Dawkins Examined Again:
Rebutting Objections to "The Anti-Dawkins Papers"


This page discusses some objections to "The Anti-Dawkins Papers," a set of blog posts in which I critiqued Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion. In the months since I wrote these posts, people have come up with some objections and rebuttals to my critique. This page contains my responses to those counterarguments.

Important Note: Some fans of Dawkins have been spreading false information about my work and academic background. I have countered these falsehoods on a separate page.

The objections I've heard so far fall into two categories. The first category consists of loudmouthed rantings with no real substance. The second category consists of objections that are intelligent and fairly well thought out. The objections in the second category belong to the realm of rational debate and deserve to be discussed and answered.  I've covered both sets of objections on this page (but minus some of the gutter language used in the first set).

So far I haven't found any of the objections convincing. I have been able to rebut all of them. I haven't found any reason to take back anything I wrote in "The Anti-Dawkins Papers."

Not all of my writings about Dawkins' ideas are in "The Anti-Dawkins Papers." You can find more in the atheism category, which contains a lot more material than "The Anti-Dawkins Papers." (The Papers are in the god_delusion subcategory.) If you want to find out what I think of religion in general, you can explore the religion category or visit my other blog which is specifically about religion.

This page always is a work in progress. I plan to keep replying to objections as long as I keep hearing of new ones. 


A few words about my philosophical position

Before I start listing objections, I'd like to say a few words about what I actually believe. Some of the critics of "The Anti-Dawkins Papers" have made blatantly false statements about my views. To set the record straight, I'll mention a few of my opinions right now.
  • I am not against science or reason. I do not support any form of religious belief that contradicts our rational knowledge of reality.
  • I do not accept supernatural explanations for natural phenomena. My personal ideas about religion and spirituality do not require anything supernatural.  (See this post and this post.) 
  • I am not an advocate of so-called Intelligent Design Theory. I believe firmly in the standard scientific version of evolution. Anyone who accuses me of being an ID-er is either confused or dishonest. (See this post.)
  • I am not a "theist" in the usual sense of that word. (See this post.) In my view, the universe has a pervasive spiritual aspect that we justifiably can call "God." This opinion has led some people to label me a theist. Still, my view of God is not the same as the supernatural God concept of theism. Perhaps this is why some atheists have called me an atheist and meant it as a compliment. (Although I do not meet the definition of a theist, I do not consider myself an atheist; see this post.)
  • I defend religion because religion contains a core of true ideas that are worth preserving. This does not mean that I defend all the beliefs of any existing religion. Religious sects typically harbor a lot of unjustifiable beliefs. However, the world's great religions also contain important truths that the human race cannot afford to lose. (To find out what these ideas are, see my second blog.) The right way to deal with the flaws of religion is to reform religion - not to abandon it.  (See the links I cited above, but especially this post.)
  • I criticized Dawkins' book because it is poorly reasoned and contributes to intolerance - not because I have a sectarian ax to grind.
  • I don't have a problem with atheists in general. I hold some atheistic thinkers in high regard, just as I hold some theistic thinkers in high regard. I do have a problem with atheists who claim atheism is scientifically provable, or who think atheism is the only rational position on the question of God. The truth is that some theists are careful thinkers with well-thought-out arguments - and so are some atheists. Neither side has a monopoly on reason.
I've already stated most of these opinions elsewhere on this website, especially on my blogs (here and here) and in a short e-book called God: the Next Version (here).

Now on to the objections...


The most important objections: [1]


OBJECTION: Dawkins' book was not meant to address intellectually sophisticated forms of religion. It was aimed at the kind of religion that most believers practice. Therefore, your attack on Dawkins' book is irrelevant (or useless to the science-religion debate, or naive, or whatever). [2]

VARIANT OF THIS OBJECTION: You are arguing for beliefs, and especially views of God, that Dawkins never criticized at all. [2]

RESPONSES: I have two responses to this objection.

(1) Apparently you missed part of my critique. I did discuss the traditional ideas of God and religion - the very same ideas that Dawkins mainly attacks. (Remember posts 2 and 9 in my critique?) True, I also discussed some sophisticated philosophical ideas on these topics. However, that does not change the fact that I also addressed the traditional idea of God and some other aspects of traditional religion. Dawkins' book focuses mostly on the traditional belief in a God who is a supernatural creator. I dissected this idea of God in my paper on Dawkins' complexity argument. There I showed that Dawkins didn't succeed in debunking the traditional supernatural concept of God. (I 'm not saying you should believe that traditional idea; I'm just claiming that Dawkins did not argue successfully against it.) This paper was linked from post 2 in my critique. In post 9 I showed that another key supernatural belief - the belief in occasional miracles - is immune to Dawkins' line of argument. Miracles and a supernatural creator are among the most important beliefs of traditional religion. Anyone who thinks I skipped over that kind of religion should re-read posts 2 and 9. In some of the posts I also discussed concepts of God compatible with naturalism. That doesn't change the fact that I addressed the supernatural concept of God and disposed of Dawkins' argument against it. 

(2) If you read Dawkins' book carefully, you will find that he is not only attacking unsophisticated religion. He focuses mostly on examples of unsophisticated religion (mostly evil and sick examples), but he makes it plenty clear that he is attacking all religion. Just look at the Preface to his book, where he exalts "a world with no religion." (This is on page 1 in the edition I cited in my critique.) Or how about Chapter 8, in a section titled "How 'Moderation' in Faith Fosters Fanaticism"? There Dawkins writes "even mild and moderate religion helps to provide the climate of faith in which extremism naturally flourishes" and "we should blame religion itself, not religious extremism" (italics in original; pages 303 and 306 in the edition I cited). How definite can one guy get? However, you don't need to notice those exact passages to figure out that Dawkins is attacking religion in general. After all, the book is framed as an argument against God and for atheism - not as an argument that religion should be reformed. You can't miss that fact if you read the book with your eyes open. 

What might be confusing you is Dawkins' tendency to push aside liberal and sophisticated forms of religion. I've already given examples of these tactics in my critique, so I won't list them all here. Dawkins' own definition of God shows that his line of argument doesn't hit the general idea of a supreme being at all. At most, it prunes off one relatively crude form of that idea - and as I pointed out elsewhere, it doesn't even succeed in rebutting that form.  



OBJECTION: Your definition of God is so far from the usual religious idea of God that you shouldn't use the name "God" for what it defines. [3]

RESPONSES:

(1) This objection is beside the point. Part of my critique does deal with the traditional, supernatural concept of God - not just with my own ideas about God or other "sophisticated" ideas. (Read the previous objection.) Even if you ignore my concept of God and other liberal religious concepts, you still can't escape most of the arguments in my critique - especially the crucial blow against Dawkins' complexity argument, which was his main argument against the God of theism. Dawkins doesn't succeed in debunking either liberal or traditional concepts of God. (Read the previous objection on this page.)

(2) As for my own concept of God, it isn't as far from mainstream religious thought as it seems. My concept is naturalistic, and is not theistic in the philosophers' sense of "theistic" - but still it captures the most important features of mainstream religious ideas of God. (You can read more about this view on my second blog and in my e-book, as well as on my main blog, especially in this post. See Endnote A for a brief explanation.) 




OBJECTION: Your definitions of God and other religious concepts are intricate and contrived. [2]

RESPONSE: This objection is largely beside the point, because I didn't just address my own definitions in the critique. I addressed Dawkins' simpler definition of God also, along with the simple supernatural definition of miracles. (See the preceding two objections.) Even if my own definitions of these concepts were overly subtle, my refutations of Dawkins wouldn't go away. As for my own definitions of religious concepts, they aren't as contrived as you think. Often they come closer to the traditional theistic definitions than they at first seem to do. (Again, see the preceding objections.) If my definitions are faulty, then so are the definitions offered by some "mainstream" religious thinkers, Christian and otherwise. Dawkins seems comfortable ignoring or slighting these thinkers, but he shouldn't be. The most important point is that I also disposed of Dawkins' main argument against a God defined in a simple way. This makes the objection rather weak. 



OBJECTION: Your notion of "miracle" isn't the standard theistic notion of miracle. [2]

RESPONSE: In my post on this topic I was speaking of the traditional notion of miracle, with violation of natural laws. Dawkins' main argument against these miracles does not work. In other places I have written of other kinds of miracles, but that doesn't change what's in the anti-Dawkins post. Dawkins' argument against supernatural miracles still does not work. (This result doesn't imply that such miracles exist or that you should believe in them. It just means Dawkins' argument against them fails.)

As for the other, more naturalistic idea of miracle, it isn't as nonstandard as it seems. Religious believers sometimes speak as if they held this idea. I've seen believers label major, unexpected good events as "miracles" even though they knew the natural causes of the event. They knew the event had a natural explanation, but they felt that somehow God had a hand in it. Does a "miracle" really need to have supernatural causes, or is it enough that it reflects the goodness of God? The answer is not obvious. This is more than just a semantical question. It's a question of determining what religious believers really believe.  

When you listen carefully to what believers say about miracles, you find that many believers hold two different ideas of miracle, which seem to get mixed together in their thinking without their realizing it. On the one hand, they think of miracles as exceptions to natural law, or at least as violations of the normal order of nature. On the other hand, they think of miracles as expressions of God's goodness or of God's will. These are distinct ideas; a single event might be a miracle of both of these sorts, or of one or the other sort alone. (If a believer's child mysteriously and suddenly recovers from a serious illness, why should the believer care if the healing really had natural causes? They still see the hand of God in it.)

The second idea of miracles, without the supernatural part, might be unacceptable to many believers because it denies the other, less important idea of miracles (law-violating miracles), in which many people also believe. However, it's a bit of a stretch to claim that the second idea of miracle simply is not the usual idea. At worst, it's a trimmed-down version of the mixed idea that believers typically hold. 


OBJECTION: The transcendent experiences you talk about can't lead to real knowledge. [2]

RESPONSE: I've already addressed this objection in other places besides my critique (see here and here, for example). I've already explained what kind of knowledge these experiences can yield, and why this knowledge is at least partly reliable. The knowledge that these experiences yield is not knowledge of previously unknown things, like alleged supernatural beings. Instead, we can best understand it as knowledge of abstract features of the real world. That makes all the difference for the reliability of the knowledge. This kind of knowledge is not merely of interest to philosophers. It is of interest to anyone concerned about topics normally labeled "spiritual." (Of course, all this has nothing to do with the bogus "religious" experiences that Dawkins carps on, such as the infamous Manx Shearwater incident.)

Incidentally, the transcendent knowledge I wrote about isn't exclusively religious. It isn't limited to so-called religious or mystical experiences. Poetry and art can yield knowledge of the same kind. (Start reading here.) 



Some slightly less important, but still interesting, objections: [1]


OBJECTION: Your distinction between good and bad religion is a "No True Scotsman" argument. [2]

RESPONSE: To make a No True Scotsman argument, I would have had to claim that "bad" religion is not actually an instance of "religion" according to the standard definition of "religion." I did not make that claim.  If I had that claim in mind, why would I have written of "ignorant and cruel forms of religion" or of "religious beliefs in general" (obviously meant to include both good and bad religion)? 

Maybe you misunderstood my comparison of bad religion with astrology. I was not making the point that bad religion is not religion (just as astrology is not astronomy). My point was that good religion can't be blamed for the errors of bad religion (just as astronomy can't be blamed for the errors of astrology).

Of course, one might want to argue that bad religion is "not true religion" in a looser sense - meaning that bad religion violates the spirit and intent of the better forms of religion. That is true - but that is not a No True Scotsman argument. 



OBJECTION: Your argument about the influence of academic politics on atheism in science couldn't be right. If it were right, there would be a lot of blatant instances (and complaints) of prejudice against scientists who are believers. [2]

RESPONSE: Not all instances of ideological prejudice are obvious. People who disagree with the majority can suffer many subtle pressures. This happens both inside and outside academia. In academic life, these pressures can include problems with hiring and tenure. People can be discriminated against in ways that they can't necessarily detect. For example, someone could be denied tenure, or simply not hired, for reasons that partly involve antireligious bias - but the reason that gets written down by the committee might be something else entirely. This would be highly unlikely to lead to a claim of prejudice. Do you really think this sort of thing can't happen? 


OBJECTION: Your argument about design is a linguistic quibble. It doesn't have anything to do with the kind of design that people usually believe in. [2]

RESPONSE: On the contrary! The concept of design I used in my post and paper is just the usual, common-sense concept of design. My point was this: if we apply our ordinary, common-sense idea of "design" to all apparent designs, and if we do this consistently without changing the idea as we go along, we will find that the "designs" produced by evolution satisfy our usual concept of design. In other words, the "designs" in nature are real designs, not instances of illusory design. However, this does NOT force us to believe in a supernatural creator. We can just as well regard the process of evolution as a self-designing process. That is the view of design I had in mind. It has nothing to do with creationism or ID.

My argument about evolution and design has little impact on the question of God's existence. Neither my view nor Dawkins' view requires a supernatural creator God, or any God at all. One can be an atheist, a theist, or somewhere in between and still believe my argument. My main reason for making this argument was to address Dawkins' insistence that the design in nature is only an illusion. I showed that we are being just as logical if we regard this "design" as real design, but produced by evolution itself. (I mean the real scientific version of evolution, not ID or anything else.) This distinction might not seem too important, but it still is worth making, because the view that design in nature is illusory makes nature look more meaningless than it really is and supports the nihilistic streak typical of New Atheist thought. 



OBJECTION: Most of your claims are about what's conceivable or theoretically possible instead of about what's actually true. Thus, you prove nothing substantial. You are dealing with vague outside possibilities, not facts. [2]

RESPONSE: Anyone who can make this objection hasn't read my arguments very carefully - and also isn't too familiar with the abstract reasoning used in logic, philosophy, and theoretical physics. In those disciplines, a claim about what's theoretically possible can have very substantial consequences. Proving that something is possible (even as a bare theoretical possibility) can be a very good way to refute a proposition, or at least to make a proposition a lot less credible. Here's one example: When scientists showed that interplanetary rockets didn't conflict with known physics, they were only proving a bare theoretical possibility. The rockets hadn't yet been built or even designed; who knew how they would work in practice? However, this discovery of a possibility undermined the claim (apparently believed by some) that the laws of physics ruled out our reaching the planets. Here's another example: In philosophy, an argument showing that there could theoretically be a God, even if the universe is governed by invariable natural laws, would be enough to dispose of the belief that the laws of nature rule out God. To disprove a belief like that, we only need to establish a bare possibility.

All of my arguments about theoretical possibilities work the same way as these two example arguments. All of them have substantial consequences. I don't just use them to establish airy-fairy possibilities. (I'm not even interested in airy-fairy possibilities - I want results!) Instead, I use the possibilities to support more important conclusions. Go back and read the site more carefully and you will see what I mean.


OBJECTION: You point out the differences between dualism and animism - but clearly dualism could contribute to animistic beliefs. [2]

RESPONSE: So what? They're still not the same, and careful dualists still are not animists. My point was not that there is no correlation between the two ideas, but that Dawkins blatantly confuses the two ideas with each other. By doing this, he implicitly does a character assassination on careful dualists like Descartes and Eccles. It's another instance of sloppy reasoning and unjust accusation. The God Delusion contains more such instances - as I showed in my critique.



OBJECTION: Your distinction between atheism and agnosticism is false (or unimportant, or empty, or whatever). [2]

RESPONSE: Wrong! Agnosticism (of the temporary, "not enough information to decide" sort) is a position taken by those who don't feel they have enough information to answer the question of God's existence. Atheism, on the other hand, is a belief, not a refusal to decide. Atheism is the belief that God does not exist or very probably does not exist. Even if you agree with that belief, it's still a belief. The difference is real and important.



Arguments about whether Dawkins' book really contains hate speech (or something close to it): [1]


OBJECTION: You are wrong in claiming that Dawkins is engaged in hate speech. He's only saying that the Christian faith, and faith in general, are bad. And your Christian/Jew example is different from the atheist/Christian conflict, because in the latter case the Christians, and not the atheists, are the persecutors. [2]

RESPONSE: As I explained in my post, Dawkins goes beyond merely attacking ideas. He makes spiteful statements about the people who disagree with him, not just about their ideas. I've already covered this in the critique. And though it's true that believers have persecuted atheists much more than the other way around, that doesn't make hate speech against believers right. Keep in mind that most believers don't persecute atheists, and that some believers actively oppose such persecution. These believers do not deserve to be punished for what the other, worse believers are doing.

Judging by the venom that some atheists spew in web forums, I find it hard to believe that none of those atheists would resort to violence if they thought they could get by with it. Most atheists aren't like that, of course. But would the most rabid Dawkins-heads really be nonviolent if they were the ones in power?


OBJECTION: I can't buy your claim that Dawkins' hostile language is hate speech (or close to it). Religion is what a person believes, not an immutable fact about the person - so hostility against religion isn't like (for example) racial hatred. [2]

RESPONSES: 

(1) So what? If you label a person as a deluded contributor to global evil who carries a dangerous "virus" that has to be stamped out, then you are saying something bad about the person, not just their ideas. Dawkins also says other things that go beyond attacking his opponents' ideas. I mentioned some of these statements in my critique. Read the post again!

(2) If it's OK to spew venom at people for their changeable characteristics, then conservatives who hate liberals would be in the clear, as would Protestants who hate Catholics. Do you really want to buy into that kind of nonsense?


OBJECTION: Your Christian/Jew example is a bad analogy because the supposed diatribe by Christians against Jews would be hypocritical.

RESPONSE: Perhaps it would be - but so what? That wouldn't make it less hateful. It is hate speech whether or not it is hypocritical. Being hypocritical is an offense separate from hatemongering, even though the two often are found together.



Some other miscellaneous objections: [1]


OBJECTION: You are wrong about why scientists tend to be atheistic. The real reason is that scientists think for themselves, which leads them to question God and religion. [2]

RESPONSE: That is one reason - but I already mentioned it in my critique. (Go back to that post and read Reason 2 again, slowly.) When people start to think critically, they will question many things, including religion. Some will become atheists. However, atheism is not the only option for those who reject the old-time religion. There are many other options. Most scientists just don't know about those options, for reasons that I mentioned in my post. Hence scientists are likely to become atheists. Read my site again for details.


OBJECTION: Evolution can't really design things, because evolution works very, very differently from human brain activity. [2]

RESPONSE: You didn't understand my argument. I know as well as you do that the human mind isn't much like the biological evolutionary process in its internal workings. My main point was that when we label human-made designs as "designs," we ignore the internal workings of the system that created the design. You don't have to know how the human brain works to know that people can design things! Instead, you look mostly at the product to decide whether that product is designed. If it turned out that Michelangelo's brain worked very differently from other people's brains, would we then say that his paintings are not designs after all? Of course not. Our judgment that something is designed depends more on the nature of the product than on the internals of the process that produced it. If we refuse to apply this fact to evolution, we are using the concept of "design" inconsistently. If we use that concept consistently, we will be pushed toward the view that the evolutionary process creates designed objects. Nothing supernatural is required - just good old scientific Darwinian evolution. Evolution is a self-designing process.

In any case, my argument that evolution is a self-designing process doesn't bear much on the question of whether there is a God. The argument serves other purposes. (See my earlier response on the topic of design.) Incidentally, I never claimed that God was just the evolutionary process - and I never claimed that anyone designs things in a supernatural way (creationism or ID).


OBJECTION: Your argument about fractals and complexity is no good, because living organisms are not simple and any God who created them must be extremely complex. [2]

RESPONSE: Read the article again! I never claimed that a supernatural creator God could be simple. I only pointed out that in certain logically possible systems, a complex structure is highly probable or inevitable. This shows that the rule "complex systems are improbable" is not an invariable rule. If a complex but probable system is even barely possible, then Dawkins' argument from complexity (the main argument of The God Delusion) loses force. The argument has a fatal loophole.

(In case you haven't already heard, my argument against Dawkins' complexity argument was NOT an argument for a supernatural God. I only showed that Dawkins' particular argument against the supernatural God is ineffective. And in case you haven't figured it out yet, I believe in evolution, not creationism or ID.)


OBJECTION: You are wrong to claim that God is outside the laws of nature. God would have to act on the physical world, which means God would have to be governed by the laws of nature. [2]

RESPONSES: 

(1) I never claimed that God was outside of nature. Personally, I don't believe in that kind of God. However, Dawkins (mis)defines God so that God has to be a supernatural being or nothing at all. That's why I wrote about the idea of a supernatural God in my critique of Dawkins. 

(2) Even if there were a God external to the physical world, why would the mere fact that God acts on physical objects imply that God has to obey natural laws? It just doesn't follow.


OBJECTION: Your critique of Dawkins has failed - you still didn't prove the existence of God! [3]

RESPONSE: That's not what I was trying to do when I critiqued Dawkins' book. I was only trying to show that his line of argument against God fails to establish its conclusions. You can reject Dawkins' book and still be an atheist. I don't have a problem with atheists in general. However, I think Dawkins' book is a lousy reason to become one.



Ad hominem attacks, attacks on my motives, and other irrelevant "objections": [1]


OBJECTION: You are just trying to block the way of Science while it replaces religion. [2]

RESPONSE: If you can say that, you haven't even begun to read my website. Go back and study it some more - especially the scientific parts.


OBJECTION: You are just attacking Dawkins to enhance your own reputation (or sell books, or whatever). [2]

RESPONSE: You have a huge imagination. I am attacking Dawkins because I hate to see nonsense take hold and spread. I believe in science and reason, and Dawkins' book is neither good science nor well reasoned.


OBJECTION: Your website is badly written! [2]

RESPONSE: That's a matter of opinion. Even if it were true it would have no bearing on the truth of my ideas.


OBJECTION: You wrote "The Anti-Dawkins Papers" for your own self-satisfaction. [2]

RESPONSE: I wrote them because I hate to see people like you swallowing Dawkins' bad arguments.


OBJECTION: You are trying to mislead people! You are arguing for a very liberal, philosophical form of religion - but you are hoping people will mistakenly think you are defending their old-time religion. [3]

RESPONSE: I was only trying to debunk some bad arguments, not to mislead people - but in any case, my argument for a liberal form of religion is not the main part of my anti-Dawkins critique. I wrote the critique to show that Dawkins' line of argument is inadequate. If people want to adopt my liberal, naturalistic ideas about spirituality, that's fine with me. If they want to remain atheists, that's fine with me too. And it does not bother me at all if theists who read my critique remain theists, provided they avoid extreme and damaging forms of religion. My critique is not meant to settle the God debate, but just to debunk one particular set of arguments for atheism. I don't want people to think Dawkins' flawed book represents The Voice Of Science And Reason.  If you want to be an atheist, you need to find better reasons than the ones in Dawkins' book. Neither theism nor atheism has a monopoly on reason.


OBJECTION: You should be arguing against bad forms of religion instead of just attacking Dawkins. [3]

RESPONSE: I am strongly against bad forms of religion. I am also against aberrations like Intelligent Design theory (see this post if you have any doubt). The only reason I don't attack faulty forms of religion as hard as I attack Dawkins is that many people already are attacking bad religion on rational grounds. Dawkins, on the other hand, seems to be unduly popular among those who like science and reason. I wanted to mount a rationalistic response to Dawkins, free of any appeal to faith, so that people who embrace reason (as I do) can see that his arguments aren't particularly good. I don't like to see people who are otherwise rational falling for the baloney in Dawkins' book.



Stupid objections based on things I never said: [1]


OBJECTION: Your whole polemic against Dawkins boils down to one claim: that Dawkins holds an idea of God that isn't your idea, so he's all wrong about everything. [3]

RESPONSES: 

(1) Dawkins' definition of God is not my only problem with his book. If you had actually read my critique of him, you would know this by now. 

(2) I object to Dawkins' definition of God, not because it disagrees with my own idea of God, but because it completely ignores the main concepts of God in serious Western religious thought. Again, read my stuff before attacking it. 

(3) I never said that Dawkins' whole book is wrong. He is right about many things: the truth of evolution, the importance of science, the dangers of religious fanaticism, the inadequacy of Intelligent Design theory, and more. However, he is wrong on some very important points. Those errors are what I was criticizing. (Again, read my stuff before attacking it.)


OBJECTION: You said Dawkins' whole book is hate speech. It is not. [3]

RESPONSE: I never said the WHOLE book is hate speech. (How could his discussion of multiverses, for example, be taken as hate speech??!??) I only claimed that parts of the book are so spiteful that they might well be regarded as hate speech. I stand by that claim (see my earlier responses about hate speech). And in case you're wondering, I think the proper response to bad speech of this sort is a rational rebuttal - not further hateful words or acts.


OBJECTION: You claimed that the predominance of atheists among scientists could be a statistical accident. That's silly! [2]

RESPONSE: I said no such thing. Obviously, a statistical fluctuation that big would be very improbable. I know that as well as you do. However, a small statistical fluctuation can snowball into something larger and more permanent if the conditions are right. My argument had to do with that effect, not just plain statistical fluctuations. In any case, my post also contains other possible explanations for atheism among scientists, so you aren't off the hook even if you reject that one argument.


OBJECTION: You claim that a system that designs things (like an artist) must itself be a product of design. That's silly. [2]

RESPONSE: I never, ever said that. Read my material before attacking it.


OBJECTION: You are claiming that the processes in the human brain are somehow a model of the process of evolution. That's silly. [2]

RESPONSE: I never drew a big, vague analogy about that topic. I know as well as you do that the evolution of species is very different from human brain activity. I did compare the evolutionary process to information processing in the brain, but I compared them only in one narrow respect. Apparently you didn't read the article very carefully.


OBJECTION: You drew a silly analogy about the faults and imperfections in nature. You claimed that God (who is very intelligent) can make mistakes just because humans can! [2]

RESPONSE: I never said that. I wasn't talking about designs produced by a supernatural God, or by any god for that matter. Read the article again. I did claim that the presence of errors in a system does not, by itself, rule out the possibility that the system is designed. That is pretty obvious. I used this fact to rebut a standard argument against design in nature - but not to show that there is a God. And I was not using this argument to show that the infinite supernatural God of theism can make mistakes. In the post on evolution and design, I wasn't even talking about that kind of God. Heck, I don't even believe in that kind of God! (Read the article before attacking it, for God's sake!) The kind of "design" I had in mind was design produced by evolution. By "evolution" I mean the orthodox scientific version of evolution, in which I believe - not ID or creationism, which I reject.


OBJECTION: You are just repeating the same arguments that other advocates of Intelligent Design make. [2]

RESPONSE: I don't believe in Intelligent Design, so I couldn't be making the same arguments. I believe in the orthodox scientific version of evolution.  


OBJECTION: You are arguing for a God who isn't subject to natural law. [2]

RESPONSE: I never did that. I only said that Dawkins does not succeed in ruling out such a God. 


OBJECTION: You are claiming that the God of theism could be simple if God were not subject to the known laws of nature. [2]

RESPONSE: I never made that claim. I only pointed out that the complexity of God might well arise from an underlying simplicity, and therefore might not be as improbable as Dawkins thinks. (And again, my own concept of God is not that of a supernatural creator.)


 




Endnotes


Endnote A.  About my concept of God  

My concept of God is based on the idea that God is a supremely good or ideal being. This idea of God has strong precedents in the Western religions and in the philosophy of religion. (For more details, see this document). This idea also is important to many ordinary religious believers whether they realize it or not. If asked what the word "God" means, most believers might say "the creator of the universe" - but in practice, many believers act and speak as though God also were something ideally good and worthy of our highest love. (See this post for more detail.) That's a concept of God different from the supernatural-creator concept, but it too is an important part of the way people typically think of God. One can argue that the idea of a supremely good God is the most important part of the ordinary believer's God concept. After all, this is the part of the God concept that gives the concept its psychological value. (By "ordinary believer" I mean an ordinary good-hearted person who believes in God - not a fanatic or a religious hatemonger.)

What is more, my concept of God makes it possible to think of God as the creator without buying into supernaturalism. God can be the source of the cosmos, not in any supernatural sense, but in the sense that the natural processes that created the universe are parts or constituents of God. I explain this further in this document. I don't agree with the standard religious view that God creates things through supernatural miracles. (I'm a hard-core evolutionist, and I think the universe itself probably has a natural explanation that we haven't yet found.) However, my God concept still gives God the role of "creator" in a subtler way.

Is the being I just described too impersonal to count as a real God? No, it is not too impersonal. In my view God is a mindlike being. God is not a person in the usual human sense. (That isn't really suprising - why should an ultimate, ideal being happen to resemble a primate?) However, God has mental and spiritual characteristics, and is not just an unconscious force or a poetical name for the physical universe. A God of this kind might technically be impersonal, but still it is more like a "someone" than a mere "something."

So, we arrive at a "God" who is an ideal being; who encompasses all good; who matches many believers' feelings about God; who is more of a someone than a mere something; and who is, in a way, the creator of the universe. Is this a real God or not? You decide. 

Theists who swing over to my concept of God might have to give up some of their long-held mental pictures of God. However, they don't have to give up anything essential to human spirituality, and they don't have to stop believing in a supreme being.

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References

Important note about all the references: For each objection I have tried to supply a reference pointing to at least one source for the objection. Each of the references applies both to the objection and to any associated responses that are similar to mine. (Some of the objections are fairly obvious and hence might have been made independently by more than one author. Likewise for the responses, which are my own opinions but might also have been found by others.) For multiauthor, anonymous, or pseudonymous works, please consult the original documents for further author information.


[1] The above note applies to references in this section.

[2] These objections were found on the following web forum page, or at least were suggested by the discussion there:
<http://www.freethought-forum.com/forum/showthread.php?p=891781> (accessed 12/14/2010).

[3] These objections were found on the following web forum page, or at least were suggested by the discussion there:
<http://www.freethought-forum.com/forum/showthread.php?p=892134> (accessed 12/14/2010).



Page last updated July 30, 2011.