Dear Professor Dawkins,
"Imagine no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no 7/7, no Crusades, no witch-hunts, no Gunpowder Plot, no Indian partition, no Israeli/Palestinian wars, no Serb/Croat/Muslim massacres, no persecution of Jews as 'Christ-killers', no Northern Ireland `troubles', no `honour killings', no shiny-suited bouffant-haired televangelists fleecing gullible people of their money (`God wants you to give till it hurts'). Imagine no Taliban to blow up ancient statues, no public beheadings of blasphemers, no flogging of female skin for the crime of showing an inch of it. Incidentally, my, colleague Desmond Morris informs me that John Lennon's magnificent song is sometimes performed in America with the phrase `and no religion too' expurgated. One version even has the effrontery to change it to `and one religion too'." (Dawkins, R., "The God Delusion," Bantam Press: London, 2006, pp.1-2).
As pointed out in part #2 and #3, you contradict yourself in that, according to your "Darwinian View of Life," "The universe we observe has ... at bottom ... no evil ..." (Dawkins, R., "River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life," Phoenix: London, 1996, pp.154-155. My emphasis). So by your own "Darwinian View of Life" you should not have a problem with (indeed you should not even recognise) evils like, "suicide bombers ... 9/11 ... Crusades ... witch-hunts ...", etc., if your "Darwinian View of Life" were true. That you do have a problem with evil, shows that your "Darwinian View of Life" is false!
Moreover there is another (albeit related) problem that I mentioned in part #2 that I would deal with in a future post, namely your espousal of physical determinism. In a recent article you said that, "a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility" and "Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused's physiology, heredity and environment" and to "decide questions of blame or diminished responsibility make as little sense for a faulty man as for a Fawlty car":
"Ask people why they support the death penalty or prolonged incarceration for serious crimes, and the reasons they give will usually involve retribution. ... Retribution as a moral principle is incompatible with a scientific view of human behaviour. As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics. When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. We track down the problem and fix it, usually by replacing a damaged component, either in hardware or software. Basil Fawlty, British television's hotelier from hell created by the immortal John Cleese, was at the end of his tether when his car broke down and wouldn't start. He gave it fair warning, counted to three, gave it one more chance, and then acted. `Right! I warned you. You've had this coming to you!' He got out of the car, seized a tree branch and set about thrashing the car within an inch of its life. Of course we laugh at his irrationality. Instead of beating the car, we would investigate the problem. Is the carburettor flooded? Are the sparking plugs or distributor points damp? Has it simply run out of gas? Why do we not react in the same way to a defective man: a murderer, say, or a rapist? ... Isn't the murderer or the rapist just a machine with a defective component? Or a defective upbringing? Defective education? Defective genes? Concepts like blame and responsibility are bandied about freely where human wrongdoers are concerned. ... But doesn't a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused's physiology, heredity and environment. Don't judicial hearings to decide questions of blame or diminished responsibility make as little sense for a faulty man as for a Fawlty car? Why is it that we humans find it almost impossible to accept such conclusions? Why do we vent such visceral hatred on child murderers, or on thuggish vandals, when we should simply regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing? Presumably because mental constructs like blame and responsibility, indeed evil and good, are built into our brains by millennia of Darwinian evolution. Assigning blame and responsibility is an aspect of the useful fiction of intentional agents that we construct in our brains as a means of short-cutting a truer analysis of what is going on in the world in which we have to live. My dangerous idea is that we shall eventually grow out of all this and even learn to laugh at it, just as we laugh at Basil Fawlty when he beats his car. But I fear it is unlikely that I shall ever reach that level of enlightenment." (Dawkins, R., "Let's all stop beating Basil's car," Edge: The World Question Center 2006).
So why are you blaming "religion" for evils? According to you, such blaming of humans for "Any crime, however heinous, is ... to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused's physiology, heredity and environment" and so "questions of blame or diminished responsibility make as little sense for a faulty man as for a Fawlty car...", and such blaming" even for "a murderer" (including "child murderers") and "a rapist" is an "irrationality" on a par with "Basil Fawlty ... when his car broke down and wouldn't start. ... He got out of the car, seized a tree branch and set about thrashing the car within an inch of its life"!
Indeed, you even admitted recently in the context of your new book, after again citing the "Fawlty Towers ... episode where Basil [Fawlty's] ... car won't start and he ... thrashes it ... we laugh at Basil Fawlty [but], we ought to laugh in the same way at people who blame humans" even "for doing the most horrible murders" when "they were just determined by their molecules" so "It's stupid to punish them"that "you personally see that as an inconsistency in your views":
"This past Tuesday, Richard Dawkins spoke at DC's famous Politics & Prose bookstore, reading from his new book `The God Delusion.' One philosophically astute questioner, American Enterprise Institute's Joe Manzari, had the following exchange with Dr. Dawkins:
Manzari: Dr. Dawkins thank you for your comments. The thing I have appreciated most about your comments is your consistency in the things I've seen you've written. One of the areas that I wanted to ask you about, and the place where I think there is an inconsistency, and I hoped you would clarify, is that in what I've read you seem to take a position of a strong determinist who says that what we see around us is the product of physical laws playing themselves out; but on the other hand it would seem that you would do things like taking credit for writing this book and things like that. But it would seem, and this isn't to be funny, that the consistent position would be that necessarily the authoring of this book, from the initial conditions of the big bang, it was set that this would be the product of what we see today. I would take it that that would be the consistent position but I wanted to know what you thought about that.
Dawkins: The philosophical question of determinism is a very difficult question. It's not one I discuss in this book, indeed in any other book that I've ever talked about. Now an extreme determinist, as the questioner says, might say that everything we do, everything we think, everything that we write has been determined from the beginning of time in which case the very idea of taking credit for anything doesn't seem to make any sense. Now I don't actually know what I actually think about that, I haven't taken up a position about that, it's not part of my remit to talk about the philosophical issue of determinism. What I do know is that what it feels like to me, and I think to all of us, we don't feel determined. We feel like blaming people for what they do or giving people the credit for what they do. We feel like admiring people for what they do. None of us ever actually as a matter of fact says, `Oh well he couldn't help doing it, he was determined by his molecules.' Maybe we should I sometimes Um You probably remember many of you would have seen Fawlty Towers. The episode where Basil where his car won't start and he gives it fair warning, counts up to three, and then gets out of the car and picks up a tree branch and thrashes it within an edge of his life. Maybe that's what we all ought to... Maybe the way we laugh at Basil Fawlty, we ought to laugh in the same way at people who blame humans. I mean when we punish people for doing the most horrible murders, maybe the attitude we should take is `Oh they were just determined by their molecules.' It's stupid to punish them. What we should do is say `This unit has a faulty motherboard which needs to be replaced.' I can't bring myself to do that. I actually do respond in an emotional way and I blame people, I give people credit, or I might be more charitable and say this individual who has committed murders or child abuse of whatever it is was really abused in his own childhood. And so again I might take a ...
Manzari: But do you personally see that as an inconsistency in your views?
Dawkins: I sort of do. Yes. But it is an inconsistency that we sort of have to live with otherwise life would be intolerable. But it has nothing to do with my views on religion it is an entirely separate issue.
Manzari: Thank you."
(Gage, L., "Who wrote Richard Dawkins's new book?," Evolution News & Views,October 28, 2006. Also Dembski, W.A., "Repeat after me: `this has nothing to do with my views on religion,'" Uncommon Descent, October 25, 2006).
But then again (see part #3) you commit the fallacy of special pleading, in claiming that "it has nothing to do with my views on religion it is an entirely separate issue" (my emphasis). But why is evil done in the name of "religion ... an entirely separate issue"? As an atheist you claim that God does not exist, so all the evil done by "religion" is, according to you, just another form of human evil, which in turn is "just determined by their molecules." In that case, when you say, "I can't bring myself to do that. I actually do respond in an emotional way and I blame people ..." that would be just your "faulty motherboard which needs to be replaced"!
Quite frankly Professor Dawkins, your position is so self-contradictory (by your own admission it is merely "emotional," i.e. not rational), that it is unnecessary to continue critiquing your book any further (but I will).
Indeed it is just another example of the inherently self-refuting nature of your materialist philosophy (matter is all there is), where, as Professor Phillip E. Johnson pointed out, "The plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist" when materialists "employ their own minds to attempt to prove that the mind is `nothing but' a product of physical forces and chemical reactions" (my emphasis):
"Materialist Theories of the Mind It is in the nature of explanation that one thing is explained in terms of something else that is assumed valid, and to explain the latter as nothing more than a product of the former is to create a logical circle. Yet naturalistic metaphysics is so seductive that eminent scientists and philosophers frequently do employ their own minds to attempt to prove that the mind is `nothing but' a product of physical forces and chemical reactions. One of these is Francis Crick, the biochemist who as codiscoverer of the structure of DNA ... In his later years Crick has been drawn to the problem of consciousness and he expressed his thoughts in the 1994 book The Astonishing Hypothesis. Here is how Crick states his own starting point:The Astonishing Hypothesis is that `You,' your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules ... The hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people alive today that it can truly be called astonishing.' [Ibid, p.3].Of course the hypothesis is not astonishing at all to anyone acquainted with the recent history of science, because neuroscientists in particular have long taken for granted that the mind is no more than a product of brain chemistry. As Crick says, what makes the hypothesis astonishing is that it conflicts with the commonsense picture of reality most people assume as they go about the business of making decisions, falling in love or even writing books advocating materialist reductionism. The conflict with common sense would become apparent if Crick had presented his hypothesis in the first-person singular. Imagine the reaction of his publisher if Crick had proposed to begin his book by announcing that `I, Francis Crick, my opinions and my science, and even the thoughts expressed in this book, consist of nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.' Few browsers would be likely to read further. The plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist." (Johnson, P.E., "Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law and Education," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1995, pp.63-64. Emphasis original. Ellipses Johnson's)
You inadvertently confirm this to be true in that you have to make an exception for yourself, e.g. by the weak excuse: "I can't bring myself to do that ... it is an inconsistency that we" (i.e. you materialists) "have to live with otherwise life would be intolerable"!
As philosopher Marjorie Grene observed of Darwinism's materialist view of the human mind, "there is surely something wrong in a theory which, at its very root, invalidates itself" (my emphasis):
"From another perspective, David Lack, loyal Darwinian though he is, gives the game away. In the book I have already mentioned, he refers to Darwin's question: `Can the mind of man, descended, as I believe, from the lowest animal be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?' and he comments: `Darwin's "horrid doubt" [Darwin, C.R., Letter to W. Graham, July 3rd, 1881, in Darwin, F., ed., "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," (1898), Basic Books: New York NY, Vol. I., 1959, reprint, p.285] as to whether the convictions of man's evolved mind could be trusted applies as much to abstract truth as to ethics; and `evolutionary truth' is at least as suspect as evolutionary ethics. At this point, therefore, it would seem that the armies of science are in danger of destroying their own base. For the scientist must be able to trust the conclusions of his reasoning. Hence he cannot accept the theory that man's mind was evolved wholly by natural selection if this means, as it would appear to do, that the conclusions of the mind depend ultimately on their survival value and not their truth, thus making all scientific theories, including that of natural selection, untrustworthy.' [Lack, D., "Evolutionary Theory and Christian Belief: The Unresolved Conflict," Methuen & Co: London, 1957, p.104] Lack concludes from this that the old opposition of science and religion is still, and must remain, an `unresolved conflict.' But I think one may conclude, on the contrary, that it is the conventional logic of science, and the view of mind implied in it, that needs revision. For, as Plato argued long ago about Protagonas' `man the measure,' there is surely something wrong in a theory which, at its very root, invalidates itself." (Grene, M.G., "The Faith of Darwinism," Encounter, Vol. 74, November 1959, p.56).
nevertheless, I will deal with your examples above (e.g. "suicide bombers ... Crusades ... witch-hunts," etc) of the evils of "religion" in part #5.
Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
Genesis 10:32. These are the clans of Noah's sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.