I wrote this review of The God Delusion in February of 2010. The review was incredibly long (about 7500 words) because, well, there was a lot wrong with the book, but I’ve tried to shorten it considerably here, deleting most of it in favor of just discussing his main argument.
A few years ago, I ordered The God Delusion by the “world’s most famous atheist,” Richard Dawkins, and I nearly instantly regretted the decision. Not only was the book full of horrendous arguments, the arrogant attitude and petty insults wear on the reader pretty quickly. Reading it was difficult, not because it is difficult to understand but because most of the time I felt like I was wading through feces trying to get to the end. For any informed theist, there is nothing threatening about the book, as the only thing it succeeds in doing is showing Dawkins’ ineptitude in making arguments. What it does threaten, however, is the fruitfulness of the debate itself, particularly among lay people. Because Dawkins has captured the imagination of so many self-styled “intellectuals” and so many who already have bitter feelings towards religion, he has convinced them that belief in God is only for the intellectually inferior. Thus, while Dawkins does not threaten theism, he threatens to bog down the discussion for so many people due to the amount of garbage he is spewing out. This is very unfortunate, and it is largely the reason why I decided to review the book now.
I want to make this much clear: I am not here attempting to build a case for theism. This review merely shows that Richard Dawkins completely fails at his stated task of showing that belief in God is not only a mistake but a delusion. Indeed, if a reader of the book is paying attention, he will notice that Dawkins often substitutes arguments with flurries of quotations, anecdotes, and rants that are insignificant to the actual issue at hand. Ultimately, people should realize that if you want to engage in this debate intelligently, Richard Dawkins is not the person to look to.
About a year ago, my father gave me a book titled The Language of Science and Faith. I finally got around to reading it recently.
The book is written by two Christian scientists: Karl W. Giberson and Francis S. Collins, the latter of which led the Human Genome Project. The authors aim to tackle the topic of natural science and faith, two spheres of knowledge that are often thought of as incompatible, and they particularly focus on the issue of evolution. They argue from the perspective of professional scientists that natural science and the Christian faith can be compatible without rejecting current scientific theories. It is an interesting book because their perspective is unique; it is rare for open Christians to be so respected in the scientific community due to the heavy bias against them, and their level of expertise in their respective fields certainly deserves attention. However, while they largely do a good job explaining current scientific methods and theories and reviewing some history, their handling of Scripture is rather mediocre and their grasp of philosophy is even less impressive.
In one of my philosophy classes this past semester, we discussed how a few early modern philosophers–Descartes, Spinoza, and Hume–handled the “passions.” I’ll explain what I mean by “passion” here: The current use of the term is different, but in this usage it is the opposite of “action.” “Action” is obviously something that one does while “passion” is something that happens to somebody. Emotions are put under this category, and for present purposes I’ll use “passion” and “emotion” interchangeably. The passions have received a good amount of recent attention and can be a vexing issue: How much control can we be expected to have over something called “the passions,” the very name of which implies a certain passivity on our part? What role does that play in ethics?
Just think about our experience with emotions. Sometimes, emotions seemingly just come upon us, and we seem to be very “passive” because we cannot control them. On the other hand, it is common for people to exhort others to be patient, not be angry over something, be more compassionate, etc, which assumes a level of control and volition. It is not merely actions that flow from these emotions that are under examination, but the very emotions themselves. After all, even if someone does not participate in child sex trafficking but feels joy and desire when he hears about it, it would still strike many people as depraved.
Twenty years ago, Power Rangers debuted in the United States, and I was hooked. I was not aware at the time that many of the clips were borrowed from the Japanese version of the show, but I nonetheless loved the action and the giant robot fights. My parents were strict about watching television when I was growing up, but they allowed me this half-hour guilty pleasure from Monday to Friday. To this day, I still look at the original Power Rangers with nostalgia, even though I of course know how utterly goofy the show is. I still know the song (well, it’s still quite famous), all the original characters’ names, the sound of the Dragon Dagger, and how the Megazord assembles. To my amusement, I read that a few old Power Rangers actors may make a cameo in the new Power Rangers series, Super Mega Force, to commemorate the 20th anniversary this year. As a masters student of philosophy… I think I might try to watch one of those episodes ;).
Curious, I looked back at the original six Power Rangers, since I stopped really caring about the show after they left and after it started to change drastically (and I, you know, grew up and realized that the show was stupid). One of the actors is David Yost, who played the Blue Ranger, Billy. While I stopped paying much attention to Power Rangers, I was aware that Yost continued playing Billy on Power Rangers for quite some time. However, as I read his story, I learned that he left the show on poor terms, citing homosexual slurs against him by the production team (which they deny). After he quit the show, he struggled with his same-sex desires and, in desperation, went to what is called by some articles as a “Pray the Gay Away” group in the hopes that this would eliminate his homosexuality. When that did not happen in a couple of years, he had a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized for a bit. After recovering, he accepted his homosexuality and now is proud of it.