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Dawkins and scientific method

In conversation tonight, someone raised Richard Dawkins and his ‘crusade’, and I use the word deliberately, and it made me reflect on some deeper issues of science in general.

Many people mistakenly believe that science is based on dispassionate and objective observations of the physical world, and deductions from those observations of some general rules of how that world works. This is very far from the truth. On the contrary, the scientific method is based on positing a thesis about how the world works and then going to find the evidence for that thesis, or evidence that would refute it. In the most extreme case occurring towards the historical end of science, two absolutely contrary theses were proved right: that light is both a particle and a wave form, as are indeed other entities such as electrons.

Now, Dawkins’ vulgar populist atheism is merely the most evident abuse of the process of stating a thesis and then seeking evidence in support of it. For example, in his dismal documentary on religion, The Root of All Evil, Dawkins went to Cairo, a city of millions of people the great majority of whom are humorous and kindly people, in order to fit Islam into his framework. However, rather than finding an average intelligent Egyptian or indeed a graduate of the Azhar trained in the traditional sciences, he sought out an American man from New York of Jewish background who had converted to Islam, embraced the most extreme possible manifestation of it, and who spouted rhetoric that most Cairenes would find abhorrent but which would have been very acceptable to the late Mr BL and his cohorts in the mountains. And unfortunately this sorry specimen was certainly not of a very sophisticated level of intellect, so that, predictably, Mr Dawkins dispatched his angry rhetoric without much difficulty, at least from the relative safety of the narrator’s perspective.

The point here is that he set out with a thesis in mind and then very selectively picked the evidence to back it up. Presumably then this is also how he proceeds in his scientific work, for the implicit and sometimes explicit claim he makes in his documentary and his writings is that he is extending his scientific outlook into other realms. But for me this is the most damning blow to his particularly ‘missionary’ and ‘evangelical’ take on evolution; for if his populist writings are a genuine reflection of how Dawkins works as a scientist then his evolutionary thinking can have no serious foundations whatsoever.

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12 Responses

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  1. Mika Angel-0 says

    Dear Abdassamad
    Salaam
    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    Whoa! Are You Pissed Off?
    (turandot, act 3) πŸ™ πŸ™‚

    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
    Verdi: La Donna e Mobile from rigolleto, act 3(piave)
    alfredo kraus(tenor)
    philharmonia ochestra conducted by julius rudel:
    the licentious duke of mantua, a notorious womaniser about to begin
    a new romantic adventure, espounds his philosophy
    tha all women are fickle, simple creatures
    to be enjoyed but not to be taken seroiusly

    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
    the root of all evil
    is not Usama ben Laden under tons of rocks
    nor the hawk circling above in drafts of the warmth of the mountains
    neither richness nor poorness, knowledge nor non sophisticated level of it
    nor the fire and the earth

    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
    Grrr, grrr, grrrrr – easy there, boy
    growls eyes glazed, pupils dilate, saliva
    dribbling ronaldo! unknown prince, three riddles and a chinese princess
    is being a racist of the opera
    – marry me or die

    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
    is the arrogance your’s mightier than I!
    Nessun Dorma! πŸ™‚

  2. admin says

    Perhaps not entirely pissed off, but venting some spleen on a convenient target and then getting my bearings. These are landmarks that I am establishing to navigate by, and, in the case of Dawkins et al, sunken reefs that will tear the keel from under the unwary sailor. Being naturally cautious I prefer not to go straight to the bottom when I do embark.

  3. Mika Angel-0 says

    Dear Admin
    Salaam

    Website Magic

    Thus right away, the argument from design is abandoned. Indeed, in Muslim thought it simply never entered into the equation. The real issue is that something cannot come out of nothing of its own volition since it did not exist and thus had no volition. A void that had the potential for quantum fluctuations out of which matter emerges is not a real void. For a materialist, out of nothing, nothing can emerge. For Allah everything is possible.The Blind Professor

    I had not noticed this article – splendid – Alhamdulillah – before. That would have been not a great consolation but a consolation nevertheless as I am not a professor and it clearly disproved that I was blind.
    Ah well, some more heavy light-hearted reading to do when one choses to partake in Ulster humor, Abdassamad.

    And oh, them Murrabituns in Norwich do seem like the less luckier ugly-ducklings of the Muslim in the British Isles when I think about it.

    Terima Kasih

  4. admin says

    wa alaikum as-salam, my reader.
    Pleased that you liked it. It is the second article of mine to be commissioned by someone who did not then stand by their word. The first was the article on Father Jeremiah O’Callaghan at: http://bogvaerker.dk/Tales/oc.html
    Abdassamad

  5. Schpod says

    So, you just had to mention the ethnic origin of Dawkins’ opponent? Man alive, you Murabitun (or are you an ex) never change your spots! Still waiting for the coming man?

  6. admin says

    Schpod, you are hyper-touchy. If I had mentioned a Mauritanian or an Irishman you would never have blinked. The point was that Dawkins went to a city of 21 million Muslims to talk to a Muslim and ended up talking to someone who came from somewhere else entirely and who was utterly unrepresentative of Cairo, and I might add, unrepresentative of Islam.

  7. Ibn al-Hindi says

    As-Salaamu Alaykum, Sidi.

    The worst part about secular bigots like Richard Dawkins and the other 3 (well, now 2) “Horsemen of Atheism” is that nobody cares about stopping them, and in fact, people support them. The very same atheist humanists who are quick to point out bigotry from Christians turn around and encourage secular bigotry. Nobody does anything about it because supposedly only religious bigots are stupid and dangerous, while secular ones are rational and intelligent. Anyone could easily see parallels between what Dawkins’ friend Sam Harris and what right-wing Christians have written about Islam.

    By the way, if you found Dawkins’ documentary “dismal”, there is an even more pathetic one called “Religulous” by an American atheist named Bill Maher, who makes a living off of appealing to the atheist peanut gallery. In the documentary, he interviews three men whom he deems representative of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism: an anti-Semitic Palestinian imam, the owner of a Biblical Young Earth Creationist museum, and an anti-Zionist rabbi (who isn’t really that bad, but Bill Maher ridicules him for his anti-Zionism).

  8. SKhan says

    As-Salaamu Alaykum.

    What is your opinion of this article: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2048299,00.html

    Does the man being interviewed overestimate the abilities of science?

  9. admin says

    wa alaikum as-salam,

    Kurzweil (whose German name means ‘a short while’) is a man whose over-riding obsession is his mortality. Almost all his scientific thinking is a reflection of the fact that he cannot accept that he will die.

    Abdassamad

  10. ibnhussein says

    Warmest salaams Shaykh!
    I really enjoyed this piece and The Blind Professor very much.

  11. admin says

    Wa alaikum as-salam,

    Thank you for your kind words of appreciation.

  12. julina says

    Assalaamu alaikim,

    jazakallah khoiran katheeran.

    Something about this clicked as if I had been aware I myself approach things differently to many and yet here it is in this piece. The Approach. thank you for the articulation. Up until now had merely been a gut feeling.



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