Wednesday, May 05, 2010

I'm offended that you're offended

Richard Dawkins was recently in Australia and stole the limelight in a Q&A episode on religion [Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6].

I have to hand it to Senator Stephen Fielding. He has guts coming out and admitting he's a young earth creationist. Perhaps Australian politicians are not unlike those in my country--they'll do anything to draw attention (and thus engendering name recall for future elections) even it means becoming the laughing stock of the audience (or the country). People like Fielding are truly deluded in the psychiatric sense. In the face of overwhelming evidence they still hold on to cockamamie beliefs. In fact for the utterly deluded no amount or quality of evidence will persuade them otherwise. They are absolutely closed to the idea that they are or may be wrong. As long as they have a minimum number of members (and who knows how many that is) who subscribe to the same delusion, as long as such a community of like-minded inmates exists, they will carry on.

Interestingly Dawkins is the only nonbeliever in the panel of six. I don't know if the audience was able to digest the fact--one that Dawkins eventually pointed out--that those in the panel had differing religious beliefs which were incompatible with one another to a lesser or greater degree. For instance none of the five of course would have anything to do with Fielding's inane "10,000-year old universe, God waved his wand and rabbits and humans magically came into being" worldview. I felt that Minster of Agriculture Tony Bourke and political opposition deputy leader Julie Bishop wanted to distance themselves as clearly as possible from the crackpot senator when they explicitly and repeatedly said that religion and specifically Intelligent Design should not be taught in science classes. And then there was Judaism represented by Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio, a religion which does not and, as far as its tradition goes, will never accept Jesus as God incarnate. Ninio's Judaism, by the way, seems to lean more toward Jewish mysticism--she talked about a God concept that continually evolves. Hardly fundamentalist. So even within this group of five you had a plurality of supernatural beliefs which couldn't all be simultaneously right (unless we're willing to throw out the principle of noncontradiction). Some ideas will be wrong and some may be right, or all of them might be false. That's inescapable. 

What I found so completely lame is that during the latter half of the program Bishop and then Bourke charged Dawkins with being disrespectful and ridiculing religion. Once Dawkins delved into specifics and pointed out biblical facts, these two whipped out the "you are being disrespectful" and "you offend me"card. Well, believers offend and disrespect me for being offended by rational critique. How dare they mock Dawkins' and nonbelievers' intelligence!

Dawkins is proved right. If this had been a discussion on political or economic systems, or science or engineering, this issue of respect of one's views wouldn't come up. Criticism and debate would be taken for granted as the norm. Somehow believers have this insane belief that belief in invisible superheroes and superfoes, in airy fairy, namby pamby notions should be respected. And "insane" is not inappropriate a description. For what could be sane about granting respect to and withholding criticism from such extraordinary ideas that have no evidential support whatsoever? What is a mockery is the believers' supposed treasuring of truth but all the while closing off the avenues toward reaching it.

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