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New Documentary Chronicles Road Tripping Scientists Promoting Reason 674

Posted by Soulskill
from the which-one-is-the-sidekick dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Dennis Overbye reports in the NY Times that two years ago Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss set off on a barnstorming tour to save the world from religion and promote science. Their adventure is now the subject of The Unbelievers, a new documentary. 'If you think a road trip with a pair of intellectuals wielding laptops is likely to lack drama, you haven't been keeping up with the culture wars,' writes Overbye. The scientists are mobbed at glamorous sites like the Sydney Opera House. Inside, they sometimes encounter clueless moderators; outside, demonstrators condemning them to hellfire. At one event, a group of male Muslim protesters are confronted by counterprotesters chanting, 'Where are your women?' 'Travelogue shots, perky editing and some popular rock music, as well as interview bits with such supportive celebrities as Woody Allen, Cameron Diaz, Sarah Silverman and Ricky Gervais, shrewdly enliven the brainy — but accessible — discourse,' writes Gary Goldstein in the LA Times, 'but mostly the movie is an enjoyably high-minded love fest between two deeply committed intellectuals and the scads of atheists, secularists, free-thinkers, skeptics and activists who make up their rock star-like fan base.' The movie ends at the Reason Rally in Washington, billed as the largest convention of atheists in history. Dawkins looks out at the crowd standing in a light rain and pronounces it 'the most incredible sight I can remember ever seeing' and declares that too many people have been cowed out of coming out as atheists, secularists or agnostics. 'We are far more numerous than anybody realizes.'"
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New Documentary Chronicles Road Tripping Scientists Promoting Reason

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  • Where is it available? Or it has not been finalized yet?
  • by Daetrin (576516) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:51PM (#45656587)
    "two years ago Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss set off on a barnstorming tour to save the world from religion and promote science."

    That is exactly the wrong way to do things. I'm not going to argue whether it is reasonable or not to believe in both science or religion, because regardless of that if you frame an argument as A is wrong and B is right then everyone who already believes in A is going to get defensive and angry and be even _less_ likely to accept B.

    If that's not actually a misrepresentation and he's actually approaching the perceived problem by trying to bludgeon the opposing side into adopting his beliefs then he's doomed to failure, and the whole things is really just a "feel good" tour for atheists to feel superior about their "enlightened" beliefs.
    • by weilawei (897823) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @09:23PM (#45656809) Homepage
      If someone presents me with a well-formed logical argument that proves B (within an axiomatic framework obviously), but I believe A, I change my belief. This is what a rational being does. I don't get emotional about it, I simply adjust my model of reality. If there is no well-fomed logical argument within an axiomatic framework, I either ignore or refute it with a well-formed logical argument based in an axiomatic framework. (Phew, someone should invent a shorter way to say that...)

      The sad part of this is that you're absolutely right. The vast majority of the people in the world lack the ability to think critically when it directly confronts a long-held viewpoint.
      • by TuringTest (533084) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:10AM (#45658921) Journal

        I change my belief. This is what a rational being does

        In that case, that "rational being" thing must be a mythical creature. Most of the time, human beings create rational explanations that match their pre-existing beliefs and subsconscious decisions they've taken, based on the emotions they evoke; not the other way around.

        The shorter way to say that is rationalization [wikipedia.org], and it has a biological basis that has been studied through magnetic resonance imaging. There are some beliefs that can be discredited by careful assessment of axiomatic frameworks, looking for inconsistencies in them, but certainly the scientific method does not apply to non-falsifiable ideas like core religious beliefs; if you apply logic to them, you only get more and more complex and convoluted scholastic theories.

    • by cusco (717999) <<brian.bixby> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @10:15PM (#45657115)

      I don't think that the intent is to convert the religious 'true believers', they're lost causes. There are an awful lot of people in the world, in all cultures, who have lost their faith in religion and feel alone and perhaps frightened of a life without the familiar restrictions. I live in Seattle now and there are plenty of non-theists here, but I used to live in Michigan and Florida and Peru. It can be a scary thing to grow up in a place where children are taught that atheists worship Satan and commit atrocities because they have no morality. These are the people that I hope this movie reaches.

  • Reason (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Empiric (675968) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:57PM (#45656635) Homepage

    First thing one should focus on to learn reason is logical fallacies, and the False Dichotomy, for example, "Reason versus religion", is right up toward the top.

    What Dawkins et al are selling isn't reason, it's Logical Positivism, which has rather thoroughly run aground as of about 30 years ago. Not all questions are resolvable by empiricism and scientific method. Epistemology is far wider than that. Is rock music good? Prove it.

    I'll get into the Reification Fallacy, that "not-X" is not something, it is nothing, regardless of what "X" is--including theism--another day.

    • Re:Reason (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @10:14PM (#45657113)

      First thing one should focus on to learn reason is logical fallacies, and the False Dichotomy, for example, "Reason versus religion", is right up toward the top.

      I disagree. Anyone who actually reasons about their religion will shuck it in a heartbeat. There's not the slightest evidence to support one religion's claims vs. another's, so the only rational choice is to set your standard for evidence low and believe all of them, or set it high and reject all of them. And since they are mutually contradictory, reason requires you to throw one of those options out.

      Religion is a culturally transmitted phenomenon, almost like language. It's no accident that if you know when and where a randomly selected person lives or lived you can predict both their language and religion with fairly high accuracy. Reason indicates that religion all about tradition, not about some objective reality.

    • Re:Reason (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @01:53AM (#45658213) Journal

      Not all questions are resolvable by empiricism and scientific method

      That's true. But there are zero questions resolvable by faith. Not if you care about accuracy. There are lots of things that are going to be unknowable. That's OK, we don't need to make up answers.

      Epistemology is far wider than that. Is rock music good? Prove it.

      That's an opinion. The theist makes a factual claim.

  • by m0s3m8n (1335861) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @10:11PM (#45657089)
    So why don't they take their road show to Iran or Saudi Arabia?
  • by wazzzup (172351) <astromac@fastma i l . fm> on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @10:48PM (#45657313)

    I have no qualms against atheists nor people who believe in the supernatural. It doesn't bother me that either group of people exists. I do have an issue with those in these groups that ascribe to a system of hate and exclusion in order to identify the who's with them and who's against them. Ironically, the most extreme members of these particular types of folks so often fail to see they are what they hate. They operate in the same ways - they identify themselves as part of an enlightened, exclusive group that is superior to the other and engages in spreading that belief to others.

    I was recently at our local high school football game and an older couple was passing out Richard Dawkins DVDs to the crowd. How is that any different than a holy roller passing out Bible tracts at a football game? How is Richard Dawkins going off on a barnstorming tour to save the world from religion different than Billy Graham going on a world tour to save the souls of the lost?

    Science tells me that its understand of the laws of physics stops at a black hole's singularity? Does that mean I disbelieve the singularity exists because science has no way of describing the singularity? Superstring theory tells me that 10 dimensions of spacetime exist and bosonic string theory 26. Is it then possible that, if true, we can't (yet? ever?) comprehend events or life that takes place beyond our 3 dimensions of existence or that events from these dimensions can affect the reality of ours? Why is it when we speak of entangled quantum particles separated by billions of miles affecting each other instantaneously as a valid theory yet the very real experiences a significant amount of humanity have had and can only explain that it was God (does it matter that they call that experience Buddha, Jesus, Marduk, or Zeus?) as ignorant ramblings? That is, why exactly hasn't religion gone away after all this time?

    I guess all I'm saying is, ignoring the veracity of the content of Dawkin's beliefs, simply recognize Dawkin's actions for what it is: I'm better than those folks over there and if you're smart you'd join my side and liberate yourself from your current misguided life. Personally, I choose to keep a more open mind to possible explanations of reality than Dawkins and (insert religious fundamentalist figurehead here) choose to.

    • by whoever57 (658626)

      I was recently at our local high school football game and an older couple was passing out Richard Dawkins DVDs to the crowd. How is that any different than a holy roller passing out Bible tracts at a football game?

      Dawkins isn't asking people to believe in something based on nothing more than blind faith.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @02:20AM (#45658311) Journal

      Science tells me that its understand of the laws of physics stops at a black hole's singularity? Does that mean I disbelieve the singularity exists because science has no way of describing the singularity?

      It means you don't make any factual claims about the nature of the singularity that you can't support with an evidence based model. We can say it exists, because the model we built to fit the actual observations we made predicts that it does. There are no such models that predict the existance of a God.

      Superstring theory tells me that 10 dimensions of spacetime exist and bosonic string theory 26. Is it then possible that, if true, we can't (yet? ever?) comprehend events or life that takes place beyond our 3 dimensions of existence or that events from these dimensions can affect the reality of ours?

      If the events inside those dimensions affect us, we can measure the effect. So far, all effects measured have followed fairly simple rules, at least on the relevant scales. There's no room for miracles in a world ruled by mathematical physics.

      Why is it when we speak of entangled quantum particles separated by billions of miles affecting each other instantaneously as a valid theory

      Because there is experimental evidence for quantum entanglement. Just because you find the reasoning incomprehensible doesn't mean that everything incomprehensible is equally valid.

      yet the very real experiences a significant amount of humanity have had and can only explain that it was God (does it matter that they call that experience Buddha, Jesus, Marduk, or Zeus?) as ignorant ramblings?

      Further, there is no experience any human has had that can only be explained as God. Trancendental experiences are simply altered states of mind, a slightly different configuration of the biological computer in our head. Trancendental experiences are no more evidence of God than schizophrenia is evidence of the devil.

      That is, why exactly hasn't religion gone away after all this time?

      Because it's a meme with a lot of selective advantages. None of which have to do with it being true.

      Personally, I choose to keep a more open mind to possible explanations of reality than Dawkins and (insert religious fundamentalist figurehead here) choose to.

      Do you think anyone would have come up with wave particle duality if scientists weren't open minded? We're willing to consider anything, if there's evidence. If there's no evidence, then why waste your time?

  • by mdsolar (1045926) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @11:59AM (#45660657) Homepage Journal
    I hope, for Dawkins' sake, if God speaks to him, he'll be prepared to listen. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_converts_to_Christianity_from_nontheism [wikipedia.org]

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