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Posted by Ben on Monday, September 04, 2006 | Permalink

A Graun article that's both interesting and strange in equal measure. The gist is that humans are hardwired for religious belief, and I've got no problem with that idea - it seems pretty plausible to me. But the examples of irrationality given - such as pretending that a cardie belonged to Fred West, to put people off wearing it, and people preferring their original wedding ring to an identical replacement - don't really seem to back up the idea (more here at B&W) with regards to religious belief.

More oddity occurs in the description of Richard Dawkins and Dan Dennett as 'standard bearers for evolution' who had 'adopted a counterproductive and "simplistic" position'. What, with regards to evolution? What position are you supposed to adopt aside from presenting the science as best you can, as I believe they both do? That seems to be the implication to me, following from the description of them, but then the article moves on to Hood's actual words, which seem to be more addressing their stance on rationality itself:

"They have basically said there are two types of people in the world," he said - "those who believe in the supernatural and those who do not. But almost everyone entertains some form of irrational beliefs even if they are not religious."

I think the 'standard-bearers' thing is just bad writing in the article, but Hood's statement is also worth addressing, because as someone who's read a shedload of Dawkins, I don't think he thinks there's those two types of people at all. I think his position is that all humans are susceptible to irrational beliefs and we should be taught to recognise and fight them - in Unweaving the Rainbow I seem to recall his account of his own urge to believe there was something uncanny about his randomly assigned locker code (or something). Is there not quite a gap between believing in the supernatural and merely having some form of irrational belief? And how is any stance they take counter-productive if the battle against irrational beliefs is ultimately futile?

Like I say, a bit of an odd one.

Update: more here.

Comments [ hide comments ]
Hood is obviously an idiot.


Because there are planty of other irrational beliefs which were or are religious, which are not believed any more, or are only believed by the uneducated, with no access to proper education and information.

Here are a few:
The Earth is flat.
Light comes from people's eyes.
The opposite of Newton's First law (Aristotelean physics).
Women are inferior to men, and subject to their orders.
etc .....
G. Tingey, 05.09.2006, 10:55am #
I agree.

"No amount of rational evidence is going to be taken on board to get people to abandon those ideas." Nonsense. People used to think the sun revolved around the earth...

Hood seems to be heading towards the naturalistic phallacy. Just because people may have evolved in such a way that it's easy for us to fall victim to irrational beliefs doesn't mean this is good, or that we shouldn't try to change them.
Steve, 05.09.2006, 2:14pm #
I too read with some reservations the Grauniad article. Have a look at this post [see update. Ben] for a more off-the-wall response (there are a few others too).

To be honest I don't think Hood has read Dawkins if that is his considered synopsis; maybe he read The Selfish Gene 30 years ago and still has it on his shelf to look cool. I studied Experimental Psych in the 80's and quite honestly most of those academics are just glorified sociologists with neat statistics. Either that or vivisectionists.

re: your post further down...
Just say no to "Intelligent design/creationism/evangelical/alpha programme" horse shit. Boycott the lectures as not being science,refuse to refer to it in your course work, get a petition going, write to the college and local paper and lastly demo outside the lectures!
Make a fuss, those tamborine rattlers sure do.

Good luck
David, 05.09.2006, 5:59pm #
this is great I hnaedt seen this one, I think that may be his house because, Thunderf00t on youtube had a chat with him too in this setting and aswell, he was very relaxed an more approachable, here is that vid, its very interesting fi not a bit long winded. Im a Dawkins fan, but I agree about the smugness, however, not so much about the forcing beliefs on people, he more over exudes the absolute facts and usually the, non scientist' or whoever he is arguing with usually trips themselves up with, well, n0n factual drivel I do believe wholeheartedly with what Dawkins has to say, science is backed up with massive research and a lot of proof and only some theory, religion is just simply not, as you well know,but yeah I do find him harder than others to listen to as he is a tad wooden and a little like a school teacher in his methods but I cant help being a fan as he can bloody well debate with anyone and put them in their place! cheers for charing Tommy, hope ur well :)
Hajime, 29.02.2012, 3:32am #

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