Richard Dawkins versus Mehdi Hasan: a confrontation about faith

I didn’t know much about this video save that it’s an interview of Richard Dawkins at the Oxford Union by an unnamed interlocutor [see below, he's Mehdi Hasan], and it appeared on YouTube about three weeks ago. Hasan turned out to be a pretty fundamentalist Muslim (he says at 14:35 that Mohamed ascended to heaven on a winged horse), is very aggressive, and asked Richard some tough questions. I don’t remember Dawkins being put on such a hot seat by a journalist! Richard looks taken aback at the beginning, but survived the grilling well and made some good points. It’s a pity that Richard didn’t get to ask the interviewer some questions!

Watch it to see some responses to the toughest questions that you’d ever be asked by believers. It covers a lot of ground and is definitely worth watching, even if you’re already familiar with Richard’s arguments against faith.

At 28:30 or so, Richard deals with the accusation that “science does bad stuff, too” and then addresses the “nonoverlapping magisteria” argument for the complementarity of science and religion. He then goes on to the question of “are things like love immune to empirical study”?

At 32:30, Richard discusses the question of whether there is any evidence that would convince him there’s a God. He once (like I still do) says “yes,” but now seems uncertain, arguing that evidence for God could be a conjuring trick. I say yes, it could be, but if the evidence is very strong one can provisionally accept the existence of a divine being. If you later find that it’s a trick, you can change your mind. That’s how science rolls.

After seeing this, I wrote to Richard asking who the inquisitor was and soliciting his own take on the interview. Richard responded, and I quote him with permission:

On Mehdi Hasan, listen to some of the following.

[JAC: it's only a few minutes long, but if you can't take the whole thing, Richard recommends listening to the "lachrymose last part." It's fricking amazing: the dude is insane.]

It gets more extreme as it goes along, so skip through it rather than trying to endure the whole thing. He seems to lead a kind of double life, because he is treated in Britain as a serious journalist by, for example, New Statesman, who employed him as their political editor, and Huffington Post employs him now. Presumably when they hired him, New Statesman didn’t know about his other life as as an emotional rabble-rouser. Or – actually this is distressingly plausible – they are so imbued with the culture that says religion excuses everything that they didn’t worry about it.

His interviewing manner with me was, of course, extremely confrontational, although he was friendly before and after. I had been invited to have a civilised conversation with him, which I had hoped to conduct along the lines of, for example, my conversations with the Bishop of Oxford or with Alister McGrath.

Instead, Hasan came armed with lots of notes, which consisted entirely of quotations from me, which he evidently regarded as discreditable, and he proceeded to confront me with them one after another. I was, as you say, taken aback by his tone and only woke up to what he was doing rather late. I had not come with notes of my own, but I finally gave him a little of his own medicine when I asked him whether he believed that Mohammed rode to heaven on a winged horse, and was amazed to discover that he does. This implies that heaven is a definite place, with spatial location, “up there”, such that you get to it using wings. Since he seems knowledgeable and not unintelligent, I can only conclude that this preposterous belief is a direct result of the mind-rotting influence of religion.

For more on Hasan’s lachrymose raving in the video above and his other odious actions, see this post at Harry’s Place.

h/t: video via John Loftus

115 Comments

  1. Kevin Alexander
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Show me a winged horse and I’ll believe.

    • Maverick
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      When someone tells me “Prove X didn’t happen” I like to respond “Prove you don’t owe me $1,000,000.”

      • Stan Pak
        Posted January 13, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

        I like this answer. It is good to force the brain cells of casual religiant to work.

    • krzysztof1
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      Here is where physics can be of help. Is a flying horse even POSSIBLE given the laws of physics? If a human can’t fly (pace Icarus), how much less would a wing-equipped horse be able to? Horses weigh between 900-1100 lb on average (not counting the rider). The largest animal to fly was a species of Quetzalcoatlus, but there seems to be no general agreement on its weight. The upper limit of current estimates of wingspan is about 36 feet [wikipedia]. The largest animals to take to the air these days mostly soar. I mean, it’s really just a hypothetical question, since there never has been a flying horse outside the imagination. And we all know that scientific arguments don’t cut any ice with the superstitious.

      • Posted January 13, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        It’s not a question of where he sits on it, it’s a question of weight ratios!

      • Alex Shuffell
        Posted January 13, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps the horse had a rotor like a helicopter.

      • Achrachno
        Posted January 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        Physics has no bearing because it’s a magical horse and it can do whatever the believer wants to imagine. Likewise the fact that horses with wings, or more than 4 limbs or any sort, are unknown to zoology is of no interest to the believer. Physics and zoology are not binding in fantasy.

        If he desires a magical horse to move his, probably equally imaginary, prophet up to heaven, then such a beast will exist in the believer’s mind. Besides, who knows what would happen to Hasan if he ever admitted that the story was obviously bunk?

        • NoAstronomer
          Posted January 13, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

          If it’s magical why does it need wings?

          Mike.

          • Achrachno
            Posted January 13, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

            They’re the special magical wings.

          • Marella
            Posted January 13, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

            The same reason angels need wings.

          • Timothy Hughbanks
            Posted January 13, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

            ’cause that’s whe it keeps the magic. Don’t you know anything?

          • Yiam Cross
            Posted January 13, 2013 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

            It’s a PR thing. God’s no fool, you know.

          • hankstar
            Posted January 13, 2013 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

            Exactly! Reindeer don’t need wings to fly, why did Mohammed’s horse?

            • Posted January 14, 2013 at 1:37 am | Permalink

              But reindeer do need mushrooms!

              /@

              • salahhe
                Posted January 16, 2013 at 4:19 am | Permalink

                If I think about it, mushrooms have their part when it comes to believing in flying horses.

      • Damian
        Posted January 13, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

        Dan Dennett discusses this, believe it or not, in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (p. 105) ;-).

      • Posted January 14, 2013 at 12:42 am | Permalink

        And isn’t there another issue, about air pressure? If heaven is higher than Mt Everest, they’d need oxygen.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:13 am | Permalink

      Pegasus.

      Hey, cool idea. ;)

  2. aspidoscelis
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    The short video needs subtitles…

    • Achrachno
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Yes, nearly incomprehensible. Though, I suspect subtitles would only help marginally. It’s probably all genuine nonsense.

    • Marella
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

      I couldn’t understand most of it either, but I didn’t try very hard since it was obviously all a bunch of self indulgent rubbish.

    • Yiam Cross
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      That’s pretty much the last thing it needs, what it really needs is to not exist.

  3. Posted January 13, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    what could be wrong with teh gentleman? why is he screaming, it is painful to listen to

  4. Bruce S. Springsteen
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Hasan made refererence to Dawkins’ winged horse query in his scattershot, sophomoric post-interview commentary on HuffPo.

    http://tinyurl.com/by5dyc8

  5. godsbelow
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I’m a regular New Statesman reader, but I tend to skip Hasan’s articles, particularly when they bear such titles as “God is the best answer to ‘Why is there something rather than nothing’ “. He’s an embarrassment to the magazine, and I have a strong suspicion that his position there owes more to tokenism than ability.

  6. Jeremy Nel
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I thought Richard did really, really well, actually!

    • John Perkins
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      I also thought Richard acquitted himself rather well, in the face of a very aggressive and unbelievably credulous Muslim. Mehdi Hasan was very selective in choosing questioners to suit his own twisted worldview.

  7. teacupoftheapocalypse
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Early in the piece, Mehdi Hasan claims that “science has also poisoned the environment.” Personally, I think that is much more that mankind’s industrial application of science has poisoned the environment because the main aim of industry is to achieve profit to the overall cost of the environment. without considering the broader consequences.

    I don’t think that religion is intrinsically evil, but that mankind’s application and interpretation of religious scripture has, and continues to be, used for evil ends, including, but by no means limited to, the spread of a particular doctrine to the cost of adherents of alternative beliefs or no belief.

    Evil would still exist if there were no religion, but religion provides a framework for its application, with “God told me to do it” used as the excuse. Science provides no such excuses, but the hunger for profit does, as seen in the rhetoric of climate change deniers.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      I think that one could argue that “religion is intrinsically evil” if you are careful to separate what is intrinsic to religion from what is not.

      When you get right down to it, what makes religion, religion is false or obscure fact claims which are based on special revelation, immune to common investigation, and protected by elitist justification. Whether this leads to good ends or bad, the method itself is a law unto itself. You can go anywhere and claim immunity. That’s intrinsically evil.

      • Posted January 13, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

        Agree. Richard made essentially that point; that religion isn’t evil, but faith is evil. (Could you have a religion without faith? It your definition is wide enough to embrace some naturalistic philosophies, I suppose so.)

        /@

  8. Posted January 13, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I thought Dawkins did a brilliant job. Excellent watch.

  9. Matt Bowman
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Excellent! Frankly, Hasan brought out the best in Dawkins. What an intro — “Remember 9/11? Was this religiously inspired terrorism?” Ya think? That dude is chronically blinded by faith. A winged horse! Say, what? And that sermon! Completely nuts! What a kook. Unfortunately I couldn’t really understand what he was crying and ranting about. Anyone clear on what the f— he was screaming?

    Btw Jerry, congrats on finishing the Bible! Ceiling Cat Have Mercy!

    • Marella
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

      This is clear evidence of the benevolence and power of Ceiling Cat, that he has given Jerry the strength to read the entire frigging Bible! This is obviously not achievable by a frail human without the aid of supernatural assistance.

  10. Veroxitatis
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    To the last questioner from the audience. – Sorry, I don’t see significant differences between Viking murders of priests on Iona and Lindisfarne and Henry V’s murder of the prisoners at Agincourt.

  11. Posted January 13, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Although I am a bit annoyed about how Dawkins answered the question “Why not let religion take a crack at questions that science can’t answer?” This is where a bit of philosophy can’t help. Rather than focusing on science, science, science (which is going to sound dogmatic and fundamentalistic to religious people), Dawkins should have focused on what it means for a belief to be justified in the first place. The reason science is such a magnificent engine for knowledge is precisely because of its epistemic requirement that beliefs about the universe be based on evidence. Religion fails for no other reason than because it rejects this requirement and replaces it with faith. So, it’s not a science vs. religion issue per se; it’s a justified belief (on basic evidentialist assumptions) vs. unjustified belief.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Most people who defend “faith,” however, would not define it as “belief without evidence.” They’re simply expanding on what counts as sufficient evidence — mostly, from what I can tell — by either making category errors, going backwards, or both.

      I think science is “a magnificent engine for knowledge”(great phrase!) not because it requires evidence per se, but because it requires objective evidence, that which can be examined by everyone. It seeks a very public sort of knowledge.

      Faith is all about justifying belief to a private group of insiders, one attuned to the import of subjective sorts of evidence.

      • Vaal
        Posted January 13, 2013 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

        “Most people who defend “faith,” however, would not define it as “belief without evidence.” They’re simply expanding on what counts as sufficient evidence”

        Exactly!

        If there is a single most prominent difference I see in how evidence is weighted by the religious vs the rational/scientific, it is the weight the religious give to their personal, subjective experience. The “I had an experience” aspect. This runs from the level of the pews up to the “Sophisticated Christian Thinker/Theologians” who will speak of mystical experiences of God. Lift the lid of the most heralded thinkers and debaters in Christianity, including current favorites like William L. Craig and Alvin Plantinga, and see how their defense is mere intellectual exercise. They readily admit their actual religious beliefs rest upon a trust in their own subjective interpretations of the Divine.
        In Craig’s case, he says his experience of the Holy Spirit renders all counter evidence impotent. Plantinga’s renationalisation of his own belief is codified in his “Properly Basic” perception of God.

        Where the reationalist/skeptic is at his most suspicious in the face of anecdotal/individual subjective experience, religion celebrates it. Quite a divide.

        Vaal

  12. Posted January 13, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    No matter the answer, do god exist or not, it will be given by science, not religion (if we can survive long enough as a species.

    • Achrachno
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Depending on one’s definition of the word “God” the answer may already be in.

  13. JeremyR
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    This was a public interview for Al Jazeera TV. It was challenging, and none the worse for that. Richard Dawkins did pretty well I thought, but was rightly taken to task for one or two rather extreme past statements, notably that being brought up a Catholic was a more serious form of child abuse than sexual assault (apparently on the basis of a single communication from someone who had suffered both). The smart thing to have done would have been to accept the point, as he had plenty of other powerful points to make.

    It’s not a very edifying tactic to attack the interviewer after the event though. The point made about the winged horse was a fair debating point – rather like mocking a Christian for believing in the virgin birth – but the shouty video is pretty unfair: if you see the title on youTube, it’s a re-telling of the Battle of Karbala, and he’s effectively acting in order to describe this pivotal event for Shia Muslims. Looking around the web, as a Shia, he’s probably more of a controversial figure for Sunni Muslims than for anyone else.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Why is it less edifying to point out Hasan’s extemism after the interview than for him to collect supposedly extremist statements of Dawkins and present them in the interview? After all, this was represented as a “conversation”, not a one-sided attack on Dawkins, so it seems perfectly fair to me to point out that in his spare time Hasan goes about raving like a lunatic about his faith.

      • JeremyR
        Posted January 13, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        Because this was an interview with Richard Dawkins. What’s the point of trying to discredit the interviewer, who put reasonable – if challenging – questions to him, to which for the most part he had good answers (though I agree with the comment about the multiverse, which has a stronger case than he presented)?

        Should we always try to dig the dirt on TV interviewers who challenge people we agree with? I don’t know much about Hasan, but it didn’t take much to reveal that the “raving like a lunatic” video was a performance, retelling a traditional story. It has nothing to do with the interview, which was about Richard Dawkins’ views, not Hasan’s.

    • Pray Hard
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

      I’ve heard Richard’s statements on abuse and I don’t think they’re extreme at all. Religion inoculates one with a poison that’s almost impossible to rid oneself of. Physical/sexual abuse can do the same thing, but it boils down to a matter of degree and or extent of abuse. Regardless, all abuse, mental, religious, emotional, physical, sexual, etc., is an insult to the self and has lasting effects.

    • Robin Brown
      Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:16 am | Permalink

      Dawkins never said that “being brought up a Catholic was a more serious form of child abuse than sexual assault”

      Only that some forms of religious indoctrination can be more damaging than some forms of sexual abuse, so we need to more nuanced in our thinking on the subject.

      The point he was making seems pretty accurate to me.

      • Posted January 14, 2013 at 4:39 am | Permalink

        But I don’t think even he makes the “some forms of” explicitly clear every time. He might also add “to some people” after “damaging”.

        /@

  14. Posted January 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I’m always impressed at how Dawkins manages to sit through interviews like that with such composure & speak with such eloquence – but I’ve ceased to be surprised by this as he’s done it time & again.

    My only quibble with him was when he seemed to say that the idea of the multiverse arose to try & explain apparent fine-tuning, when in fact the idea of the multiverse arose naturally out of the mathematics of quantum physics & it just so happens that it can explain that particular feature. That’s why so many physicists support the idea – it was an unanticipated solution to a problem & there is an active search for evidence supporting it.

    • Alex Shuffell
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      He had the opposite opinion when he was talking with Steven Weinberg which is worth watching. I can’t be more specific to where they talk about the multi-verse, but it’s Steven Weinberg and Richard Dawkins, you’ll watch the whole thing anyway.

      • Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:01 am | Permalink

        Of course I will! I watched the first part, don’t have time for the others yet but I’ve marked them to watch later – thanks for the link :)

    • Posted January 13, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure that he was saying that that’s the origin of the theory; he says, “the multiverse theory is used in this context to explain” the fine-tuning problem (which, vide Victor Stenger, might not be a problem anyway).

      For an evolutionary biologist, his grasp of cosmology isn’t bad.

      But he flubbed it when he was too kind on Paul Davies, which left him vulnerable, I think.

      /@

      • Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:02 am | Permalink

        Ah, perhaps I just misunderstood him then!

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:13 am | Permalink

        Davies is a typical Anglican, I don’t think he’s evil as such; pointing out that PD prefers to see a mystery at the origin of the universe is an accurate enough summary (and dismissal).

        • Posted January 14, 2013 at 4:36 am | Permalink

          Hmm… I think Dawkins implied that seeing something mysterious in the origin of the universe was a valid cosmological view (wrong!), rather than just a valid view of a person who is a physicist.

          /@

  15. grasshoppa
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Per the ‘Winged Horse”; What was the strain of the mare He, who is to be venerated and was partial to The Five, ascended upon into the Heavens? It is assumed ‘it’ was a ‘she’ for the male of the specicies was seldom ridden for he tended to snort when a fine filly came into view – and who could blame him? Being partial to the Sagwaliyah Jedraniyah Ibn Sudan – was it she? Not that a Dahman Sahyaniyah is any thing to sniff at. Please advise.

    • Marella
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      Not only was it a ‘she’ it actually had the face of a woman! Magic horse is magic.

      Google images of ‘Buraq’.

  16. Posted January 13, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Well of course there are winged horses. They are responsible for the jet stream. Duh.

    • Florian
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      And chemtrails.

      -Florian

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 14, 2013 at 12:26 am | Permalink

      Groaannn!

  17. Damian
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    “Mr Mehdi Hasan, biographer of Labour leader Ed Miliband, can be found on YouTube saying as follows: ‘The kuffar, the disbelievers, the atheists who remain deaf and stubborn to the teachings of Islam, the rational message of the Koran; they are described in the Koran as “a people of no intelligence”, Allah describes them as not of no morality, not as people of no belief – people of “no intelligence” – because they’re incapable of the intellectual effort it requires to shake off those blind prejudices, to shake off those easy assumptions about this world, about the existence of God. In this respect, the Koran describes the atheists as “cattle”, as cattle of those who grow the crops and do not stop and wonder about this world.’

    On a separate occasion, jabbing his finger as he speaks with some force, Mr Hasan is recorded as saying: ‘Once we lose the moral high-ground we are no different from the rest of the non-Muslims; from the rest of those human beings who live their lives as animals, bending any rule to fulfil any desire.’”

    http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2012/08/am-i-an-animal-a-cow-or-just-another-victim-of-bbc-bias.html

    • NoAstronomer
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      Muslims lost the moral high-ground quite some time ago.

      “…bending any rule to fulfil any desire.”

      LMAO.

      Mike.

    • JeremyR
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      While Hasan’s views are indeed illiberal, so are those of Peter Hitchens (the late Christopher’s brother) who you’re quoting here. I’ve never bought “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” argument. Peter H is the epitome of the obnoxious views of the Daily Mail. He has an agenda…

      In any case, Hasan’s views were not the subject of the the original interview. Richard Dawkins’ views were.

  18. Damian
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Here’s that Youtube video:

    • exsumper
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      Moo

    • Posted January 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      This seems like a version of the Christian criticism of non-beleivers as fools, and swine etc.

    • guilherme21msa
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      In other words the Quran says disbelievers are silly and ugly and smelly, lalalala.

      Rational arguments from the book that says Mo went to Heaven on a flying horse?

      Let’s just pretend flying horses are real. Heaven would have to be less then 5,000 meters above sea level, because horses can’t breathe in the rarified air above that height.

      To make matters worse, if Heaven is beyond space and time, then Mo would have to fly beyond the edge of the visible Universe, which is calculated to be 20 billion lighte years away from Earth, in any direction.

      That would be a very long trip.

      • Yiam Cross
        Posted January 13, 2013 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

        Magic horse, remember it can fly in spite of the laws of physics and biology. So it can breath in space, surely, and probably has a warp drive up its jacksy so heaven could be many light years away at warp factor whatever.

        Oh, religion, what would we laugh about if not for thee? Something that was actually funny without being terrifying at the same time, I think.

  19. Jeannette
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I had watched this interview on YouTube days ago and didn’t think twice about Dr. Dawkins’ performance. I thought he handled the interview in a thoughtful way and the interviewer made a few good points.

  20. Mateus
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    “Societies without faith haven’t fared much better” *shows Nazi Germany*

    I think someone needs to study history.

    • Posted January 13, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      Oh good, I’m glad someone else noticed that. The narration didn’t even mention Nazi Germany, though, so I get the feeling the production team was trying to sneak it in without being explicitly dishonest–while still creating that visual association in viewers’ minds.

  21. Chris Quartly
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen so many squirms when people are asked if the penalty for apostasy in Islam is death, the interviewer denied it outright. Is it or not?

    • Damian
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      According to all major schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and the vast majority of Muslim scholars today, yes, the punishment for apostasy from Islam is death (followed, of course, by eternal torture and torment in hell-fire, described very graphically throughout the Qur’an).

      If you want to read a short guide to this I recommend Patrick Sookhdeo’s *Freedom to Believe: Challenging Islam’s Apostasy Law* (which you can find selling on Amazon Marketplace for a few pounds/dollars, including postage).

      An extremely well-researched and up-to-date account of how Islamic apostasy and blasphemy laws are (as the subtitle has it) “choking freedom worldwide” is Paul Marshall and Nina Shea’s book *Silenced*. This is more expensive, but I very highly recommend it.

    • Damian
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      Do you remember whereabouts on the video Dawkins asks him this (I don’t have the patience to listen to the whole thing, frankly)?

      • Chris Quartly
        Posted January 13, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

        37 minutes, I was pretty sure the penalty was death so was slightly surprised to see him dismiss it outright.

        • Damian
          Posted January 14, 2013 at 6:27 am | Permalink

          Thanks. It’s a real shame that Dawkins hasn’t bothered to look into this, given that he tends to asks this question of Muslims. Hasan has no doubt seen the clips on Youtube where he does this, so was prepared for it. Hasan, good sophist/casuist that he is, claims that it’s not in the Qur’an, and because Dawkins is ignorant about the matter has no choice but to just concede the point, as if to say “well, if it’s not in the Qur’an, it can’t be part of Islam I guess; I’ll have to take your word for it”. But if Dawkins had bothered to learn a little about Islam he would have been in a much better position to respond (both to this and to the question about whether Allah is as bad as Yahweh: though he might have dodged this latter question anyway for fear of death threats). What Hasan does not let on is that the story about Muhammad flying on a winged horse doesn’t appear in the Qur’an either, and that most of traditional Islamic law does not come from the Qur’an, but from the ahadith, and there is no doubt that there is a consensus amongst all major schools of Islamic jurisprudence that those hadith in which Muhammad states that apostates must be executed are authentic. There is also no doubt that that the vast majority of so-called “Islamic scholars” (not just “some”, as Hasan says) take this view, typically comparing apostasy to High Treason against Allah and the entire Ummah (i.e. it’s about as serious a charge as there is in Islam). Moreover, if you look into the polls that have been done (I can provide links to very extensive Pew polls for example), the vast majority of e.g. Egyptians and Pakistanis (something like 85-90%) believe that apostates should be killed. How odd that they think that given that it’s not in the Qur’an and only “some” scholars maintain this eh? Anyway, I hope that Dawkins finds time to educate himself about this (it wouldn’t take more than a few hours: the books I mention above are a good place to start) before he puts this question to Muslims in future debates.

          • John Scanlon, FCD
            Posted January 14, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

            …Dawkins is ignorant about the matter… But if Dawkins had bothered to learn a little about Islam…

            Dawkins has used this line and got the expected answer many, many times, so there’s no reason to think he’s at all ignorant about it. I presume he has no actual interest in spending his time memorising or arguing the contents of the Koran vs Hadith vs a million fatwas, but getting an opponent to admit they believe obviously crazy stuff (like flying horses, instant paradise for martyrs, creation in six days, and death to all apostates) is an opportunity too good to pass up.

            • Damian
              Posted January 14, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

              I guess it depends what you think is important, John. I think one of the the greatest problems with Islam is that more than a billion people have been taught from a young age that if they dare to think for themselves they deserve to be executed and then tortured without rest for all eternity. I think that exposing this fact, and drawing the world’s attention to the fact that hundreds of millions of people today live with the very real threat of being killed if they exercise rights that we take for granted (i.e. freedom of belief, conscience and expression), is a hugely important thing to do.

              You, on the other hand, seem to think that it’s more important that we find opportunities to make fun of people who have been taught to believe that Muhammad rode on a flying horse.

              • John Scanlon, FCD
                Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

                Or perhaps I don’t have the patience to spend more time than necessary listening to people who pretend to believe obviously false and incoherent claims, or expect others to.

  22. Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    “science does bad stuff, too”

    I never understand why people think that that is an intelligent thing to say. Science is just a tool. Sure you can use a hammer to knock somebody’s brain out, but you can also use it to build a house. The hammer isn’t forcing you to do the first thing, nor is the information on how to build a nuclear bomb forcing you to build it, much less use it.

    • palefury
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

      Exactly – I wish the Richard had said this.

  23. Posted January 13, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    §

  24. Brian
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I think there is a certain irrationality and even sophistry in asking about the horrible things done by science such as making horrible weapons and then immediately afterwards asking about NOMA. For one thing, to think that science should be criticized for doing horrible things suggests that science something substantial in the moral domain. If nothing else, science has moral responsibility and we should be concerned with the actions induced by science. Moreover, I think asking about the horrible things done by science suggests that science itself does horrible things, arguably suggests that science does prescribe morality in some form. As if science told people to make horrible weapons in the first place. One of the reasons we are concerned about the horrible things done by religions is precisely because religions are in the business of prescribing morality. Religions prescribe some actions as good that many find otherwise morally objectionable and offer rewards. Moreover, if the Catholic Church prescribes sexual morality, then it’s troubling when young boys are molested by Catholic priests. We expect religions not to do bad things because they tell us what’s good and bad. Science to my knowledge doesn’t do this. This concern over the crimes of science suggests that science and religion both occupy the moral domain, contrary to NOMA.

    I think this is sophistry. No religion-friendly person is carefully thinking through whether their overall evaluation of science and religion theoretically logically consistent, rather they are just making whatever argument they can to defend religion and portray science/atheism as if nothing else equally good and bad. Whatever argument defends the faith will do.

  25. Chance
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Is it just me or did this interview video seem to undergo some heavier than usual editing?

  26. Posted January 13, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Intriguing.

    So, you would believe in a ‘god?’

    What would that ‘god’ look like?

    regards

    ghost.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      “God” is supposed to be invisible, but its existence inferred by indirect evidence. Like ESP. One could, in theory, believe in the existence of ESP.

      • Posted January 13, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

        I knew you were going to say that!

        /@

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted January 14, 2013 at 2:59 am | Permalink

          And I knew you were going to say that, but it had nothing to do with ESP!

          • Posted January 14, 2013 at 4:33 am | Permalink

            Oh, I think most “real” ESP experiences are exactly what you just had.

            /@

  27. Posted January 13, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on thewordpressghost and commented:
    Intriguing.

    An agnostic atheist stated he would believe in god.

    I wonder what would that ‘god’ look like?

    What would that ‘god’ tell us?

    What would that ‘religion’ behave like?

    Would ‘science’ accept or denounce the scientist? Would ‘science’ accept or denounce this ‘god?’

    This opens up a new realm of dialogue?

    Is there a common ground between science and religion? Is that common ground ‘new’ or is it an older common ground that is now being recognized again?

    Can that acceptance be extended to Jesus Christ? Would all religions be considered equal. Or, would the acceptance only extend to certain religions? How would the contradictory truth claims of some religions be handled?

    Muslims claim Jesus is not God; Christians believe Jesus is God; and Mormons believe Jesus is only one of many ‘gods.’ Would we resolve this? Or, would we just accept all religions?

    I am intrigued.

    Would evolution still be the dominant ‘scientific’ standard, or would other dogmas become the new standards?

    what do you think?

    ghost.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      I think the answers to your questions would depend on specifics that have not been specified. Scientists don’t just speculate: they try to test their speculations and rule them out against alternatives.

      • Posted January 13, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        Sastra, I am not certain I understand your statement(s). However, I asked about them over on my blog …. It could get confusing for readers to ‘head hop’ back and forth between conversations.

  28. guilherme21msa
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    The accusation that science has done bad things is the easiest one to deal with: religion tells people to do things, science doesn’t. The people who use science to do bad things do it of their own will, they don’t do it because science told them to do it, just like the people who use fire to burn people alive do it out of their own will, they don’t do it because fire told them to do it. Fire is a tool and so is science.
    Religion is an ideology. Saying that religion is not responsible is like saying that nazism had nothing to do with the crimes of Joseph Mengele or that communism had nothing to do with the crimes of Joseph Stalin.

  29. Jim Bradley
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the video. It was fantastic and I thought Richard, despite the confrontational tone, did a great job answering tough questions which are less frequently asked in a public forum.

  30. Posted January 13, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    And Dawkins dissed de Botton. Yay!

    /@

  31. gravelinspector
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    That “speech” by the Hasan humanoid … I could hear a few English words in there … but was the point that he was “speaking in tongues” or something. Because it was almost completely devoid of comprehensible content. There was something about people who live in Medina, but beyond that … completely incomprehensible.
    I hope I do better than that at tomorrow’s eulogy.
    Following the link to “HurryUpHarry” (A reference to Sham 69?) I apparently now know what the subject of the Hasan speech was. Though I remain unclear as to what language or languages the rant was intended to be in. Complete communication fail£$”^%%&$$ CARRIER LOST

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:20 am | Permalink

      I watched the video for just over a minute, I started laughing in disbelief and derision after about ten seconds. I’d had enough after a minute of it. Someone should quietly take the guy aside and feed him some tranquillisers. About a bottle full should do it…

  32. Stephen Barnard
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    I thought the interview was fair and civil — and tough. Dawkins would have gotten much worse from a typically ignorant and raving, know-nothing Christian evangelist. The winged horse thing is ridiculous, of course.

    Also, I think it’s a lttle unfair to post the video of the interviewer in a out-of-context spiritual rapture. That’s what he believes. He doesn’t deny it (e.g., winged horse).

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

      My point is that the interview should stand on its own. Dawkins gave as good as he got.

      • dazana blake
        Posted July 6, 2014 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        Rubbish! The interviewer was acting liking a bully and almost trying to force Dawkins to say that religion is great, particularly Islam of course. Dawkins said he believes in the truth which Islam clearly aint.

  33. swences2003
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Although some of the questions were a bit aggressive, I rather enjoyed the discussion/interview.

    It’s definitely better than having Richard Dawkins asked softly-pitched questions and agreement all around, with no follow up questions.

    And for the most part, the interviewer actually allowed Dawkins ample time to answer.

    The only thing I found annoying was the intro, when he’s talking about societies without faith and there is old black and white video of Hitler and the Nazi symbol….I mean, hasn’t this been dispelled enough times already?! His insistence that Stalinism was motivated by atheism is equally distressing….there just isn’t some logical connection between, “I am an atheist” and therefore, “I must persecute all religious people”.

    I’m so glad Dawkins is still capable of having lively discussions and able to respond in a quick, and usually witty manner, to sometimes incredibly infuriating questions or suggestions.

  34. Pray Hard
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    I saw this “interview” two or three weeks ago. It was little more than a staged event for the rantings of the interviewer. It was painful, but Richard, as always, came across as the most civilized person in the room. In contrast to the perception of a poster or two, the questions seemed to me to be the same old garbage we’ve heard hundreds of times when the religious ask Richard questions. They seem to not be able to step out of the same-old-stupid-questions box. But, then, there’s just not much originality to be had with wingnuts. I’ve seen Richard handle an imam or two, also, when they start spewing their seventh century blood lust fantasies. Really, why shouldn’t this interviewer be ridiculed and so what if he believes it? It’s still basically mental illness. I much prefer to see Richard in conversation with other scientists and or philosophers.

  35. Posted January 13, 2013 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Potent!

  36. Ahmet
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Dawkins shouldn’t have conceded on the question whether the guy was abusing his kid for teaching them about Islam. Dawkins should have responded with: do you teach that they will burn in hell if they lose their faith ? The guy would have responded with a yes and and that should be an easy invite for dawkins to wholeheartedly affirm that he is abusing his child.

  37. Posted January 14, 2013 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    How is it possible that seemingly rational and educated people like Mr.Hasan believe obviously false, ethereal things about a winged-horse who flew to heaven carrying the great epileptic prophet on his back? The fact of the matter is that religion poisons everything. Intellectual dishonesty is triggered by faith. What is even more alarming, is the fact that Mr.Hasan (as any other true believer) seems perfectly convinced of his superior rationality. Thus, rational argument and logic won’t cut it for him. He lives more in the realm of emotions and imagination than in the world of reason, natural laws and cause-effect transactions. Unfortunately sometimes these two worlds overlap. This is why, in spite of (or maybe because of) his internal schizophrenia – he can make a decent living. As a well-outspoken journalist on the one hand and as a fundamentalist fanatic on the other. The great tragicomedy of life is that it is not consistent.

  38. Roux Brownwell
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    “Burn the witches!”
    “We can’t burn the witches; we haven’t discovered fire yet.”
    “Then stone the witches!”

  39. Me
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    This guy was really rude to Richard. I felt turned off very quickly. He isn’t going to change his mind..He just became defensive because Richard hit a nerve and life teaches you that when you don’t want to challenge your world view and you fear something, YOU HATE IT and the interviewed sure does hate Dawkins.

    • Damian
      Posted January 14, 2013 at 6:03 am | Permalink

      He not only hates him, along with all the “kuffar” (pejorative term for non-Muslims that he uses when comparing atheists to cattle in the video above: according to the Qur’an we are “the lowliest of all creatures in the eyes of Allah”), but he thinks he (and the other five billion of us who do not believe in flying horses) deserve to be tortured n the most cruel ways imaginable for all eternity without rest. What a nice man. Clearly he has the moral high-ground when it comes to debating those with “no intelligence” who are unable to make the “intellectual effort” to blindly believe whatever the Qur’an says, like Dawkins.

  40. marycanada FCD
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Time to push for a more extreme form of secularism.

  41. DV
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    The convenient thing about Mohammed flying to heaven on a winged horse is that it is a perfectly inconsequential statement to declare belief on. It is a safe belief. Religious people can confidently declare belief in nonsense like this because they know they can’t be challenged. It’s just a matter of their word.

    I’d like to see a believer in Jesus say he believes it when Jesus said the signs of a believer is taking poison and handling snakes. That is a belief that has consequence.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      I disagree. The function of taking the flying horse as an article of faith is as a (potentially) costly signal of utter credulousness that labels the believer as belonging to the ingroup of believers. After hearing such a claim, nobody who didn’t also believe in it would take their word that coal is black or sand is gritty. In a mercantile culture, a fanatical adherence to trivial untruth does not encourage confidence in general honesty or reliability, so there are real consequences in dealing with anyone not similarly afflicted.

  42. Vaal
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Mehdi Hasan was very canny, asking some tough questions, and even when they weren’t tough, always phrasing his questions for maximum rhetorical impact.
    I’m sure like everyone else watching the answers to Mehdi Hasan’s questions kept popping into our minds. But it’s easy to be a sofa-sitting quarterback. Prof. Dawkins handled the interview quite well.

    One thing that doesn’t quite sit well with me these days is the argument offered by Prof. Dawkins that ended in his conclusion: “Religion is evil because it can make you do evil things, believing that they are good.”

    Essentially this is a riff on the “but for good people to do evil, it takes religion.”

    This may sound good superficially, but I think it’s not terribly defensible in the long run: Doing “evil” or terrible things is endemic to humanity and obviously non-religious people have done many terrible things as well. Non-religious people doing bad things are no more likely to see themselves as villains, doing evil, than are religious people. Just trying to reason (and not always doing it well) in the normal mix of bias and emotions can lead people to do to evil things, thinking they are doing the “right thing.” It’s a ubiquitous liability of being human and it doesn’t take religion.

    Of course I think religious faith and religious morality needs to be heavily criticized and I agree mostly with Prof. Dawkins’ criticisms. But this one needs tweaking, it seems to me.

    Vaal

  43. revjimbob
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    That sermon is disgusting behaviour from a grown man.

  44. ArizonaJones
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    It’s one thing to believe in Santa Claus when
    one is a child. It’s something else to believe in Santa Claus when one is an adult. If Mr. Hasan believes winged horses can fly to heaven, it means he doesn’t care if what he believes is true or not. And it’s problematic if he’s teaching his children not to care if what they believe is true or not.

  45. Posted January 14, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    Mehdi did engage in some probing, confrontational questioning, but I would not hold that against him. He was simply asking the kind of questions and putting forth the kinds of arguments many religious people would regard as atheist smackdowns. In the face of some aggressive questioning Richard did an admirable job, he was the true professor, reasoned and measured in his responses. Still there were times when I longed to hear Hitch’s voice (sometimes you need a street fighter rather than a polite professor — remember when Hitch told Sean Hannity that if you gave Jerry Fallwell an enema you could bury him in a matchbox?).

    And yes, Mehdi is a bit of a chameleon judging from the short sound clip of him losing his mind.

  46. dazana blake
    Posted July 6, 2014 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Mehdi Hasan is very aggressive and is trying to force Dawkins to say that some religions don’t cause war and hatred.You can see that hes a fundamentalist Muslim and a BULLY.I feel terrible for this man.

  47. dazana blake
    Posted July 6, 2014 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    I don’t like what Dawkins said about being abused by a priest not being worse than telling children about hell. The Moslems continuously preach that if you don’t listen to Allah, youll go to hell. That’s a major tactic used by Islam to scare the masses. Dawkins should have referred to Islam to make that point. Nothing is worse than ABUSE OF CHILDREN,Richard, as it ruins their life FOREVER. Please think about these matters carefully before you say such nonsense.


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