Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Delusion Confusion 9

We're still in chapter 4. Today I want to focus on pages 162-189.

Dawkins is targeting, here, the big question of ultimate origins. Theists suggest the answer to this question is God. Dawkins offers the following alternative points:

1. The origin of life only had to happen once (162)
2. He would not be surprised if chemists figure out an answer very soon (165)
3. The fact that we are here proves that it happened, no matter how unlikely (165)
4. He doesn't think the odds are as bad as sometimes suggested (166)
5. The odds aren't so bad b/c the universe is so big (many chances for luck, 168)
6. The odds are even better b/c there might be multiple universes (173)
7. God is too complex to have been the first cause (which must be simple, 185)

My comments...

As to #2, I think it is more likely that chemists will tout an answer that isn't actually an answer. They will produce life in a lab using building blocks and pretend like that solves the problem when, in actuality, the problem is where the building blocks came from.

I don't understand how #3 is considered circular reasoning. By 'it happpened,' Dawkins surely means life from non-life without divine aid. He is assuming his conclusion to help him prove his conclusion. He's free to do that in order to show the consistency of his theory, but he shouldn't pretend it helps prove his theory.

I think #'s 1 & 4-6 are strong evidence, again, that Dawkins is doing philosophy in this book and not science. #4 is somewhat of a science (statistical probability), but as we slide down to #6 we're dealing with pure speculation. This speculation is driven not by evidence, but by necessity. If the naturalist worldview is correct, the statistical problem MUST be overcome by increasing the pool of possibilities.

As for #7, I found myself constantly writing the word 'why' next to Dawkins' words from pages 184-186. Dawkins insists that the first cause MUST have been simple. But this is only true if we assume Dawkins worldview from the get-go. Dawkins believes that complexity ONLY comes after a lot of mutations and natural selection. He cannot fathom anything complex existing without such a build-up. And so a complex Being being the first cause is out of the question for him. But why must it be out of the question for me? Why must I work with the same worldview as him?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Delusion Confusion 8

Chapter 4, the longest chapter in The God Delusion (about 53 pages), is titled "Why there almost certainly is no God" (137-189). It is safe to say that this is where Dawkins sees his strength, but I found this chapter to be among the weakest in terms of argumentation. Here are some examples:

1. Dawkins says that "Darwinian natural selection is the only known solution to the otherwise unanswerable riddle of where the information comes from" (138). But this is certainly too broad a statement. Even if Darwinian natural selection is as explanatory as Dawkins thinks it is, it still doesn't explain where information ultimately comes from.

2. He hints that even though there's no evidence, a darwinian principle may actually have application to origins/cosmology (139, 141, 143). To me, this is direct evidence that Dawkins is working more from a worldview than from actual observation (as he claims).

3. He makes a repeated (and good) point that Darwinian evolution really isn't a 'chance' ordeal (145). I think it is too easy for non-Darwinians to dismiss the theory as one of (statistically impossible) chance. The kind of evolution that we all agree about is not a matter of 'chance' at all. It happens for a reason.

4. Dawkins insists that the design argument is flawed in that the designer's origin, too, would need to be explained (being a complex being and all, 146-147). But again, the argument only states that things that have a beginning (like the cosmos) have a cause. "Who made God" simply isn't a legitimate question b/c God is, by definition, a being without a cause.

5. Dawkins writes as if creationists don't understand the principle of accumulation. I respond by saying that I probably believe in it even more than Dawkins does. After all, I believe that the variety that we see came about in a (relatively) short period of time via evolution.

6. In my opinion, Dawkins has an epistemology that makes his conversion (to theism or something like it) practically impossible. He states that it doesn't even make sense to search for evidence of design (151, 153). Instead, one should always assume that anything with the appearance of design is just an area of current human ignorance. How can irreducible complexity EVERY be shown if it is ALWAYS better to wait for more science (155)?

7. In this same context, he states, "It is utterly illogical to demand complete documentation of every step of the narrative" (153). But his discussion of God in the Old Testament is evidence that he does not extend that sort of grace to theists.

8. From the opening quote of Jefferson to the end of the chapter, Dawkins is attempting to ignite the supposed flaming gulf that exists b/w religion and science. But no such gulf exists. Good theism doesn't wish science would go away, nor do good theists shy from it.

I'll stop at 8 (it's a long chapter). Next I'll look at what Dawkins says about the Anthropic Principle (and probably be able to finish the chapter).