Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Letters To A Callow Atheist

Vacation's over, I'm back at work so I'll just be posting some material gleaned from various arguments. Here's one from last night, a response to "Dan S." about the shoddy scholarship of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. The issue is Dawkins' failure to cite and engage any of the rigorous thinking of serious theologians and other writers on religion in his alleged smack down of God and those deluded enough to believe in God.

But that's the point, isn't it? You can argue that TGD has a whole bunch of various deficiencies, but when it comes to the question of whether or not a God bearing some resemblance to the entity usually described by that name actually exists (which Dawkins does state quite clearly is the limit of the book), there don't seem to be any substantial modern authors for the pro side.

Now, Dan. You really do disappoint me. Is this ignorance or is this a debating strategy?

Just about anyone with a grasp of logic realizes that arguing the existence of the supernatural is bound to be as fruitless as the search for finding the absolute foundations of mathematics due to our inabilities, not to the certainty that those don’t exist. I think, since there was a popular work that mentioned Godel in the title where they couldn’t miss it as they didn’t really read the whole thing, the Sci-blog wannabees and their equivalent in the general blogosphere might have an inkling of his contributions to uncertainty. They, as Dawkins and, perhaps, you, would know that people who write on the topic of religion at the most serious level don’t generally write about “proofs” for the existence of God these days. And, now, I’ve put you in a polemical bind because you can’t refute that statement without undermining your assertion by finding the relatively rare cases when they have broached that topic. And if you found them with google and Wiki, why didn’t Dawkins?

Of course, since he was a “theist” they wouldn’t have been impressed with Godel’s logical brilliance. Theists can’t think

But his book wasn’t just on that topic, it covered a range of charges against religion which have, in the main, been the concern from such frivolous thinkers as James and Wittgenstein and Kant (I don’t recall, did he mention Kant, who would have been especially apropos of your canard? ) ,..... those in the western tradition, alone, would fill a page. But with a toss of the hand, you with “science” on “your” side can safely discount all those as not worth knowing about without knowing the first thing about them. Just like the most primitive of biblical fundamentalists, only they’ve got scripture as an excuse to ignore science.

That Richard Dawkins, with the resources he had at his disposal from his endowed chair at Oxford, resorted to citing the man who introduced him to his wife, a broadcast media scribbler who had exactly one great radio drama, a good TV remake of that , a mediocre series of books on the same and, posthumously, a movie I didn’t bother to see since it was on the same material, as his only real cultural achievement, is truly one of the most amazing displays of scholarly ineptitude in recent history. The part of the public which sucked it up as gospel are a confirmation of the disastrous state of learning in the allegedly educated classes of the English speaking world. I’d think it could tell us something about the decline into a new period of benighted bigotry you seem to be the vanguard of. It sure looks like that to me, based on my readings of the ScienceBlogs.

Note: I'd never thought of it before today, I wonder if a percentage of Bertrand Russell's anti-religious product might have been due to his resentment of Godel making his greatest achievement a bit anachronistic. I'll look into that idea in the future and report any evidence I come across.

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