Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Feel Violated: The TSA Molested Me


A number of years ago when I flew to visit family the newly released “strip-search machines,” or the ‘millimetre wave’ and 'backscatter’ machines, had recently been rolled out to allegedly help keep passengers “safe” from “terrorists.” I recounted my experience dealing the the TSA and how they tried to humiliate me, an experience many others have had.

In the past when I've refused the body scanners I had not experienced the invasive groping of crotches I've often read about, though male TSA agents have run the backs of their hands down by butt, which was always an uncomfortable experience (It should be noted that I do not fly very often). But while flying a few times recently I have had some more unpleasant experiences. In the past, when a TSA agent asks if I have any sensitive areas on my body I sometimes respond with, “my groin” and this seems to ensure the TSA does not touch my private areas. As an experiment, I also sometimes respond with a “No” to see just how invasive the pat-downs might get, and prior to this incident I had not been groped in the groin area even when telling the TSA agent “No.” But I suppose this particular TSA had no misgivings about violating a complete stranger.

While flying through Kansas City International Airport an elderly TSA agent briefly explained to me the pat-down procedure and asked me if I had any sensitive areas on my body. As I've done in the past, I responded with a “No,” which I was about to regret. During the explanation of the pat-down he was about to perform he did not inform me that he was going to touch my genitals, so when his hand slid up one of my legs during the pat-down I was not expecting his hand to make contact with my genitals. As the TSA agent's hand slid up my leg his hand went up until it touched my testicles, which hurt a little bit. But apparently, once wasn't enough. He ran his hand up along my right leg for a second time, touching my crotch again. Each time I rose up onto the balls of my feet to get away from this man's inappropriate touching and each time I felt horribly violated and angry. For about an hour after this experience, my groin area ached slightly. From this point on, I am never going to take my chances again and will make sure I tell the TSA to keep their damn hands off of my junk! The touching of my rear end is bad enough!

At another airport, this time at Mesa, Arizona, a female TSA agent copped an attitude with me when I refused to go through the body scanner. In the past when I'd opted out I was allowed to walk to a screening area close to my belongings so I could keep an eye on them. But not this time. I asked the woman if I could go over to keep an eye on my bags that had just gone through the x-ray machine and the woman replied very nastily, “Oh no you can't! If you want to go near your bags you need to go through the body scanner.” This pissed me off, as I tried to look through the crowd of people to see if I could spot my belongings to ensure no one walked off with them or took anything out of them. Finally, after a few minutes the woman allowed me through where I was patted down by a male TSA agent, but was not violated as in the most recent incident.

I saw on YouTube a Colorado woman named Yukari Mihamae grabbed the left breast of a TSA agent and was arrested for sexual abuse. Interesting. A “citizen” touches another person's private areas and is arrested for sexual assault. The TSA does it and it's perfectly alright. The inequality of our society is growing and growing.

From this point on I will never experiment going through a TSA check point again and I hope anyone else who goes through a check point will heed this advice. Unfortunately, females have two intimate places (not counting the rear end) that are often searched during screenings and I'm unaware of how effective telling the TSA that both your breasts and vagina are both sensitive. It may lead to more aggressive touching if you deny the agent access to two places rather than one, since the TSA agent might suspect you're trying to hide something. (After writing this sentence, I recognize the absurdity of talking about having to choose which private area to have touched by a stranger just to get on a damn plane) However, had I tucked something into my crotch region in the past and said “Yes” when asked if I had any sensitive areas on my body I could easily have gotten through security with something dangerous. In that case, how in the world are these procedures doing anything to “keep people safe?!” The TSA just needs to stop molesting people!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Lucifer Effect – September 2014


There have been numerous cases of police brutality and misconduct recently with the horrible murder of African American teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014. The resulting protests by members of the community and surrounding areas drew media and a highly militarized police force who made the streets of Ferguson look like a war zone. Here are a few videos of these protests and the over the top police response.






Also in Ferguson, a member of the police force was recorded on video pointing his automatic weapon at protesters. The YouTube video description describes the video as follows: “At roughly 11:55 PM CDT on August 20th, 2014, a Ferguson police officer was spotted randomly pointing an assault rifle at protesters. This event was captured by the citizen journalist Rebelutionary_Z. The officer pointed his rifle at Rebelutionary_Z's companion, identified as Josiah (an African-American), and said 'I will fucking kill you, get back.' When asked for his name by Rebelutionary_Z, the officer responded 'Go fuck yourself.'” This police officer was later identified as Lt. Ray Albers.




In another incident caught via camera, a Tennessee collage student Jarod Dotson was photographed as he was being violently choked until losing consciousness by Tennessee sheriff's deputy identified as Frank Phillips. Phillips was later found to be “'unsuitable for continued employment,' according to a termination notice posted Sunday night on the Knox County Sheriff's Office's website.” Below are the pictures taken of the incident. As can be clearly seen Dotson does not appear to be resisting arrest or being combative or troublesome in any way but Phillips walks to the front of Dotson and wraps his hands around the young man's neck until his knees appear to buckle and he falls to the ground, likely due to losing consciousness. Even has Dotson is falling Phillips still has his hands around his neck.
















Recorded on March 8, 2013 the next video depicts officers with the El Paso police department trying to subdue an obviously agitated man named Daniel Rodrigo Saenz and one of the officers, Jose Flores, shoots and kills Saenz, even though his hands were hand-cuffed behind his back. I do not buy the cops' excuses for why he was killed. There was no reason for Flores to pull his weapon in the first place. The man was on the ground with his arms restrained behind his back. In that situation there is no need to draw a firearm in that situation. Saenz did not present a deadly threat from that position and drawing a deadly weapon was unjustified. Chalk it up to another police cover-up and another murder by police that goes entirely unpunished.




In this next video, a cop kicks a hand-cuffed child in the head for being a little mouthy. The YouTube description describes what took place: “Members of the Boynton Beach Police Department may be asked to explain their actions, after video footage has emerged of the officers allegedly choking and kicking sixth grade students, aged approximately 11 years.

The boys were reportedly pulled off the school bus for some minor behavioral issues, when police arrived. One boy was initially handcuffed and sat on the ground, while police handcuffed the second student. In the first video, the student standing with the officer on the left of screen is allegedly roughly detained. However, the second video shows an officer kicking the student in the rear of his legs, causing him to fall heavily. It is this action which remains questionable and will probably come under further scrutiny.”




This final video is pretty long, but it seems to me that the young man in the video was innocent, going about his business, and did nothing wrong, and these Mesa, Arizona cops decide to harass him and his friend. Granted the friend was drunk, but he wasn't driving. His sober friend was driving, so it seems odd that he was arrested merely for being drunk. Then their car was towed apparently for no good reason other than the cops can abuse people like this. This appears to be a case of abuse of power on the part of these cops.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Book TV: Book Discussion on Old Wine, Broken Bottle: Norman Finkelstein on the Arab-Israeli Conflict


Book TV featured a talk by Norman Finkelstein, author of the recently released book Old Wine, Broken Bottle: Ari Shavit's Promised Land at Red Emma’s Bookstore in Baltimore on July 30, 2014.

It's an extremely good discussion. Finkelstein breaks each of the issues down and explains them all, exposing the misinformation spread by Israel and the media that repeats their factually flawed narratives.


Norman Finkelstein: " Book Discussion on Old Wine, Broken Bottle"

BookTV

Friday, August 8, 2014

Clearing Up the Shenanigans: Tom Gilson and True Reason


It seems that Tom Gilson would like to continue to play the typical Christian apologist “you don't get my arguments” card, rather than explain in clear terms what exactly his chapter was about, if he was in fact not making the argument I attributed to him (which seems wildly off the mark, since I quote him directly several times). In my last post I restated my argument and quoted Gilson directly from Chapter 12 to demonstrate to those who might be curious that I did indeed correctly interpret his argument.

To this response, all Gilson has done is play coy, refusing to elaborate on what his argument entailed and why my reply was in error. When asked to defend his argument he replied by saying:

By the way: I didn't defend my argument from the book because what you wrote was either obviously wrong (for example, that God violated natural law when he created ex nihilo) or unrelated to my argument. There was nothing there for me to defend my argument from.
On a first impression your blog post looked like a criticism of my chapter. On a closer look it turned out to be more or less unsuccessful criticisms of other things. That's why I wrote a blog post wondering what it was that you were after.
Resipisence, I'm glad you liked his question.

AA, if you didn't understand what the questions on my blog post had to do with your response, may I point out that most of them included quotations from that post, and the rest of them paraphrased things you had written?

If you can't figure out what those quotations and paraphrases had to do with your post, shall I try again? If I try again, what would you suggest I do to make the connections clear? The usual answer to that question is quotations and paraphrases. Is there a better approach that I'm not aware of?

This reply is curious since his blog post responding to my initial criticisms doesn't even come close to addressing nearly anything I said, and it appears to further confuse the situation.

I am going to go through and breakdown Gilson's entire response to demonstrate why I believe his responses thus far have been less than satisfactory.

I’m having trouble figuring out what the Arizona Atheist is after in his critique of my Chapter 10 in True Reason: Responding to the Irrationality of the New Atheism. (You can read a version of that chapter here.)

After comparing the original article and the slightly edited piece in True Reason, the original article is a pretty close match, with the exception of the last five paragraphs describing how science relied upon a belief in a natural order, which was provided by Christianity, according to Gilson. My guess as to why he edited this section from the piece in True Reason is because in Chapter 11 Sean McDowell made the same argument already, which I successfully rebutted. In short, atheistic Greeks saw the orderliness of nature long before Christianity arrived.

Gilson continues, which is where things begin to get confusing. I will place the entirety of Gilson's reply in blockquotes and respond throughout:

He might be trying to show that my explanation was ad hoc. He mentioned something to that effect early on, but if that was his purpose, he didn’t carry it through. He proceeded to write as if trying to show that my explanation was incoherent, not ad hoc (made up or generated for no reason but to fill an explanatory gap).

I appreciate the definition of ad hoc, but I know what it means, which is why I used it. I called Gilson's argument ad hoc simply for the reasons I stated in my last post. His arguments are brought forth with no supporting basis, which is what most of my reply goes on to defend.

He might be saying that miracles happen too often (according to Christian teaching) for science to work. That was the main subject matter of my chapter, so it would be a relevant complaint. He only refers to a very short list of miracles, however, so if that’s what he was after, it was a tepid attempt at best.

Am I arguing that “miracles happen too often?” Yes, but Gilson misses my point. It had nothing to do with science, it had everything to do with god. Gilson argued in True Reason that god wants his creations to be “responsible moral agents;” and god also wants his creations to learn from experience. All of these things would not be possible if we lived in a world “of constant supernatural intervention” because “if there is to much chaos (“noise”) in a transmission, the message (signal) can’t get through to be clearly understood.” (130)

I argued that, at least according to numerous Christians around the world, their god intervenes in the affairs of the world on a daily basis and I provided one, among other examples, of a Christian friend who thanked god for coming across a set of chairs in someone's yard.

I also argued that far from being opposed to constant supernatural intervention the entire basis of Christianity is built upon supernatural intervention, including god coming down in human form as Jesus to the creation of the world out of absolutely nothing, which are in fact acts of the supernatural, unlike what Gilson stated in his reply (“it’s more than slightly difficult to see how God violated natural law by creating natural law (as creation ex nihilo indicates).”). Gilson's argument makes no logical sense. Christians argue all the time that “something cannot come from nothing” but for Christians apparently it's OK. And I suppose a man rising from the dead or a god-man coming down from heaven isn't a supernatural event? Gilson says nothing about these core beliefs of Christianity.

He might be saying that Christians’ purported prayer answers, if they were real, would indicate God interfering with the natural order too often for science to work. But that’s not likely, because the prayer answers he points to are not the sort of thing that undermine the regularity of nature.

This is why I said Gilson's reply did not appear to have anything to do with my response. In fact, I mention prayer not once throughout the entire reply. The idea isn't even hinted at. And he has badly understood the reasoning behind my responses, even though I thought I made it perfectly clear.

He might be saying that Christians’ prayer answers are “mere coincidences or hallucinations” — in fact he does suggest that — but if that’s his complaint, he’s simply changing the subject. That’s an interesting question, but not one that has anything to do with my chapter in True Reason.

Once again the word “prayer” is not to be found in the entire reply. And the partial quote Gilson uses is from this: “Do miracles happen as Christians attest all of the time or not? Does god intervene on a near daily basis or is the universe orderly and these events I’ve recounted are mere coincidences or hallucinations? Gilson can’t have it both ways.” I was summing up my argument that either supernatural interventions occur on a nearly daily basis as Christians attest around the world, or they do not. If they do, as my arguments suggest, then Gilson's argument, stating that god doesn't want to intervene very often, or that these interventions would not cause an interference in the natural order are false. In fact, as an example I said, referring to my Christian friend finding the chairs: “If Gilson argues that an orderly universe is a necessity then these “miracles” would be a near impossibility and god wouldn’t intervene as often as he clearly seems to do in the lives of many of his believers. Did my friend’s god get inside of that man’s head and convince him to get rid of perfectly good chairs? Did my friend’s god also get inside of his head and tell him to go down that street at that exact time of day? If not, why not? Do miracles happen as Christians attest all of the time or not? Does god intervene on a near daily basis or is the universe orderly and these events I’ve recounted are mere coincidences or hallucinations? Gilson can’t have it both ways.”

I would argue that causing an event to happen by making someone take a particular action that they may not have taken if not for the supernatural intervention seems to me to be a pretty large interference in the natural world. Why did my friend drive down that particular street at that particular time of day? And why did this man discard several perfectly good chairs?

He might be saying that God has problems doing hard things. That seems to be what he’s after here, speakcing of providential (not miraculous) prayer answers:

[Quoting me:] If Gilson argues that an orderly universe is a necessity then these “miracles” would be a near impossibility and god [sic] wouldn’t intervene as often as he clearly seems to do in the lives of many of his believers.

I can’t imagine, though, why he would think near impossibilities pose any problem for God as Christians understand God.

This makes no sense and he does not even deal with the context of my argument in the least. I just quoted this portion of one of my arguments above. It appears Gilson did not understand it at all.

He might be saying that Christians believe God is really messing around with natural law most of the time:
[Quoting me:] Even the very basis of Christianity is premised on miracles, ie. the very violation of natural laws: creation of the world ex nihilo and Jesus being brought back to life after being dead as a door nail for three days.
There must be some confusion there, though, since it’s more than slightly difficult to see how God violated natural law by creating natural law (as creation ex nihilo indicates). And again, while Christianity is premised on miracles, he hasn’t said anything to establish that it’s premised on miracles so frequent that science won’t work.

Finally, it appears that Gilson seems to have grasped my argument, but claims I never made an attempt to demonstrate how many miraculous events would cause a disruption in the natural world. Doesn't a man rising from the dead count? Doesn't god essentially getting inside peoples' heads, making them or influencing them to do certain things a violation of natural law??? This seems an absurd thing to say. He appears to pretend I said nothing about this!

Or he might be saying that I’ve made some mistake in proposing (as I did) that God made the universe orderly enough for humans to learn, understand, communicate, and be responsible for what we do:
[Quoting me:] Finally, the universe is much less orderly than he assumes and we have had a lot of difficulty understanding much of it. On the larger scale things appear to happen in a logical order and objects behave in an orderly manner. But once we move to the quantum level of the universe things get rather confusing and no longer behave as our rational minds would expect. This makes no sense on Gilson’s view because if god [sic] created the world in order for us to understand his creation and to “learn from experience,” then our many experiences and scientific observations would not conflict with our current understanding of the universe.
No, on the larger scale (the scale that’s relevant to my chapter in the book) things do not appear to happen “in a logical order and … in an orderly manner.” They do behave that way, except in the realm of personal freedom and choice. Quantum strangeness has no relevance to my point in that chapter. His premise here is flawed. But the biggest problem with that is that it’s a shot in the dark. He’s given no reason to suppose that his conclusion is true. If he tried he would fail, because there is no possible reason it could be true.

Gilson argued that “God intends that humans be able to 'learn from experience.'” But, if a large part of our universe is qualitatively difficult to understand shouldn't that count against his argument that god created the universe so we could understand it? Is the quantum world not a part of this universe? Of course it is! Did god not create the quantum world? If not, who did? But this is absurd of course. Christians believe that god created the entire universe. Gilson simply has no response to this very relevant fact.

He might be trying to tell us that naturalism explains things supernaturalism does not. He says this quite explicitly, in fact. He doesn’t tell us what that has to do with the content of the chapter he’s supposedly critiquing, though; nor does he enlighten us on why he thinks it relevant that “The laws of nature have never been shown to change. Most acts of the supernatural have perfectly natural explanations today.”

He is ignoring the context here. This quotation was a part of my brief discussion about the quantum world. I said that naturalism describes this quantum world better than Gilson's supernaturalist view. I said this because on the Christian view god supposedly created the world so we can understand it, but apparently we are unable to understand a large part of the world. This makes no sense on a supernaturalist view of the world, but makes perfect sense on a naturalist view of the world.

The other partial quote he uses has nothing to do with the quantum world argument I made. I said in full:

The laws of nature have never been shown to change. Most acts of the supernatural have perfectly natural explanations today, which leaves less and less room for the Christian god to hide. Christians must get increasingly clever about the rationalizations they use to ensure their god stays relevant. But this can only go on for so long. At this point in time I believe the evidence is such that the only logical god would be a Deistic god. As Lawrence M. Krauss said in his Wall Street Journal article: “Though the scientific process may be compatible with the vague idea of some relaxed deity who merely established the universe and let it proceed from there, it is in fact rationally incompatible with the detailed tenets of most of the world’s organized religions.” I believe this is the only logical religious position that is possible today.

I was alluding to Gilson's ad hoc arguments here, describing his and other Christians' rationalizations they continually use to prop up their ridiculous arguments, such as Gilson's in his Chapter that god doesn't want to intervene in the lives of his creations very often, when the facts say otherwise.

Gilson concludes his nonsensical reply with the following:

He does go on to add, “… which leaves less and less room for the Christian god [sic] to hide,” but again, there’s no indication of how that has anything to do with a chapter refuting Krauss’s argument that if science works then there must not be a God involved in nature. It’s another topic; an interesting one, but what it’s doing here in this location, I don’t know.
Now, if I felt the freedom to wander around and touch on multiple flaws in atheism, I could do so, just like he has with theism. I could go into detail on ways the Arizona Atheist missed the mark with his ad hoc accusation, his misunderstanding of the place of miracles and providence in Christianity, his demeaning view of Christians (with our “coincidences or hallucinations,” as if we can’t muster together the brain cells to think about such possibilities), his small view of a God who can’t do hard things, his mistaken view of God’s sovereign, ongoing relation to his creation, even his view of quantum physics.
If I did that, I would at least be responding to something he had said.
But rather than going into all that, I’ll just leave it at wondering, what is the Arizona Atheist after?

Krauss' article discussed the fact that Christians' rationalizations are becoming more and more desperate (like Gilson's arguments in True Reason) and that the only god that is compatible with science is the god is Deism.

Actually, as I've explained throughout this reply I did not merely “touch on multiple flaws” of Christianity. I responded directly to the arguments of Gilson's. His summary of what he believed my arguments to be were entirely inaccurate, and only once did he even correctly state my position, but failed to respond to my actual point.

The god of Christianity does appear to intervene within the world on a near constant basis, according to most Christians and the very basis of Christianity is premised upon miracle claims, placing it in direct conflict with science, which has shown the world to work with a certain regularity and consistency.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tom Gilson Replies to My Response to Chapter 12 of True Reason


Tom Gilson has responded to my latest installment of my review of True Reason. In my response to Chapter 12, titled “God and Science Do Mix” Tom Gilson quotes Lawrence M. Krauss, who in turn quotes J.B.S. Haldane, from a 2009 Wall Street Journal article:

My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world. (129)

Gilson responds in his chapter: “He is right, of course, to take it that science depends on nature generally behaving itself. But he is wrong to think this is incompatible with Christianity.” He continues by making a series of arguments about how god wishes to communicate with his creations; god wants his creations to be “responsible moral agents;” and god also wants his creations to learn from experience. All of these things would not be possible if we lived in a world “of constant supernatural intervention” because “if there is to much chaos (“noise”) in a transmission, the message (signal) can't get through to be clearly understood.” (130)

As I said in my review of the Chapter:

Essentially all Gilson is arguing is that his god doesn’t want to dazzle his creations with constant supernatural interventions because he wants us to be able to predict with enough regularity the workings of the cosmos so we can do science and be responsible for our actions and learn from our experiences.

This argument fails for three reasons. First, it completely defies typical Christian experience; second, it contradicts the very foundation of Christianity; and third, this argument does not fit with what we know (or rather, don’t know) about the universe.

I go on to elaborate on these points. Gilson argued that god wants regularity in nature for the above reasons, but I argued that Gilson's argument contradicts the facts in a number of ways. First, it defies typical Christian experience, when Christians see miracles occurring in their lives on a daily basis; second, the very creation of “something from nothing” is another miracle claim, and third, despite Gilson's claims to the contrary, the universe is not as logical as he makes his readers believe. While our logical minds can grasp the universe on larger scales, our logical minds have much difficulty grasping the seeming illogical nature of the quantum world, where things appear to happen randomly and spontaneously without apparent reason or cause, which puts the universe at odds with our logical minds. Gilson's reasons contradict everything we know about the universe and about Christianity.

Why Gilson seems so confused is beyond me. In the final paragraph he writes,

God's desire to have a relationship of communication with humans, to give humans moral responsibility, and to make a world in which we can learn and grow, can all be found in pages of Scripture that predate modern science by millennia. (132)

He also says this on page 131: “Again, chaos of the sort Krauss envisions would clearly work against God's purposes.”

But as I demonstrated, the Christian world is not as orderly as Gilson argues with the many violations of natural law that are claimed to happen to Christians on a near daily basis. Now, I did not address Gilson's claim here that “And what is science but systematized learning from experience?”

His other argument appears to revolve around the idea that because god wants his creatures to learn “from experience” this makes Christianity compatible with science. This argument was so nonsensical I did not feel it merited a response so I focused on what appeared to be Gilson's main argument, since it took up over 90% of the chapter, describing the ways in which god wants an orderly universe for his creations. Since that series of arguments are flawed his very conclusion is also flawed.

Science is defined as “a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. In an older and closely related meaning, 'science' also refers to a body of knowledge itself, of the type that can be rationally explained and reliably applied.”

Gilson's definition is horribly simplistic, but if one properly defines science Christianity has nothing to do with it at all. Christianity is based upon faith, not testing, nor searching for answers outside of their limited belief system. In his work The Prescriptions Against the Heretics I think Tertullian summed up the typical anti-scientific views of most Christians when he said:

After Jesus Christ we have no need of speculation, after the Gospel no need of research. When we come to believe, we have no desire to believe anything else; for we begin by believing that there is nothing else which we have to believe...

In conclusion, I believe Gilson either did not grasp the counter-argument I was making, or this is just another example of sloppy writing on his part.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

True Reason: My Final (?) Reply to Tom Gilson


Tom Gilson has replied several times more in the comment section of my latest response. His comments themselves can be found here, here and here. He has also summarized his comments in a separate blog post at his blog.

As has been the custom throughout my replies, I shall place the entirety Mr. Gilson's comments in blockquotes and I will respond after each quotation.

I have a lot to sort through here, so thank you for continuing the conversation. I have one quick easy note to ask at first:

First, you say,

And the subtitle, Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design, I think flows better than Gilson’s wordy title: “ Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Biological Design.”

Where did I suggest that "wordy title"? I don't recall it and I can't find it.

I wasn't quoting you here. Thinking about the title I just felt it had a “wordy” sound to it, with the use of the word “biological design.” I didn't believe most would understand the title, which is likely why the publishers used the word “Design” in its place.

Second, I'm rather confused as to how you can say that Dawkins didn't address god (well, he didn't, actually) or that he didn't address God, in The Blind Watchmaker. This is quite a crucial point in your article here, and it's crucial in my mind, too. It's so crucial, in fact, that I really want to hear further from you on it before I go into any other topics you've brought up. I'll explain why at the end of all this.

You wrote,

I’ve been reading Dawkins’ book the last week or so, double checking to ensure I wasn’t in error in thinking Dawkins does not address god, and there is indeed nothing there.

I think this is quite obviously wrong. He opens the book with fully two chapters focused largely on the question of God. They form the framework within which his evolutionary arguments are made, and (as opening chapters usually do) they explain the purpose for the rest of the book.

Having just read both Chapters 1 and 2, I'm sorry but he was not discussing god, at least not in the way you believe. Most of these quotes I've already addressed and have demonstrated that you took them out of context. The first chapter lays the ground work for everything that comes after. Dawkins explains how god used to be the explanation for complex things, but after Darwin we had a naturalistic, and more plausable explanation: evolution by natural selection. I'd like to stress that Dawkins is mentioning god here, but you must look at the context. It is in the same context that I have continually argued. Dawkins' book is his attempt to demonstrate that god is no longer needed as an explanation for complex design since evolution better explains the existence of living things. But how is this arguing against the proposition that god exists? It isn't. There is a vast difference between arguing that something does not exist, and that something is a cause of something else. This does not imply that thing does not exist, only that it is not a cause.

In Chapter 1 Dawkins continues to discuss his reasoning behind his book's title and begins introducing the reader to several basic concepts of evolution by defining the terms he will use in the book, such as “complexity,” “apparent design,” and “what do we mean by explanation?” A sentence in Chapter 1 also highlights what this Chapter is about. Is it about the existence of god? No. Dawkins says,

We began this section by asking what kind of explanation for complicated things would satisfy us. We have just considered the question from the point of view of mechanism: how does it work? We concluded that the behaviour of a complicated thing should be explained in terms of interaction between its component parts, considered as successive layers of an orderly hierarchy. But another kind of question is how the complicated thing came into existence in the first place. This is the question that this whole book is particularly concerned with, so I won't say much more about it here. (22)

In the beginning of the chapter Dawkins repeated this same theme. He said, “We wanted to know why we, and all other complicated things, exist.” (6) I have already addressed the out of context quotes you've provided in this Chapter in my last reply.

To ram home the point I will quote yet another passage. Dawkins writes,

What about our own bodies? Each one of us is a machine, like an airliner only much more complicated. Were we designed on a drawing board too, and were our parts assembled by a skilled engineer? The answer is no. It is a surprising answer, and we have known and understood it for only a century or so. When Charles Darwin first explained the matter, many people either wouldn't or couldn't grasp it. I myself flatly refused to believe Darwin's theory when I first heard about it as a child. Almost everybody throughout history, up to the second half of the nineteenth century, has firmly believed in the opposite – the Conscious Designer theory. Many people still do, perhaps because the true, Darwinian explanation of our own existence is still, remarkably, not a routine part of the curriculum of a general education. It is certainly very widely misunderstood. (7)

Here is yet another quote where Dawkins is clearly not trying to disprove god's existence, but he is trying to convince his reader that god is not needed as an explanation for the complexity of living things, particularly human beings.

Once more, Dawkins states his case in about as clear a manner as one could wish. He writes: “In Darwin's view, the whole point of the theory of evolution by natural selection was that it provided a non-miraculous account of the existence of complex adaptations. For what it is worth, it is also the point of this book.” [emphasis mine in bold] (355)

This is the last one I shall cite, which should put this matter to rest. Dawkins wrote about Paley's “watchmaker” argument and says, “All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit employed in a very special way. […] Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind.” (9) Here Dawkins is seemingly responding to your very argument. He is not using Paley’s claim that god is responsible for complexity as a means by which to disprove god. He is using it, as I’ve continually explained, as a means of communicating how evolution by natural selection is the reason for the complexity we find in nature.

In Chapter 2 the entire chapter discusses echolocation in bats. However, Dawkins does address the arguments of the Bishop of Birmingham, Hugh Montefiore, who accepts evolution “but cannot believe that natural selection is an adequate explanation for the course that evolution has taken (partly because, like many others, he sadly misunderstands natural selection to be 'random' and 'meaningless').” [emphasis mine] (54) Once again, Dawkins is not addressing the existence of god, only the belief that god must have had to help evolution along, which is a far cry from trying to disprove god's existence. It's is not a matter of god's existence, it is a matter of whether or not god is the explanation for the design we see in nature.

Gilson continues to press hard, repeating his previous arguments and adding some new ones.

You know, because I wrote it and you quoted it here, bhtat In the intro to his book he made it clear that he was addressing the "most influential argument for God." He devotes several paragraphs, early on, quite pointedly to William Paley's design argument for God.

Yes, and I explained in my previous reply how you have taken this quote out of context.

Then he summarizes that section, and briefly states his problem with it, and goes on to add,

I shall explain all this, and much besides.... I said [at dinner with a well-known atheist] that I could not imagine being an atheist at any time before 1859, when Darwin's Origin of Species was published.

The question of God is obviously in his mind as he discusses his disbelief in God. But there's more.

He goes on to speak of Hume's treatment of God, following which he goes on to a lengthy discussion of complex things and eventually, "what kind of explanation for complex things would satisfy us." Back to Paley's argument for God again, and then on to a chapter on "Good Design," where Paley was again prominently featured in the chapter's introduction. Not just that, but Paley comes back into the picture again, well into the chapter, where Dawkins writes,

His [Paley's] hypothesis was that living watches were literally designed and built by a master watchmaker. Our modern hypothesis is that the job was done in gradual evolutionary states by natural selection.

Nowadays theologians aren't quite so straightforward as Paley.

[Recall that Paley used the analogy of an intentional, intelligent watchmaker to argue for God. Do you really think the title of the book wasn't meant to convey that the book would be a counter-theistic argument?]

Then follows a couple of pages on other theologians' and a bishop's arguments in favor of design, and against naturalistic evolution, both of which (it takes little knowledge to understand) tend to be arguments for God when they're offered by theologians and bishops.

That amounts to two entire chapters setting the stage for the rest of the book. The rest of the book, of course, is his exposition in favor of evolution and against design; where design was situated in the book as being an argument for God.

How about the close of the book? Look at the third-to-last paragraph. It ends,

The same applies to the odds against the spontaneous existence of any fully fashioned, perfect, and whole beings, including — I see no way of avoiding the conclusion — deities.

Look back a page or so earlier, in the portion beginning, "We have dealt with all the alleged alternatives to the theory of natural selection except the oldest one," and ending "In short, divine creation, whether instantaneous or in the form of guided evolution.... give[s] some superficial appearance of being [an] alternative to Darwinism" but fails the test of evidence.

He begins the book talking about God. He ends the book talking about God. He places his whole argument in a framework of what he clearly argues to be failed reasons to believe in God.

Do you still maintain that Dawkins does not address God in this book?

Each and everyone of these quotes have been taken out of context. I will take each in turn.

1) “I shall explain all this, and much besides.... I said [at dinner with a well-known atheist] that I could not imagine being an atheist at any time before 1859, when Darwin's Origin of Species was published.”

The first snip of a quote (“ I shall explain all this, and much besides”) has nothing to do with the next quote you cite. The second quote cited is leading up to the comment I already addressed about Hume and should be seen in that context. It's not about arguing against the existence of god, it is about god being the only known explanation for the complexity of living things. Here is the quote in context:

Paley's argument is made with passionate sincerity and is informed by the best biological scholarship of his day, but it is wrong, gloriously and utterly wrong. The analogy between telescope and eye, between watch and living organism is false. All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit employed in a very special way. A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind's eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.

I shall explain all this, and much else besides. But one thing I shall not do is belittle the wonder of the living 'watches' that so inspired Paley. On the contrary, I shall try to illustrate my feeling that here Paley could have gone even further. When it comes to feeling awe over living 'watches' I yield to nobody. I feel more in common with the Reverend William Paley than I do with the distinguished modern philosopher, a well-known atheist, with whom I once discussed the matter at dinner. I said that I could not imagine being an atheist at any time before 1859, when Darwin's Origin Of Species was published. 'What about Hume?”, replied the philosopher. “How did Hume explain the organized complexity of the living world?”, I asked. “He didn't, said the philosopher. 'Why does it need special explanation?'

Paley knew that it needed a special explanation; Darwin knew it, and I suspect that in his heart of hearts my philosopher companion knew it too. In any case it will be my business to show it here. As for David Hume himself, it is sometimes said that that great Scottish philosopher disposed of the Argument from Design a century before Darwin. But what Hume did was criticize the logic of using apparent design in nature as positive evidence for the existence of a God. He did not offer any alternative explanation for complex biological design, but left the question open. An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: ‘I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn’t a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.’ I can’t help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. (emphasis mine in bold) (pgs. 9-10)

Dawkins is using a story about a discussion with a philosopher friend to segue into his point about the reasons for complex design in nature and the solutions to the problem both before and after Darwin. Note the sections I highlighted in bold font. Dawkins is discussing an atheist's possible response to the claim that god is responsible for the complexity in nature before and after Darwin's theory of evolution became known. And, while one could still be an atheist before Darwin, an atheist would not have a very strong answer for that complexity in nature. After Darwin this changed. It would enable an atheist to be “intellectually fulfilled.” This quote is referring to the same issue we've seen before: complexity in nature and the reasons for it. Once you place these scattered quotes you've taken out of context, and place them in back in context the matter is perfectly clear.

2) “He goes on to speak of Hume's treatment of God, following which he goes on to a lengthy discussion of complex things and eventually, 'what kind of explanation for complex things would satisfy us.' Back to Paley's argument for God again, and then on to a chapter on 'Good Design,' where Paley was again prominently featured in the chapter's introduction.”

The first quote is horribly taken out of context. The “what kind of explanation for complex things would satisfy us” quote refers to the in depth discussion Dawkins uses about machines as an analogy for living things. He discusses what the best kind of “explanation” would be for the complexity of living things. Dawkins wrote,

We began this section by asking what kind of explanation for complicated things would satisfy us. We have just considered the question from the point of view of mechanism: how does it work? We concluded that the behaviour of a complicated thing should be explained in terms of interaction between its component parts, considered as successive layers of an orderly hierarchy. But another kind of question is how the complicated thing came into existence in the first place. This is the question that this whole book is particularly concerned with, so I won't say much more about it here. (emphasis mine)

This has nothing to do with god whatsoever. And this quote I provided previously to ram home my point that Dawkins is discussing the role god plays in evolution, and not god's existence. Regarding the mentions of Paley, Dawkins writes about Paley,

Meanwhile I want to follow Paley in emphasizing the magnitude of the problem that our explanation faces, the sheer hugeness of biological complexity and the beauty and elegance of biological design. (24)

As Dawkins has done throughout his book he is discussing... yes! Biological design! Dawkins goes on to explain just how complex many features of biology are, and comments that Paley “would have loved the electron microscope.” At the end of the chapter Dawkins shows the reader a diagram of an eye, describing the immense complexity.

Gilson writes:

Recall that Paley used the analogy of an intentional, intelligent watchmaker to argue for God. Do you really think the title of the book wasn't meant to convey that the book would be a counter-theistic argument?

I've shown in context each of the quotes mentioning Paley and none of them depict what you so badly want to see. Dawkins is using Paley as his model. Paley wanted to show his readers how wonderfully complex life was, and he argued that god was responsible for this complexity. Dawkins, on the other hand, argues that evolution is the reason for the biological complexity we see around us. This is not about disproving god. It is about explaining the explanation for complex design, which has been shown to be evolution.

The final quote provided by Gilson is:

The same applies to the odds against the spontaneous existence of any fully fashioned, perfect, and whole beings, including — I see no way of avoiding the conclusion — deities.

This final quote Gilson has quote-mined is this, in context:

The whole book has been dominated by the idea of chance, by the astronomically long odds against the spontaneous arising of order, complexity and apparent design. We have sought a way of taming chance, of drawing its fangs. 'Untamed chance,' pure, naked chance, means ordered design springing from nothing, in a single leap. It would be untamed chance if once there was no eye, and then, suddenly, in the twinkling of a generation, an eye appeared, fully fashioned, perfect and whole. This is possible, but the odds against it will keep us busy writing noughts til the end of time. The same applies to the odds against the spontaneous existence of any fully fashioned, perfect and whole beings, including – I see no way of avoiding the conclusion – deities. (452-453)

Is Dawkins admitting that he was talking about the existence of god the entire time? What are the chances? Not good once you place what Dawkins said in context.

While Dawkins does employ exactly this logic in his later book The God Delusion, it is clear from the context that Dawkins' intention was to describe and refute the argument that evolution is all about “chance,” and he states that this is a misunderstanding of evolution and nothing we know of has ever just popped into existence. He argues that the probability of something – of anything – popping into existence fully formed is astronomically improbable, and this even includes “deities.”

This conclusion is clearly warranted since Dawkins does not mention the Christian god once throughout this entire discussion and is only summing up the main themes of his book. He used the generic word “deities” to describe something that simply exists in order to make a point. Dawkins says farther down the page, summing up: “It is the contention of the Darwinian world-view that both these provisions are met [given enough time and “finely graded intermediates” “we shall be able to derive anything from anything else...”], and that slow, gradual, cumulative natural selection is the ultimate explanation for our existence.” (453)

Gilson finishes with his comments:

Look back a page or so earlier, in the portion beginning, "We have dealt with all the alleged alternatives to the theory of natural selection except the oldest one," and ending "In short, divine creation, whether instantaneous or in the form of guided evolution.... give[s] some superficial appearance of being [an] alternative to Darwinism" but fails the test of evidence.

He begins the book talking about God. He ends the book talking about God. He places his whole argument in a framework of what he clearly argues to be failed reasons to believe in God.

Do you still maintain that Dawkins does not address God in this book?

If so, then I'm going to have to give up this conversation as hopeless, and consider your critique of True Reason as irrelevant for its lack of basic credibility; because if you can misread Dawkins that badly, whose perspective is agreeable and familiar to you, there's no point in even paying attention to what you have to say about something against which you have a strong prior bias.

Once again, when taken in context, this quote too, is discussing something entirely different. Gilson is merely quote-mining here, and quite disingenuously too, inserting his own distorted (mis)understanding of the text. Here is the entire quote, including the proceeding paragraph, which places this comment in context. Dawkins is not looking to refute the existence of god. He is discussing the role god did or did not play in the process of evolution. Dawkins writes in the final chapter, pages 450-451:

We have dealt with all of the alleged alternatives to the theory of natural selection except the oldest one. This is the theory that life was created, or its evolution master-minded, by a conscious designer [This very relevant section was conspicuously missing from Gilson's (mis)quote.] […]

At first sight there is an important distinction to be made between what might be called 'instantaneous creation' and 'guided evolution.' Modern theologians of any sophistication have given up believing in instantaneous creation. The evidence for some sort of evolution has become too overwhelming. But many theologians who call themselves evolutionists, for instance the Bishop of Birmingham quoted in Chapter 2, smuggle God in by the back door: they allow him some sort of supervisory role over the course that evolution has taken, either influencing key moments in evolutionary history (especially human evolutionary history), or even meddling more comprehensively in the day-to-day events that add up to evolutionary change. (emphasis mine)

The highlighted parts of the text ought to make it perfectly clear to any non-biased reader Dawkins' very clear argument deals, not with the existence of god, but god's alleged role in crafting or guiding the evolutionary process. This, as I've noted time and time again, is not an argument against god's existence, but merely arguing against god-guided evolution.

Does Dawkins “address god?” Yes, but not in the manner in which Gilson is arguing. Gilson is arguing that Dawkins' argument seeks to disprove god. But every single quote I've provided proves otherwise.

I must say that I am very disheartened to see Gilson coming out and attacking me, saying that both me (in his second comment, see below) and my review of the book lacks any credibility. Quite frankly, the irony is unbearable given the fact that I have continuously demonstrated Gilson's bias because of the fact that he is reading way too much into Dawkins' argument. And his further lack of logic is continued when he asserts that because I have allegedly failed to rebut his arguments in this one chapter my entire review should be considered “irrelevant for its lack of basic credibility.” Not only is this a pointless and unjustified ad hominem, but it is also horribly illogical. Even assuming I had not succeeded in rebutting Gilson's arguments in his chapter it does not then magically make every other argument I've provided in the review worthless or in error.

I will continue to address Gilson's second comment. He writes,

Returning again to one of your core complaints, you say that Dawkins addressed the problem of biological design only, and that I was in error not to have treated his argument that way.

I remind you of three things.

One, I wrote,

I didn’t, however, criticize Dawkins primarily for failing to address other related topics. I criticized him for committing a rather obvious logical fallacy. (This was the whole point of that section of my chapter in True Reason, as well as much of the rest of the book: the fallacious logic so frequently displayed by Dawkins and other New Atheists.) He drew his conclusion — a universe without design — without having demonstrated it. He didn’t even try to demonstrate it, except in one limited set of phenomena, biological evolution.

Had he succeeded in showing design was unnecessary in the case of life, that would have revealed a biosphere without design, not a universe without design. But no, actually, it would only have revealed the scientific and logical possibility of a biosphere without design; which is why I wrote in True Reason that Dawkins disappointed me. He drew the conclusion, there is no design, after arguing a case that could only lead to it is possible there is no design. Alvin Plantinga pointed out the same thing, as I noted in True Reason.

Clearly that shows what my argument was based upon. I'll reword it, since it escaped you the first time: Dawkins failed to demonstrate a biosphere without design. He only showed the possibility of a biosphere without design. Now, if he failed to demonstrate a biosphere without design, then, a fortiori, he also failed to reveal a universe without design. The same failure extends both to the universe and to its more limited aspect, the biosphere.

Yes, I am well aware that this is the argument you made in the book. I have already acknowledged it and this is the topic which we have been discussing. No need to “remind” me of anything, thank you, though.

Dawkins made no such strong assertions in his book. Since Gilson likes to bring up Dawkins' subtitle so often, it should it remembered that Dawkins' argued that “the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design,” not that it proves a universe without design. In fact, Dawkins writes of the belief in god-guided evolution that “[w]e cannot disprove beliefs like these, especially if it is assumed that God took care that his interventions always closely mimicked what would be expected from evolution by natural selection.” (451) This does not appear to be the hardcore denial that he seems to be insisting upon.

Second, the entire book is a focused case study on how organized complexity can come to be in the realm of biology, yet it's clear throughout that he takes his gradualistic/selectionistic principle (elsewhere dubbed "Climbing Mount Improbable") to be, most likely, universal. I look at the first paragraph of chapter 1, and I see,

Complicated things, everywhere, deserve a very special kind of explanation. We want to know how they came into existence and why they are so complicated. The explanation, as I shall argue, is likely to be broadly the same for complicated things everywhere in the universe; the same for us, for chimpanzees, worms, oak trees and monsters from outer space.

He goes on of course to exclude that which is "the stuff of physics" as opposed to biology, based on their differing complexities of design. The stuff of physics is too easy, he says.

Clearly then, he was addressing design generally, but quickly left all other manifestations of it behind in order to concentrate on the one truly interesting case, biology. He knows that if he can demonstrate a non-designed origin for biological phenomena, the rest is easy. Thus based on its opening pages, the book is a book about design, focused on its most interesting manifestation, life.

Yes, Gilson is correct to argue that “the entire book is a focused case study on how organized complexity can come to be in the realm of biology,” but this is odd, since this is the entire point I've been trying to get Gilson to accept, but Gilson has insisted that Dawkins was arguing that he was trying to explain away the “design” argument in its entirety.

Allow me to quote this passage in its entirety since it appears that Gilson has also taken this out of context:

We animals are the most complicated things in the known universe. The universe that we know, of course, is a tiny fragment of the actual universe. There may be yet more complicated objects than us on other planets, and some of them may already know about us. But this doesn't alter the point that I want to make. Complicated things, everywhere, deserve a very special kind of explanation. We want to know how they came into existence and why they are so complicated. The explanation, as I shall argue, is likely to be broadly the same for complicated things everywhere in the universe; the same for us, for chimpanzees, worms, oak trees and monsters from outer space. On the other hand, it will not be the same for what I shall call 'simple' things, such as rocks, clouds, rivers, galaxies and quarks. There are the stuff of physics. Chimps and dogs and bats and cockroaches and people and worms and dandelions and bacteria and galactic aliens are the stuff of biology.

The difference is one of complexity of design. Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. Physics is the study of simple things that do not tempt us to invoke design. (3-4)

It should be clear that Dawkins is focused purely on biological objects. Dawkins did not say the universe is a complicated thing that must be explained. When he mentions “complicated things everywhere in the universe” he was clearly referring to all biological entities, which is why he listed a number of examples of such entities. This is once again not a quote that supports Gilson's (mis)readings. Dawkins is referring to biological design only.

Gilson continues,

You write,

But, as Gilson makes clear in this reply, he believes Dawkins’ book was supposed to be about rebutting the argument from design, in all its forms, apparently, thus disproving the existence of god.

It was. Dawkins' position is that if the argument from the design of life—the hard case—can be disproved, the rest is trivial. Read page 1 of chapter 1 again. It's quite clear.

As I just demonstrated this is a misunderstanding of what Dawkins is saying. He is making a case for biological entities only.

Gilson continues, quoting me:

Another topic. I'd like to help you with this:

I was trying to figure out the reasoning behind why Gilson would argue that Dawkins’ argument is illogical and does not disprove there is purposeful design in the process of evolution.

Dawkins shows (or thinks he does) that the concept of God may not be necessary to explain life. That's not an argument revealing a universe, or even a biosphere, without design. If it succeeds, the best it succeeds in doing is revealing a universe (or biosphere) in which design may or may not be involved. It undermines the necessity of design, but it does not prove the absence of design.

(His argument about God needing to be yet another instance of organized complexity, on the other hand, does reveal something. It reveals that he doesn't know what he's talking about. But that's another story for another day.)

As Dawkins' noted in the final chapter of his book, this argument is impossible to prove false, thus the very argument proves nothing. He writes,

Modern theologians of any sophistication have given up believing in instantaneous creation. […] But many theologians who call themselves evolutionists […] smuggle God in by the back door: they allow him some sort of supervisory role over the course that evolution has taken, either influencing key moments in evolutionary history (especially, of course, human evolutionary history), or even meddling more comprehensively in the day-to-day events that add up to evolutionary change.

We cannot disprove beliefs like these, especially if it is assumed that God took care that his intervention always closely mimicked what would be expected from evolution by natural selection. All that we can say about such beliefs is, firstly, that they are superfluous and, secondly, that they assume the existence of the main things we want to explain, namely organized complexity. (emphasis mine)

It should be pointed out that this argument I did address in my initial response to the chapter, and Dawkins anticipated this argument in The Blind Watchmaker, but Gilson does not deal with it in any way in his chapter in True Reason.

Finally, I should have caught this in my previous comment but I missed it:

there is not a single quotation in the book that can be pointed to where Dawkins remotely says anything like, ‘because evolution explains biological design, there is no god.’

The whole book is an argument against intentional/teleological design. God, as God is understood in theism, acts intentionally/teleologically. Syllogism:

1. If there is a God as understood in the prevailing theistic views of God, then God acts intentionally/teleologically in nature.

2. There is no intentional/teleological action in all of nature.

Now, Dawkins doesn't spell out the major premise. He doesn't have to. In his discussions on Paley and other natural theologians he makes clear that this is the God he has in mind.

Regarding the minor premise, recall what I wrote earlier: Dawkins thinks that if he explains away biological design, he has as good as explained away all design in nature. So there's no doubt that he affirms 2 in this book, even if he doesn't say it in those exact words.

Regarding the conclusion, he doesn't spell that out either. That's because any dummy can figure it out.

3. Therefore there is no God, as God is understood in the prevailing theistic views of God.

Collapsing all that into one short paraphrased sentence, we have something that's logically equivalent to, "because evolution explains biological design, there is no god God [Dawkins knows how to capitalize proper nouns].

I can't imagine how that isn't obvious to you.

As I said, if you continue to maintain these strange interpretations of Dawkins' book, you will continue to have credibility problems.

Yes, of course, Gilson is correct to note that design is often proposed as an argument for god, but as I've said over and over, he is reading Dawkins' words with an obvious bias, and he is not seeing what Dawkins actually says. In fact, Gilson even admits here that “Dawkins doesn't spell out” the argument he wants to believe Dawkins is making. Well, of course! That's because he is not arguing against god's existence. Only god's alleged hand in the crafting of complicated biological entities, as I've shown over and over again with numerous quotes. Gilson's syllogism is nothing but a horrible distortion of Dawkins' argument. Gilson's entire argument, based upon an immensely outlandish interpretation of The Blind Watchmaker, has failed dramatically.

I'd like to address one small, but very important, issue in Gilson's summary of this discussion linked to at the start of this response. In his blog post, titled “The Curious Case of the Atheist Who Denied Dawkins Was Disputing Deity” on his ThinkingChristian.net blog, he writes: “The Arizona Atheist continues to maintain that Dawkins does not address God in The Blind Watchmaker."

I believe this statement is misleading since it makes it appear that I am arguing that Dawkins' does not mention god at all in The Blind Watchmaker, which is demonstrably false. The dispute is not about whether or not Dawkins' mentions god, but in what context. And that context I've demonstrated to be an argument against “god-guided” evolution, and he does not anywhere argue that god does not exist. Nor does he even imply it. This inaccuracy has clearly lead to at least one commentator on Gilson's blog to badly misunderstand the issues under discussion:

TFBW says:

June 12, 2014 at 8:03 am

Translating anything that Dawkins has ever written into a syllogism is an exercise in creative interpretation. Let’s not quibble about such fine details as whether the proper conclusion is “there is no God”, or “there is no evidence for God”, since both are possible interpretations. Whichever is the more appropriate, they are both conclusions which contain “God” as a major subject, leaving open the question as to why the Arizona Atheist is being so obtuse about the fact.

As I've gone at great lengths to show, Dawkins' book was not about the existence of god at all. The only topic at issue in Dawkins' book as it related to god was whether or not god was a probable explanation for the complex design we see in nature. Period. This commentator should have read my response, rather than apparently reading only Gilson's distortion of it.

Finally, I shall briefly discuss Gilson's final comment. He writes,

I think a large part of the problem here is summed up in one person's statement somewhere that I put too much stock in the subtitle of the book; that I should recognize that the book was intended, as Tony says here, to show that the biological design argument is not persuasive, rather than to "reveal a universe without design.

In my chapter in True Reason, I explain how I dove into the book looking for how Dawkins was going to reveal a universe without design. I read the book because I wanted to know how he was going to accomplish what the title of the book said the book was going to do. I hardly think that was a culpable error on my part!

In fact, I don't think it was an error. Dawkins spent a lot of time on Paley, as you agree here, AA, in a book he titled "The Blind Watchmaker." He said in the book,

All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics.... Natural selection is the blind watchmaker ....

In his chapter on Origins and Miracles he says that a deistic Creator answer to his argument is "feeble and obviously self-defeating." This is an argument against God — a positive attempt to disprove God — with of course his additional, "where did God's organized complexity come from?" argument entering in at that point. (Christian theism does not posit an organized-complex God in anything like Dawkins' sense.)

So the book is more than an argument that the design argument for God is no longer persuasive. It is an attempt to demonstrate that the biosphere was crafted (pardon the anthropomorphism) by a blind watchmaker, and that there is no sighted watchmaker. It is an attempt to reveal a universe without design.

In 2008 I made the error of writing that the title of the book was about proving a universe without design. When that error was pointed out I corrected it. I still maintain that the purpose of the book is to show that

1. there is no design in the biosphere

2. if there is no design in the biosphere, there is no design; for if it can be shown in the hard case that there is no design, then how much much easier is it to show there is no design anywhere? (See the opening pages of ch. 1)

3. If there is no design anywhere, there is no designer

... which is virtually synonymous with, there is no God.

On that level, Dawkins is making an argument against God.

He includes also his where-did-God's-organized-complexity-come-from argument to try to show that God is a self-defeating concept. That is even more patently an argument against God.

The book is an argument against God, not just a presentation of the non-persuasiveness of the design argument.

This is yet again a horrible misreading of The Blind Watchmaker. The “watchmaker” Dawkins refers to in the first quote cited was Paley's response to the complexity seen in nature. Dawkins argues that Paley got the answer wrong. Organized complexity came, not from a conscious designer with forethought, but by a “blind watchmaker,” natural selection, that has no plans, no forethought. Dawkins is discussing the origins of organized complexity.

Gilson writes, “In his chapter on Origins and Miracles he says that a deistic Creator answer to his argument is 'feeble and obviously self-defeating.' This is an argument against God.”

I'm sorry, but this quote too is taken out of context. And badly. Dawkins is talking about how evolution got started. His comments are referring to the common question that even if evolution is true, how did the “machinery of replication” come into existence? He comments that many people posit god as the one who “set up the original machinery of replication and replicator power […]." He argues that this is a “transparently feeble argument” and “obviously self-defeating.” (199-200) He goes on to write how what he is trying to describe is (gasp!) organized complexity! Here is the quote in full:

Organized complexity is the thing that we are having difficulty explaining. Once we are allowed simply to postulate organized complexity, if only the organized complexity of the DNA/protein replicating engine, it is relatively easy to invoke it as a generator of yet more complexity. That, indeed, is what most of this book is about. But of course any God capable of intelligently designing something as complex as the DNA/protein replicating machine must have been at least as complex and organized as that machine itself. […] To explain the origin of the DNA/protein machine by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer. You have to say something like 'God was always there,' and if you allow yourself that kind of lazy way out, you might as well just say 'DNA was always there,' or 'Life was always there,' and be done with it. (emphasis mine) (200)

Dawkins is discussing the reasons for the complexity in nature and argues that it cannot be a supernatural designer. This is still discussing how organized complexity came about. In this passage he is arguing against god being the reason for that organized complexity. Namely, he could not be the creator of the “engine” of evolution itself that is the cause of complexity. This is not about god's existence. It is about god's alleged role in the process of generating life and kick starting the process of evolution.

Gilson provides another syllogism:

I still maintain that the purpose of the book is to show that

1. there is no design in the biosphere

2. if there is no design in the biosphere, there is no design; for if it can be shown in the hard case that there is no design, then how much much easier is it to show there is no design anywhere? (See the opening pages of ch. 1)

3. If there is no design anywhere, there is no designer

... which is virtually synonymous with, there is no God.

There are a number of problems with this. First, Dawkins did not attempt to show that “there is no design in the biosphere.” (emphasis mine) What he attempted to show was that there was no “apparent design.” Meaning, something that appears to be designed with forethought but isn't. So there is no confusion I think I ought to define the words I'm using. By “design” I am referring to the intentional creation of organized complexity. By “apparent design” I am referring to (as well as Dawkins) that something appears to have been intentionally designed, but it in fact was not. The “apparent design” was caused by a “blind watchmaker,” an unconscious process with no forethought and no intentions. It is a small distinction, but it is important to Dawkins' argument.

Second, this syllogism takes a very large and illogical leap since the premises do not add up to the conclusion: “If there is no design anywhere, there is no designer.” Leaving aside the blunder about Dawkins' intentions to show the cause of the “apparent design” in nature, it does not then follow that this alleged cause does not exist. Allow me to use my own analogy. If my hat suddenly falls off of my head and I look over at my friend who claims the wind knocked it off, but I know he was the one actually responsible and is fooling with me, and I deny the wind was the cause of my hat falling off, am I denying that wind exists? No, this would be absurd. I am trying to explain the cause of my hat falling off. I'm not questioning the proposition that wind exists. That is another question entirely.

Conclusion

I titled this response my “final (?)” reply to Tom Gilson because in his previous response he said that if I did not concede to his (obviously wrong-headed) interpretation of The Blind Watchmaker I was not worth talking to. Well, I have not conceded. Not an inch. And for good reason. Not a single quote cited in the book is an argument against god's existence. What it is is an argument about the best explanation for the complexity of biological creatures. If this signals Tom's departure from this discussion, so be it. Facts are facts and words mean what they mean. Words have a definite meaning, particularly when an author takes such great pains to explain what he means as Dawkins has done.

I wish I could avoid belaboring the point I've stressed repeatedly throughout these several responses to Mr. Gilson, but this quote so soundly refutes his argument I could not resist reminding readers of it here in the Conclusion. Dawkins wrote: “In Darwin's view, the whole point of the theory of evolution by natural selection was that it provided a non-miraculous account of the existence of complex adaptations. For what it is worth, it is also the point of this book.” Now that I have that out of the way I'd like to conclude this response with a few observations.

First, despite my initial misunderstanding about Gilson's chapter I swiftly acknowledged the mistake, but also explained that my mistake was due to the poor wording chosen by Mr. Gilson and the fact that common sense told me Gilson correctly understood the subject of The Blind Watchmaker. However, as Gilson's responses have made repeatedly clear, he did not grasp the subject matter of the book and continues to inject his biases into the text. Despite my repeated attempts to rid him of his distorted views of the book, he continues to repeat past mistakes and continues to make new ones. This appears to be wearing on Mr. Gilson since he felt the need to resort to personal attacks. Attacks that were not only demonstrably false but also nonsensical.

Second, I only hope that if Mr. Gilson decides to respond again he should first reread The Blind Watchmaker, preferably after shaking off the biases he came to the book with, and that he also dispenses with the ridiculous rhetoric and the personal attacks. It only makes his case appear more desperate and error ridden than it already is.

Addendum:

Mr. Gilson has finally replied on his blog to my question and argument about god's attributes and exactly how god interacts with a world he is not apart of. He responded in a new blog post. He writes,

For those who are inquiring into the possibility of God, you could read this post this way: Is this the God you are wondering about?

For those who dispute the reality of God, you could read this post this way: Who is the God you think you are disputing? Do you think about him as he really would be, if theism were true? If not, then you are not disputing theism as you think you are, but some other imagined system of thought.

For example, a few days ago the Arizona Atheist wrote,

Obviously, a theist will argue that god is not bound by the laws of physics, and for the sake of argument I will concede that god is not bound by those laws. However, my question is how does such an immaterial being interact with a material substance and how could it act in a material world? By what processes might god use to achieve this? In addition, these attributes are logically inconsistent. Theists argue that god exists, but then he has no existence. Huh? I believe all of this mumbo-jumbo is merely a snake-oil salesmen pitch to allow god to avoid any logical or factual arguments against him/it/her, whatever. If someone is going to propose an argument, it must at the very least be logically consistent, if not something tangible, based upon the known laws of physics and other processes humans have discovered. Anything less is pointless gobbledygook.

He is not thinking of God as theism understands God, but God as if God were part of God’s own created order. He thinks he is disputing God, but he is instead disputing a god of his own devising.

To dispute the Christian God as a concept, you owe it to yourself intellectually not to dispute some god other than the God in whom Christians believe.

To inquire into the reality of the Christian God, you owe it also to yourself to inquire into the God as Christianity really believes in.

But you might ask us, “How can we know which God you believe in, since by your own admission, there is so much of him beyond human comprehension?” My answer would be two-fold:

1. If you are thinking of God as if God were part of God’s created order, you are thinking of some other God.

2. If you want to know something about God as Christians understand God, there is no better way—in fact, no other adequate way—than by studying the life and message of Jesus Christ.

Gilson failed to respond to a single thing I said. In fact, it's worse than that, because he quoted me out of context! I wrote my response based upon the very attributes of god a Christian philosopher outlined! I wrote, quoting Edward Feser's own words regarding the attributes of god: “ If god is immaterial, outside of time and space, and 'He does not ‘have’ existence, or an essence' (quoting Feser) how can this god affect this material world?”

So to say I don't understand or create a strawman makes no sense. He also failed to quote the entire first half of my response, which makes the reader fail to notice that I did quote the accurate attributes of god. This first half is critical to understanding the quote cited by Gilson. His only “response” was to quote scripture and to restate the proposition to which I was objecting. My question, given Gilson's premise that god is not of this world, is exactly how does this god interact with the world which he is not a part of? And I also questioned the contradictory attributes of god, which Mr. Gilson did not say anything about.

This is why I asked my question. Rather than respond to my question and argument Gilson plays the “No True God” fallacy. But this is the very reason I asked my question. In order to debate something you must have a consistent and logical framework about that which you are explaining. If you do not, then what you are describing is just pure nonsense and you likely don't even understand it yourself. Which seems to be the case with Mr. Gilson. Rather than attempt to advance the discussion he seems content with asserting his inconsistent and illogical proposition without clarifying anything.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

True Reason: A Further Response to Tom Gilson


A few weeks ago I began posting my responses to each chapter of the book True Reason: Christian Responses to the Challenge of Atheism (Patheos Press, 2012) and one of the authors, Tom Gilson, has responded to my critique of the first chapter, which he authored.

While we had a brief exchange in the comments of my critique of the first chapter, Tom has more fully responded on his blog. I will do my best to sort out the obvious confusion on this issue. First, I would highly encourage readers to read my initial critique of the chapter, then Gilson's response, and then my response to him so you can get caught up on the exchange so far. Second, I'd like to note up front that I did indeed misread Gilson's chapter, but I think once this mistake has been pointed out and I point out the reasons I interpreted the chapter in the way I did, it should clear up the confusion and it will also be clear that Gilson is the one who actually made a logical error.

Let's begin. I will quote from Gilson's blog post in its entirety (minus the first section on my spelling of God with a lowercase “g”). When he quotes me I will place those quotations in bold. He writes, quoting me:

First, I was not “responding to Dawkins’ case against god-guided evolution.” Yes, Dawkins focuses on his area of specialty, biology, but his case was against design in general. This is evident in the book’s subtitle: “why the evidence … reveals a universe without design.” The book’s first chapter opens by discussing the complexity of living organisms, and moves directly in its second paragraph to, “Biology is the study of complex things that appear to have been designed for a purpose.” The whole first chapter, which sets the stage for the whole book, is commentary on that.

AA anticipates my response there and writes,

Yes, it’s true that Dawkins’ book only addressed the belief of god-guided evolution, but evolution is Dawkins’ main area of expertise and he wanted to address this specific claim. And this is what he means by “design.” He’s not referring to all design arguments, but only the specific subset dealing with biological design. If someone writes a book with the intention of covering a single topic I think it’s unfair to criticize it for failing to address other related topics.

I don’t know where I made that error in my chapter, although in my more recent response to AA I did say,

Again: suppose evolution happened as he supposes: does that reveal a universe without design? Once you get done with studying evolution, there’s still a whole lot of universe left over! There’s cosmogony, cosmology, fine-tuning, the rationality and explainability of reality, and the full panoply of as-yet-unexplained human characteristics including consciousness, rationality, free will, and worth, which Dawkins didn’t touch in that book (as I recall), and of which no evolutionary account has given an adequate treatment. So in that sense he made a large and fallacious logical leap, too.

I didn’t, however, criticize Dawkins primarily for failing to address other related topics. I criticized him for committing a rather obvious logical fallacy. (This was the whole point of that section of my chapter in True Reason, as well as much of the rest of the book: the fallacious logic so frequently displayed by Dawkins and other New Atheists.) He drew his conclusion — a universe without design — without having demonstrated it. He didn’t even try to demonstrate it, except in one limited set of phenomena, biological evolution.

Had he succeeded in showing design was unnecessary in the case of life, that would have revealed a biosphere without design, not a universe without design. But no, actually, it would only have revealed the scientific and logical possibility of a biosphere without design; which is why I wrote in True Reason that Dawkins disappointed me. He drew the conclusion, there is no design, after arguing a case that could only lead to it is possible there is no design. Alvin Plantinga pointed out the same thing, as I noted in True Reason.

When reading my response to Gilson's chapter it should be pointed out that I quoted him accurately. He wrote about The Blind Watchmaker:

I picked up the book because of its subtitle: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design. I had no idea how he – or anyone – could make a case for that, but I had heard good things about Dawkins as an author, and I was rather hoping he could bring it off. I was looking for a serious challenge, and if he had a way to disprove design in the universe, I wanted to test my mettle against it. […] But it was his argument against design I was looking for, and although he touched on it here and there, he never really landed on it until near the end of the last chapter: Evolution, he says, makes God superfluous, thus there is no design in the universe. That's his argument. There is a way nature could have come about without design, therefore it came about without design. (True Reason, p. 2)

When I read Tom's chapter of True Reason it appeared to me that he properly understood the argument Dawkins was making in The Blind Watchmaker. However, in response to my chapter in the comments section, Gilson appeared to make another, separate argument that, to me, contradicted what he said in his chapter in True Reason.

Having read The Blind Watchmaker I knew it was about debunking the argument for biological design, and I had assumed, with his having read the book, that Gilson was aware of this. So, when he writes in his chapter in True Reason that Dawkins did not successfully address the design argument I assumed he was referring to biological design, and not design in general. But, as Gilson makes clear in this reply, he believes Dawkins' book was supposed to be about rebutting the argument from design, in all its forms, apparently, thus disproving the existence of god. This was where the confusion on my part came in and this is why I thought he was contradicting himself because I was under the impression that Gilson rightly understood the topic Dawkins was addressing, which is biological design in his chapter, and when he responded in the comments, arguing that Dawkins' goal was to rebut the design argument in its entirety, thus disproving the existence of god, I was very confused, leading me to believe he had contradicted himself. But now I see what Gilson was arguing. Unfortunately, this fact does not help his case since his entire argument is based upon a strawman. Dawkins' book addressed the issue of biological design only and Gilson had no effective response to it.

Regarding my comment about “god-guided evolution,” as I noted in the critique of the chapter, I was trying to figure out the reasoning behind why Gilson would argue that Dawkins' argument is illogical and does not disprove there is purposeful design in the process of evolution. Most Christians, while they accept evolution, discount that these natural processes are enough to take god out of the picture entirely, and they believe that god acts to guide evolution in some way. Since I assumed Gilson properly understood the book's goal, I assumed he was referring to biological design and was trying to sneak god in through the back door as Christians often do, to avoid the obvious conclusion that with the facts of evolution by natural selection, god has nothing left to do. This was the reasoning behind my remarks. But now that this issue has been sorted out, it should be obvious that, despite my misreading, Gilsons' argument still fails because he did not address Dawkins' argument, thus creating a strawman because of his misunderstanding.

Now that this issue has been cleared up, I will continue to respond to Gilson's blog post. Gilson writes in his blog post in response to me:

Second, I did not argue that I “agree that Dawkins did successfully argue that point.” What I said was,

So suppose that Dawkins was completely successful in demonstrating that evolution happened as he described. I doubt that he was, but that’s another matter, and for now we can take it for the sake of argument that he did succeed. Suppose he even demonstrated that God was superfluous to the natural history of biological creatures.

That’s a far cry from agreeing that Dawkins was successful!

I'm sorry for the misunderstanding but I was not responding to that quote. I was referring to the quote where Gilson appears to agree with Dawkins' thesis. He wrote: “You are defending Dawkins for 'rebut[ting] the claims of Creationists and Intelligent Design advocates who argue that some feature of evolution could not possibly have occurred naturally.' I agree with you that Dawkins did not fail to address those sets of claims.”

Gilson continues,

Third, AA denies that Dawkins’ intention was to disprove the existence of God. Now, that ties in with other things AA wrote in his response to me:

You say nothing about the very existence of god in your chapter, which is not even addressed by Richard Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker, so why you seem to be changing your argument from one purely about god-guided evolution to one about the existence of god confuses me.

and,

He [Dawkins] said nothing of the kind, that there is no god.

and also,

Once again, Dawkins wasn’t arguing in that book that god does not exist. He was only discussing god’s alleged role in the evolutionary process.

At this point it’s a challenge for me to maintain decorum; that is, it’s hard not to burst out in laughter. To argue that the universe is without design, while also maintaining that the design argument is “always the most influential of the arguments for the existence of God,” is indeed to argue against the existence of God—whether or not one says, “I am now commencing an argument against the existence of God.”

Let’s see just how Dawkins viewed his arguments in relation to the existence of God. On page 4 of The Blind Watchmaker, in the 1996 edition I’m reading, Dawkins writes,

The watchmaker of my title is borrowed from a famous treatise by the eighteenth-century theologian William Paley. His Natural Theology — or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature, published in 1802, is the best-known exposition of the ‘Argument from Design’, always the most influential of the arguments for the existence of God.

Two pages later, he writes,

An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: ‘I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn’t a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.’ I can’t help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

Dawkins’ argument against design is quite definitely an argument for atheism and against God.

First of all, there is not a single quotation in the book that can be pointed to where Dawkins remotely says anything like, 'because evolution explains biological design, there is no god.' He says nothing of the sort in the entire book. Second, Gilson takes the first quote of Dawkins out of context. Here is the quote in full, which illuminates Dawkins actual intentions with this statement:

The watchmaker of my title is borrowed from a famous treatise by the eighteenth-century theologian William Paley. His Natural Theology — or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature, published in 1802, is the best-known exposition of the ‘Argument from Design’, always the most influential of the arguments for the existence of God. It is a book that I greatly admire, for it in his own time its author succeeded in doing what I am struggling to do now. He had a point to make, he passionately believed in it, and he spared no effort to ram it home clearly. He had a proper reverence for the complexity of the living world, and he saw that it demands a very special kind of explanation. The only thing he got wrong – admittedly quite a big thing! - was the explanation itself. He gave the traditional religious answer to the riddle, but he articulated it more clearly and convincingly than anybody had before. The true explanation is utterly different, and it had to wait for one of the most revolutionary thinkers of all time, Charles Darwin. (Blind Watchmaker, 2006; 7-8)

Once you finish the quote it should be more than apparent what Dawkins actually said. Was he attempting to prove god does not exist? No! He cited Paley's Natural Theology because of his excellent presentation of the argument from design, which was the topic addressed in The Blind Watchmaker. Dawkins is digressing about why he chose the title for his book that he did, and explains how he greatly admires Paley's book. Dawkins goes on to explain the relevance of Natural Theology to his own book. Is it to one-up Paley and disprove god? No. Paley's intention was to posit god as the reason for the apparent design in nature, while Dawkins wanted to explain that it is not god, but blind forces, namely natural selection, that is the driver of the apparent design in nature. As Dawkins noted: Paley got the reason for the design wrong. He said nothing about disproving god here.

Let's take a look at the second quote, which Gilson also takes out of context. Here is the quote in full, page 10:

Paley knew that it [the organized complexity of living things] needed a special explanation; Darwin knew it […] In any case it will be my business to show it here. As for David Hume himself, it is sometimes said that that great Scottish philosopher disposed of the Argument from Design a century before Darwin. But what Hume did was criticize the logic of using apparent design in nature as positive evidence for the existence of a God. He did not offer any alternative explanation for complex biological design, but left the question open. An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: ‘I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn’t a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.’ I can’t help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. (emphasis mine in bold)

It should be clear from the context that Dawkins was still addressing the issue of biological design, not arguing against all forms of design. He is also not making an argument against god. What he is arguing is that after Darwin an atheist had a logical, scientific explanation for design in nature. No more did an atheist have to rely purely on Hume's philosophical argument that Dawkins argues is 'unsatisfying.' After Darwin, an atheist could be “intellectually fulfilled” by this knowledge about how nature was “designed” and that this knowledge is very satisfying. This fact, however, does nothing to respond to any of the other arguments for god, and Dawkins said nothing of those. He was only addressing biological design, just as he did throughout the entire book.

Let's continue with Gilson's further comments:

Nevertheless AA thinks Dawkins’ book is only about belief in God’s role in evolution. He quotes the critical passage:

We cannot disprove beliefs like these, especially if it is assumed that God took care that his intervention always closely mimicked what would be expected from evolution by natural selection. All that we can say about such beliefs is, firstly, that they are superfluous and, secondly, that they assume the existence of the main things we want to explain, namely organized complexity.”

And referring to that, he reminds me,

In fact, where you quote Dawkins as saying that “God is “superfluous” he is not referring to god at all, but a certain belief about god’s role in evolution.

I grant his point there, except that (a) through his carelessness in logic and in the wording of his subtitle, among other things, Dawkins made it about design in general, as I already said, and (b) Dawkins believes he is poking a large and irreparable hole in any reason to believe in God.

Now, AA is correct: Dawkins did not say in so many words, “therefore there is no God.” (Dawkins knows English well enough not to have written, “there is no god.”) I’ll accept that critique. It is a distinction without a difference, in my view; and besides that, if this is the best counter-argument anyone can successfully muster against me, I think I can stand the sting of that.

I am pleased that Gilson has conceded this portion of his argument, and I see that after pointing out how he took this particular quote out of context, he went looking for new quotes to support his argument, which I just previously addressed. But, as we saw, he is grasping at straws trying to defend this distorted reading of Dawkins' book. I believe he should concede defeat on this point. I've been reading Dawkins' book the last week or so, double checking to ensure I wasn't in error in thinking Dawkins does not address god, and there is indeed nothing there.

The final issue addresses “divine simplicity.” Gilson writes,

AA has this question to add to the mix:

I would agree with you that theologians have often described god as simple, but at the same time I’ve never been able to understand how someone can make such strong assertions about the nature of something to which we have no evidence for. What is the basis for this assertion? It is philosophy, theology, the bible? I would be much appreciative if you could answer this for me.

It’s a very good question, and more involved than I can address here. In short, though, its basis is in a philosophical reflection on what God must necessarily be, if God is. That is, if we’re talking about God, then by definition we are talking about God in his ontological simplicity. If we’re talking about some being that is not ontologically simple, then we are not talking about God, but (and maybe AA is right here) maybe about god, some unknown deity that no one here believes in. But I cannot go into this any further here. I will refer you to Edward Feser for more.

I appreciate that Gilson provided me with this blog post, but I had a feeling this premise was based upon nothing but a pile of unjustified assumptions and philosophical mumbo-jumbo. If god is immaterial, outside of time and space, and “He does not 'have' existence, or an essence” (quoting Feser) how can this god affect this material world? We know through physics that all matter is composed of atoms and this is why we are able to interact with the world, but how could something that is immaterial, and not made of the same “stuff,” act in a material world? It would be like a ghost, another example of an immaterial entity, interacting with objects like chairs and other objects that are composed of matter, of atoms. It's physically and logically impossible for this to happen. Obviously, a theist will argue that god is not bound by the laws of physics, and for the sake of argument I will concede that god is not bound by those laws. However, my question is how does such an immaterial being interact with a material substance and how could it act in a material world? By what processes might god use to achieve this? In addition, these attributes are logically inconsistent. Theists argue that god exists, but then he has no existence. Huh? I believe all of this mumbo-jumbo is merely a snake-oil salesmen pitch to allow god to avoid any logical or factual arguments against him/it/her, whatever. If someone is going to propose an argument, it must at the very least be logically consistent, if not something tangible, based upon the known laws of physics and other processes humans have discovered. Anything less is pointless gobbledygook.

Conclusion

After going through Tom's response I am happy that we cleared up this misunderstanding, and it is now clear to me, as it should be clear to any readers, that Gilson did in fact misunderstand The Blind Watchmaker and he did not offer a successful rebuttal since he did not grasp the topic of the book.

It should also be clear that my misreading was an honest accident due to Gilson's poorly worded chapter. He did not make it clear at all that he believed the book was about design in general, and not solely focused on biological design. I believe my assumption was entirely justified since most people read a book before forming a conclusion about an author's thesis and it should be clear to anyone that book titles do not always clearly describe a book's contents, and neither does an author often get to choose the title of their books. The publisher often decides what will be a gripping title that will grab the attention of a potential reader. And the subtitle, Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design, I think flows better than Gilson's wordy title: “ Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Biological Design.” Most readers probably wouldn't even know what this would mean, so they simply chose to use the word “Design,” knowing that anyone who read even the first few pages of Dawkins' book would see it was addressing biological design, not the design argument in all its forms, which makes no sense anyway. Cosmology is outside of Dawkins' expertise so why would he devote an entire book on the Cosmological Argument, let alone all of the other design arguments? The very idea Dawkins would do this simply strains credulity.

Regarding the philosophical explanation (and I use that word very loosely) of god's eternal nature. This argument is contradictory, thus logically unsound, and it is based upon nothing tangible.