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Koukl is a religious man and the main point of disagreement is based upon the idea the new atheists make assumptions in order to make their argument work. In particular he attacks Dawkins in the God Delusion based on the summary on page 188, although it is clear that most likely a summary of what is being said is only as strong as the arguments that precede it, he does not concern himself with that in this presentation. Unlike Koukl I’ve actually read the argument before I got to the summary so I understood where these comments came from. By the same measure I would be guilty of committing the logical fallacy of ‘straw man’ by suggesting that Christianity is appalling as it teaches that it does not matter what actions you perform, no matter how morally wrong they are, after all if you say sorry then you will be forgiven. Of course this is not true and is an oversimplification based on not knowing enough about Christianity. Koukl is making it seem very easy to discount what Dawkins is trying to put across, the fact that people are listening to him worries me greatly since he does not actually show why it is wrong. Saying “this does not advance the argument” over and over again as a criticism of Dawkins is at least hypocritical since, as Robin Ince puts it, the suggestion is the religious argument is “the magic man done it”. For this reason I think it is fair to cite religion has an inhibitor of generating knowledge as it is normally the end of the conversation never the start. Let’s go to Koukl’s points:

Dawkins summary point 1 is “One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect has been to explain how one of the complex, improbable appearances of design in the universe arises” Koukl responds to this by saying that statement does not advance the argument, it’s just an opening assertion and has nothing to do with the conclusion [post hoc: god does not exist]. This is really relevant, to give you a taste of it what Dawkins meant, he wrote about why it took us so long to see evolution as the possible creator of the complex things that are in our environment. That first makes it clear that it is difficult to understand the place we find ourselves in and also that we have the need or want to understand it at least in some form. In particular God is one of the possible answers, it fills the need that we all have. Dawkins highlights the argument of the worship of the gaps, in other words when we cannot explain something either by lack of intelligence, knowledge or ability then it is very simple to argue God did it. From what we do understand about our place in the universe it seem so difficult to us to imagine the forces that created the complex objects in it. I think this speaks to our psychology and it is relevant because it shows us explaining things is not only difficult it also goes to explain that we often get it wrong. This is why religion is here, not as a true account for things but as a useful tool set (to an extent).

Dawkins summary point 2 is “The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design with actual design itself…” Koukl responded by saying it is natural to assume design when things look like they have been and therefore, again this does not advance the argument. Dawkins is very clear on this point, mostly because Koukl missed out the second half of this statement. We see complex objects that are designed by us, for example a watch or computer, using this same form of logic we can then assume that in order for humans to exist therefore, something more complex than us must have designed us. In other words we cannot see that the horseshoe could have made the blacksmith, it is not how our experience allows us to think. Just because something comes to us naturally that does not result in it being true. Taking an example from another Dawkins book, the blind watchmaker, it is perfectly logical to see a beach where the large stones are set further away from the water and the smaller stones closer to it. If you don’t understand roughly the ideas of wave power and gravity then how could you assume anything other than someone sorted the stones out to make that pattern. Just seeing something which appears to be designed does not mean that it has been designed, that is just another assumption. It advances the argument because it challenges our assumptions of the forces that could have created living things, including us and the universe.

Dawkins summary point 5 is “although we currently have no natural explanation for the appearance of design but we should not give up the hope of a better explanation arising in physics as powerful as Darwinism is for biology.” Koukl responded by saying we don’t have evidence but maybe we will get some, these are irrelevant features of the dispute because yet again this does not advance the argument. Dawkins and Koukl, at least I think Koukl is, referring to the key numbers that allow for the right chemical and physics conditions which allow for living things to exist, such as the power of certain forces that appear to be constant everywhere. I have a problem with Dawkins, which I don’t have with many other writers, rather than sticking to the subject Dawkins talks about science as almost the replacement for religion. Don’t get me wrong it is and I can see how this argument is formed, it is just most people don’t understand science and it creates comments like Koukl’s. I think the correct response to Koukl is in the summary point made by Dawkins; we as yet do not know how the universe was created to which we may not have answers for a long time. Still the point is before evolution we did not see how the complex objects on earth could have been created without a creator, so the door is open for an explanation similar to that of evolution to explain the universe. This I suggest is much more of an honest approach than God done it. If we can get to an explanation for the universe which is equal to evolution in terms of its power, then the requirement for God is once again reduced.

Koukl misses out large parts of the summary points, there is of course 187 pages before Dawkins makes the summary points so no one is better to explain how Dawkins got there than Dawkins. The point is missed and although I have only highlighted certain issues you can see the general direction and how it does provide the all important advancement to the argument. Koukl argues that all these points of at fault due to Circularity still this is not how I see it. Go and read the book for yourself because the answers are all in there, it is a shame that Koukl did not really bother to do that. Stating Dawkins summary point 1 is the start of the argument does show that he either did not read or did not understand all the pages leading up to summary points on page 188. Koukl is guilty of not advancing the argument and circularity, he does not understand critical thinking and reasoned thought, and that is what is wrong with Christian views – they are unable to see how other people don’t think like them! Dawkins added something to the debate, Koukl did not!

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Don’t get me wrong I really like these books and the world is a much better place with people like Dawkins and Hitchens in it. The attack on religion is an important one; it challenges yet again the position of religion and the role that it should take in our societies. It enables non-believers a position to argue against and reject those that force religion upon them. They also offer a method of causing a debate with your friends. Still they only attack religion and never God, if we assume that God is different to that presented by religion. There are two problems with these books, the first is that the books are only written for those that are against or are not sure about religion in the first place. While watching many religious people attack the likes of Dawkins (et al) it’s clear that the debate will never be won. Yes they produce awareness and they are interesting but I don’t see the removal of the Pope in the near future or the end of religious violence through the acceptance of the atheists’ model. It just does not work like that, people will not abandon religion through the attack of faith it’s more likely they will become disillusioned with religious false promises. It is then the atheist’s gang that will get a new member! I will write more about the abandonment of religion in the near future so I will not go into depth here. It is difficult to see the progress that Dawkins and Hitchens make in their attack although this might be different across countries. They should attack religion but not religious people there is no point, there is a point however in making sure that religion is different from government as much as we can, this should be our right which we all need to fight for. By religious people I mean your friends or people you meet, this does not include those that make public comments or talk about their religion as they are in public view and demand to be answered.

*http://richarddawkins.net

There was a video clip I watched, I have forgotten the name of the author, it made the impression that it was pointless entering into a discussion. In other words there is as much point in arguing about the rights & wrongs of religion with a religious person as there is trying to teach string theory to a really f**king stupid monkey. You will never get anywhere, this does not mean I think religious people are stupid (well everyone can be stupid at times), it just means at some point you are just wasting your energy. Where does that leave us non-believers? There still needs to be challenges to religion, however this is not a new thing and it’s been happening for longer than you think. If it was not challenged then it would destroy everything and I mean that, it would crash into our lives and everyone should be angry about that. It is also right that Hitchens should name and shame religious practices that are wrong, if it keeps happening maybe they will change or maybe everyone else will start to look down on religion and that would be a good thing. Other than fun the new atheists’ books might help atheists plus the general group of semi-believers, this is a useful and good step. I don’t really think it should ever be addressed at religious people though. I would also suggest that you must keep the good name of atheists, although I disagree with that term, answer religious people with thought and consideration.

The second error: Melvin Konner illustrates an impressive analogy, although he suggests it is a poor one but I think it explains a lot. To paraphrase it; the books of the new atheists are very much like writing a book about water. You could have chapters on floods, tornados, hurricanes and you could also state that most of the water on the earth has salt in it thus making it poisonous to humans. From this you would conclude that water does more harm than good, since all you have read is about the harm water does rather than the good things it can do. Much like the new atheists books, there is a focus of harm and that would of course make you angry about the ideas that have been presented. There is no balance, Konner suggests, to the approach that has been taken and this is the case when reading some of Dawkin’s work on evolution and how it is being attacked by Christian America. It would worry me more if that this was the standard Christian approach to evolution, although the Pope, who in my book is not a man of pure good, finds that evolution is not in conflict with Christianity. This is perhaps the error of new atheists, to simply assume that religion is just a force for evil and even though it can be that never should mean we should focus only on that aspect. There has been a very strong reaction towards these books, strong is good but sometimes its also important to remember that balance is important. I am also guilty on no balance, but being an atheist & hopefully a rational person I will also listen to the other side of the argument when it is shown. So should you! An argument is different from the ‘I am right, you are wrong’ approach.

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