Monday, November 03, 2008

Richard Dawkins, Dithering as Usual.

Richard Dawkins is funding a campaign to post the following advertisement on public buses in London: "There is probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." [1]

Probably no god!? There is no god. Richard Dawkins' wimpy arguments from skepticism are not going to have any major impact in the culture--at least not a positive impact.



Anonymous said...

See The God Delusion, pp. 50-51, for a description of Dawkin's "spectrum of possibilities." To say that he thinks the probability of a god is 10E-99999--or, as he eloquently puts it, the same as the probability that there are fairies at the bottom of his garden--is not dithering. As he explains in the spectrum, "...I live my life on the assumption that [god] is not there." How is that "wimpy"?

Andrew Elstner said...

I have to agree with "anonymous," that anyone who knows the thinking of Dawkins cannot think this is wimpy. Baby steps everyone, baby steps. Though I find this viewpoint hardly necessary in today's UK, it would be more impressive if this were on the side of a bus in say, Alabama. Now if only Dawkins could get his economic thoughts in order...

C. August said...

How can one "calculate" a probability of something which, by definition, cannot exist in this world: which means, cannot exist? That is nonsensical on its face.

Doug is right that this is the same old tired skepticism from Dawkins. And the "Stop worrying and enjoy your life", in this context, simply sounds hedonistic. Neither part advocates a rational view of reality or ethics.

It isn't only Dawkins' economic thoughts that are in disarray. He has a number of significant errors in thinking, and subscribes to the same old altruistic pablum that most everyone else does.

Doug is right. This is wimpy, and will be ineffectual in persuading people to examine life and reality with reason. He offers the mystics--who have, although it is disastrously wrong, a hard and fast moral code to live by--the alternative of ambiguity, probability, and "do whatever makes you feel good."

Peter Gustafson said...

Mmm ... what does 10 to the negative power of 99999 mean and how did Dawkins reach this number?

Anonymous said...

An article I've read on this topic suggests that Dawkins spoke out against the word "probably" (at least initially.)

From the article:

"Dawkins said that as an atheist he 'wasn't wild' about the ad's assertion that there was 'probably' no God.

"Sherine said the word was included to ensure the posters didn't breach transit advertising regulations, which stipulate ads should not offend religious people."

I haven't posted this to defend Dawkins or suggest that he's not "wimpy" (certainly, "the God Delusion" contained plenty of dithering and irrationality - see the part about Zeitgeist for an excellent example.) I merely posted this just to get the facts behind this poster out on the table.


Rainman said...

I don't think Dawkins would say that the probability he gave was at all a scientific measurement.

- Ryan

Jeff said...

He is "wimpy" because he accepts the possibility. It does not matter how small he thinks it is. There are no degrees between being and non-being, such that a really small thing is closer to non-existence than to existence. A probability either exists or it does not. To say that it exists is to surrender the argument completely.