The Richard Dawkins Delusion

Email Print


Since the 2006
publication, by Bantam Press, of Richard Dawkins The
God Delusion
many commentators have critiqued it, largely
for being an evangelical atheistic attack on religiosity
and the mystical mind: The problem, for most commentators, seems
to be the evangelical nature of Dawkins's attack itself rather than
the content of his argument. Indeed, I see more attacks on his style
than I do on his argument.

contention is that Dawkins makes a categorical error in trying to
apply the scientific method of the natural sciences to disprove
an entirely logical phenomenon. In terms of logic I shall
now attempt to disprove his theses, and to demonstrate that God
does indeed exist.

Dawkins is
a natural scientist. His method of reasoning is firmly rooted in
20th century scientific positivism. Prior to Karl Popper's
Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959), it was assumed that a scientific
proposition could only be maintained if it accorded to established
fact. Popper pointed out that no theory could be maintained if it
is refuted by some data of experience. Popper was contrasting say
a mathematical proof, which is entirely in the mind (such as 2 + 2 = 4)
which needs no empirical testing to prove it, with for example the
fact that water will boil at a certain temperature, which needs
to be empirically expressed before one believes it. The next step
in the process is to declare a theory "un-scientific"
if it cannot be refuted by experience. This is reasoning a
posteriori dependant on experience. In applying scientific
method to the question "does God exist," the answer from
Dawkins is a resounding NO!

these are the rules of the game, then we can only but agree with
him. Only the data of experience will now prove to Dawkins that
God exists. As we have none that seems credible, it is a matter
of Faith. Faith v Science, for the Modern Mind, places most reasoning
people in the camp of Science. The un-reasoning mind is therefore
deemed to be the religious and mystical mind and somewhat prejudiced
and backward and or primitive. Dawkins, in the name of science and
what he understands as reason, proceeds to demolish some of the
more wildly mystical and witch doctor interpretations and commands
of religion with some aplomb. Fair play to the man for sure as they
deserve to be savagely attacked by an acute mind such as his.

However, as
man can introspect as say a chemical or a stone, a gene or any subject
of the natural science can not, we have open to us another method
of acquiring knowledge, that is via reason independent of experience
i.e. knowledge derived a-priori. It should also be noted at this
point, that for a thoughtful introspecting human, being capable
of making abstract deductions, experience is history and
nothing else. It cannot tell us anything but past history, past
data series. It can yield up no irrefutable truth, just very good
associations, correlations etc. In fact as Dawkins points out, Darwin's
Theory of Evolution is very highly probable to be true, but it has
the possibility of being refuted by other experience. As such Darwinian
Theory is scientific, but we cannot say for sure, for 100% certainly,
that it is true. Whilst Evolution has mounds of scientific data
to support it, lots of experience, lots of history, God does not.
As Dawkins admits, this does not kill God off stone dead; it just
makes God very, very highly improbable whereas something like Evolution,
very, very highly probable. I would disagree with Dawkins on this
point, God as a scientific proposition is not a conjecture that
is capable of being refuted: God is not open to proving or disapproving
via experience.

Indeed we have
open to us introspecting beings the beauty of knowledge acquired
a-priori. Subjects of the natural scientist are denied this; the
subject of the Human science is not. God exists via the realm of
the a-priori, independent of experience, and can never exist in
the realm of the a posteriori; by the data of experience
or history.

is a-priori correct reasoning? How do you correctly reason?

worked out that there were three Laws of Logic the formal explanation
is as follows:

  1. A=A: The
    Law of Identity. A table is a table because it just is so.
  2. Not (A and
    not A): The Law of Non-Contradiction, if I am being boring, then
    it is not the case that this talk is not boring
  3. A or not
    A: The Law of the Excluded Middle, if you have two contradictory
    properties i.e. green and not green, all things are either one
    of the two, green or not green, and certainly not both.

argument that contradicts the above needs to be discarded.

A great example
of how you can use logic to reason correctly is in maths. For example,
we all know that if 2 x X = 20, X must be 10; if you
tried to argue it any other way, you would conflict with the Laws
of Logic. However, any which way you turn around the equation, with
a logical argument, will always lead to a truthful answer, as the
premise is correct.

This is very
powerful because we can establish truthful propositions in logic
that can only be refuted should their premise or the deductions
from them fall foul of one of Aristotle's a-priori laws of logic.
Not only are the truths of mathematics rooted on the a-priori, so
are the truths of the human sciences. For example; the Austrian
polymath Ludwig Von Mises shows in his masterful book Human
(1949) how all the laws of economics can be deduced
from the axiom that humans act purposefully. As Mises shows, in
order to be, we act purposefully. Not being, we would
not act, indeed we would not exist. We act upon satisfying
our most urgent needs first, then our second most urgent needs,
and so on a so forth. Ranking preferences, with the most urgent
needs/demands being satisfied first, the least urgent, the furthest
away in time. From this hierarchy we derive the law of demand, the
downward sloping demand curve, the law of diminishing marginal utility
(see here
for a good illustration
) and on and on it goes. Lord Lionel
Robbins in the masterful 1932 book, The
Nature and Significance of Economic Science
shows in very
clear terms how all the laws of Economics are derived from the a-priori
thought process. No data of experience is needed to establish that
a demand curve is always downward sloping. This has real meaning
in life and imparts upon how man acts in society. Experience cannot
refute these laws although many modern economists will produce sets
of statistical data that seem to contradict some of the Laws of
Economics, but in reality, they have just got whatever they are
trying to correlate wrong. A-priori knowledge contains real truths
that are not just meaningless tautologies.

try to refute it, you cannot, as you act purposefully to do so.
Just as Pythagoras's Theorem is implied in the concept of a right
angle triangle-and we knew about the concept of the right angle
triangle before Pythagoras "discovered" his Theorem, so,
to do the laws of economics flow from the one irrefutable axiom
that humans act purposefully. It is a bit like saying Darwin "discovered"
the Theory of Evolution, when what he actually did was articulate
it and find very plausible data sets to help explain it to the sceptical
mind. Evolution was always there.

For all positivist
science, it seems to rely on the very negative contention that the
existing state of understanding is correct only because nothing
has refuted it. This does not mean that what the laws that science
rest on may well be truthful, full stop and unqualified. If Euclidian
geometry is tautological, as a positivist would argue, it can tell
us nothing useful about the world we experience. For example, in
engineering, the laws of Euclidian Geometry applied to construction.
The fact that you would not want to knowingly walk on a bridge not
constructed within the confines of the laws of Euclidian geometry,
as it would fall down, implies that these laws have a great benefit
to our understanding of the world and are not mere tautological
propositions that can deliver up no knowledge capable of being acted
upon. Likewise, the Laws that govern how this paper has been written
on a computer, or transmitted via the internet to someone-else will
not be capable of disproving and are therefore un-scientific, they
are right otherwise this would never be written and transmitted.

My contention
is that God exists a-priori and that Dawkins in his dismissal of
the cosmological argument of Aquinas in particular, shows his lack
of understanding of that argument and the distinction between a-priori
and a-posteriori knowledge.

Dawkins summarizes
(page 77) three of the "five proofs" of Aquinas as "all
involve an infinite regress — the answer to a question raises a
prior question, and so on ad infinitum." In his own
words, he proceeds to list the three as follows;

  1. The Unmoved
    Mover. Nothing moves without a prior mover. This leads to
    a regress, from which the only escape is God. Something had to
    make the first move, and that something we call God.
  2. The Uncaused
    Cause. Nothing is caused by itself. Every effect has a prior
    cause, and again we are pushed back into regress. This has to
    be terminated by a first cause, which we call God.
  3. The Cosmological
    Argument. There must have been a time when no physical thing
    existed. But, since physical things exist now, there must have
    been something non-physical to bring them into existence, and
    that something we call God.

He continues:
"All three of these arguments rely upon the idea of a regress
and invoke God to terminate it. They make the entirely unwarranted
assumption that God himself is immune to the regress. Even if we
allow the dubious luxury of arbitrarily conjuring up a terminator
to an infinite regress and giving it a name, simply because we need
one, there is absolutely no reason to endow that terminator with
any of the properties normally ascribed to God."

So to Dawkins,
it is an "unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune
to the regress." He does not say why. Why, Richard, is it unwarranted?
If it is so self-evident (and needs no further explanation to his
readers) that this is unwarranted, why is it not stated? I suspect
it is because Dawkins does not know.

In the physical
universe no physical property is infinite. If this was the case,
only it would exist. It does not, as you and certainly
I exists along with countless other physical things. So how did
we come into existence?

The Unmoved
Mover of Aristotle (introduced to us specifically in his Metaphysics
Book VI, X1, XII and in Physics, Book VII and VIII) comes into play
here. The human mind cannot conceive of anything physical without
postulating another physical cause for that thing. Cause and effect
are a category of the human mind: absent it, and you have no human
mind. All material things have cause and effect; one physical thing
bounds another physical thing with nothing being infinite. If nothing
is infinite, there simply must be a first cause. Therefore logic
clearly dictates that the first cause, if it cannot be physical
or material, must be immaterial. We call this God.

Unless you
are prepared to boot out Logic as a valid system for ascertaining
truth, then you cannot escape the undeniable existence of God.

Perhaps Anthony
Flew, whom Dawkins questioned in his book, realised this line of
logic when he converted to a belief in a Deity.

An article
Dawkins sites in The God Delusion says the following (from
Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 25, Number 2):

Flawed Science

by Victor
J. Stenger

we can avoid an infinite regress. We can just stop at the world.
There is no reason why the physical universe cannot be it's own
first cause. As we know from both everyday experience and sophisticated
scientific observations, complex systems develop from simpler
systems all the time in nature — with not even low intelligence
required. A mist of water vapor can freeze into a snowflake. Winds
can carve out great cathedrals in rock. Brontosaurs can evolve
from bacteria.

And our relatively
complex universe could have arisen out of the entity that is the
simplest and most mindless of all — the void."

I cannot see
how Stenger avoids an infinite regress. The void then becomes the
causeless cause, the prime mover or indeed God. Out of the causeless
void comes the universe. I cannot throw out the category of my mind
that only allows me to understand, or see the world in terms of
cause and effect. Like Aristotle, I cannot throw out or suspend
logic on this point. I may have reasoned illogically but am certainly
unaware of the error. I may have misread Aristotle, but again, cannot
see why.

In The Ancestor's
Tale by Dawkins (page 467–468), he says, "Heredity began
as a lucky initiation of an autocatalytic, or otherwise self-regenerating,
process. It immediately took off and spread like a fire, eventually
leading to natural selection – and all that was to follow."

So for Dawkins,
the initial replicator that kicks it all off is self-causing. I
postulate, like Aristotle, that this line of reasoning does not
conform to the laws of logic and must therefore be discarded. God
(immaterial and unmovable) is the initial cause. What its purpose
is is indeed another argument. Applying the method of the physical
sciences will not answer the question "is God a delusion?"
Only logic will answer that and it is purely a cognitive process
of logical deduction.

science of Dawkins is truly wonderful to read. He is a great teacher
who unravels some of the beautiful mysteries of the world. For that
I thank him. On God, I would advise him to look at the logic of
Aristotle and try to refute it.

9, 2007

Baxendale [send
him mail
] is a Food Entrepreneur based in the UK. The company
he founded and is CEO of, Seafood Holdings Ltd, is the 2nd largest
supplier of fresh fish to the independent sector in the UK. He has
also established and funded the 1st Distinguished Hayek Visiting
Teaching Fellowship Program at the LSE in Honour of the Nobel Laureate
F A Hayek.

Email Print