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The G-d Delusion Part 1

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 20, 2007


The First Chapter of The God Delusion:

Also available here at NYTimes.com

“The boy lay prone in the grass, his chin resting on his hands. He suddenly found himself overwhelmed by a heightened awareness of the tangled stems and roots, a forest in microcosm, a transfigured world of ants and beetles and even – though he wouldn’t have known the details at the time – of soil bacteria by the billions, silently and invisibly shoring up the economy of the micro-world. Suddenly the micro-forest of the turf seemed to swell and become one with the universe, and with the rapt mind of the boy contemplating it. He interpreted the experience in religious terms and it led him eventually to the priesthood. He was ordained an Anglican priest and became a chaplain at my school, a teacher of whom I was fond. It is thanks to decent liberal clergymen like him that nobody could ever claim that I had religion forced down my throat.

In another time and place, that boy could have been me under the stars, dazzled by Orion, Cassiopeia and Ursa Major, tearful with the unheard music of the Milky Way, heady with the night scents of frangipani and trumpet flowers in an African garden. Why the same emotion should have led my chaplain in one direction and me in the other is not an easy question to answer. A quasi-mystical response to nature and the universe is common among scientists and rationalists. It has no connection with supernatural belief. In his boyhood at least, my chaplain was presumably not aware (nor was I) of the closing lines of The Origin of Species – the famous ‘entangled bank’ passage, ‘with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth’. Had he been, he would certainly have identified with it and, instead of the priesthood, might have been led to Darwin’s view that all was ‘produced by laws acting around us’:

Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Carl Sagan, in Pale Blue Dot, wrote:

How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant’? Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.”

Dawkins draws some weird conclusions about Einstein and his faith later on in the Chapter – I will get to those as I go. Initially (in the quoted section above) he makes the same mistake that many other Religionists do – he assumes that if the experience is similar, the out-come must necessarily be the same. That is actually a logical fallacy, common, but one would expect a scientist like Dawkins not to make it.

He equates “similar” with “same”, when he relates the stories of the two boys and questions why the Anglican Priest didn’t become an Atheist Scientist, like himself.

Similar= Related in appearance or nature; alike though not identical.

Same= Identical with what is about to be or has just been mentioned.

From Dictionary.com

No two people experience their surroundings identically. That is simply not possible. But the same Aurora Borealis can very well evoke completely contradictory responses. To argue that similar experiences by necessity should lead to the same response in two different people only shows the Dawkins in his quest for proof that he is right, rather than a scientific exploration of the evidence – which at best would lead him down an agnostic path, is very much employing presuppositions about the nature of empirical data arrived through non-scientific means. Or in short – Dawkins assumes that the interpretation of the experience of the Anglican Priest, which lead him to belief in G-d is wrong, simply because it lead to something Dawkins cannot accept.

Dawkins prejudice against religion, and thus, I guess, his need to disprove it becomes very visible in the first paragraphs: “It is thanks to decent liberal clergymen like him that nobody could ever claim that I had religion forced down my throat.”

That smacks of dishonesty, and makes me wonder if Dawkins isn’t in all actuality re-acting to exactly the kind of force-feeding that he claims he was not exposed to. He equates religion with force – despite the fact that he also claims that the Anglican Priest he starts his first chapter with has not represented any such force.

Employing Giants like Carl Sagan and Albert Einstein (I’ll get to him later 🙂 ), and twist them to fit his own agenda, is not only dishonest – it’s immoral.

Carl Sagan’s ideas is very clearly reflected in Psalm 8:4-10:

“When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars that You have established, 5. what is man that You should remember him, and the son of man that You should be mindful of him? 6. Yet You have made him slightly less than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and majesty. 7. You give him dominion over the work of Your hands; You have placed everything beneath his feet. 8. Flocks and cattle, all of them, and also the beasts of the field; 9. the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea, he traverses the ways of the seas. 10. O Lord, our Master, how mighty is Your name in all the earth!”

It seems to me that the author of Psalm 8, Carl Sagan, the Anglican Priest and Richard Dawkins are all describing similar experiences!

I suppose that the portion of Carl Sagan’s work “The Blue Dot” that I linked to above, didn’t fit Dawkins ideas – but the portion that he quotes in his book, certainly doesn’t reflect the entirety of Carl Sagan’s Scope. It is also worth to note that two Giants Richard Dawkins choose to quote are both Jewish, and had a Jewish up-bringing. This does put their statements about G-d and the Universe in a slightly other light.

Judaism has the existence of G-d, or a Prime Cause, as an axiom. This is never questioned in Judaism – not in modern Judaism, and definitely in the Judaism brought to Carl Sagan. Carl Sagan lived an died a skeptic, an agnostic and a freethinker, but nowhere does he deny the existence of G-d. The manner of thinking, unique to Judaism and thus to its adherents is exactly the attitude of questioning and analyzing everything from a point of view of finding the truth of things and align those thoughts along lines of logic. It is very unlikely that someone Jewish would look at the Universe and come to the conclusion that there is nothing out there – it would be intellectually dishonest and a logical fallacy in and of itself, something Carl Sagan wouldn’t be guilty of, I am sure.

The thinking Dawkins ascribes to Carl Sagan (and later Albert Einstein) comes from an ignorance of the inner workings of intellectual Judaism and the manner in which Jews of Sagan’s and Einstein’s generations were trained from an early age to deal with intellectual problems, it is further driven by his need to prove the truth of Atheism.

Dawkins is a Religious Atheist – a Fundamentalist Atheist – which means he will be making the same logical mistakes Fundamentalists, whatever their Creed (and don’t be fooled – Atheism is a Creed to Dawkins) make and he is Preaching his Creed as well as ever any Evangelical Fundamentalist.

It was put very nicely in one of the Big Morning Papers here in Sweden on Saturday: “G-d doesn’t exist and Dawkins is His Prophet.”

It doesn’t mean that his message shouldn’t be taken seriously, or that Atheism as such is bad, but one need to realize that this is a man with an ego larger than his logic. He even has a page he calls “Converts Corner” with testimonial letters from readers who have converted to Atheism as a result of reading his books. In the end he is the one who comes across as delusional – not because he denies the veracity of Religion, but because he doesn’t draw the LOGICAL conclusions from the scientific evidence he is supposed be so well acquainted with. It shouldn’t land him in Fundamentalist Atheism, it should by all logic land him in Agnosticism.

I will come back and deal with the rest of the first chapter of Richard Dawkins’ book.

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9 Responses to “The G-d Delusion Part 1”

  1. Dale Husband said

    Your statements about Carl Sagan are indeed accurate and fair. My own views on religion, science, and their interrelationships mirrors his own, for both practical and ethical reasons. I have never liked militant atheism, partly because I hate ALL forms of intolerance, and party because of its association with Communism.

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  2. MOI said

    Excellent post, SOB!! Fundamentalist atheists are indeed falling into the same traps as fundamentalist Christians. How they cannot see it is beyond me. Isn’t it called, being too close to your subject? 🙂

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  3. Dale: “My own views on religion, science, and their interrelationships mirrors his own, for both practical and ethical reasons.”

    Could you your reasons – practical and ethical?

    MOI: “Fundamentalist atheists are indeed falling into the same traps as fundamentalist Christians.”

    In my experience it is the nature of Fundamentalism that does it, not necessarily the creed. I could bring a Fundamentalist Jew up here, and he/she would sound basically the same. I just have to wonder about what exactly those fundamentalists are afraid of? What is Dawkins afraid of that makes him mirror the very thing he is opposed to? Is he afraid that he will be caught somehow – then why do it to others?

    It makes no sense.

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  4. Dale Husband said

    Silly Old Bear, I concluded long ago that if you rely only on scientific methods for knowledge, without any input from any religious dogmas, then the idea of a Supreme Creator might occur to you as a hypothesis, but an untested, unfalsified, and therefore unscientific hypothesis is all that it would ever be. If you deny it outright, as an athiest like Dawkins does, you are actually being dogmatic, which is an attitude that science does not allow for. Absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. The only position to take regarding theology that is absolutely consistent with scientific methods is agnosticism, just as you said in your blog above. When you affirm atheism instead, you are expressing a dogma that science can never support, just as much as any religious beleiver.

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  5. Thank you Dale 🙂


    “the idea of a Supreme Creator might occur to you as a hypothesis, but an untested, unfalsified, and therefore unscientific hypothesis is all that it would ever be.”

    Correct. Which is why it’s both bad science and bad religion to mix them with each other. But it is equally bad science and bad religion to claim either redundant.

    To me this is where Philosophy enters the scene – it is apparently possible to arrive at the hypothesis of a Prime Cause through experience, as well as it is to arrive at the hypothesis of a Non-Prime Cause through experience – but both are dependent on further elaboration of the experiential evidence from a personal stand point to have any meaning. From a philosophical point of view both are equally valid.

    It is when we elevate unfalsified hypothesis’ to doctrine that we enter the realm of bad theology and bad science.

    That is exactly what Dawkins is doing. Only he is propagating for an unfalsified hypothesis of a Non-Prime Cause.

    One of these days I am going to give the justifications behind my personal beliefs, *lol* I seem to be running into the issue a lot these days.

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  6. […] August 21st, 2007 in Torah My very good friend Dale Husband commented on “The G-d Delusion Part 1” on my other Blog: “if you rely only on scientific methods for knowledge, without any […]

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  7. MOI said

    SOB,

    I think fundamentalists are afraid of uncertainty. They must have things “figured out” so as to either feel confident they have a platform from which to speak or to feel superior, I’m not sure which. All fundamentalists look down on others for having beliefs that don’t quite measure up to their standards. Ego perhaps?

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  8. MOI

    “I think fundamentalists are afraid of uncertainty.”

    I think they are afraid of being “wrong”. Perhaps that is the same? Somehow it seems that they believe that they will be punished if they don not have the answers to all questions. It’s funny really, without unanswered questions, where is the mystery of existence?

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  9. MOI said

    SOB,

    Oh, but there can’t be mystery! According to fundamentalism there is no mystery, all is revealed, and we know all there is to know because God told us. Arrogant? You betcha.’ I choose the mystery.

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