Monday, May 02, 2005

Richard Dawkins rocks

This interview of Richard Dawkins is an absolute gem. Salon will let you read it for free if you are willing to see three screenfuls of a stupid ad. Trust me, the interview is worth more than three screenfuls of junk!

Dawkins says, "A delusion is something that people believe in despite a total lack of evidence. Religion is scarcely distinguishable from childhood delusions like the 'imaginary friend' and the bogeyman under the bed. [...] The word "delusion" also carries negative connotations, and religion has plenty of those". When asked what those negative connotations were, he replied :

A delusion that encourages belief where there is no evidence is asking for trouble. Disagreements between incompatible beliefs cannot be settled by reasoned argument because reasoned argument is drummed out of those trained in religion from the cradle. Instead, disagreements are settled by other means which, in extreme cases, inevitably become violent. Scientists disagree among themselves but they never fight over their disagreements. They argue about evidence or go out and seek new evidence. Much the same is true of philosophers, historians and literary critics.

But you don't do that if you just know your holy book is the God-written truth and the other guy knows that his incompatible scripture is too. People brought up to believe in faith and private revelation cannot be persuaded by evidence to change their minds. No wonder religious zealots throughout history have resorted to torture and execution, to crusades and jihads, to holy wars and purges and pogroms, to the Inquisition and the burning of witches.

What does he say about doing science?

[T]he scientific worldview is a poetic worldview, it is almost a transcendental worldview. We are amazingly privileged to be born at all and to be granted a few decades -- before we die forever -- in which we can understand, appreciate and enjoy the universe.

Also read the discussion at the end of P.Z. Myers' post about the Salon interview.