Astrology, Enemy of Reason


The first part of the Richard Dawkins’ documentary, The Enemies of Reason, has aired on the BBC. The above clip discusses Astrology.

Update: The video of the entire show is now posted.

The Guardian’s Charlie Brooker, who rarely has good things to say about television, recommends the show:

In the 18th century, a revolution in thought, known as the Enlightenment, dragged us away from the superstition and brutality of the Middle Ages toward a modern age of science, reason and democracy. It changed everything. If it wasn’t for the Enlightenment, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. You’d be standing in a smock throwing turnips at a witch. Yes, the Enlightenment was one of the most significant developments since the wheel. Which is why we’re trying to bollocks it all up.

Welcome to a dangerous new era – the Unlightenment – in which centuries of rational thought are overturned by idiots. Superstitious idiots. They’re everywhere – reading horoscopes, buying homeopathic remedies, consulting psychics, babbling about “chakras” and “healing energies”, praying to imaginary gods, and rejecting science in favour of soft-headed bunkum. But instead of slapping these people round the face till they behave like adults, we encourage them. We’ve got to respect their beliefs, apparently.

Well I don’t. “Spirituality” is what cretins have in place of imagination. If you’ve ever described yourself as “quite spiritual”, do civilisation a favour and punch yourself in the throat until you’re incapable of speaking aloud ever again. Why should your outmoded codswallop be treated with anything other than the contemptuous mockery it deserves?

Maybe you’ve put your faith in spiritual claptrap because our random, narrative-free universe terrifies you. But that’s no solution. If you want comforting, suck your thumb. Buy a pillow. Don’t make up a load of floaty blah about energy or destiny. This is the real world, stupid. We should be solving problems, not sticking our fingers in our ears and singing about fairies…

[Enemies of Reason] is possibly the most important broadcast of the year so far; important because it presents a passionate argument we really all ought to be having right now, if we want to prevent a great slide backwards into mud-eating barbarism. And if you think that’s hyperbole, I suggest you pick up a newspaper and see how many of the world’s problems are currently being caused or exacerbated by the rejection of rational thought. From fundamentalist death cults to arrogant invasions: a startling lack of logic unites them all.

Cold, clear, rational thought is the most important thing we have; the one thing that can save us. If I was made Emperor of All Media, I’d broadcast something akin to The Enemies Of Reason on every channel, every day, for 10 years. This is an urgent message that must be heard if we want to survive, as a species. Oh. And I’d also broadcast a load of Tex Avery cartoons, just to show off my lighter side. Man, I loves dat Droopy.

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  1. 1
    absent observer says:

    Charlie Brooker is one Enlightened scholar the world would do well without. Has he done any experiment to test his assertions? He’s already convinced of everything he knows, which is a dangerous position.

    The distance between evidence and conclusion is faith. No one has seen an electron, but from the evidence provided I have faith that they are actual. And no one has a model of shakras, but I have some faith that they are a manifestation of the body’s tangle of nervous fibers. Maybe you’ve come to a different conclusion, but the evidence is non-conclusive, so one must take into account one’s own degree of faith. Charlie Brooker seems to believe there is no room for disagreement on issues where the evidence is cloudy. If so, he’s not an enlightenment scholar but a bigot.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Absent Observer,

    You certainly fall into the unenlightened category which Brooker writes about if you think your comment makes the slightest bit of sense.

    Knowledge of electrons is based upon scientific experimentation. There is absolutely no similarity between a scientific understanding of electrons and a belief in shakras based upon faith.

    Your reliance on ad hominen attacks does nothing to support your case. Explaning the difference between science and faith is not being a bigot. Nor does an understanding of science mean that he’s “already convinced of everything he knows.” The opposite is actually true with regards to your attitude and Brooker’s. Part of basing one’s knowledge on science means a recognition that what you know can change should experimental findings contradict what is currently believed. However, when you accept things on faith there is no way to prove or disprove them.

  3. 3
    absent observer says:

    Ron, You Sunk My BATTLESHIP!1111 LOL

    no really. take a breather. The great preponderance of evidence weighs heavily in favor of electrons as wave/matter units with charge of -1 (note the work of Rutherford, Fermi, Einstein, Hawkings.) But maybe string theory will reveal that electrons are actually just a mirage of some more pervasive underlying phenomenon. There is a small likelihood that the theory is wrong, which is accounted for by a tiny bit of faith on my part that the theory is right. The great deal of evidence makes it easy to believe in electrons.

    [Note: I’m defining Faith as “accepting as true something that one cannot prove at the moment.”

    You see… There is no absolute proof in science. There is good, better and best proof. Evidence = Conclusion, only when there is absolute proof. Otherwise, Evidence + Faith = Conclusion. If you’ve got great evidence, you need very little faith. If you have very little evidence, you need a lot of faith. Regardless, you’re never going to have perfect evidence, so you’ll always require some minute degree of faith. Otherwise, how could one ever be wrong. Admitting that there’s a chance you’re wrong is tantamount to submitting that your conclusion is based in some small degree on your faith. …which shouldn’t scare a reasonable person.

    BTW. Psychology is in its infancy. You need a lot of faith to accept their theories. Freud was probably 40% right, which was better than his peers. But Buddhists have been studying the human experience for hundreds of years (in a very scientific manner), and come to the conclusion that there are chakras, that there is no “soul”, that one can change one’s physical self by one’s mental processes, etc. It takes less faith on my behalf to side with the Buddhists when they disagree with the Psychologists, simply because the Buddhists have amassed more evidence.

    Maybe someday I’ll be able to live in perfect knowledge like our Neitzsche-wannabe Brooker, and not need to submit myself to the faith that spans the distance between what I believe and what I can prove.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Absent Observer,

    Theorizing the presense of electrons brings about many experiments which would disprove the theory if wrong. There are no equivalent tests of beliefs held on faith. Perhaps another theory will be developed which changes our view of the atom, but this would be accomplished by scientific research, not based upon faith.

    You confuse science as a body of knowledge as opposed to being a method of discovering knowledge.

  5. 5
    absent observer says:

    I think we’re using different meanings for faith. I see faith as the action of agreeing to something that is in some way unproven. You see faith as all those things that people accept without proof.

    We both agree that science is the process of hypothesis, testing, and drawing conclusions.

    We both agree that proof is better than faith. In this poorly understood universe, it’s healthy to monitor the faith goes into each conclusion you hold, rather than pretend your conclusions are based on perfect understanding.

    You know the quote: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” I would add “, else extraordinary faith.” Even lock-tight claims like evolution or electron theory (to be obtuse) require some minute degree of faith, because there’s always that one experiment that could destroy the whole model. Accepting an enormous claim (like the “soul”) that is completely without evidence require an enormous amount of faith. I don’t mind you believing there is a soul, as long as you know it’s entirely a product of faith & no evidence.

    Are we thinking more alike or dislike?

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Yes, we are certainly using different meanings of faith.

  7. 7
    absent observer says:

    Can I persuade you to use the one from Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

    The author considered faith the action of accepting as true what can’t be known, and also as optimist (which I hate).

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