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Group read: "The god delusion"

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1LolaWalser
aug 14, 2014, 12:35pm

The god delusion was published in 2006 and widely read and reviewed.

I doubt we shall hear any novel criticism or defence, but perhaps we can at least pool all the repetitions in one place for the convenience of future reference.

2jjwilson61
aug 14, 2014, 1:08pm

Here's what I said in the other thread:

I'm only a couple chapters into The God Delusion, but I believe I see how he might answer the charge that he isn't qualified to comment on theological questions, and that is that they aren't theological questions but scientific questions because religion makes specific claims about things that happen in the real world, that miracles happen, and prayer is effective and the like. Those are questions that he is as qualified as anyone to answer.

3LolaWalser
Redigerat: aug 14, 2014, 1:55pm

I haven't had the time to start reading yet and remember only the overall impression when I read it on publication--a "self-help" type of book, with all the intellectual shortcomings of such fare, squarely and unapologetically directed at "the masses", especially those who were brought up with religion, within a religion, in an atmosphere in which it is pretty much unthinkable not to be religious.

As this mentality was foreign to me, made more so by the environment in my profession, it took me a very long time to see any worth in what Dawkins is doing. (I changed my mind definitively with the news of creationism increasingly rearing its ugly butt in Eastern Europe, brought in a tide of American-published material and missionaries.)

But, while no longer completely negative about Dawkins, I can't say I'm a fan either. The point, though, is that I don't agree with the most frequent criticism directed at his book from the religious quarters: that his arguments suffer from a lack of knowledge of theology (my opinions about the latter are on record on LT somewhere--I seem to recall a rather long discussion a year or so ago).

Overall: I think what he says about religion is unexceptional, has been said many times through the centuries (and often better, including today), and deserves to be repeated as long as religion exists.

4LolaWalser
Redigerat: aug 14, 2014, 2:04pm

>2 jjwilson61:

P. Z. Myers suggested already back in 2006 a name for the "ignorance of theology" argument: The Courtier's Reply.

Jason Rosenhouse, also in 2006, answered that same criticism ("he doesn't know theology") in this blog post: Orr on Dawkins, itself criticising H. Allen Orr's review of The God delusion, A Mission to Convert.

5rrp
Redigerat: aug 14, 2014, 11:47pm

I agree with missing the first chapter; there is much to take issue with, but it's all fluffy.

The meat comes at the beginning of the second chapter, The God Hypothesis.

The God Hypothesis: "there exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us". (p31)

Now this rules out many kinds of religion, but I think it's OK for Dawkins to define a particular subset of religion he is taking issue with. I suspect there are many here who would believe in the God Hypothesis. (Opportunity here for those who disagree to speak up.)

I think the key point comes on page 55. "I shall suggest that the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other. ... God's existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe."

I think this is the point of departure for many, who would say "God is not a scientific hypothesis" maybe not an hypothesis at all. Dawkins's arguments in support of the hypothesis that "God is a scientific hypothesis" are flabby.

Does anyone have better arguments in support of the hypothesis that "God is a scientific hypothesis"?

6theoria
Redigerat: aug 15, 2014, 12:00am

If one shifts "God" onto the ground of science, God loses. It also forces the defenders of God into irrationalism (i.e., God isn't real in a scientific, empirical sense, but is real nonetheless). The defenders can't adequately articulate the realness of an entity that is not part of reality without falling into dogmatism. Consequently, absolutists of the rationalist and religious varieties talk past each other.

However, in the early part of the book, where Dawkins reclaims a "religious Einstein" for science, his view is strongest and least absolutist: he imagines religion can exist without God (which is empirically true). In my view, this is a difficult position for religious absolutists to handle.

7rrp
aug 15, 2014, 8:24am

>6 theoria: If one shifts "God" onto the ground of science, God loses.

The conclusion is debatable, but the first question is whether the shift is legitimate. Why not shift science onto the ground of God and see who wins?

8theoria
Redigerat: aug 15, 2014, 9:07am

>7 rrp: The question is not whether the shift of ground is "legitimate," rather it is what does such a strategy enable (and foreclose) from an argumentative perspective. For Dawkins, the shift puts "God" at a disadvantage from the start. However, this tack also forecloses a scientific understanding of religion, which is reduced to the unreal. That's why I point to his discussion of Einstein as being more fruitful for understanding religion, but also as more damaging for religious absolutists, who can quite easily dismiss any critique of God that centers on a lack of empirical evidence. It may be more difficult to dismiss the claim that religion can exist without God.

As for shifting science onto the ground of God, well that's been done with less than spectacular success (ID/creationism).

9rrp
aug 15, 2014, 10:41am

For Dawkins, the shift puts "God" at a disadvantage from the start.

Agreed, if the shift puts "God" into the domain of materialism, which by Dawkins's definition does not include God and so the argument is won by his definition at the outset. But one can, and I would, argue that science and materialism are not the same thing.

I see his discussion of Einstein's views as a bit of a red-herring. He likes Einstein, a hero of science, so he doesn't want to criticize him. He uses Einstein's religion to delineate the religion he does want to criticize. I'd include Einstein's religion as part of religion, but it in no way but itself provides a "fruitful understanding of religion".

And shifting science onto the ground of God has it's advocates; if God is the ground of being he is the source of scientific laws. God is the reason that the universe is lawful and that the human activity called science is possible. God provides the justification why science works.

10LolaWalser
aug 15, 2014, 11:40am

>8 theoria:

However, this tack also forecloses a scientific understanding of religion, which is reduced to the unreal.

I must disagree. Nobody is disputing that religions are very real; it's "god" that is doubted. To me, "scientific understanding of religion" is nothing other than the understanding of the religious impulse in humans (the province of biology, psychology) and the understanding of religion in society, culture, history (province of social sciences).

No other scientific understanding of religion is possible without evidence and proof of god's existence.

This is exactly where scientific and religious thinking part ways. Science remains agnostic in absence of knowledge and data. That we don't know something is NOT taken as a license to invent whatever you like--and then BELIEVE in that invention.

Never stopped anyone bent on inventing a religion, though.

11rrp
Redigerat: aug 15, 2014, 12:17pm

>10 LolaWalser:

No other scientific understanding of religion is possible without evidence and proof of god's existence. This is exactly where scientific and religious thinking part ways.

I think I would agree with this. The key issue though is whether there are ways of understanding other than scientific understanding. Most people believe that there are many ways of understanding, each applicable to its domain.

12RickHarsch
aug 15, 2014, 12:53pm

>10 LolaWalser: (Since this is your thread)

not meaning at all to be flip, but haven't we the escaped or non-affiliated or atheists gotten to the point where even the question is laughable? Science has taught us a great deal about life, all of which tends to make notions of a God absurd, but were they not anyway? To think that this particular creature, the human, could have figured this all out (Yes, true, there is revelation, but there are too many revelations), well is it not the height of arrogance, the depth of pathetic need?

I guess what I wonder is why people who read and question and think devote time to THIS particular issue.

13eromsted
aug 15, 2014, 3:55pm

I've read the beginning of the book available free on google books. Not sure if I'll get around to the rest of it.

A few points perhaps worthy of discussion:

Dawkins' basic answer to the charge that he doesn't engage with enough serious theology is found in the preface to the paperback edition:
"The vast majority of theological writings simply assume that he [God] does [exist], and go on from there. For my purposes, I need consider only those theologians who take seriously the possibility that God does not exist and argue that he does. This I think Chapter 3 achieves..."

Has Dawkins actually considered the best arguments for God? Are there other important arguments that he skips?

Dawkins' statement of the "God Hypothesis" is "there exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us."

Is this a good definition of God or is Dawkins setting up a straw man? How much does he stick to this definition? How much do his arguments depend on this definition? That is, perhaps the definition is poor but his arguments would still be valid for a different definition.

>6 theoria:
I don't understand what you mean by the "ground of science". Science is simply the systematic and collective investigation of how things work. Any attempt to look into the validity of any assertion about how things work is science (whether done well or poorly). Science is not one method, but many, and there is no other method for understanding how things work that is not science. (Of course, people engage in many activities other that investigating how the world works. So many human activities are not science.)

I think Dawkins' point in discussing Einstein is that talk of God is not necessarily an assertion about how the world works. If God talk is simply a metaphor for, say, human awe and wonder at the workings of the world, then there is no problem. But to the extent that people who talk of God are making a claim about how the world works, the testing of that claim is science.

14LolaWalser
aug 15, 2014, 4:14pm

I started the thread simply because no one else did, although more than one person expressed interest in discussing Dawkins and his book (and not for the first time, in this and other groups on LT). Other than that technicality, there is no reason to think of it as my thread or my discussion--I certainly don't.

As to why people are interested, well, I suppose answers will vary. What's relevant in terms of debate is that, as anyone who follows Talk can see, atheism in general and Dawkins in particular keep recurring as topics, as do irrelevant criticisms. Personally, for instance, I'm interested in sorting those out.

My general questions for readers of The god delusion:

1. Just how "arrogant" is Dawkins? As much as you expected, more, less, not at all?

2. Is the book pitched at a level appropriate for his "evangelizing" goal?

3. Where exactly might one feel, to use Terry Eagleton's examples, that Dawkins' argument is damaged by his presumed lack of views on "the epistemological differences between Aquinas and Duns Scotus? {...} Eriugena on subjectivity, Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope?"

15RickHarsch
aug 15, 2014, 6:00pm

Well, if it takes you to Eagleton and so on then at least its good exercise for the mind.

16Michael_Welch
Redigerat: aug 16, 2014, 6:21pm

I sort of "believe in God" or "gods" but not within any "dogmatic" or doctrinaire context. But PLEASE -- don't call me "spiritual"! (Call me a cab -- okay you're a "cab"! Or is it "cad"?)

I tend to believe in everybody's "God" to some degree -- I'm an "ancient Roman" in that -- but no one's SPECIFICALLY eh.

By the way does anyone know what the Yazidis (persecuted by the "Islamic State" lately) believe? And yes of course I could "look it up" but I wonder if we could have a "discussion" on such and I'd hope someone would add hmm...

17jjwilson61
Redigerat: aug 18, 2014, 3:35pm

>5 rrp: I think the key point comes on page 55. "I shall suggest that the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other. ... God's existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe."

I think this is the point of departure for many, who would say "God is not a scientific hypothesis" maybe not an hypothesis at all. Dawkins's arguments in support of the hypothesis that "God is a scientific hypothesis" are flabby.

Does anyone have better arguments in support of the hypothesis that "God is a scientific hypothesis"?


I suspect my edition is paginated differently from yours, so I can't immediately find the quote in the text (referencing the section of the chapter that it is in would be better). Since we're discussing Dawkins' book I think it would be more appropriate for you to address Dawkins' "flabby" arguments rather than introduce any of my own.

18jjwilson61
aug 18, 2014, 3:39pm

>11 rrp: The key issue though is whether there are ways of understanding other than scientific understanding. Most people believe that there are many ways of understanding, each applicable to its domain.

If you're making a claim that God influences reality, that he answers prayers, or speaks to people, then those are claims that fall within the domain of science.

19jjwilson61
aug 18, 2014, 3:48pm

Nathan, from the other Dawkins thread, here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/178479 Which is why his claims that the God of the Old Testament is reprehensible and comparable to the Nazis are so hollow -- to reject the Hebrew God for being evil presupposes that there is a moral code that the Hebrew God is violating; yet Dawkins offers no basis for that moral code whose violation he finds so outrageous

Dawkins thinks that moral feelings are based in biology so its perfectly reasonable for him to be outraged by the stories in the Bible. There's nothing hollow about it.

20rrp
aug 19, 2014, 10:29am

>17 jjwilson61:

My apologies. It's near the beginning of Chapter 2. My edition has an index, maybe yours does to. You might find that useful.

21rrp
aug 19, 2014, 10:47am

>18 jjwilson61:

That wasn't the God Hypothesis, but it may serve as a point of illustration.

Does an hypothesis that posits a supernatural cause of some observed phenomena count as a scientific hypothesis?

22jjwilson61
Redigerat: aug 19, 2014, 11:15am

If prayer were shown in a repeatable double blind study then that would make prayer scientific wouldn't it? Of course, that by itself wouldn't prove that God was behind it.

23jjwilson61
aug 19, 2014, 11:22am

That wasn't the God Hypothesis, but it may serve as a point of illustration.

You're right, Dawkins makes the statement that if the universe were designed by some intelligent being that that would make a material difference that he admitted would be difficult to measure. I'm not sure what the nature of this difference would be though.

I'm also surprised at that wording of his hypothesis because in the rest of the book he makes the point that if this creator just sat back after the creation and just watched then that wouldn't be the God that most people think of as God. So he seems to have moved from the actual text of his hypothesis to arguing something else.

24rrp
aug 20, 2014, 10:24am

>23 jjwilson61:

Ah. I see you have also discovered the flabbiness of Dawkins's arguments.

25rrp
aug 20, 2014, 10:24am

>22 jjwilson61:

You are quite right. If the efficacy of prayer is a controversial subject. As a topic, it has problems both from the philosophical side and the theological.

To quote the Wikipedia article.

The philosophical controversy on this topic even involves the basic issues of statistical inference and falsifiability as to what it may mean to "prove" or "disprove" something, and the problem of demarcation, i.e., as to whether this topic is even within the realm of science at all.

26RidgewayGirl
aug 22, 2014, 6:13am

I'm behind the reading schedule here, but I've now read the introduction, which has me interested in seeing how he fleshes out his arguments. So far, there's nothing in his comments about "faith-heads" that I didn't hear in church growing up, only referring to Catholics, atheists or other not-real-Christians.

He's a bit snarky. I'm hoping that calms down.

27Jesse_wiedinmyer
aug 22, 2014, 10:43am

I'm not sure I've read The God Delusion, but I'm guessing not. As was noted before, Dennet is probably your go-to if you want one of the standard "new atheists" that rises above polemics.

28LolaWalser
aug 22, 2014, 10:48am

>27 Jesse_wiedinmyer:

The point here is precisely to get a measure of the polemicists, because those are the ones--Dawkins, basically--that keep getting trotted out for whipping.

29RidgewayGirl
Redigerat: aug 23, 2014, 9:43am

I've read the first chapter and agreed with much in it, although in this chapter he doesn't question faith or the existence of God, rather the US's odd relationship with Christianity, the prevailing belief among conservative Christians that the founding fathers were all extremely bent on creating a Christian nation, and the myth that American Christians are being prosecuted. This is all low hanging fruit. Most Christians find this odd and regrettable.

He does make one small, unsubstantiated dig at the idea of a Christian God who is not the Father, head of the Patriarchy, attributing the idea of God as neither male nor female, as belonging to "ditzy" feminists, which I think is a badly chosen word, unless he later uses that term to refer to arguments by men.

Some quotes:

Splitting Christendom by splitting hairs -- such has ever been the way of theology."

And one by Thomas Jefferson:

"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."

30LolaWalser
aug 23, 2014, 11:09am

I abandoned it temporarily when I got angry at the same spot as before... in the Preface. ;)

Did you know Dawkins used to be religious? I think he was even considering--or IN--the clergy? Or am I ridiculously misremembering?

Anyway, back at the uni THAT information (true or false) was a big reason for my hostility. There is a terrible type of mind that goes from one absolutism to another. I'm not saying he's like that (I can't really know), only that that's what "conversion" makes me think of.

31RidgewayGirl
aug 23, 2014, 11:13am

Dawkins speaks of a mentor he had when young, someone whose Christianity was of the tolerant, open to discussion sort. He brings it up as a counter-arguement that he has always been hostile to faith.

32LolaWalser
aug 23, 2014, 12:56pm

Well, I finally bothered to look at a biography and OMG WTF we share birthdays!!--also, yes, no idea where I could have picked up the notion that he was ever in the orders.

This is odd:

Dawkins states: "the main residual reason why I was religious was from being so impressed with the complexity of life and feeling that it had to have a designer, and I think it was when I realised that Darwinism was a far superior explanation that pulled the rug out from under the argument of design. And that left me with nothing."12


Surely hardly "left with nothing", having now that "superior explanation"? Maybe makes more sense in context.

33harunasa
aug 23, 2014, 2:14pm

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34Michael_Welch
aug 23, 2014, 3:15pm

I think it's utterly useless to "prove" "God" does not exist. But I think "we" should ALL have "our own God" and not "depend" on everybody else's...

35JGL53
Redigerat: aug 23, 2014, 4:22pm

> 34

If the phrase "the god I personally believe in" is used as a synonym for the concept "my personal ontological assumptions and convictions" then we all indeed "believe in (a) god". So that is good.

But "god" means a 'supreme person being' in common parlance - i.e., the ultimate person or mind who is the conscious and intentional originator of, well, I suppose, the Big Bang - at a minimum.

That idea is either true or it is not true and is open to discussion, formal argumentation and on-going radical disagreement.

And having the right to your own opinion is not exactly the same as having the right to your own truth. There are political implications to that which must always be dealt with.

I.e., if everyone just kept their religious opinions to themselves, then problem solved. That does not happen - thus the problem.

36Michael_Welch
aug 23, 2014, 4:18pm

"God" help us! Whoever He is...

37JGL53
aug 23, 2014, 4:23pm

And if god is a She then some people are gonna be in even MORE trouble.

Apparently I am in that group - according to some of the more radical feminists here at LT.

38Michael_Welch
aug 23, 2014, 5:43pm

"She Who Must Be Obeyed"?...

39K.J.
aug 24, 2014, 2:57am

Mrs. Horace (Hilda) Rumpole...and why not? There are worse options.

40RidgewayGirl
aug 24, 2014, 5:14am

In the second chapter, Dawkins starts to lay out his own personal beliefs. They are a bit contradictory. On the one hand, he has a visceral dislike of agnosticism, finding it "namby-pamby" (and here he has a tone which is less objective than full of distaste for appearing nuanced). On the other hand, he is himself an agnostic. He solves this by creating a continuum from believers who don't have faith, but certainty, to those atheists who are absolutely certain that no God exists. He situates himself fairly far to one end of the line, but not at the end. He's agnostic, but he considers the probability of God existing to be extremely low. So he's agnostic, but not a hedge-one's-bets agnostic.

He also lays out his view that science is the proper field for determining the existence or non-existence of a deity. He points out that several scientists have made comments to the effect that God is outside of their purview, but he explains that they only said that to be nice. He also makes comments to the effect that different fields of study do not overlap, especially scientific fields with anything that isn't science. I'd disagree with that -- philosophy has always overlapped science. He also thinks that philosophy would be insulted if it were connected to theology in any way, which is just not the case. There are areas of philosophy which abut theology. Sure, philosophers working in the field of theoretical physics don't have anything to do with theology, but other areas of philosophy, such as ethics or epistemology, can.

But let's allow him his points for the sake of the argument.

41.Monkey.
aug 24, 2014, 6:17am

>40 RidgewayGirl: I don't see it as contradictory at all. He's well aware that it's impossible to say with 100% certainty that there is no god, but that all the evidence that we can acquire indicates that there is not, and there is not one shred of evidence that there is a god in existence. Therefore, 99.9% certainty. Which is quite different than simply saying "well, I don't know, maybe there is, maybe there isn't, who knows."

42RidgewayGirl
aug 24, 2014, 6:35am

>41 .Monkey.: Dawkins is given to making strong statements. In one paragraph he goes on about how really silly all agnostics are, and then he has to spend time explaining why he, in contrast, isn't silly at all. It seems that he has spent so much of his life feeling contempt for those who say that they just don't know, and because he is too honest to claim certainty, he has to reason his way out of an unnecessary box.

43jjwilson61
aug 24, 2014, 10:06am

>42 RidgewayGirl: It's not an unnecessary box at all. The problem is that the traditional meaning of atheist doesn't fit what most atheists actually believe. He could choose a different word I suppose but why do that when a lot of people already mean atheist to mean what Dawkin's is talking about, and the kind of atheist that really believes there is no God with 100% certainty is a vanishingly small group.

44SimonW11
aug 24, 2014, 11:30am

>43 jjwilson61: There have always been what Dawkins might call "black swan" Atheists, but historically many would have characterised themselves as agnostics. Bertrand Russell springs to mind.

45jjwilson61
aug 24, 2014, 11:36am

Words do shift in meaning and if you told the average person on the street that you were an agnostic they'd think that you were completely undecided on the question of God and that you were ripe for proselytizing. If you were a Dawkins-style atheist (the vast majority) then atheist is closer to the mark, even though you then have to defend yourself of the accusation that you are no different than the religious believer.

46JGL53
Redigerat: aug 24, 2014, 3:16pm

FTS.

If one is an atheist then why not just use the term "teapot atheist" right at the get go. Professional philosophers will go "Ah ha, yes." but the man-on-the-street religionist will gape at you like a fucking ape.

And isn't that what it is all about? If there is no fun to be had discussing religion and god and shit then what IS the purpose of such an inane pastime? I ax you.

47southernbooklady
aug 24, 2014, 6:25pm

Well I've finally started this book. When he isn't talking evolutionary biology, my tolerance for Dawkins is somewhat short. But at least within the introduction and first chapter, my initial impression of him as a philosopher holds: I find his logic to be generally sound, but his illustrative examples to be poor. Early days yet, though.

48rrp
aug 25, 2014, 1:33pm

I found Mike Poole's list of the Assertions of Dawkins a useful summary of the points of issue. Each of these is a direct quote taken from The God Delusion or some other work of Dawkins. They are

  • A1 Religion is evil because many bad deeds have been done by religious people.
  • A2 'Faith is irrational' and 'demands a positive suspension of critical faculties.'
  • A3 Religious beliefs are memes, mind viruses, self-delusion, placebos, wishful thinking and indoctrination.
  • A4 'Faith (belief without evidence) is a virtue. The more your beliefs defy the evidence, the more virtuous you are.'
  • A5 '...Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code...is indeed fabricated from start to finish: invented, made-up fiction. In that respect, it is exactly like the gospels.'
  • A6 'Historically, religion aspired to explain our own existence and the nature of the universe... In this role it is now completely superseded by science.'
  • A7 ' Religion is a scientific theory.'
  • A8 '...good scientists who are sincerely religious in the full, traditional sense,' both in the United States and in Britain, 'stand out for their rarity and are a subject of amused bafflement to their peers in the academic community.'
  • A9 'Darwin has removed the main argument for God's existence.'
  • A10 '...some kind of multiverse theory could in principle do for physics the same explanatory work as Darwin does for biology, rendering God improbable.


    It's a useful list, as we can refer back to them by number. Of course, each point is highly debatable, as you would imagine.

49jjwilson61
aug 25, 2014, 1:51pm

>48 rrp: For starters A1 is not a direct quote and it doesn't adequately represent Dawkins' argument from The God Delusion.

50Michael_Welch
aug 25, 2014, 2:09pm

I don't mind so much "militant atheists" since "militant Christians" have had the stage for so long and atheism has been "the idea that has no name" -- better be a homosexual (and a believer!) than an atheist!

However I also think that PROVING "God does not exist" is NOT "possible" and generally a waste of time. If someone is entirely "indifferent" to religion (and many are, really -- I'd rather be golfing! or what Sunday mornings) that actually "does the job" of creating at least "de facto atheists" and is more effective than pooh-poohing the gospels say...

51jjwilson61
aug 25, 2014, 2:29pm

>50 Michael_Welch: What does proving God does not exist have to do with anything. Dawkins certainly doesn't attempt it.

52RidgewayGirl
aug 25, 2014, 2:30pm

>rrp Would you consider abandoning secondary sources and joining in the discussion properly?

53Michael_Welch
aug 25, 2014, 2:50pm

I haven't read any of Dawkins' books and I didn't mention HIM per se but I heard him once on NPR and he indicated that at least the idea that "God" did not exist was "proved" to him in some way hmm.

Other than that I was only offering my own observations, just like everyone else...

54rrp
aug 25, 2014, 3:02pm

>49 jjwilson61:

You are right. It isn't a direct quote. It's a summary from Dawkins's television documentary "Root of All Evil?" where he did say "Religion ... is bad for our children and it's bad for you." But is it one of the main tropes used by the New Atheists.

55jjwilson61
aug 25, 2014, 3:04pm

>53 Michael_Welch: You must have heard it wrong since Dawkins makes it quite clear in the book that is the subject of this group read that he is not arguing for 100% certainty of anything as that would be unscientific.

56rrp
aug 25, 2014, 3:14pm

>52 RidgewayGirl:

Yes, I would. But I really don't have anything to say about how atheists choose to self-label. I started at Chapter Two with the "God Hypothesis" and I'd argue that it isn't a scientific hypothesis.

A fundamental principle of science, in fact the reason it was invented by the Catholic Church, is one of methodological materialism, that in science explanations of experiences are restricted to material explanations. The Church believes that all material explanations have to be strictly ruled out before any experience or observation can be labeled a miracle. Hence, miracles and other supernatural explanations of experience are outside the domain of science.

57Michael_Welch
aug 25, 2014, 4:28pm

I'd say that Dawkins doesn't believe in God because that hasn't been "proved" to him? Fair enough?...

58jjwilson61
aug 25, 2014, 7:26pm

>56 rrp: I disagree. If something affect the material world then it can be investigated using scientific methods.

59rrp
Redigerat: aug 25, 2014, 8:32pm

>58 jjwilson61:

"Something". Right there is your problem. Some "thing". You have already made an implicit assumption that only "things" can affect the material world. Can "not things" be investigated using scientific methods?

Maybe you could reword your proposition to leave out the implicit "thing" and say "effects in the material world can be investigated using scientific methods". That might work. But to scientificially investigate an effect, you have to have a theory about a cause, an hypothesis of cause and effect, an explanation you want to test. What sort of causes are we allowed to include in our hypothesis? What sort of explanations of cause and effect are allowed under science and which are not?

60rrp
aug 25, 2014, 8:33pm

And remember. Dawkins proposed The God Hypothesis: "there exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us."

What experiments would you do to test that hypothesis?

61overlycriticalelisa
aug 27, 2014, 2:56pm

i hope i'm not too late to participate. about to start the book, will read this thread as i go...

62overlycriticalelisa
aug 29, 2014, 9:25pm

>3 LolaWalser:

i've done literally no reading on religion (unless you count the religion thread on lt) and nearly no reading of religious texts. i was raised jewish and have struggled mightily with the idea of religion for the last 15 or so years until i settled (with relief) into (not settled on) atheism a year or so ago.

i'm sure you're right about the ideas not being really new in this book, but as a newcomer to their articulation and seeing them written down, i'm glad they're all in one place. (i'm still just early in chapter 2.)

63RidgewayGirl
aug 30, 2014, 3:45am

I've finished Chapter Three, where Dawkins begins going through arguments for God and showing why they are untenable. He's still picking low hanging fruit here. I don't think Pascal's Wager is used in any way other than the third question on the Philosophy 102 midterm exam. And I'd heard a bit about the "God of the Gaps" view of evolution, but here Dawkins explains it well. I've never encountered anyone who actually believed it but, as I've said here before, I come from a fairly fundamentalist church, where there was not a lot of trying to get the Bible and science to reconcile.

Still, Dawkins is calming down slightly in his rhetoric. I dislike being preached at, and tend to react adversely to that style of communication, so I'm having to work hard to separate what he's saying from how he's saying it.

64southernbooklady
aug 30, 2014, 7:50am

>63 RidgewayGirl: He's still picking low hanging fruit here.

I'm glad to here he's toning it down a bit. The first couple chapters weren't picking low hanging fruit so much as kicking around the stuff that already fell to the ground. It's pretty irritating, and unnecessary for making his case.

65RidgewayGirl
Redigerat: aug 30, 2014, 8:27am

I've started chapter four, and things are getting interesting. He discusses "The God Gap" in detail, and I'm enjoying this quite a bit. I've read discussions agreeing with him from a Christian perspective, but they focused on the reasons it's theologically a poor idea. Dawkins is interested in it from a scientific perspective.

Also, it's here that he has his first moment of, well, non-fundamentalism. He mentions a scientist and then, in the same paragraph, mentions that he respects Kenneth Miller and that Miller is a Christian. That's quite a change from the Dawkins's of a few chapters ago, dismissing all believers as "faith heads."

It's here that illuminates a bit from a homeschooling science textbook that I read a while back. It presented electricity as a big old unsolvable mystery, one that no one knows anything about. At the time, I wondered why they were such idiots, but now it's clear that they're just trying to give God a bigger gap to fill. Other creationists are focusing on tiny things like certain insect wings, or bacterial flagella. The Abeka textbook writers were making sure God had more to do. And good for them? Because each year, according to believers of the God Gap, God grows smaller and less important.

66rrp
Redigerat: aug 30, 2014, 11:39am

>63 RidgewayGirl:

This again highlights that the book is written as a Gospel for the converted. You accept that Dawkins shows the arguments for God, in the way that he presents them, "are untenable".

I read the same words and find myself tripped up at many points in the text with his ridiculous statements, which completely destroy Dawkins's arguments.

Chapter 3 starts with the Five Ways of Aquinas. Dawkins dismisses these in three pages. Now many words have been written on the Five Ways; there are subtleties and nuances that clearly cannot be dismissed in three pages unless you are already convinced that they cannot possibly be right. Dawkins is preaching to the converted.

As just one example, just two pages into Chapter 3. In talking about the first three Ways, Dawkins says "All three of these arguments rely upon the idea of a regress and invoke God to terminate it. They make the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune to the regress."

Now why exactly is that an "entirely unwarranted assumption". Dawkins himself is making an entirely unwarranted assumption here.

67jjwilson61
aug 30, 2014, 12:54pm

>66 rrp: If you want to claim that the assumption is unwarranted then you need to show some sort of reasoning that it *is* warranted. Just stating that God by definition is immune to the regress doesn't really help.

68rrp
aug 30, 2014, 1:42pm

>67 jjwilson61:

So Dawkins is making an assumption and I have to show it is warranted. It's his argument, why shouldn't he do the work?

To put is another way. An argument is a deductive chain of reasoning from stated assumptions to a given conclusion. Dawkins, like all of us, makes certain assumptions. We all start with certain assumptions. The major problem with Dawkins's arguments, apart from the general weakness in their reasoning, is that he starts with assumptions that are dubious. I gave one above -- he assumes that the God hypothesis is a scientific hypothesis. Here is another -- he assumes that God cannot terminate the regress. He can't justify these assumptions (and many more that are hidden). If someone doesn't share his assumptions, then that person will think Dawkins's arguments are unsound. If you do, then you might be taken in by the weak reasoning from them that follows.

69jjwilson61
aug 30, 2014, 2:52pm

That's ridiculous. You're positing something extraordinary, that there is something that stops the regress. Why does there have to be something, why can't the regress go on forever?

70rrp
aug 30, 2014, 3:06pm

No. What you have said is. You're the one positing something extraordinary.

Like beauty, the status of an assumption with regard to ridicule, is in the eye of the beholder.

You are right though. One assumption is that a regress of cause and effect can go on forever, and indeed that was the preferred solution of many physicists before the theory of the "Big Bang" was invented, hence its ridiculous name.

But one problem with infinite regress, is that everything that can happen, has happened. We have had this conversation before, an infinite number of times, and, on an infinite number of occasions, you accepted that I was right. So why not do it again? Or would that be too ridiculous?

71Novak
aug 30, 2014, 5:00pm

How can anyone on the surface of this planet possibly know anything more about god than you do yourself?

72overlycriticalelisa
aug 30, 2014, 6:44pm

>14 LolaWalser:

i can only answer your first question right now, might be able to answer your #2 later after reading the rest (still only toward the end of chapter 2), and expect to never be able to answer your #3 unless i do a lot more reading.

but to your #1 - extremely arrogant. it's quite off-putting, actually. and i think does a disservice to his arguments and message as it's hard to hear things you don't agree with (and really, shouldn't that be who he's trying to reach?) from someone who comes across so very dickishly. so while i am not surprised that he is this arrogant, i'm surprised that he wrote with that tone because i think it goes against his supposed purpose and in fact hurts it.

73overlycriticalelisa
aug 30, 2014, 6:51pm

>23 jjwilson61:
I'm also surprised at that wording of his hypothesis because in the rest of the book he makes the point that if this creator just sat back after the creation and just watched then that wouldn't be the God that most people think of as God. So he seems to have moved from the actual text of his hypothesis to arguing something else.

i haven't gotten to the rest of the book yet so can't speak to it, but: the god that just sits back after the creation and watches, having no influence or care on/about people is how he describes the deist god. the god of his god hypothesis is not the deist god but the theist god, who participates in everyday life - via miracles or listening/caring about people's prayers, etc. the god that people mean, generally, when they talk about god is one that is involved in people's lives, or who's lives are affected by their belief in him or prayers to him. so far in my reading he hasn't contradicted his definitions/hypothesis as far as this goes.

74jjwilson61
aug 30, 2014, 9:14pm

>73 overlycriticalelisa: the god of his god hypothesis is not the deist god but the theist god, who participates in everyday life

I think so to, but he neglected to put that God in where he actually stated his God Hypothesis.

75.Monkey.
aug 31, 2014, 4:16am

>72 overlycriticalelisa: i am not surprised that he is this arrogant, i'm surprised that he wrote with that tone because i think it goes against his supposed purpose and in fact hurts it.

He doesn't know how not to have the tone. It's just part of who Dawkins is, like it or not. I just read The Magic of Reality and got irritated with him a few times because of areas where he comes off all pedantic. I know he's like that, but I'd hoped either he, or the editor, would have tried to fix it in a book aimed at children. Unfortunately that's not the only thing his editor failed with. (If anyone is curious, it was a pretty good book, overall, but Dawkins has no idea about children and switches back and forth from like he's addressing 5 yr olds to addressing 15 yr olds. But the information is good and mostly quite clearly expressed to be understandable by everyone.)

76RidgewayGirl
aug 31, 2014, 8:05am

>66 rrp: One reason why these arguments for the existence of God are low-hanging fruit for Dawkins is that no one today has read, say Aquinas' Five Ways and thought, "well, I was skeptical before, but now I'm convinced. God must exist." Those arguments, along with others like Pascal's Wager, were more philosophical and theological musings by believers intending to bolster their own belief with good arguments -- they're exercises, not reasons.

Although I'm willing to rethink this if you can give solid reasons why Aquinas' arguments were unassailable. The ones I'd encountered in philosophy class were interesting and often worth a discussion, but they were never convincing, unless one was already convinced.

Which brings me to a question of faith. Is it something that one can force on oneself? Can one decide to have faith or to not have faith? The discussions I've had with people who left faith communities lead me to conclude that it's not something you can get by going through the motions and hoping very hard. And given that there are also people who keep their faith despite being given strong reasons to give it up, it seems it's not something that can be manufactured or shed.

77rrp
aug 31, 2014, 1:57pm

>76 RidgewayGirl:

Those arguments ... were more philosophical and theological musings by believers intending to bolster their own belief with good arguments -- they're exercises, not reasons.

I agree, and that's an excellent description of The God Delusion too.

Aquinas's arguments are unassailable if you accept the premises; his logic is valid. But they won't convince unless you accept the premises, and the premises themselves contain the assumption that God exists. Similarly, Dawkins's arguments only work if you accept the premises (well they could be made to work if they weren't so sloppy) and his premises contain the assumption that God does not exist. So there is some parallel apart from the fact that Aquinas was obviously the Brighter thinker.

78RidgewayGirl
aug 31, 2014, 2:03pm

Aquinas was obviously the Brighter thinker.

I think that in this instance, your opinion is formed because of your preconceived notions. You don't want to appreciate Dawkins's arguments, but you do want to like Aquinas's. Hence your conclusion.

79LolaWalser
aug 31, 2014, 2:16pm

Nice to see you, Elisa. I remember Dawkins struck me as insufferably arrogant twenty years ago, then a long time after I revised that opinion; not sure what the final judgement will be--unfortunately I got distracted this time by Doctor Who solving the global warning and ongoing biodiversity crisis--and now it's time for a vacation!

>76 RidgewayGirl:

no one today has read, say Aquinas' Five Ways and thought, "well, I was skeptical before, but now I'm convinced. God must exist."

I take it you never visited the "Catholic tradition" group. :)

Well, have fun everyone. See you in October!

80overlycriticalelisa
aug 31, 2014, 3:41pm

>40 RidgewayGirl: He points out that several scientists have made comments to the effect that God is outside of their purview, but he explains that they only said that to be nice.

this was my main irritation with chapter 2. besides the fact that he's making all kinds of assumptions that may or may not be true, and then running with it, he's also supposedly talking about how all of this can be brought into a scientific (so provable or experimental) realm, and then makes these statements that are not provable at all.

81southernbooklady
Redigerat: aug 31, 2014, 4:08pm

>80 overlycriticalelisa: he's also supposedly talking about how all of this can be brought into a scientific (so provable or experimental) realm, and then makes these statements that are not provable at all.

He does make a statement that is worthy of consideration, however: that anything that can act on the material realm is subject to scientific analysis (see earlier posts on this thread. ) It made me realize that I had been accepting the idea of non-overlapping magesteria without due consideration.

But I think Dawkins --who is fueled by a bottomless antipathy for religion -- goes off in the wrong direction discussing it. He starts citing silly experiments about the efficacy of prayer, as one example. Whereas it seems to me that if we accept the premise he poses, then what we should be asking is not "prove Jesus really walked on water" but "Scientifically, what is the explanation for religious belief?" What does it do for the species? Why is it a common trait in homo sapiens?

Dawkins seems to think that religiosity is a disease that needs eradicating, rather than a product of those same forces processes that we accept has given us the capacity to build rockets. And given that Dawkins came up with a theory to explain altruism, I'm hoping he considers religiosity with the same approach.

But I think his frustration and vendetta against religion tends to distract him from even considering the question.

82LolaWalser
aug 31, 2014, 5:12pm

>81 southernbooklady:

Whereas it seems to me that if we accept the premise he poses, then what we should be asking is not "prove Jesus really walked on water" but "Scientifically, what is the explanation for religious belief?" What does it do for the species? Why is it a common trait in homo sapiens?

I'm not sure what premise you see--these are completely unrelated questions as far as I can tell. No interface at all.

Dawkins is addressing those religious claims that are amenable to scientific testing. What does that have to do with the biological basis of religion?

83southernbooklady
aug 31, 2014, 5:36pm

>82 LolaWalser: Well, my understanding was that he considers everything about religion as the province of scientific exploration, because it is a natural phenomenon. So yeah, you can spend your time studying if prayer really works or if Jesus really walked on water, but if religiosity has a biological basis, then isn't the more relevant question "why are we inclined to believe Jesus walked on water?"

84SimonW11
aug 31, 2014, 5:58pm

>83 southernbooklady: We communicate because we are inclined to believe people. It is rather the point. To default to belief in hearsay is human.

but the book is not about religion it is about God. Any number of belief systems with religious elements. do not have a place for "GOD".

85eromsted
aug 31, 2014, 6:23pm

Why people believe things is an interesting question. But is it not also useful to know whether beliefs are true, or at least whether they have sufficient foundation to be reasonable and taken seriously? "How do you know what you know?" is always an important question. If you can't answer it I'm not going to pay much attention to your claims.

To the extent that God talk contains claims about how the world works, such claims should be testable just as any other claims about how the world works.

86LolaWalser
aug 31, 2014, 6:28pm

>83 southernbooklady:

you can spend your time studying if prayer really works or if Jesus really walked on water, but if religiosity has a biological basis, then isn't the more relevant question "why are we inclined to believe Jesus walked on water?"

Um, more relevant to what? Certainly not to an agenda that proves/probes religious claims for "scientific content".

Others have taken the tack of demystifying religion by dwelling on it as a biological phenomenon, but it's neither necessary nor can it be done sufficiently well in our present state of ignorance of links between genetics and complex behaviour.

87Jesse_wiedinmyer
aug 31, 2014, 6:37pm

Whereas it seems to me that if we accept the premise he poses, then what we should be asking is not "prove Jesus really walked on water" but "Scientifically, what is the explanation for religious belief?" What does it do for the species? Why is it a common trait in homo sapiens?

Once again, I'd recommend checking out Dennett.

Dawkins seems to think that religiosity is a disease that needs eradicating, rather than a product of those same forces processes that we accept has given us the capacity to build rockets. And given that Dawkins came up with a theory to explain altruism, I'm hoping he considers religiosity with the same approach.

This is a more complex question than it would first seem.

88southernbooklady
aug 31, 2014, 7:08pm

>86 LolaWalser: Well, one of Dawkins' stated purposes in The God Delusion is to convince people to let go of the religion they were born into, or adopt without serious thought, simply as a cultural norm. Or even think they believe in simply because no one has ever challenged them on that belief. One of his primary steps towards that goal seems to be to argue against non-overlapping magesteria. He argues that science is always applicable to the study of the world (and I think somewhere says that theology is never applicable).

So if that's the case, picking apart the mythologies of the miraculous on scientific grounds would be a useless approach, because it would only reinforce the opinions of the people who already agree with him, it wouldn't convince anyone who does accept that science and religion study different things in different non-overlapping spheres. The only place he comes close to discussing why those separate spheres shouldn't be separate is when he's heaping scorn on Michael Ruse. But I think he indulges too much in his general antipathy and not enough in his demonstrated ability to construct a rational argument.

So far, anyway. I find myself in the rather bizarre position of agreeing with Dawkins' argument, but wishing I could make it for him without all the distraction of his self-indulgent hostility.

89JGL53
Redigerat: aug 31, 2014, 7:27pm

> 87

In recent years many books have been written by various scholars and egghead scientists on the how, when, why, and wherefore of the religious impulse in humans. E.g., here's two:

https://www.librarything.com/author/guthriestewartelliot

https://www.librarything.com/work/11558364/book/92754533

I have read these books and a dozen or two in a similar vein.

Apparently Dawkins has never read any books on the subject. He just assumes religion is just some nutty virus that infected humans way back when and has passed down to most humans to this day.

Dawkins is good at explaining biological science but he is not an accomplished philosopher, psychologist, cultural anthropologist, ethnologist, ethologist, or comparative mythologist.

He writes autobiographically, whether he realizes it or not. He tells us of his personal experience of religion and why he rejects it as nonsense.

One can relate to him or not. One can appreciate his personal story or not.

Let's keep in mind Dawkins is in no way near the be-all and end-all of atheism. Daniel Dennett, mentioned above, Joseph Campbell, and hundreds of others have done more for "the cause" than a thousand Dawkinses could do in a thousand lifetimes.

I think that after eighty-something posts Dawkins is now a dead horse.

But go ahead and beat him some more. It can't hurt.

90overlycriticalelisa
aug 31, 2014, 7:55pm

>47 southernbooklady:

so this. (well, except i can't speak to his writing on evolutionary biology.) but yes, his arguments are alright but the examples he uses are not convincing. seems a strange way to go about it, but i suspect that he can't see it himself. this is probably why, thus far, i find the quotes from others to be the parts i'm liking best.

in chapter 3 now and still find this to be true. and his tone no less irritating, although he's had less cause to be snarky in what i've read so far today.

91overlycriticalelisa
aug 31, 2014, 8:27pm

>59 rrp:

anything measurable.

92eromsted
aug 31, 2014, 11:44pm

Just finished chapter 4 and it's really pretty weak sauce. He digresses a lot, but my paraphrase of the main argument is as follows:

People tell me God must exist because it's so unimaginably unlikely that the universe could exist as it does in all its complexity (throw in whatever details you like) without God. But a God that could create and maintain the universe in all its complexity would be even more complex and so it is even more unimaginably unlikely that God exists. So there.

I'd have to think it through a bit more, but it seems to me that the whole concept of probability is being seriously misapplied in both directions. It doesn't seem to me that it makes sense to talk about the universe as a whole as probable or improbable nor to talk of God as probable or improbable.

93JGL53
Redigerat: aug 31, 2014, 11:59pm

> 92

Correct. The argument from design boils down to the rather unsophisticated argument from personal incredulity. Also to utter ignorance of modern science. Also to not even knowing one is ignorant of modern science - or, in some cases, not giving a damn that one is ignorant of modern science.

So, to quote Dawkins, so there. lol.

94rrp
sep 1, 2014, 11:15am

>78 RidgewayGirl:

I think that in this instance, your opinion is formed because of your preconceived notions. You don't want to appreciate Aquinas's arguments, but you do want to like Dawkins's. Hence your conclusion. It's symmetrical.

95rrp
sep 1, 2014, 11:16am

>91 overlycriticalelisa:

Do you mean anything quantifiable?

96RidgewayGirl
sep 1, 2014, 1:19pm

>94 rrp: I'm a Christian and unconvinced by Dawkins' arguments. But I've found that the inability of many Christians to extend to atheists the same courtesy of really trying to understand and be tolerant of their beliefs that they ask, demand and often just expect as a matter of fact for themselves reflects badly on us.

97rrp
sep 1, 2014, 1:33pm

>96 RidgewayGirl:

Fair enough. I completely agree. But Dawkins is one of those people you just have to find time to correct. He gives atheism a bad name.

98RidgewayGirl
sep 1, 2014, 1:56pm

>97 rrp: Clearly the man is a bit of an ass. But if we really want to go down that road, there are thousands upon thousands of good Christian asses that any atheist could use as an example, aren't there? In the full spectrum of humanity, there is no reason that atheists should be held to a higher level of tolerance or speaking carefully so as not to offend.

99rrp
Redigerat: sep 1, 2014, 2:31pm

>98 RidgewayGirl: Tolerance is a good thing. The only thing I'm intolerant of is intolerance. The New Atheists are intolerant and encourage intolerance. This has to be challenged, because if it is left unchallenged, it leads to very bad things. Fortunately, there are atheists who distance themselves from Dawkins. More should speak out against his intolerance. And then there's the hypocrisy. This is best fought on his ground, using reason to show that his so called reason based arguments are in fact irrational. He claims science is on his side, we used science to reclaim science for all humanity. It is a duty to speak truth to power, although thankfully he has squandered what ever influence he once had. Yet here we are still talking about his silly book, so we must keep up the good fight

100southernbooklady
sep 1, 2014, 2:36pm

>99 rrp: The only thing I'm intolerant of is intolerance.

You are also intolerant of ambiguity. :)

The New Atheists are intolerant and encourage intolerance.

I'm a "New Atheist" per the definition given by Wiki:

New Atheism is a social and political movement in favour of atheism and secularism promoted by a collection of modern atheist writers who have advocated the view that "religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises."1


Yet here we are still talking about his silly book

You don't have to participate in a thread called "Group Read: The God Delusion" but the topic was started because people began to realize that Dawkins' position was being criticized without anyone having taken the trouble to actually read what he wrote.

101RidgewayGirl
Redigerat: sep 1, 2014, 2:40pm

>99 rrp: There has been much more intolerance for atheists by people of faith than vice versa. I'd rather behave as I'd like other to, than to do the tit for tat hate-mongering. If you look at Dawkins' behavior and find it unattractive and a distraction from atheism, why on earth would you then condone that behavior in people of faith? It really does lead to people leaving faith communities. And many of the atheists I've conversed with have had good reason to regard Christianity with hostility.

Really, atheists do not have a monopoly on intolerance or hypocrisy. They've got some catching up to do.

102rrp
sep 1, 2014, 4:53pm

>101 RidgewayGirl:

You are also intolerant of ambiguity. :)

I am unambiguously in favor or unambiguity.

I'm a "New Atheist"

One of the good ones. I wouldn't have labeled you "intolerant". My apologies.

You don't have to participate in a thread called "Group Read"

>1 LolaWalser: "I doubt we shall hear any novel criticism or defence, but perhaps we can at least pool all the repetitions in one place for the convenience of future reference."

I am doing my bit repeating the criticisms.

103rrp
sep 1, 2014, 4:57pm

>101 RidgewayGirl:

Really, atheists do not have a monopoly on intolerance or hypocrisy. They've got some catching up to do.

Well Stalin's USSR, Maoist China, Pol Pot's Cambodia and North Korea have done their bit to even the score. Some might even say they are in the lead.

104BoMag
sep 1, 2014, 5:09pm

>99 rrp: Yet here we are still talking about his silly book

Owned by 11,821 active LT readers and given an average of 4 stars..........

105rrp
sep 1, 2014, 7:34pm

>104 BoMag:

I am sure I can find a book on LT owned by more reader with 4 stars that you find silly.

106southernbooklady
sep 1, 2014, 7:55pm

>90 overlycriticalelisa: arguments are alright but the examples he uses are not convincing.

I'm in chapter four now and still finding this pattern to be true. For example, I don't have any problems with his observations about the brain's capacity to construct images based on sensory input as an explanation for our perceptions of supposedly supernatural phenomena.

But I highly doubt that all the Renaissance painters, etc created the works they did just because the Roman Catholic Church was the only game in town if you wanted to get paid. You can't created something inspiring if you haven't been, uh, inspired.

I'm beginning to think the only way I'll get through Dawkins' arguments is to read the first part of every chapter where he states his case, and then skip over all the subsequent pages devoted to mocking various examples of religion in action, and pick it up again at the next chapter, when he's ready to make another point.

107JGL53
sep 1, 2014, 10:17pm

106 > "....But I highly doubt that all the Renaissance painters, etc. created the works they did just because the Roman Catholic Church was the only game in town if you wanted to get paid. You can't created something inspiring if you haven't been, uh, inspired...."

Call me a cynic but I suspect that if, during the Renaissance, an utterly secular source was commissioning secular painting and paying quite well, while in comparison the R.C.C. was paying next to nothing, the highly religious painters would have opted to work for the former - unless they were forced to work for the R.C.C. under threat of some severe penalty. Most of them anyway.

I think that was Dawkins's point. Makes sense to me.

108southernbooklady
sep 1, 2014, 11:31pm

>107 JGL53: that if, during the Renaissance, an utterly secular source was commissioning secular painting and paying quite well

You mean, like the Medicis?

109BoMag
sep 2, 2014, 6:05am

>105 rrp: Go on then.

110StormRaven
Redigerat: sep 2, 2014, 9:53am

Aquinas's arguments are unassailable if you accept the premises; his logic is valid.

No, actually, they aren't. They have been assailed, and shown to be flawed multiple times.

111Novak
sep 2, 2014, 10:20am

>110 StormRaven: Aquinas's arguments are unassailable if you accept the premises; his logic is valid.

Did someone on the thread claim this?

112StormRaven
sep 2, 2014, 10:38am

111: rrp in #77.

113RidgewayGirl
sep 2, 2014, 11:06am

I'm mid-way through chapter six and I can say that Dawkins is not a linguist. I appreciate his argument, that religion has been genetically programmed and developed over time, but I don't find it convincing, in part because he isn't well enough versed in some of the things he's asserting (on many of the others his knowledge vastly out-weighs my own). Of course, I would say that, wouldn't I?

What I am getting from this book is a setting out of many of the arguments I have heard before. It's useful to know this.

114Novak
sep 2, 2014, 4:18pm

>106 southernbooklady: I'm beginning to think the only way I'll get through Dawkins' arguments is to read the first part of every chapter where he states his case, and then skip over all the subsequent pages devoted to mocking various examples of religion in action, and pick it up again at the next chapter, when he's ready to make another point.

Excellent idea. I've just completed this and it certainly works for me. I find myself warming to the main theme with all his personal niggles left out. I know the last time I read it, some years ago, I could recognise that some of his comments would aggravate churchgoers a bit.

>77 rrp: Aquinas's arguments are unassailable if you accept the premises; his logic is valid.

Aquinas was given as a four year old child to the Roman Catholic church to be brain-washed and distorted. He never lived in the real world. More than 750 years later are we prepared to quote him? His background makes him as relevant here as Yogi Bear.

115rrp
sep 2, 2014, 5:02pm

>114 Novak:

Yogi Berra now, he had some relevant things to say. His intellectual contributions will be remembered longer than Dawkins.

BTW. If you want to discuss the relevance of Aquinas in a reasonable way, I'd be glad to oblige.

116overlycriticalelisa
sep 2, 2014, 5:11pm

>66 rrp:

i don't think that this is at all gospel for the converted. it sounds like maybe you're coming into this with assumptions or things you'd like to prove.

as to the five ways of aquinas. i think it's obvious that dawkins isn't going into detail about any of the "subtleties and nuances" either for or against any of the things he's talking about. he's doing his best (not a great job at all, i grant you) to parse it down in as few pages as possible. so docking him for only taking 3 pages to refute the five ways isn't a terribly good argument for.

but what i really wanted to reply to in your post: it really seems like a "because i said so" kind of argument to state that everything relies on a regress except when you get to god himself. that makes no sense in the conception of the regress, as i understand it. so yes, to assume that he would be immune to the regress when nothing else has been so far does seem to be "entirely unwarranted" and just a "because i said so" way to get out of it.

from what i understand of the argument anyway.

117eromsted
sep 2, 2014, 5:19pm

To my mind, the more important point is that defining God as the answer to various unanswerable questions like, "what is the origin of the entire universe" provides no warrant to associate God so defined with any other attributes or characteristics. Nor does such a definition provide any additional understanding of the workings of any phenomena in the universe. It is an empty definition.

118overlycriticalelisa
sep 2, 2014, 5:34pm

>74 jjwilson61:

i can't find it on a cursory search, but i felt like he specified that he was talking of the theist god not just when he was talking about this hypothesis, but about god throughout the book, unless otherwise noted.

119overlycriticalelisa
sep 2, 2014, 5:39pm

>79 LolaWalser:
a month long vacation, lola, good on you! (especially after solving global warming and the biodiversity crisis.) color me super jealous. and still annoyed with dawkins now that i've finished chapter 4.

120Novak
sep 2, 2014, 5:41pm

>117 eromsted: You will find that Dawkins makes that point. Can't explain something? Don't bother, be religious, call it an act of god. Easy.

121Novak
sep 2, 2014, 5:49pm

>119 overlycriticalelisa: Being a refugee from Pedant's Corner, I think you will find that Lola was talking about global warning, not global warming.

(Oh, all right, I'm jealous too :))

122overlycriticalelisa
sep 2, 2014, 6:01pm

>95 rrp:

i meant anything measurable but i suppose so, since quantifying something is in itself a form of measurement.

123overlycriticalelisa
Redigerat: sep 2, 2014, 6:41pm

>106 southernbooklady:
But I highly doubt that all the Renaissance painters, etc created the works they did just because the Roman Catholic Church was the only game in town if you wanted to get paid. You can't created something inspiring if you haven't been, uh, inspired.

i've actually been (sort of) talking about just this thing with an author who has a crazy number of upcoming deadlines for various books and stories over the next couple of months. i said basically what you said, but with more reservation, and she more or less said that work is work and you wouldn't hire an office worker to wait to do their job until inspiration hits. that if you sit and write, it'll come. i countered with the "it" that comes not being as good when under pressure as when given the freedom to do what you want on your own timeline. she disagreed. i had more reservation to begin with because i've been to art school (photography) and worked on deadlines (as a photojournalist) and was almost always able to do as good a job as i would have done (in a lot less time) if given more creative freedom and an extended deadline.

all of that to say - i doubt that the roman catholic church was the only paying game in town, but if you were an artist and were offered the commission of painting the ceiling of the sistine chapel, well, i think you take it. you know what they want to see, and you make it happen. it doesn't mean you believe what you paint. necessarily.

along these lines, though, i very much call into question his argument (that he brings out ad nauseam) that scientists, or other people he wants to respect and reference, don't actually believe what they said they believe, instead attributing to them over and over again the assumption that they're "bending over backwards to be nice." (page 81 in my edition.) the laws of probability that he uses in chapter 4 make it likely that this is sometimes true, but also unlikely that it's true for everyone he cites.

now, away from this thread and back to actually reading the book itself...

124southernbooklady
sep 2, 2014, 6:45pm

>123 overlycriticalelisa: i doubt that the roman catholic church was the only paying game in town, but if you were an artist and were offered the commission of painting the ceiling of the sistine chapel, well, i think you take it. you know what they want to see, and you make it happen. it doesn't mean you believe what you paint. necessarily.

I think you have to remember that the conflict that we perceive between being creative and being paid....as if money nullifies artistic merit...is a relatively modern notion. You don't have to be starving in a garret to paint something "pure."

That said, I object to "what if" historical arguments, and Dawkins is rife with them: "If Thomas Jefferson lived today he'd be an atheist." "If Michaelangelo was painting today, he wouldn't be painting religious subjects." (Presumably he'd be hanging out with Robert Mapplethorpe.)

That kind of statement is as pointless as when conservatives argue that the Founding Fathers "were really Christians." The truth is, you can't cut people out of their time and culture and stick them in ours as if they were paper dolls to be dressed in your favorite philosophical clothes. We are of the time and culture we are born to, and anything we think or believe is with reference to there and then. So yeah, I'd be surprised if I hitched a ride in the Tardis back to Rome circa 1480 and asked Michaelangelo as he's lying on his back painting pictures of long white bearded men sitting in clouds, "Do you really believe in God?" if he answered "No."

Dawkins does this sort of thin all the time. He likes to co-opt history. But he's a very careless historian.

125JGL53
Redigerat: sep 2, 2014, 8:35pm

>124 southernbooklady:

Yeah, Dawkins seems to be of the opinion that religious people are 1. just saying they are religious or 2.if actually religious then they must be mental/brainwashed or something similar. That is the only two options he sees, apparently. So that doesn't make him appreciated by the religious at all - and many atheists/agnostics view him as unsophisticated in his arguments.

The aforementioned Daniel Dennett (post # 87) takes an approach that many atheists think is much better. There's a lot of youtube of him available:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=daniel+dennett+breaking+the+spell

126RidgewayGirl
sep 3, 2014, 1:39am

The aforementioned Daniel Dennett (post # 87) takes an approach that many atheists think is much better.

In this, atheists and believers are united. Their guy says it better than that other guy.

JGL53, I'll try to get to that sometime today.

127overlycriticalelisa
sep 6, 2014, 2:16pm

>121 Novak:
i had assumed a small typo but in retrospect there is plenty of global warning that needs to be done so who am i to say that lola wasn't doing it?

128overlycriticalelisa
sep 6, 2014, 2:24pm

>106 southernbooklady: I'm beginning to think the only way I'll get through Dawkins' arguments is to read the first part of every chapter where he states his case, and then skip over all the subsequent pages devoted to mocking various examples of religion in action, and pick it up again at the next chapter, when he's ready to make another point.

for me, anyway, the further along i'm getting the better his arguments seem to be. i have particularly liked chapters 6 and 7 that deal with the morality questions and where he does less mocking. i'm in chapter 8 right now, where he explains why he's hostile to religion.

129eromsted
sep 22, 2014, 5:18pm

I finished at least skimming through the book a while ago and meant to write some thoughts but never got to it.

Chapter 2: I don't think Dawkins does a very good job of defining god. Nor does he really stick to the definition he provides or use it very carefully in making subsequent arguments. Sometimes he targets all super-naturalism. Sometimes it's any sort of creator. Most often it seems to be his personal and selective picture of the Christian god of scripture and an amalgam of Church teachings. His arguments would be more solidly grounded if he actually did some research in theology and/or sociology into what people mean by god.

At one point he says that it should be obvious that a universe with a supernatural creator is very different from one without, even if difficult to measure. I'm not at all sure that's true. And Dawkins doesn't really make this case. I think the much bigger problem with god claims is that they do not describe any observable differences from a world without god. As such, the best response is not that god is improbable (whatever that means exactly) but rather Laplace's semi-apocryphal , "I have no need of that hypothesis." In my experience, most claims about god are simply definitional ascriptions, not testable models. Including the word god provides no additional insight into whatever phenomena is being discussed.

Chapter 3: I'm no theological expert, but Dawkins does not convince me that he has provided the best existing arguments for god. But even worse, he provides no sense of the debate. His own arguments are so basic that many believers must have encountered them and have given responses. One might find those responses inadequate, but it would be far more interesting to see them discussed.

Chapter 4: Dawkins focuses far too much here on god as the answer to complexity. Perhaps this is because irreducible complexity is the current favored argument of creationists who want to block the teaching of evolution in schools. But it is not clear that the issue of complexity is otherwise particularly important in believers' understanding of god.

I also recall being very uncomfortable with his use of the concept of probability, but I can't at the moment recall exactly why.

Chapter 5: I tend to agree with the idea that the human capacity for religious belief is likely a byproduct of other human capacities. The schema of physical/design/intentional borrowed from Dennett is interesting, but still strikes me as rather high level to be acted on by evolution. I would suggest looking at our basic capacities for pattern recognition and thinking by analogy. And interestingly, those two capacities are also the foundation for science. Science is all about recognizing patters in phenomena and creating models (analogies) to help understand those patterns. But what characterizes science is the understanding of how easy it is to be mislead in both steps and the need for systematic and collaborative checking for error.

Chapter 6: I think Dawkins is entirely too glib about morality. He seems to think it's all very easy. Whereas I see problems as moral problems precisely because they are very hard, with no simple answers based on adding up costs and benefits. However, I do agree that though many people learn and communicate about morality in religious institutions and language, belief in god does not provide any foundation for moral truth. This could have been discussed in more interesting ways.

Chapter 7: Atheist reads the bible and finds it both appalling and ridiculous. Well, OK. Thing is, I can do that myself, and have to some extent. But what would be more interesting is a digest of actual research into how people understand the relationship of scripture to belief. Dawkins doesn't bother.

Chapter 8: Ah, the great list of bad things done in the name of religion or by professed believers. But through none of this is there a good argument that it is the belief in god that causes or even facilitates such bad behavior. It's simply an assertion that absolute faith (not necessarily how every believer understands his/her faith) leads to other bad forms of absolutism.

Chapter 9: I admit that by this point I was skimming heavily. But it seemed to me that signally missing from his description of religion as a form of abusive indoctrination of impressionable children is adolescent questioning of parental values. There is not a smooth line from what one is told as a child to what one believes as an adult.

On the whole, I found the book shallow, ramblingly digressive and generally a waste of time.

130Jesse_wiedinmyer
sep 22, 2014, 10:49pm

At one point he says that it should be obvious that a universe with a supernatural creator is very different from one without, even if difficult to measure. I'm not at all sure that's true

Is it? How would it be?

131eromsted
sep 22, 2014, 11:36pm

How would it be what? Obviously different? I don't know and Dawkins doesn't elaborate this point well, though it seems like it should be central to his argument.

132Jesse_wiedinmyer
sep 23, 2014, 12:34am

He doesn't say obviously different. But he's saying that if the idea makes a difference, the difference should be noticeable. And if it's not noticeable...

133RidgewayGirl
Redigerat: sep 23, 2014, 7:35am

>129 eromsted: Since believers don't have a single, coherent vision of who God is, why should Dawkins? It would then be easy for anyone to dismiss his arguments if there was a small discrepancy between how Dawkins describes God, and how a reader does. I mean, in a single church there are probably as many definitions as members.

Since I was reading a viewpoint I disagree with, I felt it was on me to read it as sympathetically as possible, but I can see how the idea we have of Dawkins would make that impossible for many, just as it's impossible for many to look at religion or Christianity with any degree of kindness. Sometimes the animosity is too great. I think I had an advantage here, having been in conversation with atheists who were willing to clearly explain their viewpoint, without the animosity that seems to have festered here, and in Dawkins' encounters with equally angry believers.

134southernbooklady
sep 23, 2014, 8:07am

>129 eromsted: My reaction to the book so far (I'm into chapter 6) has been along the lines of yours, but with a slightly different take. I've found the general premise of the book-- that anything which is of the natural universe is a proper subject for science, and that thus the...theory...that there is a God is one that does not have any evidence---a valid proposition. He's the first I've read to make the case for doing away with the notion of non-overlapping magesteria as a valid argument for religious belief.

But with the exception of chapter five, which goes into the evolution of religion (and I was glad he mentioned patriotism as functioning in a similar manner) he mostly doesn't make his case...he's too busy bashing the weird nasty fundies. The morality chapter is tedious and totally beside the point. The editor in me kept wanting to cut all that out as extraneous to the point he supposedly wanted to make.

So I'm still in the weird position of thinking that his fundamental objection to religion has merit, but that he doesn't bother to actually write much about it. Instead, the book is "shallow, ramblingly digressive" as eromsted put it. I wouldn't say a waste of time, simply because I'm now thinking about the issue in a different way, and trying to decide if it is true that science is valid tool for looking at things I'd always considered outside its sphere. And I'd also say that Dawkins's own digressions, his inability to follow through and make a real case for his own position, does not render that position false. Just untested. I'd like to see a serious exploration of the idea.

And finally, there is enough wheat in the chaff of the book that I have to acknowledge I can't write Dawkins off as a crank. He's not the atheist version of Fred Phelps. He's not always "just wrong."

135RidgewayGirl
sep 23, 2014, 8:16am

Could Dawkins be the atheist equivalent of a Mike Huckabee?

136JGL53
Redigerat: sep 23, 2014, 12:10pm

So then let's see:

- Hundreds of billions of galaxies each with hundreds of billions of stars, no doubt with gazillions of planets.

- A universe mostly of dark matter and dark energy, with visible matter constituting only four per cent of all.

- A universe nearly 14 billion years old with the human race only a million years or two IF we count Australopithecus as humans.

- Agriculture, herding, city states, monuments, division of labor - "civilization" - all evolving only during the last 15 thousand years, or there abouts.

- The average human lifespan way less than one hundred years, the max human lifespan being way less than 150 years.

- And YET it is all ABOUT US.

- I.e., an invisible anthropomorphic creator being is just assumed as a given - with humans beings as the purpose and reason for the created universe -with the burden on the minority "disbelievers" to make their opposing case, ha ha ha.

Uh huh. Right. Sure. No doubt. Whatchu lookin' at, Willis?

Cognitive dissonance has now ate my brain.

I wish to thank each and every one of you for your time and effort in producing this result.

Namaste.

137southernbooklady
sep 23, 2014, 12:10pm

>135 RidgewayGirl: I don't know. Is Huckabee a generally rational person?

138JGL53
Redigerat: sep 23, 2014, 12:12pm

> 137

Survey says -

NO.

139RidgewayGirl
sep 23, 2014, 2:15pm

>137 southernbooklady: He used to be. But he's always had that patriarchal tendency that plagues many.

140southernbooklady
sep 23, 2014, 2:38pm

Plus I think he's one of the ID people. Although I have no idea whether that translates into thinking it should be taught in schools. If he does, I wouldn't vote for him for president. But then again, I wouldn't vote for Dawkins either.

I guess the question would be how much wheat is there in his chaff?

141Jesse_wiedinmyer
sep 23, 2014, 4:22pm

>135 RidgewayGirl: RidgewayGirl: I don't know. Is Huckabee a generally rational person?

He's the only Republican whose platform in the last presidential election didn't make me want to sob for humanity.

142eromsted
sep 23, 2014, 5:48pm

>133 RidgewayGirl:
"Since believers don't have a single, coherent vision of who God is, why should Dawkins?"
Well, right. You're never going to capture everyone's beliefs in all of their subtlety and complexity. But I think with some study in theology and sociology and anthropology of religion the main lines could be identified. One of the claims against Dawkins is that he tilts at a strawman. Except in the case of ID creationism I think this is a fair argument. If the book were titled, "The Intelligent Design Delusion," it would be a more accurate description of his principle target. Of course it also wouldn't have sold as many copies or given him such license to wander off into every thought he's had about religion.

>134 southernbooklady:
"He's the first I've read to make the case for doing away with the notion of non-overlapping magesteria as a valid argument for religious belief."
Perhaps part of the problem for me is that I'm already there. I've never understood what religious ways of knowing are supposed to mean. And my general complaint with god talk as a explanation of phenomena in the world is not that it's wrong (though some fundamentalists are dedicated to clearly wrong claims) but rather that it is empty. It simply does nothing to help understand how things happen. Of course, religion and god talk do a lot of other things.

143overlycriticalelisa
sep 23, 2014, 6:07pm

>134 southernbooklady: The morality chapter is tedious and totally beside the point. The editor in me kept wanting to cut all that out as extraneous to the point he supposedly wanted to make.

why is the morality chapter besides the point? if people are claiming that their morality comes from their religion, isn't this worth discussing for a number of reasons?

144jjwilson61
sep 23, 2014, 6:14pm

Isn't that the reason that a lot of religious people give for not trusting atheists (and that's a pretty high proportion of the US population) is that they can't have morals because morals come from God?

145southernbooklady
sep 23, 2014, 9:31pm

>143 overlycriticalelisa: if people are claiming that their morality comes from their religion, isn't this worth discussing for a number of reasons?

Sure, but that's not what Dawkins does. Instead, he spends what seemed like an interminable amount of time listing all the bad things supposedly moral religious people do. It's a little boring, frankly.

146rrp
sep 24, 2014, 7:30am

>134 southernbooklady:

I've found the general premise of the book-- that anything which is of the natural universe is a proper subject for science, and that thus the...theory...that there is a God is one that does not have any evidence---a valid proposition.

One suspects that you went to the book with that opinion and found nothing in it to change your mind. It didn't persuade you, just confirmed your opinions.

>142 eromsted:

Perhaps part of the problem for me is that I'm already there. I've never understood what religious ways of knowing are supposed to mean. And my general complaint with god talk as a explanation of phenomena in the world is not that it's wrong (though some fundamentalists are dedicated to clearly wrong claims) but rather that it is empty.

I feel the same way about poetry. I've never understood what poetic ways of knowing are supposed to mean. And my general complaint with poetry talk as a explanation of phenomena in the world is not that it's wrong but rather that it is empty.

147southernbooklady
sep 24, 2014, 9:04am

>146 rrp: One suspects that you went to the book with that opinion and found nothing in it to change your mind. It didn't persuade you, just confirmed your opinions.

One could, but it would be a faulty supposition. True, my starting position of "there is no god" has not been altered in any way, but I hardly credit Richard Dawkins for that.

However, when it comes to the idea of non-overlapping magesteria, that is a division I've largely accepted without much question. On these fora I've said things like:

I would imagine that if God is about explaining existence, then science would render the concept unnecessary. But if God is about giving meaning to existence, then science would regard the concept as irrelevant to their pursuits.


http://www.librarything.com/topic/142357#3600887

and I've suggested that science is a poor tool for evaluating how pretty something is. Or for assessing the nature of a person's experience with the divine.

Dawkins challenges that assumption on the grounds that such a division is tantamount to consigning a part of existence to an unknowable mystery. In effect, one "gives up" trying to understand--and that is something Dawkins clearly hates. He doesn't accept that kind of surrender as ever being a good thing.

I get where he's coming from there, too. If there is anything guaranteed to make existence feel "empty" it is giving up trying to understand it.

But then, for whatever reason I enjoy having my assumptions challenged, so that I have to come up with a coherent defense. I rather like having my apple cart upset by new theories, new points of view, new evidence. So while I think Dawkins's question of whether anything is really "off limits" to science is a valid one to try to answer, I also think questions like (as an example) "What evidence would it take to change your mind about God?" is also worth posing. (I don't have an answer for that one, yet, either.)

148jjwilson61
sep 24, 2014, 9:32am

If religion were like poetry and people could take it or leave it without fear of being ostracized I'd be ok with that.

149RickHarsch
sep 24, 2014, 10:51am

I think there is no essential difference between the poetic and religious spirit.

150Michael_Welch
sep 24, 2014, 2:28pm

I for one agree -- but I realize there's a somewhat "subjective" set of definitions here?...

151RickHarsch
sep 24, 2014, 4:10pm

There is at least one melodramatic pseudo-anti-poet who likes to be clever about god and evolution.

152Michael_Welch
sep 24, 2014, 4:26pm

And who?...

153RickHarsch
sep 24, 2014, 5:05pm

You'll see

154Michael_Welch
sep 24, 2014, 6:41pm

"God knows"?!...

155rrp
sep 24, 2014, 8:37pm

>147 southernbooklady:

Dawkins challenges that assumption on the grounds that such a division is tantamount to consigning a part of existence to an unknowable mystery.

I am not quite sure what "that assumption" is. I assume that it is that religion is beyond the reach of science. But if that division is "consigning a part of existence to an unknowable mystery" surely then you also have to assume that science is the only way to knowledge. Did Dawkins really convince you that science is the only way to knowledge?

156Jesse_wiedinmyer
Redigerat: sep 24, 2014, 8:43pm

No, but the failure of anyone else to provide a feasible alternative has helped.

157rrp
sep 24, 2014, 9:12pm

Helped what?

158RidgewayGirl
sep 25, 2014, 2:25am

Convince people that science is how we move knowledge and the sum of what we know forward.

Science is knowledge and the gaining of knowledge of the natural and physical world. If nothing exists outside of that then, yes, "science" is what we call the study of the world as it exists.

I think you may be setting up science as a sort of domineering bad guy. It's not really a monolithic entity bent on destroying religion.

159southernbooklady
Redigerat: sep 25, 2014, 8:36am

>155 rrp: I am not quite sure what "that assumption" is. I assume that it is that religion is beyond the reach of science.

No, the question is "Is anything beyond the reach of science?" The assumption is that somethings are, indeed, beyond the reach of science: Religious and mystical experiences, artistic appreciation, etc. As I said. And it is an assumption that deserves to be questioned.

Did Dawkins really convince you that science is the only way to knowledge?

Not at all what I said. He stated a position that challenged my assumptions. But a better question might be is anything that manifests itself in the material world have to be understood empirically, by default?

>158 RidgewayGirl: It's not really a monolithic entity bent on destroying religion.

Since religion in the end is one of those things that human being do, it creates and destroys itself quite capably.

160rrp
sep 25, 2014, 10:08am

>159 southernbooklady:

Thanks for the clarification. I agree it is a good thing to occassionally question one's assumptions. If Dawkins did that, he did one thing right. But I suppose the result is also important. Did he persuade you that the assumption was unwarranted? (He certainly didn't persuade me that is was.)

is anything that manifests itself in the material world have to be understood empirically, by default

That's a good question, but does make another assumption -- that the world is material. I suppose there are two versions of the assumption -- the world is entirely material or the world is partly material. Which are you making? What would persuade you to question those assumptions?

161southernbooklady
sep 25, 2014, 10:56am

>160 rrp: Did he persuade you that the assumption was unwarranted? (He certainly didn't persuade me that is was.)

Well, the substance of my criticism of Dawkins is that he does not attempt to make a rational or logical (and therefore persuasive) argument for his position. He's too easily sidetracked by all the wacky things some religious people do.

but does make another assumption -- that the world is material

That's more of a working hypothesis based on the observed evidence, since I find the we-are-all-brains-in-vats approach to existence to be pretty useless.

As for what evidence would convince me that God exists? It's a fair question. I can't think of anything, but then I know that my knowledge comes with error bars.

162RidgewayGirl
sep 25, 2014, 11:21am

>161 southernbooklady: I had already heard the substance of Dawkins' arguments, given in a much pleasanter way by less abrasive atheists. I think that helped to put me in a frame of mind to listen. His beginning the book by calling all believers "faith heads" may have set some readers against his arguments from the start.

>160 rrp: It's a lot of fun to imagine a world where battles are being fought unseen around us, with angels, demons and/or vampires fighting for the fate of mankind or something. But in the absence of evidence, it's more effective to live as though the material world is the one we live in. Because it is. I do believe God exists, but there's a reason it's called faith and not certainty.

163southernbooklady
sep 25, 2014, 11:58am

>162 RidgewayGirl: I think that helped to put me in a frame of mind to listen. His beginning the book by calling all believers "faith heads" may have set some readers against his arguments from the start.

Wheat/chaff. I don't get too riled up over it. After all, on another thread there are people getting into serious arguments about whether or not it is okay for a priest to use the word "cup" instead of "chalice" when they are saying Mass. We do tend to be easily excited (and outraged).

I'm glad Lola suggested the group read, though. I feel like I'm on more certain ground now when I'm talking about his position.

164RidgewayGirl
sep 25, 2014, 12:13pm

I liked reading it, too.

165RickHarsch
sep 25, 2014, 12:35pm

I have often given thought to this material world and its...materiality. It's worse than ever knowing these words don't exist on paper. But as far as I know, which is largely from Asian sources, philosophies questioning the material world generally actually do not question the actual existence of matter, rather focus on the human beings' confused relations with that matter. Maya, for example, is often taken to mean illusion, that the world is an illusion; what it really means is that our understanding of the world is illusory.

166JGL53
Redigerat: sep 25, 2014, 7:11pm

> 165

Well that is a good point.

We could also consider our lives illusionary since everything in time is ipso facto illusionary because it passes away in time. So then it is like it never was. Especially considering deep time. Like a million billion years or whatever. So the illusion is in the understanding. Understanding it as absolute in meaning is the illusion.

Just as Gravy Train makes its own gravy, life makes its own meaning. You live it and then forget about it. Drama-queening it up never helps the situation. But that is what religion is all about. lol.

167rrp
Redigerat: sep 25, 2014, 8:31pm

>161 southernbooklady:

So I think a little clarification would help. You said "the assumption is that somethings are, indeed, beyond the reach of science". You said you were questioning it but I still am not clear if you think that assumption is unwarranted. Maybe you are still on the fence.

[that the world is material] is more of a working hypothesis based on the observed evidence, since I find the we-are-all-brains-in-vats approach to existence to be pretty useless.

The "we-are-all-brains-in-vats" subsumes "the world is material", assuming the vats are material. Also, observations are typically mental events; it's another assumption that they are caused by a material reality. So you have already made the assumption that the world is material before you processed "the observed evidence". I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing, I am just re-emphasizing that questioning assumptions is a good thing, and pointing out that there are many layers of assumptions you have left out.

As for what evidence would convince me that God exists? It's a fair question.

Here is another unstated assumption. Why do you need evidence to convince you that God exists? You don't need evidence to convince you that the world is material, or many other things you are convinced about. Sometimes you make assumptions. At other times you are persuaded by arguments. Dawkins book perhaps convinced you of some things. Is Dawkins book "evidence" or is it a persuasive argument (in places, I know you said it doesn't convince elsewhere). Don't other books convinced you of the truth of things? Do some books count as evidence and others not?

168rrp
sep 25, 2014, 8:33pm

>162 RidgewayGirl:

it's more effective to live as though the material world is the one we live in

But the point is that you don't have to assume that the world is material to live in it.

169southernbooklady
sep 25, 2014, 9:46pm

>167 rrp: I still am not clear if you think that assumption is unwarranted. Maybe you are still on the fence.

Mmmm. Well when I'm asked a question that requires some thought to answer, I tend to take my time in giving one. Sorry, but that usually takes me a little longer than whatever is required to post to an internet forum.

The "we-are-all-brains-in-vats" subsumes "the world is material", assuming the vats are material. Also, observations are typically mental events; it's another assumption that they are caused by a material reality....

...etc, etc. This was funny. I think I've made comparisons to being stuck in the mirrored room before with you. You seem to be in one of those at the moment.
In fact, you sound like the upside-down version of one of Rick Harsch's Buddhists. All is illusory, but instead of finding enlightenment, you discover nothingness.

Why do you need evidence to convince you that God exists?

Some editorial license there. I've been speaking of, and am interested in, material evidence. That may indeed be the only kind of evidence that exists, however.

You don't need evidence to convince you that the world is material, or many other things you are convinced about. Sometimes you make assumptions. At other times you are persuaded by arguments.

Everyone makes assumptions. The trick is what you do with them when you find your assumptions are in error. Some people re-evaluate the things they have taken for granted. Others decide that they don't want to be wrong, so either everyone else is wrong, or no one can know what is right so it doesn't matter. That way one doesn't "have to assume the that the world is material to live in it."

Kind of like losing a game while insisting that you aren't really playing.

170Jesse_wiedinmyer
sep 25, 2014, 9:52pm

But the better point is that one needs not bother with any of the other shit, because if it exists, it's immaterial. Entirely unimportant under the circumstances, and irrelevant.

171Jesse_wiedinmyer
sep 25, 2014, 9:53pm

Kind of like losing a game while insisting that you aren't really playing.

Hence, rrp's continued claims that he doesn't advocate for religious belief...

172RickHarsch
sep 26, 2014, 3:01am

154, see 171

173rrp
Redigerat: sep 26, 2014, 7:36am

>169southernbooklady

Mmmm. Well when I'm asked a question that requires some thought to answer, I tend to take my time in giving one.

I can understand your reluctance to take a position.

All is illusory, but instead of finding enlightenment, you discover nothingness.

Not at all. Idealism is a very respectable philosophical alternative to materialism. Kant didn't think he was stuck in a mirrored room. Going back to Descartes, with a bit of license, all you can be certain of is that thoughts, mind stuff, exist. Strangely, I was reading about something Poincare wrote between these posts. He said, talking about the ether

Whether the ether exists or not matters little - let us leave that to the metaphysicians; what is essential for us is, that everything happens as if it existed, and this hypothesis is found to be suitable for the explanation of phenomena. After all, have we any other reason for believing in the existence of material objects? That, too, is only a convenient hypothesis; only it will never cease to be so, while some day, no doubt, the ether will be thrown aside as useless.

Here you have a famous scientist agreeing that materialism is "only a convenient hypothesis", taking no position as to whether it is true or not. (Shame he was wrong about the ether though.)

Some editorial license there. I've been speaking of, and am interested in, material evidence. That may indeed be the only kind of evidence that exists, however.

Maybe you have the wrong question. If you are interested in how you might move from the state of not believing in God to a state of believing in God, you might take an observational approach and ask what caused the many people who have made that change of state, to do so. I think you will find that evidence rarely plays a role. It is more likely that an emotional experience triggers the conversion. Perhaps you should give up your obsession with evidence and ask instead "What experience will cause me to believe in God."

Everyone makes assumptions.

Exactly. This is what Dawkins does. He sets himself up with a set of assumptions, which include the assumption that God does not exist, and then deduces that God does not exist. I suspect you take the same path.

The trick is what you do with them when you find your assumptions are in error.

But some assumptions are just basic; we can never know that they are in error.

Kind of like losing a game while insisting that you aren't really playing.

You lost me there. Can't see the relevance.

174RidgewayGirl
sep 26, 2014, 8:40am

>173 rrp: Do you think that for most people that there is a conscious decision to believe in God? Most people grow up in one faith or another and that's the one they follow. Some may change positions slightly, like someone raised Methodist attending a Presbyterian church or an Episcopalian converting to Catholicism, but generally speaking, we follow the faith we were raised in, with little thought to our actual beliefs. If we were all thinking and examining out faith, we'd see larger conversions, like from Pentecostal to Muslim and there would, I suspect, be many more outspoken atheists.

Atheism, at least in the religiously charged world of much of the US, requires a lot more contemplation and intention than belief.

I also question whether belief in God is always a good thing. Sure, if everyone who did so adjusted their behavior to regard each and every other person on earth an precious to God, the world would be better, or if they regarded the world as God's creation and worth protecting, than we might end up much better off. But that's clearly not the case. Belief often just adds a layer of extra intransigent tribalism. If one's religious leader or holy book says x, well, then one need never give any serious thought to x or its implications.

175southernbooklady
sep 26, 2014, 9:30am

>173 rrp: I can understand your reluctance to take a position.

Not reluctant, just not prone to being bullied into taking a position I haven't thought through and thus can't feel confident about. I will say that despite the traditional divide we like to impose between, say, "art" and "science" there is far more overlap than division.

Here you have a famous scientist agreeing that materialism is "only a convenient hypothesis", taking no position as to whether it is true or not.

All good science approaches reality as "a convenient hypothesis," but I don't trust your use of the word "true."

But some assumptions are just basic; we can never know that they are in error.

And some assumptions are so basic we don't even recognize that we are making them. But in general we know our assumptions are in error when our reality does not accord with what we expect.

On a small scale, these are easily identified if not always so easily dealt with: We assume our wife or husband loves us until we discover they are having an affair. This causes us to question the nature of our relationship and our marriage and possible what it really means to be in love.

On a large scale, the process is the same: We assume that the laws of physics which govern our existence on Earth will be the same as those that operate on the moon, or on Alpha Centauri, or in a grain of sand. When we find a case where they don't---hello quantum mechanics--the empiricist re-evaluates the "convenient hypothesis" of general relativity. What he doesn't do is tell himself that it doesn't matter and thus that it is fine to go along as if the problems posed by quantum mechanics aren't "real."

I don't see why the same process can't evaluate the probability of the existence of god -- which, as Dawkins points out, does not mean that just because we don't know for certain does not mean the probabilities default to 50/50.

>174 RidgewayGirl: but generally speaking, we follow the faith we were raised in, with little thought to our actual beliefs.

We build upon what we already know, or think we know. That's true of anyone. It's true of people who grow up in the US and think capitalism is the greatest thing since sliced bred, and true of people who are raised in Afghanistan and think nothing is more important than loyalty to one's father. That's why real conversion and real rejection of cultural values is usually a wrenching, drastic event. No amount of academic argument is going to be as convincing as the lessons you learned as a child.

176overlycriticalelisa
sep 26, 2014, 2:42pm

>145 southernbooklady:

hmmmm. i felt like he was giving a nice foundation for explaining how religion isn't actually moral, if you go off of the text of the religions themselves.

177southernbooklady
Redigerat: sep 26, 2014, 2:53pm

Yeah, that didn't work for me. With a few exceptions (that Dawins seems obsessed with), religion isn't just about "the text." In the end, I think he's right that a sense of morality, like a sense of the religious, is one of those adaptive traits of being human, but not things-unto-themselves (as many religious believers claim.) But ultimately that undercuts his rationale for thinking religious is uniquely and intrinsically dangerous. His argument is pretty muddy though. It's hard to suss out under all the invective.

178rrp
Redigerat: sep 26, 2014, 6:38pm

>175 southernbooklady:

And some assumptions are so basic we don't even recognize that we are making them. But in general we know our assumptions are in error when our reality does not accord with what we expect.

Which is why it is good to give them a good examination from time to time. But there are sets of assumptions, which are mutually contradictory, which nevertheless cannot be shown to be in error by observation (I assume you mean this by "when our reality does not accord with what we expect.") More than one set of assumptions can be consistent with the same set of observations.

What he doesn't do is tell himself that it doesn't matter and thus that it is fine to go along as if the problems posed by quantum mechanics aren't "real."

Hmm. Those scare quotes are indeed scary. I don't know where you are going there.

I don't see why the same process can't evaluate the probability of the existence of god -- which, as Dawkins points out, does not mean that just because we don't know for certain does not mean the probabilities default to 50/50.

There are many ways to go about assessing the probability of the existence of God. Richard Swinburn's work is one example (it all depends on your priors). But it is a bit of a waste of time if you start with an assumption, say the assumption of ontological materialism, which rules out the existence of God before you start. That's what Dawkins does.

The argument goes something like.

1. Let's assume God does not exist.
2. Therefore God does not exist.
3. Look how clever I am!

179rrp
sep 26, 2014, 6:42pm

>174 RidgewayGirl:

You are right. I think most people drift into a particular set of foundational assumptions by absorption from their environments and not by a conversion experience. But southernbooklady was specifically asking what would cause herself to have a conversion experience. Surely, science would help here by examining what causes conversion experiences in other people. As I said, I would be very surprised if "evidence" ever got a look in.

180Jesse_wiedinmyer
sep 26, 2014, 11:41pm

As I said, I would be very surprised if "evidence" ever got a look in.

You're probably not looking in the right places. This sort of thing is precisely what Dennet proposes and what IS being studied elsewhere.

Then again, it doesn't fit with your narrative, so I doubt you'd be much inclined to credit it in the first place.

181Jesse_wiedinmyer
sep 26, 2014, 11:49pm

But it is a bit of a waste of time if you start with an assumption, say the assumption of ontological materialism, which rules out the existence of God before you start. That's what Dawkins does.

The argument goes something like.

1. Let's assume God does not exist.
2. Therefore God does not exist.
3. Look how clever I am! But it is a bit of a waste of time if you start with an assumption, say the assumption of ontological materialism, which rules out the existence of God before you start. That's what Dawkins does.


Or a slightly modified version that goes "Let's assume that things which cannot be sensed have no bearing on the world that we inhabit... If they had bearing, then we would be able to sense them."

182RickHarsch
sep 27, 2014, 8:58am

SBL: 'No amount of academic argument is going to be as convincing as the lessons you learned as a child.'

This isn't perhaps a terribly important point, but you're wrong, at least in many cases. In my own case almost all the main streams of childhood were re-coursed by my academic arguments, so to speak, by learning what it was to think for myself and then doing so.

183RickHarsch
sep 27, 2014, 9:02am

181

or,
1. Let's look at what makes sense now that we are some millenia into the civilizational experience.
2. Can't see much sense in that old God business.
3. God doesn't exist, now I know it for sure because of Ivan Karamazov and drones.
4. If I were clever I might find some way to understand why people still believe in God.

184southernbooklady
sep 27, 2014, 9:38am

>182 RickHarsch:

Well I think you can distinguish between an intellectual conviction and the kind of fundamental values you instill get growing up. The former can be confronted, but the latter are really hard to completely reject at an emotional level. To give one example, I grew up with the conviction that an individual's right to freedom of expression--to free speech, freedom of conscience--was not just a good thing, but kind of a paramount good thing. How I view society, and how I judge it, is colored by how much I think people are allowed to pursue their own ideas, take their own journeys, be themselves. It is sometimes hard for me to remember that other cultures have different values--values which might place the communal over the individual in terms of what is the ultimate "good." That the constraints I might feel in such a culture might not be felt by those who are raised in it, and have different values than my own.

As a result, I tend to view people who rebel against, say, authoritarian regimes with at least initial approval. It's my default position. But I also tend to ignore or downplay the costs and consequences of that rebellion--to their families, to their extended communities, to the people who suffer from the inevitable reprisals. Once again, my default position leans towards the individual, and any unpleasant consequences that result from their defiance I assign to the big bad regime that won't let them be "free."

And I'll tell you when it first occurred to me that this attitude of mine was simplistic: when two friends of mine, who were married, decided to take up skydiving. They were like that--they always wanted to be trying new things and they were both sort of adrenalin junkies. So skydiving was perfectly in character.

Except....they had a three-year-old son. And all I could think of when they excitedly told me about their first jump was "you have a three year old kid on the ground and you're jumping out of airplanes? are you fuckin' nuts?"

I still think that, actually. So my conviction in the good represented by the rights of the individual obviously has limits, although it took something pretty outrageous to make me realize it should.

185overlycriticalelisa
sep 27, 2014, 10:54am

>177 southernbooklady: With a few exceptions (that Dawins seems obsessed with), religion isn't just about "the text."

well, it's true that dawkins focused on those arguments (and those people) and while they aren't as prevalent as maybe he implied, i don't think they're as scarce as you say either. "the text" drives plenty of lawmakers in our country to make their decisions. foundationally, that the text seems to be what shapes many people's experience (on a basic level, anyway) with religion.

but i did like what he said about morality being an adaptive trait. i didn't think he did a great job explaining it, though, and i wouldn't be convinced of it just by reading him without knowing more about evolution and those arguments.

I think he's right that a sense of morality, like a sense of the religious, is one of those adaptive traits of being human, but not things-unto-themselves (as many religious believers claim.) But ultimately that undercuts his rationale for thinking religious is uniquely and intrinsically dangerous.

can you say more about this?

186rrp
sep 27, 2014, 9:30pm

>181 Jesse_wiedinmyer:

"Let's assume that things which cannot be sensed have no bearing on the world that we inhabit... If they had bearing, then we would be able to sense them."

Let's assume that there are a boat load of undeclared assumptions in that statement, assumptions about "sensed" and "bearing" and "world" etc. Let's try to uncover a few.

Many people sense God in the world, therefore God has a bearing on the world.

187Jesse_wiedinmyer
sep 28, 2014, 1:29am

I'd believe that, but you've already staked intellectual dishonesty as a position (I'd provide the link where you stated as much, but it was deleted in the previous purge.)

188Jesse_wiedinmyer
sep 28, 2014, 1:31am

By your own definition, god is immaterial. If god is immaterial, by definition, god can not be sensed or detected. If god can be detected, then god does not violate empiricism and has material effect.

You've painted yourself into a box on this one.

But this also ties back into the thing where you seek a supernatural justification for concepts such as love and compassion.

For some of us, those are among the most natural things in the world.

189rrp
sep 28, 2014, 9:36am

>188 Jesse_wiedinmyer:

Many believe God is immaterial, it is true. Other, Mormons for instance, believe God is a material being. There's an assumption.

Many do not define immaterial as not being capable of being sensed or detected. There's an assumption. Many believe minds are immaterial and that all we can detect are sensations, which are immaterial. Information is immaterial. Justice is immaterial. Faith is immaterial. All can be detected. All have a bearing on the world.

You may paint yourself in a box and try to justify that all these things are, in fact, material things, but then that is just one of the symptoms of materialism. Many find no need of that hypothesis.

190southernbooklady
sep 28, 2014, 9:43am

>185 overlycriticalelisa: I think he's right that a sense of morality, like a sense of the religious, is one of those adaptive traits of being human, but not things-unto-themselves (as many religious believers claim.) But ultimately that undercuts his rationale for thinking religious is uniquely and intrinsically dangerous.

can you say more about this?


Well, one might point out that if morality..the good things we do...can not be shown to originate with religion, then we can hardly say that violence...the bad things we do...did. Religion just becomes one of several ways we try to agree on what is good and what is bad. So when Dawkins says that "sectarian violence" is another word for "religious violence" he's wrong. Religion may be the justification for some of it, but there are other equally powerful justifications. So religion is not uniquely dangerous--just something subject to abuse, as all things are.

I'm not sure what you're looking for in terms for more, but I'll give it a shot.

As far as I can tell, Dawkins's objecctions to religion boil down to a couple basic things:

1) First and foremost...he is horrified by the violence committed in the name of religion. He seems to have been radicalized in this by the 9/11 attacks (and it is hard to fault him...who didn't think something along those lines after seeing people jumping to their deaths from the burning building they were trapped in?). In consequence, he seems to have dedicated himself to showing that religion is actually evil...because it led and leads to things like this.

2) As a scientist, he finds the suppression of intellectual curiosity that seems to go hand in hand with religious faith--certainly with religious doctrine--profoundly offensive. He objects to being told what to think, or with anything trying to constrain his ability to think for himself. He thinks "it's God's will" is the most pathetic of answers to the question "But why?" And he associates the religious mindset with a kind of anti-intellectualism

3 As a rationalist, he objects to irrationality on principle. He does not seem to regard its existence as a legitimate adaptive trait, but rather as something that has....gone wrong, I guess, in our evolution. In fact, he seems to have decided that 1 & 2 are evidence that religion is what you get when you select for irrationality.

The truth is, despite Dawkins's gadfly/asshole approach to making an argument, I can see where he's coming from. It's hard not to think that people wouldn't end up beheaded in Iraq if they didn't ascribe to a version of a faith that was urging them on. In the hands of a fundamentalist, religion is a very very dangerous thing indeed.

And I also despise the peculiar anti-intellectualism that goes along with religion in so much of the United States. I too find the suppression of our natural curiosity in the name of religion (or any other creed) to be repugnant. In fact the disgust I feel at school boards trying to rewrite textbooks to their approved version of events is EXACTLY THE SAME disgust I feel when governments try to hide behind secret meetings, closed doors, classified documents. Like Dawkins, I value being allowed to think for myself.

But as much as I can understand Dawkins's outlook, I still don't think he's made his case that "religion is bad." Or, to be more blunt, that "the God delusion" so many people "suffer" from is a bad thing, an adaptive trait that has become more of a liability than a help. I think there is a useful place for irrationality in our makeup and it manifests itself in all sorts of ways, not just as religious feelings. And I'm certainly not going to write off someone who dedicates himself to feeding the poor because that's what Jesus did on the grounds that he's delusional if he thinks Jesus really was the son of God.

191Jesse_wiedinmyer
Redigerat: sep 28, 2014, 10:44am

>189 rrp:

Precisely. Once again, you posit supernatural causes for that which have no need of supernatural causes.

Which is about the entirety of your argument (with the concommitant dishonesty about what motivates you to argue).

And really, just meh... As polling indicated in the past, pretty much the only person that finds what you've posted credible is the same guy that's already argued for intellectual dishonesty as a way of being.

192rrp
sep 28, 2014, 11:13am

>191 Jesse_wiedinmyer:

Once again, you posit supernatural causes for that which have no need of supernatural causes.

You are getting confused again. There is nothing more natural than mind. It's just not material. You really should try harder to get these categories straight.

193Jesse_wiedinmyer
Redigerat: sep 28, 2014, 11:24am

This, of course, is why trauma to the brain changes the mind.

Your whole argument boils down to "I want to believe this. I have no evidence, but..."

Which is pretty fucking pathetic.

Your god may exist, but he's otiose at best. Does little more than make you feel better about yourself. And essentially, that seems to be all rrp's posts ever boil down to. Rrp foisting himself into the center of any discussion and making it about what he'd like to believe. Even when it completely in the face of evidence to the contrary (your wonderful bugbear evolution.)

How small an existence it must be to need to prop it up and center it around oneself in such a fashion.

194Jesse_wiedinmyer
sep 28, 2014, 11:28am

The threat you feel evolution to be (and I use "you" in the second person singular there, as you're the only person on-site that consistently has a problem with it (though if I recall correctly, you've also run the same spiel on a few other sites)) really goes quite a ways to displaying what a shallow thing you feel your faith to be.

195RidgewayGirl
sep 28, 2014, 1:10pm

Dawkins does look at rrp's argument; that since people have developed religion and a belief in God over different, unrelated groups, then God must exist. He looks at various theories as to how religious belief might have evolved. I'm not sure how convincing it was, since I wasn't that interested in the argument, but he does address this.

And whether or not we believe in something has no bearing on whether does or not it does exist. If God exists, He does so with or without our belief.

196RickHarsch
sep 28, 2014, 2:23pm

My son is listening to Crosby Stills Nash and Young suddenly so every day i hear 'we can change the world, re-arrange the world...'

197rrp
sep 28, 2014, 9:08pm

This, of course, is why trauma to the brain changes the mind.

Quick. Stop the press! Jesse has solved the philosophy of mind problem! I look forward to the article on the front page. Maybe you should jump on Twitter or maybe edit the Wikipedia page and tell everyone the good news.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_mind

198Jesse_wiedinmyer
Redigerat: sep 28, 2014, 9:12pm

Quick. Stop the presses. Rrp has nothing to offer the conversation but a "You can't prove anything to my satisfaction and my belief trumps evidence." And Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

199rrp
sep 29, 2014, 8:00am

>195 RidgewayGirl:

Dawkins does look at rrp's argument; that since people have developed religion and a belief in God over different, unrelated groups, then God must exist.

I must have been elsewhere when I made that argument. What did I say?

200RidgewayGirl
sep 29, 2014, 8:30am

Many people sense God in the world, therefore God has a bearing on the world.

It's a weak argument, but one Dawkins does address. Many people feel that vampires or ghosts are real. That doesn't make it so.

201rrp
sep 29, 2014, 9:18am

>200 RidgewayGirl:

No. That was Dawkins's and Jesse's argument. Apparently, things that cannot be sensed have no bearing on the world. So, presumably things that can be sensed do. (I agree it's a week argument. It obviously needs fleshing out with some substance. For example, was does "bearing" mean?)

202RidgewayGirl
sep 29, 2014, 1:22pm

So you used a word (bearing) where you are unsure of it's meaning?

203rrp
Redigerat: sep 29, 2014, 1:32pm

No, I used it to illustrate that its meaning was unclear in Dawkins's argument. This is fairly typical of the language of the arguments in his book. He jumps all over the place meaning different things by the same word at different times. It's very sloppy thinking and very sloppy writing. I really don't have a clue what "Let's assume that things which cannot be sensed have no bearing on the world that we inhabit... If they had bearing, then we would be able to sense them." (from >181 Jesse_wiedinmyer:) means. I don't think Dawkins does either. Or Jesse for that matter.

204RidgewayGirl
sep 29, 2014, 2:18pm

So what does your statement mean, rrp? It appears to mean that if some people believe something, it is…what? That God exists if people imagine Him? That the actual existence of God is unnecessary if people think he exists?

205rrp
Redigerat: sep 29, 2014, 3:13pm

Dawkins claims "Let's assume that things which cannot be sensed have no bearing on the world that we inhabit... If they had bearing, then we would be able to sense them." I am saying, that without further clarification, he is implying that God exists, which is obviously not what he intends. As I said, I don't know what he means by "bearing", but let's assume that only things which exist "have bearing". Dawkins would have to conclude that because people sense God, God "has bearing", therefore God exists.

I know he didn't mean that, but the sloppy way he wrote it implies that he did. The point I am trying to make is that all the arguments Dawkins made in the God Delusion are as sloppy as that. If you examine any with any rigor, that's the only rational conclusion you should make. The God Delusion is basically a feel good book for committed atheists, which is not the purpose he hoped it would serve.

206southernbooklady
sep 29, 2014, 3:43pm

>205 rrp: You remind me of President Clinton testifying before the grand jury, rrp.

The God Delusion is basically a feel good book for committed atheists, which is not the purpose he hoped it would serve.

I think the ultimate purpose of the book was an excuse for an extended rant, actually. But like many rants, somewhere in the middle of it is a legitimate complaint.

207rrp
sep 29, 2014, 3:58pm

But like many rants, somewhere in the middle of it is a legitimate complaint.

I wasn't able to find it. Probably because it irritated me so much.

208jjwilson61
sep 30, 2014, 10:20am

>205 rrp: Dawkins claims "Let's assume that things which cannot be sensed have no bearing on the world that we inhabit... If they had bearing, then we would be able to sense them." I am saying, that without further clarification, he is implying that God exists, which is obviously not what he intends. As I said, I don't know what he means by "bearing", but let's assume that only things which exist "have bearing". Dawkins would have to conclude that because people sense God, God "has bearing", therefore God exists

I think you're being sloppy here. The thing that has bearing and that exists is people's sense of God which is indeed real and has an effect on the world, but that doesn't imply in any way that God actually exists.

209RidgewayGirl
sep 30, 2014, 10:31am

>208 jjwilson61: Which has confused me about rrp's comments -- they seem to be saying that if humans feel as though there is a God, there must therefore be one. Which isn't what he's saying, is it?

210jjwilson61
sep 30, 2014, 10:41am

He claims that there's another way of knowing that's just as valid as science, but he's never been able to explain it clearly enough that I can figure out just what that way is.

211rrp
sep 30, 2014, 11:52am

>208 jjwilson61:

Exactly. You cannot say that things that can be sensed exist. You have to apply other criteria than a capability of being sensed by human beings to say that something exists. Similarly, just because something cannot be sensed by human beings doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It's all a lot more complicated than Dawkins's sloppy arguments would have you believe.

212jjwilson61
sep 30, 2014, 12:01pm

Sure it's complicated and science is a methodology used to cut through the confusion and determine which things really exist and which are merely illusions.

213rrp
sep 30, 2014, 2:48pm

>212 jjwilson61:

Again, then what Dawkins meant was not "only what can be sensed exists", but "only what can be know through science exists". Which, of course, different and obviously false. Sloppy arguments on top of sloppy arguments.

214southernbooklady
sep 30, 2014, 3:12pm

>213 rrp: Which, of course, different and obviously false

One of the points of The God Delusion is that these are not different and therefore the idea is not "obviously false."

215rrp
sep 30, 2014, 4:31pm

>214 southernbooklady:

It's obviously false because I don't need science to know that I exist.

But this is one of those definitional things. If you define science to be the only valid "way of knowing", to quote >210 jjwilson61:, then obviously you need science to know anything. However, if you define science as "what scientists do and only what scientists do" (which is my preferred definition), then clearly as we know non-scientists know stuff so you don't need science to know things. Of course other definitions of "science" are possible (but all problematic) and unless you come up with a good definition we are back in sloppy argument land.

216jjwilson61
sep 30, 2014, 4:45pm

Yeah, non-scientists (defined as people who don't do as scientists do) know stuff like astrology works and God exists. In other words, they think they know but without a method to sort the wheat from the chaff they don't really know.

217southernbooklady
sep 30, 2014, 4:54pm

I'm with jjwilson when it comes to definitions.

218jjwilson61
sep 30, 2014, 5:25pm

>215 rrp: If you define science to be the only valid "way of knowing"

I never defined science as the only valid way of knowing. I define science as a set of methods that I don't need to get into since we all know what they are. And I said it's the only valid way of knowing that I am aware but I'm willing to discuss about other ways.

219rrp
Redigerat: sep 30, 2014, 5:53pm

Do you both really claim that the only way that you can possibly know that you yourself exist is by acting as a scientist? That everything you know, you know because you acted like a scientist? Unless you mean by acting as a scientist, you really mean acting like a human being, then you are really pushing the boundaries of credibility.

How do you know that acting like a scientist is the only way to "really know"? Did you come to that conclusion by acting like a scientist or did you use some independent method? If it is valid to use science to validate science, isn't is valid to use astrology to validate astrology?

220StormRaven
Redigerat: sep 30, 2014, 9:51pm

If it is valid to use science to validate science, isn't is valid to use astrology to validate astrology?

No. Astrology makes claims about the universe. You can test to see if those claims are accurate. The only known way to accurately evaluate claims about the universe is science.

What method would you propose other than science to evaluate the claims made by science? If you have no alternative, you have nothing to offer to the conversation.

221southernbooklady
sep 30, 2014, 6:56pm

>219 rrp: That everything you know, you know because you acted like a scientist?

I think it is possible to evaluate observed evidence "scientifically." -- that is, I think the method we use to evaluate evidence is universally applicable to all evidence. So I lean towards yes in the answer to your question.

Unless you mean by acting as a scientist, you really mean acting like a human being, then you are really pushing the boundaries of credibility.

Well it is certainly pushing the boundaries of what you want to hear. Perhaps I should put it into a poem! :)

But then your definition of "acting like a scientist" is not one I would use, so I fear we are once again at an impasse.

222overlycriticalelisa
okt 1, 2014, 11:24am

>190 southernbooklady:

thanks for this. your summary paragraph at the beginning was mostly what i was looking for (since i just didn't really know what you meant).

Well, one might point out that if morality..the good things we do...can not be shown to originate with religion, then we can hardly say that violence...the bad things we do...did. Religion just becomes one of several ways we try to agree on what is good and what is bad. So when Dawkins says that "sectarian violence" is another word for "religious violence" he's wrong. Religion may be the justification for some of it, but there are other equally powerful justifications. So religion is not uniquely dangerous--just something subject to abuse, as all things are.

i've had a really hard time responding to this because i see what you're saying and keep thinking that i agree with you. but then i try to move on and feel like something is missing. i keep coming back to it and trying to see what that is and i end up in a circular argument with myself. ...yes, if we're talking about absolute morality or absolute evil (if that even exists) there are too many things that go into a person's motivation to blame any one thing like religion or culture or society. but i think that his point (or a point that i got from it, anyway) is that some people claim that they get their idea of what good to do, their morality, from their religion. but then they deny the violence that is done with the same basis. they can say that they pick and choose what to believe or focus on in the text, or that they interpret it how the interpret it, but then that means other people can interpret it other ways, or people can choose other parts of the text to draw from, that may be contradictory. so it's all or nothing. there are so many things that either we don't do today (stone people for mixing cotton and linen, for example) that how can we say that it's all? or if it is all, then there are some pretty outrageously immoral (according to our own western standards) things required of us. is religion the reason for the bad things, no, but it's the reason given that people do those bad things oftentimes.

But as much as I can understand Dawkins's outlook, I still don't think he's made his case that "religion is bad."

this is where my circular argument really breaks down, so i suppose that i would have to agree with you. although when i was reading the book, i was feeling more convinced. but i sort of wiggled out of my circular argument like this: some people claim that they do good things or have morality because their religion tells them so. but we see (i think it's chapter 7) that morality doesn't come from religion, and we know that people without religion can be moral. religious texts are full of stories and laws that tell people how to act and behave, some in a way that is accepted as good, moral, just today. some in ways that are not, are in fact the opposite - cruel, immoral, unjust. if people use religion as their foundational reason for doing things, good and bad, but religion doesn't have to be why people do good things (or bad things), and i read his chapter on this to indicate that those people who use religion as a reason for their morality would be doing good without religion, and it seems that religion isn't making more people do good, but is making more people do bad. add in the irrationality of it (your #2 and #3), which causes people to stop critically thinking, something he (and i agree) says is bad, and you have the balance tipping to religion actually being a bad thing.

i'm not sure how much sense this makes but i'm posting this now because it's been 2 days that i've been working on it....

223southernbooklady
okt 1, 2014, 12:56pm

>222 overlycriticalelisa: i read his chapter on this to indicate that those people who use religion as a reason for their morality would be doing good without religion, and it seems that religion isn't making more people do good, but is making more people do bad.

It's a theory, but one he can't cite any real evidence for. Consequently, he tends to retreat into listing the usual parade of wacko religious nutcases. But that isn't proof. It isn't even good evidence because it is presented out of context and without any reference to a control group.

You should check out this thread

http://www.librarything.com/topic/180962

Where the discussion is specifically about religion and violence, without reference (mostly) to Mr. Dawkins.

I want to be clear that I am mostly with Dawkins on his basic premises -- that there is no evidence for the existence of God (like him, I'm a very strong "6" on his scale of belief/nonbelief), that anyone who claims an absolute morality or knowledge is both wrong and dangerous, that religion in general is prone to this kind of danger, that anything that suppresses our natural curiosity to find things out is abhorrent, and that violence is a terrible thing. I'm maybe slightly less adamant that irrationality is a bad thing, but then I quite irrationally spend way too much money on my dogs and cats.

So my complaint with The God Delusion isn't the premise so much as his inability to present a good case, when there is a good case to be made. I think he gets sidetracked by the window dressing of all the nuttiest of fanatics. He should know better.

Nevertheless, he has posed questions I think are worth considering--the most interesting to me being, as I stated before, "why can't religious phenomena be evaluated like any other empirical phenomena?"

Which could perhaps also be stated, "Is there such a thing as non-empirical knowledge?"

224LolaWalser
okt 1, 2014, 1:19pm

Hello all--I hope to get back to the book and the criticisms etc. raised here in more detail eventually--but a quick check for now: it seems no one has found that Dawkins' arguments break down because of his ignorance (and/or ignoring) of theology?

Recall that this is one of the, or THE, most "serious"/frequent criticism his book gets from you-know-who.

225RickHarsch
okt 1, 2014, 3:38pm

God?

226Michael_Welch
okt 1, 2014, 4:19pm

God says that rumors of His demise are "exaggerated"?...

227overlycriticalelisa
okt 1, 2014, 5:29pm

>207 rrp:

i agree with you that if he was trying to "convert" people, as he says he is early on (in the intro?) that he went about it in a terrible way. there is a lot of work you have to do to put aside his vitriol as he rants, and i can frankly see why the people he is insulting wouldn't be compelled to do that. but i don't think that it's because i'm an atheist that i found his arguments (under all the other stuff) to be valid.

228overlycriticalelisa
okt 1, 2014, 5:54pm

>219 rrp:
Do you both really claim that the only way that you can possibly know that you yourself exist is by acting as a scientist?

others have addressed at least part of this already but i wanted to add that also, we can know something because someone else "acted as a scientist," to use your phrasing. we can use others data and discoveries, which it seems you're ignoring.

229overlycriticalelisa
okt 1, 2014, 7:19pm

>223 southernbooklady:

222 elisa.saphier: i read his chapter on this to indicate that those people who use religion as a reason for their morality would be doing good without religion, and it seems that religion isn't making more people do good, but is making more people do bad.

It's a theory, but one he can't cite any real evidence for. Consequently, he tends to retreat into listing the usual parade of wacko religious nutcases. But that isn't proof. It isn't even good evidence because it is presented out of context and without any reference to a control group.


certainly he didn't scientifically prove this, true. i suspect, though, that he'd say that evidence of even one person citing their religious text to commit an act of heinous violence (any number of television interviews or court transcripts with these people would do it) is compelling enough for him to say that religion is bad.

he's shown (to his satisfaction, anyway) that goodness and morality don't come from religion. while evil and immorality don't either, i think his argument would be that good would be done either way, and maybe evil would be, too, buy why risk it?

thanks for sending that thread. i see it's a new discussion and will jump in there soon. (if i have anything to add.)

as for where you stand, yes, you and i are more or less in agreement on his basic premise as well as his unfortunate inability to argue for them in this book. and in that, while too bad, doesn't negate the arguments themselves.

230overlycriticalelisa
okt 1, 2014, 7:21pm

>224 LolaWalser:

it seemed to me that there wasn't much theology in the book, so not much that he would have "gotten wrong," so to speak. (although i'm not sure that i'd know theology if it hit me in the face, so i could be wrong there.)

231southernbooklady
okt 1, 2014, 8:30pm

>229 overlycriticalelisa: i suspect, though, that he'd say that evidence of even one person citing their religious text to commit an act of heinous violence (any number of television interviews or court transcripts with these people would do it) is compelling enough for him to say that religion is bad.

See, now, I would not suspect that, which is why I find his overall attitude so frustrating. I am sure that he would not apply such logic in to other areas of human endeavors and interactions. One does not, for example, write off "Love" --messy and irrational emotion though it is--because some people turn it into an obsession.

232overlycriticalelisa
okt 1, 2014, 8:58pm

>231 southernbooklady:

but i think it's because you can find morality elsewhere, that you don't need at all to find it in religion, that he would write it off. not actually because some people use it for bad while others use it for good. but if the good can be achieved otherwise, than why risk the bad?

that feels really different than something like love, although there are probably other examples you can give that i couldn't say that about. but i don't think that he would write off love or anger or emotions in general. but irrational belief? whether it's god or mermaids, or scientific belief proved wrong - the lock and key model of enzymes that i learned was truth in college - i think that can be written off. or at least put into the "no evidence to support it" file, to be opened at the time that evidence surfaces.

233southernbooklady
okt 1, 2014, 9:44pm

>232 overlycriticalelisa: but irrational belief? whether it's god or mermaids - i think that can be written off. or at least put into the "no evidence to support it" file, to be opened at the time that evidence surfaces.

Hmmm. This, I suspect, is where religious people and their theology come in. It makes very little difference to me, of course, because I don't believe in God. So my notion of good/bad does not require that kind of scaffolding to support it. (Although I don't kid myself that my sense of right and wrong hasn't been influenced by religion).

But from what I understand, most believers would tell you that their belief is not a series of true or false statements. It's a relationship with an ill-defined but "real" entity they call God. And disproving the metaphorical man with the beard sitting in the sky says nothing to them about their belief.

To put it in terms of the love analogy, I think it would be as if someone quantified your marriage in terms of...the level of physical attraction you exhibit based on reactions to pheromones, and the consistency with which you remembered each other's birthdays, the price of the rings you bought each other. How much time you lived together and how often you had sex, etc, etc...all things that we think might tell us something about the state of the relationship, but all things that would fall short, even in aggregate, in describing what it meant to be "in love."

Dawkins has proposed that the "reality" of that entity the believer calls God can be evaluated empirically and I think he has a point there. But systematically checking off the laundry list of things that make up any person's belief system isn't going to put a dent in that relationship they believe they have with God.

Instead, you have to convince them that relationship is unnecessary, (which funnily enough I think he did more effectively thirty years ago when he wrote The Selfish Gene. It was, after all, an excellent explanation for why we might do altruistic things). But Dawkins doesn't set out to do that. He sets out to prove religion is simply bad. And he does it by wallowing in every bad thing a person has ever done in the name of religion.

It's such a bizarre way to make his argument. I could cite more than a few cases of people doing really bad things in the name of science. Are we to toss away rationality because some people went too far?

234jjwilson61
okt 1, 2014, 9:48pm

>224 LolaWalser: There was a chapter where he presented various proofs for God presented over the ages. Is that theology? According to rrp he didn't do a good job of presenting the arguments which isn't surprising, both that Dawkins can't do justice when arguing the other side, and that rrp would find fault with it.

235AsYouKnow_Bob
Redigerat: okt 1, 2014, 10:18pm

>222 overlycriticalelisa: if people use religion as their foundational reason for doing things, good and bad, but religion doesn't have to be why people do good things (or bad things), and i read his chapter on this to indicate that those people who use religion as a reason for their morality would be doing good without religion, and it seems that religion isn't making more people do good, but is making more people do bad. add in the irrationality of it (your #2 and #3), which causes people to stop critically thinking, something he (and i agree) says is bad, and you have the balance tipping to religion actually being a bad thing.

"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." - Steven Weinberg

236hf22
okt 1, 2014, 10:28pm

>235 AsYouKnow_Bob:

But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

I don't think that is really supportable. There are a number of non-religious ideologies which seem to be able to provide that result just fine.

237AsYouKnow_Bob
Redigerat: okt 1, 2014, 10:57pm

Eh. Religion is generally better at inspiring fanaticism, and at persuading ordinary, decent people into supporting genuine evil.

"Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.”
― Victor J. Stenger

238hf22
okt 1, 2014, 11:03pm

>237 AsYouKnow_Bob:

Perhaps better, but it does not have a monopoly. There were for example, quite a number of atheist terrorists in the west just a few decades ago (Red Brigades and what not), just as there are now Islamic ones.

Perhaps leave the trite, and half true, quotes to others.

239AsYouKnow_Bob
Redigerat: okt 1, 2014, 11:09pm

"Trite" only in that they're obviously true.

Even "Half true" is batting pretty good....

240hf22
okt 1, 2014, 11:57pm

>239 AsYouKnow_Bob:

If you want to post misleading platitudes, be my guest.

But it is a pretty boring and uninsightful way to past the time.

241RickHarsch
okt 2, 2014, 2:51am

242RickHarsch
Redigerat: okt 2, 2014, 2:56am

Though science is misrepresented here, I think, to a degree (I haven't read very many posts).

Classically, the proto-Hindu philosophers went 'into the forests', to 'think', 'intuit'. They provided a great mix of the scientific and the philosophical.

ETA: One of my points is that for science to be elevated to the level to which it is often presented here, the intuitive aspect should be taken into consideration.

243southernbooklady
okt 2, 2014, 8:08am

>242 RickHarsch:

I don't think an empirical approach disavows the role of intuition. It just doesn't regard intuition as mystical.

244LolaWalser
Redigerat: okt 2, 2014, 8:56am

southernbooklady, if you (still) have the book with you, could you provide an example of what Dawkins sees as "irrational" in religion that you think is a bizarre criticism? I think I can guess why he calls religious beliefs irrational but I'm not clear on why you'd think that opinion bizarre. No biggie--only if you're inclined to discuss this further.

Btw, sorry to ask you to do the work, but I've only just re-ordered the book (hoping for a less grotty specimen than the last too!)

Regarding Elisa's remark about love, I'd expand that point to poetry, art, play and so on, as other categories where "irrationality" may be present (according to only the one "scientific" standard anyway) but whose existence is not equatable with religion.

It's come up before, no? If religion were seen by its followers as, say, poetry or myth or artistic activity and such, and religious texts were treated like any other literary text, only the usual philistines would get their knickers in a twist over its irrationality.

In a nutshell: IMO, it would indeed be bizarre to accuse of irrationality a figure of virginal motherhood in, say, an allegorical novel--but I don't see how it is bizarre to call irrational a belief that such a figure actually existed in the world as we know it.

>234 jjwilson61:

There was a chapter where he presented various proofs for God presented over the ages. Is that theology?

Good question; yes, one would think a correct presentation of the theological constructions of god's existence is the minimum required for correct dismantling of them.

Does anyone besides rrp think Dawkins failed at understanding or representing the theological "proofs"? These (and rebuttals) have been knocking around for so long I find that (Dawkins misunderstanding or crassly misrepresenting them) improbable, but let's see.

Incidentally, does anyone know whether Hindu (or any other Eastern religion) theology is concerned with or offers proofs of god's existence other than/dramatically different than, the ones found in Christianity and Islam?

245RickHarsch
okt 2, 2014, 1:47pm

>243 southernbooklady: You're right. And I'm sure most know it. The problem is that in arguments on such venues as these certain aspects of just about anything are over-looked or APPEAR to be over-looked.

246southernbooklady
okt 3, 2014, 9:40am

>244 LolaWalser: arrgh. I typed this nice long response and it disappeared because LT went down. I suspect Tim and Co of ulterior motives! :)

if you (still) have the book with you, could you provide an example of what Dawkins sees as "irrational" in religion that you think is a bizarre criticism? I think I can guess why he calls religious beliefs irrational but I'm not clear on why you'd think that opinion bizarre.

I don't think I've been clear. It's not that I don't think religion is irrational--at its fundamental level, I do. And it's not that I'm faulting Dawkins for calling religious belief irrational. I agree with him. In fact, I am probably as hostile to religion in its organized form as he is.

But he's not just arguing that religion is irrational, he's arguing that it is evil--uniquely evil. Bad. Better wiped off the map. And there is where I think his logic breaks down, because his own arguments break down to a litany of the worst cases of religious expression. He cites the vicious hate mail he gets, the really dreadful violence perpetrated in the name of defending the faith, the nutty people who insist on taking the Bible literally, the nuttiest things in said Bible, etc, etc. That's his evidence that religious is irrational AND bad bad bad.

I find that an illogical approach to arguing the position that religion is uniquely evil or dangerous. I think he's really arguing that fundamentalism is uniquely evil and dangerous, but there are lots of varieties of fundamentalism, not just religious. And I think that if you're going to cite all the bad things religious people do as evidence that it is bad, then you need to cite all the good things they do as well, because science doesn't ignore evidence.

And if you are going to say--as he does, and I agree--that our tendency to do good has nothing to with religious belief, then you you'll have to admit the same for our tendency to be violent. Either way, the problem isn't the faithful, it isn't the irrational, it's the fundamentalist.

247LolaWalser
okt 3, 2014, 10:28am

>246 southernbooklady:

Hmmm, I guess I just don't recall "religion is uniquely evil or dangerous" as the centrepiece of Dawkins' argument... certainly not the "uniquely"... will have to address this again when I finally get the book.

Either way, the problem isn't the faithful, it isn't the irrational, it's the fundamentalist.

Could be faulty memory, or maybe the differences in our subjective readings, but I don't remember "The god delusion" as taking on "the faithful"--which means people--as such, but religion, as a system of erroneous and noxious beliefs and practices. That Dawkins is addressing his argument to the faithful (provisionally speaking--I think he calls out specifically the doubters, the "fence-sitters"), about religion.

It may not be clear at all times and sometimes the distinction may not be worth making (perhaps regarding your statement here too), but I think it's important in how one interprets the arguer's intention.

He cites the vicious hate mail he gets, the really dreadful violence perpetrated in the name of defending the faith, the nutty people who insist on taking the Bible literally, the nuttiest things in said Bible, etc, etc. That's his evidence that religious is irrational AND bad bad bad.

Is that really all there is? Seems to me the first evidence of religion's irrationality a scientist would notice would be the tenets in conflict with science.



248southernbooklady
okt 3, 2014, 11:40am

>247 LolaWalser: Is that really all there is?

No. Hence my comment about the wheat to be found among the chaff.

249LolaWalser
Redigerat: okt 3, 2014, 5:02pm

It's encouraging you found some wheat! I must say that Dawkins wouldn't be my first, or even third choice if I wanted, say, to introduce someone to atheist arguments.

It might be interesting to compare The god delusion to Hitchens (God is not great), and perhaps something a friend sent me, The little book of atheist spirituality--not the happiest translation of "L'esprit de l'athéisme" (The spirit of atheism), although it seems the original subtitle does say "spirituality without god". "Spirituality"--a problematic term, IMO--got my hackles up, naturally. ;) But the book turned out harmless, and with a quiet, poised tone oceans away from Dawkins'.

Hitchens I think would be interesting because he too indulged in polemic--with great gusto!--but is, for my money, an incomparably better writer than Dawkins, more subtle, more intelligent.

250southernbooklady
okt 3, 2014, 4:03pm

Hitchens is probably the better-trained philosopher, as well. The only reason I haven't read much of him is that I'm already confident of my position. Really, the only reason I read Dawkins was your absolutely valid observation that we talk a lot about his views without knowing much of what he actually wrote.

251LolaWalser
okt 3, 2014, 5:11pm

Oh, I've been misspelling his (Hitchens') name... Yeah, the same, it's not that I particularly thirst for reading atheist polemics--all of that is old hat by now, I think I could still really enjoy only someone like Voltaire. It wouldn't have occurred to me to read The god delusion originally, I only did because I was intrigued by what a friend's mother said, that it made her for the first time in her life take stock of her faith.

But Hitchens is always engaging. I couldn't disagree more with some of his politics, but he always entertains me.

252overlycriticalelisa
okt 3, 2014, 6:23pm

>233 southernbooklady:

But from what I understand, most believers would tell you that their belief is not a series of true or false statements. It's a relationship with an ill-defined but "real" entity they call God. And disproving the metaphorical man with the beard sitting in the sky says nothing to them about their belief.

well, that's fair, but i guess it's where my "theology" fell apart, at least in part. once i realized that i didn't believe in god at all, i no longer had any inclination (or, i felt, the right) to call myself jewish.

thanks for expanding on the love analogy; that makes more sense to me.

i think, though, to address the last part of what you wrote, that he wasn't trying to address this, that their relationship with god is unnecessary. it might have been a better approach, but he was focused more, i felt, on the harm religion does. and yes, his citing of bad things could be made by any number of people on any side of any issue, so seems pointless. except and unless his central point is just "the bad outweighs the good," like i mention before.

253overlycriticalelisa
okt 3, 2014, 6:29pm

>235 AsYouKnow_Bob:

"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." - Steven Weinberg

this is what i've been trying to say, yes! i think this is dawkins' reason for saying religion is bad. (thank you, bob!)

254overlycriticalelisa
okt 3, 2014, 6:49pm

>246 southernbooklady:

But he's not just arguing that religion is irrational, he's arguing that it is evil--uniquely evil. Bad. Better wiped off the map. And there is where I think his logic breaks down, because his own arguments break down to a litany of the worst cases of religious expression. He cites the vicious hate mail he gets, the really dreadful violence perpetrated in the name of defending the faith, the nutty people who insist on taking the Bible literally, the nuttiest things in said Bible, etc, etc. That's his evidence that religious is irrational AND bad bad bad.

I find that an illogical approach to arguing the position that religion is uniquely evil or dangerous. I think he's really arguing that fundamentalism is uniquely evil and dangerous, but there are lots of varieties of fundamentalism, not just religious. And I think that if you're going to cite all the bad things religious people do as evidence that it is bad, then you need to cite all the good things they do as well, because science doesn't ignore evidence.


he covers the good part, though, by claiming that people do good without religion. so he doesn't need to get into all of that.

and while plenty of people do evil without religion, religion uniquely calls some people to do bad things in its name. people who otherwise wouldn't do those things, but because of a religious text, in fact do.

that's how i interpret his "unique." i wish i had the book with me, still, because i think he addresses your very convincing point about fundamentalism. i think it went something like: people claim that it's fundamentalists or extremists that do these things in the name of religion. but all of what they're doing and citing is right there in the primary source, so how "extreme" is it then?

255southernbooklady
Redigerat: okt 3, 2014, 7:09pm

>253 overlycriticalelisa:, But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

I'm uncomfortable with being the religion apologist on this topic, since I think religion deserves the severest of criticisms for the way it operates. But while statements like that make good sound bytes, but they aren't actually true. All it really means is "for good people to do bad things, they have to believe they are really doing a good thing."

>254 overlycriticalelisa: he covers the good part, though, by claiming that people do good without religion. so he doesn't need to get into all of that.

Yeah, sorry, but that is terrible terrible logic. How does he know that all the good people do in the name of religion would still be done without it? Why does it make sense to only count the bad stuff when it comes to religion, but not with other things? Any scientist would assess the totality of religious influence before pronouncing it a net plus or a net minus.

And any claim of absolutism can lead--indeed is likely to lead--to bad things: it's as true of laissez-faire capitalism as it is of religious fundamentalism.

Dawkins is absolutely correct that religion gets a free pass from people just because it is religion. It's mixed up with the idea of the right of a person to follow their conscience, and means that we tolerate some stuff that should never, ever be tolerated in the name of that right. We let people with hold necessary medical attention and care, we allow them to discriminate against people in ways that would not be allowed under any other circumstances. We let them teach their kids things that are actually not true, etc, etc. I'm totally with Dawkins (and Hitchens, and Harris, etc) on knocking religion of its...excuse m...sacred cow. It deserves to be questioned and criticized and "but that's what I believe" is not enough of an answer.

256AsYouKnow_Bob
okt 3, 2014, 7:32pm

>253 overlycriticalelisa: (thank you, bob!)

You're welcome.

Weinberg goes on to unpack that a bit
:
{on 19th C abolitionism} Where religion did make a difference, it was more in support of slavery than in opposition to it. Arguments from scripture were used in Parliament to defend the slave trade. Frederick Douglass told in his Narrative how his condition as a slave became worse when his master underwent a religious conversion that allowed him to justify slavery as the punishment of the children of Ham. Mark Twain described his mother as a genuinely good person, whose soft heart pitied even Satan, but who had no doubt about the legitimacy of slavery, because in years of living in antebellum Missouri she had never heard any sermon opposing slavery, but only countless sermons preaching that slavery was God's will. With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil--that takes religion.

257overlycriticalelisa
Redigerat: okt 3, 2014, 7:44pm

>255 southernbooklady:

to be clear, i don't think that evil requires religion. i don't think that religion, in its intent or in most of its application, is to be evil. but i think, in his tirade/rant of examples that he gives from his personal experience (not scientific at all, i grant you), he's showing how religion specifically (uniquely, if you want) created the motivation in those people to do those things.

Yeah, sorry, but that is terrible terrible logic. How does he know that all the good people do in the name of religion would still be done without it? Why does it make sense to only count the bad stuff when it comes to religion, but not with other things? Any scientist would assess the totality of religious influence before pronouncing it a net plus or a net minus.

oh, i agree, it's bad logic. many of his arguments are either poorly examined/explained, or have holes in them. but i think it's what he's saying. that on the balance, because good people do good anyway (without religion) and bad is done anyway (without religion), but because religion specifically creates some bad (and not good, because good would be done anyway), that it is therefore bad. maybe that's just the way i read it.

eta: i thought what he had to say about the free pass that religion gets was really interesting.

258SimonW11
okt 4, 2014, 3:51am

>256 AsYouKnow_Bob: in Britain religious people were divided on the subject of slavery not by doctrines but primarily social class.

259southernbooklady
okt 4, 2014, 8:26am

>258 SimonW11: In the United States the division was geographical, but also economic as well. Religious reasons were harnessed for both sides, and while I think it is clear that the abolition movement had a stronger claim to "what God wants" I also think it would be disingenuous to say that religion fueled the American Civil War.

It's also worth noting that one man who certainly did go to war on behalf of God--John Brown-- was regarded as a dangerous fanatic by both sides. And he's not exactly the poster boy for the good religion motivates us to do.

260rrp
Redigerat: okt 5, 2014, 10:33am

>221 southernbooklady: and others who followed:

I asked "Do you really claim that everything you know, you know because you acted like a scientist?" to which you replied "So I lean towards yes in the answer to your question."

You claim (and Dawkins claims) to be a rationalist so I find it incomprehensible that you adopt such an obviously irrational position. Maybe it is again a matter of definition, so if you are not claiming that "science is the only source of knowledge" please let us know where you do stand.

The proposition "science is the only source of knowledge" is so obviously false it really is a mystery to me how anyone can claim it to be true. It's so obvious, I am at a loss to how to explain it.

How exactly does one come to the knowledge that "science is the only source of knowledge"? In no system of rational thought that I know of can it be through science. It is not physics, it's metaphysics. If you can rationally claim that science shows that science is the only source of knowledge you can equally rationally show that astrology shows that astrology is the only source of knowledge. Utter nonsense. There are, there must be, other sources of knowledge than science.

Mr. Durick posted an article in another thread (well worth reading) by John Gray on Dawkins's autobiography which states it well.

It is worth noting, therefore, that it is not as a practicing scientist that Dawkins has produced his assaults against religion. As he makes clear in this memoir, he gave up active research in the 1970s when he left his crickets behind and began to write The Selfish Gene. Ever since, he has written as an ideologue of scientism, the positivistic creed according to which science is the only source of knowledge and the key to human liberation. ... . But the ideas and the arguments that he presents are in no sense novel or original, and he seems unaware of the critiques of positivism that appeared in its Victorian heyday.

No rational person who is aware of those critiques could possibly believe that "science is the only source of knowledge".

261SimonW11
okt 5, 2014, 12:19pm

science is not the only source of knowledge. it is the only test of knowledge.

262southernbooklady
okt 5, 2014, 1:31pm

>261 SimonW11: science is not the only source of knowledge. it is the only test of knowledge.

Which seems to be the ultimate point of The God Delusion, and a proposition that is hard to refute.

263rrp
Redigerat: okt 5, 2014, 2:19pm

>262 southernbooklady:

a proposition that is hard to refute

Eh? It's very obvious and falling off a log easy.

What test, exactly, are you going to use to test your knowledge that science is the only test of knowledge? If you answered "science" you are irrational. You can't use astrology to test astrology so you can't use science to test science. You have to use something else to test both. If you use something else to test both science and astrology, then there is something else that is a test of knowledge. Hence, science is not the only test of knowledge.

264southernbooklady
okt 5, 2014, 2:47pm

>263 rrp: You can't use astrology to test astrology so you can't use science to test science.

That may sound clever, but it is a meaningless statement. Reality trumps semantics.

265rrp
okt 5, 2014, 4:47pm

Then again "reality trumps semantics" is just semantics too.

I'll say it again. It's irrational to think that "science is the only test of knowledge". That it isn't is both obvious and widely known. I fail to understand why any sensible person, and you seem a sensible person, could think otherwise.

266RickHarsch
okt 5, 2014, 5:53pm

Why do I get the feeling, rrp, that you never really get to what you want to say? Does anyone here really believe that science is the ONLY TEST OF KNOWLEDGE? If so, why don't you simply dismiss their statements and GET ON WITH WHATEVER POINT YOU MAY HAVE?

267StormRaven
okt 5, 2014, 6:00pm

You can't use astrology to test astrology so you can't use science to test science.

Trying to support your argument with a false equivalence like this makes you look like a fool.

268RickHarsch
okt 5, 2014, 6:13pm

But you can use a fool to test a fool under the optimal lab conditions.

269rrp
okt 5, 2014, 7:01pm

>266 RickHarsch:

Does anyone here really believe that science is the ONLY TEST OF KNOWLEDGE?

Yes, to quote >262 southernbooklady: "[That science is the only test of knowledge] seems to be the ultimate point of The God Delusion, and a proposition that is hard to refute." So Dawkins, SimonW11 and southernbooklady, to name three.

270southernbooklady
okt 5, 2014, 7:13pm

>265 rrp: I'll say it again. It's irrational to think that "science is the only test of knowledge". That it isn't is both obvious and widely known. I fail to understand why any sensible person, and you seem a sensible person, could think otherwise.

Yeah, I just don't trust your language, rrp. You find me irrational and I find your position equally irrational. "Science" here is of course the methodology used by scientists to evaluate observational evidence. "Empirical" would be an equivalent. You don't need to be a professional scientist to use it. In fact, we all use something like it to evaluate the things we observe every day, in order to decide which are relevant to our lives and which are not.

Your objections, which do tend to be semantic, strike me as irrelevant to the points under discussion.

271SimonW11
Redigerat: okt 6, 2014, 3:30am

Science is the name that we give to the process of testing knowledge. Astrology is not the name of the thing that we give to that process.
All tests for the presence of God have failed. It grows significantly unlikely that a test will be found that succeeds. that he will transfer from the speculations of mere philosophy to the certitude of natural philosophy of philosophy that can be tested.

272Jesse_wiedinmyer
Redigerat: okt 5, 2014, 9:09pm

Your objections, which do tend to be semantic, strike me as irrelevant to the points under discussion.

It's a common Discovery Institute trope that they wish to redefine the very concept of science itself. One of their thrusts is that science should be allowed to claim the supernatural to be a valid explanation for how things work.

273Jesse_wiedinmyer
okt 5, 2014, 9:08pm

From Wikipedia's page on the Discovery Institute...

The overarching goal of the Institute in conducting the intelligent design campaigns is religious; to replace science with "a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions." To accomplish this the Institute has conducted a number of public relations campaigns. The governing strategy of these various campaigns is called the Wedge strategy and was first made public when the Institute's "Wedge Document" was leaked on the World Wide Web in 1999. The Discovery Institute argues that science, due to its reliance on naturalism, is an inherently materialistic and atheistic enterprise and thus the source of many of society's ills, and that "Design theory {intelligent design} promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview."

None of the campaigns are aimed at directly influencing the scientific community, which the Institute considers dogmatic and hidebound, but rather are focused on swaying the opinions of the public and public policy makers, which, if effective, it is hoped will respond by forcing the academic institutions supporting the scientific community to accept the Discovery Institute's redefinition of science. Public high school science curricula has been the most common and visible target of the campaigns, with the Institute publishing its own model lesson plan, the Critical Analysis of Evolution.

274Jesse_wiedinmyer
Redigerat: okt 5, 2014, 9:15pm

Or see the WP page on Theistic "Science"

Theistic science, also referred to as theistic realism, is the proposal that methodological naturalism should be replaced by a philosophy of science that is informed by supernatural revelation, which would allow occasional supernatural explanations particularly in topics that impact theology; as for example evolution. Supporters of this viewpoint include intelligent design creationism proponents J. P. Moreland, Alvin Plantinga (Note - You may recall that rrp has repeatedly referred to Plantinga's works), Stephen C. Meyer and Phillip E. Johnson.

The viewpoint is shunned by mainstream science and religion."

275Jesse_wiedinmyer
Redigerat: okt 5, 2014, 9:19pm

Or see WP's page on Theistic "Science"...

Theistic science, also referred to as theistic realism, is the proposal that methodological naturalism should be replaced by a philosophy of science that is informed by supernatural revelation, which would allow occasional supernatural explanations particularly in topics that impact theology; as for example evolution. Supporters of this viewpoint include intelligent design creationism proponents J. P. Moreland, Alvin Plantinga (Note - You might recall that rrp has repeatedly fallen back on Planting), Stephen C. Meyer and Phillip E. Johnson.

The viewpoint is shunned by mainstream science and religion.


And there you have pretty much the entirety of the reason for rrp's participation on this website.

276rrp
okt 5, 2014, 11:04pm

>270 southernbooklady:

Yeah, I just don't trust your language, rrp. You find me irrational and I find your position equally irrational.

I think there is a useful place for irrationality in our makeup and it manifests itself in all sorts of ways.

Well as you appreciate irrationality, I didn't think you would mind me pointing out that your position was one of the ways irrationality manifests itself. Mind you, I don't think in this case it is useful.

I am sorry you don't trust my language. If there is anything I can do to clarify my meaning, please let me know what you distrust, and I'll do my best to clear things up.

277rrp
okt 5, 2014, 11:10pm

>271 SimonW11:

Science is the name that we give to the process of testing knowledge.

Oh. So it was a definition. A bit of an unorthodox definition, but if that's what you mean, so be it. I'll concede that testing knowledge is the best way to test knowledge.

But I do find it a bit odd that you would think that when I test my knowledge of French by holding a conversation in Rouen, then I am doing science. That when the legal system tests its knowledge of the guilt of a defendant by holding a trial, it is doing science. That when a mathematician tests her knowledge of a theorem by working through the proof, she is doing science. That when a pastor tests his knowledge of the nature of God by reading the Bible, he is doing science.

But if that's the way you want to use the word, then so be it.

278rrp
okt 5, 2014, 11:16pm

>266 RickHarsch:

See, the point is there really are people who believe that science is the only way to test knowledge. Dawkins is an evangelist for this scientism. His work is an affront to reason and logic and is bad for science. That he embarrasses his fellow atheists by doing so adds the frosting to the cake.

279SimonW11
okt 6, 2014, 3:49am

"That when a pastor tests his knowledge of the nature of God by reading the Bible"

No, rather a pastor examines his understanding of the concept of God looking for inconsistancies. If God was merely natural. we would have no disagreement, the philosophy would be testable. but no matter how believers delve for certainty they fail to demonstrate it. showing instead a multiplicity of opinions. He remains in the domain of philosophy not of nature. Of ideas that are not testable but are checked for consistency. Like checking the software written for a computer that exists only as a few scribbled design notes.

280rrp
okt 6, 2014, 1:05pm

>279 SimonW11:

Ah. Bit hard to parse that but it seems you also forget to mention that you are including an (unwarranted in my opinion) assumption of materialism in your definition.

But what about the other examples, are the tourist, lawyer and mathematician now all to be reclassified as scientists? Who is going to give them the good news?

281SimonW11
okt 6, 2014, 1:27pm

lawyers like pastors seek for consistence they to are "checking the software written for a computer that exists only as a few scribbled design notes." Design notes that are written by a varied and contentious bunch of politicans who cannot agree on what this thing called justice that they are trying to build actually is. Mathematicans are philosophers who develop tools for checking consistency. The people who use those tools to test the natural world are the scientists.

Tourists? they experience the world whether they analyse it or not is up to them.

282rrp
okt 6, 2014, 3:05pm

>281 SimonW11:

So, we have to revise your definition again. Science is the name that we give to the process of testing our knowledge of the natural world, where the natural world does not include the products of human civilization, the world of analytical truths like logic and mathematics and the metaphysical truths of philosophy.

Will that do now or do we need to exclude anything else perhaps?

283RickHarsch
okt 6, 2014, 4:26pm

Why do I still get the feeling, rrp, that you never really get to what you want to say?

284rrp
okt 6, 2014, 5:44pm

>283 RickHarsch:

I always try to say what I want to say, no more, no less. Mind you, I find others seem to read more into some pieces of text than is apparent to me (or meant by me, if I wrote it). I think it's a bit like seeing the face of Jesus in a piece of toast or finding meaning in poetry. Our minds fill in patterns where they don't exist.

285RickHarsch
okt 6, 2014, 5:52pm

So, then...nothing.

286rrp
okt 6, 2014, 8:34pm

>285 RickHarsch:

Well that's curious. First you think I never really get to what I want to say and then you start a post, and then say .... nothing. Is it a poetry thing?

287Jesse_wiedinmyer
okt 6, 2014, 9:55pm

Why do I still get the feeling, rrp, that you never really get to what you want to say?

Because if he did get to what he wanted to say, it would destroy his already shitty charade of being an impartial, disinterested participant.

288StormRaven
okt 7, 2014, 12:36am

That when a pastor tests his knowledge of the nature of God by reading the Bible"

The only thing you can test by reading the Bible is how well you know the Bible. There is nothing to suggest that the book actually contains any knowledge of the nature of God.

289SimonW11
okt 7, 2014, 2:43am

>282 rrp: There is not analytical truth, ontological truth, scientific truth or religious truth. There is merely truth.

290rrp
okt 7, 2014, 8:10am

>286 rrp:

There is merely truth.

What a theologically sounding statement. How do we test our knowledge of that particular truth?

It seems we have various categories of methods of testing our knowledge of truths, but aren't allowed to categorize the truths by those same categories. Why is that?

291SimonW11
Redigerat: okt 7, 2014, 9:40am

>290 rrp: we test hypotheses against reality to establish truth.Until we test god or maths or phrenology or germ theory against reality then we cannot know if these beliefs are true. those that can be tested are amenable to science. Some hypothesizes can be tested, -phrenology, -germ theory some cannot -Non euclidean geometry(because mathematicans do not care if their hypothesis match some reality, they care only that the hypothesis is consistant., some have so far resisted attempts to test them - the existence of God.

292rrp
okt 7, 2014, 12:33pm

>291 SimonW11:

Yes. We have heard all that before. I just wanted to know how you tested the truth of the hypothesis "There is merely truth"?

293JGL53
okt 7, 2014, 1:08pm

What is truth?

Well, if you eat gluten then your penis will explode and fly off like a rocket.

That's not science - that is truth.

Believe That.

294jjwilson61
okt 7, 2014, 3:22pm

I'm currently reading How the Mind Works and came upon this passage.

"We will soon see that all people, right from the cradle, engage in a kind of scientific thinking. We are all intuitive physicists, biologists, engineers, psychologists, and mathematicians."

295quicksiva
okt 7, 2014, 7:02pm

>291 SimonW11:

==========
Phrenology was nineteenth-century “brain science”. Its proponents were not cranks. Their views were endorsed by such distinguished investigators as British biologist Alfred Russell Wallace, co discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Unlike the always skeptical Mark Twain, Wallace was persuaded of the truth of phrenology (he also seems to have believed the evidence for Mesmerism). Wallace conducted his own experiments in phrenology and believed the evidence he obtained was confirmatory. He had his own head looked at by two phrenologists in 1847 “with such accuracy as to render it certain that the positions of all mental organs had been very precisely determined.”

A new book by a UA education professor, Head Masters: Phrenology, Secular Education, and Nineteenth-Century Social Thought, by Dr. Stephen Tomlinson, associate professor in foundation of education and chair of educational leadership, policy, and technology studies at UA, has been released by The University of Alabama Press., and defends the thesis that phrenology, remembered today as the pseudo scientific theory that the contours of the skull reveal a person’s abilities and character, played an important role in the ideas of Horace Mann, the so-called ‘father of the common school,’ and his co-worker, Samuel Gridley Howe.
Not only the common school, but the Normal School, schools for the deaf, the blind, and the mentally retarded — even systems of public welfare and relief for the poor — were influenced by their physiologically based arguments about the improvement of mind and morals,

Alfred R. Wallace, My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions (London: Chapman and Hall, 1905), 1:234–36.

Jeeves, Malcolm; Brown, Warren, Jr. (2009-03-01). Neuroscience, Psychology, and Religion: Illusions, Delusions, and Realities about Human Nature (Templeton Science and Religion Series) (p.32) . Chicago Distribution. Kindle Edition.

296SimonW11
Redigerat: okt 8, 2014, 2:36am

>295 quicksiva: TLDR but yes phrenology was a hypothesis that could be evaluated and as scientist should the phrenologists who developed the hypothesis tested it and found it wanting.There was some discussion of it The Mismeasure of Man and the reasons for its abandonment (an inability to reproduce measurements on checking as I recall,but I may be mistaken, it has been some time) It was because I wished to illustrate that science disproves as well as proves that I picked this as an example. I in no way intended to impugn their integrity, rather I saw them as exemplars.

297SimonW11
Redigerat: okt 8, 2014, 2:45am

292>It is not a Hypothesis. It is an Axiom.

298rrp
okt 8, 2014, 7:32am

>297 SimonW11: So there are truths which are axioms and truths which are tested hypotheses. More than one sort of truth.

299southernbooklady
okt 8, 2014, 9:10am

>298 rrp: There is also more than one sort of bird, but this does render the word "bird" meaningless, or justify including things which are not birds within its scope.

300SimonW11
okt 8, 2014, 9:16am

>298 rrp: There are testable truths and there are untestable truths. They do not differ. Our knowledge of them differs. some have been confirmed other have not. That truth exists is an axiom. you are free to disbelieve it axioms are after all unprovable. They are untestable truths,

you are also free to disbelieve that a number is equal to itself.

If you choose to disbelieve that truth exist do let me know. Otherwise I will assume that you believe it exists

301rrp
okt 8, 2014, 11:14am

I am just trying to estabilish that we all agree that there is more than one type of truth. I am glad that we all now agree that the statement >289 SimonW11: "There is not analytical truth, ontological truth, scientific truth or religious truth. There is merely truth." is not true. There are at least untestable truths (analytical truths) and testable truths (let's call them scientific truths for now).

This is an important step. So the question now is what sort of truth is "science is the only test of knowledge"? It isn't a testable truth, so it must be an axiom, it is unprovable. In fact, it isn't even true.

302SimonW11
okt 8, 2014, 11:29am

Sigh once again the nature of Truth does not vary our knowledge of Truth varies.

303rrp
okt 8, 2014, 12:13pm

Why not just agree that "science is the only test of knowledge" is an untestable truth and move on?

304RickHarsch
okt 8, 2014, 12:21pm

Sweet bird of truth, come back to me.

305jjwilson61
okt 8, 2014, 12:23pm

>277 rrp: Oh. So it was a definition. A bit of an unorthodox definition, but if that's what you mean, so be it. I'll concede that testing knowledge is the best way to test knowledge.

Good, we're getting somewhere. However, I think that when Simon says Science is the name that we give to the process of testing knowledge he means knowledge about the material world, not knowledge of constructs created entirely in the mind, like French, or the law, or mathematics,...or God.

306JGL53
Redigerat: okt 8, 2014, 12:53pm

> 305

I think you are wrong. I.e., there is no good argument that the mind, the French language, or the law does not exist - not so with a god.

(It has to do with a lack of evidence regarding the latter and a profusion of evidence regarding the former.)

307rrp
Redigerat: okt 8, 2014, 1:20pm

>305 jjwilson61:

I also think you are wrong. There is a lot of evidence that French, the Law, Mathematics and God, all exist independently of any mind. Or at least, there is as much evidence that those things exists independently of any as any other thing we believe exists. We believe things exist independently of our own mind by interacting with other humans, who we believe have minds, and who share there experiences of the evidence.



308jjwilson61
okt 8, 2014, 1:40pm

Of course languages and the law don't exist only in a single persons mind but that doesn't make it about the material world. I think we can all agree that the scientific method is not a proper method to determine if stealing is illegal.

309southernbooklady
okt 8, 2014, 1:48pm

>308 jjwilson61: I think we can all agree that the scientific method is not a proper method to determine if stealing is illegal.

Well that does seem to be the question. We can indeed observe, hypothesize, and test to see if something is illegal. But does that method work to determine if there is such a thing as "Law" or "Justice" (or "God")? And can it ellucidate the nature of such things? Dawkins suggests that yes, the methodology works because such concepts only "exist" in their effects on our material reality, and anything that has an effect on the material reality can be scientifically analyzed and described.

310rrp
Redigerat: okt 8, 2014, 2:17pm

>309 southernbooklady:

But then when SimonW11 makes the statement "science is the only test of knowledge", here in this thread, it has an effect on the material world. But no amount of scientific analysis can determine that ""science is the only test of knowledge". The scientific analysis is limited to the material effects, not the truth of propositions like "science is the only test of knowledge". Science is not the only test of knowledge. Science is not the test of most of what we know.

311jjwilson61
okt 8, 2014, 2:25pm

Of course you wouldn't use the scientific method (why do you continue to use "science" in that sentence when it has no meaning there) to determine if the scientific method is the only test of science, if for no other reason that the scientific method doesn't return absolute answers like that.

The scientific method is the only test of knowledge about how the material world works because no has yet proposed another method that does as well. What's the alternative, navel-gazing?

312StormRaven
okt 8, 2014, 2:29pm

I think we can all agree that the scientific method is not a proper method to determine if stealing is illegal.

Legal systems are self-contained systems, so propositions as to what is legal and what is illegal can be tested against them. The fact that their design is essentially arbitrary is not an impediment to this form of testing.

313JGL53
okt 8, 2014, 2:37pm

John Lennon said "god is a concept by which we measure our pain."

I think that about sums it all up.

Let's move on.

314jjwilson61
okt 8, 2014, 2:45pm

>313 JGL53: Just because I can conceive of setting up a hypothesis, designing an experiment, etc to determine if something is illegal under the California Penal Code doesn't make it an appropriate method to use when just looking it up is so much easier.

315southernbooklady
okt 8, 2014, 4:52pm

>314 jjwilson61: The fact that you can look it up suggests that someone already did that experiment. Isn't that what trials do? Test the legality of our actions against the penal code?

316jjwilson61
okt 8, 2014, 4:58pm

There was no experiment. Some lawyer drew up the law and got it passed by the legislature. Or in the case of something so basic as stealing, some justice in the middle ages made a judgement and it was written down in the Common Law.

If I wrote down the rules to a new game, would the players of that game be doing scientific research if they read those rules? We're talking about two totally different kinds of truth here, one rooted in reality and the other something someone just made up.

317SimonW11
okt 8, 2014, 5:02pm

To return to God, If God interacts with material things, then that interaction is observable.We have not observed such interactions. We have no evidence for the existence of God.

318StormRaven
Redigerat: okt 8, 2014, 5:08pm

make it an appropriate method to use when just looking it up is so much easier.

Looking it up in this case is testing your hypothesis.

319jjwilson61
Redigerat: okt 8, 2014, 5:12pm

Yeah, I just don't see that as scientific in any useful sense.

320rrp
okt 8, 2014, 6:10pm

>311 jjwilson61:

The point is that sentences like "science is the only test of knowledge" and "The scientific method is the only test of knowledge about how the material world works because no has yet proposed another method that does as well" are utter and complete gobbledygook.

Science is the name we give to a collection of methods we use to investigate the material world. No less, no more. The methods of science aren't the only methods or best methods, they are a particular collection of methods, a very loosely defined collection of methods, that we currently use and choose to label science.

Assume I invent a new method of investigating the material world, let's call it floccinaucinihilipilification. We arrange a test to see if science or floccinaucinihilipilification works best. What exactly would that test be? Call the test Test A. Say that Test A investigates the material world, gives us an answer, compares the answer with the answer given by science with that given by floccinaucinihilipilification and we choose either science or floccinaucinihilipilification depending on which of those methods best matches the method given by our test. Wouldn't Test A then have to contain at least as good a way of investigating the material world as either science or floccinaucinihilipilification? So saying "The scientific method is the only test of knowledge about how the material world works" is nonsense. Saying "Science is what we call testing knowledge about the material world" is what you should say. And if floccinaucinihilipilification is a method of testing knowledge about the material world, then it is science.

The problem with sentences like "The scientific method is the only test of knowledge about how the material world works because no has yet proposed another method that does as well" is that they are pretentious. They attempt to elevate science way, way above its station. They attempt to claim for science a position of respect it has no right to. There are many, many examples of this type of sentence here and in Dawkins's work (and in Pinker's by the way, he's another one). They are a symptom of scientism.

321RickHarsch
okt 8, 2014, 6:12pm

Are you about to get on with it then, rrp?

322rrp
okt 8, 2014, 6:18pm

>317 SimonW11:

If God interacts with material things, then that interaction is observable.

Why, exactly, should that be so? If God was omnipotent, could not God, if God so chose, interact with a material thing in a way that was unobservable to you?

We have not observed such interactions.

You mean you have not observed such interactions. Many claim they have.

We have no evidence for the existence of God.

We, as in humanity as a whole, on average believe there is evidence for the existence of God. You are stating your own opinion, which We note differs from the majority opinion.

323rrp
okt 8, 2014, 6:19pm

>321 RickHarsch:

On with what?

324RickHarsch
okt 8, 2014, 6:21pm

I was foolish to think so.

325jjwilson61
okt 8, 2014, 6:23pm

We arrange a test to see if science or floccinaucinihilipilification works best. What exactly would that test be?

The scientific method isn't a way to test methods, it's a way to test knowledge about the material world.

The ways I would judge different methods of testing knowledge about the material world would include common sense and whether over time it results in knowledge about the real world that actually works when you try to apply them.

326rrp
Redigerat: okt 8, 2014, 6:33pm

>324 RickHarsch:

You really should not be so hard on yourself. Look on the bright side. Take the opportunity to work on reducing the ambiguity in your posts.

ETA. Opps. Missed a telling not.

327rrp
okt 8, 2014, 6:32pm

>325 jjwilson61:

Common sense isn't common and nobody seems to know exactly what it is. If common sense can test which works best, science or floccinaucinihilipilification, then in must contain a method of testing knowledge of the material world that is at least as good as science or floccinaucinihilipilification.

328jjwilson61
okt 8, 2014, 6:44pm

At some point you have to come down to something and I'm afraid common sense is it. I think I can convince most people that a method that uses experiments to test their ideas, publishes those results to other scientists across the world to try for themselves and tries to test ideas in multiple, independent ways is better then a method that doesn't use those techniques.

Unless you're willing to lay out what your alternative method is, I don't see the point in continuing to listen to you.

329rrp
okt 8, 2014, 8:42pm

Unless you're willing to lay out what your alternative method is

I prefer your second method to your first as I don't think you can define "common sense" for us in a way that would be in any way useful. No, I am going to go with -- my method to test "knowledge about the real world" is to see if it "actually works when you try to apply" it.

330StormRaven
okt 8, 2014, 9:58pm

my method to test "knowledge about the real world" is to see if it "actually works when you try to apply" it.

You have just described science.

331SimonW11
okt 9, 2014, 3:16am

>322 rrp: because material things are observable.when material things interact, they interact observably. A bush that burns is observable. a pray answered is observable.when material things interact, they interact observably. A god that never causes a man to shout "hallelullah I am saved" is a poor excuse for a god. but of course men do this. and then present us with anecdote instead of evidence.

332JGL53
Redigerat: okt 9, 2014, 1:44pm

> 317

That's the bottom line. A god that does not matter is no god at all. A purely hypothetical and unprovable god is as useless as hypothetical teats on an hypothetical bull.

Some god exists but we can't know that because of utter lack of any empirical or scientific data? And all we have is anecdotal stories like the guy who saw the ghost or UFO?

The god that cannot be detected - what kind of fucking useless god is that?

The god idea remains an undemonstrated and apparently non-demonstrable claim. It is not a theory or even an hypothesis. It is a naked expression of wish-thinking. Apparently.

So we have nothing. A conversation or argument about god is a debate about nothing. Theology is the "study" of nothing.

Well, isn't that special.

333RickHarsch
okt 11, 2014, 6:33am

"Revealed truth is the one weapon stupidity's got against intelligence..."

William Gaddis, from Carpenter's Gothic

334rrp
okt 11, 2014, 8:19am

One assumes that as this is a truth revealed by William Gaddis we are to take it as an example of stupidity.

335RickHarsch
okt 11, 2014, 10:20am

You would be that one, revealing your truth, a supreme example of stupidity.

336rrp
okt 11, 2014, 11:16am

>325 jjwilson61:

We have a problem here. You said science isn't a way to test methods and proposed, as a method to test methods of acquiring knowledge about the real world is to see if it "actually works when you try to apply" it and here is >330 StormRaven: saying that is science. One of you must be wrong. Maybe you should work it out with him.

337rrp
okt 11, 2014, 11:18am

>331 SimonW11:

then present us with anecdote instead of evidence

I wonder. Pray tell us. Do you only believe evidence that is directly present to you, or do you, perhaps, accept the evidence of reports of other people?

338RickHarsch
okt 11, 2014, 12:27pm

337, see 333

339JGL53
Redigerat: okt 11, 2014, 12:33pm

> 335

Question, RH -

If a single bacterium mutated to be able to speak English (after a fashion) but spouted nothing but nonsensical gibberish and gobbledygook all the livelong day, would you nevertheless deem to try to converse with it, or would you just spray it with Lysol and then go on with the normal business of your life?

Just curious.

340RickHarsch
okt 11, 2014, 12:36pm

I would converse freely with said creature when so inclined, and otherwise hope to keep it fed and comfortable.

341JGL53
okt 11, 2014, 1:15pm

> 340

Well, obviously.

Some people are just masochists by nature.

I will not judge.

342rrp
Redigerat: okt 11, 2014, 3:47pm

>338 RickHarsch:

Thank you. I had seen and replied to >333 RickHarsch:. You are being ambiguous again -- you really will have to work harder at that. I can give you some tips if you like.

Let's assume you mean that you do only believe evidence that is directly present to you and that you do not accept the evidence of reports of other people. That, for knowledge, you demand evidence instead of anecdote. Your knowledge then would be very sad and small set of facts. You would not know what your parents told you, what your teachers told you, what your friends and relations told you, what you read in text books, journals, magazines or newspapers. You would only belief what you had seen with your own eyes. Poor you.

343SimonW11
okt 11, 2014, 4:40pm

>337 rrp: One evaluates evidence.

344rrp
okt 11, 2014, 4:46pm

>343 SimonW11:

Yes. And ...? Does one count as evidence what other people have said or written?

345SimonW11
okt 11, 2014, 5:48pm

That is what evaluation determines.

346rrp
okt 11, 2014, 11:24pm

We seem to have come a long way from >261 SimonW11: "Science is the only test of knowledge" to one makes a value judgement as to which authority one places one's faith in.

347RidgewayGirl
okt 12, 2014, 4:17am

This thread seems to have come to its natural end, with it devolving into the usual changes in definitions and general obtuseness from the poster who doesn't understand metaphor. Although, we can probably continue circling the drain for some months if it's entertaining for the posters. Kinda boring on the whole, however.

348SimonW11
okt 12, 2014, 5:59am

Science is a tool for evaluating evidence.

I do not say that being written down or spoken is sufficient to make something evidently true. since some things that are said are evidently not true.

visit world net daily, or type in chemtrails proof on google for examples.

Neither do I say that things that I perceive directly are evidently true. The large black dog that towered over me as I lay awake and frozen in bed on one occasion for example has little evidence for it being objectively real.

349quicksiva
okt 12, 2014, 1:59pm

Dawkins quotes The Courtier’s Reply, by P. Z. Myers

‘ I have considered the impudent accusations of Mr. Dawkins with exasperation at his lack of serious scholarship. He has apparently not read the detailed discourses of Count Roderigo of Seville on the exquisite and exotic leathers of the Emperor’s boots, nor does he give a moment’s consideration to Bellini’s masterwork, On the Luminescence of the Emperor’s Feathered Hat. We have entire schools dedicated to writing learned treatises on the beauty of the Emperor’s raiment, and every major newspaper runs a section dedicated to imperial fashion . . . Dawkins arrogantly ignores all these deep philosophical ponderings to crudely accuse the Emperor of nudity . . . Until Dawkins has trained in the shops of Paris and Milan, until he has learned to tell the difference between a ruffled flounce and a puffy pantaloon, we should all pretend he has not spoken out against the Emperor’s taste . His training in biology may give him the ability to recognize dangling genitalia when he sees it, but it has not taught him the proper appreciation of Imaginary Fabrics.’

As Dawkins put it, ….” most of us happily disavow fairies, astrology and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, without first immersing ourselves in books of Pastafarian theology etc.”

Dawkins, Richard (2008-01-16). The God Delusion (pp. 14-15). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

350JGL53
okt 12, 2014, 3:25pm

> 349

A trenchant point.

Unfortunately it is a sure thing that the logic will fly completely over the heads of those who are too psychically warped to grasp it.

That about covers it.

Time to move on?

351quicksiva
okt 25, 2014, 6:54am

“The Bible of 1611— the Authorized Version—includes passages of outstanding literary merit in its own right, for example the Song of Songs, and the sublime Ecclesiastes (which I am told is pretty good in the original Hebrew too). But the main reason the English Bible needs to be part of our education is that it is a major source book for literary culture. The same applies to the legends of the Greek and Roman gods, and we learn about them without being asked to believe in them.

Here is a quick list of biblical, or Bible-inspired, phrases and sentences that occur commonly in literary or conversational English, from great poetry to hackneyed cliché, from proverb to gossip.

Be fruitful and multiply • East of Eden • Adam’s Rib • Am I my brother’s keeper? • The mark of Cain • As old as Methuselah • A mess of pottage • Sold his birthright • Jacob’s ladder • Coat of many colours • Amid the alien corn • Eyeless in Gaza • The fat of the land • The fatted calf • Stranger in a strange land • Burning bush • A land flowing with milk and honey • Let my people go • Flesh pots • An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth • Be sure your sin will find you out • The apple of his eye • The stars in their courses • Butter in a lordly dish • The hosts of Midian • Shibboleth • Out of the strong came forth sweetness • He smote them hip and thigh • Philistine • A man after his own heart • Like David and Jonathan • Passing the love of women • How are the mighty fallen? • Ewe lamb • Man of Belial • Jezebel • Queen of Sheba • Wisdom of Solomon • The half was not told me • Girded up his loins • Drew a bow at a venture • Job’s comforters • The patience of Job • I am escaped with the skin of my teeth • The price of wisdom is above rubies • Leviathan • Go to the ant thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise • Spare the rod and spoil the child • A word in season • Vanity of vanities • To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose • The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong • Of making many books there is no end • I am the rose of Sharon • A garden inclosed • The little foxes • Many waters cannot quench love • Beat their swords into plowshares • Grind the faces of the poor • The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid • Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die • Set thine house in order • A voice crying in the wilderness • No peace for the wicked • See eye to eye • Cut off out of the land of the living • Balm in Gilead • Can the leopard change his spots? • The parting of the ways A Daniel in the lions’ den • They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind • Sodom and Gomorrah • Man shall not live by bread alone • Get thee behind me Satan • The salt of the earth • Hide your light under a bushel • Turn the other cheek • Go the extra mile • Moth and rust doth corrupt • Cast your pearls before swine • Wolf in sheep’s clothing • Weeping and gnashing of teeth • Gadarene swine • New wine in old bottles • Shake off the dust of your feet • He that is not with me is against me • Judgement of Solomon • Fell upon stony ground • A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country • The crumbs from the table • Sign of the times • Den of thieves • Pharisee • Whited sepulchre • Wars and rumours of wars • Good and faithful servant • Separate the sheep from the goats • I wash my hands of it • The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath • Suffer the little children • The widow’s mite • Physician heal thyself • Good Samaritan • Passed by on the other side • Grapes of wrath • Lost sheep • Prodigal son • A great gulf fixed • Whose shoe latchet I am not worthy to unloose • Cast the first stone • Jesus wept • Greater love hath no man than this • Doubting Thomas • Road to Damascus • A law unto himself • Through a glass darkly • Death, where is thy sting ? • A thorn in the flesh • Fallen from grace • Filthy lucre • The root of all evil • Fight the good fight • All flesh is as grass • The weaker vessel • I am Alpha and Omega • Armageddon • De profundis • Quo vadis • Rain on the just and on the unjust

Every one of these idioms, phrases or clichés comes directly from the King James Authorized Version of the Bible. Surely ignorance of the Bible is bound to impoverish one’s appreciation of English literature? And not just solemn and serious literature. The following rhyme by Lord Justice Bowen is ingeniously witty:

The rain it raineth on the just,
And also on the unjust fella.
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust hath the just’s umbrella.’

Dawkins, Richard (2008-01-16). The God Delusion (pp. 384-386). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

352JGL53
okt 25, 2014, 7:10pm

> 351

The bible, in whatever translation, as literature.

Now who can argue with that? Or would want to?

353rrp
nov 28, 2014, 3:29pm

I know this is a stale thread, but I thought is might be interesting to propose a follow-up group read of one of the books published in response to The God Delusion. There are many worthy examples, but my favorite is perhaps The Devil's Delusion by David Berlinski. It has it's faults, but rebuts all of Dawkins's main arguments and at least it has the benefit of being amusing in parts. Anyone game to look at the world from another perspective?