Jejudo, South Korea
I see a significant problem with this idea. If Dawkins is quick to explain religious thought in terms of purely naturalistic phenomena (ie viruses), then why doesn't the same suspicion apply to his own thoughts?
Why not? Let's test it and find out.
He averts this question deftly by assuring us that all religious thought is based on non-reason, and that his own thought is based squarely on reason and "evidence". But that's begging the question.
But that's what Alvin P. says on his homepage. Christians (and religions in general) aren't or don't have to be based on evidence or reason.
After all, his own atheistic thoughts have not been shown to be based on reason or any kind of evidence.
The lack of evidence leads to the lack of belief. That's not reasonable?
But is it valid to use highly speculative conjecture such as this, based neither upon reason nor evidence, to discredit those who disagree?
It's a metaphor. Does it work or doesn't it?
Personally, I think Dawkins might have a bacterial or fungal infection in the brain, to explain such antics.
Of course, he does. Or perhaps they're in the stomach and intestines.
The problem in the above statements has to do with espousing an ideology which insists that everything must be explained in purely naturalistic terms.
But that's not a problem, that's the rule. How can supernaturalism be tested or falsified?
If Dawkins slurs religionists as virally infected, how can he thereby discredit them for that?
You mean, it's not their fault?
In terms of Dawkins' strict naturalism, even our rationality is a result of random mutation, and natural selection. Even what he calls "reason" arose as a rather recent evolutionary characteristic among more developed bipeds, that came from pure biology. From his view, can there be any guarantee that "reason" is a true reflection of reality, or even a better path?
I think that's exactly what Dawkins is saying. Let's find out.
The very fact that non-reason still exists, shows that it is still a viable option in the evolutionary marketplace.
Yes, that's right.
Let's say for a moment that a religious man is religious because of some virus. Well animals once became rational because of genetic mutations. Big difference (facetiously said). What is the universal standard which arbitrates whether it is better to be "rational" or "religious"? ... Whether to have a viral change, or a genetic mutation? Survival? Then the judgement is pending. We are all still in the time of trial. My point is, whether by way of virus, or genetic fluke, Dawkins' brainwaves, and the Pope's came about through the same kind of pathway ... a natural one, that has nothing to do with reason.
The judgement is always pending. We are always on trial so to speak.
Of course unless we accept Dawkins' absolute naturalism, there is nothing that compells us to think that reason doesn't reflect truth about the universe, or that it depends soley on molecular cause and effect. Reason involves a ground / consequent relation, that pure mechanics cannot explain.
Reason doesn't explain itself? But you just did (natural selection, evolutionary process etc.). There's a shift here. Reason is not magic, nor should it be considered a new God. They aren't in competition -- at least Alvin P. seems to think so.
Let's look at Dawkins' viral symptoms, and see how his own worldview might measure up to his diagnostic standard:
1) The patient typically finds himself impelled by some deep, inner conviction that something is true, or right, or virtuous; a conviction that doesn't seem to owe anything to evidence or reason, but which, nevertheless, he feels as totally compelling or convincing.
You mean like the conviction that we should force purely naturalistic causation, like a procrustean bed, to literally everything, even ideas and emotions? Or that God as an ontologically real person does not and cannot exist? This is ideology, not based upon reason or evidence.
I'll have to come back to this one, it's too big to handle quickly. But, I have no evidence for a computer behind me right now, is it an ideology or ideological to state that there is no computer behind me right now?
2) Patients typically make a positive virtue of faith's being strong and unshakable, in spite of not being based on evidence. Indeed, they may feel that the less evidence there is, the more virtuous the belief...
"Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."
(Richard Lewontin, Billions and Billions of Demons, New York Review of Books, Jan. 9, 1997)
In other words, science can't say, "Because God made it that way."
"I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and naturally, hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that."
(Thomas Nagel, Professor of Philosophy and Law at NYU)
Nagel really said that? I've read Nagel and this seems very unNagelian to me. But, at least to some, the point may be true. God, at least on some descriptions, is a sociopath.
Wow, how far can I distance myself from that.
4) The sufferer may find himself behaving intolerantly towards vectors of rival faiths
Though I easily could, I need go no further than Dawkins himself ...
"It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that)"
(Richard Dawkins, 1989, “Book Review? The New York Times, section 7, April 9.)
then in comment of his own beligerant statement Dawkins wrote the following non-apology:
"I first wrote that in a book review in the New York Times in 1989, and it has been much quoted against me ever since, as evidence of my arrogance and intolerance. Of course it sounds arrogant, but undisguised clarity is easily mistaken for arrogance. Examine the statement carefully and it turns out to be moderate, almost self-evidently true.?/I>
Always willing to go a few rounds on evolution with you, Stephan. But his point is that the sheer amound of work needed to disprove evolution is staggering. Saying, "I don't believe in evolution," is like saying, "I don't believe the earth goes around the sun." You just can't refute it with. "Look, the sun rises and the sun sets, doesn't it?"
6) If the patient is one of the rare exceptions who follow a different religion from his parents, the explanation may still be epidemiological. To be sure, it is possible that he dispassionately surveyed the world's faiths and chose the most convincing one. But it is statistically more probable that he has been exposed to a particularly potent infective agent - a John Wesley, a Jim Jones or a St Paul. Here we are talking about horizontal transmission, as in measles. Before, the epidemiology was that of vertical transmission, as in Huntingdon's Chorea..."
Of course not. Whatever the evidence is, it will always prove Dawkins' point ... or either that symptoms 1 & 2 apply clinically to Dawkins as well.
I think they do. How you get your beliefs, how you are infected, doesn't strike me as all that important. How you interrogate them afterwards, how you test them does.