KARL  JASPERS  FORUM

 

TARGET ARTICLE 106

 

 

 

STRUCTURING  IN  THE  UNSTRUCTURED  -  IS  GOD  A  DELUSION ?

by Herbert FJ Müller

26 February 2008, posted 1 March 2008

 

 

[1]
ABSTRACT

 

This paper discusses some questions which are re-activated on the occasion of reading the book ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins.  He recommends abandoning theism in favour of atheism.  --  His argumentation is very well written and documented but handicapped by his naturalist epistemological view, which is similar to the theistic ones which he criticizes, in that both eliminate the subject from a fictitious supposedly mind-independent reality.  The result is that the discussion of God is confined to the question whether or not he exists mind-independently; and to the intellectual and social difficulties resulting from theism.  This neglects the need to consider holistic experience.  --  From a constructivist subject-inclusive viewpoint, one may understand mind-independent theism as a human tool, developed from a more original subject-inclusive religion that is centered on the encompassing aspect of experience, for which Dawkins’ point that ‘God does not exist’ is not relevant.  --  The desire for mind-external authorities is in part a consequence of the human invention and use of language, which has resulted in a bewildering increase of possibilities for thought and action.  In order to deal with this difficulty, mind-external guiding authorities were then invented, affirmed and for reasons of social control often imposed on everyone.  --  But when such as-hoc fictions are presented as absolutely true nowadays, they are not easily compatible with increasing knowledge.  Therefore the concrete guidelines and images tend to dissolve more and more in science, religion, and art, despite counter-reactions from many who feel threatened by this development.  Naturalism can on the other hand become intolerant just as do other dogmatic beliefs.  --  The human need to create and maintain adequate subject-inclusive working-structures including meaning is now more pressing than ever.

 

 

[2]

INTRODUCTION

 

After the disintegration of many of the dogmatic communist regimes around 1989, dogmatic religion has filled a doctrinal gap, and once more become an important political guiding force.  As it happens with all ideologies when they are mistaken to be of absolute validity instead of being used as human tools, religion can become counter-productive, as witnessed by some of its recent international side effects such as Bin Laden’s inexhaustible supply of suicide bombers and the elections of GW Bush as US president.  Richards Dawkins’ book ‘The God Delusion’ (2006) puts these and related problems into perspective.  He recommends giving up theistic belief in favour of atheism; he does so forcefully and in an elegant style, and has assembled a large amount of relevant historical material as well as examples from his personal experience, in public discussions and written exchanges.  This is a stimulating book, and an important achievement.*  I will here discuss some aspects of this topic (page numbers refer to Dawkins’ book).

 

 

[3]
GOD  AND  SUBJECT-FREE  MATERIALISM

 

Dawkins’ proposition is complicated by his epistemology which he calls intellectual materialist monism, and which he apparently thinks is needed for science.  He writes it means that ‘mind is a manifestation of matter’ (pp.209-10).  ‘Our brains construct a continuously updated model of what is out there’ (p.113), that is to say, of a postulated mind-independent reality (MIR).  The alternative view he discusses, and rejects, is ‘dualism’, which ‘distinguishes between matter and mind’.  His opponents and other discussants often seem to start from the same or a similar basis, or alternative. 

 

[4]
The problem is that the mind cannot be a manifestation of matter because matter is a concept structured within the mind; this is, if you like, a topological question.  Materialism-type of opinions are based on traditional (naïve) metaphysics-ontology, which assumes that one can know (about the existence, or various other aspects, of) a mind-independent reality, transcending experience by doing so  -  it means being oblivious to warnings since the time of Plato that this cannot be done.  This neglect is easy to comprehend, since Plato’s opinion was couched in ambiguous language :  though MIR cannot be known, it is nevertheless supposed to be ‘real’; and one can see its shadows (commonly called ‘appearances’) on the wall. 

 

[5]
But such comprehension does not remedy the problem :  that in all types of MIR-belief the subjects are amputated from reality (and further that, in part due to this absence of subjects, the beliefs can often not be corrected).  Because of that, MIR-beliefs are dysfunctional, and consequently, materialism and other MIR-views cause conceptual difficulties in a number of fields, for instance concerning the question of the mind-brain relation, as just mentioned, and as previously discussed in various texts in this Forum.  However, a great many publications and discussions are based on these and similar problematic epistemological premises.

 

[6]
In Dawkins’ book it results in his claim that the existence or non-existence of God is a ‘scientific question about the universe’ (p.73).  The discussion about ‘God’ remains confined to the question whether or not ‘He exists’ (namely, mind-independently, objectively; in chapters 3 & 4), and to problems like the many intellectual and moral oddities and absurdities in theistic books, practices, and political opinions, particularly fanatical ones; the strange arguments of creationists and intelligent-design advocates, or the positive geographical association of crime rates with conservatism in the US (p.263).  All these are indeed of concern, but Dawkins’ main question misses the target. 

 

 

[7]
SUBJECT-INCLUSIVE  WORKING-ONTOLOGY,

        STRUCTURED  FROM  NO  GIVEN STRUCTURES

                 NO  TRANSCENDENCE, 

                           BUT  FEEDBACK  FROM  TOOL  USE

 

In the following I examine this aspect from the zero-derivation structuring (0-D) point of view, which has been discussed in this Forum (see TA 1 and other texts in KJF).  Mind-and-world-and-all working-structures are tools formed within experience, and do not refer to any pre-fabricated mind-external structures; they would have to be fictitious anyway, since it is not possible to leave or ‘transcend’ the bubble of ongoing subjective experience.  Seen from there, subject-exclusive MIR-objectivity (often assumed to be the essence of ‘scientific’ thinking) is a secondary technical development, a helpful procedure for many scientific questions; but it can function only as a shortcut for subject-inclusive knowledge; it becomes easily counter-productive when this is overlooked.  And indeed all belief in MIR-ontology, not only the one concerning God, requires a leap of faith to outside the bubble (for instance to a postulated fictitious MIR-agent called ‘Nature’, with naturalism as a non-theistic religion).  The leap itself can in principle not be reconciled with critical thinking, but it is rarely corrected.  There are often severe social penalties for attempts to reverse the leap, particularly in fundamentalist religions and ideologies.

 

[8]
Dawkins writes that ‘Constructing models is something the human brain is very good at’ (p.116), although he is by no means a constructivist, since he is apparently firmly convinced of his MIR-ontic naturalism.  But science does not need ontology (only the fictitious MIR-science does), and cannot produce, but only dissolve, ontology.  Science requires working-concepts and working-assumptions, which are tested by feedback during use.  That may result in ‘mid-course’ corrections, and if successful it can with their help develop reliable mechanisms like space shuttles or DNA analysis.  When MIR-ontology is understood as a shortcut for a subject-inclusive view, it becomes working-ontology, or as-if-ontology.  This means a change from traditional belief in metaphysical MIR-entities to an awareness that one uses working-tools within ongoing experience.  That heeds Kant’s observation that onta (or noumena, ‘things-in-themselves’) are needed for thinking, although they cannot be ‘known’.

 

[9]
The difference in views between MIR-belief and 0-D structuring is of little consequence for much of knowledge, including science, to the extent that word-gestalt entities are available and reliable; but it becomes important in the absence of objectifiable gestalt properties, especially for questions dealing with the mind and its encompassing aspect.  All mental structures are produced by humans  -  and by animals   -  as needed and possible, and can to some extent become externalized, including the God concept.  How adequate (viable, as vonGlasersfeld calls it) they are, is determined via feedback to the center of experience when using them.  But without a constructivist correction, the subject-exclusive MIR-thinking tends to introduce an unnecessary   -   and entirely avoidable   -   complication of understanding.

 

 

[10]
SUBJECT-INCLUSIVE RELIGION

 

Concerning religion, this point is illustrated by the fact that (initially unstructured) mysticism can avoid the subject-exclusion problem of MIR-reasoning.  Dawkins writes that mystery stimulates scientists to work on problems (p.152; occasionally scientific progress is even achieved in dreams).  This function of mystery as a source of structures can be extended to religion.  One should also remember the philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend’s insight that there are only some islands of sense in an ocean of irrationality.  Dawkins seems to think that irrationality needs to be explained as a deviation from rationality (p.215); he got this upside down, including for scientific work, because all working-structures of rational thinking are structured within unstructured (i.e., ‘irrational’) encompassing experience.

 

[11]

The following quotation can serve as an example of religious mysticism; it is from the writing of the (originally Lutheran, later converted Catholic) physician, priest, and mystic Angelus Silesius (Johannes Scheffler), 1675.

 

“ 8. GOtt lebt nicht ohne mich.

 

Jch weiß daß ohne mich GOtt nicht ein Nun kan leben /

Werd' ich zu nicht Er muß von Noth den Geist auffgeben.

 

[God does not live without me.  I know that without me God cannot live an instant / If I perish He must of need give up His spirit.]

 

9. Jch habs von Gott / und Gott von mir.

 

Daß GOtt so seelig ist und Lebet ohn Verlangen /

Hat Er so wol von mir / als ich von jhm empfangen.

 

[I have it from God / and God from me.  That God is so contented and lives without desire / He has as well from me / as I have received from Him.] ” 

 

[12]

Scheffler employed ‘God’ as an extrapolation of himself, as his personal universal spirit, a conceptual tool for handling the encompassing aspect of his mind.  This subject-inclusive God-concept is neither a mind-independent objective fact nor a delusion; it serves to coordinate the unstructured center of thinking with its structured periphery.  It is a response to a human need that everyone has, for overall understanding and perhaps structuring (but as in Scheffler’s instance, it does not require an MIR-God (p.394).  It can be answered by a variety of techniques and of beliefs.  Dawkins himself seems to manage this need by generalizing a naturalist faith, although he also appears to pretend that there is no such desire  -  stiff upper lip syndrome ?).  For Scheffler, God remained entirely identical with himself, the subject.  Feedback from a previously externalized conceptual tool to the center of experience does not apply here; the feedback (if you want to call it that) is built-in, immediate, as it is in meditation generally.  That is an earlier and more original aspect of religion than the (secondary) theistic MIR-type dogma.  If the presence of the unstructured center is acknowledged, this kind of attempt is entirely compatible with analytical thinking, and Dawkins’ question of the MIR-existence of God does not arise.

 

 

[13]
MIR-ON-MIR  CRITIQUE

 

But it does come up with respect to the secondary MIR-theisms.  MIR-theism is derived and externalized from subject-inclusive religion by eliminating the subject as well as the possibility of feedback, turning God into a subject-exclusive entity-in-himself, an absolute external authority which often does not even allow considering alternatives.  Then Dawkins’ critique is justified, but both the theistic belief and the critique are based on the same erroneous MIR-premises.

 

It also applies for instance to all MIR-beliefs of eschatological type, like the notion that suicide bombers go to heaven immediately after death.  That belief can, in the absence of post-mortem feedback, only be maintained by pre-mortem MIR-indoctrination.  The mid-course point where correction might be undertaken  -  when people find out whether or not they are in fact in heaven  -  would be after the explosion.  The only available feedback is pre-mortem, and consists of social approval and indoctrination, with no possibility of correction except by reversing the leap of faith, and that is usually a dangerous proposition.

 

 

[14]

GOD,  GESTALT,  AND  LANGUAGE

 

And furthermore, the God question is closely related to more general conceptual developments, related to a chain of effects resulting from the human invention and use of language as a new instrument, added to the earlier gestalt configurations, in part enforcing tendencies present at a pre-verbal level (the following is quoted from Müller, 2007, section 4).

 

“ ... In comparison with non-verbal animals, language use

1. enables a great increase of possibilities for individual and collective thought and action, but this is accompanied by

2. uncertainty of what to think and do, and thus

3. a need for certainty-mechanisms. That is answered by

4. assumptions of mind-external certainties (reality, MIR, onta), which have long been used in the form of a word-image-conceptual scaffolding to stabilize subject-inclusive operational structures, which were felt to be unreliable, vague, or arbitrary. But this procedure leads to a belief in a primary or ontic subject–object split, and causes an inversion of thinking, where mental tools are assigned a role of external, sometimes absolute, authority over thinking. Then the word-image certainties can also become barriers that 

5. restrict freedom of exploration, including in particular a

6. disappearance of subjectivity, which in turn

7. prevents the study of the mind–brain relation. ... ” 

 

[15]
The fourth step in this list involves several aspects.

 

A stabilization of concepts results from adding words to earlier gestalt-formations which are predominantly though not exclusively visual in type.  One may at times forget that gestalt-entities define to a large extent what one calls ‘reality’.  The supra-individual communication aspects of language, including written texts, may be over-interpreted as indicating a mind-independent validity of the word-gestalt-concepts.  They are then used for MIR-ontology purposes; their mind-external nature, existence, and obligatory nature is implied and may also be officially proclaimed and codified.

 

Circumscribed gestalt entities (stones, genes, sheep, individual people) are well suited for such a procedure, although the MIR-interpretation is mistaken.  Official standardization (dictionaries, encyclopaedias, etc.) can facilitate thinking, communal life, and social control. 

 

[16]
But this is less clear for entities without visual-gestalt features :  qualia, generalities, possibly subatomic particles, and particularly the central aspect of experience where concepts form but which cannot itself become completely structured, because it is encompassing (umgreifend, Jaspers), it is the unstructured and unstructurable (‘irrational’) matrix of all structures. 

 

Still, individuals and societies have a need for reliable function in that area as well.  For one thing, there is a need for expectations (and rules) for behaviour and for hierarchies of command.  Rules fill a gap which results from the under-determination of ‘behaviour’ by instinctual mechanisms, and they are more effective coming from a postulated absolute authority.

 

[17]
Then there is a need for (shared) understanding.  This too is often answered by the invention and structuring of fictitious overall MIR-authorities like Gods, God, Nature, etc., which may or may not be concretely understood as person-like (anthropo-morphic, pseudo-gestalt).  Terms like ‘cosmic consciousness’ also tend to aim at complete structuring.  Or also by proclaiming the absolute MIR-correctness of some ideas that are thought to offer all-encompassing structures; this includes for instance subject-exclusive scientific ‘theories of everything’, which shows that MIR-science also discovers a need for holism (this is not paradoxical if naturalism is seen as a religion, but MIR-TOEs are not ‘of everything’).  The subject-exclusion in communism typically leads to dictatorship by default, because ideas and ‘systems’ by themselves don’t ‘run people’ (see also [23] below).  Theisms are at least more honest, since the dictatorship of God is clear from the start.  

 

[18]
Since humans (as well as animals) create all of their mind-and-world-and-all structures, beliefs in mind-independently pre-structured entities, ideas, and authorities imply an inversion of thinking (Müller 2005); that conflicts with intellectual analysis, because MIR is (working-)fiction.  The difficulty can be addressed by acknowledging that MIR-beliefs are shortcuts for subject-inclusive working-structures, which serve as tools for thinking, in analogy to tools like words or numbers.  To deal with the encompassing, there is the possibility of techniques like mysticism or nirvana experience, where the subject remains the agent, despite being unstructured at the center (Müller 2005).   (Buddhism can serve as an atheistic religion, if concrete beliefs like transmigration of souls, etc., are discarded.)

 

 

[19]
RELIGIOUS  ART  AND  FAITH

 

In December 2007 I visited the Kolumba Museum of the Catholic Archbishopric of Cologne, which had recently opened, a remarkable place.  It is on the site of the late-gothic Kolumba Church in the center of town, which had been destroyed by bombs in the second world war.  A Madonna statue survived the event, and in 1950 a small chapel was built around it amongst the ruins (‘Madonna in den Trümmern’, architect Gottfried Böhm).  Recently the place was converted into a museum (Swiss architect Peter Zumthor). 

 

[20]
The ground floor consists of the exposed foundations of three successive churches, from Frankish times to the late Gothic structure, and of Roman structures from before that.  High  above, on steel pillars, are two museum floors which show the Kolumba church’s saved treasures, relics, flags, sculptures, and a Madonna painting by Stephan Lochner (~1450).  They are intermingled with and surrounded by modern and very modern art, much of it abstract, and mechanical moving sculptures (Rebecca Horn), with two works referring to the holocaust.  It includes works by Beuys, Warhol, Jawlensky, and many others.  One room shows three medieval crosses surrounded by, among others, three large paintings entitled ‘dark grey’, ‘grey’, and ‘light grey’ (R. de Crignis 2005), whose visual content is exactly what these titles say. 

 

[21]
Almost simultaneously with the museum’s opening, a large new window was installed in the nearby Cologne Cathedral’s south transept.  It has an abstract design, by Gerhard Richter, consisting only of coloured squares, as arranged by computer.  In relation to the other (traditional) windows of the Cathedral, there is the same kind of contrast as in the museum. 

 

(Dawkins suggests that medieval cathedrals are ‘architectural peacock’s tails’, because their construction required an enormous amount of work, and they were ‘never used for any useful purpose’ (p.192).  This last I would say is a considerable over- (or rather under-) statement; or else it points to a (deliberate ?) blind spot for the individual and social need to deal with the holistic part of experience, including his own (see [12] above).  And further, he does not mention, as he evidently should, the pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal, Buckingham Palace, the Château de Versailles, or the Brandenburger Tor.) 

 

[22]
My reaction to these artistic puzzles was trying to understand what the intention of the artistic arrangements might be.  The museum’s little guidebook recommends :  ‘look, let your fantasy roam, think, ... take art seriously, beyond the words ... ’  Good advice, I would say.  Here is some of my roaming thinking :  Does the Church (the Vatican, or the diocese) here want to convey the modern development not only of the spirit of art, but of the faith as well ?  Does the old concrete meaning of religious beliefs now dissolve into ever more diluted  -  or more precisely :  less and less anthropomorphic, and generally less structured   -  contents ?  (Although this trend goes counter, for instance, to the recent creation by the Vatican of a large number of new saints (Dawkins p.56), and the recognition of ‘miracles’ associated with that.)  How close is this disappearance of structure in the development of art and architecture related to the dissolution (‘ruination’, maybe) of religious faith structures ?  Can a concrete theistic faith be replaced by a computer program, or more likely by meditation, by nirvana experience where structures disappear ?  (see also pp.110-112)

 

 

[23]
RECEIVED  ANTHROPOMORPHIC  PRE-STRUCTURES 

                                     VERSUS  ACTIVE  STRUCTURING 

 

I do not intend these questions to be a destructive statement; quite to the contrary, I suggest they reflect the present epistemological situation :  the recognition that we have to structure everything and create stability as we go along, and temporarily only.  No mind-independent mechanisms of any type can replace our agency   -   notwithstanding the ambiguities of Plato and Kant, nor the partly functional MIR-proposals of theists since Abraham, of naturalists since Thales, of formalists since Frege and Russell, and of computer-scientists since Turing (p.327).  Due to the ever greater functional power of science-knowhow and its conflicts with MIR-beliefs, we can no longer ignore the need to be in charge of our creations, despite the impossibility of central structuring, which is an important practical difficulty (Müller 2005).  As Dawkins puts it, ‘the nineteenth century is the last time when it was possible for an educated person to believe in miracles like the virgin birth without embarrassment’ (p.187).  -  That does not make things easy, but at least it shows where we are, and what we have to do.   

 

[24]
This dissolution or disappearance of religious structures is related to the one in non-religious MIR-contexts.  As Francis Crick proposed in his ‘astonishing hypothesis’ :  subjective experience is nothing but (an after-thought maybe of) the activity of a neuronal network.  Dawkins might add that the body is nothing but a by-product of the activity of a bunch of selfish genes.  And James Watson told him that although there might be no purpose in life he still anticipated having a good lunch (p.126). 

 

[25]
Does it then follow that the meaning of life is nothing, or else a delusion ?  More specifically, do selfish genes and Darwinian insights prevent us from creating meaning ?  This is of course where the creationists come in.  And Watson seems to agree with them; he thinks that the purpose of life has traditionally come from a God outside us :  but where did he get his urge to study DNA ?  Presumably not from a lunch menu.  In any case (as Crick has unintentionally demonstrated), a task like understanding and deciphering the DNA-code differs from questions involving the center of experience, which cannot become a word-gestalt-object.  And nowadays everyone can, or should be able to, structure, or not structure, and name, or not name, his belief as he sees fit  -  and preferably also remain open to the discussion of its basic premises and consequences.

 

 

[26]
BELIEF,  DELUSION,  MENTAL  ILLNESS,  NUTTINESS,  AND  ANAESTHESIA

 

How sensible is it to call God a delusion ?  The Vatican does better :  the official advice is that one needs to make an ‘ontological leap’ to the Christian faith, which is more helpful than just to claim that ‘it is so’.  This too does not address the conceptual problem adequately, since ‘God’ is usually also seen (by default ?) as a mind-independent agent and sovereign authority.  But at least nowadays they don’t claim, in contrast to some fundamentalist Christian and other sects, or to Dawkins in his book, that God’s existence (or non-existence) can be determined by an empirical (MIR-objective, ‘scientific’) or else purely conceptual (‘ontological’) method (p.103ff).  And further, shouldn’t naturalism also be called a delusion, since it too requires an irrational leap of faith ?

 

[27]
Also, one needs to make a distinction between beliefs which have been sanctioned by cultural practice and are generally accepted as cultural cement, and others that represent fanatical opinions, usually of one or a few people (when there are many it means trouble).  There are many shades of opinion between these possibilities.  Thus it is difficult to justify a general statement like ‘God is a delusion’, although the confrontation of MIR-belief with its analytic dissolution will always cause conflicts.  --  That ‘God’ is an ad-hoc tool does not qualify it as a delusion; numbers share this property, and although some people waste a lot of time and effort to determine whether numbers are mind-independently real, the question whether they are delusions does not come up. 

 

[28]
And furthermore, ‘delusion’ implies mental illness.  Does Dawkins want to claim that all believing theists, Jews, Christians, Muslisms, etc., are psychotic (and have always been psychotic) ? (pp.112ff)  But he also writes that in Europe theistic beliefs were standard until the 18th century, including for scientists (for instance for Newton, Faraday, Maxwell; p.124).  Does he want to imply that delusions only occurred after 1800 ?  He does not really discuss this question, and instead goes into ‘simulating software in the brain’ (p.113).  In the preface he writes that delusion is a false belief (p.27), but for ‘God’ this is debatable (see [10] to [12] above).  And again :  how about naturalist beliefs ? 

 

[29]
In milder language, does he want to say that all believers are nuts, except materialist believers like himself ?  The desired result of such a ‘scientific’ judgment would in that case presumably be  -  who wants to be officially nuts ?  -  along the lines of the pre-frontal amputation (or at least anaesthetizing) effect resulting from the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, or the 5-times daily brainwashing of some religious routines, or of Fidel Castro’s 5-hour speeches, to prevent unauthorized thinking, to keep the faithful in line. 

 

Generally, considering the functional properties of faith might be more useful than polemics about its MIR-derivatives by means of MIR-based criticism.

 

 

[30]
SOME  HISTORICAL  DEVELOPMENTS 

             TOWARD  AND  AWAY  FROM 

                           CONCRETE  ANTHROPOMORPHIC  THINKING

 

(a) Movements toward concrete ontic metaphysics-like anthropomorphic theism are motivated generally by a desire for unity and authority.  For primitive societies this involves a move toward unity from shamanism and specialized gods for every aspect of life. 

 

In advanced societies it can be a counter-reaction against the erosion of metaphysical certainties by knowledge, for instance :

 

Hypatia of Alexandria was a Greek philosopher who was killed, for religious reasons, by a Coptic Christian mob in about 415 AD.  This event is sometimes said to mark the end of the Hellenistic age and philosophy with its scepticism, and the beginning of the Middle Ages, when everything suddenly became clear as per dogma, with no need for further thinking.  

 

Dawkins points to the change in US political thinking, from the time of the explicit secular opinions of Thomas Jefferson and his colleagues, to the present prominence of fundamentalist religion in some geographical areas, and in the government, of the US (pp.60 ff).  This concretization occurs chiefly in the less educated (p.128f).

 

Another example is the present clash of Islamic societies with the modern world.  They are moored in medieval thinking  -  the Ayatollah Khomeini was praised by Iranian authorities as a ‘fine medieval scholar’ when he came back from Paris in 1979 to replace the Shah. 

 

(b) Movement away from anthropomorphic beliefs :  The incompatibility of MIR-belief with general scientific knowledge results in protests against infringement on personal autonomy, enquiry, and initiative, and against intellectual domination.  The levels of intelligence and education are relevant for that (pp.123-130).

 

(c) The irreversible historical development related to science and technology tilts the balance in favour of moving away from MIR-beliefs, despite strong counter-reactions.  Bin Laden has recently suggested that in order to resolve the conflicts everyone should convert to Islam  -  that might tone down the confrontation, but not for long.  Nevertheless, a desire for concrete beliefs remains, and can be expected to remain, particularly in parts of the world and of the population that have not participated in, or identified with, the development.  This is an ongoing dynamic relationship which has to be dealt with; but maybe one should not appoint such people to public office.

 

--------------------------------------

 

NOTE

 

* That it is deliberately polemical is a strength of Dawkins’ book; as such it can help to heighten awareness of these questions, and it stimulates a frank reply, as I try to give in this article.  In the blurbs the publisher says that everyone should read it, and that it will change the world.  Perhaps so, but although the book sells well, that might require some special marketing strategies, such as lobbying spiritual leaders, with appropriate financial and other incentives, to make it obligatory reading for their followers.  One could think of Pat Robertson, the Mullah Omar (this would cover, to start with, some of the Taliban in America (p.323) and Afghanistan), Bruce Chapman of the Discovery Institute, and the King of Saudi Arabia, among others.  They might also profit from Dawkins’ tossing in a free French lesson for the benefit of those who were mis-indoctrinated in school :  ‘sang froid’ translates as ‘a bloody cold’, and ‘coup de grâce’ means ‘lawn mower’ (p.222 fn; from ‘Fractured French’ by FS Pearson).  And once you go to the trouble to think about it, all of this is of course perfectly clear.

 

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REFERENCES

 

Angelus Silesius (Johannes Scheffler) (1675),  Der Cherubinische Wandersmann.  Available from Projekt Gutenberg <http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/?id=5&xid=50&kapitel=4&cHash=a52ee37cb9cheru101#gb_found>

 

Crick F (1994), The Astonishing Hypothesis.  The Scientific Search for the Soul.  New York :  Scribner’s.

 

Dawkins R (2006, 2008), The God Delusion. (Paperback edition) Boston, New York :  Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin.

 

Feyerabend P (1999), Conquest of Abundance.  A Tale of Abstraction versus the Richness of Being.  Chicago : University of Chicago Press.  (pp.32-33)

 

vonGlasersfeld E (1991, 1999), Knowing without Metaphysics :  Aspects of the Radical Constructivist Position.  http://www.kjf.ca/17-TAGLA.htm

 

Jaspers K (1947 / 1991), Von der Wahrheit.  MünchenZürich : Piper.

 

Müller HFJ (2005), People, Tools, and Agency:  Who Is the Kybernetes ?  Constructivist Foundations 1.1

http://www.univie.ac.at/constructivism/journal/articles/1.1.muller.pdf

 

Müller HFJ (2007), Brain In Mind - The Mind-Brain Relation with the Mind at the Center. Constructivist Foundations 3.1,   http://www.univie.ac.at/constructivism/journal/articles/3.1.030.muller.pdf

 

Vatican communications often emphasise the present official position concerning the need for an ontological leap.  A recent example is : <http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0600273.htm>

 

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Herbert FJ Müller

     e-mail <herbert.muller (at) mcgill.ca>