«

»

Oct 13 2006

Dawkins: “Mystery, schmystery”

redheadkid_marias.jpg
Red-headed tot ponders the origin of the cosmos at Maria’s Taco Xpress, October 11, 2006

Richard Dawkins is pretty high up on the extremely short list of people for whom, if it were lunchtime and he’d forgotten his wallet, I’d like to buy a delicious taco. At this writing, the only person higher on that list is me. Here is why I would spot Dawkins a delicious taco:

“But even,” he says in an October 13 Salon interview supporting his new anti-god book, “if science doesn’t know the answer, I return to the question, what on earth makes you think that religion will? Just because science so far has failed to explain something, such as consciousness, to say it follows that the facile, pathetic explanations which religion has produced somehow by default must win the argument is really quite ridiculous. Nobody has an explanation for consciousness. That should be a spur to work harder and try to understand it. Not to give up and just say, “Oh well, it must be a soul.” That doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t explain anything. You’ve said absolutely nothing when you’ve said that.”

I identify with the dude, and not just because I’m the biggest atheist in South Austin. I identify with him because he is widely reviled for having unpopular ideas that make perfect sense, which of course is something that happens to me every day, albeit, since I’m not a world-famous intellectual, on a somewhat teenier scale.

[For example, feminists tell me that I'm 'hurting the movement' by suggesting that femininity, which has wiped out the autonomy of over half the world's population, is the most powerful WMD ever invented. I'm 'coming on too strong' when I propose that just because a woman makes a choice, it isn't automatically a good choice. I scare off potential recruits when I argue that fashion and marriage and 'girliness' and porn and reproduction (that's right, reproduction) have all got to go. In other words, I propose a social order that is repellent to people for whom gender is everything. And in so doing, I supposedly aid the patriarchy by making feminism appear un-fun.]

Dawkins takes similar heat from his colleagues. For some reason there exist evolutionary biologists who cling, at least publicly, to bogus conceits concerning mystical anthroidesque creators who are obsessed with humans. Some of these disingenuous biologists claim that Dawkins is playing right into the hands of the intelligent design godbags when with his mighty pen he blurs the imaginary but wildly popular line of demarcation between religion and science. For Dawkins, questions like “what is the origin of the universe?” are science. God is a hypothesis for which there is no evidence.

Scientists involved in the debate on behalf of evolution are aware that fundie godbags are only too eager to equate Darwinism with screwy bedeviled atheists, so they (the scientists) wish, for the sake of the argument against intelligent design, that Dawkins would just put a sock in it. But he doesn’t! He doesn’t put a sock in it, praise jaysus!

In fact, although it is a felony in the US not to pretend to worship some sort of superhuman male deity, and atheists in particular are required to ‘respect’ everybody else’s ‘faith’, Dawkins — a Brit who is not constrained by parochial American superstition — comes right out and says what we’re all thinking: that religion is ‘evil’. So when he opines that teaching little kids that God created the universe 6000 years ago is tantamount to child abuse, nutjobs like William Dembski froth at the mouth and send him letters thanking him for making Darwinists look so crazy.

As a spinster aunt who has had it up to here with women who want to make feminism all about the honky middle class joys of ‘choice’, I am entirely down with Dawkins’ response to the accusation that his ‘inflammatory rhetoric’ merely fuels the fire of anti-evolution protest. He views the ‘real war’ not, as so many right-thinking people seem to do, merely as a matter of teaching evolution vs. teaching creationism. He sees the bigger picture.

” [...] because we need to get the mainstream orthodox religious people on our side, we’ve got to concede to them their fundamental belief in God, thereby — in my view — losing the war in order to win the battle for evolution. If you’re prepared to compromise the war for the sake of the battle, then it’s a sensible political strategy.”

For Dawkins, it’s science vs religion. You know. Truth.

Addendum: Dawkins on Bill Moyers Now

106 comments

2 pings

  1. nolo

    You are my hero. So’s Dawkins.

  2. greymatters

    God is a hypothesis for which there is no evidence.
    ***********

    Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

  3. aevanis

    What do you propose in place of reproduction?

  4. scratchy888

    Easy answers do not imply true answers. Good point. So we have a populace today which is just easily enamoured of easy answers to the point when one can attempt to win an argument by asserting “But my answer is EASY!”. My answer: “Yes, and Saddam Hussein actually invaded America, and the easter bunny actually exists!”

    This whole turn towards easy answers reminds me of a girl guide skit we used to do back in the days when being illogical was actually funny, and when even children could discern an argument’s flaws.

    Some girls are looking underneath a lamp for some personal item that one them appears to have lost. Other girls arrive, and they solicited to help in the search. All continue to search for many a minute, the missing item still not being found. Finally, one of the girls in exasperation has to question, “Where did you actually lose the missing item?” To which she receives the hilarious answer: “Well, over there somewhere in the darkness, but we’re looking here because it happens to be light in this spot.”

    Very funny at the actual time, but less funny when it’s used to kill people, poison people’s intellects and generally deny reality.

  5. Princess of Cybermob

    I’ve already bought The God Delusion and can’t wait to dig in.

    Also:
    Being one of those feminists that wear patriachially approved garments – for reasons that make sense to me and I care not elaborate on here – I do think that every post aimed at clothing, make-up, sexual activities etc that are used and excused by feminists (like me) and yet work against feminism is not only justifiable but necessary. Even though we as individuals have bought into this lifestyle it must be criticized and ultimately destroyed.

    Twisty, I salute you.

  6. Anne Nonymous

    You are my hero as well. I admire not only your ideas, but also your clear, witty, and grammatically correct modes of expression. So I am left puzzled by your choice of my pet-peeve misspelling “athiest” over the more usual and technically correct spelling “atheist”. Is this a cheeky and subtle way to emphasize that you are not merely an atheist, but are in fact the athiest atheist in all of atheism?

    If so, I approve. And, in deference to your comment guidelines, I will refrain from indicating my approval by the use of ill-assembled punctuation which happens to bear a passing resemblance to a human facial expression.

  7. roundRobn

    I would so buy you a taco.

  8. maggiethewolf

    I too am willing to take a number and wait my turn to admire you, Twisty.

  9. KMTBERRY

    THat is a beautiful photograph !!!!!

    THat man is like a breath of fresh air. It made us very happy to read his words in Salon- so happy that we were laughing out loud reading them, thinking “yes! YES!”

    I too think reproduction is a bad idea, except maybe 10% of people could still do it, but only at replacement levels. THese people could be picked for their intelligence and health. THat would be fine with me.

    I think there should be SOME people on Earth, to , you know, take care of the older dogs and things like that.

  10. Darleen

    Arguing the existence/non-existence of [G]od is akin to arguing the proverbial watusi-ing angels on a Grabbit. No evidence either side.

    However, the ultimate bottomline observation beckons –

    If [G]od doesn’t exist, then life (in the macro) has no meaning.

    Not that we as individuals cannot make meaning in the micro of our own lives. Just that Life as we know it, is purposeless.

    We briefly visit this existence and disappear forever.

    Humans have as much worth as a vein of pink quartz.

    Dawkins dabbling in Philosophy and Theology is, certainly, legitimate. But he shouldn’t wrap it in science or pretend his calling religion “child abuse” is science. Science can, and does, observe and describe things as they are, but the human urge to transcendence exceeds the scope of science. Reason, yes. Reason is used by science, but is neither synonomous with science nor the exclusive province of science. Reason is what many great religious philosophers use and urge others to use.

    Down to earth, we can either view life as purposeless or purposeful. Morality fit for human beings, or amorality fit for matter.

  11. Violet

    Around a hundred and fifty years ago, “scientists” blamed novel reading as the leading cause of mental illness in women. More recently, ‘The Fraternal Order of Big Pharma’ has put forward the equally misogynistic notion of a “biological time clock” as yet another way to scare women away from more intellectual pursuits than homemaking and child rearing. The patriarchy continues to hide beneath their faux lab coats to add a veneer of authority and gravitas to their carnival barker, junk-science claims that women are slaves to their biological functions, and thus unfit for work that doesn’t require the use of their internal, baby-making mechanisms.

  12. mycrust

    It’s not that I have any great love for reproduction, but I fear that anti-reproduction philosophies are probably doomed to the fate of the Shakers.

  13. maggiethewolf

    Darleen wrote: “If [G]od doesn’t exist, then life (in the macro) has no meaning.

    Not that we as individuals cannot make meaning in the micro of our own lives. Just that Life as we know it, is purposeless.

    We briefly visit this existence and disappear forever.

    Humans have as much worth as a vein of pink quartz.”

    Nah. Life without God has utter meaning. It’s all and should be treated accordingly.

    KMTBerry wrote: “I too think reproduction is a bad idea, except maybe 10% of people could still do it, but only at replacement levels. THese people could be picked for their intelligence and health. THat would be fine with me.”

    That would be fine with me too.

  14. cypress

    Darleen says: “If [G]od doesn’t exist, then life (in the macro) has no meaning.

    Not that we as individuals cannot make meaning in the micro of our own lives. Just that Life as we know it, is purposeless.”

    I’ve never understood this kind of thinking. Perhaps it’s because I’m a Canadian with a collectivist political and cultural heritage, but I’d say that life’s meaning is in the living, in relationships with others, in responsibility for and to community. Satisfying too. It seems to me that it is individualism which promotes this notion of meaninglessness.

  15. Anne Nonymous

    I’m a big fan of veins of pink quartz. They’re so pretty and sparkly! And pink! How could a patriarchally-approved female mind not swoon?

    Oh, right, she could take off her damnable corset, that’s how.

  16. Anne Nonymous

    And don’t forget, you are like a beautiful vein of rose quartz. Each time you engage in premarital sex, a precious crystal is chipped away. Don’t leave your future husband drilling in an empty mine.

  17. Pony

    Whatever. Please give Mr. Dawkins my phone number. Reproduction will not be involved.

  18. mearl

    As George Bernard Shaw said when he stumbled across the writings of Freud, Charlotte Perkins Gilman would roll over in her grave and say (if she had coffin-access wifi and read the writings of old Dawkins): “I have said it all before him.”

    PERKINS GILMAN, PEOPLE!!!!! The woman wrote a fantastic utopian story (“Herland”)about a male-free world in which reproduction was done with egg fusion or something, where the education and care of children were paramount, so that they become healthy, productive members of society. For adults, other pursuits, things like learning and striving to be better, environmentalism, etc. were the pinnacles to be reached in life. This female society did not believe in god, but instead considered the idea of rebirth to be literal, in the regeneration of one’s genes. God was in everything, for them, but not in that cheesey way like “some man in the sky who runs it all is really within you and in every flower and tree and cracker and glass of grape juice…” smarmification. It’s pre-theory-of-relativity genius, although badly written as a literary piece, I must admit.

    One of the main ideas, though, was that it is useless to sit around praying madly for your life to magically get better, hoping to get into a lovely, white-cloudified heaven with the amount of Hail Marys you can choke out after completing another hideous act upon others. The secret of life is to preserve it and make the world a better place, not in a punitive fashion. The concepts of Gilman’s novel are pure atheistic brilliance. I should also add that the women in this society had short hair, no makeup, wore comfortable and functional clothes, moved about freely, and respected their wise older women, who were members of government.

    Okay, I will now stop ranting about Gilman. Twisty, you are a woman after my own heart, and your blog and its commenters give me hope that not everyone has become raving, hairy-knuckled lunatics or pole-dancing, cocksucking, golddigging, implant-wearing, brazilian-waxed, be-clawed fembots.

    P.S. I love the “Blame” button.

  19. Luckynkl

    I still bear the scars from the rulers going over my knuckles when I dared to question and ask the nuns, “You want me to believe what?!” Even at 7, I knew shit from shinola.

    But even tho I’m an athiest, I don’t totally discard religions. The bible, for example, is a great history book. We know certain events did happen. Science doesn’t refute that they occurred. What science does refute is men’s interpretations of those events. Let’s take the parting of the Red Sea, for example. Science doesn’t dispute that it happened. What science does dispute is that “God” did it.

    But is science really much different than religion? I contend that it isn’t. Because science is subject to men’s interpretation. And being men view the world upside down, sideways and half assed backwards, I wouldn’t trust them to interpret their way out of a paper bag. So I scoff at religion, Darwin and evolution and take anything that comes out of the lips of men with a grain of salt.

  20. tamaraster

    The Bible is a great history book? Since when? The Bible is a collection of stories. Even if not every single one was written solely to preserve the patriarchal status quo and aid in enslaving people, they were certainly all collected solely for that purpose. I’m sure there are odd tidbits of history that can be gleaned from the Bible, but by and large, it’s junk. And I say that as someone who doesn’t reject things just because they come from the “lips of men.”

  21. Pinko Punko

    word.

  22. Anne Nonymous

    Luckynkl, I’m dismayed to hear you say that “science doesn’t dispute” whether the Red Sea was parted (whatever that’s supposed to have entailed), since from all I’ve read on the subject I’ve never seen any serious archaeological or geological evidence presented for that or any of the other large-scale biblical miracles. No floods. No sun stopping in the sky (despite Mister Velikovsky‘s craziness). No pile of drowned Egyptians at the bottom of the Red Sea. Nuthin’.

    Hell, according to some commentators, even the geography of Palestine/Israel described in the Greek Gospels, is completely bogus. No matter how you slice it, the purported “history” in the Christian and Jewish Bibles has many inconsistencies with history as narrated by other sources, as well as with geological and archaeological facts, and it must be regarded as, at best, deeply suspect.

    Furthermore, I’m deeply disgusted by your implication that scientists are only men, or that science is necessarily a male enterprise. There’s an awful lot of women in science nowadays who would be happy to write those words of yours on shards of hot glass and feed them to you. You may be right that science is what scientists make it, but there are plenty of us women doing the making. That’s not to say it can’t still be done upside down, sideways, and half-assed backwards — we’re just as capable of fucking up as any other human being. And it’s not to say that there aren’t still a lot more men in science than women. But the enterprise of investigating the world by experimentation and trying to understand the results of that experimentation systematically doesn’t belong to men or women. It belongs to the whole goddamned species, and I won’t stand for anybody saying it’s not mine as much as any man’s.

    I also won’t stand for anybody spewing the nonsense that the scientific methods of observation, experiment, and openness to new information are in any way equivalent to the religious methods of making up whatever the hell you feel like and then insisting that it has to be true no matter how much countervailing evidence there is. Wishy-washy “oh, they’re all the same anyway” bullshit isn’t any more useful to the feminist cause than patriarchal dogma, and I’d like to see them both on the scrap heap where they belong.

    If anything, we feminists should be fervently laying claim to science. It has been and can continue to be a powerful tool to make the world better for women (and men). Science gave rise to hormonal contraception. It produced the antiseptics and medical techniques that make childbirth a hell of a lot safer for those of us with access to them. It made abortion not only possible but safer than childbirth. One could easily argue that modern food and clothing production technologies have, in the first world, broken the patterns that kept women tied to the kitchen and the home and given many of us a chance to enter into the male-dominated public sphere for the first time. Rational, curious, questioning scientific philosophy has also undermined our society’s reliance on dogmatic religious traditions, with their hidebound insistence that women’s sphere must be separate from men’s.

    Science has brought bad things too, that’s for sure. There’re nukes. There’re subtle and not-so-subtle environmental toxins. There’re a dangerously large number of people on this planet. But it’s still the best tool we’ve got to address the world. And your scoffing at the best tool we’ve got is the most upside down, sideways, half-assed backwards thing I’ve heard all day.

  23. Nia

    “it is a felony in the US not to pretend to worship some sort of superhuman male deity”,

    I don’t live in the US so this question is not rethorical. Is this true, or are you just exagerating?

  24. Anne Nonymous

    Nia, I dearly want to tell you, “Twisty is indeed being hyperbolic. It’s only a misdemeanor.” But that would also not be the literal truth. In fact our constitution forbids the government establishment of religion, which has generally been interpreted to mean that the government does not have the authority to make anybody practice any specific religion. So non-patriarchal religion, or lack of any religion is indeed legal.

    Which doesn’t mean that an atheist or wiccan or neo-pagan or what-have-you won’t still be deluged with narrowminded moralistic Christian disdain in many quarters for having the temerity to exist. I would wager that there are more openly gay people in elected political office in this country than there are open atheists or other religious non-conformists. Religious nutjobs still try to ban Harry Potter from school libraries for fear their children will learn about “black magic”. Our country is filled with crazy people, and the constitutional bonds holding them in check are becoming very strained indeed. But those bonds are, for the moment, still in place.

  25. justtesting

    Dawkins, schmawkins. I actually met Dawkins (name drop, thud). Also heard him lecture, like his books, not the TV series so much.

    Thing is, over here, evolution isn’t (yet) considered to be that big a deal, but Dawkins is more in the public eye because he does publicise himself. He does trip up on some of his arguments as well I think, but it’s good that there are people like him who are doing the more visible stuff wrt arguing about science.

    I don’t get the whole hero thing however – he’s just this guy, you know.

  26. Violet Socks

    Is this true, or are you just exaggerating?

    It feels true. Back when the first George Bush was campaigning for president, he said that he didn’t think atheists should be considered citizens.

  27. paris

    I’d get more excited about Dawkins if science wasn’t also a belief system used to play facist on all sorts of the non-rich-white-male contigent. Violet mentioned some examples of what I have in mind.

    As far as belief systems go, I find science more appealing than most others, but patriarchy by any other name still smells like shit.

    I propose the Twisty-Dawkins connection is that both are perfectly comfortable developing opinions all the way to their logical conclusions. I’m down with that.

  28. Twisty

    Anne Nonymous, I don’t think Lucky’s saying that women can’t be scientists. She’s saying that men are the ones putting the spin on science. Which notion I would have trouble disputing, since men are overwhelmingly the upper echelon in research, corporations with grants, media, and government.

    Thanks for the typo alert, though. Fixed.

    Mearl, my attempt to mix a little Twistyfeminism into my article was clumsy, apparently giving the impression that Dawkins, who is, as far as I know, no feminist, supports the Twistolution.

    Aevanis, my views on reproduction occupy, like most philosophpical aspects of the Twistolution, the rarefied stratum of useless theory. I propose that women are prisoners of reproductive biology, and that we cannot achieve liberation from our species’ disdain until we figure out how to incubate test-tube embryos in plastic bubbles or something.

    Of course, the reproduction question is moot, since the reality is that our species will certainly be extinct long before science has a chance to adequately address this most pressing of needs. We will be extinct because there is already too much reproduction. I am not making this up. Science says so.

  29. Twisty

    Paris, I agree that science, in our current patriarchal dark age, is indeed dude-centric. Fortunately, pursuit of truth, in its pure state, isn’t dependent on patriarchy.

    Justtesting, I do not propose that Dawkins is a hero; atheism isn’t rocket science. But he alone has somehow repeatedly managed to get column inches in the US while intelligently espousing the most wildly reviled idea in the country, which I regard as highly useful. The last atheist to get this kind of press around here was the popularly demonized Madalyn Murray O’Hair (Life magazine called her “the most hated woman in America” in 1964), and she of course famously disappeared in a whirl of infamy after a notorious career of bi-polar escapades and prevarications overshadowed her Supreme Court victory banning coercive school prayer. Even the other atheists disowned her.

  30. norbizness

    The difference here is that there are very real votes going on every day concerning the teaching of the bullshit intelligent design theory vs. good science on the school board levels (see Dover, PA). While I agree with the fact-based portions of Dawkins’ arguments as an atheist/apathetic agnostic, his presence does have concrete effects.

    As we’ve seen time and time again in TV shows, comment threads, etc., nobody likes to be told what to do with their life and how to raise their kids. You add some superfluous guy like Dawkins who seems that they have an agenda above and beyond the teaching of good science (e.g. the trivialization of the term “child abuse”), you reduce the chances that one of these idiot school boards actually stumble into the right decision.

    As Twisty said in the last comment, her positions are theoretical. Nobody is going to refuse to reauthorize the Equal Pay Act because of impassioned calls to criminalize stiletto heels.

  31. Ron Sullivan

    Aw, come on, Norby, people go to church weekly and/or read loony books and/or watch TV to get orders on how to raise their kids. If you want to strategize, call Dawkins the Earth First! of science in schools.

    We’re going on a gang date to hear him in a couple of weeks. I hope he’s as much fun as a speaker as he is on the page.

    Should I relay a taco?

  32. Twisty

    Norbiz, I’m not about to proclaim myself arbiter of what is and isn’t child abuse, but check this out: I’ve got a pal, raised in a stifling fundie environment, who to this day complains of post-traumatic stress associated with having been repeatedly lied to and brainwashed as a child about all this misogynist Jesus crap.

  33. curiousgirl

    Dawkins may be no feminist, (I dont know) but he would probably take your side in a debate against certain brands of fashionable academic feminism:

    http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Dawkins/Work/Reviews/1998-07-09postmodernism_disrobed.shtml

  34. norbizness

    Twisty: Then we’re looking at a class action against the Catholic Church that dwarfs anything seen so far. Besides, some of the best atheists come from religious households, assuming they can get past their atheism as an expression of disgust at the way they were raised. In any event, it’s a pointless, incendiary, ultimately throw-away phrase tossed about by Dawkins, specifically to sell books and not to make good policy of any sort.

  35. A.Kat

    From way up top:
    “Arguing the existence/non-existence of [G]od is akin to arguing the proverbial watusi-ing angels on a Grabbit. No evidence either side.”

    The burden of proof falls on the one who has come up with the hypothesis.
    My hypothesis: invisible aliens are living among us.
    It’s impossible to prove. And I’m sure there are no agnostics out there on this issue; no one argues that there is no evidence either way. I have created this belief, and it falls on *me* to prove my case.
    So why is religion so special?

  36. Cass

    In the city where I was raised, the red pegasus in the picture above was an object of worship for decades, visible for miles across the steppes at night. That was long before I was born; today there are any number of gods competing for your alliegance there. I have expressed some difficulties with the Selfish Gene theory here before, but in this day and age I also a natural sympathy for anyone fighting religious superstition. So while I wouldn’t buy him a taco, its certainly possible I’d allow him to share my chips and salsa.

  37. shannon

    “if science doesn’t know the answer, I return to the question, what on earth makes you think that religion will?”

    As a Christian in the contemporary U.S., all I can say to that is “right on, dude!” I am a theist by frivolous choice and I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that. My faith isn’t about filling in scientific gaps, it’s about liking the idea of benevolent deity better than I like the idea of no benevolent deity. (Even more do I dislike the idea of asshole deity which prevails among the “godbags” as you so scrumptiously call them.)

    I have to say I whole-heartedly agree with his assessment that teaching “creationism” is child-abuse. Not even tantamount. Just plain ol’ child abuse. Even if you want to be a deist, why not say “benevolent diety made the universe and we don’t know how, but here’s a good hypothesis that’s as close to right as we have: evololution.”

    Anyway, that’s what I was taught by my parents, my Roman Catholic parochial school and my Southern Baptist Sunday School (yeah, you got that right, Southern Baptist Sunday School evolutionists). And it has always seemed sensible (and appealing) to me.

  38. hedonistic

    On the one hand it’s true: There is no evidence that the God of the patriarchal religions exists. Word to Twisty on her ability to consistently BREAKITDOWN!

    All the same, I am struck every day by the power of the genderless Divine. Especially since, for me, magic works. Yeah, I’m one of those foofy witchtypes: I cast spells and things happen in ways that make me both laugh and cringe and sometimes duck. There is SOMETHING out there. I just know that whatever it is, religion got it wrong.

    I live the Paradox. I’m holding out in the hope that someday quantum theory will be able to measure and explain it.

  39. Darleen

    shannon

    I work in the judiciary. I object to the word inflation that would have religious teaching as “child abuse.”

    Because you dilute the horror that is child abuse.

    You may disagree, you may even judge such parents as wrong, and you’re free to raise your own children with whatever philosophical underpinnings you wish. They will go into adulthood and make their own choices and decisions.

    But a small child singing “Jesus loves me this I know … ” is not, rationally, the result of anything like child abuse.

  40. Twisty

    Darleen, it’s generally accepted by educated people that the current population is already unsustainable. 30,000 people starve to death every day. Some studies suggest that we need to cut the human horde back by a factor of 1000 to prevent imminent famines, world wars over the few remaining natural resources, and massive disease.

    See this hippy website for more.

  41. Cass

    “Source?”

    A better way to put this might’ve been: a growing overpopulation problem on a planet of limited resources undergoing rapid climate change seems destined to lead, at some point, towards some radical trend of DE-population, and by the most traumatic and unpleasant means.

  42. Cass

    Sorry, Twisty, that comment was a bit redundant by the time I pushed the “Blame” button.

  43. Anne Nonymous

    Anne Nonymous, I don’t think Lucky’s saying that women can’t be scientists. She’s saying that men are the ones putting the spin on science.

    I know that men are largely the ones putting the spin on everything, including scientific conclusions. I’ve more than once argued furiously with male colleagues* about those “studies” that come out every so often “proving” some essentialist nonsense about how men are innately people and women are innately “other”. And those are just the tip of the iceberg of stupidities that have been promulgated as the inescapable irrevocable logical conclusions of science.

    But whatever the fashionable “scientific” conclusions of the moment may be, the process of science is designed to give us the tools to investigate the validity of those conclusions and the spin that’s been put on them, and those tools are there for anybody to use. The whole point of science is that it’s explicitly and continuously under revision as new ideas are created and new data is collected, and as old ideas and data are reinterpreted. That’s the unique thing about science, the thing that, contra Luckynkl, makes it different from religion and not merely another tool of the patriarchy. The scientific theories that people believe at any particular moment and the woman-hating spin that’s been put on them are not the definining feature of science. The scientific process is.

    And that’s part of why I got so angry with Luckynkl last night. When she said,

    But is science really much different than religion? I contend that it isn’t.

    she was just flat wrong.

    The other reason I became angry is the next part of her comment:

    Because science is subject to men’s interpretation. And being men view the world upside down, sideways and half assed backwards, I wouldn’t trust them to interpret their way out of a paper bag.

    This seems deeply ignorant as well. If one does not trust men (or those of us brainwashed women who do science) to interpret the results of scientific research, well, any good scientific paper doesn’t just talk about the scientists’ interpretations of their data, it also talks about how the data was collected and how those interpretations were derived. One can read through the research literature all by oneself, analyze the scientists’ methods in one’s very own head, and decide for oneself whether those methods are sound. One can make science subject to one’s own interpretation, as Twisty did with last week’s foreplay study. One doesn’t need to simply trust the all-knowing Man in the lab coat, and in fact most scientists would say one shouldn’t — unexamined belief in a particular set of scientific conclusions is no more scientific than unexamined belief in religious ideas.

    But if one is going to scoff at evolutionary theory, or any other scientific theory that has a huge pile of evidence backing it up and has been the source of whole new fields of human endeavor and endless interesting questions, then one has a responsibility to back that scoffing up with something more compelling than the fact that most of the ideas came from men. Go do some reading and research on the subject, find holes in the reasoning or the methodology, and then scoff. Or even simply elucidate the patriarchal assumptions underlying the theory, and show how those assumptions have warped the scientific conclusions. But don’t handwave vaguely that it’s just men, all men. Be specific. Be detailed. Be thoughtful.

    Perhaps I’m being too earnest, too caught up in my love of science here to be a proper blamer. I don’t mean to sound like I’m defending the glorious blowjob from those meanie un-fun hairy-legged radfems who just need to learn how to do it right and then they’ll discover its liberating possibilities, although I probably do sound exactly like that. I don’t want to shut down examination of the role of scientists and scientific ideas in propping up the patriarchy. There’s a lot of there there, and I would never dream of trying to sweep it under the rug. In fact, I find it perversely fascinating. I want it brought out in the open and exposed in all its hideousness for the whole world to see. But I don’t like to read careless and unargued dismissals of the whole scientific enterprise as belonging irredeemably to men, and of important scientific ideas as scoffable simply because it was men who thought of them.

    So with that in mind, I’m interested to know if people have any thoughtful commentary on the relationship between patriarchy and science, and on the feminist implications are of studying and practicing science. I have some of my own thoughts, but I guess they’re not explicitly organized or worked through yet, or Luckynkl’s comment would never have pushed the buttons for me that it did. So I’d like to see what other people have to say about this.

    ———-

    * And female colleagues too, to my dismay. It never ceases to amaze and terrify me how many women seem perfectly happy to be “other”.

  44. Twisty

    Back in the last millennium my girlfriend shot herself to death. My theory of her suicide: from toddlerhood she was psychologically tortured by godbag parents who instilled in her an abiding and irrational fear of a vindictive male deity who would strike her dead if he found out she was queer. She never really got over this primitive faith-based affliction, which I am certain led directly to the depression and adddictions that ultimately killed her. At her funeral her mother and sisters were hysterical, not because my girlfriend was dead in a coffin with a shotgun blast through her chest, but because she was certainly “going to hell.”

    Abuse, not abuse, call it whatever you want, but it oughtta be criminal.

    That goes for the kid singing the Jesus song, too. It is possible to puke when cuteness crosses over into affected banality.

  45. Catherine Martell

    Darleen says: “Science is also a process, where things change as other facts are discovered and integrated into the body of previously discovered facts.”

    And she says it as if that’s a bad thing. Splendid. My dear, you have just made Dawkins’s point for him. If it said in the Bible that dinosaurs were big cold lumbery solitary things, you’d still be being taught it – whatever the evidence to the contrary. Do you see?

    Then she says:
    “Science is concerned with fact not Truth (the words are not always synonomous).”

    Eh? What? Read the Dawkins article, especially page three, starting at “I think religious belief is a scientific belief, in the sense that it makes claims about the universe which are essentially scientific claims.”

    Then think hard.

  46. Darleen

    Twisty

    The vast majority of famine victims today is not the result over over-population or lack of food resources …it is the result of politics. Prime example is Zimbabwe..which used to be the bread basket of Africa, exporting tons of food.

    A quick perusal of the link demonstrates a political agenda I first encountered in the 70′s. I’m always willing to debate the moral values behind “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”, but that assumes my debate opponent is not being deceptive in closing off the argument by saying “well, it’s science, so your questions are invalid”…the tact Dawkins used in his interview.

    I’ve read reams on anarcho-syndicalism, and it all boils down to whether humans have intrinsic value as a human being, or whether that value is dependant on his/her “usefulness” to others. Collectivism, in all its incarnations, squarely falls into the latter category.

    The idea that the human population must be “culled” is chilling in its eugenic implications.

    Of course, far be it from me to discourage anyone that wants to self-select themselves out of the gene pool.

  47. Darleen

    Catherine

    How did I say it as a “bad thing?” I was just describing what science is.

    I thoroughly enjoy reading and studying scientific discoveries, because it does change. It “keeps it real” that science has not explained it all and that we cannot be complacent about such claims.

    Dawkins take on “religion as making scientific claims” is the stuff of Professor Irwin Corey.

    Most religions are more concerned with morality, ethics and values … ie the realm of philosophy … then they are with physical cosmology.

  48. Catherine Martell

    Eeesh. Twisty, I blamed before I read your post just above, about your girlfriend. That’s truly horrible. I’m sorry.

  49. Darleen

    Twisty

    I’m very sorry to hear about your friend’s suicide. My cousin committed suicide almost 15 years ago, and it affects me to this day.

  50. StellaBlue

    I LOVE RICHARD DAWKINS.

    I am psyched that Twisty wants to buy him a taco. I have been semi-following Dawkins for a few years; discovered him while living in the UK. I can’t wait to read this book.

    (Also – was Twisty sitting outside Wheatsville on Friday night at about 8:00pm, or does she have a doppelganger?)

  51. Cass

    That is a horrible story, Twisty. And I’m willing to bet her parents were similarly tortured in their own vulnerable years.

    What a %@#!* waste.

  52. thebewilderness

    I think the belief system is the hole in the scientific reasoning that leads to spin rather than speculation. Speculation is a wonderful thing except when substituted for fact on the nightly news.
    I’m a Christian and so I follow, as best I can, the teachings of Jesus. Not Dobson, not Tinky Winky Fallwell, Jesus. They are recorded by some folks who claim to have been there and some who never met the man. I do not have a belief ‘system’. Just this unsupported belief which does not interfere with my ability to reason. As soon as it is turned into a system you end up with religion, which as far as I can tell is a very bad idea. Especially since the facts are biased against it.

  53. Twisty

    It was a long time ago, and happily I’m no longer actively messed up over it.

    But I’ve been thinking about that “Jesus loves me this I know” song, and the more I think, the more creeped out I get. Because the next line is “For the Bible told me so.” And the line after that is “little ones to him belong, they are weak and he is strong.”

    I need to write a kiddie song called “Question Authority.”

  54. Beth in Michigan

    Sung to the tune of “Jesus Loves Me:”

    Question Authority every day,
    Think things through in every way.
    Don’t believe everything you hear
    and only half of what you read.

    Question Authority! Question Authority! Question Authority, for Twisty tells us so.

    Sorry, the cadence is a bit off, best I could do on short notice.

    Thank you for this post, my brain needed to do a few jumping jacks today. I actually do believe in God or Goddess or whoever, although I respect your right to not believe in anything. After reading about your girlfriend (WTF! I’m so sorry!) I’m just glad my parents blessed me by attending the most liberal church in our area. Encouraging me to chose my own path to enlightenment is, no doubt, the greatest gift they every gave me.

    As to my defense for reproducing, I swear on my birth control loving grandmother’s graves that I only had two and I’m done. Turning a couple white boys into feminazis is all part of my insidious plan to overthrow the patriarchy! It’ll be an inside job, that’s all I can say.

  55. thebewilderness

    Twisty,
    I hope that you do. Too, too, too, too, tool of the patriarchy has kept me happily humming for weeks. All my grandchildren sing along.

  56. Sniper

    “Question Authority! Question Authority! Question Authority, for Twisty tells us so.”

    No, no, no! Question authority because it will fuck you over, not because someone says to do so.

    Don’t know how to work that into a song, though.

  57. Darleen

    Twisty

    I’m sorry you find small children singing a bit of harmless doggerel the equivalent of “child abuse.”

  58. Anne Nonymous

    No, no, see, the “for Twisty tells us so” part is what makes it funny. It’s all, like, self-aware and ironic and generation-whatever-it-is-esque.

  59. Sniper

    Ah, like the scene in “Life of Brian” where everyone swears, at once, to work it out for themselves.

    The problem is that, over time, people really will do it because Twisty says so. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened with Jesus.

  60. Ron Sullivan

    Anne: I’d like to see what other people have to say about this.

    I’m with you all the way. Science is MY tool and no one’s gonna take it away from me!

    Catherine Martell, you’ve done your surname proud up there. Thanks.

  61. darkymac

    Gee, that Darleen must be very spiritual – her posts evanesce even as her “Truth” does, apparently. There is no Darleen as far as I can see in this thread. I wonder, shall I log in again tomorrow to see more ghosts walk?

    There’s a lot to be teased out in the understanding of how science – the institution, not the activity, you understand, I hope – developed as a descendent of religion in the way it was run by priests, only through whom could the activity be interpreted.
    Margaret Wertheim’s Pythagoras’ Trousers is a little bottler on the topic.
    And I smell a lot of this priestly stuff still going on in many cosmologists’ presentations today;
    not to forget how many of the other hard scientists – maths and engineers are particularly fond of prayerful attitudes – fudge on the existence of God topic.
    It’s as if they are all having an each-way bet so that they will have a chance at retaining magisterial status if Church returns to the top influence in political life.

    The Enlightenment? Scientific investigation of the natural world? Whoosh, all over in a couple of hundred years by the looks of things these days.

  62. darkymac

    I apologise for the lack of proofing and hope the post made some kind of sense anyway.

  63. rajmahall

    A version of “Jesus Loves Me” I think I can get behind:

    http://www.lyricsmania.com/lyrics/cocorosie_lyrics_3007/la_maison_de_mon_rêve_lyrics_9055/jesus_loves_me_lyrics_104548.html

  64. Darleen

    darkymac

    Nope, no ghost here; though my comments above from yesterday 1:11 pm on only showed up in the wee hours this morning. I don’t know why they were held in the que, but there you have it.

    The Enlightenment? Scientific investigation of the natural world? Whoosh, all over in a couple of hundred years by the looks of things these days.

    Only if Western Civilization goes dhimmi.

  65. maggiethewolf

    Cass wrote: “That is a horrible story, Twisty. And I’m willing to bet her parents were similarly tortured in their own vulnerable years.”

    Oh, yeah, Cass. We’re all just ferrying damage from generation to generation. Genes ferry baldness and shortness and tallness. But as composites of genetic code, we ferry misery and rape and murder. We ferry good stuff too, but damn, the bad stuff replicates like a virus. Misery grows like a tumor.

    darkymac: “The Enlightenment? Scientific investigation of the natural world? Whoosh, all over in a couple of hundred years by the looks of things these days.”

    I don’t think so and here’s why: the process (observation, inquiry, hypothesis, testing, etc.) that produced the idea of evolution also produced the toaster oven. So, whereas the fundies cling to the notion of a 4,000 year old Earth, they also cling to their toaster ovens and Advil and Barcaloungers. You can’t kill science without killing the comfies, those things that do separate us, if not from the apes, from an ape-like life. And many fundies crave a life of fancy things, all of which come from science. Whatever the fundies say about God being all-loving and everything happening for a reason and whatever the Bible says about “God will provide,” if fundies do an Othella on lovely, loyal science and suffocate it, the fundies’ regret will make Othella’s regret seem paltry and his misery seem miniscule.

    Twisty, sorry about your ex.

  66. Frumious B

    I’m holding out in the hope that someday quantum theory will be able to measure and explain it.

    Don’t hold out too long, buddy. Quantum theory is silent on matters theistic. Sorry to disappoint.

  67. B. Dagger Lee

    “Cold blooded old times
    cold blooded old times
    cold blooded old times
    the type of memories
    that turn your bones to glass
    turn your bones to glass…”

    “How can I stand and laugh with the man
    who redefined your body?”

    “Cold blooded old times
    cold blooded old times…”
    –(smog)

    yrs, B.D.L.

  68. scratchy888

    According to Darleen: “I’ve read reams on anarcho-syndicalism, and it all boils down to whether humans have intrinsic value as a human being, or whether that value is dependant on his/her “usefulness” to others. Collectivism, in all its incarnations, squarely falls into the latter category.”

    This appears like an inability to imagine collectivism. It also goes against the grain of the monadish resumes we are required to write to insinuate ourselves appropriately as cogs within a system. A resume which does not focus primarily upon one’s ‘“usefulness” to others’, specifically the others managing the company for which one wishes to work, will not be sufficiently “collectivist” to clinch the deal of selling oneself.

  69. educe

    Twisty,

    RE: a song for questioning authority – it’s already been written, it just doesn’t get air time.

    I’d check out almost every song by NOFX or Propagandhi (if you like [male] punk; if not, lots of ‘old’ folk is highly political).

    I’ve been extremely happy to see Dawkins (and his bro, Sam Harris) gaining media attention because they are so blantantly anti-religion. The best is the social discourse about religious faith that results, something that’s been needed the past few decades.

  70. greengirl7

    I have a friend who recently launched a new book of poetry. Included in the dedication was a quote from Jose Saramago:

    (virtual elipsis) all stories are like those about the creation of the universe – no one was there, no one witnessed anything, yet everyone knows what happened.

    For me, this seems to describe the tableau of “fatherly” myths. Whether these stories are generated by science or by dominant world religions, humans will always be facinated by the mystery of our existence. But because, as other commenters have stated, the “spin” on the stories excludes an equal role for my gender, I will continue to read and reflect on the ideas of writers like Dwarkin and Twisty and Saramago, among others, who all happen to be atheists.

  71. Sylvanite

    Late to the party, again. Damn the broken internet at home!

    Geology is still quite the men’s club, but it fortunately has little bearing on gender relationships, so it tends to be void of that sort of spin. However, since geology posits an ancient Earth, it is much hated by fundies, and most of the geologists I’ve known are atheists or agnostics. It’s difficult to sustain one’s religious faith in the face of overwhelming physical evidence that what one was taught as a child based on the Bible is WRONG.

  72. joolya

    Twisty, I think you ought to send Dawkins a taco. I’m'a be in England in a couple of weeks, so if you sent me a taco I could take it right to his door. And I’d say it was from you, even.

    I feel like there are certain things (religion, the patriarchal order) that make people feel rilly rilly good about believing in. So, it’s damn hard to argue them out of them. I mean, if I can truly believe that my being a dude, or a Christian, or a Muslim, or a Jew, etc. makes me the spiciest enchilada on the lunch counter, why the fuck would I ever change my mind?

  73. joolya

    Anne Nonymous, I buy you a taco too, with my magic fairy pink taco wand.

  74. finnsmotel

    The science/belief feedback loop that I get into starts somewhere in this general vacinity:

    Science can only prove hypotheses that can be conceived by the human mind. So, by extension, isn’t it possible that science only proves things we already believed to be true? Just maybe in more detail, with more elaborate human expressions that make us feel more confident that the information is more complete? But is it?

  75. Anne Nonymous

    finnsmotel, I’d suggest that science can’t really be used to “prove” or “disprove” anything at all. The thing science can and does do is demonstrate that some of the things we currently believe are inconsistent with observed facts, which requires us to think of new things to believe or new ways to reconcile our beliefs with the observations.

    When an idea repeatedly passes well-designed observational tests, and when it links many other ideas together in a way that allows us to make interesting and testable predictions about the real world, that’s what makes it a good strong theory that we can feel reasonably confident it’s sensible to believe. Well-known examples of such theories would be evolution*, quantum mechanics, the atomic model, and the big bang theory. And like all of these ideas, a good scientific theory is one that works so much better than previous ideas that it becomes what we believe, even though we didn’t believe it before that.

    *The modern theory of evolution, by the way, is basically the idea that species change over time and sometimes split into reproductively incompatible sub-populations which then become separate species, and that these changes and speciation events occur due to environmental selection pressures across the random variations present in any population of living things. Both change within populations and speciation-like events have been observed in the lab. And the ideas of evolution have allowed testable predictions to be made about the structure of the fossil record, the structures of existing populations, and the genetic makeup of apparently-related species. Evolution is extremely well-established, as far as theories go.

    joolya, the taco sounds good, many thanks. Now I know what I’m having for dinner!

    Sylvanite and Ron Sullivan, thanks for your thoughts on the gender issues thing. As a physicist I personally don’t feel like I see a lot of gender issues directly related to the science either. (The social structure of the like 90%-male physics community is another matter altogether, of course.)

    Occasionally, though, I run across one of those odd essays where the author seems to be convinced that the use of metaphors along the lines of “penetrating the mysteries of the universe” and all the emphasis on clarity and precision and hard-edged diamondoid reasoning makes physics innately male somehow. I’m never really sure how to respond to that kind of thing. There are certainly many men who do seem to kind of put nature up on the same passive pedestal where they put women, and to utilize metaphors that make this pedestal specifically gendered. And so in that sense, there’s some truth to the essayists’ complaints.

    But it always seems to me like the argument that reason and logic are themselves specifically male falls into the age-old trap of assigning “good” characteristics (rationality) to men and “bad” characteristics (emotional nature) to women. Seems to me that when I sit down and carefully logic my way through a physics problem, I’m not a woman pretending to be a man so I can do physics. I’m simply a woman doing physics. I’ve never had the experience of my emotional nature impairing my ability to solve physics problems. But I’ve definitely observed that my choice to exclusively focus on logical training left me for a long time incapable of recognizing and managing my own emotional states.

    As far as the metaphors go, I think the one I tend to use is more along the lines of trying to turn a part of my brain into a miniature image of the universe than of struggling to glimpse something hidden or seeking to defeat an adversary. It’s all internal, self-improvement. The struggle is against my own limits more than anything. Is this a feminine way of looking at the world, of approaching scientific problems? I don’t really know.

  76. finnsmotel

    I’m going to edit your comment. My words are in brackets. []

    “When an idea repeatedly [appears to humans to] passes well-designed [by humans] observational tests, and when it links many other ideas together in a way that allows us to make [what a human being might find to be] interesting and testable predictions about the real world [as humans experience it], that’s what makes it a good strong theory that we can feel reasonably confident it’s sensible to believe.”

    The predictions and their testability are subject to and invented by humans within the contraints of our ability to sense things.

    Imagine, for example, that the human race had evolved without (or with a different version of) the sense of sight. How different would our description of the universe be? What sort of predictions would we have made about it?

    Humans can only test what we can see, smell, hear, taste, record, etc.

    Are there other senses in the universe that we don’t possess? Isn’t it arrogant to assume that the human expression of the senses is the most accurate and true? Isn’t it possible that there are other forces in the universe that we simply cannot sense and have not discovered?

  77. junegloom

    Science vs. Religion. Left vs. Right. “Real” Feminists vs. Complicit Pawns of the Patriarchy.

    I’m getting a wee bit tired of the black-and-white, neeener neeener you’re wrong and I’m right polarization that has become the divisive fate of debate these days. I’m all for stickin’ it to the wack job creationists, but come on. An eight-year-old with a sharpened number two pencil could poke holes into Dawkins position, which is ultimately as reductive as it is elitist.

    Who are we, and why are we here? Questions that shouldn’t even be asked?

    Guess that means art, poetry, music, literature and other such “software hallucinations” of cultural production add up to diddly squat, since they have the gall not only ask the aforementioned forbidden questions but even attempt to offer explanations that aren’t strictly scientific.

    And, if you think that literature and art, or (gasp in horror and condescendingly roll eyes), spirituality, might provide a more “elegant and powerful” answer to the human mystery than DNA and natural selection, please be warned that your Mensa membership will be promptly revoked. All the really smart people are atheists. Duh. Neener neener. (And by smart we mean highly educated with high IQs to boot, two yardsticks that have NO gender, race or socioeconmic biases WHATSOEVER).

    (The human mystery will, incidentally, be completely explained by science in due time. But even if it isn’t, that doesn’t mean we should dare ask any philosophical questions, you superstitious ignoramuses, who, by virtue of teaching your children that they might possibly be connected to something larger than themselves, are by default instilling in them the kind of blind, unquestioning faith that leads to terrorism and genocide.)

    Ah, yes, I love the smell of scientific egomania in the morning. Lord knows, it’s never led us astray before.

  78. Ron Sullivan

    Who are we, and why are we here? Questions that shouldn’t even be asked?

    That’s not what he said. He said they didn’t deserve answers. Why, does someone think they have those? (What’s the answer to a koan? Hm, normally I find that to be a language joke, come to think of it.)

    Guess that means art, poetry, music, literature and other such “software hallucinations” of cultural production add up to diddly squat, since they have the gall not only ask the aforementioned forbidden questions but even attempt to offer explanations that aren’t strictly scientific.

    They do? Is that what art’s about: explanations? News to me. Lots of great art assumes certain explanations, but I don’t see that as a reason to say even that those particular explanations are necessary to that particular piece of art, except as accidentals. (Can you have Bach without the European instruments available when he lived? That sort of accidental.)

    answer to the human mystery… DNA and natural selection

    Speaking of reductionism.

    Exactly what is “the human mystery” anyway? Is there only one? Is it something that can be expressed without one of those koan lynchpins, those words stuck next to each other that make as much sense as “one hand clapping”?

    (And by smart we mean highly educated with high IQs to boot, two yardsticks that have NO gender, race or socioeconmic biases WHATSOEVER).

    No we don’t. Just by the way.

    teaching your children that they might possibly be connected to something larger than themselves

    If you think “science” doesn’t teach that, you haven’t learned science, not even a little bit. Doesn’t the idea that the kinship of all life, that everything ever alive on this planet is literally, concretely, physically related to us, give you the psychedelic shivers? Just for a single example.

  79. Twisty

    The question “why are we here?” has always struck me as dorky and self-absorbed. Why shouldn’t we be here? And why this obsession with a ‘purpose’? I mean, let’s face it: if it turned out there really was one, I have little doubt that we’d fuck up bigtime. Unless of course that purpose was to raise the earth’s temperature sufficiently to make it habitable for an evolving species of super-cockroaches.

  80. Pony

    http://www.skeptic.com/lectures/2006/10/28/the-god-delusion/

  81. Anne Nonymous

    finnsmotel, it’s true that humans evolved with senses capable of detecting the narrow range of the electromagnetic spectrum we call visible light. But we did not evolve with senses capable of detecting other branches of the electromagnetic spectrum (UV, X-ray, infrared, radio). Nevertheless, we were able to see that light from those parts of the spectrum had non-visual effects which we were capable of detecting. And so we inferred that this light must exist even though we couldn’t see it, and we constructed instruments that allowed us to measure it and manipulate it.

    I’m sitting here right now typing this comment on a computer which has no visible object connecting it to my DSL modem, and yet I know that if I hit the “Blame” button, my comment will show up on Twisty’s website way out there in the big scary internets. Why? Because my computer contains a transmitter which emits light waves with a frequency of about 2.4GHz, and over under my desk is a little box that’s capable of receiving those light waves and translating them into electrical signals that can be transmitted out over the internet.

    I mean, maybe that’s not really what’s happening. Maybe there’s something far more complicated or far more simple or just deeply Other that our pitiful human science hasn’t yet come across and will never come across. But as far as making my internets work, it doesn’t really matter if our theories of light and matter are True in some existential sense, because clearly something is happening that for all relevant intents and purposes is indistinguishable from what would happen if they were true. These theories work.

    Or maybe they don’t. Maybe it’s all lies and bullshit and fooling myself and I’m a brain in a jar watching illusions created by some malevolent superbeing that’s totally fucking with me and laughing its ugly ass off. And maybe that superbeing is so omnipotent and so clever that it can fool me completely perfectly and I’ll never ever once in all the infinity of time be able to detect the fooling no matter how many consistency checks I run on my perceived reality. Or maybe the universe I perceive is mostly real, but there’s some particle out there that’s cool and magic but has absolutely no effect that I could ever possibly detect with the most amazingest possible experiment I could ever invent. Maybe that’s what it really is.

    But you know, if all that amazing stuff is going on beyond the realm of my ever possibly detecting it, so fucking what? If there’s nothing I can do to detect it, then there’s no way it can have any effect on my life. And if it has no effect on my life whatsoever that I can ever dream of measuring, then it might as well not exist for all the difference it makes. On the other hand, if it does have some effect, no matter how obscure or minute, then the only way I’m ever going to detect it is by science — by looking at the world, coming up with ideas about it, testing those ideas to see if they work, modifying them if they don’t, and rinse and repeat.

    Sure, science is all about what humans perceive and what it seems like to humans. That’s why we never fall down on our faces before any one scientific conclusion and worship it as dogma — we could observe something new, or develop some new capacity for observation that could turn everything we know on its head. It’s certainly happened before, and there’s no reason to expect it won’t happen again. This is why science is a process, not a set of facts. And to follow this process isn’t arrogant at all. You follow this process knowing every single damn thing you discover is provisional and subject to interpretation and that the next generation is probably going to revise or overturn everything you thought you discovered. I think it’s simultaneously the most humbling and most hopeful thing a human can ever be part of.

  82. junegloom

    To the “dorky” question: I couldn’t agree more that we would fuck up any greater purpose if some greater purpose were to be revealed. I don’t call myself junegloom for nothing, Twisty. (LOVE the blog, BTW)

    I’m not saying that we have a greater purpose. I’m not saying that the ONLY purpose of art is to answer existential questions. I’m also not saying that spirituality is the ONLY road to interconnectedness or that spirituality is the ONLY answer to those questions that don’t deserve answers (and, really, what is the freakin difference between questions that shouldn’t be asked and questions that don’t deserve answers? Come ON.) I’m also not saying that DNA and natural selection are the ONLY potential answers science has to offer to said irrelevant questions.

    I don’t have time to write a thesis here, and I’m not a religious person in the LEAST, in case you were wondering. Atheists of the world g’head and knock yourselves out. I’m really neither here nor there on the big God question.

    Here’s what I do have a problem with and what seems to have been entirely overlooked in my comment: Dawkins broadly categorizing people who have a different point-of-view as less intelligent and de facto dangerous. I object to his making broad, sweeping categorizations of any spiritual point-of-view as NECESSARILY WRONG to a greater or lesser degree. It’s polarizing. It leaves no room for debate. It’s arrogant. And it’s just a bit hypocritical, since I’m sure atheists, of all people, catch all kinds of broad, categorical condemnation for their beliefs.

    (I know all manner of heinous evil goes on in the name of religion and that this is bad. I am not objecting on the lame ass grounds of political correctness. But there’s gotta be some middle ground between condemning the bad that is done in “God’s” name and condemning anyone who holds a religious belief as a stupid, unenlightened jerk.)

    In short, I am the Rodney King of the science vs. religion debate: Can’t we all just get along? Can’t we all just admit that nobody has the answers and respect the different ways we flawed human beings grapple with “the mystery.” It’s that last shred of idealism in me that refuses to die, I suppose. I just can’t help myself.

    And, Ron, as far as my elitist point about how Dawkins defines intelligence as it correlates to atheism, here is a direct quote from that radical God-hater, who himself admits to beholding the fundamental mystery of the human condition (as did Einstein):

    “As for citing the evidence, a number of studies have been done. The one meta-analysis of this that I know of was published in Mensa Magazine. It looked at 43 studies on the relationship between educational level or IQ and religion. And in 39 out of 43 — that’s all but four — there is a correlation between IQ/education and atheism. The more educated you are, the more likely you are to be an atheist. Or the more intelligent you are, the more likely you are to be an atheist.”

    The indicators for the intelligence that leads to atheism according to Dawkins? Education level and IQ. Both of which have some flaws when we start shaking down little conditions such as gender, race, class, etc..

    That’s it for now. I’m running late for my Marginally Intelligent Agnostics for World Peace Meeting, and I promised I’d bring some Vegan corndogs.

    Thanks for the great conversation.

  83. hedonistic

    I actually believe science is creating reality. I’m funny that way.

    Anyone out there study phenomenology?

  84. finnsmotel

    “The question “why are we here?” has always struck me as dorky and self-absorbed.”

    Agreed.

    I also look at it as a hilariously naive question of scale. Since we comprehend things in relation to ourselves, we ask why we’re here. Why’s my Mom here? Why’s my Dad? Etc. Maybe we ask why the Earth is here and turning when we’re really curious. (We ask why the ants and other tiny things are here when we’re stoned.) The more intelligent and curious folks tend to search further away from themselves in vast universes of facts and measurements, but, still, have come up with essentially the same answers. In human scale.

    “Why shouldn’t we be here?”

    Exactly. It’s the perfect corollary and never gets addressed.

    “And why this obsession with a ‘purpose’? I mean, let’s face it: if it turned out there really was one, I have little doubt that we’d fuck up bigtime.”

    Oh yeah! You said it! If you look at the human mythologies over the centuries (and I’m not sayin I’ve seen ‘em all, just sayin), that point gets made in almost every one. And, somewhere along the way, a human being takes that point and twists it into something else that suits their purposes. For some reason, we can’t just leave that point alone. We can’t just say, “historically, we’re fuck ups… so, watch out and try not to fuck up.”

    I think we’re unaware of our competitive nature, having developed new names for it (human race, etc.). We’re really in a competition for survival. And, when we get bored with that, we tend to mess with other people.

    Whether it’s a Baptist Minister trying to get a housewife to blow Gideon’s trumpet behind the revival tent or a Catholic Priest boning an altar boy in the name of Vlad the Impaler… most of the time, we use the perception of answers about our purpose to dominate or control other people. When people appear to be happy about it, we call it good. When they’re not, we call it bad. But, it’s the same thing either way, right?

    Sorry to ramble.

    -joe

  85. p

    I am an atheist and am excited about the God Delusion. However, I am very curious as to what twisty and other folks on this wonderful site have to say about his earlier work- The Selfish Gene.

  86. Mar Iguana

    “Twisty: Then we’re looking at a class action against the Catholic Church that dwarfs anything seen so far.” norbizness

    A dream come true.

  87. joolya

    Imagine, for example, that the human race had evolved without (or with a different version of) the sense of sight. How different would our description of the universe be? What sort of predictions would we have made about it?

    I imagine quite different, until someone invented something that was sensitive to photons, got curious, and realized we’d been missing something all along.

    Are there other senses in the universe that we don’t possess? Isn’t it arrogant to assume that the human expression of the senses is the most accurate and true?

    Yes, of course, which is why we have UV and IR detectors, tools that pick up magnetic and electrical fields, subsonic noises, etc, and math that describes extra dimensions.

    Also, it bugs me that when science people say somehting is an unaswerable or pointless question that means there’s no point to art and literature. I doubt Dawkins thinks that! I mean, life may be pointless (who knows?) but it would certainly suck if we didn’t have art, music, books, etc. To me, there really would be no point to a living in a world without art. But that doesn’t make art = science. Gah!!!!!

  88. joolya

    answer to the human mystery

    FORTY-TWO! Even I know that, silly people.

  89. Kali

    Why this idolisation of Dawkins? The man’s been as effective as a tool of the patriarchy as any religious wingnut. To make Dawkins a representative of science is not only insulting to women, it is insulting to science. His idiotic theories of EvPsych, based not on the scientific process, but on wild speculation dressed up as science, is where this mars and venus nonsense comes from. And while the religious wingnuts have done considerable damage to women’s equality and rights on the fundamentalist fringes of society, Dawkins and his EvPsych gang have done this damage all through society, even among the non-fundamentalists.

    Dawkins and Ratzinger are not the only two choices we have, folks. There are many scientists working on the theory of evolution who are not neo-darwinists, and who have pointed out several scientific problems with neo-darwinism. Try these two books, for starters:

    “Acquiring Genomes”, by Lynn Margulis and D. Sagan
    “Developmental Plasticity and Evolution”, by Mary Jane West-Eberhard

    On an end-note, here is something to contemplate among the writings of Darwin: “With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.”

  90. finnsmotel

    [What sort of predictions would we have made about it?]

    “I imagine quite different, until someone invented something that was sensitive to photons, got curious, and realized we’d been missing something all along.”

    I don’t disagree.

    I guess my point is this:

    At some point, when a human thinks it knows something, it’s based on the belief that what it has perceived via its senses is true. And, the boundaries of what is defined as truth are often different within human cultures. Likewise, that which is pursued as truth is different within human cultures.

    Some cultures require substantial factual proof of the existence of a force of nature compounded over time before they will accept it and believe in its existence. Others do not.

    That doesn’t make one truth more true than the other, though.

    For a time, we were amassing tons of evidence that the Earth was flat. It was a given in every proof. Then, we took a ride around this big blue ball and realized our perceptions were limited.

    Lights come on slowly sometimes.

    I’m not saying our perceptions are wrong, but they could be. And, it’s likely that there are forces out there that we do not and may never truly understand.

  91. Mandos

    Dawkins is hardly the most prominent promoter of the sort of evpsych that feminists object to. Noting that genes tend to conserve traits that survive, and some genes are related to matters of mind should not be that controversial. IIRC Dawkins is the originator of the speculation about memes—social replicators.

  92. hedonistic

    I don’t make a habitual practice of linking to my blog, but since we’re on this topic some of you might be amused to discover the God of the Patriarchy is a premature ejaculator . . .

    http://hedonisticpleasureseeker.wordpress.com/2006/10/18/small-fast-plane-part-12-in-which-the-hedonistic-pleasureseeker-decides-once-and-for-all-not-to-convert/

  93. hedonistic

    Oh no, I carelessly put in an ellipsis and IT WAS NOT ENSPAMULATED. Is the apocalypse nigh?

  94. Ephiny

    “Why this idolisation of Dawkins? The man’s been as effective as a tool of the patriarchy as any religious wingnut. To make Dawkins a representative of science is not only insulting to women, it is insulting to science. His idiotic theories of EvPsych, based not on the scientific process, but on wild speculation dressed up as science, is where this mars and venus nonsense comes from”

    Have you actually read any of Dawkins’ writing? I find it very scientifically and logically rigorous and haven’t noticed any ‘wild speculation’. If he does speculate about things we don’t yet know the truth about (for example the origin of the universe) he’s absolutely clear that it is no more than speculation.

    I don’t at all agree that he buys into the ‘mars and venus’ thing. Where do you get that idea from? I agree there’s a lot of nonsense about gender roles based loosely on evolution theory, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who studies evolution agrees with it! Dawkins is a biologist, and has nothing to do with psychology as far as I know.

    I don’t ‘idolise’ the man, but yes I do enjoy his writing and actually find him quite pro-feminist. One of his strong objections to religion is the way it can be relied on to oppress women in some way.

    And as for berating Darwin for his views not being progressive enough…well try to find someone who lived at the same time and sounds any better today!

  95. rajmahall

    Also:

    I thought people might be interested in the interview Dawkins gave on the Colbert Report a couple of nights ago: here.

  96. saltyC

    I prefer Stephen Jay Gould.

  97. saltyC

    Kali, rock on.

  98. Twisty

    ‘Human mystery” my eye. Humans aren’t any more mysterious than a box of dirt. The only mystery is that we don’t commit suicide more often given that we clearly can’t cope with how utterly irrlevant we are. Hypotheses that we are not irrelevant cannot be proven, so we have to make up these elaborate systems whereby its OK to ditch common sense and rationality and just out and out lie, out of the blue, that there is a humanoid male deity in charge of everything and he loves me best. Last night on NPR I heard an interview with Mormon convert Gladys Knight (ex The Pips) who says she prays like the dickens before every show so God will help her hit her high notes. I had a kitchen contractor who was certain that God helped her win free concert tickets by being the third caller on ClearChannel radio contests, he cared just that much that she be able to enjoy her leisure time without having to pay for it. Later on that same God would take a mild dislike to a couple of homos organizing a parade in New Orleans so he’d sink the whole city. Or was that a different God? How many gods are there? Come ON.

  99. Mar Iguana

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    –From Hamlet (I, v, 166-167)

    I’ve had one too many unexplainable, “impossible” things happen to me in my very own, little personal life to believe there is no mystery involved in human existence.

    That men have exploited metaphysics for their own sick power mongering by establishing woman-hating religions with their psycho, upstart, arbitrary old man gods is the ultimate evil of ignorance worship.

    Here’s the mystery: The reason for your existence is to figure out the reason for your existence, knowing that, ultimately, you never can.

  100. Branjor

    How about this? The reason for your existence is to LIVE.

  101. shannon

    Darleen,

    I did not say that singing “Jesus Loves Me” is child abuse. My child sings “Jesus Loves Me.” I did not say religious teaching is child abuse. I said teaching CREATIONISM [and menat to imply in schools, as science]is child abuse. Oh person in the “judiciary” I am an educator and I think willfull miseducation very certainly OUGHT to be perceived by our society as abusive. Just like separate and unequal education of Black children in public schools ought to be perceived that way. Because it is. It’s also against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to deny children education.

    Please to not “inflate” my language to stretch it to cover “Jesus Loves Me.” Don’t they have a word for that in the judiciary business?

  102. hedonistic

    Mar Iguana, I attribute those kinds of mysterious happenings to ancestor spririts, because who else in the spirit world would give a shit about my personal outcomes? I figure they’re either ancestor spirits or prankster gremlins (laugh).

  103. saltyC

    Hedonistic, I too invoke ancestor spirits to explain amazingly fortuitous events, it makes much more sense than yahweh.

    Twisty, what’s even more mysterious is god spared the homo-est parts of New Orleans: the Bywater and Algiers, whose property value doubled or tripled after the storm.

  104. hedonistic

    the participants in this thread may be amused by what a friend sent to me the other day:

    http://hedonisticpleasureseeker.wordpress.com/2006/11/12/sunday-school/

  105. Denis

    I had a kitchen contractor who was certain that God helped her win free concert tickets by being the third caller on ClearChannel radio contests, he cared just that much that she be able to enjoy her leisure time without having to pay for it. Later on that same God would take a mild dislike to a couple of homos organizing a parade in New Orleans so he’d sink the whole city.

  106. RadFemHedonist

    I’m an materialist reductionist strong atheist strong adeist and individualist, individualism is great. Simply, I am a born person, with full individual rights, I’ll enjoy doing stuff I have a right to do (like masturbating and eating chocolate and watching TV) I will ensure that mine and everyone else’s rights are recognised under law, I will try and help people out and enjoy music and art and literature, I will educate myself, I will spend time with my friends (homosapien and other animal species), I will focus on my art, animating the ectasies of human experience, I will not have children because I do not want them, I will exercise my right to abortion should I become pregnant, I will never violate the rights of others, I will have an enjoyable life.

  1. sonitus.org » Blog Archive » Dawkins: “Mystery, schmystery”

    [...] I Blame The Patriarchy [...]

  2. Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Feminism is not your expectation.

    [...] Jews, both ethnic and religious. Feminism is for Muslims. Feminism is for pagans. Feminism is for the anti-religious, and for the anti-atheistic too. Feminism is for [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>