Dawkins and Tzu: Different Sides of the Same Coin

Mehran Banaei

The famous Chinese Taoist Master Chuang Tzu once dreamed that he was a butterfly fluttering around colourful flowers. While dreaming, his dream appeared so real to him, void of any awareness of his humanhood and his own individuality. In the dream, the entire world was just a garden and he was a tiny butterfly in that garden. In the middle of the dream, Tzu suddenly woke up and found himself laying in bed, being once again a human. Tzu was perplexed by this dream and questioned his own existence: “Was I before a man who dreamed about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?”

This anecdote is the naissance of philosophical skepticism spread from ancient time to modern era, advocated by Western thinkers like David Hume further giving rise to radical skepticism in philosophy and science where it is legitimate to pathologically doubt the most obvious notions.

For an honest thinking individual, the possibility of anyone actually being a butterfly, dreaming to be a human being is so ridiculously absurd, not worthy of serious discussion, let alone up for philosophical analysis. While between a man and a butterfly indisputably, there is a necessary and well-defined distinction, surprisingly for some, between reality and illusion there seems to be no distinction.

Consider skepticism offered by atheists against arguments for the Caused universe and fine-tuning. Lawrence Krauss postulates that the universe was created on its own from “nothing”. Richard Dawkins, argues that in this self-created universe what appears to be complex biological design is only an illusion of design. For ardent Darwinian atheists, if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, flies like a duck, and even tastes like a duck, one cannot still accept that that it is a duck. Over three millennium have passed and these two distinguished scientists are so engulfed in pathological skepticism, that are seemingly like Tzu paralyzed to discern between dream and reality. Dawkins severely suffers from Tzu syndrome unable to tell apart an intelligently designed organism with its sustaining orderly system from mere illusion, in determination of which one is really which.

The two have managed to influence a great number of people. Yet, they do not realize, that firstly an explanation of an alternative theory is not a proof to validate the theory. Secondly, pathological skepticism is not a rational argument and cannot refute what it intends to refute. Such proposals are result of a deliberate effort to create confusion and cast doubt on the obvious and self-evident Truth. Radical skeptics in science often promote the existence of farfetched possibilities that are usually hard to define and impossible to verify by observation or empirical experimentation, where the mere postulation of such theories is socio-politically motivated, planned to cast doubt on concrete and ubiquitous facts that have undesirable implications. Multiverse theory and self-directed evolution by natural selection are a few typical cases in point.


Furthermore, pathological skepticism is an exercise in sheer futility. It is a self-refuting proposition, for it can equally be used against pathological skepticism. If one wants to doubt and question everything, one should also be doubtful of doubting, and be skeptical of ones own skeptical initiatives and cognition. Thus, where and how does one begin to walk on a solid path? Seemingly, the whole intention of pathological skeptics along with their relativists counterpart is to undermine the solidity of Reality.

The 19th century French mathematician and philosopher of science Henri Poincare had a very balanced epistemological approach. He reminded us that: “To doubt everything and to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both free us from the necessity of reflection.”


1 Comment

Filed under Philosophy of Science and Religion

One response to “Dawkins and Tzu: Different Sides of the Same Coin

  1. Osama Ghanim

    Mehran, I believe this is a very significant, mindful, real like reality, question. It reminds me of my pondering in reading the Qur’an; “what is the straight path الصراط المستقيم?” The answer I was looking for is something as clear and plain as the Qur’anic two words: “straight path”, sufficient and complete. Compare this compact Qur’anic conceptualization with the tendency of the insightful human mind to approach it as in the enduring expressions of truthfulness, unified vision, unified theory, Oakum razor and etc. This again reminds me of the Qur’anic command to equip our kind with the names and before that, to equip us with the physiological, biological, psychological and social underpinning of language and thought. As the Qur’an narrates to us, Adam, our representative then was able to succeed in flying colours to identify the names of the things that were shown to both the Angels and Adam. The point here is that no child is taught the names (language) without the exposition and demonstration of the things to be named, we teach: this is a duck, and not this looks like a duck, because foundationally if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck then it indeed must be a duck, so: this is a duck! Yes, it can be correct when one says either this is design, or “this is not design” but it cannot be correct when it is said “this looks like design”. This is not only a foundation of language, but also a foundation of thought! A child who is taught the names in this Dawkinian manner: “this looks like a duck” will never learn language or thought. This is a foundational handicap, not unlike the proverbial elephant tied down since birth and unable to take his first steps after his release, since then! Here is the Qur’anic notion of “the straight path” should spring to the frontier of the mind spontaneously, as the best guiding expression, in contrast! “This is a duck” is a straight path but “this looks like a duck” is not. And try to build a language, a knowledge, based on ambiguity. And the worst kind of ambiguities is the artificially introduced ambiguity between reality and illusion! In my view, the creation of the universe answers many questions, one of them is the distinction between reality and illusion.

    It is indeed a great irresponsibility for Dawkins and his fellows to seed seeds of ignorance and confusion by spreading knowledge-assassinating propositions like: animals looks designed but they are not! Can you imagine a scientist whose craft is based on observation and empiricism making such a statement? Try to start a logical thesis by stating that “A” looks like “B” in all aspects but it is not “B”! Another guidance of the Qur’an is that we are supposed to make our decisions based on the well established and not on the analogical and ambiguous. Obviously Dawkins and the Atheists of his caliber and kind of thought consider reality, the universe and life as ambiguous and analogical. Reality according to their thought is almost empty other than what they volunteer to pour into it! That is why perhaps they don’t seem to show bodily expression of surprise or discomfort when they state such outrageous statements like: the universe emerged without a cause, the universe created itself. The God is an Illusion, organisms looks designed,… etc. The short of this is that the atheists are rejecting the implications of reality, the consequences of the universe in the same way that they are rejecting the real challenge of the reliable and valid revelations, for the universe i.e. reality is also a profound and reliable ‘revelation’.

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