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October 03, 2007

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Neil

It's just a casual turn of phrase. He cited 'American polls' for the numbers in his book.

Morgan Murray

It depends upon what he means by "I am told". Is he told by a choir of heavenly angels or a burning bush or even a man in a pub (all unlikely to be real/true in my experience) or is he told by someone who has good academic credentials, off the back of an informed study conducted in a scientific manner?

The idea of "social proof" is disingenuous because, in a sense, most knowledge is social - you haven't tested all your knowledge yourself. All you can hope to do is look at the credentials of the people offering advice and test it against your own experiences. It's this challenging of information that Dawkins represents (in a sense) and his statement is not as inconsistent with his public persona as you try to make it out to be.

Recusant

Oh Morgan, good attempt, but absolute twaddle. It merely demonstrates that Dawkins is as susceptible as anybody else to use anecdotes as a synonym for data when it suits his agenda.

But you are right when you say it is not inconsistent with his public persona which, frankly, is that of a polemicist rather than a scientist.

james C

This is not an argument by social proof.

It is a statemnt about how a small religious group, which is less than 2% of the US population,are believed by 'many people' to have considerable influence over US foreign policy.

One can argue whether 'many people' do in fact believe this, or whether they are correct to do so.

Zorro

Can you find many people who don't think the Jews have a virtual monopoly on US foreign policy?

(I'm sure you could find one or two, the world is completely stock full of clueless wankers after all...)

And I would have thought it obvious that even in the god-fearing US there are more atheists than Jews!

I'm not entirely sure what the point of your post is...

Johnh M

"Can you find many people who don't think the Jews have a virtual monopoly on US foreign policy? "

I bet there are one or two in Saudi Arabia. Pillock.

Zorro

Johnh M,

Really? I know, and I'm sure many in Saudi, and many here and in the US know about the links between the regime in Washington and the regime in Riyadh, but I don't believe that would convince many people in Saudi, many people here or many people in the US that the original statement was not true.

"how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told - religious Jews anyway - than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see."

Simply because this statement IS TRUE. You numpty!

Or would you dispute that Atheists are more numerous than Jews in the USA?

The proviso "more or less" makes the rest of the sentence /true/ as well. Had he left that out then you could have made your point and no they don't have an ABSOLUTE monopoly, but he didn't say that, did he?

So who's the pillock?

Marcin Tustin

It's probably because they are different kinds of statements. One is a "scientific proposition" in - broadly speaking - the logical positivist sense (certainly in the sense given in the preface to the second edition of Language, Truth, and Logic), while the other is very much not.

Morgan Murray

Recusant, not twaddle. I didn't say that Dawkins wasn't using anecdotes in the place of more rigorous research, just that *this comment* alone doesn't prove that he does.

And the two points he makes - that there are fewer Jews than atheists in the US and that most people think they dominate foreign policy - are surely easily tested and I can well believe that they are correct.

For the record, I like the idea of an atheistic cheerleader, but I am not sure that Dawkins is it. He's too aggressive for my liking, and has allowed himself to come across as more of a bully than an open-minded person. Still, it's probably better than nothing.

dearieme

"someone who has good academic credentials, off the back of an informed study conducted in a scientific manner?": but such paragons don't do Social Science.

Maynard Handley

@ Recusant

"Oh Morgan, good attempt, but absolute twaddle. It merely demonstrates that Dawkins is as susceptible as anybody else to use anecdotes as a synonym for data when it suits his agenda."

Oh don't be thick. The relevant issue is: what will happen if Dawkins is presented with credible evidence against his statement, for example that the US census numbers tell us that there are more religiously observant jews than atheists?
The choices are to go the religious route and claim that who cares about the census when I have the infallible word of "some guy", or to start playing games with language and the meanings of words; or to say "oops, I'm sorry, I was misinformed and clearly what I wrote was wrong".

Guess which one Dawkins would follow. THAT is the essential difference, not this nonsense about socially constructed proof.

reason

I reread what was said above and it seems the social proof related to the number of religious Jews not to their influence on foreign policy (which ironically enough seems to have been taken as a given). The fact that he was told that, doesn't mean that it is social proof at all (in fact many people may have thought the opposite), it just means that he had not seen the primary source for the data point (and so was deliberately softening his own argument).

Your point may be valid, the example is ,however, not very good.

Roundhead

*Can you find many people who don't think the Jews have a virtual monopoly on US foreign policy?*

Because "many people" are bigots, apparently more in the U.K. than in the U.S., Zorro...

Some time ago, you wouldn't found "many people" who didn't believe that Jews controlled all the money in the world, and therefore the Nazi confisications of their funds were justified.

Indeed, you'll find many who believe so today, right Zorro?

Jenny Perry

The facts are that even those who seek to define everything by science can and do act dogmatically. Dawkins is a fundamentalist zealot, an athiest, perhaps, to be sure, but a fundamentalist zealot to be sure.

He would lead a crusade, crush the rights of others to deny them the right to believe what they would if allowed to.

Sufa

Wow - let's all thank Jenny for turning the nutjob knob to 11.

Bill

Sufa, there are those who would contend that Prof Dawkins turned it to 11 first. Slanging matches don't advance a cause.

Peter

The fuller statement is even more revealing:

When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told - religious Jews anyway - than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place.

Peter

What I think Dawkins is trying to say is that Jewish influence = uncritical US support of Israel. But he's also saying that Atheistic influence of a similar type is desirable - so he seems to be saying that the US should be uncritically supportive of North Korea, Laos and other atheistic regimes?

Personally I think the guy's barking.

Denver Watt

This all misses the point, Mr Dawkins does not believe in God.

Denver Watt

Most of the comments are anti semetic

Dr. Irene Lancaster FRSA

As far as I know, not that many Jews in the United States are religious in Dawkins' sense of the word, in any case.

I think he's just jealous of all the Jews in his field with whom he's had to compete and doesn't dare mention the Muslim lobby (if there is one) because let's face it, how many Jewish suicide bombers do you know who live in his neck of the woods?

Now, Muslim suicide bombers in Cambridge, that's quite a different matter, isn't it!

Jews altogether make up less than 2% of the American population and their numbers are falling. Quite a few are now emigrating to Israel (religious or otherwise) and frankly, if Dawkins is supposedly the epitome of scientific thinking on many issues, do you blame them?

Stuart Munro

I wonder if Dawkins' use of 'I am told' and 'many people believe'are more than rhetorical conveniences to allow him to make his suggestion: that his kind of atheism has a no less legitimate claim to lead world opinion.

Given that the reason one hears 'that many people believe' in undue Jewish influence is that some people are unhappy about it, it seems reasonable to assume that the many might be equally unhappy with the kind of prescriptive atheism Dawkins proposes.

michael


Anyone who believes in a god, jewish or otherwise, has got to be a loonatic.

David L Nilsson

Anyone who signs herself "Dr Irene Lancaster FRSA" has to be insecure.

Leon

Bah! If only we were fantastically successful enough to quieten this quiffed arsehole.

airtommy

Nice try but no cigar. Dawkins uses social proof to establish a social trend. A proper analogy would be if he used social proof to prove that people believe in God, not that God exists.

Your blog entry uses one of the most common plays from the Israeli Lobby's playbook: COMPLICATE THE ISSUE. It's quite simple, really. It's in America's interests to bomb Israel. Instead, we fanatically support Israel. This is the only case in the whole world where we ignore our interests. That's because the Israeli lobby is awesomely powerful.

closetpuritan

It seemed pretty obvious to me that Dawkins was used phrases like "I am told" and "as far as many people can see" because he is unsure of the accuracy of his statement and has heard only secondhand summaries of the data.

He's right to be cautious: although "nonreligious" people are about 10-15% of the US population, the number who identify themselves as atheists is far smaller.
The 2001 ARIS report found that while 29.5 million U.S. Americans (14.1%) describe themselves as "without religion", only 902,000 (0.4%) positively claim to be atheist, with another 991,000 (0.5%) professing agnosticism. It's hard to know how many "religious jews" (as opposed to all jews) there are, but I'd guess it's about the same as the number of atheists.

G_d

NOT SOCIAL PROOF.
He didnt say i believe it because i see other people believing it.... that would be social proof.

He said "as far as many people can see" -what he is doing here is protecting himself from the jew attacks he knows will come, the wording allows him to back pedal and claim it is not his belief, but what others claim. Fact of the matter is, he is wimping out by hedging, we all know what he means, he just wants a back door to get out of his statement when the jews come calling for his head. On the one hand he gets points for calling a jew a jew, but loses points for fearing the jews.
So now we see atheists are just like christians....Jesus is the ONLY jew they dont fear. sad.

Wimm Maartens

Sir: Jews are real entities, commonly known as people. We can visit with them, write to them, live among them, marry them, cordially dislike them, lionize them, hear second-hand stories about them, read about them in holy books. They exist in the world with us; they're social beings like us; we can apply "social proof" to them, rightly or wrongly.

God is not a real entity but rather, a *category*, something like Whitehead's Category of the Ultimate. Social proof is irrelevant to its being or non-being; stories we read about it are didactic or mythological; we can't eat dinner with it: in fact, all of our social interactions with it are mediated by faith or by the decision to become part of a community of like-minded believers.

Your quibble can't be that Dawkins accepts social proof about Jews but not about God: he's bound by his intellectual position to exclude the notion of social proof in its application to God. You merely disagree.

Morry

What does it say about the men and women that the American public has chosen for their leadership qualities to suggest that they are waiting around to be told what to do by people representing less than 1% of the population? What does it say about the public that they have chosen such easily controlled people? And what does it say about the idiots who actually believe this irrational, bigotted tripe?

American legislators have always done what is in America's interests, very, very often counter to Israel's interests.

Larry Teabag

Apologies, I still haven't figure out how to use tackback:

http://www.thesharpener.net/2007/10/10/culture-war-not-conversation/

Dr. Irene Lancaster FRSA

Hi, David! If you think I'm insecure (a sure way of avoiding engaging with the issue of Dawkins' very unscientific use of vocabulary), what about a person who signs their name G-d?

No brickbats for him or her, I notice. I wonder why!

srp

Being a Zionist has little or nothing to do with belief in a god, one could conceivably be a Zionist and be an atheist at the same time.
By the bye, Dawkins is a Brit, which explains his unassuming form of anti-Semitism, so... what is everone else's excuse?

srp

Being a Zionist has little or nothing to do with belief in a god, one could conceivably be a Zionist and be an atheist at the same time.
By the bye, Dawkins is a Brit, which explains his unassuming form of anti-Semitism, so... what is everone else's excuse?

Wolfie

srp : I wondered how long it would be before someone would appear to intimate that this was evidence that all Brits are Anti-Semites, there's always one. A facetious corollary if ever there was one.

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