Why The God Delusion is Worthless by the Canons of Science


“the presence or absence of a creative super-intelligence is unequivocally a scientific question.”

Richard Dawkins

If a correlation or hypothesis or law or probability expectation or theory or system pertains to empirical science, then (1) it involves sensible consequences, and (2) such consequences can be produced or at least observed. Inversely, empirical method prescinds from all questions and answers that do not involve distinctive sensible consequences; and it discards all that involve such consequences logically yet fail to be confirmed by the results of observation or experiment.

Lonergan, Bernard (1992-04-06). Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, Volume 3: 003 (Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan) (Kindle Locations 2260-2264). University of Toronto Press. Kindle Edition.

“… as the canon of selection is not to be misinterpreted as a mere charter for obtuseness, still less is it to be taken as a mere excuse for logical fallacy. Questions that do not satisfy the canon of selection do not arise within the confines of empirical science, but it does not follow immediately that they do not arise at all. Issues that cannot be settled by observation or experiment cannot be settled by empirical method, but it does not follow immediately that they cannot be settled at all.”

Lonergan, Bernard (1992-04-06). Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, Volume 3: 003 (Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan) (Kindle Locations 2279-2282). University of Toronto Press. Kindle Edition.

A datum of sense may be defined as the content of an act of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling. But the difficulty with that definition is that such contents do not occur in a cognitional vacuum. They emerge within a context that is determined by interests and preoccupations. Nor is this true merely of ordinary perceptions, of the milkmaid who laughed at Thales for falling into the well. It is more conspicuously true of the scientific Thales, so interested in the stars that he did not advert to the well. Accordingly, it would be a mistake to suppose that scientific observation is some mere passivity to sense impressions. It occurs within its own dynamic context, and the problem is to distinguish that cognitional orientation from the orientation of concrete living. To be alive, then, is to be a more or less autonomous center of activity. It is to deal with a succession of changing situations; it is to do so promptly, efficaciously, economically; it is to attend continuously to the present, to learn perpetually from the past, to anticipate constantly the future. Thus the flow of sensations, as completed by memories and prolonged by imaginative acts of anticipation, becomes the flow of perceptions. It is of the latter, perceptual flow that we are conscious. It is only when the perceptual flow goes wrong that the mere sensation bursts into consciousness, as for example in the experience of trying to go down another step when already one has reached the floor. Now what differentiates the perceptual flow in one man from that of another is found in the pattern of interests and objectives, desires and fears, that emphasize elements and aspects of sensible presentations, enrich them with the individual’s associations and memories, and project them into future courses of possible fruitful activity. In some such fashion, it would seem, must be explained the differences in the perceptions of men and women, of people in different occupations, different climates, different stages in human history. Hence to become a scientific observer is, not to put an end to perception, but to bring the raw materials of one’s sensations within a new context. The interests and hopes, desires and fears, of ordinary living have to slip into a background. In their place the detached and disinterested exigences of inquiring intelligence have to enter and assume control. Memories will continue to enrich sensations, but they will be memories of scientific significance. Imagination will continue to prolong the present by anticipating the future, but anticipations with a practical moment will give way to anticipations that bear on a scientific issue. Just as the woodsman, the craftsman, the artist, the expert in any field acquires a spontaneous perceptiveness lacking in other men, so too does the scientific observer. Still, there are differences in such developments, and to this fact the scientist alludes when he insists that scientific observation is a matter of seeing just what there is to be seen, hearing exactly whatever sounds are sounded, and so forth. This claim cannot, I think, be taken literally, for the impartial and accurate observer, no less than anyone else, is under the dominance of a guiding orientation. Still, the claim does possess its elements of truth, for the guiding orientation of the scientist is the orientation of inquiring intelligence, the orientation that of its nature is a pure, detached, disinterested desire simply to know. For there is an intellectual desire, an eros of the mind. Without it there would arise no questioning, no inquiry, no wonder. Without it there would be no real meaning for such phrases as scientific disinterestedness, scientific detachment, scientific impartiality. Inasmuch as this intellectual drive is dominant, inasmuch as the reinforcing or inhibiting tendencies of other drives are successfully excluded, in that measure the scientific observer becomes an incarnation of inquiring intelligence, and his percepts move into coincidence with what are named the data of sense.

Lonergan, Bernard (1992-04-06). Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, Volume 3: 003 (Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan) (Kindle Locations 2294-2323). University of Toronto Press. Kindle Edition.

 

The problem with works such as The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins is thus threefold:

1. It deals with matters that cannot be decided by data of sense, no matter how complex the instrumentation used, nor how involved the reasoning applied.

2. The claim that if it is not a matter for science, it is not a matter for inquiry, is a non-sequitur, which implies that only one who is educated in and has spent significant thought on a matter is relevant to any discussion of the matter. Dawkins qualifies as neither by his own admission.

3. “… the guiding orientation of the scientist is the orientation of inquiring intelligence, the orientation that of its nature is a pure, detached, disinterested desire simply to know. For there is an intellectual desire, an eros of the mind. Without it there would arise no questioning, no inquiry, no wonder. Without it there would be no real meaning for such phrases as scientific disinterestedness, scientific detachment, scientific impartiality.”.

None of these orientations or resulting features of scientific observation are present in any of Dawkins’ works, but are conspicuously absent from The God Delusion and the debates he has been involved in around it.  As has been noted by others, the quote from Dawkins with which I began is pure idiocy from a scientific or philosophical perspective, the kind of idiocy that generally arises from the bigotry that is the real belief-system underlying the 800 or so pages of fallacies published as The God Delusion.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s