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Dawkins

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revolutionrugger
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Feb 9 2007 20:50
Dawkins

What all do you guys think of Richard Dawkins? I just read his book, "the God Delusion" and have been downloading his videos from google video and well, I expect one day to marry him. His rhetorical style is so damn sexy i can't help myself. Do you think he's anti-working class in his elitism? Is his method appropriate for spreading the truth of atheism to the world? or counter productive?

Steggsie
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Feb 9 2007 21:06

I don't think Dawkins' approach is all that useful. While most of us would agree with his rationalist perspective, I reckon religion is better attacked as anti-working class rather on the grounds of bourgeois rationalism. Having said that, it's always nice to watch him put Christian noses out of joint on TV; I'm not sure it achieves much more than that. Doesn't he also refer to himself as a 'smart' or something equally fucking ludicrous (or is that Dennett)!?

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MJ
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Feb 9 2007 21:17

eek

You would marry a fucking sociobiologist?

James Woolley
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Feb 9 2007 21:27

WTF is 'bourgeois rationalism'?

revolutionrugger
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Feb 9 2007 21:29

I think its a way of saying "rationalism" only with a healthy prole disdain for anything besides vulgar marxism.

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MJ
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Feb 9 2007 21:30
James Woolley wrote:
WTF is 'bourgeois rationalism'?

It's anti-working class, for starters!

revolutionrugger
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Feb 9 2007 21:34
MJ wrote:
eek

You would marry a fucking sociobiologist?

I'm willing to admit that evolutionary mechanisms have an effect on human behavior and society. Aren't you? Don't be vulgar, the mode of production isn't the only determinant of human behavior. I think Dawkins would be the first to admit that genes aren't a central determinant either and that we are produced and constructed as individuals by a complex of factors. But i will not ignore science because it makes my revolutionary impulse easier to theorize. At all times we must integrate science into our critique of capitalist social relationship, not ignore them out of marxist or psuedo-existentialist dogma.

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gatorojinegro
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Feb 9 2007 21:35

Dawkins' methodology is individualist, i.e. he's a methodological individualist, as they say in the social sciences. he sees competition as a good thing. i'm not familiar with his latest, tho. my impression of him is from his book "The Selfish Gene" and criticisms i've read of the position he stakes out there. there is a tendency for sociobiology to devolve into social darwinism, or justifications for classism and racism. i haven't paid enough attention to him to know if he successfully maneuvers around these pits. it is possible to extend ideas from evolution to our understanding of society without falling into those reactionary errors.

t.

James Woolley
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Feb 9 2007 21:36
MJ wrote:
James Woolley wrote:
WTF is 'bourgeois rationalism'?

It's anti-working class, for starters!

How is it?

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MJ
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Feb 9 2007 21:44
James Woolley wrote:
MJ wrote:
James Woolley wrote:
WTF is 'bourgeois rationalism'?

It's anti-working class, for starters!

How is it?

nah just pulling your chain.

(this is apparently a British slang expression that I just learned on this board -- I hope I'm using it right)

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MJ
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Feb 9 2007 21:49

Anyway. He insists he does all the necessary skirting of hazards (see most directly here), but the half of the Selfish Gene I made it through was massively, defiantly, reductionist. I mean really, "memes"?

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gatorojinegro
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Feb 9 2007 22:02

mj, by "reductionist," do you mean reducing the mental
to brain gizmos? there are ways of identifying mental states with brain states that aren't "reductionist", tho i doubt that Dawkins is sophisticated enough about these things to go that route.

t.

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MJ
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Feb 9 2007 22:08

Yes. Him, and Pinker too. When challenged on it they'll give disclaimers that they're only talking about one aspect of the puzzle, but their books are clearly written to stress the importance of those aspects, and that's what they know their core readership takes away with them. It's irresponsible.

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quint
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Feb 9 2007 23:31

I haven't read Dawkins. But the problem with a rationalist response to religion is that it doesn't understand religion. Religion today is not the most logical way of making sense of the world. It is "false". But nobody becomes religious because they are convinced that the earth is in actuality only 4000 years old.

In the small appalachian town I'm from, baptist churches are mainly a place of socialization. People who spend all week working at the matress factory, or at the holiday inn or at walmart, are attracted to religion by the community it provides. Although the churches are obviously not non-hierarchical, their activities are far more horizontal and less isolating than work. It doesn't matter to religious people that religion is not logical--you have to take it on faith.

A purely rationalist attack on religion will inevitably be elitist because religion is what people turn to get some community in an alienating isolating world. Marx once wrote, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions." It displaces hopes for change onto the afterlife. Rationalism is incapeable changing this. An up turn in class struggle would make it seem possible to change things here and now. The communities created by working class people in struggle, are the real threat to religion.

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EdmontonWobbly
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Feb 9 2007 23:43

Good post quint I grew up in a remote rural religious community and you hit the nail bang on the head.

Feighnt
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Feb 10 2007 03:20

i agree with edmonton, that was right-on, quint.

related, though not precisely the same, but - what really sold atheism to me was was not the rationalist argument (i thought it was cold and uncaring, i hated how atheists seemed to mock people's beliefs/etc)... what won me over was the *moral* argument which Bakunin essentially made in "God and State" (he made rationalist arguments too, of course, but the moral overtone was what really got me).

makaira
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Feb 10 2007 04:30
MJ wrote:
eek

You would marry a fucking sociobiologist?

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jason
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Feb 10 2007 04:52

I don't like Dawkins at all. Only read "Selfish Gene". He clearly oversimplified and misrepresented evolutionary processes to get his liberal-individualist rant accross.

Quote:
I'm willing to admit that evolutionary mechanisms have an effect on human behavior and society.

In what ways specifically?

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Choccy
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Feb 10 2007 13:15
gatorojinegro wrote:
Dawkins' methodology is individualist, i.e. he's a methodological individualist, as they say in the social sciences. he sees competition as a good thing. i'm not familiar with his latest, tho. my impression of him is from his book "The Selfish Gene" and criticisms i've read of the position he stakes out there. there is a tendency for sociobiology to devolve into social darwinism, or justifications for classism and racism. i haven't paid enough attention to him to know if he successfully maneuvers around these pits. it is possible to extend ideas from evolution to our understanding of society without falling into those reactionary errors.

t.

It sounds to me like you've not actually read ANY of his work at all but have based your opinions entirely on others' critiques of him wink

There are plenty of things on Dawkins' work to criticise, which some have pointed out in this and previous threads:

- Memes as a socio-cultural analog to genetic inheiritance: to be honest this has utility in principal; mainly that the dominant mechanisms of inheritance in human society are social and cultural, as opposed to biologigical. But Dawkins has gone to far defending the analogy and others have turned into some sort of scientific doctrine which is stupid.
- Rationalist of religion: I mean this doesn't annoy me in principal, cos in terms of basic truth value religion/superstition/myths have no evidence to support them. However, relying on this solely as a critique of religion does fall into the bougeious trap of denying the social relations that give rise to religion, so I agree it's not particularly useful.

But, calling him a socio-biologist/reductionist etc is pretty off the mark. Certainly someone like E.O.Wilson could be accused of things lie reductionism/genetic determinism, but that Dawkins even uses the concept of memes (however shit the analogy may be) reflects that he sees inheritiance in humans as more to do with socio-cultural factors, having largely bypassed biological inheritance and therefore he isn't really a biological determinist (with respect to human behaviour), at all.

Indeed in the 30th anniversary edition of "the selfish gene" he makes the point that the book could have been called "the cooperative gene". His main point being that the consequences of genes that code for advantageous traits having a higher probability of representation in future generations, is that it can lead to altruistic "unselfish" behaviour we observe in some animals.

Of course Dawkins also says that science and nature do not tell us at all what is desirable or "moral". That, he says, is something we decide for ourselves. So he does not see "competition as a good thing", he acknowledges that it happens in nature, but ultimately concludes that this is no indicator of how we ought to live. In fact there's a slightly off the cuff remark in a recent interview where he says nature tells how we shouldn't live!

edit - spellin and grammar

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Choccy
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Feb 10 2007 13:28
Steggsie wrote:
Doesn't he also refer to himself as a 'smart' or something equally fucking ludicrous (or is that Dennett)!?

Dennett and Dawkins both endorse "the Brights", which is an obvious daft load of shite, but they didn't invent em!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brights

john
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Feb 10 2007 14:48
xConorx wrote:
calling him a socio-biologist/reductionist etc is pretty off the mark.

well, I had always thought he was a genetic determinist - I mean why talk about genes otherwise?

conor wrote:

His main point being that the consequences of genes that code for advantageous traits having a higher probability of representation in future generations, is that it can lead to altruistic "unselfish" behaviour we observe in some animals.

edit - oh, actually, I see you applied that to animals, which seems less confusing - but doesn't he extend it to humans (at least by implication)?

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Choccy
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Feb 10 2007 16:08
john wrote:
xConorx wrote:
calling him a socio-biologist/reductionist etc is pretty off the mark.

well, I had always thought he was a genetic determinist - I mean why talk about genes otherwise?

conor wrote:

His main point being that the consequences of genes that code for advantageous traits having a higher probability of representation in future generations, is that it can lead to altruistic "unselfish" behaviour we observe in some animals.

edit - oh, actually, I see you applied that to animals, which seems less confusing - but doesn't he extend it to humans (at least by implication)?

Re-read my post - one can know about genes and acknowledge that they are the unit of biological inheritance but recognise that they don't govern all our behaviours by noting that information/ideas/habits etc can be passed on via cultural/social mechanisms, especially in humans where we have complex socio-cultural systems.
So you can talk about genes without seeing them a the single determinate of behaviour. Were you suggesting otherwise?

Regarding the 2nd point, in a "selfish gene" thread sometime last summer (elsewhere in "thought" forum), much of this came up. Dawkins does extend it to humans but again, repeatedly states that biological inheritance takes a back-seat to the social & cultural. Slightly related; Stephen JayGould wrote a chapter about Kropotkin, "kropotkin was no crackpot", where he basically says that Kropotkin's fundamental premise is correct, that co-operation occurs just as much in nature as does competition. I guess Dawkins is talking about a Darwinian mechanism for such co-operative behaviour.
the Gould essay - http://marxists.org/subject/science/essays/kropotkin.htm

john
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Feb 10 2007 18:47
xConorx wrote:
one can know about genes and acknowledge that they are the unit of biological inheritance but recognise that they don't govern all our behaviours by noting that information/ideas/habits etc can be passed on via cultural/social mechanisms, especially in humans where we have complex socio-cultural systems.
So you can talk about genes without seeing them a the single determinate of behaviour.

but I find it difficult to see the role of genes at all in behaviour. surely once you accept that socio-cultural effects have a non-determinate effect (i.e. we can reflect on them and change them) then genes fail to have any impact on our behaviour. Yes, genes created my brain, but my brain governs my behaviour, that isn't in any way caused by the genes that created it, is it? In which case, how is the study of genes relevant at all to the study of human behaviour?

john
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Feb 10 2007 18:48
revol68 wrote:
well maybe because he is a fucking genetic biologist with an interest in fucking evolution.

i.e. a genetic determinist.

john
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Feb 10 2007 21:21
revol68 wrote:
Genes clearly do affect behaviour (or atleast set parameters for it) but only through social mediation

in what way do genes set parameters for behaviour?

makaira
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Feb 10 2007 23:36
john wrote:
revol68 wrote:
well maybe because he is a fucking genetic biologist with an interest in fucking evolution.

i.e. a genetic determinist.

Can you elaborate? Sarcasm doesn't really translate well via the internet, so I guess that's always possible.

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Feb 10 2007 23:45
makaira wrote:
john wrote:
revol68 wrote:
well maybe because he is a fucking genetic biologist with an interest in fucking evolution.

i.e. a genetic determinist.

Can you elaborate? Sarcasm doesn't really translate well via the internet, so I guess that's always possible.

The Man invented shit like sickle-cell anaemia, cystic fibrosis and haemophilia, it's got nothing to do with genes; The Man also invented geneticists to mask this fact.

makaira
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Feb 11 2007 00:01
xConorx wrote:
makaira wrote:
john wrote:
revol68 wrote:
well maybe because he is a fucking genetic biologist with an interest in fucking evolution.

i.e. a genetic determinist.

Can you elaborate? Sarcasm doesn't really translate well via the internet, so I guess that's always possible.

The Man invented shit like sickle-cell anaemia, cystic fibrosis and haemophilia, it's got nothing to do with genes; The Man also invented geneticists to mask this fact.

My head hurts.

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 11 2007 00:03

and obviously The Man is a product of discourse, not an XY chromosome pair. that's actually true grin

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daniel
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Feb 11 2007 00:06

dawkin is a stuck-up posh bastard. sure, he can be kind of funny, but I get the feeling our OXFORD DON (!) friend is more fun of taunting people with his posh accent then anything else. if you could reason religion out of existence we'd all have been atheists for a long time. dawkins is just another ruling class fucker pontificating from on-high.

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Feb 11 2007 00:21

Can you argue the ruling class out of existence by slagging their posh accents? No, but it's still a laugh wink