Randomness May 19, 2008

A collection of thoughts/links that I’m just clumping together on account of being tired:

According to the list of how people found this website, this is a real Google search that led here (though I don’t show up on the result page at the moment).

Quote of the day:

“When scientifically investigating the natural world, the only thing worse than a blind believer is a seeing denier.” — Neil deGrasse Tyson, Death By Black Hole

Why Intelligent Design undermines Christianity, by the Evolved Rationalist

A question for you:

What are the differences between the “Four Horsemen” — Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett? I’m trying to compile a list… and only a couple things immediately come to mind.

[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Christopher Hitchens thinks, based on his book tour, that believers often realize how absurd their beliefs can be, whereas Dennett (and presumably Harris and Dawkins) thinks that most believers barely ever contemplate the question “What if I’m Wrong?”

    I got that from the “Four Horsemen” video.

    Also, the obvious one is that Harris is (slightly) more interested in spiritual/mystical experiences than the rest, although all of them agree with him that “deep” experiences can and need to be investigated rationally. (Hitchens speaks of separating the “luminary” experiences from the irrational dogma that they are connected with, for instance.) They just don’t use the words “spirituality” or “mysticism”, as those words are likely to bring to mind the irrational parts of those philosophies as well as the rational parts, as Sam Harris has mentioned. But Harris thinks those are the best words we have for the phenomenon, although he readily admits how ambiguous and misleading they are.

  • On matters of politics the four have some obvious big differences: Hitchens (and I’d guess Harris too) is very pro-Iraq war, whereas Dawkins is very much opposed to it, going by what he says in the God Delusion.

    Not that this is very relevant to, er, religion and that.

  • Fergus Gallagher

    Dennett is clearly the odd one out. He’s the one one with a name that alliterates, the only one with a beard, and the only one whose surname doesn’t end in ‘s’.

  • Bo

    I see quite a large distinction between the four horsemen:

    Dawkins, I think, is on some level offended by irrational behavior by believers. He (rightly) believes science to be the only means to whatever truth there is in the universe, and is (rightly) offended when non-scientists make unscientific pronouncements about reality.

    Harris, is disgusted by the consequences of behavior by believers. He sees extremist religion as dangerous.

    Hitchens likes to argue, likes to be inflammatory, and loves to poke at sacred beliefs. If it weren’t religion, it would be something else, and he would be witty and dead-on while doing that too.

    Dennett gets mis-characterized quite a bit. His writings about religion are explanatory or a call for explanations. Breaking the Spell is very different from The God Delusion, although commentators (who haven’t read it?) ignore this point.

  • David D.G.

    I love that quote from Neil deGrasse Tyson. It is brilliant, eloquent, and exactly on target.

    ~David D.G.

  • Dawkins: Some good ideas but clueless about American evangelical subculture

    Harris: Definitely gets fundamentalism, but seems to be stuck in a post 9/11 rut unable to move past his first reaction, interesting ideas about spirituality that I hope explores more

    Hitchens: Entertaining idiot

    Dennett: Thoughtful and so non-provocative I don’t think he really counts as a horseman

  • David Crespo

    Harris: True that he’s a little obsessed with radical Islam. This was a very interesting piece, though.

    Hitchens: Freaking hilarious idiot.

    Two days ago, I watched this 90-minute debate between Hitchens and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (author of Kosher Sex), and I realized I’m getting sick of these debates. They’re the same every time. Boteach kind of made a fool of himself in front of an unsympathetic audience. I almost felt sorry for him.

    I actually saw Hitchens speak in person. Closest to god I’ve ever felt.

  • Cade

    Well, Dennett is the coolest, i guess. 😉

    Dennett usually tries to be as non-controversial about his views as he can in order to get them to the “other side”. I heard him speak at my college once, and he was always careful not to mix his views on god with the ideas he’s trying to convince people about.

    For example, when he’s trying to promote the idea of investigating how religions work/evolve, he doesn’t focus on that they aren’t true. He focuses on how important it is to understand them in any context.

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