Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Friday, September 21, 2007
The truth is, as McGrath points out, that the "great questions" of life cannot be scientifically proven or disproven. "Either we cannot answer them or we must answer them on grounds other than the sciences." Which means: the Dawkins assumption that science disproves the existence of God is essentially misguided.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
McGrath points out Richard Swinburne’s argument that “the capacity of science to explain itself requires explanation – and that the most economical and reliable account of this explanatory capacity lies in the notion of a Creator God.” (DD, 31)
Here is Swinburne’s argument:
- The intelligibility of the universe itself needs explanation.
- It is therefore not the “gaps” in our understanding which point to God
- It is, rather, the very “comprehensibility” of scientific and other forms of understanding that require explanation
- In short: “explicability itself requires explanation”
- To believe this is precisely not to inhibit the progress of science but to encourage it and commend it
Swinburne’s argument is found in his book Is There a God?
Saturday, September 15, 2007
There are "scarlet letter t-shirts" for women. The letter 'A' stands for "atheist." The t-shirt will get people to ask you, "What's the 'A' for?" The wearer of the t-shirt will answer, "Atheist."
There are t-shirts for men.
On the sleeve of the t-shirt are the words: "Out Campaign."
This is Dawkins's new thing to try to get atheists to come out of the closet and "stand out" and be proud of their atheism.
Dawkins is also selling buttons:
And some bumper stickers.
We can assume more is coming.
Here are Dawkins's promo-statements:
"Atheists have always been at the forefront of rational thinking and beacons of enlightenment, and now you can share your idealism by being part of the OUT Campaign. " But surely Dawkins's GD is not "at the forefront of rational thinking," nor can Dawkins be thought of as some "beacon of enlightenment." As we and many others have pointed out, GD is filled with irrationality and internet cut-and-pasting.
"We are human (we are primates) and we are good friends and good citizens. We are good people who have no need to cling to the supernatural." But surely Dawkins cannot be defined as "good." He is positively mean-spirited, and even takes it out on Mother Teresa who, arguably, has done far more good for this world than he has.
As a college philosophy professor I very much welcome atheists who express their atheistic disagreements in my classes. And I do think more authentic relationships can form when people "come out" as to their worldviews.
But I do not think these t-shirts will help. I am no fashion expert, but it is hard for me to imagine atheists actually wearing these things. I find them ugly, and think they could actually hurt the atheist "out campaign," causing even more atheists to stay in closet with their atheism, which is where these shirts belong.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Saturday, September 08, 2007
What Luther believed is that human reason could never be a central theme of Christianity. God would not give humanity the gift of salvation on the basis of their reason. On Christianity one does not first have to do something in order to earn God’s favor.
McGrath writes: “Dawkins’s inept engagement with Luther shows how Dawkins abandons even the pretense of rigorous evidence-based scholarship. Anecdote is substituted for evidence; selective Internet trawling for quotes displaces rigorous and comprehensive engagement with primary sources. In this book Dawkins throws the conventions of academic scholarship to the winds; he wants to write a work of propaganda and consequently treats the accurate rendition of religion as an inconvenient impediment to his chief agenda, which is the intellectual and cultural destruction of religion. It’s an unpleasant characteristic that he shares with other fundamentalists.” (DD, 24)
Thursday, September 06, 2007
The McGraths' Dawkins Delusion examines Dawkins' core claim that religious belief is "infantile" and, thus, a "delusion" or "illusion." For Dawkins, belief in God is like belief in the "Tooth Fairy" or "Santa Claus." "These are childish beliefs that are abandoned as soon as we are capable of evidence-based thinking. And so is God. It's obvious, isn't it?" (DD, 19)
As Dawkins once said on BBC radio in 2003, humanity "can leave the crybaby phase, and finally come of age."
I've had some atheists tell me this as an objection to my God-belief. It's an internet atheistic urban legend that gets proliferated. What can we say to this? The McGraths' reason as follows.
1. Dawkins' analogy is flawed. Because: "How many people do you know who began to believe in Santa Claus in adulthood? Or who found belief in the Tooth Fairy consoling in old age?" Alister McGrath notes that he gave up belief in Santa Claus at age five, and began to believe in God as a young adult in the university.
"Those who use this infantile argument have to explain why so many people discover God in later life and certainly do not regard this as representing any kind of regression, perversion or degeneration." (DD, 20) Consider, e.g., former atheist Antony Flew who began to believe in God in his eighties.
2. Dawkins "argues that the biological process of natural selection builds child brains with a tendency to believe whatever their parents or elders tell them. This... makes them prone to trust whatever a parent says - like Santa Claus." (DD, 20) It's here that Dawkins makes the stunning claim that "bringing up children within a religious tradition... is a form of child abuse." (DD, 20-21)
There is a reasonable point here, but it cuts both ways. On this way of thinking, if children are force-fed "Dawkins's flavored dogmas and distortions" would not that also be child abuse?
3. The McGraths' agree with Terry Eagelton's "withering review" of GD: "Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology." (DD, 21-22)
In other words, so much of Dawkins' book betrays his real ignorance of the issues at hand. Straw-men-building abounds.
Finally, Freud's theory of God-belief as an illusion is itself grounded in Feuerbach's "projection theory," a view which has been largely discounted in philosophy, since it cuts both ways. One can as easily imagine someone projecting a universe without God out of their need to disbelieve as one can imagine someone projecting a Father God onto the heavens out of their need to be helped.