Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Problem with God: Interview with Richard Dawkins #5

The Problem with God: Interview with Richard Dawkins, Beliefnet, 15 December 2005 The renowned biologist talks about intelligent design, dishonest Christians, and why God is no better than an imaginary friend. Interview by Laura Sheahen. ...

Continued from part #4 with my comments bold and in square brackets and the interviewer's questions bold and in italics.

You've said, "don't name our present ignorance God"--which you said is what intelligent design proponents are doing. They're taking an area where we're ignorant and naming that God. Do you think science will eventually explain everything we wonder about now?

I don't know the answer. I'm equally excited by both in a way. I rather like the idea of understanding everything and I also quite like the idea of science being a never-ending, open-ended quest. [If Dawkins did say that "is what intelligent design proponents are doing", naming "our present ignorance God" then he is being disingenuous, because as he must know, ID theorists "don't name our present ignorance God"! See my new ID FAQ item, "Objections to ID ... `ID is an argument from ignorance'''. This continual misrepresentation of ID by its opponents is a tacit admission that they cannot deal with ID on its merits. It will backfire on them eventually, as the public increasingly realize what ID actually is, namely "... the scientific theory that intelligent causation is necessary to explain certain features of the natural world; and the evidence of that intelligent causation is empirically detectable".]

If you had to name top sources for optimism and hope in a naturalistic or materialistic worldview, what would they be?

I think there is something glorious in the universe, in contemplating the Milky Way galaxy, in contemplating the fact that this is only one in billions of galaxies, contemplating the fact that at the beginning of the 21st century, humanity really has gone a very long way toward understanding the universe in which we live and the life form of which we are a part. I find that a truly inspirational thought. [Dawkins has not answered the question, which was "top sources for optimism and hope in a naturalistic or materialistic worldview" (my emphasis)? A theistic worldview could equally (if not with more justification) claim the same. As Paul Davies, from a "naturalistic or materialistic worldview" is "incomprehensible" that "the universe is ... comprehensible" to humans:

"Another of Einstein's famous remarks is that the only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. The success of the scientific enterprise can often blind us to the astonishing fact that science works. Though it is usually taken for granted, it is both incredibly fortunate and deeply mysterious that we are able to fathom the workings of nature by use of the scientific method. The purpose of science is to uncover patterns and regularities in nature, but the raw data of observation rarely exhibit explicit regularities. Nature's order is hidden from us: the book of nature is written in a sort of code. To make progress in science we need to crack the cosmic code, to dig beneath the raw data, and uncover the hidden order. To return to the crossword analogy, the clues are highly cryptic, and require some considerable ingenuity to solve. What is so remarkable is that human beings can actually perform this code-breaking operation. Why has the human mind the capacity to "unlock the secrets of nature" and make a reasonable success at completing nature's cryptic crossword"? It is easy to imagine worlds in which the regularities of nature are transparent at a glance or impenetrably complicated or subtle, requiring far more brainpower than humans possess to decode them. In fact, the cosmic code seems almost attuned to human capabilities. This is all the more mysterious on account of the fact that human intellectual powers are presumably determined by biological evolution, and have absolutely no connection with doing science. Our brains have evolved to cope with survival in the jungle," a far cry from describing the laws of electromagnetism or the structure of the atom." (Davies P.C.W., "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Science," in Templeton J.M., ed., "Evidence of Purpose: Scientists Discover the Creator," Continuum: New York NY, 1994, p.54)
According to Dawkins himself, from his "naturalistic or materialistic worldview" (i.e. his "Darwinian View of Life") "we should expect" "The universe we observe" to have "no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference" to humans:
"Theologians worry away at the `problem of evil' and a related `problem of suffering.' ... On the contrary, if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies like the crashing of this bus are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind. In a universe of 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 we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A.E. Housman put it: `For Nature, heartless, witless Nature Will neither care nor know.' DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music." (Dawkins R., "River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life," Phoenix: London, 1996, p.155. Emphasis in original)
If it doesn't (as Dawkins himself concedes here), then that is more evidence against, Dawkins' "naturalistic or materialistic worldview", his "Darwinian View of Life"!]

Obviously, there are other things having nothing to do with science-music, poetry, sex, love. These are all things that make life, to me, extremely worth living. [So where does Dawkins get "love" amongst other "things that make life ... extremely worth living" in a "universe [that] ... has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference"?]

[Continued in part #6]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

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