Re: Ch. 1: What is reality? What is magic?
This question has been the core of philosophical debate dating back to the Greeks. What is the fundamental nature of reality? How do we know what is real? Is our belief of what is real based on sensory perceptions alone or can it be deduced from self-evident premises?
One of the main epistemological criteria used in the past was, does the belief conform to the Bible? Nowadays, we used more objective, scientific criteria. First and foremost, we understand that people can easily be fooled by their own sensory perceptions and by their own biases and other cultural influences. There is a difference between the subjective claim that I am having certain sensory experiences
and the objective claim that an object exists independently of those sensory experiences.
But most of this is beyond the reach of Dawkins' book here. We recognize that our perception of reality is through our five senses. As Dawkins says, "We should always be open-minded, but the only good reason to believe that something exists is if there is real evidence that it does."
Can we justify our claims to have empirical knowledge of anything beyond our own subjective experiences? Well, most of us here would acknowledge that atoms exist without ever having seen one. Most of us believe the moon really exists though we can only see a pale image of it in the night sky. To doubt such things is to move into some very abstract territory.
Dawkins doesn't make any outlandish claims. He says: "Atoms have always existed, but it was only recently that we became sure of their existence, and it is very likely that our descendants will know about many more things that for now we do not. That is the wonder and joy of science: it goes on and on discovering new things."