Richard Dawkins to speak in Belfast

Sep 4, 2014

Famed for his outspoken opposition to religious faith, he will take part in two question-and-answer sessions on October 21, alongside physicist Lawrence Krauss.

Tickets for the first of the two shows sold out yesterday morning.

The Strand Arts Centre in east Belfast said the tickets ran out within around 12 minutes of the box office opening, and without any effort to publicise the event.

Organisers have now laid on a second session, and tickets for this will go on sale at 10.30am today.

The question-and-answer sessions will follow screenings of a film called ‘The Unbelievers’.

It is described as following professors Dawkins and Krauss across the world whilst they deliver public speeches about the importance of science and reason, “encouraging others to cast off antiquated religious and politically motivated approaches toward important current issues”.

Professor Dawkins – whose stridency led one Telegraph columnist to liken him to Rev Ian Paisley – has gained worldwide fame with his books including The Blind Watchmaker, The God Delusion, and The Magic of Reality, and through his many broadcast appearances.

The film also features interviews with professor Stephen Hawking, as well as a raft of actors, comedy figures, and more.

For more details, see: www.strandartscentre.com

72 comments on “Richard Dawkins to speak in Belfast

  • Professor Dawkins – whose stridency led one Telegraph columnist to liken him to Rev Ian Paisley

    There seems to be some psychological projection here!
    If I was looking for authors of ideological rantings, some Telegraph columnists would be high on the list!



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  • How lucky are the people of Belfast! I’ve been waiting and waiting for the film to open here and still no luck, while they get the film PLUS a Q&A session!

    @Alan4Discussion. I had a strong reaction to the comparison to Ian Paisley as well! The Telegraph there must be like the Telegraph here; not fit to be read! ‘Stridency’ is a matter of interpretation.



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  • Well whilst in Belfast, I hope Richard sorts out that controversy about whether it was Jesus or the the two giants fighting who built the Giants Causeway. It’s quite evident that such a geological formation had to have been constructed by Jesus or Jaweh, OR the fueding giants.

    Allah was too far away and hadn’t been invented yet



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  • 7
    Katy Cordeth says:

    Richard Dawkins for good or bad is a strident atheist. Ian Paisley is a strident Christian. You can’t support a militantly combative atheist and then bitch when he’s compared to a similarly militant person of faith.

    The Ian Paisley comparison is apposite.



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  • > Famed for his outspoken opposition to religious faith, Wrong. Richard Dawkins is famed for his contribution to the science of evolution. He also happens to be someone, like me and most of the denizens of this forum who is fed up with irrational decision making.



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  • Katy Cordeth Sep 4, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    Richard Dawkins for good or bad is a strident atheist. Ian Paisley is a strident Christian. You can’t support a militantly combative atheist and then bitch when he’s compared to a similarly militant person of faith.

    Oh dear!
    Promoting reasoned science, is falsely equivocated in a false dichotomy, with bigoted religious ranting from a pulpit!

    The Ian Paisley comparison is apposite.

    Spot the discontinuous, contrarian, flawed thinking in black and white, which ignores the content, structure, and substance of the messages!



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  • 13
    Katy Cordeth says:

    Oh dear!!
    Promoting reasoned science, is falsely equivocated in a false dichotomy, with bigoted religious ranting from a pulpit!!

    Certain members of this site can always be relied upon to miss the point entirely.

    It has nothing to do with the nature of what’s being promoted, but rather the way it’s promoted. Paisley’s agenda is a polar opposite to Dawkins’. The former is about spreading bigotry and sectarian hatred, the latter scientific truth and rationalism, but both men are equally uncompromising in their beliefs and go about spreading their message in a similar way.

    Richard has been called, in a nod to Thomas Henry Huxley’s desciption as Darwin’s bulldog, Darwin’s pit bull. Dawkins doesn’t noticeably resemble this breed of dog, so can you think of a reason why he acquired this particular sobriquet rather than, say, Darwin’s wise old owl or Darwin’s wily fox? And if it had to be a dog breed, why not poodle or labrador? Perhaps there is something of the pit bull’s fierceness visible in Richard’s modus operandi. I’ve never heard Brian Cox or Neil DeGrasse Tyson described as Einstein’s attack dog.

    Honestly, people here will happily describe themselves as militant atheists, but get their panties in a bunch if someone dares to make a comparison with ideologues who fight for the other side. Who is the anti-Dawkins, then, if not someone like Ian Paisley? Rowan Williams doesn’t exactly fit the bill; he’s far too nice and accommodating. Bill Donahue maybe. The Don is a take-no-prisoners kind of guy.

    Here is the Telegraph article alluded to in the OP anyway: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/jennymccartney/8010999/Papal-visit-Is-Richard-Dawkins-turning-into-Ian-Paisley.html

    Spot the discontinuous, contrarian, flawed thinking in black and white, which ignores the content, structure, and substance of the messages!

    I’ve run this through Google Translate but even that wasn’t able to help me out here. Is it meant to be like a cryptic crossword clue or something? I’ll have to put on my cruciverbalist hat and give it another go.



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  • Thanks for that. It had slipped my memory ! I was in Northern Ireland fairly recently, but never a word about religion was mentioned. I only met very pleasant people all with such a lovely accent. Mrs White of the clip, and the other creationist, clearly need to educate themselves, and not rely on Christian “experts” re the age of the Earth.



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  • 15
    Bob Springsteen says:

    Good point about Rowan Williams. In fact, a hard-line Calvinist like Paisley would see the liberal theology of Williams as big an enemy to the Christian Gospel as the atheism of Dawkins.



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  • Hi Katy.
    You’re placing a lot of faith on your interpretation of Richard’s personality as being ‘strident’. I don’t see this. When I view RD in debate he’s generally courteous and accommodating, though not to the point of yielding to ridiculous notions. Even though your assessment of his personality is shared by many, it is still subjective.
    My recollections of Ian Paisley are of a ‘fire breathing’ demagogue. Once again my judgements could be coloured by my extreme dislike of the content of his speeches.



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  • I would hardly describe Richard Dawkins as strident. I suspect the Telegraph columnist is a Christian apologist. This is the problem with religious people – as soon as someone like Dawkins expresses their perspective on reality and dismisses religion for what it is, they become defensive and describe one as strident. I can’t think of a more rational style of argument than Dawkin’s approach.



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  • Ian Paisley shouted, Richard doesn’t (in my experience).

    Definition of “strident”:

    (of a sound) loud and harsh; grating.
    synonyms: harsh, raucous, rough, grating, rasping, jarring, loud, stentorian, shrill, screeching, piercing, ear-piercing
    presenting a point of view, especially a controversial one, in an excessively forceful way.

    The second definition comes closest but falls down at the end. To me this is a case of criticism of religion being deemed mean and nasty by default regardless of how it is delivered or worded. So they slap on the strident tag.



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  • paulmcuk Sep 6, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Ian Paisley shouted, Richard doesn’t (in my experience).

    Definition of “strident”:

    (of a sound) loud and harsh; grating.
    synonyms: harsh, raucous, rough, grating, rasping, jarring, loud, stentorian, shrill, screeching, piercing, ear-piercing
    presenting a point of view, especially a controversial one, in an excessively forceful way.

    To me this is a case of criticism of religion being deemed mean and nasty by default regardless of how it is delivered or worded.

    That is a good clarification of the meaning of “strident”!

    I have explained and linked “psychological projection” , on various threads from time to time.

    Certain members of this site can always be relied upon to miss the point entirely.

    It has nothing to do with the nature of what’s being promoted, but rather the way it’s promoted.

    According to confused assertions by some, of discontinuous, contrarian, flawed thinking in black and white, which ignore the content, structure, substance and presentation of the messages!



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  • 21
    Katy Cordeth says:

    In reply to Alan4Discussion,

    I have explained and linked “psychological projection” , on various threads from time to time.

    Actually, Alan, you’ve linked to the Wikipedia page and other articles describing this phenomenon, usually by way of an argument from authority, but I don’t recall your ever attempting to offer an explanation of your own. You just tend to toss it out in a sort of I’m rubber, you’re glue way whenever someone says something you disagree with about yourself or a New Atheist notable. “Oh, so Sam Harris hasn’t thought this through?!! He lacks understanding of the issue, does he?!!! I think someone is guilty of psychological projection and here’s a link to prove it!!!!”

    Spot the discontinuous, contrarian, flawed thinking in black and white, which ignores the content, structure, and substance of the messages!

    That’s just a repetition of this:

    According to confused assertions by some, of discontinuous, contrarian, flawed thinking in black and white, which ignore the content, structure, substance and presentation of the messages!

    If I’m confused and guilty of flawed thinking, instead of just repeatedly stating this, why not try and explain in what way my thinking is flawed and how I’m confused. Anyone can parrot meaningless clichés like your “discontinuous, black and white, faith-thinking, asserted ignorance etc” nonsense. The idea on a discussion site such as this is that person A puts forward his or her position which others are then invited to challenge. This process shudders to a halt if, instead of constructing an actual counterargument, person B says person A is incorrect but doesn’t explain why this is so. How is person A (me in this instance) meant to offer a counter-counterargument in this situation?

    I find myself in a predicament similar to that faced by Mr Palin in this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdoGVgj1MtY#t=84

    Let’s have less “Polly wanna cracker” and more of an effort to engage in proper grown-up discourse on your part. What do you say, are you psittacine or sapien?

    With regard to Richard Dawkins’ alleged stridency, I would suggest that formulating a genuine plan to citizen’s arrest a visiting head of state and spiritual leader to over a billion people, as Richard did back in 2010 when his ‘leering old villain in a dress’ visited Great Britain, could be considered rather strident (although megalomaniacal might be more accurate). Journalist Glenn Greenwald has been described as vile; children taking a principled stand when they and their culture were subjected to mockery by a lecturer by quietly taking their leave were ‘pathetic’ and ‘bigoted’. There are myriad other examples that I won’t mention lest this start to look like an attack on your man, who I happen to like. Googling ‘Richard Dawkins strident’ produces 546,000 results, so I think it’s safe to say Jenny McCartney is not alone in her views.

    In response to those who say Dawkins can’t be strident because he’s unfailingly polite, softly spoken, courteous, genteel even in his mannerisms. Well, at least three of these terms could have been applied to Margaret Thatcher, and she was arguably the most strident First Minister Britain ever produced. Ian Paisley is loud-strident, but stridency isn’t about being able to project your voice. A photo of Brian Blessed would accompany every dictionary definition of this word if it were. Iron fist in a velvet glove is the phrase you guys are looking for here.



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  • 23
    Katy Cordeth says:

    Well, the second definition of strident on collinsdictionary.com (I’ll include the link at the bottom of this comment) is ‘urgent, clamorous, or vociferous’. Would you say any of these terms could be used to describe Dawkins?

    Here are their definitions to save you some googling.

    Urgent:
    1. requiring or compelling speedy action or attention
    2. earnest and persistent

    Clamorous:
    1. loud and persistent
    2. vehement, outraged

    Vociferous:
    1. characterized by vehemence, clamour, or noisiness
    2. making an outcry or loud noises; clamorous

    The phrase ‘If the shoe fits’ comes to mind, does it not?

    http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/strident?showCookiePolicy=true



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  • I think Katy has misapprehended RD’s little character flaw. Caught off guard he can be bad tempered on occasions. He also knows this fact. Further, for we nerds the emotional narrowness of our views can appear as an initial arrogance, but which can be soon corrected. Feelings explained are facts we can handle. When Katy can find a single apology or retraction of an outburst from Paisley, or a subsequent attempt at a dialogue to resolve a misunderstanding, then I’ll think their characters have similarities.



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  • No. But I have met and had exchanges with someone who has worked closely with him and a few others who have met him socially (offered him accomodation on tours and such like). All from this site and stretching back over four to eight years. None recently.

    My character analysis is not much more evidenced than Katy’s but should give some pause to consider that alternative causes for observed behaviours might exist.

    Strident is a miserable, damning accusation, less likely I suspect to stimulate the changes I’d like to see of even better temper management in interview situations and more up-front social/emotional research to finesse those tweets.



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  • Katy Cordeth Sep 5, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Spot the discontinuous, contrarian, flawed thinking in black and white, which ignores the content, structure, and substance of the messages!

    I’ve run this through Google Translate but even that wasn’t able to help me out here. Is it meant to be like a cryptic crossword clue or something? I’ll have to put on my cruciverbalist hat and give it another go.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2013/01/the-tyranny-of-the-discontinuous-mind-christmas-2011/#li-comment-48691

    There are times when it is no-longer worth further repeating clear explanations, to those determined to misunderstand.



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  • 29
    Katy Cordeth says:

    Strident is a miserable, damning accusation…

    I get the feeling some here might be conflating stridency with shrillness. It’s understandable I guess. Stridency like any abstract concept is difficult to pin down, dictionary definitions don’t necessarily do it justice. Which is why so many seem to think that when used to describe someone it must be an insult, despite as you may have noticed from my previous comment the fact that it’s also synonymous with earnestness, vehemence and persistency, which are generally regarded as positive character traits

    Why can’t stridency under the right conditions be a desirable quality? On this site’s What We Do page, the following is said: “The Richard Dawkins Foundation sees its job as nothing less than changing America’s future.” You don’t change an entire nation’s destiny by being an unassuming little milquetoast, you do it by ruffling feathers and being a persistent pain in the ass. Under ideal circumstances logic would be enough, but this is America we’re talking about, a country which with the best will in the world is comprised mainly of idiots. It’s no use biding one’s time hoping the collective national IQ in the U.S. will somehow rise to a level where the majority of the populace become receptive to rationalism; there are nuclear and biological megaweapons now, the planet will be destroyed by the next generation’s Sarah Palin or George W. long before that happens.

    I mentioned Margaret Thatcher, someone who genuinely did change Britain. For the worst, certainly, but she did what she set out to do and did it by being stridency personified. Give her her due though, at least her brain-dead toadying acolytes never tried to pretend she was anything other than a complete bastard while she was busy dismantling British industry; they reveled in it. Or how about Christopher Hitchens’ hero Thomas Paine, who wrote in an open letter to George Washington, “And as to you, sir, treacherous in private friendship and a hypocrite in public life, the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any.” This to the American president!

    Speaking of Hitchens, in his final interview just before his death, he said the following to Dawkins:

    “Stridency is the least you should muster…”

    http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/12/dawkins-hitchens-catholic

    I find it a bit baffling that there are those who happily describe themselves as proactive, in-your-face atheists, the sort who won’t take no sh#t from no Godbotherers but will come out fighting in a principled stand against the encroachment of religion into bleh bleh bleh. Yet they balk at their Fearless Leader’s being characterized as strident. This is what stridency means, pudding brains. These are the same people who talk about the importance of atheist activism yet play the atheism-just-means-one-doesn’t-believe-in-Jehovah card when it’s described as a movement. I think this is what’s known as having your cake and stuffing it down your neck too.

    Even if you don’t buy into the idea that stridency might be a requisite for anyone who has the rather grandiose desire to change the face of an entire first-world country, that doesn’t mean the strident descriptor necessarily represents a personal attack. No one (well, not me anyway) is saying your man is himself strident. I’m sure in informal surroundings Richard is absolutely charming. Or he could be a complete ass. I don’t know and it doesn’t matter because this isn’t about personality, it’s about Dawkins’ role as professional or semi-professional atheist provocateur on the world stage.

    Nobody says, “Oh Christopher Lee is just awful. Do you know he likes to suck the blood from virgins’ necks?” Or, “That Mario Andretti is a menace and shouldn’t be allowed on the roads. I saw him on TV driving like a maniac alongside a bunch of other maniacs. He’s liable to kill a kiddie on her way home from school if he carries on like that.”

    My character analysis is not much more evidenced than Katy’s

    I wouldn’t dream of making a character analysis, but I am at liberty to attempt a character analysis. I know absolutely nothing about Sarah Michelle Gellar but could tell you everything there is to know about Buffy Anne Summers.



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  • Fair enough though my latin (creak, utter an inarticulate sound, grate, screech) says Hitch was perhaps wrong, struggling maybe for stentorian, so-

    For “strident” search and replace with “strident like Ian Paisley”.

    As Bendi recently observed…Its all an act.



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  • It does not take much research to find why Jenny McCartney tries to associate Richard’s criticism of Catholicism with that of Ian Paisley!

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/jennymccartney/8010999/Papal-visit-Is-Richard-Dawkins-turning-into-Ian-Paisley.html

    And yet something about the style in which Dawkins has been pursuing his campaign reminds me of Paisley in the vehemence of his youth. Of late, Dawkins has moved away from the defence of science, and towards attacks upon religious belief. The reckless showman in him is outstripping the ardent rationalist, just as in Paisley it regularly held the theologian hostage.

    I am neither a creationist nor a Catholic,

    .. But nevertheless, a Catholic apologist, delusional faith-thinker, discontinuous mind, and an anti-science liar in convenient denial of her Catholicism!

    but the Pope-bashing jars. As a Protestant in Northern Ireland, I abhorred the Paisleyite stunts, not least because they caused distress to many decent people, and fanned a dangerous climate of hysteria. The same arguments apply today. Dawkins’s views are both defensible and debatable, but the means in which they are delivered does his acute intelligence little credit, and increasingly suggests “a man who believes he is infallible and acts the part”.

    http://hollowverse.com/jenny-mccarthy/

    Jenny McCarthy was born in Evergreen Park, Illinois and grew up in Chicago, Illinois.

    McCarthy grew up Catholic and attended Catholic prep and high schools in her hometown of Chicago.

    Religion either didn’t play much of a role beyond education in McCarthy’s childhood or she doesn’t talk about it much. But after the birth of her son, Evan, and his autism diagnosis, McCarthy seemed to have re-found her religion quite quickly. She wrote in her book, Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism, that she started praying to a wide variety of Catholic saints.

    ….

    Then came the great bargain:

    I made a pact with God the day Evan got his autism diagnosis. I said, ‘God, show me the way to heal my boy, and I will teach the world how I did it.’

    3 Allegedly, McCarthy’s son was healed, and the former Playboy model made good on her promise, launching several books, speaking engagements and all manner of television appearances decrying vaccines and the science behind them. According to McCarthy, child vaccines equal autism.



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  • Sorry this was too cryptic.

    I don’t accept stridency as in anyway a positive for the advocacy of what is intended to be a rational position.

    Political pamphleteers like Hitch need to lift their voices in the fight for fair shares of the Faux News 3minute punch up. For Dawks its all negative.

    Doubly negative (and not positive!) is “strident like Paisley”. Despite occasional wrong impressions (however deserved) this misrepresents his genuine concern for dialogue and truth finding.

    I was surprised to see “character”-

    .
    the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.

    as being the first definition of the word. But then the greek word is a stamping tool and its use was first for a personal attribute or quality in the 14th century.

    Character, as in a play was first used in 1883 to mean a notable protagonist. Only later did it become generalised to cover the roles of all players

    I’m sorry. This is deeply, deeply sad of me….



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  • phil rimmer Sep 7, 2014 at 9:33 am

    I don’t accept stridency as in anyway a positive for the advocacy of what is intended to be a rational position.

    I don’t think that:- “Some deluded, anti-vaxer, Catholic apologist, called him ‘Strident like Paisley’, in allegedly ‘analysing’ Richard’s science and religious comments”, is much of an argument!

    It is certainly no basis for anyone to quote as “evidence” of anything!

    See the details on Jenny McCartney below:-



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  • Richard Dawkins and Ian Paisley.
    A good team of strident anti-Catholics?
    I remember as a young Tague growing up in Ulster in the early 1960’s and reading the Prod Northern Constitution newspaper that found its way into our Cath-a-holic house very occasionally, specifically an article in there by Big Ian on the kind of abuse that was going in RC institutions in the province back then. We Tagues thought he was a lying bigoted bastard. Little did we know there was a rather large grain of truth in what he was saying.



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  • 37
    Katy Cordeth says:

    Who is going to be the one to inform Alan that he’s mixing up former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy with Telegraph journalist Jenny McCartney?



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  • Katy Cordeth Sep 7, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Who is going to be the one to inform Alan that he’s mixing up former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy with Telegraph journalist Jenny McCartney?

    It does seem as if I have mixed up the two, so I’m sorry about that, but I am having difficulty in finding an early background for the Telegraph writer, which is probably why the other Jenny McCarthy came up in my search.
    It seems the Telegraph writer is a pope-loving Protestant apologist rather than a Catholic one.

    Her Telegraph vacuous negative ramblings about Richard and science, do identify her as the sensationalist type of air-head journalist, who pontificates in flowery language, on matters about which she knows nothing!
    Well!! – It’s Telegraph journalism – not rational discussion!!

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/children_shealth/10882740/Richard-Dawkins-should-know-it-pays-to-believe-in-fairy-tales.html – By Jenny McCartney

    I’m beginning to wonder what we would do without Richard Dawkins, who now regularly inspires impassioned debates in the manner of a provocative uncle three-quarters of the way into a bottle of Rioja. .. . . .

    … . . . . .

    I listen to Dawkins, always banging away with the insistent hammer of reason, occasionally seeming oddly self-important and oblivious to nuance. I have come sometimes to enjoy his head-on collisions with orthodoxies, and critical thinking is a necessity. But I wonder if he might evade parody more often if he had dwelled a little longer among the truths that lurk in fictions, and learnt to value the whispers in the darkness, the shadow recognition that haunts the action.

    Unfortunate the “hammer of reason”, makes very little impression on some journalists, which is why they flow with the superficial verbosity of gossips trying to think of something to say, while projecting their own posturing into disparaging other people who make statements of substance!



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  • I think Rowan Williams fits just right as a sort of religious equivalent to Richard Dawkins. Now retired, he was well respected in his field (Anglican Christianity) and wasn’t afraid to stridently defend his beliefs. As reported by The Telegraph he has previously “launched a fierce attack on the modern cult of atheism…..”. Williams is critical of Dawkins Meme theory, saying:

    “I find this philosophically crass and undeveloped at best, simply contradictory and empty at worst”.

    To be honest Williams didn’t come across to me as strident and neither does Dawkins. They are both quiet spoken and polite. You will find far more articles judging Dawkins as strident but I think that’s because, as Dawkins has pointed out, there are more religious believers and those believers (and some non-believers) see even moderate criticism of religious beliefs and of their privileges as strident.

    Is Rowan Williams a moderate Christian? I don’t think so – a moderate Christian to me, is someone who identifies themselves as Christian, believes in Jesus and perhaps attends church every now and then (Weddings etc). Williams has taken it a lot further than that, after all he was Archbishop of Canterbury. Here is a quote from Williams:

    “It is impossible to deny that Christians and Muslims have a common agenda here: both faiths have at their heart the living image of a community raised up by God’s call to reveal to the world what God’s purpose is for humanity”

    So as archbishop, Williams saw himself as head of a community raised up by God’s call to reveal His purpose for humanity.

    Some would say those words were strident. But Williams is not as strident as, say, Ian Paisley who once heckled the pope at the European parliament, calling him the anti-christ. The comparison of Dawkins to Paisley is certainly not apposite.



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  • Alan4discussion Sep 7, 2014 at 7:09 am

    As is pointed out below, I misread the name on the second link and messed up on that part of the comment. I should be more careful in future.

    Sorry about that.



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  • 42
    Katy Cordeth says:

    Sorry this was too cryptic.

    Only the bit about the forklift truck manufacturers.

    I don’t accept stridency as in anyway a positive for the advocacy of what is intended to be a rational position.

    What about the idea that the squeaky wheel gets the grease? You can be as rational as you like but if your message is only heard by a small subset of the population your goal of “changing America’s future” is going to go unrealized. Twenty years from now when President Track Palin is about to press the big unfriendly button that will annihilate Jerusalem in order that the Rapture may begin, people might start to wish those like Dawkins had been a teeny bit more strident than they were.

    Political pamphleteers like Hitch need to lift their voices in the fight for fair shares of the Faux News 3minute punch up. For Dawks its all negative.

    Perhaps Che Grrrvara is correct then and Dawks (really?) should stay away from Twitter. As a medium it’s no more conducive to intelligent debate than anything on Fox News. Dawkins has only been getting in trouble of late for his twitterances. I used to believe these were cock-ups, that the old gent was starting to lose it a bit, but now I think they’re deliberately provocative and he knows exactly what he’s up to. One inappropriate tweet from your man is enough to generate article after article in the popular press. Non-inappropriate tweets—that would be appropriate one’s I suppose—won’t do the job.

    This is what I mean when I say Dawkins is strident in his approach. If Paisley is loud/hateful-strident, and Thatcher was ball-cruncher-strident, Richard is Loki-strident; a mischief maker who knows exactly which buttons to press in the popular consciousness and how to keep New Atheism in people’s minds. This does all depend on whether or not you choose to accept my own perhaps unique take on the meaning of stridency as anything other than a synonym for shrillness.

    I’m not entirely sure why the approach that worked so well for Christopher Hitchens should be a closed door to Richard Dawkins. The latter can hold his own with Bill O’Reilly and his ilk. Although when he appeared on Bill Maher’s program, in the second part of the bit when Michael Moore and a couple others were introduced to debate Dawkins’ position on, I think it was Islamophobia, I don’t quite recall, Maher wouldn’t let Richard get a word in edgewise and Richard looked like he wanted to punch him. It’s on Youtube anyway. Perhaps Hitchens was more of a cage fighter compared to Dawkins’ Edwardian, handlebar-mustachioed gentleman pugilist and that’s why he shouldn’t be encouraged to fight dirty.

    I was surprised to see character- “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual,” as being the first definition of the word.

    Character, as in a play was first used in 1883 to mean a notable protagonist. Only later did it become generalised to cover the roles of all players

    I’m sorry. This is deeply, deeply sad of me….

    Then I’m just as sad because I find stuff like that fascinating. Most of the sciencey, timey-wimey stuff on this site bores me stupid because I don’t understand it, but I love anything about etymology and language in general. If you haven’t heard it you might want to check out a Radio 4 program called Wordaholics. The third series has just begun and the first two are available I think on the iTunes if you get a taste. Natalie Haynes is a pain and never misses an opportunity to tell everyone she’s a vegetarian, but Lloyd Langford is funny and host Gyles Brandreth is as good on this as he is on Just a Minute, which is to say very, not not at all.

    Gyles was a whip for part of the prime ministership of John Major, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher, just to bring it sort of full circle. Man, this Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon stuff is a doddle.



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  • 43
    Katy Cordeth says:

    It does seem as if I have mixed up the two, so I’m sorry about that, but I am having difficulty in finding an early background for the Telegraph writer, which is probably why the other Jenny McCarthy came up in my search. It seems the Telegraph writer is a pope-loving Protestant apologist rather than a Catholic one.

    No problem. Even Homer nods. Although she isn’t ‘the other Jenny McCarthy’. Here is a link to the Twitter account of Jenny McCartney if you feel like searching through her twitterances for evidence of a pro-Catholic bias: https://twitter.com/mccartney_jenny

    I can’t say I detected any such sentiment in her article. I don’t think it’s to our credit if we assume prima facie that any journalist, or any non-journo for that matter, who dares criticize a New Atheist luminary for something one of them says about a particular religious group is almost certainly an apologist for that group. People can take issue with someone else’s political stance while remaining nonpartisan.

    I’m against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza, but that doesn’t make me an apologist for Hamas. Israel has a hell of a trump card when it come to shutting down criticism of its activities, which basically involves saying anyone who doesn’t give the country his or her full-throated support is by default a Holocaust-supporting, Hitler-loving antisemite.

    We rationalists (and I use that pronoun advisedly, not to say charitably) should resist the temptation of resorting to such lazy, self-serving tactics.

    There’s a poem about this sort of thing whose title I can’t at the moment recall, and Google is no help. The final line is something like, “…da da da da da says, ‘If that bird doesn’t fancy me, I reckon she’s a lez’.”

    Her Telegraph vacuous negative ramblings about Richard and science, do identify her as the sensationalist type of air-head journalist, who pontificates in flowery language, on matters about which she knows nothing!

    I can’t comment on that as this is the only article of Ms. McCartney’s I’ve read. I will say it didn’t seem especially vacuous or rambling to me, and the fact it’s negative about Richard and you regard this as another piece of evidence that she’s from the sensationalist, air-head school of modern journalism might say more about you than it does about her.

    Unfortunate the “hammer of reason”, makes very little impression on some journalists, which is why they flow with the superficial verbosity of gossips trying to think of something to say, while projecting their own posturing into disparaging other people who make statements of substance!

    Was that a link to my comment or one of your own? I’m not sure if I’ve just been insulted again. If it was either of yours then I’ve already read them as I responded to both. Thanks for the trip down memory lane to two days ago though. L. P. Hartley was quite correct, the past really is a foreign country. Get you in flares and a kipper tie.



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  • Someone has to do the rational poet scientist bit. And someone else has to do the down and dirty political bit. Hitch when around was perfect for this. He had the knowledge base and the street fighting background stoked by a glass or two of disinhibition. RD has none of this. Nor has he the tens of thousands of hours of due diligence. Indeed, he no longer seems to be hoovering up knowledge. I always got the impression that Hitch’s morning newspapers were mostly white spaces by lunchtime so drained were they.

    Sean Faircloth gave me some hope that we had an alternate political heavyweight. I liked his angle that challenging the differential moralities seen as available to atheists and the religious was the absolute cornerstone of a great political campagne. (Though his insistance that we two the party line [agree the dogma] was quite antithetical to the proposition). Gone sadly. And my hopes for Robyn are somewhat dashed so far.

    For all this defecit it is still a grave mistake to try and roll up science (his area of expertise) and stuff it into a political program. This doesn’t need science it needs the pragma of engineering to negotiate the accommodation of harms. I blame that Harris bloke for using the term Science in the Moral Samscape when the equally reason utilising skill of Engineering has the real capacity for closure. (Science is the one real world example of Zeno’s Paradox. It will ever approach but may never arrive.)

    I don’t mind in principle drumming up trade for this site with Tweets, but we originally always eschewed on this site those science mags that put a tease title on the cover? “Has Darwin Got It Wrong Afterall?” knowing full well the article will conclude no. Idiots use this “doubting” stuff all the time and it always took ages to damp the flames afterwards on the threads. I don’t think he has yet used this as a device in the tweets, but if he is “provocative” it will entail going this route.

    I think RD wants to drum up trade (and he’s done a good job so far excluding a little damage to the neutrality of the atheist brand). Talking to a few more people before tweeting will flesh out the complexities better in his mind. He’s provocative quite enough with the science. He can pose provocative and interesting questions (fully within his area of expertise) without needing to be strident.

    Brandreth is unreasonably funny and a genuine wit, much to the annoyance of Ian Hislop. I think if they got Boris a safe seat and got Gyles back into politics perhaps as party whip (he has all the blackmail material) the Tory party could have the TV schedules to themselves. Comedy gold…erm.



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  • Hi Katy.
    If I could hark back to this link:

    . http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/children_shealth/10882740/Richard-Dawkins-should-know-it-pays-to-believe-in-fairy-tales.html

    This is only the second article by JMc ever to catch my attention. After reading it, I can conclude that she is one of a brand of journalists that I particularly dislike. One that makes a virtue of credulity and takes delight in fantasy as truth. Perhaps I have a mild form of Aspergers as well, because I like my fairy-stories to be absolutely labelled as works of fiction just like Santa and the tooth fairy. I could never quite get into the swing of things such as fabricating evidence of a Santa visit.
    One of the most loathsome articles I’ve ever read was “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa” ( or words to that effect.) I read this many, many years ago but I have a strong recollection of being horrified at the time.
    I’m enjoying the stoush, so far. This is but an aside.



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  • Dawkins conclusion

    “Might foster supernaturalism. On balance more likely to help critical thinking.” The sharpening of critical thinking, of course, is Dawkins’s Holy Grail.

    Seems spot on as an aspiration. There is nothing magically right or pertinent about these tales of old. They have all the scarey frisson or the heart warming glow of a Republican manifesto, depending on your political persuasion.

    Disney was never worse than when recycling these knackered narratives in the last two decades and never better than when dealing with the social realism of Lilo and Stitch or bringing us Mulan. My kids instantly spotted these for gold, then migrated to Studio Ghibli and Pixar.

    Roald Dahl was and is properly and valuably subversive.

    The recent further research into such narratives we’ve seen here (which I thought good after reading some background papers) showed the stories didn’t meet Dawkin’s criterion of mind sharpening in the religiously indoctrinated child and never would.



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  • 47
    Barry.M says:

    Definition of “strident”…

    It would be very hard to argue that Richard Dawkins is strident based on this definition. In fact, I seem to remember him once explaining in great detail exactly why he shouldn’t be described as “strident or shrill”.

    Ian Paisley though; definitely strident. He’s almost a personification of the word!



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  • Phil. My kids instantly spotted these for gold, then migrated to Studio Ghibli and Pixar.
    Roald Dahl was and is properly and valuably subversive.

    The works of Miyazaki were enjoyed well into adulthood, though I’m not sure how much his wild flights of fancy were taken as truth. Roald Dahl was a great children’s writer and I always read aloud these stories with a degree of relish and a great deal of overacting!
    Fairy tales of old have other things going for them in the way of narrative. Repetition plays a big part towards their enduring quality.

    To come back to the supposed stridency of Dawkins; perhaps it’s simply the fact that he doesn’t employ light hearted banter in the way of say, Lawrence Krauss, that has him labelled as such. No doubt a team of image makers could give him a makeover, but would we want that? I like his approach.



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  • 49
    Katy Cordeth says:

    Hi Katy.

    Hi Nit.

    If I could hark back to this link:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/children_shealth/10882740/Richard-Dawkins-should-know-it-pays-to-believe-in-fairy-tales.html

    I’m about to read that article. Not sure it’s worth attempting to debate it on this thread as it would probably be considered off-topic. If only there were some way to incorporate stridency or Northern Ireland into the mix.

    Thinks

    Thinks some more

    Got it. Rumpelstiltskin was dickish, angry and stupid as fu#k so could conceivably have been an Orangeman.

    Perhaps I have a mild form of Aspergers as well…

    Don’t…don’t…don’t do that.

    There’s a weird form of hypochondriasis that has surfaced in recent years. People fear they might be dull so trawl the internet looking for interesting psychological or neurological conditions and then convince themselves they’re suffering from whatever malady they find that best suits their personality. Celebrities catch on and before you know it, people aren’t just coked-off-their-face idiots; they’re bipolar. Kids who don’t know how to read are not stupid or lazy; they’re (hang on while I check how to spell this word) dyslexic. Irritating control freaks have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Fall-down drunks (this isn’t a dig at Australians) are suffering from the disease alcoholism.

    Isn’t Asperger Syndrome itself a mild form of autism? I’m sure it’s more complicated than that but if one can claim to be suffering from a mild form of Asperger’s, aren’t we getting into homeopathy territory? Just how far can autism be diluted before we all get to say we’re ‘a little bit Aspie’?

    You’re interesting enough, Nitya. You don’t have to jump on this bandwagon.

    …because I like my fairy-stories to be absolutely labelled as works of fiction just like Santa and the tooth fairy. I could never quite get into the swing of things such as fabricating evidence of a Santa visit.

    Well remind me never to invite you round to my house on Christmas Eve. I don’t need all your naughty vibes emanating skywards canceling out my nice ones. This is the 21st Century, sleigh technology is incredibly advanced. In fact, just in case Santa is reading this, I’d like to say that Nitya and Phil’s views in no way reflect my own.

    The tooth fairy on the other hand can go fu#k himself. My teeth are in perfect condition so I have no need of the services of that home-invading weirdo.

    …I’m enjoying the stoush, so far.

    Excellent word, one I hadn’t heard before. Thank you for adding to my vocabulary today to the tune of one. Is it Australian? I wonder if it’s related to the Scottish word stramash. They sound a bit similar and appear to mean basically the same thing.



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  • . Kate….my, but we’re getting familiar! …I’m enjoying the stoush, so far.

    My first contact with this word was in regards to Margaret Thatcher. It was said that she ‘liked a stoush’ in admiring tones, as if she were ‘one of the boys’.

    I’ve only just put myself on the autism continuum this very day as a matter of fact, as I can’t come to grips with the fact that others enjoy going for the ride with fantasy and I prefer to be grounded in reality. ( with the exception of Miyazaki and Dahl.). I think I’ll have to take myself off the continuum immediately having been duly chastened.



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  • Barry.M Sep 7, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    Definition of “strident”…

    It would be very hard to argue that Richard Dawkins is strident based on this definition. In fact, I seem to remember him once explaining in great detail exactly why he shouldn’t be described as “strident or shrill”.

    The use of these terms is just the coached knee jerk response of religious apologists like Jenny McCartney, – who lacking the intellect and knowledge of religions or science, incompetently play the posing tone troll when they want to disparage someone who challenged their deluded thinking.

    Such people are of course, employed as copy churning low-grade journalists, selling ignorant crap opinions to build on the biases of the gullible.



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  • Hi Marktony.
    Many of these are new to me! I’ve never heard of The Clangers or Camberwick Green, but then I haven’t been looking. My first encounter with Studio Ghibli was the wonderful ‘Spirited Away’, and of think I’ve now seen every one of this magnificent body of work. One of the best in my opinion was probably the least surreal. I’ve forgotten the exact title but it was ‘…the Fireflies’. It was poignant tale of children orphaned after the atomic bomb in WW11. It was really touching and didn’t contain the fantastical elements we’ve come to expect with a Miyazaki film.



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  • Alan4Discussion.
    It’s all in the telling, isn’t it? Takes me back.
    Certain people really hate his stories and poems; I’m beginning to build up a mental picture!



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  • 60
    Barry.M says:

    Spirited Away was brilliant but Princess Mononoke is my favourite.

    And, um, Princess Mononoke reminds me of Richard’s ethics on the environment? (sorry mods :))



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  • It isn’t the fantasy I despise about the old tales it is that they celebrate one fantasy in particular, that is the fantasy of evil. Scary and incomprehensible things happen in Ghibli but there is always a sense that that is because they are from a mysterious and unkown part of the world. Battles happen but there is a more balanced sadness to them. Modern retellings of the old fairystories put this useless sense of senseless badness to rights, at least, but then they become narrow little homilies for the most part, neatly tied and undoing all that important and thrilling sense of danger ahead.

    Sorry mods! Dawkins started it, sir! He said about fanatasy literature, sir. The discussion was about Dawkins possibly presenting controversial views…er…maybe…er

    I’ll stop.



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  • There’s a weird form of hypochondriasis…

    This states it in quite the reverse manner. The whole point is to recognise the varieties of cognitive skews that are normal, healthy and productive. To not fall into solipsism because we think ourselves the acme of thought and feeling (We embiggen ourselves far too readilly as it is.) It is about increasing a sense of variegated inclusion rather than a policed, badge wearing, correct talking, clique.

    Then again, aspie means specific things. There are tests….



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  • 63
    Katy Cordeth says:

    “There’s a weird form of hypochondriasis…”

    This states it in quite the reverse manner. The whole point is to recognise the varieties of cognitive skews that are normal, healthy and productive. To not fall into solipsism because we think ourselves the acme of thought and feeling (We embiggen ourselves far too readilly as it is.) It is about increasing a sense of variegated inclusion rather than a policed, badge wearing, correct talking, clique.

    Then again, aspie means specific things. There are tests….

    I think I see what you’re getting at and I sort of agree with it. It could be dangerous though to go too far down the road of imagining we’re all cognitively skewed one way or another, even if our intentions are good. We’ve seen the consequences already of regarding human consciousness as something which can be quantified then analysed just as a blood sample or liver biopsy would be. Consider the use of Ritalin on children who are deemed to be suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Tens of thousands of perfectly normal kids, perhaps even a few who genuinely are suffering from some sort of ‘condition’, have been unnecessarily medicated to keep them quiet in class thanks to collusion between the medical and pharmaceutical professions, and because the present generation has wholeheartedly bought into the idea that a pill cures all ills.

    Never mind that classrooms are full to capacity, that the teachers we expect to act as babysitter to our mewling offspring and teach them about oxbow lakes and fractals are underpaid and undervalued, or that funding in the public school sector is diverted to military coffers which means it’s three kids to one copy of Titus Andronicus. Of course there are going to be behavioral issues, and isn’t it great we get to blame the kids rather than admit we fu#ked the system up.

    The OP say Dawkins and Krauss will be “encouraging others to cast off antiquated religious and politically motivated approaches toward important current issues”. Perhaps this will be on their agenda. (See what I did there?)

    My comment was more about people who don’t suffer from serious psychological/neurological conditions convincing themselves they do in order to appear more interesting or to excuse generally appalling behavior. Who wouldn’t want to be bipolar if it meant you got to be as witty and universally loved as Stephen Fry? While a little bitch who kills four people through drunk driving avoids jail time because he’s suffering from affluenza.

    As an aside, I’ve noticed that in the world of British comedy a notable number of successful comedians claim to suffer from one or more debilitating thymias. Fry’s fellow Footlights alumnus Tony Slattery is also bipolar; Marcus Brigstocke, Russell Brand, Frank Skinner and Frankie Boyle are recovering alcoholics/drug addicts; Jon Richardson has obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Ross Noble and Marcus Brigstocke again are dyslexic.

    I’m not saying manic depression, alcoholism, drug dependency, dyslexia and obsessive-compulsive behavior don’t exist, and the aforementioned may indeed be tormented to some extent by personal dæmons; these just seem like an awfully cool thing for them to have on their résumé, something which simultaneously makes them look like they aren’t simply joke machines but complicated and troubled souls, and also connects them to great comedians of the past who cromulently were psychologically complex, such as Spike Milligan, a genuine genius and manic depressive who was repeatedly committed to mental health facilities and even I think put in a straitjacket and placed in a rubber room on at least one occasion. Possibly in Éire, where Richard is due to speak.

    If you had a condition which meant you had to scrub your hands eighty times a day, or couldn’t leave a room without turning the light switch off and on two hundred times lest your entire family die, you might find it annoying to hear someone say, perhaps on BBC Radio Ulster, “I had to run downstairs last night after going to bed to check I’d unplugged the iron, I’m so OCD.” And how about if a panelist on a popular Channel 4 show decided he was going to have this condition as his interesting character flaw since the rest had already been allocated to others on the circuit? Especially if he did it stridently.



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  • Possibly in Éire, where Richard is due to speak.

    LOL.

    these just seem like an awfully cool thing for them to have on their résumé

    Seriously harsh.

    you might find it annoying to hear someone say, perhaps on BBC Radio Ulster, “I had to run downstairs last night after going to bed to check I’d unplugged the iron, I’m so OCD.”

    Over-reading harms? It is entirely possible to be a sub-clinically OCD. More likely is an understanding that if I’m a 1 and they are a nine how hellish must that be? Besides affecting conditions you don’t possess is lying and liars are found out eventually. Throw away comments, however, are….thrown away.

    There is a 3D printers I use in Belfast. Three people answer the phone- an Ulsterman, a Scotsman and a Briton soft speaking, calm-voiced all three. I’ve explained my voice blindness after continued fumbled greetings and now I call and say (probably needlessly) Hi Its Phil from XXXXXXX. They no longer expect to be greeted by name. They announce for me who they are and then the friendly chat can begin. We make little spaces for each other in this way if we are prepared to ‘fess up. Some social situations are starting to lose their terror. It makes one appreciate Dawkins’ remarkable ease in front of others and maybe forgive a little the occasional clunk.



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  • The way in which we are all trying valiantly to stay on topic even though a compelling sub-topic is forming, is hilarious! It’s sooo difficult, but we are trying to abide by the rules!
    I wanted to mention Stephen Fry, but I had to give up and admit defeat!

    Stephen Fry, unlike fellow atheist and Englishman Richard Dawkins, has actually spent time in prison. It was during one of the manic phases of his life prior to diagnosis and treatment. I think that his ‘coming out’ did a great service for those bipolar sufferers. Perhaps there is a bandwagon effect and those reported sex-addicts like Michael Douglas always raise a smile. I’m secretly thinking opportunity/ impulse etc.



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  • It is known that if a distant star or planet is catching the light reflected from earth, the image at present would be from millions of years ago, probably the image of the dinosaur era on earth. If then it is possible to tap into those images on that distant celestial object, we should be able to see direct evidence of what was going on during that time on earth.- HK



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  • 70
    Barry.M says:

    Very funny. More subtle than the Mel Smith video but equally pertinent.

    Perhaps we’ll discover one day that Richard Dawkins and Mehdi Hasan were actually best buddies!



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  • Richard Dawkins is not strident in personality, but is a very kind and generous man in person, and eloquent even when responding passionately to a creationist.

    He is direct, clear, eschewing the namby-pamby couching of argument in “palatable language” which I think insults all participants, religious or atheist, in the discussion. This distinction is crucial. I think it shows respect to people to state what one means, and disrespect to hem and haw and make “polite” noises. While he is pointed, I have never seen him be rude.



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