Monday, June 04, 2007

"The God Delusion" - review of review

Well, sort of.

The Daily Telegraph on Saturday had a brief review of the paperback edition, which has just come out.
He deploys scientific rationality ... to show that belief in God is a "pernicious" delusion.
That is, "tending to cause death or serious injury." Now Dawkins is a naturalist - in other words, he excludes the possibility of the existence of anything beyond the supernatural by definition. Within that context, the conclusion that a belief in God is harmful is hardly surprising. But what is of more relevance is whether the naturalist presuppositions can actually be philosophically proved. Because, the reviewer goes on to say,
Dawkins claims that faith is "evil"...
So one hopes he has pretty concrete absolute proof in the truth of naturalism, unless he is also condemning his own arguments. However, if he had that, then the Enlightenment project would have succeeded and the whole postmodern/existential thing would never have gotten off the ground.

Faith is "evil", Dawkins says,
because it "requires no justification and brooks no argument."
Freud's arguments start to look pretty shaky once they are exposed to his own analysis - why should our beliefs about God be a reflection of our thoughts about our own fathers? Wouldn't Occam's Razor suggest that this suggestion rather says something about Freud's thoughts about his own father? Similarly, what happens when we apply what Dawkins says about faith to his own arguments? What argument, exactly, does Dawkins brook? What justification does he present for his own philosophy?
He attacks the traditional proofs of God's existence, demonstrates the "mutual incompatibility" of omnipotence and omniscience ...
Now I have to confess that I haven't read Dawkins' book, and I'm also prepared to accept that there is a limit to the power of the traditional proofs of the existence of God. However, I personally believe that the existence of God is something that doesn't require proof. Also, I have read sufficient of Alvin Plantinga's book, "God, Freedom and Evil" to know that in philosophical terms, the argument about omnipotence and omniscience is actually not the trivial disproof of the existence of God that most atheists assume. Can somebody tell me whether Dawkins actually interacts with Plantinga - a serious Christian philosopher? Or does he do no more than the lazy interaction with straw men that we saw in his TV programmes?

One more thing. If we are ultimately no more than matter, then is there really any problem with beliefs being "pernicious"? Indeed, does "pernicious" have any real meaning if we are no more than ghosts in the machine?