Talk:The God Delusion

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Former good article nominee The God Delusion was a good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
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Misquote on Einstein[edit]

166.147.121.143 (talk) 01:18, 7 April 2013 (UTC)There appears to be a misinterpretation in the part of the entry. "Dawkins distinguishes between an abstract, impersonal god (such as found in pantheism, or as promoted by Spinoza or Einstein[14])" Such an addition would have been fine, as I'm not wholly interested in discussing the religious views of Einstein. He did possibly accept and/or promote a form of a deity at sometime in his life, but more obviously rejected such a thing later on, but the reference given to support such an idea that he promoted an impersonal deity does not suffice at all. In fact, it appears to convey the opposite. "[14] Randerson, James (13 May 2008). "Childish superstition: Einstein's letter makes view of religion relatively clear". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 14 May 2008. "In the letter, he states: "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.""

No mention of the acceptance of an impersonal deity. I advise that this is revised to either include a better supporting reference, or omit such a reference to Einstein entirely. 166.147.121.143 (talk) 01:18, 7 April 2013 (UTC)

I've taken a stab at a rewrite of that paragraph. Dawkins references Einstein at length, and what Dawkins calls "Einsteinian religion," so that can be included, as can any of the Einstein quotes actually appearing in the book. (But not quotes outside the book: that's WP:SYN) I selected the quote on page 19 Dawkins used to summarize the point. Barte (talk) 05:54, 7 April 2013 (UTC)

Falsibility of God?[edit]

Can someone with a better insight than me please make sure that the (quoted below) sentence provided in the "Synopsis" first paragraph is accurate? I think it is actually misleading, and offers an easily refutable counter-argument which is not part of the book:
"He maintains that the existence of such a God would have effects in the physical universe and – like any other hypothesis – can be tested and falsified.[16]"
I seem to recall that the book adheres to the scientific method drafted by Popper and polished by Russell. If I'm not mistaken, it explicitly asserts the impossibility of falsifying hypothesis which cannot be empirically tested in an exhaustive way (Russell's Celestial Teapot). Dawkins makes it clear that burden of proof falls under the responsibility of those who claim any given proposition. Since proof has not been provided, a researcher should and must resort to a bayesian approach. Conclusions regarding the non-existence of a divine being cannot, by definition, be proven right, no matter how high the probability - however, faced with two (or more) opposing theories, the one which provides a deeper insight (solving a problem vs. creating a problem), a more refined and conclusive frame for empirical test and refutal ("fossil rabbits in the Pre-Cambrian"), a simplification of the terms of reference of the problem ("crane" vs. "sky-hook"), and a cohesive frame for propositions drawn is always preferable.
Jordissim (talk) 22:41, 3 June 2013 (UTC)

I've been rereading in and around P50, which is reference [16], and I don't see how the sentence holds up. I think it should either be deleted or better cited. Barte (talk) 01:06, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
I agree with the changes made, thank you. Unluckily I don't have the book with me, so I could neither assert nor deny that the original sentence was correctly sourced - although I found it deeply suspicious. Thanks again! Jordissim 06:07, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for pointing it out. It's amazing what a fresh eye can do on an established article. Barte (talk) 06:15, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
I tried to find something that I am confident I read in the book, namely that Dawkins states that a God of the type envisaged by most believers (one who at least sometimes interacts with the world) would have implications for science—there would be effects on the physical universe. I forget where the argument ran from there, but obviously Dawkins was not trying to prove the nonexistence of something. At any rate, it is good to remove the text until someone can work out what was intended. Johnuniq (talk) 10:54, 4 June 2013 (UTC)

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Quoting from the book, page 50:

Contrary to Huxley, I shall suggest that the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other. Even if hard to test in practice, it belongs in the same TAP or temporary agnosticism box as the controversies over the Permian and Cretaceous extinctions. God's existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe, discoverable in principle if not in practice. If he existed and chose to reveal it, God himself could clinch the argument, noisily and unequivocally, in his favour. And even if God's existence is never proved or disproved with certainty one way or the other, available evidence and reasoning may yield an estimate of probability far from 50 per cent.

I think that the original statement was more or less on the mark, but I have inserted a slight paraphrasing of the bolded above back into the text. - DVdm (talk) 11:34, 4 June 2013 (UTC)

Fine with me. Now: Should we go more on depth? I seem to recall that the argumentation against a theist god is not easy, and certainly not one that can linearly be followed, since it needs to grab bits and pieces from different chapters. A referencing nightmare, but one of the main topics of the book. If my memory serves me right (it usually doesn't), first we must establish monism as the only sound option stemming from the fact that dualism is self-contradictory: if the physical body and the ethereal soul are to be in existence AND linked, there must be an interaction between them; since an interaction with the physical world implies quantifiable reactions the interactions themselves are subject to the realm of science, which leads to a direct implication that the soul itself can be studied through its interactions, thereby disqualifying it as "ethereal". A similar reasoning can be followed for an intervening God: A so-called miracle is either a) "true" or b) "false" --> a) if "true", God intervenes physically (since dualism has been discredited) and is therefore subject to scientific scrutiny | b) else "false", then nothing has taken place involving God. Another topic used in order to progress is the Non-Overlapping MAgisteria approach: Dawkins argues that NOMA is a truly unsound theory, since it places God forever out of scientific reach, or even out of scientific-based reasoning, by either avoiding the above-explained issue, making use of a patently false movement such as the God of Gaps, or falling into a reductio ad absurdum. A deist God is more problematic, since its non-interventionist nature means the divinity could have decided to just play a role at the very beginning of the Universe, fine-tuning the physical variables leading to intelligent design: the anthropic principle easily proposes a much simpler alternative, and Occam's Razor does the job. However, the anthropic principle is kind of a tautology (personal opinion, it shouldn't count)... Too ambitious? Too dense? Plainly too much? Just wrong? What do you think? Jordissim (talk) 12:40, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
Too much. Let's just leave the going more on depth to Dawkins :-) - DVdm (talk) 13:06, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
Sure! :-) Worth a try, one never knows... Jordissim (talk) 13:16, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
Yeah....way, way too much. As Wikipedia editors doing a synopsis of a book, we are about brief, clear summary. The ideas, details and depth are left to the author, him or herself. If you find yourself doing original thinking, you're in the wrong place ;-) Barte (talk) 15:32, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
I know, and I agree. The statements given aren't original research (or at least they don't try to be), but rather a step-by-step synopsis of the arguments I remember from the book. I've tried to avoid subjective statements - I leave that to my professional sphere. However, I simply don't have the book with me right now, so I may have mixed up my recollections with the analysis that went with it as the by-product of my readings. I tend to remember quite vividly anything I read - regardless of whether I agree with it or not -, emphasis placed on "tend to". So it wasn't my intention to introduce original ideas (I know the rules of the game - not only as a moderately experience editor but as a researcher, although my area of expertise is physics, not biology nor philosophy). If I strayed off the path, my apologies. I was just trying to gauge the possibility of expanding the article, which in my opinion is a good one, but nevertheless could do with more content. Summarizing a divulgation book poses special problems: one must decide to what extent the arguments should be rendered, and I'm no good at drawing the line, having an inherent conflict of interests. That's why I try not to edit myself, but rather to start a dialogue for other editors to be impartial when I can't. So again, my apologies if my intentions were misinterpreted. I'm always in for constructiveness, and the talk page for this article is exceedingly welcoming - thanks to you all. Regards, Jordissim (talk) 17:37, 4 June 2013 (UTC)

Let's avoid subjective judgments![edit]

Science textbooks and papers are non-fiction. One can reasonable argue that The God Delusion is not a non-fiction but merely a diatribe against religion. Vanguard Scholar (talk) 02:55, 13 August 2013 (UTC)

It is not a work of imagination or a story, which is what fiction is. Dbrodbeck (talk) 03:04, 13 August 2013 (UTC)
Non-fiction is a category of writing, not an assessment of the quality or accuracy of the work. A "diatribe against religion" is still non-fiction. Guettarda (talk) 03:33, 13 August 2013 (UTC)
Agree with Dbrodbeck and Guettarda. "Merely a diatribe" seems like a far more subjective judgment than calling it nonfiction. According to the first sentence of non-fiction, it's a matter of presentation; the truth or falsity (nevermind the tone) are irrelevant. --Rhododendrites (talk) 04:15, 13 August 2013 (UTC)
  • It is a theoretical work, its about his ideas. Non-fiction is about verifiable stuff. Calling a theory non-fiction just because it uses scientific ideas is not correct. It could be right or wrong, many scientific theory's turn out to be fictitious. Thus it is not correct to call it non-fiction! 175.38.163.188 (talk) 16:30, 13 August 2013 (UTC)
Please look at the Wikipedia entry for non-fiction (or any other). Books of theory are without a doubt non-fiction. Books of science are non-fiction. If it's NOT (non) in the genre of FICTION, it's non-fiction. By your own logic, the entirety of scientific output that has since been disproven (or not been proven) would have to move over to fiction. Books of maps with names of cities that have since changed names are fiction. What exactly can you really prove in such a timeless and absolute way such that it cannot ever be false? Your non-fiction section sounds empty. --Rhododendrites (talk) 16:41, 13 August 2013 (UTC)
IP, there is no consensus for the changes you have made [1], please revert them and discuss them here. Thank you. Dbrodbeck (talk) 17:01, 13 August 2013 (UTC)
Saying that it is a work of philosophy is correct saying that his ideas are not fictional is not!. 175.38.163.188 (talk) 17:05, 13 August 2013 (UTC)
I encourage you to go read our article on what non fiction is. Please also go read WP:CONSENSUS. Dbrodbeck (talk) 17:08, 13 August 2013 (UTC)
I know what the word fiction means and what the word non means and putting the two together to describe this book is not really a good idea. I think philosophy should be acceptable to both atheists, agnostics and fundamentalist wack jobs. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 175.38.163.188 (talk) 17:17, 13 August 2013 (UTC)
I agree with Dbrodbeck et. al. The book is shelved under non-fiction in libraries. That's the broad category. That's how we should describe it here unless there is consensus for a narrower category. "Philosophy" doesn't work for me as said category. Barte (talk) 17:49, 13 August 2013 (UTC)
Philosophy doesn't work for you et. al. Well you might as-well tag it for WP:Speedy Deletion then. 175.38.163.188 (talk) 18:04, 13 August 2013 (UTC)
Dawkins is not a philosopher, indeed we have had that discussion at talk:Richard Dawkins. There is no consensus for this change, please revert it.Dbrodbeck (talk) 18:40, 13 August 2013 (UTC)
Oh whatever, I'll leave you to your consensus. Have nice life! 175.38.163.188 (talk) 19:21, 13 August 2013 (UTC)
As a latecomer to this discussion, I agree with the consensus. Philosophy is not fiction anyway. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:32, 15 August 2013 (UTC)

It's just Dawkins' ego on paper. If this is non-fiction you guys might as well convince me Family Guy is an animated biography about Seth MacFarlane's college life since Brian's basically his mouthpiece. Hitmonchan (talk) 14:43, 17 August 2013 (UTC)

Many autobiographies are ego-driven. But on library book shelves, all are still classed as "non-fiction". Barte (talk) 15:22, 17 August 2013 (UTC)
Lo! Biographical, ideological, political, and/or philosophical messages does not void categorization as fiction! And non-fiction is not defined by verified or even verifiable truths. Indeed, it can encompass conspiracy theories, abstract cultural criticism, extremist punditry, scientific studies, unscientific hypothetical musings, notes on recent knitting projects... I think the article explains this pretty well. --Rhododendrites (talk) 18:58, 17 August 2013 (UTC)
Exactly. "I don't think the book is true/valid/sound/well written" is a fair critique, but it doesn't disqualify it as non-fiction. Barte (talk) 20:21, 17 August 2013 (UTC)

"[Non-]Fiction book" can be interpreted as a truth claim[edit]

Re:This edit, just call it a book and let it stand on its own merits. If the description non-fiction or fiction is given, some readers will naturally see that as meaning that there is a consensus on the truth of the book. --Javaweb (talk) 12:51, 21 December 2013 (UTC)Javaweb

We have had this discussion before, check the archives, and discussion just above this. Dbrodbeck (talk) 13:09, 21 December 2013 (UTC)
TL;DR version (for informational purposes only -- not looking to rehash a debate): It can be interpreted as a truth claim, but shouldn't be because "non-fiction" is just a genre that means "not fiction." Since it isn't included as "fiction" anywhere, we can conclude it's "non-fiction." It's more nuanced than that, but that's the gist. --— Rhododendrites talk |  14:59, 21 December 2013 (UTC)

Austin Cline quote[edit]

The Cline quote is, in context, a critique of Terry Eagleton's critique of Dawkins. In the past, the criticism section of this entry has overtaken the rest of the article, and only vigilant trimming has kept it in check. I'd trim here. Thoughts? Barte (talk) 18:25, 19 May 2014 (UTC)

I forget (if I ever knew!) what Eagleton was criticizing. Was it this book, specifically? I don't see Eagleton in that section of the page currently. If we could clarify that, I'd be happy to put Cline's response in better context. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:44, 19 May 2014 (UTC)
What I know of is in the footnote after the Cline quote. I do see now that its placement is next to a London Review of Books review, written by Eagleton. If we're going to keep (I'm still dubious, but not insistent), that should probably be noted. Barte (talk) 19:09, 19 May 2014 (UTC)
With embarrassment, I note that I, myself, moved the quote there without having realized that Eagleton is the author of that review. I've just made some edits, attributing the review to Eagleton and defining the comment by Cline as a response to it. I think that makes it a statement from one POV followed by a response from the opposing POV, and, as such, I'd argue for keeping Cline's quote. To my eyes, the weight is approximately equal between the two of them. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:52, 19 May 2014 (UTC)
Fair enough. But if someone adds a response to Cline's response to Eagleton's response to Dawkins, I'm reverting. Barte (talk) 00:26, 20 May 2014 (UTC)
Yes, indeed! I agree entirely with that. --Tryptofish (talk) 23:08, 20 May 2014 (UTC)