Tuesday, September 27, 2011

THE GOD DELUSION

Introduction
God has gifted Dawkins as a good writer – writing in a flowing and easy-to-read fashion that serves to keep the reader’s eye on the page. Though The God Delusion is a serious book which Dawkins’ wry sense of humour permeates, it’s not always easy to know when he is being tongue-in-cheek. As one would expect The God Delusion contains its fair share of “heavy material”, but Dawkins manages to spice each page with a peppering of interesting witty turns of phrase and salty anecdotage.
Premise & Content
The premise of Dawkins’ book is that Darwinian Evolution (as understood, explained, and applied by Dawkins) does away with any need for God. Thus, by way of extension, Dawkins is trying to do away with God.
The contents of the book are packaged in ten well-designed evenly-sized chapters prefaced with a loud but tuneful bugle call in an attempt to rally to his cause all readers who are even “vaguely yearning to leave their parent’s religion”. These are being coaxed to run away with Dawkins and sign up in his growing army of militant Atheists: “If you are one of them,” says Dawkins, “this book is for you. It is intended to raise consciousness – raise consciousness to the fact that to be an atheist is a realistic aspiration, and a brave and splendid one.”
And, just to show that his contempt for religion is as well meaning as it is practical there is an Appendix at the end of the book with “A partial list of friendly addresses, for individuals needing support in escaping from religion.” Such devoted compassion from a man who believes in the survival of the fittest!

The book therefore is a call for “religious people” to turn to a Dawkinsian-style Atheism. With all the world’s religions rolled up as one in a carpet to be dumped Dawkins drops his bundle to throw mud. One would expect The God Delusion to be a systematic dismantling of God and of Christian thought rather than a rant against religion. There is much gnashing of teeth on Dawkins’ part. But teeth grinding betrays a nervous disorder!

Yet, to convince the masses to join him in his cause against God Dawkins first has to prove that God is a mere delusion of the mind. And frankly, this is where the Darwinian worldview he promotes in his book really begins to unravel like a cheap imitation Arran-knit sweater. For he would have us believe with him that the pattern of design we plainly see throughout creation is not real but fake! Thus it is Dawkins himself who is promoting the real delusion of illusion!

The Ugly Heart of Unsuccess
Dawkins believes that his form of the Theory of Evolution (as explained in his The God Delusion) does away with any need for God. But, in order to win over the wavering “religious people” to his Atheistic cause Dawkins predictably seeks to make a detailed collage of the worst of religious aberrations. Here he succeeds somewhat in that he has the reader agree with him that all extreme religious fanaticism is a bad thing, and that lots of weird people believe and do lots of weird things. However, the section on his fellow Evolutionist Adolf Hitler surely needs a lot more work!

The reader is left wondering how Dawkins managed to paper-over the rigorously applied Evolutionism of Dawkins’ fellow Evolutionists Hitler and Stalin. Evolutionism is a theory. Hitler and Stalin (and others) put that theory into practice big time. But all Dawkins does is try to demonstrate that Hitler may or may not have been a fellow Atheist while Stalin probably was!

This is a very real Achilles heel for Dawkins and his Evolutionary Atheism. For the intelligent reader knows that people (even Hitlers, Stalins, and suicide bombers, etc.) live their lives in accordance with what they believe in their hearts. Hitler wanted a world without Jews and their religion, and, though he abhors Hitler and Stalin’s applied Evolutionism, even so, like Hitler and Stalin, Dawkins too wants a world without religion. The world knows all too well of the very evil men who have wanted a world without religion. Here Dawkins needs to be very, very careful. For anti-religion is the really thin ice on the surface of his primordial pond.

Hitler’s Master Race, Nazi eugenics, American eugenics,[1] Stalin’s Gulag, Pol Pot’s Killing Fields, and contemporary abortionism are not some of the finer moments or achievements of the Militant Evolutionist Movement to which Richard Dawkins has hitched his wagon while calling us to follow his lead.

Fundamental Flaws
There is an even greater fundamental flaw that runs through the bedrock(?!) of Dawkins’ Atheistic premise. It has to do with reality and Dawkins’ view of it. He makes a candid admission, which – even if meant tongue-in-cheek – betrays an epistemological equivocation. It’s mined from the book’s section dealing with “Little Green Men” and the search for intelligent life (SETI).
Lest we be accused of quoting Dawkins out of context we need to lift the quote we wish along with a whole load of its surrounding text. Dawkins says,
In what sense, then, would the most advanced SETI aliens not be gods? In what sense would they be superhuman but not super-natural? In a very important sense, which goes to the heart of this book. The crucial difference between gods and god-like extraterrestrials lies not in their properties but in their provenance. Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process. No matter how god-like they may seem when we encounter them, they didn’t start that way. Science-fiction authors, such as Daniel F. Galouye in Counterfeit World, have even suggested (and I cannot think how to disprove it) that we live in a computer simulation, set up by some vastly superior civilization. But the simulators themselves would have to come from somewhere. The laws of probability forbid all notions of their spontaneously appearing without simpler antecedents. They probably owe their existence to a (perhaps unfamiliar) version of Darwinian evolution: some sort of cumulatively ratcheting ‘crane’ as opposed to ‘skyhook’, to use Daniel Dennett’s terminology. Skyhooks — including all gods — are magic spells. They do no bona fide explanatory work and demand more explanation than they provide. Cranes are explanatory devices that actually do explain. Natural selection is the champion crane of all time. It has lifted life from primeval simplicity to the dizzy heights of complexity, beauty and apparent design that dazzle us today. Page 73 (Emphasis and underlining mine).

Dawkins is calling on people to unite with him in his battle against God. But Dawkins cannot even prove that he himself exists – never mind disprove the existence of God! To be sure the subtlety is that Dawkins is not saying here that he does not know if he himself exists, but rather that he does not know whether he exists in a computer simulation or not. However, the point is that simulations are just that, they are simulations, not reality.

Reality Check
Dawkins does seem to need to do his own “reality check”. For as we look at him in his simulator we see that he has left himself dangling from a “skyhook” of his own! He can call that Darwinian skyhook “some sort of cumulatively ratcheting ‘crane’” if he wants, but that doesn’t change the fact that, as he admits, he cannot prove reality.[2]

This means that Dawkins has not got a solid piece of rock left to stand on from which to hurl his Evolutionistic abuse at his true Maker. For, if he cannot even prove that he himself is real (and not some hologram or other), then how, we ask again, is he possibly going to disprove the reality of God? Yet Dawkins goes on to speak of the “real world” when attempting, from his lofty crane, to swing the demolition ball in order to demolish “The Ontological Argument and Other A Priori Arguments” for the existence of God.

Commenting on a quote from Bertrand Russell, while disagreeing with him, Dawkins says, “My own feeling, to the contrary, would have been an automatic, deep suspicion of any line of reasoning that reached such a significant conclusion without feeding in a single piece of data from the real world. Perhaps that indicates no more than that I am a scientist rather than a philosopher.” Page 82. (Emphasis and underlining mine)

When, for Dawkins is the “real world” really the real world? Is it when he can prove whether he is in a computer simulation or not? Or when he can disprove the existence of God? Clearly Dawkins lives in a world of his own imagination (or perhaps someone else’s!) and wants the rest of us to join him in his world full of cranes and skyhooks! But let’s be nice! It’s arguments that set themselves up against God that we wish to tear down, not men!

Delusion by Design
The title of his book might be The God Delusion but it could very well have been called The Apparent Design Illusion! For Dawkins goes on to say, “We live on a planet where we are surrounded by perhaps ten million species, each one of which independently displays a powerful illusion of apparent design.” Page 139.

Dawkins clearly takes less than seriously the implications of his concession that he lacks a mechanism to verify that he himself is no illusion. He nonetheless is deadly serious that, by use of his Darwinian “cumulatively ratcheting crane”, he has found a way to tear down any illusion of design in creation. But why on God’s good green earth would he wish to do away with design? It’s so that he can do away with the Designer (not to mention combat the Intelligent Design Movement that is threatening Dawkins’ Evolutionism). Brilliant!

But how is Dawkins himself able to design anything, such as write a book, if, as he alleges, the human species is simply part of the “…perhaps ten million species, each one of which independently displays a powerful illusion of apparent design.”? For, in this worldview isn’t Dawkins himself part of the powerful illusion of apparent design?

If a book implies a book-writer, and “Designer Babies” (eugenics) also imply a designer, then don’t original human beings (even ones who write books!) imply a Designer? Of course! Otherwise we are all deluded. Surely mathematics, arithmetic, physics, chemistry, biology etc. all reveal evidence of true design. But Dawkins’ would have us all adopt his version of Darwinian Evolution and believe that up till now we have been deluded in that all these disciplines simply display a powerful illusion of apparent design!
“Craneology”
In the following Dawkins’ quote we shall see that Dawkins then goes on to try to kill two birds with one presuppositional stone. He says, “The evolution of life is a completely different case from the origin of life because, to repeat, the origin of life was (or could have been) a unique event which had to happen only once. The adaptive fit of species to their separate environments, on the other hand, is millionfold and ongoing.” Page 139.

Origin of life: one event. Evolution of life: manifold ongoing events. Here we see Dawkins equivocate again. By the use of his words “the origin of life was (or could have been)” we see that he’s not exactly sure what took place at the beginning, (ie, when life originated). Frank admission! But he is sure of what is taking place now, ie, that that life (however it originated) is evolving.

However, it’s here that Dawkins himself is using an a priori argument that he has already dismissed when used of God. Arguing back in time from what he perceives to be happening now, Dawkins is wheeling his Darwinian crane into position to originate life. Remember, what he has already said about God and the origin of life, “My own feeling… would have been an automatic, deep suspicion of any line of reasoning that reached such a significant conclusion without feeding in a single piece of data from the real world.”

Therefore, to Dawkins’ mind, if Darwinian Evolution (ie, evolution of life) is true, then that which brought it about (ie, the origin of life) must also be true. But, by his own frank admission, Dawkins doesn’t know who or what originated life. Yet he wants us to believe that it couldn’t possibly be the God who has revealed Himself as Creator in the Christian Bible – God being merely a “skyhook” in Dawkins’ estimation.

On this crucial question of God’s existence – for it is the heart and soul of his book – he wants his cake and to eat it too. For, without explicitly stating it, he surely wants us to believe that something like Darwin’s powerful crane could have originated life – even though (by his own admission) the origin of life is beyond the reach of Darwin’s crane! Dawkins needs to do a lot more work in this area. Another well-designed book perhaps?
Hoisted by a Skyhook!
The whole premise of Dawkins’ book is that Darwinian Evolution does away with the need for God. But read the following Dawkins quote to see yet again that Darwin’s “powerful crane” is not powerful enough to reach the origin of life:

The anthropic principle is impotent to explain the multifarious details of living creatures. We really need Darwin’s powerful crane to account for the diversity of life on Earth, and especially the persuasive illusion of design. The origin of life, by contrast, lies outside the reach of that crane, because natural selection cannot proceed without it.” Page 140.

Thus Dawkins explicitly confirms that the origin of life lies outside the reach of Darwin’s crane. Thank God for that! This is really good to know! But it does mean that by Dawkins’ own admission Darwin’s Theory of Evolution cannot touch the Creator. So how then does Dawkins expect to rally the troops round his Atheistic flag with an unclear trumpet call? If the origin of life lies outside the reach of Darwin’s powerful crane then how has the Theory of Evolution done away with God and the need for God? For the whole premise of Dawkins’ book could be summarized in headline form as: Darwin Deals Deity Death Blow! Story by Richard Dawkins.

Conclusion
As a Christian I found nothing in The God Delusion very challenging. Yes, Dawkins did ruffle my feathers here in there, especially with his Christian caricatures and misrepresentations, such as his portrayal of Christianity as being anti-science! Yes, we are with Dawkins where he points out the folly of religious extremes and all aberrations of Christianity including other religions and philosophies. But no, we depart from him where he denies the Creator and Designer of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. Creation itself, with its very real order and design running throughout, is revelation of its Maker. The God Delusion does not even come close to demonstrating scientifically (or in any other way, shape, or form) that God is a delusion.
Books Refuting The God Delusion
Many books have been published specifically to refute The God Delusion. However, I personally can vouch for at least three excellent refutations: The Dawkins Delusion, Deluded By Dawkins, and The Dawkins LettersChallenging Atheist Myths. The first is a SPCK publication written by Alister McGrath, a professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University. The second is a Kingsway Publication by Andrew Wilson, a Pentecostal Minister. And the third is published by Christian Focus, and written by David Robertson, who is a columnist, author, and minister in the Free Church of Scotland. Dawkins Delusion is the most scholarly of the three, but Deluded By Dawkins is intelligently well written. However, I found the Dawkins Letters to be the most engaging, interesting, and exciting!


[1]  Following are a couple of the remarks Mr. Platt made to the California senate judiciary committee, June 24, 2003, regarding senate resolution no. 20 - relative to eugenics”
...that California not only led the nation in forced sterilizations, but also in providing scientific and educational support for Hitler’s regime. In 1935, Sacramento’s Charles M. Goethe praised the Human Betterment Foundation for effectively “shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler…” In 1936, Goethe acknowledged the United States and Germany as leaders in eugenics (“two stupendous forward movements”), but complained that “even California's quarter century record has, in two years, been outdistanced by Germany.” In 1936, California eugenicist Paul Popenoe was asking one of his Nazi counterparts for information about sterilization policies in Germany in order to make sure that “conditions in Germany are not misunderstood or misrepresented.”
...that California’s eugenicists could not claim ignorance that Germany’s sterilization program was motivated primarily by racial politics. For example, in 1935, the Los Angeles Times published a long defense of Germany’s sterilization policies, in which the author noted that the Nazis “had to resort to the teachings of eugenic science” because Germany had been “deprived of her colonies, blessed with many hundreds of defective racial hybrids as a lasting memory of the colored army of occupation, and dismembered all around.” Not only did California eugenicists know about Nazi efforts to use sterilization as a method of “race hygiene” -- targeted primarily at Jews -- they also approved efforts to stop “race-mixing” and increase the birth rate of the “Northern European type of family.” The chilling words of Progressive reformer John Randolph Haynes anticipated the Nazi regime’s murder of 100,000 mentally ill patients: “There are thousands of hopelessly insane in California, the condition of those minds is such that death would be a merciful release. How long will it be before society will see the criminality of using its efforts to keep alive these idiots, hopelessly insane, and murderous degenerates. … Of course the passing of these people should be painless and without warning. They should go to sleep at night without any intimation of what was coming and never awake.”
[2] Summary from Wikipedia:
“Skyhook” Dennett used the term “skyhook” to describe a source of design complexity that did not build on lower, simpler layers - in simple terms, a miracle. In philosophical arguments concerning the reducibility (or otherwise) of the human mind, Dennett's concept pokes fun at the idea of intelligent design emanating from on high, either originating from God, or providing its own grounds in an absurd, Münchausen-like bootstrapping manner. Dennett also accuses various competing neo-Darwinian ideas of making use of such supposedly unscientific skyhooks in explaining evolution, coming down particularly hard on the ideas of  Stephen Jay Gould.
“Crane” Dennett contrasts theories of complexity which require such miracles with those based on “cranes”, structures which permit the construction of entities of greater complexity but which are themselves founded solidly “on the ground” of physical science. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin's_Dangerous_Idea

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