Saturday, August 04, 2007

Richard Dawkins and Multi-perspectivalism

Richard Dawkins interview on BBC tele.

Normally I'm not a big fan of this (non)debate (so-called) between religion and science. The science is rarely, although sometimes defined, the religion never is---one kind of religion/faith is simply assumed and then argued from or about, depending on whether the person is pro or con.

The first question Dawkins answers by stating he is after "The truth". Watch how many times he drops the "t" word or the "R" word (reality).

Now you'll notice the truth is science. There is truth in what he says. And he is accurately describing his own position--he actually describes quite brilliantly the world he lives in, the space he inhabits.

But notice that this is only the case because of the prior perspective he takes---3rd person. Characterized by observational (not participatory) mode of being-in-the-world. Also he as descendant of the Anglo-tradition is almost entirely individualistic (3rd p. sg.).

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When asked what is the Purpose of life he flatly states to propagate genes. (His selfish gene theory).

Again this is not wrong, but only true from within the prior move of the a 3rd person sg. mode of awareness.

When asked about whether he has every had any spiritual experience he states yes (of course he has, everyone does). But notice clearly what kind of experience it is. It is, as Dawkins describes (again accurately) an Einsteinian spiritual exp: namely a sense of awe and mystery and contemplation of the Laws of Nature.

But this is not, as Dawkins, rightly points out, the same as "traditional" religious belief in a personal Creator (although that's not true of many traditional religions....Buddhism, forms of Hinduism, Taoism, to name a few), personal relationship and the like.

What that means on is that he again emphasizes only a 3rd person mode of being. This time with the Divine. When approached from a third person perspective, then the Divine and with an orange/modernist value structure, then "God" emerges as the Natural Law. This type of mysticism derives from the Platonic/Pythagorean tradition in the West. Akin to the nature religions (minus the magical interpretive structure) and the Taoist tradition. It is the Tradition of the Great IT, the Great ALL.

Dawkins is essentially in other words a Deist--except that the Laws of Nature are the Deist God not a separate Deistic Figure within whose mind exists the Laws of Nature.

This God pov is a good one but it leaves completely unanswered the question of how to live. That is why his assumption of the modern/orange value sphere (rationality/"truth") is so important because that has to drive his choices.

The 3rd person ALL experience however leaves one not within the All. It's really the All minus the individual (who has to watch "IT"). Which is why the individual becomes only a part of that "ALL"--the brain is a computer for Dawkins. That argument again only flows from the space within which he is which is dependent first on a perspective/injunction, then a refined observation of the phenomena of that space.

What he can never account for is other perspectives that will give other kinds of "data." With relation to the Divine there is the 1st person mode of being-with-the-Divine: the experience of "I AMness". With the second person, the I-Du (I-Thou) Relationship, the Du/Thou being both God or anything else (tree, person, animal, your own feelings, etc.).

Not to mention, from an AQAL perspective, he only ever focuses on the individual (of course also only the material and only from a certain value wave). His scientific theories of a selfish gene are not wrong but again do not cover (a la Margulis and Howard Bloom) the intrinsically co-operative nature of the biological world itself.

Which is why when he says that people make their own meaning serious flaws:
1)Language, which we use to describe, understand, express our "own" meaning has developed long before us and arises only within a group/collective sense.
2)History, culture the same.
3)Pervasive Media influence. (Again often unconscious).

But also that aside, it doesn't answer why individuals can't choose to make their meaning be irrational mythic religion. And why lots of people the world over seem to be making that choice. Why his individualistic meaning-making over another. When you have made the individual the measure of all things, how do you determine which is better or worse.

Then again, we are back to his value structure: Truth as defined by Science. It's a metaphysical argument not a a reasoned position.

Dawkins of course also realizes that ancient myths were a means of ancient peoples trying to make sense of their world (a kind of scientific hypothesis for them). What he only needs to add is that people have to move through those stages.

Even that is ok if he realized that there are levels to faith development. Just as he secretly privileges one value structure, he is locked into (without being honest about it, likely because he himself doesn't realize it) one version of God. The g/God he is out to attack and the faith in that God he ridicules, is a shitty god. A God of myth taken literally. A God who was worthy of our worship and devotion thousands of years ago but no longer. (Again for people educated and ready to enter the rational frame).

Not to mention he shows no awareness of the mystical reading of mythical texts (again that requires 1st and 2nd person modes of being-in-the-world).

He exists in a perspective free zone as well as a stage-free one. Again the lack of understanding the nature of perspectives allows him to just talk about "Rationality"/"Truth" without realizing how he got to the place he is in life.

Not wrong, just so very very very very very very very very very very very partial.

Random note: Major factual error--showing he has very little if any understanding. He claims around 4:15 that St. Paul invented Christianity. That works for A.N. Wilson or Dan Brown, but not an intelligent religious scholar. St. Paul did not invent Christianity. In fact it makes really no sense to talk about "Christians" until probably into the second century---50 years plus after Jesus and Paul were dead.
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