Continuing a discussion of “The God Delusion”
By: FRATER BOVIOUS
(CARROLLTON, TX – Cradle of Civilization) I am four pages into the preface to the paperback edition of The God Delusion. The first paragraph dispenses with unfavorable reviews thusly:
Several unfavorable reviews begin with the phrase, which I long ago learned to treat as ominous, ‘I’m an atheist, BUT…’
The phrase is ominous because:
The sequel is nearly always unhelpful, nihilistic or – worse – suffused with a sort of exultant negativity.
So, unfavorable reviews are irrelevant when written by atheists, because?
Because Dawkins says so.
We are further admonished to “Look out for…trick…” statements from the likes of CS Lewis that “I used to be an atheist” because that statement serves to establish “street cred” and it is surprising how often it works.
Here, in the first two paragraphs of his preface, Dawkins has told us to never mind dissenting opinions, because, never mind them, they aren’t legitimate, because, obviously.
Dawkins further supports his dismissal of dissenting opinion by explaining that he needn’t fully engage with the writings of those who believe God exists in order to refute their arguments because it is not necessary for him to study Pastafarianism to refute the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. He then recounts a bit of satire from an admirer named P. Z. Myers, I think because he believes the satire provides compelling support for his lack of need to understand what he is arguing against.
Myers uses the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes to compare the people who suggest that one should at least have a passing understanding of the argument before refuting it, with the sycophants who refuse to admit that the emperor is naked. It is a clever bit of writing. Clever as it may be, it is ultimately irrelevant for at least two reasons.
First, this kind of smug ridicule is tantamount to schoolyard bullying where two or more people are making fun of someone else-the attackers simply reinforce each other and heap derision on their target. Now, I have been on the receiving end of schoolyard bullying and I have participated in such bullying. I have also been a passive observer and at times I have tried to intervene. Here is what I know about schoolyard bullying: at no time has it ever been mistaken for reasoned debate.
Second, it does matter whether or not you are arguing against the actual position of the opposition. Presenting the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a religion, and then refuting that religion, says nothing at all about any other religion, and here is why: If you are debating with someone about rugby and football, and you are thinking of American football and the person you are talking with is thinking about what Americans call soccer, you can’t argue the merits of football as opposed to rugby in any meaningful manner. As you compare various rules about both games, the person that thinks “soccer” when he hears “football” will be unable to defend his sport, largely because the arguments against football/soccer will seem nonsensical and it will be difficult for him to defend his position as there is no common starting point.
The thing is, just because the soccer aficionado cannot defend his sport against irrelevant argument is no demonstration that his sport is not worth defending. Nor is it a reason to simply disregard his argument because you don’t understand his sport and assume it to be something it is not.
So, there we are. FB
(Next: Asking the Wrong Question)