by Richard Dawkins
2006, Houghton Mifflin Co., 374 pgs.
Dawkins is a celebrated evolutionary biologist who, along with Sam Harris (The End of Faith), has emerged as one of the better known proponents of atheism in contemporary literature. Both books have been New York Times best sellers.
In my own work, New Pilgrim Chronicles, I have likewise argued for the critical need of the species to evolve from faith to reason:
“Faith, as the antithesis of reason, is a barbarous relic that must be discarded if civilization, much less any prospect for freedom, is to emerge.”— from Chapter 5
Dawkins’ main thesis is the natural world and even sentient beings such as ourselves are accounted for by natural explanations. Thus, God is not a requirement for and has a vanishingly small probability of existence.
Dawkins’ approach is mainly to counter various arguments that have been made for the Supreme Being, e.g.:
- Thomas Aquinas’ propositions
- Arguments from morality and beauty
- The ontological argument
- Argument from personal experience
- Pascal’s Wager
His writing is solid, kindly refuting every common claim; the presentation is enjoyable. He assembles some wonderful quotations from brave thinkers:
“There is in every village a torch: the teacher: and an extinguisher: the clergyman.” — Victor Hugo
“To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise.” — Thomas Jefferson
“I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic.” — Albert Einstein
The Jefferson quote brings me to the objection that Dawkins doesn’t start by defining God. If he had done so, he probably would have determined—as Antony Flew does in the classic God and Philosophy—that the standard definition of God from the Book of Common Prayer makes it difficult for the concept of God to get off the ground at all.
But this isn’t an argument for or against God, only a book review. And I truly appreciate what Richard Dawkins contributes on the subject of superstitious faith, even in the areas of psychology and sociology. I should say, I used to appreciate his approach more. But lately, with him and a number of the other so-called ‘behaviorist neuroscientists’ I see deep logical flaws… mainly concerning their penchant for the hoax science of psychiatry, nonvolitional consciousness and reductionism in general, and antagonism to the individual and liberty.
Whatever, nice book in many respects. Others exist of greater utility to serious minds.
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