Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The God Delusion (yet again)

The issue of how convincing Richard Dawkins's arguments are came up again in conversation yesterday, so I thought I would quickly summarise my own views on where he goes most astray.

1) The God Delusion although ostensibly an attack on the belief side of religion is also an attack on philosophy by omission, because Dawkins is trying to convince us that the explanatory scope of his own 'scientific' approach is all-encompassing. He doesn't want to address the issue of whether there might after all be limits to what the empirical method can tell us about our cosmological situation.

2) The intergalactic teapot is an improbable material thing. Ditto the spaghetti monster. The reason for everything, whether or not one tends to refer to this as God, isn't.

You could of course plausibly argue that there is no reason for everything, but you would have to do better than Dawkins's stab at it: that science hasn't found one yet and probably won't.

3) Probability in the sense that Dawkins uses the term is a macro phenomenon like you and me. So it's not the ideal conceptual tool for explaining why you and me are here. At the micro/quantum level probability is a different beast altogether and arguably also at the very macro level, given that many physicists today believe that the meta-verse is technically infinite. There may be giant teapots and spaghetti monsters floating around out there in some other universe. Indeed, others may have gardens that have fairies at the bottom of them. So Dawkins's statement that "there is no reason to regard God as immune from consideration along the spectrum of probabilities," is misleading to say the least.

4) Dawkins has one foot stuck in the old clockwork universe model. He has an oversimplified reductionist perspective on the how and why of everything. His Selfish Gene theory for example is indicative of how he seems incapable of understanding how different organisational principles can be operating at the same time. This week's front page article in the Economist on RNA shows how the world of experimental biology is gradually leaving his model behind.

5) Religious belief is a mind virus but it's OK to read the Bible. So, how do you catch it?

No comments: