Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Delusion Confusion 7

* Below is part 7 of a response to Richard Dawkins book "The God Delusion"
**I'm dealing with pages 100-136 here

In this chapter, Dawkins is basically attempting to dismantle a number of arguments for God's existence. Below I will list the 'proofs' he deals with, describe his problem (P) with them, and respond (R) with my own feedback:

1. There must be a first cause
P- Even if true, it doesn't tell us anything about the cause
R- Clearly Dawkins avoids the strength of the argument (that it shows there must be a first cause) by simply dismissing it with critical words (dubious, arbitrary) apart from actual argument. He then points out that nothing about this 'cause' can be learned from the argument. While this is an overstatement (certainly the idea that the cause resulted in this particular kind of creation tells us something about the cause), every Christian apologist would agree that the first cause argument doesn't give us much information. It isn't intending to. Agreeing with your opponent is not winning a debate! He quickly switches enemies and attacks and apparent contradiction b/w God's omniscience and omnipotence. Thus, I found his response to this argument very weak.

2. The universe appears designed
P- Darwin shows how things can appear designed without actually being designed
R- Even if Darwinian evolution is true it only shows how complex life (that appears designed) could possibly come from simple life (that, we know now, also appears designed). Dawkins is avoiding the subject of the appearance of design in non-living things (laws of nature). He himself is willing to admit that life may have been placed here by design (aliens).

3. A perfect being must exist
P- A big chunk of the chapter is spent showing the weakness of the ontological argument.
R- I think the ontological argument is worthless too. I wonder why he spent so much time on it. At least the section gives us the chance to hear Dawkins say he doesn't like (and doesn't really get) philosophy.

4. Life is beautiful
P- The existence of beautiful things in culture proves culture, not God
R- The argument from beauty is not really a proof (for the brain), but for the heart. I don't think it is even worth arguing over this point.

5. People have experienced God
P- Dawkins claims that all such experiences are delusions.
R- Certainly some religious experiences are delusions. But since we are dealing with many throughout human history, we certainly should not dismiss them as quickly as Dawkins has done here.

6. Scripture is of divine origin
P- He says that scholarship has shown that the Scriptures are unreliable and written long after Jesus
R- To be honest, Dawkins is so misinformed in this section that this paragraph would get way too long to read comfortably. I will make a list below, but will save further comments until we deal with his later chapter on the Bible's supposed faults.

- He starts with rhetoric by making it sound like there are just a few holdout believers in the divine origin of Scripture. False, the majority of the world probably believes divine texts exist.
- He thinks the historical evidence that Jesus claimed divinity is minimal. False, this could only be stated by someone very ignorant of how Jesus spoke, acted, and related to people and the institutions of his day.
- He thinks that even if Jesus did claim it, he could have been honestly mistaken (and yet implies this wouldn't make him a crazy person). False, if Jesus thought he was God and wasn't, he was crazy.
- The scholarly case against the reliability of Scripture is overwhelming. False, it's reliability has stood the test of time.
- The NT was written long after Jesus. False, it was written within a generation.
- Paul mentions almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus' life. False, Paul writes to people with a previous understanding of who Jesus was/is.
- The Gospel is borrowed from the myth religions. False, this was proven false a hundred years ago.
- The genealogies of Jesus contradict each other. False, I believe one is Mary's and one is Joseph's.
- The 4 Gospels were chosen arbitrarily. False, there was intense criteria. They were recognized early on and only institutionalized later on.
- The authors of the Gospels never met Jesus. False, the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses or associates of eyewitnesses.
- A serious case can be made that Jesus never existed. False, there is plenty of evidence outside of the Bible for the basic features of Jesus' life. Only if we hold this bit of history to a totally different standard due we arrive at such a conclusion. Dawkins even dismisses this (so why mention it?).
- The Christians changed OT passages (like Isaiah's young maiden) to fit their theology (like the virgin birth. False, the Jews translated it virgin long before the 1st century.

7. Some smart people believe
P- Dawkins dismisses most of this by saying that most of the 'Christian' scientists of the past would be atheists if they lived today. He then states that many apparently religious scientists today are only religious in the Einsteinian sense. He then admits that some are genuinely religious and simply says such cases baffle him! He later states the, nevertheless, the best scientists are not religious.
R- The first point is worthless and arbitrary. I'd agree with the second point. The third point is telling. The fourth point is circular.

8. It's a better bet to believe
P- Pascal's Wager could only ever be an argument for feigning belief in God.
R- I generally agree.

9. Theism is highly probable
P- If you put reality into an equation it becomes obvious that God is more likely real than not.
R- I don't think this type of proof has much substance or worth either.

Questions for Discussion:
1. Which of the above arguments do you consider the strongest argument for God's existence?
2. Which of the above arguments do you consider the weakest argument for God's existence?
3. Are there arguments for God's existence that you wish he would have dealt with?

1 comment:

Glo said...

1. Which of the above arguments do you consider the strongest argument for God's existence?
in all honesty I like the ontological argument as laid out by Alvin Plantinga, and the argument from Beauty, particularly as is written out by David Bentley Hart. however when it comes to helping Christians defend themselves against the question of the existence of God I feel that the argument from experience is the best defense. because they can say all they want about the causes of my experience but this thing I Know, I was lost but now I'm found.