God Vs Science

I had a chance to read a dialogue between Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins on the issue of God and Science, organized by TIME magazine. The debate can be seen at this link:http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1555132-1,00.html
I'd like to make some comments about it.
The dialogue was good in the sense that it made clear the two conflicting positions of Dawkins and Collins. It would have been foolish to expect some sort of a compromise or a synthesis of the two views. It is not a simple matter of reason, because both Dawkins and Collins were presenting their ideas on the basis of some 'belief', forming a kind of closed system. When you begin to conjecture about things that have at the moment no possibility of empirical or rational verification/ falsification, then it becomes impossible to refute the opposing view.

For example, one of the reasons Collins gave for his belief in God was that it is almost impossible by pure chance alone that the values of the six universal constants are all in such perfect harmony with each other to produce a universe that makes life possible.

TIME: Both your books suggest that if the universal constants, the six or more characteristics of our universe, had varied at all, it would have made life impossible. Dr. Collins, can you provide an example?
COLLINS: The gravitational constant, if it were off by one part in a hundred million million, then the expansion of the universe after the Big Bang would not have occurred in the fashion that was necessary for life to occur. When you look at that evidence, it is very difficult to adopt the view that this was just chance. But if you are willing to consider the possibility of a designer, this becomes a rather plausible explanation for what is otherwise an exceedingly improbable event--namely, our existence.

The hypothesis of this God is purely theoretical conjecturing. It is of course a possibility that a designer might have tuned this constants, but it is not a necessary explanation. For, as Dawkins shows, there might be other explanations. A unified physical theory may show that these constants are interlinked and not free to vary. Or there may be billions of universes, and among them it would not be improbable for one universe to have these constants in harmony.

DAWKINS: People who believe in God conclude there must have been a divine knob twiddler who twiddled the knobs of these half-dozen constants to get them exactly right. The problem is that this says, because something is vastly improbable, we need a God to explain it. But that God himself would be even more improbable. Physicists have come up with other explanations. One is to say that these six constants are not free to vary. Some unified theory will eventually show that they are as locked in as the circumference and the diameter of a circle. That reduces the odds of them all independently just happening to fit the bill. The other way is the multiverse way. That says that maybe the universe we are in is one of a very large number of universes. The vast majority will not contain life because they have the wrong gravitational constant or the wrong this constant or that constant. But as the number of universes climbs, the odds mount that a tiny minority of universes will have the right fine-tuning.

But this explanation too is purely theoretical at the moment. The first possibility is based on hope. There is at the moment no such Unified Theory regarding this constants. And there is no proof also about this multiverse idea. Hence, this too is a sort of 'belief', a belief which is based on the extension of science, but nevertheless incapable of verification/falsification.

Now, since both these explanation are incapable of being proved or refuted, we can't say who is wrong and who is right. Which one you feel more inclined to believe simply depends on you.

Dawkins is right when he says that a belief in God is some sort of an evasion to find scientific causes of things.
'Now Dr. Collins says, "Well, God did it. And God needs no explanation because God is outside all this." Well, what an incredible evasion of the responsibility to explain. Scientists don't do that. Scientists say, "We're working on it. We're struggling to understand."'
And by attributing a cause to God, it becomes kind of sacred, and most people tend to avoid thinking about alternatives. When it was believed by people that God sent rain, or God chose the sex of the baby, it became almost blasphemous to discuss these issues from a scientific context. At present, based on similar thinking, there is immense discouragement to study the mind-body relationship from a scientific perspective because people consider it blasphemous to deny the existence of soul. In this way, religion does impede scientific progress.

Dawkins recognized the possibility of something 'grand and incomprehensible and beyond our present understanding', which Collins immediately labelled as 'God'... but Dawkins pointed out that this God could be any of the billion Gods. To believe this God is the Yahweh, God of Jesus, or say the Islamic God is almost irrational.

Collins was right when he pointed out an aspect about atheists. "Atheists sometimes come across as a bit arrogant in this regard, and characterizing faith as something only an idiot would attach themselves to is not likely to help your case."
I surely agree with him. I am a regular visitor of the Atheist vs Theist forum on Orkut, and the arrogant and insulting behaviour of the atheists is very marked. And it is also wrong to believe that only an idiot would in a God, because this is not the cause. Most of the greatest and brilliants minds of mankind believed in some sort of a God. True, belief in God is not logically necessary, but it is surely logical possible, and is certainly not irrational.

The concluding comments of Dawkins are surely worth quoting:
But it [the idea of a supernatural intelligent designer] does seem to me to be a worthy idea. Refutable--but nevertheless grand and big enough to be worthy of respect. I don't see the Olympian gods or Jesus coming down and dying on the Cross as worthy of that grandeur. They strike me as parochial. If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.


Anonymous said…
* Second last paragraph, fourth last line. "..would believe in ...".

Dawkins says, "if god wanted to create life and humans it would be slightly odd that he should chose the roundabout way of waiting for another 10 billion years to get it started and for another 4 billion years until you got humans..."

What do you think, is time a factor for god? Did those 14 odd billion years had any significance for him? I'm sure you have seen that movie "contact" or the event of "miraj" (you may think of it slamming of the door in the face of constructive investigation), What I'm ttrying to say is that maybe it was just split second for him who could be whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.

Secondly I would like to hear what you have to say about the theory from where the humanity's moral sense comes? Dawkins isn't very convincing.

I'll end this with the comment which I liked the most in this whole conversation ... My presumption of the possibility of god and therefore the supernatural is not zero...

Thank you.
Awais said…
@ anonymous

Thank you for your comments.

Ok. First. Isn't God supposed to be beyond time and space? I mean, Space and Time are physical aspects of this universe, and since God is supposed to exist 'outside' the universe, space and time doesn't exist for. In this sense, there is no time for God.

But time does exist for this universe. And if the purpose of God was to create life and humans, why did he create a world which would take 14 billion years for this to happen. He could have created this in an instant, or as the Koran would say, 6 days... but no, He did it in 14 billion years. And surely, it is not imprudent to ask, Why?

Of course, your answer would probably be, "God must have His reasons". But then, u have brought yourself into a closed system. Your statement is neither capable of being proved, nor disproved. It is mere belief... unproved, unsubstantiated, and unfalsiable belief.
Awais said…
About Dawkin's moral theory... i am not sure if it is true, but it does sound plausible to me.
This is just one of the theories in this regard... Dawkins has explained other theories in The God Delusion as well. You can see that if you are interested. But this is a very controversial area... difficult to say much with certainty. I'd rather hold my breath and wait.

You can also have a look at this post:

'...My presumption of the possibility of god and therefore the supernatural is not zero...'

Yes, it is not zero... but it is very close to zero.
See Dawkins' "Why God almost certainly does not exist" in the book The God Delusion.

And also see Russell's tea pot argument.
Anonymous said…
I wouldn't say I'm believing in anything right now so no point of being trapped in a close system. One thing I'm afraid to say and try to avoid is saying "I believe".

Thanks for your response.

It troubles me that why the humanity ran after names like Jesus, Mohammed etc if their teachings were based on such tall lies and a few magic tricks? How were they able to move civilizations or was it all just part of a big hoax and they were just very clever people?

As for morality having an evolutionary connection. I think it was Wilde who said that every soul would have sinned if he knew how to get around it. Call it nature or the universality of condition of human beings, we are tempted towards evil. Not only religion but even today's societies (part of zeitgest)which are in favour of keeping religion to oneself have to instill some laws with the same "greater fervor and threat of punishment."

Looking deep inside your heart also seemed to me a very good idea at first but would everyone find the exact same thing there?Ofcourse you can disregard this by saying that "Your moral jurisdiction extends to the limits of your nose. You can only make an ethical decision for your ownself. You cannot enforce your sense of ethics on other people. Make your own decisions and let other people make theirs."

If everyone starts to act according to his/her own moral sense wouldn't it be chaotic? I think society has to function as a whole otherwise the clash between classes would be obliterating.
Awais said…
...I wouldn't say I'm believing in anything right now so no point of being trapped in a close system...

Ah, buddy, i can understand your feelings. I have passed through this phase.

...It troubles me that why the humanity ran after names like Jesus, Mohammed etc if their teachings were based on such tall lies and a few magic tricks?...

My, my... did i say call their teachings 'tall lies' and 'magic tricks'? It is certainly not so, and forgive me if i gave the impression. Jesus and Muhammad were great thinkers and great people, and i have great respect for them... just like i have respect for Buddha and Confucious. However, unlike others, i do not view them as "prophets of God who received divine revelation". They were men who changed the course of history by their thought. It is difficult to say what their lives were with great historical accuracy, because the accounts of their lives have been greatly given a mythical character. And the religions they brought were great social reforms of their own times. Muhammad gave rights to women and slaves which were inconceivable in his age. That was his moral greatness. The only problem is that if religion is made stagnant, it becomes obsolete. The morality of Islam was a great social step at the time of its origin, but world has moved on now. It can no longer follow the old morality. As far as the metaphysics of their religion is concerned, i believe it should be treated with the neutrality of a philosophical system. Belief in a monotheistic God was an Abrahamic tradition which Muhammad adopted... it was not a lie that he deliberately invented.
Awais said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
@ish said…
now tht was a pretty good discusion
"What do you think, is time a factor for god?"
well .. wht u said awais was tht God is supposed to exist 'outside' the universe, space and time doesn't exist for. its true but only in philosiphical sese..i think times Is a factor for GOD..because as we kno GOD Showr his mercy upon us when HE Think time is right..nd night and day come according to its specific time ...nd hence laws of nature ..no materr wht do revolve around time...and tht was the will of god ...i suppose..u see day of judgement will come on its fixed time ...othrwise whynot god judge us evry othr day.....
@ish said…
i often wonder..since scince is discovrng new natural phenomenon day by day ..will it evr accept tht yes there is a God....out there nd ....if so will they be able to say smthg abut the perosnality of god...although i do have a firm belief in God but ..for how long can we imagine the personality of God...muhammad (pbuh)havnt said a wrd abut god;s personality...nd ok im jst getting confused....so i better stop...hehehhe
Inherited soul. said…
People, you know what is time? Time is a factor operated by people around you, the flow of which, restricts the flow of thoughts and feelings.Suppose you are a candidate, attempting a paper of philosphy, you are thinking, feeling and writing.Ok.
You are left with five minutes.After five minutes, the invaligator came and pushes your answer sheet or what ever... the time is over! Flow of those thoughts or feelings you were having while attempting the paper is over! This supports "time is operated by your enviornment(people around you)" We can also define Time like this "Rate of change of feelings" When you are thinking constantly, time moves quickly for you!
Time is a factor for those who can feel and think.Ok.Before creating the universe there was nothing.Nothing means no feeling and so no time! This all means Time is not a FACTOR for God.He Operates the time of universe and we humans operate the time for each other!

Sorry for mistakes.