The Dawkins Dilemma – Part 3

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First, my apologies for having been away from the keyboard for the past 5 months. Unfortunately, my work activities have required that situation.

As you may recall, I started a series last autumn examining the veracity of Dr. Richard Dawkins’ “The GOD Delusion”. In two topics that dealt with this I examined how I believe Dr. Dawkins was deliberately manipulating the facts and using “smoke and mirrors” to pursue his own personal agenda.

While I have no ax to grind with individuals espousing their own personal views, I felt it necessary to comment on Dr. Dawkins’ work because of his reputation as a world class scientist and his resultant responsibility to present information in a fair and accurate manner, something he fails to do.

As I’ve cited before, Dr. Dawkins has a specific agenda. He states that very clearly on page 28 of the paperback edition where he writes: “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.” Now, I have no problem with Dr. Dawkins writing a book that says “I’m and atheist, here’s why, and here’s why you might consider it as well” as long as he presents the facts fairly and accurately.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Dr. Dawkins’ book is overflowing with misleading information, half truths, and embarrassingly shabby scientific reporting (at least for a man of his professional credentials). My intent in this series of posts has been and continues to be to point out these glaring inadequacies.

You see, there are real people making life-altering decisions based on what Dr. Dawkins has written. Many of them blindly accept that since he is this “world-class scientist” he is presenting matters of undeniable fact when, in reality, nothing is farther from the truth.

Unfortunately, Dr. Dawkins seems to get a free pass on most of what he writes. Perhaps a majority of his readers have neither the time nor resources to actually check out what he is saying. Or perhaps it’s because his charming and somewhat amusing writing style coupled with his scientific reputation prevents people from recognizing how they are being mislead in his quest to achieve his stated agenda.

As I pointed out in an earlier post, I’m not saying that honest errors and oversights can’t occur. They can and do. However, the quantity and regularity with which misleading information occurs within Dr. Dawkins’ manuscript demonstrates his deliberateness in the process. His method of presenting them confirms this. I’ve already addressed numerous instances of this in The Dawkins Dilemma – Parts 1 and 2, and plan to demonstrate yet more examples of this misleading dialogue in this and future posts.

For example, let’s look at how Dr. Dawkins portrays Thomas Jefferson in his book. Now why Dr. Dawkins feels that Thomas Jefferson’s beliefs are relevant to whether or not God exists, I’m not sure. However, since he brought Jefferson into the discussion, his comments are fair game. Note, I’m not going to discuss Jefferson’s views on different religions (Christianity, Calvinism, Theism, Deism, etc) only the likelihood that he was an atheist, as Dr. Dawkins implies.

Dr. Dawkins first addresses this on pg. 64 where he notes:

“Christopher Hitchens in his biography Thomas Jefferson Author of America thinks it is likely that Jefferson was an atheist, even in his own time when it was much harder:

As to whether he was an atheist, we must reserve judgment if only because of the prudence he was compelled to observe during his political life. But as he had written to his nephew, Peter Carr, as early as 1787, one must not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. ‘If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in this exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you.’

I find the following advice of Jefferson, again in his letter to Peter Carr, moving:

Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”

On page 122-3, Dr. Dawkins again quotes Jefferson when he says:

“Although Jesus probably existed, reputable biblical scholars do not in general regard the New Testament (and obviously not the Old Testament) as a reliable record of what actually happened in history, and I shall not consider the Bible further as evidence for any kind of deity. In the farsighted words of Thomas Jefferson, writing to his predecessor, John Adams, ‘The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.’ “

Sound like pretty compelling stuff? Sure, until you read the actual letters.

Let’s look at the complete letter to John Adams and see what else Jefferson said:

“I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was Daemonism. If ever man worshipped a false god, he did. The being described in his 5. points is not the God whom you and I acknolege and adore, the Creator and benevolent governor of the world; but a daemon of malignant spirit.”

“He was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be”? … “the God whom you and I acknolege and adore, the Creator and benevolent governor of the world”?… Doesn’t sound much like an atheist to me.

What about the quote Dr. Dawkins mentions above? Well the full quote is:

The truth is that the greatest enemies to the doctrines of Jesus are those calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them for the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors.

You see, Jefferson wasn’t denying the existence of God or Jesus, but rather criticizing Calvinistic views. Jefferson closes by saying:

So much for your quotation of Calvin’s `mon dieu! jusqu’a quand’ in which, when addressed to the God of Jesus, and our God, I join you cordially, and await his time and will with more readiness than reluctance. May we meet there again, in Congress, with our antient Colleagues, and recieve with them the seal of approbation `Well done, good and faithful servants.’

Again, I’m not discussing Jefferson’s views on different religions only the implied fact that he was an atheist. Again, his own words state “He [Calvin] was indeed an Atheist, which I can never be”. So ask yourself why are Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins trying to convince us that he likely was? What could possibly be driving them to spend time taking quotes out of context in an attempt to prove a point which Jefferson himself so clearly refuted?

I believe that this simple example demonstrates the approach Dr. Dawkins’ takes on the broad spectrum topics he discusses, some of which I’ve already addressed. At best he’s demonstrating incompetence in researching his facts, something which I seriously doubt given his professional background. More likely, he’s deliberately misleading his readers; possibly figuring the vast majority would blindly trust him, never bothering to check the actual facts.

By the way, you don’t have to take my word for any of this, just go to: http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/53/Letter_from_Thomas_Jefferson_to_John_Adams_1.html for the complete text of the letter.

Oh…one more thing… Concerning Dr. Dawkins’ quote I mentioned above…“Although Jesus probably existed, reputable biblical scholars do not in general regard the New Testament (and obviously not the Old Testament) as a reliable record of what actually happened in history, and I shall not consider the Bible further as evidence for any kind of deity.”… Where is the substantiating information? Who are these “reputable biblical scholars”? Why hasn’t Dr. Dawkins provided some names or statistical references to actually back up such a bold statement? After all, saying that they “…do not in general regard…” would seem to infer that a majority feel this way so there should be plenty to choose from.

Again, I apologize for my time away from this topic, it was unavoidable. I hope to be able to respond to your comments (job permitting) and continue working our way through Dr. Dawkins’ book.

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