Intelligent Design Uncommon Descent Contest

Uncommon Descent contest: Is Richard Dawkins or Francis Collins the cuter poster boy for selling Darwinism?

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Thumbnail for version as of 07:01, 20 November 2010
Richard Dawkins, credit David Shankbone
Thumbnail for version as of 22:50, 6 September 2009
Francis Collins

(Contest now closed for judging. Results here. )

Yes, a prominent Canadian cosmologist has written to a number of science notables to ask this simple question: Does Richard Dawkins or Francis Collins convert more people to Darwinism?

For a free copy of The Nature of Nature , which do you pick and why?

The cosmologist wants a pollster to do a study to find out which method works best. What questions would you recommend asking?

(Note:This contest would normally run Saturday, but it’s a busy time of year for a lot of people, so you are getting a head start. Judging is Saturday, April 30.)

22 Replies to “Uncommon Descent contest: Is Richard Dawkins or Francis Collins the cuter poster boy for selling Darwinism?

  1. 1
    Barb says:

    My choice would be Dr. Collins, primarily because he breaches the chasm between religion (he is Catholic) and evolution (which is often seen as the atheist’s creation story).

    Dawkins doesn’t attempt to hide his contempt and hatred of God, religion, or anyone who has faith. That polarizing position makes him less likely to convert others to Darwinism unless he’s the modern-day equivalent of Torquemada and the NCSE is really behind the Inquisition.

    What Dawkins and others like him do not seem to understand is that evolution is not going to make God go away. Whatever Darwin believed or thought others should believe is irrelevant. Darwin can have as many bulldogs or rottweilers as he wants; this is not going to change the minds of those who have faith.

    Teaching evolution in school is not going to undermine strong faith; neither is threatening a scientist with loss of tenure or a teaching position at a university.

    The reason for this is faith is intangible. It does not depend on fossils, peer-reviewed articles, friends in high places, or missing links. Faith is not dependent on getting tenure. Faith is not dependent on the opinions of others.

    This does not mean, however, that biblical faith (at least as I understand it) is mere credulity. Far from it; biblical faith is based on solid evidence, as noted at Hebrews chapter 11.

    Dr. Collins has both a strong science background and religious faith. He understands, as did the giants who came before him like Galileo and Newton, that faith and religion aren’t enemies but complementary. Dawkins fails to understand this and, as a result, alienates large groups of people that might otherwise listen to his reasoning.

  2. 2
    tragic mishap says:

    lol. That was entertaining.

    Thanks Barb.

  3. 3
    GilDodgen says:

    I prefer Dawkins, because he is consistent, and doesn’t attempt to reconcile two logically incompatible worldviews.

    In my view, strangely enough — as a former atheist but now a devout traditional Christian — I find Dawkins to be more rational than Collins.

    Arguments in favor of Christian Darwinism are far more illogical and unsupportable than arguments in favor of outright atheism.

  4. 4
    jurassicmac says:

    Collins is more effective, without question, of convincing people of evolution. A large portion of those in the English speaking world who aren’t Christians are usually already accepting of Darwinism, or at the very least, aren’t hostile to it from the outset. As a Christian, I found Dawkins not worth listening to solely on the basis of his atheism. Surely, I thought, the only reason he and other atheists accept evolution is to give some measure of plausibility (however little) to their ‘religion’.

    As a fervent young-earth creationist, I was quite taken aback to read in the Language of God that Collins considered the idea of a specific creation, especially a recent one, scientifically vacuous. At that time, I don’t think I was aware of a ‘real’ Christian who accepted evolution. (I had listened to lectures by Ken Miller, but was not aware at the time that he was Catholic) The fact that Collins was not only vocal about his faith, but one of the most respected geneticists in the world was intriguing to me. It occurred to me that if a Christian could be convinced of common ancestry by the evidence, perhaps it was worth looking into. I immediately read “Why Evolution is True” by Jerry Coyne, which I absolutely wouldn’t have considered prior to reading Collins’ book.

    Though it was WEIT and other books on evolution that convinced me of the soundness of evolutionary theory, all credit to the abandoning of my young-earth creationist views goes to Collins, without whom I would not have researched the subject sans severe confirmation bias.

    For someone who rejects evolution on religious grounds, Dawkins is a polarizing voice in the fray. It is only after someone accepts that evolution could be true does Dawkin’s work carry any weight. For that important first step of convincing people, especially Christians, that evolution is worth looking into and given a fair shake, Collins is by far the more successful of the two..

  5. 5
    jurassicmac says:

    By being a Christian, Collins has an inherent credibility with other believers that Dawkins could never hope to attain.

    Dawkins’ books on evolution are only convincing to someone who already concedes that evolution could be true; Collins’ books are capable of convincing Christians to look into evolution and judge it based on the merits of the evidence.

  6. 6
    Kyrilluk says:

    Dawkins is more logical and he doesn’t attempt to get people to adhere to Darwinism on an emotional level.

    Collins on the other hand is more convincing because, although his view point is less consistent than Dawkins, he helps people on the emotional level to live with two contradicting view point. In other words, it helps them becoming some religiously fulfilled Darwinists.

  7. 7
    MedsRex says:

    Oh I like them both!!
    They both did a great job of destroying any previous beliefs in darwinian explanations I might have held in a good light. . . oh wait . . that wasn’t the question.
    yikes I am not winning this contest.

  8. 8
    NZer says:

    I’m with Gil.

    I quite like Dawkins as he says what he thinks.

    Collins — yeah, a compromiser I guess.

    If I had to choose, I would go with Dawkins rather than TE.

  9. 9
    deric davidson says:

    Dawkins preaches to the converted. Dawkins followers already believe. No need for conversion amongst atheists.

    Collins has a stream of potential converts in the Christian communities, who by and large reject Dawkins because they perceive him to be hateful, arrogant and mean spirited.
    Collins would have to be the face of Darwinism if significant conversion is the objective.

  10. 10
    aedgar says:

    Interesting, I’m asked to decide which of the two is the best deceiver.

  11. 11
    Upright BiPed says:

    “…he doesn’t attempt to get people to adhere to Darwinism on an emotional level.”

    Yeah. LOL.

    D to the Dawk: “A natural process of stupendous elegance and tremendous explanatory powers, etc, etc…”

  12. 12
    Puragu says:

    Dawkins is irrational. In his world view there is no meaning in life and there can never be meaning, as the search for meaning is a meaningless evolutionary advantage and not some magical property we humans possess. Those animals which searched for meaning or something along those lines, survived and passed on their genes. Those that didn’t, died out.
    In studying anything, advocating anything and being a researcher/academic, loving his daughter/wife and being nationalistic (pro British) he is deluded. He is deluded because all those activities are meaningless and something we pre-determined robots simply do. Despite his insight that the cosmos is indifferent and we have no purpose, he maintains the delusion trying to find purpose for himself, where no meaning or purpose can ever be found.

    Collins is Catholic and as such, in the view of the Catholic Church which sees Genesis as allegorical, he is rational and consistent with his faith. Collins has reconciled science (whether it be Darwinism or ID) with his religion and philosophy. Collins does dismiss ID though which I think is unfair because it is a credible, emerging field of science. I think both men dismiss it for emotional reasons.


  13. 13
    Mung says:

    I’m hoping for a kindler gentler strain. Anyway we can cross-breed these two gentlemen?

  14. 14
    Ilion says:

    Anyway we can cross-breed these two gentlemen?

    The technical (and moral) impediments have yet to be resolved; but, be assured, the Best And Brightest (in both the old and new senses) of the ‘Science!’ worshipers are working on those issues.

  15. 15
    NZer says:

    Oh, you wanted “who and why”?

    I vote for Dawkins and here is my argument:

    If Collins is right on TE, then he’s wrong re God because God would surely not be stupid enough to create using Darwinian processes.

    But if Dawkins is right re God, then nothing else matters. Everything is meaningless, deterministic, and pointless (and I should probably go kill myself).

    So the choice is between wrong and meaningless (and suicide).

    As a former militant atheist (like Gil) I warm much more to Dawkins’ meaninglessness than to Collins’ wrongness, but since most people think the opposite me, then Collins must be the better evangelist.

    But for people to actually think this thru requires rationality and common sense. Since common sense is not very common and post-modern rationality is a contradiction in terms, then most people will go for Collins.

    But then again, if the ignorant masses are affected by the beauty of the two contestants, it would have to go to Dawkins because of his lovely flowing locks, as pointed out by faithful followers over at Collins really stands no chance for what could even a talented hair dresser do with the greying remnant of his hairy ancestral past?

    (And Dawkins has a nicer tie — probably useful for the same reasons as colourful peacock feathers.)

  16. 16
    anaruiz says:

    According to empirical evidence, Francis Collins is definitely the best poster boy. When a study was done, where participants had to first think about death, then choose between something that Behe wrote, and something that Dawkins wrote, they chose Behe.

    When subjects were given a third choice, Carl Sagan, they chose Carl Sagan. Although Sagan is an atheist, the passage spoke of how science doesn’t necessarily take away meaning.

  17. 17
    GilDodgen says:

    When subjects were given a third choice, Carl Sagan, they chose Carl Sagan. Although Sagan is an atheist…

    Sagan is not an atheist. He’s dead, and when he was alive he was a tetrahydrocannabinol addict.

    Chronic use of mind-altering drugs often makes people say silly things.

  18. 18
    MedsRex says:

    Sagan was more of a Pantheist…no?
    I did not know of his proclivity for that plant that was highly celebrated just a few days ago, but as a former frequent partaker of said leafy green I concur with your statement.
    Does that explain Hawking as well? Things are coming to light!!!
    It’s funny how clear things become when your room isn’t filled with pungent clouds.

  19. 19
    CannuckianYankee says:

    I agree with Gill, and I add the following to the argument:

    Dawkins in his own words, doesn’t debate creationists (and since he equates creationism with ID, neither does he debate design theorists), and as such, he is less likely to mention them by name, making it less likely that a person reading Dawkins is going to be aware of creationist or ID arguments. Thus, I hold that Dawkins would be the better candidate. He renders creationism and ID as non-existent. If all a person is going to do is read Dawkins, they are going to be surprisingly unaware of creationist or ID arguments, and therefore, less likely to consider them; which would also render them as more likely to consider their alternative – Darwinism as the only logical position.

    While Dawkins may summarily mention some concepts from creationists and design theorists, he does so in such a way as to render them illogical – of course he has a phenomenally incomplete understanding of them, which is to his advantage if he should desire to convert others.

    Francis Collins, on the other hand, grasps Creationism and ID much more thoroughly (while still missing the mark in most cases), which when he mentions the concepts, his readers are more likely to be motivated to look into their arguments. Collins, thus is unknowingly acting as a source of information on Creationism and ID, while Dawkins avoids the issue altogether.

    Plus, as NZer pointed out, Dawkins has a nicer tie. 😉

  20. 20
    Mung says:

    Plus, as NZer pointed out, Dawkins has a nicer tie.

    And the tie wins it?

  21. 21
    StephenB says:

    Like all snake oil salesmen, both men have crafted a strategic message designed to reach a targeted audience. The point is to emphasize form, ignore substance, and hope no one will notice.

    Dawkins, Mr. Trash Talk, says exactly what he means regardless of whom it may offend. If it means accusing Darwin deniers of being “ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked,” so be it. There is, however, a method to his madness. His shock and awe strategy activates former theists who are bitter or disappointed with God, especially disaffected Catholics who have had a run in with a cleric. I understand that Hitler got started that way.

    Collins, Mr. Double talk, says exactly what he does NOT mean. Who else could argue, with Darwinist-like conviction, that the Creator of the universe did not reveal himself in the biological realm and then, with Christian-like piety, call that non-communicative silence, the “Language of God?” This trick of language resonates with those who are tempted to be all things to all people. To Dawkins, he would say, “Don’t scare ’em, snare ‘em.”

    So, who is the better con man? In terms of gaining new recruits, I think Dawkins inspires more passion, but Collins probably gets better numbers. So, I give a slight edge to Collins. Whenever possible he avoids clarity of expression and practices the crafty art of “strategic ambiguity,” allowing potential supporters with widely divergent world views to read their own convictions into his message. Notice how, with maddening imprecision, he informs his listeners that there is “no conflict between religion and science,” prompting them to fill in the missing spaces with Christ and Darwin.

    Young Christians with skulls full of mush are vulnerable to this kind of nonsense, even to the point of counting it as erudition. In today’s halls of higher learning, muddle-headedness is intepreted as subtlety.

  22. 22
    MedsRex says:

    let me give this contest a real go:
    I have a friend with an interesting tattoo.
    It is a crucifix with a banner wrapped around it. Written on that banner:
    “Only The Strong Survive.”
    He’s a good guy so I have never felt comfortable pointing out the complete conflict in ideologies his tattoo represents.
    The universally recognized symbol of Jesus: He of Infinite compassion for the meek, the downtrodden, the lost and the weary.
    Tied in a bow expressing a most Darwinian worldview.
    I write this only to point out that this Post-Modern Pluralism is pretty prevalent today. I am not saying my friend subscribes to the idea of “Christianity-lite”
    but a good portion of the population do, Or some kind of “Religion-lite”. I state this from my own very personal experience.
    Therefore Colllins is without a doubt the best poster-boy for darwinism.
    1. He states interesting scientific soundbytes and then assures us that there is no “real” conflict between darwinism and religion. It appeals to the inner-accomodationist in all of us.
    2. He held a high position in a very important and fascinating scientific project (HGP).
    3. He has walked and talked with President’s and world leader’s.
    4. I believe he is sincere in his line of reasoning.
    5. And for the American: by golly he’s one of us.
    I believe Collins is a good guy…just like my friend with the confused tattoo.
    but seriously.. God Bless them Both.

    the real difference between the two is the same contrast between a smiling Liberal Protestant Minister or a red-faced fire and Brimstone Revivalist.
    Wow how the times have changed.

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