Responding to Richard Dawkins

Responding to Richard Dawkins

There’s still a good bit of discussion of Richard Dawkins around the blogosphere, focusing on <a href=”The God Delusion, though not exclusively. This morning I encountered a post by The Christian Cynic that gives an interesting response to one point, and also lets me know that the Christian Cynic is posting again.

The point to which the Christian Cynic is responding is simple and annoying: What’s to keep Christian moderates from taking the next step and blowing things up? There are so many things wrong with the question. You can read Cynic’s good answer. I would answer with a counter-question: What’s to keep Dawkins from taking the next step after despising religious moderates, and start rounding them up and killing them (or advocating it)? If you’re an atheist and find that question offensive, then consider the offensiveness of Dawkins’ approach to religious moderates of all stripes.

Cynic also linked to two other posts, these by macht of Prosthesis who is an occasional commenter here on Threads as well. The first is Self-Deception and Faith and the second is More on the reasonableness of belief systems and on comment on Sam Harris. Both are good. I personally have less concern with talking about leaps of faith, though I do not find theism unreasonable. I simply don’t believe there is sufficient evidence to force all reasonable people to agree–here is a leap at the end, because the evidence doesn’t carry one all the way.

But this whole issue leads back to a sort of binary thinking. In discourse on theism vs [tag]atheism[/tag] much of the discourse is done in black and white, proven or not proven, rather than looking at shades and probabilities, even if they involve some guesswork. Science is suited to study the natural world and nothing more. But it is an assumption, and a leap whether of faith or not, to go beyond that and say that nothing exists other than the natural world as we perceive it.

As a side note with commercial overtones, this binary approach is constantly applied to scripture. Either the Bible is inerrant or it is useless. I take a different approach, one which I discuss in my book When People Speak for God. I’m unlikely to convince anyone that the Bible is inspired with that book, but I do present an alternative to the all or nothing approach that pervades the discourse. I related this to Dawkins in The God Delusion and the Bible. For a full list of my posts responding to The God Delusion, see my category Dawkins.

 

4 thoughts on “Responding to Richard Dawkins

  1. Science is suited to study the natural world and nothing more. But it is an assumption, and a leap whether of faith or not, to go beyond that and say that nothing exists other than the natural world as we perceive it.

    I’d like to make a correction here: what we’re saying is that to all intents and purposes nothing else exists. Science is at its core a means of distinguishing between good and bad conjectures, and it’s the only one we’ve ever discovered with any pedigree of success. If this finely-honed tool can’t get a grip on God, how on Earth can religion claim to have cracked that particular nut?

    This comes back to Dawkins’ comments in The God Delusion about the four orders of angels in Catholic mythology. After many years of painstaking investigation, scientists have failed to detect any trace of the supernatural. It is therefore quite clear that those who claim knowledge of its precise internal structure are talking out of their collective rear ends.

  2. After many years of painstaking investigation, scientists have failed to detect any trace of the supernatural.

    Of course, by definition, since the supernatural is defined as what cannot be detected by scientific methods. If they could detect it, it would not be supernatural.

    It is therefore quite clear that those who claim knowledge of its precise internal structure are talking out of their collective rear ends.

    You have missed a step in your argument here, which is your epistemological assumption that scientific investigation is the only way of acquiring knowledge of the supernatural.

  3. Thank you for mentioning the point I had neglected to make: reason is of course a double-edged sword and can undercut Dawkins’ case for a reasonable atheism as well. The whole absolutist strategy to writing religion off is a little absurd, really.

    Thanks again for the plug; it makes me more fully appreciate when I write things without expecting anyone to respond.

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