Saturday, February 2, 2013

Lessons in Bad Philosophy: Dawkins Edition (part 2)

As I promised in my last post, today I will be offering some responses to the the first three premises of Richard Dawkins' syllogism which he has said encapsulates his primary argument against God from his book, The God Delusion. We'll just tackle the first three in this post.

The very first thing, which needs to be addressed right away is that, as William Lane Craig points out in his book On Guard, even if every one of his premises is sound his conclusion simply does not follow. This is just a textbook example of a biologist playing a philosopher (and not the only example!). Dawkins is clearly not qualified to form a coherent, logical argument against God, and he proves that with this abysmally unsound syllogism.

That said, let's give him the benefit of the doubt and still look at each of his premises to see if maybe he had a good idea but just didn't know how to form it into a logical argument.


1) One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.
In other words, "because we know there is no designer we just can't figure out why everything we see exhibits so many signs of having been designed."

Because Dawkins has an a priori commitment to naturalism - he has ruled out a designer before ever looking at the evidence - he simply cannot understand why the universe and everything in it boast so many features which seem to evidence design.
2) The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself.
Again, to paraphrase for those who aren't fluent in atheist-speak: "Because everything looks so designed, the temptation to believe that what looks like design is actually design is unavoidable." Or, "Just because it looks like and swims like and quacks like and has the same DNA as a duck, isn't proof enough that it's a duck."

Dawkins' prior assumption that there is no creator comes out more with each of his premises, betraying the fact that he has an agenda which is far more important to him than actually following evidence where it leads. 
3) The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.
Out of all of his premises, which are all pretty ridiculous, this one will probably be the most misunderstood, and therefore may be prematurely accepted. It may seem like a good argument at first to dismiss the designer argument because it seemingly only pushes the question one step back. After all, when atheist thinkers like Francis Crick suggest that we were seeded here on earth by aliens, we rightly ask the inevitable question, "well where did those aliens come from?"

Isn't this the same thing? It actually isn't. See, in our argument against the alien-seeding theory we are justified in asking that question because, well, aliens aren't eternal, uncreated beings. Crick, Dawkins, and other atheists who resort to this alien-of-the-gaps theory will submit that those aliens had to have evolved somewhere, somehow. This really does push the question back.

Conversely, Dawkins' argument here falls flat because God is described in the holy Bible as an eternal, uncreated, infinitely powerful and intelligent, immaterial Spirit. He needs no explanation because He is a necessary Being - meaning that exists by a necessity of His own nature.

And there's another, more practical and philosophically oriented argument against premise number 3: You don't need to be able to explain the explanation if its is truly the best and most likely explanation. Think about it, when we look at Stonehenge we don't need an explanation of its designers, or to even know if they were human, alien, superhuman, or divine. The best explanation for Stonehenge is that intelligent being(s) designed it. In the same way, we don't need an explanation for a designer of the universe and of life in order to recognize that one must exist. A designer is the best and most likely explanation. Period.


In the following entry we'll look at premises 4-6, and save the conclusion for its own post. See you next time!
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