Saturday, December 22, 2007

The TED Talks: Is There a God?

I was talking with Ira and Joel about using the TED talks videos as a springboard for TVPClub blog discussion. Here are the opening sentences in their website's "About TED" page:

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. Almost 150 talks from our archive are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.

Our mission: Spreading ideas.

So, as you can see, on paper (pixels?) it looks pretty promising as an intellectual source and igniter --- and in fact, I've viewed several of their offerings and they are of high quality.

As an experiment, I am proposing that all interested parties take 29 minutes (they lied about the 18 minutes in this case) to view Richard Dawkins' talk on militant atheism and respond to it. There are already many responses on the TED site to this talk.

To get to the Dawkins' talk video I would recommend that you navigate to it in order to get a better feel for the website; just use the link:

to go to the home page and the first line indicates that you can search by theme, talk title or speaker. Next make sure that View as Visualization and Resize by Most Discussed are checked and the page displays visual blocks whose size is determined by the amount of discussion generated and when you pass your mouse over each graphic more information appears --- it's fun to play around with.

Here is one way to navigate to Dawkins' talk:
Click on "Themes A-Z" just above the red line.
Click on the Theme, "Is There a God?" under the letter "I" and wait patiently.
Click on the video "Richard Dawkins on militant atheism" to begin watching the video.

The "About" section previews the talk and the speaker and the "Comments" section is similar to our blog and worth browsing. If you rate the talk you can view a summation which uses the same clever size technique (using words this time). I'd like to view "How the Mind Works" at some point but how to proceed from here is anybody's and everybody's choice.




Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks, Stu for posting this first of what I hope will be a series of TED talks we can discuss.

For Blog members who may have had trouble navigating the TED site, here is a direct link to Dawkins call for "militant atheism", presented in 2002 and posted to the TED website this year.

NOTE: To view a larger image, click on the rectangle in the upper right corner.

I hope it generates lots of discussion!

My initial reaction is that it is lots milder than his recent The God Delusion, which I plan to review in a separate new Topic next week.

Mild as this version is, Dawkins still manages to trash the US "Jewish lobby", as well as both Bush senior and junior. He makes the elitist argument that, while the majority of voters for both the Democratic and Republican parties would not support a professed non-believer, over 90% of the "intelligencia" are more or less athiests.

Dawkins distorts the view of Einstein regarding God. While mentioning atheism, theism, deism and non-theism, he pointedly leaves out pantheism. Einstein embraced Spinoza's God, which is a pantheistic view.

On the postitive side, the talk is engaging and he makes some excellent points with a supposed scientific journal devoted to the reasons for our belief that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs.

Ira Glickstein

joel said...

Thanks Stu. This is a very interesting source for discussions. Another interesting talk in the same vein, but less militant than Dawkins is

Daniel Dennett discusses his ideas concerning the need for religious education in public schools.

Stu Denenberg said...

Yes, I agree with Joel that Dennett's talk is a lot less shrill than Dawkins' and more or less makes the important point that one does not need God in order to be good.

It occurs to me that the notion of nature being random allows for much more freedom than of a central intelligence agency carrying out an agenda. Evolutionary theory allows anything to happen --- how much more freedom do we need?