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Thursday, March 11, 2010

~ a sad affair

Monday night’s Qanda on the ABC was a saddening affair. Richard Dawkins - in the country for the Atheist Convention beginning tomorrow in Melbourne - was empaneled with, among others, Steve Fielding, Julie Bishop and Tony Burke [ALP]. It could have been interesting; Dawkins seemed keen to get Fielding to state his views for the record, but the atavistic fool played the evasive politician and very clumsily to boot.

Nevertheless, I was left with the distinct impression he was a young Earth creationist, which is no surprise; but the fact that he wouldn’t admit it is appalling, given that this and other extreme Christian viewpoints lie behind his political decisions - which, regrettably, affect all Australians. His statement that religion and science should be kept separate in schools was very difficult to believe, so grudgingly was it given.

Fielding is a climate-change denier; a man who cannot untangle the real world from the mumbo jumbo of the Bible, but who has just enough political nous to know that to declare his real views would be to paint himself as a lunatic to much of the electorate. I suspect Tony Abbott is in a comparable situation.

Not one of the politicians was prepared to honestly engage with the thorny religious issues Dawkins raised. His stance was compared to a cruel attempt to strip children of their belief in Santa Claus - to which he responded by noting that children usually grow out of that belief. Tony Burke - when attempting to counter Dawkins’ mention of the myriad religious wars fought down the centuries - revealed the weakness of his critical thinking by citing the crimes of Hitler and Stalin - who merely happened to be Atheists - as examples of atrocities committed in the name of Atheism.

Both Burke and Bishop criticised Dawkins for showing insufficient respect for people’s beliefs. Well, his outspokenness used to grate on me a little too - but after reading The God Delusion I’ve come to accept his attitude. If, as Christopher Hitchens says ‘religion ruins everything’ then why should it be granted the automatic respect of civilised people. This is what is so unfortunate about the recent activity of the U.N. Human Rights Council, which, under pressure from Islamists and with the approval of Barack Obama, has passed a resolution protecting religions from criticism or blasphemy.

Possibly, the saddest point of the show - and I mean this in the sense of pathetic - was the fact that all six of the panelists (save Dawkins) attested to a belief in the afterlife.

I myself mull over the idea from time to time. I suppose it’s not inconceivable that far in the future our descendants, having evolved into a cosmic intelligence, might reach back through time, record our mind patterns at the moment of death and then run simulations in a virtual eternity ... if that is not indeed what’s happening now ... But, as Dawkins said, and as I’ve thought many times also, ‘imagine how boring it would be after the first thousand years’.

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4 comments:

gavgams said...

I didn't see it, but I think I'd agree.
One thing though.. if I've understood you reporting on the show right -- HItler's Reich was not atheistic.. it was a Kingdom of God..

I've been reading Tim Flannery's the Future Eaters and the first 140 pages give a fantastic overview of what's so special about Australian wildlife and evolutionary biology, adaptation, etc.

I ask myself sometimes why so many people are such waste of space dicks, why humans are so aggresive, destructive, screwed up.
An intersting theory is the (google it) the "Neanterthal predation theory".

A female in law of mine refused to get this book for me for x-mas. She told my wife "it's only a theory".

Well.. good on R. Dawkins for speaking the verifiable truth.

There was related bad news today when lib and lab refused a move on tax free status of exploitative cults (Scientologists aren't the only ones). WTF.

Sam Sejavka said...

The Hitler thing. I've heard it mentioned so many times that the Nazi regime was Atheistic, I've assumed it's fact. More fool me.

I love the Future Eaters. If people paid more attention to Flannery - particularly agriculturists attempting to farm unsuitable land - we'd all be better off.

Neanderthal predation theory ... Wow ... thanks for the heads up ... even if it's dodgy it sounds very interesting. A good crank theory [not saying this is one] if well extrapolated in book form is as good as a novel. Think Holy Blood Holy Grail. Fingerprints of The Gods, the work of the Pyramidiots, and that great theory about the Dogon and the invisible binary partner of Sirius ...

By the way ... I didn't know there were Neanderthals in the Levant

cheers, Sam

Sam Sejavka said...

BTW re: scientology

I assume you're referring to Nick Xenophon's efforts in parliament? For all his faults, he's doing a good job here. I hope he keeps up the pressure, as the global anti-Scientology meme seems to be gaining ground at the moment.

And while reading about the Neanderthals I encountered something very curious called 'Teem Theory. Check it out

gavgams said...

Yea, I heard about the Teem theory - that in itself would be intersting enough. I think it's a pretty well accepted explanation of how we genetically inhereit stuff... the author was interviewed on RN. It's on my phone as mp3.
Found it
http://www.abc.net.au/rn/bookshow/stories/2009/2751670.htm
Listening to him has much more cred than the publishers dash for cash style graphics and horror pics.
One for the reading list, Hey?