Thursday, 8 April 2010

Socratic Soc. lecture on Richard Dawkins, Pt. 1

I went to the lecture at the UAF on Richard Dawkin's book, The God Delusion. I took pretty extensive notes, but note sadly the lecture was actually rather weak. The Q and A was actually pretty laid back for as sceptical as some were.  Here's my notes of what he said. They might or might not make sense.


Eduardo Wilner.
Philosophers dress like hobos. :)
Quotes Douglas Adams "People Will Be Offended."
Offensiveness comes from the Gut, not from reason.
Comment about Theology - Don't really need to address here.
Roadmap:
  1. Arguments for God
  2. Religion as a Phenomenon
  3. Religion, Morality and Meaning.
"And then the Flying spaghetti monster ate Jesus."

The question shouldn't be "Do Science and Religion Clash" Obviously, they do. Question is, fundamentally should they?

Why don't we see icons of Darwin everywhere, but we do see Jesus on walls?

Scientific Thinking:
  1. Find a phenomena
  2. Come up with a model. Come up with a "experience feedback method."
  3. Deduce a prediction
  4. Make observation for the prediction.
    Religious Thinking:
    • Faith (of a supernatural nature) assenting to the divine truth through divine will
    • Dogma - Divine revelation and some church authoritative teaching. 
    NOMA: Non-Overlapping Mageseria
    Gould says: Methedology should match subject matter.
    Eduadro says not true. Apply both science and religion to origions, one gets "Eve", the other gets "Lucey." WEAK ARGUMENT
    They have very overlapping magesterium .

    Watch Vs. Rock - Find a watch, it must have a watchmaker.
         "Where is the damn watchmaker?"
         However, there is a hierarchy of the improbable.
    Trying to invoke designing agent for life, universe, watches, invokes an infinite regression. Who designed the designer, etc. Designer is far more improbable than just the watch, without a naturalistic method for getting to the designer.

    UAF: Harvard of the North. Everyone raises their hand saying they understand Natural Selection.


    Religion as a phenomenon
    Replicators don't need to be biological entities - can be thoughts/ideas.

    Currently 2850 gods recorded.
    Estimated 6 new gods per day in the world (!)
    Religion formation is a regularly occurring phenomenon.

    Religion as a byproduct of other brain traits
    • Willingness to believe parents as a child.
    • Vulnrable to viral ideas.
    • Hyperactive Agent Detecting (We think the laptop/car/weather has a motive).
    Gives humans preadapted niche for Religious memes.
          "Memes are creatures of the mind, but not our Creatures"

    Religion and morality
    Is there a objective moral truth without the divine?
    "a) But is moral X right because god says so, or b) does god say so because it is right?"
         a) Arbitrary choice by a deity, so not objective.
         b) Objective morality even without deity.
    God does not help philosophers prove there is an objective morality.

    We cherrypick our morals
       "Sodom - Worse than New York!"
        "The X-Rated parts are left to mysterious ways."
        Use 10 Commandments (most of them) and ignore the bits about stoning and thread use and ritually murdering your kids.

    Religion and Child Abuse?
        Can children be religious?
        Would we talk about "A Marxist kid?"

    Indoctrination is NOT abuse.
        But training kids to ignore facts.
        A "Marxist Kid" can apply reason and reject Marxism as an adult.
        Religious Kid cannot, because Religion generally rejects objective reasoning.

    Science and Meaning? "Think of us who die as lucky ... to have existed!"


    Q&A:
    Dave Klein strikes again: Separating people making up gods from people's religion. Different phenomena. Not necessarily linked.
    Professor sounding guy: "I'm a little disturbed by your certainty." If you're wrong yesterday, who's to say you won't be wrong tomorrow?


    I didn't take good notes in the Q&A section, and didn't write down his responses. On the whole, it was definitely worth a good think, even if I don't agree with many of the conclusions. I'm glad we can talk about this topic without people getting heated and nasty.
    Does Gould's NOMA extend to philosophy? Philosophy tends to deal with un-knowables... e.g., this could all be a very vivid dream, and we can't prove it's not with science. I'm amazed by how Dave Klein can ask such pointed questions, even when it looks like he's not paying attention. We are lucky to still have him around. And finally, there was a very good crowd there. I wonder how many people show up to the next talk on Richard Dawkins' biology books. Those I'm infinitely more familiar with - The Selfish Gene is a must read for all graduate students.

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