Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Book Review: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

In The Godless Delusion, Dawkins doesn't mention Buddhism much at all, except to say he thinks they're philosphies, not religions. This Buddhist disagrees on that point. Dawkins arguments against the existence of a monotheistic god are cogent, powerful, and above all, far more accessible than the tripe you get at Unfortunately, as a man trained in biology, every argument looks like it can be addressed with evolution. That said, one argument - the argument that says an "Intelligent" "Designer" would have to be hopelessly complex and hence far more unlikely than an evolved ecosystem built up by its own bootstraps a step at a time - is actually quite new to me.

Also unfortunately, he himself doesn't quite get probability theory, or to put it another way, he readily and humbly admits he's confused by quantum theory, but when he says "no no no there's no randmoness" in evolution, he protesteth too much. However, his wonderment shines through even here.

His basic arguments are spot on though.

Two points:

1. He doesn't quite mention theological positions of folks like mine - perhaps because there's so much kinship with his position, he doesn't see the difference. That is, he does not see that much of what he's saying is eventually irrelevant to folks like me, because the question's irrelevant, except perhaps as fodder for keeping busy in coach class.

2. He brings up what is likely some nonsensical controversial book about language and voices in one's head- the title escapes me at the moment and I am too comfortable frankly to get my copy of Dawkin's book to look it up. His point is that perhaps at one time the dialog in one's head was regarded as real. Perhaps it was, but as we have no model for how the ancients perceived consciousness until...yeah, Buddhists...OK, maybe some Hindu writings address such issues, I'm not familiar...but until Buddhists wrote about enlightenment, there wasn't a heckuva lot the ancients wrote about consciousness, though I'd suspect that at least among the lower classes, R.D. Laing's quote of Kierkegaard was probably right: the ancients probably did see angels and halos and all that what-not. Again, it doesn't matter because the dialog in your head is just that anyway; it's the picture of the cake...and that implies that we're likely miles apart from Quakers, despite the alleged similarities of practice.

All in all, very much worth reading. Go out and read it today, in fact, it's in paperback, and a bargain.

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