Monday, June 2, 2008

Reviewing a Review of a Reviewer's Review

Jason Rosenhouse is not impressed with Michael Ruse's review of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion:

It would seem that Ruse is just sore that in a book that was already over 400 pages long, Dawkins chose not to delve into certain bits of esoteric philosphical flapdoodle of interest only to a handful of academic fetishists. And this failing on Ruse's part is completely typical of the angry reactions to Dawkins' book. So many critics seem to think their job is done after listing various theologians Dawkins failed to mention or by pointing to skillful bits of theological obfuscation Dawkins chose not to discuss. They would be more impressive if they pointed to something important that Dawkins got wrong, as opposed to something he chose not to discuss. [emphasis mine]
Arguably, as a philosopher of science who has written extensively on the boundaries and conflicts between science and religion, Michael Ruse can be forgiven for emphasizing the paucity of flapdoodle that stokes his particular fetishes. It's arguable, but I am not arguing it and I don't believe it.

The key point is the one emphasized: suppose we grant the point that Dawkins (or Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, Paulos, etc.) failed to drop the requisite names or flatter the requisite theological schools. Then what? What did they get wrong as a result?

Ruse professes to be troubled that Dawkins didn't exhaust the scholarship on the ontological argument, but acknowledges (in agreement with Dawkins) that the ontological argument lacks merit. Had Dawkins expanded his few words on the subject into a few hundred pages, Ruse and Dawkins would still agree, the ontological argument would still be what it is, and The God Delusion would be unreadable. This would be better? In what way?

It would be one thing for Ruse to cite faulty reasoning; but no, his cavil seems to be with the quantity of discussion, not the quality. How odd!


Martin R. said...

I shall attempt to use the phrase "philosophical flapdoodle" every day this week. Sometimes, perhaps, even in a context that is relevant. It is one of those phrases that enriches us all. Thanks for unearthing it.

Dale said...

Martin, that is a good phrase, isn't it?