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.
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.
Jeremy Paxman has a reputation of being a bit of a Bulldog. Yet last night on Newsnight the Bulldog failed to bark, let alone attack, preferring a tickle on the tummy from Richard Dawkins.
Dawkins once famously said
In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication some people are going to get hurt other people are going to get lucky and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it nor any justice. The universe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind pitiless existence. DNA neither knows nor cares DNA just is and we dance to its music.
As we know, atheism does hold a pretty bleak outlook on life but now the nihilist who believes in only ‘blind pitiless indifference’ has given his atheism a make-over. His new book The Magic of Reality conveniently hides from view his belief that nothing can really be considered morally evil preferring to find solace in the wonders of science; science in some sense reveals a magical reality according to Dawkins. It might be a book for children but it skilfully disguises the darker realities that this universe is indifferent to human notions of truth, beauty and goodness preferring to blind us with science.
And so last night was a perfect opportunity for Paxman to put Dawkins’ arguments to the test and in doing so expose the manifest contradictions in his portrayal of atheism. But instead we were exposed to a pretty sycophantic interview in which Dawkins and Paxman laughted together after giving the straw-man they had invented a bit of a kicking. Paxman’s question to Dawkins ‘Do you really care that there are a lot of stupid people around?’ summed up the level of discussion. To watch it tune in at around 43 minutes.
By simply accepting Dawkins’ flawed premise that religion and science are opposed to each other Paxman missed a great opportunity for a grown up conversation. A conversation that would have been considerably more profitable to the thinking mind if held in conjunction with another author who has a new book out and who has debated Dawkins on a number of occasions.
Professor John Lennox of Oxford University also has a book already out in the US and coming out in the UK next week called Seven Days That Divide the World in which he discusses the relationship between the Bible and science. Alvin Plantinga, describes it as being ‘as good as it gets in the religion/science area.’
There might be good reasons as to why John Lennox could not have attended, or might even have preferred not to attend, but there cannot be any good reasons for Paxman going along with Dawkins’ pretence that religion is nothing more than a misguided myth.
Richard Dawkins, the champion of the New Atheism, argues that we should base our lives only on that which is empirically verifiable or rationally provable and yet in this devastating interview Dawkins admits that;
a) He has no idea how likely it is that God doesn’t exist and wouldn’t want to put a figure on it
b) He has no idea how the universe was created
c) He has no idea how life began on earth
d) He suggests that we might be here because aliens put us here!
William Lane Craig is arguably the foremost Christian apologist in the world and he is coming to the UK this autumn on a debating and lecture tour. You would think that leading atheists and representatives of the British Humanist Association, Polly Toynbee, Richard Dawkins and A.C.Grayling would have readily accepted the invitation to debate him and given that they think they have the knock-out arguments, with some relish. Yet, one by one, they have either refused or withdrawn from a debate.
New Atheist, Sam Harris, said of William Lane Craig in his introductory comments at their recent debate;
I’m very happy to be debating Dr. Craig, the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists. I’ve actually gotten more than a few emails this week, that more or less read, “Brother, please, don’t blow this.” So, you will be the judge.
Christopher Hitchens said ahead of his debate with Craig;
I can tell you that my brothers and sisters, my co-thinkers, in the unbelieving community take him very seriously. He’s thought of as a very tough guy; very rigorous, very scholarly, very thoughtful. I say that without reserve. Normally I don’t get people saying to me ‘good luck tonight’ or ‘don’t let us down’ but with him I do.
Given that Dawkins, Grayling and Toynbee claim to have all the arguments why don’t they run William Lane Craig out of town?
Perhaps, as ‘commonsenseatheist‘ conceded having witnessed a debate between Craig and Christopher Hitchens;
The debate went exactly as I expected. Craig was flawless and unstoppable. Hitchens was rambling and incoherent, with the occasional rhetorical jab. Frankly, Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child.
I’m not a great one for Youtube videos that mock the views of others and I’m certainly not suggesting that Christians ought to mock or insults all humanists but I do think that the double-standards and hypocrisy (as well as down-right rudeness in some cases) of those who claim to speak in the name of Atheism but refuse to debate Craig should be subject to a degree of mild ridicule.
‘Enjoy’ the video and buy a ticket for one of the debates. Who knows maybe Dawkins will turn up!
Tomorrow John Lennox debates Peter Singer at Melbourne Town Hall.
A remarkable post in the New Statesman by David Allen Green is yet further demonstration of how Richard Dawkins’ star is waning even among the liberal intelligentsia in our media.
Green’s closing comments are telling;
Can Richard Dawkins still credibly pose as a champion of rational thinking and an evidence-based approach? In my opinion, he certainly cannot, at least not in the way he did before.
The principle of the “survival of the fittest” applies in respect of intellectual reputations as it can elsewhere, and what now happens to the intellectual reputation of Richard Dawkins may be an example of the principle in practice.
Prof. H. Allen Orr is an evolutionary geneticist. He is University Professor and Shirley Cox Kearns Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester. He was one of only thirteen winners (alongside Stephen Jay Gould and John Maynard Smith) of the Darwin-Wallace medal presented every 50 years by the Linnean Society of London for “major advances in evolutionary biology“. He’s also an agnostic.
Surely he’s exactly the kind of guy you’d want reviewing your book if your name was Ricahrd Dawkins. Wrong. Writing in The New York Review of Books Orr is scathing about Richard Dawkins;
The God Delusion seems to me badly flawed. Though I once labelled Dawkins a professional atheist, I’m forced, after reading his new book, to conclude he’s actually more an amateur…his book makes a far from convincing case. The most disappointing feature of The God Delusion is Dawkin’s failure to engage religious thought in any serious way…One reason for the lack of extended argument in The God Delusion is clear: Dawkins doesn’t seem very good at it.
The criticism [of The God Delusion] is not primarily, it should be pointed out, from the pious, which would hardly be noteworthy, but from avowed atheists as well as scientists and philosophers writing in publications like The New Republic and The New York Review of Books, not known as cells in the cast God-fearing conspiracy.
On the back of Dawkins book it reads ‘The God Delusion – timely, impassioned and brilliantly argued‘. It would appear that a growing list of philosophers and scientists who share his skepticism when it comes to religion are not persuaded, they’re just a little embarrassed.
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