What's wrong with Dawkins?


I haven’t been around this forum long, but I’ve seen a few disparaging references to Dawkins. Having read “The God Delusion” and found it quite a logical read (with the caveat that it fits with my fundamental view of religion, so I’m aware I’m biased), I’d like to know exactly what it is about Dawkins that people dislike (or even in some cases, like).

Is it his methods? Is it his writing style? His enthusiasm for atheism? Is there a problem with his conclusions? Is he ignoring some branch of science in his ruminations? Is it his propensity for the occasional inflammatory comment?

Or is it just that he doesn’t believe in God and you do? (if you do, that is)

I’m asking because I like to understand all aspects of an argument, not because I want to start a flame war!


Well to start with, just visit his website.

It is apparent that he is not just noted as an athiest, he makes a great deal of money from hurling insult and mocking others.

There is a fatal flaw at the very root of neo-Darwinism. Dawkins claims that all our behaviour is determined by our genetic inheritance and environmental factors. In other words he rejects free will. Yet he also believes we can choose what to think and how to improve our lives…

So for you, the problem is that he’s making money out of atheism?

I can see how this might seem to be a flaw. But only if you equate ‘behaviour’ to ‘free will’. If you interpret ‘behaviour’ to mean one’s reaction to some sort of stimulus, or the manner in which one bears oneself, this is not the same as deciding to go for a walk in the park or climb a tree.

Tonyrey’s objection is solid, and I think it’s very true that Dawkins is trying to have it both ways. Still, very few philosophers have anything at all cogent to say on the subject of free will. They either:

a) claim that there is free will, and yet fail to explain how this is possible in a materialistic framework, or

b) claim that there is no free will, and leave us wondering why we should believe something that they were determined from the beginning of time to say.

Free will is possible in a theistic framework, I would claim, but only because of the direct action of God. To an atheist, I know, this sounds awfully convenient; that does not, however, make it untrue.

I haven’t read the God Delusion, but I might pick it up – if only so I can attempt to say intelligent things about it.

You still have to explain how a decision can transcend the laws of nature. According to NeoDarwinism **all **our mental activity is caused by neurological events. Why should decisions be privileged exceptions to the rule? Without the self there cannot be self-control…

If neo-darwinism were true, which I think the posters here are seriously disputing, then neurological events that we cannot have any say over are what determines whether we find neo-darwinism convincing or not - it has no relation to the truth of neo-darwinism. There is no real point to searching for truth, since it will be impossible to evaluate if we have found it.

I would suggest that you might be hard-pressed to find many serious philosophers that are into neodarwinism. And Richard Dawkins is not by any means a serious philosopher - in fact he refuses to debate actual philosophers in public forums, though many have offered.

He tends to set up straw man arguments, and his understanding of the philosophy of science and theory of knowledge are very poor indeed. I found his book so embarrassing to read I had to stop half-way through.

He is not trustworthy.

Logical doesn’t mean true. Logical also isn’t a description that fits Dawkins’s polemics, given his widespread tendency to play fast and loose with honest rhetoric.

– Mark L. Chance.

Interesting comments all.

Regarding free will, I can see the argument. I guess if I had to choose, I’d go with option (b). As decisions are the result of synapses firing due to biochemical reactions in the brain, then assuming you could model the universe, with its infinite inputs of infinite granularity, then you probably could predict everything that will happen. Which would make free will an illusion in an absolute sense (but not from an individual perspective).

From a scientific point of view, this to me is still more likely than just saying that God’s granted the human race an exclusion clause. To me that raises more questions than it answers.

Is there a counter to The God Delusion? One that rebuts Dawkins’ claims, but based on logic and evidence rather than scripture and “I can’t explain it therefore it’s God” type philosophies?

Well, that’s a useful comment. Care to explain?

You can find it here:

The Irrational Atheist

…And given the way in which the eminent Richard Dawkins has apparently decided
to abandon empirical evidence, the scientific method, and Reason herself in embracing a quasi-medieval philosophical ontology, The Ironic Atheist would surely have been most fitting.

Fair point, hence this thread. Although it should be pointed out that a decent chain of logic is more likely to approach the truth than is wild conjecture.

Logical also isn’t a description that fits Dawkins’s polemics, given his widespread tendency to play fast and loose with honest rhetoric.

Such as?

While I welcome everyone’s opinion, I think that if statements like this are made, the least one can do is back it up with an example.

OK, but. In such a case, you wrote the above post “under the influence of” determinism. This means that everything you just said has no epistemic validity, because it is simply the functioning of a programmed robot. It doesn’t make it untrue, but – given the assumption of determinism – it does mean that, if I agree with it, I will have been “destined” to agree with it, whether or not it is true.

If free will, then free thought. If no free will, then no free thought. But isn’t free thinking exactly what makes a forum like this enjoyable?

Excellent - thank you! A free book, the best kind! I (hope I) shall enjoy reading it, and will let you know what I think. Presumably this book will also expand on your statements regarding Dawkins’ methods (that’s not meant ironically, btw:)).

Correct. Let’s discuss when you are finished.

For one thing he’s weird.Ever watch an interview?:eek:
And he seems to believe in extra terrestrials but not God.Go figure…

Not if one’s premises are flawed, as they often are with Dawkins.

A shorter read than the link above: The Irrationality of Richard Dawkins. Similar examples abound for anyone willing to look for them. Another example.

Dawkins’s entire book rests on the strawman that God is a “misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Dawkins then rejects his strawman deity as both unacceptable and unreal.

I guess Dawkins has something like a point on this subject, but I reject the deity he describes as well, and I’m Catholic.

– Mark L. Chance.

He’s weird? So what? Lots of people are weird.

The very fact that we exist is positive, irrefutable proof that the physical conditions for life are possible. (The same can’t be said for God) Given the trillions of planets in this universe, isn’t it just a tiny bit arrogant for you to assume that this one is the only one with life?

He most certainly does NOT base the entire book on this premise. He certainly states it though, which is undeniably inflammatory and almost certainly so designed. But is it not fair to say that there is evidence that God shows all of these traits in the Old Testament, based on his (God’s) words and actions?

Thanks for the link.

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