The Raving Theist

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October 20, 2006 | 39 Comments

Atheist author Richard Dawkins and Irish Independent columnist David Quinn debated the existence of God earlier this month on the The Tubridy Show. A reader of Amy Welborn’s Open Book opined that Quinn “absolutely embarrassed” Dawkins — an opinion shared by a variety of bloggers:

Crusading Atheist Meets His Match
Richard Dawkins Getting Schooled by David Quinn
Dawkins Does Badly in Debate
Richard Dawkins Gets a Hard Time

Quinn left a comment of his own at Open Book on Wednesday. You can listen to the debate here (scroll down to October 9) or read the transcript:

Moderator [Ryan Tubridy]: This morning we are asking, “What’s wrong with religion?” It’s one of the questions raised in a new book called The God Delusion. And we’re going to talk to its author, a man who’s been dubbed the world’s most famous out-of-the-closet atheist, Richard Dawkins. Richard, good morning to you.

Dawkins: Good morning.

Moderator: It’s nice to talk to you again.. We talked before once on a similar subject matter. David Quinn is also with us here. David Quinn is a columnist with the Irish Independent. David, a very good morning to you.

Quinn: Good morning.

MODERATORSo Richard Dawkins, here you go again, up to your old tricks in your most recent book The God Delusion. Let’s just talk about the word, if you don’t mind, the word “delusion,” so it puts it into context. Why do you think that . . .

Dawkins: Well, the word “delusion” means a falsehood which is widely believed, to me, and I think that is true of religion. It is remarkably widely believed. It’s as though almost all the population, a substantial portion of the population, believed that they’d been abducted by aliens in flying saucers. You’d call that a delusion. I think God is a similar delusion.

Moderator: And would it be fair to say you equate God with, say, the imaginary friend, the bogey-man, or the fairies at the end of the garden.

Dawkins: Well, I think he’s just as probable to exist, yes, and I do discuss all those things, especially the imaginary friend, which I think is a interesting psychological phenomenon in childhood, and that may possibly have something to do with the appeal of religion.

Moderator: So take us through that a little bit, about the imaginary friend factor.

Dawkins: Many young children have an imaginary friend. Christopher Robin had Binker. A little girl who wrote to me had little purple man. And the girl with the little purple man actually saw him. She seemed to hallucinate him, he appeared with a little tinkling bell and he was very, very real to her, although in a sense she knew he wasn’t real. I suspect that something like that is going on with people who claim to have heard God or seen God, or hear the voice of God.

Moderator: And we’re back to delusion again. Do you think that anyone who believes in God, anyone of any religion, is deluded? Is that the bottom line with your argument, Richard?

Dawkins: Well, there is a sophisticated form of religion. One form of it is Einstein’s. It wasn’t really religion at all. Einstein used the word “God” a great deal, but he didn’t mean a personal god. He didn’t mean a being who could listen to your prayers or forgive your sins. He just meant it as a kind of poetic word describing the deep unknowns, the deep uncertainties of the root of the universe. Then there are deists, who believe in a kind of god, a kind of personal god who set the universe going, a sort of physicist god, but then did no more, and certainly doesn’t listen to your thoughts, it has no personal interest in humans at all. I don’t think that I would use a word like “delusion,” certainly not for Einstein, and I don’t think I would for a deist either. But I think I reserve the word “delusion” for real theists, who actually think they talk to God, who think God talks to them.

Moderator: You have a very interesting description in The God Delusion of the Old Testament God. Do you want to give us that description, or will I give it to you back?

Dawkins: Well, have you got it in front of you?

Moderator: Yes I have.

Dawkins: Well, why don’t you read it out loud?

Moderator: Why not. You describe God as a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Dawkins: That seems fair enough to me.

Moderator: Okay. There are those who would think that that’s a little over the top.

Dawkins: Read your Old Testament if you think that. Just read it. Read Leviticus. Read Deuteronomy. Read Judges. Read Numbers. Read Exodus.

Moderator: And it is your contention that these elements of the god as described by yourself, have no helped matters in terms of global religion and the wars that go with it?

Dawkins: Well, not really, because no serious theologian takes the Old Testament literally anymore, so it isn’t quite like that. An awful lot of people think they take the Bible literally, but that can only be because they’ve never read it. If they ever read it they couldn’t possibly take it literally. But, I do think that people are a bit confused about where they get their morality from. A lot of people think they get their morality from the Bible because they can find a few good verses. Part of the Ten Commandments are okay, part of the Sermon on the Mount are okay. So they think they get their morality from the Bible. But actually, of course, nobody gets their morality from the Bible, we get it from somewhere else. And to the extent we can find goodness in the Bible, we cherry-pick them, we pick and choose them. We choose the good verses in the Bible and we reject the bad. Whatever criterion we use to choose the good verses and throw out the bad, that criterion is available to us anyway, whether we’re religious or not. Why bother to pick verses, why not just go straight for the morality?

Moderator: Do you think people who believe in God and religion generally – you used the analogy of the imaginary friend – do you think that the people who believe in God and religion are a little bit dim?

Dawkins: No, because many of them clearly are highly educated and score highly on IQ tests and things, so I can’t say . . .

Moderator: Why do they believe in something you think doesn’t exists?

Dawkins: Well, I think that people are sometimes remarkably adept at compartmentalizing their mind, separating their mind into two separate parts. There are some people who even manage to combine being apparently good working scientists with believing that the Book of Genesis is literally true and that the world is only 6,000 years old. If you can perform that level of double-think, then you can do anything.

Moderator: But they might say that they pity you, because you don’t believe in what they think is fundamentally true.

Dawkins: Well they might, and we’ll have to argue it out by looking at the evidence. The great thing is to argue it by looking at the evidence, not just to say, “oh well, this is my faith, there’s no argument to be had, you can’t argue with faith.”

Moderator: David Quinn, columnist at the Irish Independent, show us some evidence, please.

Quinn: Well, I mean the first thing I’d say is that Richard Dawkins is doing what he commonly does, which is he’s setting up strawmen. So he puts God, he puts believing God in the same category as believing in fairies. Well, you know, children stop believing in fairies when they stop being children, but they usually don’t stop believing in God, because belief in God, to my mind, is a much more rational proposition than to believe in fairies or Santa Claus.

Moderator: Do we have more proof that God exists than we do for fairies?

Quinn: I’ll come to that in a second, okay? I mean the second thing is about compartmentalizing yourself, and he uses examples of well, you’ve got intelligent people who somehow also believe the world is only 6,000 years old, and we have a young earth and we don’t believe in evolution. But again, that’s too stark and either/or, I mean there are many people who believe in God, but also believe in evolution and believe the world is 20 billion years old and believe fully in Darwinian evolution or whatever the case may be. Now, in all arguments about the existence or non-existence of God, I mean, often these things don’t even get off the launch pad because the two people debating can’t even agree on where the burden of proof rests – does it rest with those who are trying to proof the existence of God, or does it rest with those who are trying to disproof the existence of God. But I suppose if I bring this onto Richard Dawkins turf and we talk about the theory of evolution, the theory of evolution explains how matter, which we’re all made from, organized itself into, for example, highly complex beings like Richard Dawkins and Ryan Tubridy and other human beings, but what it doesn’t explain to give just one example is how matter came into being in the first place. That, in scientific terms, is a question that cannot be answered, and can only be answered, if it can be answered fully at all, by philosophers and theologians. It certainly can’t be answered by science. And the question of whether God exists or not cannot be answered fully by science either. And commonly, and a common mistake people can believe is, the scientist who speaks about evolution with all the authority of science can also speak about the existence of God with all the authority of science and of course he can. The scientist speaking about the existence of God, is actually engaged in philosophy and theology, but he certainly isn’t bringing to it the authority of science.

Moderator: Answer the original question – have you any evidence for it?

Quinn: Well, I would say the existence of matter itself. I would say the existence of morality. Myself and Richard Dawkins have a really different understanding of the origins of morality. I would say, free will. If you are an atheist, if you are an atheist, logically speaking, you cannot believe in objective morality. You cannot believe in free will. These are two things that the vast majority of humankind implicitly believe in. We believe, for example, that if a person carries out a bad action, we can call that person “bad” because we believe they are freely choosing those actions.

Moderator: Okay . . .

Quinn: An atheist believes we are controlled completely by our genes and have no free actions at all.

Moderator: What evidence do you have, Richard Dawkins, that you’re right?

Dawkins: I certainly don’t believe a word of that. I do not believe we’re controlled wholly by our genes. Let me go back to the really important thing Mr. Quinn said.

Quinn: How are we independent of our genes by your reckoning? What allows us to be independent of our genes? Where is this coming from?

Dawkins: Environment, for a start.

Quinn: But no, hang on, that also is a product of, if you like, matter, okay?

Dawkins: Yes, but it’s not genes.

Quinn: Yes, okay. But what part of us allows us to have free will?

Dawkins: Free will is a very difficult philosophical question and it’s not one that has anything to do with religion, contrary to what Mr. Quinn says.

Quinn: It has an awful lot to do with religion, because if there is no God there is no free will, because we are completely phenomenon.

Dawkins: Who says there is no free will if there’s no God? What a ridiculous thing to say.

Quinn: William Provine, for one, who you quote in your book. I have a quote here from him. Other scientists as well believe the same thing, that everything that goes on in our heads is a product of genes and, as you say, environment and chemical reactions. But there is no room for free will. And Richard, if you haven’t got to grips with that, and you seriously need to as many of your colleagues have, and they deny outright the existence of free will and they are hardened materialists like yourself.

Moderator: Okay, Richard Dawkins, rebut to that now, as you wish.

Dawkins: I’m not interested in free will. What I am interested in is the ridiculous suggestion that if science can’t say where the origin of matter came from, theology can. The origin of matter – the origin of the whole universe – is a very difficult matter. It’s one that scientists are working on, it’s one that they hope, eventually, to solve. Just as before Darwin, biology was a mystery, Darwin solved that, now cosmology is a mystery. The origin of the universe is a mystery. It’s a mystery to everyone. Physicists are working on it, they have theories, but if science can’t answer that question then as sure as hell theology can’t either.

Quinn: It is a perfectly reasonable proposition to ask yourself, “where does matter come from?” And it’s perfectly reasonable as well to posit the answer God created matter.

Dawkins: It’s not reasonable.

Quinn: And many reasonable people believer this. And by the way, it is quite a different category to say, look, we will study matter, and we will ask how matter organizes itself into particular forms and come up with the answer, evolution. It is quite another question to ask, “Where does matter come from to begin with?” And if you like, you must go outside of matter to answer that question and then you’re into philosophical and theological categories.

Dawkins: And how can it possibly be an answer to say “God did it” since you can’t explain where God came from?

Quinn: Because you must have an uncaused cause for anything at all to exist. Now I see in your book you put up an argument that I frankly find to be bogus. You come up with the idea of a mathematical infinite regress. But this does not apply to arguments about uncaused causes and unmoved movers because we’re not talking about math, we’re talking about existence, and existentially nothing exists unless you have an uncaused cause. And that uncaused cause, and that unmoved mover, is by definition God.

Dawkins: You just define God as that. You just define the problem out of existence. That’s no solution to the problem – you just evaded it.

Quinn: You can’t answer the question as to where matter comes from. You, as an atheist . . .

Dawkins: I can’t, but science is working on it. You can’t answer it either.

Quinn: It won’t come up with an answer. And you came up with the mystery argument that you accuse religious believers of doing all the time. You invoke the very first and most fundamental question about reality. You do not know where matter came from.

Dawkins: I don’t know. Science is working on it. Science is a progressive thing that’s working on it. You don’t know, but you claim that you do.

Quinn: I doubt if science . . . I claim to know the probable answer.

Moderator: Can I suggest that the next question is quite appropriate. The role of religion in wars [laughing]. When you think of the difficulty it bring up on a local level. Richard Dawkins, do you believe the world would be a safer place without religion?

Dawkins: Yes, I do. I don’t think religion is the only cause of wars. It’s very far from it. Neither The second world war nor the first world war were caused by religion. But I do think that religion is a major exacerbater, and especially in the world today, as a matter of fact.

Moderator: Okay, explain yourself.

Dawkins: Well, it’s pretty obvious. I mean, if you look at the Middle East, if you look at Indian and Pakistan, if you look at Northern Ireland. There are many, many places where the only basis for hostility that exists for rival factions who kill each other is religion.

Moderator: Why do you take it upon yourself to preach, if you like, atheism. There’s an interesting choice of words in some ways. You know, you’ve been accused of being something like a fundamental atheist, if you like, the high priest of atheism. Why go about your business in such a way that’s kind of, trying to disprove these things Why don’t you just believe in it privately, for example?

Dawkins: Well, fundamentalist is not quite the right word. A fundamentalist is one who believes in a holy book and believes that everything within that holy book is true. I am passionate about what I believe because I think there’s evidence for it. And I think it’s very different being passionate about evidence from being passionate about a holy book. So I do it because I care passionately about the truth – I really, really believe it’s a big question, it’s an important question whether there is a God at the root of the universe. I think it’s a question that matters, and I think that we need to discuss it, and that’s what I do.

Quinn: Ryan, if I could just say . . . I mean, Richard has come up with a definition of fundamentalism about this that suits him. He thinks a fundamentalist has to be someone who believes in a holy book. A fundamentalist is someone who firmly believes that they have got the truth, and holds that to an extreme extent and become intolerant of those who hold to a different truth. And Richard Dawkins has just outlined what he thinks the truth to be. And it makes him intolerant of those who have religious beliefs. Now in terms of the effect of religion upon the world, at least Richard has rightly acknowledged that there are many causes of war and strife and ill will in the world. And he mentions World War I and World War II. In his book, he tries to get neatly off the hook of having atheism blamed for, for example, the atrocities carried out by Josef Stalin and saying that these have nothing particularly to do with atheism. But Stalin and many Communists who are explicitly atheistic took the view that religion was precisely this sort of malign and evil force that Richard Dawkins thinks it is. And they set out from that premise to, if you like, inflict upon religion sort of their own version of a Final Solution. They set to eradicate it from the Earth through violence and also through education that was explicitly anti-religious. And under the Soviet Union, and in China, and under Pol Pot in Cambodia, explicit and violent efforts were made to suppress religion on the grounds that religion was a wicked force and We have the Truth, and Our Truth would not admit religion into the picture at all because we believe religion to be an untruth. So atheism can also lead to fundamentalist violence and did so in the last century Atheism . . .

Dawkins: Stalin . . .

Moderator: Richard Dawkins, we’ll let Richard in there. Richard.

Dawkins: Stalin was a very, very bad man, and his persecution of religion was a very, very bad thing. End of story. It’s nothing to do with the fact that he was an atheist. We can’t just compile lists of bad people who were atheists and lists of bad people who were religious. I’m afraid there are plenty on both sides.

Quinn: Yes, but Richard, you’re always compiling lists of bad religious people. I mean, you do it continually in all your books, and then you devote a paragraph to basically trying to absolve atheism of all blame for any atrocity throughout history. You cannot have it both ways.

Dawkins: I deny that.

Quinn: But of course you do it. I mean, every time you were on a program and talking about religion, you bring up the atrocities committed in the name of religion. And then you try to minimize the atrocities committed by atheists because they were so anti-religious, and because they regarded it as a malign force in much the same way you do. You are trying to have it both ways.

Dawkins: Well, I simply deny that. I do think that there’s some evil is faith, because faith in belief in something without evidence.

Quinn: But that’s not what faith is. You see, that’s a caricature and a strawman and is so typical. But that is not what faith is. You have faith that God doesn’t exist.

Dawkins: What is faith?

Quinn: Wait a second. You have faith that God doesn’t exist. You are a man of faith as well.

Dawkins: I do not. I have looked at the evidence.

Quinn: I’ve looked at the evidence too.

Dawkins: If someone comes up with evidence that goes the other way, I’ll be the first to change my mind.

Quinn: Well, I think the very existence of matter is evidence. And remember, you’re the man who has problems believing in free will that you try very conveniently to shunt to one side.

Dawkins: I’m just not interested in free will. It’s not a big question for me.

Quinn: It’s a vast question because we cannot be considered morally responsible beings unless we have free will. We do everything because we are controlled by our genes or our environment. It’s a vital question.

Moderator: We are coming to the point at which we kind of pretty much began, which is probably an appropriate time at which to end the debate. Richard Hawkins, Dawkins, excuse me, good to talk to you again, thank you for your time. And to you, David Quinn, columnist at the Irish Independent, thank you very much indeed for that.


39 Responses to “Embarrassed?”

  1. Snakefish
    October 20th, 2006 @ 11:16 pm

    Seems to me that Dawkins stumped Quinn when he asked him to clarify on what faith was.

  2. ocmpoma
    October 21st, 2006 @ 12:13 am

    You’re kidding, right?

  3. naijiew
    October 21st, 2006 @ 12:39 am


    Quinn’s seems to be championing the idea that Origin of Matter is an article of Evidence that God is there… Origin of Matter. He, in fact, has not raised any evidence. Quinn throughout the dialogue is not providing evidence. Please provide evidence that the Origin of Matter is due to God. We have almost agreed that Origin of Species is Evolution, not God. Even some Creationists have agreed that Noah’s Ark (pfft) only kept a few “kind” of animals and they evolved from there. Ok fine, so they agreed the world is more than 6000 years old.

    Summary, There is NO evidence that Origin of Matter came from God. Equally, there is currently NO evidence pointing to ANY origin of matter. In other words, it’s a question that has NO answer.

    Do you need Free Will to be Moral? Who says that? How does Quinn know what’s going through our minds now is a product of Free Will? Free Will is relative. The point is, Free Will does not equate to the Existence of God.

    Summary, Proportionality does not mean Correlation.
    The decreasing number of pirates in the world = increasing global temperatures?

    “Quinn: It has an awful lot to do with religion, because if there is no God there is no free will, because we are completely phenomenon.

    Dawkins: Who says there is no free will if there’s no God? What a ridiculous thing to say.”

    At this point, Quinn is going mad. He’s being irrational, characteristic of any die-hard follower…

  4. Godthorn
    October 21st, 2006 @ 12:41 am

    I know Dawkins only by reputation; I’ve not read any of his books. But I’m surprised at his inadequate showing. Apparently he’s a much better scientist than philosopher. Which is not to say that his opponent, in my judgement, scored any solid points.

    Quinn at one point–and attempting to make one– asserts that “These [objective morality and free will] are two things that the vast majority of humankind implicitly believe in.” Yes, just as they believe in a spiritual realm, just as the vast majority believe in ghosts and clairvoyance and miracles, just as they all once believed in witches and in the planarity of Earth. And they are as inscient in respect to morality and free will as they are or were in respect to all those other fancies. Public opinion is an inadequate fount for truth.

    “It is a perfectly reasonable proposition,” says Quinn, “to ask yourself, ‘where does matter come from?’ And it’s perfectly reasonable as well to posit the answer God created matter.” Well, my reasonable fellow, I say that matter is immediate and undeniable; God is not at all evident and is easily deniable. It is far more reasonable to say that man created God than that God created matter.

    “Where,” asks Quinn, “does matter come from to begin with?” To begin with? Was there a beginning? And it is not at all necessary that matter “came from” something else–no more necessary than that that “something else” came from still something else.

    I am sure that both these gentlemen are quite intelligent. I am even more certain that they are both ill-equipped for philosophical inquiry.

  5. Andrew
    October 21st, 2006 @ 3:39 am

    Gee, so some theist bloggers — the ones that RA was calling “Godidiots” just months ago — think that the theist Quinn won that exchange. (And the last one on your list suggests that Dawkins was perhaps not fully prepared, hardly the “absolutely embarassed” that RA misleadingly implies.)

    I’m shocked.

  6. Jordan
    October 21st, 2006 @ 5:38 am

    So, this seems to be Quinn’s main “argument”:

    1. Objective morality, free will, and matter can only exist if God exists.
    2. Objective morality, free will, and matter exist.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    Note that BOTH of the first two premises go unsupported. Granted, Dawkins missed a few opportunities to really make Quinn look foolish, but to suggest that he lost the debate is just laughable.

    October 21st, 2006 @ 8:50 am

    And where exactly does nincompoop Raving Antiabortionist stand —- I sure would like to know what this dweeb really thinks.

    Well Dawkins didn’t ‘slam-dunk’ this one but that Quinn guy performed terribly!

    Dawkin’s probably didn’t really address the whole ‘free will’ issue because Quinn’s assertions were so fucking ridiculous. Who the hell really believes that we are completely contorolled by our genes? Who are these “other scientists” who believe that ? If they exist – well they are noncompoops too !

    Dawkin’s (and other atheists) really has to stop with the ‘religion is responsible for war and violence’ — that doesn’t help the atheist argument at all. We are a violent species – that’s all there is to it (and there is almost certainly some evolutionary explanation to it).

    And as others metioned – Quinn’s argument that the existence of god is proved by the existence of matter itself is enough to drop one to the floor rolling and laughing. WTF —- that is evidence ?

    Overall – especially in the beginning Dawkins made lots of sense.

  8. The Power of Greyskull
    October 21st, 2006 @ 8:53 am

    So the existence of matter and the idea of free will is evidence that God exists?

    Can someone actually explain to me how this has ‘stumped’ Dawkins?

    “Because you must have an uncaused cause for anything at all to exist. Now I see in your book you put up an argument that I frankly find to be bogus. You come up with the idea of a mathematical infinite regress. But this does not apply to arguments about uncaused causes and unmoved movers because we’re not talking about math, we’re talking about existence, and existentially nothing exists unless you have an uncaused cause. And that uncaused cause, and that unmoved mover, is by definition God.”

    Yes…. so Quinn is giving the word God to account for the coming into existence of the universe. It seems that some theists will use the term God so loosely when it suits them and so narrowly at other times.

  9. Bighead
    October 21st, 2006 @ 9:07 am

    Unfortunately, I see this debated being quoted and misquoted and quoted out of context very frequently by the godidiots. I don’t think Dawkins did a very good job during that debate of refuting even the most ridiculous arguments, and unfortunately, many xtians are going to see that as Dawkins not having any retort, and then carrying this to the conclusion that Dawkins is wrong.

  10. Michael Bains
    October 21st, 2006 @ 9:11 am

    So basically, Quinn ignores anything Dawkins says for which:

    A) neither has an answer


    B) Quinn disagrees with the empirical answer and doesn’t care to explain his reasoning, because {sighhh} he has faith.

    How anti-social some theists can generally be…

    October 21st, 2006 @ 9:17 am

    OH – – – and as far as Quinn’s argument that because matter exists then god exists ….. is a long way from ……….

    God being some old man with a beard that was lonely so he created a couple hairless primates who lived in a garden of eden where the lamb and the lions lived in perfect harmoney (until sin came along). Oh, and he then flooded the earth but saved some old drunken bastard who lusted after his daughters only to repopulate the earth with a bunch of jews who couldn’t find their way out of a desert for forty frackin years. And then the old man decided that things just weren’t working out so he might as well sacrifice his son (who is really acutally some persona of him — oh and some holy ghost of some sort) ————–blah blah blah ……

    Dawkin’s is right —- Santa Clause it just as likely to exist as the god of the mentally ill fundies!

  12. naijiew
    October 21st, 2006 @ 9:58 am

    “Dawkin’s (and other atheists) really has to stop with the ‘religion is responsible for war and violence’ — that doesn’t help the atheist argument at all. We are a violent species – that’s all there is to it (and there is almost certainly some evolutionary explanation to it).”

    Agreed. Humans just use anything along the way that coincides with… whatever-they-wanna-do. Dawkins has in fact put the debate back into focus when he said

    “We can’t just compile lists of bad people who were atheists and lists of bad people who were religious. I’m afraid there are plenty on both sides.”

  13. Paul
    October 21st, 2006 @ 10:24 am

    The difference is that Dawkins cites examples of atrocities that were done *in the name of* religion, and for which religion was the motivating force. Where are similar examples for atheism? Stalin’s atrocities were not done in the name of atheism, they were politically acts.

  14. Viole
    October 21st, 2006 @ 10:38 am

    You’re the embarrassment, RA.

  15. Ickybod
    October 21st, 2006 @ 11:05 am

    Quinn sure loves his god of the gaps argument. But he must! It’s the only way he can continue his christ-psychosis!

  16. Irreligious
    October 21st, 2006 @ 11:16 am

    “God being some old man with a beard that was lonely so he created a couple hairless primates who lived in a garden of eden where the lamb and the lions lived in perfect harmoney (until sin came along). Oh, and he then flooded the earth but saved some old drunken bastard who lusted after his daughters only to repopulate the earth with a bunch of jews who couldn’t find their way out of a desert for forty frackin years. And then the old man decided that things just weren’t working out so he might as well sacrifice his son (who is really acutally some persona of him — oh and some holy ghost of some sort) ————–blah blah blah ……”

    Even as pure allegory, I have never been able to parse the meaning of this story and its relevance to why we exist. It practically defies comprehension as a meaningful narrative. Just what, exactly, is the protagonist at the center of this story supposed to be, anyway? If this god is not some white man in the sky, why do people who believe in its existence anthropomorphize it so? Why is this entity so relentlessly inscrutable in purpose and form? I don’t see how Dawkins or any atheist could hope to “win” an argument against the existence of such an amorphous creature when there is no universal agreement on what exactly a god is.

  17. Dada Saves
    October 21st, 2006 @ 11:24 am

    Dawkins was so “embarassed” he posted an audio link to the entire interview (no honest person would call this exhange a ‘debate’) on his website. —,193,Ryan-Tubridy-interviews-Richard-Dawkins,RTE-Radio-1

  18. ocmpoma
    October 21st, 2006 @ 12:22 pm

    Hey, the forums are moved to … now!

    See ya.

  19. The Unbrainwashed
    October 21st, 2006 @ 12:58 pm

    Here’s the problem with the whole God isn’t Santa Claus arguement from theists. Dawkins, like many other atheists, considered the ideas equivalent while the theist often remarks that peple stop belieivn gin Santa Claus because its absurd but continue with God belief through adulthood. It’s rather obvious why this is the case.

    Tog et rid of belief in Santa Claus, all you need is a reasonable, naturalistic solution to how you get presents underneath the tree. It doesn’t take any intelligence to realize that parents do it. But to get rid of God belief, you need something far more difficult to understand: science. People believe in God because, for the msot part, they don’t have the intellectual capacity to understand far more complex ideas. Thus, they settle with the easisest explanation that has been brrainwashed into their minds from the start.

  20. Axolotl
    October 21st, 2006 @ 2:12 pm

    Nothing new in this “debate”. Quinn trots out the same old theist “arguments”, and of course includes no justifications …

    “We don’t know where matter came from, must have been created by God”

    “Atheists/materialists don’t believe in free will, so they can’t be moral”

    I have to admit it appears Dawkins was having an off-day. But I don’t agree that he was “absolutely embarrassed” by Quinn, despite the opinions of the mentioned bloggers. I’m sure you could find a few bloggers who thought Dawkins won.

  21. bUCKET__
    October 21st, 2006 @ 2:30 pm

    Debate? I thought I was reading another satire piece… I would give better grades to first year philosophy papers that I proof read last night. Godthorn got it exactly right.

  22. LotsOfAtoms
    October 21st, 2006 @ 4:31 pm

    It looks to me like Quinn spent a good deal of time scouring over Richards book in order to try and discredit him. Unfortunatly it was the same old weak arguments that are typicaly used. As an atheist I personally do not see religion as an evil and given the mass populations inability to understand science or complex matters, it seems to have a purpose. However it is the people in power who understand this ability to influence the followers and misuse it, that creates the evil Richard talks about. Religion is a tool for the powerful and they don’t want to loose it. Look at how George Bush used it in the elections and in his justification for his false wars.

    Quinn thinks he knows the anwsers and yet he’s just another minion, incapable of thinking without a predefined religious framework. To me Quinn clearly was trying to keep Richard on the defensive. Religious people prefer to use this tactic because they know they don’t do very well when its the other way around. That’s why they use statements like “Prove to me there is no God” and then sidestep almost every point you make.

  23. Some Guy
    October 21st, 2006 @ 4:53 pm

    I see that Thomas Aquinas may be back from the dead. Also, Quinn keeps mentioning the strawman, but isn’t he using fallacies too? And yes, I realize that this can be construed as an ad hominem.

    I watched The God Who Wasn’t There the other day. Remember on the audio track when RA was an atheist?

  24. Bighead
    October 21st, 2006 @ 6:12 pm

    HEY! I remember that!

  25. Crosius
    October 22nd, 2006 @ 12:07 am

    It seems to me that Quinn trots out the same fallacies theist keep repeating and then when Dawkins (who by now must be getting awfully tired of repeating himself) dimisses them as fallacies without going through the entire process of demonstrating the logical proofs that Quinn is employing a fallacy, Quinn calls that victory.

    Dawkins’ throwing up of his hands at the thought of continuing a discussion with someone so immovable isn’t a demonstration of the verisimilitude of Quinn’s ideas, it’s just recognition by Dawkins of the futility of debating a closed mind.

    “You didn’t convince me I am wrong, ergo I am right,” is not logically valid.

  26. Guy Curtis
    October 22nd, 2006 @ 12:59 am

    I think the best answer to the proposition that “atheist communist do bad things” is to use that to further the argument against faith. I agree with Dawkins that faith is belief without evidence (I don’t agree with Quinn that faith is something else that he didn’t define). Communist had faith in an ecomonic/political/philosophical system without evidence. Credulity, lack of skepticism, and a failure to question the assumptions of a belief system, to require reliable evidence for claims of truth, and suppression of evidence against the system are halmarks of communist dictatorships and organized religion alike.

  27. Enlightenment
    October 27th, 2006 @ 5:20 pm

    Speaking of mass delusions…

    One thing that struck me as odd in the days after 9/11 was Bush saying “We will not tolerate conspiracy theories [regarding 9/11]”. Sure enough there have been some wacky conspiracy theories surrounding the events of that day. The most far-fetched and patently ridiculous one that I’ve ever heard goes like this: Nineteen hijackers who claimed to be devout Muslims but yet were so un-Muslim as to be getting drunk all the time, doing cocaine and frequenting strip clubs decided to hijack four airliners and fly them into buildings in the northeastern U.S., the area of the country that is the most thick with fighter bases. After leaving a Koran on a barstool at a strip bar after getting shitfaced drunk on the night before, then writing a suicide note/inspirational letter that sounded like it was written by someone with next to no knowledge of Islam, they went to bed and got up the next morning hung over and carried out their devious plan. Nevermind the fact that of the four “pilots” among them there was not a one that could handle a Cessna or a Piper Cub let alone fly a jumbo jet, and the one assigned the most difficult task of all, Hani Hanjour, was so laughably incompetent that he was the worst fake “pilot” of the bunch. Nevermind the fact that they received very rudimentary flight training at Pensacola Naval Air Station, making them more likely to have been C.I.A. assets than Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. So on to the airports. These “hijackers” somehow managed to board all four airliners with their tickets, yet not even ONE got his name on any of the flight manifests. So they hijack all four airliners and at this time passengers on United 93 start making a bunch of cell phone calls from 35,000 feet in the air to tell people what was going on. Nevermind the fact that cell phones wouldn’t work very well above 4,000 feet, and wouldn’t work at ALL above 8,000 feet. But the conspiracy theorists won’t let that fact get in the way of a good fantasy. That is one of the little things you “aren’t supposed to think about”. Nevermind that one of the callers called his mom and said his first and last name, more like he was reading from a list than calling his own mom. Anyway, when these airliners each deviated from their flight plan and didn’t respond to ground control, NORAD would any other time have followed standard operating procedure (and did NOT have to be told by F.A.A. that there were hijackings because they were watching the same events unfold on their own radar) which means fighter jets would be scrambled from the nearest base where they were available on standby within a few minutes, just like every other time when airliners stray off course. But of course on 9/11 this didn’t happen, not even close. Somehow these “hijackers” must have used magical powers to cause NORAD to stand down, as ridiculous as this sounds because total inaction from the most high-tech and professional Air Force in the world would be necessary to carry out their tasks. So on the most important day in its history the Air Force was totally worthless. Then they had to make one of the airliners look like a smaller plane, because unknown to them the Naudet brothers had a videocamera to capture the only known footage of the North Tower crash, and this footage shows something that is not at all like a jumbo jet, but didn’t have to bother with the South Tower jet disguising itself because that was the one we were “supposed to see”. Anyway, as for the Pentagon they had to have Hani Hanjour fly his airliner like it was a fighter plane, making a high G-force corkscrew turn that no real airliner can do, in making its descent to strike the Pentagon. But these “hijackers” wanted to make sure Rumsfeld survived so they went out of their way to hit the farthest point in the building from where Rumsfeld and the top brass are located. And this worked out rather well for the military personnel in the Pentagon, since the side that was hit was the part that was under renovation at the time with few military personnel present compared to construction workers. Still more fortuitous for the Pentagon, the side that was hit had just before 9/11 been structurally reinforced to prevent a large fire there from spreading elsewhere in the building. Awful nice of them to pick that part to hit, huh? Then the airliner vaporized itself into nothing but tiny unidentifiable pieces no bigger than a fist, unlike the crash of a real airliner when you will be able to see at least some identifiable parts, like crumpled wings, broken tail section etc. Why, Hani Hanjour the terrible pilot flew that airliner so good that even though he hit the Pentagon on the ground floor the engines didn’t even drag the ground!! Imagine that!! Though the airliner vaporized itself on impact it only made a tiny 16 foot hole in the building. Amazing. Meanwhile, though the planes hitting the Twin Towers caused fires small enough for the firefighters to be heard on their radios saying “We just need 2 hoses and we can knock this fire down” attesting to the small size of it, somehow they must have used magical powers from beyond the grave to make this morph into a raging inferno capable of making the steel on all forty-seven main support columns (not to mention the over 100 smaller support columns) soften and buckle, then all fail at once. Hmmm. Then still more magic was used to make the building totally defy physics as well as common sense in having the uppermost floors pass through the remainder of the building as quickly, meaning as effortlessly, as falling through air, a feat that without magic could only be done with explosives. Then exactly 30 minutes later the North Tower collapses in precisely the same freefall physics-defying manner. Incredible. Not to mention the fact that both collapsed at a uniform rate too, not slowing down, which also defies physics because as the uppermost floors crash into and through each successive floor beneath them they would shed more and more energy each time, thus slowing itself down. Common sense tells you this is not possible without either the hijackers’ magical powers or explosives. To emphasize their telekinetic prowess, later in the day they made a third building, WTC # 7, collapse also at freefall rate though no plane or any major debris hit it. Amazing guys these magical hijackers. But we know it had to be “Muslim hijackers” the conspiracy theorist will tell you because (now don’t laugh) one of their passports was “found” a couple days later near Ground Zero, miraculously “surviving” the fire that we were told incinerated planes, passengers and black boxes, and also “survived” the collapse of the building it was in. When common sense tells you if that were true then they should start making buildings and airliners out of heavy paper and plastic so as to be “indestructable” like that magic passport. The hijackers even used their magical powers to bring at least seven of their number back to life, to appear at american embassies outraged at being blamed for 9/11!! BBC reported on that and it is still online. Nevertheless, they also used magical powers to make the american government look like it was covering something up in the aftermath of this, what with the hasty removal of the steel debris and having it driven to ports in trucks with GPS locators on them, to be shipped overseas to China and India to be melted down. When common sense again tells you that this is paradoxical in that if the steel was so unimportant that they didn’t bother saving some for analysis but so important as to require GPS locators on the trucks with one driver losing his job because he stopped to get lunch. Hmmmm. Yes, this whole story smacks of the utmost idiocy and fantastical far-fetched lying, but it is amazingly enough what some people believe. Even now, five years later, the provably false fairy tale of the “nineteen hijackers” is heard repeated again and again, and is accepted without question by so many Americans. Which is itself a testament to the innate psychological cowardice of the American sheeple, i mean people, and their abject willingness to believe something, ANYTHING, no matter how ridiculous in order to avoid facing a scary uncomfortable truth. Time to wake up America.

  28. Dave
    October 29th, 2006 @ 10:09 pm

    If it had been a prize fight Quinn would have lost on a TKO. Making assertions does not constitute proof.

  29. P-Dunn
    November 1st, 2006 @ 8:29 am

    I think Quinn won, but it’s not really the type of debate that he should go around and flaunt as such. I wish it had been longer so that both could adequately explain themselves with no interruption by the other party.

    For example, Quinn should have gone and clarified what faith actually is (at least Biblically, it’s “trust based on prior performance” as defined by the Greek word “pistis”, not “belief in something without evidence”) and he should have gone into the idea that an actual infinite regression of causes is impossible. He should have also

    Dawkins shouldn’t have avoided the free will issue, but I think that if the debate was longer, he would have eventually put in his two cents. Dawkins should have elaborated on the issue of matter, instead of just merely stating, “We’re working on it,” and therefore resorting to Wishful Thinking.

    Those are my two cents.

  30. sam
    November 4th, 2006 @ 4:19 am

    I don’t understand why Dawkins did not argue the B.S.
    statement that God ==> free will……..

    Since when does God imply free will???

    God gives us as much free will as the free will to stop breathing.
    Yes I can stop breathing if I do not want to……?????

    Did God ask me if i wanted to be created???
    did he ask me if i wanted to be born in the USA or
    Africa with all limbs or missing some, to be the son of
    Bush or some starving Ethiopian??????

    What free will????????

    God does not imply free will what so ever!

  31. Gloria
    November 4th, 2006 @ 7:45 am

    This is so simple and true: since Quinn was coming from a position of “faith” from the get go, he lost, because everything he said was colored by absolute fiction, with no basis in the real, material world.

    No, science may not have “proof” of the non-existence of “god,” but neither do the believers of any stripe have “proof” of the existence of such a–what, how to describe this ethereal, pie in the sky thing?

    With the Ted Haggard expose, I would think people would take this opportunity to examine their own lives and why they think it’s important to offer themselves up for what P. T. Barnum described over 100 years ago.

  32. a
    November 5th, 2006 @ 2:00 am

    The regimes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao did not come into being in order to defend atheism. And the horrors of communism and Nazism occurred not because these societies applied too much reason and critical thinking, rather because they did not apply enough.

  33. sam
    November 5th, 2006 @ 11:39 pm

    I have noticed that a lot of people accept
    the statement that:” science has no proof for the
    Non existence of God”

    Also Dawkins did not respond to the fact that Quinn
    tried to put the burden of proof on Science to prove
    the Non-Existence of God rather than on Theology to
    to prove the Existence of God.

    Well That is a complete fallacy. YOU CANNOT
    EVER prove THE NON-EXISTENCE of anything!!!!

    Logically you cannot do it. The burden of proof
    is on the assertion of the Existence (E) not the assertion
    of NON-existence (N-E).

    Of course science has no proof of the N-E of God, but
    that is not by any means on equal footing to the
    lack of proof of existence,

    The lack (or inability of) proof of Existence is
    a sufficient condition for the proof of N-E.

    I will repeat this again:
    The fact that you cannot prove the Existence
    of God is a sufficient proof for the NON-Existence
    of God.

    If I assert that there are living Dinosaurs on this earth
    then the onus should be on me to produce a sample.
    NOT on the doubters to wonder the entire earth and prove
    that there is no place where there are any Dinos.

    Because I could after their titanic effort of searching
    every corner fails, say to them:
    Are you sure that the Dinos did not move from where they
    were when you were not looking to a place that you already
    looked and thus missed them???????

    This is a simple example of why you cannot prove the
    N-E of anything.

    Quinn’s assertion that Matter is a proof of God is ludicrous!!

    I could site the same reason for the existence of Genies
    or Fairy-God-Mothers or Two-Three etc Gods.

    Absolute nonsense.

    I cannot blame Dawkins for not responding to these points
    due to the ridiculous time constraints in this kind of debate
    and the lack of decorum in respecting the other’s right
    to finish a point without being attacked and side tracked
    in answering a sub-sub-sub-point.

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    November 12th, 2006 @ 7:17 am

    Classical singer Russell Watson postpones his forthcoming UK tour after undergoing brain surgery…

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    November 12th, 2006 @ 7:29 am

    Classical singer Russell Watson postpones his forthcoming UK tour after undergoing brain surgery…

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    November 12th, 2006 @ 1:04 pm

    Veteran game show host Bob Barker is stepping down from hosting The Price is Right after 35 years…

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    November 12th, 2006 @ 6:49 pm

    Madonna says she may adopt another child from abroad following her proposed adoption of a Malawian boy…

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    November 17th, 2006 @ 1:09 am

    The Rolling Stones cancel a gig in Hawaii and postpone other tour dates as Mick Jagger suffers throat troubles…

  39. Ezequiel Brand
    November 17th, 2006 @ 1:10 am

    The Rolling Stones cancel a gig in Hawaii and postpone other tour dates as Mick Jagger suffers throat troubles…

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