The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

Re: The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

Postby admin » Sat Sep 19, 2015 7:41 pm

Part 1 of 2


What can be more soul shaking than peering through a 100-inch telescope at a distant galaxy, holding a 100-million-year-old fossil or a 500,000-year-old stone tool in one's hand, standing before the immense chasm of space and time that is the Grand Canyon, or listening to a scientist who gazed upon the face of the universe's creation and did not blink? That is deep and sacred science.

'This book fills a much needed gap.' The jest works because we simultaneously understand the two opposite meanings. Incidentally, I thought it was an invented witticism but, to my surprise, I find that it has actually been used, in all innocence, by publishers. See Patrick-Ffrench/dp/0415157145 for a book that 'fills a much needed gap in the literature available on the poststructuralist movement'. It seems deliciously appropriate that this avowedly superfluous book is all about Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva and other icons of haute francophonyism.

Does religion fill a much needed gap? It is often said that there is a God-shaped gap in the brain which needs to be filled: we have a psychological need for God -- imaginary friend, father, big brother, confessor, confidant -- and the need has to be satisfied whether God really exists or not. But could it be that God clutters up a gap that we'd be better off filling with something else? Science, perhaps? Art? Human friendship? Humanism? Love of this life in the real world, giving no credence to other lives beyond the grave? A love of nature, or what the great entomologist E. O. Wilson has called Biophilia?

Religion has at one time or another been thought to fill four main roles in human life: explanation, exhortation, consolation and inspiration. Historically, religion aspired to explain our own existence and the nature of the universe in which we find ourselves. In this role it is now completely superseded by science, and I have dealt with it in Chapter 4. By exhortation I mean moral instruction on how we ought to behave, and I covered that in Chapters 6 and 7. I have not so far done justice to consolation and inspiration, and this final chapter will briefly deal with them. As a preliminary to consolation itself, I want to begin with the childhood phenomenon of the 'imaginary friend', which I believe has affinities with religious belief.


Christopher Robin, I presume, did not believe that Piglet and Winnie the Pooh really spoke to him. But was Binker different?

Binker -- what I call him -- is a secret of my own,
And Binker is the reason why I never feel alone.
Playing in the nursery, sitting on the stair,
Whatever I am busy at, Binker will be there.
Oh, Daddy is clever, he's a clever sort of man,
And Mummy is the best since the world began,
And Nanny is Nanny, and I call her Nan --
But they can't See Binker.
Binker's always talking, 'cos I'm teaching him to speak
He sometimes likes to do it in a funny sort of squeak,
And he sometimes likes to do it in a hoodling sort of roar ...
And I have to do it for him' cos his throat is rather sore.
Oh, Daddy is clever, he's a clever sort of man,
And Mummy knows all that anybody can,
And Nanny is Nanny, and I call her Nan --
But they don't Know Binker.
Binker's brave as lions when we're running in the park;
Binker's brave as tigers when we're lying in the dark;
Binker's brave as elephants. He never, never cries ...
Except (like other people) when the soap gets in his eyes.
Oh, Daddy is Daddy, he's a Daddy sort of man,
And Mummy is as Mummy as anybody can,
And Nanny is Nanny, and I call her Nan ...
But they're not Like Binker.
Binker isn't greedy, but he does like things to eat,
So I have to say to people when they're giving me a sweet,
'Oh, Binker wants a chocolate, so could you give me two?'
And then I eat it for him, 'cos his teeth are rather new.
Well, I'm very fond of Daddy, but he hasn't time to play,
And I'm very fond of Mummy, but she sometimes goes away,
And I'm often cross with Nanny when she wants to brush my
hair ...
But Binker's always Binker, and is certain to be there.

-- A. A. MILNE, Now We Are Six [i]

Is the imaginary-friend phenomenon a higher illusion, in a different category from ordinary childhood make-believe? My own experience is not much help here. Like many parents, my mother kept a notebook of my childish sayings. In addition to simple pretendings (now I'm the man in the moon ... an accelerator ... a Babylonian) I was evidently fond of second-order pretendings (now I'm an owl pretending to be a waterwheel) which might be reflexive (now I'm a little boy pretending to be Richard). I never once believed I really was any of those things, and I think that is normally true of childhood make-believe games. But I didn't have a Binker. If the testimony of their adult selves is to be believed, at least some of those normal children who have imaginary friends really do believe they exist, and, in some cases, see them as clear and vivid hallucinations. I suspect that the Binker phenomenon of childhood may be a good model for understanding theistic belief in adults. I do not know whether psychologists have studied it from this point of view, but it would be a worthwhile piece of research. Companion and confidant, a Binker for life: that is surely one role that God plays -- one gap that might be left if God were to go.

Another child, a girl, had a 'little purple man', who seemed to her a real and visible presence, and who would manifest himself, sparkling out of the air, with a gentle tinkling sound. He visited her regularly, especially when she felt lonely, but with decreasing frequency as she grew older. On a particular day just before she went to kindergarten, the little purple man came to her, heralded by his usual tinkling fanfare, and announced that he would not be visiting her any more. This saddened her, but the little purple man told her that she was getting bigger now and wouldn't need him in the future. He must leave her now, so that he could look after other children. He promised her that he would come back to her if ever she really needed him. He did return to her, many years later in a dream, when she had a personal crisis and was trying to decide what to do with her life. The door of her bedroom opened and a cartload of books appeared, pushed into the room by ... the little purple man. She interpreted this as advice that she should go to university -- advice that she took and later judged to be good. The story makes me almost tearful, and it brings me as close as I shall probably come to understanding the consoling and counselling role of imaginary gods in people's lives. A being may exist only in the imagination, yet still seem completely real to the child, and still give real comfort and good advice. Perhaps even better: imaginary friends -- and imaginary gods -- have the time and patience to devote all their attention to the sufferer. And they are much cheaper than psychiatrists or professional counsellors.

Did gods, in their role as consolers and counsellors, evolve from binkers, by a sort of psychological 'pedomorphosis'? Pedomorphosis is the retention into adulthood of childhood characteristics. Pekinese dogs have pedomorphic faces: the adults look like puppies. It is a well-known pattern in evolution, widely accepted as important for the development of such human characteristics as our bulbous forehead and short jaws. Evolutionists have described us as juvenile apes, and it is certainly true that juvenile chimpanzees and gorillas look more like humans than adult ones do. Could religions have evolved originally by gradual postponement, over generations, of the moment in life when children gave up their binkers -- just as we slowed down, during evolution, the flattening of our foreheads and the protrusion of our jaws?

I suppose, for completeness, we should consider the reverse possibility. Rather than gods evolving from ancestral binkers, could binkers have evolved from ancestral gods? This seems to me less likely. 1 was led to think about it while reading the American psychologist Julian Jaynes's The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, a book that is as strange as its title suggests. It is one of those books that is either complete rubbish or a work of consummate genius, nothing in between! Probably the former, but I'm hedging my bets.

Jaynes notes that many people perceive their own thought processes as a kind of dialogue between the 'self' and another internal protagonist inside the head. Nowadays we understand that both 'voices' are our own -- or if we don't we are treated as mentally ill. This happened, briefly, to Evelyn Waugh. Never one to mince words, Waugh remarked to a friend: 'I haven't seen you for a long time, but then I've seen so few people because -- did you know? -- I went mad: After his recovery, Waugh wrote a novel, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, which described his hallucinatory period, and the voices that he heard.

Jaynes's suggestion is that some time before 1000 Be people in general were unaware that the second voice -- the Gilbert Pinfold voice -- came from within themselves. They thought the Pinfold voice was a god: Apollo, say, or Astarte or Yahweh or, more probably, a minor household god, offering them advice or orders. Jaynes even located the voices of the gods in the opposite hemisphere of the brain from the one that controls audible speech. The 'breakdown of the bicameral' mind was, for Jaynes, a historical transition. It was the moment in history when it dawned on people that the external voices that they seemed to be hearing were really internal. Jaynes even goes so far as to define this historical transition as the dawning of human consciousness.

There is an ancient Egyptian inscription about the creator god Ptah, which describes the various other gods as variations of Ptah's 'voice' or 'tongue'. Modern translations reject the literal 'voice' and interpret the other gods as 'objectified conceptions of [Ptah's] mind'. Jaynes dismisses such educated readings, preferring to take the literal meaning seriously. The gods were hallucinated voices, speaking inside people's heads. Jaynes further suggests that such gods evolved from memories of dead kings, who still, in a manner of speaking, retained control over their subjects via imagined voices in their heads. Whether or not you find his thesis plausible, Jaynes's book is intriguing enough to earn its mention in a book on religion.

Now, to the possibility I raised of borrowing from Jaynes to construct a theory that gods and binkers are developmentally related, but the opposite way around from the paedomorphosis theory. It amounts to the suggestion that the breakdown of the bicameral mind didn't happen suddenly in history, but was a progressive pulling back into childhood of the moment when hallucinated voices and apparitions were rumbled as not real. In a kind of reversal of the paedomorphosis hypothesis, the hallucinated gods disappeared from adult minds first, then were pulled back earlier and earlier into childhood, until today they survive only in the Binker or little purple man phenomenon. The problem with this version of the theory is that it doesn't explain the persistence of gods into adulthood today.

It might be better not to treat gods as ancestral to binkers, or vice versa, but rather to see both as by-products of the same psychological predisposition. Gods and binkers have in common the power to comfort, and provide a vivid sounding board for trying out ideas. We have not moved far from Chapter 5's psychological by-product theory of the evolution of religion.


It is time to face up to the important role that God plays in consoling us; and the humanitarian challenge, if he does not exist, to put something in his place. Many people who concede that God probably doesn't exist, and that he is not necessary for morality, still come back with what they often regard as a trump card: the alleged psychological or emotional need for a god. If you take religion away, people truculently ask, what are you going to put in its place? What have you to offer the dying patients, the weeping bereaved, the lonely Eleanor Rigbys for whom God is their only friend?

The first thing to say in response to this is something that should need no saying. Religion's power to console doesn't make it true. Even if we make a huge concession; even if it were conclusively demonstrated that belief in God's existence is completely essential to human psychological and emotional well-being; even if all atheists were despairing neurotics driven to suicide by relentless cosmic angst -- none of this would contribute the tiniest jot or tittle of evidence that religious belief is true. It might be evidence in favour of the desirability of convincing yourself that God exists, even if he doesn't. As I've already mentioned, Dennett, in Breaking the Spell, makes the distinction between belief in God and belief in belief: the belief that it is desirable to believe, even if the belief itself is false: 'Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief' (Mark 9: 24). The faithful are encouraged to profess belief, whether they are convinced by it or not. Maybe if you repeat something often enough, you will succeed in convincing yourself of its truth. I think we all know people who enjoy the idea of religious faith, and resent attacks on it, while reluctantly admitting that they don't have it themselves. I was slightly shocked to discover a first-class example on page 96 of my hero Peter Medawar's book The Limits of Science: 'I regret my disbelief in God and religious answers generally, for I believe it would give satisfaction and comfort to many in need of it if it were possible to discover good scientific and philosophic reasons to believe in God.'

Since reading of Dennett's distinction, I have found occasion to use it again and again. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the majority of atheists I know disguise their atheism behind a pious facade. They do not believe in anything supernatural themselves, but retain a vague soft spot for irrational belief. They believe in belief. It is amazing how many people seemingly cannot tell the difference between 'X is true' and 'It is desirable that people should believe that X is true'. Or maybe they don't really fall for this logical error, but simply rate truth as unimportant compared with human feelings. I don't want to decry human feelings. But let's be clear, in any particular conversation, what we are talking about: feelings, or truth. Both may be important, but they are not the same thing.

In any case, my hypothetical concession was extravagant and wrong. I know of no evidence that atheists have any general tendency towards unhappy, angst-ridden despond. Some atheists are happy. Others are miserable. Similarly, some Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists are miserable, while others are happy. There may be statistical evidence bearing on the relationship between happiness and belief (or unbelief), but I doubt if it is a strong effect, one way or the other. I find it more interesting to ask whether there is any good reason to feel depressed if we live without God. I shall end this book by arguing, on the contrary, that it is an understatement to say that one can lead a happy and fulfilled life without supernatural religion. First, though, I must examine the claims of religion to offer consolation.

Consolation, according to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, is the alleviation of sorrow or mental distress. I shall divide consolation into two types.

1. Direct physical consolation. A man stuck for the night on a bare mountain may find comfort in a large, warm St. Bernard dog, not forgetting, of course, the brandy barrel around its neck. A weeping child may be consoled by the embrace of strong arms wrapped around her and reassuring words whispered in her ear.

2. Consolation by discovery of a previously unappreciated fact, or a previously undiscovered way of looking at existing facts. A woman whose husband has been killed in war may be consoled by the discovery that she is pregnant by him, or that he died a hero. We can also get consolation through discovering a new way of thinking about a situation. A philosopher points out that there is nothing special about the moment when an old man dies. The child that he once was 'died' long ago, not by suddenly ceasing to live but by growing up. Each of Shakespeare's seven ages of man 'dies' by slowly morphing into the next. From this point of view, the moment when the old man finally expires is no different from the slow 'deaths' throughout his life. [154] A man who does not relish the prospect of his own death may find this changed perspective consoling. Or maybe not, but it is a potential example of consolation through reflection. Mark Twain's dismissal of the fear of death is another: 'I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.' The apercu changes nothing about the fact of our inevitable death. But we have been offered a different way of looking at that inevitability and we may find it consoling. Thomas Jefferson, too, had no fear of death and he seems to have believed in no kind of afterlife. By Christopher Hitchens's account, 'As his days began to wane, Jefferson more than once wrote to friends that he faced the approaching end without either hope or fear. This was as much as to say, in the most unmistakable terms, that he was not a Christian."

Robust intellects may be ready for the strong meat of Bertrand Russell's declaration, in his 1925 essay 'What I Believe':

I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting. Many a man has borne himself proudly on the scaffold; surely the same pride should teach us to think truly about man's place in the world. Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigour, and the great spaces have a splendour of their own.

I was inspired by this essay of Russell's when I read it in my school library at the age of about sixteen, but I had forgotten it. It is possible that I was paying unconscious homage to Russell (as well as conscious homage to Darwin) when I wrote, in A Devil's Chaplain in 2003,

There is more than just grandeur in this view of life, bleak and cold though it can seem from under the security blanket of ignorance. There is deep refreshment to be had from standing up and facing straight into the strong keen wind of understanding: Yeats's 'Winds that blow through the starry ways'.

How does religion compare with, say, science in providing these two types of consolation? Looking at Type 1 consolation first, it is entirely plausible that the strong arms of God, even if they are purely imaginary, could console in just the same kind of way as the real arms of a friend, or a St. Bernard dog with a brandy cask around its neck. But of course scientific medicine can also offer comfort -- usually more effectively than brandy.

Turning now to Type 2 consolation, it is easy to believe that religion could be extremely effective. People caught up in a terrible disaster, such as an earthquake, frequently report that they derive consolation from the reflection that it is all part of God's inscrutable plan: no doubt good shall come of it in the fullness of time. If someone fears death, sincere belief that he has an immortal soul can be consoling -- unless, of course, he thinks he is going to hell or purgatory. False beliefs can be every bit as consoling as true ones, right up until the moment of disillusionment. This applies to non-religious beliefs too. A man with terminal cancer may be consoled by a doctor who lies to him that he is cured, just as effectively as another man who is told truthfully that he is cured. Sincere and wholehearted belief in life after death is even more immune to disillusionment than belief in a lying doctor. The doctor's lie remains effective only until the symptoms become unmistakable. A believer in life after death can never be ultimately disillusioned.

Polls suggest that approximately 95 per cent of the population of the United States believe they will survive their own death. Aspiring martyrs aside, I can't help wondering how many moderate religious people who claim such belief really hold it, in their heart of hearts. If they were truly sincere, shouldn't they all behave like the Abbot of Ampleforth? When Cardinal Basil Hume told him that he was dying, the abbot was delighted for him: 'Congratulations! That's brilliant news. I wish I was coming with you.' [155] The abbot, it seems, really was a sincere believer. But it is precisely because it is so rare and unexpected that his story catches our attention, almost provokes our amusement - in a fashion reminiscent of the cartoon of a young woman carrying a 'Make love not war' banner, stark naked, and with a bystander exclaiming, 'Now that's what I call sincerity!' Why don't all Christians and Muslims say something like the abbot when they hear that a friend is dying? When a devout woman is told by the doctor that she has only months to live, why doesn't she beam with excited anticipation, as if she has just won a holiday in the Seychelles? 'I can't wait!' Why don't faithful visitors at her bedside shower her with messages for those that have gone before? 'Do give my love to Uncle Robert when you see him ...'

Why don't religious people talk like that when in the presence of the dying? Could it be that they don't really believe all that stuff they pretend to believe? Or perhaps they do believe it but fear the process of dying. With good reason, given that our species is the only one not allowed to go to the vet to be painlessly put out of our misery. But in that case, why does the most vocal opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide come from the religious? On the 'Abbot of Ampleforth' or 'Holiday in the Seychelles' model of death, wouldn't you expect that religious people would be the least likely to cling unbecomingly to earthly life? Yet it is a striking fact that, if you meet somebody who is passionately opposed to mercy killing, or passionately against assisted suicide, you can bet a good sum that they will turn out to be religious. The official reason may be that all killing is a sin. But why deem it to be a sin if you sincerely believe you are accelerating a journey to heaven?

My attitude to assisted suicide, by contrast, takes off from Mark Twain's observation, already quoted. Being dead will be no different from being unborn -- I shall be just as I was in the time of William the Conqueror or the dinosaurs or the trilobites. There is nothing to fear in that. But the process of dying could well be, depending on our luck, painful and unpleasant -- the sort of experience from which we have become accustomed to being protected by a general anaesthetic, like having your appendix out. If your pet is dying in pain, you will be condemned for cruelty if you do not summon the vet to give him a general anaesthetic from which he will not come round. But if your doctor performs exactly the same merciful service for you when you are dying in pain, he runs the risk of being prosecuted for murder. When I am dying, I should like my life to be taken out under a general anaesthetic, exactly as if it were a diseased appendix. But I shall not be allowed that privilege, because I have the ill-luck to be born a member of Homo sapiens rather than, for example, Canis familiaris or Felis catus. At least, that will be the case unless I move to a more enlightened place like Switzerland, the Netherlands or Oregon. Why are such enlightened places so rare? Mostly because of the influence of religion.

But, it might be said, isn't there an important difference between having your appendix removed and having your life removed? Not really; not if you are about to die anyway. And not if you have a sincere religious belief in life after death. If you have that belief, dying is just a transition from one life to another. If the transition is painful, you should no more wish to undergo it without anaesthetic than you would wish to have your appendix removed without anaesthetic. It is those of us who see death as terminal rather than transitional who might naively be expected to resist euthanasia or assisted suicide. Yet we are the ones who support it. [ii]

In the same vein, what are we to make of the observation of a senior nurse of my acquaintance, with a lifetime's experience in running a home for old people, where death is a regular occurrence? She has noticed over the years that the individuals who are most afraid of death are the religious ones. Her observation would need to be substantiated statistically but, assuming she is right, what is going on here? Whatever it is, it doesn't, on the face of it, speak strongly of religion's power to comfort the dying. [iii] In the case of Catholics, maybe they are afraid of purgatory? The saintly Cardinal Hume said farewell to a friend in these words: 'Well, goodbye then. See you in purgatory, I suppose.' What I suppose is that there was a sceptical twinkle in those kind old eyes.

The doctrine of purgatory offers a preposterous revelation of the way the theological mind works. Purgatory is a sort of divine Ellis Island, a Hadean waiting room where dead souls go if their sins aren't bad enough to send them to hell, but they still need a bit of remedial checking out and purifying before they can be admitted to the sin-free-zone of heaven. [iv] In medieval times, the Church used to sell 'indulgences' for money. This amounted to paying for some number of days' remission from purgatory, and the Church literally (and with breathtaking presumption) issued signed certificates specifying the number of days off that had been purchased. The Roman Catholic Church is an institution for whose gains the phrase 'ill-gotten' might have been specially invented. And of all its money-making rip-offs, the selling of indulgences must surely rank among the greatest con tricks in history, the medieval equivalent of the Nigerian Internet scam but far more successful.

As recently as 1903, Pope Pius X was still able to tabulate the number of days' remission from purgatory that each rank in the hierarchy was entitled to grant: cardinals two hundred days, archbishops a hundred days, bishops a mere fifty days. By his time, however, indulgences were no longer sold directly for money. Even in the Middle Ages, money was not the only currency in which you could buy parole from purgatory. You could pay in prayers too, either your own before death or the prayers of others on your behalf, after your death. And money could buy prayers. If you were rich, you could lay down provision for your soul in perpetuity. My own Oxford College, New College, was founded in 1379 (it was new then) by one of that century's great philanthropists, William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester. A medieval bishop could become the Bill Gates of the age, controlling the equivalent of the information highway (to God), and amassing huge riches. His diocese was exceptionally large, and Wykeham used his wealth and influence to found two great educational establishments, one in Winchester and one in Oxford. Education was important to Wykeham, but, in the words of the official New College history, published in 1979 to mark the sixth centenary, the fundamental purpose of the college was 'as a great chantry to make intercession for the repose of his soul. He provided for the service of the chapel by ten chaplains, three clerks and sixteen choristers, and he ordered that they alone were to be retained if the college's income failed.' Wykeham left New College in the hands of the Fellowship, a self-electing body which has been continuously in existence like a single organism for more than six hundred years. Presumably he trusted us to continue to pray for his soul through the centuries.

Today the college has only one chaplain [v] and no clerks, and the steady century-by-century torrent of prayers for Wykeham in purgatory has dwindled to a trickle of two prayers per year. The choristers alone go from strength to strength and their music is, indeed, magical. Even I feel a twinge of guilt, as a member of that Fellowship, for a trust betrayed. In the understanding of his own time, Wykeham was doing the equivalent of a rich man today making a large down payment to a cryogenics company which guarantees to freeze your body and keep it insulated from earthquakes, civil disorder, nuclear war and other hazards, until some future time when medical science has learned how to unfreeze it and cure whatever disease it was dying of. Are we later Fellows of New College reneging on a contract with our Founder? If so, we are in good company. Hundreds of medieval benefactors died trusting that their heirs, well paid to do so, would pray for them in purgatory. I can't help wondering what proportion of Europe's medieval treasures of art and architecture started out as down payments on eternity, in trusts now betrayed.

But what really fascinates me about the doctrine of purgatory is the evidence that theologians have advanced for it: evidence so spectacularly weak that it renders even more comical the airy confidence with which it is asserted,. The entry on purgatory in the Catholic Encyclopedia has a section called 'proofs'. The essential evidence for the existence of purgatory is this. If the dead simply went to heaven or hell on the basis of their sins while on Earth, there would be no point in praying for them. 'For why pray for the dead, if there be no belief in the power of prayer to afford solace to those who as yet are excluded from the sight of God.' And we do pray for the dead, don't we? Therefore purgatory must exist, otherwise our prayers would be pointless! Q.E.D. This seriously is an example of what passes for reasoning in the theological mind.

That remarkable non sequitur is mirrored, on a larger scale, in another common deployment of the Argument from Consolation. There must be a God, the argument goes, because, if there were not, life would be empty, pointless, futile, a desert of meaninglessness and insignificance. How can it be necessary to point out that the logic falls at the first fence? Maybe life is empty. Maybe our prayers for the dead really are pointless. To presume the opposite is to presume the truth of the very conclusion we seek to prove. The alleged syllogism is transparently circular. Life without your wife may very well be intolerable, barren and empty, but this unfortunately doesn't stop her being dead. There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else (parents in the case of children, God in the case of adults) has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point. It is all of a piece with the infantilism of those who, the moment they twist their ankle, look around for someone to sue. Somebody else must be responsible for my well-being, and somebody else must be to blame if I am hurt. Is it a similar infantilism that really lies behind the 'need' for a God? Are we back to Binker again?

The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it. And we can make it very wonderful indeed. If science gives consolation of a non-material kind, it merges into my final topic, inspiration.


This is a matter of taste or private judgement, which has the slightly unfortunate effect that the method of argument I must employ is rhetoric rather than logic. I've done it before, and so have many others including, to name only recent examples, Carl Sagan in Pale Blue Dot, E. O. Wilson in Biophilia, Michael Shermer in The Soul of Science and Paul Kurtz in Affirmations. In Unweaving the Rainbow I tried to convey how lucky we are to be alive, given that the vast majority of people who could potentially be thrown up by the combinatorial lottery of DNA will in fact never be born. For those of us lucky enough to be here, I pictured the relative brevity of life by imagining a laser-thin spotlight creeping along a gigantic ruler of time. Everything before or after the spotlight is shrouded in the darkness of the dead past, or the darkness of the unknown future. We are staggeringly lucky to find ourselves in the spotlight. However brief our time in the sun, if we waste a second of it, or complain that it is dull or barren or (like a child) boring, couldn't this be seen as a callous insult to those unborn trillions who will never even be offered life in the first place? As many atheists have said better than me, the knowledge that we have only one life should make it all the more precious. The atheist view is correspondingly life-affirming and life-enhancing, while at the same time never being tainted with self-delusion, wishful thinking, or the whingeing self-pity of those who feel that life owes them something. Emily Dickinson said,

That it will never come again
Is what makes life so sweet.

If the demise of God will leave a gap, different people will fill it in different ways. My way includes a good dose of science, the honest and systematic endeavour to find out the truth about the real world. I see the human effort to understand the universe as a model-building enterprise. Each of us builds, inside our head, a model of the world in which we find ourselves. The minimal model of the world is the model our ancestors needed in order to survive in it. The simulation software was constructed and debugged by natural selection, and it is most adept in the world familiar to our ancestors on the African savannah: a three-dimensional world of medium-sized material objects, moving at medium speeds relative to one another. As an unexpected bonus, our brains turn out to be powerful enough to accommodate a much richer world model than the mediocre utilitarian one that our ancestors needed in order to survive. Art and science are runaway manifestations of this bonus. Let me paint one final picture, to convey the power of science to open the mind and satisfy the psyche.
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Re: The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

Postby admin » Sat Sep 19, 2015 7:42 pm

Part 2 of 2


One of the unhappiest spectacles to be seen on our streets today is the image of a woman swathed in shapeless black from head to toe, peering out at the world through a tiny slit. The burka is not just an instrument of oppression of women and claustral repression of their liberty and their beauty; not just a token of egregious male cruelty and tragically cowed female submission. I want to use the narrow slit in the veil as a symbol of something else.

Our eyes see the world through a narrow slit in the electromagnetic spectrum. Visible light is a chink of brightness in the vast dark spectrum, from radio waves at the long end to gamma rays at the short end. Quite how narrow is hard to appreciate and a challenge to convey. Imagine a gigantic black burka, with a vision slit of approximately the standard width, say about one inch. If the length of black cloth above the slit represents the short-wave end of the invisible spectrum, and if the length of black cloth below the slit represents the long-wave portion of the invisible spectrum, how long would the burka have to be in order to accommodate a one-inch slit to the same scale? It is hard to represent it sensibly without invoking logarithmic scales, so huge are the lengths we are dealing with. The last chapter of a book like this is no place to start tossing logarithms around, but you can take it from me that it would be the mother of all burkas. The one-inch window of visible light is derisorily tiny compared with the miles and miles of black cloth representing the invisible part of the spectrum, from radio waves at the hem of the skirt to gamma rays at the top of the head. What science does for us is widen the window. It opens up so wide that the imprisoning black garment drops away almost completely, exposing our senses to airy and exhilarating freedom.

Optical telescopes use glass lenses and mirrors to scan the heavens, and what they see is stars that happen to be radiating in the narrow band of wavelengths that we call visible light. But other telescopes 'see' in the X-ray or radio wavelengths, and present to us a cornucopia of alternative night skies. On a smaller scale, cameras with appropriate filters can 'see' in the ultraviolet and take photographs of flowers that show an alien range of stripes and spots that are visible to, and seemingly 'designed' for, insect eyes but which our unaided eyes can't see at all. Insect eyes have a spectral window of similar width to ours, but slightly shifted up the burka: they are blind to red and they see further into the ultraviolet than we do -- into the 'ultraviolet garden'. [vi]

The metaphor of the narrow window of light, broadening out into a spectacularly wide spectrum, serves us in other areas of science. We live near the centre of a cavernous museum of magnitudes, viewing the world with sense organs and nervous systems that are equipped to perceive and understand only a small middle range of sizes, moving at a middle range of speeds. We are at home with objects ranging in size from a few kilometres (the view from a mountaintop) to about a tenth of a millimetre (the point of a pin). Outside this range even our imagination is handicapped, and we need the help of instruments and of mathematics -- which, fortunately, we can learn to deploy. The range of sizes, distances or speeds with which our imaginations are comfortable is a tiny band, set in the midst of a gigantic range of the possible, from the scale of quantum strangeness at the smaller end to the scale of Einsteinian cosmology at the larger.

Our imaginations are forlornly under-equipped to cope with distances outside the narrow middle range of the ancestrally familiar. We try to visualize an electron as a tiny ball, in orbit around a larger cluster of balls representing protons and neutrons. That isn't what it is like at all. Electrons are not like little balls. They are not like anything we recognize. It isn't clear that 'like' even means anything when we try to fly too close to reality's further horizons. Our imaginations are not yet tooledup to penetrate the neighbourhood of the quantum. Nothing at that scale behaves in the way matter -- as we are evolved to think -- ought to behave. Nor can we cope with the behaviour of objects that move at some appreciable fraction of the speed of light. Common sense lets us down, because common sense evolved in a world where nothing moves very fast, and nothing is very small or very large.

At the end of a famous essay on 'Possible Worlds', the great biologist J. B. S. Haldane wrote, 'Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose ... I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, or can be dreamed of, in any philosophy.' By the way, I am intrigued by the suggestion that the famous Hamlet speech invoked by Haldane is conventionally mis-spoken. The normal stress is on 'your':

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Indeed, the line is often plonkingly quoted with the implication that Horatio stands for shallow rationalists and sceptics everywhere. But some scholars place the stress on 'philosophy', with 'your' almost vanishing: '... than are dreamt of inya philosophy.' The difference doesn't really matter for present purposes, except that the second interpretation already takes care of Haldane's 'any' philosophy.

The dedicatee of this book made a living from the strangeness of science, pushing it to the point of comedy. The following is taken from the same extempore speech in Cambridge in 1998 that I quoted in Chapter 1: 'The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas-covered planet going around a nuclear fireball ninety million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.' Where other science-fiction writers played on the oddness of science to arouse our sense of the mysterious, Douglas Adams used it to make us laugh (those who have read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy might think of the 'infinite improbability drive', for instance). Laughter is arguably the best response to some of the stranger paradoxes of modern physics. The alternative, I sometimes think, is to cry.

Quantum mechanics, that rarefied pinnacle of twentieth-century scientific achievement, makes brilliantly successful predictions about the real world. Richard Feynman compared its precision to predicting a distance as great as the width of North America to an accuracy of one human hair's breadth. This predictive success seems to mean that quantum theory has got to be true in some sense; as true as anything we know, even including the most down-to-earth common-sense facts. Yet the assumptions that quantum theory needs to make, in order to deliver those predictions, are so mysterious that even the great Feynman himself was moved to remark (there are various versions of this quotation, of which the following seems to me the neatest): 'If you think you understand quantum theory ... you don't understand quantum theory.' [vii]

Quantum theory is so queer that physicists resort to one or another paradoxical 'interpretation' of it. Resort is the right word. David peutsch, in The Fabric of Reality, embraces the 'many worlds' interpretation of quantum theory, perhaps because the worst that you can say of it is that it is preposterously wasteful. It postulates a vast and rapidly growing number of universes, existing in parallel and mutually undetectable except through the narrow porthole of quantum-mechanical experiments. In some of these universes I am already dead. In a small minority of them, you have a green moustache. And so on.

The alternative 'Copenhagen interpretation' is equally preposterous -- not wasteful, just shatteringly paradoxical. Erwin Schrodinger satirized it with his parable of the cat. Schrodinger's cat is shut up in a box with a killing mechanism triggered by a quantum-mechanical event. Before we open the lid of the box, we don't know whether the cat is dead. Common sense tells us that, nevertheless, the cat must be either alive or dead inside the box. The Copenhagen interpretation contradicts common sense: all that exists before we open the box is a probability. As soon as we open the box, the wave function collapses and we are left with the single event: the cat is dead, or the cat is alive. Until we opened the box, it was neither dead nor alive.

The 'many worlds' interpretation of the same events is that in some universes the cat is dead; in other universes the cat is alive. Neither interpretation satisfies human common sense or intuition. The more macho physicists don't care. What matters is that the mathematics work, and the predictions are experimentally fulfilled. Most of us are too wimpish to follow them. We seem to need some sort of visualization of what is 'really' going on. I understand, by the way, that Schrodinger originally proposed his cat thought-experiment in order to expose what he saw as the absurdity of the Copenhagen interpretation.

The biologist Lewis Wolpert believes that the queerness of modern physics is just the tip of the iceberg. Science in general, as opposed to technology, does violence to common sense. [156] Wolpert calculates, for example, 'that there are many more molecules in a glass of water than there are glasses of water in the sea'. Since all the water on the planet cycles through the sea, it would seem to follow that every time you drink a glass of water, the odds are good that something of what you are drinking has passed through the bladder of Oliver Cromwell. There is, of course, nothing special about Cromwell, or bladders. Haven't you just breathed in a nitrogen atom that was once breathed out by the third iguanodon to the left of the tall cycad tree? Aren't you glad to be alive in a world where not only is such a conjecture possible but you are privileged to understand why? And publicly explain it to somebody else, not as your opinion or belief but as something that they, when they have understood your reasoning, will feel compelled to accept? Maybe this is an aspect of what Carl Sagan meant when he explained his motive in writing The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark: 'Not explaining science seems to me perverse. When you're in love, you want to tell the world. This book is a personal statement, reflecting my lifelong love affair with science.'

The evolution of complex life, indeed its very existence in a universe obeying physical laws, is wonderfully surprising -- or would be but for the fact that surprise is an emotion that can exist only in a brain which is the product of that very surprising process. There is an anthropic sense, then, in which our existence should not be surprising. I'd like to think that I speak for my fellow humans in insisting, nevertheless, that it is desperately surprising.

Think about it. On one planet, and possibly only one planet in the entire universe, molecules that would normally make nothing more complicated than a chunk of rock, gather themselves together into chunks of rock-sized matter of such staggering complexity that they are capable of running, jumping, swimming, flying, seeing, hearing, capturing and eating other such animated chunks of complexity; capable in some cases of thinking and feeling, and falling in love with yet other chunks of complex matter. We now understand essentially how the trick is done, but only since 1859. Before 1859 it would have seemed very very odd indeed. Now, thanks to Darwin, it is merely very odd. Darwin seized the window of the burka and wrenched it open, letting in a flood of understanding whose dazzling novelty, and power to uplift the human spirit, perhaps had no precedent -- unless it was the Copernican realization that the Earth was not the centre of the universe.

'Tell me,' the great twentieth-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once asked a friend, 'why do people always say it was natural for man to assume that the sun went round the Earth rather than that the Earth was rotating?' His friend replied, 'Well, obviously because it just looks as though the Sun is going round the Earth.' Wittgenstein responded, 'Well, what 'would it have looked like if it had looked as though the Earth was rotating?' I sometimes quote this remark of Wittgenstein in lectures, expecting the audience to laugh. Instead, they seem stunned into silence.

In the limited world in which our brains evolved, small objects are more likely to move than large ones, which are seen as the background to movement. As the world rotates, objects that seem large because they are near -- mountains, trees and buildings, the ground itself -- all move in exact synchrony with each other and with the observer, relative to heavenly bodies such as the sun and stars. Our evolved brains project an illusion of movement onto them rather than the mountains and trees in the foreground.

I now want to pursue the point mentioned above, that the way we see the world, and the reason why we find some things intuitively easy to grasp and others hard, is that our brains are themselves evolved organs: on-board computers, evolved to help us survive in a world -- I shall use the name Middle World -- where the objects that mattered to our survival were neither very large nor very small; a world where things either stood still or moved slowly compared with the speed of light; and where the very improbable could safely be treated as impossible. Our mental burka window is narrow because it didn't need to be any wider in order to assist our ancestors to survive.

Science has taught us, against all evolved intuition, that apparently solid things like crystals and rocks are really composed almost entirely of empty space. The familiar illustration represents the nucleus of an atom as a fly in the middle of a sports stadium. The next atom is right outside the stadium. The hardest, solidest, densest rock, then, is 'really' almost entirely empty space, broken only by tiny particles so far apart that they shouldn't count. So why do rocks look and feel solid and hard and impenetrable?

I won't try to imagine how Wittgenstein might have answered that question. But, as an evolutionary biologist, I would answer it like this. Our brains have evolved to help our bodies find their way around the world on the scale at which those bodies operate. We never evolved to navigate the world of atoms. If we had, our brains probably would perceive rocks as full of empty space. Rocks feel hard and impenetrable to our hands because our hands can't penetrate them. The reason they can't penetrate them is unconnected with the sizes and separations of the particles that constitute matter. Instead, it has to do with the force fields that are associated with those widely spaced particles in 'solid' matter. It is useful for our brains to construct notions like solidity and impenetrability, because such notions help us to navigate our bodies through a world in which objects -- which we call solid -- cannot occupy the same space as each other.

A little comic relief at this point -- from The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson:

This is a true story. It is the summer of 1983. Major General Albert Stubblebine III is sitting behind his desk in Arlington, Virginia, and he is staring at his wall, upon which hang his numerous military awards. They detail a long and distinguished career. He is the United States Army's chief of intelligence, with sixteen thousand soldiers under his command ... He looks past his awards to the wall itself. There is something he feels he must do even though the thought of it frightens him. He thinks about the choice he has to make. He can stay in his office or he can go into the next office. That is his choice. And he has made it. He is going into the next office ... He stands up, moves out from behind his desk, and begins to walk. I mean, he thinks, what is the atom mostly made up of anyway? Space! He quickens his pace. What am I mostly made of? He thinks. Atoms! He is almost at a jog now. What is the wall mostly made up of? He thinks. Atoms! All I have to do is merge the spaces.... Then General Stubblebine bangs his nose hard on the wall of his office. Damn, he thinks. General Stubblebine is confounded by his continual failure to walk through his wall.

General Stubblebine is appropriately described as an 'out of the box thinker' on the website of the organization which, in retirement, he now runs with his wife. It is called HealthFreedomUSA, and it is dedicated to 'supplements (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.), herbs, homeopathic remedies, nutritional medicine and clean food (untainted by pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics), without corporations (through the use of government coercion) dictating to you what dosages and treatments you are allowed to use'. There is no mention of precious bodily fluids. [viii]

Having evolved in Middle World, we find it intuitively easy to grasp ideas like: 'When a major general moves, at the sort of medium velocity at which major generals and other Middle World objects do move, and hits another solid Middle World object like a wall, his progress is painfully arrested.' Our brains are not equipped to imagine what it would be like to be a neutrino passing through a wall, in the vast interstices of which that wall 'really' consists. Nor can our understanding cope with what happens when things move at close to the speed of light.

Unaided human intuition, evolved and schooled in Middle World, even finds it hard to believe Galileo when he tells us that a cannonball and a feather, given no air friction, would hit the ground at the same instant when dropped from a leaning tower. That is because, in Middle World, air friction is always there. If we had evolved in a vacuum, we would expect a feather and a cannonball to hit the ground simultaneously. We are evolved denizens of Middle World, and that limits what we are capable of imagining. The narrow window of our burka permits us, unless we are especially gifted or peculiarly well educated, to see only Middle World.

There is a sense in which we animals have to survive not just in Middle World but in the micro-world of atoms and electrons too. The very nerve impulses with which we do our thinking and our imagining depend upon activities in Micro World. But no action that our wild ancestors ever had to perform, no decision that they ever had to take, would have been assisted by an understanding of Micro World. If we were bacteria, constantly buffeted by thermal movements of molecules, it would be different. But we Middle Worlders are too cumbersomely massive to notice Brownian motion. Similarly, our lives are dominated by gravity but are almost oblivious to the delicate force of surface tension. A small insect would reverse that priority and would find surface tension anything but delicate.

Steve Grand, in Creation: Life and How to Make It, is almost scathing about our preoccupation with matter itself. We have this tendency to think that only solid, material 'things' are 'really' things at all. 'Waves' of electromagnetic fluctuation in a vacuum seem 'unreal'. Victorians thought that waves had to be waves 'in' some material medium. No such medium was known, so they invented one and named it the luminiferous ether. But we find 'real' matter comfortable to our understanding only because our ancestors evolved to survive in Middle World, where matter is a useful construct.

On the other hand, even we Middle Worlders can see that a whirlpool is a 'thing' with something like the reality of a rock, even though the matter in the whirlpool is constantly changing. In a desert plain in Tanzania, in the shadow of Ol Donyo Lengai, sacred volcano of the Masai, there is a large dune made of ash from an eruption in 1969. It is carved into shape by the wind. But the beautiful thing is that it moves bodily. It is what is technically known as a barchan (pronounced bahkahn). The entire dune walks across the desert in a westerly direction at a speed of about 17 metres per year. It retains its crescent shape and creeps along in the direction of the horns. The wind blows sand up the shallower slope. Then, as each sand grain hits the top of the ridge, it cascades down the steeper slope on the inside of the crescent.

Actually, even a barchan is more of a 'thing' than a wave. A wave seems to move horizontally across the open sea, but the molecules of water move vertically. Similarly, sound waves may travel from speaker to listener, but molecules of air don't: that would be a wind, not a sound. Steve Grand points out that you and I are more like waves than permanent 'things'. He invites his reader to think ...

... of an experience from your childhood. Something you remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all, you really were there at the time, weren't you? How else would you remember it? But here is the bombshell: you weren't there. Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place ... Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you. Whatever you are, therefore, you are not the stuff of which you are made. If that doesn't make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, read it again until it does, because it is important. [ix]

We could, at this point, remind ourselves of the implications of Carl Sagan's statement; "matter is mostly NOTHING" i.e., empty space between sub-atomic particles which engage in a process of accretion to form matter and eventually disengage to do it all over again, "life after life"!

When we understand "matter is mostly nothing" we can begin to approach the attitude characteristic of the Indus Valley civilization.

Indian philosophy teaches that manifestation is Maya, or illusion; a beguiling cosmic dance which has the potential to delude us and enmesh the beholder. Restating this from the perspective of quantum physics, someone said, "there are no nouns" i.e., a person, place or thing lacks substantial reality and is but a twinkling atomic dance possessing only the facade of solidarity. That makes us all "nobody".

-- "The Truth About Tantra," by John Mumford (Swami Anandakapila Saraswati)

Nonsimultaneously apprehended interactive processing. I see no nouns, I only see verbs. Neither do I seem to be a very black Bucky Fuller. The whole universe, scenario universe, seems to be a verb. Interacting processing.... Interacting processing. Tao Duh! That's all I tune in. Interacting processing. No nouns anywhere. I never met a noun yet.

-- Maybe Logic -- The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson, directed by Deepleaf Productions

'Really' isn't a word we should use with simple confidence. If a neutrino had a brain which had evolved in neutrino-sized ancestors, it would say that rocks 'really' do consist mostly of empty space. We have brains that evolved in medium-sized ancestors, who couldn't walk through rocks, so our 'really' is a 'really' in which rocks are solid. 'Really', for an animal, is whatever its brain needs it to be, in order to assist its survival. And because different species live in such different worlds, there will be a troubling variety of 'reallys'.

The Fourth Principle: Each Person Has A Genuine Identity

By “genuine identity,” we mean something that is undeniable and yet ultimately
indefinable. We know we exist, and when we “look at the looker,” we experience a peculiar sensation of presence without articulation. What is true of ourselves individually must be true of all human beings, for surely our experience of self-existence is not unique. Let that person who denies his or her own existence demonstrate their non-existence by some proof. Little more need be said.

The Fifth Principle: The World Genuinely Exists

There may appear to be a vast gulf between our genuine identity and the world around us, but without mind we would know as little about the world as a rock, and be equally unable to formulate ideas about it. Mind reflects the light, sound, and other stimuli arising outside and within our body, and creates an image of the world in our mind that we call the world.

The reflective capacity of the mind is its “tautological nature.” The “tautological nature of the mind” is a term derived from the language of logic, that defines a tautology as a statement that is always true, like “A=A.” Similarly, the mind reflects what is delivered to the senses and recomposes an image of the world inside our awareness. Our senses are portals into this inner theatre, and our experience of the world is a marvelous composition, an intricate reflection, of our surroundings.

Because the mind creates a reflection, and this is our only contact with the world around us, some people question whether the world is not in fact an illusion that arises from the mind itself. Often called “solipsism,” this notion is rejected by the Oestian Path, because it requires belief in something for which there is no evidence – a mind separate from the world itself, in which the “illusion of the world” could appear.

The Oestian Path takes a common-sense approach to the world – we all see it, therefore, it exists. The world is reflected in our mind with variable accuracy, and subject to our experience. Infants, for example, are unaware of the existence of separate objects. When an object is removed from an infant’s field of vision, she does not seek to discover its whereabouts – she accepts its disappearance as a natural process in a world of changing shapes and colors.

Once a child conceives of the world as a gathering of separate objects, she will identify and give them names. She sees a silvery disk high in the sky and learns it is called the moon. As the years pass, she adds concepts to that name as we learn why it changes from a crescent to a circle and back again, and then we learn about the solar system and so forth and so on, until gradually, a whole system of astronomical concepts comes to envelop us, and we can speak of galaxies, metagalaxies, black holes, and the Big Bang. Our knowledge expands exponentially, and yet it is a type of knowledge of which Chuang Tzu said, “Great knowledge makes all into one. Small knowledge breaks things into parts. When there are parts, they must have names. There are enough names. One must know when to stop.”

It is not difficult to take a rest from the activity of naming, the endless pairing of perceptions with concepts, and the interactions of concepts with each other. There are many practices for loosening the net of conceptual thinking, and a practitioner can find lots of help and advice in developing this ability. What is most helpful, however, is to remember that the pre-verbal, pre-conceptual awareness is present at all times, a few moments of mental activity before the arising of names and notions. By remaining at the level of pre-verbal awareness, and watching as names and notions arise and dissolve, one will lose the sense of separation from genuine identity and taste direct knowledge.

We must, of course, allow ourselves to use names and notions to describe our world to ourselves and each other. A world of speechless beings is not our goal, but the experience of wordless awareness is necessary to self-knowledge and seeing the world and other people in true perspective. With an understanding of the distinction between objects and the names we associate with them, and the distinction between our genuine identity and the self-description we call our self-image, we are prepared to use the tautological nature of the conceptual mind creatively. We can understand that what we call things, and how we describe ourselves and other people determines how we experience life and choose to act. The tautological nature of conceptual mind dictates that things become more like what we think and say they are.

Because things come to resemble what we say they are, we must be attentive to the names we give things, and be certain those names are accurate. We are all prophets of our own destiny in a very substantial degree. Thus, in order to keep a firm ground for wholesome growth under our own feet, we must affirm, first, last and always, that we possess genuine identity. The source of this affirmation is as near as your own existence. No one can deny his or her own existence, and the very expression of the idea, “I do not exist,” negates its truth. If you do not exist, who is making the statement?

The tautological functioning of our minds makes us vulnerable to believing lies, accepting superstitions, and granting superior status to those who wear badges of authority. A considerable volume of speech and imagery is directed at us daily, directed at destroying our belief in our genuine identity. Appeals to nihilistic sentiment abound, in high-flown, scientific, philosophical and artistic forms, and in crude, depressing expressions common in popular culture. Thus, we must actively repel self-denying, nihilistic beliefs, and like removing poison darts that would leak toxins into our bloodstream, discard these bad ideas before they take root tautologically in our own thinking. We should clear the mirror of the mind so it reflects the genuine existence of the world and the genuine identity of our fellow living beings.

-- The Oestian Way, by Charles Carreon

What we see of the real world is not the unvarnished real world but a model of the real world, regulated and adjusted by sense data -- a model that is constructed so that it is useful for dealing with the real world. The nature of that model depends on the kind of animal we are. A flying animal needs a different kind of world model from a walking, a climbing or a swimming animal. Predators need a different kind of model from prey, even though their worlds necessarily overlap. A monkey's brain must have software capable of simulating a three-dimensional maze of branches and trunks. A water boatman's brain doesn't need 3D software, since it lives on the surface of the pond in an Edwin Abbott Flatland. A mole's software for constructing models of the world will be customized for underground use. A naked mole rat probably has world-representing software similar to a mole's. But a squirrel, although it is a rodent like the mole rat, probably has world-rendering software much more like a monkey's.

I've speculated, in The Blind Watchmaker and elsewhere, that bats may 'see' colour with their ears. The world-model that a bat needs, in order to navigate through three dimensions catching insects, must surely be similar to the model that a swallow needs in order to perform much the same task. The fact that the bat uses echoes to update the variables in its model, while the swallow uses light, is incidental. Bats, I suggest, use perceived hues such as 'red' and 'blue' as internal labels for some useful aspect of echoes, perhaps the acoustic texture of surfaces; just as swallows use the same perceived hues to label long and short wavelengths of light. The point is that the nature of the model is governed by how it is to be used rather than by the sensory modality involved. The lesson of the bats is this. The general form of the mind model -- as opposed to the variables that are constantly being inputted by sensory nerves -- is an adaptation to the animal's way of life, no less than its wings, legs and tail are.

J. B. S. Haldane, in the article on 'possible worlds' that I quoted above, had something relevant to say about animals whose world is dominated by smell. He noted that dogs can distinguish two very similar volatile fatty acids -- caprylic acid and caproic acid -- each diluted to one part in a million. The only difference is that caprylic acid's main molecular chain is two carbon atoms longer than the main chain of caproic acid. A dog, Haldane guessed, would probably be able to place the acids 'in the order of their molecular weights by their smells, just as a man could place a number of piano wires in the order of their lengths by means of their notes'.

There is another fatty acid, capric acid, which is just like the other two except that it has yet two more carbon atoms in its main chain. A dog that had never met capric acid would perhaps have no more trouble imagining its smell than we would have trouble imagining a trumpet playing one note higher than we have heard a trumpet play before. It seems to me entirely reasonable to guess that a dog, or a rhinoceros, might treat mixtures of smells as harmonious chords. Perhaps there are discords. Probably not melodies, for melodies are built up of notes that start or stop abruptly with accurate timing, unlike smells. Or perhaps dogs and rhinos smell in colour. The argument would be the same as for the bats.

Once again, the perceptions that we call colours are tools used by our brains to label important distinctions in the outside world. Perceived hues -- what philosophers call qualia -- have no intrinsic connection with lights of particular wavelengths. They are internal labels that are available to the brain, when it constructs its model of external reality, to make distinctions that are especially salient to the animal concerned. In our case, or that of a bird, that means light of different wavelengths. In a bat's case, I have speculated, it might be surfaces of different echoic properties or textures, perhaps red for shiny, blue for velvety, green for abrasive. And in a dog's or a rhino's case, why should it not be smells? The power to imagine the alien world of a bat or a rhino, a pond skater or a mole, a bacterium or a bark beetle, is one of the privileges science grants us when it tugs at the black cloth of our burka and shows us the wider range of what is out there for our delight.

The metaphor of Middle World -- of the intermediate range of phenomena that the narrow slit in our burka permits us to see -- applies to yet other scales or 'spectrums'. We can construct a scale of improbabilities, with a similarly narrow window through which our intuition and imagination are capable of going. At one extreme of the spectrum of improbabilities are those would-be events that we call impossible. Miracles are events that are extremely improbable. A statue of a madonna could wave its hand at us. The atoms that make up its crystalline structure are all vibrating back and forth. Because there are so many of them, and because there is no agreed preference in their direction of motion, the hand, as we see it in Middle World, stays rock steady. But the jiggling atoms in the hand could all just happen to move in the same direction at the same time. And again. And again ... In this case the hand would move, and we'd see it waving at us. It could happen, but the odds against are so great that, if you had set out writing the number at the origin of the universe, you still would not have written enough zeroes to this day. The power to calculate such odds -- the power to quantify the near-impossible rather than just throw up our hands in despair -- is another example of the liberating benefactions of science to the human spirit.

Evolution in Middle World has ill equipped us to handle very improbable events. But in the vastness of astronomical space, or geological time, events that seem impossible in Middle World turn out to be inevitable. Science flings open the narrow window through which we are accustomed to viewing the spectrum of possibilities. We are liberated by calculation and reason to visit regions of possibility that had once seemed out of bounds or inhabited by dragons. We have already made use of this widening of the window in Chapter 4, where we considered the improbability of the origin of life and how even a near-impossible chemical event must come to pass given enough planet years to play with; and where we considered the spectrum of possible universes, each with its own set of laws and constants, and the anthropic necessity of finding ourselves in one of the minority of friendly places.

How should we interpret Haldane's 'queerer than we can suppose'? Queerer than can, in principle, be supposed? Or just queerer than we can suppose, given the limitation of our brains' evolutionary apprenticeship in Middle World? Could we, by training and practice, emancipate ourselves from Middle World, tear off our black burka, and achieve some sort of intuitive -- as well as just mathematical -- understanding of the very small, the very large, and the very fast? I genuinely don't know the answer, but I am thrilled to be alive at a time when humanity is pushing against the limits of understanding. Even better, we may eventually discover that there are no limits.



i. Reproduced by permission of the A. A. Milne Estate.

ii. One study of attitudes to death among American atheists found the following: 50 per cent wanted a memorial celebration of their life; 99 per cent supported physician-assisted suicide for those who want it, and 75 per cent wanted it for themselves; 100 per cent wanted no contact with hospital staff who promote religion. See

iii. An Australian friend coined a wonderful phrase to describe the tendency for religiosity to increase in old age. Say it with an Australian intonation, going up at the end like a question: 'Cramming for the final?'

iv. Purgatory is not to be confused with Limbo, where babies who died unbaptized were supposed to go. And aborted foetuses? Blastocysts? Now, with characteristically presumptuous aplomb, Pope Benedict XVI has just abolished Limbo. Does that mean that all the babies who have been languishing there all these centuries will now suddenly float off to heaven? Or do they stay there and only the newly dead escape Limbo? Or have earlier popes been wrong all along, in spite of their infallibility? This is the kind of thing we are all supposed to 'respect'.

v. Female - what would Bishop William have made of that?

vi. 'The Ultraviolet Garden' was the title of one of my five Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, originally televised by the BBC under the general title 'Growing Up in the Universe'. The whole series of five lectures is available on DVD from

vii. A similar remark is attributed to Niels Bohr: 'Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.'

viii. For what looks like a very characterful portrait of General Stubblebine, see www.mindcontrol jpg.

ix. Some might dispute the literal truth of Grand's statement, for example in the case of bone molecules. But the spirit of it is surely valid. You are more like a wave than a static material 'thing'.
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Re: The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

Postby admin » Sat Sep 19, 2015 7:42 pm


A partial list of friendly addresses, for individuals needing support in escaping from religion.

I intend to keep an updated version of this list on the website of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science: I apologize for limiting the list below largely to the English-speaking world.

American Atheists
PO Box 5733, Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733
Voicemail: 1-908-276-7300
Fax: 1-908-276-7402

American Humanist Association
1777 T Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009-7125
Telephone: (202) 238-9088
Toll-free: 1-800-837-3792
Fax: (202) 238-9003

Atheist Alliance International
PO Box 26867, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Toll-free: 1-866-HERETIC

The Brights
PO Box 163418, Sacramento, CA 95816 USA

Center For Inquiry Transnational
Council for Secular Humanism
Campus Freethought Alliance
Center for Inquiry - On Campus
African Americans for Humanism
3965 Rensch Road, Amherst, NY 14228
Telephone: (716) 636-4869
Fax: (716) 636-1733
www.secularhumanism.orglindex.php?secti ... page=index

Freedom From Religion Foundation
PO Box 750, Madison, WI 53701
Telephone: (608) 256-5800

Anti-Discrimination Support Network (ADSN)
Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia
PO Box 242, Pocopson, PA 19366-9242
Telephone: (610) 793-2737
Fax: (610) 793-2569

Institute for Humanist Studies
48 Howard St, Albany, NY 12207
Telephone: (518) 432-7820
Fax: (518) 432-7821
International Humanist and Ethical Union - USA
Appignani Bioethics Center
PO Box 4104, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10162
Telephone: (212) 687-3324
Fax: (212) 661-4188

Internet Infidels
PO Box 142, Colorado Springs, CO 80901-0142
Fax: (877) 501-5113

James Randi Educational Foundation
201 S.E. 12th St (E. Davie Blvd), Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316-1815
Telephone: (954) 467-1112
Fax: (954) 467-1660

Secular Coalition for America
PO Box 53330, Washington, DC 20009-9997
Telephone: (202) 299-1091

Secular Student Alliance
48 Howard St., Albany, NY 12207
Toll-free Voicemail / Fax: 1-877-842-9474

The Skeptics Society
PO Box 338, Altadena, CA 91001
Telephone: (626) 794-3119
Fax: (626) 794-1301

Society for Humanistic Judaism
28611 W. 12 Mile Rd, Farmington Hills, MI 48334
Telephone: (248) 478-7610
Fax: (248) 478-3159

British Humanist Association
1 Gower Street, London WCIE 6HD
Telephone: 020 7079 3580
Fax: 020 7079 3588

International Humanist and Ethical Union - UK
1 Gower Street, London WClE 6HD
Telephone: 020 7631 3170
Fax: 020 76313171

National Secular Society
25 Red Lion Square, London WCIR 4RL
Tel: 020 7404 3126
Fax: 0870 762 8971

New Humanist
1 Gower Street, London WCIE 6HD
Telephone: 020 74361151
Fax: 020 7079 3588

Rationalist Press Association
1 Gower Street, London WClE 6HD
Telephone: 020 74361151
Fax: 020 7079 3588

South Place Ethical Society (UK)
Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WCIR 4RL
Telephone: 020 7242 8037/4
Fax: 020 7242 8036

Humanist Association of Canada
PO Box 8752, Station T, Ottawa, Ontario, KIG 3J1
Telephone: 877-HUMANS-l
Fax: (613) 739-4801

Australian Skeptics
PO Box 268, Roseville, NSW 2069
Telephone: 02 9417 2071

Council of Australian Humanist Societies
GPO Box 1555, Melbourne, Victoria 3001
Telephone: 613 59744096

New Zealand
New Zealand Skeptics
PO Box 29-492, Christchurch

Humanist Society of New Zealand
PO Box 3372, Wellington

Rationalist International
PO Box 9110, New Delhi 110091
Telephone: 91 11 556990 12

Apostates of Islam

Dr Homa Darabi Foundation
(To promote the rights of women and children under Islam)
PO Box 11049, Truckee, CA 96162, USA
Telephone (530) 5824197
Fax (530) 582 0156

Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Society
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Re: The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

Postby admin » Sat Sep 19, 2015 7:42 pm

Books cited or recommended

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Ehrman, B. D. (2003a). Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture
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Ehrman, B. D. (2003b). Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It
into the New Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ehrman, B. D. (2006). Whose Word Is It? London: Continuum.
Fisher, H. (2004). Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of
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Shermer, M. (2006). The Soul of Science. Los Angeles: Skeptics
Silver, L. M. (2006). Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and
Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life. New York:
Singer, P. (1990). Animal Liberation. London: Jonathan Cape.
Singer, P. (1994). Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Smith, K. (1995). Ken's Guide to the Bible. New York: Blast Books.
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Smythies,J. (2006). Bitter Fruit. Charleston, SC: Booksurge.
Spong, J. S. (2005). The Sins of Scripture. San Francisco: Harper.
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Bang. London: Pickering.
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the Search for Purpose in the Universe. New York: Prometheus.
Stenger, V.J. (2007). God, the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows
that God Does Not Exist. New York: Prometheus.
Susskind, L. (2006). The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the
Illusion of Intelligent Design. New York: Little, Brown.
Swinburne, R. (1996). Is There a God? Oxford: Oxford University
Swinburne, R. (2004). The Existence of God. Oxford: Oxford
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Taverne, R. (2005). The March of Unreason: Science, Democracy
and the New Fundamentalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Tiger, L. (1979). Optimism: The Biology of Hope. New York: Simon
& Schuster.
Toland, J. (1991). Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography. New York:
Trivers, R. L. (1985). Social Evolution. Menlo Park, CA: Benjamin/
Unwin, S. (2003). The Probability of God: A Simple Calculation that
Proves the Ultimate Truth. New York: Crown Forum.
Vermes, G. (2000). The Changing Faces of Jesus. London: Allen
Ward, K. (1996). God, Chance and Necessity. Oxford: Oneworld.
Warraq, 1. (1995). Why I Am Not a Muslim. New York:
Weinberg, S. (1993). Dreams of a Final Theory. London: Vintage.
Wells, G. A. (1986). Did Jesus Exist? London: Pemberton.
Wheen, F. (2004). How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A
Short History of Modern Delusions. London: Fourth Estate.
Williams, W., ed. (1998). The Values of Science: Oxford Amnesty
Lectures 1997. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Wilson, A. N. (1993). Jesus. London: Flamingo.
Wilson, A. N. (1999). God's Funeral. London: John Murray.
Wilson, D. S. (2002). Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion and
the Nature of Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Wilson, E. O. (1984). Biophilia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
Winston, R. (2005). The Story of God. London: Transworld/BBC.
Wolpert, L. (1992). The Unnatural Nature of Science. London:
Faber & Faber.
Wolpert, L. (2006). Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The
Evolutionary Origins of Belief London: Faber & Faber.
Young, M. and Edis, T., eds (2006). Why Intelligent Design Fails: A
Scientific Critique of the New Creationism. New Brunswick:
Rutgers University Press.
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Re: The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

Postby admin » Sat Sep 19, 2015 7:43 pm



1 Wendy Kaminer, 'The last taboo: why America needs atheism',
New Republic, 14 Oct. 1996; .
2 Dr Zoe Hawkins, Dr Beata Adams and Dr Paul St John Smith,
personal communication.

Chapter 1: A deeply religious non-believer

Deserved respect

3 The television documentary of which the interview was a part
was accompanied by a book (Winston 2005).
4 Dennett (2006).

Undeserved respect

5 The full speech is transcribed in Adams (2003) as 'Is there an
artificial God?'
6 Perica (2002). See also
journals/ahr/ 108.5/br _151.html.
7 'Dolly and the cloth heads', in Dawkins (2003).
8 cases/2000- 2009/2005/2005-04-1 084/.
9 R. Dawkins, 'The irrationality of faith', New Statesman
(London), 31 March 1989.
10 Columbus Dispatch, 19 Aug. 2005.
11 Los Angeles Times, 10 April 2006.
12 ic-societyof-
denmark -used -fake.html.
14 Independent, 5 Feb. 2006.
15 Andrew Mueller, 'An argument with Sir Iqbal', Independent on
Sunday, 2 April 2006, Sunday Review section, 12-16.

Chapter 2: The God Hypothesis

16 Mitford and Waugh (2001).


18 1.

Secularism, the Founding Fathers and the religion of America

19 Congressional Record, 16 Sept. 1981.
20 ctrl/buckner _tripoli.html.
21 Giles Fraser, 'Resurgent religion has done away with the
country vicar', GuaMian, 13 April 2006.
22 Robert 1. Sherman, in Free Inquiry 8: 4, Fall 1988, 16.
23 N. Angier, 'Confessions of a lonely atheist', New York Times
Magazine, 14 Jan. 2001: Angier.html.
25 An especially bizarre case of a man being murdered simply
because he was an atheist is recounted in the newsletter of the
Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia for Marchi April
2006. Go to
2006_0304.pdf and scroll down to 'The murder of Larry
26 1/11I 181

The poverty of agnosticism

27 Quentin de la Bedoyere, Catholic Herald, 3 Feb. 2006.
28 Carl Sagan, 'The burden of skepticism', Skeptical Inquirer 12,
Fall 1987.
29 1 discussed this case in Dawkins (1998).
30 T. H. Huxley, 'Agnosticism' (1889), repro in Huxley (1931). The
complete text of 'Agnosticism' is also available at http://
huxley _wace/part_02.html.
31 Russell, 'Is there a God?' (1952), repro in Russell (1997b).
32 Andrew Mueller, 'An argument with Sir Iqbal', Independent on
Sunday, 2 April 2006, Sunday Review section, 12-16.
33 New York Times, 29 Aug. 2005. See also Henderson (2006).
34 Henderson (2006).

The Great Prayer Experiment

36 H. Benson et al., 'Study of the therapeutic effects of
intercessory prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients',
American Heart Journal 151: 4, 2006, 934-42.
37 Richard Swinburne, in Science and Theology News, 7 April
38 New York Times, II April 2006.

The Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists

39 In court cases, and books such as Ruse (1982). His article in
Playboy appeared in the April 2006 issue.
40 Jerry Coyne's reply to Ruse appeared in the August 2006 issue
of Playboy.
41 Madeleine Bunting, Guardian, 27 March 2006.
42 Dan Dennett's reply appeared in the Guardian, 4 April 2006.
43 dawkinsdennetcboogeyman.
pharyngula/2006/02/ oue double_standard. ph p; http://scienceblogs.
com/pharyngula/2006/02/the_rusedennetcfeud. php.

Little green men

44 exoplanetes/ encyclo/ encycl.h tml.
45 Dennett (1995).

Chapter 3: Arguments for God's existence

The ontological argument and other a priori arguments

46 William Grey:
'Gasking's proof', Analysis, Vol 60, No 4 (2000), pp. 368-70.

The argument from personal 'experience'

47 The whole subject of illusions is discussed by Richard Gregory
in a series of books including Gregory (1997).
48 My own attempt at spelling out the explanation is on
pp. 268-9 of Dawkins (1998).

The argument from scripture

50 Tom Flynn, 'Matthew vs. Luke', Free Inquiry 25: 1,2004,
34-45; Robert Gillooly, 'Shedding light on the light of the
world', Free Inquiry 25: 1, 2004, 27-30.
51 Erhman (2006). S'eealso Ehrman (2003a, b).

The argument from admired religious scientists

52 Beit-Hallahmi and Argyle (1997).
53 E. J. Larson and 1.Witham, 'Leading scientists still reject God',
Nature 394, 1998, 313.
54 gives a
particularly interesting analysis of historical trends in
American religious opinion by Thomas C. Reeves, Professor
of History at the University of Wisconsin, based on Reeves
56 R. Elisabeth Cornwell and Michael Stirrat, manuscript in
preparation, 2006.
57 P. Bell, 'Would you believe it?', Mensa Magazine, Feb. 2002,

Chapter 4: Why there almost certainly is no God

The Ultimate Boeing 747

58 An exhaustive review of the provenance, usages and quotations
of this analogy is given, from a creationist point of view,
by Gert Korthof, at

Natural selection as a consciousness-raiser

59 Adams (2002), p. 99. My 'Lament for Douglas', written the day
after his death, is reprinted as the Epilogue to The Salmon of
Doubt, and also in A Devil's Chaplain, which also has my
eulogy at his memorial meeting in the Church of St Martinin-
the- Fields.
60 Interview in Der Spiegel, 26 Dee. 2005.
61 Susskind (2006: 17).

The worship of gaps

62 Behe (1996).
63 evol!design2/ article.html.
64 This account of the Dover trial, including the quotations, is
from A. Bottaro, M. A. Inlay and N. ]. Matzke, 'Immunology in
the spotlight at the Dover "Intelligent Design" trial', Nature
Immunology 7,2006,433-5.
65 J. Coyne, 'God in the details: the biochemical challenge to
evolution', Nature 383, 1996,227-8. The article by Coyne and
me, 'One side can be wrong', was published in the Guardian,
1 Sept. 2005:
feature/story/O, 13026, 1559743,00.html.
The quotation from the 'eloquent blogger' is at http:// I_archive. ph p.
66 Dawkins (1995).

The anthropic principle: planetary version

67 Carter admitted later that a better name for the overall
principle would be 'cognizability principle' rather than the
already entrenched term 'anthropic principle': B. Carter, 'The
anthropic principle and its implications for biological
evolution', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of
London A, 310,1983,347-63. For a book-length discussion of
the anthropic principle, see Barrow and Tipler (1988).
68 Comins (1993).
69 I spelled this argument out more fully in The Blind
Watchmaker (Dawkins 1986).

The anthropic principle: cosmological version

70 Murray Gell-Mann, quoted by John Brockman on the 'Edge'
websi te,
71 Ward (1996: 99); Polkinghorne (1994: 55).

An interlude at Cambridge

72 J. Horgan, 'The Templeton Foundation: a skeptic's take',
Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 April 2006. See also rd_ culture/horgan06/
73 P. B. Medawar, review of The Phenomenon of Man, repro in
Medawar (1982: 24~).
74 Dennett (1995: 155).

Chapter 5: The roots of religion

The Darwinian imperative

75 Quoted in Dawkins (1982: 30).
76 K. Sterelny, 'The perverse primate', in Grafen and Ridley (2006:

Group selection

77 N. A. Chagnon, 'Terminological kinship, genealogical
relatedness and village fissioning among the Yanomamo
Indians', in Alexander and Tinkle (1981: ch. 28).
78 C. Darwin, The Descent of Man (New York: Appleton, 1871),
vol. 1, 156.

Religion as a by-product of something else

79 Quoted in Blaker (2003: 7).

Psychologically primed for religion

80 See e.g. Buss (2005).
81 Deborah Keleman, 'Are children "intuitive theists"?',
Psychological Science 15: 5,2004, 295-30l.
82 Dennett (1987).
83 Guardian, 31 Jan. 2006.
84 Smythies (2006).
85 14223.htm.

Chapter 6: The roots of morality: why are we good?

86 The movie itself, which is very good, can be obtained at php.

A case study in the roots of morality

87 M. Hauser and P. Singer, 'Morality without religion', Free
Inquiry 26: 1,2006,18-19.

If there is no God, why be good?

88 Dostoevsky (1994: bk 2, ch. 6, p. 87).
89 Hinde (2002). See also Singer (1994), Grayling (2003), Glover

Chapter 7: The 'Good' Book and the changing moral Zeitgeist

90 Lane Fox (1992); Berlinerblau (2005).
91 Holloway (1999, 2005). Richard Holloway's 'recovering
Christian' line is in a book review in the Guardian, 15 Feb.
2003: uk! reviews/ scienceandnature/
0,6121,894941,00.html. The Scottish journalist Muriel Gray
wrote a beautiful account of my Edinburgh dialogue with
Bishop Holloway in the (Glasgow) Herald: http://www.sundayherald.
com/ 44517.

The Old Testament

92 For a frightening collection of sermons by American clergymen,
blaming hurricane Katrina on human 'sin', see
93 Pat Robertson, reported by the BBC at!2/hi/americas/ 4427144.stm.

Is the New Testament any better?

94 R. Dawkins, 'Atheists for Jesus', Free Inquiry 25: 1,2005,9-10.
95 Julia Sweeney is also right on target when she briefly mentions
Buddhism. Just as Christianity is sometimes thought to be a
nicer, gentler religion than Islam, Buddhism is often cracked
up to be the nicest of all. But the doctrine of demotion on the
reincarnation ladder because of sins in a past life is pretty
unpleasant. Julia Sweeney: 'I went to Thailand and happened
to visit a woman who was taking care of a terribly deformed
boy. I said to his caretaker, "It's so good of you to be taking
care of this poor boy." She said, "Don't say 'poor boy,' he must
have done something terrible in a past life to be born this
96 For a thoughtful analysis of techniques used by cults, see
Barker (1984). Mote' journalistic accounts of modern cults are
given by Lane (1996) and Kilduff and Javers (1978).
97 Paul Vallely and Andrew Buncombe, 'History of Christianity:
Gospel according to Judas', Independent, 7 April 2006.
98 Vermes (2000).

Love thy neighbour

99 Hartung's paper was originally published in Skeptic 3: 4, 1995,
but is now most readily available at 13.
100 Smith (1995).
101 Guardian, 12 March 2002:!
departments/politicsphilosophyandsociety/ story/0,,664342,00.
102 N. D. Glenn, 'Interreligious marriage in the United States:
patterns and recent trends', Journal of Marriage and the Family

The moral Zeitgeist

103 http://www.ebonmusings.orglatheism/new 1OC.html.
104 Huxley (1871).
105 uklamerican-authors/
19th -century /abraham -lincoln/the- writings-of-abrahamlincoln-

What about Hitler and Stalin? Weren't they atheists?

106 Bullock (1991).
107 Bullock (2005).
108 http://www.ffrf.orglfttoday/1997 /march97 /holocaust.html.
This article by Richard E. Smith, originally published in
Freethought Today, March 1997, has a large number of relevant
quotations from Hitler and other Nazis, giving their sources.
Unless otherwise stated, my quotations are from Smith's
109 ca_hitler.html.
110 Bullock (2005: 96).
111 Adolf Hitler, speech of 12 April 1922. In Baynes (I942: 19-20).
112 Bullock (2005: 43).
113 This quotation, and the following one, are from Anne Nicol
Gaylor's article on Hitler's religion,
http://www. ffrf.orgl fttoday /backlhitler. html.
114 http://www.contra-mundum.orglschirrmacher/

Chapter 8: What's wrong with religion? Why be so hostile?

Fundamentalism and the subversion of science

115 From 'What is true?', ch. 1.2 of Dawkins (2003).
116 Both my quotations from Wise come from his contribution to
the 1999 book In Six Days, an anthology of essays by young-
Earth creationists (Ashton 1999).

The dark side of absolutism

117 Warraq (1995: 175).
118 John William Gott's imprisonment for calling Jesus a clown is
mentioned in The Indypedia, published by the Independent,
29 April 2006. The attempted prosecution of the BBC for blasphemy
is in.BBC news, 10 Jan. 2005: uk/ lIhi/ entertainment!
119 War/The_American_

Faith and homosexuality

120 Hodges (1983).
121 This and the remaining quotations in this section are from the
American Taliban site already listed:
http:// ad ultthought. War/The_American_
122 War/The_American_
123 From Pastor Phelps's Westboro Baptist Church official website,
http://www.godhatl; 131_
coretta -scott -king- funeral. pdf.

Faith and the sanctity of human life

124 See Mooney (2005). Also Silver (2006), which arrived when
this book was in final proof, too late to be discussed as fully as
I would have liked.
125 For an interesting analysis of what makes Texas different in
this respect, see
http://www. pbs.orglwgbh/pages/frontli net shows/
execution/ readings/texas.html.
126 http://en. Tucker.
127 These Randall Terry quotes are from the same American
Taliban site as before:
http:// ad ultthought.
128 Reported on Fox news: /0,293 3,96286,00.html.
129 M. Stamp Dawkins (1980).

The Great Beethoven Fallacy

131 Medawar and Medawar (1977).

How 'moderation' in faith fosters fanaticism

132 Johann Hari's article, originally published in the Independent,
15 July 2005, can be found at
archive/ article. php?id=640.
133 Village Voice, 18 May 2004: l.html.
134 Harris (2004: 29).
135 Nasra Hassan, 'An arsenal of believers', New Yorker, 19 Nov.
2001. See also 11119_

Chapter 9: Childhood, abuse and the escape from religion

Physical and mental abuse

136 Reported by BBC news:
http://news. uk! l/hi/wales/90 1723.stm.
137 Loftus and Ketcham (1994).
138 See John Waters in the Irish Times:
http:// news/news2003/ roots/.
139 Associated Press, 10 June 2005:
reference/ clergy/ clergy426.html.
140 http://www.av

In defence of children

141 N. Humphrey, 'What shall we tell the children?', in Williams
(1998); repro in Humphrey (2002).
142 conlaw/

An educational scandal

143 Guardian, 15 Jan. 2005: uk/weekend/ story /0" 1389500,00.h tml.
144 Times Educational Supplement, 15 July 2005.
opinion/2002/03/ 18/do 180 1.xml
146 Guardian, 15 Jan. 2005:
weekend/story/O" 1389500,00.html.
147 The text of our letter, drafted by the Bishop of Oxford, was as

Dear Prime Minister,

We write as a group of scientists and Bishops to
express our concern about the teaching of science in
the Emmanuel City Technology College in
Gateshead. Evolution is a scientific theory of great
explanatory power, able to account for a wide range
of phenomena in a number of disciplines. It can be
refined, confirmed and even radically altered by
attention to evidence. It is not, as spokesmen for the
college maintain,~"faith position' in the same
category as the biblical account of creation which has
a different function and purpose.

The issue goes wider than what is currently being
taught in one college. There is a growing anxiety
about what will be taught and how it will be taught
in the new generation of proposed faith schools. We
believe that the curricula in such schools, as well as
that of Emmanuel City Technical College, need to be
strictly monitored in order that the respective
disciplines of science and religious studies are
properly respected.

Yours sincerely

148 British Humanist Association News, March-April 2006.
149 Observer, 22 July 2004:
magazine/story/O, 11913, 1258506,00.html.

Consciousness-raising again

150 The Oxford Dictionary takes 'gay' back to American prison
slang in 1935. In 1955 Peter Wildeblood, in his famous book
Against the Law, found it necessary to define 'gay~as 'an
American euphemism for homosexual'.

Religious education as a part of literary culture

152 Shaheen has written three books, anthologizing biblical
references in the comedies, tragedies and histories separately.
The summary count of 1,300 is mentioned in
Stritma tterShaheenRev. htm.
BibleLiteracy Report2005. pdf.

Chapter 10: A much needed gap?


154 From memory, I attribute this argument to the Oxford
philosopher Derek Parfitt. I have not researched its origins
thoroughly because I am using it only as a passing example of
philosophical consolation.
155 Reported by BBC News: uk/ Uhi! special_report/ 1999/06/99/
cardinaLh urn e_funeral! 376263 .stm.

The mother of all burkas

156 Wolpert (1992).
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Re: The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

Postby admin » Sat Sep 19, 2015 7:43 pm


A for Andromeda (Hoyle), 97
Aaron, 277
Abbott, Edwin, 417
Abimelech, King of Gerar, 274
abortion, 83, 329-36
Abraham, 57, 274-5, 284, 300
absolutism, 266, 323-6, 332-3
abuse: mental, 355-66, 366, 379;
physical, 354-7, 361
Achilles and the tortoise, 105--6
Adam and Eve, 284-6
Adams, Douglas, 16, 42, 130, 141-2,
Adams, John, 61, 64-5, 67, 123
Adolf Hitler: The Definitive
Biography (Toland), 311
advertising, 191
Affirmations (Kurtz), 404
Afghanistan, 324-5
Agnew, L. R., 338
agnosticism, 24, 69-77, 136
AIDS, 326, 327, 328, 329
Alberts, Bruce, 127
Alexander, Cecil Frances, 52
Allah, 52, 217, 244
Allen, Woody, 144
altruism, 247-53
American Heart Journal, 87
American Theocracy (Phillips), 324
Amish, 370-2
Amnesty International, 366
Ampleforth, Abbot of, 398
Angier, Natalie, 65
Animal Liberation (Singer), 308
Annunciation (Raphael), III
Anselm of Canterbury, 104-8
Anstey, F., 209
'Answers in Genesis', 127
anthropic principle: cosmological
version, 169-80; planetary
version, 162-9
Antonelli, Cardinal, 35 I
Antrim, Earls of, 296
apostasy, 325
Aquinas, Thomas, 14, 100-3, 134,
179, 360
argument, author's central, 187-9
arguments for the existence of God:
Aquinas' 'proofs', 100-3, 134;
Bayesian, 132--6; comical, 109-10;
cosmological, 101; from admired
religious scientists, 123-30; from
beauty, 110-12; from degree, 102;
from design, 103, 134; from
personal 'experience', 112-17;
from personal incredulity, 155;
from scripture, 117-23;
ontological, 103-10, 134; Pascal's
wager, 130-2
Arian heresy, 54
Army of God, 333
art, 232n
astronomers, 79-80
atheism: attitudes to death, 400n;
George Bush Sr.'s view of, 65;
consciousness-raising messages,
23--6; conversion to, 27-8;
Founding Fathers, 60, 65;
fundamentalist, 319; Hitler and
Stalin, 308-16; hostility to
religion, 318-19; numbers of
atheists, 27; pride in, 26; view of
God's existence, 73, 136
Atheism: A Very Short Introduction
(Baggini), 34
Atheist Universe (Mills), 66, 109
Atkins, Peter, 89, 143
atonement, 286, 287
Atran, Scott, 57, 206, 214
Attenborough, David, 144, 234-8,
Augustine, 159, 285
Augustus Caesar, 119
Aunger, Robert, 228
Australian aboriginal tribes, 193
Australopithecus afarensis, 340

Baal, 52, 77, 131, 276, 278
babblers, 250-1
bacteria: flagellar motor, 156-8;
TTSS, 158-9
Badawi, Zaki, 48
Baggini, Julian. 34
baptism, 349-54
barchan, 415-16
Baring, Maurice, 337, 338
Barker, Dan, 365
Barrett, James, 333
Barrett, Justin, 214
Barrow, John, 162
Barth, Bob, 90
bats, 248, 417, 418
Baudouin I, King of the Belgians, 83
Bayes' Theorem, 132-6
Beethoven, Ludwig van, 110, 135,
Behe, Michael, 156-7, 158, 159
Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin, 126, 128
beliefs, false, 398
Bell, Paul, 129
Belloc, Hilaire, 337
Benedict XVI, Pope, 401 n
Benson, Herbert, 87, 90
Bentham, Jeremy, 266, 335
Berlinerblau, Jacques, 121
Bethea, Charles, 88
Bethlehem, 118, 119
Betjeman, John, 32n, 63, 297[dth]
Bhagavad Gita, 397
Bible, 81, 268-9, 367, 383-7; see also
New Testament, Old Testament
Bible Literacy Report, 386
Bierce, Ambrose, 84
'big crunch', 174
bin Laden, Osama, 15, 343, 345
Binker, 389-92, 404
Biophilia (Wilson), 404
Black Gang, The ('Sapper'), 301
black holes, 174-5
Blackmore, Susan, 224, 228
Blair, Tony, 343, 372, 375, 377, 378
Blaker, Kimberly, 326
Blank Slate, The (Pinker), 260
blasphemy, 324-6
Bletchley Park, 327
Blind Watchmaker, The (Dawkins),
Bloom, Paul, 209, 210, 213, 214
Boeing 747: 137, 148, 167, 169, 180,
Bohr, Niels, 409n
Bondi, Hermann, 318
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, 151
Bouquet, A. c., 305
Bowen, Charles, 385
Boyd, Robert, 228
Boyer, Pascal, 57, 206-7, 214
Boykin, William G., 326
Brahma, 53, 244
brain: evolution of, 208-9, 411,
416-7; 'god centre' in, 196-7
Bray, Michael, 270, 333-4, 335
Breaking the Spell (Dennett), 13,
263, 394
Brer Rabbit, 93-4
Brief History of Time, A (Hawking),
Brights campaign, 380
Britton, John, 333, 334, 335
Brockman, John, 182
Brodie, Richard, 228
Brown, Andrew, 374
Brown, Dan, 123
Bruce, Lenny, 285
Bryan, William Jennings, 321
Bryan College, 321
Buckman, Robert, 238, 245
Buckner, Ed, 61
Buddhism, 59, 232, 443
Bullock, Alan, 309
Bunting, Madeleine, 93-4
Bufiuel, Luis, 266
Burger, Warren, 371
Burnell, Jocelyn Bell, 97
Bush, George (Senior), 65
Bush, George W., 112, 329-30, 342
Bush, Jeb, 334

Cairns-Smith, A. G., 156
Caligula, 304, 305, 308
Cambrian Explosion, 153
Camp Quest, 76 •.
Campaign for Real Education, 382
Can We Be Good Without God?
(Buckman), 238, 245
caprylic acid, 417
cargo cults, 234-9
Carlin, George, 317
Carlson, Tucker, 329-30
Carr, Peter, 64
Carter, Brandon, 162
Catherine the Great, 109
Catholic Community Forum, 55
Catholic Encyclopedia, 52, 54-5,
Catholics for Christian Political
Action, 328
Cattolico, II, 352
cause: first, 185; uncaused, 100-1
Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao
do Vegetal, 44
Chagnon, Napoleon, 198
Challenging Nature: The Clash of
Science and Spirituality at the New
Frontiers of Life (Silver), 434
Changing Faces of Jesus, The
(Vermes), 284
Chesterton, G. K., 337
children: abuse of, 354-66, 361;
adoption of, 252, 253; creationist
beliefs of, 210; defence of, 366-72;
dualist beliefs of, 209, 210;
education of, 296, 347-8, 370-2,
372-9; gullibility of, 203-6, 208,
218-19; imaginary friends,
389-94; intentional stance of,
212-13; labelling by religion, 296,
Chinese junk: drawing, 226-7;
origami, 224-6
Chinese Whispers (Telephone), 225,
Christian Brothers, 356
Christian Coalition, 328
Christian Institute, 374
Christian Life City Church, 373
Christianity: adaptation for
Gentiles, 120; 'American Taliban',
325-6, 327, 330; beliefs, 208;
conversion to, 324; foundation,
58, 244; fundamentalist, 121; in
US, 61-5, 298, 358-9; religious
education, 25, 346, 347-8; under
Hitler, 313-14
Christians: attacked in Nigeria, 47;
correspondence with author, 245;
evangelical, 27, 53, 270;
fundamentalist, 298, 378; lawsuits
in US, 45; 'rapture', 341; violent,
Christmas story, 118-19
Church of England, 30n, 63
Churchill, Randolph, 51
Churchill, Winston, 92, 327
circumcision, female, see genital
Civilta Cattolica, 350
Clarke, Arthur c., 97, 235
cleaner fish, and reputation, 250n
Climbing Mount Improbable
(Dawkins), 147-8, 150
Collins, Francis, 125
colours, 417-18
Comte, Auguste, 70-1, 96
Confucianism, 59
Conniff, Richard, 246n
conquistadores, 351
consequential ism, 266, 267, 331-2
consolation, 394-404; by discovery
of a previously unappreciated
fact, 396-7; direct physical, 396;
theory, 196
Constantine, Emperor, 54, 58
Contact (Sagan), 97
Copenhagen interpretation, 409,
Cornwell, R. Elisabeth, 128
cosmological argument, 101
Coulter, Ann, 326, 360n
Counterfeit World (Galouye), 98
Coyne, Jerry, 92, 160
'cranes', 24, 99, 185, 187, 188
Cranmer, Thomas, 353
Creation (Haydn), III
Creation: Life and How to Make It
(Grand), 415
Creation Revisited (Atkins), 143
creationism: argument from
improbability, 138, 148; debates
with creationists declined, 316;
defences against, 91; idea of
'irreducible complexity', 156-60;
innate predisposition to, 210;
worship of gaps, 151-5
Creationism's Trojan Horse (Forrest
and Gross), 241
Cretaceous extinction, 70, 73
Crick, Francis, 126
Crumboblious Cutlets, 102
Crusades, 23, 351
cuckoos, 252
Culture and the Evolutionary Process
(Boyd and Richerson), 228
Curie, Marie and Pierre, 125

Da Vinci Code, The (Brown), 123
Dahl, Roald, 338
Daily Telegraph, 374
Darrow, Clarence, 76
Darwin, Charles: achievement, 144,
147-8, 411; attacks on, 244;
career, 34; Darwinian
explanations, 196-7; Darwinian
imperative, 190-4; destruction of
argument from design, 103, 138;
influence on religious belief, 123;
natural selection, 138, 141-2, 168,
185-9, 199-200, 212, 222;on
theory of descent with
modification, 148-9, 151; Origin
of Species, 32, 148-9
Darwin, George, 124
Darwin's Cathedral (Wilson), 198
David, King, 118, 120
Davies, Paul, 40, 95
Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes and
the Origin of Life (McGrath), 78
de la Bedoyere, Quentin, 69
death: attitudes to, 396-9; life after,
death penalty, 329-30
deism, 39-40, 60, 63-4, 68
Demon-Haunted World, The
(Sagan), 410
Denmark, Muhammad cartoon
issue, 46-8
Dennett, Daniel: by-product
explanation of religion, 214;
classification of 'stances', 211-13;
on argument from improbability,
187; on belief, 35, 394-5; on
cranes and skyhooks, 99; on
intelligent design, 93; on
morality, 263; on religious rituals,
192-3; on Templeton Prize, 183;
on trickle-down theory of
creation, 142
deontology, 265-6
Desert Island Discs (BBC Radio),
design, appearance of, 24, 103, 138,
141, 146-7, 188
design stance, 211-12
Deuteronomy, book of, 279, 280
Deutsch, David, 409
Devil's Chaplain, A (Dawkins), 316,
Dickinson, Emily, 404
Did Jesus Exist? (Wells), 122
Diderot, Denis, 39, 109
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective
Agency (Adams), 130
Distin, Kate, 228
DNA, 164-5, 222, 223, 404
Dobson, James, 206
doctors, 195
dodos, 303
dogs, 417-18
Doing Away with God? (Stannard),
Dolittle, Doctor, 34
Dominion Theology, 358
Donne, John, 253
Dornan, Bob, 326
Dostoevsky, Feodor, 259
Douglas, Stephen A., 302
Douglas, William 0., 371
Downey, Margaret, 67
Drake Equation, 95-6
Dreams of a Final Theory
(Weinberg), 33
Drummond, Bulldog, 301-2
Duns Scotus, 14
dualism, 209-11, 212
Dutchman's Pipe, 145
Dyson, Freeman, 173, 182

Earth, orbit of, 163-4
Edge website, 182
education: Amish, 370-2;
creationist, 372-9; religious,
383-7; segregated, 296; teaching
that faith is a virtue, 347-8
Ehrman, Bart, 120-1
Einstein, Albert: mask of, 114; on
morality, 259; on personal God,
31, 35-6; on purpose of life, 241;
religious views, 34, 35-41
Eisenhower, Dwight, 327
Electric Meme, The (Aunger), 228
electrons, 177, 407
Elizabeth II, Queen, 238-9
embryos, human, 329-37, 340
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 51
Emmanuel College, Gateshead,
End of Faith, The (Harris), 113, 316
Engel, Gerhard, 311
Enigma code, 327
Eriugena, 14
eucaryotic cell, 168
Euler, Leonhard, 109
euthanasia, 331, 357-8
evidence, 319-20
evil, existence of, 135
evolution: belief in, 319-20;
continuity, 340; design and, 85,
103, 188; evolved organs, 156,
161; process of, 147-8, 161
Evolution vs Creationism (Scott), 91
Exclusive Brethren, the, 361
Existence of God, The (Swinburne),
Extended Phenotype, The (Dawkins),
eyes, 149-50, 167, 208

Fabric of Reality, The (Deutsch), 409
faith, 347-8
Falwell', Jerry, 327
Faraday, Michael, 124
Fatima vision (1917), 116-17
Faulhaber, Michael, 314
Female of the Species, The ('Sapper'),
feminism, 140-1
Feynman, Richard, 409
Finding Darwin's God (Miller), 158
Fisher, Helen, 214-15
Flatland (Abbott), 417
Flemming, Brian, 242
Flew, Antony, 106n
'Flood geology', 375-6
Flying Spaghetti Monster, 15, 76, 77,
Flynn, Tom, 66n, 119
Forrest, Barbara, 241
fossil record, 153-4
Founding Fathers, 60-8
Franklin, Benjamin, 64
Fraser, Giles, 62-3
Fraunhofer, Joseph von, 71
Frayn, Michael, 213
Frazer, James, 57, 219
Free Inquiry, 29, 66n, 119, 122n
Freedom From Religion Foundation
(FFRF), 243
Freethinkers: A History of American
Secularism (Jacoby), 59
Freethought Society of Greater
Philadelphia, 67
Freethought Today, 243
French, Peter, 378
Frisch, Karl von, 212
Frum, John, 236-9
fundamentalism, 319-23
Fundamentals of Extremism, The
(Blaker), 326

Galileo, 414
Galouye, Daniel F., 98
Galton, Francis, 85-6
Gandhi, Mohandas, 67, 283, 307
gaps, worship of, 151-60
Gaunilo, 107
Gaylor, Anne, 444
Gell-Mann, Murray, 175
gene, selfish, 246-7
gene cartels, 229-30
generosity, 249-50, 251, 253
genes, 222, 223, 228-9
Genes, Memes and Human History
(Shennan), 228
Genesis, book of, 269, 271, 272,
genetic drift, 220
Genghis Khan, 304-5
genital mutilation, female, 369-70
Gershwin, Ira, 120
ghosts, II5-16
Gillooly, Robert, 119
Glenn, Norval D., 297
Glover, Jonathan, 315, 442
God, Chance and Necessity (Ward),
'god centre' in brain, 196-7
God Hypothesis: argument from
improbability, 138; definition, 52,
59, 83, 96-7; goodness issue, 135;
invulnerability to science, 90-1;
probability of, 68, 138; simplicity,
179; untenable, 189; versions,
God Who Wasn't There, The
(Flemming), 242
Goebbels, Josef, 314
Goering, Hermann, 310
Golden Bough, The (Frazer), 57, 219
golden calf, 277
Goldilocks zone, 163-5, 171-2, 176
Goldwater, Barry, 60
Golgi Apparatus, 320-1, 322
Good Samaritan, 246, 252
Goodenough, Ursula, 34
Goodwin, Jan, 341
gospels, II 7-23, 182
Gott, John William, 325
Gould, Stephen Jay, 778, 81, 84, 96,
Graham, Billy, 121
Grand, Steve, 415, 416
Graves, Robert, 286
Gray, Muriel, 343, 442
Grayling, A. c., 14, 269n, 442
Great Beethoven Fallacy, 337-40
Great Vowel Shift, 220, 230
Greer, Germaine, 47
Gregory, Richard, 439
Gregory the Miracle Worker, 54-5
Grey, William, citing Douglas
Gasking, 107-8
Gross, Paul, 241
group selection, 198-200
Guardian, 62, 161, 332, 372

HADD (hyperactive agent detection
device), 214
Haggard, Ted ('Pastor Ted'), 358, 360
Haitian Voodoo, 366
Haldane, J. B. S., 154, 408, 417, 418
Halley's Comet, 163
hallucinations, 112-13, 184, 391-3
Hamilton, W. D., 247
Hari, Johann, 282n, 341
Harries, Richard, 377
Harris, Sam: on bin Laden, 343; on
end-of-world beliefs, 341; on
nakedness, 285-6; on religion and
crime, 262; on religion and sanity,
113; on religion and war, 316; on
suicide bomber, 343, 344
Hartung, John, 288, 288-lj), 292-3
Has Science Found God? (Stenger),
Hassan, Nasra, 344
Haught, James, 123
Hauser, Marc, 245, 254-8
Hawking, Stephen, 14, 34, 35, 40
Haydn, Josef, III
HealthFreedomUSA, 414
hell, 359-62
Hell Houses, 359
Helms, Jesse, 327
Herod, King, 118, 119
Hess, Rudolf, 310
Hill, Paul, 333-4, 334-6
Hinde, Robert, 206, 214, 245, 265,
Hinduism, 53, 295
Hiroshima, 89n
His Dark Materials (Pullman), 156n
Hitchcock, Alfred, 357
Hitchens, Christopher, 64, 330, 396
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The
(Adams), 408
Hitler, Adolf: atheist or not, 182,
308-16; birth, 339; Catholicism,
308-16; evil actions, 133, 264,
304-5; fight against, 92; Jewish
policy, 37; morality, 264, 280;
Zeitgeist of his time, 306
Holloway, Richard, 269
Holocaust, 89
homosexuality: Darwinian
approach, 194; religious attitudes,
45-6, 270, 281-2, 326-9; US
attitudes, 45-6, 270, 326, 326-9
Horgan, John, 180-3
How the Mind Works (Pinker), 196
How We Believe (Shermer), 129, 196
Hoyle, Fred, 97, 137, 143, 148, 171
Hugo, Victor, 349
Human Genome Project, 125
Hume, Basil, 398, 401
Hume, David, 107, 110, 116, 139, 187
Humphrey, Nicholas, 366-7, 367-71
Huxley, Aldous, 108, 110
Huxley, Julian, 179
Huxley, T. H.: agnosticism, 71-3, 77,
96; misquoted, 244; position in
moral Zeitgeist, 307; racial
perspective, 302-3
hydrogen, 170-1

Idolatry (Halbertal and Margalit),
ignorance, 151-2
illusions, optical, 114-15, 184
imaginary friends, 389-92
immune system, 162
In Gods We Trust (Atran), 57, 206
Inca religion, 367-9
Independent, 43, 75n, 282, 341, 374,
379, 382
India, partition, 23, 68, 295
indulgences, 401
Inquisition, 351
inspiration, 404-5
intelligent design (10), 85, 106n,
138, ISO-I, 152, 157-61
intentional stance, 211-12
IQ and religiosity, 129
Iran, rule of ayatollahs, 341
Iraq: invasion of, 43, 304, 342;
sectarian conflict, 43, 294-5
Ireland, education, 356-7
irreducible complexity (IC), 148,
156, 157-8
Is There a God? (Swinburne), 82,
Isaac, 274-5, 284, 300
Ishmael, 274
Islam: as memeplex, 232-3; Danish
cartoon issue, 46-8; foundation,
58, 324; Indian partition, 295; law
on intermarriage, 324; power of
scripture, 275; religious
education, 25, 346; status of
women, 341
Israel: Palestinian conflict, 23, 341;
schoolchildren's view of Joshua,
IVF (in vitro fertilization), 332

Jacoby, Susan, 59
Jammer, Max, 37
Javers, R., 443
Jaynes, Julian, 392-3
Jefferson, Thomas: religious views,
64-5, 67, 100, 123, 137; support
for Paine, 59; view of death,
396-7; view of God, 51; view of
Jesus' birth, 121; view of Trinity,
Jephthah, 275-6
Jericho, battle of, 280, 289-92, 296
Jerry Springer, the Opera, 325
Jesus: accounts of life, 121-3, 239;
atonement for sin, 285-7; birth,
118-20, 122-3; divine status, 117;
ethics, 283-4; Jewish background,
291, 313; miracles, 82, 98, 134;
parentage, 83; persona, 52; power,
Jesus (Wilson), 119, 122n
Jews: Arab anti-Jewish cartoons, 49;
children's loyalty to Judaism,
289-92; Christian anti-semitism,
224, 311; Einstein, 37-8;
electability in US, 26; Hitler's
policy towards, 37; 311;
Holocaust, 89; lobby in US, 27,
65; Mortara kidnap case, 349-54;
religious beliefs, 35, 58, 76,
293-4; religious homogamy,
John, gospel of, 118
John Paul II, Pope, 56, 92
Johnson, Phillip E., 27-8, 106n
Jones, John E., 151, 158-9
Joseph, 118-19, 120, 122n
Joshua, 280, 289-91, 292
Joshua, book of, 280
Judaism, see Jews
Judas lscariot, 286
Judges, book of, 272, 276, 289
Juergensmeyer, Mark, 333
Jung, Carl Gustav, 73, 74
Jupiter, planet, 163
Just Six Numbers (Rees), 170
Jyllands-Posten, 46, 47

kamikazes, 342
Kaminer, Wendy, 26
Kant, Immanuel, 107, 256, 264-5,
Karzai, Hamid, 325
Katrina, hurricane, 270
Keleman, Deborah, 210, 214
Kelvin, William Thomson, Lord,
Kenny, Anthony, 216
Ken's Guide to the Bible, 292
Kertzer, David I., 349
Khomeini, Ayatollah, 326
Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, The
(Kertzer), 349
Kilduff, M., 443
kindness, 249-50, 253
King, Coretta Scott, 328
King, Karen, 286n
King, Martin Luther, 283, 307, 328
King Jesus (Graves), 286
kinship, 247, 249, 251-2
Kohn, Marek, 190
Koran, see Qur'an
KPFT-FM, radio station, 381
Kurtz, Paul, 404

Ladman, Cathy, 195
Lady Chatterley's Lover (Lawrence),
Lane, B., 442
Lane Fox, Robin, 119, 121
language evolution, 220, 230-1
Laplace, Pierre-Simon, 68n
Larson, Edward J., 126-7, 128
Latimer, Hugh, 353
Laughing Gas (Wodehouse), 209
Lawrence, Raymond J., 89
Layfield, Stephen, 373-8
Lear, Edward, 102
leaves, 167
Lennon, John, 23
Leslie, John, 173
Letter to a Christian Nation
(Harris), 262, 286, 341
Letting Go of God (Sweeney), 284,
Leviticus, book of, 281
Lewis, C. S., 13, 117
Lewontin, Richard, 191-2
LGM (Little Green Men) signal, 97
Liberty University, 327
life, origin of, 164-9
Life - How Did It Get Here?, 144
Life of Brian, The (Monty Python),
Life of the Cosmos, The (Smolin),
Life Science, The (Medawar), 337
light, visible, 406-7
Limbo, 401n
Limits of Science, the (Medawar),
395, 432
Lincoln, Abraham, 302-3
linkage, 228-9
Lofting, Hugh, 34
Loftus, Elizabeth, 355-6
London bombings (July 2005), 23,
342, 346
Lords of the Golden Horn (Barber),
Los Angeles Times, 45
Losing Faith in Faith (Barker), 365
Lot, 271-3
love, irrational, 214-17
Luke, gospel of, 118-19
Luther, Martin, 221, 232, 311, 323
lying, 265

McGrath, Alister, 78
Mackie, J. 1., 107
McQuoid, Nigel, 373, 376, 378-9
Madison, James, 64, 67
Madrid bombings, 346
Magdalene Asylums, 356
Magdalene Sisters, The, 356
magic, homoeopathic, 219
Maimonides, Moses, 288, 291
Malallah, Sadiq Abdul Karim, 325
Malcolm, Norman, 107
Malcolm, Wayne, 373, 376
Manx Shearwater, 112 .
Mark, gospel of, 122, 360, 394
marriage, 296
martyrdom, 199, 344-5, 348
Marx, Karl, 313
Mary, see Virgin Mary
Masih, Augustine Ashiq 'Kingri', 324
Matthew, gospel of, 118, 119, 120,
312, 386
Maxwell, James Clerk, 124
Meaning of Life, The (Monty
Python), 339
Medawar, Jean, 337, 338-9
Medawar, Peter, 183, 337, 338-9,
Mein Kampf(Hitler), 310, 312
Meme Machine, The (Blackmore),
224, 228
memeplexes, 228-30, 230-1
memes, 222-34; religious, 231-3
Men Who Stare at Goats, The
(Ronson), 413
Mencken, H. 1., 50, 261, 263n, 373
Mendel, Gregor, 125
Mendel's Demon (Ridley), 168
Mensa Magazine, 129
Micah's prophecy, 118, 119
Michelangelo, 110
Middle World, 412, 414-15, 418-20
Midianites, 278
Mill, James, 263
Mill, John Stuart, 26, 263
Miller, Kenneth, 158
Mills, David, 66, 109
Mind of God, The (Davies), 40
Miracle of Theism, The (Mackie),
miracles, 82-4, 85
Missionary Position, The (Hitchens),
Mona Lisa, 114
'Monkey Trial' (1925), 321
monotheism, 58-9
Montreal police strike, 260-1
Mooney, c., 445
Moore's Law, 308
moral dilemmas, 254-8
Moral Minds (Hauser), 245, 254
morality, 240, 241-{)7
Morisi, Anna, 350
Mormonism, 57, 234
Morris, Henry, 375
Mortara, Edgardo, 349-54
Moses, 98, 276-81, 289, 383
moths, 201-2
motive to be good, 264
mover, unmoved, 100
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 110
Mueller, Andrew, 48-9, 76
Muhammad: cartoons depicting,
46-9; foundation of Islam, 58,
Mullan, Peter, 356
Mulligan, Geoffrey, 237
multiverse theory, 174-6
mutation rate, 222-3
Myers, P. Z., 14-15, 94, 359n
Mytton, Jill, 361-2, 365-6

1984 (Orwell), 323, 325
Nambas, 237-8
Napoleon, 68n, 313
National Academy of Sciences,
National Center for Science
Education (NCSE), 91
natural selection: altruism favoured
by, 249, 252-3; as a
consciousness-raiser, 24, 139-41,
161, 172; as 'crane', 99, 168, 188;
chance and, 139, 168; children's
view of, 209; favouring rules of
thumb, 252; genetic, 233;
improbability and, 138;
replicators, 222; versus design, 24,
103, 139, 169
Natural Theology (Paley), 103
Nature, 126, 127
Naughtie, James, 378
Nautilus, 150
Necker Cube, 113
Nehru, Jawaharlal, 67-8
New College, Oxford, 402
New Orleans, 270-1
New Republic, 305-6
New Statesman, 44
New Testament, 283-8
New York Times, 50n, 65, 89, 93n,
288, 327
New Yorker, 344
Newhart, Bob, 86, 88
News of the World, 354, 355
Newsday, 288
Newton, Isaac, 123, 147
nineteenth century, 186
Nixon, James, 45
Noah, 269-70, 375-6
Nobel Prize, 126, 130, 171, 183, 330
NOMA (non-overlapping
magisterial, 77-85, 127, 183n
Northern Ireland: names of
factions, 43, 381-2; religious
culture, 194; sectarian conflict,
24, 294; segregated education, 296
Not By Genes Alone (Richerson and
Boyd), 228
nuclear fusion, 170-1
nucleus, atomic, 170
Numbers, book of, 277-8

obedience, 203-5
Observer, 317
O'Casey, Sean, 268
Old Testament, 51, 59, 135, 269-83,
285, 324; God of, see Yahweh
omnipotence, 101
omniscience, 101
On the Jews and their Lies (Luther),
311 •.
Onion, 326, 359n
Operation Rescue, 330, 333
Optimism: The Biology of Hope
(Tiger), 218
Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, The
(Waugh), 392
origami, 22~
Origin of Consciousness in the
Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind,
The (Jaynes), 392
Origin of Species, The (Darwin), 32,
124, 138-9
original sin, 285
Origins of Virtue, The (Ridley), 250
Orwell, George, 325
Our Cosmic Habitat (Rees), 79
Owens, Jesse, 307
Owens, Karen, 101
Oxford Companion to Philosophy,

pacifism, 43
Pagels, Elaine, 286n
pain, 197
Paine, Thomas, 59
Pakistan: Danish cartoon issue,
46-7, 49; penalty for blasphemy,
Pale Blue Dot (Sagan), 32, 404
Paley, William, 103
Palin, Michael, 339
pantheism, 39-41
PAP (Permanent Agnosticism in
Principle), 70, 73-4, 81
Papua New Guinea, aboriginal
peoples, 193
Parfitt, Derek, 448
particles, 176-7
Pascal, Blaise, 130-2, 283
Pascal's Wager, 130-2
patriotism, 266-7
Paul, Gregory 5., 262-3
Paul of Tarsus, 58, 118, 286, 287,
292, 313
peacock, tail of, 191
Peacocke, Arthur, 125, 180
Pearson, F. 5., 222n
pedomorphosis, 391-2
pedophilia, 354-5
Penn and Teller, 155
Permian extinction, 69, 73
Persinger, Michael, 196
personal incredulity, argument
from, 155
Pharaoh, 274
Phelps, Fred, 328-9
Philip, Prince, 238-9
Phillips, Kevin, 324
physical stance, 211
Pinker, Steven, 196, 260
Pirsig, Robert M., 28
Pius X, Pope, 401
Pius XII, Pope, 314
placebo effect, 195
planets, numbers of, 163-4
Point Counter Point (Huxley), 108,
Poitier, Sidney, 307
Polkinghorne, John, 125, 176, 179
polytheism, 52-7
Potlatch Effect, 250-1
Potter, Gary, 328
prayer, 87-8
pre-Cambrian, fossil rabbits in, 154
Price of Honour (Goodwin), 341
Probability of God, The (Unwin), 132
'pro-life' campaigns, 359
'proofs' of God's existence, 109-10
Providence, 314
psychology, evolutionary, 208
Pullman, Philip, 156n
pulsars, 97
purgatory, 401-2

quantum theory, 407
Quest in Paradise (Attenborough),
Quirinius, governor of Syria, 119
Qur'an, 58, 347, 387

race, attitudes to, 301-2
Rahman, Abdul, 324
Rahner, Karl, 14
Raphael, III
'Rapture Ready', 288
Rawls, John, 299
Reading Judas (Pagels and King),
Reagan, Ronald, 326
reciprocation, 247-9, 250
Reconstructionists, 358
redwood, giant, 146
Rees, Martin, 35, 79, 170-4, 185
regress, 100
religion: as a by-product of
something else, 200-8; cargo
cults, 234-5; the Darwinian '
imperative, 190-4; direct
advantages of, 194-7; group
selection, 198-200; meme theory,
222-34; psychologically primed
for, 208-22; survival value of, 200
Religion Explained (Boyer), 57, 206
Religious Coalition for
Reproductive Choice, 336n
Renfrew, Colin, 198
replicators, 222, 223
reputation, 249-50
Revelation, book of, 292, 341
Richard Dawkins Foundation for
Reason and Science (RDFRS), 30
Richerson, Peter, 228
Ridley, Mark, 168
Ridley, Matt, 151, 250
Ridley, Nicholas, 353
RNA, 164
Roberts, Keenan, 359-60
Roberts, Oral, 52
Robertson, Pat, 270, 338
Robeson, Paul, 307
Robinson, Jackie, 307
Rocks of Ages (Gould), 78, 81
Roman Catholic Church: abortion
policy, 83-4, 329; abuse of
children, 355-6, 361; as
memeplex, 231; doctrine of
purgatory, 401-3; Hitler's
religion, 310-11; marriage policy,
296; miracle policy, 83-4;
Mortara kidnap case, 349-54;
polytheism of, 52-3; role of guilt,
Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare), 253,
Ronson, Jon, 413
Roosevelt, Franklin, 92
Root of All Evil? (Channel Four), 23,
29, 358
Rothschild, Eric, 160
Rothschild, Lionel, 351
Royal Institution Christmas
Lectures, 407n
Royal Society, 128, 318, 377
Rumsfeld, Donald, 304
Ruse, Michael, 91-4
Rushdie, Salman, 44, 48, 295
Ruskin, John, 143
Russell, Bertrand: briefly convinced
by ontological argument, 105-7;
courageous views, 131; on death
from belief, 345; on outward
belief in religion, 123; teapot
parable, 74-6, 76, 77, 94; view of
death, 397
Russian Orthodox Church, 309

Sacranie, Iqbal, 48, 325
Sacred Depths of Nature, The
(Goodenough), 34
sacrifice, human, 367-9
Saddam Hussein, 133, 280, 309
Sagan, Carl: Contact, 97; Demon-haunted
World, 410; on life
elsewhere in universe, 69, 94-5;
on love of science, 404; on
religion and the Universe, 32-3;
on views of God, 40-1; Pale Blue
Dot, 32-3, 404
St Matthew Passion (Bach), III
Salmon of Doubt, The (Adams), 141
Sanhedrin, 289 4
Sarah, 274
Satan, 28, 116, 135, 344
Saudi Arabia: status of women, 341;
Wahhabism, 282, 326
Scarborough, Rick, 45-6
Schrodinger, Erwin, 409
Schubert, Franz, 110, III
Science and Christian Belief
(Polkinghorne), 179
Science of Good and Evil, The
(Shermer), 245, 259
Scientology, 234
Scopes, John, 321
Scott, Eugenie, 91
Seaton, Nick, 382
Secular Bible, The (Berlinerblau),
secularism, 60-8
self-deception, 217-18
Selfish Gene, The (Dawkins), 228,
Selfish Meme, The (Distin), 228
Seneca the Younger, 313
SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial
Intelligence), 95, 96, 97, 98, 166
Seven Clues to the Origin of Life
(Cairns-Smith), 156
sexual behaviour, 194, 197, 2545
Shaheen, Naseeb, 386
Shaikh, Younis, 324
Shakespeare, William, 110, Ill, 254,
276, 386
Shaw, George Bernard, 194
Sheen, Fulton J., 41
Shennan, Stephen, 228
Sherman, Robert, 65
Shermer, Michael, 129, 296, 214,
245, 259, 388, 404
Shorter Oxford Dictionary, 395--{)
Shulevitz, Judith, 93n
Silver, 1.M., 434, 445
sin, 284--{)
Singer, Peter, 258, 208, 442
Sins of Scripture, The (Spong), 269
Sistine Chapel, III
Six Impossible Things Before
Breakfast (Wolpert), 217
Skilling, Jeff, 246n
'skyhooks', 99, 185, 187, 188
slavery, 197, 300, 307
slippery slope arguments, 331-2
Smith, Joseph, 234
Smith, Ken, 292
Smolin, Lee, 174-5, 185
Smythies, John, 215
Snowflakes, 332
Social Evolution (Trivers), 217
Sodom and Gomorrah, 271-2
Sookhdeo, Patrick, 346-7
Soul of Science, The (Shermer), 404
Spectator, 346
spectrum of probabilities, 73-4
Spinoza, Benedict, 39
Spong, John Shelby, 269
Stalin, Joseph, 92, 133, 182, 308, 315
Stamp Dawkins, M., 445
stances, 211-12
Stannard, Russell, 86, 125, 176, 317
Stark, Pete, 67n
stars, 71, 95-6, 169, 170-1, 175
stem-tell research, 332
Stenger, Victor, 106n, 143, 170n
Sterelny, Kim, 193-4
Stevas, Norman St John, 337
Stirrat, Michael, 128
strong force, 170
Stubblebine, General, 414
suffering, 336
suicide: assisted, 399-400; bombers,
23, 344-5, 348
Sulloway, Frank, 129
Supreme Court, US, 44, 329, 370-2
Susskind, Leonard, 143, 173
Sutcliffe, Peter, 112
Sweeney, Julia, 26, 284, 363-5
Swinburne, Richard, 82, 88-9,
symbiosis, 248

Table Talk (Hitler), 312-13
Taliban: art appreciation, 23, 282;
punishment for homosexuality,
326; religious views, 279, 298,
325, 325-6; treatment of women,
328, 341
Tamarin, George, 289-92
Tamil Tigers, 346
Tanna, 236-9
Tanner Lectures, 29
TAP (Temporary Agnosticism in
Practice), 69-70, 74
Tasmanian wolf, 303
teapot, celestial, 74-5, 76, 77, 78
Teilhard de Chard in, Pierre, 183
teleological argument, 103, 210
Teller, Penn and, 155
Templeton Foundation, 40, 86, 87,
180-3, 386
Templeton Prize, 40, 106n, 123n,
125, 182-3, 322
Ten Commandments, 63, 268, 277,
279, 282; New, 298-9
Tennyson, Alfred, Lord, 204
Teresa of Avila, 216
Teresa of Calcutta, 330
Terror in the Mind of God
(Juergensmeyer), 333
terrorists, 343-4
Terry, Randall, 330-1, 333
theism, 39-40, 58, 73, 77, 136, 171
theocracy, American Christian, 324,
theodicy, 135
Thomas, gospel of Infant, 121-2
Thomas Jefferson: Author of America
(Hitchens), 64
Thomson, J. Anderson, 172
Tiger, Lionel, 218
Timonen, Josh, 13
Tin Men, The (Frayn), 213
Tipler, Frank, 162
Tit-for- Tat, 249
Toland, John, 311
Tonge, Jenny, 372
Trinity, 54-5, 182, 232
Trivers, Robert, 217, 248
Turing, Alan, 327
Twain, ~ark, 296, 399
2000 Years of Disbelief (Haught), 124
Type Three Secretory System
(TTSS), 158-9

Unauthorized Version, The (Lane
Fox), 119, 121
unicorn, 76
United States of America, 60-8
Unweaving the Rainbow (Dawkins),
245, 404
Unwin, Stephen, 132-5
utilitarianism, 266, 331

vampire bats, 248
Vanuatu, 236-8
Vardy, Peter, 373, 375, 378
Veblen, Thorstein, 250
Venter, Craig, 125n
Venus, 56
Venus' Flower Basket (Euplectella),
Vermes, Geza, 239, 284, 287
Vice Versa (Anstey), 209
Vidal, Gore, 58
Virgin Mary, 55, 56, 115, 116, 217
Virus of the Mind (Brodie), 228
viruses, mental, 216, 218-19
visions, 112, 113-14
Voltaire, 39, 59, 345
von Neumann, John, 326

Wace, Henry, 71
Wagner, Richard, 387
Wahhabism, 282, 326
Wallace, Alfred Russel, 143, 144
Ward, Keith, 179-80
Ward, Lalla, 23, 123n
Warraq, Ibn, 52, 122n, 346
Washington, George, 61, 67
Washington Post, 327
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society,
water, 164
Watson, James, 125-6
Watts, Isaac, 293
Waugh, Auberon, 186n
Waugh, Evelyn, 17, 51, 392
Weinberg, Steven, 33, 283
Wells, G. A., 122
Wells, H. G., 305-6
Whitcomb, John c., 375
White, Gilbert, 34
Why Gods Persist (Hinde), 206, 383
Why Good is Good (Hinde), 245
Why I Am Not a Muslim (Warraq),
52, 346
Why We Love (Fisher), 214
Wickramasinghe, Chandra, 137
Wilde, Oscar, 222
William of Wykeham, 402-3
Williamson, Hugh Ross, 69
Wilson, A. N., 119, 122n
Wilson, D. S., 198
Wilson, E. 0., 92, 389, 404
wings, 148-9, 167, 208
Winston, Robert, 35
Wise, Kurt, 321-3
Witham, Larry, 126-7, 128
Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 411, 412
Wodehouse, P. G., 209, 386
Wolpert, Lewis, 217, 410
women, status of, 301, 307, 341
World Trade Center, 23, 342, 343
Wotan, 52, 56, 77
Wuthering Heights (Bronte), III

Yahweh (God of Old Testament):
deplorable character of, 52, 59,
281; existence of, 76; falling in
love with, 217; God of Old
Testament, 41; jealousy, 131, 275-9;
power of, 244; shocking role model,
274, 281-2; treatment of humans,
269-72, 275-6, 277, 279-80
Yugoslavia, former, 32

Zahavi, Amotz, 250-1
Zeitgeist, moral, 298-308, 342
Zeno, 105-6
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