Thursday, January 17, 2008

The God Delusion: Chapter 1

When I was younger, the Iron curtain divided the world and I used to listen to propaganda broadcasts from around the world. I used to particularly enjoy shortwave radio from Poland, Uzbekistan and the BBC. Science in Action was my favourite program. The most far out station I ever heard though was Radio Pyongyang from North Korea.

"The God Delusion" seems to come from the North Korea style of propoganda. Radio Moscow was subtle, and so it was slightly believable. Not so for DPRK. They were full of anecodotes about how corrupt and horrible the West was and void of real information. Living in the West it seemed laughable. That training is very useful for reading "The God Delusion".

The main point of the first chapter is:
Great scientists... who appear to be religious usually turn out not to be.
Off the top of my head I can name many scientists with religious beliefs. Let's see:
Coperinicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Boyle, Bacon, Kelvin, Maxwell, and in quantum mechanics specifically: Max Planck, Born (a Jewish convert to Christianity) and Heisenberg (who was a Lutheran).
I have always thought that people who resort to "Proof by Einstein" is a completely bogus way to argue anything. He treated his wife abysmally - having a mistress, and not even mentioning her in his scientific work - so he's not the sort of person I'd take a moral or religious lead from. I certainly wouldn't expect a Proof by Einstein from a scientist. But that's exactly what Dawkins does.

I think Dawkins portrayl of Einstein as an atheist is best refuted by the Einstein himself:
My position concerning God is that of an agnostic.
A thoughtful agnostic of the type that Dawkins reserves some of his most vicious vitriol for.

We don't have to put up with the type of wishy-washy anecdotal claims from Dawkins about the blanket beliefs of scientists being atheist. There are valid scientific studies into the religious beliefs of top scientists. For example this one:
Our study data do not strongly support the idea that scientists simply drop their religious identities upon professional training, due to an inherent conflict between science and faith.
There are more atheists who become scientists (as a proportion) than in the general population, but the study concludes that this is self-selecting:
It appears that those from non-religious backgrounds disproportionately self-select into scientific professions.
In fact the biggest increase (as a proportion) of people who become leading scientists is not among atheists, but among Jews (2% of the general population compared with 15% of scientists).

The rest of chapter 1 is an anecdotal rant against muslims. It could be taken from any far right wing magazine, and I don't have much time for that type of hatred directed at anybody.

So far this book is only notable because it's rude. Hopefully it will improve...