Does Richard Dawkins need to define and defend his theory of knowledge before criticizing religion?

I've been discussing Dawkins with a theist, and this keeps coming up...


♪music girl♪: It's an abstract philosophical concept.

Update 2:

Music Girl: Hah! I didn't read the link before copying it to you. Here:

7 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Debates should begin with both parties providing their answers to the following question:

    What is the justification for the presuppositions informing your epistemology and ethical system?

    This is what the person you are chatting with is referring to. Unless two parties to any debate about religion define their inherent presuppositions and the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity (epistemology), there can be no meaningful dialog.

    Given what Dawkins has been writing and stating (see below), it is important to determine his answer to the question above.

    I have read many of Dawkins’ books and liked most of them. But in the God Delusion he seems to have left the scientific reservation and landed up in theology's back yard. He comes into the yard with no knowledge of the philosophical arguments needed to play with other theologians. Instead in his latest book he offers up nothing new, only the same rhetoric you would find, say in this forum. I would have expected a man of Dawkins’ stature to have spent some time studying philosophy and logic before writing a book that seems to resemble the same high school debates on religion vs. atheism that I experienced 30 years ago! Dawkins’ atheism often seems to be tacked onto his evolutionary biology with intellectual Velcro. His most recent books just recycle the same tired old arguments that he developed in the 1970s and 1980s.

    Dawkins states in The God Delusion, quote

    "I need to call attention to one particularly unpalatable aspect of its [the Bible’s] ethical teaching. Christians seldom realize that much of the moral consideration for others which is apparently promoted by both the Old and New Testaments was originally intended to apply only to a narrowly defined in-group. ‘Love thy neighbor’ [Leviticus 19:18] didn’t mean what we now think it means. It meant only ‘Love another Jew. As for the New Testament interpretation of the text, Hartung puts it more bluntly than I dare: ‘Jesus would have turned over in his grave if he had known that Paul would be taking his plan to the pigs" end quote.

    Pigs being, of course, Gentiles. Here Dawkins just demonstrates extremely bad hermeneutics, ignoring Leviticus 19:33-34 or Christ's gloss on Leviticus 19:18 in the parable of the Good Samaritan. That the question would be posed to Jesus, or by Luke, is evidence to me that the meaning of the law was not obvious or settled in antiquity. Dawkins’s air of genteel familiarity with Scripture, quickly evaporates under the slightest scrutiny by the learned.

    In the same book Dawkins will argue that evolution of complex things like a God requires time therefore God could not have existed outside of time. This is the same Dawkins who in his earlier book, "Unweaving the Rainbow", remarks that, quote

    "further developments of the [big bang] theory, supported by all available evidence, suggest that time itself began in this mother of all cataclysms. You probably don’t understand, and I certainly don’t, what it can possibly mean to say that time itself began at a particular moment. But once again that is a limitation of our minds..." end quote.

    So which is it Dr. Dawkins? Time has always existed or it started at the big bang?

    Then there is the matter of atheism in The God Delusion. Dawkins finds atheism incapable of malevolent intent--why would anyone go to war for the sake of an absence of belief? Yet there has been continual violence against religion--In the French Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union, and in China. In three of these events the eradication of religion was part of a program to reshape societies by excluding certain forms of thought, by creating an absence of belief. Neither sanity nor happiness appears to have been accomplished by these efforts. The kindest conclusion one can draw is that Dawkins has not acquainted himself with the salient history of modern authoritarianism.

    Not satisfied, Dawkins even picks on the Amish, quote

    "There is something breathtakingly condescending, as well as inhumane, about the sacrificing of anyone, especially children, on the altar of ‘diversity’ and the virtue of preserving a variety of religious traditions. The rest of us are happy with our cars and computers, our vaccines and antibiotics. But you quaint little people with your bonnets and breeches, your horse buggies, your archaic dialect and your earth-closet privies, you enrich our lives. Of course you must be allowed to trap your children with you in your seventeenth-century time warp, otherwise something irretrievable would be lost to us: a part of the wonderful diversity of human culture" end quote.

    Here Dawkins ignores the fact that the Amish are pacifists whose way of life burdens our troubled planet as little as any to be found in the Western world and merits not even a mention. Just how strained must Dawkins' arguments become before we are forced to exclaim, "methinks [he] protesteth too much"!

    Surely anyone with a rational bone in their body can see through the naiveté of these schoolyard arguments and inconsistencies. In the end we find that Dawkins' atheism is not a rational decision, but rather a moral one. Atheism's key focus is to remove external constraints so that one can live as one wishes, without true regard to an authority. Dawkins imagines himself as a liberator. In reality, Dawkins is a proponent of the first lie told in Eden.

    I urge you review what other minds have to say about Dawkins’ arguments. One of the best critiques of the God Delusion is at the link below. Dr. McGrath's lecture is reasoned and rational; two things that Dawkins leaves behind at the opening flap of his book and never looks back. Furthermore, Dr. McGrath's lecture is a model of the type of discussions I had hoped to find in the Yahoo R&S Forum: logical, cogent, articulate, recognizing the good and flawed points of a position, all while making reasoned arguments to support a personal worldview.

    I encourage anyone, believer or not, to review the lecture in the link below, if for nothing else just to imagine what is possible for Yahoo R&S. The question of whether there is a God, and what that God might be like, has not despite the predictions of overconfident Darwinians gone away since Darwin, and remains of major intellectual and personal importance. Some minds may be closed; the evidence and the debate, however, are not.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I'm sorry to admit that I'm not familiar with Dawkin's theory of knowledge, but that shouldn't matter.

    Criticism of one view point doesn't require advocacy of another view point. That's an example of a false dualism.

    One can criticize the theory of cold fusion without having a defined opposing theory. One can even criticize the theory of evolution without advocating an opposing position.

    This is something that tends to escape many Creationists - they believe that if evolutionary theory is disproved, it will somehow validate their point of view. However, this is not true, even if one theory is shown to be incorrect, other theories still require their own evidence and arguments before they can be considered as viable explanations.

  • Snark
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    When did Dawkins formulate a "Theory of Knowledge"?

    In other words, you might want to be more specific.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Dawkin's self-achievement is the hope given to all handicapped people. Plenty of opportunists would love him to declare his success to be his belief in their religion. His courage and inspiration not to fall for all the media christians who would exploit him is a testament worthy of admiration.

    I'm a Christian, yet I understand and know God understands and will save and protect him in the end.

    Source(s): The love of Christ.
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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Your opponent is obfuscating by focusing on irrelevancies-brush his obvious red herring aside and launch a full scale intellectual assault on his ideology.

  • Ayesha
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    While he is entitled to his opinion, it isn't right that we should be forced to end religion. I even saw on his site to ban faith schools in the UK, which is crazy. He has no right to enforce his beliefs on other people.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    What knowledge? His writings are a figment of his imagination.

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