The God Delusion; A Review
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When I was about half way through reading "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, I encountered a review of the book by Robert Fulford entitled "From a brilliant mind, a silly book." That title perfectly encapsulated the disappointment I felt over this latest work by Dawkins.
Dawkins states in the preface that he hopes "religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down." He also expects to change the minds of agnostics, pantheists, and deists. And yet, in his opening salvo, he proceeds to deliberately insult everyone who has a different opinion than him. Even those scientists who are his fellow atheists, but use god metaphorically when referring to the wonders of the universe, are found guilty of "an act of intellectual high treason." The first two chapters of the book remind me more of the ad hominem discussions that take place on open religious discussion boards than a genuine intellectual discussion. You don't change minds through insults even if you have a brilliant argument, and in general, the needed sound arguments, let alone brilliant ones, are sadly lacking in Dawkins' diatribe.
Chapter 3 "Arguments for God's Existence" and Chapter 6 "The Roots of Morality: Why We Are Good" are quite worthwhile. Chapter 3 looks at the various "proofs" of the existence of God, and systematically debunks all of them. In Chapter 6, Dawkins demonstrates convincingly that God is not necessary for morality, and is not even the true source of morality for believers.
Chapter 4 "Why There Is Almost Certainly No God," should be the key chapter if Richard Dawkins is going to live up to the title of the book. Regrettably, this section comes nowhere near to providing a logical case for God's non-existence, nor a case that God is a delusion. What Dawkins does is:
- to provide a clear and convincing case that God is not necessary for the development of life on earth;
- to provide a clear and convincing case that God is not necessary for the "creation" of a planet, such as Earth, which will provide the conditions for the development and evolution of life; and
- to provide a rather questionable case, with an unnecessary hypothesis of multiple universes, that God is not necessary for the initiation of a universe in which planets will eventually form which can support life.
That is all Dawkins does in Chapter 4 - he argues that God is not necessary to explain why we are here and that science identifies other processes which explain how we got here. This is nothing more than what I have said elsewhere "All events in our Universe, including its beginning, can be explained with or without the existence of a Supreme Being." It most certainly does not constitute a proof that God almost certainly does not exist. Occam's Razor only points towards the more probable choice, it does not eliminate the alternative. Essentially, Dawkins makes the case for agnosticism, though it is highly unlikely he would admit it.
The rest of the book is basically an argument that religion is so bad that it should be eliminated. He is even against religious moderates in that they somehow make it possible for religious fundamentalists to exist.
Check out Chapters 3 and 6 in a public library or when you are browsing a bookstore; ignore the rest. That way you might be able to retain your respect for Richard Dawkins.
- From a brilliant mind, a silly book by Robert Fulford, The National Post, 15 December 2006