The Raving Theist

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Atheist vs Atheist

October 18, 2006 | 50 Comments

“Devout Catholic” Stephen Colbert vs Richard Dawkins, on the Colbert Report last night:

Colbert: My guest tonight is a scientist who argues that there is no God. Well you know what *he’ll have an eternity in hell to prove it!

Please welcome . . . Richard Dawkins!

Thank you for coming on . . . I’m so excited to have you . . . I have to admit, I thought I was getting Daryl Dawkins.

Dawkins: [Laughs, puzzled].

Colbert:Chocolate Thunder . . . I’m not sure if you’re familiar with . . . ah, no,

Dawkins: Usually they say they were expecting a man in wheelchair who can’t talk.

Colbert: Oh.

Dawkins: They confuse me with Stephen Hawkins.

Colbert: Stephen Hawkins. Oh, Stephen Hawkins. Okay. Is he going to hell, too?

Dawkins: I reckon so.

Colbert: Yeah, maybe so, maybe so . . . God doesn’t like black holes. Alright. Um. Your book started off great, okay? It’s got a shiny silver cover, and I can see my face in it.

But after that, I got pretty upset, okay? You say that God is . . . it’s called “The God Delusion.” Alright, and you say that there is no God. That God is a myth, and that religion is corrosive.

Dawkins: Well, I say that God is very, very improbable. You can’t actually disprove God . . .

Colbert: RIGHT!! ‘Cause He exists! No matter how much you fight, there’s still a little bit of Him left.

Dawkins: You can’t disprove anything. You can’t disprove the Flying Spaghetti Monster, you can’t disprove Thor with his hammer, you can’t disprove Zeus, or Poseidon . . .

Colbert: Oh, those are Pagan Gods. They don’t exist.

Dawkins: Yeah, that’s right.

Colbert: They don’t exist.

Dawkins: You’re an atheist about all those Gods . . . everybody here’s an atheist about all those Gods. Some of us just go one God further.

Colbert: Wow. Bold.

Alright, so let’s hear it. There is no God . . . our belief in Him is a delusion . . . the world and the universe was created by a series of random acts . . .

Dawkins: Oh, no no no.

Colbert: . . . we’re all just monkeys and we should fornicate and throw our feces.

Dawkins: Well, you’re right. That’s up to you.

Colbert: Those are your greatest hits, right? I’ve encapsulated the book basically right there, right?

Dawkins: It’s up to you. But you mustn’t say that it’s all due to random chance. That’s the one thing it isn’t. Because Darwinian natural selection is the exact opposite of random chance. It’s a highly non-random process. The big thing that everybody misunderstands about Darwinism is that they think it’s chance, they think it’s an accident. It’s not an accident.

Colbert: It’s too complex for us to perceive . . . you know, it’s like, I know a Pachinko machine isn’t an accident either, there’s a reason why it bounces from nail to nail, but it looks random to me, right?

Dawkins: Nothing in nature looks random. Nothing in nature looks random.

Colbert: I want you to address my Pachinko analogy.

Dawkins: I’ve never even heard of it. What is that?

Colbert: Never heard of Pachinko? Oh, it’s like Japanese pinball.

Dawkins: Okay.

Colbert: They’re great. They make pornographic versions of it over there.

Dawkins: We call it bagatelle.

Colbert: Bagatelle?

Dawkins: Yeah.

Colbert: Who, biologists or English people?

Dawkins: English people.

Colbert: Okay. Alright.

Um, obviously I’ve already played my hand here. I believe in God. And you don’t believe in God. So I’ve got that on you. So this is kind of unfair, because God’s on my side in this argument. But 95% of Americans believe that there is a God, okay? So doesn’t that disprove your argument, or else you don’t believe in democracy.

Dawkins: Well . . .

Colbert: Really . . . the people have spoken.

Dawkins: Democracy is fine for policy, but democracy is no good for science. You’d never . . .

Colbert: Oh, I’d disagree. I’d say the President would disagree also.

Dawkins: Well, you’ve got a point there. I have to give you that. You’re right

Colbert: Now you’re not a big fan of intelligent design either, I’m imagining.

Dawkins: I’m a very big fan of intelligent design for for man-made things, but I’m not a big fan of intelligent design for natural things.

Colbert: What do you mean? What’s the difference between those things? Aren’t we natural? We’re part of that natural order of things.

Dawkins: Yeah, that’s right. There’s no intelligent design in the natural order of things. There’s plenty of intelligent design in computers, and cars, and telephones, they’re all intelligently designed. And we are so stupid that we think that just because telephones and computers and cars are intelligently designed, that means we are too. Well, they’re not. And . . .

Colbert: Well, I’m more complex that my computer.

Dawkins: You certainly are.

Colbert: Right, so how could I be here . . . I mean . . . it’s either . . .

Dawkins: Well I’ll tell you . . .

Colbert: I’m lost. I’m lost. I’m lost. It hurts when I think. See, if I just think that God just (clapping hands) did it, that I can understand.

Dawkins: And who just did God, then?

Colbert: God is outside of time.

Dawkins: Ahhh . . . that’s so easy. You get away with that . . .

Colbert: No, it’s hard, it makes my brain sore.

Dawkins: . . . you can get away with that, and then you can explain anything.

Colbert: I can’t explain anything.

Dawkins: I can explain it. I can explain it by saying you get to complex things like you, by slow, gradual degrees. And that’s the only, ultimate explanation that will work. You can’t just suddenly magic complex things like God, into existence.

Colbert: But, if this is intelligent design, like say your book is intelligently
designed . . .

Dawkins: It is, by the way.

Colbert: . . . but the universe is not intelligently designed, then you’re saying the universe just naturally came into existence, continues existence, through natural laws of nature, through physics, thermodynamics, the laws of gravity and energy, produced you, eventually, and then through you produced this book that proves that it has no natural intelligent design.

Dawkins: Okay, let’s take that step by step.

Colbert: Oh, I don’t think we have time for step by step. You can either surrender or we can go.

Dawkins: You were right as far as when you got on to life. Life’s a very special thing. Life starts naturally, and then it increases in complex by slow, gradual degrees, that’s Darwinian natural selection.

Colbert: That’s because God breathed into it.

Dawkins: Oh no. That’s at best a superfluous hypothesis, and at worse, a highly unparsimonious one.

Colbert: Do both of those mean that you surrender? We’ve got to go, I’m sorry.
Richard Dawkins, thank you so much for being my guest .. The book is The God Delusion.

Who won?


50 Responses to “Atheist vs Atheist”

  1. docjmcg2
    October 18th, 2006 @ 2:30 pm

    We all did. It was hilarious. Good to see Dawkins and Sam Harris making the talk show rounds simultaneously. I got some reading to do.

  2. KaKnowledge
    October 18th, 2006 @ 2:41 pm

    I didn’t realize that we were supposed to declare winners and losers in one of Comedy Centrals satirical interviews.

  3. Godthorn
    October 18th, 2006 @ 2:51 pm

    Neither “won.” Dawkins had no time at any point to even begin to build a case. Colbert, as his format requires, had to interject frequent cute comebacks. No one with a serious case to make should ever submit himself to such a frivolous interview. Of course, when you have a book to publicise, perhaps exposure overrules prudence.

  4. Snakefish
    October 18th, 2006 @ 3:19 pm

    Since Colbert was playing the ‘Devil’s advocate’ and was in character, I’d say Dawkins. Didn’t even know it was supposed to be open to debate.

    That, and Colbert was stumped, or ‘nailed’. I’ve never seen him do that in an interview while in character.

  5. ocmpoma
    October 18th, 2006 @ 3:26 pm

    Where did you get that horrid transcript?

  6. Interested Atheist
    October 18th, 2006 @ 6:35 pm

    Dawkins won, with support from Colbert.

  7. Andrew
    October 18th, 2006 @ 6:39 pm

    Choobus won.

    He wasn’t even participating, but that’s how awesome he is.

  8. severalspeciesof
    October 18th, 2006 @ 7:40 pm

    I won.

    I guessed correctly that at the end of the post, a stupid question would be asked. What’s my prize? I will share it with Choobus.

  9. Eva, Mod.
    October 18th, 2006 @ 9:31 pm

    if you have to ask…

  10. atheist
    October 18th, 2006 @ 10:20 pm

    “Who won?”

    The atheist (and only one of them is an atheist).

  11. Thenormalyears
    October 18th, 2006 @ 10:31 pm

    nobody won they were just joking around jackass
    any shred of personal honesty left in you and you would shut this blog down

  12. Axolotl
    October 18th, 2006 @ 11:15 pm

    I’m not sure you can “declare” a winner in what was essentially a comedy routine. I think Stephen Colbert did a pretty good job of satirizing the typical theist “arguments”. I’m assuming he was playing it for laughs. And even if he was playing it straight, it was still funny …

  13. Forrest Cavalier
    October 19th, 2006 @ 12:22 am

    Did Dawkins really say that Nothing in nature looks random.

    Was he flustered at that point, or what?

  14. Andrew
    October 19th, 2006 @ 2:04 am

    Yes, Forrest, I’m pretty sure that’s what he said. What’s wrong with that? His point is that, contrary to how creationists mischaracterize it, Darwinian natural selection is not a random process and doesn’t produce random results. Nature doesn’t appear random because it’s not; species are well-adapted to their environment.

  15. V
    October 19th, 2006 @ 6:29 am

    Everything appears random to the ignorant. That’s why they scuttle to god for comfort.

  16. Kamikaze189
    October 19th, 2006 @ 6:46 am

    If anybody “won” it was Dawkins… but who cares? It was a Comedy Central interview that lasted five minutes.

    October 19th, 2006 @ 7:30 am

    Unfortunately —- Colbert won.

    Just goes to show how easy it is to attribute everything to god: Poof – we have creation.

    Trying to defend a natural explanation for the universe and the complexity of life is guaranteed to be a futile attempt in such a format. Sound bites won’t work.

    I didn’t find it all that funny though — partly because I’m not so sure that Colbert was palying devil’s advocate at all. They guy seems comfortable at making fun of religion but apparently doesn’t have the integretiy to look at it head on and realize that it is all silly superstition.

    He’s probably one of those “I was born into a religion and I ain’t giving it up” types.

  18. Professor Chaos
    October 19th, 2006 @ 8:16 am

    Are we being asked who won a five-minute conversation (I hesitate to call this a debate. It’s a fucking book plug) between an author and a fictional character on a comedy show?

    Jesus tap-dancing Christ what is the point of this post?

  19. Meanoldmike
    October 19th, 2006 @ 9:15 am

    Dawkins: Oh no. That’s at best a superfluous hypothesis, and at worse, a highly unparsimonious one.
    Colbert: Do both of those mean that you surrender?

    Since Dawkins final statment is actually meaningless it is clear that Colbert did win the argument.

  20. Snakefish
    October 19th, 2006 @ 9:59 am

    You realize those words mean something, right? Therefore it isn’t truly ‘meaningless’.

  21. Forrest Cavalier
    October 19th, 2006 @ 11:57 am

    There is a difference in the statements

    “Nothing in nature is random.”


    “Nothing in nature looks random.”

    The first formulation is patently false. There are things in nature that are completely unpredictable, even with infinitely good measurements of initial states. Read some QM. Dawkins is not reported as saying this.

    The second formulation, which he is reported as saying, is a very imprecise statement for Dawkins, a scientist, to make.

    By saying that nothing in nature looks random, is he arguing for some non-random looking higher organizing principles built on the fundamental randomness of QM? Wouldn’t that admit a higher purpose of the universe? RA covered this in a previous post. Death is a low-energy state. Life is not. So a universe with physical laws that tend to create life is unfathomably special.

    Or did Dawkins mean that the human mind can look at randomness and NEVER find any? Once you admit those kind of explanations can be “true”, you get a whole host of non-falsifiable statements coming in too.

    Someone in a post above made the attempt to defend Dawkins’ statement as his view on Darwinian selection. That’s an inadequate defense. “Nothing” is a very much stronger statement.

    What did Dawkins mean?

  22. Thorngod
    October 19th, 2006 @ 12:23 pm

    Whatever it was that Dawkins would like to have said, he wasn’t given the time to ramble on as you did. And you can’t blame it on him that he was cut off before he could get started. So there is nothing in what he did say that you can legitimately argue with.

  23. Dr. BDH
    October 19th, 2006 @ 1:52 pm

    Darryl Dawkins won. His stats are ‘way better and he had that weird song about him by the Screaming Headless Torsos. And SNL named him “Man of the Millenium.”

  24. Andrew
    October 19th, 2006 @ 2:14 pm

    Forrest, I really think you’re splitting hairs here. It’s clear from the context (read Dawkins’ statement prior to the “nothing in nature looks random” statement) that he was talking about Darwinian natural selection. He was not trying to make some broader point about quantum mechanics or organizing principles of the universe. He was simply trying to refute the creationist caricature of Darwinian natural selection that “it’s all random.” He spends most of a chapter in his book doing just that.

    I think it’s pretty clear what Dawkins meant. If you want to generalize his statement and nitpick it, go ahead, but I don’t see the point, nor do I think you’ve “caught” Dawkins in some kind of error, if that’s what you’re claiming.

  25. andy holland
    October 19th, 2006 @ 2:56 pm

    “You were right as far as when you got on to life. Life’s a very special thing. Life starts naturally, and then it increases in complex by slow, gradual degrees, that’s Darwinian natural selection.”

    Dawkin’s problem, as he does not believe in randomness and is smart enough to know randomness does not work, is that the in order to become more complex by degrees, there has to be a simple compound principle that makes something complicated enough to select from (God – The origin, simple and compound).

    If one takes a purely material point of view, a bird is a complex chemical, electromechanical device that must fly, must balance itself, must control itself, react, think, sense and must evolve simultaneous systems consecutively in order to keep flying. A woodpecker must not only evolve a beak, but a counter balance skull light enough to maintain flight, the proteins needed for the beak etc, etc, etc….

    People who actually have used complex algorithms to actually design things know full well the selection process is of very little value compared to the algorithm that provides something to select from. And selection itself is complex, and can morph.

    As our most sophisticated designs use computers to perfect the design, and we use genetic algorithms to make those designs, well, wouldn’t you expect us to do that if we are God’s creation?

    But arguing the facts does no good, because Dawkins like all atheists knows everything and the more they see in science, the more they dismiss to the point of absurdity.

    The truth is there have been large mass extinction events, and radically new creatures that came from the process, so evolution is not slow and gradual, but rather fast at times – but hey, why look at the data that doesn’t fit the “theory?” Let’s all pretend and be happy throwing feces.

    andy holland

  26. Paul
    October 19th, 2006 @ 3:15 pm

    Andy, I’ll just take one item and leave it to others to handle the rest.

    “A woodpecker must not only evolve a beak. . . .” Not necedssarily. Organisms can evolve proto-strucutures, incomplete structures that only offer marginal but real survival gains, and those structures can improve over a great amount of time into structures that would be incredibly impressive if they had to be designed and occur all at once, like you tend to think apparently. Furthermore, incomplete and marginal structures can evolve for one purpose and then be further evolved to fulfill another purpose.

  27. qedpro
    October 19th, 2006 @ 3:18 pm

    Arguing with the christian right is like arguing with a 3 year old.
    sometime its just better to spank them and send them to bed.

  28. Thorngod
    October 19th, 2006 @ 3:24 pm

    “…wouldn’t you expect us to do that if we are God’s creation?”
    -Whether or not, Andy, whether or not.

    October 19th, 2006 @ 3:57 pm

    Hey qedpro —- I got dibs on the 15 year old xtian girls … ooooohhhh spanky the little xtian girl ooooooooooooh yah !

  30. Tom
    October 19th, 2006 @ 4:05 pm

    Who won?

    They both did. They both proved the same point. Intellegent design is stupid.

  31. Tom
    October 19th, 2006 @ 4:10 pm

    Sorry. Intelligent Design is stupid. Intelligent design is clever.

  32. Jody Tresidder
    October 19th, 2006 @ 4:42 pm

    As a courtesy to all, RA’s post over at Dawn Eden’s:

    “I’m fairly convinced that Colbert is a hardcore, anti-religious atheist or agnostic. Although in every interview he does (and I’ve read nearly every one) he claims to be a “devout Catholic” with a belief in “the Word, the blood, the body and the Christ,” it has to be a put-on. It’s simply not possible given the way he attacks the Catholic Church, Christ, the Sacraments, the Bible, and every religious doctrine he’s ever discussed on the Daily Show or the Colbert Report — he’s even called the Pope a “Nazi”. I suppose there are Catholic comedians who make some light of their religion, but not in a way that would get them excommunicated. Even Phil Donohue and Teddy Kennedy don’t do that. He’s either playing a game or trying to capitalize on whatever mystique he thinks that claiming to be a Catholic will bring him.
    The Raving Atheist | Homepage | 10.19.06 – 3:50 pm | #


  33. Drusilla
    October 19th, 2006 @ 5:04 pm

    democracy is no good for science

    And science is no good for determining the existence of God.

  34. Aaron Kinney
    October 19th, 2006 @ 6:18 pm

    And Druscilla is no good for determining the ability of science to discover the truths of the existence that we exist in.

    If science is no good for determining the existence of God, then nothing is any good for determining the existence of God.

    Most especially a material, ancient, non-scientific book.

  35. atheist
    October 19th, 2006 @ 8:07 pm

    I’m not surprised that RA sees Colbert’s Catholicism as either game playing or trying to capitalize on some mystique. RA is simply seeing himself in someone else. It’s hilarious to watch the game player call someone else a game player. However, I think in fact that Colbert is a ‘devout Catholic’ (although a very liberal and humorous one).

  36. Tom
    October 19th, 2006 @ 9:30 pm

    And science is no good for determining the existence of God.

    Actually, I wish all Christians felt this way. Then there’d be no ID to contend with.

    October 20th, 2006 @ 7:42 am

    RAVING ANTIABORTIONIST should’t be throwing stones Colbert’s way. Talk about someone being fucking TWO-FACED and enigmatic. Where exactly does that asshole stand anyways? He posts, for the most part a bunch of pseudo-metaphysical garbage, never follows up when people disagree with what we have to fracking GUESS as to what his viewpoint is – and now posting shit like Jody mentioned in #32.

    The RAVING ANTIABORTIONIST has become a fucking joke … the audacity of him to even attempt to challenge Richard Dawkins or Bertrand Russell with the nonsensical mishmash of gibberish he’s been unloading lately.

    HA HA —- big big joke!

  38. HappyNat
    October 20th, 2006 @ 8:00 am

    “Even Phil Donohue and Teddy Kennedy don’t do that.”

    hahahahaha, what a great pair of Catholics to pick out . . . like anyone has had a serious thought about either of them in the past 25 years.

  39. andy holland
    October 20th, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

    Dear Paul,
    “”A woodpecker must not only evolve a beak. . . .” Not necedssarily. Organisms can evolve proto-strucutures, incomplete structures that only offer marginal but real survival gains, and those structures can improve over a great amount of time into structures that would be incredibly impressive if they had to be designed and occur all at once, like you tend to think apparently. Furthermore, incomplete and marginal structures can evolve for one purpose and then be further evolved to fulfill another purpose.”

    Sure there are multiple structures that exist that one can select from, however, one must select a proper combination. Also, you have to remember that you are dealing with a system where the molecules themselves must be programmed to generate the Woodpecker, maintaining everything in balance. Its not only the finished system, but its manufacture that must be considered.

    Also, it is up to the proponents of the theory to demonstrate through some sort of real testing, that the mechanism in fact works. In the demonstrations to date (the closest being genetic algorithms), the force of logic is in the programmed algorithm – where did the algorithm come from?

    Where the algorithm came from goes to origin – not “selection” itself. Dawkins uses time and selection as a sort of force for construction, they provide neither. Time may provide thoroughness, but it does not provide logical force. Selection has to select from something.

    We are seeing more and more smarts in the genetic algorithm of life, and more and more complexity. The old models are breaking down, but people cannot stand the implication for their world view.

    andy holland

  40. Thorngod
    October 20th, 2006 @ 2:04 pm

    Andy, do you understand the meaning of “selection” in the Darwinian sense? There is no intentional selection going on there, and no intentional manufacturing.

    When was the last time you made any use of your vermiform appendix, Andy? And by the way, if you’re still not exercising your nipples, I know a young woman who could use a transplant.

  41. Jennifer
    October 20th, 2006 @ 2:06 pm

    The Anaerobe’s won. They’ve been waiting for this moment to stage a come back.

  42. Jennifer
    October 20th, 2006 @ 2:15 pm

    The most amazing thing to me is how long it took for someone like Darwin to come up with the theory of evolution. People had been breeding animals for centuries prior.

    I realize I’m Monday Morning Quarterbacking here but still the delay is disappointing.

  43. Thorngod
    October 20th, 2006 @ 2:18 pm

    Until very recently, knowledge advanced at snails’ pace. I think the main problem was that the churchgoers kept stomping the snails.

    October 20th, 2006 @ 3:23 pm

    I believe that many people and for quite some time suspected that orgaisms evolved from earlier forms. Darwin was the first to compile and publish extensive research that clearly supported it.

    It is amazing is that he did it without the knowledge of the mechanisms involved (genetic mutation etc) … it must have torn him up to not know exactly how it could actually happen.

    Holland the sinner says:
    “Also, it is up to the proponents of the theory to demonstrate through some sort of real testing, that the mechanism in fact works.”

    That organisms can change due to ‘selection pressures’ has been clearly demonstrated in nature and in the lab.

    You refuse to accept solid evidence because your superstitious foundation of a world view might come crumbling down. It is so much easier for you to exlpain it all with the ‘guy in the sky’. The thinking of a six year old ….

  45. Kate B.
    October 20th, 2006 @ 3:44 pm

    That’s right, Thorngod. Churchgoers stomped it all out. Like Mendel.

  46. Paul R.
    October 20th, 2006 @ 7:23 pm


    1. What Thorngod said.

    2. When you say “Also, it is up to the proponents of the theory to demonstrate through some sort of real testing, that the mechanism in fact works,” you make it sound like an experiment is needed, while, in fact, there have been tons of *predictions* made that support evolution, which is why it is such a robust idea.

    3. What exactly is a “force for construction?” And what is “logical force” such that evolution needs it? Huh? Spreak Engrish.

    4. The theory of evolution is so strong that it’s going to take a lot more than the challenges to it that we see today to threaten it.

  47. Mosslem_Atheist
    October 21st, 2006 @ 3:03 pm

    1. Setting this particular venue aside, nobody ever wins in these pointless debates. Neither will the atheist ever prove the inexistence of God (you can’t refute the existence of an entity that has no defined characteristics or effects) nor will the theist ever prove he exists (you can’t prove the existence of an entity that has no defined characteristics or effects).

    2. According to my very basic knowledge of the science, evolution by natural selection is all about random mutation; trial and error on a grand scale. Mutations that work in a certain environment manage to persist while others subside. Isn’t that what we owe biological diversity to? Whether or not the occurance of the environment itself is random, that’s a different story.

  48. Donny Pauling
    November 1st, 2006 @ 11:58 pm

    That was a hilarious interview.

  49. Garnett
    November 7th, 2006 @ 1:32 pm

    uooimutoup zwuuuiae

  50. Miniskirt guy
    October 26th, 2013 @ 10:02 am

    Hey idiot, Colbert is Catholic.

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