Tag Archives: Richard Dawkins

Outgrowing God? Why Sometimes Good Scientists Make for Bad Historians

Richard Dawkins’ latest book Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide is soon to be released, guaranteed to create a stir.  The retired Oxford evolutionary biologist, and author of The God Delusion, is best known scientifically for introducing the concept of a meme, an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.

Dawkins has arguably made important contributions to science, but that does not necessarily make him the best historian. George Heath-Whyte is a PhD student at Oxford, studying Assyriology, investigating the Ancient Near East history of Babylon, during the Old Testament era. The British periodical, The Spectator, features an article entitled, “If Richard Dawkins loves facts so much, why can’t he get them right?” The article quotes a Twitter tweet thread, written by George Heath-Whyte, pointing out a whole list of historical errors made by the well-known evolutionary biologist, Dawkins.  The tweet starts off with ‘Reading new book “Outgrowing God”, and as an Assyriologist I’ve had a couple of major face-palms moments,’ and then goes on from there.

Lesson learned? Just because you have demonstrated yourself to be an extraordinarily capable scientist does not mean that you are also an expert in history (or theology). Dawkins would have never passed the Old Testament class I took in seminary.

Perhaps Richard Dawkins might learn a thing or two, if he would read the history blog, History for Atheists, by Tim O’Neill. As an atheist, blog writer Tim O’Neill can not be successfully accused of being a crypto-Christian. O’Neill does know what he is talking about.

The Cosmic Skeptic, an atheist YouTuber, interviewed Richard Dawkins about the new book. Below is Oxford mathematician, and evangelical Christian, John Lennox debating Richard Dawkins several years ago.

UPDATE: September 26, 2019

Not only can you be a good scientist, and still be a bad historian, you can also be a bad ethicist. If you are looking for a good 5-minute answer, as to why Richard Dawkins’ worldview is corrupt, you would do no better than to listen to this clip from Jordan Peterson:

Stephen Colbert’s Approach to Skepticism

Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert (Photo Credit: Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

 In 1974, when Colbert was 10, his father, a doctor, and his brothers Peter and Paul, the two closest to him in age, died in a plane crash while flying to a prep school in New England. “There’s a common explanation that profound sadness leads to someone’s becoming a comedian, but I’m not sure that’s a proven equation in my case,” he told me. “I’m not bitter about what happened to me as a child, and my mother was instrumental in keeping me from being so.” He added, in a tone so humble and sincere that his character would never have used it: “She taught me to be grateful for my life regardless of what that entailed, and that’s directly related to the image of Christ on the cross and the example of sacrifice that he gave us. What she taught me is that the deliverance God offers you from pain is not no pain — it’s that the pain is actually a gift. What’s the option? God doesn’t really give you another choice.”

Charles McGrath, “How Many Stephen Colberts Are There?” (New York Times, January 4, 2012)

In Clarke’s post on today’s most influential skeptics, he listed Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bart Ehrman and Bill Maher as models of certain types of skepticism. All of them have wide spheres of influence gained through publishing and/or media exposure. Three of them have hosted their own television shows. All of them are intelligent, most are witty, and some have intellectual adversaries. But before we see how Daniel B. Wallace refutes the theories of Bart Ehrman, or how William Lane Craig can give Richard Dawkins a dressing down, let’s see what Stephen Colbert can do with them.

Huh? Stephen Colbert? Really? Okay…cards on the table—I’ve never watched the Colbert Report, probably because sarcasm has never been one of my favorite flavors. But in looking for online material about today’s most influential skeptics, I tripped across several Stephen Colbert video interviews where he took on these very skeptics. Colbert’s comedy can go blue in an instant, and his language at times is inappropriate for genteel company, but his wit is undeniably sharp. And as you may infer from the New York Times excerpt at the beginning of this post, there is a lot more going on with Stephen Colbert than his on-air persona might indicate.

Anyway, here are some cleverly complex interviews where Colbert takes on the skeptics. There is real tradecraft here—he confronts the skeptics boldly without humiliating them. Most of these guests show up for multiple appearances (he interviewed Richard Dawkins and Bart Ehrman twice, and Neil deGrasse Tyson nine times). Some of his quips poke fun at shallow arguments for the very epistemology Colbert seeks to support, while demonstrating an insightful appreciation for apologetic arguments and contemporary skepticism. As W.C. Fields once quipped, “Comedy is serious business.” (Click through to start the video clips, and sensitive ears may want to opt out at this point.)

HT: Stephen Colbert, Clarke Morledge

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion Interview

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion Interview

Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show On Earth

Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show On Earth Interview

Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus Interview

Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus Interview

Bart Ehrman, yyy

Bart Ehrman, Jesus Interrupted Interview

Who Are the Most Influential Skeptics Today?

Bill Nye, the Science Guy.  Comedian and science educator for a generation of young people.  Now a participant in the culture wars??

What do cultural celebrities like Bill Nye, Richard Dawkins, Neil de Grasse Tyson, Bart Ehrman, and Bill Maher all have in common? In different ways, the represent different forms of skepticism about the Christian faith.

In a recent Sunday School class on “Personal Discipleship,” I was asked this question: Who are the most influential skeptics today? 

How does one go about answering such a question? According to Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, in his magisterial A Secular Age, a few hundred years ago it was virtually impossible not to believe in God. But nowadays, the shift is remarkable: for many in 21st century Western culture, it is very easy, almost inescapable, to not believe in God. Skepticism defines the current cultural mood, something that would have been mostly unthinkable just a few centuries ago.

Instead of trying to come up with some type of “Top Ten” skeptics list, I think it best to list out some of the more skeptical personalities today, each person representing a different type of skepticism that an evangelical Christian believer might encounter in their conversations with their neighbors, co-workers and even family members. So here we go….
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Who Created God?

Who created God?  Good question. Atheists fall on their backside thinking this one through.  It’s all in how deeply we can think—specifically being able to think outside the box of our own worldly experiences.  Here…if you’re still wondering, I’ll save you a headache the next time someone asks you—God is transcendent.

Here’s a short video by Oxford mathematician and Christian apologist John Lennox that shows why you might not want to mess with someone who’s wise—particularly when he is wearing a grin.

John Lennox is a delightful, gentlemanly, brilliant and crafty defender of the faith.  He gives atheists fits with his use of logic and his calm, unflappable, charitable demeanor.   In 1962 he attended the last lectures of C.S. Lewis, to whom he is now sometimes compared.  Dr. Lennox can hold his own, and give as good as he gets. Continue reading

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