The Commenters Delusion

I was toying with the Blind Commenter as a title, but decided it would be too obvious 🙂 . I have been reading some of the opinion blogs on the Times today, which is always enjoyable. The main three have been two by Ruth Gledhill (On Dawkins and on Scientology), and thanks to Nullifidian’s blog, I read one by William Rees-Mog, again on Dawkins. As is often the case the columns, being written by sensible journalists, are well presented (with the exception of Rees-Mog but he is different kettle of fish) and the arguments are structured.

Fortunately, for me, the same most certainly can not be said about the people who leave comments. Yes, some are sane and balanced, but others range from mildly confused to massively off the deep end. In this post, I will look at some of the more pertinent comments and explain why I think they are at least a little, ahem, confused.

Due to time, and space, constraints I will only look at the Dawkins article, a topic which always seems to bring the opinionated to the fore. The others are full of similar comments and if I ever have time / inclination in the future I will write some more. Starting with the mild, a commenter writes:

… Acknowledging a Supreme Being is to assume the stature of an amoeba in the presence of the most powerful and evolved intelligence possible. To expect a one-celled organism to attempt to explain the creation and meaning of our Universe is laughable – as would be the attempt by that same organism to reject any proposed explanation! At this point, Christianity has not even entered the equation and when questioning Dawkins views, it doesn’t need to. The – as it seems to me – logical step of acknowledging a Supreme Being (which Dawkins does?) leads to the If, When, How and Why such a Being has identified themselves to us, culminating in the Who. And, as a Christian, I have come to believe and accept that is the God of Abraham, the Father of Jesus and the source of the Holy Spirit.

Now, this is mild and reasonable. Sadly it does indeed miss the point. There is a romantic build up, about how we are all amoeba on the scale of the universe, but then it seems to jump to the conclusion this means there is a God. Granted Gledhill does sort of imply Dawkins has become theistic but I think this is a misrepresentation of what he has said. Part of the problem with theism is the unproven assumption there is a Deity. Even if you accept that (I dont), what is there to say the deity is anything we amoeba think it is? I assume this commenter does not believe in the trinity… 🙂 In a similar vein, this commenter is moderate enough:

So we are now to suppose that he is some sort of sci-fi Deist. It is a pity that for all his learning he is not inclined to think through his musings – it would be interesting and instructive to see where he ends up.

I assume this is meant to imply the logical conclusion to be drawn from accepting there is a supreme being means the Christian God exists. This is nonsense. Tom Jackson (a commenter) responds to some questions with a long comment so I will break it up:

I am neither an evangelist, an academic or a fundamentalist so any attempt on my part to identify, collect and present evidence for the existence of God would be pointless and inappropriate. And that is where so many sceptics and atheists miss the point.

I am not sure what point he is trying to make here. Is he saying as he is not evangelical, fundamental or academic, his belief is completely without evidence? Is being shown the reason behind things the sole province of a special class of people? Do we reside in the early Medieval period where only the Monks get to debate theological topics?

I maintain that is illogical to suggest the Universe that we know (and that beyond which still remains a mystery to us) does not have a design, a structure which reveals a supreme power and intelligence.

Blimey. There is no way to argue with this. Not because it is true, it isn’t, but because as a statement it speaks of a very closed mind. It is an appeal to ignorance as study of the universe reveals more and more evidence there is not a design or structure. The average lay person can point to the big bang or a vague understanding of cosmological homogeneity, but the reality is these do not speak of “design.” It also screams for who designed the designer, but I have heard we are no longer allowed to ask that. (If you are curious, the answer is Toutatis and anything else is illogical).

Once you accept that, I go on to suggest it is perfectly reasonable to recognise the severe limitations of our human experience and intelligence in relation to this supreme Being. It would therefore be foolish to formulate theories which deny the possibility of a God, from this limited awareness.

This is just a misunderstanding of the scientific method. It also implies, that as we have a limited awareness of our planet, we should not formulate a theory which denies the possibility of Leprechauns, Pixies and Elves.

Now this isn’t proof; there is no evidence which can be examined by the scientific community and any claim I make to “truth” is formed from personal experience – filtered through years of a growing familiarity with Christian teaching, beliefs and history on a level which, for example, equates with love between two people; it cannot be proved, there is no evidence but on some level, you either believe in it or you don’t.

Is this an argument from personal incredulity? I actually strongly agree with the last part though and think he (intentionally or otherwise) proves the point. Sadly, he also proves some of Dawkins’ arguments that childhood indoctrination is the key. He has grown up a Christian so he finds things which support that world view. This is as meaningful for a debate about the “truth” of the existence of God as me telling you what my Cat thinks about God. He uses a common fallacy of the theists, when he makes an analogy with the love between two people. In that situation at least both people exist…

Tom Finishes with:

If I were able to produce irrefutable evidence of the existence of a Christian God, so removing the need for “spiritual apprehension of divine truth apart from proof”, one of the foundational aspects of God’s requirement of us would be redundant; to trust and believe in Him, to have faith. I understand that is difficult for people who demand proof in every aspect of their lives, who find it difficult to subjugate their understanding of themselves as self-contained, self-sufficient individuals but many scientists and academics have made that leap when faced with the reality and exquisite balance of God’s Creation.

I agree with a lot of what he says here. Faith pretty much demands an absence of proof, so it intrigues me why so many faithful feel the need to find proofs (hands up Tiper). A slightly less rational commenter brings in:

The creation accounts in Genesis are contradictory when read as historical, factual descriptions of the steps God took in creating the universe. However, when Genesis is read theologically, both accounts affirm the same truth: God created the universe, no matter how you account for the way he chose to create it.

I am right in thinking this means he is saying, no matter how much it looks like garbage it is true on whatever level you don’t understand? There is an excellent response on the comments though: “As for creation myths and gods, humans have invented a great many. The ones in genesis are no more cogent than most. They are contradictory; if they were true they would not be, even without being read ‘theologically’.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. A stronger version of the argument against proof itself is presented by Peter Farrington:

I have spent the last 40 years in a wonderful relationship with God and find compelling evidence of His presence and reality every day. But I doubt it is irrefutable in the sense that by waving it in front of Dawkins he would have to say ‘Fair cop. There is a living, loving God’. Do I have irrefutable prrof that my wife exists? I don’t think I do. The photo in my wallet could be forged. She might have disappeared when I take you home to meet her and have taken all her clothes with her. Would that mean that *I* had no reasonable evidence to believe that she existed merely because I did not have irrefutable evidence to convince you? […] Faith is not hoping SOMETHING is true, it is trusting in SOMEONE.

I hope people reading this do not need me to rebut the first part in any meaningful sense (it does remain possible that no one exists, but this level of metaphysics just annoys me). This gentleman can walk up to his wife and touch her. He can stand next to her in public. The experiment is repeatable and has a predictable response. It counts as proof. Comparing it to God is a false analogy. At best, “evidence” of God is a deeply personal experience, which a persons background and upbringing defines as [insert deity of choice]. Prove that what ever *you* (in the general sense) feel as God is actually God rather than Toutatis. The last sentence is funny as the “someone” trusted is certainly not God, but is normally whatever Church member had the most influence on the person. Given the nature of these people, it speaks volumes that they are “trusted” so much…

Peter Aughton writes:

There is significantly lessattention being paid to Alister McGrath’s THE DAWKINS DELUSION which logically destroys much of Dawkins’s arguments.

Obviously he has never read the Dawkins Delusion…

Marc (with an interesting website) makes some interesting observations about the problems trying to prevent your children getting a theistic (even if only slightly) education in the UK. Things are certainly harder today than when I was a child, and in those days the religious elements of school were pretty much lip service. The thought of creationism being taught as a “science” would have amazed everyone.

William Beckett starts to entrench himself with a strange comment which tries to argue for the “logic” of the bible:

True, taken literally and historically, the two creation accounts in Genesis appear contradictory. However, I still don’t see why you think they’re contradictory theologically. Provided that one understands the accounts are not meant to provide a scientific explanation of how the universe came to be, but rather a theologically sophisticated and spiritually reliable myth that provides a revelation of God’s purpose in creating the world, the contradiction is only apparent. In my view, the fact that Genesis provides two chronologically irreconcilable accounts only reinforces the theological point; viz, that no matter which of the competing scientific or religious views of the origin of the universe one holds to, the spiritual and revealed truth, namely that God created the universe, remains.

It makes your head spin, doesn’t it? He uses all manner of thinly veiled sneer words (“theologically sophisticated”) which imply if you don’t understand it you are stupid. Damn that Emperor and his new clothes. I like the way he pretty much finishes off saying it is contradictory but for him that just makes it more compelling. Madness. Worryingly, I have had actual face to face debates with people who genuinely think like this.

Julia Langdon pipes up with some woo:

[about Dawkins]He is dismissive of Christianity, with its accompanying lexicon, and it puzzles me how an academic, a seeker, can dismiss a historical and religious movement that seeks to explain the unexplainable. That is, after all, what he is doing — with a different lexicon.

Hmm, another person who allowed the point to go whooshing over their head. This looks a bit like an appeal to tradition to me as she is saying “religion” should be given respect because it has been done for ages and seeks the same end goal. This is nonsense. She continues (and removes any previous doubts):

The advantage Christianity has, in my opinion, is to know when mystery should probably remain mystery. There is rest and peace — and faith — in that place. As a religious believer, I find it far more satisfying to know that, when my earthly existence has ended, these mysteries will be revealed by God and the clear, perfect picture will be developed.

Well, this says it all. Not only does it contradict the previous statement, Religion does not seek the same goal as Science. Religion seeks to end the quest for human knowledge and this makes her happy because her Sky Pixie will reveal all in the after life. Again, madness seems to sum it up quite suitably.

Finally, Joshua throws in a long comment:

I keep seeing Dawkins as a precocious 12 year old with a very large bat with which he swings at anything and everything and, post mayhem, pretends he was aiming for something particular and never hit all those things he said you did.

Interesting visual imagery. I personally hold a different view as Dawkins seems very accurate with the things he has hit. The article in the times, and the views of most theists, seems to bear testament to that. (It entertains me that Theists demand respect for their religion but are allowed to be unbearably disrespectful towards Dawkins, Harris et al. Hypocrisy is a common trait amongst the Faithful).

For example in the God Delusion he describes teaching religion to children as being akin to child abuse, but now he says they should read the Bible.

I assume that most people would be able to see the differences and realise the two different contexts the terms were used.

Numerous other inconsistencies and errors have been pointed out all over the internet and Alvin Pantinga’s Naturalism ad absurdum is superb.

If you are slightly damaged in the reasoning department.

Dawkins problem is he only accepts certain types of evidence. The real presence of God that millions of people feel every day is discounted by him. I am not sure why as he is ready to embrace all manner of other dimensions that physics serves up.

Damn the scientist for demanding real evidence! Why wont he accept the woo people claim at face value. How dare he ask for proof of an amazing, all powerful being – who was powerful enough to create everything but cant show Dawkins even the most basic proofs of his existence. The multiple dimensions physics uses (I assume this person means more than the 3+1 of everyday life) are an interesting case. They are often criticised for not being “science” but that is a concept beyond most theists. At least they have a mathematical logic behind them… (Sir, (a+b^n)/n = x; hence God exists, answer please! springs to mind, but apparently this never happened)

Atheism is struggling for breath at the moment. It does not have the answers we seek. It has had its day, it’s a spent force and, for most of us, basically boring.

Interesting. I certainly have not seen this repeated elsewhere. It smacks to me of an appeal to ridicule combined with an appeal to the majority. It is worded to make people think that Atheism is “uncool” hoping they will return to the fold. If what the writer says is true, why did he bother commenting with such a long comment? Why is there so much interest in Dawkins? Theists seem happy to make unsupported claims and this is just another one of them.

I think this is what Dawkins is coming to realise. He is now setting his gaze on something wonderful, uplifting, other dimensional, transcendant, awe inspiring. He has faith it will be revealed at some time in the future. Me too. Amen, brother!

Funny, I think they are talking about different things …

I have written a lot more than I intended and on the off chance anyone has read this far, thank you. I will stop now, but I would love to see what others think about these comments – and the ones on the other articles.

[tags]anti-atheist, crazy, cult, cultism, cultists, culture, deities, god, god-delusion, gods, logic, logical-fallacies, religion, religious-delusion, religious-fools, religious-idiots, richard-dawkins, sanity-check, theism, theist, theists, toutatis, woo, Dawkins, Headcase, Creationist Fools, Creationists, [/tags]

3 thoughts on “The Commenters Delusion

  1. Didn’t someone once say that rather than God creating Man is Gods image, Man had instead created God in man’s image.??

    Or something like that.

    Wouldn’t it be great if people could all be pleasant to each other? If that was a religion, even I might be interested.

  2. Pingback: Why Dont You Blog? : Is Atheism Over?

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