The God Delusion (criticism of atheist Dawkins) [VIDEO]

Update [3/1/07]: also check out UK apologist and Oxford Professor Alister McGrath’s book The Dawkins Delusion for a scientifically-inclined rebuttal to Dawkin’s arguments negating God.

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Excellent post from Alternet‘s Evan Derkacz discussing the merit (and lack thereof) of Dawkins. Of course, it probably just wouldn’t be right not to link it to my atheistic humanist acquaintance Brett Keller’s blog, where he undoubtedly supports some of his main points of contention.

I’d respond to Dawkins’ assertions myself if I had more time. In all likelihood, though, I probably already have, albeit indirectly.

Sorry, haven’t had much time to post due to increasingly busy schedule. Of course, there have been plenty of blogworthy world events (will do a quick post maybe later).

Oh, and note that I tagged “the Antichrist” not necessarily because I believe Dawkins is the Antichrist… one of them, maybe – but far from “uniting an army” against God as it were. I’d leave it up to the politicians to do that.

via Alternet (video also available at link).
tagline: ‘Darwin’s Rottweiler’ Richard Dawkins disses faith, Bush base

In a BBC interview on Friday, Evolutionary Biologist and sharp religion critic, Richard Dawkins, talks about his new book, The God Delusion (I”m just ecstatic that he referenced the Flying Spaghetti Monster).

He claims to want to speak to the middle ground; to people who haven’t really thought too much about faith and God in order to challenge their belief. An uphill battle, to be sure. He employs all the usual suspects: “people need to believe in fairy tales” “just look at organized religion” but fails to see where every method for assessing reality is hopelessly mired in its own methodology. Or: the scientific method may be positively divine for assessing the physical world, it has built-in limitations w/r/t [FC ed. note: with respect to] the spiritual one.

He’s toned his contempt down, even acknowledging that there might be a God (you can’t prove a negative) but he winds up pushing the tired claim that religion is the root of mankind’s conflict and that, one presumes, it’ll be rainbows and unicorns (if they existed) when religion goes the way of the dodo. Certain of his claims are just silly: There are similarities among the world’s religions so they can’t all be true!

Things I like about Richard Dawkins:

  1. He eviscerates Creationists regularly
  2. He refuses to debate them b/c, as Stephen Jay Gould suggested, they don’t mind losing a debate, they just want the credibility the debate provides.
  3. His heart seems to be in the right place
  4. He’s preternaturally nerdy
  5. He’s uses the Bush administration as an object lesson in the dangers of theology-driven policy making

Things I don’t like about Richard Dawkins…

  1. He speaks of “Truth” with a straight face and a dearth of humility
  2. He calls himself a “Bright” and people of faith: “faithheads” or “faith-sufferers”
  3. He calls Christian Theology “vacuous” despite the centuries of contribution by some of history’s biggest brains
  4. He’s a pompous prick (see no. 5)
  5. He separates out the good Awe and Spirituality (his and Einstein’s) from the shallow: most people’s

One last thing on unwittingly making things worse. Dawkins refuses to debate Creationists for fear of giving them just the credibility they need to push their pseudoscience, sure, but when he, as a scientist lends his voice to this religion smackdown it feeds the beastly belief that spirituality and science can’t coexist.

Watch it [upper right] and try to say something interesting in comments besides: See, stupid people need to believe in fairy tales…

UPDATE:

I’d like to appeal to another Oxford scholar as a counterpoint to Dawkins’ desire to impose his Truth on the rest of society: the philosopher Isaiah Berlin, who spent much of his intellectual life wrestling with Utopian ideology, totalitarianism and its underpinnings.

Much to his own surprise he concluded that contrary to the winds blowing at Oxford (which he proudly basked in), it was not so much the departure from the singular Truths espoused by those with the most passionate of ethical or moral concerns at the root of it all; rather, it was those who held tightly to the belief that there was such a thing as objective Truth (which of course they had access to and the imperative to spread).

It seems like more than just coincidence that Oxford prof. Richard Dawkins happens to be pushing against a certain type of pluralism in his crusade to dissuade. I’m not saying that Dawkins’ ideas are liable to lead to totalitarianism — nothing of the sort — just that much as he and other atheists find it easy to rationalize the belief in God as based on our need for one, I find it easy to believe that Dawkins and others need to believe in the tidy conclusion that religion is at the heart of the world’s ills.

Of course, this is a dicey argument as well; one which can’t be made as vulgarly and succinctly as I have. There have to be some overlapping objective realities and one must give science its due in the physical world. Empirical truths ought to be respected. The point remains, however, that when it comes to a world with different, unobservable, properties, one must use the proper equipment.

Evan Derkacz is a New York-based writer and contributor to AlterNet.

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26 thoughts on “The God Delusion (criticism of atheist Dawkins) [VIDEO]

  1. Thanks for the link (and the thoughtful post). I normally prefer not to be referred to as “atheist Brett Keller” unless it is clearly stated that I lack belief in a theistic God, as opposed to believing there is no God. And since I would prefer to be known by what I do hold to be true (as opposed to what I don’t) I think panentheist or humanist would be a more descriptive and accurate. Thanks 🙂

    Reply
  2. Hey man, an atheist’s an atheist. You didn’t quite come off as being a pantheist in the thread. So you Do believe in God?

    (note: reference has been modified)

    Reply
  3. Never claimed to be a pantheist- panentheistic. I don’t believe in the Judeo-Christian God. Sometimes I find it useful to think of the Supreme as a (non pre-existent) emergent phenomena that exists b/c our minds operate via pattern recognition and try to discern higher order out of existence, but calling that “God” is misleading. And no, an atheist isn’t an atheist.

    Reply
  4. Panentheism. Interesting – never heard of it before. You’re a rare species.

    It’s still atheism, though. Atheism because you effectively circumvent some of the more common understood/attributed traits of deity as if to give it some sort of absolute meaning (which to me is an intellectually pointless position bearing similarities to agnosticism).

    What exactly are the attributes of this idiosyncratic “Supreme”? Can you name some? (I’m not trying to be vindictive).

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  5. Yes, of course I ‘circumvent some of the more common undertsood/attributed traits of deity’-because I don’t really believe in a deity. The “something” I believe in isn’t a separate entity from the Universe, but rather the physical laws/forces that make everything work. In a way you could say it’s similar to Einstein’s conception of God as the forces that bind the Universe together. It’s a way of thinking about the transcendent without relying on supernatural things. So in that since, I wouldn’t try to give It attributes, but rather say It is a way of thinking of some of the attributes of the Universe. So if you think that’s pointless, whatever, but I disagree.

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  6. It’s a way of thinking about the transcendent without relying on supernatural things.

    That’s exactly the point – your definition of “transcendent” is skewed if it is only limited to what “binds the Universe” (especially given the theory of origins).

    Reply
  7. And again, we get back to a difference in definitions. If one doesn’t believe the type of transcendence you believe in exists, then using transcendent to describe large, overarching principles within the Universe seems valid.

    Reply
  8. And again, we get back to a difference in definitions.

    Ravi Zacharias did a great sermon on why secularism fails to provide a coherent set of answers to the questions of the world here (part 2 here). Once you lose coherency you lose the ability to meaningfully communicate, whereby removing the communication of higher truths between people. Listen to it if you have the time.

    Some example definitions of “transcendence”:

    1. In philosophy, transcendental experiences are experiences of an exclusively human nature that are other-worldly or beyond the human realm of understanding.
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendence_(philosophy)

    2. In mathematics, a transcendental function is a function which is not expressible as a composition of a finite number of elementary operations, or inverses of functions so constructible, where the elementary operations consist of addition, multiplication, taking additive or multiplicative inverses, and integer root extraction. Transcendental functions include all the trigonometric functions and logarithmic functions, along with most other special functions in mathematics.
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendence_(mathematics)

    3. # a state of being or existence above and beyond the limits of material experience
    # the state of excelling or surpassing or going beyond usual limits
    wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

    4. The combination of two or more unlike elements into a unified whole, without the diminishment of their own individual Essences.
    ceh.kitoba.com/glossary.html

    [ed. note: this sentence has added.] There’s a reason why transcendentalism is often seen as mysticism: it’s because that’s the normative meaning of the word. Transcendentalism without transcendence is meaningless. This is where and why God enters the picture.

    Your definition is textbook revisionism and is also non sequitur.

    Reply
  9. I think my definition ties into #4 you cited just fine. I’d also cite the following -“Surpassing others; preeminent or supreme.”
    -“Lying beyond the ordinary range of perception.”
    -“Of the greatest possible degree, quality, or intensity.”
    -“Existing only in concept and not in reality”

    While you may argue secularism leads to an inability to meaningfully communicate, I would also say that your theology offers higher truths that simply aren’t, well, true. The problem with definitions is that there are so many of them. I think you and I are both forced to admit that a word like “transcendent” can mean many things to many people, so it is vital for us to define what we mean. Accusing others of revisionism for preferring a different definition is tiresome.

    Reply
  10. I think my definition ties into #4 you cited just fine. I’d also cite the following-”Surpassing others; preeminent or supreme.”
    -”Lying beyond the ordinary range of perception.”
    -”Of the greatest possible degree, quality, or intensity.”
    -”Existing only in concept and not in reality”

    Number4 lacks context. In fact, I’m sorry for even putting that definition up there, because it was misleading [ed: added this] as a reputable reference, period.

    I’m also sorry, but

    I don’t really believe in a deity. The “something” I believe in isn’t a separate entity from the Universe, but rather the physical laws/forces that make everything work. In a way you could say it’s similar to Einstein’s conception of God as the forces that bind the Universe together.

    doesn’t quite match the four definitions you provided, either. You’re either saying two different things, or you’re making up your own definition (revisionism) – which leads to the next point:

    While you may argue secularism leads to an inability to meaningfully communicate, I would also say that your theology offers higher truths that simply aren’t, well, true.

    If you’re meaning to tie this into my point of coherency, you’re committing yet another non sequitur. But I’ll respond to your charge with these two points: 1. higher truths are by default eliminated when the person trying to communicate them are incoherent and 2. to say “your theology offers higher truths that simply aren’t, well, true” is a pretty lofty claim. But let’s compare it to secularism by statistics:

    Our century is noted for its absolute and bloody wars. World War I saw nine-million people killed in battle, an [incredible] record that was far surpassed within a few decades by the 15 million battle deaths of World War II. Even the number killed in twentieth century revolutions and civil wars have set historical records. In total, this century’s battle killed in all its international and domestic wars, revolutions, and violent conflicts is so far about 35,654,000.

    Whereas:

    The total number of deaths due to the crusades had been estimated at around nine million, at least half of which were Christians.

    I also, for the most part, wouldn’t include neo-colonial European religiosity during the last 4 centuries due to the stronger influence of imperialism/mercantilism. So at best, the ratio is 1(religious):4(atheist) dead. So let’s address your implied claim: what are these “higher truths” of atheism and why are they necessarily “true”?

    Accusing others of revisionism for preferring a different definition is tiresome.

    This is a thinly-veiled accusation of hypocrisy. Your claim might work here between the two of us but fails to communicate to a broader audience. This type of argumentation is often categorized as being polemical.

    Reply
  11. No, I didn’t accuse you of being a hypocrite, just tiresome. I was actually thinking you took the dip into the bowl of polemic dip a little earlier, but we’re obviously not communicating any longer anyway. As for a broader audience- we’re probably the only two people in the world reading this, so I’m going to find something more productive to spend my time on. farewell.

    Reply
  12. I was actually thinking you took the dip into the bowl of polemic dip a little earlier,…

    This is an unsubstantiated accusation so long as you fail to use supporting evidence, which makes it borderline ad hominem

    … but we’re obviously not communicating any longer anyway.

    “Obviously”? I’ve consistently responded to everything you’ve said. Call it “getting the last word,” or whatever, but it’s there to respond to as long as you’re up to it. It may be “tiresome”, but that’s part and parcel on the path to intellectual integrity.

    Specifically with regards to the dark matter analogy, I’ve thoroughly illustrated why it qualifies as a rationalized existence (while admitting the error of the similarities to gravity), wheras you’ve proceeded to change the definition of the scientific method/have not acknowledged that dark matter is again, a hypothesized existence, which makes it a rationalized one.

    Moreover, with regards to the “transcendent”, you’ve again failed to recognize/acknowledge that none of your definitions match with the normative definition, which by definition makes yours revisionist.

    In your claim that “[my] theology offers higher truths that simply aren’t, well, true,” you, again, failed to use any supporting evidence.

    As for a broader audience- we’re probably the only two people in the world reading this, so I’m going to find something more productive to spend my time on.

    My blog might not get a lot of traffic, but it does get a little. People are reading, and hopefully, thinking about each of our points.

    Secular humanism is ultimately a lost cause. It has little chance of self-propagation outside of massive media support, which is why it’s a more recent phenomenon, as opposed to the comparative longevity of Christianity. Primarily, it is also a plagiarized projection of Jesus.

    Christianity might have a checkered past, but there is still truth – absolute truth – in its tenets, because the source of both practice and principle comes from one man, leaving to little divergence from what could be termed right and wrong practice.

    This man, Jesus, embodied truth. I assert this because I can see many qualities in him that were previously often ascribed to God – love, holiness, righteousness, mercy, might. I have also lived part of my life in his life-changing ways, and have seen the results in some of my relationships.

    And, time and time again, I have seen the biblical ontic assertion of the sinfulness of man exemplified in my life and others through word and deed. Moreover, I do feel guilty pretty much every time this sin is committed.

    In opposition to the Hindu idea of karma, the Bible asserts that we cannot pay back our sin with good deeds. Right of passage is given by Jesus alone, and for that I owe him my respect, love, and obedience.

    For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

    …I’m going to find something more productive to spend my time on. farewell.

    So long, and good luck.

    Reply
  13. I find that his works are a bit more grounded. At the end of the day, it’s more or less based on the concrete benefits of having religion or not. It seems a bit odd if one would disagree that the presence of religions and the fundamental rivalry between them are the biggest source of conflict in the world today (or in the world’s history in general).

    Even if you throw away all his supposedly “false proofs/ counter proofs/ rebuttaks”, the fact still remains that the catholic and islamic organizations – as xenophobic and rigid as they are —are catalysts in as far as accelerating global conflict is concerned. And to what end? The ends are not going to be realized in the physical world and there’s no guarantee of any benefit at all. And yet for the sake of these ideologies, we risk entire civilizations and millions of people. I think it’s not worth it.

    Reply
  14. Hey Ben,

    Your assertion that

    ….the presence of religions and the fundamental rivalry between them are the biggest source of conflict in the world today (or in the world’s history in general).

    is in need of serious supporting evidence. Take a look three posts above yours, around midway, as an example of why it is pretty hard to substantiate.

    Yes, historically, many wars about religion have been well-documented. However, when you’re trying to place that in context of, say, Jihadic Muslims, there are actually probably some other elements of the situation (such as inequality, extortion, exploitation, etc) which you probably haven’t considered.

    I’d have to agree, however, that they do serve as catalysts – not necessarily to “accelerate global conflict”, as it were – but instead as an ideological reinforcement to continue fighting. But the same can be said for any other non-religious ideology (see Zen Buddhism during WWII, or any of the Native American wars).

    The main force, in my opinion, driving discontinuity between people, will always come down to money and comfort in some way, shape or form. Currently we are entering the twilight of the Oil/other freely-available Natural Resource Age (see Peak Oil), and the ramifications for this, coupled with climate change, will be, and currently are, enormous (creating/having created welfare countries, mass migrations – of people and ecologies, wealth hoarding, and the like).

    The main enemy should and will always be injustice, and by standing for Jesus and living my life to serve others as he did, I feel that real victories can be had with my life.

    Reply
  15. First of all – I am 22 and live in Scotland – I know nothing about this website but I stumbled across it today and have been interested by the topics being discussed.

    I find that Brett’s thoughts align almost exactly with my own and it pleases me that people are freely discussing their honest opinions formed from an open mind and a fair attitude towards kearning the “truth” or otherwise as it were based on what we have to go on in the world today.

    The arguments put forward by albert here are very typical of those I encounter from similarly minded people in my own family, and as I read each reply bells of familiarity were ringing in my ears! The finer points can be argued with conviction from both sides all day long but no conclusion will be reached as faith by its very nature is unshakable in the face of all and any contrary evidence as is being proved in the world today.

    It is for this reason that I will not contribute to this debate for argument’s sake – but I felt compelled to acknowledge Brett’s stance – the more people who express these thoughts openly the better in my opinion.

    I hope that the next Western generation embraces these views as we, the ‘generation without a cause’, seek purpose in the coming years.

    Reply
  16. Hi Russell –

    I find that Brett’s thoughts align almost exactly with my own and it pleases me that people are freely discussing their honest opinions formed from an open mind and a fair attitude towards kearning the “truth” or otherwise as it were based on what we have to go on in the world today.

    Judging from your following comments, it seems you think an “open mind” is constituted by an openness to atheism.

    The arguments put forward by albert here are very typical of those I encounter from similarly minded people in my own family, and as I read each reply bells of familiarity were ringing in my ears! The finer points can be argued with conviction from both sides all day long but no conclusion will be reached as faith by its very nature is unshakable in the face of all and any contrary evidence as is being proved in the world today.

    I suppose this is reflective of how you see the site. Exactly which replies are “ringing bells” and why are they necessarily wrong? Brett never really proves his point.

    It is for this reason that I will not contribute to this debate for argument’s sake – but I felt compelled to acknowledge Brett’s stance – the more people who express these thoughts openly the better in my opinion.

    So the more people who express atheism the better? That’s a Dawkins stance, and as Alister McGrath would put it, is reflective of a “atheistic fundamentalism.”

    I hope that the next Western generation embraces these views as we, the ‘generation without a cause’, seek purpose in the coming years.

    Some of the points he makes are agreeable while others aren’t. Secularism, if that is your implication, isn’t about to bring world peace… I would encourage you to continue to debate your views with more “informed” people, myself nonwithstanding.

    Reply
  17. I never really prove my point? Hmm, exactly. I don’t need to prove my point, because my entire point is that there isn’t a reason to believe certain things. The weight of evidence- proving that one should hold a positive belief- rests on you.

    Reply
  18. I never really prove my point? Hmm, exactly. I don’t need to prove my point, because my entire point is that there isn’t a reason to believe certain things.

    I couldn’t access your page for some reason, so I unfortunately can’t prove or disprove my or your point. However, based on the reasoning within this post alone, I think it’s reasonable to say that your point – that there isn’t a reason to believe certain things – is never proven. Instead we ended up getting into semantics, which ultimately detracted from the main argument (or because you weren’t compelled to continue the debate).

    In any case, I think agnosticism is intellectually fallacious, if that’s what you’re trying to get at.

    The weight of evidence- proving that one should hold a positive belief- rests on you.

    I’m not interested in a purely intellectual proof, but am willing to contend the validity of believing in the Judeo-Christian Godhead. In this, Jesus provides a great starting point, but the ultimate reason for his coming was to do good and prove that this same good should be adopted by others. On this principle, agnostics/atheists like yourself have nothing to stand on.

    Reply
  19. AUTHENTIC RECORD AND GEOLOGY

    … [FC editor’s note: moderated due to length and unreadability. From what I caught onto, it’s a lengthy quote from semi-mysticist Watchman Nee and some bits on the scientific inability to determine the age of the earth. Rafael, when you feel like having a real discussion, you can address at least some part of the post in your response. For the record, the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, which doesn’t have to contradict with what the Bible “says.”]

    Reply
  20. Rafael, thanks for the input but the post is VERY hard to digest. Was it even in English as an original language? That you didn’t finish is grounds for removal or editing for readability, sorry.

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  21. Even in high school I had religious classes taught by nuns. At 19 I married my first boy friend because of sex. By 26 I had 4 babies. At 32 – with dad gone, I put religion aside for 30 years except for listening to CBC Tapestry. That is where I heard Tom Harpur, author of the Pagan Christ. I thought his discoveries on Christianity were as radical as it gets, boy did it liberate me. Then I heard Tom Harris, A Letter To A Christian Nation. Whow! Now we were not only dealing with Christ, we were dealing with God; an even greater wave of awareness since reading Ms. magazines and learning that women were actually as intelligent as men. Then again on Tapestry and This Hour, I hear Richard Dawkins author of The God Delusion. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity not to die the ignorant woman I was until age 32. Dawkins helped me to open my eyes to this beautiful planet, sparkling with colour, bountiful with life. I think more deeply of my brief time in the sun, I am more curious to understand the universe and how we have come to wake up in it. Now, if only my second intelligent husband and I could find a like minded group.

    Reply
  22. Hi Marie,

    It sounds like you had a rough time with church when you were younger. I think this is one of the biggest reasons that people end up leaving the faith, especially in Anglo-centric countries, and indeed it was nearly the reason that I thought about leaving the faith as well (although my parents are of asian descent). Sex and sex-related issues are definitely some of the biggest (if not The biggest) burdens that we have to struggle with in terms of our faith, and I think it still strikes people as odd or archaic that we might have to, or it might be beneficial for us if we were to exercise self-restraint regarding anything, much less sex. Unfortunately, especially in the Catholic church, for the lack of exemplary believers or priests in this area many are led to abandon the church.

    The church absolutely needs reform, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be eliminated as Dawkins would advocate. One thing you should remember is that the foundations of the scientific understanding we have today was based on an appreciation of the natural world that occurred within the context of the medieval and Enlightenment-era church… it was the church’s refusal to acknowledge some of these things that eventually led to its split.

    Best of luck finding that group.

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  23. I quote Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men”: “Who the F*** is [Richard Dawkins]?”

    ’nuff said.

    If the dood ain’t on the front page news of CNN, Yahoo News, or still talked about – he is of no consequence or matter.

    As Shakespeare wrote in “Macbeth” – “full of sound and fury signifying nothing” – or “much ado about nothing”

    At the end of the day, Dawkin’s work is HIS work alone. HE has to prove to me that he’s right – and I know he’s wrong. So, who gives a darn?

    My God gave us free will. Dawkins has all the free will to choose to hate God. I’d rather live life believing in God and die to find out it was a lie, than to risk living thinking there was none and to die to find out there is a God.

    If there is no God, then I have no incentive to live right. I’d just go and rob and kill people and take everything for myself. Cause – if there’s no afterlife or a consequence, when what do I care about anyone on this planet for?

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  24. What an immoral person Cryptblade is. He/she only seems to want to “live right” because of the rewards given from god – is it really moral to do “good things” out of fear and out of expecting rewards? If you thoroughly feel that you’re going to rob and kill if there were no god, then there is something wrong in your natural sense of morality. It could very well be a matter of time before you suddenly decide to interpret statements like leviticus 20:13. After all, it’s fall based on faith – who knows what god will tell you tomorrow. He has asked to kill and rob in his name before, he might do it again.

    Even in comparison with other religions, the abrahamic faiths are particularly vile. One of the great things about Richard Dawkins is his refusal to show undue respect to these religions. Why should one be forced to be respectful towards these poisonous doctrines at all? Terms like “faithheads” are too nice for these wicked, child-abusing, homophobic and just plain stupid bastards.

    Reply
  25. Pink Unicorn,

    You take a soundbite from Cryptblade and proceed to demonize all Christians based on him/her. Nowhere in his comment is there any sense of “doing good out of fear” as you imply, although there is some sense of the latter rewards-based belief that you pointed out. But what I particularly despise about your commentary is two things: the fact that you point out that it’s all a “faith-based” belief system (see the “For Atheists” section) and that you lack any sense of hesitation when you say that “abrahamic faiths” are “vile.” It’s exactly the type of hypocrisy that one would expect from a fundamentalist anti-Christian such as Dawkins and yourself.. but I’ll leave it to you to clarify or correct your position, if you care to do so.

    Reply

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