The Enemies of Reason

Science’s pit bull, the unflinching Richard Dawkins, has a brand-new two-part BBC TV series, The Enemies of Reason. Part I, which premiered on August 13, has been uploaded to YouTube in five parts.

Irrationality is woven into the fabric of modern life. We unthinkingly indulge unscientific delusion. Astrology is so pervasive that just about everyone has been indoctrinated with the alleged character of their star sign.

[Astrology] was developed in the second century by the philosopher Claudius Ptolemy and has not moved on since…despite a shift in the Earth’s rotational axis that has thrown Ptolemy’s zodiac out by 20 degrees.

“I think if I were talking to someone in the spirit world I’d say things like, What’s it like being dead? Can you see the whole of the universe? Why do you ask them such banal questions?”

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwYwpIaIjlU]

(Fellow Americans, can you imagine a program like this being shown on American television — and paid for with taxpayers’ money?)

In related news, Richard Dawkins is the bomb:

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YlgKhE8soo]

8 responses to “The Enemies of Reason

  1. Fantastic! I’ve had some long discussions with people attempting to explain the scientific method and the difference between that and faith. It’s a frustrating affair. (Any discussion of evolutionary theory, for example, has to begin with a short course of what “theory” means in science. Gads.)

  2. I like Dawkins as well, but he can be a bit over-the-top. He always seems like he’s preaching directly to the choir. I don’t quite see the point.

  3. I don’t quite agree that Dawkins is preaching directly to the choir — the people he encounters in this video are hardly choir-members, and the spiritualist’s sad backpedaling (saying that the existence of a spirit world was proven for him despite his rationality, ugh) might give plenty of people pause. Questions like “Why don’t the dead tell us about the afterlife? Why is spirit-world ‘communication’ so fuzzy and banal”? NEED TO BE ASKED.

    This video made me face some of my own irrationality (Why do I not call out everyone who talks to me about my astrological sign?). I feel like I am being given weaponry in the battle against human intellectual weakness and neglect. And as this is a television program, certainly it must have planted seeds of doubt the minds of viewers, particularly questioning young people. Dawkins himself was raised Anglican and as a young man believed in the faith he inherited. IMO you can never have too much respectful deconstruction of the rampant superstition and irrationality of our species.

    And now Dawkins’ work is on YouTube where you can use links to it medicinally, sending them to sufferers who need them so desperately.

  4. You want Dawkins? You’re welcome to him! I’ll even throw in a free pack of teabags! Really.

    He is a fundamental atheist and as offensive as any other form of fundamentalism. He is not so much searching for rationality and proposing a less superstitious world-view that enhances and encourages scientific thinking, but railing against christianity. It would, I guess, be beneath him to consider parables of motes and beams, but some of his evolutionary ‘theories’ are as irrational, illogical and unprovable as some of the wilder reaches of the spiritual world-view he despises.

    He refuses to take on board the perfectly valid scientific studies done on the biochemistry, physiology and genetics of religious/spiritual belief and experience. He cannot (or will not) see that there are things that are outside a scientific world-view. Legitimate things. Personality, human mind, artistic talent, emotions. None can be measured or quantified yet they exist.

    To propound a fundamental scientific world-view to the exclusion of the things that make us human is as damaging as the view that we are all born in sin and are going to hell.

    He is, ironically, getting himself into a position that would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. The arrogance and lack of critical thinking he has been demonstrating recently mean that some of his pronouncements are making him a liability to the field of evolutionary biology.

    Sorry. Rant over!

  5. My friend, you are welcome to rant here, anytime. I welcome your views. ALWAYS! I have not yet seen the Dawkins you mention — only one of his videos seems to be available in the States (aside from whatever’s on YouTube), and I have not yet read any of his books.

    I did like this latest program of his, and applaud anyone going after astrologers and people who claim to communicate with the dead. In this video, anyway, so far he is not ranting against anything but wishful thinking and ignorance.

  6. Dawkins is definitely not a bridge-builder. He’s firmly in the materialist, atheist, anti-religious camp (alongside Daniel Dennett et al). While I disagree with some of his “fundamentalist” views, I find him interesting/entertaining nonetheless…

  7. I’ve just been hunting for the last article that sent me into orbit, but it seems to have vanished into the ether :-(

    However, he was proposing, quite seriously, that the evolution of bipedalism took place because walking on 2 legs was fashionable. Yep, we owe our upright gait and all it’s advantages and disadvantages down to some bloke (he brought in sexual selection as well) thinking it was trendy to stand upright and waggle his bits at passing females.

    He then went on to claim that the freeing up of hands led to art, music and intellectual growth, and these upright artistic genii were a better genetic choice.

    Leaving aside unworthy thoughts as to why a highly intelligent man would go into the mass media to claim that highly intelligent men made the best sexual/genetic partners, this – as a theory – has holes in it you could drive a bus through!

    Firstly, we have absolutely no way on knowing the psychology of our proto-human ancestors. All we have to work with is fossils and careful extrapolation from other primate groupings.

    Secondly there is no evidence of an upsurge in artistry associated with the emergence of bipedalism.

    Thirdly, there is not one single, testable hypothesis in any of this! If it isn’t subject to scientific analysis, it doesn’t fall within the legitimate role of science and scientist and should be left alone.

    And though the image of artistic males, lounging around displaying themselves before breaking off to amble away to create some early Goldsworthy arrangement of leaves, sticks and stones is highly amusing it does not reconcile with the evidence that in sexual selection females pick mates based on how well they can provide for their offspring. I would guess, from extrapolation, that females were more interested in who could bring home the most food and protect the group than who provided the prettiest decor!

    Really, the best we can say is that bipedalism evolved because it was advantageous, or at least not disadvantageous.

    It is the sort of vague, waffly theory (in the loosest sense of the word) that from anyone else would be met with laughter and then ignored. Not really a problem. But for a Professor for the Public Understanding of Science to put forth such nonsense in public (I believe it was in the Telegraph, certainly one of the ‘serious’ newspapers) is almost terrifying! And it really does hand the ammunition to those who say scientists don’t know what they are talking about and cannot prove any of their theories.

  8. OMG, there are so many pseudo-scientific theories (theories/opinions put forth by scientists — not testable, falsifiable “scientific theories”) for the evolution of specific human traits (~hairlessness, subcutaneous fat, bipedalism, etc.), it’s ridiculous.

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