Monday, 8 September 2008

Some thoughts on the William Crawley interview with Richard Dawkins.

I watched this very good interview between fellow Ulsterman William Crawley and Richard Dawkins again on BBC2. He did a very good job of pushing Dawkins into a few corners over a few things. Crawley seems an intelligent fellow and he was much more informed and professional than most other people who critique Dawkins. In any case I sent this little comment to his BBC blog.

1. The term delusion that Dawkins uses is applied to a fixed false belief that a person declares. Its strange that Dawkins does not mention Freud and his essay on the future of an illusion where he correctly notes the wish element in belief. Dawkins defines his use from the Penguin English Dictionary as a “a false belief or an impression” he uses Microsoft spell checker’s term “a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence.” Though Dawkins can at times be quite mischievous his uses of the term is not Ad-hominem and it captures true supernatural- Religious belief perfectly.

2. As to the fine tuning argument. Here is my own shot at it. Lets take the conclusion that if one of the constants was off then we would not be here. Life could not arise because of it. Now what other conclusion is there? The conclusion is actually contained in the premise. Anything else is superfluous. Saying that there must a creator is inference, inference tainted by human wish thinking. It’s a little like the story about the bird that drinks water from a puddle in the ground. How great it thinks to itself, that this puddle is so perfect for me to drink from. If it was not here I would go thirsty-it must off been designed. Of course it’s a pure accident that a puddle happens to occur just like the fact the we exist after 14 billion years since the big bang and after millions of years of evolution. Religious people think the physical constants argument is a good one its not. All it revels is the bias of human reasoning and wish thinking. Thinking that we are special and the end product of something (evolution or creation). Thinking that we are the centre of the universe. All the evidence demonstrates-all of it clearly shows that we are not special in any kind of teleological or divine sense.

3. It was a good point you made William about the ultimate regress argument and the fact that it can de-facto rule out using God as an explanation.(ie who made God argument) However it does not work in practice. In order for God to be invoked as a explanation for something he or it needs to be discovered. It needs to be able to be brought under the umbrella of reason and science. In order for it to become an explanatory tool it needs to be used to make predictions, it needs to be free to be tested, used to explain facts about the world better than any other theory. However the current state of knowledge shows every sign that the universe is not the product of a supernatural intelligence, never mind that we are created with some kind of plan. In short in order to work with the theory that God created the universe or sent his son to die for our sins say then we need clear, unequivocal evidence for God. Needlessly to say we have been wainting for this for a few thousand years and will not doubt be continuing to wait. “the messiah may come but he may tarry”

4. As for sectarian schooling. I think Dawkins was spot on, in fact he did not press the point hard enough. The northern Irish troubles could have been resolved as simply as promoting secularism in schools and abolishing faith schools. At the very least the bitterness and fear of the other would have been moot. I come from Northern Ireland myself and know well the pernicious influence of living in two “communities”

Can I just say William I think you did a very professional interview.

Best and be well


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've left a comment on Williams site. Interesting post, and an interesting blog.