Military Community: ask Richard Dawkins anything

We just released official schedule for the Rock Beyond Belief festival on Fort Bragg 31 March (civilians welcome!)

We want to invite any military member, veteran, or military spouse to submit a question in the comments section here.

You will notice the “Richard Dawkins Q&A video“. It simply must be. There are too many variables that simply need to be locked down according to our contract with Fort Bragg. They did not force our hand, but I’m sure they are relieved to know that we will be able to censor / edit ahead of time.

Leave your question for Richard Dawkins below.

We’ll choose the best ones and film it. Please leave your name and rank (or spouse’s). If you are deployed, you may mention that but please keep OPSEC in mind (movement dates, etc.) Please mention how many years you’ve served.

This ‘video’ concept may actually be a good thing. Q&A’s can either be extremely hit or miss. I used to watch debates and love the interactive portions the most. But nothing pissed me off more than a crazy person hogging the mic.

Please keep it concise. Make sure you are actually asking a question and not just saying “I think the whole world basically works like this…. amirite?!”

Rock Beyond Belief [Main Stage]
12:00 National Anthem performed by local atheists
12:05 RBB Emcee, Ed Brayton
12:10 Words Such As Burn
12:30 Dale McGowan
12:55 Hemant Mehta
1:20 Baba Brinkman
1:50 Sean Faircloth
2:00 Richard Dawkins
2:45 Roy Zimmerman
3:15 Mikey Weinstein
3:40 Todd Stiefel
4:00 Spoonboy
4:30 Nate Phelps
5:00 Ed Brayton explains how to honor the flag
5:15 “Retreat” plays, American Flag is lowered
5:16 Jeffrey Lewis
5:45 Margaret Downey
6:15 Dave Silverman
6:45 Dan Barker
7:15 Aiden
8:00 Richard Dawkins Q&A video
Off-post
9:00 Official After Party at Holiday Inn Bordeaux       FREE – Bring canned food for homeless!            Fort Bragg wouldn’t let us collect there.          Call 910 323 0111 to reserve a room

Much more details are available at the RBB festival site. What to bring, when to come, etc. Camp Quest details will be finalized this weekend and we’ll provide that schedule too!

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  • Casey Leavings

    Dr. Dawkins,

    As you may know, the military grants communication between servicemembers and chaplains absolute confidentiality, a privilege not afforded to other, more secular, counseling services. In your opinion, would humanist or atheist chaplains be a viable solution to this issue?

  • Michael Fedo

    USMC, 7 years

    Recently, there was a “study” that many in the media reported that stated atheists were distrusted as much as rapists. Apart from the fact that this study was far from scientific, these types of stories and the overall sense that atheists are not trustworthy has always bothered me. I have not needed a religion or a faith to make me a moral and even virtuous man; what suggestions might you have that we, as veterans, active duty, & reserve members, can use to counter this? Do you think the military has become quasi-institutionalized for religious people only?

  • Dan Rawlings

    Professor,

    You have stated that labeling children with the same religion of their parents is wrong. At what age do you think a child is mature enough to make a decision about religion for themselves?

  • Lois Winkler

    In more than one argument over whether President Obama is Christian or not, my fellow arguers have said things like, “You either are a Christian or your not.”

    I contend that it doesn’t matter what Christians say about how they define personal salvation. If I don’t agree with their religious belief, then why should I respect their rules for their religion. It’s like laying out the rules for an imaginary game.

    Thanks.

    Lois Winkler,

    spouse, US Army (ret)

  • david carrington

    SSG, USA, about seven-some-odd years

    Richard, were you amused by your characterization on South Park? Do you say Science Damn It? Which side were you on in the future Atheist Civil War?

  • SFC C

    Nothing to really ask, except to say thanks for being an outspoken voice for those of us that don’t have the same platform to stand on.

  • david carrington

    SSG, USA, 7+ years

    Richard, on page one of the Selfish Gene, you speculate on the perception of Earth from “superior creatures.” Do think it’s rational for a biologist to do this? You go to imagine that these beings’ first would ne if the Earthlings have discovered evolution yet. Do you really think awareness of this concept is REALLY the defining characteristic of an advanced species? You then state that Charles Darwin was the first to have truth dawned upon them. Do you really think Darwin’s sometimes incoherent cobbling together of the work of dozens of other men deserves this type of recognition? Do you still think, as you quote, that ‘all attempts” to answer ‘what is man?’ And ‘what are we for?’ And ‘Is there a meaning to life?’ before 1859 are ‘worthless’? W

  • david carrington

    SSG, USA, 7-8 years

    Richard you’ve recently discussed the beauty of the idea ithat life came of nothing. Shakespeare famously had his insane King Lear state that Nothing comes from nothing. What is your idea of beauty? The ideas of men or the observations of men? Don’t you think that, say, a particularly insightful artistic, imaginative interpretation of neutrinos would give them a meaning beyond whatever, exactly, the scientists believe them to have? Do you believe in Platonic ideals? Don’t you think that,,say, the bankers responsible for the financial crisis of 2008 are more onboard with an idea of beauty relative to materialistic observation and function than English poets? Do you believe in ramifications, unintended consequences, and cultural decline?

  • david carrington

    Still me.

    Richard, do you distinguish between popular organized religion and God? After all, Hitchens book was about how *RELIGION* poisons everything. Is it possible you’re confusing religion with GOD?

  • Aquaria

    #8:

    I take it you haven’t read anything from Dawkins. He’s written on that subject repeatedly.

    Try Unweaving the Rainbow for starters. It will answer all your stupid and insulting questions.

  • Aquaria

    And you do realize that Dawkins is married to an actress–right? Further, one of his best friends was the writer, Douglas Adams.

    I think he knows more about the arts and beauty than you ever will since you haven’t yet managed to figure out your ass from a hole in the ground.

  • david carrington

    Richard, what do you make of Darwin’s dismissive attitude toward Patrick Matthew and his work ‘Naval Timber and Aboriculture’ as evidenced in his letter to Charles Lyell 10 April 1860? Kind of jacked up, huh?

  • david carrington

    Aquaria, asking the man about his ideas of beauty is hardly insulting. I’ve read lots of his books, as evidenced by, you know, quoting them. The fact that his third wife is an actress, or that he was buddies with Douglas Adams, really don’t impact my view of his work. What are your questions, rank, time of service, etc…

  • david carrington

    Richard, allow me to quote the enlightened man Charles Darwin, from his first edition of Descent of Man (1872):

    “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time, as Professor Schaaffhauaen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope [!], even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low than the baboon, instead if as now between the Negro or Australian and the gorilla.”

    Will you speculate on the Martian interpretation of this profoundly English, racially genocidal desire of Darwin’s?

  • passerby

    Staff Sgt. Harding, Army Public Affairs, 8 years and 8 months.

    Over the past few years and thanks to efforts from the Freedom from Religion foundation, the Military Religious Freedom foundation and other atheistic groups and charities, the world has seen a growing number of people ‘coming out’ as nonbelievers. There is also a significant rise in visibility for nonbelievers in our armed forces, when only a few years ago we were still dealing with items like the Air Force’s ‘Jesus Loves Nukes’ training and the inability to have ‘atheist’ on our records.

    How do you think a more secular force will affect our military, either positively or negatively, and how will that influence shape us in the future?

    I wanted to say thank you again for taking time to come visit our forces, and that I hope for another Atheist Guide to Christmas story to come out soon.

  • david carrington

    Richard, the War on Terror always seemed to me to be based on the concept of free will. It also seems to me that the concept of free will is a religious-based, Protestant idea. Rationality, in its purest form, seems somewhat in opposition to this an ideal, as evidenced by the unfolding of the Totalitarian French Revolution and its Terror. Id like to hear your opinion on Free Will, and the accompanying tolerance of the idiocy of the religious.

  • bad Jim

    David Carrington, do you not understand the notion of courtesy, or do you think it doesn’t apply to you?

  • david carrington

    Oh, im sorry Big Jim. I didn’t know one could cut in lone in an open forum asking for questions. From the actual military community. So go ahead. Oh, you didn’t have questions? You’re just offended by seine chastising your hero

    How unfortunate for you! Hopefully, he can tell you how to think in response…im going to actually thoughtfully comment to the instructions of this particular posting by Justin Griffith. You know who else was offended by questions…?

  • Matt P

    MAJ Matthew Peck, US Army, 12 years of service.

    Mr. Dawkins, you are one of the pre-eminent biologists and scientific minds of this generation. I wish I had a question to ask in your area of expertise, but your books lay out the evidence in a clear manner that I have no questions about evolution right now. That said…

    Christian organizations, leaders, politicians, and talking heads have no problem telling others how to live or what to believe, to the point of enacting legislation in support of their beliefs. Do you believe that atheists should tell others how to live or what to believe? Where do you think the balance between the two lies?

  • Dan Rawlings

    Professor,

    The Mormons have been under fire recentely for babtising the dead. This is close to home for me as I am ex-Mormon. I am curious about your oppinion of this. Does it hurt anything? Is it offensive?

    SSgt Dan Rawlings, USAF

  • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/adam_lewis/persuasive.html StarScream

    Thomas Adam Lewis, U.S. Army E-4 future soldier shipping 3-27-12 MOS 89D

    Professor Dawkins,

    Much recent work in the cognitive and psychological sciences (and reported in such books as Robert McCauley’s “Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not”) have identified that the basis of religious thought is intuitive or “natural” and that since the findings and theories of science are often counter-intuitive, science is not “natural” or easy. Thus science is pushing against the cognitive grain.

    In my own experience dialoguing with creationists and other religious believers who believe that their god interacts empirically with the world, I have come to note that this is very true. Believers, knowingly or not, assume that intuitively derived “knowledge” is valid – that their “gut” is to be trusted. Science rightly rejects this notion. It seems to me that this epistemological rift is often lurking unnoticed at the foundation of all conflicts between science and religion.

    This has led some thinkers to be pessimistic as to the prospects of creating a scientifically-minded public and displacing supernatural and pseudo-scientific bunkum. Since I’ll assume you are optimistic as to this prospect, what do you envision to be the best course of action to achieve it since current educational practices have had only modest success?

  • thebookofdave

    What do you think of us so far?

    MSgt David Kopec, USAF (Ret)

  • hotshoe

    Richard, allow me to quote the enlightened man Charles Darwin, from his first edition of Descent of Man (1872):

    “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time, as Professor Schaaffhauaen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope [!], even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low than the baboon, instead if as now between the Negro or Australian and the gorilla.”

    Will you speculate on the Martian interpretation of this profoundly English, racially genocidal desire of Darwin’s?

    You, sir, are a fucking asshole and liar – whether a Liar For Jesus or merely for your own self-aggrandizement I don’t know.

    You are lying about this quote implying any “racially genocidal desire”. Here’s the full quote.

    The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, from general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks often occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies — between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridae — between the elephant, and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna, and all other mammals. But these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct. At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

    There is no need for me to invent an answer to your blackhearted fake question. It’s already been answered fully at talkorigins, including excerpts from a paper by John Wilkins:

    “First of all, Darwin is making a technical argument as to the “reality” of species, particularly Homo sapiens in this case, and why there should still be apparently distinct species, if all the different forms of life are related by common descent through incremental small changes. His answer is that competition against those forms with some, even small, advantage tends to eliminate closely related forms, giving rise to an apparent “gap” between the remaining forms.”

    “Throughout the Descent, when Darwin refers to “civilised races” he almost always is referring to cultures in Europe. I think Darwin was simply confused at that time about the difference between biological races and cultural races in humans. . . . At this time it was common for Europeans (based on an older notion of a “chain of being from lowest to highest”) to think that Africans (“negroes”) were all of one subspecific form, and were less developed than “Caucasians” or “Asians”, based on a typology in around 1800 by the German Johann Friedrich Blumenach. In short, Darwin is falling prey to the same error almost everyone else was . . . he was not hoping for the extermination of these “races”, though. … Throughout his life, Darwin argued against slavery and for the freedom and dignity of native populations under European slavery.”

    “In short, there is nothing in Darwin’s words to support (and much in his life to contradict) any claim that Darwin wanted the “lower” or “savage races” to be exterminated. He was merely noting what appeared to him to be factual, based in no small part on the evidence of a European binge of imperialism and colonial conquest during his lifetime.

    Certainly we can still see more technologically and militarily “advanced” cultures either destroying or, perhaps worse and more lasting, co-opting and replacing the less “advanced” ones.” ”

    (bolding mine)

    religious lies about Darwin

  • http://Facebook emanuel kleinFa

    Prof.Dawkins:

    I have read that back in the 1800s there was

    an expectation, held by some, that religion would gradually fade away.

    Repeating surveys have indicated a gradual decrease in organized religious belief over the many years in which this topic has been pursued .

    In your best expert guess:

    Would you

    venture that now, in the 2000s,there is a strong likely hood that eventually, over many years,religious believers will become a minority to those of

    a non religious acceptance viewpoint or, is this latter

    concept a butterfly that is unlikely to ever be netted?

    Submitted by Dr.Emanuel Klein

    Navy Vet, WWII

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