The limits of scientific explanation. Part 2

To continue with ‘Isn’t it enough to see a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it?’ (40).

Lennox’s complaint is “Dawkins is guilty of committing the error of proposing false alternatives by suggesting that it is either fairies of nothing. Fairies at the bottom of the garden may well be a delusion, but what about a gardener, to say nothing about an owner? The possibility of their existence cannot be so summarily dismissed – in fact, most gardens have both” (40).

First, Lennox should be taking Adams to task for the quote, not Dawkins. It is, after all, his quote that Dawkins has borrowed. But I guess Dawkins is an easier target than the popular Adams. When Dawkins says there’s no logical reason to believe there’s a god people say he’s disrespecting their beliefs and not acting with humility, but when Adams says god disappeared in a puff of logic, people think it’s witty. Go figure.

Second, I’m not sure why Lennox believes there’s a false alternative here for Dawkins never says it’s fairies or nothing. No dragon in the garden would probably fly just as well. Unless it was a dragonfly… And to say that Dawkins would doubt the existence of the gardener or owner is Lennox putting words into Dawkins’ mouth. But if the garden is a thinly disguised metaphor for something else Dawkins might complain, except that then it would just be a metaphor so not really worth hammering on about at all. Much like page 40 of this book.

Finally, the claim that only science can deliver truth. Well, that’s a topic for a post with more time to devote to it. But if anyone has some idea of how to explain the couple of points of confusion I’ve got in the above, it’s be most appreciated. Especially the false alternatives… most perplexing.

12 thoughts on “The limits of scientific explanation. Part 2

  1. Marco

    My silence on this point can be taken to mean I pretty much agree with you. I like Adams more than I like Dawkins. Coming from Adams, I agree with the sentiment, and I think it is only that it is not evidence of anything, that I wondered why Dawkins would bring it up(name dropping?). Either way, my daughter believes in faries and it doesn’t do her any harm.

    Reply
      1. Marco

        If I was a famous biologist, and my close friend was a famous author, I’d be dubious about quoting them when trying to portray reality (science) over fiction (religion). No matter how you spin it, it muddles the message – here are some words from a fiction writer, if you can’t take the word of a scientist about things that have nothing to do with science???

        Reply
  2. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

    I would say – manning the barricades for no good reason – that if you can only believe the garden is beautiful if there are fairies at the bottom of it, then hooray for fairies! It was not long ago, as I recall, that our esteemed host was denying the objective existence of beauty. I would rather believe in fairies than join him in this soul-destroying folly. Yrs with delicate gossamer wings…

    Reply
  3. winstoninabox Post author

    It was not long ago, as I recall, that our esteemed host was denying the objective existence of beauty.

    Do I need to deny that which has not been shown to exist. 😉

    Reply
  4. winstoninabox Post author

    If you’re going to allow beauty and fairies, is evil with a capital ‘E’ admitted too?
    And if so, can it be blamed for the evil that men do?
    Can it be hunted down and destroyed?
    Actually, that sounds like a neat set-up for a novel or video game. Hunting or protecting that which we objectify. BEAUTY BOSS BATTLE!!!

    Reply
    1. Marco

      If you’re going to allow beauty and fairies, is evil with a capital ‘E’ admitted too?

      Chris is not allowing them any more than you. Aren’t you being a cultural snob believing in beauty (believing a garden is beautiful) and then ridiculing others’ belief in fairies?

      Reply
    2. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

      No, I am boringly traditional here (following St Augustine). Evil is just the absence of Good, which objectively exists. I don’t think statements of the form “I believe X is Y; just not objectively so” have any meaning for the definition of ‘believe’ that I employ, so I was prodding at the ugly chrysalis of said statement with the pointy stick of absurdity in hope that it would transform into a meaningful butterfly.

      Reply

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