BOOKS: by Bill MuehlenbergNews Weekly
DELUDED BY DAWKINS? A Christian Response to The God Delusion, by Andrew Wilson
, October 13, 2007
Demolishing DawkinsDELUDED BY DAWKINS?
A Christian Response to The God Delusion
by Andrew Wilson
(UK: Kingsway Publications)
Paperback: 112 pages
Rec. price: AUD$18.00This is the second book-length response to Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion. Like Alister McGrath's The Dawkins Delusion? (reviewed in News Weekly, September 29, 2007), this one is also penned by an Englishman. Like the other volume, it is relatively brief (112 pages). That is because both authors found Dawkins's book to be quite thin as to its actual arguments against the existence of God.
Wilson finds only three chapters in the Dawkins book which actually deal with this question. He is rightly perplexed as to why there is not a single mention of the most central Christian apologetic: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That, notes Wilson, is the real heart of the Christian case for the existence of God, much more so than the older so-called arguments for the existence of God (cosmological, ontological, etc.).
Thus the most crucial piece of evidence for the Christian theist is not even once discussed by Dawkins. This is the linchpin of the Christian worldview, and "despite seventeen centuries of sceptics from Celsus to Crossan, no plausible alternative explanation has ever been articulated".Flat Earth Society
Perhaps there is a good reason why Dawkins will not touch it. Says Wilson: "A historical minefield awaits those who try to explain the resurrection in rationalist terms." The resurrection "is to materialists what satellite photos are to the Flat Earth Society".
Wilson briefly canvasses the various criticisms made by Dawkins against miracles and the supernatural in general. Because Dawkins is still locked into an antiquated Enlightenment rationalism, he continues to push the furphy that people in Jesus' day may have been gullible enough to believe in miracles, but we know better today.
Never mind that the New Testament itself records plenty of scepticism over the miraculous, and over the grand miracle: the resurrection. Says Wilson: "It seems that the nineteenth-century Europeans were not the first to discover that dead people stayed dead."
The truth is, Dawkins is simply a philosophical naturalist, so he rules out the possibility of miracles a priori, not on the basis of evidence. It is just a faith commitment for him. In a somewhat unguarded moment, Dawkins admits as much, at least about natural selection. He says so in a 2005 interview: "Natural selection - well, I suppose that is a sort of matter of faith on my part since the theory is so coherent, and so powerful."
Exactly. It is all about faith and presuppositions. Thus, as Wilson shows, his whole argument against the existence of God really is just a house of cards. Much of the argumentation in The God Delusion
rests on "an anti-supernatural premise, and it is a premise that is never established. We have plenty of rhetoric, but not much substance".
The rest of the Dawkins book is mainly crude caricatures, straw men, ad hominem
arguments, red herrings and non-sequiturs. Wilson highlights many of these, as have many other critics of the book. And many of these critics have been fellow atheists and neo-Darwinists.
There are some real howlers in Dawkins's anti-theistic rant. Consider his claim that Thomas Jefferson (born in 1743) told his nephew in a letter about the Gospels of Thomas, Peter and so on. The only trouble is, no one even knew these existed until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1945.
Dawkins is so far out of his depth in many sections of this book, that it is a wonder anyone should take him seriously. If this is the best the king of atheism can come up with, then it is time for atheists to take up another hobby: perhaps stamp-collecting.
Even in areas where he should be a bit more sophisticated, Dawkins still continues to make schoolboy mistakes. He spends a good part of chapter four arguing for the improbability of God's existence. One of the three main points he uses to make his case is that the anthropic principle provides an alternative to a creator or designer.
The anthropic principle simply states that the earth is very finely tuned to support life. It seems statistically impossible that life should have arisen on planet earth, yet conditions were just right for it to have happened. So it is simply an explanation of events that we find, not an alternative to creation.Only three possibilities
As Wilson reminds us, there are only three possibilities here concerning the anthropic principle: A) There is an intelligent designer (God); B) this is all just a coincidence; or C) a multiplicity of universes theory is needed.
But B strains all credibility, and C is just a wild hypothesis without solid evidence. Thus A is a very possible explanation. So how can Dawkins says the anthropic principle is an alternative to intelligent design, when intelligent design and the God hypothesis are in fact one of three options available for explaining it?
All in all, as Wilson shows, Dawkins mostly resorts to convoluted logic, sloppy argumentation, and plenty of red herrings and straw men to attempt to make his case. The whole thing comes off rather poorly. But for those with a pre-commitment to atheism, it will seem attractive.
Wilson goes out of his way to be fair to Dawkins. He does not resort to the name-calling, heated polemical style and nasty rhetoric that characterise The God Delusion
. This sensibly and politely argued volume - along with that of McGrath - makes it clear that Emperor Dawkins seems to have little, if any, clothing on.
Wilson concludes by noting that someone even more nasty, aggressive and belligerent than Dawkins - Saul of Tarsus - in the end bowed his knee to the risen Christ. It is hoped that the same outcome awaits Professor Dawkins.