Richard Dawkins

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Richard Dawkins

Postby seladore » Wed Jul 16, 2008 7:48 pm UTC

Didn't want to derail the Creationism thread to ask this, so I'm starting a new topic.

What are people's feelings towards Dawkins? Before he published "The God Delusion", he seemed to be very well liked by the scientific community. I have admired him for years for his ability to write clearly and elegantly, and his discussion of religious issues was no more aggressive than other atheist authors (like Dennett, for example).

Post 'God Delusion' he has seemed to become something of a pariah, with the current fashion seeming to be to disparage him as 'going too far', 'giving science a bad name', and what have you.

Now, admittedly I haven't read 'The God Delusion', but unless he dramatically changed his style since books like 'Unweaving the Rainbow', I don't see the problem with him. He has always seemed full of quite childish awe and wonder towards the world, and just vaguely annoyed that some people choose irrational explanations (as he sees them - I don't want this to be a thread about the views themselves).

I don't see how he is more intolerant of religion than, say, a liberal is intolerant of conservatism - and visa versa. Yes he attacks theism, but I don't see where he 'goes too far'.
Is there more to this than just the innate uneasiness we have of someone questioning religious belief? Is he worse than - for example - Russell was when he wrote "Why I am not a Christian"?

Your thoughts, please.

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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby Robin S » Wed Jul 16, 2008 7:55 pm UTC

I haven't read The God Delusion either, but I found some of his comments in interviews and such irritating. He is seen as going too far for what is viewed as promoting intolerance and ridicule of religion. It is entirely possible to be liberal, even to hold conservative values in contempt, and yet still not encourage intolerance or ridicule.

This is by no means intended as a personal attack on anyone here, but I have noticed - and commented elsewhere, in the past - that many people here seem to be ok with ridiculing religion, so by association it seems likely to me that someone like Dawkins would find more support here than in most places, even among some other predominantly atheist circles.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby brindlb » Wed Jul 16, 2008 8:23 pm UTC

I recently read an article in a magazine- 'What to do with Dawkins'- it provided many ways to resist the argument, but it is long, and I'm not going to type it all out, so here is a choice part of it.

"Dawkins has grasped Darwin's big idea and sought to apply it wherever he can. For him, God is no more that an unnecessary hypothesis. Let me picture what Dawkins is doing. He seems like a man who has found a supplier of self-cleaning linoleum. He has spotted how helpful that would be for cleanliness and efficiency and so has fitted this self cleaning linoleum in every room of his house.
Indeed, to push its benefits to the limit he has not only fitted it to every floor, he has used it as walls and ceilings too. "Look", the man say, "My house it cleaner than yours will ever be!", as if thats all that matters.
On the other hand, as a chritian believer who has a background in evolutionary genetics, I am like someone who equally delights in this self cleaning lino, but having fitted it in my bathroom and kitchen, where I deem it most helpful, I see no reason to abandon the quite different approach to furnishing I have in the rest of the house; an approach that speaks of other values, other priorities, other mays of seeing." John Campbell

Just reposting this from creationism thread. I may be bothered enough about where this discussion will inevitably go to post some more of the article.

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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby protocoach » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:04 pm UTC

He's a brilliant scientist, who wrote some of the best books ever written regarding evolution. I'm not a fan of his current work; his argument seems to boil down to"You're wrong, and stupid. Why don't you quit being so stupid and wrong all the time?" and I've yet to see anyone win a debate that way.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby cj-maranup » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:07 pm UTC

I haven't read the God Delusion either, but I loved Unweaving the Rainbow for many reasons, not least of which is that it made me laugh out loud! I adore his scathing logic, clear explanations, delightful turns of phrase & unflinching determination to fly the flag of science & rationality. I'm sorry if religious people find him unnecessarily rude, but I get SO sick of the sanctimonious christian types who look pityingly at me for my inability to see the power of god in the world, let the love of jesus into my heart, blah, blah, blah ... oh, yeah, and that I'm condemned to eternal damnation for my wilful scepticism. Sign me up for the Dawkins cheer squad!

Frankly, if you don't like what he writes, you're not compelled to read it, any more than I'm compelled to read the bible, the koran or anything else. I do really believe that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, and I would never try to convince religious people that they should abandon their faith, but for those who are on the fence, I'm glad Dawkins is out there making a case for science :)

If you do like him, Carl Sagan's Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark is well worth a look.

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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby squishycube » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:24 pm UTC

I think it is good to remember the actual goal of The God Delusion, as stated by Dawkins in the introduction:
To make people who where brought up religiously and/or are religious out of habit realise that they can quit their faith.

Sometimes Dawkins is harsh and I regard his work as one side of a polemic. To this end I think he needs to take points to the extreme, he needs to hammer on the issues. As far as I have seen Dawkins he seems like a very likeable man, smart, friendly, honest. It seems he took it on to himself to lead a sort of atheist mission and that he has learned to use the weapons of debate.

I think Dawkins isn't actually intolerant of religion, but that he has more of a 'sigh, can't you see it makes no sense'-point of view. (It might be that that is the same as how a tolerant person views an opposing political stance, like the OP mentioned with liberal vs conservative.)

Lastly, I find it hard to imagine this thread not ending up as a creationism/religion vs atheism/dawkinism debate...

EDIT: I forgot something. Dawkins has such a great sense of humour and with me that lets you get away with lots of stuff -- think comedians making fun of politicians. Also, The God Delusion was dedicated to Douglas Adams and Dawkins put a quote of his under the dedication which, in my opinion, is the best argument in the book: "Why can't you appreciate that the garden is beautiful, without believing there are fairies at the bottom?" (quoting from memory, accuracy not guaranteed).
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby brindlb » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:34 pm UTC

squishycube wrote:I think Dawkins isn't actually intolerant of religion, but that he has more of a 'sigh, can't you see it makes no sense'-point of view. (It might be that that is the same as how a tolerant person views an opposing political stance, like the OP mentioned with liberal vs conservative.)

Lastly, I find it hard to imagine this thread not ending up as a creationism/religion vs atheism/dawkinism debate...


Actually, I think he has more of a RELIGION IS STUPID, ALL RELIGIOUS PEOPLE OF STUPID AND DELUSIONAL. SCIENCE=EVERYTHING point of view.
I agree that the thread will go down that path, as have the religion and creationism threads.

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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby Hammer » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:42 pm UTC

brindlb wrote:Actually, I think he has more of a RELIGION IS STUPID, ALL RELIGIOUS PEOPLE OF STUPID AND DELUSIONAL. SCIENCE=EVERYTHING point of view.
I agree that the thread will go down that path, as have the religion and creationism threads.

No, it won't. Not without some smacking around anyway. The folks in the Religion and Creationist threads seem to be making a real effort to express their opinions respectfully and to find out how those who believe a particular way deal with what the see as conflicting information and opposing points of view. This thread can do the same.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby squishycube » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:47 pm UTC

brindlb wrote:snip
Actually, I think he has more of a RELIGION IS STUPID, ALL RELIGIOUS PEOPLE OF STUPID AND DELUSIONAL. SCIENCE=EVERYTHING point of view.

So, does he go to far in your opinion? (As that was the question of the thread)

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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby Vaniver » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:54 pm UTC

The only Dawkins I've read is The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker.

As for the stuff he's done since then... since I haven't paid too much attention, I can't comment with the confidence that I'd like. My guess is that he's continued to be polite (or, at least, as polite as you can be while calling religion a myth), and that's really the only requirement I have for public figures other than clear thinking.

My guess is that the vast majority of reaction to Dawkins is blown out of proportion. How many of the people incensed at The God Delusion considered the title enough to judge it on? Do people thinking that Dawkins is going too far really think that if he hadn't published his last book or two, the people he's trying to fight would like him more?
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby brindlb » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:55 pm UTC

Hammer wrote:
brindlb wrote:Actually, I think he has more of a RELIGION IS STUPID, ALL RELIGIOUS PEOPLE OF STUPID AND DELUSIONAL. SCIENCE=EVERYTHING point of view.
I agree that the thread will go down that path, as have the religion and creationism threads.

No, it won't. Not without some smacking around anyway. The folks in the Religion and Creationist threads seem to be making a real effort to express their opinions respectfully and to find out how those who believe a particular way deal with what the see as conflicting information and opposing points of view. This thread can do the same.


Okay then sorry. That red writing hurts.

I'm not sure whether to put this here or religion or creationism, but I'll just do it here. A philosopher (classical I think, definately can't recall his name), thought that as we can't know for sure whether god exists, and it's not as though faith hurts anyone (directly), we might as well believe- so if he does exist, yay, we're in heaven, and if he's not, then whatever, we're dead and rotting. Although having true faith for these reasons would be difficult, it's hard to argue not having faith. Does anyone know who said this and a bit more detail?

Hmm, well since he is expressing his views, I don't think the 'too far' scale applies. I do think he is making his attack on religion overly personal to everyone religious, and is centralizing his argument to much on attacking christianity (that's the impression I get anyway)

Here is 'The God Delusion' compacted. I didn't write the summary, by the way.
1 Religion gets too much respect. The only remotely religious figures we can respect, such as Newton and Einstein, did not envisage any sort of personal God
2 Zero tolerance. All supernaturalism and all gods should be resisted. Scientists who allow for the possibility of beleif in god are appeasers, agnostics are little better.
3 Dud arguments. All arguments for God's existence fail the scientific test- the classic philosophical arguments fail; so do arguments from personal experience, scripture, religious scientists, etc
4 Science and religion don't mix (plus some expansion)
5 Religion is a genetic or cultural mistake (plus expansion)
6 Morility is purely human, nor religious (plus expansion)
7 We don't get our particular morals from the bible (plus expansion)
8 The danger is fundamentalism. Moderates encourage fundamentalism
9 Indocrinating children into faith is a form of child abuse/
10 Our life without religion is as meaningful and wonderful as we choose to make it.
Last edited by brindlb on Wed Jul 16, 2008 10:04 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby Indon » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:59 pm UTC

Meh?

I really don't see what's so special about the guy. Yeah, he makes arguments to counteract young-earth theology. But they aren't exactly new, cutting-edge arguments, he's just furnishing them to the general public.

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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby Robin S » Wed Jul 16, 2008 10:01 pm UTC

brindlb wrote:Does anyone know who said this and a bit more detail?
You're thinking of Pascal's Wager. It has been discussed briefly a few times before.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby squishycube » Wed Jul 16, 2008 10:04 pm UTC

Ninja'd, still more detail though:
brindlb wrote:snip
a bit more detail?

That was Blaise Pascal (Wikipedia), a French philosopher (among other things) from the 17th century CE. The argument is called Pascal's Wager (Wikipedia).
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby justaman » Wed Jul 16, 2008 10:26 pm UTC

I have read "The God Delusion" and while I found it interesting and undubitably factual from my knowledge and understanding of science (I have an MSc in genetics and work in a cancer research lab), I also found the book to be labouring a point to the extreme and quite dismissive of the arguments of creationism, often with arguments that seemed to be able to be used in either direction without much imagination. I did enjoy his writing style and the stories used as examples were especially witty, though his name dropping did get a bit tiresome. Those reading the book without a knowledge of biology and/or genetics and evolutionary theory (and lets not forget most creationists have a limited knowledge of them) would struggle with some of it, but adequate references were provided for the key points which would hopefully explain the arguments to a layman.

Overall I suspect that most of the readers of such a book would either be confirmed evolutionists looking to bolster their opinion, or creationists looking to find fault in Dawkins as an outspoken advocate of evolution, and as such would convince neither party to change their world view.

I must say I haven't read any of his other works, but I mean to when I get the time, and I hope that they are better argued than "The God Delusion".
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby BirdLauncher » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:19 am UTC

Count me as another in this thread who hasn't read The God Delusion, so I'm going to base my thoughts off the general impression I've received on Dawkin's writing about religion and the assumption that the summary brindlb cites is more or less accurate. The only thing I've read by Dawkins is The Ancestor's Tale, which is a fabulous read and almost makes me want to study evolutionary biology, but I dislike his seeming intolerance of any religious belief and the idea that all religious people are either stupid, delusional, or victims of abusive propaganda. I agree wholeheartedly that religious fundamentalism is a danger, and that rejecting the idea that we can observe the world and draw conclusions supported by the evidence we find in favor of supernatural arguments is misguided, but I think the leap from condemning creationism, fanaticism, and irrationality to positively denying the possible existence of God is unnecessary, unjustified, and close-minded. I believe rational, scientific thought is the best way to approach the natural world, but that the existence of the universe itself is unexplainable. The question of why the universe exists at all is, I think, unanswerable in any sense of actually knowing the answer rather than guessing or believing in an answer, and so I believe "because God made it so" and "it just is" are both perfectly acceptable answers.

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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby JayDee » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:29 am UTC

Has anyone actually read The god Delusion? Wasn't it a best seller or something?

After reading the introduction and a few bits and pieces throughout, I decided to pass on the rest of the book.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby protocoach » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:53 am UTC

squishycube wrote:
brindlb wrote:snip
Actually, I think he has more of a RELIGION IS STUPID, ALL RELIGIOUS PEOPLE OF STUPID AND DELUSIONAL. SCIENCE=EVERYTHING point of view.

So, does he go to far in your opinion? (As that was the question of the thread)

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Yeah, actually, I think he has. While I support his fight against Young Earthers and Creationists, he's gone so far to the end to of the spectrum that he's A) thrown away any chance of getting people to change their minds and agree with him and B) alienated moderate and progressive religious people that he needs on his side if he'd like to see change towards his positions. I'm not saying he should stop saying what he wants to say; he can say whatever he wants to. But when he attacks moderates, he risks burning all the bridges and ending up marginalized. In other words, he might turn himself into Louis Farrakhan.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby VannA » Thu Jul 17, 2008 2:14 am UTC

I've read it.

His arguments all fail, and fail badly, when it comes to a generic form of diety-based spirituality.

His main point there is that it isn't science.. and he's right. He belabours points of probability, however, that irked me a lot.

He is very harsh when it comes to any sort of dogmatic theism. But, independant to him, so am I, and for many of the same reasons.

/shrug.

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Essentially, if you take an axiom, and extrapolate your positions, clearly and concisely, from that axiom, then I'll be inclined to give you at least passing respect, depending on the nature of that axiom.

Where my tolerance completely breaks down is when somebody has an axiom, and a conclusion, and no concise rational path between them.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby jayhsu » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:10 am UTC

Religion is not science - is anyone claiming this? Aren't they mutually exclusive?

Yet there is something to be said about the hope that religion does give to people. Pascal's wager, sure, but hope and faith are powerful things. When there is no possibility of a better tomorrow, blind faith is probably more helpful than knowledge of the truth.

Truth being used liberally here.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby Gadren » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:51 am UTC

I've read The God Delusion, and I thought it a rather sensible work. His supposedly "harsh" or "strident" tone was there to make a point: that our society offers immunity to religious beliefs that it does not offer to other social and political opinions.

I'm curious about people saying that his arguments fall flat. Could someone offer a specific example of one of these arguments and why it doesn't work, VannA?

And in response to jayhsu, it's true that religious faith is a powerful thing, but would it not be better for a society to be firmly grounded in reality instead of depending on that which feels nice? I know I accept this idea without any logical backing, but it seems like there should be something inherently better about seeing the world as it truly is (that is, the world as we can see it) instead of what we want it to be.

Not every religious person partakes in or causes problems in society, but when beliefs are supported by society without study or criticism, especially religious beliefs, they can cause problems. Turning away doctors because of faith in spiritual healing, rejecting evolution because it "demeans humans," doing good only out of a desire for a heavenly reward or fear of eternal punishment, or simply abstaining from bettering the world because it'll be destroyed in the Tribulation anyway.

These are not hypotheticals -- I have seen people express each of these ideas. And this is what I think that Dawkins, as well as others in the so-called "New Atheist" movement want to convey.

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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby jayhsu » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:54 am UTC

Gadren wrote:And in response to jayhsu, it's true that religious faith is a powerful thing, but would it not be better for a society to be firmly grounded in reality instead of depending on that which feels nice? I know I accept this idea without any logical backing, but it seems like there should be something inherently better about seeing the world as it truly is (that is, the world as we can see it) instead of what we want it to be.


I'm just not sure this is realistically feasible for a great many people, who would rather believe that Jesus walked on water than the actual message of "guys, stop being dicks."

Though there was a study (or studies?) that showed that pessimists are closer to the truth than optimists.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby Gadren » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:59 am UTC

Oh, I certainly agree with you, jayshu -- the reality of the situation shows a society very different from the ideal that Dawkins and others (Sagan and Randi among them) have envisioned. But then again, if it was already there, they never would have felt a need to do what they have done.

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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby VannA » Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:30 am UTC

Gadren wrote:I'm curious about people saying that his arguments fall flat. Could someone offer a specific example of one of these arguments and why it doesn't work, VannA?


His arguments all work wonderfully for striking down dogma and orthodoxy, or any historically 'organised' religion. They work well for striking down anything that relies on interactions with people, as that can be measured with science.

They don't work at all for a creative force bounded by universal law (IE, something with total control over a small area), and they don't work at all for a non-specific pantheism. (Universe-as-god).

Relying on probabilty to discount something is fairly weak, in my opinion.

He, of course, makes not attempt to answer the irreducible complexity arguments surrounding existance. Nobody is qualified for those, and they are likely an inherent unknowable.. or in fact the only perpetual motion machine in existance.

His general attacks against agnosticism is where he is weakest, imo. But he also works off the abrahamic God concept, as opposed to say, the Norse/Eygptian/Roman/Greek pantheon's of powerful and knowledgable beings who are not omnipotent or omncscient.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby Minerva » Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:38 am UTC

For those who get put off a bit by Dawkins' harsh, no-nonsense views, it's worth checking out the famous works of Carl Sagan, and how he treats religion and science. They're not really all that different (how would Sagan have reacted if he had lived to see 9/11/2001 ?) but Sagan never failed to lay it all out in a far more elegant and compelling, captivating fashion.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby clintonius » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:28 am UTC

Alright, being one of the apparently few people here who's actually read The God Delusion, I've got a number of points to make. I'll try to go in order in the thread.

brindlb wrote:I'm not sure whether to put this here or religion or creationism, but I'll just do it here. A philosopher (classical I think, definately can't recall his name), thought that as we can't know for sure whether god exists, and it's not as though faith hurts anyone (directly), we might as well believe- so if he does exist, yay, we're in heaven, and if he's not, then whatever, we're dead and rotting. Although having true faith for these reasons would be difficult, it's hard to argue not having faith. Does anyone know who said this and a bit more detail?

As has been mentioned a couple times before, this is called Pascal's Wager. Dawkins offers an interesting rebuke of the argument in The God Delusion, striking down its Christian bias -- it only works if we assume that the only possible god is the Christian one. As he has put it, what if we vest all our faith in Yahweh, only to die and find ourselves facing a very jealous, and very angry, Baal?

brindlb wrote:Hmm, well since he is expressing his views, I don't think the 'too far' scale applies. I do think he is making his attack on religion overly personal to everyone religious, and is centralizing his argument to much on attacking christianity (that's the impression I get anyway)

Dawkins does note that many of his arguments center on Christianity because that is the religion with which he is most familiar. You'll also encounter in the book numerous examples and arguments that involve other religions, particularly when he speaks of the potentially violent/deadly nature of religious divisiveness and how certain forms of fundamental Islam are a well-known modern example of this.

brindlb wrote:Here is 'The God Delusion' compacted. I didn't write the summary, by the way.
1 Religion gets too much respect. The only remotely religious figures we can respect, such as Newton and Einstein, did not envisage any sort of personal God
2 Zero tolerance. All supernaturalism and all gods should be resisted. Scientists who allow for the possibility of beleif in god are appeasers, agnostics are little better.
3 Dud arguments. All arguments for God's existence fail the scientific test- the classic philosophical arguments fail; so do arguments from personal experience, scripture, religious scientists, etc
4 Science and religion don't mix (plus some expansion)
5 Religion is a genetic or cultural mistake (plus expansion)
6 Morility is purely human, nor religious (plus expansion)
7 We don't get our particular morals from the bible (plus expansion)
8 The danger is fundamentalism. Moderates encourage fundamentalism
9 Indocrinating children into faith is a form of child abuse/
10 Our life without religion is as meaningful and wonderful as we choose to make it.

The summary points are at best incomplete (hence the "plus expansion" comment, I presume, though telling the readers that there is more to the statement doesn't exactly do it justice) and in some instances inaccurate. I'll go through a few that especially bring about points of contention and belie a lack of careful reading on behalf of the summarizing individual. 1) Einstein was not even "remotely religious," and we'll probably never know how Newton would have reacted in terms of his faith in a world where he would not be persecuted for atheism. But yes, Dawkins does say religion gets undeserved respect. 2) Dawkins does not espouse a "zero tolerance" policy so much as a very real form of agnosticism, and once again, the statement that "agnostics are little better [than the appeasing scientists who allow for the possibility of belief in a god]" displays a total lack of comprehension of the book. I offered a summary of his classification of agnosticism in this post, and have elected to provide a link rather than belabor the point here. 6) The "plus expansion" comment is particularly relevant here. He argues at length about the contradictory nature of the supposed religious sources of morality -- the picking and choosing from the bible, for instance. 9) He argues that labeling children is a form of child abuse, in the same way that saying "my child is a Marxist" or "my child is a free-market Republican" would be forms of attempting to prevent the child from thinking for him/herself.

BirdLauncher wrote:Count me as another in this thread who hasn't read The God Delusion, so I'm going to base my thoughts off the general impression I've received on Dawkin's writing about religion and the assumption that the summary brindlb cites is more or less accurate.

Not the best idea. I've tried to cover the point briefly, but there are both key inaccuracies and a sense of incompleteness in that summary. Saying "indoctrinating children into faith is a form of child abuse" sounds terribly inflammatory (and really isn't entirely the point Dawkins makes) until you read his case for the statement.

jayhsu wrote:Religion is not science - is anyone claiming this? Aren't they mutually exclusive?

Yet there is something to be said about the hope that religion does give to people. Pascal's wager, sure, but hope and faith are powerful things. When there is no possibility of a better tomorrow, blind faith is probably more helpful than knowledge of the truth.

Truth being used liberally here.

Many, many people claim scientific backing for religious interpretations of history. Just today I received an e-mail from the father of an old friend. He had asked me a few questions about the state of faith at the Presbyterian college I attended, and after I explained that the school tends not to take hard-line stances on many issues like hardcore bible colleges do, he replied, "I've discovered when they say they teach a variety of veiws or all veiws, that almost always means they heavily favor a view based on Darwin for biology and Lyell for geology...while I prefer Moses." From other conversations I've gleaned that he truly believes that empirical evidence supports a literal interpretation of the book of Genesis. So yes, these people do exist.

Regarding the hope that religion gives to people: I believe Dawkins (and I, for that matter) discount the view because it tends not to place focus on the life we are currently living. Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller fame said, "Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around." My argument, and Dawkins', is that perhaps it would be best to work toward the possibility of a better current life rather than resigning this one in hopes of ascending to a higher plane after death.

VannA wrote:His arguments. . . don't work at all for a creative force bounded by universal law (IE, something with total control over a small area), and they don't work at all for a non-specific pantheism. (Universe-as-god).

Can you explain this a little further? I'm curious as to what you mean by the terms you're using, and also what arguments of Dawkins' are incompatible with these notions.

VannA wrote:Relying on probabilty to discount something is fairly weak, in my opinion.

By that token, relying on faith is infinitely weaker.

VannA wrote:He, of course, makes not attempt to answer the irreducible complexity arguments surrounding existance. Nobody is qualified for those, and they are likely an inherent unknowable.. or in fact the only perpetual motion machine in existance.

"Creationists who attempt to deploy the argument from improbability in their favour always assume that biological adaptation is a question of the jackpot or nothing. Another name for the 'jackpot or nothing' fallacy is 'irreducible complexity' (IC). Either the eye sees or it doesn't. Either the wing flies or it doesn't. There are assumed to be no useful intermediates. But this is simply wrong. Such intermediates abound in practice -- which is exactly what we should expect to see in theory. . . 'What is the use of half an eye?' and 'What is the use of half a wing?' are both instances of the argument from 'irreducible complexity.' A functioning unit is said to be irreducibly complex if the removal of one of its parts causes the whole to cease functioning. This has been assumed to be self-evident for both eyes and wings. But as soon as we give these assumptions a moment's though, we immediately see the fallacy. A cataract patient with the lens of her eye surgically removed can't see clear images without glasses, but can see enough not to bump into a tree or fall over a cliff. Half a wing is indeed not as good as a whole wing, but it is certainly better than no wing at all. Half a wing could save your life by easing your fall from a tree of a certain height. And 51 per cent of a wing could save you if you fall from a slightly taller tree. . . the thought experiment of trees of different height, from which one might fall, is just one way to see, in theory, that there must be a smooth gradient of advantage all the way from 1 per cent of a wing to 100 per cent." Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

VannA wrote:His general attacks against agnosticism is where he is weakest, imo.

Dawkins considers himself technically to be an agnostic, placing himself in category "six" on the scale from 1-7 mentioned in the post I linked to above. He attacks the kind of agnosticism that states that we'll never know, so we may as well not try, because it assumes the odds of god's existence and non-existence are 50-50.

I'll be the first to say that I don't think Dawkins has all the answers to the mysteries of life, and he's not without his flaws. I must admit, though, that I'm a bit put off by the number of people who criticize his views in The God Delusion without having read or understood it.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby VannA » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:40 am UTC

clintonius wrote:
VannA wrote:His arguments. . . don't work at all for a creative force bounded by universal law (IE, something with total control over a small area), and they don't work at all for a non-specific pantheism. (Universe-as-god).

Can you explain this a little further? I'm curious as to what you mean by the terms you're using, and also what arguments of Dawkins' are incompatible with these notions.



I can handle the idea of an entity with total control over a particular area accidently or deliberately kickstarting creation.
Its not something Dawkins can debun, nor does he really try.
Dawkins arguments attack the standard triple O entity, in general. (Omniscience, Omnipotent, Omnipresence.)
I don't have my copy of the book in front of me, at the moment.

clintonius wrote:
VannA wrote:Relying on probabilty to discount something is fairly weak, in my opinion.

By that token, relying on faith is infinitely weaker.

That wasn't my argument.

clintonius wrote:
VannA wrote:He, of course, makes not attempt to answer the irreducible complexity arguments surrounding existance. Nobody is qualified for those, and they are likely an inherent unknowable.. or in fact the only perpetual motion machine in existance.

"Creationists who attempt to deploy the argument from improbability in their favour always assume that biological adaptation is a question of the jackpot or nothing. Another name for the 'jackpot or nothing' fallacy is 'irreducible complexity' (IC). Either the eye sees or it doesn't. Either the wing flies or it doesn't. There are assumed to be no useful intermediates. But this is simply wrong. Such intermediates abound in practice -- which is exactly what we should expect to see in theory. . . 'What is the use of half an eye?' and 'What is the use of half a wing?' are both instances of the argument from 'irreducible complexity.' A functioning unit is said to be irreducibly complex if the removal of one of its parts causes the whole to cease functioning. This has been assumed to be self-evident for both eyes and wings. But as soon as we give these assumptions a moment's though, we immediately see the fallacy. A cataract patient with the lens of her eye surgically removed can't see clear images without glasses, but can see enough not to bump into a tree or fall over a cliff. Half a wing is indeed not as good as a whole wing, but it is certainly better than no wing at all. Half a wing could save your life by easing your fall from a tree of a certain height. And 51 per cent of a wing could save you if you fall from a slightly taller tree. . . the thought experiment of trees of different height, from which one might fall, is just one way to see, in theory, that there must be a smooth gradient of advantage all the way from 1 per cent of a wing to 100 per cent." Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion
Sorry, I should have been clearer. I mean the actual start of creation. What created the creator. What created the creation of the creator. What kickstarted the Big Bang? What kickstarted that?

clintonius wrote:
VannA wrote:His general attacks against agnosticism is where he is weakest, imo.

Dawkins considers himself technically to be an agnostic, placing himself in category "six" on the scale from 1-7 mentioned in the post I linked to above. He attacks the kind of agnosticism that states that we'll never know, so we may as well not try, because it assumes the odds of god's existence and non-existence are 50-50.

I'll be the first to say that I don't think Dawkins has all the answers to the mysteries of life, and he's not without his flaws. I must admit, though, that I'm a bit put off by the number of people who criticize his views in The God Delusion without having read or understood it.


The odds of logically feasible creator are non-calculable. That is part of the problem he creates with his arguments. I don't know any agnostics who play the 'don't try' card.
I play the 'its not important to me' card a lot. They are different.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby clintonius » Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:03 am UTC

VannA wrote:I can handle the idea of an entity with total control over a particular area accidently or deliberately kickstarting creation.
Its not something Dawkins can debun, nor does he really try.
Dawkins arguments attack the standard triple O entity, in general. (Omniscience, Omnipotent, Omnipresence.)
I don't have my copy of the book in front of me, at the moment.

Gotcha. He certainly doesn't try to debunk it because he can't; I agree with that. I think he takes issue with the point you bring up below, the "who created the creator?" question, and concludes that it's more likely that there is none because the issue of there being a creator can potentially lead to an infinite cycle of "well what created THAT creator?" statements.

VannA wrote:
clintonius wrote:
VannA wrote:Relying on probabilty to discount something is fairly weak, in my opinion.

By that token, relying on faith is infinitely weaker.

That wasn't my argument.

Sorry then, I didn't understand your point. Can you clarify?

VannA wrote:
clintonius wrote:
VannA wrote:He, of course, makes not attempt to answer the irreducible complexity arguments surrounding existance. Nobody is qualified for those, and they are likely an inherent unknowable.. or in fact the only perpetual motion machine in existance.

(lots)
Sorry, I should have been clearer. I mean the actual start of creation. What created the creator. What created the creation of the creator. What kickstarted the Big Bang? What kickstarted that?

That's a fair criticism, being that he seems to step beyond the bounds of his specialty in some instances (delving into philosophy) but also claims ignorance in some areas because he's a biologist rather than a physicist. I think you hit it on the head when you said that nobody's qualified to answer those questions -- I would simply add on a "yet." It's possible that these questions will be answerable in time, though it will likely be long after we're gone.

VannA wrote:The odds of logically feasible creator are non-calculable. That is part of the problem he creates with his arguments.

In that specific instance he's speaking of people who believe the odds are even. At any rate, I agree with your statement if by "incalculable" you mean "unquantifiable," but I do think there are plenty of ways to reason that the existence of a god/creator are not high and that there are more, well, reasonable ways to explain existence.

VannA wrote:I don't know any agnostics who play the 'don't try' card. I play the 'its not important to me' card a lot. They are different.

They're not really, in the practical sense -- both lead to the refusal to seek answers, so far as I can tell.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby jobriath » Thu Jul 17, 2008 8:53 am UTC

justaman wrote:Overall I suspect that most of the readers of such a book would either be confirmed evolutionists looking to bolster their opinion, or creationists looking to find fault in Dawkins as an outspoken advocate of evolution, and as such would convince neither party to change their world view.


I'd passed up the chance to buy the book once or twice out of a vague feeling of unease about carrying it around. I didn't think too carefully about this feeling: in retrospect I think I'd assumed he would be hysterical and unpleasant. When I did buy the book I was agnostic, and prone to a little mysticism. By the time I'd finished, I'd begun to think more clearly about the issues that had been concerning me, and within a couple of weeks I declared myself an atheist (and did a first aid course to prove it). The main change in my mind was being introduced to the ([1]over-)idealised scientific mindset. I realised that if something can't be confirmed by observation (recovery rates of praying patients vs. non-praying, affects of Lourdes, etc.), that's because either we haven't seen it[2], or it's unobservable and hence purely a matter of faith. My point is that Dawkins did change (or accelerate the change of) one person's mind, and I imagine those of many others.

(Not carrying too many articles of unprovable faith feels to me like good mental hygiene. The linoleum argument above casts it differently, seeming to present a belief in an unprovable God/gods/etc. as making things interesting/aesthetically better/more fulfilling. I might have misunderstood the argument and welcome correction.)

VannA wrote:His arguments all work wonderfully for striking down dogma and orthodoxy, or any historically 'organised' religion. They work well for striking down anything that relies on interactions with people, as that can be measured with science. [...] he also works off the abrahamic God concept, as opposed to say, the Norse/Egyptian/Roman/Greek pantheons of powerful and knowledgeable beings who are not omnipotent or omniscient.


From memory, in the introduction he states that since he's mostly ignorant of religions outside of (IIRC) Judaism, Islam and Christianity, so he only argues against these three. (He also presents a pithy little response to the argument accusing him of ignorance of even these three. Here is The Courtier's Reply, although the page herelinked is arguing against it.)

Final note: when I first saw the book I got a bad taste in my mouth, and I wonder if it's the same with many here. It's a good read, in any road.

[1] The idealised scientific method of doubt is unrealistic, since we CS/maths people have to take quarks on the authority of the people telling us that they're a non-silly thing to believe. But the flavour of faith is different: we'd be happy to believe something else given proof. You know, in theory.

[2] Here I mean in the usual objective, repeatable, measurable way, for the usual good reasons.

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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby Game_boy » Thu Jul 17, 2008 11:16 am UTC

I have read his book, and it spends a little time showing that God is not a valid scientific (disprovable, deterministic, etc.) principle, and then a whole lot of time showing how religion damages society (stifling innovation/freedom of thought, psychologically damaging children, has bad moral lessons and is a waste of energy in an efficient society, etc.).

It is not a serious academic text, nor is it meant to be.

It appears to have two purposes:

1) Making atheists feel OK that their private feelings of God being a silly idea are justified and don't need defending as if it was the weak position.
2) Making religious people who aren't entirely confortable with their beliefs see a way out.

It's purpose #2 that makes it a great book. He accepts he can't convert the core, but many people are forced into religion as a social convention, especially in the US, and he is trying to show them what the alternative is.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby Dream » Thu Jul 17, 2008 11:58 am UTC

clintonius wrote:
VannA wrote:I can handle the idea of an entity with total control over a particular area accidently or deliberately kickstarting creation.
Its not something Dawkins can debun, nor does he really try.
Dawkins arguments attack the standard triple O entity, in general. (Omniscience, Omnipotent, Omnipresence.)
I don't have my copy of the book in front of me, at the moment.

Gotcha. He certainly doesn't try to debunk it because he can't; I agree with that. I think he takes issue with the point you bring up below, the "who created the creator?" question, and concludes that it's more likely that there is none because the issue of there being a creator can potentially lead to an infinite cycle of "well what created THAT creator?" statements.


It could lead to that, but by no means necessarily. If our universe is someone's sandbox, we don't have to prove or believe or hypothesize anything at all about that being beyond its existence. Where it came from is irrelevant to the question of whether it can create and potentially control us.

Considering the fact that our own scientists are currently researching the creation of life itself from entirely non-organic chemicals, it is not impossible to believe that our universe is a terrarium in some unimaginable greater meta-universe. And of course, if it is possible to believe it, within the bounds of science "it" is a theory, however crazy and unlikely, that can stand until disproved. I'm not at all suggesting that the theory should be given any creedence, just that it is hubristic to say "I am a man of science, and THAT is so hard to believe that is is certainly untrue. I can't prove it at all, but it is definitely untrue. You are delusional for believing it."

Is the power we wield over bacteria, insects, plants, anything less than the godlike powers described in the Bible?
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby Pearsquisher » Thu Jul 17, 2008 12:09 pm UTC

VannA wrote:I can handle the idea of an entity with total control over a particular area accidently or deliberately kickstarting creation.
Its not something Dawkins can debun, nor does he really try.
Dawkins arguments attack the standard triple O entity, in general. (Omniscience, Omnipotent, Omnipresence.)
I don't have my copy of the book in front of me, at the moment.


He has a serious argument against the idea of an entity with total control kickstarting creation. It is under his argument against the cosmological argument. The idea is that, although there is no way to disprove the idea that a being created the universe, there is no reason to believe it, nor would one have any answers to any questions in believing it.

We look at the universe and think that something must have created it. Why? Because we have the belief that everything must have been created by something else (we'll call this premise a). So let's say that God did it, or some entity of some sort. Well then what created this entity? If you say something else created the entity, then that something else might as well have created the universe. God is a meaningless step here. If, however, you say that nothing created the entity, for whatever reason (God created Himself, God always existed, it is in God's nature to have not been created, God defies the laws of logic), then you have violated premise a. In other werds, you can't say that the universe must have been created, and then say it was created by God who was not created. If God doesn't need to have been created, why must the universe?

So we are left with the question, where did the universe come from? No one knows. But it makes more sense to try to figure it out, instead of believing something with no evidence, that is no way to test its predictive value. The big bang theory is an honest attempt to find out how the universe was created. Nobody starts out believing in the big bang, and then tries to prove it (the implication being that that is how religion werks).

I agree with a lot of what Dawkins says. I agree that religion should not be free from question, and I agree that children should not be identified as a Christian child before s/he has really thought about it. However, I disagree with a lot. Dawkins attacks moderates on a moral level (as in, he says they ought not to believe). This is pointless. Even if it is (at least to me, and I'm assuming Dawkins) obvious upon critical thought that there is no reason to believe in God, why should one believe what is most likely? I think theists are not critically thinking about their position, but I certainly do not think that is immoral. I also disagree with the idea that, without religion, there would be less war. It is useless to think of what might have happened if there were no religion. That would be a supremely different werld, and there is no way to tell what might happen in that situation. Maybe there would be more war. Who knows?

I also think Dawkins is a fool for selling Atheist merchandise from his online store. It makes his God Delusion phase look like a big money grab.

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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby VannA » Thu Jul 17, 2008 12:27 pm UTC

Dawkins rates that, if memory serves, as unlikely, but not impossible.

Dawkin's anti-religion works fall mostly into the camp of abolishing the control of orthodox and dogmatic religions, with some attempt at discussion reasons why standard assumptions of god-like entities don't work all that well.

There's nothing to say that we are not merely experimentation as you describe, I'm just not sure it matters either way.

Do you expect something you create to do as you say? Especially if you go out of your way to give it free-will, emergent or otherwise?

Pearsquisher;
My apologies, when I said creation, I was specifically refering to 'us' not actually the entirety of creation, history and future.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:05 pm UTC

Dawkins is a study in the fine line between scepticism and being a dick. He crosses it far too often. I really can't see what he hopes to achieve in advancing the causes of science or atheism by being the way he is.

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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby Ari » Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:20 pm UTC

I think Dawkins goes too far in his skepticism. I'm annoyed by skeptics who don't seem to realise that even if the object of the belief might not be real, that people might have gotten more out of that "false" belief than they would have gotten from nothing at all.

Frankly, I wish Dawkins would just stick to the extremists such as young-earth creationists; I can respect people who dismantle their position because it's so counter-factual. I think that challenging the orthodoxy of faith is important, but that in doing so we should still respect faith in general.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby Iconoclast » Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:10 pm UTC

I haven't read any Dawkins but I also ignore anything I read about him. I figure anyone who writes about him will be biased one way or another.
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby HadouKen24 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:29 pm UTC

I haven't read the God Delusion in its entirety, but I have read or listened to excerpts from it. I've been unimpressed by Dawkins' forays in the philosophy of religion.

For instance, in this excerpt, Dawkins attempts to disprove Aquinas' Five Ways, the five classic attempts in Aquinas' Summa Theologica to prove the existence of (at least some) God without appealing to faith.

Dawkins makes a horrible error when he says that the first three Ways are pretty much the same argument. They aren't. The argument Dawkins proffers kind of shows why the second Way fails to convince. The main point he makes against the logic of these arguments is that it is special pleading to just wave your hands and say that God himself is immune to the infinite regress.

Aquinas' Second Way is more or less the classic Cosmological argument--God must exist because causation can't regress infinitely. Which is why it falls to this criticism.

Aquinas' Third way, however, uses very different logic. Put very crudely and roughly:

1) We find that there are things--we call them contingent--that come into being, and pass out of being.
2) Everything we encounter in the world is a contingent being.
3) Since any individual thing is contingent, then it can't always have existed.
4) Therefore, there had to be a time when nothing existed.
5) Therefore, if everything that exists is contingent, then nothing would exist, since there would not be anything causing anything to exist (since things don't just pop into existence, and contingent things are always caused to exist.)
6) Therefore, there has to exist at least one thing that isn't contingent. We usually call such a being a God.

This argument clearly states why it isn't special pleading to say that God (or at least a god) has to exist. Hence, Dawkins' criticism of the logic of the argument falls flat.

Of course, Aquinas' argument here is deeply flawed. There is a fundamental logical error--very unusual for the typically brilliant and lucid Aquinas. I suspect most of the people here can figure out without any difficulty where the error is.

The First Way seems on the surface to be subject to the same criticism as the Second Way. It is the classic "First Mover" argument as put here (again, very roughly and crudely):

1) There is motion
2) Nothing can move itself, but must be moved by something else.
3) The sequence of motion cannot extend ad infinitum.
4) Hence, there must be a first mover: God.

The way Aquinas writes this down in the Summa, it is cosmetically very similar to the Second Way, which as I said above, is more or less correctly refuted by Dawkins. However, it is only cosmetically similar. Aquinas' use of this argument is essentially shorthand for Aristotle's First Mover argument. In the context of the Medieval university, it would be extremely clear that what Aquinas means for us to do is to go read book 12 of the Metaphysics or book 8 of the Physics. Without going into too much detail, let's just say that Aquinas' argument, given that he is using Aristotelian physics, is quite correct.

It is, of course, not very convincing to anyone who doesn't accept Aristotelian physics.

The above three analyses are extremely superficial examinations of the first three Ways. It is patently clear to me that Dawkins just kind of read through the Five Ways without looking too closely or trying to acquire the necessary background to properly understand them. Lumping the three of them together is simply incorrect.

Moreover, Dawkins is simply incorrect when he says that Aquinas provides no reason to think that the being he speaks of in the Five Ways is something like the Christian God. After arguing for the existence of God, Aquinas spends many pages addressing this very question. Granted, the reasons he gives are based on Aristotelian metaphysics. They may not convince Richard Dawkins, but he should at the very least admit to their existence.

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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby Zorander » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:46 pm UTC

VannA wrote:
Dawkins arguments attack the standard triple O entity, in general.


I don't agree. Dawkins' arguments can be used for any faith-based system of belief. He says in reference to gods generally, and the Christian God in particular, that we are all atheistic to some degree: few believe in the ancient Greek Pantheon anymore. His atheism just goes one god further.

His arguments against the Deistic idea of a clockmaker god who simply put all the deterministic parts into motion at the start of the Big Bang - which I think is where you're going with this - are also quite compelling. Already discussed is the idea that it doesn't explain the origins of that Creator. In attempting to explain the apparent "irreducible complexity" (sorry for the scare quotes, I hate them, but I hold the specious phrase in such contempt that I simply must distance myself from it) that we observe, any attempt to invoke a creator intelligent and enabled enough to do so only introduces a more unattainable level of irreducible complexity, compounding the problem that the explanation tries to solve. How did that creator come to be?

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just that it is hubristic to say "I am a man of science, and THAT is so hard to believe that is is certainly untrue. I can't prove it at all, but it is definitely untrue. You are delusional for believing it."


The position of scepticism should always be the default from a scientific point of view. It is the job of someone making a proposition to show that moving from that position is a justified and rational thing to do. It's contrary and perverse to insist that it's the scientist's responsibility to disprove an untestable, unfalsifiable hypothesis with no empirical support. The idea of a creator god - even without assuming anything specific about its nature - is contrary to all available observable evidence. We don't need one to explain the vast majority of the phenomena that we observe in the universe, and there's no reason to suppose that we need one to explain the universe's origin. Once the idea of a creator god actually emerges from the things that we observe, there is a case for addressing the argument seriously. Until then, it shares the same level of scientific veracity as Bertrand's teapot, the FSM or invisible pink unicorns.

There is also a less hardline reason for accepting the idea of a creator god: it doesn't help. It stifles enquiry. It encourages us to shrug and turn away from the questions of ultimate genesis: they're pretty tough, after all, and what more elegant solution than to say that some mystical superbeing conjured us from nothing? The whole idea of accepting the hypothesis as even plausible flies in the face of the ideals and goals of science.

Ari wrote:
I'm annoyed by skeptics who don't seem to realise that even if the object of the belief might not be real, that people might have gotten more out of that "false" belief than they would have gotten from nothing at all.


This isn't actually Dawkins' main concern. He's mostly riled at the attitude that religious assertions are somehow as equally compelling as (or in some cases more so) scientific explanations. He takes great umbrage at the idea that people might claim to put more faith in, well, faith than in the repeatable, verifiable, testable conclusions supplied by the scientific method. He thinks it encourages a kind of mental poverty, among other things. It might be true that religion has a kind of psychological placebo effect that makes people feel happier about their lives, but that doesn't say anything about its ability to explain the natural world that we observe. And, he claims, its side-effects are so detrimental - and the alternatives so much more enriching - that the tiny redeeming feature of anaesthetising people against truths that they find unpalatable is massively outweighed.

Ari wrote:
we should still respect faith in general.


This is one of Dawkins' favourite points to belabour: why? Why does faith in general deserve respect? And are we talking only orthodox religious faith, or any personal truths that we choose to accept because of whatever arbitrary reasons we care to dream up?

HadouKen24
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby HadouKen24 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:18 pm UTC

In attempting to explain the apparent "irreducible complexity" (sorry for the scare quotes, I hate them, but I hold the specious phrase in such contempt that I simply must distance myself from it) that we observe, any attempt to invoke a creator intelligent and enabled enough to do so only introduces a more unattainable level of irreducible complexity, compounding the problem that the explanation tries to solve.


This is another argument of Dawkins' that annoys me.

First, I want to make it clear that I think the argument from irreducible complexity is completely bogus. It is little more than an argument from ignorance--I can't think of any way that this could have occurred naturally, so it couldn't have. It is extremely weak from a logical standpoint. The fact that so many structures formerly labeled "irreducibly complex" have been shown not to be is just a nail in the coffin.

That said, this response to the argument is even worse. Dawkins fundamentally misunderstands the argument from design. The claim is merely that there is evidence (in the form of irreducible complexity) that there must be a designer. To go beyond that is to push the analogy further than it can reasonably go. One can infer only that the irreducibly complex creature was intentionally made to be a certain way, and that there is thus some entity that can and does intentionally interfere with the natural processes of life. One cannot infer anything about the level of complexity of this entity, since one cannot know anything about the nature of its mind aside from that it has intentions. To be sure, most of the proposers of this argument are attempting to vindicate their notion of God, but most of them recognize the limitations of the argument, and only try to argue that it makes their theologies more reasonable to believe.

Some of the greatest philosopher-theologians who have lived, including the above-mentioned Thomas Aquinas, have espoused the doctrine of divine simplicity, claiming that not only is God less complex than his creation, but he lacks all complexity. Aquinas argues for divine simplicity directly after the argument from design.

Moreover, even if Dawkins argument did work, it still wouldn't invalidate the argument from design. All that the theologian has to do is posit that God is maximally complex. This is not a new theology; numerous theologians have supposed that God does have or might have infinite attributes, thus rendering him infinitely complex.

How did that creator come to be?


This question is literally nonsense if the creator in question is the Christian God. The Christian God is thought to be eternal. Eternal things cannot come to be, or they are not eternal. Hence, Dawkins' question boils down to "How did that thing which cannot have come to be, come to be." Utter nonsense.

Robin S
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Re: Richard Dawkins

Postby Robin S » Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:23 pm UTC

VannA wrote:Relying on probabilty to discount something is fairly weak, in my opinion.
I haven't read the book so I don't know exactly how Dawkins uses probability in his argument, but isn't this how science works?
clintonius wrote:
VannA wrote:I don't know any agnostics who play the 'don't try' card. I play the 'its not important to me' card a lot. They are different.
They're not really, in the practical sense -- both lead to the refusal to seek answers, so far as I can tell.
I'd say it depends what aspect of "the practical sense" you're talking about. As far as I'm concerned, I'm an agnostic of the "don't care variety", and might as well be atheist for the difference it makes to my life. One possible difference is that I encourage tolerance of people's beliefs when they are not actively harmful, but I also encourage education of people who believe things out of ignorance.
Dream wrote:And of course, if it is possible to believe it, within the bounds of science "it" is a theory, however crazy and unlikely, that can stand until disproved.
I don't follow this. How is it falsifiable?
Pearsquisher wrote:I disagree with a lot. Dawkins attacks moderates on a moral level (as in, he says they ought not to believe). This is pointless. Even if it is (at least to me, and I'm assuming Dawkins) obvious upon critical thought that there is no reason to believe in God, why should one believe what is most likely? I think theists are not critically thinking about their position, but I certainly do not think that is immoral. I also disagree with the idea that, without religion, there would be less war. It is useless to think of what might have happened if there were no religion. That would be a supremely different werld, and there is no way to tell what might happen in that situation. Maybe there would be more war. Who knows?
I agree quite strongly with all of this.
Zorander wrote:Why does faith in general deserve respect? And are we talking only orthodox religious faith, or any personal truths that we choose to accept because of whatever arbitrary reasons we care to dream up?
That depends on your definition of "respect".
HadouKen24 wrote:This question is literally nonsense if the creator in question is the Christian God. The Christian God is thought to be eternal. Eternal things cannot come to be, or they are not eternal. Hence, Dawkins' question boils down to "How did that thing which cannot have come to be, come to be." Utter nonsense.
Not necessarily. For example, if there was no evidence for the Big Bang, and science indicated that the steady-state theory was correct, would that eliminate all reason for wondering why the Universe existed in the first place?
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