I have been re-reading Richard Dawkins’ closely reasoned ‘The God Delusion”, since one of my students gave me a free .pdf copy of it. The writing is compelling, a behemoth of linear, unassailable reason, trampling lesser intellects before it. There is a chink or two in the armour, however. Apart from overt and perhaps unnecessary contempt – politely put with a deftly derogatory adjective here and there – for those who adhere to inexplicable religious views, I rather wondered why he felt it necessary to seek the opinions of his friends – great and good as they might be – to support the argument. Swerving dangerously close to logical fallacy, an irrelevant appeal seeks to persuade by citing what someone else, a perceived authority, thinks on the subject, as if that resolves the question. The degree of support that such an appeal lends to a claim varies depending on the particular authority in question, the relevance of their expertise to the claim, and other factors, but in all cases is limited. The opinions of those whose mental powers are greater than one’s own, no training in theology or experience in grace notwithstanding, might sway some and sell a few more copies, I suppose.
“Great scientists of our time who sound religious usually turn out not to be so when you examine their beliefs more deeply. This is certainly true of Einstein and Hawking. The present Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society, Martin Rees, told me that he goes to church as an ‘unbelieving Anglican . . . out of loyalty to the tribe’. He has no theistic beliefs, but shares the poetic naturalism that the cosmos provokes (in other scientists) In the course of a recently televised conversation, I challenged my friend the obstetrician Robert Winston, a respected pillar of British Jewry, to admit that his Judaism was of exactly this character and that he didn’t really believe in anything supernatural.”
The letters in the image are an anagram of, inter alia, “A Ethic Husk Owl”. Curious.