The Maverick Philosopher reintroduces many of the same misunderstandings as in his Teapot post, to which I posted a reply. As he is a reasonably intelligent man, it is hard to attribute his misunderstandings to something other than a self-induced blindness. Another great example is his post on the liberals playing the race card, where both he and the article of Thomas Sowell's to which he links manage to over look that the two biggest race cards played recently were by Mark Williams and Andrew Brietbart. I guess the race card only offends Dr. Vallicella when liberals play it. So, I'll address the usual misunderstandings of Dawkins point below the fold.
"Some of Us Just Go One God Further"
I've seen this quotation attributed to Richard Dawkins. From what I have read of him, it seems like something he would say. The idea, I take it, is that all gods are on a par, and so, given that everyone is an atheist with respect to some gods, one may as well make a clean sweep and be an atheist with respect to all gods. You don't believe in Zeus or in a celestial teapot. Then why do you believe in the God of Isaac, Abraham, and Jacob?
There is one way in which all gods are on a par: there is no reliable evidence for any of them. However, the quote here is not a statement of some necessary ontological status regarding gods. It is a challenge to apply consistent standards of evidence. Given that you reject personal testimonies for Zeus and Anansi, that you find their histories insufficient to believe in them, why do you accept evidence for Yahoweh that is not better in any non-subjective fashion?
What Dawkins and the gang seem to be assuming is that the following questions are either senseless or not to be taken seriously: 'Is the Judeo-Christian god the true God?' 'Is any particular god the true God' 'Is any particular conception of deity adequate to the divine reality?'
I can see no reason to say these questions are senseless or trivial to Dawkins. If they were, he would not have devoted a considerable amount of time and energy to writing a book on them. Dawkins was already a popular author of books on evolution, and his aggressive stance in favor of atheism has cost him some of that popularity. From all indications, Dawkins sees this cost as well-invested, because the issue is both capable of being intelligently discussed and important to address.
The idea, then, is that all candidates for deity are in the same logical boat. Nothing could be divine. Since all theistic religions are false, there is no live question as to which such religion is true. It is not as if there is a divine reality and that some religions are more adequate to it than others. One could not say, for example, that Judaism is somewhat adequate to the divine reality, Christianity more adequate, and Buddhism not at all adequate. There just is no divine reality. There is nothing of a spiritual nature beyond the human horizon. There is no Mind beyond finite mind. Man is the measure.
Well, it does seem trivial that if there is no divine reality, you can't be closer to it with one model of it than another model. However, I have not read anything by Dawkins that says "Nothing could be divine", rather, 'Nothing is divine' seems to be a much better summary of his position. There is no ruling out of any possible type of supernatural, only noting that there is no reliable evidence in favor of any sort of supernatural entity. I have never read a claim he can disprove the existence of an infinite mind, merely that there is no reliable evidence for such a mind.
Of course, this does not rule out the ability to disprove the existence of a particular model of the supernatural, many of which fall apart simply because they are bronze-age creations of people who did not possess what we would recognize as a consistent philosophy, which are then shoe-horned into our modern thoughts. For example, the notion of an omnibenevolent being who engages in eternal conscious torture for temporally limited offenses is inherently self-contradictory. You don't need to rule out the existence of all possible gods to rule out the existence of that particular god.
That is the atheist's deepest conviction. It seems so obvious to him that he cannot begin to genuinely doubt it, nor can he understand how anyone could genuinely believe the opposite. But why assume that there is nothing beyond the human horizon?
In my case, I assume there is plenty beyond the human horizon. There are galaxies we have not even seen yet, ideas about the beginning and possible end of time itself, infinities of space, and whole manners of natural phenomena that exceed our horizon. I accept them because we have evidence that they do or at least can exist.
My return question: why assume there is something out there that intends to be found but fails to leave any reliable evidence pointing towards it?
The issue dividing theists and atheists can perhaps be put in terms of Jamesian 'live options':
EITHER: Some form of theism (hitherto undeveloped perhaps or only partially developed) is not only logically and epistemically possible, but also an 'existential' possibility, a live option;
OR: No form of theism is an existential possibility, a live option.
That's easy: theism is absolutely a live option for the majority of atheists. Many of us find it the preferred option. However, the universe does not run itself based upon our preferences. Theism is a live option, but it is not an evidenced option. You can't just wish gods into existence.
Theist-atheist dialog is made difficult by a certain asymmetry: whereas a sophisticated living faith involves a certain amount of purifying doubt, together with a groping beyond images and pat conceptualizations toward a transcendent reality, one misses any corresponding doubt or tentativeness on the part of sophisticated atheists. Dawkins and Co. seem so cocksure of their position. For them, theism is not a live option or existential possibility. This is obvious from their mocking comparisons of God to a celestial teapot, flying spaghetti monster, and the like.
So, are we to equate the careful considerations of The Maverick Philosopher with the bold declarations of Dawkins as playing the same role in the social movements dedicated to their respective views of the supernatural? No, I don't think so. Dawkins is not The Maverick Philosopher for atheists. To the degree that we would have leaders at all, he is the James Dobson, the Malcolm X, or the Deepak Chopra: a public persona pushing an agenda. I'm sure Dr. Vallicella knows better than I who the serious atheistic philosophers are.
For sophisticated theists, however, atheism is a live option. The existence of this asymmetry makes one wonder whether any productive dialog with atheists is possible.
Well, I don't recall there being a lot of productive dialog with the James Dobson's of the world, either. Perhaps if you seek dialog, it should be with someone seeking to dialog. Dawkins is an advocate.