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Switch to Forum Live View Richard Dawkins Gives Good Reasons Not To Debate Some People.
8 months ago  ::  Sep 16, 2013 - 6:59PM #41
Dutch777
Posts: 9,057

Her name is Lisa Randall.


Old Dutch's memory tain't what it used to be.

The Path to Moon Lake
doesn't go there.
So walk your own Dharma*Path;
be mindful.

Dutch
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8 months ago  ::  Sep 17, 2013 - 12:59PM #42
Stumbler
Posts: 262

Interesting thread. I've read pretty much all of what Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, and Harris have written against theism, and find most of it pretty bad. Dennett has the philosophical training to do better, but manages not to. I think J. L. Mackie was a better philosopher of atheism than any of them. Hitchens, at least, had some degree of style and flair and a nuanced sense of the issues. Dawkins and Harris never rise above the sophomoric, in my judgment.


William Lane Craig is at his best, I think, defending the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which he has singlehandedly brought into focus in recent times. He deserves credit for that; the argument is non-trivial and he has mastered all the moves and countermoves. I think he's at his worst when trying to make certain Old Testament passages palatable. I recently heard a recording in which he conceded that his biggest personal challenge to faith iss reconciling things like Noah's flood with a scientific conception of the world.


The polarizing effects of these debates results in certain extremes being well represented, while other positions are seldom heard. Not everyone who believes in a personal supernatural creator also believes in Biblical inerrancy, but you'd never know that from most of the debates that get aired. Moreover, not all Biblical skeptics are hard-core naturalists. Crossan, for example, is not a naturalist.


There are many multiverse theories, not just one. They differ greatly in the details. They are consistent with certain interpretations of quantum theory, but of course mere consistency isn't evidence.


Sherlock Holmes's famous saying from The Sign of Four is always in play in these debates: Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.


But it's impossible to assign actual probabilities to cosmological possibilities. Is a personal creator impossible? Few would say so, but many are willing to act as if it were already established. If a personal creator is ruled out as unbelievable in some way, then we don't have to be overly finicky about the details of a naturalistic theory, since it's all that's left.


It works the other way, too, of course. If it's decided in advance that it's unthinkable that the Bible contains errors or distortions, then any intepretation, no matter how convoluted, is preferable. So we have Craig speculating that perhaps God actually rescued the Canaanite children from a life of misery that they would have had if they hadn't been slaughtered. Ouch.


It's interesting that in the community of philosophers, atheism is the overwhelmingly dominant position--even though that dominance has declined a good deal in the last 40 years or so--but relatively few philosophers actually bother to work out careful defenses of atheism or careful rebuttals of theistic arguments. Mackie was one who did, as I already mentioned, and Kai Nielsen is another. I could add Antony Flew, prior to his conversion. But for the most part, philosophers tend to disregard the whole matter as not worthy of serious effort.


As for debates, I think a more interesting specimen is the 2009 debate between Alvin Plantinga and Daniel Dennett, which you can hear at www.brianauten.com/Apologetics/Plantinga....  

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8 months ago  ::  Sep 17, 2013 - 5:06PM #43
Nino0814
Posts: 1,656

Sep 16, 2013 -- 6:24PM, Dutch777 wrote:


Nino et.al.,


Here's the youtube vid I watched this morning.  In it, Dawkins lays his cards on the table.  The vid is brief and interesting.  Enjoy.


www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvqNW5kJ5xQ




Richard Dawkins has confidence that Natural Science has the potential to answer the fundamental questions about the nature of things. Religious people have confidence that these questions will ultimately be answered by a spiritual/religious tradition.


Are they equally faith based positions?  Dawkins can point to successful experiments that confirmed a hypothesis.  Those test results can be replicated.  We simply do not have that degree of confirmation with a subjective religious experience.

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8 months ago  ::  Sep 17, 2013 - 7:18PM #44
RJMcElwain
Posts: 2,881

Sep 17, 2013 -- 5:06PM, Nino0814 wrote:


Sep 16, 2013 -- 6:24PM, Dutch777 wrote:


Nino et.al.,


Here's the youtube vid I watched this morning.  In it, Dawkins lays his cards on the table.  The vid is brief and interesting.  Enjoy.


www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvqNW5kJ5xQ




Richard Dawkins has confidence that Natural Science has the potential to answer the fundamental questions about the nature of things. Religious people have confidence that these questions will ultimately be answered by a spiritual/religious tradition.


Are they equally faith based positions?  Dawkins can point to successful experiments that confirmed a hypothesis.  Those test results can be replicated.  We simply do not have that degree of confirmation with a subjective religious experience.




Nino,


Total agreement. So we can and should look for "God" in reality. He/She/It's there. We just need to keep looking.

Robert J. McElwain

"The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." (Supposedly)Thomas Jefferson

"He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral."
St. Thomas Aquinas

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. Plato
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8 months ago  ::  Sep 17, 2013 - 8:39PM #45
Stumbler
Posts: 262

Sep 17, 2013 -- 5:06PM, Nino0814 wrote:


Richard Dawkins has confidence that Natural Science has the potential to answer the fundamental questions about the nature of things. Religious people have confidence that these questions will ultimately be answered by a spiritual/religious tradition.


Are they equally faith based positions?  Dawkins can point to successful experiments that confirmed a hypothesis.  Those test results can be replicated.  We simply do not have that degree of confirmation with a subjective religious experience.



If it were simply a matter of Dawkins having confidence in the eventual success natural science to find answers to various questions, there would be little to discuss. "Confidence" after all, is just a variation on "faith", as is "trust." But Dawkins says much more than that. He claims in no uncertain terms to know that all religious claims are folly and that only science can provide knowledge. Indeed, he and Lawrence Krauss currently take the view that the best response to all religious claims is ridicule.


The test results of natural science can be repeated because the natural sciences deal in those aspects of reality that can be subsumed under laws, i.e., uniformities. To claim, however, that all aspects of reality can be subsumed under  laws is to make a philosophical claim, not a scientific one. Moreover, this claim goes way beyond any available evidence. It is an assumption, not a scientifically established fact, that the natural order is all there is.


Even in the natural order itself, we have a breakdown of laws at the quantum level. Spontaneous radioactive decay is only lawlike at the level of the statistical aggregate. The individual decay events are not lawlike at all; they are random (stochastic), which means they are not subsumed under covering laws.


If you take two atoms of the same radioactive isotope and put them on the palm of your hand (so to speak), one may decay in the next minute while the other won't decay for another hundred years, even though they were formed simultaneously. According to standard quantum theory there is literally nothing that explains why one decays sooner and the other decays later.


According to some, the Big Bang itself is the result of a similarly random quantum event. The use of the word "random" or "stochastic" shouldn't blind us to the philosophical point that these events are apparently opaque to explanation.


No one has yet succeeded in demonstrating that human thought and behavior can be subsumed under the kind of laws with which natural science deals. Yes, like the quantum events, statistical patterns emerge in large enough numbers, which is why economics can work, to the extent that it does. But the individual actions of people cannot be shown to be lawlike, and neither do they appear to be random.


So what's the basis for all the triumphalism about natural science? Dawkins may have confidence that someday all things will be shown to be subsumable under laws. There's nothing wrong with faith. The successes of natural science are impressive but even Einstein was unhappy with the need to admit randomness as a fundamental characteristic of the natural order, recognizing as he did the opacity of randomness.


Past success is no indicator of future performance, as they say in the mutual fund prospectus. Some of the success of natural science has been obtained by carefully masking off those aspects of reality least tractable by its methods.


Dawkins gives no sign of even understanding what the issues are. Atheism deserves better.


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