Thursday, November 02, 2006

The God Delusion 2

In chapter two Richard Dawkins sets out restating the case, which I thought has always been obvious, that 'the burden of proof (for the existence of God) rests with believers.'

He becomes angry when Christians, on the one hand, say that science and theology answer different questions and are (as Stephen J. Gould puts it) non-overlapping magisterium (NOMA), yet on the other hand jump at any piece of scientific support for our faith. I agree with him.

I think the problem is that there are so many shades of Christian opinion and it is really the fundamentalists he has most objection to. He feels that the liberals simply rework their faith every time a new objection or question is raised until the only difference between them and atheists is that they say they believe in God but that doesn't mean anything except a description of living their lives round a story that helps them make sense of the world (my words not his). Does he really want to disturb the simple faith of many gentle, harmless, hymn-singing church goers? Surely their glowing embers will go out without a fire extinguisher?

He doesn't think theology is a subject at all, although he would allow a degree in biblical studies or criticism.

There's nothing new yet apart from a leading atheist getting a bit over-excited. He acts as a man wanting to ban walking because pavements are dangerous. Not very scientific really. On top of this the next chapter is going to knock down the traditional 'proofs' for the existence of God - something that Tom Smail did in my first term doctrine lectures in 1981.

I'll read on though.


Matthew P said...

There is an article in The Times about the God Delusion today.,,6-2433033,00.html

Haven't read the book but the opinions seem to be that it is more anti-religion than anti-God.

Either way, if it starts people thinking about their existence and God that seems to be a good thing, like the Da Vinci code did last year.

dmk said...

there was an excerpt from the book in the Guardian a few days ago, where Dawkins argues that religious experience doesn't count as proof, as it can all be explained away.

Laying the burden of proof on believers is probably the first stage of his argument. Of course, this presupposes an empirical, rationalistic worldview: show me the evidence, then I'll be persuaded. I wouldn't be surprised to find Dawkins either disallowing or ignoring anything which might count as proof.

ALternatively, if you start with the overwhelming evidence for the fine tuning of the cosmos towards life, the burden of proof probably rests with the atheist. It all depends where you start.