Life Is Beautiful

I have been a fan of Richard Dawkins since reading The Blind Watchmaker in my uni days and recently enjoyed reading The God Delusion which came out in 2006.  Dawkins is of course the (in)famous atheist and this is his case for it.

The book includes theories relating to natural selection, some of which I’ve read in his material before, however the slant here is anti-religion.  The case for natural selection for Dawkins is evidence that God (in all shapes and forms) does not exist.  It’s heavy reading and be prepared to read that Dawkins thinks you’re stupid if you are religious.

Similarly at uni, I began reading the works of Stephen Jay Gould, who is thought to be one of the most widely read scientists in the world although I have not met many people who have heard of him.  This is despite him being included in a Simpsons episode!  Gould had this fabulous knack of making the case for natural selection using charming interesting language.  Ever Since Darwin is a collection of short essays that relate to natural selection and includes some great images – it’s a good read despite being written in the 70s.

Gould is a creationist but you cannot tell this from his writing – yet he was a devout Christian.  For Gould, believing in natural selection was not incompatible with practising his religion.
The influence of both writers affects my close family – I am still a spiritual person, yet my sister is an atheist.

Bubbly

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29 Comments to “Life Is Beautiful”

  1. No, Gould wasn’t a Christian. I’m pretty sure he was an atheist, but either way he wasn’t religious and he campaigned actively against creationism an accommodationist one.

    • Damnit, I clicked “Post Comment” too soon. Sorry about that. Anyway, the last three words were supposed to appear as, “… he was an atheist, although an accommodationist one, but either way…”.

  2. Ahh.. you’re right Dan – upon closer inspection he is misquoted by creationists in the US to argue their case. Thanks for clearing that up.

    A marine biologist friend of mine told me Gould was a creationist – next time I see him, he’s in trouble!

    • No worries. And yeah, while I like Gould for his criticisms of adaptationism, I do think the whole Non-Overlapping Magesteria (NOMA) thing was half-baked. 😉

  3. Do you think so Dan? I would like to think NOMA is feasible (as I am spiritual and simply cannot believe in “nothingness” after death) but perhaps Gould used it to appease his countrymen and women, most of whom believe in a Supreme Being. However, NOMA does sound very convenient – do you think its conception could have political reasons behind it? Gould may have used NOMA to ensure he he wouldn’t need to answer difficult questions about his own beliefs in order to continue with his work at Harvard…

    Bubbly

    • NOMA is basically a way of saying that matters of religion are off-limits to critical thought. So yeah, I think so.

      And I hate to burst your bubble… but yeah, souls, spirits, ghosts and the like exist solely in peoples’ minds. Don’t worry though, you or I might be “nothing” after death, but the impact our lives did or did not have on people and the world doesn’t disappear now, does it. Even for those who never gain the immortality that comes with a bit of fame (like you or I), we still “live on” in the people whose lives we’ve touched (friends, family, even indirectly to affect the lives of people we’ve never met). Because of these reasons, I have no problem knowing that when I’m dead then that’s “it” – I’ll still have been a good person and not forgotten by those who outlast me.

      Oh, and just wanting there to be something more doesn’t make it so – another reason why NOMA is a load of nonsense (the non-scientific magesterium is nothing but wishful thinking).

  4. I am really enjoying this discussion and you have both compelled me to read Richard Dawkins.; book I am not familiar with Stephen Gould but I am really fascinated.
    Thank you for sharing.

  5. Please don’t burst my bubble Dan I have more than an Aero chocolate bar. I know we live on in people’s minds, DNA if we have children or even through a lasting corporate brand but I think it’s vanity that makes us believe we will go on to eternal life and you have to admit it would be a comforting thought. Who wouldn’t want to go through golden gates to a land of milk and honey without the concept of diminishing returns?

    The bubble feels good but I know that logically it is quite silly.

  6. The only reason atheism is frightening is because we’ve been brain washed into believing in religion as children by our parents, whom we trust.

    God is dead!

    I remember when a Jewish friend of mine ordered a bacon sandwich and I was horrified and he laughed at me and said Jesus, I’ve done much worse things than eat bacon so I might as well enjoy it! It suddenly struck me how STUPID alll these silly rules were and I have enjoyed breaking them ever since!

  7. While it may not be fashionable in Britain to believe in god or any religion I don’t think it helps to mock and sneer which is why I don’t like Richard dawkins approach.
    Religion should be questioned and debated it causes so much unrest in the world but also gives solace.

    • I’ve never seen Dawkins mock or sneer actually. All he does is point it out when religious individuals say things that are so obviously false.

      And solace? Yeah, maybe it’s a coping mechanism for many people, but then again so is alcoholism. The fact that it addles the mind is proof enough that religion is not a good coping mechanism for existential issues.

  8. Dan – you MUST agree that Richard Dawkins has a slightly arrogant approach to his arguments – he does say that religious people are stupid and ridicules them.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love it – it makes great television and I like that he is passionate about atheism but he does sneer at lesser beings for being unable to grasp the concepts.

  9. Religion is stupid and if you are religious and a woman you are stupid.

    There isn’t a single religion made in the interest of women. Hindus treat women appallingly with many stories putting women in an inferior position. Even sita and ram urgh! And the treatment of widowws is disgusting.

    Muslims can marry 4 women.

    The bible paints women as whores or virgins.

    Jewish women are treated unfairly eg she can’t divorce her husband unless he consents.

    And just in case you think Buddhists are nice.. read up how they treat their female “nuns” most of whom starve to death.

    If you are a religious woman you are inferior as you buy into a man-made religion that tells you you’re inferior and you accept it! Silly woman! Now go and get your man a cup of tea, he’s had a tough day!

  10. Religion is stupid but religious people are not stupid – being subjected to brainwashing tactics from an early age can make it difficult for some people to break loose and accept that once we die, we just simply die.

    Stephen Hawkings has just reiterated this in a recent interview with the Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/may/15/stephen-hawking-interview-there-is-no-heaven

  11. Vakeel Bibi, I just read the same article, thanks for sharing.
    Religion plays a huge part in the world. I agree with you Vakeel Bibi, religious people are not stupid. They have their reasons for their beliefs and whether it is make believe or not, religion helps people get through some of the toughest times of their lives. People pray when they are in the most abnormal of circumstances, when their life is at threat or when they just want their football team to win. It is irrational to some but it extremely logical to others. If someone wants to believe that God will save their day, who am I to say otherwise.
    Bunty

  12. Why does radio 4 not include atheists in their thought for the day line up?

  13. I am a card carrying atheist but last year I went on a rickety wooden rollercoaster in Texas and oh my God, did I pray!!

    I know that sounds silly, but I don’t even believe in God and there I was praying there be no woodworm in the wood!

  14. Screamer I am scared at the thought of your rollercoaster!

  15. Screamer, I hear you.

    There was an interesting phone in today on BBC London. The Director of Christian Voice criticised Stephen Hawkings on the basis that he was referring the brain as if it were a computer. CV’s opinion was that if the brain is a computer which is hardware, where is the software running the hardware. This would be the soul which is eternal.

    Another point of view!

  16. Let’s get a ouija board out and see if anyone uninvited attends…

  17. Just because we may not have experiences spirits and ghosts doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
    There are many elements of this world that science cannot explain and so science rubbishes them. Why can’t science and spiritualism be complimentary of each other?

  18. Bunty, that’s kinda like asking why can’t fantasy and reality coexist.

  19. Why can’t fantasy and reality coexist?

  20. Exactly Vakeel Bibi

  21. The telegraph has a story today about a Christian group claiming the apocalypse is tomorrow so it was nice knowing y’all we’re about to find out about heaven and hell or speak on Sunday.

  22. So long, and thanks for all the fish ………..

  23. So .. new report that atheists are better in bed. Hmmm.

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