Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Dawkins' Delusion

Some great stuff on the web this week regarding Richard Dawkins' recent book The God Delusion. Doug Wilson, whose able (and hilarious) blog-demolition of Sam Harris' Letters to a Christian Nation is being published as a book, now gives Dawkins the what-for:
But the point is apparently not how high the aspiration [of the book] has to be, but what you can get other bits of protoplasm to say about it in the blurbs, which is almost as good. But they need to say it in an energetic enough way to sway the general mass of protoplasmic bi-pedal carbon units out there, which is to say, the reading public. Because if enough bits of protoplasm get together on this, we can get ourselves a consensus going, and first thing you know you are dealing with the voice of Reason. The voice of Reason is what happens when any kind of physical wave (sound waves are best) shudders through a portion of the vegetable soup, dispelling the voice of Superstition forever.

....Reason, being a quaint and superstitious name we give to random neuron firings in the brain, wields no power at all. On atheist principles, expecting to find a correlation called "truth" between the chemical activities of the cerebral cortex in some people and the outside world is more than a little bit like astrology -- or tying the bulls and bears of the stock market to the batting averages of professional baseball players. Can be done, I suppose, but why would we ever think that this random dance of atoms had anything whatever to do with that random dance of atoms?
Indeed. Even our own atheist correspondent to these parts has never attempted a real answer to this question.

And Alvin Platinga, one of the most brilliant and respected philosophers in the world, also takes a few moments to eviscerate Dawkins' pretentions in this Books & Culture review:
Dawkins is perhaps the world's most popular science writer; he is also an extremely gifted science writer. (For example, his account of bats and their ways in his earlier book The Blind Watchmaker is a brilliant and fascinating tour de force.) The God Delusion, however, contains little science; it is mainly philosophy and theology (perhaps "atheology" would be a better term) and evolutionary psychology, along with a substantial dash of social commentary decrying religion and its allegedly baneful effects.

....Now despite the fact that this book is mainly philosophy, Dawkins is not a philosopher (he's a biologist). Even taking this into account, however, much of the philosophy he purveys is at best jejune. You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores; the fact is (grade inflation aside), many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class. This, combined with the arrogant, smarter-than-thou tone of the book, can be annoying.
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