Richard Dawkins on Rick Perry = slam dunk.

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by Free Thinker, Aug 25, 2011.

  1. There is nothing unusual about Governor Rick Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. What is unusual about today's Republican party (I disavow the ridiculous 'GOP' nickname, because the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt has lately forfeited all claim to be considered 'grand') is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today's Republican Party 'in spite of' is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.

    Any other organization -- a big corporation, say, or a university, or a learned society - -when seeking a new leader, will go to immense trouble over the choice. The CVs of candidates and their portfolios of relevant experience are meticulously scrutinized, their publications are read by a learned committee, references are taken up and scrupulously discussed, the candidates are subjected to rigorous interviews and vetting procedures. Mistakes are still made, but not through lack of serious effort.

    The population of the United States is more than 300 million and it includes some of the best and brightest that the human species has to offer, probably more so than any other country in the world. There is surely something wrong with a system for choosing a leader when, given a pool of such talent and a process that occupies more than a year and consumes billions of dollars, what rises to the top of the heap is George W Bush. Or when the likes of Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin can be mentioned as even remote possibilities.

    A politician's attitude to evolution is perhaps not directly important in itself. It can have unfortunate consequences on education and science policy but, compared to Perry's and the Tea Party's pronouncements on other topics such as economics, taxation, history and sexual politics, their ignorance of evolutionary science might be overlooked. Except that a politician's attitude to evolution, however peripheral it might seem, is a surprisingly apposite litmus test of more general inadequacy. This is because unlike, say, string theory where scientific opinion is genuinely divided, there is about the fact of evolution no doubt at all. Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science, and he who denies it betrays woeful ignorance and lack of education, which likely extends to other fields as well. Evolution is not some recondite backwater of science, ignorance of which would be pardonable. It is the stunningly simple but elegant explanation of our very existence and the existence of every living creature on the planet. Thanks to Darwin, we now understand why we are here and why we are the way we are. You cannot be ignorant of evolution and be a cultivated and adequate citizen of today.

    Darwin's idea is arguably the most powerful ever to occur to a human mind. The power of a scientific theory may be measured as a ratio: the number of facts that it explains divided by the number of assumptions it needs to postulate in order to do the explaining. A theory that assumes most of what it is trying to explain is a bad theory. That is why the creationist or 'intelligent design' theory is such a rotten theory.

    What any theory of life needs to explain is functional complexity. Complexity can be measured as statistical improbability, and living things are statistically improbable in a very particular direction: the direction of functional efficiency. The body of a bird is not just a prodigiously complicated machine, with its trillions of cells - each one in itself a marvel of miniaturized complexity - all conspiring together to make muscle or bone, kidney or brain. Its interlocking parts also conspire to make it good for something - in the case of most birds, good for flying. An aero-engineer is struck dumb with admiration for the bird as flying machine: its feathered flight-surfaces and ailerons sensitively adjusted in real time by the on-board computer which is the brain; the breast muscles, which are the engines, the ligaments, tendons and lightweight bony struts all exactly suited to the task. And the whole machine is immensely improbable in the sense that, if you randomly shook up the parts over and over again, never in a million years would they fall into the right shape to fly like a swallow, soar like a vulture, or ride the oceanic up-draughts like a wandering albatross. Any theory of life has to explain how the laws of physics can give rise to a complex flying machine like a bird or a bat or a pterosaur, a complex swimming machine like a tarpon or a dolphin, a complex burrowing machine like a mole, a complex climbing machine like a monkey, or a complex thinking machine like a person.

    Darwin explained all of this with one brilliantly simple idea - natural selection, driving gradual evolution over immensities of geological time. His is a good theory because of the huge ratio of what it explains (all the complexity of life) divided by what it needs to assume (simply the nonrandom survival of hereditary information through many generations). The rival theory to explain the functional complexity of life - creationism - is about as bad a theory as has ever been proposed. What it postulates (an intelligent designer) is even more complex, even more statistically improbable than what it explains. In fact it is such a bad theory it doesn't deserve to be called a theory at all, and it certainly doesn't deserve to be taught alongside evolution in science classes.

    The simplicity of Darwin's idea, then, is a virtue for three reasons. First, and most important, it is the signature of its immense power as a theory, when compared with the mass of disparate facts that it explains - everything about life including our own existence. Second, it makes it easy for children to understand (in addition to the obvious virtue of being true!), which means that it could be taught in the early years of school. And finally, it makes it extremely beautiful, one of the most beautiful ideas anyone ever had as well as arguably the most powerful. To die in ignorance of its elegance, and power to explain our own existence, is a tragic loss, comparable to dying without ever having experienced great music, great literature, or a beautiful sunset.

    There are many reasons to vote against Rick Perry. His fatuous stance on the teaching of evolution in schools is perhaps not the first reason that springs to mind. But maybe it is the most telling litmus test of the other reasons, and it seems to apply not just to him but, lamentably, to all the likely contenders for the Republican nomination. The 'evolution question' deserves a prominent place in the list of questions put to candidates in interviews and public debates during the course of the coming election.
  2. Thank you for this cogent piece!
  3. bone

    bone ET Sponsor

    What does it tell you about your God King, Obama, that in every poll Perry kicks the living shit out of your icon ?

    A union, Democrat Party teacher shows her intellectual prowess:

  4. bone

    bone ET Sponsor

    Of course, you and the author of your cited article are totally fair and have no particular axe to grind:

    From Wiki:

    Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL (born 26 March 1941), known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford,[1] and was the University of Oxford's Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008.[2]

    Dawkins came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, which popularised the gene-centered view of evolution and introduced the term meme. In 1982 he introduced an influential concept into evolutionary biology, presented in his book The Extended Phenotype, that the phenotypic effects of a gene are not necessarily limited to an organism's body, but can stretch far into the environment, including the bodies of other organisms.[3]

    Dawkins is an atheist and humanist, a Vice President of the British Humanist Association and supporter of the Brights movement. He is well known for his criticism of creationism and intelligent design. In his 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker, he argued against the watchmaker analogy, an argument for the existence of a supernatural creator based upon the complexity of living organisms. Instead, he described evolutionary processes as analogous to a blind watchmaker. He has since written several popular science books, and makes regular television and radio appearances, predominantly discussing these topics. In his 2006 book The God Delusion, Dawkins contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that religious faith is a delusion—a fixed false belief.[4] As of January 2010 the English-language version has sold more than two million copies and had been translated into 31 languages, making it his most popular book to date.[5]
  5. Does not matter whether he has an axe to grind his analysis is right on.
  6. jem


    "Darwin's idea is arguably the most powerful ever to occur to a human mind."

    I think E=mc squared... is a bit more powerful.
  7. bone

    bone ET Sponsor

    Not if you are an atheist and you have a serious axe to grind.
  8. lindq


    The fact that you can even think about E-MCsquared is a result of your evolution from slime.

    So which is the more powerful?
  9. bone

    bone ET Sponsor

    If Obama, his staff, and his cabinet members had displayed any sort of competency we wouldn't be having this discussion.

    If a dumb-ass Texan gets elected, it's because the intellectuals had no fucking idea how to get anything done in the real world.

    By the way, all of you hypocrits support a man who on numerous and frequent occasions acknowledges his belief in Jesus Christ as his personal savior, and he ends every speech with the words:
    "and God Bless the United States of America", and he took an oath placing his hand on a Bible.

    So please be advised that political interpretation is probably not the medium to promote your atheistic viewpoints.

  10. jem


    Thats the thing about evolution... especially the way Dawkings promotes it.

    There is no proof life evolved from slime. In fact there is a great deal of doubt life had time to evolve on earth from non life in the billion or so years it took before life showed up on the fossil record.

    If you were to find proof we evolved from slime, you would win the nobel prize and I might give that finding far greater weight.
    #10     Aug 25, 2011