Thursday, August 16, 2007

Delusion III - Chapter One

Hello. I've been here before. Here Dawkins quotes three people I have admired greatly in the past - Einstein, Carl Sagan and Douglas Adams. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the ridicule he heaps on religions in this book are the successful practice of "proof by ridicule". This technique is very effective with "unprovables" like for instance long term climate predictions, and the existence (and in this case non-existence) of God. This technique involves cloaking the baseline argument in a long-winded series of ridiculing viewpoints of the opposite argument and heaping praise on viewpoints supporting it. I recognise the beginnings of this technique because it is so similar to the "brainwashing" techniques used by Christian evangelists so successfully. In the back of the book is a list of societies you can contact that will complete the process for you. The baseline argument will of course be a circular one, but it will take an extremely keen philosophical eye to ferret it out. Now, Dawkins has defined religion in great philosophical detail. He has made a harsh distinction between Naturalist Pantheistic God and the supernatural one, and has asserted that it is intellectual high treason to confuse the two. This is a classic call to the reader that they have to make up their mind one way or the other. To try to sit on the fence is the worst philosophy of all. This is very similar to the evangelical statements that if you are not sure - then you are on the heathen side of the razor sharp fence. Dawkins has now defined God to my satisfaction, but heaped praise on Spinozan pantheism (This is more his apparent philosophy rather than what it really was. Spinoza's vision of what God is does not differ much from the Judeo-Christian definition). Spinoza was a moral relativist (Correction: Many have chosen to believe this, but by his own reasoning he wasn't), so it seems that his assertion "Religion is Bad" relies on an arbitrary definition of bad. Thus it is becoming increasingly clear that he is promoting this assertion as "blindingly obvious" thus axiomatic. He is clearly relying somewhat on faith to believe this, but I need more than just sound-bites and examples - I need a strict definition of "Bad" and comparitive scientific evidence. I am hoping by chapter eight I will get some of that.


Dr. Clam said...

Hmm, my lunchtime research on Spinoza indicates that it is pretty easy to cherry-pick quotes showing him to be either a moral relativist or a moral absolutist. But I think he was more the latter than the former.

Marco said...

Fair enough. I only read the wikipedia info and it stated matter-of-factly he was relativist. It appears to me that Dawkins might not make the distinction the way philosophical experts do. The "consequentialist" is a weasel term that would not be binding. It is still wrong to go through red traffic lights even if you never have an accident and it only makes traffic go faster.