36 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Clear definitions and sharp arguments, no: double-thinking theist, yes
, 3 Nov. 2009
This review is from: Why There Almost Certainly Is a God: Doubting Dawkins (Paperback)
I am an atheist. Welcome to my world a world of clean, sharp ideas, of naturalistic explanations. Keith Ward (I'll call him Ward for short - in the hope that he might gain household status) is a theist and his world is far from the clean and sharp arguments promised in the introduction to his supposed rebuttable to Dawkins.
Ward is a theistic philosopher. When someone writes reams about something we have no evidence of they often descend into pure banality and Ward is no exception. His philosophy background enables him to understand the crux of the matter and that is a clash in worldviews of naturalism and theism (read supernaturalism). Ward uses the word materialism to denote what I phrase as naturalism. I'm not aware of the distinction between the two - indeed, there may not be one. He's very gracious in his temerity to postulate God at every point and ultimately he says that his God hypothesis relies on a personal explanation.
Lift the lid on the arguments and you'll find at the heart of them the God of the gaps. These are: our difficulty explaining consciousness and the argument from first cause.
Ward slowly builds his God hypothesis and it relies on his (and our) trouble explaining consciousness. Ward follows our established norms by stating that consciousness arises from brain matter but he also believes that there is a ghost in the machine. Quite what this ghost is he never actually states but upon trudging your way through the book you just know he's talking about the soul.
One part to his God hypothesis is that God is "an unembodied mind, a pure spirit that has knowledge and awareness". This seems a shaky foundation for a hypothesis. He can't possibly think of a rebuttal and the only thing he can think to defend it is, "I see no reason why not?" Well, metaphysical-spirit-ether clouds consisting of pure consciousness have never been common in my world. They seemed very common in Star-Trek [the original series]. We have only two models of intelligence (the brain and the computer) and they, at their very basic level, consist of the processing and storage of data. Obviously, metaphysical-spirit-ether consciousnesses are simple and contain no working parts. In short, I think it's sheer baloney.
When one engages in theology they just sound stupid. Ward thinks that because our ghost in the machine (soul) is pure consciousness and because God is pure consciousness then our soul is attracted to God because it is good and enjoyable. I'm condensing a number of paragraphs throughout the book into a simple sentence but, believe me, I have kept his thoughts intact and have shown them to be pure lunacy.
Dawkins has often parodied the religious mind saying that it is - allow me to paraphrase - a hotbed of contradictions never resolved and the most amazing double-think existing. Ward uses this parody back at Dawkins and it fell flat on me and I'll explain why. Ward writes that the pure consciousness that is God would be incapable of doing evil, has he read the Old Testament? And that God would be incapable of committing suicide, has he read the New Testament where God kills himself to appease himself? Again, the Christian God that he believes in isn't a simple consciousness. According to the bible and Christians, God exists in three centres of consciousness with one centre ready-made for self-sacrifice. Such double thinking is part of the natural theistic mind. The atheistic mind is free from such absurd contradictions.
Ward is explaining the God hypothesis and not the God of any particular religion. He's a class philosopher and Ward knows that to move from the deistic God to the Christian God is like climbing a philosophical cliff face and would need an argument so clever that it would look like Dawkins' mount improbable explanation. Sadly, Ward can't come close to battling Dawkins in argument.
On the plus side however, he does write some useful thoughts on the multiverse theory which, I admit, undermines it somewhat.
Ward, being a philosopher, must and should try to look for a superlative to the naturalism vs. theism dichotomy. I believe that John W. Loftus has found it and describes it adequately in his book, "Why I became an atheist". Ward, if you're reading this then please write a rebuttal to this unanswerable book.
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