Monday, June 29, 2009

Dawkins responds to the AFR

I am redating this post with some fresh comments.

I finally got the chance to listen to this. Holy cow, Dawkins says that if we are deluded, we would have died out long ago.

Let's take a look.

T = We believe in God.
D = We are deluded.
X (for extinct) = We would have long ago become extinct.

T -> D
D -> X

So the fact that theists have not long since become extinct effectively refutes the central claim of Dawkins' book.

23 comments:

Matthew said...

My internet is a bit slow right now.

Is he giving a lecture on evolutionary psychology to adress such things like Plantinga's EAAN or a philosophical discussion?

The first case might be worth listening to, the other probably not.

grandconjunct said...

I listened to the whole talk it seemed like a typical Dawkins talk , in case someone doesn't have the time to listen to the entire thing, the AfR question comes up about 75% into the talk along the quicktime progress bar.

Finney said...

Just tune to minute 48.5.

Dawkins responds to the AFR with saying that natural evolution multiplied over millions of years geared us to understanding what corresponds to physical reality, but that our capacity for knowledge gets more flaky as our minds delve into more abstract topics like quantum mechanics. I'm not sure what he means by that.

C.S. Lewis would respond like this:
"But then, equally, no more Naturalism. For of course Nautralism is a prime specimen of that towering speculation, discovered from practice and going far beyond experience, which is now being condemned. Nature is not an object that can be presented either to the senses or the imagination. It can be reached only by the most remote inferences... 'There is nothing except this' - an assertion surely, as remote from practice, experience, and any conceivable verification as has ever been made since men began to use their reason speculatively." - Miracles

Anonymous said...

It's almost as if Dawkins really doesn't know or care about the merits of either side in the atheist v theist debate, and is engaging in this game almost entirely for secondary political and sociopolitical concerns.

I mean, what are the odds, right?

Ilíon said...

I'm going to go out on a limb here -- sight unseen, allow me to speculate that this response is really a "response."

Ilíon said...

Shame on you, Finney! for pointing out that atheistic arguments not only undercut themselves but also typically end up denying that we can have any knowledge, ot at least any interesting knowledge.

Shackleman said...

I listened to the entire podcast. As mentioned, at about minute 50, he gives a very belabored attempt at a critique of the AfR. In my estimation, he could be summed up like this:

We had to have evolved to know what's true, otherwise we wouldn't have survived.

That's pretty much it in a nutshell. It's beyond weak. I think it shows how difficult a problem the AfR presents to the naturalist.

The rest of his presentation was his reading excerpts from his book, The God Delusion. He's an entertaining public speaker. I'm enchanted by his accent and his expert use of inflection, allegory, and wit. He does an excellent job of marketing, especially to the masses who don't have it in them to actually dig into his arguments and look for counterarguments from experts on the opposite side of the field. He eloquently and wittily presents the challenges facing an unseasoned, or shall we say immature understanding of the Christian faith. and he does an incredibly good job reinforcing the views of arm-chair atheists that worship at his alter.

I think Anon is right. He doesn't care about the *real* arguments. He's a marketing force. So he ignores, purposefully so, in my guess, anything that can weaken his position. He's not after the truth, he's trying to win converts. Period. And the scary thing is, he's been successful.

People who frequent places such as Dr. Reppert's blog are probably inoculated from this sort of thing. But the average run of the mill armchair agnostic can and has been swayed by him. He's a siren.

Matthew said...

Well, Dawkins has a big beef with the design-argument (I think Dennet uses a very useful term, "mind-creationist". It tries to give a negative tone, but we could easily exchange that for a positive term that includes "reason" or a synonyme) and of course, Darwin is capable of solving all problems.

I still think that the AFR hasn't got the treatment it deserves from naturalists. While the POE is adressed almost constantly, the AFR doesn't get that much attention.
Dawkins' attitude shows a good explanation why. "Well, it must have worked someway".

Eric said...

Dawkins's understanding of the AFR is about as deep as his understanding of the Christian conception of morality (which he for some reason thinks Christians claim 'comes from the Bible').

Victor Reppert said...

I hazard a wild guess that he has never read the main source for the contemprary AFR. Name of the guy who wrote it escapes me.

Joshua said...

Wow! Talk about sawing off the tree branch that one is sitting on. People like Dickie Dawkins are comical -- complete caricatures.

Gordon Knight said...

In defense of Dawkins, what he probably meant was that if we are systematically deceived, we would have become extinct long ago. this allows for aberrant beliefs, like God, Ghosts, whatever.


On the other hand, how does he KNOW that we humans have been around so long? There is something circular here.

Anonymous said...

It seems obvious to me that the reactions and discriminating capacity of our brains must have formed to correspond accurately to a world of dimensions ( as we simply understand them ) to ensure our action and survival within it.

Further, this judgment process of 'truth' about physical world states
must acquire a value and a sense of absolute rightness to an evolved creature that depends vitally upon it.

I conceive that such judgments ( such as simply >> that object 'there' cannot be that other object 'there' ) become treated by a biological creature as an absolute truth ... and it 'works ' in practice, and is proved to be true over and over.

As the brain seem to be a hierarchy in operation, I conceive that this 'truth' of logic is built into nerve actions ( thoughts) involving logic type judgments, such as we experience constantly in considering actions in the abstract..
Hmm. and in fact you could say, I suspect, that logic emerges inevitably out of a network based, survival and intentional driven nervous system.

So I would grant that the 'devil' Dawkins has the right of it.

But if you ask me to believe that this physical operation of a nervous network in a body can be understood to be a 'mind' or 'consciousness as we know it .... hmmm.
No it is impossible, literally.

I wait with huge interest to hear a scientific explanation how an entity of defined 'mental' nature can also be one of defined 'physical' nature.

The latest remark I saw on this in 'new scientist' talked casually about how a brain secretes consciousness.

"secretes" ?!! that is just so typical of the word games needed to pretend that one dimensional reality can be a different dimensional reality.

It is common to say that eventually more and more knowledge of brain and nerve network function as a system will provide understanding of consciousness.
Well, they have certainly gained some understanding now of what activity corresponds to what flavor of subjective experience.
But is just not an explanation to me.
Its not the detail or process , its the actual experienced nature of it all.
For a scientific answer, it will probably require physical science to accept that materiality ... is not materiality.

I think the worlds real nature and thus the real nature of a living nervous network as consciousness, is something that is completely outside current models.

A clue is in the real nature of time I believe. and how it seems we have no actual instant "now" , even though there seems to be. ie. , we create 'now'. Or do we?

In fact i think that almost every aspect of experience becomes a clue when questioned enough.

The sad thing is that though I have had a few insightful moments, I am becoming convinced I can not understand it. Not in the time left anyway.
And it may actually be beyond the human based mind to understand.
My odd thoughts on it seem not to find words to express.
very odd indeed.

Oh .. sorry for this after midnight outburst. It has been close to my heart for many years.

I am moved to say there is wonder and mystery and goodness in this universe which can come upon one when dogmatism is lost and the mind and heart open.

And I guess everyone knows that can be true .

good luck and good wishes from anon-again.

Shackleman said...

Anon,

Just a humble suggestion, and forgive me if it doesn't really apply, but there's a lot in your post that suggests you haven't spent much time reading philosophy. Many of the ideas you touch on, and have difficulty expressing, seem to me to have been fully fleshed out at great lengths and depths by said field. (Although, as a disclaimer, I'd admit I've only just begun my journey into philosophy myself--studying it now for perhaps about 5 years).

Perhaps broadening your interests to include more philosophy to compliment your scientific studies would be beneficial to your quest for truth. If you haven't read it yet, might I suggest you take a look at Hasker's "Emergent Self"? In it, he touches on many of the concerns you express about dualism and you might find it a rewarding read, even if you're not swayed by his presentation (I found his ultimate conclusion to be very weak, but the arguments leading up to his conclusion were very compelling and highly interesting). And of course, Dr. Reppert's treatment of the AfR is good too---even if a bit dry (sorry, Dr. Reppert :-).

Matthew said...

Your new comments remind me of what a friend of mine once told me about Planttinga's EAAN.

You know, I don't think it's a slam dunk argument but I like it as a rebuttal to atheists who walk around shouting "Religion evolved, it's not true". It usually silences them.

Clayton said...

"In defense of Dawkins, what he probably meant was that if we are systematically deceived, we would have become extinct long ago. this allows for aberrant beliefs, like God, Ghosts, whatever.


On the other hand, how does he KNOW that we humans have been around so long? There is something circular here."

The first point seems quite right, but I'm not sure about the second. I don't know about the AfR, but Plantinga's EAAN is not a challenge to show that the beliefs we take to be basic are true/justified, but a challenge for the atheist to keep the epistemic wolves at bay and show that their view, if true, doesn't lead to the conclusion that they shouldn't be forming views.

Ilíon said...

Actually, Clayton, the conclusion of Plantinga's argument is:

IF naturalism is the truth about the nature of reality, THEN naturalists can never have rational warrant and justification for believing that any of their beliefs, including their belief that naturalism is the thuth about the nature of reality, are indeed true.

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Ilíon said...

Which is to say that, according to their own lights, they (and all other human beings) can never know anything: they can assert, but they cannot know, and they cannot show.

Naturalist can "keep the epistemic wolves at bay" only by abandoning naturalism.

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The word verification system is being a joker today: "norks?

Matthew said...

Well one might say that the EAAN tries to prove that one can never have justified true belief in naturalism by arguing that if naturalism is true, belief in it is unjustified and if it is justified it is false.

Clayton said...

Ilion,

You amaze me. Even when you agree with me you disagree with me.

Ilíon said...

Oddly enough, Clayton, if I have not explicitly said the same of you, I can see it being applicable.

Ilíon said...

Let's see --

Clayton said: "... Plantinga's EAAN is ... a challenge for the atheist to keep the epistemic wolves at bay and show that their view, if true, doesn't lead to the conclusion that they shouldn't be forming views."

And I said: "[No, you have that wrong, because Plantinga's conclusion is:] IF naturalism is the truth about the nature of reality, THEN naturalists can never have rational warrant and justification for believing that any of their beliefs, including their belief that naturalism is the truth about the nature of reality, are indeed true."

Clayton (mis)represents Plantinga's argument as merely a warning for 'atheists' to keep on their epistemic toes by coming up with an explanation for how it is that 'naturalism' does not, after all, logically imply that human beings should not hold opinions.

On the other hand, I pointed out that were 'naturalism' true, then it is *impossible* for anyone to rationally hold-and-justify his "opinions" (the quote marks are because were 'naturalism' true, then it is impossible to hold actual opinions).


Yeah! I guess I can see where Clayton might have picked up the idea that what I'd said does not really dispute what he'd said.

Clayton said...

Hmmm...

I say that it's a challenge, you say that it's a challenge that cannot be met.

Seems like a deep disagreement.