Dawkins' challenge about the "God Delusion": The Scientific American article

Richard Dawkins is a materialist and an atheist. That being true, then he must think that those who think that there is something to life beyond matter and things is a delusion. I would say that those who think that there is nothing to life except things, not beauty, no love, no joy, no peace, no truth, are deluded or are certainly missing out on much of life.

My point of view is that matter/energy is certainly not all of life. Neither is knowledge and information. Neither even is religion. We need the physical, the rational, and the spiritual/emotional. Is someone’s worldview is missing something, we need to point that out and encourage them to fill in the gaps and certainly not allow them to lord it over others because the others might be imbalanced.

I hope this answers you question as to how to treat people with different points of view.

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I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing about your own journey – I’m sure it hasn’t been easy.

Well, it wouldn’t be the first time I disagreed with Dawkins about something. :wink: But yeah, if we stretch the definition of “illness” that far, it almost becomes meaningless.

This reminds me of a story I read in Libby Anne’s blog once, about how a college classmate of hers was very devoted to bringing about “revival” on campus, holding prayer meetings and becoming increasingly controlling and erratic. I believe she eventually left school for treatment, but the question that came out of that was about the degree to which religious fervor can mask symptoms of mental illness, and if that is the case, perhaps religious people are less likely to recognize it in themselves and others.

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If remotely interesting, I read Dawkins book, “the God delusion“ when it first came out, and I was particularly underwhelmed. I read it as I hoped it to be the best challenge to the Christian faith, and I always like to have my beliefs challenged and sharpened. His arguments seemed to be one obvious fallacy after another.

The most striking, was that he spent one whole chapter, as I recall, arguing about how morality be to be understood not as something eternal, overarching, or transcendent, but as the byproduct of our evolutionary upbringing. Good and evil are simply invented constructs, essentially.

Then he spent what I think was the next chapter talking about how “evil”’religion was, and he didn’t mean “evil” simply as a human construct, by as an eternal, transcendent, absolute evil. It made me laugh out loud.

Essentially, for what this worth, Dawkins comes across to me as a polemicist… interested in saying things to get reactions and to try to sway opinion, not because he has carefully examined or is seeking the underlying truth or logic. He believes many things not because they are obvious and true, but because he wants or needs them to be the case. I could easily make a similar case that many of his own believes are downright delusional.

As for mental illness, feel free to ask me questions if you’d like… I would claim to be a cautious supporter of ID in general, and with significant sympathy with much of YEC. Much if my sympathy is that I do not take anything as true just because many scientists think so, particularly because atheist scientists essentially beg the questions involved, they need Darwinisticnecolution to be true to maintain their worldview. Other scientists that don’t share their beliefs, but nonetheless maintain the same essentially strictly naturalistic assumptions, I also share skepticism as it appears to me to beg the question.

(On the reverse side, I try to maintain significant skepticism of the claims of organized YEC groups, even while remaining very open to considering the ideas the suggest).

As for dinosaurs and mental health, you can tell me or ask me your thoughts if I would be a good test case for you… I am quite certain of my mental health, and lack of psychotic delusion… I wouldn’t say I “believe”’ with any great significant conviction or unshakeable certainty that dinosaurs and people lived together, but I am very open to the real possibility and tend to suspect there may well be something there. The animals in Job 40-41 certainly seem not to be describing other regular animals, and my biblical interpretation doesn’t accept the idea that, after describing all manner of real animals, the conclusion of the argument resorts to mythical creatures. Then you have dinosaur fossils found with soft tissue, etc. none of it conclusive, but I seriously consider the possibility.

My first take, there is mental illness that believes all manner of truly crazy conspiracy theories that literally require literal mental delusion (I’ve dealt with people in this category, one that believed his parents had literally wired recording devices in the Navy ship I was on to spy on him). But then there is a category where people believe something that is a significant minority report.

For instance, myself personally, I would never claim that people who believed, in 9/11 being an inside job conspiracy, or those who believed the Moonlanding was fake, to be suffering mental illness. It is possible, delusional people might believe such, but I do not see such beliefs being somehow a determinant of or conclusive for mental illness. I had very sane, very brilliant, Navy MD on one of my ships who believed the moon landing faked. There may be similar philosophical question begging approaches that lead them to discard generally accepted evidence, and and openness to way alternate evidence more highly then the rest of us. But if believing a wildly unpopular and extremely minority scientific view Is considered a mental illness, what would we say about Galileo?


Does RD have delusions of grandeur?

We should be careful attributing mental illness to positions taken. It easily becomes an ad hominem argument. We are all a little on a continuum with various pathological conditions. Some a little narcissistic, but not having a NPD, some a little obsessive but not having OCD. Some a little manic, but not being bipolar. It is common for students in psychiatry to see themselves as having many of he pathological traits they are studying (and they are not wrong!):wink:
I think those who tend to be on one end of the spectrum may express their paranoia and such with what most of us consider irrational ideas, but are not outside of two standard deviations.


I apologize. I did not mean to come out that way. I amended my post. Thanks.

Randy, I was not trying to be critical, and think your post was fine as part of the discussion, so feel free to reopen it. I was just trying to point out that it is a problematic area. I’m sure you read over the recent Randal Rauser post, in which I think he stepped over the line also. No doubt I have done the same on multiple occasions, and will certainly do so in the future, but think we should be sensitive to doing so.
Maybe we should amend our insults as per the popular qualification,“I think you are (mentally ill), not that there is anything wrong with that.”:wink:


How do you distinguish between religious fervor and mental illness? Answer: Examination by a mental health professional. In other words this isa matter for someone with competence and not a matter for bombastic rhetoric by an ideological preacher. A belief in God is quite often part of the psychopathology of the mentally ill. So this is not a simple question.

Is Dawkin’s meglomania and misogyny a mental illness or simply a personality trait and character flaw? Once again, examination by a mental health professional is required for such a determination. In other words, ideology is capable of all same mental health problems as religion including correcting Weinberg’s famous claim that getting good people to do evil things takes religion… for it is historically demonstrable that all it takes is ideology. Communism has produced murder in the name of ideology on an unprecedented scale never before seen all over the world. The only thing coming close to this is a long history of anti-semetic pogroms culminating in the holocaust in which religion frankly played only a marginal role.

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I can’t quite tell what the conversation here is about, but I have always considered Dawkin’s use of the term ‘delusion’ in TGD to be incorrect. My reasons are narrow and linguistic (perhaps pedantic)–I think that word should retain a particular semi-clinical meaning. Of course, definitions and usages can flex and shift, but when I read the definition that Dawkins himself uses (as quoted in the SA blog post), I don’t picture religious belief broadly speaking. Maybe that’s because I don’t consider god-belief to be subject to empirical judgment (i.e., it can’t be clearly undermined by “strong contradictory evidence”). In my thought, belief in gods is empirically similar to belief in platonic ideals. So I can never call god-belief a “delusion.”

However, numerous claims and beliefs (if that’s what they are) that are associated with religion, and that are well represented on this forum, frequently look like delusions. We often see posts that suggest basic struggles with clear thought, and even with reading. Whether these often-striking dysfunctions are cause or consequence of particular religious beliefs is unclear, and the population sample here at the BL forum is probably far from representative. But thoughtful people do have a right to worry about delusion or other dysfunctional phenomena when reading, for example, the confused babbling of conservative Christian engineers.

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What is a “conservative Christian engineer?” And to what “confused babbling” are you refering?

dictionary.com might help here.

Lots of huge threads on BL forum in which writers are worryingly unable to understand concepts and facts.

Randy, out of curiosity, have you ever read any of the books by Darwin dissidents that are clearly not motivated primarily by religious reasons? Thinking of those like Meyer and Behe, who harbor no belief in young earth, and the latter of whom I believe accepts common dissent of all life as Darwin did but simply does not accept the mutation/natural selection mechanism as a sufficient explanation?

Any fair reading of these and other dissenters would, I think to any fair minded observer, show that, however one disagreed with their interpretation and implications, that they are wrestling heavily with facts, science, and evidence. One might find their conclusions horrendously biased, their logic erroneous, them being blind or misinterpreting counter evidence, but they could hardly be accused of not weighing evidence carefully.

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Your response only adds to my confusion.

What do the “huge threads on BL forum” or the inability of particular people to understand particular concepts have to do with engineers which happen to be conservative or Christian?

Well said. This whole discussion reminded me of a particularly relevant sentiment from C. S. Lewis:

“You can only find out the rights and wrongs by reasoning - never by being rude about your opponent’s psychology.”


Just taking a stab in the dark, but i think that simply refers to me. :wink:

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Ah… I was beginning to suspect something like this. A statement irrational by itself attempting a low blow against a particular person… and he certainly didn’t want to explain (not even to a member of the same “team”) for that would make the ad-hominem more direct and explicit. tut tut tut…

Actually that is why I should retract my statement. I apologize. I was afraid that it was implying the wrong thing , and it did apparently. I was referring Not at all to creationists, of which I am one. I was thinking of conspiracy theorists , such as those who think that the government suppress information about UFOs, for example. I would certainly agree that Meyer &Be he are kind and well-reasoned individuals.

again, I apologize. I should not have done this so half cocked. I apparently did not read the entire messages before this.

(In addition, you are perfectly correct…conspiracy theorists are not ill…any more than the rest of us)

And…there is way too much information out there to observe and absorb correctly 100% of the time. I appreciate your statements. I am wrong most of the time.

It was a comment about how there are fairly recent examples of confusion and fact-blindness, involving repeated assertion of falsehood in the face of oft-repeated refutation, on this forum. (Hence the relevance to the topic of delusion, which is the only topic I was addressing.) These involve “skeptics” who happen to be engineers. Sorry you didn’t know about that.

You have struggled to get things right, but the most head-scratching example was a huge thread involving someone else.

I have noticed that technicians and engineers sometimes like to pass themselves off as scientists, as if science was about using the mathematical and measuring apparatus rather than about the honesty of testing hypotheses and the objectivity of written procedures which anyone can follow to get the same result.

As for your frustration I TOTALLY sympathize!

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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