Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Richard Dawkins's unreasonable rant against God, Part I.

"Now lets be reasonable." Most of us have heard this statement at one time or another, usually at the end of a heated debate or argument. The phrase is meant to put an end to the argument, as the unspoken assumption that if the you use reason, then the you would agree with the other. Such a assumption is at the heart of Richard Dawkins "The God Delusion."Richard declares that science and rationality are opposed to faith, as such faith should be rejected.

The book is a polemic against religion and does not pretend to be fair. The outline is fairly simple. First, he takes God as a hypothesis. He then surveys the classical proofs of God, zeroing in on the proof by design. Then he makes the case that science is superior to religion in explaining the world. God fails as a hypothesis. Most of his arguments are nothing new and are better expressed by Bertrand Russell's "Why I am not a Christian." His novelty comes in the second half of the book as he uses his own theory of memes to explain the reality and origins of religion. He ends by looking at morality and how atheist not only can be moral, but are superior morally to a theist.

So, where to begin with Dr Dawkins? First is his assumptions have either little awareness or outright ignoring of the philosophy of science and the philosophy of religion. His declaration in the second edition of his book that he had no obligation to engage with theology or theological giants in order not belief in God agrues for his ignoring the two different fields. He is right that he does not need to read theology if he just choses not to believe, but he should under intellectual honesty to engage theology if he is going to publicly denouce it. He still doesn't revealing him to be a coward. His underlining gambit of making science and religion opposing sides is just taken as self-evident proposition. Science is a methodology, while Religion is believe system, each with their own rules by which they play. As thinkers as diverse as Ludwig Wittengstien, Richard Rorty and Steven Jay Gould have argued that religion and science occupy different spaces. Dawkins brand of scentific materialism is extreme and hard to defend from either side of the divide. Does science provide a object truth or does it provide a series of progressive models of how Nature and the Universe function: Newtonian physics replaced by Einstein physics replaced by maybe string theory? It seems like it is the latter. It can get better at describing the world but can never get to objective truth as there maybe a better model down the road. Religion makes a claim about the ultimate reality. It deals with questions of Life, Death, God, Love and Man and his purpose in the universe. It never proposes to be a hypothesis of explaintion; it is not a scientific theory or hypothesis. When Dawkins trys to make it one and puts it to the test like a one, he is like the fool who returns a hammer to the store with the complaint that it a rotten screwdriver. He shares the same worldview as the fundementalist who return the screwdrive with complaint that it does not work in hammering nails. Tomorrow a look at reason and logic as they fit within his argument's structure and what he fails to take into account, which turns his book into a joke with unrealized punchline. Ironies abound for him like Alice through the looking glass.


J-sun said...

I don't totally disagree with this argument. However, I do think that because Religion (especially Fundamentalist) tries so hard, unnervingly successfully, to wedge it's beliefs into the everyday lives and laws of the land---It HAS to be compared to/with science.

Creationism/Intelligent Design is the major example of this.
Prayer as healing instead of medicine would be another.

Have you read other Dawkins books, or seen any of his videos?

Tito Tinajero said...

Dear J-Sun,

Thank you for you comment. I wrote awhile back the rise in Manicheanism in Christianity, http://www.life-and-faith.org/2008/11/christian-thought-cold-war-and.html . The two examples you mention come more from a small section of Christian world. They are vocal but part of what Christian theologian Miroslav Wolf calls Christian lite. I see Dawkins and the rest of the rise of the New Atheists as similar in thinking. I have read the Selfish Gene, interesting, but I was left unconvinced as I am with his Meme theory. It can be characterized (maybe unfairly) as any thinking unlike my thinking is a meme and not reasonable.

What I found taling to many Christian fundamentalists ia a lack on knowledge and understanding to the Christian Faith.