The Dawkins Delusion - Chapter 4 - Why there almost certainly is no God

In this chapter there are 3 major arguments the Dawkins addresses: (1) The argument from improbability, (2) irreducible complexity, and (3)the anthropic principle.

The Argument from Improbability

Dawkins states this argument as follows: "The argument from improbability states that complex things could not have come about by chance (pg. 114)." He debunks this argument by saying, "Natural selection not only explains the whole of life; it also raises our consciousness to the power of science to explain how organized complexity can emerge from simple beginnings without any deliberate guidance (pg. 116)."

It is a major overstatement to say that natural selection explains the whole of life. Natural selection is a mechanism that only works when there is already pre-existing material. Although there may be some evidence of natural selection in terms of "micro-evolution," but there is nothing believable in terms of "macro-evolution." Richard's explanations only work when the "blocks" have already been made. It is similar to the difference between classical and quantum physics. Natural selection only seems to work when you look at already existing animals, but when you get down into what has to happen at the microscopic level it no longer makes sense. Since Richard does not explain natural selection until the next section, I will save my comments until then.

Irreducible Complexity

It is amazing to me that the main example Dawkins selects to refute irreducible complexity is from the "Watchtower Bible and Tract Society." If these are the "scientific" sources that Richard uses to get his information, no wonder he is an atheist. However, at least he understands the implications of this argument, "if genuinely irreducible complexity could be properly demonstrated, it would wreck Darwin's theory (pg. 125)." In this section natural selection is explained. "Natural selection is a cumulative process, which breaks the problem of improbability up into small pieces. Each of the small pieces is slightly improbable, but not prohibitively so (pg. 121)." Much has been written on this subject and Doug Wilson provides some great insight as to why natural selection does not work in some of the current estimated time frames. Even though Richard insists that natural selection is not chance it is obvious that it is a product of chance, albeit may not seem like a big deal to him.

Richard points out that even if natural selection does not provide a full explanation, that does not mean that God exists. Similarly, it also must be pointed out that even if natural selection provides a full explanation, that does not mean that God does not exist. Natural selection does not account for the origin of the universe or the beginning of life. There may be plausible explanations for certain examples of irreducible complexity but the ultimate irreducible complexity is the design of DNA. Not only are the mechanism involved in DNA replication irreducibly complex, but it is clear that DNA is information at its core. DNA is made up of 4 bases (Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine, and Thymine), and there are no affinities between them. This means that natural selection cannot function on them. The presence of information in the foundation of life (the cell) points clearly to a designer.

Anthropic Principle

The anthropic principle is the consideration that "observations of the physical Universe must be compatible with the conscious life that observes it." Richard uses this principle to explain the origin of life. In his own words, "we can deal with the unique origin of life by postulating a very large number of planetary opportunities (pg. 140)." In other words, although it may seem implausible to us, it is really just a matter of probabilities. We only happen to be on a planet where we can observe our own implausibility. Dawkins briefly discusses the fine tuning argument but once again falls back on his de facto, God is complex argument (See here for a explanation of the simplicity of God). There is good evidence that the world began with a "big bang", in other words, had a beginning. The reason why multi-verse scenarios are often criticized with Occam's razor is that the only reason to not want a beginning is because we don't know how to explain it. Scientist may be afraid that if they admit there is a beginning that the Bible might be right (In the beginning) and that God does exist.

Conclusion

Richard Dawkins rarely uses evidence to explain why he is right. It is difficult to write a response to many of his points because he makes so few of them. Although Richard has had his consciousness raised it seems there may some raising left to do. In his story about the Penn and Teller routine he could not understand, he makes a telling comment. "But the still small voice of scientific education speaks a different message. Penn and Teller are world-class illusionists. There is a perfectly good explanation (pg. 129)." Richard rightly understands that intelligence was behind the act. He does not attribute the illusion to the bullets themselves, but to the agents who designed the routine. If only he could be consistent in his reasoning.

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