affirmation of this proposition as necessarily true is linked essentially to some pretty basic "inside" feelings that rape is inherently evil. But that, according to Dawkins, is no kind of evidence at all. The only evidence that counts is "outside evidence" from the five senses. Right-o. So we are supposed to evacuate ourselves of innate moral knowledge based on an arbitrary, self-refuting empricist principle uttered by, of all things, an evolutionary biologist? Why? Because he speaks with a clipped English accept?

Next, Dawkins tells his daughter: "Belief that there is a god or gods, belief in Heaven, belief that Mary never died, belief that Jesus never had a human father, belief that prayers are answered, belief that wine turns into blood – not one of these beliefs is backed up by any good evidence."

Now what if Dawkins' daughter replied: "Papa you say that there is no good evidence for the existence of God. But what is the good evidence for that claim? I can't listen to authority on these matters. I need empirical evidence rooted in observation. And even if I could listen to authorities, why would I listen to you? You're no authority in metaphysics or philosophy of religion."

Finally, Dawkins writes: "next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: 'What kind of evidence is there for that?' And if they can't give you a good answer, I hope you'll think very carefully before you believe a word they say."

While I disagree with virtually all of Dawkins' statements, I am sympathetic with this one. Indeed, I can only hope Dawkins' daughter heeded this one piece of advice by asking for some evidence for the litany of self-refuting pap her dad wrote to her.

 

 

 

Evidence

Interesting letter to your daughter. Unfortunately, it makes the grave error of assuming that 'evidence' is not a form of tradition or authority, whereas in fact it very much is. Each of us, when we're trained as scientists and/or philosophers, must learn to recognize so-called 'proper' evidence for every phenomenon you care to name - from gravity to fire. For that reason, evidence is certainly a form of tradition, an epistemological tradition, if you will. So that's my basic response this specific letter.

However, I also have a broader response to you, Mr. Dawkins - you worship at the altar of science, much as Christians worship at the altar of Christ. If you were brave enough to cultivate a truly skeptical intelligence, you would no more support science than you would religion. They were both deeply flawed, founded as they are on authority, and therefore given to the vagaries of cowardice. That's right, I'm calling you a coward - and if your daughter grows up to believe you, she will be coward too.

Regards,

Mr. Dick Turpin

Vastet's picture

AnonymouspeRson wrote: I

AnonymouspeRson wrote:

 I call it foolish because any advice that is self-referentially defeating is foolish.

How is teaching his daughter to ignore authority as a standard of intellect foolish? It's perfectly true. One of the more commonly used fallacies is an appeal to authority. She should figure things out for herself. People who don't figure things out for themselves are brainwashed theists. Anything is a step up from that. You somehow think he undercut himself, when the opposite is true. You're just unable to see it. It seems clear from the ridiculous responses you dreamed up, that somehow there's a disconnect in your head that doesn't allow you to see he's teaching her how to think. Probably because you don't.

Once-Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Vastet's picture

MrDickTurpin

MrDickTurpin wrote:

Interesting letter to your daughter. Unfortunately, it makes the grave error of assuming that 'evidence' is not a form of tradition or authority, whereas in fact it very much is. Each of us, when we're trained as scientists and/or philosophers, must learn to recognize so-called 'proper' evidence for every phenomenon you care to name - from gravity to fire. For that reason, evidence is certainly a form of tradition, an epistemological tradition, if you will. So that's my basic response this specific letter.

However, I also have a broader response to you, Mr. Dawkins - you worship at the altar of science, much as Christians worship at the altar of Christ. If you were brave enough to cultivate a truly skeptical intelligence, you would no more support science than you would religion. They were both deeply flawed, founded as they are on authority, and therefore given to the vagaries of cowardice. That's right, I'm calling you a coward - and if your daughter grows up to believe you, she will be coward too.

Regards,

Mr. Dick Turpin

 

You're just an idiot. An idiot who used three or four fallacies in a single post. Grats on proving your lack of intellect.

Once-Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Response to idiocy

Not exactly the most rational response. You do reveal your fear of the unknown, however; and in that you're honest even when you're trying not to be. By the way, in your case the unknown refers to a world where science and religion are equally false. Do you have the courage to imagine that?

 

Re Dawkins letter

Re Dawkins letter AnonymouspeRson, much of your dissection of the letter depends on a conflation of the following two ideas: (1) we should not consider authority and tradition to be good reasons for believing something, and (2) any idea which comes to us from an authority, or from a long tradition, is false. From this conflation, you conclude that for Dawkins, being an authority figure who draws on the tradition of humanism, is refuting himself. I'm sorry if you are unabke to percieve the distinction I outlined. Anyway… why do we grant authority to expert witnesses in courtrooms?  Does their status as authorities ultimately have anything to do with evidence, or not? Is it arbitrary? Suppose I declared myself a psychic, and hence an authority on those few occurences my Inner Eye were privy to. Should a courtroom, examining a crime, accept my testimony of a miraculous vision of the event occuring in crystal-clear detail? Regarding your argument that the assertion that it all comes down to evidence suffers from an infinite regression problem, and is therefore something that cannot itself be demonstrated with evidence: this is trivially true in one sense, and simply false in another. On the one hand, solipsism may be true, and nothing can "ultimately" disprove it. On the other, if you accept that, for example, the computer you used to write your post was ultimately a product of the scientific endeavor, then you have your solid evidence right there. We do, in fact, have solid evidence-based reasons to think that a system which demands evidence for assertions, in combination with other empirical methods and pllain old curiosity, is a system that works, that really does get at "knowledge simpliciter", as you put it. It's what gets people on the moon, cures diseases, tells us where we really come from. Religion, by contrast, produces ever-splintering, contradictory sects, and rehashings of ancient platitudes. Perhaps it has inspired people to do good things from time to time, but when it comes to knowledge (yes, even "knowledge simpliciter&quotEye-wink, it's got nothing.

Next, Dawkins tells his daughter: "Belief that there is a god or gods, belief in Heaven, belief that Mary never died, belief that Jesus never had a human father, belief that prayers are answered, belief that wine turns into blood – not one of these beliefs is backed up by any good evidence." Now what if Dawkins' daughter replied: "Papa you say that there is no good evidence for the existence of God. But what is the good evidence for that claim? I can't listen to authority on these matters. I need empirical evidence rooted in observation. And even if I could listen to authorities, why would I listen to you? You're no authority in metaphysics or philosophy of religion."

Notice the leap here — from the myriad highly specific claims of Christianity to the statement "there is no God". To begin with, you don't need any "evidence" that there is no God, because that's the null hypothesis for just about any given claim. And you certainly don't need evidence that, for example, Mary never ascended into heaven. I'm not sure there is any. Can you provide me with evidence that Benjamin Franklin never walked on water? You ask, "So how did Dawkins come to know all that to begin with? Revelation?" Cute, but it makes me curious: if Dawkins' answer were "yes", and you believed him (that is, you believed he really had a vision or heard a deep voice in his head), would that decrease your skepticism about his claims concerning evidence? On the one hand, your answer ought to be yes, because you have suggested that revelations definitely are a valid source of evidence and knowledge of the world. But I somehow think it more likely you would consider such a "revelation" to be a case of Dawkins' mind just telling him what he already believes (as I would). This is the ultimate problem with most rejections of empiricism as lacking some "ultimate" founding: the only alternatuve they seem to have is that we, at least from time to to, should simply make things up.

Fallibility

The "cleaner"argument, I think, is one founded on the fallibility of authority that leads irrevocably to agnosticism - not an argument that tries to establish the truth or falsehood of authority.

1) Empirical evidence (and the claims of authorities based upon it) is conditioned by history and society and therefore susceptible to the epistemological "whims" of history and society. [I take that statement to be self-evident to any human being who reflects on his situation in society.]

2) As a result of being inherently changeable, any claims based on empirical evidence (and even those not) could be right OR wrong, depending on social/cultural context.

3) However, because social/cultural context is also empirical and therefore changeable, we cannot rely on it as a criterion for assessing whether a claim is right or wrong.

4) Thus, we are left with no unchanging criterion by which to judge the veracity of any claim.

5) Consequently, we conclude that every claim by any authority is inherently fallible, and our only logical stance as so-called rational human beings is what I call here "global agnosticism" - with regards to the existence of "God" as well as to all scientific laws and claims.

 

Mr. Dick Turpin

 

 

 

 

 

BobSpence's picture

Empirical evidence is the

Empirical evidence is the only form of evidence that has at least some claim to be NOT purely based on "the whims of history and society", and our own fallible and limited reasoning.

Of course any 'evidence' is going to have a subjective component, but non-empirical 'evidence' is nothing but subjective feelings and internal experiences and our very fallible intuitions. Science has a number of procedures for minimizing the personal biases of individual researchers, and we can apply less formal versions of these by trying to obtain 'evidence' and opinion from as many sources as practical.

Purely deductive systems such as logic do not lead to knowledge about reality, in themselves.

Logic is based on two assumptions/axioms that are the minimum we need to be able to make any coherent statements, and by itself leads to a series of theorems which follow from the primary axioms, that basically help us decide without basic errors that IF certain empirical observations are true, THEN certain conclusions are valid and sound. It is a tool for empirical investigation, as is mathematics.

All else is guesswork and speculation.

By assessing what degree of confidence we can have in any item of evidence, by comparing it to other other reasonably well-established understandings, and correlating with the claims of others regarding observations that we personally have not experienced, we can continually adjust the likelihood that it is firmly based, and so what confidence we can have in any conclusions or judgements we make which are to any extent based on such 'evidence'.

Such a process can be more rigorously defined, if required, by application of Bayes' Theorem, for combining the degree of confidence in each piece of evidence, an assessment of probability it may be taken at face value, into a probability that the conclusions based on all the bits of evidence is itself true.

We do not need 100% certainty in any piece of evidence or conclusion for it to be practically useful, as the enormous progress of science and its technological spin-offs, such as the technology we are using to exchange ideas here, testifies.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology

Dawkin's letter

Dawkins states that you can use the way someone treats you to help tell that they love you.

Can I use this to confirm that I am loved by  higher power by the way I feel and the special things the universe does for me?

 

Not as smart as you.

butterbattle's picture

OldZofTorC wrote:Dawkins

OldZofTorC wrote:

Dawkins states that you can use the way someone treats you to help tell that they love you.

Can I use this to confirm that I am loved by  higher power

Yes, if you define "higher power," show that this higher power exists, and is treating you in a way that people would agree suggests love.  

OldZofTorC wrote:
by the way I feel and the special things the universe does for me?

Not as smart as you.

You're begging the question. You can't just assume that I agree with whatever you want to be true. I do not agree that the universe does "special things" for you. You must provide evidence. Otherwise, it is no different than claiming that your imaginary friend exists and loves you because you talk to it at night.

The way you feel is just your emotions; they are useless in a discussing about reality.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare
http://myanimelist.net/profile/butterbattle

BobSpence's picture

OldZofTorC wrote:Dawkins

OldZofTorC wrote:

Dawkins states that you can use the way someone treats you to help tell that they love you.

Can I use this to confirm that I am loved by  higher power by the way I feel and the special things the universe does for me?

 

Not as smart as you.

Possibly, if you mean by 'higher power', the Universe itself. The bit about the 'way you feel' doesn't prove anything, of course.

Then you have to prove that the Universe itself is some sort of being capable of 'love'. Dawkins is referring to another human being, so that is reasonably assumed in his statement.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology

Science does not address relegion

one simple fact is that science addresses only what is natural. now, I am not talking about natural as in not man-made, but I am talking about the term 'natural' that describes what is tangible and/or observable. since religion deals with what is considered to be 'supernatural'- what is not tangible and/or observable - science does not address religion.  some parts of religion, however, attempt to address the natural, by coming up with creation stories, and other stories about the world and the universe that have no evidence whatsoever. Religious beleifes about an afterlife or about  god(s) are super natural beliefs, and, for that reason, can not be proven nor dis-proven by science. Science and Religion can-not interact.

 

Vastet's picture

Supernatural is a false

Supernatural is a false term. It refers to nothing. It doesn't describe anything, it presupposes that there is something other than the natural, and is therefore a fallacy by definition.
Natural is existence, nothing more or less, and as such the ONLY viable method of interpreting reality is science. All religion can accomplish is cliquism and ignorance.

Once-Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Except that real science is

Except that real science is a really young human endeavor and proper scientific method is only a couple of centuries old. For you to claim that flat earth is a scientific theory is just dishonest. But being religious you have trained your mind to be dishonest. Deep down you have to lie to yourself. But just imagine if you didn't have to live with the ultimate dichotomy of reconciling your irrational and at face value silly beliefs and re-directed all that mental energy into something else, how far would you get?

Hear, touch , see

 You love your daughter I presume. Prove to me that love exists, i cant see it, touch it, smell it, etc. Science cant prove it, so therefore it must not exist, right?

bradleycwells wrote: You

bradleycwells wrote:

 You love your daughter I presume. Prove to me that love exists, i cant see it, touch it, smell it, etc. Science cant prove it, so therefore it must not exist, right?

Love is shown in visible tangible actions by those involved. I can imagine that being hard for a Christian to understand. They claim that God loves them but he takes no actions to show it.

Science can show the chemical sources of emotions.

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin

Jeffrick's picture

see if this works

bradleycwells wrote:

 You love your daughter I presume. Prove to me that love exists, i cant see it, touch it, smell it, etc. Science cant prove it, so therefore it must not exist, right?

 

 

                         I have two adult daughters, try asking them for a date and you will see, hear and smell my love for my daughters as the EMT's carry you away. The court system will explain the details later.

"Very funny Scotty; now beam down our clothes."

VEGETARIAN: Ancient Hindu word for "lousy hunter"

If man was formed from dirt, why is there still dirt?

BobSpence's picture

Since when is science, ie

Since when is science, ie the rational study of 'Life, the Universe, and Everything', including human thought, emotion, etc, limited to what can be seen, heard, touched, smelled, directly?

There are instruments which vastly extend our ability to detect and measure everything from distant stars to the internal activity and state of our brain. You don't need perfect vision to read the dials or displays of an instrument telling us the the current chemical mix of hormones etc in our body and brain.

And there are analytic techniques which reveal facts about our reactions and thinking and prejudices and judgements and motivations which go way beyond what we as individuals are consciously aware of. Just by techniques like exposing groups of people to particular situations, asking them questions, observing their actions and words, and correlating all the data we gather.

We now can bring on just about any category of feeling, including all the 'transcendental' ones associated with religion, such as feelings of being in the presence of God, on cue by stimulating particular areas of the brain or administering a particular mix of substances.

We can indeed prove that the correlations, correspondences,we observe do exist, and that our theories closely match reality, which is all any of our ideas about reality can do, whether derived by 'science' or not. We can never prove that any specific description of observations or events is a precise, 100% accurate description or explanation of reality. But we can show that science is getting us far closer to all kinds of truth than the naked assertions and naive assumptions of religious 'faith'.

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology

I'm no fan at all of the

I'm no fan at all of the sexist and doctrinaire RD. In fact the guy annoys me intensely with his dogma and his abandon of reason when it comes to attacking church figures in the random and intensely personal way that he does.

 

However, I do have to point out that he has written extensively on altruism and its benefit to species along with having written on the genetic "urge" to protect the genes' own progeny. To ask the question you did is to ignore a huge mass of his work.

 

Still, he's a misogynistic oaf.

That's the thing about

That's the thing about religion that's so convenient; it'll take whatever shape or form you adapt it into, even against your own texts and scriptures.

If the very texts and scriptures that gave people the idea of God were so shoddy in the first place, how can you believe? You're contradicting your own position on faith by stating that the scripture doesn't matter (except for the "good" parts, whatever that means), when God is a apart of what you're denying.

 After reading this it is

 After reading this it is obvious you are not a good farther! The dog is both dead and alive - is that not what the evidence actually says?

Vastet's picture

Godsqaud wrote: After

Godsqaud wrote:

 After reading this it is obvious you are not a good farther! The dog is both dead and alive - is that not what the evidence actually says?

No.

Once-Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Kapkao's picture

BobSpence wrote:Since when

BobSpence wrote:

Since when is science, ie the rational study of 'Life, the Universe, and Everything', including human thought, emotion, etc, limited to what can be seen, heard, touched, smelled, directly?

There are instruments which vastly extend our ability to detect and measure everything from distant stars to the internal activity and state of our brain. You don't need perfect vision to read the dials or displays of an instrument telling us the the current chemical mix of hormones etc in our body and brain.

And there are analytic techniques which reveal facts about our reactions and thinking and prejudices and judgements and motivations which go way beyond what we as individuals are consciously aware of. Just by techniques like exposing groups of people to particular situations, asking them questions, observing their actions and words, and correlating all the data we gather.

We now can bring on just about any category of feeling, including all the 'transcendental' ones associated with religion, such as feelings of being in the presence of God, on cue by stimulating particular areas of the brain or administering a particular mix of substances.

We can indeed prove that the correlations, correspondences,we observe do exist, and that our theories closely match reality, which is all any of our ideas about reality can do, whether derived by 'science' or not. We can never prove that any specific description of observations or events is a precise, 100% accurate description or explanation of reality. But we can show that science is getting us far closer to all kinds of truth than the naked assertions and naive assumptions of religious 'faith'.

 

And love still does not exist. The (poorly conceived, philosophic) concept of it is merely a disgusting hodge podge of hormones, neurotransmitters and RNA.

Believe or not (did I just pull a ripley?!), your love is actually quite irrelevant outside of your irrational actions, Bob. -me, this time

“A meritocratic society is one in which inequalities of wealth and social position solely reflect the unequal distribution of merit or skills amongst human beings, or are based upon factors beyond human control, for example luck or chance. Such a society is socially just because individuals are judged not by their gender, the colour of their skin or their religion, but according to their talents and willingness to work, or on what Martin Luther King called 'the content of their character'. By extension, social equality is unjust because it treats unequal individuals equally.” "Political Ideologies" by Andrew Heywood (2003)

 The argument you make for

 The argument you make for cats in English and chats in French does not hold for the concept of a god, however, for the simple reason that there is ample evidence for the existence of cats, their behavior, looks, etc. in both England and France (and Mexico and Zimbabwe, etc., etc.), while there is no evidence for the existence of a god, regardless of whether such entity may be called Yahveh, Ganesha, Zeus or Itzamnah.

Dawkins' daughter

 ArchdruidEileen said:

Nothing like being set up for a fall (if you'll excuse the expression) from the age of 10, is there?

Actually, I believe Prof. Dawkins has given his daughter a very good primer for allowing her not to be set for a fall by cultural fanaticism. He is teaching him a very valuable lesson: think for yourself. She is one lucky child.

 

The real gift of Santa Clause

Having read Richards letter to his daughter I have realised that Santa Clause may have a final unexpected gift for our children.

A huge number of children are taught to believe in Santa and are offered "Evidence" of his existance and spurious explainations of his staggeringly improbable task of gift delivery.

 

At some stage in their lives , they learn that this was all lies!

The actions attributed to Santa were, in fact, perpetrated by their parents.

This time can be confusing and difficult for a child but can be a chance to explain to them that Myths and untruths are often spread without malice and that their realisation of the truth is a sign that they have reached a new stage in the development of their minds and their understanding of the world.

 

Questioning reason is the greatest gift that Santa can give your child.