Re: [asa] Dawkins, religion, and children

From: PvM <>
Date: Tue May 01 2007 - 13:04:04 EDT

Dawkins addresses these issues in the God Delusion as explained below,
though it helps to see the full text..

About the Ontological Argument
<quote>It is possible to conceive, Anselm said, of a being than which
nothing greater can be conceived. Even an atheist can conceive of such
a superlative being, though he would deny its existence in the real
world. But, goes the argument, a being that doesn't exist in the real
world is, by that very fact, less than perfect. Therefore we
have a contradiction and, hey presto, God exists!</quote>

The simple response seems to be that it is impossible to conceive of a
being than which nothing greater can be conceived, it's like finding
the largest prime.

So perhaps perfection is found in non-existence after all. Or what
about the most perfect being, would such a being be all powerful? If
not it is not perfect. But if it were all powerful, it should be able
to create something more powerful than himself, and thus he would not
be perfect.
Things get complicated with such 'logic'.

But we are getting too far away from the original statement by Collins

<quote>Francis Collins: "I would argue that atheism is the least
rational of all choices because that assumes that you know enough to
assume the possibility of God [in the first place]</quote>

So far I have failed to see a good response to this question.

David O
> A-fairyians is another silly comparison because, once again, fairies do not
> underwrite a coherent worldview as does the concept of the Christian God.

How have you establishes this and what relevance does this have? Proof
by assertion just somehow does not make for a very impressive
argument. So do fairies exist or not? Does something exist just
because some claim that it forms a coherent worldview? These are very
unsatisfactory answers to a very relevant question.

Dick: You wouldn't be making this argument if you had been among the
Israelites being lead through the wilderness by a column of smoke by
day and a pillar of fire by night. It wasn't the "spaghetti monster"
who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. In short, we have the
testimony of 44 authors writing over a period of fifteen hundred
years, all who testified to the living God of the Judeo-Christian
tradition. If I am persuaded by data and evidence alone it is He, the
great "I Am," that gets my vote.

So we get to vote across the board? Zeus, Thor, And the many other
gods about whom countless 'eyewitness' stories exist, passed down
through countless generations. I agree that the biblical story is
mostly internally coherent but does that make it right? Give the
spaghetti monster some time and who knows... It may go the same way as
the stories of L Ron Hubbard.
And we know that he must be right as countless books have been written
on this topic.

Perhaps somewhat tongue in cheek but I find these answers not very
satisfying. How does one respond to Dawkins' statement without
presuming that one is right? Is the answer, as some have suggested, a
coherent worldview? But then the question becomes, that there are many
coherent worldviews and coherency cannot be defined to be 'Christian
God' without becoming tautological.
I see Dawkins' argument as quite powerful and we may reject it as
lacking in theological depth, but to the layperson, the argument
sounds quite solid. Is the best answer one which argues that
philosophically speaking the ontological argument seems puzzling?

On 5/1/07, Rich Blinne <> wrote:
> On 5/1/07, PvM <> wrote:
> >
> > Collins' argument seems illogical to say the least, especially when
> > applied to any other 'entity', such as Thor, Zeus, the flying
> > spaghetti monster etc.
> >
> >
> Collins' argument does not apply to any other "entity" but to any other
> "Being" [Note capitalization]. Since Being is singular the concept of
> probabilities does not apply due to the lack of a statistical sample. As
> David O. noted the FSM is merely a re-labeling and does not substantively
> address either the strengths or weaknesses of the argument. All the normal
> pluses and minuses of the ontological argument apply here.
> That Dawkins does not have the philosophical chops that even other atheists
> have to understand the traditional theistic arguments and their derivatives
> was noticed by NY Times reviewer, Jim Holt, of the God Delusion:
> >
> >
> > The least satisfying part of this book is Dawkins's treatment of the
> traditional arguments for the existence of God. The "ontological argument"
> says that God must exist by his very nature, since he possesses all
> perfections, and it is more perfect to exist than not to exist. The
> "cosmological argument" says that the world must have an ultimate cause, and
> this cause could only be an eternal, God-like entity. The "design argument"
> appeals to special features of the universe (such as its suitability for the
> emergence of intelligent life), submitting that such features make it more
> probable than not that the universe had a purposive cosmic designer.
> >
> > These, in a nutshell, are the Big Three arguments. To Dawkins, they are
> simply ridiculous. He dismisses the ontological argument as "infantile" and
> "dialectical prestidigitation" without quite identifying the defect in its
> logic, and he is baffled that a philosopher like Russell "no fool" could
> take it seriously. He seems unaware that this argument, though medieval in
> origin, comes in sophisticated modern versions that are not at all easy to
> refute. Shirking the intellectual hard work, Dawkins prefers to move on to
> parodic "proofs" that he has found on the Internet, like the "Argument From
> Emotional Blackmail: God loves you. How could you be so heartless as not to
> believe in him? Therefore God exists." (For those who want to understand the
> weaknesses in the standard arguments for God's existence, the best source I
> know remains the atheist philosopher J. L. Mackie's 1982 book "The Miracle
> of Theism.")

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Received on Tue May 1 13:04:49 2007

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