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A scientist's critique of Dawkins' Enemy of Reason


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Given the interest on this forum of the interplay of science and religion, I thought you might appreciate this blog post I found:

 

http://ill-conceived-rant.blogspot.com/2010/04/richard-dawkins-is-enemy-of-reason.html

 

I will make a confession right away - although this blog is not written by me, it is written by a friend of mine, who I have discussed this subject with at great length over coffee and beers. So you may see some 'influences' of ideas I have previously stated in this forum, but I think the blogger presents these ideas much more coherently and systematically than I ever could. As such, I find myself in complete scientific agreement with the blogger, though obviously I disagree with his philosophical conclusions.

 

I would be interested in your comments.

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I have to admit I haven't read the book, and can only comment on the quotes within the context of the blog article posted, but I have to generally agree with the author in that, to either scientifically disprove or scientifically speculate on the odds of the existence of God is rather futile and hardly scientific.

 

I get the impression that Dawkins misrepresents at least my understanding of science. I have my own misgivings with the various characterizations of a personal God that I could suggest are based on my own form of information theory, but I would hardly call such a theory scientific. I would hope to call it logically consistent or reasoned but science is an animal unto itself that simply utilizes logic and reason.

 

I think Dawkins makes interesting arguments but they are certainly philisophical and not scientific, and since he goes to such pains to try and demonstrate a logically consistent philosophy, I hope he's open to logical criticisms of that philosophy.

 

 

 

As for specific points of contention, I think a definition of God could arise from a simpler form, if that occurred in somewhere outside this Universe, and that complex individual ultimately created (by accident, by design, by "tweaking a few known parameters") our Universe. By existing outside our space/time any intervention (if any, as it isn't required to fit the God definition) could easily have always existed. It may not resolve "First Action" and be called a "sky hook" but no more than cranes resting on turtles all the way down. Is invocation of "sky hooks" may be valid in debating someone who says "in the beginning, there was..." but if your premise is to address the issue of whether a God - any god - exists it seems as out of scope as attacking Evolution for not explaining the Big Bang.

 

It really seems to me that Religion and Science butt heads when they both attempt to explain or predict properties of the physical Universe. Estimates about the age of the Earth and the physical series of events that occurred from a time when the Earth was lifeless to how it is now have been provided by science that contests some religious views, and science has a pretty strong case in my mind on most of these sorts of issues - precisely because scientific discovery lead there. Where Dawkins states "Did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead?....There is an answer to every such question, whether or not we can discover it in practice, and it is a strictly scientific answer." I have to disagree with him and say there is an objective fact one way or the other, but for a scientific answer that means anything you need evidence, and that is next to impossible. Conflating a "strictly scientific answer" with "an objective answer to the facts" misrepresents what science is about. Science even admits it does not seek to objectively know truth, just come as close to it as can be done through evidence, theories and predictions that test them. How can there be a "strictly scientific answer" if we have no hope of acquiring any evidence?

 

It is possible to debate that question, and use theology, reason, logic and all manner of tools but unless there is evidence science won't be one of them.

 

What bothers me is that while Religion and Science butt heads about the evidence supporting conflicting models of the physical world, it spills over into philosophy where many people seem to treat science as a philosophy, when some term like "rational minimalist/rationalist/etc" or any philosophical definition would fit better. It's like when someone claims that you can find a science to morality...you can use it to measure and quantify but ultimately how you weigh those measures fall under philosophy, not science. I really do wish "rationalists" wouldn't hijack the science label as it doesn't do anyone any good.


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As a secondary note, I find the topic "A scientist's critique of Dawkins' Enemy of Reason" interesting because we tend to consider atheistic scientists as skeptical rationalists philosophically, which Dawkins also appears to consider himself to be. Theological critiques of skeptical rationalists' critiques of theology tend to be predictable, whereas to be critiqued within his own general school of thought becomes interesting.

 

I mention the use of "scientist" in the title because it reinforces what I was saying about the conflation about science/scientists and philosophy/skeptical rationalists. It's probably fair in this case though as Dawkins is trying to use the Science Flag to wrap his own convictions in.

Edited by padren
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"It's probably fair in this case though as Dawkins is trying to use the Science Flag to wrap his own convictions in." _ Padren

 

The blogger's critique and your comment support my view that Dawkins has become a victim of Belief which, as far as I understand, is anathema to the true spirit of scientific enquiry...his mind is only open now to ideas that support his committed view. He lacks that important quality of some uncertainty in his expressed assessments which is inherent in all good scientists it seems. My mind harks to something Ray Comfort said in his interview that is applicable to Dawkins albeit with respect to scientific detachment...he's missed the baby..

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