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Bakari Chavanu

Dawkins vs. Collins: analysis of the debate. - 1 views

  • In the first exchange, Dawkins and Collins apparently agreed that the proposition "God exists" is either true or false. Dawkins indicated that science is appropriate to the task of answering the question, but Collins disagreed: "From my perspective, God cannot be completely contained within nature, and therefore God's existence is outside of science's ability to really weigh in."
  • "God cannot be completely contained within nature," he implied that God can be partly contained within nature, which makes God open to scientific analysis.
  • By inventing a category called "supernatural" and relegating hypothetical things to it, they apparently hope to protect those things from the requirement of evidence.
  • ...21 more annotations...
  • What does this mean? Does it make any sense to say that something exists outside space and time? When we apply the word "exists" to something, don't we mean that we can observe it or its effects in space and time?
  • Have we ever observed anything outside space and time?
  • By insisting that God exists "outside of nature," Collins nearly makes his supernatural compartment so small that there isn't enough room for God.
  • He is certainly correct that the inefficiency of evolution, not to mention its "errors of design," is inconsistent with the traditional idea of God as an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent being. This traditional kind of God would be more likely to operate through Creationism, but this hypothesized mode of operation is not supported by the evidence of biology, genetics, geology, and cosmology.

  • Dawkins proposed two possible explanations for the values of the physical constants we find in our universe. One is that these constants couldn't be any different from what they are; they simply are what they are.
  • Within this great mulitverse environment, there are bound to be some universes that have the physical constants at just the right values to support the development of life, and we find ourselves in one of them.
  • Although Dawkins seems to present the two best currently available alternatives to Collins' God hypothesis to explain the life-enabling values of the physical constants of our universe, he and Collins both seem to accept without any skepticism the proposition that our universe is improbable. But how can they just assume this? In my opinion, they do this through a misapplication of probability theory. In the debate they used the "gravitational constant" as an example. They correctly noted that if the gravitational constant (G) were different by one part in a hundred million million, then life, as we know it, would not be possible in our universe.
  • One must know how many items with the feature are in the population and how many items without the feature are in that same population (or alternatively, how many items altogether are in the population).
  • In fact, we do not know that any other universes exist at all! Without knowledge of other universes, Dawkins and Collins misuse probability theory to conclude that our universe is rare
  • More must be said about Collins' contention that the application of Occam's razor supports the God hypothesis over the multiverse hypothesis. It doesn't. The God hypothesis is less parsimonious than the multiverse hypothesis for two reasons:

    1. it invents a totally new type of entity, a supernatural being "outside time and space," which is not necessary with the latter hypothesis, and

    2. it leads to the classic problem of infinite regress. If there must be something outside our universe, i.e. God, to explain the existence of our universe, then there must be something outside of God, i.e. "Z," to explain God. Then something is needed to explain "Z," ad infinitum.
  • Alluding to St. Augustine and commenting on the book of Genesis, Collins said "It was not intended as a science textbook. It was intended as a description of who God was, who we are and what our relationship is supposed to be with God."
  • Collins responded that if one accepts God's existence, then it is not unreasonable to expect that God might occasionally intervene in the world in a miraculous way, and that if one accepts that Jesus was divine then the Resurrection is "not a great logical leap." But these are big "ifs," and although Collins tries to show that they are plausible, he offers no good evidence to show that they are probable.
  • Collins implied that this altruism is a sign of God's existence and a gift from him.
  • Dawkins responded that good and evil don't exist as independent entities but that good and bad things simply happen to people.
  • Collins' "moral law" argument is another variation on the "God of the Gaps" theme. If science doesn't yet have a complete description of a phenomenon, then there must be a super-being behind the scenes who is responsible for whatever is in the gaps.
  • Collins' idea of a "moral law" is premature and far too rigid when one considers the variability in moral rules across different geographic areas, cultures, ethnicities, and religions.
  • "Faith is not the opposite of reason. Faith rests squarely upon reason, but with the added component of revelation." Part of the difficulty here is that "faith" has several different meanings and unfortunately Collins isn't clear about which meaning he intends. "Faith" may refer to a religion or worldview, as in "My faith is Islam." It may refer to an attitude of trust or confidence, as in "I have faith in my physician."
  • In his concluding remarks Collins indicated that he is interested in many "why" questions for which he believes answers may not come from science but from the "spiritual realm." In his concluding remarks Dawkins indicated his doubt that the future discoveries of science would support any of the beliefs of the traditional religions, beliefs that he regards as parochial, but nevertheless worthy of some respect. And on that conciliatory note, the debate was concluded.
  • Who won the debate? From the perspective of style or mode of expression, perhaps Collins won. At times, Dawkins seemed to come across as a bit testy and abrasive.
  • Gary J. Whittenberger
  • Maybe the best approach in any such discussion forum is to try to flush out first exactly where the theist is positioned on the spectrum of belief by a series of clear questions.
    eg for Christians:

    - Do you accept the literal truth of the Bible (completely, or just the New Testament?)
    - Do you believe in Jesus's miracles, virgin birth, physical ascencion to Heaven?
    - Do you believe that God regularly intervenes in the natural universe eg by answering prayers, or in the design of organisms?
    Excellent article and good for discussion. Would like to read others in this group think.
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