I'm not a scientist =] But i do know the theory of evolution and I understand during a Debate with people who refuse to see your point of view it is hard to treat them with respect. But as a scientist why does Dawkins describe genes as 'chicago gangsters' the predominant quality of which is 'ruthless selfishness' ... 'genes are immortal' etc etc. Isn't it completely inappropriate to describe genes as selfish which is a moral quality not a term for particles of DNA? His writings seem, to me, to have something of a religious feel to them.
Slightly off the topic of your reply but I just wondered what people thought.
Many popularizers of science use analogies to help relate complex ideas to laymen. Perhaps you have gotten too hung up on his phrasings and terminology, which is understandable, since it often does stick when the more minute details fade away. But I have always found his explanations to be clear and precise, which is one reason I enjoy his writing.
It is not much different than when people use "design" or phrases that seem to imply intent when describing evolutionary processes. They don't really mean that there is a designer or some intent by the organism for genes to evolve. It is merely an easier way to convey what is going on. That example is the very reason why some people I know reject evolution; they just don't really understand it and the phrasing throws them off course.
The power and beauty in these concepts do not lay in the terms he may use, such as "immortal genes" or "selfish", but in the overall explanation that he lays out before and after those words.
But, I understand that he may not be every atheists cup of tea.
yes i see both your points, and yes your right
'Perhaps you have gotten too hung up on his phrasings and terminology, which is understandable, since it often does stick when the more minute details fade away.'
I tend to get hung up on detail, personal failing of mine. =]
To be honest, when I first looked at his work, I was shocked at what seemed to be the brutalness of some of it, but in his more recent interviews and tv programs I am beginning to see him in a new light. At least I remember his ideas! And thanks I think I will read 'unweaving the rainbow'.
Being a bit "fence" like I prefer a debate with agreeing to disagree.
I think that I understand what you are saying, in that you are hoping for fairness and equal respect for all ideas presented. There is an honorable sentiment behind this egalitarian idea, but the unfortunate reality is that it can be very dangerous to treat violent ideologies with respect. Although it may seem that "religious tolerance" and universal respect for all belief systems will promote peace, in actuality the continued elevation of beliefs as valid arguments can only lead to eventual ideological conflict. No belief need automatically be respected simply on the basis of being a belief, and sometimes agreeing to disagree can yield horrible consequences.
But I understand your sentiment, and I aligned myself with it for a very long time. I know that it is good intentions which drive this desire for universal respect, and that it is founded on a very egalitarian view of humanity. However, the problem is that not everyone holds the same ideals of equality. In fact, it is often the actual belief system that causes some people to consider themselves superior. In these instances--and many others--it is detrimental to agree to disagree and accede to someone's right to believe something.
It seems counterintuitive, but to promote peace requires withholding automatic respect.
It sometimes seems to me that he is just so tired of hearing the same old arguments from people that he doesn't have the patience to explain in detail why he considers them invalid and dismisses them. To someone who doesn't know that Dawkins has already tackled these arguments it might seem like arrogance or unwillingness to listen.
Dawkins is an educator and I think he would be tickled pink to do just that. It is willful ignorance that frustrates him. Watch the video below for a dose. He is polite long after I would have lost my cool. There are 6 more parts of this. You can't even sit through it without getting angry or frustrated. Imagine trying to actually have a conversation with someone like this.
sorry I shouldn't of used the word beliefs in terms of Dawkins and evolution. It was more to do with the idea of memes as well as evolution, they were arguing that the idea was self defeating, ie if religious belief is a meme then so too is atheism, the idea of a meme is a meme etc. It cannot be falsified whatever evidence is presented to the contrary, it seemed unlikely that dawkins atheistic meme is any more likely to be falsified in his mind then the beliefs of the religious fundamentalists he was attacking.
Since atheism is simply an unbelief, it really isn't a meme. Perhaps the ways in which atheists are expressing themselves openly has meme like qualities. Otherwise, that would be like saying that not believing in Santa Claus or Hydras are memes.
but dawkins refers to a meme as ideas or beliefs that are analogous to genes, they spread and infect peoples minds, he claims mostly in families. so if religion can be passed though infection to one another why cant atheism?
Because atheism is the lack of belief. In order for it to be a meme, belief in gods or a god would have to be something one was born with. Atheism is defined and exists only as a result of the existence of religion. If no religion existed, we would have no concept of atheism as we do today. It is the default, not an add on, as a meme is.
I don't discount that some people come to atheism in similar fashion that some come to religion. And the meme idea might apply there. But for me and some others I know here at T|A, atheism is the result of other pursuits and not something any of us actually sought out specifically.