the mental lives of a Francis Collins or a Freeman Dyson prove that
religion and science are compatible is like saying that the sex lives
of Bill Clinton or Ted Haggard prove that marriage and adultery are
compatible." --Clay Shirky, on the (in)compatability of science and religion, from The Edge World Question for 2008 ("What have you changed your mind about?").
Anthony Gottlieb, on Antony Flew"'"s (scare quotes around the genitive clitic) new book, There Is No God:
The pattern of the reasoning is always the same: a phenomenon — be it
life, consciousness or the order of nature — is said to be mysterious,
and then it is boldly asserted that the only possible explanation for
it is “an infinitely intelligent Mind.” It is never said how or why the
existence of such a mind constitutes an explanation.
Cf. my parable of the would-be detective for a send-up of this kind of "explanatory" reasoning.
Onegoodmove hipped me to this debate between Dan Dennett and Dinesh D'Souza: "Is God a human invention?"
Notwithstanding D'Souza's routinely shrill, frequently mocking tone, he does manage to score rhetorical points for his team here and there, but only mostly because Dennett's rebuttal isn't as sharp as it should been.
For example, in this segment (starting at 8:08), D'Souza's argues that modern "Big Bang" theory lends support to the idea that God exists:
Everything that has a beginning has a cause. The universe has a
beginning. [Therefore, the] universe has a cause. That cause I call "God."
Now, this argument is really hackneyed. But it is intuitively appealing to "swing voters," and any philosopher with Dennett's skill should have a refutation handy -- something along the lines of:
But talk about "causes" doesn't make any sense outside the framework of time. And on the very theory Dinesh appeals to, time did not exist until the universe began. Therefore, the universe could not have been "caused" in any relevant sense. A fortiori, God could not have caused the universe.
More could be said, of course -- but Dennett didn't even say that much (his rebuttal starts here at 3:30), allowing D'Souza's intuitively appealing argument to go entirely unchallenged. This sort of thing happened way too often.
Don't get me wrong. D'Souza's arguments were generally embarrassingly weak on substance. But you'd need to know something about the substance to know just how weak, and he seemed substantially more focussed than Dennett when it came to rebuttal.
The Economist's Free Exchange limns an amusing colloquy among economists about the utility of existence. Worth reading in full, but I just want to rebut this one part of FE's analysis:
Mr Mankiw avoids talk of souls and simply speaks of what may be
observed. [But if admit such talk,] it is then
vivid that the decision not to have the next child will leave some unlucky soul dejected and unrealised. If having a kid benefits the kid, then not having a kid harms the kid-that-might-have-been.
Of course this conclusion is not ineluctable. For instance, when Sam Kinison's parents announced to him that he was “old enough to be on [his] own," Kinison noted:
You know, before I was your little son. Before I was your baby — before I was your loan — I was a free spirit in the next stage of life. I walked in the cosmos, not imprisoned by a body of flesh, but free, in a pure body of light. There were no questions, only answers. No weaknesses, only strengths. I was light, I was truth, I was a spiritual being, I was a God!!!
But you had to F*** and bring my ass down HERE!
I didn’t ask to be born! I didn’t call and say: ‘Hey, please have me so I could work in a f***in’ Winchell’s someday!’ Now you want me to pay my own way? F*** YOU! PICK UP THE F***IN’ CHECK, MOM! PICK IT UP!
I can't be sure, of course, but I read Kinison as pretty much disagreeing with the FE's analysis.
"Cornwell does, however, start to get sucked in to Dawkins's fact-based approach. And religion is hard to fit in to that agenda...." Religion apologist Peter Standford, reviewing John Cornwell's Darwin's Angel.
The menu of writings penned by critics of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion offers a diet unusually high in saturated fatuity. But this fawning review of John Cornwell's Darwin's Angel (a book that attempts to rebut Dawkins' The God Delusion), by one Salley Vickers, might just take the cake.
Since Vickers' dish contains far too much pudding to digest in a single sitting, I'll simply quote her final
Those who think that not knowing is safer and
more attractive than its opposite should treat themselves to this elegant