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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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Need money ? Invent a religion !

    Since time began there have been people who have stood up and said this is the word now please give generously and when their livelihood is threatened they will then use the sanctity of the court and its thugs to protect the revenue stream, thus keeping the flock of sheep well herded and paying.

    Dickie Dawkins your wasting your time with these brainwashed sheep and con artists as no amount of good hard scientific evidence is going to convince them that Evolution is a FACT.

    PS I'm starting a new religeon, Its called the curch of free love and girls between 20-30 only need apply.

    Paris ? Because we are off to a Tarts and Vicars Party :)

  2. The Other Steve
    Flame

    Huh ?

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

    Erm, then you ARE against freedom of speech. Duh!

    To much of this argument from religious nutters of all flavours recently. You can't have the "but" clause, the "but" clause means that you are are only prepared to allow freedom of the kinds of speech that you find acceptable.

    This is fine if you want to self censor because your imaginary world view is so fragile that it falls apart when exposed to reasonable criticism, but attempting to use the same argument to remove critical opinions from the public domain entirely rather neatly shows the beastly way that religion and oppression tend to go hand in hand. It's also intellectually extremely lazy, instead of engaging in a debate to defend your point, you just shout "heresy!" (or it's modern equivalent "insulting to my beliefs!") and fire up the braziers.

    Thank goodness it couldn't happen here, oh hang on, shit ...

    Flame, because unless we Just Say No to religious nutters, they'll be lighting fires under all our rational asses again before to long.

  3. Hywel Thomas

    Ankara now worse than Anchorage

    Unless Palin gets her way.

  4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Definition: Freedom of Speech

    We are not against freedom of speech or expression but you cannot insult people. We found the comments hurtful. It was not a scientific discussion. There was a line and the limit has been passed."

    I've never met anyone who was *violently* opposed to me saying something they agreed with or paying them a compliment. Freedom of speech *is* the freedom to insult and hurt feelings. That's the point.

    Now, having clarified that, if you don't agree with the idea then feel free to come out and say you are against freedom of speech. You won't find me calling for your imprisonment or execution, but please don't pretend that you are on my side. That's dishonesty, and no human culture has ever defended the right to be dishonest.

  5. Eric Crippen

    legality

    Insulting someone or there beliefs is not the same as inciting hatred against a person/group. Followers of islam are allowed to incite hatred against women being treated as equals, but I don't see anyone clamoring to take care of that. As long as it's in that community, then the rest of the country (includes my good ol' U.S. of A) doesn't seem to care. What needs to occur, is that the followers of islam need to be told they don't get to violate the rights of those in their community, simply because they belong to a particular faith. It shouldn't be seen as an excuse anymore. No one in England is going to arrest an iman for telling his followers it's o.k. to remove the clitoris on a girl, they can beat their wives into submission, kill their daughter because their honor was tarnished or that women should have to wear a burka, even though it falls under the same category. There should already be laws on the books covering discrimination and violent acts against people. To start making laws against speech, and by extension thought, doesn't make a lot of sense. Aside from our Bill of Rights in the states protecting free speech, we've already started down this stupid road of punishing people just because they hurt someone's feelings.

  6. Chris Haynes
    Stop

    Can we ban Harumph Yada Yada Yada?

    Or whatever his stupid pseudonym is, please?

    Oh, it wasn't a scientific discussion... So what?! Your book is nothing more than a pathetic attempt at forcing your own, frankly, barmy ideas onto impressionable minds, and handing out a few hundred copies for free simply goes to show that. Send me a copy, I've just run out of bog roll.

    I'm sick to the back teeth of reading about how creationism is a 'science'. Show me ONE piece of scientific evidence that a creator exists, and we'll discuss putting creationism (which brand?) into our schools. Until then, Adnan Oktar, feck off with your pathetic little musings on how YOUR particular religion is correct and the facts of science are not.

    Have you read the synopsis on Amazon? "Living things did not come into being through the imaginary processes of evolution. All the living things that have ever existed on Earth were created by God."

    PROVE IT! Why your god? Why not someone else's god? Fool.

    To state that the evidence backing up the theory of evolution isn't factual, and to go against one of the most brilliant minds in evolutionary theory today (Dawkins), you have to be a complete numptee. Mr Adnan Otkar, I think your book is trash, and that you are stupid. Feel free to sue me for that. When you provide proof that evolution is false, then I'll pay you compensation, and I think the Nobel Prize board might have a gift for you. Until then, feck off.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hmm....

    i don't remember any threatening language in Dawkin's books.

  8. theotherone

    religious hatred

    the "religious hatred" law has been in place for decades, and was enforced countless times throughout Europe, allbeit in the guise of "anti semitism" witch hunts.

  9. IR

    Insults?

    His press assistant, Seda Aral, added: "We are not against freedom of speech or expression but you cannot insult people."

    Erm, yes you can! You'd have to ban 99% of the internet if you wanted to remove all the insults.

  10. Pierre Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Escape?

    You really think that the UK *escaped* this?

  11. Stefan
    Flame

    Idiot

    If Dawkins is so smart, why does he aggravate the very people he's trying to convert?

    We Atheists would do well to remember that in the world today, we are in the minority. If the major religions got their act together, they could sweep Atheism off the planet. If it really came to a cultural war, Religion would win. It has been around for much longer, it has been practicing the subtle art of indoctrination for thousands of years, and it continues to gain new converts throughout the Third World. Most people today, if they had to choose between a few technological trinkets, and a life that gave their tiny little egos a chance of "salvation" would go for the salvation.

    Dawkins is an idiot.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Eh?

    Dawkins, the UK's leading biologist? Ten or fifteen years ago, when he was actually writing about biology, maybe, but not now. These days he is just a shouty angry reactionist who is more of a rent-a-rant for TV "science" programs and the press.

  13. Anonymous Hero
    Unhappy

    Religeous numpties at it again

    Why is it in the 21st century that, supposedly an age of rational enlightment and scientific discovery, because some brain washed numpties believe in fairy tale fictions like the bible and the koran, it gives them the right to dictate to others what they should say or do.

    Feels like we're slipping into a neo-dark age.

    Depressing.

  14. Spider

    2 minute hate anyone?

    whilst Dawkins has a direct approach that some find offensive to their delusion of choice it is usually backed up by some form of theory and conclusion rather than "i don't know so it must be diety/ies" .. and they want to be admitted to the EU. yeah right. I can see them signing the Human rights act...

  15. Aram

    Dogma is dogma, whatever the religion

    It used to be Catholics who'd denounce, then torture you.

    Our latest dogmatic, ignorant pawn is either the fanatical so-called "muslim" or the equally moronic and dangerous gun-toting, Bible-bashing neo-Con.

    In short: same ol', same ol'. It's just that the number of people they affect has grown.

  16. Mr Blonde

    Missionary position required ;-)

    No intelligence needed or assumed, only acquiescence.

    Ban it all... burn the books, execute the infidels and ignore science.

    If it floats it's a witch.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Stop right there!

    Just slow down attacking on the followers of Islam. I am Turkish, and I don't believe in the non-sense evolution theory. But also, Adnan Oktar or the followers of him, or the Turkish court that banned the website doesn't represent me. I am against all bans, so most of the people in Turkey. You Tube was getting banned by the courts in Turkey, and people were crying. No more than 10-20% supported those bans. And 10-20% is a normal percentage for every country. But the judicial establishment is so old fashioned, they ban these websites not because they are religious, but because they have no idea what the internet is. And they DON'T represent the Turkish people, at all.

    So, just slow down. There are atheists in Turkey, Christians, Jews, and others, and they have (almost) no problem. Some people react to them, but it is not much comparing to how people react to muslims in western countries. And, I think, that is normal too, because people react to things they don't quite know.

    Lastly, evolution is a theory, has never been proven, will never be proven, because it is a stupid non-sense theory that was made up, so that who doesn't believe in God can have something to believe in.

  18. Warhelmet
    Dead Vulture

    Insulting?

    But I find the mere existence of Noel Edmonds a personal affront. Can I have him banned?

  19. John Hawkins

    Atheism is about as inspiring as celibacy...

    ...so I'm also thinking about starting a new religion. It will be based on the figure of the trickster - Bugs Bunny, Brer Rabbit, Loki, Coyote, Puck, Maui, Roger Irrelevant and Spike Milligan to name a few - and the only commandment will be not to take it seriously.

    May the Farce be with you.

  20. J
    Joke

    @Can we ban Harumph Yada Yada Yada?

    Whoa, careful there! You're gonna get El Reg banned in Turkey with that language, sir!

    Because we know El Reg people are true paragons of the Freedom of Speech cause and would *never* remove your comments "or else"...

  21. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    @Ken Hagan

    "Definition: Freedom of Speech"

    ... no human culture has ever defended the right to be dishonest ...

    But dishonesty is speech and therefore protected ! If not, Tony B. and Dubya and countless other politicians would be in jump suits.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Aram

    Exactly. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Oh yes I can.

    >"Seda Aral, added: "We are not against freedom of speech or expression but you cannot insult people."

    Yes I can. To wit: Seda Aral and Adnan Oktar are a pair of censorious knobheads.

    There. Proof by existence. QED.

  25. Paul M.

    Dawkins explained

    @ Stefan:

    "If Dawkins is so smart, why does he aggravate the very people he's trying to convert?"

    Because he hates people. He hates people who disagree with his particular view of the world.

    There would be no "Intelligent Design movement" without Dawkins: he created it as the sustenance he needs to keep going as a small minded, anti-human bigot.

    As for Dawkins the biologist: er... he's never actually been any kind of scientist. Dawkins has never done any research. (The boring stuff in labs with mice and petri dishes).

    He has done forty years of serious media time mouthing off about how people are less enlightened than Richard Dawkins. But, er... that's about it.

    Professorships are cheap these days. Anyone can buy one.

  26. david wilson

    @Stop right there

    >>"I am Turkish, and I don't believe in the non-sense evolution theory."

    Assuming for a few seconds you're not just a troll, then I pity either your lack of education or your miseducation, your dogmatic resistance to learning, or your inability to understand a remarkably simple theory.

    >>"Lastly, evolution is a theory, has never been proven, will never be proven, because it is a stupid non-sense theory that was made up, so that who doesn't believe in God can have something to believe in."

    Of course. How obvious it all is, now you point it out.

    And I suppose meteorology was just made up to give people who didn't believe in [deity] crying rain and throwing thunderbolts something to believe in, medicine was made up to give people who don't believe in [deity] miraculously healing people something to believe in, astronomy was just made up to give people who don't believe in [deity] painting stars on the inside of some nearby black dome something to believe in, geology was just made up to give people who didn't believe in the earth just being willed into existence something to believe in, and so on.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    too late

    I'm afraid it's too late for the politicians of the world. they have all jumped the shark. Too bad we have so many religious nut in the world. I'm all for putting them in one building and sealing the doors (no, not until they're done fighting it out...until they're done...period).

    Mine's the one with the key in the pocket.

  28. Steve Swann
    Flame

    Bring it on, Primitives!

    Okey doke, lets try this on for size shall we?

    God is not real. No more than fairies, father xmas, buddha, mohammed, bugs bunny, Frodo Baggins or my invisible friend, Jack.

    Any adult who believes in unproveable things is often labelled as a crank (see: UFOlogy for examples) and at worst they are labelled as medically insane.

    Those who believe in God are simply deluded and need help. Belief in God is a stupid and primitive way to look at the world, fostered only in primitive minds. In the hands of the more capable thinker it is a tool cynically used to control the sheep-like masses in order to further personal power and wealth.

    I repeat, those who believe in God are simply backwards and primitive.

    If you would like to challenge me on this subject, I will meet you in court where you can attempt to refute the evidence I shall present for your delusion by proving that God exists.

    See you there.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Love Dawkins..

    The guy is brilliant, you need people as strongly behind belief in science as the religious zealots are behind their chosen cause, but somtimes Dawkins does go a little mad, loses the thread a little and starts ranting. This is exactly what the "opposition" want, you then start to lose some of your credibility if you can't hold an argument together without keeping your cool. Then again, when has anything argued under the name of religion ever rational!

  30. Ash

    @Paul M and Stefan

    Dawkins isn't an idiot, you two are. Dawkins can back up his claims with his research, he's written books not just ignorant comments on a comments section.

    "If Dawkins is so smart, why does he aggravate the very people he's trying to convert?"

    He's not trying to convert anyone. He's pointing out the stupidity of believing in something that you only believe in because someone else told you it existed.

    "Because he hates people. He hates people who disagree with his particular view of the world."

    Hmmm, where have i seen that attitude come from before...let me think...hmm...ah, religions! That's where.

    No-one is trying to convert you. Those rational enough to see through all the nonsense (no hyphen) also realise you're all too far gone to ever come back to the land of the thinking.

  31. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    @Stop right there

    "Lastly, evolution is a theory, has never been proven, will never be proven, because it is a stupid non-sense theory that was made up, so that who doesn't believe in God can have something to believe in."

    Yes, evolution is a theory, as are quantum electrodynamics, gravity and that 2 plus 2 equals 4.

    But more and more bits of the theory are being proved in the lab. We now have experimental proof that mutation can produce new species and that selection can cause that new species to replace the old one. The work was done in bacteria, as waiting 30,000 generations can be a bit tedious otherwise, but it shows all the elements of Darwinian evolution work.

    Of course, it doesn't prove that WE evolved from something else - creationists can still claim that some divine being assembled us from a flatpack kit if they wish - but they can no longer claim that "evolution doesn't work".

  32. Danny
    Boffin

    Puzzled

    Why is it someone who can easily accept a notion that:

    god has always existed without being created

    or

    god created himself

    or

    god vomited out the world

    or

    god masturbated life into existence

    or any other unbelievable story have such a hard time accepting the theory that given the right chemical elements under the right conditions life can spontaneously begin? I know which story I find most believable

    It's also funny how most of these religious zealots have no problem accepting the parts of science that they like, such as generated power, polymers, medicine and refuse to accept anything that conflicts with their world view.

    Careful everyone, if these people get their way we will soon be heading towards the dark ages - part 2

  33. david wilson

    @paul m

    >>"There would be no "Intelligent Design movement" without Dawkins: he created it as the sustenance he needs to keep going as a small minded, anti-human bigot."

    Bollocks. ID is simply a US-based attempt to get round US prohibitions on teaching creationism, the latest round in a struggle between science and ignorance that's been going on in the US since before the Scopes Trial

    About the only influence Dawkins might have had is in educating some people about what evolution is through his science writing.

    >>"As for Dawkins the biologist: er... he's never actually been any kind of scientist. Dawkins has never done any research. (The boring stuff in labs with mice and petri dishes)."

    Science is about more than just experimentation, and anyway, isn't labwork the kind of thing many people get their students to do while they're busy thinking, lecturing, and applying for the next round of grant money?

    >>"He has done forty years of serious media time mouthing off about how people are less enlightened than Richard Dawkins. But, er... that's about it."

    So the media were interested in him a decade *before* he published his first book?

    He must have been a pretty impressive public speaker.

    >>"Professorships are cheap these days. Anyone can buy one."

    Do I hear the sound of petulant little feet stamping on sour grapes?

    No doubt everyone can be a bestselling science writer as well, at least in their dreams.

  34. Jonathan

    @David Wilson

    Dont feed the troll - hell he even posted anonymously, obviously isnt too proud of his beliefs.

    I think we need to have a course entitled "Evolution for Creationists - Ten Things You Didnt Know"

    I can think of a few topics.....

    1. Abiogenesis, Evolution, and the Big Bang Theory, and how they have nothing at all to do with each other. Also covers why Abiogenesis != Evolution (very common mistake, ask my local Baptist Church).

    2. Evolution is a fact - it happens. The Theory of Evolution attempts to explain why and how it happens. It is, as you might have guessed, a theory.

    3. Scientific Theories, and why their name does not mean scientists are in doubt about them.

    4. How Scientific Theories, including evolution, are refined and changed over time.

    5. Why the Flying Spaghetti Monster is infinitely superior to your own religion (stripper factory and beer volcano, can you top that?).

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    News Flash !

    Confirmed - The Earth is flat and is the centre of the Universe !

    And we have just had another report in that the Spanish Inquisition have just discovered a witch and are now lighting the bonfire as we speak, nobody was expecting that !

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Stop right there

    And don't forget archeology. Dinosaurs were here before humans.

  37. thorsten

    Huh!?

    Don't know anything about the law and I won't state my religious opinion or anything the likes (well, ok, I'll state that I think that religious/xenophobe rants are a waste of time and energy and pretty much only show the repressed frustrations of the ranters, whichever religion/area in the world they're coming from...), but I am on a conference in Istanbul (which is in Turkey..) at the moment and as a matter of fact the website is beautifully accessible via different open wlans (wifi-heaven, here, btw!), other than e.g. youtube (access forbidden, due to: "Access to this web site is banned by "TELEKOMÜNİKASYON İLETİŞİM BAŞKANLIĞI" according to the order of: Ankara 1. Sulh Ceza Mahkemesi, 05/05/2008 of 2008/402.")

    So I guess it is an interesting read and good to raise awareness, but the real world seems to differ..

    my 2 ytl,

    thorsten

  38. Eric Crippen

    @Stefan

    Hate to burst your bubble, but no belief was around before belief. Someone had to come up with the idea of an outside force acting on them. I'd almost bet that since they didn't have the means/ability to LOGICALLY reason it out, they just made something up that made sense to themselves. Then they had to go about convincing others. I'd bet that someone in the group thought that it was a load of BS.

    In addition:

    You could remove every atheist on this planet and, within a generation, you'd end up with atheists again. You'd end up with them even if you removed every document that suggested a dis-belief in religion. Religion has CONSISTENTLY changed it's god(s) over time. Atheism is still the same... the lack of belief in a person's claim of a god(s).

  39. Steven Jones

    @Paul M

    You clearly know nothing of Richard Dawkin. To describe him has misanthropic is simply ridiculous. He certainly loathes the nonsense that many of the indroctinators spout about but, everybody who knows him describes him as a humane, liberal human being. There's certainly nothing in any of his books which indicates any hate for humanity - just the inane, stupid, blind statements and actions that are carried out by a good many in the name of faith.

    As far as him inventing ID - well that's a joke too. It's a fig-leaf invented by some Christian fundamentalists to pretend oin some way that this "theory" is scientific - which it isn't as it is founded despite the evidence. It is unscientific in the sense that it produces not predictions which can be tested, and where there is voluminous evidence that contradicts some interpretations (such as the "young Earth" creationists believe) then this is ignored or discounted on spurious grounds. To detest the spreading of such ideas which are in direct conflict to rationality is no more to hate human beings then to detest the ideas of the eugenics movement of the early 20th century.

    To espouse enlightened rationalism over authoritarian dogma is not to be misanthropic. It's a final recognition of the nature of human beings, what makes us unique. Like it or not, our own sense of social responsibility, ethics, behaviour and sense to what is right and wrong is a consequence of the way humans and our socities evolved. It's not due to some dictats on slabs of stone or the endless prophets and chosen ones that litter history and pre-history.

  40. Tom

    @Dawkins explained

    Are you sure about that? A significant number of Dawkins' observations/arguments/examples are taken from the field of behavioural ecology. No mice, petri dishes or labs required. And you can't really accuse anyone that studied under Tinbergen of not being a biologist.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Turkey(s)

    Just come back from Turkey, agree wifi heaven - no security anywhere - and dont know if its just me but put an out of country DNS server into your config and lo and behold - the web opens up - this is of course a miracle and proof that the flying spaghetti monster exists and wishes us to read Dawkins

  42. dervheid

    's funny, but...

    I thought that this was a 'freedom of speech' story, as opposed to a 'my God's better than your God / no God' story.

    I actually feel sorry for Adnan Oktar. Clearly here is a man with a 'theory' that he believes is, or should be, true. His mediocre intellect is far too feeble to withstand criticism of his viewpoint, so he resorts to the tactics of attempting to suppress any opinion contrary or detrimental to his own.

    A 'Creation Mythology' exists within all (AFAIK) human cultures, varying in details, but all with similar themes (mankind created by a 'supreme being', everything else created for his use/consumption/pleasure). This Mythology, like most mythology, fails to stand up to scientific scrutiny, particularly in the face of the evidence gathered, verified and accepted as 'true' over the last 150-200 years.

    This 'difference of opinion' is undoubtedly creating heated debate, particularly the aspect of teaching "Creationism" in schools. Schools, I believe, should teach as broad a range of subject matter as possible, including 'Creation Mythology', along with all the other scientifically unproven mythological works, as part of human history or anthropology. "Creationism", however, is a fundamentalist viewpoint that takes the 'mythology' expounded in the Bible, the Qur'an et al and cites it as an unquestionable truth. This is not education, this is indoctrination, and should not be allowed. IMHO, all STATE SPONSORED education should be strictly secular in nature. Any parent wishing their child to have a religiously biased education, of any 'flavour', should either stump up for it, or persuade the requisite religious body to fund it.

    No-one of sound mind should give even a moment's thought to the religious 'persuasions' of anyone else. It's THEIR business what they choose to believe (or not to believe) in, not mine/yours.

    I may not believe in what you say/believe, but I accept your right to say/believe what you will, provided you respect my right to the same position (slander & libel notwithstanding).

    Right, that's my tuppence worth.

  43. John Stevens
    Paris Hilton

    Tinbergen knew my father...

    Hmmm. As someone who did study under Dawkins in the late '70's (does that make Tinbergen my academic grandfather?), I'd have said he counted as a Zoologist. At least, that was the Department of Oxford Uni he was attached to at the time, along with Des Morris - who may have parted shortly before, having discovered it was far more profitable to attach pretty pics to his lecture notes and make a mint with Manwatching.

    Zoology was then twinned with Psychology and shared a horrid white concrete elephant of a building somewhere at the arse end of the science area. Those of us interested in topics such as Animal Behaviour and Ethology were sent off to collect a copy of "The Selfish Gene", attend Richard Dawkins' lectures, whilst a lucky few got tutored by him.

    Main reason to hate - or envy - the man is not his writings on evolution...but the fact that he married to Lalla Ward!

    <sigh>

    <drool>

    Paris - cause she reminds me of Lalla Ward. Or is it the other way round?

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ stop right there

    "Lastly, evolution is a theory, has never been proven, will never be proven, because it is a stupid non-sense theory that was made up, so that who doesn't believe in God can have something to believe in."

    You do realise that Charles Darwin was a committed Christian ?

    And he had great internal worries regarding his discoveries ?

    Notice the word "discoveries" ?

    That is because by OBSERVING the world around him, he actually found EVIDENCE that life EVOLVES, that is to say, the organisms change over time. He didn't invent anything, he just reported on what he had found, and tried to explain it.

    Religion doesn't observe the world around them, they have no evidence and they very very rarely change their opinions based on what happens in the real world.

    If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck and flies like a duck, god botherers like to call it a pigeon. Because God said so.

    BTW, I don't have to believe in evolution, because I can check it out for myself. The evidence is there for all to see. Unfortunately, religion depends on there being no evidence, so you HAVE to believe.

    What do you trust ? Something you can see and touch, or an ancient fairy story that has killed more people than any other thing in the history of humanity ?

    I have no problems with people using religion as a guide to their conduct in life. I object to them forcing their unfounded opinions on others. God is merely a concept. The word Good serves just as well. Of course it's nice to be nice to your neighbour, and not kill people and not steal. The easiest way to convince the largely stupid public is to create a story where an all powerful God enforces these rules. When this story was created, stories were the main way of spreading information - it had to be easy to remember and worth remembering. In modern reality, we can choose to be good by ourselves, we don't need the threat of divine intervention to enforce reasonable behaviour.

    So which are you ? Ignorant fool who does as he is told, or enlightened thinker who does what is right BECAUSE it is right ?

    I think you answered my question already.

    Richard Dawkins has taken on a thankless task here, and more power to him for doing so. He has set himself up to be a lightening rod for the religious maniacs to aim at. He is doing it on our behalf. If science has to stand for anything, it must stand up to religion, and if nobody stands up then science loses by default. Then we all lose.

    Amazing how the application of SCIENCE allows religious nutters to post ludicrous comments to websites on the other side of the world, while criticizing the very mechanism that allows them to do it ! I'm praying a private message to Mr Anon right now - let me know when you get it.

  45. RaelianWingnut

    @dervheid

    > I actually feel sorry for Adnan Oktar.

    I don't; with due respect you really should be a little more careful over handing out The Golden Order of The Mediocre Intelllect. L. Ron Hubberd was not a particularly stupid man, and I'm certain a whole plethora of so-called zealots are made in His Image.

    I don't know Adnan Oktar; but I'm willing to bet that you don't either.

    Just sayin'

  46. david wilson

    @Eric

    >>"I'd almost bet that since they didn't have the means/ability to LOGICALLY reason it out, they just made something up that made sense to themselves"

    I'd have thought it fairly likely that some religious mythologies developed as a result of parents inventing tales to get curious children to shut up, rather than to satisfy themselves.

    Once the germ of an idea of an invisible god was there, it's a bit too tempting to use it when a kid is asking "But *WHY* does it rain???", "What happens when Grandpa dies???", "Why ARE there cows???", etc

    Even if most kids grow out of believing, they can still end up telling the same or similar stories to their children, the way we do with folk tales and fairly stories, and eventually it can start to stick.

    Also, in some communities (hunter/gatherers, etc), the just-so stories might be a good way of remembering things (which plants are poisonous, how to deal with certain animals, etc), and so retain a use into adulthood.

  47. Gruvn
    Alien

    Dawkins. Harumph.

    I used to enjoy reading Dawkins' stuff, but I started to notice that all of his books are the same, and they are increasingly intolerent of religion. I am in no way religous, but I don't feel it's my place to tell people that they're living life incorrectly. Dawkins does.

    Somehow, he has made a living of being more intolerent of religion then most religous people are of evolution. He's an angry little man, and he doesn't represent me, or any of the decent evolutionists I know. I wish he'd shut up.

    Aliens, because they put us here.

  48. Eric Crippen

    @ David Wilson

    Good point. I'd forgotten about some of that. Been a while since I'd taken anthropology.

    - e -

  49. Stefan
    Alert

    Atheist, but not ignorant.

    @ Ash

    "No-one is trying to convert you. Those rational enough to see through all the nonsense (no hyphen) also realise you're all too far gone to ever come back to the land of the thinking."

    Then why does he bother? I'm not religious. If Dawkins just sits there and says religious people are stupid and/or insane, then what is the point? He's just poking them in the eye, for what, his own amusement? For the amusement of Atheists? So they religious people can feel threatened and start retaliating by banning the internet? What exactly is his strategy here? If they are beyond reason/help/enlightenment?

    @Eric

    "Hate to burst your bubble, but no belief was around before belief. Someone had to come up with the idea of an outside force acting on them"

    Before belief you will find thousands of years of tribal warfare. No gods were necessary, just the protection of blood lines. Your own family was OK and helped, and your own tribe was OK, but anyone else was fair game. Altheists often ignore that in human history, religion was the once force that could unite disparate tribes, under the symbol of an imaginary god, and allow them to come together as a larger social unit. When it is not strong enough, cultures remain tribal, feudal, and more violent. -- Now at this point, most Atheists just say "no way dude, I don't accept that". -- Fine. But notice you've just blanked it out.

  50. david wilson

    @Stefan

    >>"Before belief you will find thousands of years of tribal warfare. No gods were necessary, just the protection of blood lines. Your own family was OK and helped, and your own tribe was OK, but anyone else was fair game."

    Then civilisation upgrades to religion, and land-grabbing and genocide become things of the past, as can be seen from a quick glance at the Old Testament.

    >>"in human history, religion was the once force that could unite disparate tribes, under the symbol of an imaginary god, and allow them to come together as a larger social unit"

    ...and go and massacre a different large social unit, but now ostensibly for worshipping the wrong god, rather than people having the honesty to admit it was for personal greed and revenge.

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

    Did the people in power actually pay much attention to religion, or just to power?

    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.

    If you don't know how to make a desirable product, you have an incentive not to kill the person who does know.

  51. Stefan

    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.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    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?

  53. 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

  54. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    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).

  56. Eric Crippen

    @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.

  57. 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.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    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).

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @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.

  60. 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?

  61. Adrian Barnett
    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?

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    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?

  63. Danny
    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.

  64. Steven Jones

    @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.

  65. Danny

    @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.

  66. Stefan

    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.

  67. 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.

  68. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  69. 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.

  70. Philip
    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.

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    God rang

    He says he wants all his creations back!

  72. Gianni Straniero
    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.

  73. 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.

  74. Anonymous Coward
    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?

  75. The Badger
    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!

  76. 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.

  77. Mark

    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.

  78. Mark

    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?

  79. 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.

  80. Mark

    @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.

  81. Mark

    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).

  82. 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.)

  83. Mark

    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.

  84. Mark
    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.

  85. 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.

  86. Mark

    @NT

    No disagreement. I understand it so why tell me?

  87. Peter Mellor
    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!]

  88. 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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