Thursday, October 16, 2014

Take that, Ken B.

"'Pilgrimage' implies piety and reverence. I have not had occasion here to mention my impatience with traditional piety, and my disdain for reverence where the object is supernatural... It is not because I wish to limit or circumscribe; not because I want to reduce or downgrade the true reverence with which we are moved to celebrate the universe, once we understand it properly... My objection to supernatural beliefs is precisely that they miserably fail to do justice to the grandeur of the real world." -- Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale, pp. 613-614

So, the "real world," not any theory about the real world, is, for Dawkins, the object of a "pilgrimage," worthy of "piety" and "reverence," and praised for its "grandeur." But I predict this attitude would immediately disappear if someone notes how grand this indicates its source must be: "What?! Can't you see how wasteful evolution is?! Red in tooth and claw?" etc. etc.

What do you think of that, Ken? Not only do I own a book by Dawkins, I have read it start to finish and can remember where to find quotes in it! (And it is actually an excellent book for the 600+ pages where it avoids philosophy.)


  1. Gene,

    Ultimately I agree with you; this is what I was getting at with my recent post on miracles. (To wit: It's *more* impressive if God achieves His plan while having the physical universe conform to a few simple rules.)

    But I think I understand what Dawkins is getting at here: If you think the universe is designed by a conscious being, then it's pretty sloppy. However, if you think its order arose spontaneously, then it's pretty incredible. The entire system is more awe-inspiring when you force yourself to understand it as the mindless unfolding of micro processes, rather than viewing it as the artwork of an intelligent Creator.

    (Again, I reject this view, but I am trying to explain it.)

  2. 1. I think Bob Murphy's paraphrase is accurate. (Corollary: Dawkins is not Krugman.)
    2. In your earlier post you talked about new atheists and their rapturous comments on *evolution* which I think refers to the *theory* not nature.
    3. Yes here you have Dawkins rhapsodizing on nature. (Or rather, on part of it.) But he also rhapsodizes on the theory. For instance he endorses Dennett's opinion that it's the best idea anyone ever had. He can admire both.
    4. So let's amend your argument to be about rhapsodies to nature. I can sensibly say that most people miss the wit and elegance of Cosi fan Tutti if they just see it as an abstract work of divine genius, not the work of busy working composer, but still say it could do with a little less recitative in Act III.

    1. 1. I do too. I just find it amusing.
      2. & 3. Well, given this rhapsodizing occurs after 611 pages of discussion of *evolution*, I think it is fair to say that we can read him as finding evolution pretty rhapsodic. And I never denied that the new atheists think evolution is a great theory. *I* think it is a great theory! But *you* told me I was wrong to think they were ever talking about nature itself in these terms, no, I was confused, they *only* meant the theory was beautiful. Or that sure was what you seemed to be saying.

  3. FWIW I agree with your assessment of the book. Dawkins tends to see only costs when assessing religion.


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