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Tue, 14 Jul 2009

Anti-Dawkins Paper No. 11: A Summary of the Papers, and What It All Means

This post is the last in a series that I call "The Anti-Dawkins Papers." Together, these posts form a critique of the main ideas in Richard Dawkins' atheistic book The God Delusion. You can find the entire critique here. (Actually, the papers aren't against Dawkins; they are only against some of his ideas.)

Will I add more to the critique after this post? Is this really the last of the Papers? Those are open questions. (Update: I've written more about Dawkins' ideas elsewhere. See the note at the end of this post.)

In the previous ten posts, I refuted the main arguments from The God Delusion. Here are summaries of what I did.

  • In post 1 I showed that Dawkins' concept of God is hopelessly inadequate. Dawkins' definition of God describes only one idea of God among many possible ideas. Therefore, The God Delusion is not really a line of argument against God at all. Even if the arguments in the book were right, the book would be a refutation of one traditional concept of God - not of the idea of God as such. In post 1 I also showed that Dawkins' attack on Gould's NOMA concept is unjustified, and that Dawkins' grasp on philosophy, at least as deployed in this book, is weak.
     
  • In post 2 I refuted Dawkins' central argument: the argument from improbability. (Actually I did not do this in the post, but in a paper to which I linked from the post.) The argument from improbability is Dawkins' best atheistic argument; he even suggested that it might be "unanswerable" (p. 113). Since that argument is the central argument of The God Delusion (see pp. 157-158), its downfall effectively guts Dawkins' case for atheism. So much for unanswerability! After disposing of this argument, I also undermined Dawkins' critique of agnosticism.
     
  • In post 3 I addressed Dawkins' criticisms of personal religious experience. I showed that Dawkins' examples of religious experience were stunningly poor examples. I pointed out that real spiritual experience also exists, and can be a good source of knowledge whether or not there is anything supernatural. Also, I suggested that religions might grow out of legitimate spiritual experiences, and then become irrational when those experiences are forgotten and misunderstood.
     
  • In post 4 I showed that Dawkins' argument against design in nature is surprisingly weak. I gave links to some of my writings that describe an alternative view. According to this alternative view, evolution is exactly as science says it is (with no Intelligent Design theory or other aberrations), but there still can be real design in nature.
     
  • In post 5 I showed that Dawkins' ideas about the origins of religion are irrelevant to the truth of belief in God. Even if religion comes from lowly evolutionary sources, it may still turn out to be partly true. Also, I offered my own suggestion for a source of religious belief.
     
  • In post 6 I took on Dawkins' claim that religion causes evil. I pointed out that his many examples of religious evil are examples of "bad" religion (as defined in the post). These examples show that "bad" religion causes evil, but they tell us absolutely nothing about "good" religion (also defined in the post). Also, I showed that Dawkins' polemic against faith works only against unreasonable, morally insensitive forms of faith.
     
  • In post 7 I pointed out two places where Dawkins grossly misrepresents the ideas of opposing thinkers. These examples don't bear directly on arguments about God, but they raise doubts about the credibility of the book.
     
  • In post 8 I showed that the higher percentage of atheists among scientists and other educated people proves nothing about the truth or rationality of atheism.
     
  • In post 9 I rebutted Dawkins' claim that science rules out miracles. I did not argue for the reality of miracles, but I showed that some miracles might be compatible with science.
     
  • In post 10 I exposed Dawkins' harsh anti-religious rhetoric for what it is: a form of discourse which, if used in other circumstances, might be considered hate speech. Also, I pointed out some bad reasons why people might find The God Delusion convincing.
     

From the arguments in these posts, we can conclude that Dawkins has failed to make a convincing case against God. We are back where we started before Dawkins wrote his book: with the question of God's existence wide open. Belief in God remains a reasonable option for thinking people; so do atheism and agnosticism. Dawkins may have succeeded in debunking fundamentalism, religious extremism, and other unreasonable forms of belief - but you do not have to be an atheist to see that these are wrong. (Incidentally, those interested in rational approaches to spiritual issues may want to peruse my website, and especially the documents of mine that I cited in these posts.)

On the dust jacket of my copy of The God Delusion (the edition I cited in post 1 and used throughout the posts), a quote from Steven Pinker challenges those who hold some particular beliefs to "see if you can counter Dawkins's arguments." Well, we've done it! We have shown that the most important arguments in The God Delusion are wrong. Even if you don't agree with my counterarguments, the fact that it's possible to find substantive rational objections to Dawkins' arguments shows that he has not conclusively settled the question of God. Dawkins has not delivered any unanswerable final stroke in the debate over God's existence. Instead, he has just added his two cents' worth to that debate. (And a nasty two cents' worth it is!)

Despite the nastily self-assured tone of his book, Dawkins is not a voice of reason (or of Reason). As far as religious thought is concerned, he is only another purveyor of opinion in the age-old debate over the existence of God - and his arguments for his opinion aren't even convincing. It's time for rational thinkers to reject The God Delusion and move on to more rewarding pursuits.

 

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Note added after posting: In the time since I posted "The Anti-Dawkins Papers," some criticisms of my arguments have shown up on the web. So far, the criticisms I have seen have not been convincing. I'm answering these criticisms, as time permits, on a separate rebuttals page. Also, I've written more about Dawkins' ideas since I wrote "The Anti-Dawkins Papers." These new writings are in the atheism category. Those interested in my views on religion in general are invited to explore the religion category as a whole.

 

Post updated 2/7/2011

 



posted at: 03:07 | path: /religion/atheism/god_delusion | persistent link to this entry



 

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