Comments: opinion

There's a misunderstanding of 'selfish' in the Selfish Gene of Dawkins - it's more an amoral focus of the future rather than some sort of limitation. Therefore collective altruism is part of the advance of the selfish gene. This is a basic part of Dawkins's view and if it is misunderstood then it undermines the rest of the argument. I'm always curious to know what Sarah Coakley means by 'the Trinity' and I suspect it is a lot looser than it used to mean. In any case evolution is local and specific, and cannot therefore be part of some overall grand plan. You cannot know any outcome beyond a few moves ahead in any such environment.

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 17 August 2013 at 3:40pm BST

Thank you, Mr. Furedi!
I doubt St. Francis of Assisi (Christianity) or Rashi (Judaism), or similar folks in Islam, Buddhism, etc. were stupid idiots. I refuse to believe that, as a class, most people who sit in the pews, or equivalent, are dumb.
For centuries, religious folks persecuted atheists, harassed them, or acted smug and condescending towards them.
While replying in kind may be understandable from the standpoint of human behavior, to me, it only makes atheists who do so just as bad as the bad-apple religious folks.
"We're better than you, don'cha know?" is a pathetic attitude, period, no matter whether uttered in the name of God or “reason”.
If both sides act arrogantly towards each other, it gets us nowhere.
American president, revolutionary, scholar, Thomas Jefferson is reputed to have said "If my neighbor believes in no gods, one god, or 20 gods, it neither breaks my arm, nor steals my purse." I wish more of us could be of that attitude.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Saturday, 17 August 2013 at 8:18pm BST

Thanks so much for the article on Sarah Coakley. Its a compelling and fascinating read.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 18 August 2013 at 2:30am BST

I was very interested in Sarah Coakley's story: she had some important insights about women in male-dominated institutions.

But I admit I {cringed} when I read "the contemplative on her knees well knows the messy entanglement of sexual desire and the desire for God". I appreciate putting a universal (?) claim in the feminine, but "on her knees" in this context really isn't a mental picture we need to imagine!

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 18 August 2013 at 2:41am BST

Every time I see a "report" on one group or another's relative intelligence, employability, beauty, etc., I'm reminded that 90% of all statistics are a lie.

My problem with Dawkins isn't so much his theory, but that he takes it off into directions based upon his own bias and nothing else, then claims it to be "scientific." I frankly don't find him all that brilliant.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 4:42am BST

Furedi is an odd bird - a former member of the RCP (Revolutionary Communist Party) which was an infamous assortment of Trots in the 1970s - who edited Living Marxism magazine during the 80s and early 90s. In that period, he transformed himself into a libertarian capitalist with various contrarian views. What got him in trouble was his support for the Serbians during the Nato war. He even went so far as to claim that the concentration camps were faked in a Channel Four documentary. CH4 was no pleased and sued him for libel, winning a substantial verdict and bankrupting Living Marxism. Not to be daunted, he then reinvented himself with Spiked Online, which is a nasty outfit that campaigns against gay marriage along with various other pseudo-right wing/libertarianish ideas like disputing global warming, trashing environmentalists, etc.

George Monbiot exposed Furedi and his fellow former Trots in an article a few years back:
http://www.monbiot.com/2009/01/13/flying-over-the-cuckoos-nest/

London Review of Books also did a semi-expose on them as well (warning following link may be behind a paywall):
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n13/jenny-turner/who-are-they

So, I am always cautious whenever Furedi pipes up to offer his usual contrarian opinion....

Posted by etseq at Friday, 23 August 2013 at 5:44am BST

Actually, Kenan Malik, the results of your surveys are very much as one might expect. All the indications are that most belivers are more 'liberal' on most topics than either one might expect or what the self appointed 'spokespersons' might say. To take the debate on same sex marriage, it has been know for some time that there was both a majority in the country and amongst Christians for it and that the outpourings from the bishops, the self identifed 'Christian' bodies and the campaigns did not represent the views of the person in the pew. A few religiously or politically motivated people may make an awful lot of noise, but as the same sex marriage debate and legislative process showed, they are empty vessels.

But these are in any case secondary issues. What would be much more interesting is an examinatins of what believers really believe and how that compares with what they are supposed to believe as set out in the creeds and other formularies of faith. I wonder just how many 'believers' actually believe the plain meaning of the words in the creeds for instance (or are really aware of what the plain meaning might be).I remember a priest saying to me years ago, for instance, that it was much better to sing the creed than say it because the music took one across the difficult bits. How many of us are with the White Queen in her efforts to believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast? Most of us have to find a way around that. Yet the jargon we hear too often from the pulpit is no substitute for proper intellectual thought and considerations of the very real breach between the words we are supposed to believe and what our God-given intellect makes us doubt.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Sunday, 25 August 2013 at 8:36pm BST
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