Monday, September 25, 2006

Richard Dawkins and 'The God Delusion'

Professor Richard Dawkins is currently giving media interviews for his latest book 'The God Delusion'. In a recent one with the BBC's 'Newsnight' programme, Professor Dawkins made several erroneous comments. He spoke about a religious person's belief in a universe containing a god, whereas Christianity (the religion the professor singles out for criticism) explicitly argues for a God *outside* of the time and space He created. It is like asking where the poet is in his/her poem or to expect an artist to be in his/her own picture. All creation is an act of separation.

Secondly, the professor said that religious people did not give their beliefs much thought. This implies that religion and thoughtfulness cannot go together, something I disagree a great deal with. I came to Christianity only after a very large amount of thought and reasoning. So did and do many other religious people.

The interviewer Jeremy Paxman likewise made a distinction between a 'religious culture' and a 'rational culture' but this is only a false distinction. Religion can be rational - some of the greatest thinkers and scientists throughout history were deeply religious (Sir Isaac Newton for one). It is true that religion asks ultimately for a 'leap of faith', but no leap is possible without first some firm foundation from which to jump.

Again Professor Dawkins erred when he stated that Christianity was an invention of Saint Paul's. Paul taught at a time when many still lived who had been eyewitnesses to Jesus and his original teaching. The early Christian community would not have tolerated the misrepresentation of ideas and beliefs that many among them had themselves been witnesses to.

In the course of the interview Professor Dawkins refers to people with religious beliefs as 'faithheads'. The professor knows better than this. Name-calling is no substitute at all for rational and sincere debate.

40 comments:

David said...

What an amazing post, and though I didn't see the BBC program (being in America that makes it rather difficult), I have to say I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. Sir Isaac Newton, as you mentioned, and Galileo are both fascinating examples of brilliant and deeply religious men of science.

Texas Ian said...

As with all your blog entries, this is a very interesting post. However I think the real assessment of Dawkins work comes not from critique of soundbites, but peer review of his work. I saw Dawkins interviewed on the Heaven and Earth show and found the interviewer gave much more time to rebuttal of his views than she did open debate.

Given the unrest in the world from the Middle East to middle America, much of which is driven by dogmatic and fundamentalist attitudes, it would serve the world well to listen to the arguments Dawkins makes in a rational and objective manner. Blind faith is no faith at all, but the value in questioning belief and religious irrationality is to the benefit of all mankind.

Daniel said...

Hi Ian,

Professor Dawkins argues in the first chapter of 'The God Delusion' that everyone is eligible to comment on religious ideas and beliefs, not just clergymen and theologians and I agree with him. I also think that everyone is eligible to comment on the professor's work regarding religion, myself included.

You say that I shouldn't only criticise Professor Dawkins's 'soundbites' but what else am I going to go on but his own words? These weren't soundbites - I listened to a complete interview from start to end and heard every word he said in the context in which he said it.

And the things I contend he gets wrong are pretty important things, the sorts of things he would be rightly annoyed about were I to write unfactually about darwinian evolutionary theory for example.

I like a lot of what Professor Dawkins has to say, for example about the search for truth (which sets him apart from many atheists who would contend that there is no such thing or that it is unknowable), his disavowal of bigotry and hatred of inhumanity. I think he deserves a lot of respect for wanting to make the world a better place and putting a lot of time and energy into trying to do so. For this alone I commend him.

But there is a danger that in hating something so much you begin to resemble the thing itself that you are supposed to be fighting. It's precisely because I agree so much with the professor's belief in the importance of truth that I have to point out when he uses facts that aren't factual at all.

Another example, this one from his writing rather than a broadcast interview. In 'The God Delusion' the professor quotes Benjamin Franklin 'Lighthouses are more useful than churches' in support of his argument that America's Founding Fathers weren't especially religious or animated by religion. But this use of a single quotation distorts Franklin's actual view of religion, which was a sensibly complex one.

In his autobiography published in 1791 Franklin writes:

I never was without some religious principles. I never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity; that he made the world, and govern'd it by his Providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter. These I esteem'd the essentials of every religion...Tho' I seldom attended any public worship, I had still an opinion of its propriety, and of its utility when rightly conducted, and I regularly paid my annual subscription for the support of the only Presbyterian minister or meeting we had in Philadelphia.'

I have no problem with questioning beliefs, so long as it goes both ways.

yitz.. said...

Daniel, I was curious about your points,

I'm far from the most well-informed person on the topic of Christianity, but, how can you say that Christianity explicitly argues from a God outside of time and space, when Jesus was born and died (time), and while alive existed within a body (space)?

I'm not trying to spark debate, I was always under the impression that Christianity had a very faith-based element when it came to Jesus that was by its nature beyond scientific exploration.

Regarding your third point: I think, more than just to say that 'some of the greatest thinkers and scientists' were religious. Almost all of them either were religious or owed much of their available time to contemplate to one religion/belief system or another. In my humble opinion, it was religion that paved the way for the possibility of science. If you wanted to get very figurative, one might even say science is suffering from an oedipus conflict.

Lastly, I'd just like to thank you for stimulating my thought in a direction I never expected it to go. I just had a eureka moment of the relationship of science & religion. (I now think religion is closely coupled with art--which I guess would be obvious because almost all early art was religious in nature.)

texas ian said...

Hi Daniel,

I think I gave the impression my comment was a criticism of your blog posting and it certainly wasn't, rather I it was a poorly constructed criticism on the media. I agree with everything you say, but I hoped that my own posting will engender a bit of thought in other readers. Unlike God we are all infallible and that includes Professor Dawkins, whether he has misquoted or misled to make his own points. Having said that I am looking forward to reading a copy of "The God Delusion" but, like you, I never take anything I read at face value.

Keep up the good work, your blog is exactly the kind of thing good thinking people need.

JC said...

Hello Daniel

I myself am intending to read The God Delusion as I am a fan of Professor Dawkins's work and opinions. One particular comment of yours has reminded me of the programme he created for Channel 4 entitled "The Root of All Evil."

You Say
But there is a danger that in hating something so much you begin to resemble the thing itself that you are supposed to be fighting.

While I enjoyed the programme, I felt that all he really achieved was to challenge orthodox religious people about their beliefs, and why they refused to accept an alternative point of view. Yet in doing so Professor Dawkins succeeded in proving himself to be orthodox in his way of belief and unwilling to accept an alternative point of view.

Anonymous said...

For Americans, and others, unable to see Newsnight, the review is available online from the BBC,

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/help/3681938.stm

aid

Rehan Qayoom said...

I watched the first of an unimpressive series of programs Professor Dawkins made for TV recently. It fell from my expectations of an academic and well-researched, thoroughly argued critique of organised religion. Instead I found his points so unconvincing that I stopped watching after the first program. He also made some very blatant mistakes which, with a little research he should have learnt was not the case.

What came through was his extreme, almost fanatical hatred of religion and the whole concept of God in religion. Later reveiwers of the program confirmed this impression.

This new book itself offers nothing new, its arguments have
already been successfully challenged by Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad -
Khalifatul Masih IV in his book 'Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge
& Truth' (Islam International Publications, 1998) so powerfully and
lucidly with reference to science that, being undoubtedly an emminent biologist ought to have made Mr.
Dawkins' rethink his own theories of creation, the principles of which he should know by now may well be plausible but unfortunately for him are not creative ones.

yitz.. said...


here's a video link on youtube.com
to the interview to which you referred.

Anonymous said...

Hi Daniel! I just have to say, I read your book in 3 days, and I loved it. My name is Penny, I live in Melbourne, Australia, I study textiles and am a grapheme-colour synaesthete.
Your book was so fascinating and inspiring. Thank you SOOOO much for having the courage to do all the things you have done, and for writing your book, sharing your life with the world.
I could relate with a fair bit of your experiences and your story made me feel good about myself.
I look forward to seeing what you acheive in the future.
Regards,
Penny :)

Deus_ex said...

Can anyone tell me why GOD is personified so much and why its a "Him"? I am sure there is more to it than the "in my image" line. I think it would be more scientific to refer to this GOD as an it.

The bible is a collection of stories which represent the (so called) truth. Hence, it is anyone's guess what the stories mean and for what situation. I am sure there can be a quote from the bible as a teaching tool for almost any situation, and the same quote for adverse situations (much similar to a modern day horrorscope where one size fits all).

This is one reason why i question the bible's validity. The bible is written and ammended by a male dominated history, as such i am sure that this is why there is such an emphasis on the "Him" wording and following. You might suggest that catholicism has a female dominated worship with mary mother of christ, yet the catholic church tried (to no avail) extremely hard to snuff out this following of a female.

I find this area of christianity entirely hard to grasp because it is a female form that evolution and development relies on as its prototype. Creationism seems extremely detatched from what science gives us. It seems that all there is left for christians is their faith as opposed to evidence. I just think the book is distorted from its original intention and has become much more of a political tool than a spiritual guide.

The real religion is with one's self and their own [uncirculated and unshared] spiritualism.

Can anyone evidence some bible and/or 'evolution theory' contradictions or problems?

Barbara said...

Hi Daniel,
I have one problem with the logic of your post: "the early Christian community would not have tolerated the misrepresentation of ideas and beliefs...." Why wouldn`t they? People tolerate that kind of thing all the time! There are so many religions operating today where people choose to believe whatever their leaders instruct them to, even though it may be blatantly ludicrous, untrue, inaccurate or even immoral. (I`m thinking Scientology, the LDS (Mormon) church, the Jehovahs Witnesses, even some aspects of Islam - honour killings, subjugation of women etc. I believe that for most humans, fitting in as a useful & valued member of the society in which they live is far more important than adherence to the `Truth`. If St Paul had invented the religion (I`m not saying he did - I don`t know anything about that), and if he was an important, charismatic and influential member of the society, then I would think a lot of people would go along with it in order to fit in, and then it could easily have snowballed from there. After all, they didn`t have books (Jesus never wrote one), TV or internet to do their research in those days. They didn`t even have microphones and PA - not that many people would have personally heard what he had to say.
I just finished `On a Blue Day` last night (couldn`t put it down - brilliant!), and I was surprised to read the bit at the end where you said you were a Christian, and believed in the Bible. I wondered what significance you attach to the numbers in there - are they particularly beautiful, significant etc? (eg:7 - the world in seven days; 40 - 40 days & 40 nights)
In particular, I wanted to know what you make of the dates and ages in Genesis? I read that recently (in an attempt to understand a fundamentalist friend)and it quite specifically lists a whole range of guys between Adam and Noah, who had children at the age of around 500 years and lived to be in their 900`s (this is where the creationists come up with the idea that the earth is actually 6000 years old, not millions of years - I`m assuming they must have added all those ages up). Personally, I don`t think the Old Testament has much, if any, useful info on how to conduct yourself in 2006, although it contains a lot of interesting history, particularly if you`re Jewish. I also have a big problem with the book of Revelation - I think that one is responsible for a lot of bigotry and misunderstanding. Anyway, I don`t mean to argue against religion, but I`d really be interested in what your take is on the numbers in the Bible?

Daniel said...

Hi Barbara,

Thanks for your thoughts.

There's good evidence that Jesus's divinity was taught within the earliest churches, and that Paul subsequently embraced and expounded on this theme (in other words, it wasn't his own invention).

Jesus would have been a well-known figure within that community during his lifetime and his words would have been heard and discussed by many people. In a time when TV and books didn't exist people often memorised important information and much of what Jesus said was in the form of sayings and stories that were especially memorable. Had Paul taught things that were completely against what Jesus's own words taught then I think there would have been considerable controversy - splits and divisions - within the early church community, but there weren't.

As for the Bible, I am not a literalist and do not, for example, regard the accounts in Genesis as historical. Instead the stories tell us about the human condition by describing ideas and themes that run through all human lives.

The ages quoted in the Bible might well be exaggerations or numbers based on a different system of counting than we use today.

I'm pleased you enjoyed the book. Thanks again for taking the time to add your comments here.

Jeff said...

Dawkins explicitly spoke to every single one of the points you made in favor of faith/superstition and refuted them.

Christianity was singled out because it is the predominant religion in Western society. The root problem with it is that it requires faith, a belief held without or despite evidence.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster also exists outside of time and space, why not worship it? That is every bit as logical as what (insert whatever religion) suggests.

I created a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I combined the ingredients. Therefore creation is an act of combination. Quit playing with ontology, not even one who studies religion takes those arguments seriously.

I'm curious, what was the chain of reasoning that has led you to believe? Bear in mind that when I dissect it it's with no malice towards you, but to your idea.

The "but some scientists were religious" argument is irrelevant. Einstein never bought in to quantum theory, but does that mean that it's wrong? Scientists are people, and people make mistakes. Science itself does not make mistakes, it is a self-correcting mechanism that accounts for our human tendencies to err. When an error is found, it is excised and replaced, just ask Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk about that one.

About the leap of faith. To continue the metaphor, I know that just because one jumps from a solid platform, doesn't mean the next one will hold. Your leap of faith is a leap from the rock of evidence and rationality to the bottomless pit of irrationality. It is intellectual suicide.

Since you seem to know more about the "Early Christian Community" than anyone else seems to, I suggest you publish a paper in a historical journal. Until you can cite an article to support your opinion "Paul taught at a time when many still lived who had been eyewitnesses to Jesus and his original teaching. The early Christian community would not have tolerated the misrepresentation of ideas and beliefs that many among them had themselves been witnesses to." I can safely call every part of that sentence rubbish. I want you to email that sentence to a historian or a theologian and ask if it is supported by evidence.

If you don't want to go that far, imagine you head to a congregation of loyal Branch Davidians and tell everyone there that you've been receiving his message from the beyond. Show up with a book that you wrote, and tell them you knew David Koresh when you were young and he had always told you that he had instructed you to release the book to them x years after his death. I guarantee those people would buy it.

I agree with what you say about name-calling and rational debate, but when one side refuses to carry out rational debate (or follow with rational consequences), the only recourse is sticks, stones, and harsh words. When someone persists in a false belief after being proven wrong, making them feel ridiculous for it may be the only way to encourage them to remove their head from the sand. Remember how you would have felt in 6th grade had you firmly insisted santa existed, and realize that superstition needs to go the same route.

Daniel said...

Hi Jeff,

I'm sorry that you feel so bitterly towards religious belief; as I said before bitterness warps reason rather than advancing it.

Actually the concept of 'faith' is a lot more nuanced than your breezy description of it. In the context of Christian belief, it would be understood as (definition from Dictionary.com): 'confidence or trust in a person or thing' where the Christian invests confidence/trust in the truth claims made by religion, and by the Church in particular.

As for your peanut butter and jelly sandwich (I prefer tuna or egg myself) I wouldn't expect to find you - the sandwich's maker - between its two slices. Dawkins was wrong when he stated that religious people believe in a universe containing a god - creators can't be expected to be found within their creations.

I'm curious, what was the chain of reasoning that has led you to believe?

I don't think you are curious.

You miss the point about scientists with religious beliefs, which is that religion and reason can and do go together. They are not mutually incompatible, but are 'non-overlapping magisteria' (as described by the scientist Stephen Jay Gould).

The term 'leap of faith' was coined by the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard in the 19th century. Kierkegaard argued that there were three spheres of existence in a human life: the aesthetic, the moral and the religious.

The aesthetic involves self-gratification. A person becomes dissatisfied with the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake and either adapts to his/her despair or moves to the next stage, the moral, which involves a sense of responsibility and ethical conduct towards other people.

Kierkegaard argued that attempting to live ethically creates a sense of meaning (and that meaning as objective and permanent) in a person and that this creates despair again, as the person attempts to reconcile his/her temporary existence with the sense of permanent meaning.

Release from such despair comes with the 'leap of faith', which takes a person beyond the limitations of rational thought and gives the person a sense of the permanent significance of his/her life. Kierkegaard, who Wittgenstein described as 'by far, the most profound thinker of the nineteenth century' evidently did not consider such a leap to be 'intellectual suicide'.

Saint Paul lived to around 65 AD, about 30 years after Christ's crucifixion. It is no great assumption to state that he taught at a time when many lived who had lived during the period of Jesus's ministry.

You say that religious people refuse to engage in rational debate, but here I am debating with you. That's a new piece of evidence to adapt your worldview to include.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I was casually browsing through your site and noticed that you regard yourself as a christian, which is all well and good in my book. However, I cannot help but thinking that your 'faith' must be founded on rather shaky ground. As a christian, I gather that you must therefore believe that christ died on the cross as an atonement for the sins of mankind in order that we can be reconciled to god. If this is indeed the case, then surely the fall of man (as described in genesis:3) must be literal, and a historical fact. To disregard the genesis account of creation and the fall as nothing more than mere metaphors or poetic allegories, removes the need for a saviour and renders the gospel irrelavant. In short, if there was no adam, then there was no need for christ. This kind of pick'n mix attitude towards biblical truths has sown nothing but confusion among believers and non-believers alike. I think you'll find that the early church (including St Paul and indeed christ himself), had no problem in believing the genesis account as entirely literal, historicla fact, and often quoted from it. I can only assume that you have succumbed to media and modern education's 'evolutionary brainwashing'. I urge you to think again concerning these matters, as there really is no middle ground between the two.

Daniel said...

Jesus often spoke in metaphorical language: 'It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven' etc.

The doctrine of the Fall is fundamental to Christian thought and I subscribe to it completely. The story of Adam and Eve is one that describes our separation from God. The precise nature of that separation is, I think, open to debate and has been for the past two millennia.

Anonymous said...

Just a few thoughts....

Ah, Mr. Dawkin! He should smile a bit more. Maybe if he wasn't such a hardcore inflexible chain of DNA he'd be happier and quit writing books about how we are essentially nothing more than a few bits and pieces from the periodic table following a Newtonian invented faslehood.

As for the Genesis 7 day thing. It's hard to assess time, as it doesn't really exist in the way that most of us perceive it and the way the vast majority of us understand it. Since 1905, when our understanding of reality was turned on it's head, we know to consider only space-time and that for different observers in different reference frames the old notion of time is not the same. My point being that given an event such as the creation/big bang or any such massive change in the universe it would be very difficult to say who was right about what in terms of the old notion of time so 7 days is as good as anything else.

On another point, it's strange how if evolution is 'true' , that it would develop/evolve a species that didn't immediately see reality as it was e.g. time and space do not exist independently. If we were just DNA robots I don't understand why we should misinterpret the obvious.

OK, over 'n' out for now...

Thomas said...

I find this all very interesting; I just wonder why you chose Christianity over, say, Buddhism? Also, do you believe that separate religions are incompatible? That is, could Buddha have reached enlightenment through divine revelation or could Jesus have been the "son of God" in that he was the reincarnation of an enlightened man or woman? Switching to Hinduism, could Ganesha and Vishnu be some kind of archangel, or vice versa? Hinduism is considered by some to be polytheistic, but it holds that all gods and goddesses are part of (I think this is the term) Bramha, akin to a monotheistic God.
Just saying, other religions aren't necessarily any less valid as choices to live your life by.

erikmartin said...

Daniel,
Great post. You show reason and patience, which contrasts starkly with Dawkins condescending and insulting fundamentalist atheism. I believe that philosphy in general, and religion in particular is the only posible basis of reason. This reason begins and subsists in the humility of admitting one's ignorance (as is seen in all the great thinkers). I think that those who claim to base reason on "science alone," are in an ideologically-based denial. The foundations of science are a set of philosophies that reach deap into religion (that is, the philosophy of God), and ignoring them or taking them for granted is turning the rationality of science into a faith-based exercise.

I am doing research on a theory that atheism as it exists today, exists solely as an offshoot of the thread of corruption that has worked its way through historical Christianity. There's a lot of evidence to back this up, from the geographical distrubution of atheism, to the philosophical and political progression itself.

Anonymous said...

First and foremost what you have to realise is that even in the most advanced physics the creation of the universe is labled as a singularity and anything at that instant or before that isnt understood by humans. This reflection seems to point at divine intervention in one way or another. However, you must start to think of "god" whoever he/she or it may be as seperate from "religion". Religion is a creation of the human experience just as ancient greeks created gods to understand natural phenomenon such as lightning and even actions resulting from human emotions i.e. war (Ares (sp?). Although I do not agree with the points of his argument which I believe to be white wash and disinformation I do agree with his stance that "religion" and not "god" is a human created infastructure of thought to help us cope with the hopeless randomness and absolutely overwhelming wonder of our human rationality. Which as Daniel so clearly pointed out does require a lot of thought and rationality before one is to make a decision as to whether or not they choose to believe in christrianity or catholism etc..so this really makes the point and counter point in my mind null in void.Because, if "all creation is seperation" how are we being completely seperate from our "creator" expected to understand the full scope or even a fraction of what "god" really is and this in turn causes a break down in the rationality in which Daniel claims is such a big part of the religious epithet.

Anonymous said...

hi daniel,

your skills are clearly extraordinary, It would be interesting to know you thoughts on the Qur'an. Islam makes much of the Arabic of the qur'an, claiming that it is a work of superlative beauty for those who understand classical Arabic. The qur'an becoming itself a sign of god.

Daniel what you make of it?

Brendyn said...

Hi Daniel,
I saw the professor on a show here in America last week. It really got me thinking hard about the subject. To me his argument seemed to fall apart when speaking of intelligent design by humans, but not by a higher being. As far as i know, all scientific theories still fall on some reaction that happens to create the universe. Well, where does this original matter and or reaction come from? Something has to explain that beginning. Im not well versed in the subject, but hopefully someday with some time i can read up more on these theories.

Van Humphries said...

I am not particularly religious but have been able to become comfortable with my own understanding of God by reading about Buddhism. The Buddhist scolar Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a book Living Buddha, Living Christ. In the book he relays his experiences meeting with Catholic monks, and how they both found common ground in knowing that "God is within us". My understanding of Buddhism was that the Universe was created via internal forces. If that is not what happened, and the Universe's creator is external from his creation, then who created the Creator?

Chris said...

I would agree that Dawkins does make his points a bit too harsly. Name calling gets nobody anywhere, and going in quite heavy handed, also, the same. But I applauded Dawkins, not only for his view which I so do belive in, but also for standing up and saying, hang on, I am going to tell everyone, I hate religion.

I make this point because what I see, is non-religious people not making it public enough that we dont agree or want religion in any part of our lives. I take for example, someone telling me, that my girlfriend (this is jsut an example it didnt really happen) can't have an abortion, and then giving me some religious response. Its not right because I dont belive in religion in anyway, so it has no rational grounds for me. I only know about 2-3 religious people, everyone else is athiest, but we usually don't say anything, even when religious people attack scientist and so forth. Its about time, that what a HUGE majority of people think (in England anyway [less then 35% of people goto church or belive in god created the world]), is spoken in full media view.

Anonymous said...

Hi Deus_ex,

I did qutie like your point, but there is one big argument against the fact that the bible can teach us anything in everyday life.

In actual fact alot of things can teach us, or give us examples in every day use. I give for example, and this is no joke, The Simpsons. I can often quote or give examples from The Simpsons about life. In my teen years I used to watch The Simpsons alot, often many epps many times over, being Aspergers I can very easily recall quotes of scenes.

My point is, that while you do make a good point, we can lift things from alot of different places that are not just the bible.

Kerrymac said...

I quite agree. Too often religious people are painted as feeble dogmatists when they are actually in exactly the same category as athiests. Both believe in something.

The reason I'm an agnostic is because it's come to light that humans, with our limited access to what's actually going on - cannot afford to live empirically. We can't rely on what we already know to lift us up onto the next level of awareness. If we did this, we'd think the world was flat, we wouldn't know from germs, we wouldn't know from infrared or ultraviolet, radio waves, light waves, sound waves etc.

I think you've got to have a vision first and then set about proving it. If you can't then at least you tried - it's one less avenue that someone else is going to have to go down in search of the answer.

At the end of the day, I think you can trust your gut feelings more than you can trust your eyes.A straw in a glass of water looks fractured because your eyes tell you that, however you know that it's just an illusion.

The only thing you can be sure of is your own existence so why not start with this as the basis of all your truth? Cockroaches don't understand our life and we're on the same planet as they are - what makes us think we can write off the possiblity of a God who may be in a whole nother dimension to us. We'd be pretty naive if we discounted the possibility.

Van!! said...

The only difference between a theologan and a scientist is who they put thier faith in. A Christian starts out from the premise that God exists, loves mankind, and sent Jesus as a complete revelation of himself to make contact with His creation and provide grace enough to overcome the barrier we erected to God by our disobedience.

A scientist, wishing to escape the judgement of a holy God and the accountability that places on the choices s/he makes, searches for meaning and mechanism that can explain away the effects of a God-created universe.

To me, the scientist has a far harder job. That may be why there are so few scientists and so many Christians. Thank you for your insights, and I am one of those who is anxiously awaiting the release of your book in America.

Helen said...

Hi Daniel.

I really enjoyed reading your blog and all the comments it’s attracted. I just wanted to respond to one particular comment you made;

‘In the course of the interview Professor Dawkins refers to people with religious beliefs as 'faithheads'. The professor knows better than this. Name-calling is no substitute at all for rational and sincere debate.’

When I watched the interview, I didn’t feel as thought the term ‘faith-heads’ was directed at everyone with any religious convictions. It seemed to me something born out of sheer frustration. ‘I am aware that there are a large number of “dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads” who will never be changed’ He seemed to be referring to those with hardcore fundamentalist views, who don’t even consider his argument as a valid one and point blank refuse to acknowledge the debate, and as a result he coined this term.

I agree with you wholeheartedly that name calling isn’t appropriate if you wish your point to be taken seriously. I’m just attempting to understand why he resorted to that. The best thing is to always make your point clear and concise so it can be easily understood so it can be considered by others as objectively as possible. But he is only human. It’s difficult removing emotion from debate when you are so passionate about a subject or cause, and that passion in itself is something to admire.

Also I’d like to respond to a point kerrymac made;

‘What makes us think we can write off the possiblity of a God who may be in a whole nother dimension to us. We'd be pretty naive if we discounted the possibility.’

Would it not be equally naive to discount the possibility of there being no divine creator? That reasoning can be applied to both sides of the argument successfully. Dawkins does not say it couldn’t be disproved. He is merely arguing that up until this point all the scientific evidence he has encountered has allowed him to reach a conclusion that there is no god. Whether you rely upon science as a means of determining truth is a whole other debate.

Even though I’m an atheist myself and I find myself agreeing with pretty much everything Dawkins said, I think the world would be incredibly bleak without religion and hope he isn’t too successful with his conversions! I do hope he is successful in making people question their faith though. I think what he has to say is incredibly important, whether you agree or not, as not only will he convert some people to atheism but I imagine he will also help those who aren’t necessarily religious, but disagree with his theories, seek their own answers, and for those who are already religious, deepen and affirm their beliefs too.

Lisa said...

Daniel,

You said:

I came to Christianity only after a very large amount of thought and reasoning.

What was the thought and reasoning process behind your decision to become Christian? I am very curious to know. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I am a big fan of professor Dawkins and think some of you are overdoing it a bit when you describe him as hating the idea of God. I think he is simply trying to help and encourage people question, challenge and educate themselves about the origins of their chosen religion and of their beliefs, and possibly the reason why so many people find that so uncomfortable is because then we would all have to accept that we believe in the logical fact that we believe in something of which we have no proof or evidence. I think too many people have for many different reasons, mistaken and chosen religion over God and for this reason i believe that most people are "missing" God completely. I now have the greatest belief in God than ever before in my life and that is only since i got rid of this "virus", which is religion, out of my life. I will never understand how anyone can come to choose a religion. How can you state a belief for something of which there is no proof? That just doesnt make sense. I feel that religion stole many years of my life and i hate it for that, but ironically, thank God "he" is giving me my life back. Unless you are willing to question, challenge and educate yourself about your choices, using the intelligence and consciece that God gave you, then to me, that is the greatest disseervice and insult anyone do to God. Choose religion over God? Its your choice.

Michael Dawson, Dundee.

beauty4rashes said...

Daniel, I enjoyed your comments on this subject very much. Have you read any G.K. Chesterton or C.S. Lewis? They wrestled very intelligently with these ideas. I find their writings on Christianity very pertinent and illuminating even though Chesterton was writing almost 100 years agoand C.S. Lewis over 50 years ago. I highly recommend their writings to anyone interested in defending Christian ideas. I am a "Mormon" myself, but most any thoughtful Christian will find great encouragement and powerful arguements in their books.
Dennis E.

Another Christian said...

If the Creator is separate from the creation, then the days in the Genesis account will be likewise. Thank you for helping me to be able to express that observation.

Christianity is for love. Love is the point of it, the purpose of it, the message of it, the enduring substance of it, which shall never pass away.

Faith has a stage where confidence and trust in the authenticity of the sayings of Jesus and the apostles comes into being.
Then faith has the stage where it becomes the evidence of things hoped for and the substance of things not seen, according to St. Paul.
Then faith has the stage where all things are possible.
I behold these stages as a pilgim beholds his distant destination, about which he has been told by those who have gone before.

Joe said...

Hi Daniel,
I had put my faith in biblical Christianity and determined that it did not hold up. I could not link putting faith in biblical doctrines to changes in my life and its events.

I have concluded that faith in God requires no specific texts to support it. If God speaks through humans, many more recent messages in various forms are more useful than the culturally limited bible texts.

I have found a simple useful guide to living. Pursue the Golden Rule eschew jungle rule. The former is good or of God while the latter is evil and bad.

Anonymous said...

It is obvious that there is a lot that "I firmly believe"is UNKNOWABLE to us humans. e.g., What was "here" before anything was here?
My analogy is . . just as the workings of the "stock market" is UNKNOWABLE to a cat. . . . The beginnings of the universe is UNKNOWABLE to us humans. I am comfortable with not knowing, basically . . because I have no choice! But I do not call it G-d, worhsip it, or anthing else.

thomas said...

Daniel,

I'm happy to have found your blog - it's very interesing.

For a moment I thought that "The God Delusion" might be worth reading so that I'd know where the debate was going on but after only about 50 pages I was convinced Dawkins was just "preaching to the choir". Dawkins is an ideologue but not a scientist.

BTW: I speak Finnish so your 'Mäntish' is quite interesting i.e. "varsin mielenkiintoinen". Actually pine tree is "mänty" in Finnish and "mäntti" means something like an annoyingly stupid or foolish person.

holisticwarrior said...

What are your comments regarding the numerical 666 ?
What color are they? What are they
representing in a set group of
three ?

Anonymous said...

Faith should be founded on what makes a certain sense to a person. Also it should bring increasing good to the world. I cannot have faith in religions that say everyone who doesn't believe what I believe is going to suffer in some hell. That makes no sense personally, since I know that people have many different backgrounds, and it is not a recipe for good for more people, since not everyone is going to convert to my beliefs. That is the kind of faith that anyone should find offensive. However, faith that humanity is good and has purpose is wonderful, it makes sense to me and gives everyone a chance to have a good purpose. Faith that there is a God outside of time and space isn't even a question of faith in my opinion, that is testable experience. I know that the spirit can exist outside of time and space, because I have had out-of-body experiences to fantastic places of comfort and spiritual beings. Apparently you do this too Daniel, in the form of your numbers worlds and instantaneous answers. I have seen the numbers worlds a few times myself. I wonder Daniel if you have met spiritual beings in your fantastic inner experiences, if you could ask them about God and how the universe works? best wishes, carl (at) soulstirring (dot) org

Steven Harold said...

Whatever side of the ball you kick, Dawkins has encouraged debate on the subject. Whether you believe or not, to question must be healthy if done with respect.

Mark Davis said...

I remember watching this programme and the opening scene where Dawkins is sitting amidst chanters - he, contracted, tense, looking more worried than contemplative - they, blissed out and deeply absorbed.

That scene told whole the story. Trying to prove or know God through a hard, rational mind. Trying to work out what the food tastes like by reading the menu.

Can scientists know God? Dawkins himself admits, I believe, to a sense of God - as in the sense of wonder at nature. To me this is the root of all concepts of God. The inquisitive mind struck dumb at the wonder of nature... the Mysterium tremendum.

It is this ability to allow the conceptualising mind to be stilled by the numinous that seperates the scientist of depth and creativity from those merely obsessed with thinking. It is where thought ends that God is found.

I wish Dawkins hadn't taken such cheap and easy shots. Why couldn't he have investigated a more sophisticated idea of God than the anthropomorphised version that sits as a Creator seperate to His creation.

Why couldn't he have talked about that moment when the jaw drops in wonder at the beauty of it all. The space of silence and sacredness where the wise and disciplined know that the mind, with it's analytical knife, cannot enter without destroying the essence of that which it tries to know and understand.