Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Reading Dawkins: The Deluded

Lately, I've been reading a host of atheist literature.  It seems that between 2004-2007, a whack of well-known philosophers, journalists, and scientists dented the world with a rash of atheist essays.  Some of the more familiar titles include:

The End of Faith by, Sam Harris
Breaking the Spell by, Daniel Dennett
The God Delusion by, Richard Dawkins
god is not Great by, Christopher Hitchens
God: The Failed Hypothesis by, Victor Stenger
In Defense of Atheism by, Michel Onfray

While pushing my way through some of these authors, I had to cut short my foray into the delusional world of Richard Dawkins.  Amongst Dawkins' complete mistreatment of classic Christian arguments for the existence of God, which he then summarily knocks down in a grand display of straw-man killings -- and all with the fervent pleas of an intellectual snob searching for sympathy from his readership -- the reputable Oxfordian biologist seems unable to hold even the simplest argument together from one sentence to the next.

After 190 pages of Dawkins' twaddle, I gave up.  The last straw came when Dawkins implied his intellectual superiority to anyone who is not a Darwinian biologist.

I pointed this out to one of my atheist friends, and he asked me to give references.  So I obliged.  Here is what I wrote to him.

My edition is the Mariner Books, 2008 edition. Silver cover with a big orange dot, the word 'God' in white inside the orange dot. In chapter 4, pg. 172, second paragraph, opening line:

"Maybe the psychological reason for this amazing blindness has something to do with the fact that many people have not had their consciousness raised, as biologists have, by natural selection and its power to tame improbability." (Bolding mine)

Same chapter (4), pg. 173, footnote:

"Susskind (2006) gives a splendid advocacy of the anthropic principle in the megaverse. He says the idea is hated by most physicists. I can't understand why. I think it is beautiful -- perhaps because my consciousness has been raised by Darwin." (Bolding mine)

Same chapter, pg. 175, last sentence of first paragraph:

"A mischievous biologist might wonder whether some other physicists are in need of Darwinian consciousness-raising."

Those are the comments I could re-locate at a quick glance. I'm sure there are more. It was the first and second comments in particular, that really got me riled. It could be said that Dawkins is simply advocating for the notion that Darwinian natural selection boosted his understanding, as if it were drawn upward by a 'crane' (a word that Dawkins himself employs quite frequently, and happily). However, what physicist, or modern-day scientist hasn't been educated on a rather fatty diet of Darwinism? What places a biologist in a new bracket of awareness? Dawkins does nothing to explain his cheek and idiocy on this issue, and so, comes out looking more the buffoon than the biologist.

You may disagree with me, I don't know. In any case, I'm going to have to come back to Dawkins at a later date. His brand of pugnacity reads more like a yapping chihuahua than the British Bulldog he seems to fancy himself to be. I really can't take that kind of intellectual noise without there being a suitable pay-off at the end of my endurance. And from what I've seen of Dawkins so far, he's more likely to rob me of any semblance of mental integrity than leave me with a reasonable cognitive dowry.

What do you make of Dawkins' comments?  I may return to his book at a later date, mostly because I don't like to give up on these kinds of things, and I hope to make a suitable response to the recent proliferation of atheist literature, and their 'buckshot' claims.  For now, however, I have moved on to more 'reasonable' writings from Michel Onfray, and soon Daniel Dennett.  So far, at least, they don't seem so happy to skip understanding in favour of quasi-clever remarks, and meaningless commentary.


matt.f said...

So how did you like Sam Harris's books?

Christopher said...


Harris' book, Letter to a Christian Nation is a much better read than Dawkins. His points accentuate a much greater understanding of the philosophies in both theism, and atheism. The End of Faith, I've yet to tackle.

matt.f said...

Oh you should have read The End of Faith first! Anyway, I can see you appreciating that book much more than Dawkins. As I mentioned to you already, Dawkins' approach appears to be from a position of science. IMO his strongest opinions are based on his examination of the physical evidence. I wouldn't expect you to be impressed by that.

Christopher said...


You do have me at a disadvantage as to what constitutes legitimate physical evidence. What I've read of Dawkins leads me to believe he's very competent in his chosen field, but a little over-zealous about Darwin.

I wonder, if Dawkins considers the notion of God to stem from a certain node in the brain, does he not give equal credence to the possibility of a certain cranial node dedicated to Darwin?

matt.f said...

Christopher said: I wonder, if Dawkins considers the notion of God to stem from a certain node in the brain, does he not give equal credence to the possibility of a certain cranial node dedicated to Darwin?

Sure. It's called reason ;)

Christopher said...

lol! Right! Of course. That thing that was hitherto undiscovered until Charlie took his voyage on the Beagle. Got it.

Thanks for the crane. ;)