Sunday, 28 December 2008


So let's look again at what the Penis-Headed One has to offer about Quantum Physics. Firstly, he says that its conclusions are based on "assumptions" which are "so mysterious that even the great Feynman was moved to remark : 'If you think you understand quantum theory... you don't understand quantum theory'."

Well, perhaps by this reasoning Dawkins DOES understand Quantum Theory, because he clearly DOESNT understand it, as none of the basic principles of Quantum Theory are assumptions at all. Rather, like most science, they are observable facts (insofar as anything is a fact). Action at a distance or non-locality, in which separated electrons act as if they are unified even at infinite distances, the tendency for things at a subatomic level to exist as potentials until they are observed and interact in some way with something else, the ability of electrons to exist in two places at once, the fact that everything is part of a unified, seething mass of quantum processes, these have all been OBSERVED by Scientists. They have not been 'made up' or 'assumed'. Unfortunately for Dawkins, the controllable, understandable, discrete world of cause and effect on which his entire world view is based dissolves into holistic uncertainty when it reaches the Quantum Level. Poor him. No wonder he regards the whole field as 'that rarified pinnacle of twentieth century scientific achievement'! It leaves him clinging to a bit of drift wood after the Good Ship Darwin has dissolved into a sea of weirdness.

Nor is Quantum Science 'true in some sense' because it makes predictions well. It is as true as any other scientific observation. Nor is it rarified, as the findings of Quantum Science have delivered us concrete 'things' which include lasers, DVD players and so on, simply by the way in which we have begun to understand how things operate on such a tiny level. So Quantum Science is NOT rarified at all. It has delivered the much-needed material pay-off scientists like Dawkins need to feel safe about things... A Materialist does need something material to hold onto after all.

Le Dawks goes on to speak of the 'shatteringly paradoxical' and 'shatteringly wasteful' Copenhagen and Multiple Worlds Interpretations of Quantum Physics, both of which he says violate 'common sense', that superbly scientific tool which loosely translates as 'what we can see' and 'how we think things are' (for a giggle, find out how Einstein defines it). Does this suggest Dawkins perhaps doesn't understand what he is talking about, hence his repeated quoting of Feynman on this point? Or is he wary of Quantum Science because it challenges his mechanistic/deterministic world view? Well if its the latter, he isn't alone, as this remark from Einstein reveals:

"All my attempts to adapt the theoretical foundation of physics to this new type of knowledge completely was as if the ground had been pulled from out from under one, with no firm foundation to be seen anywhere, upon which one could have built." - quoted in Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist

Poor Einstein! But at least he was brave enough to acknowledge what Bohr referred to as the sudden "insufficiency of our simple mechanical conceptions", as did Heisenberg when he said:

"The violent reaction on the recent development of modern physics can only be understood when one realises that here the foundations of physics have started moving; and that this motion has caused the feeling that the ground would be cut from science" - Physics and Philosophy

So Dawkins finds himself in the position the Church started to find itself in in the Renaissance when Galileo and other Scientists began to unearth truths about the Universe which contradicted their long-established view. Poor Dawks! Of course, one hopes he doesn't start erecting stakes in outside the Royal Society with the intention of burning Quantum Scientists.

Even worse for Richard, the great giants of early Quantum Science found themselves turning to ancient texts by deluded Hoodoo merchants from India and China to grasp a better understanding of what they were discovering (so maybe we DO need those stakes after all!). Here are a few Scientists you may have heard of referring to Lao Tzu, the Buddha and others:

"The general notions about human understanding... which are illustrated by discoveries in atomic physics are not in the nature of things wholly unfamiliar, wholly unheard of, or new. Even in our own culture they have a history, and in Buddhist and Hindu thought a more considerable and central place. What we shall find is an exemplification, an encouragement, and a refinement of old wisdom." - Robert Oppenheimer

"For a parallel to the lesson of atomic theory... [we must turn] to those kinds of epistemological problems with which thinkers like the Buddha and Lao Tzu have been confronted, when trying to harmonise our position as spectators and actors in the great drama of existence." - Niels Bohr

"The great scientific contribution in theoretical physics that has come from Japan since the last war may be an indication of a certain relationship between philosophical ideas in the tradition of the Far East and the philosophical substance of quantum theory." - Werner Heisenberg

So where does that leave Mr D? We have had Einstein acknowledging the 'religious geniuses of all ages' and now Oppenheimer, Bohr and Heisenberg all giving the nod to Buddha, Lao Tzu and the Upanishads! One might even surmise that these other Scientists had READ these texts, unlike Dawkins, who has not. But as we have seen, Dawkins doesn't need to, as he can spot a book covered in pasta from a mile off. Of course, once again, none of this proves God exists, but the argument that anyone who does believe this is an idiot and cannot possibly have anything to offer the Pure Endeavour of Science is starting to look decidedly thin...

The more we dig into Quantum Theory, the more outlandishly mystical its claims are about our Universe. We have established, for instance, that Quantum Theory points to a holistic vision of the Universe at a subatomic level. Even if one takes out the role of the Observer in establishing 'wave collapse', the concept of 'Entanglement' - in which when two electrons interact they become as one, thus fixing their states and, in larger 'Entanglements', forming material objects - leaves us in a mysterious situation in which everything is bound up with everything else. Worse than that for Dawkins, this 'Entanglement' is completely universal in nature. If the Big Bang theory is correct and all the Matter in the Universe was contained in a single point, then a) the Universe is no bigger in terms of Matter than it was then and b) every electron/proton/neutron in that Boson that has been thrown out into the Universe as we know it as is operating non-locally with all the others ie it is 'Entangled' and capable of operating along the lines of 'Action At A Distance', as mentioned above. This means that the Universe is, quite literally, an enormous web of interacting electrons, protons and so on. It genuinely is One, with all the independent things within it only appearing to be so, just as the Mystics have said. As Marcus Cheown puts it:

"There is a ghostly web of quantum connections crisscrossing the Universe and coupling you and me to every last bit of matter in the most distant galaxy. We live in a telepathic universe. What this actually means physicists have not yet figured out." - Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You

Of course, when Cheown uses the word 'telepathic', he doesn't mean it literally. What he means is that, given the observable phenomenon of 'Action At A Distance' and 'Entanglement' they act 'as if' they were telepathic. In other words they seem to exchange information between each other in a way we don't understand, or at least not yet. One suggestion is that the Speed of Light is being violated, but that would go against a central tenet of Relativity Theory. Another is that they interact through through the superimposition of an infinite number of Multiple Universes which come into being at the instant any Quantum Process has taken place. Another is that the 'Action At A Distance' indicates that the Universe operates in a state of unbroken wholeness. None of these please Dawkins much as an explanation. A shame. But there's no pleasing some people. And only an irrational fool dares criticise Science, don't you think? Thank God Dawkins has Feynman's quote to let him off the hook of trying to understand these ideas!

No, Cheown doesn't mean 'telepathic' literally. To mean it literally would mean the Universe had a mind, wouldn't it? If that were so, wouldn't it be a bit like 'God'? Ridiculous! Except some Quantum Scientists are saying just that. David Bohm, for instance, who I have mentioned before, reasoned that, just as our physical universe emerges out of a wider, potentially infinite sea of Quantum Processes (demonstrably true), so does Consciousness. Just as Matter is concentrated Energy, so is Thought, an elegant idea which might explain how the brain and human nervous system is able to convert electricity into Conscious Processes. Thus Matter and Consciousness are seen to be synonymous, just as Time and Space are thanks to Relativity Theory:

"We have shown in some detail that matter as a whole can be understood in terms of the notion that the implicate order is the immediate and primary actuality, while the explicate order can be derived as a particular, distinguished case of the implicate order. The question that arises here, then, is that of whether or not the actual 'substance' of consciousness can be understood in terms of the notion that the implicate order is also its primary and immediate actuality. If matter and consciousness could in this way be understood together, in terms of the same general notion of order, the way wold be opened to comprehending their relationship on the basis of some common ground. Thus we could come to the germ of a new notion of unbroken wholeness, in which consciousness is no longer to be fundamentally separated from matter." - Wholeness And The Implicate Order

If Bohm is right, it would overturn all the biological determinism of modern science with its view that Consciousness is an 'epiphenomenon' of the brain. It would overturn all Dawkins' smug notions of evolution as a purely random process, as Consciousness would have to be taken into account as part of the evolutionary process - something Quantum pioneer Wolfgang Pauli himself suggested. With this interpretation, instead of being dependent on Matter, Matter becomes a means by which Consciousness transmits or expresses itself, the two being one. Not only that, but by implication Consciousness would have to be a latent property of the entire Universe with us as concentrated, localised expressions of that Consciousness, just as our physical bodies are concentrated, localised expressions of the material/energetic quantum processes of the Cosmos. In fact Bohm's theory stands to reason, even if it is hard to 'prove'. If all Matter is non-local and entangled, independent material objects being just expressions of a universal Quantum Field, then how can Consciousness not be the same? If the boundaries of Matter are illusory thanks to the Field, how can Consciousness not operate in the same way? Just as we would have to draw a distinction between a general field of Quantum Matter and localised material objects (eg our bodies), we would have to draw another between a generalised field of Consciousness and localised, differentiated Thought (eg us). Alas, all this just lets in the back door every Mystical notion known to Man ie that the Universe is Mind, that God or Siva is 'dreaming' us, that the we are all microcosms of a macrocosmic First Thought or that as Buddhism says, 'mind and matter are eternally the same'. The nutty delusion-merchants were all correct. Einstein's Cosmic Religion comes full circle. And Dawkins' 'common sense' idea of Science looks like a dusty old dinosaur being picked over by a dessicated Cardinal, both clinging to their rather limited concepts of what the Cosmos might be.

It gets more interesting when one follows the implications of the Consciousness/Matter theory to its logical conclusion in terms of Relativity Theory. If Consciousness is interwoven with Matter which we perceive in three dimensions and if Time is the fourth dimension, interwoven with three-dimensional Space, then it follows that Consciousness must in some sense be the fifth dimension, as it is part of Matter which is the same thing as Space. It is also an Energy, as all Matter is Energy. And Energy at its basic level is Light. Thus the whole Cosmos is Sentient or Conscious Light forming itself into different shapes, some of which are more Conscious than others. And to take things one step further, we know that our physical Universe only exists thanks to its relationship with the Speed of Light. Its existence, therefore, is relative. Thus in one sense, it is an illusion, possibly one of many other levels of existence moving at different speeds, some faster, some slower, and all filled with Dark Energy and Matter, none of which we can see or detect... And if Everett is right, all of these Universes and levels of existence are splitting off into infinite number of other Universes all around us every moment of the day...

Sound silly? Sound almost Mystical to you? And yet these are all things which are being debated by scientists. The problem is that at the moment we cannot test or 'prove' any of it yet beyond thought experiments, theory and mathematics, so we have to rely on, er, faith, or at least abstract thought until we find a way to do so. As popular a theory as String Theory, for instance, would require devices the size of the Solar System to even begin to verify them. So what are we to do? Well we can go back to our safe little Dawkinsian world with its fixed, deterministic rules and close the door of the cage on ourselves. Indeed this is exactly what Ricky does do, putting forward his 'Middle World' theory of a human mind evolved so as not to see things as they are because it didn't need to. If it did, it would not have been able to maintain itself in our apparently three-dimensional world:

"Our mental burka window is narrow because it didn't need to be any wider in order to assist our ancestors to survive" - The God Delusion

A point put perhaps more vigourously by the arch-enemy of Science and the probably the greatest exponent of loony mystical bonkerdom, William Blake, when he said:

"If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite." - The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell

How could two such opposing minds come together and reach the same conclusion? Dawkins thinks only Science has tried to "emancipate ourselves from the Middle World, tear off our black burka, and achieve some sort of intuitive - [again that word Intuitive! What happened to Reason?] - not just mathematical - understanding of the very small, the very large, and the very fast?". He is wrong, very wrong. Science is one of the many ways in which we have done this, Mysticism has been another. The correspondences between the findings of both seem to point to some kind of unity of insight. Indeed the whole endeavour of the human race has been to penetrate to the truth of things long before Dawkins's heroes came along, which is why people who have explored Mysticism probably have no problem grasping the non-linear reality of Quantum Science (although New Age woolliness doesn't help). Not only that, but the ideas of some of the people he has most contempt for, or would have if he had heard of them, might just hold some answers. Then we might be able to combine the inner study of the Mystics and the outer study of the Scientists into something very special, something which might be able to bring us together instead of tearing us apart.

But as we hold our breath waiting for this to happen, we can be sure of one thing: God loves Richard Dawkins too!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


Before we get on to Quantum Physics, let's just rewind a moment to Einstein's notion of a 'Cosmic Religion' which Dawkins says 'we can all superficially sign up to'. If one looks at what Einstein actually said (which as we have seen Dawkins probably didn't), unfortunately for him, this vision of the Universe as one enormous harmony before which one stands with awe is exactly how the Mystics of all ages saw it. Einstein acknowledges as much by citing St Francis of Assisi, Democritus and Spinoza as sharing his vision. What Dawkins doesn't seem to realise is that these people ascribed a numinous intelligence to the natural world, believing that what we call 'God' revealed him/her/itself through Creation. In other words, the physical world was 'alive' in some way, suffused with some life-giving energy which lay behind the harmony we can see throughout it. It was contained something transcendent as well as immanent. Thus Einstein is not saying what Dawkins says he is saying ie that Cosmic Religion is just worship of the processes of Nature. St Francis, for instance, could not by any stretch of the imagination be regarded as someone who did not believe in God, and yet Einstein includes him in his roll call of geniuses. Now, this should invalidate Dawkin's argument, but it doesn't, or if it has, he hasn't noticed. So how can a bunch of hoodoo merchants possibly come up with something akin to what Einstein believed? Or rather what Dawkins THINKS Einstein believed? Well, at the risk of getting totally bogged down in 'definitions' and 'proofs' of God's and his/her/its existence, here goes at having a look...

The notion of a God which reveals itself through Creation is common to every single Mystical Tradition. In almost every instance this 'God' is not non-personal and both immanent and transcendent, therefore corresponding exactly to Einstein's definition of Cosmic Religion. Here are a few examples:

"God is whole and constant. In himself he is motionless, yet he is self-moving... He is hidden yet obvious everywhere. His being is known through thought alone, yet we see his form before our eyes. He is bodiless yet embodied in everything. There is nothing which he is not... He is the unity of all things... He is the Whole which contains everything. He is One, not two. He is all, not many. The All is not many separate things, but the Oneness that subsumes the parts. The All and the One are identical. You think that things are many when you view them as separate, but when you see they all hang on the One and flow from the One you will realise they are united - linked together and connected by a chain of Being from the highest to the lowest, all subject to the will of God" - the Hermetica

"The journey to God begins with the awakening to the concept that the phenomenal world is a veil which conceals the Divine. We begin the Quest by removing the veil, only to become aware that the veil and the Divine are one and the same thing. The veil is the theophany itself: the manifestation of the Divine through Its Names and Qualities. When we see the veil, we are seeing nothing but the Divine." - Laleh Bakhtiar (Sufi Mystic)

"The Ancient of Ancients, the Unknown of the Unknown, has a form, yet also has not any form. It has a form through which is the universe is maintained. It also has not any form, as It cannot be comprehended." - the Zohar

"There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." - St Paul

"Exalted in songs has been Brahman. In him are God and the world and the soul, and he is the imperishable supporter of all. When the seers of Brahman see him in all creation, they find peace in Brahman and are free from all sorrow." - the Upanishads

Oh dear! Does this mean that Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews and a whole lot of other nutty deluded fools were closer to Einstein than we think? To be fair on Squawkins, his view is a LITTLE subtler than this. Here he is on Einstein's Cosmic Relgion:

"As I continue to clarify the distinction between supernatural religion on the one hand and Einsteinian religion on the other, bear in mind that I am calling only supernatural gods delusional." - the God Delusion.

Okay! I get it! In fact Dawkins is a closet Mystic who is united with the 'greatest religious geniuses of all ages' and would be happy to rub shoulders with the likes of Ibn Arabi, Meister Eckhardt and Rabbi Isaac Luria. Or maybe he believes in Tree Spirits and Water Nymphs? They at least are natural. Or the Great God Pan? Or Ogun? Or maybe Dionysus, the God of Indestructible Life? Somehow I think not, although he gets close to saying something like it when he says, quoting Einstein again:

"'To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious [says Einstein]'. In this sense I too am religious, with the reservation that 'cannot grasp' does not have to mean 'forever ungraspable'. But I prefer not to call myself religious because it is misleading. It is destructively misleading because, for the vast majority of people, 'religion' implies 'supernatural'. Carl Sagan put it well: '...if by God one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying... it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity'." - the God Delusion

The muddle of this passage needs a little unravelling. Firstly, no-one did more to make 'graspable' the workings of the Universe than Einstein (considerably more than Ricardo himself), so it is fair to assume he didn't mean what Dawkins thinks he meant. This throws up another point which is what we mean by a Mystic. Dawkins says that a Mystic believes there are things which are beyond understanding 'and we should leave it at that' when in fact if anyone looks into Mysticism they will know that the opposite is the truth. The origin of the word Mystic is from the notion of the Initiate into Mysteries - in other words someone who is NOT leaving anything 'at that' but is trying to penetrate the inner Mysteries of the Universe. Dawkins assumes Mystics operate on Ignorance, when in fact a key element of all Mystical systems is the defeat of Ignorance, hence terms such as Gnosis or Enlightenment and the unusual fact that a lot of Mysticism deals with issues of Consciousness, the nature of Reality and the processes of the Cosmos regardless of the existence or non-existence of God. This is why so much esoteric study is as much about processes of Creation, study of natural phenomena an states of Consciousness as it is about spirituality, morality and 'God'. The writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, for instance, are a case in point. Whole chunks read like Science lessons and indeed it comes as no surprise that this most esoteric of books was a profound influence on people like Kepler, Newton and even, it would seem, the first splitter of the atom Ernest Rutherford, who included Hermes Trismegistus on his coat of arms, presumably not because he wanted to identify himself as a deluded idiot.

The Sagan quote shows, once again, the low level of understanding in evidence here. As Dawkins says 'for the vast majority of people, 'religion' implies 'supernatural' ". Alas, this applies to Dawkins too. In spite of his polymathic-telepathic knowledge of all the different things the world's religions 'imply', for Dawkins, 'God' is to be defined on the most primitive and basic of levels - a supernatural being outside Time and Space who punishes bad guys and rewards good guys, responds to prayers and favours his followers. Thus he is fighting on the same low level most of his opponents are on. The absence of a personal God is central to Mysticism, as Einstein pointed out. The Kabbalists, for instance, characterised God as an Infinite Field of Conscious Light (an interesting idea given Relativity Theory and E=MC2 as a paradigm for existence), with our world of physical things as an expression of that Light (again, see Relativity Theory). Granted, one doesn't find this spoken of much in Synagogues, but it is nevertheless a major part of Judaic thought. If one looks further than the Cornflakes Packet Guide To World Spirituality, one finds that the same definition holds true in Greek Orthodox Christianity, Platonism and neo-Platonism and - hey - pretty much all the other spiritualities of the world from Zoroastrianism, in which God's name is 'Right Thought' (Ahura Mazda) and all of Creation is made out of Light, to the Supreme Intelligence of Buddhism of which we are all part which is also pictured as an iridescent light. Out of all these visions of Light the material Universe unfolds, suffused by that Light even in its most dense forms of Matter. Once again, we are close to the ideas a certain Einstein came up with...

A God of limitless energy which reveals itself in created things is exactly what Sagan is clumsily lurching towards, defeating his own argument by suggesting that any God which is not anthropomorphic is 'emotionally unsatisfying'. Thus believers in any kind of 'God' are in a Catch 22 situation. An Anthropomorphic God is emotionally satisyfing but silly while a Universal God revealed in Nature is not silly but emotionally unsatisfying. So where does that leave us? Well, given the ubiquitous nature of of the latter vision of the Divine throughout the Mystical Traditions of the world, one would have to conclude that Carl is wrong, at least about the 'emotionally unsatisying' part. But I like the idea of Richard Dawkins the believer in a natural God. That would be fun, don't you think? He does, after all, say that Pantheism is 'sexed up Atheism'. Sounds plausible to me. If we look at the history of Pantheism as evinced, for instance, by pre-Christian cultures, they all thought along the lines of Dawkins, did they not? I would have thought so. Pop in a time machine back to the era of Paganism and ask them if their worship of the Great Mother was 'sexed up Atheism' and they would be bound to tell you 'Oh yes, Mr Dawkins! It certainly is! We are just pretending to worship the creative power of Nature as personified in Eoster/ Astarte /Danu /Ishtar /Isis etc. And while we are at it, what do you think of our theory of the structure of the atom?'

What Dawkins is doing is confusing his hatred of Religion with the possible existence of something more than the material. Dawkins' anger is towards the hypocrisy, double standards, superstition and repressiveness of so much Religion, be it Caste oppression in India, female circumcision in Muslim Africa, Creationism in the Christian Right in the US or hatred of homosexuals in the Catholic Church etc etc. Well, we can most of us sign up to that. Einstein certainly did! Dammit I can sign up to that! But because these practises take the existence of God as their justification has nothing to do with whether God, however we chose to define him/her or it, exists or does not exist. Many spiritually-minded people refuse to follow any religion because they dislike its excesses in much the same way as Dawkins does (me for instance). Equally, many people within religions retain a clear-sighted awareness of where their religions have gone wrong without losing their own personal faith. Likewise being interested in the existence of things like 'God' or the Soul does not mean you suddenly have to subscribe to what a bunch of Rabbis, Priests or Imams tell you. In other words, the reality of all these things is infinitely more subtle than Dawkins is willing to admit. Better minds than his have grappled with these issues from a religious/spiritual and non-religious point of view and come up with more fascinating and compelling answers.

Besides which, as a Scientist, Dawkins should be aware that the most current theories about the origin and workings of the Universe are so extraordinary that even ideas such as his take on Evolution become rather paltry in the light of what is really going on. In a recent book on Quantum Theory I found Cosmology described as 'the ultimate science', operating on a scale which dwarfs almost every other discipline we have, and yet this seems to be something he knows little about... which brings me rather neatly round to where I was going to come in: Quantum and Relativity Theory... Shall we take a look and see where these take us?

Tuesday, 2 December 2008


As readers of this Blog will have noticed from my many references to the man, I am a great admirer of 'Popular Scientist' Richard Dawkins (pictured here without the penis which is normally seen growing out of his head). Polymath, genius, witty raconteur, possessed of enormous breadth of vision and empathy as well as raffish good looks, few can compare in terms of insight and understanding of the true nature of existence. His comprehension of the nuances which differentiate Theism, Atheism, Deism and Pantheism (he seems not to have heard of Panentheism. Too many syllables perhaps?) is breathtaking. And all this without actually having to find out about any of them! As he says in his book The God Delusion in rebuttal of those who accuse him of not knowing what he is talking about, he doesn't actually NEED to know what he is talking about in order to be able to talk about it:

"To expand the point, most of us happily disavow fairies, astrology and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, without first immersing ourselves in books of Pastafarian theology etc." - The God Delusion

I'd just like to say what a pleasure it was typing that out. Touching genius is always exciting and for sheer poetry and use of language, that passage matches the best of any sacred book. Also, hats off to a man who believes in 'Reason' and 'Evidence' arguing in praise of his own ignorance. That is impressive. To reinforce his point, he moves on to rebut the accusation that he uses the 'Straw Man' method of attacking religion. This refers to the practise of creating one's opponent in one's own image - eg saying all religious people are stupid, behave like 'Robertson, Falwell or Haggard, Osama bin Laden or the Ayatollah Khomenei' (a direct quote, I kid you not) or believe in an utterly simplistic view of God, ignoring all other expressions of religious feeling - and so setting up an easy target to attack. Well argued as this is, it seems strange to claim one isn't doing this when only half a page before one has been proudly proclaiming that there is no reason to find out what any of these people actually believe. Such is Dawkins's genius that he can understand where his opponents are coming from through a kind of miraculous mental osmosis. He doesn't have to read books. Only those he is arguing against need to do that. He just knows. Amazing. To adapt the words of Bill Hicks, that's Reason in action for you!

I am being unfair, of course. Elsewhere in the book Dawkins shows that he is enormously well read on all sorts of subjects. On Carl Jung, for instance, one of the most interesting of explorers into the psychology of religion and spirituality, he has this to say:

"It is in the nature of faith that one is capable, like Jung, of holding a belief without adequate reason to do so (Jung also believed that particular books on his shelf spontaneously exploded with a loud bang)." - The God Delusion

Presumably Dawkins didn't feel he needed to actually READ anything of Jung's to come to this conclusion. It doesn't appear that he has even read the book in which he describes this 'exploding book' incident (Memories, Dreams, Reflections if anyone is interested). But then why would he need to? After all, Jung only helped revolutionise our understanding of how the mind works and went deeply into the nature of spiritual belief in all its forms. I mean, its not as if he knew anything about it. To say that Jung had 'no adequate reason' to believe in God would seem astonishing considering his lifelong work in the study of the mind, his voluminous reading and his friendships with some of the century's greatest thinkers. At the very least he could not be accused of 'not looking at the evidence'. But no matter. Dawkins doesn't have to read any of his stuff to know what he thought. All he has to do is look in the Oxford Book of Quotations or the back of a Cornflakes packet.

He's not all wrong, though. Here he is on Newton, a fellow scientist and one, he admits, who doesn't necessarily fit into his idea that no scientist ever, ever, ever, even if he said he did, believed in God:

"Newton did indeed claim he was religious. So did almost everybody until - significantly I think - the nineteenth century when there was less social and judicial pressure than in earlier centuries to profess religion, and more scientific support for abandoning it." - The God Delusion

I love this argument, one which he extends to all artists and thinkers before the nineteenth century (including people like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci) that as only stupid people have any spirituality all the most talented people in the world could only have been pretending to be religious. In other words, they were closet atheists, just like Richard, only bullied into pretending to believe in God. So there we go. Sophocles, Homer, Dante, Milton, Wordsworth, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, T S Eliot - all these people were just pretending. Sounds plausible to me. After all, if they were not all pretending, then they must have been psychotic and mentally ill, which is what Dawkins suggests when he defines what he means by delusion.

But lets look again at that sentence about Newton, that he "did indeed claim he was religious". Of course, Dawkins is right here. He did 'claim' it. Here is Newton 'claiming' he was religious and his views on the relationship between his discoveries and God:

"Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done." - quoted in Isaac Newton: Inventor, Scientist and Teacher

On God and Nature:

"This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being. … This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called “Lord God” παντοκρατωρ [pantokratōr], or “Universal Ruler”. … The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect." - Principia, Book III

And here he is on Atheism:

"Opposition to godliness is atheism in profession and idolatry in practice. Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors." - A Short Scheme of the True Religion

Of course, Newton was only pretending when he said this. He was also only 'pretending' to be interested in arch-Hoodoo practices Kabbalah, Astrology and Alchemy (his translation of the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus is one of the most famous in the world) and most especially when he wasted a lot of time and energy writing the first ever study of a Bible Code! Indeed, Dawkins would probably be deeply upset if, in an altruistic act of descent from his lofty Tower of Ignorance, he were to discover that Newton's studies of Alchemy were probably the most important single influence on the development of his Scientific ideas. Newton was in fact a militant anti-Atheist, unpleasantly so, as intolerant as Dawkins is in his non-belief. I sometimes wonder if Dawkins isn't actually Newton reincarnated, arguing from the opposite point of view to work off some weird karma.

The point I am trying to make is not that Newton's spirituality or Jung's erudition mean that God exists, only that Dawkins' argument that Belief is incompatible with Science (or even intelligence!) is totally fallacious, as is the idea that Science began in the last two hundred years. The roots of rational thought lie in ancient Greece, for instance, one of the most religious and myth-orientated cultures in the world, while cultures like the Egyptians and the Mayans achieved astounding feats of architecture and astronomy in spite of believing in a host of bizarre-looking Gods.This is not even to get on to the subject of the incredible variety of artistic achievement involved with a religious or spiritual world view. From ancient Greek theatre to the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, spirituality has gone hand in hand with the most extraordinary artistic creative power. But of course, I forgot: they were all only pretending.

Its not fair to slam Dawkins so easily. He does know a lot about religion. Really. Here he is on some of the more Eastern beliefs:

"I shall not be concerned at all with other religions such as Buddhism or Confucianism. Indeed, there is something to be said for treating these not as religions at all but as ethical systems or philosophies of life." - The God Delusion

There might indeed be, unless one had actually looked into them. If he had, he would know that Confucianism genuinely ISN'T a religion and never pretended to be. It was always a philosophy, so even bracketing it with Buddhism is wrong. As for Buddhism, well clearly Dawkins is happy with ideas of Reincarnation, the Threefold Body, the Greater Consciousness of which all is part, the Six Worlds in which one can be incarnated and the legend of Shambala? Is he familiar with the Boddhisatva Vow? Or the many Saints of Mahayana Buddhism? Or is it possible that, in fact, he doesn't know anything about it at all? After all, how could one fit all that information on the back of that already crowded cornflakes packet?

I'm not even going to get into Dawkins and Einstein, whose ideas on these subjects were much subtler and informed than his successor. Einstein was certainly not a Believer in any traditional sense but nor was he a Materialist Atheist like Dawkins. Indeed he was far more humanist than Dawkins, who, if you look deeply into what he says, is actually deeply reductionist in his Darwinism and his view of human nature. Nor did Einstein believe, as Dawkins did, that Religion had made no positive contribution to our culture or civilisation, or that no religious person was possessed of any insight or understanding:

"The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling [Cosmic Religion], which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man's image; so that there can be no Church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with the highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as Atheists, sometimes also saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi and Spinoza are closely akin to each other." - The World As I See It

Doesn't quite sound like Dawkins does it? Curiously enough, Dawkins doesn't quote this passage in his book (must be that damned Cornflakes packet again!). Einstein genuinely WAS a polymath and someone who was well-informed. If he rejected something, he knew what it was first. He rejected organised religion having been brought up with it. I have some respect for that. Dawkins was brought up an Anglican (a little like judging Chinese food by a bowl of plain noodles) but stopped there. Einstein actually studied ethics, philosophy, religion, mysticism, art. Not for him Dawkins' muddling of religion up with spirituality & mysticism (or even God!). The four are all interrelated, but they are not the same. In drawing a distinction between figures such as St Francis of Assisi and the average Believer, Einstein shows an awareness of the nuances of what he is talking about. Indeed, he touches upon the universal spirituality which is shared by the Mystics of all cultures - largely because he actually knows about them. Dawkins does not. Its all just one big bowl of noodles for him (we are back to the Pastafarian gag). He's going to empty them on your head no matter what and claim he's come up with a dispassionate, rational argument while he does it. Oh. And I have just realised that I DID get into Einstein and Dawkins, having said I wouldn't. How irrational is that?

But its futile criticising Dawkins for his ignorance about the things he attacks. And nor do I disagree with everything he says, as my own comments on the problems of organised Religion on these boards might suggest. I'm not a Creationist and don't belong to any Faith. Nor do I take literally every idea I have put on these posts. For me, all of these Mystical Systems are metaphors for something else - higher states of Consciousness if you like, an enhanced understanding of who we are and what we might be. They are ways of talking about experiences we have, images we can use to release insights and free ourselves from stultifying ways of thinking. All well and good. But what I don't believe is that we are only lumps of evolved meat, nor are we vehicles for genes to propagate. And if he had even a bean of intellectual honesty (something he likes to bang on about a lot) he would admit that Darwinism does not explain the source or creation of life, only how it evolved once it started. Even if it did, it explains nothing about the origin of the Universe. One doesn't need to believe in God to know that that mystery still remains unsolved (although he does say 'We're working on it' which is good to know). Sorry, Richard. I don't buy it. What we do know is that Dawkins' view is reductive and exclusive. There's plenty of proof for that. He thinks he has the monopoly on the truth. He does not.

But you are not going to win this argument with Mysticism. As I say, its futile to attack Dawkins with spiritual ideas. If one wants to run rings round him, one must take him on on his own turf - Science. This is paying him something of a courtesy, as he won't do this for someone arguing against him, but never mind. So where does Science open the box he is so determined to close up and seal? Well, lets see what he has to say on a subject which we have already discussed on these boards:

"Quantum Mechanics, that rarified pinnacle of twentieth century scientific achievement, makes brilliantly successful predictions about the real world... This predictive success seems to mean that quantum theory has got to be true in some sense; as true as anything we know, even including the most down-to-earth common-sense facts. And yet the assumptions that quantum theory needs to make, in order to deliver those predictions, are so mysterious the great Feynman himself was moved to remark... 'If you think you understand quantum theory, you don't understand quantum theory'." - The God Delusion

Again, all well and good. But then he goes on to say that 'Quantum Theory is so queer that physicists have to resort to one or another paradoxical 'interpretations' of it. Resort is the right word." He then trots through the main 'interpretations'. Fellow militant Atheist Everett's 'Multiple Universes' Theory is 'staggeringly wasteful' while Bohr's 'Copenhagen Interpretation' is 'not wasteful, just staggeringly paradoxical' (although he doesn't say what it is or why). In the end, he says, all of this fails to satisfy either 'human common sense or intuition' (Intuition? What? The opposite to Reason?!), but 'the more macho scientists don't care' as long as 'the mathematics work'.

And this is pretty much as far as it goes in terms of discussing it... Dawkins suddenly slips off into a conversation about how 'queer' the Universe is, the ridiculousness of psychic goats and then how terrific it is that Science is asking these questions (as if nobody else ever has). Faced with the complete rebooting of our concept of 'Reality' suggested by Quantum Science, Dawkins runs back to his cave with his idea of the 'Middle World', or the 'common sense' reality we can touch or feel. Why? Well clearly for two reasons.

1) he doesn't understand Quantum Theory (that cornflakes packet again), nor does he want to, hence his nervous ridiculing of it and

2) because it completely violates every assumption - physical, scientific and metaphysical - upon which he bases his views...