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Informally Responding to Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion,”; Part 2 – Arguments For and Against God.

June 17, 2013

Dawkins explicitly states that chapter 4 is the central chapter in his book. The title of that chapter is, “Why there almost certainly is no God.” Before he launches into his main argument against God, he spends some time in chapter 3 debunking arguments for God. It may surprise you to hear me say I actually agree with much of what Dawkins says in this chapter. He shows how many classical arguments for God are insufficient. The thing I am not sure he is aware of is that there are many theists that make the same arguments. I recently finished up a class where I had to read a book by Robert Reymond, who is a Christian Theologian, that made very similar arguments about the same classical arguments for the existence for God, and claimed they are insufficient for similar reasons. I cannot do the arguments justice but let me at least explain why the cosmological argument for God (Thomas Aquinas’ ‘there must be a first mover’ argument) is insufficient. This argument does not prove that the first mover (God) must be all powerful, eternal, loving or omniscient which are essential tenets for the Christian view. To sum briefly, it falls well short of the mark.

Many of the arguments he debunks in this chapter are silly. They are not arguments that I actually hold nor are they reasons I believe in God. In essence, Dawkins spends chapter 3 showing that bad arguments for God are bad. I agree. I don’t believe in God based on those bad arguments. There is one section in chapter 3 that requires a detailed response. I plan to offer that response in my next post.

The main point I want to make about chapter 3 is this; Dawkins being right about much of what he says in this chapter does not necessarily lead to atheism. I have no doubt that many people will read this chapter and walk away saying, “Dawkins is right, the cosmological argument is bad so how can I believe in God?” My point is that many scholarly, intelligent and devoted Christians also believe arguments like the cosmological one are bad, and yet are still intelligent and devoted Christians. Up to this point he has really only shown that insufficient arguments for God are insufficient and that silly arguments for God are silly. Again, I agree.

As I said, chapter 4 is the bread and butter of Dawkins’ book. It is why he believes he can say with such certainty that the likelihood of God’s existence is small, very small. Essentially his argument is this; if God exists, he must be so complex that he must have been created. Some of this is based on the argument of irreducible complexity. He essentially seems to claim that intelligent design proponents say “Nature is complex, therefore God must have created it.” While I don’t think this is a great representation of what intelligent design proponents say (they say much more than that) ultimately that doesn’t matter. I will say much more about that in another post coming up. But his point is, if intelligent design proponents say complexity demands a Creator, then God must be complex, and therefore must have been created. There is a sense again in which Dawkins is right. If we argue that complexity demands design, the designer does not necessarily have to have the attributes that we generally apply to God. All that would be required to make complexity is a designed complex designer that is capable of creating the complex universe. Essentially this is the Cosmological argument all over again, but saying complexity necessitates a first Complex One instead of saying that bodies in motion must have a first Mover. Again, as stated, the argument is insufficient.

All of this being said, complexity could also come about from an eternal and uncreated God (again, I will come back to this in a later post). Here is where Dawkins makes his major flaw and why ultimately chapter 4 has not accomplished what he thinks it has. The major flaw in Dawkins’ argument is that he assumes that a Creator must be like His creation. He assumes that if there is a God who can hear prayer, he must be complex just like a brain or a computer. He has thrown out the idea that God could possibly be eternal and uncreated, yet has not offered any rational argument for why this must be.

Take a look at a statement from page 156. The context is discussing what could have helped the universe come about during the first “yoctosecond” of its existence since its initial inflation defies the current laws of physics. He says it may have happened according to theories proposed by men like Smolin or Rees or “It may even be a superhuman designer – but, if so, it will most certainly not be a designer who just popped into existence, or who always existed,” (156, emphasis Dawkins’). But, why not? Why has he declared that God cannot be eternal by fiat? Well, it is because he cannot imagine that God could be different than His creation.

Scripture teaches that God is spirit. He is not complex like His creation because he is not like His creation. Therefore, His existence does not demand that He is created. It seems that the only reasons Dawkins demands that God is created is simply because he can’t imagine that He isn’t created. That coupled with his confusion that God has to be like His creation. I find his argument here disappointing since it is basically just a long drawn out way to ask, “Who made God?” In fact on page 158 he says, “… the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.” But again, the only reason we can say such a thing is if we insist that God has to be like His creation. That is a tenet I reject. God is not like His creation so He is not complex like His creation. Therefore, there is no logical reason to assume He has to be created.

In essence, all Dawkins has done in chapter 4 is to prove that created gods are highly unlikely. I don’t believe in a created god so his argument really does not address my belief. Scripture does not teach that God is created so his argument has not addressed the God of the Bible. All Dawkins has done is disprove his own idea of what God must be like. Since Christians don’t believe in a God that is like Dawkins idea of God, he hasn’t shown that their God, “almost certainly,” does not exist.

Please bare with me as there is much more to say. I suspect that I have at least 2 or 3 more posts to go. I understand that my arguments so far are incomplete. I am not attempting to make a full case relating to every detail about this discussion. My goal is to reflect on my observations about Dawkins book to see if he really has made a valid argument that “there almost certainly is no God.” So far, I think it is clear that I do not think he has done so.

From → Miscellaneous

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