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How to respond to a young friend who has come under Dawkins’s spell

Neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield makes an interesting critique of “scientism”

By on Friday, 30 November 2012

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I have recently been in email conversation with a young friend. He is a bright chap but to my dismay he seems to have become an ardent disciple of Richard Dawkins and his kind. He has become quite convinced that “science” has solved the question of “God” – that irrational and improbable deity dreamed up by people long before science came along to enlighten them and to explain to them how the brain works. I have tried to get him to see that the (entirely legitimate) pursuit of science is a different activity from that of theology; there is no reason why they should clash rather than offer mutual, though independent support. He is having none of it: it seems the creation of “Hamlet” is simply the result of lots of cells composing the grey matter being in a happy conjunction; indeed, he thinks the sorrows of the great apes are not far removed from our own. I am simplifying his argument but this is the gist of it.

For this reason, it was good to read “What science can’t answer”, an interview in The Tablet last week between Jack Valero, communications director of Opus Dei in Britain (and co-founder of Catholic Voices) and Baroness Susan Greenfield, a neuroscientist at Oxford University. Lady Greenfield is neither an atheist nor a straightforward believer; but she accepts there are questions which are outside the competence of science to answer. She rejects “scientism” which she describes as “this unshakeable belief, which is as strong as any religious belief, that science is the only approach to understanding the world around you.” She recognises that people can have an experience “that is above and beyond the material.”

Greenfield admits that she has not had this experience – yet. “I have a sense of the spiritual and glimmers of it from time to time, but I cannot say I am a believer in the sense of subscribing to any particular religion.” In 2008 she accompanied Valero and a very sick friend and his wife on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. This was Greenfield’s idea, though she is not sure where it came from. Believers might call it the unconscious prompting of the Holy Spirit. At any rate, the experience did not deter her, as it does some outside the Church, who notice all the souvenir shops full of religious kitsch and conclude the whole place is riddled with superstition and mere trade. Greenfield was deeply impressed by the fact that “sick people were the norm and that…everybody was a volunteer.” She adds that she was also greatly moved by, “the amount of love and altruism and removal from the normal things…people being kind to each other, rather than witty or hostile or defensive”.

In general she robustly rejects the idea that science and religion are in contradiction as “intellectually bankrupt”, mentioning scientists such as Francis Collins of genome fame, who “speaks freely and openly…about being a Christian.” She points out that much of science is not strictly logical but is approached by “a hunch and an instinct”. Science answers some questions but not others “such as the meaning of life, or what is love.” Of course, people might describe love as “when you have a rise in the hormone oxytocin ” – but this does not invalidate or detract from the subjective state.

Apart from her pilgrimage to Lourdes, Greenfield has been on a three-day retreat at Ampleforth. She told the monk looking after her that “I truly don’t know why I’m here”. This didn’t bother him; I suspect he might have heard that remark before, even among supposed believers. When she got home Greenfield felt “super-charged and super-detoxed…bursting with energy and positive.”

I am going to refer my young friend to this interview and see what he makes of it. To be or not to be a chimpanzee; that is the question.

  • JabbaPapa

    Why not try answering the question next time ?

    If you’re capable ?

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    Follow the link. There's a fairly comprehensive debunking of Dawkins there.
    Atheists really do seem to believe that there is some substance to Dawkins' criticisms, what evidence do you have that Dawkins' account of Christianity is anything other than a strawman?

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    Would you care to critique the other criticisms of Dawkins? Or did you only read the first paragraph?

  • karlf

    Ho ho! Prove me wrong Jabba

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    Knowing what influences our behaviour is one thing, Karl, but pretending that hypotheses about the origin of behaviours are relevant is another.

  • karlf

    Which question?

  • TreenonPoet

     

    by your method of evaluation I should treat all atheists as if they were Soviet-style atheists

    No. By what you call my method, you should treat all Soviet-style atheists as Soviet-style atheists (and define that group) and restrict comments that apply to all, or the vast majority, of atheists, to comments that are true for those groups as a whole. Amongst atheists, I suppose gnostic atheists are outliers, and I know that I do not like to be unfairly grouped with them, but I do not want to keep saying that I am an agnostic atheist. Can you refer to a paragraph in The God Delusion which groups Christians unfairly?

  • karlf

    You’re right. And??

  • TreenonPoet

    In response to my statements “Macroevolution is evolution at, and above, the level of species. The mechanism is no different to evolution below that level” you write:

    That’s a theory, not a fact — and it is still only of tangential relevance to the main point about Dawkins’ misuse of logic.

    Dawkins does not misuse logic here, and my statements are directly relevant to the explanation of why. The occurrence of mutations and their relationship to the process of evolution have been demonstrated enough times for them to be considered fact, but I would further argue that given the nature of mutations, it is almost inevitable that evolution will occur if the environment allows it. The principle applies whatever the level of complexity of lifeforms. The relevant molecules have no knowledge of whether a particular mutation would later be regarded as representing a transition between species. What would be the logic in suggesting otherwise? It is the author of the extract who is guilty of a logical fallacy here – that of special pleading (on behalf of a species considered by some to be exempt from the laws of nature). The special pleader should not use the application fallacy to argue that a general rule does not apply to the special case (or else all special pleading would be valid). A reason must be given why the general rule does not apply.

    Also, I find it quite disingenuous on your part to simultaneously define the difference between micro- and macro- evolution, to accept discussion of the two, and then claim this distinction as being “false”

    The distinction is acceptable, but not as a tool to suggest that there is a fundamental difference at the molecular level. Inability to interbreed (for example) is a result of evolution, not something that blocks it.

    *I* mentioned Dawkins’ amateurism, so that I have a dashed better idea of exactly what I was implying than you do. I was implying, deliberately, that he is incompetent to discuss the question of the universal origins. OK ?

    That sort or implication is informal. You have not made a logical implication. (And to infer from “If it was not for those former beliefs, then I do not think it would be correct to refer to Buddhism as a religion” that I am suggesting that it isn’t one is not a logical inference, especially as I had already stated that Buddhism was a religion. Your ‘point of view’ does not correspond to reality.
     

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    “And” that’s buckshot in your fox, Karl.

  • karlf

    How so? My fox has just eaten up your devils and demons and is now relaxing in the sunshine.

  • TreenonPoet

     I think Peter is damned if he answers “yes”, damned if he answers “I don’t know”, and damned if he answers “no”, so I thought it was a good question.

  • JabbaPapa

    Define “evil” please.

  • JabbaPapa

    You continue to confuse theory and fact.

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    “My” devils, Karl?

    You’d better revise your basic English idioms too.

  • JabbaPapa
  • JabbaPapa

    What a load of complete absolute rubbish.

    You appear to have no understanding whatsoever of the discussion topic.

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    As Soviet-style atheists make up the historical majority of atheists, we can’t really describe them as an “outlier” can we?
    If you’re going to sever yourself from atheists who don’t mirror your own opinions, I claim the right to do that in respect of Catholics: we can’t be judged by the standards of the outlier groups that Dawkins chooses to pick on (and we represent an actual and historical majority of Christian humanity).
    As to a paragraph in “TGD” that groups Christians unfairly, I would say all of them.

  • JabbaPapa

    TreenonPoet : In response to my statements “Macroevolution is evolution at, and
    above, the level of species. The mechanism is no different to evolution
    below that level” you write:”That’s a theory, not a fact — and it is still only of tangential relevance to the main point about Dawkins’ misuse of logic.”
    Dawkins
    does not misuse logic here, and my statements are directly relevant to
    the explanation of why. The occurrence of mutations and their
    relationship to the process of evolution have been demonstrated enough
    times for them to be considered fact, but I would further argue that
    given the nature of mutations, it is almost inevitable that evolution
    will occur if the environment allows it.

    Oh good grief !!!

    HOW difficult is it, exactly, to understand that statements about logic are NOT statements about evolutionary theory ???

    Is it REALLY that difficult for you to notice that the text in question is decrying Dawkins’ very poor use of logic, and NOT his work as a biologist ?

    Is it REALLY that hard for you to understand that the question of species is totally unlike the question of the universal origins, and that it is totally irrelevant to that question ?

    The principle applies whatever
    the level of complexity of lifeforms.

    So what ?

    This comment of yours is totally irrelevant to the subject matter of the text in discussion, which is logic and not biology.

    ”*I*
    mentioned Dawkins’ amateurism, so that I have a dashed better idea of
    exactly what I was implying than you do. I was implying, deliberately,
    that he is incompetent to discuss the question of the universal origins.
    OK ?”

    That sort or implication is informal. You have
    not made a logical implication.

    What a load of absolute rubbish — I have deliberately linked Dawkins’ amateurism with his incompetence several times. I have provided my reasoning for it. And you STILL have no ability to define what I mean to say independently of my own means of self-expression — in fact, your repeated suggestions otherwise are simply demonstrative of closed-mindedness and prejudice on your part.

    (And to infer from “If it was not for
    those former beliefs, then I do not think it would be correct to refer
    to Buddhism as a religion” that I am suggesting that it isn’t one is not
    a logical inference, especially as I had already stated that Buddhism
    was a religion. Your ‘point of view’ does not correspond to reality.

    You fail to take into account that I do not accept your definition of the word “religion” — having denied every single aspect of Buddhism that I would recognise as pertaining to its religious nature, you have IMO denied this nature to Buddhism.

    I have already pointed out on multiple occasions that your views on religion do not have any resemblance to its reality — your characterisations of Buddhism are therefore totally unacceptable.

  • Acleron

    ‘revealed theology deals with those parts of the Revelation that inherently transcend the internal limitations of that rationality.’

    Ah, so revealed theology is irrational.

  • karlf

    Ho ho! Complete absolute rubbish? How so?

  • Acleron

    ‘Simply put, the existence of evolution does not demonstrate the truth of abiogenesis — but Dawkins does in fact suggest as much in his writings.’

    No reputable scientist from Darwin onwards, especially one of the stature of Dawkins would make the error of suggesting that abiogenesis was a result of the Theory of Evolution. Only creationists have claimed that biologists suggest such a ridiculous statement and now you. Dawkins does not make that statement. This is perennial type of strawman that is used to attack Dawkins and the ToE.

    However, random chance or probability applied to simple molecules with selection for those that replicate appears completely feasible. Laymen may use the word evolution to describe such a process but although the mechanism is similar, it is not part of the ToE.

  • karlf

    OK. I’ve read it. What’s your point?

  • Acleron

    The ToE clearly shows that evolution of species is purposeless beyond transmission of inherited characteristics, no god necessary.

    The implications on the rules of conduct of our social structure (your morals), are being explored by Evolutionary Psychologists but without fossilised intellects, progress is necessarily slow

  • karlf

    Yes. And your demons as well probably.

  • TreenonPoet

    As a reminder, my comment (in full) was:-

    ——–

    In response to my statements “Macroevolution is evolution at, and above, the level of species. The mechanism is no different to evolution below that level” you write:

    That’s a theory, not a fact — and it is still only of tangential relevance to the main point about Dawkins’ misuse of logic.

    Dawkins does not misuse logic here, and my statements are directly relevant to the explanation of why. The occurrence of mutations and their relationship to the process of evolution have been demonstrated enough times for them to be considered fact, but I would further argue that given the nature of mutations, it is almost inevitable that evolution will occur if the environment allows it. The principle applies whatever the level of complexity of lifeforms. The relevant molecules have no knowledge of whether a particular mutation would be later be regarded as representing a transition between species. What would be the logic in suggesting otherwise? It is the author of the extract who is guilty of a logical fallacy here – that of special pleading (on behalf of a species considered by some to be exempt from the laws of nature). The special pleader should not use the application fallacy to argue that a general rule does not apply to the special case (or else all special pleading would be valid). A reason must be given why the general rule does not apply.

    Also, I find it quite disingenuous on your part to simultaneously define the difference between micro- and macro- evolution, to accept discussion of the two, and then claim this distinction as being “false”

    The distinction is acceptable, but not as a tool to suggest that there is a fundamental difference at the molecular level. Inability to interbreed (for example) is a result of evolution, not something that blocks it.

    *I* mentioned Dawkins’ amateurism, so that I have a dashed better idea of exactly what I was implying than you do. I was implying, deliberately, that he is incompetent to discuss the question of the universal origins. OK ?

    That sort or implication is informal. You have not made a logical implication. (And to infer from “If it was not for those former beliefs, then I do not think it would be correct to refer to Buddhism as a religion” that I am suggesting that it isn’t one is not a logical inference, especially as I had already stated that Buddhism was a religion. Your ‘point of view’ does not correspond to reality.

    ——

    Sorry about the missing close bracket.

    Notice the part on special pleading. That is where I am summarising Lund’s logical fallacy. You choose to ignore this, accusing me instead of not dealing with the logic, and asking “so what?” when I have already answered what.

    Regarding amateurism, you have not demonstrated why Dawkins’ lack of qualifications in certain topics invalidates his views on those topics.

    I can’t answer you regarding Buddhism as we obviously cannot agree on terminology.

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    If you’d be so good as to point to any comment of mine mentioning demons or devils. Go ahead, Karl, give yourself the “strawman of the week” award.

  • TreenonPoet

    From
    Lund’s list that you linked to:-

    7. Straw man (misrepresentation):  This fallacy misrepresents an opponent’s actual position through exaggeration or distortion.  A good precaution is to ask an opponent whether or not you have stated his viewpoint clearly and accurately.  Very few if any Christians will recognize themselves in Dawkins’ caricatures.   He repeatedly accuses religion of demanding credulity (mindless belief) and of discouraging science (rational inquiry).  For example, according to Dawkins, the great majority of Christians teach their children that: “unquestioning faith is a virtue” (p. 323) and that “truth comes from scripture rather than from evidence” (p. 379).  Thus, he concludes: “Religious faith is an especially potent silencer of rational calculation… because it discourages questioning, by its very nature” (p. 346).   Thus, he concludes: “Religious faith is an especially potent silencer of rational calculation… because it discourages questioning, by its very nature” (p. 346).[sic]  Dawkins blandly assumes that all religions are basically the same in this regard.  While his characterization may apply to some cults and false religions, it is categorically false when applied to historic Christianity.

    (I don’t know whether Lund’s quotes are genuine because they do not occur on those page numbers of my (hardback) copy of The God Delusion, but they sound plausible.)
    Do you deny that
    1. the great majority of Christians teach their children that unquestioning faith (such as belief in God) is a virtue?
    2. the great majority of Christians teach their children that truth comes from scripture rather than from evidence (as, for example, with the resurrection)?
    3. Christian faith is an especially potent silencer of rational calculation… because it discourages questioning, by its very nature? (For example, you have said elsewhere that nothing I say will sway you.)

  • karlf

    Sorry. I was wrong to assume that you believed in devils and demons. Actually I am pleased to hear that you don’t.

  • Acleron

    Well I can measure the probability of something happening, many people, can sorry about your lack there.

    The whole of the quantum world is stochastic. One of the major relationships in quantum theory, Schrodinger’s wave function, is the probability of something existing in a particular position. We don’t know where for example an electron is around an atom, we estimate a cloud of probability. In the two slit experiment it is impossible to predict which slit a particle will traverse, it is random and therefore unpredictable. Hence Einstein’s famous quote about god and dice, one that he of course regretted because of claims by believers.

    Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is often explained in terms of measurement but:-

    ‘Thus,the uncertainty principle actually states a fundamental property of quantum systems, and is not a statement about the observational success of current technology.’
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncertainty_principle

  • Peter

    Through the origination of actions, the Creator continuously recreates the universe at every moment.   Therefore the answer to your question is yes, the universe was created 5 minutes ago, just as it was created 5 centuries ago and five nanoseconds ago.

    The discrediting of the Planck scale as the level at which spacetime is granular, has undermined the latest hypothesis that our universe is a three dimensional holographic representation of a fundamental reality being played out on a two dimensional surface at the edge of the universe.  

    The holographic principle was introduced as the solution to spontaneously originating actions at the Planck scale, since below that scale there was no spacetime and no causation.  At the Planck scale the graininess of spacetime resembled pixells in a holographic image, and the pixels of our spacetime are deemed to behave as a holographic representation of a more profound reality which existed far away in two dimensions.

    In other words, it was that two dimensional surface which was the real existence, and our three dimensional universe was a hologram pixellated at the Planck scale, with each pixel receiving its instructions on how to behave from that distant surface.

    This of course did away with the need for the origination of actions at the lowest possible scale and made a continuous creator superfluous.  However, now that we have discovered that spacetime is not pixellated at the Planck scale, the notion of a holographic universe has receded and the prospect of an originator of actions is back to the fore.

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    1. Catholics and Catholic theologians have been questionning their faith for two thousand years: I don’t recognise the version of Christianity that you are referring to in this question.

    2. Sola scriptura is a Protestant invention of the sixteenth century. Don’t eyewitness accounts constitute “evidence” in your part of the world?

    3. Refer to answer 1 above. I have told you that YOU won’t sway me, because (i) we have never met (ii) your arguments are only repeating atheist commonplaces that I, by my questionning, have already disregarded and (iii) you are not likely to be able to pull together a convincing argument that would fit into a com-box.

  • JabbaPapa

    special pleading (on behalf of a species considered by some to be exempt from the laws of nature)

    You’re just inventing stuff out of thin air again — your suggestion forms no part whatsoever of the argument. At no point does he claim that the laws of nature do not apply either here or there.

    Oh, but you’re also confusing science and nature again, aren’t you.

    This comment is a response to nothing that I have said, and to nothing that is contained in that text.

    The occurrence of mutations and their relationship to the process of
    evolution have been demonstrated enough times for them to be considered
    fact

    Can you please show me where anybody has even mentioned mutation in the first place ?

    You are not addressing any of the points that have been made concerning logic, and you are instead trying to pretend that the text extract was about biology.

  • JabbaPapa

    By the way, do you think an outside agency created the universe 5 minutes ago? If not, why not?

    It seems that the Saturday evening moderator disliked my pointing out that this theory is utterly ludicrous.

  • JabbaPapa

    Do you deny that
    1. the great majority of Christians teach their children that unquestioning faith (such as belief in God) is a virtue?
    2. the great majority of Christians teach their children that truth comes from scripture rather than from evidence (as, for example, with the
    resurrection)?
    3. Christian faith is an especially potent silencer of rational calculation… because it discourages questioning, by its very nature?

    Yes, I deny it

    Yes, I deny it

    Yes, I deny it

  • JabbaPapa

    Well I can measure the probability of something happening, many people, can sorry about your lack there.

    Probability is, as I have already stated TWICE now, an analytical tool.

    Which part of that did you fail to understand ?

    We don’t know where for example an electron is around an atom, we
    estimate a cloud of probability. In the two slit experiment it is
    impossible to predict which slit a particle will traverse, it is random
    and therefore unpredictable.

    Unpredictability, probability, and chance are three different things.

    Unpredictability is a consequence and a part of ignorance.

    Probability is an analytical tool.

    Chance is an empirically observable feature of material reality.

    You are confusing the limitations of science, with theory, and reality.

    Hence Einstein’s famous quote about god and dice, one that he of course regretted because of claims by believers

    Einstein was wrong about dice, but the existence of randomness as demonstrated in laboratory tests involving dice had not been proven when he made it.

    ‘Thus,the uncertainty principle actually states a fundamental property
    of quantum systems, and is not a statement about the observational
    success of current technology.’

    I have already stated that some quantum events are unpredictable — this is not normally the case however when the quanta involved are so large that they are measurable at the macrophysical level, for starters — and the unpredictability or not will also depend on the definition of the “event” in question by the scientist. Should the event in question be the movement of a quantum from A to B, the arrival time of that quantum at B is predictable provided that its departure time from A is known.

  • karlf

    Hey Jabba! Are you now ignoring me, or are you still thinking up a way to prove me wrong?

  • Acleron

    As the term scientific methodology is relatively recent and certainly post dates Bacon you are looking at the process. This process was used long before christianity in Egypt. The system of empirical practice followed by observation is described in the Ebers Papyrus which is dated at 1500BC and considered to be a copy of older documents dating back to 3500BC.

  • Acleron

    There are many behavioural similarities between believers and alt/anti-meds. And the accusation that scientists are closed minded is another one of them. Dawkins has stated as have many others, events that would prove a god, not necessarily your particular brand but just some sort of god., acausal macro events, miracles etc. Yet when a believer is asked what would disprove the existence of god or what would it take to convince them their belief was untrue, there is a staggering silence. So tell me again, who is close minded?

  • TreenonPoet

     1. By ‘unquestioning faith’, I would guess that Dawkins is distinguishing it from non-religious faith. I have followed a number of discussions about the existence of God in which the believer eventually concedes that it is a matter of faith, meaning that all the objections that have been raised can be dismissed on that basis. More frequently, I encounter silence or a distortion of the objection, as if the objection has been filtered out in the believer’s mind. Is there any reason to think that a believer’s self-questioning is any more open to objections? When religious leaders say that faith is a virtue, they are referring to religious faith (being the default interpretation of ‘faith’ in their contexts). It is echoed by politicians when they support faith-based initiatives, and by those parents keen to bring their children up in what they perceive to be the best way.

    2. Yes, eye-witness accounts do constitute evidence, but that evidence has to be weighed against what we know about death, the reliability of witness reports, the process by which tales are embellished, etc. Facts should always outweigh even first-hand reports to the contrary, let alone reports in scriptures that have proven to be deeply flawed (which, in this case, is the only source of ‘evidence’ as far as I know). To teach otherwise is to commit a certain error that it seems the CH will not let me enunciate. Your response to item 2 illustrates the consequences of this error. The resurrection is a basic tenet of Christianity, so the allegation of strawman is false.

    3. (i) That we have never met, and (iii) that I am not likely to be able to pull together a convincing argument that would fit into a com-box, illustrate the irrationality that Dawkins objects to. (ii) That my arguments are only repeating atheist commonplaces that you, by my questioning, have already disregarded presumes that your questioning was sufficiently thorough. I have expressed my doubts about this in item 1, and I would say that the strenghth of your belief is irrational. A similar attitude is demonstrated in many comments on this site, on other sites, and in other media, all of which tends to suggest that Dawkins is not attacking a strawman. Stronger evidence is provided in the very nature of religion, as Dawkins says.

    My hypothesis as to why so many believers regard Dawkins’ criticisms are strawmen is that the most successful religious indoctrination is subtle enough to persuade its victims that they came to the prescribed conclusions through their own reasoning.

  • TreenonPoet

    You criticised the question, not the hypothesis, and in a manner that gratuitously insulted the questioner, but I would be interested to know why you now say that the theory is ludicrous.

  • TreenonPoet

    I understand that, in the age of steam, there was a hypothesis that if a man exceeded one hundred miles per hour, he would die. Of course, that has been disproven, but the hypothesis could have been legitimately dismissed before man was able to reach that speed. No reason was given why a man could survive at 99.9mph, but not at 100.1mph. Banding speeds into microprogress (sub-100) and macroprogress would make no difference to the validity of the hypothesis. Those who ridiculed the hypothesis were not guilty of the application fallacy, but those who supported it (if there was more than one person) were guilty of special pleading for microprogress.

  • H Pluckrose

    Yes, the verses I cited numerous times show that it is God saying to kill the Midianites – the first verse begins ‘The lord spake unto Moses saying …

    I know God is against murder at other times.

  • H Pluckrose

    If you read Numbers 31 you will see that God orders the killing and then if you think maybe Moses overdid it a bit, read to the end where the lord is pleased and helps share out the loot. You may have missed other parts where god says rape victims should be married to their rapist or stoned for not shouting loudly enough? I am an atheist who became so after reading the bible. I do recommend it – start at Genesis, go right thru to Leviticus and if you still think the god is good, I will be very surprised.

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    1. Your 1 is a diversion. Your allegation was that faith was unquestioning. I have already put it plainly to you that religious faith is, of its nature, questioning; and many people come to belief precisely as a result of their own reflection and questioning. In my own case, theism became clearly the only cogent answer to the questions that I was asking.
    Religious faith, as I have experienced it and as I and those around me live it is questioning by nature; Dawkins’ characterisation of all religious faith as unquestioning is wrong – either he is putting it up as a strawman or he does not understand his subject. Which do you think it is?
    2. You don’t like the evidence? Tough. It is still evidence. I choose to weigh the evidence differently.
    But, again, this is an evasion of the point: Dawkins claimed that Christians teach their children that scripture is the sole source of truth – that is not true as a criticism of Catholicism or Orthodoxy (between them the overwhelming majority of Christians) – again, he is either putting up a strawman or he doesn’t understand his subject. Which is it?
    3. I would reply by pointing out that your criteria for accepting a matter of truth indicates that your atheism is every bit as dogmatic and unquestioning as my religious beliefs. Your defence of Dawkins is both evasive and indicative that you have already made up your mind on the matter.
    I have already pointed out to you that Catholic Christianity is welcoming of questions: questioning the faith has been the intellectual driving force of the last two millennia. Dawkins argument that Christianity is “especially silencing” is, again, either a strawman built on outliers or a misunderstanding. Which?

  • H Pluckrose

    You are being a bit silly now, aren’t you? Please feel free to call me sir or capitalise your God if you like. I will gladly do so too if it upsets you. Lets call me Harold. There are certain conventions in academic writing in which grammatical rules are very important. You wouldn’t get away with capital using proper nouns because they are sacred to you but it does not matter here.

  • H Pluckrose

    Doesn’t it seem strange then that the country with the most crime, America, should also have the most Christians and that the country with the least crime, Sweden, should have the most atheists? Hmmm. I don’t think you mean that anyway. If you woke up tomorrow and your god did not exist any more, you would not immediately go out raping, stealing and murdering. You will still have your empathy and compassion and would not want to harm others. Unless you are a psychopath.

  • Jonathan West

    Oh, so we are allowed to do things Satan is not allowed to do? 

    What a very novel approach to theology and morality!

  • H Pluckrose

    The argument has also been countered by saying if we do not suppose everything to have required a first cause, the universe need not have had one. Remember the claim was that a god must exist cos everything has to have a cause? If that’s true rt hen God needs a cause. If its not true then the universe does not need a creator.Whichever way you look at it bringing gods into things just complicates the issue without providing any answers.

  • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com The Raven

    That would be the practice of drawing conclusions from observations, which comes to us from Aristotle, rather than constructing an experiment to test a hypotheses, which is how we usually understand the “scientific method”.
    The text of the Ebers Papyrus is here: http://web.archive.org/web/20090312052919/http://www.macalester.edu/~cuffel/ebers.htm It is a medical treatise, including the appropriate incantations to be recited to secure a cure. Perhaps you’d care to point to the section that deals so clearly twitch the “scientific method”?