Krauss on Dawkins

Physicist Lawrence Krauss wrote Nature‘s review of The God Delusion. The review itself is mixed: strong praise for parts of the book, exasperated criticism for others. But the following two paragraphs are what caught my eye:

Dawkins the preacher is less seductive. And make no mistake: this book is, for the most part, a well-referenced sermon. I just have no idea who the intended parishioners might be. In his preface, Dawkins claims he hopes to reach religious people who might have misgivings, either about the teachings of their faith or about the negative impact of religion in the modern world. For these people, Dawkins wants to demonstrate that atheism is “something to stand tall and be proud of”.

I found this slightly puzzling. I don’t believe in Santa Claus, but I am not particularly proud of it. Indeed, I am rarely, if ever, proud of not believing in things. More generally, I think the strategy of focusing on telling people what not to believe is less compelling than positively demonstrating how the wonders of nature can suggest a world without God that is nevertheless both complete and wonderful — an argument that Dawkins reserves for the final few pages of the book. And while there is a lot to complain about in the ubiquitous facile piety so prevalent today, complaining can nevertheless start to get tiresome. Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World (Headline, 1996) likewise too often mirrored Sagan’s frustration at all those who over many years have continued to confront him with their superstitions, but it also conveyed his sense of awe and wonder about nature in a way that Dawkins elsewhere has so craftily displayed.

What a load of lazy nonsense.


A willingness to dissent from popular delusions is, indeed, something to be proud of. Disbelief in Santa Claus is not a source of pride, because no adult believes in Santa Claus. Atheism, by contrast, not only puts you in a small minority, but also brands you as morally suspect in the eyes of more than sixty percent of Americans (according to one recent poll). Having the courage to face this contempt in defense of a belief that is, after all, almost certainly correct, can rightly be a source of pride.

I have now taught mathematics in two highly religious parts of the country: Central Kansas and now Northwestern Virginia. It has happened on several occasions that students have told me, either after reading some of my essays online or hearing one of my occasional public presentations, that they were so happy to hear one of their professors express publicly what they had privately believed. Atheistic students have told me many stories about the religious bigotry they faced in their predominantly Christian high schools. It is easy for Krauss, a prominent physicist at a major university, to be ho-hum about atheism. But for students of the sort I see on a regular basis, a book like Dawkins’ can be a true breath of fresh air.

Krauss can’t imagine who the intended parishioners are? How about students skeptical of the dominant religious culture where they grew up, but who have never seen a clear presentation of any other view? How about people who don’t think religious beliefs should be exempted from rational scrutiny? How about thoughtful religious people unwilling to leave their brains at the church house door? Krauss can’t imagine that any such people would feel reading Dawkins’ book was time well spent?

And Dawkins actually spends very little time telling people what not to believe. Instead he shows, by strong argumentation, that God belief is not something that can be defended rationally. This is important work, since an awful lot of people think theism is the most rational thing in the world. As for showing that the wonders of nature can suggest a world without God, Dawkins devotes most of Chapter Four to precisely that project. I’m not sure why Krauss says it is only in the final few pages that he discusses this.

Krauss has done excellent work in his current home state of Ohio fighting the anti-evolutionists on the state school board. I would think that someone with that experience would not be so quick to dismiss the importance of a book like Dawkins’. I have listened to an awful lot of religious sermons, but I have yet to encounter one as calmly reasoned and patiently argued as what Dawkins’ presents here. For Krauss to dismiss all of this as a sermon, even to the point of warning readers to make no mistake about what Dawkins has written, is simply rude and arrogant. If Krauss wants to disagree with Dawkins’ arguments, I invite him to offer his counterpoints. Otherwise, he should learn a bit about the professional courtesy owed by one scientist to another.

Comments

  1. #1 Josh
    October 30, 2006

    It’s a bit rich to attack a reviewer of Dawkins for not showing professional courtesy. People like me (or Krauss) are named “Neville Chamberlain evolutionists,” and Gould’s writing on NOMA is dismissed with a wave of the hand (it makes sense “until you think about it for a moment”).

    I also found these two sentences oddly juxtaposed: “And Dawkins actually spends very little time telling people what not to believe. Instead he shows, by strong argumentation, that God belief is not something that can be defended rationally.” It seems like the second would count as “telling people what not to believe.” But maybe I’m misunderstanding a distinction you’re drawing.

    I agree with you that the positive discussion of a naturalistic worldview wasn’t restricted to the last few pages, but the rest of the review above was pretty close to my experience of the book. Dawkins spent too much time attacking other people’s beliefs and too little on his own.

    I think that the point about Santa Claus would be better phrased less in personal terms than in social terms. No, I don’t believe in Santa Claus, but why should I care that other people do? Dawkins tries to address why we should care that other people believe in religion, and that is the weakest of his chapters.

    There are many excellent points that he makes about bad sorts of religious belief, and many good points about how religion is not genetic. But he doesn’t manage to make a case that we should care about what other people believe, rather than how they behave.

  2. #2 SLC
    October 30, 2006

    I will only quote Michael Ruse at a symposium at Florida State Un. concerning the Dover trial, “every time Dawkins and Dennet open their mouths, they provide fodder for the creationists.” I suspect that Prof. Krause feels that he has enough of a burden without having to carry Dawkins around on his back also.

  3. #3 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    October 30, 2006

    You’ll want to check out Sean Carroll’s commentary over at Cosmic Variance. It’s already been linked by a couple of your SciBlings.

  4. #4 writerdd
    October 30, 2006

    “What a load of lazy nonsense.”

    Thank you for saying that.

    Just think what a different state the world would be in if the Christians had said, “No use in trying to spread the gospel in the New World (or in Europe before that), the people there already have religion that they are happy with.” What Dawkins is doing should be applauded. I am so sick of the chicken-shit in-the-closet atheists saying that he is doing more harm than good. I am also sick of the people who bemoan preaching to the choir. If Dawkins makes more closet atheists come out and be proud to be nonbelievers, then he has done a great thing even if not one person ever becomes and atheist from reading his works. But I’m sure there are also many people with doubts who will read his book and say, “My goodness, I’m not the only one who has thought these things. I guess it is OK to not believe.” In fact, I know several people personally who are going through this transition right now. So all you naysayers just shut up and go find something else to complain about.

    For all those who are criticizing Dawkins’s book because they don’t like what he has to say or his writnig style, all I can say is, “If you can do better, by all means please write your own book.”

  5. #5 Tyler DiPietrantonio
    October 30, 2006

    It’s a bit rich to attack a reviewer of Dawkins for not showing professional courtesy. People like me (or Krauss) are named “Neville Chamberlain evolutionists,” and Gould’s writing on NOMA is dismissed with a wave of the hand (it makes sense “until you think about it for a moment”).

    Perhaps there is a reason for that. Perhaps Dawkins is of the opinion (as am I) that fighting creationism because it is a irrational belief unfounded in empirical evidence or at least sound argumentation, and then turning around and saying that irrational beliefs unfounded in empirical evidence or at least sound argumentation are as A-O-K as T&A is a bit incongruous. Ditto for Gould’s “NOMA” muddle.

  6. #6 Josh
    October 31, 2006

    Tyler, how does that address the issue of professional courtesy? It’s possible to disagree without being offensive to your colleagues.

    Personally, I don’t care whether people are creationists or whether they are religious. Their personal beliefs are their own, and I don’t see why I should care. I do care when they try to push those beliefs on other people or prevent other people from believing what they choose.

  7. #7 Davis
    October 31, 2006

    “And Dawkins actually spends very little time telling people what not to believe. Instead he shows, by strong argumentation, that God belief is not something that can be defended rationally.” It seems like the second would count as “telling people what not to believe.”

    That depends — is he demanding that people hold rational beliefs? While it is true that rationality tends to be implicitly valued, I’d be willing to bet many people (even the atheists among us) hold beliefs we would freely admit are irrational. Pointing out that such ideas are irrational is not necessarily an imperative to abandon such beliefs.

  8. #8 gravitybear
    October 31, 2006

    Josh: I do care when they try to push those beliefs on other people or prevent other people from believing what they choose.
    Think of it this way; do you think those who wish to push their beliefs on others (I’ll just call them the religious right) would have the opportunity to do so if the large base of people who share their beliefs (even if they don’t ‘push them’) didn’t exist?
    In other words, the large group of people who just accept these beliefs empower the pushers to try to make the beliefs into policy.
    It does affect you.

  9. #9 Rob Knop
    October 31, 2006

    Think of it this way; do you think those who wish to push their beliefs on others (I’ll just call them the religious right) would have the opportunity to do so if the large base of people who share their beliefs (even if they don’t ‘push them’) didn’t exist?

    I hear this bit of paranoia pretty often, but I just don’t get it.

    The church I used to attend back when I lived in Berkeley was an unofficial organizing point for all sorts of political issues that would have tied the religious right in knots.

    Despite the fact that I consider myself a Christian, I don’t hesitate to object to creationist ignorance. I’m going to vote against the stupid anti-gay amendment coming up in my state (although I despiar that it won’t be enough).

    I don’t accept the believes of the right-wing fundamentalists. Although I’m not an athiest, my beliefs are quite different from theirs. I don’t believe in Biblical Authority — that notion is patently absurd. I don’t believe in a young Earth, or in intelligent design. I don’t believe that it requires baptism to have a god moral sense. I do believe that people of all faiths are looking at essentially the same thing, and that for many that thing isn’t necessary (the latter class being athiests). I do believe in the separation of Church and state, and I also recognize that the notion that this country was founded as a Christian Nation is either a cynical or an ignorant (depending on the source) bit of historical revisionism. I believe that gays should have the same rights as everybody else and should be able to be married. Etc.

    When you talk about the people who “share their beliefs (even if they don’t push them)” in the context of talking about all non-atheists, frankly you don’t know what you’re talking about. The problem isn’t the religious; the problem is first of all that the fundamentalists are a bigger block than most of us would like to admit, and second of all all of those, religious or atheistic, who, for political reasons, quietly accept the fundamentalists becuase they need that voting bloc in their party, even if they don’t accept a lot of the beliefs of the atheists.

    -Rob

  10. #10 Rienk
    October 31, 2006

    At Josh (comment on October 30, 2006 07:35 PM):

    Dawkins spent too much time attacking other people’s beliefs and too little on his own.

    Dawkins is an atheist thus has no beliefs in the religious sense. So how can I spent time on anything he does not possess?

    It is time for atheists like you to stand up and pick a side in this historical battle over human progress. Are you going to sit in your corner while irrationality becomes a virtue or are you going to pick up your books of reason and bash some rationality in this world?

  11. #11 Fred
    October 31, 2006

    Rob writes: I hear this bit of paranoia pretty often, but I just don’t get it.

    Well, of course you get it. After all, you’re writing these comments on a blog that focuses on debunking one of these religious beliefs that’s being pushed on us. And you even point out one or two things that you’ve voted against that are things that the religious right is trying to push on us.

  12. #12 Josh
    October 31, 2006

    The authoritarianism affects me, the religiosity doesn’t.

    After all, if we attribute these problems from the religious right to religion (rather than their political conservatism), we also have to attribute the important work of Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as evangelical abolitionists a century and a half ago, to religion. And I’ll take that trade-off.

    But authoritarianism comes in all strains, and not all religion is authoritarian. If that’s the problem, let’s fight that.

  13. #13 Jason Rosenhouse
    October 31, 2006

    Josh-

    Krauss gives the impression that Dawkins is doing little more than hectoring people about the perils of religious belief. He calls Dawkins’ book a sermon, for example. But there’s a big difference between a sermon and presenting rational arguments against the existence of God.

    As for professional courtesy, Dawkins does not merely dismiss NOMA. Instead, he give reasons for finding it an inadequate view of the relationship between science and religion. And he explains in great detail why he uses the phrase “Neville Chamberlain evolutionists.” As I said in my opening post, if Krauss had wanted to rebut specific claims made by Dawkins, I would have been happy to consider what he had to say. But just dismissing Dawkins’ book as an ineffective sermon, in the pages of Nature no less, strikes me as simply rude. Disrespect for bad arguments is fine with me. Disrespect for people without providing any justification for that lack of respect is not fine.

    Finally, I also have no problem with people being religious in private. As Alan Dershowitz has wisely said, the only time I worry about religion is when it has the power of the state behind it. The problem is that attempts to have the government promote particular religious beliefs seems to happen with great regularity. When the Santa Claus believers get a powerful Washington lobby, I’ll start worrying about them too!

  14. #14 Jason Rosenhouse
    October 31, 2006

    SLC-

    Ruse has a lot of nerve saying that about Dawkins and Dennett. It’s hard to imagine an evolutionist of any prominence who has done more than Ruse over the last decade to help the creationists. The Cambridge University Press book he coedited with William Dembski was far more harmful to the cause of good science education than anything Dawkins or Dennett have said or done. Likewise when he runs around prattling about how evolution is treated like a religion in some circles.

    As for the broader point, Ruse never presents any evidence that public pronouncements of atheism really do hurt the cause. If they do, it reflects very badly indeed on religious people. When a Ken Miller or an Arthur Peacocke talk about how evolution enriches their Christian faith, my response is that they right about the science and wrong about the religion. I’m happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with them to fight for good science education. Religious people should have the same reaction to Dawkins or Dennett. Ruse’s criticism makes sense only if we believe that religious people are so delicate that merely hearing an atheist speak will cause them to line up against good science education.

  15. #15 Josh
    October 31, 2006

    Let me say this, as a positive argument for NOMA and my alleged Chamberlainism. “The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.” If you want people to stop using religion as a political wedge, the best strategy is to attack people for using religion as a wedge, not to use religion as a wedge. If you want people to stop advancing religion as public policy, advance religiously neutral arguments and alternatives, not anti-religious arguments.

    But Dawkins makes it clear that his goal is not actually to fight against the political use of religion, or the imposition of religion. For him, the war is against supernatural belief (and it is in that sense that the book is rightly called a sermon). It is only in that sense that I or Keith Miller at KSU are Neville Chamberlains. In the war against political abuses of religion, we are Churchills and Roosevelts (or perhaps the Abraham Lincoln Brigades who volunteered to fight Franco). Dawkins is the general who wants to bomb Moscow while the Germans are still fighting at Stalingrad.

    “Disrespect for bad arguments is fine with me. Disrespect for people without providing any justification for that lack of respect is not fine.”

    OK. After quoting from Gould’s Rocks of Ages, Dawkins writes “This sounds terrific right up until you give it a moment’s thought.” I don’t see how that phrasing doesn’t suggest that Gould did not give it a moment’s thought. Is that showing Gould respect? Does he justify the disrespect?

    He continues “What are these ultimate questions in whose presence religion is an honored guest and science must respectfully slink away?” Dawkins then turns not back to Gould, nor to Karl Popper, but to Martin Rees and the issue of why anything exists at all. He then dismisses the idea that theology has any validity as a field of endeavor. That dismissive attitude pervades his discussions of theological issues, which is to say, much of the book. Many reviewers have objected to that dismissive attitude, regarding it as unprofessional and unworthy of intelligent discourse.

    Obviously, saying “Dawkins started it” isn’t an argument on its own, but it is appropriate to point out to readers what they’ll be getting. And readers of a review in Nature deserve to know that the book will be unlike most books reviewed there, which usually do extend at least minimal respect to schools of thought that they disagree with.

    “It is time for atheists like you to stand up and pick a side in this historical battle over human progress. ”

    I’m closer to what John Wilkins described himself as the other day, an “apathist agnostic.” I don’t know and don’t care whether God exists. Morals exist and matter, politics, science and progress all matter. I just don’t see progress in terms of how many gods a person believes in. I see it as a moral progression. Dawkins suggests he believes in that as well, and I regard that idea as within the realm of religious belief, as are beliefs in the majesty of nature (or Nature).

    I work for good education here in Kansas, and against discrimination and human rights abuses. I do that because I think it’s vital to pick a side in the fight for human progress. And I don’t see unresolvable nattering about whether God exists as any sort of component in that.

  16. #16 Chris Grant
    October 31, 2006

    Jason wrote: “if Krauss had wanted to rebut specific claims made by Dawkins, I would have been happy to consider what he had to say. But just dismissing Dawkins’ book as an ineffective sermon, in the pages of Nature no less, strikes me as simply rude.

    Has it occurred to you that Dawkins has more room to substantiate his claims in his tomes than Krauss has in a Nature book review?

  17. #17 Robert O'Brien
    October 31, 2006

    Instead he shows, by strong argumentation, that God belief is not something that can be defended rationally.

    I sincerely doubt that.

  18. #18 Sastra
    October 31, 2006

    Personally, I don’t care whether people are creationists or whether they are religious. Their personal beliefs are their own, and I don’t see why I should care. I do care when they try to push those beliefs on other people or prevent other people from believing what they choose.

    People write books passionately arguing for all sorts of things –the value of a political stance, a scientific theory, a social custom — and against the alternatives, but they’re seldom accused of “trying to push their beliefs on other people or prevent other people from believing what they choose.” What is the difference between an attempt to persuade and “preventing people from believing what they choose?” Are the rules so different when it comes to religion?

    If you want people to stop using religion as a political wedge, the best strategy is to attack people for using religion as a wedge, not to use religion as a wedge. If you want people to stop advancing religion as public policy, advance religiously neutral arguments and alternatives, not anti-religious arguments.

    I think that one of the main reasons so many people want to advance religion as public policy is a shared conviction that their religious views are self-evidently correct, and there are no respectable arguments otherwise. Unless atheism is seen as at least a *reasonable* option — one which can be held by reasonable people for reasonable reasons — faith-based intrusions into government and science will simply be seen as promoting the common good from a common ground of religion shared by all but the lunatic fringe — and who can figure those people out? Dawkins is trying to help them with that.

  19. #19 Richard
    October 31, 2006

    If we can’t keep religious believers from trying to insert their supernatural beliefs into politics and education, then it’s reasonable to show that the beliefs themselves are without foundation. That’s why it’s a good long-term strategy to delegitimize supernaturalism. They aren’t going to stop pushing it on us.

  20. #20 SLC
    October 31, 2006

    Re Dr. Rosenhouse

    Your diatribe on Michael Ruse failed to address my statement relative to Lawrence Krauss. The fact of the matter is that the born agains are energized by their dislike of people like Dawkins, PZ Myers, and Dennet. The attacks on religion the the latter three gentlemen contribute not a thing to improving science education in the schools. Like it or not, Ken Miller is far more effective in this regard. As evidence, he was invited to Ohio to campaign for the anti-ID school board candidates, not Dawkins, Myers, Dennet, or for that matter Rosenhouse. Actions speak louder then words.

  21. #21 mk
    October 31, 2006

    “But Dawkins makes it clear that his goal is not actually to fight against the political use of religion, or the imposition of religion. For him, the war is against supernatural belief (and it is in that sense that the book is rightly called a sermon).”

    It certainly is not a sermon. Not in any sense. Religionists continue to use their own terminology to describe nonreligionists when the going gets tough. Secular humanism is also a religion, they say. Dawkins and others like him are fundamentalists just like us, they say. You are simply helping their cause. Congratulations.

    And exactly what is wrong with fighting against the utter ignorance of supernatural belief?

  22. #22 Robert O'Brien
    October 31, 2006

    As evidence, he [i.e., Miller] was invited to Ohio to campaign for the anti-ID school board candidates, not Dawkins, Myers, Dennet…

    Does not Miller also engage in that novel activity called research?

  23. #23 kfnyc
    October 31, 2006

    “Actions speak louder then words.”

    snort…

  24. #24 kfnyc
    October 31, 2006

    “Actions speak louder then words.”

    snort…

  25. #25 truth machine
    November 1, 2006

    What a load of lazy nonsense.

    Indeed. It’s striking that Krauss chooses Santa Claus rather than, say, astrology, ghosts, ESP, souls, walking under ladders and black cats crossing one’s path, and the rest of the load of malarkey that people all around us believe in — if we bother to talk to and interact with them (perhaps Krauss doesn’t).

  26. #26 truth machine
    November 1, 2006

    I will only quote Michael Ruse at a symposium at Florida State Un. concerning the Dover trial, “every time Dawkins and Dennet open their mouths, they provide fodder for the creationists.”

    I will only quote myself: “Michael Ruse is an ass, and can’t hold a candle to Dawkins or Dennett”. See how easy it is?

  27. #27 truth machine
    November 1, 2006

    For him, the war is against supernatural belief (and it is in that sense that the book is rightly called a sermon).

    So someone who writes a book arguing that we haven’t been visited by UFO’s is waging a war against belief in UFO’s, and the book is rightly called a sermon? Your argument is anti-intellectual. As Jason said, Dawkins is “presenting rational arguments against the existence of God”. Criticism against that endeavor is pathetic.

  28. #28 truth machine
    November 1, 2006

    The fact of the matter is that the born agains are energized by their dislike of people like Dawkins, PZ Myers, and Dennet.

    Perhaps if Ruse had anything useful to say, he would energize them too. But this is bullpucky that — contrary to your claim — Jason already addressed: “Ruse never presents any evidence that public pronouncements of atheism really do hurt the cause.” Nor, of course, do you. The fundies and creationists are happy to quote Gould — does that mean that we should blame him as well as Dennett for providing fodder? The argument is stupid, and makes you out to be even more retarded than the fact that you persistently misspell Dennett’s name.

  29. #29 SLC
    November 1, 2006

    Re Robert O’Brien

    Yes, Ken Miller runs a cell biology research lab at Brown, in addition to overseeing the activities of graduate students seeking PhDs in that subject and teaching courses in biology. He has also co-authored a widely used text book on biology. I think it is to his eternal credit that he is willing to take time away from these activities to promote good science teaching in the public schools. I have downloaded a number of presentations he has made and, as a total outsider to the biological sciences (I have a PhD in physics and the last course I took with any relationship to biology was in junior high school) I find him every bit as effective and informative as Richard Dawkins. Promoting the teaching of good science in the public schools is an activity that is sorely needed these days and the scientific community is fortunate that one as effective as Dr. Miller is willing to shoulder the burden. By the way, like most of the commentators here and on other blogs, I am in total disagreement with Miller on theological matters; in this regard, I believe that one disagree without being disagreeable.

  30. #30 SLC
    November 1, 2006

    Re truth machine

    1. Stephen Jay Gould has been heavily critized by many of his fellow scientists for careless writing which has provided aid and comfort to the enemy. In his defense, I suspect that he was unaware of the asiduousness of the born agains relative to quote mining at the time of most of these writings. When he attained awareness, he became more careful. Even Dawkins as admitted that his writing became more cautious when he became aware of the quote mining activities of his opponents.

    2. The born agains are delighted whenever Dawkins or Dennett (sorry for mispelling his name)or PZ Myers make their proclamations on religion. It allows them to propagate their mantra that methodological naturalism inevitably leads to philosophical naturalism (i.e. athesim). They are hard put to make that argument against Ken Miller (although, of course. many of them reject the notion that the Roman Catholic church is a Christian church). One should listen to the Falwells and the Sheltons and the Coulters of the world when they proclaim that “Darwinism” is an atheistic philosophy and not science at all.

  31. #31 wildlifer
    November 1, 2006

    Obviously, saying “Dawkins started it” isn’t an argument on its own, but it is appropriate to point out to readers what they’ll be getting. And readers of a review in Nature deserve to know that the book will be unlike most books reviewed there, which usually do extend at least minimal respect to schools of thought that they disagree with.

    Josh, I’m not sure of the religio-political climate where you live, as it can’t be anywhere of which I’m aware. Dawkins did not start anything, nor is he “pushing” his beliefs on others. He’s fired a retaliatory salvo, and he is pushing back.

  32. #32 Robert O'Brien
    November 1, 2006

    The argument is stupid, and makes you out to be even more retarded than the fact that you persistently misspell Dennett’s name.

    idiocy machine:

    I guess you can say he is too insignificant to note the proper spelling of his surname. No doubt we’d be misspelling your last name as well if you posted under it.

  33. #33 Josh
    November 2, 2006

    @wildlifer: “Josh, I’m not sure of the religio-political climate where you live”

    Kansas. I am a biologist studying ecology and evolution in Kansas. That’s the political climate where I live.

    Who is he retaliating against when Dawkins writes that “I am not suggesting that my colleagues in the appeasement lobby are necessarily dishonest. although I can’t help wondering how thoroughly they’ve thought [NOMA] through.”

    My point about pushing ideas on others wasn’t directed at Dawkins, it was an explanation of why I think he’s being an arrogant ass in calling people like me “appeasers” and labeling us as either dishonest or unthoughtful. I just blogged more on that topic.

    Claiming that your opponent simply hasn’t thought about the issue is a truly infantile approach to argument, but it allows Dawkins to respond to his critics without having to actually engage their arguments.

    Most books on scientific topics take their opponents seriously enough to address counterarguments thoughtfully and thoroughly. Reviews of such books in Nature will generally comment on how successfully a given book addressed those issues. Dawkins resorts (at times, not always) to schoolyard tactics, and it’s hardly fair to criticize Krauss’s professional courtesy for pointing that out.

  34. #34 Jack Munns
    November 19, 2006

    Re Lawrence Krauss and the Santa Claus issue: When you believe in something, you disbelieve in some opposing view. You don’t believe in Santa Claus because you believe in empirical evidence. One should be proud of one’s atheism (in addition to the reasons you cite)because of your positive beliefs in reasonable epistomologies. I am proud I don’t believe in God or Santa Claus.

    Jack Munns
    Portland, OR

  35. #35 Russell Blackford
    November 19, 2006

    As a great admirer of both this book and Dawkins himself, I think Dawkins overreaches here and there. I winced at the references to Chamberlain and appeasement, for example.

    That conceded, when you boil down the two paras quoted from the review they come to the contention that the social climate is pervaded by ubiquitous, facile piety, but it is somehow “tiresome” to complain about this. This strikes me as an odd judgment to make. It seems as good a thing to complain about as most that become the topics of books. Kraus might find it tiresome, but I actually found it refreshing. What’s more, the book is far from tiresome to read; it is written in a clear, humorous style that I found totally entertaining.

    Oh well, each to their own, and I’ll be writing my own review elsewhere.

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