final thoughts on The God Delusion

I spent my off day yesterday reading The God Delusion. And I have to say it strangely better than I thought it would be and much much much worse. I then went to see Juno last night (great, beautiful, quirky film) which redeemed the otherwise somewhat wasted day of Dawkins. (Apologies to my buddy C4, who thinks differently on the matter).

On the better side, all I can positively say for the book is that it makes me want to read a whole series of other books that he cites (that sound much more interesting)–including his own earlier works on evolution (minus the anti-religious tirade), e.g. Blind Watchmaker, Unweaving the Rainbow, etc.

I can also appreciate his point that there is no evidence for a supernatural God designer figure. Since I don’t believe in that, that’s not particularly bothersome to me.

On the dark side, the most obvious criticism is that the book is not so much an argument as a tirade. It’s like an adolescent smug temper tantrum. Dawkins refers on a number of occasions to “sophisticated theologians”–though (un?)remarkably he doesn’t cite any by name. Who are these ethereal beings lurking in the background of the text? Has he ever read any? And why would I trust his judgment–as opposed to experts on the subject–on who is and isn’t a sophisticated religious thinker? (more…)

Published in: on January 16, 2008 at 11:58 am  Comments (1)  
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Dawkins’ Delusion

About a third of the way into The God Delusion and this line summarizes (for me) what is fundamentally wrong with this book:

p.141 (my emphasis)

Natural selection not only explains the whole of life; it also raises our consciousness to the power of science to explain how organized complexity can emerge from simple beginnings without any deliberate guidance.

Let’s just take the science as is.

Underneath what he has written, philosophically (and I would add spiritually), is a naked display of power. The problem isn’t science. The problem is scientism–that is science taken from its proper context and applied as an ideology to all other arenas of existence without question.

The “whole of life”, in other words, is simply the description of how it (life) causally comes about. Power equals a hypothesis, an experimental test, and validation via evidence. It is about isolated scientists observing the laws of nature (so-called) usually alone or at most in a cliquish elite, who are too often infected with a lust for control of life. This is why Dawkins doesn’t understand communal (2nd-person) forms of being-in-the-world, only 3rd and 1st person. He’s not really in dialogue with nature. He’s not in dialogue with too many humans either.

Even accepting his gradualist version of natural selection as the total causal explanation of life, that is all life is. Life is to explained. As in explained away in other words. You could drive a continent through this blind spot. Or more accurately, you could drive most of the classics of world history through there.

The whole of life does not involve artistic expression, depth of awareness (except insofar as our consciousnesses are raised to the almighty beacon of Lord Science), love, relationships, political and social realities. Meaning is about explaining the cause of something alone. And that quest, so that one may gain power.

For the record…I do not subscribe to a supernatural God. I do not believe in an Intelligent Designer. So Dawkins’ critiques apply only to that god. They do not apply say to the Process God of Whitehead, which he never actually mentions (and I would gather might not even know about). i.e. This critique of mine applies regardless of one’s view of that question. It is more a question of science-ocracy in the political realm. This same critique would be leveled by a Jurgen Habermas, himself an atheist.

Published in: on January 15, 2008 at 12:43 pm  Comments (2)  
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Why I Enjoy Studying Leprechauns

C4 linked this piece from Richard Dawkins, who calls theology comparable to the study of leprechauns and thinks it should not be accredited within the Oxford University system.  Since there is in fact no objectively discovered God (which btw the is true just not in the way Dawkins thinks it is).  Dawkins at least has the charity to say that qualified scholars of anthropology, sociology, literature, philosophy, and religion within theology departments could just move over to these other colleges and then all is well.

Two responses that I’ll mention but not follow up on, but are worth keeping in mind.

1)Who cares?  The world is racked by AIDS, the oppression of women/the poor, war, rumors of war, and Dawkins is harping on theology departments in Britain where nobody believes in God anyway.  Not even worth his fight if you ask me.  So neutered.  Charitably, that is Dawkins has a pretty English-centric pov.  Less charitably, he needs to go live in Africa or Asia and actually experience soul-crushing, heart-breaking trauma and existence, so he can get over his narcissistic viewpoint.  In all these New Atheists vs. God vs. Whatever debates, ever see any women?  (This response included).

2)A correct response (in the link) that goes thusly:

Sir: It is not often that a professor admits to poor scholarship, but that is what Richard Dawkins has done (letter, 17 September). Had I received an essay from a first-year undergraduate in which he admitted not having studied the position of his opponent, I would have insisted on it being rewritten. What is even more remarkable is that Dawkins seems unaware that the positivist account of science, which forms the main plank of his argument, is thoroughly discredited.

To argue for the position he advocates requires a working knowledge of the philosophy of science and religion, epistemology and metaphysics. While scientists of a previous generation, such as Michael Polanyi and Thomas Kuhn, have shown the application required to master these fields prior to publishing their philosophical work, Dawkins has so far shown himself unable or unwilling to do so.

The Revd Dr David Heywood
Lecturer in Pastoral Theology, Ripon College, Cuddesdon Oxfordshire digg_url = ‘http://richarddawkins.net/article,1698,Letters-Theology-has-no-place-in-a-university,Richard-Dawkins’; digg_bgcolor = ‘#FFFFFF’; digg_skin = ‘compact’; 

That isn’t going to matter to Dawkins of course (related to point #1 about his ego, but I’ll let that slide).  But worth remembering.  Dawkins has stated that St. Paul invented Christianity which would be like me in a debate with an astronomer saying that Copernicus was wrong and the earth is the center of the universe and the sun revolves around it.  I would correctly be laughed out of the room.  But Dawkins is allowed to get away with such ignorance.  So be it.

So no more no those.  I’ll take a different tack and admit that I am studying leprechauns and argue for it.  [This is to be read as irony btw :)]

The entire world is riding on nothing.  It is empty.  Dawkins and others of his ilk will never realize this.  The entire “debate” (quotations to indicate that there really is no debate to it) is falsely premised.

The mind is inherently dualistic.  That means some will always argue God exists and others that God does not.  And you can make a case that should be theology and you can make a case that religion is a humanistic study (a la Feuerbach) and that theology should be dismantled and the pieces/people sent to religion, comparative religion, and other departments.

It’s taste great/less filling writ cosmically large.  Great argument because it will NEVER end.  It’s a endemic “bug” in the system at that level whose role in the Universe (when seen from a higher vantage point) is to create the tension necessary to negate that stage of life.  If you follow it down the rabbit hole, the world gets quite wacky, beautiful, and painful insofar as you will never be able to explain this in a way that makes sense to anyone other than those who have already made the trip.

What in other words, is missed, is that reason is a kind of faith.  It’s a better kind of faith than myth taken literally.  Or more correctly, it is a more appropriate kind of faith at a more developed age/sense of self.

The weight of the modern world ideologically has leaned heavily to a naturalistic explanation of religion as argued for by Dawkins.  Or in postmodernism, as a narrative event, without grounding (like anything else) in supposed objectivity.  I think this has been very destructive for the West, particularly because it relegates almost all discussion of “values” to moral majority types.  Atheist tirades against all religion undercuts the most effective weapon against the bad form of a religion–namely its own better side.  But I’m biased.  Though I don’t believe in G, capital G, like that.  I’d rather study leprechauns.  At least that admits you are entering the realm of the imagination.

Remember atheists–at least the Dawkins kind–aren’t really after killing God.  They are unconsciously after the perpetuation of their own faith system.  Studying their own leprechauns of the mind you see.  If they killed God atheism would disappear.

It’s like in the Big Mind exercise, when the wounded child is asked will it ever be completely healed.  The answer of course is no–cuz then it would disappear and as much as it hates being wounded/hurt that is its nature and self-death is more frightening than the pain.  At least the pain is known.

No theism=no atheism.  Realize that and the entire house of cards collapses on both sides.

From a more awakened point of view, the leprechauns meditate us into seeing them.  This is the element of grace to the universe.  Something completely lacking in the prosaic Dawkins.  Even in usually in talk of a contemplative science and so forth, as much as I think that is valuable.  There is no grace, Godless grace even if you like, in this thought pattern.

It’s all riding on a dream.  To take the dream literally (mythic faith) or to mistake it for a rational-only process (rationalism) are equally bad forms of religion and belief.  Leprechaunology at its best helps you not take faith seriously (in the wrong way).

A post-metaphysical leprechaunology would add this flavor though—there is no pre-set pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow laddy.

I shouldn’t be too hard then on poor ol’ Professor Dawkins.  He would be crushed to realize he is just a pawn in the Game of Spirit.  A frightful reality to say the least.  One equal parts transcendentally loving and transcendentally horrific.