I have PPMS (Primary Progressive MS) and am now in a Nursing Home. I have been in a wheelchair since 1996 (all the time) The pain is getting intolerable, though at the moment I can still use my hands. I’ve just finished reading the excellent book “Final Exit”. Both my Doctor and the Nursing Home do not approve of assisted suicide.
I am prescribed Amitriptyline and Tramadol in tablet form and fentanyl in patches (in this last the dose has to keep increasing), as well as some other things. My two sons won’t listen if I raise the subject, though neither of them visit very often.
I’ve seen people die with MS and its not a pretty sight, I don’t want that to be me. I want to go whilst I’m still able to control my passing, and do the things I enjoy, reading, computer, DVDs etc. I’m also a member of MENSA and enjoy puzzles and similar past-times. I don’t want my brain to go, that would be the worst thing.
I already have a living will with DNR instructions and the nursing home and the doctor both have a copy. I hoped I would be able to find nembutal and/or seconal over the Internet but so far have been unlucky. Is there any other way that could be recommended? I don’t want anyone to get into trouble through helping me, but I really do need some help.
I think everyone connected with this movement are doing wonderful work,
Harrogate, North Yorkshire. United Kingdom
(From “World right-to-die news list”)
A commenter on an earlier installment in this series of posts on The God Delusion has suggested that I address the critique of Peter S. Williams in his essay, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? — Richard Dawkins’ Failed Rebuttal of Natural Theology” — a title whose implication is that Dawkins builds straw houses and then blows them down. Not only do I not think Williams’ paper devastating, as was suggested, it is, I believe, a piece of the most terrible religious puffery. Indeed, one of the failures of Williams’ paper is plain honesty; it is necessary to check every reference that he makes, since many of them are seriously misrepresented in Williams’ text.† (see note at end)
I have already considered, in my last post, what Williams has to say on the question of the anthropic principle. On this subject he is completely mistaken, and clearly does not understand the point of the anthropic argument. As “Johnathan” and Ant Allan have already pointed out in the comments, the probability of something actual — i.e., something already in existence – occurring is 1 (or 100%). Thus, the probability that a life-friendly planet and universe exists is 1, since we are on it and in it. What was the probability of such a planet or universe existing before they existed? Well, that’s really very hard to say, isn’t it? However, as Dawkins has pointed out, if contemporary physics is right in assuming that the laws of physics would necessitate a multiverse (that is, a universe of universes), then, while it may be hard to calculate the probability accurately on the basis of what is now known, it is not unlikely that the probability of a life-friendly planet in a life-friendly universe may be quite high. We just don’t know. But, as Lewis Wolpert says, however improbable it is that we are here, here we are! And that improbability, in itself, without more presuppositions, is simply a fact about our existence which does not, in itself, require explanation.
Let’s begin this instalment of our series on Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion by listening to this little clip of Lewis Wolpert in his debate with William Lane Craig:
This video doesn’t exist
This seems to me to say almost all that needs to be said about the fine tuning argument. We can find the same position taken by John Allen Paulos in his delightful little book, Irreligion. There he lays out the argument, as used by the religious, in step by step form, and it is clear that the conclusion simply does not follow.
And now we come to James Hannam’s review of The God Delusion. This is timely, since Ophelia has something up about James Hannam over at Butterflies and Wheels this morning. Some critics call Dawkins smug, but for smugness squared you have to pay a visit to James Hannam who, as Charles Freeman says, seems to have found a home with the Tea Partiers in the United States. I also think, if his review of The God Delusion gives anyone a little insight into how James Hannam reads, he does it very poorly indeed, as we will see. Hannam says, for example, that Dawkins
claims that he cannot believe that Stephen J. Gould, Michael Ruse and C.S. Lewis believe what they say. This is a reflection of Dawkins’ own failure of imagination.
I can’t find where Dawkins has said this. He does speak of Ruse and Gould and Lewis, but does not, to my knowledge, express befuddlement at their beliefs, though he disagrees with them. He considers Gould’s NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria) proposal for separating religion and science (54-61), and expresses his disagreement; he makes short work of Lewis’s “Mad, Bad or God” trilemma (92); and finally, he acknowledges Michael Ruse’s part in the fight against creationism (67); but I do not find anywhere where he simply throws up his hands in defeat. Perhaps Hannam has something else in mind, but I do not recall it. (And, as for good scholarship and references, for which he takes Dawkins to task, Hannam has not one page reference throughout his review!)
I’ve been reading reviews of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion over the last few days. There are a surprising number of them. Most of them, as is to be expected, no doubt, are written by religious believers, and are very negative, not to say contemptuous. Dawkins is called everything from lazy, to sloppy, poorly researched, sophomoric, careless, offensive and wrong. Quite astonishing is the vitriolic denunciation of a book that is accused, by so many who denounce it so vitriolically, of being itself vitriolic! Since I have decided to read the book once again, having read it only once when it first came out in 2006, I will consider, in a later post, whether The God Delusion is, as claimed, in poor taste, offensive, strident, or vitriolic. This book, after all, is the fons et origo of the New Atheist movement. Sam Harris’s book, The End of Faith, was the first major success of a book written from an atheist point of view and published by a mainstream publisher, but Richard Dawkins’ book provided the momentum for a movement which is now, because of its forthrightness, a major influence in the world. So important has the new atheism become that popes and archbishops are convinced that it is a danger to faith, and have established programmes to combat it. Despite the fact that many less bold and forthright atheists find the new atheism too confrontational and prefer to remain on friendly terms with religion, it is only since atheism hit the best seller lists that atheism itself has become almost a mainstream phenomenon. At the same time that Alister McGrath wrote and published his slight — and often inaccurate — study on what he thought was The Twilight of Atheism, the new atheism was already in gestation. Far from being in its death throes, as McGrath thought, atheism was preparing to become a major cultural phenomenon.
A headline in The Telegraph (London) reads as follows: “Richard Dawkins accused of cowardice for refusing to debate existence of God.” After a short introduction about Dawkins’ fierceness, he article continues with these words:
But he now stands accused of “cowardice” after refusing four invitations to debate the existence of God with a renowned Christian philosopher.
A war of words has broken out between the best selling author of The God Delusion, and his critics, who see his refusal to take on the American academic, William Lane Craig, as a “glaring” failure and a sign that he may be losing his nerve.
In response Dawkins has said merely that such a debate would look better on Craig’s CV than it would on his, though he has been urged by a fellow Oxford academic, Dr. Daniel Came (also, The Telegraph reports, a fellow atheist), to reconsider this refusal. In his letter to Dawkins, Dr. Came says this:
The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part.
“I notice that, by contrast, you are happy to discuss theological matters with television and radio presenters and other intellectual heavyweights like Pastor Ted Haggard of the National Association of Evangelicals and Pastor Keenan Roberts of the Colorado Hell House.
I have been waiting anxiously for results of the vote in today’s referendum on assisted suicide in the Canton of Zürich. (Thanks to Marie-Thérèse O’Louglin for the link to Friday’s BBC report about the upcoming vote.) The referendum included two provisions: (i) a ban on assisted suicide, and (ii) a ban on “suicide tourism”, that is, the right of foreigners to receive assisted suicide in Switzerland. According to projections both bans, the ban on assisted suicide and the ban on so-called “suicide tourism” have been massively defeated at the polls (by a margin of some 80%!). The referendum, supported by the Evangelical Democratic Union, a deeply religious Swiss political party, as well as other right-wing parties, which oppose homosexuality, abortion, heroin clinics, and euthanasia — the usual targets of evangelical Christian opposition — seems likely to go down to defeat.
The Dead Hand of the Past, grasping at straws
See Jerry Coyne’s take on the same study, which as he points out, was funded by — guess who! — the John Templeton Foundation. The so-called “findings” of this study are so obviously religious presuppositions dressed up in research disguise that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that there are a number of religiously inclined philosophers, psychologists and other academics out there who are just milking Templeton for all the money they can get, no matter how feeble their research methodology or how tenuous their conclusions. Read the description of the research project to see what Templeton got for its £1.9 million. There is, I think, something morally questionable about this process, something like academic prostitution — which is unfairly to characterise real prostitutes, who provide a genuine service in return for fees paid.
A couple posts ago I suggested that religion lies, and after reading a few articles about an Oxford cross-cultural study of religion, I am more and more convinced that not only does religion lie, but religious believers and especially those who defend religion are liars. It’s one thing to say that religion lies. Adherents might still think they are telling the truth. It’s another thing to think that religion’s defenders are actually telling lies, knowingly saying what they know to be untrue in order to defend the heart of their religious belief. Churchill once said that the truth often has to be defended by a bodyguard of lies. Lies, of course, need to be defended by whole regiments of lies.
A report filed with The Telegraph yesterday has this headline:
Belief in God is part of human nature – Oxford study
The three-year study cost £1.9 million, and “ involved 57 academics in 20 countries around the world, and spanned disciplines including anthropology, psychology, and philosophy.”
Of course, whenever I read Christian stuff I have that feeling of having heard it all before, but the Biologos essay by Darrel Falk (who, we are told “transitioned into Christian higher education 25 years ago”) that was put up on Monday this week gave me an uneasy feeling of being back at school being harangued by missionary teachers. He titles it “The Crutch,” and its message is almost entirely devoted to showing how people who argue against evolution on Christian grounds are simply handing a crutch to those apostates who use evolution as a crutch to justify their rebellion against God.
When I went to school there was scarcely anything as heinous as doing that, rebelling against God, wanting to manage your own life, make your own decisions. Indeed, it was suggested that somewhere in this vicinity lay the sin against the Holy Spirit which can never be forgiven, and that ill-defined sin darkened many of my schooldays — because it was so ill-defined, so that, even if you had committed it, you might not know, and would, even without knowing, have committed yourself to everlasting fire. So, just reading Falk’s piece gave me that scary frisson again, that sense of walking along the edge of a precipice in the dark.