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Reason as the Leading Motive

Dawkins Needs Objectivism

Posted by Jerry on October 25, 2006

Richard Dawkins is woefully weak in his defense of atheism. He gave a brief interview on BBC explaining his views and his book. Having watched that interview, I strongly criticized Dawkins’ “atheism” as being fundamentally contradictory, weak, and subjectivist. Here are my critical comments that I posted over at Brett Keller’s blog:

I didn’t like Dawkin’s interview at all. For a scientist who supposedly should think in a logical manner, his atheism is fundamentally contradictory. He concedes that he must leave room for the possibility (however small) that there might be a god, and yet, he claims to be committed to the “truth,” and that the religious believers are believing a lie. God’s existence has to be either true or false–there are no two ways about the existence of an entity. One either exists or one does not.
Thus, if Dawkins is claiming a committment to the truth–and if truth is a conscious identification of reality, then he should be bold enough to actually say that the truth is that there is no god! It appears to me that Dawkins is trying to have his cake and eat it too.

Dawkins’ position is fundamentally contradictory because insofar as his position is explicit “atheism,” he cannot logically also concede that there is a possibility for the existence of God.

There is a term that we have for Dawkin’s position–it’s called agnosticism. I suspect, because Dawkins wishes to have his cake and eat it too, he prefers to use the term atheism–which explicitly differentiates itself from agnosticism by declaring that there is no God–in order to couch his arguments in a more compelling manner. However, he is unfortunately mired in empiricism.

To simply say, I am an atheist because I don’t believe in god(s) is merely to make a very subjective statement about one’s own beliefs without making any reference to objective reality, i.e., whether or not an entity such as God really exists out there.

Atheism is not merely an absence of god-belief, but an assertive credo stating that there isn’t any god to believe in. Atheism is the recognition that there is/are no god(s). It is not merely a belief that there is no god, but a true recognition of that fact. A belief could be mistaken, or proven wrong at some future point. A true recognition of a fact by a conceptual consciousness is a recognition of reality as is.

The only logical derivative from Dawkins’ definition of atheism would be for him to stick to speaking about his *subjective* and empirical reasons for not believing that a God probably exists. In the end, he must concede that he has made no relevant and definitive statement applicable to objective reality, and that faith is a permissble faculty through which one can possibly know of the existence of god.

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21 Responses to “Dawkins Needs Objectivism”

  1. Tyrel said

    I find it odd that you have two site meters that both display different numbers of visitors. Why the need for two? And if two ARE needed, why not have two with the same numbers?!

  2. Steve said

    You’re making this way too complicated.

    Dawkins is a proponent of Weak Atheism, as am I. All that means is that we don’t believe any gods exist.

    Anything roughly amounting to ‘God probably doesn’t exist,’ ‘I don’t know,’ ‘I don’t care,’ as well as other positions, counts as Agnosticism.

    You: “Atheism, as I define it…”

    If you’re going to create your own personal definitions for words, fine, but don’t then claim that other people misuse such words just because they’re not using your definition(s) of them.

    You: “My approach, on the other hand, demonstrates the *impossibility* of god’s existence in objective reality, which is consistent with the way I define atheism.”

    This is obviously impossible to achieve. It’s not possible for us to be certain of enough things to rule out the existence of gods.

  3. Ergo said

    Steve,

    Your “weak” Atheism is precisely what I regard as a mere confession of a subjectivist belief. And as such, you (and Dawkins) are adulterating the concept of atheism. People can believe (or not believe) in any random crap they want. But don’t use already established concepts in order to describe your own whimsical positions.

    If you extend the implication of your “weak atheism” into objective reality, what you get is agnosticism, because your definition lends you no logically possible way of claiming certain knowledge about the existence of God in reality. In other words, your position is solipsistic.

    You said: It’s not possible for us to be certain of enough things to rule out the existence of gods.

    I’d suggest that you become familiar with all my posts and positions regarding Atheism before you make such a naive assumption.

  4. Tyrel said

    I find it odd that in the beginning of the post you say, “All that means is that we don’t believe any gods exist.” But, in the end of your comment you contradict yourself by saying, “It’s not possible for us to be certain of enough things to rule out the existence of gods.”

    Consistency is key to any argument!

  5. Ergo said

    Tyrel,

    You’re right: consistency is key to any rational argument. However, Steve’s statements that you pointed out aren’t strictly contradictory per se. The first statement is a subjectivist assertion–it’s as worthless as saying I don’t like the color red. This has no bearing on the objective qualities of the color red at all.

    The second statement you point out is premised on the assumption (which I identified explicitly in the post “Human Perfection”) that the standard of certainty in knowledge is omniscience. That one must know “enough things” to rule out the existence of gods, ofcourse, here “enough” implies “a whole lot of things” or in other words “it is *impossible* for us to reach that level of knowledge from where we can declare that gods do not exist.”

    As I said, this premise of omniscience is what cripples the human mind and has corrupted much of philosophy.

  6. Jason said

    Perhaps they had to shortne his interview, or “dumb it diwn” for the brief amount of time he was allowed for the interview… And perhaps he culd have also been allowing for his book to be marketed to a wider group of athiests and/or agnostics, as athiests make up a far smaller market than the already small market of atheists and agnostics put together!

    Granted, the man is a highly regarded person, but he is also out to make money through selling his book…

    I’ll also raise my hand as a 10% agnostic at times (sorry!), but I think, as you pointed out, Ergo, that one must remain open to the possibility when objectively looking at criterion, whether it’s been hashed through or not before, for one to re-again vsit the “no god exists” concept. In other words, if one automatically assumes no god when looking at any data or threology or philosophy, one loses a certain objectivism that is cruially important for matters pertaining to the human condition, wouldn’t you agree?

    Ugh, notwithstanding, one must return to one’s work station at the end of a break…

    Catch ya’s later…

  7. Ergo said

    Tyrel, I find it odd that you begin your comments with “I find it odd.” 😉 With regard to your question about my visitor counters, I had first added the “sitemeter” counter onto my blog when I was still new to wordpress. Later, I realized that wordpress does not support the sitemeter counter. It only counts those visitors who come to the first page of the site (on which the logo of the counter is). It does not count visitors to the other posts/pages.

    Hence, the difference in the count.

  8. Tyrel said

    Ha!….I had no idea that BOTH of my comments started out the same way! Too funny!

  9. The title is backwards. It should be: Objectivism needs Dawkins.

  10. […] is why I said earlier that Richard Dawkins needs Objectivism. Being primarily a scientist, Dawkins finds himself constrained by the compulsion to […]

  11. Steve said

    I watched a video on YouTube of Donahue interviewing Ayn Rand, and near the end of the show, he asks Rand about her being an atheist. She mentions that her husband is “even more so” an atheist than she is. Does that mean Rand was actually agnostic?

  12. Ergo said

    Steve. I hope you’re not intentionally misinterpreting Rand’s statement from that video. There is a whole lot more to the phrase you picked to quote. No, she was not an agnostic. She was responding to Donahue’s joke about the kind of statements and ideas Ayn Rand held with regard to atheism, which would not bode well for her husband’s chances of getting through the pearly gates of heaven. To that, Rand’s reply was in effect that her statements are mild in comparison to her husband’s atheism. It’s only a manner of creating a comparitive exaggeration for effect–considering that the whole discussion of pearly gates was hypothetical; don’t interpret it as her philosophical position on the matter.

  13. Steve 2 said

    No, it was not an intentional misunderstanding. It’s been awhile since I watched the video, so I either misunderstood what she had said, or simply forgot the specifics over time. Thanks for clearing it up for me, though. Also, I should have noted in my first post that I’m a different Steve than the author of post #2. Sorry ’bout that.

  14. Eric said

    Dawkins atheism is not representative of confusion of “belief” that there is/are no god(s), but Dawkins is a scientist first and foremost and science is fundamentally non-dogmatic. Because the existence or non-existence is not provable mathematically, it does and must remain a theory from a scientific perspective. Although all evidence strongly points to a lack of any supernatural creator or overseer, a scientist MUST leave open the possibility that irrefutable evidence to contrary may yet show up. Dawkins, by acknowledging that evidence in the existence of a god may present itself if said existence is, in fact, true is merely showing his adherence to the scientific method — that is that a prevailing theory can only be considered so long as a preponderance of evidence supports the theory and if evidence to the counter is ever presented, the theory MUST be abandoned or revised.

    Similarly, I have not doubt whatsoever that there is not invisible sky-friend watching over us. As such, I am firmly atheist. However, I also acknowledge that if “god = true,” then evidence of that truth would present itself and I MUST accept a new theory the explains that truth. I FIRMLY contend that the prevailing theory would not be one of any existing religion, because in any hypothetical scenario where god does exist as true, the explanation by all major religions for why no evidence exist (specifically with regards to “faith”), flies in the face of all reason. That is, if the existence of god were true, for that god to create human beings as creatures of intelligence, logic and reason and yet decree that the only way to “reach” god is by wholly rejecting that intelligent, logical and reasoned nature is simply, well, stupid. I’m sure there is no god, but if god does exist and have a good deal of “faith” that he is not an idiot.

  15. Ergo said

    Eric,

    Except for the last bit, I agree with your points here. The last bit about the possibility of a god that conforms to our notions of intelligence and logic would require a radical re-definition of the concept “god” to something more watered down and palatable like “intelligent alien,” which is fine–but the burden of proof lies on the one positing such an alien.

    As far as this discussion is concerned, I use the traditional concept of “god” used in most theological and philosophical discussions–not one that subsumes “intelligent alien” but one that specifically points to an eternal and infinitely existing intelligent, supernatural entity who is alleged to have at least kick-started the creation process of the universe; that is, an uncreated, intelligent Creator.

    This is the traditional concept of god put forth by believers.

    I agree with your points about scientific skepticism, which is why I argue that atheism properly does not lie in the realm of science but in the realm of philosophy. In another post, I wrote:

    It is a matter of fact that science can never disprove the existence of God. The tools of science–experimentation, observation, and empiricism–are inherently inadequate for the job. At best, empiricists can only reach approximations of certainty–and can claim, like Richard Dawkins does, that they have a very high degree of certainty that god does not exist.

    This, however, does not indicate any weakness in the position of atheism as such; rather, it highlights the fact that science is inferior to philosophy and that philosophy is and should be the foundation of all scientific thought.

    Read it fully here: https://ergosum.wordpress.com/2008/03/14/deriving-atheism-from-philosophy/

  16. Jonathan said

    Dawkins sometimes uses words strategically rather than as an actual reflection of his internal reasoning. He would rather bend his words a little to persuade people toward a form of weak atheism than have those same people reject atheism altogether.

  17. Ergo said

    I find “weak atheism” a very strange term. It reflects a self-admitted compromise on one’s ideology–and in this case, atheism being a very firm and factual statement.

    Would you think there’s any virtue in duping people into becoming atheists by offering a “weak atheim” option? Do you think it’s fine shortchange a matter-of-fact position like atheism by conceding weakness in the face of an undeniably fantastical ideological position?

    My answer on all those counts is no. Either accept a fact for what it is or stay deluded. But I’m not going to weaken my position on a fact only to pander to someone’s taste for moderation, the middle-of-the-road, or fantastical flights of imagination.

  18. CMJ said

    This is a terrible post. There is nothing contradictory about Dawkins position. He isn’t stating God may or may not exist(which, as you said, there are no two ways about), he is simply stating he might be wrong.

    The “possibility” isn’t whether God exists or not, which is where you seem to be confused. It’s about whether Dawkins is correct in his own beliefs or not.

    He simply isn’t claiming his Atheism as some kind of irrefutable absolute knowledge, something people who aren’t Objectivists do quite a lot actually.

    • CMJ said

      Also, look up the word “fact”. There are no gods isn’t a fact. It can’t be falsified, backed up with evidence or anything else closely resembling the characteristics of accepted facts. You can’t prove a negative.

  19. Eric said

    “Weak” Atheist is not a compromise on ones position because in this case you are equating position with belief. BELIEF is a compromise of reason.

    As CMJ stated, you cannot prove a negative. More correctly, you cannot prove a negative in absence of a mutual exclusive compliment. Certainly logic and reason can be used as evidence to support a position, but lets not equate forensic evidence as “fact” (forensic evidence can and should, of course, be supported by facts but the conclusion, however much is makes sense, it not FACT is the strictest sense). Further, reason is a weaker form of evidence than direct, observable evidence derived from experimentation (empirical evidence). Since all evidence for and against the existence of any god is based solely on logic and reasoning, it does not, for the scientifically minded, suggest a weakness of position to acknowledge that, “I could be proven wrong.”

    It is undoubtedly the word “weak” in the weak atheist moniker that is making you think a weak atheist is compromising ones ideals. That is not the case however. A “weak” atheist is actually a proper step in the formation of more cemented “atheist” ideology. A “weak” atheists first step, she is told, is to cast aside their programming and presuppositions, and realize that theism makes no sense, and is direct conflict with the available evidence. Except often we are asking people to accept OUR theory without providing sufficient proof.
    A weak atheist generally starts out as a theist. Their prevailing “theory” is that god(s) do exist and created all we see. The scientific method suggests that the prevailing theory should be maintained unless it is disproved and hopefully replaced with another theory that meets the demands of explanation of a hypothesis AND is not yet disproven. This is all well and good, but first we have to DISPROVE the existence of god or at least show significant, irreparable flaws in their original theist “theory.” This is damn hard to do, and takes time.
    Moreover, we are only able to do it through logic as no directly empirical evidence exists. But, because we ask people to set aside their indoctrination and presuppositions, we cannot simply tell people “god isn’t real, he doesn’t make sense, and you should trust me because I’m really smart and have great reason to believe so.” No, people have to take in all the logical evidence and process it to prove the “truth” for a non-existent and undefined, mutually-exclusive compliment to the hypothesis that “there is a god.” Eventually, those most dedicated to discovering the truth of whether a god does or does not exist WILL make a decision that “given a preponderance of logical evidence against the existence of supernatural forces including gods, gods do not exist.” But, it kind of decision takes lots of time and dedication to objective reasoning.
    If someone were to jump directly from “God made the world in seven days,” to “there are no gods,” I’d have to the question the dedication to their ideology and, really, their sanity. Basically put, I don’t want people to accept that there is no god because I said so. I want them to look at the evidence for an unguided reality and against the existence of any god and decide for themselves. More than I am against the concept of god, I am against dogmatic adherence to ANYTHING.

    Also, I’ve said it elsewhere but now here, agnosticism is not a transitional state between dogmatic theism and dogmatic atheism. Agnosticism concerns itself with the question of whether the “spirit” is a real force. Brought into modern terms it is a question of whether God is knowable (provable) or NOT (disprovable). Most Christians nowadays are Agnostic Theists. They believe that the spirit exists as an ephemeral or non-physical force OUTSIDE of our world and thus cannot be directly evidenced or proven. Likewise, an Agnostic Atheist believes that question in the existence or non-existence of any god is unknowable by direct physical proof or examination. A Gnostic Theist believes the spirit it a natural physical force or energy (as much as electricity). It is knowable, observable and made even be manifest in some manner. A Gnostic Atheist would belief that there CANNOT be anything outside of reality and thus the spirit and thus if god(s) does (do) exist, that energy should be fully observable, recordable, testable, etc. Do not conflate Theism/Atheism with Gnosticism/Agnosticism as the ignorant public does.

  20. froivinber said

    I agree! His opinion about absolute morality is nonsense! He needs to read Ayn Rand’s Virtue of Selfishness and other books. His theory of selfish and altruistic genes is so annoying. Dawkins’ pathetic defense of atheism is grounded in his failure to understand the role of philosophy man’s life and cognition. He’s Kantian, in essence. Dawkin’s ethics is consistent with his view of reason, which in reality and in truth is a form of mysticism.

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