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It's too bad Dawkins has alienated some people - Comments

Mr Blue Sky's Avatar Comment 1 by Mr Blue Sky

Reasonable piece but seems to be trying to mount the latest bandwagon of I'm an atheist but... At least he didn't actually use the word strident!

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 18:21:00 UTC | #412552

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 2 by mordacious1

1. Comment #430882 by Mr Blue Sky

No, he didn't use the word "strident", he changed it to "notorious", as in "notorious gangster".

I do not think you could be "the world's foremost explainers of the theory of evolution" without being an atheist. Religion tends to get in the way of clear-thinking on the subject.

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 18:35:00 UTC | #412555

Richey99's Avatar Comment 3 by Richey99

"Even so, interviewers ask about atheism and "The God Delusion," and people who most adamantly insist nonsense such as intelligent design ought to be taught alongside valid science most likely will never look at Dawkins' book."

I do believe Richard said that he didnt expect anyone who believes in intelligent design to read this book.

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 19:07:00 UTC | #412561

Rob Schneider's Avatar Comment 4 by Rob Schneider

Again... an article starting with "stridentism"

Richard is "a notorious atheist"... "not that I have anything against atheists."

Why does that ring to my ears like, "I'm talkin' about you bitches... not that I have anything against women."

Or... "Steve is a notorious faggot... not that I have anything against homosexuals. Love 'em. Lots of them are my friends."

Grrr....

[edit] And, upon reading the article, it is a crying shame that someone with such an ebulliently positive review of the content of TGSOE spent so much of the article regurgitating references to Richard's religious stance.

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 19:41:00 UTC | #412568

DNR's Avatar Comment 5 by DNR

It's a darn shame that Dawkins isn't friends with everybody in the world -- I've seen that episode of Sesame Street, and so should have Steeve Goble.

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 19:47:00 UTC | #412569

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 6 by InYourFaceNewYorker

The title of this article should be, "It's Too Bad That People Keep Harping on 'The God Delusion' When the New Book is 'The Greatest Show on Earth.'"

Julie

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 20:06:00 UTC | #412572

Adrian Bartholomew's Avatar Comment 7 by Adrian Bartholomew

The flip side to Mr Goble’s position that Richard’s “notorious” atheism hurts his promotion of Evolution (not an unreasonable point) is that his promotion of evolution and fantastic reputation in that area has MASSIVELY improved his promotion of atheism and reason. I think it has been a worthwhile trade.EDIT: Yes it is argument from authority, but it works.

That is too darn bad, because the science he presents in "Greatest Show" is breathtaking.
And:
The people who would most benefit from this book are the undecided, those who perhaps see the whole evolution vs. intelligent design debate as a circus side show. If you've been wondering which side to believe, Dawkins has provided you a one-stop shop to learn how evolution really works.

It's an amazing ride.
It is a shame about the title of the review but I’m finding it hard to get upset as it is pretty glowing overall.

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 20:14:00 UTC | #412577

notsobad's Avatar Comment 8 by notsobad

It's actually very fortunate and too bad for them. They chose to be ignorant.

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 20:27:00 UTC | #412581

Stonyground's Avatar Comment 9 by Stonyground

Surely it is impossible to make a strong case for evolution and atheism without alienating certain sections of the world's population. I think that it is time to point out that it is the stupid and ignorant sections that have the problem. The nineteenth century had the flat earthers, the bible was their reason for believing that the Earth was flat, it clearly says so. Now that flat earthism has become completely untenable we have the modern equivalent, the anti evolutionists. The Bible is wrong about the shape of the earth and is not much use as a textbook on biology, (bats are birds, rabbits are ruminants, insects have four legs) so anyone who still clings to it as a fount of knowledge needs denouncing as an ignoramus no matter how much they feel alienated.

I agree with some of the previous poster's reservations, but on balance I think that this is a pretty positive review and if it encourages some to read the book that can only be a good thing.

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 20:48:00 UTC | #412585

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 10 by Dr. Strangegod

Would Richard be doing all these interviews and public appearances if he hadn't written TGD and it hadn't made him a famous atheist? Would any of these reviews ever have been written? Would Richard ever have been so immersed in creationism that he felt moved to write TGSOE?

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 21:19:00 UTC | #412597

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 11 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Most people I know who are critical of The God Delusion will agree that Richard's other books are spectacularly well-written, well-thought-out examples of popular science (some possibly even in the top 5 or 10 quintessential books of the genre).

I think most philosophers I know who are critical of the book, and have read it, are critical of it because they know the terrain very well, and know what to look for in good arguments on either side of the fence. That's often what's meant by "I'm an atheist, but...", and I think that's fair enough. I don't think The God Delusion is a work of philosophy. How could it be? Not even Bertrand Russell's potboilers like "Why I'm Not A Christian" are considered "philosopher proper" by anyone who knows what they're talking about. That isn't to demean either, though. Or at least, it shouldn't be. To the extent that this criticism (i.e. "It's not very good philosophy") is fair criticism, it can be shown why, and it does nothing to undermine the point or value or message of the work in question. I'm sure there are philosophers who wish Russell hadn't written so much "garbage" -- That is, books written for non-philosophers/general public consumption -- but I'm not one of them... and for the same reason, I'm glad Richard wrote The God Delusion.

At the same time, I think those of us who care to can understand why this (what appears to be) rather odd sort of criticism has been leveled, and what exactly it means.

Someone recently pointed out that it's similar to Richard's response to Midgley back in the 80s when she misunderstood what a "selfish gene" was meant to be -- It's not that Richard has now reversed that and misunderstood how to use philosophical terminology -- though, as is the case with any "amateur" (by which is simply meant work done by those who are not professionals in the field, and which is no guarantor of mediocrity), there is more often than not bound to be a lack of nuance by comparison to the pros. This is not a denigration of the work, as it isn't a denigration of Russell's pop-essays. It's a misunderstanding of the point. But it is a fruitful misunderstanding, since it provides an opportunity for clarification.

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 21:23:00 UTC | #412599

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 12 by mordacious1

What's that ol' saw? "If everyone likes you, you probably don't have much of a personality". I guess Richard has a lot of personality.:)

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 21:54:00 UTC | #412607

TIKI AL's Avatar Comment 13 by TIKI AL

To all the reviewers and fleas Richard must seem like a one man stimulas package.

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 21:57:00 UTC | #412608

MrPickwick's Avatar Comment 14 by MrPickwick

@10 by Lucas

Would Richard be doing all these interviews and public appearances if he hadn't written TGD and it hadn't made him a famous atheist? Would any of these reviews ever have been written? Would Richard ever have been so immersed in creationism that he felt moved to write TGSOE?
Extremely good point!

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 21:58:00 UTC | #412609

RichardofYork's Avatar Comment 15 by RichardofYork

Someone is going to have to put me on the right track with this "Not a good philosophical argument" routine .God has no evidence none, not a shred, nothing .I would think it just as likely to have "not a good philosophical argument" about unicorns and dragons .Please tell me where Im going wrong with this as it makes me feel annoyed through my ignorance as I see it so often. Thanks
Richard

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 22:40:00 UTC | #412614

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 16 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #430929 by Spinoza

Interesting points (I'm not sure why you brought them up here, but I actually find threads more interesting when they're off-topic anyway, so thank you). I'd be interested to know how you would characterise the difference between philosophy proper treatments of the God question and the sort of thing RD or BR produced for the populace. Is the difference one of logical validity of the arguments the authors use for their conclusions, or accuracy in exposing the logical invalidity of their opponents' arguments? (My guess is you do not think that, since like most people on this site you likely agree with many of their points.) Or is the difference something I would (naively?) consider less relevant?

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 22:41:00 UTC | #412615

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 17 by Nunbeliever

To SPINOZA:


"I think most philosophers I know who are critical of the book, and have read it, are critical of it because they know the terrain very well, and know what to look for in good arguments on either side of the fence."


I'm SO tired of these PHILOSOPHERS ála Michael Ruse that claim Dawkins arguments are just ridiculous from a philosophical point of view without EVER presenting one good example exactly why this is so. They just gladly point out Dawkins immaturity regarding philosophy. I would be pleased if maybe YOU could enlighten us exactly in what way... please...

I have to admit I'm not a big fan of modern philosophy. If I good philosophical case for a personal god (which I have never seen or heard of) can be made despite scientific observations pointing in the other directions. I'm sorry to say PHILOSOPHY has to go. ANYTIME.


But please! Feel free to show that I'm wrong.

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 23:38:00 UTC | #412624

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 18 by God fearing Atheist

17. Comment #430954 by Nunbeliever

I'm SO tired of these PHILOSOPHERS ála Michael Ruse that claim Dawkins arguments are just ridiculous from a philosophical point of view without EVER presenting one good example exactly why this is so.


Here here! The galling part is not the accusation, but the lack of examples, which leaves me unable to consider the merits of the argument for myself.

"A brief explanation of the philosophy of God for busy non-philosopher atheist scientists" would be a worthwhile xmass read. But what do I order from Amazon?

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 23:54:00 UTC | #412627

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 19 by Sally Luxmoore

"Notorious" -- Goes into a reverie --
Alfred Hitchcock's 'Notorious' is one of my all-time favourite films.
Cary Grant (sigh), Ingrid Bergman (soo beautiful), sinister, emotionally wrenching, suspenseful - a wonderful film! ---
Oh sorry, where were we?
Ah yes.
Another article by a reviewer who thinks that you can't praise a book without finding an angle from which to bash the author.
But Notorious is a fantastic film.

Tue, 10 Nov 2009 23:55:00 UTC | #412628

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 20 by God fearing Atheist

Before anyone else thinks learning about theological philosophy is useful, listen to Dan Dennett's comments at 48:02 - 49:11 in the video here:- http://richarddawkins.net/article,4547,The-Evolution-of-Confusion,Dan-Dennett-AAI-2009-RDFRS-Josh-Timonen

I'm still curious though. Perhaps I should just read Dennett for xmass.

Wed, 11 Nov 2009 00:19:00 UTC | #412633

Alternative Carpark's Avatar Comment 21 by Alternative Carpark

Dawkins has alienated some people?


WTF is that supposed to mean?

What has Dawkins got to do with disbelief in the worlds god myths?

"Well, I've had my doubts about the existence of god for a while now, and evolution by natural selection sounds more plausible to me each day, but some English Professor, from Oxford, England, has alienated me, so badly, that I have been forced to accept that universe is instead the creation of a god who put everything together in six days and then rested a few thousand years before finally settling down in the town of Galilee and enrolling in a carpentry apprenticeship."

Wed, 11 Nov 2009 00:25:00 UTC | #412635

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 22 by Chrysippus_Maximus

I'm SO tired of these PHILOSOPHERS ála Michael Ruse that claim Dawkins arguments are just ridiculous from a philosophical point of view without EVER presenting one good example exactly why this is so. They just gladly point out Dawkins immaturity regarding philosophy. I would be pleased if maybe YOU could enlighten us exactly in what way... please...

I have to admit I'm not a big fan of modern philosophy. If I good philosophical case for a personal god (which I have never seen or heard of) can be made despite scientific observations pointing in the other directions. I'm sorry to say PHILOSOPHY has to go. ANYTIME.


But please! Feel free to show that I'm wrong.


I agree with you in part. To the extent that a professional philosopher levels criticism at The God Delusion, I think they should take a minute to explain themselves. Part of the reason this hasn't been done in a few cases, I think, is a result of misunderstanding what The God Delusion is. Another part of the reason is probably that none of them cares sufficiently to charitably reconstruct any arguments actually given in The God Delusion and show why they're not "up-to-snuff", as it were.

I actually just don't think that's the purpose of the book (to present a philosophical bolstering of atheism, or against theism).

Take Chapter 3 of The God Delusion (as this is the chapter most likely to be misunderstood as an attempt to do philosophy).

Richard describes the Ontological Argument as "infantile" before he even begins to analyze it (what analysis there actually is of it, which is to say, not much, which is why I don't think he was even trying to do philosophy here). Then he provides a "translation" (not a proper reconstruction, which would not have been conducive to what I take the point of the book to be anyway) that renders it as a schoolyard bunch of nonsense.

This might piss off philosophers, even ones who think there IS something wrong with ontological arguments (maybe even that they are functionally equivalent to the schoolyard nonsense Richard thinks they are) -- For obvious reasons. This isn't philosophy, it's sophistry. It's a bit of low-brow rhetoric designed to appeal to people who didn't understand the argument in the first place. (And anyone who was actually trying to understand it would ask questions about the terminology before declaring it nonsense).

It's a good chapter in that it introduces people who otherwise would never have heard of them to these arguments. But it does not take any of them seriously (and, as I've said, that was never its purpose, and it shouldn't -- Philosophers criticizing this chapter haven't understood that it can't possibly have been Richard attempting to do philosophy, and to characterize it as such is just silly).

If this sounds like I'm attacking The God Delusion, I don't know what else to tell you. I'm not attacking it in the slightest. It is a great book for what it is -- And if you don't think that the reasons I've given for philosophers being somewhat irked by the sophistical treatment of philosophical issues are justified, well, in some sense I agree with that too... but I think understanding why they are irked is important, too. (And does not imply that philosophers are simply trying to defend theology, or are useless [though in some sense I think they are, as I am one, and I think this is important])....

Anyway... does that help?

Wed, 11 Nov 2009 01:43:00 UTC | #412643

Paine's Avatar Comment 23 by Paine

He has to meet the enemy on his own ground. If TGD is not philosophy, that's because none of the arguments for God are philosophy either.They are all pure fantasy falsely elevated to the state of philosophy by centuries of pseudo-profound sophistry.
You can set up theoretical 'philosophical' metaphysics over the existence of leprechauns, pixies, astrology etc. Very interesting, but none of it having any bearing on the reality of the subjects. The arguments against anything can not rise above the level of the arguments for it.

Wed, 11 Nov 2009 01:59:00 UTC | #412644

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 24 by Chrysippus_Maximus

If TGD is not philosophy, that's because none of the arguments for God are philosophy either.They are all pure fantasy falsely elevated to the state of philosophy by centuries of pseudo-profound sophistry.

... The arguments against anything can not rise above the level of the arguments for it.


However, bad arguments are not vitiated by bad arguments (and your latter point is just false).

In any case, I think you missed the point of what I said to some degree. It isn't that The God Delusion isn't philosophy BECAUSE arguments for the existence of deities (or the warrant of religious belief) aren't philosophy.

That doesn't even make sense. Philosophy can be done which shows arguments to be failures. That is, it doesn't follow from something's being a failed argument that vitiating it does not require argument (and thus, logic, and thus, philosophical investigation).

The ontological argument isn't meant to be "profound", it's a rationalist argument that can be viewed as trying to provide an escape from infinite regress, arbitrariness, or vicious circularity in explanations.

This is nothing if NOT philosophical in nature, at least, when the work being done is not guilty of rhetoric, bias, invective, and other fallacious modes.

There are, however, serious problems with arguments from conceivability, and pointing out where they go wrong is in the purview of philosophy -- But if The God Delusion had gone into detail about the problems with conceivability arguments it would have ceased to be a book written for a popular audience (and thus, ruined the whole point of the thing -- there are thousands of books written by philosophers, for philosophers, on similar subjects... the general public generally doesn't read them. And this is just fine.)

P.S. It *is* too bad some people are alienated from Dawkins. The Ancestor's Tale is one of my favourite books ever written (and I read PHILOSOPHY...!).

Wed, 11 Nov 2009 02:10:00 UTC | #412645

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 25 by Border Collie

"Notorious" ... wasn't that a film by Hitchcock?

Wed, 11 Nov 2009 02:31:00 UTC | #412650

Sonic's Avatar Comment 26 by Sonic

When I listened to the audio CD edition of The Greatest Show on Earth, occasionally I found myself wondering, "What might this book be like if Richard's public record as an atheist was completely stripped out?" I mean, just as a fantasy, suppose Richard even published the book under a pen name, like, I don't know, Anne Elk?

The answer I always came up with was that the book would still need to contrast Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection against the present-day attacks against it in the form of Creationism/ID. Presenting this contrast is necessary for the fence sitters who have been exposed to both sides but are still sitting on the fence.

I like this review by Steve Goble, because which would you rather have -- Goble's review that starts "negative" and ends completely positive, or Nicholas Wade's review that starts "positive" and ends completely negative? Recognizing your real friends is an crucial skill in life, not just responding to stroking that feels positive in the moment.

Yes, it's too bad Richard has alienated some people, and it's too bad we have to die, and it's too bad our sun will expand into a red giant to evaporate the oceans, and it's too bad the universe will die a heat death of boring equilibrium. But I will still wake up tomorrow, to enjoy my shower and my breakfast, and I will still make a point to tell my friends how wonderful they are! And I'm happy to see Goble's responses to comments on his paper's web site -- I say he's fighting the good fight.

That is the theory that I have and which is mine and what it is, too.

Wed, 11 Nov 2009 03:36:00 UTC | #412658

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 27 by God fearing Atheist

Thanks Spinoza, I'm begining to understand.

What I understand is that its not good philosophy to take the piss out of atrocious arguments. Good form is to boringly deconstruct them, piece by boring piece. TGD is popular science, and therefore taking the piss if far more fun. Hence square philosophers (Ruse) get all upset.

I have been looking at this:- http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/

for example:-


Plantinga
1. God exists in the understanding but not in reality. (Assumption for reductio)
2. Existence in reality is greater than existence in the understanding alone. (Premise)
3. A being having all of God's properties plus existence in reality can be conceived. (Premise)
4. A being having all of God's properties plus existence in reality is greater than God. (From (1) and (2).)
5. A being greater than God can be conceived. (From (3) and (4).)
6. It is false that a being greater than God can be conceived. (From definition of “God”.)
7. Hence, it is false that God exists in the understanding but not in reality. (From (1), (5), (6).)
8. God exists in the understanding. (Premise, to which even the Fool agrees.)
9. Hence God exists in reality. (From (7), (8).)


There would appear to be two "God"s here; a "concept of god" held in the human imagination, i.e. fictional God (fGod), and the real god (rGod)

The argument then goes:-

1) We can accept fGod

2) rGod > fGod

pre 3) fGod exists = rGod

3) rGod can be conceived.

What does "conceived" mean? Its either "Conceived in the imagination", but "imagined rGod" is fGod by definition so you can't get rGod by that method, or 2) "conceived as born or built" which requires rGod to be taken as an axiom, which is begging the question.

Has that crap really occupied theologians' minds for a 1000 years?

And as for:-


8. St. Anselm's Ontological Argument

There is an enormous literature on the material in Proslogion II-III. Some commentators deny that St. Anselm tried to put forward any proofs of the existence of God. Even among commentators who agree that St. Anselm intended to prove the existence of God, there is disagreement about where the proof is located ...


FFS! I wonder how far Einstein would have gone if his peers weren't sure if he had proved general relativity or where in his papers the proof lay.

Dan Dennett is right! (20. Comment #430963 by God fearing Atheist)

Pity Dennett doesn't write a book and put a properly argued boring philosophical bulldozer through this theological crap ... deepidy, deepidy deepidy ....

Wed, 11 Nov 2009 03:40:00 UTC | #412660

Rodger T's Avatar Comment 28 by Rodger T

For a stridently notorious atheist RD is a very nice bloke and not at all stuck up.

Wed, 11 Nov 2009 05:10:00 UTC | #412666

Steve_Goble's Avatar Comment 29 by Steve_Goble

Hello, all. I'm the guy who wrote the column. Let me say I did not mean to imply atheism is bad or stupid or that Prof. Dawkins is headed off to hell or anything of the sort. I read his books, I'm glad he does what he does.

My point, which perhaps might have been made more clearly, was that because he is a well-known spokesman for atheism there are large swaths of people who will ignore him entirely. Many of those people aren't necessarily head-in-the-sand Creationists, either. They are people who scarcely pay attention to all this evolution stuff, but tend to vote for "teach the controversy" because it sounds "fair," or perhaps they vote for that nice school board candidate who likes God and wants to teach intelligent design.

I think (or at least hope) that a lot of those people might see the difference between valid science and ID mung, if they can be persuaded to look at the evidence. If they pass up Prof. Dawkins' wonderful book because all they really know about him is that he's that atheist guy ... that's a shame. It's not Dawkins' fault, really, I don't expect or want him to be someone else. I just wish someone would write an eloquent best-seller that those people in the middle might read.

More power to Prof. Dawkins, though, and I hope he continues to speak up on all matters that are important to him. His is a voice that ought to be heard.

I hope that clears things up.

-- Steve

Wed, 11 Nov 2009 06:44:00 UTC | #412676

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 30 by mordacious1

29. Comment #431006 by Steve_Goble

Hi Steve, welcome to RD.net. Do you think that the people you describe, those that "scarcely pay attention to all this evolution stuff", would read Richard's book if he were more like Michael Ruse? Would they know who Michael Ruse was? I doubt it.

I think that those who will read TGSoE won't care about Richard's lack of belief. Those that do care wouldn't read it anyway. Jerry Coyne is an atheist who is probably less known for his lack of belief than Richard. Are these "teach the controversy" types of whom you speak flocking to buy his book on evolution? I really doubt it.

Wed, 11 Nov 2009 07:06:00 UTC | #412678