Sunday, August 08, 2010

Debate With Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins debates evolution, the existence of God, and the nature of the human soul with Wendy Wright. She's remarkably poor in a debate. Whether I agree with her statements or not, she is terrible at this. Holy crap, Christopher Hitchens would have simply eaten her face.

For example, she keeps saying "show me the evidence," which Dawkins does, and she then appears to ignore him. I don't think she's ignoring him, I think that she's failing to articulate what she means. She requests evidence for the transition from species to species, he then tells her about transitional fossils. She rejects that as not evidence. What she means is that the fossils only show that a creature that looks like that once existed, not that it then evolved into any of the other fossils. She accepts the discreet fossils, but rejects the theorized path from example to example. If we can't show her a monkey turning into a man, she doesn't buy it.

Also of interest, she doesn't openly describe herself as a young-Earther (someone who believes the Earth was created less than 10,000 years ago). I can only assume this is because she knows that the argument is unbelievably stupid. To reject the age of the Earth is to reject ALL science. You reject cosmology, physics, biology, geology, oceanography, everything, to explain your view. That is not a view that would hold up well with one of the planet's premier scientists.

I also think that her belief that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old outright rejects the validity of the fossils. Even if she wasn't specifically rejecting the transition itself, she simply rejects that the fossils represent anything at all.

And I want to go where Dawkins didn't want to for, I'm assuming, the sake of keeping the argument from getting mired down in too much morality. she asks in part four whether a person who is mentally retarded has a soul or not. Dawkins says that "soul" is a meaningless word and that, for example, a person in a vegetative state does not have the properties of a person with consciousness, and thus doesn't have a "soul."

She then says that she believes that the person is still a person and has a soul and as such must be cared for. Ignoring Western religion's great history in not caring for people, I see no problem with the materialist perspective (she keeps trying to use the word materialism, and I know what she's doing. She's trying to tie the scientific perspective back to the USSR). No. NO ONE has souls. Souls are a meaningless word. Even Wittgenstein, a devout man, would agree with that. When you say "soul," you might as well have said quijibo.

This does not negate a kind and loving existence. A wise society recognizes that its greatest contributions might come from its weakest members. Profoundly retarded people produce great art and music, can remember amazing things and perform mathematics that beggar the imagination. Even a person in a vegetative state can be recognized as someone who can spring from that state at any moment and be a full person again. There are very, very good reasons for caring for everyone and keeping this world a happy place without simply retreating to God. Because, as I argue frequently, that still doesn't explain it. Why should I help people? Because God says so? Why should I listen to God? Why should I care? Because I'll go to hell if I don't? And thus, we reduce it to self-serving nihilism.

In part 5, she mentions being arrested. She's either lying outright or smoothing over the facts. I found two references to her being arrested, one was quite violent, only that it was her being the violent one. The second arrest appears to be the one that she references; here it sounds like she was just being an asshole.

Also in part 5, she says that it's demeaning to say that they haven't read books. Michael Behe is a superstar in the ID community. With that in mind, watch this clip from the PBS documentary about the Dover, Pennsylvania school board controversy.

She's right, it is demeaning to say that they haven't read the books. But she deserves to be demeaned. I started off angry at her, but finished the videos just being baffled. She simply pretends that Dawkins hasn't said anything on a number of occasions in the debate, leaving him puzzled how to respond.

The whole encounter reminds me of the frequent counterpoints to Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris. Each book comes out, opponenets bring up arguments like how Nazi Germany and the USSR were atheistic, those arguments are soundly rebutted, and then, later, they pretend like the arguments weren't rebutted at all and simply bring them out again. The worst one is the argument that Hitchens, Harris, and Dawkins are attacking a straw man. Dawkins specifically addresses this argument early in his book, and then readdresses it in the updated forward to the paperback. Yet, this is one of the first arguments trotted out in any confrontation.

As watching this, keep thinking that she represents 500,000 people.

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