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Boss Cat

That nice Mr Attenborough

Did you hear Sir David on DID?  As charming and civilised as we might expect.

Two things he said though that interested me:  firstly he said Darwin had changed or influenced (I can't remember the exact word, sorry) us more than anyone else.  Well, I am not so sure.   I think that is a zoologist speaking.  It's his subject.  Not to say that Darwin does not still influence our thinking and will do for a long time to come (and it hasn't always been for the better has it?  Not his fault but he has been misunderstood and misused to truly horrific ends).  But not only Darwin a relatively new kid on the block - what about Marx, Shakespeare, Newton, Einstein, Da Vinci, Freud, Hitler or Jesus come to that?  Or the Buddha?  How would you measure this?

Secondly he was asked directly about how his work influenced his beliefs.  I always thought he was a convinced (though not confrontational or anti theist) atheist.  However, he said that he did not have the confidence to be an atheist so described himself as an agnostic.  He also stated that there was nothing in the 4 billion year history of life that was inconsistent with there being a supreme being.  

Fair enough; seems an honest and thoughtful response to me.  But although most atheists on here will say 'well of course we don't know' so must acknowledge a degree of agnosticism, they ARE confident enough to say 'I am an atheist, and until there is evidence for God then I will stay one'.  

Do you think Sir D was being courteous and tactful or do you agree with him?  Do you think knowing the history of life is inconsistent with belief in a supreme being?
Shaker

Re: That nice Mr Attenborough

Boss Cat wrote:
Did you hear Sir David on DID?  As charming and civilised as we might expect.

Two things he said though that interested me:  firstly he said Darwin had changed or influenced (I can't remember the exact word, sorry) us more than anyone else.  Well, I am not so sure.   I think that is a zoologist speaking.  It's his subject.  Not to say that Darwin does not still influence our thinking and will do for a long time to come (and it hasn't always been for the better has it?  Not his fault but he has been misunderstood and misused to truly horrific ends).  But not only Darwin a relatively new kid on the block - what about Marx, Shakespeare, Newton, Einstein, Da Vinci, Freud, Hitler or Jesus come to that?  Or the Buddha?  How would you measure this?

Only Darwin provided the explanation for our existence and the explanation for the diversity of life that we see on this planet. None of the others even come remotely close. Shakespeare? No, really, come on.

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He also stated that there was nothing in the 4 billion year history of life that was inconsistent with there being a supreme being.

He seems to have forgotten his own words from just a few years back:

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Sir David Attenborough has revealed that he receives hate mail from viewers for failing to credit God in his documentaries. In an interview with this week's Radio Times about his latest documentary, on Charles Darwin and natural selection, the broadcaster said: "They tell me to burn in hell and good riddance."

Telling the magazine that he was asked why he did not give "credit" to God, Attenborough added: "They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator."


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Fair enough; seems an honest and thoughtful response to me.  But although most atheists on here will say 'well of course we don't know' so must acknowledge a degree of agnosticism, they ARE confident enough to say 'I am an atheist, and until there is evidence for God then I will stay one'.
 
Absolutely.

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Do you think Sir D was being courteous and tactful or do you agree with him?

The former. He takes very much the same non-confrontational line, unwilling to get embroiled in religious debates, that Darwin himself did.
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Do you think knowing the history of life is inconsistent with belief in a supreme being?

Yes, if that supreme being is viewed in even remotely traditional terms (all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, etc).
genghiscant

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Do you think knowing the history of life is inconsistent with belief in a supreme being?


No. But it is inconsistent with the bible & religion.
Leonard James

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I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator.

Attenborough  was being very cautious in using the words 'hard to reconcile'. What he cited was impossible to reconcile with 'benevolent'.

He was simply underlining the fact, as I frequently have, that although it is possible that there is a creator force, it certainly cares not a jot about the suffering of humans in any sense that we use the word 'care'.
Boss Cat

The argument about the existence of suffering is a strong one against a benevolent creator.  For me it is not a conclusive one by any means but I think it is valid, worth listening to and not to be casually dismissed.  Sir David was responding to quite different questions though, wasn't he?  I don't think he contradicts himself.  And if he does not see things absolutely and stick to them - well all the better for him.

The type of people who write things like I hope you suffer in Hell or whatever are representative of a type of religious person but they do not speak for all believers; the repeat violent offenders I've met who, when asked their religion, snort contemptuously and say 'don't have nuffink to do with religion' aren't representative of non believers.

Darwin was a hugely significant figure, but I disagree with you Leonard!  And no-one, no-one has explored what being human means as brilliantly as Shakespeare did.  Well that's my view anyway.  But how would you measure these things.  Sorry Sir David, you are wrong on that one!
Shaker

Boss Cat wrote:
Darwin was a hugely significant figure, but I disagree with you Leonard!  And no-one, no-one has explored what being human means as brilliantly as Shakespeare did.  Well that's my view anyway.  But how would you measure these things.  Sorry Sir David, you are wrong on that one!

If the world's history had panned out exactly as it has - Shakespeare included - but if Darwin had never lived we'd find ourselves in the position of having some phenomenal plays and poems but no understanding of the origins of the sort of animal who writes phenomenal plays and poems. Shakespeare, pre-Darwin, had no such understanding: post-Darwin, we do.
Leonard James

Boss Cat wrote:

Darwin was a hugely significant figure, but I disagree with you Leonard!  And no-one, no-one has explored what being human means as brilliantly as Shakespeare did.  Well that's my view anyway.  But how would you measure these things.  Sorry Sir David, you are wrong on that one!

Willy understood much of what made humans tick, but knew nothing about their origins. Darwin switched the light on in that respect.
Boss Cat

So knowing where you come from is more significant than questioning why you act as you do?

And why would knowing the origins of life be more thought provoking than understanding the workings of the universe?  I mean, unless we think there is something extra special about life - but you don't think that do you?

Oooh, naughty!  But I stand by my first point - how do you measure this?  And how do you establish where one person's work ends and another begins?
Shaker

Boss Cat wrote:
So knowing where you come from is more significant than questioning why you act as you do?

In this specific instance, if evolutionary psychology has any validity, it's actually one and the same thing.
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And why would knowing the origins of life be more thought provoking than understanding the workings of the universe?  I mean, unless we think there is something extra special about life - but you don't think that do you?

Life qua life may be fairly common throughout the universe, based on several highly suggestive scientific strands: the really interesting property is consciousness. I can very easily picture a universe without consciousness: I can't even begin to imagine consciousness without a universe for it to occur in.
Leonard James

Boss Cat wrote:
So knowing where you come from is more significant than questioning why you act as you do?

Both are important spheres of investigation. The Bard was an impressively keen observer of human behaviour as his plays reveal, but he made no attempt to explain why we act as we do. Darwin opened the door to that knowledge by discovering that our forbears were the same as those of other ape species, and our motivations come from common sources.

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And why would knowing the origins of life be more thought provoking than understanding the workings of the universe?

I don't think I said it was ... that is something each individual decides for himself. 
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I mean, unless we think there is something extra special about life - but you don't think that do you?

No, I don't. Life is just a form of chemo-physical reactions.
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Oooh, naughty!  But I stand by my first point - how do you measure this?

You can't.  
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And how do you establish where one person's work ends and another begins?

I don't understand the question. If you are referring to the two aforementioned people, their 'work' was not really connected in any way. Darwin was a scientist and Willy was a playwright.
Lexilogio

I do agree that Darwin was clearly one of the most influential figures in history, and I think that is largely because he challenged accepted belief, and caused not only a generation, but also those that followed to think about their beliefs.

Was he "the most influential"? Well, that is always a difficult one to argue, either way.

Who else has been so influential? Jesus? Mohammed? Einstein? Plato? Aristotle? St Paul? Buddha? We find those who impact on religion often have a wide influence, but there is also significant influence from science. There would be an argument for Gallileo.

Do you think anyone alive today, or recently, would have significant long term influence?
The Boyg

Shaker wrote:
Boss Cat wrote:
Darwin was a hugely significant figure, but I disagree with you Leonard!  And no-one, no-one has explored what being human means as brilliantly as Shakespeare did.  Well that's my view anyway.  But how would you measure these things.  Sorry Sir David, you are wrong on that one!

If the world's history had panned out exactly as it has - Shakespeare included - but if Darwin had never lived we'd find ourselves in the position of having some phenomenal plays and poems but no understanding of the origins of the sort of animal who writes phenomenal plays and poems. Shakespeare, pre-Darwin, had no such understanding: post-Darwin, we do.


If Darwin had not existed then I have no doubt that someone else would have formulated the same theory for evolution (and probably not that long afterwards).

I doubt if anyone else would have written the works of Shakespeare though.
Boss Cat

I think Darwin did not particularly want to publish but had to publish because someone else was about to - is that true?  I half remember this but it might be the wrong half.  One thing that has been said about me again and again is that I have a magpie brain, it picks up bright things.  True, but it doesn't put them together very well!

I think most inventions/discoveries are a kind of race which is kind of what I meant when I said when does one person's work end and another begins...to a point.

Boyg has got a point though, hasn't he?  If we are doing greatest Briton, or actually greatest ever I would go for Shakespeare.  But Darwin would be up there - and David Attenborough would get an honourable mention; who else has brought the living world to such a wide audience? That's a massive contribution.

But it has to be Shakespeare.  If we could measure such a thing.
Lexilogio

Could anyone else have written Shakespeare? That depends if you mean the full works, or the elements of those works which made them so brilliant, and so different.

I think the elements would have been written by someone else. Probably not all by the same individual, but they would have happened eventually.
Leonard James

Both men were great in their own spheres, but I feel it is a pointless exercise to compare such vastly different merits.

There is no doubt that the world would have been a poorer place without either of them. Let's leave it at that.
Shaker

Boss Cat wrote:
I think Darwin did not particularly want to publish but had to publish because someone else was about to - is that true?

Spot on. Alfred Russell Wallace hit upon essentially the same idea (evolution by natural selection) completely independently - he was half-way round the world at the time. Wallace wrote to Darwin (who he knew slightly) outlining his theory and informing him that he was going to work up a paper. Darwin, horrified, realised that he was going to be scooped and proposed to Wallace that they co-author a paper which was read out to a meeting of the Royal Society and received absolutely no attention whatsoever.

Had Darwin never existed it's possible that we'd be talking about Wallace's theory of evolution by natural selection. But then, if Wallace had never existed either someone else would surely have collected the evidence and put the theory together.
Boss Cat

Thanks Shaker, that's the trouble with me; I half remember things and don't know if I remember them rightly.  I'm sure there was something similar with the telephone wasn't there?  And often you don't know who actually invented whatever it is, like Newton and some German mathematician with Calculus; one invented it and one made it useful or something.

You can't measure this type of thing, you are right, Leonard.  But I think we gravitate towards the areas we are interested in. Darwin is (still!) controversial he tends to gather, well, not groupies but a following.

You could measure by popularity.  Do you remember that thing on the BBC a few years ago, the greatest Briton?  As I remember Churchill narrowly beat Princess Diana into second place.   Hmm, right.   It was great for generating discussion though and there were some interesting programmes, the Newton one was particularly good.

(As an aside they did this the same programme in Germany but had to not allow Hitler to be included because he has a small, but fanatical, following and would have been in the top ten.  That's a weakness of using popularity as a measure!)
Shaker

Lexilogio wrote:
Could anyone else have written Shakespeare? That depends if you mean the full works, or the elements of those works which made them so brilliant, and so different.

I think the elements would have been written by someone else. Probably not all by the same individual, but they would have happened eventually.

Lest we forget there has long been and still is a body of thought that holds that Shakespeare didn't write all of Shakespeare.
Leonard James

I suppose knowledge is always given a shove forward by certain brilliant minds, and if it isn't one, another will come along and do it eventually.

It's the same with the religions. A cult figure arises, gleans a following with convincing arguments, and finishes up being worshiped.

To a lesser degree the same thing happens with pop stars and sports personalities and teams.

The fault, if there is one of course, lies with the followers, not the icons.
Shrub Dweller

This all depends on how you define God or whatever. The fact is we don't know for sure how things started or what the prime mover was etc, But what is obvious is that organised religion is a dud; which why am a anti-theist.
Lexilogio

Shaker wrote:
Lexilogio wrote:
Could anyone else have written Shakespeare? That depends if you mean the full works, or the elements of those works which made them so brilliant, and so different.

I think the elements would have been written by someone else. Probably not all by the same individual, but they would have happened eventually.

Lest we forget there has long been and still is a body of thought that holds that Shakespeare didn't write all of Shakespeare.


True. And having read many of his works, that wouldn't surprise me. But equally, I suspect he did write a proportion, and possibly a substantial proportion.

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