In a post at Biologos Daniel Stork Banks sketches out a personal journey. It starts with the sense of awe at the natural world he felt as a child growing up in a non-religious home, continues with encountering with young-earth creationism at university, and then onto engagement with theistic evolution. He notes sharing that sense of awe with Richard Dawkins, as expressed in the book The Greatest Show on Earth (2009). Banks further comments that “…we cannot afford to surrender our awe of the universe to atheists like Richard Dawkins who want to explain it by leaving God out.”
I completely agree, particularly since my engagement with Dawkins’ writings was rather different. Several years ago, I read (most of) Dawkins’ earlier book, The God Delusion (2006), in an attempt at engagement with a different point of view.
For the most part the book appears to be an ideological assault on religious theism. Granted, superstition, evil and stupidity packaged in religious trappings provides an enormous amount of ammunition for the assault. But this approach conflates thinking about the existence of God with religious belief and obscures honest discussion of either one.
In looking past the ad hominem aspects of the approach the core of Dawkins’ argument appears to be what he labels the “God Hypothesis” and its alternative:
…there exists a super-human, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it…
…any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution.1
This packages an assumption that creative intelligence is necessarily complex. The clearest statement of Dawkins’ thinking on the matter appears to be this:
A God capable of continuously monitoring and controlling the individual status of every particle in the universe cannot be simple. His existence is going to need a mammoth explanation in its own right.2
The assertion ignores historical Christian thinking on the nature of God and far smarter minds have composed volumes to address the issue.3 Dawkins closes the argument by appearing to simply dismiss God’s existence with the question: “who designed the designer?”4
I would like to offer a cosmological observation in response to this question in light of what has been learned about the universe during the past century. What is now known about the cosmos neither proves nor disproves God’s existence but it does settle at least a few of the speculations which have rattled about in philosophy and religion during the past 2500 years.
We exist inside of a spacetime box with a defined absolute boundary slightly less than 14 billion years in the past at the Big Bang. The box also has a likely functional boundary some billions of years in the future when all the energy stored everywhere in the universe is expended. Other boundaries may exist as well.
We may be able infer limited aspects of realities outside our box but all that does is push those boundaries out a bit. The who or what which gave rise to what we live in is necessarily outside those boundaries.
Complexity and causality are features of the inside of our spacetime box. We have no reason to believe they would have any meaning at all when applied to God. As Dawkins surely must understand this, The God Delusion appears to be little more than a blunt tool to bludgeon the reader into accepting an arrogant and militant point of view.
Genuine awe requires humility. I may attempt to read the later book in hopes of finding some.
- Dawkins, Richard (2008-01-16). The God Delusion (p. 52). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
- Dawkins. (p. 178).
- For an example see Alvin Plantinga’s review in the The Dawkins Confusion at Christianity Today. This unfortunately requires a subscription to read but probably be found elsewhere.
- Dawkins. (p. 146-147, 188).