Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The Man Who Always Talks Sense Talks Sense: Richard Dawkins

Occasionally the hypothetical question gets asked, "Who would you most like to have dinner with?"

Of the female, Glenda Jackson, of the male, Richard Dawkins.

The good professor is really one on his own, a man possessed of an awesome intellect and staggering academic achievements and might seem an odd choice of companion for a man that has neither.

But why I admire Dawkins so much is, in spite of his stunning intellect, he is such a lovely gentle man who as far as I have witnessed has never once come across as superior, talking to and passing on his knowledge at a level befitting his audience.
How fascinating and pleasant an experience then, dining with such a fellow?

And what of these creatures that Dawkins alludes to?

Parasites, parasites who's greed is only equalled by that of their clients.

Parasites who's contributions to society and to mankind have yet to be catalogued or even discovered.

Parasites who's fees can at best only be described as beyond obscene.

Parasites who's time on earth is only made tolerable by the inevitability that this too must pass.

These are the creatures of which Dawkins speaks.

Richard Dawkins Condemns British Libel Laws

Scientists are operating in "an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty" because libel laws biased in favour of the plaintiff are making them wary of challenging bogus claims about health products, Richard Dawkins has claimed.

Dawkins told the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth that scientists should settle their differences in the lab, not in court, and that libel laws that made it too easy for people to be sued could have "disastrous consequences" for the public interest.

He condemned the way London had become "the libel capital of the world" and backed Liberal Democrat proposals that were approved by the conference for the libel laws to be reformed to provide "a better balance" in favour of free speech.

Dawkins, who votes Lib Dem but is not a party member, was given special permission to address the conference in a debate covering libel and civil liberties.

He used the opportunity to highlight the case of Simon Singh, the science writer he described as a "courageous hero" who is being sued by the British Chiropractic Association over an article he wrote for the Guardian's comment pages.

"I and many of my colleagues fear that if Simon loses it will have major implications on the freedom of scientists, researchers and other commentators to engage in robust criticism of scientific and pseudo-scientific work.

"It is possible in medicine, even when you intend to do good, to do harm instead. That's why science thrives on actively encouraging criticism, rather than stifling it," the former professor for public understanding of science at Oxford said.

"Scientists often disagree with one another, sometimes passionately. But they don't go to court to sort out their differences. They go into the lab, repeat the experiments, carefully examine the controls and the statistical analysis."

Dawkins said that instead of suing Singh, the BCA should "submit their case to the higher court of scientific test".

The professor accepted that companies and individuals had a right to redress if they were maliciously attacked.

"But if such a law is cast too wide, it has disastrous consequences on the public interest, not least in the area of science and medicine, where the stakes are high, profits and reputations are guarded jealously, and the vulnerable need to be protected from unproven or fraudulent claims for cures, whether by alternative therapists or big pharmaceuticals," he said.

Dawkins said one problem was that scientists did not know whether they would get sued for a particular remark. This could lead to medical debates being conducted in "an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty".

He also complained about "libel tourism", the practice of going to London to sue because the chances of winning there are so much higher.

The Liberal Democrats proposed reforming the libel laws by shifting the burden of proof towards the plaintiff, cutting libel costs and narrowing the jurisdiction of the English courts. Guardian.

The two graphics in the text might seem familiar although featuring another hero, but it was in fact Dawkins that first featured as these originals show.

And here is a little something that I produced (just to keep my hand in) during my summer "break" to accompany Ariane Sherine - Richard Dawkins No God bus campaign.

h/t Mercedes