Friday, July 13, 2012

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006

Many readers may already have developed an opinion about Richard Dawkins before coming to this book - as a controversial figure with a number of best-selling books to his credit, The God Delusion is often suggested for book club discussions.  We ran this book at the Mississauga Central Library’s Nonfiction Book Club in April 2011, and it drew our highest attendance ever.  Given the high attendance and the broad multicultural diversity of attendees, I was very surprised by their relative lack of disagreement.  Most of the people claimed some degree of spirituality in their lives, yet still found Dawkins’ ideas convincing for the most part.  

This book still generated plenty of discussion.  While I had many questions prepared in advance (see below), after asking people "what did you think of this book?" they pretty much took off from there with little further prompting from me!  Despite this, the members still expressed an interest in seeing my list of questions for further discussion and to bring home afterwards.

While I didn’t like it as much as some of his other works such as The Greatest Show on Earth (see my Shelfari review for that one), he raises many good thought-provoking questions with this book.  I feel that I agree with many of his arguments, and yet come to different conclusions at the end (like my book club members, perhaps).  I still find myself higher up on the “spectrum of probabilities” that he outlines in the book.  What can I say? I still think that the universe was created for a purpose - I just need to figure out how to prove it scientifically... 
  1. How convincing is Richard Dawkins as a writer?
  2. “A universe with a supernaturally intelligent creator is a very different kind of universe from one without.” Do you think it is possible to test our universe scientifically for a creator?
  3. How important is scientific evidence to you? 
  4. Does religion by necessity hinder scientific enquiry?
  5. If there is a supernatural God/gods, what is their role in the universe? What would a God require of us?
  6. How much do you know about the concept of Natural Selection?
  7. What gaps in knowledge do we still need filled by something?
  8. “In order to design the universe, a God would have to be very complex. Such a complex entity would have to have evolved gradually as well.”  How would a religious person treat this reasoning?
  9. Based on the probability of life evolving spontaneously, do you think it likely that there is other life out there in the universe?
  10. How big a role does indoctrination as children play in development, religious or otherwise?
  11. Is it possible to be good without religion?
  12. Is life meaningful, regardless of what we believe? 

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