Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Another Mild Ticking Off for Dawkins from Pigliucci

In the latest edition (volume 31, Issue 4) of Skeptical Inquirer, Massimo Pigliucci offers Richard Dawkins a mild ticking off for his lack of philosophical subtlety in The God Delusion.

Pigliucci notes that: 'Dawkins received an especially large share of criticism... with theologians and biologists alike telling him that he made fundamental mistakes in both theology and science.' Pigliucci thinks that: 'By and large, he did neither, but he can be criticised for a somewhat sloppy philosophy.' The reason Pigliucci thinks that Dawkins didn't make basic mistakes in theology (by and large) is the same as Dawkins' response to this criticism, namely, that theology isn't a subject and therefore not something one can be mistaken about! Need I really say more? Responding to Jim Holt's complaint that Dawkins dismisses the ontological argument without engaging with any of the sophisticated modern versions that are harder to refute than Anselm's version, Pigliucci displays a Dawkins-like propensity not to deal with the substantive issues: 'the reason why the ontological "argument" for the existence of God... is difficult to reject logically is because it is fundamentally nonsensical, similar to asking what the color of triangles is.' The only professional critique of the ontological argument that comes close to Pigliucci's statement is an argument by J.N. Findley, an argument subsequently soundly trounced by Norman L. Geisler. Even if Pigliucci were right, he expresses himself all wrong! To suggest that the ontological argument is nonsensical is not to suggest why it is 'difficult to reject logically', but rather it is precisely to suggest that it is logically refutable with reference to the logical incoherence of the argument! It is not. What atheists will question about the ontological argument is the truth of the premise that God's existence is possible (for the argument - as given by Plantinga - is that if God's existence is possible then it must be actual, because by definition God has necessary existence if he exists.)

Pigliucci again: 'The problem is that Dawkins... is no fan of philosophy, repeatedly displaying the all-too-common attitude of intellectual smugness shared by other scientists... for example, Dawkins invents an imaginary moral philosopher in order to mock the whole idea that philosophy has something to contribute to our understanding of morality. Bad move, because it turns out that Dawkins' argument throughout The God Delusion is, in fact, a very compelling philosophical argument.' Apart from the 'very compelling' (and suspicions to the contrary might be sparked by the observation that Dawkins so blatantly contradicts himself), I agree.

Pigliucci ends by asserting that: 'to believe in anything despite the complete lack of evidence is, in fact, irrational.' Interesting. What is your evidence for that?

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