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Re: Richard Dawkins, Knowledge, and Faith

Re: Richard Dawkins, Knowledge, and Faith

This thoroughgoing intersubjective pragmatism solves some problems while opening up new ones. It’s like the old “if the tree falls in the woods and nobody sees” riddle. If lions kill a giraffe and eat it without anyone witnessing the event, did it happen? If you say no, then aren’t you giving priority to the human perspective over that of the giraffe (now the ex-giraffe) and the lions (now with full stomachs)? And it’s a human linguistic and epistemological perspective that’s valorized: unless you have the words “giraffe,” “hyena,” “eat,” and so on, and unless you participate in an intersubjective linguistic community that assigns words similarly to these observed things and events, then the things don’t exist and the event does not occur. This seems like another variant of idealism to me.

There are postmodern, atheistic pragmatists who contend that schools should teach creationism in parallel with evolution because there’s a large community of people who believe creationism to be true. Since truth is relative to communities, it is argued, then there’s no way of distinguishing which account is the more accurate. Advocates of this pragmatic position also argue that schools should teach astrology or alchemy if enough people in the community believed these ideas to be true. Sociologist Bruno Latour famously claimed that no one died of the smallpox virus before Pasteur discoverd it. By implication, a community which claimed that no Jews were systematically slaughtered during the Holocaust would be pragmatically justified in teaching this version of history to its children.

 

Richard Dawkins, Knowledge, and Faith By: Jacob (60 replies) 6 February, 2010 - 01:49