Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Ignorance is a virtue...

... at least it is if you're Professor Richard Dawkins or one of his disciples.

Maybe you're familiar with Dawkins' standard response to the argument that "design is evidence of a designer". (The point being that the immense and omnipresent design in the cosmos speaks of a designer with a mind immense beyond our conceptions). Dawkins' response is to say that identifying God as the designer doesn't "solve" anything - because then we'd have to ask who designed God. God, says Dawkins, must be more "complex" than what he designed, so he would in turn call for another designer responsible for him.

Maybe you find the above argument interesting or difficult to answer. That won't be the case, though, if you've done the tiniest bit of reading in the area of philosophical theology. The "simplicity" of God is a very basic issue, and Christian theologians have argued for many, many centuries that God must be ontologically "simple" - i.e. that in his being, his various attributes (holiness, knowledge, power, etc.) are not discrete add-ons to what he is, but that they actually identical with what he is, essentially present throughout his entire being.

Professor Dawkins, though, continues to trot out the argument described above as if nobody had ever heard of it, thought of it or given an answer to it. He betrays no evidence whatsoever that he's even aware that his clever argument hasn't been answered for many centuries - and hence he nowhere even comes near thinking about how to answer it. It's for reasons like this that many Dawkins observers such as myself conclude that Dawkins' main aim is to "preach to the choir" - to build a personal empire of uncritical followers, sell them books and T-Shirts, and encourage those who want to be convinced of atheism whether the evidence supports it or not.

In this link from the Independent newspaper, we have Dawkins' answer to such criticisms. He asks, "Would you need to read learned volumes on Leprechology before disbelieving in leprechauns?" Well, Richard, if you'd written a book called "The Leprechaun Delusion" in which you argued that there was no such thing as those pink, ten-foot tall man-eating spiders which the world calls leprechauns, then yes, we would indeed think that maybe your leprechology needed a bit of a brush up. The amazing thing about Dawkins' Independent piece (whose original version is produced in full at Dawkins' own website here) is that Dawkins doesn't actually even try to argue that yes, he does understand what real theists actually claim about God and can still explain why they're wrong. He just boldly argues that his ignorance is a virtue, and that it would actually be a personal fault if he were so stupid as to waste his time in finding out - something akin to reading several volumes of stories about little green Irishmen.

Professor Dawkins' website runs under the slogan "A clear-thinking oasis". Ho hum!

No comments: