Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Christian Physicist Polkinghorne on Dawkins

"Debating with Dawkins is hopeless, because there's no give and take. He doesn't give you an inch. He just says no when you say yes."

I have just linked to the essay on Polkinghorne where I got that information. I'm becoming rather a Polkinghorne fan.


Anonymous said...

Is this a quote from Polkinghorne about Dawkins or from Reppert about Loftus? Beware the atheist who tells you he is looking for truth but just has to, just needs to, really wants to, win.

Remember, Loftus fans want your PhD revoked (whatever that means) because if they can't win you need to be reeducated. I think there were some camps set up for that by, who was it, oh never mind, it must have happened in the Middle Ages when people believed in authority.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I hate to admit it, but after seeing Gish, Johnson, Morris, etc in action I have little sympathy that the atheists finally have a few modern bulldogs that are annoying to deal with.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon are you serious that they said that about Victor? Even if they were joking, I'd be curious where they said it. Pretty lame.

Nick said...

I would simply love to debate Dawkins, especially on that chapter in The God Delusion where he examines the arguments for God's existence.

Brenda said...

Atheism is an ideology like any other. However it has an internal narrative that demands it be presented as if atheism is just a logical consequence of science.

Science /= atheism

Duke of Earl said...

That is correct Brenda. However some people take science (which is an extremely useful tool for telling us about the natural world in which we live) and turn it into a totem or fetish.

Sam Harris claimed that religion + science = annihilation. Therefore he argued for the abolition of religion. What he failed to note was that the major religions have been around collectively for more than ten thousand years, without any risk of doomsday. Science has been around for a mere few hundred years and now we could crack the planet with nuclear weapons or wipe ourselves out with an engineered virus.

Given the demonstrated impossibility of eliminating religion, while scientific progress was stifled in various places, it makes more sense to argue for the abolition of science.*

*It should be noted that this is a slightly tongue in cheek response to Harris' claims, however unlike his scenario it could actually work.

Brenda said...

10,000 years? That's a bit of an exaggeration. The major religions only go back a couple thousand years.

BenYachov said...

>10,000 years? That's a bit of an exaggeration. The major religions only go back a couple thousand years.

Hypothetically, if I deny the existence of God(for the sake of argument) why should I believe the above claim is true?

It's also a bit of a non-starter since before any detailed divine revelation is allegedly given Judaism, Christianity & or Islam are all just simple monotheism in a their primitive infant form.

Which then begs how do we know prior to 10,000 years ago there where no monotheists? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

I'm just saying.....& you don't have to either believe or disbelieve in God to agree with me.

Victor Reppert said...

I did have Loftus in mind when I quoted this, though I hate for all my posts to be about Loftus.

The problem is the no-concession mentality. I find Loftus' ideas to be quite interesting and a worthwhile challenge to believers. It's when he faced challenges that he goes into his "I'm right and you're delusional" mode of response, which makes me think that if someone came up with a legitimate criticism of his anti-Christian apologetics, he wouldn't recognize it. C. S. Lewis recognized the legitimacy of Anscombe's criticisms of his argument, and Anscombe recognized that Lewis had vastly improved his argument when he revised it. Does that mean that either side had to admit they were wrong? Not really, but they were prepared to admit legitimate points on the other side.

I think many "movement" atheists think that it isn't worthwhile to really engage Christians, but rather to get people out of the fold via intimidation and ridicule. If they do get into discussion with you, they make sure you know what an idiot they think you are for believing as you do, and that they have trouble imagining someone of such education and intelligence being a Christian. They fear legitimizing Christianity be really engaging it.

Duke of Earl said...

Brenda, note the use of the word "collectively" that is, Christianity 2000, Judaism 3500, Buddhism 2500, Islam, 1400, Hinduism 4000(?). We're up over 11,000 years already.

Ben, some people have argued whether polytheism precedes or follows monotheism. Personally I think that they've both been around as long as we have had people. Science (not to be confused with mathematics or technology) a very short period of time comparatively.

Nick said...


If you ever heard Loftus's debate with D'Souza, he eventually had to keep saying "Christians are brainwashed" and "Brainwashed people don't know they're brainwashed." I may not be quoting exactly, but that's the main theme of it.

The problem is that brainwashing is really a strong term, just like indoctrination. When I have kids, is it wrong for me to raise them in the faith tradition I grew up in? Can that teaching really be called brainwashing?

And of course, if brainwashed people don't know they're brainwashed, how does Loftus know he's not brainwashed, maybe even by himself?

I find it unconvincing to have my opponent argue with just "You're brainwashed!"

Duke of Earl said...

Nick, it's not an argument at all.

Wouldn't the appropriate response be, given the adultery and all it's obvious you have a very dirty mind. Maybe you need your brain washed?

Victor Reppert said...

Of course it's a non-argument. His response is that since he has found overwhelming reason to believe that Christianity is false, there therefore must be some psychological explanation as to why an well-educated person continues to believe it.

Victor Reppert said...

I have added a link on Polkinghorne.

Once it goes ad hominem, it's almost impossible to get the discussion back onto the subject again.

David said...


If you ever wonder how atheists persuaded by facts could become "pretty lame" as you said, read this post from JWL from Vic’s blog, Tuesday, December 28, 2010 on Pluralism about Antecedent Probabilities and Miracles. Quote John Loftus:

"Vic, let ME be clear here. If I were raised in a Chinese family in China I would think like them. I would believe like them. I would act like them.

Yep, me. I would be a Chinese man in every respect. I am completely a child of my times. I am not very rational, none of us are.

Why can't you admit what I do?

Sheesh, no wonder they're saying your Ph.D. should be revoked over at my blog and that I should ignore you from now on.

My point, since Graham is too dense, is that the only way to break free from our prejudices is to follow the sciences. They are our best and only hope.

Religion does nothing here since we believe what we prefer to believe.

And philosophy? Come on now. Again you cannot be that dense. Tell me which philosophical opinions have a consensus to them? Philosophy uses the biases we inherit and then constructs reasons why our biases can be justified.

I value philosophy and yet I don't. Philosophy based on the sciences is the only thing I value for breaking down our inherited biases.

And yes, I was lucky to be exposed to the sciences, and philosophy, but that's the point. What if you were so exposed? What then? You do not have the intellectual muscle to invent philosophy on your own or the sciences. So we got lucky being born and raised the way we were. I admit this. It is non-controversial and unproblematic.

Why is it you kick against the goads?

Now without your biases toward your particular religion tell me the order of the priors that would justify your faith.

The AfR is NOT your prior. You had priors before that which led you as a philosopher to come up with it in the first place and one of the reasons I do not value philosophy divorced from the sciences which can and does lead smart people to justify what they already believe.

Oh, but there are deal ears here. And blind people.

Only if you admit you are a child of your times can I take you seriously. And once you do then you might justify Christianity without them.

Can you do it?

I think not."

Do you hear all the heavy sighing, the name calling, the reeducation? Most of us do too.

January 06, 2011 7:46 PM

Duke of Earl said...

Yay, science as a way of life.

Are we talking the science of Mengele?

I can work with that.

Steven Carr said...

'He just says no, when you say yes'?

What does that mean, other than Polkinghorne believes Jesus sent some demons into pigs to possess them, and Dawkins lives instead in the real world?

Polkinghorne says he has a friend in Jesus. Dawkins says Polkinghorne's friend is imaginary.

Polkinghorne's friend, of course, is saying nothing. How could he do otherwise, lacking the necessary existence which is essential to speech?

I have a review of one of Polkinghorne's many awful books at Polkinghorne

He is like a Victor Reppert who has never studied philosophy.

The arguments are totally terrible.

Which hardly matters as Polkinghorne will happily change them a few pages later ....

Steven Carr said...

"Debating with Dawkins is hopeless, because there's no give and take. He doesn't give you an inch. He just says no when you say yes."

This is the very beginning of a post.

Victor then goes on to explain 'Once it goes ad hominem, it's almost impossible to get the discussion back onto the subject again.'

This is probably why Victor starts off posts by having Christians engage in abuse of Dawkins.

Where would Christians be if they were somehow prevented by their religion from saying nasty things about people?

Happily, their Saviour allegedly gave them lots of exampls of how to call people names. Matthew 23 and 24 is full of choice examples of abuse and name-calling on a scale that only somebody full of Christian love like Jesus was could have produced.

BenYachov said...

I pray God I should never lose my Faith and become an Atheist.

But if I do then God be merciful to me and at least see that I not become a New Atheist.

Because it seems to me it is better to be merely damned than to be both damned and intellectually vacuous idiot for all eternity.

Dawkins yikes!

Nick said...

Okay. Who let Stevie Weevie out of his cage?

Duke of Earl said...

Is Steve complaining about challenge/riposte forms in the ancient world?

That is to say, when you had something worth saying you'd defend yourself and attack your opponent using the tools of rhetoric.

Maybe Steve just isn't familiar with the concept of having something to say worth saying?

See, that's how it's done.

Victor Reppert said...

I wasn't complaining about Dawkins criticizing his opponents. I was complaining about what I would call the no-concession attitude. Never admit that someone on the other side has any good points to make. Talking to people like this is like talking to a brick wall. They will never acknowledge any legitimacy to what you say, no matter what it is. When I am in a discussion with Keith Parsons, even though he's a staunch atheist, I know that he can acknowledge a good point if I make one. Same with BDK. But with other people, it's not like that. Their original points may have some legitimacy to them, but they can't sustain discussion to save their lives.

Owen said...

I saw Polkinghorne at one of those "Socrates in the City" events in Manhattan one evening.

It was a very enjoyable talk, and it came with a fantastic British accent.

Saw N.T. Wright at another. Not as good, but still a fine accent.

It's a shame Dawkins' reptilian slither overcomes any favorable timber his accent might lend.

Anyway, Polkinghorne is much too polite too debate the reptile.

For that, we need someone much more inclined to flat-out mockery. That's all you can do with someone like Dawkins.

Owen said...


Because it seems to me it is better to be merely damned than to be both damned and intellectually vacuous idiot for all eternity.

Oh man... THAT was great.