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Richard Dawkins' interview on his new book

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If I'm thinking about right guy, I saw an interview with him on the Charlie Rose show where he expressed that he is a determinist.

His selfish gene book pushed the primary purpose in life is reproduction and protection of the genes, your children and future generations are more important than you. I've heard it referenced often to back the arguments for altruism from a rational perspective.

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His selfish gene book pushed the primary purpose in life is reproduction and protection of the genes, your children and future generations are more important than you. I've heard it referenced often to back the arguments for altruism from a rational perspective.

From what I remember of Dawkins' book his thesis was essentially scientific, not philosophical. From the viewpoint of the propagation and continuation of genetic material, reproduction IS more important than the quality of life any one individual organism has. This is why many species die after mating or reproducing.

The fact that humans have interests and goals outside of reproduction doesn't invalidate the purpose of genes or DNA, it simply means that humans are complex organisms with multiple goals.

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I've heard it referenced often to back the arguments for altruism from a rational perspective.

Dawkins never uses the world 'altruism' the same way that rand does. To dawkins, altruism is a win/win decision making process, like pursuing the profit motive. To dawkins, altruism was helping others by helping yourself.

From what I remember of Dawkins' book his thesis was essentially scientific, not philosophical. From the viewpoint of the propagation and continuation of genetic material, reproduction IS more important than the quality of life any one individual organism has. This is why many species die after mating or reproducing.

The fact that humans have interests and goals outside of reproduction doesn't invalidate the purpose of genes or DNA, it simply means that humans are complex organisms with multiple goals.

Right, Dawkins was never deterministic. In fact, he became appalled when contemporaries tried to spin his theory of a selfish gene in such a way, and expressed so in The Extended Phenotype.

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I'm somewhat familiar with Dawkins: I read The Blind Watchmaker about a year ago when Intelligent Design was in the news. (It was enlighting insofar as it bore little to no resemblence to the manner in which I learned evolution in high school biology.) I've also seen his "Root of All Evil" documentary from the BBC, which I believe is based on The God Delusion. It's available on YouTube here: Root of All Evil: Part 1 and here: Root of All Evil: Part 2.

My impression of him is somewhat like Sam Harris (without the Eastern mysticism, of course.) What he has to say about religion is absolutely correct and needs to be said, loudly and often, but I'm not sure he has much to offer in terms of positive ideas to fill the void that would be left. My biggest concern is his denial of rational certainty, though I think his position is hardly unusual in scientific circles. In "Root of All Evil" he several times gives the impression that certainty as such is a great a problem as faith. In fact, I'm not even sure he uses the "R"-word at all, prefering the term "evidence", as though a collection of concrete facts is the extent of knowledge available to us.

That said, overall I generally like Dawkins, and will definitely consider reading The God Delusion.

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I'm pretty sure it was Dawkins that I saw on the Charlie Rose show. He seemed like an all around likeable and rational guy, but when the topic of free will came up he said he didn't believe in it. So, he doesn't believe in biblical determinism, but in a sort of Skinnerian determinism.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Dawkins is the subject of the most recent South Park to air on Comedy Central. It's a two-parter, and it doesn't start well. The show is trying to draw a sharp distinction between religious nonesense on one side (represented by Ms. Garrison's refusal to teach evolution) and materialist nonesense on the other (represented by Dawkins). I'm not very familiar with Dawkins' work, so I don't know if the portrayal is accurate, but the show boiled the argument for atheism down to "you wouldn't believe in a flying spaghetti monster, would you?" which was really quite disheartening. The second part airs on Wednesday night.

This is the second time South Park has depicted atheism in a very negative light; they previously equated atheism with 'crapping out of your mouth.' The show is really starting to worry me a lot more than it used to.

-Q

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It seemed to pretty accurately reflect his beliefs but I, too, am worried about where they're going with this one. I think it might end up with Mr. Garrison going overboard and becoming a militant (as in, literally militant) atheist and Dawkins being the more reasonable person.

South Park may occasionally screw up in its messages, but I think that they are generally good ones. I'm not going to condemn the whole show based on its stance on a single issue.

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From Wired:

"I'm quite keen on the politics of persuading people of the virtues of atheism," Dawkins says [...]"The number of nonreligious people in the US is something nearer to 30 million than 20 million," he says. "That's more than all the Jews in the world put together. I think we're in the same position the gay movement was in a few decades ago. There was a need for people to come out. The more people who came out, the more people had the courage to come out. I think that's the case with atheists. They are more numerous than anybody realizes."
(HT: Philo, posting on the FORUM)

I think that at some point the Evangelists are going to push the "common sense" religious, the atheists and the agnostics into a real "second" revolt against religion.

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It seemed to pretty accurately reflect his beliefs but I, too, am worried about where they're going with this one. I think it might end up with Mr. Garrison going overboard and becoming a militant (as in, literally militant) atheist and Dawkins being the more reasonable person.

South Park may occasionally screw up in its messages, but I think that they are generally good ones. I'm not going to condemn the whole show based on its stance on a single issue.

I didn't approve of the way that episode was resolved. Although I must admit I laughed when that guy used "Science H. Logic" as an expletive.

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"Maybe just believing in God makes him real."

"We've learned to get rid of all the -isms in our time"

"No one single answer is ever the answer."

Typical.

Actually, the conclusion seems more consistent with the real Dawkins' philosophy.

-Q

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It's not really typical...in fact, it's quite atypical of South Park, which usually has very rational and level-headed messages.

And I don't see how that is consistent with Dawkins' philosophy. Dawkins' statements about "shades of gray" refer to epistemological uncertainty, rather than metaphysical ambiguity.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 3 months later...
To those of you who have read The God Delusion, does this assessment make sense to you? Is this apparent in this particular work?

I didn't think so. He makes some arguments (ones I agree with, btw) that attempt to explain religion in terms of evolutionary psychology. They may go against Objectivist thinking, but to equate them with Skinnerian determinism is absurd.

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