29 Oct 2009

Landsburg Takes It Easy On Dawkins

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This morning I had an email from Steve Landsburg in my inbox. I thought that he was either inviting me to co-author a book with him, or wanted to tell me he was using my PIG to Capitalism as the main textbook in his graduate classes.

Turns out it was an automatic message letting me know about his new blog. The top post right now showcases a ludicrous excerpt from Richard Dawkins, which I reproduce below, followed by Landsburg’s response. (And yes, I know there are plenty of evangelicals who say similarly ridiculous things about evolution. But Dawkins is supposed to be the expert who knows what he’s talking about.)

[Dawkins:] Where does [Darwinian evolution] leave God? The kindest thing to say is that it leaves him with nothing to do, and no achievements that might attract our praise, our worship or our fear. Evolution is God’s redundancy notice, his pink slip. But we have to go further. A complex creative intelligence with nothing to do is not just redundant. A divine designer is all but ruled out by the consideration that he must be at least as complex as the entities he was wheeled out to explain. God is not dead. He was never alive in the first place.

[Landsburg:] But Darwinian evolution can’t replace God, because Darwinian evolution (at best) explains life, and explaining life was never the hard part. The Big Question is not: Why is there life? The Big Question is: Why is there anything? Explaining life does not count as explaining the Universe.

From then on, I don’t agree with Landsburg’s overall conclusion, since he too is an atheist it seems.

I would have to think about it more, but it’s possible Landsburg is making the same type of mistake Dawkins is. In other words, Dawkins knows a heck of a lot about the workings of evolution, and somehow concludes that the process rules out God. Landsburg, in contrast, is actually more of a mathematician than an economist (I’m not knocking him–someone at the U of R told me he just teaches the math classes), and he ends up concluding that the existence of mathematics makes God unnecessary.

Thus far I haven’t heard Paul Krugman say that comparative advantage proves Jesus couldn’t have been perfect and hence wasn’t God, but it wouldn’t shock me at this point.

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