Tuesday, January 10, 2017

again, the empty-bucket G- word!

Guest Post from Hemant Metha on the Dawkins Atheism-Theism Scale
and my extended reflections about the scale, and the G- question:


Thanks to Richard Dawkins for creating this scale, and to Hemant Metha for doing a lucid video on it. In The God Delusion, Dawkins wrote, "the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other."

Here’s the Dawkins Scale, again:
Richard Dawkins’ Belief Scale Scoring Rubric

1. Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.
100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: "I do not believe, I know."
2. De-facto Theist: Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. "I don't know for certain, but I strongly believe
in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there."
3. Weak Theist: Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. "I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God."
4. Pure Agnostic: Exactly 50%. "God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable."
5. Weak Atheist: Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. "I do not know whether God exists but I'm inclined to be skeptical."
6. De-facto Atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable
and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.
[Dawkins states that he is a 6, though in another interview, he said, a 6.9.]
7. Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God. I know there is no God, with the same conviction
as Carl Jung knows there is one"

If it's a matter of creeds, such as creedal Christianity (Augustian-Calvinism), orthodox Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, I suppose I am about a 6, strongly against such concepts of God.

But, generally, I am an intellectually convinced theist, about a 2.3 (about 74%) if the definition of "God" is the first one of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
god "1 capitalized : the supreme or ultimate reality..."

I am a liberal Friend with UU-leanings.

Like so many of these tests/scales (Dawkins is the best though), the scale is affected by one's assumptions and presuppositions.

For instance, on a different website an atheist declares that Thomas Jefferson is a 4.2 even though many passages in Jefferson's works, including the Declaration of Independence opening, show his score is probably about 2.

When it comes to the particular gods of organized religion such as creedal Christianity, Jefferson was definitely on the atheistic side of the Belief Scale.

Take a look at another method of viewing atheism, theism, etc. There are many variations on the whole essential topic:

We are living in a universe about 27 billion light-years across, and about 13 billion years old and, according to cosmologists, the cosmos will last more billions of years. And there is also the possibility of a multiverse.

What is "ultimate reality":

#1 All reality came about by cosmic chance. Seemingly the view of the French biologist Jacques Monod in Chance and Necessity, a powerful book I read a few years back, and the view of the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould.

My take on this as an average person with a keen interest in science: I think this view is possible. I guess given cosmic time even the "laws" of nature, math, reason, life, ethics, consciousness could all blip into existence.

#2 All reality came about by a cosmic determinism of meaningless matter and energy which is eternal. Everything is lock step. There are no choices, not for what I supposedly ruminate on having for lunch or whether or not to commit murder or what to choose for my career.

Based on our studying this at university, and for many years since, and many times trying to imagine my "I" as an illusion who is only 'done to' by the cosmos, I think this is one of the least likely views of reality. But the view is very popular these days--sort of an atheistic version of Calvinism.

#3 All reality came about somehow by a temporary, finite, imperfect, even distorted, expression of the perfect eternal Ideal Forms of Platonism.
I've been influenced by Platonism.

#4 All reality came about by emergent possibilities in a quantum singularity vacuum or some unknown ultimate reality. But where did the quantum singularity vacuum come from? Here goes "turtles all the way down."

This view seems to posit an eternal physical reality with no "super" reality 'transcending' it.

Like in #1 humankind is a "fluke," an "accident," a "lucky" break.

#5 All reality came about by an impersonal ultimate reality of cosmic beauty. Scientists such as Albert Einstein stated this was his view, that he thought the impersonal god of Spinoza was true. But this seems similar to a combination of #3 and #4.

Unlike #2 and #4, the emergent-possibility cosmos isn't meaningless and purposeless, but filled with meaning.

Interesting, but I doubt it.

#6 All reality is coming about by the everlasting but limited cosmic reality that is becoming. This is the view of thinkers such as philosopher and mathematician Alfred Lord Whitehead, philosopher Charles Hartshorne, etc.

This cosmic but limited God, this limited ultimate reality, who is far beyond human understanding works toward changing matter and energy and conscious life such as homo sapiens into increasing patterns and forms of beauty, meaning, and purpose. This is also the view of some Reform Jews.

But where is the evidence for this?

Process thinkers explain that consciousness, reason, ethics, mathematics, natural law, creativity, aesthetics, life itself, etc. are the evidence.

This view is appealing, but most of the technical philosophical explanations are BEYOND me. I'm a relatively average literature teacher (who got born with a "why" in his throat;-)

#7 All reality came about as just one of an infinite number of universes of an infinite multi-verse, the view of some modern cosmologists. What is the ultimate of the multi-verse is unknown or maybe the multiverse itself is ultimate.

Intriguing, but seems too speculative for me. However, I'm not as skeptical as Martin Gardner, one of the co-founders of the modern skeptical movement who wrote a scathing dismissal of this view.

#8 All reality came about by the impersonal Brahma God of Hinduism and some modern New Age leaders such as Ken Wilber with his Integral Theory, and Deepak Chopra, etc. .

The impersonal God Brahma is conducting a cosmic dance in which it forgets its self and dreams into billions of separated forms including in one minor edge of the universes, thinking humans.

But all is illusion. And all events both good and evil are produced by Brahman. That is why Ken Wilber and other such leaders claim that Brahman caused 9//11, causes all murders, all rapes, etc.

Given that I am a human rights worker from way back, for about 55 years, obviously this isn't my cup of philosophical tea. Also, I still vividly remember as a Gandhi devotee being shocked when a Hindu priest in L.A. tried to persuade me to go to Vietnam to kill (when I was drafted), saying insects are killed all the time in reality.:-(

#9 All reality came about by unknowable factors. Everything beyond and before the Big Bang is such a complete unfathomable mystery that it will probably not ever be solved by finite humans at least not for a very long time.

Allegedly the view of the Mysterians such as skeptic Martin Gardner, physicist Roger Penrose, etc.

#10 All reality continually comes about by infinite impersonal reality which never had a beginning. No creator god exists. Some forms of Buddhism (though other forms are theistic).
At this point in my life, I lean toward some view of #3 and #6, though I am open to #1 as a real possibility.

Here's the main reason why I am a theist: Mathematics, natural law (as in the law of gravity and the theory of relativity, etc.) life, consciousness, reason, creativity, ethics, human rights, compassion, and aesthetics--ALL
are very meaningful and purposeful.

I don't think that existence/reality is "meaningless" and "purposeless," or that ethics are "subjective preferences," or "cultural constructs," or (to quote Dawkins on altruism) a "misfiring" of evolution.

But, maybe we finite humans don't have enough knowledge to even decide this question.

We choose one of many diametrically opposed mountain climbs.

And that makes all the difference, for good or bad, false or true, life or death.

In the Light,



A C Doty said...

At the heart of faith and belief is humility. Dawkins' insistence that this realm should be considered part of what man can manipulate in the way man manipulates nature is wrong-headed and vain. The idea that the origins of existence can be reduced to an event and mathmatics is equally wrong-headed and vain when we only see things through a glass darkly. After all, we are but a collection of fragile cells somehow abimated for a very brief time.

A C Doty said...

s/b mathematics

Daniel Wilcox said...

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your perspective.