Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Dawkins Proof Delusion


I think Dawkins’ views on evolution are, as my limited understanding allows, correct. While I generally agree with his views and talking points for atheism, I am not in nearly as complete agreement and I do see that he is not always consistent. For example, he once suggested that fantasy books might lead children into irrational thinking but also, I think, wrote a glowing forward to Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass.


Barns' The Dawkins Proof is an attempt at rebutting The God Delusion.  One major problem he has is that he is one the types of people that Dawkins chides mainstream Christians for accepting.  That is, Barns is a creationist, and so at least one of his foundational claims is already torn away.  I would have significant trouble attacking the views of a Roman Catholic or member of the United Church of Canada as their views, in many respects, match mine -and, as far as evolution is concerned, Dawkins' as well.

Below you will find my general complaints about and thoughts about the book and a more specific review of Chapter one (Nothing Beyond the Natural Physical World).  I will post my comments on later chapters as I prepare on them.  I hope to better organize these thoughts but I was concerned the friend who suggested I read the book might get tired of waiting.  If you really want further introduction, look at a previous post.

Barns has a number of recurring problems:
1) He is a lumper: He counts all Christianity as having the same views -including, apparently Creationism.  I am not sure if he is a YE or OE Creationist.
He discusses “The Christian Viewpoint” but there is no “The Christian Viewpoint”. My particular interest is in evolution and there are Christians who are Evolutionists, Old Earth Creationists, Young Earth Creationists and even Old Universe- Young Earth Creationists.  There are Christians who feel Saturday is the Sabbath and those who do not keep it holy are breaking a Commandment....


2) He has a good definition of evolution but doesn’t understand what it means.  Only a few pages after he gives a definition he seems to have forgotten it.


3) He doesn’t define things.  I am specifically referring to ‘Mind’ and ‘rational thought’ or maybe ‘logical thought’
Regarding “Rational Thought” and “logic”: He thinks that because the concepts of logic or rational thinking are  immaterial, atheists cannot believe or use them and still be consistent in their atheism.

Are imaginary numbers “immaterial”?  Their name alone suggest they are not real, yet they have real usefulness in mathematics.

4) He thinks ‘physics’ explains all phenomena - or that atheists do or think it should.

5) His evidence and claims for God come exclusively from the Bible.  That can be a valid source but it needs both internal and external confirmation.  In other texts, internal confirmation requires two parts. First a quote from a character, “I am strong”. and second, a described instance of the character being strong.  In the Bible, God is described as perfect and merciful but also as driving Adam and Eve out of Eden in a rage and destroying most of humanity.  Considering that he made Adam and Eve, the fact that he became angry with their actions is a logical as me being angry with a wood carving I made and found wanting.

External confirmation relates to finding supporting evidence for the Bible’s claims in other sources.  This kind of confirmation can be challenging.  Yes, Egypt is mentioned in the Bible and in other sources, but London is mentioned in Harry Potter and in other sources.  No, it is the extraordinary claims that need support and in many cases such support does not exist.

These two forms of confirmation are entirely absent from The Dawkins Proof.

6) Three levels of defense: I don’t think Barns successfully meets the first level much less the next two.  These levels are (weak): show atheism is wrong, (middle) show religion is right, and (strong) show (my form of) Christianity is right.  As we can see from my final parenthesis, there may be four levels here.

Barns is a creationist and writes as if he is describing the Christian view when a large number of Christians, possibly a majority, accept evolution.  Indeed, the most famous Christians-who-are-also-respected-scientists seem to be Catholics. I am referring to Kenneth Brown (possibly least famous of the group but notably an expert witness as the Dover Trial), Guy Consolmagno (Vatican astronomer, an interview with him is at the bottom of the link) and Francis Collins (Genome Project leader) and their views of the natural world are practically those of atheists.  Here is my example:

When we look at the phenomena of lightning strikes, we cannot say that all lightning is always unguided and always controlled by local meteorology.  All lightning that has been artificially created or that has occurred in locations with observational equipment has appeared to follow rules.  Two views that have no practical difference are 1) Atheistic - lightning is an entirely natural event and entirely explainable within materialistic viewpoints and 2) God made the universe so lightning can happen and can choose- but might not- to influence when and where it strikes and if He has done so, has done so within the expectations of modern meteorology. God is not necessarily absent but neither is he necessarily required.

1) Nothing beyond the natural, physical world
Non-material things such as God, spirit, mind, Laws, justice do not exist...”
This is a recurring theme for Barns. Somehow he equates the existence of laws or mind with the existence for God.  Laws are immaterial, sure, but no-one claims that legal-type laws (not scientific laws) have real existence.  They are agreements between groups of people but are not the same around the world or even viewed the same way by people even inside of one country.
Scientific Laws do exist but seen as descriptions of reality, not controls that existed before reality.
A huge problem for Barns here is “mind”.  He offers no definition for the concept I am uncertain what exactly I need to argue.  I do understand the idea of mind/body dualism but think it is known to be flawed.  We, Barns and I, need to read Wikipedia and Mirriam-Webster on the subject, but although I am not an expert, and perhaps nobody really is, it is clear that brain damage or various drugs affect mind.  I loved “sleights of mind” a book about stage magic and directing consciousness -this is not mind exactly, but most people don’t understand their own consciousness either. Added later. More from a friend on mind/body dualism. Added even later(!): Brain decoder can eavesdrop on your inner voice


He states: “...nothing special about human life.”
Yes, I agree with this scientifically but as a human would protect the life of a human over that of my cat, for instance.

He states “...no concept of “ought”. “
Why not?  I may get into this more when discussing Barns’ misunderstanding of evolution, so briefly:
Game theory shows how various strategies, often tested in game playing, can improve success.  It seems obvious that selfish people or cheaters will succeed over altruistic, honest people, but many iterations of game theory show this is not so or not always so.  Behavior can be built into genes.  The best way to live a long, healthy life is to be honest and altruistic.

He states “there is no such thing as “mind”.”
See above.

“What is God like?
Barnes offers quotes from the Bible, which are clearly evidence of nothing.
From my introduction:
His evidence and claims for God come exclusively from the Bible.  That can be a valid source but it needs both internal and external confirmation.  In other texts, internal confirmation requires two parts. First a quote from a character, “I am strong”. and second, a described instance of the character being strong.  In the Bible, God is described as perfect and merciful but also as driving Adam and Eve out of Eden in a rage and destroying most of humanity.  Considering that he made Adam and Eve, the fact that he became angry with their actions is a logical as me being angry with a wood carving I made and found wanting.

External confirmation relates to finding supporting evidence for the Bible’s claims in other sources.  This kind of confirmation can be challenging.  Yes, Egypt is mentioned in the Bible and in other sources, but London is mentioned in Harry Potter and in other sources.  No, it is the extraordinary claims that need support and in many cases such support does not exist.

These two forms of confirmation are entirely absent from The Dawkins Proof.

“It is not surprising, then, that all cultures are theistic in some way.”

It is not clear where this assertion comes from.  Here is a valid idea of why cultures start with some degree of theism:   Some few hundred years ago, there was no explanation for disease and afflictions like Bell’s Palsy, rainbows, rainfall and weather patterns, or lightning.  Many gods from many different cultures have been given the power to use lightning.  Now, we cannot say that God does not personally control all lightning bolts but we can say He is unnecessary. See also: "I still say a church steeple with a lightning rod on top shows a lack of confidence."- Doug MacLeod

Indeed, it is not at all surprising that cultures start with a theistic bent, but that is evidence of nothing.

1 comment:

  1. My friend and I have both, probably too quickly, responded to each other here: http://surprisesaplenty.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/strange-post-to-return-with-i-know/#comment-2410

    We are going to have to organize ourselves better to avoid going crazy with ever longer responses.

    ReplyDelete