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Richard Dawkins on Nonsense and Evidence

A couple days back, The Washington Post asked Richard Dawkins to comment on the current round of end of the world lunacy that has been so successfully ginned up by Harold Camping.  One of the questions The Post asked Dawkins was the misleadingly phrased, “What does your tradition teach about the end of the world?”  Here is a small, edited portion of Dawkins’ response:

Why is a serious newspaper like the Washington Post giving space to a raving loon? I suppose the answer must be that, unlike the average loon, this one has managed to raise enough money to launch a radio station and pay for billboards.

I won’t waste any more time on that, but I do want to mention a less trivial point arising from the question posed by the Washington Post: ‘What does your tradition teach about the end of the world?’ It’s that word ‘tradition’ that should raise our critical hackles. It refers to a collection of beliefs handed down through generations – as opposed to beliefs founded on evidence. Evidence-free beliefs are, by definition, groundless.

Science is not a tradition, it is the organized use of evidence from the real world to make inferences about the real world…

Among the quaint principles of the European Enlightenment was the notion that customs and traditions should be subject to justification by a weight of logic and evidence — that is, by a weight of reason.  Apparently, not everyone has taken that notion to heart, nor do I suppose it will ever be that case that everyone will appreciate that notion — or even understand it.

By the way, anyone interested in transferring their life savings to the author of this blog is most welcome to do so.   I do not anticipate that I will be among those fortunate to be raptured.  Yet, you may be assured your generosity will console me.

Meanwhile, Sandra over at Paradise Preoccupied has started a fun discussion of the books she hopes to write in order to help us all get through the end of the world.  They have promising titles, such as: Ashes, Ashes All Fall Down: Entertaining Kids In the Final Hours ($9.99).  Enjoy the fun!

14 thoughts on “Richard Dawkins on Nonsense and Evidence”

  1. What prompts humans to dance to this stupid End of the World nonsense? Is is some sort of barbaric Schadenfreude?


  2. I love Dawkins’ response to that question. It really is amazing that allegedly serious journalists give any credence to this sort of thing.


    1. It makes me think they’re feeding us the circus part of the bread and circuses, Cujo. Is it just me, or has this sort of “ersatz journalism” been on the increase over the past 30 years or so?


  3. Ooh, shiney new blog to check out. Thanks for the pointer. I think the last End of World book I read was “Childhood’s End”.

    “•It was a tribute to the Overlords’ psychology, and to their careful years of preparation, that only a few people fainted. Yet there could have been fewer still, anywhere in the world, who did not feel the ancient terror brush for one awful instant against their minds before reason banished it forever.

    There was no mistake. The leathery wings, the little horns, the barbed tail—all were there. The most terrible of all legends had come to life, out of the unknown past. Yet now it stood smiling, in ebon majesty, with the sunlight gleaming upon its tremendous body, and with a human child resting trustfully on either arm.”

    Oh yeah, time to go back and reread Clarke’s masterpiece, one of many.


    1. Hardly shiny and new, Gandalfe, as I’ve been around almost as long as the Sphinx and could have posted about Tut’s death had there been a decent Internet connection at the time.

      Thanks for popping over to paradise!


  4. I think it’s true that this “ersatz journalism” is on the rise and maybe it’s because there is an increase in the number of people who feed on it. But that’s just conjecture on my part. What I find interesting is that there’s a company called Eternal Earth-bound Pets that, for $135.00, will guarantee that should the Rapture occur within ten years of receipt of payment, one pet per residence will be saved by one of their atheist employees ( Just another one of those ideas I wish I’d thought of!


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