A while back I posted a short film clip in which Richard Dawkins not only admitted that we have ‘no idea’ how life began on planet earth but went on to suggest that human life may owe its origin to aliens; a theory known as panspermia. Of course, he had no scientific evidence for this, but in the absence of good science why not invoke the ‘aliens did it’ argument!
I knew Dawkins wasn’t the first to propose such a speculation. Sir Fred Hoyle argued along a similar line when he recognised the statistically absurdity of arguing that life simply evolved by chance.
Crick himself once said;
‘An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.’
Any problems that exist with theories of the evolution of life pale into insignificance when it comes to the problems with explaining the origin of life from a naturalist worldview as this recent article in Scientific American acknowledges.
The words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1 come to mind:
Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
So Richard Dawkins decided to stay away rather than defend his arguments set out in The God Delusion. Here’s your opportunity to assess whether that was a wise move. William Lane Craig sets out his critique of Dawkins’ book before a panel of Oxford University Atheists who in turn respond. All part of A Reasonable Faith Tour.
Atheist and Oxford University Philosopher exposes the real reason Dawkins won’t debate William Lane Craig
I attended the lastest leg of the William Lane Craig ‘A Reasonable Faith‘ tour at Birmingham University last night where we enjoyed a good-natured, informed debate between Professor Craig and Professor Millican of Oxford University.
At least the philosophers at Oxford University think William Lane Craig worthy of respect and debate, unlike of course Richard Dawkins.
The Oxford Don and Philosophy lecturer Daniel Came, who caused a stir earlier in the year suggesting Dawkins might well be considered a coward for refusing to defend his views under scrutiny from Dr. Craig, a written a response to Dawkins vitriolic attack on William Lane Craig on the Guardian website a couple of days ago. Came exposes the real reason as to why Richard Dawkins will be avoiding the forthcoming debate in Oxford.
Came concludes ‘the tactics deployed by him and the other New Atheists, it seems to me, are fundamentally ignoble and potentially harmful to public intellectual life.’
So Richard Dawkins has already given his excuses as to why he doesn’t want to defend his arguments in the God Delusion in Oxford against William Lane Craig. In his misleading article in the Guardian he writes;
‘Would you shake hands with a man who could write stuff like that? Would you share a platform with him? I wouldn’t, and I won’t.’
That’s a remarkable statement, and a totally misleading one, from a man who shared a platform with Lane Craig less than a year ago in a panel debate in Mexico. Has Dawkins forgotten? Or maybe he thinks it was all a delusion?
Mind you AC Grayling also tried the same trick of denying he had ever debated Lane Craig until his ‘error‘ was exposed.
Good on Sam Harris and Christopher Htichens and others for standing up for their beliefs in recent debates with Lane Craig shame on Dawkins for being unwilling to defend his beliefs even on his own doorstep. Maybe Mexico paid better?
Brilliant piece by His Grace on Richard Dawkins’ refusal to defend his ideas in debate with William Lane Craig
For many atheists the argument goes something like this; unless overwhelming evidence can be presented for the existence of a god the default position of a thinking person should be NOT to believe in gods.
Essentially, we should presume atheism.
However, the Ontological argument for God, first proposed by Anselm in the eleventh century, challenges that assumption.
Anselm argues that we should believe in a perfect being unless such a perfect being is impossible (note not unlikely but impossible).
So how does the argument work?
There are a number of ways of stating the argument. Read Richard Dawkins God Delusion and you will find a superficial response to just one form.
We’ll focus on the one that’s most accessible. I take it from Douglas Groothuis’s new book Christian Apologetics.
The thing to bear in mind as we start out is that there are two types of proof for God arguments.
A posterioi arguments are those which look at evidence for the existence of God. For example the cosmological argument uses the scientific evidence that the universe had a beginning from big bang cosmology to argue that whatever has a beginning must have a cause and that cause is God.
A priori arguments are not seeking to establish the existence of God from any appeal to evidence at all. They are arguments from reason or logic alone.
Anselm begins his argument with the following statement ‘God cannot be conceived not to exist. That which can be conceived not to exist is not God.’
What does Anselm mean?
He’s NOT saying it’s impossible to think that there is no God. Clearly lots of people are quite capable of that.
What he is saying is that God has unique properties that make him unlike any other kind of being. Other things might happen to exist but God, by definition, must exist unless his existence is proven to be logically absurd. God is a necessary being meaning if he could exist he would have to exist.
You wouldn’t say that of anything else. Everything else that we think about might exist or might not. Everything else is contingent. Groothuis gives the example of a saxophone. Someone may have invented the saxophone but it’s quite conceivable to imagine a world in which the saxophone never existed.
God would not be God if he only might exist. God being God is ‘maximally great’ he is a ‘perfect being’ and perfect beings don’t just happen to exist they necessarily exist.
So Anselm argues;
If God could exist he would exist. It is inconceivable, irrational and illogical to argue that like a saxophone he may or may not exist.
Therefore to argue that he does not exist we must argue that it would have to be because he could not exist.
The only reason for rejecting the notion of a perfect being, the only reason to posit his non-existence is therefore that the concept of a perfect being is in itself flawed. There is no other reason as to why a perfect being would not exist.
So Norman Malcolm in Knowledge and Certainty writes that God’s ‘existence must be logically necessary or logically impossible. The only intelligible way of rejecting Anselm’s claim that God’s existence is necessary is to maintain that the concept of God, as a being greater than which cannot be conceived, is self-contradictory or nonsensical.’
Here is Groothius’ formal structure for the argument:
1. God is defined as a maximally great or Perfect Being
2. The existence of a Perfect Being is either impossible or necessary (since it cannot be contingent).
3. The concept of a Perfect Being is not impossible, since it is neither non-sensical nor self-contradictory
4. Therefore (a) a Perfect Being is necessary
5. Therefore (b) a Perfect Being exists.
Consequences of the argument
Once we accept that the existence of God is possible, that is not inherently nonsensical, we should accept that if possible he is in fact necessary.
So we move from the possibility of God to the presumption of the existence of God.
The onus is therefore on the atheist to demonstrate that God is self-contradictory or nonsensical rather than on the theist to prove that he is there.
Why should we believe in God rather than unicorns?
The idea of a unicorn is logically possible, since it is understood to be an animal that does not possess incompatible properties. Unicorns do not exist in our world. Nevertheless, they could exist, that is, they exist in a possible world. But a unicorn is not conceived as a necessary being, a being that must exist given its very nature. God is considered as such. And there is the rub metaphysically. It the concept of God is not im-possible, then God must exist in at least one possible world, and in that possible world God’s existence is necessary. That is, God cannot not exist. So, if God exists as a logically necessary being in one world, he exists in all such worlds.
Very much looking forward to hearing William Lane Craig debating in Birmingham on October 21st.
If you did might well have shared a general and growing frustration that Dawkins keeps getting away with writing bad books and making quite a bit of money from it in the process (including another £10 from me for this new book).
In one sense, Dawkins is a great help in the Christian cause because he helps to ensure that ‘God’ and ‘religion’ are centre-stage. Having said that I did enjoy this review in the Independent which does a good demolition job of the weak arguments presented in the book.
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