Oxford’s Richard Dawkins, the world’s most famous evolutionist and atheist, continues to vilify religion in his new book, The God Delusion. In an essay explaining and promoting the book on his website Dawkins offered a lot of food for a lack of thought. Concerning the kalaam cosmological argument Dawkins writes:
Accepting, then, that the God Hypothesis is a proper scientific hypothesis whose truth or falsehood is hidden from us only by lack of evidence, what should be our best estimate of the probability that God exists, given the evidence now available? Pretty low I think, and I spend a couple of chapters of The God Delusion explaining why.
Most of the traditional arguments for God’s existence, from Aquinas on, are easily demolished. Several of them, such as the First Cause argument, work by setting up an infinite regress which God is wheeled out to terminate. But we are never told why God is magically able to terminate regresses while needing no explanation himself. To be sure, we do need some kind of explanation for the origin of all things. Physicists and cosmologists are hard at work on the problem. But whatever the answer – a random quantum fluctuation or a Hawking/Penrose singularity or whatever we end up calling it – it will be simple. Complex, statistically improbable things, by definition, don’t just happen; they demand an explanation in their own right. They are impotent to terminate regresses, in a way that simple things are not. The first cause cannot have been an intelligence – let alone an intelligence that answers prayers and enjoys being worshipped. Intelligent, creative, complex, statistically improbable things come late into the universe, as the product of evolution or some other process of gradual escalation from simple beginnings. They come late into the universe and therefore cannot be responsible for designing it.
Even before Darwin’s time, the illogicality was glaring: how could it ever have been a good idea to postulate, in explanation for the existence of improbable things, a designer who would have to be even more improbable? The entire argument is a logical non-starter, as David Hume realized before Darwin was born.
Obviously Dawkins does not do much reading of theistic apologists, because his “clever” objection has been answered time and time again. Such ignorance is unacceptable for an Oxford scholar.
But let’s say the answer was not accounted for. Does that matter? Would it lessen the force of the argument that the universe needs a cause, and that the cause must be supernatural (immaterial, non-spatial, and non-temporal)? No! Assuming God had a cause, the fact that we would not know what caused Him no more argues against His existence and causal necessity than the fact that I don’t know who my great-great-great-great grandparents were argues against the fact that my great-great-great grandparents are the cause of my existence.
What does Dawkins think the failure of OOL (origin of life) research does to the strength and coherence of Darwinism?
The origin of life on this planet – which means the origin of the first self-replicating molecule – is hard to study, because it (probably) only happened once, 4 billion years ago and under very different conditions. We may never know how it happened. Unlike the ordinary evolutionary events that followed, it must have been a genuinely very improbable – in the sense of unpredictable – event: too improbable, perhaps, for chemists to reproduce it in the laboratory or even devise a plausible theory for what happened. This weirdly paradoxical conclusion – that a chemical account of the origin of life, in order to be plausible, has to be implausible – would follow from the premise that life is extremely rare in the universe. And to be sure, we have never encountered any hint of extraterrestrial life, not even by radio – the circumstance that prompted Enrico Fermi’s cry: “Where is everybody?”
How convenient. No evidence is evidence; failure is success. It can never be demonstrated, therefore it is true; to be plausible it must be implausible. Yes, Richard, that is quite weird. In fact, it’s more than weird. It’s irrational and foolish. How is the failure of scientists to give a purely naturalistic account for the OOL evidence that the OOL came about through purely naturalistic means? Without any empirical evidence that life can come from non-life (yet alone that it did in the past), how can it be considered a fact? How can he, a lover of science, be so certain that life originated naturally if there is no scientific evidence that it did? Ahh…it’s because his conclusion is not rooted in science, but in the philosophy of materialism. As is often the case with atheistic scientists, philosophy trumps science when the two are in conflict.
Dawkins shows how he is part of the new brand of atheists who affirm the more modest claim that there is no good reason to believe God exists, rather than the strong claim that there is no God: “We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can’t disprove Thor, fairies and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But, like those other fantasies that we can’t disprove, we can say that God is very very improbable.”
Why is Dawkins so hostile to religion?
Scientists have a particular reason to be hostile to any systematically organized effort to teach children to reject evidence in favour of faith, revelation, authority and tradition. Religion teaches people to be satisfied with petty, small-minded non-explanations or mysteries, and this is a tragedy, given that the true explanations are so enthralling. Moreover, such hostility as I have is limited to words. I am not going to bomb anybody, behead them, stone them, burn them at the stake, crucify them, or fly planes into their skyscrapers, just because of a theological disagreement.
Here is the typical faith vs. science dichotomy in which faith is blind but science is pure objective rationality. Nothing could be further from the truth. Faith is not blind, but a reasoned judgment in reality. Faith is informed by the evidence, not in spite of it.
One of the more surprising quotes is this one:
Just as Darwinian biology raised our consciousness to the power of science to explain things outside biology, and just as feminists taught us to flinch when we hear “One man one vote”, I want us to flinch when we hear of a ‘Christian child’ or a ‘Muslim child”. Small children are too young to know their views on life, ethics and the cosmos. We should no more speak of a Christian child than of a Keynesian child, a monetarist child or a Marxist child. Automatic labelling of children with the religion of their parents is not just presumptuous. It is a form of mental child abuse.
No comment is necessary. This speaks for itself.