Monday, September 17, 2007

Delusion XX - If only *Everyone* was atheist like me

(Talking about Northern Ireland conflict) From page 259 "The two sets of people have the same skin colour, they speak the same language, they enjoy the same things, but they might as well belong to different species, so deep is the historic divide. And *without religion*, and religiously segregated education, the divide simply would not be there.

I would like to rephrase this thus : "If everyone in Northern Ireland (etc.) was atheist like me, there would be no conflict in Northern Ireland."

The trouble is, you could replace the word "atheist" with any ideology/religion you like, and it would be just as true as his original statement. However, religions are actively trying to make that happen (eg. through having more children, converting people, killing their enemies :)) while most atheists just like to give this concept lip service and just try to convert people ad hoc. Dawkins is doing what spokespeople for practically every religion does - Defining their own ideology as the only true one, and that all the others are false and evil. Most of the rest of chapter 6 extols his version of the moral zeitgeist. To me he is just digging himself deeper, enveloping moral rules into atheist ideology.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Delusion XIX - Do I agree with him?

In some ways I feel I am "more" atheist than Dawkins is. He believes that in principle the existence of God can be proven - I don't. This tends to place me in an almost unreachable place for evangelists, while Dawkins agrees with them on this point. He also agrees with evangelists that an instantaneous magical design/creation by a supernatural entity is analagous to human design/creation of, say, a watch. I say that a high enough technology is indistinguishable from magic, but the progression of design of watches is as evolutionary as the progression of life on Earth. Complex design without complex precedents to work from is a fantasy either way, no matter how intelligent the designer. Thus, design/creation doesn't even exist as a separate thing to evolution to me - so in that sense, I am also further from creationist ideas than Dawkins. Dawkins is also ideologically rigid in his ideas on evolution. I am much more open to research on group selection, Lamarckism and panspermia - aspects which Dawkins has a completely closed mind to - Much like evangelists he challenges us to "prove" that these things exist before he will consider them - But as an authority on biology he asks us to reject them until then. My mind is way more open to new scientific ideas than his is. I am in some ways an "apologist" for religions, and that is partly because I believe religion to have large selective significance, and particularly because it takes warped associative logic to demonstrate religion's "badness"

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

11/9 Day 2007

Since last year's post, nothing much has happened on the War on Terrorism (WOT) front. There is a gradual trend to greater pessimism on the WOT front, despite the surge. Changes in government amongst Coalition Of the Willing states(COWs) portend a managed withdrawal over the next couple of years, while the Other Timid Western States (COWARDS) continue their negativity to Any Actual Action Against Anyone (AAAAA). Fear is still disturbingly high worldwide. Hatred seems to have dropped a few notches.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Delusion XVIII - Chapter 6: morality dillemma

Page 222 "Sexual Lust is the driving force behind a large proportion of human ambition and struggle, and much of it constitutes a mis-firing. There is no reason why the same should not be true of the lust to be generous and compassionate, if this is the misfired consequence of ancestral village life. The best way for natural selection to build in both kinds of lust in ancestral times was to install rules of thumb in the brain."

Dawkins invokes "mis-firing" quite heavily in chapter 5 and chapter 6. Anything which appears not to be of benefit in a "selfish gene" way is presumed a persisted redundant feature. This is the way he fills the gap in our understanding of evolved traits. My view is that for any persistent trait, the assumption should be that however useless a trait may appear, its persistence is evidence of proximal evolutionary advantage. He is selective in choosing things which *he* believes to be pointless (thus mis-firings, eg religiosity, altruism), rather than just conceding the truth - that it is a field of open study in which we are finding the evolutionary relevance in due course (Just like the "gaps"). He correctly demonstrates that individual morality given certain dillemas is an in-built trait, irrespective of religion, but he ignores research that dwells on the actual differences between societies that have differing levels of religious uptake. One such study, for instance (*) that I have read about is how paired "believers", as opposed to those nominally religious, are more likely to remain faithful to their partners. Organised morality of religions may be even more useful than the instinctive morality of our genes. Dawkins has two definitions of "good" - 1) That which human instincts tells us is good.
and 2) That which gives us an individual competitive advantage.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Delusion XVII - But is it a "Good" Book

In this sense, I am defining "Good" as meeting the "objectives" he sets out to achieve in writing the book. By "objectives", I mean the objectives I believe he had - not the one *he* states he has. In writing this book, I believe Dawkins is aiming at *two* main audiences. The first audience is the uncommitted/loosely committed, nominally falling under a particular denomination, but who is overall unconvinced and open-minded. With this audience he is encouraging them towards the "non-believer-in-God" end of his religiosity spectrum. He is using the fact that peoples opinions are highly corellated with associated opinions (eg. the opinion that Religion and the state should be as separate as possible is highly correlated with the view that religion is "bad"). This is excellent in terms of persuasive writing, even if it is under contention that the world will be a better place with more atheists.

The other main audience I believe he is aiming for is the committed (or zealous) atheist. With this audience, he is affirming their beliefs and strengthening the arguments across a swathe of the spectrum. He is also arming them with numerous "sound bites", analogies and references that they can use in arguments with the loosely committed - *especially* in the context of the loosely committed being a minority amongst his peer group.

He rightly concedes that aiming to the audience of hardened religious or rigidly theological, or even rigidly philosophical part of the spectrum is a lost cause. Unless one takes that strict logical positivism is the only kind of logic that is valid, his logic is neither convincing nor watertight.

So I have to concede that he easily achieves his aims in this book, and his desired audience is captive and extensive. It is just that I am neither in his desired audience, nor do I think success in his writing goals will make the world a better place. Quite the opposite in fact.