Skip to comments.Richard Dawkins Writes About Human Responsibility In Light of Darwinian Evolution
Posted on 10/20/2006 8:52:20 PM PDT by SirLinksalot
Let's all stop beating Basil's car
Ask people why they support the death penalty or prolonged incarceration for serious crimes, and the reasons they give will usually involve retribution. There may be passing mention of deterrence or rehabilitation, but the surrounding rhetoric gives the game away. People want to kill a criminal as payback for the horrible things he did. Or they want to give "satisfaction' to the victims of the crime or their relatives. An especially warped and disgusting application of the flawed concept of retribution is Christian crucifixion as "atonement' for "sin'.
Retribution as a moral principle is incompatible with a scientific view of human behaviour. As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics. When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. We track down the problem and fix it, usually by replacing a damaged component, either in hardware or software.
Basil Fawlty, British television's hotelier from hell created by the immortal John Cleese, was at the end of his tether when his car broke down and wouldn't start. He gave it fair warning, counted to three, gave it one more chance, and then acted. "Right! I warned you. You've had this coming to you!" He got out of the car, seized a tree branch and set about thrashing the car within an inch of its life. Of course we laugh at his irrationality. Instead of beating the car, we would investigate the problem. Is the carburettor flooded? Are the sparking plugs or distributor points damp? Has it simply run out of gas? Why do we not react in the same way to a defective man: a murderer, say, or a rapist? Why don't we laugh at a judge who punishes a criminal, just as heartily as we laugh at Basil Fawlty? Or at King Xerxes who, in 480 BC, sentenced the rough sea to 300 lashes for wrecking his bridge of ships? Isn't the murderer or the rapist just a machine with a defective component? Or a defective upbringing? Defective education? Defective genes?
Concepts like blame and responsibility are bandied about freely where human wrongdoers are concerned. When a child robs an old lady, should we blame the child himself or his parents? Or his school? Negligent social workers? In a court of law, feeble-mindedness is an accepted defence, as is insanity. Diminished responsibility is argued by the defence lawyer, who may also try to absolve his client of blame by pointing to his unhappy childhood, abuse by his father, or even unpropitious genes (not, so far as I am aware, unpropitious planetary conjunctions, though it wouldn't surprise me).
But doesn't a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused's physiology, heredity and environment. Don't judicial hearings to decide questions of blame or diminished responsibility make as little sense for a faulty man as for a Fawlty car?
Why is it that we humans find it almost impossible to accept such conclusions? Why do we vent such visceral hatred on child murderers, or on thuggish vandals, when we should simply regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing? Presumably because mental constructs like blame and responsibility, indeed evil and good, are built into our brains by millennia of Darwinian evolution. Assigning blame and responsibility is an aspect of the useful fiction of intentional agents that we construct in our brains as a means of short-cutting a truer analysis of what is going on in the world in which we have to live. My dangerous idea is that we shall eventually grow out of all this and even learn to laugh at it, just as we laugh at Basil Fawlty when he beats his car. But I fear it is unlikely that I shall ever reach that level of enlightenment.
I cannot even read this drivel. He is a morally abhorrent man.
For more of Richard Dawkin's beliefs about human responsibility and free will, listen to his debate with Irish Catholic commentator and journalist, David Quinn here :
It is instructive to learn what Darwinian philosophy, taken to its ultimate conclusion, leads to.
I don't know, if I were to turn his logic in another way I could simply state that nature selected towards vengeance in our species, therefore vengeance obviously has utility. Therefore I can accept vengeance as a part of the justice system.
Mr. Dawkins spare me. When a mechanical contrivance I own becomes defective I stop using it. The same position taken with regard to criminals is that you take them out of society so they cannot re-offend.
Of course our legal system introduces debatable concepts such as rehabilitation, but in the end, we're taking them off the streets so they cannot offend for a period of time. Nothing more, nothing less.
Quinn gave Dawkins a good ole fashioned rhetorical arse kicking. I listened to that debate, if it was a boxing match the ref would have stopped it in the 6th round.
Richard Dawkins is interviewed by Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central's 'The Colbert Report.
Colbert has a lot of fun doing it too.
It is also available here :
And this guy is an Oxford don? Fascinating.
He is not opposed to the killing he is opposed in doing it on moral grounds. He hates God and anything and everything associated with God, such as morals.
In the New York Time's review of Dawkin's book -- THE GOD DELUSION, they hailed him as :
" a writer who "'understands the issues so clearly that he forces his reader to understand them too."' Recently awarded the distinction of "'public intellectual"' in Britain, Dawkins is Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.
When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. We track down the problem and fix it, usually by replacing a damaged component, either in hardware or software.
Ah, but when a machine is hazardously defective, we scrap it. The USAF just scrapped over $100 million in training planes because they had dodgy spin-recovery characteristics. If your car fails inspection, you may not register it to drive it on the public roads, and if it is not registered, many jurisdictions expect you to scrap it.
If a ladder or toy is hazardous, it is recalled from the market and destroyed.
So, if we accept that a criminal, pervert, or violent brute, is a "defective unit," the answer is obvious.
Criminal Number 18F
I don't know if Dawkins hates morals but he certainly can not logically justify their existence since he denies the concept of free will. How can morals exist in a strictly deterministic system? Answer, they can't and that is a conundrum for the deterministic materialists like Richard Dawkins.
He'll be wormfood in about 30-40 years, completely and utterly forgotten.
This stuff is just assumed to be true because...well, because evolution is "true," therefore concepts like personal responsibility and evil and good HAD to be the product of evolution. No need for proof; it just fits the unassailable theory of evolution...the only absolute that Dawkins believes in.
He's got a helluva good point! Someone who commits murder obviously has a broken brain. So, let's tie the b@%$#$d down and remove it --- we can just give him/her a new one when it is technologically feasible to do so...
And what if Darwin got it wrong? Dawkins life work is a complete waste.
Dawkins dispensed with God a long time ago. All of this mad spinning he does is an attempt to fill the vacuum. Truth be told, I bet Dawkins doesn't really believe most of it, but he's compelled to promote it because of the worldview he's adopted.
Well put. It's amazing how people who reject the absolutes of scripture end up trying to find alternative absolutes. The situational ethicist says, "There are no absolutes," which prompts me to ask, "Are you absolutely sure about that?"
Mr. Dawkins is attempting to make sure Darwinian Evolution survives himself.
Also so they cannot pass on their genes and culture, at least for a period of time. In Darwinian terms, jail is for fine tuning the human gene pool, war is for drastic adjustment.
Clearly, Dawkins is an anti religious bigot since he paints with a very wide brush.
I didn't like this guy when he hosted Family Feud.
I meant Richard, not Charles.
It's impossible for Dawkins to write a single sentence that doesn't drip with arrogant cocksureness. The profound lack of humility in the man makes him one of the most unappealing -- and unserious -- public intellectuals on the scene today.
And who gets to determine what constitutes human 'malfunction?' What function exactly are humans supposed to be performing, and why exactly are we supposed to place value on any particular ends?
These are questions to which atheism is incapable of giving an answer... though of course there are hordes of individual atheist-ideologues who think we should replace the ways that made this country prosperous with their particular vision of how to achieve an 'advanced society.'
Isn't the murderer or the rapist just a machine with a defective component? Or a defective upbringing? Defective education? Defective genes?
Incredibly disturbing. To Dawkins, every person is merely a soulless machine that invites tinkering when it meets Dawkins' own idea of "defective."
Probably because the crime the criminal committed renders joviality impossible to achieve. Hard to laugh when someone is lying dead in their grave.
Actually, it wasn't Moses who established the Death Penalty. It was God, recorded in Genesis 9...hundreds of years before Moses.
Why is it that we humans find it almost impossible to accept such conclusions? ... mental constructs like blame and responsibility, indeed evil and good ... But I fear it is unlikely that I shall ever reach that level of enlightenment.
Do you believe that within our lifetimes genetic scientists will be able to manipulate and modify both the physical characteristics and psychological behaviour of chimpanzes to more closely approximate humans?
If so, what will be the moral standing of a creature that shares certain capabilities with us, such as reading, writing & speech, but is still essentially ruled by the traits that make one successul in the jungle: namely, murder, theft & adultery?
You see, the time is quickly coming when genetic engineering will be quite commonplace, even mundane. Then we'll see the real effect of our moral code as we try to adapt & apply it to pets, slaves & others that are designed to perform functions to our benefit.
Dawkins has no real source of right and wrong..BUMP
When and only when Richard Dawkins can show me a car that has free will, only then I might accept that Man has none.
While I await the impossible, I will continue to consider Dawkins as an ass fully responsible for his own assihness.
("on the money", that is)
This guy is a piece of work. Now it was the *law* as given by Moses that set for the death penalty for specific law breaking. Christ said he came NOT to change one jot or tittle (Matthew 5:18) of the law that means the law is still in effect.The perfect whiff. Dawkins would appreciate the above, if he had the time and inclination to read it.