I'm looking through my list of posts and seeing I have a lot of half completed stubs waiting for publication; more disturbing there's several pieces I thought were posted still sitting there. So I'll try to clear out that backlog this week, and we'll look at it not as late for this year's holidays, but early for next.
Recently finished Richard Dawkins' book "The GOD Delusion". I will have to re-read the book with highlighters and a stack of Post-its to find exact quotations, pages, and arguments, but I want to capture the core of my thoughts while they are fresh. Here is my overview of the book:
Let me be clear: this is not a comment on Dawkins' intelligence - the Scarecrow was the smartest of Dorothy's little band - but rather a comment on his argument style which tends towards the straw man, ad hominem, reductio ad absurdum, and generally bad logic.
There are enough fallacies in the book to help an entire Freshman logic class earn A's, if they could find but half of them. We are informed that asking why god created the universe is the same as asking "Why are unicorns hollow?", and that belief in god is equivalent to belief in the tooth fairy. This is argument from absurdum and straw man at the least, bordering on ad hominem.
He spends a chapter attacking the "Unmoved Mover" theory of god on the premise that saying that tracing everything back to god merely begs the much more complex question of where god came from, then the next chapter talking about the wonders of the big bang since, well, it's just always been there. The much more complex question of "where did all this supercondensed matter come from" is ignored.
He carefully limits down the definition of religion to mean exclusively the Judaism/Christianity/Islam trio, and those only in the supernatural, ritual, non-naturalistic sense and then proceeds, working from this definition, to explain why all religion is crap.
You know, except maybe for some of those parts he ignored.
My favorite is his refutation of prayer's power to heal by comparing it to a Bob Newhart skit. Considering he dedicated the book to Douglas Adams, I am not certain if this was meant as an attack or support.
And that's the most upsetting aspect of this book; he casts the debate as a binary issue and puts all religion on one side. Dawkins' writings on evolutionary biology and the possible origins of morality, reputation, and even belief in gods was fascinating; I accept his explanations and am thrilled by the beauty and complexity of them. Simultaneously I cheer him on as he decries Creationists, er, "Intelligent Design Advocates", pro-lifers, and fundamentalists of all stripes. But this position does not exist in his world; it is impossible to genuinely pray for health and recovery as I'm wheeled to the MRI. I'm either with him or with them.
His position is downright religious in that regard.