Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion. Terry Eagleton: Lunging Flailing Mispunching. The God Delusion of Richard Dawkins. Richard Schröder: Abschaffung der Religion? Wissenschaftlicher Fanatismus und die Folgen. Werner Heisenberg: Tolerance.

Authors

Background

In the following I discuss the book by Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion, two criticisms of the book by a catholic and protestant theologian, as well as the views of Karl Marx on religion and recent developments in evolutionary biology questioning the overriding importance of natural selection in evolution (the basis of Dawkins’ thesis). All quotes from others are in italics, bold by me. Some sections are based on posts published originally in my blog: Science, Politics and Art to which I refer the reader for complete texts and comments by others.

Comments on Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion.

Monday, March 5th, 2007 Richard Dawkins, the well known evolutionary biologist and popularizer of evolutionary science (The Selfish Gene) has recently published a book that has been on various bestseller lists for months [1] . It argues against the necessity of assuming the existence of a personal God, and draws attention to much harm done by religions in history and now. In the following I comment on some points made in the book.

Dawkins’ war against religion may seem

somewhat quixoticto those who do not believe in a personal god and live or lived in countries where religion is unimportant. However, this is of course quite wrong, considering the dangerously evil influence fundamentalist religion has in the United States (Dawkins’ aptly named American Taliban and the rulers influenced by them), and the Middle East, to mention only the two most obvious cases. (see for example http://blog.une.edu.au/klausrohde/2010/01/19/haiti/ and http://blog.une.edu.au/klausrohde/2010/03/13/man-cannot-destroy-the-earth-only-god-can/ ). One can only hope that these people listen to what Dawkins has to say, although this may be wishful thinking. After all, criticism of religion has a long history (just remember Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstauffen), but religions still flourish, and in many parts of the world, it seems, more than ever.

Turning now to Dawkins’ arguments. He

bases his arguments largely on the role of natural selection, which has led to the evolution of complex systems. Hence, he concludes, a God hypothesis supposedly needed to explain such complexity is superfluous. It seems to me that aGod hypothesis is not needed whether natural selection is the predominant factor shaping evolution or not. The theoretical investigations of Stuart Kauffman [2]suggest that the overriding importance of natural selection in evolution is doubtful. He concludes thatmany traits of organisms have evolved not because of natural selection but in spite of it. Stephen Wolfram’s [3]extensive computer simulations of many systems have shown that simple “rules” in programs lead to complex characters. Is it likely that some genetic programs behave similarly?Natural selection acting on a very large number of mutations gradually leading to complex characters may be only one component in the process leading to complexity,and not necessarily the most important one. Many mutations may lead to complexity anyway. Further evidence against the overriding significance of selection is theprevalence of nonequilibrium conditionsin nature [4]. The role of interspecific competition and natural selection, in such systems, is not as great as in equilibrium systems; historical events are important, and competition may go this way or that (diminishing the evolutionary impact of competition and therefore of natural selection). All of this does of course not rule out that natural selection plays an important role as well, but it does mean that this roleneeds much further investigation.

Concerning the historical and social impact of religions, there can be little doubt that it has often been disastrous, to mention only the crusades, inquisition, forced conversion of natives in many continents leading to many millions of deaths. But I cannot quite agree with Bertrand Russell who said that the only good produced by religion (I assume he meant the Christian one) is the Gregorian calendar and one other minor achievement, which has dropped from my memory. After all,

much charitable work, Bach’s cantatas and passions, much religious art (the Isenheim altar), architecture (the mosques of Cordoba and Isfahan, the blue mosque in Istanbul, the medieval cathedrals) and writings were inspired by religion. Richard Dawkins is of course right when he says that historical conditions made other inspirations at the time difficult. Mozart might well have been inspired by the Big Bang (after all he was a Freemason). But the same can also be said about the evil influence of religion.Is religion perhaps only a most effective way of establishing group coherence (as indeed suggested by Dawkins), and has it been the only available choice over much though not all of history?Groups tend to stick together much more closely when they feel threatened. Islam over centuries was almost a model of tolerance (at least towards other monotheistic religions); fundamental Islam has arisen at a time when Moslem countries felt overpowered and exploited by Western countries (much of this due to aggression driven by fundamental Christianity). The large Buddha statues in Afghanistan survived for centuries in a Moslem country; they were destroyed only now. Why? – So, assuming that Richard Dawkins’ crusade against religion succeeds,is it possible that some other mechanism of group coherence will take over?Could it be a virulent racism (some of which we have had already) or a national/cultural chauvinism that preaches conversion of others to one’s own supposedly superior language, culture and values in general (much of which has been abundant in history as well)? In this context,Dawkins’ emphasis on religion might even be dangerous, if (and I repeat if) it deflects attention from other important issues. Would it be perhaps more useful to concentrate on social and economic inequalities and try to suggest recipes for their amelioration?One can foresee the displacement of large populations due to global warming and virulent upheavals as a consequence. Keeping an eye on religions may be less fruitful, under such circumstances, than on social and economic inequalities.

In toto: this is an inspiringly and wittily written book, one must hope that the Taliban of any hue will not only read it but change their beliefs when reading it!

As to the moral of the future, suggested by Dawkins to be universal love including not only humans but animals as well, this is the moral philosophy based on compassion, of the atheist Arthur Schopenhauer and atheistic Buddhism.

Terry Eagleton: Lunging Flailing Mispunching. The God Delusion of Richard Dawkins.

Friday, April 6th, 2007 I have commented on “Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion” in an earlier post. Considering the number of faithful in the various monotheistic religions, it is to be expected that his book will be violently opposed by many. We can only hope that it will not have the consequences which the Satanic Verses of Salmon Rushdie had. Here I present extracts from a review of Dawkins’ book by Terry Eagleton,

John Edward Taylor Professor of English Literature at Manchester University.According to the Wikipedia Encyclopedia, “He began his career studying the literature of the 19th and 20th centuries. Then he switched to Marxist literary theory in the vein of Williams. More recently Eagleton has integrated cultural studies with more traditional literary theory. He was, during the 1960s, involved in the left-wing Catholic group Slant and authored a number of theological articles as well as a book Towards a New Left Theology.
Here are some extracts of the review by Eagleton [5] . I leave judgement to the readers, but include some comments by me in parantheses.

“God is not a person in the sense that Al Gore arguably is. Nor is he a principle, an entity, or ‘existent’: in one sense of that word it would be perfectly coherent for religious types to claim that God does not in fact exist . He is, rather, the condition of possibility of any entity whatsoever, including ourselves. He is the answer to why there is something rather than nothing. God and the universe do not add up to two, any more than my envy and my left foot constitute a pair of object s. This, not some super-manufacturing, is what is traditionally meant by the claim that God is Creator. He is what sustains all things in being by his love; and this would still be the case even if the universe had no beginning. To say that he brought it into being ex nihilo is not a measure of how very clever he is, but to suggest that he did it out of love rather than need.(I certainly always thought that a personal God in monotheistic religions is one who created the world and maintains it. If not, what then is the difference between pantheism and monotheism? I certainly would be very sympathetic to pantheistic views. Is, what Eagerton says here, really the view of the Pope and Catholicism, or is it the view perhaps of a small group of “leftwing” catholics? And is it really acceptable in theology to claim that “God does not in fact exist”? That seems to me atheism or perhaps better theological homeopathy: God is so diluted that she does not exist anymore.)

“Nor does he (Richard Dawkins) understand that because God is transcendent of us (which is another way of saying that he did not have to bring us about), he is free of any neurotic need for us and wants simply to be allowed to love us. Dawkins’s God, by contrast, is Satanic. Satan (‘accuser’ in Hebrew) is the misrecognition of God as Big Daddy and punitive judge, and Dawkins’s God is precisely such a repulsive superego. “Dawkins thinks it odd that Christians don’t look eagerly forward to death, given that they will thereby be ushered into paradise. He does not see that Christianity, like most religious faiths, values human life deeply, which is why the martyr differs from the suicide.” “The Christian faith holds that those who are able to look on the crucifixion and live, to accept that the traumatic truth of human history is a tortured body, might just have a chance of new life – but only by virtue of an unimaginable transformation in our currently dire condition. This is known as the resurrection. Those who don’t see this dreadful image of a mutilated innocent as the truth of history are likely to be devotees of that bright-eyed superstition known as infinite human progress, for which Dawkins is a full-blooded apologist. Or they might be well-intentioned reformers or social democrats, which from a Christian standpoint simply isn’t radical enough. The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you. Here, then, is your pie in the sky and opium of the people. It was, of course, Marx who coined that last phrase; but Marx, who in the same passage describes religion as the ‘heart of a heartless world, the soul of soulless conditions’, was rather more judicious and dialectical in his judgment on it than the lunging, flailing, mispunching Dawkins.” “The mainstream theology I have just outlined may well not be true; but anyone who holds it is in my view to be respected, whereas Dawkins considers that no religious belief, anytime or anywhere, is worthy of any respect whatsoever.”
“On the horrors that science and technology have wreaked on humanity, he is predictably silent. Yet the Apocalypse is far more likely to be the product of them than the work of religion. Swap you the Inquisition for chemical warfare.”
(Are these horrors really due to science and technology, or are they the result of economic conditions, colonisation, perhaps religious misconceptions, etc.? Certainly one cannot blame the invention of fire for the burning of witches and the inquisition). “He is like a man who equates socialism with the Gulag. Like the puritan and sex, Dawkins sees God everywhere, even where he is self-evidently absent. He thinks, for example, that the ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland would evaporate if religion did, which to someone like me, who lives there part of the time, betrays just how little he knows about it.” (Yes, I agree with this and pointed this out in my earlier post. Overemphasis on religion, ignoring economic, social and other aspects may not be helpful and sometimes even dangerous).
“These are not just the views of an enraged atheist. They are the opinions of a readily identifiable kind of English middle-class liberal rationalist. Reading Dawkins, who occasionally writes as though ‘Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness’ is a mighty funny way to describe a Grecian urn, one can be reasonably certain that he would not be Europe’s greatest enthusiast for Foucault, psychoanalysis, agitprop, Dadaism, anarchism or separatist feminism. All of these phenomena, one imagines, would be as distasteful to his brisk, bloodless rationality as the virgin birth. Yet one can of course be an atheist and a fervent fan of them all. His God-hating, then, is by no means simply the view of a scientist admirably cleansed of prejudice. It belongs to a specific cultural context. One would not expect to muster many votes for either anarchism or the virgin birth in North Oxford.”
(I cannot comment on this, having no firsthand experience of the cultural context).
“There is a very English brand of common sense that believes mostly in what it can touch, weigh and taste, and The God Delusion springs from, among other places, that particular stable. At its most philistine and provincial, it makes Dick Cheney sound like Thomas Mann. The secular Ten Commandments that Dawkins commends to us, one of which advises us to enjoy our sex lives so long as they don’t damage others, are for the most part liberal platitudes. Dawkins quite rightly detests fundamentalists; but as far as I know his anti-religious diatribes have never been matched in his work by a critique of the global capitalism that generates the hatred, anxiety, insecurity and sense of humiliation that breed fundamentalism. Instead, as the obtuse media chatter has it, it’s all down to religion.
(Yes, I agree in part:Dawkins has ignored the economic and social causes of much of the problems,which may often be more important than religion: see my earlier post).“Dawkins tends to see religion and fundamentalist religion as one and the same. This is not only grotesquely false;…”(In summary, I think that some of the criticism of Eagleton are quite justified, but some of the main points, such as, what or who is God, seem to me fairly obscure. As a scientist, I am more impressed by the logical and clear exposition of Richard Dawkins. And what about the many horrible events in history and now that were really entirely or largely due to religion? No word on these by Eagleton. – One main point made by Eagleton is that Dawkins is ignorant of much of Christian theology and nuances within it, and should therefore keep quiet about it. Does one really have to be a theologian to comment on the principles of a religion? If we accept Eagleton’s requirement, we would have to abolish all critical comments on anything except our own narrow field of expertise, i.e., leave everything to the experts. I believe this would be a disaster, because it would open the door to suppressing all opinions that are not considered to conform to what a self appointed “elite” thinks is true. We would probably still be in the dark ages, if a few dissidents had not established new versions of the “truth” against the “experts” of the time).

The God delusion according to Karl Marx

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

In two previous posts I have commented on Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion, and the response by Terry Eagleton [5] .

Terry Eagleton is a leftwing catholic influenced by marxism. Therefore, it may be of interest what Karl Marx thought about religion. I do not take this from the original Marx, but from the English translation of a book by the German historian Ernst Nolte [6] . He writes on page 550:

“..Marx is far from declaring, as was often done during the Enlightenment, that religion and philosophy are a delusion and fraud perpetrated by priests. The much-quoted words about religion being the opiate of the masses do not in any way stress the poisonous nature of opium. True, religion is merely the “realization in fantasy of human nature”, but it is nevertheless man’s sole legitimate existence as long as this existence possesses no genuine, that is, earthly, reality: “Poverty in religion is simultaneously the expression of real poverty and the protest against real poverty. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, it is feeling in a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of nonspiritual conditions”. ….”And it is precisely for this reason that the classless society can be essentially atheistic, because, instead of combating and supplanting religion, it makes religion’s legitimate intention a reality, thereby rendering it superfluous”.

Obviously, Richard Dawkins is in the tradition of the Enlightenment and (much earlier) of the Emperor Friedrich II of Hohenstauffen (13th century). Religion still flourishes in spite of all the arguments against it, which suggests that some deep seated need for it exists, as suggested by Marx, among many others. Whether this need is due to poverty as suggested by Marx, is open to discussion. I don’t know what Terry Eagleton thinks about this, but I doubt that he would agree. Perhaps religious beliefs are based on evolutionarily old “instincts” as satirically discussed and illustrated in my book Satire, Politik und Kunst [7] .

The Origin of Life

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

An argument frequently used by adherents of “Intelligent Design” is the improbability of life having arisen spontaneously. Citing Stuart Kauffman [2] , page 287: “Improbable features of current organisms imply improbable origins. If the probability that a protein catalyzes a given reaction is 10 to the power of minus 20, and if a minimal contemporary organism such as a pleuromona-like organism has on the order of 1000 or 2000 enzymes, then the probability of their joint occurrence by chance is, say 10 to the power of minus 40 000. More likely that, as Hoyle says, the whirlwind assemble a 747 from scraps in a junkyard.”

However, the detailed investigations of Stuart Kauffman suggest that

life is not improbable, it is “an expected, emergent, collective property of complex systems of polymer catalysts.“ It “crystallizes” in a phase transition leading to connected sequences of biochemical transformations by which polymers and simpler building blocks mutually catalyze their collective reproduction”. And such a “collectively reproducing polymer system is relatively probable”.

A blog is not a suitable place to discuss the theory in detail, the reader is referred to: Kauffman (pages 287-341) where a detailed account of the mathematical theory and evidence for the hypothesis is given, and where experiments are described to test for the in vitro creation of self-reproducing biochemical systems.

Even if not all aspects of the hypothesis should turn out to be correct, it is important that a problem such as the origin of life can be theoretically and experimentally examined and should not be left unexplained by referring it to “

Intelligent Design”, ultimately a meaningless phrase which does not explain anything.

Richard Schröder: Abschaffung der Religion? (Abolishment of religion?). Wissenschaftlicher Fanatismus und die Folgen (Scientific fanaticism and the consequences)

Richard Schröder is Professor for philosophy/theology at the Humboldt University in Berlin and a lawyer, who – as a Christian in a Christian family – grew up in the former communist German Democratic Republic. In his book Abschaffung der Religion? [8], he makes a few very valid points in his criticicism of Dawkins, in particular pointing out that Christianity is not the bloody religion as claimed by Dawkins, but that temporary aberrations such as inquisitions, forcible conversions, witch hunts and crusades developed relatively late in history and were overcome from within the churches. The basic message of Christ is indeed one of love and forgiving.

He contrasts this with atheistic communism, with which he had firsthand experience and which was responsible for the death of many millions in the former USSR, Cambodia, China etc.His discussions of these aspects and also of the various kinds of atheism and proofs of God’s existence are full of historical detail and provide excellent reading. Schröder also points out that many developments of modern Western philosophy and science are a direct consequence of Christian beliefs.- However, his discussion of genetics, for example of Dawkins’ definition of a gene and of organisms as “containers” for “selfish” genes whose function it is to secure the survival of the fittest genes (and not the other way round) border on the ridiculous. Dawkins is not only a popularizer of evolutionary science but also a first class scientist, and it is somewhat surprising that a theologian/philosopher (although one with a good second hand background in science) ventures to tell Dawkins how a gene should be defined. His conclusion that Dawkins views are bad metaphysics and pseudoreligion ispartlybased on this misunderstanding of evolutionary genetics. I saypartly, because the pseudoreligion part is based on Dawkins’ claim that atheism is positive and optimistic. Schröder asks: how can this follow from a Darwinistic interpretation of nature, in which genes have survived because of their “selfishness”? But even here evolutionary genetics can give an answer: Dawkins would claim that altruism may well have a survival function.

Werner Heisenberg: tolerance; Max Planck: religion and science have the same aim

Werner Heisenberg, one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century, whose contributions to the development of quantum physics are second to none, has the following to say in his “Physics and Philosophy. The Revolution in Modern Science” [13] .

After pointing out that modern science is confronted with two doctrines going back to Hegel and Marx, and uncompromising belief, he says (pp.191 ff)

‘the narrowness of the doctrines is felt by those who have really understood modern science…”….”on the other hand, the phenomenon of uncompromising belief carries much more weight….

The majority of the people can scarcely have any well-founded judgment concerning the correctness of certain general ideas and doctrines….Therefore, the word “belief” can for the majority not mean “perceiving the truth of something”, but can only be understood as “taking this as the basis for life”…. Belief can sometimes be upheld to a point where it seems completely absurd…..From the scientific tradition of the nineteenth century one would of course be inclined to hope that all belief should be based on a rational analysis of every argument….and that this other kind of belief, in which some real or apparent truth is simply taken as the basis for life, should not exist….’However:’…….Even the most important decision in life must always contain this inevitable element of irrationality…..Therefore, it cannot be avoided that some real or apparent truth form the basis of life; and this fact should be acknowledged with regard to those groups of people whose basis is different from our own.’ Max Planck, the discoverer of the quantum, states in “Das moderne Bild der Naturwissenschaften”, 1961, that “religion and science meet on the question of the existence and nature of a supreme power which rules the world: their answers….. are comparable, at least to a certain extent. They agree in affirming, firstly, that a world order based on reason exists independent of man and, secondly, that the nature of this world can never be known directly: it can only be sensed indirectly, seen through a glass darkly, as it were.” ……”Religion here uses its symbols as aid, science its computations. Nothing, therefore, prevents us from identifying the world order of science with the God of religion, as indeed our urge for a a uniform view of the world demands.”…….”Wherever we look, however far, we will never find any contradictions between religion and science.”…”Religion and science, far from excluding each pother…..are complementary”……”But the two paths are not divergent. They run parallel. They meet at the same goal, far off in infinity” [14] .

Conclusion

My conclusion is that Dawkins has underestimated the positive contributions of religions to human culture, in the arts, philosophy, literature, music and architecture. Religions may well have the function to bring about social coherence (as stated by Dawkins himself), and what would take over if religions should be abolished?

Dawkins’ emphasis on religion might even be dangerous, if it deflects attention from other important issues. Would it be perhaps more useful to concentrate on social and economic inequalities and try to suggest recipes for their amelioration?– He considers the concept of God a scientific hypothesis that can be tested by scientific means. But, as pointed out by theological critics, God is more than that: a source of love. And as pointed out by Heisenberg, there will always be an irrational element in decision making of most people, because it cannot be expected that they all can form well-founded judgments based on the correctness of doctrines and general ideas. From a scientific point of view, I believe that the role of natural selection, the very basis of Darwin’s interpretation of evolution, may not be as important as he claims it is. According to Kauffman [2] , many traits of organisms have evolved not because of natural selection but in spite of it. Stephen Wolfram’s [3]extensive computer simulations of many systems have shown that simple “rules” in programs lead to complex characters. In other words, it may not be necessary to assume lengthy processes of selection leading from simple to complex characters.These findings suggest that evolutionary patterns may fit into certain “molds”, i.e., that outcomes of evolution are to a certain degree predetermined by the laws of nature(see discussion in [9] [10] [11] [12] ), a suggestion that might be tested in the not too distant future by examining evolutionary patterns on other planets (if they have life). This opens the way to a Spinozistic interpretation of nature, in which a primary cause (which everybody is welcome to name God) is at the base of and determines all the rest. Of course, this does not imply the existence of a personal God who takes responsibility and care of us.

References

Dawkins, R. (2006). The God Delusion. Bantam Press, London Toronto Sydney Auckland Johannesburg.
Kauffman, S. (1993). The Origins of Order. Self-organization and Selection in Evolution. Oxford University Press, New York Oxford.
Wolfram, S. (2002). A New Kind of Science, Wolfram Media.
Rohde, K. (2005). Nonequilibrium Ecology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Eagleton, T. (2006). Lunging Flailing Mispunching. The God Delusion of Richard Dawkins. London Review of Books 28 No. 20, 19 October 2006.
Nolte, E. (1965, original German edition 1963). Three Faces of Fascism. Action Francaise, Italian Fascism, National Socialism, R.Piper and Co., Munich.
Rohde, K. (2005). Satire, Politik und Kunst. Lulu. http://www.lulu.com/content/378808
Schröder, R. (2008). Abschaffung der Religion? Wissenschaftlicher Fanatismus und die Folgen. Herder, Freiburg, Basel, Wien.
Woodley, M.A. (2007). On the possible operation of natural laws in ecosystems. Rivista di Biologia – Biology Forum 100, 475-486.
Rohde, K. (2008). Vacant niches and the possible operation of natural laws in ecosystems. Rivista di Biologia-Biology Forum 101, 13-21.
Woodley, M.A. (2008). A response to Rohde: Natural laws, vacant niches and superorganisms. Rivista di Biologia – Biology Forum 101, 171-194.
Rohde, K. (in press). Natural laws, vacant niches and superorganisms. A response to Woodley. Rivista di Biologia – Biology Forum
Werner Heisenberg (1989). Physics & Philosophy, The Revolution in Modern Science” (Penguin Books, first edition 1962).
Max Planck (1961) in: Das moderne Bild der Naturwissenschaften. Hrsg. Christian Velder, Max Hueber Verlag München. English translation in “Man and Science” 1964, Max Hueber Verlag München.

Related knols (on ecology/evolution):

http://knol.google.com/k/klaus-rohde/klaus-rohde-knols-deutsch/xk923bc3gp4/66#

http://knol.google.com/k/klaus-rohde/klaus-rohde-knols-english/xk923bc3gp4/69#

(on NKS, Stephen Wolfram):

http://knol.google.com/k/klaus-rohde/nks-new-kind-of-science-in-ecology-and/xk923bc3gp4/63#

Copyright note

The various sections, except those on Schröder, Heisenberg and Planck, are based on posts originally published in my Blog: Science, Politics and Art .

53 Comments

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  1. Anonymous

    Not so shrill! — Reply to “first and last things” (Chris Fellows)In spite of millenia of fanatic intellectual toiling of numerous people trying to solve a purely theoretic phantasmal task, mankind has never been presented with a “logically coherent work” ad maiorem Dei gloriam – how could one then ask for such a work dealing with the opposite subject of proving the complex and deep-seated god delusion? Dawkins´ clear and straightforward prose written for the enlightened average person is highly readably even by the standard of a foreigner for whom English is but a second language. Above all his book is surely convincing concerning its central subject, the god delusion, otherwise stimulating and never boring. On the contrary, sophisticated readers should be bored reading the seemingly endless list of alleged new arguments brought forward by pedantic critics just to have some more serious arguments that they could get their teeth into and have some intellectual exercise. Indeed, in the line of the long custom of believers let me call a person “lost” – with regard to this most important finding for humanity – who is not yet decisively impressed by the subtle, detailed and comprehensive work of the many philosophical and scientific thinkers who were able to show how this harmful delusive idea came into being and how it gained its overriding power. Aren´t such sceptical persons illogically demanding no less than a mathematical proof of the finding? But even if this extravagant expectation could be met with, those persons would again be at a loss if they were shown Goedel’s incompleteness theorem or the like, wouldn´t they? By the way, I really can´t understand how one is able to call Dawkins´ style of writing nearly unphilosophical and shrill and to name of all people J.B.S. Haldane as the model, whose more than only philosophical myopia didn´t prevent him during the war from becoming an ardent member of the communist party. One could turn a blind eye to it and to his shrill personality, if he had only been a follower of the theoreticists Marx and Engels but he admired even the most murderous practical man Stalin, of whom he dared to say as late as 1962 that he was “a very great man who did a very good job.” How is it possible for anyone to feel Haldane to be a less shrill, more knowledgeable interpreter of the god delusion? (Josef Alvermann, Baden-Baden)

  2. Klaus Rohde

    An interesting contribution from the religious side. — http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/apr/05/christianity-new-atheism-faithTwo excerpts:“Increasingly, one hears a distaste for the polemics of the New Atheist debate and its foghorn volume, and how it has drowned out any other kind of conversation about religion: what it is, the loss of it, whether it matters, and what happens in a post-religious society? From sometimes surprising quarters there is an anxiety about the evangelical fervour and certainty of the New Atheists: they are so sure they are right, but there are plenty of people – and many of them would not count themselves as believers – who can’t share their contempt for religion.”“So the media has been promoting the wrong argument, while the bigger question of how, in a post-religious society, people find the myths they need to sustain meaning, purpose and goodness in their lives go unexplored. What worries Gray is that we forget at our peril that all systems of thought rely on myth. By junking the Christian myths, the danger is that the replacements are “cruder, less tested, less instructive”. At times of crisis – such as the economic recession – the brittleness of a value system built on wealth and a particular conception of autonomy becomes all too apparent, leaving people without the sustaining reserves of a faith to fall back on. The consequences of that will certainly not be cause for celebration, he warns.”

  3. Klaus Rohde

    Is this what Dawkins is fighting against? Pasted in from a book advertisment on this knol — The Prophesied End-Time Revealed * o Home o Download Free Book o Order Free Book o 2008 – God’s Final Witness o The Prophesied End-Time o Author Interviews o About the Author o Church of God – PKG o Ronald Weinland – Personal Site o Contact2008 – God’s Final WitnessThe year 2008 has witnessed many prophecies being fulfilled, especially the Seven Thunders of the Book of Revelation, which the apostle John saw but was restricted from recording. Those thunders, which will continue to increase in strength and frequency, are revealed in this book, as well as detailed accounts of the final three and one-half years of man’s self-rule on earth, which are recorded in the account of the Seventh Seal of Revelation.Some of these prophecies concern the demise of the United States over the coming year, which will be followed by man’s final world war. This last war will be the result of clashing religions and the governments they sway. Billions will die! This time will far exceed even the very worst times in all human history.As these events unfold, the world will increasingly become aware of the authenticity of the words in this book and realize that Ronald Weinland has been sent by God as His end-time prophet.This book is primarily directed to the people of the three major religions of the world (Islam, Judaism and Christianity), whose roots are in the God of Abraham. Ronald Weinland has been sent to all three.

  4. Anonymous

    Sehr lesenswert! — Der Autor unterstreicht wichtige Argumente und zeigt mit Fachkenntnis Fehler auf; er betont auch, dass eine veränderte Bewertung der natürlichen Selektion keinen Einfluss auf den Kern der Argumentation hat. Ein ausgezeichneter Knol, der Stellung bezieht. Ich möchte etwas nachtragen: Theologie hat nichts mit Gott zu tun, sie operiert nur mit seinem Namen. (Da Gott nicht begriffen werden kann, sollte man hier nicht von Begriff sprechen.) Wissenschaft beschäftigt sich mit allem, was ist, also nicht mit leeren Konzepten wie Gott und Stein der Weisen. Falsche Vorstellungen sind stets schädlich und, wie die Geschichte lehrt, in Extremfällen katastrophal für sachgerechtes Denken, das in der Wissenschaft und im Alltagsleben überwiegt. Die Gottes-vorstellung (auch Vorstellung ist hierbei ein falsches Wort) macht keine Ausnahme. Im Gegenteil, als monolithisches Relikt untergegangenen Empfindens (Himmel, Hölle, Engel, Teufel, Götter, Götzen, Geister) wirkt „Gott“ heute auf viele als Inbegriff des Irrationalen. Und wer kann jetzt noch sagen: „Credo, quia absurdum. Ich glaube, weil es absurd ist!“ – Glaube ist Fürwahrhalten und funktionell als Festhalten einer Meinung – etwa “Das Eis trägt“ – immer nur intellektuelle Durchgangsstation zu besserem Wissen. Wird Fürwahrhalten zu blindem, fanatischem Durchhalten, wächst die Gefahr für alles, was das realitätsferne Wunschdenken beeinflusst. Die Warnung klingt überzogen, doch sie beschreibt in vielen Ländern die schlimme Realität. Umgekehrt lebt vielleicht eine Milliarde Menschen ohne Gott ein erfülltes Leben mit Liebe, Mitleid, Würde und Engagement. Gibt es einen besseren Beweis, dass der „Begriff“ nicht nur schädlich, sondern auch entbehrlich ist? Der wirkungslose Gott selbst ist natürlich nicht das Problem, vielmehr nur, was man der Sphäre angedichtet hat: egoistische, sadistische und masochistische Konzepte wie Lohn, Strafe, Schuld, Sühne, Sünde, Vergebung, ewige Höllenqualen usw. und die Folgen von Intoleranz und Verfolgung Andersdenkender. Kräftige Verbesserung der sozialen und der ökonomischen Umstände sowie der Bildung lassen die Religionen in weiten Teilen der Welt an Wert verlieren. Sie sind ja nicht durch einige fanatische Gegner gefährdet, sondern weil sie für unzählige Menschen uninteressant oder unattraktiv werden. So gilt in Europa Intelligent Design nicht als intelligentes Thema (es sei denn, man meint Gerätedesign.) Doch es stimmt, die letzten Gottesdiener beten alles an, was nicht umfällt – es wird aber immer weniger. (Josef Alvermann, Baden-Baden) Nachtrag: Zum Schlussatz „a Spinozistic interpretation of nature, in which a primary cause (…..) is at the base of and determines all the rest“ möchte ich noch einwenden: Die Interpretation ist wohl keine falsifizierbare Theorie, es sollte aber wenigstens sicher sein, dass sie sich nicht (wie mir scheint) im Widerspruch zu den Gesetzen der Quantenphysik befindet. Vielleicht muss die Naturwissenschaft jedoch überhaupt mit dem Konzept von Ursache und Wirkung zufrieden sein und das alte philosophische Postulat einer Ur-Sache aufgeben – wie ja auch, wenn die Zeit mit einer Singularität begann und das Universum ein topologisch kompakter Raum ist, die Frage, was „davor“ war bzw. „dahinter“ liegt, physikalisch nicht mehr ergiebig zu sein scheint. Molds scheinen mir außerdem nicht zu Spinozas Satz zu passen, dass es keine Wirkung ohne Ursache gibt und alles, was als natura naturata existiert, unendlich verschieden ist. Ich freue mich jedenfalls auf die weitere Entwicklung und Vertiefung der Thematik! (Josef Alvermann, Baden-Baden)

    • Klaus Rohde

      “Glaube ist Fürwahrhalten und funktionell als Festhalten einer Meinung – etwa “Das Eis trägt“ – immer nur intellektuelle Durchgangsstation zu besserem Wissen.”Spinoza tritt ja in diesem Sinne nicht als Befürworter des “Glaubens” ein, sondern meint, mit Hilfe der Logik zu einem Verständnis der Welt zu kommen. Wenn ich von “primary cause” spreche, meine ich nicht notwendigerweise eine physische, zeitlich besdtimmte Ursache, sondern ein “Etwas”, welches der Gesetzmässigkeit der Welt zugrunde liegt. Ich glaube nicht, dass die Quantenphysik trotz des Ersetzens strenger Kausalität durch Wahrscheinlichkeitsvoraussagen (zumindest auf der Mikroebene) hieran etwas ändert.

    • Klaus Rohde

      Ein weiteres Beispiel von der durch Geschlichtsklitterung “untermauerten” Rolle der Religion.http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/gesellschaft/0,1518,618696,00.htmlAuszug:“Worin besteht die Aggression? Mixa: “Die Unmenschlichkeit des praktizierten Atheismus haben im vergangenen Jahrhundert die gottlosen Regime des Nationalsozialismus und des Kommunismus mit ihren Straflagern, ihrer Geheimpolizei und ihren Massenmorden in grausamer Weise bewiesen.” In genau diesen Systemen seien “Christen und die Kirche besonders verfolgt” worden.Der Bischof weiter: “Wo Gott geleugnet oder bekämpft wird, da wird bald auch der Mensch und seine Würde geleugnet und missachtet.” Und: “Eine Gesellschaft ohne Gott ist die Hölle auf Erden.””Perfide Argumentation”Kritiker werfen Mixa vor, er verfälsche die Geschichte. Die Behauptung des Bischofs, aus dem Glauben erwachse automatisch Humanität, sei “völlig unhaltbar”, meint Rudolf Ladwig, Vorsitzender des Internationalen Bundes der Konfessionslosen und Atheisten (IBKA). Mixas Worte seien Teil einer “langfristigen Kirchenstrategie, die Geschichte der eigenen Institution hinsichtlich des Faschismus historisch unkorrekt zu entlasten”

  5. Marco Parigi

    My main criticisms of Dawkins’ “Logic” — 1 – Dawkins appears to Favour “logical positivism” over “axiomatic reasoning”. A key definition of science is that it deals with observable natural phenomena (ie. an Axiom of there being no God). All arguments that he makes based on scientific thought, therefore, implicitly assumes that there is no God, in an axiomatic reasoning sense. If his argument were axiomatic, it would be circular reasoning. Logical posivist arguments are not going to sway those that do not accept it as a basis for argument.2 – He places peoples views on a “line” depending on peoples certainty of the existence of God Page 51 quote “It is superficially tempting to place PAP (Permanently Agnostic in Principle) in the middle of the spectrum, with a 50 percent probability of God’s existence, but this is not correct. PAP agnostics aver that we cannot say anything, one way or another, on the question whether God exists. The question, for PAP agnostics is in principle unanswerable, and they should strictly refuse to place themselves anywhere on the spectrum of probabilities.”(I’m with Huxley, the question is unanswerable, meaning the rest of his arguments are meaningless to me)3 – He dismisses group selection, when scientific thought is in progress, demonstrating how it relates to religion. see http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-07-04.html4 – The way Dawkins defines religions ref : Page 15 “By ‘Religion’ Einstein meant something entirely different from what is conventionally meant. As I continue to clarify the distinction between supernatural religion on the one hand and Einsteinian religion on the other, bear in mind that I am only calling *supernatural* Gods delusional. is not the way religion is generally defined in a dictionary. By defining religion so narrowly, atheists let other zealous ideologies off the hook completely.

    • Klaus Rohde

      The comments to which you provide the link are very interesting and useful. I have not read them carefully yet but will. In the meantime, group selection to me seems most likely among microorganisms such as bacteria, which have frequent gene transfer, and humans, because they have replaced much of genetic by cultural inheritance and learning (Dawkins’ memes, the term by the way was introduced not by Dawkins but at the beginning of the 20th century or the end of the 19th by a German biologist).

    • Marco Parigi

      As well as those items that pertain to biology, don’t forget to look at the particular formulation of the logic that Dawkins espouses (mentioned in those other points), for if one cannot agree to that, one cannot get closer to agreeing with his conclusions. Spinoza explicitly formulates his reasoning with a set of axioms, making it clear where he differs from other philosophies. Since Dawkins felt that a Spinozan vision of God/Universe is acceptable, does this mean he agrees with those axioms?

    • Klaus Rohde

      My apologies for the delay in replying, I have been busy working on a knol which may be of interest to you (I certainly would appreciate your comments) http://knol.google.com/k/klaus-rohde/nks-new-kind-of-science-in-ecology-and/xk923bc3gp4/63#and for apparently giving the wrong impression that Dawkins wanted to go back to Spinoza. That was my idea (I don’t know, but perhaps Dawkins had it also).I don’t know enough about Spinoza to be familiar with his axioms, I simply wanted to say that everything may be causally determined, or as expressed by Spinoza:”Nothing in nature is accidental, everything is determined by the necessity of divine nature to exist and act in a certain way.”

  6. Chris Fellows

    First and last things… — “considering the dangerously evil influence fundamentalist religion has in the United States (Dawkins’ aptly named American Taliban and the rulers influenced by them),”This is not reasoning, and it is not supported by any rational argument. It is just a gobbet of flesh thrown to Plato’s ‘Great Beast’. I disagree with a great deal of what evangelical Christians believe; I have spent more hours arguing with them than I care to remember; I agree that some of their ideas are dangerous (just as some of Dawkins’ ideas are dangerous); and I find the manner of many of their spokesmen and women, especially American ones, abrasive and irritating in the extreme. Yet, to say that their influence has been ‘dangerously evil’ or that Richard Dawkins’ silly characterisation of them as the ‘American Taliban’ is ‘apt’ is to have lost all sense of proportion. A sense of proportion is what we most need today in any kind of discussion. I did not find ‘The God Delusion” “inspiringly and wittily written”- unlike some other atheist polemics I have read, by, for example, J. B. S. Haldane. I was grievously disappointed by Dawkins’ book. I expected it would have some serious arguments that I could get my teeth into and have some intellectual exercise attempting to rebut; instead, I found it to be a shrill and logically incoherent potpourri of ad hominem attacks that shows extremely limited understanding of the ideas it is supposedly refuting. (Chris Fellows, Armidale)

    • Klaus Rohde

      My review of Dawkins’ book was written in March 2007, when political developments looked dangerous, and I believe that some of these developments were due to the influence of the more extreme branches of evangelical Christians. Even Richard Schröder, a Christian, believes that Dawkins’ book was addressed mainly to fundamentalist Christians in the U.S. Dawkins could hardly have hoped that the Taliban would read it. – Fortunately, however, Obama (like Schröder also a Christian but not of the fundamentalist variety) has now taken over and the future looks somewhat brighter.Having said this, I had hoped that a discussion on my knol would deal not so much with the political aspects but with my suggestion that Dawkins has overestimated the importance of natural selection, and with the possibility that evolution is forced into molds which opens the way to a Spinozistic interpretation of nature. Josef Alvermann below has just done that.

    • Chris Fellows

      Ah well, with political aspects, the only way to avoid discussion is to remain silent, and not make inflammatory statements!Of course there are physical factors other than natural selection that impact on the evolution of living things- from where I sit, I can just see volume two of D’Arcy Thompson’s ‘Growth and Form’ on my bookshelf- but I do not see how these open the way to a Spinozistic interpretation of nature. I have said what I think is wrong with Kauffman’s ideas elsewhere at length (http://chrisfellows.blogspot.com/search/label/history%20of%20life) (Chris Fellows, Armidale)

    • Klaus Rohde

      “Inflammatory statements”?? What is inflammatory depends largely on the recipient. You light a match and throw it into a puddle of water: nothing. You light a match and throw it into a puddle of oil: a lot! — The Taliban was quite respectable on and off. If I remember it correctly, it was invited to the U.S. to negotiate about a pipeline before it was overthrown, now there are attempts to distinguish a good and bad Taliban. Obviously I meant the good Taliban.”Of course there are physical factors other than natural selection that impact on the evolution of living things” : even a convinced Darwinist accepts that (read Rensch for examples). The question of course is: how much of evolution is in a way predetermined? Josef Alvermann raises the point of whether quantum physics has altogether done away with causes and effects, and therefore with a “primary cause”.

    • Chris Fellows

      Interesting- though I am sure that Dawkins did not mean the ‘good Taliban’. Your use of the analogy makes perfect sense in my worldview, where the ‘good Taliban’ of America are our allies of convenience against a greater evil. So I must ask- who are the ‘American Taliban’ our allies against in your conception of the world?As for quantum mechanics doing away with causes and effects, well, on a macroscopic scale we find it very convenient to live as though there are causes and effects, and I don’t see the idea that there isn’t (as put forward by various Sufis a thousand years ago, and doubtless other philosophers before that) as being very productive or useful. Obviously the simplest explanation for the universe being here is that it just is, like the ancient Greeks and Indians said- no need for a primary cause. But from our macroscopic point of view, it looks very much like a contingent thing that is running down. I also think that our experience as a species of continually discovering new things that dethrone us further from a position at the centre of attention makes it vanishingly unlikely that what we call the universe is actually all that is. And your statement about inflammatory statements is disingenuous😉 – calling American Evangelical Christians the ‘American Taliban’ is the same sort of thing as if I were to call Australian Greens the ‘Australian Khmer Rouge’- sure, in a certain inert atmosphere of like-minded people this is not an inflammatory statement, but it is not good to live in such a sterile bubble.(Chris Fellows, Armidale)

    • Klaus Rohde

      There are two statements in your latest reply which I (sorry) do not understand. Could you please clarify. 1) “So I must ask- who are the ‘American Taliban’ our allies against in your conception of the world?” (are there some words missing? I do not claim that the “American Taliban” of Richard Dawkins are my allies against anybody, nor would Dawkins claim this for himself, I believe). 2) “I also think that our experience as a species of continually discovering new things that dethrone us further from a position at the centre of attention makes it vanishingly unlikely that what we call the universe is actually all that is.” (What has our experience to do with whether the universe as we see it is actually all there is, unless you mean that we discover more and more galaxies, more and more about the history of the universe and the functioning of subatomic particles etc.: but the expansion of human knowledge has been going on for millenia. In that sense the known universe was never all there was. Further and quite to the contrary to what you imply, I get the impression that modern physics – at least in some of its interpretations – implies a greater role of the human mind than earlier thought, and therefore of humans.).Finally: “well, on a macroscopic scale we find it very convenient to live as though there are causes and effects,..” Is this sheer pragmatism? Is there perhaps more to cause and effect than considering it convenient?

    • Klaus Rohde

      I just came across a book advertisement on this knol. Could it be that some western religious fanatics (delusionists) are more dangerous than the Taliban? After all, their effects are within a much more powerful country. See my latest comment dealing with:Ronald Weinland – 2008 – God’s Final Witness

    • Marco Parigi

      My views of what is wrong with Dawkin’s assessment of religions is closely related to that of David sloan wilson (Atheist evolutionary biologist)see http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-07-04.htmlImportant quotes from which:Scientific Dogmatism In retrospect, it is hard to fathom the zeal with which evolutionists such as Williams and Dawkins rejected group selection and developed a view of evolution as based entirely on self-interestAnd his conclusion:On Scientific Open-Mindedness Toward the end of The God Delusion, Dawkins waxes poetic about the open-mindedness of science compared to the closed-mindedness of religion. He describes the heart-warming example of a scientist who changed his long-held beliefs on the basis of a single lecture, rushing up to his former opponent in front of everyone and declaring “Sir! I have been wrong all these years!” This inspiring example represents one end of the scientific bell curve when it comes to open-mindedness. At the other end are people such as Louis Agassiz, one of the greatest biologists of Darwin’s day, who for all his brilliance and learning never accepted the theory of evolution. Time will tell where Dawkins sits on the bell curve of open-mindedness concerning group selection in general and religion in particular. At the moment, he is just another angry atheist, trading on his reputation as an evolutionist and spokesperson for science to vent his personal opinions about religion. It is time now for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work on understanding one of the most important and enigmatic aspects of the human condition.

    • Chris Fellows

      As requested, I am happy to clarify!1) “So I must ask- who are the ‘American Taliban’ our allies against in your conception of the world?” (are there some words missing? I do not claim that the “American Taliban” of Richard Dawkins are my allies against anybody, nor would Dawkins claim this for himself, I believe). (1) I suggested that accepting Dawkins’ characterisation of certain evangelical Christian movements as the ‘American Taliban’ was inflammatory. In your response, you said this need not be the case, since you might have been talking about the ‘good Taliban’, our allies against the ‘bad Taliban’. Now I am certain Dawkins was not talking about the ‘good Taliban’; and I was very nearly sure that you were just being facetious and not really talking about the ‘good Taliban’ either! But I thought on the off chance that you were not being facetious I would probe a bit more to find out what you meant by the ‘good Taliban’. Shall I now answer my own question? Yes, I shall, following the example given by our prime minister. Like Dawkins, the American Taliban believe there is such a thing is truth. They believe it is important to know what is true, and what is false. They believe there is a large element of order and rationality to the universe. Thus, the American Taliban- and the Pakistani Taliban, for that matter- are Dawkins’ and your and my allies against all those who deny there is such a thing as truth. All the nihilistic wreckers who say that truth is culturally determined, all the faceless men of government and media who would have truth be whatever they say it is, people like Professor Ron Laura who say that Aboriginal students should be taught ‘culturally appropriate knowledge’: they are our common enemy. 2) “I also think that our experience as a species of continually discovering new things that dethrone us further from a position at the centre of attention makes it vanishingly unlikely that what we call the universe is actually all that is.” (What has our experience to do with whether the universe as we see it is actually all there is, unless you mean that we discover more and more galaxies, more and more about the history of the universe and the functioning of subatomic particles etc.: but the expansion of human knowledge has been going on for millennia. In that sense the known universe was never all there was.(2) Once upon a time we thought our Earth was alone in a sphere of fixed stars, the only world. Galileo pointed his telescope at the moon, and at Jupiter, and we knew that the wanderers were worlds like ours. Then we found that the fixed stars were suns like ours. Then we pointed better telescopes at a fuzzy nebula and found that our ‘island universe’ was only one of a kind: one of billions and billions. These were not examples of finding more ‘stuff’ inside what we thought was the universe- like the examples you give- they are examples of finding something radically different that suddenly changed and expanded our picture of what the universe was. The introduction of Quantum Mechanics was another such dramatic change in the picture- remember Lord Kelvin’s confident statement c.1900 that physics was complete and all we needed was to determine better values for a few constants. Dawkins writes as though our current picture of the universe really is ‘the Seal of the Paradigms’ and contains everything we need to know about to make dogmatic statements about the universe. I think it is not so. I think there are ‘unknown unknowns’ that are important. I think the principle of uniformity makes it vanishingly unlikely that I am lucky enough to live at that point in history at which we have got it right, and all that remains is filling in details in a broad canvas whose edges will remain forever fixed.(continues, for this canvas is also too small!🙂

    • Chris Fellows

      Further and quite to the contrary to what you imply, I get the impression that modern physics – at least in some of its interpretations – implies a greater role of the human mind than earlier thought, and therefore of humans.).I am a chemist, and therefore I teach and use quantum mechanics the way it should be taught and used: as a tool for predicting the results of experiments. I am agnostic as to whether there really is anything physically corresponding to a ‘wavefunction’, and I certainly am not going to base an elaborate pyramid of New Age fluff on some special role for the observer in the ‘collapse’ of this wavefunction- as is done in so many of the rubbishy books that breathlessly profess to explain Quantum Mechanics to the unenlightened. When confronted with ‘paradox’, with ‘mystery’ I remain mindful always of the words of Charles Peirce: “One singular deception of this sort … is to mistake the sensation produced by our own unclearness of thought for a character of the object we are thinking about. Instead of perceiving that the obscurity is purely subjective, we fancy that we contemplate a quality of the object which is essentially mysterious; and if our conception be afterward presented to us in a clear form we do not recognise it as the same, owing to the absence of the feeling of unintelligibility.”Finally: “well, on a macroscopic scale we find it very convenient to live as though there are causes and effects,..” Is this sheer pragmatism? Is there perhaps more to cause and effect than considering it convenient?Yes, this is pragmatism; pragmatism is the philosophy of science. The idea that there is no such thing as cause or effect, like the idea that you are the only thing that exists and all this is a dream, are useless ideas, because they cannot be disproved; they give rise to no fruitful inferences, they are sterile, fundamentally uninteresting and unimportant, ideas. That is why I say it is more convenient to disregard them. You report that Josef Alvermann makes the argument: ‘Causality is an illusion, therefore there is no need for a first cause, therefore there is no God.’He might as well have said: ‘Causality is an illusion; therefore salmon live in trees and eat pencils, therefore there is no God.’Because, his premise robs the word ‘therefore’ of it meaning, and thus makes rational discussion impossible.(Chris Fellows, Armidale- I must get back to work now. Sorry for the two posts, as the knol decided my comment was too long)

    • Chris Fellows

      Oh, Peirce, of course, the ones who came after were mere tinkerers.😉 It seems to me that what he outlines in ‘How to Make our Ideas Clear’ is essentially the same as the procedure ‘how to discover a new physical law’ outlined by Richard Feynman: First you guess. Don’t laugh, this is the most important step. Then you compute the consequences. Compare the consequences to experience. If it disagrees with experience, the guess is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your guess is or how smart you are or what your name is. If it disagrees with experience, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.”But most importantly I believe that Dawkins is really appalled by what has been done and is being done in the name of religions by people like Ronald Weinland…”I do not doubt that Dawkins is sincerely appalled by such things; that is not in question. What is most important is not that he is really appalled, but whether the actions prompted by this state of being appalled are correctly directed and proportionate. I was appalled by the Dolphinarium bombing; that does not mean I would automatically endorse a proposal to bulldoze Gaza into the sea. Dawkins’ attacks on religion are a response disproportionate and misdirected to the same degree. Ronald Weiland is no more representative of all religious people than Saeed Hotari was representative of all Arabic-speaking people.(Chris Fellows, Armidale)

    • Klaus Rohde

      “Ronald Weiland is no more representative of all religious people than Saeed Hotari was representative of all Arabic-speaking people.”Of course not. Even Dawkins would not assume that (I believe). Dawkins’ response: well, I think my knol makes it perfectly clear that I do not agree with all his ideas.

    • Klaus Rohde

      On second thought, your approach to science seems to be similar to that of Dawkins: no truth if not in agreement with facts. What about the God hypothesis, then? We can believe what we want, but as a scientific hypothesis (which according to Dawkins belief in God is), existence of a God cannot be proven (at this stage in time, at least), and should therefore be discarded. ??????

    • Chris Fellows

      Yes, as a scientific hypothesis, the existence of God cannot be disproved, and hence it must never be used. And any conception of the existence of God which one wishes to hold certainly must not contradict the facts of the universe which we observe. Beyond this, we should all believe as we wish, and not bully one another (which I believe is what the hectoring tone of Dawkins amounts to). I am concerned only to argue always and everywhere that religion is not necessarily incompatible with science. In the crudest pragmatic terms, if it became the general view that they were incompatible, well, the practitioners of science are much less numerous, so it would be a simpler matter to exterminate them! (Chris Fellows)

    • Klaus Rohde

      As a matter of fact, I sympathise with some aspects of pragmatism. But which pragmatism do you mean, James, Peirce, strong, weak etc.? Even Nietzsche could be considered a (biological) pragmatist by some definitions. And to call pragmatism THE philosophy of science is perhaps a bit overdone. I did not read all of Dugald Murdoch: (1989) Niels Bohr’s Philosophy of Physics, but got the impression that he considers Bohr a pragmatist, Einstein a realist, and Pauli/Heisenberg positivists. I don’t know how justified this is, but from other vague recollections I remember that people like Planck, Boltzmann etc. did not have identical philosophical views.Concerning your view that “Dawkins writes as though our current picture of the universe really is ‘the Seal of the Paradigms’ and contains everything we need to know about to make dogmatic statements about the universe. I think it is not so. I think there are ‘unknown unknowns’ that are important. I think the principle of uniformity makes it vanishingly unlikely that I am lucky enough to live at that point in history at which we have got it right, and all that remains is filling in details in a broad canvas whose edges will remain forever fixed.”Of course there are plenty of unknowns and perhaps fundamental ones, and we do not know how this will affect our understanding of the world. Perhaps even the existence of a superior intelligence will be made likely. However, we have to live with what we know now. But most importantly I believe that Dawkins is really appalled by what has been done and is being done in the name of religions by people like Ronald Weinland (see my comment). If these people succeed in spreading their interpretation of the gospel, the likelihood of what you said, i.e., that its is “”vanishingly unlikely that I am lucky enough to live at that point in history at which we have got it right”, will become certainty.

    • Klaus Rohde

      Here is my response to your reply on Kauffman:A number of years ago I worked my way through Kauffman, The Origins of Order, now I briefly glanced at the relevant pages of his second book on the topic: At Home in the Universe, Viking 1995.You write that Kauffman’s network and Eigen’s hypercycles can only have arisen in two ways: 1) through a long and complicated process of prebiotic development, or 2) by creation.But according to Kauffman, the emergence of autocatalytic sets, which he believes to be the basis for life, is inevitable. They must arise (and arise very fast) once a certain critical density and diversity of molecules which can form such networks, has arisen. The probability to reach such density is enhanced by arrangement of molecules on surfaces, because it is easier for molecules to find each other in two than in three dimensions, by compartmentalization (which has been shown experimentally to occur), among others. Since complexity is a precondition for the origin of life, very simple life forms cannot be expected.Kauffman is well aware that metabolism is essential, and he does not claim that metabolism must be of a kind found today in living systems. All that is necessary, according to him, is that catalysts are included in a network which link exergonic and endergonic reactions. And for this to occur, “all that is required is sufficient diversity of molecules”.I am not a chemist and do not claim to have the answer (you are one and therefore perhaps in a better position to claim this).Kauffman leaves no doubt that his ideas are just a hypothesis and need to be tested empirically. In my post on the Origin of Life I stress, that even if not all of Kauffman’s ideas turn out to be correct, his approach shows that empirical studies on the problem are possible.Finally, my main reference to Kauffman is about the role of natural selection. Any comments on this?

    • Chris Fellows

      My comment stands- ‘a certain critical density and diversity of molecules which can form such networks’ is a very peculiar chemical environment which does not correspond to anything ever observed in nature except in vivo, and things we have done ourselves in vitro. I think Kauffman’s experiments are worthwhile, but I think he overstates their importance in the origin of life, because the systems he talks about cannot arise without some sort of ‘proto-metabolism’. As I said: ‘We need to plant ourselves on a solid base of physical chemistry, stop worrying about designing elaborate systems for allowing pre-biotic reproduction, and concentrate on nutting out a possible proto-proto-metabolism simple enough to arise spontaneously.’Now, there are physical limits placed on natural selection, certainly- there is gravity, and the amount of energy coming into the environment, and the availability of different elements, and diffusion… you would doubtless be familiar with Haldane’s ‘On Being the Right Size’. But I don’t think this is what Kauffman means when he says that things have ‘evolved in spite of natural selection.’ I do not know what he means. But when he says things like ‘order for free’, he makes me very uneasy. Does he mean something like the ‘life force’ of Schopenhauer, who says: ‘To believe that physical and chemical forces could by themselves bring about an organism is not merely mistaken but, as already remarked, stupid’? (I have not read very much yet- but this was on the second page to which I opened at random).I can no more disprove the idea of a ‘life force’ than Dawkins can disprove God; but it seems to me inferior as a scientific hypothesis on two grounds:(1) It places ‘order for free’ inside the universe, where it is the greatest absurdity, while the God hypothesis places ‘order for free’ outside the universe, of which we know nothing. For I am with Eddington: “If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations- then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation- well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can offer you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”(2) If our ancestors were content to recognise complexity as the product of the blind upward striving of some innate ‘self-organising force’, we would not have any of the triumphs of reductionist science that have enabled us to understand and control our environment so much better than those who lived before us. In this way it is a dead weight of an idea, a convenient Deus ex machina, that provides only an illusion of understanding. The God hypothesis, on the other hand, led many of our ancestors to ask the question ‘what does this complex piece of nature, considered as an artifact, signify in the divine plan?’ a question which can induce fruitful lines of experimental inquiry.

    • Chris Fellows

      I think this assertion of Kauffman’s will be experimentally refuted in my lifetime: ‘With Penrose, in The Emperor’s New Mind, I believe that the mind is not algorithmic, although it can act algorithmically. If it is not algorithmic, then the mind is not a machine and consciousness may not arise in a classical — as opposed to possibly to a quantum — system.’ (from http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/kauffman06/kauffman06_index.html)

    • Klaus Rohde

      “does not correspond to anything ever observed in nature except in vivo,” Sorry, this is a very weak argument. I believe in empty niches, but Earth is swamped with simple and complex organisms which would not allow coexistence of something as fragile as membranes with molecules on them as proposed by Kauffman, although I would not exclude the possibility of finding them in some ancient and obscure habitats.Natural selection: I would have to go back again to read Kauffman all up again for giving a detailed answer, but you can be sure that Kauffman does not mean an elan vital. As a very rough analogue, cellular automata may suffice. Simple rules determine the development of a system. Haldane and D’Arcy Thompson fit along those lines, and even more so the rational morphologists. http://knol.google.com/k/klaus-rohde/nks-new-kind-of-science-in-ecology-and/xk923bc3gp4/63#Concerning Schopenhauer, his belief in a life force is dated of course (like many other things in his writings), but it was probably the belief of many leading scientists at the beginning of the 19th century. All these beliefs are not essential for his philosophy. (By the way, you mentioned Haldane, his father (? Lord Haldane) was the first (?) translator of Schopenhauer’s main work (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung) into English. Parerga and Paralipomena: why not have a look at the part: Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit? The two large essays on freedom of will and the foundation of ethics (not in the Parerga) would also be useful.

    • Chris Fellows

      The fact that such things have never been observed is only a piece of circumstantial evidence in favour of my argument; my argument is the detailed exposition of the extreme implausibility of Kauffman’s systems to which you have responded by repeating Kauffman’s original assertions.I shall read what Kauffman has written again, but I remain with Peirce (“once we know the consequences of a thing we know all there is to know about it”) – a nebulous ’emergent property’ providing ‘order for free’ has the same consequences as an elan vital, so it does not matter what Kauffman calls it. I have only found an English abridgement of Parerga and Paralipomena in our library, I shall read it and then seek further afield! Wikipedia tells me that RB Haldane was JBS Haldane’s uncle… He seems to have been a man of many impressive achievements.

  7. Zia Shah

    Our God: Proving the existence of God by rational means — This is an easy to read short book by Hadrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad. The book was originally published in Urdu in 1928.Here is the foreword of the book: I have long wanted to write a book on the subject of the existence of God, for the benefit of young people in particular. I wanted to set out in a brief and simple manner the arguments which prove the existence of God—Who is our Master and Creator—and to describe His attributes and the advantages and means of establishing communion with Him. For a number of reasons, I have, until now, been unable to fulfil this desire. A few days ago, however, someone asked me about the existence of God in his own peculiar manner, thus rekindling my old desire. I took this to be an appeal from beyond and embarked upon writing this book. No one has any capacity to undertake anything without Allah and I place my trust in Him alone.It would be incorrect to think that I have prepared myself for this task, or that I wish to shed any light upon it from a purely intellectual point of view. The only purpose I have in mind is to share my existing knowledge on the subject with the young and ordinary people in a simple and concise manner. If God so wills, it might grant guidance to some lost soul, or refresh someone’s stagnating faith, or serve to comfort some anxious and restless heart, or, perchance, our dearly beloved might come to realise that the true aim and purpose of our lives is to recognise our Lord, Whose love is greater than any other.Before I begin I pray to the Almighty: ‘O my Lord, You are aware of all my shortcomings and my knowledge and deeds are not hidden from You. Grant me, through Your grace, the strength to complete this book in accordance with that which pleases You. Grant power to my words and lead my pen along the path of righteousness and truth, so that people may recognise You and attain the goal of their lives. O my Helper and Guide, though I consider myself true in my intentions, You know me better than I know myself. If You are aware of any ill-intentions on my part, do have mercy on me and purify me so that this book may not be deprived of the blessings which You send down in support of the truth. Be it so, O God. Amen.’ The whole text can be read online:http://alislam.org/library/books/OurGod.pdf

  8. Narayana Rao

    Very interesting knol — “My conclusion is that Dawkins has underestimated the positive contributions of religions to human culture, in the arts, philosophy, literature, music and architecture.”I think religions have contributed to the growth of societies, to the stability of family, kinship and friendship systems as well as to the economic progress of society. They also contributed to the spread of education that too higher education. Many famous scientists who unravelled nature’s secrets felt the need of religion to provide them the spiritual comfort.

    • James S. Kim

      That’s really right such that Religion has contributed a lot in human life. However, the recent paradigm of religions seem not to be enough for the complex world. Therefore, we need something new which is a combination of religion and science by letting people participate to build it up. What do you think, Narayana?

  9. Lena Waider

    Sehe ich genauso — Ich stimme Ihnen zu. Ich bin zwar selbst Atheisten, doch mich hat das Buch geärgert. Auch finde ich, dass die Evolutionsbiologie endlich ihren Krieg gegen die Religionen einstellen sollte. Unter den führenden deutschen Evolutionsbiologen sind ebenfalls viele in diesen Battle involviert (siehe http://www.evolutionsbiologen.de/). Aus wissenschaftlicher Sicht wäre es viel dringlicher, sich den Defiziten (den Balken im eigenen Auge?) der Darwinschen Theorie zuzuwenden. Die Kosmologen führen schließlich auch keinen Kampf gegen Kirche und Kreationismus. Anlässe hätten die bestimmt auch.Ich stimme Ihnen zu, dass Dawkins die positiven Wirkungen der Religionen unterschätzt, und primär historische Fehlentwicklungen auf seiten der Religionen in den Vordergrund stellt. Viele engagierte Atheisten tun es ihm mittlerweile in ihren Veröffentlichungen gleich. Ich frage mich zunehmend, was das eigentlich soll? Man muss sich lediglich mal in zwei Internetforen begeben, eins, in dem fast ausschließlich Atheisten unterwegs sind, und ein anderes, welches eher christlich orientiert ist. Und da meine ich doch deutlich feststellen zu können, dass man auf der christlichen Seite generell menschlicher und freundlicher (altruistischer?) miteinander umgeht.Schließlich: Die natürliche Selektion ist für die Auseinandersetzung überhaupt nicht zu gebrauchen. Sie ist kein Beweis gegen die Existenz Gottes. Ich finde, man sollte ruhig akzeptieren, dass hinter einer atheistischen Einstellung ein Weltbild steht, welches man in seinen Grundannahmen genauso wenig beweisen kann, wie umgekehrt die Annahme von der Existenz Gottes. Wenn man das einmal akzeptiert hat, könnte man eigentlich wieder zur Tagesordnung übergehen.

    • Klaus Rohde

      Vielleicht sollte man hierzu Brecht zitieren:”Wisse auch, dass etwas nicht glauben, doch etwas glauben heisst”.

    • Klaus Rohde

      Heisenberg neu hinzugefügt. Er scheint mir den Nagel auf den Kopf getroffen zu haben.

  10. Klaus Rohde

    Godlessness and Nazism, Stalinism etc. — Some people argue that religion is needed as a foundation of morality.According to the Sydney Morning Herald (April 2-4, 2010), the Archbishop of Parramatta, Anthony Fisher, launched a scathing attack on atheism in his inaugural Easter message. “Last century we tried godlessness on a grand scale and the effects were devastating.”-”Nazism, Stalinism, Pol-Pottery, mass murder and broken relationships: all promoted by state-imposed atheism or culture-insinuated secularism”.Sorry, this is sheer nonsense, at least as far as Nazism is concerned (and perhaps one should not forget that Stalin began his career at a seminary for priests in Georgia, although he later became the chief preacher of atheistic Marxism-Leninism).I quote from “Hitler’s Secret Conversations 1941-1944″ (English translation by Norman Cameron and R.H.Stevens 1953, A Signet Book, The New American Library).It is important that these conversations were not meant for publication and can therefore be accepted as expressing Hitler’s real beliefs.Some quotes:page 36: “Fundamentally in everyone there is the feeling for this all-mighty, which we call God (that is to say, the dominion of natural laws throughout the whole universe). The priests, who have always succeeded in exploiting this feeling, threatening punishments for the man for the man who refuses to accept the creed they impose”.page 86: “I envisage the future, therefore as follows: First of all, to each man his private creed. Superstition shall not lose its rights…”page 158: “Christ was an Aryan…”page 330: “If my presence on earth is providential, I owe it to a superior will. But I owe nothing to the Church that trafficks in the salvation of souls, and I find it really too cruel. I admit that one cannot impose one’s will by force, but I have a horror of people who enjoy inflicting sufferings on others’ bodies and tyranny upon others’ souls.”Somewhere (I could not find the reference) he says that the justification of the war against the bolsheviks really was their atheism. This explains, of course, why the catholic church was fairly ambivalent about Hitler. Even Cardinal Graf von Galen, Bishop of Münster during the Nazi era and a close friend of the later Pope Pius XII, supported Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union, in spite of his opposition to other aspects of Nazism.So, does this sound like an atheist? Hitler certainly was not a Christian and he was a fanatic antisemite, but he certainly was not an atheist.The most violent opponents of Richard Dawkins, the high priest of contemporary atheism, argue, like the archbishop above, that atheism is at the root of all (or much) evil. It seems that in their opinion one needs to be threatened with punishment in Hell to be good. Well, Hitler did evil without being an atheist.(From my blog http://blog.une.edu.au/klausrohde/)

  11. Klaus Rohde

    Nietzsche about religion and God — Nietzsche quotes: From http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/f/friedrich_nietzsche_6.htmlA subject for a great poet would be God’s boredom after the seventh day of creation.After coming into contact with a religious man I always feel I must wash my hands.God is a thought who makes crooked all that is straight.In Christianity neither morality nor religion come into contact with reality at any point.Is man one of God’s blunders? Or is God one of man’s blunders?

  12. Klaus Rohde

    Bischöfe über den strafenden und barmerzign Gott, und Klimawandel. Bishops about the punishing and benign God, and climate change. — Kardinal George Pell, Erzbischof von Sydney und damit einflussreichster katholischer Kirchenfürst in Australien, setzt “übertriebene” Warnungen vor Klimawandel und das Verlangen, den Ausstoss von Grünhaus-Gasen zu reduzieren, gleich mit den alten heidnischen Sitten, Götter durch Tier- oder sogar Menschenopfer zu beschwichtigen. Der Glauben an einen barmherzigen (benign) Gott, der Herr der Welt ist, dagegen wirkt beruhigend. Er warnt, in den gegenwärtigen australischen Wahlen die Grünen zu wählen.(Although Cardinal Pell claims to be concerned about the environment, he says the Greens’ policy is poisonous because it disadvantages the poor. He had earlier, in a different context, said that “some of the hysteric and extreme claims about global warming are also a symptom of pagan emptiness…..belief in a benign God who is master of the universe has a steadying psychological effect….In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand reduction in carbon dioxide emissions”).Siehe hier: http://blog.une.edu.au/klausrohde/2010/08/08/freedom-of-the-press-and-separation-of-state-and-church-in-australia/Der Bischof von Salzburg faselt von einem strafenden Gott im Zusammenhang mit den Todesfällen der Dusiburger Love Parade. The bishop of Salzburg talks about the punishing God in the context of the deaths at the recent Love Parade in Duisburg. Siehe hier:http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/0,1518,710758,00.html

  13. Georgi Gladyshev

    The definition of life from different points of view — Author presents and discusses the definition of life from different points of view on sites:Living systems are not dissipative structureshttp://knol.google.com/k/georgi-p/living-systems-are-quasi-equilibrium/169m15f5ytneq/26 Public understanding of life http://knol.google.com/k/georgi-p/жизнь/169m15f5ytneq/28 Once again on some features of living systems http://knol.google.com/k/georgi-p/живые-системы/169m15f5ytneq/29 Thermodynamics of open systems http://knol.google.com/k/georgi-p/термодинамика-открытых-систем/169m15f5ytneq/31 Thermodynamics optimizes life http://knol.google.com/k/georgi-p/thermodynamics-optimizes-life/169m15f5ytneq/27 The principle of substance stability and the origin of life http://knol.google.com/k/georgi-p/термодинамика-и-возникновение-жизни/169m15f5ytneq/15

  14. Richard Westerman

    Eagleton — Interesting, but it’s not the case that Eagleton is a “Catholic theologian.” Actually, he’s known primarily as a Marxist literary critic. He had a Catholic upbringing. His argument against Dawkins is informed by a Marxian understanding of history, society, and religion. Eagleton isn’t saying religion is perfect – he’s just saying that Dawkins’s view is too simplistic. So he’s not trying to argue that only theologians should comment on religion – only that we should recognise the complexity of the real historical and social situation, not reduce things to a straw-man argument, as he thinks Dawkins does.

  15. Zia Shah

    A challenge for Dawkins: Where did carbon come from? — Unlike the 19th century physics the twentieth century physics demands that there aught to be a creator of this universe. The concept of ‘multiverse,’ is confabulation of atheist scientists to get out of this difficulty. Here is a clear and lucid challenge to Professor Richard Dawkins in which carbon is used as a general proxy for physics and astronomy. This article references several recent works.http://knol.google.com/k/zia-shah/a-challenge-for-dawkins-where-did/1qhnnhcumbuyp/3#

    • Petr Frish

      Carbon was created in nova explosions.NASA’s Cosmicopia – Basics – Composition – NucleosynthesisThe nuclei with mass heavier than nickel are thought to be formed during theseexplosions. …. April 14, 2008: A new nova in Cygnus — Astronomy.com. April 7 …helios.gsfc.nasa.gov/nucleo.html God’s action nor collisions of three He are necessary.

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