Saturday, August 11, 2007
THE UNHOLY TRINITY OF ATHEISTS - PART 2 - RICHARD DAWKINS
Part 2 will be a personal critique of Richard Dawkins' twin ideas of Atheism & Evolution - as described in "The God Delusion" (2006) and "The Selfish Gene" (1976) - in relation to my primary criticism, as cited in Part 1 :
"This little 'trinity' of atheists...especially Dawkins...do little to heal a broken world...their little crusade will prove to be divisive to humanity".
HYPOTHESIS 1 - NON-RELIGIOUS, EVOLUTIONARY, ATHEISTIC IDEAS - SUCH AS THOSE OF RICHARD DAWKINS - ARE USED (AND WILL BE USED) TO JUSTIFY MAN'S INHUMANITY TO MAN, JUST AS MUCH AS RELIGIOUS, "IN-THE-BEGINNING-GOD", THEISTIC IDEAS...POSSIBLY MORE SO ...FOR EXAMPLE :
1. SOCIAL DARWINISM VIA DARWINISM
To quote Dawkins himself ("The God Delusion" - Chapter 6 "The roots of morality : why are we good" - Page 246) :
"Isn't goodness incompatible with the theory of the 'selfish gene'. No. This is a common misunderstanding of the theory - a distressing (and, with hindsight, foreseeable) misunderstanding.*
* I (Dawkins - Ed) was mortified to read in The Guardian ('Animal Instincts', 27 May 2006) that "The Selfish Gene" is the favourite book of Jeff Skilling, CEO of the infamous Enron Corporation, and that he derived inspiration of a Social Darwinist character from it...
...I have tried to forestall similar misunderstandings in my new preface to the thirteenth anniversary edition of 'The Selfish Gene', just brought out by Oxford University Press."
2. NEO-CONSERVATISM VIA NEO-DARWINISM
3. MORAL RELATIVISM VIA LOGICAL POSITIVISM
HYPOTHESIS 2 - IF THERE IS SOME TRUTH TO THE ABOVE, THEN A COUNTER-ARGUMENT CAN BE MADE AGAINST DAWKINS, WHO MAKES IT CLEAR THAT PEOPLE WITH A RELIGIOUS FAITH SHOULD DISCARD THEIR CHERISHED BELIEFS BECAUSE OF THE MASSIVELY DAMAGING AFFECTS OF THOSE BELIEFS...
IF HIS SECULAR 'FAITH' ALSO IS MASSIVELY DAMAGING, THEN PEOPLE SHOULD DISCARD SUCH NON-RELIGIOUS BELIEFS.
The loo really isn't the best place to do serious thinking, Richard. But I suspect that wherever you are you don't - won't - can't think logically.
What do you mean by "thinking logically" ?
Simple enough question.
Avoiding false premises and irrational conclusions, for another.
Above all, reading texts with an open mind, even if you think in advance that you dislike the author and all his works,and being willing to give due weight to what you agree with instead of cherrypicking footnotes to nitpick and misrepresent, as you have just done yet again.
Intellectual honesty, in other words.
I know you are sincere, Richard, but that is quite another matter.
So, "to think logically" is to think only with one's reason or intelligence.
To my mind, there is an important difference between "thinking logically" and "thinking clearly"...the former is the Science of Reasoning; the latter is the Art of Unmuddled Thinking.
I'm sure it's true that the study of logic will help to think more clearly, but it's not enough...
Not all intelligent logicians are automatically clear thinkers, and not all clear thinkers are automatically logicians.
"To think logically is far easier than to think clearly.
"The former involves only our intelligence, the latter involves all sorts of factors which we describe as psychological or emotional.
"Control over intellect is, for most people, far easier than control over emotion".
(Source : "How To Write, Think And Speak Correctly", Odhams Press -1939 - Pages 246/247)
Your problem. Richard, is that you don't seem to exercise much control over either.
And, of course, springing this hare is a diversionary tactic to avoid dealing directly with Dawkins's point that his evolutionary beliefs are grounded in abundant scientific evidence and are not 'faith', because he is prepared to alter them in the light of new evidence, whereas theists such as yourself are not prepared to abandon your beliefs although they are not grounded upon convincing evidence.
What evidence DO you have for the existence of a God, or gods?
It's not logical thinking, or clear thinking, that you owe us but honest thinking [which is different from sincere belief].
Back to your homework!
As I've repeatedly pointed out, Dawkins' viewpoint is not a 'faith' but a 'most likely hypothesis' based upon accumulated scientific evidence which he is willing to reconsider in the light of new convincing evidence from theists.
Dawkins says in 'The God Delusion' chapter 8: "Absolutist moral discrimination is devastatingly undermined by the fact of evolution. An uneasy awareness of this fact might, indeed, underlie one of the main motives creationists have for opposing evolution: they fear what they believe to be its moral consequences. They are wrong to do so but, in any case, it is surely very odd to think that a truth about the real world can be reversed by considerations of what would be morally desirable."
That last point, I think. disposes of your contention above. As Joad - and in this case Pontius Pilate - would undoubtedly say, "It all depends on what you mean by 'truth'". What do YOU mean by 'truth', Richard? Are you a creationist?
Dawkins himself also answers this - albeit in part :
"Critics have occasionally misunderstood 'The Selfish Gene' to be advocating selfishness as a principle by which we should live...I am not advocating a morality based on evolution...
"Now that Britain has a government of the new right, which has elevated meanness and selfishness to the status of idealogy, my words seem to have acquired a kind of nastiness by association, which I regret."
(Source : "The Selfish Gene", 30th Anniversary Edition 2006 - Endnotes - Pages 267 & 268)
You say : "Dawkins' viewpoint is not a 'faith' but a 'most likely hypothesis' "
As I see it, a hypothesis is a conjecture, which is a theory, which is a kind of "faith"...which must adapt according to new evidence, etc.
As I'm sure you know, Karl Popper( Philosopher of Science) put this in terms of a 'Problem-Solution' formula - to which I try and follow :
P1 -> TS1 -> EE -> P2 -> TS2 -> EE -> etc
P1 is the PROBLEM
TS1 is the TRIAL SOLUTION
(or, hypothesis, theory, conjecture, 'faith')
EE is ERROR ELIMINATION
(or, criticim, fault-finding, refutation)
P2 is the new PROBLEM
TS2 is the TRIAL SOLUTION to the new problem
EE is the new ERROR ELIMINATION
And so on...
So as I see it, any theory (or hypothesis, trial solution) is a form of faith - we believe it until evidence comes along to suggest otherwise.
People believed the sun went round the earth, then Copernicus & Galileo came along and said the opposite was the 'truth'...
And you ask : What do I mean by Truth ? Correspondence with the facts (Tarski)
It all depends what you mean by "creationist" ?
I happen to believe that "In the beginning God..." (Genesis 1.1) has as much validity - and a greater 'ring of truth - as "It all started with the Big Bang"...
If it's any comfort to you, I don't believe in the 'Big Bang' theory either. Time is a human concept. It may well be circular, with no beginning and no end. I cannot comprehend a state where there was "nothing" before there was "something". I think there has always been something.
But was that "something" God? It all depends on what you mean by "God".
What do YOU mean by "God", Richard? Will you please be specific?
And please remember that Popper's most important contribution to the problem of knowledge was his maxim that unfalsifiable hypotheses aren't knowledge.
"God" is an unfalsifiable hypothesis.
That then begs the question : "What is Reality" ?
Can't answer that with any certainty of knowledge - neither can you - and neither can philosophers, theologians, scientists, etc from time immemorial.
It comes down to Popper again :
PROBLEM 1 question : What is reality ?
TRIAL SOLUTION 1 etc etc.
You ask : What do I mean by "God" ?
Big question - half answer.
For me, "God is that of which nothing greater can be conceived" (St Anselm)
As you know, AC, it's an Ontological 'Proof' for the existence od God.
Dawkins covers this 'proof' in "The God Delusion", as I'm sure you also know.
I have read Dawkins criticisms, and I am far from impressed so far.
I have based my Mega Motivation Theory on St Anselm's 'proof' (or, theory/hypothesis/conjecture)..so I think I know a bit about it - especially as described in 'The Proslogion'.
As I see it, Dawkins has not fully understood St Anselm's central idea.
So you've discovered Stephen Law! He's a highly intelligent philosopher whose blog I visit frequently. I shouldn't think he buys the 'ontological' argument, which is of course a semantic quibble: "If I can conceive of something, by definition it exists".
So unicorns, tooth fairies, flying spaghetti monsters, and squiddlyoops exist? "They must do - I can imagine them". Of course you are free to call the biggest thing you can imagine "God". The biggest 'thing' I can imagine is the myriad galaxies known and unknown which inhabit space. If they are "God", I suppose I'm a pantheist. But no personal telephone exchange, alas.....
Really, Richard, you tempt me to echo the Duke of Wellington's retort to the man who accosted him as "Mr. Jones, I believe?" To which the Iron Duke replied: "If you believe that, you'd believe anything."
When we use words to communicate, that is "semantics", as I see.
Words are often inadequate, but often that's all we've got to play with.
Does a "thought" exist ? Is a thought a thing or about a thing ?
Is consciousness real ?
These issues are not "semantic quibbles"...they are important.
Is such belief or non-belief a good influence or a bad one?
Semantics [per the Oxford Concise] is the branch of philosophy concerned with the meaning of language, and how it is used.
A 'thing' [per ditto] is whatever is the object of thought. It may exist, or be an abstraction or a fantasy.
Consciousness is every sentient creature's mode of awareness. According to Lakoff and Johnson ["Philosophy in the Flesh"], it is a unitary mind/body experience. They - to my mind conclusively - refute dualism.
There appears to be a limit to what our brains can understand.
Why do you assume that someone with a "religious faith" can't adapt their beliefs according to "evidence" which rings true for that person ?
So if 70,000 people believe that they saw the sun fall from the sky at Fatima, it must have actually happened?
Am I a man dreaming that I am a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming that I am a man? Who knows?
I am convinced that I am a poached egg. Will you please butter me some toast to sit on?
Come off it!
If that is the case, then are you saying that every person who has not believed, does not believe, and will not believe in God - is not just right - but so right they can tell 'believers' they are so wrong ?
2. And however you define him, her or it, what evidence do you have for this presumed entity's existence?
Until you define the 'God' that you Richard Symonds [and not anyone else] believes in, and provide credible evidence for your God's existence, it's pointless to continue this debate as it is you who continually ducks these crucial points. I'm waiting....
Over to you.
No-one can prove or disprove the existence of God - so what ?
For me, God is "that of which nothing greater can be conceived" Anselm)...or "God is that without which there would be nothing at all in existence" (Dr Sarah Coakley).
Over to you
The lady's definition is a tautology.
You don't convince me that there is anything - God or call it what you will - 'supernatural' i.e. beyond nature, or operating outside the natural laws of cause and effect.
Or that, if there is, it has any special or personal relationships with human beings.
Next question: How does your 'consciousness' of God affect your behaviour?
"Suppose, for example, that we think of knowledge (eg of God) as a little lighted patch, the area of the known, set in a sea of environing darkness, the limitless area of the unknown.
"Then, the more we enlarge the area of the lighted patch, the area of the known, the more also we enlarge the area of contact with the environing darkness of the unknown.
In philosophy, then, as in daily life, cocksureness is a function of ignorance, and dunces step in where sages fear to tread.
"The wise man is he who realises his limitations"
RS: "Then are you saying that every person who has believed, is believing, and will believe in God - whatever God is conceived to be - have been, are, and will be not just wrong, but dangerously wrong ?"
AC: What I am saying is that without further evidence of the existence of a supernatural deity, I think that the balance of known probability weighs against the existence of such an entity, and that therefore those who believe otherwise are factually incorrect.
RS: "If that is the case, then are you saying that every person who has not believed, does not believe, and will not believe in God - is not just right - but so right they can tell 'believers' they are so wrong ?"
AC: As there can only be a correct [right] or incorrect [wrong] answer to this proposition [the existence of God], in the light of my first answer, Yes.
Of course I agree with Joad's concept of knowledge, but knowledge is not synonymous with 'God' unless you are merely juggling with words.
As to your admission to being right - and 'believers' wrong - aren't you being guilty of the very thing you accuse of believers ?