Dawkins deconstructed

Richard Dawkins’ much reviewed (and found wanting) book ‘The God Delusion’ gets another review in The New York review of Books, this time by H. Allen Orr, Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester (USA) and titled, A mission to convert [ht: Fernando Gros]
The review deals with some of the specifics of Dawkins’ argument but lays most of its criticism at the very selective use of reason, philosophy and evidence to support an a priori conclusion. Such an eminenet scientist should know better how to apply a scientific method to both sides of the argument.
But, as Orr writes…

One reason for the lack of extended argument in The God Delusion is clear: Dawkins doesn’t seem very good at it. Indeed he suffers from several problems when attempting to reason philosophically. The most obvious is that he has a preordained set of conclusions at which he’s determined to arrive. Consequently, Dawkins uses any argument, however feeble, that seems to get him there and the merit of various arguments appears judged largely by where they lead.

The most important example involves Dawkins’s discussion of philosophical arguments for the existence of God as opposed to his own argument against God, which he presents as the intellectual heart of his book. Considering arguments for God, Dawkins is careful to recite the many standard objections to them and writes that the traditional proofs are “vacuous,” “dubious,” “infantile,” and “perniciously misleading.” But turning to his own Ultimate Boeing 747 argument against God, Dawkins is suddenly uninterested in criticism and writes that his argument is “unanswerable.” So why, you might wonder, is a clever philosophical argument for God subject to withering criticism while one against God gets a free pass and is deemed devastating?

Dawkins seems unaware that his dogmatism does not dress up well in the tattered clothes of pseudo reason that he brings to his argument. The most devastating argument looks stupid when presented in a ranting and fundamentalist way. As contemporary Christians we are only too painfully aware of the damage that can be done to people’s understanding of the gospel when zealots rail against unbelievers or act like obsessed pressure groups.

This review is well worth reading and a good overview of the severe weaknesses of Richard Dawkins’ case. The tragedy is that if he carries on like this he will be rememberd as the once brilliant scientist who lost it and became a religious nutcase, albeit an atheistic one.

UPDATE – 18 Jan 2007: Here’s another review worth reading, this time from Terry Eagleton, John Edward Taylor Professor of English Literature at Manchester University. [ht Bishop Mike]

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