Dawkins' Assault on Science in 'The God Delusion'
- On this Page:
- KEY FINDINGS
- 1) The 'Almighty Dawkins' Delusion
- 2) 'BURDEN OF PROOF'
- 3) SCOPING SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE
- 3a) Metaphysical Basis of Science
- 3b) Fundamental Premises
- 3c) Formal Statements of Truth
- 3d) Scientific Methods and Theories
- 3e) 'Hard' versus 'Soft' Science
- 3f) Knowledge versus Belief in Science
- 4) THE ONLY VALID SCIENTIFIC STATEMENTS ON GOD'S EXISTENCE
- (Click the images for a lightbox slideshow)
Contrary to common thought:
- Dawkins' Burden of Proof argument is not only unscientific, but deeply flawed. In science, theories can only be corroborated, not proven, by empirical investigation via the scientific method. In critical rationalism, there is no concept of 'proof' beyond statements of syllogistic logic, typically expressed mathematically, which demonstrate a tautology. Moreover, demands of 'proof' for a 'claim' assume the opponent has a reason to prove something. Proof of the existence of God would violate free will, and therefore the onus is on those wanting to prove God does NOT exist. Further, as explained below, Occam's razor is not applicable to removing explanations at different semantic levels, and evolution simply demonstrates any Intelligent Designer that might exist knows how to make and use tools.
- We are not mere specks on some meaningless little planet that would be at the center of the universe if some Divine Being exists, as new atheists mockingly portray. An Intelligent Designer of the universe as we know it would view the triviality of our physical location in the continuum of Euclidean space and chronological time as totally and completely irrelevant to our importance, when compared to the incredible entropic complexity attained here, which is unique in the known universe by thousands of orders of magnitude.
- The total scope of scientific knowledge is necessarily bound by its foundation on the rational rules of formal logic.
- The existence of rational explanation for reality at all IMPLIES a rational agent. Within the scope of scientific rationalism, the inference remains, by the definition of inductive reasoning, as a speculative possibility that is neither provable nor unprovable.
- As scientific explanations and predictions become more comprehensive and accurate, the likelihood of the universe being the product of Intelligent Design INCREASES, not DECREASES.
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1) The 'Almighty Dawkins' Delusion
|Created: Winter 2022|
|Modified: 12th Revision|
|Oct 2, 2022|
There is one 'disproof' of God's existence that many claim is 'scientific,' from Professor Richard Dawkins. Those making the claim point to Dawkin's qualifications. That's just about the only legitimate justification. Dawkins holds two PhDs, and ran the postgraduate college in Oxford before he retired from it and wrote a polemic called 'The God Delusion.'
The new atheists' claim to Dawkins' scientific undeniability has no bearing on the academic community at all. While scientific journals have politely reported on the book in their 'News' sections, none of them have published his so-called 'proof' as peer-reviewed, corroborated, scientific fact. Peer corroboration is typically considered necessary for a scientific finding to be accepted, Moreover, despite the supposed importance of Dawkin's opinion, not even one dissertation has been written about his atheistic assertions in the college he used to run, nor even in the entire University. However, new atheists ignore all that, continuing to assert their echoing of Dawkins is 'scientific.'
Ad hominum remarks would typically be inappropriate in a scholarly rebuttal, but Dawkins himself fires a barrage of personal insults at religious people at every interview opportunity. Hence the shockingly low regard he now garners in his own prior castle should not be ignored either. In the Oxford halls where he once reigned supreme, Dawkins now is at most tolerated as a once-great man who has lost his marbles, and far more frequently, spurned due to his unbridled spite for anyone else but himself. Regardless, one frequently hears glowing admiration from those who parrot his ideas. Of the hundreds of new atheists who mocked the first draft extracts of this article, none had any relevant educational qualifications in the philosophy of science, instead sharing no more than an avatar of themselves as a baboon sticking its tongue out, a skeleton holding a machine gun, a cartoon of naked women having an orgasm, etc. One would really expect a man with Dawkins' education not only to realize the type of response he would get from many followers of Sam Harris et al., but also to feel responsible enough not to provoke it, which he does in numerous quips on YouTube and so on.
Further, one might note that Dawkins had ALSO previously complained his landmark work on genetic altruism in 'The Selfish Gene' (1976) had been stolen and distorted into atheistic rhetoric by the likes of Sam Harris and Ayn Rand. Given Dawkins' subsequent degradation in behavior, one might reasonably believe 'The God Delusion' was never intended to be a real scientific proof, but actually written to exploit the hordes of the gullible and naive who flocked to the calling of the supposed 'new atheism.' Dawkins fed upon the disciples of those he had previously despised for adopting his thought into their own personal agenda.
Upon the PROPER examination of exactly what is 'knowable' within the fundamental tenets of science itself, it is clear that there can be NO scientific proof of the existence or non-existence of a Creator, one way or the other. Professor Dawkins 'disproof' is instead purely rhetorical, decided via a value judgment of beliefs upon opposing sides, presented as if by a prosecuting attorney desiring only to win a case.
Moreover, all Dawkins' observations on how science can explain reality as well as it can do NOT prove God is 'unnecessary' as he claims. Instead, our advancing of scientific knowledge makes the existence of an Intelligent Designer MORE likely, as science uncovers more sophistication in the mechanics of any intended Design.
In fact, from what we now know about the origination and evolution of life, an Intelligent Designer may have needed to create such a vast universe, simply to assure a species would develop that is even capable of appreciating divine purpose. Note AGAIN, this is merely to say there are other possibilities, not that anything can be scientifically proven on the topic. 'Proof' is entirely irrelevant and a completely inappropriate term in scientific investigation altogether.
Hence, this article seeks to rectify the notable lack of formal, qualified critical response to Dawkin's book, which in view of how those admiring it have portrayed themselves to me is perhaps not surprising. Nonetheless, Dawkins' was MEANT to be presenting scientific proof. So this article contains an appropriately scientific rebuttal. Since this article's presentation in its entirety, the only criticisms related to its actual scientific content are several dozen requests for clarifications on the nature of rationalism and statements about formal logic from the philosophy of science groups, which I have attempted to address properly.
2) 'BURDEN OF PROOF'
By far the most frequent response to Section 3 of this article, which contains my scientific refutation of Dawkins, is that the 'burden of proof' must be aggressively demanded from theists, because they have had the audacity to make a claim atheists find not only derisively false, but far more significantly, and far too frequently, offensive. Putting aside the irony of that, I have been required to point out five simple problems of scientific fact with the emotional rejections of there being any other alternative than a meaningless, purposeless universe:
2a) 'Burden of Proof' is Rhetoric, not a Scientific Method
Burden of proof' is the evaluation of beliefs for a judgment determined by persuasive force. While its method has significance in rhetorical or legal scenarios, it is not anywhere close to being a scientific method. In empirical science, there is no 'proof,' only corroboration. The only significance of evidence is to increase the strength of a theory, but a theory can never be proven, because an alternative better explanation could always be found. Outside persuasion of opinion by rhetoric, the concept of 'proof' only appears in deductions (in formal logic) and very specific syllogisms defining necessarily tautological expressions (in mathematics). It should ALSO be noted that courts of law can overturn ANY opinions previously regarded as proven true, at any time of their own choosing, by their own principles, illustrating that there is not really any guaranteed 'proof' of anything otherwise.
2b) Onus of Proof is on Atheists, not Theists
Even if one is going to bother with rhetorical debate, the burden of proof is not on the claim that God exists, as Dawkins states. Many theists feel that proof one way or the other should not exist, because it should be a matter of faith. By the rules for 'reverse burden of proof' in rhetoric, the onus is therefore on atheists to prove God does NOT exist, otherwise, a significant segment of opponents to such atheists' demands are not refuted. That is to say, as some believing 'A' also believe that 'A' should not be provable, then according to the rules of rhetoric, those claiming 'not-A' is true can ONLY prove 'not A' themselves, else opponents' beliefs are not completely denied. That has nothing to do with the philosophy of science, but it does show that Dawkins does not even have a valid rhetorical position either.
2c) Occam's Razor is Inapplicable
Dawkins adds to his argument that the existence of God should be removed by Occam's razor. That is not a scientific argument either. Occam's razor can only remove explanations at an equivalent level of semantic abstraction. Because theistic explanations of existence are causal, the explanation is at a higher level of abstraction than random occurrence, and therefore not removable by Occam's razor. For further definition, please see the discussion of formal logic below.
2d) Random Life Origination: just ANOTHER Red Herring
First off, a probabilistic argument cannot be considered 'proof,'' merely a statement of statistical likelihood, and therefore, NOT PROOF. Notwithstanding, current estimates at best vary by hundreds of orders of magnitude, due to huge differences of opinion on appropriate premises, rendering the statistical deductions totally meaningless, AS WELL AS devoid of anything resembling 'proof.' And even beyond that, even if it could be shown that life likely originated by random chemical reactions, that could have been an intentional product of Intelligent Design.
2e) Evolution proves Nothing Either
The more science provides logical descriptions of reality, the more intelligent any Creator that might exist appears, which should be as we expect, considering the size and complexity of the Universe we know.
The most that evolution can prove in the debate on intelligent design is that any Divine Being that exists knows how to use tools. For some reason, atheists assume any God that exists must be stupider than a Neanderthal. The ability to use tools is a primary definition of intelligence in science. Perhaps we should sympathize with atheists possessing such primitive reasoning abilities for not knowing how to use their thumbs either, given the level of intelligence they presume for a Being capable of designing the entire universe. Such individuals then criticize what they perceive as 'flaws in creation' such as inequality and disease, ignoring all the evidence, for thousands of years, in every single religion, of nothing more than empathy for the flaws, and a sincere overriding concern as to what humanity chooses to do with what we are each uniquely given.
The extent of debate on evolution exceeds all bounds of rationality and descends into complete absurdity.
2f) Our Geometric Decentralism is Irrelevant
Atheists desire us all to see our place in the universe as an insignificant planet orbiting an insignificant star in the remote outreaches of one of zillions of galaxies, as a way of diminishing the dignity of the human condition into a random occurrence. They neglect that any Divine Being capable of creating a universe of the complexity we know would find geometric placement in space completely insignificant compared to entropic complexity.
One human brain contains more than 86 billion neurons, and the earth's population is approaching 8 billion, making the number of human neurons in the human population now alive equivalent in degree to the number of stars in the observable universe. The degree of sophistication in ordered matter is greater here, by thousands of orders of magnitude, than any other location in all known space and time, within which, humanity and its vast span of interactions are the most sophisticated system of all. Even if the forces necessary for our placement on this planet occurred randomly with respect to Euclidean space, that would not diminish, in any way, any intentional design of the material universe to procure our existence.
3) SCOPING SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE
Having addressed Dawkin's rhetorical assertions, it remains to be stated what actually can be said as knowable about God's existence in science. To do so, one really must start with a proper understanding of what science itself considers 'knowable.' The next subsection starts from a metaphysical stance, describing the reasonable but ultimately limited doctrine called 'rationalism' upon which science is founded. The remaining subsections then define precisely the total scope and limits of that which is scientifically knowable, in absolute terms.
3a) Metaphysical Basis of Science
Science can prove a well-defined subset of deductions about states and events in the apparent material world. Metaphysics defines what the states and events are. A field in metaphysics, epistemology, states what propositions can be drawn that are knowable. To this end, the nature of science's metaphysical basis is necessarily bound to a limited description within which truthful statements are possible.
The primary 'premise' which limits the metaphysical foundation of science is that the material universe is logically explicable. Not all reality is necessarily logically explicable, and therefore, holding that science explains everything could legitimately, from a metaphysical perspective, be regarded as a religion. Most scientists assume belief in the necessity of rational explanation, often at an unconscious level, and are generally unaware that assertions based on scientific knowledge can ultimately not be more than religious beliefs.
The MAIN DIFFERENCE between science and other belief systems is that science's legitimate statements and propositions are entirely rational, drawn from observations of material reality and the rules of formal logic. That is, once one has accepted the metaphysical and logical premises, then a properly expressed scientific theory, after peer corroboration of substantiating empirical observations, is not subject to rational doubt.
Scientific theories nonetheless remain theories, because others could always be found with greater explanatory power. Contrary to common thought, the discovery of more powerful theories does not prove older scientific theories are wrong. According to the principles of the philosophy of science, older theories remain at least in as much as their models are capable of predicting future events in any useful manner.
3b) Fundamental Premises
Science strives to limit statements about truth to those which invoke as little skepticism as possible. Hence all science rests on the smallest possible set of dogma it can define, called, 'scientific laws.' Such laws are the most fundamental statements that must be necessarily true for a rational description of reality. These laws include the Law of Object Permanence (LOP) and the Law of Excluded Middle (LEM), both of which are necessary for logical description. LEM allows a firm distinction between truth and falsehood, which is the foundation of all theory and mathematics. LOP is the foundation of all physics, wherein the addition of energy equivalency allows the laws of thermodynamics to be drawn.
The fields of quantum mechanics and particle physics are examples where theories derived from the principles of LEM and LOP can easily break down, and ultimately, it is not necessarily true that science will ever be able to explain all observed phenomena, because reality may be fundamentally irrational.
For example, people observe phenomena attributed to 'the holy ghost,' whose existence is frequently challenged, but as it has no object permanence, it has been outside the bounds of science to evaluate the truth of its existence. The most that science has been able to do is evaluate the effects of such phenomena on the apparent material world.
3c) Formal Statements of Truth
Statements of 'empirical' truth consist of (a) states, which are observations of the material world, and (b) events, which are transitions between states. States must be directly observable, or deductions from directly observed events, to be considered as scientific facts, as demonstrated by corroborated experimental results. Descriptions of states and events are called statements. Deductions, inductions, and causes are propositions.
Only deductions can be proven true beyond doubt in formal propositional logic. Generally speaking, only inductions drawn from propositional logic itself are provable, the most fundamental example of which is the logical derivation for natural numbers from propositional logic in mathematics. Other inductions and causes add a level of abstraction that the scientific method can only corroborate, and not prove as necessarily true.
3d) Scientific Methods and Theories
The purpose of science is to explain states and project the likely occurrence of events in the future world with theories. The scientific method proposes from a hypothetical model that specific results will be found to corroborate a hypothesis to substantiate the causal relationship in a theory, based on a model which is defined in lower-order concepts drawn from associated scientific fields. The model is corroborated by experiments to validate its cogency as an explanation. After corroboration, predictions can be drawn from the theory, which is the most useful product of science. Theories also provide explanations. Explanations are entertaining, but the substantive value of a theory to society is its accuracy and completeness in predicting future states.
Corroborating a hypothesis does not make the explanation true. Science can make only limited inductions from corroborations, and most inductions are speculation.
For example, if one observes that a dog is brown, philosophy defines how much one can extrapolate that other dogs are brown, with terms defined by a philosophical 'theory of meaning', within a theory's model. Inductions on causality provide new hypotheses, which are useful in refining a theory, and enable some meaningful yet unprovable statements in soft science, discussed next.
3e) 'Hard' versus 'Soft' Science
To ensure that a result of an experiment corroborates a theory, it is most desirable for its experimental method to include 'control groups.' The states of the control groups are designed such that they differ from the subject states of the experiment in every way except the expected causality. The control groups should verify that no other variable accounts for the experimental result. Fields where experimental controls can be complete are referred to as 'hard' sciences.
Some aspects of the human condition are not directly observable or even scientifically provable, including 'consciousness' and 'free will.' Sometimes referred to as 'intrinsic' states and events, consciousness and free will are impervious to direct observation.
Scientific fields that examine states and events influenced by consciousness and free will are known as 'soft science.' The division is not absolute in disciplines. For example, the discipline of psychology includes behavioral study, which is entirely a 'hard' science, and 'psychoanalysis,' which is entirely a soft science. Other disciplines which extend theory beyond behavioral observation include political science, economics, and anthropology.
Because of the inaccessibility of consciousness and free will, their state and events caused by their state can only be known by inductive logic, and the creation of control groups is extremely difficult. For these reasons, soft sciences often make exceptions to the rules of hard science in order to state anything meaningful, and so justifiably may be considered 'arts' rather than 'sciences.'
3f) Knowledge versus Belief in Science
To define that which is rationally knowable beyond doubt, it is appropriate to apply the most restrictive definition of indubious fact in the philosophy of science, as formulated by Karl Popper:
Beyond those limits defined by philosophy, all speculations on unobserved states and events remain that. Speculations. The act of stating that any speculation is true is a statement of belief, not scientific knowledge. Anything beyond directly observed phenomena in science is a belief to a greater or lesser extent, and even if largely substantiated, still only a belief based on theory.
To Popper, performing experiments to corroborate ANY theory that cannot be falsified is so ridiculous, he calls it 'pseudoscience.' Opinions on that differ. Yet even if experiments cannot be performed to prove or disprove God's existence, the ordered nature of the universe implies an agent. It can't be verified by experimentation. The inference still remains.
New theories of meaning for natural language since Popper hold that some events are so likely they are considered knowable. But when considering 'proofs' of any kind, knowledge should still be defined in the strictest manner possible, to avoid any possible objection. The problem with 'statistical likelihood' is that there is no way to define what exact probability should be acceptable to consider the expectation a necessary result.
For example, however much one thinks the sun is rising tomorrow, in the strictest definition of science that can only ever be a belief, because, for example, intervening events could destroy the planet before the expected dawn. That is the 'epistemological' interpretation of natural language: some beliefs are so likely that they are said to be known, but that is not in the strictest terms scientifically accurate.
The act of inferring necessary truth to speculations is referred to as 'scientism.' However much one allows expected events to be regarded as knowable, all scientific theories (including the theory of evolution) are called 'theories' because a greater-order causality may exist, either within the scope of testable hypotheses, or outside the domain of science. The extent that theories explain as yet unobserved events is unknowable, and therefore, belief, to a greater or lesser extent, in all cases.
4) THE ONLY VALID SCIENTIFIC STATEMENTS ON GOD'S EXISTENCE
Having defined exactly the extent and limits of all that is knowable within the rationalist doctrines of science, it is clear that science has absolutely nothing to contribute to 'proving' the existence of God or not. That which is referenced by the term 'God' itself exists in purely inferential mental space. the existence of God or not must be founded on inductive reasoning for which no testable method can provide 'proof' one way or the other, within the scope of all that is epistemologically and empirically definable as rationally knowable as drawn upon the rational premises of scientific discovery.
There are enormous disputes even about that which the term 'God' might refer, but in the current era, ALL such conceptions are purely cognitive, without reference to any existing being or object. Even if a hypothesis could define 'God' in any way acceptable to consensus, there is a total absence of any method of testability against a control scenario, because no 'control scenario' is available whatsoever against which the inference can be validated. Whether God exists or not, the term itself, let alone its verifiable reference, is hidden behind multiple veils of uncertainty within the scope of scientific knowledge and its methods of investigation.
- The existence of rational explanation for reality at all IMPLIES a rational agent, rather than refutes it.
- As scientific explanations and predictions become more comprehensive and accurate, the likelihood of a Divine rational agent INCREASES, not DECREASES.
Nonetheless, with the absence of any possible control scenario against which to corroborate empirically the existence or not of a rational agent, defined by purely inductive reasoning, that is the total sum of that which can be truthfully stated within the bounds of the rationalist doctrine of science.
BEYOND the rationalist doctrines of science, individuals have personal experience that leads them to conclusions one way or the other. From the perspective of rationalism, all such conclusions are speculative beliefs. On whatever conviction individuals may feel about their conclusions, science has nothing further to contribute.
Wishing you a beautiful day.