Dawkins bashing season upon us?

Prepare yourself for another round of Dawkins-bashing. That’s not to imply there isn’t plenty of that already. And it does get pretty farcical. A commenter on a local apologetics blog recently claimed Dawkins “must be hopping mad and upset because we are hearing so little of him of late. He has been exposed as the emperor without clothes.” And this on a post which was devoted to repeating Micheal Ruse’s recent attack on Dawkins! These apologists will use anything, won’t they. And an atheist like Ruse becomes a valued ally when he is spouting his professional jealousy of Dawkins in this illogical manner (see Why I think the New Atheists are a Bloody Disaster). 51OV5uKtcXL._SL160_

This new round of attacks will be a response to Dawkins new book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution– out next month. In fact the attacks have already started pre-publication (see Is Richard Dawkins a stage magician?). Nothing new – such hostile reviewers usually never bother reading the book anyway. So look forward to a deluge of such “reviews.”

I am sure this new book will sell well. And it looks like it will be very informative about evolutionary science and helpful in raising awareness of its attackers and their arguments.

If you want a preview – have a read of the extract from The Greatest Show on Earth at Times On-line. Its the first part ofg a serialisation of the book (see The truth dogs reveal about evolution for the second part)

There are also three audio files of Dawkins and His Wife Lalla Ward reading from the introduction (Part 1; Part 2; and Part 3).

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48 responses to “Dawkins bashing season upon us?

  1. Sigh…

    It’s all so simple, isn’t it? That’s my continual beef. No nuance. no clarifications. No balance. Just constant, dismissive polemic.

    OF COURSE ‘The God Delusion’ is undeserving of any criticism.
    OF COURSE whenever Dawkins is bashed it is (automatically) baseless.

    (yawn)

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  2. Hey, Dale, your knees are jerking. Must be that word “Dawkins.”

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  3. I’m not the one writing knee-jerk blog posts defending all that Dawkins says/does… 🙂

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  4. Don’t be silly, Dale. All I have done is criticise “Thinking Matters” for their silly article and comments, Michael Ruse for his silly article and Uncommon Descent for their silly article. I think those are knee jerks – part of the demonisation process such people inevitably use against Dawkins. And you do that too, Dale. You resort to classical quote-mining (there must be websites devoted to Dawkins quotes for apologists to quote out of context with gay abandon). And you automatically react to his name like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

    Hardly intelligent.

    Now, I have listened to Dawkins’ intro – it sounds like it will be a great book. He is well know for his great literary style. I am looking forward to it.

    I didn’t use to – for 30 years I thought Dawkins was horrible. That changed when I read a book of his for the first time (The God Delusion). What a waste – caused by simple prejudice.

    Of course I don’t think he is always right (who is – I am not that silly). But he very often is.

    And its pretty obvious there are plenty of people around who will review his book without reading it (just as I drew my own biased conclusions about The Selfish Gene – without reading it). They certainly have in the past.

    Your knee jerk characterisation of Dawkins (and of me as I clearly don’t automatically defend everything Dawkins says which you should know by now) is just outright demonisation. The old them vs us Christians seem so often to resort to.

    No, I don’t expect you will read the book. But that will be your loss – not mine.

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  5. I have absolutely nothing to say at all about Dawkins’ new book. Provided he sticks to the topics of biology and evolution, I have no beef at all.

    What I do have beef with is the constant sweeping, dismissive (and I think uncritical) dismissal of anyone who tries to correct Dawkins for writing about something he’s not qualified to write about. They are automatically ‘silly’. (I would withdraw the ‘automatically’ if you actually engaged with their criticisms in any detail and with any patience, nuance and clarity)

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  6. In other words – you want to deny Dawkins the right to write about issues which impinge on your sensitivities?

    Surely the sensible thing would be to engage with his ideas – not dismiss them (and his right to write on them) out of hand.

    Now – if you look at Ruse’s article, the Thinking matters post and comments you will find that there is nothing much there to engage with. They are simply venting steam and venom.

    Especially when the point of my post is to bring to interested peoples’ attention that there is an extract and audio readings form Dawkins new (and much anticipated) book on line.

    But apparently even that upsets your sensitivities.

    I do, and will continue to, deal with the details of Dawkins knee-jerk opponent in my own time, and where appropriate. And when I can care about it – the demonisation is really quite tiresome.

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  7. In one sense, anyone is free to write about anything. My beef is merely that your dismissal of (especially Ruse) the Dawkins-critics is too sweeping, tidy, neat and one-sided. Surely Ruse makes some valid points? No… wait… I remember… that’s not possible. Silly me (or anyone) for thinking so.

    If you wanted to draw our attention to the mp3’s, then the post could have been much shorter (and had a different title). 🙂

    And as for demonisation, Dawkins could be accused of demonising people like Collins (and Miller, Polkinghorne, etc.).

    I think Ruse is bang-on when he says:

    I think that the new atheists are doing terrible political damage to the cause of Creationism fighting. Americans are religious people. You may not like this fact. But they are. Not all are fanatics. Survey after survey shows that most American Christians (and Jews and others) fall in the middle on social issues like abortion and gay marriage as well as on science. They want to be science-friendly, although it is certainly true that many have been seduced by the Creationists. We evolutionists have got to speak to these people. We have got to show them that Darwinism is their friend not their enemy. We have got to get them onside when it comes to science in the classroom. And criticizing good men like Francis Collins, accusing them of fanaticism, is just not going to do the job.

    It’s a good example of making comments that are balanced, patient and appreciative of complexities, etc.

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  8. Well, my method of posting certainly got your attention. As they say one should use a bit of controversy in this bushiness.

    However, I will take you up on this and do a post on the Ruse-type argument. I perosnally think he is being pathetic. Not that Ruse’s article hasn’t been well analysed by others already. But it obviously resonates with you, thinking matters and other apologists.

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  9. Dale wrote:

    What I do have beef with is the constant sweeping, dismissive (and I think uncritical) dismissal of anyone who tries to correct Dawkins for writing about something he’s not qualified to write about. They are automatically ’silly’. (I would withdraw the ‘automatically’ if you actually engaged with their criticisms in any detail and with any patience, nuance and clarity)

    (My emphasis.) I could read this as a sweeping dismissal of Dawkins that is automatically silly 😉

    You should judge people’s arguments by their arguments, not your prejudges against them (as you are illustrating).

    Dawkins is particularly well qualified to write a “popular” account of evolution.

    BTW, It strikes me that Ruse is taking lines from Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum.

    I believe Dawkin’s book The G-d Delusion wasn’t intended to be a text nor a formal work of philosophy, it was intended to be read by the general public. If so, Ruse’s comparison doesn’t make sense to me.

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  10. For those who don’t like audio files, this is an excerpt from the book: http://tinyurl.com/nhgu7m

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  11. Surely Ruse makes some valid points?

    Why “surely”?
    Is it never possible for someone to be completely wrong?
    Is it never possible for someone to hold a position that is not just flawed but risible in every possible way?

    Or does the mere existence of an opposing viewpoint automatically endow it with a some level of validity and seriousness?

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  12. I look forward to your engagement (detailed? patient? balanced?) with Ruse…

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  13. “balanced?”

    What does that mean?

    Equal parts right and wrong? Equally balanced between accurate and false?

    You make the same small mistake that Fox News does…the truth is not balanced.

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  14. Dale – I promise to be at least as detailed, patient and balanced as Ruse – which really leaves it quite wide open, doesn’t it?

    Seriously, though, I think a bit of ridicule is sometimes necessary.

    My interest in such an article has very little to do with Ruse, however. I think it is topical for me having just personally experienced some of this Christian paranoia and demonisation from a local Anglican Minister (Michael Hewat). the example is quite instructive.

    Dawkins doesn’t need someone like me to jump to his defense – he is quite capable himself. And, lets face it, public perception is better judged by his book sales, lecture tours and interviews, and how well they are attended, than by someone like Ruse who is basically revealing some spleen out of professional jealousy. Most great communicators of science have had these sort of criticisms. (These sort of professionals can be a catty lot at times).

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  15. Write outside your field, hold yourself out as an authority in a field you are not qualified in or respected in by those who are qualified and then wonder why you get criticised for doing so. Unbelievable.

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  16. Madeleine – this is just another Dawkins’ bashing mantra.

    If your feel that Dawkins has written something or said something you disagree with – engage with that point! (Or read the relevant book, article etc. – it’s amazing how many people make judgements without looking at the claims. As I said – I did for 30 years and missed out on some lovely writing).

    All I hear from you is that you don’t like Dawkins – but can’t say why (probably because you have never read him). It doesn’t put you in a good position, intellectually (or morally).

    (I might add there are things that Dawkins has written about that I disagree with – true for any author I read. I engaged with those points. I didn’t come out with a mantra. Have a look at my article Sources of evil? for instance).

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  17. Madeleine,

    I presume you are writing about Dawkins, not Ken (it’s not clear to me).

    Personally, as I wrote before, I think Dawkins is particularly well qualified to write a “popular” account of evolution. Let me emphasise the word “popular”. A point of difference though is that conveying science at a “popular” level takes a lot of practice and Dawkins has plenty of experience at that. I don’t agree with every detail, but he knows the evolution field well and has the great advantage of watching it evolve (pun intended…) over 30-plus years. Having the long view in both scope and time enables you to judge what’s important and what is just the latest “fad” or “trendy idea” which is part of the value of someone like him writing in the popular literature.

    Moving to Ruse’s comments, if you are going to take up a science communicator’s criticism of another, it pays to understand the science and specifically what is being criticised. If you read carefully you will see that Ruse seems to have misdirected his criticism and has mixed two different topics. He broadly criticises, if not dismisses out of hand, a wide raft of people for delivering popular criticism of religion that doesn’t meet his standards as an academic, i.e. he is comparing them to textbooks, which they where never intended to be. He then goes on to bring evolution into the mix, asking that these people “must” not criticise “middle America”, an impossible and meaningless request as the earlier works he referred to are criticisms of religion, not works dealing with evolution. By not looking at their books separately, and for their intended audience, he ends up criticising the people, not what they books deal with.

    I mentioned elsewhere that Dawkins et al‘s work may have it’s largest impact on those people with a rather naïve view of the ideas that Ruse refers to as “deeply dangerous”. These people include those who treat church as a “Sunday event”, rather than hold religion in any particularly strong way. It’s a pity Ruse does not see this as simply another way of achieving the same objective, addressing a slightly different audience than he does.

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  18. Write outside your field, hold yourself out as an authority in a field you are not qualified in or respected in by those who are qualified and then wonder why you get criticised for doing so. Unbelievable

    I really don’t understand the ‘write outside you field’ business. I don’t imagine anyone got upset with Goethe publishing on optics just becuase he happened to be a playwright.

    If you mean he missed points that a trained philosopher wouldn’t have then expose the gaps in his arguments, don’t carry on about him journeying outside his speciality.

    Most of the Dawkins bashing I’ve read relates to idea that you can’t dismiss religion with out taking into account this or that theological school of thought – ignoring entirely that that theological idea is based on the assumption that God exits, an assumption Dawkins rejects.

    One of my favourites from a long while back (I remember is because it was so spectaculairly absurd) was from a local blog:

    Dawkins does not know the difference between say; 1) proximate immediate co-operation in salvation and 2) distal remote co-operation. Those two things heavily underlie Marian Catholic theology as an example. And such an example is not irrelevant, its crucial to the mindset of any dialogue. I doubt people like Dawkins also understand the 4 sufficient causes of the early Greeks and how the first 7 items of the Catholic catechism satisfy these criteria.

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  19. Reminds me a bit of the Sokal hoax article on quantum mechanics.

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  20. For anyone in a bargain-hunting mood:

    Just got an Amazon.com email advert saying that Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution is now at a 42% discount

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  21. I was in Auckland in the weekend and got a shock to see the book in Borders. We got the UK edition which came out earlier than the US one. Cost $49 – but got it anyway.

    There seems to be a huge amount of interest in the book so I wouldn’t be suprised if this first printing sells out pretty quickly.

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  22. I can’t afford anything like that for a book! Trade paperbacks are ridiculously expensive these days and ordinary paperbacks aren’t much better. (Textbooks aside.) I rarely buy new these days. What I think will be happening here is a brief promotional offer of sorts, I’ve seen this before from Amazon. I might be silly and buy a few books via Amazon while the dollar is higher, we’ll see. I usually avoid buying new books that are likely to end up in the bargain bins in a couple of years or are likely to be in the library. (Lots of patience and low budgets…)

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  23. The Sokal hoax!

    New to me, but clearly brilliant. Must study its details in depth when time allows.

    A bit like Cold Fusion, with a sense of humour?

    Methinks that Theology is one Giant Sokal Hoax. And god, if She exists, does have a sense of humour after all.

    Mmmm….no. You’d think anyone omnipotent AND with a sense of humour would have dealt to the fundies years ago.

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  24. Cost $49 – but got it anyway.
    /gulp

    Guess I’ll have to wait till after exams to get it.

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  25. Heraclides – I have been getting most of my books free lately – review copies. Most publishers are only too keen to send you copies!

    Mind you I had no luck with Dawkins’ book – maybe it was the complicated publisher set up and I couldn’t get through to the right publicity department. Or else they probably don’t send review copies out to any old person when a book is bound to succeed like this one will.

    So I didn’t mid paying for a change. And it is pretty thick.

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  26. If it’s of use to anyone, you can get Dawkin’s latest book for $39.99 at The Warehouse. That it’s available in The Warehouse is impressive to me, as they seem to only stock a small selection of books on very large print runs.

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  27. Ken perhaps you could make clear why you consider Alvin Plantinga to not be a credible scholar on the question of the epistemology of religious belief and Dawkins to be credible in this subject?

    This seems a bit like someone dismissing Stephen Gould then citing Henry Morris as an authority when discussing evolutionary theory.

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  28. Ken and Heraclides

    Madeleine’s point was the Dawkins writes on the question of wether its rational to believe in God. this is the central question of the field known as Philosophy of religion. The facts are Dawkins is not a Philosopher of religion, is writing outside his field, has no qualifications in the field he is writing in and has no publications in the field except at the popular level. These are all facts.

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  29. Most of the Dawkins bashing I’ve read relates to idea that you can’t dismiss religion with out taking into account this or that theological school of thought – ignoring entirely that that theological idea is based on the assumption that God exits, an assumption Dawkins rejects.

    No most of it points out that he actually does not address any of the arguments made by serious Christian Philosophers and so much of what he says is irrelevant.

    The fact that Dawkins does not accept a theological tradition as true is neither here nor there the point is that to criticise a position you need to understand it and accurately present it, only then can a competent critque be made.

    For example Dawkin’s asserts that God is complex, ignoring the detailed debates about Gods simplicity that have been taking place in the literature and for centuries on this topic.

    Dawkins also mistakenly claims that the argument from design is the only one seriously defended and hence largely ignores the others.

    He ignores the critique of his evidentialist epsitemology that has been centre stage in much epistemology of religion in the last 40 years.

    His treatment of the ontological argument ignores the detailed modal work done in the last 40 years and so on.

    The point is that his attack on Theism simply ignores most of the defenses of theism that are made by Theistic Philosophers and hence attacks a straw man. Its like a person who attacks evolution by ignoring the actual arguments made by scientists for evolution but instead attacks popular caricatures of evolution. That’s why the Henry Morris analogy is apt.

    His criticism of Richard Swinburne’s “Existence of God” for example showed he simply did not understand Swinburne’s arguments and much of what Dawkin’s wrote was more vitrolic attack on Swinburne which almost anyone familiar with the issues would be embarrassed by.

    and so on..

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  30. Madeleine – this is just another Dawkins’ bashing mantra.

    If your feel that Dawkins has written something or said something you disagree with – engage with that point! (Or read the relevant book, article etc. – it’s amazing how many people make judgements without looking at the claims. As I said – I did for 30 years and missed out on some lovely writing).

    So I take it you will retract the comments made on my blog where you dismissed several qualified Philosophers without their argument on grounds that you did not consider them credible scholars.

    I would put Larry Laudans qualifications in Philosophy of Science and Plantinga’s in the epistemology of religion up against Dawkin’s qualifications in Philosophy of religion any day of the week.

    Yet you state one cannot dismiss the latter on the basis of their lack of their qualifications in the field but yourself dismiss the former as who are far more qualified.

    Sorry Ken but your claims about not dismissing people in this way ring hollow. Perhaps you should be honest and state that when a scholar agrees with you they are credible when they do not “they do not understand science” and so cannot be dismissed without argument.

    All I hear from you is that you don’t like Dawkins – but can’t say why (probably because you have never read him). It doesn’t put you in a good position, intellectually (or morally).

    No she said that he did not have any qualifications, or understanding of the field a comment you regularly make against those who criticise your views on science. Funny how its a regular argument you make and now its a bad one

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  31. Matt – “Ken perhaps you could make clear why you consider Alvin Plantinga to not be a credible scholar on the question of the epistemology of religious belief and Dawkins to be credible in this subject?”

    Could you attribute those charges, please, Matt? I think you misrepresent me here.

    Plantinga may well be “credible” on the “epistemology of religious belief.” But that says nothing. Religious epistemology and theology, is a circular profession. It starts with the conclusion which it seeks to prove. Everyone takes in each others laundry. And they set up an epistemological ghetto to avoid facing up to reality. Plantinga comes to some incredible conclusions this way.

    Dawkins himself has said that he sometimes thinks theology is not a real subject (apart form biblical history). He doesn’t claim to be an authority on religious epistemology – in fact wouldn’t want to be. Neither would I.

    I think Dawkins much prefers scientific epistemology. I certainly do.

    Matt – if you actually read Dawkins you will find he has no interest in arguing with most theists, ministers, bishops, theologians, etc. He actually gets on with them very well – different religious beliefs don’t get in the way.

    However, he does bitterly oppose those theists who lie about evidence for evolutionary science, misrepresent it, advocate creationism/ID. That is actually a minority of theists in countries like ours – and an extremely small proportion of religious leaders, theologians, bishops etc. Plantinga is part of that extremely small group.

    I think you are obsessed in seeing things from your the perspective of own specialties and can’t see the fact that they are not Dawkins specialties or interests. It is very much a minority perspective. You are welcome to it, of course, but it is not relevant, for example, on my article here.

    But underlying all this is the fact that Dawkins has been incredibly successful in popularising science. His last book is getting rage reviews and selling fast. Part of the reason for this, I think, is the fact that his book “The God Delusion” seemed to hit the market just at the time when many people were getting really pissed off with religious arrogance. It hit a sweet spot and as a result his other books have ridden a wave and sell well. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is not about religion but it is appealing to a market his earlier book helped create.

    An interesting observation – many of the people who buy Dawkins books, attend his lectures, contribute to his Foundation and participate on his forum are actually religious believers. His specific religious beliefs don’t put them off.

    I think that is great.

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  32. Matt (2:53 pm post only, may reply to others later),

    Perhaps you could make clear why you elevate criticism of religion to “the question of the epistemology of religious belief” (in all it’s lofty “glory”), when it is my understanding that the two are different things?

    To the best of my understanding the epistemology of a religious belief isn’t about if the religion is right or not, but about in principle what kinds of knowledge should be used to justify that religious belief, in an abstract philosophical way. This is the sort of thing I’d expect apologists to be interested in, since they are all “about” justification of their religion, using (pseudo-)philosophy. But it’s not about if the religion is supported by evidence or not, or right or wrong.

    I would imagine Dawkins is more interested in real, actual evidence that stands for/against religion. In any event it seems a irrelevant point given that this new book isn’t about religion.

    My understanding is that Plantinga isn’t considered a credible scholar by most philosophers. In fact, they seem to think so little of him, they openly mock him. Just my impression of what philosophers say of him.

    Your asking why he isn’t considered credible is a little bit like asking why Michael Behe’s ideas about evolution have no credibility amongst biologists. Try to beg for support for Plantinga, seems to me to be rather like begging for support for Behe on evolution. Both may well claim to be trying to work in one area of study, but that in itself doesn’t give what they say credibility, especially given that they both seem to be doing hopeless “work” that isn’t convincing at all to others that know their respective fields.

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  33. Plantinga may well be “credible” on the “epistemology of religious belief.” But that says nothing. Religious epistemology and theology, is a circular profession. It starts with the conclusion which it seeks to prove. Everyone takes in each others laundry. And they set up an epistemological ghetto to avoid facing up to reality. Plantinga comes to some incredible conclusions this way.

    Care to actually document that this is how religious epistemology ( or theology) operates. Apart from citing the authority of a zoologist.

    Thanks for confirming my point.

    You dismiss a scholar without engaging in his arguments, because Dawkins says so .

    Henry Morris says evolution is bunk, so what?

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  34. Matt,

    Why can’t Madeleine speak for herself? No offence, but I’d really rather hear it from her.

    There is no reason you only have to use philosophy to judge religion. (Trying to argue that you do reads to me as justifying apologetics.)

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  35. Heraclides

    If you think that Philosophers of religion don’t take Plantinga’s work seriously you are quite wrong. And the analogy with Behe is simply mistaken.

    But I note that you attempt to dismiss Plantinga on the grounds he is not considered credible you dismiss Behe the same way,

    and this post is about what? Oh yeah its about not dismissing Dawkins despite the fact he has no credible publications in Philosophy of religion, because such dismissals are inappropriate.

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  36. Matt – “Care to actually document that this is how religious epistemology ( or theology) operates.”.

    Ok I will. I am planning an article on the history of science, particularly critiquing the theological claims of its origins within Christianity. Part of this will be to show how absurd those claims are, but also to show how the theological ghetto operates and how its ideas can sometimes escape from the ghetto.

    And no, I won’t be relying on zoology to do that. Some of my sources are philosophers and historians of science.

    So, stay tuned, Matt. I look forward to discussing my critique with you.

    In the meantime, you could read my article From stones to atoms to get some idea of some of my thinking on this.

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  37. Matt – I suspect that if Dawkins had a “credible” publication history in the philosophy of religion he would lose the real credibility he has with so many people now. Given the low status that the philosophy of religion has for the real understanding of the world.

    Surely Dawkins’ credibility arises from his honesty about the subject, and willingness to see, and say, that this emperor is naked.

    I would certainly not see him as credible if he was publishing in that area. Why should I?

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  38. Matt,

    I wrote philosophers don’t consider him to be credible. I didn’t narrow that to “Philosophers of religion” as you have made me out to have said. I appreciate it if you didn’t rephrase my writing.

    If philosophers of religion take Plantinga’s work seriously and the larger field doesn’t, that would suggest that niche of philosophy is at odds with mainstream philosophy.

    And the analogy with Behe is simply mistaken.

    The analogy I made is fine, if not an identical, parallel situation. I’d suggest that you prefer to dismiss it out of hand, because you don’t want to face it 😉

    But I note that you attempt to dismiss Plantinga on the grounds he is not considered credible you dismiss Behe the same way,

    Putting words in my mouth, I’m afraid. My post didn’t actually address either of their work specifically. What it did was point out how their work is considered by the larger fields that their work falls within (philosophy and biology, respectively).

    Now speaking for myself of Behe, his arguments are very poor, to be (very) polite. I’ve read a little of his “work” and frankly it’s a waste of time. While he at least tries to deal with the subject matter, he constantly “drops” very important basic elements, which render his arguments meaningless.

    You will be aware, I presume, that even his own university department rejects his work and they have a public statement to this effect on their website?

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  39. How about the following Plantinga position if correctly portayed by Wikipedia:

    In Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism, he argues that the truth of evolution is an epistemic defeater for naturalism (i.e. if evolution is true, it undermines naturalism). His basic argument is that if evolution and naturalism are both true, human cognitive faculties evolved to produce beliefs that have survival value (maximizing one’s success at “feeding, fighting, and reproducing”), not necessarily to produce beliefs that are true. Thus, since human cognitive faculties are tuned to survival rather than truth in the naturalism-cum-evolution model, there is reason to doubt the veracity of the products of those same faculties, including naturalism and evolution themselves. On the other hand, if God created man “in his image” by way of an evolutionary process (or any other means), then Plantinga argues our faculties would probably be reliable.

    What he is ignoring here, is the demonstrable fact that our faculties are unreliable. This is one of the very good reasons why an evidence based process for gaining knowledge is vital. This is also why a belief based strategy for gaining knowledge is not a good idea.

    This seems to me also to be quite a naive view on evolution (and probably also philosophy). I think it is rather a big reach to say that human cognitive faculties evolved to produce beliefs that have survival value. This is assuming that human cognitive faculties have evolved for the purpose of producing beliefs. I would argue that the evolutionary advantages of human cognitive faculties lie more in the production of actions/reactions that have survival value.

    This further gem of his demonstrates, I think, precisely where his problem lies:

    Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense – an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection – is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.

    He has reached a conclusion (that of design) and then weights every bit of evidence based on how much it confirms his conclusion. This supports Ken’s earlier point about the circularity of these people. They are not undertaking an honest search for knowledge, rather, are attempting to justify their gut (and therefore prone to unreliability) feelings and instincts.

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  40. From that same Wikipedia article on Plantinga, we get….Plantinga has supported the intelligent design movement (IDM). He was a member of the ‘Ad Hoc Origins Committee’ that supported Philip E. Johnson’s Darwin on Trial (considered to be part of the central canon of the IDM) against palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould’s high profile scathing review in Scientific American in 1992, and he provided a back-cover endorsement for the book. He is a member of the (now moribund) pro-intelligent design International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design, and has presented at a number of intelligent design conferences.

    Intelligent Design supporter?
    Oops.
    That’s it.
    Shows over.
    That tells me all I need to know.
    The guy is either a dupe or a deciever.
    😦

    Intelligent Design is a total fraud and well understood to be a pseudo-science. Anybody who subscribes to it needs to get their head examined.

    Madeleine’s point was the Dawkins writes on the question of wether its rational to believe in God.

    One does not need to have a degree in theology or philosophy to figure out rational behaviour.
    Is it rational to believe in “X”?
    Doesn’t matter what “X” is.
    Is there a rational process going on that makes it reasonable to believe that “X” exists?
    Not to hard to figure out.

    Belief in a god is like belief in any other god.
    There’s no tangible difference.
    It’s turtles all the way down.

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  41. Cedric
    Wikipedia isn’t exactly the most reliable source of a persons thought. The Stanford Encyopedia s actually more reliable. Plantinga actually has criticised the argument from design in his book God and Other Minds and in a recent lecture stated it was inconclusive. In fact he has always been ambivalent on arguments for Gods existence, any one who actually knew his work would know that.
    But thanks for confirming my point, here you dismiss a person as lacking any scholarly merit without actually reading or addressing any of his arguments because you disagree with conclusions he draws.
    Is it rational to believe in “X”?
    Doesn’t matter what “X” is.
    Is there a rational process going on that makes it reasonable to believe that “X” exists?
    Not to hard to figure out.

    Well this simply shows your simplistic understanding of the issues.
    In fact your contention Is there a rational process going on that makes it reasonable to believe that “X” exists? is circular one defines a rational belief in terms of a rational process that’s reasonable. that really tells us nothing at all about what is rational and reasonable.
    Belief in a god is like belief in any other god.
    There’s no tangible difference.

    And now your ignorance of comparative religion is showing. Clearly belief in certain incoherent conceptions of God such as certain forms of Hinduism maintain which deny the reliability of logic is very different to coherent conceptions of God. and belief that Zeus lives on Olympus can be checked in way that belief in Allah can not, we climb mount Olympus.
    But by all means keep showing that (a) you don’t know what your talking about and (b) that you will jump to conclusions on the basis of such ignorance.

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  42. Nick it actually really pays to know a persons argument before you attack it.

    This seems to me also to be quite a naive view on evolution (and probably also philosophy). I think it is rather a big reach to say that human cognitive faculties evolved to produce beliefs that have survival value. This is assuming that human cognitive faculties have evolved for the purpose of producing beliefs. I would argue that the evolutionary advantages of human cognitive faculties lie more in the production of actions/reactions that have survival value.

    Actually Plantinga does say that evolutionary advantages of human cognitive faculties lie more in the production of actions/reactions that have survival value that’s one of his main points. So this is simply attacking a straw man.

    What he is ignoring here, is the demonstrable fact that our faculties are unreliable. This is one of the very good reasons why an evidence based process for gaining knowledge is vital. This is also why a belief based strategy for gaining knowledge is not a good idea.

    Actually Plantinga has addressed this point repeatedly. In fact if our cognitive faculties are reliable then we cannot solve this with “evidence based reason” because any evidence we perceive will be perceived by our senses ( which are unreliable) and use reasoning processes which are unreliable.

    Moreover if it’s a demonstrable fact that our cognitive faculties are unreliable then scepticism reigns. In fact I should not accept your argument after all I see it with my unreliable senses and process it with an unreliable brain hence I have no basis for thinking its actually real.

    But again Nick thanks like the others for proving my point, you dismiss a scholar as mediocre without reading him or being aware of his arguments. What was Ken saying you should not do to Dawkins again, oh that’s right you should not dismiss him without reading him.

    So my original point stands.

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  43. Heraclides

    First I would dispute that “Philosophers” in general see Plantinga that way. But even if they do what it shows is that the opinion only comes from Philosophers who actually have no expertise in the relevant field.

    But again I see you are dismissing someone the very think Ken argues should not be done. Funny its OK now isn’t it.

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  44. Plantinga actually has criticised the argument from design in his book…

    That’s nice.
    So does he support ID or not?

    …here you dismiss a person as lacking any scholarly merit…

    No. I said that anybody who supports ID is either a dupe or a deciever.
    If they can’t get their facts straight on something as obviously fraudulent as ID then it doen’t exactly inspire me to buy their books.

    In fact your contention(…) is circular.

    Nonsense. If you believe something exists and you have evidence for it, then…great. It’s rational to to think that something exists when you have evidence for it.
    Nothing too hard about that.
    Basic stuff.

    And now your ignorance of comparative religion is showing.

    Never mentioned “comparative religion”.
    I said that belief in a god is like belief in any other god.
    There’s no tangible difference.

    Believing in Vishu is the same as believing in Zeus which is the same as believing in your personal brand-name god. It’s all make-believe. Fairy tales.
    Anybody (including you) who believes in an invisible sky-daddy invariably has nothing tangible. Nothing real.
    It’s all just idle waffle and bafflegab.

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  45. @Matt.

    The fact that our cognitive faculties have been proved to be unreliable, (blind spots, over active pattern recognition and seeing agency where there is none, for example.), does not mean that everything we see or think is wrong. It means that we need to be extremely careful about jumping to conclusions about things. It also means that we cannot achieve 100% certainty about our knowledge. It is possible to correct for our cognitive flaws through process and corroboration (does any of this sound at all familiar?).

    The problem is, that some people seem to have trouble dealing with a world of uncertainties and shades of gray, and would like a nice simple true/false good/bad kind of world. In fact they want that sort of world so much as to ignore all sorts of evidence that the world is not like they want. Do you for example, accept that people have been proved to have flawed cognitive processes? Have you seen the experiment where people can’t see the gorilla in the room for example?

    You are however correct, that I am dismissing Plantinga without even reading him. I have no trouble with that though. I see nothing interesting or thought provoking there to read. If you find his writings to be so profound, perhaps you can provide a reason why I would want to spend my valuable time reading his thoughts.

    And finally, yes scepticism does reign.

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  46. Matt,

    I’m out of this now, seeing Matt isn’t dealing with substance. Parting remarks:

    Nick it actually really pays to know a persons argument before you attack it.

    Advice you could do well to take yourself, y’know 😉 You have frequently presumed to know my position, then attack the position you have “gifted” me.

    First I would dispute that “Philosophers” in general see Plantinga that way.

    Dispute it all you like, I was writing that it is my observation that they do. There are plenty of examples of it, after all.

    But even if they do what it shows is that the opinion only comes from Philosophers who actually have no expertise in the relevant field.

    This strikes me as a straw-man dismissal. My point was based on that the larger field will know the ground knowledge that can judge if a particular area or person is on shaky ground.

    It’s the reason I drew the analogy with Behe and biology. The larger field (biology) is easily able to judge where his arguments stand. Likewise, the larger field (philosophy) should easily be able to judge where Plantinga stands. It is my observation that they seem to think of his argments in much the same way as biologists think of Behe’s arguments.

    This applies to all fields and I see no reason that it should be different for philosophy.

    But again I see you are dismissing someone the very think Ken argues should not be done. Funny its OK now isn’t it.

    Making me out to do things that I haven’t done, putting words in my mouth again, even after I cautioned you to be more careful.

    Seeing that’s your final note, it seems clear to me that you are unable to deal with the substance of what I’ve presented. There is little point in me writing more until you do.

    Like

  47. I think PZ Myers cleverly caricatured the argument Madeliene and Matt are using here. I will post it as a separate article. It’s great writing and deserves looking at from time to time.

    Like

  48. Pingback: The naked emporer « Open Parachute

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