googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Why I Said Dawkins is a Hypocrite

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why I Said Dawkins is a Hypocrite

Like many bloggers, I use labels (tags) for my posts. I've seen on other people's blogs that it's really easy for tags to get out of hand so I try to be careful with which ones I use. They need to be broad enough so that they categorize posts easily but narrow enough so that they are still very relevant to every post they're applied to. It's not always easy but by paying attention, tags don't get too numerous or remain too few as to be useless. One tag I use is “hypocrites.” It occurred to me, though, that my use of the word may not be viewed the same way as how liberals use the word. To clear up any confusion, I thought I'd take a few moments to elaborate on what I mean.

To liberals, hypocrisy seems to be the most grievous of sins. For example, many liberals advocate the legalization of drugs while most conservatives are against drug legalization. Drug users are usually viewed sympathetically by liberals. However, when Rush Limbaugh's addiction to Oxycontin became public, he was reviled as a “hypocrite” by the left. Here was a conservative who has spoken out against drugs but was, himself, a drug addict. Limbaugh's sin, then, wasn't necessarily his drug use but his hypocrisy.

By using the word “hypocrite” this way, liberals are really engaging in a type of type of ad hominem which doesn't really address the arguments being raised by the person they're calling a hypocrite. Simply because Limbaugh used drugs, for example, does not mean that everything he said about drugs is false. To the contrary, his experience my have given him a greater insight into the dangers of drug addiction. The left merely used the scandal of his addiction to disparage Limbaugh personally and to discredit his show.

I look at hypocrisy in a more philosophical sense. In logic, contradictory statements cannot be true. There is a rule in logic known as the law of non-contradiction. In a nutshell, something cannot be “A” and “not-A” at the same time in the same sense. Here's what it means by same sense: the word “green” can mean a couple of things: it can mean a color and it can mean unripe. So someone could say, “the apple is green (in color) and not green (meaning it's ripe).” This is not a contradictory statement because an apple could truly be “green and not green,” merely in different senses. However, if I said, “I am RKBentley and I am not RKBentley,” and I mean both in the same sense, then my statement cannot be true because it contradicts itself. I either am RKBentley or I'm not.

Unlike my critics, when I talk about hypocrisy, I'm not necessarily concerned about the hypocrite's character. The usual reason that I point out hypocrisy is to show the contradictory nature, and thus the invalidity, of an argument. If a critic contradicts himself, then his argument cannot be true; one premise or the other (or both) must be false. In this sense, hypocrisy is very relevant to a debate.

In my last post, I talked about the hypocritical arguments of Richard Dawkins. Let me put two of his quotes side-by-side.

In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

Faith can be very very dangerous, and deliberately to implant it into the vulnerable mind of an innocent child is a grievous wrong.”

These statements contradict each other. In the first, Dawkins says there is “no justice,... no purpose, no evil, [and] no good.” In the latter, Dawkins says it a “grievous wrong” for parents to impart their religion to their children. Well, which is it? Is there right and wrong or isn't there? Both statements cannot be true, therefore I seek to examine which premise is false. If the first is true, then Dawkins has no grounds to make his accusation against Christian parents. If the latter is true, then Dawkins cannot say the universe is void of good and evil. Either way, Dawkins' arguments are undermined.

In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus said that if we hear His words and do them, we are like a wise man who builds his house upon the rock. But anyone who rejects His words is like a foolish man who builds his house upon sand. Christians should always be able to make sound arguments because their foundation is solid. On the other hand, atheists can hardly escape being hypocrites. It is a symptom of their condition where they deny reality. They cannot make sense of anything without contradicting their own worldview. When they do, Christians should stand ready to challenge the hypocrite's premises. The critics are either wrong in their criticism or they are wrong in their worldview. Either way, their arguments fail. It's inevitable because their arguments are built upon sand.


Steven J. said...

I didn't, originally, take any note of the tags you attached to your article. But since you've called attention to them, "hypocrisy" is claiming virtues or beliefs one does not have. It is not merely, for example, to advocate virtues one does not practice (if one does not claim to practice them), nor is it merely holding an inconsistent position or advancing self-contradictory arguments (e.g. "don't put your trust in mere human wisdom" when both of us are Homo sapiens and have only our own wits to tell us whether any superhuman wisdom exists or not).

It is also not holding a view different from yours, or even a patently wrong view, on how moral claims can be justified. Dawkins apparently holds that moral claims can be justified by appealing to human nature, but not to what he regards as a non-existent external purpose to human nature or to the wishes of what he believes to be nonsentient and intentionless causes of evolution. As I have suggested before, he sees good and evil as emergent (inherent in the whole but not in the parts or the causes), and peculiar to a few species (or perhaps only to one), and not existing a priori and independently of intelligent life. He may be entirely mistaken on this point, but the position is not inherently hypocritical.

Nor is it obviously absurd. What makes God's will good? If it is merely that God is omnipotent and can send us to Hell for disobeying, that is an argument that might makes right. If it is that God has made the universe to accord with His own nature, so that what He approves is good according to nature, then morality would seem to be inherent in nature, regardless of how that nature came about.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

If you want to split hairs over the definition of “hypocrite” then go ahead. I think most people would identify someone as a hypocrite if he does the thing that he condemns in others. Jesus said the one who says to his brother, “let me remove the speck from your eye” but doesn't notice the beam in his own eye is a hypocrite.

While defending evolution, Dawkins said that even if something is deplorable, it doesn't mean it's not true. When attacking Christianity, Dawkins appeals to how deplorable he believes it is. I don't care if his flip flop doesn't fit the technical definition of hypocrisy (although I believe it could). Anyway, as I said in my post, I'm looking at the word in a more philosophical sense. Since these statements contradict each other, one or the other (or both) must be false. Examining the moral implications of a belief is either a valid argument or it's not – one shouldn't have it both ways. Of course, Dawkins wants it both ways.

Now, when you make the comment about God's will and how might makes right, this is an example of how Dawkins might argue. I understand you're using this rhetorically but you asked (paraphrasing), “How is it right that God sends people to hell for not believing in Him?” Indeed, many people believe it's not right for Him to do that. That point has been raised more than a few times. They think it's unjust and morally wrong. Does any of that mean it's not true?

Thanks for your comments.

God bless!!


Todd Williams said...

What you never hear Dawkins say after a statement such as the one about hurting an innocent child is, "But this is merely my own subjective ethical view. It is only my opinion in reference to what I feel is ultimately advantageous to our species."

He doesn't ever say that because he really believes it to be an absolute truth of right and wrong, which his belief system clearly does not support. And so he is clearly contradicting himself.

RKBentley said...


In your brief comments, I sense a little of a kindred spirit in you. I see exactly the same thing you see in Dawkins' statements. Dawkins claims to believe there is no absolute right or wrong but then contradicts himself when he holds out the example of harming a child as though it is absolutely wrong. He can only call harming a child “wrong” by first assuming there is an absolute standard of right and wrong. Such a standard only exists if God is real. Therefore, Dawkins can only call Christianity “wrong” by first assuming God is real. Talk about irony!!

Like I said, non-believers cannot escape being hypocrites. Their worldview is built upon the sandy foundation that there is no God and so the Bible is not His revealed word. Such ideas cannot stand up to the winds and rain of scrutiny.

Thank you for visiting and for your comments.

God bless!!