Pharyngula

The Courtier’s Reply

There’s a common refrain in the criticisms of Dawkins’ The God Delusion(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) that I’ve taken to categorizing with my own private title—it’s so common, to the point of near-unanimous universality, that I’ve decided to share it with you all, along with a little backstory that will help you to understand the name.

I call it the Courtier’s Reply. It refers to the aftermath of a fable.

I have considered the impudent accusations of Mr Dawkins with exasperation at his lack of serious scholarship. He has apparently not read the detailed discourses of Count Roderigo of Seville on the exquisite and exotic leathers of the Emperor’s boots, nor does he give a moment’s consideration to Bellini’s masterwork, On the Luminescence of the Emperor’s Feathered Hat. We have entire schools dedicated to writing learned treatises on the beauty of the Emperor’s raiment, and every major newspaper runs a section dedicated to imperial fashion; Dawkins cavalierly dismisses them all. He even laughs at the highly popular and most persuasive arguments of his fellow countryman, Lord D. T. Mawkscribbler, who famously pointed out that the Emperor would not wear common cotton, nor uncomfortable polyester, but must, I say must, wear undergarments of the finest silk.

Dawkins arrogantly ignores all these deep philosophical ponderings to crudely accuse the Emperor of nudity.

Personally, I suspect that perhaps the Emperor might not be fully clothed — how else to explain the apparent sloth of the staff at the palace laundry — but, well, everyone else does seem to go on about his clothes, and this Dawkins fellow is such a rude upstart who lacks the wit of my elegant circumlocutions, that, while unable to deal with the substance of his accusations, I should at least chide him for his very bad form.

Until Dawkins has trained in the shops of Paris and Milan, until he has learned to tell the difference between a ruffled flounce and a puffy pantaloon, we should all pretend he has not spoken out against the Emperor’s taste. His training in biology may give him the ability to recognize dangling genitalia when he sees it, but it has not taught him the proper appreciation of Imaginary Fabrics.

I’m afraid that when I read H. Allen Orr’s criticism of The God Delusion in the NY Review of Books, all that popped into my head was a two-word rebuttal: Courtier’s Reply. You would be amazed at how many of the anti-Dawkins arguments can be filed away under that category.

That’s all you’ll get from me on Orr’s complaint—it’s another Courtier’s Reply. If you want a more detailed dissection, Jason Rosenhouse provides it.

Comments

  1. #1 David Marjanovi?
    December 24, 2006

    all of which speak to people’s real needs.

    Then why don’t I have any such needs?

    Oh, and… as far as I remember, string theory is testable. It’s just that no humongous enough collider exists yet.

  2. #2 blake
    May 17, 2008

    @ PZ -

    Would this be a correct articulation of the Courtier’s Reply?

    “A Courtier’s is given to someone who attacks his or her opponent’s lack of specific knowledge concerning the subject he or she opposes, when such knowledge would not alter the argument at hand.”

  3. #3 Jesse
    May 28, 2008

    I’ve gone through some of this thread, and I will admit I haven’t read Dawkins’ book.

    But I have read other essays of his, and some of his other work.

    Here’s something I don’t get.

    Dawkins treats religion as an unmitigated evil, and I admit on my bad days I think so too.

    But there are many times when religion has played a positive role. Abolitionism in the US wasn’t based on any scientific premise at all, merely a moral one, that scientists don’t have much use for (because that isn’t what science is for.)

    For example, I can make a “scientific” argument for slavery (it demonstrably provides economic growth in the absence of machinery) or against (people are not biologically different from one another therefore deserve equal treatment).

    I can do that because science isn’t made for certain questions, like “what is the meaning of my life.”

    I spent a lot of time talking to Native people about their land rights. It was, at its root, a religious movement. There is no scientific justification for giving those people their land back. But I don’t think most people here would argue that the treatment Native people got was justified in any way.

    So I’m not sold on “religion is evil and should be erased.”

    In that sense, whether Dawkins can disprove the existence of god(s) seems almost beside the point. That’s the objection I think Orr is raising, in part. God doesn’t exist. OK, so what? There’s a host of questions that are still rather open at that point, and it doesn’t seem to me that proving whether god exists or not addresses any of them.

    Any bad behavior on the part of Churches has been duplicated by non-churches, so I can’t see how god’s existence addresses institutional problems like that, for instance. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Atheist Questioning Society are just as likely to have a bunch of power-hungry abusers in them. They’d just manifest in slightly different ways.

    I don’t buy theological arguments for God either. But like I said, for a lot of things Dawkins discusses that’s beside the point, it seems.

  4. #4 Notkieran
    May 28, 2008

    Memphis @ #122:

    Actually, as a member of a family that loudly proclaims itself as buddhist, and having observed the rites of Buddhists acting under the auspices of Buddhist organisations:

    Buddhists _claim_ to have no god, but they then address prayers to Buddha, proclaim edicts of behaviour as being offensive to Buddha, and, in short, conduct their lives in a manner indistinguishable from a theistic sect.

    First rule of anthropology: the etiquette proclaimed by a group is in no way demonstrative of what the group actually does, the same way that people who proclaim the omnipotence of God will then proclaim that he is powerless to defeat evil.

  5. #5 Notkieran
    May 28, 2008

    Jesse @ #166:

    You make the case that:

    >Abolitionism in the US wasn’t based on any scientific premise at all, merely a moral one, that scientists don’t have much use for (because that isn’t what science is for.)

    >For example, I can make a “scientific” argument for slavery…

    But then you miss the point that the case for slavery was ALSO religious– the doctrine of “The children of Canaan” states that all the dark-skinned descendants of Ham in the Southwest– Africa– are destined by the Bible to be slaves.

    Thus, you cannot argue that religion is good because the abolitionists used it without first addressing the fact that antiabolitionists _also_ used it.

    The issue of slavery or non-slavery is a moral one, and the fact is that religions cannot justify morality without a priori moral principles that exist separate of religion.

  6. #6 Notkieran
    May 28, 2008

    My bad. I meant the doctrine of the “Curse of Canaan”, not “children of Canaan”

  7. #7 Kseniya
    May 28, 2008

    Right. Morality exists apart from religiousity. Sometimes they overlap. It’s possible to be moral, unscientific, and irreligious all at once. In fact, that might be the default state for the unindoctrinated human mind. :-)

  8. #8 Notkieran
    May 28, 2008

    Kesniya: I may be more cynical than you, but as a teacher, I find it more effective to asume amorality.

    On the other hand I’m a big believer in motivating my students through their base instincts.

  9. #9 Steve in MI
    May 28, 2008

    Jesse, since this archival thread is already a couple of years old, I don’t think it’s the best place to re-ignite an active discussion. But as a frequent passerby, let me offer a reply or two.

    I don’t think it’s correct to say Dawkins et al think of religion as an “unmitigated evil”. My personal belief is that religion is a great mitigated evil. Messages of kindness (where they exist), interesting (if wasteful) buildings, and remarkable music (albeit with some of the scariest lyrics ever) serve to mitigate – not necessarily counteract – the problems which religion spreads.

    You’re right to differentiate science and philosophy, although they are not entirely unrelated. But your example of indigenous land rights is not the place to try to argue that religion is an appropriate base for morality. Religious morality is necessarily limited to the tenets of each particular religion. Many of the North American First Nations peoples hold a historic belief in common land ownership by divine right; the bible of the Christians – who now number almost 80% of the U.S. population – says “be fruitful and multiply”. The go forth and conquer message is obviously incompatible with the Mother Earth worldview. One needs look no farther than the Israel/Palestine conflict to judge the effectiveness of religion as a moral compass for the resolution of real estate disputes.

    The broader point is that there are rational means by which a local, national, or global society can agree upon a common moral code. Freedom, individual rights, mutual aid, common benefit, and equality of treatment are points on which persons and nations can agree without resorting to a religious authority. In fact, one can arrive at a much better consensus by rational means, since they are not limited by the inherently self-serving limitations of the various religious viewpoints.

    Separately, to your suggestion that “any bad behavior on the part of Churches has been duplicated by non-churches”: try that argument again if you hear of Pastafarians starting wars, Atheists objecting to medical treatment for poor people, and humanists clogging downtown neighborhoods with corporate-owned tax-exempt real estate. Your claim that “They’d just manifest is slightly different ways” defines the word “slightly” in a way with which I’d not previously been familiar.

  10. #10 Aegis
    May 28, 2008

    Regarding this:
    “It does a disservice to those Greek astronomers to compare them to theologians. While Ptolemaic astronomy does indeed fail in a variety of ways, it still was a good model that fairly well predicted the motions of the planets and stars, even allowing the construction of mechanical computers to automate that prediction.”

    I believe the same – I’ve even made a T-shirt about it! If you happen to be a La Fraise member (or want to sign up) and vote to get a science-friendly shirt printed, please do:

    http://www.lafraise.com/contest.php?op=lafraise_submission&lang=en&submission_id=117427

  11. #11 Brendan S
    May 28, 2008

    The point isn’t that religion is morally evil. THe pointis that religion is morally neutral. People horrible things WITH or WITHOUT religion. People do good things WITH or WITHOUT religion. (Except in cases of the ‘No Real Scotsman/Christian’ argument)

    Why is this important? Because arguments about the existance of God generally go like this:

    God Exists.
    No he doesn’t.
    Okay, but you can’t PROVE he doesn’t.
    Oh yeah? You can’t prove he DOES!
    But all these people believe in God!
    Lots of people believe (insert historical or modern example here.)
    But look at all the good in the world! It’s created by God.. *OR* Look at all the good things God fearing/loving/etc.ing people do.
    Oh yeah? They do terrible things too.

    In other words, it’s generally a central pillar of the argument FOR religion ‘Okay, maybe God doesn’t _really_ really exist, but people who worship him do great things.’

  12. #12 eyelessgame
    May 28, 2008

    I think Dawkins makes two different points, and he’s on much firmer ground with one than the other.

    Dawkins asserts that the God Hypothesis is wildly improbable. Apart from his simple complexity argument (which frankly one could demolish simply by pointing out that it’s perfectly imaginable that God might have evolved His enormous complexity, and then created the world and everything in it), the stronger (and indeed compelling) argument is simply that there’s no evidence of any god. And he’s right, and therefore there’s no need for the hypothesis.

    But Dawkins goes on to say that religion, besides being false, is evil.

    I am not sure that’s fair or true. I don’t think he’s on firm ground with it, and I don’t think he engages the critics of that reasoning in a fair way. I have trouble considering that something which honestly brings joy to many peoples’ lives is entirely, or even mostly, evil.

    Religious extremism certainly is. But I am comfortable asserting that basic, ordinary, everyday religion isn’t — it’s no more evil than fandom (which it resembles more than either side would care to admit) — fandom of Star Wars, or sports, or prominent bloggers, all is more than a little like religion.

    For some religious folks I know, religion is less about God than about the community. Caring for a community and helping it — that’s not evil. Yes, of course this can be done in the absence of religion. And what makes it religion is that there’s a god lurking behind it. But imperfect vehicles are still vehicles. If religion is the mechanism by which some people care about their communities, then religion, at least in that context, is a good thing. Could it be replaced by another good thing? In the abstract, sure. In the world we actually live in? Only with massive effort and reprogramming.

    Now, reasonable people can disagree. I’m not going to sit here and insist that you all agree with me that religion isn’t bad. But I think that, as a point of argument and philosophy, it is both ineffectual and invalid to conflate the two claims (god does not exist, and religion is evil).

    It’s also unfortunate that this seems to descend into argument ad consequent: even if religion were evil, if it were true we should be compelled to agree with its hypotheses. If God were both real and a monster, honest people would still agree that God was real. If a real god existed and worship of that god compelled worshippers to treat their fellow man badly, deny themselves necessities or luxuries, and so on, but they would be rewarded (or escape harsher punishment) for engaging in that worship, still many of us understandably would worship. Because God would be real.

    The evilness of religion has no bearing on the God Hypothesis. It’s a shame that Dawkins didn’t stick to the topic.

  13. #13 eyelessgame
    May 28, 2008

    I wrote the above before reading all of Orr’s article. He lets loose with some howlers. He writes “Does anyone really believe that the Church’s dreadful dealings with the Nazis were motivated by its theism?” and then immediately after, “it’s hard to believe that Stalin’s wholesale torture and murder of priests and nuns (including crucifixions) and Mao’s persecution of Catholics and extermination of nearly every remnant of Buddhism were unconnected to their atheism.”

    Buh? Totalitarians exterminate rival powers. That’s not really much to do with theism or atheism.

    And I note he sidesteps Nazis’ persecution of Jews. Which was inextricably connected with their theism.

    okay, never mind. Ignore my earlier comment. Orr is a nutjob.

  14. #14 His Shadow
    July 22, 2008

    But, (Dawkin’s) a bush-leaguer in philosophy.

    And again and again and again. Is this really all Dawkin’s critics have? That Dawkin’s is unqualified to discuss how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    Without any evidence of the primary assumption, theological or philosophical ramblings in support of the existence of any god is verbal masturbation. There is no need to argue over intricate methodologies for measuring the height of a house of cards and claiming said measure is a determination of it’s robustness. It is enough to pull one card from the bottom and watch it fall.

  15. #15 Kel
    July 30, 2008

    Every time I read this it still makes me laugh. It’s the perfect reply to any theological discussion.

  16. #16 Metacrock
    August 1, 2008

    why can’t you just face the fact that Dawkins is a fool? Instead of try to dismiss his ignorance and stupidity by attacking the knowledgeable people who point it out, just face the fact the guy knowing nothing about theology at all, and he still criticizes it. that’s the mark of a real idiot.

  17. #17 Jesse
    August 12, 2008

    Dear God…
    An excellent piece or writing; i’m still dismayed at those who are convinced by the — i suppose you could call it “mature, modern theology” (as opposed to fundamentalism) — justification for religion. Anyone with a remotely open mind can see the biting yet simple logic (and i don’t mean to demean him by saying this) of Dawkins’s argument against theology: if there is, in all likelihood, no god, then the study of the seemingly infinite nuances of that non-entity’s will/behavior/general psychology/etc. becomes irrelevant.
    People like myself pose the simple question, “if god truly wants us to believe in him, why doesn’t he just show himself?”
    The typical response is, of course, that doing so would defeat the purpose of faith.
    Aside from the asinine nature of such a reply (the much simpler explanation is that you don’t see something — or even any evidence for it — because it’s not there), this line of reasoning, in light of the utterly dire consequences of disbelief, does not lend itself to the argument that “god is love;” if anything, it shows god as vicious trickster who is perfectly willing to cast the majority of the world’s population into the fiery chasm — with complete impunity — for all eternity, thus making all of the torturers and mass murderers throughout history (religious people, i even encourage you to invoke Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc.) seem like simple schoolyard bullies.

  18. #18 Kristen
    August 16, 2008

    Thank you for enlightening me to the fact that I am stupid, that my personal experiences are all delusions, and that my careful reasoning is completely beside the point– which is that I am stupid and that my personal experiences are all delusions.

    However, may I point out that you have begun with the assumption that I am stupid and that my personal experiences are all delusions, and have not proven these assumptions?

    Your “Courtier’s Reply” is nothing more than a mockery on top of a mockery. Mocking has the very real effect of nullifying in your own mind any possibility of validity in the thing you are mocking, so that you cannot ever actually consider it on its own merits. It seems to me that this kind of self-congratulatory, group-think atheism is actually the Emperor without clothes.

  19. #19 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 16, 2008

    However, may I point out that you have begun with the assumption that I am stupid and that my personal experiences are all delusions, and have not proven these assumptions?

    What personal experiences?

  20. #20 Kristen
    August 17, 2008

    Nope. Not going to spill my guts to be trampled on, thanks anyway.

  21. #21 melior
    August 17, 2008

    Thank you for enlightening me to the fact that I am stupid, that my personal experiences are all delusions, and that my careful reasoning is completely beside the point– which is that I am stupid and that my personal experiences are all delusions.

    If personal internal experiences were infallible, we would all have agreed on The Answers to Life’s Big Questions long ago. This is a world filled with mutually contradictory personal revelations.

    A big part of science is realizing that everyone’s understanding is incomplete and partly wrong, and we each have to be willing to let go of what we thought we knew just yesterday, to make room for the next bit of truth. That’s not a crime, it doesn’t mean you’re stupid, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. By pooling all our knowledge we can tease apart the truths that survive the experience. Many of yesterday’s truths will be casualties.

    It’s good that this story made you think. Sometimes people are reluctant to let go of a path they have invested a lot of effort in, even when they learn that they were heading down a false trail. It’s very human to feel embarrassment at the messenger in such cases.

    In the end, none of that time you spent was really wasted — everyone is stuck somewhere, trying to figure out the next step to take. The real question you might ask is what will I do with the time I have left?

  22. #22 Owlmirror
    August 17, 2008

    Nope. Not going to spill my guts to be trampled on, thanks anyway.

    This is something I’ve seen before: Some religious people, will, with prompting or without, describe some intensely personal experience, and have it pointed out to them that this experience is not evidence of God.

    Others, though, seem to lack the courage of their convictions, and kinda already suspect that their personal experiences are not convincing evidence for God. So they mention them… and then they back away from actually discussing them.

    Kind of like courtiers when pressed for the actual evidence of the Emperor’s clothes.

  23. #23 Sven DiMilo
    August 17, 2008

    “Personal experiences” like special revelation, vouchsafed to you but (cruelly?) denied the rest of us? Must be nice to be so special.
    One time my buddy Bob was absolutely certain–100% dead sure–that Jerry Garcia had worn a space helmet for the entire second set (Grand Rapids MI, 1980, if I remember correctly, which is kind of unlikely). The rest of us hadn’t, uh, noticed, but he could not be dissuaded. How is your “personal experience” any different than that?

  24. #24 Kristen
    August 17, 2008

    The tone of superiority here has not changed. One person even thinks I was serious that your close-mindedness and disrespect for any perspective but your own, had somehow convinced me of my “false trail.” What makes you so sure it’s not your trail that’s false?

    And now I’m accused of backing off from explaining my experiences to you because I’m not sure of them. Have any of you given me any reason to trust you? Any reason to think you wouldn’t greet my words with anything other than the self-congratulatory mockery you’ve shown to date?

    You’re glad your posts have “made me think.” Not even a trace of willingness to think about my side of the question has been shown here.

    The only thing I can even attempt to communicate here is that I resent your attitude. Perhaps you might consider at least thinking about that.

  25. #25 negentropyeater
    August 17, 2008

    Kristen,

    you wrote a post #181
    Rev. asked you a question in the most straightforward and simple possible manner #182
    you chose not to reply with a perlocutionary speech act #183

    Then you’re complaining about the tone of superiority ?

    And if you don’t trust people, then why are you here ?

  26. #26 Owlmirror
    August 17, 2008

    What makes you so sure it’s not your trail that’s false?

    If there were a real entity that was powerful, knowledgeable, and good, that entity could and would speak for itself.

    Since there is no entity that speaks for itself, there is no real entity that is powerful, knowledgeable, and good.

    Have any of you given me any reason to trust you?

    Why should you need to trust us? If your experiences were real, how would disbelief and mockery from any of us change them?

    You do still seem to be implying that you don’t even trust your own words to be convincing.

    Any reason to think you wouldn’t greet my words with anything other than the self-congratulatory mockery you’ve shown to date?

    Probably not. But your lack of confidence in yourself and your experiences speaks for itself.

    The only thing I can even attempt to communicate here is that I resent your attitude. Perhaps you might consider at least thinking about that.

    Yet I cannot help but think that your resentment arises because you fear that the nonexistence of God is in fact true, and you seek to deny this nonexistence by blaming the messenger, as it were.

    Or to put it another way, you are decrying the blunt rudeness of the ones who are pointing out the nudity of the Emperor, while carefully averting your eyes from said nudity.

  27. #27 Kristen
    August 17, 2008

    I was directed here by a friend who was amazed at the tone here and wanted me to see it. I spoke up because it made me as angry as it made him. But it’s not worth it– anything I say can and will be held against me.

    FWIW, not every time someone refuses to continue in conversation with you, is it because you’re so right they have nothing to say. Sometimes it’s simply because they know they won’t be given a fair hearing.

    I’m not hanging around.

  28. #28 Owlmirror
    August 17, 2008

    I spoke up because it made me as angry as it made him.

    You were free to speak up, and we are free to respond.

    But being angry does not mean that you are correct.

    But it’s not worth it– anything I say can and will be held against me.

    It’s interesting that you use the formula for judgment. Yes, your words will be held against you, because you are making a claim, not just about yourself, but about the nature of reality itself. Of course your words will be judged for whether they are honest or fraudulent, or at least, self-deceptive or self-serving.

    Sometimes it’s simply because they know they won’t be given a fair hearing.

    I am not sure a fair hearing is possible. How can there be, when all of theology is based on the unfair illogic of assuming your conclusion?

    I’m not hanging around.

    No-one is compelling you to stay, except perhaps yourself.

  29. #29 khan
    August 17, 2008

    I was directed here by a friend who was amazed at the tone here and wanted me to see it. I spoke up because it made me as angry as it made him. But it’s not worth it– anything I say can and will be held against me.

    FWIW, not every time someone refuses to continue in conversation with you, is it because you’re so right they have nothing to say. Sometimes it’s simply because they know they won’t be given a fair hearing.

    I’m not hanging around.

    I assure you that will break my heart and render my life meaningless.

  30. #30 MartinM
    August 17, 2008

    FWIW, not every time someone refuses to continue in conversation with you…

    One can’t continue a conversation which never started. You didn’t come here to talk, you came here to be offended in our general direction.

    FWIW, not every time someone hold the things you say against you, is it because you’re not getting a fair hearing. Sometimes that’s precisely what a fair hearing entails.

  31. #31 Kel
    September 12, 2008

    I was at a lecture last night on fundamentalists, and the lecturer called Dawkins and Hitchens fundamentalists. He said that nowhere in their books do they take into account modern theologians who have critically analysed the idea of God and came up with modern versions.

    This popped into my mind right away. :P

  32. #32 Owlmirror
    September 12, 2008

    Link to Blake Stacey’s Latin translation, Responsum Aucili

    Since comments on that thread are now closed, I will just note here that I think that “Mawkscribblerius” should rather be Latinised as [something]scrivenius (or something similar). Sentimenscrivenius? I see that “mawk” originally meant “maggot” … Larvaescrivenius?

    Hm.

  33. #33 Daily Sourdough
    October 7, 2008

    Flogging a dead thread maybe, but it’s amazing seeing the sheer gulf between believers of faith and advocates of reason. Faith is precisely that: something is true because it says it is true, not because of any evidence for it.

    Let’s say a bunch of people believe there’s an Invisible Teapot in orbit around the moon, and they spend years debating about its colour, the pattern delicately painted on its surface, the volume of tea it can hold. When someone sends a space probe loaded with the latest instruments to check for the existence of this teapot, nothing is found. Ships full of astronauts go into lunar orbit and no one bumps into the teapot. The Teapotists keep claiming that, although it’s invisible and can’t ever be detected, it’s still there and they’ll never stray from that belief despite the lack of evidence.

    I think one very difficult thing about becoming an unbeliever is the sheer inertia of faith. Once you join a religion (I’d hate to use “embrace”), the religion itself has self-correcting behaviour to prevent you from leaving. Any crises of faith are the temptations of the Devil or a test from God to further strengthen your faith. The religious solution to that is even more faith in the form of prayers, consultations with priests, loading up on scripture etc. You end up going round and round until you either decide to jump off and approach the world with reason or keep believing. It’s never comfortable to realize that you were wrong, especially when it comes to a lifetime spent preparing for an afterlife. What would happen if the Catholic Church found it had no basis for existence, or if Muslims spent their lives praying for nothing? The political impact would be enormous.

    I think it takes a lot of courage to be an atheist and to face the world as it is, not as you would wish it to be.

  34. #34 Darren
    January 16, 2009

    I do see the Courtier’s Reply technique often, and especially in response to books by Dawkins and similar material.

    I’m not sure the review in question fits that pattern; it depends how you interpret the bits that do in the context of the rest of the review.

    I read Orr’s commentary as saying, essentially: “Dawkins, you make good points, but by treating all people’s religious beliefs as simple and ill-considered, you’ve both alienated most of your audience and failed to address your more-sophisticated opponents.”

    If you read carefully, you’ll note that Orr concedes that Dawkins’ position is “probably right”, which gives me a strong clue that Orr’s commentary is on the quality of Dawkins’ persuasion, not on the correctness of the arguments presented.

    I tend to agree with Orr on some level (though I think he’s a bit unfair in some ways as well). The God Delusion is an excellent argument against religion as practiced and thought about by the majority of its adherents. Unfortunately, it fails to address likely counter-arguments that more sophisticated religious philosophers could reasonably raise; and it does so in part by lumping all of the spectrum of religious belief into a few caricatures.

    I enjoy Dawkins, and I don’t think TGD was bad, by any stretch. However, I don’t think it makes an argument that will be compelling to theists who’ve given their beliefs a great deal of thought.

  35. #35 Owlmirror
    January 16, 2009

    I tend to agree with Orr on some level (though I think he’s a bit unfair in some ways as well). The God Delusion is an excellent argument against religion as practiced and thought about by the majority of its adherents. Unfortunately, it fails to address likely counter-arguments that more sophisticated religious philosophers could reasonably raise; and it does so in part by lumping all of the spectrum of religious belief into a few caricatures.

    Well…

    I think Dawkins did acknowledge that tGD is a popular work rather than a deeply philosophical one; his included bibliography has works that contain much deeper analyses.

    And the Courtier’s Reply is meant to emphasize that when the “more sophisticated religious philosophers” are carefully analyzed, that sophistication is illusory: Theology all comes down to either faith, or facile equivocation, or both (usually committing various unacknowledged fallacies to boot).