About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Darwin or Design, the audio book

An impressive collection of interviews pro and against Intelligent Design has just been published online as "Darwin or Design?," curated by Jason Rennie of the sciphi show.

You can buy the entire audio book (25 chapters), or download individual chapters for free. My contribution is featured in chapter 18, and focuses on evolutionary epistemology. Other notable entries include chapters by Sean Carroll on evo-devo (evolution of development) and Elliott Sober (on ID and the philosophy of science).


  1. Isn't Jason Rennie overly sympathetic to ID/Creationism? It seems that way looking at the flame wars here:


    He actually calls Dawkins a "religious fundamentalist" in one of his posts. That seems a little over the top to me.

    But to be fair I haven't listened to the interviews, and Jason may very well be an unbiased interviewer. However his posts in the links leave me with a bad taste in my mouth.

    What do you think? Are the interviews "fair and balanced" like FOX news? ;-)


    If those links run off the margin, try these tinyURLs:

  2. Yes that is me. BTW, Dawkins' behavior on many things seems to be indistinguishable from the behavior from people commonly labled "religious fundamentalist" so I don't think the comparison is actually unreasonable. I'd certianly go so far as to say that his approach to the questions of theology in The God Delusion seems to employ the same methodology he accuses YEC's of when they approach evolution.

    But yet, the interviews are fair and balanced. Everybody gets there say and I don't edit them with a slant. The interviews in the audiobook are basically identical to the way they were recorded, although cleaned up a bit. I can make the original mp3 files available upon request if there is any doubt. All you hear is substantially the same interviews with a lot more umm's, ahh's and mistakes in them.

  3. Jason, don't be yet another idiot. Dawkins has stressed repeatedly that he cannot be a fundamentalist, because a fundamentalist will never change their viewpoint no matter what counter-evidence is shown to them. By his own admission, Dawkins would become a Christian, if only Jesus would come down and show him some evidence. I refer you to the coutier's reply by PZ Myers: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/12/the_courtiers_reply.php

  4. Glorious! I go over to Pharyngula to link the Courtier's Reply, and PZ has just put up this, as if it's especially for Jason:

    Fundamentalists: believe 2+2 =5 because It Is Written. Somewhere. They have a lot of trouble on their tax returns.

    "Moderate" believers: live their lives on the basis that 2+2=4. but go regularly to church to be told that 2+2 once made 5, or will one day make 5, or in a very real and spiritual sense should make 5.

    "Moderate" atheists: know that 2+2 =4 but think it impolite to say so too loudly as people who think 2+2=5 might be offended.

    "Militant" atheists: "Oh for pity's sake. HERE. Two pebbles. Two more pebbles. FOUR pebbles. What is WRONG with you people?"

    See? Dawkins is a world away from fundamentalists.

  5. "Jason, don't be yet another idiot. Dawkins has stressed repeatedly that he cannot be a fundamentalist, because a fundamentalist will never change their viewpoint no matter what counter-evidence is shown to them."

    You realise that if you define "fundamentalist" that way then even "fundamentalists" in general are not "fundamentalists". I don't know any christians if presented with absolutely compelling evidence against eh resurrection would remain christians.

    Frankly it is nonsense to try to define the term in such a fashion. Dawkins' book The God Delusion is strong evidence that he doesn't care at all for evidence and counter arguments.

  6. Hi Kimpatsu,

    Let me offer the following thoughts that hopefully will at least let you understand where I am coming from. The sneering contempt in PZ comment that you posted is actually pretty illustrative of my point. If you think there is any possibility of someone like PZ seeing being able to consider a different point of view on its merits when he writes things like that (Even if he does pretend they are humour) then I think you would be expecting too much. I did an interview with him for The Sci Phi Show and he is on record as saying that only brain damage could convince him to take religion seriously. That is not the words of a reasonable person.

    As to Dawkins' being a "fundamentalist" let me offer the following observation. In The God Delusion he makes a number of arguments at are pretty poor to say the least. An actual philosopher like Alvin Plantinga suggested that calling the work sophomoric would be insulting to sophomores. I would agree with that assessment of the book. It is clear that Dawkins doesn't really have any idea what he is talking about and hasn't taken the time to run the book by actual philosophers of religion and theologians to avoid making such simple mistakes and trot out such tired and worthless arguments. Now he is under no obligation to do this and can write as foolish a book as he likes. He is welcome to do that.

    However what stuns me is that he and PZ seem to think this sort of unswerving ignorance of the topic he is trying to discuss is some sort of virtue. That in order to critique religious positions it isn't actually necessary to understand them properly or fairly represent their positions.

    Now again, they are free to do that if they wish, but this would seem to be the exact behavior they accuse Young Earth Creationists of indulging in when talking about evolution. That YEC's don't understand evolution properly and that their attacks on it are just ignorant. Ironically, note I am not myself a YEC or even a particularly strong "Creationist" on the whole in the sense normally meant by the term, it has been my experience that Young Earthers understand the issues involved in the science far better than PZ or Dawkins understands the issues involved in the things they critique.

    Why is it acceptable for Dawkins, PZ, et al, to indulge in reasoning and tactics that they decry in those they stand against ? At best this is the worst sort of hypocrisy.

    Now I will concede that the use of the term fundamentalist is probably inaccurate because if anything Dawkins and PZ are worse than that.

  7. Hi Jason,

    I'm curious what you find compelling about ID/Creationism? Perhaps you have posted about it before somewhere so a link to that would be good. I'm not really interested in any criticism of evolution because I've heard that all before, but what are the positive reasons you have for ID/Creationism itself? What convinces you there is something to it? Are your reasons primarily religious, or something else?

    I'm curious because many proponents of ID/Creationism seem to just focus on perceived shortcomings in evolution and they seem to downplay their religious reasons.

  8. "I'm curious what you find compelling about ID/Creationism? "

    These are not the same thing. Have a listen to the ID Critic Georgia Purdom from AiG.

    "I'm not really interested in any criticism of evolution because I've heard that all before"

    Have a listen to the book, there are not any "criticism of evolution" chapters as such.

    "What convinces you there is something to it?"

    What convinces you there is not ? It is certianly an interesting question to ask and explore.

    "Are your reasons primarily religious, or something else?"

    Although I am a Christian my reasons for being pro-ID are not essentially religious. Design questions are interesting and they seem to lead in fruitful directions, that is why I find it interesting.

    "they seem to downplay their religious reasons."

    I find the reverse is true. ID's critics frequently play down their religious reasons for their opposition.

    But questions of design in nature are seperate from religious commitments because one is questions of theology and the other are questions of science.

    Ironically the most frequent people to blur the two are critics when the invoke things like arguments from bad design.

    If you have further questions you can always reach me at darwinordesign@gmail.com


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