Wednesday, December 27, 2006

God Delusion #22: Dawkins as Bible Scholar: Part 1

In The God Delusion PP. 92 ff. is a section Dawkins calls "The Argument From Scripture." Now before I comment on this, I think it will be interesting to reveal something Dawkins-supporters say in response to the justified criticisms Dawkins is receiving from this section.

Look at these responses defending Dawkins, in response to P.Z. Myers fable-ic attempt to "defend" Dawkins.

One person writes: "The overwhelming majority of churchgoers are grossly ignorant of theology and philosophy. They will find Dawkins' simplistic arguments compelling. The same audience would be put to sleep by the sophisticated arguments these whining myriad reviewers imagine. Dawkins wrote for the majority - not for the snobby reviewers. That is to say, Dawkins' use of simplistic arguments is strategically sound. This, I think, is why the philosophically or theologically sophisticated cringe."

NOTE: A number Dawkins' arguments are not "simplistic," they are just incorrect. They set up a straw man and knock it down. They do not actually engage with the arguments themselves. Dawkins displays no knowledge of the real, "sophisticated" arguments.

Another person writes: "Dawkins makes simple arguments that are difficult if not impossible to adequately answer. The 'understanding' of professionals in this case amounts to no more than the crude understanding of the target audience. There is no point in addressing all the 'professionals' points as they have no more substance than the crude versions."

NOTE: A number of Dawkins' arguments are not "difficult," they are just incorrect. They certainly are not "impossible to adequately answer." But note this "defense" of Dawkins: Dawkins refuses to address the scholarly arguments because they have no more substance than the crude versions. Two things can be said here:

1. Dawkins incorrectly states, e.g., the Ontological Argument.
2. His version is not a "crude" version, just an incorrect version. This would be like setting up a straw version of eveolutionary theory and then knocking it down.

And: "the point is that it's always possible for theologians (or sophists of any stripe) to construct a religion that can't be disproved and that has no empirical consequences. Dawkins doesn't directly address those religious constructs because they're not very interesting. One, they're sophistry. Two, hardly anyone believes in them. Dawkins is entirely upfront about what he's trying to do. He's addressing precisely the people who believe in a non-theological, personal, creator God, yet who haven't thought about their belief as much as a theologian or indeed a committed atheist has. He directs people who want a challenge to the theologian's God elsewhere. Now you can, like Orr, complain that that's not fair, but you'll be missing the point. There are hundreds of millions if not billions of people who fall into that category - far, far more than believe in a theologian's God - and those are the people at whom he is aiming his arguments."

NOTE: What has really happened is that Dawkins claims to address "those religious constructs" but misrepresents them. Thus he is addressing the wrong things. This is like claiming to be addressing the President but actually addressing the gardener.

If Dawkins is actually aiming his "arguments" at the "billions" of people who "haven't thought about their belief as much as a theologian," then shame on him, for he is deliberately offering them his straw men to persuade them to disbelieve in God.

In his section "The Argument from Scripture" Dawkins makes many mistakes that betray his ignorance of such things. It will do no good to defend Dawkins by saying that he's really not interested in theology anyway. Of course he isn't. But he raises the issue. His defenders should not fear should some biblical scholars choose to respond.