This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← The Dawkins Confusion: Naturalism ad absurdum

The Dawkins Confusion: Naturalism ad absurdum - Comments

WoodyUK's Avatar Comment 1 by WoodyUK

From about unguided darwinian process downwards it just spirals into pretty spectacular idiocy

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 12:56:00 UTC | #21335

ScienceBreath's Avatar Comment 2 by ScienceBreath

I think you incorrectly closed the emphasis tag just after "tour de force".

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 12:58:00 UTC | #21336

Aaron's Avatar Comment 3 by Aaron

Did Alvin Plantinga write all this to just show he read the book and didn't understand the arguments made in it? Maybe the next book Professor Dawkins writes should be a The Coloring Book Version of The God Delusion For Theists.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 13:05:00 UTC | #21338

GBile's Avatar Comment 4 by GBile

Could it be that his mother, while carrying him, was frightened by an Anglican clergyman on the rampage?

Alvin Plantinga, "a contemporary American philosopher of frisian descent", this is the kind of arguements you bring into this discussion ??

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 13:06:00 UTC | #21339

Aerik's Avatar Comment 5 by Aerik

I really wish these foolish Christian essayists would read and listen to the quote more carefully. The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction. One can not make an enemy out of something for which he has no belief. Alvin Plantinga is clearly one of those Christians who refused to believe people who do not believe in a god actually exists. Either that, or he does not care how he misrepresents. Right there, in the opening paragraph, you can tell there is little substance to be had in this essay. Need I go on?

I might as well. Most of the rest of this essay talks about how things that act like machines must really be machines, "organized complexity" construed to be "specified complexity"... all bunch of pseudo-scientific dribble that, once again, clearly exposed Intelligent Design for old fashioned Evangelical Christian Creationism. This is not so much an attempt to disprove atheism as it is an argument for Intelligent Design that argues evolution leads to atheism.

What a nincompoop.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 13:07:00 UTC | #21340

Yorker's Avatar Comment 6 by Yorker

If there really was a God my first prayer would be that He save us from the haverings of "Philosophus Idioticus" of the Plantinga breed. Right off the bat this nonsense was predictable...ahh what's the point, I'm not going waste my time discussing this fool, he's clearly B.E.R. (Beyond Economical Repair)

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 13:23:00 UTC | #21343

fonex_86's Avatar Comment 7 by fonex_86

What really ticks me off is the arrogance with which these brain-dead theologians attempt to blast away evolution. You don't like evolution, fine -- but instead of proposing an alternative theory, these deluded fools try to choke their three-word solution down our throats: "God did it".

But then again, the more essays like these come out, the more our purpose is served; I mean, just look at the ad hominems and circular arguments, not to mention phony references and out-of-context quotations.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 13:26:00 UTC | #21344

Roll's Avatar Comment 8 by Roll

It is almost unbelievable how much energy is wasted attempting to perpetuate this bollox.

Several notable theologians quoted: God is not complex, has no moving parts, is spirit, so is simple. Therefore God does not have to be more complex than that he created. Thanks, just brilliant! Having pointed that out to me, I just know all my education has been nothing but a sham.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 13:36:00 UTC | #21348

Bremas's Avatar Comment 9 by Bremas

Anyone else remember the Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs is supposed to be Columbus and he tells the King of Italy(I think) that the world is round. The king pulls out a large wooden mallet, says "the earth is flat", hits Bugs over the head and continues "like your head".

I've had that scene going thru my head for months. Any psychiatrists out there....does that mean anything?

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 13:40:00 UTC | #21352

mikkala's Avatar Comment 10 by mikkala

Honestly everyone, I completely lost track. I was distracted by the babbling, double-talking, theology jive. Shortly after I started, I discontinued.

It's like, I'm supposed to learn a new language, so I'll understand this joker. Anyone else?

Thanks RD

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 13:46:00 UTC | #21353

rcphelan's Avatar Comment 11 by rcphelan

I don't agree that energy is wasted in reading this, it is the emotional roller coaster of delight at the high humor of it, only to come crashing down in despair with the thought of all those poor philospohy students being taught by the Plantingas of the world. He certainly should know a sophomoric argument well enough. It reminds me of the following logic:

God is an atheist (as to his creator).
I am an atheist.
Therefore, I am like God.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 13:57:00 UTC | #21355

MarcusA's Avatar Comment 12 by MarcusA

"The naturalism that Dawkins embraces, furthermore, in addition to its intrinsic unloveliness and its dispiriting conclusions about human beings and their place in the universe..."

This quote sums up Alvin Plantinga's argument. He finds Dawkins' ideas emotionally objectionable. Therefore he must reject them. It's the typical theistic nonsense appealing to human emotion. If this was the 15th century Alvin Plantinga would be arguing that the Sun orbits around the Earth.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 13:58:00 UTC | #21356

charlesj's Avatar Comment 13 by charlesj

From the Article:

"Dawkins is not a philosopher (he's a biologist)"

I basically lost interest at that point. Anyone who fails to recognize the fact that in one sense or another we're all philosophers is displaying ignorance of what philosophy is. Calling Dawkin's a non-philosopher is even worse, however, because science is basically applied philosophy!

I kept reading a little further, but stopped when he got the analogy of walking to his boss and telling him that his boss was about to give him a $50,000 raise. The reasoning he put forth was that since there wasn't any evidence, he had no reason not to believe. It's a good point, but poorly implemented, and not exactly applicable in this situation. All the boss had to do was say, 'no, that's not true.' There's your goddamned evidence!

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 13:59:00 UTC | #21357

mr gollo's Avatar Comment 14 by mr gollo

One of the (many) things I do not understand about these "refutations" agains Dawkins, is the theme that he is saying the god of the bible is not something to be admired, as if for the first time, as if it is something of his own singular personal revelation, and a result of some childhood catastrophy, some event so traumatic as to turn him against all that is "good and holy".

In The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine wrote; "Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.

We scarcely meet with anything, a few phrases excepted, but what deserves either our abhorrence or our contempt, till we come to the miscellaneous parts of the Bible."

Can these two similar scathing views exist both from a deist, and an atheist, hundreds of years apart, be some quirk of fate, some shared childhood trauma? Or can it attributed to a critical observation and study over time of the book itself and all it contains? We seem to be seperated in two different camps, argueing over fiction or documentary, with the documentary side claiming the first edition as infallable with DVD extras.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:03:00 UTC | #21358

Thelonious's Avatar Comment 15 by Thelonious

This quote reveals quite a bit: "the theist neither wants nor needs an ultimate explanation of personhood, or thinking, or mind"

Stupefying! Stultifying!

In his favor (nit-picky pet-peeve territory) he actually uses 'question-begging' correctly which almost no one seems to any more.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:03:00 UTC | #21359

mikkala's Avatar Comment 16 by mikkala

The title is a joke. Right?
Confusion was certainly, an underlying standard, for the comprehensibility.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:07:00 UTC | #21360

bitbutter's Avatar Comment 17 by bitbutter

According to his definition (set out in The Blind Watchmaker), something is complex if it has parts that are "arranged in a way that is unlikely to have arisen by chance alone." But of course God is a spirit, not a material object at all, and hence has no parts.
Roll's sentiment seconded, i could hardly believe my eyes. this is a classic!

Explanations come to an end; for theism they come to an end in God.

.. and for those of us with less of a horror of uncertainty they come to an end in 'I don't know'.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:09:00 UTC | #21362

helen sotiriadis's Avatar Comment 18 by helen sotiriadis

Well, no need to finish the quotation; you get the idea. Dawkins seems to have chosen God as his sworn enemy. (Let's hope for Dawkins' sake God doesn't return the compliment.)

you can't choose as an enemy someone who does not exist. he obviously cannot grasp the concept.

this poor man is living in fear and it's not helping his writing. what a boring essay. the babbling lost me as well.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:12:00 UTC | #21364

stevencarrwork's Avatar Comment 19 by stevencarrwork

Plantinga's arguments are pretty bad.

A Christian Evangelical Professor, Professor Greg Welty sent me an email once, confirming that Plantinga's defense to atheistic arguments could also be used to show that it is logically consistent to believe that people really only have one leg, even though our memory and senses tell us that almost everybody has two legs.

Plantinga comes up with some lovely stuff in his essay.

He says mind is organised complexity, and so the mind of God doesn't need explaining.

Anybody care to come up with a raft of theologians saying Dawkins is wrong because God is simple to contrast with Plantinga saying Dawkins is wrong because God is complex?

Plantinga asks 'Why think our cognitive faculties are reliable?'

Answer. They aren't always reliable.

Plantinga complains that if evolution is true, our sense would not be reliable.

I guess the answer to this is literally staring him in the face.

Plantinga wears glasses, because his eyes have been designed by natural selection and are not always reliable.

You've got to love people who say that only a God could have designed such a complex thing as a human body, and then have to put on their reading glasses to read out the works telling them how God designed us.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:14:00 UTC | #21366

MIND_REBEL's Avatar Comment 20 by MIND_REBEL

What crap. That guy lacks even a basic sense of logic and reason. He owned himself, so i won't even bother.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:14:00 UTC | #21367

bitbutter's Avatar Comment 21 by bitbutter

Well, of course our universe would have to be fine-tuned, given that we live in it. But how does that so much as begin to explain why it is that [our universe] is fine-tuned?

[slaps forehead] Although he's certainly aware of it, this passage demonstrates a failure to come to grips with the anthropic principle; which is a shame because it's a beauty.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:20:00 UTC | #21368

stevencarrwork's Avatar Comment 22 by stevencarrwork

Plantinga writes 'If this is so, the naturalist has a defeater for the natural assumption that his cognitive faculties are reliable - a reason for rejecting that belief, for no longer holding it.'

Plantinga just blew my irony-meter to pieces!

Plantinga himself, of course, maintains that it is possible that there are supernatural beings who are highly motivated to attack our reasoning and senses, and are perfectly capable of doing so.

Somebody who claims that it is possible that there are demons has no right whatever to believe anything that he himself says, because for all Plantinga knows, he might be possessed by a demon.

If naturalism is self-defeating (which it isn't) , supernaturalism is self-defeating in spades as even the Bible claims God deceives people (2 Thessalonians 2:11)

Natural selection was not the tool by which we developed a belief in natural selection, so Plantinga's argument makes as much sense as claiming that we should not believe we can play golf, because natural selection has not made us totally reliable golf-players.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:24:00 UTC | #21369

Seti's Avatar Comment 23 by Seti

Sorry, once you've read a few of these they get kinda boring. Couldn't be *rsed to finish it. Was it any good?

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:30:00 UTC | #21370

burkbraun's Avatar Comment 24 by burkbraun

"But from a naturalist point of view the thought that our cognitive faculties are reliable (produce a preponderance of true beliefs) would be at best a naïve hope. The naturalist can be reasonably sure that the neurophysiology underlying belief formation is adaptive, but nothing follows about the truth of the beliefs depending on that neurophysiology."

This quote, from late in the piece, is an interesting one to refute. This was what the Enlightenment was all about, after all- discovering methods of perceiving and understanding the empirical world that rise above the limitations of our immediate senses. Whether it is methods of closely calibrating instruments, or of developing whole new senses of perception, or of sceptically considering as many relevant hypotheses as possible, the enlightenment was founded on replacing freely imaginative conceptions of our world with empirically-based ones.

Our senses are evidently adapted to our immediate outer world, but not to our inner world. Introspection, which is one of the main supports of religion, is horrible at gathering knowledge of how our minds work- to whit, we still do not really know how our minds work, and all the meditation in the world will not tell us. Incidentally, the counter-hypothesis that our perceptions are true apriori (via some attenuated image of god) has been demolished by modern neuroscience if not before, so if that were an argument that this author is trying to slip in, it is also feckless.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:32:00 UTC | #21371

thegashman's Avatar Comment 25 by thegashman

all that effort, and as well as failing to unravel Dawkins' arguments, he's still unable to produce any evidence of a God...

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:38:00 UTC | #21373

Quine's Avatar Comment 26 by Quine

Over time, we see the continuing pattern of religious apologists retrenching as if each advance of knowledge doesn't really render their position simply bunk. The world was found not to be flat. The sun was found to not actually move in the sky. The planets were not held in orbit by the "pushing" of angels. Species were found to have evolved over time. The earth was found to be billions of years old, not created in 6 days. The nature of life was found to be held in the genetic structure of DNA. In each case, the religious believers have had to back up and cook up some way their deity could have made it look this way.

The essay above shows the next trench they are trying to hold. This is the improbability of life and fine tuning argument. As with all the other trenches overrun in the past, they are going to loose this one as well. The reason they have held on is the basic difficulty of the human mind to work with vast size, distance and time. One of the lingering difficulties of all religions is the question of why their deity made such a large universe, when the whole morality play of their scripture requires only this tiny dot of a planet (in fact only a small part of the landmass on this tiny dot)?

The human mind is also not intrinsically equipped to ponder extreme probabilities. Extreme populations interact with extremely small probabilities, such as the situation in which people try to guess the lottery numbers. After a time, someone (but not you) does guess the numbers. If you use the religious argument dismissing the anthropic principle, you have to conclude that each lottery winner was given the numbers because the chance of hitting by "random" is too "fined tuned." You won't hit the lottery, but someone will, and from the view of that someone, it's a miracle.

Being has the feeling of a miracle. It is an unimaginably vanishing probability that each of us exists at all, and in this here and now, versus some other. It is winning the lottery. We do not get a feeling for the improbability of our universe because we cannot see all the others. This is equivalent to the time when people did not see that the earth was round, and small in the cosmos. The process of carbon chemistry based life happens here because it can happen here, but only after some number of suns have gone through their whole "life" cycles to give us the carbon to start. Getting enough molecules of carbon chemistry together to start replication, again, is winning the lottery. There is just no way to get the human mind around a couple of billion years of molecules bouncing off each other trying to guess the lottery numbers.

I am, actually, encouraged to see the religious apologists dig in at this argument. They cannot help that we keep seeing farther and farther into the cosmos, and back in time. The vastness itself answers the question.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:39:00 UTC | #21375

mikkala's Avatar Comment 27 by mikkala

When did Nature become a bad thing, in which to place our belief? Theology is remarkably fantastical isn't it? It makes naturalism sound so bush league.

It would be nice, if it were practical to place our belief in fantasy. However this is supremely impractical. Thus we must recognize nature for what it is.

And theology, for what it is. Bush League.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:41:00 UTC | #21379

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 28 by Steve Zara

My goodness. That was positively painful to read. I recently read "How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World" by Francis Wheen, which contains a hilarious discussion of deconstructionism. I was reminded of this when I read above:

"According to classical theism, God is a necessary being; it is not so much as possible that there should be no such person as God; he exists in all possible worlds. But if God is a necessary being, if he exists in all possible worlds, then the probability that he exists, of course, is 1, and the probability that he does not exist is 0. Far from its being improbable that he exists, his existence is maximally probable."

This is nothing more than word-play, which the author, I am sure, thinks is clever. I can, of course, simply define God as an unecessary being, and with a simple flip of 1's and 0's, prove he does not exist (perhaps I should label this 'classical atheism' to make it seem more authoratative).

And, I am astonished that someone who is supposed to be a philosopher does not understand the principle of parsimony. If evolution can be understood assuming it is blind, then it is excessive to say the least to assume a designer when one is not needed.

The fine-tuning argument was not one of his best either. After all, the universe isn't quite as good as it might have been. If it were me, I would have made stars live longer (I mean, ours is middle aged already!) and cut back on those pesky asteroids that cause so much trouble every now and then.

Strangest of all, I felt, was attempts to argue that God need not be complex. A strange term for an entity that would understand how to guide the evolution of millions of species.

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:43:00 UTC | #21380

Jeebus's Avatar Comment 29 by Jeebus

Terrible arguments to a man. For shame Alvin Plantinga, for shame...

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:44:00 UTC | #21381

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 30 by the great teapot

I have not read the above article fully as I am getting bored with reading the same old arguments, but one thing I do notice is that atheists are increasingly being attacked for being philisophical light weights for trusting common sense over deep philosophical logic.
The bolt hole that religion seems to be cowering in is - nothing can be proven, admitting that religion is actually not verifiable logically, but nothing else can be proven either therefore any single claim to "truth" is as good as any other (pink unicorn included.)
How many religious people do they believe actually think like that. Most think God is a thinking being in the sky. If Moses came down from the mountain and said "hey, I've got these rules but the best we can say for them is the're as equally as likely or unlikely to be as true as anything else so it really is down to personal interpretation" do you think we would have a judeo-christian god still today

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 14:45:00 UTC | #21382