Richard Dawkins has converted–to agnosticism

He can’t be sure.  Well known reverse fundamentalist and atheist Richard Dawkins softens his position. 

There was surprise when Prof Dawkins acknowledged that he was less than 100 per cent certain of his conviction that there is no creator.

The philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny, who chaired the discussion, interjected: “Why don’t you call yourself an agnostic?” Prof Dawkins answered that he did.

An incredulous Sir Anthony replied: “You are described as the world’s most famous atheist.”

Prof Dawkins said that he was “6.9 out of seven” sure of his beliefs.

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About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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6 Responses to Richard Dawkins has converted–to agnosticism

  1. Ramon Casha says:

    That’s exactly what he said in The God Delusion. In fact he also described himself as “Tooth fairy agnostic” to show how certain he is of God’s inexistence. The fact that people acted all surprised shows they didn’t read The God Delusion 🙂

    • You are right. He has said it before. But he seemed to be going out of his way to be polite and less polemical in this discussion. So he did seem to me to be softening, if not his position, at least his tone. I’m a big fan of his old book on the selfish gene.

  2. rlwemm says:

    Nothing new here. There are just more theists who show themselves to be ignorant of what the term “atheist” implies.

    Like the scientist that he is undoubtedly is, Dawkins is tentative about any supposition, hypothesis, theory or apparently well-confirmed confirmed fact. No responsible scientist will insist that they are 100 percent certain about anything for which there could conceivably be more and possibly conflicting data. The hallmark of scientific thinking is that a conclusion can always be overturned or modified by new evidence. Since no human is omniscient there is always the possibility that we may be confronted with some new data that challenges old conclusions. We can only draw conclusions about the likelihood of something from the best and most comprehensive data available at the time, using the best and most reliable methods and logic that we know. That is all.

    The problem with theistic thinking is that the theist almost always insists that they are 100 percent certain and that nothing could change their mind about this certainty. They arrive at these conclusions using methods and evidence that is known to be the most unreliable of all that is currently available and they fail, or even point blank refuse, to use methods that attempt to filter out the well-known biases of human thinking and perception.

    Immovable certainty based on extremely fallible subjective evidence using flawed truth finding methods does not compare well with at least slightly tentative decisions based on really good evidence and truth finding techniques. Dogmatists are uncomfortable with uncertainty. Scientists live with it every day.

  3. debilis says:

    His stance doesn’t seem to have changed much. Every time he makes this statement, people are shocked. While I can blame them for reading comprehension, its has almost certainly been aggravated by Dawkins’ tone (which implies the certainty he denies).
    What was new about this interchange was that his tone was far more civil. Had I only seen this, I’d never think to call him polemical (though he still seems to think that he understands the Bible better than the experts).

    So I would say that he does seem to be dropping the angry rhetoric, even if his position is the same.

  4. debilis,
    What Dawkins means by agnostic, though technically right, doesn’t seem to reflect the way most of us use the word. If an agnostic is somebody who admits any element of uncertainty, then many religious believers are also agnostics. Think about someone who has taken up Pascal’s Wager. Think about the ordinary Christian who goes through periods of doubt and struggle.

  5. Diogenes II says:

    There really aren’t gradations of believer, agnostic, or atheist. That’s really a fiction the Dawkins invented to cover for himself. It’s like being a pregnant, not pregnant, or being a man. There are lots of gradations within those categories, but you aren’t pregnant when you are ovulating and would like to be pregnant. Dawkins never tried to dissuade people from the notion that he was an atheist, he made money billing himself as an atheist, he was an atheist. For whatever reason he now wants to billed as an agnostic(probably because Atheists are held in lower repute than ever), and I will take him at his word. He has converted from Atheism to Agnosticism.

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