A high school-level philosophical reply to Dawkins

While browsing around the web this morning I came across this article by Doug McManaman, a philosophy instructor at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy in Markham, Ontario, and also the President of the Canadian Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. In the paper, apparently written to his students to deal with the apparent issues raised by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, he deals with two of Dawkins’ arguments:

  • There is no evidence for the existence of God.
  • Truth is essentially scientific.

What I like about McManaman’s article is that it is written for his high-school students, thus I have a fair chance of understanding it. About the issue of the existence of God, he writes:

But the existence of God is not a scientific hypothesis that is meant to fill in the blank to the question of the origin of the universe. It is certainly possible for God or gods to be taken in this way, that is, to attribute certain unexplained natural phenomena to a god, as if the sun is a god, or the rain, etc. If one thinks along these lines, one will certainly have to provide evidence for such an hypothesis. But that is not what Jews and Christians mean when they speak of God.

He goes on to explain, as I have attempted to do in the past, that God is not a contingent being of the sort that Dawkins argues against. Of course, Dawkins has built in an opposition to that question in the book, (“don’t argue that you don’t believe in this god either, I can’t deal with everybody’s particular god!”), but that’s simply because that argument is a rather good one.

With regard to the claim that “all truth is scientific,” he presents a simple exercise in logic that demonstrates the error of this assertion, then deals briefly with Dawkins’ claim that the God of the Old Testament is immoral. Summing up, he says:

So how does Dawkins get away with this? To be honest, I’m not sure how much he’s getting away with. It seems that most of the bloggers and book reviewers I read are able to see through him to some degree or another.

It’s a fairly short, simple, look at these issues, but I think he’s done a good job. Now, having never been Roman Catholic, I doubt that I will agree with some of McManaman’s thoughts on other issues, such as purgatory, penance and the Pope. However, he’s also put together a basic primer on philosophy (from a Catholic viewpoint, of course) which I have bookmarked and will look through.

7 thoughts on “A high school-level philosophical reply to Dawkins”

  1. “his high-school students”

    I’ll bet that they didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. Now maybe a senior level university philosophy course for philosophy majors?

    If this were a public school, I’d probably agree with you.

    “Theists simply do not argue that God is a reasonable hypothesis”

    That’s kind of funny.

    I’m glad we can keep you amused.

  2. “his high-school students”

    I’ll bet that they didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. Now maybe a senior level university philosophy course for philosophy majors?

  3. “Theists simply do not argue that God is a reasonable hypothesis”

    That’s kind of funny.

    “Now, there’s a difference between saying that there is evidence of God, and claiming there is scientific evidence of God.”

    “Truth is essentially scientific”

    Uninteresting word games?

    Maybe better? “Scientific truth is derived from “observations”, but science requires certain fundamental assumptions about reality and the rules of logic.”

    But Theists are not bound by such assumptions?

  4. Dawkins’ detractors keep on trying to play a slippery game in denying that the god they believe in is at once demonstrable and then not demonstrable. It seems to be like trying to nail jello to a wall.

    Actually, that’s not the case. There may be some who believe they can “demonstrate” God, but they’re not the norm. Now, there’s a difference between saying that there is evidence of God, and claiming there is scientific evidence of God. There’s no jello there, just apples and oranges…

    And, about your thoughts on the Old Testament God: If God exists, and if He created the universe as the Bible says, then, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?” (Romans 9:20) That is, by the way, unbeatable logic. 😉

  5. I agree that the presentation of the God of the Old Testament is immoral, churlish, murderous and vengeful. He is also selfish about the land that he wants for the Jews, as in keeping the sun standing still long enough for Joshua to carry out a slaughter.

    Dawkins’ detractors keep on trying to play a slippery game in denying that the god they believe in is at once demonstrable and then not demonstrable. It seems to be like trying to nail jello to a wall.

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