Review of Richard Dawkins ’ The God Delusion - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Review of Richard Dawkins ’ The God Delusion
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Review of Richard Dawkins ’ The God Delusion

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  1. Review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion by Doug Johnson

  2. Defining Terms • Like Skinner and Wittgenstein, Dawkins wants to define terms as they are used • God defined: A supernatural creator that is appropriate for us to worship • Avoids problems of idiosyncratic definitions such as “God is the ultimate”, “God is energy”, etc

  3. Defining Terms • Dawkins claims to be an atheist in the sense of a philosophical naturalist, who believes in nothing beyond the natural physical world • No supernatural creative intelligence • No soul • No miracles (besides natural occurrences we don’t understand yet)

  4. Consciousness-Raising • One of goals of books is to raise consciousness in the same way feminists did. Recognition of how language affects our world view (much like Whorf and Skinner) • Example: Herstory versus history. As silly as it was, it focused people on neglect of recognition for women. Now if using word such as “man” instead of “human”, impossible to not to think of feminism for both feminists and non-feminists alike

  5. Hypotheses • Like many scientists, Dawkins invests heavily in Popperian ideas of hypothesis testing and falsification • God Hypothesis: There exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence that deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us • No God Hypothesis: Any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution

  6. Belief Scale

  7. Belief Scale • Dawkins at 6 on scale: Agnostic only to extent agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden • Tooth fairy, Mother Goose, unicorns, orbiting space teapots, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, Greek and Roman gods: All are undisprovable, yet nobody thinks existence is just as likely as non-existence. • Most of us tend to be around 6 for these things and consider ourselves atheists regarding them. • No-one says “I consider the probability of unicorns existing to be 50/50, so we should be agnostic” • Why not treat God the same? • Burden of proof rests with believers • Just because you can’t disprove existence of unicorns doesn’t mean you can’t say they don’t exist • Just because you can’t disprove existence of God doesn’t mean you can’t say he doesn’t exist

  8. Can’t absolutely disprove • Unlike Popper, Dawkins does not think all conjectures should be held in equal regard until disproved • Rather, some undisprovable things are judged less probable than other undisprovable things • Cannot prove God’s non-existence, but only to the degree we can’t prove the non-existence of anything

  9. Evidence • Logical positivists said we don’t prove or disprove theories, rather we support a theory because of evidence in favor of it • God Hypothesis: No evidence (elaborated next) • No God Hypothesis: Evidence in form of evolution and other natural processes. Provides explanation for existence of entities whose improbability would otherwise rule them out

  10. Popular “Evidence” for God Hypothesis: Argument from Design • Nothing that we know of looks designed with being designed • Hypothesis’ flaw: Evolution counters this argument by providing excellent imitation of design

  11. Popular “Evidence” for God Hypothesis: Argument from Improbability • Complicated things such as the human eye, zebras, etc could not have occurred by chance • The probability of life originating on Earth is as likely as a hurricane going through a junk yard and by chance assembling a Boeing 747

  12. Popular “Evidence” for God Hypothesis: Argument from Improbability • Hypothesis’ flaw: However improbable human eyes and zebras being designed by chance, the existence of a even more complicated designer is even more improbable, Philosophers such as Hume pointed this out, although they could not imagine the alternative at the time • Pragmatism would suggest our descriptions should be as economical as possible, thus something as complicated as a supernatural designer should be avoided • There are alternatives besides either chance alone or design alone

  13. More parsimonious explanation for biological improbability • Large numbers: It has been estimated that there are between 1 billion and 30 billion planets in galaxy. At least a billion billion planets throughout the universe. The chemical model necessary for life (spontaneous arising of something equivalent to DNA) need only happen once on one planet among a billion billion planets over billions of years. Chance occurrence is not improbable in this setup

  14. More parsimonious explanation for biological improbability • Although chance can explain beginnings of life, cannot explain diversity of life and persuasive illusion of design • Evolution supplies a plausible mechanism for diversity and complexity • Large numbers combined with evolution is a more probable explanation for life than a supernatural intelligent designer who creates laws of how the universe works and periodically violates his own laws. Incoming evidence continues to support the former and weaken the latter (probability of God’s existence certainly less than 50%)

  15. Falsification • Dawkins sees scientists as very willing to discard belief if evidence conflicts (more in common with Popper than Kuhn) • Recognizes that, in practice, not all scientists would do this. However, all scientists at least pay lip service to it and hold it as an ideal • Thinks it is a strength that evolution could be disproved with single disconfirmation such as fossil rabbits in the Precambrian

  16. Evidence • Quote from Russell: What would you say to God if he came demanding to know why you didn’t believe in him. “Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence.” • Evidence supports No God Hypothesis • God is dangerous idea in that it is unhelpful and misleading. Tends to bring inquiry to an end. Very problematic for the same reasons Skinner thought hypothetical intervening variables as explanatory fictions were a problem • One of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding (no need to think about why something happens, just say “God did it”)

  17. “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him” • Religion might have beneficial effects, but those effects in no way increases the likelihood of religion’s claims • Religion might help people to be moral, but this in no way increases likelihood of religion’s claims • Most people don’t get their morals from scripture anyways. Moral code of scripture is very different from moral code of society

  18. Language and indoctrination • Dawkins states it is form of child abuse to label children as possessors of beliefs they are too young to have thought about (Jewish child, Muslim child, Christian child, etc) • More proper to say “child of Jewish parents” or “child of Muslim parents” • No reasonable person would speak of “Marxist child” or “Republican child”

  19. End