Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Enemies of Reason

Charlie Brooker's screenburn on Dawkins's excellent doc, The Enemies of Reason.
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.

Inevitably, the world of science and logic is slowly fighting back. Hence the recent slew of anti-God books, one of which, The God Delusion, was written by Richard Dawkins, writer-presenter of The Enemies Of Reason (Mon, 8pm, C4). Dawkins has softened his style somewhat since his previous series, The Root of All Evil, in which he toured the globe interviewing religious extremists. Trouble was, their views made him so uppity, he occasionally came off worst. They remained eerily calm, while he huffed furiously. And because he looks and sounds precisely like Professor Yaffle from Bagpuss, the end effect was often unintentional hilarity.

In The Enemies of Reason he's still angry - how couldn't he be? - but this time round Dawkins controls his temper, focusing it like a laser beam, taking on spirituality and superstition in all its forms. The overall tone is less hectoring, more persuasive, and occasionally outright playful. It's more likely to win people over.

Below are two snippets from Dawkins' documentary: The Enemies of Reason.

Excerpt 1: on randonmess and superstition

Excerpt 2: on astrology


At 8:23 PM, Blogger Ed said...

I saw the programme, and thought that it was good. I was hoping that Dawkins might come to stigmata at some point, although I understand that you cannot meet a stigmatic quite as easily as your local medium. Wikipedia had once told me that some scientists believed that stigmata may occur but only in the same way that ghost pregnancies occur. As this was on Wikipedia, it may have been rubbish; I do not know. Dawkins' forum is down at the moment, but I may ask him the question when it is back up.

At 4:07 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Why on earth would you be interested in stigmata? You might as well ask why with the relics from Jesus' cross you could practically build an entire forest. And why would Dawkins be the authority on stigmata?

"As this was on Wikipedia, it may have been rubbish;" Someone whispered in your ear that Wikipedia sometimes get it wrong, ergo not to trust Wiki? Well, scepticism is always healthy but personally my experience with Wiki is that it's usually spot on for any executive summary on almost any subject. I thinks it's about as good as most off-line encyclopaedia.

At 11:32 PM, Blogger Ed said...

Let us think about this aside from religion for a minute! Do you accept that ghost pregnancies occur? I expect that you do. If Wikipedia was right, then science may find that the brain can affect the body even more profoundly than that to the point where people who are deeply religious can cause stigmata to occur. The usual skeptical reaction to stigmata is, "They must be self-harmers!" A believer in the religious interpretation of stigmata would reply, "That's a terrible slur on someone's character." And, yes, I can understand why they might say that in response. The possibility that stigmata is produced by the effect of a mind that is in a state of religious hypnosis gets beyond the possibilities of masochism and miracle. In addition to that, it is also an exciting possibility that the mind might be able to affect the body so much.

At 11:24 AM, Blogger Gert said...

There is no known mechanism by which the mind can affect the body in a physical way. Auto-suggestion does of course exist and the mind can indeed play tricks on itself. That could explain ghost pregnancies (if by this we understand the being under the firm impression that one is pregnant when physiologically that isn't true).

For stigmata, self-harm, trickery, slight of hand, forgery and such like remain the most likely explanations. There are, as far as I'm aware, no known cases of stigmata that have stood up to independent and scientific scrutiny.


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