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Will Richard Dawkins be honest?

Here’s some blurb for the latest attempts of the non-existent one to explain how you can be an “intellectually fulfilled atheist”:

The Magic of Reality – Richard Dawkins – Royal Albert Hall

Wednesday 19 October 2011, 8.30pm

Chaired by James Harding, editor, The Times.

The Magic of Reality – An Evening with Richard Dawkins will see him discussing his new book, The Magic of Reality, which uses stunning words and pictures to present the real story of the world around us, taking us on an enthralling journey through scientific reality. Richard Dawkins and Dave McKean have created a dazzling celebration of our planet that will entertain and inform for years to come.

The question I’m interested in, is whether whilst trying to persuade everyone that being an atheist is just as “magical” and “dazzling” and “enthralling” as loving your Creator, he’ll be honest about the implications of his beliefs. That is, will he be at any pains to explain this:

In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.
– Richard Dawkins, “God’s Utility Function,” published in Scientific American (November, 1995), p. 85

There’s quite a difference in content and tone between those two quotes, isn’t there? The first is atheist PR… the second is atheist honesty. When on his magical atheism tour, will he be bringing the honesty out on display or keeping it well hidden? Do let us know if you find out…

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9 Responses to Will Richard Dawkins be honest?

  1. There’s a difference in tone, but no inconsistency. Automobiles can be beautiful and exciting, but they are indifferent to our safety. Point them in the wrong direction and they are pitiless.

  2. Interesting that you chose a designed object, being guided by an intelligent agent, to demonstrate your point. It’s pretty hard to do otherwise, isn’t it? But you’ve parsed a new meaning on to Dawkins’ words there. Try thinking about this sentence to see what you’ve done: “The automobiles that we observe have precisely the properties we should expect if they are, at bottom, without design or purpose, no meaning in terms of evil or good; nothing but pitiless indifference.”

    The point wasn’t that an automobile does not show pity; that’s scarcely in dispute. The point is that “magical”, “thrilling”, etc., are aesthetic judgments – but, as the second quote shows, in Dawkins’ worldview, Dawkins’ or anyone else’s aesthetic judgments have no ontological reality undergirding them. “Magical” in his world-view just means “Dawkins likes it, and perhaps he can persuade you to like it too”. When he says it is “thrilling” or “exhilarating” that just means that it makes certain chemicals and not others flow inside his skull. So what? Why should anyone care; what’s the point in sharing that, unless you’re an egomaniac? “Beautiful” and “exciting”, whether about the universe or cars, are value judgments. As a theist I have a basis for claiming that such value judgments are grounded in something solid and not just statements about my brain chemicals. Dawkins in the second quotes concedes (correctly) that there is no real basis in his thinking for supposing that such value judgments actually have any objective meaning.

  3. As a theist I have a basis for claiming that such value judgments are grounded in something solid

    So you’re adopting some other being’s subjective value judgments instead of your own?

  4. Dear David,

    You might not remember me, but I’d like you to know that you provided some significant inspiration for me in the past. (I once downloaded one of your superb sermons and found it incredibly inspirational and insightful.) For this gift, and many others, I am eternally grateful.

    The “magic of reality” is a self-contradictory proposition. Reality is not magic; it is what it is. And the reality is — based upon everything I’ve been able to discern — that a super-mind designed the universe and (especially) humanity for a purpose.

    I am humbled by people like you who put feet to their faith in ways I have not done.

    At risk of blowing my atheist-turned-Christian witness, I must state that in my view Dawkins is a transparent dolt, both scientifically and theologically.

  5. David Anderson, someone has now animated your article:

    The Dawkins Delusion
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HL3kfDmHL5g

  6. There’s quite a difference in content and tone between those two quotes, isn’t there? The first is atheist PR… the second is atheist honesty.

    The second statement is rhetoric, designed to make a case for atheism.

    If anything, the second is atheist PR, while the first is book selling PR.

  7. No; I am seeking to understand the mind of the universe’s Creator, which constitutes the objective viewpoint upon all aspects of his own handiwork.

  8. You are very kind; of course I remember you, I often play some of your piano recordings to provide some calm whilst I’m at work!

    Every time I hear or read Dawkins, there’s this huge reality-gap. The sounds are making the noises “no God, no God!”, but the way he goes about it with a crusading zeal, trying to use rational argument to persuade people, declaring all these kinds of aesthetic value judgments (whether positively upon the creation, or negatively against the morality of the Creator), he just cries out “look – I’m made in the image of God… I still can’t escape it!”

  9. Exactly.

    The properties of the whole are not the properties of its parts.

    The universe may well be pitiless, as are the atoms from which we are made. That doesn’t mean that we are.

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