A colleague sent two challenges to me, posted by Jordan Peterson, suggesting I should respond. I’m happy to do so because I greatly respect Dr Peterson’s courageous stance against a bossy, intolerant thought-police whose Orwellian newspeak threatens enlightened rationalism. The hero of
Excellent response to both his first more poignant question and indeed to his second more petulant question. I’m glad to see someone, in a civil way, reject Peterson’s nonsense claims that we need the god delusion in order to live free of the woke delusion.
Woke has become a meaningless word because it can mean whatever the speaker wants or whatever suits the argument of the moment. Woke does NOT consist of just people who support trans rights, or even just those who support them unthinkingly. It is like saying that because one Christian Sect believes in end times, that we must condemn all Christians, even those who stress and live by the tenet "love thy neighbor"
Woke is in the broad sense the idea that we should respect people unless they act to lose that respect; the main way they lose the respect is by hypocrisy. It is worst when they ACT in contradiction of the beliefs they claim. The end-times folks do not love their neighbors when they support political policies that will wipe out millions who don't believe in the end times. The rapist using "her" doesn't respect his/her fellow women nor is rape (as described) an action that women believe in.
I am not a Christian. I do believe in respect for people who look at the teachings of their religion --all of them--to guide their lives and at the same time not force their beliefs on others. I have no respect at all for hypocrites.
"Woke" as used by people who choose to identify that way doesn't fit the idea of dogmatic beliefs at all. What you are describing is a perversion of "woke" and is no more to be respected than a perversion of any other belief.
To Dr. Dawkins who has taught me so much, I am surprised in reading this to learn that I might teach you something for a change. Unless I have misunderstood, you seem to have forgotten about the existence of gender roles in society: Gender refers to the characteristics of women, men, girls and boys that are socially constructed, including norms, behaviours, roles, and relationships with each other. As a social construct, gender varies from society to society and can change over time. Mocking individuals who feel more comfortable in different gender roles with claims like "2+2=5" and "transubstantiation" is ignorant of (meaning it ignores) the fact that gender is a social construct. Now are there some instances and situations where individuals go to irrational extremes in their beliefs and actions? Always! But that should not cause us to marginalize the majority of our fellow humans who are simply trying to be the best version of themselves. Please do better.
Its great to see you more in twitter and here.
Stay strong and continue pushing against dogmatic behaviour.
I agree regarding true religions and cults, but you have fallen prey to bombasticism with narrow mindedness. Nature is not binary in all things, there are shades of grey. Nature is organic and emergent, analog and sometime digital.
Some unfortunate people are born with both male and female genitalia, some have abnormal sex chromosomes.
Do you and Peterson believe people go through hormone treatments and reassignment surgery for kicks?
Did Bruce Jenner decide to become Kaitlin Jenner as a fad? Did Renee Richards do likewise
You and Peterson are ignorant of the facts. Sexual identity is both physical and mental.
I grant that some cases may be ill-founded, but the large majority are well-founded and well thought out.
You guys are puffed up and really out of your depth here. You both are aggressively judgmental.
Acquire a little compassion and love, and you both will be better for it.
As someone with no religious leaning/belief other than thinking ‘I think there’s more’, I often find myself feeling that most other people against the current madness are those of faith.
This is why I am very pleased to find other voices who do not come from a Christian or other religious background feeling as I do.
I appreciate your effort into explaining your stance as you have so eloquently,
Dr Dawkins, thank you for replying to Dr Peterson and making some great points.
I think what Peterson may reply is that, although you don't believe that the solution to the absence of a given religion is the substitution of another religion, that inevitably the "death of God" necessitates the emergence of a religion or a religion-like ideology because most human beings can't cope with the the fact that most of their experience is unknown.
Like the terror management theorists claim that the denial of death motivates religious belief, Peterson (and this thesis is outlined in his book and several of his academic articles) claims that the fact of reality's infinite complexity motivates most people to subscribe to conceptual structures that constrain such complexity.
He claims that religion tends to be the most differentiated means of representing the nature of the ultimate complexity of (experiential) reality, which he characterises as the interplay of order and chaos mediated by consciousness.
Religions tend to be complete representations insofar as they make room for the bivalent aspects of order, chaos, and consciousness, whereas ideologies like wokeness tend to be incomplete representations insofar as they neglect to include one aspect of valence, for example, the idea of patriarchy fails to include the positive aspect of order.
I think you two could have a fruitful exchange of ideas if you were to engage him on the idea that consciousness does seem to have evolved to allow humans to transform the chaos of nature into ordered society. In your previous discussion, I think he was trying to make this point by honing in on sexual selection, basically trying to get you to consider the idea that female consciousness has selected for this capacity in males - females choose males that are able to voluntarily and courageously confront the unknown and transform the latent information into something that benefits society.
You had an opportunity for genuine self-reflection here. You wasted it making dick jokes about the Eucharist and seeing how many times you could say "semen" in a passage discussing the fundamental tenets of Christianity. Yes, it's very funny to say bad words in Church. Haha.
Unfortunately, your condescension blinded you to the actual point of pondering the question in the first place. You talk about some of the "characteristics" of religion, but noticeably leave out the most fundamental trait of any organized system of worship, from which religion derives its social utility. That's this: All major religions compel their followers to adhere to a standardized, and relatively immutable subjective moral code. When societies subscribe to religion en masse generally what's virtue the day you're born is still virtue when you're in your 60s, and what's sin in your 20s is still sin the day you die. And generally everyone agrees what is sin and what is virtue. Without that standard template of virtuous living provided by religion, people become untethered. You end up with 10,000 competing "irrational dogmas" all at odds with each other as illustrated by the "woke" crowd we have today. What used to be sin is now virtue and something that is virtue to me is sin to you. The common ground is eroded in the vacuum left by the death of God.
You hide behind your "love of truth" to justify your demonization of religion wholesale, without realizing you're actually attacking two separate belief systems under the same umbrella. The first, which is objective in nature, are the religion's collective myths and ritual practices. Biblical books, belief in a God, taking the Eucharist etc. The second, which is subjective in nature, is that aforementioned standardized moral code. Attack the first under the guise of "truth" all you like. Those things either happened or they didn't. There either is a God or there isn't. But the second is beyond reproach. There is no one "true" system of values.
Jordan Peterson is trying to get guys like you to realize you threw the baby out with the bathwater. The consideration is purely practical. You willingly sacrificed the social cohesion that religion gave the world because you thought the concept of a bearded man in the sky judging your actions was silly. And the worst part is your arrogance doesn't permit you to understand that your philosophy is entirely self-defeating. You claim to love truth too much to oppose one irrational dogma by promoting another irrational dogma, without realizing the unwavering "love of truth" is itself an irrational dogma. In fact that whole statement is just the promotion of one irrational dogma "love of truth" over two other irrational dogmas, religion and "the cult of woke". If O'Brien had a gun to your head and demanded you say 2+2=5 and your "love of truth" prevented you from doing so, surely you would agree you were behaving irrationally, right? You love truth. Christians love Jesus. The woke crowd loves trannies. There is no way to be objectively right here.
Why would you reply to this crackpot and asshat?
The answer is, you have turned into an old crackpot.
Hitchens is turning in his grave.
But woke is just as silly word that right wing name-callers throw at lefty victims. I doubt you’d find many individuals that identify as woke - certainly not a church-full. It’s a word normally wielded by those who make a career out of pandering to extreme anti-left sentiments. Interestingly, a friend who introduced me to Jordan Peterson is also a climate-change denier. Perhaps climate-change denial is another modern-day religion?
Excellent! I'm glad you engaged with Peterson on this. Well done; especially as to the second challenge.
Well put, Mr. Dawkins.
I see 'woke' similarly to 'political correctness' as being on a spectrum. Good ideas which can be taken too far by uncompromising idealists. The poison is in the dose.
Anyone who says, "I am a woman" is making a statement about how they intend to live. A woman whose sex organs have been removed does not begin to say, "I am no longer a woman." They continue to identify as a woman because that is, psychologically, how they feel. Biology to many women is irrelevant. Women who adopt an essentialist view of womanhood (aligning with Dawkins essentialism) can become depressed when their breasts are removed because they feel "less of a woman". Those who survive breast cancer the best are those who assert their womanhood independent of biology.
Richard, you seem to be diving into shallow waters unnecessarily. There's an old saying "Shrimps make fools of dragons in shallow waters" and I fear that's where you're heading when you succumb to the sirens calling you into their cesspool. You're a biologist and, personally, I'd advise you to stick more to science than all this ideological nonsense. I notice someone mentioned how atheists often talk more about God than religious people do. I plead guilty to that myself, but you really do seem to be giving the current ideological silliness far more attention than it deserves and, quite frankly, I don't think you're sufficiently broadly informed enough to do it.
My first cringe was seeing the word "woke". It no longer means what it did some time ago and I don't think it means what you think it does. A genuine critical thinker should be taking a judicial perspective, not sides, and "woke" is a sided term. It seems that when you've been inviting discussion, you've really been making a statement and seeking confirmation. In some of your more recent discussions on particular topics, there is rarely "the other side", perhaps what you would call "woke" views, in improper derisive dismissiveness if merely due to disagreement. You don't need to be told that, so why are you doing what the right-wing "anti-wokists" do? Especially as, it seems to me anyway, that you're trying to prove you're not really like them.
I can understand a personal defensiveness as to colonialism and the original sin argument is valid. But you don't have to be blind enough not to acknowledge past wrongs at all and offer a bit of sympathy for that.
More importantly, there is a glaring contradiction here - avidly defending safe spaces for women from trans people but not ordinary men, the main perpetrators of assaults against women, in which case you equally avidly cry ‘innocence’ against ‘whingers’? The obvious contradiction implies affected insincerity.
The "trans v TERF" thing is toxic and there is much vitriol directed toward women who speak up for women's rights. Fortunately, I seem to be spared that, probably because I'm not famous enough for it, but also I think it's because I take a genuinely judicious perspective, without bias or personal abuse. The stifling of free speech is an issue but both the vitriol and censorship come from both directions, which it's also important to recognise.
A couple of good points though. There is some truth to the idea that Christianity can be the lesser of evils in the religion/cult spectrum. Although a hard-core atheist, I have no difficulty recognising that most Christians are decent people following ideals of care and compassion for their fellows. Even worse and incredible as it may seem, especially given my anti-fundamentalist position, on one occasion, I myself actually advised a young woman to stay associated with some Mormons who had taken her under their wing. Admittedly, I saw it as a transitional thing and I was perfectly aware that it may have ended up substituting one bad world for another, but in that case, it really was the lesser of evils in her personal circumstances at the time.
It is important to note that irrationality is the enemy, in whatever guise it presents itself. Reason in both perspective and argument is the aim and if we can stick to that, with all due bird's eye judiciousness, many of the issues associated with today's mix of fads and genuine attempts at meaningful equity will resolve themselves and progress can take place as the worst extremes of any are left behind and whatever's good succeeds.