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The Dawkins-Dembski Briefwechsel II — “Blasphemy is a Victimless Crime”

arroba Email

Richard Dawkins continues to publish my past emails to him without permission and I continue to return the favor. The following correspondence is current and remarkable. The subject hearder “Blasphemy is a Victimless Crime” is Dawkins’s. I’ve omitted the portions of our correspondence not relevant to this theme.

Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2006 09:35:39 -0600
To: Richard Dawkins
From: “William A. Dembski”
Subject: Re: Blasphemy is a Victimless Crime

Dear Prof. Dawkins,

Your response below regarding The Blasphemy Challenge (http://blasphemychallenge.com) is predictable, though thank you for being so forthright in endorsing it. Question: Would you be willing to go further and endorse expanding The Blasphemy Challenge to include blaspheming the God of Islam, encouraging young people in the Muslim world to put themselves on YouTube and say something along the lines of renouncing the God of Mohammed and stating clearly that Mohammed is not God’s prophet since there is no God? I’m sure you could come up with a suitable gift to entice young former Muslims, like a coffeetable book of the recent Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed. Are you an equal opportunity atheist or do you simply go after the Christian God because we tolerate your antics?


Best wishes,
Bill Dembski

At 04:59 AM 12/20/2006, Richard Dawkins wrote:

On 20 Dec 2006, at 01:40, William A. Dembski wrote:

Dear Prof. Dawkins,

You didn’t answer the obvious question: Do you personally endorse the blasphemy challenge [[http://www.blasphemychallenge.com]]? Do you find it offensive? May I quote you that you don’t endorse the blasphemy challenge and find it positively offensive?

I had not given the Blasphemy Challenge any thought until you called it to my attention. Now that you have done so, I do not seem to feel strongly one way or the other. As that admirable bumper sticker has it, Blasphemy is a Victimless Crime. So, am I going to send in my own film clip denying the Holy Ghost? No, that is not what Oxford professors do, they write books instead. Do I find it offensive that so many young people are sending in their film clips? No. I hadn’t listened to any of them before you raised the matter. I have now done so, and I must say I find them more charming than offensive. They mostly seem rather nice young people, and they are doing their bit, in their own lively and entertaining way, to raise consciousness and set an example to their peers. I am especially pleased to note how young they are, for organized atheists have, until recently, been noticeably and discouragingly grey-headed. I think we may be witnessing the beginnings of a shift in the tectonic plates of our Zeitgeist. I am delighted to see so many young Americans taking part, in a way that suits their age group better than mine or yours.


Richard Dawkins


[...] A year or so ago, when Richard Dawkins’s website posted a blasphemy challenge (reported at UD here — the challenge urged people to post a YouTube video of themselves blaspheming the Holy [...] Theistic Evolutionists Close Ranks — Let the Bloodletting Begin! | Uncommon Descent
Sladjo, From the YEC Bible pov, aging goes downward from the beginning from a peak of 900 years to below 120 after Noah. The acumulative effect causing shorter lifespan, more damage, more disease, while we're discovering how to fight it, live longer. A good example would be the Wnt signal switch turned off in chickens. Instead of the evolution story of novel forms most bountiful, it indicates a widning down, not a winding up. At least, that's how I'd see it from a YEC perspective. Michaels7
trystero57, thanks. Those crazy American kids. Funny, how he missed the point. tribune7
Has anyone deleted an intepid's post ?... Yes. All of them. Sladjo
Intepid, Re: Nihilism - I don't really have anything to say about that, other than the idea that nihilism in atheists being the fault of christians is.. well, I'll just say I don't think you're serious, and leave it at that. As for armageddon - I absolutely agree that many christians accept it as part of their faith. I'd go so far as to say that many have a fascination with it; it is a pretty singular 'event'. But I disagree with the assertion that most, or even very many look forward to it. On the other hand, atheist worldviews do run the gamut from Eric Pianka enthusiasm for humanity's downfall to Peter Singer equating of humanity with animals to simple nihilistic apathy. Which is in the majority? Hard to tell - but atheists don't speak with a unified or near-unified voice of peace and hope on the issue. On materialistic determinism - Dawkins has addressed this directly. It's a pretty simple claim, sure, but it's one that naturally follows. The man does not believe in free will in any real sense of the word, just as Dennett does not believe that consciousness is itself a very meaningful concept at its core. Free will in theism is another matter - but again, the point is that there is anything but a united voice of atheism on the glory of man's individual freedom and capability. You don't need to be a calvinist to be a determinist. As for magic books and the idea that nothing is sacred: Sorry, but neither claim really advances much. Marx and those like him did believe in a higher power - they made prophecies, they had strong and unwavering beliefs about the nature and future of man, and they believed destiny would vindicate them. Mao's little red book and Marx's manifesto may have since fallen out of fashion - but that means nothing. They were sacred, they required faith - and they proved that the source of irrationality and zealotry in man is not in a belief in God. This is the most important lesson of the 20th century, and one many - Dawkins included - are desperate to resist. Finally - as stated before, I disagree with the claim that 'to atheists, nothing is sacred'. A thing does not need to be rooted in religion to be sacred - again, Marx and the fascists both illustrated this. As for disliking christians and christianity - Dawkins certainly has one heck of a grudge against them directly. For many atheists - especially online - it's important to blaspheme, mock, and be actively antagonistic. nullasalus
"You know a whole lot of American kids watch South Park. I wonder if Professor Dawkins ever got the chance to catch it? " Yes, he comments on it briefly here: http://richarddawkins.net/tourJournal#11 trystero57
Obviously I refer to no particular Bible passage, this was picking up on the original idea of the YouTube project, that denying/blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the one unforgivable sin . . . The YouTube project is run by atheists. They clearly don't understand scripture or blasphemy, something that has been pointed out on numerous posts on this board. Concerning crimes against children consider Mark 9:42. tribune7
"In my case it’s because the people in charge of making laws and starting wars believe in an invisible deity, and rather alarmingly this belief informs their decision making." Do you mean that the majority of wars were generated by religious hatred ?... In this case I believe you're wrong... Let's take - for example - the last two largest wars in history, WWI & WWII... Is there any religiously based cause for the start of those wars ? Categorically not! And there are a lot of other examples. For instance, I live in Romania... I know very well the Balkan history and our troubles with the Turks and all the 500 years period of fighting them... Even it was a clash between two civilizations and - someone may say - two religions, I strongly believe that the wars within that 500 years period of time were motivated, also, by something else: lust for power and dominance, with the deep roots in materialism. You can also see today the lust and materialism of the many sheiks in the (oil reach) Muslim world... I wonder if the Koran is teaching that... "To be an atheist is to recognize that we humans are in charge of our own destiny, and it means no one gets to impose views based on a magic book." Are you absolutely sure that we humans are in charge & control ?... Can you prove that somehow ? We don't even know (in scientific fashion) where do we came from... "Sure there can be evil atheists just like there can be evil Christians, Jews or Muslims, but at least you can take comfort in the fact that no atheist looks forward to the end of the world." I believe you know what Revelation exactly means in english... So, looking forward for the "end of the world", as you say, may have perfect sense if you believe in God. God has promised something, after the Armageddon... Which I believe can be a nice experience even for an atheist... :-) A new Earth, no more death and suffering... So, for me as a Christian, is much more comfort than for you as an atheist. Because, in your belief, there is nothing after the life ends, there is nothing after the Universe ends... "BTW I deny the God of Abraham and all his proxies, so unlike someone who rapes a child and then “repents” I will burn in hell. Lovely!" Can you send me the exact Bible passage you refer to ? Sladjo
@ Michaels7 - post #24 "OT: Buildup of damaged DNA in cells drives aging http://physorg.com/news85846219.html" Interesting... Non-repaired DNA cause rapid aging, death... I believe this is another strong evidence for evolution, is it not ?... Sladjo
Sorry, it might help if I included the website to download the file .... http://www.faithdefenders.com/multimedia/radio/2003+radio+archives.htm JGuy
For what it's worth to anyone... Dr Robert Morey - somewhat of a modern day renaissance man and scholar - has archived broadcasts of his radio show 'Bob Morey Live' (from Los Angeles). I respect his scholarly approach and critical examination of scripture.. one especial aspect whereby he emphasises solo scriptura. In one of his broadcasts he discusses a couple called in questions regarding this topic matter (Blasphemy of th eHoly Spirit). I have not confirmed his analysis of the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, but I do respect his scholarly work in theology and scripture.. if any of you are interestedin the specific topic matter... then download his broadcast from 11/18/03. There are two questions related to the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit in that broadcast: "What is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?" and "Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit - can yo ulose your salvation?" Be warned, his style is one of bluntness and rarely holds back to ridicule. JGuy
[...] Richard Dawkins is having an e-mail battle with Bill Dembski. “I had not given the Blasphemy Challenge any thought until you called it to my attention.” Actually, given that evidence of much thought is lacking, I’m not surprised that Dawkins gives little thought to the things promoted on his own official web page. But then Dawkins does a little bragging: Now that you have done so, I do not seem to feel strongly one way or the other. As that admirable bumper sticker has it, Blasphemy is a Victimless Crime. So, am I going to send in my own film clip denying the Holy Ghost? No, that is not what Oxford professors do, they write books instead. [...] Telic Thoughts » The Oxford Professor
Oh, and regarding Oxford, there is also Wycliffe Hall, a "Private Hall" (whatever that is) of Oxford University which is "an international centre of evangelical theology." It is associated with the RZIM Zacharias Trust. http://www.wycliffe.ox.ac.uk/ Their resources page contains some audio files of McGrath lectures. jb
Scordova: "Speaking of Oxford, did you all know about this college in Oxford? Christ Church College in Oxford" You might be interested to know that Oxford boasts another well-known scholar by the name of Alister McGrath. I suppose you could say he's Oxford's counter-weight to Dawkins (although Dawkins has certainly gotten much more press of late). McGrath, unlike Dawkins, is a Christian theist. Although his present occupation is that of a theologian, he studied and--I think--earned credentials in chemistry at Oxford and carried out scientific research before changing his focus to theology. McGrath was also once an atheist himself and has written one book critical of Dawkins and is working on yet another. The first book was called "Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life." The new one, due out early next year (February, I think) is called "The Dawkins Delusion," and I believe it will be co-authored with his wife who is trained in psychiatry and neuroscience. I just acquired a book by McGrath called "The Twilight of Atheism." In that book he says: "I used to be an atheist. Let me be clear what I mean by that. I am not using the watered-down definition of someone who does not (yet) believe in God, or is not particularly religious. By 'atheist,' I mean precisely what the word has always been understood to mean--a principled and informed decision to reject belief in God." (p.175 in the paperback edition) On the next page he says: "My views at this stage were very similar to those later expressed by Richard Dawkins. Religion was irrational superstition, which depended on blind faith on the part of very stupid people; science proved its theories for certain. ..." "Why did I find atheism to be so attractive? I have no doubt that I, along with countless others, saw atheism as attractive for three interlocking reasons. First, it offered a break from the religious past. Northern Ireland had a long history of religious strife and violence; the elimination of religion would therefore lead to peace and prosperity within my troubled homeland... Second, atheism seemed to make a certain degree of sense of things. If there was no God, then life was what we chose to make of it... But third, atheism offered hope--the hope of a better future and the possibility of being involved in bringing this future about..." Then: "It was only when I went up to Oxford in 1971 to study chemistry in detail that I began to realize how little I knew about the history and philosophy of the natural sciences, or the nature of Christian belief... To cut a long story short, I discovered that I had rejected what I did not really understand, and accepted what I increasingly came to realize was an imaginatively impoverished and emotionally deficient substitute. The trite antireligious slogans of writers such as Robert Ingersoll came increasingly to seem empty and uncomprehending as I began to discover a dimension to life that I had hitherto suppressed." I believe that McGrath has also debated Dawkins directly in public debate, but I'd have to double-check to make sure of that. He has a web site: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~mcgrath/ jb
my strike thru text showed on preview, but does not work on posting, thus one last comment. "I’m guessing Creationist -are- like the accumlative story here as well." so much for clever analogy. Michaels7
ahmmm, I'm guessing Creationist are like the accumlative story here as well. Imagine if spelling and grammatical errors accumulated in our text over a lifetime and were passed to our children. Michaels7
OT: Buildup of damaged DNA in cells drives aging http://physorg.com/news85846219.html I'm guessing Creationist are like the accumlative story here as well. Michaels7
Based upon Dave's earlier post. I offer a proposal.... Maybe utilizing OverwhelmingEvidence, this site and others blogs. Start your own YouTube Reply to the "blasphemy..." site. Except, respond to them with love. Have everyone send greetings, prayers, words of love, songs of joy, from Christ teachings and the Disciples. This goes everything against my original leanings, being a man... yada, yada. But what I've learned since coming to Christ is this is exactly how his philosophy works. Do not respond in kind to the hatred. Instead, heap coals upon the with love, joy, music and the words of the Lord. What a wonderful time of year to do it. Chanuka, Christmas.... up until Jan 7th in Eastern and Russian Orthodox I believe. Replace the anger and hatred of us, with love and prayer for them. Atom, got any love in ya for hiphop love to Dawkins? smiles... Michaels7
You "tolerate" things like the blasphemy challenge, and you suggest that Muslim kids should be encouraged to try the same thing. It's clear you make this challenge because you know that in those oppressive places, people doing such a thing will be punished - possibly by death. By suggesting that because you don't kill people you are "tolerant" reveals the underlying truth about people with your beliefs - that you long for the day when you can punish the infidels. I'll make you a deal: You don't pray for my salvation, and I won't masturbate to make your head explode. ryancoake
The Narrow Mind will be doing their 1st Annual "I'm a Monkey's Uncle Awards" on Jan. 1. I'm sure the phone lines will be open. Category 6: "Best dressed atheist in 2006" (I nominate Rook Hawkins of the Rational Responders for his uniform, ID card and fake badge). jeffdowns
You know a whole lot of American kids watch South Park. I wonder if Professor Dawkins ever got the chance to catch it? :-) tribune7
Has someone asked him how he feels about a supposed rational site not being able to understand the beliefs of their opponent? Wouldn't he want that error corrected? Nah. It's the ends that matters, not the means. Lie all you want, as long as you make good atheists. faithandshadow
Speaking of Oxford, did you all know about this college in Oxford? Christ Church College in Oxford Ah, the irony of it all. Dawkins railing against how religion impedes intellectual progress, all the while a memorial remains to what inspired the building of that institutation of higher learning, and it is named after Jesus Christ. scordova
i think it has more to do with social context. These kids and Dawkins are reflecting on the God of their culture and their audience. Luckily most religions are very tolerable of their detractor's opinions. (Especially here in the US) BTW, i noticed that Dawkin's book, God Delusion, was on the best seller's list at Barnes and Noble. (with a whopping 40% discount for members) Fross
Wow! Great question for the Oxford don. And he responded but completely evaded the question: What about mocking the Muslim God? Now--for what it's worth--here's an interesting quote from Paul Greenberg's column today--Wednesday, December 20, 2006(http://jewishworldreview.com/cols/greenberg122006.php3): “It's all enough to bring to mind what Edward Gibbon, in his 'Decline and Fall,' said of religion in another empire: 'The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful.’” WmAD--keep truckin'! Rude
Eh ... consider me corrected. Thanks. faithandshadow
"I am sure Oxford professors have more important things to do than taking on all the various false gods. Taking the major one on and making Him an example is far more efficient and safe." What facet of the intellegent design hypothesis distinguishes between 'true' and 'false' gods as designers? For that matter, echoing John Davidson, how do we even know a designer is still present? I don't understand the attacks on Dawkins and atheists, since there are a number of ways one could believe in design and be an atheist. (Design happened, designer departs; design by intellegent, non-supernatural agents...) In fact, I think DaveScot is agnostic, and John Davidson an atheist? RobertC
Here is the latest world religion demographics that I am aware. http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html Jehu
What do you mean by the major one? More people on the planet believe in Allah and His prophet than Jesus as God,
Since when? Last I heard Christianity was the world's largest religion. Jehu
Douglas, What do you mean by the major one? More people on the planet believe in Allah and His prophet than Jesus as God, so I can only assume that you mean he to attempt to make an example of the most rational religious belief system. Good luck to him; he and the RRS have shown they don't have the minds to rationally challenge much of anything, much less the existence of God. faithandshadow
As far as posting that in a Muslim setting goes, well it probably would not be quite a victimless crime. The victim would likely be the perpetrator. Thankfully we live in a tolerant society, but to pull that stunt in a religiously intolerant country might earn you a beheading. Secularism does not have the roots in the Muslim world that it has in the West. jmcd
I am sure Oxford professors have more important things to do than taking on all the various false gods. Taking the major one on and making Him an example is far more efficient and safe. Harrumph. Douglas
I can't wait to see Dr. Dawkin's response. I hope you will post it. I predict he will not directly answer the questions. dacook
Dr. Dembski: I LOVE your challenge to Dawkins. Absolutely brilliant. TRoutMac The Intelligent (Graphic) Designer TRoutMac
Personally, I don't believe that Harris, Dawkins, or Dennett are motivated in their attacks by a lack of belief in a deity. There's plenty of room for all manner of differing beliefs in each field they're in - why is this one in particular so important? And I don't believe it's owing to something as simple as 'religion enables horrible things'. We've seen that atheism is entirely capable of enabling as-bad or even worse crimes. The world is not going to get any friendlier or more peaceful if atheism, certainly enthusiastic and intolerant atheism, becomes the preferred school of thought. I have to wonder why, by and large, atheists aren't content simply being atheists. So many revel in being specifically anti-Christian - laughing and yelling about how they're infidels, blasphemers, heretics, etc. Why, in a world where nothing ultimately matters and there is no real meaning, is it so important to do away with this one specific manner of faith? Why does Dawkins, who openly equates humanity with bacteria, find this fight so important? I'm willing to bet he doesn't really know the answer to that question. The whole brights movement has the earmarks of a group that hasn't thought the whole thing through. They simply know they don't like Christians (and narrow the definitions of religion to make it sound like Christianity is practically the only game in town), and operate accordingly. Have any evolutionary psychologists done a study on the Brights movement? nullasalus
I'm sure Dawkins would love to listen to rock groups like AC/DC since their songs often mock Christianity/church. Also the Holy Spirit is an unnamed servant which doesn't draw attention to itself so you don't "blasphemy the Holy Spirit" by denying the Holy Spirit. That site is pretty lame. The Pharisees was in danger of "blasphemy the Spirit" by blasphemy the works/miracles which Christ did. Smidlee
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil. Dawkins is not content to attempt to adjust society moderately; he wants a radical revolution with Sam Harris. He praises the little darlings (who think they are raging against the machine) for "setting an example." I wonder if he praises those people in London who pants people and put the video on youtube. Collin
test JGuy
[Off-Topic] Wondering if anyone saw this... Virgin Komodo dragon gives birth This is somewhat relevant to an earlier thread on the Virgin birth and self-fertilization in some species. Now here is what I wonder. It has been brought up by Walter ReMine that sexual organisms shouldn't exist, since changing from asexual to sexual reproduction results in a 50% reduction in "Selfish gene" propagation. By numbers, asexual organisms put twice as many of their genes into the gene pool per reproduction, and so this 50% increase in "fitness" should, by natural selection, cause them to take over the gene pool. (Think of any other trait that would give a 50% increase in fitness!) Yet sexual organisms exist in abundance. Now, we see that some organisms have the ability to reproduce sexually or asexually. Why hasn't the magic wand of RM+NS caused these to switch to a strictly (50% more efficient) asexual mode of reproduction? If the fractional genes possesed by kin can be used to explain altruism in Kin Selection theory, then why does it somehow not apply here? Finally, yes, sexual selection does have LONG TERM benefits. But NS has no foresight. It cannot preserve based on future, long term benefits to the gene pool...especially when the short term prize is so hefty. (A 50% increase in fitness) Sorry I didn't give you credit for first mentioning this here, Atom. I just now (4am, 12/22/06) read your comment here. I got the heads up on the Dragon story in a listserv posting. -DaveScot Atom

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