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philosophy

Responses to Dawkins Comments – Part 3 of 4

Some good points were made at the end of my last post in this series: Dawkins Part 10: On Evolution and Concluding Thoughts. I offer the following responses:

The evidence… here we are again… always looking for the smoking gun. Well… I’m sorry… I’ve provided some discussion on the historical Jesus. We’ve looked at some primary sources as well. While I cannot with 100% certainty provide proof that God exists or that Jesus walked the earth, I can say that the evidence that I have been presented with is sufficient for me to believe. The rationalist critique of religion has provided a healthy discussion on the subject of God’s existence. I appreciate the tighter discussion of God that has resulted from this more stringent set of rules pertaining to evidence.

Unfortunately, an ironic shift has occurred as a result of this “modern” approach to religion. Nietzsche, one of the stronger and more influential voices in the atheistic discussion of the last couple of hundred years, prophetically spoke in his story, The Parable of the Madman. In this story, the madman runs screaming through the streets looking for God. He rants on and on, telling the gathered crowds that we (the modern scientific man) have killed God. He goes on to say, “Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? [killing God]” And here is the irony… In all of this discussion of God and atheism, we, as learned individuals, have become Gods unto ourselves.

One of the responses to my Part 10 post plays perfectly into this discussion. Urbanshutter argued, “It is man that decides what is write and wrong, in the God force realm there is no such thing because so such need exists.” (the spelling mistakes in the quote are his) This is exactly the kind of thing that Nietzsche was arguing about. In sidelining God, we become Gods unto ourselves.

Urbanshutter, I appreciate your comments. They were full of insight and I in some ways do subscribe to them. I hope you don’t mind that I used your response to help prove my point. It was meant most respectfully.

Ultimately, we must be careful not to make ourselves into God. If we are theists, then we must continue to look to God and not become God ourselves. And for those that are atheists, isn’t it suicidal to kill God, especially if you purport to be God yourself?

My final comment is directed to Dave. And Dave, I really appreciate your comments throughout this series. They’ve kept me on my toes and knowing you’ve been reading has really motivated me to put my all into this series. Now, to respond to your points in Part 10 of my series.

First, you suggest: “If we can’t modermize this portion, why can’t we modernize other portions of the bible like allowing women be priests, or priests to marry, or allowing for gays. This was a new religious theory made by man not god. Science at least allows for itself to be corrected and modernized in a consistent manner, religion does it in ways that suit the institution, not man or God.”

My response: I agree with you on this point. You’re coming at this from a Catholic perspective, with the women priests, priests being married and allowing for gays. Other denominations struggle with these issues as well. I would like to think that I am more progressive than most in the church. For me, the answer to these questions can be found in the heart of Jesus’ message of love and peace. He tells us to love our neighbour as we love ourself. I agree with this and I try to live my life this way. It is unfortunate that “church governance” gets in the way of living out this life of love sometimes.

Next, you ask: “As for comments on Love and Free Will. Once again, why does the fact that science cannot specifically explain these things mean that there must be a god?”

My response: I don’t see this as binary. I was simply pointing out some problems that science fails to address. And, I was showing how religion fills these gaps. I think the two (science and religion) can be helpful to one another. If anything, I think that it is science that is attempting to be binary.

Dave’s final comment: “If you need a God to believe in to be a good person, than so be it. My issue has always been with organized religion. If God/Jesus did exist I genuinely believe he did not wish for the way organized religion has conducted itself over the centuries.”

My response: “If you need a God to believe in to be a good person, than so be it. My issue has always been with organized religion. If God/Jesus did exist I genuinely believe he did not wish for the way organized religion has conducted itself over the centuries.” (Thanks Dave. I couldn’t have said it better myself!)

Thanks to everyone that has made this such an enjoyable series for me. Your comments, questions and critiques have been quite appreciated. I think it is important to question what we believe. For me, this is an important step in my faith journey. It helps me to solidify my beliefs which makes me more certain of my convictions and my sense of self.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1.

Todd

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philosophy

Responses to Dawkins Comments – Part 2 of 4

A couple of comments were left on the post Dawkins Part 8: Are All Ideologies Bad. I offer the following responses:

Bad suggests that “One can claim faith beliefs to justify good things, but the method can be equally employed for bad with equal measure: the method is simply capable of anything, assuring nothing.” I would argue that faith beliefs can be used to justify good or bad, but to truly discern whether the motivations are pure or not must be examined from a view of the whole. Christianity is a religion that takes Jesus as its central figure. Thus, living out a life in a way that would be pleasing to Jesus is extremely important. And, if we look at Jesus’ sayings, it is hard to establish that Jesus was about anything other than love. Thus, if one is able to use the Christian worldview to incite violence or hatred, then it would be obvious that the intention was misplaced. If you immerse yourself in the words of Christ himself, it is difficult to find any reason to fault this worldview.

The problem comes when certain texts are taken out of context or when they are adopted in a less than honest manner. I’ve tackled some of the heavy lifting on this topic already in a previous series entitled What Are We Fighting For? In this series, I provide an overview of the “Christian warrior movement” and how the Christian Scriptures have been hijacked to justify violence throughout history. It is disappointing to see how the Bible has been twisted to support events such as the crusades. Check out this series for an in-depth examination of this topic.

If we are to look at Jesus and sincerely ask what he expects of us, we find a clear outline of the sort of moral life that we should live. By contrast, what does science provide in terms of a moral bearing? I’d argue that science is silent on this front. Like I argue late in this series on Dawkins, science is great for providing us with some great tools for surival, science definitely lacks the tools to help us discern how best to use these tools.

So, as Ed asks in his counter to Bad in the comments section of Part 8, “Tell me, what clear side would scientism or evolutionism take on that subject? And on what grounds?”

Todd

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philosophy

Responses to Dawkins Comments – Part 1 of 4

Alrighty… today’s post will be a response to a few comments I received in my series on Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”.

A couple of comments were left on the post Dawkins Part 4: The Objective Roots of Morality. I offer the following responses:

To Dave: Dawkins’ argument in support of morality is troublesome to me. Dawkins supports a scientific worldview that provides no moral guidance whatsoever. This is problematic as it provides no grounding for moral good and bad. Thus, how are we to decipher the right and wrong way of doing things. This is evident when we look at utilitarianism as a decision making tool. Utilitarianism, remember, suggests that the decision that provides the greatest good for the greatest number of people is considered the best decision. Some would argue that the Nazi final solution was using this decision making model. It ultimately disregards the rights of the individual in favour of the collective whole of society. Pretty dangerous stuff, as morality will shift as social needs shift. This does not suggest a good moral compass to me. I speak more about the problems of morality and science in week 10: “While science provides us with tools for survival, science lacks the moral compass required to be wise with it. for that, I look to God.”

As for evidence… what evidence does science have that it has determined the final explanation for where we came from, how we are to live and what we are to believe? I’d love to know how the scientific worldview can be so certain that it has a monopoly on the “evidence” or lack thereof. While spiritual belief and experience is not as repeatable and measurable as scientific research requires for “proof”, this does not mean that it does not matter or that it should be so easily excused.

To Ed: You pointed to some great questions that Dawkins’ brought up in this section of his book. These questions are ultimately questions of theology, dogma and church polity. I purposely skipped these questions for a couple of reasons. First, I feel that I am not sufficiently equipped to answer these questions. He asked some questions about church doctrine and the questions assume a lot. Not all denominations believe the same interpretations that Dawkins assumed. And, I don’t have the skills to adequately untangle his cross-denominational assumptions, nor do I have the theological expertise to answer them once I get them untangled. I don’t think it was fair of Dawkins to compress these questions into the short section that he did, as I think he gave them short thrift without doing sufficient research to understand what he was explaining and how best to approach the subject. So… I will respectfully defer any answers to these questions to another forum as I don’t feel that I could do them justice. And, I don’t feel that this response should in any way weaken my arguments against Dawkins’ book.

I’m going to skip over Part 5 (The Historical Jesus) for a bit. Don’t worry, we’ll come back to this. In fact, it’ll make a great segue into my next series. So hold your thoughts for a bit… I’m going to address some of the other feedback I received first.

Todd

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philosophy

Coming Up Next: Dawkins Responses and the Historical Jesus

Folks, my apologies for being absent for the last few of weeks. I’ve got a bunch of excuses for my tardy responses to The God Delusion series, but I’ll spare you the details.

The good news is that I have a bunch of new content for you. I haven’t forgotten about the numerous comments that I received to my Dawkins series. I have been thinking these through and will be addressing some of the more prominent responses in the upcoming days.

And, related to that, I’ve been working hard on a paper for school that discusses the historical Jesus. The book, In Defense Of Atheism by Michel Onfray, challenges the validity of the historical Jesus and my paper critiques Onfray’s arguments. I’ll be posting this paper as a multi-part series over the next week or so.

So stay tuned. There’s plenty of exciting content to come. And again, my apologies for the gap in my posts…

Todd

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philosophy

Dawkins Part 10: On Evolution and Concluding Thoughts

Dawkins flogs the factual accuracy of evolution throughout this book. He is an evolutionary biologist, so I would expect nothing less. I respect his authority in this area of study and I appreciate the scientific explanations that it provides for the development and ongoing manipulations to life that see around us.

Unfortunately, Dawkins is out of his league when he tries to apply his learning to the religious domain. At best, he misses some key details when he attempts to criticize religious faith and its historical, philosophical and ideological ideals. At worst, he fails at the basics of which he should know better: he uses red herrings to distract from articulating and dealing with the topics at hand, he fails at applying proper logic in many of his arguments and when he questions Christianity, he fails to address the great volume of academic literature in support of Christian source validity. This is disappointing, as Dawkins’ valuable academic accomplishments should better equip him than what we see in this book.

For a moment, let’s take a look at “science as God-killer”:

The scientific method is not perfect. Early research into new areas of study can look like a child dipping a toe into a pool of water to check the temperature. If scientific method was bang on, there would be no wasted research or hypotheses that fail to obtain a tangible result. I know… I know… all research is valuable as even in failure, it can discount potential theories so that they can be discounted for further study. That is valuable, yes. But if science has all the answers, then why wouldn’t the hypotheses be right the first time?

As an example of science-gone-wrong, consider the recent problems highlighted in recent reports about Dr. Charles Smith, a high profile coroner who specialized in the field of forensic child pathology. His scientific conclusions significantly contributed to several convictions in suspected child abuse cases. The problem is that under closer examination, Smith’s findings were found to be problematic. Science definitely failed the ruined lives of those that were potentially falsely accused.

Or, closer to this discussion of evolution, let’s look at a recent finding by Maeve Leakey and his colleagues in Africa: Paleontologists continue to question the factual accuracy of evolution. Consider this article in The Washington Post as just one example off the ongoing debate:
Fossil shakes evolutionary tree

Nature, the “International Weekly Journal of Science” published these findings as well, so this is peer-reviewed work.

While I don’t dispute the basic claims made by Dawkins about evolutionary theory, I do question the logic that says that evolution completely replaces the idea of a creator God. Who’s to say that God didn’t use evolution as his tool to generate life.

My point here isn’t that evolution is wrong or that Leakey has disproved evolution. My point here is just that evolution has yet to be fully explained or understood. I would argue that we may never fully understand evolution. And similarly, God is not fully understood, nor do I think God ever will be. This doesn’t disprove God though.

And for those that are still claiming that there is no evidence for God, well… just because you refuse to examine the evidence and consider it in support of God doesn’t mean that the evidence doesn’t exist.

I’ve got two more “scientific conundrums” for you:

LOVE: Science has tried to explain love for years but with little success. For those materialistic atheists out there, I’d love to understand how you can explain love if you strictly look to the material world and empirical evidence to support your claims. Why do we love? Does love not exist because we can’t scientifically explain it?

FREE WILL: Does the scientific worldview support free will? Science can’t seem to answer either way, as it will end up contradicting itself either way:

  • If yes, then doesn’t free will run contradictory to the idea that everything can be predicted based on the conditions and circumstances that lead up to each action? If science can ultimately answer everything, then it must subscribe to a worldview based on predestination.
  • If no, then are we really capable of making any decisions for ourselves, including whether or not we follow a religion? In this case, does Dawkins feel powerless to make a difference on his own, or is he simply following the predestined path that has been set out for him?
  • No – part 2 And further, if no, what caused this “causal chain”? And then where did that first un-moved mover come from? The 18th century Enlightenment philosophers questioned the validity of the causal chain, saying that we don’t necessarily live within the boundaries of a causal chain. So, if Dawkins’ scientific worldview does not support free will, then how does the idea of cause and effect balance out based on this paradox? Don’t we need cause and effect in order for evolution to work?

So, just as we don’t have all the answers about religion, there are plenty of problems there with the scientific worldview as well. I’m no expert in this area, but if my simple mind can understand these scientific problems, then I can just imagine the more complex problems that exist and that have no answer. So Dawkins, my question to you is, “Why are you so arrogant?” You don’t have all of the answers. You’re hardly in the right place to be talking down to other people with such an authoritative tone.

Ultimately, I think the answer becomes one of cohabitation. I feel the presence of God in my life every day. And, I appreciate God’s presence, just as I appreciate the scientific progress in understanding the world that God has provided for us. I am thankful for the scientific research that allows us to lead fuller, richer lives. But I am conscious of the limitations that surround practical scientific research. While science provides us with tools for survival, science lacks the moral compass required to be wise with it. for that, I look to God.

A quick thanks to everyone who has been patient and dedicated enough to take this trip through Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” with me. I hope that you’ve found it as valuable as I have found it. I’ll take the next couple of posts to respond to some reader comments. Thanks to everyone that has submitted comments so far. Your questions and comments have been enjoyable. I’m especially grateful to the skeptics out there who I have been constantly aware of when writing my posts. You’ve kept me honest and at the top of my game.

Thanks again and talk soon,

Todd Dow