Monday, February 04, 2008

The Four Horsemen

"Today, we pour over the correspondence between Adams and Jefferson (and many others), and I'm fairly sure that, at the time, neither party expected that their musings would be studied and scrutinized for centuries to come.

Will historians, polemicists, and interested Regular Joes many decades or centuries in the future replay these videos for a peek into one small facet of life in the early 21st century? I certainly hope so."

So said one commentator after these memorable videos were published last December. Well, Episode 1 is now available in transcript and we can begin to do just that.

Here is a short thread from the discussions:-

"There are two issues that converge here. One is the question what do we want to accomplish? What do we reasonably think we can accomplish? And then this article of faith that I think circulates, unfortunately, among people of our viewpoint that you can’t argue anyone out of their beliefs. It’s a completely fatuous exercise, or can we actually win a war of ideas with people and, I think, certainly judging from my e-mail, we can. I mean, I’m constantly getting e-mail from people who have lost their faith and in effect been argued out of it. And the straw that broke that camel’s back was either one of our books or some other process of reasoning, or incompatibility of what they knew to be true and what they were told by their faith that I think we have to just highlight the fact that it’s possible for people to be shown the contradictions, internal to their faith or the contradiction between their faith and what we’ve come to know to be true about the universe, and the process can take minutes or months or years but they have to renounce their superstition in the face of what they now know to be true."

"I think it may be easier than we’re supposing to shake peoples’ faith. There’s been a moratorium on this for a long time. We’re just the beginning of a new wave of explicit attempts to shake peoples’ faith. And it’s bearing fruit, and the obstacles it seems to me are not that we don’t have the facts or the arguments, it’s these strategic reasons for not professing it, not admitting it. Not admitting it to yourself, not admitting it in public because your family is going to view it as a betrayal, you’re just embarrassed to admit that you were taken in by this for so long. It takes, I think, tremendous courage to just declare that you’ve given that all up and if we can find ways to help people find that courage, and give them some examples of people who have done this and they’re doing just fine, they may have lost the affections of a parent or something like that, they may have hurt some family members, but still I think it’s a good thing to encourage and I don’t think we should assume that we can’t do this. I think we can."

"Right. I think this whole notion of … I think our criticism actually more barbed than that, in the sense that we’re not … we are offending people, but we are also telling them that they’re wrong to be offended. I mean, physicists aren’t offended when their view of physics is disproved or challenged. I mean, this is just not the way rational minds operate when they’re really trying to get at what’s true in the world. And religions purport to be representing reality. And yet there’s this peevish, tribal, and ultimately dangerous, reflexive response to having these ideas challenged. I think we’re pointing to the total liability of that fact."

"Well, and too, there’s no polite way to say to somebody do you realise you’ve wasted your life? Do you realise that you’ve just devoted all your efforts and all your goods to the glorification of something which is just a myth? Or have you ever considered – even if you say have you even considered the possibility that maybe you’ve wasted your life on this? There’s no inoffensive way of saying that. But we do have to say it, because they should jolly well consider it. Same as we do about our own lives."

This is the same phenomenon as Sue Blackmore described in "Religion - a Dangerous Delusion":-

"A really clever trick - and I'm not sure how the great religions have managed to pull this one off - is to make the rest of us feel that we ought to respect people for believing impossible things on faith, and that we should not laugh at them for fear of offending them. In a society that strives for honesty and openness, that values scientific and historical truth, and that encourages the search for knowledge, this is outrageous - and it's scary that we still fall for it."

1 comment:

  1. thanks Richard for the transcript. I've added a few labels: Four Horsemen, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Sue Blackmore, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens,