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Richard Dawkins had a silly op-ed in the Los Angeles Times a couple of days ago. A sample:

. To deserve the name of God, a being would have to have designed more than just a jumbo jet or even a starship. He would have to have designed the universe. And therein lies a fundamental contradiction. Entities capable of designing anything, whether they be human engineers or interstellar aliens, must be complex -- and therefore, statistically improbable. And statistically improbable things don’t just happen spontaneously by chance without an explanation trail.
In essence, he’s making the classic modern argument against God and relevation: it’s unlikely to have happened, particularly if we find it so hard to detect in the ordinary course of things. To be sure "Intelligent Design" theory, as I understand it, tries to do the opposite: by showing how unlikely it is that there is order in nature, it suggests that nature must have been designed by God. Once again, the argument from probability is, well, problematic.

More interesting, perhaps, is the challenge of skepticism. Dawkins does not seem open to questioning the foundations of the science which he claims to champion. That’s why he believe it is certain that "statistically improbable things don’t just happen spontaneously by chance without an explanation trail." But why is that the case? Only after one accepts certain premises is that conclusion certain. And if the presumptions of modern science are themselves less than perfectly certain, then Dawkins’ science cannot refute the possibility of revelation.

Discussions - 16 Comments


Dawkins' argument, as described, is sheer idiocy.

Hmm.. the classical theologians would agree with Dawkins's assessment of God. Augustine, Aquinas, and Anselm all described God as truly and absolutely simple, without composition.

A must read, of course, is Plantinga's review of Dawkins's God Delusion- http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/2007/002/1.21.html

"That’s why he believe it is certain that "statistically improbable things don’t just happen spontaneously by chance without an explanation trail." But why is that the case?"


If it's not the case then no argument for God has any leg to stand on. It's entirely possible that random events do happen, but in that case we need no explanation for the origin of life or the universe. Dawkins assumes it because his opponents must assume it. You owe Dawkins an apology, and could use a good course in reading comprehension yourself.

"Entities capable of designing anything, whether they be human engineers or interstellar aliens, must be complex -- and therefore, statistically improbable. And statistically improbable things don’t just happen spontaneously by chance without an explanation trail." Couldn't that be a good argument for God and creation? Certaintly the earth and those mysterious creatures that inhabit it are "statistically improbable."

Did you really just miss the entire argument JC? God is as statistically improbable as the creation he is used to explain, and therefore has no explanatory power.


Big Bang cosmology and evolutionary theory work to explain "the earth and those mysterious creatures that inhabit it" by explaining how the simple can give rise to the complex. Employing God is merely to use the complex to explain the complex, by science has used the simple to explain the complex. Try to keep up next time.

Sorry, Boo. I am aware that the Big Bang cosmology and evolutionary theory explain the complex in their simplicity. It however strikes me that they do so by ignoring the complex. Simplicity wilfully ignoring the complex I would expect is something you would be familar with. I'll try to keep up.

JC:
The simple explaining the complex - brings to mind Al Gore explaining Global Warming after the earth as a whole has just experienced the coldest winter since 1966. Boo might want to keep the simple in mind - death comes to us all - some of us sooner that the average life span of 75 to 80 years for those of us lucky enough to live in a civilized western country. Just think when Boo experiences the simplicity of passing on, he will know very simply whether or not Charles Darwin or he were simply right or simply wrong. All it takes is a lifetime.

Steven: The question is not Dawkins' account of God, but rather the question of how one may prove or disprove God's existance.

On a related point, Boo, I don't understand your point. Why don't we need to account for the origin of life or the universe? Why does gravity exist? etc. By your own logic, the possibility that God exists is not refuted.

If your "God" is explainable, I feel sorry for you.

Richard, we do need to account for the origin of life, but only if we have a mechanistic view of the universe. If things happen without a cause then we need no explanation. You criticized Dawkins for assuming that the universe is mechanistic without, apparently, realizing that he assumed it for the sake of his article because all theistic arguments of the kind he is concerned with (teleological, cosmological, etc.) must assume it.


On a related note, I'd forgotten how asinine most of the commenters were here.

From Boo: "On a related note, I'd forgotten how asinine most of the commenters were here." I would not expect much more from someone who believes that he/she/? evolved from two gas clouds colliding.

This discussion is truly a new flippant low for NLT.

The relevat question is not whether certain proofs of God's existence are inadequate, but rather whether mechanistic science can prove that God does not exist. Dawkins conflates reason with mechanistic science. That might not be reasonable.

On a related point, are our senses, combined with instruments of human invention, adequate to discover everything that happens in the universe? As far as I can tell, the only reasonable answer is "I have no idea." Newton knew that the laws of gravity might only describe, for example, the motions of planets as they appears to human senses. What was really going on, he allowed, might be rather different.

Entities capable of designing anything, whether they be human engineers or interstellar aliens, must be complex -- and therefore, statistically improbable.

Says who? How does Dawkins purport to know that an entity deemed "God" -- who must be in some sense completely outside our universe -- is either "complex" or "statistically improbable"?

Richard, God's simplicity or complexity is of vital importance. Dawkins's argument for God's non-existence hinges on it--

"Entities capable of designing anything, whether they be human engineers or interstellar aliens, must be complex -- and therefore, statistically improbable."

I could map this out for you in a logical proof, if you would like. One of the premises will necessarily include God's complexity.

Steven, Dawkins' argument only hinges upon complexity or simplicity if the grounds of his argument are correct. To make a broader point, he's an evolutionary biologist and this is an epistemological discussion.

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