Re: [atheists-27] Challenge to debate

From: Don W.
Sent on: Saturday, September 7, 2013 3:22 PM
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]
Sent: Friday, September 6,[masked]:23 AM
Subject: Re: [atheists-27] Challenge to debate
On 09/05/[masked]:45 PM, Don Wharton wrote:
Richard Dawkins prefers to call himself an agnostic


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 nutshell:

Probability of God's Existence
Strong Theist 100%
De facto Theist
Very high, but <100%
Technically Agnostic, Theist leaning
>50% but not very high
Impartial Agnostic
Technically Agnostic, Atheist leaning
<50% but not very low
De facto Atheist
Very low, but >0%
Strong Atheist

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:

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!


Please Note: If you hit "REPLY", your message will be sent to everyone on this mailing list ([address removed])
This message was sent by Martin ([address removed]) from DC Atheists Meetup.
To learn more about Martin, visit his/her member profile
Set my mailing list to email me As they are sent | In one daily email | Don't send me mailing list messages

Meetup, POB 4668 #37895 NY NY USA 10163 | [address removed]

People in this
Meetup are also in:

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy