• Dawkins was speculating about ETs seeding Earth life. Clearly he was speculating – as an example. To say otherwise is to misquote (mis-edit). Misquoting is a sure sign of crankery. Ergo Stein is a crank.

    Apologetics does not gain by engaging in spin doctering. It is terrible that popular apologetics is TOO OFTEN dreadfully illogical – verging on dishonest.

  • David Coultous

    Dawkins’ comments need a background explanation, and a contextual one.

    the background:

    when William Dembski was trying to get his intelligent design ideas taught in school science lessons, he was accused of trying to teach religion in public schools (which i believe is illegal in America due to seperation of state and church). One of his replies was that he was not necesarrily saying that the designer was the Christian God. He said it could be intelligent aliens, for example.

    Dawkins, on other (prior and since) occasions has said, that although he doesn’t agree with any of the ID proposals the idea of intelligent alien designers is their best one, as theoretically this could be possible (note ‘possible’, not ‘plausible’) if intelligent creatures evolved in one place then decided to create life in some other place. He has gone on to explain that this, however, would not be an ultimate explanation, as you couldn’t invoke alien design ad infinitum; you’d need to start elsewhere at some point. Invoking hypothetical alien designers would simply defer the problem one iteration.

    Thus Dawkins is hypothetically speculating on a hypothetical idea raised by Dembski (and also tongue in cheek by Francis Crick).

    The context :

    For this interview, Dawkins was asked to be interviewed for a film (“Crossroads” was the working title I believe), that he was told was about the competing ideas of science and creationism on our origins.
    Thus when he was asked the question “What part may Intelligent Design have played in our origins?”, it wasn’t a case of him unilaterally proposing an idea that he thought may be plausible, but one of him once more stating that the intelligent alien design was the most likely (relatively) of the ID arguments. He was also trying to approach the question politely (as he has since explained), by not just dismissing the creationists outright [as he is wont to do, to be fair]; and giving what he felt was their best idea a fair shot in a hypothetical discussion.

    Now the filmakers may well have known about RD’s previous comments, I don’t know. What is clear is that they presented the interview in such a way as to suggest Dawkins was unilaterally proposing an alien design theory as a serious possibility (voiceover and everything). I’m sorry to say that this was simply dishonest.

    Arguing with the views Dawkins has is perfectly fine, but to misrepresent him is downright dishonest. I have to agree with Andrew that this sort of thing plagues apologetics. Quoting people out of context, misrepresenting people; and the bending of logic to fit predetermined conclusions.

    Now, I don’t think Dawkins is as polite as he should be at times whether dealing with creationists, or indeed with other scientists who have differing views to him – he doesn’t suffer ‘fools’ gladly as the saying goes, but I do think he is at least honest. I can’t say the same for these film makers, or indeed a lot of writers of apologetics.

    Its a shame actually, as I am interested in the views of those who wish to engage in these sort of discussions. Trying to find honest intelligent folk on “the other side”, so to speak, is a little difficult.

    [for what its worth, IMHO based in my limited experience with both, Bill Pratt is, I feel, an intelligent honest chap; but Wintery Knight is not – just my opinion, which could be wrong as I haven’t had that much discourse with either 🙂 ]

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi David,
    I understand where you’re coming from. However, I do have to say that I’ve been debating atheists and Darwinists for a few years now, and the idea that misrepresentation and quoting people out of context is somehow a one-sided affair with Christian apologists is not sustainable. You wouldn’t believe some of the mistruths and personal attacks that have occurred on my blog. I was just telling my wife the other day that I enjoyed very much discussing issues with you and Jason (in a thread on another post) because you are both so reasonable, intelligent, and courteous. I must say that, in my experience, you are the exception, however. Many of the anti-theists I engage with on the blog are extremely arrogant and condescending.

    I ultimately don’t know what the background of the Dawkins interview was. Here is what I do know. There are plenty of distortions that occur on all sides and my desire is to see all of it stop. It gets us nowhere. I have met a few Christian apologists have been unfairly attacked for so long that they have decided to return fire in a very un-Christian way. This is a tragedy, as their witness to the truths of Christianity is completely compromised when they do so.

    By the way, my interactions with Wintery Knight have been positive and I think he is a very sharp and honest individual. I’m not sure why you think him dishonest. Maybe you should give him another chance.

    Talk to you soon,

  • David Coultous

    Hi Bill,

    I’m under no illusions that misrepresentation and quoting people out of context is a one-sided affair. I am sorry if you have had bad experiences with people on your blog. There are certainly unpleasant and/or dishonest people on all sides of all debates.

    I agree there are distortions on all sides, and that this should stop. It doesn’t help anyone.

    Your description of christian apologists ‘firing back’ also applies to many of their opponents (Dawkins for example, would never have entered the debate on religion if not for the constant religious attacks on evolutionary biology). This excuses noone. An honest (and if at all possible civil) debate/discussion/whatever is what is wanted.

    As for Wintery Knight, perhaps I shouldn’t have shared my impression. You know him better than I, and have had more dealings with him. My impression, however, is based on some posts I have read on his site on, for example, climate change where he accuses the scientific establishment of fraud and dishonesty. This seems either paranoid or dishonest itself. The debate should be on the evidence, not made personal in this manner. There are honest folk on both sides of that debate (many who were on one side, and now on the other – why – because they are honest when faced with evidence).

    Also i have made a few posts to his site (reasonable non-confrontational ones) and they have not been posted. I realise it is his site, and he can do what he wishes, but I tend to have less respect for forums that are not open.

    Peace and Happy Christmas,


    P.S. I have just posted a strong (for me) posting on your blog on gay marriage. The strength of that post comes from pure bafflement. I genuinely cannot see how someone who seems intelligent, honest and reasonable can hold such views. I am sorry if I come over strong, but perhaps you can help me see your position. I guess there are many issues on which you and i disagree, but this one actually affects people’s lives directly, and thus (for me) is quite emotive.

  • WS

    Ben Stein and his “documentary” are about as credible as Anne Coulter’s writings.

  • I’m sure you’re dealings with Wintery Knight have been pleasant. I doubt you challenged anything he said.

    Wintery Knight routinely edits comments made on his blog to remove portions and change their meanings – without giving any notice to his readers that he has done so. This isn’t just “quoting out of context” – it is deliberate deception. (Do a google search for examples).

    Best wishes…

  • Bill Pratt

    I can’t really comment on what he does with his reader’s comments. On my blog, I don’t do anything with reader’s comments unless they start using personal attacks or using foul language. At that point, I don’t edit, I just delete.

  • Indeed any blogger has the right to delete or sometimes edit comments where necessary – but it’s pure dishonesty to edit without letting readers know about changes.

    I appreciate I am tilting at windmills here (Wintery Knight doesn’t care what he does coz he’s doing god’s work) but you can see how his edits work here.