Mythos and logos: Armstrong v Dawkins

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins

Karen Armstrong

Karen Armstrong

I admire people like Albert Einstein and Carl Jung (both characters in my book) who were able to feel awe. They retained their ability to be amazed by the world, and derived out of that amazement what Abraham Maslow called “peak experiences.”

I also admire people like Richard Dawkins (and of course Charles Darwin) who are able to use the precision-scalpels of their minds for clear thinking and shocking insight. Eg: Evolution. Eg: No God.

Like Einstein, I don’t really see combat between the one attitude and the other, between the left brain and the right, the yang and the yin. I especially like what happens when the two are well connected.

So I very much enjoyed this little contest in the Wall Street Journal (thank you Cheri) between Karen Amstrong, a religious scholar I have a lot of time for, and Richard Dawkins, the world’s most famous atheist. They were both asked: “Where does evolution leave God?”

Dawkins, true to take-no-prisoners form, answered:

The kindest thing to say is that it leaves him with nothing to do, and no achievements that might attract our praise, our worship or our fear. Evolution is God’s redundancy notice, his pink slip.

Armstrong responded brilliantly too, by avoiding the embarrassing efforts of certain people to deny the evidence of evolution and instead going a level deeper, into topics dear to The Hannibal Blog: story telling, mythology, and archetypes:

First Armstrong concedes that

Richard Dawkins has been right all along, of course—at least in one important respect. Evolution has indeed dealt a blow to the idea of a benign creator, literally conceived…. No wonder so many fundamentalist Christians find their faith shaken to the core.

But then she expands the topic:

Most cultures believed that there were two recognized ways of arriving at truth. The Greeks called them mythos and logos. Both were essential and neither was superior to the other; they were not in conflict but complementary, each with its own sphere of competence. Logos (“reason”) was the pragmatic mode of thought that enabled us to function effectively in the world and had, therefore, to correspond accurately to external reality. But it could not assuage human grief or find ultimate meaning in life’s struggle. For that people turned to mythos, stories that made no pretensions to historical accuracy but should rather be seen as an early form of psychology; if translated into ritual or ethical action, a good myth showed you how to cope with mortality, discover an inner source of strength, and endure pain and sorrow with serenity…

(Note 1: Logos is one of those Greek words that can be translated in several different ways. Viktor Frankl, as you recall, translated it as meaning, and named his approach logotherapy after it.)

(Note 2: The complementarity of mythos and logos is the stylistic assumption behind the book I am writing. It is non-fiction (logos) but–or so I hope, and so the editor believes–reads like myth. That’s because I feel that ideas, even logical ones, require stories for their telling.)

Bookmark and Share

89 thoughts on “Mythos and logos: Armstrong v Dawkins

  1. Were I Karen Armstrong, I might have added the notion of irony to the discussion.
    That most of human experience is terribly ironic supports my own belief that a higher power is out there.

    Irony.

  2. Dawkins inveighs against the god of the religious literalists, a god who is, in effect, a wise, and stern old gentleman in the sky whom it’s best not to anger. Dawkins seems not to have entertained the idea of an inner god, a god which is the ground of our being, so that we are, each of us, a piece of god.

    Thus, when we look in our bathroom mirror, we are looking at a face of god. This god is ineffable, being humankind’s inchoate expression of the mysteriousness of life, and of the universe.

    Dawkins is as literarily religious as the religious literalists against whom he inveighs. His literalist (fundamentalist) religion is the religion of atheism, for which he is a crusader. When Dawkins sees religious literalists (fundamentalists) he may see himself (unconsciously, of course), and not like what he sees.

    Therefore Dawkins’ crusade for atheism may be more about Dawkins himself, than about atheism.

    • My friend,

      Dawkins is arguing against the notion of a deistic god, which is the type of god discussed in the bible. I implore you to read his books before making claims of what he has or hasn’t thought about. there is a specifik section dealing with what you just talked about. He clearly states that he(as well as Albert Einstein) does not believe in the deistic notion of god, but that he can emphatize with the view that god is nature and everything.

      this quote from A. Einstein about sums it up:

      “I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. ”
      – A.Einstein

    • Marko, you are responding to Jeremy, not to me, correct?

      I ask because I have in fact read Dawkins’ books and am a huge fan. I am aware of the subtlety.

      One correction, however (and I don’t mean to be pedantic): Dawkins argues against a THEISTIC god, ie a personal god who intervenes in the world. The DEISTIC god is the god of Jefferson and Einstein who is not personal and not involved in the daily operation of the universe.

    • Dawkins’ throughness and accommodation deserves better and he persuades me, at least, through his popular books on evolution. Theology also deserves better from Dawkins. There is an inevitability that runs through natural selection. Why? The consistency of the World (or rather continuity-since we are part of it, and we are inconsistent) is a real, unanswerable mystery. All we are really aware of is in the “Now” and the “Here”. What holds it all together on a day-to-day basis?

  3. One thing that bothered me in this post is the way you talk about Richard Dawkins and Charles Darwin, indirectly implying that they can’t feel awe.

    Also, Armstrong didn’t respond to the question.

    • I didn’t mean to imply that at all, Lakatosi. Both men (who are heroes of mine) do feel awe. Do I need to explicitly state that?

      I feel that Armstrong did answer the question, in the first excerpt I quote above. It is, you might say, the modern form of “We are all Keynesians now”–ie, “We are all atheists now.”

      But she then says that we can still enjoy and find meaning in our timeless STORIES, understanding them to be mythological. This is quite clear, I would say.

  4. Also Jeremy, the God we are discussing right here is the religious God, who supposedly created everything. Dawkins has discussed and clarified this “inner god” you are talking about, and has clearly stated many times that what he means by God is not that.

    Also, atheism isn’t a religion. It has absolutely nothing to do with religion. Atheists don’t believe in any form of divinity, providence, they don’t follow a written moral code, they don’t have any blind beliefs.

    • While atheism isn’t a religion, Dawkins is crusading for it in the way crusaders crusade for their particular religion.

      So for Dawkins, atheism is a de facto religion.

      Dawkins, by crusading for atheism, is driving away from acceptance of evolution, the very people, the religious fundamentalists, who are the ones most in need of enlightenment about evolution.

      Dawkins is thus cutting off his nose to spite his face.

      Why?

  5. Dear Hannibal,

    I am aware that Karen Armstrong has written a book entitled “The Case For God.” I fall on her side of the argument rather than on Richard Dawkins. So much so, that I have written a book entitled “Proving God.” If you enjoy storytelling, mythology and archetypes, plus a bold attempt to unify science and theology, you may be interested in what I have to say. It is getting good advance reviews. My new book takes Armstrong’s ideas of mythos and logos and shows how both truth systems are actually profoundly connected. This seven-year project also shows how evolution plays an essential part in God’s grand scheme.

    Spiritually yours,
    TheGodGuy

  6. I would be interested in your response to this response to the articles in question. Ravi’s Response to “Man Vs. God” Article in The Wall Street Journal

    Dawkins is definitely a smart man, but the position (atheism) he holds is entirely untenable when brought to its logical conclusions. The only way these words, our actions, humans in general, have any meaning is “if humanity is the creation of a person who is of infinite worth to bequeath that value to us as persons.”

    • I read the response and agree with the first point–ie, that the choice of Dawkins (“God is a fairy tale”) and Armstrong (“at least it’s a nice fairy tale”) as debaters was perhaps not the most severe contest one could have staged.

      But then the response falls apart on basic syntactical/logical grounds. To quote the full sentence you cited:

      “So I ask, if personhood is of value and if our personal questions on moral values are of value, then must we not also concede that the value-laden question about intrinsic value for humanity can only be meaningful if humanity is the creation of a person who is of infinite worth to bequeath that value to us as persons?

      I have read that several times now. And I haven’t the slightest idea of what that sentence might mean.

    • That sentence took me several reads as well. I have also listened to many of Ravi’s talks, so knowing where he is coming from and how he thinks helps me there, I think.

      So, let’s attempt to break it down. We’ll see how this goes…

      Let’s start by assuming that you have value as a person. If you do not want to assume that, we can stop right here, I think.

      So, you have value as a person, and it would seem to follow that your questions, especially on values and morality, would therefore have value because they are coming from you, a value-laden person. Because of your value, your questions have value.

      I think what Ravi is expressing/asking here, is where does your value as a person come from, in order to make your (in our example) questions have value? Can something be of value if there is no one to give it value? Ravi is arguing that in order for us as people to have value as a person, someone must have first given value to you as a person, and the most logical, reasonable explanation is someone of infinite worth exists in order to give that value to you.

      If you follow atheism and evolution to their logical conclusions, we as persons are just random collections of atoms/matter/molecules. Where does our value come from? Our own selves? Society? People who “love” us? All just random, meaningless molecules and chemical reactions. Therefore our words, lives, stories have no value, and your thoughtful blog entry may as well have been a smattering of random keystrokes.

      If we are to assume we have value, real intrinsic value, someone meaningful must have given us value.

      What do you think?

  7. The blind exist on both sides – evolution and ID. It does not surprise me that the blind follow Darwin in spite of a very practical base of evidence for ID. It only baffles me when the PhDs do not question some basic assumptions about life that must be true for evolution to be true (by the way, some of them do question after all). If the blind lead the blind no one can know where they are going. Evolution is such an intricate story. It grows deeper and deeper all the time in its plot. Its power grows to do the impossible – to start with nothing and end with what we see around us. No catalyst is accepted anywhere in the process unless it is a disinterested catalyst with no greater power than that of any earthly living object. We observe things that seem to point to evolution, yet we very simply believe that any evidence to the contrary must somehow integrate into the schema of evolution. We don’t know how yet but it MUST be there. I only have one question. How much evidence for ID can the schema of evolution swallow before it can hold no more? But that will not happen. Because every time it gets to that point the story of evolution grows deeper and deeper to compensate.

    An honest observer might take the evidence for ID and isolate it as a body of evidence that stands alone. Then it may be seen if evolution has any place in supporting that body of evidence and vice versa. Another question is, that if evidence for ID is not consumed by the ever enlarging machine of the theory of evolution, might ID grow, perhaps not larger than the alleged body of evidence for evolution, but more solid and immovable in its base concepts and facts?

    • I’d rather not get into an evaluation of the evidence for evolution/ID here on The Hannibal Blog. If you read some of the other posts, you’ll see that my focus is quite different.

      Suffice it to say that others have examined this evidence–indeed Dawkins has done a superb job in the God Delusion–and I must say that I am somewhat baffled to hear you speak of “evidence” for ID. “Belief”, perhaps. But not evidence.

    • I expected precisely the response you gave.

      First, I want to defend the angle I have taken in response to your post. I am attempting to show that ID is defensible without acquiescing to the evolutionists perspective, which is exactly Ms. Armstrongs first problem. I won’t detail the logical flaws in her statements.

      Second. The idea that evidence for ID is only “belief” as you put it is exactly what Dawkins would say. You are only proving my point. There has been much evidence proposed for ID by scientists, non-religious scientists as well as religious and it is automatically discarded by Darwinists or other atheists as “questions that the theory of evolution will eventually answer.” That is the dogmatic response from atheistic scientists across the board. They don’t exactly wake up in the morning with the thought that “today someone could disprove evolution” whether they hope for it or not. It is more like they wake up with the world already figured out clearly in their minds, as explained by the theory of evolution, and their is no way that it could be wrong because, “we all agree.” Except we do not all agree. All scientists do not agree. But those scientists regardless of their ability to demonstrate clearly the evidence behind ID, are considered rebels against the “fact” of evolution. One of my biggest problems with evolution is that it is not disprovable. The story of evolution is convenient for the premise of its argument and therefore is impossible to prove wrong for three reasons – 1. no one can look back on time and see history for themselves, 2. the “evidence” is interpreted based on imagining what “might have happened” and 3. anyone who does not follow suit is considered ignorant or fanatical regardless of their level of education or how clearly and practically they state their positions.

    • I’m sure Andreas can answer for himself, but I’m gonna chime in anyway!

      Your response was exactly the sort of bland content-free rebuttal I’d expect from a Creationist.

      1. No one can look back on time and see history for themselves,

      Yes we can. Strata in rocks. Fossils within those rocks. The understanding of rock deposition and the times involved. Etc. That’s pretty much seeing history. And it wasn’t easy to figure out. Look up the difficulty the person who first came up with the idea of plate techtonics had…it was originally dismissed out of hand by other scientists, but eventually it was realised the evidence supported it. That’s how science works – it can admit mistakes, unlike Creationism. What would disprove Creationism?

      2. The “evidence” is interpreted based on imagining what “might have happened”

      But the connection between the ‘evidence’ and ‘what might have happened’ is tight enough for us to have confidence that our explanations are likely to be correct. Saying ‘God did it’ is the flimsiest explanation possible.

      3. Anyone who does not follow suit is considered ignorant

      Given the thousands of scientists who for hundreds of years have refined our understanding of the universe through hard work, dedication and profound insight into nature, I think it’s quite right to call those lazy enough to deny it out of hand ignorant. That’s the least worst thing I can think of calling that kind of intellectual dishonesty.

    • I will add one other point: Timothy, you say that scientists “don’t exactly wake up in the morning with the thought that “today someone could disprove evolution””.

      They do not, because that is at this point (after so much corroboration–as it is called) unlikely. But if somebody were to disprove it, scientists INCLUDING Dawkins would celebrate. That’s because they are not wedded to evolution as believers are to their religion/dogma. They “only” subscribe to it on the basis of the available evidence.

      If new evidence were to emerge to tell us that we have missed something, then this would be a step forward. This is how knowledge has progressed throughout history. It requires an open mind.

      What irks Dawkins and his ilk is that religious types MASQUERADE as scientists by twisting evidence to suit their needs. That is dishonest.

    • No offense to you oliolioli, but your response wasn’t much less rhetorical than mine. So, responding just seems like a waste of time except in one point – determining the age of the earth does not prove what happened during said periods of time. The earth may be billions of years old or it may not be, according to scientific evidence. I know of the various measurements used in finding that out and not all of them are sound but some do seem to provide convincing arguments. There are other factors to consider but I do not wish to take the time to expound on them. Perhaps we can discuss it later on my site. The main point, however, is that the age of the earth and the theory of evolution are two different things.

      Now for my response to you andreaskluth –

      I have to say, I do not believe that scientists are not wedded to the theory of evolution. For one big reason (although for more than just this one) – there are no other alternatives. Things either make sense through the theory of evolution or they make sense through a super-intelligence. There may be other theories barely existent or not widely accepted, like punctuated equilibrium for instance, but only evolution or ID attempts viably to explain everything, in theory of course.

      Furthermore, new evidence has emerged – evidence that doesn’t just poke fun at evolution either. It is evidence that brings into light how, mechanically, the systems of the theory of evolution are not adequate to explain certain biological outcomes. I am, of course, speaking of Behe’s irreducibly complex systems. It has been ignored by the scientific community on the side of evolution. And not adequately explained by their side, I might add. And it isn’t just some wishy washy theory either. It is an enemy of the theory of evolution.

      Lastly, because I do not believe that Dawkins and other like minded scientists are not wedded to the theory of evolution I also do not believe that they are totally scientifically honest. I believe evidence twisting and dishonesty exists within their camp and that they do have ideological leanings to fuel them.

  8. Interesting post. I don’t think it is fair to consider Darwin an atheist, though he did give up on church and religion in general. He said in his autobiography, due to “the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.”

    • Quite so. But that’s Darwin, not Darwinists. 😉

      I read a funny quote about Carl Jung the other day. Apparently he liked to “thank God that I am Jung, not a Jungian.”

  9. The greatest roadblock to understanding the universe is our current human need to separate myth from logos, or yin from yang. When we’re out of harmony we’re out of thought

  10. Not really. Firstly, Dawkins’ ideas are built on the work of Dennett and others. There’s absolutely no new material being produced including the preposterous statement that “God is dead”. Who ever imagined such a thing?!

    To get to the origins of everything, the universe, the species, the whole shebang, you have to ask “why”? That’s an intelligent question!

  11. Interesting post. I think that one of the best examples of combining mythos and logos is ‘Carbon’ by Primo Levi. If you haven’t read it, give ‘The Periodic Table’ a whirl.

    A catalyst is something that increases the rate of a reaction without being changed by the reaction. Evolution is not driven by a catalyst, but it is a response to a change in habitat, or environment. If the environment is stable, then there is no ‘need’ for the species to change. Look up coelocanths sometime. Evolution occurs over geological time spans, humans find it very hard to comprehend just how long that really is. Generally, we can go a few generations then we start to struggle. Quick test. What will life be like for for grand-childrens’ children. What was life really like for your grand-parents’ parents. There is plenty of evidence that supports the theory of evolution. More evidence comes to light with technological advances, such as electron microsopes, DNA sequencing, carbon dating. There may be a time when the theory of evolution can be falsified, at which point there will be a paradigm shift. ID will not replace evolution as it is not a scientific theory, it is a faith based one and so, cannot be falsified.

    God may exist. Then again she may not. There are many things we can’t explain with logos. Evolution is something we can explain.

  12. Interesting post. I think that one of the best examples of combining mythos and logos is ‘Carbon’ by Primo Levi. If you haven’t read it, give ‘The Periodic Table’ a whirl. What is your book going to be about?

    A catalyst is something that increases the rate of a reaction without being changed by the reaction. Evolution is not driven by a catalyst, but it is a response to a change in habitat, or environment. If the environment is stable, then there is no ‘need’ for the species to change. Look up coelocanths sometime. Evolution occurs over geological time spans, humans find it very hard to comprehend just how long that really is. Generally, we can go a few generations then we start to struggle. Quick test. What will life be like for your grand-childrens’ children? What was life really like for your grand-parents’ parents? There is plenty of evidence that supports the theory of evolution. More evidence comes to light with technological advances, such as electron microscopes, DNA sequencing, carbon dating. There may be a time when the theory of evolution can be falsified, at which point there will be a paradigm shift. ID will not replace evolution as it is not a scientific theory, it is a faith based one and so, cannot be falsified.

    God may exist. Then again she may not. There are many things we can’t explain with logos. Evolution is something we can explain.

  13. i think that any discussion or comment of these kinds will spark reactions that come entirly from the heart in poeple that hear/ read them. These feelings are heightened tenfold when the name Richard Dawkins is involved. Love him or hate him however, all I can do is recomend his books.

  14. I used to be a believer in evolution. That is, until I took enough physics and chemistry, math and other harder sciences to develop questions. Once I did, I learned that there is actually, not one piece or “empirical” evidence to support it, and that evolution is really nothing but a religious world view masquarading as science. About 40% of the world’s top scientists don’t believe it, and many have lost their jobs (the ones in public universities) for admitting that there may be flaws. Dawkins tries to justify the theory that time, matter (including energy) and space came into being simultaneously, but he hasn’t been able to give any crediility to it. Way too many assumptions are needed. From an outsider’s perspective, Christians claim that there is a God. Evolutionists like Dawkins claim there isn’t. Both are religious viewpoints.

    The big bang and evolution violates all 3 laws of thermodynamics, the law of the conservation of angular momentum and others. It is physically impossible for both these laws, and Big Bang / evolution to be true. Dawkins has been unable to refute this. he has ever refused to publicly debate other scientists on the topic because he has no proof for his contentions.

    I understand why you respect Dawkins– but I am losing my respect for him. I think he should face the music. If he is spreading truth, then back it up. if he can’t back it up, he should stop destroying the faiths of scores of people around the world by making claims that are purely speculative.

    When exposed to the simplest, Dawkins believes “In the beginning, DIRT”. Christians believe “In the beginning, GOD”. Don’t tell me his is science and theirs are religious view. They are both religious. The difference is that Dawkins’ region is tax supported.

    Statistical probabilities: The chance that even 2 of the many amino acids that are required for the formation of proteins, to line up in the needed order is represented by a number that has 47,000 numerals in the exponent column. WHat do we even call a number like that? Creation is statistically more likely. And those amino acids are only 1 of thousands of events that had to take place with statistical probabilities as tough to reach. Clearly, evolution didn’t happen. With about 100 hours of time, I can prove it to you scientifically, as can most other scientist that are willing to go where the genuine evidence leads. So if not Creation, and not evolution, then what? Someone needs to come up with another option? Evolution is a fairy tale for grown-ups. NOTHING holds up under scrutiny. We have $250,000 in prose money for anyone who can come up with imperical evidence for evolution. We want it. Let us know if anyone has any?

    Thanks
    Collins

    • Just because you write it on the internet does not make it so!
      I advise anyone who reads the abouve comment to take it with a pinch of salt.
      There IS evidence for evolution, not just fossils but also living examples, go to your nearest natural history museum.
      To the Author: Opening your comment with this
      “I took enough physics and chemistry, math and other harder sciences to develop questions. Once I did, I learned that there is actually, not one piece or “empirical” evidence to support it, and that evolution is really nothing but a religious world view masquarading as science.”
      Is an obvious attempt to lead astray impressionable people, something which organised religion has been doing sucessfully for thousands of years.
      I’ll go on the record as saying, i doubt your credentials.

    • “evolution is really nothing but a religious world view masquarading as science. About 40% of the world’s top scientists don’t believe it, and many have lost their jobs (the ones in public universities) for admitting that there may be flaws.”

      Links? Did you know that 40% of statistics are made up?

      “Dawkins tries to justify the theory that time, matter (including energy) and space came into being simultaneously, but he hasn’t been able to give any crediility to it.”

      I don’t think Dawkins’ speciality is cosmology and the early universe, but it’s not a revelation to say that we don’t understand how the universe came into being. Overwhelming evidence (red shift to name but one) shows that the universe is currently expanding; thus running time backwards implies a start. And?

      “Christians claim that there is a God. Evolutionists like Dawkins claim there isn’t. Both are religious viewpoints.”

      You have changed the normal understanding of the word ‘religion’. Normal religions and cults require the belief in the paranormal and use various methods of coercion and persuasion to manipulate societies to their leaders’ ends. I don’t think any of that applies to Dawkins.

      “The big bang and evolution violates all 3 laws of thermodynamics, the law of the conservation of angular momentum and others.”

      As mentioned before, the Big Bang theory is not fully understand so we don’t know whether or not it violates any laws – but we can be fairly certain that the extreme conditions of the early universe means that other factors will be more important – quantum effects and maybe other forces we don’t (or can’t ever) know about.

      Please explain how evolution violates the law of thermodynamics, and in the same breath why other apparently ‘order-forming’ processes like crystal formation don’t?

      “It is physically impossible for both these laws, and Big Bang / evolution to be true.”

      Ever heard of bacteria? Ever wondered why they become immune to our anti-bacterial compounds over time? Do let me know you have any other explanation than evolution for this.

      “When exposed to the simplest, Dawkins believes “In the beginning, DIRT”. Christians believe “In the beginning, GOD”. Don’t tell me his is science and theirs are religious view. They are both religious. The difference is that Dawkins’ region is tax supported.”

      Incoherent rambling and repetition. See my points above.

      “Statistical probabilities: The chance that even 2 of the many amino acids that are required for the formation of proteins, to line up in the needed order is represented by a number that has 47,000 numerals in the exponent column.”

      It is you here making assumptions about the way evolution works. You can’t disprove something that is not even well understood by evolutionary biologists by throwing big numbers around and claiming it as proof.

      “Creation is statistically more likely.”

      I believe you like claims to be backed up with evidence and fact, so we’ll have to disallow this claim by your own rules.

      “Clearly, evolution didn’t happen.”

      Clearly it did. Cos here we are!

      “With about 100 hours of time, I can prove it to you scientifically, as can most other scientist that are willing to go where the genuine evidence leads.”

      I am not fully convinced of your credentials either as a scientist or even as a particularly effective debater. If you can’t give your proof in less than 100 hours (try a hundred words), then I don’t think you really have one.

      “We have $250,000 in prose money for anyone who can come up with imperical evidence for evolution. We want it. Let us know if anyone has any?”

      I can’t see a link to claim the prize money (which I’m sure exists!), but try these pieces of evidence for starters:

      – Our knowledge of the age of the universe. Geological time (age of the earth). The fossil record. Demonstrable evolution in progress (bacteria, moths). Our understanding of DNA and inheritance. Etc.

      I mean, it takes a really strong effort to discount the fact that evolution is just there and working.

      Still, people attempt stupid things all the time, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. It’s just wilfull stupidity is rather a waste of human potential.

  15. Interesting debate, i shall be reading those articles more deeply when i get the time. I always thought that Armstrong’s works are the ones that better explain the role religion still have to many people, no matter how strong and convincing the atheist points of view may seem, and i do have a curiosity to how Dawkins would respond to such ideas. Sometimes it’s not just about the capacity of feeling awe in science and in understanding how the world may exist without a god, but about being able to make other people feel this same kind of awe.

  16. The burden of Proof falls on those who make extraordinary claims. Dawkins has provided enough scientific evidence to prove Evolution is a Fact.

    Those who claim a “personal god” exists who “intervenes in the material world” with a “heaven/hell hereafter” should prove their claim. They can’t escape giving vague excuses like ‘god is undefinable…he just exists” etc
    Give a falsifiable hypothesis at least, which people can independently prove/disprove.

    • Your comment made me smile, this is exactly how I feel. At the end of the day the existnce of any creator/higer being should be proven in the arena of reality.
      Up to now this has never been done, and I suspect never will.
      As you said before, I’m sure many will now reply with “but god is undefineable” or “god is in everyone”‘esque replies.
      My personal view on any creator of the world/life/universe is just insulting to the wonder of existence. It is a fantastic luck of odds that the universe is in such a configuration for life to exist, but it happened. Therefore the universe is the creator of life, and by attributing this wonder to divine intervention is an insult to universe its self, and ultimately an insult to life!

    • Amen brother. To be critical of scientific evidence, and then look for that evidence in their own belief system…

  17. A- The idea that the character of things/process in the universe can disprove the presence of a Fundamental Cause for that universe is absurd. Dawkins (and most atheists) are overturning ideas about God and pretending therefore to have overturned God. For example, evolution might certainly give a pink slip to the idea of the God in a literally interpreted Book of Genesis, but the idea is not the thing-in-itself. Most atheist rhetoric is so logically unsophisticated that it fails the most basic test of distinguishing reference from referent, even as it goes around boasting its own rational superiority.

    B- While it is true that claims require evidence, the trite “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is itself evidence of a merely partisan, anti-rational thought process. A pre-evidential definition of what qualifies as ordinary or extraordinary (therefore conveniently justifying demands of greater effort from those who disagree with that definition) is an irrational partisan bias, and yet self-styled rationalists resort to this smug, bizarre, and illogical construction time and again.

  18. hello to all

    i agree with dawkins and most inteligent people.in one statistic best american scientist tested for their belives.70% atheism,23% agonist and 7% had god.there is many phlosphy question that deny god.for example,if this universe was created by god ,so why this god didnt created it before that.what was the reason of the god for creation ,if he is absolute power and no need to thing ,so any reason of creation also is nonesence.all bible have nonesence,creation in six days and god and then people were off on weekend!!god tested adam in paradise and shoot him on the earth !!!who can trusted to this god ,even most religious people may be test again in paradise.who can prove that we live for ever on this earth .where was god ,2 million years ago or maybe million years later when we arent here.

    yes,the god was manmade and come from fear of death,unknown things and our imagination.

  19. Armstrong’s argument doesnt really adress the issue, she is just saying myth has always been used as a teaching tool. All stories of all religions are exactly that, Myths.
    Her point goes no way to explaing Gods place amongst evolution, which makes it evident that god (of any religion) is not needed in our modern world.
    Thank (errrr…) God? for Dawkins clear thought and logic on this matter, or as Armstrong would say “His Logos”

  20. What a nice selection of comments.

    If you write it they will come. That is stolen from the guy with the baseball field, but you know that.

    The subject matter is a delightful one and as usual you produce awe with your pen. With your sideline position and history at your feet you make the elephant dance in the crystal shop without breaking a cup.

    Sweet.

  21. I LOVE DAWKINS , although I have my own ideas & doubts against some of what he believes in, but still I adore people like DAWKINS and the others because at least they have some thing to say & they try to find proves for their issues & they still fight to gain their own right in which they believe in

    Now the point is that we have to read in every thing & think about every thing & choose whatever is more clear & proved.

    My self I believe in the ONE GOD, the creator but at the same time I believe that humans have a great problem in clarifying & understanding the relations between science & religion & they still don’t understand that religion is much older then science & that science is running to reach at the end the same religious believes. and here I’m speaking about bible or holy quran (muslims book) since I’m a muslim…… But I’m speaking about all the basic religion ideas in which almost most of the nations share….

    Best Regards
    Ismail Mortada

  22. Einstein himself believed in God. That belief led him to keep trying to find the fourth and final force for the unified field theory, because, “God does not play dice with the universe”. Darwin also was religious and almost became an Anglican priest. He used the intrepid Beagle to ferry missionaries to the islands he was exploring.

    • Darwin may have started out training to be a priest, but it appears he lost any belief he may once have had once he started really looking into the question of ‘inherited characteristics’.

      In fact the reason he waited nearly 20 years to publish was because he knew it would upset his very Christian wife. He may have been atheist/agnostic/whatever, but that didn’t mean he didn’t care about other people.

      Einstein’s personal view of a ‘god’ is more complex that your trite claim to him allows for: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Did_Einstein_believe_in_God

  23. I don’t know, but it didn’t seem to me that they were replying directly at one another. I looks like they just answered the question “where does evolution leave god?” separately without seeing what the other wrote. And I say this because I’m sure Dawkins would have given a rebuttal about the idea of a transcendent god outside religion and dogma. He talks a lot about that in the beginning chapters of the God Delusion. Interesting discussion nonetheless.

  24. i think there is one guy who has been calling dawkins to debate but he keeps evading.
    here is a piece of his work.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/18928849/The-End-of-AtheismWhy-atheism-is-no-longer-scientific

    personally i think the answer is not with christianity and it is not with ateism either.
    infact i think of atheism as a religion .i mean it has its dogmas which are held to be infallible by its priests like dawkins and it was founded on ancient science…i mean the time when worms coming out of rotten meat were thought be examples of life evolving from matter.

    the DNA structure has proven that a cow cannot evolve from a snake nor a whale from a bear.and even if all that fairy tales were true the question of where life started continues to baffle atheists.

  25. From original blog post:
    “But it (logos) could not assuage human grief or find ultimate meaning in life’s struggle. For that people turned to mythos, stories that made no pretensions to historical accuracy but should rather be seen as an early form of psychology; if translated into ritual or ethical action, a good myth showed you how to cope with mortality…”

    So, yes, mythos is exactly that, ‘myth’. So I’m not sure why people here have started ranting on about God. Unless they’re happily saying that ‘yes, we accept our idea of God is a myth and we’re happy with that definition’.

    As an athiest I’m also happy with that definition. Believe what you like, just don’t pretend you have divine access to the ‘truth’ because any god-stuff is so obviously a man made myth.

    • I have just finished “The Greatest Show on Earth”
      Dawkins is very fond of writing by analogy, an appeal to myth and archetype. Atheism infuses all he writes and is the driving force. He rejects Platonism, but Evolution by Natural Selection is an idea – and a very convincing one. Yet the theory is not predictive, despite Dawkins’ protestations, because it has not been subjected comprehensively to mathematical affirmation, that ultimate test of human reasoning.
      Evolutionary “prediction” is informed – convincing – guesswork. Dawkins’ reasoning is mathematical in form but not in substance. It can take that form because of the underlying consistency of the Natural World, a source of the wonder of which he speaks, and where Mythos and Logos merge.

  26. If evolution is right, then what ever we see around as the property of life even the religiousness of humans are evloved just by the same evolutionary mechanism. If thats characteristic of the most advanced and successful organisms on earth have created and adapted to it, there will definitely be trouble fighting against that constructs. If evolution is true, and if humans need to evolve to the point where they have the need to understand and incorporate the theory of evolution, there must equally need a cause.

  27. i am so interest to read your post, and so worm with the reaction from every who’s read that. The discussion are great. But just one thing my problem, It’s the first time i post a comment with english language. I am so sory, if you can’t catch the mean of my comments. i am Indonesian people, my age 23 of years

    i like to read and discusion anything about philosopy, spiritual, history, economic, democracy, humanism etc about our mission life in this universe. hahaha.. just kidding. emmph, perhaps, please mr Hannibal, might translate google being taken to be your side bar, so i can translate and read your post, so fast and i can catch the mean of words/sentences fulling.. just my offer,,

    about evolution, i think we can logic that. From the bible and anything the message of god. we can analysis that. The bible full of history. And about Charles Darwin is atheis, is not my prerogative, not human right, just God have the judge. And i think he’s a one man, so confuse the relation about mythos and logos.

    thanks

    • Silly question. You know as well as I do that nobody has the answer to that.

      Inventing gods to try and answer it is even sillier.

    • Since I believe your rock was created it seems that we both hold a belief that can not be scientifically proven.

      I can point to numerous archelogical finds that coroborate places/occurances Spoken of in the Bible. Additionally, the Dead Sea Scrolls (found in 1947) demonstrates that the Old Testament was accurately transmitted. There seems to be evidence of the Bible’s accuracy and since the Bible teaches of Jesus the Christ and The Creator it seems (in the least) as logical to make the connection in the teachings of the Bible and the Creator as it does in the Big Bang theory.

      I also believe that the Creator created species to evolve (adapt to their surroundings) as time goes by.

    • “I can point to numerous archaeological finds that coroborate places/occurances Spoken of in the Bible”

      Well, of course you can. The Bible is a historical document written by a stone age tribe a couple of thousand years ago. They kept notes and we can read them today. Judea was a place, the Israelites were a tribe, Pontius Pilate was a person, perhaps there was even a character called Jesus.

      We can also read notes written by the Egyptians 4,000 years ago about places we can identify today – should I start worshipping the cat god Bastet?

      This is what Armstrong was getting at with the Mythos thing. They’re all just set of stories, beliefs and rituals that support a particular society.

      What it doesn’t do is prove that God exists, or that Jesus was the Son of God, that Heaven and Hell exist or even that Limbo exists (oh, actually didn’t Pope Ratzinger abolish limbo in 2005? What happened to all the babies previously thought to be there, I wonder? It’s almost like they just make it up as they go along, isn’t it?!)

      Science, on the other hand, uses this cunning idea that humans (the Greek ones) came up with 2000 years ago, which was then developed further by the Muslims 800 years ago and brought to full fruition by the European Renaissance 500 years ago. What was the idea? Simply that you could have theories about the world that could be tested rather than just taken on trust like religious beliefs.

      Kind of changed everything really, and has, among other things, increased live expectancy from about 25 in Jesus’ Roman times to 70 in the west today. That’s something to pray thanks for, isn’t it!

    • You have wisely pointed out that the facts of the Bible which can be documented by history and geological findings are true. However, now we get down to which points of the Bible are to be believed and which points of the Bible are chosen to be disregarded.

      Jesus, Himself, said that He is the Son of God. Now since it is a fact that Jesus walked the earth this would either make Him a lunatic or, in fact the Son of God. Another fact is that before Jesus’ resurection there many men who denied that He was the Son of God. However, after Jesus’ resurection many of these same men chose to be put to death rather than deny the Savior. That is not science but a reaonable person may ask what would make a man to so radically change his views about Jesus. I think that one could logically conclude that these people had come into possession of some knowledge they were previously unaware of. There can be no other explanation for a person to choose a torturous death rather than just denounce the Savior and be on their merry way.

      Your other points basically get right down to the corruptability of man. Mankind has been corrupted since the beginning of time. Men who claim to have their foundation based in spirituality are (obviously) no exception. They are the ones who have corrupted the Bible, the Church and taken advantage of countless numbers of people.

      Your arguement Olie is with these men, not with the Creator.

    • “Jesus, Himself, said that He is the Son of God”

      Why should we believe hi story rather than any other self appointed ‘spiritual leader of men’?

      How do you you’ve chosen the right one?

      What’s your opinion of those who’ve (maybe through no fault of their own) choosen the wrong god to worship – or worse, none at all?

      As for using the proof of torture as the truth of god, that’s really facile! All I have to do is find one Muslim murdered because he wouldn’t renounce his faith and then I can say to you that that proves the existence of Allah. And if I can’t say that, why not?

    • oliolioli: Your comparison my friend is the proverbial (pun intended) apples to oranges.

      Perhaps if you could find a Muslim who was vehemently AGAINST the Prophet Mohomad but then some event changed this Muslim’s heart and he was then willing to be tortured and put to death you would have an apples to apples comparison.

      As we all recognize, in today’s political/spiritual climate there are those who profess faith in their god but do not have enough faith in their god to let him do his “godly thing.” They feel the NEED to help out their god by killing those who have a different belief. Just as history has shown us of the Crusades.

      Once again it is MAN who has perverted the Bible and the church as a whole.

      Have a FANTABULOUS WEEKEND!

    • Thank you for your kind weekend wishes, I return the compliment!

      Now, to business…

      Firstly – I agree with your analysis of man’s unfortunate destructive tendancies. I wish people wouldn’t be so horrible. I, of course, will ascribe all aspects human nature, good and bad, to the result of millions of years of natural evolution. Competition for the best mate, food, dwelling space, etc, but which is tempered by our need to also work co-operatively as societies. Yin and Yang, innit?

      But I do not get your apples and oranges point at all.

      You said previously that you knew God exists because some people refused to renounce Him under torture. The exact equivalent is a Muslim refusing to renounce Allah under torture. If your example proves the existence God then why doesn’t the second example prove the existence of Allah?

      Further, you and the Muslim will use exactly the same arguments to claim that yours is the One True Religion, so how should I, a dispassionate observer, choose who to believe?

    • I must admit that I find it difficult to communicate fully via the internet. Let me try again.

      Before Jesus was crucified and burried there were a few well known men who openly and publicly rediculed Him and said they (specifically) did NOT believe He was the Son of God. However, after His resurection these same men professed their beliefe that Jesus IS the Son of God. I want to say that they saw and spoke with the Savior but I would have to research it first. I don’t want to just say they did.

      So in order to use your Muslim dieing for Alah analogy they would first have to have built a track record of renouncing the Prophet Mohomad as a fake. After their “I believe the Prophet Mohomad is lieing and a fake” reputation was solidly in place then if they died professing beliefe that the Prophet Mohomad was the real deal THAT would be an apples to apples comparison.

      Additionally, I did not say that the martardom thing is why I believe in God. I believe in the Trinity based on my life’s personal experiences. Not because I am afraid of suffering for eternity in hell but rather because I can recognise occassions of Divine intervention in my life. Now since I have had these unique (personal) experiences I find myself anchored in my faith. I readily admit that someone looking from the outside could say that my experiences are easily explained away by emotions or psychological issues, etc.. However, SOME of my experiences and things I have witnessed with my very own eyes can only be attributed to either Divine intervention or miraculous works.

      Finally, Christianity is the ONLY faith (I don’t like the term religion. We both know religion has been corrupted… in the name of God no less)… the ONLY faith Who’s God has risen from the grave. ALL other faith’s leaders are still dead and burried. That is what is unique about the Christian faith.

    • “Before Jesus was crucified and burried there were a few well known men who openly and publicly rediculed Him and said they (specifically) did NOT believe He was the Son of God. However, after His resurection these same men professed their beliefe that Jesus IS the Son of God. ”

      Right, some people 1000’s of years ago once contradicted an earlier philosophical position. I don’t think there’s much to be had discussing the reliability of witness statements regarding incidents that may or may not have happened 30,000 days ago. Cos obviously I am go to poo-poo such stories from the bible!

      “Finally, Christianity is the ONLY faith.. the ONLY faith whose God has risen from the grave. ALL other faiths’ leaders are still dead and burried. That is what is unique about the Christian faith.”

      Well, Egyptian faith is the only one with a really nice cat god called Bastet. That is what is unique about it. That’s what makes the ancient Egyptian religion the only true faith.

      Buddhism is the only faith in which people are re-incarnated…therefore it’s the only true faith. (yeah, I know Hindus believe it too – that’s not the point I’m making here)

      The point is that these are all circular arguments, and say nothing about how to choose which is true. Fine you believe Christianity is the only true faith but you haven’t said anything other than ‘I believe it’s true therefore it’s true’.

  28. All very interesting ideas. I suspect we will all find out the truth eventually, although probably not on this plane of existence and I am guessing it will be much more interesting then we could possibly imagine. Until then, let’s continue sifting the wheat from the chaff!

  29. In a previous comment I asked why Dawkins, who, when last I heard, was Professor of Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, and who therefore would have a vested interest in selling evolution to those who don’t accept it, would, by crusading for atheism, drive away from accepting evolution, the very people, the religious fundamentalists, he would wish to convince.

    Thus he preaches mainly to the converted (to evolution, that is).

    Why would Dawkins, obviously a brilliant and erudite man, sabotage the very thing he’s trying to bring about?

    Any answers, anyone?!!

    • Here’s my answer:

      He, like many other intellectuals, are finally fed up of the rubbish spouted by Religionists who believe they have a divine right to tell others how to live. Fed up with being told that as atheists we have no right to claim a moral compass. Fed up with people who just because they’ve decided to believe in an Invisible Magic Friend get the right to decide how countries are run. Fed up with the evil the Catholic Church does in Africa by denying access to condoms. Fed up with otherwise intelligent people believing in the paranormal, the made up, the patently absurd and the downright dangerous. Fed up with all the wars fought in it’s name. Fed up with the damage it’s doing to science.

      I’m not Mr Dawkins, but a couple of those things might just be a motivation…being mealy mouthed doesn’t get anywhere, so let’s come out and challenge these people on their own turf. The stuff is made up, it’s nonsense: let’s get the human race out of this backward medieval superstition mindset.

    • If I’d answered my own question I think I would have said much as did you. If you (and I) are correct, then Dawkins is letting his emotions get the better of his scientific objectivity – not a good thing if he wishes to bring about a world where evolution is accepted by all.

      There are many religious literalists who aren’t as you (and I would) describe. Having a personal god who listens to their prayers and all of that, gives comfort and meaning to their lives. So, if they accepted evolution, and thus also Dawkins’ withering view of their personal god, they would have to give their god up. Thus, either evolution or god.

      However, there are prominent scientists, among them Francis S Collins, who have no trouble accepting evolution, and believing in a personal god.

      Surely the best way to eliminate the baleful activities of so many religious literalists is to convince them non threateningly of the truth of evolution. They might then at least modify how they hold their religious belief, and thus modify how they act it out in the public sphere.

  30. Andreas, I’m a new subscriber and a fan of your blog. This is the first I’ve seen of your comment section on any post. I’m not surprised there are so many varying perspectives, considering the topic.

    Theoretically, there is a missing perspective, and one that would be most interesting. The vast majority of us that do give credence to evolution also believe that there are other forms of life out there ranging from intelligently-far-superior to the amoaebic.

    What if we were to have the former visit us? Assuming that it was benevolent it may answer all of our questions about evolution.

    Imagine this being, coming from a planet that had in its history an equivalent to Darwin, Einstein, Dawkins, and beings that far surpassed even their knowledge of the universe.

    I suppose this being would fit our theistic definition of GOD: omnipotent, omnicient and omnipresent(ability to travel our lightyear).

    If all beings are subject to the evolution mechanism, than have any figured it out? And if they have how did it advance their understanding of a meaning?

    Well, that’s my ET perspective. Basically,I wonder if this argument is obsolete in other solar systems and if so how awesome the truth really is?

    • Welcome to the HB, Ryan. What a fun way to look at this.

      You’re right of course that there is likely to be life out there somewhere, and if so, that is would also be evolving. Whether or not we can “visit” one another is another matter. (Also, translation would be an issue. ;))

      But there is no reason to think that those other life forms should be “omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent”, and hence “like God”, any more than we are.

  31. Ay yi yi! Starting to heat up in here. In a good way though, brains are radiating. No mudslinging like they’re doing out in the streets.

    Let me add my two cents worth:

    The atheist cannot comprehensively explain to the person of faith why he does not believe and the person of faith cannot comprehensively explain to the atheist why he does. But if they pause and ask each other a few questions they might be able meet in the middle.

    My argument is that you cannot really be too confident about either side of the fence so the theist and the atheist should attempt to meet at the house of the agnostic who lives in between them? The theist can bring the chips, the atheist some cold beverages and the agnostic will wait impatiently wondering if either will show up before he dies.

  32. I was reminded by Nietzsche, he explained the theory of “God is Dead”, because at that time fed up with the claims of people who feel Theis. Finally back to galileo a tremendous initial evidence. Church crucified him, when he told him the truth when the earth is round. There are also about Reinassance, Revolution in the Church who spearheaded by Martin Luther in the early Middle Ages, a very hated Martin atonement money.

    Clearly there is a message of history there, then we korelasikan the gospels. Why is the Church (Christian leaders at the time) looks very similar to the Capital Market.

    While we understand the gospel book is a collection of writings, written by humans. You also know that when people, not only has side-to-deity, but also has the devil in him too. Desire of Power. Even a collection of people becomes an elite group. To influence the State.

    question that has been troubling me is; true gospel is still in its authenticity? not in the slightest change to those of the authors to achieve the ambitions of power?

    thank you in advance and best wishes
    G.B.U all 🙂

  33. Armstrong’s assertion that ‘most cultures’ made a distinction between religious belief (mythos) and rational belief (logos) is false. It is an anachronistic distinction that has emerged from the late 20thC urge to preserve god in the face of the growing encroachment of reason and evidence that the previous claims of religion have proved false.
    It’s an anthropological fact that where religion exists with no formal science, the parables and stories that constitute the religious system are believed literally. They are not “intended” to be seen as helpful myths to explain how we might live our lives, but not to be taken as the truth. On the contrary, ancient religions have relied on their being believed as truth. You don’t erect pyramids on a parable – truth is needed.
    But once reason and evidence unpacks long held beliefs and shows them to be false it is the time that to preserve such beliefs they are nominated as mythos. This is what ancient greek philosophy began to do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

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