The Dawkins Delusion - Chapter 3 - Arguments for God's existence

In this third Chapter of "The God Delusion", Richard attempts to quickly destroy all the arguments that have ever been put forward for God's existence. Considering the amount of debate and scholarship on this question, it is obvious that he cannot do it justice in only one chapter. I will look at each of the major arguments that he makes individually.

Thomas Aquinas

Richard's first order of business is to tackle the proofs that Thomas Aquinas makes for God's existence. This initial arguments shows exactly the path that will be taken. Instead of interacting with the most powerful arguments for God's existence, he takes arguments that were made in the 13th century. This is a pattern that can be found throughout the book. Richard asserts that The Unmoved Mover, The Uncaused Cause, and the Cosmological Argument arguments all involve an infinite regression with God as the terminator. However, the main thrust of all these arguments is to show that material needs a source. We know from all of our studies that material does not come from nothing. Dawkins then makes the argument that even if God does fit the bill, there is no reason to attribute other properties that are ascribed to God, such as, omnipotence, omniscience, etc... He does not explain that statement, but if God can create the world from nothing, I would say that is pretty omnipotent. It seems that he is only stating his belief.

The argument from Degree by Thomas Aquinas does not make obvious sense to me either. Thomas' Teleological argument is a different story. This argument is basically that we observe design in the natural world, therefore we can postulate that there is a Designer. Richard immediately pulls out his universal acid of Evolution. Unfortunately he makes almost no arguments as to why Evolution answers the appearance of design. This must be because he assumes it as a fact. For Richard every question in the world can be answer by Evolution, but this is a rather simplistic view.

St Anslem's Ontological argument

This argument is difficult to understand and Richard does not enter into the debate. Here is a link to a thoughtful discussion on the Ontological Argument. Personally this is not an argument that I find powerful, but that does not mean it is ridiculous like Richard would want you to believe.

Argument from beauty

Richard claims this argument is never really spelled out, and I have to admit I have never read about it. It seems to me though that he is missing the point. It is probable that the argument is, why is there beauty if everything is derived from natural selection? Beauty seems to be an extravagant addition for survival of the fittest. Perhaps this is an argument more against evolution then it is for God.

Argument from personal experience

Dawkins disqualifies any personal experiences of miraculous interventions because he says that the brain is capable of producing illusions. This seems a rather weak argument since he could be experiencing illusions himself. Attacking personal experience is a difficult road to travel since in the end it is not verifiable. The person may have had a genuine experience or may not have had a genuine experience. However, all our beliefs are derived from personal experiences of one kind or another.

Argument from Scripture

There is not much surprise here. Richard's claim is that the Scripture is unreliable. He makes so many sweeping generalizations that it is obvious that he has never read any of the literature on the reliability of the gospels (Here is an article on the reliability of Scripture). Most of the scholarship he has read is out-of-date. One of the examples he uses about the unreliability of the gospels is the lack of knowledge that Jesus was born in Bethlehem instead of Galilee (John 7:41). This argument is not very compelling since it is difficult to prove one way or the other where Jesus was born from these verses. In either case it requires an argument that depends on unverifiable assumptions, which is not a very solid argument.

Argument from admired religious scientists

The basic argument in this section is that scientists before Darwin believed in God because that is what everybody was pressured to do, scientists after Darwin no longer believe in God. Judging from this book it seems like there is a lot of pressure to not believe in God, since most scientist seem laugh at others who do. This does not really prove anything. Scientists are not the only smart people in this world.

Pascal's Wager

Pascal's Wager is once again misunderstood. Peter Kreeft has a great article which discusses in the wager in detail. This argument is not meant to prove that God exists, but just to cause sceptics to think twice about totally discounting belief in God.

Bayesian Arguments

I have to admit that I am not really sure what this argument is all about. It does not seem like a very good one, and so I would have to agree with Richard.

Conclusion

Richard's attempt to discredit arguments for God's existence in this chapter falls well short of the mark. He uses out-of-date scholarship and rarely interacts with the most difficult arguments that demonstrate that faith in God is reasonable. His go to argument is ridicule and only convinces those people who have faith in Evolution. He does not discuss the Kalaam cosmological argument, the fine tuning argument, or the moral argument. Most of his arguments are simply straw men that he has set up and promptly knocks down.

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