John Stewart and Richard Dawkins on Ted Haggard

Here is the description of the video as provided at YouTube:

“Jon Stewart analyzes the latest gay surprise as the evangelical, gay-bashing preacher, Pastor Ted, gets caught with his three-year gay lover and supplier of crystal meth. What else is new? For an added bit of spice, there is an earlier clip of Haggard lecturing Richard Dawkins on arrogance. Just too beautiful.”

While Haggard’s behavior (buying crystal meth and a “massage” from a gay prostitute) are clearly hugely embarrassing to evangelical Christians, what is not so clear is whether anything of philosophical significance follows from his behavior. For example, I’ve heard many people refer to Haggard as a “hypocrite,” but the fact is that Haggard never tried to marry a man and he never claimed that homosexuality is morally acceptable. On the contrary, Haggard made it very clear that he considered his behavior morally wrong — and he seemed pretty sincere to me when condemned himself. I conclude that Haggard sincerely believes homosexuality is wrong, but he obviously has some sort of internal struggle with his sexual orientation that prevents him from consistently behaving in accordance with that belief.

What I find much more interesting is the portion of video where Dawkins gets into a somewhat heated exchange with Haggard over science. Haggard actually has the audacity to lecture Dawkins on “intellectual arrogance.” Why? Because Dawkins pointed out the absurdity of Haggard’s claim that evolution is the view that things like eyes and ears came about by “accident.” As Dawkins correctly points out, no evolutionary biologist believes such a thing. That Haggard would make such a statement reveals his utter ignorance of contemporary science. It’s okay if evangelicals like Haggard want to reject evolution (and even urge others to do so), but the least they can do is to actually reject evolution and not some Sunday school strawman version of it.

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15799168778162687036 Bilbo Bloggins

    Jeff –

    Haggard is just a wacked out arrogant powermonger as far as I can tell from this video.

    But I’m surprised you also don’t comment on Dawkins. Do you condone Dawkins’ behavior in this clip?

    From the mere fact that it is Dawkins’ camp cutting this footage up, I have no idea what started what. But Dawkins is intentionally instigating and being unnecessarily polemical in comparing the church service to a Nuremburg rally. Haggard isn’t a thinker to begin with. Once he loses his temper after Dawkins’ assault of contemptuous little barbs, of course Dawkins is going to have an even *more* foolish/befuddled Haggard standing in front of him. Dawkins doesn’t strike me as someone going into a place like that to understand and communicate. To me, its more likely that he went in there to simply make Haggard, and Evangelicals as a whole, look foolish.

    What do you think of Dawkins and the new evangelical/fundy atheists (e.g. Sam Harris)? Do you consider them an aid to the movement in some way and thus want to refrain from criticizing them?

    Since there is so much garbage coming from both sides of the fence in this whole issue, I’m surprised I don’t see someone more fairminded like yourself speaking up on the obvious “more heat than light” approach of these guys.

    This blog has some decent stuff on it, but for the most part it just seems like a filter catching every negative thing we can say about religion that comes through the media or scholarship. Is that the purpose here?

    Bilbo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Bilbo —

    I assume by “Dawkins’ behavior,” you are writing about Dawkins’ reference to Nuremberg rallies. To directly answer your question, I think the reference to Nuremberg rallies was odd. I was tempted to label it “over the top,” but I have refrained from doing so because of something else Dawkins said. Dawkins himself seemed to recognize how his comment might be understood when he said, “if you’ll excuse the analogy.” From what little we saw in the clip, I don’t get the impression that Dawkins actually meant to suggest (or even considers) evangelicals to be even remotely similar to Nazis in terms of objectionable moral beliefs and so forth. Rather, it seemed to me that Dawkins was trying to come up with some sort of analogy for the effectiveness of the church service in pumping up the faithful. It is not an analogy I would ever use, but I think I understand why Dawkins used it. It would be interesting to get Dawkins thoughts on the analogy now (after the fact).

    I have read Dawkins’ latest book once but I want to read it again before commenting. I have not yet read Sam Harris’s books, but they are on my list of books to purchase.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15799168778162687036 Bilbo Bloggins

    Jeff wrote: I was tempted to label it “over the top,” but I have refrained from doing so because of something else Dawkins said. Dawkins himself seemed to recognize how his comment might be understood when he said, “if you’ll excuse the analogy.” From what little we saw in the clip, I don’t get the impression that Dawkins actually meant to suggest (or even considers) evangelicals to be even remotely similar to Nazis in terms of objectionable moral beliefs and so forth.

    Bilbo: I think it is likely that Dawkins drew the analogy to instigate. Anyone drawing an analogy to the Nazi brainwashing propaganda machine like that anytime in any situation can and should fully expect an emotional response. And I think its fairly obvious, regardless of Dawkins’ “If you’ll forgive me” comment, that this was intended.

    I see the more fundyish atheists drawing analogies like this all the time and I don’t think they’re innocent. On this blog, Jim Lippard links to PZ Myers comparison of Religion with Pornography:

    http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=20891893&postID;=115990789413391751

    This all may be humorous to the skeptic, but its offensive to the believer and its not conducive to real conversation/dialogue.

    I am glad you say “It is not an analogy I would ever use” but if you think he chose *this* particular analogy simply to draw out the “pumping up” aspects and not to offend, I cannot agree with you when you say you “understand why Dawkins used it.” I’m highly skeptical here. People know how to push other people’s buttons and comparison to the Nazi propaganda machine (even if the point of comparison were merely one of uniform) is one big bright glaring red button. When two people are conversing, already starting off worldviews apart, the sensitivity is heightened from the very beginning and we need *extra* caution to have constructive dialogue and understanding – not heated rhetoric and button-pushing.

    Of course, I must say that I think your tone is generally exemplary here — all the more why I thought I would post on this thread.

    Bilbo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Bilbo: You obviously are convinced that Dawkins did draw the analogy to instigate. When I watched the video I got a different impression. Dawkins didn’t seem emotional when he said it and the object of the comparison was not mentioned again in the clip. The thrust of Dawkins’ criticism seemed to focus on the content of Haggard’s beliefs, not the allegedly immoral nature of them (which is what one would expect if Dawkins were seriously trying to compare Evangelicals to Nazis). Since I don’t think there is sufficient evidence to settle the matter conclusively, I’m afraid I don’t have much more to say about the topic.

    I do agree with your earlier statement: “To me, its more likely that he went in there to simply make Haggard, and Evangelicals as a whole, look foolish.” I also agree with your conclusion: “When two people are conversing, already starting off worldviews apart, the sensitivity is heightened from the very beginning and we need *extra* caution to have constructive dialogue and understanding – not heated rhetoric and button-pushing.”

    P.S. As an aside, I see that you’ve now made a couple of references to “fundy atheists.” I have no idea what that is supposed to mean.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15799168778162687036 Bilbo Bloggins

    Jeffrey,

    Dawkins has elsewhere acknowledged that lumping someone in the same boat as a Hitler is universally disdainful. He has said “Nobody wants to be caught agreeing with that monster [Hitler], even in a single particular.” [http://www.sundayherald.com/life/people/display.var.1031440.0.eugenics_may_not_be_bad.php] And since there are many other less offensive analogies he couldn’t drawn to make the point of getting people “pumped up”, and we both agree that he intended to make the man look bad, I don’t find it all a coincidence he just so happened to use this analogy. We’ll ultimately have to agree to disagree on why Dawkins drew the analogy. It seems fairly obvious to me but alas, we can’t be inside the man’s brain. What do you think about P.Z. Myer’s comparison of religion to pornography? Same deal? No intent to offend?

    Re: “Fundy atheists” – I’m suprised you’ve never heard this. For one example, see:

    http://www.mail-archive.com/mythfolk@yahoogroups.com/msg00797.html

    Dawkins and Harris have both been charged with being fundy atheists for many reasons according to their accusers – extremism, narrowmindedness, dogmatism, onesidedness, being underinformed (in Dawkin’s case – theologically and philosophically, as opposed to the Christian Fundamentalist who is generally perceived as scientifically underinformed), intolerant, etc.

    The charge is pretty common and has come from atheists as well. Dawkins has actually written an article rebutting the charge.

    Bilbo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Bilbo — I never said I had not heard of the phrase “fundy atheist.” What I said is that I have no idea what that is supposed to mean, i.e., what you mean by the term. I don’t assume that everyone who uses the term uses it in the same way.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15799168778162687036 Bilbo Bloggins

    Jeffrey – I’m pretty much using it in the same way as I described.

    I guess I don’t get an answer on P.Z.’s post (replicated on this blog)?

    Bilbo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Bilbo — the P.Z. post was, well, another post! I don’t mean to sound petty, but I really would like to limit discussion here (on the page for “John Stewart and Richard Dawkins on Ted Haggard”) to that blog post. If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you post feedback directly on that blog post. (No, I haven’t read the post you’re referring to.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08026334505132729732 Steven Carr

    Haggard says to Dawkins in the video ‘You haven’t met the people I have’.

    Which is true.

    And ironic.

    Was Haggard annoyed by Dawkins analogy?

    He was far more annoyed when Dawkins said that Haggard obviously knew nothing about evolution.

    Dawkins probably wasn’t going into that place to understand and communicate.

    He was probably going in to allow the viewer to understand what lay beneath the surface image.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08026334505132729732 Steven Carr

    Perhaps I can point out that Richard Dawkins is British and does not go to rock concerts.

    We don’t have churches like that New Life church here, at least nothing like on that scale, and it is hard for Brits to think of a quick analogy, other than Nuremburg rallies.

    Haggard found the reference amusing rather than insulting, and suggested a rock concert as a better analogy.

    As Dawkins does not go to rock concerts, perhaps that analogy did not come to mind, especially as few rock concerts try to spread a message.

    But of course, I could be wrong about the explanation.

    Perhaps Dawkins had the analogy lined up before he ever flew out?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826768452963498005 Jim Lippard

    Has Dawkins said that he doesn’t go to rock concerts? I know from Douglas Adams’ biography that Dawkins attended parties at Adams’ home where rock musicians performed (such as David Gilmour of Pink Floyd).

    By “is British and does not attend rock concerts” surely you aren’t suggesting that the Brits don’t know about or have rock concerts.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13465226720552401950 Sastra

    Watching this clip, it seemed to me that the charge of “arrogance” wasn’t aimed so much at Dawkins in particular as scientists and intellectuals in general — telling people that you have to be smart and educated to know the truth. Haggard knows how to hit the right populist note, I think. Americans in particular love the myth of the unpretentious little guy with common sense and life experience who can out-think, out- manuever, and out-shine all those stuck-up eggheads with their fancy book-larnin’ who think they know it all.

    It may be too much of a stretch to expect someone coming from this angle to be able to instantly appreciate that “arrogance” comes in different flavors, and the belief that sincerity and clean-thinking can trump expertise in a particular science field is one of them.


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