Saturday, October 28, 2006

Richard Dawkins: Intellectual Fraud

This debate by David Quinn & Richard Dawkins was pretty interesting. Its not that there were any eye opening points brought up on either side but it was just utterly amazing the denial and delusion Richard Dawkins is in. If you have time I woulf read the full article but I would like to respond to a few choice statements he made

Well the word delusion means a falsehood which is widely believed, and I think that is true of religion.

Wrong. From

1. an act or instance of deluding.

2. the state of being deluded.

3. a false belief or opinion: delusions of grandeur.

4. Psychiatry. a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact: a paranoid delusion.

(Dawkins) Many young children have an imaginary friend. Christopher Robin had Binker. A little girl who wrote to me had a little purple man. And the girl with the little purple man actually saw him. She seemed to hallucinate him. He appeared with a little tinkling bell. And, he was very, very real to her although in a sense she knew he wasn’t real. I suspect that something like that is going on with people who claim to have heard God or seen God or hear the voice of God.

Actually, he has somewhat of a point here. I agree that nearly all who claim to 'hear from God' are experiencing a very similar phenomenon as what he describes here. This is due to rampant sentimentalism in the Christian world today. (See my post on the different ways God talks to us) However, I of course believe that some people have heard from God.

(Turbidy) You describe God as a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Homophobic? This is such a cowardly and fraudulent term. Actually, that is a convenient word. As soon as you hear it used, you can immediately identify that the one who said it is not interested in real dialogue. They merely want to call names. (If I was an atheist that's all I'd want to do too... After all as you can see from the debate Mr. Dawkins really doesnt have any valid arguments and constantly ignores Mr. Quinn's). Although these terms are merely name calling, anyone who has read the Old Testament knows where he's getting these from. Despite the fact that he's undermining his own beliefs by insinuating that there's something wrong about these's very easy to refute/explain as tomes and tomes have been written on these very subjects. Apparently Dawkins hasn't done his homework.

(Dawkins) Well, not really because no serious theologian takes the Old Testament literally anymore, so it isn’t quite like that. An awful lot of people think they take the Bible literally but that can only be because they’ve never read it.

While it's true what Mr. Quinn said (that this is part of a straw man argument Dawkins sets up) many serious theologians do take the Bible literally. There are always certain parts that are obvious metaphors or can be explained in alternate ways...but for example many 'serious' theologians still take the flood story quite literally. Most seem to prefer a localized flood but there are some who believe in a global flood. Whether its right or wrong he's trying to undermine Christianity in general by the false statement he made here.

(Dawkins) but I do think that people are a bit confused about where they get their morality from. A lot of people think they get their morality from the Bible because they can find a few good verses. Parts of the Ten Commandments are okay, parts of the Sermon on the Mount are okay. So they think they get their morality from the Bible. But actually of course nobody gets their morality from the Bible, we get it from somewhere else and to the extent that we can find good bits in the Bible we cherry pick them. We pick and choose them. We choose the good verses in the Bible and we reject the bad.

While there is certainly truth to this statement (especially with Protestants), Mr. Dawkins is merely displaying his utter lack of understanding for what morality truly is. (Of course its obvious that he is woefully confused on the subject since he's an atheist who also believes in morality). True Christianity does not and never has derived its morality solely from the Bible. He is referring to the heresy of Sola Scriptura started in 1521 by Martin Luther. Again, he needs to do a little more homework before entering these types of debates. Furthermore, no Christian considers himself under the Torah.

(Dawkins) Well I think that people are sometimes remarkably adept at compartmentalizing their mind, at separating their mind into two separate parts. There are some people who even manage to combine being apparently perfectly good working scientists with believing that the book of Genesis is literally true and that the world is only 6000 years old. If you can perform that level of doublethink then you could do anything.

That is certainly true that people are very adept at compartmentalizing their mind. (My friend often made the statement, "people just seem to put on their stupid caps when they come to church. When I hear the types of questions these adults ask, its amazing to think that these same people are also succesful professionals in other areas of their life... If they were to employ this level of reasoning at their job, they'd be fired immediately" Apparently he's never been to my workplace.. Just kidding. I digress)

Mr. Quinn later points out his straw man tactic here by explaining that most Christian scientists believe in an old universe / earth & some also believe in evolution. (Of course evolution is clearly antagonistic towards the Christian world view) yet there are many who believe in it. But aside from that Mr. Dawkins also makes another error. He is assuming God doesnt exist to begin with. Well of course young earth is a ridiculous belief if God doesnt exist! Of course belief in creationism is ignorant if God isn't real. But assuming He is, both beliefs are extremely plausible. The only unreasonable belief would be the one that rejects those a priori.

And finally:

(Quinn) Myself and Richard Dawkins have a clearly different understanding of the origins of morality. I would say free will. If you’re an atheist, if you’re an atheist logically speaking you cannot believe in objective morality. You cannot believe in free will. These are two things that the vast majority of humankind implicitly believe in. We believe for example that if a person carries out a bad action, we can call that person bad because we believe that they are freely choosing those actions. … And just quickly an atheist believes we are controlled completely by our genes and make no free actions at all.

(Dawkins) I certainly don’t believe a word of that.

There is nothing more pitiful than an atheist who believes in free will & objective morality. It's like a Nazi who has a Jewish wife. You can see now the total hypocrisy in his world view. Eventually he must come to grips with what other atheists like Nietzsche did: there is no morality without God.

Again, you can read the full debate here.


Thomas said...

Maybe you could say what the basis is, for deciding what morals to have, if its not only the bible.

Do you not have an internal sense of thinking what effect will such-and-such an action have on others/yourself and therefore it is "good" or "bad".

The phrase "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" means be fair, be nice; it means you can work this out for yourself by thinking about it.

Now which part of the above is not available to atheists?

Flossie said...

You are an idiot.

You can create a moral framework of behaviour simply treating others as you would wish to be treated.

I see someone else has commented similarly.

All your points are idiotic and make clear your preference for wishful thinking over logic.

Anonymous said...

Utter, utter drivel.

Interesting that you are converting to Catholocism.

I also heard Dawkins on Fox radio, and a caller made the similar childish point you do: "Without God or the Bible, what's to stop us murdering and raping people?"

And the host of the show, not even Dawkins, asked the man: "Would you murder people if you didn't believe in God?"

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Thomas - The bible didnt exist until hundreds of years after Christ so how could it be the moral basis for Christianity?

What's to keep athests from keeping the golden rule? Nothing and I hope they do...

Flossie - No Thomas didnt comment similarly he showed respect. But its good to know that you don't have any real rebuttal... simply name calling. Thanks for the encouragement.

Anonymous - I'm not sure if you're on drugs, didnt read my article or well I'm just not sure what to make of what you wrote since your comment has not the slightest to do with anything I wrote in my post.

Now who is being objective and logical here? Anyone who actually read my post will agree that none of these comments had anything to do with my post whatsoever... And there isnt even much to disagree with on my post, these guys are just angry and name calling. Here is a summary of my post:

1. Dawkins incorrectly defines "delusion" I corrected him...

2. Dawkins says believing in God is like belief in an immaginary friend. I concur that this phenomenon happens but state my belief that not ALL "God" experiences are such.

3. Dawkins calls God a bunch of names including homophobic. I point out that these terms are nothing more than name calling yet I understand how someone could come to those conclusions. Its not in the scope of this post to refute those misguided ideas but its useless to as there are volumes already written which Mr. Dawkins apparently hasn't bothered to read.

4. Mr. Dawkins incorrectly states that no serious theologian takes the bible literally. I correct him.

5. Mr. Dawkins says men dont get their morality from the bible. I concur and note that Christianity has never taught that we get our beliefs solely from the bible.

6. Mr. Dawkins says that people are very good at compartmentalizing their mind. I agree with him but explain that not all Christians believe the way he is trying to insist we do.

7. Mr. Dawkins illogically accepts objective morality & free will neither of which are logically possible in a godless cosmology which many of the 'great' atheistic minds have eventually come to grips with.

And here we have these three guys the first two mentioning the golden rule (which I never mentioned) and the second one calling me an idiot without giving any reasons. Now re-reading the post sure I can see how people would disagree with my opinions... but to call me an idiot for what I said (much of which isnt even debatable) truly shows where this guy is in life.

Then anonymous comes along and says something about without God what would keep us from murdering people? I don't know what the hell he's talking about but apparently he's very confused. Aside from his insults, again his points haven't the slightest to do with anything I wrote...

So anyway.. judge for yourself...

flossie said...

What is the point of making extensive comments to you?

I and another commentator contradicted your idiotic assertion that morality requires God and you sidestep the issue completely, presumably because you can't defend your assertion.

None of your points seem to actually contradict worthwhile points of Dawkins, they are just fiddling little details as to the extent of the delusion. In fact the points of his you do contradict, that some Christians actually believe in creationism and take the bible literally are effectively supportive comments that suggest the delusion is even greater than Dawkins suggests.

Mike said...

I don't understand why people feel the need to express their opinion with anger, and insults. None of what the original post said seemed offensive to me, but yet the 2 of the first 3 responses included insults.

I am not sure what the truth is in the whole God vs. Everything else argument, so I am neutral. I don't think anything in the Bible is literal, and at the very least I think it makes for a good "How to" on how to live, (minus the rituals and all). This does not mean you have to be Christian to own one and make your own interpretation of what it means or if you even want to use what you have read. That is where I stand before I even get to my point so nobody can say I am on this or that side.

OK the post. It doesn't seem that either person made ground breaking points to help determine what the truth is (like stated in the post). It seems like the original post wasn't targeted at anyone, it was just the authors opinion, even though all arguments were simply opinion, i.e. what believing in God is like, Dawkins saying nobody takes the bible literally, name calling etc. etc. If I was in a mood to debate, this wouldn't be a post I would go after to disprove religion's credibility.

It seems that these aren't the smartest atheists around, it appears that they already had what they wanted to say before even reading anything, and no matter what the post said, they were going to state their points. They are valid points, just not with this post. The only thing said relevant to the post was "In fact the points of his you do contradict, that some Christians actually believe in creationism and take the bible literally are effectively supportive comments that suggest the delusion is even greater than Dawkins suggests." I would say go back and read the first thing mentioned, "Dawkins incorrectly defines "delusion" I corrected him...". I don't think it is a delusion to believe in God or even believe what you were told is truth and what was metaphor, I think certain people who believe in God are delusional, but simply believing doesn't make you insane.

I do not agree that you need God to have morality. Morality is an instinct humans have like reproducing. The people who would make you think otherwise are the ones that are delusional. Society has given them the ability to eliminate their sense of right and wrong, by creating a bullshit judicial system. Telling someone it is okay to sue just because you didn't use common sense before putting coffee in your mouth, has created this new acceptance of right and wrong. Now instead of people following the golden rule, it is more like do onto others before they do onto you. People have in them the ability to make a moral decision whether they believe in God or not, it is the lack of consequence that has stopped them from doing it.

I will end with this, calling someone an idiot for what they believe is just as bad as telling them they are going to hell if they don't believe what you want them to. It is just about the most childish thing you can do when debating, it shows weakness.........IDIOT.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Flossie, thank you for being a little more respectful this time with your comments all though you still have some work to do.

First of all you're right, it wasn't my intention to contradict Richard Dawkins' entire world view. It's been done 100 times it's like beating a dead horse. I was merely commenting on the debate and pointing out a few errors he made. (Again, see the summary of my post)

Secondly, as far as whether atheists can have morals... part of this debate is semantics to be sure. What I mean when I say morality and what you mean are likely two different things... In fact, they DEFINITELY are two different things since my definition of morality would always include God and you're obviously an atheist.

Of course atheists can and do adhere to a 'moral code'. That's good. But when we talk about objective morality, atheists do not have the luxury of calling any act whatsoever objectively immoral. Nietzsche said "Morality is herd instinct in the individual." So...while in a Darwinian sense, it might be good for our survival if we have community morals" for example... we all agree that if we agree to not kill each other then everyone benefits... yes atheists have morality in that sense.. But they don't have morality in the sense that (as Christianity teaches) by sinning you are breaking a moral code instituted by God and this has consequences whether you get caught or not or whether it hurts anyone else or not or whether it benefits society or not...

Theism has objective morality, atheism does not. Period.

Once absolutism is ruled out, right & wrong become a question of who has the most power. In Christian cosmology this philosophical truth still applies of course, but God is
the one with the most power and whatever He decides becomes what is right & wrong.

If you land on a desert island with a friend and murder him, did you commit a crime? Of course not, there is no government! Similiarly if you're nothing but a group of cells with no purpose in life and no god and you will return to the dust you came from ceasing to exist on this godless planet and you murder someone, did you commit an actual sin? Of course not, who is there to sin against?

2 things that every human intrinsically believe in: objective morality and free will are also two things that can only exist in a theistic cosmology. That is why the
majority of people always have and always will be theists. Even as science and the economy have made huge progress over the last century, theism has continued to flourish. See this article on that topic.

BTW, see this debate by Lenardos & Tremblay on the existence of God for more about the free will issue.

Oh and flossie, I will be happy to continue dialogue with you on this subject but only if you're willing to drop the insults and be respectful of my opinions even though they are different from yours.

David said...

This thread, though I've only skimmed it, looks like a can of worms bordering on a train wreck.

The only contribution I'd like to make is to strongly support the notion that there is an innate "absolute" (whatever that means) moral instinct for human beings on this Earth. It has evolved over unimaginable expanses of time, like the eye, vision, and language.

There is much science to support this. Read Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate or Marc Hauser's Moral Minds. And, for example/fun, ponder the following moral puzzles:

Scenario #1: A surgeon walks into the hospital as a nurse rushes forward with the following case. "Doctor! An ambulance just pulled in with five people in critical condition. Two have a damaged kidney, one a crushed heart, one a collapsed lung, and one a completely ruptured liver. We don't have time to search for possible organ donors, but a healthy young man just walked in to donate blood and is sitting in the lobby. We can save all five patients if we take the needed organs from this young man. Of course he won't survive, but we will save all five patients."

Question #1: Is it morally permissible for the surgeon to take this young man's organs?

Scenario #2: A train is moving at a speed of 150 miles per hour. All of a sudden the conductor notices a light on the panel indicating complete brake failure. Straight ahead of him on the track are five hikers, walking with their backs turned, apparently unaware of the train. The conductor notices that the track is about to fork, and another hiker is on the side track. The conductor must make a decision: He can let the train continue on its current course, thereby killing the five hikers, or he can redirect the train onto the side track and thereby kill one hiker but save five.

Question #2: Is it morally permissible for the conductor to take the side track?

Did you say No to #1 and Yes to #2? You probably did. But why?

Yes, there is a difference between these two situations, both ultimately presenting a situation in which five lives can be saved at the expense of one. But you can't exactly pinpoint it right away, can you?

And you can ponder and figure out for yourselves precisely what that difference is. But the main point is this.

You arrived at your initial and "correct" moral decision about these two scenarios nearly instantaneously (right?), with no real reflection or concious thought.

You *knew* what was the *right* answer immediately, instinctually - it was just obvious (c'mon, the first one was so obvious it almost sounded like a joke - laughable).

Morality is, and will be conclusively shown to be, imo, like Chomskey showed us language to be, an innate human instinct.

(Btw, the difference between the two scenarios, if you haven't figured it out, is called the Principle of Double Effect -

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

David - thanks for your contribution. Very interesting points.

I certainly agree that humans have "an innate absolute moral instinct". However, I believe it was intentionally placed their by God as opposed to having evolved.

Thanks for the link about the principle of the double effect. It was interesting to learn that it is attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas (who also happens to be the patron saint of my parrish).

David said...

GodFearer. Yes, I like, or rather liked, this idea for quite some time. That all science is true, evolution, everything, but that the fact the people have this drive this desire, apparantly irrational, to conceive of God, is itself an indication that there is a God and created us specifically to have tendencies toward these feelings.

My brother brought this to my attention a few years ago. And I continued pondering it as I clung to agnosticism up until very recently.

Alas, I have finally faced up to my apparent atheism, and have chalked up such thoughts to so much wishful thinking.


Thomas said...

TheGodFearinFiddler said:
Once absolutism is ruled out, right & wrong become a question of who has the most power. In Christian cosmology this philosophical truth still applies of course, but God is the one with the most power and whatever He decides becomes what is right & wrong.

This is quite unappealing as a basis for creating a morality. If "the devil" managed to become more powerful than god, would that make him decider of right and wrong? Sure he would be judge, jury and executioner but wouldn't you and everyone else still have their own idea of what they thought was right and wrong? Its this that I call morality, your own sense of what's right and wrong, independent of the bible and religion, the judgement that enables us to know that parts of the old testament are atrocious.

So I ask you again, where ultimately do you get your morals from?

You also say:
So...while in a Darwinian sense, it might be good for our survival if we have community morals" for example... we all agree that if we agree to not kill each other then everyone benefits [... chunk skipped here...] whether it benefits society or not

Just on a technical note, this is not what I or Dawkins believes, one of the main ideas he sought to reject is the idea of species selection, that we evolve to help society or our species. Dawkins has shown that our genes evolve to, in fact, benefit themselves. Finding a Darwinian explanation of any altruism nevermind a whole set of morals is therefore a non trivial question. One that was spectacularly answered by Dawkins in his first book "The Selfish Gene". To boil it down to a sentence: kin selection and reciprocal behaviour. I won't attempt a explain here (you can look it up) you should read one of his books, he is renown for his clear sighted prose style. You might enjoy it.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Thomas> Sorry I didnt mean to assume your beliefs or Mr. Dawkins. It just seems that way to me as an outsider as far as the point about morals evolving to help society. You're right I would have to read his book to understand it because I cant understand right now another explanation for it.

As for my quote about absolutism, I'm really borrowing from Machiavelli (I think it was) although I paraphrased the 'quote' because I couldnt remember the verbage and couldnt find it. Anyway, this goes back to a definition of morality.

Before I continue I just want to remind you that we're obviously approaching the issue from two very different backgrounds. I view the world from a theistic perspective and you from an atheistic perspective. My ideas are going to seem silly to you and vice versa if viewed through the lens of our own respective cosmologies. In order to attempt to see eye to eye (not necessarily agree) is to at least try and view the other's opinion through the lense of his cosmology.

Morality (to a theist) is a moral code of behavior. A is good and B is bad. As an answer to a very old philosophical question posed by one of the great Greek philosophers (again forgot who... I'm bad with remembering stuff like that)- either morality is a force outside of God (some sort of cosmic constant) or right & wrong is simply a question of who has the most power.

Obviously in a Christian world view, there cannot be anything not created by God. Morality cannot by outside (and therefore above) God. God cannot be subject to a universal code of morality if He is truly God. As we profess in the 1700 year old Nicaean Creed, He is the "creator of all that is seen and unseen".

Finally, yes I know my statement is very harsh and yes very (like you said) unappealing. What if God was evil? What if Satan was God? Well that could easily be its own discussion but as we observe, Satan is not God. We have a good God. We have a God who loves life and loves charity and love. We just lucked out. (I know you don't believe that, but I'm just explaining our belief).

Thanks for your comments and I'll try to read some more of Mr. Dawkins. I'm sure he's very brilliant.

Mike said...

Thomas, I just want to respond to the first part of your post.

You asked if the devil had more power would he make decisions. Yes, if you worshiped him. He would be the one that set the standard for objective morality.

You asked, wouldn't you and everyone else still have their own idea of what they thought was right and wrong? Yes you would, but this is subjective morality, the debate is on objective. If you worship the devil, you are at least admitting that there is a higher power to make the "rules" therefore you have some standard to objectively call morals. If you dont worship anything then there are no definate rules, so any that you come up with are subjective, and only apply to you.

That is all that is being said, is that if you dont believe in the enforcer, then there is no way to say something is absolutely right or wrong.