Saturday, October 25, 2008


Since Richard Dawkins has forged for himself a profitable new TV career out of atheism and evidence-based scientific rationalism (or something), I'd say he's fair game to have another pop at. And especially after seeing his smug Enemies Of Reason series made for Channel 4, where he scoffs at perfectly inoffensive people who enjoy astrology, tarot, dowsing, alternative medicine, and so on.

An intellectual bully that likes to pick the easiest softest targets to 'prove' his points, Dawkins conceals a more bitter intent. I remember being suspicious of him several years ago at a lecture on his notion of 'memes'. He derogatorily cited the example of kids wearing baseball caps backwards and Ninja Turtles as examples of a 'harmless' thought virus or meme (it's right at the end of the YouTube clip), then contrasts that with a fucking Hitler speech. (Why not his appallingly naff stripey blue shirt and green tie combination?) On another occasion he spuriously claims that Bach would have been just as inspired to compose his oratorios by looking into space, as by a belief in God.

This sophistry and these academic rhetorical stratagems, honed straight from the Oxford University Debating Society, and which he's so fond of employing, reveal a deeper truth about the man's zeal. The clue lies in what Dawkins himself opines as harmless and harmful beliefs. Rather than reason, it's a question of aesthetics, and he desperately wants to demonstrate how his are better than yours.


SYpHA_69 said...

Yeah, I don't know, I tend to be suspicious of anyone who claims that their way of thinking is the best way... as if there's any one model for human behavior to follow. Ironically Dawkins' slavish devotion to "reason" kind of reminds me of Christian apologists who went to nonsensical lengths to prove that Christianity is a rational system of thought (Pascal comes to mind). Which is one of the problems I had with Ayn Rand also for that matter... most of the art I appreciate pretty much falls into the realm of the irrational anyway.

Then again, a paper I did on Dawkins' book "The Selfish Gene" (and to a lesser extent Susan Blackmore's "The Meme Machine") did get me a passing grade for my required science class in college, so I can't totally dog the guy.

LJP said...

It just proves what I said about these people who call themselves experts regarding so-called 'atheism'. It all boils down to 'any belief is crap except ours...'

And I hate Ayn Rand. Her mawkish style of writing is simply unreadable and I find all her adherents vile people...

Thomas Bey William Bailey said...

I once had a chat with the grizzled old Beatnik owner of some occult / esoterica shop on the South side of Chicago; who claimed that the majority of his customers would do things like buy mystical power-infused candles "just to watch them burn"...

Given the previous criticism on this blog of adults being 'atrophied children,' it was relieving to know there would be people taking time out of their day to extract joy from that kind of simple action. It's also prevented me from fully accepting Dawkins' rebukes, seeing how such people -who were far below him on the ladder of formal / institutional education- could still have an advanced aesthetic appreciation of their world.

Luke McElroy said...

The bullying seems to have reached a new low:

SYpHA_69 said...

Wow, that's nuts. Why not go after "Alice in Wonderland" while he's at it, that's full of "anti-scientific" things like talking animals and whatnot.

I still think there are things that science cannot explain. I mean, I've known people who have been involved in things such as voodoo and Santeria and some of the things they've experienced, and it really is amazing stuff... of course there will always be charlatan fortune tellers, psychics, and whatnot, but some people genuinely believe in that stuff, and, I don't know, maybe you need to believe in it for it to work. I'm still undecided about it all, so all I can do is just shrug and sum it up thusly: the universe is strange.

Rand? I enjoyed "The Fountainhead" as a novel, though I did find "Atlas Shrugged" to be unreadable. Not that I support her ideas... I think the only reason I read "The Fountainhead" was because it was one of the inspirations behind the game "Bioshock."

Ea-M. said...

"I haven't read Harry Potter, I have read Pullman who is the other leading children's author that one might mention and I love his books."

I don't know much about this Dawkins, but i think he might have problems coping with the real world. I know for a scientific fact that Harry Potter isn't an author of children's books.

marmitelover said...

Yes but Harry Potter has the same birthday as J.K. Rowling

Walter Peck said...

"maybe you need to believe in it for it to work"

Or maybe physicists, who deticate their lives to the study of our environment, would be best placed to say whether or not this stuff exists.

I've never been a fan of militant atheism, and such people used to make me embarrassed to identify myself as an athiest.

But when it comes to psychics and other such charlatans, there is a fine line between harmless fun and cynical emotional manipulation.

A fair few members of my family have been to see these types of folk, and every time one of them claims to have a message from one of my dead relatives, I can't help but get angry.

I don't particularly care if some maniac believes that they can communicate with the dead, as long as they're not bringing harm to anyone. But when some insensitive charlatan fabricates messages from beyond the grave and attributes them to members of *my* family, about whom they know absolutely nothing, then it winds me up.

Although, admittedly it doesn't seem to bother my mother or my cousins who actually go to these things, and perhaps they get some kind of comfort from the experience, but as I say it's a fine line.

Wendell said...

The placebo effect is real--and in some ways can be very helpful/useful. It's the window dressing of it that is different, and variations of which draw individuals with differing aesthetic sensibilities.

Miss Kerry said...

I agree with Dawkins, as far as it goes to carry on the long tradition, more entertainingly espoused by Aleister Crowley in " Moonchild" ( first part of book, hilarious!) of debunking spurious charlatans. But one begs to differ in how these people, seeking to part less agile minded from their purses differ from the modern political Elite now fleecing entire countries of their purses, even to their houses, belongings and lives?

Still, he's a idiot, if he's not actually read Crowley, IN FULL, the scientific explanation of how serious occult studies are, were and still are being conducted.
I mean, using science works on this just as well as any other test subject. Proof is in the Theory and Practice, while using the scientific method.

I myself, wrote a book last year ( still editing, hopefully done before Im dead, sigh ) - on the transmission of what I found to be primitive forms of psychology- starting with Solomonic demo logy ( Goetia ), thru the 4 elements, to the court cards of the Tarot, to Jung's types of personalities, to the Mayer Briggs, on to the interpersonal sphere of personality types, and lastly to Timothy Leary's interpersonal circle.( Done before he went off his nut with drugs and teen age tottie- its surprisingly useful. )

It was very much inspired ( as in it wrote its fucking self, good lord. Good thing Im not weak minded, or had lingering Pentacostal xtian brainwashing - as I'd be one for the rubber room, only crayons allowed in letters to mum. Gibbering in terror at the complete breakdown of my life, caused by entirely traceable origins, mostly non of my own making- which of course would be attributed to "meddling with the goetia."

But here, I took the old bat's advice. To assume that everything that happens in a ritual, IN THE RITUAL (actually a scientific way to conduct communication with part of the subconscious, as found by other scientifically minded researchers)- is to be BELIEVED in FULL, ONLY in the said ritual. NOT after.

After, you then would forget you had spirit number 29 conducting wild sexual intercourse with you, thru your lover(( who likes channeling such being )),the visions you saw while scrying (( which scared the shit out of your friends, who asked things or answers you had no idea of the source )) and assuming the black smoke that collected in a nebulous form, which manifested a paw( ( corresponding to a demon which you had no idea you summoned, but later found you used the wrong sigil, without knowing the signs- which were clearly evident, looked up later to be pretty much what everyone else since John Dee's time saw)) that turned into a enormous lobster claw resembling some alien species)- trying to TOUCH your HAND in a SMOKELESS room,scaring the living shit out of YOU, was of course all attributed to then three days you had no sleep from jet lag.
Made a note of it, with time date, what you did, such forth. All very dull, unless you used a pink pen or something later.

All very scientific, including the propensity of such researchers, thru time to rattle on long, screeds of hysterical sounding mumbled claims of weird shit, told to people who thought clearly either you needed to lay off the drugs or get your legal ones adjusted quick smart.

My point being- he's a fuckwit.
He shouldn't claim to play on the big boy's occult playground ( which Im glad some big boys thought it a jolly fun idea to introduce me to )- when he hasn't even gone out of the bloody building.

A yahoo. Someone fetch my smelling salts please, I feel sick.

Miss Kerry said...

Oh and Ann Rand- great at 12. Now, well she's pretty much shown what the fruits of being a meth head does, hasn't she?

As for placebo effect, I can tell you there have been better persons than I to explain the psychological ramifications of what might happen in magic rituals.
One being, my own and first of course, Saint Aleister's - paraphrased ) albeit, perhaps bady!) when confronted with various musings on perhaps how it worked using the Superstrings Theorys, Quantum foam- and other such high browed things...
Why do it? How does it make such things happen?

" Goetia Works."

Pretty rock and roll way to imbibe a placebo.