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Post No. 28 (The Dawkins Delusion)

March 17, 2010

Plodding through The God Delusion by Dickie Dawkins. He’s a brilliant biologist with many good books and theories to his name, but in this book he drops clangers the size of small countries. One of the things that’s really irritating me is his insistence to apply scientific method to someone who by definition is beyond science. OK. Let me clean up this a bit.

Science is a [human] activity through which we predict, theorise, observe and record our observable surroundings. To be extremely clear I shall also remind you that in order to predict we also need to understand the mechanics behind the phenomena. Also, your hypotheses have got to be testable. If you can’t apply at least one test to your hypothesis, then you can’t call whatever you’re doing science.

This begs the mention of one Philip Henry Gosse – a natural historian (= biologist) active in the late 19th C. He is probably best known for his Omphalos. In this “masterpiece” he argues that the world was created complete with fossil and geological records from the word go. His reasoning was that life is “circular” so when God inserts his “wafer” of creation one has to be left with the impression that the point of creation flows logically and naturally from an illusory – as in suppositious – past. And to really shoot himself in the foot he adds that this theory – whether accepted or not – won’t make any difference to the notions of evolution, because God wants us to believe that life evolves, even though he planted an evolution starter pack himself, without anything actually evolving.

Two questions:

a)      What’s the point of such a theory, then?

b)      Is there a way to test it?

You have to use all your self control to answer with a plain “a) None and b) No.”

Nobody’s saying that it’s impossible. But you can’t show that it’s possible either. So it’s not science.

Same goes for God. There’s no way you can test – in a scientific sense – God’s existence. So you can’t say He exists or He doesn’t and claim, at the same time, that you’re “doing science”. You can’t even say God probably exists/doesn’t exist. Because if you do you’ll have to quantify that probability with statistics – which takes us back to square one. You’ll have to at least devise some sort of waveform in which a deity is most likely to be found, then note the amount of time he spends in that “space” How will you know it’s God, not someone else? I know it’s a ridiculous suggestion, but then so is trying to argue for or against God from a scientific standpoint. But I’ll return to this issue in another post.

And now for something completely different … (well not quite, but I’ve always wanted to say that)

Now I may be saying this out of ignorance, but I feel that the same arguments hold for that other red herring – consciousness. You can apply zillions of biochemical tests and MRI scans, but I think you can only go as far as describing the “effects” of consciousness. I don’t think that we can actually ever test what causes it. I mean you can reproduce all the chemistry “that makes us conscious” in a test tube, so to speak, but would that give us a conscious and sentient test tube?

You haven’t heard the end of me on these subjects. Of course, the posts will not be torrential, not least because it takes tonnes of reading to get myself sorted out on these conundrums …. But then again, I quite like reading.


From → The Elephant

One Comment
  1. Great post. Thanks.

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