In what could be the most awkward episode of the “Factor” since Stephen Colbert joined Bill, tonight Bill brings Richard Dawkins on the show.
Dawkins is an atheist and well spoken genius. Whether you agree with his positions on religion or not, the guy is smart and argues his points well.
I imagine O’Reilly views Dawkins as the king of an O’Reilly defined group he calls, “secular progressives.” I think this means people who have progressive views, like universal health care, education, and diplomacy before war, and do so without a religious justification for their views. O’Reilly hates that kind of thing.
Two new anti-death penalty takes (at least for me).
I’ve heard two takes today on why Saddam Hussein would be more valuable to the world alive today than dead. The first was from Christopher Hitchens being interviews on Laura Ingraham’s radio show where he said Saddam could have provided information on where missing Iraqi family members have been buried. Makes sense. But he also may have revealed some of America’s skeletons from the years when Saddam was a friend. Such a good friend that we provided him with satellite photos that may have helped him drop poison gas on Kurds and Iranians.
And the second comes from Richard Dawkins , who thinks historians and psychologists would have learned a lot about what makes dictator’s tick:
“Political scientists of the future, studying the processes by which unscrupulous leaders arise and take over national institutions, have now lost key evidence forever. But perhaps the most important research in which a living Saddam Hussein could have helped is psychological. Most people can’t even come close to understanding how any man could be so cruel as Hitler or Saddam Hussein, or how such transparently evil monsters could secure sufficient support to take over an entire country. What were the formative influences on these men? Was it something in their childhood that turned them bad? In their genes? In their testosterone levels? Could the danger have been nipped in the bud by an alert psychiatrist before it was too late? How would Hitler, or Saddam Hussein have responded to a different style of education? We don’t have a clear answer to these questions. We need to do the research.“
Makes sense to me. If we want to help prevent evil dictators in the future, studying today’s evil dictators in captivity may help determine what motivates them and what could be done to stop them.
BTW, Laura Ingraham, for those of you who don’t listen to right-wing radio, is the author of Shut up and Sing, a Dixie Chicks and Hollywood bashing book. Going on almost four years after Natalie Maines spoke up about her lack of support for George W. Bush on the eve the Iraq war, Ingraham continues to try to think having an opinion is un-American while starting a war based on false pretenses leading to the deaths of thousands in somehow patriotic.
Ironically, Atheism is a hot top this Christmas with best sellers like Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” and Sam Harris’ “Letter to a Christian Nation” on the scene. I haven’t read either of them yet, but just finished a very interesting exchange of letters between Sam Harris and Judeo-Christian talk show host, Dennis Prager. Prager’s on AM 1280 – The Patriot in Minneapolis, and has been mentioned before on The Deets as the guy who think Keith Ellison shouldn’t be able to take his congressional oath on the Qur’an.
The two writers correspond once a day for four days with their best arguments for their own beliefs / against the other author’s beliefs. I really like the format of the debate, since it gives both sides time to create well-reasoned arguments, unlike the polar opposite format of the now-defunct Crossfire show from CNN.
While the two never meet on whether a God exists, Sam Harris admits that there may be some value in believing in God. For example, if being a believer makes you a more moral person, believing has some benefits. However, there are also believers who use their beliefs to justify outrageous behavior up through genocide, so not all belief is a good thing. On the positive side, Harris uses the term “useful delusions” to describe the value that comes from belief. I believe Jesse Ventura called this “a crutch.”
There is one thing I’m certain about: I believe that many people are true believers.