God new evidence

GOD: new evidence


Misquoting Dawkins?

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.'

A third objection that people have raised to our video 'A contradiction at the heart of atheism?' is to claim that we are misquoting Richard Dawkins.

I will come to a more specific response to this objection in a moment, but first, it is worth noticing that there is a basic misunderstanding here: the point of the video is not about Dawkins (he is just an illustration). The point is that there is a problem for atheists when they want to have real right and wrong, without any grounding for it. They want to have their moral realist cake and eat it. But, as Andy Bannister says:

If you deny the existence of God, any moral values you advocate for are nothing more than your personal preference.

Dawkins is a good example of this, because if his claim that there is no good or evil in the universe is true (there are no objective morals), then his claim that religion is evil can be nothing more than his personal preference - and why should we care about that?

However, I think the claim that we are misquoting Dawkins is wrong. This claim can go down one of two paths:

But how are we mis-representing him in these short quotations? If you read the quotations in their wider contexts, how does this change what he means?

First meaning

Maybe we can agree that in the first quotation, Dawkins is saying that there is no objective right and wrong 'out there' in the universe.  This seems to be what he is saying. If you read the quotation in its wider context, this still seems to be what he is saying. If you think this is not what he means, please explain why. Call this 'meaning 1.'

If this is so, there can be no things that are really bad or really good.  Everything is just a matter of personal preference and subjective opinion.

Second meaning

Maybe we can also agree that when Dawkins says that religion is evil, he is just giving us his subjective opinion about it, or his personal bias against it. (Call this 'meaning 2.). Again, if you think that this is not what he means, please explain why. But if it is just his personal preference, why should we care?

When he calls religion evil, Dawkins is trying to move us rhetorically with the idea that there really is something objectively bad about it.  In other words, he is trying to capitalise on meaning 1 above to give some weight to his use of meaning 2.

Or perhaps he's just confused.


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