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Thread: The God / Dawkins Delusion

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by dHarry View Post
    I guess in 17th C Europe it wasn't so easy to write or even think that God simply didn't exist - Spinoza didn't go this far but still was excommunicated from Judaism. It wasn't using a new word for nature, so much as dragging God-as-concept back into the real world (even if this ultimately makes it redundant).
    Sure, I understand that S. and others where trying to synthesize religious tradition with modern science. In the same way that political writers at the time tried to fuse monarchy and democracy. but this option is pretty threadbare these days.

    Quote Originally Posted by dHarry View Post
    Maybe it's also a way of preserving a space for imagination and philosophy in accounts of material reality, and not claiming that it is self-evidently understandable or completely accounted for by science.
    It's not really clear to me why the pantheistic option does that in a constructive way: what do i learn about imagination if somebody says: Thor is just an alternative term for Everything.

    Moreover, the phenomena you refer to are not accounted for in a comprehensive way by science. Why are people afraid to say: I don't know where the universe comes from, I have no idea how self-consciousness emerges etc?

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    Quote Originally Posted by borderpolice View Post
    It's not really clear to me why the pantheistic option does that in a constructive way: what do i learn about imagination if somebody says: Thor is just an alternative term for Everything.

    Moreover, the phenomena you refer to are not accounted for in a comprehensive way by science. Why are people afraid to say: I don't know where the universe comes from, I have no idea how self-consciousness emerges etc?
    God knows Maybe it's fear of the cold vastness of the universe and the implacable certainty of time and death. But I'm not propounding this position - as I said originally I have no interest in God; all I meant was that if it has to exist as a concept then I might accept it in a particular Spinozist fashion.

    But that's not what most people mean by God, which seems to be either Eagleton's loving artist and underwriter of being, an anthropomorphised and/or nebulous spiritual version of physical energy as animator of matter and life, a pre-Big Bang prima causa, or the guy with the beard and robes up in the sky. I don't see the validity of any of these.

  3. #33

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    Why are people afraid to say: I don't know where the universe comes from, I have no idea how self-consciousness emerges etc?
    I am not afraid to admit to those things.

    I think any rigorous scientist or philosopher would be happy to admit the same thing, and add: here are some theories we're working on that might lead towards some possible answers.

    Science doesn't claim to have the answers to everything, it just claims to have a better method for finding things out than "it was in a book" or "the priest said so".
    We have had a massive thread on that already.

    Surely it's only the religious who are afraid to admit those things and instead subscribe to beliefs for which there is no evidential basis.

  4. #34
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    Exactly, to break it down into its simplest form; Scientific thinking simply draws a conclusion from the presented evidence... there are no absolutes, nothing is set in stone. If something came along that turned evolution on its head tomorrow, Dawkins would look at the evidence, take it on board and if it was convincing, he would change his mind.

    The same cannot be said of the people he is arguing against. To assume something exists until proved otherwise is fundamentally flawed logic. Hence http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster

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    dharry is right about Eagleton's lapses back into anthropomorphism. I think he's also thinking wishfully when he declares that God as ontological ground of being is in anyway a mainstream view amongst believers. Eagleton is I guess stuck in his Catholic ways, force of habit bringing "love" into the equation when it's unwarranted. Much more appealing is the cold, uncaring creator of Olaf Stapledon's "Star Maker".

    RE Spinoza etc - Of course saying God = everything is trivial and buys you nothing. I think better to equate God with the pre-condition and ground of being . As far as I am aware, even the most advanced cosmology bangs up against the question of why there is anything at all, rather than nothing.

    Quote Originally Posted by borderpolice

    Moreover, the phenomena you refer to are not accounted for in a comprehensive way by science. Why are people afraid to say: I don't know where the universe comes from, I have no idea how self-consciousness emerges etc?
    Because such statements jar with reductionist materialism? Once you admit that one thing can not be accounted for by science/materialism, then you open up the possibilities of lots of other things being outside that realm too.

    Dusty - see the "critiques of science" thread...

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    Well, I thought this post might rattle a few cages

    Quote Originally Posted by Edward View Post
    The McGrath book is a very poor thing full of "strawman" type arguments - criticising Dawkins for things he doesn't actually say...
    Exactly, I read the McGrath response to try and get a rounded view. It's pretty tough to confirm these points though unless you have a grounding in the Theology (which I don't).

    I recognised the character assassination of Dawkins and was kind pleased to find the following factual refute of the McGrath case :

    I am not particularly interested in fighting Richard Dawkins’ corner. Firstly, he can look after himself. Secondly, atheism does not stand or fall by Dawkins’ presentation of the issues. Thirdly, I don’t always agree with Dawkins. The God Delusion is not the book I hoped he would write. This is not, then, primarily a defence of Dawkins. My purpose here is simple: to document the scholarly failings of Alister McGrath
    http://homepages.shu.ac.uk/~llrdjb/shs/delusion.html

    Quote Originally Posted by hamarplazt View Post
    Well, haven't Dawkins made it clear that he thought more or less the same about Gould?
    Well, he certainly addresses Gould's case for not using scientific analysis on religion. The section on Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA).

    Quote Originally Posted by Dusty View Post
    I would just like to point out that from my remembered reading of the book, Dawkins does not blame religion for all the world's evils, and I seem to recall he is happy to accept the fact that humans could and would have found / would find other outlets for evil and violence, regardless of belief.

    This is yet another method of A: misquoting him for the purposes of knocking him down and B: avoiding the main crux of the issue which is societies 'blind spot' when it comes to questioning the evidence behind belief systems with the same scientific rigour we question everything else.
    Totally agree.

    ----

    It's the context and purpose of both these books that I find a little difficult. I enjoyed the Dawkin's book, well, cos I'd kinda been waiting for someone to say this stuff but I also think it's important that we question these ideals. Why should people believe in unobtainable "truths". Why should children have beliefs forced upon them ?

    I suspect many religious people are just be happy that there is a published refute* and leave it at that. Kinda means we're not any further forward in the debate..

    I'd be interested to know if there's an religious person swayed by the Dawkin's book. Are the people here that think he's a fool etc religious (oh no he isn't, oh yes he is ) ?

    * Dawkin's response in The Times alludes to the fact that the Dawkins Delusion is a commercial exercise. The McGraths could've just addressed these arguments succinctly on a web site ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward View Post
    Surely it's only the religious who are afraid to admit those things and instead subscribe to beliefs for which there is no evidential basis.
    My take of this is that (one of) the social function(s) of religion is precisely to cover up the fact that it doesn't have answers to the questions about why there is a universe/god at all, rather than nothing, and use (meaningless) rituals instead so people forget that these questions are really not answered.

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    BP, I agree!


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    even the most advanced cosmology bangs up against the question of why there is anything at all, rather than nothing.
    I don't think science attempts or claims to answer "why" questions, only "how" and "what" kind of questions.
    Cosmology attempts to come up with a verifiable theory of how the universe started, not why.

    "Why" is for philosophers, or in the view of some, for theologians (who in my view are just very poor unrigorous philosophers).

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    Quote Originally Posted by tryptych View Post
    RE Spinoza etc - Of course saying God = everything is trivial and buys you nothing. I think better to equate God with the pre-condition and ground of being . As far as I am aware, even the most advanced cosmology bangs up against the question of why there is anything at all, rather than nothing.
    Hmm...I think Edward's bang on about science's ability to answer "how/what" questions rather than "why" questions - "why" after all implies meaning or at least purpose, which are purely human terms.
    For example, science doesn't really answer questions like "why is the sky blue?", it answers "how is the sky blue?" (Rayleigh scattering, etc.): asking "why" the sky is blue is tantamount to asking "for what purpose is the sky blue?" (Because it's God's favourite colour, perhaps).

    Quote Originally Posted by tryptych View Post
    Because such statements jar with reductionist materialism? Once you admit that one thing can not be accounted for by science/materialism, then you open up the possibilities of lots of other things being outside that realm too.
    There are certainly things that cannot be answered by science, yet. A hundred years ago, asking questions like "how did the universe start" would have been regarded as the realm of theologians or mystics, not scientists, but now there is an entire academic field (cosmology) dedicated to answering just this question, in scientifically rigorous terms. Furthermore, they deal not just with abstruse mathematical theories, but with hard observational evidence.
    Also I think it's not quite true to imagine that all scientists are hard-boiled reductionists: a lot of work is being done at the moment on ideas like emergence, in which complex systems arise out of simple physical laws and are described by more complex laws that cannot be derived purely from the initial physical laws.
    Just because reductionism doesn't explain something that's no reason to throw up your hands and say "Oh well, it must be God/spirits/morphogenic fields" or whatever.
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    one might argue that, at least on one understanding, some why questions are answerable by science: e.g. evolutionary biology seems to have something to say about why certain species have certain behaviors: just because they are adaptive. (as formalized in say maynard smith's game-theoretic work)

    i once had an argument with a physicist who claimed biology was not a science, however, so perhaps this claim is ill-founded

    also, i think that the how-question about the sky's blueness partly answers the why-question, in the sense: `why do we perceive the sky as being blue?' well maybe I am just being obtuse now

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    I see what you mean, Eric, about questions as to "why" dogs have a good sense of smell, "why" certain animals have a poisonous sting, etc. - as you say, it's to give them an evolutionary advantage. So that's a purpose, of sorts. But unless you're a creationist, it's a blind, impersonal sort of purpose, which is different from the purpose behind the various components of a car or a computer, which have been designed because a human or humans thought "We need a device to do such-and-such, so we'd better invent one".

    (Interesting that I should have chosen the example of a dog's sense of smell, actually, since the reason some breeds have such acute smelling abilities is that they've had it selectively bred into them by humans, so that comes under the second kind of "purpose". But I guess that's by-the-bye.)

    (Edit: also, I'd take issue with someone claiming biology 'is not a science' - sounds like a case of scientific one-up-manship there.)
    Last edited by Mr. Tea; 06-07-2007 at 12:15 PM.
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    yes it makes perfect sense. clearly created objects have a different kind of purpose than natural ones (you can see my religious noninclinations in this phrasing). this is really just a question of intentionality, don't you think? when we think about purposes we think `what object/function x is FOR.' probably purposes of created objects have this + `this function is put in place on purpose'. from this perspective creationism is just a kind of ontological fallacy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post

    (Edit: also, I'd take issue with someone claiming biology 'is not a science' - sounds like a case of scientific one-up-manship there.)
    yeah I think he was just trying to get me worked up actually, in which he succeeded for a little while until I was satisfied that's what he was doing.

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    Sorry, just saw some things here I can't help but comment on:

    Quote Originally Posted by DRMHCP View Post
    Isn't it accepted even by most evolutionary biologists that Dawkins is a complete charlatan...Stephen Jay Gould for instance making it obvious what he thought of him for instance
    Er - no? Obviously Dawkins has stirred up something of a hornet's nest with his broadside attack on religion, but I think he's regarded (in professional biology circles) as knowing what he's talking about when he talks science. Of course, he's so dogmatic he's naturally made a lot of enemies, some of whom are going to try and attack him on his professional work.
    Quote Originally Posted by DRMHCP View Post
    And regarding his materialist fundamentalism isn't it very likely if he'd been born in the middle ages there's a good chance he would have been one of the most intransigent religious fundamentalists causing all the kind of problems he himself blames on religion.
    So he's a 'born' fanatic, and it just so happens that he's taken up the cause of rationalism and atheism rather than, say, Christianity? Purely because he was born in 20th-century Britain?
    This sounds rather unlikely to me; in fact it seems to stem from the old falacious argument that people decide not to believe in God for the same reason others believe. Atheism is not a religion in the same way no ice-cream is not a flavour of ice-cream.
    Quote Originally Posted by DRMHCP View Post
    Ironic that these two books are coming out now when at the cutting edge of certain scientific disciplines (quantum physics etc) there's more consideration for some kind of non-materialst explanation for certain phenomena than possibly at any any time since the early 19th century....
    Ahh, good old quantum mechanics: the ultimate conceptual Get Out Of Jail Free card.
    All I'll say on this is that you're welcome to try and find God in the wave-function if you like - He's as likely to be there as anywhere - but all you'll succeed in doing is making yourself look foolish to both scientists and theologians.
    Last edited by Mr. Tea; 07-07-2007 at 03:28 PM.
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