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

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!

Oh, the ID engineer population includes people far denser than you. Don’t take that too personally.

I have read Meyer and Behe extensively. I spent about a decade in thrall to their position.

Then I started to read what evolutionary biologists say. I started reading actual scientific papers. It became clear to me that Meyer and Behe, in spite of their sincerity, are quite out of their depth.

There have been a few threads on other forums in which evolutionary biologists, some of whom are Christians, discuss the shortcomings of Behe’s books. Are you interested in reading through those threads, Daniel? I would be happy to provide links if you are.

Best,
Chris

1 Like

Delusion is human normal, it can only have anything to do with mental illness in a person who has delusion types which are only encountered in mental illness, including dementia. We all have non-rational epistemologies - even Jesus did - and legion cognitive bias.

Aye, graciously.

If you mean that our understanding is based on our own individual perceptions and interpretations I might agree with you. Films like the Matrix play on this idea but it would appear to be cynical at best. Delusion would seem to imply being fooled or misunderstanding.

The problem that people like Dawkins have is that they refuse to even consider a supernatural notion or the possibility of God so anyone who follows that notion must be deluded, period. We will see and interpret what we want to, It has been said that the same basic principle applies to those who insist that Chance is the only possible driving force for Evolution, for the randomness of the deviations to being in the right place at the right time to exploit what ever advantages nature has given us. Australasia has long been the cited proof as evolution seems to have taken a different track there.
Where as it is the inter-relations within both the Individual construction and the Ecosystem at large that point many toward the idea of a creator. Let’s admit it, evidence can be produced for both extremes let alone the proliferation of combinations of them.

I guess the only real question is “what is real?” Then we resort to Sherlock Holmes "what ever is left, that is what we must believe. My experience Is that the existence of God answers too many questions to be ignored or dismissed.

Richard

Aye Richard. Our perceptions and interpretations of them in particular are overwhelmingly culturally determined, and what little reason we have is the slave of the passions; we’re a barely rational creature. So being fooled and misunderstanding are utterly normal, in fact standard operating procedure. But we get by.

Dawkins has no problem considering the supernatural, like the rest of us, he never encounters it and never needs it to explain any personal experience or any scientific, historical phenomenon. He’s on perfectly firm ground there. I still desire the supernatural in a best case God and for me there is just enough room for that because of the early Church reacting to the then recent claims of Jesus. And there is all the momentum of my 50 years of belief that’s been 99.9% pruned away. There is nothing in creation that requires divine intervention, but if there is a God, then He is the ground of being. That’s not extreme, it’s just rational. I understand that contemplation of creation naturally leads to imagining supernatural agency, been there, done that. As for what’s real, it’s whatever we subjectively say it is, overwhelmingly based on how we feel. For me the existence of God now raises more questions than it answers, but what’s faith for eh?

That applies to the basics of creation, yes, but it does not take into account the unusual or even the supplicant. I do not think that God “lit the blue touch paper and retired immediately”.

Richard

Nice expression Richard. I’m deist but for Jesus and His first couple or three circles. I have one remaining unusual event that leaves me open mouthed. It’s utterly trivial and if it were divine intervention it would reinforce God or someone more local… as the Joker. And it would raise more questions than answers about the nature of God.
I’m not aware of any unusual event or apparent response to supplication that is not explicable by statistical noise. Random grains of wheat in blizzards of chaff like all the cold reading that goes on even in my church. And worse, a miraculous pint of milk claimed to the congregation with clerical endorsement this Sunday. Sigh. All claims of healing don’t break the statistical surface. If God didn’t retire at the ‘beginning’ of eternity, but for incarnation once per inhabited world and immanence and ineffably by the Spirit whilst waiting to transcend us, where, when else does He intervene in the infinite, eternal material?

(Total tangent, what if an inhabited world has more than one sapient species concurrently, how many incarnations do they get?)

the marked difference between humanity and the rest of earth life is “Biblically big” ?

When you watch Walking with Dinosaurs, the differences between the smartest & second smartest archosaur (Troodon vs. T-Rex, say) were never nearly that between humans & chimpanzees, say

whereas, by present epoch, humanity on earth is supposedly the “Divine Handiwork” of Heavenly intervention for purposes of Theistically-guided evolution

With all due respect to Doyle and his “Sherlockian Archetype”, that particular conviction always struck me as unwarranted arrogance (for all of us real people, anyway). It presumes that I have logically thought of all possibilities, so that they could be so methodically eliminated. Unless one is willing to allow their last non-eliminated possibility to be a nebulous “well -it must be something I haven’t even thought of yet”, it seems highly unwarranted for me to consider it proven. Most of the time when we have A and B before us as the only two possible options, and we manage to eliminate A, the real answer turns out to be C.

3 Likes

You raise some excellent points here, Josh. I’d like to add my thanks to the others here who have commented on the difficulty of posting about personal vulnerability.

On the question of Dawkins, a book I’ve found helpful is Alister McGrath’s Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life. McGrath, who trained in molecular biophysics before wending his way into mainstream Christian theology as a professor of historical theology at Oxford, challenges some of Dawkins’s main assumptions about science and religion.

McGrath examines some of the definitions Dawkins uses to make his (Dawkins’s) claims:

In the second edition of The Selfish Gene, Dawkins proposes an absolute dichotomy between"blind faith" and “overwhelming, publicly available evidence”:

‘But what, after all, is faith? It is a state of mind that leads people to believe something – it doesn’t matter what – in the total absence of supporting evidence. If there were good supporting evidencem, then faith would be superfluous, for the evidence would compel us to believe it anyway.’

This, I must stress, is Dawkins’ definition of faith, and it bears no resemblance to what Christians believe. It’s on the same level as saying that the theory of evolution is about giraffes wanting to reach the leafy higher branches of trees, so that their necks would stretch as a result. It’s an amusing caricature of the real thing. Sadly, some people take it seriously, and think it is the real thing.

So to start with, Dawkins has placed a poorly understood and poorly reasoned definition of faith in front of us and has expected all of us to accept his definition of faith without argument. He has an opinion of faith, but we don’t have to accept his opinion, just as we don’t have to accept his opinion that believing in God is delusional. Dawkins isn’t trained as a medical practitioner or mental health care provider or neuroscientist, and his arguments against faith and believing in God show a remarkable lack of nuance. For anyone who’s wondering about the line between faith and mental illness (though really, it’s more properly a line between religion and mental illness), Dawkins has little to contribute from a scientific perspective.

Belief systems and ideologies from all fields of research and inquiry can and do have effects on how the human brain is wired at a biological level. It isn’t just religious beliefs that can affect our thought, mood, choices, and behaviours. Any intensely held ideological belief – including militant atheism – will eventually change the brain’s wiring, and therefore the brain’s outward manifestations of thought, mood, choices, and behaviours. This isn’t a judgment. It’s just a biological reality.

Sticking with the middle path – making balanced choices, keeping an open mind, cultivating empathy and compassion and forgiveness, treating all others you meet as children of God who deserve our respect (even if they hold some wonky beliefs) – will help you deal graciously with the struggles we all have to cope with, even the beliefs about Alexander the Great seeing dinosaurs.

Fortunately, there’s solid evidence that following a path of moderate faith (where you’re not at either ideological extreme) is good for the biological brain and therefore good for your overall mental health. Faith and religion won’t fix every mental health issue, which is why we need the help of trained medical professionals. But balanced spiritual practices are a very important complement to other mental health regimens such as respectful relationships, good nutrition, moderate exercise, social fun, psychotherapy, appropriate medications, and keeping a cautious eye on alcohol and other addictive substances.

You probably know all this already. But when people start attacking our faith, we can sometimes forget that God doesn’t expect all the faith pathways to be hard. Sometimes the easy practices smooth the way to the harder questions, such as how to care for our sisters and brothers who really do have major psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, and who suffer terrible emotional and spiritual pain as a result.

God bless.

1 Like

As an attempt to find some common ground, would you say that Muslims have faith in the authenticity of the Koran in the same way that Christians have faith in their beliefs? Do you think Muslims have evidence that supports their beliefs? Are you open minded with respect to converting to Islam?

1 Like

There’s always a problem with the words “faith,” “belief,” and “religion.” In the quote above from Alister McGrath, Dawkins’s is conflating “blind faith” (i.e. fideism) with the kind of faith many Christians feel, which is less about “belief” and more about “relationship with God.” Fideism and faith are two different things.

I know, of course, that fundamentalist Christians understand their religious experience to be more about obedience, piety, and fideism, but fundamentalism is a state of mind that goes well beyond religion into other spheres of human ideology. In fact, there’s probably no sphere of human experience that doesn’t have a core group of fundamentalists espousing “I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong” ideologies.

In every major world religion – including Christianity and Islam – you’ll find a spectrum of religious experience. So I can’t answer your question about Muslims. I’m sure that a lot of Muslims accept their written teachings with obedience and piety, which they’re called upon to accept as part of their religion. But do all Muslims feel the experience of “faith” – that is, a personal experience of God’s presence in their lives? Probably not. Just as many Christians end up relying on obedience and piety instead of faith because no one has helped them open the door of relationship with the Divine.

You ask whether I would be open to converting to Islam. The answer is no. The reason for this is that during my study of many different religious systems, I realized that some religious teachings are more likely than others to help individual people open the door to God in ways that don’t conflict with science and don’t conflict with the needs of the biological brain. I am a Christian – though one of moderate, centrist, inclusivist views – because some branches of Christianity (though not all branches) are more open to spiritual and social and religious practices that enhance the potential for meaning and happiness in human lives. These same practices also enhance the chances of feeling a personal experience of God (i.e. faith) in our everyday lives. So from my personal point of view, mainstream Christianity is win-win. And joining a fundamentalist Christian group would be lose-lose. But that’s just me.

There is a considerable body of evidence that actively religious people exhibit better mental health than the irreligious.

I posted this last year, prompted a research report appearing in the London Times:

As far as delusion specifically, I’m of the opinion that basically everyone on the planet firmly believes a few things that are demonstrably wrong, and education and intelligence confer no immunity. David Robson’s magnificent work “The Intelligence Trap”, explains why that is so. I have a review of that on my site as well.

The fact that religious behaviour generally, net enhances mental health confirms Viktor Frankl’s findings in Auschwitz written in Man’s Search For Meaning. We’re evolutionarily wired that way.

Another interpretation would simply be that as has historically been widely believed by all mankind. God in Heaven intervenes into earth affairs, promoting some people and demoting others rewarding faithful followers and punishing apostates.

Carrot and stick, cultivation and culling.

Aye. Most believers in gods, God, spirits whether of ancestors or weather believe that. I certainly don’t.

There is little evidence either in history or Scripture that such a system exists. In fact the general consensus is that crime pays (until or unless you get caught.)

Scripture promotes the notion that God encourages the faithful but does not necessarily protect them from evil. He is more likely to encourage and give strength to endure than to remove the suffering. Which is one reason people do not like the Christian faith. Baptism is not a life insurance policy. If it were, everyone would do it.

Richard

1 Like

There are some Muslims who say they can feel the presence of Allah in their lives.

All I would suggest is that Dawkins may have made a similar investigation and come to the same conclusion for all religions. People can have opinions on whether Dawkins is right, but the idea of rejecting the claims of a religion shouldn’t be foreign to Christians since they have done the same for other religions.

2 Likes

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

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.