Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

"There He Goes Again...."


There are times I just really wish the non-specialists would stay out of this discussion:

Anybody who is a convinced but not a dogmatic believer can continue to hold his belief. It means I think you have to be rather more careful about the whole debate between science and religion than some people have been in the past.
Peter Higgs, of Higgs-Boson fame.  You know, the fact that you've made a name for yourself in science doesn't make you a philosopher of science, nor of religion, nor a theologian nor an expert on anything outside of the field you gained your fame in.  But we do love to ask famous people for their thoughts, and then react as if they had showered us with golden wisdom.

Take, since Mr. Higgs brought him up, Richard Dawkins for example.  Please.

In a 2007 post on his website titled "How dare you call me a fundamentalist", Dawkins wrote: "No, please, do not mistake passion, which can change its mind, for fundamentalism, which never will. Passion for passion, an evangelical Christian and I may be evenly matched. But we are not equally fundamentalist. The true scientist, however passionately he may 'believe', in evolution for example, knows exactly what would change his mind: evidence! The fundamentalist knows that nothing will.
Evidence?  Evidence of what?  Evidence that I love my wife?  What evidence would satisfy Mr. Dawkins of that?  Evidence even that I am who I say I am, and that I am married to my wife?  What evidence would satisfy him on that?  A marriage license with a name on it I claim to be my own?  A driver's license with my picture and that name on it?  Is that name truly exclusive and no one else could claim it?  I know that isn't true, so what evidence of my identify is satisfactory?  Evidence that will stand up in a court of law?  Or evidence that will withstand scientific scrutiny?  Bring me evidence of the existence of Richard Dawkins!  And I don't mean evidence of his identity!

Evidence?  Pah!  As if that refuted the argument that he is a fundamentalist.  Did he even try to define "fundamentalism"?  Books have been written on the topic; did he read them?  Or is this more information he famously doesn't need to be bothered with?  He should since Dr. Marty makes a better argument for why Dawkins is not a fundamentalist than Dawkins does.

This is still my primary concern with Dawkins and questions of religion:  he's an untutored boob.  He's a clueless idiot.  He has no education in the field and thinks his ignorance is proof of his insight.  He would toss any student in his classroom out for such arrogance, but in him it is proof of his intelligence.  Take this, for example, from the child psychiatrist Dawkins:

Responding to a direct question from the interviewer Mehdi Hassan, Dawkins related the story of a woman in America who had written to him about abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of a priest, and the mental anguish of being told that one of her friends, a Protestant girl, would burn in hell.

"She told me that, of those two abuses, she got over the physical abuse, it was yucky but she got over it. But the mental abuse of being told about hell, she took years to get over," said Dawkins. "Telling children such that they really, really believe that people who sin are going to go to hell and roast forever, that your skin grows again when it peels off, it seems to me intuitively entirely reasonable that that is a worse form of child abuse, that will give more nightmares because they really believe it."
I don't doubt being told other people will burn in hell is bad, but I never read a description of hell equivalent to the one recounted by Frank McCourt in his memoir, and yet Mr. McCourt seems to have survived that alright.  Of course, McCourt's anecdote is no more an example than Dawkins; one can always find horror stories about any cultural event, from religion to school to holidays to families.  Some of the worst horrors visited on people are done by family members, and yet no one argues we should abolish families.  By Dawkins' argument, I wonder why not; except that it is absurd and not to be taken seriously because families do so much more good than harm in society, and yet abuse and incest are primarily the products of families, so.....

You see what I mean.  Dawkins' "arguments" are not arguments, they are self-refuting nonsense.  And we're supposed to take this stuff seriously?  Why?

But 'twas ever thus.  I mean, even Peter Higgs steps all over himself in that quite I opened with:

"But that doesn't end the whole thing. Anybody who is a convinced but not a dogmatic believer can continue to hold his belief. It means I think you have to be rather more careful about the whole debate between science and religion than some people have been in the past."
Mighty damned gracious of him to allow non-dogmatic believers to continue to hold their beliefs.  Now can we have a discussion about what "belief" means?  Maybe get a step or two beyond William James, if we can even get up to Mr. James' conclusion in the first place?  And maybe even allow "dogmatic" believers such as Mr. Dawkins back into the tent?

Well, so long as he quits telling everybody else to get out.  That gets a bit annoying.


5 Comments:

Blogger The Thought Criminal said...

It is one of the prevalent superstitions, that a life time spent in theoretical speculation about some highly specialized aspect of the physical universe - supposedly, rigorously cutting out information not relevant to that endeavor, none more successfully than considerations of religion - qualifies someone to discuss that one issue rigorously excluded from their field of study. And as proven by Dawkins' TGD, total ignorance is taken as informed discussion of it.

I think telling a 7 year old child that their loved grandmother who just died doesn't exist and was never more than the molecules that her body was made of which will now rot into compost, as an atheist couple I know of "comforted" their child, with would have a more traumatizing effect, leading to a life long view of life as ephemeral and unimportant than the possibility that she was in heaven.

I don't think I ever suffered much from being told about hell, it wasn't the source of my Irish guilt, which has kept me from being a lot worse than I might have been. I'm very pro-guilty conscience. Dawkins is, he thinks anyone who is an apostate from his vulgar version of Darwinism should be scorned and shamed into conversion. What is the new atheist program except for that kind of brow beating motivation of guilt for believing in God or of shaming people out of talking about it? There was a short period when Dawkins signed onto making it illegal to tell their children about their religious beliefs, until he was guilted into retraction.

I just had another go-round with an atheist about Dawkins "first bird in the flock to cry out" bit of evidence, logic and even mathematics defying animal lore. One in which a constantly decreasing percentage of the individuals in a species carrying "altruism genes", nevertheless comes to dominate the species through some inverse operation of Dawkinisian mathematics. Not to mention many other problems with it, including turning visual and auditory acuity into a maladtation. Don't get me started on that though, I've been arguing it for 35 years with Dawkins' admirers, most of whom are atheists of the sciency variety.

6:54 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

I went off on Dawkins in this post because he's such an easy target, but it was really Higgs' comment that got me started. The implicit arrogance of dismissing "dogmatic" thought, as if he knew what dogmatism is (like Americans don't know what "socialism" is, except it's bad!) and as if religious belief were some kind of mildly acceptable form of lunacy, so long as it recognizes its place is well below that of empiricism and positivism.

He's entitled to his philosophical/theological ignorance, but please stop parading it as if it were wisdom.

10:37 AM  
Blogger The Thought Criminal said...

True, but I had the "first bird to call out" argument with an arrogant Brit atheist "Ancient Brit" last weekend so it was on my mind and seeing him referred to as an eminent biologist when most of the biologists I know think he's full of soup, if you'll pardon the expression, and I couldn't resist.

I'd love some interviewer to start out a discussion about God with one of these eminent scientists by asking what it was in their study of a very narrow part of the physical universe that they imagined gave them any more insight into that question than your average janitor or nail salon employee. I've known more blue collar and low wage workers with more interesting insight into such things than PhD scientists.

Apropos of nothing in particular, I dissed John Lennon today.

http://zthoughtcriminal.blogspot.com/2013/01/john-lennon-is-dead-his-song-is-stupid.html

12:37 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

Didn't mean to argue with your comment, TC. More a comment on my inability to stick to my own thesis. I've rather beaten Dawkins' into a very dead horse by now; but it was so easy to rant about the subject I let the focus on Dawkins go.

'Course, I should probably let the whole subject go by now. The gap between what is worth discussing and what is commonly discussed is so wide I really should quit complaining about the sun coming up.....

12:51 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

Adding:

I'd love some interviewer to start out a discussion about God with one of these eminent scientists by asking what it was in their study of a very narrow part of the physical universe that they imagined gave them any more insight into that question than your average janitor or nail salon employee. I've known more blue collar and low wage workers with more interesting insight into such things than PhD scientists.

Yes, exactly.

12:51 PM  

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