Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dialectical Prestidigitation

After seeing Akeelah and the Bee, I sincerely wondered to myself when one would ever have a proper opportunity to use the word prestidigitation. In case anyone else was wondering, here's the answer: When writing a really long philosphical diatribe about why God does not exist.

For you philosophy buffs, Richard Dawkins, Oxford Professor and avowed atheist has written, The God Delusion, in the great tradition of Bertrand Russell's, Why I Am Not A Christian. The NYTimes book review seemed fairly balanced. The only thing other than his use of prestidigitation that stood out was this bit:

The least satisfying part of this book is Dawkins’s treatment of the traditional arguments for the existence of God. The “ontological argument” says that God must exist by his very nature, since he possesses all perfections, and it is more perfect to exist than not to exist. The “cosmological argument” says that the world must have an ultimate cause, and this cause could only be an eternal, God-like entity. The “design argument” appeals to special features of the universe (such as its suitability for the emergence of intelligent life), submitting that such features make it more probable than not that the universe had a purposive cosmic designer.

These, in a nutshell, are the Big Three arguments. To Dawkins, they are simply ridiculous. He dismisses the ontological argument as “infantile” and “dialectical prestidigitation”...
I haven't heard the word ontological in years but I remember it coming up in Philospophy 101. None of those "Big 3" arguments are circular and they're still veritably ironclad. Few people have brought up anything substatial to refute them--as if that would change the matter of God's existence--but they're pretty much rallying points for believing folks.

At any rate, I only brought it up because I was reminded that while a few of the issues mentioned were kind of interesting.Ultimately, everything falls back on point of view and belief.

People believe what they want to believe.

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