Monday, February 05, 2007

The making of "The Root of All Evil."

In response to this question:
Why have you not engaged in public debate with Alister McGrath, Mary Midgley, Michael Ruse, Keith Ward, or indeed anyone else who would present you with a serious challenge? JAMES RADFORD, By e-mail
Richard Dawkins replied:
The producers of my Channel 4 documentary [Root of All Evil?] invited the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and the Chief Rabbi to be interviewed by me. All declined, doubtless for good reasons. I don't enjoy the debate format, but I once had a public debate with the then Archbishop of York, and The Observer quoted the verdict of one disconsolate clergyman as he left the hall: "That was easy to sum up - Lions 10, Christians nil."
(from here)


Alistair McGrath gives a somewhat different slant...
Dawkins and I both love the sciences; we both believe in evidence-based reasoning. So how do we make sense of our different ways of looking at the world? That is one of the issues about which I have often wished we might have a proper discussion. Our paths do cross on the television networks and we even managed to spar briefly across a BBC sofa a few months back. We were also filmed having a debate for Dawkins's recent Channel 4 programme, The Root Of All Evil? Dawkins outlined his main criticisms of God, and I offered answers to what were clearly exaggerations and misunderstandings. It was hardly rocket science.
For instance, Dawkins often compares belief in God to an infantile belief in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, saying it is something we should all outgrow. But the analogy is flawed. How many people do you know who started to believe in Santa Claus in adulthood?
Many people discover God decades after they have ceased believing in the Tooth Fairy. Dawkins, of course, would just respond that people such as this are senile or mad, but that is not logical argument. Dawkins can no more 'prove' the non-existence of God than anyone else can prove He does exist.
Most of us are aware that we hold many beliefs we cannot prove to be true. It reminds us that we need to treat those who disagree with us with intellectual respect, rather than dismissing them - as Dawkins does - as liars, knaves and charlatans. But when I debated these points with him, Dawkins seemed uncomfortable. I was not surprised to be told that my contribution was to be cut. The Root Of All Evil? was subsequently panned for its blatant unfairness. Where, the critics asked, was a responsible, informed Christian response to Dawkins? The answer: on the cutting-room floor.

(from here)

16 Comments:

Blogger Tony Jackson said...

My primary interest in contributing to this blog is in matters scientific.

However, I can't resist nudging you in the direction of this provocative piece, in which the Great Satan himself reveals a sneaking admiration for Jesus Christ:

http://richarddawkins.net/article,20,Atheists-for-Jesus,Richard-Dawkins

‘Athiests for Jesus’. Yes, that’s got a good ring to it….

9:58 pm  
Blogger Smokey said...

Andrew,

Can you name a single scientific controversy that was settled by debates?

Can you name a single scientific controversy that was NOT settled by data?

12:43 am  
Blogger Antony Latham said...

Smokey and Tony,
I would appreciate it if you looked at my thoughts on Denton's ch.12 which you asked for. On the Molecular meccano thread.

9:14 am  
Blogger Mike said...

In case people didn't read the rest of the article here is some more:

'Aware of the moral obligation of a critic of religion to deal with this phenomenon at its best and most persuasive, many atheists have been disturbed by Dawkins's crude stereotypes and seemingly pathological hostility towards religion. In fact, The God Delusion might turn out to be a monumental own goal - persuading people that atheism is just as intolerant as the worst that religion can offer.'

He (Dawkins) might be brilliant but is his 'pathological hostility towards religion' driving him mad?

10:06 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"Aware of the moral obligation of a critic of religion to deal with this phenomenon at its best and most persuasive..."

This is why the Religious Right routinely tars atheists with Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot?

"He (Dawkins) might be brilliant but is his 'pathological hostility towards religion' driving him mad?"

Dawkins, even at his most hostile, sounds far saner than his opposite numbers on the Religious Right. Last I heard, he at least was not prophesying tsunamis to smite the unrighteous.

1:17 pm  
Blogger Mike said...

Hrafn,

Only in your opinion. Not from where I'm coming from it isn't!

I think using the Tsunami in that way is in extremely bad taste, shame on you. You are obviously just as rabidly anti-religion as your god (Dawkins). You might like to reflect on the fact that many Christians were caught up that disaster and that many Christian agencies were involved in aid relief.

I don't know where you get that sort of nonsense from anyway, but they don't speak for me. You admitted I think somewhere on this blog that you aren't a scientist, well I can tell you, you aren't a theologian either.

Out of interest, what is your speciality?

Mike

1:58 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Smokey,

What data would you say settled the issue of macro-evolution? ie at what point would you say the data for universal common descent became compelling?

2:02 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"I think using the Tsunami in that way is in extremely bad taste, shame on you."

Mike, you clearly don't have a clue what I was talking about, which is this:
"In another in a series of notable pronouncements, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson says God told him storms and possibly a tsunami will hit America's coastline this year."
May 18 2006
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12851397/

While this may be in bad taste, the bad taste is not mine.

"You are obviously just as rabidly anti-religion as your god (Dawkins)."

Wrong on all counts Mike. I'm not an atheist (or even an agnostic). I have only read one essay by Dawkins (on a scientific, not a metaphysical topic), which is hardly enough for me to bow down and worship him.

"I don't know where you get that sort of nonsense from anyway..."

I got it directly from one of the more prominent leaders of the US's Religious Right.

So Mike, you ignorant sanctimonious pillock you can take your muddle-headed outrage and stick it where the sun don't shine.

I don't particularly approve of Dawkins' religious tirades, but he looks like a choir-boy in comparison to some of the carpet-chewing, hate-filled lunatics one sees in the Religious Right.

4:00 pm  
Blogger Mike said...

Hrafn,

OK, hands up - I don't know you, fair comment. But then, nobody knows you.

Why do you always revert - eventually - to vitriol? You should go and lie down for a bit.

Yes, I was acting rather ignorantly. I suppose I should have realised where you got the info from, but you should know I think Pat Robertson is a complete nutcase and neither him nor his kind represents me. You sound a lot like him though.

Thanks for the reply.

Mike

4:29 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Why do you always revert - eventually - to vitriol?"

On this occasion, because you went there first, and completely inaccurately (and jumping to all manner of conclusions). If you don't want me jumping down your throat then either don't insult me, or at least use insults with a modicum of truth to them.

"...but you should know I think Pat Robertson is a complete nutcase..."

Yes, and that's my point. Pat Robertson would be at least approximately as prominant as Dawkins (and far more politically influential), and clearly far nuttier.

"...neither him nor his kind represents me."

I didn't say that he did. He is however a co-religionist of yours, and I would suggest that before you talk about Dawkins going mad you should consider the assorted nuts in the darker corners of your own camp.

5:29 pm  
Blogger Smokey said...

Antony wrote:
"I would appreciate it if you looked at my thoughts on Denton's ch.12 which you asked for. On the Molecular meccano thread."

Antony, you are fabricating again; I never asked for your thoughts on Denton's ch. 12. I did, however, ask what effect your patently false assumption falsely presented as fact (that universal conservation of an aa residue means that it is required for function) has on YOUR book.

Andrew,
It would be hard for me to say, as the data were already conclusive by the time I entered science as an undergraduate.

Why do you ask questions without answering mine about debates vs. data? Is that a productive approach for any goal other than obfuscation?

To look at a case in which you have less of your ego invested, look at the prion hypothesis, of which I was finally convinced by transgenic mouse data in 1990.

1) When Prusiner proposed it in 1982 (Science 216:136), did most scientists agree with it?

2) Did Prusiner ever propose debates? Did any of the majority who thought Prusiner was wrong in 1982 ever propose debates?

3) How many papers did Prusiner publish with data from tests that had the potential to falsify his hypothesis between 1982 and his Nobel Prize in 1997?

4) Did Prusiner use books to promote his hypothesis? Did he pitch it to lay people instead of his peers?

Do you see any glaring differences between Prusiner's scientific strategy and the pseudoscientific strategy of ID proponents?

6:22 pm  
Blogger Tony Jackson said...

To the example of Prusiner, one could also add Peter Mitchell and the chemiosmotic hypothesis, Motoo Kimura and the neutral theory and Barry Marshall and Robin Warren for their discovery of Helicobacter pylori’s role in peptic ulcer disease. In all these cases, these scientists won over their peers for ideas that were very radical when first proposed.

In other words, it’s perfectly possible to challenge and change a prevailing scientific orthodoxy. But you have to do it by hard work at the scientific coal-face. You don’t do it by whining to lawyers or demanding equal time in school science classes.

7:04 pm  
Blogger Tony Jackson said...

Hey Andrew, Antony, kairosfocus et al. Go here and take the test:

http://www.gotoquiz.com/am_i_an_atheist

What answer do you get?:-)

2:55 pm  
Blogger Tony Jackson said...

ps. That's a hat-tip to Larry Moran's blog for that last post:

http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/

3:14 pm  
Blogger Steven said...

Alistair McGrath believe that the bible is literally true. How is this evidence based reason? How?

10:14 am  
Blogger Paul (probably - maybe Liz) said...

smokey: "Can you name a single scientific controversy that was settled by debates?" For a start, it is not a scientific controversy that we are talking about here - it is philosophical/religious - one about worldviews. Secondly, if debate is so sterile, then why did Dawkins give the pretence in his programme of having had one?

steven: "How is this evidence-based reason?" Again, you are muddling up two different things - Dawkins operating as a scientist (methodology) with McGrath's beliefs (metanarrative/philosophy). Dawkins' belief in philosophical naturalism isn't "evidence-based reason" either.

For more on the Christian worldview, see the extract from Francis Schaeffer I posted here.

9:46 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home