[ 20/11/20 ]
Now we are getting into very speculative territory.
I have only ever had two brief personal conversations with Richard, a total of about 5 minutes. We have exchanged a few emails over the years, and I have watched him at lectures and on videos of debates and lectures for quite a few hours, as well as reading close to everything he has published. I bought a paperback copy of Selfish Gene a few days after it was released and it remains the only book I have read cover to cover twice in a 24 hour period. I found it fascinating, many errors but so much conceptual material. The first time I clearly saw the necessary role of cooperation in the evolution of complexity.
Human beings are the most complex thing we know of.
I have written many computer systems, the largest with over 6MB of source code, and when doing so can hold a couple of thousand variables in working spatial memory, but any real human being is going to be far more complex than anything I can conceive of in working memory at any given instant.
And with those caveats, it does seem to me that the major themes of why Richard is so anti religion come back to a lack of awareness about his own complexity coupled to a deep focus on his particular areas of interest.
Every human being has to start out with simple distinctions, the simplest of which are binaries (which some later turn to polarities, and some into multidimensional topologies). Thus our early awareness lives in a binary world of right/wrong, good/bad, hot/cold, heavy/light, wet/dry, friend/foe etc.
It seems clear to me that part of the process of the emergence of the sort of self awareness that most of us have is a sequential recursive process of distinction and dissociation; and we must all necessarily have at base an entity that exists in a world of binary distinctions. It seems to be the primary way most of us bootstrap our conscious awareness into existence, built on a kind of personal original sin as a declarative statement in language.
Some people go through various levels of discipline and training that allow distinction of successive levels of awareness and communication between the multiple levels of systems present within us, but most seem to be aware only of the outermost. Richard seems to be in that class of individuals, unaware of the binary drivers of many of his emotional responses, but very good at rationalizing responses that mask what is really going on, but make interesting stories in and of themselves.
When pressed he will admit of complexity, uncertainty and unknowability, but in practice tends to take a very binary position on many issues that are clearly much more deeply nuanced.