Voyage of the Meager

It ain’t just rockers. Dig this further news from the Cannes Crapfest:

Known for its splashy show intros, Saatchi & Saatchi’s New Directors Showcase at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on Thursday opened on a curiously heady note. Famed evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins took the stage to give a lecture, of sorts, on the subject of memes, which he introduced in his 1976 book “The Selfish Gene.” He spoke on how the transmission of ideas and cultural norms evolve in a way similar to natural selection, and how memes as we know them today are creative, intentional mutations.

First of all, Dawkins is even wronger about the topic of meme transmission than he is about the purported “selfishness” of deoxyrobinucleic acid — and that’s saying something. Darwin would never stop vomiting if he were to come back and realize such silliness is being chalked up to him.

And how did dear Richard become a Saatchi shill? How did you get involved in the New Directors Showcase?

Richard Dawkins: I was approached by Saatchi & Saatchi, who had this idea of centring the event around the theme of memes, so they asked if I would get involved and I was rather pleased with the idea.

Check out our rock star pseudoscientist rehearsing his presentation with his Saatchi handlers:


Tell us, Dick: How many works of real science are rehearsed for sponsors? Here’s a meme for you:


9 Replies to “Voyage of the Meager”

  1. Okay, this looks bad for the lead face of public atheism – that photo of the slackster ad-scruffs and hiz memester is godawful.
    I’ll try to match you one- how about the “intentional meme” of one of Dawkins’ countrymates, the nuclear-loving, industry-embracing “Gaia” auteur James Lovelock? Is our natural world an intentional, self-replicating Greek goddess? How about “no,” so let’s stop “real scientists” from trying to be ad-men cute.
    “Real Science,” though, is just a bad 80s song.

  2. Dawkings is without question one of the most loathsome living humans today. I would cut him some slack if he was an actually good scientist OR if he at least demonstrated marginally-above-cartoonish understanding of religion. But although he is neither, he is a very useful figure for the liberal/neoliberal authoritarians, hence the lavish support.

  3. Finally we have some area of disagreement in these comfortable suede chairs of the TCT comments bistro – I like what Dawkins said about religion, and how he says it, and what legacy his public advocacy of atheism will leave.
    The liberalish – Obama/Clinton embrace of noodle-brained spirituality and con-artist religion is the far more worthy target than our weird-science Oxford don -as when the odious Clinton had Jesse Jackson in to baptize the White House grounds before or after he bombed a few thousand helpless civilians.
    Of course, TCT webmaster, we could go back to that Buddhist thing here – I was certainly edging towards a new tab when
    the ancient flapdoodle started permeating these ultramontane environs.
    Here’s a better rockstar image – you tell me what he’s thinking:

  4. FWIW, I generally agree with Martin, in that I “rather like” Dawkins’ atheist work, despite its flaws (talk of “brights,” etc.) It far excels his crude DNA stuff.

    I also think the concept of “meme” is worthwhile, even though Dawkins has pretty close to zero understanding of how cultural specificities arise and move.

    As for religion, have those who harbor pro-Buddhist sentiments noticed the trends in Myanmar? Not a great piece of evidence for the superiority of that form of navel-gazing.

  5. Well, let’s review what exactly is he doing about atheism (assuming that doing something for it is an inherently worthy goal). His books on religion, and especially his public presence certainly are not designed to appeal to anyone other than people who already strongly agree with him – his messages do not accomplish anything at all other than insult in bad faith and bad taste – an approach that has won exactly zero hearts and minds through history.

    Second, his actual understanding of what religion is is at the level of a 10 year old at best. He freely confounds religion and culture, and he certainly does not seem to understand that religion is not, and never has been, primarily concerned with facts about the physical world. Yet, that’s the essence of his public persona – “OMG, look at these cretins that believe in flying horses”. Please.

    Finally, his scarily authoritarian bent is not a matter of guesswork at all – he openly singles out Islam as particularly “evil”, and he has openly advocated eugenics, as well as labeling religious upbringing as a form of ‘child abuse’.

    As an atheist myself, i feel that he does far more harm to the causes of reason and humanism than any religious fanatic could: the only sensible reaction that I can expect from a religious person to Dawkin’s venom is backlash, and further cementing of the religiously-based prejudices, social bonds, etc. – a certainly better version of reality than the one in which Dawkins and his enlightened atheist compadres govern the world affairs with nothing but the “imperatives” of science and technology in hand.

  6. I also agree with you, Marla. There’s very obviously something deeply wrong with Dawkins. He’s both sponsored and happy to be sponsored, and, like most self-conscious “skeptics,” way too self-congratulatory.

    Nevertheless, I myself view all the inherited religions as signs of the continuing (late) childhood of our species, and the fairy tales people believe (to the extent thay actually do, which is far less than what people claim) are patently stupid, from Buddhism to Xtianity to Moslim to what have you.

    And science, of course, is not owned by such figures.

  7. I think you said your piece well, Marla – and open and beneficial disagreement is about as rare as a corporate apology on this petro-based Internet.
    Atheism was a freakish sub-culture before the Dawkins-featured wave of forthright public atheism – I can speak from being a milquetoast Catholic in my youth. Even in one of the biggest college towns in the country, atheism was never taught, spoken of, or accorded any public weight. In what took great personal courage given the religious promotion of assassination, Dawkins blew this bigotry away, and now has made atheism an actual acceptable world-view.
    This was not done on his own, and others could have soft-pedaled the views to be nicer to the flying horses crowd, but movements need forthright leaders. In the debates on places like PZ myers’ blog, your views are labeled as “accommodationist,” and while your points are succinct and disturbing “(eugenics? Yet surely religion drastically imposed on the young is indeed abuse. And there is indeed a racist anti-Islamic strain to the Sam Harris crowd), there’s a lot of fun to be had with
    being on the (mostly private) “militant” side.
    Sponsorship is bad. as TCT states, but are Saatchi & Saatchi now aligned in public with atheism, or was this restricted to Memefest?

  8. I concede that it is important to some extent that atheism is no longer something unspeakable, although to some extent this is also a bit of a strawman – atheists generally face the greatest risk of being harmed or snubbed in their local communities. On the other hand, the elite consensus is so overwhelmingly on the side of atheism, that the requisite southern congressman freak (or simply superficially accountable to local constituencies) notwithstanding, religion certainly has no influence in policy areas of significance, and yet this is one of the main atheist complaints. The biggest sponsor of “balanced teaching” on climate and evolution are not religious organizations, but ALEC. I view the Dawkins brand of atheism the same way I view lazy, upper middle class progressive activism – a feel good pastime, ultimately devoted to preserving the status quo.

    But let’s leave this aside for a second and consider the issue of religion as a remnant of the prolonged childhood of humanity – a view I accept. However, let’s try to imagine is there a future historical state where no religious sentiment and belief of any kind exists? Where all moral and existential questions are reduced to constant ongoing rational deliberation?

    How could this be? Science not only has absolutely nothing to say about moral issues per se, but it also only marginally improves our understanding of our place in the universe. Let’s face it – the harmony of the scientific laws we have discovered so far is absolutely mind blowing and fascinating, but it is also kind of boring in a sense.

    Yes, boring: having advanced physics to the point where matter is indistinguishable from energy on one end, and having dialed back the clock of the universe all the way back to 10E^-27 seconds after the Big Bang, is our understanding of “how to live” all that much better than simply saying that we are insignificant, life is precious, driven by forces bigger than us, and that in addition to things that are not understood, there are also things that are not understandable? There is absolutely no physics required to reach this type of insights, and the teachings of some ancients overlap word for word with what physicists have to say (of course, i’m not diminishing the importance of experimental verification).

    It is hard for me to imagine that religion will ever stop being relevant – even if it is (hopefully) some completely new religion, completely breaking off with the currently existing mess. For as long there are humans, there will be a need for some sort of stable, given, system of belief that can reconcile the daily dilemmas people have to go through – it is really hard to imagine society without some such spiritual/religious model. What we have today is probably as close as we are going to get, and the consequences are not pretty – most social relations, including friendship and family, are pretty much a sham, superceded by the market rationality. Is it possible to fight that through advocating cultural and organizational practices to this end, without the assurance that religion provides?

    Religious fundamentalism is on the upswing worldwide – I obviously do not welcome it and consider it dangerous, but it is probably understandable given the globalization’s assault on any last remaining pockets of solidarity and community – it is not that surprising that they coincide with religious communities. But religious fundamentalism is not an engine of its own, in most cases it reflects genuine social or economic threats to a given community, and if that’s the only way they know how to fight them, they use is…

  9. It will help your worldviews greatly if you come to see “the Big Bang” as equivalent to the Book of Genesis. Decades of consistently-observed supercluster formations have demonstrated that the verse did not begin in a single, purposeless, indescribable orgasm.

    The Big Bang is the invisible hand of creation, akin to the invisible hand that guides markets and randomly selects only the finest species for procreation. Big Bang is the new religion.

    Big Bang is modern religious fundamentalism. It is designing nuclear weapons, and using them. It is manipulating people with ordained PhDs who teach market psychology, chemotherapy, radiology, aeronautical engineering, and project management.

    I love you all for your intelligence, which outstrips those caught up in many of the other illusions–including Buddhism–but do not let today’s priests continue to sweep you up. The evil things you decry in Dr. Dawson’s original post–the staged propaganda; the lying; the selling–are fostered by the same corporations and elites that propagate Bang cosmology, markets with invisible hands, and rugged (Anglo-American) individual organism-evolution.

    Blessings of the Eternal Spring.

    Lightform Evolution.

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