Friday, March 03, 2006

Complete audio of Parts 1 & 2 of Dawkins' Root of All Evil?

The audio of Richard Dawkins' two-part film Root of All Evil? which aired in the UK last month is available on the Net for download. These files are BitTorrented so you'll need to install a BitTorrent software.To start you off, visit Brian's BitTorrent FAQ and Guide. It not only introduces BitTorrenting, but also provides links to various BitTorrent software available out there. They're freeware. Just download one of your choice. I'm using Azureus. If you ever pick it you must separately download and install the Java JRE program which is on the same site.

Before you can actually get the Dawkins audio you first have to download the torrent files for them. The torrents are very small files. You then open them in your BitTorrent software which then starts downloading the two Root of All Evil? avi files. These are the actual audio files you'll be listening to using, most probably, Windows Media Player (if you're using a PC and Windows).

Here are the torrent files available at

Root of All Evil?: The God Delusion
Root of All Evil?: The Virus of Faith

Download the above files to your hard disk. Open them in your BitTorrent program to start the download process. The actual audio files are 349Mb and 348Mb respectively. Pretty huge. And if you're using a dial-up connection downloading will be pretty slow (understatement of the season). Depending on the number of BitTorrent seeds and peers available online download will take anywhere from 30 hours to forever. It took me some 40-50 hours for each file. Yeah, it's that bad. But hell it's worth it. Listening to Darwin's Rottweiler feistily critique supernaturalism is worth pretty much anything.

Excerpts from Part 1, The God Delusion

I believe there is a profound contradiction between science and religious belief. There is no well-demonstrated reason to believe in God. And I think the idea of a divine creator belittles the elegant reality of the universe.

The 21st century should be an age of reason, yet irrational, militant faith is back on the march.


Science we are told should not tread on the toes of theology. But why should scientists tiptoe respectfully away? The time has come for people of reason to say enough is enough. Religious faith discourages independent thought. It's divisive, and it's dangerous.


At Lourdes in southern France the assault on the senses appeals to us not to think, not to doubt, not to probe. And if we can retain our faith against the evidence, in the teeth of reality, the more virtuous we are.

... If you have a delusion that you're Napoleon it must be a fairly lonely feeling because nobody else agrees with you. Your faith that you're Napoleon needs a lot of shoring up. But these people here [in Lourdes], thousands of people, all have exactly the same delusion. That must give wonderful reinforcement to their faith.

I used to think reason had won the war against superstition, but it's quite shaking to witness the faithful droves trooping through Lourdes. This is a benign herd but it supports a backward belief system that I believe reason must challenge.


[According to the resource person Dawkins interviews there has been a total of 66 declared miracles in Lourdes, that there are around 80,000 sick pilgrims who visit every year, and that pilgrims have been coming to Lourdes for over a century. Assume for a moment that there are 66 miracles per year. The miracle rate would then be: 66 / 80,000 = 0.0000825 or 0.00825% or less than one in a thousand. Certainly very depressing particularly when you look at it from the other side--that 1211 out of 1212 sick pilgrims will go home still sick and afflicted. But of course that's a total of 66 miracles over the last 150 years. The frequency of miracles at Lourdes is simply infinitesimal. Generosity it seems is not among the strong points of the god of the Catholics. And as Dawkins points out He isn't very giving at all when it comes to severed limbs. Perhaps He's given up sculpting with dirt.]

So the hard fact is that over the years with their millions of pilgrims there have been 66 supposed miracles. Statistically, it adds up to no evidence at all.

I can't help remarking that nobody has ever had a miraculous regrowing of a severed leg. The cures are always things that might have got better anyway.

People lean on their faith as a crutch, but I fear the comfort it provides is a shallow pretense.


People like to say that faith and science can live together side by side. But I don't think they can. They're deeply opposed. Science is a discipline of investigation and constructive doubt, questing with logic, evidence and reason to draw conclusions. Faith by stark contrast demands a positive suspension of critical faculties.

Science proceeds by setting up hypotheses, ideas or models, and then attempts to disprove them. So a scientist is constantly asking questions, being skeptical. Religion is about turning untested belief into unshakable truth through the power of institutions and the passage of time.

[Dawkins then illustrates this definition of his using the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary--the Catholic belief that Mary never died physically but got beamed up to heaven by Capt. Yahweh]

The belief that her body was lifted into heaven emerged about six centuries after Jesus' time, made up like any tale and spread by word of mouth. But it became established tradition. It was handed down over centuries. And the odd thing about tradition is that the longer it's been going the more people seem to take it seriously. It's as though sheer passage of time makes something that was to begin with just made up turns it into what people believe as a fact.

By 1950 the tradition was so strongly established that it became official truth. It became authority. The Vatican decreed that Roman Catholics must now believe in the doctrine of the Assumption of the Virgin. Now, if you had asked Pope Pius XII how he knew it was truth he would've said you had to take his word for it because it had been revealed to him by God.

He [the pope] shut himself away and thought about it. He just thought private thoughts inside his own head and convinced himself, no doubt on tortuous theological grounds, that it just had to be so.


How do scientists know the things that they know about the world and the universe?... The answer is, Evidence! Tons and tons of mutually supporting evidence. Science is about testing, comparing, and corroborating this massive evidence and using it to update old theories of how things work.

I do remember one formative influence in my undergraduate life. There was an elderly professor in my department who had been passionately keen on a particular theory for, oh, a number of years. And one day an American visiting researcher came and he completely and utterly disproved [the professor's] hypothesis. The old man strode to the front, shook his hand and said, "My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years." And we all clapped our hands raw. That was the scientific ideal of somebody who had a lot invested, a lifetime almost, invested in the theory. And he was rejoicing that he had been shown wrong and that scientific truth had been advanced.


Evolution driven by Darwin's motor of natural selection gets us to the top of Mount Improbable [getting from bacteria at the ground level to Homo sapiens at the summit]. From primeval simplicity to ultimate complexity. The design hypothesis couldn't even begin to do that because it raises an even bigger problem than it solves: Who made the designer?

The abundance and variety of life on earth may seem improbable but it's self-evidently futile to invent an improbable god to explain that very improbability.

I thought that in my lifetime evolution would be accepted and taught around the world as a scientific fact supported by overwhelming evidence. But unfortunately the whole point about faith is that even massive and constantly accumulating physical evidence cuts no ice. Evolution today is under threat.


[The segment with evangelical pastor Ted Haggard is a must-hear. A very good reason to tarry not in flushing that odious crap called faith]


Evolution by natural selection is supported by mountains of evidence, while [biblical] creation contradicts the evidence and is only backed by some ancient scribblings.


Science can't disprove the existence of God. But that does not mean that God exists. There are a million things we can't disprove.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell had an analogy. Imagine there's a china teapot in orbit around the sun. You cannot disprove the existence of the teapot because it's too small to be spotted by our telescopes. Nobody but a lunatic would say, Well I'm prepared to believe in the teapot because I can't disprove it. Maybe we have to be technically and strictly agnostic but in practice we are all teapot atheists.

But now suppose that everybody in the society--the teachers, the tribal elders--all have faith in the teapot. Stories of the teapot have been handed down for generations; it's part of the tradition of the society; there are holy books about the teapot. Then, somebody who said they did not believe in the teapot might be regarded as eccentric or even mad.

There's an infinite number of things like celestial teapots that we can't disprove. There are fairies, there are unicorns, hobgoblins. We can't disprove any of those. But we don't believe in them, anymore than nowadays we believe in Thor, Amun Ra, or Aphrodite. We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.

Excerpts from Part 2, The Virus of Faith

Science weighs up evidence and advances; religion is hidebound belief for belief's sake. It's bad for our children and it's bad for you.


Let me explain why when it comes to children I think of religion as a dangerous virus. It's a virus which is transmitted partly through teachers and clergy but also down the generations from parent to child to grandchild. Children are especially vulnerable to infection by the virus of religion.

A child is genetically preprogrammed to accumulate knowledge from figures of authority. The child brain, for very good Darwinian reasons, has to be set up in such a way that it believes what it's told by its elders because there just isn't time for the child to experiment with warnings like "Don't go too near the cliff edge" or "Don't swim in the river; there are crocodiles." Any child who applied a scientific, skeptical questioning attitude to that would be dead.

No wonder the Jesuits said, "Give me a child for his first seven years and I'll give you the man."

The child brain will automatically believe what it's told even if what it's told is nonsense. And then when the child grows up it will tend to pass on that same nonsense to its children. And so religion goes on from generation to generation.

For many people part of growing up is killing off the virus of faith with a good strong dose of rational thinking. But if an individual doesn't succeed in shaking it off his mind is stuck in a permanent state of infancy, and there is a real danger that he will infect the next generation.


[Vis-a-vis the belief that the crucifixion of Jesus was a blood sacrifice, the price for the forgiveness of humanity's sins both past and future, Dawkins says:] If God wanted to forgive our sins, why not just forgive them? Who's God trying to impress? Presumably himself since he's judge and jury, as well as execution victim.

To cap it all, according to scientific views of prehistory Adam, the supposed perpetrator of the original sin, never existed in the first place. An awkward fact which undermines the premiss of Paul's whole tortuously nasty theory.

Oh but of course the story of Adam and Eve was only ever symbolic, wasn't it? Symbolic?! So Jesus had himself tortured and executed for a symbolic sin by a nonexistent individual? Nobody not brought up in the faith could reach any verdict other than barking mad."


I suspect that religion is simply a parasite on a much older moral sense.... Morality stems not from some fictional deity and its texts but from altruistic genes that have been naturally selected in our evolutionary past.


By disclaiming the idea of a next life we can take more excitement in this one. The here and now is not something to be endured before eternal bliss or damnation. The here and now is all we have--an inspiration to make the most of it. So atheism is life-affirming in a way religion can never be.

...Religion can provide only facile, ultimately unsatisfying answers. Science, in constantly seeking real explanations, reveals the true majesty of our world in all its complexity.


Nature's Rebel said...

I've read The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, and The Extended Phenotype. The last was hard but invigorating in end. Have you read any of these?

Just bumped into you. We may have some conversation to share.

Edwardson said...

Unfortunately the only work of his I've read is The Blind Watchmaker and a couple of online articles.