Why I won’t take part in debate with fundamentalists (Also in Polish)

Aug 14, 2012

I was invited several months ago to speak at the Faclan Book Festival in Stornoway and I was delighted to accept, as I have a great affection for the Highlands and Islands but have never visited Lewis and have heard such good things about its beauty and about the friendliness of the islanders.

 Imagine, then, my astonishment when I heard that a boycott of my talk was being called for. A boycott! And I was even more astonished when I read the reasons.

“The Lord’s Day Observance Society said it was amazed by the invitation.

President of the group, John Roberts, said: “He has got a name for himself and being invited to a place like the Western Isles, which is a stronghold Presbyterian area, I just find it amazing he should be invited to a place like that.”

What? Did I read that aright? The President of the Lord’s Day Observance Society is amazed that somebody should even be INVITED to speak, simply because it is an area where the majority of people hold a different opinion? I could understand that he might not wish to come and hear me himself. That is, of course, his privilege and I hope somebody else will come and occupy the seat that he would otherwise have taken. But what an extraordinary idea that a book festival, of all places, should never invite anybody to speak unless they can be relied upon to repeat what the audience already knows and already agrees with!

As for calling for a boycott, it is one thing to decide to stay away yourself. But to call for other people to stay away just because you want to stay away yourself: that sounds perilously close to bigotry. Or is it desperation? Not content with stopping up his own ears like the proverbial monkey, Mr Roberts seems to want to stop up everybody else’s ears too.

How amusing, then, to find just a few days after this that I am now being urged to take part in a debate while I am there. You will no doubt notice that this new-found dedication to “fairness and balance” and to “both sides of the theistic debate being heard” (Plan B) has only emerged now that their Plan A, to prevent my side of the theistic debate being heard at all, has failed.

Well, in their shoes, perhaps I would be clamouring for debates as well. If your case depends on pulpit-style oratory, manipulating the emotions of your audience and playing with words, debates will probably work for you very well. They do not, however, work well for explaining science. Debates play to the emotions, to soundbites, to oratorical flourishes and, all too often, to sheer volume. They may make for good drama, but they do not make for good understanding. Fine if your goal is to grandstand; no good at all if it is to educate. So no, I shall not be taking part in any debate while I am on Lewis.

But the fundamentalists need not fear: I plan to leave plenty of time for questions after my talk and, indeed, if the festival organisers were in favour of the idea, I would be happy to scrap the talk altogether and simply devote my entire session to answering questions from the audience. Earlier this week John Roberts said of me, “I wouldn’t cross the road to hear what he has to say” – which seems like a wasted opportunity for him, since he also said “so much of what he says can be torn to pieces”. Well, if John Roberts or Iver Martin or the entire Free Church clergy, come to that, can, after all, bring themselves to cross the road in the interests of tearing me to pieces, they are very welcome to come and have a go. The more the merrier.

However, a quick look at the Faclan programme should be enough to reassure even Mr Roberts and Mr Martin that the festival as a whole is overwhelmingly uncritical of religion. Indeed, they will find not one but two events (The Dawkins Letters with David Robertson and Why There Almost Certainly Is A God with Keith Ward) which are clearly intended to oppose my own talk head-on. So if it really is balance and fairness they are suddenly so concerned about, they appear to have weighed in on the wrong side.

I always marvel when I come up to the Highlands and encounter this kind of sheer, blind panic at the mere thought of my giving a talk. The region has a reputation for solid faith, but if that were really so, you might think it would be able to take a simple talk by an evolutionary scientist in its stride. I am left wondering how confident Mr Roberts and others really are, either in their own faith or their fellow islanders’, if a mere talk at a book festival is enough to provoke so much of their sound and fury.

This article was written for the Press and Journal and is reposted here


Dlaczego nie wezmę udziału w debacie z fundamentalistami

Autor tekstu: Richard Dawkins

Tłumaczenie: Małgorzata Koraszewska 

Kilka miesięcy temu zaproszono mnie na Festiwal Książki Faclan w Stornoway i z przyjemnością przyjąłem zaproszenie, ponieważ mam bardzo ciepłe uczucia wobec Highlands i Wysp, ale nigdy nie byłem na wyspie Lewis, a tyle dobrych rzeczy słyszałem o jej urodzie i o życzliwości jej mieszkańców.

Wyobraźcie sobie moje zdumienie, kiedy usłyszałem, że wzywa się tam do bojkotu mojego wystąpienia. Bojkotu! A jeszcze bardziej zdumiałem się, kiedy przeczytałem o przyczynach tego wezwania.

„Towarzystwo Przestrzegania Dnia Pańskiego powiedziało, że zdumiało ich to zaproszenie. Prezydent grupy, John Roberts, powiedział: “Wrobił sobie nazwisko i jest zapraszany do takiego miejsca jak Wyspy Zachodnie, które są bastionem obszaru prezbiteriańskiego. Dla mnie jest po prostu zdumiewające, że zaproszono go do takiego miejsca”.

Czytaj dalej

Written By: Richard Dawkins
continue to source article at

99 comments on “Why I won’t take part in debate with fundamentalists (Also in Polish)

  • 2
    scottishgeologist says:

    Good one! And I like that explanation of what debates do – after all, truth is not established by who has the best rhetoric or debating skills. I dont actually care if my favourite hero, say, destroys the opposition with rhetoric. It might create a feel-good moment, but it doesnt necessarily establish a truth. It takes research and evidence to get close to that.

    Incidentally, John Roberts doesnt actually LIVE in Lewis. He lives in Herefordshire. Although, I think I read somewhere that the biggest branch of the Lords Day Observance Society is in Lewis. Wouldnt surprise me. Until fairly recently, they used to chain up the swings in the childrens park on a Saturday night to prevent kids from “Sabbath-breaking” on Sundays.

    I kid you not. Although one wit said it was to stop the drunks from doing themselves a mischief on them on the way back from the pub…….

    Enjoy your Lewis trip Professor, I am sure it will do them all good!

    :-)SG

    PS: Something that has always fascinated me about the Western Isles – Its got brilliant geology. The oldest rocks in the UK are found there – about 2.7 billion years old so it is. The islands also have what is probably the highest per capita number of young earth creationists anywhere in the UK….



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  • 5
    Red Foot Okie says:

    ” Well, if John Roberts or Iver Martin or the entire Free Church clergy, come to that, can, after all, bring themselves to cross the road in the interests of tearing me to pieces, they are very welcome to come and have a go.”

    Awesome!



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  • 6
    RemcoHitman says:

    Wonderful teaser! I can almost see the subtitle of Professor Dawkins’ talk now: ‘This should be good!’

    Indeed fascinating to see how the notion of a well-educated, reasoned thinker being ‘endulged’ to be heard always sends fundamentalists into a blind panic; ‘What if he starts to make sense?
    Lucidity is the work of the devil! He’s not called Lucifer for nothing!’

    I look forward to viewing this event on this site. Go Richard, go!



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  • 7
    lindawardselbie says:

    Richard, they are afraid of you obviously otherwise as you suggest, true believers would turn up and ask specific questions on issues that worry them. Offering an open question period is a terrific suggestion. Rural areas of any country continue to fester and foster religious beliefs using threats and power over communities. Few living in those regions feel comfortable challenging them as it tends to result in families being ostracized.

    A good question to ask of believers with a child is would they opt for prayer or seek medical science help?



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  • Too bad  we don’t take the same attitude towards the Presidential Debates  here in the USA.  A good line by Ronald Reagan in his debate w/Carter helped to get him elected.



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  • 11
    anlanntair says:

    Amusingly, today’s front page of the P&J captioned a photo of RD and the Archbishop of Canterbury – super-imposed on Stornoway – as “Richard Dawkins and Rowan Atkinson” (of Blackadder and Mr Bean fame.)

    Here’s a link to the book festival website.  Lot

    http://www.faclan.org/



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  • 12
    Anonymous says:

    I am trying to parse the difference between a debate with these lunatics and an extended Q&A.  I would assume that audience questions won’t be as much a game of Gish Gallop as if faced with a single debater?  Less sophisticated religious sophistry perhaps?  I definitely agree that giving them any degree of participation is tantamount to opening the door of “teaching the controversy” that they are swarming around (at least in the US).  Keep their names out of the official program at any cost!!  LOL.  Enjoy.  



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  • 13
    Anonymous says:

    Perhaps the following cinematic reference is a bit obscure for a world audience, but for my part I am picturing Dawkins staring down the barrel of a .44 Magnum and mumbling towards these religious goobers something along the lines of “Are you feeling lucky?”  My apologies for being a product of a gun crazy culture.  Enjoy.



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  • 14
    the prisoner says:

    I’m actually thinking of flying up to hear the prof talk and maybe say hello – most of his talks/debates seem to be overseas but this one is relatively accessible



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  • 15
    hauntink says:

    As someone living in Lewis I wanted to comment for the pro-Dawkins citizens, of which I’m sure there are many. I, personally, will be first in line to buy a ticket and first in line on the day. I cannot wait to hear Professor Dawkins speak, but unfortunately ours is an opinion that I’m sure will remain unheard, as it is I realise it’s not quite as exciting as our friendly neighbourhood bible bashers’.

    To give you a taste of what you’re in for, sir, they will be outside the venue wringing their hands and sobbing as if the anti-Christ himself was upon us – the same thing they did when we got our first Sunday sailing ferry.

    Good luck! And know that the majority of us will be front and centre, ready to hear your good sermon.



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  • 17
    sunbeamforjeebus says:

    having just typed my comment it suddenly struck me that if the shoe were on the other foot and local atheists were calling for a boycott of an xtian speaker can you imagine the outcry.Former archbishop of canterbury George Carey would be actually foaming at the mouth and ranting on about the marginalisation of xtianity in this country.He would of course be doing it from his grace and favour seat in the house of lords!



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  • 19
    Paul Salahuddin Armstrong says:

    Excellent comments about debates. While I do support debate in certain contexts, it’s true that they often get too heated. Unless very carefully and impartially coordinated, many people leave only having reinforced their world view, without really having learned anything.



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  • 20
    Paul Salahuddin Armstrong says:

    Excellent comments about debates. While I do support debate in certain contexts, it’s true that they often get too heated. Unless very carefully and impartially coordinated, many people leave only having reinforced their world view, without really having learned anything.



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  • 22
    SomersetJohn says:

    Hmmm, the image I’ve got is some hulking churchman aiming the .44 magnum at Richard and asking the famous question; followed by Richard jamming his mighty pen into the barrel of the aforesaid weapon, smiling (ahem) angelically, and replying “Yes, do you?”



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  • 23
    Mrkimbo says:

    Come on faith-heads! Feel the fear and do it anyway. Remember – someone needs to speak up for the lord, as he doesn’t exist to do it himself.



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  • 24
    onbeingananimal says:

    i didn’t see anything like the evangelism within what should be secular institutions, creationist propaganda, or proselytizing in the local paper, not to mention being sniffed at for working on a sunday, until i moved to the highlands. it is much heavier up here than other parts of the country. the highlands, especially creatively speaking and in communitarianism, are more advanced than other areas – but it lacks distinctly in secularism.



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  • Oh Richard, such a shrill and strident piece! How could you?

    You are of course correct and there is no point in debates. It doesn’t matter if a debate is won or lost, it proves nothing more than who was best at debating. I much prefer the conversations that you have with other people (i.e. yourself and A.A.Grayling in Oxford last year), they actually tease out much more from that people involved than any debate I’ve ever heard.



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  • 29
    God fearing Atheist says:

    Please keep us updated on its publication in the ‘Press and Journal’

    While it was fun to read here, it will also be fun to think of all those Scottish fundamentalists spluttering out their porridge one fine morning.
     



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  • 30
    The Devout Atheist says:

    I’m hoping some of the geniuses Richard encountered on Radio Ulster show up to this event for a bit of comic relief (although it may be comical enough regardless).  They really put the mental in fundamental.

    Let’s have some guesses as to when the word “strident” is first used in the Q&A.  I bet it’s within 5 minutes of Question 1. 



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  • 31
    Adam Pearse says:

    I’m hoping some of the geniuses Richard encountered on Radio Ulster show up to this event for a bit of comic relief (although it may be comical enough regardless).  They really put the mental in fundamental.

    Let’s have some guesses as to when the word “strident” is first used in the Q&A.  I bet it’s within 5 minutes of Question 1. 



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  • 34
    Notabilis says:

    No, dismissiveness would be ignoring the fact that RD is doing a public talk. Panic or fury would be attempting to organize a boycott.



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  • Richard,
    from experience, not everyone brought up as a Wee Free observes every faith rule. Sounds kind of familliar, generally where matters of faith meet real life or where real peoples’ morals meet faith.
    With that in mind I would be very surprised if your audience were as against you as you might think.
    Have you had any or very much experiance with the Bretheren?
    I haven’t but have been told they were pretty strict with what they would let their ‘followers’ (aka those in the area) do.

    R

    PS-Lewis and the islands areound are very lovely places, not-with-standing the midges!



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  • 36
    Bertie Russell says:

    I think it says it all about this “organisation” if on their website the God Delusion, a ‘book [that] has quite so forthrightly, fearlessly and ‘scientifically’ challenged established religion and belief in a supernatural God’ (quotation marks theirs, by the way) is sandwiched between Dr Who fan fiction and an equally fictitious and (un)scientifically rigorous account of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Whilst it’s certainly admirable for Mr Dawkins to attempt to introduce new thought in this rather backwards region of the country, I’m afraid it’s a rather fruitless effort. Real inquiring minds “seek out” knowledge, they don’t attend events where they are aren’t forced to challenge their opinions or are surrounded by people who encourage intellectual apathy.



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  • 37
    Chris Joy says:

    Brilliant, I knock around with the same people I grew up with in Portsmouth, UK in a Catholic school. It’s amazing to see how many people understand the difference between illusion and facts when put to them. Few clear thinking (or heavy drinking or any other group of  ) people have trouble understanding these points when put to them clearly but even in Portsmouth, Mr Hitchens is a secret. These protests are predictable but they also open debate and windows to the inquisitive. I was saved and I intend, and do to good effect to spread the word, the blatantly honest word.      



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  • 38
    QuestioningKat says:

    Not content with stopping up his own ears like the proverbial monkey, Mr
    Roberts seems to want to stop up everybody else’s ears too.

    Some people are not content to wear sandals. They would rather pave the earth in leather. (based on quote from Shantideva. Yeah, I know….My former New Age roots are showing.)



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  • 40
    Neil Schipper says:

    >But to call for other people to stay away just because you want to stay
    away yourself: that sounds perilously close to bigotry. Or is it
    desperation?

    Well, Richard you may be correct regarding his interior states but basically what he’s doing is advocacy. It is surely a great temptation for anyone doing advocacy to engage in
    >manipulating the emotions of your audience and playing with words

    Having said that, I hope it’s a worthwhile visit, and that you enjoy a curious and open-minded audience.



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  • 41
    Mike Kemp says:

    I don’t really understand how you can have Q&A without the talk. It assumes the audience already knows what might have been said. But I am guessing from the very suggestion that people should not even listen that few attendees will have heard the original points that Professor Dawkins has put forward. Even if they have it throws open the entire gamut of his output to be questioned. 

    Surely the talk is essential to present a few cogent points that can then be the focus of questioning. Or perhaps in Richard’s experience, no matter what he says, the questioning always widens from any specific issue to the generality of his output?



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  • 43
    fearnpol says:

    I was born and grew up in the Gaidhealtachd and miss the people and the language but one thing I always remember was that Lewis was always referred to as the hot bed of the ‘wee Free’. And even though noting happened in our area on a Sunday at least the shops opened for ‘papers’.
    Prior to Christianity the highlands were a place with laws and a voting system that saw women have rights immediately stripped come ‘holy’ scripture. Chiefs were voted for and if no good were voted out they were never hereditary until lowland scots/English feudalism pushed its way in helped by the church to put down an unruly people with thoughts. All the old books having to be hidden for fear of them being burnt.
    It really is a shame that Lewis is still the same way it will however slowly die out, they even have  flights on Sunday now so progress is coming.



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  • 44
    Alan4discussion says:

     

    – Fouad Boussetta
    You’re absolutely right professor.No need for more fleas.

    Well no!  The place is absolutely swarming with biting midges!



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  • 45
    Michael Kingsford Gray says:

    Of course you are correct in your unstated assumption that they are shit-scared of losing their parasitic positions of power over plebeians, buy your revelations that these petty emperors have no clothes.
    Like a cornered beast, they fight with tooth and claw, until they see that submission may be a superior option.

    The jig is up, you curates; you petty pastors, priests, prelates & pontiffs.

    Like the Wizard of Oz’s protestations: Dawkins has drawn back the curtain to reveal your criminal charade.



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  • 46
    scottishgeologist says:

    I like this comment from the pastor of the local charismatic cult:

    “Pastor Donnie Stewart, of the New Wine Church at Stornoway, added: “It is disappointing that he has been invited given the Christian heritage and local sensitivities here.

    “But we will keep praying that Prof Dawkins receives the personal revelation of the Holy Spirit.”

    Just love that “I am going to pray for you” nonsense. Never know whether to laugh, pour scorn and contempt or just pat them on the head and say, “yeah, sure….”

    SG



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  • 47
    aerosolkid says:

    Too much information for our short lives perhaps!  And definitely too much (sic) redundant information.  Certainly the internet is almost completely obscured by garbage.  I’ll still be looking for hidden gems, even in your posts – no offence intended!



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  • 48
    Alan4discussion says:

     

    – Schrodinger’s Cat
    You are quite right not to want to debate with a bunch of fundamentalist mass debaters.

    Debating fundamentalists, simply reduces the debate to their level, where cascading assertions and refuting ignorant drivel dominates the debate.

    It is far better to have an intelligently presented talk based on real knowledge and aimed at the level of the audience, then taking relevant questions on that agenda.



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  • 49
    Premiseless says:

    I’ve been looking for hidden gems for a long time and no luck, so why should you be so special 😉

    I still vision a native with an unsure arm whenever Shakespeare is mentioned, for example!



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  • 50
    scottishgeologist says:

    Alan4discussion mentioned “taking relevant questions”. This is a thing that the average preacher simply does not experience (or probably want, i would think)

    They stand in the pulpit, spouting their own agendas (“as the Spirit leads them”, yeah sure…) and harangue their sheep with whatever nonsense they come out with , knowing, and secure in the knowledge that there is no Q and A afterwards.

    No public challenging of the pish they have just spouted. Of course some of the more “sophisticated” ones will say things like “If anyone wants to ask me about the sermon afterwards, feel free to speak to me”  I have seen and heard this sort of comment several times. Its BS. They dont WANT to have to justify it

    After all, they claim to be “being led by the Spirit” so to question the preacher is to question God himself….

    In no other walk of life does this happen. If I gave a seminar on science or business, I’d expect Q&A afterwards. If I was giving a talk to a local club , I’d be expected to take questions. 

    But no, the preacher is “above” that sort of scrutiny. And the worst bit is, the congregation of sheep like it that way. Thats the way they want it, and thats what they expect it.

    SG



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  • What I find amazing is that anyone would hold a book festival in such a haven of bigots. Why even hold a festival with invited speakers if they are closed to the ideas of the outside world?



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  • Pastor Donnie Stewart, of the New Wine Church at Stornoway, added: “It is disappointing that he has been invited given the Christian heritage and local sensitivities here.
    “But we will keep praying that Prof Dawkins receives the personal revelation of the Holy Spirit.”

    Further proof that one should never mix the grape and the grain. It messes with your head terribly.



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  • 53
    Mark Jones says:

    The Wee Frees are predictably discombobulated:

    His sound bite atheism does not stand up to rigorous scrutiny.

    …said Reverend David Robertson, in a sound bite.

    Mr Robertson continued: “Dawkins considers, like so many of his fellow new atheists, that there is no debate – that they and they alone, have the truth. “Ironically such intolerance of others is the very definition of the fundamentalism that Dawkins professes to hate.”

    The irony is in DAR’s straw-manning of Dawkins’s position on truth while condemning his own.

    http://www.freechurch.org/inde



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  • 54
    Alan4discussion says:

     

    – aerosolkid
    Too
    much information for our short lives perhaps!  And definitely too much
    (sic) redundant information.  Certainly the internet is almost
    completely obscured by garbage.

    Yep!  Plenty of garbage on the internet, although using “Google scholar” helps to reduce it.

    I’ll still be looking for hidden gems,
    even in your posts – no offence intended!

    On this site, try reading some of the science discussions – and their links.



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  • 55
    maria melo says:

    “What? Did I read that aright? The President of the Lord’s Day Observance Society is amazed that somebody should even be INVITED to speak, simply because it is an area where the majority of people hold a different opinion?”

    This reminded me a man, always telling the judge, your h, she ´s offending me with her…. posture, and probably the judge would take off the eyes of the woman etc.,  not to offend the sensitive man, or like Pablo Neruda would put it, he didn´t have licence to have been born, but did he need a licence to occupy his own room ?

    A democratic dictatorship probably.



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  • 57
    thatgingerscouser says:

    Come on Richard, you know you terrify these guys. The number of non-religious in the UK has doubled over the last 20 years, and you’ve been instrumental in pushing those numbers over the 50% mark (according to the latest BSA surveys). As secularists become more and more in the majority, we’ll be seeing a lot more of this kind of panic and desperation over the coming years. Let’s just hope it doesn’t progress past this rather pathetic sabre-rattling.



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  • 58
    scottishgeologist says:

    Looks like the Wee Flea is trying to up the ante:

    “I will give up my slot at Faclan on the Thursday night if Professor Dawkins would be willing to dialogue with me instead. He can hear my point of view and I will listen to his “
    from:

    http://www.freechurch.org/inde… 

    Got them rattled already, I think….

    🙂

    SG



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  • 59
    plasma-engineer says:

    While you are there Richard, I urge you to visit a few of the beautiful areas of the islands of Harris and Lewis.  Callanish Stones is obviously on any list of unmissable locations.  Slightly more obscure is the amazingly well-preserved Carloway Broch.  I’m sure that the public will now be prevented from climbing on it carefully, as was possible just 25 years ago, but I’m equally sure it is still worth a visit.  Thirdly, I would drive down the East side of Harris and up the West side.  The complete difference in the landscapes is almost unbelievable.  I hope you enjoy your trip as much as I have done in the past.



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  • 60
    aquilacane says:

    They need a bit of Dawkin’s. Whether Richard is aware or not, he is the voice that is finally telling people it is OK to be an atheist. There has never been a central figure giving permission to be an atheist before. Permission may just be the only thing some of these people need to make the switch. We are not all leaders.



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  • 61
    scottishgeologist says:

    Its getting hotter….

    According to:

    http://www.christianstogether…. 

    The Wee Flea himself, has this to say:

    “Postscript:
    Because of the rather unthinking actions of a Christian believer I was obliged to ‘enter the door’ of the Dawkins on-line forum some years ago. Before I engaged with Dawkins’ friends I imagined that it would be akin to swimming in a pool of sharks. In fact it felt more like trying to keep my head above water in a demonised cesspit. 
    One of the atheist archbishop’s principal mace bearers – she who had interviewed Dawkins on stage during his Inverness visit – suggested on the forum that I was ‘wasting my time’ there. I responded by agreeing with her expressed sentiment and thanking her for her counsel. Her immediate and angry reaction was: “Don’t you dare agree with me!”  Oh dear.

    Is that Paula Kirby who’s getting Robertsons ire there? What a fud.

    SG



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  • 62
    Alan4discussion says:

    @scottishgeologist

    http://www.freechurch.org/inde
    So here is a simple challenge. Richard Dawkins says that he wants
    ‘good understanding’. I agree. The best way to understand is not to mock
    or caricature but to listen. 

    I will give up my slot at Faclan on the Thursday night if Professor
    Dawkins would be willing to dialogue with me instead. He can hear my
    point of view and I will listen to his.

    Am I missing something?  What is stopping them listening to each other’s talks in the allocated slots, and then asking questions?  – Or was Robertson planning to interrupt the rational flow of knowledge and try to shout down the reasoning?

    If he can show me the error of my ways I will repent and find another
    job.

    Or alternatively, Richard can show his parishioners the error of his ways and he will have to find another job!

    But perhaps he will be the one to experience a Stornoway road
    conversion? The age of miracles is not yet over!

    Ah!  – But miracles are only fairytales for the deluded.  They don’t actually happen in the real world!



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  • 63
    SYSkeptic says:

    What I find amazing is that you think that simply because there are some intolerant morons in a particular community, that precludes anyone else from holding a book festival.  Sounds like bigotry to me.  There is some serious stereotyping of Hebrideans on this forum which is quite offensive.  Richard, I am pleased to see, is looking forward to his visit to these islands, and will I am sure be welcomed by most people here.



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  • 64
    SYSkeptic says:

    Calanais is indeed stunning, and as far as I know it is still possible to climb up the inside of the broch (my daughter managed it last week) though this is not perhaps recommended for visiting professors in November.  I will have a word with some Free Church friends to see if some late autumn sunshine can be arranged to coincide with Richard’s visit…



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  • 65
    kairostomy says:

    Theoretically, a debate takes place on neutral territory. Both sides leave their (intellectual) home ground and meet in a place where ideas are debated. Of course, this kind of neutrality is a myth and Professor Dawkins recognizes this. I hear him saying – “I’ll be there. Come and challenge me if you wish. My “talk” is not indispensable – you all know my ideas. Some of you know them just enough to want to boycott my presentation. Others know them well enough to want more. Let’s drop the charade of neutrality – you’re all very welcome to come and have ago.”
    Sounds good to me.



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  • Ah, Mr Robertson – he was certainly trying to keep his head above water as he kept running away with his tail between his legs. This from the man who thinks Geological events are caused by sin, and other such fatuous codswallop. A demonised cesspit – to him it probably was, as he was made to look a shallow fool by constructive argument. The superb dissection of his empty-headed book by Paula Kirby was a masterpeice, to which his response was risible.



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  • 67
    Alan4discussion says:

    @scottishgeologist

    The Wee Flea himself, has this to say : http://www.christianstogether….  One of the atheist archbishop’s principal mace bearers – she who had interviewed Dawkins on stage during his Inverness visit – suggested on the forum that I was ‘wasting my time’ there. I responded by agreeing with her expressed sentiment and thanking her for her counsel.

    He was wasting his time, as he  obviously learned nothing!

    Her immediate and angry reaction was: “Don’t you dare agree with me!”  Oh dear.

    .

    Is that Paula Kirby who’s getting Robertson’s ire there? What a fud.

    He is obviously using his “biblical interpretation skills”, in recalling his ad-hom reaction – with no understanding of the reasoning, content, or the substance of the comments!

    Robertson is obviously full of Dunning-Kruger confidence!

    The Dunning-Kruger effect occurs when incompetent people not only fail to realise their incompetence, but consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. Basically – they’re too stupid to know that they’re stupid.- http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/D



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  • 68
    JeffVader67 says:

    I’m quite sure the good Professor will be made very welcome by the people of the Highlands and Islands. However, what would really impress me is when RD debates in the heart of Tower Hamlets at the East London Mosque. Perhaps quoting some of the scary stories from “Apostates of Islam” linked from this very website. If he already has then can someone please post the link. Incidently I have photos taken on a sunny day on the beaches of Lewis and it could be mistaken for a Carribean sea. Crystal clear waters. 



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  • 69
    thebaldgit says:

    Of course you should not take part with the sort of religious lunatics who insist that any “debate” will be on their terms and on their topics these fuckwits are not worth wasting your breath over.



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  • 70
    Tyler Durden says:

    I am picturing Dawkins staring down the barrel of a .44 Magnum and mumbling towards these religious goobers something along the lines of “Are you feeling lucky?”

    — pedant mode on —
     
    Just like Cagney never said “You dirty rat!” (“That dirty, double-crossin’ rat”), Bogart never said “Play it again, Sam” (“If she can stand it, I can. Play it!”), and Mae West never said “Come up and see me sometime” (“Why don’t you come up sometime ‘n’ see me”), Clint Eastwood never actually said: “Are you feeling lucky?” in the movie Dirty Harry.

    The actual line, written by veteran script guru John Milius of Jaws and Apocalypse Now fame, is: “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?”

    But as Joe E Brown in Some Like It Hot says: “Well, nobody’s perfect.”



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  • 71
    Paula Kirby says:

    Ha! From which we see that David Robertson hasn’t changed  since the old days of Wee Flea and Fleabytes.

    I would be very interested to see him link directly to the full exchange he claims took place: not just quote it, but give the URL where it is alleged to have taken place so that we can all see whether he has given a fair account of it. Ten to one he has grossly distorted it to his own ends, either twisting or quote-mining my words to mean something other than what they clearly meant in the context, or not quoting me at all but merely paraphrasing in a way that serves his own purposes but doesn’t accurately reflect the actual discussion.

    My guess is that, if anything remotely resembling this exchange ever took place, it would have been more along the lines of “Don’t you dare twist my words to make it sound as if I was agreeing with you”.

    Though actually, just out of interest, I have just used Google’s site search to see if I could find any instances of my having written either “wasting your time” or “wasting his time” or “agree with me” or “don’t you dare” in the context of a discussion with or about David Robertson, and I could not find any. Some of the phrases do come up, but not made either to or about David Robertson, so far as I could see. I make no claims to Google expertise, though, so if anyone else wants to have a go, please do. I really would be interested to identify the exchange he’s referring to.

    David Robertson always has perfectly exemplified why debating such people is a pointless activity. When you are dealing with someone who twists and distorts your words in order to score some imaginary point of their own, there can be no useful debate, because useful debate requires honesty and a real interest in arriving at truth rather than merely a determination to score points, no matter how disingenuously. It was precisely because he constantly twisted people’s words, distorted their meanings, and made no attempt to engage fairly with what others were saying that he acquired his negative reputation on this site in the first place.



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  • 72
    Alan4discussion says:

    JeffVader67
     

    Incidently I have photos taken on a sunny day on the beaches of Lewis
    and it could be mistaken for a Carribean sea. Crystal clear waters.

    The sea is very clear and clean on the northern west coast of Scotland.  However, there is an old Scottish saying about the islands:-  “If you can see the hills – it’s going to rain, –  if you can’t see them, it is raining!”



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  • 73
    scottishgeologist says:

    Paula, I did wonder about that “angry reply” bit. I know people get angry here, OK, maybe a bit cross at times, but there is no way that I would ever describe your style as angry. In fact I am amazed at how you manage to keep good humour and grace through it all. 

    Robertson is talking crap. I did a google search myself , like you did, and I used the “site:www.richarddawkins.net” variable as well as the search terms to limit it to this site. Nothing remotely like it came up..

    Robertson ha got some nerve.  –  “atheist archbishop’s principal mace bearers”. The sarcasm and scorn never end do they?

    All he needs to do is go along to Richards talk and then ask some “killer” questions, doesnt he? Ah, but thats not the same as standing on a platform, sharing an “equivalence” position, now is it? Doesnt allow for so much ego-stroking does it? Because thats what its all about with the Wee Flea.

    Some things never change….

    SG



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  • 74
    Tyler Durden says:

    Though actually, just out of interest, I have just used Google’s site search to see if I could find any instances of my having written either “wasting your time” or “wasting his time” or “agree with me” or “don’t you dare” in the context of a discussion with or about David Robertson, and I could not find any.

    Paula,

    I did a search of Robertson’s comments on RD.net under his “clearthinker” and “The Wee Flea” monikers and could not find that exchange either. Methinks his pants are on fire.



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  • 76
    Alan4discussion says:

    http://www.freechurch.org/inde… The best way to understand is not to mock or caricature but to listen.

    What??  When understanding comical posturings with absurd comments?? Mmmmmm!  Listen and then mock seems about right!!

    Tyler Durden – I did a search of Robertson’s comments on RD.net under his “clearthinker” moniker

    Ha! ha! ha! – and ironically using that moniker on this site! –  Talk about D-K delusion!!!!



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  • 77
    Paula Kirby says:

    I doubt he made it up entirely. His usual MO is to take something that really happened but then twist and distort it beyond all recognition, making it sound like something altogether more sinister or bad-tempered or unreasonable in the process. 

    As for scottishgeologist’s point about anger, I’m sure I posted several angry comments in response to David Robertson in his various sockpuppeting guises. His relentless distortions used to make me very angry indeed. But the kind of exchange he describes on the Christians Together website? No. Highly unlikely there was ever anything that could be fairly rendered in the form he gives there. A “how dare you twist my words to make it sound as if I was agreeing with you?” – yes, I could imagine that. But anger at genuine agreement? No. That’ll be Wee Flea up to his tricks again.

    By the way, David Robertson has always fancied himself as Christianity’s superhero when it comes to dealing with Richard. I can’t remember who sent me the attached image of a flier advertising a DR speaking engagement some years ago, but that banner headline across the top still makes me laugh every time I happen upon  it. You’ll also note that the format of his event was a talk followed by Q&A. Apparently that’s neither cowardly nor arrogant nor unfairly one-sided when DR does it.



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  • 78
    scottishgeologist says:

    Love the flier! And that phone number at the bottom is for a church in Galway in Ireland called “Covenant Fellowship”, part of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Wonder how many YECs there were there? DR of course claims he isnt YEC….. But still “biblical” apparently… 

    my brain hurts….
    SG



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  • Robertson, like many theists loves quote mining out of
    context, as if lying for Jesus was a badge of honour, not something to blush at.

    “One of the atheist archbishop’s principal mace bearers” –
    that sounds like a good T-shirt to me 🙂

    Right, back to the cesspit of seeking truth and knowledge 🙂



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  • 80
    Alan4discussion says:

    @ Paula Kirby  I like the attached poster file:  Preaching in a “COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT HOTEL”   
    A spot of street preaching – Everyone welcome  – Admission free.

    I suppose it’s a cut above our local street-preachers who preach in a square by Starbucks!

    I don’t suppose his allegedly quoted, “Response from an Atheist on RD’s website”, will turn up in archives in the real world!



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  • 81
    Thunderballs says:

    So true.

    Were there people waving cloves of garlic and brandishing bottles of (Holy) water at you as you arrived ?

    I tackled some faith healers in Newcastle city centre last year.    

    One poor woman kept pointing at me and wailing that I was evil.   

    This article reminded me of it.



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  • 82
    Alan4discussion says:

    Thunderballs – I tackled some faith healers in Newcastle city centre last year.    

    One poor woman kept pointing at me and wailing that I was evil.  

    Last year as I was passing Grey’s Monument there was a ranting preacher.   An atheist heckler was asking intelligent questions and getting hell-fire responses.

    Mockery is much more effective with the deluded.

    The preacher was glaring at the “sinner” pronouncing that “Jesus Saves”, so naturally I trotted out the classic, “… and Rooney scores on the rebound”.  A group at the back wearing football tops burst out laughing, which seemed to wind up the preacher even more – especially as he had not heard my comment, and thought they were laughing at him!  This seemed to further amuse the crowd!



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  • 83
    Paula Kirby says:

    I don’t suppose his allegedly quoted, “Response from an Atheist on RD’s website”, will turn up in archives in the real world!

    Ah, therein lies a tale!

    The comment was indeed posted on this site.

    The full comment was:

    Wow, this is an intelligent and well crafted view of RD’s book. I can see that it really got to most readers of this site as well, seeing as it was posted 2 days ago and already has a comment pagination level of 5, and most of the comments are just stating that the writer of this entry is wrong and a dumb stoopid head.

    I love it when things get stirred up. Please keep it up!

    Is there anything there that suggests to you it was written by an atheist?

    Despite the impression given in this flier and on the cover of the first edition of David Robertson’s book, moreover, it wasn’t a comment about the book: it was simply about a single one of the letters that were subsequently turned into DR’s book, and which had been posted on this site for discussion.

    The person who posted the comment appeared out of nowhere and vanished back to nowhere. The comment was posted under the name of “Paul”, and only morphed into “Anonymous Atheist” when it was quoted in the original “Product Description” section – i.e. the bit supplied by the publisher – of Robertson’s book on Amazon (since removed, after I kicked up a fuss about the fact that the comment, even if genuine in the first place and even if really made by an atheist, was made before the book had even been written, and therefore couldn’t be a review of it.) 

    You may think it was mighty convenient that this person chanced onto RD.net just long enough to give DR a handy soundbite but there you go: they do say God moves in mysterious ways. 

    This is the man who thinks Richard should debate him. I don’t think so, somehow.



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  • 84
    RobWaterworth says:

    As Richard Dawkins said on a TV show, Why not use Shakespeare as inspiration for live.
    When ever I see Religious outrage, just because  some one has an opposing opinion, the quote “The lady doth protest too much”  comes to mind. What are they so afraid of. They have had  thousands of hours of TV air time, they get to shout out loud to all whole cares to listen everyday if they want, why can’t those of us, with different ideas, be able to speak once in a while. unmolested. I am from Canada, ( but born i the UK) I laugh when I read comments from upset Brits, who feel the Atheists are using BBC money to jam our ideas don their throats. Do they not see the Hippocratic in those statements.  Here is Canada, my tax dollars help fund the Catholic school system, I don’t see many non Catholics being outrage over it.

    “The lady doth protest too much”
     



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  • 85
    Alan4discussion says:

     

      @Paula Kirby 
    David Robertson’s book, moreover, it wasn’t a comment about the book: it was simply about a single one of the letters that were subsequently turned into DR’s book, and which had been posted on this site for discussion.

    Are you suggesting that suspicious atheists would think that some fake stooge-Poe, planted a drive-by comment, even before David Robertson’s book cover misrepresented it as referring to his whole book, and claimed it was written by an “Anonymous Atheist”?

    Seriously!  Would an “honest”  god-fearing, moral, Christian do a thing like that??????



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  • 88
    Stonyground says:

    Shouldn’t the ‘Lord’s Day Observance Society’ be called ‘The Day After the Lord’s Day Observance Society’? I’m pretty sure that when the Lord said ‘remember the Sabbath and keep it holy’ he meant Saturday.

    On the subject of debates, yes generally a bad idea. Putting Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens up againsts a couple of witless Catholics and filming the result, sheer genius. 



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  • 89
    holysmokes says:

    Professor: Should you have a change of heart and choose
    to debate them, simply go into great detail about what constitutes empirical
    evidence in your opening remarks. Then point out how “faith” is believing in
    something without evidence. Pound those points home each time you get to speak.
    Take every opportunity to ask why no evidence is being submitted on the pro-god
    side. Bottom line, …you cannot loose when sticking to facts and evidence,
    despite the BS rhetoric being tossed about. MAKE THEM PRODUCE EVIDENCE FOR A GOD
    OR TELL THEM TO SHUT UP ABOUT IT. Strident? Perhaps, however it makes the point
    loud and clear.



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  • 90
    Mr DArcy says:

    Just thinking about Davey “Wee Flea” Robertson makes me feel itchy. The man was so clearly an unpleasant example of humanity. I suppose he got so used to bullying his religion into others that he felt he could do the same thing here. As others have pointed out, he was well and truly shot out of the water every time he floated his boat. If memory serves his example of prayers being answered was when a cheque he had written, knowing there weren’t sufficient funds in the account at the time, was paid by the bank! The fact that another live human being had meanwhile topped up the account meant that it must have been the work of the Lord!

    Well I don’t suppose Wee Flea’s Bible is big enough to hide a Magnum 44 in. But then a man like that doesn’t need a handgun. Psychological bullying is his kind of weapon. Bloody paper tigers, those wee frees!



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  • 92
    Jim Mauch says:

    To twist an analogy that you sometimes use, would you debate someone who defuses and accept that Los Angeles is not just down the block from Time Square in New York? How would you appeal to people like this? Debating these people would be every bit as fruitless as debating with fundamentalists. These people who are wrapped up in there myths will be unwilling to give a reasoned debate as to whether their beliefs are fact or delusion. An audience deserves better than to have these people on stage disrupting relational inquiry.



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  • 93
    marycat says:

    I think ist is fear.  Fear of life. They need everything wrapped up in a neat package to feel secure in this mysterious world.



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  • 94
    marycat says:

    Yes.  I began with The God Delusion.  I read it once and it made so much sense even though I am not well schooled in Science.  I read the Bible many time front to back.  It never “spoke” to me like Professor Dawkins’ book.  I am free today to enjoy my life, unafraid of death.  This is what Professor Dawkins gave me.  Plus a thirst for more Science
     



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  • 96
    Centauri says:

    This has revealed yet another example of how the religious retreat in cowardice and ignorance when confronted with reason and logic.



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  • It’s quite understandable why it would be so discouraging to continue spreading the truth among fundamentalists, the vultures ready to tear you into pieces just so that can prove to you that they can prove a point. You don’t want to sacrifice yourself any further while talking reason into these “truth” obsessed true lunatics. They can really cause you a lot of psychological damage with their discrimination, prejudice and ignorance. It’s absolutely outrageous that an”evolutionary scientist in his stride” had to go through all that. What a shame!..This is heart breaking! You have to be truly brave in order to be able to put yourself in a such vulnerable position!

    This just shows how religious people start reacting when you bring them that microscopically close to the real truth!… They literally turn into real true swine!



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  • 98
    detroitteatime says:

    Has Dawkins considered a debate with Alvin Plantinga? He recently wrote an OUP book (Science and Religion, Where the Conflict Really Lies) that is highly critical of The God Delusion and The Blind Watchmaker (or at least it is critical of the atheistic conclusion TBW draws). I’m not sure how much of a fundamentalist Plantinga is (he’s not a theological liberal), but I still think he would be worth debating, as he is a prominent figure in analytic philosophy (Not to disparage people like William Lane Craig, but, admittedly, Craig is not that well known in philosophy outside of evangelical Christian circles).



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  • 99
    Alan4discussion says:

    In reply to #108 by detroitteatime:

    (Not to disparage people like William Lane Craig, but, admittedly, Craig is not that well known in philosophy outside of evangelical Christian circles).

    Craig is not known FOR philosophy outside of evangelical Christian circles! He blusters, while he would struggle to put ANY honest rational argument together!



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