December 22, 2006


'Mommy, why are atheists dim-witted?' (Jonathan Rosenblum, Dec. 14, 2006, THE JERUSALEM POST)

Princeton University philosopher Thomas Nagel found [The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins]'s "attempts at philosophy, along with a later chapter on religion and ethics, particularly weak." Prof. Terry Eagleton began his London Review of Books critique: "Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the British Book of Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology."

Dawkins's "central argument" is that because every complex system must be created by an even more complex system, an intelligent designer would have had to be created by an even greater super-intellect.

New York Times reviewer Jim Holt described this argument as the equivalent of the child's question, "Mommy, who created God?"

Nagel provides the grounds for rejecting this supposed proof. People do not mean by God "a complex physical inhabitant of the natural world" but rather a Being outside the physical world - the "purpose or intention of a mind without a body, capable nevertheless of creating and forming the entire physical world."

He points out further that the same kind of problem Dawkins poses to the theory of design plagues evolutionary theory, of which Dawkins is the preeminent contemporary popularizer. Evolution depends on the existence of pre-existing genetic material - DNA - of incredible complexity, the existence of which cannot be explained by evolutionary theory.

So who created DNA? Dawkins's response to this problem, writes Nagel, is "pure hand-waving" - speculation about billions of alternative universes and the like.

As a charter member of the Church of Darwin, Dawkins not only subscribes to evolutionary theory as the explanation for the morphology of living creatures, but to the sociobiologists' claim that evolution explains all human behavior. For sociobiologists, human development, like that of all other species, is the result of a ruthless struggle for existence. Genes seek to reproduce themselves and compete with one another in this regard. In the words of the best-known sociobiologist, Harvard's E.O. Wilson, "An organism is only DNA's way of making more DNA."

THAT PICTURE of human existence, argues the late Australian philosopher of science David Stove in Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity and Other Fables of Evolution, constitutes a massive slander against the human race, as well as a distortion of reality.

The Darwinian account, for instance, flounders on widespread altruistic impulses that have always characterized humans in all places and times.

No ideology has ever been so much as slowed by the facts contradicting it.

Atheism's Army Of The Smug (Robert Fulford, December 23, 2006, National Post)

This time of year makes atheists especially cranky; O Little Town of Bethlehem, played in a shopping mall, does nothing to lift the spirits of an unbeliever. But even by seasonal standards, the letters attracted by my column last week on The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, demonstrate astonishing vehemence. They leave the impression that atheists are sensitive about their non belief and easily hurt by criticism.

A friend of mine, who used to run a radio program about religion, noted recently that "militant atheists were our most intolerant and angry listeners." The atheists I've lately heard from bring such passion to their hatred of religion that they can be fairly classed as religious fanatics. [...]

Dawkins, and apparently most militant atheists, don't seem even slightly interested in the fact that something almost inconceivably mysterious happened at the birth of the universe. As a result, they can bring little of interest to any conversation about the origins of life.

Dawkins the dogmatist: Incurious and rambling, Richard Dawkins's diatribe against religion doesn't come close to explaining how faith has survived the assault of Darwinism (Andrew Brown, October 2006, Prospect)
It has been obvious for years that Richard Dawkins had a fat book on religion in him, but who would have thought him capable of writing one this bad? Incurious, dogmatic, rambling and self-contradictory, it has none of the style or verve of his earlier works.

That's the most interesting thing about atheism--it's dependence on rigorous thoughtlessness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 22, 2006 4:32 PM

I was skimming through the book at a bookstore and even a cursory examination makes clear that it is obviously very bad: Professor Eagleton's quote above is the perfect description.

What's curious is how fanatical some of these atheists are and how it blinds their perception. Steven Pinker had a very complimentary blurb about how elegant the book was and, as I recall, how reasonable it was as well. Pick up the book for yourself and you'll see how unbelievably off-the-rocker that description is, like listening to a 1930's intellectual talk about how the Soviet Union is running the most successful economic experiment in history. Pinker himself strikes me as a generally reasonable man, and the only explanation I have for his review of this book is that he let his emotions skew his perception in a way he would not allow for a book on any other subject.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 22, 2006 11:32 PM

Which reminds me: Merry Christmas to you, Harry Eager; - wherever you are.

Posted by: Jason Johnson at December 24, 2006 12:23 AM