Friday, May 15, 2009

Richard Dawkins and his failure to understand reason.

"There are crimes of passion and crimes of logic. The boundary between them is not clearly defined."

Albert Camus pen these words in his 1951, The Rebel. He was responding to the horrendous blooding letting of first half of the twentieth century. Almost a quarter of billion humans lost their lives violently within those fifty years through man-made catastrophes like WWI, WWII, the Russian and Chinese Revolutions, and the Holocaust. No other period in Human history could even come close to the nightmares of those years. It should be pointed out that none of these of events had a Religious cause. It was the darkest winter of human history, and faith played only a small roll of mostly a spectator. What Camus noticed was how each of the major murders of these years went to great length to make their crimes reasonable. They claimed to follow modernity. Most of the major ideologies such as Fascism and Communism claimed science as the basis. The scientist of their culture went with these ideologies. German scientist followed the racial claims of the Nazis. Communistic scientists went on to justify Marx's worldview. These ideologies never attempted to be a religion, and were at best condescendly tolerant of religion or at worse murderously hostile to it. Those fifty years put an end to the modernist quest of rational enlightenment. Post-modernity arose out of the ashes of modernity. The flapping about looking for a direction that is post-modernity from coming out of the collapse of modernity.

What most of the architect of these events were unaware of is that reason was also being dealt intellectual blows as well. Kurt Godel, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and modern Physics made the dream of finding objective truth also a dream. Mathematics will always have inconsistencies. Language has limits in describing the world. Physics has to account for the observer. Reason can be manipulated. So why bring this up in my review of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion? One of the unexamined assumption of Dawkins is a call to return to modernity. We are called to abandon religion for a rational life of evidence. Yet, as we have found out in the blood of millions, evidence is not so easy to obtain.

It seems that Richard Dawkins ignores this history. He promotes ideas that this history and intelligence have already rejected. He wants us to be good scientists and use reason, evidence, and the methodology of hypothesis and testing as the basis of life. Except such a worldview fails to see reason for what it is, a method to process information. Like a computer, we always need input before we can do the computation, garbage in garbage out. Rationality falls victim to preconceived notions. Stephen Jay Gould wrote so many good essays cataloging what he called the Idea Fixed, which led many a scientist down the wrong path. Dr. Dawkins has his own Idea Fixed. His hostility to religion and to God makes him blind to any benefit to religion. Religion becomes Dawkins's great Satan. His opening chapter his Idea Fixed is displayed in its full glory. Since he is advocating science and makes science opposed to theism, he has a problem since Einstein (a patron saint of science) used God language. He solves this by saying Einstein's concept of God is not a personal God, but more a Pantheistic concept, which is true. He then pronounces Pantheism as a form of Atheism, which is false. Can a view of God be a denial of God? Dawkins seems to thinks so. He then says the personal God of Faith that rewards the good and punishes the bad of Christianity is not what Einstein meant. Dawkins is correct, pantheism is not like Trinity of Classical Christian theology, but it is still in the camp of Theism. Atheism denies God, as Dawkins does throughout his book. Pantheism is a view of what God, and not a sexed up atheism. If he held the same standard to this pantheism, where would the problem of theodicy fit in? If God is everything then God also is good and evil. The second point is that he does understand the Christian idea of God either. The Christian concept of God holds God is both immanent and transcendent. Pantheism sees only God as immanent. If he were serious in looking at God, then he would put Pantheism to the same test. If God is everything, then God is both good and evil and would also have as much trouble answering the theodicy question of suffering as Christian theology. The only value for Dawkins in the theodicy question is its utility in denying Abrahamic God. Once he rejects God, the question of suffering disappears.

The final point in this section is how Dawkins accounts for religion. Religion, for most modernist, arises either as out of a projection of values or as an explanation of the unknown. Dawkins uses his own unproved theory of meme to say the religion is like a virus of the meme. Meme is a simple idea that operates like a gene in biology. Dawkins claims that the religion meme passes from parent to child. (Reason and his worldview is not a meme for Dawkins. So in review his thinking is good, and anyone who thinks differently has a virus like mind meme. Nice. Such narrow thinking would be welcome in the Wahhabi school. And Dawkins gets angry when he s called a fundamentalist.) The funny thing is that he begins his book with the story of chaplain at his school, whose faith arose out his wonder. Both reason and wonder need wonder.


J-sun said...

"The scientist of their culture went with these ideologies. German scientist followed the racial claims of the Nazis. Communistic scientists went on to justify Marx's worldview."

You make this claim like you think they had a choice in the matter.

I would certainly argue that point. I'm not sure anyone had a choice in those regimes. And I certainly don't think these regimes, and the horrors that were committed in their name, were "atheistic".

Tito Tinajero said...

Unfortunately, in most cases the scientists in question pursued their fields with gusto in support of their regimes. I use them to illustrate that man's (I include myself) capacity for self-delusion is so great. What concerns me is less Dawkins's atheism as much as his blind modernism. The modern program failed, and I cannot see any good coming from trying to revive it. Already, it has led him to call anyone sending their child to sunday school a child abuser.