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Letter from Brazil, Part 3

May 31, 2015

by Richard Dawkins

Back in São Paulo airport, 24 hours on

Well, vus don’t come much more déjà than this. Back in the airport, waiting for exactly the same plane displaced by 24 hours, having spent the day, at American Airlines’ expense, in an airport hotel almost entirely populated by air crews of many different airlines, clad in a wonderful variety of liveries.

I admit to being  overcome with emotion in the face of human kindness. Thank you, Brazilian employees of American Airlines. I was a bit tetchy with you last night when you wouldn’t let me on the plane. But you were obviously right. And this evening, when I arrived, such kindness, such care. As soon as I approached the American Airlines check-in desk I was pounced on by two women, who had obviously been briefed to look out for me (how did they recognise me, I don’t for a moment wonder). One of them VIPd me through security – and this really mattered because I had surrendered the all important immigration/emigration document last night and would have had trouble with the passport authorities. At every stage, the American Airlines women have been kind and solicitous, apparently alerted to what happened last night by some internal grapevine . Thank you for your humanity.

35 comments on “Letter from Brazil, Part 3

  • It could have been worse. I travel through Sao Paulo airport every fortnight. If I were the doctor at the queue, not only would I send you directly to the Hospital (using my terrible bedside manners), but also you’d be bothered for some autographs… Glad you enjoyed Brazil, Dr. Dawkins!



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  • 3
    pafranke says:

    So that readers do not end up getting on the wrong airplane, to the wrong airport, that picture is NOT from beachless Sao Paulo…



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  • 6
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Sorry to hear about your fall and its resulting inconveniences: the flight delay and the public embarrassment of being gawked at while wearing the Basil Fawlty headdress. On a positive note, you probably won’t have to go through the excruciatingly boring exercise of answering the “what happened to you?” question a thousand times to the people you will meet in your upcoming June tour.

    A shiner is such an obvious injury that it never fails to raise curiosity and summon inquiries from your interlocutors whom as you aptly joked, will tend to assume you’ve been in a fight. I’ve had a black eye many years ago and I’ve been through all of that: having to explain yourself repeatedly to your family and co-workers… and it gets old fast.



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  • Nice playing, Bonny. Thanks for the link.
    As I said in the Letters from Brazil 2 discussion thread, I was quite certain, when I read “fight with a creationist,” that Prof. Dawkins must have interviewed Wendy Wright again, and it had led to a physical altercation. That was presumptuous on my part.



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  • 15
    Marcelo says:

    As for your impression on how quickly you received medical treatment, make no mistake. Brazilians DO wait long hours in our NHS (known here as SUS). Your social status as a celebrity and PhD certainly had some bearing on such matter. As Charles Darwin pointed out in his Beagle diary while visiting Rio de Janeiro on July, 1832 :”It has been gravely asserted by Brazilians that the only fault they found with the English laws was that they could not perceive rich respectable people had any advantage over the miserable & the poor.” It is possible that you may not have experienced efficiency, but rather inequality”



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  • 16
    maria melo says:

    I felt kind of priviledge for reading in Portuguese over the internet searching for comments and critics about RD stay in Brazil. Well, it was said that RD repeats the same all the time.
    I feel the same. I guess the argument of atheism in a scale 1 to 7 is not a philosophical argument because what we cannot possibly know is not a philosophical matter, it is out of reach.
    Once for all, I dislike the argument.



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  • 17
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    I guess the argument of atheism in a scale 1 to 7 is not a philosophical argument because what we cannot possibly know is not a philosophical matter, it is out of reach.

    This argument is indeed not a philosophical argument about the existence of God if that’s what you mean. It is a metaphor that RD used to illustrate his personal level of belief in God. It was never meant as an argument to disprove the existence of God.

    Prof. Dawkins knows better than to wander into the philosophical impasse of trying to prove a negative.

    As for RD repeating himself, well I have news for you: we all repeat ourselves… at least if we are consistent and we care about the important issues in this world. The message that RD is delivering around the world is of supreme importance particularly in this precarious period of our history as a species.



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  • 18
    maria melo says:

    The argument of the scale, as I see it now, and even got worse when I visioned a vídeo where Neil the Grass criticizes “atheists”, as I see it, because it seems not to be MATHEMATICALLY CORRECT to disprove God (and “atheists” here seem those that disprove God, thinking myself as na “atheist” God´s existence wouldn’t make any difference in my life at all, I don´t botter, not even to disprove it, perhaps a different concept of “atheist”? It is irrelevant whether God exists or not in modern philosophy too, it is not a question that we can worry about, we should better worry with how we know what we know (not what we cannot know), “atheists” here seem prejudiced. For scientists particularly it seems to me that they loosing their time if they are worried about what we cannot know.
    i don´t seem to give anything for the MATHEMATICAL CORRECT concept that denies “atheists” the right to “disprove God, if that´s what really means to be an atheist.



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  • 19
    maria melo says:

    Well, Jane Goodall repeats herself too, there´s no problem with that, if she really believes the motives.
    Perhaps I had some wishfull thinking that Richard Dawkins would change his mind (I guess he didn´t).



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  • 23
    maria melo says:

    On the topicof agnosticism, I have been consulting a Dictionary of Phylosophy and I guess I could retain that agnosticism gave room for metaphysics, and as brief as my thinking goes, metaphysics gave place to modern epistemology, Nietzsche opposed to agnosticism of other philosophers when they considered the existence of god as metaphysical.
    I am really brief on the topic, and yes, agnosticism reminds me of cepticism in a certain way.



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  • 25
    maria melo says:

    The article, in Portuguese, can be transleted, of course.
    Curious that´s a brasiliam author and he mentions that the term agnosticism was coined by Th Huxley (as Neil de Grasse Tyson mentions) , although agnosticism was not a completely new concept as mentioned in de Dictionary of Philosophy.
    The author mentions Richard Dawkins´s scale too.
    I guess the christian author Platingaas considers metaphysics valid in his approaches. (what a waste of time). I lost the opportunity to attend a conference where Plating would be, but I am really bored about loosing time.



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  • 26
    maria melo says:

    So, reading about Th Huxley in the article I´ve mentioned, Huxley didn´t oppose to the possibility of of a “force” transcending our human insignificance, and was not therefore in favour of atheism, so metaphysics was really the point of Huxley, there was no physical evidence or manifestation of God, considering it as “real”?

    I will not comment anymore on this, not to bore anyone.



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  • i don´t seem to give anything for the MATHEMATICAL CORRECT concept that denies “atheists” the right to “disprove God, if that´s what really means to be an atheist.

    No, that’s not what it really means to be an atheist.

    If theism requires faith, and faith requires belief without solid evidence, then an atheist is simply one who cannot choose to believe things without a good reason.

    I am atheist, not because I can disprove any particular god, but because I think belief without any evidence is illogical and irresponsible.

    In every scenario I can imagine, if a god really did exist, I think evidence of that existence would be unmistakable, especially if that god made any kind of serious attempt at revelation, as is alleged in, The Bible, for example.

    We find ourselves in a situation where more people have a mobile phone(1) than have heard of any particular god(2). It is revealing that technology can accomplish scientific “revelation” better than any of the alleged gods can perform deity revelation.

    1) multiple sources: “75% of World Has Access to Mobile Phones”

    2) http://joshuaproject.net/resources/articles/has_everyone_heard
    “Over 41% of the world’s people live in [people groups that are considered unreached]” and “possibly 4 out of 5 individuals in an unreached people group are totally unaware of the Messiah. ”



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  • maria melo
    Jun 6, 2015 at 9:55 am

    It is irrelevant whether God exists or not in modern philosophy too, it is not a question that we can worry about,

    There are theological colleges with courses full of theistic thinking which would disagree!
    These certainly have effects on societies where those with god-delusions and credentials from these places work.

    we should better worry with how we know what we know (not what we cannot know), “atheists” here seem prejudiced.

    The present indication and evidence from neuroscientists is that we will shortly know exactly where god(delusion)s exist, – along with details of the variations, according to which flavour of gods are in the brain of the believer.

    For scientists particularly it seems to me that they loosing their time if they are worried about what we cannot know.

    Scientists have been finding material evidence of things people claimed to be “unable to know” for millennia, with the volume and detail of the discoveries expanding all the time, as the boundaries of knowledge are pushed ever outwards.

    The existence of the biblical God with a capital “G”, is one of the weaker claims when stories are compared with the evidence (or lack of it).



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  • 32
    maria melo says:

    Darwins´s rottweiler, Thomas Huxley, may have thought of the word agnostic to conclude that both theists and atheists were wrong, because both cannot claim whether God exists or not, so both their claim is wrong………………nevertheless, atheists are specially wrong because we would be insignificant then…. (Some are more equal than others)
    The word agnostic may have been used by Darwin to describe himself (perhaps not to hurt his wife), but he argues that Christianity is a damned doctrine that condemns his brother and father, I think, to hell because of their disbelief. A comment related to disbelief in Darwin´s autobiography was hidden from the public from his family. What seems really important of admiration in Darwin´s work is not that he was more organized as a collector than Wallace, nor that he was more brilliant than Wallace, but simply because he refused “supernatural explanation”.
    ??? I AGREE with the idea of a Biology Professor in some lecture about Darwin.
    As Nietzsche puts it, it is not because believe in a god particularly that the “metaphysical need” exist, as Thomas Huxley certainly had, because of his claim that we´d be insignificant otherwise.
    To assume oneself as an agnostic in the same way as Thomas Huxley did seems a bit outdated for a scientist, I think.



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  • maria melo
    Jul 13, 2015 at 8:16 am
    As Nietzsche puts it, it is not because believe in a god particularly that the “metaphysical need” exist, as Thomas Huxley certainly had, because of his claim that we´d be insignificant otherwise.

    Denial of the insignificance of the Solar-System, the Earth, and humans, on the scale of the Universe, is no basis (other than ego-centric psychology) to assume the existence of gods.

    To assume oneself as an agnostic in the same way as Thomas Huxley did seems a bit outdated for a scientist, I think.

    I usually ask those claiming to be agnostic to any serious extent, “which gods they are agnostic about?”! –
    This usually raises evasive mental gymnastics around an assumed default god, who becomes progressively more vague, featureless, and remote from reality, as questions are pressed!

    Those who are only agnostic at points two, or three on the Dawkin’s scale, at some later point, often revert to: “therefore the Biblical loving Jesus was real” as they make a monumental jump back from some unspecified vague deity claim, in an attempt to make some connection with material reality!



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  • 34
    maria melo says:

    I should have mentioned bulldog instead not rottweiler
    I would be out of scale, and would remain “atheist” even if God exists. Given the list where Dawkins classifies God, I don´t think I would like to worship it.

    “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant
    character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust,
    unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser;
    a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal,
    filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously
    malevolent bully.”

    ― Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion



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  • Dear Richard,
    I’m an atheist since I was about 11, and I’m so sorry to say that I’ve only heard about you last year, when I was reading a Sam Harris’ book. I’m reading now The Magic of Reality, after I finished The God Delusion, and I’m so thankful I found about you. If you ever come back to São Paulo, I’ll be there to meet you!!! I hope my 5 year old son loves your books one day as much as I do! Sorry my english!



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