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Not all atheists are skeptics.

September 27, 2009

This Friday, Bill Maher will be accepting the Richard Dawkins award from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason. Professor Dawkins, apparently, admired Maher’s comedy film Religulous that was released last October.

Why do people think Bill Maher is intelligent? We are talking about a man who admires Michael Moore’s movies and thinks that western medicine is a “complete scare tactic.” Here is an excerpt from his interview with Larry King:

KING: Worried about Avian flu?

MAHER: Not the least. You know my theory about health.

KING: What?

MAHER: Well, we’ve talked about it. I’m not into western medicine. That to me is a complete scare tactic. It just shows you, you can…

KING: You mean you don’t get a — you don’t get a flu shot?

MAHER: A flu shot is the worst thing you can do.

KING: Why? MAHER: Because it’s got — it’s got mercury.

KING: It prevents flu.

MAHER: It doesn’t prevent. First of all, that’s…

KING: I haven’t had the flu in 25 years since I’ve been taking a flu shot.

MAHER: Well, I hate to tell you, Larry, but if you have a flu shot for more than five years in a row, there’s ten times the likelihood that you’ll get Alzheimer’s disease. I would stop getting your…

KING: What did you say?

MAHER: That went better in rehearsal but it was still good. Absolutely, no the defense against disease is to have a strong immune system. A flu shot just compromises your immune system.

KING: So you don’t take any western medicine, don’t take an aspirin?

MAHER: Never, an aspirin no. Thousands of people die from aspirin every year.

There you can see that Maher is completely comfortable sharing his poorly informed opinion on a topic about which he knows absolutely nothing. Maher is oblivious to the fact that the thiomersal content of vaccines is well under the limit of mercury that the body is able to tolerate. The levels determined to be safe are based on the kinetics of methylmercury which is metabolized much more slowly than the ethylmercury from thiomersal. Yet, Maher is being given an award for being an advocate of science and reason from none other than Richard Dawkins. What does Richard Dawkins have to say about alternive medicine? Watch the following clip from Dawkins’ ironically named film “The Enemies of Reason.”

If that isn’t enough to demonstrate the idiocy and hypocrisy in choosing Maher as the recipient of the award, watch one more clip. This time, it is from Real Time and shows Bill Maher blatantly advocating alternative medicine (about 50 seconds in).

I think it is a disgrace that Bill Maher is going to be given an award for “science and reason” when his only accomplishment has been making a skubulos movie full of cheap laughs and sensational imagery. His views on vaccines and cancer fly in the face of all of the available evidence. Maher is on the level of ID proponents and anti-vaxxers. Let him get an award from the author of “Healing Autism,” not the author of the “Selfish Gene.”

11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 27, 2009 11:20 pm

    Matt, the award is not from Richard Dawkins, it just is in honor of him and uses his name. Also, Bill Maher does not consider himself an atheist: “”I’m not an atheist. There’s a really big difference between an atheist and someone who just doesn’t believe in religion. Religion to me is a bureaucracy between man and God that I don’t need. But I’m not an atheist, no. I believe there’s some force. If you want to call it God… I don’t believe God is a single parent who writes books”

    *Also* many atheists have already spoken out against Bill Maher for his voodoo beliefs, including PZ:

  2. September 27, 2009 11:55 pm

    The award is being given at a convention run by AAI in partnership with the Richard Dawkins Foundation. Also, Richard Dawkins will be there to give him the award. It doesn’t really matter whether or not Maher considers himself an atheist. Whether or not I give him the label he wants in the blog title is irrelevant. The point is that he is being honored for values he doesn’t display.

    I’m glad you pointed out that the award is from the AAI. Here are the AAI values from there website:
    1. Reason.
    2. Compassion
    3. Purpose
    4. Empiricism
    5. Science
    6. Knowledge
    8. Freedom
    9. Ethics
    10. Responsibility

    The criticism here is that Bill Maher does not display these values. The fact that the award is being given by AAI at a conference run in partnership with the RDF only shows that two organizations have it all wrong.

  3. Ray S. permalink
    September 28, 2009 12:22 am

    I agree that Bill Maher does not reflect the attributes that are supposedly the metric used by AAI to select the award recipient. I’m not aware of what influence Dawkins or the RDF has on the selection. I’m mystified as to how he was selected and to why he would accept it, as it supposedly goes to an atheist, which Maher is not. Which is also why I’m perplexed at the post title. What does ‘Not all atheists are skeptics’ have to do with Maher?

    Of course it is also important to note that AAI is one of many atheist groups and does not speak for all atheists.

  4. September 28, 2009 10:41 am

    Maher is likely being rewarded because of Religulous, which basically was a big flag saying “Yes, we’re allowed to criticize religion!” While I don’t agree with everything in the movie, it was still a big step to have that in the mainstream media.

    My point is, many skeptics and atheists have been very vocal about Bill Maher’s woo for a long time now, even before this award, so don’t make it seem like we’re all being hypocritical.

    Also, this is probably the haughtiest thing I have ever heard: “It doesn’t really matter whether or not Maher considers himself an atheist. Whether or not I give him the label he wants in the blog title is irrelevant.”

    So I can call you whatever I want, regardless if it’s true or not? Sounds like someone is backpeddling from their lack of fact checking.

  5. AdamK permalink
    September 28, 2009 11:27 am

    This is exactly why I don’t join “atheist” groups. I don’t need some godless version of church. I can think and speak for myself, and I wouldn’t delegate anyone to do it for me even if I trusted that their beliefs were close to mine. They might just go and give an award to a fool.

    The only thing I’m sure I have in common with another atheist is lack of belief in a god. That’s nothing to base a group affiliation on.

  6. Tiranna permalink
    September 28, 2009 2:13 pm

    I watched Religulous, and then followed it up with Expelled – both were in the same boat for me. At first read, I thought this was a joke… apparently not. Then again, I’m not really a fan of Maher, he’s funny at times, but only when I agree with him already.

    Matt W., though I agree the award’s undeserved, it’s not about what Maher wants to be called, it’s about what he actually is.

  7. Matheus permalink
    September 28, 2009 7:40 pm

    They are two opposing forces joining to beat a greater evil. Reminds me how the west and communists went together to beat the nazis.
    What happens after we win? We point nukes to Bill Maher?

  8. erp permalink
    September 29, 2009 10:24 am

    Does that make liberal Christians Finns?

  9. Fauxrs permalink
    September 29, 2009 11:32 am

    I think its pretty clear the award is indeed for the movie and the movie alone, the rest of his skubulos ‘woo’ (love that word 🙂 ) draws the ire of many skeptics and atheists alike.

    See the previous link to PZ’s blog Pharyngula for an example.

    As I understand it, Dawkins has input on the award’s recipients and this makes me wonder just how much time he spent looking into Maher’s real beliefs and wonder if that amount of time exceeded the time it took to watch religulous.

  10. October 3, 2009 5:12 pm

    Just FYI: According to PZ’s account of the award ceremony, Dawkins DID harshly criticize Maher for his uncritical beliefs about medicine. Hopefully a video will be put up soon so we can all see for ourselves.

  11. October 15, 2009 12:48 pm

    I agree with Matt that wanting to be (or not wanting be) called an ‘atheist’ is irrelevant to your actual position. If you do not actively posit the existence of a God, god, or gods (and I’m tempted to even further specify, ‘a personal, interventionist God, god, or gods’) then you are an atheist whether you like it or not.

    ‘Yes’ is the only answer to the question ‘Does God exist?’ that makes you not an atheist. Agnosticism is a subtype of atheism (it’s also known as ‘weak atheism’).

    I’ll even really go out on a limb and say that I think deists and pantheists and the ‘higher power / forces / vague to the point of meaning nothing’ group should also be recognized as atheists. I believe in high powers to… logic, gravity, Russia…

    I know that’s not popular, so feel free to let me know how very wrong I am. 😉

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