Richard Dawkins: Actually, I’m not sure that God doesn’t exist

posted at 5:40 pm on February 24, 2012 by Allahpundit

Go on. Laugh it up. Twist the knife in my heart.

Seriously, though, he’s making a banal point here — banal enough that I’ve made it myself repeatedly when arguing with readers in our comment threads. Having one of the world’s most prominent atheists admit he’s not totally sure is catnip for believers, but all he’s doing is being a conscientious skeptic. Every atheist is technically an agnostic; the distinction in the labels is largely the degree of confidence with which one’s concluded that there’s no God. Since there’s no way to conclusively prove that God doesn’t exist, no one can correctly claim absolute confidence. That’s all Dawkins is getting at, per his point that he’s a 6.9 on his own seven-point scale of doubt. I’d guesstimate that most people between, say, four and six call themselves “agnostic” while anyone beyond six self-identifies as “atheist.” Point is, you can never quite get to seven, just as virtually any conscientious believer will admit that they’re not quite at one. Which of course is why they’re called “believers,” not “knowers.”


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I ask you, how could/do you know that supernatural events aren’t some kind of manifestations of dream worlds on our level of conscious reality,…

As posed, that is not a valid question. In effect you are asking: “How could/do you know that —blank— events aren’t some kind of —blank— of —blank— on our level of conscious reality.”

In order to have a real question (not just an arbitrary string of words masquerading as a question), you need to define your terms. What’s “dream world”? What kind of “manifestations” are you talking about? How do you identify the “supernatural”?

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 6:58 PM

I demonstrated how “reasoned” faith and “blind” faith are not the same – one is based upon a record of evidence, the other is a crapshoot.
Bizarro No. 1 on March 1, 2012 at 4:11 PM

I rather agree.

Since there is physical evidence of nature, it makes sense to “have faith” in nature. Since there is no physical evidence of anything supernatural, it makes no sense to “have faith” in anything supernatural.

Nature is clearly real. So even if you stick with nature as an “article of faith,” you still have a solid foundation to work from — something entirely missing if you try to substitute “supernature” for nature and put your faith in some ineffable “otherworld” instead of the real world.

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 7:39 PM

Since there is no physical evidence of the human mind, it makes no sense to believe in the existence of the human mind.

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 7:48 PM

The is physical evidence of the human mind: people who think.

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 8:02 PM

Describe how “people who think” demonstrate any properties of matter or energy attributable to the human mind.

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 8:04 PM

What I meant was:

There is physical evidence of the human mind: people who think.

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 8:10 PM

What you meant was exactly the same thing you said before.

What you did not say was how the material or energetic properties of the human mind are measured just because a person thinks. You did not describe the observable mechanisms by which a mind causes a person to think.

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 8:11 PM

People write books and music, for instance.

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 8:16 PM

What you meant was exactly the same thing you said before.

Except I spelled it right the second time.

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 8:17 PM

What you did not say was how the material or energetic properties of the human mind are measured just because a person thinks.

They’re measured by what the person does and creates.

In one’s own mind, the measurement is the perceptions and ideas one has.

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 8:21 PM

What is the scientific formula to calculate an idea so that I can quantify the amount of human mind is present in a person?

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 8:22 PM

And you still have not provided the mechanical processes by which the human mind stimulates the brain to action.

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 8:23 PM

You did not describe the observable mechanisms by which a mind causes a person to think.

You can observe people reading books and listening to music (as well as writing them). You can observe problems in the world, and people thoughtfully dealing with them.

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 8:24 PM

That does not describe the mechanical process employed by the mind. That describes the observable effect after the process has already taken place.

What does the mind do to manipulate the brain, and how does one measure it using physical criteria?

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 8:28 PM

What is the scientific formula to calculate an idea so that I can quantify the amount of human mind is present in a person?

If he’s thinking about algebra, for instance, you can check his equations. If he’s thinking about poetry, you can see if his rhymes work out. If he’s a politician, for example, you can observe whether he unthinkingly spends more money, or thoughtfully cuts taxes.

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 8:29 PM

And you still have not provided the mechanical processes by which the human mind stimulates the brain to action.

As far as I know, it’s not mechanical; it’s electro-chemical. And I don’t think its all been worked out in much detail, yet.

What does the mind do to manipulate the brain,

As far as I know, nothing at all like that happens. The mind is a process of the brain, not some external manipulator.

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 8:33 PM

You did not describe the observable mechanisms by which a mind causes a person to think.

I don’t think there are any such “mechanisms.” A “mind thinking” and a “person thinking” are the same thing (not two somehow separate things).

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 8:36 PM

You are still talking about end results and not the mechanical processes that drive them. Those processes are what we measure to determine how real, physical things interact with other real, physical things. We can say steam exists because we saw a guy walk out of a sauna, but we have material processes that explain the energy transfer that excites water from a liquid state to a gas state. From that we can determine the nature of the thing which heated the water, how much energy it gave off, how it operates, and so on ad nauseum.

So by what processes do we measure the physical traits of the human mind?

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 8:38 PM

As far as I know, nothing at all like that happens. The mind is a process of the brain, not some external manipulator.

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 8:33 PM

No, because we have countless examples of brains that exist and operate apart from the human mind.

I don’t think there are any such “mechanisms.” A “mind thinking” and a “person thinking” are the same thing (not two somehow separate things).

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 8:36 PM

This is true inasmuch as a person is defined by his mind. But that does not mean a “mind thinking” and a “brain operating” are the same thing.

It sounds to me that what you REALLY mean when you say a thing is “clearly real”, is nothing so much to do with science as it is the capacity to observe that it has an effect on the world, whether or not it is a tangible, measurable physical/energetic construct or not. Would that be a fair assessment?

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 8:42 PM

So by what processes do we measure the physical traits of the human mind?

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 8:38 PM

You’ll have to get a book on brain chemistry and brain research; I don’t know how they do it. I don’t think the science is all that advanced as of yet.

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 10:28 PM

We’re not talking about the brain, we’re talking about the mind. The creative force that does something with its brain besides just survive.

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 10:32 PM

we have countless examples of brains that exist and operate apart from the human mind.

Huh?

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 10:33 PM

Huh?

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 10:33 PM

I didn’t mean to get too complicated. I’ll back it up and explain in greater detail by providing an example.

A chicken has a brain organ, but it does not possess a human mind.

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 10:40 PM

We’re not talking about the brain, we’re talking about the mind.

I don’t accept your premise that any normal person can have one without the other.

The creative force that does something with its brain besides just survive.

The “creative force” is in the “higher brain functions,” while the “just survive” is in the autonomic nerve system. I think. I’m sure there are actual science books you could consult if you’re really interested.

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 10:45 PM

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 10:40 PM

You’ve got to be kidding!!

We were talking about humans — and you bring in a chicken as yet another diversion??

I don’t believe this.

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 10:47 PM

I don’t accept your premise that any normal person can have one without the other.

You accept my premise by default with the two concessions you offer by using the qualifiers “normal” and “person”.

You didn’t need science books to offer your evidence before. Your evidence was the impact that the mind has in people creating things. Why the sudden change?

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 10:51 PM

We were talking about humans — and you bring in a chicken as yet another diversion??

I don’t believe this.

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 10:47 PM

It’s not a diversion. If there was no division between the brain and the human mind, every brain would have one.

Why do you call everything a diversion just because you fail to understand something right away? I said exactly what I meant, and meant exactly what I said, at the time that I said it, and I stand by it now.

You keep treating me like I’m arguing with you dishonestly, but you don’t have one example of being anything other than thorough and direct with you. If you had any support for your accusations, you wouldn’t change the subject every single time you were challenged to back them up.

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 10:53 PM

Where is Bizarro when we need him?!

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 10:54 PM

Another example, it has been two hours and several of your posts since I offered a summation of the discussion and asked if you considered that a fair point to move forward from.

You’ve spent your time lashing out at me for no reason, when just accepting the point or offering a correction would have advanced the actual discussion.

Again your priorities are revealed.

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 10:59 PM

If there was no division between the brain and the human mind, every brain would have one…. You keep treating me like I’m arguing with you dishonestly,

Q.E.D.

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 11:25 PM

That is an honest statement that the human mind is unique to us, and that as humans, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I was not dishonest with you, and you cannot provide any evidence that shows I have. Like you said, non-existence precludes the possibility of evidence.

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 11:28 PM

A chicken has a brain organ, but it does not possess a human mind.

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 10:40 PM

If you consider that an honest attempt at pursuing the discussion — well, I don’t know what you can be thinking. And should anybody care?

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 11:40 PM

Again your priorities are revealed.

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 10:59 PM

No kidding.

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 11:44 PM

If you consider that an honest attempt at pursuing the discussion — well, I don’t know what you can be thinking. And should anybody care?

Steve Stoddard on March 1, 2012 at 11:40 PM

If I consider that an honest attempt at pursuing the discussion… then I guess it’s impossible for me to be lying, then, by default.

The idea here is that the human mind is a force unlike any other in nature. It seems logical that the fact that the human mind governs our brain and does not govern the brain of other creatures would corroborate that idea. I don’t understand why that’s a problem for you. I would think it would be an easy thing to agree with and move on. Not unlike that question you were asked three hours ago.

The Schaef on March 1, 2012 at 11:45 PM

I say that the supernatural is part of nature,

Does that mean that the supernatural does NOT transcend the laws of nature, and that miracles are therefore NOT possible?

That idea could be an interesting refutation of “Creationism,” since there wouldn’t be a God outside the universe to be able to create it.

Steve Stoddard on March 2, 2012 at 4:16 AM

For instance, would you really take it on faith if somebody told you he was God?

No, I wouldn’t take it on faith – unless the person gave me good reason to believe that s/he was God in the first place, I wouldn’t trust the claim if it was made. However, if good evidence was supplied to me that the claim was true, I would be showing closemindedness if I didn’t accept it.

That’s an interesting idea. What would you consider good evidence. A miracle? An original of the Ten Commandments? A non-birth certificate?

Steve Stoddard on March 2, 2012 at 4:22 AM

The following analysis is based only on “belief in God,” and does not say anything about any other part of anyone’s life.

A 7 point scale is unnecessary; a scale from 0 (no evidence for God and no reason to believe) to 1 (conclusive evidence for God and no reason not to believe) will do the job.

Now everybody is actually at zero on the “evidence for God” scale. A rational atheist acknowledges that he is sure that God does not exist (combining the lack of evidence with the contradictory nature of the idea). And a “rational theist” is a contradiction in terms.

Steve Stoddard on March 3, 2012 at 1:07 PM

To speak simply, broadly, and non-denominationally: religious people believe ‘existence’ to be a divine creation, atheists don’t.

Additionally, while atheists are correct say that one “can’t prove a negative”, they are also unable to offer any alternative to the divine creation of ‘existence’.

At this point atheists usually want to apply ‘Occam’s Razor’, as if to say that everything being created by nothing is a ‘simpler’ explanation than everything being created God (or gods). In actuality, everything being created by nothing is no explanation at all – in fact it is merely begging the question.

Therefore, if existence is not a divine creation, the answer to what did create everything is so complex that even the most brilliant minds in all of history can’t understand it.

Knott Buyinit on March 5, 2012 at 6:37 PM

It’s impossible for something to “create everything,” since if everything was non-existent, then there would be nothing around to create anything. In other words, you can’t get something from nothing. (If nothing was all there was, then nothing is all there is.)

Obviously, we can all open our eyes and see reality. So the question should be: why in the world would anybody think there was some necessity to explain the existence of reality — as if there were some alternative to it (something non-real somehow somewhere).

Reality: it exists. Period. Always has. Always will. No doubt. No other possibility.

Reality is fact. “Divine Creation” is fiction.

Steve Stoddard on March 5, 2012 at 10:18 PM

Therefore, if existence is not a divine creation, the answer to what did create everything is …

… that nothing did. (Nothing ever could.)

“Divine Creation”??? Not buying it.

Steve Stoddard on March 5, 2012 at 10:21 PM

To be more precise, I don’t buy the notion of “creation of the universe” at all, not by any means. It makes no sense to think in terms of “something from nothing.”

The universe is here. We know that much. And, if you think about, there’s nowhere else around that it could have come from.

“Existence from non-existence” (or from “divine power,” which is just another way of saying from “nowhere,” from “nothing”) just doesn’t cut it.

Steve Stoddard on March 6, 2012 at 1:50 AM

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