Richard Dawkins’ mother has passed away and of her Dawkins said, “I learned from my mother that Christianity was one of many religions and they contradicted each other. They couldn’t all be right”

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Richard Dawkins:

“My beloved mother died today, a month short of her 103rd birthday. As a young wartime bride she was brave and adventurous. Her epic journey up Africa, illegally accompanying my father, is recounted in passages from her diary, reproduced in An Appetite for Wonder. Rest in Peace.”

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Transcript

  • 11:06:54MS. KATTY KAYThanks for joining us. I’m Katty Kay of the BBC sitting in for Diane Rehm. Diane is out this week on a cause dear to her heart. She’ll be in California to star in a play to benefit Alzheimer’s research. She looks forward though to being back here with you next Monday.
  • 11:07:10MS. KATTY KAYThis year Richard Dawkins was voted the world’s top thinker in Prospect Magazine’s poll of 10,000 readers in more than 100 countries. The author of “The Selfish Gene” and “The God Delusion” has just published the first of a two-volume memoir titled “An Appetite For Wonder.” Richard Dawkins joins us now from the studio at NPR’s New York bureau. Mr. Dawkins, thank you for joining the program.
  • 11:07:36MR. RICHARD DAWKINSThank you and I love your music by the way.
  • 11:07:37KAYJust for you.
  • 11:07:38DAWKINSYes.
  • 11:11:16KAYYour mother is, I think I’m right, 96?
  • 11:11:22DAWKINSShe’s 96.
  • 11:11:23KAYGood for her. Is this the moment then to be asking those questions about where you came from and what your childhood was like?
  • 11:11:29DAWKINSWell, yes. I mean, she has been very helpful to me and I have talked to her about memories of my early life. I also read from her own diaries, which were extremely helpful to me. She’s a very good writer, a very vivid writer.
  • 11:11:45KAYAnd you cite them a lot in the book. They’re lovely.
  • 11:11:46DAWKINSI cite them a lot in the book, yes. And she’s also a very good artist and there are some of her pictures in the book as well.

10. Evocation of his early family life in Africa and, later, England. His “ceaselessly creative” father and language-loving mother lighted the fires of curiosity about the world in a small boy. Young Richard loved imaginary pretend games: “Mummy, I’m an owl being a water wheel.”

9. The diaries of his mother Jean. Dawkins quotes from these with disarming openness. When Dawkins was 5, he and his parents visited home by way of a post-war sea voyage. Jean wrote:

When we got to England [Richard] was quite a sad little boy, and had lost all his bounce. While we were looking out of the ship at Liverpool docks in the dark rain … he asked wonderingly, “Is that England?” and then quickly asked “When are we going back [to Africa]?”
—-From the book Appetite for Wonder: 
 Makwapala is the site of my earliest coherent memories, and also of many of my parents’ recordings of

my sayings and activities. Here are just two of many:

Come and look Mummy. I’ve found where the night goes to sleep when it’s sun-times [darkness
under the sofa].

I measured Sally’s bath with my ruler, and it said seven and ninepence, so she’s very late for her
bath.

Like all small children I was obsessed with pretending.

No, I think I’ll be an accelerator.

Now you stop being the sea Mummy.

I am an angel, and you’re Mr Nye, Mummy. You say Good morning Angel. But angels don’t talk,
they just grunt. Now this angel’s going to sleep. They always go to sleep with their heads under
their toes.

I also enjoyed second-order meta-pretends:

Mummy, let me be a little boy pretending to be Richard.

Mummy, I’m an owl being a water wheel.

There was a water wheel near where we lived, which fascinated me. My three-year-old self tried to
put together some instructions for how to make a water wheel:

Tie a bit of string on the sticks all round, and have a ditch near and very fast water in it. Now get a
bit of wood and put a bit of tin on it for a handle and use it for the water to come. Then get some
bricks for the water to go rushy down, and get a bit of wood and make it round and make a lot of
things sticking out of it, then put it onto a long stick and that’s a water wheel and it goes round in
the water and makes a big BANG BANG BANG noise.

I suppose the following is zero-order pretending, for my mother and I both had to pretend to be
ourselves:

Now you be Mummy and I’ll be Richard and we’re going to London in this garrimotor [most
likely this Anglo-Indianism entered my family through my colonial grandparents and great-
grandparents, but it may have spread from India throughout the Empire].

In February 1945, when I was nearly four, my parents recorded that I had ‘never been known to draw
anything recognizable’. This may have been a disappointment to my artistically gifted mother, who had
been hired to illustrate a book when she was sixteen, and later attended art school.

(Dawkins pictured with his daughter Juliet)

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LATER IN BOOK:

I and two friends in my house became militandy anti-religious in our last year, when we were
seventeen. We refused to kneel down in chapel and sat with folded arms and closed lips, defiantly upright
like proud, volcanic islands in the sea of bowed and mumbling heads. As you’d expect of Anglicans, the
school authorities were very decent and never complained, even when I took to skipping chapel
altogether. But here I need to go back and trace my loss of religious faith.

I had arrived at Oundle a confirmed Anglican, and I even went to Holy Communion a few times in my
first year. I enjoyed getting up early and walking through the sunlit churchyard listening to the blackbirds
and thrushes, and I basked in righteous hunger for breakfast afterwards. The poet Alfred Noyes (1880-
1958) wrote: Tf ever I had any doubts about the fundamental realities of religion, they could always be
dispelled by one memory – the light upon my father’s face as he came back from early communion.’ It’s a
spectacularly silly piece of reasoning for an adult, but it sums me up at the age of fourteen.

I’m happy to say it wasn’t long before I reverted to earlier doubts, first planted at the age of about nine
when I learned from my mother that Christianity was one of many religions and they contradicted each
other. They couldn’t all be right, so why believe the one in which, by sheer accident of birth, I happened
to be brought up? At Oundle, after my brief phase of going to Communion, I gave up believing in
everything that was particular about Christianity, and even became quite contemptuous of all particular
religions. 

Outgrowing Facts: Inaccuracies in Richard Dawkins’ new book

George Heath-Whyte | September 26th 2019

Richard Dawkins was asked by journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy in an interview recently, “If you could change the world, how would you change it?” His answer was that he would rid us of “anything that’s not evidence based, where factual knowledge is concerned”. 

Unfortunately for Dawkins, that may mean he needs to start ripping pages from his new book.

I’m an Assyriologist, which means I study the languages, history, and cultures of ancient Mesopotamia (including Assyria and Babylonia, both in modern day Iraq). I was reading Dawkins’ book “Outgrowing God”, wrinkling my nose at various dubious claims and assertions he had been making about topics I didn’t quite know quite enough about to pinpoint what smelt fishy, when I got to a paragraph that was actually about my own academic field – and that doesn’t happen very often as an Assyriologist! My nose suddenly stopped wrinkling and my jaw dropped. It was riddled with factual errors that anyone who had done more than a couple of minutes of research would not have made.

He had just been claiming that most of the Old Testament was written during the period of the Babylonian captivity (in the 6th century BC) and then he writes:

“What, then, can we say about the myths from the beginning of Genesis? Adam and Eve? Or Noah’s Ark? The Noah story comes directly from a Babylonian myth, the legend of Utnapishtim – which isn’t surprising, since Genesis was written during the Babylonian captivity. The Utnapishtim story in turn comes from the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. Arguably the world’s oldest work of literature, it was written two thousand years earlier than the Noah story. The Sumerians were polytheists. Their flood legend says the gods couldn’t get to sleep because humans made so much noise. Fed up with the racket, the gods decided to drown everybody in a great flood. But one of the gods, the water god Enki, took pity on a man called Utnapishtim (Ziusudra in an older version) and warned him to build a huge boat, to be called ‘The Preserver of Life’. The rest of the story is pretty much the same as the Noah version: animals of every kind taken on board, a dove, a swallow and a raven released from the ark to see if there was any land coming up, and so on, including the spectacular rainbow finish. It was another god, Ishtar, who put up the rainbow as a sign that there would be no more catastrophic floods.” (pg 53-54)

Oh dear. Where to begin? 

A language problem

Let’s start with the claim that “The Utnapishtim story … comes from the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh.” You might need some background knowledge, so here we go. 

Sumerian is an ancient Mesopotamian language, one of the first written languages in the world that we know of. Sometimes the word ‘Sumerian’ is also used to describe the people whose language it was. The language stopped being spoken on the streets of southern Iraq at some point around 2000 BC, although it continued to be used by priests and scholars for two millennia afterwards (a bit like how Latin was used in medieval Europe) right up to the first century AD. When Sumerian died out as a spoken language around 2000 BC, it was the Akkadian language with its two dialects (Babylonian in the south, Assyrian in the north) that took over as the main language of Mesopotamia. 

The version of the Epic of Gilgamesh that Dawkins is talking about – the version that contains the story of a man called Utnapishtim who built a boat and was saved from a great flood – is not written in Sumerian as he seems to think, nor was it written at a time at which you could describe the people of the region as “Sumerian”. It was in fact written in the Babylonian dialect of the Akkadian language. Ok, it might seem very pedantic of me to point out such a minor error, but it’s the first clue we get that he has not done his research into the supposed relationship between the story of Noah and Mesopotamian flood stories.

A dating problem

As well as the language, it seems as though Dawkins has confused the plot of the flood story found in the Epic of Gilgamesh with the plot of another Babylonian flood story, about a man called Atrahasis. Some parts of these two stories are word-for-word the same, but not all. It’s in the story of Atrahasis, which is quite a few centuries older than that found in Gilgamesh, that the Babylonian gods send the flood because humanity is making too much noise. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, this reason is not given. 

Whichever of these flood stories Dawkins was thinking of, neither of them are “Arguably the world’s oldest work of literature” as Dawkins suggests. They also weren’t “written two thousand years earlier than the Noah story”, that is, unless the Noah story was written long after the time of Jesus! 

Again, maybe I’m being pedantic, but so far he’s got the language of the story he’s talking about wrong, he’s got the date of the story he’s talking about wrong, and he’s mixed two stories together and treated them as the same. He’s also stated, as if it is an undebatable fact, that Genesis “was written during the Babylonian captivity”. So far this doesn’t really affect the “argument” of the paragraph, but for an Oxford professor who has described himself as an “evangelist for the truth”, we might have expected more.

The next set of mistakes is far more concerning. 

A reading problem

Dawkins starts giving his confused account of this Atrahasis-Gilgamesh-hybrid story, before writing: “The rest of the story is pretty much the same as the Noah version: animals of every kind taken on board, a dove, a swallow and a raven released from the ark to see if there was any land coming up, and so on, including the spectacular rainbow finish.” Wow, that’s quite a list of similarities, isn’t it?! Quite a troubling list. Maybe Dawkins has a point? 

Don’t panic! What this list seems to show is that not only has he not read the Babylonian flood stories, but he’s not even read the biblical flood story! The dove, swallow, and raven are part of the Gilgamesh flood story, but have a read of Genesis 8:6-12. There’s no swallow in the biblical version: a raven gets sent out, then a dove, then a dove for a second time. Now, if you have access to a translation, have a read of Atrahasis and the Epic of Gilgamesh. Any mention of a rainbow? If you didn’t head off and read it, let me save you some time. There is no rainbow mentioned anywhere in either of them. 

It gets worse. Contrary to what Dawkins writes in the final sentence of his paragraph, the goddess Ishtar is nowhere to be found in the aftermath of the flood in the Babylonian stories. No god puts a rainbow anywhere, and there’s no mention of anything being done so that there would be “no more catastrophic floods”. So where on earth did he get such a fictitious idea from? Well, a quick google search suggests that it may have been a rather old, rather cute website called historwiz.com. Maybe it was another dodgy website, but it certainly wasn’t any reputable source, and certainly not a scholarly translation of any of the relevant texts.

The suggestion that the flood story of Genesis is based on the flood story found in the Epic of Gilgamesh is far older than Dawkins, and pointing out the inaccuracies in this paragraph doesn’t defeat the general argument. But, to use a phrase Dawkins seems to be very fond of in this book, “no serious scholar” should make factual errors as blatant as these.

Dawkins’ problem with evidence

The first six chapters of “Outgrowing God” (there are twelve in total) are devoted to theological, philosophical, and historical arguments as to why we should, as the title suggests, outgrow belief in God. His lack of understanding of such subjects probably won’t come as a surprise to many. Dawkins has said himself that he doesn’t bother to read theological scholarship, even tweeting in 2013, “I’m told theology is outside my field of expertise. But is theology a “field” at all? Is there anything in “theology” to be expert ABOUT?”. When asked why he doesn’t engage with this theological literature by atheist YouTuber CosmicSkeptic in an interview about the new book, Dawkins replied, “I’ve got better things to do. I do Science.” Later in the same interview he also admits, “I’m not well read in the history of philosophy.” 

I’ve only gone through one paragraph here, but his treatment of ancient history in general would seem to be similarly poorly researched. Sadly my Assyriological concerns won’t stop the popularity of this book, but at least they can arm you to challenge any readers you meet about the accuracy of its evidence.

The Oxford Apologetics Series grapples with major modern objections to the Christian faith. In the latest addition to the series, Is Jesus History? Dr John Dickson unpacks how the field of history works, giving readers the tools to evaluate for themselves what we can confidently say about figures like the Emperor Tiberius, Alexander the Great, Pontius Pilate, and, of course, Jesus of Nazareth. Find out more here

IMAGE: “Richard Dawkins no Fronteiras do Pensamento Porto Alegre”by fronteirasweb is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins

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Francis and Edith Schaeffer at their home in Switzerland with some visiting friends

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Schaeffer with his wife Edith in Switzerland.


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Richard Dawkins and John Lennox

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March 19, 2019

Richard Dawkins c/o Richard Dawkins Foundation, 
Washington, DC 20005

Dear Mr. Dawkins,

i have enjoyed reading about a dozen of your books and some of the most intriguing were The God DelusionAn Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist, and Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science.

I wanted to comment on something you wrote in your book Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist, and here is the quote on page 309: 

How have we come to the point where reason needs a rally to defend it? To base your life on reason means to base it on evidence and logic.

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In this article WHO WOULD RALLY AGAINST REASON? You argue over and over that one must follow the evidence where it leads!!!!

Below is a piece of that evidence given by Francis Schaeffer concerning the accuracy of the Bible.

TRUTH AND HISTORY (chapter 5 of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE?)

A much more dramatic story surrounds the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the present century. The Dead Sea Scrolls, some of which relate to the text of the Bible, were found at Qumran, about fifteen miles from Jerusalem.

Most of the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, and the New Testament in Greek. Many people have been troubled  by the length of time that has elapsed between the original writing of the documents and the present translations. How could the originals be copied from generation to generation and not be grossly distorted in the process? There is, however, much to reassure confidence in the text we have.

In the case of the New Testament, there are codes of the whole New Testament (that is, manuscripts in book form, like the Codes Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus, dated around the fourth and fifth centuries respectively) and also thousands of fragments, some of them dating back to the second century. The earliest known so far is kept in the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England. It is only a small fragment, containing on one side John 18:31-33 and on the reverse, verses 37 and 38. It is important, however, both for its early date (about A.D.125) and for the place where it was discovered, namely Egypt. This shows that John’s Gospel was known and read in Egypt at that early time. There are thousands of such New Testament texts in Greek from the early centuries after Christ’s death and resurrection.

In the case of the Old Testament, however, there was once a problem. There were no copies of the Hebrew Old Testament in existence which dated from before the ninth century after Christ. This did not mean that there was no way to check the Old Testament, for there were other translations in existence, such as the Syriac and the Septuagint (a translation into Greek from several centuries before Christ). However, there was no Hebrew version of the Old Testament from earlier than the ninth century after Christ–because to the Jews the Scripture was so holy it was the common practice to destroy the copies of the Old Testament when they wore out, so that they would not fall into disrespectful use.

Then in 1947, a Bedouin Arab made a discovery not far from Qumran, which changed everything. While looking for sheep, he came across a cave in which he discovered some earthenware jars containing a number of scrolls. (There jars are now in the Israeli Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.) Since that time at least ten other caves in the same vicinity have yielded up other scrolls and fragments. Copies of all the Old Testament books except Esther have been discovered (in part or complete) among these remains. One of the most dramatic single pieces was a copy of the Book of Isaiah dated approximately a hundred years before Christ. What was particularly striking about this is the great closeness of the discovered text tothe Hebrew text, whicch we previously had, a text written about a thousand years later!

On the issue of text, the Bible is unique as ancient documents go. No other book from that long ago exists in even a small percentage of the copies we have of the Greek and Hebrew texts which make up the Bible. We can be satisfied that we have a copy in our hands which closely approximates the original. Of course, there have been some mistakes in copying, and all translation lose something of the original language. That is inevitable. But the fact that most of us use translations into French, German, Chinise, English, and so on does not mean that we have an inadequate idea of what was written originally. We lose some of the nuances of the language, even when the translation is good, but we do not lose the essential content and communication.

The answer to find meaning in life is found in putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. The Bible is true from cover to cover and can be trusted.

Thank you again for your time and I know how busy you are.

Everette Hatcher, everettehatcher@gmail.comhttp://www.thedailyhatch.org, cell ph 501-920-5733, Box 23416, LittleRock, AR 72221, United States

DawkinsWard

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Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, Harris 

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Canary Islands 2014: Harold Kroto and Richard Dawkins

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Francis Schaeffer pictured below:

The Basis of Human Dignity by Francis Schaeffer

Richard Dawkins, founder of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Credit: Don Arnold Getty Images

Francis Schaeffer in 1984

Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer

Francis Schaeffer in 1982

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Whatever Happened to the Human Race? Episode 1

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Garik Israelian, Stephen Hawking, Alexey Leonov, Brian May, Richard Dawkins and Harry Kroto

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Featured artist is Judy Pfaff

Judy Pfaff was born in London, England, in 1946. She received a BFA from Washington University, Saint Louis (1971), and an MFA from Yale University (1973). Balancing intense planning with improvisational decision-making, Pfaff creates exuberant, sprawling sculptures and installations that weave landscape, architecture, and color into a tense yet organic whole.

A pioneer of installation art in the 1970s, Pfaff synthesizes sculpture, painting, and architecture into dynamic environments, in which space seems to expand and collapse, fluctuating between the two- and three-dimensional. Pfaff’s site-specific installations pierce through walls and careen through the air, achieving lightness and explosive energy. Pfaff’s work is a complex ordering of visual information, composed of steel, fiberglass, and plaster as well as salvaged signage and natural elements such as tree roots. She has extended her interest in natural motifs in a series of prints integrating vegetation, maps, and medical illustrations, and has developed her dramatic sculptural materials into set designs for several theatrical stage productions.

Pfaff has received many awards, including a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award (2004); a Bessie (1984); and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1983) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1986). She has had major exhibitions at Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin, Madison (2002); Denver Art Museum (1994); St. Louis Art Museum (1989); and Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (1982). Pfaff represented the United States in the 1998 Bienal de São Paulo. Pfaff lives and works in Kingston and Tivoli, New York.

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