Finally, I have forced myself to sit down and begin dealing with Richard Dawkins’ much-touted book, The God Delusion. The reason, if you were wondering, why I’ve repeatedly put off dealing with Dawkins has been put rather well in a review I found of Alister McGrath’s little critique of Dawkins:
As McGrath points out, trying to critique Dawkins’ arguments is difficult. They are naive, emotive, poorly argued, misrepresent religion and Christianity, and are a departure from the usual careful and rigorous approach that Dawkins displays in his other books.
While I haven’t read the McGrath book, I think I can recommend it based on the quote by Michael Ruse, “The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist, and the McGraths show why.”
If Dawkins were more logical, the book would be somewhat easier to deal with. Nearly every page presents some item that needs to be challenged, so a complete critique would end up probably larger than The God Delusion itself. The book is full of outlandish statements, which appears to be Dawkins’ standard rhetorical style, such as:
I have yet to see any good reason to suppose that theology (as opposed to biblical history, literature, etc.) is a subject at all.
I simply do not believe that Gould could possibly have meant much of what he wrote in Rocks of Ages.
The only difference between The Davinci Code and the gospels is that the gospels are ancient fiction while The Da Vinci Code is modern fiction.
The book also contains a number of errors (or misdirections) of logic. In one example (page 129), he tries to dismiss the concept of irreducible complexity by referencing A.G. Cairns-Smith analogy of a free-standing arch, claiming it is irreducibly complex because it falls if one stone is removed, and asks “how, then, was it built in the first place?” He then explains how such an arch can be constructed by the use of some scaffolding. The analogy is obviously ridiculous if it is being used to support unguided evolution, as the use of scaffolding requires engineering; in other words, design. Since this isn’t even an original piece of bad logic, I can’t blame Dawkins for coming up with it, but he is responsible for repeating it.
Dawkins goes on to talk about some of Micheal Behe’s examples of irreducible complexity; when he can’t completely dismiss the flagellar motor, he says, “A lot more work needs to be done, of course, and I’m sure it will be.” This is all fine and good, if he were to admit that the “gaps” are up for grabs. However, he then attempts to ridicule the what is called the “God of the gaps” reasoning, in spite of just having used the same reasoning himself – the “science of the gaps” position!
Dawkins also makes a common logical error when discussing the Fine Tuning argument, that proposes that the universe, and the Earth in particular, is so “fine tuned” for human life that it could not be an accident. He attempts to dismiss it by saying that complexity cannot be used to support a Creator / Fine Tuner as it fails to answer the question of the existence of the Creator, who would have to be as complex as the universe He created. This is the standard red herring used in dealing with the “first cause” issue, and it changes nothing. I will agree that the origin and nature of God are still questions to be considered; however, that is a separate question, and must be kept distinct from the question of the creation of the universe. Once we conclude that the universe must have been created (and designed) by someone or something, then we can go on to the next question and discuss the nature of that creator/designer. It is not logical to ignore a potential answer to a question simply because it presents a new question. Furthermore, the two questions exist in different “magisteria” and the logic applied to one is not necessarily the logic to be applied to the other.
Let me explain a bit further: An automobile engine (especially the newer, computerized beasts) are quite complex, and as it is a purely material, non-living thing it cannot have created itself. We can then presume that some intelligent being designed it. That, of course, presents the question, “but who is this intelligent being?” Evolutionists who believe in non-guided evolution would easily draw the distinction between the existence of the engine, which could not have evolved on it’s own, and the human designer, which they believe did evolve on it’s own. Different rules apply.
Again, there are a plethora of problems in Dawkins’ book that I don’t have time to deal with, and McGrath might be a good place to go for more on Dawkins’ logical missteps. However, Dawkins has summarized (page 157) the central argument in his book in a series of 6 numbered points. In what will probably be a series of 2 or 3 posts, I will explore these six points.