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The Dawkins Delusion (2)
by Lon Roberts
As mentioned in Part 1 of this article, one of Richard Dawkins’ books is The Blind Watchmaker, in which he strives to show that evolution, as the “blind watchmaker,” is responsible for what appears to be design in nature. Bear in mind that in Dawkins’ thinking, evolution is an entirely fortuitous process. There is no purpose, no point, no one running it—it is entirely accidental.
I was lying in bed one night trying to figure out what it was about Dawkins’ title that was driving me nuts. And then I suddenly realized what it was. The very title of Dawkins’ book, The Blind Watchmaker, kills his argument. Everyone knows a blind man cannot assemble a watch. Even if he could be taught to assemble a simple watch, as a marine can assemble a gun in the dark, it would still be because someone with eyes had taught him how to do it. So it is ludicrous to think that blind, meaningless, purposeless nature could design something like DNA, for example, which, like a watch, contains not just design but also information.
In spite of the butchered logic, however, atheistic biologist Richard Dawkins plods doggedly on, making no bones about his extreme naturalistic, positivistic position. It would not be far wrong to say he worships science. In fact, he will not allow anything to exist that isn’t amenable to the scientific method. In an online review of The God Delusion, Robert Stewart comments, “If we ever do discover something beyond the natural universe then Dawkins hopes it would be something that could eventually be understood using science and embraced as natural” (www.evolutionary-philosophy.net).
It doesn’t take genius to realize that this science-must-explain-everything stance is unwarranted. There are things in human experience that science, with its emphasis on observation, experiment, control, and prediction, cannot touch—like values, meaning, and morality, for starters.
But as C.S. Lewis pointed out long ago, a strict naturalism (on which science is based) cancels itself out. If everything is the result of irrational movements of atoms and/or chemical processes, then it follows that our beliefs are also the result of random neurological processes. So if naturalism is true, then it would be irrational to believe it. If so, then there is no reason to put any more stock in the thoughts and words of Richard Dawkins than those of the lowliest theologian on the planet.
Dawkins admits that scientists don’t know how life on earth got started. He goes so far as to say it is highly improbable that life could have arisen on its own, with no intelligence to guide it (chapter 4). But if one then attempts to bring an intelligent Creator into the picture as an explanation of the origin of life, he rejects the idea saying that you would then have to explain God, and God as creator is even “more improbable” than the conditions for life arising on their own. He says God would have to be extremely “complex” in order to have produced life, and anything that complex is unlikely to have arisen on its own. Therefore God’s existence is very improbable. In fact, he refers to God as “the ultimate Boeing 747,” from Fred Hoyle’s analogy of the improbability of a hurricane blowing through a junkyard and producing a 747.
So how did life arise, if God didn’t bring it about? Dawkins thinks that with billions of years, and maybe an infinite number of universes (he subscribes to the “multiverse” theory) it would sooner or later arise by “accident,” though he avoids the word “accident.” (A Christian writer refers to this as “multiplying one’s probabilistic resources without warrant…in order to increase the odds of getting the [desired] result” (Why I Am a Christian, p. 78).
Though I am not equipped to expound on evolution one way or the other, briefly Dawkins believes that natural selection explains everything—the evolution of the universe, the appearance of our sun with its planets, and the development of life on earth. Presumably he also believes in random mutation, though he doesn’t talk about it much in the book. Again, on the website mentioned above, Robert Stewart says:
Throughout the book [The God Delusion] he throws the term ‘natural selection’ around like it means the same thing as evolution. But evolution requires ‘random mutation’ as
well as natural selection, and Dawkins’ failure to address the question of how
universes might randomly mutate spells doom for his probability argument.
Atheists like Dawkins must have evolution in order to maintain their atheistic position. However, though many Christians question evolution, Christians do not necessarily have to have non-evolution to maintain their position of belief. As the lawyer-journalist Ann Coulter once said, “God could have done it through evolution if he wanted to; after all, he’s done things a lot harder than that.” Lest I be misunderstood, I am not advocating evolution. I merely want to point out that if we ever come to the place where it appears that scientists have definitely have proven evolution, it will not spell doom for Christianity. After all, a number of believers including Dr. Francis Collins of human genome fame, think God used evolution to bring about life on earth.
In a book full of venom and anger directed at Christianity, it is not surprising that Dawkins sometimes contradicts himself and is even guilty of hypocrisy. For example, in one place he makes the remark, “We on the science side must not be too dogmatically confident…” (The God Delusion, p. 124). And yet he is utterly dogmatic and insistent that his own views on science and religion are superior to all others. He seems unaware of his hypocrisy when he writes: “Far from respecting the separateness of science’s turf, creationists like nothing better than to trample their dirty hobnails all over it.” What has he done but trample all over the cherished beliefs of millions of people with his dirty, misinformed naturalistic hobnails?
If Dawkins is suffering from some kind of anti-God neurosis, he needs to quietly see a doctor and not foist his views off on a world that doesn’t hate God like he does. Just because he is clever with words and arguments does not at all mean he is right. Many World War II German scientists were extremely clever. But they were also extremely wrong.
I wouldn’t have so much quarrel with Dawkins if he would just lay low with his atheism. But no, he wants to “enlighten” as many people as possible. I wonder if it has ever occurred to him that he might be wrong. And that he may be guilty of damaging the faith that is the only thing millions of people have to keep them going in their difficult lives. Does he want that on his slate when he faces death?
He probably never gave much attention to William James’ pragmatic test of truth: if it helps and encourages people, if it works, then to that degree it is “true.” If Dawkins has noticed it, it apparently didn’t impress him. Lest I be misunderstood, I am not saying the pragmatic test is the only one Christianity passes. But it at least passes that one!
As for Christianity, Dawkins apparently doesn’t believe it has ever done anything good for mankind. In the past, he has even said that religion necessarily leads to violence. Overlooking some of the worst mass-murders in history which were carried out by atheist regimes, he pounces on the Crusades, Inquisition, witch burnings and a few other comparatively minor “crimes” carried out by “Christians.” He says sometimes a few atheists may have committed crimes on their own, but atheism itself does not foster such crimes.
But this is where Dawkins falls on his face the hardest. He conveniently overlooks the fact that the worst crimes in history have been carried out by atheistic dictators who perpetrated their murders precisely because there was no principle to stop them in the atheism they espoused. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Nicolae Ceausescu, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong-il, and of course Hitler, with his “practical” atheism—have all carried out horrible mass murders. D’Souza says, “We have to recognize that atheist regimes have in a single century murdered more than one hundred million people” (What’s So Great about Christianity?, p. 214).
By contrast, I could not begin to catalogue the things Christians have done throughout history to bring help, relief, strength, and encouragement to suffering people. One could start by pointing out that it was a Christian, William Wilberforce, who persuaded the British Parliament to put an end to slavery. But there are so many similar cases of Christians bringing about humanitarian changes—the documentation all available to Dawkins—one suspects he isn’t interested in this type of counter-evidence.
A sociologist by the name of Rodney Stark has written a book called, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force…. In this book he lists several important reasons why Christianity, starting out as a tiny “cult” in a forgotten, backwater province of the Roman Empire, triumphed in three hundred years. Here are just a few of them.
First of all, Christians taught a powerful morality. They prohibited abortion, infanticide, and other immoral practices that led to disease and death, especially of children. When babies were thrown away, as they often were in those days, Christians would rescue them and raise them.
(2) Secondly, women were respected and elevated, and allowed to take part in worship. This often led to secondary conversion (that is, the conversion of their husbands).
When people fled from the cities during times of plague, Christians stayed and took care of the sick, often risking death themselves. (In AD 166, when the plague attacked Rome, the famous physician Galen fled, but Christians stayed.) This was a powerful witness that caught people’s attention.
All through history Christians have ministered to the sick, the homeless, the helpless, the dying. They have changed millions of lives. Not only have they bettered people’s physical lives, the Christ they preach has changed people’s hearts. Hatred goes when people are converted. As one example, when Arabs come to Christ, they suddenly find that they love Jews. And vice versa. (And if Richard Dawkins were to convert he might find that he loves Christians!)
How many people have atheists helped? Where are the hospitals set up by atheist humanists? Where are the orphanages? Where are the homes for the elderly? Where are the “rescue missions” providing shelter for the homeless? How many of these have atheists established? As mentioned above, over the 20th century atheist political regimes have racked up an appalling (and unmatched) record for violence.
What do atheists stand for? Aren’t they defined by the fact that they are against something, rather than for something? And how are they going to improve on the One who said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Or the Book that says, “Religion pure and undefiled is...to care for widows and orphans…” (James 1:27).
It should be pointed out that Christianity is not merely a matter of reason looking at the evidence after which a light bulb suddenly comes on. There is—and always will be as long as we’re on this earth—an element of faith in our approach to God. In other words, we on the believing side cannot absolutely “prove” the existence of God. And it is this element that Richard Dawkins pounces on with such glee. Faith, according to Dawkins, is “believing what you know isn’t true.” On the other hand, Dawkins himself believes some things he probably knows aren’t likely to be true, such as the “multiverse” theory (which Anthony Flew characterizes as a “desperate” attempt to explain the origin of life without God; cf. There Is a God, p. 137).
In a sense, faith is a risk. Since we can’t absolutely prove that there is a God who created us and who loves us, there is an element of uncertainty. But, despite the scorn of the atheists, Pascal’s wager is still apropos and reasonable. The atheist wagers there is no God. He loses either way. If he’s right, he has lost the peace and hope of a good life on this earth. If he’s wrong, he loses his soul eternally. The believer, on the other hand, even if he’s wrong has lived a life of hope on this earth, and if he’s right, he gains eternity. For the believer it’s a win-win situation, while the atheist loses either way.
Finally, returning briefly to Dawkins’ latest book, if God really did not exist, it would not require a 400-page tome to prove it. Nobody believes in fairies, because they simply don’t exist. Who writes a lengthy book to disprove unicorns? Dawkins’ long book, in which he uses every possible historical, biological, psychological, and logical stratagem to escape the divine just shows that he is afraid God does exist.
Recommended reading for those who may have been influenced negatively by Dawkins and/or other atheistic teachers and writers:
The Language of God, by Francis Collins (Free Press)
Why I Am a Christian, by Norman Geisler and Paul Hoffman (Baker)
The Dawkins Delusion? by Alister and Joanna McGrath (IVP Books)
The Case for a Creator, by Lee Strobel (Zondervan)
What’s So Great About Christianity?, by Dinesh D’Souza (Regnery)
There Is a God, by Anthony Flew (HarperOne)