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Author Topic:   The God Delusion Debate
PaulK
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Message 1 of 99 (885839)
04-28-2021 3:36 AM


This was the first debate between Lennox and Dawkins.

The transcript may be found here

I intend to go through the transcript evaluating the arguments on each side. Rhetoric will be a secondary concern - insofar as the transcript reveals it.

Given the range of topics this probably belongs in the Miscellany.


Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by PaulK, posted 04-28-2021 4:38 AM PaulK has responded
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PaulK
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Posts: 17006
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.6


(1)
Message 3 of 99 (885842)
04-28-2021 4:38 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by PaulK
04-28-2021 3:36 AM


Preliminaries
First I should say that I haven’t read The God Delusion, nor do I have any particular desire to. Dawkins is good as a popular science writer but in this arena he’s not on the level of, say, the late J L Mackie.

The debate necessarily cannot provide detailed support for the arguments, so my background knowledge will play an important part of evaluating the arguments.

The debate format favoured Lennox. Dawkins was to make his arguments and then Lennox would answer - with no opportunity for Dawkins to rebut Lennox. Dawkins chafed at this restriction and was allowed to reply, but this did cut into the allotted time for other points.


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Replies to this message:
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PaulK
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Posts: 17006
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.6


Message 5 of 99 (885846)
04-28-2021 7:21 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by robertleva
04-28-2021 7:19 AM


Are you claiming that Lennox wins through rhetoric rather than the force of his arguments or are you accusing the site owner of omitting significant arguments?

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PaulK
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Posts: 17006
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.6


Message 7 of 99 (885850)
04-28-2021 8:31 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by robertleva
04-28-2021 7:46 AM


quote:
Er no?

Then in what way is the transcript lacking ?

quote:
Lennox makes points (here and in some other amazing debates you should watch vs Hitchens) that get no rebuttal

If he made them in this debate they should be in the transcript. However, as I have already pointed out Dawkins opportunities to rebut were limited - and he wasn’t supposed to rebut Lennox’ points at all.


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PaulK
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Posts: 17006
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.6


(2)
Message 12 of 99 (885855)
04-28-2021 8:53 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by robertleva
04-28-2021 8:44 AM


I note that you fail to identify any way in which the transcript is lacking. Despite asserting that it was.

quote:
Ok but would you care to rebut any of those above listed points?

I’ll briefly discuss them if they turn up in the debate. Otherwise they aren’t on topic in this thread. If you want to start a thread to discuss any of them, I’ll deal with them there. Likewise your added points.


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PaulK
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Posts: 17006
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.6


Message 14 of 99 (885857)
04-28-2021 9:02 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by Phat
04-28-2021 8:57 AM


Re: Creationism As Central Theme?
The debate centres on Dawkins’s book The God Delusion and it’s largely about the existence of God. It’s not about creationism as such, but there really didn’t seem anywhere better to put it.

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PaulK
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Posts: 17006
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.6


Message 19 of 99 (885862)
04-28-2021 9:12 AM
Reply to: Message 16 by Phat
04-28-2021 9:06 AM


I really don’t know what to say about your strange ideas on source versus content. Do you mean that you would give Lennox’ arguments more weight because he’s on your side? That would just be bias, and an unfair bias at that.

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PaulK
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Posts: 17006
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.6


Message 28 of 99 (885888)
04-28-2021 1:06 PM
Reply to: Message 26 by Tangle
04-28-2021 10:48 AM


He’s obviously aware that Lennox’s arguments aren’t that good. The attempt at poisoning the well in his first post to this thread was a pretty obvious sign.

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PaulK
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Posts: 17006
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.6


(2)
Message 29 of 99 (885891)
04-28-2021 1:27 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by PaulK
04-28-2021 4:38 AM


“Faith is blind; science is evidence based”
I have skipped the introductions to get onto the debate. This post will cover the first part, including the rebuttal Dawkins included in the time allotted to the second point.

The point is illustrated by the quote:

One of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.

I have certainly seen believers who were determined not to understand, so there may be something to that. Then again, a correlation is not sufficient to show causation.

Dawkins’ point is a paean of praise for science, and the understanding it has brought us asserting that religion opposes such knowledge.

Lennox effectively counters that point by pointing to the many examples of religious scientists. While religion undoubtedly can stifle enquiry in the way Dawkins suggests it does not have to (and - as the Lysenko affair shows - other belief systems can be as bad).

The rest of Lennox argument is not so good. He argues that faith is often based in evidence, though as Dawkins points out in his rebuttal he doesn’t really explain why that should be considered “faith” as a thing apart from other evidence-based beliefs. He asserts that his own belief in Jesus is rational and evidence-based but - understandably - doesn’t go beyond assertion.

He argues that science cannot make aesthetic or moral judgements or provide an external purpose for our existence - which seems true enough but he doesn’t really tie it to the point.

Lennox interrupts Dawkins rebuttal to ask Dawkins has faith in his wife and if Dawkins has evidence. Dawkins replies that he has lots of evidence. The point reduces to another disagreement on the meaning of “faith”.

I’ll give Lennox a narrow edge on this exchange, since he did answer Dawkins’ major point. However he only showed it to be a partial truth and his arguments on other points were at best unclear.


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PaulK
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Posts: 17006
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.6


Message 37 of 99 (885929)
04-29-2021 8:24 AM
Reply to: Message 36 by Phat
04-29-2021 7:51 AM


Re: I Will Give My Honest Opinion After Watching
Dawkins fails to impress ME - or Percy. You’ve had the opportunity to read my post on the first thesis, and he doesn’t do much better on the second.

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PaulK
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Posts: 17006
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.6


(1)
Message 40 of 99 (885934)
04-29-2021 8:54 AM
Reply to: Message 29 by PaulK
04-28-2021 1:27 PM


“Science supports atheism not Christianity.”
In addition to the title this issue also covers the late Stephen Jay Gould’s idea of NOMA - the idea that science and religion have completely separate domains.

After rebutting Lennox arguments from the first thesis Dawkins goes on to discuss the conflict over creationism - but in terms of a disagreement within the atheist community. It’s relevant to material from his book quoted at the start of this segment, but a poor use of his limited time. He goes on to argue that science is the best way to understand our physical universe and events within it - and that religion does indeed intrude into that domain. Then he runs out of time before getting to the main point.

Lennox agrees with Dawkins on NOMA. Then he goes on to address the main point where Dawkins has failed - again - to do so.

His first assertion is that atheists must believe that the mind is purely material and that this undermines the idea that our minds could be reliable. Unfortunately for him the mere possibility that our minds are unreliable is insufficient - and really that doubt goes back to Descartes (a Christian) in the 17th Century. Even worse for him, science indicates that our minds are indeed based in the material so we have an example of science supporting atheism. There’s a lot more that could be said on this but it doesn’t belong here.

Then he asserts:

An argument that purports to derive rationality from irrationality doesn’t even rise in my opinion to the dignity of being an intelligible delusion. It is logically incoherent

Which - even ignoring his use of “irrational” where “non-rational” is required - is mistaking a fallacy of composition for a logical truth. Even if it’s meant as hyperbole it’s not a good look.

He argues that theism offers a guarantee that the universe can be rationally understood but that really fails to address the real problem.

Fine-tuning is mentioned but that’s really better covered in the next point.

His final point is this:

Now what I find very interesting is this: the Bible is frequently dismissed as being anti-scientific because it makes no predictions. Oh no, that’s incorrect! It makes a brilliant prediction! For centuries it’s been saying there was a beginning

I have never seen this “frequent” objection and it is silly anyway. If anybody actually made it, it would be best dismissed by pointing out that the Bible is not a work of science. Unfortunately Lennox implicitly argued that it IS (should scientists also seriously consider Jacob’s exercises in livestock breeding?). And for no gain - as Dawkins points out in his rebuttal a 50-50 guess is not a great success (it’s nowhere near statistical significance!). Even worse, it is far from clear that the Bible does say that the universe has a beginning. The Primordial Ocean is right there at the start of Genesis. This is one of the most spectacular cases of shooting oneself in the foot I’ve seen.

Dawkins comes out ahead here - but not through his own completely inadequate efforts.


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PaulK
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Posts: 17006
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.6


(1)
Message 47 of 99 (885952)
04-29-2021 2:53 PM
Reply to: Message 40 by PaulK
04-29-2021 8:54 AM


“Design is dead otherwise one must explain who designed the designer.”
Dawkins still doesn’t manage to support the point this segment is supposed to deal with but he does raise a related point and handles it - just about - adequately,

Fortunately a quote from the book is provided which does support the point. A designer complex enough to design our universe would itself be complex enough that to require an explanation - and if design is automatically be preferred, then design would be the expected answer,

When Dawkins speaks he argues that explaining fine tuning by postulating a designer who just happens to set things the way that they are is a deeply unsatisfactory explanation. He goes on to argue that the multiverse is more satisfactory (and I agree). While I can’t say that I could do a better job on the debating floor I certainly could on a forum like this.

Lennox doesn’t really address either point,

First he argues that Dawkins wrongly assumes that a God must be created and he believes in an eternal God. It’s far from clear that he’s even right about Dawkins - but the point really is irrelevant to the discussion.

Then he claims that Dawkins argues that God would be more complex than the thing God is invoked to explain. Well, Dawkins might argue that but it is not at all clear that is the whole of the argument. And again, this simply isn’t in either of the points Lennox is supposed to be answering.

Lennox finishes with a rather puzzling reference to Hawking which again isn’t relevant (and which he’s probably misunderstood).

Dawkins rebuttal points out some of Lennox’ errors. Lennox responds but still doesn’t address the points. He makes a puzzling claim about DNA (possibly a reference to Werner Gitt’s ideas although I hope Lennox is better informed than that), but he doesn’t support it at all.

This is a clear win for Dawkins. Not because Dawkins did well, but because Lennox simply didn’t answer the points at all. Even when he got a second chance.


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PaulK
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Posts: 17006
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.6


(1)
Message 48 of 99 (885963)
04-30-2021 8:59 AM
Reply to: Message 47 by PaulK
04-29-2021 2:53 PM


“Christianity is dangerous.”
This leads with a three quotes from the book (read by the moderator). They deal with Islam as much as Christianity.

Dawkins is not by any means accusing all religious people of carrying out or even supporting atrocities but he regards religion as an enabler, even if not by intention.

Dawkins himself argues that the danger is in uncritically accepting religious views - and not just in the sense of believing them:

An example he has in mind is:

... if you are the kind of person who takes your faith really literally, and who believes that Allah has ordered you or that it be the will of Allah that you go blow somebody up...

The topic is supposedly about Christianity so choosing Islam is a mistake. The point still applies, I think, but he could do with a better example and he could and should have prepared one.

He finishes with the idea that skepticism is a virtue and in this case it certainly is. I’m more impressed with the morals of Christians who say “that’s wrong, so God didn’t do it” then those who say “God did it, so it must be right”.

Lennox goes off on Communist atrocities, trying to link them to atheism in the same way that Christian atrocities are linked to Christianity. The parallels are not exact - atheism would be better compared to monotheism than a specific religion, for one. More importantly he doesn’t show that atheism has anything to do with the problem of unquestioning belief that Dawkins identified. I don’t doubt that it applied, but atheism wasn’t the cause.

He goes on to mention a girl in the DDR who was refused education because she refused to swear allegiance to the state, but it’s not at all clear why he thinks atheism is to blame. I’m brought to mind of the Oarh of Allegiance in US schools.

The discussion continues to occupy most of Dawkins time for the next segment. Dawkins argues that there is no logical path from atheism to atrocities.

Lennox’ reply is:

Well I would want to argue that there is a logical path from any ideology that is fanatical and oppressive to the kind of behaviour you say whether it’s religion or atheistic...

Wouldn’t the problem be the “fanatical and oppressive” ideology? And what happens when Christianity - or a form of it - is that ideology?

After that there’s an argument over whether atheism is a faith, but Lennox doesn’t get beyond assertion while Dawkins makes some argument.

I have to score this as a marginal win for Dawkins. Lennox doesn’t really make a clear case for blaming atheism over communism for Stalin’s or Pol Pot’s atrocities - let alone directly take on Dawkins argument. (I think he could have done, but he didn’t).


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PaulK
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Posts: 17006
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.6


(1)
Message 50 of 99 (885969)
04-30-2021 12:51 PM
Reply to: Message 48 by PaulK
04-30-2021 8:59 AM


“No one needs God to be moral.”
Dawkins actually makes some reasonable arguments here. He points out that the Bible and the Quran have somewhat mixed messages and only by picking out the good from the bad can you derive a reasonable morality from either.

He also points out that being moral from fear of punishment or hope of reward isn’t exactly praiseworthy.

He offers his explanation of morality (which fits the evidence quite well) and points out that morality does change over time. Perhaps not the basics but certainly on issues like slavery. )US readers will be very aware of the terrible conflict that issue provoked and that religion stood on both sides - supporting both the continuation of slavery and it’s abolition.)

Lennox tries to argue that a transcendent morality is needed - Good and Evil as real things - and that a God is needed for that. It’s a poor choice of argument. Both points are contentious at best (I’d say that both are obviously false). He also asserts that any other basis will lead to disaster but that is equally contentious. He doesn’t provide any support for these claims although they sorely need it. To be fair they require much more discussion than is possible in this debate - which is exactly why they are a poor choice.

Dawkins has the better points - it’s certainly not true that Bible and Quran have bad rules and good and that our ideas of morality have shifted without a clear message from religion - and many people would say that some changes are very much for the better. So Dawkins gets a narrow win here.


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PaulK
Member
Posts: 17006
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.6


Message 52 of 99 (885982)
05-01-2021 1:25 AM
Reply to: Message 51 by Phat
04-30-2021 9:31 PM


Re: “No one needs God to be moral.”
quote:
Is he essentially saying that though both books are of earlier eras and thus somewhat dated, they are relevant or irrelevant based on cultural interpretation?

He’s certainly saying that there are rules we should consider bad in both. For instance in the Bible a rake victim could be executed if she was too scared to scream during the attack. And, of course, the Bible has a lot of rules that Christians deem irrelevant based on a classification that is not found in the actual text at all.

The Bible has nothing to say that some rules are simply there to fit into the society of the time, nor any provision to change them. Which is a bit of a problem if you want to say that they are sent from God, but only for a particular time and place.


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