Debating Dawkins: Confronting the New Atheists…

Posted by on Nov 23, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

I recently finished teaching a paper on apologetics at Vose Seminary where I serve as principal. I am currently finishing off marking the assignments that resulted, and while I would be the first to admit that marking is my least favourite part of the job, every now and then a student writes an essay that reverses that, and I am reminded again of why I teach. A few days ago I read Vose student Robert Barthurst’s essay Debating Dawkins. The class had been asked to imagine that they had to debate one of the New Atheists – and could select which one. They then had to imagine the arguments that person would put forward and how they would respond. Robert selected Richard Dawkins, who is perhaps the world’s most famous atheist. He especially focused on Dawkins book The God Delusion. I think his assessment is fair and the arguments he uses to counter Dawkins, are strong.

I hope you enjoy reading Robert Bathurst’ s essay as much as I did… Naturally I have posted this with his permission.

Debating Dawkins

Abstract

Richard Dawkins is one of the most prominent of the New Atheists. His most famous book, The God Delusion, as at its 10th anniversary in 2016, has sold over 3 million copies. This essay seeks to debate with Dawkins four of the arguments made against Christianity in The God Delusion. First, the central argument of Dawkins’ book, that God is extremely improbable because God himself would require a designer, is examined. Next, we turn to Dawkins’ claim, which forms part of his “science versus religion” narrative, that while science is evidence-based, religion delights in ignorance. The debate then turns to two of Dawkins’ arguments regarding morality – that a person can be good without believing in God and that the alleged source of Christian morality, the Bible, is in fact immoral. The course of the debate demonstrates Dawkins’ lack of understanding of Christianity, history and philosophy and his preparedness to overreach from the biological sciences, in which he is an expert, into areas in which he clearly is not.

 

Introduction

In the mid-2000s, following the horror of the Islamic terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, the so-called “Four Horsemen of the New Atheism”[1] galloped into the public consciousness with their books proclaiming the end of religion. Of the four, Richard Dawkins emerged as the most prominent[2] and his book, The God Delusion, which outsold the works of the other authors by an order of magnitude,[3] remains an important manifesto for new atheism.[4] Given the cultural significance of Dawkins, this essay seeks to engage in debate with him regarding his arguments against Christian faith.[5]

Dawkins is a prolific author and to fully engage with all his arguments would require a book length answer,[6] so this essay will instead focus on a number of key arguments raised by Dawkins in The God Delusion – two dealing with the supposed conflict between science and Christianity and two dealing with morality and Christianity. We turn first to what Dawkins describes as the “central argument”[7] of The God Delusion – that God almost certainly does not exist because God himself would require a designer.

 

God Would Require a Designer

As an alternative to what he terms the “God Hypothesis”,[8] Dawkins advocates the view that any creative intelligence (such as God) only comes into being as a result of gradual evolution and therefore, arriving late in the universe, cannot be responsible for designing it.[9] Put another way, in Dawkins’ view, postulating God as the designer of the universe “immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.”[10] For Dawkins, the attraction of this argument, which goes back to Hume,[11] is that it appears to counter the argument that the organised complexity found in the world requires a designer.[12] If the organised complexity in the world requires a designer, then the organised complexity of God must also require a designer.[13] Alternatively, if God does not require a designer, then neither does the natural world.[14]

An initial response to this argument is that it is somewhat surprising to find as the “central argument” of The God Delusion a version of the childhood “Mummy, who made God?” question.[15] More fundamentally, however, the argument reveals Dawkins’ limited ability to think metaphysically[16] and a misunderstanding of Christian claims about God.[17]

Dawkins believes in nothing supernatural.[18] Further, for Dawkins, Darwinism is more than just a provisional scientific theory, it is a worldview.[19] He cannot conceive of a god not subject to the natural laws of the universe[20] and, in particular, to Darwinism.[21] Christianity does not claim, however, that God is formed from the material universe and subject to its laws but, rather, that God is spirit[22] and created the universe.[23] Dawkins provides no basis for his metaphysical assumptions[24] but relies on them to rule out the possibility of a creator God. More particularly, Dawkins relies on his metaphysical assumptions to rule out a naturally evolved god that no Christian claims exists.[25]

To this, Dawkins might state that his metaphysical assumption against the existence of the supernatural is justified by a lack of evidence suggesting otherwise.[26] However, it would be fair to respond that Dawkins, because of his naturalistic outlook, is simply not prepared to consider any evidence to the contrary. For example, Dawkins is prepared to simply dismiss en masse any claim to a personal experience of God by any person ever as a trick of the mind, without any attempt at serious investigation.[27] This is not fairly weighing the evidence. Rather it is simply disregarding the evidence.[28] This is ironic given that Dawkins constantly promotes his “scientific” views as being based on evidence, a matter to which we shall now turn.

 

Science Is Evidence-Based While Religion Delights in Ignorance

Dawkins considers that there is a fundamental distinction between science and religion, namely that science relies on evidence[29] while religion considers being satisfied with not understanding something a virtue.[30] Religious people accept things on the basis of faith rather than evidence.[31] Scientists exult in ignorance because it spurs them on to discover new things.[32] However, religious people delight in the (temporary) gaps in scientific knowledge because it allows them to claim that God has done whatever it is that cannot be explained.[33]

In response, it can be agreed that science is evidence-based. However, the certainty of a scientific conclusion will vary depending on the methodology used to reach it. A conclusion reached through repeated observation and experimentation carries more weight than one reach through abduction.[34] Further, if to science’s methodological naturalism[35] and operational reductionism are added Dawkins’ epistemological assumption that the scientific method is the only method to knowledge and metaphysical assumption that there is nothing beyond matter, it becomes impossible for science so defined to fairly consider the evidence for God.[36]

Mainstream Christianity values rationality, rejects a “God of the gaps”, and cannot properly be described as blind faith.[37] Contrary to Dawkins’ idiosyncratic use of the term, the fact that Christianity involves “faith” does not mean that there is no evidence, including scientific evidence,[38] to support the claims of Christianity.[39] For example, the discovery that our universe is fine tuned to allow for the development of intelligent life suggests the existence of a cosmic designer.[40]

To this, Dawkins would likely reply that the fine tuning argument, assuming it is correct, still leaves the existence of God unexplained.[41] The anthropic principle tells us that our existence means the fundamental constants of physics had to be as they are.[42] However, Dawkins admits, this is a somewhat unsatisfactory answer – the better one is that our universe is just one in a multiverse, whose physical constants happen to be suitable for our eventual evolution.[43]

The alleged major flaw to the fine tuning argument, that is that God would need a designer, has already been dealt with above. It can be agreed that the anthropic principle alone is an unsatisfactory answer to the apparent fine tuning of the universe, as while a person in a universe should consider it highly probable that the physical constants in that universe are suitable to life, it does not follow that it is highly probable such a universe should exist at all.[44] Further, for a person who purports to believe in evidence, it is surprising that Dawkins resorts to the multiverse hypothesis – metaphysical speculation,[45] which Dawkins himself admits is hated by most physicists.[46] Ultimately, Dawkins must grasp for any explanation, no matter how unlikely, or how lacking in evidence, to avoid the implication that the fine tuning of the universe implies a designer because his naturalism simply makes that hypothesis untenable, irrespective of the evidence.[47]

Having looked at two of Dawkins’ arguments illustrative of the supposed conflict between science and Christianity, we turn next to look at the two of Dawkins’ arguments regarding morality.

 

A Person Can Be Good without Believing in God

Dawkins does not consider that our sense of morality comes from religion. Rather, he considers that morality has a Darwinian origin.[48] More specifically, Dawkins gives four Darwinian reasons for individuals to behave morally towards each other. First, a gene[49] that causes altruistic behaviour towards genetic kin is likely to benefit copies of itself and hence favour its own survival.[50] Second, reciprocal altruism (“you help me and I will help you”) favours both parties in the mutualistic relationship.[51] Third, there can be a Darwinian benefit in acquiring a reputation for generosity and kindness.[52] Finally, altruistic behaviour may serve to advertise dominance or superiority.[53] While we may no longer live in circumstances that favour all these Darwinian reasons for morality (for example, we may not live with any of our kin), the Darwinian moral “rules of thumb” remain with us.[54] While our morals are, therefore, in the modern context, mistakes from a Darwinian point of view, they should be seen as “blessed, precious mistakes.”[55]

One initial difficulty with Dawkins’ view is that the Darwinian imperative to survive may well favour distinctly selfish behaviour[56] that would generally be considered immoral if done by humans. We might, for example, observe in particular circumstances that it is beneficial for an animal to kill the offspring of nearby animals.[57] If Darwinian motivations can lead to both moral and immoral behaviour, how can morality as a whole be said to derive from such motivations?[58] Further, some moral behaviour, such as anonymously giving to the poor, cannot be explained on any of the Darwinian bases for morality. Even if a Darwinian motivation can explain why people undertake some behaviours considered moral, it does not address the normative question of how people ought to behave[59] or explain why Darwinian misfirings are to be considered “blessed, precious mistakes.”

All this points to a deeper problem with Dawkins’ view – in the absence of God how does he even ground the ideas of good and evil?[60] By Dawkins’ own admission, on his Darwinian view of the world, “there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”[61] That is, Dawkins denies that the categories of evil and good even exist. He leaves himself not only with no basis for a Darwinian morality but with no basis for any morality at all.[62]

Dawkins might reply that Harvard biologist Marc Hauser has shown that when faced with hypothetical moral dilemmas, there is no statistically significant difference between the judgements made by atheists and religious believers, which suggests that morality is independent of religion.[63] This further suggests that a person can be good (or evil) without believing in God.[64]

In response, it can be agreed that a person can be good or evil without believing in God. However, the idea that a common morality is found in all people is entirely consistent with the Christian view of humans being created in the image of God with an innate sense of morality.[65] Christian apologists have argued that a general universal morality supports the existence of God long before Hauser’s study was conducted.[66]

Further, as a matter of practice, without overlooking the failings of Christendom, it can fairly be said that the 20th century, when atheistic secularisation became an explicit world project, demonstrated, if only through the unprecedented body count, that abandoning a belief in God certainly does not lead to more moral behaviour.[67] Much of what we consider moral behaviour, such as caring for the poor, is based squarely in Christian values.[68] History demonstrates that taking away that base can result in noticeably different moral behaviour.

Finally, we turn to the last of Dawkins’ claims to be examined – that the alleged prime source of Christian values, the Bible, is in fact not a source of morality at all.

The Bible is Not the Source of Our Morality and is in Fact Immoral

Dawkins argues that people, including religious people, do not get their morals from the Bible and, further, it is right that they do not do so because the Bible is, at least in parts, immoral.[69]

One way the Bible is meant to be a source of morals is by providing role models.[70] However, according to Dawkins, many of these role models are in fact morally repugnant. For example, in Judges 11, Jephthah bargains with God that if God gives him victory over the Ammonites, Jephthah will sacrifice to God as a burnt offering whatever first comes out of his house to meet him when he returns home. When Jephthah returned home victorious, his only daughter came out to greet him and God was pleased that she was killed as a burnt offering to him.[71]

The response to this example, and other similar examples, is that they record historical events but are not meant to serve as an example of how to behave.[72] Jephthah’s vow to God was an attempt to bribe God, in the same way that pagans sought to manipulate their gods, and therefore wrong.[73] Jephthah then compounds this wrong by performing child sacrifice, which God detests.[74] There are lessons to be learned from Jephthah but that God considers killing children moral is not one of them.

Dawkins may well reply that even if the idea of biblical characters acting as role models can be partially avoided, it is not possible to avoid the fact that God directly commands actions which are immoral.[75] Indeed, even some commands that appear moral, such as “Love thy neighbour” are, upon close inspection, immoral. Hartung has shown that “thy neighbour” in this context means “fellow Jew”.[76] In short, the Bible teaches in-group morality and out-group hostility.[77]

In reply, it might be said that this example, frankly, demonstrates Dawkins’ lack of biblical knowledge and the dangers of relying on non-experts, such as Hartung,[78] for exegetical analysis. Dawkins’ interpretation is clearly shown to be wrong both by an even fairly superficial understanding of the parable of the good Samaritan, where the outsider Samaritan shows himself to be the true neighbour,[79] and by a reading of Leviticus 19, where the command to love your neighbour originates.[80]

More generally, it is entirely clear that modernity’s morals represent the echoes, ringing down the ages, of Christian morality.[81] To the extent that we believe in such matters as human rights, social justice and equality before the law, it is because of our Christian heritage.[82] A crucial part of that heritage is the Bible which, when read fairly, is certainly a source of morality.

 

Conclusion

There can be no doubt that Dawkins is an eminent scientist.[83] He is, however, with respect, a poor atheistic apologist. His “central argument” in The God Delusion does nothing but demonstrate that a god of his own imagination, that is, a god which evolved within the universe, who bears no resemblance to the Christian God, is improbable. More generally, his entire science versus religion narrative, of which his argument that science is evidence-based while religion delights in ignorance is an example, proves itself to be very weak. When confronted with scientific evidence supporting Christianity’s claims, such as the apparent fine tuning of the universe, Dawkins is forced to retreat to “explanatorily unhelpful hand-waving”[84] and metaphysical speculation. Nor are his attempts to find a Darwinian, rather than Christian, basis for morality more convincing. In Dawkins’ Darwinian world, where the concepts of good and evil do not even exist, there is simply no basis for morality at all. Finally, Dawkins’ attacks on the Bible as a source of morality often demonstrate more his limitations as an exegete than any alleged immorality within Scripture’s teachings. In the end, Dawkins’ metaphysical commitment to naturalism, and his epistemological assumption that the scientific method is the only path to knowledge, seemingly blind him to the weaknesses in his own arguments while rendering him impervious to the force of the counterarguments. Dawkins’ arguments should be carefully considered but there is no reason for the Christian to fear that God is a delusion.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Amesbury, Richard. “Atheism and the Invention of Religion: Notes on History and Anachronism.” Bulletin for the Study of Religion 43, no. 4 (2014): 40-45.

 

Baker, Deane-Peter. “Dawkins’ Moral Argument in the God Delusion: A Critical Assessment.” Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 135 (2009): 75-84.

 

Bissen, Diane. “Is Evolution Truly Random? Chance as an Ideological Weapon in the ‘Evolution-Creation’ Debate.” Science & Christian Belief 26, no. 2 (10// 2014): 120-42.

 

Blanchard, J. Does God Believe in Atheists? Glasgow: EP Books, 2014.

 

Craig, W.L. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. 3rd ed. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.

 

Dawkins, R. River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life. London: Orion, 2014.

 

Dawkins, R. The God Delusion: 10th Anniversary Edition. London: Transworld Publishers Limited, 2016.

 

Dawkins, R. The Selfish Gene: 40th Anniversary Edition. Oxford: OUP Oxford, 2016.

 

Gers, Matt. “Memes Vs. God: Dennett and Dawkins Take on Religion.” Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture 2, no. 4 (2008): 508-20.

 

Hart, D.B. Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. Michigan: Yale University Press, 2009.

 

Howell, John B., III. “Should We Fear That We Are Deluded?: Comments on Dawkins’ the God Delusion.” Southwestern Journal of Theology 54, no. 1 (2011): 29-44.

 

Hume, D. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion: Andrews UK Limited, 2012.

 

Hume, D. A Treatise of Human Nature: Sheba Blake Publishing, 2014.

 

Imbert, Yannick. “The End of Reason: New Atheists and the Bible.” European Journal of Theology 22 (2013): 50-64.

 

Klostermaier, Klaus K. “Reflections Prompted by Richard Dawkins’s the God Delusion.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 43, no. 4 (2008): 607-15.

 

Laing, John D. “The New Atheists: Lessons for Evangelicals.” Southwestern Journal of Theology 54, no. 1 (2011): 13-28.

 

Lennox, J.C. God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? Oxford: Lion Hudson 2009.

 

Lennox, J.C. Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists Are Missing the Target. Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2011.

 

Lewis, C.S. The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.

 

Linville, M.D. The Moral Poverty of Evolutionary Naturalism. Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists & Other Objectors. Edited by P. Copan and W.L. Craig. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2009.

 

McGrath, A.E. Dawkins’ God: From the Selfish Gene to the God Delusion. Chichester: Wiley, 2014.

 

McGrath, Alister. “Has Science Eliminated God? — Richard Dawkins and the Meaning of Life.” Science & Christian Belief 17, no. 2 (10// 2005): 115-35.

 

Richmond, Patrick. “Richard Dawkins’ Darwinian Objection to Unexplained Complexity in God.” Science & Christian Belief 19 (2007): 99-116.

 

Webb, B.G. The Book of Judges. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012.

 

Williams, Peter S. C.S. Lewis Vs the New Atheists. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2013.

 

 

[1] That is, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens.

[2] Howell, for example, describes Dawkins as “the spokesperson of the new atheism”: John B. Howell, III, “Should We Fear That We Are Deluded?: Comments on Dawkins’ the God Delusion,” Southwestern Journal of Theology 54, no. 1 (2011): 29.

[3] R. Dawkins, The God Delusion: 10th Anniversary Edition (London: Transworld Publishers Limited, 2016), 421.

[4] A.E. McGrath, Dawkins’ God: From the Selfish Gene to the God Delusion (Chichester: Wiley, 2014), 145.

[5] Dawkins is not just against Christianity but monotheistic “religion” generally. However, Christianity is the religion he is most familiar with and against which much of his criticism is made: Dawkins, The God Delusion: 10th Anniversary Edition, 58.

[6] Such answers have been attempted – see, for example: McGrath, Dawkins’ God: From the Selfish Gene to the God Delusion.

[7] Dawkins, The God Delusion: 10th Anniversary Edition, 187.

[8] That is, “there exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us”: ibid., 52.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., 188.

[11] D. Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (Andrews UK Limited, 2012), 46-47.

[12] Patrick Richmond, “Richard Dawkins’ Darwinian Objection to Unexplained Complexity in God,” Science & Christian Belief 19 (2007): 100-01.

[13] Further, logically, the designer of the designer must also require a designer and so on, in an infinite regression: ibid., 100.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Matt Gers, “Memes Vs. God: Dennett and Dawkins Take on Religion,” Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture 2, no. 4 (2008): 510.

[16] Howell, “Should We Fear That We Are Deluded?: Comments on Dawkins’ the God Delusion,” 31.

[17] McGrath, Dawkins’ God: From the Selfish Gene to the God Delusion, 159.

[18] Dawkins, The God Delusion: 10th Anniversary Edition, 57.

[19] McGrath, Dawkins’ God: From the Selfish Gene to the God Delusion, 31, 87. The use of the term “Darwinism” is somewhat problematic in that modern evolutionary biology has moved well beyond that which was first postulated by Darwin: ibid., 27-28. I nonetheless use the term “Darwinism” as including “modern evolutionary biology” in this essay because it is the term favoured by Dawkins.

[20] Howell, “Should We Fear That We Are Deluded?: Comments on Dawkins’ the God Delusion,” 31.

[21] Interestingly, Darwin himself did not consider that his evolutionary theory necessarily entailed atheism. Rather, he considered that his theory could be accepted by, among others, those who believed in a creator God: McGrath, Dawkins’ God: From the Selfish Gene to the God Delusion, 115.

[22] John 4:24. Richmond, in an attempt to explain why God displays non-evolved organised complexity concludes that God “is simply specified and lacks the sort of real composition and limitations found in creatures, even if there is some sort of infinite variety in his awareness of options. This awareness is not composed of parts, organised or narrowly specific, but unlimited and comprehensive, so no design or selection seems necessary to explain it”: Richmond, “Richard Dawkins’ Darwinian Objection to Unexplained Complexity in God,” 116. This is certainly plausible but, nonetheless, speculative and it is really unknowable whether Richmond has correctly taken us much beyond the initial point that God, whatever God is comprised of, is not formed from the material universe nor necessarily subject to the laws of the material universe.

[23] Genesis 1:1.

[24] Howell, “Should We Fear That We Are Deluded?: Comments on Dawkins’ the God Delusion,” 32.

[25] Ibid., 40.

[26] Ibid., 32.

[27] Dawkins, The God Delusion: 10th Anniversary Edition, 112-17.

[28] Similarly, Jesus’ resurrection is dismissed as “absurd” (ibid., 187.) but there is absolutely no attempt made to weigh the evidence for it. Further, as Howell points out, there are epistemological positions, entirely ignored by Dawkins, which allow for knowledge simpliciter to exist without evidence: Howell, “Should We Fear That We Are Deluded?: Comments on Dawkins’ the God Delusion,” 32-33.

[29] Dawkins, The God Delusion: 10th Anniversary Edition, 319.

[30] Ibid., 152.

[31] Ibid., 134. Dawkins claims that religious faith is “blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence.”: R. Dawkins, The Selfish Gene: 40th Anniversary Edition (Oxford: OUP Oxford, 2016), 257. Dawkins goes so far as to suggest that faith qualifies “as a kind of mental illness.”: ibid., 433.

[32] Dawkins, The God Delusion: 10th Anniversary Edition, 151-52.

[33] Ibid., 151.

[34] Or “inference to the best explanation”: J.C. Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? (Oxford: Lion Hudson 2009), 32.

[35] That is, science does not try to observe what may lie beyond matter.

[36] Diane Bissen, “Is Evolution Truly Random? Chance as an Ideological Weapon in the ‘Evolution-Creation’ Debate,” Science & Christian Belief 26, no. 2 (10// 2014): 135-36. Klaus K. Klostermaier, “Reflections Prompted by Richard Dawkins’s the God Delusion,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 43, no. 4 (2008): 610-12.

[37] McGrath, Dawkins’ God: From the Selfish Gene to the God Delusion, 73, 157.

[38] This is not to suggest, of course, that science alone can prove the existence of God or, more generally, the truth of Christianity: ibid., 157.

[39] To say nothing of the historical evidence for Christianity and the subjective evidence of the experience of God by Christians.

[40] W.L. Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 157-72.

[41] Dawkins, The God Delusion: 10th Anniversary Edition, 171-72.

[42] Ibid., 172.

[43] Ibid., 173-74.

[44] Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 165. One commentator (accurately in the author’s view) describes the anthropic principle as “explanatorily unhelpful hand-waving”: Howell, “Should We Fear That We Are Deluded?: Comments on Dawkins’ the God Delusion,” 41.

[45] J.C. Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists Are Missing the Target (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2011), 36.

[46] But not by Dawkins because his “consciousness has been raised by Darwin”(!): Dawkins, The God Delusion: 10th Anniversary Edition, 173. Indeed, when it suits him, Dawkins is quite prepared to rely on some rather unscientific notions. For example, Dawkins, having no other explanation, attributes the beginning of life to “luck”: ibid., 168.

[47] Craig describes the very existence of the multiverse hypothesis as a “backhanded compliment to the design hypothesis.”: Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 166. It should be pointed out that while Dawkins puts forward the idea a multiverse as an alternative to the design hypothesis, the options are not mutually exclusive and it does not logically follow that if in fact there is a multiverse, there is no God: Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?, 75.

[48] Dawkins, The God Delusion: 10th Anniversary Edition, 245-54.

[49] Unlike Darwin, Dawkins’ view of evolution focuses on the survival of the gene: see generally Dawkins, The Selfish Gene: 40th Anniversary Edition. Although Dawkins’ view is still seen as a helpful way of viewing the evolutionary process, it is today generally considered only one facet of evolutionary theory, rather than the defining model of evolution: McGrath, Dawkins’ God: From the Selfish Gene to the God Delusion, 56.

[50] An example would be behaving altruistically towards one’s children: Dawkins, The God Delusion: 10th Anniversary Edition, 247.

[51] Ibid., 247-48.

[52] Ibid., 249-50.

[53] Ibid., 250-51.

[54] Ibid., 253.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid., 247.

[57] Dawkins, The Selfish Gene: 40th Anniversary Edition, 6.

[58] In his first book, The Selfish Gene, Dawkins accepts this point of view, stating: “Much as we might wish to believe otherwise, universal love and the welfare of the species as a whole are concepts that simply do not make evolutionary sense.”: ibid., 3.Further, Dawkins expressly rejects this idea that he is advocating a morality based on Darwinism: ibid. He (correctly in the author’s view) refers to the the “is to ought” problem identified by Hume (D. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (Sheba Blake Publishing, 2014), book III, part I section I.), that is, to try to deduce a moral system from nature is to commit a category mistake – to determine what should be from what is: Dawkins, The Selfish Gene: 40th Anniversary Edition, 3. Dawkins concludes that “if you wish… to build a society in which individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature.”: ibid., 3-4. However, The God Delusion contains the quite different argument set out above. One is left to wonder if the change of argument is because it was necessary to avoid having “to cede to religion the right to tell us what is good and what is bad”: Dawkins, The God Delusion: 10th Anniversary Edition, 80. It is notable though that even in The God Delusion, Dawkins accepts that “it is pretty hard to defend absolutist morals on grounds other than religious ones.”: ibid., 266.

[59] M.D. Linville, The Moral Poverty of Evolutionary Naturalism, Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists & Other Objectors (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2009), 59. On Dawkins’ view, a “good” moral belief is simply a belief that contributes to gene proliferation: Deane-Peter Baker, “Dawkins’ Moral Argument in the God Delusion: A Critical Assessment,” Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 135 (2009): 82.

[60] Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists Are Missing the Target, 99.

[61] R. Dawkins, River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (London: Orion, 2014).

[62] Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists Are Missing the Target, 112.

[63] Dawkins, The God Delusion: 10th Anniversary Edition, 254-58.

[64] Ibid., 258.

[65] Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists Are Missing the Target, 98-99. J. Blanchard, Does God Believe in Atheists? (Glasgow: EP Books, 2014), 709. Romans 2:15.

[66] Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists Are Missing the Target, 99. See, for example, the argument of C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity: C.S. Lewis, The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 15-36.

[67] D.B. Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (Michigan: Yale University Press, 2009), 222-23.

[68] Ibid., 219. Dawkins in The God Delusion does not make any attempt to examine the undeniable social benefits of Christianity, rather he concentrates on the potential negative effects of religion on the individual: McGrath, Dawkins’ God: From the Selfish Gene to the God Delusion, 147.

[69] Dawkins, The God Delusion: 10th Anniversary Edition, 283.

[70] Ibid., 268.

[71] Ibid., 275-76.

[72] Blanchard, Does God Believe in Atheists?, 705. Dawkins is not alone here – it is a common tactic of the new atheists to take biblical accounts of human sin to be positive accounts of actions approved, or recommended, by God: Yannick Imbert, “The End of Reason: New Atheists and the Bible,” European Journal of Theology 22 (2013): 52.

[73] B.G. Webb, The Book of Judges (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012), 335-36.

[74] Jeremiah 32:35. Ibid., 336.

[75] Dawkins, The God Delusion: 10th Anniversary Edition, 268.

[76] Ibid., 288.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Hartung is an anaesthetist and part-time social anthropologist: Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists Are Missing the Target.

[79] Luke 10:36-37.

[80] See particularly Leviticus 19:34, where the Israelites are instructed to love the foreigners living among them. It appears that Dawkins and Hartung never read past Leviticus 19:18 (“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself.”) on which their incorrect exegesis is based: Lennox, Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists Are Missing the Target, 119.

[81] Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, 32.

[82] Ibid., 32-33.

[83] McGrath, Dawkins’ God: From the Selfish Gene to the God Delusion, 37.

[84] See footnote 44, above.

2 Comments

  1. Wow, Robert! You nailed it! good work, my friend.

  2. Very very good essay, well done. I will have to read it again after thinking through some of your points. I have watched many you tube videos of Dawkins debating Christians and have usually been disappointed by the Christians inability to counter his arguments. This inability, I have observed, usually comes from the fact that the Christian really does not have a sound grasp or knowledge of their own faith. If more Christians informed themselves as you have done Robert they would be well armed indeed.

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