Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Richard Dawkins Does Not Exist

... and he writes books to prove it!

The argument against the existence of God can be adapted quite easily into an argument against consciousness. Both are mysterious, autonomous controlling forces managing hopelessly complex systems. In both cases, the behavior of the systems being controlled can be explained at any level of scale in terms of known, scientific principles. For example, the molecules in your eyelid react according to molecular distances and the energy states of their electron shells.

That's a crucial example because it illustrates the fact that you as a human being are a subset of the Universe. If I can use science to explain the behavior of the Universe to the point where I don't need God to interact with it, then I can most certainly explain the behavior of your body to the point where I don't need consciousness to manage it. That means that denying God instantly denies consciousness.

The argument in favor of God has some strengths that are not shared by the argument in favor of consciousness. For one, in the case of a human being, there is no instant of creation that holds any kind of mystery at all. An egg and sperm unite and we're done. Science currently holds that the Universe began in a moment of grand creation whose explanation baffles us. God, anyone?

The Second Law of Thermodynamics helps make St. Thomas Aquinas' case for the existence of God, but does nothing to help the case for consciousness. The Second Law tells us that we're heading towards an entropy death and there won't be any coming back from that. Time ends. St. Thomas Aquinas only needed time to be finite to prove God existed. Meanwhile, humans die when their molecular reactions no longer support the larger-scale biological functions, but time goes on regardless.

Another difference is that there are plenty of reliable people who claim they've had religious experiences, in some cases, miracles. I don't know of any who claim such instances were due to their consciousness, but not to God.

Finally, there is this. My position as a Catholic does not require me to claim that God is the controlling force in the Universe. That is the Muslim position. I do not believe that everything happens according to the Will of Allah. I believe that God created the Universe and interacts with us on occasion according to His own plan. That makes my proof of God much easier, but does nothing to improve the proof of consciousness. All I need is the Big Bang, the Second Law of Thermodynamics and claims of non-repeatable, non-measurable events to reach the agnostics' position. After that, I freely claim faith to get me the rest of the way. The atheists have no such support for their belief in consciousness.

So which side believes in the Easter Bunny now?

I included this as another treat for the scientific atheism crowd who love to talk about the Easter Bunny.

Exit question: Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and the rest are all smart people and in their conversations must have worked this out. They can't possibly believe everything they're saying because they clearly believe in consciousness. What's their game?


Anonymous said...

Conscious thought is a wildly interesting topic. I do believe that from birth we are training our brains to control and shape random thoughts. So some of the brain is deterministic and some is random; I think the combination creates consciousness in a way we don't yet understand. I'm not clear why you are certain God should have to be involved to have consciousness.

While we have random firings of neurons, the brain is also wiring itself to channel or control these based on feedback, the beginning firing is random, but whether that initial neuron firing generates a wider pattern of firings (neurons are more likely to fire if those around them do) is determined by how the brain has wired itself. Being an atheist doesn't mean you have a scientific explanation for every thing, just that unknown things are most likely explained by some process we don't yet fully understand rather than something metaphysical.

An experiment recently showed that morality is actually held in one section of the brain; if that section is targeted by magnetic waves it actually distorts peoples sense of morality. If we can do that, it seems to me that it is just one more component or property of our 'subset of the universe.' Why would a metaphysical consciousness be distorted by magnetic waves?

In some sense I think god represents what we don't know. In early times we didn't understand lightning, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes and so on, so we invent god/gods to explain away these things. God is winnowed down every year as we understand more and more. I would never say absolutely God doesn't exist, simply that it seems far more likely to me that he is a convenient placeholder for processes we don't fully or even partially understand.

tim eisele said...

Your position sounds close to Deism, with some differences, which I have always thought was an eminently defensible position. I suspect that many (if not most) Catholic priests are either Deists, or very close to it. I am less sure that it is official Catholic doctrine, but the Church is at least willing to tolerate it, which is probably good enough.

Incidentally, if you haven't seen it already, you might like Brother Astronomer. I've heard him speak, and I think you will find it interesting.

(Brother Guy is a good friend of several of my friends, although I've only met him once myself. We spent some time talking about meteorites. He's an interesting fellow.)

Secular Apostate said...

Moral areas of the brain. Hm. It happens I have an antique phrenologist's head sitting right on my desk. For perspective.

But I suppose the phrenologists' error was reading the bumps on the skull rather than beaming quanto-particulated magnetic waves, known as oscillons, at the craniorectal area. It may interest you to know that this highly classified research is going on at this very moment in Area 51's Strangelove Institute.

I saw it on the Discovery Channel.

Anonymous said...


Apostate, that's so cute how you suggest I have my head up my ass; livin' the faith, catch it at a church near you.

But there was a peer reviewed experiment done at MIT.


Now I wouldn't argue that there is no chance that they're wrong, but it's interesting how much skepticism you emote regarding an experiment with methods and procedures enumerated and yet you believe that two thousand and some odd years ago somebody was turning water into wine and raising the dead.

K T Cat said...

Anon, point well taken about Secular's snarkiness in the defense of faith. Do the same rules apply to you?

K T Cat said...

"Conscious thought is a wildly interesting topic. I do believe that from birth we are training our brains to control and shape random thoughts"

How? How do you control those molecular interactions? The randomness of subatomic particles and neuron firings is pretty thin stuff to support consciousness.

"I'm not clear why you are certain God should have to be involved to have consciousness."

I guess I did a poor job with the post. My point is this: God's existence is easier to defend than the existence of consciousness. So why do the science-atheists attack God, but not consciousness? I'm coming to the conclusion that the whole thing is a scam from beginning to end - an effort to gain fame and fortune by thumbing their noses at religion. It's hip and cool and Dawkins and the rest are making a good living at it.

Imagine how well they'd do if they tried to sell you the idea that you didn't exist.

Anonymous said...

"Anon, point well taken about Secular's snarkiness in the defense of faith. Do the same rules apply to you?"

I'd like to think so, have I been rude?

B-Daddy said...

Evolution doesn't appear to believe in Dawkins either, because the birth rate for atheists is well below that of religious people and there is evidence that a propensity for religious belief is heritable.