Richard Dawkins: the case for militant atheism .. I'm not convinced

True, but the microlevel does intersect with the macrolevel; it is not sealed off completely. A good example is the case of a ball bearing bouncing on the point of a vertical pin in vacuum. Eventually the ball bearing will miss the pin, although in an ideal classical-physics world with a perfectly round bearing and a perfectly sharp pin in a perfect vacuum, the bearing would bounce until it ran out of energy (a fairly long time, as steel is very elastic, more so than rubber).

But in the real world, a close-to-perfect bearing will miss the close-to-perfect pin much faster than classical physics would predict, and this is a quantum effect. A sharp pin’s tip is only a few atoms wide, and so the quantum variation in the position of those atoms is amplified into a macro-level effect.

True as far as it goes. But neglecting the mythos of freedom leads to a world in which nothing is ever questioned and so concerns that are outworn become dogmas (racism and sexism being obvious examples). The U.S. was founded on the mythos of freedom, because the English mythos of concern had become obviously inapplicable to North American conditions – obvious, that is, to people who lived there.

I wonder where you take that division of mythos into freedom and concern. It folds neatly into Iain McGilchrist’s division of our nature into intuition and reason. Intuition requires an openness and attention to context while reason looks at the parts and is concerned with utility. Our Western culture is very much dominated by the latter.

As you perhaps know, the word μῦθος in ancient times did not mean ‘false story, fairy tale, myth’ but something wider like ‘story, narrative’ with no implication of falseness. In Aristotle it just means ‘plot’, for example.

The mythos of concern is a story about what society thinks everyone should know and believe; the mythos of freedom is a story about people who worked very hard to shift the mythos of concern in their day in order to remove its archaic and now-unnecessary ideas and procedures. Most scientists are part of the mythos of freedom; early Christians were too, and so was Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom’s work is never done, for when it accomplishes something (that is, makes it part of the mythos of concern, like free speech in the democracies) there is more obsolete concern to deal with.

Perhaps the correct value is 20% freedom, 80% concern. Don’t take those numbers seriously.

I appreciate the explanation but parts of it confused me more. Theological free will-- as opposed to what other type of free will? I never really distinguished between different types of choice. I am assuming you aren’t posing the choice between God and Satan as if they are diametrically opposite beings. The latter is a fallen angel, the former is considered omnipotent.

I have to disagree with you on the spoon issue. It seems you are a compatibilist. If you are only doing what past experiences necessitates you to, I find it difficult to see how you actually had a real choice in dropping or holding the spoon. Technically, if your past dictates your choice in the present, there is no choice, your behavior is already determined.

I can’t help but think of a solid block rolling down a ramp. If you know the angle of the ramp, the mass of the box, assuming a uniform surface, it is extremely easy to predict where that box will be over time. Its motion is being dictated and controlled by the falsifiable rules of physics as we know them. If all of our choices are reducible solely to chemistry and physics and determined in such a fashion, I do not see how we are free? I always felt that by definition free will and determinism are mutually exclusive. I feel compatibilists have to play word games. I know why they do it. The reality of free will seems obvious to the majority of people but arguments for determinism are also strong. I don’t think we have an answer to this dilemma to be honest. Also, as an advocate for free will I think many people underestimate just how much heredity and environment impact our lives. We are probably not as free as we seem to think. My original point was I don’t see how a scientific determinism can lead to free will. Maybe quantum openness but extending that link between quantum events to the scale of brain chemistry is the idea of looking for an explainable and falsifiable cause for all events seems to create friction with my concept of free will.

The problem for me is that I would guess majority of calvinists, who think God chooses some people to salvation and the others get the eternal torment they deserve via original sin. At least Arminianism is a step ahead here.

Vinnie

I agree no position is theologically unassailable. The simplest answer for me is that scripture is not inerrant in the way most moderns Christians think it is. Sure, human fallibility plays a huge rollin interpretive woes, but many of us can very clearly see how good scriptural arguments can be made for contrary positions on issues like this.

I don’t share your comfort or think calvinism is the best way to interpret the Bible. You can find scriptural support for it but for other mutually exclusive views as well. I just stop and think about what Calvinism actually asks me to believe. The notion of total depravity? Okay, I can accept it but not with people going to hell, to eternal torment because they were born into original sin. That God is a monster. Why would anyone choose that when there are other scriptural choices? Not to mention that version of God appears schizophrenic (1 Tim 2:3, 2 Peter 3:9). He desires that all will be saved but only chooses some to save through grace (through absolutely no action or merit of their own. Is saving everyone too much work for an omnipotent being? Calvinism literally makes Christianity out to be a lottery. I seriously have to ask why? But I already know the answer. Its the futile endeavor of trying to fit all of scripture together under the notion of inerrancy. That’s never worked in the Church and it probably never will.

Vinnie

On the contrary, I believe it is entirely orthogonal to that. Both science and the arts (which are the heart of Western culture) need both intuition and reason in the same individuals in order to work at all. Without intuition we can’t get good ideas; without reason, we can’t work out their consequences. As Kant says (not quite on point, but related): concepts without percepts are empty, percepts without concepts are blind.

Of course I am a compatibilist, by definition: I think that free will and determinism are compatible.

You’re mixing up doing and choosing. I think that my choice is most probably determined; it does not follow that I always act as I choose.

No indeed; that was badly put. I mean the choice between God and not-God. Some free-willers (I prefer this to “libertarians” nowadays, as less confusing) hold that this is the only choice we can make, and that all else follows from that.

Overcooked free-willer: “The box slides down the ramp because it wants to and freely chooses to do so.”

Overcooked determinist: “The box slides down the ramp because it has to: it has no choice, but must obey physical law.”

Actual physicist: “The box neither ‘wants to’ nor ‘has to’ slide down the ramp; it simply does slide down the ramp. The physical laws you speak of are simply generalizations over what boxes have been observed to do.”

When I talk about Calvinism I generally mean Jean Calvin’s own views as given in his writings, not the views of people who say they are Calvinists. The same is true when I talk about Marxism: I am not a Calvinist, and “je suis Marxiste, tendance Groucho.”

Note that Calvin does not believe in double predestination. His view is that the souls of the living are bubbling in a pot, and God chooses which ones to get out of the pot. But he does not choose to push others under; they do that under their own weight (of sin), and so they get boiled forever. So Calvin’s God indeed desires that all could be saved, but foreknows that all will not. Even God doesn’t always get what he wants, and that is determined (heh) by humanity’s free will.

Not really.Mytholofy has in it the word mythos.And its false,Unless someone for some reason believes that Zeus lives at the top of Olypmus

Well, here’s the evidence from Liddell and Short, the major Greek-English dictionary:

  • tale, story, narrative , Od. 3.94 , 4.324 , S. Ant. 11 , etc.: in Hom. like the later λόγος, without distinction of true or false, μ. παιδός of or about him, Od. 11.492 : so in Trag., ἀκούσει μῦθον ἐν βραχεῖ λόγῳ (χρόνῳ cod. M.) A. Pers. 713 ; μύθων τῶν Λιβυστικῶν Id. Fr. 139.1 : in Prose, τὸν εἰκότα μ. the likely story , likelihood, Pl. Ti. 29d : prov., μ. ἀπώλετο, either of a story which never comes to an end, or of one told to those who do not listen, Cratin. 59 , Crates Com. 21 , Pl. Tht. 164d , cf. R. 621b , Lg. 645b , Phlb. 14a ; μ. ἐσώθη ‘thatʼs the end of the story ’, Phot.

After all, Homer and Hesiod (who were very nearly sacred authors) would not have used a word for ‘lie, fairy tale, made-up story’ to refer to the stories about the ancient Greek gods that they themselves believed in. Only later on, in the time of Pindar and Philodemus, do we get meanings like ‘fiction’:

  • 2 fiction (opp. λόγος, historic truth ), Pi. O. 1.29 (pl.), N. 7.23 (pl.), Pl. Phd. 61b , Prt. 320c , 324d , etc.
  • 3generally, fiction , μ. ἴδιοι Phld. Po. 5.5 ; legend, myth , Hdt. 2.45 , Pl. R. 330d , Lg. 636c , etc.; ὁ περὶ θεῶν μ. Epicur. Ep. 3p.65U. ; τοὺς μ. τοὺς ἐπιχωρίους γέγραφεν SIG 382.7 (Delos, iii B.C.).
  • 4 professed work of fiction, childrenʼs story, fable , Pl. R. 377a ; of Aesopʼs fables , Arist. Mete. 356b11 .
  • 5 plot of a comedy or tragedy, Id. Po. 1449b5 , 1450a4 , 1451a16 .

Well, here’s the evidence from Liddell and Short, the major Greek-English dictionary:

  • tale, story, narrative , Od. 3.94 , 4.324 , S. Ant. 11 , etc.: in Hom. like the later λόγος, without distinction of true or false, μ. παιδός of or about him, Od. 11.492 : so in Trag., ἀκούσει μῦθον ἐν βραχεῖ λόγῳ (χρόνῳ cod. M.) A. Pers. 713 ; μύθων τῶν Λιβυστικῶν Id. Fr. 139.1 : in Prose, τὸν εἰκότα μ. the likely story , likelihood, Pl. Ti. 29d : prov., μ. ἀπώλετο, either of a story which never comes to an end, or of one told to those who do not listen, Cratin. 59 , Crates Com. 21 , Pl. Tht. 164d , cf. R. 621b , Lg. 645b , Phlb. 14a ; μ. ἐσώθη ‘thatʼs the end of the story ’, Phot.

After all, Homer and Hesiod (who were very nearly sacred authors) would not have used a word for ‘lie, fairy tale, made-up story’ to refer to the stories about the ancient Greek gods that they themselves believed in. Only later on do we get meanings like ‘fiction’:

  • 2 fiction (opp. λόγος, historic truth ), Pi. O. 1.29 (pl.), N. 7.23 (pl.), Pl. Phd. 61b , Prt. 320c , 324d , etc.
  • 3generally, fiction , μ. ἴδιοι Phld. Po. 5.5 ; legend, myth , Hdt. 2.45 , Pl. R. 330d , Lg. 636c , etc.; ὁ περὶ θεῶν μ. Epicur. Ep. 3p.65U. ; τοὺς μ. τοὺς ἐπιχωρίους γέγραφεν SIG 382.7 (Delos, iii B.C.).
  • 4 professed work of fiction, childrenʼs story, fable , Pl. R. 377a ; of Aesopʼs fables , Arist. Mete. 356b11 .
  • 5 plot of a comedy or tragedy, Id. Po. 1449b5 , 1450a4 , 1451a16 .

@johnwcowan, thank you for your comment.

There is no scientific evidence that genes compete with one another.

There is no scientific evidence that evolution operates by competition between bodies as opposed to evolution is the way nature adapts organisms to a changing environment so that they make fullest use of its resources.

Nature, who is she? And anyway, evolution is about the good-enough, not the best. “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.”

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“Nature” here is another word for God, in that Nature created natural laws. On the other hand, genes cannot compete, because they cannot think, they are not “whos.” Bodies are organisms, so they operate by biological law, which is not competition, but symbiosis.

The Selfish Gene is a Myth, based Darwin’s myth, the struggle for survival.

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And I am an incompatibilist as I think free will and determinism are mutual exclusive by definition.

So your choices are determined but your actions are not? What evidence do you base this on? I would simply say that when this happens that is due to tertiary and environment having am ore significant role than we otherwise might think. I don’t think a heroine addicts wants or chooses to live that lifestyle. So I can understand how sometimes what we would desire is not what we would do. Not seeing how this distinction resolves the incompatibility of free will and determinism.

This is interesting but the problem for me is I can put one million boxes on that ramp and they will all slide down in a totally predictable manner, whether its due to the existence of gravitons, space-curvature or something else. The box is not “free” but to do anything but what the “generalizations” as you call them, require it to do. You can say science is just a generalization but we can put a billion boxes on that ramp and most are going to tell you they strong believe the behavior will be the same. Every human and object on the planet every single day, every single atom attests to the constancy and direction of gravity. I can change the angle of the ramp and tell you exactly what the box will do before it does it and I can predict it with pretty much 100% certainty. Not only are these generalizations of observations, they are used to make falsifiable predictions about reality. If human thought, choice and consciousness (words, admittedly, I am probably in dire need of defining more clearly) are all subject to these same “generalizations” and “predictions” we are no more free to make choices and act of volition than a box on a ramp. It makes no more sense to chastise a person for immoral behavior than it does a rock on the side of the road.

With this, God still suffers from being schizophrenic in my mind. Is God choosing which ones get out of the pot while letting others boil forever despite desiring all should come to repentance? Why does an omnipotent being desire all but only choose some? But you said God doesn’t always gets what he wants so I think you are saying God is foreknowing who would choose Him and basing his decision on that? Is that correct? If that is so its not about God electing us in any real sense, it’s about God knowing we make the appropriate choice. We have essentially elected ourselves. Either God elects us or we choice. I know scripture teaches both but I prefer to pick one rather than claim they can somehow mean the same thing. By definition I do not think they are compatible. This reminds me of the phrase “have your cake and eat it too.” Looks more like philosophical word games than coherent theology to me. And I say this knowing I can’t offer you an iron clad defense of free will or explain any all the objections to it. When presented with such issues incapable of being solved I would just change the question to one more relevant to worldview: how now shall I choose to live? Not by determinism that is for sure.

Vinnie

That was The God Delusion. I suppose the title was ironically accurate, as it did display a number of delusions that Dawkins has about God. Of course, one can be an atheist who deplores the poor arguments and behaviors of certain other atheists, just as no one religious thinks that all those who are religious are good examples. Dawkins is wrong to pretend that “religious” is a monolithic group that can accurately be characterized by citing the worst examples. It’s akin to the fundamental error in his “fairyology” argument - no, we don’t need to automatically defer to “fairyologists” as to whether fairies exist, but we should pay enough attention to “fairyologists” to make sure we know what they are talking about before presuming to assess their claims.

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Exactly. Fairyology as a synonym for theology, when God belief has been a pervasive and ancient component of nearly all human societies is disingenuous.

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The problem is that neither Dawkins nor Krause is willing to accept that the fact that there is no scientific proof for the claim that the Selfish Gene is a verified fact or that God did not create the universe out of nothing.

You may be missing a “no” in your sentence.

Occasionally, Dawkins does display an ability to think about anything in life in a way that doesn’t demand the same standard of evidence as science, but he fails to consider that when he’s pushing his poor-quality philosophical and religious claims. There are two ways in which they are inappropriately demanding the same standard of evidence. One is in the rigor of proof, the other is in the method. Dawkins’ claim that evolution enabled intellectually satisfied atheism insults the intellect of atheists. Hidden within that is the circular reasoning fallacy that having a scientific explanation explains everything because science is everything, therefore there is nothing else to explain. (Of course, it also neglects the fact that earlier atheists had views that were satisfactory to themselves, and that geological and astronomical origins remained significantly unexplained at the time that biological origins were first being reasonably well-explained by evolution.)

What poor quality philosophical and religious claim?

“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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