Thursday, December 28, 2006

The 'Courtier's Reply'

This pretty much sums up my view on criticisms that I've read to Richard Dawkins' book, "The God Delusion".

The criticism that people are not worshiping the god that Dawkins attacked is addressed from the outset in his book (p.36):

This is as good a moment as any to forestall an inevitable retort to the book, one that would otherwise - as sure as night follows day - turn up in a review: 'The God that Dawkins doesn't believe in is a God that I don't believe in either. I don't believe in an old man in the sky with a long white beard.' The old man is an irrelevant distraction and his beard is as tedious as it is long. Indeed, the distraction is worse than irrelevant. Its very silliness is calculated to distract attention from the fact that what the speaker really believes is not a whole lot less silly. I know you don't believe in an old bearded man sitting on a cloud, so let's not waste any more time on that. I am not attacking any particular version of God or gods. I am attacking God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural, wherever and whenever they have been or will be invented.

That the very criticism that Dawkins takes great pains to address so early on in his book is, for me, a very good demonstration that his detractors have either not read the book, or - more likely - have deliberately set out to misrepresent his position.

Let's be quite clear what the sophisticated theology that Dawkins (and myself) have apparently failed to address must do:

  • It must demonstrate the existence of a god or gods. If it fails to do this, then anything else is idle speculation and deserves no more respect than speculating as to the colour of the emperor's new clothes.
  • Erm.. Well, that's pretty much it really. One would presume that were the existence of a god demonstrated as a fact, then one would then be able to address the nature of god directly, in much the same way as we can - for example - deduce the composition of stars.

The argument that a detractor of religion should not be taken seriously unless they have read all the "sophisticated" theological arguments before the existence of a god can be demonstrated is silly. Stranger Fruit says:

Whether The God Delusion offers evidence for a serious engagement with the philosophy of religion is a question for another day.

But the very point being made by PZ Meyers is that you cannot seriously engage in a theological question. It is a nonsense subject. One can no more seriously discuss the nature of god than one can debate the process by which (for example) telepathy or astrology works. In order for one to discuss the nature of a phenomena, it must first be demonstrated that such a phenomena is real.

No comments: