Saturday, May 31, 2008

Dallas Willard on The Dawk

A redated post.

I admit it. Dawkins is so much fun to pick on. If all Christian apologists had to do was beat up on redneck atheism, their job would be much easier than it really is. HT: Christian Cadre.

"He should not reserve his views for infliction upon a largely helpless public whom his scientific credentials and elaborate rhetorical devices will overwhelm and make incapable of any accurate assessment of argument. When he writes books like The Blind Watchmaker he is just a naturalist metaphysician, trying to cozy up to the scientists and blend into their company in such a way that his true colors will not be noticed. He takes the liberty to dress down what he calls "redneck creationism" (252), but unfortunately there are rednecks on the side of "Darwinianism" as well. He is one of the most outstanding."

17 comments:

philip m said...

It's interesting how Willard here uses the phrase 'naturalist metaphysician,' because recently I was recently reading reviews of the book What's So Great About Christianity, and someone noted that in the book the author distinguished evolution from Darwinism by saying evolution is merely the scientific theory, while Darwinism moreso implies the metaphysical claims or worldview behind it.

I don't know about the term's value universally, but applying this sense of the word to Dawkins does make perfect sense.

Victor Reppert said...

I think a lot of people fail to recognize that a separate step must be taken to graduate one's science to the status of metaphysics and claim that one's scientific account is also metaphysically real. Many scientists have been reluctant to be realists about their own theories--Steven Hawking is perhaps the latest example.

exapologist said...

I'm an anti-realist about ID theories of the origin of the universe, life, "basic biological kinds", and Homo sapiens. ;-)

stunney said...

Victor Reppert wrote:

I think a lot of people fail to recognize that a separate step must be taken to graduate one's science to the status of metaphysics and claim that one's scientific account is also metaphysically real. Many scientists have been reluctant to be realists about their own theories--Steven Hawking is perhaps the latest example.

Many evolutionary naturalists openly admit that evolutionary naturalism entails moral anti-realism, but do so without providing a good explanation for why one should not also be an anti-realist about natural entities as well as moral ones.

But equal opportunity anti-realism (a la later Wittgenstein) provides no non-question-begging basis for granting naturalism any epistemological privileges over anti-naturalism. I think Michael Rea makes a similar point in his recent book, World Without Design: The Ontological Consequences of Naturalism. See also his papers, numbers 7 and 9, here

stunney said...

Off topic, but Victor et al,, you may be interested in this which I came across recently from David Chalmers:


September 26, 2005
Jaegwon Kim comes out

Jaegwon Kim's new book, Physicalism, or Something Near Enough, was recently published. This book is full of interesting arguments about the mind-body problem. But it is especially notable for the fact that Kim, often seen as an arch-reductionist, comes out of the closet as a dualist. In the last couple of pages of the book, he embraces epiphenomenalist property dualism about qualia, combined with functionalist reductionism about intentional states. The position is not too far from a view that is often attributed to The Conscious Mind, though as a matter of fact I'm much less confident about both the epiphenomenalism (about the phenomenal) and the functionalism (about the intentional) than Kim is. Here's a review of the book by Andrew Melnyk, and here's a sample chapter.

As the title suggests, Kim softpedals his debut as a dualist a little. Here's the last paragraph of the book:

The position is, as we might say, a slightly defective physicalism — physicalism manque but not by much. I believe that this is as much physicalism as we can have, and that there is no credible alternative to physicalism as a general worldview. Physicalism is not the whole truth, but it is the truth near enough, and near enough should be good enough.

(As someone suggested, this calls to mind a counterfactual book called Straight, Or Something Near Enough. With subtitle: I Just Fool Around With Guys on Weekends. "The position is, as we might say, a slightly defective heterosexuality — heterosexuality manque but not by much. Near enough should be good enough.")

Tone aside, this makes at least three prominent materialists who have abandoned the view in the last few years. Apart from Kim, there's Terry Horgan and Stephen White (balanced, of course, by Frank Jackson moving the other way). One still sometimes sees the claim that almost everyone these days is a materialist (e.g. in Peter Carruthers' new book, p. 5: "Just about everyone now working in this area is an ontological physicalist, with the exception of Chalmers (1996) and perhaps a few others"). I don't think one can get away with saying this any more. Apart from the four counterexamples just mentioned, here are a few other contemporary anti-materialists about consciousness who come quickly to mind: Joseph Almog, Torin Alter, George Bealer, Laurence BonJour, Paul Boghossian, Tyler Burge, Tim Crane, John Foster, Brie Gertler, George Graham, W.D. Hart, Ted Honderich, Steven Horst, Saul Kripke, Harold Langsam, E.J. Lowe, Kirk Ludwig, Trenton Merricks, Martine Nida-Rumelin, Adam Pautz, David Pitt, Alvin Plantinga, Howard Robinson, William Robinson, Gregg Rosenberg, A.D. Smith, and Richard Swinburne. There are plenty of others, and then at least as many again agnostics. If I had to guess, I'd guess that the numbers within philosophy of mind are 50% materialist, 25% agnostic, 25% dualist.

Anonymous said...

I'm just recently read a paper by Steven Horst. It was very good at framing the situation surrounding naturalism and the problem of consciousness, it's titled "Evolutionary explanation and consciousness" (Journal of Psychology & Theology 30 no 1 Spr 2002, p 41-50.)

In any case, regarding all these non-materialists, I wonder whether it would still be accurate to say that most philosophers of mind consider themselves naturalists (Horst goes over how this term isn't clear). I'm probably going to read his new book, Beyond Reduction: Philosophy of Mind and Post-Reductionist Philosophy of Science. The book description suggests he rejects "dualism" (and materialist eliminativism) and says his new view is, "Cognitive Pluralism: the view that human cognitive architecture constrains us to understand the world through a plurality of partial, idealized, and pragmatically-constrained models, each employing a particular representational system optimized for its own problem domain. Such an architecture can explain the disunities of knowledge, and is plausible on evolutionary grounds."

Anonymous said...

Willard shows conclusively that Dawkins does not have a theory for the order in the universe which comes anywhere near the explanatory power of 'God did it'.

Ilíon said...

How does the saying go: "If Richard Dawkins did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him" ;)

Ilíon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ilíon said...

For that matter, "Does Richard Dawkins Exist?"

amusing audio "interview" (check out the voice)

Robert said...

Hello Ilion,

Thanks for sharing that Dawkins "interview". Whoever did his voice has got him **down** perfectly. It was absolutely hilarious.

Robert

Ilíon said...

Oh! The "interview" wasn't with Dr. Richard Dawkins, it was with Dr. Terry Tommyrot.

But, yes, the two do sound amazingly similar.

Robert said...

Ilion,

Do you know who plays the part of Terry Tommyrot? Again, the guy had Dawkins voice and inflections and concepts down perfectly. It was a great performance. Someone needs to get Dawkins himself a copy of this so he can hear how ridiculous he actually is. On the other hand he is so blind that if he heard it he would argue that it bears so resemblance to him or his ideas in any way.

Robert

Ilíon said...

No, I don't know who Tommyrot is.

However, I don't doubt that Mr Dawkins is aware of the "interview" -- it's at least a yeat old, and even if his personality in not such that he simply has to know what others are saying about his "arguments," he has plenty of acolytes to be incensed by this piece and bring it to The Maaster's atttention.

Ilíon said...

Robert: "... On the other hand he is so blind that ... "

Mr Dawkins is so willfully blind that he can admit ... in print .. that he is lying, and he (and, of course, his acolytes) cannot even see what he's done.

Consider: Let's all stop beating Basil's car ... read the whole thing (it isn't long), *understand* the (sloppy and fallacious) argument he's making ... then direct your attention to the conclusion of the piece: "... My dangerous idea is that we shall eventually grow out of all this [i.e. believing in concepts such as 'moral choice' and 'responsibility' and 'blame'] 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."

*Grasp* this! Internalize what Mr Dawkins has said! The man *knows* and *admits* that he himself doesn't even believe the foolishness he's trying to convince others to believe ... and believe on nothing more substantial than the "authority" of his prestige.

Robert said...

Ilion,

"Consider: Let's all stop beating Basil's car ... read the whole thing (it isn't long), *understand* the (sloppy and fallacious) argument he's making ... then direct your attention to the conclusion of the piece: "... My dangerous idea is that we shall eventually grow out of all this [i.e. believing in concepts such as 'moral choice' and 'responsibility' and 'blame'] 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.""

Thanks for sharing that, I read it and I am amazed that someone can be so blind and irrational.

Ilion, let me see if I have got this right. Dawkins says on one hand (in his books and articles and lectures) that the rational and hence **right** thing to do is to reject the God of the bible and the morality found there in. And then on the other hand he hopes to some day arrive at a place where he no longer holds moral convictions at all (including the moral convictions that we **ought** to reject God and accept his darwinism)?

What an idiot. There is not much more to say if someone is blind to that extent.

Robert

Ilíon said...

Robert: "Thanks for sharing that, I read it and I am amazed that someone can be so blind and irrational."

Well yes. And to top it off by claiming to be the epitome of rationality is like icing on the cake, or even gilding on the lily.


Robert: "Ilion, let me see if I have got this right. Dawkins says on one hand (in his books and articles and lectures) that the rational and hence **right** thing to do is to reject the God of the bible and the morality found there in. And then on the other hand he hopes to some day arrive at a place where he no longer holds moral convictions at all (including the moral convictions that we **ought** to reject God and accept his darwinism)?"

By Joe-ve! I think you've gawt it!

Mr Dawkins is *constantly* making moral assertions; that has been his main business for many years. But, at the same time, he denies, and has all along denied that there even *is* such a thing as a transcendant and binding morality.

He simultaneously asserts "Ought!" and "There is (and can be) no ought!"


Robert: "What an idiot. There is not much more to say if someone is blind to that extent."

Ah, but there is more to say --

Firstly, "idiot" is totally the wrong word to use to describe Dawkins or his "dangerous idea:" an idiot bears no moral responsibility for his errors (whatever they happen to be), precisely because he is an idiot. An idiot, someone who truly is an idiot, is for some reason or other unable to think clearly or properly.

Dawkins in *not* an idiot, he's not stupid: he's a fool -- he is capable of thinking clearly and properly, but on certain issues he *chooses* to not, he chooses this blindness, he chooses to try to deceive himself (apparently, he's not very good at that) and chooses to deceive others.

Secondly, in a certain way of looking at it, there really isn't much more to say: it's logically impossible, which means it's utterly impossible, to engage in rational argument with fools, for the fool is "arguing" irrationally and/or illogically. But at the same time, not all foolishness can be ignored; and the foolishness Dawkins spreads should not be ignored, for it is soul-killing.


I can think of only three ways to deal with the foolishness of deliberate fools:
1) Try to argue with it, try to treat it as though it were rational. This is a most irrational course, for the deliberate fool has intentionally abandoned rationality. This course must inevitable concede the field to the fool.
2) Try to ignore it. If the foolishness isn't that important, this is often the best thing to do.
3) Mock it, expose it *as* irrationality. Mercilessly hold up the foolishness for public ridicule and don't give a damn about the inevitable whinging about what a "meanie" you are.