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Posts Tagged ‘richard dawkins’

Contrary to what clear thinking people believe, FreeThoughtBlogs is not named inappropriately. Because you see, “free thought”, when it comes to FreeThoughtBlogs means letting the thoughts in your brain fly around with gay abandon, freeing them from logic and common sense, continuously mixing them with the irrational fuel of feelings and emotions until they reach an escape velocity sufficient to overcome all the pulls of reason and are hurled out into the the FreeThoughtBlogs zoo where hundreds of eager “freethinkers” trapped in cages with invisible walls anxiously await more food for generating outrage.

While most of FreeThoughtBlogs is quite mediocre, to truly find the the stuff that would crash a reason-o-meter, you have to visit the very appropriately named LousyCanuck. Here is his latest post :

Dawkins stabs at Skepchick over “Hug Me I’m Vaccinated” campaign

Now for some “free” thinking from there.

 The hyper-privileged folks nearest the top of our movement have pretty uniformly fallen on one side of this divide — the side that would rather not skeptically examine ideas like social conventions, consent, harassment policies and protecting the underprivileged.

How on earth do you examine “skeptically” the “idea of social conventions”? Let’s take an example – a social convention is to hold the door open if someone is right behind you. So now let’s be skeptical about it and let’s think freely. This leads us to a fascinating array of possibilities like:

1) What if I don’t hold the door open?

2) What if I slam the door into the person’s face?

3) What if it’s a feminist and she kicks me for being patriarchal?

4) Wait, is this the correct door, or is it a fire exit?

.

.

And so you can see how the power of truly “thinking freely” can give you a lot more things to be skeptical about. Now this wouldn’t be so bad if you could also use such “free thinking” against them. But express skepticism that elevators are not that dangerous and you will find that you are not actually allowed to think that. Because? BECAUSE THEY SAID SO!

You cannot “skeptically” examine social etiquette, personal styles, and their interpretations because these are subjective matters. The FTB bloggers like to throw around words like reason, skepticism, rational, free-thought much like the way politicians throw around words like pride, greatest, Jesus, god, honour etc. And they have just as much credibility.

They are also not averse to lying or as I like to call it “thinking freely about facts”.

So it’s absolutely no surprise to me that Dawkins has, again, sided against Skepchick — this time, instead of writing a “Dear Muslima” comment at Rebecca Watson (telling her that the sexism she encounters isn’t nearly as bad as female genital mutilation, so she should grow up or get a thicker skin)

Except that he didn’t say that it wasn’t nearly as bad. He said it was ZERO bad.

But my point is that the ‘slightly bad thing’ suffered by Rebecca was not even slightly bad, it was zero bad.

Another frequent hobby of the FTB bloggers is to pretend they are great warriors for social justice, bravely weathering the harsh comments of Internet posters who criticize them, courageously typing out blog posts attacking those who do not see the world through the one lens of social justice to cover them all, steadfast in their resolution to let no opportunity for generating outrage go by. You would find it a hard task indeed to find this level of arrogance even at the Fox News Network.

It is so far beneath Dawkins that it serves only to undercut his image as a rationalist in my eyes — not that I was any longer under any delusion that he is a pure rationalist.

Alert the presses! Richard Dawkins has gone down as a rationalist in the estimation of a blogger on the Internet who makes universally quantified statements like

It is an emotive argument about the morality of expecting consent before actions are taken involving other people,

If you are about to be hit by a car, expect this guy to ask for your consent to push you out of the way. Because that would be the moral thing to do. Or if a bug is about to walk on to your dinner plate or down your shirt, expect this guy to ask for your consent to flick it off – because hey, who knows? Some people might prefer eating bugs and would rather have it moving around inside them rather than be finger-flickeded.

Of course, it’s not all bad. You will find some real gems of free-thought which you would most likely would not have thought of, such as:

Offering hugs as a reward for vaccination is a nice idea

Now lest you think that is not that mind-blowing, he adds a caveat:

but at the same time, it’s well within the rights of the person who gets a vaccine to forgo the hug.

These are truly words of wisdom that the Internet cannot do without. The rights of women to wear burqas in France? The rights of people to draw cartoons of Mo? Meh! But wait, there’s more!

And in fact, some people are even bothered by the very offer of a hug, so those people must needs make that apparent before they partake in the free vaccination services offered, because the whole event is predicated on something that might be to them a trigger, if not a simple preference.

Sometimes the writing gets freed from the grammar as well. But even after trying various combinations of grammatical fixes, I’m not quite sure what he means. Maybe it means that organizers should make it clear that the vaccines can be had without the hugs. Because “free thinkers” might think that you cannot get a vaccine without a hug!

There is a whole lot more of “hugs etiquette” that I will not bother going through. I will save my energy for what will probably be the next blog post on FTB – A Formalized Skeptical, Rational, Social Justice based Social Etiquette policy that takes into account everyone’s objective level of privilege , feelings, and emotions.

In closing, I think the most apt word for most of the FTB bloggers is, I think, “infantile”. You know how some parents tell kids that there are hungry people in the world so you should not waste your food and you should eat your spinach because it’s good for you? FTB bloggers were the kids who said “Just because other people are dying of hunger does not mean I should eat spinach even if it makes me stronger. I DON’T LIKE IT! I WANT ICE-CREAM ONLY AND NOTHING ELSE. WAH! WAH! WAH!”

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I’ve always been proud of the fact that I developed a rational, atheistic, naturalistic worldview by the time I was 16 even though I did not know a single atheist and even though I had not read anything related to skepticism or atheism. I just have a very good fraud detector.

While technically, guilt by association is not something you need to defend against, I do wish to distance myself as much as I can from the religious groupthink that is FreeThoughtBlogs (FTB). To state it with as much restraint as I can muster, not all of us atheists/skeptics/freethinkers are petty, nasty, juvenile, immature, arrogant, narcissistic people.

Through the conflation of muddy subjective feelings / political points of view with the clarity of objective reality, they have dumped so much dirt in the clear waters of free thought, that it has flowed all the way upstream and too close to the rest of who were still exploring the beautiful clear waters which hide so many things wondrous, beautiful, and new.

In a way it was inevitable when too many non-scientifically trained minds got a platform to blather about their feelings, emotions, and political agendas, free from criticism in an area which relies very heavily on clear, logical, and scientific thought.

Their attitude wouldn’t be so disgusting, so repulsive, so loathsome, if they were at least honest enough to admit that they don’t give a damn about real issues of social justice. Stereotyping is bad, but I can’t help but say that these are your typical bunch of over-privileged (Haha. See what I did there?), morally bankrupt westerners who pat themselves on the back for saving the world everyday by commenting on the Internet, driving a Prius, flying around the country (Presumably to save electricity by not using the Internet) giving speeches at conferences and sending $20 to Africa once a year while voting for a black man to show how non-racist they are, who by the way, is no different from the previous white guy when it comes to dropping bombs and killing and torturing innocent people around the world. If FTB is your sample space then the hypothesis of “morality as only a status display” is well and truly a solid theory.

I hope these people do not come to represent skepticism/atheism. If they do, I will have to stop calling myself an atheist and start saying I am an agnostic.

See these for examples of above mentioned behaviour:

Bullying

Stupid Drama

Censorship

Subjective Reality

Attention seeking

Pompous Prickery

Uncivilized Barbaric Behaviour

and too many more to list.

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It’s been over 2 years since I first read “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins, and in the meantime I have forgotten quite a bit of it. The basic idea of evolution is simple, but once you start studying it, lots and lots of details emerge, and these are quite complicated. No other book has influenced my worldview as much as this book has and I know that if I simply only read it again, I will probably forget a lot of it in another couple of years. So I thought, this time, I would note down whatever I learn as briefly and succinctly as possible and create a “The Selfish Gene for Dummies” if you will. I am not a biologist, scientist, or an English language expert, so any comments or suggestions pointing out my mistakes are very welcome indeed.

This will be a short post as I start reading the first chapter titled

“Why Are People?”

The theory of evolution is a fact. There is no denial among real scientists that evolution is true. In common parlance, however, a theory has a different meaning. It means something which can be easily doubted. In science, however, a theory means something that is supported by facts and evidence, and is a valid explanation for whatever question the theory attempts to answer. In the scientific world, the theory of evolution has the same standing as the theory of gravity, it is the best explanation of the how and why of life. In fact, maybe even a greater standing, since the theory of gravity breaks down at speeds approaching the speed of light.

Evolution is survival of the fittest genes, not the fittest animal, nor the fittest group of animals i.e species.

The genes are ‘selfish’, not the organism that the gene is part of. This is why having selfish genes does not necessarily mean we are selfish too. The gene’s selfish ‘agenda’ is to survive as a gene through replication. Now genes do not really have thought or purpose, so what the ‘agenda’ above really means is that genes which replicate will survive and those that don’t replicate will not. The ‘selfish’ refers to the fact that the replication of the genes is at the gene level i.e a gene of type A, when it replicates, will only make copies of gene A, and not of gene B. That is why it is selfish, and not altruistic.

Altruism exhibited at the individual level is still selfish at the gene level. This, to me, is a very good explanation of why we “treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves”. Not because some stupid book says so, but because if we treat each other well, and not kill each other, our chances of survival increase, and hence the chances of survival of the genes that are part of us, also increase.

Speciesism is distinguishing between organisms based on their species, just as racism is distinguishing among people based on race. If we were to derive our morals based purely on biology (There is no suggestion we should), then there is no basis for thinking that a human fetus is more privileged or precious than a chimpanzee.

Memorable Quotes

Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to.

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Recently I happened to be working on my iMac browsing the web for some information about the MINI, and listening to The Corrs in the background and that made me think…how could I have everything I like in one place? And that gave me the idea of the iLike picture (Yes…I am a Mac addict), that would have everything that I like and that I think is cool in one place!

What I Like...doh

What I Like...doh

They are from top to bottom and left to right in no particular order of preference.

  • Andrea Corr
  • iPhone
  • Idli / Sambar
  • Dido
  • Baileys
  • MINI Cooper Convertible
  • iMac
  • Richard Dawkins
  • The Universe – More like astronomy really.
  • ThinkPad X40 AKA Florian
  • Einstein
  • Coffee – This got me through grad school

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