kottke.org posts about Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens want to arrest the Pope when he visits Britain in September.
Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. The pair believe they can exploit the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998.
Update: The Times article quoted above is a little misleading says Dawkins.
Needless to say, I did NOT say “I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI” or anything so personally grandiloquent. You have to remember that The Sunday Times is a Murdoch newspaper, and that all newspapers follow the odd custom of entrusting headlines to a sub-editor, not the author of the article itself. What I DID say to Marc Horne when he telephoned me out of the blue, and I repeat it here, is that I am whole-heartedly behind the initiative by Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens to mount a legal challenge to the Pope’s proposed visit to Britain.
Nonetheless, there is a legal challenge involving the Pope’s visit underway, initiated in part by Dawkins and Hitchens. (thx, lots of people)
In an excerpt from his recent book, The Greatest Show on Earth, Richard Dawkins writes about how wolves evolved into dogs first through self-domestication and then through domestication by humans.
We can imagine wild wolves scavenging on a rubbish tip on the edge of a village. Most of them, fearful of men throwing stones and spears, have a very long flight distance. They sprint for the safety of the forest as soon as a human appears in the distance. But a few individuals, by genetic chance, happen to have a slightly shorter flight distance than the average. Their readiness to take slight risks — they are brave, shall we say, but not foolhardy — gains them more food than their more risk-averse rivals. As the generations go by, natural selection favours a shorter and shorter flight distance, until just before it reaches the point where the wolves really are endangered by stonethrowing humans. The optimum flight distance has shifted because of the newly available food source.
Free Richard Dawkins! (That’s free as in lecture, not free as in spring from jail.) Each year in honor of Harvey David Preisler, a lecture is given and this year’s will be delivered by Richard Dawkins on May 3 @ 9am at The New York Academy of Sciences.
The lecture is entitled “The Purpose of Purpose,” and Professor Dawkins will make himself available for a question/answer period afterward. If you are in the New York City area (or can be on Saturday), I urge you to attend.
As noted the lecture is free; all you need to do is RSVP in the comments of this thread.
Update: The event filled up quickly…only the first 25 RSVPs will be able to attend.
Last week, PZ Myers, an outspoken critic of creationism, was booted from a screening of Expelled, a film defending intelligent design co-written by Ben Stein.
They singled me out and evicted me, but they didn’t notice my guest. They let him go in escorted by my wife and daughter. I guess they didn’t recognize him. My guest was…
Here’s an account of the affair in the NY Times and a review of the film by Dawkins called Lying for Jesus.
Job opening: the Charles Simonyi Professorship in the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford will be vacant in September 2008. If you apply and get it, you will be succeeding Richard Dawkins, who has reached the university’s mandatory retirement age.
Professor Richard Dawkins Speaks at Fair Hills Kindergarten Regarding Santa Claus. “If you are the sort of person who is interested in the truth, perhaps you would consider asking yourself this question: how exactly does a single elderly man not only manufacture but also deliver in a single evening what would, by all forms of logic, account to be millions of toys?”
Prospect Magazine lists the most overrated and most underrated books of 2006. Top 3 overrated are The God Delusion, The Blunkett Tapes, and Everyman. I so agree about Everyman…it’s the only book I read this year where I genuinely wanted my money back at the end of it. (via mr)
Nicholas Kristof’s “Modest Proposal for a Truce on Religion,” and responses by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett. “Mr. Kristof has simply become acclimatized to the convention that you can criticize anything else but you mustn’t criticize religion.”
Richard Dawkins answers some questions from readers of the Independent. “Terrible things have been done in the name of Christ, but all he ever taught was peace and love. What’s wrong with that?”
Richard Dawkins is keeping a journal while he tours around in support of The God Delusion. “This Washington signing was remarkable for the number who bought not just one copy of The God Delusion but up to half a dozen. ‘Christmas presents?’ I inquired of one man. ‘Winter solstice’, he instantly corrected me.”
Gary Wolf talks to three prominent atheists (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett) and concludes that “the irony of the New Atheism — this prophetic attack on prophecy, this extremism in opposition to extremism — is too much for me”.
Richard Dawkins: Why there almost certainly is no God. “We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can’t disprove Thor, fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But, like those other fantasies that we can’t disprove, we can say that God is very very improbable.”
Notes from day 3 at PopTech:
Chris Anderson talked about, ba ba baba!, not the long tail. Well, not explicitly. Chris charted how the availability of a surplus in transistors (processors are cheap), storage (hard drives are cheap), and surplus in bandwidth (DSL is cheap) has resulted in so much opportunity for innovation and new technology. His thoughts reminded me of how surplus space in Silicon Valley (in the form of garages) allowed startup entrepreneurs to pursue new ideas without having to procure expensive commercial office space.
Quick thought re: the long tail…if the power law arises from scarcity as Matt Webb says, then it would make sense that the surplus that Anderson refers to would be flattening that curve out a bit.
Roger Brent crammed a 60 minute talk into 20 minutes. It was about genetic engineering and completely baffling…almost a series of non sequiturs. “Centripital glue engine” was my favorite phrase of the talk, but I’ve got no idea what Brent meant by it.
Homaro Cantu gave a puzzling presentation of a typical meal at his Chicago restaurant, Moto. I’ve seen this presentation twice before and eaten at Moto; all three experiences were clear and focused on the food. This time around, Cantu didn’t explain the food as well or why some of the inventions were so cool. His polymer box that cooks on the table is a genuinely fantastic idea, but I got the feeling that the rest of the audience didn’t understand what it was. Cantu also reiterated his position on copyrighting and patenting his food and inventions. Meg caught him saying that he was trying to solve the famine problem with his edible paper, which statement revealed two problems: a) famines are generally caused by political issues and therefore not solvable by new kinds of food, printed or otherwise, and b) he could do more good if he open sourced his inventions and let anyone produce food or improve the techniques in those famine cases where food would be useful.
Richard Dawkins gave part of his PopTech talk (the “queerer than we can suppose” part of it) at TED in 2005 (video).
Bob Metcalfe’s wrap-up of the conference was a lot less contentious than in past years; hardly any shouting and only one person stormed angrily out of the room. In reference to Hasan Elahi’s situation, Bob said that there’s a tension present in our privacy desires: “I want my privacy, but I need you to be transparent.” Not a bad way of putting it.
Serena Koenig spoke about her work in Haiti with Partners in Health. Koening spoke of a guideline that PIH follows in providing healthcare: act as though each patient is a member of your own family. That sentiment was echoed by Zinhle Thabethe, who talked about her experience as an HIV+ woman living in South Africa, an area with substandard HIV/AIDS-related healthcare. Thabethe’s powerful message: we need to treat everyone with HIV/AIDS the same, with great care. Sounds like the beginning of a new Golden Rule of Healthcare.
2.7 billion results for “blog” on Google. Blogs: bigger than Jesus.
Some notes from day 2 at PopTech, with a little backtracking into day 1 as well. In no particular order:
The upshot of Thomas Barnett’s entertaining and provacative talk (or one of the the upshots, anyway): China is the new world power and needs a sidekick to help globalize the world. And like when the US was the rising power in the world and took the outgoing power, England, along for the ride so that, as Barnett put it, “England could fight above its weight”, China could take the outgoing power (the US) along for the globalization ride. The US would provide the military force to strike initial blows and the Chinese would provide peacekeeping; Barnett argued that both capabilities are essential in a post-Cold War world.
Juan Enriquez talked about boundries…specifically if there will be more or less of them in the United States in the future. 45 states? 65 states? One thing that the US has to deal with is how we treat immigrants. Echoing William Gibson, Enriquez said “the words you use today will resonate through history for a long time”. That is, if you don’t let the Mexican immigrants in the US speak their own language, don’t welcome their contributions to our society, and just generally make people feel unwelcome in the place where they live, it will come back to bite you in the ass (like, say, when southern California decides it would rather be a part of Mexico or its own nation).
Enriquez again, regarding our current income tax proclivities: “if we pay more and our children don’t owe less, that’s not taxes…it’s just a long-term, high-interest loan”.
Number of times ordained minister Martin Marty said “hell” during his presentation: 2. Number of times Marty said “goddamn”: 1. Number of times uber-heathen Richard Dawkins said “hell”, “goddamn”, or any other blasphemous swear: 0.
Dawkins told the story of Kurt Wise, who took a scissors to the Bible and cut out every passage which was in discord with the theory of evolution, eventually ending up with a fragmented mess. Confronted with this crisis of faith and science, Wise renounced evolution and became a geologist who believes that the earth is only 6000 years old.
The story of Micah Garen’s capture by Iraqi militants and Marie-Helene Carlton’s efforts to get her boyfriend back home safely illustrates the power of the connected world. Marie-Helene and Micah’s family used emails, mobile phones, and sat phones to reach out through their global social network, eventually reaching people in Iraq whom Micah’s captors might listen to. A woman in the audience stood during the Q&A and related her story of her boyfriend being on a hijacked plane out of Athens in 1985 and how powerless she was to do anything in the age before mobiles, email, and sat phones. Today, Stanley Milgram might say, an Ayatollah is never more than 4 or 5 people away.
Lexicographer Erin McKean told us several interesting things about dictionaries, including that “lexicographer” can be found in even the smallest of dictionaries because, duh, look who’s responsible for compiling the words in a dictionary. She called dictionaries the vodka of literature: a distillation of really meaty mixture of substances into something that odorless, tasteless, colorless, and yet very powerful. Here an interview with her and a video of a lecture she gave at Google.
Gregg Easterbrook on hard-line Darwinist, Richard Dawkins. “If Dawkins’s professional goal is ‘public understanding of science,’ he is a flop, seemingly trying his best to make worse what he is supposed to fix.”
Interview with Richard Dawkins about religion, evolution, and intelligent design. “If it’s true that [evolution and natural selection] causes people to feel despair, that’s tough. It’s still the truth. The universe doesn’t owe us condolence or consolation; it doesn’t owe us a nice warm feeling inside. If it’s true, its true, and you’d better live with it.”
Richard Dawkins’ letter to his daughter Juliet on good and bad reasons for believing. “Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority, or revelation?”
Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne on intelligent design: “You cannot have it both ways. Either ID belongs in the science classroom, in which case it must submit to the discipline required of a scientific hypothesis. Or it does not, in which case get it out of the science classroom and send it back into the church, where it belongs.”
Summer reading list from Edge. I think I would have rather seen a list of recommendations from Edge members rather than their books. Gee, Dawkins writing on evolution? Didn’t see that coming…
Creationism: God’s gift to the ignorant. Richard Dawkins on the “deceitful misquoting of scientists to suit an anti-scientific agenda” and other creationist follies.