Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The God Delusion - The God Hypothesis Part 2

I started looking at Chapter 2 of The God Delusion titled “The God Hypothesis” here. There I dealt with his sections on monotheism and polytheism specifically.
In this second look at the chapter I will consider Dawkins' thoughts on whether we can resolve “The God Hypothesis”. Can we prove or disproved whether "God" exists, or will we be left wondering?

Dawkins said in his preface, specifically to agnostics, "I hope that Chapter 2 will change your mind, by persuading you that 'the God Hypothesis' is a scientific hypothesis about the universe, which should be analysed as sceptically as any other".

He states “The God Hypothesis” as that:
"there exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us."
His alternative view that he advocates in this book is that:
"any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution".
My initial feelings are that he won't really be able to prove or demonstrate this, and that he may be attempting to prove more than he should or could. His argument will revolve mainly around evolution, but evolution doesn't say that God couldn't create a world or universe in the first place. And it doesn't prove he is the not the cause of the order we perceive in nature - what we call the laws of nature, or the law of physics. Also on the origins of intelligence: he would at least be arguing something like: "intelligence" some how emerges from complexity. It is also intriguing by what he might mean by "creative" intelligence. Creative to me hints at a creator and some sort of ingenuity.
The other issue is the "only". If he can demonstrate that a "creative intelligence" can come from a gradual process, he hasn't proved the "only", i.e. that this is the only reason or cause. Also he hasn't proved that a "creative intelligence" must be caused.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The God Delusion - The God Hypothesis Part 1

I looked at the previous chapter of The God Delusion here.
The next chapter of “The God Delusion,” which is "The God Hypothesis," seems to be Dawkins' brief survey of the different ideas about "God". I say "seems" as I don't know if I can encapsulate it in one succinct idea or flow of thought. Some of his ideas which are more random I will probably leave out or wait for a later post. I will deal with this chapter over two posts, as there is a reasonable division I can make in the ideas presented.
Overall I think he is really looking at the "western" ideas for "God", and maybe we could say the western ideas about the “Christian” God. He also says the idea of God is a "scientific hypothesis", but I'll bring this up in the next post where I'll primarily deal with his thoughts on agnosticism, since that's his main audience for this “idea”.

So in this post we will look at what he says on theism, since this where he goes first. He splits Theism into Polytheism and Monotheism.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hallucinations and the Resurrection of Jesus

I've been doing more thinking about the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus recently, especially after a video call with a world expert on this, Mike Licona.

An aspect of the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, that I hadn't thought about in detail until recently, is how feasible the theory of hallucinations are as an explanation for the "resurrection appearances" presented in the gospels.

Previously my main consideration was that the empty tomb and other aspects need to be explained, which hallucinations don't deal with. But are hallucinations useful, or even the best explanations for the records of Jesus' disciples accounts of seeing (and talking to) a "Resurrected Jesus".

Since the video call with Mike Licona, I have bought his book "The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach". Written primarily at an academic level and at 700 or so pages, I haven't managed to read all of it. He does consider in detail, and pass through a 5 fold test a number of hypotheses, some of which include hallucinations and/or delusions (and similar) to account for some of the historical bedrock, the "historical facts that are regarded as virtual indisputable".

I won't give an overview of the book here - that would be a large enough task - though I may some time (once I have read all of it!). But recently I came across an article by John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford, who asks the question: "Eliminating the Impossible: Can a Scientist believe the Resurrection?" Lennox also engages "hallucination theories", and provides a number of more succinct points against them.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The God Delusion - A deeply religious non-believer

Dawkins first chapter proper of "The God Delusion" takes a look at people he says are "deeply religious". It seems he is calling himself a "deeply religious non-believer". ( I looked at the Preface here)

He groups the "deeply religious" into two categories - those who "deserve respect" and those who don't.

He starts off with two stories. One of a boy who looks up at the sky and the wonders of the universe and has a "religious experience" that lead him to "God" and the Anglican priesthood.
He then considers another boy, who "could have been me", looking up at the stars being dazzled by the constellations, and having another experience which might have lead to another conclusion: that "all was produced by laws acting around us".
He states of the experience, "A quasi-mystical response to nature and the universe is common among scientists and rationalists."

Obviously he can't (or doesn't think it is useful to) deny this experience which many take to point to God. But says, "It has no connection with the supernatural". He doesn't mount an argument here, except seeming to suggest we should realise it is just the "laws acting around us".
Maybe he doesn't realise, but to me this raises a number of the questions: "Why should there be laws and not chaos," and "Where do these laws come from?"  And since they do exist, do they somehow exist in their own right, or are simple the order with which God created and sustains the universe.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The God Delusion - Preface, Part2

I started talking about the preface of The God Delusion here, so lets know get down into it.
I won't go into too much detail about the preface of "The God Delusion", especially as Dawkins is mostly just introducing his ideas, and giving an overview of the chapters to follow, but it is worthwhile picking up on a few things, and also listing down some of my thoughts and expectations about what is to follow.

Also he doesn't seem to lay down his main thesis till the start of the second chapter, so I'll wait till then to discuss it.

And also I probably won't list all that is in his book, but concentrate mainly on the content I am most interested in discussing, or is most significant. I could comment on all 400 pages or so, but we would be here till Christmas (or longer, given the speed of my writing).

In the preface, after his opening request to consider changing what you believe, he makes the comment that Religion is not the "root" of all evil for "No one thing is the root of all evil". He does want to be fair it seems, and not overstate his case by saying "Religion is the root". But can he and will he demonstrate or prove there is no root to evil. It seems like it is just given. It prompts the question: where does evil come from? From us? Where, then?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The God Delusion - Preface

I mentioned here that I have just started reading The God Delusion

Before I go into detail about the preface, I just want to pick up on his first few paragraphs and also relate it to some of my early experiences.

He starts the book with a story about how a child hated her school when growing up, and only made it known as an adult. Her mother, aghast, said, "Why didn't you tell us". The now adult child said, "I didn't know I could". She didn't know she could complain or do anything about it, or even change schools (as an illustration of changing religions/beliefs).
Dawkins admits that that was him. He didn't know either that he could change his mind, change his "religion".
I sympathise with him. Not so much from my own experience, but what could have happened. If I had been in a different situation, in a different country, culture, with an upbringing and religion that I wanted to reject - then yes.
But I don't think I was in the same sort of situation. I think I had an awareness that you could change. I remember that I was aware at some stage before aged ten that people had different beliefs, not all were Christians, and that you could be one or not. I was also aware at least in late primary school that all of my school friends were not Christians, or might have only been nominal Christians. I'm not sure the exact categories I had at that age, but my friends were definitely different from me and my family.
At age 10 I saw the need to be serious about Jesus, that there was a need to me to make a change of sorts. Being a follower of Jesus wasn't a matter of going to church, doing good etc, but was a personal commitment, to turn away from sin, and to trust in him to save me by his death on the cross. I was aware that this life was not all there was, and that eternity was spent either in heaven or hell. And this was something I could talk to my parents about.
Well, I became a Christian in my mind at that point. Possibly in Dawkins terms, I have already been indoctrinated, but I think we will come to this later - there seems to be a chapter on it.

Getting back to Dawkins: his point, after saying he didn't know he could change, is that this could be you. You didn't know you could change, or don't know there are very good reasons to doubt Christianity (in his thinking), or religion in general. Maybe I haven't considered enough the opposite view, that Christianity is wrong, or bad, or both. Maybe I have a lot to learn, that there is a whole other way of thinking.
Or on the other-hand, maybe Dawkins hasn't really understood Christianity at all, and he has only rejected his misconception of it, and that he has merely multiplied clever arguments in his favour.
We shall see.

The next post looking at the preface is here.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The God Delusion

I've recently obtained a copy of "The God Delusion", by Richard Dawkins for free.
A work colleague had apparently run out of space at home and had a few books to off load. Good thing I trotted off quickly to his cubical, as two of the books were already gone (to people in his cubicle), and a moment after I had arrived and confirmed by interest, another person came over to claim it too.
My friend joked with me a bit about whether it was worth giving it to me or not, knowing my faith. I later joked that I wouldn't let anyone else have it, as it was too dangerous a book. Or maybe I should just stick a big warning sign on it, before I let others read it - but hey, I think I'm getting ahead of myself, I haven't read it yet, so maybe I should wait to the end to decide what to do, whether to burn it or not ( ;P). I shouldn't believe all the hype, innuendo and criticism etc about the book, until I have check it out in full for myself. This indeed might contain previously untold revelations, it might be the book to redeem me from my religion, to rescue me from the dogma I have obviously been brainwashed into ... sorry getting ahead of myself again.
My friend and I thought it would be a good idea to discuss the book as I read through it. I pointed out that a common acquaintance, Robert Martin, who runs City Bible Forum in Melbourne, had recently started blogging his way through a book "The Moral Landscape," by Sam Harris, another "New Atheist", taking up the challenge Sam more recently gave.
After showing the blog to my friend, I said I wouldn't be able to do that, it would be too much, and I don't usually have the time (and I might add, English, especially expression is not my forte. I'm more of a numbers and logic person myself). 
Well here I am, mainly because I wanted to do a reasonable job at interacting with the ideas, and that I have already written about ten pages (small pages not A4) in a note book from reading the preface and half of the first chapter. I'm sure many others have already done this, and a better job e.g. here, but here goes.
My next post on the topic is here where I start to have a look at the book.