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  1. #11
    Senior Member HilbertSpace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Langrenus View Post
    To be honest it's pretty irrelevant to me if Richard impresses atheists, since we're not the group he should be (or is, if you read the preface to The God Delusion) concerning himself with.
    It's a fair complaint. I've read God Delusion, but in his talks both before and after the publication of the book, it seems to me that he's really using this to rally the troops, as it were, and to make the point that the evolution debate in the US is a symptom, rather than the central problem.

    For example, when he talks about touring the US, he talks about people coming up to him at book signings and thanking him for saying what they were thinking. He doesn't talk about people saying that he opened their eyes.

    I have no doubt that the God Delusion convinced at least some people to switch over to atheism, but I suspect that they were limited to people who were already on the fence. I haven't looked at it, but Dawkins also said that his site contains letters from people who have become atheists based on his work. Personally, I think that his evolutionary work makes a better argument than his works about atheism.
    JBS Haldane's Four Stages of Scientific Theories:

    1. This is worthless nonsense.
    2. This is an interesting, but perverse, point of view.
    3. This is true, but quite unimportant.
    4. I always said so.

  2. #12
    respect the brick C.J.Woolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HilbertSpace View Post
    ...it seems to me that he's really using this to rally the troops, as it were, and to make the point that the evolution debate in the US is a symptom, rather than the central problem.

    For example, when he talks about touring the US, he talks about people coming up to him at book signings and thanking him for saying what they were thinking. He doesn't talk about people saying that he opened their eyes.
    That's good. With the Great Mushy Middle who don't have a strong opinion either way, the perception of how many people agree with a position matters. (aka the Bandwagon Effect.) The fundies have influence out of proportion to their numbers because they're loud, and being loud increases their perceived numbers. If Dawkins and others can increase the perceived numbers of rationalists, they will gain influence and the fundies will lose it. All without persuading anyone.

    Could that be called meta-persuasion?

  3. #13
    Senior Member HilbertSpace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C.J.Woolf View Post
    Could that be called meta-persuasion?
    Yeah, and I think that's actually a good point - Dawkins has repeatedly called for more political and social participation on the part of atheists - partly to dispel some notions that strike me as medieval (atheists are immoral and responsible for all current social ills), and partly to counter-balance religious political pressure.

    There's been a fair amount of sociological research that indicates that people associate frequency of perception with relative importance or frequency of occurrence. It's one of those things that might make intuitive sense evolutionarily, but which might have other consequences in a media dominated world.
    JBS Haldane's Four Stages of Scientific Theories:

    1. This is worthless nonsense.
    2. This is an interesting, but perverse, point of view.
    3. This is true, but quite unimportant.
    4. I always said so.

  4. #14
    Senior Member Langrenus's Avatar
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    Fair points both. I suppose the question is the extent to which this meta-persuasion matters - the concern doesn't seem to be with religious moderates, but rather with evangelicals or other devoutly religious individuals. These people are highly unlikely to be persuaded out of their beliefs because the guy next door disagrees with them; more likely they'll redouble their efforts.

    If 40% of Americans do not believe in evolution* this means (presumably) that a majority do; I doubt there's a great deal more middle grounders to be persuaded here?

    *I find it difficult to believe this figure, but I'm pretty sure this is what Dawkins quoted
    January has April's showers
    And 2 and 2 always makes a 5

  5. #15
    respect the brick C.J.Woolf's Avatar
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    The goal of meta-persuasion is not to persuade the irrational, it's to marginalize them; to decrease their political influence; to reverse irrational policy and make rational policy.

    I don't care if the fundies never come around to my way of thinking (they won't); I just want to stop them fucking with my world.

  6. #16
    Senior Member Langrenus's Avatar
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    I understand that. My point is that without a suitably large middle ground of individuals ready to be persuaded by Dawkins-esque logic the process might actually be quite difficult.

    Of course, marginalisation is made more difficult by political correctness, etc...
    January has April's showers
    And 2 and 2 always makes a 5

  7. #17
    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Langrenus View Post
    I understand that. My point is that without a suitably large middle ground of individuals ready to be persuaded by Dawkins-esque logic the process might actually be quite difficult.

    Of course, marginalisation is made more difficult by political correctness, etc...
    I think that in general, marginalisation is done by oneself, rarely by others. Dawkin's probably see it differently, but he is effectively the main player in ripping down the PC block to speaking out against religion. This puts forth a face and voice to rationalism. It's simply a big game and it starts by making people talk about rationalism. The value of it will carry itself forward, it doesn't need to be fought tooth and claw the whole time - once it's in the open, young earth creationists will marginalise themselves. It's big picture effects, social change, that he's starting... He doesn't need to be popular or anything else to inflict long term change.

  8. #18
    Senior Member HilbertSpace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Langrenus View Post
    If 40% of Americans do not believe in evolution* this means (presumably) that a majority do; I doubt there's a great deal more middle grounders to be persuaded here?

    *I find it difficult to believe this figure, but I'm pretty sure this is what Dawkins quoted
    There's a number of studies that correlate these figures. Since it is a very contentious issue right now, it might be reasonable to discount the numbers somewhat (or change the statement to say that 40% of Americans say they don't believe in evolution).

    This page has a tabular breakdown with some analysis. It states that 47% of Americans claim a belief in the strong version of creationism (young Earth < 10,000 years old, life created in its current form), and 40% have a theistic idea of evolution. Only 9% profess a belief in evolution as a non-theistic process.

    In talking with people on the subject, my own anecdotal experience backs these numbers - I have had innumerable people witness to me when they saw me reading certain types of scientific literature.
    JBS Haldane's Four Stages of Scientific Theories:

    1. This is worthless nonsense.
    2. This is an interesting, but perverse, point of view.
    3. This is true, but quite unimportant.
    4. I always said so.

  9. #19
    respect the brick C.J.Woolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby View Post
    ...once it's in the open, young earth creationists will marginalise themselves.
    Exactly. If you attack their ideas as ideas and not as beliefs then they are forced to defend the indefensible. When they show themselves to be kooks the Great Mushy Middle, who had been starting to say "Well, maybe they have a point," start to say "Naaaaaah!" instead.

    Or so I hope.

  10. #20
    Senior Member Langrenus's Avatar
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    That depresses me even more HilbertSpace - I was, for once, trying to credit the American nation with more intelligence than the figures suggested. My natural pessimism should clearly have been given free reign.

    I still don't think I agree with this marginalisation thesis - as believers keep telling me, this isn't about science or rationality per se, it's about faith. Don't confuse some evangelical church leaders attempting to dress their views in a pathetic veil of science as proof that the whole edifice will come shattering down if only we can make them see the underling irrationality...it hasn't happened in the past 2000 years, I see absolutely no reason why it will change now. Attacking ideas as ideas without reference any inclusion of the faith angle just strikes me as a weak position to work from. The most sane individual in the world can still come back and say "well sorry, I just believe in this" and there's bugger all you can do.

    Ahhh, releasing the pessimism felt good...
    January has April's showers
    And 2 and 2 always makes a 5

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