Respectful Insolence

It just so happens that I was up quite late last night doing–what else?–writing yet another grant application (well, two actually). Even though the grants aren’t due until Wednesday, Tuesday happens to be my operating room day, meaning I need to get this done and buried by tomorrow afternoon at the latest. In any case, I had been planning on just posting a rerun or two, as is my wont when real life gets so crazy that even my rapid-fire blogorrhea is curtailed, and then someone had to go and send me something that merits at least a brief bit of Insolence. Try as I might not to get sucked into this issue again, I failed utterly, because it just irritates me that much.

Do you remember last fall how I made a bit of a stink about something? (I know what you’re thinking: Orac? Make a stink about something? Perish the thought!) In any case, this time around the particular stink I raised was about what could only be described as the purest burning stupid, namely the Atheist Alliance International (AAI) awarding the Richard Dawkins Award to that anti-vaccine loon with germ theory denialist and anti-science (at least medical science) tendencies, who’s become a target of special oppobrium on this blog for his using his celebrity (and Twitter) to spread his pseudoscience, which even includes cancer quackery. No, I’m not talking about Jim Carrey, although when I learned about the AAI’s selection I did liken giving Maher the Richard Dawkins Award to giving Jenny McCarthy an award for public health. The reason is I got so annoyed is because part of the award criteria is that the winner “through writings, media, the arts, film, and/or the stage advocates increased scientific knowledge,” and an example of someone who is about as far from doing that as can be imagined, at least when it comes to science, is Bill Maher.

So what do I see over on Dawkins’ website? Well, at first it looked to me like a little video of Maher attacking Muslim religious extremists. So far, who cares? But then I saw a comment from Richard Dawkins himself:

This is the kind of thing that justifies the AAI in giving him that award last year. I know he doesn’t always talk sense about medical matters, but this splendid little recital makes it all worth while. I am proud to have presented the award to Bill Maher. I especially like the sting in the tail where he makes as if to say something concilatory about decent, moderate Muslims: They only want to be left to subjugate their women in peace (or words to that effect).

Keep up the good work.

Richard

“I know he doesn’t always talk sense about medical matters”? Now there’s an understatement! That’s like saying Ken Ham, Casey Luskin, or Michael Egnor doesn’t always talk sense about evolution. “Doesn’t always talk sense about medical matters”? It’s more like “purposefully abuses his celebrity to spread misinformation about vaccines and scientific medicine to the point where even his guests are sometimes appalled at his ignorant pontificating,” particularly Bob Costas, who mocked him with a hearty “Oh, come on, Superman!” when Maher in essence claimed that he never gets sick because of his superior diet and lifestyle, implying that he doesn’t need vaccines. In fact, Bill Maher really does share a lot of characteristics with Jenny McCarthy when it comes to that sort of thinking. McCarthy thinks she cured her child of autism and could make him autistic again if she ever let up. There does seem to be the delusion of complete control shared betweeen them, and McCarthy and Maher apparently both believe that they’re being “poisoned” by big pharma.

Personally, I thought this matter was over and I had hoped that Dawkins had learned his lesson. Apparently I was wrong. Despite all the assurances that I got from various people defending Dawkins that, really and truly he did “get it” about medical science, Dawkins still blithely dismisses Maher’s promotion of quackery and antivaccine beliefs as “not always talking sense about medical matters.”

How disappointing. It’s not as if decorum forced Dawkins to be nice and soft pedal Maher’s support for pseudoscience. He could simply have remained silent, rather than posting in the comments after this video. He didn’t.

Here’s the problem. Bill Maher has a lot of the “right views” when it comes to science, but he appears to have come to them in the wrong way. He hasn’t come to them through science, evidence, and reason. He appears to have come to them because they are contrary to his political enemies. Consequently, because he detests organized religion (I won’t get into the questions of whether he’s even an atheist or not), he supports evolution and attacks “intelligent design creationism.” The reason is simple. Religious conservatives detest evolution for religious reasons and promote ID. Maher supports the scientific consensus behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW) because political conservatives tend to be the ones attacking it. We even see this in his selective support of one vaccine. Maher likes HPV vaccines like Gardasil and believes that they work because religious conservatives view the vaccine as the tool of the devil, giving teens an “excuse” to be promiscuous. Yet he distrusts vaccines in general because it fits in with his Hollywood hip, New Agey beliefs about medicine that would make him fit right in with the woo-sters promoting crystals, homeopathy, and all manner of pseudoscience that Dawkins lampooned in The Enemies of Reason.

I’m sorry, but to me it matters how one comes to the “right” beliefs. Just because your belief happens to agree with science does not necessarily mean that you used science and reason to come to those beliefs, and few people provide a better example of that principle than Bill Maher.

And apparently Richard Dawkins doesn’t care. Or at least he has gotten over whatever discomfort he might have felt last fall over the AAI’s selection of Maher to receive an award named after him. I guess promoting atheism really does trump promoting science, at least when that science is medical science.

Or maybe it’s just my lack of sleep making me crankier than usual.

ADDENDUM: The discussion thread that follows makes me think that I’ve taken the TARDIS back to September or October and read threads about Bill Maher on RichardDawkins.net yet again. There are the handful of people there who know what a kook Maher is and how he is not a champion of reason by any stretch of the imagination. Then there are those who seem receptive to his anti-“Western” medicine method. The thread even degenerated into a discussion of Linus Pauling’s descent into orthomolecular medicine and vitamin C quackery. Hey, guys! If you want to know about Linus Pauling and happen to see this, then check out these posts:

Vitamin C and cancer revisited
Vitamin C and cancer: Has Linus Pauling been vindicated?

The answer to the last question is, “No.”

Comments

  1. #1 Soren
    May 3, 2010

    There are the handful of people there who know what a kook Dawkins is and how he is not a champion of reason by any stretch of the imagination.

    Are you sure thats not a typo? Dawkins is a kook?

  2. #2 Michael
    May 3, 2010

    “There are the handful of people there who know what a kook Dawkins is and how he is not a champion of reason by any stretch of the imagination. Then there are those who seem receptive to his anti-“Western” medicine method.”
    Don’t you mean Maher? I’m not aware of Dawkins being anti-Western medicine.

  3. #3 Fiona
    May 3, 2010

    I simply can’t let his comment about moderate Muslims go. I am a very happily married moderate Muslim, with a husband who wouldn’t dream of ‘subjugating’ me. On the contrary. He cooks and cleans with me, I work, he works, we’re best friends, he’s proud of my achievements, he spends every night at home with me (unless we’re both out together) and we enjoy trying new recipes and watching DVDs together. Oh, yes, and he prays five times a day, doesn’t drink, doesn’t cheat, works hard and is good to my parents. I’d rather have him than Richard Dawkins!
    My God! Dawkins has issues. He needs to get over himself!

  4. #4 Orac
    May 3, 2010

    Man, the pedants are fast. The post was up less than a half hour, and they’re already out. I think it was fairly obvious from the context in my addendum that I meant Maher, and in fact I fixed it before I even saw those comments. It’s fixed, OK?

    I guess that’s what I get for blogging too fast.

  5. #5 elaine
    May 3, 2010

    This is why Dawkins has earned the rep of being more an atheist than a scientist, pretty much showing none of us is exempt from irrational thought or behavior. I’m not saying being an atheist is irrational, but being a noted scientist who claims to promote rational thinking, Dawkins’ actions did not quite live up to that ideal. Guess he’s human, too. I expect he’s experience a bit of dissonance over this. At least I hope.

  6. #6 sophia8
    May 3, 2010

    I am proud to have presented the award to Bill Maher. I especially like the sting in the tail where he makes as if to say something concilatory about decent, moderate Muslims: They only want to be left to subjugate their women in peace (or words to that effect)
    I like RD, I like most of his ideas. But reading those words make me want to slap him. I am totally disgusted. Similar remarks about Muslims can be found aplenty on any BNP/far right forum.
    Richard Dawkins, you should be ashamed of yourself. F***k you, you rascist.

  7. #7 Jud
    May 3, 2010

    Seems politics, in this case the politics of support for atheism, can be a quite effective source of unreason.

  8. #8 The Chemist
    May 3, 2010

    Y’know, in the feminist movement, the criteria for allies and association is much more strict. The only reason I mention this is that Richard Dawkins is quite fond of talking about how to better model Atheism after gay rights movements and how to better take the message out into the world using feminist tactics.

    But, feminism and gay rights movements spend time discussing what it means to be an ally from the outside and what undermines efforts from the inside. I don’t really care either way about things like the AAI or their prize since I’m not particularly enamored of the idea that Atheism is a group activity. However consistency is appreciated. Either Atheism is mostly about rational thinking, or it’s mostly about being anti-establishment. Dawkins needs to sort out his priorities.

  9. #9 sophia8
    May 3, 2010

    Apologies for the previous post. It should of course be “racist”.

  10. #10 cervantes
    May 3, 2010

    I’m with Orac on this one. The core value to uphold is science: the conviction that we can advance our understanding of the universe in which we happen to find ourselves through the application of our senses and our reason. Atheism is a byproduct of reason, as it has served us so far. It is not an end in itself.

  11. #11 Anthro
    May 3, 2010

    Orac, how DO you find the time to do it all? I look in on Dawkins’ site occasionally, but mostly it’s all I can do to check THIS site and a couple of others almost daily. And I no longer have a job away from home. I realize that a box of blinking lights doesn’t need to sleep, as such, but surely it needs some downtime for maintenance? I’m sure those references to a “wife” are just an attempt to appear more human, and there seem to be no kiddies to blow your circuits, but I, for one, am awed at your output.

    As to Dawkins, I think he is as committed to atheism the same way that you are committed to science-based medicine. I think he is particularly concerned about the religious brainwashing of small children and I have a feeling this comes from personal experience. Lots of people feel that there is no real harm done by people indulging in woo (they are wrong, of course and only looking at the matter superficially) just as many feel that there is no harm in practicing a religion no matter what ideas it plants in the heads of small children. For Dawkins, the religion problem trumps the woo problem. It’s kind of like you not being very interested in politics. For many, myself included to some extent, I like Maher’s politics and humor enough to cringe and turn him off when he gets into woo, but still enjoy watching him do his humor. I can clearly see your point, but I can also see where Dawkins is coming from.

  12. #12 Skeptico
    May 3, 2010

    It’s simple: evolution and atheism is Dawkins’s thing, medical quackery isn’t.  I’ve noticed this bias before even with some science bloggers.  It’s frustrating, especially to see Dawkins continuing to miss the point even after it’s been explained to him again and again.

    There’s one thing I’d really like to know from any atheist/evolutionist who supports Dawkins’s position on this – if Michael Behe (say) was filmed effectively debunking (say) homeopathy, and if Orac wrote approvingly about that, and suggested that Behe be given an award for promoting science or such like, would you agree with that?  Or would you oppose it because of Behe’s anti-science approach to evolution? And if you would oppose it, please explain why this is different.   Dawkins?  Anyone?

  13. #13 Rev Matt
    May 3, 2010

    @The Chemist. There is tremendous overlap between atheists and rationalists, but the two are separate intellectual positions. Atheism is a rejection of theistic claims and inherently takes no position on rational thinking.

  14. #14 Emil Karlsson
    May 3, 2010

    Orac is quoting the criteria out of context to prop up his argument.

    If we look at the full criteria for the award (from Wikipedia)

    The Richard Dawkins Award will be given every year to honor an outstanding atheist whose contributions raise public awareness of the nontheist life stance; who through writings, media, the arts, film, and/or the stage advocates increased scientific knowledge; who through work or by example teaches acceptance of the nontheist philosophy; and whose public posture mirrors the uncompromising nontheist life stance of Dr. Richard Dawkins

    Notice the “and/or” part, something which Orac did not bother to tell his readers.

    The Richard Dawkins Award is awarded primarily for people who promote atheism and oppose theism/religion. It is not a science or even a rationality award, but an atheist award. Bill Maher did this with this show and movie, and thus deserves the award.

    The fact that he is a crazy anti scientific kook when it comes to medicine is largely irrelevant in this context, just like the fact that Penn and Teller are global warming “skeptics” or the fact that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a conservative (both who are previous winners of the award) is largely irrelevant when it comes to an atheist prize, even though these positions are deplorable from any scientific or rational standpoint.

    The error Orac seems to be making is that he seems to be under the impression that just because you are an atheist, you agree on other issues that are at best only marginally related. This is clearly not the case, because there are millions of deeply religious Buddhists who are atheists and who can probably argue successfully against theism, yet subscribe to wide range of superstitious beliefs.

    To claim that a successful atheist like Maher does not deserve an atheist reward because he anti scientific kook when it comes to medicine is like claiming that a brilliant economist should not receive an award in economy, just because he is a crazy creationist.

    Orac would have had a point if the award was a rationalist award or a science award, but it is not. The entire argument is a non sequitur. Also not that the Richard Dawkins award is given out by Atheist Alliance International (AAI), not Richard Dawkins personally.

  15. #15 Pablo
    May 3, 2010

    who through writings, media, the arts, film, and/or the stage advocates increased scientific knowledge

    Um, Emil, that “and/or” refers to “writings, media, the arts, film, and/or the stage.” Why would Orac worry about telling his readers that the person can increase scientific knowledge by writings, media, the arts, film, and/or the stage?

    And if Bill Maher’s public posture “mirrors the uncompromising nontheist life-stance” of Dawkins, then shouldn’t Dawkins deserve criticism as a raving anti-vax loon? Assuming, of course, that Maher mirrors his life-stance…

    Random boldings of passages doesn’t really help, when you fail to bold other equally important passages

  16. #16 Leni
    May 3, 2010

    I’m a fan of Dawkins, but I agree that this was not a good call. They should have nominated Maher, awarded it to someone else and then told him the reason he didn’t get it was because of his position on vaccines. (But that video of Maher’s on the South Park fiasco was pretty funny.)

  17. #17 Orac
    May 3, 2010

    Notice the “and/or” part, something which Orac did not bother to tell his readers.

    Learn to read for comprehension. The “and/or” part refers to the “writings, media, the arts, film, and/or the stage,” not to the three criteria, namely:

    1. “whose contributions raise public awareness of the nontheist life stance”
    2. “advocates increased scientific knowledge”
    3. AND “whose public posture mirrors the uncompromising nontheist life stance of Dr. Richard Dawkins”

    These three criteria are all linked by “and,” not “and/or.”

    Sorry, Charlie.

  18. #18 squirrelelite
    May 3, 2010

    Emil Karlsson,

    Your version of the selection criteria says that
    “who through writings, media, the arts, film, and/or the stage”.

    It seems apparent from this that the “and/or” is a separator conjunction for the sequence of writings, media, the arts, film, stage. In other words the selectee does not have to use all these media (do media include media?). Only one or more is sufficient.

    The semicolons separate the criteria. Or, to give a slightly edited version:

    The Richard Dawkins Award will be given every year to honor an outstanding atheist whose contributions

    1– raise public awareness of the nontheist life stance;

    2– who through writings, media, the arts, film, and/or the stage advocates increased scientific knowledge;

    3– who through work or by example teaches acceptance of the nontheist philosophy;

    4– and whose public posture mirrors the uncompromising nontheist life stance of Dr. Richard Dawkins

    Or, to summarize, they need to raise public awareness of nontheism, advocate increased scientific knowledge, teach acceptance of nontheism, and mirror the nontheism of Dr Dawkins.

    Bill Maher fails badly on number 2. It should have been a major embarrassment to AAI and certainly was for Dr Dawkins. IMHO, he should have learned his lesson and not commented on this one.

    By the way, do you know if AAI is planning to change their name to Nontheist Alliance International (NAI) since that seems to be the term they prefer?

  19. #19 The Chemist
    May 3, 2010

    @ Rev Matt #13

    I don’t see where I disagree with that. I merely pointed out that Dawkins can choose his approach, but he does have to essentially pick one and stick with it. Arguing that Atheism is about being rational and calling believers delusional while extolling the virtues of science is one thing. But, he can’t continue this line of rhetoric and have one arm around Maher’s shoulders as he does it and remain credible.

    Either reason is important above all else, or politics and social factors are important above all else. Certainly, you can argue for both, but there is a level of mutual exclusivity that can appear in each preferential position. Both of these distinct priorities require a different debate. The “Is religion rational?” question is very, very, different from, “Is religion maladaptive to human development?” Dawkins position thus far seems to be, “It’s maladaptive because it’s irrational.” Which is a valid position, but not while giving an overall thumbs up to somebody who preaches a fairly maladaptive form of irrationality.

  20. #20 Ian
    May 3, 2010

    @sophia8

    You do realize, of course, that Muslims are not a racial group, but a religious group. Saying that making fun of Islam is racism is about as accurate as saying that making fun of midwifery is sexism.

    @Fiona

    It’s great that you’ve found yourself a good man. It’s weird how the further you get from what the actual tenets of the religion are, the better a person you become. While it’s impossible to establish causality (is he good because he ignores big parts of the Qur’an, or does he ignore big parts of it because he’s good?) religion can be highly beneficial as long as you completely ignore the stupid parts. Good on you, and good on him.

  21. #21 Scott
    May 3, 2010

    Both of the bigots should be ashamed of themselves.

  22. #22 Denice Walter
    May 3, 2010

    I’ve seen Maher’s new season’s shows: perhaps the public chastisement last Autumn has had some effect.He’s been soft-pedalling the woo,even when having guests like Arianna Huffington and restauranteur Alice Waters(prime candidates for woo-ful conversation).I don’t know if he’s actually *learned* anything or, more likely,fears the ridicule from the likes of Chris Matthews,his writers, and the audience.((I *do* have a *tiny* bit of sympathy for him: we’re about the same age and both grew up in lovely,quasi-suburban Bergen County,NJ: in the ’70’s,newspapers and local(NYC)TV were rife with histrionic reporting on toxic dumps,contaminated rivers, and air pollution.I think he hasn’t recovered from the assault.))

  23. #23 The Chemist
    May 3, 2010

    @Ian

    If it functions as racism, it’s basically racism. However, if you prefer, we can call it bigotry. It’s just that “bigotry” isn’t really used as frequently for whatever reason and racism is often co-opted to mean bigotry. (Also, if you’re Gordon Brown, you can get in a lot trouble for saying it. :-P)

    When I go to an airport, my passport doesn’t say, “[(Weird) Namety Name] – Freethinker.”

    It says, “[(Weird) Namety Name]- Born in [Sanaa, Yemen]” and I get treated accordingly. You can’t pretend that there’s no inherent connection between this clearly racist phenomenon and good old-fashioned Islamophobia. You can hand-wave all you like, but in Britain -where Dawkins happens to live- being Muslims most often means you’re either an immigrant or the not-too-distant descendant of immigrants. To criticize Islam broadly in the way he did is to functionally cast aspersions on a racial population- intentionally or not. (And, as is so often pointed out by the anti-racist movement, racism need not be intentional to apply.)

    Does that make what Dawkin’s said strictly and truly “racism”? In my opinion it doesn’t matter- it’s still bigoted and that’s enough. The whole, “It’s not racism because it’s not about race!” Is ultimately only a momentary deflection. Once the terms narrow, it only gets harder and harder to defend Dawkins, who IIRC enjoyed making a rape joke on Maher’s show at the expense of Muslims- a largely indefensible remark.

  24. #24 Ian
    May 3, 2010

    @TheChemist

    I frankly disagree. The simple fact that most Muslims belong to a handful of racial groups does not make an anti-Muslim statement an anti-immigrant statement. On the contrary, since there is not a single race that Muslim people belong to, it is absurd to call criticism of Muslim faith a racist statement. If I am in the United States and I decry the stupidity of Christianity, just because you (or someone else) might interpret me as attacking white people doesn’t make that the case. My beef is with the teaching and the actions of those who follow the teaching, regardless of what colour their skin is or what their country of origin is.

    Using the word “racism” to apply to all bigotry is a gross misuse of the word. There are actions and policies that are specifically motivated by ethnic origin, not country of birth. If, for example, I am a native Brit who is born of Iranian immigrant parents, it is my ethnicity that is being assaulted when I am called a terrorist. To say that all bigotry is racism is to equate all manner of prejudice to being racially motivated, which it most certainly is not.

    Many members of my own racial group are Muslim, and I rant anti-Muslim with the best of them. Does that make me a self-hating (race)? Others are Christian, and I decry Christian stupidity and political over-reaching. Is that similarly racist?

    It is perfectly valid to criticize the teachings and practice of a horrific philosophy, regardless of what the genetic makeup of its adherents is. To suggest that an attack on Islam is necessarily an attack on people of Persian/Arab/Indian extraction is a flawed and incorrect assertion.

  25. #25 Scott
    May 3, 2010

    Islamaphobia does indeed often lead to racism, but Ian is correct that they are strictly distinct.

  26. #26 Emil Karlsson
    May 3, 2010

    @Pablo, you are still confusing “atheism” with “pro-science rational skepticism”. They are not the same. Maher does mirror the uncompromising nontheist life-stance, but this has nothing to do with medicine, just atheism.

    @Orac, I noticed that you tried to defend your quote mining (which I concede that you successfully did) but failed to reply to my criticism that your argument was a non sequitur but proceeded to comment on something that was not even essential to my argument.

    Yes, Maher does not fulfill all of the criteria (even though he advocates increased scientific knowledge in fields like evolution, so he does fulfill this criteria to some extend), but neither did Penn and Teller (global warming “skeptics”) or Ayaan Hirsi Ali (conservative). What they did was fulfill most of the criteria, the most important of which was advocating atheism/opposing theism.

    The point is that the Richard Dawkins Award is an atheist award, not a rationalist or science award and thus, Maher deserves the award. Yes, Maher is a crazy quack when it comes to medicine, but a skilled atheist and that is the (primary) reason for which he was awarded the prize.

    This is something that Orac fails to understand and appreciate. Even though all pro-science rational skeptics are atheists by definition, all atheists need not be pro-science rational skeptics and the latter is not a requirement for being a skilled proponent of atheism. You can still criticize the argument from design without knowing anything about evolution (like Hume did). It helps of course, and from a PR stand point, Maher was a bad choice, but it is not a necessary criteria for being a skilled proponent of atheism and deserving atheist awards.

  27. #27 Zoe
    May 3, 2010

    I have no issue with Dawkins or Maher, even if I don’t agree on everything. Science is about open dialogue and honest disagreement. Clearly Maher is wrong on this one issue, but attempts to silence him or complain about his award (for atheism awareness) by passionate pro-vaxers are disturbing. I like the movie Religulus and I disagree that Maher bases all of his views on political ideology. Let him say his piece and counter his pseudoscientific arguments respectfully.

    I can’t stand Maher’s anti woman views, but there is almost nobody with whom I agree on everything.

  28. #28 Ian
    May 3, 2010

    @Emil

    Your point that the award is not a scientific award is a fair one; however, the larger point of the post is that if you arrive at your conclusions through a non-rational process then you are contravening (rather than simply failing to be exemplary in) the other criteria. If I am an atheist because I received enlightenment from a celestial vision, that inherently runs against the pro-rationalist stance that Dr. Dawkins takes.

    Since one of the criteria is increasing public knowledge about science, and Maher actually decreases such knowledge, Orac’s criticism of granting him an award that is at least partially based on that criterion is fair.

  29. #29 Pablo
    May 3, 2010

    Maher does mirror the uncompromising nontheist life-stance, but this has nothing to do with medicine, just atheism.

    So you are saying that Dawkins does not care about medicine? As I said, if Dawkins’ “nontheist life-stance” has nothing to do with medicine, then he absolutely deserves to be called on it. However, I think you are wrong. Long before he was an uppity-atheist, Dawkins was a scientist. Why should that be ignored now?

    The point is that the Richard Dawkins Award is an atheist award, not a rationalist or science award

    Then why does it include increasing science knowledge as a criterion? If the AAI wants to say it’s not a science award, that is their right, but then they should stop saying it is.

    Although it’s pretty clear your mind is set on this, and you are merely trying to find ways to defend it (much like anti-vaxxers and their “vaccines cause autism” stance, I should note). You started out accusing Orac of ignoring the “and/or” and after you were massively embarrassed on that part, you move right on to accusing him of “quote mining” as if it never happened (btw, are you sure you know that means?)

  30. #30 The Chemist
    May 3, 2010

    @Ian and @Scott

    You’re both sort of missing the point I was trying to make, or possibly I wasn’t making it very well: Common misuses of language notwithstanding, Dawkins does engage in gross bigotry without regard to the implications and potential ramifications of his statements. The essential nature of an argument, and bear in mind Dawkins isn’t always making an argument with his shotgun remarks, has no bearing on where they lead people. Does the racist beating of Sikhs post-9/11 have anything to do with the essential (not fundamentally racist) arguments made against Islam? My answer is yes. The lack of a direct relation does not mean there is no relation, and that there is no responsibility on the part of people releasing specific memes into the wild.

    Getting hung up on whether it’s racism or bigotry is to try and move attention from his statements altogether, since both categories of behavior are equally objectionable anyway- and often have the same effects.

    If you want to continue to have the argument of how to categorize his remarks- do so, and I’ll be munching popcorn on the sidelines while I wait to have a discussion about whether they were appropriate, reasonable, harmful, or acceptable.

    Also, you seem to have interpreted what I said as, “No one should insult Islam or they’re racist.” Which is so NOT what I said.

    (As an aside, I compulsively put an apostrophe in “Dawkins”, I don’t know why, and try to proofread, but please excuse it if it pops up.)

  31. #31 Emil Karlsson
    May 3, 2010

    @Ian

    I agree that justification matters and that invalid justifications are worthy of no respect. But context of discovery is not the same as context of justification. Even if the reason I became an atheist was because enlightenment from a celestial vision, this does not mean that I am not justified in the conclusion of atheism or that atheism is somehow irrational.

    I further agree with you that Maher does run against the pro-rationalist stance that Dawkins takes, but the criterion explicitly said nontheist (not pro-rational) stance. As you emphasized yourself, nontheism is not necessarily identical to rationalism. There are many ways to be nontheist and irrational.

    I concede that Orac’s criticism was partly fair, but many of the recipients did not completely fulfill that particular criteria perfectly (apart from Dennett and Randi), so it seems clear to me that the main focus lies on the two criteria that deals specifically with atheism. Someone like the catholic cell biologist Kenneth Miller, for instance, tends to stand up for increasing scientific understanding, but I’d doubt that he would be rewarded with this atheist award.

  32. #32 Scott
    May 3, 2010

    @ Emil:

    The criteria ALSO explicitly say “advocates increased scientific knowledge.” In fact, they give it equal standing with “raise public awareness of the nontheist life stance”. Your argument is therefore entirely incompatible with the award’s stated purpose!

    The point being made here is that the award is being given in a manner quite inconsistent with its stated criteria. If the stated criteria were modified to be consistent with those actually being used, we wouldn’t have a problem with it.

  33. #33 Emil Karlsson
    May 3, 2010

    @pablo

    Nontheism has nothing to do with medicine; it is a stance on the question of the existence of god, not medicine. I agree, if it did have anything to do with medicine, Dawkins should be called on it. Dawkins is a scientist, but this is an atheism award given out by the AAI. The science criterion is there because many believe that science has presented evidence against theism.

    Furthermore, I did not accuse Orac of quoting out of context in my second comment. If you read it carefully, I actually conceded this claim (even though I might have put it a bit odd); I fully accept that Orac was not quoting the passage out of context and that my initial claim that he did was mistaken and that I was wrong. This is something you never see an anti-vaxxer do.

  34. #34 Emil Karlsson
    May 3, 2010

    @Scott

    1. It is an atheist award, not a rationalist or science award. It is entirely possible to be a atheist who happens to be irrational in another field of inquiry.
    2. That criterion is only one of four criteria, the other three being directly related to atheism.
    3. The award is handed out by an explicitly atheist organization, the AAI.
    4. Maher has advocates increased scientific knowledge in some fields, such as evolution, even though he is a complete quack when it comes to medicine.
    5. Maher has successfully promoted atheism in accordance with the other four criteria.

    I absolutely do concede that Maher did not completely fulfill all of the criteria stated, but that he, in my opinion, fulfilled enough of them to be a worthy winner.

    Yes, I agree, it should be reformulated to avoid this confusion.

  35. #35 Pablo
    May 3, 2010

    Furthermore, I did not accuse Orac of quoting out of context in my second comment.

    Which is all well and good, because no one ever said you did. I said you accused him of “quote mining,” – which you did.

    You seem to have a serious reading comprehension problem.

  36. #36 Emil Karlsson
    May 3, 2010

    @Pablo

    I use the following definition of “quote mining”: taking a passage is removed from its surrounding matter (“out of context”) in such a way as to distort its intended meaning.

    Wikipedia uses “quote mining” and “quoting out of context” as equivalent, and I did as well.

    When I conceded that he was not quoting out of context, this means that I also conceded that he was not quote mining either, since these two are in many ways equivalent.

    I do apologize for the misunderstanding.

  37. #37 Vicki
    May 3, 2010

    The problem isn’t that Maher (may have) come to atheism for non-rational reasons, it’s where else those same reasons took him. Choosing to be not-X where X is a large category can be tricky. I am not-Christian in the simple sense of that term (I am also not-Muslim, not-Hindu, not-Scientologist, etc.). That doesn’t mean that I look for things that Christians believe or approve of and reject them for that reason: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick are good things.

  38. #38 Scott
    May 3, 2010

    Yes, I agree, it should be reformulated to avoid this confusion.

    Then as far as I’m concerned, we’re fully in agreement.

  39. #39 Pablo
    May 3, 2010

    Maher has advocates increased scientific knowledge in some fields, such as evolution, even though he is a complete quack when it comes to medicine.

    Man, you are like a whack-a-mole.

    1) The science criteria is and/or, so he doesn’t need to satisfy it – nope, reading comprehension fail
    2) It’s not a science award anyway, and he got it for being a nontheist – so why is increasing scientific knowledge one of the criteria?
    3) Well yeah, it is one of the criteria, but only to the extent that atheism is often scientific – huh?
    4) Besides, he DOES deserve credit for increasing scientific knowledge, so he satisfies that requirement

    As I said, your mind is made up and all you are doing is desperately grasping at ways to justify it, and as one gets demolished, you just move on to the next. Just like an anti-vaxxer. It’s mercury! No, it’s MMR! No, it’s HepA! No, it’s H1N1!

  40. #40 Gingerbaker
    May 3, 2010

    Man, what a weird coincidence that that the Richard Dawkins Award is being given out by a fellow with the same name!

    They obviously don’t know each other, because the Presenter Dawkins doesn’t realize that the Eponymous Prize Dawkins would obviously object to his prize given to someone who “doesn’t always talk sense about medical matters”.

    Poor Presenter Dawkins! If only he could understand the criteria for the award of the Dawkins Prize as well as Orac, he wouldn’t be in such an embarrassing position.

  41. #41 Orac
    May 3, 2010
    Yes, I agree, it should be reformulated to avoid this confusion.

    Then as far as I’m concerned, we’re fully in agreement.

    If the bit about “increasing scientific knowledge” hadn’t been in the award criteria, I would have had a whole lot less blogging material last fall and wouldn’t have said word one today.

    Richard, just admit the award is for atheism and has nothing to do with science or increasing scientific knowledge, and it’ll be a whole lot easier!

  42. #42 Ian
    May 3, 2010

    @The Chemist

    I must confess that my familiarity with Dawkins’ work extends only to The God Delusion and The Greatest Show on Earth, so if you are referencing some specific anti-Islamic claims he’s made outside of those books, I will have to concede your greater familiarity with his work. However, if what he says outside his books is consistent with what’s in his books, then calling Dawkins a racist is drawing from an empty well.

    J.D. Salinger is not responsible for the murder of John Lennon, even though Mark David Chapman claimed to have derived his inspiration from reading The Catcher in the Rye. If I publicly criticize the Canadian government’s stance on removing abortion funding from the foreign aid budget, I should not be held responsible for the person who kidnaps the Prime Minister to extort the reversal of the bill. It is completely fair to level reasonable criticism against a philosophical stance, but that does not put you in the camp with those who commit illegal or immoral acts as a result.

    The author of a meme is not responsible when the meme is mis-applied; where they are culpable is when they fail to speak up against the misappropriation of their work. Similarly, if an author deliberately advocates violence, then he/she is part and parcel with the committed acts. If Dawkins fostered anti-Sikh sentiment and then failed to distinguish his philosophy from that of the actual racists (provided they cited him as an influence, or the reasonable connection can be made), then one could make the argument that he is partially culpable. If that is the case, then your argument has merit. I am open to seeing evidence of this.

    My concern is that when people cry “racist” at inappropriate times, it dilutes and obscures the meaning of the word. Racism is a real-life phenomenon happening in all corners of society, and its repeated invocation out of context of its real meaning strips away our ability to identify and ameliorate it.

  43. #43 Orac
    May 3, 2010

    Poor Presenter Dawkins! If only he could understand the criteria for the award of the Dawkins Prize as well as Orac, he wouldn’t be in such an embarrassing position.

    Actually, as we learned last fall, Dawkins had nothing to do with the selection of Bill Maher. A committee of the AAI did. Dawkins just rubberstamped the decision when they informed him of it.

  44. #44 Pablo
    May 3, 2010

    Richard, just admit the award is for atheism and has nothing to do with science or increasing scientific knowledge, and it’ll be a whole lot easier!

    Dawkins doesn’t have anything to do with choosing the winner or anything, does he? I think what you mean here is for the AAI to stop the pretense that it has anything to do with science. It’s their award, named for RD.

  45. #45 Orac
    May 3, 2010

    Fair enough.

  46. #46 Emil Karlsson
    May 3, 2010

    @Pablo

    I have already admitted that a previous argument I used, namely “Orac is quoting out of context/quote mining” was wrong, showing that I am nothing like an anti-vaxxer. Furthermore, you are making a logical fallacy called “guilt by association”, which means that your position is invalid.

    You still do not seem to grasp that the Richard Dawkins reward is an 1) atheist reward, 2) given out by an atheist organization that has 3) the vast majority of the criteria is solely related to atheism, that 4) Maher has promoted atheism successfully and that 5) Maher has promoted some science (though not in every field), so he partly fulfills this criterion as well. Yes, Maher is a quack when it comes to medicine, but this is simply not relevant for an atheist award.

    Thus, the only rational conclusion is that he deserves this price. Your position is like arguing that a successful economist does not deserve an award in economy because he is a creationist. An absurd position, to say the least.

  47. #47 Pablo
    May 3, 2010

    Dawkins just rubberstamped the decision when they informed him of it.

    And the only thing Dawkins knew of Maher at the time was that he made an anti-religion movie.

  48. #48 Pablo
    May 3, 2010

    You still do not seem to grasp that the Richard Dawkins reward is

    O contraire

    But unlike you (at least at the beginning of this discussion) I am aware of the criteria given for the Dawkins award, which you even provided (though you misread it). One of those criteria is “increase scientific knowledge.” Two things:

    1) Orac’s contention, one that I agree with, is that actively working against vaccination, germ theory, and science medicine is a utter failure in the aspect of increasing scientific knowledge. We aren’t just talking about someone who holds nutty beliefs (among the many reasons your economist analogy fails) but this is someone who uses the media (you know, the “and/or” part you didn’t understand) to actively DECREASE scientific knowledge! He sits on his show and spews anti-scientific nonsense, for pete’s sake.

    2) What “scientific knowledge” has he really increased? Does he know anything about the science of evolution? Or does that consist of mocking the religious and insulting IDists because of their religion? I’m not saying these are non-Dawkins activities or anything, but they aren’t really “increasing scientific knowledge.”

    Being a quack about medicine is one thing. But how can advocating quack medicine be considered increasing scientific knowledge in any way?

    Again, if the AAI drops the scientific knowledge part of the criteria, all is fine. They might as well do it, because it appears their cheerleaders are ignoring it anyway.

  49. #49 Ian
    May 3, 2010

    @Emil

    Your analogy is flawed. It would be like giving out an economics prize for accumulation of wealth and philanthropy to a successful 419 scammer. Yes, he may have accumulated a shit-ton of wealth, but he left a bunch of people broke in his wake, which violates one of the tenets of the award.

  50. #50 Pierce R. Butler
    May 3, 2010

    This is all part of a cunning plan. While still maintaining his stridency credentials amongst the atheists, Dawkins is practicing just enough accommodationism that one day he may be allowed entry into Castle Mooneykirsh, and then… but I’ve said too much already.

    Has the furor over the great Dawkins.net-gate subsided already? After all the sound’n’fury back in February, the last couple of months have been suspiciously quiet…

  51. #51 chrstphrgthr
    May 3, 2010

    Similar remarks about Muslims can be found aplenty on any BNP/far right forum.
    Richard Dawkins, you should be ashamed of yourself. F***k you, you rascist.

    Do you really think Islam is a race? I know the majority of them belong to a somewhat close-knit group of different Semitic, Arabic, etc. peoples, but any person of any race can be a Muslim and any person of Middle Eastern descent can belong to any other religion or none.

    Personally, I think it is more racist to show deference to questionable cultural practices because of racial sensitivity.

    In most Islamic theocracies today, more so than other theocracies, but equally so to most of them in their hey-days (Islam being a tad younger than the other major world religions and the bad one we need to deal with now), shit is totally fucked up for women and basic human rights in general.

    The loudest dissent against the Islamic Fundamentalists should be coming from Islamic Moderates. We atheists should be drowned out by the chastisement from peaceful “mainstream” Muslims, toward their own bad apples. The same needs to happen in the West, in the case of moderate xians and their own fundamentalist scum, for one example.

    Prominent atheists are being honest about a horrible situation springing from the myriad social problems that accompany religious government, while the moderate NOMA-huggers bitch at them. The extremists are the ones giving you a bad name! Quit shooting the messenger!

    It isn’t racist to say that a religion has a human rights problem. It is racist, and dishonest, to overlook or dismiss valid criticism because it steps over some racial line. Racism is wrong because the differences between genetic “races” are about as shallow as you can get. We are all the same people and shouldn’t let race dictate culture any longer.

    Now you could argue that Dawkins is being culturally prejudiced in his statements, but that is a different argument altogether and I don’t think you’re standing on the right side of that one, either, sophia8.

  52. #52 Jud
    May 3, 2010

    zoe writes:

    Clearly Maher is wrong on this one issue, but attempts to silence him or complain about his award (for atheism awareness) by passionate pro-vaxers are disturbing.

    Not aware of anyone here who advocates “silencing” Maher. And as has been noted multiple times here, if the award really is solely for atheism awareness, simply amend the award criteria accordingly (currently they give a prominent place to raising scientific awareness) and there’s no argument.

  53. #53 Jake
    May 3, 2010

    I’m conflicted. Maher has done a whole hell of a lot for the global promotion of atheism, but Dawkins shouldn’t have ignored that science criteria. Either way, I have to point out an error:

    Maher’s stance on Islam, as well as his position on Iraq during the ’04-’07 era, contradict Orac’s assertion that Maher adopts views contrary to his enemies for the sake of it. I wouldn’t exactly characterize liberals (who make up a nice chunk of Maher’s audience) as Muslim-mocking warmongers.

    To be sure, Maher loves to be a contrarian, but after watching him for a few years it’s pretty obvious he actually believes most of what he says.

    Personally, I watch his show for the guests and the unfiltered comedy, which can be refreshing. It’s also quite fun to watch Maher backpedal when his interviewees go after his occasionally dumb arguments.

  54. #54 J Fox
    May 3, 2010

    ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ Complete and utter crap logic with no ethical or intellectual integrity required.

    And being disgusted at someone’s social and religious views is not a phobic response when those views espouse misogyny, violence, and hate.

  55. #55 Pablo
    May 3, 2010

    Not aware of anyone here who advocates “silencing” Maher.

    Didn’t you know, Jud? Not giving him an award is a silencing him.

    I suspect you’ve been silenced your whole life.

  56. #56 Ace of Sevens
    May 3, 2010

    You know who else has stuff to say about Muslims, but kooky views in other fields? Pat Robertson. Is this the standard we should be using?

  57. #57 sophia8
    May 3, 2010

    chrstphrgthr: Perhaps I was overstating it when I said that Dawkins is racist. I meant that he is casually racist in the same way that Average White British Thicko Down the Pub is casually racist, when AWBTDTP airs jokes about bogtrotters, kikes, nig-nogs, ragheads etc amongst his mates over a pint.
    RD was airing his casual racism amongst his mates on his forum and getting laughs for it. So maybe I shouldn’t complain; I’m sure he has a Muslim friend or two. (Actaully I hope so, and I hope they’re now telling him what a berk he is.)
    Why do you bring Islamic theocracy into it? Does the fact that certain African tribes practice female circumcision justify racism against Africans generally?
    And yes, Islam is not a race, so technically, RD cannot be racist. However his remark betrays a certain lack of analytical thought, surely?

  58. #58 Confused
    May 3, 2010

    Am I the only one who wonders if people are confusing “moderate muslim” with “liberal muslim”?

  59. #59 Sastra
    May 3, 2010

    Orac wrote:

    If the bit about “increasing scientific knowledge” hadn’t been in the award criteria, I would have had a whole lot less blogging material last fall and wouldn’t have said word one today.
    Richard, just admit the award is for atheism and has nothing to do with science or increasing scientific knowledge, and it’ll be a whole lot easier!

    Bill Maher was a poor choice for the award, because any award which is supposed to represent the general secular humanist approach of Richard Dawkins should not be used to honor anyone who is actively promoting pseudoscience. It was a mistake. Although given by the Atheist Alliance International, it’s not just an award for outspoken atheism.

    That said, it is true that, in the real world it is very likely that some of the criteria are going to be more obvious than others, and recipients are going to be a mixed bag. There will always be something to complain about, and compromises that will have to be made. But not a compromise of that sort, again. 2010’s winner should be more worthy.

    And I still disagree with Orac, when he says that giving Maher the award was similar “to giving Jenny McCarthy an award for public health.” Maher is not known primarily for his medical views. Unlike McCarthy, it’s not his major claim to fame. It was also clear, in the presentation of the award, that it was focused specifically on his outspoken criticism of religion. I suppose it would be more like giving Jenny McCarthy a health award for her work-out videos. A bad idea, but not intentionally bad.

    Or maybe not. Ah, well.

  60. #60 Mu
    May 3, 2010

    One questions to the defenders of the “or” in the awards criteria, can a Nobel price winning strong secularist, who just happens to personally believe in God, win the price, based on the 2 first criteria? You can definitely fulfill the first two without getting your personal believes involved.

  61. #61 Marc
    May 3, 2010

    @Sastra: I agree on your point about Jenny McCarthy–bad analogy. That said, Orac, I think you nailed it. Dawkins has always struck me as a man who (and I think I may actually be paraphrasing one of his sessions on SGTTU here as well) believes that if you can’t see it, touch it, smell it, do a scientific investigation about it, then it doesn’t exist, and that is what he banks his atheism on. I could be wrong on this interpretation, but he seems to feel that he arrived at atheism scientifically. To give an award, therefore, that honors someone who followed a different process, one that smacks of political opportunism in the first place even without considering the whacky pseudoscience he promotes, still seems strongly contrary to the spirit of the Dawkins award. It’s almost like Dawkins is a sculpter who spends hours and hours shaping clay into his vase taking delight that the little brat throwing clay around randomly is at least interested in the clay. Religulous seemed to me exactly this, a mud-slinging attempt to discredit the religious without replacing it with anything positive, and frankly I would have thought that beneath honoring by a Dawkins award. I can understand why he would appreciate the child-like glee Maher takes in sticking it to folks who, frequently are hypocrites of the first order, but to award it as if it were a major feather in the hat of the humanists seems wrong to me.

  62. #62 Iced Borscht
    May 3, 2010

    @Orac:

    Top stuff.

    I’m appreciative that you’re one of the few prominent skeptical voices to consistently call Maher on his bullshit.

    It absolutely matters how he arrives at his ideas. When Maher takes intellectual short-cuts (e.g. the enemy of the enemy is my Best Friend Forever), it’s indicative of laziness. It provides ample incentive to ignore him on any issue of import.

    Maher has long been a braying jackass, though, so the element of disappointment isn’t there for me when I hear his dillrod blatherings.

    Dawkins and Sam Harris have lost a lot of credibility by the association. Both of them clearly view Maher as an “important” “skeptical” voice, which speaks volumes. They’re both stained with Maher-Shit until they prove otherwise.

    I’d argue that Christopher Hitchens, who seems fairly friendly with Maher, is a different animal altogether. I think Hitchens is amused and entertained by the trite absurdity of Maher’s show and appreciative of whatever alcoholic/Hollywood starlet hijinks play out afterwards. I never get the impression that Hitchens gives a damn about Maher’s opinion on anything of substance.

  63. #63 JohnV
    May 3, 2010

    Honestly I don’t know how a germ theory denialist wins an award from anyone besides the society for preservation of anachronisms as a thanks for keeping the spirit of the 1850s alive and well.

  64. #64 Ian
    May 3, 2010

    @sophia8

    Ignoring for a moment the hypocritical racism of your comments about AWBTDTP, is there some comment that he made about Muslim people that I am not aware of? Saying that Islam is a morally and intellectually bankrupt philosophy is not the same as saying that people from the Muslim ethnic groups are inherently morally/intellectually bankrupt. What are these casually racist statements he’s purportedly made?

    Raising Islamic theocracy is entirely appropriate when criticizing Islam. Your analogy is completely meaningless – the FGM practitioners don’t do those things because they believe it is required of all African people. They’re not using a philosophy of African-ism to justify their atrocities. If they did, and the rest of the African community didn’t say “WTF are you talking about? These people do not speak for us” then you might have some kind of a point. But they don’t, and you don’t.

    To paraphrase Orac paraphrasing The Princess Bride: Racist – you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  65. #65 k. taylor
    May 3, 2010

    @Orac

    I certainly don’t disagree with you the least bit in principle on the matter. I just wanted to say that the feeling I got from R.D.’s post was that he DOES still have lingering doubts about his having presented Maher that award, and is still trying to justify it to himself. Yes, in some sense, he’s sold one rational pursuit (scientific medicine) down the river for sake of another (atheism), but keep in mind that the award was given out at AAI, not some special more general Reason, Science, or Dawkins-fest. Obviously I still have serious qualms with Maher having been the recipient, but it is at least more understandable in the AAI context, and I do think that Dawkins feels guilty about it.

    But as I said, I’m with you on this one. Sometimes we have to take our allies where we find them, but I still would’ve preferred to just speak positively about the film, and not specifically honor Bill Maher in general.

  66. #66 BlueMaxx
    May 3, 2010

    As a religious scholar, immunologist, bacteriologist, and preventive medicine expert, Mr Bill Maher makes a mediocre political comic. He used to be funny when he stuck to topical humor. He now presents as a vulgar, “F bombing” loudmouth… he is some sort of crude NOT FUNNY version of Cliff Claven combined with Andrew Dice Clay… all the stupidity and none of the comedy… running off at the mouth, spouting fiction and fabrication to defend wild assertions.

    He was on one of the group around the table network “news shows” this past Sunday… running his mouth like an expert on off shore oil drilling, marine cleanup technologies, and alternate energy sources. I was able to tolerate about 11 minutes before the gag reflex overruled me.

  67. #67 Ian
    May 3, 2010

    I will credit Maher and Religulous specifically for pushing me off the fence of lukewarm “well people’s personal beliefs are fine, whatever they are” and force me to acknowledge the fact that when people bring their personal beliefs to bear in shaping public policy, it becomes everyone’s business. It’s not okay to simply ignore people who disagree with you, because the policy-makers aren’t ignoring them.

    This would have been true regardless of Maher’s other, stupider beliefs. Ideas are good or bad regardless of who holds them.

  68. #68 James F
    May 3, 2010

    For what it’s worth, Maher bristles at being labeled a germ theory denialist:

    While we’re on the subject of bacteria, let me say clearly I understand germ theory also — I believe they also covered that in Microbe Hunters — nor have I ever said I was a “germ theory denier.” What I’ve been saying is that Western medicine ignores too much the fact that the terrain in which bacteria can thrive is crucial and often controllable, which shouldn’t even be controversial. I don’t care what Louis Pasteur said on his death bed — it was probably, “Either the curtains go or I do” — that’s not the point!

  69. #69 Militant Agnostic
    May 3, 2010

    What is the “Western Medicine” that Maher derides? Is it practiced by doctors who wear cowboy boots and big hats? Are horses involved?

  70. #70 Paul Murray
    May 3, 2010

    Maybe if it was brought a little closer to home, Dawkins would get it. What’s Mr Maher’s position on Stephen Hawking’s condition?

  71. #71 Douglas Watts
    May 3, 2010

    Orac, you really need to run for public elected office. Or engage in (and help pay for and strategize) a coalition-based lawsuit over a legal issue you feel strongly about. And then you will learn all about ephemeral strategic alliances. You are playing tic tac toe, Dawkins is playing chess.

  72. #72 squirrelelite
    May 3, 2010

    Douglas,

    An interesting analogy. I think my version would have Orac playing chess. The question is whether Dawkins is playing go or tic tac toe?

  73. #73 skeptical
    May 3, 2010

    RE Mahers comments in post #68: This actually proves the point: Not only does Maher not understand evidence based medicine, he doesn’t understand what denialism is. Note again Maher’s completely irrational belief that one can “control the terrain”, by which he means control all the facts about ones body and whether and when it gets exposed to the vast amount of microbial fauna in the microverse. This statement alone shows just how out of touch with science Maher actually is. He clearly doesn’t get it and I strongly suspect he views all matters of fact as simply questions of politics. I find Maher a usually above average comedian and generally agree with his takes on religion, but as Orac says ” He appears to have come to them (his “right” views) because they are contrary to his political enemies.” I wish instead of giving him awards or back slapping him people like Dawkins and Harris would take him aside and explain to him what science based medicine is and why facts are not just what your politics supports.

  74. #74 skeptical
    May 3, 2010

    RE Mahers comments in post #68: This actually proves the point: Not only does Maher not understand evidence based medicine, he doesn’t understand what denialism is. Note again Maher’s completely irrational belief that one can “control the terrain”, by which he means control all the facts about ones body and whether and when it gets exposed to the vast amount of microbial fauna in the microverse. This statement alone shows just how out of touch with science Maher actually is. He clearly doesn’t get it and I strongly suspect he views all matters of fact as simply questions of politics. I find Maher a usually above average comedian and generally agree with his takes on religion, but as Orac says ” He appears to have come to them (his “right” views) because they are contrary to his political enemies.” I wish instead of giving him awards or back slapping him people like Dawkins and Harris would take him aside and explain to him what science based medicine is and why facts are not just what your politics supports.

  75. #75 Necandum
    May 3, 2010

    Orac, you really need to run for public elected office. Or engage in (and help pay for and strategize) a coalition-based lawsuit over a legal issue you feel strongly about. And then you will learn all about ephemeral strategic alliances.

    And that, IMO, is why politics is so screwed up. No one is willing to stand by their beliefs or values. All that ‘honour’ stuff just gets chucked under the bus in favour of convenience.

    So Orac ain’t playing politics? Good on him.

  76. #76 catgirl
    May 3, 2010

    I find it ironic and hypocritical that Maher would criticize Muslims for subjugating women. Maher is certainly no feminists ally nor a champion of women’s rights. He shouldn’t get a medal and a cookie for being slightly less misogynist than religious groups. In fact, I know of many religious people who are less misogynist than he is. I’m a skeptic and a feminists and he doesn’t fit into either of those groups. He’s certainly not progressive and he’s only “liberal” because he hates conservatives.

  77. #77 Calli Arcale
    May 3, 2010

    chrstphrgthr @ 51:
    The loudest dissent against the Islamic Fundamentalists should be coming from Islamic Moderates. We atheists should be drowned out by the chastisement from peaceful “mainstream” Muslims, toward their own bad apples. The same needs to happen in the West, in the case of moderate xians and their own fundamentalist scum, for one example.

    Yes, and when they do, they get fundies shooting at them and people like Dawkins insulting them with things like “I am proud to have presented the award to Bill Maher. I especially like the sting in the tail where he makes as if to say something concilatory about decent, moderate Muslims: They only want to be left to subjugate their women in peace (or words to that effect).” They can’t win. Fundamentalist Muslims hate them for being moderate; non-Muslims hate them because they think they’re fundamentalist Muslims.

    And we moderate Christians get the same, even though we ARE protesting against fundamentalism. Atheists, in my experience, tend not to notice, because most of them write us off the moment they hear we believe in a deity and — perhaps worse, at least in the minds of folks like Maher — a popular one.

    I know you mean to be giving moderates encouragement, but it comes across as chastising people for being silent, which is very discouraging when read by a moderate religious person who has *not* been silent. This is because it says that even though we’ve been talking, we’re not getting heard. And that’s downright depressing.

    By the way, there’s a much simpler reason why we don’t seem loud. Partly it’s because the fundies are louder, but mostly it’s because we’re not the sort to get involved in a holy war. We’re *moderate*. Think about that for a moment.

    And to anyone who wants to say a non-extremist Muslim is ignoring tenets of their faith (the “stupid parts”), button it. This is not at all a good way to encourage moderates to have any sympathy whatsoever for the skeptical position.

  78. #78 skeptifem
    May 4, 2010

    Maher is totally sexist. That is reason enough to be ashamed of giving him a skeptics award. Is woman hatred ‘rational’? Or is it only ok if you denounce the way those brown folks over yonder are doing it?

    I blogged about this a long time ago.

    http://skeptifem.blogspot.com/2009/11/bill-maher-and-white-dude-privilege-of.html

  79. #79 Mark P
    May 4, 2010

    To claim that a successful atheist like Maher does not deserve an atheist reward because he anti scientific kook when it comes to medicine is like claiming that a brilliant economist should not receive an award in economy, just because he is a crazy creationist.

    I can run with that. We need to measure influence on atheism and ignore all other criteria.

    So let’s try and persuade the AAI to give next year’s prize to President Hu Jintao of China.

    Trying to keep over a billion people atheist! Awesome! Who could deserve it more? Seriously, who could possibly top that in terms of influence? And he’s pro-science to boot! President Hu is a dead cert.

    That’ll sort out if the AAI are actually in the business of awarding to their criteria.

    Except, of course, other criteria will probably come into play when the choice is politically unacceptable.

  80. #80 Caravelle
    May 4, 2010

    Ian : Ignoring for a moment the hypocritical racism of your comments about AWBTDTP, is there some comment that he made about Muslim people that I am not aware of? Saying that Islam is a morally and intellectually bankrupt philosophy is not the same as saying that people from the Muslim ethnic groups are inherently morally/intellectually bankrupt. What are these casually racist statements he’s purportedly made?

    I don’t know, this maybe ? : “I especially like the sting in the tail where he makes as if to say something concilatory about decent, moderate Muslims: They only want to be left to subjugate their women in peace (or words to that effect). ”

    “moderate Muslims“; “They”. How you can construe this as not referring to Muslim people I can’t imagine.

    And let off with the “racist” thing already; I personally agree with sophia’s use of it, but even if you don’t quibbling over the term is a harmful smokescreen. Do you think that Dawkins’ statement is innocuous and doesn’t reflect or contribute to harmful prejudices against groups of people ? Then defend that position, don’t pretend you’re arguing over semantics.

    catgirl : I find it ironic and hypocritical that Maher would criticize Muslims for subjugating women. Maher is certainly no feminists ally nor a champion of women’s rights. He shouldn’t get a medal and a cookie for being slightly less misogynist than religious groups. In fact, I know of many religious people who are less misogynist than he is. I’m a skeptic and a feminists and he doesn’t fit into either of those groups. He’s certainly not progressive and he’s only “liberal” because he hates conservatives.

    QFT. When reading the thread I was so wrapped up thinking of different kinds of bigotry and how they mesh so that an apparent abuse of language can be justified (like talking of anti-Muslim racism, or Iranians being victims of anti-Arabic prejudice, or Obama being black even though his ancestors on his father’s side weren’t slaves in the US)… I totally didn’t see that little bit of incongruity.

  81. #81 The Chemist
    May 4, 2010

    @Caravelle

    Really, you’re going to bother? I gave up when I was basically asked to be this guy’s gopher and scroll up to the main post for a copy-paste job. Admirable, but I’ve learned that people who can’t see things dangled in front of their noses are a waste of time. I know it’s a theist cliche by now, but I really do think some people worship Dawkins (not literally*) Whether that says anything at all about the Atheist “movement” I leave as an exercise to idler minds and looser tongues and people who actually give a damn. But, while his writing on science is pretty good (I’ve only read the Selfish Gene) he’s largely a polemic when it comes to Atheist “thought”**. Being a polemic isn’t necessarily bad (see: Orac) but being enamored with one almost always is, with appallingly few exceptions.

    *Fucking duh!

    **Atheism is a pretty simple concept. The scare-quotes are not so much sarcasm as they are to indicate that there’s no real ground being broken except in invocations for others to join, new analogies, arguments, and other forms of sophistry. Philosophically though, we’ve used all the parts of this particular buffalo.

  82. #82 Gopi
    May 4, 2010

    Here’s a quote from Maher:

    “I’m not an atheist. There’s a really big difference between an atheist and someone who just doesn’t believe in religion. Religion to me is a bureaucracy between man and God that I don’t need. But I’m not an atheist, no. I believe there’s some force. If you want to call it God… I don’t believe God is a single parent who writes books.”

    Has he since changed his mind?

  83. #83 johannes
    May 4, 2010

    Calli Arcale @ 77

    Re: “They can’t win. Fundamentalist Muslims hate them for being moderate; non-Muslims hate them because they think they’re fundamentalist Muslims.”

    I dunno, can’t they win by standing up and vigorously fighting the crazies. If they’re actually in the majority, they should have a decent chance of winning. And hey, if atheists are taking risks calling out religious extremism, it’s understandable they may be a little miffed if moderate religious folks are hesitant to get involved.

    “By the way, there’s a much simpler reason why we don’t seem loud. Partly it’s because the fundies are louder, but mostly it’s because we’re not the sort to get involved in a holy war. We’re *moderate*. Think about that for a moment.”

    Well, this may be why moderates sometimes reflexively get tarred with the same brush as extremists. Crazy people have hijacked your religion and using it to claim moral authority to persecute others and perpetuate all kinds of bigotry and harmful nonsense. If moderate religious folks don’t stand up, get organized, and call these people out, then they’re kind of complicit. Self-identifying with the religion of the crazies lends them credibility.

    And I know many moderate Christians do speak out. But the fact is, political discourse in the United States is dominated by the extremists. If they’re the minority, where are the large, well-funded religious organizations taking them on? Where are the moderate equivalents to Focus on the Family, 700 Club, Jerry Falwell, and Bill Donahue, pressing for these issues?

    Dan Savage, as per usual takes on this issue with his usual eloquence. Skip to about 38:50 for the discussion on tolerance and religious moderation. http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/podcasts.thestranger.com/files/savagelove/savagelove-041310.mp3 (NSFW language).

    It’s unfortunate that your experience with atheists hasn’t been more productive. There are a lot of great religious moderates out there that do get involved (I’m related to a lot of them). And I like Americans United which includes religious members and is a good example of how atheists and religious folks can team up to push for secular values. But, as you write, the reason why moderate religious people get drowned out is “mostly” because they don’t want to get involved. Well if they can’t be bothered to stop extremists from speaking for them, it can be hard for other people to guess who is who.

  84. #84 speedweasel
    May 5, 2010

    I think I’ll just recycle something here that I posted at Pharyngula in September last year.

    For me, atheism is simply the logical extension of more important endeavours such as rationality, critical thinking, science and skepticism and I’d think very carefully before supporting tactics that undermine these tenets in pursuit of an atheist ‘win’.

  85. #85 duckie
    May 5, 2010

    Have to say that atheists appear to be as dogmatic as religious followers. It’s hard to argue that an award that “advocates increased scientific knowledge” should go to someone like Maher. It’s admirable that you try.

    Still, as admirable as your skepticism about religion is, please try turning it to some of your apparent sacred cows like Dawkins.

  86. #86 Todd W.
    May 5, 2010

    @duckie

    Did you read Orac’s article? Go back and read it, rather than just the title.

  87. #87 Pablo
    May 5, 2010

    So after reading the post, the question is whether duckie will conclude that atheists _arent_ as dogmatic as theists?

  88. #88 mk
    May 5, 2010

    @ duckie…

    NOOOOO!!! Don’t listen to them! Don’t read the entire post!

    [conspiratorial whisper]*It will blow your mind!*

  89. #89 Calli Arcale
    May 6, 2010

    johannes (re moderate Muslims):

    I dunno, can’t they win by standing up and vigorously fighting the crazies. If they’re actually in the majority, they should have a decent chance of winning. And hey, if atheists are taking risks calling out religious extremism, it’s understandable they may be a little miffed if moderate religious folks are hesitant to get involved.

    I don’t know where you live, but unless you live in Saudi Arabia, I don’t think you are taking the same risks as, say, a moderate Saudi Muslim. The challenge with Islam is that the strongest centers of its religious thought are theocracies. The moderates do fine here in the US (for instance). Somali refugees here in Minnesota are finding a renaissance; their practice has historically been moderate, and here they are free to let that flourish. (It’s not so back home, where the political power vacuum has allowed the extremists much more room to maneuver. Al Quaeda, for instance, is well aware of the situation and is exploiting it to the hilt, even recruiting American Somali children with tactics disturbingly similar to those used by sex slavers.) They are being called out, here at least. The media doesn’t give them much time; it’s difficult for immigrant populations to get a voice.

    If you are a moderate Muslim living in Turkey, you will most likely get a voice. You might get death threats as well, but you’re relatively safe there. If you are a moderate Muslim living in Saudi Arabia, you have to be very careful what you say, or the death threats will actually come from your own government. That’s what I mean about moderate Muslims being unable to win. Oh, the ones here in America or Canada or the UK or wherever may be able to get a voice, but they are minorities here. The vast majority of Muslims live in countries where they face very real threats if they speak out against the crazies, because the crazies happen to wield real power.

    Oh, and it’s nothing like religious fundamentalism in the US. There is a perception that religious fundamentalists are in charge of this country, but really, their control amounts to very loud, very obnoxious political lobbies. They are playing the political game. They are not actually in charge, and the great thing about that means they can be defeated by peaceful means.

    The same is not likely true in the real theocracies. There, the path to religious freedom probably will be painted with blood.

    Self-identifying with the religion of the crazies lends them credibility.

    So, if a crazy hijacks my religion, I have to cede it to them in order to avoid giving them credibility? I have to let them *win*? Are you serious?

    No. I am a Christian. That a minority of Christians are crazy doesn’t change that. And a Muslim should not be ashamed of being Muslim just because Osama Bin Laden and others are complete asses. What they should be is *angry*. Don’t give up your identity in protest of crazies grabbing the same identity. And I don’t think it’s right to deny even the crazies the right to call themselves Christian or Muslim or whatever. The fact is, we’re all *human*, and that’s part of the point of both of these faiths. We all have flaws; it is not my place to say who is not a Christian. Maybe Muslims can declare other people non-Muslim, but I don’t think my religion allows me to make that judgment of others.

    It’s pointless, anyway. Making it a war is exactly what the crazies want. I don’t want a war over religion. I want us all to grow beyond that.

    If they’re the minority, where are the large, well-funded religious organizations taking them on? Where are the moderate equivalents to Focus on the Family, 700 Club, Jerry Falwell, and Bill Donahue, pressing for these issues?

    You missed my point. Moderates feel this sort of bickering is unChristian, so why would we stoop to their level? We don’t take them on like a battlefield. Instead, we minister to our fellows. Lead by example, not by bludgeoning. They’re going about it all wrong; we’re not going to demonstrate that by doing exactly the same thing.

    Many Christian faiths are moderate, and are actively working against this sort of hatred. You don’t see it because they’re not doing it in the form of a war, and because they’re not preaching directly to you. They’re preaching to other Christians. You’d hear it if you were sitting where I am. The Pat Robertsons of the world preach hate, intolerance, and division. We preach “come to the table, all who are able” and “come as you are”. Probably the most overt example is the Unitarians. That’s a large, well-funded, organized movement, so it should fit what you’re looking for. Have you seen their TV ads? They’ve angered a lot of those hateful people by coming right out and saying that they welcome gays.

    My late grandfather was a Unitarian. I’m not; I’m a Lutheran. Some Lutherans are fundamentalists. They tend to hate my bunch, which is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. We’ve recently voted to let congregations decide for themselves how they feel about gay clergy; a few congregations were so passionately offended by this that they decided to splinter off, which was very sad. But others joined. Hate divides; love joins. I have faith ;-) that this sort of thing will beget more love, and the movement will grow. Not through shouting down the others, but through loving them and showing that our differences are not really all that important.

    It’s unfortunate that your experience with atheists hasn’t been more productive.

    I dunno; to some extent it’s to be expected. A great many atheists have very good reasons to hate religion, and so meeting a religious person stirs up some bad memories and/or associations. It doesn’t really bother me too much, except that it sometimes disappoints me as a skeptic. Skeptics should strive to always consider an argument on its merits.

    And luckily, atheists who are also skeptics tend to be good about that. (Maher is not one of them, and I’m beginning to think Dawkins may have a blind spot in his skepticism when it comes to religion.) I think that contrary to popular thought, a lot of atheists are not skeptics, though. Skepticism is a difficult thing; it goes against human nature. That’s why I try to evangelize skepticism. I think it’s another one of those things that can grow through love, and *will*, if we all push it.

    But, as you write, the reason why moderate religious people get drowned out is “mostly” because they don’t want to get involved. Well if they can’t be bothered to stop extremists from speaking for them, it can be hard for other people to guess who is who.

    It’s not that they don’t want to get involved. It’s that they aren’t getting involved in the ways that you’re expecting. I don’t believe my religion has any bearing on my political views; why, then, would I run for office or form a lobbying group as a religious moderate? I wouldn’t.

  90. #90 duckie
    May 7, 2010

    @Todd W.

    My comment was directed to the atheists trying to defend Dawkins’s support of Maher winning an award connected to “increased scientific knowledge.” (If it was just about atheism, no one would care about him receiving it or not.) I wonder, though, if some people have the believe that increased atheism would lead automaticallly to greater “scienfitic knowledge” among people. As Orac shows in this post with Maher that with disbelief doesn’t come knowledge.

  91. #91 John
    May 10, 2010

    @duckie

    No, disbelief doesn’t automatically lead to increased scientific knowledge, I think that’s obvious. The problem is that religion often throws up a roadblock to free thought. They have all their views and beliefs packaged in a nice book for them, with no need to put any effort into working out problems for themselves.

    Yes, there are some religious people that don’t literally believe the Bible/Koran/etc. is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. On the opposite side, there are people like Bill Maher who have failed to exercise their mind in spite of being an atheist.

    As a general rule however, you can depend on the religious being dogmatic zealots, and atheists being more open-minded and skeptical.

    Increasing scientific knowledge and curiousity —> atheism

    Intellectual laziness —–> religion

  92. #92 Samora
    November 2, 2010

    Is Belief in God Reasonable?

    Related topics:
    HAVE you wondered why everything from atomic particles to vast galaxies is governed by precise mathematical laws? Have you reflected on life itself—its variety, its complexity, and its amazing design? Many attribute the universe and the life in it to a great cosmic accident and evolution. Others give credit to an intelligent Creator. Which viewpoint do you feel is more reasonable?
    Of course, both viewpoints involve faith. Belief in God rests on faith. As the Bible says, “no man has seen God at any time.” (John 1:18) Likewise, no human saw the forming of the universe or the commencement of life. Nor has anyone ever seen one kind of life evolve into a higher kind or even into a different kind. The fossil record shows that the major groups of animals appeared suddenly and have remained virtually unchanged.* The key question, therefore, is this: Which faith sits on a firm foundation—faith in evolution or faith in a Creator?
    Is Your Faith Based on Solid Evidence?
    Genuine “faith,” says the Bible, is “the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” (Hebrews 11:1) The New English Bible renders the verse this way: “Faith . . . makes us certain of realities we do not see.” No doubt you can think of a number of unseen realities in which you firmly believe.
    To illustrate: Many respected historians believe that Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Jesus Christ once lived. Is the faith of these historians sound? Yes, for they can point to authentic historical evidence.
    Scientists too believe in unseen realities because of the “evident demonstration” that those realities exist. For example, the 19th-century Russian chemist Dmitry Mendeleyev became entranced with the relationship between the elements, the basic building blocks of the universe. He realized that they had certain things in common and could be grouped by both atomic weight and chemical properties. Because of his faith in the order of the groups, he drafted the periodic table of the elements and correctly predicted the existence of a number of elements unknown at the time.
    If ancient structural design is attributed to humans, to whom do we attribute design in nature?

    Archaeologists draw conclusions about earlier civilizations, often from items that have lain buried for thousands of years. Imagine, for example, that an archaeologist has unearthed dozens of carefully cut stone blocks of precisely the same size neatly aligned on top of one another. They are also set out in a distinct geometric pattern that does not occur naturally. What would the archaeologist conclude? Would he attribute his find to coincidence? Most likely not. Rather, he would interpret it as evidence of past human activities, and that would be a reasonable conclusion.
    To be consistent, should we not apply the same reasoning to the design manifest in the natural world? Many people have taken that view, including respected scientists.
    Blind Chance or Purposeful Design?
    Years ago, British mathematician, physicist, and astronomer Sir James Jeans wrote that in the light of advancing scientific knowledge, “the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine.” He also stated that “the universe appears to have been designed by a pure mathematician” and that it provides “evidence of a designing or controlling power that has something in common with our own individual minds.”

    Albert Einstein
    Other scientists have arrived at a similar conclusion since Jeans penned those words. “The overall organization of the universe has suggested to many a modern astronomer an element of design,” wrote physicist Paul Davies. One of the most famous physicists and mathematicians of all time, Albert Einstein, wrote: “The fact that [the natural world] is comprehensible is a miracle.” In the eyes of many, that miracle includes life itself, from its fundamental building blocks to the amazing human brain.
    DNA and the Human Brain
    DNA is the genetic material of all cellular organisms and the molecular basis for heredity.# This complex acid has been compared to a blueprint or a recipe, for DNA is packed with information, which is encoded in chemical form and stored in a molecular environment that is capable of interpreting that code and acting on it. How much information is stored in DNA? If the basic units, called nucleotides, were converted into letters of the alphabet, they would “occupy more than a million pages of a typical book,” says one reference.
    In most organisms, DNA is bundled up into threadlike bodies called chromosomes, which are safely stored inside each cell’s nucleus. The nuclei, in turn, have an average diameter of about 0.0002 of an inch. Think about that—all the information that produced your unique body is found in tiny packages that have to be observed under a microscope! As one scientist rightly said, living organisms have “by far the most compact information storage/retrieval system known.” That’s saying something when you reflect on the memory capacity of computer chips, DVDs, and the like! What is more, DNA has by no means revealed all its secrets. “Every discovery reveals a new complexity,” says New Scientist magazine.%
    Is it reasonable to attribute such perfection of design and organization to blind chance? If you were to stumble across a highly technical manual a million pages thick and written in an efficient, elegant code, would you conclude that the book somehow wrote itself? What if that book were so small that you needed a powerful microscope to read it? And what if it contained precise instructions for the manufacture of a self-repairing, self-replicating intelligent machine with billions of parts, all of which had to be fitted together at precisely the right time and in the right way? To be sure, the notion that such a book just happened would not even enter one’s mind.
    After examining current research on the inner workings of the cell, British philosopher Antony Flew, once a leading champion of atheism, stated: “The almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), [show] that intelligence must have been involved.” Flew believes in “following the argument no matter where it leads.” In his case it led to a complete change in thinking, so that he now believes in God.
    DNA is like a microscopic book that contains precise instructions for intelligent life

    The human brain has been described as “the most complicated object in the universe”
    The human brain too leaves many scientists in awe. A product of DNA, the brain has been described as “the most complicated object in the universe.” Even the most advanced supercomputer looks positively primitive next to this approximately three-pound pinkish-gray mass of neurons and other structures. In the opinion of one neuroscientist, the more that scientists learn about the brain and the mind, “the more magnificent and unknowable it becomes.”
    Consider: The brain enables us to breathe, laugh, cry, solve puzzles, build computers, ride a bicycle, write poetry, and look up at the night sky with a sense of reverential awe. Is it reasonable—indeed, consistent—to attribute these abilities and capacities to blind evolutionary forces?
    Belief Based on Evidence
    In order to understand ourselves, should we look down, as it were, to apes and other animals, as evolutionists do? Or should we look up to God for answers? Granted, we have certain things in common with animals. We have to eat, drink, and sleep, for example, and we are able to reproduce. Still, we are unique in many ways. Reason suggests that our distinct human traits stem from a Being higher than ourselves—that is, from God. The Bible put that thought succinctly, stating that God formed mankind “in his image” morally and spiritually speaking. (Genesis 1:27) Why not contemplate God’s qualities, some of which are recorded at Deuteronomy 32:4; James 3:17, 18; and 1 John 4:7, 8.
    SHOULD RELIGIOUS EVILS JUSTIFY DISBELIEF IN GOD?
    Many people do not believe in a Creator because of the well-known abuses and corruptions that blacken the history of many religions. Is that a sound reason for disbelief? No. “The excesses and atrocities of organized religion,” says Roy Abraham Varghese in his preface to Antony Flew’s book There Is a God, “have no bearing whatsoever on the existence of God, just as the threat of nuclear proliferation has no bearing on the question of whether E=mc2.”*
    ________________________________________
    * Energy equals mass multiplied by the square of the speed of light.
    Our Creator has given us the “intellectual capacity” to investigate the world around us and to find satisfying answers to our questions. (1 John 5:20) In this regard, physicist and Nobel laureate William D. Phillips wrote: “When I examine the orderliness, understandability, and beauty of the universe, I am led to the conclusion that a higher intelligence designed what I see. My scientific appreciation of the coherence, and the delightful simplicity of physics strengthens my belief in God.”
    Some two thousand years ago, a discerning observer of the natural world wrote: “[God’s] invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.” (Romans 1:20) The writer—the Christian apostle Paul—was an intelligent man and highly educated in the Mosaic Law. His reason-based faith made God a reality to him, while his acute sense of justice moved him to give due credit to God for his creative works.
    It is our sincere hope that you too will see that it is not at all unreasonable to believe in God. In fact, like Paul, may you do more than simply believe that He exists. May you also grow to appreciate—as millions already have—that Jehovah God is a spirit person with endearing qualities that resonate in the human heart and draw us to him.—Psalm 83:18; John 6:44; James 4:8.

  93. #93 Pablo
    November 2, 2010

    HAVE you wondered why everything from atomic particles to vast galaxies is governed by precise mathematical laws?

    As opposed to what?

  94. #94 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 2, 2010

    @Samora,

    You seem to present the argument that it is so mind bogglingly difficult to see how something as complex as the universe, DNA, and people can exist that God must have made everything.

    You should consider reading “The Blind Watchmaker”, which discusses this very argument as it applies to biological evolution and shows why God is unnecessary to this process. You might also refer to some of Stephen Hawking’s recent writings that suggest how the universe could have come to be in its current form with no God required.

    Note that this is not an attempt to argue either in favor of or against the non-existence of God. However, an argument from incredulity (I and some number of authorities can’t believe it could have happened that way, therefore it must not have) is a very weak argument.

  95. #95 Chris
    November 2, 2010

    Beware the Necromancer!

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