June 25, 2012 by mattfradd
On my desk is a copy of Dawkins’,”The God Delusion.” I find it to be no coincidence that the most prominent “new” atheists have been British. It’s their language, after all, and they (at least Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens) use it well! Though Richard Dawkins may be a talented author and a fine specialist in his field (ethology) he is, by all accounts, a less-than-great philosopher.
On page 188-189 of his Book, Dawkins lays out what he calls, “the central argument of my book.” “If the argument of this chapter is accepted,” writes Dawkins, “the factual premise of religion – the God Hypothesis – is untenable. God almost certainly does not exist.”
Before we look at the argument let’s review two requirements for a sound – or valid – argument (Learn More Here).
1. The Premises must be true – if even one premise is false, the argument is invalid.
2. The logic must be valid – Just because an argument has true premises, does not mean that the conclusion follows those premises.
In this blog we will, for the sake of argument (and brevity), accept the premises as true and see if the conclusion, “God almost certainly does not exist,” follows. In a future blog I will show why premise 3, in particular, is problematic.
Here is the argument. I have summed up each point without diminishing the substance:
1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.
2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself.
3. The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.
4. The most ingenious and powerful crane (explanation) is Darwinian evolution by natural selection.
5. We don’t have an equivalent explanation for physics.
6. We should not give up the hope of a better explanation arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology.
Therefore, God almost certainly does not exist.
You do not need to be a philosopher to recognize that the conclusion -“God almost certainly does not exist.” – in no way follows from the above 6 statements.
If the above statements are valid, at most, it would follow that we should be careful in inferring God’s existence based upon the appearance of design in the universe.
It turns out that Dawkins’ argument is not so much an argument against the existence of God as it is an argument against a design inference. Okay…so what?
Perhaps one’s belief in God is not based upon the appearance of design. Perhaps it is based upon the contingency argument, or the Kalam argument or the moral argument. Perhaps one’s faith in God is not based upon arguments at all, perhaps it is based upon religious experience.
Certainly Christian theologians have denied the validity of certain arguments for God’s existence without thereby becoming atheists. Dr. Peter Kreeft, for example, seems to doubt the ontological argument – but is still a Christian.
In a future post I will explain why granting these premises to be true is far too charitable, but for now let us conclude with the words of philosopher, Dr. William Lane Craig, and what he had to say about Dawkins’ “Central argument,”
“Several years ago my atheist colleague Quentin Smith unceremoniously crowned Stephen Hawking’s argument against God in A Brief History of Time as ‘the worst atheistic argument in the history of Western thought.’ With the advent of The God Delusion the time has come, I think, to relieve Hawking of this weighty crown and to recognize Richard Dawkins’ accession to the throne.”