Jump to content

Menu

Dawkins' Magic of Reality - a screed


Jay3fer
 Share

Recommended Posts

Took this Richard Dawkins book out of the library on the enthusiastic recommendations of several posters here who said that, despite Dawkins's track record, the book is "not a screed" and not "anti-religion" and that he keeps his science content well away from his rabidly atheist views.

 

I beg to differ.

 

First, about me: I don't consider myself extreme. Though we are enjoying the science part of Apologia, we do not hold with a young-earth view of Creation. We are Jewish, and believe in a God who carries on his act of Creation every day through the world around us. Mainstream Judaism is generally very open to scientific thought and endeavour, believing humbly that we don't really know everything there is to know - either about Torah (Bible) or the world around us. There are mysteries in both realms.

 

So I cracked this book, eagerly, and I think with an open mind. And was blown away, from the start, by his vehemence and hatred of religion or any spiritual pursuit whatsoever.

 

He starts by saying that the supernatural "can never offer us a true explanation of the things we see in the world... indeed, to claim a supernatural explanation of something is not to explain it at all and, even worse, to rule out any possibility of its ever being explained."

 

About the story of Adam & Eve, he says "to this day, the story... is still taken seriously by many people under the name of 'original sin.'" (As a Jew, I don't believe in original sin, but I definitely take the story seriously.)

 

He goes on to say that "stories are fun, and we all love repeating them. But when we hear a colourful story, whether it is an ancient myth or a modern 'urban legend'... it is ... worth stopping to ask whether it - or any part of it - is true. So let's ask ourselves this question - who was the first person? - and take a look at the true, scientific answer."

 

I'm much further than that into the book by now, and I could come up with dozens of examples where he dismisses any form of faith as silly, backwards, or even downright evil.

 

I will finish the book, because much of the science is fascinating and very beautiful: magical indeed. But I would never share this book with young children... and I believe I wouldn't EVEN IF I wasn't religious, because of its extreme disrespect - nay, hatred - of anything beyond the "truths" of the scientific process.

 

His interjections of "isn't that silly" and the like to any discussion of what people of faith believe (though he usually uses the past tense - believed) remind me a bit of the more cloying passages in Apologia, where the book has ALREADY demonstrated the wonders of God's creation but just can't let it rest.

 

When I read those bits of Apologia, I keep thinking God doesn't need so much help convincing us He's out there. When I read these strident passages in a book Dawkins has written for CHILDREN :001_huh:, it makes me wonder why he has to attack everybody else - under a thin veil of scientific omniscience - just to go on believing what he believes.

 

If you use this book with your kids, what do you do with those passages?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He starts by saying that the supernatural "can never offer us a true explanation of the things we see in the world... indeed, to claim a supernatural explanation of something is not to explain it at all and, even worse, to rule out any possibility of its ever being explained."

 

About the story of Adam & Eve, he says "to this day, the story... is still taken seriously by many people under the name of 'original sin.'" (As a Jew, I don't believe in original sin, but I definitely take the story seriously.)

 

He goes on to say that "stories are fun, and we all love repeating them. But when we hear a colourful story, whether it is an ancient myth or a modern 'urban legend'... it is ... worth stopping to ask whether it - or any part of it - is true. So let's ask ourselves this question - who was the first person? - and take a look at the true, scientific answer."

 

If you use this book with your kids, what do you do with those passages?

 

I read them and we discuss beliefs and science. I personally don't have any problem with the quotes you posted. As a non-believer, of course he's coming from a POV of religious beliefs being myths, fables, etc. However, I didn't expect the book to validate religious beliefs, although I think he does validate people's need for religion. I thought that point was clear from the start though, even in the thread you linked.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I found it more opinionated than I expected based on that other thread, but one disc in to listening to it on audio, I'm really enjoying it.

 

That's an interesting analogy to Apologia. I agree in both I wish there was a little less over the top opinion-giving.

 

I consider myself a non-literal Christian. I don't think the stories in the Bible would have been capturable on videocamera if one existed, but I find them deeply meaningful. Jesus seems to me to be intolerant of hypocrisy and exclusion of outcasts, but "my" Jesus wouldn't have been offended by Richard Dawkins.

 

From that religious perspective, I'm not bothered. We are discussing beliefs but no more so than when we read or listen to something from a literal perspective. Those actually bother me more.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dawkins doesn't "hate" religion, any more than he hates the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny. He simply considers all of those to be on the same level, as myths. An overwhelmingly large percentage of scientists agree with him, including most of those who attend church services regularly.

 

If you really accept science, you cannot continue to argue the truth of religious myths that have been falsified. The Adam and Eve myth is one of those. We know beyond any question that the human species has never bottlenecked at two people. It's impossible on the data. (That fact, of course, negates original sin, which in turn negates the entire basis of Christianity.) So, if you want to reject that fact you are by necessity also rejecting science. That's your right, of course, but don't impute hatred to Dawkins when he's merely stating facts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think perhaps the OP is expressing a dislike of treating other people's religious beliefs without...grace and tact. "Isn't that silly" goes beyond "here is what the data indicates."

 

I'm Christian and I have no problem with evolution, Adam and Eve not being the first humans, etc., but I can see how he goes too far in his handling of religious beliefs based on these quotes. I haven't gotten around to obtaining a copy of this book yet. My brother is a huge Dawkins fan, and I have a hunch this book is wrapped and waiting under our tree. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think perhaps the OP is expressing a dislike of treating other people's religious beliefs without...grace and tact. "Isn't that silly" goes beyond "here is what the data indicates."

 

I'm Christian and I have no problem with evolution, Adam and Eve not being the first humans, etc., but I can see how he goes too far in his handling of religious beliefs based on these quotes. I haven't gotten around to obtaining a copy of this book yet. My brother is a huge Dawkins fan, and I have a hunch this book is wrapped and waiting under our tree. :)

 

You're probably right. Many scientists are at least borderline Asperger's (I am), say what they think without much (or any) concern for what anyone else thinks, and can be very confrontational about things that really matter to them. Here's a cartoon (strong language) that sums it up pretty well.

 

http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2015

 

Any scientist will admit the truth of that cartoon. I particularly like the division into "Scientists" and "Normal People".

 

I hope the book shows up under your Christmas tree. I suspect you'll really enjoy reading it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Every time I hear him speak, every time I attempt to begin reading one of his books, the level of condescension sends it spinning from my hand so often that I just have to stop. Also like you, I have in past had the same problem with Jay Wile. His condscension seems to be as great, at times, in the opposite direction (although I will say he doesn't press his point as often as Dawkins, in my experience). I obviously require more even-handed handling of science topics....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I found it more opinionated than I expected based on that other thread, but one disc in to listening to it on audio, I'm really enjoying it.

 

That's an interesting analogy to Apologia. I agree in both I wish there was a little less over the top opinion-giving.

 

I consider myself a non-literal Christian. I don't think the stories in the Bible would have been capturable on videocamera if one existed, but I find them deeply meaningful. Jesus seems to me to be intolerant of hypocrisy and exclusion of outcasts, but "my" Jesus wouldn't have been offended by Richard Dawkins.

 

From that religious perspective, I'm not bothered. We are discussing beliefs but no more so than when we read or listen to something from a literal perspective. Those actually bother me more.

 

Emily, thanks for your post. I have been wanting to read the book, but find myself to be most impatient with authors who make statements like, "Any knowledgeable person knows..." regardless of the author's beliefs. I respect your opinion so this is good to see.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have in past had the same problem with Jay Wile.

 

(oops - forgot to mention we're using Apologia Elementary, so not Jay Wile, but I'm guessing a very similar appraoch)

 

If you really accept science, you cannot continue to argue the truth of religious myths that have been falsified.

 

See, this is what I dislike at both ends of the spectrum: people who tell you you are either in one camp (the right one) or the other (double-plus unright). You are missing the possibility that there is more than one kind of truth.

 

I see the Torah as true - it contains deep spiritual truths and wisdom which I believe is divine in origin. There is nothing, in my worldview, that reveals more about God's nature and our purpose in the world. However, I don't see it as a book of science. It just isn't.

 

My older kids know this because they get ridiculous Torah-as-science stuff at school sometimes, which makes for lively supper-table discussion. Stuff like, "because of Eve, all women naturally hate snakes." ("Except the ones who become herpetologists?" asked my dd15...)

 

Most Jews believe the Torah cannot be understood on its own without the vast collection of midrash and interpretation that has accumulated over the ages. The ideas Dawkins is "bringing to light" aren't new; in many cases, they occurred to commentators hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. And there are answers, most of which are different from the answers I've seen from Christian sources, which are often quite literal.

 

I have seen Christians for whom it comes down to, "do you believe in the Bible or do you believe in science?"

 

I have no choice but to believe in both ('cuz I take pills for headaches, have surgery when needed and enjoy a space shuttle launch as much as the next girl), and Jewish tradition gives me plenty of room to do so freely.

 

Our modern era is the very first time in history that people have been confronted with such either/or, for-or-against propositions: in the past, people had no trouble holding wildly contradictory beliefs. This wasn't primitive thinking - backing people into a corner and forcing them to wave one flag or another seems a far less sophisticated way of dealing with people with whom we disagree. Dawkins seems symptomatic of this.

 

My point in raising this thread, however, just to get back on track, was to express my disappointment with a science book that others had said was both excellent and, if not unbiased, not tainted with bias to the point where it is nearly unreadable by a person of faith.

 

Kind of ties in with the other thread, about finding decent science resources. Where the heck are they all??? :lol:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Lisa. It is kind of borderline offensive, as this thread shows, but I think you will find it okay. On the other hand, it kind of killed it from being a good audio for a car trip with grandparents, for example.

 

These issues aside, we're really loving it as a science audiobook.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've read many interesting science books in the past few years, such as Napoleon's Buttons (chemistry); Behe's Edge of Evolution; Collins's Language of God (he headed up the human genome project); Beyond the Cosmos (an astrophysicist's perspective on the extra-dimensionality of God); and Universal Foam (another physics topic).... There are loads of accessible science books out there now days, but I haven't managed to finish a single one of Dawkin's books....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Took this Richard Dawkins book out of the library on the enthusiastic recommendations of several posters here who said that, despite Dawkins's track record, the book is "not a screed" and not "anti-religion" and that he keeps his science content well away from his rabidly atheist views.
I have a love-hate relationship with Dawkins, but "rabidly" isn't an adjective I'd choose to use to describe the views of those of even extreme conservative faith on this board or elsewhere. He's not fanatical. He's not a raging lunatic. He's not calling people to arms.

 

I beg to differ.

 

First, about me: I don't consider myself extreme. Though we are enjoying the science part of Apologia, we do not hold with a young-earth view of Creation. We are Jewish, and believe in a God who carries on his act of Creation every day through the world around us. Mainstream Judaism is generally very open to scientific thought and endeavour, believing humbly that we don't really know everything there is to know - either about Torah (Bible) or the world around us. There are mysteries in both realms.

 

So I cracked this book, eagerly, and I think with an open mind. And was blown away, from the start, by his vehemence and hatred of religion or any spiritual pursuit whatsoever.

Hatred? Dismissal, yes. And he doesn't afford contemporary religions any more respect than ancient ones (and really, from the POV of someone who adheres to none of them, why should he?).

 

He starts by saying that the supernatural "can never offer us a true explanation of the things we see in the world... indeed, to claim a supernatural explanation of something is not to explain it at all and, even worse, to rule out any possibility of its ever being explained."
Where's the hatred or even dismissal of religion in this statement? If we don't go beyond blind acceptance a belief (about earthquakes or birth defects or whatever), religious or otherwise, as truth, how could it ever be explained? "It's ______ (insert deity or deities name(s)) will, and that's that," is unlikely to be conducive to scientific advancement. It's not about there being answers or not in religion or church teachings or whatever, but about being so content with these answers that one does not look further.

 

About the story of Adam & Eve, he says "to this day, the story... is still taken seriously by many people under the name of 'original sin.'" (As a Jew, I don't believe in original sin, but I definitely take the story seriously.)

 

He goes on to say that "stories are fun, and we all love repeating them. But when we hear a colourful story, whether it is an ancient myth or a modern 'urban legend'... it is ... worth stopping to ask whether it - or any part of it - is true. So let's ask ourselves this question - who was the first person? - and take a look at the true, scientific answer."

Surely we don't expect him to give scientifially "balanced coverage" to the idea of a literal Adam and Eve or any other creation story/myth?

 

I'm much further than that into the book by now, and I could come up with dozens of examples where he dismisses any form of faith as silly, backwards, or even downright evil.

 

I will finish the book, because much of the science is fascinating and very beautiful: magical indeed. But I would never share this book with young children... and I believe I wouldn't EVEN IF I wasn't religious, because of its extreme disrespect - nay, hatred - of anything beyond the "truths" of the scientific process.

 

His interjections of "isn't that silly" and the like to any discussion of what people of faith believe (though he usually uses the past tense - believed) remind me a bit of the more cloying passages in Apologia, where the book has ALREADY demonstrated the wonders of God's creation but just can't let it rest.

If I searched correctly, the word "silly" appears once in the book, on page 42:

 

Nobody, however, would want to call your fishy 185-million-greats grandfather a man. That would just be silly, even though there is a continuous chain linking him to you....

 

When I read those bits of Apologia, I keep thinking God doesn't need so much help convincing us He's out there. When I read these strident passages in a book Dawkins has written for CHILDREN :001_huh:, it makes me wonder why he has to attack everybody else - under a thin veil of scientific omniscience - just to go on believing what he believes.
To each their own, but I'm just not seeing the strident.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If I searched correctly, the word "silly" appears once in the book, on page 42:

 

Nobody, however, would want to call your fishy 185-million-greats grandfather a man. That would just be silly, even though there is a continuous chain linking him to you....

 

Wow. Thanks for clarifying this. I agree with all of your post. A non-believer should not have to tiptoe around certain beliefs more than others or treat some mythical beliefs with more 'respect' than others. But I was sorely disappointed based on the OP, that Dawkins calls people silly for their beliefs. Thanks for clarifying that this is not so.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As an atheist, when I pick up a book I know to be written by/for/based on religious principles, I would be SILLY to take offense to any aspects of religion written as truth.

 

I suppose I can understand the confusion based on some of the posts in the other thread, but the topic of the book is pretty clear, imo.

 

There are many, many, MANY books out there of the "some people believe this and others believe that" variety, and my family makes good use of them. And there are plenty that take a "this is the truth" approach with a specific belief system, and we peruse some of those. This is simply one more of the latter kind and, as far as I know, the very first of that kind from this perspective (for the younger set, at least) and I am relieved to finally fill that void in my house!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

when I pick up a book I know to be written by/for/based on religious principles, I would be SILLY to take offense to any aspects of religion written as truth.

 

:iagree:

 

I suppose I can understand the confusion based on some of the posts in the other thread, but the topic of the book is pretty clear, imo.

 

I wonder if some people who read the other thread got the impression he would be more...neutral? It did not ever occur to me to expect neutrality from someone like Dawkins. Furthermore, I didn't want neutrality, precisely for this reason:

 

There are many, many, MANY books out there of the "some people believe this and others believe that" variety, and my family makes good use of them. And there are plenty that take a "this is the truth" approach with a specific belief system, and we peruse some of those. This is simply one more of the latter kind and, as far as I know, the very first of that kind from this perspective (for the younger set, at least) and I am relieved to finally fill that void in my house!

 

Yes. Dawkins' belief system is that science trumps "belief" itself. Why can't we accord that viewpoint as much respect as any other? I have read plenty of books from different religious viewpoints. To be completely candid, even if Dawkins gives the impression that he thinks it is silly to believe religious myths (his words) over the "truth of science," how is that worse than so many of the Christian books I've read over the years that tell me I'm going to Hell if I don't follow a prescribed belief system? Hmmm. Silly or d@mned for all eternity... Tough choice. :tongue_smilie:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would not have expected anything else from him. Unfortunately, he thinks religion is Christian fundamentalism, and so that is always how he approaches it, and that is how he approaches its texts. He also doesn't seem to have a clue about epistemology or even the philosophy of science, which will inevitable impact his scientific views as well. A man who misunderstands and/or misuses the term "supernatural" for effect like he does is not going to be able to give an adequate understanding of myth and it's relation to science.

 

I just can't trust the science of a man who doesn't even bother to learn what the object of his criticism teaches, and concludes that God doesn't exist on the basis of rejecting religious fundamentalism without seriously investigating other philosophical expressions of theism. It suggests to me that he is profoundly irrational and intent on finding a particular outcome rather than truth.

 

Not things that make me trust him as a scientist.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, and some of us would crack open both, not expecting to be offended by either because we purposefully consider context and POV. :D

 

 

:iagree:

 

I guess I don't understand why people expect Dawkins to be cautiously respectful to all religions when those same religions are not respectful in any way toward atheist beliefs.

 

Dawkins is not shy about his POV, so if you are religious you need to read Dawkins with a grain of salt, if you choose to read him.

 

There are many many many children's books that point blank state that such and such religion is the one and only truth. So I don't find it shocking to see a children's book written by an atheist to state that science is truth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would not have expected anything else from him. Unfortunately, he thinks religion is Christian fundamentalism,

 

It's not just the Christian religion he refutes. He treats them all pretty equally. ;)

 

 

 

A man who misunderstands and/or misuses the term "supernatural" for effect like he does is not going to be able to give an adequate understanding of myth and it's relation to science.

 

Dawkins' point is that there is *no* relation between myth and science. The way he uses the term 'supernatural' is perfectly aligned with his belief. You may not agree or like the way he uses the term, but he uses it correctly in his context.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's not just the Christian religion he refutes. He treats them all pretty equally. ;)

 

Dawkins' point is that there is *no* relation between myth and science. The way he uses the term 'supernatural' is perfectly aligned with his belief. You may not agree or like the way he uses the term, but he uses it correctly in his context.

 

Also, Dawkins doesn't believe in gods because there is no evidence for the existence of gods, not because he rejects this or that theology or belief system, fundamentalist or otherwise.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it's important to point out to children that each author has a perspective or point of view they are coming from. And this can influence how they see things. I have had to do this with aspects of SOTW with my own child. I say this is how this author sees this and this is my view. What do you think?

 

I don't like the idea of rejecting or avoiding a particular book because I have a different perspective than the author. To become critical thinkers, kids have to be exposed to different points of view.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Any scientist will admit the truth of that cartoon. I particularly like the division into "Scientists" and "Normal People".

 

Um, I would be an example of a scientist who doesn't see any truth in that cartoon. :D Unless you reverse the titles.

 

Scientist (including me) tend to error towards treating emotionally sensitive topics with complete disregard to the social/emotional aspects. I can't imagine Sheldon from Big Bang Theory fitting in your cartoon, and I think Sheldon is the archetype of the "say whatever you think" insensitive scientist. He's my hero. :lol: Dawkins, tho not my hero, speaks with that same disregard and I think it is completely incorrect to attribute HATRED to his dispassionate disregard of religion.

 

I've said before that when Dawkins keeps to the facts and science, he's amazing. When he ventures into belief systems, he is condescending as heck. I think he does get disingenuous when he addresses biblical myths/stories like Adam and Eve, or Jesus turning water into wine as either: (1) a miracle, (2) mass hallucination, or (3) made up story. He doesn't consider or address the fourth option that these stories are powerful allegories or carry symbolic spiritual truths that would have been obvious to the jewish audience of the time.

 

For example, the "water into wine" story taken literally leaves you with, "Wow, Jesus can do magic!" after the weird part where he seems to admonish Mary for asking and imply he won't, then immediately head off to do her bidding. Taken as allegory, it is a beautiful story that contains the whole story of the messiah in a nutshell. I wish Dawkins at least acknowledged the contextual option (since that is what he grew up with, so can't claim it is unknown to him).

 

I agree with a PP that his handling of religion is probably synonymous to how Apologia or other literalist programs handle science. I hadn't thought of that before, but same (imo) "arrogant disregard" in both.

Edited by ChandlerMom
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's not just the Christian religion he refutes. He treats them all pretty equally. ;)

 

I said Christian fundamentalism. I expect he also treats other sorts of fundamentalism in the same way. I haven't seen an evidence that he has any knowledge of any other forms of religion, he certainly never bothers to engage the thinking, say, of Aristotle, or Spinoza, both of whom had theistic systems of thought.

 

 

Dawkins' point is that there is *no* relation between myth and science. The way he uses the term 'supernatural' is perfectly aligned with his belief. You may not agree or like the way he uses the term, but he uses it correctly in his context.

 

His context is not actually engaging the thought he criticizes and dismisses, and not really even understanding the difference between a Harry Potter novel and Plato. He doesn't know what religious myth is, or what it is supposed to do, or what the people who produced it thought it was supposed to do. He doesn't know the different views various traditions have about myth, nor of science I suspect.

 

There are atheists who have some understanding of philosophy and theology. He isn't one of them, and seems to refuse to actually learn anything about those subjects. He is either too dim, unwilling to go outside what makes him comfortable, or the kind of person who comments on things he doesn't bother to investigate. Not the kinds of qualities I would look for in a scientist.

 

That is my point - He is precisely analogous to the anti-intellectual religious fundamentalism he despises and the idiotic stuff they write about science and religion. I don't buy their books on religion and I wouldn't buy his on science.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't buy their books on religion and I wouldn't buy his on science.

 

The difference is that there are several versions of religion from which you can pick and choose. It would easy find some religious theories which you can agree with and some which you can discard.

 

Dawkins though does not have his own unique version of science. So I don't see why even if you don't agree with him on his views on religion, you should automatically discard the science as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The difference is that there are several versions of religion from which you can pick and choose. It would easy find some religious theories which you can agree with and some which you can discard.

 

Dawkins though does not have his own unique version of science. So I don't see why even if you don't agree with him on his views on religion, you should automatically discard the science as well.

 

I don't think that science is just a reiteration of a bunch of facts. I think it involes piecing those facts together in a way that creates a meaning.

 

I also think that popular presentations of science involve contextualizing and interpreting that for people.

 

When someone does that for me, I'd like them to be pretty bright, intellectually honest, and to understand what it is that science actually does, and does not do.

 

I suppose in the end what it comes down to is that I think the idea that science has only one version, or is really objective, is simply untrue. It has a particular level of objectivity, but even our view of what that means has changed since the scientific revolution. I think science is complicated, and subtle.

 

I don't doubt Dawkins when I hear him say how interesting particular features of a giraffe's nervous system are. But for anything more I am looking for a book by a scientist or interpreter of science who I think has a clue. I could possibly see reading an academic paper on a narrow topic by him.

 

Makes me think of a great lecture series I listened to a few years ago - not for young kids but it would be great for high schoolers I think - called How to Think About Science.

 

I just have doubts about whether he even really gets science. There are lots of other books out there, I would just look elsewhere.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it's important to point out to children that each author has a perspective or point of view they are coming from. And this can influence how they see things. I have had to do this with aspects of SOTW with my own child. I say this is how this author sees this and this is my view. What do you think?

 

I don't like the idea of rejecting or avoiding a particular book because I have a different perspective than the author. To become critical thinkers, kids have to be exposed to different points of view.

 

:iagree: Which is why I picked up the book in the first place! And I do read my kids all sorts of books about dinosaurs, cavemen (does Sunset of the Sabretooth count? :-)), and comparative religions. We have FANTASTIC discussions.

 

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to my older kids (16 & 17), but I would probably then bring it up at our Shabbos (Sabbath) table where (especially at this time of year) we have a lOoooong leisurely meal to hash out the ideas and conflicts with what we believe.

 

For younger kids, though, I mean younger than 15 or 16, I think the continual put-downs of faith could only be destructive.

 

However, I do apologize. When I said "religion is silly," or whatever I said, I was paraphrasing. You're right that he doesn't say it, though he does use the phrase "so-called holy books" and then again, "holy books" in quotation marks in the next paragraph. I find that a little strident, but it's a matter of opinion.

 

I must say, I am SO impressed with the level of polite discussion here among parents of very different views. It's helping me understand concretely how parents with different views educate their children around the same basic scientific realities.:thumbup::thumbup1: (second thumbs-up added to entertain ds4, who LOVES smilies!)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

His context is not actually engaging the thought he criticizes and dismisses, and not really even understanding the difference between a Harry Potter novel and Plato. He doesn't know what religious myth is, or what it is supposed to do, or what the people who produced it thought it was supposed to do. He doesn't know the different views various traditions have about myth, nor of science I suspect.

 

There are atheists who have some understanding of philosophy and theology. He isn't one of them, and seems to refuse to actually learn anything about those subjects. He is either too dim, unwilling to go outside what makes him comfortable, or the kind of person who comments on things he doesn't bother to investigate. Not the kinds of qualities I would look for in a scientist.

 

Do you have sources for this or is this your opinion? I admit almost complete ignorance about Dawkins and wonder what you have read to lead you to make such vehement and matter-of-fact statements regarding his knowledge base. I personally have a hard time believing he doesn't know the difference between Harry Potter and Plato. :lol: I imagine (hope? LOL) that part was hyperbole, but still, I'm curious about the nature of the references that have informed your opinion.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He starts by saying that the supernatural "can never offer us a true explanation of the things we see in the world... indeed, to claim a supernatural explanation of something is not to explain it at all and, even worse, to rule out any possibility of its ever being explained."

Where is the problem with this statement? :confused:

He goes on to say that "stories are fun, and we all love repeating them. But when we hear a colourful story, whether it is an ancient myth or a modern 'urban legend'... it is ... worth stopping to ask whether it - or any part of it - is true. So let's ask ourselves this question - who was the first person? - and take a look at the true, scientific answer."

Dawkins' understanding of religion *is* on the level of "stories". Likewise, his understanding of God *is* on the level of an assumed entity of the "old man in the sky, with beard" kind. What he rants against is what we might term "popular [the term being used quite literally] religion". To make it even more problematic, I have not managed to find in any place a careful definition of the subject at hand - to my knowledge, he never actually defines religion. He paints it with a broad brush, somehow grouping all of the religious phenomena together, while essentially taking an anti-popular-religion stance. His works are not serious scholarship so of course that people get disappointed if they expect that - those works have their intended audience, but that must exclude people whose notions of religion are a bit more complex and a bit more sophisticated than the kind of religion presents and argues against, limiting himself to that.

But I would never share this book with young children... and I believe I wouldn't EVEN IF I wasn't religious, because of its extreme disrespect - nay, hatred - of anything beyond the "truths" of the scientific process.

I disagree with this attitude.

 

First of all, I disagree with the attitude that the religion ought to be some kind of a sacred cow in our society and that we should tiptoe around the topic out of concern not to "offend". Of course that he is going to offend, like any blunt and intellectually honest person is going to offend, it is inevitable. It is not even malice, from what I gather, but his genuine attitude that religious belief (of the kind he limits himself to espousing) is akin to a cognitive delusion and a dangerous thing. If he wants to speak with sufficient clarity, he cannot sugarcoat things. So, he will offend. But that is not necessarily the reason not to read him - an emotionally mature person can certainly put emotions aside when they read something for an intellectual benefit or a challenge.

 

Furthermore, the main characteristic of his works is not his irreverence towards religious beliefs, that is not what to focus on. What I suggest focusing on with your children is the lack of clarity in defining what, exactly, religion is, on his tendency to group very diverse ideas and attitudes into one mishmash without drawing any distinctions, and, Judaically, on specific points in which his views clash with what your family believes or with some normative Judaic scholarship.

See, this is what I dislike at both ends of the spectrum: people who tell you you are either in one camp (the right one) or the other (double-plus unright). You are missing the possibility that there is more than one kind of truth.

Dawkins is not a postmodernist by any stretch of imagination. He follows a narrow, scientifically defined and demonstrable view on what is truth, in a completely evidence-based worldview. He is not into "narratives", "multiple truths", and he is especially not into an idea that science is only one of those possible "narratives".

I see the Torah as true - it contains deep spiritual truths and wisdom which I believe is divine in origin. There is nothing, in my worldview, that reveals more about God's nature and our purpose in the world. However, I don't see it as a book of science. It just isn't.

Of course that it is not a book of science.

My older kids know this because they get ridiculous Torah-as-science stuff at school sometimes, which makes for lively supper-table discussion. Stuff like, "because of Eve, all women naturally hate snakes."

This is the kind of "popular religion" Dawkins rants against.

I have no choice but to believe in both ('cuz I take pills for headaches, have surgery when needed and enjoy a space shuttle launch as much as the next girl), and Jewish tradition gives me plenty of room to do so freely.

That depends on your circles, and how "seriously" you are into science. People like Slifkin have had experiences different than yours when it comes to reconciling classical rabbinical thought with modern science, for example. Just sayin', even if in principle I agree with you.

Our modern era is the very first time in history that people have been confronted with such either/or, for-or-against propositions: in the past, people had no trouble holding wildly contradictory beliefs.

I think all intellectually honest people, in all epochs, have striven to have a worldview with as little inner contradictions as possible. However, some have not necessarily seen contradictions in what others have seen.

Edited by Ester Maria
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do you have sources for this or is this your opinion? I admit almost complete ignorance about Dawkins and wonder what you have read to lead you to make such vehement and matter-of-fact statements regarding his knowledge base. I personally have a hard time believing he doesn't know the difference between Harry Potter and Plato. :lol: I imagine (hope? LOL) that part was hyperbole, but still, I'm curious about the nature of the references that have informed your opinion.

 

Yes, it was to an extent hyperbole with regard to Plato and Potter. What I was refering to is his strong tendency to equate what he calls the "supernatural" with things like belief in fairies or magic schools, and then imply all belief in the supernatural is at that level. So Plato, or Thomas Aquinas, or anyone who thinks there is an underlying immaterial reality that ties the material reality that is the object of science together is the same as someone who believes burying a potato at midnight will get rid of warts.

 

I've never seen him actually attempt to engage the reasons philosophers have expressed for taking such an idea as a non-physical reality seriously or indeed saying it is a pre-requisite to a material reality we can understand.

 

I'm afraid I can't do much to cite a specific work - The God Delusion is full of that kind of argument and if you look up articles he has written or interviews you see the same thing. I heard an interviewer on the CBC ask him about why he didn't address more serious religious arguments, and he didn't really have an answer - he just said that most people didn't believe those things.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dawkins doesn't "hate" religion, any more than he hates the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny.

 

See, I disagree. If he doesn't hate religion, I'm quite surprised because he certainly makes it seem that way.

 

I think perhaps the OP is expressing a dislike of treating other people's religious beliefs without...grace and tact. "Isn't that silly" goes beyond "here is what the data indicates."

 

:iagree: Yes, I don't have a problem with most of the things quoted in the OP's response. I actually think those are quite fine for a book in this context. But it's the "isn't that silly" sort of digs that really bother me. Let the awesome quality of the universe and the science behind how it all works speak for itself and don't stop telling us about that in order to laugh at others.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, it was to an extent hyperbole with regard to Plato and Potter. What I was refering to is his strong tendency to equate what he calls the "supernatural" with things like belief in fairies or magic schools, and then imply all belief in the supernatural is at that level. So Plato, or Thomas Aquinas, or anyone who thinks there is an underlying immaterial reality that ties the material reality that is the object of science together is the same as someone who believes burying a potato at midnight will get rid of warts.

 

I've never seen him actually attempt to engage the reasons philosophers have expressed for taking such an idea as a non-physical reality seriously or indeed saying it is a pre-requisite to a material reality we can understand.

 

I'm afraid I can't do much to cite a specific work - The God Delusion is full of that kind of argument and if you look up articles he has written or interviews you see the same thing. I heard an interviewer on the CBC ask him about why he didn't address more serious religious arguments, and he didn't really have an answer - he just said that most people didn't believe those things.

 

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I am fascinated by the whole subject. Without knowing more, I imagine that Dawkins lumps it all together because he dismisses it all as equally impossible. I do see him as being dismissive but I personally don't see the hatred. To him, burying a potato to get rid of warts would be as logical as praying to a god for healing. He is dismissive of faith because it doesn't follow the rules of science. Science is all about what can be observed, explained, quantified, etc. and faith is...faith. I certainly don't know whether or not the two can be reconciled. That is a matter for minds greater than mine. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I like this about the book. I honestly don't get why modern religions dismiss ancient ones as stupid and naive. They both have their fantastical elements.

 

:iagree: Definitely! I'm always telling people how weird my religion is... if I can see the fantastical in it, for sure an atheist would. On the other hand, I see how many wise, intelligent people ARE people of faith and know they're not totally nuts.

 

As for ancient faiths, I read once that the WRONG way to teach religion is the often-heard narrative "our ancestors were idol worshippers, which is crazy, of course... so then we wised up and became monotheists." (like the story of Abraham "teaching" his father Terah how silly it was that the idols might fight and smash each other to pieces)

 

It's not a simple story of progress from silliness to wisdom, and if we teach it to our children that way, they may not realize that following God, even in our time, is neither obvious nor the only choice for intelligent people of discernment.

 

Dawkins is great proof of that lesson as well (just to bring it back on-topic) :lol:.

 

ETA: I want to reiterate my happiness that people are treating each other respectfully in this thread, sharing strongly-held views with at least a degree of restraint and kindness. Perhaps it's the holiday spirit... :-)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I am fascinated by the whole subject. Without knowing more, I imagine that Dawkins lumps it all together because he dismisses it all as equally impossible. I do see him as being dismissive but I personally don't see the hatred. To him, burying a potato to get rid of warts would be as logical as praying to a god for healing. He is dismissive of faith because it doesn't follow the rules of science. Science is all about what can be observed, explained, quantified, etc. and faith is...faith. I certainly don't know whether or not the two can be reconciled. That is a matter for minds greater than mine. :)

 

Yes, I think you are right that he lumps it together that way. I'm just not really sure why one would do that. Surely it is possible for any intelligent adult to see that Hegel or Plotinus is on a rather different level than Jack Chick? And science is a thought construct with philosophical implications as well, but he seems to be stuck in a rather 19th century view of it if he thinks it is just about what is observable and objective.

 

As far as hatred, if he only took it that far I'd agree. He seems to go about making claims though that religion is responsible for most of the evil in the world, or that teaching children a religious worldview is abusive. It seems a bit... over the top.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

:iagree: Definitely! I'm always telling people how weird my religion is... if I can see the fantastical in it, for sure an atheist would. On the other hand, I see how many wise, intelligent people ARE people of faith and know they're not totally nuts.

 

As for ancient faiths, I read once that the WRONG way to teach religion is the often-heard narrative "our ancestors were idol worshippers, which is crazy, of course... so then we wised up and became monotheists." (like the story of Abraham "teaching" his father Terah how silly it was that the idols might fight and smash each other to pieces)

 

It's not a simple story of progress from silliness to wisdom, and if we teach it to our children that way, they may not realize that following God, even in our time, is neither obvious nor the only choice for intelligent people of discernment.

 

 

 

Thank you.:)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...