This is most helpful. Obviously the internet made a lot over RD's claim to be an agnostic. I guess I put too much weight on encountering a great many of these references without seeing RD's redaction of that view.
A claim of 6 on this scale presumes that we allow the theists to include many thousands of different views of God without specifying which version they are asserting. Obviously we cannot be certain that God does not exist if we don't have much of a clue about what is meant by the term. This is the reason why I dislike RD's scale. For most views of God we should be comfortable in being a solid strong atheist on this scale. If we run accross a definition of God that totally
removes the person God properties and aligns the meaning with science and reason as we know it then they have become a Christian atheist. I would be happy to confirm to such a person that God exists. I would then suggest their views would mean that they will be junking the Bible and commit to spending their church services. celebrating evolution, scientific cosmology, plate techtonics, etc.
Of course, there is the rather irritating category of definitions that align the God concept with some process but don't do it with any useful clarity. "God is love" We cannot say that love does not exist. However, if someone asserts that a parent with a feeling of love winds up killing his or her progeny in an exorcism this definition has an obvious problem.
I fully intend to review a good number of these debates
before I actually go into one with any preacher. Thanks for the reference to this one.
From: Martin <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
September 6,[masked]:23 AM
Subject: Re: [atheists-27] Challenge to debate
On 09/05/[masked]:45 PM, Don Wharton
Richard Dawkins prefers to call himself an
I think I know why you said that, but let's first get back to
basics... Look at Chapter 2, titled The God Hypothesis of
Dawkins' famous book, The God Delusion. Under the section The
Poverty of Agnosticism, Dawkins very carefully lays out a
spectrum of probabilities for belief, with seven "milestones" (I
would have called them "bands" of the spectrum, but I nitpick), in a
|Probability of God's Existence
|De facto Theist
|Very high, but <100%
|Technically Agnostic, Theist leaning
|>50% but not very high
|Technically Agnostic, Atheist leaning
|<50% but not very low
|De facto Atheist
|Very low, but >0%
Dawkins then categorically puts himself in category 6, as a "De
facto Atheist", saying:
"I count myself in category 6, but leaning towards 7 - I am
agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at
the bottom of the garden."
Now, I think your remark was coming from the following:
There was a comment by Dawkins at a discussion with the Archbishop
of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams last year (in Oxford University's
Sheldonian Theatre on Feb 23rd 2012, viewable here:
This comment was much ballhooed by conservative British newspapers
(the Telegraph and the Daily Mail) and religious bloggers. Indeed,
the Telegraph's Religious Affairs Editor, John Bingham, flatly
stated: "He told the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams,
that he preferred to call himself an agnostic rather than an
atheist." However this is a gross distortion. Dawkins in fact
reiterated that he is a 6, then in fact clarifying further that he
is a "6.9". The Telegraph's distortion was derived from the
following actual exchange (at 1:11:40 in the video) between Dawkins
and the discussion chair/moderator, the philosopher Sir Anthony
Kenny (to Dawkins): "You, I think Richard, believe you
have a disproof of God's existence."
Dawkins: "No, I don't, I don't! You were wrong
when you said that! I constructed in The God Delusion a
seven point scale of which 1 was 'I know God exists', 7 was 'I
know God does not exist'. I called myself a 6!"
Kenny: "Why don't you call yourself an agnostic then?"
Dawkins: "I do. But I think it is rather..."
Kenny (interrupting): “You are described as the world’s
most famous atheist!”
Dawkins (being humble): "Well not by me."
Dawkins went on to talk about the problem of agnosticism and why he
is a "6.9"
You see what was going on here, Dawkins was simply accepting Kenny's
own implicit and simple definition of an "agnostic" as anyone
between the two extremes of 'I know God exists', and 'I
know God does not exist'. Dawkins never said that he
preferred to call himself an agnostic!
By the way, this discussion between Dawkins and Williams would be a
great study in preparation for your own debate!
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