Category Archives: Philosophy

Necessary Preamble to Faith

Video

The Hidden Benefits of Procrastination

“My brain has atrophied. I think I am stupider today then before I started reading this drivel.”

Such is a representative comment from the Men On Books club as we labored through The God Delusion. (My reviews start here.) Probably the most pointed summation of this book comes from Dr. Edward Feser in his book The Last Supersition. He references a book titled Philosophy for Dummies, and suggests that if a more dumbed down version of this book should ever need to be written, it could be titled Philosophy for Dawkins.

I have been avoiding writing a further review of this book, because I dread slogging through the drivel a second time. My procrastination has rewarded me with the finding of this bit of video gold:

Knowledge v Information

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “We Can Be Taught!.”

By: FRATER BOVIOUS


""There

“There is a book that gives the answers to 281 zen koans.”
“What good is that?”

(CARROLLTON, TX – Cradle of Civilization) You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him think.

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to think and he will always be hungry.

Give a man a book of zen koans with answers if you hate him.

Data is data, not knowledge. If you just give someone the answers, you specifically teach them not to think. But, we have rational souls, and the best teachers teach you to think. And why should we think? To know truth.

onehandclappingThe value of a zen koan consists in the relationship between the master and the student. It’s not a test, per se. It is a challenge to one’s mind. The right challenge at the right time is the genius of the master. One may never be asked if they can describe the sound of one hand clapping because the master may not find that particular koan useful for this particular student. That a book exists with the “answers” is both funny and sad.

In some traditions, a student is given one thought to ponder for the rest of his life. It makes sense, if everything is in fact interrelated. So, what does he do for the rest of his life if he finds the answer one day in the stacks at a library?

Not all koans are questions. One koan goes something like this: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” Such a statement may yield the desired results with one student, and not another.

I will wager that some of the best and most productive koans have been lost to history because they were developed on the spot by the master for a specific student, and then were set aside.

And probably many glimpses of truth simply go unrecognized, or are just ignored. Here is a koan:

“I am to be crucified. Follow me.”

Ignorance as the Pinnacle of Thought

How, exactly, did we get here?

By: FRATER BOVIOUS


I was talking with my son-in-law Nathan the other day and he told me about a conversation he had with a fellow student in his Continental Philosophy class. I can best describe the consequence of Continental Philosophy as received by today’s gullible youth through the exchange Nathan had with his fellow student (we’ll call him Barry.)

Barry held up some object, I think a coffee cup, and the conversation went like this:

Barry: “Prove to me this is real.”

Nathan: “What?”

Barry: “Prove to me this is real.”

Nathan: “What?”

Barry, insistent: “This! Prove to me this (shaking it) is real!”

Nathan, insistent: “What?!”

His interlocutor never got it. In many many ways.

When I recounted this episode to Frater Cowculus, holding up my cell phone instead of a coffee cup, he said that while he guessed he really wouldn’t do this, probably the only appropriate response would be to ask to see the cell phone, then drop it on the floor and smash it under his hobnailed boot. When the person freaked out, he’d say, “What? Is it real now?”

A fun variant would be to have this conversation in a parking lot at night under a street lamp, and ask to see the phone and then heave it into the darkness, out of sight. When the person said, “What the…” one could respond, “Now? Now, when you can’t even see or touch it, you think it’s real? How stupid is that?”

Such is the world of intellectual thuggery.

But, of course, the question being asked is not the question that was originally posed by Descartes. It is the mutated version of the original question, and an example of how, when you miss the mark by as little as one degree, it matters a lot when the target is a thousand miles or a thousand years away.

“Prove to me this is real” is the illegitimate child of “How do I know this is real?”

But to faux intellectuals, who don’t want to struggle with that question, it has metastasized into an odd sort of boast-as-challenge: “Prove to me this is real,” becomes, “See, I’m smarter than you,” in some weird sort of baseless self-affirmation.

Chesterton had something to say about this:

“It is ludicrous to suppose that the more sceptical we are the more we see good in everything. It is clear that the more we are certain what good is, the more we shall see good in everything.” – Heretics

The Frater Bovious corollary is: “Don’t say stupid things and think thereby you are smart. Otherwise don’t get upset at me for your inability to find your non-existent cell phone.” Another corollary would be, “Continental Philosophy is an opiate, with all that implies about its impact on your actual ability to reason vs your perceived ability to reason.

FB

Faith is a Four Letter Word

That Starts with “W”

By: FRATER BOVIOUS


mustard seed

How does a mustard seed have faith?
What does that even mean?

(CARROLLTON, TX – Cradle of Civilization) Faith. The final frontier. To boldly go where the mustard seed has gone before. (Apologies to Kirk and Picard and Gene Rodenberry.)

It seems that ‘faith’ is typically thought of as believing without reason. Yet, we are rational creatures, it seems that believing without reason is, well, irrational. Are we being fully human if we are being irrational?

Can you truly believe without reason? To paraphrase Socrates, is an unexamined faith worth believing? Perhaps not. How else can we think of faith?

Here are two considerations.

First Consideration:

What if, when we say “faith” we actually mean “framework for investigation”? Is that different from the idea of “framework of belief”? Is it possible that some a priori belief is necessary to reason? Is it not true that what we bring to an investigation affects the answers we find? Even if we are only looking for facts, is it not true that we will simply miss some facts because we aren’t looking for them? Or conversely, is it not the case that we will see facts that we want to see? Or interpret facts to fit our framework? This idea is called “confirmation bias” and it is considered a fallacy in formal logic because it means that we will see the evidence that supports our position, and not see the the evidence that does not. But, can we truly be rid of confirmation bias? At some other level, isn’t confirmation bias simply necessary? It seems that we may be stuck with confirmation bias, so we should perhaps choose our biases carefully.

It seems the case that in the empirical sciences a specific framework of belief is adopted in favor of some competing framework. A choice has been made. Don’t the investigative sciences start with the belief that there are in fact things to investigate and that such investigation is worthwhile?

Descartes explored the idea of what can we know and how do we know, and determined to set aside all previous thought and start from scratch. His endeavor led him to the famous statement “Cogito ergo sum”, I think, therefore I am. Was this a product of a soaring ego, determined to start from scratch and ignore all thought before him? Or was it simply an honest attempt to rigorously lay a foundation for rational thought, due to a suspicion that something could be wrong with the centuries of previous conclusions? A belief that there was fruit to be found by exploring this suspicion? Is there a difference?

What did this thinking of Descartes provide? What did we gain, and what did we lose? On the one hand, many will argue that we gained a formalized scientific method. On the other hand we lost the concept of Truth with a capital T. The question that used to be asked, “What is true?” was replaced with “Of what can I be certain?” These are different questions and their answers are bound within the framework under which they are considered.

Less immediately obvious, and the reason why Descartes is called the father of modern philosophy, is the overthrow of Aristotelianism (a sort of systematized common sense world view) in favor of, ultimately (and perhaps to his dismay), a materialist world view. Whether this is good or bad depends on who you ask. The point is, we have different world views in discussion these days and they are the result of certain frameworks for investigation. Or, to put it differently, everyone has a belief system.

Leaving off from this admittedly non-rigorously developed first way of thinking about faith, we shall move to the second, which presumes the first.

Second Consideration:

Taking what the Bible has to say as having any value is certainly a faith position, or a framework for investigation. Within that framework, what does it mean to say a mustard seed has faith? Here is the quote under consideration:

And the Lord said, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. (Luke 17:6)

?

If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed… how does a mustard seed have faith? What does that mean? Does it have to mean anything? If not, then what is the point of the story? Of the whole Bible? Why read it? The Bible is full of these bizarre stories. Are we supposed to just accept on faith that they are there for some inscrutable reason? What’s the point of that? So, what does it mean to have the faith of a mustard seed? Can we suss it out? Let’s investigate.

What does a mustard seed do? It grows into a mustard tree. In every case where it is provided the opportunity to do so, it grows into a mustard tree. Not a mulberry tree and not a vanilla orchid. Not wheat, not even quadrotriticale, favorite foodstuff of tribbles.

So, what does a mustard seed do? Given the opportunity and amenable environment, it will do exactly what it is supposed to do. A mustard seed, and presumably a tribble, are in complete conformity with the will of God.

Is this not the meaning of having the faith of a mustard seed? To be in complete conformity with the will of God? If we were in complete conformity with the will of God, and it was so ordered that we needed some obscure Biblical tree to jump into the ocean, would it not be so? If we act in accordance with the will of God with the same integrity as a mustard seed, is that not faith? And does not that mean that faith is a work? Is work? We are told:

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. 13* Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; 14 if you ask * anything in my name, I will do it. 15* “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (Jn 14:12-15)

I don’t know. Sounds like work to me.

Quote

“A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says is never accurate because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.”

–Bertrand Russell

Send in the Clones – With Apologies to Frank Sinatra

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Clone Wars.”

By: FRATER BOVIOUS


What separates the animate from the inanimate? Why, an animating principle, of course!

What separates the animate from the inanimate? Why, an animating principle, of course!

(CARROLLTON, TX – Cradle of Civilization) Dolly the sheep, remember her? She is known because she was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell. The cell was taken from the mammary gland of an adult sheep. Believe it or not, this is where she derived her name. One of the scientists involved in this, Ian Wilmut, said since Dolly derived from a mammary cell, and they could not think of a more impressive set of mammary glands than those of Dolly Parton, they named the sheep after her.

So, scientists do notice things outside their test tubes and petri dishes.

Dolly has three mothers, one provided the egg, one provided the DNA, and one carried the clone to term. Sounds like a pilot for a sitcom, right? “Post-modern Family”, maybe?

She was not the first animal to be cloned, but was the first cloned from an adult, differentiated cell, which demonstrated for the first time that a differentiated cell could revert to what is called the embryonic totipotent state, capable of developing into any part of an animal. Dolly was successfully bred, and produced a total of six offspring. She was euthanized at around age 6.5, roughly half the normal lifespan for her breed. She was severely ill with arthritis and lung cancer. It is not thought she developed either condition from being cloned, though there was some speculation that she might have been genetically six years old at birth since that was the age of the donor sheep.

The Daily Post prompt noted above asks, if you could clone yourself, how would you split up your responsibilities? This is a good question, not the least of which is the moral implications of such an action. The answer is, I would not clone myself, and here is why:

What is the difference between the animate and the inanimate? As Aristotle and Aquinas note in the graphic above, there is an animating principle. This is one of those things that sounds like they are using the term to define itself, and that usually means people don’t really understand the concept. So, here’s a thought: Why is there life at all, and how did it get started? The short answer is, “No one knows.”

So, saying that there is an animating principle at least acknowledges that something is different between a rock and a ladybug. What is that difference? One is alive, and one is not. What makes the difference? For lack of anything else, some sort of principle of animation is at work in the ladybug that is absent from the rock.

The Latin root for the word animate is anima, and is translated as breath or soul. Yup. soul. The Greek word is pneuma, and means, you guessed it, breath or soul. In traditional Chinese culture, they have a word for the animating principle also. Variously called “life force” or “energy flow”, the word is qi or chi, and you will never guess what the literal translation is. Yup, breath or air or gas.

Our word “soul” comes from an idea that seems common across a large part of the planet. An animating principle, generally recognized by the fact of some sort of air exchange.

What is the point of all this? Simply, some things are dead and stay dead. We have no examples of anything that has never been alive, coming to life. Life, so far as we know, always comes from life.

Some things are alive for a time, then they are not. The animating principle, though not often thought in this way in our American culture, is the soul. Some do say, “Their soul has left them” when people die. Many, such as atheists, will scoff at this statement. Replace it with, “Their animating principle has left them.” Seems obvious when put like that, does it not?

Something unique is involved in life, and for myself, that uniqueness is tied up in God breathing life into inanimate clay in Genesis.

The implications for me are as follows. A cloned creature, in as much as it is alive, has a soul. The Greeks, while believing that all living things, including plants, have souls, noted variations. There is the vegetative soul that animates plants. The sensitive soul which animates animals. And the rational soul which animates human beings.

The rational soul imbues a dignity into the human person. That means that humans cannot be considered as means to an end, as they are ends in themselves. Humans ought not be used.

Consider implications of cloning. Why not clone yourself (or compatible others) for spare parts? If the reader does not think that will happen once the technology is sufficiently advanced, than the reader is naive. I cannot use another human being, regardless of how derived, as livestock. But, someone will. Oh yes, someone will.

What about cloning and raising soldiers? Again, they would be human beings, used as means, instead of recognized as ends in themselves. And this would be an affront to all of humanity.

In both cases, I suspect the argument would be, “They aren’t really people, they are clones.” But, they would have rational souls, and would therefore be fully human, despite any wordplay. And, depriving them of their human dignity would deprive all mankind of human dignity. Rephrase the last line of Sinatra’s Send in the Clowns:

But where are the clones- send in the clones
Don’t bother, they’re here.

For these reasons, given the chance, I would not clone myself.

FB

Why There Almost Certainly Is No God

Well, sort of. Chapter 4 of “The God Delusion”

By FRATER BOVIOUS


"I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail." - Maslow, 1966

“I call it the law of the instrument, and it may be formulated as follows: Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.” – Abraham Kaplan

(CARROLLTON, TX – Cradle of Civilization) The above is one version of a quote that reportedly originated in a speech given by Professor of Philosophy at UCLA, Abraham Kaplan. The occasion was a banquet speech given at conference of the American Educational Research Association. It was reported on in the Journal of Medical Education in June of 1962; I provide a quote from that report below:

The highlight of the 3-day meeting, however, was to be found in Kaplan’s comment on the choice of methods for research. He urged that scientists exercise good judgment in the selection of appropriate methods for their research. Because certain methods happen to be handy, or a given individual has been trained to use a specific method, is no assurance that the method is appropriate for all problems. He cited Kaplan’s Law of the Instrument: “Give a boy a hammer and everything he meets has to be pounded.”

I start with this because it is evident from The God Delusion that Richard Dawkins has a school girl crush on Natural Selection. Natural Selection is the be-all and end-all for Dawkins, and he imbues it with powers and abilities that transcend biology and enter into, well, everything. He sees the hand of Natural Selection, or some non-biological analog of it, literally everywhere.

The second thing I want to point out is a consequence of how his love affair with Natural Selection, leads him into confirmation bias, resulting in a particular misquote that bears some serious scrutiny as it speaks to his willingness to accept an outrageous quote as factual, when it is instead an egregious example of “quote mining”.

We see quote mining all the time in advertisements for movies, where a sentence is taken completely out of context from a scathing review of a movie, and used as if it was praise from a movie reviewer. Here is an example.

Live Free or Die Hard. Blurb: Jack Mathews, New York Daily News: “Hysterically…entertaining.” Actual written line: “The action in this fast-paced, hysterically overproduced and surprisingly entertaining film is as realistic as a Road Runner cartoon.”

Note the ellipses in the above, between “hysterically” and “entertaining.” At least they had the integrity to let on that the quote was edited.

However, in Chapter 4 of The God Delusion, in a section titled The Worship of Gaps Dawkins introduces, in his words, an imaginary “intelligent design theorist” into whose mouth he puts all manner of nonsense, such as “if you don’t understand how something works, never mind: just give up and say God did it.” (p 159.)

This is followed by the below quote, with no ellipses:

St Augustine said it quite openly: ‘There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity. It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which man should not wish to learn.’ (quoted in Freeman 2002) from (p 159.)

It’s pretty powerful statement, right? He describes an imaginary person saying something idiotic, then backs it up with a Doctor of the Church.

Now, I’ve actually read some St. Augustine, and studied his thought a bit. And that quote simply smelled bad. So, I did some checking. In approximately 3 seconds, I found this post on Dawkins, and he referred this post with a link to the actual text. What Augustine actually wrote is in The Confessions, Chapter X.

Allow me to summarize. First, between the somewhat inaccurately quoted “fraught with danger” and the also inaccurately quoted “this is the disease of curiosity” there are 447 words missing.

Quote mining is sometimes called “contextomy”, meaning, like with an appendectomy, where an appendix has been cut out, that in quote mining, the context has been cut out. Suffice to say, excising approximately 50 sentences effectively removes the context. As one of the links I provided above notes at the end of his post, the dishonesty in this misquote is Freeman’s, the intellectual laziness and shoddy scholarship is Dawkins. But, as a reminder, Dawkins has canonized shoddy scholarship. Remember, he needn’t read or understand the arguments in opposition to his, since, “nanny nanny boo bobby.” Ok, that’s my translation of him saying he needn’t read tracts on Leprechauns to refute the existence of same, therefore, he needn’t actually be conversant with, say, Augustine, to refute what he has to say.

As to what Augustine is saying, he is saying that idle curiosity is bad for the same reason that a steady diet of Cheetos is bad. He is not saying that studying nature is bad anymore than eating healthy food is bad. But don’t take my word for it. Read The Confessions of St. Augustine. It is a free Kindle download from Amazon.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Suffice to say, this bit of fact checking has me looking at everything that Dawkins says about anything with a raised eyebrow. Can we  trust his scholarship? Can we trust his conclusions? More to the point, is he addressing actual arguments, or are they all the type of argument with which he introduced his Augustine misquote? That is to say, how many times will we see him present for our consideration an imagined apologist for God, have that person say things that no one says, and then tie it in with a misrepresentation of the position of someone that does exist?

I have no idea. But, let’s briefly look at why there is almost certainly no God.

This entire chapter is a pitting of Intelligent Design (ID) against Natural Selection. Now, a problem here, for me, is simply this. I am not an ID guy. I don’t find the argument compelling, I almost see it as special pleading. And, Dawkins, being a materialist, isn’t going to see anywhere an argument regarding the supernatural that is immaterial, and he is clearly (blissfully?) unaware (based on his laughable treatment of Aquinas) of the concept of simplicity as it would apply to an immaterial All. Instead, he sees any hope of a defensible argument of God being one that deals with a highly complex being.

Clearly we have terminology issues. But this is why, on page 151, Dawkins concludes that the idea of Irreducible Complexity, while it would wreck Natural Selection, would also necessarily wreck God, since God is necessarily irreducibly complex. Here, look at this paragraph:

In any case, even though genuinely irreducible complexity would wreck Darwin’s theory, if it were ever found, who is to say that it wouldn’t wreck the intelligent design theory as well? Indeed, it already has wrecked the intelligent design theory, for, as I keep saying and will say again, however little we know about God, the one thing we can be sure of is that he would have to be very very complex and presumably irreducibly so!

Because Dawkins is a materialist he simply can’t or won’t see this idea: God, being immaterial is necessarily simple. For God to be complex, even irreducibly complex, would require that God be material. It would also require that God be made by an Intelligent Designer, or perhaps, Natural Selection. Complexity requires matter, discrete matter, parts, if you will, working together in some way. To be immaterial is to be simple. No parts. This is not part of Dawkins’s God Hypothesis, and so it doesn’t factor in to any of his arguments. And it gives rise to the snarky, “Oh yeah, so who made God? In your face Bozo!” retorts that are thought to be so, umm, smart?

Here is another misunderstanding (or misrepresentation, it is hard to know which) regarding the concept of mystery. “Mystics exult in mystery and want it to stay mysterious” (p 152) meaning the earlier noted idea that if we don’t understand it, just say God did it. Like that was ever an actual argument.

Now, there may be some folks that hold that position. But, it isn’t an authentic position. Mystery is the subject of knowledge. Mystery refers to a reality so large, and so intelligible (yes, intelligible), that we will never exhaust it, though there is no theoretical end to how much we can understand. Let that sink in a bit.

So, lets look at the sections in this chapter, keeping all of the above in mind.

In the section titled Irreducible Complexity, he gives us the parable of Mount Improbable. This is an argument about probabilities, the linchpin of the whole chapter, hence the title of the chapter. Another way of saying “Why there almost certainly is no God” is “Why there is probably no God.” So, he’s taking a scientific approach. Based on probability. Like his approach, based on probability, where he concluded that “very probably” advanced alien civilizations exist (p. 98.)

So, Mount Improbable is this mountain with a sheer cliff face on one side, that is all but insurmountable. The ID folks say, “You just can’t get from the floor of the valley up that sheer wall in one leap. Therefore Intelligent Design.” (Insert caveat regarding taking anything Dawkins represents as an argument from his opposition being at least questionable in its accuracy, viz. Augustine misquote above.) Anyway, natural selection doesn’t climb the sheer face. See, on the other side of the mountain, which ID proponents are too stupid to see, is a gently sloping path along which Dawkins invites us to wend our leisurely way up the mountain to the summit, be it an eye, or wing, or some other supposedly irreducibly complex thing. We have replaced a virtual impossibility with a series of only mildly improbable changes brought on by natural selection. No intelligent design necessary.

The section on irreducible complexity ends with the quote from p. 151 reproduced above. This then led into The Worship Of Gaps, which includes the astonishing misquote of Augustine.

He gives an interesting example of a Penn and Teller magic trick where they apparently shoot each other, and each catches the bullet in their teeth. He says that, rather than think, “A miracle!” we should think, “Wow, they are world class illusionists, and I just can’t figure it out.” This he says should be the proper way we respond to apparent irreducible complexity. I don’t think he intended it this way, but he kind of said we should shout “Wonder workers!” instead of “Miracle workers!” I would hope what he really meant was “We should admire their skill and ask ourselves, ‘How did they do it?'”

He then spends most of the rest of this section on irreducible complexity and intelligent design and why natural selection solves every problem he can think to throw at it. There is also a lot of talk about consciousness raising. We should embrace natural selection because it will open our minds to heretofore unimaginable vistas of rationality.

How this demonstrates why there is almost certainly no God is unclear to me. So far he has mounted an argument against ID, supposing it to be the strongest argument for the existence of God, or at least that is my assumption. So, if you take out the strongest argument, well, you’ve taken out the strongest argument. You have failed to demonstrate why probability precludes God.

So, then we go to the section titled Anthropic Principle: Planetary Version. Here he gets at a more interesting question. Set aside all the development of life, how did life begin? Fasten your seat-belts.

He starts here:

The root of evolution in non-biological chemistry somehow seems to present a bigger gap than any particular transition during subsequent evolution. And in one sense it is a bigger gap. That one sense is quite specific, and it offers no comfort to the religious apologist. The origin of life only had to happen once. We therefore can allow it to have been an extremely improbable event, many orders of magnitude more improbable than most people realize, as I shall show (p 162).

Dawkins then goes into the anthropic principle. I will paraphrase briefly. It seems that things are incredibly fine-tuned, even at the atomic level, such that even a slight variance would preclude the laws of nature as we know them today, and conceivably, life, or even existence, itself. In other words, things have to be just like they are in order for us to exist. Well, that just kind of seems self-evident to me. Yes it is true that things have to be just like they are for us to exist. But my own almost gut response to the question, “What would happen if something were different?” is:

  1. If things were different but we still existed, then we would be correspondingly different. Maybe silicon based instead of carbon based, for example. But would I still be me? How can I know? Things are as they are and we cannot test differences in say, how the nuclear forces work at the atomic level. Does the question have any meaning?
  2. Or, we wouldn’t exist at all, and so we wouldn’t be asking about it.

I have always been basically uninterested in the argument. Now, Dawkins believes that the anthropic principle works against ID, since he sees it as an alternative theory. I guess that depends. I can see an ID supporter saying, “It had to be designed this way” and maybe throwing in irreducible complexity to boot as support. Nevertheless, Dawkins has simply decided that ID folks can’t use the anthropic principle, I guess because it is too scientific and they’re just not allowed. Because, you see, the anthropic approach “is very different, and it has a faintly Darwinian feel” (p 163.)

He then intends to show why they are mutually exclusive. He provides two views, using the so-called Goldilocks Zone (This orbit is too far out, this orbit is too close in, but this orbit is just right) as an example. ID says that God made the universe and put the earth in the Goldilocks Zone so that life could be supported. The anthropic principle says, no, no design involved, that’s just how it worked out, because, statistics.

He then actually says, on page 165, “Scientists invoke the magic of large numbers.” He picks one in a billion as the chance that life arises on a given planet in the Goldilocks Zone, and states that there are a billion billion planets in the Goldilocks Zone. He concludes that “If the odds of life originating spontaneously on a planet were a billion to one against, nevertheless that stupefyingly improbably event would still happen on a billion planets.”

He then states that his statistical argument “completely demolishes” any suggestion that we should postulate design to fill the gap (p 166.)

Alrighty then.

As I have already noted, I am not an ID guy, but, Dawkins’s statistical argument is a farce because he just can’t look at someone and say, “you can’t use this as part of your design argument.” Of course they can use the anthropic principle as part of an ID argument. He has not demonstrated that the anthropic principle is simply off limits for ID theorists. What a stupid conclusion.

Here is the richest part of his scientific and statistical tour de force regarding the anthropic principle:

The origin of life, by contrast, lies outside the reach of that crane (he refers to Darwinian Evolution as a “crane” that lifts our consciences), because natural selection cannot proceed without it.

Here I agree, natural selection presumes life, it does not explain why there is any life. But, wait, there’s more:

Here the anthropic principle comes into its own. We can deal with the unique origin of life by postulating a very large number of planetary opportunities. Once that initial stroke of luck has been granted – and the anthropic principle most decisively grants it to us – natural selection takes over: and natural selection is emphatically not a matter of luck (p 168.)

The anthropic principle decisively grants us luck.

A moment of reverential awe may be inserted here. May I suggest we all listen to this before we continue?

Another stupid conclusion near the end of this section: “…design certainly does not work as an explanation for life, because design is ultimately not cumulative and it therefore raises bigger questions that it answers…”

So, all you designers out there, as you work on things, and build models, and then adjust your design to account for heretofore unknown variables revealed by your models, just remember, all those design changes made to make your project perform as you have envisioned, well, that’s not cumulative.

So, it goes on an on. His chapter on The Anthropic Principle: Cosmological Version is especially rich. He says things like

A God capable  of calculating the Goldilocks values for the six numbers (Martin Rees, in a book titled “Just Six Numbers”, has come up with six fundamental constants required for life as we know it – FB) would have to be at least as improbable as the finely tuned combination of numbers itself, and that’s very improbable indeed. This is exactly the premise of the whole discussion at hand.

This appears to be Dawkins’s explanation as to why there almost certainly is not God. Because God is at least as improbable as the fine tuning necessary to have life in the first place.

What?

Dawkins explanation of why the universe is the way it is, is much more scientific. It involves the multi-verse. Seriously, see page 173. The multi-verse. In the multi-verse, those universes with the six numbers dialed to life will… will… will mean that we are in one of them.

Lastly, on page 177, Dawkins addresses the idea of a simple God. He says that someone named Swinburne asserts, “without justification” that God is a single substance. Dawkins simply asserts on page 178 that a God capable of controlling the individual status of every particle in the universe cannot be simple.

Therefore, almost certainly, no God.

That’s his argument. God is too complicated to have been evolved, therefore, he probably does not exist. That’s the summation. It is based on his God Hypothesis, which I noted does not include the attribute of being immaterial, and then works from there. The rest of the book is about why, since God probably does not exist, we should dispense with religion.

Dawkins whole chapter on the probability of God amounts to mere opinion. He prefers luck.

If you find his arguments compelling, let me know.

FB