Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Halfway up Mt Improbable

Erm, I'm sure I had something better to contribute than this, but I've forgotten for the moment. Perhaps it'll come back to me as I write this. Maybe it was that promised response to tvc, but then again, maybe not. Oh, thanks for the postcard tvc that turned up in our letterbox today. Yep, the airline hostesses do post them for free. By the way, it wasn't the same airline that Ralf Fiennes travels with was it? Apparently he was given free entry into the Mile High Club recently and the other passengers were a bit miffed, as I would be. It's not easy to get freebies like that these days.

I say halfway up Mt Improbable because I've got a long way to go before I can get my writing style to the peak of its evolution (although some might say it's gone as far as it can). And of course, you guessed it, I'm reading my way through Richard Dawkin's 'The God Delusion' at the moment and what a bloody good read it is, too. In fact, I just have to save this draft and nip away for a few more pages. Excuse me a moment.

...Okay, that was a whole day, but I'm back now. Anyhow, continuing the riff about Dawkins, I love that concept of "irreducible complexity" that 'intelligent design' advocates use to justify the 'obvious' existence of God and that Dawkins takes great delight in tearing to shreds. This theory posits the view that intelligently designed features of the natural world are so irreducibly complex that they can only have been created by God because without one of the parts that make up the whole they wouldn't possibly work. Dawkins rebutts the argument with his allusion to climbing Mt Probable: intelligent design would have us believe that an eye or a wing suddenly came into existence by leaping from the bottom of the cliff on one side of Mt Probable to the very peak. Dawkins and natural selection theorists however, show that eyes and wings evolve very slowly by gradually sidling up the gentle slope on the other side of Mt Probable through incremental and only slightly improbable steps that build upon one another until eventually you get something that seems highly improbable and hence intelligently designed. They're not irreducibly complex though, because an eye is still capable of seeing even after the lens has been surgically removed in a cataract operation, for example.

I know I'm verging on the very dull here and have probably overstepped tvc's 'bolshie rant' threshhold', but if you have the chance to read it, then do so. Dawkins is great at taking the piss out of his opponents, such as the reference to the court case on the imposition of intelligent design teaching in some school, when the inventor of the term, Professor Michael Behe (or is that inventor of the term 'flagellar motor' as an example of intelligent design') has his testimony described by the judge as "extraordinarily inane". There are also fine examples of writings by the Founding Fathers revealing nearly all of them to be either deists or out-and-out atheists, e.g. Thomas Jefferson. They'd be spinning in the graves at how very unsecular America has become.

Admittedly I haven't finished the book yet, and I know there has been heavily criticism of it in some non-religious academic and intellectual circles, not least the London Review of Books, but it's been enough so far to get me off my agnostic perch and come out as an atheist.

Sorry Rotten, I was going to get that Mitchell book you recommended, but I had to spend my Borders birthday vouchers and they didn't stock it. Hence The God Delusion and Cormac McCarthy's The Border Trilogy. Have just finished Norm Mailer's The Castle in the Forest about Hitler's childhood; a very good read also, but one or two plot holes that reveal Norm to be the 84-year-old that he is.

And lastly before I forget, I just wanted to say that I saw The Pursuit of Happiness the other day and I haven't been more nauseated by a film in a long time. Happiness is apparently all about becoming a stock broker and making a stack of loot, end of story. Not very satisfying sorry.

1 comment:

Rotten said...

I'll look for this Dawkin tome you've mentioned the next time I'm back in the world.

Wanted to respond to your post but after hammering out a hate screed of such random, bile-soaked incoherence that even I realized I'd only be fouling a precious expanse of pristine cyberspace by posting it, I junked it and gave up. I am now convinced that writing about God is a like fishing about architecture.

Still, for those of you willing to dare the fruits of those that've tried it, I recommend "The Dancing Wu Li Masters," by Gary Zhukov and "The Gnostic Gospels," by...shit, forgot her name. But it's fairly well known so it shouldn't be a problem for the enthusiasts among you to hunt it down.

And ps Kivak if you've whittled down you book budget to the point of relying on gift certificates, I recommend you pick up Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas" before "Black Swan Green".