The Dawkins Delusion

Richard Dawkins is a globally celebrated evolutionary biologist, skeptic, and atheist who most well know for his famous books, The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion. In his book, The God Delusion,he summarizes what he calls “the central argument of my book.” The syllogism goes like this:

Premise 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.

Premise 2: The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself.

Premise 3: The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.

Premise 4: The most ingenious and powerful explanation is Darwinian evolution by natural selection.

Premise 5: We don’t have an equivalent explanation for physics.

Premise 6: We should not give up the hope of a better explanation arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology.

Conclusion: Therefore, God almost certainly does not exist.

The argument is surprising, not because its a knock-down argument that disproves God’s existence, but because the conclusion doesn’t come from the premises. William Lane Craig notes that Dawkins’ argument, at best, shows:

“[T]hat we should not infer God’s existence on the basis of the appearance of design in the universe.”

-William Lane Craig

But that conclusion is still compatible with God’s existence and is even compatible with us having justification for believing in God’s existence. What if I believe in God’s existence not based on the appearance of design but on the evidence that the universe had a beginning? The fact that a finite time ago, there was no universe, which means there was no time, space, and matter–that in itself cries out for an explanation and points to some kind of transcendent cause that is timeless, spaceless, and immaterial. Or, to give another example of belief not rooted in the appearance of design, what if I believe in God’s existence based on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Dawkins’ logic does nothing to dismantle a firm belief in the existence of God.

Not only does Dawkins’ argument fail because the conclusion is not incompatible with the existence of God, but because there are some issues with some of his premises as well. First, take the third premise, which looks at the idea of “Who designed the designer?” This is a very easy question to answer. The answer is God never had a beginning. No argument for God’s existence implies God had a beginning and nowhere in Jewish or Christian scriptures does it implicitly or explicitly say that God had a beginning. If you want to read more on this, I go more in-depth with this premise in another blog post.

A second premise in which we find problems is premise 6. The premise amounts to an appeal to the future fallacy. If I were to say to an atheist that, “We don’t have any arguments outside of scripture that God exists, but we shouldn’t give up hope because we know those arguments are out there and one day we will discover them.” I think most people would see that as a highly inadequate response. In premise 6 Dawkins is essentially doing that very thing, saying, “Don’t give up hope. Just have faith. Soon enough we will come up with an explanation in physics for the apparent design in the universe.” That’s not a good enough explanation when you’re giving an argument for your position.

So this is what Dawkins’ “central argument” in his book The God Delusion amounts to: the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises and there are problems with some of the premises themselves. In the end, his argument does not do what it seeks to do, namely, to show that there are purely natural explanations for the appearance of design and/or disprove the existence of God.

“If You Were Born in India…”

boys from india with painted faces and turbans

The common argument goes that if you were born in India, you would most likely be a Hindu. If you were born in Saudi Arabia, then you would most likely be a Muslim. If you were born in a Christian family, you would most likely be a Christian. From this, skeptics would conclude: your Christian beliefs are just the product of where you were born and not based on what is true. Some skeptics will even go so far as to say that therefore Christianity is not true.

Now to an extent, this is true. Statistically speaking if you were born in India, you would be a Hindu and if you were born in Saudi Arabia then you would most likely be a Muslim, but it doesn’t follow that Christianity is false because some of us may only be Christians because we were born in a Christian family. To put forth the argument that Christianity is false because we are more likely to adopt the beliefs of our family because of where we’re born is to commit the genetic fallacy.

The Genetic Fallacy

What’s the genetic fallacy you might ask? Well, the genetic fallacy is when you try to invalidate a belief by showing how someone came to accept it. For example, if I were to say: You only believe western democracy is the best form of government because you were raised in a western democracy. Well, that may be true but it doesn’t follow that democracy is not the best form of government. Or to put it another way, what if I came to conclusion that the earth is round based off what I learned in a comic book? Does it follow that the earth is not round? Of course not. You can’t invalidate a belief by showing how one comes to believe it. That’s just nonsense.

Here is something to consider: What if we have good, solid reasons for believing that God exists? What if we have excellent reasons for believing that not only Jesus existed but also have good reasons to believe his ministry, death, and resurrection actually happened?

Going further with this, what if a personal God has graciously revealed himself, both generally and specifically? What if there are good solid reasons to believe Christianity is true and every religion that contradicts it is false? How we came to our beliefs is irrelevant if Christianity is true. So to the skeptics out there reading this, let’s examine the arguments and evidences for Christianity being true rather committing the genetic fallacy.