Sunday, January 28, 2007


TV book club reviews The God Delusion

Follow this link for an interesting australian TV book club discussion of The God Delusion. I was especially interested to hear how the book was received by the agnostics on the review...


Michael Shermer on 'The God Delusion'

A few critical remarks on Dawkins' The God Delusion from skeptic Michael Shermer, from his otherwise positive review in Science Magazine:

'As I read the book, I found myself wincing at Dawkins's references to religious people as "faith-heads," as being less intelligent, poor at reasoning, or even deluded, and to religious moderates as enablers of terrorism. I shudder because I have religious friends and colleagues who do not fit these descriptors, and I empathize at the pain such pejorative appellations cause them. In addition, I am not convinced by Dawkins's argument that without religion there would be "no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no 7/7, no Crusades, no witch-hunts, no Gunpowder Plot, no Indian partition, no Israeli/Palestinian wars, no Serb/Croat/Muslim massacres, no persecution of Jews as 'Christ-killers,' no Northern Ireland 'troubles'…." In my opinion, many of these events—and others often attributed solely to religion by atheists—were less religiously motivated than politically driven, or at the very least involved religion in the service of political hegemony.'

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Alien Spotting

Another interesting quote from recent new Scientist book Why Don't Penguins Feet Freeze?

'I guess the same would go for any alien life form we might encounter. We spend considerable time searching the electromagnetic spectrum to detect their signals, and we receive a lot of signals. But how will we know if any of them are life? Only, I suppose, if they show the characteristic of life: I'm in control, and I'm not solely a bottom-up deterministic chemical process.' - John Walter Haworth (p. 27.)

In other words, intelligence can be reliably infered from empirical evidence exhibiting patterns that cannot be explained in terms of bottom-up, physical processes. Sounds like the search for aliens is the search for Specified Complexity, and that, nevertheless, no one is accusing this search of depending upon an 'argument from gaps'...

Thursday, January 11, 2007


The Critical Verdict on Dawkins' 'The God Delusion'

The God Delusion has been a best seller on both sides of the Atlantic and continues to make waves - I thought readers might appreciate a list of links to critical reviews, of which there are many, including several scathing reviews by secular writers, such as philosopher Thomas Nagel and scientist H. Allen Orr. Also worth highlighting are the responses by leading Christian philosophers Richard Swinburne of Oxford and Alvin Plantinga of Notre Dame.

Andrew Brown, ‘Dawkins the dogmatist’ @

Terry Eagleton, ‘Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching’, London Review of Books Vol. 28 No. 20, 19 October 2006 @

Alister McGrath, ‘The Dawkins Delusion’ @

Albert Mohler, ‘The Dawkins Delusion’ @

Albert Mohler, ‘The God Delusion Revisited’ @

Thomas Nagel, ‘The Fear of Religion’, The New Republic Online @

H. Allen Orr, ‘A Mission to Convert’, New York Review of Books, Jan 11th 2007 @

Alvin Plantinga, ‘Review of The God Delusion’ @

Richard Swinburne, ‘Response to Richard Dawkins’s Criticisms in The God Delusion’ @

My Own Reviews:

Peter S. Williams, ‘The Big Bad Wolf, Theism and the Foundations of Intelligent Design: A Review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion’ @

Peter S. Williams, ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Dawkins’ Failed Rebuttal of Natural Theology’ @

Peter S. Williams, ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?’ @

Peter S. Williams, ‘Calling Dawkins’ Bluff’ @

Audio Files: ‘Peter S. Williams Discusses The God Delusion’ @

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Surely this plane is not the product of intelligent design?!

For Christmas I received a copy of the New Scientist book 'Why Don't Penguin's Feet Freeze?', which is a collection of questions and answers from the New Scientist's 'Last Word' column. A question about areoplane windows caught my eye because it seems to parallel a discussion that takes place regarding the ID hypothesis:

Q: 'Why do areoplanes have such small windows, any why are they positioned so low inthe fuselage that most people have to bend down in order to see other areoplanes on the tarmac?' (p. 185)

One of the answerers points out that: 'The panes [of glass] are... much heavier and costlier than the thin sheet of aluminium it replaces, and the structure of the aircraft needs to be reinforced to support it. All this extra weight means fewer passengers or less cargo can be carried, so it reduces airline's potential revenues... As well as getting scratched and broken, they are a source of air leaks from the cabin and they also suffer from condensation and icing.' (p. 186.)

If the areoplane were a biological system, one that ID proponents suggested was the product of intelligent design, many Darwinists would use the above observations as conclusive proof that ID is wrong because no designer (or at least no intelligent designer) would make an areoplane with such obvious design flaws! Indeed, this is exactly the sort of argument one does hear against the design hypothesis - but of course, the fact that this argument is unsound in the parallel case of the jet-liner should raise our suspicions about its use against the ID hypothesis. This is a reductio of this sort of anti-ID argument, because we know that areoplanes are the product of intelligent design.

Note that the term 'intelligent' in 'intelligent design' is there to distinguish genuine design from the 'design' that Darwinists talk about but attribute to the blind watchmaker of evolution - arguing that something is not intelligently designed is not sufficient to argue against its having been designed.

As in the case of the areoplane, it is actually harder to substantiate the claim of suboptimal design in biology than first appearances may indicate: the size and position of areoplane windows is dictated by safety issues, and permits a good view of the ground in flight.

Some food for thought:

1. Disproving design in one instance does not disprove it in every instance.
2. Proving sub-optimal design is not the same as proving a lack of 'intelligent design'.
3. Proving sub-optimal design is harder than it looks, partly because: 'As with many things concerning the design of aircraft [or anything else], the final arrangement of various parts is based upon a series of compromises.' (p. 185.)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


As featured in Wikipedia!

Happy new year to one and all. This is just a quick post to note the exciting fact, brought to my attention today, that I feautre in Wikipedia! Only a 'stub' thus far that nicks info from my Damaris homepage - so if anyone wants to beef up my entry...

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