Monday, 20 October 2008

The things you think while you wait for window cleaners to leave

Some of you who are friends with me on Facebook will remember that some months ago we had a 'window cleaner incident' when said window cleaner appeared at the bathroom window while I was in the shower. Today is window cleaner day again, and I can see them further up the street, so, despite the fact that I need to shower now so I can get dressed and get on with the day, I am in bed with the curtains closed and too much time on my hands.

Anyway, I have a question for discussion. I was just reading some stuff there on the Richard Dawkins website forum (no, I am not obsessed - just stuck for stuff to read online and thought I'd see what's going on in the far reaches of t'internet). Anyway, one of the threads was talking about scientific evidence and faith and stuff, and two questions formed in my mind:

1. Why do some atheists appear to think that science and religious belief are totally incompatible? I genuinely don't understand this argument.

2. I'm fairly sure that Dawkins has said before something along the lines of that we have evolved so that we can 'detect' stuff that was useful for survival - like, we can't see atoms, because our ancestors had to concern themselves more with sabre-toothed tigers, for example (I'm sure he put it more eloquently than that). I think he said this in The God Delusion, but I may well be wrong, and I may be thinking of someone else entirely. Anyway, I think this makes sense.
My question is this - how can Dawkins then argue that there is no evidence for 'supernatural' stuff? If we have evolved to only detect certain things, then we have to accept that there is stuff we don't understand. Clearly, in the case of material stuff, this is true (like the way we could only investigate atoms quite recently). So why is it not likely that there is an entire other type of stuff that's not material, for example? Dawkins seems to me to be very certain that everything is 'material' in some way, and there is nothing else 'out there'.
Not that this would give an argument for the existence of God, it just seems like a contradiction to me.

I know this might not be the best place to raise this, but somehow every time I mention Dawkins lots of atheists crawl out of the blogosphere and start commenting, so I just thought I'd mention it.

Was considering posting on Dawkins' site, but I'll only be mocked for being 'religious', so I can't be bothered.

13 comments:

QMonkey said...

? are those not two differnt and separate questions/statements?


>>>> how can Dawkins then argue that there is no evidence for 'supernatural' stuff?

because there isn't. Unless you know something i don't .. in which case.. why have you been keeping it a secret :)

but just cause theres no evidence doesnt mean there's no god though! might just be that we havent found it yet. (if you say... look at lovely waterfalls i might have to boycot WNS :) )


>>>If we have evolved to only detect certain things, then we have to accept that there is stuff we don't understand.

send me the link to were RD says that there arnt things that we still don't understand. explosive.

I think we all understand and accept why people have difficulty living with the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. I certinly do.. but the aborigines havent convinved me re: "dream time" etc nor have the Jews and their Adam and eve stories. maybe i'm too dumb to get it.

whynotsmile said...

This is why I shouldn't post things early in the morning hen waiting for window cleaners to leave.

What I mean is, that it seems to me that there is a possibility that there is some stuff that we shouldn't expect to be able to find out about, because we're just not 'wired into it'. Maybe supernatural was a bad word; I think I meant non-material, or something like that.

I also didn't mean that Dawkins says there's nothing we don't understand, I just meant that that followed from what I'd just said.

I think, basically, what I was saying in this second part of the post was that I feel that Dawkins is a bit too closed off (don't want to imply that he's totally closed off though) to the idea that there is 'nothing out there' that we can never detect by the 5 senses.

If our senses have evolved to help us survive, then it seems to me that they are fine-tuned to material stuff and probably not much use outside of that. But since science relies largely on what we can see and feel etc., it would be limited to the material world as well.

Of course, some people would argue with you that there is plenty of evidence of 'supernatural' stuff - but we need a clear definition of 'supernatural' before we can proceed.

QMonkey said...

yeah... i do think its possible to be too closed off to it... and maybe dawkins is... but you (and the ilk) demonise him too much.. .. don't fear aggressive questioning, attack and criticism unless you think that ‘faith’ itself is something worth protecting from doubt. Faith isn't an end… faith in the correct thing is maybe important… but the most important thing is truth and facts… and that is something that has to stand up to reasoned critism.

i personally would go the other way.. i'd say the greater danger is that we're TOO open to the weird and wonderful conspiracies and UFO stories and alternative medicines and kabalahs and ‘miracles’ and what-have-you.

Better to set your evidence bar too high than too low. If there's a god, im sure he'd agree (yes... I know the mind of god) :)

whynotsmile said...

I don't think Richard Dawkins is demonic... actually, I find him quite endearing.

Nor do I "fear aggressive questioning, attack and criticism" - I simply find them impolite, particularly when they take the form 'all religious people are morons', which I have seen expressed more than once over on Dawkins' website.

I shall consider your assertion that "the most important thing is truth and facts".

I'm pleased that you know the mind of God though. I hadn't expected that.

QMonkey said...

is it not a bit ironic to say... i paraphrase... all these non-theists are really impolite because they tar us theists with the same brush :) i know thats not exactly what you said... but you get my point.


faith? only in terms of... i dont think you hold faith itself sacred... you think that AN Other (non Christian) faith is a bad thing. you get me? bit of a tangent i guess.. but its that which you have faith in which is important... the level of the faith or the strength of it is neither here not there... and in fact can be a bad thing. yeah?

One should fear or even guard against loss of faith. in fact if you decide that faith is something worth having then you must weird it very carefully... lest you end up a fundementalist. If tomorrow you decide that you arent as convinced as you once were about a historical claim in the bible... don't use faith to reconvince youself... you must use descernable evidence.

QMonkey said...

last paragraph should have been...

One shouldN'T fear or even guard against loss of faith. in fact if you decide that faith is something worth having then you must WIELD it very carefully... lest you end up a fundementalist. Creationists have LOADS of faith which helps them ignore the evidence. If tomorrow you decide that you arent as convinced as you once were about a historical claim in the bible... don't use faith to reconvince yourself... you must use descernable evidence.

whynotsmile said...

"is it not a bit ironic to say... i paraphrase... all these non-theists are really impolite because they tar us theists with the same brush"

Huh? I never said that! I said, I find aggressive questioning impolite. Not all non-theists do that, and I never said they did.


"faith? only in terms of... i dont think you hold faith itself sacred... you think that AN Other (non Christian) faith is a bad thing. you get me? bit of a tangent i guess.. but its that which you have faith in which is important... the level of the faith or the strength of it is neither here not there... and in fact can be a bad thing. yeah?"

I don't think I understand you. I don't necessarily think another faith is a bad thing. I don't follow whaty you're saying here. Sorry :(

"One shouldN'T fear or even guard against loss of faith. in fact if you decide that faith is something worth having then you must WIELD it very carefully... lest you end up a fundementalist. Creationists have LOADS of faith which helps them ignore the evidence. If tomorrow you decide that you arent as convinced as you once were about a historical claim in the bible... don't use faith to reconvince yourself... you must use descernable evidence."

So are you saying that you think Creationists have loads of faith which helps them ignore the evidence? 'Cos I don't think that's true. I don't think it's a matter of faith, I think it's more to do with the way some Creationists tend to think about things.

But I'm not sure I've picked you up properly in this paragraph. Please explain!

QMonkey said...

yeah, sorry. I can't even remember what my point is.

there's a nugget of an interesting debate in their, but I'm struggling to mine it.

so, faith? you think faith it self is a good thing, no matter what the object of the faith is. If I have a strong faith that when i die i'll be re incarnated... is that a good thing becuase i've used faith to come to that decision? even though its nonsense.

I'm not sure i follow the reasoning. is it not ok just to say... "i don't know". rather than have faith that an ancient thesis will eventualy prove correct.

if you're saying creationists don't have 'strong faith' that the genisis story is litteral ... instead they have a 'differnt way of thinking' ... then im not sure what your definition of faith is.

its a bit semantic to say... ...faith is always good... except for when its not... and in those cases i don't even call that REAL faith...

whynotsmile said...

"yeah, sorry. I can't even remember what my point is."

I'm not entirely certain I even had one.

"there's a nugget of an interesting debate in their, but I'm struggling to mine it."

Me too. I think WNS should go back to reporting on giant bars of soap. It was easier back then...

"so, faith? you think faith it self is a good thing, no matter what the object of the faith is."

I take it you mean this as a question, not a statement? I don't think faith is, in and of itself, a good thing. But nor do I think it's always bad, even if someone has faith in something that I don't.

"If I have a strong faith that when i die i'll be re incarnated... is that a good thing becuase i've used faith to come to that decision? even though its nonsense."

It being faith doesn't make it a good thing, no.

"I'm not sure i follow the reasoning. is it not ok just to say... "i don't know". rather than have faith that an ancient thesis will eventualy prove correct."

Certainly you can say 'I don't know'. I don't think I was trying to reason whatever you seem to think I was trying to reason.

"if you're saying creationists don't have 'strong faith' that the genisis story is litteral ... instead they have a 'differnt way of thinking' ... then im not sure what your definition of faith is."

Creationists may say that they have a strong faith, but that doesn't mean they do. I will have to think about my definition of faith (if I have one), and get back to you.

What I think of Creationists is another matter, which I may discuss at some point. But I'm starting to think it's better to stick to discussions about soap.

"its a bit semantic to say... ...faith is always good... except for when its not... and in those cases i don't even call that REAL faith..."

I didn't say that.

I suspect we are talking at cross-purposes here. I'm getting a bit lost.

QMonkey said...

"its a bit semantic to say... ...faith is always good... except for when its not... and in those cases i don't even call that REAL faith..."

>>I didn't say that.

i know what i was doing that thing were you repeat back what you 'heard' someone say ... you know.. like in marriage councilling :)

i 'hear' you saying that the 'strong faith' that creationists would say they have... is in some way, something 'other'.. .where as im saying... its the same... and shows the danger of faith.. rather than sticking the evidence based reasoning (which, i think, was the point you were rejecting in the origional post)

it takes more faith to perservere with a 'the world is 6000 years old' thesis... than it does to perserver with a 'jesus was born of a virgin' thesis. because it's imposiible to dissprove the later, and easier to argue against the former.


part of my problem is my SHOCKING spelling isnt it!!!

whynotsmile said...

i 'hear' you saying that the 'strong faith' that creationists would say they have... is in some way, something 'other'.. .where as im saying... its the same... and shows the danger of faith.. rather than sticking the evidence based reasoning (which, i think, was the point you were rejecting in the origional post)

it takes more faith to perservere with a 'the world is 6000 years old' thesis... than it does to perserver with a 'jesus was born of a virgin' thesis. because it's imposiible to dissprove the later, and easier to argue against the former.

Right, I think I get what you're saying. You think that I'm saying that my definition of faith is right, and that other definitions are wrong, and that therefore I can defend myself just by saying that their faith is not really faith at all?

I wasn't saying that. I think I had picked you up wrongly or something.

I'm not sure that creationists would necessarily argue that creationism is to do with 'faith'. They would (in some cases at least) argue that it is based on evidence (although that evidence includes the Bible, and they would have 'faith' in that). They are quite willing to produce all kinds of 'evidence' to back up creationism. I would argue that much of this is simply that, having decided to believe in God, they then selectively choose their evidence to fit what they see as the 'truth'. Much of the time it boils down to non-thinking.

Also, I don't think a lot of people think it through in that much depth, to be honest. They may accept creationism because they imagine it to be what they're supposed to believe, or something, but they really haven't ever given it much thought (because, let's face it, they probably have more pressing things to think about, like life).

I think I've confused myself now, and forgotten my original point.

QMonkey said...

>>>> I would argue that much of this is simply that, having decided to believe in God, they then selectively choose their evidence to fit what they see as the 'truth'. Much of the time it boils down to non-thinking.

Agreed. Same with New Testament ‘evidence’… virgin birth/resurrection etc etc


>>>>>Also, I don't think a lot of people think it through in that much depth, to be honest. They may accept creationism because they imagine it to be what they're supposed to believe, or something, but they really haven't ever given it much thought (because, let's face it, they probably have more pressing things to think about, like life).

Replace ‘creationism’ with ‘Christianity’ in that paragraph… and our marriage counseling has worked!

whynotsmile said...

"Replace ‘creationism’ with ‘Christianity’ in that paragraph… and our marriage counseling has worked!"

Or we could replace it with 'atheism', or indeed any other worldbiew you care to mention. So simple.

There are so many ways we can get this marriage to work.