An Argument Against #7 on The Dawkins’ Scale

The Dawkins’ Scale can be found in ‘The God Delusion’, a highly recommended book for any religious folk with a seed of doubt.

The scale is also for atheists looking to brush up on arguments and counterarguments, should they ever feel inclined to do battle on the intellectual landscape.

Dawkin's scale
The Dawkin’s scale from the God Illusion

I don’t agree with number 7.

Atheism deals with belief, Agnosticism with knowledge. In my understanding, 7 Strong Atheist: should read – “I am 100% certain I don’t believe in god.”

You see no epiphany on the horizon that’s going to give you pause to reconsider any particular god as your preferred and thus ‘True’, but we remain in the domain of belief, which does not necessitate you to commit one way or another to any prospect, no matter how patently absurd.

Humpty Dumpty Sat on the Wall…

The argument can therefore be made that a person is sitting on the fence, and should choose sides, but from the perspective of a belief, by definition can’t claim to know one way or the other, otherwise you wouldn’t need to believe it’s true, you would say you know it’s true.

Once you make the assertion that you know it’s true, you’re bound with the duty of proving your statement. There’s no need to claim you know that Humpty Dumpty does not exist, you can be content to likening it to a whole spectrum of absurd possibilities, and give a window for comedy.

Even if String Theory proves correct, and there are virtually so many Universes out there, that anything we can imagine to exist most assuredly does somewhere, it would leave our particular Universe with an incredibly low statistical chance of hosting any given god from our scriptures. 10 to the 500th to 1 as a statistic, it would seem.

Dawkins’ Scale and Labels

If you engage a theist in debate and you clearly articulate the difference between a lack of belief and an assertion of knowledge, then it dampens their approach to focus on how you cannot prove there is no god, so the claim of their personal god existing is as valid as not believing.

That’s where labels – Atheist, Theist – any word that falls in between, can be conversation stoppers, or perverse an otherwise civil discourse and a free exchange of ideas.

If you approach a theist and tell them you’re an adamant atheist and you try and make them feel stupid, and insult them, they are going to box you into a preconception that is not going to give you the ability to penetrate their defenses with any argument thereafter.

If the person you’re speaking to can’t label you – or to the extent they are unable to completely label you – then they’ll be more open to a discussion. Once they get to know you and learn you’re atheist – or whatever you are or are not – they will be less likely to dismiss you out of hand.

Of course you can still make strong arguments against their ideas, but presented in a more interested, engaged discourse… as hard as that might seem at times.

However, an intellectually honest atheist will hold the door open to the consideration of a belief or idea no matter how improbable, though that is not to say the atheist needs to take the proposition seriously.

Holding the door open to the possibility there is a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow that forms on some distant planet in a far away galaxy does not mean that you need to devote any time exploring the notion.

Quantum Theory

I don’t understand quantum theory – it’s said if you think you do, you don’t, so it’s futile to claim otherwise I suppose – but I know ‘whacky’ things happen there that don’t on the scale of existence our senses perceive.

We know the visible spectrum of light is severely limited to us. Radio waves, microwaves, electromagnetic waves, and on we go, are surrounding us like a soup. But we can’t sense them directly with our everyday tools of awareness and know it for what it is. If any can with any precision, they’re few.

There’s entanglement, particles being able to exist in any one spot, or all spots simultaneously at once, at any given time, and of course the old experiment showing a particle can be a wave, or a particle.

The idea that you can fold tiny dimensions at the string level in 10 to the 500th power gives credence to the notion that anything that can be imagined has, had, and will have again, played out countless times and with countless slight variations countless more.

In such a Multi-Verse your favorite god might exist. I don’t know. But the chances of it being in this particular Universe, well… I just can’t be convinced.

On the Dawkins’ scale I’d have to go with a 6, though in my interpretation as outlined above, I’d be a 7 on the Dawkins’ Scale.

Where do you see yourself fitting into on the Dawkins’ Scale, if at all?

The below video is an interview on the ‘God Delusion by Richard Dawkins’ recommended reading, with the Canadian talk show host George Stroumboulopoulos.

Recommend Reading & Other Resources

3 thoughts on “An Argument Against #7 on The Dawkins’ Scale”

  1. Thanks for your comments Eric and Tina. Eric, you make a valid point – I can’t really argue #7 on this scale without taking the full context – #1 – into consideration. It does remain consistent as a scale in this way. I suppose I took the scale as an opportunity to flesh out my thoughts on what atheism actually is, and how it can often be misconstrued as an assertion that there is no god, rather than simply not being convinced of a god. I’m with Tina when it comes to the particular god of the Old Testament. The idea that Yahweh exists is far less likely, statistically speaking, than some over arching consciousness we could label god. That you could say is god in the Einsteinian way of thinking, which is not a personal creator god, but a spiritual appreciation of the incredible precision of the Laws of the Universe that allow Galaxies to form, and ultimately life to exist. My main contention when arguing against theism is the particular gods people proclaim to exist, not necessarily the existence of anything worthy of the term ‘god’. For me, the Universe and the potential for consciousness, and for our ability to feel at one with the Universe is grand enough – and while I would rather not use the word god to describe it, I wouldn’t argue with someone who did, in that sense.

  2. #7 actually makes sense if one follows the logic started by #1. Of course, therein lies the rub. The problem I have with #1 is with the word “know”. Without empirical evidence one cannot “know” that God exists, one can only “believe” it. This brings me to my problem with the practice of Atheism: One cannot “know” there is no God, one can only “believe” it. Thus, Faith and Atheism have always seemed to me two sides of the same coin, both equally arrogant in claims of certainly. Considering my experiences and discussions with people of various beliefs I see myself at #6, a man that recognizes the many contradictions and just plain lunacy in much of religion, yet also one that admits his own shortcomings in understanding the vastness of the universe.

  3. Based on Dawkins’ scale I’d place myself at a 7 and possibly an 8 as an anti-theist. Keeping in mind while I’ve listened to lots of his debates and also those of the late Christopher Hitchens and others, I’ve not read their books as yet so I don’t know what Dawkins’ would describe as “God” after all its just a name that humans have given to a creator of this world, though most? theists have expanded this to encompass the Universe. Theism to me, is the acceptance of a classical deity and the scripture that goes with it found in our religions today. (If you disagree with the scripture but believe in all encompassing power whose purpose has been corrupted by religion, then I think that may make you Deist). So if we are taking theism in its classical sense my answer is No. In my opinion these theist Gods do not exist and its not up to me prove that they do its up to those that believe in their Gods or Deities to prove they exist, which they haven’t been able to do using their man-made stories and scriptures.

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