Melvin Konner: An interesting perspective on Dawkins, Harris and co.

Most of you by now will probably be bored with my obsession with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the rest of the Evangelical Atheistic Bunch. Bear with me.

I came across this on YouTube (see for eg. here) but a better collection of audio visuals is available at: “Beyond Belief ’06” appears to be a conference held in November last year for the discussion of Richard Dawkins et al.’s atheistic propositions. The “about us” section on their home page says:

Just 40 years after a famous TIME magazine cover asked “Is God Dead?” the answer appears to be a resounding “No!” According to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in a recent issue of Foreign Policy magazine, “God is Winning”. Religions are increasingly a geopolitical force to be reckoned with. Fundamentalist movements – some violent in the extreme – are growing. Science and religion are at odds in the classrooms and courtrooms. And a return to religious values is widely touted as an antidote to the alleged decline in public morality. After two centuries, could this be twilight for the Enlightenment project and the beginning of a new age of unreason? Will faith and dogma trump rational inquiry, or will it be possible to reconcile religious and scientific worldviews? Can evolutionary biology, anthropology and neuroscience help us to better understand how we construct beliefs, and experience empathy, fear and awe? Can science help us create a new rational narrative as poetic and powerful as those that have traditionally sustained societies? Can we treat religion as a natural phenomenon? Can we be good without God? And if not God, then what?

The material here is really very interesting. I spent my time listening to Mel Konner’s lecture (about 54 minutes into this section of the presentation). Konner is no believer. But neither is he about to join the cohorts of Dawkins Troopers. His lecture concludes with this variation on a Golda Mayer answer by whether she believed in God: “I believe in the human species, and the human species believes in God.” His presentation runs for about 35 minutes, after which we get to hear from Sam Harris in a “rebuttal” about as convincing as his efforts on the Stephen Crittenden Show.

Watch it all if you have the time. Konner is an atheist, but a calm and rational atheist. We Christians can learn from such calm and rational scepticism.

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2 Responses to Melvin Konner: An interesting perspective on Dawkins, Harris and co.

  1. Lucian says:

    Just another one of my little non-sequiturs:

    O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden,
    Voll Schmerz und voller Hohn,
    O Haupt, zu Spott gebunden
    Mit einer Dornenkron,
    O Haupt, sonst schön gezieret
    Mit höchster Ehr und Zier,
    Jetzt aber hoch schimpfieret,
    Gegrüßet seist du mir!
    Du edles Angesichte,
    Dafür sonst schrickt und scheut
    Das große Weltgerichte,
    Wie bist du so bespeit;
    Wie bist du so erbleichet!
    Wer hat dein Augenlicht,
    Dem sonst kein Licht nicht gleichet,
    So schändlich zugericht’?

    — Lucian.

    (No, of course I didn’t write them)

  2. Schütz says:

    Ah yes, “O Head full of blood and wounds”. And doesn’t it translate rather less vividly into English “O Sacred Head now wounded”?

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