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Average customer rating:
3.0 out of 5
ISBN/ASIN : 0281059276
Manufacturer : SPCK Publishing|
Release data : 2007
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Fundamental flaws throughout
The problems arise immediately, even before opening the book. McGrath is off to a poor start with the title of the book (which betrays his animosity for Dawkins in an otherwise superficially congenial book). He implies that Dawkins (henceforth RD) is delusional about god. A delusion is defined (Amer Heritage Dict) as "A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence". So, then, what belief is the author referring to? There isn't one. It is actually lack of belief. But even if you can be delusional about a lack of belief (e.g. George Bush doesn't exist), it still won't apply. What is the "invalidating evidence" for RD's lack of belief? In other words, to call his lack of belief in god "delusional", very powerful evidence for god's existence must be presented. Otherwise, it's just petty name-calling. Not surprisingly, there is none of that powerful evidence presented. He obsessively refers to "evidence", "scientific rigor", "rationality", and other scientific catch phrases in a pathetic hope that by saying them repeatedly, it will almost appear as if those concepts were actually applied. He knows that his readers (mostly believers) want to consider themselves rational and clear thinkers who rely on evidence (who doesn't?). It's easy for a believer to miss the fact that no evidence for the existence of god is actually presented. But he, as a former scientist and current Oxford theologian, is most likely fully aware of that glaring omission. This makes him disingenuous, at best.
One need not go any further than the subtitle to find yet another foundational flaw of the book: the use of the term "Fundamentalist". It is a term that doesn't apply to a lack of a belief. Atheism is simply the lack of a belief in god. So what, then, separates a "fundie" atheist from a regular atheist? They both go as far as you can in their lack of belief (absolutely none). Simply put, there are no "fundamental" beliefs to be a "fundamentalist" about. "Atheism is the absence of belief in gods, nothing more and nothing less, so there is nothing "fundamental" for atheists to "get back to" in order to achieve a more pure or original atheism." (from about.com). This would seem a minor problem if it were confined to the cover of the book. Unfortunately, the baseless theme of "atheist fundamentalism" is one of the underlying theses of the whole book. Yet, I continued on.
The next foundational flaw involves no less than the whole purpose of the book. He states that he doesn't want to refute every point in TGD, just certain points. How convenient and utterly dishonest! He claims that a devastatingly comprehensive point by point refutation is within his capabilities but would be too boring. Also, one would think that, given the brevity of his book, he would use only his most powerful and convincing arguments. Well, if these are his best points, then his ability to completely dismantle RDs book is suspect, to say the least (The debate they had has verified this). But let's take a closer look at a few of the details.
1)"Religion has made a comeback" (p 8): Even if everyone believed in god, it would not make it true.
2) "I was...totally persuaded of the truth...of atheism" (p 9): He repeatedly invokes his supposedly atheist roots as though it gives him more credibility. (It's irrelevant. Should spend the few pages on logic and evidence)
3) He calls RD an "aggressive antireligious propagandist with an apparent disregard for evidence" (p 12): Yet he provides none of this counter-evidence (while at the same time insulting him, as he does throughout the book).
4) Recounts a story in which "a very angry young man" (an atheist whose "faith" was shaken) accosted him after a lecture because AM "had demonstrated , by rigorous use of scientific, historical, and philosophical arguments" that RD's case against god falls apart. Again, just keep *saying* it's evidence-based. Maybe nobody will notice that it's not there. (prove me wrong). Plus, it's irrelevant (and, at least to me, sounds like BS).
5) He willfully misrepresents the Santa Claus analogy (p 20), calling it "flawed" because people never start believing in Santa as adults. Analogies are meant to compare similar aspects of 2 different things that are otherwise dissimilar. The intent is to gain a deeper understanding of the thing that is in question by comparing it to something that is more understood. Examples are the heart as a pump or the eye as a camera. All analogies break down at some level (yes, all). The whole point of the analogy is that neither belief (god or Santa) is based on evidence. That's it.
6) An entire chapter (that's a quarter of the book) is devoted to debunking a claim that RD never made (Ch2, Has science disproved god). RD clearly states that he cannot definitively disprove god (both in his book and in interviews and debates).
7) In Ch 3(Origins of Religion), he attacks the concept of the meme. Again, irrelevant. This is the either/or fallacy. If memes didn't do it, it must have been divine revelation. He once again fails to give any evidence at all for his own position. Thus, Ch 3 is also off the mark.
8) Religion/the bible isn't all bad. It says nice things too. True, but he misses the point (again). The point is (sigh) there's enough bad in it to make it seem unlikely that the bible is the source of our morals. This, incidentally, renders another entire chapter superfluous (Ch 4, Is Religion Evil).
There isn't room enough to catalogue all the basic flaws but I think the ones I have outlined show that the book does not achieve its stated purpose. Bottom line is this: This is a rebuttal book without a rebuttal. It's like non-adhesive tape or a car that won't run. Its fundamental intended purpose is not fulfilled. In other words, it failed. 2 stars (vs 1) because I was impressed that he can write an entire rebuttal essay without addressing any of the key points of the argument in which he intends to rebut. Plus he is a good writer and superficially civil. PS, I welcome comments, especially from those who vote that this review is not helpful.
An Intelligent Community Initiative Top 500 Book
An extremely lucid analysis of Dawkins' book. While not a point-by-point refutation of the Dawkins argument, as McGrath readily admits on page 13, "The Dawkins Delusion" goes in a different direction, taking a bird's eye view of the Dawkins book, replying to it in broad strokes. And quite successfully at that. Practically every page has some sort of quotable "aha!" insight into subtle problems with the Dawkins line of argument, which would not be available necessarily to every reader of "The God Delusion".
Here are just three examples: on pages 28 and 29, McGrath points out that the supposed improbability of God, if true, would not necessarily entail God's nonexistence, in the same way that the actual improbability of human existence does not demonstrate that we do not exist! A brilliant analogy, so obvious when made, yet not necessarily apparent at the outset. A second example focuses on Dawkins's highly-refined ability to smuggle in metaphysical statements in seemingly empirical observations (using the power of "enthymeme", which we cover extensively in our book), demonstrated on pages 36 and 37 with a rewrite of a Dawkins paragraph in "The Selfish Gene" by Oxford physiologist and systems biologist Denis Noble. And a third example is on pages 42 and 43, taking apart point by point the surveys supposedly demonstrating that scientists are less religious than they were before.
And on and on it goes. We highly recommend this book to all who are interested in opening their mind on this important debate.
Why did I waste my time with this book?
What was McGrath trying to accomplish with this book? Perhaps she was trying to preach to the converted, who will surely try to find solace in someone responding to Dawkins marvelous book in writing, even if their rants don't make any sense at all.
I honestly believe that McGrath was only trying to capitalize in those who will buy her book and shelve it as a "response" to Dawkins, without ever reading it.
It's sad that people even take this propaganda writer seriously, I know I won't be doing it again!