Originally posted by AppleChess
It's a long video. But fascinating.
Dr. Dawkins v. Dr. Lennox
A debate between Dawkins and a Christian about the God Delusion is not really breaking new ground for this site. The arguments rehearsed in the first half hour at any rate are not unexpected ones. I wonder why it is not something for Spirituality though.
Lennox confronts Dawkins quite early on with the sharp remark: "You have been overly influenced by Kant" to which Dawkins looks perplexed and just says "Not consciously." I do have the strong impression that Dawkins like many scientists (including Lennox) has given insufficient effort to mastering philosophy and is not sufficiently sharp in his use of arguments that philosophers have worked on quite thoroughly.
An example is the philosophy of mathematics. Lennox is a mathematician apparently and it is interesting that he fits a pattern for that specialism. His self assurance is not going to be shaken by any counter argument, but it would, I think, be more stimulating if he was confronted with the arguments in an excellent and classic book - Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty by Morris Kline. This exposes and challenges a number of assumptions that seem to me to underlie what Lennox is saying in this debate. Lennox for example specifically asserts that mathematics is based on proofs, something that might appear to be the case (Kant thought so) but something which has been exposed as not really a valid claim. To phrase that differently, mathematicians do produce "proofs" but their systems fail to deliver proof. The whole concept of a solid philosophy constructed from axioms by consistent logical procedures has been tested to destruction. In any event, any set of axioms used to construct one picture of nature can be used to produce other pictures that are different; nothing in any system of axioms determines that one outcome is more valid than the other. (You may build your argument from a set of convincing axioms; I can accept your axioms and use them to build a different argument that is no less valid.) That in turn demolishes the smug conviction that a creator might, for example, design a universe by twiddling the knobs and setting the cosmological constants at a correct value - this would not in reality predetermine one universe without the possibility of many alternative outcomes. I could go on.
The trouble is that the terms of this debate are never going to produce the desired outcome - a definitive answer. Indeed, Lennox adopts a range of positions which another Christian could very well disagree with, so that should Dawkins (he did not) demolish Lennox, that would simply lead to a different Christian spokesperson stepping up to continue the interminable argument. The same is true for Dawkins. I disagree with many of his lines of reasoning, but that simply means I would argue the atheist position differently.
One other thought. I recently watched an excellent debate on Youtube between Dawkins and a Muslim (Mehdi Hasan, an Al Jazeera journalist who is also an Oxford graduate). I have to say I thought Mehdi Hasan exposed some real weaknesses in the way Dawkins argued. It gives an interesting alternative twist to this ongoing saga.
Generally, I think Dawkins falls short because he has never been sufficiently motivated to try and appreciate religion on its own terms. In fact, he is also too committed to a reductionist account of science and, for example, is not sufficiently up to speed with social science, which he ought to be if he wishes to debate religion as a social phenomenon. Lennox explicitly says "...a materialist must be a reductionist..." Dawkins lets that pass ( I speculate that he agrees) but this is nonsense. While Dawkins is defending "science" that is not a fatal defect, though it is a nuisance, but as soon as he attacks religion (not at all the same thing as defending science) it becomes fatal. He is just not any kind of expert on religion either in terms of faith nor as a social phenomenon.
Dawkins comments in the debate that Americans on the side of science versus creationists see him as part of the problem. They may have a good point. I wish he would listen more carefully to their objections.
(I do enjoy watching an Irishman having a jab at a posh Englishman all the same).