The God Delusion Discussion. TTA Book Club #2
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09-06-2013, 06:01 AM
The God Delusion Discussion. TTA Book Club #2
Oy! Round # 2 of our book club discussions is upon us with our next title being The God Deulsion by Richard Dawkins. As a quick reminder, we will be discussing Arguably by Christopher Hitchens next month. That is a rather voluminous collection of essays, so we have quite a lot to discuss in that one.

Back to Dawkins. I loved this book. It was the first thing I read after admitting to myself I didn't believe in any god. It is no less poignant now. What I really like about Dawkins and this book is that he approaches the subject of god and religion from a very scientific mindset. And with a scientific approach that begs the question of "why didn't I think to be skeptical to begin with?" He makes numerous great points and uses a lot of examples and research studies to back them up. One sticks out more than the others for me, morality and the series of questions asked to respondents. I especially when the questions are adapted to a tribe with no ties to traditional religions.

As I am on my phone, I'll leave it there and open it up to the rest of ye heathens.

“Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.”
—Thomas Henry Huxley
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09-06-2013, 06:05 AM
RE: The God Delusion Discussion. TTA Book Club #2
(09-06-2013 06:01 AM)TheBeardedDude Wrote:  Oy! Round # 2 of our book club discussions is upon us with our next title being The God Deulsion by Richard Dawkins. As a quick reminder, we will be discussing Arguably by Christopher Hitchens next month. That is a rather voluminous collection of essays, so we have quite a lot to discuss in that one.

Back to Dawkins. I loved this book. It was the first thing I read after admitting to myself I didn't believe in any god. It is no less poignant now. What I really like about Dawkins and this book is that he approaches the subject of god and religion from a very scientific mindset. And with a scientific approach that begs the question of "why didn't I think to be skeptical to begin with?" He makes numerous great points and uses a lot of examples and research studies to back them up. One sticks out more than the others for me, morality and the series of questions asked to respondents. I especially when the questions are adapted to a tribe with no ties to traditional religions.

As I am on my phone, I'll leave it there and open it up to the rest of ye heathens.

The first time I read this, I was something like 100 pages in and muttering "get to the point, will you?" to myself. It seemed he was circling around a lot.
When I re-read it, however, I was struck by the clarity of his case, the building up of evidence and argument.

I will quickly re-read it for the book club.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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09-06-2013, 12:22 PM
RE: The God Delusion Discussion. TTA Book Club #2
I have to admit… after Hitch, it was difficult to get into Dawkins. It's like going from a superhero with a flack jacket to just some science guy with a pocket protector. It's always good to be reminded one can love to eat apples and still enjoy oranges just as much. Wink

At first I thought I was just needing to switch minds, the way one sometimes has to when going from novel to textbook but I think Dawkins did well to ease his readers into the material about to be tackled. He begins by stating that if one is looking for X, then pay close attention to chapter so and so. Oddly, this little buffer really helped put me into a more comfortable mind frame, even though around the fifth chapter, I still wasn't sure that there was going to be a point to this book. However, those first few quick chapters did help get me to a point where I would be able to process what came later… and there is quite a bit of material covered in this book.

This being only the second "atheist related" book I've ever read, I noticed that there were very few bits of overlapping materials and anecdotes from Christopher Hitchens' works and that he generally relied a great deal on other material from friends, colleagues, acquaintances, clergy and fellow scientists. This book seemed less to focus on a single or main point but rather, widen those prevailing viewpoints to include a full range of perspectives, all gathered and surrounding the main subject. It broadened the perspective considerably.

I love my audio books but at first, I was not comfortable at all with Dawkins voice. Yes of course, he's no flack jacket-superhero Hitch, he's pocket protector-science-guy Dawkins but my discomfort was a little more complex. In the beginning, I felt that he was addressing his audience(me) as if speaking to a ten year old; WTF?! Nearly offended, I tried to rationalize; well, he had to appeal to a wide range of people… BUT shit, if one is even picking up a book by a scientist, one kind of expects it not to be dummied down! However, because of the additional voice of Lalla Ward, I soon realized that this is how this guy is and subsequently, he came across as very honest and very sincere. Now, I can't wait to hear him read his other books with or without Lalla - even though I do hope he includes her; I enjoyed hearing her characterize the variety of spoken parts - she's really quite good.

Before this book, I'd only seen a few speaking engagements with Dawkins and a few one-on-one interviews; I'd never felt entirely comfortable with him. I felt he was somehow a bit aloof and certainly too authoritative… I don't mind aloof but uh, I do not care for authoritative. Now, having heard him personally relate his own work, I see him as just a regular guy who also happens to be a scientist. It may have even helped me relate to the common sense of his reasoning; his ideas are quite sound and down to earth.

*** Shy
Before I say more, I want to know what others thought of it, stylistically or otherwise.
Any favorite parts?
Any parts you didn't think came off well?
Anything anyone didn't get? I might need to quickly reread a couple of chapters again - a lot of info covered here.

A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels. ~ Albert Einstein
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09-06-2013, 03:40 PM
RE: The God Delusion Discussion. TTA Book Club #2
I have to say I felt much the same way as Chas stated. The "get to the point" part. I read it a long time ago, well around when it was first released probably, and I felt like I already knew all this stuff. Give me more angles I can use to think about. But I disagree with Kim, I love me some Dawkins, but I also read all his other books on evolution, genes, biology and what not. It does do some "dumbing down" early on, in some places, but he's not just writing to us who already agree. If you're hoping to get through to someone who believes a man, who is actually God, "sacrificed" himself, even though that mean's he just got to go back to being God, and he knew that when he "sacrificed" himself he wasn't really going to die but just be all powerful again, and that that somehow still counts as a "sacrifice", then if you are trying to reach this person in the audience you're going to have to dumb it down a little bit. But don't worry, he does smarten it back up too.

I also really don't feel the parts, (and to be clear it is only parts that are like this) that are "dumbed down" are actually dumbed down. I think he is just addressing some dumb arguments and so you have to get in the thick of those dumb arguments to address them. I don't feel I needed things like Pascal's wager argued over, for example, because it's not important to me. That argument is inherently, obviously faulty and I don't need to get into the details of it to understand why. But when you are dealing with people who want to believe, wither they are smart or dumb, when they really want to believe they will accept any dumb argument, so for them it was necessary to be addressed. Plus perhaps even smart atheist take pause on things like Pascal's wager, I don't know. I independently thought it up on my own when I was about six years old, "what if I'm wrong", dismissed it as a question that makes no argument and than moved on, became an adult and realized that this argument I came up with on my own, and in one night of hard thinking dismissed it as fluff, and adults still argue about, and I was done with it as a six year old! So yeah it sounds dumb to go over, but it's still brought up all the fucking time by theist, so dumb or not it needs to be addressed.

It's been a while since I've read it though, so I will go back and give it a re-read so I can add in more.
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09-06-2013, 06:05 PM
Re: The God Delusion Discussion. TTA Book Club #2
I'm in that same point debate... I read it two years ago. It felt more like a reference book intro to various ideas before he ever got to a point of expanding on topics

"Allow there to be a spectrum in all that you see" - Neil Degrasse Tyson
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09-06-2013, 11:24 PM
RE: The God Delusion Discussion. TTA Book Club #2
This was the first atheist book I'd read. I got it at the recommendation of a friend. I'd previously been a kinda-sorta Christian, then an atheist, then I read this which really, properly cemented my atheism.

I love this book. Okay, I get the points being made here that a lot of stuff was difficult to get through and some of it was a bit too long etc etc. But I think its pulled off perfectly. For me, at least. I'd never really heard of these arguments before, so it was a really new thing for me, really interesting. Now, I know all the god arguments and can dismiss them easily. But then, I was looking at them, whizzing through them, going wow, he really destroys it! And his destruction of creationism and showing the improbability of god really intrigued me.

I loved it, in short.

I also loved how he took down Biblical morality and showed how harmful religion is too, and it was interesting to see religion explained in Darwinian terms. I've heard a rebuttal by Alister McGrath of Dawkins' view that criteria for choosing good bits from the Bible must come from innate morality outwith the Bible; McGrath said Jesus was the criteria. However, how does McGrath arrive at using Jesus? Surely through innate morality independent of the Bible...he just confirms the point, never mind the fact Jesus preached some immoral nonsense anyway and that there's no convincing point made about how Jesus' arrival demeans or abolishes the Old Testament's barbarity. I've also heard it argued that the complexity of the universe must be explained before using the "who created god" argument Dawkins uses. This makes no sense, of course, but that's theism for you. The guy even labelled the "who created god" argument a fallacy for some reason. It made no sense, in short, to dismiss the question as its still perfectly valid.

Anyway, yes, I love this book very much. It brought me into the world of New Atheism, got me into Hitch and all the rest and I haven't looked back! Richard may not be a superhero like Hitch, but he's like the computer whizz who helps the superhero out Tongue.

Oh, and I also like the bit on Einsteinian religion, and how his love of science and nature really comes through.

"Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence."

-Christoper Hitchens, "Letters to a Young Contrarian."
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10-06-2013, 12:40 AM
RE: The God Delusion Discussion. TTA Book Club #2
I hope I didn't lead anyone to think I didn't like this book - far from it - it's solid from beginning to end. I just had some initial misgivings getting into it - but that cleared up after I saw what he was doing in the first few chapters.

It's like he wanted everyone to have a firm foundation and be on the same page before he presented his arguments - he sort of pre-emptively cleared away any misunderstandings. He lays out an argument clearly and precisely, moving from beginning to end, explaining each part meticulously. I really like that attention to detail from the get go.

I also liked the amount of time he spent on Darwin, evolution, and the numerous examples he gave. Also, I loved the personal letters sent to Einstein for his atheistic remarks. I greatly appreciated his use of historical and cultural references as well as the personal letters and comments he's received about the subjects of belief and non-belief. It's a very relatable and relevant, contemporary work. Thumbsup

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10-06-2013, 03:30 AM
RE: The God Delusion Discussion. TTA Book Club #2
Funnily enough I started with god is not Great and then moved on to the God Delusion when I initially decided to learn more about atheism (had been a mostly atheistic agnostic for many years, on the Dawkins scale I went from a 7 to a 9) I found Dawkins to not be as easy a read as Hitch. I prefer Hitch's racounture style of storytelling to Dawkins more sectioned argument, stylistically speaking. As much as I enjoyed god is not Great I think there was more meat to the God Delusion but that may just because I know Hitch's arguments so well from all the debates he did where as Dawkins rarely does such so his arguments are "fresher", maybe. I loaned this book to a good friend and they enjoyed it as well.

The best compliment I can pay this work is it inspired me to look up Dawkins other books on evolution (the selfish gene, the blind watchmaker ect) and really go into a subject that I thought I knew but actually only had at best a superficial understanding of. Dawkins is at his best when he is weaving an elaborate analogy for science, making the complex relatable. It's hard to hold a candle to Hitchens when it comes to writing but I think Dawkins gave him a fair run on this subject.

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10-06-2013, 11:03 AM
Re: The God Delusion Discussion. TTA Book Club #2
The great thing about our one two selection here for our first two book choices, is that they differ in style. That is primarily because of 2 things, they differ in background (Dawkins a scientist and Hitch a student of literature) and in the nature of the subject they are addressing.

What I found from Hitch was a guy who could take any point a religious person might make, who laid it bare and exposed it for what it really was. Hitch's style is essentially to take it and say "for the sake of argument, let's say your god exists. Here is why he sucks." Whereas Dawkins comes at it and says "if your god exists, I should be able to find the evidence for it. Let's look." Dawkins' systematic style and secitionalized format, is certainly related to how one writes scientific papers. I don't think he "dumbed-down" anything but (as has already been mentioned) was going after dumb arguments and stupid criticisms. And shooting holes in them like swiss cheese in such a thorough way that one would be hard-pressed to weasel out of it. Which is why the book becomes long-winded in a way, that necessarily happens when argument and counter-argument need be addressed.

As with others, this is the book that not only cemented my views on god (also the first atheicentirc literature I read), but also caused me to transition away from supporting religion in any way (I was one the "I'm an atheist but...") and then people like Hitch swayed it further towards "fuck religion."

“Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.”
—Thomas Henry Huxley
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10-06-2013, 05:50 PM (This post was last modified: 10-06-2013 06:03 PM by ridethespiral.)
RE: The God Delusion Discussion. TTA Book Club #2
(10-06-2013 11:03 AM)TheBeardedDude Wrote:  As with others, this is the book that not only cemented my views on god (also the first atheicentirc literature I read), but also caused me to transition away from supporting religion in any way (I was one the "I'm an atheist but...") and then people like Hitch swayed it further towards "fuck religion."

+1

It's been a few years since I read 'The God Delusion' but I recall enjoying it. At the time it was the only Atheist literature that I had read. I think he did a great job covering the most common arguments and while I was reading I recall many points where my personal thoughts had intersected with Dawkins arguments and I had just not had a name for them until reading his book (Pascals Wager for instance, Tea Pot Atheism, etc.). He definitely takes the hard line science approach to the whole thing. For Dawkins it not so much about challenging the various religions interpretations of god but rather the whole concept of a god. I enjoy Dawkins as a debater more than Hitchens for this reason, he battles on his own territory, deep in the scientific trenches where Theists come across as ignorant and backwards even on a good day. Where as Hitchens lets slide obvious scientific ignorance and winds up going blow for blow in the subjective humanities and comparative religion.

I agree that Dawkins is pretentious as heck (there is a reason I'm on this forum and not his forum). You get the sense that he is very much 'preaching to the choir' and there is more than a hint of mockery in his tone, personally I enjoyed this having spent years escaping Catholicism, but I could see how you might not. I was listening on my kindle in the car(text to speach) and I recall laughing out loud and exclaiming vigorous agreement...Of course if I was a more recent convert/still questioning or w/e I probably would have found it mocking and abrasive.

I especially enjoyed the section on what Atheists can take from life and how they can have meaning in life. It is the un-obscured wonder of the cosmos that gives me the most joy and feel like the Theists really miss out on this in a big way.

Also I would like to mention that his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution' is amazing. If you like biology or just want to be able to refute some of the stupid that creationists spew at you it's a great read. There are tons of really detailed laymanized summaries of pivotal experiments in evolution, genetics, embryology, paleontology, etc. and he pulls examples from every corner of nature (insects, flowers, fish, primates...). This is deep, deep Dawkins territory and where he really shines.

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