Monday, June 22, 2009

my bro blows up Dawkins and Hitchens

Check it out!

I like the post's title and its thesis: Is this atheism's best shot?

This connects to the points of one of my recent blog posts: Looking back a few decades, why would one expect atheism books to be popular? And especially if one is trying to claim an intellectual high-ground, why not have the intellectual integrity to make an opponent's best argument?

Sometimes reading can be a little depressing. Such is the case in my recent reading of two books currently very popular - Richard Dawkins, the God Delusion; and Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Why depressing? It is simply that one would have thought such lettered individuals could have produced more compelling works....While both books did provide a challenge - I found the primary challenge involved was one of overcoming boredom. As New Testament Scholar N.T. Wright commented about the God Delusion - "I found it was the type of book that once you put it down, you couldn't pick it up again." Indeed.

Both books are largely constructed around the logical fallacy (as I have heard it called) of the proof by verbosity [or intimidation]...Dawkins writes with a breathless style of writing. Rolling opinion, invective and quotation of outside sources, one upon the other....

Dawkins' book ranges in topics covered from philosophy, psychology, biology, physics and New Testament studies to name a few. This is in and of itself a difficult challenge, as any writer knows the danger of taking on subjects in speaking or writing in which they have not studied. Dawkins shows no hint of any serious study in most of the subjects that he ranges through. Yet he feels more than free to render opinions that have no real correlation to fact....

Hitchens' book is somewhat harder to critique because it is simply "all over the road" to an even greater degree than the Dawkins book. Hitchens' book is a breathtaking wash over of opinion, coupled with verbal abuse, coupled with the citation of various "facts."...

As a Christian apologist I have learned to admit and even rejoice in the apparent intellectual difficulties (intellectual and otherwise) posed by the Christian claim. Of course, the claims of Christianity are truly based on quite strong proofs - but while one's meta view may be rationally justifiable, no one's faith perspective is provable with logical certainty beyond any doubt. To realize this is part of mature dialogue about all faith perspectives - including atheism.

Regrettably, Dawkins and Hitchens do not seem to have come to this place of understanding. Until they learn to admit the difficulties inherent to their own atheistic perspective they will simply not be able to present a coherent (or interesting) review of their own case for atheism. One of the most powerful tools in any apologist's arsenal is the phrase "I don't know..." - because it is precisely at this point that your audience is looking for what you will do next.

In the end, Dawkins and Hitchens' books will join that great litter of popular books that are here today and gone tomorrow. Poorly written and argued, both writers have supplied the market with books that obscure rather than clarify the important issue of God and our faith in him.

So then, is this Atheism's Best Shot?

4 Comments:

At June 23, 2009 at 7:16 AM , Blogger Korinthian said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At June 23, 2009 at 7:17 AM , Blogger Korinthian said...

Oh, of course your brother "blows up" Dawkins and Hitchens while sitting on his corner of the Internet yapping up their respective trees just like many pastors have done before him.

Your brother wouldn't last a minute in an actual debate with either of these authors that are actually known for contributing something to the debate, unlike your brother who only seems to regurgitate 2000 year old arguments.

 
At June 23, 2009 at 9:15 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Would that be called "proof by age"? What do you have against old arguments? ;-)

There are two good rejoinders here:

1.) To the extent that D&H make arguments, there's are quite old as well.

2.) One of the primary points of his post was that Dawkins and Hitchens don't make a substantive argument. (This was disappointing to him and is certainly ironic given their reputations. Hitchens is quite impressive in other arenas.) I'd rather make a strong 2000-year old argument than a more modern but lame argument.

Finally, the atheist must rely on Evolution to "explain" the development of life. Nice narrative, but little explanation is there. It's odd to see atheists so avidly embrace faith over such things.

 
At June 23, 2009 at 10:23 AM , Blogger Janet P said...

I thought your brother had very interesting points related to this debate - in particular, this:

[Until they learn to admit the difficulties inherent to their own atheistic perspective they will simply not be able to present a coherent (or interesting) review of their own case for atheism. One of the most powerful tools in any apologist's arsenal is the phrase "I don't know..." - because it is precisely at this point that your audience is looking for what you will do next.]

Christians and atheists could learn something here. The FACT is that no one - neither Atheist nor Christian - can prove their case definitively. You look at the totality of the evidence and come up with the most logical conclusion.

I have not read these books, but if in fact these authors are relying mainly on "rhetorical intimidation" to make their case, they lose the intellectual audience along the way and end up making their conclusions seem even less probable.

 

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