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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

O'Leary remains skeptical: Does Richard Dawkins really exist?

A commenter, at the bottom of this collection of news posts on the ID controversy, asks me whether I think that long-running atheist bore Richard Dawkins really exists. Well, I've given some thought to how to respond to such a sensitive question, because I do so dislike hurting anyone's feelings. So, here's the straight dope:

It makes me feel more intellectually fulfilled to assume that Dawkins does exist. But, unlike some people, I will not assume that a correct answer to this question will necessarily make me feel intellectually fulfilled, or you either. We must have better evidence than that.

The strongest argument for the existence of Richard Dawkins has been the books published by reputable houses under his name. But on reflection, I now see how foolish an argument that is, and am appropriately ashamed of myself. The books themselves attempt to demonstrate that mind comes from mud, in which case - if the thesis of the books has any merit at all - they could easily have written themselves.

Slightly stronger evidence is the fact that my co-blogger Bill Dembski claims to have received correspondence (and still more correspondence) from the fellow.

Oh, but, you know, Dembski is a relentless kidder, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he is just testing my gullibility level. It's quite possible that, at this very moment, Bill is chortling, "Whaddayaknow? I even got O'Leary believing that Dawkins exists! Hey, making that guy up was one of my better moves."

As if I needed confirmation of my pretty-good hunch that Dembski created Dawkins in order to put ID books on the science shelves (because if Dawkins' New Age rubbish about "memes", of all things, can be on the science shelves, it is a scandal if responsible ID books aren't!) - lo and behold, it turns out that Dawkins won't debate Alister McGrath, whose book Dawkins' God pretty much ripped the whole anti-God schtick to teeny shreds. (See also this.)

"Won't" debate indeed. I'm sure Dembski's a mean hand with sock puppets, but that's not going to, like, work on national TV.

Well, there you have it. It's all very well for Bill to create a Dawkins persona (Freud could explain) and write those silly books under its name, but I do think that this particular joke - like Bill's notorious head-in-a-vise Charlie doll and the "fartfest", may have gotten a trifle out of hand at this point.

It is time for Bill to acknowledge that Dawkins is his alter ego or, if the Dawkster really does exist somewhere, to make sure he has a clean shirt and a shave, and produce him stone cold sober for a debate with Alister McGrath.

Thinkquote of the day:

Great Darwinian biologist J.B.S. Haldane on teleology said (purpose):
Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he's unwilling to be seen with her in public.

(From: Haldane, J.B.S. in Bedeau, Mark A. Norman, Packard H. Measurement of Evolutionary Activity, Teleology, and Life." Langton, C. Taylor, C. Farmer, D. Rasmussen, S. (Eds.) Artical Life II. SFI Studies in the Sciences of Complexity, Proc. Vol. X. Redwood City,
CA: Addison-Wesley, 1991.)

My other blog is the Mindful Hack, which keeps tabs on neuroscience and the mind.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

My review of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God , my backgrounder about peer review issues, or the evolutionary biologist’s opinion that all students friendly to intelligent design should be flunked.

Lists of theoretical and applied scientists who doubt Darwin and of academic ID publications.

My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy at the University of Minnesota.

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
Blog policy note:Comments are permitted on this blog, but they are moderated. Fully anonymous posts and URLs posted without comment are rarely accepted. To Mr. Anonymous: I'm not psychic, so if you won't tell me who you are, I can't guess and don't care. To Mr. Nude World (URL): If you can't be bothered telling site visitors why they should go on to your fave site next, why should I post your comment? They're all busy people, like you. To Mr. Rudesby International and Mr. Pottymouth: I also have a tendency to delete comments that are merely offensive. Go be offensive to someone who can smack you a good one upside the head. That may provide you with a needed incentive to stop and think about what you are trying to accomplish. To Mr. Righteous but Wrong: I don't publish comments that contain known or probable factual errors. There's already enough widely repeated misinformation out there, and if you don't have the time to do your homework, I don't either. To those who write to announce that at death I will either 1) disintegrate into nothingness or 2) go to Hell by a fast post, please pester someone else. I am a Catholic in communion with the Church and haven't the time for either village atheism or aimless Jesus-hollering.

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