Dawkins Should be Honest and Admit He Does Not Care About Evidence

He’s STILL at it:

Forcing a religion on your children is as bad as child abuse, claims atheist professor Richard Dawkins

He said children should be taught ‘religion exists’ but not taught it as fact
Prof Dawkins repeating claims that sex abuse does ‘arguably less long-term psychological damage’ than being brought up a Catholic

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2312813/Richard-Dawkins-Forcing-religion-children-child-abuse-claims-atheist-professor.html#ixzz2RBxydgaV

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14 Responses to Dawkins Should be Honest and Admit He Does Not Care About Evidence

  1. Another Steve says:

    From cambridgemummy, one of the commenters on your linked piece:

    “The most obnoxious man in Britain. He Came to speak at my daughter’s school and told a bunch of 16 yr olds that anyone with religious beliefs has no place in science. My daughter asked him where that left Isaac Newton and he swore at her before storming off stage. Never been so proud of her.”

  2. eveysolara says:

    I’m pretty familiar with how he would respond to that, he has said he would be a theist as well if he was born in pre-Darwinian times. So I think the commenter made that up.

  3. Daniel says:

    It’s ridiculous and unnecessary to compare it to child abuse, it’s an emotive issue and will only antagonise those of religious faith. However, you have to acknowledge the harm forcing a religion is on a child. Children are impressionable, they do not doubt what is told to them and are ultimately trusting and reliant on their parents. Children should be presented with scientific facts, not stories masquerading as facts. If they ask where the universe and life comes from, they should be told that some believe and provide evidence for the Big Bang and various other scientific theories, they should be told that some believe Yahweh created the world in 7 days, they should be told that some believe Allah created the universe and they should be told that some believe that Brahma created the universe. They should be told that nobody knows for certain how the universe was created. They should be given the information and be allowed to formulate their own opinions. They should absolutely not be told that this is what happened and that’s that. They should not be ordained into a faith they have not chosen, they should not be told that if they are homosexual they will burn in the presence of the lamb, they should not be told that if they do not believe they will suffer eternal damnation and they should not be brainwashed from birth to believe a particular dogma.

  4. The Deuce says:

    He’s too far down that hole to climb out now. Guess he figures he might as well keep digging and hope to come out the other side.

  5. Michael says:

    Daniel,

    Everyone is entitled to his/her opinions on raising kids and you are certainly free to raise your children according to your own views. But the issue here is the integrity of the leading figure of the atheist movement. He has made himself rich by promoting himself as some type of champion of science and evidence. Yet even after he had to acknowledge he had no science or evidence to back up his crackpot views on religion as child abuse, he continues to preach his crackpot notions in public arena.

  6. Crude says:

    It’s ridiculous and unnecessary to compare it to child abuse, it’s an emotive issue and will only antagonise those of religious faith.

    The central problem with the comparison is that it’s a nonsense claim that Dawkins not only cannot back up save for a few anecdotes, but the actual available evidence speaks against him on this.

    If I say that gay people spontaneously generate AIDS which they can infect other people with by looking at them, that’s going to antagonize people. It also happens to be utter nonsense. While the antagonizing is unfortunate, it’s the utter wrongness that is the real problem.

    However, you have to acknowledge the harm forcing a religion is on a child. Children are impressionable, they do not doubt what is told to them and are ultimately trusting and reliant on their parents. Children should be presented with scientific facts, not stories masquerading as facts.

    No, we do not have to acknowledge the harm, especially when ‘harm’ and ‘forcing’ is not defined. If you claim that raising a child in a religious household, if passing on your religious beliefs, is ‘harm’ then demonstrate it. Define harm, and define forcing. Because if your definition of ‘forcing religious opinions’ happens to be ‘presenting evidence and reasoning you think up backs your view to your child and stating what you think is the most likely case’, and if your definition of ‘harm’ amounts to ‘people believe things that you, Daniel, do not’, you’ve got a pretty weak case. As bad as Dawkins’, really.

    What’s more, there are no ‘scientific facts’. There is data, and there are scientific theories that explain that data. Sometimes these theories last – many times they get overturned in minor or major ways (see the transition from classical to quantum mechanics in terms of fundamental understanding.) Meanwhile, those stories you dislike may well be facts – but, like with the theories, the best we can do is reason and come to a conclusion about them, and try to be consistent in our reasoning.

    The first dogma that children need to be cured of is the dogma that mistakes scientific theory for scientific fact, that discourages skepticism of popular claims presented as scientific, and that regards scientific consensus in a way eerily similar to religious orthodoxy.

  7. Daniel says:

    Crude, thank you for the response. I will try to address and answer honestly the issues you have raised with my statement. The harm it may cause a child can be varied but it is essential to recognise that religion can cause harm to those who do not realise they have been harmed. Whilst this may sound like a ridiculous sentiment, bare with me.

    The members of the Westboro Baptist Church probably do not believe they have been harmed by Christianity, but I believe it is reasonable to suggest that they are flawed in their scientific and particularly moral perceptions and judgements. Their hatred and protests against homosexuals, Jews, Catholics, Muslims and Hindu’s to name a few are clear signs of deeply prejudiced and damaged human beings. It seems plausible that their opinions and views have been formed by their religious inclinations and the environment in which they occupy. Whilst this could be down to a misinterpretation of scripture or experience, their beliefs can be traced to their religious upbringing. Of course the same arguments can made of fundamentalists of all religion, but surely that demonstrates my point that religion can be harmful in the moral development of individuals.

    Whilst the point above addresses the issue of harm, I would like to further elaborate. Of course fundamentalists are a concise minority and it would be unfair to label religion as having this effect on anyone and everyone. However, harm does not have to come in the form of ignorance or intolerance. I’m not sure how reliable the figures are but a Gallup poll claims that 46% of Americans reject evolution and the Big Bang Theory, and believe in creationism. Whilst I’m not advocating that evolution and the Big Bag are the definite answers, both theories are supported by substantial evidence, where as creationism in my knowledge has none (feel free to correct me because I would be interested in further reading). This belief clearly stems from religious belief, and shows a clear lack of rationality and coherent thought, which I would conclude as harm.

    I’ll now try and move on to the issue of force. I admit it was probably a poor choice of words, but it was a hurried response. The point I was trying to illustrate was that children are incredibly trusting, particularly with their parents. If their parents believe something they are likely to adopt those views without forming their own objective opinions. This is evident not just in religion, but in political alignment, racial attitudes and social behaviour. Whilst someone who comes across as intelligent like yourself is unlikely to portray the Bible as absolute fact, claiming your belief in it will invariably and almost inevitably lead to the child’s conformity. Equally, there are certainly many who will present Biblical scripture as absolute fact, and will not allow their child to challenge these views, ultimately leading to a similar attitude in later life and towards their own children.

    Once again I must apologise for my tardiness, you are correct in claiming there is no such thing as scientific fact, and I was mistaken in my wording. However, there are indeed scientific theories with monumental evidence which can be taken and considered with a similar faith as fact, gravity for example. Indeed we must be consistent in our reasoning, as touched upon above, there is significant evidence for evolution where as the evidence for creationism is non-existent, therefore it is reasonable to conclude that evolution is the more convincing explanation and should be the theory emphasised to children, whilst at the same time emphasising the scientific process and method which led to that conclusion.
    I completely agree with your final point, but scepticism of science should only lead to more science!

    Thank you for your time, it’s interesting to consider other viewpoints. My intention was never to offend and if I have caused any I do apologise. By the way I’m not an ardent atheist, purely agnostic with a penchant for deism, with a keen interest in the questions and in turn the answers the universe holds.

    Michael hopefully I’ve addressed what you have brought up as well, as for Dawkins, I think there are extremists on both sides of the fence, yet I don’t believe the issue here is his integrity. He made what in my opinion is a valid point but stated it in a way which was designed to antagonise, hopefully my reasoning and justification is more acceptable.

    Final point, I just want to emphasise I am no point saying a Christian bringing up their child with Christian morals is harmful, simply that it can be.

  8. stcordova says:

    I’m coming out of hibernation to comment..

    Let us say for the sake of argument teaching religion causes harm to an individual and to society, at issue is whether Dawkins can say on scientific grounds it is equal or worse to child abuse.

    The US Surgeon General appointed by the President says:

    “… severe and repeated trauma during youth may have enduring effects upon both neurobiological and psychological development altering stress responsivity and altering adult behaviour patterns … these individuals experience a greatly increased risk of mood, anxiety and personality disorders throughout adult life.”

    Compare that to the effect that has been studied empirically:

    “little evidence exists that addresses whether early parental religious influence affects behavior in adulthood”
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13674679808406502#preview

    and
    http://www.indiana.edu/~engs/articles/religion2.htm
    “It was concluded that among this sample of Scottish post-secondary students, having a strong religious commitment was associated with less substance use and that heavy drinking and using tobacco was correlated with illicit drug use. Implications of this study suggest further research to determine why lack of religious commitment, being Roman Catholic or having no religious preference are a risk factors for use of a variety of licit and illicit recreational substances. ”

    Ironically, even Dawkins’ colleagues suggest religion was favored by evolution for the survival of the species. The implication is that religion is “good” at least in terms of evolution. Thus, not only does Dawkins have no evidence, but he ignores contrary evidence from his own field of evolutionary biology.

    As a Christian, I would actually agree certain kinds of religious upbringing are harmful to society:
    teaching of witch craft, witch doctoring, accupuncture, chiropractoring, astrology, psychic phenomenon, seances, hinduism, islam. Would I equate the harm of this to child abuse? No. I would I think laws carried out by corrupt politicians and bureaucrats the solution, no. I will let God admister the justice in those cases. The cure is the truth, not more laws administered by flawed men.

    My mother is life long Catholic. I’m a protestant, but can say her faith saved her life, especially through her illnesses and passing of Dad. Growing up, she was abused by nuns pinching and spanking and hitting her (in her home country, not the USA), she generally despises them, but I see little risidual effects on her faith and well being from the experience. She decouples her belief in God from the despicable behavior of those nuns. It was the teachings of Christ that probably helped her work through the behavior of the clergy…

    As far as the supposed monumental evidence for evolution and against design, I point to the Atheist and Agnostic authors like Fred Hoyle, Michael Denton, Jack Trevors, Robert Jastrow, David Berlinski, Hubert Yockey,…. and many others. Their works are technical. The late Fred Hoyle was a world class scientist…his chapter “The Gospel According to Darwin” was powerful. A more up-to-date critique can be found in youtube videos: “The Programming of Life” and “Case for a Creator”. These videos follow similar lines of argument as Hoyle. Because of poeple like Hoyle and Jack Trevors, criticism of evolution can’t be said to be purely religious.

  9. Crude says:

    Daniel,

    The members of the Westboro Baptist Church probably do not believe they have been harmed by Christianity,

    And they’re right. They have not been, insofar as you’re going to struggle pretty mightily to find any connection between the perceived harm on the part of Westboro Baptist and Christianity. It makes about as much sense as saying that a child who was sexually molested was harmed by secularism, insofar as the sexual desire and acts were secular, and the belief that they were acceptable was a secular belief.

    Whilst this could be down to a misinterpretation of scripture or experience, their beliefs can be traced to their religious upbringing. Of course the same arguments can made of fundamentalists of all religion, but surely that demonstrates my point that religion can be harmful in the moral development of individuals.

    There’s a difference between a ‘religious upbringing’, particularly a religious one that is obviously a particular limit case, and a Christian one. Westboro Baptist is a tiny little church that doesn’t even have what can reasonably be called a philosophy or worldview, and is suspect to the point where one can legitimately wonder if they even sincerely hold their views or if they’re a puppet organization. It is trivial to cast the net so widely with regards to atheism, secularism and otherwise that I can scoop up terrible or monster households in my description of them. If you’d concede that those show that ‘atheism, secularism’ and otherwise can be harmful, then your whole point on this front will be deflated. So why engage in it?

    More than that, when you talk about harm being done to *moral development*, you’ve opened a whole new can of worms. I’m going to ask you how you can ascertain that harm given a mix of atheism and materialism. There’s more than a few atheists who argue that those two things result in the view that morality, in any objective or real sense, is relative or has no meaning beyond human preferences, etc. That seems like quite the moral harm itself. Is this fair game?

    I’m not sure how reliable the figures are but a Gallup poll claims that 46% of Americans reject evolution and the Big Bang Theory, and believe in creationism. Whilst I’m not advocating that evolution and the Big Bag are the definite answers, both theories are supported by substantial evidence, where as creationism in my knowledge has none (feel free to correct me because I would be interested in further reading). This belief clearly stems from religious belief, and shows a clear lack of rationality and coherent thought, which I would conclude as harm.

    I believe in the Big Bang and evolution, but again – how is having an incorrect view of very broad scientific theories at all ‘harm’? Are the tremendous number of people who have folk theories about chemistry or physics harmed? How about the people who think we live in a classical world when current science indicates we live in a quantum world? Is Stephen Hawking harming people when he runs around presenting M-theory as a scientific theory that answers questions in anything approaching a reliable way? How about when Jerry Coyne presents evolutionary theory as a belief that God plays no role in evolution, despite that being an utterly non-scientific claim even by the standards of most ID proponents?

    As for whether creationism has evidence – it’s going to depend on what you mean both by creationism and evidence, and that’d go beyond the scope of the conversation anyway. On the other hand, it’s not a belief which is connected to religion purely – go over to Lesswrong and you’ll find quite a number of people who believe our universe is a computer simulation. That’s as creationist as anything can get.

    Whilst someone who comes across as intelligent like yourself is unlikely to portray the Bible as absolute fact, claiming your belief in it will invariably and almost inevitably lead to the child’s conformity. Equally, there are certainly many who will present Biblical scripture as absolute fact, and will not allow their child to challenge these views, ultimately leading to a similar attitude in later life and towards their own children.

    There are also many people who portray their secular political opinions and moral views as fact. There are diehard members of both political parties, there are 9/11 truthers and birthers, there are racists, there are people who believe sodomy is both utterly moral and totally immoral, and more. Especially if you allow us to get into limit cases like the WBC, this whole discussion is quickly going to turn into an explication that parents, period, are capable of harming their children with their upbringing – and that picking out ‘religious’ is pointless.

    What’s more, are you really measuring the harm in terms of ‘conformity later in life’? Not only is that a questionable measure to begin with, but it’s imperfect for other reasons – just how many examples do I need to present of children with such an upbringing nevertheless growing up to reject their parents’ values, regardless of how strict their upbringing was?

    However, there are indeed scientific theories with monumental evidence which can be taken and considered with a similar faith as fact, gravity for example.

    Belief in the existence of ‘gravity’ is not itself a scientific theory – it’s a well-supported observation. It’s not as if tribes in New Guinea are unaware that things tend to fall to the ground. Actual scientific theories about what gravity is are pretty problematic.

    Indeed we must be consistent in our reasoning, as touched upon above, there is significant evidence for evolution where as the evidence for creationism is non-existent, therefore it is reasonable to conclude that evolution is the more convincing explanation and should be the theory emphasised to children, whilst at the same time emphasising the scientific process and method which led to that conclusion.

    What if people disagree? I happen to accept the evolution and the big bang, and have since I learned of them. But where is this ‘should’ coming from such that either of us is able to dictate that people who are skeptical of scientific theories aren’t allowed to present their beliefs to their children in a favorable manner? There are atheist big bang skeptics – are they harming their children if they teach them that the universe didn’t experience a big bang and some fringe form of steady state theory is true?

    What’s more, why is either view in competition? Why not raise children to be skeptical of scientific theories, or to view them purely as pragmatic tools rather than as anything approaching fact or truth? Even if evidence for creationism and such can be argued, it seems like there’s a valid third way here – raising children to not put huge intellectual and emotional stock in scientific theories, to recognize they can be changed and challenged.

    Thank you for your time, it’s interesting to consider other viewpoints. My intention was never to offend and if I have caused any I do apologise. By the way I’m not an ardent atheist, purely agnostic with a penchant for deism, with a keen interest in the questions and in turn the answers the universe holds.

    Good Lord, no. You haven’t done anything to offend. If anything I’ve come off as aggressive, because I suspected I was dealing with another Gnu atheist – people who generally aren’t all that interested in actually discussing things. I’m very direct in my way of communicating, and I know that can be off-putting. You have nothing to apologize for.

    All the same, I disagree with you. I understand yours is a common view, but I think the sort of warped view of science and idealization of scientists we see nowadays is a grave error. We can accept science without engaging in scientism.

  10. artemis says:

    Daniel Dennett frames the issue as one of informed consent, which I think is reasonable. We should not take advantage of a child’s vulnerable state. A child, having an underdeveloped mental capacity and little knowledge, is not in a position to make such a hefty decision as joining a religion. Only a mature mind with full awareness of the facts should decide. In other words, a child is neither informed nor capable of consent, so it is wrong to take advantage of the child.

  11. Michael says:

    So do you agree with Jerry Coyne that “it should be illegal to indoctrinate children with religious belief?”

  12. Crude says:

    Daniel Dennett frames the issue as one of informed consent, which I think is reasonable. We should not take advantage of a child’s vulnerable state.

    How do you tell the difference between ‘taking advantage of a vulnerable state’ and not? Is it wrong to raise children to believe that all people are equal, or that various sex acts are/are not immoral, or that certain moral decisions are right or wrong, or that objective morality exists at all?

    I say that raising a child agnostic is taking advantage of their vulnerable state – I think the arguments and evidence for theism are overwhelming in comparison to the arguments and evidence for atheism. What objective metric shows me to be wrong? (Subjective metrics are easy, but irrelevant.)

    Only a mature mind with full awareness of the facts should decide.

    How do you determine who does or doesn’t have a mature mind with full awareness of the facts? And how do you know age is a relevant factor?

    And where are you getting these ‘should’s and ‘should not’s from? Is it a subjective inclination, a cultural attitude? If so, why should I care other than regarding the use of force? If it’s something else, what is it?

    Richard Dawkins wrote a book for children with the goal of promoting belief in atheism and naturalism. (The Magic of Reality.) Is that acceptable?

  13. eric Steves says:

    Can anyone explain why not allow your children to think is wrong? Can anyone explain why indoctrination is wrong, easy – it is plainly wrong to force our children to believe what we do!

  14. Pingback: Richard Dawkins’ Hypocrisy - Thinking Christian

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