Most British scientists: Richard Dawkins' work misrepresents science

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by paddoboy, Nov 7, 2016.

  1. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    21,225
    Most British scientists cited in study feel Richard Dawkins' work misrepresents science
    October 31, 2016

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!


    Richard Dawkins speaks on the Rice campus in 2011. Credit: Jeff Fitlow
    Controversial British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is well-known for his criticism of religion, but a new Rice University study of British scientists reveals that a majority who mentioned Dawkins' work during research interviews reject his approach to public engagement and said his work misrepresents science and scientists because he conveys the wrong impression about what science can do and the norms that scientists observe in their work.

    The findings in "Responding to Richard: Celebrity and (Mis)representation of Science" appeared in a recent edition of Public Understandings of Science and are part of a larger Religion Among Scientists in International Context study. The RASIC study includes a survey of over 20,000 scientists from eight countries. In the United Kingdom, 1,581 randomly sampled scientists participated in the survey, and 137 of them also participated in in-depth interviews.

    Although the researchers did not ask questions about Dawkins, 48 scientists mentioned him during in-depth interviews without prompting, and nearly 80 percent of those scientists believe that he misrepresents science and scientists in his books and public engagements. This group included 23 nonreligious scientists and 15 religious scientists. Approximately 20 percent of scientists interviewed – 10 scientists all identifying as nonreligious – said that he plays an important role in asserting the cultural authority of science in the public sphere. One biologist surveyed said Dawkins has "quite an important place in society" in his criticism of creationism and intelligent design.



    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-10-british-scientists-cited-richard-dawkins.html#jCp
     
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  3. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    21,225
    http://pus.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/10/06/0963662516673501

    Abstract
    Drawing on 48 in-depth interviews conducted with biologists and physicists at universities in the United Kingdom, this study examines scientists’ perceptions of the role celebrity scientists play in socially contentious public debates. We examine Richard Dawkins’ involvement in public debates related to the relationship between science and religion as a case to analyze scientists’ perceptions of the role celebrity scientists play in the public sphere and the implications of celebrity science for the practice of science communication. Findings show that Dawkins’ proponents view the celebrity scientist as a provocateur who asserts the cultural authority of science in the public sphere. Critics, who include both religious and nonreligious scientists, argue that Dawkins misrepresents science and scientists and reject his approach to public engagement. Scientists emphasize promotion of science over the scientist, diplomacy over derision, and dialogue over ideological extremism.
     
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  5. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    21,225
    I often compare Richard Dawkins to the late Carl Sagan.
    Both hold the same view, but what a difference in styles!!!
    In my opinion, Dawkins to me sometimes appears much to abrasive, compared to the more dulcet, calm, softer approach of Sagan.





    This is about the relative styles of the two, not religion per se.
    But if the relevant mod, sees it differently, then I do not object to it being moved to a more approriate section: I recognise that the potential for it to become entirely religious is evident.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2016
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  7. timojin Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,272
    Well what fire they were inciting, their position was strictly antireligious . I am sure their position could be made in less antagonistic , just like your
     
  8. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    50,631
    ""Scientists differ in their view of where such borders rest," said David Johnson, an assistant professor at the University of Nevada in Reno and the paper's lead author. "And they may even view belief in a deity as irrational, but they do not view questions related to the existence of deities or 'the sacred' as within the scope of science.""

    I disagree. If the deity does anything that interferes with the natural world, anything which can be observed, then it is subject to scientific inquiry.
     
    sideshowbob and Boris2 like this.
  9. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    21,225
    Neither were inciting anything, other then logic and reasonable assessment, in different style. I see Carl's style as winning more over but.
    Have you even listened to them?
     
  10. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    22,316
    It would be clearer if the category of "derision" were removed - it seems likely to me that if being derisive is among the ways in which one can misrepresent science, several of the scientists were basing their finding of "misrepresentation" on that feature of Dawkins's public writing and speaking.

    There is also this, which in my opinion completely invalidates the headline and the supposed claim of 80%:
    That is not a sound way of even estimating, let alone determining, the overall percentage of British scientists who think Dawkins misrepresents science. It is the percentage of scientists who brought him up by name, unsolicited, who think that. That was 48 of the 137 interviewed in depth, which in turn were selected - and one must assume partially self selected themselves, since the choice of in depth interviewees was not described as "random" - from more than 1500 surveyed scientists.

    So we have found that maybe 38 of 1500+ British scientists don't like the way they think Dawkins's public style presents "science". That's underwhelming. I'm pretty sure it's an underestimate.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2016
  11. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    21,225
    I have always been taken with Sagan, and the calm rational way he puts his point: I was also privaleged to have watched the original "Cosmos" series back in the early seventies?
    Perhaps this is what got me facsinated in the awe and mystery that seems to be at every turn in the discipline of cosmology.
    I don't disagree with anything that either has said in the two videos or in any other debate they have been a part of, I just find Sagan far more convincing.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!


    But that's a subjective opinion!

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
    sideshowbob likes this.
  12. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,265
    I am pleased to see this finding. It accords exactly with my own views about Dawkins. I feel he does a disservice to science by trying to enlist it in his own personal anti-religious crusade and that, it seems, is what my compatriots also think.

    Dawkins doesn't appear to understand religion or religious people at all and has wasted years knocking down a childish, Aunt Sally representation of it. He has also been needlessly antagonistic while doing so. He's a great scientist and a gifted communicator, but sadly has tended to misapply his talents.

    Britain is not a religious country but, in the universities, of which the older ones were all originally religious foundations, there is a degree of tolerance and respect for the ideas and traditions on which they were founded.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2016
    Yazata and paddoboy like this.
  13. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Messages:
    29,915
    Can those who agree with this explain what they see as Dawkins' errors on what science can do and the norms that scientists observe in their work?

    Thanks.
     
  14. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    50,631
    Science refutes various aspects of Biblical religion. Sorry if that's perceived as insensitive, but so what. Religion is not off limits to reason. And I don't buy the notion that religion is so hard to understand. Britain goes to great wasteful lengths to make it understood to their students, so it's not as if Dawkins is proceeding from ignorance. While Dawkins is not always the best spokesperson for atheism, I agree with 99% of his reasoning.
     
    StrangerInAStrangeLa likes this.
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,539
    I studied at the California Institute of Technology, with one of the USA's top 3 or 4 university science programs. (I didn't graduate, but 3 years at Caltech is equivalent to 4 at most other universities.)

    Dawkins would have been right at home there. There was no tolerance for religion: no chaplain, no prayers before dinner, no chapel. Any students and faculty who wanted to talk about religion were free to do so and were able to reserve a conference room or auditorium as easily as anyone else, and many of us came to listen. But their arguments were easily demolished by the non-believing majority.

    The key factor in the scientific dismissal of religion is one of the cornerstones of science: evidence. William of Ockham is generally regarded as the first scholar to identify evidence as the fundamental argument for a statement or belief. Science today relies on it completely. No professional scientist or academic science program will devote any time, labor, financing or other resources to the examination of an assertion unless it is supported by evidence. The more astounding the assertion, the stronger the evidence must be.

    If you tell me that there's a raccoon in my back yard, your verbal evidence will be enough for me to believe you, at least if you have a record of telling the truth. But if you tell me that the sea level on this planet was once six miles higher than it is today, and therefore there was no dry land anywhere for weeks, and then it receded as mysteriously as it rose, I've got a lot of questions that you can't answer. How could one pair of every species of animal fit on Noah's rather modest-size boat, especially since many of them were enormous, and also since many of them would spend their time eating the others? Where did all that water come from--at least four times the volume of all the world's oceans? Where did it go? Why do we not find ruins of well-constructed Bronze Age cities all over the planet with evidence of extensive water damage? After all, the water pressure six miles down is enough to smash most man-made objects.

    This is why any self-respecting scientist should reject religious arguments out of hand. There is no supporting evidence. For example, the Big Bang theory, augmented by the Second Law of Thermodynamics provides all the evidence we need to explain the sudden appearance of the universe: temporally and spatially local reversals of entropy are quite possible, and there is no limit on their scope.

    The Big Bang is nothing more or less than a rather large reversal of entropy, which does not violate the Laws of Thermodynamics.

    The God-believers' version of the debut of the universe has no such logical support. In fact, it is flawed by a fallacy that we all learned to watch out for in Logic 101: the Fallacy of Recursion.
    1. They claim that God created everything that exists.
    2. It's obvious (at least in their daydreams) that God exists.
    3. Therefore, God must have created himself.

    End of argument.
     
    StrangerInAStrangeLa likes this.
  16. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,265
    I have not read the whole article, but I imagine what it will say is that Dawkins represents science as a total worldview rather than just an explanation of nature.

    The Wiki article on Dawkins touches on his approach in this passage: " While some critics, such as writer Christopher Hitchens, psychologist Steven Pinker and Nobel laureates Sir Harold Kroto, James D. Watson and Steven Weinberg have defended Dawkins's stance towards religion and praised his work,[118] others, including Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicistPeter Higgs, astrophysicistMartin Rees, philosopher of science Michael Ruse, literary critic Terry Eagleton, and theologian Alister McGrath,[119][120][121] have criticised Dawkins on various grounds, including the assertion that his work simply serves as an atheist counterpart to religious fundamentalism rather than a productive critique of it, and that he has fundamentally misapprehended the foundations of the theological positions he claims to refute. Rees and Higgs, in particular, have both rejected Dawkins's confrontational stance towards religion as narrow and "embarrassing", with Higgs going as far as to equate Dawkins with the religious fundamentalists he criticises.[122][123][124][125] Atheist philosopher John Gray has denounced Dawkins as an "anti-religious missionary" whose assertions are "in no sense novel or original," suggesting that, "transfixed in wonderment at the workings of his own mind, Dawkins misses much that is of importance in human beings." Gray has also criticised Dawkins's perceived allegiance to Darwin, stating that if "science, for Darwin, was a method of inquiry that enabled him to edge tentatively and humbly toward the truth, for Dawkins, science is an unquestioned view of the world."[126]
     
    Ophiolite and Yazata like this.
  17. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    50,631
    Well, that's specific.
     
  18. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,265
    I'm not sure what you mean by "Biblical" religion. If by that you mean the form of Christianity called biblical literalism, then nobody sensible would disagree. But then, nobody sensible believes in that form of religion anyway.
     
  19. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,265
    Well yes, QED, really. This is just the kind of rather intemperate response - largely relying on a caricature of religion - that I associate with Dawkins.

    William of Ockham was a Franciscan friar, of course.
     
  20. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,317
    One of the things that most annoys me about Dawkins' anti-religious rhetoric is how he has reduced 'religion' to a caricature. I believe that Dawkins was probably thrown off the intellectual rails by his being an evolutionary biologist who got into one too many debates with religious creationists. He apparently identified 'religion' in general with Protestant fundamentalism, reacted violently against it, and just assumes that 'religion' = 'Christian' = 'Biblical fundamentalist'. Which ignores the facts that many religious people aren't even theists, billions aren't Christians, and that most Christians happily accept biological evolution and don't read the first few chapters of Genesis literally.

    Another thing that annoys me is how, like many of the more doctrinaire atheists, he seems to have embraced the 'conflict thesis' that insists that science and religion are mortal enemies and have been throughout history. I don't believe that most professional historians of science think that's true. The relationship between science and religion has been far more complex than the conflict thesis imagines.

    I'm also annoyed by unwise remarks like this: "Religions make existence claims, and this means scientific claims". Science's methodological naturalism tells science that it should seek a natural cause or explanation for any physical event or state of affairs, but it doesn't tell us that everything that might hypothetically exist has to be physical or fall within the scope of natural science.

    Attacking Steven Jay Gould's 'non-overlapping magisteria' idea, the idea that religion and science address different aspects of human life and needn't conflict, Dawkins announces, "It is completely unrealistic to claim, as Gould and many others do, that religion keeps away from science's turf... A universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without. The difference is inevitably a scientific difference."

    Dawkins seems to be imagining that the existence of a 'supernatural presence' would necessarily imply miraculous divine interventions that would violate science's order of nature. But even if we ignore the problems that the problem of induction creates for the idea of universal laws of nature, the theist might choose instead to believe that the divine works through the laws of nature. A young couple might believe that their beautiful new baby is an answer to their prayers, but that needn't mean that they believe that the baby is a violation of the laws of nature. Muslims (for example) have traditionally believed that all physical events are the will of God, even if they conform to the regularities that physics describes.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2016
    Ophiolite and exchemist like this.
  21. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    50,631
    I mean mainstream Christianity.
     
  22. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    50,631
    It's ironic that people criticize Dawkins for not knowing about religion, when people so obviously don't know what Dawkins says. Other religions don't have as much of an impact in his society. So what's your guide to figuring out which parts of the Bible we should take literally, and which we shouldn't. Don't call it the best guide to morality if it can't even do that.
     
  23. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    50,631
    Then how do you know it exists? There are no miracles in such a scheme.
     

Share This Page