Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Dawkins’ “God Delusion” considers ID science – false science, Dawkins also pronounces on free will and child sex abuse

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At Vere loqui, Martin Cothran notes that Richard Dawkins’The God Delusion, provides ammunition to ID advocates.

ID theorists are familiar with the accusation that ID is both unfalsifiable and anyway, already falsified. (The fact that the two claims can be maintained comfortably at once illustrates the extent to which materialism and Darwinism function as ideologies. In general, all arguments in support of an ideology, even contradictory ones, feel good to the ideologue. He attacks others for not supporting his view even when his view is literally incomprehensible.)

Dawkins will have none of that, however. He wants to be consistent. He accuses the National Center for Science Education of being the “Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists,” because it misguidedly appeases religious people by insisting that ID is not science (and therefore the religious people should ignore ID in favor of Darwinism). Dawkins would prefer that NCSE attack the religious people’s beliefs.

Dawkins, an Oxford scientist and the most popular contemporary defender of evolution, directs withering criticism at NCSE for wimping out in its argument with religious opponents of evolution by saying that the realms of science and religion are totally separate concerns-that scientists should stay on their side of the line and theologians on their side, and everybody can live in peace. Dawkins maintains that religious claims (and, ipso facto, the claims of Intelligent Design) are broadly scientific in character, that they make claims that are falsifiable-and that, in fact, they are false.

As Cothran notes, the ID guys should be glad to hear that.

…, whenever advocates of Intelligent Design hear the argument that Intelligent Design is not science, all they need to do is point to the new book by the man who is perhaps the leading advocate of evolution today who says that this argument is not only wrong, but an example of intellectual cowardice.

Actually, the NCSE approach works pretty well in practice, because it throws up a lot of smoke, panicking soccer moms into declaring a stream of breathless inanities like “there is a place for God – and a place for Darwin!” God bless ’em, the moms are usually pretty pleased with themselves, even if Dawkins isn’t pleased with them at all. And they vote.

Meanwhile, two other Dawkins items of note: Here at Uncommon Descent, Bill Dembski quotes comments Dawkins made at a book signing in Washington:

Maybe the way we laugh at Basil Fawlty, we ought to laugh in the same way at people who blame humans. I mean when we punish people for doing the most horrible murders, maybe the attitude we should take is “Oh they were just determined by their molecules.” It’s stupid to punish them. What we should do is say “This unit has a faulty motherboard which needs to be replaced.” I can’t bring myself to do that. I actually do respond in an emotional way and I blame people, I give people credit, or … But it is an inconsistency that we sort of have to live with otherwise life would be intolerable. But it has nothing to do with my views on religion it is an entirely separate issue.

Dawkin’s general denial of free will sounds quite disjointed in the original too (I am not quoting selectively). But keep in mind that his view is the accepted (though wrong) one in materialist neuroscience, as Mario Beauregard and I will show in our forthcoming forthcoming The Spiritual Brain (Harper 2007).

While we are here, Dawkins offered The Dubliner some comments on the Catholic Church. After rejoicing to hear that a seminary was shutting its doors*, he writes,

The Catholic Church has developed, over the centuries, brilliant techniques in brain washing children; even intelligent people who have had a proper, full cradle-Catholic upbringing find it hard to shake it off when they reach adulthood. Obviously many of them do – and congratulations to them for it – but even some really quite intelligent people fail to shake it off, powerful evidence of the skill in brainwashing that the Catholic Church exercises. It’s far more skilled than, for instance, the Anglican Church, mere amateurs in the game.

One difficulty with Dawkins’ approach to things will be readily apparent here. He cannot entertain the possibility that an adult might not be a materialist and therefore might consider that there is good evidence for the Catholic view of life. That is to say, he does not believe – more to the point, he cannot believe – in a mind apart from the brain. So any belief other than materialism must be mere indoctrination, however supported. But again, let me warn, his is the accepted view in many quarters. The aberration is that he pronounces it so openly.

Just how twisted all this becomes can be seen from Dawkins’ comments for The Dubliner on child sex abuse:

Regarding the accusations of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, deplorable and disgusting as those abuses are, they are not so harmful to the children as the grievous mental harm in bringing up the child Catholic in the first place. I had a letter from a woman in America in her forties, who said that when she was a child of about seven, brought up a Catholic, two things happened to her: one was that she was sexually abused by her parish priest. The second thing was that a great friend of hers at school died, and she had nightmares because she thought her friend was going to hell because she wasn’t Catholic. For her there was no question that the greatest child abuse of those two was the abuse of being taught about hell. Being fondled by the priest was negligible in comparison. And I think that’s a fairly common experience. I can’t speak about the really grave sexual abuse that obviously happens sometimes, which actually causes violent physical pain to the altar boy or whoever it is, but I suspect that most of the sexual abuse priests are accused of is comparatively mild – a little bit of fondling perhaps, and a young child might scarcely notice that. The damage, if there is damage, is going to be mental damage anyway, not physical damage. Being taught about hell – being taught that if you sin you will go to everlasting damnation, and really believing that – is going to be a harder piece of child abuse than the comparatively mild sexual abuse.

Reading this put me in mind of the all-too-numerous Canadian teen and twenty-something boys I know of who have committed suicide as a result of sex abuse. I have never heard of one who committed suicide over a hellfire sermon.

(These sex abuse cases occurred in Anglican settings, but that is simply because, before becoming a Catholic, I was active for decades in the Anglican church. Any scoutmaster, headmaster, children’s aid society head, or youth pastor with an ear to the ground will hear of sex abuse cases in any setting that caters to children and teens. Complete prevention may be impossible, but good leadership is distinguished from bad by how it is dealt with.)

*Incidentally, Dawkins would be horrified to visit my own parish in Toronto, where the Fathers of the Oratory are raising money to expand the seminary.

Comments
davescot: "The supernatural, once understood, becomes the natural. Keep in mind that at one time the motions of the stars and planets were thought to be driven by supernatural entities." I think there might be a big difference between nature as we know it, and supernatural in the strong sense. Nature as we know it is "law" based. If there is a realm where free-willed entities really exist, it would seem that it could not be a law based reality like Nature. It would be something wholly other. For me, two clues exist that this is a live possibility: my own consciousness, and the fact that I can intuitively imagine that a non-law-based nature could exist. What would "free" mean to beings governed strictly by law? How would such a concept exist within non-free entities? I can only account for my sense of "freedom" by concluding that I *am* free in some measure. And if I really am free, then it can't be apart of what I would normally think of as "Nature." At the very least, I don't think this is rationally comprehendible like we understand stars and planets, which are apparently law based entities. Something radically different is at work in human consciousness.mike1962
October 28, 2006
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Dave, no I haven't seen any posts by Phil Johnson here, though I'm not sure if you're implying that it's because you've already banned him. Anyway, as an admirer of some of Dawkins work (currently reading "Unweaving the Rainbow" which is so far an inspiring read) I must say that his comments on child abuse are crass and ill thought out. I do, however, think he's onto something with free will insofar as people may not have complete control over their actions (for example, I believe there are studies showing that diet can influence behaviour both positively and negatively) but assuming they do is perhaps a useful fiction we can't do without.bebbo
October 27, 2006
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franky I concede that the creator of the universe needs to be supernatural since all that is natural is contained within the universe. I will however make a caveat and say that science has transformed the supernatural into the natural in the past. The supernatural, once understood, becomes the natural. Keep in mind that at one time the motions of the stars and planets were thought to be driven by supernatural entities.DaveScot
October 27, 2006
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I couldn’t find anything in Dr. Dembski’s article you referenced that requires something non-physical to account for life on earth. Sorry if I mis-read your question. Life on earth could certainly have had materialistic designers; hoewver at least the DI claims that ID suggests that the *universe itself* shows design. It is certainly difficult to imagine a purely physical being who oversaw the creation of the universe, no?franky17
October 27, 2006
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jaredl A supernatural event... Being in two places at once. Exceeding the speed of light. Traveling backward in time. Changing history after the fact. Causing matter/energy to appear from nothing. Causing instantaneous action at a distance. Suspending the passage of time. Those sort of things. On a macroscopic scale. I'm aware that at the quantum scale some strange things can happen but they don't translate into significance in the larger world. The nature of nature is all the matter and energy in the observable universe acted on by a set of four physical forces - the strong force, the weak force, the electromagnetic force, and gravity the consequences of which are reducible to calculation if enough information about the state of the system is known. I suspect sentient intelligence is an emergent property the consequences of which are not reducible to calculation (sentient intelligence is where free will comes into play in the universe). DaveScot
October 27, 2006
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Franky I couldn't find anything in Dr. Dembski's article you referenced that requires something non-physical to account for life on earth. Perhaps by non-physical he means intelligence. Intelligence isn't a physical quantity so that's probably it. I wasn't arguing about the origin of the universe. Natural things, including natural intelligence, are by definition things in the material universe. Anything outside the material universe would be supernatural by definition.DaveScot
October 27, 2006
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The fact that Darkins is now attacking God head on show he knows he's losing the battle. Him and his followers wanted to believe science could answer it all thus not only throwing the creator totally out of his universe but mostly out of their minds. While ID doesn't named the designer yet for these atheists it doesn't have to ; the very thought that they are designed screams God in their heads. A voice they have tried to silence the whole time.Smidlee
October 27, 2006
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Phil Vaz wrote: ID is falsifiable on the claims it makes that are truly scientific (”the immune system is too complex to have evolved” etc), and non-falsifiable in regarding the designer (”the designer is God”).
The bolded portion is a strawman misrepresentation. ID does not claim the designer is God, therefore it is incorrect to say that aspect of ID is unfalsifiable since "the designer is God" is not part of the mainstream ID definition. IDers may have said that they believe the designer of life is God, but they have also made it clear that is their personal opinion and not part of ID theory proper. For the record, I was the one a few months back who protested Phil Vaz misquotes of Todd Norquist: here. I have a low tolerance for commenters who attribute fabricated statements to others as Phil did. Thank you, DaveScot.scordova
October 27, 2006
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Dave, I’m not aware of any facet of life on this planet that requires supernatural powers. What is it you think requires a designing agent to not be strictly physical? I suppose it's the same thing that convinced Dr. Dembski that the designer of the universe and the first life could not have been purely physical. “no intelligent agent who is strictly physical could have presided over the origin of the universe or the origin of life.” http://www.leaderu.com/offices/dembski/docs/bd-the_ac.html Unless I have mis-read his statements. -frankyfranky172
October 27, 2006
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DS - Can you give me an example of what constitutes a supernatural event, on your view? Could you explain what you think the nature of "nature" is?jaredl
October 27, 2006
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jaredl Supernatural powers - not constrained by physical laws of nature.DaveScot
October 27, 2006
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Or we could propose an infinity of universes. Hey, if it's valid for them it's valid for us, right?StephenA
October 26, 2006
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DaveScot, "What is it you think requires a designing agent to not be strictly physical?" While it could be conceived that one of our great grandchildren could seed life on another planet, we also recognize that there is a strict timeframe where everything we recongnise as "strictly physical" had to start. If we are the product of a creative endoevor by a "strictly physical", then who or what process created that being -- NDE? The idea that some "bright" in some parallel universe actually created our entire universe along with life itself is conceivable. However, I think that the suggestion made is of a "strictly physical" being on this side of the big bang. Even if, however, a "strictly physical" in a parallel universe created our universe, some one or some process must have created him/her/it. What process was that, NDE? Though I am not trying to force ID into a "the designer is God" box, the God hypothesis seems the most conceivable to me.bFast
October 26, 2006
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DS - what do you mean by supernatural?jaredl
October 26, 2006
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Franky If we know that the designing agent can not be a strictly physical being; I'm not aware of any facet of life on this planet that requires supernatural powers. What is it you think requires a designing agent to not be strictly physical?DaveScot
October 26, 2006
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Jerry PhilVaz wasn't just banned for this one comment. As I mentioned his banishment was debated among the moderators some time ago for badly misquoting Todd Norquist. I defended Phil at the time but I realize now I shouldn't have. As to your request that I ban you too. No problem. It's done.DaveScot
October 26, 2006
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Shaner comments, "On the bright side though, if there was a way to build a cyborg whose purpose was to turn people in the direction of ID without using hard science, its name would be Richard Dawkins. " I have been saying much the same for years, as it happens. I sometimes wonder - on no authority whatsoever - whether the Discovery Institute is paying Dawkins to carry on as he does. (It is almost plausible, and yet ... no ... life is too nuanced for that ... and always has been ... ) Genuine friends of Dawkins (assuming he has such) should have warned him against obvious sinkholes such as pretending that child sex abuse, which can lead to suicide, is less of a problem than hellfire sermons, which are easily ignored. Sometimes a guy only needs to keep his mouth shut - not a terribly hard job, really, even for a science popularizer like Dawkins. I expect Dawkins will die a Catholic. He does not appear to have friends who can persuade him to just take a breather. The causes of such people, if they are undertaken, must be undertaken by saints.O'Leary
October 26, 2006
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One can only consider teaching a child the Catholic belief that dying with unconfessed mortal sin leads to eternal torment in hell as child abuse if one is convinced that the teaching is false. But what if it's true? If it's true then failure to teach it would be the abuse. If you don't know if it's true or not then you must withhold judgement on whether it's abusive or not. Dawkins loses the plot and distinguishes himself as a shallow thinker every single time he reasons from the position that there is no God.DaveScot
October 26, 2006
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“Being taught about hell - being taught that if you sin you will go to everlasting damnation, and really believing that - is going to be a harder piece of child abuse than the comparatively mild sexual abuse.” This Dawkins guy seems absolutely mad! What would happen if the above quote was said by a Meyer, or Dembski, or Wells? There would be outrage. Everything I read from Dawkins makes me shake my head in disbelief. How on Earth he maintains a job when he’s constantly making these nonsensical statements in public is a mystery. On the bright side though, if there was a way to build a cyborg whose purpose was to turn people in the direction of ID without using hard science, its name would be Richard Dawkins.shaner74
October 26, 2006
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bebbo In answer to your question, have you seen any posts by Phil here?DaveScot
October 26, 2006
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Based on what I’ve read of Origen and Augustine, I do not have to read his thesis, or second work to understand their viewpoints and disagree with him, or with you. You might actually find Paulsen's thesis interesting. Bias is an accusation which stops a dialog before analysis of the logic and evidence begins. Personally, I feel that if more anti-design theorists understood design theory more profoundly, they'd stop fighting it.jaredl
October 26, 2006
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Bigotry? I simply made an observation that you quoted two references from the same author who certainly cannot be seen as unbiased in his opinions. I then had fun with the paragraph of double-speak. Which it clearly is. This is no different than being critical of Dawkins inconsistency. And yet I have not read his book. This does not keep most on here from commenting on such fast pace topics. I pointed out that the original sources themselves were strict incorporealist, as Paulsen readily admits. Based on what I've read of Origen and Augustine, I do not have to read his thesis, or second work to understand their viewpoints and disagree with him, or with you. Site more references that are widely accepted of such conclusions of early Christians which are upheld as doctrinely accurate by Protestants, Catholics or other neutral parties if you like in defense. I hardly want to be one to overturn established doctrine that I may be unawares. But maybe you know more than I on the subject as I do not have a theology degree and thus do not wish to misrepresent myself as an authority. If there be a mistake on my part and historical interpretations prove me wrong, then Sir, I apologize most humbly for my humorous play on word substitutions. But it was not with malice or forethought of prejudice, but of innocent play on elegantly lined text which to me seemed at odds, or at peril of being in flirtacious opposition so as to confuse one's reading in the matter. My mind reflected upon such juxtapositions, then lept to conclusions, if found irrational, then confound it all, blame it on the random Molecules! ;-)Michaels7
October 26, 2006
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Dave, just out of curiosity would Phillip Johnson be banned from this blog if he decided to post here? After all, it was he who said "Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of Intelligent Design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools." If the "grandfather" of the ID movement is wrong that the designer is God then is it any wonder other people think so too?bebbo
October 26, 2006
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Dear Michaels7, Maybe you should read them before you presume to critique them? What you have attempted here seems to be a straightforward application of the genetic fallacy, itself a variant of the ad hominem fallacy. Bigotry isn't restricted to evolutionists. I have noted that on this blog.jaredl
October 26, 2006
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Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses David L. Paulsen, Brigham Young "The evidence for my thesis is mostly indirect and circumstantial, but, considered cumulatively, it may prove to be quite convincing. Herein I emphasize evidence derived from two of the most uncompromising incorporealist, Origen and St. Augustine. Given their strong antipathies to corporealism, their testimony is particularly persuasive." Your other reference is the same Paulsen of 1990 from Brigham Young but limited to Augustine in 2002. You are utilizing two references with the same author who is motivated by his particular bias to override the original intention of the historic stances taken by the people he sites.... "Given their strong antipathies to corporealism, their testimony is particularly persuasive." Huh? This is double speak. In that case, it goes well with Dawkins materialistic conundrum and NCSE's science is OK with religion as long as it accepts pure NDE only and no critical observations or alternatives. "reluctant witness" honestly, two dead Saints who cannot testify for themselves. What does it take to think this up and get accepted as a thesis? And even more, published at Harvard? Maybe I should seek a Doctorate in Evolution. My thesis? Dawkins and Dennett: reluctant witnesses to Intelligent Design. don't have to change much... "The evidence for my thesis is mostly indirect and circumstantial, but, considered cumulatively, it may prove to be quite convincing. Herein I emphasize evidence derived from two of the most uncompromising Darwinist, Dawkins and Dennett. Given their strong antipathies to Intelligent Design, their testimony is particularly persuasive." Yeah, it might just fly. I can publish it in Haaarvard Scientific Review ;-) Smiles, couldn't resist.Michaels7
October 26, 2006
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Ha! Well, obviously since RD has put a lot of thought into his books and anti-religion campaign, we can infer design. Whether "intelligent" is the appropriate adjective or not is another matter.Jack Golightly
October 26, 2006
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Given Dawkins invokes a NS explanation for mass-belief in theistic arguments, do we invoke an intelligent design argument to explain Dawkins' mass popularity?littlejon
October 26, 2006
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Actually, it relates solely to primitive Christian doctrine. Plus, Bill has put me under a 2 theological posts per topic limit.jaredl
October 26, 2006
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sorry, in response to #20 & #21Jack Golightly
October 26, 2006
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Well, I guess we had better leave this issue alone since it strays into the area of LDS doctrine. Hardly related to our dear RD and his amusingly convoluted rantings.Jack Golightly
October 26, 2006
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