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Tuesday, November 21, 2006 - 6:55amSanction this postReply
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There is great opportunity as well as danger in this.  If religion can be replaced with something like a coherent philosophy like Objectivism, then it works and can be a good opportunity.  In the past, when it was replaced with collectivist ideology such as Communism and Fascism, it was far worse and led to mass murder never before seen on Earth.  If post-modernism is all that is offered as the alternative, or communism, is it any wonder people cling to religion?  Unless and until Objectivism or even something else as a reasoned alternative is offered, I am concerned about dismantling religion even as flawed as it is.



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Tuesday, November 21, 2006 - 7:02amSanction this postReply
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You have a point, Kurt.  But, man, it was fun reading that article.  Thanks for posting it, Andre.  I wish I could have been there.
That was just the kind of accommodating attitude that drove Dr. Dawkins up the wall. “I am utterly fed up with the respect that we — all of us, including the secular among us — are brainwashed into bestowing on religion,” he said. “Children are systematically taught that there is a higher kind of knowledge which comes from faith, which comes from revelation, which comes from scripture, which comes from tradition, and that it is the equal if not the superior of knowledge that comes from real evidence.”
Thanks,
Glenn




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Tuesday, November 21, 2006 - 9:20amSanction this postReply
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Kurt wrote,
There is great opportunity as well as danger in this. If religion can be replaced with something like a coherent philosophy like Objectivism, then it works and can be a good opportunity. In the past, when it was replaced with collectivist ideology such as Communism and Fascism, it was far worse and led to mass murder never before seen on Earth. If post-modernism is all that is offered as the alternative, or communism, is it any wonder people cling to religion? Unless and until Objectivism or even something else as a reasoned alternative is offered, I am concerned about dismantling religion even as flawed as it is.
There is nothing sacrosanct about religion. Look at Islamic fundamentalism. Is that better than Communism, Nazism or Fascism? No! It may, in fact, be worse. Is Christianity in its present state better? Yes, but by what criterion? By the criterion of rationality. You can only judge a particular religion as better or worse than another if you already have a standard of judgment based on the principles of Objectivism. Since religion is based on faith, and faith is the antipode of reason, there can be no argument for preserving religion on the grounds that it is some kind of bulwark against totalitarianism, which can itself arise from religious premises (e.g., Islamofascism).

When you say, "Is it any wonder that people cling to religion?", what you are really saying is, "Is it any wonder that people cling to the rational elements of a particular religion?" No, but recognize that what they are clinging to is an implicitly rational philosophy, even if they haven't identified it as such. You can't justify preserving a religion simply on the grounds that it contains some rational ideas, since it doesn't follow that to abandon the religion is throw the baby out with the baptismal water.

- Bill
(Edited by William Dwyer
on 11/21, 9:21am)




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Tuesday, November 21, 2006 - 9:57amSanction this postReply
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You have a point also - I am just very wary of the leftist element in the atheist movement.



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Tuesday, November 21, 2006 - 12:23pmSanction this postReply
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Kurt, et al. -- As you guys, know we at The Atlas Society have started to deal with and address skeptics/humanists/atheists.

See my piece on "What Are Creationists Afraid of?"
http://www.objectivistcenter.org/ct-1636-Creationists.aspx

And my piece on the James Randi event entitled "Skeptics & Humanists: Allies or Enemies of Individualism?":
http://www.objectivistcenter.org/ct-1772-skeptics_1.aspx

I have a piece on "Secular Spirituality" in the December issue of TNI, which recently went in the mail to subscribers.

Further, Michael Shermer visited us recently and we'll have an interview with him in the Jan-Feb issue of The New Individualist.

And I recently addressed a local skeptics group on "Objectivism & Skepticism: A Good Match?":
http://www.objectivistcenter.org/cth-13-1808-Hudgins_to_Speak_to_Skeptics_Group.aspx

I argued that they are right as far as they go but don't go far enough, that to be consistently rational they must embrace rational self-interest as a moral ideal and laissez-faire capitalism as its political manifestation, that is, Objectivism. I received a good reception.

Also the Center for Inquiry, the Paul Kurtz group which publishes Free Inquiry, just opened a DC office. I went to their opening event. They still tend more to represent the old-left form that replaces god with worship of the social good. But more of them these days know Rand and consider themselves friendly to Objectivism and/or liberatianism.

A way we can distinguish ourselves from both conservatives and libertarians is to emphasize our rational, secular approach to the world. I hope to do a piece in the future on the fallacy of faith, to take on that term that gets too much respect in our culture.

(Edited by Ed Hudgins on 11/21, 1:05pm)




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Tuesday, November 21, 2006 - 12:48pmSanction this postReply
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Ed said:
I hope to [d]o a piece in the future on the fallacy of faith, to take on that term that gets too much respect in our culture.
An important topic; I'm looking forward to it.
Thanks for your efforts,
Glenn




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Tuesday, November 21, 2006 - 1:28pmSanction this postReply
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Further, Michael Shermer visited us recently and we'll have an interview with him in the Jan-Feb issue of The New Individualist.

Ed, that's great!  I'm looking forward to it.

I am very encouraged by recent developments in the fight against religion (and for rationality).  One really important idea that's going to gather steam, I think, is that religious notions should no longer be respected just because they are religious notions.  Douglas Adams (in The Salmon of Doubt) made this point first, and Dawkins has picked up on it.  He points out that we can argue Republicans vs. Democrats or Mac vs. Windows, but we have put this protective barrier around irrational beliefs, so that if someone believes God doesn't want them to eat pork, or God wants them to wear a hijab, we don't say "that's stupid," we say "oh, I respect that."  I hope we are on the cusp of change, and that in a generation or so, irrational beliefs won't get automatic respect.
 

(Edited by Laure Chipman on 11/21, 1:29pm)




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Tuesday, November 21, 2006 - 2:10pmSanction this postReply
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Laure -- You're thinking along my lines. The piece I'm working on will parse the term "faith." For some it really means "confidence." For some it means "reasonable hope." But for many it does mean "Don't confuse me with the facts." Why should anyone respect that?" In America more "people of faith" compartmentalize their beliefs and thus live generally rational lives. To my complaint that 90%-plus of Americans believe in god, he said many of them only act on the belief for two hours a week on Sunday morning. But clearly the fallacy of faith does matter.

I like emphasizing the positive, that is, the benefits of a rational approach of life, and not just tear down faith. You attract more flies with honey than vinegar.

I'm starting Dawkin's Delusion book and am in the middle of both Pascal Boyer's Religion Explained and Dennett's Breaking the Spell. It's important for us not only to understand why religious beliefs are wrong but also why people hold to them in the face of all logic and facts. This will make us more effective as we promote reason as a virtue.

By the way, a love Adam's Hitchikers' Guide and was pleased to find out that he and Dawkins were well acquainted with one another!




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Tuesday, November 21, 2006 - 2:41pmSanction this postReply
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Ed, what is your view, then, of Sam Harris's books?



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Tuesday, November 21, 2006 - 3:08pmSanction this postReply
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Rpbert -- My view is that I hope my Amazon order with that book in it arrives soon! I've heard Harris speak and like that fact that he sees a danger not just in the American religious right but in Islamists as well. I note that the Center for Inquiry folks seem to think that the Islamists are dangerous but if we just stop invading Middle East countries the reasonable Muslims will be able to come to the fore. Perhaps. But I worry that some humanists, because they don't like US foreign policy, underplay the dangers of the Islamists. Harris seems more realistic and has criticized fellow liberals for not appreciating the danger.

But I'll say more once I read the book!




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Tuesday, November 21, 2006 - 5:59pmSanction this postReply
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"Sir Harold Kroto, called for the John Templeton Foundation to give its next $1.5 million prize for “progress in spiritual discoveries” to an atheist"

Interesting, I'd like to know what the qualifications are. No long post, am off to celebrate Existence with my family.

Naturam naturantem, homo sciens deus est.

Ted Keer, 21 November, 2006, NYC

Ecce, fratres divi, io iovem transiens:




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Tuesday, November 21, 2006 - 7:34pmSanction this postReply
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I went to a speaking by Richard Dawkins on his latest book The God Delusion. During the QA session, when one of the audience members (who sounded like a religious person) asked him "What we can base our morals on, and how would one continue to be civilized without faith in God?", his answer was something like: "I don't know. We'll, we are probably civilized because of the way we evolved to cooperate with small family groups."

I was dissatisfied of his answer, I stood up with my arm reaching into the air. He saw me and called on me. I asked "What are your thoughts on Ayn Rand's idea of the 'Harmony of interest between rational men?'" His response: "I never heard of Ayn Rand"!

The event was put on by the Skeptic Society, later I was told that many of the leaders of the society have strong negative feelings towards Rand/Objectivism. Woopsie. Anyways, I was surprised that Richard Dawkins never heard of her.



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Tuesday, November 21, 2006 - 9:38pmSanction this postReply
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Ed Hudgins wrote,
But more of them [the Center for Inquiry] these days know Rand and consider themselves friendly to Objectivism and/or liberatianism.
Hey, I like it -- "liberationism" -- presumably the process by which people are liberated from liberalism. I shall now call myself a "liberationist" as well as a "libertarian"! :-)

- Bill



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Wednesday, November 22, 2006 - 5:35amSanction this postReply
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Dean wrote:

The event was put on by the Skeptic Society, later I was told that many of the leaders of the society have strong negative feelings towards Rand/Objectivism. Woopsie. Anyways, I was surprised that Richard Dawkins never heard of her.

Skeptics hate Objectivism because they hate certainty and consider any conviction a matter of "faith" and "dogma."  The leader of the Tampa Bay Skeptics became one of my harshest critics at a freethought meeting where I presented Objectivism.  (I had to bite my tongue not to make some remark about whether his skepticism would help him to reduce his enormous waistline.)  His criticisms arose from the economic consequences of Objectivism that he considered undesirable for reasons unstated, such as the possibility of putting people out of business.  His colleague openly called Objectivism "100 percent subjectivism!"

I do not feel that much surprise at Dawkins' ignorance of Ayn Rand.  I have met many people in America who have never heard of her, and I do not think she enjoys the same popularity in his home country that she enjoys here.

(Edited by Luke Setzer on 11/22, 5:36am)




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Friday, November 24, 2006 - 12:22pmSanction this postReply
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Dean said:

I was dissatisfied of his answer, I stood up with my arm reaching into the air. He saw me and called on me. I asked "What are your thoughts on Ayn Rand's idea of the 'Harmony of interest between rational men?'" His response: "I never heard of Ayn Rand"!


Dean, I was also at the Caltech presentation. I thought that your question was great (thanks!!), and I too was disappointed by Dawkins' response. It seems so right: Dawkins was almost there. He holds (and loves) reality as an absolute, and reason as the only way to knowledge. So close...

Luke wasn't surprised by Dawkins' ignorance of Ayn Rand. I suppose that he is from England, and maybe her works have been less popular over there. The only other explanation that I could come up with is that Rand is a bit of a controversial figure, and maybe he didn't want to start dividing up the atheists. (He mentioned that leading atheists is like herding cats.) Maybe, but Dawkins doesn't seem to shy away from stating his thoughts in other contexts.

Anyway, Dean, thanks again for asking the good question. I was right there with you. Perhaps we should take it upon ourselves to contact Dawkins with some information about Rand. Any thoughts on the best stuff to send the guy?

BTW: Here is my writeup on the Caltech Dawkins thing:
http://www.borlik.net/blog/archives/000150.html





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Friday, November 24, 2006 - 2:08pmSanction this postReply
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Mr. Borlik,

I enjoyed your notes on Dawkins. I checked out your blog main page and also enjoyed your tribute to Milton Friedman. Thanks for the link to Greg Mankiw's blog as well.



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Friday, November 24, 2006 - 2:55pmSanction this postReply
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Dawkins has been described, and I believe correctly, as a crypto-marxist materialist, and is definitely a fan of socialism and government funding. He is also attacked by scientists as being a controversialist and a popularizer. These are not necessarily bad things when one has something important and controversial to say. But although Dawkins is a gifted writer, his two main claims to fame, genic selectionism (the selfish gene) and "memes" (otherwise known as "ideas") are neither original to him nor rigorously defensible. Read Ernst Mayr for the proper criticisms of Dawkins' genetic reductivism. Read Ayn Rand to understand what ideas are.

I find Dawkins' claim that he doesn't know who Ayn Rand is to be incredible. He published a book in 1976 called The Selfish Gene. How he could be ignorant of an author who wrote a book called The Virtue of Selfishness, but not suffer from some strange new form of neurological malfunction escapes my comprehension.

Dawkins is a leftist relativist showboater who can be appreciated for his writing skill but who should not be mistaken for a true ally or a man of exceptional virtue. I say this as someone who has read critically and yet enjoyed all of his books. He has a habit of injecting his politics into his works unnecessarily, see his gratuitous attacks on the Bush administration in The Ancestor's Tale. He should be viewed as an atheist "ally" with the same suspicion that Rand viewed Libertarians, or in the same way that Bill Buckley is an advocate of free markets.

Ted Keer, 24 November, 2006, USA



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Sunday, November 26, 2006 - 2:15amSanction this postReply
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If anyone is interested, here is a 70 minute Q&A after one of his recent talks where student after student from Jerry Falwell's "Liberty" college give Dawkins hostile questions and he deals handily with them to the audiences great delight.



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Monday, November 27, 2006 - 4:14pmSanction this postReply
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Ooh, thanks!

...Wait.  It's from TV...is this legal?  Given that Objectivists respect property rights, I'm surprised by how many YouTube links I've been seeing here recently.

Edit: Never mind; I see that it's posted on his official site and myspace..  I now return to my initial sentiment.  :-)

Edit 2: I watched it. Initial sentiment +2.  :-)

(Edited by Ben Hoffman on 11/27, 4:27pm)

(Edited by Ben Hoffman on 11/28, 12:38am)




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