the boring delusion

you know, I’m not so sure I like this God Delusion book. I’ve read the first two chapters. Here are my notes so far.

1) Dawkins seems to place a lot of faith in the intellect of the average (wo)?man. He seems to believe that an absence of religion will suddenly right every problem that religion causes. I posit that this is not true! A religion is a mindset, the god and precise beliefs are rather unimportant. There’s an intrinsic human desire in there which will need more than a well reasoned argument to stamp out. God is a symptom, not the overall problem. He would accuse me of being condescending to the average man, but I would say he is too if he believes everyone’s an intelligent person who’s got taken in by a single silly idea. It’s deeper than that. Your overconfidence is your weakness. Your faith in your freinds is yours. etc. And plenty of people have a god without being problematic.

2) He seems to spend a lot of time worrying about the views of respectable dead and living figures. An argument from authority isn’t convincing or interesting whether he’s setting one up or trying to attack one. And it’s all a bit Americanised, Thomas Jefferson this and that … who cares. And he even used the word ‘pedophile’, which is what, a foot fetishist? I expect a little more from an Oxford professor. If there’s a ‘gotten’ I’ll scream.

3) He seems dead set on making god into a scientific hypothesis, which is all very well but it’s just plain not, at least not the god that most people believe in, who happens to be several billion subtly different gods. If you want to be able to have a reasonable chance of falsifying the idea if it’s not right (which is necessary for it being a scientific hypothesis) you have to work with a very well defined god, but if you try this you’ll find people are very happy to broaden their definition until their god is different to the one you’re working with, and they will do this until it becomes unfalsifiable. Some will happily start from that point. He doesn’t seem to address this, but if someone makes their god unfalsifiable then it’s plainly not a hypothesis. At worst making god in a broad sense into a hypothesis requires a straw man.

And I just don’t see what it achieves or why he possibly sacrifices some integrity for it. I don’t think failure to set up god as a falsifiable hypothesis in any way weakens his overall case or strengthens religion’s. An unfalsifiable claim is ‘not even wrong’; being wrong would be a step up. It’s just meaningless and probably doesn’t deserve serious consideration and certainly no one can convincingly claim to have more idea about it than anyone else. This is a perfectly effective attack. Even though I agree with the overall point he would attack me for saying that the question of god, when it comes down to it, is it outside of science and likely to remain so forever. I don’t really see what attacking my point of view achieves as I don’t feel exactly wowed by his insight on the matter.

I think the problem is that Dawkins wants to disprove god, which is not a practical aim, and he would be better off sacrificing some level of certainty of his conclusion for a stronger argument, which simply amounts to “there is no evidence for god”. Some people might not find that convincing reason to lack belief in god, but then you invoke Russell’s teapot and we have a winner. The conclusion is equivalent, the argument is stronger, although the book is shorter.

4) in chapter two he attacks agnosticism by invoking ‘probablity’, although it’s not frequentist probablity, it’s subjective probablity, which is actually a measure of personal confidence, which changes the tone of everything but he doesn’t bother to mention that. I’m still not sure if he has a problem with someone saying they’re agnostic or not. I think his point was that agnosticism is an incredibly imprecise word and it describes a broad range of opinions so it’s better to avoid it unless you really see no reason to lean towards yes or no, but it’s a really confusing read.

Overall so far this book has smidgens of interest but in general it’s been dull dull dull.
I’m sorry.
the god dullusion might have been a better title.

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