Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The God Delusion

I was with amcal in Chapters, and noticed copies of The God Delusion on a bunch of shelves. Given that this seems to be the most popular atheist book at the moment, I opened it up to have a glance. The author, Richard Dawkin, analyzes and attacks a number of arguments that either try to prove God or attack atheism; in other words, he acts as the atheist's apologist. A good summary of the book can be found at, of course, Wikipedia:

I read the first few pages of the preface, and have to say that I was immediately turned off. Dawkins immediately made some fallacies, the most prominent of which was the statement that religion was the cause of war, and if there was no religion, there could potentially be no war. I find it difficult to believe that anyone who is capable of critical thought is able to come to this conclusion after deeply studying the issue of war, and many of the past wars that have happened in this earth's history. And this argument was included in the spotlight of the book's opening arguments. So I decided that the book was not worth reading.

Amcal challenged me on this. Are we really able to draw conclusions about something so easily without analyzing the entire thing? He conceded that in our rush-rush world, it's very difficult to give something our valuable time, if there are indications that the time would be wasted. But it was a point nevertheless. You shouldn't judge a book by its cover, and perhaps not by its preface as well.

Later in the day, I happened to be in another bookstore, and I walked by another book. This one was called The Dawkins Delusion, and responded to each of the arguments in the book that Richard Dawkins wrote. Hmm, interesting. I thought about what amcal had said, and thought about how many Christians would probably be absolutely willing to read a book like The Dawkins Delusion without even giving The God Delusion a second thought.

OK then, amcal. I will take you up on your challenge. When I return from China, I will buy and read The God Delusion. I will analyze it and blog my thoughts about each chapter. I will then read The Dawkins Delusion and see whether or not my thoughts match up with the thoughts of the second book's author. And perhaps I will be able to find an atheist who finally looks like he knows what he's talking about. Unfortunately, judging from the review quotes on the Wikipedia page, this looks like it might not be likely. Here are some examples:
The physicist Lawrence M. Krauss, writing in Nature, says that although a "fan" of Dawkins's science writing, he wishes that Dawkins "had continued to play to his strengths". Krauss suggests that an unrelenting attack upon people's beliefs might be less productive than "positively demonstrating how the wonders of nature can suggest a world without God that is nevertheless both complete and wonderful." Krauss is disappointed by the first part of the book, but quite positive about the latter part starting from Dawkins's discussion of morality. He remarks, "Perhaps there can be no higher praise than to say that I am certain I will remember and borrow many examples from this book in my own future discussions." In particular, he praises the treatment of religion and childhood, although refraining from using the term "child abuse" himself.

Marxist literary critic Terry Eagleton in the London Review of Books argues that Dawkins has insufficient understanding of the religious concepts he is attacking to engage with them effectively. He comments, "Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology." He questions whether Dawkins has read or heard of Christian thinkers like Eriugena, Rahner or Moltmann. He denies that all faith is blind faith, suggests that "while faith, rather like love, must involve factual knowledge, it is not reducible to it". He claims that "Critics of the most enduring form of popular culture in human history have a moral obligation to confront that case at its most persuasive". He adds, however, that Dawkins is effective in attacking "that particular strain of psychopathology known as fundamentalism, whether Texan or Taliban".
If he commits any of the fallacies I list here, I will be severely disappointed.

1 comment:

  1. I look forward to you taking up the challenge Mr. Park :)

    Never stop searching, or learning. Hope all is well in China. ^^