Richard Dawkins sails as the flagship of the movement that is known as New Atheism. He had an interview on Radio 702 yesterday.
In the book Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists & Other Objectors, Paul Copan summarises the way things are:
We are living in a time when certain critics of Christianity have abandoned all delicacy and decorum in debate. Rather than sticking to rational, carefully reasoned arguments, they have taken off the gloves to launch angry, sarcastic, and sloppy argued attacks. They lob their rhetorical grenades in hopes of creating the (incorrect) impression that belief in God is for intellectual lightweights who believe ridiculous, incoherent doctrines and are opposed to all scientific endeavor and discovery.
Usually I don’t respond to these debates and reamrks because reasoning really takes us nowhere and I actually don’t want to be a part of this debate. Two things made me wright this post. The first one was that people conclude that as we are saying nothing we don’t have any arguments against Dawkins.Well that just is not true. Just visit Paul Copan, or William Lane Craig or Ben Witherington and discover there are other sweet and well organized arguments to the contrary. Apologetics is not my field of speciality, but I do read sopme from time to time.
Second, was the “angry, sarcastic, and sloppy argued attacks” creating the impression that if you use your brain and listen to Dawkins you will agree that he is right, and if you don’t, well it is because you dont use your head, that made me wright this post.
The problem is that there is a serious flaw in Richard Dawkins primary argument in his book The God Delusion. William Lane Craig makes this point in Chapter 1 of the book I mentioned above.
In his book Dawkins aims to show that belief in God is a delusion.
Craig takes us to page 157-158 of Dawkins’s book. According to Dawkins that is where he summarizes what he calls “the central argument of my book.”
Well sometimes, and this is one of those cases, it is better to hide your “central argument” and hope your disciples find it and your critics don’t. Because if your critics find it, they just may take it apart.
Try following Dawkins’s reasoning:
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 desigin 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 explanation is Darwinian evolution by natural selection.
5. We don’t have a equivalent explanation for physics.
6. We would 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.
Craig’s response to this is:
This argument is jarring because the atheistic conclusion that “therefore, God almost certainly does not exist” seems to come suddenly out of the left field. You don’t need to be a philosopher to realize that that conclusion doesn’t follow from the six previous statements.
Now if Dawkins calls this the central argument of his book and if the central argument of his book is flawed in this manner, the rest of the book…
Indeed, if we take these six statements as premises of an argument intended logically to imply the conclusion “therefore, God almost certainly does not exist” then the argument is patently invalid. No logical rules of inference would permit you to draw this conclusion from the six premises.
And that ladies and gentleman is Philosophy 101.
The point is that Dawkins is under the impression that the apperance of design in the universe is the only line of reasoning to be followed if you wan’t to justify your belief of God’s existence.
There are other arguments as well… the ontological argument; the cosmological argument; the moral argument. Or maybe… just maybe our belief in God is not based on any of these arguments whatsoever. Maybe we believe in God based on our religious experience and the divine revelation. Maybe God wants us to believe in Him by faith.
In this chapter Craig continues to take some of the other premises apart as well. Philosophy 101 teaches that if only one of your premises seems not to be true, your conclusion will be false.
A last word from Craig:
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 athesitic argument in the history of Western thought.” With the advent of The God Delusion the time has come to relieve Hawking of this weighty crown and to recognize Richard Dawkins’s accesion to the throne.
Allow me to close with sonme wordas form Ben Witherington:
It is interesting that most of the adamant and now famous atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens are in fact unreconstructed modernists, who have simply taken for granted the rationalist paradigm for analyzing reality set in motion by Descartes and his Enlightenment successors.
Seeking for proof for everything is not the post-modern crown people try to wear. Seeking for proof for everything just means that you are stuck in modernism. As Post-Modernity neither involves a flight from reason back into faith, nor a rejection of reason in favor of faith, but rather an attempt to get beyond the impasse.
I think it is time to get beyond the impasse. Atheism will not succeed in killing religion or God.