Dawkins' new book (Introduction)

by dhw, Sunday, September 15, 2019, 10:31 (87 days ago)

Richard Dawkins has written a new book entitled Outgrowing God. According to a review in The Times by Hugo Rifkind, it is mainly a rehash of past material, the first half consisting of “cantankerous anti-religious stuff” and the second (which Rifkind likes) dealing with the wonders of evolution. The review concludes: “Frankly, Dawkins is a far better advocate for atheism when he leaves God alone and contents himself with offering us the other, better story instead [= evolution]. It is as though he has become a literal God-botherer, a There’s-No-Jehovah Witness who feels compelled to bang on your door and rant about the way Jesus isn’t risen and you aren’t going to be saved. For plenty of his fans, I suppose, this is just what they will have wanted. For most readers, though, if anybody needs to outgrow God, it’s him.”

Of course one mustn’t judge a book through one critic’s views of it, but since this website grew out of my own agnostic dismay at the blinkered vision presented in The God Delusion, I thought this might be an appropriate moment to quote my introduction to the “brief guide” which preceded all our own discussions:

"The following essay begins with a direct response to atheism as it is represented in The God Delusion. I should like to stress, however, that although I am unable to embrace atheism mainly because I am not convinced that chance could simultaneously assemble the four factors listed in the section entitled "Evolution", the fact that someone cannot believe one thing does not mean that he believes the opposite. I simply do not know what to believe, and that is why I am an agnostic.

The essay goes on to examine gaps in both the atheist and the theist arguments, together with the implications of those gaps. It cannot of course offer answers to the deep questions, for the simple reason that the human brain has not reached a point where answers can be given - and perhaps it never will reach such a point. This does not mean that we should give up the search, but it most certainly does mean that we should give due respect to other people's beliefs. The world's "state o' chassis" will never be resolved so long as humans seek to impose their suspect truths on the no more and no less suspect truths of their fellows."

Dawkins' new book

by David Turell @, Sunday, September 15, 2019, 18:13 (87 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: Richard Dawkins has written a new book entitled Outgrowing God. According to a review in The Times by Hugo Rifkind, it is mainly a rehash of past material, the first half consisting of “cantankerous anti-religious stuff” and the second (which Rifkind likes) dealing with the wonders of evolution. The review concludes: “Frankly, Dawkins is a far better advocate for atheism when he leaves God alone and contents himself with offering us the other, better story instead [= evolution]. It is as though he has become a literal God-botherer, a There’s-No-Jehovah Witness who feels compelled to bang on your door and rant about the way Jesus isn’t risen and you aren’t going to be saved. For plenty of his fans, I suppose, this is just what they will have wanted. For most readers, though, if anybody needs to outgrow God, it’s him.”

Of course one mustn’t judge a book through one critic’s views of it, but since this website grew out of my own agnostic dismay at the blinkered vision presented in The God Delusion, I thought this might be an appropriate moment to quote my introduction to the “brief guide” which preceded all our own discussions:

"The following essay begins with a direct response to atheism as it is represented in The God Delusion. I should like to stress, however, that although I am unable to embrace atheism mainly because I am not convinced that chance could simultaneously assemble the four factors listed in the section entitled "Evolution", the fact that someone cannot believe one thing does not mean that he believes the opposite. I simply do not know what to believe, and that is why I am an agnostic.

The essay goes on to examine gaps in both the atheist and the theist arguments, together with the implications of those gaps. It cannot of course offer answers to the deep questions, for the simple reason that the human brain has not reached a point where answers can be given - and perhaps it never will reach such a point. This does not mean that we should give up the search, but it most certainly does mean that we should give due respect to other people's beliefs. The world's "state o' chassis" will never be resolved so long as humans seek to impose their suspect truths on the no more and no less suspect truths of their fellows."

I view our brain as a miracle of evolution, with excellent reasoning powers. But I certainly accept that various folks will reach different views on subjects that have no solid answers.

Dawkins' new book

by George Jelliss ⌂ @, Crewe, Monday, November 04, 2019, 23:19 (37 days ago) @ dhw

Hallo again! I haven't been here for quite a while.
I moved to Crewe at the beginning of 2019, for a change of scene.

I've not read Dawkins' new book, but thought this article about New Atheism might be of interest. It claims that it was "the godlessness that failed" but from the graphs in the first part, showing decline of interest in creationism and biblical contradiction I would say it is "the rationalism that succeeded". No more need for it unless creationism has a resurgence.

https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/10/30/new-atheism-the-godlessness-that-failed/

The charts in the second part are I think specific to the USA. Over here the divisions are within the two main political parties, rather than between them. Maybe that will be resolved by the December election, though I have my doubts.

In September I finished putting my Knights Tour Notes into 12 volumes of PDF.
So now I'm thinking of putting my thoughts on Rationalist issues into book form.
It will have the title "Good Reason". I thought I should tell you about this,
since some of the material in it will be based on views I've expressed here over the years, as well as in other fora, so DHW and others may get a mention.

--
GPJ

Dawkins' new book

by dhw, Tuesday, November 05, 2019, 12:29 (36 days ago) @ George Jelliss

GEORGE: Hallo again! I haven't been here for quite a while.
I moved to Crewe at the beginning of 2019, for a change of scene.

Delighted to know that you are still with us and are still active! Not sure that I’d want to move from the seaside to Crewe, but I hope you’ve found what you are looking for.

GEORGE: I've not read Dawkins' new book, but thought this article about New Atheism might be of interest. It claims that it was "the godlessness that failed" but from the graphs in the first part, showing decline of interest in creationism and biblical contradiction I would say it is "the rationalism that succeeded". No more need for it unless creationism has a resurgence.
https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/10/30/new-atheism-the-godlessness-that-failed/

The article is enormous! I gave up after a while, as it seems to be mainly concerned with the decline of New Atheism as well as the decline of interest in Creationism etc, rather than in the issues themselves. We all know what damage religion causes, and the plea for humanistic, humanitarian values – though he never uses these terms – is also one I’m sure we can all identify with.

GEORGE: The charts in the second part are I think specific to the USA. Over here the divisions are within the two main political parties, rather than between them. Maybe that will be resolved by the December election, though I have my doubts.

So do I. And I have my doubts as to whether any of our current politicians and parties have any of the qualities needed to take us out of the mess they have got us into. Alas, not even our rugby team could bring us some longed-for light at the end of the tunnel!

GEORGE: In September I finished putting my Knights Tour Notes into 12 volumes of PDF.
So now I'm thinking of putting my thoughts on Rationalist issues into book form.
It will have the title "Good Reason". I thought I should tell you about this,
since some of the material in it will be based on views I've expressed here over the years, as well as in other fora, so DHW and others may get a mention.

Again, I’m delighted to hear that you are continuing to be active and are even planning a new book. No doubt it will take quite a while for you to write it and then to have it published, but do please keep us informed. And please don’t hesitate to air your views here again, as we have not had a “resident” atheist on the website since you “retired”. We miss you!

Dawkins' new book

by George Jelliss ⌂ @, Crewe, Tuesday, November 05, 2019, 14:00 (36 days ago) @ dhw

It is difficult to keep up with the arguments here between the two Davids, since the threads are so long, and topics switch about within a thread. It is difficult to know what points have been covered in the past, and which David said what.

Also as an Atheist it is difficult to say anything relevant since most of the posts are full of references to God. For instance "David's theory of evolution" is really "David's theory of God", i.e. "David's Theology". So there is not much one could say about it.

--
GPJ

Dawkins' new book

by David Turell @, Tuesday, November 05, 2019, 15:25 (36 days ago) @ George Jelliss

George: It is difficult to keep up with the arguments here between the two Davids, since the threads are so long, and topics switch about within a thread. It is difficult to know what points have been covered in the past, and which David said what.

Also as an Atheist it is difficult to say anything relevant since most of the posts are full of references to God. For instance "David's theory of evolution" is really "David's theory of God", i.e. "David's Theology". So there is not much one could say about it.

Definitely a welcome back. You have added so much.

Dawkins' new book

by dhw, Wednesday, November 06, 2019, 08:16 (35 days ago) @ George Jelliss

GEORGE: It is difficult to keep up with the arguments here between the two Davids, since the threads are so long, and topics switch about within a thread. It is difficult to know what points have been covered in the past, and which David said what.

Also as an Atheist it is difficult to say anything relevant since most of the posts are full of references to God. For instance "David's theory of evolution" is really "David's theory of God", i.e. "David's Theology". So there is not much one could say about it.

But it would be of great interest for us to know your own view of the origin and mechanics of evolution. You will be as aware as we are of the still unfathomable complexities of the cell from which all life has evolved. A major factor for my agnosticism is the fact that I find it very difficult to believe that sheer chance could combine all the ingredients to create an organism that can not only live and reproduce, but can also vary itself to such a degree that it can produce the vast bush of life that expands from bacteria to ants, whales, elephants, crows and humans. The chance theory is as incredible to me as the God theory.

That discussion concerns the origin of the cell, but another concerns the mechanism that drives evolution itself, i.e. that causes speciation. For years I have been pushing the concept – espoused by some prominent scientists – of intelligent cells or cell communities, regardless of origin, which with their own special form of consciousness (not to be equated with human consciousness) respond to changing conditions by adapting and/or innovating. James A. Shapiro - who also champions cellular intelligence - proposes the same process, which he calls “natural genetic engineering”. This to me seems considerably more convincing than Darwin’s random mutations. David will have none of it, and believes his God preprogrammed or dabbled the whole shebang. Clearly you will be as sceptical as I am about this, but it would be very interesting to know what is your own theory.

DAVID (under “Introducing the brain”): Lose a hand and the brain shifts its connections:
https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-11-human-brain-rewire-traumatic-bodily.html

In other words, the communities of brain cells cooperate with other cell communities in the body to make the necessary changes. Humans both individually and socially are continually engaged in similar processes of adaptation to changing conditions. When humans do it, it’s recognized as a sign of intelligence.

Dawkins' new book

by George Jelliss ⌂ @, Crewe, Wednesday, November 06, 2019, 14:41 (35 days ago) @ dhw

We have been over these questions comprehensively in the past in these pages and always end up going round in the same circles. I say things must happen as a combination of chance and physical law (though we still don't know exactly how), and you ignore the physical law part and conclude it is still all down to chance, which is beyond your capacity to believe.

I don't think I've heard of this theory that "intelligent cells or cell communities" have "their own special form of consciousness" that guides their evolution before, but it sounds rather like reviving elan vital or a form of pan-psychism. It seems to me that postulating such things without proof is unnecessary, since natural selection is adequate.

--
GPJ

Dawkins' new book

by David Turell @, Thursday, November 07, 2019, 00:23 (35 days ago) @ George Jelliss

George: We have been over these questions comprehensively in the past in these pages and always end up going round in the same circles. I say things must happen as a combination of chance and physical law (though we still don't know exactly how), and you ignore the physical law part and conclude it is still all down to chance, which is beyond your capacity to believe.

I don't think I've heard of this theory that "intelligent cells or cell communities" have "their own special form of consciousness" that guides their evolution before, but it sounds rather like reviving elan vital or a form of pan-psychism. It seems to me that postulating such things without proof is unnecessary, since natural selection is adequate.


Again, I agree. It is a vast stretch of what is known.

Dawkins' new book

by David Turell @, Wednesday, November 06, 2019, 15:02 (35 days ago) @ dhw

GEORGE: It is difficult to keep up with the arguments here between the two Davids, since the threads are so long, and topics switch about within a thread. It is difficult to know what points have been covered in the past, and which David said what.

Also as an Atheist it is difficult to say anything relevant since most of the posts are full of references to God. For instance "David's theory of evolution" is really "David's theory of God", i.e. "David's Theology". So there is not much one could say about it.

But it would be of great interest for us to know your own view of the origin and mechanics of evolution. You will be as aware as we are of the still unfathomable complexities of the cell from which all life has evolved. A major factor for my agnosticism is the fact that I find it very difficult to believe that sheer chance could combine all the ingredients to create an organism that can not only live and reproduce, but can also vary itself to such a degree that it can produce the vast bush of life that expands from bacteria to ants, whales, elephants, crows and humans. The chance theory is as incredible to me as the God theory.

That discussion concerns the origin of the cell, but another concerns the mechanism that drives evolution itself, i.e. that causes speciation. For years I have been pushing the concept – espoused by some prominent scientists – of intelligent cells or cell communities, regardless of origin, which with their own special form of consciousness (not to be equated with human consciousness) respond to changing conditions by adapting and/or innovating. James A. Shapiro - who also champions cellular intelligence - proposes the same process, which he calls “natural genetic engineering”. This to me seems considerably more convincing than Darwin’s random mutations. David will have none of it, and believes his God preprogrammed or dabbled the whole shebang. Clearly you will be as sceptical as I am about this, but it would be very interesting to know what is your own theory.

DAVID (under “Introducing the brain”): Lose a hand and the brain shifts its connections:
https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-11-human-brain-rewire-traumatic-bodily.html

dhw: In other words, the communities of brain cells cooperate with other cell communities in the body to make the necessary changes. Humans both individually and socially are continually engaged in similar processes of adaptation to changing conditions. When humans do it, it’s recognized as a sign of intelligence.

And I could add God gave the brain its ability to change (PLASTICITY)

Dawkins' new book

by David Turell @, Wednesday, November 06, 2019, 15:21 (35 days ago) @ David Turell

GEORGE: It is difficult to keep up with the arguments here between the two Davids, since the threads are so long, and topics switch about within a thread. It is difficult to know what points have been covered in the past, and which David said what.

Also as an Atheist it is difficult to say anything relevant since most of the posts are full of references to God. For instance "David's theory of evolution" is really "David's theory of God", i.e. "David's Theology". So there is not much one could say about it.

But it would be of great interest for us to know your own view of the origin and mechanics of evolution. You will be as aware as we are of the still unfathomable complexities of the cell from which all life has evolved. A major factor for my agnosticism is the fact that I find it very difficult to believe that sheer chance could combine all the ingredients to create an organism that can not only live and reproduce, but can also vary itself to such a degree that it can produce the vast bush of life that expands from bacteria to ants, whales, elephants, crows and humans. The chance theory is as incredible to me as the God theory.

That discussion concerns the origin of the cell, but another concerns the mechanism that drives evolution itself, i.e. that causes speciation. For years I have been pushing the concept – espoused by some prominent scientists – of intelligent cells or cell communities, regardless of origin, which with their own special form of consciousness (not to be equated with human consciousness) respond to changing conditions by adapting and/or innovating. James A. Shapiro - who also champions cellular intelligence - proposes the same process, which he calls “natural genetic engineering”. This to me seems considerably more convincing than Darwin’s random mutations. David will have none of it, and believes his God preprogrammed or dabbled the whole shebang. Clearly you will be as sceptical as I am about this, but it would be very interesting to know what is your own theory.

DAVID (under “Introducing the brain”): Lose a hand and the brain shifts its connections:
https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-11-human-brain-rewire-traumatic-bodily.html

dhw: In other words, the communities of brain cells cooperate with other cell communities in the body to make the necessary changes. Humans both individually and socially are continually engaged in similar processes of adaptation to changing conditions. When humans do it, it’s recognized as a sign of intelligence.


And I could add God gave the brain its ability to change (PLASTICITY) As far as your Shapiro comment is concerned, why do humans have the brain they have with consciousness? You always look to demands from new conditions. Early humans lived just like apes on ground and also in trees (Lucy evidence). Apes are still the same and we are here as sapiens. Explain the evolutionary drive! There is no natural explanation.

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