Working in a high school for the largest school board in the country reminds me daily of why we are all God’s children. Being surrounded by teenagers and observing how they gather in groups like the jocks, the nerds, the fashion models, the invisible kids, the crooks and the bullies, I can’t help but notice that as we mature into adults, those cliques don’t change much but the labels do. The jocks are now brokers, the nerds are now IT technicians, the fashion models are … well, still fashion models. The invisible kids that we never knew were there are now the average working class. The crooks in high school hopefully learn their lessons but if they don’t, they either wind up dead or in jail. The bullies can sometimes be CEOs, Managers or even Union reps.
Some bullies write books now. Instead of trying to intimidate classmates in the schoolyard with threats of beatings after school, they now write books intended to mock and undermine those they view as inferior. Some bullies just never grow up regardless of how many degrees they’ve earned or what position they hold, they still feel a need to put others down. Richard Dawkins is one of those. Caleb Upton is a 17 year old high school student who won’t be intimidated by bullies his own age or even bullies Richard Dawkins’ age. The following is his apologetic response to Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion.
Justification by Doubt, the Childish Argument and in Defense of Parents:
A review of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
By C.D. Upton
Richard Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. His newest treatise is less about science and more focused on the subject of religion. The title says much as to what the book is about. The controversial title is The God Delusion (2006). The two main contentions of the book may be fairly generalized as the belief in the existence of God is a delusion because God’s existence is highly improbable and not only is this belief in the existence of God false but also is dangerous precisely because it is an irrational belief and causes people to do irrational things. This book has had many different reactions ranging from the magicians Penn and Teller’s review that “If this book doesn’t change the world, we’re all screwed” to Andrew Brown, the author of The Darwin Wars describing the book as “Incurious, dogmatic, rambling and self-contradictory, it has none of the style or verve of his earlier works.” Brown’s review may seem harsh to some but it is very accurate. Dawkins approach obscures his research, his central argument is not well thought out and his views even take him to quasi-fundamentalist extremes. A delusion is a false belief that is believed despite being contradicted by the evidence, it is sad to say that Dawkins’ whole approach leads him not only to obscure facts but also to hold on to a delusion.
The footnotes at the back of the book while at a cursory glance appear to be reasonable; they give some troubling information that should make one question whether this book was an objective study at all. Despite from using very credible sources Dawkins also uses blogs, Playboy magazine and even Wikipedia. High school students for the most part are not be allowed to use Wikipedia because on Wikipedia anything could be posted because it is a public think-tank, even a dog could post something on Wikipedia. However Dawkins will even use Wikipedia as a source to advance his point. The point being made by Dawkins with evidence posted on Wikipedia was the claim that President Bush mocked a female prisoner on death row. The question is not even whether the information is true or not but because of the fact that some of Dawkins’ sources are not very reliable it could be brought into question as to the objectivity of this book and whether Dawkins’ own arguments should be taken with great seriousness. While the reliability of Dawkins sources is troubling what is even more troubling is the quasi-conspiracy suspicion that Dawkins has to those who disagree with him. In the preface to the paperback edition of the book Dawkins says “ ‘I used to be an atheist, but…’ That is one of the oldest tricks in the book, much favored by religious apologists…It serves to establish some sort of street cred up front, and it is amazing how often it works. Look out for it.” To say that the claim made by religious apologists of their former atheism is a ‘trick’ is absolutely appalling; it is just empty slander against those who disagree with him. Dawkins distaste for those who disagree with him is prevalent throughout the book. His criticism of Stephen Jay Gould, the famous Harvard paleontologist is directed along the same lines “I simply do not believe that Gould could possibly have meant much of what he wrote in Rocks of Ages. As I say, we have all been guilty of bending over backwards…” Again it all comes back to what Dawkins believes, anything that does not agree with Dawkins’ point of view must either be the product of madness, badness, appeasement or it is simply deceptive. However Dawkins holds his position with such great certainty that he may even reject a serious study of a whole field of inquiry that is central to his book because he has already made up his mind. Dawkins in the preface to the paperback edition in response to this particular criticism said “…most of us happily disavow fairies, astrology and the Flying Spaghetti monster, without first immersing ourselves in books of Pastafarian theology etc…” Terry Eagleton the John Edward Taylor professor of English Literature at Manchester in his review of the book said
“Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins… are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding.”
Dawkins’ questionable sources, quasi-conspiracy suspicion of those who disagree with him and his justification by doubt for his rejection of studying seriously the subject he is writing on are perhaps the reasons that lead him to construct what is possibly the worst argument in the whole treatise, his central argument.
Dawkins’ central argument consists of six main points but it may be fairly summarized that the so-called defeating of the Designer Hypothesis is the foundation for the whole argument. Dawkins states
“The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself. In the case of a man-made artefact such as a watch, the designer really was an intelligent engineer. It is tempting to apply the same logic to an eye or a wing, a spider or a person. The temptation is a false one, because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.”
When addressed with an argument like this one feels like a mosquito in a nudist park, one has no idea where to begin. When we talk about ‘the Designer’ in this context of the book we are speaking of the designer of everything that exists and with the implication that the Designer would not be included in that which was brought into existence. So to ask ‘Who designed the designer?’ is a false and categorically wrong question because whoever the designer of the designer of everything maybe, that designer would be the designer of everything and of course if one continues along this chain of continual causation one would end of with an infinite regress. Two possible solutions to the problem of infinite regress would be either to postulate out of pure necessity a fundamental cause that had no cause of it’s own existence, or in other terms an eternal substance; the other solution would be to postulate that something could come out of nothing and thus deny the fundamental foundation of most philosophies of causation that everything that begins to exist has a cause. The rejection of this foundation to causation that everything that begins to exist has a cause would unravel the discipline of science, for if things could pop into existence out of nothing by nothing and for nothing then no explanation would be needed for such things. Theists who would argue for the existence of the Designer would state that the Designer is an uncaused cause and thus needing no other designer, the Designer would be an eternal substance. Dawkins dismissal of an eternal causation is characteristic of his regular rejection of views that disagree with him. Dawkins rejection of the primary objection to his argument is deeply concerning “It may ever be a superhuman designer—but, if so, it will most certainly not be a designer who just popped into existence, or who always existed.” Nothing more than a pure rejection of the objection, there was no detailed reason as to why he rejected it or evidence or logical argument offered but just a pure dogmatic insistence that it cannot be so. Furthermore under examination if the same logic was applied to the analogy of the watchmaker applied by Dawkins a watchmaker would not be a proper explanation for the existence of a watch because then the question of ‘Who made the watchmaker?’ would have to arise because a watchmaker would have to be much more complicated than the watch they made. In other words one does not need an explanation for the explanation in order for the explanation to be the best one. Dawkins’ question is a misunderstanding of the Designer under discussion; his rejection of the primary answer offered to the question is flatly rejected with no reason as to why he rejects it, and his logic when applied to other areas becomes explicitly absurd. Rather than a central argument it should be called a childish argument, but if we were to have things Dawkins’ way children would for the most part never ask such questions for children would have very little knowledge of such subjects.
Perhaps the section of the book that is most existentially disturbing is titled ‘In Defence of Children’. At first glance Dawkins chapter on religion and children would appear to be harmless as it mostly is a suggestion for a simple labeling change much like changing the label of a conservative politician to a neo-conservative politician however a further read would show that a larger agenda is pursued. Freedom of speech is a very controversial right in modern democracies because the limitations of such a freedom are highly debated. Dawkins in support of his colleague Nicholas Humphrey, a psychologist recounts a speech of Humphrey’s in which a suggestion for a limitation on freedom of speech is espoused
“His [Humphrey’s] answer was a resounding no to such censorship in general: ‘Freedom of speech is too precious a freedom to be meddled with’. But he then went on to shock his liberal self advocating one important exception: to argue in favour of censorship for special case of children… moral and religious education, and especially the education a child receives at home, where parents are allowed—even expected—to determine for their children what counts as truth and falsehood, right and wrong. Children, I’ll argue, have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people’s bad ideas—no matter who these other people are. Parents, correspondingly, have no God-given licence to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose…”
Again a mosquito in a nudist park is a wonderful analogy to explain how one does not even know where to begin in criticism of such a suggestion. This suggestion is espousing a right for children to learn freely and yet at the same time is also prohibiting a parental right (which is called a ‘God-given licence’ in mockery) of parents to teach their children in matters of religion and morality. However, such a prohibition against parents teaching their children on matters of morality and religion would have be to applied consistently to other areas of study such as geography, chemistry and even reading and writing; for a child should not have their ‘minds crippled’ by exposure to other’s ideas, they would have to learn for themselves. Children however are known to be ignorant on such matters from birth and therefore have to be taught by an authority figure such as a parent in order to be educated; religion and morality should not be excluded from such education made by parents. The reason that may be fairly speculated on as to why the topics of religion and morality are singled out as subjects that parents may not teach to their children is for the simple reason that Humphrey and Dawkins both are convinced that there is nothing to be learned from traditional religion and morality; both of them being atheists are already convinced that religion and absolute (or traditional) morality is wrong and imaginary. Dawkins’ own ignorance on matters of religion as shown in his approach and his central argument appear to be the ideals that Dawkins would wish to spread. Dawkins, in what would be to seem as a desperate attempt to distance himself from such a position states, “Of course, such a strong statement needs, and received, much qualification… I thank my own parents for taking the view that children should be taught not so much what to think as how to think.” However a difference between how to think and what to think in this context is not a difference at all for parents teaching their children how to think could leave their ‘minds crippled’ just as much as what to think. For example a parent teaching their child that they must think within the framework of what they can see with their eyes (how to think) could close their child’s mind from other view points just as much if a parent were to indoctrinate their child that a martyr’s death will give them a lot of virgins in Heaven. The point is that how to think and what to think are no different in the respect that they both put limitations on the child’s search for knowledge. It is inescapable that a primary teacher and ‘indoctrinator’ in a child’s upbringing must be their parents/guardians unless we decide that a child no longer belongs to the parents/guardians but perhaps to the state. Dawkins, while being very compassionate about the rights of children and nobly attacking child abuse in his section titled ‘In Defence of Children’ is to be commended, perhaps what is needed is also a defense of parents. The suggestion made by Humphrey that parents should not be allowed to teach their children on matters of religion or morality is shown when critically examined to not only having an absurd logic but is also a demonstration of Dawkins and Humphrey’s own personal incredulity towards religion and traditional morality.
Andrew Brown makes an interesting comment at the end of his review of the book in Prospect magazine “…thinking a bit was once what Dawkins was famous for. It’s a shame to see him reduced to one long argument from professional incredulity.” To say that Dawkins needed to think a bit while writing his book maybe somewhat harsh but it appears to be true. Dawkins whole approach from his sloppy research, to his quasi-conspiracy suspicion of those who disagree with him to his justification by doubt for his rejection of studying seriously the subject he is writing on are demonstrations of his need to think a bit. His central argument is a complete misunderstanding of the being, which he denies exists; his rejection of the primary objection raised against his central argument is dismissed with no justification and the logic is absurd and thus leaves the central argument as a childish argument. The most disturbing aspect of his book is his defense of children, which is more of a demonstration of Dawkins personal incredulity towards the subjects of morality and religion and is in need of a defense of parents. Contrary to Dawkins’ two main contentions that the belief in the existence of God is a delusion and that this irrational belief causes people to do dangerous things it appears that Dawkins central argument against the existence of God is irrational and that Dawkins’s own view has led him to propose irrational things as well. It is perhaps Dawkins’ who has the delusion about God and not those whom he wishes to convert.
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[6 ]Dawkins, The God Delusion, 330.
 Dawkins, The God Delusion, 13. (emphasis added)
 Dawkins, The God Delusion, 81. (emphasis original)
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 Eagleton, Terry. “Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching.” London Review of Books 19 October, 2006. 29 December 2008.
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 Dawkins, The God Delusion, 186. (emphasis original)
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Eagleton, Terry. “Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching.” London Review of Books 19 October, 2006. 29 December 2008.
Krauss, Lawrence M. “Sermons and Straw Men” Nature Magazine 26 October 2006. 29 December 2008.
McGrath, Alister and McGrath, Jonna. The Dawkins Delusion: Atheism Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine. Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-varsity Press, 2007