Sunday, May 11, 2008

Is that all there is?

In re-reading Dawkins’s The God Delusion, in preparation for a Sunday School, I am again amazed at the poor quality of his arguments. I have written many times about the substandard abilities of today’s intellectual atheists, and a second reading of Dawkins’s magnum opus has reaffirmed that view. He reasoning doesn’t get any better with age.

For example, let’s taker a gander at Chapter 6 of The God Delusion, which Dawkins entitled “The Roots of Morality: Why Are We Good?” In particular, let’s zero in on a section labeled “If there is no God, Why be good?”

Dawkins tells us he often hears this question from bumpkin believers. Then he attempts to point out how bad this argument really is. But instead of making his case, he hoists himself with his own petard.

To address the alleged speciousness of this simpleton’s argument, Dawkins writes that only charity prevents him from humiliating the purveyor with a crushing retort:

my [Dawkins’s] immediate temptation is to issue the following challenge: ‘Do you really mean to tell me the only reason you try to be good is to gain God’s approval and reward, or to avoid his disapproval and punishment? That’s not morality, that’s just sucking up, apple polishing [etc.]’ (The God Delusion, p. 259.)

How did Dawkins hoist himself? Because he labeled the section with the believers’ “foolish question” If there is no God, why be good? The answer to Dawkins’s errant critique is simple: Professor Dawkins, you have missed the boat. No, it has nothing to do with seeking to obtain reward or avoid punishment. No, it has nothing to do, as your counter-argument assumes, with the fact that we are under 24/7 surveillance from a lidless-eyed God. It has everything to do with the fact that the source of my moral compass and the source of your moral compass is God. The question is not, as you conveniently assume, “If you think God is not watching you, why should you, as an atheist, do anything good?” The question is “If there is no God, then why should any of us doing anything good?” It has to do with something we are born with, a congenital morality of right and wrong provided by God, not a trivial reaction to being watched from above.

Dawkins’s should have labeled his strawman argument If you don’t believe in God, why be good? Then, at least, his in-his-own-mind slam-dunk retort would have been a bit more apropos. However, as he posed the question, his answer is incredibly weak. Now it would be one thing for Dawkins to answer a random question in a way that was less than satisfactory. Not everyone is quick on their feet. However it is quite another matter for him to construct the question, place it in the mouths of make-believe believers, set his inescapable trap, only to provide such a silly reply.

With the Atheist Of Our Age we always expect more, but we always come away disappointed.

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