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Richard Dawkins Annoys Me!

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I'm a huge fan of Richard Dawkins. He is by far the most well written scientist I have had the pleasure to read. He is ruthlessly rational but in some respects he annoys the heck out of me. His most recent book, "The Ancestor's Tale" includes a lot of Bush/USA bashing and he routinely praises socialistic/altrustic government policy, while admitting that biologically it leads to disaster. This is what annoys me about him.

Objectivist Ethics is not the same as Darwinism, but there is a harmony between them. Mainly because Objectivist Ethics begins by recognizing the biological fact that life is conditional, and then proceeds to explore the special way man survives (his mind), and that man differs from other organisms because he creates wealth rather than expropriating it from other sources.

I just wish Richard Dawkins could see this, then he would be the perfect! :-)

Any other Richard Dawkins fans out there?

He is definately motivated by a hatred of creationism and views the USA as the main source of these ideas, and he is sadly correct (both in his hated and his identification of the USA as the main source), but I think he is guilty of bashing all republicans for the errors of the religious right.

I unfortunately, live in the center of creationism (Texas). I went to Dinosaur Valley Texas State Park last week, where you can view actual dinosaur tracks that are 100 million years old. Well, I loved it , but some religious nut has created a giant museum next to the park called the "Creation Evidence Museum". I laughed my head off, then was angry, then sad. It amazed me how threatened Christians are of the *Fact* of Evolution.

Not to defend religion, but if Christianity survived Galilio why can in not survive Darwin?

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Any other Richard Dawkins fans out there?

He is definately motivated by a hatred of creationism [...]

What do you mean by "hatred"? What is your evidence that hatred motivates Richard Dawkins?

Not to defend religion, but if Christianity survived Galilio why can in not survive Darwin?

Why do you think Christianity -- as an essentialized whole -- isn't surviving beyond Darwin?

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What do you mean by "hatred"? What is your evidence that hatred motivates Richard Dawkins?

Why do you think Christianity -- as an essentialized whole -- isn't surviving beyond Darwin?

In all of Richard Dawkins' books he include volumous attacks on creationism. I rarely encounter an astronomer who spends a lot of time countering flat-earthers or man-on-moon-was-a-hoaxers. Dawkins clearly recognizes creationism as a bad thing and deserving of counter arguments to difuse. Hatred of Creationism may not be the reason he wakes up in the morning, but it motivates him enough to devote a lot of his thought. You cannot love something (Darwinism) and not hate the exact opposite too (creationism). I was theorizing that his political views, especially when it comes to Bush/Republicanism was being colored by and irational generalization about the political landscape of the US. I could be wrong. You are free to elaborate on where you think I am wrong.

In the same way you don't see Christians groups funding a "Flat Earth Evidence museum" next to your local Planetarium. Clearly Christians believe (correctly or not) that their religion is not compatible with Darwinism. The fact that the earth is not the center of the universe is no threat to their ideas (as far as I can tell). You are free to elaborate on where you think I am wrong.

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It amazed me how threatened Christians are of the *Fact* of Evolution.

To the degree that ANYONE evades ANY fact, to that degree they are at war with reality and are, in fact, in a losing position. It's a real threat.

Not to defend religion, but if Christianity survived Galileo why can in not survive Darwin?

It might, but what's that to us? After spending his whole day waging a losing battle with reality, your average Christian will be too worn out and too demoralized to bother us.

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I have read 7 of the 8 Dawkins books and agree with your statement. He seems to be tied to reality when he is dealing with his work, zoology, but like many will have contradictions in other areas of his life.

In his book's he makes many statements about genes, such as, the genes made us, but they don't make us who we are. Although this statment can be left open to many views, in its context, Dawkins was talking about "Secular Humanism" and "Altruism". So he recognizes that man has a definite nature and then wants us to fight against it.

I choose to apply it in a different view, physically. Our genes did make us, we are their vehicle over many millions of years of evolution. Those genes most adaptable to nature's stressors will adapt and survive. If we look at man's history it is full of feast and famine, so the genes that made it through were very good at conserving energy. Humans now have genes that are very good at storing fat. But, they do not make us fat, we as humans choose to be fat, by doing activities that stimulate are fat cells to conserve energy. Every human has genes that if left unchecked by reason will run rampant and make us fat. But man can analyze what makes us fat and then do the opposite to stay lean.

In the above example I am trying to show you how I deal with Dawkin's irrationlism. He is truly a genius when it comes to Biology and specifically Zoology but seems to drop reason when he steps out of his realm of expertise. I would recommend Dr. Gary Hull's lecture "A Dishonest Culture" and Dr. Edwin Locke's lecture "Healthy Cognition vs. Religion". Both of these lectures were helpful as a guide in how we can draw the most information from scientist without taking on their irrational ideals.

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I just posted about Dawkins (copied below), human evolution (past and future), and a bit on selection over in the Are Humans Still Evolving thread, so I'll keep it brief here.

As an (aspiring) paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, with a background in cancer research, I have not come across any of Dawkins's scientific works that were still being used (or even positively - or neutrally - referred to). I have seen maybe one or two references to him in all the papers I have read. His ultra-reductionism, politically motivated or not, seriously damages his science.

That said, he deserves kudos for popularizing science and battling creationism, but only to the degree to which he does it accurately. I don't ascribe to the "something is better than nothing" approach to this, especially when you've 1) been at it a really long time, 2) have the brains to know better and 3) have (hopefully) earned a position of influence, which in my mind, comes with un-dodgeable responsibility. I expect more from Dawkins, so I'm disappointed and impatient with him - on a good day. I'm sure that makes me unpopular with many of his fans. But I stick to my guns.

However, as is patently evident from my other post, I'm a big fan of Stephen Jay Gould. He also was a highly accessible popularizer of science, evolution, zoology and good knowledge in general, plus his science was - and continues to be - rigorous, innovative, logical, and long-lasting. I don't care what people said about his arrogance (I thoroughly disagree anyway), he was among the top handful of evolutionary biologists of the 20th century. Hands down. Totally revolutionized our field on *multiple* fronts. He had an unwavering adherence to flushing out the logical constructs of arguments, and continually analyzing, improving, and applying everything about his science. I cannot say any of the same for Dawkins. I therefore urge you to read some Gould (any of his essays from Natural History magazine, or - if you're feeling brave and hungry - his "Structure of Evolutionary Theory". That's the real deal).

--- copied from other thread ----

This brings me to Dawkins. I'll state at the front that I have not read any of his books first hand. I have read many of his quotes in secondary sources. I can say first hand though that I don't know (personally, or by reputation) any evolutionary biologist (worth his salt or not) who ascribes to Dawkin's gene selectionist paradigm. In fact, his 1976 book caused such an acid-reflux response among evolutionary biologists that it spurred reserach into hierarchy theory and philosophy of evolutionary biology, leading to definitive refutations of his views in 1980 (David Hull), and the 1980s by Gould, Salthe, Eldredge and several others. Basically, the harder you push his argument logically, the faster it falls apart.

I'm also surprised that his views are palatable to Objectivists, but judge as you see fit. This quote in particular was absolutely repulsive to me:

"Now they [the ancient replicators; aka genes] swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control. They are in you and me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence." (1976, p. 21).

I try very hard to steer clear of ad hominem attacks, but I think Dawkins's "crass materialism" (as a friend of mine put it) shows blatantly through, and intimates to me a partial impetus for his line of professional thinking. As objective as science aims to be, I do think that you cannot separate the human element from it, and that some humans are better at being objective than others. Gould, on the other hand, keeps his politics on a very tight rein, and has some of the most candid and refreshing intellectual integrity and honesty I have ever met in print.

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Hi all,

If anyone's interested in reading up more on supporting and dissenting opinions surrounding the Gould/Dawkins argument, I just found a truly fantastic site: The Edge. Most of the heavy hitters weigh in with their two cents on Gould, both pro and con, after Gould gives his take on several subjects we've been discussing here. The parent site, stephenjaygould.org is also fantastic. Don't be fooled by the url title; many of the references (sometimes very difficult to find chapters and pdfs!) dissent from Gould's take on things. So far I'm finding it to be a treasure trove of information and perspective.

Katie

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I'm a huge fan of Richard Dawkins. He is by far the most well written scientist I have had the pleasure to read. He is ruthlessly rational but in some respects he annoys the heck out of me. His most recent book, "The Ancestor's Tale" includes a lot of Bush/USA bashing and he routinely praises socialistic/altrustic government policy, while admitting that biologically it leads to disaster. This is what annoys me about him.

Objectivist Ethics is not the same as Darwinism, but there is a harmony between them. Mainly because Objectivist Ethics begins by recognizing the biological fact that life is conditional, and then proceeds to explore the special way man survives (his mind), and that man differs from other organisms because he creates wealth rather than expropriating it from other sources.

All animals are parasitic on plants. We cannot make our own protein from scratch. I don't know if this is expropriation, but it is a form of parasitism. Apple trees make apples as seed pods so they can reproduce. We turn these reproducers into applesauce for our enjoyment. Since the apple trees are in no position to dispute our actions they will continue. Such is nature. Such is life. And so it goes......

I just wish Richard Dawkins could see this, then he would be the perfect! :-)

Any other Richard Dawkins fans out there?

I am. I loved -The Ancestor's Tale-. Telling the story of evolving life backwards is a brilliant technique. I ignore any statement that Dawkins makes which is not pertinent to the biology. Dawkins and Gould (both Lefties) are among the best science popularizers out there. If you like biology without the political controversial statements, read Ernst Mayr's books. Mayr was one of the leading evolution theorists and ranks up there with Darwin as a field naturalist. For a list of Ernst Mayr's books, see:

http://tinyurl.com/2zrdbl

Bob Kolker

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Any other Richard Dawkins fans out there?

He is definately motivated by a hatred of creationism [...]

What do you mean by "hatred"? What is your evidence that hatred motivates Richard Dawkins?

Passionately fighting something you know to be wrong is not an indication of being "motivated by a hatred". Regardless of the validity of Dawkins' own particular theories, he is clearly articulating and defending a positive scientific theory he supports. If he is "motivated by hatred", that is not proved by any of his opposition to supernatural creationism that I have seen.

Not to defend religion, but if Christianity survived Galilio why can in not survive Darwin?

Why do you think Christianity -- as an essentialized whole -- isn't surviving beyond Darwin?

I think he meant that they act as if their religion won't survive in the wider culture. But the pattern has always been one of constant retrenchment consisting of revising religion by rationalizing, "God made it that way" -- stubbornly holding out until after everyone knows they have lost the intellectual battle before resorting to that. The "survival of religion" depends on acceptance of premises more fundamental than even major controversies rejecting specific scientific theories. But such controversies can prod people to think about the more basic issues -- especially if someone provides them with the proper explanations and explains that faith in the supernatural is not the "default explanation" of problems not yet understood. I'm not sure that Dawkins is doing that.

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Objectivist Ethics is not the same as Darwinism, but there is a harmony between them. Mainly because Objectivist Ethics begins by recognizing the biological fact that life is conditional, and then proceeds to explore the special way man survives (his mind), and that man differs from other organisms because he creates wealth rather than expropriating it from other sources.

All animals are parasitic on plants. We cannot make our own protein from scratch. I don't know if this is expropriation, but it is a form of parasitism. Apple trees make apples as seed pods so they can reproduce. We turn these reproducers into applesauce for our enjoyment. Since the apple trees are in no position to dispute our actions they will continue. Such is nature. Such is life. And so it goes......

That does not make us 'parasites', and would obliterate the distinction between parasites and non-parasites for the entire animal kingdom, therefore also obliterating the need for the concept 'parasite'. Nor does our use and modification of the environment mean that we don't survive by thinking and creating.

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That does not make us 'parasites', and would obliterate the distinction between parasites and non-parasites for the entire animal kingdom, therefore also obliterating the need for the concept 'parasite'. Nor does our use and modification of the environment mean that we don't survive by thinking and creating.

Without plants we cannot live. But plants can live without us, which they did for billyuns and billyuns of years (as Carl Sagan would say). That sounds like parasitism to me. It is not a moral issue. It is simple a manifestation of our biological nature. We cannot make amino acids from scratch. Plants can with the aid of sunlight. This is true of -any- animal including us.

Bob Kolker

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Without plants we cannot live. But plants can live without us, which they did for billyuns and billyuns of years (as Carl Sagan would say). That sounds like parasitism to me. It is not a moral issue. It is simple a manifestation of our biological nature. We cannot make amino acids from scratch. Plants can with the aid of sunlight. This is true of -any- animal including us.

But a parasite survives by utilitizing materials from a living host.

I don't know about you, Bob, but when I eat my food, it is usually already dead.

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That does not make us 'parasites', and would obliterate the distinction between parasites and non-parasites for the entire animal kingdom, therefore also obliterating the need for the concept 'parasite'. Nor does our use and modification of the environment mean that we don't survive by thinking and creating.

Without plants we cannot live. But plants can live without us, which they did for billyuns and billyuns of years (as Carl Sagan would say). That sounds like parasitism to me. It is not a moral issue. It is simple a manifestation of our biological nature. We cannot make amino acids from scratch. Plants can with the aid of sunlight. This is true of -any- animal including us.

Bob Kolker

Bob, a parasite is a creature that lives off a living being, and even has a vested interest in maintaining its host's life, in order to continue extracting sustinence.

There's nothing "parasitic" about -in principle- converting one creature's nutrients into another's. The whole living kingdom does this. Merely "needing" nutrients of another (ex-) living creature does not make a parasite. Those plants don't only consume sunlight, they extract nutrients from the earth which were deposited there by animals going to the bathroom.

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I don't know about you, Bob, but when I eat my food, it is usually already dead.

I like my veggies -fresh-. Which means just picked. They haven't had time to fully die. Also the roots are still alive. I love dandelion roots.

Bob Kolker

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Bob, a parasite is a creature that lives off a living being, and even has a vested interest in maintaining its host's life, in order to continue extracting sustinence.

There's nothing "parasitic" about -in principle- converting one creature's nutrients into another's. The whole living kingdom does this. Merely "needing" nutrients of another (ex-) living creature does not make a parasite. Those plants don't only consume sunlight, they extract nutrients from the earth which were deposited there by animals going to the bathroom.

Not originally. There were plants on the Earth long, long, before there were animals. Any decaying matter will feed plants, not just doo doo.

As for having a vested interest in keeping the host alive, consider maple syrup.

Likewise apples, pears and oranges. We do not kill the trees, we merely consume some of their seed pods. Ditto for dates, olives and figs. The seeds in these pods are quite alive, otherwise they would not bloom when planted.

Bob Kolker

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Not originally. There were plants on the Earth long, long, before there were animals.
Not sure what that proves. Right now, some plant out there is feasting on the remains of an animal somewhere, absorbing its nutrients in order to let itself grow. What do you say about that?
Likewise apples, pears and oranges. We do not kill the trees, we merely consume some of their seed pods. Ditto for dates, olives and figs. The seeds in these pods are quite alive, otherwise they would not bloom when planted.
The next time I eat an orange and it sprays me, I'll know it did that to spite me, because it was alive.

Anyway, just out of curiosity, if you're convinced about your views, what must your estimation of human beings be?

Also, did you find anything to disagree about in Mr. Smith's "man is a parasite" monologue in The Matrix? It's a movie, but with philosophical undertones, and the argument he makes sounds similar to yours.

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Likewise apples, pears and oranges. We do not kill the trees, we merely consume some of their seed pods. Ditto for dates, olives and figs. The seeds in these pods are quite alive, otherwise they would not bloom when planted.

Bob Kolker

Actually, you could argue that is a symbiotic relationship, because when animals and humans eat fruit, we never actually digest the seeds, but just pass them on through. So the tree is getting a massive favor, because its seeds are spread by other animals (and deposited in a pile of fertilizer!).

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Also, did you find anything to disagree about in Mr. Smith's "man is a parasite" monologue in The Matrix? It's a movie, but with philosophical undertones, and the argument he makes sounds similar to yours.

I used the term parasite in a -purely- technical sense. We live off plants. The plants can exist without us. This use of the term has zero, zip, nada moral connotation. Most life on earth can go on without humans around. But if the plants disappeared tomorrow the animal population of this planet would be in deep, deep kimchee.

Please do not infer a moral comment where absolutely none was intended.

Perhaps I should have said the animals of this planet are vitally dependent on plant life, but the reverse is not true. Would you agree with this statement?

Bob Kolker

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Perhaps I should have said the animals of this planet are vitally dependent on plant life, but the reverse is not true. Would you agree with this statement?
Well yes.

But by the same token, if all the little microbes inside the plants' veins that allow them to live, disappeared, then the plants would be in trouble too.

A sun isn't alive but if it disappeared we'd be in deep trouble too.

There is no cutoff boundary that says -- ok this form of living off other things is parasitical, but this form isn't. Living beings live off each other. They kill each other and absorb the nutrients for their own furtherment. Parasite, by contrast, has a specific biological definition -- living off a creature while it's alive, and needing it to be alive as well. That's why, conceptually speaking, we don't call everyone a parasite, only some specific living organisms. In fact, most parasitical life forms (when defined properly) aren't even animals, but are bacteria and the like.

Animals further their own life with the "honest" way -- they kill their victim and eat it.

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All animals are parasitic on plants. We cannot make our own protein from scratch.

If plants are the only things that make their own protein, then why is it that plants aren't a complete source of protein, but eggs or some meat products are?

(by complete I mean that they possess all of the necessary amino acids)

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All animals are parasitic on plants. We cannot make our own protein from scratch.

If plants are the only things that make their own protein, then why is it that plants aren't a complete source of protein, but eggs or some meat products are?

(by complete I mean that they possess all of the necessary amino acids)

I believe that is a difference between herbivores and carnivores.

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If plants are the only things that make their own protein, then why is it that plants aren't a complete source of protein, but eggs or some meat products are?

Cells including human cells create proteins continually, in a way. DNA ultimately codes for amino acid sequences, e.g. polypeptides - and proteins are polypeptides. But that assumes a stockpile of available amino acids. Some amino acids can be synthesized in our bodies, others cannot, the essential amino acids. I think Bob Kolker was referring to the fact that only plants can synthesize some of the amino acids required by animals. (We can consume animal proteins to get those amino acids but the fact remains that some of them ultimately originated in plants, even if indirectly through a carnivorous chain.)

There are many millions of vegetarians in the world (e.g. India). It is certainly possible to live a long life without eating animal protein. Combinations of plant proteins can provide all essential amino acids (nonessential amino acids can be synthesized in our bodies.) See e.g. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002467.htm

I am not endorsing a vegetarian diet personally (I am not one), just correcting an error.

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Cells including human cells create proteins continually, in a way. DNA ultimately codes for amino acid sequences, e.g. polypeptides - and proteins are polypeptides. But that assumes a stockpile of available amino acids. Some amino acids can be synthesized in our bodies, others cannot, the essential amino acids. I think Bob Kolker was referring to the fact that only plants can synthesize some of the amino acids required by animals. (We can consume animal proteins to get those amino acids but the fact remains that some of them ultimately originated in plants, even if indirectly through a carnivorous chain.)

There are many millions of vegetarians in the world (e.g. India). It is certainly possible to live a long life without eating animal protein. Combinations of plant proteins can provide all essential amino acids (nonessential amino acids can be synthesized in our bodies.) See e.g. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002467.htm

I am not endorsing a vegetarian diet personally (I am not one), just correcting an error.

Thanks for the interesting answer :lol:

But technically I don't think I made an error--what I meant is that no single plant can provide a complete source of protein, whereas a single egg does.

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But technically I don't think I made an error--what I meant is that no single plant can provide a complete source of protein, whereas a single egg does.

According to Wikipedia (always at least somewhat suspect IMO):

... Some non-animal, complete proteins can be obtained through certain plants, such as soya, hempseed, amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa, ...

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