back to article Turkish court bans Dawkins' website

Once upon a time, it took a Pope or a Stalinist dictator like, um, Stalin to have scientific discourse banned by decree. Nowadays, however, it merely takes a large and influential publishing house, and the agreement of Turkey’s criminal court of peace. So it is that the website of leading UK biologist and thinker Richard …

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tribes

@ David:

"Anyway, was Europe a haven of peace when it was all united under the Church of Rome?

Personally, I'd have thought that trade was a fairly significant factor uniting different tribes. When communities specialise in one or other form of production, perhaps initially for reasons of geography, and later by tradition, and they can mutually benefit by swapping objects, then they can become worth more to each other alive than dead."

World peace didn't happen under non-religious regimes either... the point is that we are slowly forming larger and larger social groups. Tribes were united by religion, then they formed nation states, which also proceeded to try to kill each other, major world wars, and so on, and now we are trying to unite nation states into some sort of planetary unity, the united nations being one of the first (and failing) attempts to do that. Would you say that we should abolish nation states because they have caused millions of dead in the space of a few years? No we recognise that the social grouping is large and allows industry and commerce on massive scales.

I'm not saying we're wrong to go beyond religion, just that for many parts of the world that are still feudal, like Pakistan, Darfur, and so on, religion is actually a step up for them, and guess what, religion is very popular in these places, because that's just what the people need and want. We as westerners have to be careful not to imagine that these parts of the world are just like us... I've lived in africa, so maybe it is easier to see.

For example, there was an interview with some women folk in a village in an african country that was about to get its first democratic vote. They asked her whom she would vote for to be president, and she said that her tribal king was the leader so he should be president. She would not accept as president any other tribe's king. We in the west are so far removed from that mentality, and our own history, that we find it hard to imagine how anyone would think that way--but just go there and find out. Likewise female circumcision. It's not something invented by religion, it is much earlier, it is a tribal thing. There are parts of africa where the christian missionaries complain that the locals are not rational enough, because they are still going to the witch doctor. Imagine that, a christian missionary complaining that the locals are not rational enough.

Trade is all very well once you have peace between tribes. As soon as difficulties arise, the tribal loyalty and blood lines resurface with a vengeance... Darfur was a massive tribal blood bath.

You need stable nation states united under one god before you can even begin to wonder about world peace between nations. Going back to Dawkins, he just doesn't know this stuff so he continues his anti-religious diatribes, sitting in the comforts of his safe British nation state, where we have government sanctioned tolerance between races and food on the shelves. It's fine to detest religion, once you are past needing it yourself. It is wrong to try to demolish it though, as it is a necessary step in many parts of the world. Demolish it and you just leave people at the tribal level, and that is closer to nature, and closer to the monkeys, who often kill each other's babies by bashing heads into rocks, to protect blood lines.

Sorry this is a long comment but it needs some examples to get across.

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Anonymous Coward

The rich irony of all this ...

Is that Darwin himself, an agnostic not an aetheist, had no actual problem in reconciling a belief in God with the principle of evolution.

The two may at first glance (especially in today's intellectual vacuum) appear to be mutually exclusive, but a belief in God does *not* make you non-scientific. The Jesuits, anyone?

A belief and adherence to a specific RELIGION is a problem for it constrains your will and rational thought.

If God indeed *does* exist and gave us a mind and the free-will with which to exercise it (for indeed that is what the Christian bible does tell us) then what's the problem?

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Joe
Flame

@ Stefan

Name me one major global terrorist group that aren't inspired by religion somewhere along the line. Al-Quaeda, IRA, Hamas, Hezbollah...all at least claim to be driven by religious fanaticism. Even if it is often just an excuse. Even groups that are ostensibly fighting for territory/a homeland (i.e. the Tamil Tigers) usually represent a religious group that no longer wants to share a country with another religion.

Fire as I'd be burned at the stake for my atheism if some got their way

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Stop

Lots of nonsensical bashing going on

I have noticed a lot of nonsensical bashing whenever there is anyone who opposes the idea of evolution. This is what I call atheistic fundamentalists. Instead of writing a load of filth insulting people and so on, why don't you just analyse what Adnan Oktar says and put in some thoughtful counter arguments? Then if Adnan does the same, we can have a proper discussion.

I am staying neutral on the subject, but from what I have seen the evolutionists are too scared to discuss the theory and instead try to shout down and insult those who have opposing views.

Maybe it is time to have a proper discussion about evolution theory.

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Anonymous Coward

@Steve Swann

Buddha definitely existed. Whether Buddhism is true or not is another matter (Just like it is pretty much a certainty that Jesus lived but his academic qualifications vis a vis the membership of one or more Holy Trinities are up for debate. Or Crusade / Jihad if you prefer).

I am not a fan of Richard Dawkins however. He seems to me to be a cross between a fundamentalist [non]religious nutcase and a rms clone. With the rabid mouth frothinginess of the fundie and the same ability to take a good cause and believe in it so passionately and so much to the exclusion of all else that he just turns people away from agreeing with him (cf. rms and GNU).

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@Stefan

Primates also gang up on primates from other groups. The only difference between then and more recent history is that no one is running around saying that they're committing the violence in the name of unbelief in a deity (i.e. atheism)... religion has and still does (hell... islam thinks killing young girls is o.k. if it preserves some guys honor)! That larger scale, from uniting those tribes, just made it that much easier to oppress larger groups of people. You don't seem to grasp that countries in which fundamentalism rules tend to be very discriminatory (China being the major exception in which atheism plays as much a role in the oppression of it's people, under said dictatorship, as much as believing in nuclear power does).

What I was refering to, and rather poorly, was natural events.

There is no book of atheism with rules on behavior, codes of conduct or laws to be followed. It doesn't exist because atheism has no connection to such stuff, just like the belief in santa claus or the east bunny has no connection. That means people have to realize that they're responsible for their behavior. Doesn't mean that they will, just that it would be nice if they would. Atheists as a whole really haven't congregated. We organize now, but it's more an issue of self-preservation.

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Ash

@ Stefan

"What exactly is his strategy here? If they are beyond reason/help/enlightenment?"

He's helping to create an environment in society where people are given encouragement to start thinking for themselves, and not feel pressured into having to believe idealogical nonsense.

Yes, those who fervently believe will probably never change their minds, but his 'strategy' (or simply 'telling it like it is') will help those that might otherwise succumb to the seductive manipulation of the religious nuts and their organisations.

He might not be able to kill the existing cancer of blind belief, but he is helping to prevent it's spread.

The only other alternative, what you seem to advocate, is just letting them get on with it and hope it doesn't affect us atheists too negatively. But it does, and it has, and it's been too long that we have let them get away with changing society based on something that doesn't even exist, except in their imaginative, but weak-willed minds.

Even if you disagree, calling him an idiot says more about you than him.

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Boffin

Need to be specific to be correct

"And you can't really accuse anyone that studied under Tinbergen of not being a biologist."

Yes you can. My dad studied under Tinbergen and he's an economist.

When a family produces two Nobel Prize winners, please make sure you specify that you mean Niko Tinbergen, and not Jan Tinbergen (or even Luuk).

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@Stefan

"You need stable nation states united under one god before you can even begin to wonder about world peace between nations."

This is a recipe for ethnic cleansing; once you have a state sponsored religion everyone who isn't of that religion becomes fair game; the reformation in England is a good example with Catholics being persecuted and murdered by the state or with the colusion of the state.

The USA is probably the best example of the opposite; the founding fathers were very lucky/clever to incorporate religious tolerance into the constitution. It meant that even though the country was full of people with strong religious views, the state couldn't get involved and religious persecution would be treated as a criminal act.

There are many countries around the world that are governed using religious laws, some more tolerant than others (Saudi Arabia anyone?); but until a country embraces secular democracy then it can't really be regarded as free and tolerant. Even the UK still has privileged positions in the House of Lords for Bishops of the Church of England and therefore runs the risk of religious influence on policy making. Countries should be actively working to separate the state from religion, to do otherwise is a major step backwards.

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NT

Not against freedom of speech

<< "We are not against freedom of speech or expression but you cannot insult people" >>

Yes you can. That's what free speech is. As a religious person, though not a Creationist, I fully expect to be insulted by people (who usually don't know or care what I actually believe because to them all religion equates to fundamentalist Christianity) based solely on the reasoning that I'm religious and therefore an idiot. But that's what free speech is *about*. They're as entitled to call me names and look down their noses at me as I'm entitled to dismiss them as pretentious overconfident know-it-alls.

What I'm NOT going to do under any circumstances is go running to the law courts or webspace providers and whinge that these people shouldn't be allowed to hold their opinion of me, no matter how prejudicial. Just as long as they extend me the same rights and courtesy that they'd want from me, I'm happy. You can be *prejudiced* against me - that's not my concern - just as long as you don't *discriminate* against me.

<< "We found the comments hurtful. It was not a scientific discussion." >>

Of course it wasn't - it was Dawkins doing what he does these days: trying to upset religious people and assert the intellectual and moral superiority of an atheistic viewpoint. It's a shame. I used to think he was a fantastic author for the way he popularised science. I loved his books pre-'Delusion' and I think it's a great pity he didn't stay focused on the interesting stuff. Now he's too busy being angrily 'Bright' and damaging the cause of atheism. Still, the point is that if I don't like what Dawkins has to say, I don't buy his books and I don't read his website. That's simple enough.

Even so, I've no particular patience with true, scripture-literal Creationists and it strikes me as bizarre that a *Creationist* author would complain that Dawkins' response to his book wasn't 'scientific'.

<< As it is, we now have a law that can be used against individuals who use threatening language that is targeted on the basis of religion. >>

We and much of the western world have settled on this ridiculous idea that a crime is somehow worse if it's the result of 'hatred'. But what other motivation has there ever been for crime? All right, greed, mainly - but the point is that if I assault someone then it's probably not because I'm their number-one fan. If that person has the same colour skin as I do, or believes in the same gods, then what sense does it make to say that my crime was somehow not as serious?

'Hate crime' is a ludicrous concept from top to bottom. We won't have any sort of equality until governments stop building discrimination into law.

<< Far from laughing at the absurdity of the Turkish courts >>

Who's laughing? Is there something funny in this story that I've missed?

Oh, and finally, in reply to comment "Stop right there!" at 20:12, 22 September:

It's a constant struggle for religious people to convince this particular brand of atheist - the Dawkinsite, if you like - that we're not all primitive superstitious dimwits. Take it from me, your comments did *not* help.

Evolution is a 'theory', yes, but people like you who argue that it's 'just a theory' don't understand the scientific meaning of the word 'theory'. You just parrot 'it's just a theory' and think that's going to make evolution go away. It isn't. Evolution is a fact, and you, frankly, insult your god if your claim is that He couldn't have used evolution as a tool of creation. Who're you to tell Him what He can and can't do?

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Alien

Staying neutral

"I am staying neutral on the subject, but from what I have seen the evolutionists are too scared to discuss the theory and instead try to shout down and insult those who have opposing views."

Are you also neutral on the theory of gravitation? Or the germ theory of disease? Or atomic theory? These are all "just theories", like the theory of evolution. There are lots more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_theory#List_of_notable_theories

There is incontrovertible evidence that life has evolved over billions of years, and the theory of evolution is the best (if not only) explanation of the available facts.

What exactly do you think needs to be discussed, and why does it apply only to this one theory and not to all the other scientific theories?

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re. Lots of nonsensical bashing going on

"Maybe it is time to have a proper discussion about evolution theory."

There has been a lot of discussion about the theory of evolution (ToE); it didn't just appear, uncontested, on the scientific landscape. It has been debated by biologists all over the world. In the end they found the evidence overwhelming and so far the ToE stands as the best theory that fits the currently available facts.

Of course you could argue that the world was created by a supernatural entity and all the "evidence" that supports the ToE was also created by this entity in order to test people's faith; this is a perfectly valid theory, however it can't be tested using the scientific method, and you can't use it to make any predictions about the physical world and so it has to be labelled "unscientific".

At least the scientific community has settled on one theory (ToE), whereas the various religious communities can't agree as to which "god" is the "true god" (or gods); instead of having a "proper discussion about evolution theory", why don't the various religions "discuss" amongst themselves which religion is right?

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Boffin

RE Lots of nonsensical bashing going on

'why don't you just analyse what Adnan Oktar says and put in some thoughtful counter arguments'

Everything the creationists/ID mob have said HAS been carefully analysed, evidence to the contrary has been documented and presented in a rational way. Debate has been encouraged and has led to further evidence being discovered pointing towards the how and why. The massive holes in creationist theory have been pointed out, as have the holes in the evolutionary theory. The difference being all the available evidence for evolution points towards the the theory being correct, we just have gaps in our knowledge. On the creationist side of the argument, you have a group of people who will not/cannot accept that their 'holy' truth could be wrong. As an example, If you were to take them outside, point at the sky and say 'the sky is blue, look for yourself you can see it with your own eyes' which contradicted their holy book which declared the sky was green they would immediately shut their eyes and hide behind their book as it could never be wrong and anyone who thinks otherwise is a heretic who should be killed so they can burn in hell for all eternity (A place of unimaginable torment and suffering for the sinners created by a god that loves us! I recommend watching George Carlins stand-up on the same topic as he brilliantly points out that god is incompetent and doesn't give a shit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeSSwKffj9o)

Most rational people would agree that creationist theory should be discussed in theology lessons. But that means EVERY creationist theory - they are so varied and they can't all be right can they. By doing so, you reveal to people why these theory's do not stand up to scientific scrutiny because they ARE NOT scientific, therefore should be kept out of science classes. What is getting most people annoyed at the minute is they way this vocal group of people are demanding it should be taught as science.

'what I have seen the evolutionists are too scared to discuss the theory and instead try to shout down and insult those who have opposing views'

It has nothing to do with being scared of discussing the theory, like I said it's about keeping SCIENCE and THEOLOGY separate. What people then choose to believe is then entirely up to them. If someone was to present a valid theory that can stand up to scientific principles, it would be accepted as an alternative to evolutionary theory. As of yet that has not happened and so evolution is the current accepted theory for our being here. Science, unlike religion never turns round saying 'we don't know why, so god did it' it looks for answers. If there are no answers yet, scientists look for them. Once answers are found, they are continualy tested to see if those answers still stand up to scrutiny based on new evidence (a concept that religious followers seem to think doesn't matter) then the theory is considered sound. If the theory is proved wrong by new evidence it is discarded. All scientific theories are continually tested as new evidence comes to light, religious dogma is not as it is the word of god and the source of all truth. Anything that appears to contradict it can be ignored as it cannot possibly be true.

For anyone who still doesn't understand evolutionary theory and wishes to look at it objectively with some hard science and a little light humour to make it a little easier (our current understanding of it is very heavy going for some people) I would recommend reading Terry Pratchetts Science of the Discworld - Darwin's Watch. Excellent reading, very funny in places and a good place to start without getting overwhelmed by it.

Remember, you can't pick and choose the bits of science you like, and discard the bits you don't. Science isn't about belief, it's about the truth. Its about the way things are whether or not you agree with it and requires evidence in order to be counted as science. Science doesn't try to upset anyone, people choose to be upset by it when it delivers answers they don't like.

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@Joe & @AC

Putting the IRA down as a religiously motivated group is inaccurate. That they mirrored the schism between Catholics and Protestants is a result of the history of these two groups and was tied up with all sort of other social and political issues. Yes there had been politics ties in with religion (something that was fundamental to churches in the past - and still is in some places), but the IRA wasn't motivated by religion as such but by nationalism. There have been plenty of terrorist groups motivated by that or separatism. ETA is an example, the Tamil Tigers another - not all of these have echoed religious divides. In addition to the straight nationalist terrorist groups you can add the political ethos ones - Shining path in Peru, Maoists in Nepal, anarchist groups in Victorian England, the National Socialists in Germany (both before and after they came to power) the list goes on.

However, I think all of these have something in common - an absolute faith the the certainty that they are right and that this justifies whatever you have to do to get your way. The sort of blind faith that Marxists typically demonstrated in the mid 20th century is not, in my view, much different from that of religious zealouts of any sort.

As for AC talking about nonsensical bashing, well I'm not fan of name calling, but zealotry is what it is and it needs to be described as such. I doubt rather that you've ever read Richard Dawkins books, or at least understood the arguments if you have, but in them there is a clinical demolition of many of the tennets of the faith he was brought up with, as indeed was I (Christianity). Now the arguments used are not specific to that religion (or group of religions). They are largely generic - at least on the difference between an approach that is open to evidence, that theorises, that recognises when they are wrong and has mechanisms to correct them. Those are the features of rationalist argument - they are not those of faith. By definition faith starts from a basic acceptance of a particular world view and then fits the facts around it. Where the facts don't fit, these are either ignored, or ever more fanciful and unlikely justifications are made to continue the belief. Occasionally there will be some "re-interpretation" when the contradictions become too clear (except for the true fundamentalists when even that is unacceptable).

Faith is very much a result of society and history - far and away the greatest determinant of whether you are a Catholic, or a Jew, or a Muslim or a Sikh is the society and ethnic group into which you are born. In fact some religions, like Judaism and Sikhism are very explicitly bound with particular ethnic, and even racial groups, to the point the inheritance is codified down blood lines. These are the very echoes of ancient tribalism down to this present day.

So this is not a name calling exercise - this is the way it is.

As for the arguments about evolution, then it has withstood so many tests. For instance, even a scientist, the great Lord Kelvin thought the earth couldn't possibly be old enough for life to evolve as there was no fuel sufficient to keep the Sun burning long enough. It passed that test when nuclear fusion was discovered. The theory of evolution predicted that there would have to be a mutable inheritance system long, long before the discovery of DNA. Not only do we have DNA but we have the means to read it - and read the history and, low and behold, then it precisely matches the forecasts that was made of evolution many years ago. That you can actually read the branching and separation of life forms throughout the ages. You can see the familial links between species and when they separated. Evolution also predicts that you won't find rabbit skeletons in the same geological strata as dinosaurs and low an behold that seems to be true. Evolution predicts that we can see familial connections in the bone structures and skeletons of creatures - that we won't suddenly get a jump to a six-legged horse with wings. That the basic building blocks of creatures get moulded, and slowly adapted. It predicts that there will be "fossil remains" in out bodies of bits of our evolutionary history which no longer serve a purpose, just fading away. And that prediction holds true too.

As the old saying goes, there are none so blind that will not see.

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@NT

Well done that man. I have no problem with people of faith, it's when they try and ram it down other peoples throats or can blindly follow scripture despite evidence to the contrary.

At school, I was taught religious education by a Catholic priest. I didn't attend a religious school, but we had a priest as a teacher which I thought (and still do) was a good idea. He had no problems whatsoever with the theory of evolution, he just accepted it into his faith.

His argument was that the all knowing god could see everything that was to follow after creating the means for life to exist. God created the universe and placed the right chemical elements into the universe to enable life to take hold. He knew that over billions of years it would end up creating us. It is all part of his plan.

He also had no problem in believing that life exists on other planets in some form, whether that be bacteria or full complex organisms that may or may not be anything like us. He thought it was very arrogant to think that in a universe the size of ours god would only focus on one tiny planet. To him it made no sense that god would allow life here and yet make the universe billions of light years across in size - what a waste of effort.

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replies

@ Joe:

"Name me one major global terrorist group that aren't inspired by religion somewhere along the line."

Well exactly, there pretty much aren't any. And many of these groups have turned to terrorism because the modern world refuses to let them in unless they renounce their god and traditional/feudal way of life. They tried to give democracy to iraq but the country is too feudal and instead it became a power blood bath between hundreds of competing clans.

See the assumption is that religion makes people religious and stupid. But if all religions were magically disappeared tomorrow, most of the people of the next generation, would grow up inventing new religions. It fulfills a need. It is something atheists simply can't fathom. Try to remember how you saw the world when you were 4 years old. Really get it into your mind. You simply can't put yourself back into that state of mind. Even a child of 7, when shown a video of himself when he was younger, and saying silly things, will often not accept that that child is him.

I mean, I wish we could get rid of religion, but if you do, most of the world will be stuck at an even more primitive way of life. Tribes, witch doctors, clans, and so on. It is a stepping stone.

@Ash :

"The only other alternative, what you seem to advocate, is just letting them get on with it and hope it doesn't affect us atheists too negatively. But it does, and it has, and it's been too long that we have let them get away with changing society based on something that doesn't even exist, except in their imaginative, but weak-willed minds."

Yes, don't let them affect atheists too much. Don't let the government impose religious laws, absolutely. I agree. Dawkins just goes too far and turns it into a sort of hatred, and that is stupid. It is stupid because it makes the religious nuts feel attacked, and so then they WILL start trying to influence the government more and try to take power. And they outnumber us. So it is a stupid strategy.

And there is another aspect to this: many atheists grew up with religion, but through their own life experience, developed rational questioning. Don't overestimate the role of education and indoctrination. Religious people are religious at least 50% due to their own life and personal makeup. Have you tried "educating" a religious person to become a rational atheist? I'll bet you could talk to one for 5 years and never change their belief. So let's not blame it all on an evil nasty indoctrinating church. Some people just are religious, and some start out religious and then grow out of it. And if they don't have a God to join with, maybe they just become marxists or something. And take that as their gospel truth.

Dawkins doesn't convince any of atheism, he just aggravates the religious people.

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NT

@ Stefan (and Joe)

<< "Name me one major global terrorist group that aren't inspired by religion somewhere along the line."

Well exactly, there pretty much aren't any. >>

To this sort of comment, I usually offer the suggestion - just a suggestion, mind - that those involved in supposedly religiously-motivated violence find in religion a handy *excuse*, rather than a cause.

Consider those same terrorist groups and you'll find hatreds that go far beyond what god someone worships. At the risk of sounding cheesily Star Wars-ish, the hatred comes from anger, and the anger usually comes either from fear or greed. Often both. Fear and greed are the ultimate motives for all human abuses and atrocities. Greed for more - whether it's money, power, land, oil, or whatever - and fear of losing what you already have.

But no-one wants to express motivations like that. They'd make you seem... well, human and flawed. Better to claim that your aggression and hostility is down to the Will of God: that way people will call you a hero, a crusader or, if things don't go well, at least a martyr. And who can really argue with you if you say "God Wills It"? Who can prove He doesn't?

Except of course it's always possible to see through this sort of nonsense simply by considering the sort of god you're describing. The idea that a single, all-powerful creator god would need our help in disposing of another bunch of insignificant humans? Absolutely ridiculous.

<< See the assumption is that religion makes people religious and stupid. But if all religions were magically disappeared tomorrow, most of the people of the next generation, would grow up inventing new religions. >>

And you can be assured that, were that to happen, humanity would swiftly conjure up new excuses to make war.

<< Don't let the government impose religious laws, absolutely. I agree. >>

As do I. As a religious person I would have as much to lose from the imposition of religious laws as any atheist. It's a fair bet they wouldn't be based on my religion, since a central tenet of my religion is that it can apply only to me. Let's not fall into the trap of assuming that a fundamentalist state, to any degree, would be bad for atheists and good for the religious.

<< Some people just are religious, and some start out religious and then grow out of it. >>

And some people start out non-religious and then grow into it. Your comments are sensible - it's just your phrasing that still shouts "religious people are fools".

But you're right: the truth is that people who believe are religious. People who don't believe are atheists. Since belief is NOT a matter of choice, the one cannot hope to understand the other. Even when one person starts as one and becomes the other, as you say, they will still lose contact with their earlier self; just as we lose contact with our childish selves when we become adults. Taking the attitude that believers are only doing it to be stubborn - as a depressing number of atheists seem to do - isn't going to help anything.

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Coat

Ahem

You're all wrong.

Post cheque for £100 to me, and I'll enlighten you.

Mine's the black one with the spare dog collars in the pocket.

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Tom

@Need to be specific to be correct

Need to be a pedant to deem my comment incorrect. I think it's fair to say that from the context it was quite clear I was referring to Niko Tinbergen.

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Unhappy

More Muslim 'offended-ness'...

What *aren't* they offended by? Turkey's supposed secularity, freedom of speech and press liberty look more like their Iranian versions every day under the watchful eye of the AKP.

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Alert

God rang

He says he wants all his creations back!

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Unhappy

Dawkipoos

Dawkins is a tiny bit embarrassing. He can't resist insulting people who don't share his views. Calling Muslim creationists "stupid" and "ignorant" may be accurate, but it certainly isn't helpful.

I cringed during his series "The Genius of Charles Darwin" -- which should really have been called "The Atheism of Richard Dawkins" -- when he met the Archbishop of Canterbury. Dr Williams is clearly a deep-thinking man of considerable intelligence and learning, and polite to a fault, but Dawkins denounced Christ's miracles as "cheap parlour tricks" right to his face.

Granted, it's stupendously unlikely that some chap from Nazareth walked on water, fed five thousand with five loaves and a couple of mackrel, or transformed some jars of water into wine. But for all we know, the wedding at Cana was a lavish spectacle with dancing girls and a laser show. The Gospels remain silent on that matter.

The Professor would do well to keep a civil tongue in his head. I'd prefer it if the champion of Darwinism weren't so shrill and hectoring the whole time.

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NT

Cheap Parlour Tricks?

<< but Dawkins denounced Christ's miracles as "cheap parlour tricks" right to his face. >>

Which, aside from the discourtesy, is simply a stupid argument. I'm someone who believes that Jesus may well have existed as a man, but doubts that he was the son of God, or that he performed miracles as they're described in the Bible.

That said, if I was going to take issue with the New Testament portrayal, I'd be questioning A) whether the miracles or anything like them occurred at all, and B) whether they were events of some ritual or symbolic significance *for the society and the culture that Jesus was living in*. If after that I thought that Jesus had actually literally appeared to walk on water, THEN I might start wondering what trickery was involved.

Dawkins' argument here seems to ignore what I'd consider to be basic questions of interest to a theologian or a historian. Like I said, it's a shame he seems to have abandoned the scientific, impartial, questioning approach and adopted a rigid fanaticism of his own.

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Anonymous Coward

Science not as rational as widely believed

Dawkin's evolutionary fundamentalism is no different to the religious fanatics on the other side. Dawkins and his followers would do well to remember that billions of people on this planet hold spiritual beliefs., beliefs which have existed for millenia before science existed. And I daresay such beliefs will endure long after The God Delusion has been forgotten.

This stupidly polarised debate from the so obviously sane/rational defenders of the scientific faith vs the ignorant hordes of quackery-worshipping delusionals is just BS.

I don't believe a supernatural bearded man in the sky created the Earth in a week but I am also sceptical of many of the cherished elements of science that are considered to be 'facts' when in fact much remains as theory and is totally open to debate. We all know that while much evidence can be mustered to support a theory, it only takes one contrary piece to kick the theory into touch.

"By definition faith starts from a basic acceptance of a particular world view and then fits the facts around it. Where the facts don't fit, these are either ignored, or ever more fanciful and unlikely justifications are made to continue the belief. Occasionally there will be some "re-interpretation" when the contradictions become too clear (except for the true fundamentalists when even that is unacceptable)." -i.e. much of contemporary science.

"ever more fanciful and unlikely justifications are made to continue the belief. " - is this not the basis for the ongoing nonsense that is particle physics?

Did Charles Darwin really find any evidence, or was it just a plausible-sounding theory that has taken hold, becoming scientific dogma and therefore reliant on its priests, Dawkins, to defend it?

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Gates Halo

Re: Dawkipoos

"Dr Williams is clearly a deep-thinking man of considerable intelligence and learning, and polite to a fault, but Dawkins denounced Christ's miracles as "cheap parlour tricks" right to his face."

I wish I'd seen that. You should read Craig Brown's column in the Telegraph where he occasionally does parodies of the Archbishop of Canterbury's speeches/writings. Read "The Sun Has Got His Hat On: A Summer Commentary by Dr Rowan Williams" - it's hilarious!

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NT

@ Science not as rational as widely believed

<< "ever more fanciful and unlikely justifications are made to continue the belief. " - is this not the basis for the ongoing nonsense that is particle physics? >>

Not quite, no. Particle physics, like all good science, may well initially be based on a hypothesis - which in some cases does indeed amount to an educated guess - but it's far from nonsense. It's *bizarre*, I grant you; but I'd say that it's that very strangeness that should caution us - even those who pride themselves on their rationalism - from making any assumptions about what can and cannot be 'real'.

As you mentioned, it only takes one contrary finding to rule out a hypothesis. A scientific theory, it's true, can never be *proved*, but if it resists all our attempts to disprove it then for the time being at least, it holds as 'fact' - at least as close to 'fact' as we can ever hope to get.

All other things being equal, if we assume as Dawkins apparently does that religion and faith constitute, in effect, a sort of 'fake science', then it is quite logical to expect advocates of faith to provide experimental evidence to support their claims. Those who argue in response that science is actually a dogmatic faith, and scientists its priests, are usually people who've fallen into the same trap: they don't realise that science and faith are two *entirely different things* and can't be so simply compared. Science deals with things we can see, and touch, and test. Faith deals in metaphor, symbolism, interpretation and meaning. That doesn't make it wrong - it just makes it Not Science. But it's not trying to be science. The existence of God, or the gods, or whatever sort of divinity or higher power you might look to, isn't a matter of tests and measures and proof. It's something you *feel*. If someone else doesn't feel it then there's nothing you can - or should - do about that; any more than they should try to tell you you don't or shouldn't feel it.

(That said, where particle physics is concerned I do think it's remarkable that so many of the predictions that have been made have proved to be right. The explanation probably most acceptable to 'rationalists' is that scientists are just very very good at educated guesses - or very very lucky. Personally, I tend to wonder if this isn't reason enough to wonder just how 'objective' our reality truly is...)

<< Did Charles Darwin really find any evidence, or was it just a plausible-sounding theory that has taken hold, becoming scientific dogma and therefore reliant on its priests, Dawkins, to defend it? >>

Be careful not to confuse evolution - which is a fact of life that's been known to human family dynasties, animal breeders and horticulturalists for centuries - with the Theory of Evolution, which is a theoretical description of how evolution works. The Theory of Evolution is and always will be open to challenges, if anyone thinks they've got something that'll take it down. The existence of evolution as a process isn't in question, even by most religious people.

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Crackpotism

"Dawkin's evolutionary fundamentalism is no different to the religious fanatics on the other side."

Yes it is. In quite a fundamental way.

You can call Dawkins a crackpot and if he's right you're just silly.

You call God a crackpot and if he exists, you're roasting in hell.

If you call Dawkins wrong, people that think him right will argue with you.

If you call God a fiction, people who believe in him will hate you.

If you come up with a better theory, you can replace Dawkins.

You can never prove God doesn't exist and replace it.

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About Dawkins

He's selling his Books.

That's why he's gotten more and more strident. Not because he's getting more polarised. He's using those who have no sense of proportion to generate noise about his writing and thereby selling more.

If you don't like the change, ignore him. Don't argue and don't complain. Rob him of the airtime your complaints give him.

And if you REALLY believe in God, let God handle him when Dawkins dies.

Or don't you trust your God?

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NT

@ Mark

<< You can never prove God doesn't exist and replace it. >>

To be honest, I'm not even sure what that means. Particularly in light of your claim that Dawkins CAN be replaced. By whom? With what? Do you mean his 'theory' can be replaced? By which I assume we mean the Theory of Evolution? If so, it's worth mentioning again that most religions - and even most interpretations of Christianity - don't oppose the Theory of Evolution: if God exists then evolution is simply one of His creative tools.

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@NT

Prove God doesn't exist.

Can't.

What would you replace him with if you found your God was the wrong one (if you DID manage to prove yours wasn't The Real God, just a god with a bunch of false noses)? Vishnu? Brahma? Thor? FSM? You need a reason to pick one of those, a reason why the proof you just got doesn't apply to them.

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Dawkins can be replaced

He could die (never heard of the Christian God being susceptible to that, though most other religions allow it). He could be proven wrong. He could be denied mention (try denying christianity from being given airtime! Dawkins would just pout and scream but you WOULD be allowed to ban him mass media airtime).

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NT

@ Mark

Difficult to know what to do with all that, since it seems to be based on the preconceptions (common to a lot of anti-religious types) that A) belief in God or gods is something that one consciously chooses, like picking a meal off a menu; B) that the 'god' in question must and can be either proven or disproved scientifically; and C) that the 'god' is some sort of solid, flesh-and-blood being that exists independently of the rest of the universe.

If none of these is the case - as in the case of my religion and, I'm sure, that of many other people - then the question of what one would do if one's gods were disproved becomes pretty much moot.

(Incidentally, as I mentioned in the comments on the most recent El Reg "Aren't Religious People Stupid" article, it's worth being careful with the Flying Spaghetti Monster: I've seen many an anti-religious poster use it as a way to illustrate the idiocy of religion. It may serve that function if pushed, but that wasn't the purpose it was designed for.)

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That's what I was saying

Science (and the humans that come up with the ideas) can be challenged, tested and proven (false or true).

God can't.

And if you could, what could you do? Science you come up with another explanation (no aether? maybe electromagnetism and Maxwell's theory will work). God, you. Um. Er.

So Dawkins and his books are a lot less of a problem than fundies, 'cos they just keep breeding and you're no more likely to get a smart one than in the old days.

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Pirate

@NT

"it's worth being careful with the Flying Spaghetti Monster: I've seen many an anti-religious poster use it as a way to illustrate the idiocy of religion. It may serve that function if pushed, but that wasn't the purpose it was designed for."

I have talked like a pirate on the 19th Sept.

I did so in my part to help stop global warming.

I DO know why the FSM was created, but such is His Noodliness, he can stretch to cover much more plate^Wground than that.

Pasta Be Upon Him.

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NT

@ Mark

<< Science (and the humans that come up with the ideas) can be challenged, tested and proven (false or true). God can't. >>

Yes, but this is the reason I think the anti-religion/anti-science 'debate' (read: squealing squabble) is so pointless. God - or whatever equivalent any given person might subscribe to - isn't part of the scientific outlook on the world. *Bits of religion* can be.

The problem is that while this makes God 'unscientific' by definition, this very definition is what makes the argument doomed to repeat over and over and over until someone actually takes the time to understand the other point of view - or at least to direct their arguments more carefully.

Simply slagging off 'religion', as so many of the supposedly intellectually superior love to do, makes no sense beyond those particular views of religion that hold to a literal interpretation of one or another holy text (and particularly, in this context, the creation myths therein). And although I've no stats to hand, I'd be willing to bet a few quid that those people don't constitute the majority of the religious. If the existence of 'God' depends on proving that He created the world in six days and that a serpent tempted the first woman to disobedience, then sure: God CAN be disproved. But if God CAN'T be disproved in that way, then the literal interpretation of the text is invalidated anyway.

If, on the other hand, one allows for a 'God' that's more than simply the main character in a book, then the bets are off. Allow for a God that creates through mechanical means - who brought humanity into existence through a gradual evolutionary process, or who initiated the universe in a Big Bang - and appeals to 'rationality' become moot. Ultimately, no matter how rational we wish to be, there are issues that our carefully cultivated sense of reason can't help us with. For example, did the universe come into being spontaneously out of nothing - an effect without a cause - or has it (or something like it) always existed, without having had a beginning. (Even allowing for previous universe giving birth to this one, we still have to explain THEIR existence - we meet this problem eventually, however far back we go.)

For what it's worth I wouldn't propose giving equal time - or indeed any time at all - in science classes to religious accounts of creation. However, that's a *very specific issue*. Even so, it does provide wonderful ammunition for religion-bashers to attack every possible religious point of view on the assumption that we all basically believe the same things.

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@NT

No disagreement. I understand it so why tell me?

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Black Helicopters

A few facts about Adnan Oktar (alias Harun Yahya)

The comments on this article seem to have concentrated on Richard Dawkins (often slagging him off), largely to the exclusion of Adnan Oktar, who publishes under the pseudonym "Harun Yahya". (This nom-de-plume is an arabisation of "Aaron John".)

There are many items on the web by and about Oktar (or "Yahya"), including videos and transcripts of interviews, reviews, opinion pieces, etc., etc. The following facts are drawn from these and can be easily checked by anyone.

Oktar is an "old Earth" creationist. He accepts that the age of the Earth is several billion years, but completely rejects evolution. He asserts that Allah created all species in the forms in which we now observe them, and that there has been no divergence of species. (In one video interview, he claims that a fossil in his possession is of the skull of a lion, dating back to the age of the dinosaurs. This specimen has not been examined independently by a competent palaeontologist (unsurprisingly), and although it is not shown at all clearly in the video, from the glimpse that I caught of it, it looked reptilian.)

It is claimed that Oktar has written more than 250 books. A copy of his "Atlas of Creation" has been distributed free of charge and unsolicited to every school in France (and possibly to schools in other European countries and in America). This created an outcry among teachers in France, where the education system is rigorously secular. This was a free distribution of hundreds of thousands of copies (not the few hundred that an earlier post referred to). The production is lavish: hardback, large format, glossy, with colour illustrations. The cost of this operation alone must have been very considerable.

In person, he appears to be quite young (mid-40s, perhaps). He has a well-trimmed beard and moustache and black hair. His sartorial appearance indicates opulence, and he seems to spend a lot of time on yachts.

(He has fallen under a cloud regarding alleged sexual and financial improprieties, but I do not have time to check the facts right now, so will not try to expand on this.)

What follows is speculation on my part. (I wish to make this clear as an arse-covering ploy, to avoid a libel suit.)

From the sheer volume of his output, at a relatively early stage in his career, it is (to say the least) questionable that this is all Oktar's own work. A reasonable guess would be that "Harun Yahya" is a front for an Islamic creationist propaganda organisation, which outsources the writing to sympathetic universities (i.e., Islamic universities, in the main). The man Adnan Oktar is probably basically a Mr. Fixit who channels funds, rather than the eminent scientist that he claims to be.

As for the source of the funds, it is well known that Saudi Arabia (or certain organisations based there) are funding a massive Islamic (and specifically Sunni and Wahabist) propaganda exercise, including the building of mosques, running madrassas, training imams, etc., etc. A reasonable guess would be that Oktar's organisation is part of the "education" wing of this offensive.

The size of this exercise is measured in billions, rather than millions, of dollars. In this context, Oktar's free textbook scheme looks modest.

The nature of this propaganda offensive may be judged from the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary "Undercover Mosque". (When I last looked, this was still available on:

http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=2668560761490749816)

Oktar's rise from nowhere to mysterious eminence should be seen in this context. His litigious approach to justified criticism from a real scientist of genuine eminence should be seen in the context of the tactics actually employed by the Saudis: they have abused the notoriously lax libel laws in the UK to suppress publication of books critical of Islam. (See article by Nick Cohen in The Guardian a few months ago.)

I can hardly believe that so many of the commentators on this article in El Reg could have been so stupid as to attack Dawkins, who is arguably the best-qualified and highest-profile opponent of the wave of superstitious ignorance which the enemies of the open society wish to inflict on us.

[Black helicopters, since the Islamofascists are coming!]

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NT

@ Peter Mellor

<< I can hardly believe that so many of the commentators on this article in El Reg could have been so stupid as to attack Dawkins, who is arguably the best-qualified and highest-profile opponent of the wave of superstitious ignorance which the enemies of the open society wish to inflict on us. >>

He is certainly one of the loudest and most fervent. Whether he's the most qualified depends on whether we're concerning ourselves with what he's qualified *in*.

Dawkins tends to attack religion based on a relatively narrow view of it, which seems to cover *all* religion as a superficial variant on fundamentalist, anti-evolution, anti-science, young-Earth creationist Christianity. And you can see him rationalising away religions that don't fit that template in order that he can continue to treat 'religion' as entirely uniform. Check out the way he disposes of Hinduism and Buddhism in the initial sections of 'The God Delusion' (Hinduism is redefined as a monotheism and treated alongside Christianity; and Buddhism is dismissed as 'not really a religion at all'). The simple fact is that like so many who ape him, Dawkins has set his face against religion as a whole and this damages his arguments, made as they mainly are against one single, specific strand of religion.

It's not 'stupid' to attack Dawkins, as long as you attack him *with good reason*. And there are those who genuinely seem to believe that the man should be held above any kind of criticism - his academic position seems to render him inerrant in their eyes. But I'd suggest that this is precisely the same attitude that Dawkins himself condemns in reference to the religious: "this is my belief, it's sacred, and you aren't allowed to question it."

Personally I see Dawkins as an educated and intelligent man, and I've said before that I deeply admired his earlier books, which I considered alongside those of Stephen Hawking in bringing science to non-experts. But when he speaks and writes about religion I believe he's no longer 'Professor' Dawkins, and is instead simply 'Mr Dawkins' - because unless I'm mistaken, religion isn't the area in which he's trained. So I treat his opinion with the respect I'd give to any equally educated and intelligent person speaking outside their specialist field. It doesn't mean he isn't right - but nor does his academic status alone mean that he is. I ask a simple standard of him, and those who follow him: if they're going to attack me for being religious, I want to know that they understand what I believe and why I believe it, and I want to see them advance considered and rational arguments against those beliefs. I want to see that they've taken my beliefs into account before they attack me. And if they can't or won't meet that standard, then really I see no reason to heed what may be nothing more than opinions born of prejudice and ignorance.

But, to edge back towards the point, I personally dismissed this Harun Yahya when he/it/they claimed he/it/they had *ten trillion lira* (£4 trillion) to hand over to anyone who could produce an intermediate-form fossil (failing, as creationists always do, to understand that *all* fossils are to some extent 'intermediate-form').

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