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The 'WHY' of PseudoSkepticism

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The 'WHY' of PseudoSkepticism

Postby Somerandomguy » 14 Aug 2010, 10:04

Looking at this site I'm sure we'll all agree there's a hell of a lot of information defining the 'how' of pseudoskepticism so that after reading it all I feel prepared to take on arch-skeptic Richard Dawkins himself. But what do we have about in terms of 'why', the question of motivation which so many skeptics have abused in attempts to discredit those with religious or spiritual beliefs? Of course I by no means am advocating using something as complex and irrelivant as motivation as apparrent evidence against the views of pseudoskeptics, but I nontheless think it's very important to discuss it purely for the reason that this apparrent 'lack of motivation' in my view is one of the major things convincing people to embrace the movement in the first place. My first encounter with skepticism was little over a year ago, taking the form of an article in The Big Issue of all things (for those outside the UK that's a usually-optimism-orientated magazine sold by homeless people who get to keep 50% of the profits). Before then I'd considered myself an agnostic, not really caring that much whether or not it turned out there was a God but beleiving that anything was possible and that until then I should enjoy my life. I can't remember who the article was by (it was advertising what I now know to be a typical new-atheist bestseller, its subject matter along the lines of Dawkins' religion-virus idea), but immediately my usually-open mind became convinced in its bleak certainty, largely on account of the fact that I assumed no one would hurreiedly jump to such a conclusion and then insist on sharing it with the world unless they had 100% evidence and were driven by their truth-based principles to do so. For me (despite the fact that I'd previously not spent time worrying about the existance of life outside the material world, being okay so long as anthing was a possibility), it was as though all elements of spirituality had effectively been disproven by that one article and those who still beleived just hadn't read this strange new book yet (ah, for those blissful times in which I was completely unaware of the extent to which the hornets' nest actually stretched). Basically I was ready to doubt and give up making my own decisions because while everything else had some sort of positive element to it in my eyes and thus could be seen as wishful thinking on the paert of everyone, this skeptical view seemed at the time to have no merit whatsoever and thus no reason other than 'it was the truth' for it to be right.
Since then I've realised that motivation doesn't neccessarily relate to truth and that, for the most part, try as one might, it's downright as difficult as hell to actually explain someone's actions and properly understand their motivations. Of course, there are many analogies which I now understand can be attributed to these pseudoskeptics who hurriedly dismiss claims that do not fit into their understanding of the world, sometimes in the attempt to do so resorting to refusal to acknowledge evidence, bizarre alterior explanations, and occasionally even apparrent fabrication. Analogies which range from the very specific outlining of possible reasons related to their behaviour, to the short but paranoid and somewhat-submissive "some people are dicks", a statement which I'm sure at least on SOME level is questionable in it's accuracy. :)
Basically, as well as the fact that I think it's important to try to gain an insight into what makes a pseudoskeptic do what a pseudoskeptic does, I admit I'm somewhat personally intrigued as to just WHY they perform all the evident fallacies that they do. Thus it seemed appropriate that a discussion be opened up on this topic in which people may debate over the reasons behind this movement, or indeed over whether we should be wasting time discussing such things at all.
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Re: The 'WHY' of PseudoSkepticism

Postby Craig Browning » 14 Aug 2010, 20:20

Suggestion... pre-type your posts, wait an hour or two, read them and edit them and then post them.

It's difficult to following your rambling, partly due to improper sentence structure, partly because you are trying to speak beyond your "education" level so as to project some kind of faux authority with things, etc.

We are very simple, down to earth types here, not a MENSA gathering. We tend to communicate in very simple terms so everyone can digest things.

Don't feel singled out... I do this with a lot of people, encouraging them to just relax and not work so hard at impressing us with words but rather, their communication skills... there's a huge difference there and sadly, the internet makes it quite difficult at times, when it comes to expressing things the "right" way (hence all of my little side notes and strange punctuations such as "..." and of course, the use of Smiley dudes). But the effective use of something resembling proper grammar will go much further when it comes to getting your points across.

I've waded through two of your strangely structured posts and found myself having to go back through and take notes in order to pull it together as something coherent. Admittedly, I have medical issues that could be affecting my own ability to understand things, but I have reason to doubt that's the case, here.

Take a look at how I've practically employed bullet points in this reply to you... short and reasonably concise sentences complete with spell-check... This is the best method for communicating on the web/in forums (one that took me a long time to get used to... I once typed excessively long paragraphs and posts... :oops: well, my posts can still be a bit tedious... but at least I am able to generally get to the point with each stanza, as it were. So maybe you could try it? See for your self how much better (or worse) the interaction and understanding results come to be?

Thanks! ;)
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Re: The 'WHY' of PseudoSkepticism

Postby Ellie » 17 Aug 2010, 00:33

Craig Browning wrote:Suggestion... pre-type your posts, wait an hour or two, read them and edit them and then post them.

It's difficult to following your rambling, partly due to improper sentence structure, partly because you are trying to speak beyond your "education" level so as to project some kind of faux authority with things, etc.

We are very simple, down to earth types here, not a MENSA gathering. We tend to communicate in very simple terms so everyone can digest things.

Don't feel singled out... I do this with a lot of people, encouraging them to just relax and not work so hard at impressing us with words but rather, their communication skills... there's a huge difference there and sadly, the internet makes it quite difficult at times, when it comes to expressing things the "right" way (hence all of my little side notes and strange punctuations such as "..." and of course, the use of Smiley dudes). But the effective use of something resembling proper grammar will go much further when it comes to getting your points across.

I've waded through two of your strangely structured posts and found myself having to go back through and take notes in order to pull it together as something coherent. Admittedly, I have medical issues that could be affecting my own ability to understand things, but I have reason to doubt that's the case, here.

Take a look at how I've practically employed bullet points in this reply to you... short and reasonably concise sentences complete with spell-check... This is the best method for communicating on the web/in forums (one that took me a long time to get used to... I once typed excessively long paragraphs and posts... :oops: well, my posts can still be a bit tedious... but at least I am able to generally get to the point with each stanza, as it were. So maybe you could try it? See for your self how much better (or worse) the interaction and understanding results come to be?

Thanks! ;)


I'm pretty well educated (or at least the university bits of paper say so) and had no problem at all understanding the original post. I am able to read, even when things are not in paragraphs or bullet points.

"It's difficult to following your rambling, partly due to improper sentence structure, partly because you are trying to speak beyond your "education" level so as to project some kind of faux authority with things, etc."

Give it a rest eh?

This topic is a good one (the actual topic, not the bizarre flame). It's the motivation that puzzled me until I looked into it further, and particularly into the psychological backgrounds which tend to be involved, and the resulting effects on neurological processes. I simply couldn't understand why otherwise intelligent people would reject curiosity and logical thinking and behaviour until I added this data into the mix. Richard "such-a-shame-he used-to-be-a-real-scientist-before-all-this-im-angry-at-my-daddy-god-nonsense" Dawkins' background is very interesting for instance ;)

Motivation is not an argument for why someone is wrong, but trying to learn more about it allows us to understand why some people need to cling to ideas which are not logically valid or are formed without a decent level of knowledge of the subject matter. Or which, for them, the holding of those ideas gives them a sense of safety, control, worth etc. It is simply not worth discussing evidence, scientific method etc with some people because it is not where their position ultimately takes root from.

Dawkins, for instance, likes to argue that there is no god. Who is he trying to argue with? Who does he think is interested? Who's mind is he likely to change? Why does it matter to him? If he can convince everyone in the world that there is no god, how will his self-belief and understanding of his place in the world have changed? Science isn't interested. Science has better things to do. What do people who eagerly buy his books or enjoy his tv shows feel when they read/watch? What's in it for them?

Essentially, what is the bleeding point? It's not truth and it's not science. It's about erroneously trying to establish a world one can feel safe in.
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Re: The 'WHY' of PseudoSkepticism

Postby Arouet » 17 Aug 2010, 04:43

Ellie wrote:Dawkins, for instance, likes to argue that there is no god. Who is he trying to argue with?


The billions of theists around the world.

Who does he think is interested?


Quite a lot of people, apparently, given how popular he has become. (love him or hate him!)

Who's mind is he likely to change?


Theists. There are many theists who have become atheists after hearing logical arguments. In fact, I'm sure most atheists were once theists, given how prevalent religion is.

Why does it matter to him? If he can convince everyone in the world that there is no god, how will his self-belief and understanding of his place in the world have changed? Science isn't interested. Science has better things to do. What do people who eagerly buy his books or enjoy his tv shows feel when they read/watch? What's in it for them?


This is really minimizing the enormous role that theism plays in societies around the world. So much of public policy is based on theism. If these were merely personal beliefs I would agree with you, but the impact goes far deeper, both publicly and interpersonally.
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Re: The 'WHY' of PseudoSkepticism

Postby Ellie » 17 Aug 2010, 05:05

I've never met a theist who became an atheist. I'd like to. I've met people who were brought up in a religion and then rejected it, but that is something different.

And i'm pretty sure he's popular with people who already consider themselves atheists or who are looking for something to believe. There is no logical argument against theism as such. There are plenty of logical arguments against various church dogma etc. But absolutely none for Atheism i'm afraid. You would have to accept the corrupted tenets of various organised religions as premises in order to form the argument. You accept the premise to deny the religion, not the principle of god.

And yes about the last bit, but I wasn't really thinking about public policy being affected by theism, as this is an neccesary element of organised religion rather than belief. And probably because i'm in the UK where there is not so much interference by religion into state.

But this is about motivation. What do you think is his motivation? (honest question, not trying to be cheeky :P)

P.s. this is a very fun philosophical game which tests your understanding and the logic of your own belief (or lack of it) about god - try it :)

http://www.philosophersnet.com/games/god.php
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Re: The 'WHY' of PseudoSkepticism

Postby Arouet » 17 Aug 2010, 07:01

Ellie wrote:I've never met a theist who became an atheist. I'd like to. I've met people who were brought up in a religion and then rejected it, but that is something different.


Well, I used to believe in God, though lost that belief relatively early (in my teens). However, hang around any forum where atheists post and you'll hear deconversion stories. From what I gather, its rarely one discussion that does it, but rather a slow process of losing belief.

And i'm pretty sure he's popular with people who already consider themselves atheists or who are looking for something to believe. There is no logical argument against theism as such. There are plenty of logical arguments against various church dogma etc. But absolutely none for Atheism i'm afraid. You would have to accept the corrupted tenets of various organised religions as premises in order to form the argument. You accept the premise to deny the religion, not the principle of god.


Well. you're right in a way that there is no argument for atheism. Atheism is the absence of a believe- more particularly the lack of belief in a deity. It is the theists who are making the positive proposition that there is a god. They have the burden of proof.

Think about it like this: what are the arguments for A-leprauchanism? A-unicornism? A-fairyism? It's just that there is no evidence that those three things exist.

And yes about the last bit, but I wasn't really thinking about public policy being affected by theism, as this is an neccesary element of organised religion rather than belief. And probably because i'm in the UK where there is not so much interference by religion into state.

But this is about motivation. What do you think is his motivation? (honest question, not trying to be cheeky :P)


I guess you'd have to ask him, but he's an educator who has always enjoyed bringing his views to the public.

P.s. this is a very fun philosophical game which tests your understanding and the logic of your own belief (or lack of it) about god - try it :)

http://www.philosophersnet.com/games/god.php


I've done that before. I passed! :D
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Re: The 'WHY' of PseudoSkepticism

Postby Ellie » 17 Aug 2010, 20:28

Passed? I'm very impressed - what medal did you get? :P

Is it possible that your belief was enmeshed in a church doctrine? And that what made you change your mind was that the church doctrine (or all church doctrines) began to seem illogical to you?

But what I was mainly saying in that other bit was that there is no logical argument against 'theism'. There is against particular beliefs about it - for instance, god prevents all suffering, etc. But it does not logically follow from any of those that there cannot be a god.

And i'm dropping the motivation thing here - if you want to settle for thinking that it's all about him 'enjoying bringing his views to the public' that's your call :P Personally, I wouldn't even call him an educator, as he seems unable to understand that the 'evidence' he puts forward for there not being a god doesn't actually logically lead to that conclusion in any way. But he's determined to grind his axe anyway. I and many other scientists I know find him an embarrassment to science.
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Re: The 'WHY' of PseudoSkepticism

Postby Craig Browning » 17 Aug 2010, 22:09

It is the theists who are making the positive proposition that there is a god. They have the burden of proof.

Do try to be honest about this view and where it comes from and what this perspective is better known as i.e. "Russell's Tea Pot" (a.k.a. Celestial or Cosmic Tea Pot). An arguably arrogant "rebuttal" of sorts invented by the famed author Bertram Russell so as to counter the contentions of the "establishment" (formerly known as Academia)

Russell's teapot, sometimes called the Celestial Teapot or Cosmic Teapot, is an analogy first coined by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), intended to refute the idea that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon the skeptic to disprove unfalsifiable claims of religions. Russell's teapot is still referred to in discussions concerning the existence of God. The analogy has also been used by sociologists to denote correlations with religion and social conformity.


The ALLUSION put forth by the skeptical (that the believer carries the burden of proof) is that their view is the "constant" and most widely accepted sense of things. Too, they imply that anyone believing otherwise is a fool and gullible idiot because of how they infer the onus issue and its ties to things intelligent and scholarly.

Fact is the more cynically inclined CANNOT disprove the existence of any kind of "higher being/consciousness" nor can they unequivocally prove that there is no such thing as ghosties, psychic ability, etc. While there is a great deal of data that would imply such things are false and simply misunderstood/misinterpreted phenomena, we can say similar things about the evidence (though mostly anecdotal) that existence is genuine... the truth it would seem, being in the mind of the beholder; there is no absolute!

As to my critique of Somerandomguy's writing style... sorry if it offends you Elli but aside form my personal problems when it comes to trying to make sense of things when I read them, there is simply the fact that people as a whole, have become exceptionally lazy when they write and more than likely any other area of their life in which DISCIPLINE is a matter of import; if you cut corners in your writing, how you dress/groom yourself, speak, etc. then you are cutting corners elsewhere in your life and this leads to how you will be received in the "real' world by the people that actually make things happen in it. Scream all you wish about individuality and a person's right to do as they wish, etc. but I can assure you, there are prices to be paid by those that cling to such attitudes and don't wake up "in time"... and sometimes that's even too late.
...and yes, I'm fully aware that some of the greatest minds (not to mention authors) couldn't spell or punctuate properly. They were exceptional people however, not the rule and thus, not the standard that has been proven most productive in general function.

Finally, being able to present information in a more concise manner actually is an indicator of actual intelligence and proof that one is skilled as a communicator. It was a very difficult thing for me to learn back in the day (my 20's) but it is one that took root in me simply because I saw first hand how one prospers when following the rules.

Enough said... ;)
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Re: The 'WHY' of PseudoSkepticism

Postby Arouet » 18 Aug 2010, 06:34

Craig Browning wrote:Do try to be honest about this view and where it comes from and what this perspective is better known as i.e. "Russell's Tea Pot" (a.k.a. Celestial or Cosmic Tea Pot). An arguably arrogant "rebuttal" of sorts invented by the famed author Bertram Russell so as to counter the contentions of the "establishment" (formerly known as Academia)

Russell's teapot, sometimes called the Celestial Teapot or Cosmic Teapot, is an analogy first coined by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), intended to refute the idea that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon the skeptic to disprove unfalsifiable claims of religions. Russell's teapot is still referred to in discussions concerning the existence of God. The analogy has also been used by sociologists to denote correlations with religion and social conformity.


The ALLUSION put forth by the skeptical (that the believer carries the burden of proof) is that their view is the "constant" and most widely accepted sense of things. Too, they imply that anyone believing otherwise is a fool and gullible idiot because of how they infer the onus issue and its ties to things intelligent and scholarly.

Fact is the more cynically inclined CANNOT disprove the existence of any kind of "higher being/consciousness" nor can they unequivocally prove that there is no such thing as ghosties, psychic ability, etc. While there is a great deal of data that would imply such things are false and simply misunderstood/misinterpreted phenomena, we can say similar things about the evidence (though mostly anecdotal) that existence is genuine... the truth it would seem, being in the mind of the beholder; there is no absolute!


I'm not sure if I'm reading you correctly. Russel's Teapot shows exactly why the burden of proof must lie with the claimer of the positive assertion (ie: proponent or believer in the case of psi). There are an infinite number of things that can't be disproven. That is why its a logical fallacy to demand such proof. The burden of proof is always on the person making a positive claim.

The skeptical position is NOT that their view is the constant and most widely accepted sense of things: it is simply the proposition that one should should only believe things upon the presentation of reliable evidence. There is no one uniform set of beliefs by skeptics.

As to my critique of Somerandomguy's writing style...


I don't get too bent out of shape over poor writing and grammar, but large blocks of text are very hard to read and should be divided into paragraphs.

Finally, being able to present information in a more concise manner actually is an indicator of actual intelligence and proof that one is skilled as a communicator.


Actually, this is one of the best reasons to participate in internet forums. It's a great way to practice putting forward your thoughts in clear and organized ways and to work on one's argument and persuasion techniques.
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Re: The 'WHY' of PseudoSkepticism

Postby really? » 18 Aug 2010, 19:30

Simply put skepticism is the default position until reliable evidence compels one to think otherwise. It really is that simple.
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Re: The 'WHY' of PseudoSkepticism

Postby Ellie » 18 Aug 2010, 19:46

This thread is massively off topic.
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Re: The 'WHY' of PseudoSkepticism

Postby wjbeaty » 26 Aug 2010, 18:36

Ellie wrote:Richard "such-a-shame-he used-to-be-a-real-scientist-before-all-this-im-angry-at-my-daddy-god-nonsense" Dawkins' background is very interesting for instance ;)

Dawkins, for instance, likes to argue that there is no god. Who is he trying to argue with?


Not just that there is no god, but he wants to convince us that religion itself is the cause of human strife.

He's got it wrong though. If you go looking for the cause of history's horrors, the real source appears to be bigotry and fanatical belief. If you're so very certain that you're in the right, that you take the trouble to gather like-thinkers together, and then you launch an organized crusade to convert or silence those opposed to your "Correct" viewpoint, THAT'S what kills millions of people and wipes out civilizations. Not religions per se.
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Re: The 'WHY' of PseudoSkepticism

Postby really? » 26 Aug 2010, 22:19

wjbeaty wrote:
Ellie wrote:Richard "such-a-shame-he used-to-be-a-real-scientist-before-all-this-im-angry-at-my-daddy-god-nonsense" Dawkins' background is very interesting for instance ;)

Dawkins, for instance, likes to argue that there is no god. Who is he trying to argue with?


Not just that there is no god, but he wants to convince us that religion itself is the cause of human strife.

He's got it wrong though. If you go looking for the cause of history's horrors, the real source appears to be bigotry and fanatical belief. If you're so very certain that you're in the right, that you take the trouble to gather like-thinkers together, and then you launch an organized crusade to convert or silence those opposed to your "Correct" viewpoint, THAT'S what kills millions of people and wipes out civilizations. Not religions per se.


Dawkins, for instance, likes to argue that there is no god. Who is he trying to argue with?

The several billion people that do believe there is or are.
Religion is just another excuse for fanatical behavior
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Re: The 'WHY' of PseudoSkepticism

Postby Craig Browning » 28 Aug 2010, 00:15

really? wrote:Simply put skepticism is the default position until reliable evidence compels one to think otherwise. It really is that simple.


I fully understand that view and to a large degree, support/impose it.

I speak a lot about "middle ground" and "building bridges" when it comes to the rift between Skeptic vs. Believer and there is a very sincere and "logical" reason behind that position. Rather than getting into it however, I bring it up because of how the things I tend to support here in discussions aren't the same role I take when visiting New Age/metaphysical type groups; my role there is that of "Devil's Advocate" just as it tends to be here. My agenda, as it were, is to help people from either side of these various issues to take pause and see how the "opposition" has some very valid points that shouldn't be ignored.

When I teach people about "Psychic Development" I'm not encouraging them to chant, east a special diet, etc. but rather, I'm getting them to THINK and learn how to not just use their mind but train it, as an athlete would train and condition their body.

Memory expert Harry Loraine pointed out decades ago, how the average person perceives people with a heightened sense of memory, as being "Psychic". We will find similar assumptions based on how people view those that have a stronger than normal Intuitive sense about them as well as those who seem "wise" and able to look inside of us and pluck out long forgotten secrets and how they are affecting our lives. Each of these things attached to analytically based SKILLS that any one of us can focus on and develop to some degree, with certain of us having greater success in one area over another.

When we look back at the folklore and "mysteries" associated with people that were 'trained' to be mystics, we start finding some very mundane truths; the foundation to their development was the implementation of techniques that would expand upon and make them more deliberately conscious of the above techniques/abilities. Even as the student moves deeper into some of the more "guarded" aspects of occult tradition we start seeing "scientific" formula, not mystical or fantasiful things. Even where we see inference towards Angels or Guardians or even Demons, we also find clues as to what these things symbolize, not a proclamation that sustain the "fantasy" per ce.

The culmination of these things, being able to understand the difference between the many layers of exoteric vs. esoteric knowledge is exactly why I am so loud in my charge that IT IS REAL! It's just not "real" in the way 99% of the world views it... and this includes the ardent skeptic. But this is likewise why (at least one reason why) I keep saying that a middle-ground exists in which a greater truth proves the constant. This is an elusive perspective in that one must understand the plurality of things in order for "the two to be as one"... or as legend would suggest, "the three".

Roughly 1,800 or so years ago "The Church" declared war upon science and human intellect and in so doing did the one thing few other world religions or philosophic sects ever did; it segregated intelligence from things spiritual and in so doing, removed the state of "balance" that had been previously known via the auspices of the many mystery religions of the day... including the original elements of Christianity. As recently as our current decade, churchmen has pointed fingers at science and education, referring it as some kindred to their Devil or at minimum, a greeting mat to those headed to hell. But when we step back and look at the antics of these fear-mongers, we see them repeating a cycle of condemnation and then latter adoption of this and that technology (especially when it comes to means by which to spread their poison).

The point here, is that this very western European division became the very instrument that lent power to the concept of Magick in the sense that it is considered in today's world. Because the masses are being 'conditioned' to not just be ignorant but to embrace ignorance, the psyche distorts what is, typically making it out to be much more than its reality.

Go back and actually study the Arthurian legends or for that matter, the antics of one Mr. Gandolph and tell me how many "miracles" they actually perform.

Fact is, very little of what these Wise-ards do is extraordinary to us because their magick is based on science and to some degree, what we'd call "common sense" in today's world. To our more primitive ancestors however, even just a few short centuries ago, it was magick and depending upon how it was presented, it very well could have been listed as "the devils work" and placed you at the stake...

By helping the believer SLOWLY learn to see through the rhetoric -- the illusions -- and correlate them to things more analytic, we are able to bring about a form of reconciliation between the two primary schools of thought. To me this is far more important... a more practical goal... than trying to prove who's is bigger and why. ;)
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Re: The 'WHY' of PseudoSkepticism

Postby Scepcop » 12 Oct 2010, 00:15

Ellie wrote:Richard "such-a-shame-he used-to-be-a-real-scientist-before-all-this-im-angry-at-my-daddy-god-nonsense" Dawkins' background is very interesting for instance ;)

Dawkins, for instance, likes to argue that there is no god. Who is he trying to argue with?


Dawkins now admits that a Deistic God (a God that doesn't intervene in the universe) is possible.

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