Here is Richard Dawkins’ essential thesis: “any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything [the God hypothesis], comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution” (The God Delusion, 31). And the God of the Old Testament, according to Dawkins, is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction.
There is one major theme of this chp: he comes out fighting and swinging and accusing and denouncing.
1. Method: Quoting Thomas Jefferson, Dawkins says this: “Ridicule is the only weapon which be used against unintelligible propositions” (34). Dawkins, whose prose is saucy and accusations heated, resorts far more often to ridicule than he needs to. As when he accuses Roman Catholic theology of “tasteless kitsch” and says of RC details in theology that they are “shamelessly invented.” Or the Old Testament’s “psychotic delinquent” (God).
Dawkins claims he is a “teapot agnostic”: “We cannot prove … that there is no celestial teapot.”
2. Is religion immune from evidence? He weighs in against NOMA: the notion, accepted by far too many, that science can only deal with empirical evidence and facts while religion deals with the non-empirical, and one cannot judge the other’s knowledge. If something is beyond evidence, it is also beyond religion and theology. Thus: “I have yet to see any good reason to suppose that theology … is a subject at all” (57).
3. Does evidence disprove the efficacy of prayer? And he adduces the so-called Great Prayer Experiment as evidential proof that prayer does not help. Physicist Russell Stannard and Herbert Benson (a cardiologist), with the Templeton Foundation, tested the evidence for the efficacy of prayer and the results were published in the American Heart Journal (April 2006) with these results: no difference between those patients who were prayed for and those who were not; there was a difference between those who knew they had been prayed for and those who did not know; that difference was not in favor of those who knew they had been prayed for.
RJS adds the following conclusion from a study, and then her comments follow:
Unfortunately, I’m not sure Dawkins tells the whole truth. Here is the conclusion of the study by Benson:
The finding that intercessory prayer, as provided in this
study, had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG may be
due to the study limitations. Understanding why certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications will require
Private or family prayer is widely believed to influence
recovery from illness, and the results of this study do not challenge
this belief. Our study focused only on intercessory prayer as
provided in this trial and was never intended to and cannot address a
large number of religious questions, such as whether God exists,
whether God answers intercessory prayers, or whether prayers from one
religious group work in the same way as prayers from other groups.
I said last time that Dawkins is not alone in his opinions and others possessing somewhat more tact, are rapidly becoming more vocal and forceful, and ultimately more dangerous. The first section of this chapter is an excellent case in point. Dawkins’ rhetoric and ridicule is so far over the top that he becomes his own worse enemy. He then settles down somewhat as the chapter progresses, only throwing in the occasional barbed comment.
The God Hypothesis as defined by Dawkins states “that the reality we inhabit also contains a supernatural agent who designed the universe and … maintains it and even intervenes in it with miracles” (58). He admits that the existence of God cannot be disproved but claims that the preponderance of evidence pushes so close to disproof that the only rational position is functional atheism. His hypothesis then is that God does not exist and that there is no supernatural reality. The presence or absence of superhuman beings (think ET) is scientifically testable. By definition all life and all intelligence in the universe evolved in a natural gradual way.
Is the God Hypothesis subject to scientific verification?
Is the claim that too much evidence would not be good for us a cop out?
Would you expect a scientific double blind test to be able to prove the efficacy of prayer?