Saturday, November 25, 2006

Anti "God Delusion" #1: Francis Collins on the Moral Law as Key to the Meaning of the Universe

I began reading Francis Collins' The Language of God. For anyone interested in Dawkins's God Delusion, Collins is must reading. Dawkins drops his jaw in wonder at the idea a brilliant biologist such as Collins who turned from atheism to theism.

In Collins's first chapter he writes of his conversion from atheism to theism as largely the result of readin C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity and being impacted by Lewis's argument for God on the basis of the innate Moral Law.

Especially interesting is when Collins writes how the Moral Law cannot be explained by evolutionary processes.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

God Delusion #17: Theism Causes Wars?

Dinesh D'Souza has this interesting article called "Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history." D'Souza debunks Dawkins's (and Harris's) facile belief that religion is what is behind most wars.

Of course there have been crimes committed in the name of, e.g., Jesus. But D'Souza is correct when he writes that "the moral teachings of Jesus provide no support for - indeed they stand as a stern rebuke to - the historical injustices perpetrated in the name of Christianity."

"Whatever the motives for atheist bloodthirstiness, the indisputable fact is that all the religions of the world put together have in 2,000 years not managed to kill as many people as have been killed in the name of atheism in the past few decades."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Atheistic Scientists Gather to Assault Religion

See today's for an example of growing evangelical atheism. Called "A Free-for-All on Science and Religion," we see Richard Dawkins et. al. calling for an assault on religion. Note divisions within the atheist movement over evangelistic tactics; viz., objections to the vitriolic fundamentalism and "simplistic and uninformed" views of Dawkins (and Sam Harris).

I agree that, as I read God Delusion, many of Dawkins' views are precisely that.

Materialistic Youth are Least Happy; Religious Youth are the Most Happy

See the recent Reuters article "Young People in Developed Countries Unhappy, Survey Says." Interesting results include:
- Only 8% in Japan say they are happy.
- Young people in India are the happiest, the Japanese are the most miserable.
- "The happier young people of the developing world are also the most religious."
Of course we have to define "happy," since the word is vague.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

God Delusion #16: Dawkins vs. Collins

For the recent Richard Dawkins - Francis Collins discussion in Time magazine go here.

An especially funny and revealing moment comes when Collins gently explains how he differs from certain Christian fundamentalists. Dawkins responds, "Why bother with these clowns?" Collins responds, "Richard, I think we don't do a service between science and faith to characterize sincere people by calling them names."

Yes, Dawkins cannot refrain from ad hominem abusives. Perhaps it's in his genes? Which makes me cringe to think of even the possibility that people might be converted to Dawkins's abusive atheism.

God Delusion #15: Religious experience and the Human Brain

Dawkins argues against an argument for God on the basis of personal religious experience. He writes, "This argument from personal experience is the one that is most convincing to those who claim to have had one. But it is the least convincing to anyone else, and anyone knowledgeable about psychology." (88)

And he concludes this section by writing, "If you've had such an experience, you may well find yourself believing firmly that it was real. But don't expect the rest of us to take your word for it, especially if we have the slightest familiarity with the brain and its powerful workings." (92)

Now this section is of particular interest to me for at least two reasons: 1)I have personally had powerful "religious experiences"; and 2) James Ashbrook was on my doctoral dissertation committee. Ashbrook, a psychologist, was especially interested in neuropsychology and has written, among other things, The Human Mind and the Mind of God: Where Religion and Neuroscience Meet.

In my doctoral dissertation on metaphor theory I incorporated neurolinguistic studies on cognition and figurative language. I have been and remain quite interested in neurolinguistics and neuropsychology. While I am not a scholar in those fields, becoming familiar with the human brain does nothing to make me skeptical of my own religious experiences. Why not?

In the recent Time magazine discussion between Dawkins and Francis Collins, Collins says this: "I find that studying the natural world is an opportunity to observe the majesty, the elegance, the intricacy of God's creation." I have many personal friends who are university scientists who feel exactly as Collins does. I feel that way too. I have for a very long time felt that way. For me scientific discoveries enter me more deeply into "the majesty, the elegance, the intricacy of God's creation." Study of the human mind provides no exception to this. (And note: here is where I find the atheists' Owen Flanagan, Stephen Pinker, and Daniel Dennett incoherent as they reduce human behavior to both deterministic and indeterministic constraints and then try to explain "free will."]

Would there be any thoughts/ideas/theories/religious experiences for Dawkins that are not finally reducible to the workings of the brain? I don't think so. But to imply that such thoughts/ideas/theories/religious experiences are simply the workings of the brain undercuts Dawkins's own thoughts/ideas/theories. Which is absurd.

God Delusion #14: More Anachronistic "Logic"

Richard Dawkins is someone who likely could never believe in God because he is so thoroughly ensconced in his naturalistic paradigm. Like an extreme fundamentalist in religion who argues that the likes of Dawkins would believe in a God if only he knew the truth as they clearly see it, Dawkins turns historical figures he admires into people who would be atheists just like himself if only they knew what he knows.

So he writes (86): "I have no reason to doubt that Raphael and Michelangelo were Christians - it was pretty much the only option - but the fact is almost incidental... If history had worked out differently, and Michelangelo had been commissioned to paint a ceiling for a giant Museum of Science, mightn't he have produced something at least as inspirational as the Sistine Chapel? How sad that we shall never hear Beethoven's Mesozoic Symphony, or Mozart's opera The expanding Universe. And what a shame that we are deprived of Haydn's Evolution Oratorio."

Note Dawkins's anachronistic logic:

1. Brilliant and creative people want to know truth.
2. I know the truth; viz., that there is no God.
3. Most brilliant and creative people from the past, such as Michelangelo, believed in God.
4. Would they have known what I know, they would of course agree with me and be atheists.
5. Thus I have all past brilliant and creative people standing with me on the side of atheism.
6. And "religion is [not to be] given credit for the Sistine Chapel or Raphael's Anunciation." (86)


With this kind of psychological reasoning what will become of the status of Dawkins's current beliefs in relation to the future? A thousand years from now at least some, and maybe much, of what Dawkins' now believes in as regards "science" will only be studied in a few arcane history of science dissertations.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Elton John Wants to Ban Religion

Elton John is quoted today as saying he wishes religion was completely banned because, in his mind, it promotes hatred of gays. John says: "Organised religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate."

The word "lemming" is used to denote those who mindlessly follow the crowd, even if the result is destruction. So, to call religious people "lemmings" is, obviously, pejorative. I don't find this very compassionate towards "religious people" such as myself. If only Elton John would try to understand people like me instead of degrading us.

As for me and gays, here are two things: 1) I have met with many gays over a period of 25 years and counseled them and dialogued with them and, in Jesus, loved them; and 2) I have openly, face-to-face, shared with them that I do not condemn them for their homosexual orientation but do not support homosexual activity. My understanding of the Gospel of Jesus is that we are all sinners who stand in need of the grace of God. Because I am quite aware that this includes me, I can't throw stones at anybody, to include gays. But I can disagree ethically. I think the gay lifestyle is sin. I also think hatred of other people is sin. Plus a whole lot of other things are sin, to include some things I still struggle with.

Because I am a follower of Jesus I cannot support hatred towards anyone. I do not support "Christians" who speak hatefully of gays or anyone. I believe it is correct to say that there have been and are Christians who are hateful towards gays and a whole lot of other things. But I also do not need to acquiesce to the beliefs of those who support a gay lifestyle. And I feel nervous when people like Elton John says he wants to ban religion. Why would he want to force his beliefs on me and deny me my belief system?

A final thought: Elton John cites John Lennon as some kind of hero who would, were he alive today, lead us all in the way of peace. "John Lennon" is now culturally being elevated to a mythical status by atheists looking for a hero. Which makes me shudder, given what has been written about Lennon's actual life, his abandonment of Julian, etc. Lennon wrote songs about peace but could not achieve it with his own son.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

International House of Prayer

I just returned with my friend Jim Collins from three days at International House of Prayer in Kansas City. IHOP is a place where worship and prayer happens 24-7 - that's right, it never stops.

At times the room had 500+ people in it, 80% of whom were ages 18-25.

I had a phenomenal time! God spoke a number of things to me. Here are a few pictures from IHOP.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

God Delusion #13 - The Ontological Argument

Dawkins' handling of the Ontological Argument for the existence of God shows that he likely does not even understand the argument. And even his response that comes from his misunderstanding is poorly written and logically incoherent.

Here, briefly, I will show that and how Dawkins seems not to have a clue about OA. And note: to show that Dawkins' criticism of OA fails miserably should not be construed as my arguing that OA proves there is a God. To really enter into the philosophical dialogue re. OA, begin here.

Then, go here.

Then, here.

Now, some thoughts on Dawkins and what he writes about OA.

  • He calls OA an "infantile argument." But Dawkins does not understand OA (as we shall see). And note: Dawkins is a big-time emotivist who loves ad hominem abusives. Thus it is Dawkins who is philosophically "infantile" as regards OA. And the ad hominem language is appropriate to a whining infant. Please note that Dawkinsian emotivism adds nothing to his "argument" against OA.
  • Dawkins quotes Bertrand Russell as once saying, "Great Scott, the OA is sound!" What Dawkins misses is precisely why Russell would think this.
  • Dawkins quotes philosopher Norman Malcolm as critical of OA. It is true that Malcolm agreed with Kant that "existence is not a predicate." But Malcolm himself put forth a version of OA which can be attributed to Anselm. Anselm, says Malcolm, had two versions of OA, the second of which puts forth "necessary existence" as defeating Kant's objection. Dawkins "quote mines" Malcolm for his own purposes, perhaps not realizing that Malcolm actually supports Anselm's second version of OA as proving the existence of God. But all of this is simply common knowledge to philosophers, of which Dawkins is presumably ignorant.
  • Dawkins cites Anselm's contemporary Gaunilo, who offered a criticism of Anselm's OA. Dawkins then cites the supposed refutation by Douglas Gasking, which is similar, says Dawkins, to Gaunilo's objection. Gasking's idea that a most perfect being would be even more perfect if it created a universe without itself existing is a non-logical possibility, like "square circle." Gaunilo thinks Anselm believes we can just imagine a most perfect "anything" and that thereby that thing must exist. Such as, e.g., a "most perfect island." But of course "existence" is not an essential attribute of "most perfect island," but arguably it is of "a being a greater than which cannot be conceived." Both Gaunilo and Gasking miss the point of Anselm's argument. Kant understood Anselm; they do not.
  • Dawkins closes his "refutation" of OA with some "funny 'proofs'" of God's existence. Why? I have a guess, but here I am admittedly psychoanalyzing Dawkins. My guess is that Dawkins' somehow knows that he doesn't have a clue about OA. After all, he's not a philosopher, which is easy to see. So, he gets funny and weird. But no matter how humorous Dawkins is, it adds nothing to his "argument" against OA.
  • Dawkins, in arguing against OA, has merely set up a straw man, knocked it down, as his colleagues stand in awe of just how "brite" people can really be without God.
Speaking of Dawkins' colleagues, I confess to being astounded that they find him to be so bright? Steven Pinker (a man I admire, having read his The Blank Slate a few years ago), says on the back cover of GD: "Dawkins arguments... are passionately stated and poetically expressed but are rooted in reason and evidence." Huh? What? Are we reading the same book? And, note that philosophers are going to really rise up if we begin to raise the thorny issue of "poetic truth." But Dawkins does seem passionate, and I don't fault him for that. In this regard GD seems at times like it is written by "Mr. Furious" [of "Mystery Men"].

Matt Ridley says Dawkins GD is "a resounding trumpet blast for truth." I don't think so. At least the OA section reads more like a few bad notes played by a beginning guitarist on a Teisco that has a warped neck.

Phillip Pullman says "Dawkins hits... with all the power that reason can wield, demolishing... preposterous attempts to prove the existence of God." But if this really is "all the power that reason can wield" then, I tell you, we need God more than ever.

Desmond Morris says, "This is a brave and important book." I find nothing "brave" about Dawkins' OA section. Honestly, it gets a "C-" in my History of Western Philosophy class. It is positively cowardly in its refusal to actually engage all the OA scholarship readily available to anyone possessing the requisite philosophical smarts.

Penn and Teller write: "GD is smart, compasionate, and true like ice, like fire. If this book doesn't change the world, we're all screwed." "Smart?" Which serves to show that this word is vague. "Compassionate?" Now THAT is really funny. "True like ice, like fire?" Which means... what? It will leave us "cold?" Or, as "fire" and "ice" cannot coexist, so Dawkins' reasoning is filled with contradictions? And, finally, if THIS book "changes the world," because this is what "smart" means and this is what "compassion" means, then I agree: we're all screwed.