Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

May 19, 2007

The God Delusion

This book by Richard Dawkins is intended to present the essential case against religion, however I think it falls short of the mark.

The best portions of the book are the ones that deal with elaborating on the various arguments for religion and why they are erroneous; faced with someone else's argument Dawkins has no problem bringing his ideas to bear. I actually found the chapter fairly informative, because I had not previously encountered some of the arguments and I could see why they might be difficult to counter on the fly.

The most bizarre factor I found in this section that Dawkins falls back on a "probability" analysis for many of the arguments . . . an analysis that is logically flawed. It amounts to relying on Occam's razor, which is not, in fact, a logical truism. You cannot discuss the "likelyhood" or "probability" of something that bears no relation to any known facts. Not to mention the fact that there must be a definable and identifiable alternative in order to discuss probability. I can discuss how probable it is that a woman will have a boy or a girl: there are two known alternatives and the result must be one of them. You can't discuss the likelyhood that God or Vishnu or Ashura-Mazda created the universe because you don't know all the alternatives or even that the answer must necessarily be one of these alternatives.

Dawkins just declares that we'll assign some random "likelyhood" factor to each alternative, but what does this amount to? Let me pull some stuff out my rear end. This is not the way to argue logic or use reason.

Dawkins also has a substantial problem presenting the case for atheism, however. Part of this may be the fact that it's difficult to be for a position that is essentially a negation (atheism is non-religion, it's not pro-anything). The other part seems to be that Dawkins has only vague ideas of what anyone should be for. In complaining about the morality evidenced in the Bible (particularly in the Old Testament), the best rationale he can come up with for why it is vile and destructive is that it is not compatable with the "changing moral zeitgeist". What, exactly, comprises that zeitgeist and why is that a better morality than the one of the Old Testament?

No answer is forthcoming. So, really, the book is kind of pointless unless you're already an atheist and can fill in Dawkins' holes for yourself, or you don't really care much for clarity of thought and communication and you base your ideas on whatever you've read the most recently.

Oh well. If you're looking for a real comprehensive case against religion and for an alternative, I suggest you look into Objectivism and the writings of Ayn Rand.

Rating: 2.0


Rod Maingot said...

God Delusion was next on my reading list...but I may just skip it based on your review. Have you read Christopher Hitchen's god is not Great? I'm wondering whether he presents a stronger case.

Jennifer Snow said...

No, sorry, I tend to wander around quite a bit in my reading so the fact that I've read one thing in an area doesn't necessarily mean I've read anything else in the same area.