Well the big news
is that Stephen Hawking has finally refuted all those religious apologists who were fond of quoting his final line from "A Brief History of Time": "For then we would know the mind of God".
"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going," added the wheelchair-bound expert.
"Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist," he writes in "The Grand Design", which is being serialised by The Times newspaper.
In response to this The Times decided it was a good idea to invite Richard Dawkins to debate this. They decided to put Dawkins up against their religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill. Richard Dawkins can feel like a bit of a broken record at the best of times, but putting him against Ruth Gledhill was particularly pointless.
I have posted about Ruth Gledhill before
when I noted a couple of previous articles of hers:1 - "Catholic Church No Longer Swears By Truth Of The Bible"
- In the older of the two, she reports on a reminder by the Vatican that they have no problem with the theory of evolution and are able to accept certain passages in the Bible as symbolic. Her response? The Vatican is now clarifying which bits of the Bible are right and which bits are wrong.
I feel the need to place the important bits of this article under the cut because, what with The Times now making the public pay for access to their site, there may come a time when you cannot use the link to the article anymore:
THE hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true.( Read more... )2 - Children Who Front Richard Dawkins' Atheist Ads Are Evangelicals
Rather handily, in this case pretty much all the problems can be seen in the title. The advert under discussion is the following one from the BHA:"Please Don't Label Me. Let Me Grow Up And Choose For Myself."
Just to confuse things there are two major atheist/agnostic lobbying groups in the UK. There's "The Secular Society" and "The British Humanist Society". The former is only intested in atheism, whereas the latter is concerned with the wider issues of "secularism" (e.g. issues like ensuring fair hiring practices for people of all faiths and none). No, I did not just get those mixed up.
So perhaps unsurprisingly, the BHA organised a campaign noting that children should not be used for the promotion of a particular belief system because they are too young to make such decisions. Gledhill's response? Well you've already seen it. She claims that these children are being used to promote atheism (um, no they aren't), but actually they are "Christian Evangelical children" (oh my goodness, you couldn't have missed the point more if you tried).
Their father, Brad Mason, is something of a celebrity within evangelical circles as the drummer for the popular Christian musician Noel Richards. ... He said that the children’s Christianity had shone through. “Obviously there is something in their faces which is different. So they judged that they were happy and free without knowing that they are Christians. That is quite a compliment. I reckon it shows we have brought up our children in a good way and that they are happy.”
The British Humanist Association said that it did not matter whether the children were Christians. “That’s one of the points of our campaign,” said Andrew Copson, the association’s education director. “People who criticise us for saying that children raised in religious families won’t be happy, or that no child should have any contact with religion, should take the time to read the adverts.
Perhaps before choosing your article heading, Ms. Gledhill!
“The message is that the labelling of children by their parents’ religion fails to respect the rights of the child and their autonomy. We are saying that religions and philosophies — and ‘humanist’ is one of the labels we use on our poster — should not be foisted on or assumed of young children.”
So yeah, Gledhill isn't really someone you should expect a high level of debate from. In fact Hannah Devlin, who chairs the discussion, seems to do a better job of getting some clear answers out of Dawkins than Ruth Gledhill manages later:
14:34 Hannah Devlin:( Read more... )
To kick things off, I'd like to ask Richard what he makes of Hawking's thesis. Is this the new Darwinism?
14:35 Richard Dawkins:
Only the new Darwinism in the sense that it finishes off God. Darwin kicked him out of biology, but physics remained more uncertain. Hawking is now administering the coup de grace
14:36 Richard Dawkins:
It is not like Darwinism in any other very strong sense.
I get the impression that Devlin was deciding what comments would be displayed, so Tim H was being specifically put forward as a question from the floor. Sure, not much that's terribly challenging here and Devlin clearly (and mistakenly I feel) expects more interesting ideas to be raised by Gledhill later on.
Anyway, this is where Gledhill arrives and makes the statement which Pharyngula quotes and ridicules
. These statements actually originate from an interview with David Wilkinson. Thanks to "Rupert Murdoch's Greed" (TM) you will need to subscribe to The Times if you want to read that. Fortunately, there is a site with some videos where David Wilkinson sets out his view on the "fine-tuning argument"
, not as an argument, but as a "pointer" to the truth of Jesus and Christianity (I'm not fantastic with google searches, so it took me a while to find that link btw) The basic gist of his position is that the set of events which took place in order for life to come about make us want to make shit up to explain it and making shit up is a sensible decision. Anyway, moving on...:
14:43 Ruth Gledhill:
Tim, I just interviewed David Wilkinson, principal of St John's Durham and astrophysicist, and this is what he said (full interview at my Times blog Articles of Faith):
The science Stephen Hawking uses raises a number of questions which for many opens the door to the possibility of an existence of a creator and for many points to the existence of a creator.
'One would be the the purpose of the universe. Although science might discover the mechanism, we are still left with the question of what is the purpose.
'Second is where the laws of physics come from. Science subsumes the laws but we are still left with the question of where the laws come from.
'Third is the intelligibility of the universe. It strikes me as interesting that Stephen Hawking can make it intelligible. Albert Einstein once said that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. For many of us who are struck by the intelligibility of the physical laws, the explanation is that the creator is the force of rationality both for the universe and for our minds.
Dawkins' Response To Statement One:
Why on Earth should anyone assume that there IS a purpose?
( Read more... )
Dawkins' Response To Statement Two:
Even if we are left with that question, it is not going to be answered by a God, who raises more questions than he answers.
( Read more... )
Dawkins' Response To Statement Three:
What would an unintelligible universe even look like? Why SHOULDN't the universe be intelligible?
Hannah Devlin taking questions she's selected from the floor: Ruth, Richard, I'd be interested in your views on philc's point - is religious belief irrational? If not, why?
( Read more... )
The debate goes on longer than this, but then again this re-organising thing is a bit too much of a time-waster, so I'm going to stop there. I kinda feel sorry for Gledhill on this point. It's irritating for me seeing Dawkins pulling "my belief that I am Napoleon" out of his old bag of tricks again, so it must be even worse for someone who disagrees with the point behind it. That said, her response is quite vacuous to the point where I'd actually have been more impressed with "oh don't be so daft Richard" as a response. If the only thing you know about God is that you are not it, you aren't really in a good position to be a religion correspondent (not that this comes as any surprise).
Still, one last thing that could do with a quotation is the following point where Dawkins' decides to betray Islamophobic sentiment (and annoyingly Gledhill isn't interested in responding to it, never mind tackling it).
Comment From Jerry Coyne: Question to Ruth: If faith helps you, then does it make any difference to you whether what you believe about God, Jesus, the Resurrection, and the like is true? Devout Muslims, for example, are also consoled by their faith, but their beliefs about Jesus, Mohamed, etc. are completely contradictory to those of Christianity. Both can't be true.
Richard Dawkins: Quite right, Jerry. And even if there is some similarity between the Abrahamic religions, the Greeks believed just as sincerely in their pantheon. I agree with Dan Dennett that universal education in comparative religion would be a hammer blow to religious faith.
Ruth Gledhill: Jerry, in some liberal theological circles, it is not regarded as impossible that there is truth in both Islam and Christianity.
Richard Dawkins:The Islamic penalty for converting to Christianity is what, Ruth, perhaps you know?
And the Jewish penalty for having anal sex with another man is? I mean seriously, what was he trying to prove?